Sound Affects

what is this six-stringed instrument but an adolescent loom?

Archive for April 2008

The death of record labels?

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Coldplay have released their new single.

It’s called Violet Hill, which is a much better title than their album, Viva La Vida.

I know.

I know.

The album art is pretty cool though.

Anyway, Coldplay are offering the single for free download at their website, leading many commentators to compare it to Radiohead’s In Rainbows strategy.

The general pattern of writing seems to go something like this…

Blah blah blah free music blah blah blah. Death of record labels blah blah blah put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye blah blah blah it’s the end of the world as we know it.”

But no one seems to be thinking much about the next step.

If this truly is the end of record labels, then what happens next?

What the hell else is there?

Will music just be left at the mercy of the internet?

There is no doubting that the internet has changed the way we get our music.

It has allowed for a democratisation of music, where anyone with access to a computer can choose what music they want to listen to, whether it’s the biggest bands in the world or someone sitting in their bedroom fiddling around with GarageBand.

This has had a profound effect, not just on the industry but on bands themselves. And while the internet has already changed the way we consume music, it’s entirely possible that soon, the internet will begin to affect the music we are able to consume.

RECORD LABELS

Many have been forecasting the death of the record label for years, and that call reached fever pitch last year with the online release of Radiohead’s latest album, In Rainbows. And certainly, many major acts have been abandoning their labels (Radiohead) or coming into direct conflict with them (Prince) over the best way to distribute, promote and create music. And while the focus has been on the havoc this will wreak on record labels, very little thought has been given to the effect it will have on the music industry as a whole.

What could quite conceivably happen, is that record labels will be forced to stick with their major acts – the ones that bring in the money – and will have less and less available funds for the discovery, development and promotion of new up and coming bands. This might not sound like such a major issue, since sites like MySpace have stepped in to this void, but what MySpace and others cannot provide is any form of development, nor any mass marketing. Simply put, no one will be able to afford to promote their music in a way that reaches the wider community.

And while music blogs will report on the next big thing, and MySpace will create some sort of fanbase, very few of these bands will ever command a place in the zeitgeist. And so no one will go to their gigs. And no one will buy their albums. There will be a small band of dedicated followers, but even if some bands receive wider media coverage, there is no way that they can make themselves known to the sort of audience that bands need in order to make a living from their music. It may well be that an unwanted by-product of major artists leaving their labels is that the diversity, quality and quantity of a label’s smaller acts is hugely diminished.

SIZE

This prospect has hugely significant ramifications for music venues. If there are no bands that can command huge popular support, then the days of stadium tours are over. Hell, the days of arena tours are over. And while some may say that this is a good thing, and that gigs should always be smaller, more intimate affairs, to lose the experience of seeing bands as huge as U2 and Daft Punk will be tragic. Music’s power as a social force, as something that brings people together, will be completely destroyed when the international scene is dominated by acts that can only fill a 1500-capacity inner-city venue.

If this is the case, then it also has serious consequences for live music outside of the US and Britain. If there are no record labels to foot the bill, how is the lastest MySpace phenomenon going to tour places like mainland Europe, let alone Australia?

BANDS

But perhaps the greatest effect will be on bands and artists themselves.
Already we are beginning to see that blog sensations and MySpace heroes are struggling to maintain their career beyond their breakthrough album. Whether it is because the hype has moved on, or because of modern society’s apparent Attention-Deficit Disorder, more and more bands are crashing back to anonymity as fast as they rose to fame.

So what ends up happening is that bands ride the hype machine for their breakthrough release, but then the follow-up falls on deaf ears because people are off with the next big thing. Indeed, it’s entirely possible that they will never have their big breakthrough album in the first place, because unless major labels are prepared to take a gamble on internet sensations and invest heavily in them, their only audiences are going to be their Top 8 Friends. Artists like Lily Allen, The View, Artic Monkeys, Kate Nash, The Cool Kids, Klaxons, MGMT, Vampire Weekend – all these bands had huge online following, but it wasn’t until major labels invested time and money in them that they became well known outside the most keen observers of the scene. Indeed, only a couple of these bands (Lily Allen, Arctic Monkeys, Klaxons) have made any impression at all in the general public’s consciousness. All the rest have huge hype and popularity, but no one (comparatively speaking) has heard of them.

Despite what has been said, record labels are not going quietly to their death. They will adopt better, more inventive modes of advertising, of promotion, and will have to figure out someway to deal with downloading. It’s not going anywhere, so the labels will have to change. But they will.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that we are in for a profound change in the way music is advertised, created and consumed. But we had a profound change with the invention of the radio. Another with the invention of the 33 and the 45. Another with tapes. Another with CDs. Another with MTV. Another with downloads. And not only has music survived, but it has made music more interesting, more diverse, and has opened music up to larger and larger audiences.

It IS the end of the world as we know it, but I feel fine.

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The Wonderful World of Electro

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I know none of this will come as a revelation, but there is electronic music out there in the world.

In fact, it is fast becoming one of the more dominant genres or styles. In Australia this week, the new album by The Presets is the highest selling album in the country while Cut Copy squeaks into the Top Ten at number 9.

What is even more interesting is the gradual encroachment of electro into the world of pop – Rihanna’s Umbrella was just about the highest selling single in the universe last year, pushed along by one of the phattest synth-lines ever heard on commercial radio.

Sadly, the inevitable problem arises – when genres become more and more popular, then less and less talented musicians jump on the bandwagon in order to make a cheap buck. As a result it is getting harder and harder to find really intelligent, interesting and creative electro music. It most certainly still exists – The Presets’ My People comes to mind as the most outstanding recent release – but you do have to sift through a lot of shit to find what sparkles.

So what I thought I would do is help you in the sifting of the shit.

Obviously, Diplo and MSTRKRFT are two of the biggest names going around at the moment, not only in electro but in popular music. But these two tracks show them both at the top of their game.

Betty is Diplo’s take on the classic Betty Davis Eyes, originally by Kim Carnes but famously covered by Gwyneth Paltrow in the film Duets (2000) (which isn’t nearly as bad as you might think, and is a secret favourite of mine. Paul Giamatti is excellent).

Diplo – Betty

Leavin’ is MSTRKRFT’s remix of Jesse McCartney’s latest song.
I don’t want to editorialise much, but the original has to be one of the most hopeless, saccharine pieces of shit I have ever heard in my life. Despite the mountains of money it makes him, and the millions of 14 year-old girls who have his picture on their wall, I hope McCartney is embarrassed to put his name to this piece of tepid, boring crap.
Despite the unmitigated shite-ness of the original, the MSTKRFT remix is exceptional, even by their standards. If you have ever wondered what people mean when they say they can hear the sex in a song, THIS is what they mean.

Jesse McCartney – Leavin’ (MSTRKRFT remix)

My third offering for you is by a British band from Brisol, called Fuck Buttons. (Great name, isn’t it?) They are starting to generate some serious press from all angles, and are certainly worth your time.

Fuck Buttons – Bright Tomorrow

Enjoy.

___________________________________

Exciting electro news in the last couple of days, with word that MSTRKRFT will be coming back out to Australia for Splendour in the Grass in August. Now, there are a lot of people who have differing opinions, but I think these guys are the best going around. I saw them at Parklife in 2007, and I have rarely enjoyed myself as much as I did during their set. If you get a chance, put your dancing shoes on and get along to one of their shows.

Written by soundaffects

April 24th, 2008 at 6:20 pm

From Little Things Big Things Grow

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GetUp! is an Australian political advocacy group, modeled on MoveOn! in the USA, but not nearly so reviled by those on the opposite side of the political spectrum

GetUp! has released its first record, a re-working of Paul Kelly’s classic anthem “From Little Things Big Things Grow”. But it is not merely a case of a simple cover version.

The song features famous Australian musicians (John Butler, Kev Carmody, Paul Kelly, Urthboy, Missy Higgins, Mia Dyson, & Ozi Batla) singing not only the original song, but also singing select quotes from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generation as well as former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s historic Redfern Address from 1992.

Their ambition is to reach the very top of the Australian singles charts, thereby achieving high rotation on radio and TV, reaching millions of people who may never even have heard of GetUp and who have never given any thought to issues of reconciliation.

Their website says, “From little things, big things grow. This song can fill every home, cafe, pub and workplace in the country with a message of hope that we will achieve reconciliation and equality for all Australian citizens – a resounding message from the 2020 Summit.”

Lofty aims, certainly. But is the song good enough to achieve this?

As far as the music goes, this truly is an extraordinarily compelling piece. Kelly’s original melody and lyrics have always possessed a certain simplicity and beauty, and that is not lost. Indeed, if anything, it is enhanced by the different voices singing and rapping.

The instrumentation has been revamped from the original acoustic tune to include guitar, drums and even a small string section that swells in the chorus. It’s a beautiful treatment of a strikingly simple song, and it manages to both highlight the beauty of the original and to subtly tug at the heartstrings without ever seeming overbearing and preachy.

But the most remarkable bit of this song is the inclusion of sections from these two famous speeches.

We live in a time of instants.
Instant coffee.
Instant meals.
Instant news.
And what we are losing is our capacity to be overwhelmed.

Every aspect of our lives go by so quickly, and are replaced so quickly, that we are losing patience.

And when you lose patience, you don’t allow anything to grow, and everything becomes quick, immediate and empty.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the case of oratory.

No one gives speeches anymore. Oh, sure, people speak for a long time, but there is no imagery, no poetry, no sense of performance. Instead, politicians simply try not to offend anyone; to appeal to everyone by playing it completely safe and never actually saying anything of substance.

But humans are, by their nature, hungry beings.

We long for something to inspire us, to stimulate our minds, to force us to sit back and marvel.

Kevin Rudd’s Apology to the Stolen Generations was such an event.

True, Rudd is not an orator. His language is almost always bureaucratic, complex and dense, and his delivery leaves much to be desired.

But in this case, the substance of Rudd’s Apology was so extraordinary, and so overdue, that it opened the floodgates on emotions that Australians had been blocking and ignoring for years.

Yes. Aboriginal children were removed (often forcibly) from their families.
Yes. In many cases it was a part of a broader plan to eradicate the Aboriginal race for good.
Yes. This deserves, at the very least, an acknowledgement of past wrongs, and an apology from the government on behalf of those who went before them.

And as the song begins, and the strings swell underneath Rudd’s voice, the song manages to capture the way the Apology made us feel.

Excited.
Elated.

Inspired.

“As Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry.

On behalf of the government of Australia, I am sorry.

On behalf of the parliament of Australia, I am sorry.

And I offer you this apology without qualification.”

_____________________

All profits raised by this song will go to GetUp!’s Reconciliation Fund and Aboriginal organisations on the ground. Help take their message to a new audience who they need to join us on this national journey, by clicking here to view and buy the song:

www.getup.org.au/campaign/MakeThisAHit

2020 Summit

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For those of you not in the know, the 2020 Summit was a weekend in our national capital when the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, invited 1000 people to share their ideas on the future of Australia, specifically with regards to where we would like to be in the year 2020.

10 groups were set up: Communities & Families, Productivity, Governance, Creative Australia, Indigenous, Health, Rural, Security and Environment.

 

Much has been written about the 2020 Summit, most of it by far better writers than I. And, admittedly, by far more knowledgeable writers than I.

And I’m sure that in the coming weeks the event will be dissected, analysed and assessed from every angle. Many of the high-profile ideas will be critiqued and discussed, and maybe the same can be said for some of the lower-profile ones.

But what this event has achieved, more than anything, is to get people talking again.

For far too long, Australia was a country were nobody really asked anything of anyone, much less our leaders. We all just plodded along, looking after ourselves and ignoring everything else. The 11 long years of the Howard government led to many things, but by far the most obvious consequence was that we became a nation of ostriches – all 20 million of us had our heads buried deep in the sand.

But now…

There is a reawakening.

People are talking about things, debating ideas and becoming passionate about subjects and issues that no one has spoken about for years.

 

When Kevin Rudd went to meet the Queen in London he was asked whether he would broach the topic of an Australian Republic – an idea that has been neither seen nor heard since its death by referendum in 1999 – and in response said something along the lines of “I think it will happen eventually, but I don’t think that time is now.” 

This line was repeated in every newspaper, every TV news, every radio news broadcast in the country. And then the Day Two stories began – people being interviewed about whether they thought now was the right time to reappraise the Republic debate.

And then, only a matter of days after the PM declared the Republic was an idea for another time, everyone was talking about it. Talkback radio, letters to the editor, taxi drivers, people at bars, people in the streets – everyone was talking about the idea of an Australian Republic.

 

And now, the main recommendation to come out of the 2020 Summit is that Australia needs a complete overhaul of its system of government – with a Republic at the top of that new system.

 

If nothing else, people are talking…

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April 22nd, 2008 at 2:26 am

Executions to resume in USA

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The US Supreme Court has voted to end a de-facto moratorium on federal executions that had prevailed since September, when a challenge to lethal injections was brought to the Court.

The case was brought to the court by two prisoners on death row in Kentucky, arguing that the effects of the lethal three-drug cocktail constituted cruel and unusual punishment. The lethal injection, which replaced hanging, the electric chair and firing squad in 1978 consists of an anesthetic, then a paralysing agent and finally a heart-stopping drug.

The movement against this practice is gaining momentum, especially after recent mis-handled executions in Florida and California, where the prisoners took 30 minutes to die.
What is perhaps most disconcerting about this decision is that 7 of the (supposedly) brightest legal minds in the US thought that the evidence presented by these two inmates failed to show that the lethal injection was unconstitutional. As if killing a human being wasn’t unconstitutional enough.

The US is now the fifth-highest killer of criminals in the world, behind China (470), Iran (317), Saudi Arabia (143) and Pakistan (135). How the US can preach to these nations about democracy and human rights, only to turn around and kill their own citizens is beyond me. It is hypocrisy of the highest degree.

I know all the arguments in favour of the death penalty, but the simple fact is that no society can legislate against murder if they perform it themselves.

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April 18th, 2008 at 5:50 pm

Atmosphere – new album, single and mixtape

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Atmosphere are working damn hard to prove that the whole “white rapper” thing didn’t disappear with Eminem. Of course, there’s a few others around making some great stuff (like Aesop Rock), but perhaps none quite as prolific as the Minnesota duo.

Due out in just a couple of days is their 5th album, When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold. Their last album was a whole 3 years ago, but since then they have also released 4 EPs and a mixtape, Strictly Leakage.

The first single off the new album, Shoulda Known, is a funk-tastic addition to their discography. At times reminiscent of Snoop D-O-Double G, Slug snarls and drawls all over the lyrics, while the music gurgles like there’s a party in 15 feet of mud.

It’s a great song from a terrific group.

I saw Atmosphere in 2006, when ?uestlove from The Roots was playing drums in their touring band, and it was probably the best live hip-hop/rap I’ve ever seen.

Check out the new single and download the Strictly Leakage mixtape here

And, just for you guys, here is a couple of classic tunes from the guys.

Trying To Find A Balance
Sunshine


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April 18th, 2008 at 4:15 pm

NEW WEEZER!

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News just in that Weezer are releasing a new album very soon. Like two of their previous efforts this will also be known eponymously, already officially nicknamed ‘The Red Album’, following on from Green and Blue.

Rivers Cuomo (frontman), known for bringing the crazy, has always been a curious figure. Prior to the recording of the last Weezer effort, Make Believe, completely gave up sex.

Don’t remember the reason for it.

It’s just one of those things you do if you are Rivers Cuomo.

Anyway, the exciting thing is that there is a radio rip of the new single, Pork and Beans already doing the rounds. I’ve only listened to it once so far, so I’ll reserve judgment for now.

But I dig it.

Here it is!

Weezer – Pork and Beans

Written by soundaffects

April 18th, 2008 at 2:27 am