Monday, December 22, 2008

Best Of 2008

As the holidays close in, the Daily Vault is proud to present our annual cavalcade of Best Of 2008 columns, this year featuring entries from six writers (and counting...). Jeff Clutterbuck, Melanie Love, Sean McCarthy, Kenny S. McGuane, Mark Millan and yours truly have all chipped in to highlight the highlights from Bon Iver to Bruce Springsteen, Neil Diamond to Nine Inch Nails, The Hold Steady to Nick Cave and those Bad Seeds of his. Even Guns N' Roses merited a mention -- but then, these aren't exactly your conventional awards we're handing out here...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pearl Jam revisits Ten

Pearl Jam fans (e.g. our own DV alumnus Benjamin Ray) will be laughing that it took me a week to catch up to this news, but hey, better late than never. And the news, as reported in this MSNBC article, is big. In this reissue-crazy era, it may not exactly rate screaming headlines when Pearl Jam decides to rerelease their milestone 1991 debut disc Ten. But how about when they reissue it with both a digitally remastered mix of the original album plus a complete stem-to-stern remix of the same album by Brendan O'Brien, the producer who made his name helming the band's subsequent four albums? Plus six unreleased tracks from the Ten era?

Getting warmer?

Then how about the “Legacy” edition, which adds a DVD of Pearl Jam’s previously unreleased 1992 performance on MTV Unplugged?

Careful now, try not to drool.

Oh, and then there's the "Super Deluxe Edition," whose name screams "rip-off," but which contains the Legacy package plus vinyl, plus beautiful and unique packaging, plus -- don't let us forget this part -- the virtual Holy Grail of Pearl Jam fandom. In 1990, Vedder and future bandmates Stone Gossard, Mike McCready and Jeff Ament traded tapes, creating a legendary cassette demo that led to Vedder joining the band. Scratchy bootlegs of the demo tape have circulated for years; the deluxe edition of Ten will include "a crystal-clear dub of the tape on a replica cassette." Yowza. The reissue drops March 24; pre-order now at pearljam.com.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Darius Rucker crosses over

It seems like you read maybe once a week about a country artist crossing over to the pop charts. What happens less often than, say, a Jimmy Buffett album that sounds like he means it, is a pop artist crossing over to scale the country charts. What happens, well, pretty much never, is an African American pop artist scoring a #1 country hit -- which is exactly what Hootie & The Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker did this past September. This Washington Post article explains how the lead singer for one-album wonders / best-selling bar band Hootie made the transition to country music and how surprisingly well that transition has gone.

Friday, December 12, 2008

New Depeche Mode album coming in 2009

Electro-pop forefathers Depeche Mode have completed their frequently rumored new album and are preparing it for a spring 2009 release, coinciding with the band's planned world tour. Lead vocalist Dave Gahan describes the album in the LA Times' Pop & Hiss blog as "a great record" that will have 12 tracks with an outward-looking feel, and will feature tons of vintage analog equipment courtesy of inveterate eBay shopper and bandmate Martin Gore.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Satriani v. Coldplay: the YouTube case

Among the many interesting effects of the Net 2.0 environment, add this -- it just got that much harder to defend yourself from a plagiarism suit.

Sure, I read about Joe Satriani suing Coldplay, saying the 2008 Coldplay song "Viva La Vida" copied the melody and chord progression from Satriani's 2004 composition "If I Could Fly." But let's face it, there are only so many melodies and chord combinations in the world and similarities are bound to crop up. My attitude toward this sort of thing is that the plagiarism has to be pretty blatant to justify a public accusation and lawsuit.

Then I came across the YouTube clip embedded below, which first plays clips from the two songs back to back, and then plays a mash-up of the two songs together -- and after watching it, all I could think was "Dude, get out the checkbook."



It's of course possible or even probable that this was purely unintentional, as George Harrison claimed in the infamous "My Sweet Lord"/"He's So Fine" case, but the result should be the same, i.e. the original songwriter is compensated.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rage Against The Machine rage against Guantanamo

It turns out the musical riddle "what do Sesame Street and Rage Against The Machine have in common" actually DOES have an answer -- the music of both has been used as a form of psychological torture on prisoners held at the U.S. interrogation facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And now at least some of the parties whose music has been used as the aural equivalent of thumbscrews are objecting.

RATM guitarist Tom Morello, for one, is outraged by the practice and has been outspoken in criticizing it from the stage in recent concert appearances. Sesame Street composer Christopher Cerf is quoted as saying “I wouldn’t want my music to be a party to that.” But not everyone objects; bassist Stevie Benton from Drowning Pool, whose track "Bodies" is a favorite tool of Guantanamo iterrogators, says “I take it as an honor to think that perhaps our song could be used to quell another 9/11 attack."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Langerado Festival announces lineup including Death Cab, Snoop, Ryan Adams, Thievery Corp.

The Langerado Music Festival -- held for the first time this year at Bicentennial Park on Biscayne Bay in Miami -- is back for a seventh year. This morning festival organizers announced an initial artist lineup for the March 6-8, 2009 event that's enough to make any festival-fancier drool. Try: Death Cab For Cutie, Snoop Dogg, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, Thievery Corporation, Slightly Stoopid, Dashboard Confessional, Flogging Molly, Gym Class Heroes, Mute Math, Black Kids, The Pogues, Matisyahu, The Disco Biscuits, Umphrey's McGee, Robert Randolph and The Family Band, Michael Franti and Spearhead. Artists will perform on multiple stages throughout the three-day event and more artists are still to be announced. Tickets go on sale this Friday December 12th at 12pm EST, with no additional service charges when you purchase through the Langerado Web site.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Vault's December retrospective: John Lennon

Singer. Songwriter. Bandmate. Celebrity. Activist. Artist. Husband and father. These are just a few of the most public roles played by one of the most important musical – and arguably, societal – figures of his generation, John Lennon.

As a founding member, co-chief songwriter and co-lead vocalist of the most important and influential band in the history of popular music, Lennon’s musical legacy would have been secure if he had never played another note after the Beatles broke up in 1970. But he did, creating a complex, at times uneven, but never dull body of solo work that includes some of the most indelible songs and performances of the era.

It was always just a matter of time before his turn came up to be the Daily Vault’s Artist Of The Month, and so we’re proud to announce that our December 2008 retrospective with feature the music and words of John Lennon. This December the Daily Vault celebrates the musical legacy of one of the era's greatest songwriters with reviews of 11 Lennon solo albums and collections in a retrospective that begins Friday, December 5 and runs every weekday through Friday, December 19. The majority of these reviews will be appearing on the Vault for the first time. Enjoy, and imagine...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The box sets are coming! The box sets are coming!

'Tis the season for overspending, and the desperate-for-your-cash music industry is cranking out the box sets in hopes of enticing a few more of your dollars our of your wallet. That would be the cynic's way of viewing the cornucopia of new holiday-season box set releases, at least. For the innocent, acquisitive music-lover (and most of us have one hiding under our world-weary, cynical shell, c'mon, admit it), it's a bonanza of new purchasing opportunities.

We won't try to run down the full list here, since USA Today has already kindly done so and done so quite well, thank you. But here's just a few names and genres to whet your appetite: Chuck Berry, Black Sabbath, Cheap Trick, Genesis, Grateful Dead, heavy metal, Robyn Hitchcock, Jesus & Mary Chain, KISS, Minnesota acts, Nada Surf, Roy Orbison, Phish, Elvis Presley, Rare Earth, Sevendust, The Coasters, White Zombie, Frank Zappa. And that's just the Rock section... then you get to R&B/Jazz/Blues/Gospel/Reggae, and Country/Folk/Roots, and Spoken Word/Theater/Classical... whew. Look at it this way -- you may not need to go to Target after all.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Video games boosting music sales?

In the latest evolutionary cycle of the now nearly unrecognizable "music industry," video games have become a sort of booster rocket for music sales. In a recent post, New York Times Freakonomics guest blogger David Edery -- also a manager for Xbox Live Arcade -- notes that Rock Band and Guitar Hero have generated millions in catalog sales for bands like Aerosmith and The Who, and even gave a noticeable bump to sales of Motley Crue's recent single "Saints Of Los Angeles."

The question still to be explored is, does this effect extend beyond further lining the pockets of the already successful and famous? Does a placement on Rock Band help your unknown indie band? The jury is still out, and the chances of a big video game employing nothing but undiscovered acts continues to waver somewhere around zero. That makes those lesser-known acts who do manage to get into the video game mix alongside veteran million-selling acts something akin to lottery winners.