Posts Tagged 'iLike'

Review: Thievery Corporation’s Radio Retaliation

Metromix Louiseville hit the nail on the head when they described Thievery Corporation‘s new album, Radio Retaliation, as “a quietly funky soundtrack for the MoveOn.org generation”.

The album, which was released early on iLike and Facebook, is fairly true to the classic Thievery sound – loungey, organic, multicultural. This time around, however, they deliver a decidedly more overt political message. Properly Chilled posits that they deliver their message “through a swirling, smoky kaleidoscope that will leave most people who listen to it largely unaware of, yet affected (if only subconsciously) by its social and political text”. I couldn’t agree more. After a few listens, here is my breakdown of the album.

First up is Sound the Alarm (feat. Sleepy Wonder) which kicks off with a hair-raising siren. A solid reggae beat, guitar riff and bass line set the stage for the minimalistic but passionate lyrics. Not a whole lot happens in this song, but all throughout it’s an enjoyable dub track.

Mandala features Anoushka Shankar, daughter of legendary sitarist Ravi Shankar. If you are a sucker for sitar, you will like this track. A playful twangy melody glides over the layers of deep driving bass, heavy brass and percussion. Some clubby turntable scratching and electronic beats punctuate the song, giving it a timeless feel.

Radio Retaliation again features Sleepy Wonder. As the title track of the album, this is a good example of classic Thievery reggae. Background instrumentals don’t vary much, so your attention is drawn to the lyrics, which have plenty to say.

Vampires has a funky upbeat feel. As musicOMH points out, “the swaying horns and polyrhythmic drums of Vampires do a commendable job of disguising the song’s clunky political metaphors“. The song very appropriately features Femi Kuti, eldest son of Fela Kuti, the Nigerian “pioneer of Afrobeat music, human rights activist, and political maverick.” (And yes, if you are still playing the Sarah Palin drinking game, you can count that use of “maverick” and have a drink.)

In Hare Krsna, the recognizable voice of Seu Jorge, Brazilian pop samba icon (possibly better known to his American fans as the David-Bowie-covers-in-Portuguese soundtrack guy for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) adds a scratchy rawness to what would otherwise be a little too smooth of a trip hop track. The title might lead you to expect an overtly Indian sound but instead you get classic Thievery muted basslines, looped guitars, brass sections… Only after listening closely do you catch what sounds like a dhol in the background. That, and of course, Seu is singing “Hare Krsna” over and over…

El Pueblo Unido, featuring Verny Varela, is probably one of the best songs on the album. The juxtaposition of jazzy Latin sounds and loungey dub gives it sort of a Buena Vista Social Club meets Morcheeba vibe.

(The Forgotten People) starts off with a sad clarinet intro and quickly picks up the pace with forceful sitar, dhol, and some electronic beats. The bass line gives this track a much darker sound than the rest of the album. A perfect song to listen to when you’re feeling a little dark yourself. Intense, worldly, and pleasing to the ear.

33 Degree features the soft haunting vocals of Zee over mellow trip hop style instrumentals. Part space age synth, part loungey beats, this track utilizes minimal percussion and a smooth blend of sounds to send you on a quiet thoughtful journey.

For Beautiful Drug, think AIR. Heavily reminiscent of the Virgin Suicides soundtrack, this one. The smoky vocals of Jana Andevska, who sounds a bit like Cat Power, gives the track a lazy, melancholy texture. You can almost picture an emaciated bored French socialite lounging in an opium den somewhere unimpressed by her glamorous yet soulless life and yearning for a different reality or perhaps a lost love…

La Femme Parallel is super mellow. LouLou‘s gentle vocals calmly drive this ambient track forward. Suitable background music for a loungey nightclub in any cosmopolitan city. You can imagine hearing this song playing softly while well dressed city types sip their martinis and steal sultry glances at strangers in the dim smoky room.

Retaliation Suite launches into a brassy funky groove with lots of triangle, some smooth sax, and provocative vocal samples. The political rhetoric contrasts nicely with the relaxed head-nodding qualities of the instrumentals. A great listen whether you play it in the background or listen to the words.

The Numbers Game is more of a departure from Thievery’s typical chill sound. Funky percussion, lots of soul and brass accompany the “Godfather of Go Go”, Chuck Brown, as he sings about the “same old game” and tells you to “shake out your mind”. Definitely a toe-tapping number.

The Shining Path is bass-heavy throughout and laced with haunting synths patterns. In the second half of the song, a tabla beat drops giving the song a more organic element, sort of a drum-circle vibe.

Blasting Through the City features Notch, whose earnest lyrics implore you to: “feel the struggle, but don’t give up the fight”. This reggae-infused downtempo track simultaneously makes you want to kick back on an island somewhere and join the a revolution.

Sweet Tides (feat. LouLou) A downtempo groove with a positive and uplifting feel to it. When LouLou sings in English, somehow she loses a bit of her charm, but the vocals are still very pretty. Seemingly uniform at first, a more triumphant hi-hat beat drops about halfway in to pick up the energy. The muted trumpets that fade out at the end of the song give it a nice polish.

In conclusion, we have another great accomplishment by the DJ duo. Some may say they went a little overboard with the number of guest artists, but it certainly adds diversity to the overall sound. The album is unique in that it preserves enough of the elements of Thievery Corporation’s core sound and feel and yet adds some new dynamics including the ramped up political undertones. I say two thumbs up and go buy/download/steal/burn (or do whatever it is you do to get new music) Radio Retaliation. If nothing else, spread the word. It’s worth hearing.

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Spooonful: Hand Delivered and Easy to Swallow Music Discovery

You love discovering new music. You love social networking and social media. Everything that ends with 2.0 gets your attention. Out of sheer enthusiasm for emerging technologies and your obsession with music, you sign up for every new service you find.

When it comes to music discovery, maybe you’ve tooled around with the likes of Last.fm, Grooveshark, Fuzz, iLike, Pandora, imeem, or one of the many others out there. If so, you may have experienced a sense of disorientation, information overload, or maybe you became paralyzed by indecision. Or maybe you’re simply too busy to spend time looking for new music and you’d rather that new music could just come looking for you for once.

A nice little service called Spooonful has a solution to that problem. In their own words: “Our mission is simple. A free weekly email newsletter delivered right to your inbox introducing you to one great new artist or band at a time. You’ll get a preview of what they sound like as well as links to buy a track, a whole album, even get out to a show.” Your weekly spoonful of new music! Check it out.

Thievery Corporation’s New Album: Early Release on Facebook, iLike

Given the current chaos in the music industry, bands must find new ways to promote their music. From musicians using Twitter to connect with fans or partnering with brands to cross promote, we are seeing more and more examples of non-traditional music promotion and distribution. The artists who are willing to take risks and think outside the box, with their art and with their careers, are the ones we here at Evolving Music are most interested in.

One such band is Thievery Corporation. In addition to being a refreshingly unique group that fuses together a plethora of genres and cultural sounds, they are not afraid to speak their minds. Sure, everyone likes a good mindless “bump ‘n’ grind” tune from time to time, but you gotta respect the artists who choose to use their music not just as entertainment, but as a way to communicate what they believe and are passionate about (as we’ve covered in previous posts about artists such as Immortal Technique and Bataka Squad.)

The DJ duo, comprised of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, hails from Washington DC, which “has long been the home of a music subculture legendary for fierce independence, a staunch do-it-yourself work ethic, and conscientious social activism.” They definitely practice what they preach. The organic multi-cultural sounds of dub, reggae, lounge, afrobeat and Indian music, to name a few, may catch your attention at first if you hear Thievery’s music at a neighborhood cafe or in a European nightclub. But, their uninhibited socio-political messages and passionate desire to open hearts and minds will keep you riveted.

Additionally, their diverse team of collaborators – singing in numerous languages, playing funky instruments, and each adding their own cultural thread to the musical quilt – give the band a truly unique sound. Not to mention their live shows, which can be pretty freakin amazing.

Photo by openeye

Their upcoming album, Radio Retaliation, purportedly takes their politicizing to a new level. According to Rob, “There’s no excuse for not speaking out at this point, with the suspension of habeas corpus, outsourced torture, illegal wars of aggression, fuel, food, and economic crises. It’s hard to close your eyes and sleep while the world is burning around you. If you are an artist, this is the most essential time to speak up.”

If you are on Facebook or iLike you’ll be able to stream Thievery Corporation’s new album on September 19th, before its official release on September 23rd. This is the first time the two social networking giants have ever worked together to promote an album.

Given that this album is particularly focused on the band’s disgust with the current state of American media, their decision to skip the middle man and go straight to their fans via the internet is appropriate, both for them personally and for the industry as a whole. According to Hilton, “We chose iLike as the platform to debut this record because it offers us a direct vehicle to share our music and communicate with fans worldwide, free from editorializing or whitewashing of our messages.”

For the fans among you, or those interested in gaining further insight into the artists and their message, keep your eyes out for a series of videos in which they introduce and discuss the album, which will be available exclusively on iLike. In the meantime, check out the title track on their MySpace.

To quote Rob Garza once more, “… if you can get people to question the things around them, just a little, then that’s not such a bad thing.”

On that note, here’s the title track from their 2002 “Richest Man in Babylon” album:

Top 5 Music Discovery Sites

Long gone are the days of browsing through record stores to find new music (record stores are still awesome hangouts though), making physical mixtapes for your friends (except for the nostalgic among us), and putting CDs on your Christmas list (iTunes gift cards anyone?). Digital technologies and the seemingly endless supply of online music destinations have forever changed the way we discover the tunes we like.

Record Store

Born out of my own frustration with the retardedly over-crowded “music discovery” space, this post aims to sift through the plethora of sites, many of which are variations of the same concept, and pinpoint the best ones.

Do you prefer to listen to short clips of top downloads on iTunes because it’s easy? (Ya, iTunes is more of a place to buy a song/album that you know you want, but you can definitely discover new stuff by poking around, checking the free download of the week etc). Are you a fan of one of the numerous music social networking sites that let you discover people with similar musical taste, create/share playlists, or track down obscure indie bands? Or do you love Pandora’s almost-no-work-involved recommendation system?

We’re all different when it comes to our preferred methods of music discovery, but the end goal is the same, right? We want to consistently discover new music that resonates with us personally – bands we can go see live, music to download, artists we can relate to. There are so many places to do this now it makes my head spin, so I needed to simplify.

With that, here are my top 5:

Pandora
I’ve been a fan of Pandora for a long time. The internet radio station, with its robust recommendation system based on the work of 50 analysts who break songs down into musical attributes, is surprisingly good at finding music that suits your tastes. And with the thumbs-up/thumbs-down rating system, the more you use it the smarter it gets. Their Facebook app is certainly convenient too.

iLike
If you can put up with 30 second clips, iLike is great for discovery. The fact that it can be plugged into Facebook, iTunes, MySpace, Bebo and others makes it a versatile social platform and is probably why they have so many registered users making profiles, sharing playlists and the like. And you can get lots of free music from new artists.

Fuzz
“Music Uprising…Connecting people who create and love music”. Other than having pretty good music discovery tools, I like Fuzz because I like the Fuzz Manifesto. This is the kind of mentality that I think everyone in the music industry needs to adopt, and soon, in order to survive and thrive in the exciting new frontier that is developing. Open, participatory, fair etc…

Grooveshark
In addition to letting you listen to any song in its entirety, Grooveshark rewards you for sharing music with people by giving you credits for free music. It also serves as an online library so you can store your music and access it from anywhere. There is a tagging/ranking system to help you find what you want as well as playlist creation/sharing.

Last.fm
Easily one of the most dominant players in the social music discovery space, Last.fm has a powerful recommendation engine based on data from the user community (unlike Pandora’s engine which matches similar musical attributes). Worth noting here is that Last.fm is now paying royalties to unsigned artists – and thus providing an alternative for artists who are not part of SoundExchange.

If this list is too short for you, check Mashable’s Music News Toolbox: 50+ Links for Discovering New Music to read about sites like iJigg, MOG, Goombah, Music Nation, and many more. Or leave us a comment with your favorite ones.

And of course, soon you will be able to discover kick-ass new music at MixMatchMusic. Stay tuned.

Brad Sucks Does Not Suck

Self-proclaimed “one man band with no fans”, Brad Sucks (Brad Turcotte) is one of the pioneers of “open source music” and the Free Culture Movement. By waiving all the rights to his songs and giving fans access to the source of his songs for remixes, Brad has not only built a huge following, but his songs have been licensed for commercials and many of his fans choose to pay for his music.

This serves to further reinforce the school of thought which maintains that giving fans access to free music (whether for listening or download) actually results in increased sales in the end (of CDs, digital music, concert tickets, merchandise etc.)

Here is one of my favorite Brad Sucks songs (in a fan-made music video done as a film project and editing test):

Carefully, Correctfully Wrong has an interesting way of describing Brad’s sound: “…a smooth mix of indie rock and electro, mixed with sardonic lyrics and pounding disco beats. It’s what the Scissor Sisters would sound like if they weren’t trying to be the Bee Gees.”

Brad Sucks is a great example of a DIY musician who has taken full advantage of the tools available to artists online. Other than his official site, you can find him on MySpace, CD Baby, ccMixter, Last.fm, Magnatune, iLike, Sellaband, Jamendo, MOG and Twitter to name a few. Not only does Brad Sucks encourage remixing of his songs, he invites fans to submit their remixes so he can post them on the site.

I love the simplicity of his site and the plethora of options he offers his fans for how to enjoy his music. On the home page you can view the progress of his next album, view his upcoming gigs (you can also “demand” to see him live…), buy the album there (or Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby etc). On the music page, you can listen to songs, download them for free, buy them on a number of sites, or make a donation etc.

Also. Is it just me or is this guy a freaking marketing genius? With a self-deprecating artist name like “Brad Sucks” and an equally likable album name, “I Don’t Know What I’m Doing”, and the simple almost child-like branding style, he gets your attention immediately and is not easily forgotten.

Brad Sucks genuinely understands the power of encouraging direct artist-fan interaction by giving his listeners what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. And by letting them have a voice.

And he definitely does not suck.

The SanFran MusicTech Summit: Rockstars, Lawyers, Nerds and Me

Last week, a few of us attended the SanFran MusicTech Summit to worship learn from some of the innovative leaders in our rapidly evolving and still young(ish) industry. After nearly breaking off my big toe during a confused jog through Japantown, I limped into Hotel Kabuki armed and ready for note-taking, question-asking, and hand-shaking.

The group I found there was a rather predictable (yet lovable) mix of demographics including your standard socially awkward tech geeks (my favorite), the token I-was-born-for-networking (and my-Rolodex-is-bigger-than-yours) schmoozers, some badass rocker chicks turned marketing gurus, the young and fearless CEO/CTO/COO/founders of countless startups, the smartypants intellectual property attorneys (bless their souls – I’d rather be forced to listen to Mariah Carey* on repeat for a year while locked in a windowless room than be in their shoes), career musicians and producers, and a smattering of randoms. Each hour we had the choice of attending one of two panels or general schmoozing in the lobby.
* To be fair, I think she has an amazing voice, I just hate her music. A lot.

Halfway through one of the panels I noticed someone on their laptop twittering. Of course! I thought. Twitter! This is the perfect time to twitter. (Until then, I had only used the service a few times to say mundane things like “sore from working out” or “yay iPhones” or some such nonsense, and when you only have two people following you that seems pretty pointless). Suddenly it was starting to sink in how Twitter can be a very powerful tool. I quickly logged on and found the SFMusicTech live feed which, to my pleasant surprise, was filled with commentary ranging from concise updates about the panels (helpful for those not at the summit or just in the other room) to snarky comments about the speakers. It felt like a cross between real-time news coverage and anonymous chatroom blather.

When I twittered later in the day noting that most of the food on the snack table was yellow, someone promptly reiterated my observation and wondered if there was a hidden symbolism we were missing. Later one of the panelists messaged me directly and thanked me for quoting her earlier. That’s when I suddenly felt like part of some sort of cozy little invisible family. Want to join my twitter family? Follow me here.

Here are some highlights from the day:

  • During the “Future of Radio” panel – major trends include personalization and recommendation (think Pandora and Last.fm) and mobility (internet radio integrated into your car stereo, tabletop devices, on your phone, in your stereo etc).
  • During the “Creator’s Perspective on Technology” panel – Creeper Lagoon‘s Sharky Laguana talked about a cool service he created called MixPal. MixPal allows you to upload your music, choose the price, place a “MixLink” anywhere online (website, blog, MySpace, whatever) and you keep almost all the proceeds (they get 10% commission). Look at how their pricing compares to iTunes and Snocap. Since they’re non-exclusive you can use them in addition to any other service you use. MixPal is simple, straightforward and all about letting the musician decide.
  • Also during “Creator’s Perspective…” – panel moderator and summit co-producer Shoshana Zisk commented that now in the music tech industry “People don’t have to learn the language to speak music”, which resonated with me because that is very much one of the things that MixMatchMusic is facilitating – allowing non-musicians and music fans to participate in the creative process too.
  • During the “Social Networking and Music” panel – Ali Partovi, CEO of iLike, noted that they DO compete with MySpace Music. He recommended that artists keep a MySpace presence, but also use iLike because they will find far more fans on the latter.* Also interesting – apparently, people who use iLike purchase 250% more music online than people who don’t! I bet the ringtone companies love them… Toward the end of the panel, Ali asked with a note of exasperation in his voice why there isn’t just a “buy this” button anywhere and everywhere that you find music?? Excellent point. Anyone know if this is a realistic expectation in the future?

*Are you a musician who has a profile on both iLike and MySpace (and/or other sites)? I’d be curious to hear where you feel you’ve established a larger fan base. Leave a comment or email me.

  • During the “Business Models That Work…and Those That Don’t” panel – moderator Andrew Stess, CEO of Music IP, mused that someone should build a choose-your-own-price service for concert tickets a la Radiohead. I so agree. In the meantime, Inticketing, one of the summit sponsors, has a great online ticketing system and event management solution (not to mention a green business) with clients like Burning Man, the Great American Music Hall (where our buddy Scott recently performed), Yoshi’s, and Victor Wooten.

After the panels ended, we were unleashed into the boozing and networking portion of the event, which also included a performance by singer-songwriter Samantha Murphy. Though I had to run off to my own weekly musical endeavor, in the hour or so I was there I met some interesting people. One musician/student I was chatting with about MMM emailed me later to say he was delighted to see that I had blogged about the Bubblegum Sequencer. Turns out he is one of the Berkeley students that made it! Small world.

Overall, I found the Summit to be helpful and inspiring. What struck me was how nobody really knows where the music industry (especially the online music industry) is going. Licensing, copyright, distribution…these areas are rapidly being dismantled and slowly rebuilt without any concrete blueprint. Or vague guideline for that matter. All I know is that I’m excited to be riding the wave that is technology and I can’t wait to see what kind of distant exotic shore it dumps us on.

Social media, which wikipedia says uses “the ‘wisdom of crowds’ to connect information in a collaborative manner” is redefining the way that we interact with technology, one another, and our environment. I think this is especially true for those of us who are building something online (a fan base, a website, a blog, a clientèle, an identity) or those of us who simply enjoy being a prosumer/producer/content creator/participant (via blogging, twittering, digging, social networking, posting YouTube videos etc) rather than just a consumer. Passivity is so…well, passè. But it’s not just a matter of getting involved. Once you’re involved, you have to participate. And regularly. Let’s face it – no one is going to read a blog that you update once a year.

Ariel Hyatt of Ariel Publicity put it best when she said: “New media is like an endless garden – you can’t just plant it and walk away”.


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