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DIY Ditty: Mint 400 and the digital record label

February 18, 2014

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In the new music landscape, traditional models are modifying, morphing and changing. The record label is one of those pieces that is stretching. Neil Sabatino, owner of Mint 400 Records and songwriter in the band Fairmont, was kind enough to give Independent Clauses a long interview about the pros and cons of digital labels. (Mint 400 is the label of The Duke of Norfolk, whom I manage.)

How did you start Mint 400 Records?
Mint 400 Records was originally a joke. I would use it as my fake label that I said Fairmont was on when we were in between labels. I didn’t really intend to start a record label at the time when I first came up with the name. Then as I started working with a digital distributor he had told me he was signing me up to digital distribution as a label because Fairmont had so many releases at the time, and it got us around a loop hole that allowed us to control the digital distro for every record we had ever put out.

At first I planned on only releasing my own band’s material. I finally asked the question to our digital distro, “Can we help our friends put out their records through our digital distro deal?” The answer was yes, and the rest is history.

How does a digital label like Mint 400 differ from a traditional record label? What do you offer bands?
Mint 400 basically is focused on keeping the bands out of debt, hence releasing very little physical content and being about 95% digital. Occasionally the label has put out physical records for a select band or two and has helped other bands who have pressed their own material to get physical distribution but because of the way that the industry has changed it doesn’t benefit small bands anymore to press anything. One of the things I wanted to do when I first started out was to be able to sign a band, bring them to my home studio and engineer and produce their record for free. Then I wanted to be able to use my art background to design their album art, web page, and other media.

In addition Mint 400 tries to help here and there with PR and tour dates. So basically without costing myself any money only my time, I was able to give a band that had nothing a pretty good start. That was in the early days and now that we have grown we also started working with Pirate Radio Promotions who were nice enough to give us a very indie friendly rate to promote our records to college radio and specialty radio.

This in addition to licensing deals set up specifically for Mint 400 Records artists have been the things we offer bands that a lot of other labels can’t offer. Through a lot of trial and error I have found the most cost effective ways to spend on a band’s release without breaking the bank for them or for myself. I honestly believe that through being on a label like mine, prolific, talented bands are given a chance to grow exponentially and with my help can elevate themselves to the point where they can continue on as a band for many years. For some I will be the stepping stone for them to get to the next step bigger label.

Why should bands get involved with a digital label? What would they benefit? What types of bands would benefit?
I think bands who are prolific are the bands who will benefit the most from a label like mine. A normal label wouldn’t dream of letting you release more then one thing a year because they like to be paid back before moving onto the next thing. Through Mint 400 because we try to handle everything in house we encourage bands to release as many things as possible and they reap the rewards by having that material available for licensing and for radio. For this reason we have a lot of amazing songwriters that have the ability to record their own material and this limits them only to how much material they can write in a year. The bands who won’t benefit from my label are the ones who think they are the next big thing, we don’t buy into any aspect of the major label or even major indie label way of doing things. I would say my label is the most punk rock label that releases almost no punk rock music.

Digital labels get maligned as not as good as traditional labels. What would you say the biggest misconception about digital labels is?
I have been in my current band for 13 years now and have released something in every year of our existence, some years we even did two releases. My concern has always been to hone my craft and release as many great records as possible. That is all I really care about and is what I want the artists on my label to care about. The point for me is I have been able to have my records heard by people for over a decade and most bands can’t say that. I want to offer that gift to like minded songwriters who know that their humble songs deserve to be heard.

We are willing to get involved with an artist even if they only have recorded in the bedroom and never done anything else. Amazing songwriting is our concern, and I feel at some point there will be a backlash against the bands who spend millions on records to sound like a perfect robotic auto tuned version of themselves. It will always come back to tremendous musicians who write tremendous songs. I would never hold it against an artist who wants to work the stable 9 to 5 job, have a family and a house but still write records. Just because an artist is stable and doesn’t want to tour and be away from his loved ones for months on end doesn’t mean his work holds any less merit then a major label act.

If someone wanted to start a digital label, what would it take? What goes into creating a digital label?
If someone was looking to just start a digital label I would say all that matters is you have bands that you believe in. For me it helps that I have a background in art which translates to the ability to be able to help bands with everything from videos to web & album design. The other things like producing and engineering records took a lot of hard work to get good at and if you are hoping to do what I do and produce and engineer your label’s releases then I suggest putting in ten plus years in an indie band where you learn from seasoned veterans.

It doesn’t hurt that being in a band you get to learn what kinds of things get you heard more, like radio campaigns, and which things are wastes of time and money. However I would never discourage someone who has drive from attempting to start a digital record label. The only thing that really matters is how good your ear is and will you know an amazing songwriter when you hear one? I pretty much started the label with no cash up front, I mean it did help though that I had already spent thousands on the Fairmont records that became the initial first batch of what Mint 400 released. For the entrepreneur, I would say get good at everything so you can do it in house and cheaply and then you are ready to start your own label. The distro, the radio, the licensing will all come later if you have quality bands.

I don’t want to misrepresent the label at all, so I will disclose that you are going to need to pretty much spend all of your extra cash for a very long time on things for the label. However if you are smart about it and don’t exceed your limitations, then you can pretty much spend what you make to keep upgrading the label. I would say the label has grown tenfold with respects to earnings over our 8-year history and we try to then grow that money by putting back into the label.

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Austin Miller’s calm candor results in beautiful tunes

February 14, 2014

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I don’t listen to Rocky Votolato much anymore, because the intensity of his emotion deeply impacted me at a pretty pivotal point in my life. Rocky is stuck as a historical moment for me, but Austin Miller has a similar vibe that I hope to listen to for a long time.

More Than One Way sees Miller in thoughtful troubadour mode, dispensing calm, comfortable songs with an easy gravitas. “When the Rain Comes” sticks with me long after I stop listening to it; the melodies are arresting, but it’s the tone of his voice and the lyrics that keep coming back to me. “When the rain comes / I will welcome it with open arms / what else am I supposed to do?” Miller posits, and it’s the delivery that turns that from a prosaic statement into a haunting-yet-optimistic one.

Miller doesn’t traffic in overwrought emotions: he’s no Damien Rice, or even Damien Jurado. Miller pulls me in with his calm appraisals of actions, people, and emotions. There’s a lot of action in this album, despite it being a quiet, walking-speed collection of tunes; the titles “Moving On,” “Moving Along,” “I’ll Walk,” and “How Far” show his concern with all things going. His arrangements aren’t big, but they flesh out and differentiate the songs: “How Far” features a pedal steel guitar, “Moving On” includes harmonium, and “Where We Fell” displays piano and stand-up bass. No matter what he uses, it sounds sweet and winsome; Miller sings and plays with beautiful candor.

I’m reminded of Iron & Wine a little, in the tender way which the songs come off, but the arrangements and vocals aren’t that similar there. It’s a mood sort of thing, I suppose. Rocky Votolato really is the best comparison, which is why I started with him. But I don’t want to sell Miller short; these songs can stand on their own, without any RIYLs. If Miller had invented the genre, it’d be quite a nice genre indeed. Those into earnest, calm, beautiful singer/songwriter tunes should go for More Than One Way.

DIY Ditty: Some things you need to know about PR and management

February 13, 2014

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PR and management are two aspects of a professional career that can be non-obvious to a band first venturing into those territories. They can seem mysterious, nonsensical, towering, or even inaccessible to a band looking for representation. To clear up some of the confusion about the two related but separate functions of the music business, Brian McKinney of Crooked Houses PR + Management gave Independent Clauses a helpful interview. Below are some of the big themes that McKinney outlined.

Three things to know about PR

1. You need to get a PR person three months before your release date.

“A lot of bands don’t understand that publicity needs to happen before the album release. Lead time is involved. It takes magazines three months to look at it, decide if they’re going to review it, write it, edit it, publish it, and send it out to newsstand. If you’re working with Pitchfork or even Independent Clauses, it can be a month to six weeks. Having these conversations while you’re demoing the album is good. I’ve turned down some releases from great bands and great albums because I can’t [promote] it after it’s released. I just can’t get it to work.”

2. Results are not guaranteed with PR blasts.

“No matter how much you spend, even if you spend thousands of dollars on publicity, the results you get aren’t always the results you expect. I’ve worked with bands that are working with very little and got them some pretty good stuff–and they weren’t satisfied. The number one misconception is once you hire someone, your album will be on Pitchfork or reviewed in Spin. There’s so many other bands, so many other labels with marketing budgets, and there’s only so many places to get reviews.”

3. PR takes up a lot of time on the PR person’s part.

“There’s a lot of writing involved, that’s part of it. There’s a lot of thought that goes into who you’re going to contact and follow-up e-mails. If you’re doing physical mailing, there’s hours on hours printing pages, stuffing envelopes, printing address stickers, and affixing stickers.”

Three things to know about managers

1. You need a manager when the business becomes big enough that you’re running out of time to make art.

“[Managers] need to keep an eye on a whole bunch of different aspects of the band. Really it’s about freeing up the artists to perform art. If a band has enough time to send e-mails to every blogger and magazine and label, then I don’t think they’re practicing enough. I think they’ve got too much time on your hands. You can’t be good enough, there’s so many other bands that are going to be better than you. Focus on your live show, focus on your music.”

2. Management is about making business connections; PR is about making press connections.

“The job of the publicist is to get media attention, and the job of the manager is to get industry attention. That means label, A&R, and booking agents for setting up tours. That is one reason I don’t do PR for the bands I manage, because I like to spend as much time as possible working those connections. Otherwise I’m just being a free publicist for a band, which isn’t helpful to anyone. When [bands I manage] have an album coming out, I make sure that they budget to hire a publicist.”

3. It is expensive, but it’s valuable for those trying to make a career.

“It’s expensive, don’t get me wrong. It’s a hard sell. Bands don’t understand how much work is involved [in management], and how necessary it is to have someone represent you. That’s why I’m trying to keep things as upfront as possible on my website.”

Brook Pridemore has a new live cassette, and he knows that Jack Kerouac once said, “The only truth is music.”

February 12, 2014

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I think we have a true folk voice here. I had never heard of Brook Pridemore, hailing from Brooklyn, New York. (By the way, the title of the live cassette I’m reviewing here is My Name Is Brook Pridemore, And I Live In Brooklyn, NY). I had the chance to talk with Brook, and I think the answers write this review. After sampling his music, I decided to get to know this artist.

Major influences?
Bill Callahan, Thee Headcoats, Tom Waits, The Mountain Goats…

I can see that Brook gravitates toward very real, natural artists. Brook once got to show Bill “Smog” Callahan his Bill Callahan tattoo! Similarly, Brook writes in a true folk tradition. He writes about the immediate,  foregoing the struggles of song construction and ambiguity that songwriters often labor over. I ask Brook about performing solo with the type of concrete material he has.

“I am not a ‘singer songwriter.’ Brook Pridemore is a band. It happens to have the same name as I do.  It has always been a band, there have just been long patches where I’m the only person playing.  I have learned, through thousands of solo shows, how to perform under any circumstances.  I could go on for days regarding the weird spots I’ve been in.  I got used to running out as soon as the band before me was done, and shout my name and where I was from, and start to play.  Fewer people left, if I did that.  It has still always been a tough slog.  But I wouldn’t trade it for the easier route.”

Brook says his home state of Michigan has nothing to do with his lyrics, but that where he is now does.

“A good bit of my lyrical inspiration comes from years of seeing Kerouac’s America, that is, big wide open spaces, taken through a windshield, the clack-clack of the interstate beneath the wheels, getting stranded atop mountains, making out with strangers, rocking out in Austin after spending the previous night in jail, never giving up, never surrendering, always on the go, always on the run, until you stop and breathe, and realize that the feeling that you’ve been running away from is in your own head.  And you stay home (Brooklyn) for a while, and you learn how to occupy the space you’re in.  So, yes, location matters a lot in my lyrics.”

Bill Callahan says in his song, “Seagull,” “A barroom may entice a seagull like me right off the sea, and into the barroom. How long have I been gone? How long have I been traveling?” I ask Brook if he is married, single, or happily involved. Also, if he meets a lot of hotties because he makes music… or because he’s at bars more than an average person (performing)… or after performing …after a sweaty rave-up (which are what songs like “Chocolate Cake City” and “The Year I Get It Right” from this new live release are: drenched roof-rockers).

“I’m not in a relationship at the moment.  I learned the hard way that I’m not going to meet my wife at a bar. I’m an odd duck. I need to get to know a girl.”

The reviewer interjects. “But, if you’re like (Brook) you run like hell and get to see the world, ‘til you find yourself in Brighton… missing a girl.” -directly from his own song “Oh, E!” – the reviewer’s pick from this release.

I guess we all want to know, then, why did Brook Pridemore start writing songs or, rather, start just putting his reality right on the line… an open book?
“I was drawn to music from an early age.  I was looking for a creative outlet, and I’d missed the boat on marching band. I got my hands on a guitar in 1993, and have never really looked back. Music is so much more immediate than poetry, or fiction, or acting. It’s also so much more personal.” One can pick any song on this live cassette and just know that you’re going to hear a great story, well-told. It’s really an exciting listen also, because you can hear the die-hards in the front rows near the recording device singing along. Brook finishes, “I didn’t realize until I was much older that the big reason for writing songs is so I could make people listen to what I had to say.  And because I wanted to make people dance.”

He gets them dancing around track four of the live cassette (recorded at the Sidewalk Café in Manhattan in 2011), and he only has to suggest it once.

Discover Brook Pridemore. Check out the new live cassette. I hope to see life in the very in-the-present way Brook does. It seems like a great way to exist, experience, and then move forward. -Gary Lee Barrett

Two Takes on Folk: Chris Jamison / Martin Van Ruin

February 11, 2014

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Chris Jamison puts a light reverb on his vocals in “Carousel,” the opening track of five-song EP Sleeping with the T.V. On. That effect gives his voice a nostalgic, romantic air reminiscent of Gregory Alan Isakov’s vocal performances. Jamison’s contemporary-folk has a bit more of a concrete feel to it than Isakov’s ethereal constructions: stand-up bass, shuffling snare, and acoustic guitar strum anchor the sound tightly to this mortal coil. Still, Jamison’s beautiful voice is the feature in “Carousel” and throughout the EP.

Even in tracks where the instruments are more in the fore, they play second fiddle to Jamison’s arresting voice. The subtle pedal steel of “Summer Comes Tomorrow” and the engaging acoustic work of “Joseph” can’t steal the focus from the evocative tone and timbre of the leading tenor. In that way, it’s a bit like Death Cab for Cutie–although their instrumental sounds are completely different, the focus on instruments supporting the vocal melody and performance is present in both artists. If you’re into folk-singin’ troubadours that can tell a song with the tone of their voice alone, you should check out Sleeping with the T.V. On. You’ll very much enjoy yourself.

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Martin Van Ruin‘s Every Man a King has a much more muscular take on folk music. “Gold and Love and Gin” starts out with a sludgy distorted guitar reminiscent of ISIS (for real) before transitioning into a dry, clanging acoustic strum. Lead guitar, slide guitar, harmonica, background vocals and shaker-heavy drums give the song a very Western, wide-open, frontier feel. When lead vocalist Derek Nelson hollers “she’s got something strange always coming out her mouth” near the climax of the tune, it’s a genuine shiver-inducer in the adrenaline-pounding sort of way, not the romantic sort of way.

Part of their energy-creating powers come from backgrounds in genres other than folk; MVR is a new group from a bunch of Chicago music vets that have a wide range of sounds in their past (and present). “Easy Answer” is a perky power-pop tune led by neat male/female vocal interactions and bouncy bass work. “This Time Around” has similar power-pop vibes, but with a bit of Southern-rock crunch; “Wilderness” has a lot of guitar crunch going on. “Sayanora” has a ’50s ballad sort of feel to it. The drums are powerful and prominent throughout; never becoming overwhelming, but definitely giving a bit of pep to the sound in almost every tune they appear. This ain’t Bon Iver over here, just in case anyone was still wondering.

But no matter where they dally, Every Man a King is held together by an underlying folk sentiment. “American Moon” employs a fiddle and a droll vocal line to tell a heartfelt tale of woe. Sure, it’s noisier than your average folk tune, but it’s got a songwriter’s soul. And they’re the sort of people that took the time to list the lyrics to every song on their Bandcamp page. Maybe that doesn’t count for purists, but it counts for me. There’s always the acoustic Americana of “Storm Coming” and the traditional “Give Me Flowers (While I’m Living)” to settle those anxieties.

If you’re up for some folk-inspired music that steals from southern rock, indie-pop, and more, Martin Van Ruin will scratch that itch. Every Man a King is a strong, varied release that never loses its way.

Swan Songs by Lakefield: Canadian Shakers for Specific Ears

February 10, 2014

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Independent Clauses (IC): Who are your major influences (musicians to your music and movie or TV stars to your look and painters to the way your apartment looks)?

Steven Luscher of Lakefield (SL): We think we’re pretty transparent with respect to our influences. Kate and I are big fans of Mates of State, and we place our guy/girl harmonies front and centre accordingly. Another guy/girl duo we love is Stars’ Amy Milan and Torquil Campbell; we love the way they weave stories in their back-and-forth way, atop epic cinematic arrangements. Lakefield’s visual aesthetic is mostly my doing. I’m a fan of capital-M: modernism, minimalism, and high-concept design, which should be evident when looking at things like the brand system on all of our albums, posters, and press materials, or our “Awkward Turtle” and “Camping With Bears” photoshoots. It’s less punk rawk and more Dwell magazine.

IC: Does Vancouver have a lot to do with your lyrics?

SL: For most of us, having moved to Vancouver counts as a pretty significant life-event. This city means so much to me; I’m sure that no matter what I write a song about, something about this place, or an experience that I had here will sneak its way in.

IC: Do past relationships have a lot to do with your lyrics?

SL: It seems that way, doesn’t it? You know, I’ve heard people refer to our debut album Sounds From The Treeline as a breakup album. I would tend to agree, though even I can’t tell you who’s being broken up with; those secrets will die with Kate.

IC (aside): Well, Blood on the Tracks….

IC: Who’s your go to for fiction/or creative writing? Authors, TV writers, loudmouths, comedians?

SL: I’m about to read Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, a book about living in a modern surveillance state (so, you know, real life). Have you seen the bit where Russell Brand roasts MSNBC’s anchors for being an embarrassment to journalism? It’s poetic. And of course, all of us go nuts for Louis CK.

I’ve never seen anything Russell Brand has ever done. Louis CK is the bread, butter, plate, and table… yes.

IC: Does having a major influence (I saw this on Facebook and they happen to be one of my favorite bands ever) like Mineral leave you feeling a bit pigeonholed as maybe a leftover emo-era-sounding (this is not a critique or a criticism. This was very much so MY big coming of age genre: the late 90’s emo-indie bands) and expound, please. Or, have you never felt this way at all or heard this before?

SL: Recently, in conversation with a well-respected Vancouver area producer, I had a small epiphany. He warned me that I’ve been writing music for a very narrow audience of people like me: musicians. Most people who listen to music are, generally speaking, not musicians. They don’t hear music the way a musician does – thankfully, some might say. Where I might perceive a reference, a mistake, or a cliché, most might hear a summer’s day, a first kiss, or nothing at all. Puzzled though I am at the fact that bands like Mineral, Battles, Cornelius, The Appleseed Cast, and American Football aren’t massive commercial success stories, maybe it’s because they just don’t resonate with the masses like they do with me. I accept that as a criticism of Lakefield; though we’re undoubtedly more pop than emo, in some small way I’ve been writing music that my 19-year-old musician-self would love. And let me tell you, there aren’t enough of my 19-year-old self left to turn Lakefield into an international success story today.

IC: Also, I think the vocals in Lakefield sound akin to and maybe are written to sound very much in the JeJune and Rainer Maria vein. Again… just what I’m hearing (not necessarily even going to make it into my review).

SL: I flew from Vancouver to New York City to see Rainer Maria’s farewell show at the Bowery Ballroom. When I was 17 years old, my band opened for Rainer Maria at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto – Caithlin said that she loved my band. I saw Rainer Maria’s very first show in Vancouver. If you hear Rainer Maria in Lakefield, it’s because they’re in my blood.

I have some funny stories about running into Rainer Maria a bunch in my past, too. I’ll save them for another time, though.

IC: Are you all married or single or happily involved? If not, do you meet a lot of hotties because you make music… or because you’re at bars more than an average person (performing)… or after performing (after a sweaty rave-up or after an awkward stage to front two rows too-long eye contact)?

SL: The band elected Bryan to be the official Lakefield hottie. Whenever there were Hott™ duties to perform, we could count on Bryan to come through.

IC: Who’s the most famous musician you’ve ever met? Is there a story there?

SL: I’ve been backstage / around back with Sufjan Stevens, Sarah Slean, Caithlin De Marrais (Rainer Maria), and Hayden. The entire Appleseed Cast stayed at my house once, on their way through Vancouver. I won’t name the musician, but once an industry friend of mine took me backstage to meet someone famous (well… Canada-famous anyway). The musician thought we had met before – I have this face that everyone thinks they’ve seen somewhere – and I replied, without hesitation: “not in real life.” My industry friend doesn’t talk to me anymore.

I bet it was Anne Murray. In fact, I KNOW it was.

IC: Why did you start writing songs? The catalyst?

SL: I remember watching Daniel Johns from Silverchair play on Saturday Night Live when I was a kid. My face was 3 centimeters from the screen, and I was soaking it up. Here was a young band, playing three-chord ditties to a massive audience, and I remember thinking: “I can do that.”

IC: I remember seeing Jawbox on 120 Minutes on MTV, and being like… what you just said, but more chords, and all jangly and shouty. I wanted to shout.

In my humble opinion, this conversation IS the review of Lakefield’s new album Swan Songs. Here are a few blurbable blurbs about it. The lead track, “Good Guy,” grabs the listener so tightly. You can’t touch Kate’s voice on this song. She’s “sorry for this heartache, but it’s all for you.” This reviewer’s favorite track is “Your Conviction Is So Sweet.”  “Don’t give up before the end of this song;” if one did, they’d miss a powerful denouement. The guitars light up, and the keys and drums kick like a corrected toddler…like the last few beats of a heart once in love. Lakefield is a really focused band with great songs and, most importantly, great vocals. They tug at one’s heartstrings a lot, so get ready for that. Hear their new album, Swan Songs, when it comes out. There’s a count-down clock on their website. Exciting!–Gary Lee Barrett

Soundsupply! Now with more … everything!

February 8, 2014

Soundsupply, who I’ve been seriously into since their early going, have been moving on up in the world. The organization curates 10 albums (often based on a theme) and packages them up for a limited time at $15. It’s an incredible deal, and they feature really good music. (Lots of music that Independent Clauses covers, if I may give myself a little pat on the back.) They’ve been picking up clout recently (and maybe even Klout, what up), and so they’ve been taking on more and more ambitious projects.

The biggest thing they’ve got going right now has moved them right off their (brand new!) website and into Groupon; they’ve paired up with fun. (you may have heard of them) to curate a drop that raises funds for The Ally Coalition.

They’ve also got a drop going from Polyvinyl, and an eBook drop. I think this is what they call “making waves.”

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Boats: Dan Deacon, No Age and tons more collaborate with Indian children and get amazing results

February 7, 2014

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The goal of the Everything is New project is to empower the children of the Light of Love Children’s Home (supporting Dalit ‘untouchable’ children in south-east India), many of whom have been rescued from bonded labor, child prostitution, homelessness, and abject poverty. The project creates the opportunity for the children to ‘star’ in the cultural forms they themselves consider most meaningful – popular music and cinema.

The compilation Transgressive North has put out here, Boats, is heavy with very catchy and inspired sparkle-dance and super-thromp knee-bucklers. Each track features a sample of the children’s choir singing, rejoicing, chanting, shouting, making a noise. The various artists on the compilation sure did a lot with the set of raw materials they had at hand. Every band has an interesting offering here (which rarely happens with comps, especially ones with nearly thirty tracks on them).

Whereas the big names such as Deerhoof, Dan Deacon, Max Tundra, No Age, Gang Gang Dance, YACHT, and Jarvis Cocker should help sales of the compilation, what these and other artists–most of whom have stand-out tracks here– submitted to this comp is pretty astounding…not  just a two-minute bleep-bop that ends in a shudder. They are notably truly inspired by a noble cause.

This reviewer’s outstanding pick is Ramona Falls’ “On The Line.” It had me dancing around the kitchen, then at work, then with my headphones on in a laundromat near Phoenix; it was stuck in my head for like four days. The use of the children’s choir’s Ahhhs and simple harmonized melody line is very magical on this track.

Another striking track is Rustie’s “Boatsss.” It has a video worth seeing. It’s a serious dance-down. The Max Tundra track, “You, The Living” explores the voice sample in a very arresting way, laying it down as the basis of a real mover. The Deerhoof track, “Play The Hand,” is striking for a different reason. The composition sticks very closely to the original sound sample, only offering small ambient bunny-hops out of something that already sounded beautiful.

The project has a trailer video VERY worth seeing, too.  I noted a couple of the artists / contributors getting choked up. Inspiring.  Noble.  This is worth the money ($18 for 30 tracks). You can purchase it digitally with a booklet on bandcamp, or you can get the CD… or just donate to the project. —Gary Lee Barrett

DIY Ditty: Allison Weiss will buy you a souvenir.

February 6, 2014

There are two reasons I know of Allison Weiss:

1. She ran one of the very first successful Kickstarters.

2. She wrote this beautiful song.

Given that she’s an pioneer of Internet marketing, it’s not super-surprising that she continues to come up with interesting ways to fund her career. For her latest tour jaunt, she funded part of it with an interesting sale. You could still buy regular merch, but she created a special Tour Shop (currently inactive, but still available to peruse). In this tour shop, you could lay down money and get a personal postcard, a photo Allison took, or a little souvenir she buys just for you. It’s a cool way to fund touring and make connections with fans. (I think it’s especially cool for fans that don’t get to be at one of the shows, for whatever reason.)

There’s been plenty of handwringing over the commodification of music (/everything), but I’m not so worried about it. I think that this small scale sort of project is something that builds connections, not obscures them. I’d pay $40 for John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats to buy a souvenir, for sure: I’d put that in my office and tell literally everyone who comes to my office that John Darnielle bought that for me. Yes, I would pay $40 for that.

[There’s some analog to Kickstarter gifts here–especially really good, personal Kickstarter gifts. Perhaps this could be seen as the personalization of Weiss’s Kickstarter love; the project is “I’m going on tour”; the rewards are these cool things. The website is hers, and no money goes through Kickstarter. Maybe this is an indication of a trend to come?]

So maybe this isn’t a grand-scale, career-changing DIY Ditty, but it’s still a cool thing that I would love to see bands do more of. Seriously, what if your favorite band bought you an action figure? Best action figure ever.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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