Hey, those guys are stealing my idea for a mash-up album! Oh wait, if you made the original I guess it's not stealing. Billboardreports the no longer boyish (if basically beastly) Beastie Boys are planning to release a remixed version of their instrumental album, The Mix-Up; artists tapped for inclusion on the new mix include rapper M.I.A., former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, and visa-denial poster child Lily Allen. In other words, as Adam "MCA" Yauch said, "a bunch of British people."
No word on whether the vocalists will be contributing existing a capellas or writing new material for the album, either would be interesting I guess, although it'd be hard to make The Mix-Up more boring. Perhaps the band were inspired by The Beastles, the multiple-album project from Boston's DJ BC?
Pitchfork, like it or not, is at the center of the indie-rock whirlwind. The music site has been credited with launching the careers of Arcade Fire, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and more; a good review can create a fan base (hello, Girl Talk) or push you off the map (too many to count). And yes, we're aware that music criticism is a traditionally male enterprise (just as indie rock is), but Gawker points out today that the male-to-female ratio over at the Fork may be even higher than you'd suspect. In an accounting of the genders and names of reviewers on 10 days of four random months, they found that reviews by guys named Mark always outnumbered reviews by women of any name, usually by at least 2-to-1. For instance, in March of 2007, out of 50 sampled reviews, there were two by women, and ten by dudes named Mark. Well, what can I say: dudes named Mark like bands named Animal Collective.
People love to hate on Pitchfork, but you have to know how to read it: ignore their snarky, sub-3.0 reviews, meant to make a point of some sort; don't feel bad if one of your favorite CDs gets a 5.3; but always, always search out and listen to things they like. Overwhelmingly male (and Mark-y) or not, it's hard not to celebrate a home for such in-depth music criticism of usually-overlooked artists. I just wish they weren't becoming the judgemental high school clique that I'm sure oppressed all of them in actual high school.
Timbaland is trying something new. The 35-year-old rapper-producer, who has collaborated on No. 1 songs for Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado, will appear on ABC's "One Life to Live" on Oct. 9, the network said Wednesday. "This is a new experience for me, I am looking forward to having a great time and sharing my music!" he said in a statement. - AP
"It just seemed like a natural fit," said Madonna in a statement. "By appearing on 'Guiding Light,' I hope to show America what a guiding light the Kabbalah has been for me." The singer is one of many following Timbaland's lead by appearing on daytime television, in what some are calling the most inspired cross-promotional concept since the Chicago Bears' 1985 hit, "Super Bowl Shuffle." Meg White plans to use her "down time" to join "The Young and the Restless" for an exciting seven-week subplot about anxiety disorders, and look for UK sensations Klaxons to ride their post-Mercury Prize publicity wave to a guest appearance on "Days of Our Lives," where the band will play a trio of adorable space aliens who come to Earth and discover that Earth women may be more than they bargained for.
"As the World Turns" attracted Ricky Martin, although he maintained the show's groundbreaking gay love story had "nothing to do with it." "Any hot three-ways I engage in with the two actors will just be, you know, acting," said the Latin heartthrob in a statement.
Intriguingly, the members of legendary UK combo The Smiths plan to take over an entire season of Dr. Phil, where the notoriously ornery psychologist will try to get to the root of the band's "issues" over the course of 70 heart-rending episodes. "Honestly, I think we just need to 'get real,'" said lead singer Morrissey in a statement, "and if we're ever going to reunite as a band, we'll have to 'shape up.' Plus I really think Dr. Phil can help me lose these last 5 pounds."
It's official: Billboardis reporting Kanye West's Graduation sold 957,000 copies in its first week of sales, over 250,000 more than 50 Cent's still-impressive 691,000. West's total is the biggest one-week sales total for any album in over two years—and what, pray tell, was the album that did better, two years ago? That would be 50 Cent's The Massacre, which sold 1.1 million copies in March of '05. Ouch! Poor 50! I suppose a consolation prize is the fact that this is only the second time since SoundScan began its, er, scanning of sound in 1991, that the top two albums both sold more than 600,000 copies.
Graduation also set a digital sales record, with legal downloads of 133,000 copies, crushing Maroon 5's record of 102,000 set earlier this year. Lost in the hip-hop battle was Kenny Chesney, whose Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates (what? what does that mean?!) sold 387,000 copies, making it the biggest country debut since the Dixie Chicks' Taking the Long Way.
New York magazine's Vulture blog says West's sales figures were probably inflated by fans who were inspired by 50 Cent's promises to retire from the music business if West sold more copies; i.e., buyers didn't really care about Graduation, they just wanted to get rid of Fiddy. Vulture proposes that labels create more of these scenarios to pump up record sales: say, if Britney's new album goes platinum, Avril Lavigne will retire. They may just have something there.
Gary Moskowitz, Online Editorial Fellow: I know I'm supposed to think all indie rock from Canada is cool (Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene), but The Weakerthans' newest CD, Reunion Tour (Epitaph's Anti-, 2007), is weak—no pun intended. The songs are soft and gentle and polite, and not that memorable. In fact the music puts me to sleep.
Anna Weggel, Editorial Intern: Listen, Debbie Downer. You obviously didn't get past the fourth track. I dare you to listen to "Virtue The Cat Explains Her Departure" without looking upward with quivering lips and slowly reliving the happiest moment of your life. Tell me, when was the last time you listened to a song sung from the viewpoint of a loveable, housebroken kitty?
GM: Loveable, housebroken kitties are cute and all, but these songs just aren't that fun. The fact that the band would even consider naming a song "Virtue The Cat Explains Her Departure" is, to me, further proof that this music is best for sleepy time, not party time. That said, "Elegy for Gump Worsely" (once again, with the terrible song titles) has some cool banjo parts. "Night Windows" is one of those cutesy-pie indie songs that has pretty melodies, Johnny Marr-inspired guitar licks, and a pulsing, repetitive kick-drum. I'm cool with some of that.
AW: One of the most infectious little ditties I find is "Sun in an Empty Room," with its clear, repeated chorus that might make for a good prospective Kidz Bop tune someday (and we know once you've hit Kidz Bop, you've made it big). "Night Windows," which originally made me take notice of the band, is getting some play on The Current, my hometown indie public radio station. The Weakerthans is Ben Kweller meets Snow Patrol meets Ben Lee meets the Polyphonic Spree, minus the child chorus and, you know, the weirdness. And might I remind you that sleepy time tunes have just as much a place in the cool-kid music world as party time jams. Everybody likes a good nap, man.
Spiralfrog.com, an ad-supported free download service, launched today, and your iPod isn't invited to the party. By the way, doesn't that idiotic name bring you back to those heady internet startup days, when companies seemed to throw a dart at a color and an animal chart for their names? Redgorilla.com! Bluegiraffe.com! Anyway, that was good times. This Frog plans to feature over 2 million tracks within the next few months, most notably from Universal Music; the label had famously refused to renew a long-term contract with iTunes over pricing disagreements. SpiralFrog's business model, such as it is, requires you to click on their ads to keep downloading songs, and they promise "no threat of viruses," which I totally believe; I mean, why would the intertubes lie to us?
This development comes on the heels of NBC/Universal's recent decision to jump ship entirely from iTunes and take its video content to Amazon's new download service, the nearly-as-stupidly-named Unbox. It's a box, but not a box! Derrrr! Apparently 40% of iTunes movie content was from Universal, and this became all too clear for me recently. I was searching through the iTunes movie section to grab some entertainment for a plane trip, and found slim pickings (sorry, Wild Hogs and Aeon Flux, but I'd rather read the in-flight magazine). NBC's TV shows will also be exclusive to Amazon's service, which totally sucks since I watched the whole season of "30 Rock" on my iPod last year, and that's how I realized that was a good show. Sorry, Tina Fey.
While I'm all for competition, pulling your products from a popular store for spite just seems ridiculous, like, sorry, no orange juice at Safeway, we want to charge you twice as much at Albertson's. Customers forced to search for their favorite shows will just give up and buy something else, or do what I did and grab a Bittorrent of the Simpsons movie, and feel only slightly guilty during the scene of Bart writing "I will not illegally download this movie" on the blackboard.
With Kanye West on track to outsell 50 Cent by at least 100,000 records this week, Fiddy cancelled his U.K. promo appearances after selling less than Mr. West there as well; he had threatened to retire from solo albums if West won the sales race.
The venerable management company The Firm has droppedBritney Spears as a client, after only one month. The Firm was to spearhead Brit's comeback, but released a statement saying "current circumstances have prevented us from properly doing our job." Ouch.
Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, frustrated by high CD prices and distribution problems in Australia and China, respectively, is telling concert-goers to steal his music. A YouTube clip shows him telling a Sydney audience, "Steal it, steal away, give it to your friends." He also told a Beijing audience that because Western music is difficult to find via legal channels in China, that "downloading from the Internet is a more acceptable options than buying pirated CDs."
This week, heartwarming Emmy moments, psychedelic French rock, and avant-Cumbia make the cut, but the theme (as always, emerging after the fact) seems to be boundary-pushing and genre-crushing hip-hop/techno cross-pollination. That should always be the theme, really.
10. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert giving Ricky Gervais' Emmy to Steve Carell
I was actually on a flight from Minneapolis during the Emmys, and probably wouldn't have watched anyway (Ryan Seacrest?!) but the YouTube of this is fantastic, and not just for the comedy value: the audience's cheers give you the sense that despite Extras' acknowledged awesomeness, Steve Carell is just a more awesome person, especially since Gervais didn't even show up. I wonder if any of it was planned?
9. Ivan Ives - "Got It" (From Iconoclast on No Threshold)
I remember Russia being way more into Army of Lovers than hip-hop, but that was a while ago; maybe Russian-born Ives is the tip of a new expat Russki rap scene iceberg. He actually lives in LA now and this track reflects sunny climes more than winter nights, with a funky retro sample and a cute DIY video. Not exactly ground-breaking, but I've been humming the chorus all week.
8. Twista feat. Kanye West - "Well It's Time"
(from Adrenaline Rush 2007, out 9/18 on Atlantic)
(listen at The Fader)
Hyper Chicago rapper Twista's auctioneer-speed rhymes are offset with a decidedly mellow sample from Feist in this Kanye West production; it's apparently the bonus track on his new album, out tomorrow, and while the song is definitely breezy, it's no throwaway.
7. The Bee Gees - "Stayin' Alive" (Teddybears Remix) (from Bee Gees Greatest, out 9/18 on Rhino)
(listen at Pitchfork)
Swedish combo Teddybears accomplished the almost-unthinkable on their 2006 album Soft Machine: they brought back Big Beat without any backlash, and it was actaully good. Or maybe they just brought back the good parts of Big Beat—eclectic, upbeat, accessible, soulful sounds. On this disco-riffic remix, the band correctly assesses that the original has the "accessible" part pretty much down, and their job is to f*** things up a little. This they do via skronky bass noises that sound a little like French contemporaries Justice.
6. Various Artists - Las Rebajadas van a Brooklin (DJ set by Sonido Martines) (download an mp3 at Muy Bastard or Disco Shawn's blog, or listen at WFMU.org)
My expat compadre in Buenos Aires Disco Shawn introduced me to the amazing avant-Cumbia scene happening down there, and a billiant new DJ or producer seems to pop up every day. Sonido Martines produced this mix for DJ/Rupture's WFMU radio show, and the two share a philosophy: the NY DJ's marriage of Indian pop to drill 'n' bass was itself a radical reimagining of indigenous music. Sonido Martines' style, "Cumbias Rebajadas," is characterized by pitching tracks way, way down; at those speeds, the music takes on a strange psychedelic crackle, like a transmission from another time.
I actually just can't believe they beat me to it. We've been covering the White Stripes' cancellation of their fall tour due to reported "anxiety" and a "breakdown" on the part of drummer Meg White; in the absence of further details, one can't help but wonder what's really going on. Well, New York magazine's got some ideas, ten in fact: their article, "Ten Things That Probably Stressed Out Meg White" is actually in the best of spirits ("get well soon Meg!") although it does point out her widely-noted "primitivist" drumming style: "couldn't remember drum part to 'Seven Nation Army'" is #2. Well, it's pretty cute, anyway. The Riff loves you too, Meg.
Rolling Stone's "Rock Daily" blog has a wrap-up on the music-themed films featured at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, and it turns out they're all pretty good:
Todd Haynes' atmospheric tribute to Bob Dylan, I'm Not There, was also warmly received, with the LA Timescalling Cate Blanchett's portrayal of the enigmatic musician "phenomenal."
The documentary about Daniel Lanois' production work with artists like U2 and Sinead O'Connor, Here Is What Is, got good reviews for its ability to portray the creative process, making "something out of nothing," although even the "@U2" blog says its insider footage may be best appreciated by fans.
Finally, Rolling Stone calls Heavy Metal In Baghdad the "most powerful music film" at TIFF, a documentary about Iraq's "only heavy metal band," Acrassicauda. At one point in the film, their practice space is destroyed by a missile; now that's hardcore.