Better Late Than Never: Best Albums of 2012

1. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend Ascend 

1. Godspeed

2. Shearwater – Animal Life

2. Shearwater

3. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

3. Fiona Apple

4. Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas

4. Leonard Cohen

5. Tame Impala – Lonerism

5. Tame Impala

6. Richard Hawley – Standing At The Sky’s Edge

6. Richard Hawley

7. Animal Collective – Centipede Hz

7. Animal Collective

8. Dry The River – Shallow Bed

8. Dry The River

9. The Lumineers – The Lumineers

9. Lumineers

10. Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls

10. Alabama Shakes

Special mentions go to Japandroids and Alt-J for almost making the list.

special-mentions

Best Albums of 2011

1. My Morning Jacket – Circuital

my morning jacket

2. Wilco – The Whole Love

wilco

3. Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean

iron and wine

4. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

fleet foxes

5. The Black Keys – El Camino

black keys

6. Decemberists – The King Is Dead

decemberists

7. The Antlers – Burst Apart

antlers

8. Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi – Rome

rome

9. TV On The Radio – Nine Types Of Light

tvotr

10. Lady Gaga – Born This Way

lady gaga

Special mention goes to The Naked And Famous for their debut album Passive Me, Aggressive You. It really is a gem, but it missed the top 10 by a drum beat.

naked and famous

KONGOS. Rock. Pretoria.

This weekend past the KONGOS killed at Park Acoustics. If you were there, good on you. You’re part of a crowing number of people joining the movement. If you weren’t able to make it, perhaps you’ll join us next year for a Sunday picnic with great music in our beautiful city.

The KONGOS are four brothers: Danny, Dylan, Jesse and Johnny (Kongos) from Phoenix, Arizona. Their song “I’m Only Joking” has been cutting through the airwaves everywhere recently, and I suspect their new single, “Come With Me Now” might do the same. Their dad John Kongos is a South African who looks a little like John Lennon and wrote a few international hits in his day.

The KONGOS debut album ‘Lunatic’ is so much more than the sound of “I’m Only Joking” though, and so is their live performance. You can expect everything from world music and folk inspired melodies to foot-stomping, powerful drum-driven rock.

Check out the snaps I took of their gig at Park Acoustics below. Since they’re here they’ll be doing a few shows, so while you’re checking out their tour dates on www.kongos.com sign up with your email address. The KONGOS are such nice guys, they’ll give you 5 free tracks! Win!

They also did a great interview with Blimpfilms for us!

Park Acoustics have an event every month at the Voortrekker Monument. Unfortunately this was the last one for the year, but join the conversation with us at www.facebook.com/park.acoustics

Drugs with benefits

I’ve just written my marketing exam. It’s the second exam since I was a student squillion years ago. It’ll probably be at least another 5-7 years for the course I’m doing, and this is where I’ll record the sometimes horrible but hugely rewarding experience.

It’s been a little difficult getting back into the swing of studying, but there are a few things that make it more tolerable. These are summer, NRG and Biral.

Herbalife’s NRG is the student’s best friend, made of guarana powder with some other stuff that’s good for you. Drink it and focus for 3 hours solid. Best known as a coffee substitute, it works much better than you’d think a health product would, and it’s also really great for hangovers.

Due to stupid standards of excellence, I stress about the exam a lot, which is where Biral steps in. It allows one to calm the hell down and blurt everything you know out on paper in a coherent and logical fashion. Priceless clarity during an exam.

Summer of course needs no explanation, because everything is just better during an African summer. Braais outside, watermelon and Christmas, summer is always where the fun is at (after the exam). I’m not sure what subject I’ll do next, but summer probably won’t be part of the equasion.

Postmodernism is dead. Let’s dance.

Postmodernism is Dead. Let's Dance.

Google Trends tells me that Postmodernism has been in the news again recently. Apparently, on the 24th of September, Postmodernism is officially over. This makes me very happy.

From the 24th of September 2011 to the 15th of January 2012, the Victoria and Albert Museum open “the first comprehensive retrospective” on the movement: “Postmodernism – Style and Subversion 1970-1990.” It’s about time too, Postmodernism has overstayed its welcome. In South Africa it was on its last legs when I finished art school almost 10 year ago. Evidently in the sea of confusion, those in the know assumed we were still in Postmodernism (woops). But regardless of whatever movement we’re in or have been moving towards, does anyone care about defining the beginning and end of Postmodernism?

I do, but only because I studied the bollocks and I want to see the ass end of it. This post is not a lesson on Postmodernism, go read the Wikipedia entry or this article. Postmodernism and its wide definition of art, where anything can be justified, became a self-fulfilling prophecy. If anything can be put forward as art simply by writing a paper with big words in it and making academic references, then nothing is art.

I used to care about art, but Postmodernism killed that for me. As a philosophical movement it was great, teaching us that commentary on society can occur anywhere (and so much more). As a movement associated with artworks I believe it had an unintended, negative influence on artists, the craft and the works produced.

The man in the street doesn’t care. He or she just wants something pretty to put on the wall. The casual art observer wants something that isn’t too offensive and is sure to be an investment. These days I get my fill of social commentary from the internet and Southpark, and I look forward to the next art movement that doesn’t contain the word ‘modernism.’

This comic proudly stolen from Dinosaur Comics

Waiting for Paul Simon… Couldn’t resist sneaking a photo.

And by sneaking, I mean I wasn’t actually allowed to, but I couldn’t help myself. I mean, I was about to see Paul Friggin’ Simon, the awesome legend. C’mon.

He played an intimate gig tonight at the SABC, which was recorded. It’s my understanding that this is for the 25th anniversary of Graceland (which is next year). It was pretty much a Graceland reunion gig with Hugh Masekela, Ray Phiri, Ladysmith Black Mambazo…all the greats. It was incredible, and even included a tribute to Miriam Makeba. The atmosphere was electric.

“Boy In The Bubble” was my personal highlight, but nothing beats singing along to “You Can Call Me Al” with 300 other people, including Paul Simon.

He released a new album this year, “So Beautiful Or So What,” and I think it’s his best since Graceland. In many ways it actually reminds me a lot of his debut album, check it out at his official website.

Hey online music services, over here!

I just don’t get it. Why hasn’t iTunes’ music offering, Amazon’s mp3 Store, eMusic or a kickass streaming service like Spotify or Rhapsody launched in South Africa yet? There’s so much happening internationally, yet promising developing countries like South Africa aren’t invited to the party. Why?

The most commonly used reasons are licensing issues and the insignificant size of our market when compared to Europe and the U.S. Whatever. This is a massive opportunity being overlooked by the Big Guns. Strikes, lack of infrastructure, and the costs associated with setting up shop in a new territory are not applicable. South Africa is the gateway to Africa, and as far as available music services go there’s very little competition.

Although the iTunes store is open to South Africans, only apps are available for purchase. The choices when using a mobile device are cellular networks and those fly-by-night companies that advertise on eTV. For desktop purchases, music consumers can visit the Nokia OVI Store, Omusic and the newly launched Look & Listen mp3 Store.

For some consumers this is okay, but none of these options excite me. I’m a wannabe tech geek and Apple fan girl with strange music tastes. I want to buy from a platform that I know and trust to just work. Why should I be forced to settle for less because of my geographical location?

It makes even more sense for RiSA to push for an iTunes launch, since the volume of legitimately paid-for sales through the US iTunes store must be staggering. There are many South African websites that make reference to opening a fake US iTunes account, and even more devoted to the sale of iTunes vouchers. Unfortunately, all that money leaves the South African economy… Also, it’s illegal.

There are dozens of forums and sites detailing how to mask a South African IP address to access legitimate music services currently unavailable in South Africa. There are also plenty BitTorrent networks to choose from if you want to rip off artists. In this day and age we’re able to take from cyberspace what we want when we want it, which is why I believe the key to reducing piracy is to make it easier to find and pay for a song than to steal it.

Sure, it takes time to get the licensing agreements and publishing in place, but other international companies have shown that getting local agreements in place can be done. From there the rest of Africa can be a cinch, especially where broadband penetration is better. Where there’s a will, and maybe some smart strategic foresight, there’s a way. Hopefully we’ll start seeing some more international competition in this space soon.