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The Holidays Are For Box Sets: Finding the Future Through the Past

MachineHead_BloodstoneDiamonds“I wish I could have seen The Cure back then,” my friend Xio said to me the other day. “When I was 13 in 1996, my diary was full of crush notes to Robert Smith.” Xio went on to see The Cure a couple of times, and Depeche Mode too. Of course today, both bands have achieved a legendary status, enough to justify multiple box sets of singles, rarities, remixes, live performances and such. And right now, the holiday gift giving season is the time for the latest avalanche of super deluxe box sets in the physical realm.

With so much of our business moving to digital and especially streaming, you’d think the days of these pricey coffee table heavyweight packages would be over. But as art objects in and of themselves, box sets bring an immersive fan experience that is qualitatively different than streaming some of those same tracks on Spotify. They are an excuse to celebrate our inner geekdom and obsessiveness to the smallest details. Like Jimmy Page’s more prominent acoustic guitar in the Sunset Sound Mix of “Stairway To Heaven” on Led Zeppelin’s just reissued/remastered IV Deluxe (aka ZOSO), or the instrumental versions of some of your Zep classics on I-IV before Robert Plant added his vocals. Really? I never heard John Paul Jones’ keyboard part in there before! Or the improved stereo imaging and fine sonic detail in Bruce Springsteen’s classic The River, just issued this week (as part of The Album Collection 1973-1984.)

But it’s not just a question of sharper bass with more low frequencies or a kick drums that you can feel in your chest vs. fairly HQ 320 kbps MP3s that are easy to purchase. Let’s face it, no one reads 20 page liner notes by veteran Rock writers like David Fricke or Greil Marcus online about all the minutiae involving The Velvet Underground Super Deluxe with its 3 different mixes of the same album or Bob Dylan & The Band Basement Tapes Complete with multiple versions of the same song in different tempos or styles. It’s a different listening experience sitting at home on a Saturday afternoon reading the book while the music plays than rocking some tunes on your smartphone on a bus or a subway on your way to work. Something vinyl lovers have long known as well.

As the physical realm continues to adapt to the realities of the modern niche market place, box sets are where record labels can recoup on long-term investments and trend setting cult artists can finally grab some of the mainstream attention they’ve long deserved. Like British Invasion-influenced Pop masters Big Star finally getting their due with multiple box sets, reissues and a fine documentary, “Nothing Can Hurt Me,” after years of only being acknowledged by fellow musicians and indie trailblazers like The Replacements. Today, the simple act of physically compiling brings streaming attention to the new classics, such that Paul Westerberg, Tommy Stinson and company can play their college radio “underground hits” to packed stadium sing alongs decades later, as many of us witnessed in Forest Hills, NY this past summer.

In the last few years we’ve seen a wide range of large box sets from icons like The ClashWoody Guthrie, Johnny Cash and even Judas Priest. The real question is who are today’s musical heroes that will be compiled in the years ahead? Will LCD Soundsystem ever merit a reissue like Underworld’s 5 CD Super Deluxe Dubnobasswithmyheadman including live rehearsals by an Electronica group in the act of composition? Are Machine Head destined to become the next Judas Priest or Metallica? Or will they be this generation’s Diamond Head spearheading the mostly under the radar NWOBHM (that’s new wave of British Heavy Metal) and thereby influencing every major Thrash/Speed Metal act in their wake? Will Eminem and Jay Z ever be anthologized like James Brown was on the 4 Funk-filled Star Time CDs? And can the Foo Fighters, Maroon 5 and even Nickelback transcend their mass appeal to reach Journey’s guilty pleasures God-like status for stadium anthems? “Don’t Stop Believin’…”

Get Your Fix of Sufi & Ghazal Music on Spotify

Sufi_Ghazal_SpotifyCoverThe Orchard and Times Music have engaged in an unprecedented campaign to actively showcase and promote Sufi & Ghazal music from the Indian subcontinent.

Servicing a huge demand for these two genres in the US and UK, Times Music has put together their Top 100 Sufi & Ghazal songs, thereby offering their listeners the very best of both genres from within their repertoire.

If you don’t know, Sufi music is the devotional music of the Sufis, inspired by the works of Sufi poets like Rumi, Hafiz, Bulleh Shah and Khwaja Ghulam Farid. It’s not just about entertainment, but rather about spirituality. Its powerful lyrics talk about achieving divinity by spreading love and harmony. A Ghazal is a poetic expression of pain from loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain. Ghazals have proved to be capable of a variety of expressions around these central themes, traditionally invoking melancholy, love, longing and metaphysical questions. Ghazals are often sung by Iranian, Afghan, Pakistani and Indian musicians. This playlist features world renowned artists like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, The Sabri Brothers, Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hassan and many more…

“Sufi, Fusion and Ghazal are today’s most progressive forms of music from the Indian subcontinent and Times Music has witnessed a surge of listeners in these genres from the US / UK markets over the last couple of years,” shares Mandar Thakur, COO of Times Music. “Times Music is quite excited to present this amazing collection of Sufi and Ghazal music to consumers through this unique opportunity via The Orchard and Spotify.”

The campaign for this special playlist is running now through the end of the month of August. During that time, you might find the playlist on some of Times Music‘s high-profile online properties, like the Times of India E-Paper and IndiaTimes.com, and if you’re a Spotify freemium user, look out for the cool audio and visual ads we’ve put together to promote the playlist.

Of course, it will be available for your ears long after the promotion ends and will be updated regularly by the label, so be sure to follow it to stay in the loop! And now, for your listening pleasure:

10 Quick Pinterest Tips

pinterestlogoYou’ve surely heard of Pinterest by now, right? Just in case, Pinterest is a growing network which allows you to easily share content by “pinning” images found online (think of it as a pretty bookmark) to a “board.” These can be shared through a link or by following the creator, and boards and pins can be viewed publicly and are consistently (well, the good ones!) updated. The platform lends itself to visually sharing information simply.

Here are 10 Pinterest facts and tips you should know:

#1 – Pinterest is one of the primary ways people share stuff online. Coming in third to Facebook and Twitter, but topping email, Pinterest’s sharing stats are growing the fastest. Time to stop ignoring it and sign up!

PNGConsumerTrends

#2 – Tag users you are pinning from. Simply posting “@” before the person’s username will tag them. This is great way to engage with fans and influencers as they can see you are posting their content.

#3 — It’s all about the visual. Post your content, whether that’s gifs made from stills from your upcoming video, artwork, behind-the-scenes photos, etc. Avoid black & white or blurry pins.

#4
 — Get verified. Verifying your website on Pinterest lets people know that you own it. Doing this also gives you access to analytics.

#5 Review your analytics. See site metrics such as pins, repins, impressions, clicks and reach. Check out Pinterest’s Web Analytics Walkthrough video.

#6 — Partner with media sites. Do you make a mean veggie lasagna, have a crafty hobby or great personal style? Look into ways you can partner with blogs or sites where you could “guest pin” on one of their boards to cross promote.

#7 – Collaborate with your team. You can add users to a specific board where they can add/upload pins. That way you’re covered when your WiFi isn’t working in the van while you are driving through South Dakota on tour and you really need that fan submission contest board updated. Pinterest makes it easy to be collaborative with your team.

#8  Map it out. When creating a board, you have an option to add a map which allows you to upload a pin from a specific place or city. This can be a great way for fans to follow you on tour and see where you visited while on the road.

Pinterestmap

#9 – Showcase your promotional campaigns. Did you launch a contest where fans can submit their art or photos? Compile the best entries to a board to inspire more fans to get involved and current entrants to re-pin their photo or art.

#10 — Oh, How Pinteresting! Last, but certainly not least, read Pinterest’s blog. They showcase interesting pins, hacks and users that may provide you with some pinspiration.

Bonus: Pinterest has added a new search tool to let users add specific filters to their original search term. Read more on Guided Search.

Pick Your Valentine’s Day Playlist

Valentine's Day: S/He Loves MeHello, lovers. And haters. It’s almost Valentine’s Day, so we’ve revisited and updated two playlists conceived last year to either celebrate your partner’s love, or say phooey to the whole greeting-card scam.

S/HE LOVES ME
Whoa. Who. Is. THAT? My heart’s racing. My stomach is flipping. I’m lightheaded. I’ve never felt like this before. What’s that sound? Oh, it’s angels singing. Look, the clouds are parting. The sun’s rays are forming a perfect spotlight around that beautiful creature. Oh my God. I have to sit down. No, I should go over there and introduce myself. What should I say? OK, don’t freak out. Calm down. But how can I act casual when every cell in my body is exploding with unbridled passion for such human perfection? Wait. Now I hear different music. Wonderful music. Approximately 35 songs, egging me on. I think I’m in love.

S/He Loves Me Not: A Valentine's Day PlaylistS/HE LOVES ME NOT
What did I ever see in that self-absorbed, manipulative, back-stabbing s**tbag? Oh right, I thought I was in love. Big mistake. Ugh. All those shallow platitudes. All those broken promises. And I thought I had found “the one.” Instead I found “the zero.” I just wasted a chunk of my life I’ll never get back. Hey you, reading this. Next time you see me getting all sloppy over some dud, give me a little heads-up, OK? Slap some headphones on my paralyzed noggin. Play me something that’ll pull me out of the fuzzy-wuzzy sentimental slop. Approximately 30 songs, to give me perspective and remind me: Love stinks.

Texas-Sized Glass of Lemonade, Wrapped in White Denim

October 31, 2013 Artist News No Comments

White DenimStill hot from what seemed like endless touring in support of their breakthrough album DWhite Denim is not showing any signs of slowing down soon. This week, Downtown Records released the band’s highly anticipated Corsicana Lemonade.

From the blazing entrance guitar riff that kicks off  “At Night In Dreams” to the layering harmonies on “A Place To Start” which closes the album out, the group’s fifth studio album delivers exactly what their fans are wanting. Not only is Corsicana Lemonade a step up in White Denim’s songwriting abilities, it presents a more matured and refined approach to their dense, yet discerning brand of Rock and Roll.

Serendipity has played a huge part in shaping White Denim’s path to recording Corsicana Lemonade, starting all the way back with the initially supporting tour of D. As the group was en route from Texas to perform at the Sasquatch Music Festival’s Gorge Amphitheatre, they were notified that vocalist/guitarist James Petralli’s home in Austin was robbed. Nevertheless, White Denim pressed on and made it to Sasquatch, only to perform an unlikely set that would help shape their future to come. While the crowd was sparse for the oft dreaded daytime festival slot, Glenn Kotche and Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco) caught the performance from the side stage. Story would have it that Jeff introduced himself and congratulated them on their well-played set and striking up conversation. “Maybe he just got what we were trying to do,” Petralli has stated about the dialogue that day. A few months later, Tweedy invited White Denim to open for Wilco’s West Coast Winter 2012 tour. I think it’s safe to say that Jeff Tweedy indeed understood what White Denim was doing.

In the early months of 2013, Jeff Tweedy called the group again, this time to inform them that there were four open days of studio time at the famed Loft in Chicago. Those four days marked the beginnings of Corsicana Lemonade and the group laid the framework to “A Place To Start” and “Distant Relative Salute” before heading back to Texas. Once back in Austin, White Denim fashioned a recording studio in a rented house overlooking Lake Travis. Finally, they tapped local producer Jim Vollentine (Spoon, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead) to help wrap up the album.

Here are a couple of quotes from Chase Hoffberger’s article in the Austin Chronicle on how this move helped elevate the quality of the album-to-be:

“With expectations outside of the group, and within the group, it became too much for Josh Block [ed.: drummer, who produced the band’s existing catalogue] to be the musician he needs to be in addition to the engineer that all these business people expect him to be.” Petralli continues, “I love Josh’s production, and if I had my way, we’d do every record the way we did Last Day of Summer, Fits, and Explosion. But it was just a little much for him. If we’re going to get somebody, we might as well get somebody who’s a professional and knows how to be that guy.”

Vollentine played no part in scripting the songs, which sound like a mixture of Thin Lizzy (“Corsicana Lemonade”), Steely Dan (“Come Back”), and Paul McCartney’s Ram (both “Pretty Green” and “Cheer Up/Blues Ending” pull directly from that LP’s “Oh Woman, Oh Why”), but he did enforce its welcome sheen. Along with Petralli’s condensed songwriting — all the songs track in at less than 4:40, with one exception, “Cheer Up,” which drifts into a sleepy jam — Vollentine’s contributions make Corsicana Lemonade the most accessible, fulfilling album White Denim has ever made.

In a world of Alternative Rock inundated by bland over-recycled drum beats and synth lines obscuring melodies, White Denim are writing music that are well beyond these constraints. To borrow a sports catch-phrase, “they are playing in a completely different league.” Check out the new album and see for yourself!

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