Music Dump - Sufjan Stevens Selling Beastie Boys Headphones To Johnny CashThe Resurrection Of Johnny Cash by Graeme Thompson (The Guardian): So, you know the story about Johnny Cash's slow fade into a Cabaret act before he was rediscovered by producer Rick Rubin, who reinvigorated his image and got him covering Nine Inch Nails and stuff, right? Well, before Rick Rubin, in 1988, when Cash was pretty much at his lowest ebb, a bunch of British indie acts decided to put together a Johnny Cash tribute album, including Gaye Bykers On Acid's cover of 'A Boy Named Sue', sung by a woman, which altered the words "son of a bitch" to "motherfucker". And when Johnny Cash heard this stuff, he loved it – according to his guitarist of the time, it really kept him going.
To Tug Hearts, Music Must First Tickle The Neurons by Pam Belluck (New York Times): If you've read Daniel Levitin's This Is Your Brain On Music, you're not missing out on too much in this article, about how the brain converts music into emotions and feelings. But if you haven't, it's a lot shorter than Levitin's book! In any case, it's fascinating to hear people like Paul Simon and Roseanne Cash (Johnny's daughter) talking about how the beauty of pop music is in the fine details, in the shading, the way you hold a note back here or stop a loop there.
Sailing By Ear by Michael Chabon (michaelchabon.com): Literary novelist Michael Chabon – who features prominently in the Simpsons episode about Moe's poetry – writes beautifully here about getting taken to an audiophile shop by his mother's boyfriend to pick out a good home stereo setup. And one of the things about recordings is that the way we listen to the recording changes how we hear it. How noticing little vinyl crackles or the warmth of a cassette tape (in my case) can bring memories flooding back.
Being In A Low-To-Mid-Ranking Indie Band Of Some Longevity by Pete Wilson (Very Important): Pete Wilson is the guitar player in Sydney indie band, Lazy Susan, who just celebrated the 10th anniversary of their first album, Long Lost by playing it live in its entirety. (Full disclosure: I play keyboards in Lazy Susan.) Lazy Susan still have their fans in Sydney, but Wilson is aware that they're not quite U2; so, instead, he humorously talks up all the good things about being in a band that was never that cool, and never that big – you can make the music you like, and maybe music is more fun as a hobby than a day job. Somehow, you do get the impression that Wilson would prefer to be a member of the Strokes, really, but this is a reasonably accurate impression of what your favourite smallish Aussie band's world is like.
An Oral History Of The Beastie Boys by Amos Barshad (New York Magazine): So you know 'Sabotage' and 'You've Gotta Fight For Your Right' but did you know that the Beastie Boys started off as a New York punk band with a girl on drums? The story of how they got from there to being the first big white hip-hop act is fascinating, as is tales of tours with Madonna and being embraced by black audiences in the South of the USA.
From The Barbaric Heart: Sufjan Stevens' Vengeful Play by Curtis White (Big Other): White's a American literature professor, and he draws links here between Sufjan Stevens and the literary/cultural movement of the 19th century, the Romantics. And in doing so, he explains exceptionally well the appeal of indie acts like Sufjan or of Montreal or the Decemberists - in listening to that music, or in finding other people who like indie music, you learn that you're not alone in thinking that the world is appalling. Listening to Sufjan Stevens is, for these fans, like an escape to another, better world.
First In A Series Of Posts About Current Radio Pop by Jonathan Bogart (Exist Yesterday): In my number ones pieces, I've written a lot about how current pop is obsessed with The Club (e.g., even Guy Sebastian's getting in on the act). I've wondered how long this trend will last for, because it seems pretty tired to me, at least. And here Bogart profiles 'Give Me Everything' by Pitbull, which is currently at #3 in the Australian charts, and argues that Pitbull—one of The Club's biggest boosters—sounds like he's had enough of all that. Maybe a change is in the air?
It's The Summer Of Selling Out, And It Feels Fine by Ann Powers (NPR/The Record): In the 1990s, massive bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam agonised about 'selling out', about the emotion in their music being put on loan to advertisers and corporate America. But now, argues Powers, selling out just happens – indie musicians rarely make enough money to be able to be choosy about where their next meal comes from. And most of the newest generation of music fans don't care about it, either – music is so omnipresent and easy to get that hearing their favourite song on a commercial is no big deal.
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