New Andrew Bird video: I felt a Funeral, in my Brain ft. Emily Dickinson, Phoebe Bridgers

Video: Andrew Bird – “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” (ft. Phoebe Bridgers)

Single out now.

Andrew Bird and Phoebe Bridgers must be pals now. From reinterpreting Emily Dickinson poems to covering Handsome Family classics, these two are already about 1/7th the way to making a whole album together. A very, very sad album. Happy holidays, everybody!

Their Dickinson jam just got a video, made in collaboration with the Emily Dickinson Museum and featuring handwritten transcripts and footage of Dickinson’s lifelong home. See where the magic happened! That sweet, lonely, revolutionary, poetic magic.

Andrew Bird: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Andrew Bird video: I felt a Funeral, in my Brain ft. Emily Dickinson, Phoebe Bridgers

Shooting Fish in a Barrel

Although you don’t often see barrels anymore unless you live in Tuscany, the notion of shooting fish in a barrel is actually quite bizarre.

There is a 53-gallon white oak container full of bourbon water and for some reason it is full of fish. Someone takes out a Mossberg 930 Waterfowl and begins blasting away. Not only is there going to be a lot of fish viscera inside the barrel, but the barrel is going to be full of holes, so clearly that’s not something you’d want to do.

But the phrase is not cautionary. Rather, it is one that refers to how easy something is to do.

Oddly, however, it isn’t like that description of perch or koi or other gill-bearing animals idly going back and forth in a container.

It seems that it is based on when in a pre-refrigeration age fish were packed in barrels with ice. These fish weren’t swimming anywhere. Were someone to shoot in the barrel, odds were really good that something would be hit.

The phrase comes to mind regarding Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour ticketing and Ticketmaster.

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New Beatles video: I’m Only Sleeping

Video: The Beatles – “I’m Only Sleeping” (2022 mix)

Directed by Em Cooper. From the Special Edition of Revolver, out now on UMG.

Look at this! British director and animator Em Cooper painted every frame of this video individually in oil, 1,300 hand-painted oil paintings. Which is a lot of work! But who cares how much work something takes if the end result is lame? Fortunately, this is not. It’s appropriately dreamy and strippy.

Cooper says, “It was a project that I felt an immediate spark for right from the word go, and somehow that momentum carried me right through to the en. I love The Beatles. We used to listen to this song on a tape in the car when I was a child, and the song itself evokes such a mesmerising, languid, dreamy state. In a way, my job was only to follow its lead with a paintbrush in my hand.”

The new Giles Martin remix sounds good. The bass is more prominent than in the original stereo mix, but it’s certainly not obnoxious. Paul’s yawn is as adorable as ever (If you listen really closely, you can hear John say, “Yawn, Paul” shortly before it.)

The Beatles: web, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Dead Man’s Wallet

The publication that once self-described as “The Capitalist’s Tool,” which eventually had an unfortunate if apt meaning, Forbes, has, like its competitor, Fortune, long been into creating lists. This was something that preceded the clickbait approach of so-called listicles, which are pretty much predicated on short attention spans. In the case of Forbes and Fortune the lists were predicated on numeric data that their readers could use for purposes of comparison and analysis rather than distraction.

Still, times change for all.

One of the things that is tough to overlook about the music industry—and let’s recognize that what is most visible are the industry participants rather than artisans or craftspeople—is that it is hugely measured in the metric of “hits,” which means “sales,” which means “revenue,” which leads to “earnings.”

In the recent Q3 earnings call, for example, for Universal Music Group, during which it was noted that the company had its fifth quarter running of strong earnings (e.g., revenues of $2.68 billion), Sir Lucian Grainge (and know that Grainge wasn’t knighted because of dragons), pointed out that while there are some 100,000 tracks uploaded to streaming services each day, this is really not helpful because it tends to be “low-quality content,” as distinct from 114-million album seller Taylor Swift, about whom he remarked: “You just have to look at the excitement around the world on a brilliant album by a brilliant artist with this week’s Taylor Swift release. That drives consumption, it drives audience and it drives new people to everything to the products, to the platforms, to other music.” And, of course, it drives revenue.

But Swift is still with us, and Forbes has complied a list of the top-earning artists and entertainers who are dead but still minting some serious coin during the past 12 months.

Of the list of 15 people, musicians take eight spots. The first two on the list are J.R.R. Tolkien ($500 million) and Kobe Bryant ($400 million).

But then there is a musician at number three. David Bowie. He (or more accurately, some legally existing entity, but from here on out we’ll just cite names rather than estates, tontines, corporations, and what have you) earned $250-million. This primarily from a catalog sale.

(According to Will Page of Tarzan Economics, which runs numbers related to the music industry, the global value of music copyright is $39.6-billion, which is now 40% more than in 2001, the year of peak CD; now 55% of the value is predicated on streaming.)

At number 4 is a man who has been dead since August 16, 1977. Elvis earned $110-million during the past year. This is mainly a take from Graceland and various variations of Elvis-branded objects. One might image that at some point in the past—maybe 2001—we hit peak Elvis. Consider: 50,000,000 Million Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong came out in 1959. If they were an average 20 years old then, this means they’re now 83. The only hip shaking most of them are going to do could lead to a fracture. Still, they’ve evidently got some disposable income.

James Brown, the former hardest working man in show business, is in the fifth position, $100-million. This is based on music rights, real estate (evidently hard working and smart), and his name and likeness. Two interesting things to know about him: he was short: 5-foot, 6 inches (according to the CDC, the average male is 5’9”) and he died on Christmas (2006).

Michael Jackson is in sixth position, with $75-million in earnings. Shows in Vegas and on Broadway and his catalog accounts for the major portion of this income. (Speaking of Vegas, while there seems to be an increasing trend toward musicians doing residencies there so they don’t need to travel, it is worth noting that Jackson’s ex-father-in-law performed there more than 600 times, including a run of 58 sold-out shows—that’s entertainment.)

Seventh place, at $55-million, is held by Canadian musician Leonard Cohen, whose “Hallelujah” seems to be a song people like to cover. According to the New York Times Cohen died the night of November 7, 2016, “during his sleep following a fall.” Cohen’s Wikipedia entry has it that “His work explored religion, politics, isolation, depression, sexuality, loss, death, and romantic relationships.” Probably not the life of any party not being held in the basement of a funeral home. Cohen’s earnings were from publishing and his masters.

The most-unexpected musician on the list is in ninth, with $25-million: Jeff Porcaro. Yes, the drummer for Toto. He died in 1992 at age 38 of a heart attack. While some may sneer at Porcaro and Toto, the opening paragraph of article that appeared in 1997 in Drum! magazine by Greg Rule is worth quoting in full because one can only assume that Drum! magazine probably has writers who know a little more about, well, drummers than the rest of us:

“For two-plus magical decades, Jeff Porcaro set the standard. Whatever the session, whatever the stage, when he picked up sticks it was pure magic. Smooth as silk. Deep beyond all comprehension. Taste, impeccable time and attitude for days. He had it all. From his breakthrough sessions with Boz Scaggs and Steely Dan in the mid ’70s to his final notes with Toto on Kingdom of Desire in 1992, the man with the golden groove was consistently brilliant. ‘He was one of the best drummers in the world,’ said Eddie Van Halen at a tribute held for Jeff in late ’92. ‘Definitely the groove master. He was just so heavy.’”

Porcaro’s earnings came from publishing and recording royalties. (Apparently Pocaro’s half-time shuffle beat on “Rosanna” is considered by many to be iconic. Speaking of that song, it was written about Rosanna Arquette, who had been dating Steve Porcaro, Toto keyboard player and yes, Jeff’s brother. Arquette is also the person about whom Peter Gabriel wrote “In Your Eyes.” She’s clearly something.)

Positions 12 and 13, $16-million and $12-million, respectively, deserve a shrug: John Lennon and George Harrison. Royalties and rights for the music in Get Back. One of these days George will get ahead of John. . . .

Bowie illustration by Michelle Rohn for Forbes.

New Monnone Alone video: Stay Foggy

Video: Monnone Alone – “Stay Foggy”

Directed by Lehmann B. Smith. From Stay Foggy, out now on Lost and Lonesome.

Mark Monnone recorded Stay Foggy all by himself on his cassette 8-track during lockdown in 2020. And now the groovy title track has video featuring our bearded hero riding around Melbourne on a cloud. I like the fact that Monnone looks like a Pacific Ocean Blue-era Dennis Wilson these days.

Monnone told Trouble Juice the song’s “skeletal features date back to the mid-00s and may well have ended up somewhere on the next Lucksmiths album had we not broken ourselves up in 2009. As you hear it now, this song was built up around the repetitive bassline that I had originally put down as a demo to test different ideas on. The lyrics are a murky meditation on a summer spent in the San Francisco fog twenty-odd years ago and, in my reverie, imagining my dear friends there all these years later as a bunch of wharf-dwelling ’embarcaderos’ sipping cheap chianti and yelling profanities at the seaside hotdog vendor. The chord structures and melodies all fell together so well on top of the bassline that I didn’t need to come up with any bass variations between verse, chorus, etc, which was good news for me as I’m extremely lazy.”

Monnone Alone: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Permanence & Change

The Rijksmuseum on Museum Square in Amsterdam South is considered the national museum of the Netherlands. It is the museum that is probably best known for having Rembrandt’s The Night Watch in its collection. The Night Watch underwent a conservation and restoration project that started in July 2019 and ran for two-and-a-half years. As the painting was executed in 1642, it was deemed necessary to provide restoration and because the people of the Netherlands want it to exist for several hundred more years, conservation work was required. As part of the undertaking the researchers and curators used a macro-XRF scanner to capture information millimeter by millimeter (the canvas measures 379.5 cm x 454.5 cm); it took 56 scans, each lasting 24 hours, to capture that information. In addition to which, some 12,500 high-resolution (0.001 mil) photographs were taken.

In June 2021 the museum announced:

Visitors to the Rijksmuseum can now enjoy The Night Watch in its original form, for the first time in 300 years. Several sections were cut from the painting in the past. The Operation Night Watch team has successfully recreated these missing pieces, which have now been mounted around Rembrandt’s world-famous work. This reconstruction based on the 17th-century copy attributed to Gerrit Lundens was made with the help of artificial intelligence.

The “Operation Night Watch” team noted that there were “a number of differences” between what viewers have seen over the past few hundred years and what has been reconstructed. There are three figures on a bridge that hadn’t been there. The painting’s main figures had been seen in the middle of the canvas when they were supposed to be right of center. And there are other changes.

The Giles Martin remix and expansion of The Beatles’ Revolver, like The Night Watch, deployed artificial intelligence. The album, released in 1966 (324 years after the Rembrandt), had been originally mixed to mono and two-channel stereo, but the multitrack master recordings were not saved. Martin made use of a technique known as “demixing” that had been notably used on Peter Jackson’s Get Back documentary; it separates all of the instruments and vocals and applies machine learning to fill in information, information that we hear as sound.

Giles Martin told the BBC, for example, “It [the AI] has to learn what the sound of John Lennon’s guitar is. . .and the more information you can give it, the better it becomes.”

Which begs the question of whether he is referring to the capabilities of the machine learning or of the sound of John Lennon’s guitar.

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New Brendan Benson video: Ain’t No Good

Video: Brendan Benson – “Ain’t No Good”

Directed by Simon Taylor. From Low Key, out December 2 on Schnitzel.

Two great tastes that taste great together: skate videos and Brendan Benson music. Any why not? Skateboarding is not a crime.

Benson told Rolling Stone that “Ain’t No Good” was recorded during the sessions for his previous album, Dear Life, but abandoned because he was “never convinced it was a viable song.” But eventually, “I got a completely different feeling from it. The verses then came. I listen to a lot of rap these days, so I think that influenced my phrasing and delivery. Coupled with this almost ‘barbershop’ refrain…it sprung to life for me.” If that description sounds concerning, don’t worry. Musicians have no idea how to talk about their own stuff. It doesn’t sound like hip hop or barbershop. It sounds like Brendan Benson music. Which is great.

I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of Low Key. It was recorded in isolation during lockdown so Benson is playing everything himself. In addition to seven new originals, it also covers one of the greatest songs of all time: Gerry Rafferty’s underrated classic “Right Down the Line.” Benson told Maximum Volume the cover was suggested by a friend: “She’s always been saying I should do that song. I don’t normally pay attention when people say that stuff. But then I happened to hear it one day and I said, ‘Dang. This is good.’” He’s right. It is.

Brendan Benson: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

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New Quasi video: Queen of Ears

Video: Quasi – “Queen of Ears”

Directed by Patrick Stanton. From Breaking the Balls of History, out February 10 on Sub Pop.

A tibial plateau fracture is no fucking joke. It’s not like a regular broken bone where you just get it set, wear a cast for a few weeks, and then you’re good. Nope, a TPF typically requires multiple surgeries and months or years of rehab, and even after all of that you may never be the same again. Many people never regain full range of motion and some people are unable to walk at all.

Back in August 2019, the month after she announced she was leaving Sleater-Kinney, powerhouse drummer Janet Weiss was in a bad car accident that broke her left collar bone and her right tibia. At the time she thought her recovery would take “about 12 weeks.” They tell you that in the hospital so you don’t lose hope. In reality, those first 12 to 16 weeks are the time you’re required to stay off the broken leg completely. Put no weight on it at all so the bone can begin to heal. No walking. Completely non-weightbearing. You’d be surprised how quickly muscles atrophy when you don’t use them. After three months, you basically need to learn to walk again. It’s not easy. It’s super painful. And it takes a long time.

Two years after the accident, in August 2021 Weiss considered herself “about 80% back.” Her strength and balance were still “a work in progress” as well as her coordination and stamina. Nevertheless she was practicing daily and was “thrilled to be gaining the ability to translate the explosive drum parts [she] hear[s] in [her] head to the kit.”

And now, a little more than a year after that, we get to hear the outcome of all her hard work. It’s great to see her back in action. Weiss and her Quasi compatriot Sam Coomes recorded Breaking the Balls of History in five days. It’s their tenth album so they know what they’re doing. “When you’re younger and in a band, you make records because that’s what you do,” Coomes said. “But this time, the whole thing felt purposeful in a way that was unique to the circumstances.”

Life is short and sometimes it sucks. We should all be grateful that artists like Janet Weiss and Sam Coomes are putting in the effort to make all our lives a little better.

We first covered Quasi 21 years ago: Love, American Style by Kristy Eldredge.

Taylor Swift sells another million albums

We’ve said it before and we might never say it again (who knows!) but it’s always been rare to sell a million copies of an album in a week. But especially now when so few people purchase entire albums that even industry trade publications like Billboard have stopped basing their main album chart on sales. Since 2014, the “Billboard 200” chart has used a “multi-metric consumption” formula that includes streaming data and digital song sales.

Since Soundscan — recently rebranded as “Luminate” — began tracking sales in 1991, only 22 albums have sold a million copies in a week. It’s a weird list and not particularly good. Mostly tweener pop from the 00s and a couple of Eminem albums. Only seven albums have done it since 2010 and five of those are by Taylor Swift. Which is amazing if you think about it. How does she continue to inspire her fans to fork over their cash for her music when they could easily listen to it for free?

I don’t know how but, oops, she did it again. Midnights just sold 1.140 million copies in the U.S. in the week ending October 27. Of those sales, 575,000 were on vinyl, 395,000 on CD, 10,000 on cassette, and 161,000 were digital album downloads.

On top of the sales, Midnights also racked up 549.26 million on-demand official streams of its 20 total tracks plus 190,000 individual digital track downloads. So its total multi-metric consumption was 1.578 million equivalent album units. It still feels icky to write “consumption” and “units” in the same sentence, but hey, welcome to the apocalypse!

Continue reading Taylor Swift sells another million albums

Listening Live and Counterfactually Hearing

Good but not great. That is what numbers from Morning Consult show about the U.S. public’s interest in going to a concert. Its latest figures (October 21) have it that 54% say they’d be comfortable doing so. Which is certainly an improvement over the 39% who gave it a nod a year ago. And massively better than those who reported on October 25, 2020 that they’d feel comfortable: only 18%.

So while more than half are good going to concerts, in the wider sphere of entertainment options, the number is the lowest among the options:

  • Going to a sporting event: 56%
  • Going to a theater performance: 58%
  • Going to an amusement park: 60%
  • Going to the movies: 63%

Still, it is a reason to give pause when considering that little over half of those surveyed said that they’d be comfortable going to a concert (and one can only assume that “concert” includes things like orchestral performances and nights of easy listening and smooth jazz). The high amusement park number is understandable because it is an outdoor venue. But given that there are only some 300 drive-in movies left in the entire U.S., movies are things that people see indoors. And for every one of the 250 Shakespeare in the Park festivals there is certainly a multiple of indoor theatrical performances: there are 41 Broadway theaters, so if each of them had one show during one week that would be a greater number (287).

Seven baseball stadiums have roofs that may or may not be open. Which means that 23 are open air. Of the 30 NFL stadiums, four have closed roofs, five have retractable roofs and the remaining are open air. The 20 biggest college football stadiums are all open. However, given the closeness of the numbers of those who feel comfort in going to a concert (54%) and to a sporting event (56%), the argument could be made that it is a matter of the yelling, screaming and overall participant engagement that might have the lower numbers compared to the other forms of entertainment.

Continue reading Listening Live and Counterfactually Hearing

Rock and roll can change your life.