With the FCC poised to relax media ownership rules again in December, the U.S. Senate is starting to get the message from constituents that maybe it's not such a great idea. During hearings today, Merge records founder and Superchunk frontman Mac McCaughan testified about the sad state of radio:
The deregulation that followed the 1996 Telecommunications Act allowed for unprecedented consolidation in commercial radio, which has resulted in a homogeneity that is often out-of-step with artists, entrepreneurs, media professionals and educatorsnot to mention listeners.
Of course, he couldn't resist getting in a couple plugs for Merge artists Arcade Fire and Spoon:
In 2007, two of the albums we releasedby the bands Arcade Fire and Spoonboth debuted in the Billboard Top Ten. They appeared on Saturday Night Live. The mainstream print media has written extensively about them, and both bands tour the world, playing highly successful, sold out concerts. Yet both of these bands have been virtually absent from the commercial airwaves.
Well how do you think they got in the Top Ten? Mac was out there promoting to their target demographics: our nation's elected officials. Actually, he's not being entirely honest: Arcade Fire has received significant radio support, even from giant mainstream juggernauts like LA's KROQ (see "Wake Up" at #37 on their 2005 year-end countdown... right above Foo Fighters). But Arcade Fire are the exception that proves the rule.
And, my fave: these lucky bastards dancing women around the world vs. this doomed one who found a huge, honking diamond while with his fiance and actually believes it's going in his collection since she already has one. Smart money says she'll either be wearing it by Thanksgiving or dis-engaged.
Def Jam chairman Antonio "L.A." Reid confirmed his support for Nas after the rapper announced his new album would be called Nigger, saying "Anything Nas wants to do, I stand beside him." The Rev. Al Sharpton, on the other hand, condemned the choice, saying "We do not need to be degrading ourselves we get degraded enough."
Lance Bass describes life in the closet during his years in 'NSYNC to MTV News, saying he had people close to him sign non-disclosure agreements, and that the band's management and publicists didn't advise him against coming out, because, he says, even they didn't know. Huh.
The BBC has been criticized for allowing a racist remark by Iggy Pop to go uncensored and unacknowledged during the network's live broadcast from Glastonbury in June. Pop told a story about visiting "Paki shops" in Camden, using a term that the BBC said has now passed out of "polite usage."
Even for our finest actors, the Boston accent is Everest: an irresistible, but insurmountable, challenge. . .This may seem like a minor matter to you. But for those of us who grew up possessing, or shedding, a Boston accent, it's a deal breaker. Consider, if you will, the embarrassing hilarity that tends to ensue when my dear father, unapologetic owner of a medium-thick Boston brogue, returns an off bottle of wine at a restaurant because "I know the taste of cork. And this tastes like cork."
With CMJ happening in New York this week, that's all the blogs are talking about. Lucky them. Your intrepid, ridiculously-named reporter was not there, I'm just listening to music on the hi-fi, or the lo-fi, as the case may be.
10. The Dream "She Needs My Love" (from Love/Hate out Dec. 11 on Def Jam)
(stream at The Fader)
Hey, it's super-slo-mo choruses! Remember how much I love those? Combine that with Dream's songwriting skills (this is the guy who wrote "Umbrella") and you have a track that veers between sing-along almost-ballad and car stereo-pounding thumper.
9. New Young Pony Club "Get Lucky" (video)
This new wave-y track from the UK combo appeared in my Top Ten a while back already, but this video is so odd, both charming and disconcerting, I felt like it deserved a re-entry:
8. South Rakkas Crew "Crazy Feelings" (from The Mix Up on Mad Decent)
(listen at the Mad Decent site)
First I thought the bassline was from The Other Two's "Selfish," and then the chorus kicked in and I realized, that's the Jacksons. Not the Jackson 5, the Jacksons, Triumph-era. That's the trouble with samples: you suddenly realize you might actually like the original. Aack!
7. Travis Barker vs. Soulja Boy "Crank That"
Yes, this is the drummer from Blink 182 and +44, playing over the still-inescapable "Crank That." While you just want to be annoyed with him, all tattooed and rich and bashing the living bejesus out of his drums to overcompensate for being like 4'11", this is truly, unbelievably awesome.
6. Roisin Murphy "Let Me Know" (from Overpowered on EMI)
The former Moloko lead singer has struck out on her own in a somewhat typical British solo artist style: too pop to be cool, too weird to reach America. Hello, Robbie Williams! It's too bad, because this is glammy, perfectly-executed electro-disco that should be bigger than Madonna, and the video illustrates why: it can make even the most mundane moments of our pathetic lives feel special.
If language, as William S. Burroughs said, is a virus, then music is its most virulent and mutable form, infecting you and transforming itself until suddenly everyone you know is dancing to gabber. Especially in the fast-paced, often producer-centric worlds of hip-hop and dance music, new genres seem to pop up faster than coked-up journalists can assign them names. Here's some names you might have seen tossed around lately, with my completely scientific ratings of their legitimacy as truly "different" than music that came before and their potential for longevity.
They give it a "6.4." No, seriously, this is kind of odd: last month, a hard drive containing music files belonging to Death Cab bassist Chris Walla was seized by U.S. Customs officials when a studio employee tried to take it back into Washington State from Canada. The story started to make the rounds last week, with Walla joking about his hard drive being "waterboarded" and wondering aloud if the overtly political content of some of the songs might pose a problem. Well that got a Customs guy all perturbed: MTV News quotes representative Mike Milne as saying Walla's comments to the press "got my ire up," that the hard drive was only seized because of commercial merchandise paperwork issues, and besides, they'd been trying to return it. Wow, a couple news stories come out, and suddenly Homeland Security is a service-oriented organization.
Barsuk Records founder Josh Rosenfeld doesn't believe that the album's political content had anything to do with the seizure—after all, how could they have listened to the files beforehand?—but finds the random seizure of personal property a bit disturbing, saying "this is a case of a U.S. artist who went into Canada to record and then wanted to bring the fruits of that recording back home... it doesn't seem like a commercial product to me." Well, in any event, they had master tapes, and the album is coming out on schedule, and now, as Rosenfeld says, "at least everyone knows Chris Walla has a solo record coming out." Hmm, now who's the conspiracy theorist?
Today's New York Times features an article on the northern Brazilian "tecnobrega" scene, and while the focus is the "piracy" and decentralized distribution model, they don't really talk about the music itself, which makes it seem like it must be almost unfathomably exotic. Well, in fact, the opposite is true: the whole point of brega is the cheesy accessibility, and the "tecno" prefix is a little misleading, since this is no, uh, 808 State. Actually, it sounds a lot like reggaeton, and the loping rhythm will be familiar to anyone who turns on the radio in LA (a kind of "boom-chicka-booom-chick"). I found a couple videos to check out after the jump.