Consider me one excited panda. Pitchfork is reporting that Foals have just announced a North American tour with one of my favorite bands of 2010, Freelance Whales. They’ll be getting support from another great up-and-coming act, The Naked and the Famous. The trio will be stopping by NYC’s Terminal 5 on May 4th, and you can check the full tour schedule here.

Usually you don’t find a show that is good from the bottom up, but even the openers are worth a show on their own. New Zealand’s The Naked and Famous are a band to watch in 2011, along with (hopefully) a new album from Freelance Whales.

Foals – “Miami”

Freelance Whales – “Enzymes”

The Naked and Famous – “Young Blood”

Music is many things to different people, but for me it’s always served as an amplifier. It’s an amplifier of generic emotions like sadness, anger and joy, but it’s also easy to connect individual tracks to a specific event, thought or just a sentence. Music is the soundtrack to life.

Today I found myself walking to the store to get some grub. Stomach hungered for Front Street Pizza, and then the following song (along with my recent decision to pursue a healthy body) popped into my head. Went across the street instead and busted out with some organic, low-fat eats from the deli. Even in fatter times, this song always resulted in the eating of a salad. Dig…..

Dead Prez – “Be Healthy”


Apparently the West Coast has been pumping out some killer hip hop in the last year. Who would have thought? LA rapper Schoolboy Q calls out the mainstream in this latest jam “F*ck ya hip hop!” alongside Rapper Big Pooh and Murs. Love how Schoolboy Q comes aggressive and raw at the mic with biting lines,  making this track a sharp statement that underground hip hop is alive and well out West.

SchoolBoy Q and Top Dawg Entertainment dropped the “Setbacks” mixtape today, which you can pick up on iTunes. He’s also quite active on Twitter, which earns mad nerd points on this end. Holla at him @ScHoolBoyQ.

Schoolboy Q feat. Rapper Big Pooh and Murs – “F*ck ya hip hop!”

It occurred to me this evening that a good majority of those in my generation went through a punk phase at one point in their youth. For some reason the old Epitaph compilations “Punk-O-Rama” popped into my head, and one of my favorite Rancid songs of all time, “Side Kick” off the second volume.

There was a domino effect and suddenly felt the desire to pick up some artists that have long been missing from my library. Dropkick Murphys, Descendents, Millencolin, The Unseen, Lars Frederickson and the Bastards, Pennywise, The Bouncing Souls, Descendents and hell… even some Alkaline Trio even though I know it doesn’t quite count.

Songs of energy, rebellion and generally giving the finger to the Man. Basically everything being a teenager is all about. Brought it up on Facebook and sure enough, recommendations came in from almost every corner of my friend spectrum.

The question now is: What the f*** are today’s teenagers listening to?

Mp3: Rancid – “Side Kick”

Mp3: Millencolin – “No Cigar”

Feeling the itch to give my blog a little love, decided to sit down and compile my list of Top 10 Albums of 2010. Lots of great music can come out over the course of twelve months and this last year was no exception. Not wanting to risk being superfluous, I limited the list to only 10 – which is about as frustrating as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with an egg beater and pita bread.

That being said, this list is highly personal. Albums were chosen based on what I listened to the most this last year. Each is great in its own right and links to download songs will be included with each listing. Now, enough babble out of me… let’s get to the albums!

* Forgive the shoddy formatting, text wrap worked a lot better than in the text editor and don’t have the time or patience to do battle with WordPress right now. Happy New Years!

10. The Spring Standards – “Would Things  Be  Different”

A recent entry to my library, The Spring Standards  are a local Brooklyn group with a lot of promise.  Simple, elegant tracks that are as powerful as they  are pleasant – wavering between catchy folk songs  and something you might hear in an Apple  commercial. Heather Robb’s luminous voice and  cascading piano drive a record that is pleasant  from start to finish. This album is something you  might  listen to a nice rainy day or while taking a  stroll  through Central Park. The Spring Standards  are one of those special bands whose live  performance only serves to best what you’ll hear on  the record.

The Spring Standards – “Sharks”

Buy “Would Things Be Different” now on Amazon

9. Sleigh Bells – “Treats”

The debut album from Sleigh Bells makes this list if only to say “I f**king told you so!!!!” After “Crown on the Ground” and “Ring Ring” (now “Rill Rill”) dropped as demos in 2009, I knew this was going to be a pair worth paying attention to. “Treats” doesn’t disappoint, delivering jam after driving jam of lo-fi, distorted garage pop guaranteed to rock your face off. As the cover suggests, this album was probably conceived by a gang of cheerleaders strung out on meth and sick of shelling out for the ‘man.’ Still, breaking through the distortion are solid melodies that lift the grunge pop into something listenable. “Rill Rill” is the anchor on this sick boat.

Sleigh Bells – “Rill Rill”

Buy “Treats” now on Amazon

8. Marina & The Diamonds – “The Family  Jewels”

Pop music is dying for someone like Marina  Diamandis, aka Marina & The Diamonds. This  Welsh singer-songwriter released one of the most    honest pop albums in early 2010. Five out of  thirteen tracks are singles, and each one crafts a  new dimension to a record filled with friendly jams  and scathing critiques of popular culture. It’s  impossible not to love Marina, especially after  watching one of her standout music videos that  match the dissension of the music itself. Marina  doesn’t give a shit what you think, she’s just gon do  what she gon do. A sophomore album that even  comes close to this will ensure a spot at the top.

Marina & The Diamonds – “I Am Not a Robot”

Buy “The Family Jewels” now on Amazon

7. Francois Peglau “The Imminent Failure  of  Francois Peglau”

Here’s one you aren’t likely to find in stores but deserves a place on this list without question. Peruvian born singer-songwriter now living in London, Peglau dropped a gem of a solo project this year. Gentle pop music with traces of European folk, “The Imminent Failure” is endlessly  charming. Something you might listen to while  smoking a cigarette, cruising the streets of London in the 1960’s. If vintage clothing could be  transformed into song, this album would be the  result. One for the hipsters to say “You gotta check  this out, pretty sure you haven’t heard of it.”

Francois Peglau – “One Minute to Midnight Dream (So Sad)”

Download “The Imminent Failure of Francois Peglau” now on Bandcamp

6. Freelance Whales – “Weathervanes”

Eery. Haunting. Beautiful. Freelance Whales’  debut  album tells a ghost story, the lead falling in  love  with a female spirit who haunts his home. Never  able to make her his, he imagines life with her on  some spectral plane. There are not enough good  things to say about this album, a gorgeous blend of  ethereal indie pop. I’ve always described  this band  as “Like Owl City, but you don’t have to be  ashamed to listen to it” and even that doesn’t do  them the justice they deserve. Known for  performing on the NYC streets and in the subways,  Freelance Whales is a band that loves music and it  can be felt with every touching note. Another great  live act as well.

Freelance Whales – “Location”

Buy “Weathervanes” now on Amazon

5. Robyn – “Body Talk”

First of all, Sweden deserves a shoutout for all of  the killer music coming out of there right now.  Robyn has been on the scene for a while, but  finally broke through in a big way this year with  “Body Talk,” a studio album that was released in  three parts over the course of 2010. A perfect  marriage of pop and electronic, Robyn is Lady  Gaga with loads more talent, swagger and  sophistication. From the bubblegum gangsta  nastiness of “Fembot” to the toned-down, heartfelt  “Hang With Me,” the entire series brings  undeniably danceable rhythm and funk guaranteed  to have you listening over and over.

Robyn – “Call Your Girlfriend”

Buy “Body Talk” now on Amazon

4. Arcade Fire – “The Suburbs”

Arcade Fire just won’t stop. After two solid releases  in ’04 and ’07, they finally took it Wu-Tang style  and dropped a megaton bomb in 2010 with “The  Suburbs.” I’ve always been a fan, but past releases  seemed almost too ambitious to really connect with  them on a lasting basis. On “The Suburbs,” they  finally hit the mark with just enough catch and  hook to lock into their grand, symphonic indie  melodies. If this were a top tracks of 2010 list, their  single “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”  would make an excellent case for the number 1 one  spot. I remember when this album dropped and it  was immediately dubbed album of the year by most  critics, and they weren’t too far off.

Arcade Fire – “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”

3. Kanye West – “My Beautiful Dark Twisted  Fantasy”

What a year for Kanye West, after acting himself  into the role of King Douche of the Planet, this  album dropped and the nation collectively shit their  pants. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is  being called the “Sgt. Pepper’s” of hip hop and they  just might be right. Whatever his behavior might  say, Kanye West is an absolute musical genius. It’s  hard to describe exactly what’s going on with this  album, only that it’s like nothing you’ve ever  heard. I think Kanye says it best when he said:  “Gossip,  gossip. N***a just stop it, everybody  knows I’m a  mutha f**kin monster!” Album of the  year to most, it doesn’t get much better.

Kanye West feat. Nicki Minaj, Jay Z, Rick Ross and Bon Iver – “Monster”

Buy “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” now on Amazon

2. The Magnetic Fields – “Realism”

There’s a reason why The Magnetic Fields are my  most listened to artist since I got a Last.fm account  in early 2010. “Realism” is one of the most down to  earth, stripped bare, ‘real’ albums I’ve ever  listened  to. Stephin Merritt & Co have been around  since  ’91 and show no signs of letting up. Nothing  needed here except for a few instruments and  brilliant songwriting. Never heard a band do so  much with so little. “You Must Be Out Of Your  Mind” is the standout and intro track, a melody of  honest heartbreak that sets the tone for the rest of  the LP. Simply brilliant.

The Magnetic Fields – “You Must Be Out Of Your Mind”

Buy “Realism” now on Amazon

1. Yeasayer – “Odd Blood”

No debate in my mind about the album of the year,  or the band of the year for that matter. Yeasayer  blows all competition out of the water with “Odd  Blood.” Yeasayer created a lot of buzz after their  debut release of “All Hours Cymbal,” but risked  being mired as an experimental band. “Odd Blood”  changed all of that, and delivered a fury of  wonderfully constructed rock songs supported by  indie sensibilities, lush synth and unmatched vocal  power. Saw them in Dallas and cannot wait until  they come back to their adopted Brooklyn home for  a show. If Yeasayer isn’t the future of rock, then at  least they made 2010 a damn good year for music.

Yeasayer – “ONE”

Buy “Odd Blood” now on Amazon

HONORABLE MENTIONS

These obviously weren’t the only good albums of 2010. Here is a short list of some other standouts that are worthy of mention, with links to their artist streams on Hype Machine.

Yesterday, Conduit Labs announced they were shutting down their experimental music game and community known as Loudcrowd. For two years, Loudcrowd was an electronic hipster haven for fans of outfits like Chromeo, Justice and Van She. Even as they expanded their track offerings to bands like Foals and Yacht, Conduit Labs saw massive growth with their Facebook offerings Music Pets and Super Dance and ultimately decided to abandon the former.

Originally when considering writing this post, I wanted to focus on the functional reasons why Loudcrowd didn’t pan out. When I wrote about the game last May, I pointed to the limited social networking abilities and the niche demographic of electronic fans. Former Director of Marketing Josh Grossman actually stopped by my blog to comment and express that the company shared some of those same feelings.

But now, sitting down to write it, the closing of Loudcrowd is just a sign of the times. There was nothing inherently wrong with the game itself other than it wasn’t hosted on a popular social networking platform. Casual gaming has hit the market full stride and Facebook remains king. According to a recent Mashable survey, 83% of respondents claimed to have played games there. It seems that casual games can’t survive without a powerful portal to back it up.

Not only that, but I think it gives testament to another interesting finding from the Mashable survey (among others). Most online gamers prefer to play with people they know, and not strangers. While Loudcrowd was a place to meet and talk to other fans of the genre, most would rather play a quick round with their BFF on Facebook.

The good news is that Loudcrowd isn’t *really* dead. Conduit Labs’ Facebook game Super Dance runs off the same engine and artistic style. Thanks to a recent distribution deal with UMG, both Super Dance and Music Pets offer a wide range of music that can appeal to all fans. While a lot of Facebook game developers rely on cheap tricks for retention and engagement, Conduit Labs provides a unique product and I wish them continued success.

I’ve been a fan of Marina and the Diamonds for a while now and figured she’d make a great Music Monday post because well, the music just stays good over and over! The Welsh singer-songwriter stormed onto the scene in 2009 and released her first full length this year.

There isn’t much negative you can say about Marina. She’s got a unique, catchy style with the kind of voice that can’t be duplicated. She serves as the antithesis to the glam, overproduced junk infesting pop music today with meaningful lyrics and system-defying views on personal image and the role of celebrity in society.

Forget the talentless garbage like Ke$ha and Gaga, Marina makes phenomenally good pop music and is someone the kids can look up to. She’s a can’t-miss if you haven’t checked out her music already.

Right click and save as to download “Oh no!”

Pick up her debut album today on Amazon

Surely you’ve heard about it by now, the interview that has the entire internet LOLing, or at least scratching their heads. The Artist Now Known as Prince Again recently declared the death of the internet to the UK’s Daily Mirror by stating, “The internet’s completely over.”

Let me pause and give you a chance to catch your breath. Surely, surely this has to be some kind of marketing stunt. After all, the ‘dead’ internet lit up like a tree on Christmas the second his comments were published… on the internet. Prince even admits in the interview that “I really believe in new ways to distribute my music,” even if “new” means releasing it on a dwindling medium (CDs) through an aging distribution channel (newspapers).

It’s not his fault. Prince is known for being one of the most eccentric musicians of our time. He’s spent the better part of his life as a sex symbol, isolated from society by layers and layers of managers, producers and other members of his entourage. His convoluted worldview is apparent with asinine statements in the interview like “The internet’s like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you.”

Okay… let’s take a look at the numbers.

  • On the same day the Prince interview was published online, Variety reported that physical album sales dropped 17.7% and digital album sales rose 13.7% during the first 6 months of 2010.
  • Despite recently increased prices for individual tracks, sales on iTunes continue to grow daily and recently hit 10 billion songs sold in February.
  • Through websites like Pandora and Last.fm, internet radio has grown steadily since 2004 with over 42 million listeners in 2009. The rise of mobile phone sales has lead SNL Kagan to predict a 20% increase in internet radio revenue in 2010.
  • Universal Media Group threw up a hail mary in 2009 when they slashed all CD prices to $6-$10 a piece in an attempt to slow the medium’s demise.
  • Newspapers have lost 16.9% circulation between 2007-2009 and lost 43% in advertising revenue during the same period.

If you’d like more numbers that demonstrate how monstrously moronic Prince’s comments sound, check out Fast Company’s article comparing him to Lady Gaga – arguably the queen of internet music.

In the midst of the social media revolution, Prince declaring the end of the internet is about as ludicrous as Decca Records stating in 1962 that “guitar music is on the way out,” after rejecting a recording contract with the Beatles. I’m not sure what evil internet numbers Prince was referring to (binary code?), but the only thing they can’t be good for are his future album sales and the legacy of his brilliant music to future generations. Hopefully he can pull his head out of the sand long enough to avoid drowning in purple rain.

If you haven’t heard of Felicia Day, The Guild or Second Life then you probably have arrived at the wrong destination. So let’s skip the pleasantries and cut straight to the good stuff. A co-worker of mine passed along a little Second Life video that came out last fall – recreating The Guild’s hilarious music video, “Do you want to date my avatar?” Taking things pretty literally, these “real” avatars put on a pretty good show.

Gotta love a little music in the metaverse. Creator Lowe Runo has a pretty decent collection of machinima music videos on his YouTube channel.

Of course, nothing compares to nerd-queen Felicia Day doing her thing for real. Anyone know how to get bite marks out of your knuckles?

by Courtney Smith

The cornerstone of being an indie rock fan is having your taste in music constantly snarked on. The speed with which information is disseminated on the Internet has amplified indie snobbery and taken it one step further by giving everyone with an opinion a stage on which to express it. People go to music blogs, fromStereogum to Brooklyn Vegan, expressly to comment on bands selling-outs and to inform bloggers that their taste in music sucks. The newest, coolest thing changes literally from minute to minute. And the entire time that Mediafire and Last.fm have been growing in popularity with people who want to share their taste in music with friends, another internet indie cult has also been growing: a secret community of indie rock fans in Second Life.

This little known and rarely seen indie community got its first brand name endorsement when Vice UK agreed to allow Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life (SL), to use their name for an indie music and art island or, as they’re referred to in SL parlance, a “sim.” The place was built by avatar building team Kasabian Beck and Charlotte Bartlett. Bartlett initiated the partnership with Vice UK on behalf of Linden Labs and Beck imported his pre-existing virtual indie club Mixtape, its accompanying toilet karaoke room, and the Poperation art gallery to start the Viceland sim. He’s added a Manchester-reminiscent industrial waterfront, a series of hidden pirate radio rooms, and the Antigone theater, the latter aimed at hosting live bands like the Spanish shoegaze duo [engrama], who played a set there on June 3 as well as broadcasting VBS.tv shows like Soft Focus.

This is not the Vice brand’s first foray into virtual worlds. Virtue, the advertising and consulting arm of Vice US, partnered with MTV on their short-lived virtual world replication of New York’s Lower East Side in 2007. [Full disclosure: I worked at MTV and on the vLES project at the time, and that is how I found myself creating a Second Life avatar and devoting time to uncovering what exactly indie rock fans did in virtual worlds.]

It turns out that Second Life and indie rock are a great combination. If you want to be part of the indie community in Second Life, you have to really work for it. There aren’t constantly indie events you can just walk into, as if it were Twitter or a pick-up basketball game. The community is more akin to a series of underground nightclubs that you need to dress and act the part to be acknowledged in, except it’s full of computer nerds in a virtual world who also happen to be music connoisseurs. As an outsider, you not only have to locate these clubs, but keep coming back until you find people and then impress those people enough to be accepted. Things generally go down sometime between 5 and 11PM PST, which is referred to in-world as Second Life Time or SLT.

Musically, there is an ongoing competition amongst Second Life indie DJs to see who can play the newest stuff, or the best stuff, and even the longest stuff. In the fall of 2009, one DJ played for 26 straight hours without repeating a song. It was advertised as a charity fundraiser, but his now permanent hold on the longest straight time DJing in-world was the most discussed aspect of the stunt.

For the most part, the Internet makes it easy to find and market to the trendsetting indie demographic (just ask Mountain Dew and their Green Label, Toyota Scion at SXSW, or any record label who has ever bought an ad on Pitchfork). But in Second Life’s secret indie rock communities, there are no advertisers. The DJs are music lovers with no affiliations to labels or access to publicists. One DJ, whose avatar name is Oliver Wickentower, said, “In my ‘real’ life I’m the music guru to a lot of my friends. It’s cool that I can turn them on to music I like, but they rarely have anything to offer me. Music blogs are cool but the indie scene in Second Life is like an interactive music blog.”

So, now that you know they’re out there, where can you go to find these mavens of Second Life indie? We offer a club-by-club guide to the American indie scene so that you might pop into a place with the correct level of snobbery and eclecticism to suit you.

The Crow’s Foot — RIYL: Wilco, Black Lips, anything lo-fi

The place was opened by a longtime DJ and bearded avatar who looks a little like Jesus named Woodrow Stapleton. About building his club, he says, “I’m a big fan of vintage [so] I kind of went for a cross between a VFW hall and a hunting lodge.” And while he says anyone who wants to can DJ there, most of the regular DJs find the construction of their sets influenced by the Elks Lodge look of the place and gravitate towards dropping Flaming Lips and Girls tracks. It is perhaps the best place to get high and play SL.

The Velvet — RIYL: Big Star, Sleigh Bells, anything remixed by Fred Falke

Going to the Velvet is jumping off the deep end into the land of indie-snob smart asses. The DJs play whatever is brand new or incredibly obscure or both. It is the longest running indie club in SL, dating back to 2006, and the one where you are most likely to get snubbed for not getting the references. It is designed to look like the inside of a Replacements song circa 1983.

Mixtape @ Viceland — RIYL: Four Tet, Belle & Sebastian, JPop

There aren’t many DJs at Mixtape, because you have to be pretty impressive to be invited to take a regular slot. Proprieter Kasabian Beck specifically goes out looking for the weird and new, cramming everything into a small space so it always feels unique and intimate. It is best summed up by Beck himself: “I’ve always hated the idea that people say ‘I come to [Second Life] to get away from RL [real life]‘. Well, that’s total bullshit because here, just like in RL, there are assholes you don’t like, conversations you don’t want to hear, and people dressed funny.” If you get dressed up funny late on a Saturday night, you can find indie rock karaoke here.

Bombay (b)Indie — RIYL: Neko Case, Smashing Pumpkins, New Pornographers

They skew a little older and a little more West Coast at Bombay. They want to be nice to you and play you KEXP-approved music, making themselves the Stereogum of SL indie. Everyone wants something different on the Internet, and those who skip reading blog comments because they think the trolls are too mean will enjoy Bombay the most.

Alt7 — RIYL: Coldplay, Oasis, Snow Patrol

Always the “indie” club with the most traffic and the most boring music. They have a ton of DJs playing at all hours, which keeps a lot of people coming through. They also play the most mainstream, uncool music. It is probably not even a cool enough joint for Zach Braff to start his career as an avatar there.

This article originally appeared on Flavorwire. Thank you, Courtney, for letting me repost. Follow her on Twitter here.

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