Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Download Squad praises Uvumi

Erez Zukerman of the Download Squad posted a very cool and thoughtful article on Uvumi today. He also interviewed Marshall, Uvumi's founder and lead developer, so check it out!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Young the Giant announce national tour



I used to listen to Young the Giant nonstop way back when they were called The Jakes, because their song "Schizophrenia" was in my writing playlist. They recently announced a new tour (with Minus the Bear), and you should go to one of their shows if you can because their music is fantastic. Here's what they had to say in their press release:

"We are currently in the studio in Los Angeles working on our debut record.  To follow our progress in the studio check out our twitter page for photo updates (@youngthegiant).  We can't wait to get on the road and play some new songs! Hope to see you all this spring!"

Dates:
Apr 25 St. Andrews Hall - Detroit, Michigan
Apr 26 Newport Music Hall - Columbus, Ohio
Apr 28 Madison Theater - Covington, Kentucky
Apr 29 Town Ballroom - Buffalo, New York
Apr 30 Webster Theater - Hartford, Connecticut
May 5   Wilbur Theatre - Boston, Massachusetts
May 6   Trocadero - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
May 7   9:30 Club - Washington, Washington DC
May 8   The National - Richmond, Virginia
May 9   The Fillmore - Charlotte, North Carolina
May 10    Variety Playhouse - Atlanta, Georgia
May 11    Revolution LIVE - Fort Lauderdale, Florida
May 12    The Ritz Theatre - Tampa, Florida
May 14    House of Blues - Houston, Texas
May 15    Granada Theatre - Dallas, Texas
May 16    La Zona Rosa - Austin, Texas
May 18    Sunshine Theatre - Albuquerque, New Mexico
May 19    House of Blues - Las Vegas, Nevada
May 20    Mayan Theatre - Los Angeles, California
May 21  Glass House - Pomona, California
May 22   SOMA - San Diego, California
May 23   Marquee Theatre - Tempe, Arizona
May 26    Regency Ballroom - San Francisco, California
May 27    Knitting Factory - Reno, Nevada
May 28    Roseland Theater - Portland, Oregon

Want to buy tickets? The band has you covered. Check out their Facebook page for more info.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wakey!Wakey! - "Twenty-Two"


Wakey!Wakey! is a Brooklyn-based quintet led by the masterful singer and pianist Mike Grubbs. Their debut album, Almost Everything I Wish I'd Said The Last Time I Saw You, was released on Feb 2. Grubbs' voice is captivating, and I absolutely love the rousing chorus in "Twenty-Two." The lush backing vocals and whistles complement the song nicely.

Wakey!Wakey! - "Twenty-Two" (listen/download)

You can also catch their next two shows if you're attending SXSW:

Sat 3/20 @ Iron Gate Lounge, 11PM (Yelp Showcase) 111 E 6th Street
Sun 3/21 @ Encore, 2PM (Obscure Magpie Two Headed Party) 611 Red River Street

More info:

@wakeywakey
Myspace
wakeywakeymusic.com

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Interview: Soar (Somerset Oh & Rhode)

This week I caught up with Ian MacCarthy from the Australian band Soar (short for Somerset Oh & Rhode). The band, composed of MacCarthy ("Experiment Rhode"), David Llewellyn ("Bright Oh") and Charles Nicholls ("Charles Somerset"), create spirited acoustic music on Second Life. They've also done some shows for charities, including autism research.



When did you start getting together and making music?  
We formed way back in 1989 and recorded our first album around then. For most of this century we have been apart because we all moved away from each other ... hundreds of miles in fact so performing music together just couldn't be done anymore. We dabbled in recording music over the convening years by sending files to each other which each one of us would then add our instruments/vocals to until a song was finished.

Then Second Life came along. Bright joined first in around 2007 and told me all about this wonderful 3D world. It took me a good year and a better computer before I was willing to "risk" Second Life. Late in 2008, after having absorbed this new world, I started to check out the music scene in SL and thought "heck our music is much better than a lot of these performers." So I approached Bright and suggested maybe we could "perform" in here. It took a bit of convincing as well as getting Charles set up in SL as well ... he'd been on the sidelines the whole time.

Eventually, after we had completely set ourselves up as a SL band and got a manager and were thoroughly rehearsed etc, we debuted in March 2009 after having written and performed a tribute song, "Too Many Tears," for the victims of the terrible bushfires in Victoria, Australia in early 2009. This song was the perfect vehicle to launch us in SL and we garnered a number of interviews including one with CNN. We performed the song on SL TV as well and even got our tribute song played on Sydney radio!

Very cool! For those who aren't familiar with it, what is Second Life? How does it help you as performers?
Second Life is a free 3D virtual world where users can socialize, connect and create using free voice and text chat. It was launched in 2006. For Soar it is the only way we can perform live because of the distances we live from one another. We had never really performed live previously so we had no idea whether we had an audience out there who would like our music. This was the easiest way for us to find out and we were amazed we had a following almost immediately.

The comments from SL residents over the last year about our music have been incredible. Other people have built (virtual) venues just so we could perform at them! We also perform regular gigs for charity - our number one charity being for autism. We even performed live to the soldiers in the Gulf last year!

My time in SL has definitely been one of the highlights of my life, as it has for Bright and Charles!

What style of music do you play?
Well, it is predominately acoustic-based and if the songs need "producing" we add drums, electric guitars, bass and keyboards. No matter what form the song is in it will always have our harmonies, courtesy of our love of The Beatles, Beach Boys, America etc. Most of our songs are usually slower ballads/love songs but once in awhile we will do more uptempo material. We have also done a few guitar Instrumentals in the style of The Shadows, Ventures etc.

Some of our songs have very Australian themes to them like "Brindabella" (which is a small range of mountains); "Cry The Lucky Country" (about how artists vs. politicians see our land); and "Camvilla" (about a pioneering family in the gold fields). The majority of all the songs we write are about love, gained and lost. We hope that we have a style that is timeless. It has worked for quite a few years already.

What's your process of writing and recording like?
Well, because of the distances between us, all our music is recorded and performed over the net. Because today's technology has come so far the quality is still very high even when we convert our recorded wave files to MP3 so we can e-mail tracks to each other. We all have home studios so the quality is fairly high to start with. When we perform in Second Life, as it's impossible to stream 3 people all at once, we pre-record all the backing tracks for our songs without the lead vocals and acoustic guitars and then Bright and Charles sing and play live over them in Second Life. This gives us a very professional sound that seems to be appreciated by most people.

When do you plan to release your CDs?
We have just finished mixing our first real CD which contains all of our earliest songs. This should be available next month (April) sometime. No title at present. It will be available in Second Life and through our website: Brightoh.com.

Following this we will dive straight into our next CD which will contain some of our more recent songs. Hopefully this will be available before September. After this there will be at least another two CDs. We have a backlog of over 70 songs in all stages of completion and we are writing new ones almost daily it seems!

Thanks for Ian for the interview! You can find more of Soar's music at BrightOh.com, ReverbNation, and Soundclick.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spotlight, SXSW 2010: Frightened Rabbit; MP3s for We Were Promised Jetpacks, Fangs

It's that time of year again: SXSW! However, rather than partying in Austin, Texas, I am stuck at home studying for a nursing test. So it goes. If you attend the festival, let me know how it goes!

But in any case, I'll be doing a few spotlights on some SXSW acts. First up is some great bands from Scotland - Frightened Rabbit, We Were Promised Jetpacks, and Fangs.



Frightened Rabbit is an indie rock band with a great sound and epic, emotional songs. I only got into the band quite recently but they've been a big name in indie music for some time. I particularly like "Swim Until You Can't See Land," and I think it sums up their sound well.

We Were Promised Jetpacks is another band who sound like they'd be phenomenal live; they have a huge sound, and I've been a fan ever since I heard "Quiet Little Voices." Fangs is an electro/new wave band with a snazzy sound and a big fan following.   

MP3s (click to listen, or right click & save as):

We Were Promised Jetpacks - "It's Thunder and It's Lightning" - download
Fangs - "Cos I Said So" (Kid Gloves remix) - download

SCOTLAND @ SXSW 2010:

March 17th: Hudson Mohawke / Frightened Rabbit / We Were Promised Jetpacks / Codeine Velvet Club / Unicorn Kid / Tommy Reilly (The Parish - 8pm - 2am)

March 19th: Broken Records / Twin Atlantic / Young Fathers / Fangs / The Law (Latitude 30° - 2pm - 5pm)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Thesixtyone users respond to site change

It's now been over a month since the complete change of thesixtyone.com's interface, and the protests have died down. Apparently people are still using the new interface, but more and more often I'm getting e-mails from listeners and artists about uvumi, bandcamp, and cherrypeel--with nary a peep about thesixtyone. That's understandable. Social features of the site are gone, and in their place are pretty pictures.

To recap. The old:



The new:

 

I gave the new site a chance again this week, when I was trying to make a playlist. I discovered, however, that any playlists I make on the "old 61" don't show up on the "new 61," and vice versa. In my two years on thesixtyone I made over a dozen playlists containing hundreds of songs, and to recreate them on the new site, I have to search for each song individually, click on it (at which point it auto-plays), and then add it to the playlist. Time-consuming much? If I can't even carry over my saved stuff from the old site, what good is the new one? Eventually, after just one 10-song playlist, I went back to work on a research paper.

But don't take it from me; take it from some long-time users of the site.

"I do not in fact believe this is a new design of the same site," said SallySilvera, the site's top user. "This is a completely different website, with a completely different concept and purpose."

"The interface is not user-friendly," said Allison, AKA squeakyfingers. "It is a very graphic-heavy site, and the way that it is set up tends to hurt my eyes, literally. The big, bright pictures tend to give me headaches (I am prone to migraines) and detract from the overall look. I also find that its very hard to discover new music there, which is what I mainly used the site for before."

"I actually tried to work with it for about half a day," said ThomasAD3, another long-time user. "Every few minutes I found something else that had been eliminated. Navigation was so frustrating as to be nearly impossible. All traces of the game had vanished, save a meaningless 'rep' number.  Radios were gone. 'Walls' had disappeared, so communicating with friends was no longer possible. In the first week I went back a few times to bump a protest song, or check to see if any of the changes had been reversed. Now I never sign in at all."

"Let me be very clear, this is a completely different site with completely different uses and goals," said mathmanmrt. "The only thing it shares with the old one is the name."

Even many artists were up in arms about the change (and the lack of answers from the site's admins). State Shirt posted on his blog about the issue. For now, some users have embraced the change, many have quietly transitioned into it, and some have gone to other music sites like uvumi.com.

“My hope for Uvumi is that it becomes a breeding ground for new talented underground artists," said squeakyfingers. "I really hope that it becomes a place where listeners and artists can meet and discuss all aspects of music. I am of the opinion that how underground artists create a fanbase and sell records is by communicating and reaching out to them. The more the artists interact with the people who listen to them, the more likely that listener will buy their CD, go to their show, or tell their friend about 'that awesome band.'"

"So far the site runners seem to share this opinion," she added. "They have been very open with all of the new users and are really trying to foster a community. I like that they care about what we as listeners and consumers think of their 'product.' They are working hard to make the site the best it can be. It has its quirks, but it is worlds easier to use than the new t61, and the site owners are appreciative of feedback and willing to listen. That is tops in my book."

As for myself? At first I missed having people leave messages on my wall, and the ability to leave artists a quick note telling them how awesome their sound is. But when those methods of communicating on thesixtyone were eliminated, I got into Twitter, where I can talk to bands and find out about new releases faster than ever.

Instead of buying credits on thesixtyone, I download music from iTunes, Amazon, or directly from the artists. Many of my group members on thesixtyone are now on Uvumi, where I can keep up with them. One month later, it seems, I'm not missing very much at all.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Portugal. The Man: new album, American Ghetto


Portugal. The Man (yep, that's how they punctuate it) just released a new album, American Ghetto, on CD, digital download, and vinyl. The band plays sultry indie rock, and their song "Sugar Cinnamon" tore up the charts on thesixtyone awhile back. It seems the band's still on a roll: they're currently on tour with Port O'Brien, and they've released a song from the new album ("The Dead Dog") as a free download. Have a listen.


                           

Thursday, March 4, 2010

OK Go - This Too Shall Pass video; The benefits of music embedding

First, here's an OK Go video that went viral practically overnight. It's for the track "This Too Shall Pass," from the album Of the Blue Colour of the Sky, and it's wildly creative, taking the idea of a Rube Goldberg machine to a whole new level.



Interestingly enough, OK Go's guitarist and lead singer, Damian Culash Jr., also published an op-ed piece in the New York Times last month. He talked about the success of the 2006 video for "Here It Goes Again" and how it put the band on the map ... and went on to mention their record label's subsequent disabling of the embedding feature for the band's videos. He concluded:
In these tight times, it’s no surprise that EMI is trying to wring revenue out of everything we make, including our videos. But it needs to recognize the basic mechanics of the Internet. Curbing the viral spread of videos isn’t benefiting the company’s bottom line, or the music it’s there to support. The sooner record companies realize this, the better — though I fear it may already be too late.
I've seen other bloggers point this out before, but Culash nails it here: video embedding helps spread the word about music. When bands go out of their way to make lovely, creative, official videos for their best songs, record labels owe it to them to allow the videos to be shared.

By the way: the band made another video for "This Too Shall Pass," just as creative and inventive as the video above (if not more), but you have to watch it here on YouTube because embedding is disabled. It also has about a third of the number of views despite being posted two months earlier. Quite the difference a little embedding feature makes, huh?

The Autumn Film: The Ship and The Sea

 

The Autumn Film's new album The Ship and the Sea is out tomorrow, and it's available for order here. I haven't had a chance to hear it yet, but I'm a huge fan of the Autumn Film and the songs I've heard already are fantastic.

Here's their video for how they made "Ships on The Ocean Floor":


Ships On The Ocean Floor from The Autumn Film on Vimeo.