Glen Hansard & Markéta Irglová and Saul Williams Review

Markéta Irglová and Glen Hansard went from struggling musicians to bona fide movie stars after appearing in the hit movie-musical Once. Tune in to hear their discussion with Jim and Greg plus a live musical performance.

Glen Hansard
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Lately it seems like all the record industry can talk about is what to do about all the digital downloading out there. Now the Songwriters Association of Canada thinks it has a solution. They’ve proposed to allow domestic consumers access to all recorded music available online in return for adding a $5 monthly fee to every wireless and Internet account in the country. The Canadian recording industry hasn’t responded favorably, but as SAC president Eddie Schwartz explains to Jim and Greg, it’s the best way to compensate songwriters and musicians for the 50+ billion downloads that are expected to take place in 2008.

In other news American Idol Taylor Hicks has been dropped by his label, J Records. This comes shortly after the dismissal of former Idol runner-up Ruben Studdard. And, after a disappointing year for Kelly Clarkson, Jim and Greg wonder if the Idol effect is wearing off. Sure, both Chris Daughtry and Carrie Underwood had a very successful year, but as the new season of Idol kicks off, Sound Opinions H.Q. has to wonder—maybe this pop culture phenomenon should stick to television, where it belongs.

Radiohead’s album In Rainbows went to number one this week after being initially released as a pick-your-own-price digital download. The band hasn’t released any sales figures from their digital experiment, but another music giant has been less tight-lipped. Trent Reznor recently posted the download and sales numbers for The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust, the Saul Williams album he produced and helped release. Reznor made the album available as a free, lower-quality download as well as a higher-quality download for $5. According to Reznor, over 150,000 people downloaded the album, but only 18% paid for it. While he was disheartened by the news, Jim and Greg think the situation fares well for Saul Williams, who previously never had such a large audience. Artists rarely get a large cut of record sales, and this kind of exposure will help Williams build a fan base for the bigger money-maker: touring.

The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust Saul Williams

The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust

But, the real question is whether or not The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust is worth your $5. Greg calls the album a dissertation on the Black American experience. That’s no small topic for sure, but he enjoyed Saul Williams’ lyrics more when he got personal towards the end. The real star of the album is Reznor’s production which is as intense and skuzzy as ever. Jim agrees, saying that the album is sonically and conceptionally mind-blowing, and would’ve been a contender for his best of last year. Both critics give The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust a Buy It.

Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova of The Swell Season

This week Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová of The Swell Season and the film Once join Jim and Greg for a conversation and live performance. Glen and Markéta had come to town as part of a whirlwind tour they can attribute to Once’s success. The modest film has become a surprise hit with audiences and critics—but no one was more surprised than Glen and Markéta. Glen, who is also the frontman of the Irish band The Frames, explains that he’s extremely grateful for the success, but wishes he hadn’t become so media savvy. Markéta, on the other hand, just doesn’t see the chemistry everyone else is impressed by. For her, the movie just captured the way she and Glen really make music.

One thing that hasn’t changed with all the fame is Glen’s guitar; it’s so beat up that its manufacturer is embarrassed. Lucky for us, the sound is nothing to be embarrassed about. You can hear all of The Swell Season’s live songs here.

Greg

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.

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