The only Billboard Sales Chart that interests me is the one that has the top 150 New Artist Album Sales. Online, Billboard refers to it as Heatseekers Albums.
I would argue that the only criterion worth noting on the Heatseekers Albums chart is how many weeks a release can stay on it. Billboard doesn't disclose actual sales figures- you have to pay big money for that information, so that isn't a subject one can discuss.
The most accurate, non-pejorative statement you can make about the Heatseekers Albums chart is that it is hard to get on it, and it is even harder to stay on it. Everything else being equal: quality of music, genre, etc, the Heatseekers chart tells you which new music acts are making an impression in the minds of consumers. You know that the number of new acts that sold more then 2000 records in a week that AREN'T on the Billboard Heatseekers Album chart is something like 0, or maybe 1. So if you're serious about new music, you need to understand who is on the Heatseekers album chart, and who stays on.
Today my subject is the current winner on the chart: Edwin Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, "Up From Zero." This album has been on the Heatseekers chart for 36 weeks. You'd have to imagine it's closing in on 100,000 in sales, which is a lot of records these days. It's released on Rough Trade/Beggars, which is a respectable record label. The single, "Home" is being played in regular rotation on the local alt rock station in San Diego. The video is actually shot in Marfa, Texas.
Say what you will about the band, Home is a genuine alt rock hit. It's the kind of hooky, well connected song that captures an aspect of the She and Him/Cowboy Junkies/Alt Country Zeitgeist. M Ward? Fuck. It's his moment right now. Whistling! Beards! Freak folk! Country Music! But uh... the problem is that band is fake. Not that the passive listeners give two shits about the authenticity of the project. You want to know the difference between active and passive listeners: first group cares about authenticity, second group doesn't give a shit.
I'll just say, straight up: This band is fake, and so is the music. That doesn't bother me in the least bit, I'm just looking for hits to jam to, and albums that don't suck- pop music you know? Who gives a shit? But people like this album so much that they buy it, which is saying a lot these days and it means that even people who do despise inauthenticity need to pay heed. This is what people like. It's a fact.
I look at a band like this and I just want to say to indie kids: Just make it big and broad and timely and don't worry about whether it's authentic or not. I mean, the musician has to live with their identity 24/7, but you also want to support yourself. And with all due respect to ideas about artistic genius success always happens for a reason.
I would also just, broadly say, that the entire alt country/freak folk world is shit as fake as the most cheesy top 40 cock rock.
Dedicated to classics and hits.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Posted by catdirt at 2:10 PM
Major Label Atlantic Asks Fans to Help Fund New Release Via Pledge Music (HYPEBOT)
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Cecilia, or Memoirs of An Heiress
by Frances Burney
Originally published 1782
This edition, Oxford's World Classics, 2009
Book Review: Evelina by Frances Burney (CAT DIRT SEZ)
France Burney was a (lady) 18th century novelist, primarily known today for being a direct influence on Jane Austen. For example, Jane Austen took the title for her 1813 best seller "Pride and Prejudice" directly from Cecilia, where the phrase appears, for the first time, at the resolution of this book.
The story behind Cecilia is that after Burney scored a hit with her first novel, Evelina, she wrote a play called "The Witlings" but was forbidden(!) from pursuing it by her father. So instead of putting on the play, she wrote Cecilia. I'm not sure why Cecilia is 950 pages long- it was originally published in a set of five volumes, but it is hard to talk about Cecilia without dwelling on that fact. 950 pages.
I suppose, were you to compare Burney's Cecilia with novels by authors like Dickens or Pynchon you might say "Why not 950 pages?" However, Cecilia is not some sprawling epic that takes in disparate location,. multiple characters and several points of view. Cecilia is a novel about two people who want to get married but are prevented from doing so.
That one sentence plot description actually describes a fair minority of books contained in the canon of literature. It contains a majority of classic books from the first half of the 19th century. Burney bears responsibility for that in the same way that Captain Beefheart is responsible for a generation of crappy experimental rock music. It's worth asking why Evelina and Cecilia were so successful, and how France Burney inspired her followers to write the most successful, enduring novels of all time.
To answer the question of why Burney was so successful, you need to start with the audience. First of all, there was an audience. People bought these books, and read them, and loved them. When Cecilia was written, this was an audience that could fairly be described as "hungry" for material. We know they were hungry for material because they had the time and patience to read 950 page books.
I imagine that this reading culture had many of the characteristics that we associate with contemporary sub-cultures. I.e. they communicated with one another, they shared a common taste, had an antagonistic relationship with the dominant culture, common socio-economic background, etc. It's a culture that would have emerged AFTER the larger market for the novel was already established. Beginning in the early 18th century, there was an audience for the novel, dominated by authors who were already working writers and the sort of gifted amateurs/poly maths typified by Goethe and Schiller in Germany.
The young women's reading sub culture would have began by reading books about them written by these men. By the mid 18th century, women began to write novels, and these women readers would have begun to realize that there was a possibility for members of the sub culture to write about themselves. Burney was the first of these, so pre-mature that her socio-economic background places her more in league with the working writer authors of the early 18th century novel then the young women writers of the 19th century novel.
This relationship between audience and author, would, in the early 19th century, produce the most successful, enduring novels of all time. In Cecilia, Burney develops many of the components of these plots to an epic, dickensian degree.
Cecilia is a wealthy heiress whose inheritance is predicated on the requirement that her husband take her last name. At the start of the book, she is 17ish, and her care is given to three guardians: the profligate Mr. Harrell, husband of her childhood friend; Mr. Briggs, a "money man" who cares nothing for society; and Mr. Devile, an officious aristocrat who care more about the "continuance of his line" then anything else. Mr. Devile of course, has a son, Mortimer who happens to be the same age as Cecilia. However, Mortimer is 'the last of his line' so there is NO FUCKING WAY that he will marry an heiress whose husband is required to take her last name. Basically it's that, for 900 pages.
Superlative over the first 500 pages, which describe the slow suicide of Mr. Harrell at the hands of his spendthrift life style, Cecilia becomes catatonic when Burney leaves London for the quiet of the country side. Burney is out of her element in the country, and she isn't particularly convincing at depicting the emotional interior of Cecilia herself. The second half of the book is almost wholly concerned with the marriage plot, and it's easy to see how the whole package was such a hit. Burney is clearly concerned with larger themes then "will they or won't they" marriage details, and that likely won her respect with the contemporary critical community, while the marriage plot made her a hit with the womens reading sub culture.
But for contemporary readers, Cecilia is a non-starter. You'd want to stick with Evelina and move on, that's my advice.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I watch this video every couple months, because this speech- this is what the world is like. Never forget that. If you can watch that video, and you don't get what I'm talking about- well then... It's not a good thing, it's not a bad thing, it's just truth.
Posted by catdirt at 4:52 PM
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