The Last Drop

Reviews and Clues on Music That Matters (to me)

Archive for October, 2007

The British (music) Monarchy

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A recent Pitchfork rant/soapbox ministry tried to highlight the centralization of British music journalism. NME has crossed over from a bastion for independent music critique to mainstream press and overall tastemakers for British rock. Similar to a Chicago blog that is often quoted by artists to increase their “indie cred” which may also help them get signed? Maybe. However, British rock still has BBC Radio One that has reversed their fan base – going from a Top 40 mainstream audience to focus specifically on pushing the envelope and developing the overall British tolerance for new music. A strange business proposal (estrange your fan base for a niche audience that is fical) and most likely only possible through the federal sponsorship of the BBC. Although NPR has done well to represent diverse music in their broadcasts.

Even with the suggested influence of NME as the end all for making bands, the UK still seems much more open to fostering a less machine-like progression of new music. The fact of a band like The Gossip that would hardly be marketable in the US – a three person punk band led by a large lesbian that makes many references to her size and sexuality – becoming a huge success in the UK is true testament to the culture of live performance. The clubs still rule the roost and it is virtually impossible to break on a larger scale without having a strong live performance background. Regardless of the British press, you still have the asset of word of mouth to drive your career. In many ways, it simplifies the formula, if only to place a slightly larger reward for bands that can survive live. Something the US can and should learn.

Pitchfork Poptimist – English Settlement

Written by TopDrop

October 29th, 2007 at 2:19 pm

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The Upside on the Industry

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Fast Company has decided to chime in on the changes in technology as they effect the entertainment industry. Instead of the doom and gloom from most other journals, Fast Company actually thinks most of the large companies can pull through if they act fast. The article as a whole is gives a positive spin on the rapid changes in technology. They do acknowledge that many of the institutions we know will not be what they are now – most heading towards the bounds of techno-induced social networking or making their product available for free while using ad revenue or subscriptions to support them. Commercial radio is the only area that they predicted to die off for good with the proliferation of satellite services. I’m a bit uncertain of the formal death of radio with many public radio stations on an upturn in listeners. The freedom to generate original content supported by your fans should still remain fashionable for a while.

I’m glad there is finally a proper business journal that is taking a more positive outlook on the recent changes affecting media conglomerates. There is still a part of me that wants to believe not everyone at a record label, film studio, tv studio, or radio station is turning a blind eye to the shifting consumer purchase behavior and advancements in technology. What do you think?

Now,That’s What I Call Entertainment Technology

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October 28th, 2007 at 4:35 pm

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New Issue: Roisin Murphy

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Roisin Murphy, Overpowered – Another addition to my indoctrination into British pop music. If it’s not rock, it’s electronic. Roisin rides the line of traditional electronic music and R&B since her voice has more soul than most in her genre. Much of the sound on this album hearkens back to early ’90s electronica – lots of primitive synth sounds with jagged guitars. And a voice that is unintentionally overproduced. Maybe too slick for her own good. It feels more like a collection of remixes instead of a full album. All of the remixes are good, just very produced. Probably perfect in a club environment. I caught myself wanting to like her more than I did. Her voice is stunning and it’s great to hear someone trying to add more to electronic music than chopped vocals of idiosyncratic lyrics or sultry whispers/moans over slinky rhythms (you can’t hide Goldfrapp). She spends time developing intelligent lyrics and a few of the songs have a more open construction that allows her to breathe. “Checkin on Me” and “Tell Everybody” show off her songwriting potential – looped voices and vocal percussion are a perfect skeleton for Roisin to show off her range without being cluttered by heavy synths. Too often the rhythms overtake her voice and you are left with heavy production and little substance. Or she takes to trite lyrics that make the album more dated than it should be (“Primitive”, “Body Language”). I’m interested enough to see her live and thankfully she is coming for a two night stint. Hopefully the live show will be more impressive.

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October 28th, 2007 at 3:33 pm

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Stockpile: The Pharcyde

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The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde I have no idea what came over me to listen to this album. It’s been overcast, rainy and generally nasty – typical British weather. I usually go to hibernate and take solace in fall music to warm me up. Medium to slow tempos with an air of seriousness and melancholy. Listening to the Pharcyde’s first album is burst of Californian smog-filled sunshine (sans the wildfires) that is almost too bright for my ears. Almost. The period in early ’90s hip hop that melded jazz and soul with witty insights (De La Soul, Digable Planets, A Tribe Called Quest, etc.) seems so fresh sounding now. A lot of hip hop production now is so slick and precise that the overall point of hip hop – a unique perspective through witty and often catchy flows – gets lost. Thank you 50 cent. Bizarre Ride exemplifies the beauty of this genre while adding a heavy dose of silly to the equation. Three guys messing around and telling “Yo Mama” jokes never sounded so good. “Passing Me By” was the lone radio hit, but the album is riddled with songs that are catchy yet poignant. It also doesn’t hurt that The Pharcyde has some of the most distinct voices in hip hop – instead of the uber-aggressive flows of most South Central L.A. residents, Pharcyde utilizes a more everyman sound with a slight bent towards nasally whines. It all adds to this energy of possibility – three guys that are smarter than they let on rapping about whatever pleases them. Which pleases me. The Pharcyde – more satisfying than chicken noodle soup or hot chocolate on a rainy day. And a lot less calories.

Written by TopDrop

October 28th, 2007 at 2:59 pm

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Stockpile: Patrick Wolf

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Patrick Wolf, The Magic Position – I first heard of Mr. Wolf via Amy Winehouse. He opened for her at The Varsity last March. At the time, I wasn’t very impressed – he came dressed in a boy scout shirt and lederhosen. I’m all for artful expression, but he seemed more focused on the physical interpretation of his music vs. actually making music. His set was rather short, a bit dramatic (as only a boyscout in lederhosen can be) and the only standout track was (aptly) “The Magic Position”. Now living in London and being thoroughly overpowered by the stature of The Libertines in British pop music, I felt too self conscious to not give Patrick a second chance. Listening to the full album gives the songs much more shape and helps explain the eccentric exterior.

Patrick enjoys creating miniature symphonies about love, blending strings, horns and stiff electronic rhythms. Furthermore, his voice adds to the theater of each song, raising the stakes to semi-epic proportions. Ah, what love and heartache will bring out of you?! For Patrick, even the happy songs have a hint of sadness. Which actually sounds good. “Magic Position” and “(Let’s Go) Get Lost” succeed because the theme is happy but the sound is bittersweet. It adds a bit of a realist edge to his dramatic tendencies. His sad songs work too, but easily can shift into exaggeration with overindulgent lyrics and too many strings. Patrick is at his best when he cuts out all of the added instrumentation and simply sings with the piano. “Augustine” typifies his ability to simplify and sing touching lyrics. I wish there was more of this on The Magic Position, but the album is enjoyable as is. I just need to be in the mood for arm chair operas.

Written by TopDrop

October 28th, 2007 at 2:15 pm

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New Issue: Jens Lekman

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Jens Lekman, Oh You’re So Silent, Jens – Time for autumn records and nobody does autumn better than Sweden. Ok, that’s totally not based on anything substantial, but it felt right. It is autumn and I am looking for music that makes me feel warmer and Jens Lekman definitely delivers. Even though he just released his latest album, Night Falls Over Kortedala, the fun of Oh You’re So Silent, Jens was too tempting to pass up. A greatest hits album with B sides. And Jens’ cheeky storytelling. How pleasant!

Jens has hit the radar for the indie crowd and for good reason. His songs are exceptionally catchy, on par with early Beach Boys. Almost too sugary. But he knows how to bring his lyrics to the edge of sappiness, flash poignancy, and tie it up in a big red bow. Over and over again. It’s phenomenal really. Oh course Oh You’re… has the best of the best, but it’s hard to envision this formula not working. A charming Swede lilting on love and silliness may just be too irresistible. Although 17 tracks is long no matter how good you are. Pop in Jens, light the fire, and get your hot cocoa ready. Extra marshmallows please.

Written by TopDrop

October 21st, 2007 at 1:07 pm

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New Issue: Devendra Banhart

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Devendra Banhart, Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon – I freely admit that I had passed on earlier records from Devendra because of his looks. Yes, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Yes looks can be deceiving. Yes, “I have a dream that every race, creed, color”, yada yada. But if your next door neighbor looked like Charles Mason in a bikini, would you really invite him over for tea? I hope not. Thus, based his exterior and oft gender bending antics in the press, I totally assumed a different sound from Mr. Banhart – possibly, psychedelic, experimental, long format, arduous hippie goth songs about surreal images and ancient eastern concepts of the afterlife. Yeah, I was that thrown by the image. I’ve learned my lesson on this one.

Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon has none of the aforementioned drawbacks. Well, longer than normal songs are a part of it and he is folksy, but in a good way. And it all works. His quirky and TSA alarming looks are but a mere casing for a very touching and almost delicate musician. I kept on repeating “sweet” as the best adjective to describe his songs. Not the Wayne’s World, late ’90s version – rather the gentle, warm and inviting use that typifies his songs. Even with his vast array of genres presented on the album (Tropicalia, folk, fuzzy funk, shoo-bop, gospel/ soul), he is solidly set in the ’60s. Usually a trouble area for my musical tastes, his creativity finds space to breathe without suffering from long windedness. His lyrics may be as elusive as Beck’s, but he crafts catchy melodies that smooth over any doubt. And it really is sweet. Like a good hug. Or a long lost friend remembering your birthday. Even with longer than radio friendly song lengths (average is well over 5 minutes, and the album is over 60 minutes, you don’t feel like repetition is setting in. I was actually taken on a journey with this album which is rare these days. I’m pleased that his looks do not match my original typecasting and am eager to hear more. A live performance, that may be pushing it 🙂

Written by TopDrop

October 14th, 2007 at 3:08 pm

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Top Drops: September

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A few weeks late (thank you British diseases), but still heavily thought over, my top music selections from last month:

St. Vincent – Annie Clark’s clear tone and self conscious song writing works on her debut album. One half electro, one half unplugged, she bears all in different genres yet never over extends herself.

New Young Pony Club – Finally, the British Invasion has made it into my library. Shortlisted for the Mercury Prize and long on synth pop sultriness, NYPC has captured to new indy rock/dance niche and is bringing it full on to anyone willing to shake their booty.

The Rumble Stips – #2 in my newly acquired contemporary British catalogue. With a big voice and even bigger supporting band, Chris Waller croons, swings and generally carries on about love and heartbreak. In an upbeat kinda way.

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October 14th, 2007 at 2:57 pm

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Stick a Fork in It?

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I’m back, after a week of suffering from the British plague. Hopefully my health will stay up and I can keep y’all posted on what is in my head.

The eccentric, elitist, yet somewhat helpful fellows at Pitchfork finally try to pose words of encouragement for the music industry. Their usual aloof disdain for anything ever heard by anyone other than themselves was put aside briefly to put forth several ideas to create excitement in buying music. Some of them seem worth while (bundling with games), some far fetched (buy 4 cds that have to be played at the same time???), but all in all at least a try.

For me, the greatest concept given was going back to making music an event. Film has lost their way with this as well and every time they go back to it, it works. It’s hard with all of the options available for entertainment, but people still pay attention when its an event that they can’t seem to miss. Something compelling to force us all into believing it is bigger than just a single song, film, tv show, anything.

Pitchfork Article

Written by TopDrop

October 14th, 2007 at 2:29 pm

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