Tag Archives: Matador

Beggars Group Knows What’s Up

BeggarsI’ve known for a while that the Beggars Group has its shit together. This might be “inside baseball” but as the publisher of an online music zine, I’ve been very impressed with how their publicity department deals with us. Each release from their four labels (Matador, 4AD, XL, and Rough Trade) is promoted with a free, easily shareable MP3, and review copies are distributed far more simply than any other label. It is no coincidence that we review more stuff from Beggars than from other labels; they make it easier for us, and we’re kinda lazy—sometimes too lazy to even send an email requesting a promo.

Now, after reading this interview with Beggars founder and chairman Martin Mills, I realize why they’re great: the dude running the show is hella smart.

“You read the industry is 60 per cent of the size it was ten years ago. But that 40 per cent that has gone is almost entirely the cream at the top. Records that sold two million now sell 500,000 – that’s where that’s gone. At the same time it’s easier to sell those slightly smaller levels.

“What’s called pejoratively ‘the new middle class’ is someone like, say, Calexico or Midlake, who can sell 100,000 plus records every time they put out a record; they can play to 3-4,000 people in 30 or 40 cities around the world. And they can make a pretty good living out of that, doing what they love doing, and can do it on their own terms, and that’s fantastic. We’ve got a bunch of bands like that, they’re not necessarily seeking stardom or riches. That’s incredibly healthy.”

You just don’t expect to read quotes like that from a music exec. It’s refreshing. Mills has lots of insightful opinions on a variety of topics, and he makes a shitload of sense. He wants his artists (and his labels) to get paid, but acknowledges that “some of our best purchasers are also pirates.” It’s a complex world we’ve got here, but this guy reminds us that it’s a great time to be a smart independent label.

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Shearwater and Wye Oak Live In Iowa

Shearwater Shearwater and Wye Oak at Gardner Lounge

Grinnell College, Iowa, April 7, 2010

“Excuse me!” I yelled to the young man who was walking through the parking lot where I ended up. “Could you tell me where Gardner Lounge is?”

I was on the campus of Grinnell College, a private and wildly expensive college located in the sleepy Iowa town of Grinnell (population 9,500). There’s not a lot to do in Grinnell, which is why the college uses some of the $45,000 it charges undergrads each year in tuition to bring in top-tier alternative bands for the students’ amusement. The best part about these shows is that they’re free and they occasionally let the rest of us dumb Iowa natives into their exclusive buildings to witness the event.

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The Ponys – Check The Door

The PonysMP3: The Ponys – “Check The Door” from the Deathbed + 4 EP, out digitally on April 20 on Matador. Vinyl comes later.

Perfect, poppy summer music for these unseasonably warm spring days! Oh wait, no it’s not. It’s as dark and gloomy as ever in Ponyville. And you wouldn’t want it any other way, right?

The Ponys: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – The Brutalist Bricks

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The Brutalist BricksTed Leo & the PharmacistsThe Brutalist Bricks (Matador)

Where have all the rude boys gone?

They’re pounding the pavement, looking for work in our wi-fi layered neighborhoods, too busy trying to become a part of the system rather than rebel against it.

It’s called getting older, and while it’s something to fear for a few years in your twenties, you eventually begin to realize that it’s inevitable. The least you can do is to hide just how much you’ve really sold out to your friends who are still holding on to their righteous ideology while perfecting their latte art instead of perfecting their resume.

Don’t worry. They’ll eventually sell out too and all of that progressive zeal will be replaced with complacency and compromise. Hell, even Ted Leo is beginning to get softer lyrically while cleverly revisiting the same blend of Attractions‘ bash that made him such a vital voice during the Bush II administration.

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Pavement – Quarantine The Past: The Best Of Pavement

Pavement - Quarantine The Past: The Best Of PavementPavementQuarantine The Past: The Best Of Pavement (Matador)

To call it a cash-in would be a bit of a disservice since 1) nobody really buys cds anymore and 2) those that still do are faced with diminishing floor space, so every cd that is on display seems to be a compilation out of necessity.

With that said, I’m willing to bet that nearly everyone who is growing hard over this year’s Pavement reunion has every track on this “best of” compilation. The best of is in quotations because those very same fans are probably growling at the tracks that were left off Quarantine The Past.

For me, those songs would be “Starlings On The Slipstream, Silence Kid (Kit),” “Fame Throwa” and “Rattled By The Rush.”

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Girls – Album

Girls - AlbumGirlsAlbum (True Panther)

Too often, when you hear a story that tears at your heartstrings, the empathy overtakes any of the faults the person—or in this case, an album—may have. We champion those who have is worse than us, and rightfully so. Those tales of overcoming adversity remind us to appreciate the blessings we may be carelessly taking for granted.

I bring this up because Christopher Owens, the frontman for Girls, has had a pretty tough road up to this point and the mere fact that he’s alive, let alone making music, is amazing. His story, a tale of religious cults, dysfunction, homelessness, and ultimately a rebirth into a life of creativity, should indeed be something to share. There’s plenty of inspiration to taken from his past and his is a story worth repeating.

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Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago

Shearwater - The Golden ArchipelagoShearwaterThe Golden Archipelago (Matador)

The bio sheet that came with the advance copy of Shearwater‘s latest opus The Golden Archipelago recommends that the reviewer listen to the new album “more than once.” Since the band’s last two efforts—2006’s Palo Santos and 2008’s Rook—were slow burners too, I fully understand that Shearwater’s meticulous blend of multi-instrumental arrangements and Jonathan Meiburg’s sweeping vocals may take time to fully unravel. But for me, the repeated listens here will come from pure enjoyment, and to decide which one of these acknowledged trilogy pieces should be considered as the band’s greatest moment.

The surprise here isn’t that The Golden Archipelago continues the greatness of Shearwater’s last two efforts, but that Meiburg has managed to deliver such wonderfully consistent splendor in a relatively short amount of time. At each turn of these past five years, he seems to have spearheaded albums of such impressive scope that one couldn’t help but wonder, “How will he be able to top this?”

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The New Pornographers – Your Hands (Together)

MP3: New Pornographers – “Your Hands (Together)” from Together, out May 4 on Matador.

Has A.C. Newman been listening to some Jack White? Power chords and throbbing electric piano kick off the ballsiest song these chipper Canadians have ever recorded. The harmonies, as always, sound great. I hope the whole album is this badass.

New Pornographers: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Cold Cave – Love Comes Close

Cold Cave - Love Comes CloseCold CaveLove Comes Close (Matador)

Some time ago, we were all slack-jawed out how Interpol seemed to channel the darkness of Ian Curtis, that is, until Antics proved that those N.Y.C. fashion plates only had enough material for one great album.

Their label at the time, Matador, recently set the radar on Philadelphia’s Cold Cave—particularly when their debut created enough stir to sell out of their original configurations.

The only reason I bring this up is because if you were one that swooned at Interpol’s Joy Division leanings then you’ll want to check out Cold Cave’s Love Comes Close.

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Fucked Up – Couple Tracks

Fucked Up - Couple TracksFucked UpCouple Tracks (Matador)

There’s nothing wrong with Fucked Up, but I’ll be damned if I can find anything great. The issue for me is—and has always been—that I immediately feel like a crotchety old geezer whenever I hear them. I’m compelled to remind those who champion them that there’s more out there.

It’s straight out of my past and it’s better.

This troubles me because hardcore punk is a young man’s game and—at its most basic—it should leave the listener feeling young, shouldn’t it? Perhaps age has skewed my perspective and maybe I would be better served by allowing the youth their moment.

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