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Music Dump - Flying Nun's Public Enemy RnB Carols Stereolab

A weekly feature where we highlight some of the most interesting music articles from across the web.

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The Long Strange History Of Christmas Carols by Nathan Heller (Slate): Today you'll probably hear quite a number of Christmas carols, even if you hate them. And there's plenty of good reasons to hate them. But they're not all bad; in favour of carols, there's very few other parts of musical culture outside of Christmas carols where you get such a quick primer in musical history.

Want to know what music sounded like 300 years ago? Listen to 'The First Noel' or 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing'. 'White Christmas' is pure Tin Pan Alley. 'Jingle Bell Rock' is early rock and roll. 'Last Christmas' is '80s rock. Etc. Also interesting is this graph from XKCD, which points out that the tunes written in Baby Boomer childhoods are pretty tightly correlated with the most overplayed Christmas tunes in the last decade. Speaking of which, did you watch the recent Christmas musical episode of Community? It had a hilarious baby boomer baiting tune called 'Baby Boomer Santa'.

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Last Year I Wrote A Long Essay On Stereolab For A Magazine by Michaelangelo Matos (The Discography): Stereolab are a pretty bewildering band to get into in some ways, with their long list of LPs over their 20 years of existence. So Matos's article is excellent at putting them in context and explaining why they were so great, explaining why their mix of krautrock, shoegaze, '60s exotica, easy listening, and Marxism made total sense.

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Matchmakers Of The Zeitgeist: Soundtracking TV Shows by Joe Muggs (The Guardian): When you hear a incidental song on a TV show, it's because it's been put there; the producer of the TV show will want a scene to have background music that sounds like, say, The Black Keys, and they'll get in touch with a music supervisor like Chris Mollere. Mollere will figure out which of the tracks he has in his database most closely fits what the producer wants, and will work out the licensing and the price. And, in these days of limited chances for exposure and a glut of music, record companies are pushing harder and harder to get their bands' tunes on TV, and so they're slavering at the mouth trying to get the ears of someone like Mollere.

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20 Years On: Public Enemy's Apocalypse '91 : The Enemy Strikes Black Revisited by Angus Batey (The Quietus): Apocalypse 91 was Public Enemy's fourth album, following on from their two generally-accepted masterpieces. At the time, it was seen as a bit of a let down. But even though Batey freely admits there's a bit of filler on Apocalypse '91, he also argues that its high points are as high as anything on the two generally-accepted masterpieces - and I mean, it's still Public Enemy with the Bomb Squad! So it still sounds awesome.

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Take Me To The River by Tom Ewing (Pitchfork): Ewing here nominates 'trollgaze' as the genre of the year. 'Trollgaze', a term cooked up by Village Voice writer Maura Johnston, refers to music that get stuck in your head via meme - think 'Friday' by Rebecca Black or 'Video Games' by Lana Del Rey. And Ewing (in his last column for Pitchfork, sadly) argues that the existence of this genre says some very interesting things about what it's like to listen to music in 2011.

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Was 2011 The Beginning Of The End Of Selling Out In Indie Rock? by Devon Maloney (Billboard): Maloney here argues that it ain't no biggie that indie rock bands like Deer Tick and Chromeo and Bon Iver are selling out to advertisers. After all, there's not so much money in rock anymore, and so bands wanting to make a career have to increase their revenue streams. And advertisers are leveraging their brands more tastefully these days.

But of course, Billboard, as the voice of the US record industry establishment, isn't exactly going to be anti-selling out. Billboard want things to be sold. That's literally the point of Billboard's existence - to chronicle what sells. And so unsurprisingly, this article would have been better with a little more of the other side - the hot indie band that forgoes the revenue streams and brand leveraging, and why in this modern age they might have steered clear. But nonetheless, it's a fairly accurate look at where the music industry is at, now that a fair chunk of music listeners simply don't buy albums anymore.

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Flying Nun & Nationalism: Is Its Greatness Exaggerated? by Martin Osborne (Perfect Sound Forever): The 1980s output of New Zealand record label Flying Nun is talked about in hushed tones to this day; the kind of thing that music critics call seminal. Pavement were once seen as a Straightjacket Fits tribute band, and there was a Flying Nun tribute night last month in Melbourne featuring Darren Hanlon. Personally, I think Bird Dog by Flying Nun band the Verlaines is an incredible album!

But Martin Osborne is having none of this. He sees Flying Nun as widely misunderstood. The likes of The Chills weren't lonely idiot savant pioneers who had no idea about the music they were making, like the myth says: instead, they were reading the same magazines and getting into the same music as the Go-Betweens or the Vaselines. And there's a complex narrative of New Zealand nationalism which runs through that music, and which is widely misunderstood.

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Where Is The Love In R&B Music? by John Blake (CNN): In the 1970s, R&B was all about luurrrvee. They couldn't get enough of it. I mean, it was Barry White and his Love Unlimited Orchestra (not just Generous Servings of love, but Unlimited love) who did 'I Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Baby'.

Nowadays, though, love is nowhere near as close to being in fashion - instead, the R&B tunes of today are more straightforwardly about lust. And sure, I suspect that the '70s R&B jams that used the word 'love' didn't always mean it. But take the Chris Brown tune 'No Bullshit', a #1 tune on urban radio in the U.S., which describes a 3AM booty call. A) it's by Chris Brown, who - lest I need to remind you - isn't exactly my (or Rihanna's) idea of a perfect lover, and B) the title does suggest that Brown is only interested in sex - he's not trying to bullshit you into thinking that he's going to marry you or whatever.

Blake here argues that the change has got to do with the break down in the bonds of the black community after the crack cocaine epidemic of the late '80s. Interestingly, Maura Johnston of the Village Voice, who is generally allergic to nostalgic rockism, came up with some examples of modern day R&B love ballads (including Beyonce's excellent 'Love on Top') to try and prove Blake wrong, and show that love is still alive in R&B. But I'm not convinced that Johnston's list of modern R&B tunes - which resorts to including a song that only got to #63 on the R&B charts - is as strong an argument against Blake as she thinks it is.

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Tim Byron
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3 comments so far..

  • bronthompson's avatar
    Commenter
    bronthompson
    Date and time
    Friday 16 Dec 2011 - 12:15 PM
    great to see once again that the only worthwhile commentary around is written by men.
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  • Hotef's avatar
    Commenter
    Hotef
    Date and time
    Friday 16 Dec 2011 - 12:59 PM
    Seriously disappointed that trollgaze contains absolutely no trolls whatsoever... :(
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  • TimByron's avatar
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    TimByron
    Date and time
    Friday 16 Dec 2011 - 3:13 PM
    Bron - I've linked to plenty of great articles written by female writers recently, but obviously it's a bit sausagefest this week. If you do come across awesome articles written by women that I might miss because I'm looking in the wrong places, I'm always happy to hear suggestions.
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