Drag City Gets Sucked Into Playing Hardball With the Big Boys, It Seems, Most Likely

Drag City did not win Best Label of the Year Award at this past year's Plug Awards, the independent music award show similar to the Grammys or to the Billboard Awards, but independent, so with a much better list of nominees, winners, and performers. Sub Pop won, and good for them, but what I'm taking issue with is the fact that Drag City didn't even garner a nomination.

Let's see. What did Drag City do in 2006? Well, they released Ys by Joanna Newsom, The Letting Go by Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, The Black Swan by Bert Jansch, II by Espers, The Sun Awakens by Six Organs of Admittance, Dat Rosa Mel Apibus by White Magic, and Introduction by The Red Krayola, not to mention The World's Funnyman DVD by Neil Hamburger. There was more, but you get the idea: a slew of quality releases, most of which saw the light of day on vinyl. That's the sort of thing one expects from Drag City. So, no nomination from the Plug Awards? Bad form. Tisk, tisk.

But maybe there's something to it. What many labels have done (or are in the process of doing) is "go digital," making songs, albums, etc. downloadable for a fee, so the technophile elite amongst us — those with laptops and cell phones, instead of CD and record players — can listen to, correction, hear music as well.

Drag City, it seems, has recently alluded to the possibility of going digital, turning the smooth, round, accurate sine waves of an analog source into rough, spiky, one-and-zero approximations. According to a news posting on their website, "Drag City has got her opposable toe in the water for sure — and variety still being the spice of life as it was back in the stone age (of the 60s), she'll continue to offer alternative formats as they come along. First it was 8-tracks, then came cassettes, then the CD revolution... now it's mp3s. Whatever it is you want, we'll see what we can do — though reel-to-reel format might be a problem."

So, there you have it; my technophile neighbor will be hearing the new Meg Baird album Dear Companion on her cell phone earpiece in no time. How comforting.

Blitzen Trapper Holds Steady Long Enough to Brave Tour; Duels Bear at Dusk

It was a blustery February night when I first encountered Blitzen Trapper. I’d been navigating a log raft down the Columbia River for over a month, not-so-hot on the trail of the Pacific Northwest’s most hirsute resident, Bigfoot. Last seen crossing state lines with armfuls of booze, speculation around the basin suggested that he was close, but, low on supplies, my raft was near ruin.

The party was a mess: Bryan was sick with dysentery, other Bryan succumbed to diphtheria just a week ago (strangely he requested his tombstone read ‘peperony and chease’), and noisemakers and tin-foil tiaras littered the floor of the craft. Myself? Well, the squirrel fur on my ushanka had nearly frozen to the curls in my heavily waxed moustache -- in short, I figured it was time to find some rest.

I anchored the vessel in a kindly looking hamlet, where the glow from the gas lamplights shone on falling salt shaker snow enveloping the browns and blacks of the steeply pitched roofs in a halo of light. We had apparently taken a wrong turn somewhere because the blizzard-charred peak of Mt. Hood loomed heavy over the village.

“Is this place on the map?” asked Bryan, breath visible in the night air.

The vacant, narrow streets wound around the wooden houses as we spotted an inn, door obscured by snow, along the incline. Once inside, the short, round innkeeper led us past a raucous beer hall, music flowing up the stairway, to a room upstairs.

Downstairs, the rafters of the beer hall rang with anthems of Oregonian frontiersmanship. And in a dark corner of the ale house, nursing a goblet Scotchguard, was Blitzen Trapper -– mammoth marauder of the unseen Oregon forest, said to have scaled Mt. Hood on the back of a grizzly (and later befriend that grizzly, convincing him to become partners in a joint business venture before skipping town with the cash advance and critically damaging said grizzly’s credit rating). I sat down across from the flannel-clad beardsman, as the fellows at the bar launched into another song.

“The El Dorado of Northwest,” he mumbled. “We tried to telegram the news out... but in those days the lines could only take so many dots and dashes... only thing we got was more snow... and rain... and a volcanic eruption.”

“Is that why everything here’s so dusty?” I asked, dusting some ash off my cup. “Say, have you heard any news about Bigfoot?”

“Huh? Oh, hello. Are you interested in joining the Wild Mountain Nation?” said Blitzen, ignoring my question. “I have some reasonably priced CDs coming in around June 12 . Top-of-the-line, three easy payments.”

“Is that some kind of album you’re self-releasing?”

“Yes, and if you find yourself in Portland on July 5, we’ll be throwing a belated CD release party for it. I also have some reasonably priced watches.”

“Oh yeah? Sounds like fun. I have a raft, and we’re... [Blitzen Trapper falls asleep] ...hello? ...WHERE’S MY BEAR MONEY?”

[Blitzen Trapper jumps awake]

“What? Oh, it’s you. Stream music from the new record online, but beware -- there be album outtakes. You know we’re actually already on tour,” continued the newly cogent Mr. Trapper. “We’ve been busy playing shows while you’ve been putting off this news story.”

“Oh, right. Sorry.”

Join me as I ditch the raft a take a dogsled across the taiga of Oregon to see Blitzen Trapper duel the grizzly at dusk:

*The Hold Steady

EU Approves of Universal/BMG Music Publishing Merger

The music industry is always a-changin'. Least that's what my grandpappy used to say. Actually, he never said that, but I'm sure if he wrote for Tiny Mix Tapes in his time, he would've stuck something like that in a news story. In fact, let's watch me do the rest of this story like my grandpa would:

As you may see, by that there title of this story, Universal has acquired BMG Music Publishing for two point nineteen billion smackaroonies, and the EU has givin' it the old go ahead! Hot chili cheese dog! Could you imagine what I could buy with two point nineteen billion? I could buy that '79 Chevy! Oh, how I've had my baby blues set on that beautiful machine. I'll tell ya today, they just don't make cars like they used to; that was before the god damn unions went corrupt and people started sleepin' on the job. Forgetin' the nuts and bolts. I'd like to give 'em a piece of grandaddy's nu-- Oh right. I was talkin' about music. Well they just don't make music like they used to either! All of it today is just horse manure! Ain't a damn bit of any good.

Oh snap crackle pop! Yer grandmother's callin' for me, so I'll make this short. On May 22, 2007, Universal Music Group, known for such pop idols as Bono of U2, decided to aq-- U2? Bono? I'm the original Bono, so listen to yer grandaddy because way before Bono, I was sportin' better sunglasses than him and a gave a damn about charity because my family would donate a hog to the annual hog roast. Now that's what I call charitable. Oh sorry, lost track of myself, anyway -- Hold on, woman! Okay! Hold yer horses! Okay sorry again, yer grandma is gettin' old, so sometimes we gotta deal with her yappin'. Universal Music Group has decided to adopt BMG Music Publishing permanently, so they're surely goin' ta make loads of money. But let me tell ya right now; it's goin' ta smell like roadkill. Well, I better go help out yer grandmother in the kitchen; we're preparin' the hog for the annual hog roast. You scurry on home to yer ma and pa now, and I'll tell ya youngsters one thing and ya better damn well heed my advice; the music industry is always a-changin'.

Sprint to Market Indie Hip-Hop (Misleading Headline – Finish Article Before Sending Hate Mail to El-P)

Being a Tiny Mix Tape reader, you might think that the following article applies to you. It seems to have all of the components necessary for an appropriate TMT piece: a cred-boosting genre, a name check in the headline, and a corporate target to fire righteous indignation at for running the sanctity of said genre... I mean, I was there. I was already five-paragraphs deep into an e-mail to Aesop Rock calling him a broken-winged jabberwocky with a toothache staring into a bilingual cannon (Aesopian for sellout). However, I actually took the time to look at the source and found that the following news is about independent hip-hop (and reggaeton) in the most literal sense of the phrase and thus has no bearing on any reader... so feel free to skip to the end of the article to see spoilers about season 1 of The Sopranos.

Really? Okay fine, but I really do promise you that this article is irrelevant at this point.

Last chance. I assure you this article has nothing to do with any of the artists you listen to.

Okay, I hope this is as painful for you to read as it is for me to write, but seriously there are no jukies or anticonies mentioned from this point on. Sprint Nextel has partnered with Nexxt (3dGy AMIRITE?) Mobile to promote Nexxt Mobile artists on their broadband network by making ringtones and wallpapers available to users. The Nexxt Mobile artists are unsigned (get it? literally "independent rap") MCs including such heavy hitters as Ms. B’Havin (source of fame: featured on a Young Joc joint), The All Stars (WHO?), Conrizzle (?), and Miky Bad Boy (...) Enthralling. While Sprint will most likely be texting you about this important information, you can also check your local bootlegger, as Nexxt Mobile is concurrently releasing a set of mixtapes to promote this endeavor. This service is also available on U.S. carriers Cingular, Amp’d Mobile, Verizon, Boost Mobile, and Altell.

If you’re looking to send a basket of flowers (do flowers come in baskets? That does NOT sound correct) to the brains behind this, you could address it to the geniuses at The Nickels Group who, in addition to inundating your cell phone with horrible rap that isn’t even top 40, owns Rintones.com. However, if you really want to thank them for allowing all your friends to hear the new Miky Bad Boy jam on your cell, you could stop by their website and pick up some “Sexy Babe Backgrounds” (SFW) or Chamillionaire and Fort Minor polyphonic tones.

Okay, you back? Jimmy Altieri is the rat. I know, I did NOT see that coming either.

Boris to Tour Europe; Planet Desperately Clings to Faint Hope of Survival

There’s some relatively scary shit going on in the world-at-large, my beloved readers. Now, I fully understand that most of you are far too busy -- e.g., chasing after your desired lovers or fretting yourselves stupid over your grotesque acne or concerning yourself with whatever filth youngsters participate in nowadays -- to even consider having the time to worry about these shit things. Well, it’s about time someone set you straight, at least on one issue; namely, your impending death.

If you live on the East Coast of the U.S., you’re royally fucked. First of all, there’s one kick-ass mountain volcano in the Canary Islands, which you can call Mister Cumber Vieja. And that shitlet is going to BLOW. And when it blows, the hunk of the mountain left after the eruption is going to fall into the sea. And that lump will be bigger than the biggest stonk-on you or any of your loser friends ever got. When it crashes into the Atlantic, it will unleash a force of such righteous fury that Florida and probably some other Easty bits of the beloved homeland will be submerged in a tidal wave so gigantic that only those with ludicrously advanced stilt-walking skills will survive.

However, Dr. Steven Day, who wrote a report in 2001 about all this stuff, says the likelihood of it happening on a year-to-year basis is “low” and that it could take between decades and hundreds of years before the hammer falls. Fucking killjoy.

Trouble is still afoot, though, and this concerns you all. Reason being is that Japanese crush-rock masters Boris are playing in Europe. And their first gig is in Slovenia, which I’m pretty sure is in Eastern Europe somewhere.

I'm going on record predicting that when Boris hit their first chord -- or, at least, by the time the drummer hits his big fuck-off gong -- in Ljubljana, the resulting intensity of vibrations will not just lead to the collapse of mountains, but will cause the entire western bit of Europe (which has been fatally weakened by their leaders’ refusal to engage in the War On Terror) to fall into the sea. This will cause an unstoppable tsunami propagated solely by the power of heavy rock. And, naturally, the onrushing torrent will lead to the entire population of the planet running to the hills to save their pathetic lives. There are only two words that can be used to describe such an event as this; those words are ‘heavy’ and ‘metal.’

However, on a more sombre note, this event will likely also lead to the cancellation of the rest of the tour. As such, I’d recommend you get tickets to the Cvetlicarna Mediapark. And wear a raincoat.

The dates (if you even want to bother looking past the first one is your choice, I suppose; your time may be better spent in building a rudimentary boat):

* with Isis and Oxbow

# with Pelican

Six Degrees of Colin Meloy! Shoot, Fire, Damn the Torpedoes!

First up, famed author Larry McMurtry. Why McMurtry? Because his book is sitting right next to me, and I am in control here.

1. Larry McMurtry wrote The Last Picture Show
2. Ellen Burstyn was in the movie version of The Last Picture Show
3. Rachel Weisz was in The Fountain with Ellen Burstyn
4. The Daily Show featured Rachel Weisz
5. Stephen Colbert, originally from The Daily Show, battled Chris Funk
6. Chris Funk is a member of The Decemberists with Colin Meloy

Hell yeah, man! Give me five up top! Who’s next? Mike Piazza? Puhleaaze. I’ll lick that in three degrees. Who do you think I am? I’m second on these boards only to Emcee Greg.

1. Mike Piazza was featured in a song by Belle and Sebastian
2. Belle and Sebastian ranks right in front of The Decemberists on my iTunes play count
3. Colin Meloy is a member of The Decemberists.

Not even a challenge. Let’s poll the audience now. Give me something hard, kids. Ivan Basso? No thanks. Carnival Cruise? Hell yeah!

1. A commercial for Carnival Cruise features the song Lust for Life by Iggy Pop
2. Iggy Pop starred in Dead Man alongside Crispin Glover
3. Crispin Glover was in The Year of the Rat
4. Aaron Stewart-Ahn worked on The Year of the Rat and also directed the video for "Sixteen Military Wives"
5. "Sixteen Military Wives" is a song by The Decemberists
6. Colin Meloy is a member of The Decemberists

I’m on a roll; let’s try Ivan Basso.

1. Ivan Basso is an Italian bicyclist
2. Italy is one of the countries The Decemberists are not going to on their extended tour
3. Colin Meloy is, yet again, a member of The Decemberists.
4. The extended tour:

$ orchestra show

Animal Collective to Dog Paddle Across the Pond, Pee on Europe’s Rug

You know, for as batshit crazy as Brooklyn, NY’s Animal Collective’s music can be, their tour news sure isn’t very exciting. Basically, they’re adding some European tourdates to their summer tour schedule... So what? Tons of bands add dates to their schedules, and it’s just no big deal, right?

Right.

It’s just so... so annoyingly regular.

So I thought to myself, “How should Animal Collective be announcing their European tour dates???”

Here’s what I came up with. Avey, I hope you’re reading this:

{(ahhem)

--MEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWW!

--Animal Collective (WHOOOP!!! WHOOP-WHOOP!!!)

--Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-announce some ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-additional European datesssssssss

--Oooh-ooh-ooh Ahh-ah, Oooh-ooh-ooh Ahh-ah!

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ...

Justin Timberlake Launches His Own Label; JC Chasez and Joey Fatone Split a Hot Dog

Justin Timberlake finally has his own label, Tennman Records, a joint venture with Interscope. And in case you don't know who Justin Timberlake is, he is the world's greatest performer and Pitchfork Media's "Number One Dreamy Boy of the Year." Since his years as a shaved chest puppet in N-SYNC, Timberlake has always dreamt of being in control of something with sounds and mixer board thingys. Timberlake will serve as chairman and CEO of the new company, which will be distributed internationally by Interscope Geffen A&M. Timberlake will also be presented with a plaque for BET's "One Nice Chest" award, and he will also be placed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the only human male to never have reached puberty.

With all joking aside (try to figure out which ones were jokes; he really has a label now, people), Timberlake will be joined in the boardroom by former Sony BMG Entertainment VP of A&R Ken Komisar, who will serve as president. The first signings to Tennman have yet to be announced but will most likely be ultra-neato. That is a fact.

In a statement, Timberlake squeaked out, "We are all excited about the talent we have to offer already on our roster, and I cannot wait to introduce the world to my new discoveries." Timberlake then reminded everyone around him that he has done many drugs and that he is cool. Still on thin ice due to low record sales and no one really buying into the whole "bringin' sexy back" campaign, the artist luckily remains signed to Jive for his own recordings, according to an unreliable source.

Since his 2002 solo debut, Justified, I have been a huge sexified fan of Timberlake. He is the most successful solo artists in music ever, and he's probably like number one on the Billboard Hot 100 since the beginning of time. He's constantly selling out arenas worldwide. If there is anyone that I would like the interview for TMT, it would be the Sex Man himself. Despite my negativity and third-grader sarcasm, this label might actually be a success and include decent pop acts on the lineup. Sorry for my apathy. On a more positive note, I'll end this article by reminding you that you can currently hear JT's lovely voice in the animated porno, Shrek the Third.

They Might Be Giants Ready New Album, A Certain Demographic of Nerds Rejoice

Little known fact: many of us here at TMT are giant nerds. What? It's clear as day? Shit. Well, anyway, I'm here to tell you why Judy Ain't No Punk and I are particularly nerdy, and surprise surprise, it has to do with They Might Be Giants.

Some little whipper-snappers spend their summers canoeing, making atrocious lanyards, and learning "Kumbaya" by heart, but not I. And not Judy. Instead, we spent three weeks during our early teen summers in classrooms at a Certain Gifted And Talented Program Run By a Prestigious University, learning logic proofs and the proper manner in which to craft an essay. I read Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway at the age of 12. As a result, I still can't pass a swim test to save my life (literally).

But I digress. Each week, the 500 of us attended a very awkward social event also known as a "dance," and trust me, the nerdiness did not stop there. At each dance, if a certain number of "canonized" songs was not reached, the RAs would be nervous. (What we would have actually done, had our requests not been honored, I do not know. Perform terribly on our SATs to discredit the program? Refuse to use proper grammar? Horrors!) Included in this canon was not one, but TWO songs by the Johns: "Birdhouse In Your Soul" and "Istanbul" from their 1990 album Flood. We would join hands, form a line, and RUN in a sort of misguided conga line as fast as we possibly could, tripping over our flip flops and invariably causing disastrous injuries, finally collapsing in a heap to the final strains.

While I don't know if their new album will yield another strange soundtrack for nerd-mating rituals, The Else promises to be another calculated lesson in the art of the Power Nerd, with a catchy, guitar-driven single called "Take Out the Trash" floating around MySpace for your listening pleasure. The Dust Brothers were enlisted as producers on this jam, so watch out for some slick drumbeats. Twenty-five years of songs about planets and geometrically shaped men, dudes. That's longevity. Devo would be proud.

Touch and Go Open Digital Music Store; Corey Rusk Owes His Mom $15.62 for Dial-Up Access Fees

My oh my, things must be pretty busy right now for Mr. Corey Rusk, the god-like generalissimo of the Touch and Go recording empire. First of all, of course, they’re releasing one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of the year in the form of Shellac’s Excellent Italian Greyhound on June 7. It’s going to be one HELL of a job for him to hand paint each and every one of those record sleeves to Steve Albini’s exacting specifications, don’t you think? It’s also unconfirmed at this point whether or not Corey has agreed to Shellac’s request that the CD and vinyl releases of the new album be preceded a week earlier by a wax phonograph cylinder pressing of the album (with a hand-painted papyrus sleeve, natch).

Before he can do that, though, he’s got to finish the huge job he’s given himself by deciding to launch the Touch and Go digital music store, due to be open for business sometime in June. It’s taken nine months of preparation to get to the point where the site is ready to go. TMT’s unsubstantiated rumour department can exclusively reveal that the reason it’s taken so long is that Mr. Rusk has created each and every non-DRM MP3 (yay!) for the site using his mom’s computer and an early version of Winamp (so early, in fact, that it’s actually called DOSamp), lovingly ripping from his own personal copy of every album and single in the Touch and Go back catalogue. HE CARES THAT MUCH, PEOPLE.

Maybe this hands-on approach is the reason that Albini and his past and present bandmates have finally agreed to allow their work to be available in the digital realm. Yep, you’ll be able to grab files by Shellac, Big Black, and Rapeman from the site! So much for the future belonging to the analog loyalists, I suppose. Inspiration for the pricing arrangement for the store seems to have been provided by another somewhat popular digital music site -- tracks will be 99-cents a pop, a full album’ll cost you $9.99.

To celebrate this undeniably wonderful news, I have a treat for you all. Shellac live at the T&G 25th anniversary gigs from last year. You’ll be pleased to know the video also includes exclusive footage of David Yow referring to the glory that is faecal vomit, and Steve Albini smiling (it’s as bad as it sounds, the baseball cap he’s wearing only accentuating the horror). Enjoy!