Sunday, August 21, 2011

Why I'm Not Reviewing Ida Maria's New Album

I loved Ida Maria's debut album, Fortress 'Round My Heart. It's one of my favorite albums of the last five years, so I jumped at the chance to review Katla, her recent follow-up. But my primary outlet for album reviews these days is CD Hotlist, an online publication aimed at people who buy music recordings for libraries. And that's the hitch. Katla is part of a growing trend of albums that are only available as digital downloads, not in physical form. To make a long story short, because of standard end-user license agreements, libraries can't buy digital downloads for their borrowers to use. My colleague D. J. Hoek has written about this issue in greater detail. So there is no point in CD Hotlist running a review of an album that libraries can't buy.
I'm hoping the situation will change. In the short run, I hope Ida Maria's label will view Katla as enough of a priority to issue it on CD. In the long run, I hope the copyright laws will change or vendors will change their restrictions so that libraries can collect, preserve and allow access to digital-only recordings. I've got a review of the album ready to go. The short version is that it's awesome.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Concert Recommendation: Fountains of Wayne, Brighton Music Hall, August 12 & 13

I just finished my third music theory class. My professor praised my work on my final project, asking if was my first composition. I explained that I had only composed for assignments in my music theory classes. I've been aware that I'm perfectly capable of writing something that meets the criteria for an assignment but have absolutely no idea about its aesthetic values: it's correct, but is it any good? I have my doubts.

Then I came home and listened again to Sky Full of Holes, the new album by Fountains of Wayne. My rudimentary composition skills will never match their ability to craft hooks. The new album isn't quite as heavy on them as some of their previous releases, but the band's entire body of work is overrun with them. They will showing off their hooks in a pair of Boston shows, one electric, one acoustic, this weekend. They will also be showing off their other skills: the specificity of their lyrics, Jody Porter as their secret weapon adding muscle on guitar, and a general sense of playfulness with their presentation.

I'm not fretting over not matching their compositional skills since I can compensate with other expertise. I've reviewed the new album for CDHotlist: New Releases for Libraries. I'm surprised that other reviewers have failed to comment on the change in perspective, that they are now writing about people well into adulthood, which I particularly appreciate as someone who is well into adulthood myself.

Fountains of Wayne play the Brighton Music Hall, 158 Brighton Avenue, Allston, MA, 617-779-0140, with Nicole Atkins at 9:00 p.m. on Friday, August 12 (electric) and Saturday, August 13 (acoustic).