Sites and sounds
With the future of neighborhood record stores looking bleak, blogs still offer a place for music geeks to connect
There once existed a rush of discovery when music fans stumbled upon some obscure, colored vinyl 7-inch blasts of pure bliss. Finding that odd band, the well-kept secret sulking in shadows and surely two years from the world’s eyes, was for your ears only, and to share with all the rock music obsessives within your frantic, fetishizing orbit.
The Internet, peer-to-peer file sharing and the success of iTunes have done nothing but maximize music’s availability and satisfy the aural thrill-seeker’s fix in a digital mp3 form. Music blogs can now be considered yet another avenue for the music fanatic to explore an infinite amount of new music.
Blogs are an intimate, Internet diary-like take on someone’s life. It is natural then, that the blog evolve into a forum for music fanatics to share passionate, devotional rants on their favorite artists and bands.
Perhaps the best place to begin hunting for music blogs and free mp3s is at The Hype Machine (hype.non-standard.net) which functions as a search engine to locate recent blog updates as well as a band’s songs organized by posting date according to the most current release.
Other popular blogs include I Am Fuel, You Are Friends (www.fuelfriends.blogspot.com, named for Pearl Jam’s song “Leash") run by one Heather Browne, who has an affectation for all things Pete Yorn (acoustic live performances and album outtakes) as well as a mostly comprehensive listing of Sub Pop Singles Club 7-inches for download. An Aquarium Drunkard (www.aquariumdrunk.blogspot.com) normally leans toward more alt-Americana roots fare (Ryan Adams, Bonnie Prince Billy), but recently offered Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street outtakes that have since been removed.
Other golden finds include literally hours of unreleased Elliott Smith tracks that easily top anything off his last three albums and rival the eloquence and poetics of his classic Either/Or. The Elliott Smith material may be found at www.elliottsmithbsides.com.
On the downside, music blogs are considered to be similar to peer-to-peer networks (Napster, Limewire, et al.), and their users have been successfully sued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The similarity between the two is that artists’ wares are being offered for public consumption and not being paid for their effort; implicating one’s art has been pirated or stolen. A lawsuit was filed on behalf of the RIAA against Napster in 2000 “because it launched a service that enables and facilitates piracy of music on an unprecedented scale.”
The courts found that Napster encouraged and enabled the illegal copying and distribution of copyrighted music. It was also stated that “because Napster itself may not house the infringing recordings does not mean Napster is not guilty of copyright infringement.” Furthermore, “copyright law has long recognized that someone that materially contributes to infringing activity with knowledge of that activity is liable for copyright infringement as if the person did the copying him or herself.”
By the above legal decision, music blogs could be in violation of copyright law, which might explain why many post a disclaimer that all links will be removed upon request. This could even explain why songs leaked from the upcoming Shins album Wincing the Night Away were available for only three hours, after a vigilant eye from the band’s label Sub Pop requested that they be removed.
Of course, a legitimate argument could be made that the existence of music blogs exposes the public to bands they may have never heard. The most memorable musical unearthing for me was a fairly unknown band from Atlanta called Deerhunter. The band, which will release its second full-length, Cryptograms, in early 2007, seamlessly blends the more modern dance elements of latter-day Liars with 154-era Wire to create an entirely spooky, original new sound that proves unforgettable.
Lacking the subtlety and originality of the former, the Midwest’s Times New Viking brilliantly cops every sloppy, inspired, loud guitar move from ‘90s indie rock and injects it with an ample array of smoke and mirrors to convince us that it all begins and ends with their perfect long-player Dig Yr Self.
Ears fried and eager for the come down can ease into Sweden’s Jose Gonzalez, who, besides writing his own great songs, performs the two best cover versions of the year with his take on Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and a surprisingly emotive rendering of dance goddess Kylie Minogue’s “Hand On My Heart.” Gonzalez’s vocals are plain, yet resonate with a genuineness that rings warmly against the audible vibrations of guitar strings on wood.
In the name of providing these places for new music, bloggers have attempted to thwart the RIAA from taking legal action by insisting that their links are to sites where readers may simply locate mentioned songs. Blogs also offer links where readers may purchase songs or albums from online retailers such as Amazon.com.
And while many record stores are closing up shop, music blogs still offer the personal recommendation that used to make the neighborhood record store a must-visit on a lazy Saturday afternoon.