Clef Notes: #11
Every Friday, or at least until his spectacular rock star flameout, Giovanny will be dropping a week’s worth of music knowledge on you with Clef Notes, proof positive that he’s a one man music magazine.
Talk about community service: So, you are pulling out of your driveway and you turn on the local radio station, but instead of hearing some current hits you are made aware of the fact that there is a man threatening to jump off the roof of the 22 story building that the radio station is based in. What do you do? Well apparently, if you are T.I., you head down to the scene and try to aid police negotiators in getting said individual down safely. This is precisely what happened on Wednesday morning in Atlanta, Georgia. T.I. was on his way to a video shoot, heard about the pending tragedy, and sprang into action, like a good samaritan who was merely trying to save a life and not at all trying to earn hero points before his upcoming parole violation hearing (maybe I’m just a cynical bastard). According to officers on the scene, T.I. arrived at the location and offered to talk with a man who was sitting on the edge of the downtown building's roof. An officer on street level recorded a video message from the rapper and sent it up to the individual, via on-roof negotiators. When asked what the message was, T.I. said "that I was here and I was looking forward to meeting him and that no matter what's going on in life now, it gets better." The message must have worked, as the individual came down from the roof and spoke to T.I for approximately 5 minutes before being rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital for evaluation. Atlanta police were very appreciative of the rapper’s assistance, saying, “He didn’t have to stop. He could’ve kept on going about his business. We’re happy it ended the way it did, and we thank him." Let me stop being a dick for one second and also extend some props to T.I., because, at the end of the day, he may have saved a life.
Say Whaaat?: Do you know who Alisa Apps is? I didn’t think so. The alliteration-obsessed, Cleveland-born singer/songwriter is essentially an unknown in the music industry (though she is a YouTube sensation), but she attempted to make some waves (and garner some publicity) recently by challenging Lady Gaga to a good old fashioned sing-off. Earlier this week, Apps threw down the pop gauntlet by proposing a vocal chord battle (either at Madison Square Garden or London’s O2 Arena) wherein the two songstresses would perform a series of predetermined tunes before a panel of judges, and the winner would take home the pride of being the “best.” Oh, and one million dollars cash ('cause THAT would be enough to entice the woman who made $62M last year). The best part of this story is how Apps claims she isn’t doing this for the money or the publicity; this is, in fact, something she is doing out of pity: "I feel sorry for Lady Gaga — she's just a plastic doll generated by the music money marketing machine, I stand for the voice of your heart. Be real with me. Come to my world and feel. I want to hear you and for you to hear me. This contest gives people a chance to choose which they prefer: plastic or real." As you would imagine, Gaga has not responded to any of this 'cause she is busy working.
Back To The Money Drawing Board: Now that it has been about a month since Apple released Ping (to the effusive consternation of iTunes users), Steve Jobs and company are working on a new method of money making and future molding. The latest idea to come from “the house of i” is a cloud technology based Internet streaming service that consumers would pay a monthly subscription fee for. I know, I know... You already stream tons of music on the Internet, but does your favorite site have the extensive music catalogue that iTunes has (you know, the one without The Beatles)? Is it a part of the overly-stylized/sanctified Apple culture that teaches you how to be cool? No, it’s not. This is just the most recent attempt by Apple to pretend to aid the music industry, when all they really do is stockpile money for more of Jobs’ turtlenecks and competition-crushing lawsuits. The New York Post reports that the new service could have tiered pricing (in the $10 to $15 range), but details like the duration of content access, or whether or not anyone under the age of 35 will ever use this upcoming batch of coded nonsense have yet to be ironed out.
State Of The Industry: I am strongly considering changing the name of this section to “Keepin’ Up With Country” since, for the third week in a row, the number one spot on the Billboard Top 200 is held by a rootin’, tootin’, boot-skootin’ act from below the Mason Dix. This time the “honor” goes to Toby Keith (I would like to point out that I had made a promise to myself never to write about this man), who has claimed the spot with Bullets In The Gun, his 14th studio album and fourth number one. I may not have heard this album (and never will), but I do know that it is already a record setter and an industry benchmark. Just not in a good way. Bullets In The Gun is the lowest selling record to debut at number one since Soundscan began its stewardship of the charts back in 1991. With a paltry 71,000 units sold its first week, this album is the latest meteor to crash from the sky into a record industry that forgot to stand in line for government bailouts last year. There really is only one question left for the major labels... How low can you go?
There used to be this band of four brothers from Tennessee who released a stunning debut record of Southern garage-rock, which could have easily made its way into our Top 50 albums of the Oughties. This band was different from their contemporaries; they seemed to eschew fame and notoriety (unlike some L.E.S. garage revivers), and they didn’t need any visual gimmicks (unlike some “brother-sister” garage revivers). They simply brought genuine tunes. Then Kings Of Leon decided they wanted to be Interpol, and got more and more boring with each subsequent record (sigh). Come Around Sundown is the fifth studio album by Kings Of Leon and, although it is not the worst, it is another step away from their humble origins, and toward distasteful and mundane arena grandeur. Somehow the Grammy award went to K.O.L’s head and convinced them they were U2 (only without the politics and Irish-ness). From the moment you hear the bass drum hits that kicks off The End, you know this is going to be a record that you have to endure; the air of importance and pomposity are almost too much to bear (this from a guy who lives for Radiohead). The track that follows is Radioactive, the album’s first single (and the only track with a video that Sony Music hasn't pulled off YouTube), a decent but unimpressive track which boasts a riff that would have been great had it not been a staple of So-Cal pop-punk for the last decade (watch me hammer-on and pull-off, Mom!). After Radioactive, the album attempts to unfold for your listening pleasure but never manages to entice or inspire. For every moment that could be considered interesting (Mary, No Money), there is far too much that is simply monotonous (everything else).
Let’s be real with each other for a second, men of the world. The only reason you know anything about Belle & Sebastian and/or Stuart Murdoch is either A) because of your girlfriend, or B) because of some young lass who you hope will one day be your girlfriend. The Scottish born septet that brought twee to the masses have released seven studio albums which perfectly capture being shy, romantic, and wistful. Though their music may not be something that bumps any Ghostface records from your iPod, there is still plenty to appreciate from the group that I consider tied for the third best Scottish band of all time (1- The Jesus and Mary Chain, 2-Mogwai, and Belle & Sebastian are tied with Cocteau Twins). While their newest release, Belle & Sebastian Write About Love, is not their best work, it is a fine example of their particular brand of splendor. The first voice you hear on Write About Love is that of Sarah Martin, whose voice flutters through I Didn’t See It Coming so delicately you would mistake it for a beautifully tuned butterfly (that makes sense in my world). There are more bells and whistles production-wise than listeners may be used to on the first track, but once Murdoch takes over singing duties on Come On Sister, there is no denying who you are listening to. The highlights of Write About Love are subtler than those of most records ('tis the nature of the band, after all); I Can See Your Future is a wonderful tune that has an almost communal Canadian vibe to it, the album's title track is another charming tune, and all in all I would have to say that this is a very solid and enjoyable record. And now you know what to get the missus for Christmas.
The upcoming Fleet Foxes record has been delayed as reports surfaced this week that the band was headed back into the recording studio. I guess the pressure of having Pitchfork practically call your last record perfect may be too much to handle... Ghostface Killah has recently wrapped up work on his follow-up to last years soul and groove heavy LP. I bet he won’t be collaborating with Bieber (that is aimed directly at you, mister Chef)... Speaking of Justin Bieber it is rumored that he will be replacing Ashton Kutcher in the Punk’d reboot. I desperately hope that he pisses off the wrong celebrity and gets punched in his little Elfin face... While we are in shitty TV news, I guess this would be the perfect time to point out that the DIY channel (is there even such a thing?) has given Vanilla Ice his own home makeover show. I can already see the pilot in my mind: Vanilla shows up, acts like a moron, yells a lot, break a bunch of shit, smokes some meth in the bathroom and is then escorted out by police.... Lastly I read somewhere that Velvet Revolver is looking for a new singer. Three words, David Lee Roth...
The world of classic R&B lost one of its forefathers this week, as Solomon Burke passed away of natural causes on Monday at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. Though the first phases of his adult life were spent as a mortician, and then a preacher, Burke became one of the first major stars of Atlantic Records during the label's heyday in the 1960s. Throughout his musical career Burke had numerous hits on the R&B and pop charts, most notably Cry To Me (which had its popularity revived by appearing on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack), and Everybody Needs Somebody To Love (which was also revived by an appearance in a major Hollywood production over twenty years later. In this case, The Blues Brothers). As the sixties faded away from the cultural memory, Burke’s presence on the music world only grew, leading eventually to a type of mythical status reserved for the most seminal of artists. Solomon Burke was a gift to humanity, not just for his musical ability, but for his entire being. He was married three times, and is survived by 21 children, 90 grandchildren, and 19 great grandchildren.
Top Ten List
Because he was as great a man as he was an artist, he was taken from us in the worst of fashions, and what would have been his 70th birthday just passed, I bring you the top ten John Lennon songs.
10) Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
9) Cold Turkey
7) Give Peace A Chance
6) Mind Games
5) Jealous Guy
3) Instant Karma
2) Working Class Hero
Track Of The Week
End Times - Weekend: Anyone who has ever spent an extended period of time talking to me about music quickly finds out that I adore the shoegaze genre. This admission is usually followed up by the question: Hey, are there any bands still making shoegaze music? The answer is yes, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and, apparently, Weekend. Here is a track off their upcoming record.