Results for UK

interviews

Tony Visconti

While the performer gets all the glory, sometimes it's the producer who shares the guts. This week Jim and Greg revisit their conversation with one of rock's great behind-the-scenes men, Tony Visconti. Visconti has worked with everyone from The Moody Blues to Alejandro Escovedo, but is primarily known for the albums did with glam rockers T. Rex and David Bowie. Visconti relays how he was lucky enough to meet both men shortly after moving from Brooklyn to the UK; both were relatively young and undiscovered. Marc Bolan of T. Rex was still performing hippy folk songs as a member of Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Bowie was beginning song writing but had no direction. Visconti established long-term relationships with both Bowie and Bolan and helped them carve out their identities. In fact, he was tapped to produce Bowie's latest release, The Next Day which Jim and Greg review below.

Go to episode 381

Laurie Anderson

Another artist who is never afraid to try new things is Laurie Anderson, Jim and Greg's guest this episode. Anderson has been making music, along with other forms of art, for almost 30 years. But, as she explains, her career began by accident. Anderson's song "O Superman" became a surprise hit in the UK and got her a recording contract. That never stopped Anderson from experimenting though. As NASA's first and only artist-in-residence, it's always been important for her to explore lots and lots of areas, and never become“an expert.”This attitude contributed to Anderson's decision not to cancel her Chicago show on September 11, 2001. Greg remembers her performance that night as one of the most powerful he's ever witnessed.

Go to episode 127

Tony Visconti

While the performer gets all the glory, sometimes it's the producer who shares the guts. This week Jim and Greg hear from anonther of rock's great behind-the-scenes men, Tony Visconti. Visconti has worked with everyone from The Moody Blues to Alejandro Escovedo, but is primarily known for the albums he did with glam rockers T. Rex and David Bowie. Visconti relays how he was lucky enough to meet both men shortly after moving from Brooklyn to the U.K.; both were relatively young and undiscovered. Marc Bolan of T. Rex was still performing hippy folk songs as a member of Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Bowie was beginning song writing but had no direction. Visconti established long-term relationships with both Bowie and Bolan and helped them carve out their identities. You'll hear Visconti discuss the making of such landmark albums as Electric Warrior and Heroes.

Go to episode 143

Nick Mason

Pink Floyd In the annals of rock ‘n’ roll there are few bands cited for both their critical acclaim and commerical sales. One is Pink Floyd. Its drummer, Nick Mason, joins Jim and Greg to talk about the U.K. band's history and recent decision to reunite to release what many believe will be its final album, The Endless River. Mason is the only member of the band to survive all of its squabbles and play on each studio album. He explains how The Endless River is a tribute to the Pink Floyd's iconic keyboardist Rick Wright. He also recalls the early dynamics between David Gilmour and Roger Waters and how he feels about the band's legacy with its 15th (and final?) release.

Love Pink Floyd? Check out this dissection of The Wall

Go to episode 483

Billy Bragg

Roots, Radicals and Rockers In the 1950s, a surprising, short-lived musical craze swept across the UK: skiffle, a raw version of African-American blues and folk performed by white British youth. Folk-punk singer-songwriter Billy Bragg has written about skiffle in his new book Roots, Radicals and Rockers. This week, he sits down with producer Evan Chung to make the case for skiffle as the origin of English guitar pop and the first sign of the DIY sensibility of punk.

Skiffle emerged out of the trad jazz scene – an early New Orleans jazz revivalist movement in the UK. In the middle of their sets, the trad jazz musicians would put down their horns and pick up acoustic guitars, washboards, and upright basses to play the songs of Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy, and others. Skiffle hit the top of the pop charts in both the UK and the US when Lonnie Donegan released his version of Leadbelly's "Rock Island Line." Bragg argues that this was a revolutionary moment that taught British youth that anyone could play the guitar – and led to skyrocketing guitar sales. As a result, members of The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, David Bowie, and even ABBA got their start in DIY skiffle groups. According to Bragg, if you want to understand everything that came after in the UK – from the British Invasion to the English folk revival to R&B to punk – you have to look at the impact that skiffle had on the emerging British teenage culture.

Go to episode 613
specials

1977 - The Year Punk Broke

This week, Jim and Greg kick off a two-part series about one seminal year in rock history, 1977: The Year Punk Broke. In this episode, they tackle the punk explosion in the U.K. with help from music writer Jon Savage. (Many consider Savage's England's Dreaming to be the definitive book on this period.) So what made punk explode in 1977? Jon chalks it up to a whole lot of rubbish pop music - songs like ABBA's“Fernando”and Elton John's“Don't Go Breaking My Heart”- that were marketed to kids but failed to address concerns about unemployment, consumerism, and of course, parents and other authority figures. More immediately, there was The Ramones playing their first London gig, and inspiring bands from The Buzzcocks to The Sex Pistols to The Damned. The Sex Pistols were the first to make a splash with their controversial single"God Save the Queen," banned across the British media. That Never Mind the Bullocks, Here's the Sex Pistols was still able to chart, Jon says, demonstrated the muscle of a nascent, independent youth media organized around fanzines and record shops like Rough Trade and Beggar's Banquet. For those who think all U.K. punk sounded the same, Jon points out some key differences. While The Sex Pistols“really had a dark heart,”The Clash had the social consciousness of a sixties band. Manchester's The Buzzcocks were into psychedelia. Regardless of any one band's take on the genre however, punk's message was the same. In Jon's words: "Pop music doesn't have to be something that oppresses you. It can actually liberate you."

Jim and Greg close out 1977 Part One by playing two favorite songs from this year. Greg goes out with The Adverts' "One Chord Wonder." Not only did The Adverts have the best names in punk - T.V. Advert, Gaye Advert, Howard Pickup, and Laurie Driver - they epitomized the genre's“no skill required”ethos. Jim goes with the Wire track "Ex-Lion Tamer" from one of his favorite records of all time, Pink Flag. This quartet of art students not only embodied the punk sound in 1977, they were also looking forward to the possibilities of post-punk.

Go to episode 350

Supergroups

This week Jim and Greg ponder the history of the Supergroup. This is the rock phenomenon where musicians from different bands blend together to form a new group. Take one 1 guitar virtuoso, sprinkle in a legendary drummer and add a dash of star singing-sometimes this is a great success, and sometimes the ingredients just don't mix. Recently there have been a number of new supergroups such as The Good, the Bad and the Queen, Them Crooked Vultures, Tinted Windows, Dead Weather and Monsters of Folk. For Jim the keys to a winning supergroup are that the members be individually“super,”and that they have chemistry together. Greg adds that there needs to be something especially compelling about the super-union for it to be more than just business.

Here are some hits and misses throughout history:

  • Traveling Wilburys
  • Chickenfoot
  • Million Dollar Quartet
  • Cream
  • Blind Faith
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young)
  • UK
  • Golden Palomino
  • Electronic
  • Temple of the Dog
  • Audioslave
  • Lucy Pearl
Go to episode 369

1977 - The Year Punk Broke

In the second and final installment of our series 1977: The Year Punk Broke, Jim and Greg explore the punk movement stateside with music writer Ira Robbins. Ira founded the music magazine Trouser Press in 1974. As a music journalist in New York, he was a fixture of the CBGBs scene, regularly "taking [his] life in his hands" to go to second avenue and hear bands like the Ramones, the Dictators, the Dead Boys, and Television play divey clubs. Whereas punk enjoyed a rapid rise in the U.K. in 1977, Ira describes the New York scene as more of a slow simmer. Fans gradually migrated from clubs like Max's Kansas City, where glam acts like The New York Dolls ruled, to clubs like CBGBs where a younger, rawer set of performers was defining the punk look and sound. Though the Ramones, with their simple song structures and leather jackets became emblematic of New York punk, Ira remembers a diverse scene. The Dead Boys, Television, and The Talking Heads may not have sounded the same, but in economically-depressed 70s-era New York, they shared an attitude that "life sucked, it's probably not going to get better, but so what."

Jim and Greg each choose a favorite track from the New York scene. Greg goes with the Talking Heads' "Don't Worry About the Government" from the band's self-titled debut. More than any other band, the Talking Heads epitomized New York punk's diversity. Their first gig may have been opening for the Ramones, but Greg contends the band's sound was more dance than punk. Still, Byrne's narrator in this song - a stressed, neurotic government bureaucrat - taps into the anxiety of the punk era. Jims goes with the ultimate American punk anthem, Richard Hell's "Blank Generation." The story goes that U.K. punk impresario Malcolm McLaren saw Hell perform the song in the U.S., then returned home and advised The Sex Pistols to write something "just like it, but your own."

Go to episode 351

Supergroups

Jim and Greg ponder the history of the supergroup. This is the rock phenomenon where musicians from different bands join together to form a new group. Sometimes this is a great success, and sometimes the ingredients just don't mix. Recently there have been a number of new supergroups such as Them Crooked Vultures, Tinted Windows, Dead Weather and Monsters of Folk. For Jim the keys to a winning supergroup are that the members be individually“super,”and that they have chemistry together. Greg adds that there needs to be more compelling the super-union than just business.

Here are some hits and misses throughout history:

  • Traveling Wilburys
  • Chickenfoot
  • Million Dollar Quartet
  • Cream
  • Blind Faith
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young)
  • UK
  • Golden Palomino
  • Electronic
  • Temple of the Dog
  • Audioslave
  • Lucy Pearl
Go to episode 194

1977 - The Year Punk Broke

This week, Jim and Greg kick off a two-part series about one seminal year in rock history, 1977: The Year Punk Broke. In this episode, they tackle the punk explosion in the U.K. with help from music writer Jon Savage. (Many consider Savage's England's Dreaming to be the definitive book on this period.) So what made punk explode in 1977? Terrible pop songs, the entrance of The Ramones and the rise of groups like the Buzzcocks and Sex Pistols.

Jim and Greg close out 1977 Part One by playing two favorite songs from that year. Greg goes out with The Adverts' "One Chord Wonder." Jim goes with the Wire track "Ex-Lion Tamer" from one of his favorite records of all time, Pink Flag.

Go to episode 606
genre dissections

Shoegaze

Today Jim and Greg dive into "Shoegaze." In the late '80s and early '90s, this sound developed in the U.K. and was typified by lots of guitar, lots of atmosphere and lots of noise. But while the height of Shoegaze only lasted a few years, its influence looms large today. As Jim and Greg explain, the artists of this movement were students of rock history. They looked at the guitar as something more than a traditional blues instrument. Those hunks of wire and wood could act as a sound machine. You can trace a line from bands like The Velvet Underground and Dinosaur Jr. to key Shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine, Lush, Ride and Slowdive. And their desire to marry rock drive with otherworldly ambience is what carries the genre into the present moment. It's also important to note that while the term“shoegazer”began as derisive-musicians staring at their shoes are no fun to watch-seeing these acts live was really a special, albeit loud, experience.

Go to episode 371

Post-Rock

With Tortoise joining them in the studio this week, Jim and Greg take a moment to give a primer on the post-rock movement. Like virtually all genre labels,“post-rock”is a term rejected by most of the artists associated with it. It generally refers to a set of mostly instrumental bands in the 1990s who used non-traditional instrumentation and a collage-like approach to blending genres. Jim and Greg trace the origins of the movement to German krautrock, experimental '60s jazz-rock bands, and dub reggae. There were major post-rock acts across the globe, including in the UK (Stereolab), Montreal (Godspeed You! Black Emperor), and especially in Chicago. From Tortoise to Gastr Del Sol to The Denison/Kimball Trio, Chicago's scene fostered an eclectic experimentation with styles.

Go to episode 557
reviews
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm NotWhatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not available on iTunes

The Arctic Monkeys Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

One of the albums Jim and Greg review this week made so much news that they need to discuss it at the top of the show. The British band The Arctic Monkeys broke records this week when its debut album became the fastest selling in British chart history. While neither Jim nor Greg can fully comprehend this phenomenon, they both like the record. Jim gives the album a Buy It rating, but admits that The Arctic Monkeys are not nearly as amazing as the hype might have you believe. Greg likes lead singer Alex Turner's Streets-like approach to lyrics, but doesn't think the Arctic Monkeys are a great band yet. He gives Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not a Buy It too.

The Arctic Monkeys are not the first British band to face this kind of hype. There have been a number of UK bands who achieved rave reviews and huge success but were never able to break out across the pond. A look at lists compiled by British media outlets The Guardian and NME demonstrate this point. Bands like The Jam, The Stone Roses, The Libertines, Blur and The Smiths are up there with The Beatles and The Clash in the minds and hearts of British fans and critics, yet none of these groups achieved any major fame in the States. One theory given by Jim: Americans are discerning of imports ever since the first "British Invasion." Greg points out that there was a second British invasion in the '80s, and wonders if it is the very Britishness of some of these bands that prevent American fans from identifying. Or perhaps some tastes just don't translate.

JimGreg
Go to episode 10
Favourite Worst NightmareWhatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not available on iTunes

The Arctic Monkeys Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

The Arctic Monkeys is one of the biggest success stories of recent years. The English group's debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, was the fastest selling album in U.K. history. Their U.S. sales were not as strong, but people were still anxious to hear what the group would do for its sophomore act. In fact, they face the same scrutiny that hot debut bands like Franz Ferdinand and The Strokes had to overcome. Neither Jim nor Greg think that their new album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, will be any more successful stateside than the last, but both urge listeners to give it a listen. Greg compares lead singer and chief songwriter Alex Turner to some of the best British wits including Ray Davies and Damon Albarn, and likens his songs to short stories. Jim agrees, calling Turner an astute social critic. The Arctic Monkeys may not be the phenomenon it once was, but Favourite Worst Nightmare gets two Buy Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 75
ThirdThird available on iTunes

Portishead Third

Now onto the U.K.'s answer to hip hop… trip hop. Portishead, pioneers of the moody, sample-based genre, also have a new album out called Third. It's the group's first album in 10 years, so fans have been heavily anticipating what they have to offer. But, Greg is concerned that people accustomed to the cool, sophisticated sound of 1994's Dummy will be taken aback. Third is no dinner-party soundtrack. It's jarring and subversive, but Greg loves it. Jim agrees, but doesn‘t think it’s actually a radical reinvention. Singer Beth Gibbons has always been moody, only now she is looking outward rather than in. And the music is still filled with synths, beats and weird sounds. Both Jim and Greg give Third a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 127
The Magic WhipThe Magic Whip available on iTunes

Blur The Magic Whip

After a 12-year hiatus, English rock band Blur returns with its new album, The Magic Whip. Graham Coxon and Damon Albarn formed the group in 1989 where they gained success in the UK. While critics always embraced them, they never quite achieved commercial success in the U.S. outside of the track "Song 2." Greg likes the record and appreciates its honest lyrics and overall strength. He believes this effort is better than the members' solo work. The Magic Whip exceeded his expectations and he gives it a Buy It. Jim considers himself a Blur superfan. He argues that there are a few really great songs but the rest range from lukewarm to bad. Jim thinks Blur is starting to slow down a little but still gives the record a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 493
Album ArtSilence Yourself available on iTunes

Savages Silence Yourself

Last year, London-based quartet Savages burst onto the indie scene seemingly fully formed. Jehny Beth, Gemma Thompson, Ayse Hassan, and Fay Milton had been a band for less than a year when the UK music press caught on to "Husbands," the group's debut single. Critically acclaimed performances at CMJ, SXSW, and Coachella followed (In our own SXSW wrap-up, Jim declared he had“seen God”at Savages' set). So do they deliver on their Matador Recordsdebut Silence Yourself? Jim's answer is an unequivocal "Yes!" Not only does he stand by his previous claim that Jehny Beth is the most compelling rock frontperson since Kurt Cobain, he extends the Nirvana metaphor. Just like that legendary nineties grunge band, Savages take familiar ingredients (post-punk and minimalism) and make them fresh. Greg agrees. This is a serious band, he says, with the album cover manifesto to prove it and the songs to back it up. Silence Yourself gets an enthusiastic double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 389
album art

Test Icicles For Screening Purposes Only

For Screening Purposes Only by Test Icicles is the next album up for review. This UK trio joined the Domino family along with successful acts like Franz Ferdinand, Clinic, Sons and Daughters and the most recent hype, The Arctic Monkeys. Many of these acts are considered the "New Wave of New Wave" — yet Test Icicles seem to be derivative of a slightly later period. For Greg, it's too much of a good thing. For Jim, though, it's too much of everything. For Screening Purposes Only gets a "Burn It" from Greg and a "Trash It" from Jim.

JimGreg
Go to episode 9
White Chalk (Exclusive Edition)White Chalk available on iTunes

PJ Harvey White Chalk

The final record up for review is from U.K. singer PJ Harvey. White Chalk is the first record Harvey has written using the piano as her instrument, rather than the guitar. And as evidenced by her organ-influenced 1995 masterpiece, To Bring You My Love, when Polly Jean learns a new instrument, wonderful things happen. For this album, the singer appears to be adopting the role of a ghost, telling dark and haunted tales of love and loss. Jim and Greg admit this is an album that takes some getting used to and recommend letting it creep under your skin. They both give big Buy Its to White Chalk.

JimGreg
Go to episode 96
The ResistanceThe Resistance available on iTunes

Muse The Resistance

For a while, it seemed like chart-topping U.K. band Muse was a purely British phenomenon. They sold over 5 million copies of their last two records and sold out back-to-back shows at Wembley Stadium. But now their new album The Resistance has debuted at #3 in the States. Musically, Jim and Greg certainly understand the appeal. The arrangements are ambitious and the songs are full of melody. But it's with the lyrics that Muse loses the plot. Jim and Greg both wish lead singer Matthew Bellamy had more of a sense of humor. He tries to channel Freddie Mercury, but forgets that Mercury never took himself too seriously. Both hosts give The Resistance a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 202
HumbugHumbug available on iTunes

Arctic Monkeys Humbug

Arctic Monkeys also have a new album out called Humbug. For their 3rd release the UK band traveled to the California desert to work with Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age (and now Them Crooked Vultures) fame. Jim loves the result. It has all of the charm and wit of their breakout debut, but with a dark ambience inspired by Nick Cave or Scott Walker. He gives the record a Buy It rating. Greg applauds them for trying to change the pace with this release, but he doesn't think the songwriting is as strong. To Greg the melodies and exuberance have been replaced with texture and ambience. He gives Humbug a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 196
St. ElsewhereSt. Elsewhere available on iTunes

Gnarls Barkley St. Elsewhere

St. Elsewhere is the debut album from Gnarls Barkley, the imaginary front-person for a project helmed by vocalist and rapper Cee-Lo Green and producer Danger Mouse. Gnarls describes himself as the pen pal of long-deceased rock critic Lester Bangs, soul singer Isaac Hayes, and Violent Femmes singer Gordon Gano. He also claims to be the lover of both Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey and the man who taught Kraftwerk English. Most importantly, though, he has become a British phenomenon. The first single, "Crazy," went to number one on the UK singles chart after simply being released as a download, and Jim and Greg hope that the hype can be sustained stateside. Both critics love the combination of Cee-Lo's half-preacher, half-freak vocal style and DJ Danger Mouse's eclectic production choices. St. Elsewhere gets a double Buy It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 23
FoodFood available on iTunes

Kelis Food

Singer (and Cooking Channel personality) Kelis Rogers has just released her sixth album, called, appropriately, Food. Kelis was huge in the UK in the early 2000s, but her 2003 hit "Milkshake" was the first (and last) time that American audiences paid her much attention. On Food, Kelis is again blending the creative and the culinary — not only does the album have songs titled "Breakfast" and "Jerk Ribs," but she also uses cooking to signify themes of love and family, notes Jim. He's thrilled to see Kelis creating energetic neo-soul again. Greg hears“layers of flavors”on the album, and appreciates that producer Dave Sitek took care to showcase her voice, which comes out as sultry, ragged, and honest. Food is some of the best music Kelis has made, and our hosts gobble it up. It's a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 440
In Our HeadsIn Our Heads available on iTunes

Hot Chip In Our Heads

Also hailing from the UK is Hot Chip, a group some have called England's answer to LCD Soundsystem. Composed mainly of songwriters Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard, the electro-poppers are out with their fifth studio album In Our Heads. On their last album One Life Stand, the band moved away from the happy-go-lucky party tracks that established them into decidedly more emotional territory. Does In Our Heads continue the trend? Greg says unfortunately, yes. He's always relished Hot Chip's dancier tracks for they way they compress the history of electronic dance music into three minutes. On In Our Heads the band continues to wear its influences on its sleeve, cribbing from the likes of Prince, The Talking Heads, and Luther Vandross. But for every killer single like "Let Me Be Him," there are more than a few drippy ballads. Jim agrees. For him, Hot Chip is essentially a singles band. When they're on, they're on, when they're not, they're not. On the strength of the few great singles on this record, Jim and Greg give In Our Heads a Burn It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 346
dijs

Greg

“The Look of Love”Dusty Springfield

The Annie Lennox review prompted Greg to think about other UK soul singers. Of course there's Amy Winehouse now, but the mother of them all was Dusty Springfield. Many people know Dusty for her song "Son of a Preacher Man," which was featured in the movie Pulp Fiction. But the track Greg wants to take with him to the desert island is "The Look of Love," which was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. For Greg it highlights Dusty's subtle sexy voice, one that is almost doing a duet with the saxophone. And it also summed up, at one time, what Greg thought marriage was going to be all about: lust, romance and glamorous hair.

Go to episode 98

Greg

“Intro-Inspection”Osymyso

Night Ripper is one of Greg's favorite albums of recent years, but it wasn't his first exposure to sample-based music. There has been a long tradition of collage music, and one of the artists taking it to the“nth degree”is Osymyso. The UK DJ created a mind-blowing, 12-minute composition called "Intro-Inspection," which is completely full of unauthorized samples. The song isn't available for sale anywhere, but you can check it out on the web and on the Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 115

Greg

“De-Luxe”Lush

Greg gets the first Desert Island Jukebox pick of 2008. Inspired by the collaboration between Markéta and Glen, he started thinking about other songwriting teams in rock history. Most bands have one central songwriter, or perhaps a team, but very few have more than one person contributing their own songs. One of these exceptions is the band Lush. The U.K. band came out of the shoegazer scene of the late '80s/early '90s, but didn't get as much attention as their peers. Songwriters Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson created a sound that Greg describes as falling somewhere between My Bloody Valentine and The Cocteau Twins. The fragile female vocals paired with a cyclonic gust of guitars can be best heard in the track, "De-Luxe," from the band's 1990 album Gala.

Go to episode 111

Greg

“New Rose”The Damned

Talking to Nick Lowe got Greg thinking about all things seventies - in particular, Lowe's work as a producer during that decade. Few people realize Lowe worked with The Damned, the first UK punk band to put themselves on the map (take that Sex Pistols!). Where another producer might have been tempted to clean up the band's sound, Lowe kept The Damned as dirty and gritty on record as they were live. And nowhere do you hear that better, Greg insists, than on the band's first single, 1976's "New Rose." Rat Scabies's drums sound huge, and Brian James's guitar is so distorted it sounds defective. This, Greg says, is what punk sounds like to this day, and Lowe was onto the trend before anyone else.

Go to episode 329
lists

Anti-Love Songs

With the ghost of St. Valentine looming over us all, this week's show is dedicated to those music fans for whom "Love Stinks." Jim and Greg discuss their favorite anti-love songs and hear some listeners' picks. Here are some songs to get you out of the mood for Valentine's Day.

Go to episode 11
features

SXSW '06

This week on the show, Jim and Greg share their recent experiences at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. Our hosts joined over 10,000 other festival registrants to attend music industry panels, conduct interviews, and most importantly, see new bands. In the four days they were there, Jim and Greg heard a lot of music. They share some of the best with you.

  • First is The Dresden Dolls. Jim went to see the Boston group and fell in love with their blend of German cabaret performance style and '80s synth-pop melodies. You can hear a little bit of "Modern Moonlight" off their upcoming release, Yes Virginia.

  • Next up, Greg discusses one his finds: Art Brut. He enjoyed this British band's straightforward melodies, catchy choruses, and witty monologues so much that he saw them twice in Austin. This critic even scrawled“New Kings of Rock”in his notebook following one performance. Jim joined him to see the band at the Pitchfork/Windish party, where they shared a bill with RJD2, Spank Rock, and one of Greg's other discoveries, Swedish indie pop quintet Love is All. Art Brut, who just recently played a sold-out show at the Metro, entertained the entire staff so much that they were invited to appear on the show the week after the festival wrapped. Listen for that interview in the weeks to come.

Beastie Boys at SXSW 2006

  • In between running from show to show, Jim and Greg took a brief moment to sit down with The Beastie Boys. The hip-hop pioneers were down in Austin to promote their recent concert film, Awesome; I Fucking Shot That, and spoke to Jim and Greg about making the movie, sampling, copyright laws, and the longevity of their career.

  • Back to the rundown of our hosts‘ favorite Austin discoveries. Jim’s next pick, The Black Angels, actually hails from the Texas state capital. After reading Jim's book on psychedelic rock, members of the band contacted him and explained that they were right up his alley. They were right. Jim, who caught some of the dark, Velvet Underground-influenced music in the sterile environment of Austin Convention Center, was totally blown away. To describe the band, he quotes their website which begs the listener to "Picture a red moonlit night, deep in the heart of Texas, with the ghosts of Nico and Timothy Leary being called back from the dead to guide you on a journey through Heaven & Hell and back again." Whoa, man…

  • Greg loves coming to Austin to see bands that may not get to the States otherwise. One such band is Serena Maneesh. The Norwegian group is one of many contemporary bands compared to My Bloody Valentine. Often referred to as“shoegazers,”these musicians are often literally standing, staring at their shoes, while producing a heavy, overdriven, almost symphonic guitar sound. Serena Maneesh is certainly channeling this influence — however, as Greg explains, this band is also quite performative. Our host describes how the lead guitar player, theatrically dressed as a gypsy showman, was joined by an“Amazonian”bass player. Only during SXSW can you see this in Texas, notes Jim.

Tim Fite at SXSW 2006

  • We next hear some audio of Jim recorded down in Austin. He is describing one of his favorite acts: Tim Fite. Some may remember Fite's previous incarnation in Little T and One Track Mic and their one hit, "Shaniqua." But after getting signed to Atlantic and touring with Outkast, Little T went nowhere. Now, Fite has reinvented himself as a 1920s southern preacher/rapper who combines an O Brother, Where Art Thou? sound with irreverent lyrics and hip-hop. Gone Ain't Gone is forthcoming on Anti-/Epitaph, making Fite label mates with Neko Case and Blackalicious.

  • The Swedish band Love is All (mentioned above) is another of Greg's discoveries. This Swedish indie-pop group is one of many European bands who are rediscovering American music. This band is particularly influenced by musicians like James Chance and the Contortions and Lydia Lunch who fused both jazz and punk. Love is All became Greg's go-to CD while he was driving around the city of Austin.

  • Listeners can now hear what Jim and Greg really sound like at SXSW: definitely over-tired, and perhaps over-served. Our hosts caught up with Sound Opinions H.Q. immediately after going to see Rhys Chatham at Austin's Central Presbyterian Church, an experience they described as slightly mind-blowing. The avant-garde guitarist has basically been living in exile in Paris for the past decade, but emerged in Austin with a newly-formed guitar army: eight guitarists including Doug McCombs of Eleventh Dream Day and Tortoise, Ernie Brooks of The Modern Lovers and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. Jim reports that Chatham recently received a grant allowing him to realize his long-fantasized 100-member guitar ensemble.

  • One of the SXSW events Greg always tries to attend is Alejandro Escovedo's Sunday night show. This year Grady was one of the opening acts. Greg found their huge, overpowering sound on par with that of Chatham's guitar army. He also compares their sound to that of ZZ Top's early days. Listen for yourself as Greg plays a sample of their 2004 release Y.U. So Shady?

  • White Whale is Jim's final discovery. He caught the band at the Merge showcase, a label that usually delivers for this critic. He was again not disappointed. White Whale, whose members have been in a number of other indie rock bands including Butterglory, Three Higher Burning Fire and The Get Up Kids, impressed Jim with more than just its name. He found their sound to be a mix of Nick Drake and Pink Floyd, and also reminiscent of Elephant Six bands like Apples in Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel. So far their music can only be heard on Myspace.com, but White Whale may turn out to be another SXSW success story.

  • Greg's final pick is a band called Katahdin's Edge. He caught the group after originally trying to see a Finnish band who couldn‘t make it into the country. He was blown away, and despite getting thousands of free CDs for his day job, Greg was compelled to put down his own money for a Katahdin’s Edge album. This trio from Providence is an example of how jazz and rock can fuse in a great way. Rather than take an academic approach to jazz, Katahdin's Edge had a rock and roll, party edge that Greg really appreciated.

  • Greg was also caught on tape before and after seeing the biggest hype of this year's festival: The Arctic Monkeys. This has been quite the year for the young British band. In January they broke records for first-week sales in the U.K. with their debut release Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. In addition, they‘ve been proclaimed by many in the press as the greatest band to emerge from the U.K. in years. That’s a lot for a new band to live up to, but Greg was pleased with what he saw. While the Arctic Monkeys may not be what their hype claims, the music was well-rehearsed, packed with rhythm, and downright“ferocious”according to our host. Plus, the lead singer already seems to have the rock and roll attitude down.

Go to episode 18
news

Music News

The list of possible inductees for next year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony has been announced. Among the first-time nominees are Kiss, LL Cool J, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Genesis. But there are some old faces, too. ABBA, The Stooges, and Donna Summer have all been up for induction before. Jim and Greg think they deserve recognition, but also have a healthy dose of skepticism whenever they talk about the Hall of Fame. It's notoriously conservative and often overlooks more fringe genres. Plus, as Jim explains, winners always run the risk of being encased in glass and wax in Cleveland.

A heavy debate on piracy and the internet is brewing in Europe. First, the controversial“Three Strikes”law in France has passed in the French assembly. This means that if a French citizen is caught downloading illegally three times, he or she will lose internet access and be subject to fines up to $450,000. Their neighbors in the U.K. are also concerned about this issue. British pop stars like Radiohead, Annie Lennox, and Robbie Williams are members of the Featured Artists Coalition, which recently released a statement coming down firmly on the side of the consumer and defending internet file-sharing as a promotional tool for up-and-coming artists. But artists like Lily Allen and James Blunt have taken the other side. Jim and Greg find this to be a bit ironic considering Allen's use of MySpace early in her career.

Before they launch into reviews of new fall albums, Jim and Greg take a look at how things are going on the charts. The Beatles are still the big winners, selling more than 2 million albums worldwide in just five days. But, as Jim points out, this is a fraction of what they might have sold back in the CD heyday of 1992, and a fraction of what they might have sold digitally. Another big chart winner is Jay-Z, who sold almost 300,000 albums of The Blueprint 3. Hip hop still dominates the charts, with big-selling albums by Drake, Lil Boosie, and Kid Cudi, whom Jim and Greg discuss later in the show.

Go to episode 200

Music News

Taylor Swift dominated 2014 with her album 1989, selling 3.6 million copies and narrowly beating out Disney's Frozen for the top spot. With only four records achieving platinum status, not even Queen Bey made the cut this year. 2014 also saw a change in how consumers listened to music, as streaming increased 54% and vinyl sales were at their highest since 1991.

Just when people thought they "forgot about Dre", it turns out he was the highest paid musician of 2014 according to Forbes. Dr. Dre made $620 million before taxes, which can be attributed to his success with Beats headphones and collaboration with Apple. In second place is Beyoncé. Rounding out the top five are boomer acts The Eagles, Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen.

For the first time in UK chart history, the ten best-selling albums of the year were British acts. Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Coldplay and One Direction all held prominent places on the list, perhaps signaling that there is another British invasion on the way.

vx2 Sony is reintroducing the Walkman to give music enthusiasts a new old obsession. This Walkman has 128 GB of memory and 60 hours of battery life, and the device is competing with Neil Young's Pono, another high-fidelity music player. Young says his device does not do anything but play music and argues that is what it all should be about.

Go to episode 476

Music News

They truly are the champions: Queen's Greatest Hits album just became the first record in history to sell more than 6 million copies in the United Kingdom. That's about one album for every ten Britons—or, as Jim puts it, a whole lot of Freddie Mercury's overbite.

In more chart news from across the pond, the U.K.'s top-selling album this week is So Long, See You Tomorrow, the latest from Bombay Bicycle Club. Which had Jim and Greg wondering… who, exactly, is Bombay Bicycle Club? Apparently it's an indie rock outfit known for sampling Bollywood show tunes, with the nephew of the late British songstress Kirsty MacColl on guitar. The Brits must have a thing for the initials BBC.

Meanwhile back in the States, rock fans have been celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. And for memorabilia dealers, that's meant big business. A chunk of the Sullivan Show set signed by the Fab Four is going for a million bucks, while a signed U.K. version of A Hard Day's Night is expected to take in $60,000. There's also a signed copy of With the Beatles floating around somewhere. If you're the owner, consider paying a visit to Antiques Roadshow—you're in for at least $45,000.

Funnyman Fred Armisen of Portlandia and Saturday Night Live fame will soon return to late-night TV, this time as a musician. When fellow SNL alum Seth Myers takes over Late Night later this month, Armisen will“curate”his music and lead the in-house 8G Band, Myers announced by tweet this week. Sound Opinions saw this coming in 2012, when Fred (a former Chicago punk rocker who played in the band Trenchmouth, as well as Blue Man Group) told Jim and Greg how he's always admired bands on TV. Live the dream, Fred.

Go to episode 429

Music News

Greg Kot attended the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit this week, so he begins the news by reporting back some interesting tidbits. First he heard Intellectual Property“Czar”Victoria Espinel's presentation in which she outlined her 33-point strategy for dealing with internet piracy. She wants the private sector to do more to police illegal activity. But when questioned by Greg, she didn‘t seem concerned about the fact that 95% of Americans are engaged in illegal internet activity. Greg wonders if we’re "back to suing consumers."

Greg also hosted the keynote address featuring T. Bone Burnett. The iconoclastic producer, who is known for his work on the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack and Robert Plant's Raising Sand album, again stood apart from the crowd when he announced that he advises young musicians to stay away from the internet. While this may sound like a luddite talking, Greg explains that Burnett is wisely suggesting that musicians worry more about their art than their distribution. Once that's figured out, everything else comes into place.

Next up are two chart curiosities. First, for over 50 years The Beatles have held the Billboard singles chart record for most appearances by a non-solo act. Now, they are dethroned by…Glee. The Fox cast recently paid homage to another chart-topper, Britney Spears, and those 5 covers, including "Toxic" sold over 400,000 downloads.

In the U.K. another hot young star is climbing the charts: Winston Churchill. The wartime Prime Minister ousted The Killers' Brandon Flowers from the top five, and he's now neck and neck with Phil Collins and KT Tunstall. Two of Churchill's most famous speeches appear on the RAF's Central Band's new album Reach for the Skies, marking the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Go to episode 254

Music News

In the UK, pop has overtaken rock as the most popular genre of music in terms of chart success. Acts like Ed Sheeran, One Direction and Sam Smith have helped propel pop to its highest sales since 1999, but it's a different story in the United States. In 2014, rock music claimed 29% of sales, while pop only generated about half of that. These numbers have Jim and Greg thinking, are more rock fans buying physical products than fans of other genres of music?

The Library of Congress has selected new music for its National Recording Registry and there certainly is a range. The National Recording Registry is a list of recordings that are“historically, culturally or aesthetically important.”Some of the 2015 selections include Steve Martin's stand-up special A Wild and Crazy Guy, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Joan Baez's self-titled album, the song "Stand By Me" and Sesame Street's "Rubber Duckie."

Go to episode 494

Music News

First up in the news is the report that both the House and Senate have reauthorized the Higher Education Act with new provisions that essentially make colleges akin to cops. The bill requires universities to implement tougher traffic filtering technologies in order to deter p2p filesharing. Jim and Greg think any attempts to deter filesharing will be as effective as attempts to curb cheating, binge-drinking and plagiarizing.

Jim and Greg recently spoke with Big Champagne's Eric Garland about artists benefiting from filesharing and album-leaking. Labels have now caught on, but they don't want you to know it. When a track from the forthcoming Buckcherry album was leaked on the internet, the band and its label were quick to complain. But, according to a Wall Street Journal article, they were the source of the leak. It's an old PR stunt for the hip hop world, but now mainstream, albeit“boneheaded”acts like Buckcherry have caught on. Get ready for more faux file-leaking sob stories.

In other music news, music retailing giant iTunes may be getting some competition soon. Amazon launched a digital music service less than a year ago and has yet to make a dent in that market. Now the website has teamed up with MySpace to offer music fans a way to sample and then purchase individual songs and albums. The tracks will be DRM-free, and users won't have to launch a separate application to purchase music. Jim is quickly running to add the Amazon CEO as his MySpace friend.

There's never enough Abba on Sound Opinions, so we were excited when the Swedish pop quartet appeared in the headlines. The band's greatest hits album Gold recently went to #1 in the U.K., breaking the record for the oldest band to ever hit the top of the charts. The reason for the resurgence is the release of the movie Mamma Mia, but hopefully the legacy of the band will not be tarnished by the film.

Frequent chart-topper Chris Brown is also making news this week. His hit single "Forever" has made it to the Top 10 , but little did fans know it was written as a Wrigley gum jingle. For a long time artists have lent their music to advertising companies, but as far as Jim and Greg can tell, this is the first time a song was developed initially as an ad campaign. Is it just a chicken/egg argument? Or does the commercial intention matter to a song's integrity? Let us know what you think.

The final discussion in the news is about the proliferation of '90s nostalgia in the music industry these days. Alternative-era artists like Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair and Sonic Youth are all drawing from their former glory days and cashing in. Jim believes such nostalgia is anathema to the alternative philosophy, and doesn't think touring behind one singular album is much better than a greatest hits concert. Greg is surprised that Jim is surprised, citing the Sex Pistols' 1996 tour as the day he gave up on any notion of rock-era integrity.

Go to episode 141

Music News

This year's Mercury Prize winner has just been announced. The Arctic Monkeys will take home the British music prize, following in the footsteps of PJ Harvey, Dizzee Rascal, Badly Drawn Boy and Pulp. The prize is usually awarded to a non-commercial artist as an alternative to the more mainstream Brit Awards. Jim suggests that the U.S. equivalent would fall between the Grammy Awards and the more-eclectic Village Voice Pazz and Jop Critics Poll. The Arctic Monkeys were a surprising choice because they were perhaps the most obvious candidates. To say they were a huge phenomenon in the U.K. is an understatement — their album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, was the fastest selling debut album in UK history. However, despite high profile appearances on Saturday Night Live and at the SXSW Music Conference in Austin, they did not wow American audiences on the same level. But Jim and Greg both gave the record a Buy It rating in their review.

Also making headlines is soul legend Ronald Isley. The Isley Brother, also known as“Mr. Biggs,”has been convicted of tax evasion. He was sentenced to three years in federal prison and ordered to pay $3.1 million to the I.R.S — the maximum sentence he could have received. Jim and Greg had hoped that the judge would show some leniency to the musician, who recently suffered a stroke and a bout with kidney cancer, and is expecting a baby in January. Our hosts also cite Isley as one of the great talents of our time, noting that he has had a major hit in every one of his six decades as a performer. They suggest that it is Isley's friend, R. Kelly, who deserves the harsh hand of the law.

While“Mr. Biggs”can stay“Mr. Biggs,”even in prison,“Diddy”can no longer be“Diddy”in the U.K. The artist formerly known as P. Diddy, Puffy, Puff Daddy, and Sean Combs has agreed to drop the Diddy name as part of a legal settlement with a London-based producer named Richard“Diddy”Dearlove. Diddy became Diddy in 2001, but Dearlove had a hit under the name in 1997. Combs, however, announced that he can now add a new name to the list: Diddy is going to be a daddy.

Go to episode 42

Music News

Jim and Greg start by discussing news that Alan Ellis, the administrator of the popular UK bit-torrent site Oink.cd was acquitted of charges of conspiring to defraud copyright owners. Usually Jim and Greg are reporting victory for the music industry, so they were surprised to see this verdict. But, the key was that Ellis could not be linked to any conspiracy; he merely provided the ability to search for content. A judge or jury is not likely to be as lenient to the actual downloaders, like Trent Reznor. During its operation Oink facilitated the trading of 21 million music files.

Music fans were hit with lots of sad news last week. First, there was the death of Memphis punk rocker Jay Reatard at the age of 29. Then, there was the death of Wax Trax Records founder Dannie Flesher at the age of 58. And finally, there was the death of soul singer Teddy Pendergrass at the age of 59. Pendergrass first got attention as the drummer, then singer in Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. In fact, many people may not know that it was Pendergrass, not Melvin, who sang one of their biggest hits, "If You Don't Know Me By Now." Pendergrass continued to work with Philadelphia team Gamble and Huff and to become the king of the“slow jam.”But, to remember Pendergrass, Jim and Greg decide to play "You Can't Hide From Yourself," an up-tempo track that shows his diversity as a performer.

Go to episode 217

Music News

grateful_dead Jerry Garcia may be dead, but we're sure he'd also be grateful for huge outcry of interest from Grateful Dead fans for a series of reunion tribute shows in Chicago this summer. According to Greg's reporting for the Chicago Tribune nearly a half million fans went online at the same time with the hope of paying almost $200 a ticket. Many of them, of course, got shut out and can only hope to score tickets on the secondary market…that is if they are willing to pay $8,000 to $116,000! The show's promoter promises fans they will try to make the experience accessible via the web, but we recommend loading up your generic mp3 device with Dead tunes and heading over to kick back at your favorite (free) outdoor spot as an alternative idyll.

Jim and Greg next give an update on two ongoing court cases in the music world. First, the former British glam star Gary Glitter has been sentenced to 16 years in prison after being found guilty of indecently assaulting three girls in the late 1970's. There is no statute of limitations for such offenses in the UK.

And while less unseemly, the copyright case over "Blurred Lines" is also embarrassing for the artists involved. The trial pits Robin Thicke and his co-writers Pharrell Williams and T.I. against the family of Marvin Gaye. They, like many people, hear a lot of similarities to Gaye's 1977 hit "Got to Give It Up." So far the testimonies have been striking. Thicke admitted he was on drugs during the song's recording and that Pharrell was the primary force behind the song.“The biggest hit of my career was written by somebody else, and I was jealous and wanted credit,”he testified,“I felt it was a little white lie that didn‘t hurt his career but boosted mine.”No wonder so many of these cases don’t make it to a public courtroom.

After decades of being ready to review new releases on a Tuesday, Jim and Greg are preparing for a shift to Friday. But in this digital age, there's not much to prepare. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry announced the decision as a way to eliminate variance from country to country (it's Monday in the UK and Friday in Germany). But in a year when Beyonce and Drake can release music whenever they want with no advance fanfare, this is another example of the music industry being well-behind the times.

Tom Wheeler, commissioner of the FCC delivered a ruling that won in a 3-2 vote to approve strong Net Neutrality rules across the country. The Net Neutrality concept posits that the internet should remain a level playing field; certain companies who control data flow cannot show a preference for one company over another due to self interests. Ars Technica reporter Jon Brodkin, joined us to talk about the historic ruling. He doesn't see a downside to the ruling and says that most of the large telecommunication companies will respond with lawsuits. Brodkin adds that the effect on music fans who enjoy streaming services will be largely positive at this point.

Go to episode 484

Music News

While Taylor Swift fans may think she made history way back in 1989 by simply being born, the charts will remember Swift for the year 2014, as it marks the first time in twelve years that an artist's album has sold more than one million copies in its debut week. This feat, achieved by Swift's fifth studio album 1989, is no small one given our age of streaming music services and record leaks. That's why the secret to Swift's physical album sales success might just be her recent decision to pull all her music off of streaming music supergiant Spotify. Swift now joins a growing chorus of musicians like Radiohead's Thom Yorke who reject Spotify's business model, one that only pays artists a fraction of a penny for each stream of their songs. Spotify, of course, defends its model, but Swift stands by her assertion that music is art, art is valuable and therefore it should be paid for. And yes, by art she means "Shake It Off."

On the opposite end of the commercial spectrum from superstar Taylor Swift is the self-described “Liberian/Nigerian/Scottish psychedelic hip-hop electro boy band,” Young Fathers. Despite the alternative hip-hop group's relative obscurity, its album, Dead, just won the UK's Mercury Prize, an annual honor given to the best British or Irish album of the year. The win was an upset for more buzzed about artists like FKA Twigs and Damon Albarn, and many criticize the award for favoring obscure bands that are never heard from again. To be fair, well-known and still active acts like PJ Harvey, Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys have taken the prize home in the past, but whether Young Fathers have staying power or not remains to be seen.

Go to episode 467

Music News

It seems like just yesterday that the British first invaded rock and roll. But, many early recordings by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who are so old they were about to fall into public domain. However, the European Union just extended that copyright law from 50 years to 70 years, giving record companies another two decades to collect big revenues. It's being called Cliff's Law after pop singer Cliff Richard, but other artists don't think the law will benefit them. Here in the U.S., copyright law allows for artists to reclaim ownership of their work after 35 years. So, many American musicians who made recordings in the 1970s, including Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Don Henley, are able to file claims. But the big four labels are heavily resisting, claiming that performers were mere employees doing“work for hire,”and thus have no rights.

In other news across the pond, U.K. culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has called on search engines, such as Google, to bar links to websites with pirated material. You expect these kind of restrictions in China, but not necessarily in England. Hunt has rejected suggestions that this is“an assault on the ‘freedom’ of the internet,”but for Google that's exactly what it is. They said they already work with copyright owners to remove infringing materials. So it looks like legislation is the next step.

Go to episode 303

Music News

It's always interesting to see what the Brits pick as the winner of the Mercury Prize. The almost 20-year old award grants a lb20,000 prize to an act from the U.K. or Ireland. And unlike many of our awards, the Mercury usually recognizes unique artists rather than popular ones. This year's winner is PJ Harvey, making her the first person to take home a Mercury Prize twice. Her first win was for 2001's Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, an album Jim and Greg loved, unlike this year's Let England Shake. They gave it Burn It and Trash It ratings.

Despite Jim and Greg's review of Lil Wayne's new album Tha Carter IV, sales approached 1 million records in the first week. It also broke iTunes single-week record. Weezy is contributing to what's proving to be a successful year for the music industry, thanks to a couple of factors. First, retailers discounted the prices of back catalog items, encouraging consumers to go out and shop. In addition, digital sales are up, perhaps because consumers couldn't rely on LimeWire for their free goods.

Legendary guitar manufacturer Gibson (of Les Paul fame) has been catching the attention of the US government. Recently their factory was searched by agents of the US Fish and Wildlife Service looking for illegally obtained exotic hardwoods. This is the second raid in two years, but Gibson denies any wrongdoing. The Rainforest Alliance and Greenpeace also give the company good marks. But, since recording this episode, this story has gone political. Gibson's CEO has taken to conservative airwaves and become a symbol for anti-big government and pro-"Made in the USA" proponents.

Go to episode 302

Music News

Europe is really setting the stage for how the U.S. will approach digital music in the next couple of years, so Jim and Greg take a look at news coming out of that region. In France, the government plans to subsidize legal music downloading to encourage young consumers not to illegally get songs. This is going to cost the French government some $35 million. But, this might sound like a better option than the“three strikes”law to one French ISP. Free has declined to send out warning letters to its users. Over in Ireland the three strikes approach got struck down entirely. The big four labels were unable to convince an Irish court that laws to identify and cut off internet users should be enforceable in that country like others in the EU. And finally, one U.K. music executive offers another solution entirely: £1 records for all!

If you‘ll only spend a dollar to support a band, how much would you pay to stop them? $10 million? That’s how much a former Seattle fan of Weezer intended to raise as part of a campaign to get the Rivers Cuomo-fronted band to stop playing. Jim and Greg like this idea, but think Weezer might be the wrong target. Who would you pay to (not) play?

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Go to episode 256

Music News

The first story in the news this week is a sign of things to come according to Jim and Greg. They have been reporting on power shifts in the music industry for years, and now they're seeing two giants come together: Ticketmaster and Irving Azoff. For listeners not familiar with that second name, Azoff, a longtime tastemaker and power broker in the record business, is behind the careers of New Kids on the Block, Van Halen and Guns 'N Roses, and brokered the recent deals between AC/DC, The Eagles and Wal-Mart. Now he'll be helming Ticketmaster Entertainment, and Jim and Greg think consumers should beware.

The next two stories showcase two new ways the industry is trying to curb file-sharing. As reported on the show previously, the U.K. is going after Internet service providers, since no one has had much luck putting the fear in consumers. Now we know who will be heading this war on downloading: punk rocker Feargal Sharkey. The former Undertones lead singer is being unveiled as the chief executive of UK Music, an umbrella organization that will represent songwriters, promoters and other members of the music industry.

Back in the States, Universal Music has struck a deal with Dell Computers to provide consumers with a bundle of tunes along with their computer purchase. They believe that if people have legal music on their hard-drive, they won‘t try to get more illegally. But Jim and Greg don’t think this deal factors in the importance of choice. In 2008, with so many ways to hear and consume music, fans don't want label executives curating their listening for them.

A recent survey shows that indie labels still don't have access to radio airplay despite the FCC's effort to equal the playing field. Part of 2007's payola settlement was to insure that 8,400 half-hour segments of airtime should be dedicated to indie labels and local bands. This was to help cease any pay-for-play practices. But, organizations like The American Association of Independent Music and the Future of Music Coalition are saying that, unfortunately, things are as grim as ever.

Go to episode 153

Music News

The UK music industry cheered this week after its record industry, BPI, announced its first revenue growth in six years. The 1.4% profit increase is mostly due to the success of digital music sales, which grew by more than 50%. So, it's no surprise that record companies have their eye on the digital world and all of the non-legal, non-profitable activity that takes place on Spotify and YouTube–especially since CD sales are still plummeting.

According to Billboard, this year's Record Store Day helped independent shops across the country break sales records. It was also "the biggest day of sales for vinyl in SoundScan's history." Of course, SoundScan only began in 1991, but Jim and Greg still applaud any effort to support independent music retailers. And, they‘d encourage you to check out last year’s Record Store Day celebration on Sound Opinions.

Go to episode 231

Music News

If you were one of the reportedly billion people who tuned into the Olympic opening ceremony this week, you might be surprised to learn that most of the heavy-hitting British artists who performed - Arctic Monkeys, Emeli Sand'e, Dizzee Rascal, and Sir Paul McCartney among them - were paid only 1 lb for their troubles. Universal Music Group on the other hand, is raking in the dough. Isles of Wonder, the official soundtrack of the opening ceremony, which Universal released, is charting in the top five albums in UK, France, Belgium, Spain, and the U.S.

Go to episode 349

Music News

First up in the news, Verizon is expected to send letters to its customers on behalf of the RIAA to those accused of illegally downloading content from the web. This marks a shift in attitude for Verizon. Previously they were one of the more reluctant companies to intervene in copyright cases. Jim and Greg point out that no one knows what the letters will say, or rather what kinds of action they will threaten, but they do have concern about ISP's making partnerships with big Hollywood.

One of the more interesting music pieces to hit the newsstand this week came from the U.K.'s Sunday Times. Their profile of Mariah Carey portrays her not just as a pop diva, but as a forward-thinking business person along the lines of Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails. 10 years ago, Mariah was a punchline in the music (and film) business. Now, she not only has a successful album, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, but unique marketing and money-making methods, including an Elle-sponsored mini-mag. As the Times article explains, this partnership wasn't beneficial for Elle, but did funded Mariah's album. In addition, it gave the singer a number of different business opportunities. Who knew she was such a mad genius?

Go to episode 208

Music News

Coachella If your hometown looks anything like Chicago these days, it's hard to even imagine the warmer months. But, for many music fans, now is the time to start mapping out their summer concert plans. The concert business is the one area of the music industry that is thriving, and summer festivals are a huge money-maker. The lineups have been released for Coachella in California, as well as Bonnaroo in Tennessee. And, even without a lineup, the UK's Glastonbury Festival has sold out. One bad sign of things to come in this economy — the Langerado Festival in Florida has already been cancelled due to poor ticket sales.

Go to episode 167

Music News

The man commonly referred to as“the fifth Beatle,”Sir George Martin, died Tuesday at the age of 90. Martin, a producer, was originally known for bringing success to Parlophone Records in the 1950s by producing comedy albums by such performers and Peter Sellers, Peter Ustinov, and The Goon Show troupe.

Then, in 1962, Martin met with an unknown band called The Beatles. The group had been rejected by every label they had spoken to prior, and Martin, though not thoroughly impressed by their music, signed The Beatles to Parlophone. Luckily for them—and for the droves of Beatles fans-to-be—Martin had been seeking a new group to represent the rock ‘n’ roll scene emerging from the UK, and he liked their sense of humor. He taught the novice, live band about recording and producing.Between 1962 and 1970, The Beatles produced 13 albums and 22 singles under Martin's guidance. And though he went on to produce several big-name bands after that, Martin is most well-known for bringing The Beatles from obscurity to the forefront of popular music.

Listen to the Sound Opinions Classic Album Dissection of George Martin-produced album Revolver here.

Go to episode 537

Music News

Google has added music to its growing list of endeavors. The internet giants launched a new music service this week that will offer users a link to purchase records. Google won‘t be selling music directly, but they’ll be competing with iTunes in cooperation with other services like Lala, Rhapsody and Pandora. It's exciting news for artists who are concerned with getting their music out there. But after many years where a small group of labels controlled everything in the music industry, Jim and Greg wonder if this is simply a case of one corporate hierarchy replacing another.

Lady Gaga broke Billboard records this week by becoming the first pop artist to score 4 consecutive No. 1 hits from a debut album. The most recent chart-topping song is "Paparazzi." The singer will continue to make news this year after she embarks on a visually exciting theater tour next month. We‘ll be watching that. Other than an avant-garde look, Jim and Greg aren’t sure what separates her from any other female pop singer. But every generation needs its own Madonna. In other chart news, Michael Jackson's This Is It movie and album both did well in sales last week. The album debuted at No. 1, and the film earned $106.3 million worldwide.

Downloading continues to be a huge issue for the music industry. The big question is how it affects the market. Now a British study commissioned by think tank Demos has one answer. According to its findings, people who engage in file-sharing spend 75% more than people who don't. They are simply more excited about music. This news presents a counter-argument to those in favor of the UK government's plan to sever the internet connections of persistent downloaders. But it will be hard to sway the British recording trade association BPI, who estimates that illegal downloaders cost the industry $330 million in 2009.

Go to episode 206

Music News

You might have seen this viral video by San Francisco-based toy company GoldieBlox featuring a feisty reinterpretation of the Beastie Boys song "Girls." The start-up is now enmeshed in a legal dispute over its right to use the song. The bizarre part? GoldieBlox started it. The company filed a pre-emptive strike against the Beasties claiming that the video, as a parody, constitutes fair use. (It reminds Greg of a similar lawsuit that Robin Thicke and Co. filed this summer. The Beastie Boys responded:“As creative as it is, make no mistake, your video is an advertisement that is designed to sell a product.”It looks like you gotta fight for your right to parody…

As GoldieBlox realized, a good ad soundtrack can really break a product (or a song for that matter) into the public consciousness. But these days, songs used in ads are often separated from their products, thanks in large part to Shazam, an app that lets smartphone users identify and buy songs they hear on TV, the radio or out and about. Now Shazam is teaming up with media-services giant Mindshare on a program called Audio+ that aims to really beef up the association of products and music. The details will be announced next week, but this news already has Jim questioning: where do we draw the line between art and commerce?

Admittedly, Greg has never really“gotten”the whole Robbie Williams phenomenon. But now the British pop star has released the 1000th number one album in the U.K. Back in 1956 that Frank Sinatra's Songs For Swingin' Lovers! became the Brits‘ first #1. Now Robbie Williams’s Swings Both Ways has become the 1,000th.

Go to episode 418

Music News

It's been a rough week for digital music. First Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke and producer Nigel Godrich openly criticize Spotify and boot Atoms for Peace songs from the streaming service. The, the Musicians' Union in the U.K. threaten a boycott if Spotify doesn't raise its royalty rates. And now Aimee Mann is suing MediaNet, which provides millions of songs to dozens of music services. She's seeking damages for "willful copyright infringement."

Sure, we could imagine Bono going for an “EGOT,” but "Commander"? The Irish rocker was recently awarded the country's highest cultural honor: Commander of Arts and Letters in recognition of his contributions to the arts and to charity. Rapper Nas was also given an unusual honor. Harvard University has established the Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship as part of its Hip-Hop Archive and W.E.B. Du Bois Institute.

Since its launch in 2008, Record Store Day has become something music fans eagerly anticipate. And now they'll also have…wait for it…Cassette Store Day! True, there aren't many stores that solely sell cassettes, but on September 7, a number of bands will release special cassettes and artists like The Flaming Lips, Deerhunter and At the Drive-In will reissue albums on cassettes. So breakout your Walkman and get ready.

Go to episode 400

Music News

Often when Jim and Greg discuss RIAA lawsuits in the news, the stories seem to paint a dreary picture for the average music fan. But this week things are looking up for the little guy. Last year Jammie Thomas was convicted of music piracy in the country's first file-sharing trial. But, now the judge is asking for a new trial. U.S. District Judge Michael J. Davis believes he didn‘t instruct the jury properly and didn’t insist that the prosecution prove files were actually downloaded. In addition, he thinks the $220,000 fine is completely excessive. The judge is also urging for better copyright laws, something Jim and Greg have been saying for years.

The consumer does not fare as well in the next news story. Both Wal-Mart and Yahoo! Music have announced that customers who purchased music with DRM protection will not be able access their purchases for much longer. In Yahoo's case, it is because their music store, and consequently their DRM server, is shutting down. And, while Wal-Mart was wise to eliminate DRM files, Jim and Greg don't understand why customers who purchased songs prior to this shift should penalized. For every step forward in the digital music industry, there are at least two steps back.

Jim and Greg next give their takes on the recent My Bloody Valentine reunion show. The influential U.K. band played Chicago as their first tour in 16 years, and both Jim and Greg were there to witness it, though one has to wonder if they saw the same show. Both critics agree that the band's 1991 album Loveless was a masterpiece, but Jim wished they had played some new material. He also didn't see evidence that the band has kept up with the times, calling their dated loops and samples cheesy. Greg was much more impressed and thinks the members of MBV deserve one free pass in terms of not having new material. He was also blown away by their sound - almost literally.

Go to episode 149

Music News

After much controversy, Oklahoma has finally declared a new state song: "Do You Realize??" by The Flaming Lips. The native sons have always been proud Sooners, but their politics often go against the state's grain. After the people and the Senate approved this choice, conservatives in the House rejected the song. Despite this, Governor Brad Henry has signed an executive order naming“Do You Realize??”the official state rock song. Sometimes democracy does pay off.

It's easy to assume that rock stars are immune to the current economic crisis, but a recent UK survey shows that artists there have taken some big hits. Elton John's personal wealth fell by more than 25%. So the "Rocket Man" is going to have to get by on merely $256.8 million. Paul McCartney's wealth fell 12% bringing his fortune to only $88 million. And Mick Jagger fared even worse. He took a 16% hit and now only has $278 million to live off of. Jim and Greg hope these musicians know how to make Ramen.

Go to episode 179