A quick plug for the latest episode of Spot Lyte On…, a music industry-adjacent podcast that I co-produce and edit. Host Lawrence Peryer speaks with Carrie Kania, creative director at Iconic Images and former publishing executive at HarperCollins. Unsurprisingly for these two music-heads, most of the conversation is about music — favorite bands, early music memories, favorite shows — but you’ll also hear fascinating reminiscences about living in New York at the end of the 20th century and plenty of insight on the book publishing industry. The episode is available on your favorite podcasting platform or app including our suggestions found here.
Sandinista! at 40 → The Clash’s ambitious triple album Sandinista! was released 40 years ago this month. It was the first vinyl record I ever bought. I remember wandering into the mall record store thinking, “I should get something by this band The Clash I’m hearing about.” Looking through the bins, I see that Sandinista! packages three records filled with music for the price of one.1The Clash reportedly agreed to a cut in royalties to keep the price low on this album. So, that’s the one I picked over London Calling or the two others.
As I told Lawrence Peryer at the end of my interview on the Spot Lyte On podcast, Sandinista! probably wasn’t the best first exposure to The Clash. The album was difficult to latch on to — there was so much music, and the styles varied wildly from track-to-track. I remember liking “Magnificent Seven” and “Police On My Back,” but I didn’t get it overall. Maybe I chose the wrong intro album, making The Clash a band I’d merely appreciate through the years.
Simon Reynolds recently wrote about Sandinista! on his Blissblog, calling it a “fan-perplexing triple – which must be their least-listened record (well, apart from Cut the Crap) but which makes for a surprisingly listenable listen for streaming-era ears.” A vintage album best suited for streaming, then? Simon explains, “It’s not a record that can be listened to in a single sitting, especially in those days of vinyl — all that getting up and removing another disc from the sleeve, or flipping over the platter.”
When we first dip into a catalog, I wonder about the effect of that first record we listen to from a band. It can make the difference between becoming a fan or “meh.” Catalog dipping is a lot surer with streaming. You’re not really taking a chance anymore. And it’s easy to know which albums are the favorites, the most listened to, or the critically lauded ones. Before digital music, we were often guiding our chance-taking by album price. Three albums for the price of one was tempting. Also, there was the cut-out bin. Those $3-and-under records were often our intro albums, but, usually, only a band’s least popular records ended up as cut-outs.2Though I did discover Eno via the cut-out bin. It was Before And After Science, I believe.
Of course, I now enjoy Sandinista! quite a bit. And I see “Magnificent Seven” (and much of the album) as an ’80s milestone, ahead of its time. Here’s a fascinating oral history of that song from Consequence of Sound. And there’s a new music video for “Magnificent Seven.” The legendary Don Letts edited it from footage from The Clash’s time in NYC and their 1981 Bond’s residency. So good, so nostalgic.
Library Music → I’m intrigued by Tracks Music Library, a streaming platform set up by the Chapel Hill Public Library. Tracks is an online music site solely focused on artists from the ‘The Triangle’ (Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Durham). Via Indyweek:
[Local artists] are compensated for their submissions and given full ownership of their tracks. Upon visiting the website, you can search curated music from more than 70 musicians and bands; if you have a Chapel Hill library card, you can also download music.
It turns out Tracks uses a streaming engine called MUSICat, allowing libraries to create an “affordably priced” platform for “music streams and optional downloads to library users.” Libraries across the country are implementing this (here’s a list), with most focusing on local music. I assume payments for streams and downloads are paid to the artists through the grant pools and public funding given to libraries.
I love the idea of streaming platforms based on local music and regional scenes. It’s a welcome antithesis to the temptation to always think globally on the internet. The rights are easy to secure as the platforms are dealing directly with the artists, most unsigned. And I see that Tracks is working with Durham’s Merge Records, so prominent local labels can also get involved. This is how you foster a community, which is an essential exercise in fractured times.
Monta At Odds – A Great Conjunction → Kansas City’s Monta At Odds are a spacey band, both in sound and obsessions. Science fiction literature had a heavy influence on their Argentum Dreams album (released in 2018 on my 8D Industries label). And the band’s recent single “When Stars Grow Old” is inspired by a vision of a future culture remembering its past on a distant world. So it’s no surprise that December 21st’s ‘great conjunction’ of Saturn and Jupiter would inspire the band to summon a new set of cosmic tunes. These five songs are Monta At Odds at their Oddsiest — a crafty mix of soaring space-rock, frantic jazz drumming, fluttering sine waves, and post-rock echoes. “The Gods Are Conspiring” is the highlight, a rousing instrumental sound-piece that imagines an agitated Popol Vuh blissfully rocking out. Along with the other tunes on this EP, it’s a fitting soundtrack for watching heavenly bodies appear to collide in space.
I had an enjoyable conversation with Lyte’s Lawrence Peryer last week. We got nostalgic about learning about new music in our formative years — especially challenging for me as a teenager in the middle of Louisiana. I told him about hanging an electric antenna out of my bedroom window and how crappy equipment made me a better DJ. Then, we talked about why there should be niche streaming services, how people are forgetting Frank Zappa, and that Sandinista! isn’t the best Clash record to start with. I used the word “fascinating” a lot.
Oh, and we recorded this sprawling conversation. It’s the latest episode of the Spot Lyte On… podcast, and you should give it a listen. It’s fun.
At one point, on the subject of indie music discovery in the mid-80s, I mention a fanzine called The Bob1Sadly, I can’t find a history online to link to, but contributor Fred Mills talks about it in this interview.. I call it my ‘music bible at the time.’ I can’t express enough how vital this mag was for me. It brought this sixteen-year-old punk rocker to The Velvet Underground, after all. Anyway, after we spoke, Lawrence sent me this link on Etsy. Someone is selling four vintage issues of The Bob. I remember all of these — I read them cover-to-cover, and probably more than once, when they were brand new. Seeing these mags in this photo delivered that melancholy pang of remembering that youthful period of discovering that music means something. You know the pang I’m talking about. Sigh.
For someone who professes to avoid nostalgia, there’s a lot of nostalgia in this podcast. I hope you enjoy the conversation.
First off, as previously mentioned, today is ‘Bandcamp Friday’ — the platform is waiving its cut of revenue with 100% going to the artists. Here are some suggestions where you can throw your support today:
- Pitchfork’s list of labels and artists directing Bandcamp revenue to Black Lives Matter organizations [LINK]
- A list of black artists, producers, and black-owned labels on Bandcamp [LINK]
- Resident Advisor’s list compiling both, with an emphasis on electronic music [LINK]
- If you’re into ambient music, here’s a Reddit thread listing ambient artists of color that could use your support (h/t Terry Grant) [LINK]
Like most of you, I was feeling dispirited and down yesterday. The constant barrage of evidence that this country is falling apart weighs heavily. And the gray skies and rain weren’t helping. I had an interview scheduled in the early afternoon and didn’t know if I was up for it. I was looking for some good news, and anything would do.
Unexpectedly, Warren Ellis provided that bright spot with a shout out on his blog, perhaps in response to my shout-out to his blog on Tuesday. It’s a nice boost to get mentioned under the ‘Isles of Blogging’ tag. I’m proud to inhabit my little beach-side hut.
One thing I learned: Ellis has a lot of readers. There are a lot of new eyes peering at this speck on the web (hello), and I picked up a healthy amount of newsletter subscribers. Shining a light on a fellow toiling soul is one of the best parts of operating in an independent space, whether you’re a band or a novelist or a painter or a blogger. It’s a lovely feeling when you’re the recipient.
I mentioned Ellis’s newsletter — Orbital Operations — only a couple of days ago. It’s something I look forward to each Sunday. One of its regular highlights is the heartfelt words of encouragement closing each email, a needed end-of-week reminder that things eventually will be cool. I’ll shine a little light back by urging you to subscribe.
My interview was with Lawrence Peryer for the Spot Lyte On podcast. I talked about growing up in Central Louisiana, the challenges of finding underground music there, the historical threads of influence that connects musical artists, utopian streaming models, Kraftwerk (of course), and lots of other things. It was freewheeling and fun. Though I think we intended to include music industry shop-talk, there was very little of that. The podcast hits the pod-ways next week. I’ll give you a preview by linking to a record from 1981 that comes up at the end of the discussion: the mind-blowing “Outside Broadcast.”
Side-note: I enjoy gabbing on podcasts. If you’re interested in having me gab on yours then please get in touch.
I also mentioned a podcast interview with Derek Sivers. It’s an episode of Yo Podcast — an uplifting listen that will give your brain a break from the world-on-fire for an hour. Specifically, I mentioned and clumsily explained this part where Derek answers the question: Hendrix or Bowie?
Jimi Hendrix is like Charles Darwin. Darwin, he presents “The Origin of Species” to the world and it blows everybody’s mind. But now the theory of evolution is common knowledge, so to read the book, “The Origin of Species” now, is not so impressive. So Hendrix presents the “Star-Spangled Banner,” full of feedback and more sounds from a guitar than anyone had heard before, and it blows everybody’s mind. But now, every kid in the guitar store can do the same thing. So to hear the original, is not so impressive. I think it’s kind of the same with Stravinsky and the “Rite of Spring,” it’s actually kind of unfair that they’re revolutionary contribution is diminished with time.
But David Bowie is like Josephine Baker, exotic and desirable in their time, and exotic and desirable now. And same thing with Claude Debussy’s music. Like, David Bowie, Josephine Baker, and Claude Debussy, all of them stood outside of the culture. Their art didn’t infiltrate the culture and culture didn’t assimilate or adopt it. And so time doesn’t diminish their allure.
The podcast audio and the transcription are on Derek’s site.
Once again, dawn brings a bluish-gray over Lake Holden this morning = [LINK]