Useless Wooden Toys, a Minneapolis hardcore punk band, lost its lead singer Christopher Johnson Saturday June 21. According to Johnson's memorial website:
Police say 32-year-old Christopher Johnson was stabbed after an altercation in Bloomington Saturday night with a man from Warsaw. Witnesses told police the fight started after Brian White of Warsaw grabbed a woman and Johnson tried to intervene. [...] Officers later found White hiding in a cellar. He faces a preliminary charge of murder.
My window looks out onto the roof, and I'm watching a little bird wash itself in the rain gutter. It's a pleasant black bird, with warm eyes and a beak that somehow forms a smile. It picks its head up and locks eyes with me. My knowledge of cartoons and all things fantastical makes me think it's going to start whistling "Goodbye My Coney Island Baby" with a squirrel, a rat, and a beleaguered alley cat.
It doesn't. I'm learning to live with contradictions.
I'm in that mood though. That animals-sing-to-you mood. The problem is that people think it happens when you've just fallen in love, but it's always a bit more melancholic than that, almost bitter, like when you want to fall in love but don't. It's a mocking song. The birds sing, and sure it's cute and everything, but if you look into their chocolate-colored eyes, you can see that they know you're blue but want to keep it that way. "This is how good you could feel," they seem to say. "If only you could be a bird like me."
If you look into their eyes long enough, though, staring at them while they wash themselves in the rain gutter, you can also see they aren't so well-adjusted as they'd have you believe. Not everything is delightful up in the sky; they just don't wear their hearts on their sleeves. "Why don't you ever sing to me?"
The bird's friend splashes down, another little black one. It dips its head in the water and shakes it off before looking at me too. "We have feelings, why don't you sing to me?" Two more fly in and bathe, and suddenly the gutter is filled with morose birds. "It isn't all about you," their eyes all seem to convey. "Our hearts hurt too. Why don't you sing to me?"
They bottle their emotions and drink alone. If only we could sing to them when they're blue to cheer them up.
"I don't sing," I tell the birds. They splash water on me. "Don't be like that. Hold on." I open the window wider and turn on my stereo. What might help them?
I put on She & Him's Volume One (TMT Review), Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward's melancholic yet bittersweet album about falling in love but probably not falling in love. It sounds sweet. It feels like it should cheer them up, but I play it to mock them as they mock me. "How do you like it?" I sneer.
They don't like it at all. It's pleasant music, but it hurts. I feel satisfied, but horrible. We'll all have to get better at living with contradictions.
They're touring, as the crow flies:
Quotes about DJ Scotch Egg (Shigeru Ishihara) from around the web:
"He's not a DJ, he's definitely not Scottish and he's probably not an egg." --DJ Scotch Egg official website
"Scotch Egg creates day-glo gabba techno splattered with paintballs of punk fury and modern minimalist composition." --TMT Review of Drumized
"Individual neon tones slingshot against, around, and through one another, spin, spike, and woosh, ping and pop and wink or — as on the title track — tinkle and skip across dense fields of digital static before vigorously fluctuating into quicksilver mush." --CityPages
"DJ Scotch Egg’s influences include Karlheinz Stockhausen, SKREAM, John Carpenter, Walter Karloss, Steve Reich, Moondog, John Cage and Speedfreaks amongst others." --Load Records
"It sounds like a Kōji Kondō outtake for some alternate universe where Mario and Bowser trip ’shrooms and count their ducats." --Paper Thin Walls
"Not for the faint hearted." --Drowned in Sound
"KFC is amaging!!!" --MySpace
Do you miss 2004? I know I do! What could be more magical than the tail end of electroclash? The sheer excitement of deadpan female vocals, metallic beats, and songs about being rich all made an indelible impression on the young people currently staffing American Apparel. But it's now 2008, and those golden days are gone. How can American dancefloors ever hope to recover from the encroaching threat of nu-rave? Why with the icy Teutonic beats of Miss Kittin and the Hacker, of course!
Miss Kittin's latest, Batbox came out earlier this spring on Groove Attack Records. It's dark, it's electro, it's got some kinda goth-lookin' bat on the cover. What's not to love? I'm not gonna suggest that you should run out and purchase some tight black leggings, put on a Bauhaus t-shirt, and do some research on the latest designer drugs, but I mean -- well, you get what I'm saying.
Gather ’round young'uns and take a knee. I've got stories to tell...
Back in the day, record peddlers bankrupted themselves by driving from town to town, blowing radio DJs in exchange for a little airplay for their label's latest signings. If you were lucky, sometimes you got a home-cooked meal of a roast rabbit and some sweet cider for your efforts above and beyond (and below). All monies that were accrued from hard-fought sales were shipped off to Dick Clark, who used the cash to brainwash the nation to support the war effort against the commies through images of pogo-ing teenyboppers via a new fangled device called the "television" (ask your parents). The rest he spent on pomade and crow's feet cream. Between spittin' and rinsin' and paying the pimp, there was little time to enjoy ourselves. Every second Friday down at the town hall, we would sockhop ’til the break of 8 PM and whip Kewpie dolls at the squares before going home to look to the skies for UFOs. We would also grab some sody pops and drive our hotrods up and down the same suckin' street 70 times a night, until our whitewalls were grey from all the Silly Putty, which could be found in the better-built roads of the day...
Sorry, I had an old-fart moment there. Of course, things are different now. The big record companies are having to look outside the box to bump up their revenues and compete, as they evolve from traditional sales businesses to digitally distributed ones. Case in point: EMI -- home to highly-original, critically-loved, and well-known acts like 30 Seconds to Mars, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, and Alpha Galates respectively -- have announced the appointment of former Linden Lab Chief Technology Officer Cory Ondrejka to the company as senior vice-president of digital strategy, presenting him "with a rare opportunity to influence the digital music industry, by helping artists reach their fans in more relevant ways and by allowing fans to find and acquire music through new business models," says the new recruit.
It seems like a perfect fit. Ondrejka discusses his music obsession on his blog thusly:
I neither buy not hear much music. Since 2000, I've only purchased 5 albums. Three by Rush (enough of my friends are Rush fans, so somebody reminds me when they release a new album), Pearl Jam's Pearl Jam (I read a Rolling Stone review in an airport), and R.E.M.'s Accelerate (best Terry Gross interview on "Fresh Air" in months.) [...] I hear lots of new music I like -- anything from the first couple seasons of Alias would work -- but I never hear new music in the right context to buy it.
Uh huh. Well, there is obviously a good reason why EMI would seek out the geek services of "Three by Rush" Ondrejka. The hiring is, of course, a digital strategic decision, and who better than the co-founder and prime builder of the online virtual world phenomenon Second Life to help EMI through these current troubled industry waters. As Hypebot claims, "In addition to developing the core code and building the company from 4 to 250 people, Ondrejka drove multiple initiatives that generated enormous value from user participation, creation, and collaboration. The ecosystems he helped create led directly to the success of Second Life, as well as the ongoing use of Second Life as a platform for music, education, and business."
EMI, the world's fourth-largest music group, is taking great strides in establishing itself as a music industry pioneer in regards to digital technology. The Ondrejka announcement comes hot on the heels of hiring the former chief information officer of Google, Douglas Merrill, to the post of President, Digital Business of EMI Music. Merrill piped up on the addition of Ondrejka to the EMI family:
Cory shares my passion for driving technology and innovation in the digital music business. His unique experience building online environments, like Second Life, will be invaluable to EMI Music, as we create new digital communities for fans and artists. Adding Cory to the leadership team of the company continues to reinforce out commitment to the digital market.
That may all be true, but can Ondrejka hula hoop on top of a telephone booth crammed full with zany letterman sweater-wearing high schoolers? Fuck no, Bazooka Joe!
In related news, Rush album sales are soaring.
Microsoft Realizes the Negative Impacts Its Theft of Your Money May Have On Customer Morale, Supports Your DRM Files For At Least Three More Years
Remember this? In April, Microsoft announced that all DRM digital downloads purchased from its now-defunct MSN Music store would no longer retain their license keys, which meant that customers essentially lost ownership of the music they had actually paid for. Why? Because Microsoft just didn't feel like it. Even though consumers did the right thing and actually plunked down the cash for these songs, they still got fucked.
Guess what. People were pissed off. So pissed off, in fact, that Microsoft decided this week it would continue to support DRM files purchased from MSN Music... for now, anyway. According to Microsoft, via Ars Technica:
After careful consideration, Microsoft has decided to continue to support the authorization of new computers and devices, and delivery of new license keys for MSN Music customers through at least the end of 2011. This means you will continue to be able to listen to your purchased music and transfer your music to new PCs and devices beyond the previously announced August 31, 2008 date.
However, the damage is done, because many people are going to think twice about buying DRM music for the Zune now. Blatantly fucking over your customers will make them mad, and hastily reversing a stupid decision in response to backlash makes you look even more asinine. High five, Microsoft. I think it's time for you to stop complaining about those PC/Mac Guy commercials, because you've officially become That Guy.
San Fran sound-collage collective Negativland are releasing their most brand new, ass-shakin' disc Thigmotactic July 15 on their own label, Seeland Records. Though the disc is touted as the band’s first “song-based release,” I personally fail to see how past efforts like No Business (with its “Favorite Things” send up) are any less so. AND ANOTHER THING. If Negativland are the culture-jamming bad-asses like they claim, why release an album at all? While some b-boys are super-disco breakin,' and others are certainly fakin' (looking at you C. Finn), Negativland is most definitely COMMODITY-MAKIN'.
Or maybe that's the point?
Either way, we better get some Negativland Converse/Nike commercials out of this, cause I ain't bailing them out of jail this time...
If you’re the drummer of The Decemberists and former drummer for Stephen Malkmus and Elliott Smith, there’s really only one way you can top yourself: release a solo album. Yes, that’s right; John Moen is releasing a solo album under the name Perhapst. The self-titled effort is due August 19 on In Music We Trust.
According to the press release, the album is “filled with quirky, catchy, hook-laden indie-pop, experimental folk-rock, and even some twang for flavor, all delivered with a smirk and a smile.” So, you know, that’s always good. Performing on the album with Moen (who will be tending to vocals/guitar duties) is Chris Funk on guitar (The Decemberists), Eric Louvre on bass (The Dharma Bums), and Jonathan Drews on drums (Sunset Valley).
Perhaps this release from Moen could start a “Decemberists Presents” series, akin to the “Broken Social Scene Presents” series? I can almost see it now: “The Decemberists Present: Colin Meloy – Not Just Another Bespectacled Boy.”
Remember the days when women couldn't vote, work at Subway, run for president, or win surfing championships? Thanks to women like Hil-Dawg and the girls in the film Blue Crush, it seems likely that we'll someday have a female, surf contest-winning president.
What does that mean for women in music? Well, fuck Lilith Fair. We don't need you or your "Girlapalooza" anymore. Strong, talented women like Juana Molina and Feist can perform and not be looked at as sexual objects. Yes, times have changed.
Juana Molina tourdates:
# Juana Molina
Sigur Rós are a fictional group of small, sky blue creatures who live in a village somewhere in the woods. The members look essentially alike -- male, very short (just "three apples tall"), blue skin, white trousers with a hole for their short tails, white hat in the style of a Phrygian cap, and sometimes some additional accessory that identifies their personality (Jónsi, for example, is always carrying around a bow).
Hot off the anticipation for their latest full-length, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (out next week on EMI/XL), Sigur Rós have tacked a healthy batch of North American dates onto their already sizable European tour, with a few Japan dates for good measure. Buy your tickets tomorrow for the North American tour, and see what all the fuss is about.