The 2013 Grammy Awards played it safe and got it wrong

Mumford & Sons accepting the Album of the Year at the 2013 Grammys. Ho hum.

If the Grammy Awards are indeed 'Music's Biggest Night,' then it's no wonder that the industry itself is in so much trouble. Despite the Academy's best efforts in recent years to draw the "alternative" music fan into the mainstream self-congratulatory love fest that is the Grammys -- even going so far as to bestow some of the biggest awards to Arcade Fire and Bon Iver in the past two ceremonies -- the show typically plays out in rather bland, predictable fashion where the biggest-selling albums and most recognizable/marketable artists are rewarded for doing their part to save a struggling industry, while a majority of innovative music consistently gets ignored.

While criticizing an easy target like the Grammys is as tired and tedious as most of the performances from last night's ceremony, is it futile for music fans to ask more from what is supposedly our 'Biggest Night'?

See Also:
Gotye gushes about Prince, Katy Perry jabs Bon Iver at 2013 Grammys
My mom reviews the Grammy Awards 2013 nominees

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Obscurity rules, or how I learned to stop worrying and love Jandek

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See Also:
Obscurity Sucks
I buy more music than Emily White, and you should too

Last week, our St. Louis sister-paper the Riverfront Times published a provocative piece by Ryan Wasoba titled "Obscurity Sucks." In the article, Wasoba makes the point that "taking pride in obscurity is one of the lowest forms of music appreciation" and that it is "much more satisfying to talk to somebody I have never met before about Kanye West than to tell them they should listen to (insert band here)."

And while he sums up how music fans often interact these days, and the lasting connections forged over enjoying the same band as someone else, I'm much more inclined to say the opposite -- that obscurity rules. All this talking about the same bands, who get the majority of the publicity and endless radio play while inevitably headlining all of the summer's music festivals, grows tiresome and boring, frankly.

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I buy more music than Emily White, and you should too

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Photo By Erik Hess

There have been heated discussions and analysis springing up throughout all facets of the music community this week in response to NPR intern Emily White's candid but thoroughly controversial piece, 'I Never Owned Any Music To Begin With,' which was published on the All Songs Considered blog on Saturday.

In her piece, the nearly 21-year-old readily admits to being spoiled by the free music that the internet (and the music industry she works within) offers her, and confesses that even though her iTunes library has over 11,000 songs in it, she has personally purchased only 15 CDs in her lifetime.

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Record Store Day 2012: Keep independent Twin Cities shops open

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Photo By Erik Hess
With the musical madness of Record Store Day about to sweep over the Twin Cities and the rest of the country once again on Saturday, it seems like an opportune time to celebrate the many outstanding options within both Minneapolis and St. Paul to shop for our music. As Record Store Day thankfully continues to gain momentum each year, and the limited-edition, RSD-exclusive releases grow ever more tempting, our local shops continue to plan larger and larger music events that only add to the festivities. 

But we shouldn't just support them one day out of the year, either, as we've all sadly witnessed many excellent record stores being forced to close up shop over the years. For those who work in downtown Minneapolis, Target has unfortunately become the only place to buy music in the immediate vicinity.

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Spin starts tweeting 140-character album reviews: Is this the end (or beginning) of music criticism?

On Wednesday, Spin magazine announced that they would be launching a new Twitter account dedicated to providing 140-character reviews of records, doing away with most (but not all) long-form album reviews associated with the magazine. According to his introductory essay about the undertaking, Senior Editor Christopher Weingarten (who himself tweeted reviews of 1000 different albums via his @1000TimesYes twitter handle) explained that this would free their writers up to put more work into the 20 extended reviews per month that will still be found on Spin's website, as well as tackle many more obscure albums that perhaps would not have been mentioned otherwise.

While I certainly applaud the forward-thinking ambition of Spin, I have to question the fairness and depth of a cursory twitter review of music that a band or musician dedicated so much time and effort towards, and reducing it to the mere equivalent of a catchy sound-bite.

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Miles Davis began recording Bitches Brew on this date in 1969, and changed modern music forever

With the dust of the just-completed Woodstock festival still settling, Miles Davis was on his own idiosyncratic trip on this date in 1969, as he settled into Columbia Records' 30th Street Studio in Manhattan to begin the three-day recording sessions that would produce his groundbreaking jazz-rock record, Bitches Brew. The album features a stellar cast of musicians who came to the studio with little knowledge of what they were getting into or what songs they were going to play. Davis thrived on playing in the moment, giving very little direction to the players or demands for what directions he wanted the songs to go, while also knowing exactly what type of style and sound he was searching for. More »

Uptown Bar's relocation dead in the water

From local business paper Finance & Commerce comes some sad, if not entirely surprising, news about the Uptown Bar's planned relocation.

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Dizzy get busy at the Red Stag

Dizzy's Mark K. Johnson
Once upon a time in America, hip and funky were synonymous. But somewhere in the last twenty years, hipster went from being a term to describe jazz fans to being a term to describe waif-ish twentysomethings in Brooklyn--people who wouldn't know a swung eighth note if it came up and knocked the PBR out of their ironic koozie. I blame the drum machine.More »

Orange Mighty Trio take a musical roadtrip on "Infrastructure"

The music on Orange Mighty Trio's sophomore release, Infrastructure, ranges from the quiet, contemplative mood of opener "Point A" to the propulsive, restless urgency of "Driving With Your Eyes Open" to the chugging, train-inspired jump blues of "Orange Line," but no matter the tempo or approach, their music is always shot through with a tinge of Old World nostalgia. Part of it is down to the instrumentation: a piano, a violin, and a bass playing together without rhythm instruments are inevitably going to sound a little wistful, a throwback to simpler times. But a lot of it comes down to their gentle, way with a fragile melody, as on standout track "Convergence."

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Why Twin Cities music rules

On a Monday night last year, I went to the Clown Lounge for Jazz Implosion. I go fairly regularly now, but at the time, I'd only been a handful of times. More or less hosted by Fat Kid Wednesdays (unless someone is on tour), Jazz Implosion has been a Twin Cities' mainstay for years. It's an establishment, and so we more or less don't think about it.

But on this particular Monday, sitting in a booth tucked alongside the stage left wall (if you could even call it a stage--the musicians just move the couch and coffee table out of the way and set up), I found myself thinking about what it means to have Jazz Implosion here in the Twin Cities. I though about it while I watched Fat Kid Wednesdays (Michael Lewis on saxophone, J.T. Bates on drums and Adam Linz on bass) and munched on the homemade Sloppy Joe I'd gotten from a crock pot brought by Bates' wife. The bun was the soft, perfect, generic kind you get at Rainbow; the meat was warm and smokey. And I thought of everyone who leaves.

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