We’ve been seeing quite a few great sites of late, and it’s inspired us to write again, if only for Wednesday Web.
Recordjunkie.com is a simple idea. It lists, and breaksdown the list, of great record shops around the world. It’s seems this is more important now than ever. In the past, great record stores depended on an international network and was tied to mail order and later online purchases. Great stores like Amoeba in LA or Rough Trade in London were known around the world.
Not saying that Recordjunkie will start a revolution. But it’s a solid idea and should be supported. You can read people’s store reviews as well.
It’s still in Beta, so hopefully more functionality will go with it. All we know is that every holiday we take from now on, we will be checking in with this site first.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – as the old saying goes. And if there is any doubt that computers are the new rock ‘n’ roll, we are now in a world where tech journalists are being parodied. And brilliantly so.
If you don’t know Walt Mossberg, the human version, he is the long time tech journalist for the Wall Street Journal. He is a big supporter of Apple products, and often gets products before release to review – making him hot commodity in the tech world. He’s grumpy demeanor and his video blogs on the All Things Digital site are well known to Mac fans, and technology fans in general.
So along comes Walt Mosspuppet. From the brilliant Rant Puppets studio, Mosspuppet was one of many parody puppets on the site. But Mosspuppet has struck a chord. In recent weeks, he has launched a twitter account, a podcast and a cool new blog.
Everyone wants information these days. Leaks, spoilers, exclusives – all hot words in this day and age. The real Mossberg has them, and Mosspuppet sends up that culture better than anyone. In his regular videos, Mosspuppet goes on about his NDAs, how he’s had the Apple Tablet for months but can’t talk about it. He’s also disturbingly in love with Steve Jobs. His enemies are any of Apple’s competitors. In short, he is the cartoon of every Mac worshipper out there.
Here’s one of my favourites, that pretty much sums up his credo
But as with every lie, there’s some truth. The blog is fantastic, bursting the bubble on net rumours, bad journalism, insane fandom and there is just some pretty decent swearing as well.
It’s hard to keep up with vast, random wasteland that is the ‘blogosphere’. With thousands and thousands of voices all going at it, how can you both tell what’s going on and find what you’re looking for? In the music world, we have an imperfect solution in Elbo.ws.
It’s essentially a blog aggregator. It pips competitors like hype machine for us with some very important features. One is the list of most talked about artists that lives on the right of the front page. There’s also the latest articles feed, which makes all these music blogs feel like one big blog. Most importantly of all, the tracks feature means you can drill down to a specific track, even if it was posted many years ago.
In the last few years, Elbo.ws has taken off in a big way. You can tell this by the fact the ads have gotten bigger. It’s also skewered towards American indie. But at least now, when someone says ‘the blogosphere is going wild for …. ” you can actually check for yourself.
Harry Nilsson‘s coffin was lost? ‘Dirty Diana‘ was about Diana Ross? Superman was a spy? All this and more is answered at Entertainment Legends Revealed. It’s poorly named, badly designed and cumbersome to navigate – but the STORIES are great.
This site started as a column at Comic Book Resources called Comic Book Legends Revealed. It’s been running for years now, and is currently up to column 212, and a book version called ‘Was Superman A Spy?’ is out now. Recently, it’s expanded to include movies, music, TV and even paintings, opera and board games.
We thought we knew our share of trivia, but the writers behind this site have dug out some fantastic stories. And they explain the stories from scratch, introducing the players and images galore to help illustrate the situation. They go for great/weird stories over people who are famous. How else would you explain a whole week of music legends dedicated to the Lovin’ Spoonful? It’s still a great read even if you don’t know who they are.
We are surprised what we’ve learnt. Deep Blue Something‘s one hit ‘Breakfast At Tiffanys’ was actually inspired by ‘Roman Holiday’! KISS‘s logo is different in Germany for a very touchy reason. Graham Nash wrote one of his biggest hits on a dare. The comic book stuff has fascinated us for years. We are learning new stories about films and TV now, on a weekly basis.
Again, we love a site that is well written and constantly updated. It looks a bit ugly but hopefully that will be fixed. Even if you are the biggest know-it-all there is, there will be something here for you.
After several weeks of this column, talking about great new website doing cool things online and with music, this week we present to you a website that’s truly in line with what the internet is about. Cheap gags.
You know a site is important when it’s Google search results has it’s own search bar. Such is the awesomeness of the Smoking Gun, now in it’s 12th year of publication. If you don’t know it, you may have heard of some of the stuff that’s on there. Smoking Gun collects documents that are fascinating, shocking or damning. It slants towards legal documents. Mugshots, who’s-suing-who’s and other incriminating evidence.
But our favourite part of the site is the collection of band riders. Found in the ‘Backstage‘ area of the site, 250 lists of what artists demand when they rock into your town. The crazy excess of rock ‘n’ roll life is now laid bare. The most famous backstage demand of all – Van Halen asking for no brown m&m’s – has been preserved on this site.
Most of them are quite dry, but a couple are truly amazing. Above and beyond the occasional ridiculous demand, sometimes you have a tour manager or a stage manager who should have written for comedy.
We have two far and away favourites. Iggy Pop (requests for someone dressed as Bob Hope) and Foo fighters (one bag of Pirate Booty, not Johnny Depp’s).
After several weeks of clever, innovative, practical and obscure websites in our Wednesday Web column, it’s good to just write about a simply fun site. And hey, it’s still the kind of music site that can exist in this brave new age.
All Music. The daddy of all music sites. Formerly All Music Guide, and celebrating it’s 18th year, it is an authoritative and exhaustive database of band bios and music reviews. All cleverly linked to each other and (mostly) superbly written, it is by far the one website that has turned us onto more music than any other.
There are many things we love about this site.
1) The database is huge. Just about any band, no matter how small has a page. For the bigger bands, all manner of import compilations and obscure live albums are listed. Also, most different editions of the same albums get a look in. It’s huge.
2) By no means all, but there are thousands upon thousands (we would not be suprised if it’s over a million!) reviews, band bios and stories to read. Most are superbly written. Being written just for the web, some of the reviews can be quite long as the physical limitations of the printed page are thrown away.
3) The album ratings system. Want to know where to start with the Kinks? Let All Music tell you. We often use if for compilations – a bigger mine field. What’s the best Chet Baker compilation? The man has dozens of collections. All Music has an opinion – and you’d be wise to listen.
4) Similar artists. Every band page has links to similar artists, followers and influences. So when you find a new sound you love, you can read about the band, their older albums, and see what else is like that. Yes, there are plenty of recommendation search engines out there, but this is more of a literary context rather than audio match ups.
5) The front page has improved immensely over the years. We particularly like the new reviews on the right side – that reminds us what is out and read more about them, and the left column of recent recommended releases.
In teh end, we come back to the quality fo the writing. Even for big bands, like Dylan and the Beatles, we loved how All Music has written about them and framed them. But it is for the obscure stuff as well. We just read a review on the new Marshall Crenshaw album, and it made us check out what albums we don’t have, and used the rating system to decide which is the next one we should check out.
Reading reviews is not for everyone. But for those who do, you could waste the rest of your life on All Music.
When one mentions the ‘blogosphere’, one imagines a badlands full of noise, colour, bluster and little value. The thousands of thousands of unsolicted opinions, all posted up for the world to see, or get lost in. The blog world has made few superstars, and are mostly the same. Some like Perez Hilton may get canonised. But for every Hilton there are possibly ten thousand nobodies, doing very little that is creative.
Enter Aquarium Drunkard, a role model for blogs everywhere.
Lets talk about what AD is today. Based out of LA, it’s a blog that slants towards to roots and country side of music. But they adore new music, and support it wby sponsoring gigs. They do exclusive interviews with the acts they love. They write passionately and thoughtfully about classic records. There are regular columns and contributors. Buckets of fantastic Mp3s. There is also a radio show version on Sirius. It’s not Perez Hilton, but it’s the digital age version of the cool indie roots rock record shop.
This wasn’t always the case. AD grew from a Blogspot site, and then took it to the next level. It built a solid audience. And the writing – utterly fantastic. We came across it early, and followed it as it started sponsoring gigs. It got it’s own URL. The bands being interviewed were the big bands. But they never forgot about the small ones either. The fantastic Off the Record column started. We can’t find where the quote was from, but we read somewhere that AD lifted the bar for music blogs – and we agree.
This is miles above your regular “OMG new single by so-and-so”.
Above all, we have discovered much great music, on this site. From tasting a track or two on a classic artist we have heard of but never known, to fantastic bootlegs, demos and unreleased material and, of course, new awesome bands. Which is what a music blog should be all about.
Aquarium Drunkard is a big inspiration for this site. In the strange world of blogs, it’s good to have something to aspire to. We wish we could say that AD was one of many blogs that operate so well, but the truth is we can not think of another like it. Maybe we’re not looking hard enough – we would love to know what we’re missing. But in the meantime, when blogs are still considered something of a joke, at least one site is making something seriously great.
Last week this column featured Sleevage, a site that dealt with the music sub-culture of album artwork. We continue the theme this week that talks about the world of music videos – Promo News.
It’s a home for British film clip directors (although some of those directors make clips for bands that aren’t British). It’s slant is the visuals and the art of the film clip. They love design and they love technology.
Many of the stories have words from the director as well. Valuable insights about this world and how it works. And also – it’s sometimes tough to find out who made a great film clip.
And hey, we love film clips, and we find it interesting how technology is being used. Also, how videos even get out into the world these days – with youtube and other video players being the main places to see these things.
It’s the cutting edge of music film clips. Check out this site often. We do.
Everyone is quick to proclaim the death of the album artwork these days. The CD gave artwork a good kneecapping. Cassettes were a humiliation not worth remembering. The digital era – it’s been left to rot. That’s not to say that people don’t love a good sleeve, and the people behind them take any less care or thought into their design.
Enter Sleevage, a humble little art site about album art.
It’s run by album art heads, and they write and talk about artwork that they’ve worked on, or just random famous sleeves with a story.
Just looking at the wall of album covers at the bottom of the homepage makes us feel good. Click through and find some amazing stories and thoughts.
What is the painting that covers Viva La Vida? Who is the boy on the cover of Nevermind? All answers are here.
Above that, there is the stories behind the banned Cannibal Corpse covers. And really fascinating, how album artwork elements are reused for singles, merchandise and more.
It’s all written with love. We only wish that there was hundreds more. A whole searchable database of album cover stories. It’s slowly starting – they take submissions. If you know album artwork people, please get them to get in touch with these guys.