With all the year-end countdowns and best-of lists flying around these days, one could easily get overwhelmed with trying to sort out what was worth your time this year. Thankfully, there's an elite group of like 17 random foreign journalists who put on a little awards show every year called the Golden Globes, perhaps you've heard of them? Well, they announced the nominations this morning, and hey, they decided to include seven movies in the "Best Motion Picture Drama" category. Boy are you pissed if you were choice #8, huh:
Not only is the Recording Industry Association of America continuing its litigation efforts against university campuses, as Party Ben noted yesterday, but the group is also trying to pass legislation that would jeopardize the federal financial aid of these schools whose students are engaged in file sharing. Already strapped students and universities could soon be tasked with helping RIAA reach its bottom line.
The massive 800 page tome that is the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007 includes a section called "Campus-Based Digital Theft Prevention," which addresses file sharing, mostly of music and movies, on campus networks. The bill states that during the financial aid process, schools are obligated to inform students about copyright infringement laws. In addition, schools are mandated to implement technology that would prevent file sharing. The penalty for not taking these preventative measures is loss of all federal financial aid for the university.
2008's inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were announced today, and there's a bit of a disturbing (if not entirely surprising) trend here. See if you can spot it:
Somebody remind me what the point of this Hall is? And nothing against any of the inductees, but if the Hall is going to marginalize hip-hop and disco then why even nominate them? Well, if the losers have a party I totally want to go to that one instead.
There's really no better way to put it than the AP opener:
Ike Turner, whose role as one of rock's critical architects was overshadowed by his ogrelike image as the man who brutally abused former wife Tina Turner, died Wednesday at his home in suburban San Diego. He was 76.
Ike Turner was involved in a record that some historians call the first, or one of the first, true rock songs: "Rocket 88", by Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats. Turner used a distorted sound on the guitar, something that reportedly happened by accident when one of the guitar amps fell over. If that's true, what an accident, right? But of course, he was a real jerk to Tina, and you can't help but think about Laurence Fishburne's harrowing portrayal of the guy in "What's Love Got to Do With It." While Turner always denied abusing his wife, I think everybody believes Tina on that score, and jeez, who doesn't love Tina Turner, it's like beating up the Statue of Liberty. So, rest in peace.
I know I said lead single "Superstar" was good, and I stand by that, but the rest of Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco' new album is, sadly, kind of disappointing. Apparently it's a concept album featuring three competing metaphorical characters, "The Cool" vs. "The Streets" vs. "The Game," but I'm afraid I have a hard time telling them apart or seeing how their braggadocio is any different from typical lowest-common-denominator hip-hop. Now and again we get some interesting tracks: see "Go Go Gadget Flow," where Fiasco gives us a technically skillful if oddly robotic double-time rap, or the Gemstones-featuring "Dumb It Down" with its dramatic, buzzy electro groove. But what's with the terrible intro poetry slam: "He thought it was cool to carry a gun in his classroom and open fire Virginia Tech Columbine stop the violence." What? And the track featuring UK producer UNKLE, "Hello/Goodbye (Uncool)," just ends up sounding like a Linkin Park B-side, possibly in a nod to Linkin Park's own Mike Shinoda who helped produce the album, in another bad sign.
Fiasco's 2006 album Food & Liquor was a progressive, Kanye West-influenced treat, but on The Cool, even when Fiasco delivers thoughtful lyrics and innovative flows, he's too often let down by the music.
Lupe Fiasco's The Cool is out next Tuesday, December 18th on Atlantic Records, but MTV.com is streaming the whole album here.
Ah, so this is why news stories are kind of confused about new Green Day material: the Bay Area trio have apparently released six new songs under a pseudonym, Foxboro Hot Tubs. The "official" web site for the Tubs features an EP called Stop Drop and Roll, whose look and sound is decidedly '60s garage rock, but with some eyebrow-raising similarities to Green Day's oeuvre, plus the bands link each other on MySpace, and that's a dead giveaway.
Green Day of course have a history of taking on alternate identities. Back in 2003 they released a new-wavey album under the name The Network, and to this day have never confirmed it was them, although everybody in the world knew. If Green Day are in fact the Tubs, they're taking the secret a little more seriously: a spokesperson for Reprise, Green Day's label, told MTV news he "knew nothing" about Foxboro Hot Tubs.
The Recording Industry Association of America continues its fight against illegal downloading and music copying, and they're really ratcheting up the insanity. At this point I half expect their spokesperson to ride a nuclear bomb down on illegal downloaders a la Dr. Strangelove. First up, Billboardreports that they've sent another round of "pre-litigations settlement letters" to university campuses this week. This is the 11th wave of such letters, meant to notify the campus network administrators that the kids are downloading "Lip Gloss" again. Out of the 22 institutions which received letters, Minnesota's Gustavus Adolphus led the way, receiving 36 of the notices, followed closely by the University of Southern California at 33. Jonathan Lamy, the RIAA's senior VP of communications, issued this statement from their underground bunker: "For those who ignore these great legal options and ignore years of warnings, we will continue to bring lawsuits. It's not our first choice, but it's a necessary part of the equation."
Much more awesomely, the RIAA is now maintaining that the files on your hard drive you've ripped from the CDs you bought legally at the record store with good old American Rubles are themselves "unauthorized copies." That's right: you buy a CD, rip it to your Mac, pop it on your iPod: you're a criminal two times over. Breakin' the law! Jennifer Pariser, head of litigation from Sony BMG, says that making a copy of a song you own is "just a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy'."
Coming soon: the RIAA demands it be allowed to surgically remove the collections of synapses which "remember" songs illegally in human brains. How are labels supposed to make any money if all of us just sit around thinking about songs we've heard?
Car seats are the worst thing about motherhood, no doubt.
My 6 year old can manage his now, praise Jesus, but my 4 year old's m*&^erf%$#$ one! How I hate it, especially when it's raining or snowing as my cellulite-y old caboose pokes attractively out the rear car door. I couldn't wait for them to outgrow diapers, bottles and sippy cups - each, in turn used to be the worst, I was positive - but the freaking car seat thing never ends.
How blissful was my ignorance. Now - and I'm sure this time - overseeing my first grader's homework is the absolute, bloody, gall-dang-it-all, why-did-I-have-children? worst. That, not diaper bags, not carting around that behemoth two ton breast pump or even the bloody car seats, is truly the worst thing about parenting. Nothing will be worse, right?
A few weeks ago I posted about Metacritic's tally of the best reviewed records of the year, and how a surprise candidate, The Field, had snuck up to #1. Well, there's a new #1 on their tally this week, and it's another left-field candidate: UK dubstep wizard Burial, beating the Field by one point and Radiohead by three points. Sure, the album just came out, so its critical average is based on far fewer reviews, but still, that's a bit of a shocker for an album that hasn't topped any individual lists I've seen so far. So what's it all about?
Dubstep is a wonky offshoot of two-step, a strange and wonderful microgenre of dance music that had a brief dominance of UK dance floors and pirate radio stations in the late 90s and early Oughts. Two-step is characterized by a severely syncopated bass drum, throbbing, walking basslines, and a skittering snare drum, typically overlaid with a traditional soul vocal track, so the music ends up being a strange confluence of drum 'n' bass intensity with R&B richness. Dubstep, as its name indicates, both ratchets down the pop trend of two-step and touches base with reggae, allowing half-time rhythms to emerge and the vocals to exist only as echo-y, repetitive samples.
It's also a hell of a lot darker, and Untrue is one bleak album. It's split between tracks with a drum beat and tracks without, and while the tracks with drums utilize the skittery rhythms of two-step, it's hard to see anyone dancing to them: the bass is so sludgy, so overlaid with gargantuan reverb and crackly effects, it's much more suitable for headphones. Moreover, the vocals that float in and out are mere disconnected phrases, making them all the more devastating: "because you lied " repeats the title track, and "Archangel" keeps asking, "tell me I belong." These songs have a dark majesty that's not matched by the drumless, ambient tracks; those seem a little aimless and generic.
Untrue throws into sharp relief the unfair opposition set up recently in the New Yorker by Sasha Frere-Jones, who gives both white and black music too little credit in assigning them their signifiers. Burial, whoever he is, has managed to stir up so many influences, like R. Kelly in an Aphex Twin blender, that it's hard to tell what's what; moreover, its lyrical focus on the abject misery of a broken heart could not be more universal. It may not be record of the year, but it sure is something.
There's still like 20 days left in 2007, but some journalists have decided to ignore all the potential hot platters that could emerge between now and December 31st and go ahead an issue their Best of 2007 lists. Now we at The Riff are tallying up our opinions and will present the definitive top ten albums of the year next week, but for now, here's a little graph of some of the big albums and where various publications are ranking them. It's decidedly unscientific: I just picked eight magazines whose lists I could find online, and then included albums with at least two mentions, and at least one of those in a top ten, and then ranked the albums by number of mentions. And what have we learned? White people really like white people! Sure, the sample is skewed towards some rockist, British mags, but no Kanye? Jay-Z? Lil Wayne? Come on, critics!