9.12.07 | BSS – Backed Out On The…
I’ll be the first to admit I’m woefully behind on the whole Broken Social Scene scene. So while we’re admitting inadequacies, why not go whole hog and give a link to a video of them covering another artist I know absolutely nothing about – Kevin Drew. Two unknowns make a known – that sort of thing.
I did like the song, and the video, which also features members of Dino Jr. I think that is J in the foreground with the long hair in the photo. The song is actually from a whole album of BSS playing Kevin Drew’s Spirit If…
9.5.07 | Elliott Smith Appears In My Dreams
I’m actually not quite sure why I’m making this post. Smith is certainly not indie music headline news (anymore), and New Moon has come and gone without me making even an attempt at a review. I guess I just felt like writing about him today (at 7 in the morning), and I wanted to talk about a very peculiar phenomenon regarding him.
Nearly 4 years after he passed, Elliott still finds one way or another to remind me of him. One interesting way is that he appears in my dreams at night. I’m sure there’s a psychoFreudian dude out there who will be able to neatly dissect these cameos – so I won’t. But what strikes me about these dreams is how completely, utterly ordinary they are. I was, like many, a huge fan. So I might have expected him to be some sort of super-human guitar hero in my sleep. You’d also think that the dreams would take place at a club or some other music-related venue.
Nope, usually he just appears as just another character in my dreams. Like last night, when he was a buddy at a family camping trip. Or a few months ago when he was at college with me taking an English midterm. He wasn’t giving me help or anything – he was just a friend taking the test with me. He’s always doing completely ordinary things.
To be sure, he does play the guitar and other musical instruments occasionally in the dreams. One time, he sat down at an upright piano and played an entire song that I’d never heard before. It sounded more like classical music than anything else. After I woke up, I wrote down the chords I could remember, and that became the last song on Shape of Trees. Strangeness.
Smith appears in my dreams infrequently, though he’s always just a regular character. I’m told that it’s extremely common to have people who have passed on appear in dreams. It’s just interesting because I think he is the only non-family or friend who regularly comes to visit.
There’s really no point to this post. In 2003, when I found out about his passing I was planning on writing a memorial post about the ways that his music and life affected me. I never got around to it – or perhaps more honestly, I wasn’t able to do it.
So this small blurb years after the fact will have to do for now. Elliott Smith passed on, but he became a part of my subconsciousness in more ways than one. I never met him in person, but I’ve gotten to know him through the endless possibilities of sleep.
9.24.07 | Iron and Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog
Iron and Wine
The Shepherd's Dog
Regular readers of Palebear (all 3-4 of you) will note that I love to complain. I love to hijack other people’s reviews to spout forth my own nefarious propaganda from upon the blog soapbox. I love to put a damper on the party with doom and gloom about the current direction of the music biz. I love to self-aggrandize with exaggerated and mixed metaphors.
Well, this review is going to be another of those. So I apologize in advance to anyone who’s here looking for a real Bitchforkian or Rolling Boneian review of Iron and Wine’s new album The Shepherd’s Dog. Go view those publications to get the real, actual scoop by writers that are paid millions of bucks.
But really, Mr. Sam Beam doesn’t need any of my help. The album is quite different from his earlier ones and if you’ve gone straight through from those skipping the Woman King EP or the Boy with a Coin single, you might be a bit shocked. But add those little releases in (and note the ubiquitous Postal Service cover) and you’ll see that there’s continuity; the direction he was going in was easily foreshadowed by those EPs and he continues to hold the torch of one of the best bands currently on Sub Pop.
I really like the album, although he’s muted the lo-fi Appalachian folk presentation in favor of fuller instrumentation. Beam’s voice still, well, BEAMS – a bright beacon on songs that in others hands might be bloated currency filled with unnecessary meandering. I suspect that far from alienating his current fans, he’s bound to pick up a few new ones, maybe some avant-garde musicologists and those who thought that his earlier work was too hushed or slow. A few songs are sorta wacky – in particular I thought the end of “Wolves (The Song of the Shepherd’s Dog)” was positively funky street. But there’s enough of the old folky Beam in the other songs to tide me over until he the day where he goes completely back to his old stuff. I dunno if he will do that, though – I think he’s too restless musically to go for a reprise of “Creek”.
Ok, so I promised some complaining. You can just skip down to the links below if you’d rather not hear it. Here is my unstructured grousing: I’m a part-time music reviewer who’s supposed to reviewing for “fun”. Long ago, I gave up any illusions of making a career out of this. I’m just not a good enough wordsmith to command music-moola from Spin and too old to be a collegiately wide-eyed music reviewer who writes reams of reviews for free just because “it’s the music, man.”
No, it’s gotta be that I write for 1. “Fun” in my spare time 2. The dubious pleasure of receiving promos in advance of the music buying public.
Let’s talk about “Fun”. Sure, it’s fun to write about an album once in awhile. However, the catch is that if you can write a halfway decent review (or, as it’s come down to, even a decent 100 word blurb), then bands, songwriters, record labels and publicity houses by the thousands will beat a path to your door. There are just so many emails and packages that I get from these people, who I actually sympathize with. We used to run a record label and it was so difficult trying to figure out who to send stuff to. So when you did find a music reviewer that you thought was good and whose taste fit the style of what you were releasing, you’d be sure to send them a CD.
But it’s a Catch-22 for a one-man reviewing operation: the better and more open you are, the more stuff that you receive and the more your workload increases, and consequently the greater the chance of the quality of your writing suffering. And at some point, it stops being “fun” and more like a job. But, as I’ve said I’m just not into working myself to the bone for free. I don’t have a crapload of time or patience on hand. You just get Burnt Out On Blogs™.
So, it comes down to this. Other than to unburden myself in diatribes like this or to promote the occasional release that I absolutely feel needs to be supported because it’s such a great album and no one knows about it, I’m writing for the occasional feeling of Specialness. The great feeling that, hey, look I got an album from one of my favorite songwriters – and I got it before anyone else did, and for free, and it’s such an awesome album. And I get to talk about it so my 3 readers will know what its like before it comes out Whoo-hoo! I rock!
And then I go on the internet and it turns out that the album has already been in the filesharers hands for months.
I hate to dredge up cliches, but digital music is such a blessing and a curse for people involved in music. On the one hand you’ve got super-wide distribution and a larger audience, and on the other hand, that same ease of accesibility makes it so easy for people to get music without paying for it. I’m not going to get all high and mighty – I don’t use the filesharing systems, but I’ve gotten music illegally for free online before. Guilty.
So maybe it’ll seem I’m somewhat of a petulant hypocrite to say this – but man, you gotta give me SOMETHING to keep me writing reviews day in and day out for free. My love of music is large, but reviewing just cannot exist in a vacuum for long unless you’re in college or being paid by the word. I need to be able to feel that I got something out of it, and I get sort of depressed by all the MP3s being slung like jai-alai balls between people who have no idea that they are slowly but surely KILLING the one thing that sometimes keeps me writing.
CDs aren’t worth anything nowadys. Trust me, I’ve gone to Amoeba and tried to sell back copies of CDs. I think I tried to sell back 100 CDs and they took maybe 3. So if CDs aren’t worth the paper and plastic they’re made out of, and the songs are already online for free, what’s so special about receiving a promo?
A side note: this is recently why I’m interested in vinyl LPs. At least there’s something physical there to collect. Please do send me all the promo LPs you have!
If I was a much more sane music reviewer, I’d just ignore all that shit and just count myself lucky that I’m in the game. I do get promos, sometimes even fairly far in advance. I get to compete with 500,000,000 or so other indie music review bloggers for the attention of the music-buying public. I get to occasionally receive snide comments on posts (thank you, to the few who do actually write nice comments). I get to wade, nay swim through manilla envelopes and online press releases for fun. I get to be ignored by a lot of big major music blogs that I try to make friends with, but when I do happen to make a small complaint about them in a post, I get a one word comment or sad face from them in return and then they go back to ignoring me. I get to feel guilty about not reviewing really great indie bands even though they really deserve a well-written review.
Oh, it’s a wonderful life. But for some reason I just refuse to play along. </endrant>
p.s. Subpop reps, please ignore this post. =)
9.30.07 | Radiohead – In Rainbows
Update 10/10/07: Well, the album is out. Listening to it currently and so far it’s very good. You can ignore the rest of the below post I guess. Here’s the tracklist, apologies for typos or stuff out of order, I just typed it really quickly:
1. 15 Step
4. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
5. All I need
6. Faust Arp
8. House of Cards
9. Jigsaw Falling Into Place
Again, you can get the whole thing at their website… but good luck getting in for a few hours. There must be a zillion people trying to access it at once. OK, back to listening.
Wow, have you heard the new Radiohead? It’s gr8!!! I heard it before you! Now Blah blah blah LINKZ to me on your MyFaceBook!11!!!
I’m just kidding. I’m waiting for October 10 like everyone else. And you probably already heard that Radiohead is releasing In Rainbows without a label, downloadable directly from their site, and that you can CHOOSE how much you want to pay for it (albeit in Brit pounds). I’m only posting about it because I like the way the big huge graphic looks – I’ve heard that to be a totally Succezzfull music blog you need to post big huge graphics everywhere so I’m giving it a try. Hey, you can’t say that I didn’t try, right?
They also have a “Discbox” for those of us (me included) who actually like a little physical piece of music as well. It includes In Rainbows on 2 Vinyl LPs and also on CD. And you also get a bonus disc w/ photos and artwork and new song material. And it includes the digital download too. But it’s pretty steep at 40 pounds…
Radiohead – In Rainbows