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July 2005
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September 2005

Gold and Platinum Awards

We’ve all seen those Gold and Platinum record awards…the awards given out for album sales exceeding 500,000 or 1,000,000 units. Bands like The Beatles, The Beach Boys and U2 have plenty of them. If you’ve ever studied an actual Gold or Platinum album up close, you may have wondered about the record they used to make the plaques. I figured out early on in my music related career that they just used any old album and put a gold or platinum plating or coating on them. Some assume that the album the award is for is actually in the plaque. As far as I know, that’s never the case. Some say that they're the stamps that were used to press records, but from any LP, usually not the one that the award is for. I figured that out when I noticed that the number of tracks or track lengths on the records rarely corresponded with the actual album that the award was for. I’ve got one of these awards and have always wondered what was on the record.

Here’s a funny story of one bands attempt at finding that out. The picture alone is worth the price of admission.

Check it out: http://valentinehellman.com/platinum.html


DP's Bad Day

Canadian singer and songwriter Daniel Powter finally gets his US debut with DP. He and his writing partner Jeff Dawson have penned some incredibly infectious pop tunes and the production by Mitchell Froom (Crowded House, Elvis Costello, etc.) is great, if not a bit slick at times. This album has two of my favorite songs of the year, a power-pop masterpiece that's so hooky you wont' be able to get it out of your head called Free Loop and the first single Bad Day, a simple yet clever song about turning around a bad day, or life and that how sometimes, especially when true love is involved, things all work out okay in the end. It's got a catchy hook and real piano that reminds me of Billy Joel in his younger days. Unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn't hold up quite as well, and gets a bit bubblegum. The label has chosen to market him as a GQ teen pop sensation with very slick marketing and packaging aimed at the female teen audience. Unfortunately, most critics seem to be buying into this marketing as much or more than the intended audience, writing this one off as shallow teen pop, which really isn't fair. Daniel is an incredible musician and songwriter, with some gems here produced by the great Mitchel Froom. Most won't get past the glam album cover and imaging though and that's too bad. If you're a fan of Tal Bachman, another great Canadian pop writer, you'll love Daniel Powter. Check out the video for Bad Day and listen to the song Free Loop.


New Twin Cinema

From 70’s rock and pop to alternative weirdness, Twin Cinema, the latest offering from Vancouver’s New Pornographers rises above their horrible name and blows away all expectations. This is trippy 60’s & 70’s influenced power pop with healthy doses of the Kinks, Brian Eno and the Sparks. The New Pornographers are a collective of interesting vocalist and musicians most notably Neko Case and A.C. Newman. Twin Cinema is the best move any of them have made. This is quirky, hook-filled goodness with truly memorable melodies. How much do I like it? Let’s put it this way, I hear elements of some of my all-time favorite artists on this album…namely Daniel Amos, 10cc, Wings and Sparks, mixed with 60’s power pop. Yet it’s so unique and very hard to pin down. It’s that ability to mix familiar elements with such originality and creativity that makes this CD so fun to listen to. The lyrics are also fun, twisted and weird. This is the third New Pornographer's release, and while I liked the first two this is by far their best.

I still don’t like the band name, but this album is good enough to make up for it!


Sweet Videos!

I’m not an expert on music videos, and many of the bands I’m into these days don’t even make them, or if they do I’m not finding out about it. That said I still try to find the cool videos but most just aren’t that great…it’s the same old bag of tricks. But there are two relatively new music videos that blew me away and they’re both for great songs. One is from my favorite new band of the year, the Dissociatives for their song Somewhere Down the Barrel. It incorporates a great technique that I really like, but I’m not sure what it’s called…some type of stop action with cut outs. It gets a high rating on the cool vibe and fits the song perfectly.

Even better, and this may be one of the funniest music videos ever, is the new one from OK Go for the song A Million Ways. You absolutely have to see this video…it’s sweet!

Use the links below to check them out…

Dissociatives: http://www.astralwerks.com/the_dissociatives/default.html

OK Go: http://www.okgo.net/


Can you say Sufjan?

Sufjan (my pronunciation varies!) Stevens says he wants to record an album for every state in the union. Michigan was his first in 2003 and now in 2005 he’s just released Illinois. At this rate, by the time he completes a record for every state he’ll be…well, I was told there would be no math, but let’s just say it doesn’t look like he could possibly make it!

That whole state by state concept and the veritable plethora of rave reviews had already piqued my interest enough to pick up the CD, but then things got even more interesting… I was at a large music festival the week before the CD was set to release and there was a booth there, run by the label itself I believe, selling the new Illinios disc. They had a stack of them and I thought, what the heck, I’ll just come back and pick it up the next day on my way out. When I went back to the booth I didn’t see any there. My heart sank…this highly anticipated new release and I could have had it early. Well, maybe they still had some under the table…so I asked. “Oh we still have some” the guy told me, “but I can’t sell one to you.” My first thought was that he got in trouble or had second thoughts about selling them before the release date. I asked him why and he said, “Well, I’m not supposed to say anything, but they’re all being pulled, we can’t sell any more until they’re repackaged.” I asked him what in the world he was talking about…he said that they just found out they had to pull them because of a copyright infringement on the cover. I was trying to picture the cover and must have had a quizzical look on my face, because he finally sighed and said, “It’s a certain caped superhero.” Wow! Supposedly they had not gotten permission to use the image of Superman. My immediate thought was, I must have a copy; this is going to be worth something! So I tried bribing him. I offered him $20. He wouldn’t budge. I offered him lavish gifts, other people’s money, but I’ll say this for him, he held his ground! Well, I ended up buying one off of someone else there at the fest, so I felt pretty good about that. I’ve since found out that the initial shipment was already sent out to retail and they reached an agreement to let that initial run hit the shelves. So you can still find the banned cover version in some stores, so it isn’t as rare as it could have been. That said, what in the world was the label thinking? Superman! That’s funny stuff. About the only thing with a more protected copyright would be a Star Wars logo or character! They are denying they were issued a Cease and Desist, but I can imagine it was only a matter of time.

But I haven’t even mentioned the actual music! How’s the *$#@! Record you’re screaming…well, if you haven’t read the gushing and raving in any of the 50+ magazines that have reviewed it, check out a great review of the CD here on the TUESDAY MORNING 3 A.M. review site. I was fearful…anything with that much critical buzz is usually a let down for me, but this record is fantastic. From start to finish it really is a great concept album and it flows well. It’s easily my favorite of his. I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of Michigan. I think his other stuff is okay, and I can see why others like it, but it’s a bit too much of the singer-songwriter/Americana vibe for me. This record incorporates numerous styles and will appeal to the power-pop crowd as well. I see a kind of Wilson-esque Smile vibe during certain portions of the disc. Also, this album is a force against the current onslaught of the singles driven download culture. It’s really meant to be listened to as a whole, yet contains excellent songs. It’s full of beautiful and quirky alt-pop. Go find yourself a copy with the now out-of-print Superman cover!