Last night Billboard announced some big changes to the way it calculates its Billboard 200 album chart, incorporating streams and individual track sales. Who cares, right? I do.
Billboard has been charting albums since 1945 under many different names and formulas, but since May 1991 it’s been based on album sales as reported by Soundscan. They used to exclude “catalog” albums from the chart, which seemed ridiculous to me around the time of Michael Jackson’s death when his old albums were selling better than any current releases. I campaigned hard to have these included in the Billboard 200, because I believed the main album chart should reflect which albums people are actually purchasing. That’s what it’s all about: the top selling albums.
Taylor Swift has sold 1,287,000 copies of 1989 in its first week of release. That’s a lot of albums. Only 18 other albums have managed to move a million copies in a week since 1991 when SoundScan started tracking sales.
And that 1.287 million isn’t even counting everybody in the U.S. who legally purchased 1989. Microsoft was selling the album for 99 cents via its new Music Deals app, but none of those sales are counted. (Billboard’s Keith Caulfield confirmed this to me in a tweet.) We may never know how many additional albums were sold this way. I can personally vouch for one sale.
First week album sales are a measure of true fandom. Real fans get excited to support their favorite artists, and the number of selfies with the 1989 CD on Instagram is anachronistically hilarious. I wonder if half of those kids even own a CD player. Doesn’t matter. They need it.
It’s sometimes tough to remember that even back before Spotify, YouTube, the Pirate Bay, and Napster, it was still rare as hell for an album to break that million/week point. In the first seven years of SoundScan tracking, only one album managed it: The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1993. After that it was almost six more years before another album did it: Garth Brooks’ Double Live at the end of 1998.
I am very excited by the idea of a new Father John Misty album. I spent most of 2012 and 2013 obsessing over Fear Fun after being turned on to him by my sister-in-law. She had heard the song he did with Phosphorescent on the Aquarium Drunkard satellite radio show. I got into the album and finally saw him live at Lollapalooza where he stole the show and blew my mind. It was only then that I dug hard into the FJM mythology, finally catching up on the major Magnet profile and picking up the record on vinyl so I could read his self-consciously ridiculous “novel” that was included in the liner notes.
So yeah, I’m a total fanboy. And now there’s a new song from I Love You, Honeybear, his new Jonathan Wilson-produced album due February 10, 2015 on Sub Pop. And with the announcement of the album and tour, there’s also a new 4,000-word bio/listening guide.
Video: Father John Misty – “Bored in the USA” on David Letterman
The performance makes me a little nervous that his sense of humor has gotten pissier and more darkly sarcastic. Gone are the swoon-worthy dance moves, dismissed last year as “the demonic clown thing that I’d been doing,” replaced with an uncomfortable laugh track. He’s still clearly “fucking with artifice” but now I’m afraid he might be going too negative. What the world does not need right now is another fucking bummer.
John Lennon released four solo albums before the Beatles officially broke up, but three of these were experimental recordings made with Yoko Ono and the fourth was a live album recorded in Toronto with an under-rehearsed band featuring Eric Clapton. These four albums are generally dismissed as non-canonical, and they were not included in Spotify’s recent addition.
His first “proper” solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, came out in December 1970 and remains the best album released by any former Beatle. It’s raw, honest, and brutal. 1971′s Imagine is very good as well, but unfortunately for John it was all downhill from there. Most of his recorded output between 1972 and 1975 is…spotty, to put it gently. Lennon was uncomfortable with the natural sound of his own voice and buried it in echo and reverb and schlocky production. He took a break from the music business until 1980 when he was inspired to go back in the studio to record Double Fantasy and enough outtakes for the posthumously released Milk and Honey.
Here are the 17 best songs from what’s available now on Spotify.
The Libertines at Alexandra Palace
London, September 28, 2014
Peter announced from the stage that next time The Libertines play the U.K. they will have some new songs.
Let this be my annual reminder: I need to get out to more shows. It’s easy to forget what a transformative experience a tight band in a small club can create. Craig Finn knows this. He exudes pure joy on stage. The crowd internalizes this joy and amplifies it back to the stage, generating a loop of enthusiasm that increases exponentially until we all explode in a blast of fist pumps and cheers and raised tallboys of PBR.
The Hold Steady is America’s greatest rock and roll band right now.
At least they were last night at the Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids. The venue has a capacity of 420 and even though the show wasn’t sold out it seemed pretty full. This was at least my fourth time seeing this band but the previous times had all been at big outdoor fests (Lolla 2006, 2007, and one or more Pitchfork). But these guys need to be seen in a bar.
I kinda laughed when I got the email from their publicist asking if we’d be interested in interviewing “veteran psych-rock band, The Asteroid No.4” I mean, veterans? How old could they be? That was until I realized that we last spoke to them in 2002–yes, 12 years ago.
A lot has happened in the psych-rock scene in the last decade-plus: Dawes got everyone all crazy for Laurel Canyon again and related 60s and 70s west coast culture; the rise of festivals, especially those catering to niche musical genres like garage rock and psychedelic music; and a movie called Dig! raised the profiles of two of the flagship acts of the scene with The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. And while in economics it may be a bit of a misnomer, in rock and roll a rising tide does in fact lift all boats. Twelve years on, The Asteroid No.4 are floating along nicely.
We jumped on the phone with founding member, songwriter and guitarist, Scott Vitt to talk about the changing scene and his band’s move from Philadelphia to Northern California.