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Archive for May, 2007

Still alive…

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

Holy shit, very very sorry for the complete lack of activity here at Ground & Sky for the past few weeks. A dip in my interest in music listening, combined with a total lack of interesting live music here in DC, combined with a pause in contributions from other G&S reviewers all conspired to bring the site to a screeching halt. I am beginning to get psyched about a bunch of new music (not least the new Sleepytime Gorilla Museum album), so hopefully we can break out of the slump.

In the past, summers have been rough times for updating the website because I have tended to be so busy in the summer. We broke the trend in 2005 and 2006, and hopefully will continue along the same path this year. I have an extremely full summer ahead of me this year, but I’m going to try very hard to keep Ground & Sky updated with fresh material as often as possible!

This Heat now at eMusic

Saturday, May 12th, 2007

Missed the Ahleuchatistas/Eyesores show. Had awful allergies and headache all day and something made me think that Ahleuchatistas would probably not make my head feel any better. Damn.

Amidst the news of labels like Tzadik leaving eMusic, here’s some great news: ReR USA has put up all the This Heat albums on the service. Considering I never dropped the cash to get the box set that came out a while back, I might go this route and download some of their stuff — although I admit that I really fetishize the ReR box set packaging. (The Art Bears box set is one of the most beautiful things I own.)

Within Temptation @ Jaxx

Friday, May 11th, 2007

This past week I’ve missed three shows I would have really liked to see (Konono No. 1 topping the list), but I’m getting back in the game this weekend, even though the sky fell on Thursday with regards to my work. Despite working late today and getting to the show over an hour late, I caught Within Temptation on their first U.S. tour ever, and it was nothing if not fun. If you’re a regular reader of this site, you probably know that I have a soft spot for female-fronted gothic metal, even if it’s cheesy, poppy or both. Within Temptation were the band that got me hooked on this subgenre, and I was embarrassingly excited to see them live.

They played at Jaxx, a metal-oriented club way out in the burbs that has a really bad reputation around here for just kind of being a nasty club — rude staff, no ventilation, overly crowded, etc, not to mention the fact that it’s in a strip mall in northern Virginia (and let me tell you, there’s suburban hell and then there’s northern Virginia). This was the first time I’d been, and I actually kind of liked the place. The sight lines and the sound were excellent, and there’s definitely an intimate feel to the place as it’s quite small and there’s not really any divider between stage and audience. Also, interestingly enough, I saw more people there wearing earplugs than at any other show I’ve been to. I guess metal fans (not that this was an especially metal crowd, but still) know they’ve gotta wear them if they want to still have their hearing five years down the road.

Anyway, the show. It sold out a while ago. It was the band’s fourth show in the U.S.; their tour only has them playing about 15 dates in North America, so we’re lucky they played in the DC area. They were opening for Lacuna Coil, so unfortunately they played a pretty short set, and it was heavy on stuff from their new album, The Heart of Everything. I think they played the first five songs from that album, plus “Ice Queen” and “Mother Earth” from Mother Earth and “Stand My Ground” from The Silent Force. And even though I’m not really a huge fan of the new album, I have to say that the highlight of the show, by far, was “The Heart of Everything” — when Sharon den Adel breaks out the snarlier side of her vocals, the effect is awesome. And that song rocks.

As for the band, they seemed genuinely excited and happy to be playing for an audience that’s probably a tenth of the size of the audiences they play for on the other side of the pond. It helps that the fans seemed pretty deliriously happy too — most of them seemed to know the songs from The Heart of Everything, which hasn’t even been released in the U.S. yet (though, come to think of it, none of the band’s earlier albums have had a domestic release here either). Sharon den Adel has tremendous stage presence, and not just because she’s gorgeous and wears elaborate dresses — she has a real charisma that I thought came across really well in the small club. Also, it was funny to see her walk on stage and 80 percent of the males in the club break out their cameras or cell phone cameras.

In the end, the band’s live show isn’t substantially different, musically speaking, from what’s on record, so this wasn’t the most memorable show I’ve ever seen. They pulled it all off admirably, but I was mostly just excited about the novelty of seeing the first U.S. tour of a band that’s become legendary, it seems, for great live shows. Hope they can come back as headliners and play much longer sets. (I left right after their performance, as I find Lacuna Coil mostly boring.)

Tomorrow: Ahleuchatistas and Alec K. Redfearn and the Eyesores. Sure is a good two nights to get back into my concert-going ways!

Shit, no more Tzadik at eMusic

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

Doh. There have been recent rumors about various indie labels being dissatisfied with eMusic — specifically its royalty system, which according to a post today at Digital Audio Insider pays less than 28 cents per song to be split between the label and artist (and that’s much higher than I would have guessed, frankly) — and today I noticed that all the Tzadik albums are gone from the service. Bummer.

eMusic is all over the place these days — in addition to the Ars Technica and Digital Audio Insider posts, I somehow just descovered eMusic’s own staff blog, 17 dots, which highlights new music and also features a very long philosophical post from eMusic’s CEO on the state of digital music distribution and the eMusic model. Also, the music/technology/business blog HypeBot started today a four-part series on eMusic, including coverage of recent label dissatisfaction; and an old thread at I Love Music has been revived with renewed discussion over eMusic’s business model.

Whether or not said model proves to be efficacious (and, much as I love the service, their scant payouts seem to make statistics like “eMusic receives on average more than $13 per subscriber every month. Compare this with the $7 per year that iTunes receives” less than relevant), it is undoubtedly at the center of the current debate regarding the future of music distribution, especially as regards indie music, and so I’ll be following it closely.

Quality lyrics courtesy of Avril Lavigne

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

Idly browsing through the archives of this blog (reading anything from about 2001 and earlier is kind of painful), I was surprised to come across an entry in which I admitted that I liked Avril Lavigne’s debut album. Heh, I thought I’d kept those kinds of guilty pleasures under wraps until recently. In any case, it’s funny because I recently heard her new album, which is absolutely hilarious. She’s 23 years old now and married, but more than ever she sounds like a snotty 17-year-old. If she was a manufactured and neatly packaged product back in 2003, she’s even moreso now — and judging from her popularity, it’s working.

Well, so, the story of this new album — the title, The Best Damn Thing, is indicative of the attitude within — is that it’s insanely catchy and unbelievably insipid, even moreso than her first album. (I never heard the second album, which was generally panned.) Also indicative is the fact that the packaging of the CD includes no less than a dozen photos of Ms. Lavigne. I’ll let a sampling of the lyrics do the rest of the talking; believe it or not, when sung these sound even dumber than they read on screen:

Hey! Hey! You! You!
I don’t like your girlfriend!
No way! No way!
I think you need a new one
Hey! Hey! You! You!
I could be your girlfriend

…Don’t pretend, I think you know I’m damn precious
Hell yeah
I’m the motherfucking princess
I can tell you like me too and you know I’m right

And that’s just the first song. Ground and Sky: we listen to bad pop music so you don’t have to.

Interesting digital music distro blog

Monday, May 7th, 2007

For those with a passing (or more than passing) interest in the frontiers of digital music distribution, I recently discovered an excellent blog, Digital Audio Insider. Provides timely news and solid analysis of trends and developments in the current changing landscape of music distribution. (I sound like I’m writing a press release.) If this is your thing, this is a blog to subscribe to for sure.

Travis Morrison: D-Plan better than ever

Friday, May 4th, 2007

So it wasn’t just my imagination that that Dismemberment Plan reunion show was better than any of their other shows I’d ever seen. Here’s the band’s frontman, Travis Morrison, responding in an interview:

STEREOGUM: How’d the reunion feel?

TM: Great. Turns out we wrote some really great songs, and none of us stopped playing music, so we sounded better. Especially the second night of our shows, I was just feeling it like I never have.

Internet radio update

Friday, May 4th, 2007

Also, there is some small good news on the Internet radio front. Basically, we now have two months to get Congress to overturn the royalty fee restructuring. There is already a bipartisan bill in the House that would do just that — HR 2060, the Internet Radio Equality Act. The SaveNetRadio Coalition has set up an excellent action alert giving step-by-step instructions on calling your representative to urge them to support HR 2060, and I strongly recommend that you do so. Working in DC for an advocacy group, I know exactly how important these kinds of phone calls are — they really do matter. So hop to it!

My “automatic buy” list

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

I am a voracious enough consumer of music that I don’t even want to try to list the bands and musicians who are on my “automatic buy” list. There are any number of groups out there whose new albums I’ll buy sight unseen (or, rather, sound unheard) within days of their release. For me, it’s much more interesting to look at who has fallen off of my automatic buy list over the past few years. The latest casualty is Anekdoten. This was one of the first bands that introduced me to modern progressive rock, as I fell in love almost instantly with the powerful but controlled aggression of Vemod. But their last studio album, Gravity, bored me to tears, and now that they at last have a new album out, I find myself fairly indifferent, especially after hearing still more middling reviews from others. It’s my nature that I still have an irrational urge to send $17 over to Steve at Wayside to get a copy of A Time of Day, but there are definitely things I want much more.

Like, you know, the recent and forthcoming new releases by the bands that are still on my automatic buy list — like Satoko Fujii, Amarok, Wilco, Pelican, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum… sigh…