THE GROOVE MUSIC LIFE

Digital Downloads

NEW MUSIC: ANTHRAX “Fight’em ’til You Can’t”

Damn! Talk about picking up where you left off – Anthrax just released the first single from their long-delayed new album Worship Music (out September 13th) this afternoon through their website. (Check the artwork for the single there, too!) From the sounds of things, they seem to have gotten back their sense of humor that was pretty much lost since Attack of the Killer B’s without losing the heaviness of Persistence of Time. Hopes for this album should be nice and high at this point. Stream or download below:

NEW MUSIC: SHINY TOY GUNS “The Sun”

LA goth/electro-pop outfit Shiny Toy Guns have released as a free download the first single from their forthcoming third album, III. This is the first I’ve heard of this band, to be honest, but so far I like what I’ve heard. Stream the song below, then follow the link to cop the free download.

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Download: Shiny Toy Guns “The Sun”

NEW MUSIC: MEAT PUPPETS “Damn Thing”

If this advance single is any indication, the Meat Puppets’ third post-reunion album Lollipop (out April 12th – the day after my fifth blogging anniversary) is going to be a good one. The Kirkwood Brothers and returning drummer Shandon Sahm (who played on Golden Lies, the only MP studio album without bass brother Cris) still sound like the years between their initial split and their reunion never happened. Stream the tune below, then snag it from the app (courtesy of Rolling Stone) above!

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And this is no surprise…

If you’re like me and are amongst the thousands that pre-ordered Conor Oberst’s latest effort under the Bright Eyes banner, you awaited with baited breath for the good folks at Saddle Creek to send you your download link via e-mail.

Unfortunately, the server company Saddle Creek uses (fortunately, not the same one TGML uses) had a major DDoS attack, which is presently making for huge difficulties in pre-order folks getting their digital advance copies.

Denial Of Service attacks suck to begin with, but in this case methinks the server company underestimated Conor’s popularity (not to mention the anticipation for this new album – this is the first major thing he’s done under the Bright Eyes name since 2007 (his past two long-players were done as solo albums under his own name and released by Merge).

Once e-mailed, the folks at Saddle Creek were quick to send links: a quickly-created update blog plus streaming links at the band’s YouTube page and at NPR. Hopefully all this should soften the blow until Saddle Creek’s webhosts get their shit together.

An article I wish I’d written…

While I get the next blog post ready (hopefully by the end of tonight), here’s a little bonus reading material: an article from Alternative Press on the current financial struggles of most bands. Think before you do that illegal download or choose not to buy merch at a show, people…

Thanks to Christopher Fuentes-Woods for the link.

REVIEW: YOUNG JEEZY “The Last Laugh”

YOUNG JEEZY
The Last Laugh

(CTE)
Available as a free download (see links below)

I haven’t written much about hip-hop on this blog or it’s predecessor. In fact, probably the only times I ever mentioned it were when I put the Game’s second album in the first year-end Top 10 at MotokoAoyama.com in 2006, and earlier this year when I gave a nice review to Lil Wayne’s rock effort Rebirth. So how is it that one of these times, I end up writing about what is basically a mixtape?

Well, what happened there is simple. One of my personal favorites in the genre in recent years happens to be Young Jeezy, for the sound of his voice, his punchlines, and his presentation, especially when he’s got solid backing tracks and production behind him. Like a lot of fans, I am anticipating the release of his fourth album, TM103 – short for “Thug Motivation 103” (The first two Thug Motivation albums were, of course, his first two major label releases, Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 and my personal favorite, The Inspiration, which carried “Thug Motivation 102” as a semi-official subtitle. His third album, The Recession, didn’t carry a similar subtitle but did have his pro-Obama salute “My President”.)

There’s just one problem – it hasn’t come out yet. We’ve gotten three advance singles (“Lose My Mind”, “All White Everything” and “Jizzle”) and two promotional mixtapes (Trap Or Die II: By Any Means Necessary and 1000 Grams Vol. 1) over the past summer, but the recently proposed release date for TM103, which was last Tuesday, came and went. Instead of the album and in addition to the singles and mixtapes, we’ve gotten a lot of chatter – talk of Jeezy having business disputes with Def Jam and wanting to jump ship and record for Jay-Z’s new Atlantic-distributed, LiveNation-supported label RocNation, plus some concerns that Jeezy may be treading water musically – not really true on the basis of the singles, but there’s been some concern about the quality of the material on Trap or Die II, while 1000 Grams basically found Jeezy doing dope-boy parodies of recent singles by Rick Ross, Kanye West, and Diddy amongst others.

A week after TM103’s missed release date, word immediately gets around that Jeezy is dropping yet another mixtape to commemorate his birthday. However, Jeezy’s own website is not referring to it as a mixtape but as a “street album”. Feel free to wonder, especially about those Jeezy-leaving-Def-Jam rumors (even though Def Jam’s own Twitter account circulated a download link). I should point out right now: they’re not kidding about the “album” part of the term.

The Last Laugh plays entirely like an album – and a solid one at that – rather than a mixtape. Jeezy is in top form vocally and lyrically, and the production – mostly by longtime collaborator Shawty Redd providing his trademark layered keyboard orchestrations – is solid and catchy. There isn’t a misstep to be found, although on first listen the album’s last two tracks, “Don’t Stop” and “Strip Club”, may come off to some as gunning for more mainstream airplay. But the presence of two of Jeezy’s summer singles, “All White Everything” and “Jizzle” – the former with the substitution of Yo Gotti for one of Jeezy’s own verses, the latter with the vocal interjections of Lil’ Jon removed – and his next planned single “Rap Game” as well as references to the title of TM103 within some of the songs, combined with the solidity of the overall musical package makes one wonder if The Last Laugh is really a version of TM103 that was mistakenly rejected by Island Def Jam.

Whatever the case, anyone disappointed in Trap Or Die II and 1000 Grams and anxious for TM103 would be best served by The Last Laugh. 5 out of 5 stars.

CAVEAT EMPTOR: Since the album was released on a free basis by the artist himself, we have provided a few different download links. Please note that despite the fact that Young Jeezy and his production company, CTE, are providing this album as a free download, and that his contracted label Def Jam is supporting this promotional release, the album itself is still under copyright. International Copyright Laws still apply to these recordings. The Groove Music Life respects the copyrights of the artist and his label, and does not bear responsibility for the user’s failure to respect copyright law. The artist and his production company and record label reserve the right to withdraw the mp3s after a certain time period or substitute a streaming-only audio option, and The Groove Music Life wholly supports and respects those rights. Out of respect for both the copyright holders of the sonic works contained herein, and for the operator of this blog who is providing download links for this recording, please do not disseminate the files widely or pass off the download links as your own.

Direct from the artist’s website, USDA2day.com
From LiveMixtapes.com
Courtesy of TGML

JapanFiles Drops The Ball

JapanFiles.com sent a newsletter notice this morning to their customers, stating that they were “suspend[ing] digital sales of some of the major label artists in our digital store” after September 30. The list of those major label artists the entire Up-Front Works roster (Morning Musume, Hangry and Angry, Berryz Koubou, ?C-ute, S/Mileage) as well as J-Rock artists like Giguramesh and LM.C.

Surely, Western fans of Japanese music have to be looking at JapanFiles like this right about now:

JapanFiles had been distributing much of the Up-Front Works catalog both digitally and as select physical CD releases since November of 2008, starting with the debut EP of ex-MoMusu members Hitomi Yoshizawa and Rika Ishikawa’s J-Rock/goth/electropop duo Hangry and Angry. Morning Musume got three releases – their past two studio albums Platinum 9 Disc and 10 MY ME and their summer 2009 single “Shouganai Yume Oibito” – the single release tying in their their overdue debut American performance promoted by Anime Expo in Los Angeles – out of the deal, and a few other select artists were getting physical CDs pressed in the US as well.

Unfortunately, JapanFiles did a lot of ball-dropping and other mucked plays in their otherwise sincere efforts to make J-music more easily available. Distribution – a big key in that availability – was the biggest factor. Not counting the label’s own site, JapanFiles’s physical CD releases were available only at Hot Topic here in the States. No other retail store in the country – unless they made a few special orders right through the website – carried the releases in store, and none of the other online retailers one would go through to buy a CD had any of JapanFiles’s licensed titles in stock.

Some of the same titles were also coming up as downloads on the US iTunes store, but JapanFiles in general was basically claiming that their own website was the exclusive, go-to place for getting their digital releases.

Which brings up the big kvetch: The artists and their fans deserve better service than that.

Devoted fans might know to go direct to someone like JapanFiles for their downloads, just like they know they could order just about any Japanese CD release from CDJapan, YesAsia, or the Japanese sites of Amazon and HMV – but when it comes to expanding that audience, JapanFiles didn’t even seem to bother. JapanFiles basically suffered from a strain of the same tunnel-vision-like affliction that proved fatal to Tofu Records, who had gone through the whole rigmarole of boasting easier availability of Japanese recordings – Puffy AmiYumi being the biggest act on their roster – but had idiotically focused distribution and product placement (no one outside of the anime department at Suncoast Video seemed to carry Tofu titles; Puffy’s only release through Tofu, Splurge, was nowhere to be found when this writer was at Virgin Mega’s Times Square store in 2006, although their previous Bar-None and Epic releases and the import edition of Splurge were.)

I’ve said this before in past columns, and this bears repeating. “Making Japanese releases more available in the US and elsewhere” is not supposed to mean “Let’s just press a small bunch of CDs and only sell them where the nerds will find them.” Here’s where it really should mean, using the Up-Front roster as examples:

Step One: Get Morning Musume and their stablemates signed to a REAL label – preferably a large independent label like Merge or Matador, or a major label devoted to making career artists, like Octone or Wind-Up. Labels like these will have the promotional clout and the distribution reach that acts like Morning Musume deserve, and they won’t just throw them against the wall like most major labels seem to do in the hope that they’ll stick. They’ll also have a bigger target audience than the JapanFiles/Tofu “let’s target the wota” approach. Someone that already listens to Morning Musume doesn’t listen to most Top 40 pop artists (save for acts like Lady Gaga) – more than likely, they’re listening to alternative and indie rock acts like… well, what a coincidence, the ones signed to labels like (surprise, motherfuckers!) Merge, Matador, Octone, and Wind-Up.

Remember how I said a few paragraphs ago that the artists and fans that JapanFiles seems to be kicking to the curb deserve better? That “better” means making the releases widely available. Widely available means record stores everywhere – chains like FYE, independent record stores (they’re still around) like my beloved Gallery of Sound, big-box stores like Best Buy and Target, online shops like Amazon and CD Universe. Widely available also means digital downloads available in all of the major outlets we know of – not just iTunes but AmazonMP3 (which seems to be seeing iTunes’s taillights at this point insofar as competitive pricing and selection), Rhapsody, eMusic, Napster, and so forth.

Just ask Dir en grey. After a good, yet short-lived, association with Warcon here in the States, they found a more receptive American label home with The End Records, a label devoted to the kind of hard rock DEG writes and records that is well aware that their general target audience already has a large slew of fans who were buying their imports (and the Warcon US rereleases) as well as fans who might have heard of them and wanted to know what the fuss was about – and they’ve been on a serious roll ever since.

Just ask Shonen Knife, who has the most devoted American label in their career – seemingly, EVER – with GooGoo Dolls bassist Robby Takac’s indie label Good Charamel Records, who have already released their three most recent albums here in the States and has regularly brought the band on tour here twice in the space of two years.

Music fans are a somewhat peculiar bunch. We tend to like options. A lot of options. And not just CD, mp3 or vinyl, but where we can get those.

Music fans also like to browse. A devoted Morning Musume fan already knows when they’re going to put records out, and where to get them. A more casual music fan that likes to roam the racks of their favorite store or stalk the appropriate areas of their iTunes Store app for something different to jam to isn’t going to know Morning Musume can be easily had (without breaking copyright laws) unless they have a friend or relative that is already a devoted fan.

Labels like JapanFiles and Tofu are always going to shoot themselves in the foot – or elsewhere – if they keep operating in such a manner.

The Inevitable, Part 3: Random Thoughts

  • I’m still going OMFG from the news, not even 24 hours after hearing about it. 
  • Last night I was trying to digest in my mind both the news about Morning Musume’s impending American debut (Up-Front Works confirmed it themselves last night) and continue planning for my wedding next June (my fiancee and I just put the deposit on the hall last night, as a matter of fact). 
  • Then Vee calls. The two of us, about 15 years apart in age and with birthdays right next to each other, proceeded to continue fangirling (ok, in my case, fanboying) about the news for much of the conversation. 
  • Vee then dropped a very important question: “What songs are they going to play?” We started speculating on the set list: “Love Machine” obviously has to be there; “Resonant Blue”, “Egao YES Nude” and “Mikan” were also mentioned, Vee kind of hoped “Onna ni Sachi Are” wouldn’t be on the set list as she didn’t think it went well live… that kind of thing. I’m sure speculation about the set list will continue up until the day of the concert. 
  • Typical procedure for anime convention headlining acts, according to Vee who has been to quite a few, is for the headlining act to perform on Saturday, which means that if this procedure holds for Anime Expo 2009, that Morning Musume will be making their American performing debut on Independence Day – an almost appropriate date for such a milestone, reminiscent of one of the early milestone events in punk rock – Independence Day 1976, when the Ramones made their English debut. Members of the Sex Pistols, Clash, and many other first-wave British punk bands were said to be in the audience that night. 
  • JapanFiles.com is going to have Morning Musume’s back catalog, starting with the release of “Naichai Kamo”, available for legal download. No word on when or whether tactile copies will be available like they’ve done with HANGRY&ANGRY’s EP. 

When in Doubt, Spin the Black Circle

Some time ago, another blog covered by IW (I tried to find the link through IW itself but couldn’t locate it – if anyone knows what entry I’m talking about, let me know and I’ll replace this part of the text with that link) asked about the buying habits of fellow bloggers. Given that over a year ago I wrote an entry on Stuck In A Pagoda v2.0 that pretty much lambasted people who rely primarily on pirated mp3’s for their music, and that I practice what I preach, I started to calculate how my buying habits went for new music this past year.

Obviously, my intake of Japanese CD’s has continued at a steady rate this year – loyal grabbings of Morning Musume/Hello! Project releases, Koda Kumi’s most recent album and singles, EPs by The Husky and SCANDAL, the best-of anthology from The Possible, Mai Kuraki’s newest effort, and some initial forays into the world of AKB48 (which is going to be an article in and of itself soon) all come to mind. My interest in enka has also taken a turn towards mostly digital works (both CD and legal downloads – another reason to keep the account balance up on my Japanese iTunes account), which is a good thing.

Then I tried to think back to what non-Japanese CDs I’d bought this year. That was harder, as I tried to recall what was the last non-J-Pop CD I bought.

I kept trying to think it was Metallica’s Death Magnetic, given their having Rick Rubin replace Bob Rock and do some music that harkened, if not to their Ride The Lightning/Master of Puppets days, then at least to …And Justice for All. And kept thinking that I was wrong. It’s on my iPod – that much is sure as I went right to AmazonMP3.com for that one. Why am I thinking that the last American CD I bought was Hawthorne Heights’ new release?
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