New Purr video: The Natural

Video: Purr – “The Natural”

Directed by Eliza Soros and Eliza Barry Callahan. Single out now on Anti-.

Purr is Eliza Barry Callahan and Jack Staffen, a couple of New York City kids who have been making music together since 2014 when they were teenagers.

Eliza Callahan says, “The song takes on growing up and getting older—that trope (and the truth) of trying to make it while you’re still young and the ways in which we seem to perform as we strive to project our authentic selves. Of course, there’s some love involved too…”

Ahhhh, trying to make it while you’re still young. Remember that? When I was in my twenties I was convinced that my friends and I were all geniuses, just waiting to get our shot. At what? Who knows. But it seemed like the opportunity was right around the corner.

You said I still look seventeen
“You’ve got a few years left to make it in a magazine.”

It’s sort of funny how young people are so concerned about growing up and getting older. You want to shake them and scream, “You’re still young! Enjoy it! Stop worrying about the passing of time and all of its sickening crimes!” But of course an 80 year old would probably say the same thing to me. So it goes. Hakuna matata.

But what a great song! Pedal steel flourishes, kind of a Topanga vibe, world-weary vocals. So good.

Callahan wrote that it was “recorded live with Jack on keys, Jonathan Rado on bass, and Dan Bailey on what some call skins. This song feels closer to my heart than other songs I’ve written perhaps because it includes topics such as impatience, my father, love, jealousy, winning, and boredom in the middle of the night. Play it on the open road—windows up or down.”

I will. And when I do, I’ll try not to beat my younger self up for wasting his youth worrying about the inevitable. These days, I feel lucky to be alive every morning I wake up. (Not really, but I should!)

New Elliott Fullam video: I’m Not Ok

Video: Elliott Fullam – “I’m Not Ok”

Single out now on Kill Rock Stars.

I’ve never heard of this kid but apparently he’s a big deal on TikTok or something. #okboomer

Whatever, this song sounds cool and he recorded it in his bedroom at home in New Jersey and it’s being released by Kill Rock Stars, so right on. Plus, he wears an Elliott Smith shirt in a publicity photo. So…two thumbs up!

Press photo of Elliott Fullam (wearing Elliott Smith t-shirt) by Jeff Harris.

Elliott Fullam: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Shalom video: Happenstance

Video: Shalom – “Happenstance”

Directed by Alex Free. From Sublimation, out March 10 on Saddle Creek.

This is a perfect way to start a song:

I’m waiting for the day that I can finally walk away from all this bullshit
Sitting in my room practicing how to be cool but I can’t do it
I tried hard enough with my roommate and she’s mean for a nurse but anyway…

Her roommate is mean (for a nurse)! That’s awesome. And so is this song.

New Mya Byrne video: It Don’t Fade

Video: Mya Byrne – “It Don’t Fade”

Directed by Jozie Zamjahn. From Rhinestone Tomboy, out April 28 on Kill Rock Stars Nashville.

At first I assumed that “Kill Rock Stars Nashville” was just a goof. A way for the legendary Pacific Northwest independent label to signify that they’re dipping their toes into the country/Americana space. But no! Apparently, label founder Slim Moon now lives in Nashville, Tennessee and is ready to expand into that market.

Byrne describes writing this song: “It was the height of the pandemic, and I was feeling wistful and thinking about the threads that tie us together, about my family, who I was so very far away from at that time, and my recovery, which was only a few months in – how even in our hardest moments there might be sunshine somewhere. Hope is a hard thing to find, and I’ve had some hard times, but the music I make helps me get through, and this song has gotten me through so much.”

She told Rolling Stone, “I try really hard to write sad songs! But the truth is, I do I have hope.”

I love that. And I guess if she wants to keep writing happy, hopeful songs as good as this, who can blame her?

Mya Byrne: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Hazy Shade of Winter

Time, time, time, see what’s become of me—Paul Simon

“It has been nearly a year and a half since Thomas, at 78 one of the world’s leading musicians for more than half a century, announced he would be undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer,” the New York Times reported in a story about conductors of classical music. The story, “A Mighty Generation of Musicians. A Moving Final Chapter” by Zachary Woolfe, opens with the conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas, leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. He is still working.

The story goes on: “The performance came just days after another miracle of a concert from an eminent maestro lately forced to reckon with mortality. On Jan. 6, Daniel Barenboim, 80, stepped down from the podium of the Berlin State Opera. . .after a year buffeted by health problems.”

Woolfe goes on to note that:

  • Riccardo Muti, 81, will end his role as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  • Maurizo Pollini, 81, a pianist, canceled a recital at the Salzburg Festival last summer after the audience was seated because of heart trouble
  • Herbert Blomstedt, 95, a conductor, had to stop touring last fall because of a fall, but will conduct the New York Philharmonic in Symphonie fantastique in February

The tone of the story is quite elegiac. Writing of Barenboim’s conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in Brahms’s Second Symphony earlier this month:

“Without lacking vividness, the Brahms had a gentle cast in its opening; the allegro finale sent off bright energy, but its colors were the blaze of a sunset rather than daylight brashness. It was just the right amount of goodbye.”

Continue reading Hazy Shade of Winter

New Iggy Pop video: Strung Out Johnny

Video: Iggy Pop – “Strung Out Johnny”

From Every Loser, out now on Atlantic.

How lucky are we to share a world with Iggy Pop? Back in 1963 who would have thought that the drummer for the Iguanas would still be rocking out, sixty years later, shirtless and as beautiful as an old saddle?

A few years after the Iguanas, Jim Osterberg would form the Psychedelic Stooges and invent punk rock. It’s got to feel weird to peak at 23 and then — despite your best efforts — to keep living for another 50+ years after that. But thank goodness he has, because Iggy Pop truly seems like a wonderful person. Just watch a few minutes of his videos with his cockatoo Biggy and you too will hope Ig lives forever.

This new song sounds like standard, run-of-the-mill “alternative rock” with a subject matter that could have been suggested by the board of directors of Warner Music Group…or ChatGPT.

First time, you do it with a friend
Second time, you do it in a bed
Third time, you can’t get enough
And your life gets all fucked up.

But that’s alright. It’s still pretty good. And if anybody’s earned the right to sing dopey lyrics like that, it’s Iggy Pop.

New Cass McCombs video: Music Is Blue

Video: Cass McCombs – “Music Is Blue”

Video by Scott Kiernan. From Heartmind, out now on Anti-.

We all love music. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. And I definitely wouldn’t be. But here we are. Reading about, and writing about, and — most importantly — listening to music. Cass McCombs understands the obsession. And lives it.

Once upon a time, I told myself
Music was all there was
Like a ghost town in quarantine
No road in, no road out.

I like the bits about how music has kept him broke, “busking in the village” and eating “nothing but beer.”

But why is it blue? McCombs told Aquarium Drunkard that “color is like a splash, it’s a feeling. It can be this color, that color, color is just there for us to play with. I guess it kind of fit into my approach which has always been to allow the listener a certain amount of autonomy to interpret the songs according to their experience and what suits them. I think colors can do that. It’s kind of the word color. I chose a color, but it’s more like color itself. I think that’s what I was trying to say – color it yourself.”

Cass McCombs: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Belle and Sebastian video: I Don’t Know What You See in Me

Video: Belle and Sebastian – “I Don’t Know What You See in Me”

From Late Developers, out now on Matador.

What’s up with the figure skating videos?

Last Friday Belle and Sebastian surprise-released a brand new album, recorded at the same time as their previous release, last year’s A Bit of Previous. I haven’t had the chance to listen to the rest of it yet, but this this first single is something. That opening synth wash sounds like the absolute worst of the 80s and calls to mind Asia or the Cutting Crew’s “Died In Your Arms.”

It gets better. By the end of the first chorus you can forgive those tones and have almost forgotten all the kids who were mean to you in junior high.

Stuart Murdoch says, “I was bicycling across Scotland last summer, listening to a mix of this song. It was written and produced for us by our friend Pete ‘Wuh Oh’ Ferguson. As I listened to it, I felt lucky to be the first person to get to sing this song. I let my voice swoop and soar in ways that it maybe hasn’t before. And as I continued through fields of gold and green I allowed myself to forget it was Belle And Sebastian, and pretend it was the latest hit on some random radio station. All music is escape, and perhaps we managed to escape a little further than usual with this unexpected tune. Thanks Pete!”

I’m excited that I’ve got tickets to see them play at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo in May. That’s not a huge venue. Should be super fun. (Hope it’s warm out, though.)

Belle and Sebastian: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Belle and Sebastian video: I Don’t Know What You See in Me

Data: 2022 Total Music Sales and Streams

People still buy albums. Taylor Swift fans, mostly. But still. 100 million physical and digital albums sold is not nothing. And Swift is responsible for 3% of those: 1,818,000 copies of Midnights (945,000 of those on vinyl!) and at least another 1.1 million more across her catalog.

Vinyl outsold CDs again, but its growth curve is leveling off, perhaps due to maxing out the existing pressing plants. One weird factoid in the Luminate U.S. Year-End Music Report for 2022 is that only “50% of vinyl buyers own a record player.” What’s up with that? Go buy a turntable, kids. (Preferably not a Crosley, but do what you gotta do.)

“Luminate,” by the way, is what Soundscan is calling itself these days. It was called “MRC Data” for a minute and before that it was “Nielsen Music Products” but now it’s Luminate. It’s the next phase, new wave, dance craze, anyways, it’s still Soundscan to me.

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

Total Album Sales (physical + digital albums)

2022: 100.09 million
2021: 109.0 million
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: 2022 Total Music Sales and Streams

Love & Stratocasters

In 1968 a student teacher at the junior high I was attending took a group of us on an after-school outing to see Romeo and Juliet at a local movie theater. Our parents undoubtedly figured what could be bad about going to see a film based on what is arguably one of Shakespeare’s most famous (if not the most famous: Hamlet might give it a run for attention) plays? While they—and we—weren’t familiar with Franco Zeffirelli, I’m sure that if it was noted by said student teacher that the movie was made by a famous director, it made it all seem the more worthwhile.

Realize that then there wasn’t the proliferation of instant information outlets. Perhaps the closest thing would have been AM radio, and in that period of time AM radio was about spinning the 45s, not news and talk (unless the talk was of a religious nature).

And so we saw the movie that included a sex scene between Olivia Hussey’s Juliet and Leonard Whiting’s Romeo. At the time Hussey was 15 and Whiting 16. The two, now in their 70s, have recently filed a lawsuit in Santa Monica Superior Court against Paramount for having exploited their teenaged nudity, charging that their careers were negatively impacted by their roles. (Oddly enough, Hussey went on to perform in another Zeffirelli film, Jesus of Nazareth, as the Virgin Mary, and as this was serialized and shown on TV in 1977, there was no eyes-wide-open associated with her role; this was not Scorsese’s version of the story. One wonders about her claim.)

In Shakespeare’s play, Juliet is 13 and while Romeo’s age is not given, it is estimated by Shakespeare scholars that he is probably 16.

In 1968 a slightly older friend played an album for me that had been released in the fall of that year: Jeff Beck’s Truth.

The point about Romeo and Juliet the movie, Romeo and Juliet the characters and Truth is this: When we are teenagers, some things like love, star-crossed or otherwise, and music can have long-lasting, indelible effects on us.

And Truth was an album that had an impact on me the likes of which few recordings have.

Continue reading Love & Stratocasters

Rock and roll can change your life.