Archive for January, 2011

Dear eMusic, I’m sorry, but we’re breaking up.

2011-01-29

Look, I know we’ve had a great relationship for going on five years now, and I know that we’ve both changed in that time, but after today’s visit, I’m afraid I don’t know you anymore.

It really comes down to the money.  I used to get a lot of bang for my buck with you. In fact, when I started, we’re talking songs were as low as 17 cents … based on how I purchased and paid … and there were lots of other options.

Lots of great music at cheap prices … albums as low as $3.00 and exclusive tracks that nobody else had, not to mention that there were bands that nobody else had in a digital format.

Then, as you grew, you got more expensive .. but you were still the best bargain around … even at 40 or 50 cents, you were great.  Your catalog was expanding, your exclusive tracks and impressive collections of whole discographies were amazing to me.

Then you had to big-time us.

Adding Columbia and RCA and all sorts of major labels that, quite frankly, none of us wanted.  As a bunch of introverts who would stare at our own shoes, mixed with the occasional extrovert who stared at other people’s shoes, we wanted our indie rock legal, and cheap.

We wanted Ryan Adams, not Bryan Adams.  Bruce Cockburn, not Bruce Springsteen.

The final straw, though, was switching from download credits to actual cash … I’d rather get my 30 credits at 50 cents a month than a flat out $12 dollars and 89 cent songs.

You’ve become Amazon without the selection. iTunes without the iPod. I see you heading down the same road as the download services once offered by WalMart and Sony and Napster … you went from a niche player that ruled your market to the smallest fish in your pond.

And I’m taking my tackle box and leaving.  Good luck to you.

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My Top 21 Albums of 2010

2011-01-22

#1 without a doubt and no, it wasn’t even close … my favorite album of 2010:

Two Cow Garage – Sweet Saint Me

Once again, this band blows me away by constantly and consistently upgrading the quality of their music.  2010 was a HUGE year for this band from Columbus, Ohio … from bassist Shane Sweeney discovering the joys of fatherhood to Micah Schnabel releasing a solo album (see “When The Stage Lights Go Out” below for more on that) to blowing up SXSW and leading an impromptu parade through Comfest and two tours that crossed the country, these boys were never home.  Now that the line-up is complete and they’ve been playing together for two complete albums now, Cody Smith (drums) and Andy Schell (keyboards) round out the amazing sound of the fifth full-length release from the best band you’ve probably never heard of.

Highlights: Jackson, Don’t You Worry; Sweet Saint Me; What Dying Is For; Brothers In Arms

http://www.twocowgarage.com

#2 .. only because #1 was so great:

The Madison Square Gardeners – Taste The Thunder & Tune It Up, Dime It Out

Released as two separate EP’s in 2010, the six-track “Taste The Thunder” and the five-song “Tune It Up, Dime It Out” make a terrific 43-minute trek through the greatness of this band. Aaron Tasjan’s lyrics continue to grow and I’d listen to Rich Hinman play me anything on that slide lap steel guitar he has.  They’re spending December recording new tunes and playing a residency at Rockwood 2 in New York City; and I can’t wait to hear what goodness comes out of these sessions.

Highlights: Blessing; Shoe Gaze Band; Everybody’s Girl; Cross The Line; Love’s The Only Way

http://www.facebook.com/madisonsquaregardeners

The rest of the Top 10 … in no particular order:

David Ford – Let The Hard Times Roll

My favorite troubadour is back again with thirteen more tunes that have been in heavy rotation in my iTunes/iPod since earlier this summer.  He’s had some problems with his record companies seemingly closing up shop overnight, but continues to putting on shows, working his way across America and his native UK.  The lyrics keep getting better, starting with the CD’s first song, “Making Up For Last Time” and “Nothing At All” … introspective, outlandish and socially commentary all at the same time.  It’s nice to see him continue to evolve and keep his fires burning.

Highlights: To Hell With The World; Making Up For Lost Time; Nothing At All; Hurricane

http://www.davidfordmusic.com

Semi-Precious Weapons – You Love You

I was hesitant to put this on here because it contains four previously released songs from their two independent releases, but they’re still opening for Lady Gaga, they’re still delivering the glam and the glitz and showbiz to people who either love them or hate them.  The new material is good, I really love “Leave Your Pretty To Me” … in the words of frontman Justin Tranter, “The Midwest loves a fucking power ballad.”  Same with “Look At Me” … but “Sticky With CHampagne” and “Statues of Ourselves” are just kick-ass fun tunes about living a rock-n-roll lifestyle on the glamour side of the tracks.  Subtlety is not his strength, so listener beware!

Highlights: Look At Me; Statues of Ourselves, Put A Diamond In It; Her Hair Is On Fire (2010)

http://www.semipreciousweapons.com

Mary Chapin Carpenter – The Age of Miracles

I’ve been an MCC fan going on 20 years now (thanks, neighbor who turned me on to her) and am glad she continues to make great American music that’s no longer classified as ‘country’ … it’s more folk, alt-countrish … what we now call Americana.  This 13-song collection features a lot of stripped down acoustic tracks that let her voice, and her lyrics, shine.

Highlights: I Have A Need For Solitude; We Traveled So Far; The Way I Feel; Zephyr

http://www.myspace.com/marychapincarpenter

Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

It’s not as great as their first release, “The ’59 Sound” … but it still has been rocking my world. They’re so throwback to when all you needed was three verses, a bridge, a catchy chorus and a great hook and riff. This album brings all that.  From the title track to “The Queen of Lower CHelsea” to “Old Haunts” …. there are tracks here that will stay with me my whole life.  “I called for my father but my my father had died. And you told me fortunes in American slang.”  … fucking genius.

Highlights: American Slang; We Did it When We Were Young; Queen of Lower Chelsea; Boxer

http://www.gaslightanthem.com/

Chumbawamba – ABCDEFG

Say what you will about how tired you got of “Tubthumping” … you still sing it.  That was really NOTHING like the band is about (as the disappointing album sales to folks who love/loved that song show). I’ve played songs of this CD for people and they all say the same thing … “I like this, who is it?” followed by “Really? I never would have guessed that.”  They’re really rather mellow and fun to listen to. This album includes such fun songs as “Torturing James Hetfield” by forcing him to listen to their greatest hits album (to which Hetfield sings along); “Dance, Idiot Dance” and “The Same So-So Tune” … none of which have any resemblance to “Tubthumping” …

Highlights: Torturing James Hetfield; Dance, Idiot, Dance; Singing Out The Days; Missed

Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer

I had no real desire to listen to this CD … a friend asked me if it was on my pirate sites … so I broke all sorts of international copyright laws and downloaded it for her.  After I delivered said pirate CD she asked if I had listened to it .. I said “No, I’m not a fan of Gnarls Barkley.”  She gave me the STFU look and said, “You really need to listen to this.”    So I did.

And then I decided that Cee Lo Green was the love child from an orgy of The Temptations, Gladys Night, Aretha Franklin, all the original members of Chicago, Earth Wind and Fire, and several members of the Pips.  It’s all sorts of 70’s soul and the Motown sound mashed up with all that’s good about today’s rap/R&B that doesn’t involve autotune.

Yeah, I was floored.

Highlights: Fuck You; Satisfied; I want You; Fool For You; Wildflower

Victoria Vox – Exact Change

Step by step, left right left, this CD just hooked me with the multitude of hooks in songs, choruses, bridges and verses in a way that no other album did in 2010.  Victoria’s approach to songs, songwriting, singing and performance blew me away when I saw her in Columbus. She’s a blast to watch live for both the ukulele and mouth trumpet.  She love you. And she sings songs in French.  Without surrendering to invading German armies.

Highlights: Oh I Wonder; Technicolor Way; Make  A Mess; Shake It Up; Shake It Up

http://victoriavox.com/

Patrick Park – Come What Will

I don’t know how or where this CD came into my collection … all I know is it really blasted me out of some unhappy mindframes to some happy mindframes.  That’s what I love about music .. that ability to transform my mood from shitty to perfect with just a guitar and some words.  “You Were Always The One” is my song of the year for 2010 … because … well … yeah … it so fits my life and makes me smile. Because I found my one. And lost her. And found her again. So yeah … when he sings this, I get it:

“Now mistakes it’s true I’ve made more than a few
and I’m goin to make many others
And it’s hard to see why we go through this sometimes
All the things that we do to each other
And I don’t understand while I play these games and I trade the truth for lies
Cuz you’re always the one I was looking for babe, it just took time to realize”

Highlights: You Were Always The One; You’ll Get Over; Silence and Storm; Starry Night

http://www.myspace.com/patrickpark

Bonus CD:  Emma Pollock – The Law of Large Numbers.

She’s Scottish. She writes killer lyrics. She sings like she’s chasing Satan back to hell to take over. She doesn’t give a shit what you think.  I wanna have her babies. That’s why she gets the Bonus CD

Highlights: I Could Be A Saint; Letters To Strangers; House On The Hill; Hug The Piano

The Next Ten:

Doug Keith – The Lucky Ones

Dar Williams – Many Great Companions

Bookmobile – The New Patriot

British India – Avalanche

Ed Kowalczyk – Alive

Steven Page – Page One

Spoon – Transference

The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever

Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown

Lady Antebellum – Need You Now