New National: Laugh Track (ft. Phoebe Bridgers)

Video: The National – “Laugh Track” (ft. Phoebe Bridgers)

Directed and animated by Bernard Derriman. From Laugh Track, out now on 4AD.

I often think about the tweet where a guy went to see the National in concert: “The singer asked ‘how’s everyone doing tonight?’ and the guy next to me shouted ‘I’m getting a divorce’.”

That’s still funny.

Losing my momentum, losing my mind
Not enough to mention, not enough time
I can’t even say what it’s about
All I am is shreds of doubt.

Sure, the National is the embodiment of sad sack dad rock. But apparently the kids dig ’em. And why not? As Phoebe Bridgers recently told Amanda Petrusich in the New Yorker, “Something middle-aged men and teen-age girls have in common is the act of finding yourself, and being kind of self-conscious. Maybe some beliefs that you’ve held on to for a long time are finally being shed. The teen-age girl in me is obsessed with the National, and feels very spoken to and seen by them, maybe for the exact same reasons that they speak to middle-aged men.”

So there.

The National: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Mantra of the Cosmos: X (Wot You Sayin?)

Video: Mantra of The Cosmos – “X (Wot You Sayin?)”

Directed by Olli Ryder. Single out now.

If you’re like me, you probably find yourself pretty regularly wondering, “Goddamn–I wonder what Shaun Ryder is up to?” Well, he’s still twisting melons and he’s brought Bez along too.

The Happy Mondays frontman has teamed up with Bez (Happy Mondays, exercise guru), Andy Bell (Ride, Oasis) and Zak Starkey (Oasis, The Who, Ringo offspring) to cook up a brew of “psychedelic poetry” mixed with latter-day House grooves. With two singles out to date and a spot performing at Glasto, it’s unclear how far they’ll take this ride but sound is what you’d expect–satisfyingly so!

Just don’t call it a super group, ’cause that’s for fucking wankers.

Mantra Of The Cosmos: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Orb: Living In Recycled Times

Video: The Orb – “Living In Recycled Times”

From Prism, out now on Cooking Vinyl.

The last time we featured a new Orb song on here a few years ago, I told you about listening to “Little Fluffy Clouds” on repeat in the 90s. It had a profound effect on me. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the type of headspace that fosters those kinds of epiphanies, but that’s alright. Their stuff always sounds good.

This song’s been out for a while and they’ve got a new album, SETI, due February of next year that promises “acoustic instruments and nostalgic samples” and “glacial-paced melodies, Nyabinghi percussion, mandolin, and acoustic guitar.” So that should be interesting.

On the Potential Problems of AI & Music or “Avast, Me Hearties!”

Universal Music Group recently filed some comments to the U.S. Copyright Office as part of “Artificial Intelligence and Copyright: Notice and Request for Public Comment.”

“Some” is something of an understatement, as it runs 99 pages.

However, this is not entirely surprising, as the company presents itself:

“UMG owns the most extensive catalog of recordings in the industry, covering the last hundred years of many of the world’s most popular artists.”

If we go back 100 years, to 1923, it is notable that one of the most popular songs of the day was “Yes! We Have No Bananas,” which portended a potassium deficiency among those doing the Charleston.

Continuing in its modesty, the filing goes on to point out:

“Collectively, UMG owns or controls a catalog of sound recordings and musical compositions of incalculable artistic, cultural, and economic value.”

One wonders whether that last adjective isn’t the one that they would have liked to have used exclusively but then realized that the U.S. Copyright Office is part of the Library of Congress and so artistic and cultural value have more currency there.

Continue reading On the Potential Problems of AI & Music or “Avast, Me Hearties!”

New Mary Timony: Dominoes

Video: Mary Timony – “Dominoes”

Directed by Dr. Cat. From Untame the Tiger, out February 23 on Merge.

It’s a little embarrassing to use the phrase “guitar hero” but if there is such a thing Mary Timony is it. With Helium, Autoclave, Wild Flag, Ex Hex, and as a solo artist, she has created a distinctive and inventive guitar sound. And like, literally, she was Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan’s guitar instructor, so yeah: guitar hero.

Untame the Tiger will be her fifth solo album and her first since 2007’s The Shapes We Make on Kill Rock Stars.

“This song was almost not on the record,” says Timony. “We needed one last song, and I found a demo of it I had forgotten about at the last minute.”

Good thing. It rules.

Mary Timony: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Mary Timony: Dominoes

New Libertines: Run Run Run

Video: The Libertines – “Run Run Run”

Directed by Alexander Brown. From All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade, out March 8 on Rough Trade.

Remember when that goober in the Black Keys said he wanted to punch Carl Barat in the face? So ridiculous. That used to be one of my favorite gimmicks of the album release promotional cycle: Talking shit about another musician to get attention for your project. Nobody does that anymore, do they? I wish it would come back. Maybe for the next Noel Gallagher release…

It’s funny to think that the Libertines formed to be like the Strokes. And then the Arctic Monkeys formed to be like the Libertines and weirdly ended up more famous than any of them. But who would’ve thought 20 years ago that all four Libertines would still be alive in 2023, and not only that but they’d still be together and releasing new music and also running a hotel/recording studio!

Their debut album is a masterpiece, their follow-up was a sad and damaged and occasionally beautiful mess, and everything they’ve done since then — together or apart — has been alright but rarely magical. “Run Run Run” continues on that trendline.

Carl Barât says the new song is “about being trapped, and trying to escape your dismal life, a bit like the man in Bukowski’s Post Office. The worst thing for the Libertines would be to get stuck in a ‘Run-run-run’ rut, constantly trying to relive our past. Our first record was born out of panic, and disbelief that we were actually allowed to be in a studio; the second was born of total strife and misery; the third was born of complexity; this one feels like we were all actually in the same place, at the same speed, and we really connected.”

Peter Doherty says, “I feel like we’ve completed a cycle of some kind as a band, and finally now we can add these songs to the set list, because we’ve got some bangers in there. Now we’ve opened the hotel and used the studio ourselves and it’s all worked out—more Libertines records? I should hope so!”

Good for them! I hope one day the four them get to tour the States together. I’ve seen the Pete-less version twice. Would love to see the whole band.

The Libertines: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Just Fake It

The story, it seems, is this.

There is a broadcaster (although that term may not be entirely encompassing, as there is a streaming service involved, so that’s not precisely “broadcasting,” although as the channel has some 167 million subscribers in the U.S., that certainly is broad) who talks about sports.

Charissa Thompson works as a co-host for both Fox Sports and Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football.” She is no rookie to sports talk, as she had gigs at GSN, the Big Ten Network, Versus, and ESPN, the last being the place she left in 2013 to move to Fox. She also was a host on “Ultimate Beastmaster,” but we’ll leave that one alone. (She actually began her career in the Fox Sports HR department, which is probably hard at work vis-a-vis Thompson at this very moment.

Thompson has a degree in Law and Society from University of California at Santa Barbara, which is a nice place to get a degree of any type from. The Law and Society degree tends to be focused more on sociology than statutes; however, the role of things legal and their impact on society are certainly part of the curriculum.

Last week on a podcast, Thompson said that sometimes during halftime at a football game when the booth threw it to Thompson on the sidelines, she found herself in a bit of a fix because the coach wouldn’t, for whatever reason, talk to her.

Thompson said: “I didn’t want to screw up the report, so I was like, ‘I’m just going to make this up.’ Because, first of all, no coach is going to get mad if I say, ‘Hey, we need to stop hurting ourselves,’ ‘We need to be better on third down,’ ‘We need to stop turning the ball over and do a better job of getting off the field.’ Like, they’re not going to correct me on that.”

Seemed, to her, like a reasonable thing to do. And in the event that said coach heard her report after the fact and the various uncontroversial comments, there might have been a shrug, assuming that the coach even remembered the situation at all.

Continue reading Just Fake It

New MGMT: Mother Nature

Video: MGMT – “Mother Nature”

Directed by Jordan Fish. From Loss Of Life, out February 23 on Mom+Pop.

Bonkers that it’s been 15 years since I first saw MGMT’s “Time to Pretend” video on MTV2’s “Subterranean” show. That whole sentence is a little bonkers, a different era for sure. Back then my Tivo would record “Subterranean” for me every week and I’d watch it later, blooping past the commercials and the boring Radiohead videos.

YouTube was still pretty young in 2008 and Google had yet to fully iron out its relationship with the record labels who kept filing lawsuits for copyright infringement. It was wild.

But the “Time to Pretend” video was on YouTube and I would watch it over and over again with my toddler on my lap. We didn’t let him watch tv but he was into trains and we’d look up a lot of train videos. His favorite video was a compilation of 120+ images of the historic diesel VT601 soundtracked by Kraftwerk’s “Trans Europe Express.” He would sing along: “Trains! Robots! Express!” So yeah, my two year old turned me on to Kraftwerk.

I returned the favor, I guess, by turning him on to trippy videos featuring dudes in loincloths riding giant flying cats. You’re welcome, kid.

Well now here we are all these years later and we’re all considerably older. I haven’t paid a ton of attention to what MGMT’s been up to but this will apparently be their fifth studio album and their first since 2018’s Little Dark Age. And maybe they sound more mature? “Mother Nature” shares a bit of a vibe the last MGMT song I actually remember: “Congratulations” (from 2010). I like it.

In a statement Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser said, “Musically speaking, we are running at around 20% adult contemporary and no more than this, please.” Maybe closer to 25% but that’s alright…

Billions and Billions: Stars & the Strip

It is sometimes difficult to wrap one’s mind around the kind of money that music is related to today, whether it is from what the labels are reporting (yes, they are still reporting quarterly returns in the billons: for Q3 2023 Universal Music Group reported that its overall recorded music revenues were $2.21 billion, and while that is a large number, Sony did even better in its music business, with a haul of $2.33 billion) or what the streaming services are taking in (although not necessarily making money: in the third quarter of 2023 Spotify reported its first profit in more than a year, with net income of $69.1 million, from 574 million monthly active users (MAUs), and just to give you a sense of how many people that is, if you add the population of the 10 largest cities in the world—Tokyo, Delhi, Shanghai, Dhaka, Sao Paulo, Mexico City, Cairo, Beijing, Mumbai, and Osaka—it sums to about 251 million people, or about 44% of the Spotify monthly MAUs).

So let’s narrow this to something more comprehensible. The earnings of the Las Vegas Sphere*, the venue that opened on September 29. It is 366 feet tall and 516 feet at its widest point.

On the exterior there are 580,000-square feet of LEDs. The LEDs are segmented into pucks, of which there are 1.2 million. Each puck includes 48 LED diodes. Can you say “advertising”?  The people at MSG (as in “Madison Square Garden”) Networks and Sphere Entertainment Company can. During its Q1 2024 earnings call (no, this is not something that happens in the future; fiscal years don’t necessary track with calendars as we know them), James Lawerence Dolan, executive chairman and CEO of Sphere Entertainment said that early in September, before the venue was opened, the exterior (which they call the “Exosphere”) promoted NFL Sunday ticket. “This was quickly followed,” he continued, “by other prominent brands, including PlayStation, Meta, Xbox, and Coca-Cola.” Dolan added, “We have a healthy pipeline of advertising commitments for the Exosphere and over the coming months you will see a constant rotation of impactful campaigns from many prominent global brands.” Of course.

Continue reading Billions and Billions: Stars & the Strip

Taylor Swift Sells Another Million Albums (Taylor’s Version)

Just last year, after Taylor Swift released Midnights, we wondered if we would ever again see anybody sell a million copies of an album in a week. After all, people are purchasing fewer and fewer albums every year and since Soundscan — now “Luminate” — began tracking sales in 1991, only 22 albums had done it. Well now it’s 23.

Taylor Swift’s 1989 (Taylor’s Version) sold 1.359 million copies in the week ending November 2. This is the largest sales week for any of her albums, and it’s the sixth-largest sales week for any album in the Soundscan era. Her previous high was the original 1989 album with 1.287 million sold in the week ending Nov. 2, 2014.

The fact that 1989 (Taylor’s Version) is available in 15 different physical formats didn’t hurt, of course. But come on. How can anybody continue to inspire their fans to shell out real money at this level? It’s remarkable. Swift is the only artist in Soundscan history with six different albums to each sell at least 1 million copies in a single week

That 1.359 million includes 693,000 copies on vinyl (a new record) and 554,000 CDs (nuts!). The rest are digital downloads and cassettes.

Along with the sales figures, the album earned 1.653 million “equivalent album units” (the multi-metric consumption measure where each unit equals one album sale, or 10 individual tracks sold from an album, or 3,750 ad-supported or 1,250 paid/subscription on-demand official audio and video streams). There were 375.49 million on-demand official streams of the set’s 21 songs (wow!) and 60,000 individual track sales (who still downloads songs?!?). Billboard’s main album chart, the Billboard 200, is based on these “equivalent album units” because nobody other than Taylor Swift sells albums anymore.

Continue reading Taylor Swift Sells Another Million Albums (Taylor’s Version)

Rock and roll can change your life.