Wheels of steel adventurer: Grandmaster Flash in Chicago, January 1985.
(Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Wheels of steel adventurer: Grandmaster Flash in Chicago, January 1985.
(Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
What's Missing From Music Streaming, Milli Vanilli's Rise and Fall, Bootleg Podcasts, BTS, Sturgill Simpson...
Matty Karas, curator February 21, 2020
quote of the day
After a while, I had to start diagnosing the vinyl. My mother was a seamstress, so I took one of her needles and put the tip inside the black tunnel and felt a vibration. I'm like, 'Holy moly – the music lives in the black tunnels!
rant n' rave

When I was doing college radio in ye olden days of vinyl and carts and DJs who weren't prepping for jobs in the record industry—they just wanted to, like, play records—there was a big white sticker on the jacket of every album in the WMFO library on which DJs could scribble their thoughts on the music within. Our tiny station's programming was freeform and so were the scribbles—random reviews and reactions and thoughts on the sax solo on track 3 and messages to one another about whose mind might be blown by track 7 and who might want to avoid the record altogether. Vinyl records were a good canvas for this, offering plenty of space. I was reminded of this as I read DAVID TURNER's thoughts, in his PENNY FRACTIONS newsletter, on the curious lack of social features at major music streaming services. "What little fragments of leftover social features exist" at APPLE MUSIC, SPOTIFY, TIDAL and YOUTUBE MUSIC, he writes, "are primarily afterthoughts at this point." But why, he wonders. How is it that my college radio station, with its stickers and pens, offered more ways to interact and share music and thoughts with friends than Apple Music does with all its technology and all its users? On brand for his excellent newsletter, Turner lays some blame on the "capitalistic oligopolistic beast" that controls the music that all the services depend on. He also posits that the industry's current growth cycle gives the services "little reason to try new things." He gives credit to TIKTOK for innovating in music and social, while suggesting that service's "outsider status" may be the reason why. But why can't I easily—or even not easily—tap into what my friends are listening to when I'm using Spotify's mobile app? Why can't I tap into my friend's collections? Why can't a few of us listen together, in real time, to the same playlist or the same deep jazz cut and talk about it? Why do all the major services, apart from an algorithm here and a podcast there, look and work exactly the same? This is almost terrifying. This is just sad. I've written about this before, and there are smaller services working on various edges of the sector that have some interesting ideas in DIY radio, social playlisting and more. SOUNDCLOUD, true to its origins, has some traditional social features built in. I can always hang out on TWITTER. But what are the social teams at Apple, Spotify and the rest? Where are those new ideas? Where's the ability, as Turner asks, to leave comments for friends or other fellow travelers in playlists and mixes? Where's the ability for them to respond in kind? And for us to listen in unison, if not in harmony?... I've always believed that the RECORDING ACADEMY should give MILLI VANILLI its GRAMMY back. Here's my basic argument. (And here's FAB MORVAN agreeing with me, one of the highlights of my REDEF career.) My friend GIL KAUFMAN has put together this novella-length oral history of MV's rise and fall for BILLBOARD (plus this sidebar on the little-known Baltimore origins of the song "GIRL YOU KNOW IT'S TRUE"), and it serves as a useful reminder of this: Though the group hadn't yet come out of the lip-syncing closet, everybody absolutely knew long before MV won the Best New Artist Grammy. It's quite possible, probable even, that the music industry wasn't angry at Morvan and ROB PILATUS for never having sung a note; rather, it was angry at itself for giving them an award for it. The Milli Vanilli brain trust (read: everybody but Rob and Fab) understood that. The group wasn't supposed to have been submitted for Grammy consideration. If a manager's assistant hadn't gone ahead and submitted on his own—he got chewed out for it—we might not have had to have this discussion. And the album GIRL YOU KNOW IT'S TRUE might still be in print. How on earth has it not been reissued? Vinyl, bonus tracks, honest liner notes, come on somebody do it... Speaking of the Grammys, the Recording Academy and DEBORAH DUGAN are in mediation... STURGILL SIMPSON will not be in mediation with ELEKTRA RECORDS anytime soon, or ever. He shall not be giving his label "anything ever again"... It's FRIDAY and that means new music from BTS, GRIMES, the CHAINSMOKERS, MOSES SUMNEY, OZZY OSBOURNE, KAMAIYAH, BEST COAST, KING KRULE, YOUNGBOY NEVER BROKE AGAIN, CALBOY, ROYCE DA 5'9", KODIE SHANE, PAT METHENY, COLLOCUTOR, GREG DULLI, BIB, SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE, SARAH HARMER, WILSEN, KATIE PRUITT, SWEET LIZZY PROJECT, BANOFFEE, GUIDED BY VOICES, TOO FREE, DELROY EDWARDS, ELUVIUM, CATE LE BON & GROUP LISTENING, AGNES OBEL, LANTERNS ON THE LAKE, CALIFONE, SONNY LANDRETH, LEE RANALDO & RAÜL REFREE, MONDO GENERATOR, POLARIS, ALLIE X, ZOË MCPHERSON and YACHT ROCK REVUE... And 30 albums by celebrated anime composer JOE HISAISHI arrive at streaming services today, along with a new best-of collection. He's the principal composer for STUDIO GHIBLI, whose catalog was added to NETFLIX this month... RIP BONNIE MACLEAN.

Matty Karas, curator

February 21, 2020