New Julien Baker: Hardline

Video: Julien Baker – “Hardline”

Julien Baker - "Hardline" (Official Music Video)

Directed by Joe Baughman. From Little Oblivions, due February 26 on Matador.

Whoa this is pretty dark.

Say it’s not so cut and dry
Oh, it isn’t black and white
What if it’s all black, baby?
All the time?

You might know Julien Baker as a member of indie rock supergroup boygenius, alongside fellow saddies Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus. All three of them are great.

Baker says, “A few years ago I started collecting travel ephemera again with a loose idea of making a piece of art with it. I had been touring pretty consistently since 2015 and had been traveling so much that items like plane tickets and hotel keycards didn’t have much novelty anymore. So I saved all my travel stuff and made a little collage of a house and a van out of it. I wanted to incorporate it into the record and when we were brainstorming ideas for videos we came across Joe Baughman and really liked his work so we reached out with the idea of making a stop-motion video that had similar aesthetic qualities as the house I built did. I don’t know why I have the impulse to write songs or make tiny sculptures out of plane tickets. But here it is anyway: a bunch of things I’ve collected and carried with me that I’ve re-organized into a new shape.”

What is it about sad music that can make you feel so good?

Julien Baker: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Julien Baker: Hardline

New Lael Neale video: Blue Vein

Video: Lael Neale – “Blue Vein”

Lael Neale - Blue Vein [OFFICIAL VIDEO]

Directed by Lael Neale. From Acquainted with Night, out February 19 on Sub Pop.

The first thing you hear is the tape hiss. Then a couple tentative guitar strums. By the time the vocal comes in you’re ready to hear what she has to say. “Gather your words, gaze at the field of snow…” Wow.

Lael Neale created her new Sub Pop album on a cassette recorder in her bedroom, limiting herself to four tracks and first takes, and it sounds perfect.

Some say the truth springs
for reservoir seekers
but I think the truth sings
to whoever listens

Neale says, “I wrote this song pre-Omnichord [the instrument she acquired in 2019 and recorded the rest of the album on] and it is the only recording I play guitar on. I wrote it around New Year’s Eve and it felt like a resolution.”

Happy new year! Let’s all keep our resolutions.

Continue reading New Lael Neale video: Blue Vein

New Paul Leary: Born Stupid

Video: Paul Leary – “Born Stupid”

Paul Leary - Born Stupid (Official Shimmy-Disc Video)

From Born Stupid, due February 12 on Shimmy Disc/Joyful Noise.

True* story: Paul Leary once aimed a shotgun directly at my face and pulled the trigger. I saw the flame shoot out of the barrel and everything. This was at Lollapalooza in 1991 and I was way up on the lawn at Pine Knob, but I swear he was aiming at me.

Anyway the Butthole Surfer is releasing a solo album, his first since The History Of Dogs in 1991, which is the same year that I remember him shooting at me. Thirty years later, it’s time for a follow up. Why not?

With so much strife and peril in this world
I’d like to help make things better
But, instead, I had to be born stupid
Without no sense at all.

Leary told Flood magazine that the song “was born from a revelation I had while riding my bicycle that I am not as smart as I wish I was. The video for this song is my first video ever attempted. And it is stupid.” He is right. But who cares?

Born Stupid will be the first release on the newly relaunched incarnation of Shimmy-Disc, the label founded by Kramer that put out all those Bongwater and King Missile albums back in the 80s and 90s. Kramer is a legend and if you haven’t read his Believer magazine interview about touring with the Buttholes, you really should, because it’s amazing.

Seems like a great day to start something new!

* Fact check: Goddamn YouTube ruins a story once again by revealing it was actually Gibby Haynes who was packing heat on that tour. Oh well.

Trophy in a Morgue or on the Mantlepiece: Roll the Dice

“The deteriorating COVID situation in Los Angeles, with hospital services being overwhelmed, ICUs having reached capacity, and new guidance from state and local governments have all led us to conclude that postponing our show was the right thing to do. Nothing is more important than the health and safety of those in our music community and the hundreds of people who work tirelessly on producing the show.”

That is part of a joint statement from Harvey Mason, Jr., chair and interim president/CEO of the Recording Academy; Jack Sussman, executive vice president, Specials, Music, Live Events and Alternative Programming [there’s a lot to unpack with that list], CBS [no there isn’t]; and Ben Winston, GRAMMY Awards® executive producer, Fulwell 73 Productions.

The three were announcing that the presentation would be postponed from January 31 to March 14. They made their statement on January 5.

This is being written on January 16. According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, Los Angeles County leads the nation in confirmed COVID-19 cases: 990,632. Cook County is in second place, at 429,270, or about 57% of LA. Deaths? LA County is number one with a bullet, at 13,504 deaths. Cook is at 8,939.

This is not to make light of those numbers. Not at all.

But it is to draw attention to the fact that things are not good in LA County—to understate things.
According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) of the University of Washington, today (January 16) there are 391,609 deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19.

March 14? The projection is that that number will increase to 540,433. Deaths.

Continue reading Trophy in a Morgue or on the Mantlepiece: Roll the Dice

Sylvain Sylvain Dead at 69

As original member and guitarist for The New York Dolls, Sylvain Sylvain inspired countless kids in bedrooms around the world to pick up their guitars, dab on a bit of rouge, and start a band. The Dolls’ influence on rock and roll is well documented and will continue as long as there’s a need for loud, campy rock and roll--and that need never goes away.

But Sylvain also inspired my all-time favorite rock show heckle; one that I use to this day, regardless of the artist or situation. Like the Dolls themselves, it is equally specific to the moment it was first uttered and evergreen. 

It was at The Cactus Club in Milwaukee where my new bandmate and pal Mick was reunited with his band Men From Mars to open for Sylvain. I was late because I couldn’t find my way to the club and passed my turn several times before catching a glimpse of the front door and swinging a hard left on a wet road. I made it in to catch the end of Mick’s set and caught up on beers and chit-chat with Mick. Then it got loud.

Sylvain’s band kicked in hard. I can’t remember what song they opened with but I am pretty sure it was a Dolls’ tune. You know, to get the crowd ready to roll. They were pretty tight but swinging and Sylvain sounded good. He worked up a sweat quickly and eventually wandered into the crowd, guitar in hand so we could all get hot, hot, hot together. This was a few months after September 11, 2001 and we were all looking for an opportunity or reason to find some community. As a New Yorker, Sylvain obviously had some very close and personal feelings about what had happened in New York and what was happening in America as a response. He lit into a rant…a preach for loving each other and not giving in to prejudice or paranoia. He was hitting a high when the heckle rang out like a shot:

Play “Trash,” hippy!

It was incredibly offensive and incredibly hilarious, the perfect interruption for an emotional moment as only a Midwesterner can deliver. Sylvain laughed and nodded his head as if to say, “Yeah, yeah. Ok.” and we were back to rocking and sweating.

Sylvain died today after a two and a half year battle with cancer. Of the original line-up, only David Johansen remains. We have the records, we have the songs, but we’ll never get to hear Sylvain play “Trash” again. That’s a real drag.

New York Dolls - Trash

New Hiss Golden Messenger: Sanctuary

Video: Hiss Golden Messenger – “Sanctuary”

Hiss Golden Messenger - Sanctuary (Official Video)

Directed by Saleem Reshamwala. Single out now on Merge.

Oh man, I get the feeling Hiss Golden Messenger knows how we’re all feeling.

You want good news
You want sanctuary
But when you try to get real
They break you on the wheel.

Good news has been in short supply lately. Even when we get good news, the good feelings are short lived, as we immediately get bombarded by more bad news. Think of the Georgia Senate elections. It was like, “Woo hoo, the good guys won!” Then, what, an hour later a bunch of insurrectionist goons were breaking into the Capitol? What the fuck? How are we supposed to deal with this?

Meanwhile an infectious disease is spreading wildly across the country, killing 4,000+ people a day now. And good news: We’ve got a vaccine! Immediately after: Oops, we have no way of administering it to the people who need it. The county websites are a mess, redirecting seniors to hospital websites, where navigating to any useful information is hit and miss. It’s hard to not feel doomed.

Feeling bad
Feeling blue
Can’t get out of my own mind…

But a good song can make you feel better for a few minutes. And you can play it on repeat if you need to. That little light’s gotta last a while.

Hiss Golden Messenger: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Descendents: That’s The Breaks

Video: Descendents – “That’s The Breaks”

Descendents - "That's The Breaks" (Lyric Video)

Video by Jason Link. Single out now on Epitaph.

What more could you want in a punk rock song this week? Milo Aukerman expresses exactly what we’ve all been feeling over the past four years in a mere forty-two seconds: “You asshole Twitter troll – GO HOME!”

Now that our orange fuhrer has been impeached again, this time for incitement of insurrection, maybe he will take Milo’s advice and crawl back into his hole of hate. It’s probably too much to ask to stop hearing from him and about him, but it’s nice to imagine a post-Trump world…

New Jeff Tweedy: Old Country Waltz

Video: Jeff Tweedy – “Old Country Waltz” (Neil Young cover)

Jeff Tweedy performing Old Country Waltz in support of the #NIVA Emergency Relief Fund

Live at the beloved Hideout in Chicago in support of the National Independent Venue Association Emergency Relief Fund.

The Hideout in Chicago is the best bar in the world. I think it would be hard for anybody to argue with that. I mean, it’s perfect. What more could you want in a bar? (Easier access via public transportation, perhaps, but maybe ridesharing apps have rendered that irrelevant?) Anyway…

I’m playing that old country waltz
In this empty hall, bouncin’ off the wall

Looks like this was filmed at the same time as the CBS “Saturday Sessions” that aired back in October when he was promoting Love Is The King. Maybe he still is, since it’ll be available on CD and vinyl this Friday, but the focus of this new video is the National Independent Venue Association Emergency Relief Fund, a/k/a #saveourstages. Even though the Save Our Stages Act passed Congress as part of COVID-19 Relief bill, it’s going to take months for that funding to make its way into the bank accounts of our beloved clubs and bars. So NIVA is continuing to raise money “to assist the venues at greatest risk of permanently going under.” Help if you can.

Continue reading New Jeff Tweedy: Old Country Waltz

The Winning End

To enter Hipgnosissongs.com please confirm you are not accessing this website from: the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan or South Africa or in any jurisdiction in which such an offer or solicitation would be unlawful.

A few weeks back, when I wrote about Bob Dylan selling his song catalog, I figured that that would be that.

Little did I realize how this is not a one-off but becoming something of a trending phenomenon.

This past week Neil Young sold half of the rights to his 1,180-song catalog to Hipgnosis Songs Fund Ltd. (Jimmy Iovine and Lindsey Buckingham also sold.)

That disclaimer up there: It is at the bottom of a homepage of legalese. This is serious business. Go beyond the homepage at your peril.

In the site, which is, make no mistake, about making money, not music, there is this description:
“The Company’s Investment Adviser is The Family (Music) Limited, which was founded by Merck Mercuriadis, former manager of globally successful recording artists, such as Elton John, Guns N’ Roses, Morrissey, Iron Maiden and Beyoncé, and hit songwriters such as Diane Warren, Justin Tranter and The-Dream, and former CEO of The Sanctuary Group plc. The Investment Adviser has assembled an Advisory Board of highly successful music industry experts which include award winning members of the artist, songwriter, publishing, legal, financial, recorded music and music management communities, all with in-depth knowledge of music publishing. Members of The Family (Music) Limited Advisory Board include Nile Rodgers, The-Dream, Giorgio Tuinfort, Starrah, Nick Jarjour, David Stewart, Bill Leibowitz, Ian Montone, Rodney Jerkins, Bjorn Lindvall and Chris Helm.”

Bet you never thought you would see Iron Maiden and Beyoncé in the same sentence.

According to a story in the New York Times in December 2020, Mercuriadis, whose fund then had spent $1.7-billion on hoovering up catalogs—Times: “Hipgnosis owns, in full or in part, 188 songs by Jack Antonoff, a collaborator of Taylor Swift; 197 by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie; 814 by RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan; 315 by Mark Ronson; 1,068 by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics; and production royalties for 108 tracks by the hip-hop producer Timbaland”—said that he’s doing it because “I wanted to be able to do something that would contribute to having the music industry recognize that the songwriter and the producer are really the star of the show.”

So by buying up the catalogs, said songwriters and producers get more ready pocket money than they would have otherwise had. I must admit I am a bit mystified as to how producers make money off the deal, though I suspect they must.

Clearly, Mercuriadis, who may be a fan with exceedingly deep pockets, to say nothing of ready access to the pockets of others, isn’t doing this entirely for Sir Gawain-pure purposes. There isn’t that large warning on the top of the Hipgnosis page because all ye who enter are going to come out unscathed: this is about betting on the come.

Continue reading The Winning End

Data: 2020 Total Music Sales and Streams

Streams are up, sales are down. Except for vinyl, which is up again for the sixteenth year in a row (but still less than the trusty old compact disc). The industry will try to convince you that “music consumption” is up, and maybe it is, but those calculations are squishy at best.

Especially when they change their formulas every year. This year, Billboard is not using total music streams (audio-only + video streams) in their “album equivalent audio music consumption” calculation “due to reporting methodology changes from a major video provider.” They are just using audio-only streams plus sales. This way, they can say that “album equivalent audio music consumption grew 12%.” Hooray! Good news, right?

Maybe. Without knowing exactly how that major video provider’s reporting methodology changed, how can we be sure that video streams didn’t just go down from 401 billion in 2019 to 147 billion in 2020? Looking at that, it does seem a little extreme, doesn’t it? Was the number of video streams inflated before? Regardless, including those 2020 video stream numbers in the calculation would mean that overall song streams fell from 1.147 trillion in 2019 to 1.02 trillion in 2020. Which, combined with the annual decrease in album sales, would make it look like overall music consumption dropped in 2020. And we can’t have that. Nobody like a loser.

Therefore, exclude the video streams altogether and everything’s rosy again! Label execs and the RIAA can feel like they’re earning their bonuses. Everyone’s a winner.

Whatever. Enough cynicism. If you want to support musicians, buy t-shirts and physical media directly from your favorite artists’ websites.

Let’s all hope we get to go to some concerts this year. Wouldn’t that be fun? So #saveourstages.

Total U.S. Album sales (physical + digital in millions)

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2020: 102.4 million
2019: 112.75 million
2018: 141 million
2017: 169.15 million
2016: 205.5 million
2015: 241.39 million
2014: 257.02 million
2013: 289.41 million
2012: 315.96 million
2011: 330.57 million
2010: 326.15 million
2009: 373.9 million
2008: 428.4 million
2007: 500.5 million
2006: 588.2 million
2005: 618.9 million
2004: 666.7 million
2003: 667.9 million
2002: 693.1 million
2001: 762.8 million
2000: 785 million
1999: 754.8 million
1998: 712.5 million
1997: 651.8 million
1996: 616.6 million
1995: 616.4 million (I’ve heard the figure is 616,957,000)
1994: 614.7 million (I’ve heard the figure is 615,266,000)
1993: ~573 million (1994 was 7.4% increase over 1993)

Continue reading Data: 2020 Total Music Sales and Streams

Rock and roll can change your life.