After four universally acclaimed albums, well-documented lineup changes, and a rehab stint, the sky cleared for Wilco. But for many critics and fans, a wide open Sky Blue Sky (TMT Review) is not such a good thing.
We were used to grinding synth drones lapping at Jeff Tweedy's folksy strummers. We were accustomed to country pop ditties disintegrating into vicious feedback squalls. And we loved the little ticks and clicks and loops and bloops that seasoned every track on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. That's why Sky Blue Sky's clipped, clean guitar workouts came as such a shock to the system. "We want weird Wilco" was somewhere in the subtext of each Sky Blue Sky review. Critics were worried they had been duped all these years by a little studio trickery and a wayward country band. If Sky Blue Sky is the sound of Wilco finding their way, it seems like most listeners are hoping they'll get lost again before the next album.
Now that I got you all pumped up, here are some Australian dates for 2008:
Think that you, classical music lover, can ‘Handel’ DRM-free downloads? Or will you ‘Beethoven’ until you ‘Tchaikovsky’ all over the place?
Either way, Universal Music wants to know. That’s why it’s sticking a trepidatious toe into the recently made bathwater of DRM-free MP3s by offering its refined, quite serious catalog of jazz and classical music free of digital rights management for a trial period at classicsandjazz.co.uk. Of course, you still have to pay money for the songs, but at least now you can do what you want with them. Progress. Labels under the UMC&J umbrella include Rounder, Verve, Impulse, Decca, Deutsche Grammophone, Philips, and Emacy. Eat dinner without the creeping fear that your background music is confined by rigid copyright protection. Entertain guest with your vast catalog of ‘jazz appropriate to talk over.’ Transfer your new songs to a portable device, travel back in time, and cause any number of classical music riots.
Maybe, as Universal is hoping, you’ll even be ‘Bach’ for more. Gosh, classical music is fun.
BALTIMORE, MD -- This intrepid reporter sat down to discuss details of Ponytail's forthcoming album with hometown heroes Dustin Wong and Jeremy Hyman. The band is in the studio right now, and the as yet unnamed full-length follow up to this year's excellent Kamehameha will be released this spring. They tell me it will contain eight tracks, but they're not sure what they'll be calling them yet.
Wong and Hyman want everyone to know that they're recording with beloved producer J. Robbins. While the former Jawbox frontman is known for producing more mainstream indie bands, it seems that he's equally adept at capturing the noise-punk adrenaline rush that is Ponytail. "He adjusted so amazingly fast to Molly's vocals," said Hyman, referring to the mind-blowingly intense voice of singer Molly Siegel. Robbins "focuses on performance," said Wong. "He's a realist and he likes to explore."
In other Dustin Wong news, the multitalented guitar maven also announced that he'll be leaving his other incredible band, Ecstatic Sunshine, in a few months. He likens his decision to depart from the trio (soon duo) to the reason why someone might leave a job or transfer schools. "More than leaving," he said, "I'm graduating." He adds that the band will continue without him, and though he won't be touring with Ecstatic Sunshine anymore, he's open to recording some tracks with them in the future. "Ecstatic Sunshine is more like a collective thing now," explained Hyman, who has drummed for the band in the past.
Update: Ecstatic Sunshine will continue as a trio of Matt Papich, Kieran Gillen, and, after Dustin leaves, David Zimmerman on electronics. According to Matt, the new lineup will tour the U.S. next spring, in support of WAY, a forthcoming album on Cardboard.
This Thanksgiving, Jonathan Richman Traces His Hand to Make a Picture of a Turkey, Embarks on Mini-Tour
Life can really drag you down sometimes. Whether we feel downtrodden by the poverty and distress we encounter on the street, the anguish of reading about Britney Spears’ spiral out of control, or those MySpace comments you’re really excited to read until you find out they’re just another “OMG guyz I just got a Macy’s giftcard LOL!” hacking attempt, there is no denying that these are trying times in which we live. But before we start to wallow in bitterness and despair, let’s take a moment to reflect on the good things in life. As 2007 draws to an end, I’d like to invite you to join me in looking back on the past year and giving thanks for the many blessings we have received.
- In January, Nancy Pelosi became the first female speaker of the US House of Representatives. Between this and the Spice Girls reunion, 2007 is totally the year of girl power!!!
- In March, the crown prince and princess of Brunei His Royal Highness
Al-Muhtadee Billah and his wife, Her Royal Highness Pengiran Anak Sarah
welcomed into this world a son, Prince Abdul Muntaqim. Ahhhh!
- In October, Lindsay Lohan completed a lengthy stint in rehab, thereby
saving her career and giving us hope for more gems like Herby: Fully
Loaded and I Know Who Killed Me.
- In November, President Bush pardoned the lives of some delicious turkeys so that they could live to waddle confusedly through a Thanksgiving Day parade.
If that wasn’t enough already, I have more good news about 2007! Jonathan Richman, vocalist for The Modern Lovers and prolific solo artist dude, is playing a series of shows for some very lucky Californians in only a matter of days!
Surrender to Jonathan... at these live dates:
HEALTH Head Out On the Road, Barely Leave Home State of California, But They Still Have Roads There – I Checked
Relatively fresh off a long national tour and their stint as a band that impressed a lot of people at CMJ, HEALTH appear to be taking a short, well-earned break.
They played a few shows around California this past weekend, but come the New Year, it looks like they’ll be setting the West Coast ablaze with nothing but passion, a van, several guitars and drums, and a hell of a lot of effects pedals. Probably other things, too.
Eventually, I’m told, the band plans to tour the rest of the states with The Crystal Castles, but for now, you’ll have to take a long, tedious trek to Canada, the Golden State, or whatever Washington and Oregon’s state nicknames are.
I don’t have much else to say about this. They’re a band. They’re touring. Some of the shows are with Dan Deacon, and some are with White Williams. I like the band name “Robin Williams on Fire,” and I hope that that’s what they sound like.
! Robin Williams on Fire
# White Williams
$ Dan Deacon
When Alterna-rock godfather and all-around masochistic pacifist Kurt D. Cobain coined the phrase "I think I'm dumb" back in 1993, he apparently had NOOOOOOO idea just how right he would come to be once this ruthless 21st century got its money-grubbing hands on him.
We're only in the year 2007, for god's sake, and the poor guy has already had his private journals published, his back-catalog pillaged for some pretty piss-poor best-ofs and box sets, his publishing rights sliced up and passed around like delicious prime rib, and his angst-ridden music reduced to kindergarten sing-a-longs by the likes of The Polyphonic Spree. Why, it seems like only yesterday that we here at TMT reported that the Nirvana song "Breed" had been egregiously licensed for a telecom ad, an upcoming action movie, and the videogame Major League Baseball 2K7 (TMT News).
And NOW, as if his legacy hadn't been turned into ENOUGH of a joke, Primary Wave (the music publishing company that first heard the lyrics "I don't even care/ We don't have to breed" and saw dollar signs) has apparently decided to create a monument to their own indecency by issuing one of the most cartoonishly outlandish bits of Nirvana miscellanea ever created: the solid wood "Heart Shaped Box-set" music box.
Did you hear him rolling over in that grave yet again? This is getting old, isn’t it?
Yes, you heard right, folks. Apparently, these Primary Wave dudes must have played hooky on the day their junior high English classes learned about metaphor, cuz this thing is an honest-to-goodness piece of wood that has been hand-treated and shaped like a heart symbol (as opposed to the actual organ) and contains not four chambers, but a set of five CDs of classic Cobainality. Believe it or not, 500 of these musical monstrosities were legitimately created by degree-holding business-men as a giveaway for the kinds of high-rolling music supervisors and ring-wearing advertising execs who may actually have the power and budget to license one of Cobain's rarified tracks. You know, like Frankie Sharp from Wayne’s World or something.
But wait! You haven’t even heard the most ludicrous parts yet: The hard-wood cover has the Nirvana logo burned onto its top, and the whole caboodle comes packaged in a white cake-box with the Nirvana smiley-face printed on it. Aaaaaaaaaand of course, there’s the pièce de résistance: when you open this little beauty, a small speaker proceeds to serenade you with none other than the classic HSB itself! Right now you’re probably asking yourself, “So wait, the whole thing also functions like some sort of giant, grotesque music box?” The answer is yes.
As for the more practical side (if there is one) of this whole affair, the music encased inside this literal heart-shaped box includes three discs of 50 songs performed by Nirvana, plus another two discs of cover songs, including stirring renditions of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Paul Anka, Scala, Tori Amos, Patti Smith, and Desmond Williams; tracks by Charlie Hunter Trio, Steve Earle, Herbie Hancock, Sinead O'Connor, and Stereophonics; and multi-song sets of Nirvana songs done as lullabies (!) and orchestral scores. Can you say “Volkswagen ad?”
So, what's an item like this worth, considering that it’s EXTREMELY rare, and yet EXTREMELY unpalatable to most legitimate Nirvana fans at the same time? Well, I guess we’ll find out together, dear readers. The market will soon set its price, as one lucky recipient in Detroit (Ford Motor Company, perhaps?) recently put #64/500 up on eBay. Unfortunately, the bidding seems to have ended for this particular item, so only time will tell how much the world’s wealthiest and most uninformed Nirvana fans are willing to shell-out in order to compensate for not being able to play music themselves. I don’t know about you, but if I were Kurt Cobain's ghost, I’d be screaming “Hey, wait, I’ve got a new complaint” right about now.
Politicians Actually Not Buying FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s Attempt to “Save” Newspapers By Pushing for More Media Consolidation
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced last week his plan for saving the print newspaper.
Hang on. Back up.
See, there's this thing called the internet... you might even be using it RIGHT NOW. And newspapers, interestingly enough, have discovered this internet thingy and use it for video, audio, breaking news, and... what? You can do that on TV and on the radio too? What's that? You can do it all in one place if you use the internet? Gee!
But you know, FCC Chairman Martin is magic. So he's going to do this: lift the ban on media cross-ownership by a newspaper and allow them to own one radio station and one television station. Ha! Take that, internet! Read as he pulls on the heartstrings of The New York Times' Op-Ed section: "If we don’t act to improve the health of the newspaper industry, we will see newspapers wither and die. Without newspapers, we would be less informed about our communities and have fewer outlets for the expression of independent thinking and a diversity of viewpoints. The challenge is to restore the viability of newspapers while preserving the core values of a diversity of voices and a commitment to localism in the media marketplace."
Localism. You mean, back when radio stations didn't have syndicated DJs who can't even tell you the weather in the town in which you're listening? Wack. How did that happen? Oh, right. The Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Understandably, politicians are confused and just a li'l anxious about this decision. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-MI) wrote a letter to the FCC saying: "Amending media ownership regulations, including a rule that has been on the books for more than three decades, is a grave matter that deserves the Commission's full and fair consideration." Hey, overturning 60-year-old precedents didn't hurt us a bit in 1996! Dude's trippin'. Silly Democrats.
And wouldn't know you it: my man Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) also thinks this is all a little too Mother Teresa, saying Martin's actions are "relying on an assumption that newspapers are doomed and that cross-ownership is necessary to save them."
Me? I'll just be here hanging out on NYTimes.com for a little while. Soaking up some daily news from a website that has nothing to do with a newspaper. Nope. Those poor little newspapers. Someone should really do something about them.
One Day The Roots Will Release A New Album, Curate 2008 POPPED! Music Fest; One Day I Will Get Married, Have Children, Retire, Probably Die
"Well, the new album is finished, and it's coming out in 10 days," wrote Jonny Greenwood about his band's ubiquitous new album In Rainbows. And now, filling the role of the anti-Radiohead, The Roots have announced the release of their next album in... 162 days?!
The Roots will drop their tenth career album, the hotly anticipated follow-up to 2006's Game Theory, April 29. "I want to be the first rap artist to actually make a good 10th record," the group's drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson told MTV News in August 2006. Unfortunately, we won't know if the group succeeded for another half a year.
"Pretty much five or six songs are done, and four of them are synth-heavy," Thompson told Billboard of the album's progress. And while only a portion of the album has actually been completed, it does have a title. Based on William T. Vollmann's Rising Up and Rising Down: Some Thoughts on Violence, Freedom and Urgent Means, The Roots have dubbed the record Rising Down.
In other news, just in case the band weren't looking far enough in advance, the hometown heroes will curate the first night of Philadelphia's Drexel University 2008 POPPED! Music Festival, which runs from June 20-22 next year. The seminal rap group will perform their classic album Things Fall Apart in its entirety, according to the organization, who encourage everyone to stay tuned for the announcement of the rest of the weekend's acts. No rush, guys. Seriously.
You would think that when temperatures were in the negative numbers and the wind-chill factor was kicking in, most bands would huddle inside their houses and hibernate for the winter. Apparently, that’s not the case for The Weakerthans (or The Good Life) or Pelican or Los Campesinos!), as they have decided to be productive this winter and grace Europeans with their live presence.
If The Weakerthans manage to survive the frigid Euro air, they’ll be celebrating December 22 with a homecoming show in Winnipeg. Not that the Canadian winter is any less brutal, but I’m sure these Canucks can stand it.
The Weakerthans are touring in support of their awesome and critically ignored latest album, Reunion Tour.
Virtue The Cat Explains Her Frostbite:
* House and Parish