Monthly Music Roundup: A Look Back at May 2011

We've already taken a look at the content of this month's big bestseller, but digital sales of Lady Gaga's Born this Way have illuminated an important caveat about new music distribution technologies. In an attempt to harness demand for Lady Gaga's Born This Way and drive more and more customers to adopt their Cloud Drive Player, Amazon overloaded their server capacity and could not deliver the full album to thousands of customers for much of the day. Digital copies of the album sold for just 99 cents on its release date, but since Amazon has made it so mp3s can only be downloaded once they load into users' Cloud (web-based storage) Drives, incomplete and delayed downloads turned many off from the service.

British singer Adele has sparked debate about British's public services in an interview with Q magazine, covered brilliantly by James Delingpole. The singer said of her taxes, “I’m mortified to have to pay 50 per cent! [While] I use the NHS, I can’t use public transport any more. Trains are always late, most state schools are ––––, and I’ve gotta give you, like, four million quid – are you having a laugh? When I got my tax bill in from [her album] 19, I was ready to go and buy a gun and randomly open fire.”

In other news, Adele's albums are currently available wherever music is sold.

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Hipster music journalists have fallen head over heels for a shock-mongering rap group known as Odd Future, led by "Tyler, the Creator," whose first label-released album Goblin has earned accolades hand-in-hand with feeble excuses for its deeply nihilistic, violently misogynistic lyrics. Canadian singer Sara Quin of the indie band Tegan & Sara published an open letter on her blog pushing back against justifications of Tyler's indefensible bile. Quin cut right to the heart of the issue-- fear of the race card:


If any of the bands whose records are held in similar esteem as Goblin had lyrics littered with rape fantasies and slurs, would they be labeled hate mongers? I realize I could ask that question of DOZENS of other artists, but is Tyler exempt because people are afraid of the backlash?The inevitable claim that detractors are being racist, or the brush-off that not “getting it” would indicate that you’re “old” (or a faggot)? Because, the more I think about it, the more I think people don’t actually want to go up against this particular bully because he’s popular.

In other news, Tegan & Sara albums are currently available wherever music is sold.

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Electronic musician Moby announced in April that he would begin a hunger strike to protest GOP cuts to the federal budget. Now, I'm not gonna say that it didn't get any results whatsoever, but Moby has lately chosen a different target to get himself in headlines. Trashing the beyond-easy targets presented by pop stars Ke$ha, Rihanna, Britney Spears, et. al., he declared, “Music is something that communicates emotion and integrity in a really interesting, direct way... the pop music you’re describing, it’s hyper-produced corporate product. That isn’t really even a criticism, but I just think calling it music is a misnomer... It’s advertising for ringtones.”

That's coming from the man whose lead single for his new album is... this:

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In other news, anyone else's albums are currently available wherever music is sold.

Album(s) of the Month

Indie folk rockers Fleet Foxes released their sophomore album Helplessness Blues in the first week of May, and indie southern rockers My Morning Jacket released their sixth, Circuital, just this last week. Together, the records create two delightful bookends for the month.

Helplessness Blues is a lush tapestry of detailed textures, yet they've managed to cram the kitchen sink into their songs without sacrificing tight structures and gripping melodies. Drawing heavily from Americana, there's energy and vitality in these songs; they're nothing like the lifeless, poser hippie jams you hear on community radio. There's a positivity and celebration of life that undercuts the exhaustion and frustration seen in much of the album's lyrics, an understanding and reverence for the heartland. And these guys aren't just studio tricksters; they're the real deal. Just compare the sound of single "Grown Ocean" in its official music video and a live performance:

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Circuital is a rather accessibly unconventional rock album from Kentucky's My Morning Jacket. Their somewhat-panned 2007 record Evil Urges, which was written off as far more experimental than it actually was, introduced many unpolished ideas that the group has perfected on this latest release-- an atmospheric, easygoing experience where rock and country-style guitar licks, orchestral strings, horns, and synthesizer pads all coexist peacefully, and singer Jim James continues his streak of varied, soulful, and breezy vocals. At a tidy 45 minutes, Circuital never hits a boring moment, nor does it settle into autopilot. Despite the laid back mood, there's passion and skilled craft in each of these songs.

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Cross-posted at the Landmark Report.

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