SXSW isn’t just a music smorgasbord. Here’s the best free stuff I found:
Coolest ad campaign: “A Guide to Play Quebec City” is exactly that. The booklet introduces you to three show promoters, six venues, one music festival, 35 upcoming shows, six “Cream of the Crop” bands, and nine other groups from “the only 100% francophone city in America.” I feel like I could book a band through Quebec City now, and that’s pretty cool.
Coolest new service: StoryAmp is a way for artists to pitch to journalists in a consistent format. StoryAmp’s idea is to remove the “what do I say in an e-mail pitch?” problem by streamlining everything for the artist and the journalist. And both the flyer I was handed and the site it sells are gorgeous; that means a lot to me. I hope it takes off.
Coolest non-media object: It was a tie. I’m not sure how M for Montreal came up with the idea for a sleep mask, but it’s certainly memorable:
This is a pack of gum from the app iTriage:
Coolest album art: Young Readers’ self-titled EP is a coloring page, complete with crayons. Mega!
Coolest book: Rockin’ in the New World by Bob Tulipan. It’s a how-to guide on getting your band to a successful level in our new media age. I’m looking forward to reading it.
Coolest song named after a basketball player: “Monta Ellis” by Willie Joe.
Coolest album that I had to Google lyrics to determine the band name because I found the album in a venue and it was packaged in a brown paper bag: Roll the Bones by Shakey Graves.
Most confusing ad campaign: “MYSPACE IS DEAD, LONG LIVE MYSPACE.” The Justin Timberlake-owned company never explained this concept except for the tepid, “Change is coming. Loyalty will be rewarded.” Nothing seems different on Myspace today, either. Their sticker and poster campaign seems like a wasted plan.
We are living in the best musical times the world has ever known. This point was driven home to me by a band called, incredibly appropriately, The Very Best.
Yesterday at work, I was having a hard time getting going. It was rainy, it was Friday, there was not much work to do. But I had some work to do, so I needed a pick-me-up. I remembered a Facebook (1) post talking about Stereomood (2). The site features static playlists attuned to mood, instead Pandora’s (3) revolving playlists based on musical attributes. I pulled up the “energetic” playlist, which treated me to tunes by bands as disparate as Etta James, Nirvana, Broken Social Scene and House of Pain (“Jump Around” is nothing if not energetic). Third track on the list was the enigmatic “Mfamu” by The Very Best. The indie/techno beats combined with African language and vocal style gripped me. I needed more.
I jumped over to their Myspace (4) and let it roll. The tunes were tight, and I noticed that they were all remixes (5). Because remixes are almost entirely free to download and handle, I jumped over to my favorite rare/unreleased music site. Hype Machine (6) aggregates hundreds of blogs (7) and puts their downloads and posts in one location. I searched around a bit and found a digital mixtape (8) that they had made at Gorilla Vs. Bear. I listened to a track off the mixtape and was seriously stoked.
I jumped over to Amazon (9) to see if their album was available stateside. The members are from Malawi, Sweden and France, all meeting up in London. Music knows no international bounds any longer (10). I found out that it had, indeed been released across the pond. I found that I’d also missed the boat by about six months, as The Warm Heart of Africa came out last fall, but that’s alright by me. So, by this time I’d gotten through all my work for the morning (thank you, the Very Best!) and took lunch.
Since my local record store (11) is literally down the street from my workplace, I went down to Guestroom Records and had the clerk order the album for me. It will be there for me Tuesday or Wednesday. Score!
Later I found an interview with the members of the Very Best, and I found out that they self-recorded the album (12). They’re also not on a major label (13), according to their Myspace. Best of all, they seem incredibly down to earth and devoid of any rock star excess (14), seeing as the front man (still? maybe?) runs a second-hand store in London. I also found out that their title track features Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, which is awesome because collabs rock (15) and it’s a guy who wants to be African singing on a track with someone who actually is African.
So, as the guys and gals here at Independent Clauses celebrate our seventh birthday, we’d like to give a shout-out to people with unrelated day jobs who keep it real (16), people with related day jobs that keep it real (17) and people who don’t have jobs and keep it real (18). Major props to the unsigned musicians (19) who keep this place running; without music, we’d be ships without a sea.
With those nineteen reasons anchoring us, we celebrate all the reasons (listed and unlisted) that we’re living in charmed musical times. May you never take it for granted. And if you ever feel inclined to, let me remind you that…