Apr 20, 2013

Record Store Day - Best pop music not on the radio

With all my hipster friends and family getting in on all the vinyl deals today and all the hip folks buying limited edition CDs at their LOCAL RECORD STORE today I decided to wax a bit nostalgic.  My vinyl collection lives in two places...albums in the attic-I KNOW NOT GOOD!! Sorry.  And 45s...Yep still got 'em in my snazzy little carrying case purchased in the '70's, live in my bedroom.

Let's take a look at my library.  LPs I'm pretty progressive; Queen, Zeppelin, Ambrosia, The Beatles, Yes and Rick Wakeman, Cream, Chick Corea and Robin Trower.  The last two, all discs are imports.  I used to make regular runs to Merle's Record rack and dig through all the European releases.  Ok, so I guess I was a bit of hipster back then.  But then there's the 45s.  This stuff is all over the map.  The Carpenters, The Osmonds (don't judge), The Bee Gees, Carol King, Sir Elton John (but he wasn't a knight then), Blues Image (open Google for that one), The Beatles, Prelude (oh did I trip you up again?), Captain and Tennille, Richard Harris's version on "MacArthur Park", Michael Jackson, Chicago (of course everybody's prom song of the 70's), Guess Who, Simon & Garfunkel, Paul McCartney & Wings (Yep! more Sir Paul after the Beatles),  Patti Labelle (that song came out LONG before Moulin Rouge), Harry Chapin (kinda indie acoustic version of Nickelback-same melody just different lyrics) and Gunhill Road.  Gunhill Road.  Who the fuck are they you ask?  Ok, pretty much one-hit-wonders but we all should have at least one of those in our collections.

The other thing that I noticed as I was going through my stack was the number of labels and not imprints just single companies.  RCA was RCA and not a division of Sony. Epic also got swallowed by the Sony beheemoth.  Atlantic and Reprise were not part of Warner Music adn Island, A&M and Atco were not divisisions of Universal Music Group.  RCA absorbed Chelsea and then shelved it.   Rocket Records is now a completely different company.  Mercury moved from Chicago to the UK and became an imprint of Virgin.  RSO, MCA, and United Artists are now just memories.  Motown lost its identity when it moved to L.A. and today is just another major label juggernaut.

And what about 45s?  Do you even buy singles any more?  Ok, maybe on iTunes.  But what about hard-copy singles?  Although the cost of living has gone up, the cost of recorded music is still running about the same when you compare it to the wages (minimum) of the people who buy it.  The largest percentage of music purchased's demographic is still 14-25.  I started my record collection with babysitting money.  Then I made a buck an hour before midnight and $2 an hour after plus tips.  Albums cost $8.  A single was only a dollar and you got two songs.  Ok, most "B" sides sucked but sometimes they did make you really consider saving your money for the whole LP.  Today you still pay $1.29 for a single on iTunes but that's what you get...a single.  No more "B" sides.  I must say I do like the trend to EPs that at least get a little more music into circulation at a very reasonable price.

Finally, it seems that Record Store Day is something targeted to and participated in by the people who don't even turn on the radio any more.  There are no limited editions today from Beiber, Katy Perry, or Rhianna.  About the closest you're gonna get to mainstream is The Black Keys, Bon Jovi and Lincoln Park.  In other words, what little notice huge monopoly labels gave to RSD was still mainly to their alternative and indie listeners.  Sony, UMG and Warner are only interested in the kids that are buying at Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, FYE and digitally.  But they don't really do much to entice them to pay for anything so the prices of tickets to pop concerts just go higher to fill in the revenue gaps.

So today was Record Store Day.  I hope you went and found your local store and supported it. I hope you continue to.  I don't want to see you whining or stomping your feet if they close their doors and you're stuck with censored versions at Wally-World or having to mail order everything.  Let's see if we can put "the man" out of business.  You know...even if you shop on-line, find a mom & pop.  See how often you can avoid the big guys.  Help people create jobs for themselves and for you.  If hard-copies of music become popular again, more distribution companies will be needed, small marketing firms.  Or maybe everything does go digital.  It's still going to need to be managed, distributed.  Buy a subscription to your favorite internet radio station.  Get involved in crowdfunding for competition to labels, radio stations and promoters.  Let's all figure this out together.


Apr 14, 2013

William Beckett and TAI - truly great pop

Ok, don't call me out yet.  Yes, The Academy Is... did get a little radio time back in '06-'07.  But come on...admit it, some of the best tracks, especially from Santi were only known to us fans or those we dragged to shows.  See...I'm right.  Alright, TAI did have some clunkers too..Fast Times At Barrington High was rather self-indulgent and was not the highest note this otherwise truly great pop band should have gone out on.  Let's just remember the good songs that William Beckett and Mike Cardin penned.

My sympathies to anyone who never got to see TAI live.  William is a great frontman and had a fantastic band behind him.  The Butcher killed a kit and Sisky Business on bass was not only a good musician but great comic relief.  Carden took his guitar job seriously but with a wink and a nod.  Even with different rhythms the chemistry always worked.  These guys could bring it whether in the blistering heat of an afternoon Warped Tour set or headlining a show in a 2000 body venue with light show and staging.  They always left us wanting more.

Then it all came to an end.  William went back to Chicago and mulled over his next move.  Try as he might he couldn't stop writing or singing.  But this guy was determined to do whatever "it" was going to be on his terms.  No selling out to labels who would demand he do music handed to him or even doing his own music within their perimeters.  So he started creating, on his own.  He was able to get studio time to engineer recordings that are full, rich with all the necessary instrumentation and effects.  He also had a plan.  Release the project as three EPs, each one a different chapter of a love story.  The sales of each would fund the creation of the next and hopefully generate money for touring.

Touring, that posed another problem.  There was no band.  There was one William Beckett, a MacBook Pro and an acoustic guitar.  This incredibly intelligent and talented artist figured it out.  Some songs are done straight up acoustic and others use backing tracks...and it works.

I had a bit of a wish come true when I actually met Mr. Beckett last year but it was better than my wish because I got to sit down and interview him for over a half hour.  William Beckett is indeed a quiet person off stage.  He watches and listens.  He is a walking encyclopedia of music of the second-half of the 20th Century.  He was the "smart kid" in high school and was determined to head east after graduation.  Beckett still has a number of Jersey artists in his list favorites.  He takes a little bit to warm up to strangers but if you find a topic he's passionate about he'll talk, sharing knowledge, facts and feelings.  The one question I never did get to ask him though, because I didn't notice it till we were wrapping the interview, is the meaning behind his ampersand tattoo.  However, it's easy to see that with William Beckett it's always "and" never an "or" or a "but".

After the interview I got to hear all of the first EP of the trilogy along with a couple of tracks from the second which had not been released at that point.  Especially after hearing it live and even now, my favorite song is still "Girl, You Shoulda Been A Drummer".   He also treated us to some of TAI's greatest hits.  Although a little subdued and matured, he still has very magnetic stage presence...still a great pop artist.  If you are going to Warped Tour this year make a point to catch his set on the Acoustic Basement stage all summer.   It will definitely be worth it.   Add William Beckett to your Spotify, Pandora and LastFM lists and but his EP's on iTunes.

p.s. I think my current Spotify choice will be next week's feature-Cobra Starship!

NY, NJ & CT, wanna see IAMX for FREE in NYC on 4/26?

The best new arts 'zine, FourCulture have 2 tickets up for grabs from woobox to the first stop of IAMX's "Animal Impulses" tour at Irving Plaza.  Chris will be premiering tracks from his new album "The Unified Field".  It's been quite a while since IAMX has done a U.S. tour.  Don't miss out.  I already have my ticket so I'd love to meet up with the winners at my favorite NYC venue to share a libation and some great, great music.

Fourculture will be giving away two pairs of tickets for IAMX’s April 263 show at Irving Plaza in NYC…wooot!
We were approached to give these tickets away so this is kind of a big deal…Fourculture got noticed!

The contest is set up on Facebook: http://woobox.com/kkm5fe  
It begins Wednesday, April 10 at 8 AM EST and ends Tuesday, April 16 at midnight.

Please help keep this contest in everyone’s face for the next week with RTs and shares!   

Thank you in advance!! 

Apr 6, 2013

Great pop that's not on the radio - La Roux

With Coachella coming up, now seems to be a good time to introduce you to La Roux.  The core group is vocalist, keyboardist, co-writer Elly Jackson and co-writer, co-producer Ben Langmaid.  These two do all the studio creations as a total team effort.  On the road Elly fronts a touring band that includes: Michael 'Mikey' Norris (on keyboard), Mickey O'Brien (keyboards and backing vocals) and William Bowerman (on drums).  La Roux hails from Brixton UK.

Elly did find a little time on the U.S. charts with "Bulletproof".  One of those little tastes corporate radio gives people to try to cover the game of convincing listeners that drek is good.  "Bulletproof" is a one of many great dance tracks and so it lent itself well to playing on the car radio while driving or in the clubs.  It's also a great platform for remixing.  So this catchy song hung around for a little while and seems to have caught the interest of some American listeners.  One of the best remixes was actually done by Skrillex.  La Roux also drew enough attention to land a Grammy in 2010.  It was more than well deserved in the Dance Music category.

My live experience with La Roux was at The Webster (Hartford) a few years ago.  First, the demographic of the artists' audience in my area was very  broad.  From 16-30 LGBT and straight 'typical' dance music fans then there was a small group of really jocky frat-boys.  Everyone got along and had a great time.  From the opening drum beat to the closing note everyone was dancing and singing along.  Elly's energy never lost any momentum and that awesome hairstyle was still intact at the end.  The part that impressed me the most is that she sings at the highest end of her range on almost every track and does so live too without a single cracked note and she does sing live-no lip-sync.  She and the band mesh perfectly which makes for a great performance and musical show.

Currently she is back in the studio with Ben and there is word that we will get a new album this year.  One of the collaborators on the record is one of my new favorite people, Nile Rodgers.  For more on La Roux visit http://www.laroux.co.uk/ from there you can link to their Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Blogger, etc.