Saturday, February 20, 2016

Punkobit: Vi Subversa

What a grim start to the year it's been, with legends and heroes dying left and right. Yesterday, Vi Subversa of The Poison Girls died. Here's how her son, Pete Fender, told the world via Facebook:

It is with deep sorrow that I have to announce the mourning of my wonderful mum Frances Sokolov, known to many as Vi Subversa, who has passed away peacefully following a short illness.

We know that her death will come as a shock. Vi had recently celebrated her 80th birthday and only a few short weeks ago gave what was to be her final performance.

Vi led an extraordinary life in a variety of fields, but was no doubt best known as the lead singer, lyricist and rhythm guitarist in Poison Girls.

She was a key figure to a lot of people and we know that there will be a great many who would wish to pay tribute to her music and words, as well as to her remarkable achievements in life.

We know too that she would want this to happen.

We are holding a private funeral for her close friends and family, and naturally there will be a public event to celebrate her life and work later in the year. We, her family, ask that our need for privacy be respected during this very difficult time.

We are confident that Vi would not wish her friends and fans to overindulge in sadness. We all feel that her life was complete and should be celebrated. She made it to the milestone, and her time had come. Flesh and blood is what we are.

Kesha: a reminder of what a terrible place the music industry is

There is, of course, due process. There is, of course, innocent until proven guilty. There are safeguards, which should work for both sides in a case.

But how does Sony Records find itself in a courtroom, arguing that a woman who claims to have been raped and abused should be forced to remain working for her alleged rapist? How does anyone from Sony suck a thoughtful tooth and go "well, we've only got her word that she's been raped by him, so we should probably keep her to her contract. Even if we have to take this to court"?

Even if you were part of Sony, and didn't believe Kesha; even if you were part of Sony, and believed Kesha but didn't really care. Even then. How would you think that marching into court to try and force her to work with Dr Luke would be the right thing to do?

Buzzfeed's Mary Georgantopoulos was following the case for Buzzfeed. How she was able to tweet with her head in her hands is a minor miracle in itself.

When Kesha's lawyers argued that Sony's offer to keep her in the contract to Dr Luke's vanity label but not work with Luke was meaningless because Sony would just bury any of her work:

Oh, Judge. You've not been round the music industry, or indeed corporations, long, have you? Here in Milton Keynes, there's a supermarket which stands empty while Sainsburys pay rent of a million quid a year on it. They're paying the rent to stop anyone else making money in the unit. That's how corporations work. The suggestion that Sony might spite-lock an artist isn't really so outlandish, is it?

NME Awards 2016: What the pop papers say

This week, the NME awards were doled out; this week's print edition of the magazine tries to make sense of them.

The awards are possibly a transitional moment, covering a period where the weekly went free, and took on an editorial direction ever less about music; moving closer to the mainstream. Last year, prizes went to Royal Blood, Foo Fighters, Alex Turner and Kasabian. There was a clear sense of what an NME band sounded like.

This year's winners... well, they're a little different:

Best British Band: The Maccabees
Best International Band: Run The Jewels
Best New Artist: Rat Boy
Best British Solo Artist: Charli XCX
Best International Solo Artist: Taylor Swift
Best Live Band: Wolf Alice
Best Album: What Went Down - Foals
Best Track: Giant Peach - Wolf Alice
Best TV: This Is England '90
Best Film: Beasts Of No Nation
Best Music Film: Blur: New World Towers
Best Music Video: Cheer Up London - Slaves
Best Actor: Idris Elba
Best Actress: Vicky McClure
Best Reissue: Five Years - David Bowie
Best Book - M Train - Patti Smith
Best Festival - Glastonbury
Best Small Festival - End Of The Road
Music Moment Of The Year - The Libertines "secret" Glastonbury set
Best Fan Community - The Libertines
Worst Bad: 5 Seconds Of Summer
Villain Of The Year: Donald Trump
Hero Of The Year: Dave Grohl
Vlogger Of The Year: KSI

(Just in passing, how come actors are split into categories based on gender and solo artists aren't?)

It's the solo artists who stick out - in a month where NME's covers have run through James Bay, Kanye West and Coldplay, Charli and Taylor seem much more in keeping with where the title is heading than Wolf Alice and Foals. They feel like an echo of where the title was before, when it charged an entry fee that few were interested in paying.

This makes for difficulties for the awards, though - remember, these used to be styled the Brats and positioned themselves as an alternative to the Brits. Even before NME became the sort of magazine which would put James Bay on the cover, the distinction was blurred, but if the endeavour survives another twelve months it's likely the NME Awards/Brits relationship will become more like the BAFTAs/Oscars one - the former a lower budget version of the latter, taking place a couple of weeks before, and serving no real purpose other than letting bookies set the odds for the main events.

This year, though, we find ourselves in the awkward position of the magazine having to send a prize designed for rebellious shouty rock upstarts to Taylor Swift. Her reaction:

I got the award in the mail and I gotta be honest with you about this, when you first open up the box this feels a little aggressive.
Yeah. That's the sound of worlds colliding.

Coldplay picked up the Godlike Genius award - I know, I know - and in the accompanying interview, Chris Martin shares his favourite moment of being a popstar. This was playing Michael J Fox's Parkinson Benefit, and getting Fox to join them onstage to recreate the moment from Back To The Future when Marty plays guitar at the 1950s prom.

That's telling. The worst part of the entire Back To The Future trilogy is the point where the invention of the boisterous, brilliant cacophony of rock is taken away from Chuck Berry and reassigned to a pasty-faced white kid from the suburbs. And the peak of Chris Martin's musical career has been recreating the creation myth of a deracinated rock music.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Grammys 2016: Nothing takes the shine off an award like knowing they're voted for by a team who think Ed Sheeran made the best song

The Grammys took place last night - yeah, on a Monday for some reason. I suppose that makes it unlikely that the night would clash with any other awards ceremony, because who holds an awards ceremony on a Monday night?

Taylor Swift's 1989 took best album, a reminder of just how bloody slow the Grammys awards are in the modern world (it came out in October 2014).

Ed Sheeran's Thinking Out Loud was judged to have been the best song of the year, and no amount of crowd-pleasing attempts to balance that out by prizes for Uptown Funk can disguise that prize alone shows Grammy judges don't really like music at all.

Here's all the winners:

Album of the Year

1989, Taylor Swift

Song of the Year

"Thinking Out Loud," Ed Sheeran and Amy Wadge

Record of the Year

"Uptown Funk," Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars

Best Rap Album

To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar

Best Country Album

Traveler, Chris Stapleton

Best Musical Theater Album


Best Rap Performance

"Alright," Kendrick Lamar

Best Rap Song

"Alright," Kendrick Lamar

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration

"These Walls," Kendrick Lamar featuring Bilal, Anna Wise, and Thundercat

Best Rock Performance

"Don't Wanna Fight," Alabama Shakes

Best Music Video

"Bad Blood," Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar

Best New Artist

Meghan Trainor

Producer of the Year, Non-Classical

Jeff Bhasker

Best Country Song

"Girl Crush," Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, and Liz Rose (Little Big Town)

Best Country Solo Performance

"Traveller," Chris Stapleton

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

"Girl Crush," Little Big Town

Best Pop Vocal Album

Taylor Swift, 1989

Best Pop Solo Performance

"Thinking Out Loud," Ed Sheeran

Best Rock Album

Drones, Muse

Best Alternative Album

Sound & Color, Alabama Shakes

Best Rock Performance

"Don't Wanna Fight," Alabama Shakes

Best Rock Song

"Don't Wanna Fight," Alabama Shakes

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

"Uptown Funk," Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars

Best Metal Performance

"Cirice," Ghost

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album

"The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern," Tony Bennett and Bill Charlap

Best Traditional R&B Performance

"Little Ghetto Boy," Lalah Hathaway

Best Dance/Electronic Album

Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü, Skrillex and Diplo

Best Dance Recording

"Where Are Ü Now," Skrillex and Diplo with Justin Bieber

Remixed Recording, Non-Classical

"Uptown Funk (Dave Audé Remix)," Dave Audé (Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars)

Best Urban Contemporary Album

Beauty Behind the Madness, the Weeknd

Best Comedy Album

Live at Madison Square Garden, Louis CK

Best R&B Album

Black Messiah, D'Angelo and the Vanguard

Best R&B Song

"Really Love," D'Angelo and Kendra Foster

Best R&B Performance

"Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)," the Weeknd

Best Blues Album

Born to Play Guitar, Buddy Guy

Best Folk Album

Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn

Best Reggae Album

Strictly Roots, Morgan Heritage

Best New Age Album

"Grace," Paul Avgerinos

Best Surround Sound Album

"Amused to Death," James Guthrie and Joel Plante (Roger Waters)

Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media

Birdman, Antonio Sanchez

Best Song Written for Visual Media

"Glory," performed by Common and John Legend

Best Music Film

Amy, Amy Winehouse; Asif Kapadia, video director; James Gay-Rees, video producer

Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media

Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me

Best Spoken Word Album

A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety, Jimmy Carter

Contemporary Instrumental Album

"Sylva," Snarky Puppy and Metropole Orkest

Best Improvised Jazz Solo

"Cherokee," Christian McBride

Best Jazz Vocal Album

"For One to Love," Cécile McLorin Salvant

Best Jazz Instrumental Album

"Past Present," John Scofield

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

"The Thompson Fields," Maria Schneider Orchestra

Best Children's Album

"Home," Tim Kubart

Best World Music Album

"Sings," Angelique Kidjo

Best Regional Roots Music Album

"Go Go Juice," Jon Cleary

Best Bluegrass Album

"The Muscle Shoals Recordings," The Steeldrivers

Best Americana Album

"Something More Than Free," Jason Isbell

Best American Roots Song

"24 Frames," Jason Isbell

Best American Roots Performance

"See That My Grave Is Kept Clean," Mavis Staples

Best Latin Pop Album

"A Quien Quiera Escuchar (Deluxe Edition)," Ricky Martin

Best Tropical Latin Album

"Son De Panamá," Rubén Blades with Roberto Delgado and Orchestra

Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album

TIE: "Hasta la Raíz," Natalia Lafourcade and "Dale," Pitbull

Best Regional Mexican Music Album

"Realidades, Deluxe Edition," Los Tigres Del Norte

Best Roots Gospel Album

"Still Rockin' My Soul," the Fairfield Four

Best Contemporary Christian Album

"This Is Not a Test," Tobymac

Best Gospel Album

"Covered: Alive in Asia [Live] (Deluxe)," Israel & Newbreed

Best Historical Album

"The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11," Bob Dylan and the Band

Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song

"Holy Spirit," Francesca Battistelli

Best Engineered Album, Classical

"Ask Your Mama," Leslie Ann Jones, John Kilgore, Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum, and Justin Merrill, engineers; Patricia Sullivan, mastering engineer (George Manahan and San Francisco Ballet Orchestra)

Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical

"Sound & Color," Shawn Everett, engineer; Bob Ludwig, mastering engineer (Alabama Shakes)

Best Producer, Classical

Judith Sherman

Best Album Notes

"Love Has Many Faces: A Quartet, A Ballet, Waiting to Be Danced," Joni Mitchell, (Joni Mitchell)

Best Orchestral Performance

"Shostakovich: Under Stalin's Shadow — Symphony No. 10," Andris Nelsons, conductor (Boston Symphony Orchestra)

Best Opera Recording

"Ravel: L'Enfant Et Les Sortilèges; Shéhérazade," Seiji Ozawa, conductor; Isabel Leonard; Dominic Fyfe, producer (Saito Kinen Orchestra; SKF Matsumoto Chorus and SKF Matsumoto Children's Chorus)

Best Choral Performance

"Beethoven: Missa Solemnis," Bernard Haitink, conductor; Peter Dijkstra, chorus master (Anton Barachovsky, Genia Kühmeier, Elisabeth Kulman, Hanno Müller-Brachmann, and Mark Padmore; Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks; Chor Des Bayerischen Rundfunks)

Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance

"Brahms: The Piano Trios," Tanja Tetzlaff, Christian Tetzlaff, and Lars Vogt

Best Classical Instrumental Solo

"Dutilleux: Violin Concerto, L'Arbre Des Songes," Augustin Hadelich; Ludovic Morlot, conductor (Seattle Symphony)

Best Classical Solo Vocal Album

"Joyce & Tony — Live From Wigmore Hall," Joyce DiDonato; Antonio Pappano, accompanist

Best Classical Compendium

"Paulus: Three Places of Enlightenment; Veil of Tears & Grand Concerto," Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Tim Handley, producer

Best Contemporary Classical Composition

"Paulus: Prayers & Remembrances," Stephen Paulus, composer (Eric Holtan, True Concord Voices, and Orchestra)

Best Boxed or Limited Edition Package

"The Rise & Fall of Paramount Records, Volume Two (1928-32)," Susan Archie, Dean Blackwood & Jack White (Various Artists)

Best Recording Package

"Still the King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys," Sarah Dodds, Shauna Dodds and Dick Reeves (Asleep at the Wheel)

Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals

"Sue (Or In a Season of Crime)," Maria Schneider (David Bowie)

Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella

"Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," Ben Bram, Mitch Grassi, Scott Hoying, Avi Kaplan, Kirstin Maldonado and Kevin Olusola (Pentatonix)

Best Instrumental Composition

"The Afro Latin Jazz Suite," Arturo O'Farrill (Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra featuring Rudresh Mahanthappa)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

This week just gone

The most popular things posted on Valentine's Day down the years:

1. 2005 Grammys good for Ray Charles, except he's dead
2. Liveblog: Brits 2007
3. Robbie Williams doesn't care about the Brits anyway [2007]
4. Why Pete Doherty could have been the new Jimmy Saville [2006]
5. Copy protection destroys Bonny Prince Billy

These were this week's most interesting releases:

The I Don't Cares - Wild Stab

Download Wild Stab

Field Music - Commontime

Download Commontime

Foxes - All I Need

Download All I Need

Josephine Foster - No More Lamps In The Morning

Download No More Lamps

Lion Babe - Begin

Download Begin

The Prettiots - Funs Cool

Download Funs Cool