Dedicated to classics and hits.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Comparing Netflix and Spotify In Terms of Subscriber Growth

  I think it's accurate to compare Spotify to Netflix because they both provide the same function: streaming, Spotify for music and Netflix for film/television.  Each have their own competitors who do the same thing but not as well.  For Spotify that's Pandora, for Netflix, Hulu maybe...Amazon Prime.

  But I agree with others who say that the appropriate way to forecast Spotify's growth is buy looking at Netflix subscriber growth.  Here is a chart:

       Personally, I think that Spotify should be able to post similar numbers over time.  Presently, Spotify has 20 million "users" and 4 million "paid users," which is a million more paid users then they had last year.

Show Review: DIIV & Mad Kiwi

Show Review
Mad Kiwi
@ The Casbah

    After reading the Pitchfork review giving the new Oshin, the new DIIV LP on Captured Tracks, a laudatory review,  I wanted to know if they would be good live.  I suspected the answer to that question was "Yes, they are good live." Because Beach Fossils, since Zachary Cole Smith, the main man in DIIV is the "touring guitarist" for Beach Fossils, and presumably he understands the nature of their notable success as recording/touring musicians.

  I had the distinct impression that DIIV was just passing through, and would be onto a venue like the House of Blues, either as a touring or headlining act, next time through.  Also, the IRENIC would make sense, just as it made sense for the recent Beach Fossils show.   The nature of the success of both Beach Fossils and DIIV stems from a combination of well written songs, better then average musicianship and waaaayyy better then usual stagecraft.  

 When I say "stagecraft" I mean the ability of an Artist to engage the Audience with movement and interaction with fellow Artists.  I think there are certain elements of the Audience for indie rock bands that frowns upon excessive movement and stagecraft, but not the Audience that showed up last night.  Forgive me for saying this, but I haven't seen such a solid Tuesday night crowd at the Casbah since Pains of Being Pure At Heart played there in 2009.  Then again, I don't get out much.

  I'm frankly inclined to regard DIIV more as hard eyed professional musicians then dewy faced NYC DIY heroes, but then, Captured Tracks- the label releasing Oshin- gives them that credibility.  They are also going to sell a ton of music for Captured Tracks.  You would expect that anyone called a "touring guitarist" would want to concentrate on their main project, but he can probably swap between the two projects if he's smart, and he seems pretty smart.- I'm talking about Zachary Smith- or maybe just quit Beach Fossils.

  Local openers Mad Kiwi is Brian from Christmas Island and two of the Plateaus. It sounded pretty good.  I think they had a pretty decent Audience of their own. I hear there are recordings, but I haven't heard them.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

The Bronte Sisters

Agnes Grey
 by Anne Brontë
Published in 1847

  It is impossible to write about Agnes Grey without also considering Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.  Agnes Grey and Wuthering Heights were actually published together as a "triple decker" with Wuthering Heights comprising the first two volumes and Agnes Grey the third volume.  The three books were written by the Brontë sisters:  Charlotte (Jane Eyre) and Emily (Wuthering Heights.)  All three were published in 1847, and while Jane Eyre was the "hit" out of the three, an Ngram viewer looking at all three titles at once shows that Wuthering Heights trailed in popularity from the time of publication to the 1940s before pulling even and trading places with Jane Eyre as "most popular novel published by a Bronte sister in 1847" into the 1980s.  Of course, the last 30 or so years have been all Jane Eyre- which you can see in an Ngram comparing the two titles, with Wuthering Heights holding down a respectable second place.

   On the other hand, Agnes Grey is a distant, distant third place although Agnes Grey has a pulse, it is not a strong pulse, and I would argue that it is, at best, a "minor classic" if only by virtue of the relative lack of popularity to the two other novels published by her sisters in the same year as Agnes Grey.

  It is simple enough for the reader to see the influence on Anne Brontë by William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair- it's an influence that is also strong in Jane Eyre, but less so in Wuthering Heights, which is more stylistically in tune with early Gothic/Romance fiction.

  Agnes Grey is about the experiences of the titular character, who serves with a couple different families as a governess.  Agnes Grey is the most auto biographical of the main characters of the Brontë sisters out of the three titles published in 1847.  Anne Brontë actually did work as a governess for five years.   As the wikipedia points out, Agnes Grey also contains elements of the more stylistically advanced "Bildungsroman"- a coming of age story where the main character grows as a person and learns important life lessons during the course of his/her adventures.

  A half century after the publication of Goethe's, The Apprenticeship of William Meister (1796) and Maria Edgeworth's Ormond, the bildungsroman was not fully established in the world.  At the same time, the picaresque- the shapeless "life and adventures" style of novel that ruled the 18th century- had fallen into sharp decline.

 If you look at the "classics" that were published between the turn of the 19th century and the 1840s, there is alot of Sir Walter Scott and his followers (James Fenimore Cooper, Alexandre Dumas, Stendahl, Hugo, arguably Balzac) the emergence of Charles Dickens as a force, Edgar Allan Poe and is about it.  It's important to recognize how fresh and unusual Agnes Grey must have been to the initial Audience for the work- it's certainly more subtle then either Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights and were it written by someone other then the sister of Charlotte and Emily Brontë it would probably get more contemporary attention, but alas.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre

Book Review
Jane Eyre
by Charlotte Brontë
published 1847

  1847 was a huge year for the Brontë family, with the publication of novels by each of the three Brontë sisters.  Charlotte Brontë published Jane Eyre, Anne Brontë published Agnes Gray and Emily Brontë published Wuthering Heights.  All three were published under male pseudonyms.

   Although I personally would have lumped the Brontë sisters novels together with Jane Austen (who published 20 years earlier) before reading Jane Eyre, after reading it I am quite clear that the main influence for Charlotte, at least, was William Makepeace Thackeray and his books Vanity Fair.  She actually says so in the foreword to the public domain edition that I read of Jane Eyre.  You can also find letters where she bad mouths Jane Austen.   There was also about a 20 year period after the publication of Jane Eyre where Charlotte Brontë was a literary celebrity and Jane Austen hadn't been "revived" yet.

  Jane Eyre is truly one of the most remarkable Heroes in literature up till this point in time. She has a fully realized inner life that dwarfs predecessor characters in the works of Jane Austen, let alone a Maria Edgeworth of Frances Burney.

   Like other classics of this period of literature, Jane Eyre has been made into a film on multiple occasions- 21 title matches in IMDB for film and television versions.   I thought the 2011 edition, directed by Cary Fukanaga (director of Sin Nombre) and starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender was particularly excellent.


Show Review: Crystal Stilts, The Mantles & Heavy Hawaii

Show Review
Crystal Stilts
The Mantles
& Heavy Hawaii
@ The Casbah, San Diego, CA.

  The most notable aspect of this concert was this group or six or seven fans that showed up for The Mantles.   Attired in (nearly) matching button up Oxford shirts with neat haircuts and some proper looking eye glasses.  All male, from I could tell.  They spent the entire Mantles set dancing enthusiastically with one another right in front of the stage.  As I was leaving, some of them were performing "chin-ups" on the pedestrian crossing sign that is on the corner immediately outside The Casbah.  Like other bands I've watched in the past month (notably, The Babies and Foxygen) The Mantles come from a songwriting location outside the "mainstream" of the Pitchfork/blog taste circle, but squarely within the larger Audience tastes of "60s and 70s influenced rock music."

   I think the two most important Artistic influences for this group of bands is The Kinks and The Byrds, in the sense that those were both big Audience rock bands that also drew from some of the stylistic innovations of rock bands in the 60s without embodying those genres.   So, I can see what they are shooting for.  I think it bears observation that the natural location for all three of those bands is in Los Angeles, and that none of them are from/live in Los Angeles.

   Here is "how it happened" for The Byrds main man Roger McGuinn:

In 1957, he enrolled as a student at Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music, where he learned the five-string banjo and continued to improve his guitar skills. After graduation, McGuinn performed solo at various coffeehouses on the folk music circuit where he was hired as a sideman by folk music groups in the same vein as the Limeliters, the Chad Mitchell Trio, and Judy Collins. He also played guitar and sang backup harmonies forBobby Darin. Soon after, he relocated to the West Coast, eventually Los Angeles, where he eventually met the future members of The Byrds.

   It's rare to observe the kind of Audience reaction that the Mantles set received from their fans.  Compared to that rare occurrence, the Crystal Stilts headlining set was a predictable affair.  Crystal Stilts are going to be the Crystal Stilts and that does not include any undignified capering or mawkish antics.   You know "people" have told them to be more expressive and their just as clearly are not going to do that.  The songs are strong enough to hear multiple times live in concert.

    I think when a band establishes an Audience size over multiple releases, it's fair to say  that number is high or that number is low, relative to similar bands.  For Crystal Stilts, with 2.4 million last fm plays, you are talking about bands like Thee Oh Sees (also 2.4 million), Beach Fossils (3.7) Vivian Girls (3), Crocodiles (1.2), Blank Dogs (1.0), Ty Segall (2.3), Dirty Beaches (800k), Fresh and Only's (750k)-  you are talking about a group of indie rock bands with overlapping Audiences.  You can see there that the range runs from over 500 thousand plays to a pace towards 5 million, but no one above five million plays yet.

   Let's say you then compared the "similar acts" of Crystal Stilts to that of an Artist like Wavves (8 million).  Now you've got Best Coast (12 million), Jay Retard (3.7), No Age (6), Surfer Blood (4.8), Girls (10 million) as well as overlapping Artists like Beach Fossils and Ty Segall.  It's easy to see that many of the bands that are "similar" to each Artist over lap or share characteristics, but that Wavves similar Artists have more Audience plays then the similar Artists for Crystal Stilts.

  I think the audience that showed up on Saturday night was commensurate with the over-all size of their Audience, something short of a sell-out but more then 150 paid. 

  Opening act Heavy Hawaii was particularly strong.  They are ready to be unleashed upon the world like the "Kraken" in the 1980s version of The Clash of the Titans:

  Ok in the Clash of the Titans clip, Heavy Hawaii is the Kraken, and the Greek city is the Audience.

Statement LP w/ Dirty Beaches, Slim Twig, Ela Orleans & US Girls

Statement LP: Dirty Beaches, Ela Orleans, US Girls, Slim Twig on Clan Destine Record

Statement split LP featuring Slim Twig/Dirty Beaches/Ela Orleans/US Girls
Limited to 500 copies with insert


Slim Twig
Bar Roque
Mary Jane

Dirty Beaches
Neon Gods and Funeral Strippers

Ela Orleans
The Season
19 out of 20 feat Ted Hughes
Good Night

US Girls
Bits and Pieces
911 Song
Chicago War
Slim Baby (Long Distance Dub)
Released by: Clan Destine Records
Release/catalogue number: CDR-LP-009
Release date: Aug 10, 2012

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