Spoon & Opinions on Jay Z

Jim and Greg welcome indie rockers Spoon to perform songs from their new album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. They’ll also review the latest from hip hop mogul Jay Z.

Spoon
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First up Jim and Greg talk about Matchbox Twenty. That’s right, Matchbox Twenty. But it isn’t the adult contemporary gods’ music our hosts are interested in; it’s their new album release strategy. Rob Thomas and company are releasing 11 versions of their new album Exile on Mainstream including a USB bracelet, iTunes bundle, VH1 stream, and a good old-fashioned CD. It is certainly out-of-the-box thinking for the band’s label, but it remains to be seen how fans will respond.

Another novel approach to music marketing is the fusion of rock and...video games. Guitar Hero III recently hit the stores, and in just seven days it made over $100 million. The game is selling for much more than a standard CD, but as Jim and Greg explain, those numbers are higher than most bands can boast. In 2006, the video game industry made 12.5 billion dollars, while the music industry was down to 12 billion and sinking. This fact hasn’t gone unnoticed by labels, and now many bands are using games like Guitar Hero to promote themselves. This version contains tracks by the Beastie Boys, Weezer and Smashing Pumpkins, and The Sex Pistols even re-recorded their anti-capitalist punk anthem Anarchy in the U.K. just for the game. Call them out-of-touch, but Jim and Greg wonder why rock fans aren’t just picking up a real guitar?

The Eagles also had a successful week. Their new album, the first in studio effort in 28 years, hit the #1 spot on the Billboard Chart. This was due to a change in chart policies. Previously Nielsen SoundScan didn’t include sales figures from individual retailers. But, now that artists are striking exclusive deals with outlets like Target, Starbucks, and in this case, Wal-Mart, the band was able to beat out Britney and score the year’s second-best selling album.

Long Road Out of Eden Eagles

Long Road Out of Eden

So consumers are excited about Long Road Out of Eden, but how do Jim and Greg feel? Greg explains that with the exception of mentions of cell phones and SUV’s, this album could just as easily have been made in 1980 as 2007. Don Henley and Glenn Frey are still up to their old tricks, mixing country and rock with a hint of sentimentality. In fact, while their country-rock fusion sound was radical in the 1970s, it’s the norm in Nashville today. Greg hears nothing on this record that needs hearing, and recommends fans of the band check out their 1990 greatest hits album. Jim completely agrees; he doesn’t want to hear Don Henley preaching about the sorry state of the world, particularly when the band agreed to sell its soul to Wal-Mart. But, more egregious than the terrible lyrics is the sleepy sound. The Eagles managed to be both irritating and boring, so they get a double Trash It.

Spoon

One of Jim and Greg’s favorite albums of the year so far comes from the indie rock band Spoon. Despite the odd title, they fell for the combination of minimal art pop with Phil Spector-like arrangements and orchestrations. This is the band’s sixth album, and the fourth they’ve made with indie label Merge (also home to another indie success story— Arcade Fire). Jim and Greg start by asking lead singer and songwriter Britt Daniel about the approach to this album. He explains that the band was definitely inspired by Motown groups like The Supremes—something that may come as a surprise to fans who are used to a sparser sound.

One of the people responsible for the Spoon sound is producer Mike McCarthy. But, the band also worked with Jon Brion on a couple of songs. Other surprising influences: Queen and AC/DC. Songs like We Will Rock You, and Back in Black, are fairly simple and minimal, but they have that rhythm and that thing that draw you in. Listen to Spoon’s take on that thing in the songs Don’t Make Me a Target, Rhythm and Soul, and Don’t You Evah.

American Gangster Jay Z

American Gangster (Acappella)

This week Jay Z releases his tenth album, American Gangster. Inspired by the movie of the same name, the current king of hip hop (and possibly of all time), brings another dose of gangsta stories told with his trademark flow. In 2003, the rapper retired, and then un-retired. His return album, Kingdom Come, was a major disappointment to Jim and Greg, but Greg for one is pleased with what he’s hearing on American Gangster. The stories are nothing new, but Greg loves the way Jay-Z crafts them. He is also returning to the ‘70s blaxploitation sound that infused one of his best albums, The Blueprint. While the mogul certainly doesn’t need any cash, Greg gives this album a Buy It. Jim is less enthused. He loves the production, and was shocked to hear great beats from Sean Diddy Combs, but the lyrics are too much of a hurdle for him to get over. He wishes Jay Z’s ideas were as complex and nuanced as those in the movie American Gangster and only gives the record a Try It.

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