Friday's Battle Cry: "Music News Day!"

News 0104

  • Album sales in the US were down 9.5 percent from last year, even though digital sales rose 45 percent and "overall music perchases," which include albums, singles, digital tracks and music videos, were up 14 percent.

  • The Foo Fighters will perform with an "unsigned instrumentalist" as part of an American Idol-style contest at this year's Grammy Awards. The "My Grammy Moment" competition is open to string, woodwind and brass players, one of whom will join Dave Grohl & co. at the ceremony February 10th.
  • Swedish singer-songwriter José González is planning a "green tour" of North America, partnering with a company called Reverb to provide biodegradeable catering supplies and offsetting the tour's carbon emissions. Tour dates include NYC's Highline Ballroom on 3/11, LA's Wiltern on 3/25, and SF's Fillmore on 3/27.
  • I'm not talking about Britney Spears.
  • mojo-photo-caucuses.jpg

    Approaching the coverage of the Iowa caucuses like I suspect a lot of Americans were—unspeakably sick of Bush, uncommitted to a Democrat, curious about how things would shake down—there were a couple fascinating moments. MSNBC's coverage brought out their new power duo of Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, and after the margin of Obama's victory became clear, Matthews seemed to want to grab the mantle of "fiery liberal commentator" from his cohost. Asking questions of their panel of experts, he launched into a spitting tirade about how Clinton could possibly be considered an agent of change when she voted for the Iraq war, emphasizing over and over that "two thirds of the party has voted against her." A quick channel change to Fox News saw their reporter, a wide-eyed strong-jawed frat boy in what looks like military-issue headphones, stationed at the Huckabee headquarters, barely able to contain his glee over Huckabee's win. Over at CNN, their situation room seemed invaded by information-filled data screens, with entrance poll pie charts rolling around the studio like mad Pac-Men.

    New Music: The Raveonettes - Lust Lust Lust

    mojo-photo-raveonettes.jpgWhat to make of a Danish duo who seem obsessed with vintage American rock but can't help filtering it through a Jesus and Mary Chain fuzzbox? Well, with a name like "The Raveonettes," they're wearing their influences on their sleeves, and they've often been written off as a retro novelty act. But similarly to better-known male-female duo The White Stripes, the band's self-imposed stylistic restrictions often allow them to soar.

    United State of PopTalk about polishing turds. San Francisco producer DJ Earworm has done the seemingly impossible: he's combined all of the Billboard Top 25-selling singles of the year into one, 4-minute mashup, and shockingly, it's really pretty listenable. He calls it "United State of Pop," and you can listen to it on his website here. He's been getting a bit of blog press about it, but he's my buddy so I get the first interview.

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    Hey, did ya see that Chipmunks movie yet? The one that looks like a sub-Garfield brain-dissolving Hollywood CGI cash-in? No? Well, me neither, but it turns out comedian David Cross is in it, which if you're like me you didn't know until this bit of news hit Defamer: Cross has posted a lengthy defense of taking Chipmunk money on his website, apparently in response to a dis from Patton Oswalt, who had a part in the considerably-more-highbrow Ratatouille and turned down the part in Chipmunks. The screed is vintage Cross, brutally honest, kind of mixed up, and pretty damn funny:

    Top Ten Albums of 2008! Just Kidding

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    From left: Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields, Kim Deal of The Breeders, Chan Marshall aka Cat Power, and Dr. Dre

    So 2007 was a pretty good year for music, but now our thoughts must turn to the future: what can we look forward to this year? Music blog Stereogum points out that 2008's schedule of album releases is light on the "blockbuster appeal" of 2007, which saw Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse, the Shins and LCD Soundsystem put out highly-anticipated albums. However, there's still a bunch of good stuff on the docket for '08, and here's an admittedly arbitrary list of some of the biggies for the first half of the year, and why one might care:

    Late Night

    Those of us who have been missing our pre-bedtime comedy wind-down can get partially back on track tonight, as all the big network late-night shows will make their return to the wee screen for the first time since the beginning of the writers' strike. Only David Letterman and Craig Ferguson will have their writers, as Letterman's independent production company Worldwide Pants (which owns Ferguson's show too) made their own special deal with the scribes, something the other network-owned shows couldn't figure out, I guess. Conan O'Brien, Jay Leno, and Jimmy Kimmel will be on their own; well, I mean that figuratively, as Leno will be accompanied by Mike Huckabee tonight, who can hopefully continue to expand on his latest comedy gold-mine, a hilarious set piece about how homosexuality is a pretty bad sin but not as bad as necrophilia. Too much! If you prefer Letterman (if!), you'll have to suffer through his first guest, Robin Williams. The other network shows may not have writers (or big-name guests), but they may be accompanied by protests, as the WGA has announced it will picket all three shows, as well as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who return on Monday. Whether any of this is enough to draw back discouraged viewers from other activities remains to be seen.

    Is Sound Quality Really "Worse Than Ever"?

    I Can't Hear YouLast week, Rolling Stone posted an extensive (6 online pages!) diatribe against sound quality in the age of mp3s. The article seems to have two, somewhat related points: a) that music is being mastered really loud these days, and b) mp3s sound crappy. RS posits that these two factors have become a kind of self-reinforcing spiral of doom for audiophiles, a "global loudening," if you will: