SXSW 2012 & The Shins Review

Jim and Greg are back from their annual visit to the SXSW Music Conference with all the news, trends and must-hear bands for 2012.

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In today’s world artists have to do whatever they can to sell albums, from creative packaging to deals with coffee companies. But the Home Shopping Network? Well Lionel Richie proved HSN can mean big success when he sold 20,000 copies of his new album Tuskegee in just one hour. Countrified versions of Endless Love and All Night Long went like hotcakes (or rather cubic zirconia jewelry). Not to be outdone, QVC will host the Beach Boys 50th anniversary reunion in May.

On Sound Opinions we like to think everyone is a critic. So it’s especially rewarding when we hear about music experts in unique settings. Take White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. During a recent briefing he outed himself as one of the world’s biggest Guided By Voices fans.

You may not be familiar with the band Fun, but chances are you’ve heard their song We Are Young at some point recently. And now, thanks to changes at Billboard, it’s been bumped up to the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100. The singles chart is now taking into account online streaming services like Spotify and Rhapsody, signifying a realization that music’s popularity isn’t just about radio play or retail sales these days. Going further, Billboard has also launched a completely new streaming chart called On-Demand Songs that will tally plays from 6 different internet services.

SXSW 2012

Streaming was also a big topic at this year’s SXSW Music Conference in Austin, TX. Every year Jim, Greg and over 2000 bands converge upon the state capital for what proves to be the biggest music gathering in the country when it comes to bringing together industry professionals, fans and artists. At the Pennies from the Celestial Jukebox panel, representatives from streaming services and labels talked about this new revenue stream. It’s not much, but pieced together could be significant. The problem is a lack of transparency when it comes to breaking down costs and revenues. So Greg wonders if the new boss is the same as the old boss.

And speaking of The Boss, Bruce Springsteen gave the SXSW keynote address this year. And it was an optimistic one, according to our hosts. He spoke alone for an hour, sharing wisdom and telling members of the music community that it doesn’t matter what tools you use to make music, it’s all about having heart.

When not going to talks and panels, Jim and Greg are in the trenches-going to shows and listening for the next big thing. Here are their favorite discoveries of this year’s fest:

Jim

  • Cloud Nothings
  • Bleached
  • Chic Gamine
  • The dB’s

Greg

  • Wild Belle
  • G Side
  • Nick Waterhouse
  • Kids These Days

Port of Morrow Shins

Port of Morrow

After working on side projects like Broken Bells, Shins front man James Mercer has retooled the band and released a new album called Port of Morrow. Fans will continue to appreciate Mercer’s sense of melody, but, like Greg, they may be turned off by the broader, more polished production courtesy of producer Greg Kurstin. Jim thinks the production adjustments are successful, and prefers The Shins’ brand of twee more than that of Andrew Bird. So that’s a Burn it from Greg and a Buy It from Jim.

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