Let’s, for one minute, play a little game.

I’m a reasonably successful indie-rock band, with a new album coming out soon. Knowing full well that singles don’t really sell these days, I decide instead to post a song on my website, and produce a swanky video to go with it. Anyone can go and download it, and before long, it’s all over Hype Machine, Elbows, and all those other lovely music blog aggregators, getting me lots of free publicity.

Then my new record label goes after those same blogs for posting the track and forces them to either remove the track, or if they are using sites like, to have them suspended.

Because the eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed that this site was down for a few hours on Monday morning. That was because the lovely people who host my blog got a DMCA notice to remove the track, and because I’d been naughty before (one occasion for which I am very, very sorry), suspended my blog. Now, I have no issues whatsoever with WordPress. They do a great job, and they get threatened with legal action if a blog they host does something dodgy. But they, as all of us now are, are living in a world that is light years away from even five years ago.

Five years ago, it was possible to go and download as much free music as you liked from all sorts of dodgy places. Since then, the “free” music environment has coalesced into three main sources1:

1. Bit Torrent. Get yourself a Bit Torrent client and you can download as much free music as your hard drive (or broadband connection) will allow. Totally illegal, and totally immoral.

2. Album blogs. Search around Google for all of, ooh, two seconds, and you’ll find blogs that post whole albums. Often they are pre-release, often they post links to Rapidshare or one of the other file hosting sites. Sometimes they post obscurities, for which the immorality aspect is a bit hazy, but by and large they are also totally illegal and totally immoral.

3. MP3 blogs. These post individual tracks, sometimes a few a day, or one or two a week, along with a write-up of why they are being posted. Often it’s the writing that is key; and this is what makes MP3 blogs so special. Dig around Hype Machine or Elbows for an idle hour and you’ll soon find a whole community of people who like what you like, who’ll point you toward stuff you’d never heard but will love, and entertain and enthral. Often the tracks are pre-approved by a record label (or at least, they are in one country – well-known blogs have been wiped out due to this problem), but sometimes they aren’t. So, if you read the letter of the law, they might be illegal. But are they immoral?

No. By and large, people writing blogs are doing it for no financial gain whatsoever. They do it because they love music, because they love writing about the music they love (or sometimes don’t love), and they want to spread the word. And of course, many do it because they are opinionated loudmouths who like going on and on and on and this is a far more efficient way of wittering on about The Band They Love That If You Don’t Like You Are A Moron (perfect example: this site)2. But who cares? They love music. They want you to know about it. And this is the crux – people out there want to promote bands, for free.

There’s an obvious problem with this though. After all, if everyone started posting tracks of a band they loved, pretty soon most of their music would be available for free through the MP3 aggregators. And that wouldn’t do, because bands need to make money to be able to make music.

Now I have an answer to this. It’s going to take a cultural shift in the mindset of the record labels, and publishers, but they need to get it into their heads that we are their allies. Give us a free track or two from a new release; make them properly free, globally, so that we don’t get into that nasty “A track that’s ok in the UK is illegal in the US” thing (the Internet is international. Repeat: the Internet is international). Digitally watermark it if you like, we don’t care. But if a blogger likes the song, he/she can post it happily without any comeback from anyone. And this is the important bit – other bloggers can then post it too. The track is out there, it’s free to use, anyone can copy it, post it, whatever3. We’ll put links in our blog posts to buy the CD from Amazon, iTunes, the band’s own site, wherever. We’ll also agree to not post other tracks from the album, and anyone doing so should be contacted by the label (or publisher) and told to pack it in.

Once a record has been out for a while (maybe a few years), the rules should be relaxed a bit more. Bloggers should be able to post other tracks, as long as they don’t keep posting more than one more track from the record, and provide links to buy. After all, the singles aren’t always the ones that speak to the blogger. We ought to be in a world where music bloggers, as long as they are sensible, don’t have to live in fear of having their hard work lost as the result of trying to promote a band that they love. What’s more, if we build good relationships so that we can talk to each other better, with less of the “YOU HAVE STOLEN OUR PROPERTY AND WE ARE SHUTTING YOU DOWN” type emails, everyone can benefit.

This is the new world. Record labels and publishers complaining that people are “stealing” the music they have made freely available is like a 15th Century monk complaining that Gutenburg was putting them out of the Bible-printing business. When was the last time you saw a Bible hand-drawn by a scribish monk? Who won that battle, eh?

RIAA, record labels, PR firms, publishers: We, music bloggers, are there to promote the bands under your care. We love music, we love the bands we write about, we want them to succeed, for people to buy their records, go to their gigs, buy their t-shirts, and all that. What’s more, we do it for free. Help us help you.

Note: I am aware that “Compliments” was posted for download as a video, not an MP3. My point still stands. This is the Internet. It’s a digital file. It takes one person with the correct, freely available tool, about 30 seconds to rip that to MP3. You’ve made it available. What happens to it then is up to the masses. Whether you like it or not, this is the world we now live in. Going after people like me who are trying to sell the band’s records is not going to help4. If you’d been charging for the video, then that’s a different matter, and I wouldn’t be writing this now, as I wouldn’t have posted it.

Note 2: The track itself has been removed from the Hype Machine listings. Curiouser and curiouser.

Note 3: I am also in touch with Web Sheriff to discuss further. There’s always the possibility that I’m just going to piss off People With Power And Lawyers more and this might be my last ever post; or at least, my last post before I move to hosting it myself.

Note 4: Prizes for guessing correctly why I’ve chosen this particular MP3.5

MP3: I Am Trying To Break Your Heart by Wilco

1 I’m ignoring streaming music from this debate. Streaming does not work particularly well on a Tube train 20 metres below ground. And anyway, I *like* buying CD’s. I like a nice cover, nice sleevenotes, lyrics, and all that, and I know many people for whom this is also the case.

2 And their friends/partner/family/pets have got sick and tired of being ranted at about Furtive Chortle or whoever the new flavour of the month is.

3 There have been ridiculous situations recently where some blogs become chosen to be allowed to post a track to download, but if you’re not one of the chosen ones, you’re doomed *cough* Vampire Weekend *cough*

4 And this isn’t an age thing, you know. I’m turning 40 next year. I grew up with vinyl, taping songs off John Peel and the Top 40, videoing Snub TV and The Tube, and buying albums solely on a good review from the NME. If I can get my head round this new world, so can everyone else.

5 There is no prize.

Buy Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” (CD/MP3)

Russian Around

Russian Circles have made something of a name for themselves by making music that sits somewhere between Mogwai and Mastodon on the noise spectrum – vast, intricate instrumental soundscapes that build on repetitive guitar riffs, overlain by thumping bass and some remarkable drumming. Over three increasingly diverse albums, guitarist Mike Sullivan has tried to develop their sound, adding horns and strings, without compromising what they can do live. And so, to the Underworld in Camden, a small-ish venue that they seem to have sold out fairly easily.

First thing to say about it is that Russian Circles fans are tall. I mean, proper tall. I’m over six foot and even I was struggling. Thankfully, we managed to somehow get ourselves a plum spot at the front of the raised area, with a great view of the stage, and although I wouldn’t be able to see Mike Sullivan messing around with his effects pedals (being a bit of a geek like that), at least I’d see something. Support act Earthless were pretty decent too, with their Kyuss-on-speed the perfect taster for what was to come.

I Don't Think The iPhone Camera Is Up To Photographing Gigs

And what came was glorious. It’s hard for me to spell out highlights, partly because I can’t remember any song titles, and the wall of sound that emanated from the stage was overwhelming.

Reader, I zoned out. When listening to instrumental music, the emotional bond that comes with singing is removed, so the part of your brain that deals with words and language and all that switches off, and it doesn’t matter whether the singing is in English, French, Esperanto or a made-up pixie language; you don’t listen to singing in the same way as you deal with instruments. So, as the music grew and swelled, I entered a weird zone of being, well, utterly monged out.

As you can imagine this makes writing a review somewhat harder than usual. Notes are hard to make when you can’t remember the song title, and given that the band had no mics whatsoever (other than for the drums), so we didn’t even get a “Hey, this is called Malko, it’s from our new record!”1. And notes such as “The one that went da da da daaaaa DAAAA DAAAAAAA KRCHUNG KRCHUNG was really good, like” are no use whatsoever.

So this is more a random collection of thoughts. In general, the more intricate numbers got you wondering why wildlife documentary producers haven’t got hold of them yet – maybe some Icelandic wailing over the top would do the trick, and would do wonders for their bank balance. The brutal clarity of the records is somewhat lost; the delicacy amongst the noise is largely lacking, but you expect that at a gig. Sullivan’s tapping technique is astonishing, and mixed with his dexterity and use of looper pedals, allowed him to create a stunning orchestral sound from his Les Paul. And the thundering drummer Dave Turncrantz was possibly the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. The noise between the songs whilst the band tune up, or in the case of the fantastic drummer, a well-earned rest, is like the low metallic drone from the engines of some huge intergalactic spaceship. And talking at gigs is a mortal sin alongside murder and putting used matches back in the box.

A Pedalboard, Courtesy Of

One of the tracks featured a wonderful drum solo – and how often can you say that, eh? – before exploding into the sound of twenty million untuned valve radios. At the end, a bloke shouted “Play that song again!”. It was hard to disagree. Of the few tracks I remembered the names of, “Youngblood”’s staccato metal churn showed that they aren’t your average post-rockers, whilst “Philos” clearly demonstrated their increasing range and their development into something more than a metal/post-rock hybrid. And encore “Station” turned the place into a huge moshpit, which was then delicately calmed down again by the Godspeed-style closing section. I came home with “Philos” earworming its way through my skull, which didn’t leave till a few days later. Some band, some tune. See them soon.

Set list:
Harper Lewis
Death Rides A Horse
Hexed All



MP3: Philos by Russian Circles

1 They did wave very enthusiastically when they walked off stage though. Which was nice.

Amazon’s Russian Circles Store

RIP Guru

One of the true pioneers of hip hop, Keith Elam, otherwise known as Guru, died on Monday of cancer. Along with DJ Premier, his group Gang Starr made slick, funky, jazz-inflected records, and he went on to produce the great “Jazzmatazz” albums.

Guru stood out from the crowd by rapping about the troubles urban America was bringing upon itself, with as much resignation as anger, as well as making sensitive love songs, something somewhat frowned upon in the rapping community. The Jazzmatazz albums brought his love of jazz to the fore, and were hugely influential. His easy, conversational style made him a superb orator.

He will be sadly missed.

MP3: Just To Get A Rep by Gang Starr

Amazon’s Gang Starr Shop

Buy “Jazzmatazz Vol.1” (CD/MP3)

Sound LSDcystem

Has it really been over a week since my last post? Dammit, I promised to post more. Maybe I should have called this blog “Look I’ve Been Busy, Alright?” instead of the somewhat baffling “Loft and Lost”, which still doesn’t make sense to anyone, least of all me.

In any case, I’ve been busy, Iceland has caught fire, Arsenal have thrown away a golden opportunity to win the League title, and those records keep being released. I’ve only got something to say about that last point, in case you were wondering. Whilst I may have a Geophysics degree, I’m not going to start pontificate about the mid-Atlantic ridge and hotspots and the like here, you know. As for the football, well, if I do write a 20,000 essay on Why Wenger Is Wrong And Why I Am Right, you’ll be the first to know.

Anyway, this week’s installment of Records By Reasonably Big Acts What Are Being Released In May (see here, here, and here for previous installments) features LCD Soundsystem.

Who are an act that I’ve never quite been 100% sure about. Maybe it’s the hype putting me off, but I’ve always felt there’s something terribly calculated about them. Or him. But when I listen to some of his tracks, I find myself rather enjoying them. New single “Drunk Girls” is like that. At first, the David Bowie-meets-Talking Heads-at-an-Erasure-gig-and-cover-White-Light-White-Heat thang seems a touch trite, but a certain magic starts creeping through and before you know it, you’re nodding your head in an appreciatory manner and trying not to punch the air with your fist, wailing “YEAH! OH YEAH! THIS RAWKS!”. Or, more simply put, it’s damn good. I particularly like the over-emotional wailing, more than vaguely reminiscent of Kevin Rowland, at the coda (the end bit).

Th’ album is out on May 17th in the UK and probably May 18th in the US, as that is the way these things work, for some reason. You can listen to the whole thing here on their official site and it must be said, some of it sounds corking.

And that video is brilliant. Panda droogs, indeed.

MP3: Drunk Girls by LCD Soundsystem

Pre-Order “This Is Happening”

“He was a lovable rogue. Except he wasn’t that lovable”

Malcolm McLaren was one of rock’s more controversial characters. Partially responsible for the outpouring of anger and rage, wrapped up in a carapace of pure capitalism that was The Sex Pistols, he then went on to manage Adam And The Ants and Bow Wow Wow (with whom he behaved exceedingly dodgily, a fact which seems to have escaped most obituary writers). From then, he released the extraordinary “Buffalo Gals” and “Double Dutch”, followed by “Madame Butterfly”. After that, he became famous more for his outspoken views than his influence on music, whereas before they’d been about evens.


The phrase “never one to shy away from controversy” was surely invented for him. His influence on modern music was undeniable; depending on who you listen to, he either invented punk singlehandedly or collected likeminded people to him, wound them up and set them loose; either way, without him, punk surely wouldn’t have had such a massive impact, or reached as many people. You only have to hear any Mancunian musician who attended the Sex Pistols show at the Free Trade Hall in 1976 to understand how history was made that night. He had something of a reputation as being hugely difficult, as well as being hugely amusing. Whatever he was, he certainly wasn’t boring. He died on Thursday, aged 64. I can only imagine what arguments he’s stirring up in heaven right now1.

Charlie Gillett was, like Malcolm McLaren, hugely outspoken, and in his own way, probably even more influential, though he was a much more likeable fellow. He helped the careers of everyone from Dire Straits to Ian Dury, Youssou N’Dour to Mariza. He is credited with inventing the term “world music”, and during his 40-plus year career wrote ground-breaking books, hosted many ground-breaking radio shows, and compiled and released ten superb world music compilations. Although he had to retire from broadcasting in 2006 due to illness, he continued to work and help countless musicians to be heard by a wider audience. Like John Peel before him, he was solely motivated by a passionate desire to spread the word of the music that he loved. He will be sadly missed.

Charlie Gillett (by Steve Double)

So here’s two tracks, one dedicated to each. The first needs no introduction, the second comes from one of Charlie Gillett’s “World” compilation CD’s – “World 2002” in this case. The song is by a band I’d never heard of before2, Mostar Sevdah Reunion, and makes me laugh at its cascading horns and strings every time I hear it; it sounds like a mariachi band having a punch-up in a souk. Which, given that they hail from one of the most ethnically diverse places on earth, is not exactly a shock. Wonderful stuff, and I urge you listen to it, and then go out and buy some of the compilations. They will enthrall and amaze, and leave you saddened at the loss of the man who did so much to bring such great music to a wider audience.

MP3: God Save The Queen by The Sex Pistols

MP3: Pena by Mostar Sevdah Reunion

Amazon’s Malcolm McLaren Store

Buy “World 2002” (CD)

1 Ok, so I’m an atheist.

2 As you’d expect…

A Thought On Some Bad Reviews

A few weeks ago, I was amazed by Pitchfork’s bad review of the brilliant debut by Freelance Whales. I’ve been listening to it for months and think it’s going to be one of the best albums of the year, so when P4K called it derivative and gave it a measly 4.2I was dumbfounded. Especially since they’ve also reviewed albums by The Morning Benders and Local Natives positively, pointing out their similarities to recent great bands. In other words, that they are derivative.

Now, Pitchfork, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t celebrate two records because they sound like other bands you like, and then slag another off because they, well, sound like other bands you like. It’s not the first time that Pitchfork has got it horribly wrong. Midlake’s breakthrough album “The Trials Of Van Occupanther” was booed offstage, despite it being, frankly, great. Jumping the shark, as that old saying goes?

Which leads me onto The Kissaway Trail. This may not come as much of a shock to regular readers, but I have an enormous pile of unread newspapers in my living room which I’m slowly working my way through. Last night I got to a Sunday Times Culture section (which, UK readers, you really should get – it’s great), and they reviewed The Kissaway Trails new album, likening it to The Flaming Lips and Grandaddy, both bands I am somewhat fond of. “I’ll give them I try”, I think, and I do. And I like them.

But guess what? Pitchfork can’t stand them. Derivative, they say. Sounds like Arcade Fire, they moan. Well, possibly, but they sound much more like Mew, which, being Danish, isn’t exactly a huge shock. So, in a reversal of what reviews are meant to do, I’m buying “Sleep Mountain” on the basis of a bad review.

In other news, I’m away for a few days, so without much further comment, here’s new songs by Band Of Horses and Stars. They have new albums out in May and June, respectively, so will write more about them closer to the time. Huzzah!

MP3: SDP by The Kissaway Trail

MP3: Fixed by Stars

MP3: Compliments by Band Of Horses

Note: this track has been removed as the hosters of this blog had a DMCA notice.

Buy “Sleep Mountain” by The Kissaway Trail (CD/MP3)

Buy “Set Yourself on Fire” by Stars (CD/MP3)

Note: Link to pre-order Band Of Horses removed.

Resurrection Monday

‘Tis Easter Monday here, and who better to listen to than those marvellous chroniclers of modern American life – that heady mix of consumerism, beer, and latent Christianity – than The Hold Steady? With a new album “Heaven Is Whenever” coming out in early May, some early tracks have come leaking out of the Interwebs. My favourite so far is “Rock Problems”, with its superlative bar-room rock that The Hold Steady are experts in.

A Hand Reaching Up To Heaven, Or Raised Up In Celebration Of Doing Loads Of Drugs (Symbolism Ahoy!)

But one little worry about the new album is the news that marvellously mustacheod (sp?) keyboardist Franz Nicolay has done a runner. Which is a massive shame; his piano lines have often elevated their songs above the meat-and-two-veg rock that they could sometimes stumble into. Let’s see if that, over the course of a whole album, his departure makes a difference. I certainly hope not. Going to miss him though; he’s a great live presence and a thoroughly nice chap.

On a related note, isn’t May going to be a mental month for new releases from some great bands? The Hold Steady, The National and Broken Social Scene all have new records out. I believe the vernacular is “Woot”.

MP3: Rock Problems by The Hold Steady

Pre-Order “Heaven Is Whenever” (CD)

Buy “Boys and Girls in America: Special Edition” (CD/MP3) (And you should)

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The Worst Band Name In The World…Ever!

We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.
Oscar Wilde

I’m glad Oscar Wilde isn’t around to comment on an American band calling themselves “The Morning Benders”. For, if you are not aware, “Bender” is UK slang for a man who (and I’m putting this delicately) solely enjoys the company of other men. If you want to be really pendantic, he is the one in such a relationship who favours the giving, rather than the receiving.

Plus, it’s the basis of one of the great playground jokes:

Child 1: Are you a bender tied to a tree?
Child 2: No
Child 1, and any other child lurking nearby: Bender on the loose! Bender on the loose!

I made that joke at work the other day. I’m still giggling about it. Childish, yes, but still hilarious1.

So when someone emailed me and said I should try “The Morning Benders” I was nonplussed. Was he having a laugh? Was it an early April Fools Day joke? (Not that I’d stoop to such depths)

A Bunch Of Benders (tee hee)

But no, they are real, and they are good. Sunny Californian easy-alt-rock, is what I’d call it. The CD dropped onto my doormat the other day, so I’m very much looking forward to getting acquainted with the album, entitled “Big Echo”. The perfect soundtrack to the coming spring.

MP3: Excuses by The Morning Benders

Buy “Big Echo” (CD)

1 Yes, I know it’s childish, and not really PC, but I make up for it by buying the Grauniad at least twice a week. And I eat tofu. So there.

Gaga Goes Gaga Over Gira

Now, I’m not normally one for posting breaking news and that, but the announcement early this morning about Lady Gaga got me really curious. And excited. If you haven’t already heard, the electropopess has recorded a cover of Swans “Time Is Money (Bastard)”, in an electro-folk-pop stylee, with backing provided by those beardy folksters Midlake.

Lady Gaga, Yesterday

Early reports, from the Italian blog Follis Aprilis, say that the track “sounds like Devendra Banhart on acid being french kissed by Shakira, with a shaved monkey banging a syndrum in the background with his fists, furiously, furiously, until the moon is broken like all our dreams”. We’ll take their word for it, shall we?

MP3: Time Is Money (Bastard) by Swans

MP3: Poker Face by Lady Gaga
(Track removed due to Band Of Horses related paranoia.)

Buy “Cop/Young God/Greed/Holy Money” (CD)

Buy Lady Gaga’s “The Fame Monster” (CD/MP3)

PS: Thanks to SF!