September 8, 2010

Short-order music

pret-a-manger

Philadelphia band Dr Dog announced today that they would be making a handful of new tracks (written since Shame, Shame) available for free download to their fans via their Facebook page over the next few weeks. The first offering, “Take Me Into Town” is an unhurried bluesy treat:

STREAM: “Take Me Into Town”
(download)

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Scott Hutchison from Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit blogged Monday about how he recorded a cool, collaborative EP of songs with folks from Twilight Sad, Idlewild, and others in a remote house in Perthshire (with “plenty of fruit wine”) and lickety-split, two songs were available now for free download (quite good ones, all broguey and anthemic). The Music Like A Vitamin supergroup is raising money for Scottish mental health, which of course you need after you submerge yourself in the marvelous misery of Frightened Rabbit for too long.

STREAM: I Forgot The Fall – Music Like A Vitamin (download two songs here)

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And then of course Tallest Man on Earth and Sufjan both dropped EPs on us from out of the blue (bam! available now!), Josh Rouse put together a free EP of live cuts and remixes from El Turista last month, and current Fuel/Friends favorite Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives made a name for themselves by releasing a steady stream of 7″ singles in the Portland music community over the past year, coming out in advance of their full-length, as they wrote and recorded them.

This trend I see gaining steam among indie musicians this summer is one that I love. I call it “short-order music” — not to imply a lack of quality (some of those diner omelettes whipped up in three minutes can be the best thing you eat all week) but rather a visceral, vibrant, of-the-moment transmission direct from the artists you love into your eardrums.

Arguably, we are becoming an impatient, on-demand culture whose attention span is brief and flickering. Nowhere is this more true than in the music community. One is reminded of Veruca Salt (who wants it NOW, Daddy) in our insistence to be constantly sated and titillated, and I am no different. But perhaps musicians can also harness this constant hunger to work in their favor.

In an age where the anticipation of a full album (and the inevitable leaks) can severely quell a musician’s financial gain from new music, this seems like a possible temperance. The guerrilla approach to releasing new songs via digital EP seems to encourage the immediate, bite-sized purchase of new music. At a few bucks per pop (or as Scott Hutchison blogged, “only six fucking quid!!”), it is more financially palatable for fans who are often used to getting, well, everything for free. There also is the perception of less risk – with only five songs, it’s less likely you’ll be getting that 12-minute art rock jam instrumental at the end of the disc. Unless you like 12-minute art rock jams.

While of course there will always be a place for us to fall in love with the well-crafted, cohesive, full album, I also welcome the willingness to mix things up a bit during the in-between days. Let me see what you’ve been up to since the tour ended. Surprise me with four new songs from the summer when I wake up tomorrow. Yeah?

9 Comments »

  • Totally agree with everything you said. There is nothing better than new music (free or otherwise) from your favorite artists. I’d say in addition to the free/not free songs and EPs made available, another awesome treat for fans is when a band does stuff like Daytrotter, HearYa or a Take Away Show. It’s not just the new/free/different take afforded by these different avenues that’s great, it’s that it makes me, as a fan, feel like the artist ‘gets’ it. They understand our constant impatience for new music from them and they want to either a) quench that thirst, b) are so excited to share their new output that they just simply can’t wait, or c) a combo of both. It’s a refreshing trend and I too hope it continues.

    Adam — September 9, 2010 @ 6:58 am

  • which of course you need after you submerge yourself in the marvelous misery of Frightened Rabbit for too long.

    I love that line!
    thanks Heather!

    Harb — September 9, 2010 @ 10:28 am

  • A bit off-topic…That image is misleading. I so miss my breakfast-on-the-go at Pret during a trip to London nearly a decade ago.

    Zac — September 9, 2010 @ 11:20 am

  • meee tooooo. i liked the “ready to eat” joke implicit in the photo but then i was thinking all afternoon yesterday of those really good sandwiches i got in london a decade ago. yummmm. i think they had a chicken salad one i used to loooove.

    browneheather — September 9, 2010 @ 11:29 am

  • Wow you remember meals from ten years ago, I hardly remember what I had for lunch yesterday. You must know better places to eat I guess (especially in London, of all places). The EP is interesting; there’s little room for artistic statements yet, as you mentioned, that also leaves little room for pretentious filler tracks and self-indulgent ten minute solo’s. I do feel ripped off when bands put remastered versions of EP tracks on a new LP (i.e. “No Cars Go” by Arcade Fire”). I much prefer hearing a great live recording of a past LP. Some of my favorite EP’s include Arcade Fire’s Arcade Fire EP, The National’s Cherry Tree and Stars’ Sad Robots. Some have as much as 6 tracks, whilst full lenghts sometimes have as little as 9.

    Christof — September 9, 2010 @ 2:44 pm

  • Heather,
    I know I’m late, but I’ve just been struck by something fascinating, I just read this: (http://drownedinsound.com/in_depth/4140982-disover–joe-pug?ticker) article with a certain Mr.Pug and caught something when he explained his giving away free cd’s:

    “Having discovered the songs on their own, people feel an intense ownership of my music. They take pride in introducing their friends to it. Their friends, in turn, do the same. No one feels like they’re being duped into buying into something.”

    It’s struck me that this is what short-order and good quality modern music is about, that one tiny artist who you feel immensely proud to call your own. The established system of artist telling everyone they are writing an album 18 months early, it going from producer, to management, to marketing, to promoter, to advertising, to pr, to press, to promotions to this that and the other only to FINALLY get a release date on a redundant format leaves so much time for it to become completely impersonal and for everyone to get in on the spread of hype, it’s like filling a cannon with grapeshot, its hitting everyone at the same time far and wide, not just you.

    A good example of this would be Kings of Leon, i’ll admit, I downloaded their last album (as I happily do a lot of music, paying for it in a physical format at a later date, mostly via live shows once I know I love it and it’s of sufficient quality that i’m going to love it/them – again a face to face thing, whats more personal than a merch desk and there’s not an independent record shop within a 100 mile radius of my house). I can say I had it before everyone else and I simply adored it, its an incredible piece of work. Fast forward 18 months or however long it’s been and everyone and his mother are playing sex on fire every second of every day ad nauseum, it doesn’t feel personal anymore. Its not your little baby anymore. I still put it on occasionally, skipping those tracks that I hear EVERY SINGLE TIME it gets to kareoke night at the bar I work in (or occasionally listening to far superior versions of the songs http://mightymikesnewboot.blogspot.com/2009/02/kings-of-leon-vs-four-tops.html).

    All in all, for me the short-order movement (apparently it’s a movement now, congratulations), is an incredible thing, the Tallest man e.p snuck under everyones radar and that makes it even more special because there’s not even the slightest hint that it was happening, I had no idea about the Music like a vitamin stuff because I hadn’t looked at their myspace in months, this is where good quality, entertaining blogs and news sites come in handy (and even they feel small, intimate and personal, considering I can write to their contributors right here and now!). The rumour spreads and you get your copy of it, it becomes something wonderfully personal, a little secret to share with the world, and you get to fund some good causes along the way, be it artists or charities.

    Cut a long story short, it’s about making music as intimate and personal as it possibly can be, almost like having the artist play songs to you from ten feet away, high fiving you when its finished. long may it reign as far as i’m concerned.

    x

    Jimmy — September 10, 2010 @ 8:47 am

  • jimmy, i loved your comment. i agree, and remember when i was talking to joe pug on this park bench off pearl street in boulder, and he was talking about this same thing and the freedom in giving away a quality product. he just had such absolute *certainty* in his eyes that what he was doing was worth it, and mattered, and i think that is a large part of the story to his success so far as an artist.

    i see things like music blogs and house shows (two examples) as trying to bring the music closer to that ideal i look so hard for – the intimacy, the connection, and the high-fives afterwards. it is a great time to be a music fan.

    browneheather — September 10, 2010 @ 10:12 am

  • I enjoyed reading that Jimmy, your belief in what you write jumps off the page.

    There’s not a music fan around who doesn’t know the pang of losing their underground favorite to the mainstream public with their taste for aggressive mediocrity. Kings of Leon is a great example.

    Part of that jealousy comes from a bad place, believing others aren’t capable of enjoying the song on as many levels, but most of all it’s the loss of intimacy that stings so bad. Intimacy is hard enough to find as it is. This movement is a victory won in this uphill battle.

    It’s ironic how the bands who complain the hardest about record sales dropping and piracy shouldn’t be selling many records at all(i.e.Metallica vs. Napster debacle).

    If your music’s sole purpose isn’t about sharing something real, saying something true, reaching a public with a message you feel is important and could enlighten people – and you love people enough you want to enlighten them – no matter how little you get paid, that music can’t be of much value. It is by definition pretentious.

    In an ideal world, all music would be freely available with a donation option, only fans who are passionate enough about an artist would drop their pennies, and the mediocrity would fall by the waysides. These free EP’s realize part of my vision for the artistic world and that is always good for my soul. The universe is expanding after all and there’s only so many brilliant people who try to bring it all together again.

    Christof — September 12, 2010 @ 8:32 pm

  • I couldnt agree with you more!!!

    dragon nest classes — November 1, 2011 @ 5:45 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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