Laurie Anderson & Opinions on The Roots and Portishead

Singer, songwriter, poet and performance artist Laurie Anderson sits down with Jim and Greg to discuss her always ambitious, and often provocative, art and music.

Laurie Anderson
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After being heralded as the next wave of music retail, Starbucks’ Hear Music label is folding and moving its artists to Concord Music. Apparently Starbucks has realized that physical music sales is not an easy business. And now artists like Paul McCartney, James Taylor and Sia won’t be able to depend on the coffee chain for their...um...buzz.

Jim and Greg’s next news item concerns one of the biggest selling bands of all time: Coldplay. But this time, the British pop group is making headlines for making absolutely no money at all. The Chris Martin-fronted band released their new single Violet Hill as a free download earlier this week, and so far their strategy is a success. Within a day over 600,000 people downloaded the song the song for free. Jim and Greg will review the Brian Eno-produced album when it comes out in June, but right now they’re more interested in this promotional plan. In the music industry’s new era, even a band as established as Coldplay has to shake up the formula to get and keep fans.

Laurie Anderson

Another artist who is never afraid to try new things is Laurie Anderson, Jim and Greg’s guest this episode. Anderson has been making music, along with other forms of art, for almost 30 years. But, as she explains, her career began by accident. Anderson’s song O Superman became a surprise hit in the UK and got her a recording contract. That never stopped Anderson from experimenting though. As NASA’s first and only artist-in-residence, it’s always been important for her to explore lots and lots of areas, and never become an expert. This attitude contributed to Anderson’s decision not to cancel her Chicago show on September 11, 2001. Greg remembers her performance that night as one of the most powerful he’s ever witnessed.

Rising Down The Roots

Rising Down (Bonus Version)

Hip hop group The Roots released its 10th album this week, Rising Down. The band started out with a more neo-soul vibe, but as Greg points out, over the years The Roots have gotten a lot harder and edgier. Some of the album’s songs are downright creepy, and Greg loves ?uestlove’s drumming. But he can’t go so far as to give it a Buy It. Jim has loved a number of Roots’ albums, especially 1999’s Things Fall Apart, but he finds their efforts inconsistent. This time around The Roots called in a number of guest stars, but Jim wishes they had stuck to their own members. Rising Down has some good moments, but both critics can only give it a Try It.

Third Portishead

Third

Now onto the U.K.’s answer to hip hop... trip hop. Portishead, pioneers of the moody, sample-based genre, also have a new album out called Third. It’s the group’s first album in 10 years, so fans have been heavily anticipating what they have to offer. But, Greg is concerned that people accustomed to the cool, sophisticated sound of 1994’s Dummy will be taken aback. Third is no dinner-party soundtrack. It’s jarring and subversive, but Greg loves it. Jim agrees, but doesn’t think it’s actually a radical reinvention. Singer Beth Gibbons has always been moody, only now she is looking outward rather than in. And the music is still filled with synths, beats and weird sounds. Both Jim and Greg give Third a Buy It.

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