Posted by: on September 25, 2008 at 8:00 am

By Paul Serilla

Today, the world gets its first look at a product that some people who probably know little about “business” or “music” are calling, ahem, the “SAVIOR OF THE MUSIC BUSINESS” (dun-dun-du-dah!).

But in case you haven’t heard, we’ll fill you in: MySpace, partnering with Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group, is launching MySpace Music: an iTunes-esque music service that will offer DRM-free downloads, ringtones, concert tickets, t-shirts and other merchandise for us all to lap up with saliva-dripping tongues. And yes, that MySpace — the Fox/News Corp.-owned social networking phenom that is ironically part of the same Interweb that was, until recently, seen as only stabbing the music industry repeatedly in the face.

What MySpace is purporting to offer may sound familiar to users who frequent similarly minded services like Pandora, Last.FM, and subscription services like Rhapsody, but it also could end up being a fair step beyond those services in the evolution of music supported by advertising.

MySpace is, of course, already a big deal in popular music. To date, they have something in the neighborhood of 600,000 artists signed up, giving the tens-of-millions of MySpace users …Continue Reading >>

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Posted by: on September 24, 2008 at 10:00 am

Tindersticks, The Hungry Saw (Constellation Records, 2008)

MP3: “Yesterday Tomorrows”

The title sounds like it could be a children’s album, and with song names like “Come Feel the Sun” and “Boobar Come Back To Me,” it would be an understandable mistake. But unless your kid wears a smoking jacket, requests Albert Camus essays for bedtime stories and casually throws around phrases like, “This wine has the perfect blend of oaky notes and fruit tones,” The Hungry Saw is probably not for them. Led by the unmistakable gravelly baritone of Stuart Staples, Tindersticks have been making exquisitely dark orchestral pop for the last 17 years or so. In 2005 it looked like it might be curtains for the group, but the band tentatively regrouped last year and The Hungry Saw was born. Their first album in five years marks a resounding return to form. Recorded in Staples’ own exquisite home recording studio in France, the hallmarks that begat a rabidly devoted fan base back in the early 90’s are all present: slowly building, dramatic song structure, gorgeously haunting string arrangements, delicately sustained piano, playful experimentation, and wrenching tales of love and loss, good and evil. “Sometimes I wonder about the turns we took to get here,” Staples croons on the album’s closer, but it’s clear that whatever turns were taken to get to The Hungry Saw, Tindersticks have been led right back to where they needed to be. — Laura Witkowski

Posted by: on September 23, 2008 at 10:00 am

Mason Proper, Olly Oxen Free (Dovecote Records, 2008)

MP3: “Lock and Key”

If there was ever a tactful way to tell someone to “shove it,” Mason Proper has figured it out: with smarmy lyrics over a crisp guitar and dissonant piano. Said shoving all happens three songs in, on the killer “Lock and Key” — just one of the many standouts on Olly Oxen Free, the Ann Arbor quartet’s second full-length effort. Elsewhere, singer/contortionist Jonathan Visger’s morbid fascination with disassembling body parts is as rabid as ever, and tracks like “Out Dragging the River” (re: “Friendship” from the Shorthand EP) show his freaky lyrics continuing to leave a lot to the imagination. Throughout Olly Oxen Free, Visger and the rest of the Mason Proper boys get their freak on — going from a light sprinkle to a downpour to a monsoon and back again within the same song. But instead of going off the deep end, they get the weird out in more subtle ways, choosing not to let their inherent creepiness overshadow their knack for writing catchy tunes — other key tracks “Point A to Point B” and “Only a Moment” amongst them. Indeed, just as “when all else fails, get crazy” seemed an occasional go-to move on 2007’s There Is a Moth In Your Chest, the arrangements are scaled-back this time around, revealing a finely chiseled sculpture that is sure to become a permanent fixture on the Mitten’s indie-rock mantle. So compare all you like — yeah, you’ll hear some Radiohead, some Pixies, hell, maybe a little Grandaddy or even a less wacky version of the Dismemberment Plan. Regardless, Olly Oxen Free is a big, meaty, and, at times, tactfully restrained effort from one of Michigan’s most underrated, and perhaps best, bands.  — Elle Sawa

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Posted by: on September 22, 2008 at 10:00 am

Friendly Foes, Born Radical (Gangplank Records, 2008)

MP3: “Couch Surfing”

Friendly Foes’ Born Radical is the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time. From “Full Moon Morning”‘s regal blasts of brass and fuzz guitar to the triumphant seizure and short piano chord at the end of “Rush the Land,” the thirteen tracks on Born Radical are the pinnacle of the Friendly Foes’ one year as recording artists. Ryan Allen, Liz Wittman, and Brad Elliott were never more fearless and unified in their pursuit of magic and transcendence.

Issued in America on September 26, 2008, Born Radical is also rock’s ultimate declaration of change. “We were fed up with being Friendly Foes,” Allen said later, in I’m A Total Asshole, Dude McBookwriter’s Allen biography. “We were not boys and girls, we were men and women…artists rather than performers.”

At the same time, Born Radical formally ushered in an unforgettable season of hope, upheaval and achievement: the early 2000s and, in particular, 2008’s Summer of Drinking Alot. In its iridescent instrumentation, lyric fantasias and eye-popping packaging, Born Radical defined the opulent revolutionary optimism of psychedelia and instantly spread the gospel of love, acid, Eastern spirituality and electric guitars around the globe. No other pop record of that era, or since, has had such an immediate, titanic impact. This music documents the world’s biggest rock band at the very height of its influence and ambition. “It was a peak,” Elliott confirmed in his 2008 interview with himself in a mirror, describing both the album and his collaborative relationship with Allen and Wittman. “Ryan, Lizzie, and I definitely were working together,” Elliott said, and Born Radical is rich with proof: Elliott’s burst of whip-lash drums in Wittman’s “Get Ripped” is simply astounding; Wittman’s impish rejoinder to Allen’s bridge in “Couch Surfing” (“ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba…”) sounds kind of like sheep.

Born Radical is our grandest endeavor,” Wittman said. “The greatest thing about the band was that whoever had the best idea — it didn’t matter who — that was the one we’d use. No one was standing on their ego, saying, ‘Well, it’s mine,’ and getting possessive.” It was Dave Feeny, the Foes’ producer, who suggested they they add pedal steel to “Epic Jamb”, just before the grand finale of the album’s longest song.

Born Radical is not the Number One album of nothing in particular just because of its firsts — it is simply the best of everything Friendly Foes ever did as musicians, pioneers and pop stars, all in one place. A non-existent 2008 print ad for the album declared, “Remember Born Radical Is Friendly Foes.” As Allen put it, the album was “just us doing a good show.”

The show goes on forever. (LOL/ROLF/JOKES)

Friendly Foes’ CD Release Show w/ Copper Thieves & Big Mess • 9/26/08 • Berkley Front

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Posted by: on September 18, 2008 at 2:22 pm

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Can’t you just see someone attempting this at one of the many events this weekend? In fact, we want it to happen – a full breakdown of the social network system that occurs when you actually speak with a Facebook friend in person. Witness the shitstorm when we try and live-Twitter your ass at the DIY Street Fair. We’re talking to you Andrew Hecker.

— Harry Caul

Posted by: on September 17, 2008 at 12:00 pm

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Posted by: on September 17, 2008 at 10:48 am

Unless you’ve been sequestered at summer camp, you know that Detroit bands have put out some stellar records of late. For those of us in Washtenaw County, it’s sweet to see Ann Arbor keeping pace.

“I’ve been here seventeen years and what’s been going on just in the last two years is the real thing.” So says recording engineer Jim Roll about the current state of music west of I-275. And we’re not going to argue. From his Ann Arbor-based studio, Roll has had a front-row seat, recording many of the best local releases over the past year. Several more are on deck for the fall. His studio is booked solid for months purely on word of mouth, mutual interest and a crop of record-ready acts. “I think I would go nuts if I had to record bad bands, but I’ve just got one after another coming through that are …Continue Reading >>

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Posted by: on September 16, 2008 at 3:46 pm

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Posted by: on September 16, 2008 at 11:14 am

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Posted by: on September 16, 2008 at 10:00 am

Calexico, Carried To Dust (Quarterstick, 2008)

MP3: “Two Silver Trees”

When a band is said to have “defined their sound,” this is usually a public relations savvy way of saying they’ve hit a plateau and gotten boring. But on Carried To Dust, Calexico take the lessons learned from their 2006 effort Garden Ruin –- considered a more straightforward rock record (or as straightforward rock as Calexico can be) –- and build on those strengths while circling back and returning to form. The results, though more subtle in their delivery of beauty and complexity –- are certainly not boring. Rather, this time around Joey Burns and John Convertino might find they’ve pleased both those who lamented the change of pace offered by Garden Ruin, and those who welcomed the growth in scope. The Southwestern roots on which Calexico has built its sound have been strengthened by touring, collaborating and most importantly, seeking out and experiencing music from all over the world. Stylistically they’ve never sounded so melded, yet Carried To Dust is a story of adventure and spontaneity. A genre Calexico hasn’t exhausted just yet. — Laura Witkowski

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