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In News

Les Savy Fav Wrestle With Leaks, Stalk People On Twitter

Posted by on Jul 26, 2010

This is pretty great: Les Savy Fav (motto: “Missing Out on Cashing In for Over a Decade”) is about to release their new album, Root for Ruin. Their label, Frenchkiss, set up a protected stream so reviewers can listen to—but not download—the album. The login information that music writers got implied that we would be a “dick” if we leaked the record. Such a threat obviously didn’t deter fans rabid to share the thing, because almost immediately, someone apparently got into the source code and leaked the mp3s for download.

What’s a band to do when their album is leaked? The savvy Les Savy Fav has since created a Twitter account (@u_took_my_music) as “the Ghost of Les Savy Fav” to “haunt” those who post links to the leaked album. What’s more, they’ve set up a Paypal donation site to which the shame-filled Twitter user can then donate. “Okay, so you got our leaked record. At least now you know how awesome it is,” the page reads. “Here—donate some cash to us and be free of guilt for the record. Pay extra and you’re also forgiven for sex sins and stuff AND we’ll tell Jesus to send you cookies.”

I like this approach. In related news, Root for Ruin is really, really good, and you can pre-order it here.

Universal CEO to Independent Record Stores: Suck It

Posted by on Jul 23, 2010 2 Comments

Jim Urie is the President and CEO of Universal Music Group, which has spent the last two decades buying up every label it possibly can to become the world’s largest music conglomerate. Like all record company CEOs, Jim Urie is trying to curb illegal downloading. Also like all record company CEOs, he’s not having much luck. So he’s begging you to help him out by signing this handy online form letter to representatives in Washington, D.C. which claims that illegal downloading is destroying American music.

Urie gave a real whiz-bang presentation about all this in front of other industry honchos at the NARM convention earlier this year, and got so fired up at the response that he created a Facebook page called Music Rights Now as a “call to action.” He recently asked the folks who champion independent record stores under the banner of Record Store Day to promote his Music Rights Now page, and they obliged with a click-through banner on their site.

He also asked them to distribute to independent record stores this statement he wrote, which reads in full:

I’ve received hundreds of e-mails enthusiastically reacting to my “call to action” at the National Association of Recording Merchandisers convention last month. The music business is facing huge challenges from piracy and theft. Never before in American history has an entire industry been so decimated by illegal behavior. Yet the government has not responded in a meaningful way to help us address the crisis. My call to action is for all of us to become more aggressive in lobbying our government, more outspoken in drawing attention to the problems caused by piracy and more actively engaged. We cannot win this fight alone.

Governments outside the U.S. are legislating, regulating and playing a prominent role in discussions with ISPs (Internet Service Providers). Sales have dramatically improved in these countries. How is it that the U.S.—with the most successful music community in the world—is not keeping up with places like South Korea, France, the UK and New Zealand?

As I said in my speech, I hope that the industry can negotiate a voluntary deal with the ISPs. We need our government representatives to encourage this. But whether or not we reach a deal with the ISPs, our government needs to know that we’ve got a piracy problem and we need real solutions. To accomplish this, our government needs to hear from all of us, so they know that their constituents are out here. Join me in calling on our elected officials to fight piracy. Please help by forwarding this email to your colleagues, friends—everyone who loves music. And consider enlisting your entire company to help in this fight. Then by clicking on the link below, a message will be sent to your representatives in Washington. Help us launch a viral campaign to cut off access to the online sites that are used to steal our music, our property and our jobs. It only takes a second, but it can make a tremendous impact.

You might think: A valiant crusader in the fight for justice! Except as a supporter of the ideals behind Record Store Day, and as one who thinks hometown record stores are just as important as gigantic conglomerates (Universal Music Group owns the catalogs of Motown, Def Jam, Island, Interscope, Geffen, A&M, MCA, Mercury, Verve, Lost Highway, Polydor, Decca, Hip-O, Prestige, Riverside, and lots of others), I say let’s look at this Urie guy a little closer.

Here’s the thing. In March this year, Urie announced a new $10.00 suggested retail price on most titles for Universal’s new releases. (The Roots’ How I Got Over and M.I.A.’s ///Y/ are the first that come to mind.) Which seems like great news, right? Consumers have been asking for cheaper CD prices forever! Everyone knows how little it costs to make a CD by now, and most people justifiably feel like charging $19.99 is outrageous.

But when Universal rolled out the new pricing structure, they conveniently forgot to mention who’s making up the margin. It’s not Universal. Instead, Urie is shifting the burden onto record stores—and in particular, independent record stores.

Let’s look at the M.I.A. record as an example. Big-box stores order so much quantity and so little variety that they’re able to get concessionary wholesale pricing from labels on new releases, but independent stores order nearly all new releases from distributors called one-stops. Under the old pricing tier, an independent store would have ordered a copy of ///Y/ for $10.99 from a one-stop, sold it for $15.99 and made five bucks.

Under Universal’s current “Velocity” program, the suggested retail price for ///Y/ is only $10.00, a fact touted clearly to customers on the overwrap sticker on top of the CD:

But how much does that CD cost the store? Below is a screen grab from the B2B ordering site at AEC, one of the country’s largest one-stop distributors to independent stores, and I swear it’s not Photoshopped. The first figure on the bottom line is the suggested retail price. The second is the wholesale cost to stores.

$10 MSRP, $9.99 wholesale. That’s right: The independent record store makes a one-cent profit. Essentially, Jim Urie is telling record stores to fuck themselves. Who could possibly be happy earning one measly penny per sale while making Urie’s company look like saviors for lowering prices?

The end result is that independent stores are threatened anew not by illegal downloading but by Urie himself, who apparently only wants to sell CDs at loss-leader outlets like Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target—retail behemoths that continue to drive independent stores out of business. Urie doesn’t care; he’s shifted the burden to store owners, so he’s still making money. How the indie-loving people behind Record Store Day could even speak to the guy, let alone promote his agenda, is totally beyond me.

In News

John Zorn Returns to Yoshi's in August

Posted by on Jul 20, 2010 One Comment

As prolific as alto saxophonist / composer / all-around madman John Zorn is in the studio—he’s played on over 400 recordings—he really doesn’t play live on the West Coast that much. In 1999, his Masada Quartet played Yoshi’s in Oakland, and it was another ten long years before he returned for a week-long residency last year in San Francisco. Like Ron Burgundy might say, it was kind of a big deal. The first show I saw was unbelievable; the second one was like something from outer space. He returns next month to Yoshi’s for another run, and like last year, it’s a different band for each show. Unlike last year, tickets are not $50 but a little cheaper at $25-$35, owing to Zorn’s use this time of West Coast musicians instead of flying all his NYC bros to California with him.

Here’s the dates and the individual lineups:

Thursday, Aug. 26
8pm: Terry Riley and John Zorn duo
10pm: Fred Frith, Mike Patton, John Zorn trio

Friday, Aug. 27
8pm: John Zorn’s ‘Alhambra Love Songs’ with Rob Burger, Trevor Dunn and Kenny Wollesen
10pm: Aleph Trio with John Zorn, Trevor Dunn, Kenny Wollesen and films by Wallace Berman

Saturday, Aug. 28
8pm: John Zorn with the Rova Sax Quartet
10pm: John Zorn’s Cobra

I can’t stress how much you should try to see at least one of these shows—especially Saturday’s Cobra performance, which features 15 guys including Mike Patton, Fred Frith, Trey Spruance, Trevor Dunn and lots more, all conducted by the esoteric hand gestures of Zorn at the podium. It’s truly a sight to behold. All show info. and ticket sales over at Yoshi’s site.

Dirty Projectors, Björk Release 'Mount Wittenberg Orca'—With Photo of the Wrong Mountain

Posted by on Jul 19, 2010

There’s so much fraud in the world—MonaVie juice, “i-Dosing,” Michele Bachmann—that when I come across purity now I almost don’t recognize it. In that vein, I’d hesitated to listen to Mount Wittenberg Orca, the online-only collaboration by Bjork and Dirty Projectors with a lovely cover photo. I was afraid it’d be forced. It isn’t. Rather, it’s one of the most unaffected, honest things I’ve come across all year.

Or is it? As my correspondent Dean Tisthammer points out, the mountain pictured on the album cover is clearly not Mount Wittenberg in Point Reyes National Seashore. You can view the real Mount Wittenberg here. This might just be a slight misunderstanding, I thought. Surely, they’re referencing some other Mount Wittenberg? But alas, the explanation from Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstreth:

Amber from Dirty Projectors was walking along a ridge on Mount Wittenberg, north of San Francisco. She was looking out at the ocean and saw a little family of whales, as you sometimes do in April on the Northern California coast. I wrote some songs about it and sent them to Björk, who agreed to sing the part of the mom whale. The songs became Mount Wittenberg Orca.

So the album’s called Mount Wittenberg Orca after the Point Reyes mountain, but with an imposter mountain on the cover? No love for the real Mount Wittenberg? Just what the bejeezus mountain is pictured?

Dean, a huge Dirty Projectors fan who hikes often in the area, says it’s Black Mountain, near Point Reyes. A Google Maps search confirms it—the photo was evidently shot just off Point Reyes-Petaluma Road, east of Point Reyes Station. Which seems to indicate that Longstreth & Co. googled “Mount Wittenberg” for a cover photo, didn’t come up with anything (we barely did either), and settled for some other mountain in Point Reyes, assuming it’d glide past the eagle eyes of nature-hiking Dirty Projectors fans.

Kudos to Dean for the tip.

Fake representations of mountains aside, the album is short and sweet—those enamored with Medulla‘s vocal-heavy arrangements will especially be smitten. You can download it on a sliding-scale donation basis here. All proceeds benefit the National Geographic Society’s ocean initiatives, too.

In News

City Sound Inertia Wins National Award

Posted by on Jul 16, 2010 12 Comments

I am honored, elated and surprised that at today’s annual convention in Toronto, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies has bestowed this very blog you’re all up in right now with a first-place award! That’s right: Best Individual Blog, circulation under 50,000.

As someone who still loves and uses rotary phones, typewriters and the U.S. Postal Service, I was stubbornly hesitant to start a blog in the first place and spent a great deal of time criticizing the idea to anyone who would listen. I’ve always felt the printed pages of the Bohemian were far more important. But at the urging of my great editor, Gretchen Giles, I finally relented and began writing posts—usually from home, at around two in the morning.

In the two-and-a-half years since, CSI has been a hodgepodge of local music coverage, show reviews, announcements, personal musings, interviews, record reviews and whatever else pops into my head. It’s also been very, very rewarding. Sometimes I veer off and start talking about closed Chinese restaurants, parking meters and heroin needles; other times I’ve broken behind-the-scenes stories that get picked up by Rolling Stone.

Kissing booths, harlequins, leaked festival lineups and girls camping out for a Hanson show have all made appearances here, as well as one of my all-time favorite interviews. Sometimes I hang out with famous people and review huge pop stars both extremely talented and so untalented it’s a joke; other times I spotlight brilliant unknowns, visit in on friends’ record collections or rally support for hometown heroes. I even drop in on porn stars from time to time.

I guess what I’m saying is that I love doing it. Here’s the part where I say I owe it all to you, the loyal readers, who give me constant support and tolerate my bad jokes. Of course, thanks also to AAN, not just for the award but for nurturing and championing alternative news media. Now go jam out to some ridiculous Nicki Manaj verses or at least listen to some vintage Sonny Rollins, and enjoy the weekend!

In News

When Hip-Hop Drops Acid

Posted by on Jul 15, 2010 One Comment

The first time I heard about Digable Planets, it was from someone on LSD. So it’s no surprise that 17 years later the group’s Ishmael Butler, a.k.a. Butterfly, has started an elusive lysergic-leaning project called Shabazz Palaces. (You may have read about it recently at a certain M.I.A.-bashing indie site.) They—he, whatever—play tonight at Hopmonk’s Juke Joint, and for anyone into tripped-out hip-hop in the vein of Anticon, Edan or MF Doom, it’s a rare chance to catch Butler on some out-there levels.

I love this surreal pastiche video for “Belhaven Meridian,” shot in Watts:

And how scattershot are Shabazz Palaces’ song titles? Here’s the tracklist to the first EP:

1. kill white t, parable of the nigga who barrels stay hot, made by hardkings@freecasino.blk
2. 4 shadows”noah mission as told by plcr dougie frum up the block from granny’s Subsonic custom crowns
3. 32 leaves dipped in blackness making clouds forming altered carbon
4. blastit at the homie rayzer’s charm lake plateau bbq july at outpalace pk
5. Capital 5, recorded after hrs at the gun ballad resource cntr on s Sweeper st.
6. my mac yawns i go on to make this darksparkles move call it: as the americans say, middle section made by plcr runner reg on his 30′ chromitar
7. a mess, the booth soaks in palacian musk, palaceer in vintage LRG, yes pure NS, uppowndet watermelon lips beat

I am not kidding.

Shabazz Palaces plays tonight, July 15, at the Hopmonk Tavern. 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. 9pm. $15. 21+. 707.829.7300.

In News

Treasure Island 2010: LCD Soudsystem, Belle & Sebastian, Broken Social Scene, Die Antwoord, Hella More

Posted by on Jul 13, 2010

The lineup for this year’s wingding at Treasure Island has been announced. Lest I sound like a broken record, writing about previous year’s fests here and here and here and here and here and here and here, I think Treasure Island is really the perfect festival for people who hate festivals—it’s small, it’s manageable, it’s scenic as hell and the only corporate sponsor is Heineken. Historically, it’s also boasted a lineup usually way more impressive than other festivals, catching bands on the ascendant wax instead of the sad wane.

That’s mostly the case again in 2010. Here’s who’s playing:

Saturday, October 16
LCD Soundsystem, Deadmau5, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Miike Snow, !!!, Die Antwoord, Little Dragon, Four Tet, Holy Fuck, Phantogram, Jamaica, Wallpaper, Maus Haus

Sunday, October 17
Belle & Sebastian, The National, Broken Social Scene, She & Him, Superchunk, Rogue Wave, Surfer Blood, Ra Ra Riot, Monotonix, The Sea & Cake, Phosphorescent, Papercuts, The Mumlers

LCD Soundsystem has put out one of this year’s best records, so they’ll make a memorable headliner. Kruder & Dorfmeister, who are billed specifically as “Kruder & Dorfmeister (LIVE),” should probably just play all of K&D Sessions. Expect Jerry Fuchs shout-outs from !!!. Weirdly, Die Antwoord is way down on the schedule even though their show at the Rickshaw Stop was fetching $150 for tix; expect the stage to be mobbed.

I really feel like the bombastic, festival-perfect Broken Social Scene should be headlining Sunday instead of Belle & Sebastian. M. Ward makes a festival reappearance with She & Him, Monotonix is going to wind up banging on drums while hanging from the motherfucking Ferris wheel, and Superchunk really should have booked a club date instead of playing a truncated festival set, but what can you do?

Two-day tickets are available now for $120; single-day tickets go on sale on Friday, July 16. All da deets over at the offish fest site.

In News

The Black Cat in Penngrove is Closing

Posted by on Jul 13, 2010

After 8 years in Penngrove of stiff drinks, open mics, “gutter nights,” live bands and a sea of bras stapled to the ceiling, the Black Cat is closing.

The lovable little lesbian-owned bar with one of the most diverse clienteles in Sonoma County has been sold to new owners from the 8-Ball in Cotati—which is also a lovable little bar but, let’s face it, it’s going to be hard to replicate the insanely unique feel of the Black Cat. “I don’t think it’s going to be quite the queer-friendly and freak-friendly place,” says owner Robin Pfefer, “so I’m sad to lose that space for the community. At the same time, it’s been 8 years, and I’ve had to simplify things.”

Pfefer, who also owns Gravenstones in Cotati and plays guitar and sings in Cheap Date 13, says selling the bar is a matter of scaling back for her family. Her 2 1/2-year-old son is learning to play drums, and Pfefer wants to start jamming with him. “They’re only this age once,” she says, eager to spend more time with him instead of handling the menial tasks at the bar. “Do I want to be with him, or do I want to be on the phone with the garbage company, or the towel company? I’m choosing my son.”

Look for the distinctive purple sign outside to change to the new name—at this point, it’ll be called Mac’s—sometime around September 1. No word on if the new owners plan to continue cramming bands into that tiny, tiny corner, but they apparently want the P.A., which is a good sign. Humble Pie, next door, will stay. Pfefer has already fielded opportunities to run her popular open mic at several other venues.

And as for the bras stapled to the ceiling? “The new owners have said they don’t want the bras,” Pfefer sighs, explaining that everyone on closing night will get to take one down as a memento of the end of an era.

Farewell parties with a gazillion bands are in the planning stages, so check the Black Cat website periodically as things wind down in August. And who knows? Maybe the 2 Live Crew will return to close the joint down. (Yes, they did play there!)

Live-Blogging the New Liz Phair Single, 'Bollywood'

Posted by on Jul 5, 2010 One Comment

Bollywood with banjo?

Uh, Ke$ha?

What in the fuck is this?

Is she complaining about record company contracts?

Microfiche! Tablets made of stone! “You’re 20 years old-aaahh”

Wait. This is genius. I think.

Phonay-Balonay! Pretty Pon-ay!

Liz Phair has lost her mind, beautifully!

Over too soon.

[Hear the insane-ness for yourself here.]

On the Stereo: Daniel (A.I.U) Higgs Interdimensional Song-Seamstress, 'Ancestral Songs'

Posted by on Jul 2, 2010

Hi J.,

Listening, for the third time, to the Daniel Higgs album you loaned me. You asked in some earnest for my opinion of it, which baffled me within hearing the first two minutes of the record. Surely you know me well enough to know I’d think it was a pile of garbage. This only made me listen harder, though—if you planned this twisted psychology on me, then I stand oblivious—to find out why. As in, why would he ask my assessment of this, this quasi-mystical Cat Stevens-wannabe pre-“freak” folk forced-Eastern-scale-laden rumination on God?

I have a problem with Christ references particularly when they’re used to turn religion on its ear somehow; by bespeaking the language of fools, does not one lend credence to it? So when Higgs rambles about the Devil and Christ and the kingdom of life blah blah blah, I shut down. There’s no desire to examine his message if the language is all wrong, and boy, does his message require examining, and boy, is his language wrong. The only explanation is that his mind has been battered by a strict religious upbringing, an intense drug experience, a newfound misguided spirituality or all three.

That said—I turned the album over and Side B has some interesting freeform experiments, but they didn’t move me anywhere other than into the realm of jealousy. Would that I were the singer for a cult Dischord band who could noodle on a superfuzzed guitar for seven minutes, press it on thick vinyl and wrap it in junior-high artwork with a deluxe gatefold, and have it sell. Mostly the thing strikes me as unaware of itself. That’s a solid backbone for a lot of art, but in this instance it’s not in a good way.

No Hard Feelings,
G.