Courtney Barnett - Pedestrian At Best

New Courtney Barnett video: Pedestrian At Best

Video: Courtney Barnett – “Pedestrian At Best”

I was hoping this video would have a happy ending, but — spoiler alert! — no such luck. A great new song from her upcoming album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, due March 24 on Mom+Pop.

Barnett’s Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas was one of my faves of last year after hearing “History Eraser” on satellite radio. That song nailed just about everything I like in my rock and roll: perfect scuzzy slacker folk fuzz. It sounded like it had been written for me. She was great at Lollapalooza last year too. Hopefully she tours a lot for this album because I’d love to see her in a dark club instead of in a “grove” in the middle of the day.

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JSBX - Freedom Tower

New Blues Explosion video, man!

Video: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – “Do The Get Down”

From their upcoming album Freedom Tower – No Wave Dance Party 2015, due on March 24 on Mom+Pop Music. Cool video with lots of crazy clips from NYC public access channels.

I’ve already got my tickets to see these monkeys at the Pyramid Scheme in April. Take a whiff of my pantleg, baby!

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Seger System on Turn On

Holy Shit! See the Greatest Rock and Roll Photo Come to Life!

Five years ago we discovered the Greatest Rock and Roll Photo Ever and came up with 101 reasons why it was so great. I’ve stared at that photo for hours since then and dreamed of being at that show, sweating in an off-season ski lodge, sipping sodas with teenagers, rocking out to the System!

Well, video footage from that Mount Holly show still has not surfaced, but we’ve got the next best thing. Footage from the same era (bassist Dan Honaker is even wearing the same shirt!) has been posted to YouTube. Three songs from Barry Richards’ “Turn-On” TV show bring our beloved photo to life. It’s so cool to see young Seger tearing it up. And his band was something else. Drummer Pep Perrine (once again sporting his dog collar!) looks like Iggy Pop. Detroit!

Bob Seger System – “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” (live in 1970)

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Overall album sales

Music Sales Over the Years: 2014 Year-End Soundscan Data

In last year’s wrap up I wrote, “I wouldn’t be surprised if within a few years Billboard starts incorporating streams into their year-end charts somehow.” In fact, they started doing it in November. Which proves that actual sales of albums are becoming irrelevant as more and more people turn to streaming instead of purchasing.

Personally, I still like physical media. I found a dope old school integrated amplifier for $20 at a garage sale this summer and after some minor repairs it’s powering my main system that I’ve been putting together over the years. I upgraded the cartridge on my turntable and I’ve finally got a setup I’m pretty happy with. I wish new vinyl sounded better, but I’ve been having fine luck in the used bins. It’s a great time to buy used CDs too. Neil Young might be crazy and crotchedly (and Pono was doomed from the start) but he’s right about the difference between lossy sound files and high fidelity recordings: the average listener might not be able to consciously hear the difference, but you can certainly FEEL it.

That said, my favorite album of the year is one that I downloaded for 99 cents via the Microsoft Music Deals app: Taylor Swift’s 1989. Even as crappy old MP3s it’s still totally infectious. I also just ordered it on vinyl, allegedly for my 8 year old who got his own record player from Santa. Other highlights for me this year were Run the Jewels 2, the CSNY 1974 box, Spoon’s They Want My Soul, Tweedy’s Sukierae (which I wasn’t really expecting to like as much as I do), Jenny Lewis’ The Voyager, and Conor Oberst’s Upside Down Mountain. And I was super excited that Tim Warren and Crypt Records resurrected Back from the Grave for Volume 9 of the ultimate sixties punk compilation series 18 years after the release of Volume 8.

So anyway, here’s the Soundscan data for 2014 compared to as much prior history as I could scrape off the internet. If you can help me fill in any gaps (especially 1991-1995, the early Soundscan era), I would certainly appreciate it.

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Sam Herring

Live: Future Islands in Portland

I finally saw Future Islands last night and am now ready to say I am absolutely a fan of this band. I’m kinda ambivalent about the music—I like electro-pop and disco beats as much as the next guy, but it’s not blowing my mind or anything. What is blowing my mind is the effect this band has on people and it’s about goddamned time someone dropped the pretense and just let their freak flags fly.

The Crystal Ballroom was decked out in some kind of weird prom-like theme in support of local radio station KNRK’s annual December to Remember concerts series. There were thirteen shows in this year’s roster with the likes of The War on Drugs, KONGOS, Cage the Elephant, TV on the Radio and Alt-J being among the Indie heavies. Despite an astonishing year of hype and national TV appearances, Future Islands only scored an opening slot. Spoon topped the bill, but our man Samuel T. Herring was the must-see.

He did all of his moves, and did them with gusto. There were bizarre snake dances and gorilla chest thumps and even the bent-knee Mashed Potato and it was beautiful in its awkwardness. And that’s what makes this band special, because not three feet away from me were three dudes one would not mistake as hipsters or scene makers just JAMMING with our man Samuel. They had their own awkward hand-claps and slight hip twists and would occasionally look around the room to make sure it was cool. And you know what? It was cool. Portland is not known for it’s grooviness but to see most of the room stumbling happily through the night in a blissed out psudo-prom…well, it was heart warming.

Samuel T. Herring is not a good dancer. He’s terrible. He’s the Elaine Benes of front men, but he owns his goofiness. He moves where the music takes him and it’s usually to some pretty freaky places. As long he stays true to himself and never, ever edit his moves, I will follow him there.

Record Store Day at Vertigo Music

Music Industry Gives Up on Albums

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.

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Jeff Tweedy and Ken Coomer

Did you know Wilco used to be called National Dust?

Look what I stumbled across in the May 7, 1994 issue of Billboard. It’s a blurb about the break up of Uncle Tupelo who had played their final show just a few days earlier on May 1.

Billboard May 7 94 Tweedy Coomer National Dust

“Say Uncle: Uncle Tupelo is dissolving, with core member Jeff Tweedy and drummer Ken Coomer forming a new group called National Dust. Tupelo’s other main member, Jay Farrar, is forming his own band. Both new acts have deals with Sire.”

By the time the Red Hot + Country compilation was released in September, which contained Tweedy’s new band’s cover of “The T.B. is Whipping Me,” they had settled on Wilco. Greg Kot quotes Coomer on why the band ditched the National Dust moniker: “The womenfolk weren’t havin’ it.”

Of course, a good name can’t remain unused for long, and by 2005 a Los Angeles cockrock band had taken it on. The fact that this new National Dust sounds like post-makeup KISS and employs Confederate flag imagery is a bummer, but what can you do?

Rock and roll can change your life.