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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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Music News

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:

reviewPort of MorrowPort of Morrow available on iTunes

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.


Featured Songs

  1. Lionel Richie feat. Shania Twain, Endless Love, Tuskegee, Universal, 2012
  2. Fun., We Are Young, Some Nights, Fueled by Ramen, 2012
  3. Cloud Nothings, No Future/No Past, Attack on Memory, Carpark, 2012
  4. Wild Belle, Keep You, Keep You (single), Sandhill Sound, 2012
  5. Bleached, Searching Through the Past, Searching Through the Past (single), Suicide Squeeze, 2011
  6. G-Side, How Far, The One…Cohesive, Slow Motion Soundz, 2011
  7. Chic Gamine, Closer, City City, self-released, 2012
  8. Nick Waterhouse, Some Place, Is That Clear EP, Innovative Leisure, 2011
  9. Tanlines, Real Life, Mixed Emotions, True Panther Sounds, 2012
  10. The dBs, That Time is Gone, Falling Off the Sky, Bar/None, 2012
  11. Kids These Days, Darling, Hard Times EP, Save Money, 2011
  12. The Shins, Simple Song, Port of Morrow, Columbia, 2012
  13. The Shins, The Rifle's Spiral, Port of Morrow, Columbia, 2012
  14. The Shins, It's Only Life, Port of Morrow, Columbia, 2012
  15. Tyrone Tyree, Ring a-Ding, Ring a-Ding, self-released, 2007
  16. The Pack A.D., Making Gestures, Funeral Mixtape, Mint, 2008
  17. Nick Lowe, Marie Provost, Jesus of Cool, Radar, 1978
  18. Brinsley Shwarz, (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?, The New Favourites of Brinsley Shwarz, United Artists, 1974

Footnotes Lionel Richie Sells Big on HSN Jay Carney Loves Guided By Voices Changes at Billboard SXSW The Shins