Mixed Media

Last.fm Makes Deal With Labels to Stream "Every Track"

| Wed Jan. 23, 2008 7:20 PM EST

mojo-photo-lastfm.JPGLast.fm, the music and "social networking" site acquired by CBS last year, has announced deals with all four major record labels in an apparent attempt to become the leader in free online music streaming. The site started as a "public diary" of members' listening habits; its software reads what you play in iTunes and uploads it to your page, then tallying it all up on artist pages and recommending similar music. Their lists of "most played" tracks are kind of interesting—and I'm not just saying that because I have one.

CBS bought the company last May for $280 million and since then has increased the number of tracks available as free streams to over 3 million. Now, Last.fm co-founder Martin Stitskel says "the mission is to have every track available." Golly, and good luck: it's always seemed a little ridiculous to me that if I want to point to an example of a song, YouTube makes referencing the video the easiest thing in the world, but if I just want the audio by itself, there's no one place to go. Unfortunately, Last.fm doesn't currently allow embedding of its player on other sites (like Imeem does, for instance) but if it succeeds in its mission to become a "free music discovery tool," it'll be a lot better than just listening to 30-second samples on iTunes.

A quick test of Last.fm was a bit disappointing: I looked up Cat Power, whose new album Jukebox is getting some good reviews, and found only four tracks available as streams, none from the new album, although there were a bunch of messages in the "Shoutbox" wishing Chan a happy birthday yesterday. Aww. So, for now it's back to YouTube and MySpace.

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War Dance Nominated for Oscar

| Tue Jan. 22, 2008 5:21 PM EST

wardance.jpgIt's official: War Dance—a documentary about former child soldiers who journey from their IDP camp in Northern Uganda to a music competition in the nation's capital—has been nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature. Its running mates: No End in Sight, Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, Sicko, and Taxi to the Dark Side.

Go here to read Mother Jones' interview with War Dance filmmakers Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine.

Barack Obama, Wire Fan

| Tue Jan. 22, 2008 1:01 AM EST
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So Barack Obama says his favorite TV show is The Wire. And his favorite character, he tells the Las Vegas Sun, is Omar Little, the charismatic, sawed-off shotgun toting, Honey Nut Cheerios-eating, gay stickup artist. "That's not an endorsement. He's not my favorite person, but he's a fascinating character," says Obama, displaying both admirable honesty and pop-culture cred, yet risking alienating the demographic (i.e., women) that will never forgive Omar for helping set up Stringer Bell. And all the culture warriors who will take issue with Obama calling the gangster "sort of a Robin Hood." But picking your favorite Wire character is all about moral ambiguity—a real minefield for a politician who thinks the answers to these kinds of questions really matter. All the cops are corrupt or boozers or philanderers. The politicians are weasels. And the drug dealers and journalists? Enough said. The only mildly politically safe Wire character I can think of is Lester Freamon, whose biggest sin is a love of miniature furniture. If you want to get a little more daring, you could go for rookie middle-school teacher and ex-police Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski—but don't forget that he's an accidental cop killer.

Coachella Lineup Announced: No My Bloody Valentine, But Stoners Will Still Be Happy

| Mon Jan. 21, 2008 8:41 PM EST

Dark Side of Coachella

Goldenvoice announced the lineup for this year's Coachella festival at a press conference in Mexico City today, and the big surprise turned out to be a bit of a throwback: Roger Waters of Pink Floyd will be appearing on the main stage, in a special performance re-creating the 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon. Oooh-kay. Other big names include the reunited Verve, the Raconteurs, and Love and Rockets; on the electronic side, festival veterans Kraftwerk will return along with Justice, M.I.A. and Sasha & Digweed.

Criticism of the lineup for being a bit underwhelming is starting right up; it happens every year, and it's par for the course, since the pool of "gee-whiz" bookings has almost been exhausted for the nine-year-old festival. However, this year does seem a little heavy on the "artists who seem kind of tired" front: hello, Jack Johnson, Death Cab for Cutie, My Morning Jacket, and Fatboy Slim. But last year's lineup had its share of yawners (Crowded House, anyone?) and like always, the excitement is in the middle: from Animal Collective and Pendulum through Battles and Santogold down through Kid Sister and Modeselektor, the afternoon schedule will be chock full of great music. And hey, if a headliner sucks, that just means you can get back to the hot tub at your place earlier, right?

But yeah, think how awesome My Bloody Valentine would have been... oh well.

The Coachella festival takes place April 25-27 in Indio, California; tickets are on sale this Friday at Coachella.com. Full lineup (complete with new impressionistic poster) after the jump.

The 300 Somehow Manages to Avoid "Worst Picture" Razzie Nomination

| Mon Jan. 21, 2008 3:58 PM EST

Them's some bad movies

Now this is an awards ceremony I can appreciate. The Razzies have been honoring the worst films and performances for 27 years now, and the 2007 nominees were just announced today. While the Lindsay Lohan vehicle I Know Who Killed Me led the pack with nine nominations including Worst Picture, Eddie Murphy's Norbit received eight, with Murphy getting five of those on his own: four for performances and one for his screenplay. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry also received eight nominations including "Worst Screen Couple;" it's nice to see people come around on this one since the producers really seemed to bamboozle gay rights organizations into acceptance when it came out. Feature-length commercial Bratz and Fred Savage-directed Daddy Day Camp rounded out the Worst Picture nominees, and as I said, neo-fascist paean to pectorals The 300 slipped by without a single nod—you'd think it'd get its own special achievement category or something.

The Razzies will be awarded at a lavish ceremony on February 23rd at, um, Magicopolis in Santa Monica. Full list of nominees after the jump.

Cloverfield: New Kind of Monster Movie or "The Real World" With Giant Frog?

| Sat Jan. 19, 2008 12:44 AM EST

mojo-photo-cloverfield.jpgI saw Cloverfield (herein I shall refuse to type that ridiculous title and will refer to it as "Monsterfield" or "Cloverfrog") at the press screening Tuesday night, and I suppose waiting three days to write about was probably a good idea. I'm a sucker for apocalypse (my cinematic motto is "The World Must Be Destroyed;" I dragged friends to "The Core" on opening night) plus I'm always intrigued by J.J. Abrams' creepy mysteries, so I came in as giddy as a schoolgirl, ready to see some crap get smashed. And sure, it's scary and there's some good effects, but reading Manohla Dargis' review in the Times just now made me laugh out loud. As you probably know, the film's conceit is that it's "found footage," a videotape found in "the area formerly known as Central Park" after Monsterfrog comes to town. The tape starts out at a loft party for what's basically the casts from every Real World minus the gays or blacks, and we follow a few of them on an insane mission to save a gal whose apartment (in one of the Trump Towers on Columbus Circle!!!) has gotten smooshed. A dude (or perhaps a "bro") carries the camera around the whole time, taping even as friends are killed or they're attacked by giant cricket crabs who need to implant their eggs in your brain. Is it a bitter commentary maybe, asks Dargis:

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Is Music Really So Bad? Another Music Snob's Dissent

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 6:52 PM EST

Daughtry is America

Yesterday, my Riff cohort Gary posted a diatribe against Americans' terrible taste in music. The commoners like their trash, for sure, and it's not restricted to music by any means: "Everybody Loves Raymond" lasted nine seasons, and I believe George W. Bush actually got a majority of the popular vote in 2004. It's tempting to curl up into the fetal position and whimper, "why, why, why," and it happens to the best of us: Idolator recently mocked a College Times writer for, ahem, "waking up to discover people have lousy taste," and he covered some of the same territory:

Friends: Who Needs 'Em?

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 5:03 PM EST

volleyball100.jpgNo friends? No problem! Researchers at the University of Chicago say you can make them yourself out of everyday household objects.

For evidence, they say, look no further than a crappy Tom Hanks movie:

"In the movie Castaway, Tom Hanks was isolated on an island and found the social desolation to be one of the most daunting challenges with which he had to deal," said Cacioppo, the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago.
"He did so, in part, by anthropomorphizing a volleyball, Wilson, who became his friend and confidant while he was on the island." Although fictional, "Castaway depicts a deep truth about the irrepressibly social nature of Homo sapiens," Cacioppo said.


Presidential Campaigns Using Lots of Inappropriate Songs

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 5:02 PM EST

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I posted on the night of the New Hampshire primaries that the Romney campaign headquarters hosted a performance of Stone Temple Pilots' "Crush," a song that features both some ironically appropriate lyrics and some uncomfortably weird ones. Turns out that using inappropriate songs is a bit of an epidemic in the presidential campaigns, reports the Washington Post. First, they point out two of Hillary Clinton's choices for tunes at campaign rallies: Tom Petty's "American Girl" and Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business," both of which have some uncomfortable lyrical ironies:

Friday Sighs, "Music News Day"

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 4:45 PM EST

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  • Did someone say "unicorn"? Neko Case, T-Pain and MF Doom will provide the voices for characters in an upcoming Adult Swim cartoon called, er, "Cheyenne Cinnamon and the Fantabulous Unicorn of Sugar Town Candy Fudge." Good title, but somehow I know it won't be nearly as good as the first season of Aqua Teen.
  • Speaking of adults, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore has provided the music (link possibly NSFW) for an adult film called "Extra Action (and Extra Hardcore)," out on DVD March 18th. Wocka waa, wocka wah waaaa? The video is being directed by Richard Kern who has also made some Sonic Youth videos, so that helps explain that, I guess.
  • Both Beyonce and Foo Fighters have promised to attend the Grammys, no matter whether it's a full-on ceremony with union writers penning the jokes or a guy tossing the awards out of the back of a truck. The Foos' manager, John Silva, extended support to striking writers but confirmed the band's commitment to the Grammy ceremony.
  • Some sad news: Lily Allen, who announced her pregnancy last month, has had a miscarriage. A representative for the singer asked for privacy for Allen and her partner, Chemical Brother Ed Simons. Messages of support are being posted at Allen's MySpace page.