Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I Knew There Was Something I Liked About...

It appears that yet another online site is ready to strap on the gloves and take on iTunes. I know what you're thinking, "MySpace?" Yep, MySpace vs. iTunes...and honestly, I think MySpace has a chance. Have I lost my mind? Perhaps, but that has nothing to do with my last comment. Unlike many of the other online music sites, such as Napster and Rhapsody, MySpace has the right idea.
MySpace, who has partnered with Snocap in its latest venture, will allow independent artists to sell songs directly from their profiles for 79 cents a song. The way I understand it, by independent artists, they mean artists who are not on a label. This is the only area that could create some trouble for MySpace, seeing as how computers have allowed bands to record and release albums on their own indie labels. We'll have to wait and see how they handle that situation.
Back to me thinking MySpace has a chance to compete. For starters, according to Alexa, MySpace is the 3rd most popular website in the English language. Think about that. 3rd most popular out of all the millions upon millions of websites out there. The only 2 that are more popular...Yahoo! and Google. Insane. Based on its traffic alone, it would stand a chance. Add that to the fact that they plan on charging less per song than iTunes. I know people still steal music, but a lot of the artists who will have their songs available for purchase on MySpace won't turn up on even the most popular file-sharing services, not to mention on iTunes. In my opinion, allowing users to download songs on a per song basis is much more attractive than a subscription service. The only thing that could put a damper on things is how they handle iPods and the digital rights management (DRM) of the songs they sell. If the songs won't play on iPods, forget about it. They will get crushed. If they do, Apple better be careful.

You can read the full article from CMJ here.

Music to come later...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Film School Dropout

No, Nyles Lannon (pictured above) is not really a film school dropout, but rather the guitarist for the band Film School (cut me some slack, just trying to be creative over here). He is still in the band, but he also releases solo albums under the names n. Lannon and n.Ln. I don't even remember how I first heard of him, although I will take a guess and say I was simply listening to random things in iTunes and happened upon him. Lucky me.
His first solo album, Chemical Friends released under the name n. Lannon, came out in 2004. I don't know if you are like me, but I am usually very wary when a guitarist from an already established band releases a solo record. It is definitely natural to wonder, "If this guy can sing and write songs, why isn't he the front man for his band?" Trust me, this album does not disappoint, much in the same way that John Frusciante's solo records managed to pleasantly surprise me. Nyles is more than competent in both his song writing and his singing.
I was reading something about him earlier today and saw his music described as "folktronic," which is the most accurate way to describe the style on Chemical Friends. The album is full of acoustic guitars, gently strummed or fingerpicked, with computerized drum beats and synth sounds hovering ever so lightly in the background. Essentially, Nyles combines elements of traditional folk music with that of electronic music. The combination of such differing musical styles has the potential for disaster, which Nyles manages to avoid by allowing the folk style to take the forefront while using the computerized beats and other sound effects to add fullness and texture to the songs. This "folktronic" style is one that seems to becoming ever more popular within the indie folk revival that has been taking place over the past few years.
I have put up a couple of tracks from his album Chemical Friends, one of the better albums I've heard in the past couple of years. If you like what you hear, please go out and purchase the album and check out his other projects, Film School and n.Ln.

n. Lannon - The Catch

n. Lannon - Turn Time Around

n. Lannon - Hollow Heart

n. Lannon - Cruel

For more Nyles, check out his website and his MySpace page.. For all you musicians out there, he also does mixing and mastering (cheap...for now, he says).

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands (and Everybody Loves The Beatles)

I must admit that I only became a fan of Elliott's work after his passing. It wasn't that I didn't care for his music, I just hadn't heard his music. What a shame. I would've loved to have had the privilege to see this man perform, even though some of his performances were shaky, at best. Although many find his music to be utterly heartbreaking (likely because they know he killed himself and thus assume his music must be reflecting all of that inner pain), I don't get that vibe from his music. There is something incredibly beautiful and moving about his music if you can move past the tone of many of his songs.
Elliott, obviously influenced by The Beatles, covered a number of their songs from time to time. As I was downloading another one of his shows over the weekend, it occurred to me that I might as well post his Beatles covers here. They are all live versions, so the quality varies, but they are all listenable in my opinion. What could be better? Elliott Smith singing Beatles songs. Sometimes everything in life seems so right.

1. Blackbird
2. I Me Mine
3. Jealous Guy
4. Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)
5. Isn't It a Pity
6. Long, Long, Long
7. For No One
8. Yer Blues
9. I'm So Tired

For more Elliott Smith, visit the following websites:
Sweet Adeline - The Official Elliott Smith site
SomeSongs - An Elliott Smith Live Music Resource
Trash Treasury - Elliott Smith Download Hub and Forum (another excellent live music site)
B-Sides and Other Songs - excellent resource for b-sides and demos (highly recommend the Basement II demos)

Blackbird is actually an AAC file and if you have no idea what that means, you lose. Kidding, it means it will only play in iTunes, so if you don't have iTunes then you really lose...or you could just download it here.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Men With Beards

Always been a big fan of the beard. Maybe it's the man's man quality that the beard possesses. Maybe it just looks badass. I myself grew a considerable beard this past winter, though I'm ashamed to admit that the constant ridicule did play a hand in the shaving of it. As of late, it seems that a lot of the musicians I've really been digging all sport beards. Weird coincidence or do bearded people just kick ass musically? You be the judge. I've included some songs and pictures of my beloved bearded maestros. For the record, my beard had nothing on these gents. Not even close.

Sam Beam (aka Iron & Wine) - See previous post. I don't think this guy has made a song that I haven't liked. Seriously. And look at that beard. By the beard of Beam!! This picture is actually a couple years old and having seen him recently, believe me, the beard is even longer. Maybe he has a little muse hidden in his beard that sings to him and inspires the gorgeous melodies he writes.

Beard Factor - 9 out of 10

1. Naked As We Came (demo) courtesy of Aarvid at Passing Afternoon
2. Dead Man's Will
3. Hickory

William Fitzsimmons - I'm really surprised that this guy has not gotten more attention than he has. I came across him while browsing the Stage Hymns blog (which I would highly recommend checking out). For starters, his music is amazing. Very similar to Iron & Wine, in terms of the melodies he crafts and his style of playing, but he also adds a drum machine to a number of his songs. If you are familiar with Iron & Wine, I'd say that William's album, Until When We Are Ghosts, is somewhere between The Creek Drank the Cradle and Our Endless Numbered Days. If you are a fan of Iron & Wine, I'd highly recommend him.

Beard Factor - 8 out of 10

1. Find It In Me

Check out William Fitzsimmons' page on MySpace. If you'd like to download a copy of Until When We Are Ghosts, it can be found at www.mp3-extension.com.

Ray LaMontagne - The first time I had heard Ray's song "Trouble," I was blown away. That voice...my god. He does not have the kind of voice you hear everyday, but it sticks with you. It's what I'd sound like first thing in the morning after smoking two packs of cigarettes the night before, which doesn't sound too appealing, but believe me, it sounds amazing. Ray's new album, Till The Sun Turns Black, was released this week. For those of you expecting, Trouble Part 2, you are going to be disappointed. He is definitely evolving. A number of songs on the new album feature strings, which is always a plus in my opinion (I'm a sucker for strings). A lot has changed, but the voice, THAT voice, remains. Although the new album seems to lack the 'pop' appeal that Trouble held, the songs do sink in with repeated listenings.

Beard Factor - 7 out of 10 (he's definitely getting there...that thing has some serious potential)

1. Gone Away From Me (from Till The Sun Turns Black...buy it.)
2. Shelter (original version, taken from Lonesome Saddle)
3. Lead Me On (from the Green Demo)
Shelter and Lead Me On courtesy of the wonderful Heather over at I AM FUEL, YOU ARE FRIENDS...it's named after a line in a Pearl Jam song, can I say any more?

My Morning Jacket - Their most current release, Z, got great reviews, so I decided to pick it up. At first, I didn't really see what all the hype was about. I wasn't quite sure what to make of them. I revisited the album a couple weeks before seeing them open for Pearl Jam this past June and it started to grow on me. I was not prepared for what they had to offer live. Even though they were only opening, I was blown away. They fucking rocked. Made me a huge fan.
For people who have never heard MMJ, I'd say it's a cross between Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Radiohead, and The Band. The high voice and distorted guitars with loads of reverb.

Beard Factor - 6 out of 10 (not crazy about their beards, but they get extra points because two members of the band are sporting beards)

1. One Big Holiday
2. Golden
3. Lay Low
These songs were taken from MMJ's 2005 performance at the Bonnaroo Festival, which can be purchased here. It's an amazing set and I highly recommend it. Their 2006 set should be available soon.

Band of Horses - These guys are blowing up right now...and rightfully so. First of all, I basically have to like them since Ben Bridwell (left) played a large part in getting Sam Beam signed to SubPop. Secondly, it's hard not to like them considering their debut album is an excellent record. It's got some slow fingerpicked songs and it's got some rockers. What's not to like? In some ways, they sound a lot like My Morning Jacket. Both bands soak their songs in reverb and Jim James of MMJ and Ben Bridwell have similar voices. If you like one, you'd probably enjoy the other.

Beard Factor - 3 out of 10 (Matthew Brooke, on right, has left the band and he had the far superior beard. I don't think Bridwell's beard can carry this band alone)

1. The Funeral
2. Part One