Author Archives: Time Lord
I am pleased to report that the new Sloan LP is completely awesome.
In advance of my full review, I just had to share with you all one of my favorite tracks on the album.
So hard to decide such things, but as always I am a super-huge fan of anything Chris Murphy contributes to the band.
Here he is again at his finest, with a killer riff and thoughtful lyrics: “You Don’t Need Excuses to Be Good” — from Sloan’s Commonwealth.
Play it loud … for the sake of the kids!
U2’s new album? You can’t even give it away.
Chris Richards is offended:
On Tuesday afternoon, U2’s new album was just there, waiting for you. Like an Ikea catalogue. Or a jury summons. Or streptococcus. The latest inescapable unpleasantry for anyone who’s chosen to participate in our great digital society — more specifically, the 500 million human beings on this planet who use iTunes.
As for the album itself, it’s called “Songs of Innocence,” perhaps to suggest that U2 is abandoning a swaddled orphan on your doorstep, not an intrusive cluster of idea-starved rock songs. Yeah, okay, this might be the largest album release in history. It’s also rock-and-roll as dystopian junk mail.
In this brave new farrago of medium and message, U2 seem to have transmitted all of rock-and-roll’s misguided egotism into one ridiculous statement: Our music is technically worthless and everyone in the world should hear it. That’s what this band is “all about,” and Apple is happy to do its part, making you the owner of these songs without asking your permission. Which is disgusting.
Well, I don’t know how dystopian this event is. Giving away free stuff: isn’t that just a promotional stunt, calculated to generate PR to sell more stuff?
U2 and Universal Music Group will face some hurdles due to disgruntled retailers. Sources say Target has a policy of not carrying any title that was first released to digital retail. Target refused to initially carry Beyonce’s self-titled album following her surprise iTunes exclusive, and Amazon withheld the usual prime page placement. To entice retailers, Universal is offering four tracks that iTunes will not have until November, according to sources. Some retailers could walk away with more tracks, as sources say Universal has three additional tracks for select retailers.
The awareness surrounding the Apple giveaway and related advertising efforts could be a financial boon to U2’s catalog. As such, Universal is said to be planning the most aggressive catalog program it has ever executed for U2. The band’s catalog has already been sale-priced at iTunes and is promoted as “limited-time pricing” on the iTunes Music Store home page.
Keith Emerson is your DJ…
“Stranded” is the first release from Dave Kerzner, former member of the progressive rock band Sound of Contact and co-writer/producer of “Dimensionaut”. The song is a 5-part “rock opera” that starts off Dave’s forthcoming concept album called “New World” (Expected to be released in October through his independent RecPlay label). It features special guests Steve Hackett (Genesis) and Fernando Perdomo on guitars, Durga McBroom (Pink Floyd, Jason Scheff (Chicago) and Ana Cristina on backing vocals, Nick D’Virgilio (Tears for Fears, Genesis) on drums with Dave Kerzner on lead vocals and keys. The song was mixed by Tom Lord-Alge and mastered at Lurssen Mastering.
All lyrics and music by Dave Kerzner. Lyric video created by Christine Leakey. Produced by Dave Kerzner.
“Stranded” is now available as a single on iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/stranded-single/id916951355?ls=1 , Amazon, Google Play and other download sites. The full-length album version, instrumental mix and more is available as a downloadable “single/EP” in mp3 and FLAC from Dave’s Sonic Elements Bandcamp:https://sonicelements.bandcamp.com/
Sloan goes prog on their new album, Commonwealth, with “Forty-Eight Portraits” clocking in at 17:49 — to take up the entire fourth side of the double LP space!
The record company has the details:
The 15- song collection sees Sloan creating one of the most unique and ambitious recordings of their two-decade-plus career.
The Toronto-based rock quartet is perhaps the most truly democratic group in the annals of pop, with Jay Ferguson, Chris Murphy, Patrick Pentland, and Andrew Scott all contributing original compositions to each record, equal partners with equal say over every aspect of their work. Where in the past creative lines have been blurred to create the multi-faceted Sloan sound, Commonwealth sees the four bandmates disassociating ever so slightly to create an old-school double album sequenced with each member staking out a single side as their own artistic dominion.
Designated by the four playing card suits, the essentially solo sides allow for all four members’ work to at last be heard through the prism of individual identity. Ferguson’s opening “Diamond” side showcases his remarkable knack for symphonic pop, Pentland’s “Shamrock” offers a substantial helping of pedal-hoppin’ psych rock, and Murphy’s “Heart” is fit to burst with wit, jangle, and eclectic energy. As if the four-sided concept weren’t challenge enough, Commonwealth finishes with “Forty Eight Portraits,” an ingenious 18-minute pop suite that fills the entirely of Scott’s closing “Spade” side. Ultimately, what makes Commonwealth so special – and so distinctly Sloan – is how the fragmented approach in fact only serves to underscore the veteran band’s extraordinary strengths, showcasing the particular ingredients without ever losing sight of the sum of their parts.
Song cycles and concept-driven albums are nothing new to Sloan. Over the course of 10 albums and more than 30 singles – not to mention multiple EPs, hits and rarities collections, live albums and official bootlegs released, like all the band’s work, on their own independent label, Murderecords – the band has tackled countless creative conceits while ever forwarding a sonic palette that blends pure pop and radio rock into what is now a truly trademark sound, all big melodies and power hooks, cheeky charm and tearjerking introspection, rich harmonies and idiosyncratic personality.
Commonwealth follows 2011’s The Double Cross, which earned Sloan some of the most glowing notices of their acclaimed career. “(Sloan’s) impeccable power pop has often felt like the apotheosis of the genre,” wrote SPIN. “The hooks and harmonies rarely disappoint.” “An unapologetic celebration of Sloandom,” praised AV Club, “and a safe place for those who believe good dual-guitar breaks are the reason why we’re here on Earth.” Pitchfork summed it up best: “20 years in, they’ve made one of their best albums…That (Sloan) sound this creatively fresh this deep into their career is a real treat for people who’ve stuck with them through the years. If you’ve never given them a chance before, this is a great time to get to know them.”
Diamond Side (Jay):
1) We’ve Come This Far
2) You’ve Got A Lot On Your Mind
3) Three Sisters
5) Neither Here Nor There
Heart Side (Chris):
6) Carried Away
7) So Far So Good
8) Get Out
9) Misty’s Beside Herself
10) You Don’t Need Excuses To Be Good
Shamrock Side (Patrick):
11) 13 (Under A Bad Sign)
12) Take It Easy
13) What’s Inside
14) Keep Swinging (Downtown)
Spade Side (Andrew):
15) Forty-Eight Portraits
“Stop what you’re doing” …
… and watch Jack White performing “The Same Boy You’ve Always Known” and “Entitlement” at Château de Fontainebleau!
Or are you “sick of being told what to do”?
Hmmm, well, “Entitlement” beings at 4:33 …
Six straight songs and then, just as we are relaxing, the stage transforms, and the drama begins: a multi-sensory performance of “The Ninth Wave”, the suite of songs that forms side two of The Hounds of Love (1985). There’s Kate on screen in a life jacket, apparently slipping away from us, singing “And Dream of Sheep”, one of her most beautiful songs.
I should probably write this somewhere more formal – my will, perhaps – but in case I forget, let me say here that I would be happy for you to play this song at my funeral. I weep as she sings it, partly because I’m imagining my own funeral, but also because we are witnessing a struggle between life and death, where a drowning woman yearns to be saved, to return to her beloved family. “Let me live!” she cries a few songs later. Overwhelming and exhilarating as they are, all the special effects – Kate in a tank, a helicopter search beam strafing the audience – are in the service of the songs and the story.
Why is it so moving? Well, because when finally she is brought back it is not just the fictional heroine, but Kate herself who has survived the years, and those cold seas, and returned to us. The two strands, family love and audience love, intertwine as she shows us how both mean so much to her. “D’you know what?/I love you better now,” she sings, as the first half ends and we wipe our tears.
Part two is calmer, more reflective, consisting of one side of the recent album Aerial (2005). Reprieved from death, she now revels in the simple, sensuous pleasures of life. Birdsong on a summer afternoon. The setting of the sun and the rising of the moon. In more conventional hands this could be merely decorous and pastoral, even a little twee, but somehow she has found a way to transform contentment into euphoria. The mood is hypnotic, rhythmic and trancey, and the stage dazzles with images of light and flight; less genteel garden party, more full-on midsummer rave, it could be the ultimate blissed-out headliner of a blistering, sunny Glastonbury.
And her singing voice, which I so worried about? It is a thing of wonder, any youthful shrillness replaced by a richer, occasionally gravelly tone, and with a full-throated power unbelievable in someone who has so rarely sung live. All I can think is that she must have been practising, on her own in a barn somewhere, for the past 35 years. Practising, planning, waiting for all the stars to align – her own desire, the cast of collaborators, the right time and place – in order for this to happen. And it is an ecstatic triumph, a truly extraordinary achievement.
Steve Howe has revealed in a radio interview that Yes wasn’t getting what it needed from Roy Thomas Baker on the production of Heaven and Earth, so they had to turn to Billy Sherwood, who left his stamp especially on the vocal mix:
“We got into it, and it was OK,” Howe tells WMGK‘s Ray Koob. “You know, every producer’s got a certain style. Roy’s method was pretty much about the sound. It wasn’t so much about the construction of the songs, like Trevor [Horn, producer of 2011's Fly From Here], who worked very hard on that. So, Roy kind of let us do most of the music, and twiddled with a lot of knobs. But, I tell you, in the end we really did have to bring it back to Yes Central — because, in a way, I don’t think he was as familiar with our mixing style as say Billy Sherwood, who ended up doing that for us. Well, we did it with him; it was a collaboration. So, we had to kind of pull it back to Yes Central. It was all fair in love and war.”
When I saw Steve after the show in Vancouver, he remarked about his good memories of Vancouver because that was where The Ladder was recorded. Steve is really happy with the sound of The Ladder because of its unique “flavor.”
I think Jon Davison is fantastic and I have come to like Heaven and Earth very much, despite what initially struck me as weird about it — namely, the production! — and this news makes me wonder what the album could have been if Sherwood and not Baker had been involved for the entire process.
I hope they do another album with Davison soon, and with the right producer this time.
Kate Bush’s concert series this year has kicked off a remarkable return to the charts for her. She is now the first female artist ever to have 8 albums in the Top 40. And all of her albums are currently in the Top 50:
Her achievement is only bettered by Elvis Presley, who took 12 places after his death in 1977, and the Beatles, who scored 11 on their remaster releases in 2009.
Bush’s first chart record came when debut single Wuthering Heights made her the first female artist to reach No.1 with a self-written song. Now her 1986 record The Whole Story has made No.6 while Hounds Of Love, from the previous year, has reached No.9. Further titles are placed at 20, 24, 26, 37, 38 and 40, with three more at 43, 44, and 49. That means her entire back-catalogue is in the top 50.
Kate Bush album chart placings
No. 6: The Whole Story (1986)
No. 9: Hounds Of Love (1985)
No. 20: 50 Words For Snow (2011)
No 24: The Kick Inside (1978)
No. 26: The Sensual World (1989)
No 37: The Dreaming (1982)
No. 38: Never For Ever (1980)
No. 40: Lionheart (1978)
No. 43: Aerial (2005)
No. 44: Director’s Cut (2011)
No. 49: The Red Shoes (1993)
If the future is streaming, what place is there in the future for the self-contained unit known as “the album”?
Jason Notte provides the sobering statistics:
Juniper Research finds that digital music industry will see worldwide revenue grow from $12.3 billion this year to $13.9 billion in 2019. Juniper’s research indicates that even that growth hinges on the streaming music sector bringing in more cash as sales of digital downloads, ringtones and ringback tones continue to plummet. …
That growth comes as any album that isn’t released on vinyl dies a horrible death. Nielsen Soundscan equates 2,000 streams to one album, but even with that in the equation, album sales are down 3.3% through June. Take streaming out of the mix and you’re looking at a 14.3% drop from the same time last year. The nearly 20% drop in compact disc sales over the last year is almost expected as CDs continue their post-’90s free fall, but the 11.6% drop in digital album sales and 13% drop in digital track sales is far more troubling.
Digital download sales fell for the first time last year and aren’t coming back. People aren’t loading up their smartphones with songs anymore and aren’t carrying iPods anymore.
That’s not great news for the music industry, which uses digital track sales as a crutch to limp toward respectable numbers. When you factor in “Track Equivalent Albums” — a stat that equates 10 of an artist’s tracks with one album — Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, Lorde and Beyonce all had albums sell 1 million copies and go platinum this year. Take those individual tracks away and reduce album sales to strictly physical and digital albums in their entirety, and suddenly Beyonce, Lorde, Coldplay and Eric Church are the only artists to go gold and break 500,000 sales this year. The only album to go platinum by that measure? The soundtrack to Disney’s Frozen, with 2.7 million copies sold in the first six months of 2014.
According to Nielsen, album sales of any kind plummeted from 755 million copies in 1999 to just 290 million last year. Compact disc sales have fallen steadily from 730 million in 2000 to just 165 million last year. This year, the Frozen soundtrack was the only digital album to sell 1 million copies — or even more than 350,000.
Meanwhile, even as digital track sales fall, singles sales remain strong. Pharrell’s Happy sold 5.6 million copies in just six months. Katy Perry and Juicy J’s Dark Horse broke 4 million, but even artists a bit further down the chart are more representative of what anyone’s actually listening to. DJ Snake, Iggy Azalea, Bastille and Aloe Blacc are absent from the first-half album charts, but all sold more than 2 million copies of their singles Turn Down For What, Fancy, Pompeii and Man.
Move it over to on-demand streaming, and those 2 million to 5 million sales turn into 40 million to 65 million audio streams and 70 million to 120 million video streams. Psy’s Gangnam Style still managed 69 million video streams this year after making more than $1 million off of streaming royalties alone last year. Google CEO Larry Page watched Psy’s viral hit rake in $2 per 1,000 pageviews and called it “a glimpse of the future.” By that measure, the 122 million views Perry’sDark Horse received through June adds up to $244,000 alone. It isn’t seven figures, but it’s a whole lot of cash for one song doing six months of work.
As the music industry continues to gravitate away from an ownership model and toward its streaming future, it’ll take any gains it can get. A robust streaming ecosystem is great for everyone involved, but if cannibalization limits both artist and label options, the same losses plaguing physical album sales and digital album and track sales now could kneecap streaming in the not-so-distant future.