A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘popular music

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

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  • James Bow calls for an end to the US-Canada Safe Third Country agreement prohibiting people coming from American soil from claiming refugee status in Canada.
  • D-Brief reports on the vast array of man-made minerals appearing in what is now being called the Anthropocene Era of Earth.
  • Dangerous Minds notes the efforts of the Disco Preservation Society to preserve DJ mixes from 1980s San Francisco.
  • Language Log takes issue with Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s argument that cryptographers, not linguists, would be needed in Arrival.
  • The LRB Blog notes impunity for murderers of civil society activists in Honduras.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen talks about Joyce Gladwell’s autobiography Brown Face, Big Master.
  • The NYRB Daily celebrates the work of Hercules Segers.
  • The Planetary Society Blog is skeptical of the Space X plan to send tourists past the Moon by 2018.
  • Supernova Condensate lists 8 things we know about Proxima Centauri b.
  • Towleroad reports on new walking tours being offered of gay London.
  • Arnold Zwicky engages with a California exhibition comparing paintings with movies.

[LINK] “Spotify Hits 50 Million Paid Subscribers, Lifting Music Industry”

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Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw notes that although Spotify is not yet profitable, it has managed to accumulate quite a few subscribers. Will this be enough to let it last?

Spotify has surpassed 50 million subscribers, extending its lead over rivals Apple Music, SoundCloud and Google as the world’s largest paid music streaming service.

The service, owned by Stockholm-based Spotify Ltd., has been growing at a breakneck pace. The company said it had 30 million subscribers less than a year ago, and 40 million subscribers in September. Apple Inc., owner of the second-largest paid service, said last month its streaming service has more than 20 million customers.

Adding paying customers will help Spotify pitch investors, who expect the company to file for an initial public offering and are looking for signs the company can convert its growing subscriber base into a sustainable business. Spotify, which is unprofitable, generates almost all of its sales from subscriptions, though the music service also has tens of millions of additional users who listen for free, supported by advertising.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 3, 2017 at 6:45 pm

[LINK] “‘It’s a big gamble’: Record stores sound off on Sunrise’s HMV takeover”

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CBC News’ Haydn Watters reports on what the music retail industry thinks about Sunrise Records’ ambitious takeover of HMV stores across Canada. This does sound as if it could fail, badly.

Toronto’s Sunrise announced last week it will be taking over 70 HMV stores in malls across the country, with the aim of having them up and running by midsummer and turning a profit by next year.

If it works, it’s a boon for the industry, said Spencer Destun. But he’s got his reservations. Destun runs the last surviving Sam the Record Man location at Belleville, Ont.’s Quinte Mall. Since opening in 1979, he said, he has seen about eight or 10 chains come and go — and his store is all that’s left of Sam the Record Man.

“It’s very tough to operate a store in a profitable manner today because the market is shrinking,” he said.

“I can’t even imagine the amount of organization and work that’s going to take. Thank God they have some experience in the marketplace.”

Sunrise currently has 10 locations in suburban Toronto and rural Ontario. Destun said he can’t think of another instance in any industry where a business has tried to “tenfold their increase.”

Written by Randy McDonald

March 3, 2017 at 6:30 pm

[MUSIC] Grimes, “Kill V. Maim”

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The Grimes song “Kill V. Maim” is one I’ve been playing a lot this week, with its video set partly in Toronto’s abandoned Lower Bay Station and a threateningly manic song with a chorus–“Are you going to the party?/Are you going to the show?”–inspired by Godfather‘s Al Pacino and by Harley Quinn.

Grimes, a.k.a. Claire Boucher, appears on the latest episode of the “Song Exploder” podcast, a must-listen for music fans who want to hear their fave artists talk about how they created their own songs. In it, Grimes breaks down her thrashing Art Angels cut “Kill V. Maim,” revealing the impetus of it was a friend who doubted her ability to be musically aggressive.

“He kept doing these cute little plucky things, and I was like ‘No, no, let’s make a hard song.’ He was like ‘No, no, you make cute music.’ I was so horrified,” Grimes recalls. “So I went home after that sort of wanting to prove that I could make something that’s going to be really aggressive that I would want to play during an action sequence in a movie.”

After that, she set out to make something that could soundtrack the trailer for a fictional crossover of The Godfather and Twilight. Add in a lot of kick drums, some cleverly buried samples of cheering crowds, and what Grimes calls a “scary, demon chorus” inspired by Harley Quinn, and you have “Kill V. Maim,” which she reveals is “probably my favorite song I’ve ever made.”

Written by Randy McDonald

March 2, 2017 at 11:53 pm

[MUSIC] “Pop for Misfits”: The New Yorker on Grimes

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I’ve just discovered the music of Canadian star Grimes, and I have just discovered Kelefa Sanneh’s long-form article about her from The New Yorker. Sanneh does a great job at looking at the life, background, and influence of a musician who really is unclassifiable, in what I think are very good ways.

It takes two hours and forty-five minutes to get from Los Angeles to San Diego by train, and a little longer than that if there is a mechanical delay, which on this day there was. Claire Boucher, curled up in a window seat on the train’s non-ocean-view side, didn’t seem to mind, or even notice. It was July, 2014, and, because she hates flying and doesn’t relish driving, she was heading, slowly, to Comic-Con, which attracts huge numbers of geeks, many of whom bring along their alter egos. Boucher’s alter ego is Grimes, the name under which, since 2009, she has been producing and singing home-brewed electronic music that is irreducibly weird but insistently pop, a term that describes both its sound and, increasingly, its reception. She fills tents at festivals, and this summer she toured with Lana Del Rey; her music videos have amassed tens of millions of views on YouTube. That weekend, CraveOnline, a media company aimed at young men, had hired Boucher—or, rather, Grimes—to be the celebrity d.j. at a party aboard the U.S.S. Midway, a decommissioned aircraft carrier moored in San Diego Bay.

“Should my d.j. set be more chill?” Boucher wondered, not for the first time. (“Chill,” one of her favorite adjectives, can mean “mellow” or “good” or, most often, both.) “Or more dance?” She was thinking about songs, as she almost always is.

The intensity of Boucher’s musical obsessions can make her seem like a mad pop scientist. On her bustling Tumblr page, she keeps track of her research into a cultural universe that seems, like its physical counterpart, to be expanding at an increasing rate. Her followers might encounter a snippet from the Japanese soundtrack composer Yoko Kanno, or a fan-made video set to the music of the electronic producer Aphex Twin, or a recent Selena Gomez single—which, Boucher has discovered, sounds particularly arresting in a car equipped with subwoofers. In her own songs, Boucher takes delight in rewriting the old music-industry story of the female performer in the spotlight and the male mastermind behind the curtain. “It’s like I’m Phil Spector, and then there’s Grimes, which is the girl group,” she says. She got her start in Montreal, part of an underground experimental-music scene, but now she herself is the experiment, as she tries to figure out what “pop star” means in 2015, and whether she might become one.

For the moment, many of Boucher’s fans come from the world of indie rock, which has championed her as a new kind of pop auteur. One of her signature songs is “Oblivion,” an upbeat but ominous dance track; Boucher doesn’t sing it so much as haunt it. “Oblivion” never appeared on any Billboard chart, but last year Pitchfork, the definitive indie publication, called it the best song of the decade so far, which was a complicated sort of compliment. “Oblivion” was a great choice to top the Pitchfork list precisely because it was not an obvious choice.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 2, 2017 at 11:00 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Sunrise Records to move into 70 closing HMV locations”

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I am glad that, as reported in David Friend’s Canadian Press article at the Toronto Star, there might be some kind of music retailer in Canada, at least for a time.

Sunrise Records is placing a major bet on Canadian music sales with plans to move into 70 retail spaces being vacated by HMV Canada.

The Ontario-based music retail chain has negotiated new leases with mall landlords across the country.

Sunrise’s expansion gives the company a quick foothold in the Canadian music scene just as the industry’s largest retailer closes shop. Stores will begin to open this spring after HMV liquidates and removes its signs.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to get a lot more stores open,” Sunrise Records president Doug Putman told The Canadian Press in an interview.

“We think there needs to be a great outlet across Canada to buy music.”

Written by Randy McDonald

March 2, 2017 at 10:00 pm

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • Centauri Dreams looks at the SPECULOOS red dwarf observation program.
  • The Crux examines VX nerve agent, the chemical apparently used to assassinate the half-brother of North Korea’s ruler.
  • Dangerous Minds shares photos of the inhabitants of the Tokyo night, like gangsters and prostitutes and drag queens.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money examines Donald Trump’s tepid and belated denunciation of anti-Semitism.
  • Language Log looks at the story of the Wenzhounese, a Chinese group notable for its diaspora in Italy.
  • The LRB Blog looks at the by-elections in the British ridings of Stoke and Copeland and notes the problems of labour.
  • The Map Room Blog shares a post-Brexit map of the European Union with an independent Scotland.
  • Marginal Revolution reports that a border tax would be a poor idea for the United States and Mexico.
  • The NYRB Daily looks at the art of the medieval Tibetan kingdom of Guge.
  • Otto Pohl notes the 73rd anniversary of Stalin’s deportation of the Chechens and the Ingush.
  • Supernova Condensate points out that Venus is actually the most Earth-like planet we know of. Why do we not explore it more?
  • Towleroad notes Depeche Mode’s denunciation of the alt-right and Richard Spencer.
  • Whatever’s John Scalzi considers the question of feeling empathy for horrible people.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the thousands of Russian citizens involved with ISIS and examines the militarization of Kaliningrad.