Mario Speedwagon’s Under The Radar News Roundup: Best Buy Offers Buyouts To Employees, Brian Eno To Score Jackson Film, Merle Haggard Sues Some Tree Huggers, 75 Bit Torrent Sites Shut Down…ZZzzZzzZZZzzZ…

I hope everyone had a great holiday season and New Years. I got a microwave for Christmas and watched my drunken uncles and aunts play Rock Band while my little cousins sat looking miserable on the sidelines. Then on New Year's Eve, I went to MSG and saw My Morning Jacket and drank $9 beer -- holler. Anyway, while ya’ll were hanging with your families, absolutely nothing happened. This shit is gonna be boring.

- So, Best Buy is offering buyouts to 4,000 or so employees at their corporate office. The economy is a mess, so Best Buy needs to “reduce significant expense from its corporate payroll.” I wish someone would offer me some pimp buy out. I ate Cream of Chicken soup and some Airheads for dinner last night. Everyone from the janitor to the big VP dudes are being offered the buyout, which is based on age and time of service. They didn’t say how many people they wanted to get rid of, just that pretty much everyone was offered to volunteer to be fired. Nice.

- Brian Eno is gonna score Peter Jackson’s new movie, an adaptation of Alice Sebold’s “The Lovely Bones.” Part of the movie takes place in heaven (okay…) and stars Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon, Saoirse Ronan, Michael Imperioli, and more. Shit comes out December 11, 2009.

- Merle Haggard is suing the environmental group The Green Train for allegedly using his name and likeness to raise money. Haggard says the group, a nonprofit that educates the public about environmental issues, forged his signature and exaggerated his involvement. The Green Train has a six-week train tour departing from Portland, OR and traveling through 28 states while stopping for several concerts along the way, eventually ending in DC. I mean, he did donate money to them, and it doesn’t sound like a bad organization, so Merle needs to chill out. It’s not like he’s the face of the Puppy Kicker’s Club.

- Dutch anti-piracy company BREIN shut down 75 Bit Torrent trackers. Sites like Luckytorrents, Allmymovies, Digi-tor.org, and Seederstor.org were taken down. Yes, this is how boring the holidays were...

Seriously -- ATTENTION MUSICIANS -- someone needs to get arrested or make an angry blog post or start feuding with someone else, because, like, I seriously just wrote about some ‘nilla news items. Mario OUT.

RIP: Dave Dee, British Pop Star

From the BBC:

British pop star Dave Dee has died at the age of 65, following a three-year battle with cancer.

The singer continued playing gigs with band members Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich until close to the end of his life, record plugger Sean Cooney said.
"He didn't let it get him down. He was defying it," Mr Cooney added.

The group had eight top 10 hits, including a UK number one single in 1968 with The Legend of Xanadu, in which Dee famously cracked a whip.

- Dave Dee official website
- Dave Dee Wikipedia entry

Vetiver Reveal Tight Knit Details; Give Tad, Dwarves, and The Shins A Run For Their Money

Did you know that Vetiver’s new full-length album, Tight Knit, is both their first Sub Pop release and also Sub Pop’s first release of 2009? Because of this fact, I decided to do a little research and compile a brief list of other Sub Pop first releases for years gone past:
1989: Blood Circus – Primal Rock Therapy
1990: Tad – Loser/Cooking With Gas
1993: Dwarves – Underworld/Lies 7”
1994: Pigeonhed – S/T
1997: Damien Jurado – Water Ave. S
1998: Godheadsilo – Share The Fantasy
2001: Arlo – Up High In The Night
2003: Holopow – S/T
2005: Low – The Great Destroyer
2006: The Elected – Sun, Sun, Sun
2007: The Shins – Wincing The Night Away
2008: The Helio Sequence – Keep Your Eyes Ahead

If there’s one conclusion that can be drawn from these results, it’s that Sub Pop kinda sucked during the ’90s. Don’t take my word for it though -- just ask the members of Blood Circus, whose album Primal Rock Therapy was apparently one of the poorest selling Sub Pop albums ever.
Getting back on topic, Tight Knit is due February 17 and features such special guests as Eric Johnson (Fruit Bats, The Shins), Jonathan Wilson, “Farmer” Dave Sher, and Adam Peters.

Tracklist:

The Raveonettes Prepare for U.S. Tour, Get Ready to Get Ready to Record Album

Pop quiz:

They are Danish. They are fairly prolific. They deal in fuzzed-out garage rock and have better haircuts than you. They are probably mentioned in the headline to this story.

By this point, you have probably realized that I am speaking about The Raveonettes. The enviably-named Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner are getting ready to start work on their next full-length, but first they wanna play a few shows, rock a little bit, and just generally ensure that 2009 adequately kicks out the jams.

Their plan is simple, but effective: play a few shows on the East Coast, play a few shows on the West Coast. Then stay off the road, hunker down, write some feedback-drenched, ’60s-inflected rock songs, and then, when the moment is right, release a studio album in September 2009 with the help of an as yet unnamed "genius producer." (My suggestion: GET TIMBALAND. He can make anything sound good! And he always finds the craziest Bollywood samples!) So far, all of this is very much in the future, but these tourdates are fast approaching, so if you wanna see Sharin and Sune pre-Timberlake/Furtado guest appearance, check out one of these shows:

Animal Collective Rides Vinyl Wave into ‘09, Massive 2008 Vinyl Sales Figures Confuse Everyone but B-52s Fans

According to a Rolling Stone blog post detailing the Soundscan numbers for new vinyl sales in 2009, staples like Radiohead and even Neutral Milk Hotel may have assisted in the boost in LP sales in the last 12 months. As reported earlier this week (TMT News), vinyl sales nearly doubled in 2008, and the Soundscan breakdown reveals that Radiohead are responsible for not only the biggest vinyl seller of the year—2007's In Rainbows (TMT Review), which debuted in the format on January 1, 2008 — but also the tenth, with OK Computer selling just under 10,000 copies. Beatles and Pink Floyd reissues from Capitol Records captured the second- and seventh-place slots respectively, while NMH's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea — a touchstone for the new generation of vinyl purchasers — claimed sixth.

Curiously, Guns N' Roses' long delayed and recently released Chinese Democracy (TMT Review) nabbed the third-place slot, despite its poorer-than-predicted general chart performance. Portishead's Third (TMT Review), which grabbed the title of TMT's second-favorite album of the year (TMT Feature), landed at an impressive fifth with about 12,000 LP sales. The most baffling figure, however, must be the inexplicable fourth-place ranking of the B-52s' 2008 comeback album Funplex, which most people reading this story probably didn't know existed until this moment. Fleet Foxes and Metallica round out the top ten with eighth- and ninth-place sales, respectively, for their 2008 albums.

Meanwhile, according to MTV News, it appears that at this time next year we could be looking at Animal Collective in the #1 slot for vinyl sales. Indeed, it looks like the group may be poised to even dent in next week's Billboard charts on the strength of vinyl sales alone. AC's highly anticipated Merriweather Post Pavilion (TMT Review) was released in a deluxe vinyl edition (albeit one accompanied with a free digital download of the album) on Tuesday, two weeks ahead of its CD release. The initial run of 4,500 copies is already sold out, which, according to MTV's estimates, could easily place the LP at around #160 on the Soundscan charts. However, it's also possible that a substantial chunk of sales could go uncounted, as many indie stores do not report to Soundscan.

Still, the tantalizing prospect of an album charting entirely on the basis of vinyl sales provides a strange (and, if I do say so myself, totally awesome) twist on the most turbulent decade the popular music industry has seen. If Merriweather's vinyl success does prove a critical moment in the vinyl resurgence, we may be looking at a sort of smaller-scale inverse of Radiohead's In Rainbows gambit — all the more interesting given that album's apparent role in the LP sales spike. This strange mutation in sales trends may even find indie labels, who routinely press vinyl runs of their releases for collectors and aficionados, at a slight physical sales advantage over majors hung up on digital business. However, it's easy to get carried away -- with 51 weeks left in 2009, it's hard to say where the vinyl boost is headed this year. But for those keeping score, make sure to keep an eye on the bottom quarter of next Wednesday's Billboard 200.

2009: The Year Of The Consonant? New WAVVES LP In February March

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Fat Possum has picked up the new album, which now has a release date of March 17. Destijl is no longer releasing it.

----

Nathan Daniel William's distorted art-surf-pop group, WAVVES has already been called out by the ever-observant online music community (no link, find it yourself people) for superfluous consonant use last year. Including us: Gumshoe talked about WAVVES in his year-end write-up (TMT Feature), and Jspicer wrote about WAVVES for our year-end Eureka! list.

It appears that 2009 will be more of the same, as WAVVES is scheduled to release the follow-up to their Woodsist self-titled debut. The sophomore LP is to be called WAVVVVES (yes, three "V"s -- two more than the correct spelling of the word and one more than the correct spelling of the group name). Look for the record February 3 on De Stijl, but don't confuse it with the debut LP, as it has very similar artwork. No one said being a music fan was always easy; if it was, it would be called sitting on the couch.

Look for WAVVES on tour all over the world this February and March.

WAVVVES tracklist:

Merge Announces “XX MERGE,” a Five-Day Music Festival

If you haven't heard, Merge is 20 years old, and the label is still kicking major ass. Last year, the label announced a special subscription-only box set titled SCORE!, which you'd be a fool not to subscribe to (TMT News). In fact, the deadline for subscribing has been extended to January 11, so get on that shit NOW. (Reminder: all proceeds will be donated to various charitable causes.)

Continuing the celebration, Merge has announced a five-day festival, appropriately titled XX MERGE. Taking place July 22-26 in North Carolina, the fest will boast "Merge artists past and present," the ultimate real-time celebration of the Merge spirit (of which most of has been privy to at some point). Unfortunately, Merge has yet to release the lineup and ticketing information -- perhaps Spoon, Portastatic, The Music Tapes, Dinosaur Jr., Neutral Milk Hotel?? -- but at least we know which days of work we need to take off.

M. Ward Plans Hold Time Tour… in Real-Time

Take a good long listen to modern-day troubadour M. Ward, and one of the first thing’s you’ll realize is that this guy doesn’t much care what year it is. Any of the hits from his recent releases could just as easily have been jammed from the stage of the Hill Valley 1885 Clock Tower Dedication Festival alongside various hoary members of ZZ Top as tracked with care in a 21st-century recording studio.

Luckily, the quantum-leaping Ward sometimes slows time enough for us mortals to catch a synchronic glimpse of what this man looks and sounds like. And 2009’s glimpse just so happens to be that of a winter tour, spanning both sides of the Atlantic, hot on the heels of his highly-anticipated release, Hold Time (due February 17, via Merge), like a trail of fire to a tricked-out, rubber-burning time machine. Amidst producing and arranging Zooey Deschanel’s indie pop gems and being the “Him” of She & Him’s critically-acclaimed Volume One (TMT Review) this past year, M. apparently rearranged space-time enough to also write and record Hold Time, which features guest performances by Lucinda Williams, Jason Lytle (ex Grandaddy), and Deschanel herself, all of whom must have been given special “temporal-displacement watches” in order to work on the project outside the normal flow of space-time.

Tickets for all shows in the U.S., UK, and Europe are on sale as of last Friday. It is not yet clear, however, whether Ward will get around the Atlantic via wormhole technology or simply by means of some sort of flying, fusion-powered, stainless-steal tour bus. Either way, I hope he’s planning some ZZ Top and Huey Lewis jams for this one.

Tourdates (arranged linearly for your limited space-time comprehension):

iTunes’s “flexible” pricing? DRM-free… at a cost? I think Steve’s lost it.

The MacWorld keynote by Apple this year, on Tuesday, lacked a lot of the flair and zingers that usually comes with these keynotes. A sickened Steve Jobs meant that a dude named Phil would attempt to market new Apple products without a Reality Distortion Field to make them, well, viable. As a result, the only thing that piqued my interest the first hour of that keynote was Sting's sexy grizzly beard. Which was immediately lost when the screen switched to Patrick Stump.

Actually, the only thing that really piqued my interest at all was Phil's "One Last Thing." It was about iTunes... and it was QUITE interesting.

First, prices. Starting April 1 (bad day to do it), the fixed-pricing model of 99¢-a-song, a long-time pillar of the iTunes foundation, will fall. In a move clearly intended to please labels, a three-tier system of pricing will take its place. While the option of 99¢ will remain, labels will have the option of selling songs for 69¢ and $1.29 each. Album costs remain fixed at $9.99 at this point in time. How will the labels handle this? It's not hard to guess.

The other announcement? Quite a bit nicer: ~80% of the iTunes Music Store is without DRM restrictions, and at double the bitrate (i.e. HIGHER quality), bringing in the major labels as well. Perhaps, the labels did this in exchange, but we'll never know. The process is continuing as we speak, and by April 1, the entire store shall be in DRM-free "iTunes Plus" format.

But wait! You say you have a bunch of old, standard-fare iTunes songs and you want to make them all iTunes Plus? Well, you can do that, but that'll cost you 30¢ each to upgrade. Not bad for a few songs, but when you got a few hundred, it could be pretty costly. Not to mention you still have nasty "watermarks" in your music that hold your private data.

The way I see it, even when you win, you lose.

Swan Lake Return With Enemy Mine in March

Swan Lake, the group filled with overachieving indie musicians with roughly 685,321,431 albums between them, are reuniting to bring us Enemy Mine (name based on the ridiculously so-bad-its-great ’80s sci-fi flick) on March 24 (or March 23 in the UK) from Jagjaguwar. For those of you who have been living on Fyrine IV, the planet the protagonists of Enemy Mine were deserted on, Swan Lake consists of Dan Bejar (Destroyer, New Pornographers) Spencer Krug (Sunset Rubdown, Wolf Parade), and Carey Mercer (Blackout Beach, Frog Eyes). These three fellows, with their indistinguishable gnarly voices, last brought us Beast Moans (TMT Review) in 2006. Think that album was a little overwhelming, too stylistically chaotic? Don't fret: this sophomore effort is being described as a more stripped-down, deliberate approach to collaboration. As Spencer Krug put it, “There's architecture here." Count this TMT writer in as excited!

Enemy Mine:

  

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