Mixed Media

The Police Rake It In

| Tue Aug. 7, 2007 7:11 PM PDT

As we've reported here on the Riff, the reunited Police have had some good and bad nights on their recent tour. But you know what makes interpersonal issues or musical struggles seem a little less important? I'll tell you what: one hundred meeellion dollars. That's right, Billboard magazine is reporting the 38-date first leg of the Police tour has already grossed $107,592,002, and was attended by 929,941 people. And that doesn't even include the Bonnaroo or V festival stops in Tennessee and Baltimore, so add in a couple zillion to both those numbers. The two July dates at Chicago's Wrigley field grossed $9,494,248 on their own. Gulp. I made $50 at a DJ gig once. Anyway, the tour continues at the end of August, returning to the US Halloween night at Madison Square Garden. The band then plan to continue touring until they have all the money in the world.

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MTV Nominates French Techno for Video of the Year

| Tue Aug. 7, 2007 12:46 PM PDT


Super-hot Paris duo Justice's single "D.A.N.C.E." has been nominated for MTV's "Video of the Year" alongside regulars Beyonce, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake and Kanye West, as well as newcomer Amy Winehouse. One might be tempted to see this nomination as an acknowledgement of grungy Francophile nu-rave's dominion over dance floors worldwide (and it is a pretty good video to boot, featuring cute animated T-shirts); but really, it's just a publicity stunt. It was just last year when the quirky video for Justice's remix of Simian's "Never Be Alone" upset Kanye West's "Touch the Sky" for Video of the Year at the MTV Europe awards in Copenhagen; Kanye, famously, crashed the stage and gave an expletive-filled rant about why his "million-dollar" video should have snagged the award instead. So, as Idolator points out: MTV America is just concocting a cheeky little rematch between the hot-headed rapper and the hapless Frenchmen. Having Kanye actually present at the announcement in New York today, joking (?) he's "still mad" about the loss, adds to the feeling of a setup. Whatevs: anything that gets Justice in front of more eyes and ears is a good thing—although I suspect MTV won't exactly be putting "D.A.N.C.E." into heavy rotation.

The MTV Video Music Awards are on your TV September 9th; check out the rest of the nominees here. (The only other sort of interesting nod is Peter Bjorn & John for "Best New Artist.") Watch the video for "D.A.N.C.E." below.

Choose Music News on Tuesday

| Tue Aug. 7, 2007 9:44 AM PDT


  • Former Fugees singer Lauryn Hill gives a baffling, reggae- and ska-influenced show in Brooklyn, wearing a crazy pink clown outfit, furthering rumors that she's bonkers. (Rolling Stone)

  • UK singer Lily Allen had her US visa canceled abruptly after being questioned for five hours at LAX, apparently because of her arrest in London in March after allegedly assaulting a photographer. (NME) Update: Her manager denies these reports, saying they're "rubbish," Allen is currently in Las Vegas and her September US tour dates are not in jeopardy. (Again, NME)
  • Busta Rhymes is sued for assault in New York after a 20-year-old man alleges he was beaten by the rapper and his posse after, uh, spitting on one of their cars. Lesson: don't spit on a rapper's posse's car. (Billboard)
  • Universal Records threatens to sue US retailers for selling import copies of Amy Winehouse's 2003 debut album, Frank, since they're about to release it themselves... only 4 years after the fact. (Yahoo! Music)
  • Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things - 8/06/07

    | Mon Aug. 6, 2007 10:35 PM PDT

    This week, I promise, no "Chocolate Rain" in the Top Ten, no Darth Vader remixes of "Chocolate Rain," no versions of "Chocolate Rain" sung by McGruff the Crime Dog, no mashups of "Chocolate Rain" and Coldplay. See how easy that was?

    mojo-cover-hardfismall.JPG10. Hard-Fi – "Suburban Knights" (from Once Upon a Time in the West, out 9/3 in the UK, US release date TBD)
    (video on YouTube, stream at MySpace)
    So, we established the cover art is silly, but it turns out the music isn't bad at all. With its jaunty ska-inflected rhythm and sing-along background vocals ("Hey-ey-ey! Ho-oh-oh!"), it's even more raucous than "Hard to Beat," the high point on the UK combo's 2005 debut.

    9. Brother and Sister – "Awesome With My Life" video (or, listen without video on their MySpace)
    Minneapolis duo Michael and Katie Gaughan (yes, actual bro and sis) make a joyful noise, and apparently are famous around the Cities for unconventional concerts at aquatic parks and jails. Like a kid-friendly "Take the Skinheads Bowling" or "Bitchin' Camaro" for a new generation, this track makes me want to, well, do something awesome with my life. Anybody got any idea how to do that?

    mojo-cover-sharonjones.JPG8. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – "100 Days 100 Nights"
    (listen on their MySpace here)
    Half the fun of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" is the precise backing band, and it turns out they do their own thing too. The Brooklyn combo's horn-based R&B is definitely retro, but somehow it still feels fresh. The record release party is October 2nd at the Apollo in Harlem, how awesome will that be?

    mojo-cover-architecture.JPG7. Architecture in Helsinki – "Heart it Races" (from Places Like This, out August 21st on Polyvinyl)
    (mp3 via Hate Something Beautiful)
    This Melbourne, Australia combo gained an extensive blog following with their quirky 2005 sophomore release, In Case We Die; they've since shed a couple members, and their new sound is a little more focused (and, weirdly, a lot like M.I.A.'s "Galang").

    mojo-cover-feist.JPG6. Feist – "My Moon My Man" (from The Reminder on Interscope)
    (listen at her MySpace)
    Party Ben: a little slow on the uptake with this one. The first single, "1234," was nice enough, but put me off with its Gap-ad-reminiscent video; ironically enough, it took an inescapable cell phone commercial to remind me of this song's hypnotic vocals and shiver-inducing guitar line. Call me a flip-flopper.

    The States Give a Shout-Out to Jack Abramoff

    | Mon Aug. 6, 2007 3:28 PM PDT

    The States, a palatable New York-based, indy/pop/punk/rock band, don't exactly get my angsty, political blood boiling, but they do get bonus points for writing a song about former high-powered Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff on their latest album, The Path of Least Resistance.

    Abramoff, who was at the center of a wide-ranging public corruption investigation including fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy, gets criticized in the song "Black Jack" by The States. "How are you gonna tell your son that the game is over, that your hand is busted," they say in the song. Ouch!

    Karl Rove doesn't get off too easy on the album, either. In the song "The Architect," The States criticize Rove and the Bush Administration with the lines "You can build where you don't belong if you are cautious…Liberty is such a bitch, yeah, when you force it."

    The only problem is that their well-polished hipster cool image and over-produced tracks make the band and their new album feel too safe for me. As a result, they don't feel very rebellious or dangerous, so their bark feels louder than their bite.

    Lee Hazlewood Dies at 78

    | Mon Aug. 6, 2007 1:42 PM PDT

    Singer/songwriter Lee Hazlewood died Saturday in Henderson, Nevada, losing a three-year battle with kidney cancer. While Hazlewood had his own label and musical career, he was best known for penning tracks for Nancy Sinatra, especially "These Boots Are Made for Walking" and "Some Velvet Morning," on which he also sang. "Morning" is one of the weirder tracks to ever hit the Top 30 (reaching #26 on the Billboard charts in 1967)—a reverby mix of country and psychedelia that's notable for its alternating 4/4 and 3/4 time signatures, whose accelerating back-and-forth provides the song's disorienting climax. The lyrics' open admission of substance use ("some velvet morning when I'm straight") made it a counter-cultural touchstone, and it's since been covered by artists from Slowdive and Primal Scream to Lydia Lunch and Vanilla Fudge.

    Grab an mp3 at rocksellout.com here; plus check out the Pitchfork and Billboard stories on Hazelwood's legacy.

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    Daft Punk Live: C'est la Lumiere

    | Sun Aug. 5, 2007 9:22 PM PDT

    There's a lot to love about French duo Daft Punk's live show, which landed at the Greek Theater in Berkeley on Friday, July 27th. The remixed and mashed-up versions of their well-known classics make the performance endlessly entertaining; the question of whether they're actually "performing" at all (or if, in fact, the two guys in robot masks are even Daft Punk) could give post-modern theorists a field day. But what makes the show utterly riveting, and unlike anything seen before, is the light show.

    The Daft Punk stage setup comprises five distinct lighting elements, each of which would, on its own, be worth the price of admission. First, a giant low-res LED curtain screen covers the back wall (1, above); a triangular grid of LED strips with opaque covers hangs in front of that (2); directional spotlights shine out from various points on stage (3); lighting strips outline the top and bottom of the stage (4) and form a large triangular outline for the "mothership:" a pyramid (5) covered in a high-resolution LED screen, in which the duo stands and performs. All the lighting elements are perfectly synchronized to the music: they fade to black when the music winds down, and explode in color when the songs reach peak intensity.

    With such a formidable canvas, it would be tempting to run things at full-bore all the time; however, what's most admirable about the lighting design is the way elements are held back for dramatic effect. Some elements stay dark for the first part of the show, and when they light up for the first time, it's typically in flat white, giving the impression that the lights are simpler than they really are. Then, when more complex patterns are introduced, it's all the more surprising. The pyramid itself, the centerpiece of the show, doesn't even switch on until halfway through the show: when it first glows white, the crowd applauds; when it flashes red, blue and green, the crowd cheers; when graphic patterns suddenly race across it in a vertigo-inducing display, the crowd goes insane. That's right; at this show, people cheer for the lights. They should--the setup cost four million dollars.

    Lighting director Martin Phillips and UK producers XL Video originally put together the rig as a one-off for Daft Punk's highly-anticipated set at Coachella in 2006, and have adapted it for this tour. According to XL Video's web site, the pyramid is constructed from "over 1600 Barco O-Lite blocks, which have been custom pixel mapped to create a 3-dimensional video screen surface." The video and lighting content is all run from a digital server running five layers of programming (one for each distinct element); a backup system runs concurrently, just in case. Observant viewers will see the two systems' monitors off to the left side of the stage, displaying smaller versions of the pyramid's video content. XL's site says the lighting server actually receives live signals from the band, which apparently trigger the elements, allowing for improvisation. So it turns out something is actually being done live by the robot-masked men.

    Musically, Daft Punk treat their songs like digital "memes," dropping recognizable snippets into the mix like DJs, and the lighting system follows along, with each song given its own visual theme. For instance, early in the show, the duo teases the audience with a brief vocal clip from "Around the World," and a glowing rainbow effect flickers on and off. Later, when the full song emerges, the rainbow effect takes over the entire setup. For a finale, all the lights fade to black, except for a glowing red stripe, which crawls from the stage, up and over the triangular grid, down onto the pyramid, and up to the bobbing robot masks, which suddenly themselves switch on in bright red outlines, like characters from "Tron." As the music crashes to an end, the duo turn away from the audience, and glowing electrically on their backs is the Daft Punk logo. The audience, needless to say, loses their minds.

    Thus, the success of the Daft Punk tour doesn't necessarily speak to a sudden popularity of "electronica" or an appreciation for things French: it's a one-off spectacular that anyone who's interested in where technology can take live performance should see. Catch the last two dates Tuesday 8/7 in Montreal and Thursday 8/9 in New York.

    Videos after the jump.

    Bob Loblaw's Blog Blog

    | Fri Aug. 3, 2007 5:20 PM PDT


    Blogs are so hot right now.

  • This Recording takes on the "inane" David Denby New Yorker piece about the recent shift in gender relationships in romantic comedies.

  • Kids Pushing Kids explores the Elastica-M.I.A. connection, and the Elastica-and-bands-they-ripped-off connection.
  • The Guardian's Music Blog wonders what it would have been like if the Beatles had been women; makes up unfortunate alternate-universe name of (shudder) "The Sheatles."
  • WFMU rounds up a whole mess of songs about beer, offers some mp3s of these songs about beer, and a picture of guys drinking beer, but no actual beer.
  • The Smoking Section reminisces about Gang Starr's "comeback" album, Moment of Truth back in 1998, calling it a "weird year for rap," partially because of the "shiny suits."
  • Reno's Makin' Mix Tapes

    | Fri Aug. 3, 2007 2:16 PM PDT

    When Song of America, a three-CD, 50-track journey through centuries worth of American music hits record stores in September, it comes with a stamp of approval—and an executive producer credit—from former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

    No, seriously. Reno, along with producer (and nephew-in-law) Ed Pettersen and Grammy-winning co-producer David Macias put together a bona fide, red-white-and-blue mix tape. Reno, a big fan of Johnny Cash, Tex Ritter, Mahalia Jackson, and Verdi, told Mother Jones that she stayed as far away as possible from the recording studio on this project. "I belong in the music studio even less than on the dance floor," Reno joked via email. "But [these songs] can take your mind off of work or school and help you relax after a long day."

    Be warned. This CD does not rock. It saunters. There are songs in here that I haven't heard since elementary school. Or Sunday School. Or ever. The box set includes contemporary versions of songs like "Yankee Doodle," "Trail of Tears," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "Home on the Range," and the World War II anthem "Over There" performed by the likes of Janis Ian, Marah, Martha Wainwright, Blind Boys of Alabama, Bettye LaVette, and Old Crow Medicine Show. Don't worry, I've never heard of most of these performers either.

    Reno wraps things up with some juicier tracks like "What's Going On," "I am Woman" and "Say it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud," and concludes the disc with John Cougar Mellancamp's rendition of "This Land is Your Land." This predominantly country-folk compilation would seriously buzzkill any legitimate house party, but I wouldn't be surprised if this thing is booming from speakers at the RNC and the DNC in 2008.

    Cute Knut Under Pressure to Shed Lbs.

    | Fri Aug. 3, 2007 2:07 PM PDT

    fatty_knut.jpgHey, remember Knut? He was the high-profile, environmental poster-bear who made an appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair with Leonardo diCaprio during "Knut-mania," a time when Europeans flocked by the millions to see him in his Berlin zoo. He was so hot that a neighboring animal died and no one noticed.

    The appeal of "Cute Knut" was in his miniature size; he was a cute little white fuzzball who romped around with his keeper. But, times are changing. The paparazzi attention has subsided and the chubby cub has been asked to slim down. It's all summed up in a Der Spiegel headline: "Fatty Knut Put on Strict Diet."

    Knut's caretakers claim he weighs 132 lbs, but they're not sure because their scale only goes up to 110 lbs. Apparently, they're keeping a vigilant watch on him to ensure Knut doesn't steal scraps from the kitchen table while his meals are being prepared.

    Critiques of his appearance, tales of bad behavior—Lindsay Lohan could have told him such is the life of a media darling.