Lucid Culture


CD Review: Maia Macdonald – Islands Are Born

Singer-songwriter Maia Macdonald quotes Rachel Carson on the page for her new cd Islands Are Born: “It is one of the paradoxes in the way of earth and sea that a process seemingly so destructive, so catastrophic in nature, can result in an act of creation.” Aptly put. This is a pensive, evocative, resonant meditation on distance and absence. What’s strongest here are Macdonald’s casually soulful voice and her thoughtful, direct lyrics, set to sparsely fingerpicked guitar. Boston is where it all begins, where the narrator finds the guy. Not everything here is dark and wary, as when, completely out of the blue, Macdonald says “testing.” Of course, it’s a loaded statement. “Nice is not open,” is the mantra that recurs tellingly at the end. By the way, why does Boston figure so frequently and so poignantly in breakups? Mary-kate O’Neil’s Green Street, Steve Wynn’s Boston, now this?

The title track is the initial breakup – or the separation, since there’s far less rancor here than simple wistfulness and longing: “Islands are born as you disengage.” The next cut, Some Success is spiced with bass, percussion and plaintively echoey electric guitar accents: “You’re out in the midwest you confess, hiding with some success. And the isolation”coats me with too much whiskey, wine.” The City Is Sea foreshadows  resolution, and it’s not optimistic: “There’s a reason I’m staying here, it’s the simple life I fear.” A storm hits, she runs to the kitchen: “You asked me where I went, I said where I have wings…sometime in the summertime, you’ll find a box of tapes we wrote.” All of a sudden there’s a new level of meaning here: a band breakup, ouch.

Set to a charmingly sad, spiky guitar arrangement, It’s Cold and I’m Cold sees her putting him on a plane to Cali. And then she wants to follow him. “You took my hand. Goddamn!” More curse than exclamation. In Hungry As You Were, she’s back in Somerville, he’s way across the country in Potrero Hill – maybe. “Ever since the war began I’ve been living as comfortably as I can…still haven’t gone south to get my hands dirty,” campaigning for Kerry maybe? The cd closes with Steps: “Do you see Coney island in winter we do not speak.” But he sees her on the train, calls her name and she moves away. “Pick up those pieces of your heart, throw away what you don’t need anymore, plant those seeds in a big big garden…these weekends feel like The End.” What’s nicest about this cd is its refreshing individuality. Macdonald gets umpteen opportunities to lapse into cliche and misses every one. This is a really good quiet rainy day ipod album, for times like when you want to go out to the deli but it’s too wet and nasty and you’re too depressed to move much anyway. A good companion piece to Robin O’Brien’s more wrenchingly sad Eye and Storm. Maia Macdonald plays Sidewalk on June 12 at 10 PM.

May 7, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two Years After the Payola Bust, Major Labels and Corporate Radio Still Playing the Same Game

Repost from the Future of Music Coalition via Lefsetz:

Using playlist data licensed from Mediaguide, Future of Music Coalition (FMC) examined four years of airplay – 2005-2008 – from national playlists, and from seven specific music formats: AC, Urban AC, Active Rock, Country, CHR Pop, Triple A Commercial and Triple A Noncommercial. FMC looked at each playlist and calculated the “airplay share” for five different categories of record labels to determine whether the ratio of major label to non-major label airplay has changed over the past four years.

The data in the report indicates almost no measurable change in station playlist composition over the past four years. While this may lead some to conclude that payola is alive and well, and that the Spitzer and FCC agreements were ineffective, the report instead views these results through a broader lens, using the data to describe the state of radio thirteen years after the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The playlist data analysis underscores how radio’s long-standing relationships with major labels, its status quo programming practices and the permissive regulatory structure all work together to create an environment in which songs from major label artists continue to dominate. The major labels’ built-in advantage, in large part the cumulative benefit of years payola-tainted engagement with commercial radio, combined with radio’s risk-averse programming practices, means there are very few spaces left on any playlist for new entrants. Independent labels, which comprise some 30 percent of the domestic music market [editor’s note: actually less, considering the hundreds of thousands of independent, label-free releases every year], are left to vie for mere slivers of airtime, despite negotiated attempts to address this programming imbalance.

This report also confronts a practical challenge in measuring the effectiveness of the policies negotiated by the FCC, broadcasters and the independent music community in 2007. The ambiguous language of the Rules of Engagement and the voluntary agreements make it difficult to set specific policy goals and effectively measure outcomes. In this report’s conclusion, FMC puts forward three policy recommendations – improving data collection, refocusing on localism and expanding the number of voices on the public airwaves – designed to assist both broadcasters and the FCC in ensuring a bright future for local radio and for the music community.

Read the full report here.

May 7, 2009 Posted by | Culture, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment