Tag: eMusic

Cap Yo Ass

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Just in time for Halloween, here’s a roundup for eMusic about some of my favorite murder ballads.

Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue – Where The Wild Roses Grow

“Why do they keep calling me the wild rose?” she keeps asking. “My name is Elisa.” You know the drill — boy meets girl, boy kills girl, boy plants rose between girl’s teeth. But what makes this so fascinating are the dueling accounts whereby both killer and victim describe in parallel each of the three days leading up to the murder. He says, “I kissed her.” She says, “He hit me with a rock.”

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Unfortunately I couldn’t include it in the roundup, but this article idea came to me while I was listening to “Old Judson,” a fantastic song by Charlottesville songwriter Peyton Tochterman‘s short-lived mid-00′s bluegrass trio Fair Weather Bums, in which peppery mandolin runs and subtle vocal harmonies populate a small world of places and characters only to slowly darken them on the way to the big reveal at the end. I really want more people to hear this.

Ghosts

Friday, February 26th, 2010

alan-lomax

A new piece for eMusic about Alan Lomax’s mammoth new collection of field recordings of Haitian folk music.

Built To Spill

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

built-to-spill

In case you missed the big news yesterday, eMusic has landed Warner Music Group, meaning that two out of the four major record labels are now represented in the catalog and there’s now a ridiculous new collection of awesome music over there which is just begging for editorial. I started with Built To Spill.

There Is No Enemy recalls album-friendly 90′s alternative rock with a delirious fondness, reminiscent at its most hectic points of an appropriately-medicated Screaming Trees or Sunny Day Real Estate, elsewhere even scaling the dreamy guitar bobbles back into hummable-hooks territory about halfway to the Gin Blossoms.
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eMusic end-of-decade “Yearbook”

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

yearbook

I’m part of a really cool Yearbook project over at eMusic — they asked ten writers to submit essays about musical trends during one year from the last decade in an attempt to sum it all up. We were basically given carte blanche with regard to possible angles and approaches, so what resulted is an intriguingly varied set of reflections on and refractions of the last ten years, both musical and otherwise.

For example, my piece zeroes in on retro R&B and soul label Daptone Records, which put out some of its strongest in-house records thus far in 2007 while simultaneously helping coax out chart-topping releases from Amy Winehouse and Jay-Z. (This was actually the second time I’ve had a chance to shoot the breeze with Daptone head Gabe Roth, the first being the technically-oriented interview [PDF] I did for Tape Op that year inquiring about his production techniques.)

The other essays are all very much worth your time too, though. I suppose I’ve already done quite enough gushing over eMusic’s editorial crew, but it bears repeating briefly here — these are all writers whose work I’ve been following for years, so I’m delighted to have made the shortlist for this.

Acoustic Asobi

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

asobi rewolf

My review of Asobi Seksu‘s new unplugged album Rewolf went up at eMusic today.

With the touring lineup left behind, core members Yuki Chikudate and James Hanna have a lot more canvas across which to paint their surrealist watercolor keyboard washes and twinkling, fingerpicked guitars which, now entirely buzz-free, recall in equal parts Joni Mitchell and Vashti Bunyan. “New Years,” no longer anchored by the drums and arguably one of the only songs here that doesn’t definitively trump the original full-band version, instead just drifts off on a hazy cloud of whimsy that starts making funny impressionistic shapes by the time it gets to “Urusai Tori.”
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Putting the I in API

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Starting here, with my review of the 2005 Four Tet album Everything Ecstatic, I’m now writing for eMusic. I find this, to put it mildly, absolutely thrilling.

Four Tet - Everything Ecstatic

One of Kieran Hebden’s more aggressive outings under the Four Tet moniker, Everything Ecstatic veers away from the rustic acoustic guitar loops which, for better or worse, came to represent his earlier work. Here, he replaces those sounds with low-pitched synth rumbles, buried beneath the drum machines like the unrelenting drone of a factory assembly line.
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As an aspiring music writer, I’m always following bylines and tracking other writers as they hop around between publications, which is why I was able to conclude long ago that eMusic’s editorial division is probably the strongest on the internet. I’m still a little woozy at the thought that I’m now part of it myself. Since I know most people don’t obsess over critics the way I do, a quick run-down of some of the other eMusic contributors whose work I’ve admired elsewhere:

It’s really amazing that they’ve been able to collect all these heavyweights under one masthead. Most dizzying of all, though:

Kurt Loder

That’s right, I’m now writing alongside Kurt Loder, whose MTV News briefs were a staple of my after-school vegging-out through the 90′s and present every step of the way — prodding me along, actually — as I grew to become an obsessive music fan.

Here’s the thing, though — eMusic isn’t, as you might think, a music magazine.

Rather, it’s an MP3 download store in the vein of iTunes. Its prices are considerably lower, however, and its catalog is heavily skewed toward indie labels. Particularly in the earliest days of the digital music Wild West, it made for a much more customer-friendly download service than Apple’s. For one thing, the audio encoding algorithms were better, a detail about which I care quite a bit, and there wasn’t any Digital Rights Management, a sort of catch-all term for the various forms of nefarious copy protection horseshit that the major labels once demanded the download stores employ before they’d permit inclusion of their tracks. Your previous purchases could even be downloaded repeatedly if need be — say, in the event of a hard drive crash or laptop theft.

Most striking of all, though, was that rather than $1 a-la-carte purchases, a low monthly subscription fee would get you unlimited access to the catalog, meaning that you could explore new music with reckless abandon. A few people used to complain about the selection, which excluded almost all major label content, but I’d just run searches for phrases like “Best Of” and “Greatest Hits,” and the results would overflow with guys like Hank Williams and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Andrew Lloyd Weber — all hugely influential artists that I felt compelled to teach myself about even if they were off the beaten path. With said path being beaten mostly by dolts like My Chemical Romance, it was hard for me to see this as a problem.

eMusic started enforcing monthly limits on customer downloads in 2004 after independent music became hip again and the site’s popularity increased accordingly, which was unfortunate for the customers, but an understandable move overall because the free-for-all obviously wasn’t financially sustainable if proper royalties were to be paid out to the artists. The landscape has changed a lot since then, but even though iTunes has since dumped DRM and doubled its audio encoder bitrates, and even though eMusic has since increased its prices and embraced major label content, I still think they’re doing something remarkable. If you haven’t already, go check out the page on which my review appears and/or one of the artist pages. You will, in a manner of speaking, see the entire internet at a glance.

I spend a lot of time navigating the intersections between art and technology, and can unequivocally say that eMusic’s site is a case study in awesome. They’re able to pull in data from other places — Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr, the All Music Guide — by sending queries through cross-site connection protocols called APIs. (That’s “application programming interface,” not “Automated Processes, Inc.,” although I can see where the ambiguity comes from.) For example, if they send an artist’s name as specified by the All Music Guide’s API, they might get his bio in return, and then by doing the same per YouTube’s instructions, they can return all his related video embeds.

This is all then rendered as part of the page content, and the effect of so many API’s working successfully and in synchrony is quite breathtaking, producing an evolving aggregate snapshot of the music you’re inquiring about compiled from sources all over the internet. At the risk of sounding like a raving partisan lunatic, especially given my earlier thoughts regarding their other writers, eMusic’s may be the most technically remarkable, staggeringly efficient music discovery platform I’ve encountered. In fact, though I’ve let my payments lapse on a couple occasions — mostly because the music submitted for the coverage I was writing for The Hook had piled up ominously — I’d usually still log in and browse around even though I couldn’t download anything. eMusic might not be able to offer unlimited downloads the way they once did, but the site makes for a very compelling substitute.

As for the ways in which the art — by which I mean both my writing and the songs I write about — collides with the technology, it’s pretty clear to me that eMusic considers their writers an important part of the equation. Just as the writer in me is thrilled about getting filed away alongside Kurt Loder, the geek in me is excited to watch as the writer gets a seat right next to the Wikipedia API. Welcome to the machine, and so forth.