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November 09, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-11-09

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, November 9, 2009 - 5A

The ichganDaiy -michganailcomMonay, oveber9, 009- 5

The death of the album

Making your music lo-fi doesn't make it sincere.
It doesn't make it more "authentic." The ramshackle
charm of Io-fi music can often add a nice sentimental
charge to an already-electrified song (Slanted and
Enchanted by Pavement, Bee Thou-
sand by Guided By Voices, the
early '90s in general). That said, it
should not be used as a crutch or a
substitute for dynamic songman-
ship. And really, it should not be a
genre, though it happens to lend
itself well to quirky, sleeve-on-
heart indie music.
But today, with Garage Band
" and the advent of laptops as portable,
do-it-yourself recording studios, the "lo-fi" aesthetic
has mutated into a bandwagon of egalitarian mim-
,icry and massive carrying capacity. Anyone can be
a musician now. And as much as I love free artistic
expression, the increasingly rapid rate at which gen-
uine ingenuity is flung into the populist meat grinder
for mass reproduction is dizzying.
A few years ago, Animal Collective was still
skimming the waters of the indie underground, pos-
sessing a sort of subterranean mystique. I remem-
bering hearing Collective for the first time and
being absolutely repulsed. The banshee wails and
possessed-baby gurgling noises turned me off to the
point where I deemed it "not music." While this was
largely a sign of my musical greenness at the time,
the point is that the music was subversive enough
to scare away aKid A-bred 12th-grader. And the
inimitable style of this truly unconventional band
has slipped on some lubricating hype, spread like
wildfire across the Internet though cattle-call blogs
and forums and been snatched up by rabid indie ama-
teurs across America to be stuffed and conventional-
ized for the "mainstream underground."
While chip-off bands like The Dodos provide for
some good, combustible freak-folk, they're a hell of a
lot less freaky than Animal Collective. The Dodos lift
the surface features of Animal Collective (the tribal
yells and frenetic, rim-clacking percussion) and
streamline them into more conventional song struc-
tures - which isn't to rip on The Dodos. It's simply
to say that technological advancements have made
it incredibly easy for anyone with sufficient passion
and drive to arrange the spare parts of their favorite
bands into serviceable but derivative pastiches.
This do-it-your-self mentality has even manifested
itself in the way we listen to music. While the art of
mix-making far outdates the On-The-Go playlist,
MP3 players have certainly stunted our dependence
on the album as a cohesive artistic statement. Back
in the age of the Walkman, there was no "shuffle." I
mean, most Walkmen came equipped with the ability
to listen to a single CD in random order - but, hon-
estly, what fun is that?
iPod nanos, with their relatively small storage
sizes, are far better suited to compiling an archive
of your personal greatest hits than stockpiling an
extensive album collection. And, with so many
people trafficking music on the Internet nowadays,
it's come down to the sheer logistical fact that songs,
with their compact file sizes, are going to enjoy way
more broadband movement than digitally bulkier

albums. We have entered the era of the single-serv-
ing song, and this cultural trend has been picked up
on and exploited by legitimate digital music super-
markets like iTunes.
This may seem like small potatoes, but when you
open up iTunes, the first chartyou're hit with is the
Top Singles chart. You have to manually scroll down
just to get to the Top Albums chart. And the store's
marketing technique of selling individual songs for
roughly twice the price of a gumball and promoting
them with 30-second preview clips has certainly
exacerbated our generation's cultural ADD. Not only
are people buying albums less, they're basing these
single-serving purchases on whether or not a micro-
ad can hook them instantly. No one is going to have
any conception for the scope and value of a 25-min-
ute jazz opus based on the hunk-of-piano-solo a
30-second preview provides. And, consequently, peo-
ple are going to be less inclined to buy iton iTunes.
What you get is the death of the album. Or, in
slightly less hyperbolic terms, the devaluing of the
album in the context of popular culture. The world
has caught rock star fever - everyone's either pining
to be the next bedroom indie darling or stir-frying
their own On-The-Go mishmashes of other artists'
work. This may all seem like a big load of apocalyptic
over-generalizing, but there's certainly been a grow-
ing streak of narcissism in music, an art form often
toted as the universal language.
Everyone's making songs,
and everyone's making
them badly. Computers
are killing music.
The "indie" genre, a faction of music typically cor-
related with artistic innovation and out-of-the-box-
ed-ness, has been busted open to the mainstream by
programs like Garage Band. Matt Bradish, owner of
local record store Underground Sounds, asserts that,
while he is a fervent supporter of local artists, he
doesn't feel inclined to sift through the landslide of
self-released music he receives.
"It's just too easy to make stuff and release it
(these days). There's a glut of releases out there that
have no place being released," he says.
French economist Jacques Attali even goes so far
as to wonder if there will ever be a point in the future
when the ability to compose music becomes so uni-
versal, and the world's musical library so vast, that
"musician" will lose its status as a viable career option
- everyone will simply be his or her own composer.
But, as terrifying as this sounds, we haven't
reached the end just yet - we still have Wavves. And
for that, we should be thankful.
Bayer wrote this column on Garage Band. Obviously
that doesn't make sense, but who cares? If you wanna
hang out with him, e-mail him at jrbayer@umich.edu.

Fashion 's birth

at the
ily in
this bi

co Chanel biopic way to the top.
"Coco Before Chanel"traces
oks at fashion's Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel's humble
journey from orphan to showgirl to
t lady before fame mistress to hatmaker. She becomes
the lover of two men and the wife
By JENNIFER XU of none. She never had a dream of
Daily Arts Writer being a fashion designer, and the
movie doesn't pretend otherwise.
o Chanel catapulted to the Not until the last few frames of the
snt of the film is her vast empire of clothing,
n world **** bags and fragrances even men-
age of 40, tioned. Instead, it features scenes
ng into an Coco Before from her younger years; clearly,
ry primar- C n the emphasis is on Coco before
habited by Chanel.
with her Atthe Playing the eponymous pro-
elegant Michigan tagonist is Audrey Tautou ("Ame-
s. But Sony lie"), gamine and aloof all at once.
opic is not Tautou is truly Audrey Hepburn
fashion or men. Instead, it's reincarnated, evoking an untouch-
a woman with high-society able elegance even while dressed
tions steadily clawing her in whoreish corsets and garish

frills. But where Tautou excels is in
the exploration of Chanel's ambi-
tion, her unquenchable desire to
be fabulous and rich and her will-
ingness to do anything to get to the
top. Chanel is not always a likable
person, or an admirable person, yet
Tautou is able to temper Chanel's
unstoppable determination with
her own doe-eyed innocence.
"Coco Before Chanel" is all
about female empowerment, yet
it doesn't go the predictable route
of chronicling Chanel forging her
way through a male-dominated
industry. Instead, she attains lib-
eration through independence
from love. The film's key conflict
lies in Chanel resolving whether
she wants to attain status through
hard work or remain a mistress in a
loving, yet stifling relationship. In
See CHANEL, Page 8A


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