Wednesday, January 16, 2008

This Album Brought to You By...

Read a piece yesterday in the British press (so it's got to be legit, right?) that made me spit coffee out at the computer screen. I actually went back and re-read the article to make sure I understood correctly. So far, more than 700 media outlets have picked up on the story, giving it more credibility.

Based on several reports, EMI, which just this week dropped the axe on 2,000 employees, is floating the idea of letting companies sponsor albums.

"EMI will allow its artists, who include Coldplay and Kylie Minogue, to be sponsored by corporate companies, according to reports.

The proposals, which could see Coldplay’s new album ‘Prospekt’ released with corporate branding, are expected to feature as part of an extensive shake-up of the company.
Terra Firma, EMI’s new owners, believe the plans would help increase the label’s revenue as it struggles to meet the growth of the digital marketplace."

Here's a quote from the Financial Times:

"Football teams have very distinct corporate sponsorship. Why shouldn't some of the leading bands have the same sort of relationships?" said EMI Chairman Guy Hands.

Are you kidding me?

So this is what we can expect in 2008:

  • Lexipro Presents... Britney Spears!

  • Ambien Presents... Coldplay!

  • Bengay Presents... Aerosmith!

You got any others?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Best of 2007 (aka Lazy Journalism)

I hate getting the end of the year magazine issues. They're always crammed full of what happened over the past year in timeline format (very useful if you were in a coma for 12 months, not so much if you have a functioning memory), and the ubiquitous "Best of List." (more on BoL in a minute).
It's simply lazy journalism to just rehash the past year, every December. If the cut and paste function were disabled from all newsroom computers, I doubt these issues would look the same. Come to think of it, I would love it if a magazine gave me the option to opt out of the end of the year issue and have an extra month added to my subscription.

OK, so here's my problem with Best of Lists. Almost no one is going to be honest and tell you what they really liked. Sure they may sneak in a handful of true picks, but then there is also this need to pack the list with too-cool-for-school trendy indie releases that no one really likes, but go a long way in building up street cred. If Radiohead, Interpol, Iron & Wine or Cat Power put out an album it's going to make the list, regardless of how good it may actually be (and I know these bands occasionally make list-worthy records, but come on... every release?).

That being said, I was asked by an editor the other day to put together my Best of List for 2007. And I am willing to defend each and every record on this list. Please note the absence of Radiohead and Iron & Wine, both of whom had releases in 2007. You can, however, probably find them on lists by Paste magazine or Pitchfork.

Sean Na Na – Family Trees Or: Cope We Must (Dim Mak)
With his latest, Sean Tillmann (aka Sean Na Na) turns in a stellar collection of indie pop. He has a remarkable knack for taking the most inane topics - like getting friends to visit when it’s cold outside (“We’ve Been Here Before”) – and turning them into Dylan-worthy works of poetry. A nearly flawless effort from start to finish.

Motion City Soundtrack – Even if it Kills Me (Epitaph)
On their third record, Motion City Soundtrack delivers it’s most mature and accomplished effort to date. Produced by Ric Ocasek and the duo of Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) and Eli Janney (Girls Against Boys), the album still feels comfortable enough to appease longtime fans, but is experimental enough to win over any remaining holdouts.

Bruce Springsteen – Magic (Columbia)
Eleven new songs by New Jersey’s favorite son, backed by the E Street band. Enough said.

Joe Henry – Civilians (Anti-)
On his first record in almost half a decade, singer-songwriter Joe Henry turns in the best record of his career (and that’s saying a lot). With smart lyrics that are matched perfectly with his brilliant arrangements, Henry has set the bar extremely high for his next effort.

500 Miles to Memphis – Sunshine in a Shotglass (Deep Elm)
Best described as country punk, the debut from Cincinnati’s 500 Miles to Memphis is a solid take on the genre, showcasing a band that could hold its own against groups like Lucero or The Drive By Truckers. The band blends the noise and energy of Social Distortion with the songwriting of one of the Highway Men. Think distorted power chords with plenty of lap steel guitar.

Against Me! – New Wave (Sire)
Call them sell outs for jumping to a major label (many have), but Florida’s best punk band has turned in a fantastic collection of conscious-raising, fist-pumping rock tunes. With an album this great, I only wish they had sold out years ago.

Chris Trapper – Hey You (Starlit)

On his third solo disc, former Push Stars front man Chris Trapper roots his songs in a strong pop foundation, but experiments more than ever before, bringing in steel guitars, accordions, whistles and horns. The result is just as strong as anything Trapper has turned in before and likely to impress anyone who has ever owned a Cheap Trick or Big Star record.

Limbeck – Limbeck (Doghouse)
On their third full length release, Limbeck have started adding in some sharper pop hooks to their already stellar take on Americana rock. Falling somewhere between Wilco and The Format, it’s almost inconceivable that this band is not selling out venues on every stop of every tour. No need to wait around for the next Old 97’s record, just get a copy of Limbeck’s latest.

Chuck Regan – Los Feliz (SideOne Dummy)
When Hot Water Music broke up last year, three/fourths of the band went on to form The Draft, while front man Chuck Regan decided to go it alone and turn in two remarkable acoustic solo efforts in the span of just a few months. It’s tough to decide which was better, but I’m going with the live effort, “Los Feliz.” With the passion of a Springsteen show, Regan tears through a dozen Billy Bragg-esque folk rockers.

Everybody Else – Everybody Else (The Militia Group)
In the vein of bands like Squeeze and The Kinks, Everybody Else writes smart, sing-along pop songs with choruses that stick with you for days. On their self-titled debut, the band bounces through a dozen tracks, each nearly as good as the last. With a strong grasp of pop music history, they still manage to put their own sound to the music.