Mixed Media

XLR8R's Top Albums of 2008 List Speeds Out In Front

| Tue Dec. 2, 2008 3:46 PM EST

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San Francisco- and New York-based mostly-electronic music magazine XLR8R has just released its Best Albums of 2008 list, and while they wimped out and didn't rank their 25 titles (come on, hippies!) their choices are so much better than the last magazine's list I'll give them a pass. Noted Party Ben faves Flying Lotus, Beach House, Portishead, M83 and Tobacco xlr8rare in the mix, as well as intriguing choices from Atlas Sound, Daedelus, The Notwist and Spiritualized. Interestingly, they've rejected Lil Wayne (with hip-hop represented by Bun-B and Dizzee Rascal) as well as TV on the Radio (gasp, swoon). And of course there's the requisite super-obscure ridiculousness from Syclops, whose MySpace page announces huffily, "We are sorry, we don't do interviews or tour." But you have an awesome MySpace page! The magazine's inclusion of Yelle is a little iffy, since Pop Up came out in France in September, 2007 (remember me talking about Tecktonik last year?) but my own list archive has a few inaccuracies as well so, you know, glass houses.

Anyway, props to the '8R, and check out their full (and alphabetical—sigh) list after the jump.

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"Black Friday" Not So Great for Music Industry

| Tue Dec. 2, 2008 3:02 PM EST

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Is that still an "industry," even? Billboard is pointing out that while many retail sectors are breathing a sigh of relief after post-Thanksgiving weekend sales rose slightly, the world of music you pay for didn't do so well. First up, high profile album releases from Guns N' Roses and Kanye West both underperformed expectations, with G N' R's Chinese Democracy selling around 250,000 copies (compared to expectations of 300-700K), and Kanye's 808s and Heartbreak moving 425,000-450,000 units (while many expected double that). Maybe people just don't like those albums? Unfortunately, it looks like music sales in general suffered as well: stores like Barnes & Noble and Wal-Mart showed declines of up to 40% compared to last year.

Thoughts on Milk

| Mon Dec. 1, 2008 3:06 PM EST

mojo-photo-milkcastro.jpgBraving the round-the-block lines at the Castro theater for an opening-weekend showing of Milk seemed like the right thing to do (see my cell-phone photo of post-screening mayhem at right), and the hour-long wait was made kind of enjoyable by the almost celebratory atmosphere of the crowd, which turned practically giddy once we filed in. Milk is a work of art, a reality-based fiction, but after a year of stumbling across the film crew all over town, and finally sitting in a theater across the street from Harvey Milk's old photo shop, one couldn't help but feel a sense of being a part of history. Milk is a good film, with very good performances, but its story and message are so pertinent today, I couldn't even try to remove that from my consideration of it as a movie. So, there are a few spoilers after the jump.

Joan Baez: Two 20-Somethings on a 60s Icon

| Wed Nov. 26, 2008 3:20 PM EST

joan-baez-250x200.jpgIn 1959 Joan Baez was a pint-sized college dropout with a hell of a lot of hair playing her folk tunes in pretty much any Boston club that would have her. Once the sixties came—well, we know the rest—Baez met Bob Dylan, and she quickly became the darling of the nascent protest folk-rock scene. Her soprano reworkings of classic spirituals and folk songs became the soundtrack by which a generation remembers their youth.

Today, the 67 year-old Baez refuses to become a relic. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of her recording career, Baez has released The Day After Tomorrow, a new album of covers drawn from sources such as Elvis Costello and Thea Gilmore. (In true Baez style, the title track is a cover of Tom Waits' classic wartime ode to a disheartened soldier.)

Two of us MoJo staffers caught Baez during the last leg of her recent national tour. Later, we discussed via gchat how the rebel-rousing folksinger translates from legend to the stage. Full disclosure: Neither of us was even in utero during the sixties.

First "Best of 2008" Album List Very Wrong, Very White

| Fri Nov. 21, 2008 5:38 PM EST

paste_logo2.gifKids, this right here is more proof that sometimes it's better to take it slow than rush to be first. Stereogum points out that Paste Magazine is the first major publication to drop their "Best Albums of 2008" list, and while there are some good and interesting albums all up and down it, the order (and the omissions) are kind of head-slapping. Here's their Top 10:

Stream Entire New Kanye West Album At, You Guessed It, MySpace

| Fri Nov. 21, 2008 4:55 PM EST

mojo-photo-808sandheartbreak.jpgIt's been a big week for the horrifically-designed friend-accumulation and lo-fi mp3 streaming web site MySpace. They grabbed the new G N' R just yesterday (the song "Chinese Democracy" is up to almost a million plays), and now they've got the new Kanye West album, 808s and Heartbreak, which isn't out until Tuesday. Of course, they can't help but screw things up, as Rolling Stone points out, their "fancy artwork" called the album "808s and Heartbreaks." In fact, they're kind of accurate: the album takes stock of all sorts of troubles in Kanye's life, from the death of his mother to failed relationships, from materialistic tendencies to a sudden regret he never had children. One heartbreak flows into another on this strange, lonely album.

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Your Friday "Awwwww"

| Fri Nov. 21, 2008 12:18 PM EST

I bet Party Ben misses this one.

It's an awesome rap video from the 83-year-old "Funky Fraulein." ("I have to be in bed by nine.")

All my grandmothers were dead long before I was born, but I'm such a mama's girl I always mourned never having had them. I'm sure at least one of them would have been like her. Cutest of all, the grandson who no doubt talked her into this (she hefts quite a few wine glasses in the video) makes a cameo.

Enjoy.

Now: Even Easier for Teens To Embarrass Each Other!

| Thu Nov. 20, 2008 7:10 PM EST

Oh my God, you guys. Rejoice, teens of the world. It's just gotten a whole lot easier to pursue one of your favorite interests: torturing each other on the Internet. On a new site called High School Tabloid, teens can submit pictures and scandalous stories from their very own high schools. Just think: The angst and growing pains of your friends, enemies, and frenemies memorialized—and laid bare for literally the whole world to see! Check out this screen shot from the home page:

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And its motto pulls no punches: "Gossip, Publicity, Popularity."

Teens who post are awarded points, two for comments posted to a story and "10 points for posted headline with story." (So are the points for the headline or the story?) Earn enough points and this fabulous prize could be yours:

Obtain 50,000 points you become an official High School Tabloid columnist which will give you the opportunity to write a cover story, which will be featured on the HighSchoolTabloid home page! .GOSSIP.PUBLICITY.POPULARITY.

Folks, there may be hope for journalism yet.

HT YPulse.

John McCain Countersues Jackson Browne

| Thu Nov. 20, 2008 6:28 PM EST

mojo-photo-mccainbrowne.jpgFor those of you who felt like the McCain campaign, round about early September, started to look like some sort of demented cartoon, don't say "that's all folks" yet. As we discussed here back in August, singer-songwriter Jackson Browne filed suit against the McCain campaign for using his song, "Running on Empty," in a campaign ad. Sure, the suit was more symbolic than anything (considering the ads were probably off the air by the time Browne called his lawyer) but the remnants of the McCain campaign are taking it very seriously, countersuing in U.S. District Court in California. As Reuters reported, McCain filed two motions:

The first is a standard motion to dismiss, claiming that McCain's use of the song was fair use. McCain also says that Browne's assertion that the Lanham Act's prohibition on the implication of a "false association or endorsement" fails because it only applies to "commercial speech," not "political speech." The second filing is maybe even more interesting. It's an anti-SLAPP motion, which is typically used by defendants as a way to seek monetary damages after a plaintiff has subjected a defendant to a lawsuit meant to chill free speech. So far, McCain is only looking for attorney's fees and costs, but claiming an artist has interfered with free speech is quite the poke of an eye in show business.

That's right, McCain is looking to recoup some cash here. To add insult to injury, the first motion included the boastful assertion that using "Running on Empty" in their ad "will likely increase the popularity of this 30-year-old song." Hilarious, but McCain may have a point, as the only major "win" that had anything to do with his campaign was pop-cultural: SNL's ratings bump and Tina Fey becoming America's sweetheart. Maybe Browne should write a book?

Chinese Democracy Emerges, Pigs Stay Safely On Ground

| Thu Nov. 20, 2008 3:29 PM EST

mojo-photo-gnrchinesecd.jpgIt's here: early this morning, the entirety of Chinese Democracy, the new album from Guns N' Roses and their first in 17 years, was posted to their official MySpace page for your 96kbps listening pleasure. The physical CD will go on sale exclusively at Best Buy stores this Sunday, breaking with the odd tradition of Tuesday releases—speaking of democracy, could we do that with elections too? Anyway, Jon Pareles has a lot of fun with it in the Times today:

"Chinese Democracy" is the Titanic of rock albums: the ship, not the movie, although like the film it's a monumental studio production. It's outsize, lavish, obsessive, technologically advanced and, all too clearly, the end of an era. It's also a shipwreck, capsized by pretensions and top-heavy production. In its 14 songs there are glimpses of heartfelt ferocity and despair, along with bursts of remarkable musicianship. But they are overwhelmed by countless layers of studio diddling and a tone of curdled self-pity. The album concludes with five bombastic power ballads in a row.

Glimpses, indeed, and I might add "fleeting."