Witt’s “How Music Got Free” essential reading for music fans

how music got free header
There are quite a few stories to be told in Stephen Witt‘s book, How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy, out not from Viking. You have the story of how the mp3 algorithm was created, you have how the music industry failed to meet the demands of a new digital age, and you have the story of how one man in North Carolina managed to leak many of the top albums of their day.
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Terror Tuesdays presents a midnight screening of Night of the Comet

poster - Night of the Comet
The second Terror Tuesdays goes down tonight at Frank’s North Star in Lawrence, Kansas. This week, we’re having to do switch things up a bit. No “Night Of The Night Ofs” tonight, because there’s a Royal ACLS playoff game at 7:00pm. Given that this is the boys in blue’s first set off playoff appearances in nearly 30 years, we’re not even going to attempt to compete.

So — midnight screening of Night of the Comet following the game tonight. Tallboys will be $2, Andy Stowers is bartending, and I’ll be there. Two out of three of those things are worth making it down to Frank’s (508 Locust St, north of the river).


Night Birds, “Monster Surf” 7-inch

cover - night birds monster surfCan Night Birds succeed without Brian Gorsegner‘s snotty vocals, which are so integral to the band’s sound? Is it possible to achieve that sense of horror and and b-movie grime without lyrics?

Shit yeah, it is. Granted, Gorsegner has a hand in playing synths on the dystopic sci-fi cut, “Agent Zero,” but the rest of the band handily rocks it pure surf style for the other three cuts on this EP.

It’s a nice chance to really focus on the fact that PJ Russo‘s guitar work is just lovely. The interplay between Russo’s guitar and Joe Keller‘s bass is what really makes this EP. Granted, it doesn’t get exceptionally complex at any point, but the songs are catchy. The same goes for drummer Ryan McHale, who — while he isn’t really called to do much more than standard timing — hits the skins with enough heft to give these songs a tiki-torch nighttime dance party feel.
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Muuy Biien, “D.Y.I.” LP

cover - muuy biien dyiI’d never heard of Muuy Biien before I got an offer to have some records sent to me. They were kind of a secondary, last-minute throw in with another record for review. That other record will not get mentioned, because I didn’t care for it at all, buuuuuuuut … D.Y.I. is pretty frickin’ great.

The album title — at least judging from the cover — stands for “Do Yourself In,” and the music is angular and bleak. “Cyclothymia I,” which opens the album, is almost three minutes of droning, chiming guitars. It then goes into this sharp-edged garage rock. It’s evocative of late-’90s indie rock, when everything was taking influence from electronic music, but reproducing it with live instrumentation.
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“B Is For Bad Cinema” operates outside of standard trash tropes

book cover - b is for bad cinemaState University of New York Press has a very excellent addition to film criticism with their new book, B Is For Bad Cinema, edited by Claire Perkins and Constantine Verevis. Rather than focusing as so many books about “b-movies” do, using the standard definition of the form — cult, grindhouse, trash, et al — it steps outside the expected. In some cases, we’re talking major releases as much as we are low-budget features.

Now, granted, in some cases there’s a crossroad where bad meets big, and you end up with something like William Friedkin’s Cruising, which — while trashy (and it certainly is) — also features what essay author R. Burton Palmer describes in “Redeeming Cruising” as “significant” imagery: namely, “the kind of sexual display previously seen only in gay stag films was suddenly at the representational center of a major Hollywood release.”
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Podcast #105, “Short & Sweet”

short stack
The podcast returns after an extended holiday hiatus, with a short twelve songs, covering the gamut from blues-influenced garage rock swagger to metal to … weirdness. Yeah. It’s been a bit, so you’d think this would be longer, but no. I’m a man of many words, but I’d rather quality of over quantity.

Expect a new one in two weeks, since it’s actually already recorded. We’re gonna make this thing a regular occurrence this year, god willing and the creeks don’t rise.

Podcast #105, “Short & Sweet”
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The #1s, “Sharon Shouldn’t” 7-inch

cover - 1s sharonThe #1s — in addition to being one of the hardest bands to find in our modern-day #hashtag culture — have been making quite a name for themselves in the pop underground as of late. They’ve put out two singles in rapid succession, and finally have a proper United States release with their “Sharon Shouldn’t” single on Sorry State and Alien Snatch.

The title track is a masterful piece of power-pop, with a really crisp sound to it. If the sleeve didn’t tip you off to their early-’80s sonic aesthetic, the opening seconds of the track will immediately clue you in. There’s no fuzz on this cut — everything is super-clean and high end, rocking out with just a little of that vocal effect that sounds like you’re singing into a very quiet bullhorn. Lots of dropped-out bits — dropping out all the instruments to let the vocals take hold; letting the drums and bass do a little chooglin’, then slicing some razor-sharp guitar riffs through them — make for some great dynamic moments.
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