Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Night Undoes The Work Of The Day by oh my god (Album Review)

On their new album, The Night Undoes The Work Of The Day, oh my god presents infectious pop hooks. On first listen their sound is reminiscent of Ben Folds but after delving into the whole album the electronic elements make this more than just a piano led pop album. What also separates it from an average pop album is the influence of all the members can be heard and there is a full balanced sound.
On "My Prayer" the minimal organ and Billy O'Neill's layered vocals make for a full sound in this existential number.
On the playful side is "Baby There's Nothin' Wrong". Billy pleads, "baby you just got to go to work".
The cover of the Fixx's "One Thing Leads To Another" is a rocker with bounce. The electro sounds shine brightly here. How can you go wrong with the break in that song?
"My Juliet" offers a breather from the full sonic sound-scape. Some minimal piano and reverb makes a somber outline that allows O'Neill to sing with restraint and frame the lyrics nicely.
oh my god are a Chicago band known for their high energy shows. The band is on tour now. They will be having a record release party at Double Door in Chicago on Sat. Sept. 26 See them live and help support local musicians.
I recommend purchasing their album The Night Undoes The Work Of The Day here

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

An Interview With Learning Music...There's Still Hope ...

The more musicians that make their own unique business models, compliments of the net, the more I think that the music industry will warp into something that is more affordable for music lovers and allows the artist to have complete control while retaining the ability to sell their music.

I have known about a musical collective called Learning Music, fronted by John Wood (played keyboard for Sebastian Tellier, Mike Andrews, and Anni Rossi) for a couple of months after coming across some of their music on the Free Music Archive. I then went to their site, Learning Music Monthly, and saw that they have a tiered approach to selling their music. This collective of sometimes upwards of 25 musicians, pumps out a full album a month and then sells this music on cd for a flat rate of $9 for 1 release and up to $59 for 12 releases, which also gets one of a kind stickers, a song written for your birthday, and unlimited access to the Learning Music Monthly archives. For $5000 you get all of the music as well as a concert performed by John Wood anywhere in the world. They also have a a digital option that allows you to determine the amount you will pay for a 12 month subscription of 12 albums along with a one year access to the previous albums. As a teaser to their site the band releases some songs here and there for free on sites like Free Music Archive.

As if all of that weren't enough, there's more. The site has a 'contribute' section that allows you to print and that has the sheet music and lyrics for the Learning Music releases. Also fans can cover the music or send in their own sounds for John to possibly use, and the covers get posted on Learning Music Monthly.

I sent some questions to John Wood, the main cog of the Learning Music collective, and he was gracious enough to answer them.

Q: On the musical end: How exactly do you describe what Learning Music does as a musical act?

A:It feels like there are really two Learning Musics; one being the albums and one being the live band. The role of the band is in a transition right now.
Learning Music started out as a recording project. Then I got the idea to create a band that could include any number of people and could perform with little or no rehearsal, with music that was specifically written or arranged for that setting. We played a bunch of shows that way, usually with around twelve to fifteen musicians each time. Once there were over twenty of us. I would make very simple charts for everybody; usually just a one-sentence description or a couple chords for each song. That version of the band was all about communal creativity and experience, and folk ceremony.
But Learning Music was never meant to be one thing. The new band is much different, much much smaller, which is allowing us to play all new songs that are much more technical. The large band was a great experiment, and I'm sure we will perform again like that. Right now, however, I'm more interested in arranging music that is more defined and sounds big with a small group.

Q: Can tell us about some of the musicians in Learning Music?
A:I am really lucky to know a lot of extremely excellent musicians. Everyone who has played with us has their own creative projects and also works professionally as a musician. They play in bands including Bird & the Bee, Beck, and Cryptacize. They write award-winning scores for major motion pictures. They teach college music classes. But most importantly they are all attentive and creative individuals. There are really too many members to talk about all of them.

Q: How does touring work with the way the band is set up having so many musicians?
A: We haven't really traveled very far at all with the large band. I've done out-of-town shows
just by myself. This will be one benefit of having a smaller group. Of course, someday, I
would love to be able to support a large band on the road. Logistically we're not there yet.

Q: My personal favorite, for right now, is Travel with the Readers, can you tell us about the Readers and the way you came up with the album?
A:I'm glad you like that one. It's probably my favorite too. Readers is my wife Lisa and me. Most of the songs on Travel were written on a trip we took to Oregon, where my van broke down and we had to leave it behind for good. When we got home we started compiling all these samples from weird records we had. When we go on road trips we always come home with a huge stack of vinyl that we scoured from small-town thrift shops along the way (Lisa is a dj and I love looking for samples). Most of the percussion on that record is the sound of a pinball machine or a freight elevator or chanting Japanese monks.

Q: How did you come up with this business model of the different levels of payment for the music? Was there a music act's website that you looked at and said "That's a good idea" or did you have a light-bulb moment where it came clear to you how you wanted to make the Learning Music Monthly site?
A:The most credit here goes to Karl Blau, who's had a fabulous subscription-based series for several years. When I started making an album a month, there was no intention of selling any of it. For the first year, I was just making CDrs and giving them to friends. When Vosotros (now our label) expressed interest in handling the catalog, I brought up the idea of selling subscriptions. I had definitely seen Karl's site by this time; he sells subscriptions in 3/6/12 month tiers. The development of the digital donation option was sort of gradual. We knew we should offer a digital-only subscription. At first there was a set price for that. We were in a meeting with Cameron Parkins at Creative Commons when (surely inspired by the CC spirit) I decided that the digital 'script should be pay-what-you-want.

Q: Musical acts are dropping the major labels and starting up innovative sites like yours which is making major labels less influential in the musical marketplace, then where do you think the newly independent artists are headed? Do you think that at some point they will band together and have 1 site where artists doing things similar to you can sell their music?
A:I think independence is a really great thing for creativity. Hopefully it will mean that more people become artists instead of just musicians. Thanks to expanding consumer technology, it's now so easy to record music or make a movie or design a website or publish a story or essay. Why should any artist necessarily limit herself to one medium? I think we can already see a handful of examples of artists, having left the major-label tent, who are exploring more diverse/ creative possibilities (including Radiohead). In this sense, I think it's better for artists to NOT band together. Competition is not as big a factor. I think we don't have to worry about uniting to compete with major labels. If everyone housed their music on one website or in one format, that would be like taking this wonderful gift of independence and saying "no thanks."

Q: Lastly, you allow people to pay whatever they are comfortable with for the mp3's on Learning Music Monthly. For the people who are ready to buy but are unsure how much they should pay, can you help them with how you look at it? This is a new luxury that us music collectors get to pay what we feel we can afford or think it's worth, and there is no blueprint for what to pay. Are you finding that the average amount people pay is more or less than you originally thought?
A:Thank you for bringing this up. The way we look at is: we would rather someone hear and have this music than not. So if someone doesn't feel comfortable spending, or simply can't spend more, then we really want them to pay that penny, just so they have access to the catalog. In fact, it's probably the people who can only afford a penny who need it the most. It's fine for us, because the cost of administering an online subscription is small. Some people pay a little and some people, who really help us keep making the music and sharing it with everyone, pay much more. I think the average donation is probably around what we've expected. In the end, I have no doubt that there are many more subscribers because of the option.

John Wood gets it when it comes to taking care of his fans/customers. He allows the fans to decide the price and cut the big labels out of the equation. As for me, I purchased mp3's of Learning Music Monthly, and named my own price. I love them and highly recommend supporting these worthy artists.