Owl City Scores Hit w/Postal Service Knock Off

If ripping off the US Postal Service is a federal offense, what kinda penalty would be imposed on whomever did the same to Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard's electro-pop side project The Postal Service?

Well, none at all it seems: Owl City has reached Billboard's Hot 100 and the Top 5 of the iTunes charts with this twee TPS carbon copy called "Fireflies". Ugh. [h/t Idolator.]

Happy Birthday

Cuban singer and Buena Vista Social Club alumnus Omara Portunondo (79); former Wings guitarist Denny Laine (65); one-time Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green (63); former keyboardist for The Cure, Roger O'Donnell (54); multi-instrumentalist Randy Jackson of The Jacksons (49); The Sugarcubes' co-vocalist Einar Örn Benediktsson (47); all on October 29th.


Jay-Z and the Empire

Despite being fans of the team we've always found the music requested by Yankees hitters during their at-bats to be a bit
on the lame side. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, in particular.
So now, it turns out that A-Rod fave Jay-Z will be performing his "Empire State of Mind"--which has been playing at Yankee Stadium during this year's playoff run--to kick off Game 1 of the World Series this Wednesday.

Hip-hop in The Bronx seems quite apropos, but...we're just not crazy about Jay-Z, is all. And are MLB and the Yankees aware of the song including the line "I made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can"?

Are We The Only Ones Who Think...

...it's rather ghoulish of David Spade to appear with the late Chris Farley in a recent Direct TV ad reprising a scene from their film Tommy Boy? This is a guy who did not appear at his buddy's funeral 'cause he couldn't bear to see Farley in that state, yet doesn't have a problem with doing this commercial. Unsettling, to say the least.


Morrissey Released from Hospital


LONDON – Former Smiths frontman Morrissey was released Sunday from a hospital where he was held overnight after collapsing on stage during a concert.

A spokeswoman for the Great Western Hospital in the English city of Swindon said the singer was "much improved."

"Morrissey became unwell, and he was admitted overnight as a precautionary measure," she said on condition of anonymity, in line with hospital policy. "He's been seen by the medical team, much improved and now discharged home."

A note on the 50-year-old singer's Web site thanked fans for their good wishes.

Morrissey was performing at the Oasis Leisure Centre in Swindon, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of London, on Saturday night as part of his "Swords" tour when he was stricken. Two band members rushed to his side and dragged him offstage.

Song of the Day: "Como Una Sombra"

One of Mexico's most beloved and acclaimed rock bands of the last 15 years, La Barranca has managed to infuse their songs with a decidedly Mexican sensibility while carving out an identity within the rock realm--particularly inside the prog rock sphere--and release some extraordinary music in the process.

A big favorite of ours, "Como Una Sombra" is a simple tune featuring some blistering guitar work by frontman José Manuel Aguilera.
The song was the closing track on the original version of the band's second album Tempestad [BMG US Latin-1997]. Enjoy!


Got Dem Ol' Karmic Reunion Blues

You had to know this was coming. Or did you think you'd get
Jane's Addiction
, the Pixies, the Police, Rage Against the Machine, Smashing Pumpkins, Van Halen, etc. etc. etc. without consequence? Were you in denial or just hoping the likes of Creed, Limp Bizkit,
and Vertical Horizon would just stay away? Sorry.



"What I used to be / will pass away / and then you'll see
that all I want now / is happiness / for you and me

- Elliott Smith d. Oct. 21st, 2003

Smashing Pumpkins Auction Gish-era Gear for Benefit

The bass guitar played by Billy Corgan at the Pumpkins' first ever show, along with drummer Jimmy Chamberlain's kit, will be auctioned off to help the band's former fan club president Laura Masura with mounting medical bills stemming from a traffic accident in early September. 100% of proceeds from the sale will go directly to Masura.

More info here.

Worst of the Worst

While we are regular readers of music/pop culture blog Idolator,
we don't see eye to eye much when it comes to mainstream, chart-hugging pop music. (They mostly enjoy it/criticize it; we mostly hate it/avoid it.) But this is one feature we can seek our teeth into:
a daily countdown of the worst songs of the decade. Sweet!

Readership is already complaining about the editors tipping their hand and revealing The Black Eyed Peas' dreadful "My Humps"--which we initially thought was a parody of the BEPs before discovering it was the real thing--is not on the list. Bummer. But how 'bout some Vampire Weekend? Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, over at Gigwise, "The 20 Worst Bands of the 2000's". Check 'em out.


New Releases

Some of the more recent discs include:

AIR Love 2 [Astralwerks]
JACK BRUCE Seven Moons Live [Ruf]
BUILT TO SPILL There is No Enemy [Warner Bros.]
ROSANNE CASH The List [Manhattan]
[Gold Dust]
FLAMING LIPS Embryonic [Warner Bros]
HALL & OATES Do What You Want, Be What You Are (box set) [RCA]
KING CRIMSON In the Court of the Crimson King
(2-CD 40th anniversary reissue) [DGM]
DJ SPOOKY The Secret Song [Thirsty Ear]

Milestones: Music Industry Prosperity

[Our series of posts on albums, movies, etc that celebrate significant anniversaries this year continues. - KJ]

According to the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), sales of recorded music peaked in 1999. Furthermore, adjusting for inflation, current sales represent 50% of those a decade ago. What happened?

In a piece from this past summer, NY Times Op-Ed columnist Charles M. Blow suggests piracy, as well as free, legal streaming are a big part of the music industry's steep decline in revenues. But he reserves the big honor for the purchasing of individual song downloads and their subsequent decimation of album sales, quoting a study which found that of "13 million songs for sale online last year, 10 million never got a single buyer and 80 percent of all revenue came from about 52,000 songs." Or less than one percent of the songs for sale.

The essence of his last point is arguable. Record stores are still around and people still purchase music. Obviously, neither are nearly as prevalent or numerous as they were in the late '90s but they still account for the majority of recorded music sales, not internet retailers. As for a decline in music biz coffers being directly linked to album sales tanking due to consumer preference of individual songs, here's a nice parallel:

If Mr. Blow were to revisit sales figures from 1999 he would probably find that more than 95% percent of albums released that or any year prior did not break even when all costs were calculated.
It was common knowledge at the time (RIAA source?) that all profitable albums--from blockbusters like Thriller to any record that barely "recouped" costs/expenses, and everything in between--represented less than 5% of all recorded output. (Some go as far as placing that figure at 3%.)

If this is true, then to place the bulk of the blame on a segment of the business that doesn't even represent anything close to 50% of overall revenue--with the exception of Atlantic Records which last year reported digital downloads represented 51% of revenue--is to give individual song downloads a power and responsibility in the marketplace it does not warrant. Yes, digital sales are rapidly growing but the current numbers Mr. Blow refers to simply reflect
a smaller pie overall.

Free access to music in general, whether legal or otherwise--along with a clueless, greedy music industry--is the main culprit for the demise of the record labels. Period. You can bet there are many out there in the music business who would like to turn back the clock and "party like it's 1999," huh?


Milestones: Trout Mask Replica

[Our series of posts on albums, movies, etc that celebrate significant anniversaries this year continues. - KJ]

Trout Mask Replica
[Straight/Warner Bros-1969]

Ah, yes: the "fast and bulbous" classic by The Magic Band;
the subject of so much ink during the pre-internet era, yet it's hardly referenced or remembered these days. Accordingly, we feel a work of such dedicated artistry and independence, as well as being a blatant middle finger--the Captain allegedly got his stage moniker from childhood buddy and TMR producer Frank Zappa for harboring a "beef in his heart" towards society--both deserves and needs to be always present when plastic, pre-fab nonsense tightens its stranglehold on the musical norm. So, here it is.

Wanting to mold his disparate, rhythm-oriented, piano-based compositions into a body of music that could be closely replicated--like a classical piece--the non-piano playing Captain Beefheart (aka Don Van Vliet) and the Magic Band worked on the music that was to be Trout Mask Replica for a few weeks before embarking on an 8 month/14 hours per day rehearsal regimen under difficult conditions, with barely any money or food to sustain themselves. (Talk about suffering for your art.) Zappa at the helm, the bulk of the album was recorded in one six hour session, with Beefheart coming in afterwards to record his legendarily out of synch vocals, the product of the Captain's decision to eschew headphones and sing to the sounds he heard thru the studio control room glass.

Unsurprisingly, this experimental mix of blues, folk and free jazz released on Zappa's Straight label in 1969, did very little in the way of sales but has become an influential and inspirational touchstone for such disparate performers as pop songwriter Andy Partridge (XTC) and avant garde guitarist Gary Lucas, for example. (The latter became a member of the Magic Band some 20 years after this album's release.) Frequently regarded as one of the top albums of all time, Trout Mask Replica's true legacy resides in its defiant spirit and in the hearts of those who choose to make art within the context of popular music regardless of commercial or monetary reward.

SNL Movies Box Office Ranking

According to Wikipedia, these are the top 5 box office draws
among the Saturday Night Live-based/inspired flicks:

1. Wayne’s World (1992) $121.6m
2. The Blues Brothers (1980) $57m
3. Wayne’s World 2 (1993) $48m
4. Superstar (1999) $30.6m
5. A Night at the Roxbury (1998) $30.3m

Anyone as surprised as we are with #s 4 and 5?

Interesting tidbits:

- The original Wayne's World is not only the highest grossing but also the most profitable of the SNL movies, bringing in $121m on a $20m budget. (The sequel, on the other hand, brought in $48m with a $40m budget.) The remaining three in the top 5 brought in approximately twice as much, give or take a few million dollars, than what their budget was.

- It's Pat! (1994) is the lowest grossing SNL sketch-based movie by far, with a box office gross of $60K. It was also pulled from theatres during its first week.


What We're Listening To

BECK Sea Change [DGC]
EELS Blinking Lights and Other Revelations [Vagrant]
GUIDED BY VOICES Mag Earwhig! [Matador]
THE GUILT TRIPPERS --advance copy EP-- [One Seventeen]
YES Close to the Edge [Atlantic]

What are YOU listening to?


Are We the Only Ones Who Think...

...Major League Baseball could've found a better middle ground between Bon Jovi and the bland, generic nü metal/hardrock bands whose songs they've been using to promote the current playoff series?


(un) Funny People

Well, one thing is for sure: Time magazine's Mary Pols is no fan of the new comedy Couples Retreat:
If it weren't for the memory of how fresh and joyful their 1996 film Swingers was, the Jon Favreau–Vince Vaughn comedy Couples Retreat might seem like any other broad, dumb movie—the kind Ben Stiller churns out with alarming regularity—with a sizable budget; a gorgeous location; funny dudes; pretty, bikini-ready women; and plenty of sex jokes. Not great but not terrible. But this movie, which plays out like the fulfillment of the Swingers dudes' worst nightmares, is just sad.

It's about four couples who go to Eden, a luxury tropical resort that features couples counseling along with its crystalline waters and multiple hot tubs...So off everyone goes to Bora Bora with the expectation that the feelings talk is optional. Instead, they are forced into having their relationships analyzed by the resident guru...and a team of therapists...

Couples Retreat
was co-written by Vaughn and Favreau, with an assist from Dana Fox, and it has the choppiness you'd expect from too many cooks in the kitchen (in contrast, Favreau was the only screenwriter on Swingers). I'm fine with the original Trent ("money") and Mike (not "money," no matter what Trent said) moving to the suburbs, having kids, getting fat and spending weekends at Home Depot and Applebee's. These things happen. What's depressing is that there's hardly a creative spark in this sour, offensive, contrived story, and its sloppiness is more consistent than its comedy.
We have yet to see the flick—it opens today, October 9th—but judging from the trailer, we got the impression Couples Retreat was pretty much as Pols described it, in so far as those lame Ben Stiller movies are concerned. The Swingers comparison was a nice touch, if a bit superfluous, in our opinion.

What is going on with this rash of increasingly formulaic comedies? And speaking of Stiller, wasn't he supposed to be some sort of comedic bright light once upon a time? It seems like these guys start off with promising independent work so that Hollywood can let them make dreck. Not a winning formula, for sure.


The Music Geek's Guide to Dating: A "5" PSA

Like those of other persuasions, and as a byproduct of their devotion, music geeks end up dedicating an inordinate amount of time to the chronicling and retention of minutiae that the average person has neither the time nor inclination to delve into. Let’s face it, your everyday music fan has no interest in rare French Captain Beefheart bootlegs or much use for the fact that noted guitarist David Gilmour had once been a fashion model before he joined Pink Floyd.

But listening to all that music and amassing a prodigious amount of musical trivia can lead to a dearth of time and opportunities to socialize and potentially hook up. However, this being music and not video games we’re talking about, concerts, parties and dive bars can be fertile ground for that romantic encounter or fling that will get you through the despair of hearing The Cure’s "Pictures Of You" in a camera ad or not getting tickets to the Pixies reunion. Plus, you might finally have a reason to sing "God Only Knows" to some hottie who aside from their predilection for spending time with you is actually pretty sane.

So, let’s say you’ve put down your dog-eared copy of the Trouser Press Record Guide, finally left the house and somehow managed to meet someone smart, witty, attractive and crazy about you.
Good enough to bring home to Ma, right? Maybe for the rest of the world, but the curse of the music geek is having to dig deeper and uncover the real test of compatibility: musical taste. Forget smoking, drinking, pets, or being a veggie--this is the real litmus test.
After all, no matter how fascinating they may seem to be, do you really want to spend your free time with someone who owns Celine Dion records and/or thinks the world of Elton John’s post-Goodbye Yellow Brick Road output? Didn’t think so. In the end it’s just going to bite you on the ass, anyway.

Before we go any further, an apology for the misleading title above. This is not a guide per se, but a small collection of red flags and/or warning signs you may encounter along the way. So with that in mind, here are 5 key signs that they just might not be the one for you if he/she...

1 - Pronounces the name of U2’s singer the same way as the surname of Cher’s late ex-husband and singing partner.
We once met a smart, interesting cutie at a party who was prone to doing this. Bummer. She was also a "foodie." Music geeks and foodies generally don’t mix, since we are creatures that subsist on junk/fast/comfort food, for the most part. Hey, who can afford good food when there’s box sets of Os Mutantes b-sides and outtakes to feast on? And unless you’re a drag queen you want to stay away from anything that even remotely smells of Sonny and Cher.

Move on, there’s other fish to fry. Or rather, cans of tuna to open.

2- Refers to Green Day as "old school".
No one over the age of 25 can get away with this one. No. One.

Although, in their defense, now that the mid-90s so-called "Gap punk" of Green Day is now akin to The Beatles when compared to such tripe as Blink-182 and the subsequent avalanche of dreck that passes for punk these days, you might have to cut them some slack. (Kinda how the fey, Talking Heads/Paul Simon-circa Graceland wannabe, pathetic, hipster-driven nonsense that is Vampire Weekend will eventually make The Strokes seem really good. Some prize that would be, though. Anyway...)

If you feel like saving them from their punk rock ignorance–-and if we were able to turn a former spouse on to The Minutemen, whose landmark Double Nickels On The Dime album became her frequent apartment-cleaning soundtrack, this should be a piece of cake for you-- just refer to High Fidelity (the movie, in this case), break out your Sex Pistols, Ramones, Buzzcocks et al if you think this person might be worth it. Your call.

3- Thinks "smooth jazz" is actually jazz.
During our days in the lowly record store clerk trenches we were befriended by a group of old-timers who worked in the jazz department of the store. These guys had been around when Miles Davis released Kind Of Blue in 1959, caught John Coltrane live, and witnessed Dizzy Gillespie practically invent Latin jazz. Walking encyclopedias of the genre they were. The real deal. They took us under their wing and opened our ears to some really wonderful stuff.

Then one day, in one of our little musical round tables, we made the mistake of professing our admiration for an album by Yellowjackets, a modern jazz quartet who didn’t shy away from synthesizers, big drums and assorted electronics. The silence was deafening.
The kindest one among them gave us a "Boy, haven’t you learned anything?" look, while the rest reacted as if we’d just proclaimed a yearning desire to bone 3 year-olds. Thankfully, they let us back into the fore soon after. (And no, we never backpedaled on that Yellowjackets disc. Still love it. The second Spyro Gyra album, too.)

But most, if not all, "smooth jazz" is just Satan incarnate.

4- Pronounces INXS as "inks".
Years ago, while waiting in line to get into NYC's Madison Square Garden’s then-Felt Forum theatre to see these Aussies on their Listen Like Thieves tour, roaming fans of Neil Diamond--who was playing the main arena that night--would approach us asking if we were on the Neil Diamond or "inks" line. This was at least a decade before it was hip to be into "The Jewish Elvis." Draw your own conclusions.

5- Can’t tell Nick Cave and Nick Drake apart.
If they’re confusing a very much alive, snarling Australian poet of the dark, with a depressed, standard bearing English singer/songwriter who died more than 30 years ago, look at the bright side: they might be listening to those guys already! You should be so lucky. (But you probably won't be.) Be careful, they could very well be latter-day Jeff Buckley bandwagon crashers/posers. Proceed with caution.

Bonus tip:
Loves emo but has no clue who Sunny Day Real Estate are.
Run for your life!

Happy Birthday

Power pop maven Matthew Sweet (45), on October 6th.


Pitchfork Selects Best of the '00s; Fucks Up (maybe)

Pitchfork, the music website we love to hate has posted their picks for best albums of the decade and it's not pretty: Radiohead's Kid A, at #1, really? Also in the Top 10 are albums by the likes Arcade Fire, Daft Punk, Panda Bear, Modest Mouse, and The Strokes. Jeez...

If this isn't the site's usual holier-than-thou, hipster crap and is
in fact the best of what the last 10 years had to offer, well then,
this was truly one particularly pathetic decade for popular music.



RIP: Mercedes Sosa

Legendary Argentine folk singer Mercedes Sosa, beloved all across the Spanish-speaking world for her inspirational songs of protest during the '70s and beyond, died after being hospitalized for weeks with various ailments.

She was 74.


Milestones: The Matrix

Highly influential and innovative, vastly discussed and picked apart, The Wachowski Brothers' greatest claim to fame is an award-winning, 1999 science-fiction flick, starring Keaunu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne, widely considered one of the greatest movies of any genre.

Honestly, I didn't think they could do it, it was too ambitious. The Matrix is exactly what they pitched, but they were designing those cameras to get those freeze-frames, and I was like, "If that doesn't work, the movie looks ridiculous." I didn't feel comfortable with the level of importance placed on that effect working properly… That's probably the only one that I turned down that I shouldn't have, but when you see somebody do it like Keanu you think, "Thank God."

- Will Smith, originally considered for the film's lead character, Neo.


Bring (back) the Noise

Wild Young Hearts

After the numerous accolades bestowed upon The Noisettes for their 2007 debut album What’s the Time, Dr Wolf?--“Billie Holiday fronting the White Stripes” was the most oft-repeated one--and their exciting concert performances--the band were frequently referred to as “Best Live Band in Britain”--we came across the trio's blistering rendition of third single “Don’t Give Up”, on The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson and were sold on The Noisettes right then and there. What a ride. (It was also our favorite album that year.)

After the initial run surrounding Dr. Wolf, we began anticipating the sophomore album but kinda lost track of what was going on with the band. So much so, that almost 6 months had passed before we became aware Wild Young Hearts, the Noisettes second album, had been released. Before then we'd heard vocalist/bassist Shingai Shoniwa had dumped her instrument to concentrate full-time on frontwoman duties. "Hmm...that doesn't sound promising", we thought. Unfortunately, we had reason to be concerned.

OK, let's be blunt: Wild Young Hearts does not suck. It's actually one of the better albums released this year. But what this rather polished, above average album lacks is the visceral, thrilling vibe of the debut; its sexy rocker chick frontwoman--reminiscent of a vintage Chrissie Hynde or even PJ Harvey--replaced by a hot Amy Winehouse; the band's sound altered accordingly. Just when we thought we could fall for a new band again...

Flashes of Dr. Wolf's mellower tracks are evident here and there ("Atticus", "Sometimes") as well as some classic New Wave ("Saturday Night", "Beat of My Heart") to go along with the newfound interest in retro soul (everything else), but for those of us who were enthralled by their fresh approach, breathtaking rock and roll attitude and a deft touch for dynamics in their music, Wild Young Hearts may be a tad disappointing.

Highlights: "Atticus", "Every Now and Then", "Cheap Kicks" and the title track.

WTF?! Moment of the Day

So, if The Jay Leno Show is getting scathing reviews everywhere--not to mention tanking in the ratings--why are big stars like Julia Louis-Dreyfus agreeing to appear on the show to plug their product while having to endure nonsense like this:

Happy Birthday

Musician/author Richard Hell (60); Genesis guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford (59); former Policeman Sting (58); singer/songwriter Gillian Welch (42); and Damon Gough aka Badly Drawn Boy (40); all on October 2nd.

Best Headline of the Week

Amazingly, America Has Yet to Grow Tired of the Black Eyed Peas

- from NY Magazine, after the aforementioned group remained on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 26 consecutive weeks.

We hear ya, NYM. We hear ya.


The Next Wave

With the advent of Google's new "personal communication and collaboration tool" Wave, some have been sounding the death knell for the leading social networks, Facebook and MySpace. Not quite.

As we see it, MySpace remains a destination for those who want to expose their music to a wider audience, since Facebook really does not fill that role. And unlike Friendster, which for all intents and purposes died a quick death immediately after the arrival of MySpace, the latter remains strong, despite operating at a reduced level than in its heyday. And since people love free music...

It seems to us, the vast majority of those who engage in social networking only care for the newest, most popular, most user friendly service to stay in touch with friends and family, and not the extra-curriculum features--music jukeboxes, merchandise sales, etc--of interest to musicians and other artists. So, with that in my mind one could deduce Wave to be much more of a threat to Facebook in that regard. What do you think?