Archive for the ‘ramblings’ Category

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i was a teenage smog

January 29, 2007

ah, the new year.  a time for reflection, for resolution, for top ten lists…

well, maybe if it wasn’t already nearly February – i think my vacation went on a bit long…

not to worry – as far as top tens go, Shots Ring Out decided to out-do everybody, and compile the top 56 music videos of 2006.  while they may not be the best songs of the past year, they definitely are (some of) the best videos.  the clips are available in different formats depending on your downloading needs, so you have no excuse not to check out the ones you haven’t seen – your New Favourite Band may be lurking in there somewhere.

as for resolutions…  well, i’m not gonna list them, so i can avoid the inevitable embarrassment come 2008 when i realise i haven’t stuck to any of them.  one resolution i will share, with blog as my witness, is that i will write more this year.  i’m the lamest excuse for a writer, ever (well, maybe apart from Poppy Z. Brite – would you like some cheese with your blood?).  anyway, in order to mark this momentous occasion, this blog has undergone yet another name change.  (it may also have something to do with the fact that there are already two blogs titled the bitter pill – i have no idea how google missed them six months ago when i was checking if the name was already being used).  so, welcome to the new and improved sewn to the sky.  i am humbly borrowing the name from Smog‘s debut album, a noisy lo-fi affair that (along with Forgotten Foundation) is a poor represtation of the genius that is Smog/(smog)/Bill Callahan.  with his dry humour and gravelly voice over acoustic guitar, he is often compared to the equally genius Leonard Cohen.  and the man is finally playing a concert here next month.  okay, it’s technically (his girlfriend) Joanna Newsom‘s gig, but he’s the opening act and will most likely accompany her during her set.  so what better time to try to create some new Smog fans?  over the next few weeks, i’ll be posting some videos and mp3s to try to give you some idea of how dark and beautiful and poetic and funny and heart-wrenchingly depressing this man can be – all in one song, if he so chooses.

to start with, here’s a track that fits a couple of those categories from his 1999 album Knock Knock.  just to clarify, it’s actually the last line from this song that inspired the new blog name – Bill makes a lyrical reference back to his debut album in the track “Teenage Spaceship”.  one of my all-time favourite songs, it’s hard for me to describe it as anything but sublimely beautiful.  Smog manages to capture the loneliness and longing of the awkward teenage years; the feeling that no one understands – or even sees – the ‘real you’…

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pictures came and broke your heart

December 7, 2006

the Sub Pop Records newsfeed informed me that some of their artists – and the label itself – have been nominated for the 2006 Plug Independent Music Awards, and implored my vote.  since i was just saying, like, two posts ago that Sub Pop was my New Favourite Record Label, i felt morally obligated to vote, so went and officially registered my adoration for said label under the appropriate category.

the other votes weren’t so easy, especially when forced to choose between artists like CSS and Cat Power and Thom Yorke.  i dutifully doled out most of my votes to the Knife, mainly because no other band has impressed me as much in quite a while, but made sure i gave enough love to my other favourites.

if you’ve spent any time recently trawling the internet trying to discover your New Favourite Band, i encourage you to go to Plug and vote for some awards.  there are also media categories where you can show your appreciation for your favourite blogs, magazines, venues, radio stations, and so on.  it’s a shame that the best blog category seemed to shy away from blogs that specialise in video clips – surely cliptip and Shots Ring Out deserved a nomination.  (and no, YouTube videos don’t count).

which reminds me of a good article i read on SRO recently about the sorry state of music video distribution.

“We’re at the point where the distribution method of music videos is complete and utter shit. This distribution method is Google’s YouTube (and its various dopplegangers).  While YouTube has many attractive qualities, quality itself is not one of them.  …  Music videos are a commercial art form, and while many people focus on that first part (commercial) many people like to neglect that last part (art). The music video art form is primarily seen via an incredibly broken, dusty, painted, kaliedascope of a lens.”

i couldn’t agree more – but then, i’ve always thought music videos weren’t given enough respect.  i always liked to think of the video not only as the visual companion to the song, but also the visual representation.  as in, “this is what the song sounds like, and this is what the song looks like”.  this, of course, comes under the “artistic” aspect of the whole thing, and i have to remind myself that first and foremost, a music video is essentially a commercial for the artist or band.  it is, after all, technically called a “promotional video”.  the video isn’t the product that the record company wants you to buy – it’s trying to sell the album.  the music video is just a four-minute long advertisement to gain exposure for the artist, to make you aware of the music and want to buy it.  but if that’s the case, why is it so hard to find music videos?  why are some record companies making it as difficult as possible for people to view and distribute free advertising for their artist?  some tiny pixelated video with crappy out-of-sync audio is not my idea of good advertising – you wouldn’t have to peer at something so small and muddy on television.  but the only reason i take such issue with this is if They don’t want people freely downloading or viewing decent quality video clips, why not release a damn dvd?  or include the videos on a bonus disc with the album to help encourage us to actually buy it?  and all the clips, please – not just the ones that made it into the charts.  i don’t know how many times i’ve looked at a singles/best of/anthology dvd and despaired at all the missing videos, thinking “if you’ve got them lying around somewhere, how hard can it be to chuck them on a disc?”  as a fan, i want to see all aspects of an artist, including their not-so-good videos.  i don’t care that the song didn’t make it into the Top 40 – if i already bought the dvd, i’m clearly interested in the videos for their artistic merit; you don’t need to keep trying to just “sell me the good stuff”.  and no, i don’t think selling videos on iTunes is the answer, either – like with audio, if i’m going to pay for video, i’d prefer it to be of a decent quality.

30frames disagreed with a couple of the author’s points, and suggests that quality isn’t everything.  while i agree that quality isn’t everything, i do feel it’s important when it comes to fully appreciating the art side of it.  it’s kinda like high school students performing Shakespeare – you know that underneath, there’s probably a really good story there, but jeez, it’s hard to watch.  sure, i’m “seeing” the clip and “hearing” the song, but the technological limitations of YouTube can strip out some of the subtleties from both the audio and video.  i don’t see how the quality of YouTube can be good from either a commercial or an artistic point of view (the customer can’t see your product/the audience can’t see your art).  by all means, have a copy on YouTube, but give those of us that want it a decent copy for download.  the more i play (and enjoy) the clip, the more i’ll love the artist, and the more cds i’ll want to buy.

which brings me back to Sub Pop Records.  their media section is a treasure trove of downloadable videos and mp3s – okay, the quality of some of the videos is a little dodgy, but at least they’re trying!  it seems as soon as one of their bands releases a new single, they’re the first to post mp3s or videos.  and today at my local music store, i saw that Sub Pop have released a dvd called Acquired Taste compiling some of the best videos from their best artists.  there’s a few omissions (i guess the dvd was compiled before they signed CSS) but i definitely plan on buying it, mainly because i have already been exposed to many of the artists and their videos on the Sub Pop website (and they’re all so damn good!).

okay, enough gushing.  i don’t work for Sub Pop, i swear.  i just love the music, and appreciate their sensibilities.  other labels should take note – or just start generally paying more attention to their customers.  give us good videos, dammit!

um…  and go vote!

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thieves and lovers

September 15, 2006

here’s the obligatory follow-up to my recent Constantines post.  (okay, to be honest, i just didn’t want my first post in weeks to be about Rockstar: Supernova.)  my partner zero asked why i hadn’t included an mp3 of “Thieves”.  i explained briefly the legal issues involved, and that although i do upload some of the audio and video myself, some of the links i provide are to files from ‘official’ sources.  but he’s right – “Thieves” is undoubtedly one of the Constantines’ finest songs, and is therefore more likely to make you want to buy a Constantines album.  so here’s the mp3.  hehe.

i am going to try posting more, even if it is just mp3s.  i’m a little surprised how many posts i managed to write before i got distracted.  i’m actually notorious for having a short attention span when it comes to various endeavours.  But i have been busy – i’ve been trying to catch up on the blogs and sites i read, and my news aggregator is still teeming with unread feeds.  i got a purty white 4gb ipod nano (yes, one of the old ones, not the sexy new ones) and spend an unbelievable amount of time filling it with music – probably just because i’m really anal and insist on including stuff like album art and lyrics.  we also upgraded some computer hardware (nothing fancy – just added a 1gb stick of ram, 230gb hard drive, and 256mb video card) which means we’ve been able to play all the games that lack of disk space or crappy hardware prevented us from enjoying – hauled out the old classics like Sims 2 and the Movies, and also some new stuff like Black & White 2 and CivCity: Rome.

but anyway.  enough about me.  for your evaluating pleasure: