Blah blah blah. List list list. 2008 2008 2008. Etc etc etc.
Many lists worth of good music was birthed over the past 12 months, but the sound of my 2008 was decidedly defined by only two young men. One a seemingly bottomless well of perfect pop blasts, the other a vanguard of bleeding edge music technology and distribution methods. Both epicly prolific in writing, recording, and performing great music. They are Jay Reatard and Bradford Cox.
Jay Reatard’s biography reads like rock n roll mythology: born in Memphis, he dropped out of high school at 15 to begin recording records in his bedroom. Ten years later, his back catalog alone could fill an entire record store – over 60 records through his nine separate projects! He has estimated that he writes and records one song per day on average, from which he selects a few for each release. That’s a staggering amount of even mediocre song, but his top notch canon reveals most songwriters for the poseurs they are.
Jay has been impressing punk aficionados since those early adolescent recordings with The Reatards (you didn’t think that was his real last name, did you?). However, he really came into his own (and an enormous crossover audience) with his solo debut “Blood Visions” released at the end of 2006. It took a while for some to catch on, but by Summer 2007, Reatard’s fanbase was swelling. Relentless touring paired with a strong endorsement from independent music media juggernaut Pitchfork led to a record deal with big-time-independent label Matador Records.
In 2008, Jay Reatard released an unprecedented six singles in six months on Matador. From a marketing and PR perspective, this was genius. He was written up all over the internet and press for at least those 6 months. Add the anticipation of those releases, the aftermath, a collaboration with Beck, all the intermittent touring, and a controversial concert incident caught on tape, and Jay Reatard probably captured more headlines than any other single person in 2008 (not running for office). His endless tour schedule shows little time to prepare his forthcoming LP slated for a 2009 release, but for all we know he recorded it in his bedroom last spring!
Then there’s Bradford Cox, the equally enigmatic and charismatic character behind Deerhunter and younger side project Atlas Sound. My favorite record store in 2008 was the Deerhunter / Atlas Sound blog site – and everything was free! Through 2008, Cox single-handedly redefined established norms for music distribution and broke down every wall separating musicians and fans.
As Deerhunter he released the exceptional 12 song “Microcastle” album this fall that included a second 13 song CD of outtakes better than most other records released this year. As Atlas Sound he wrote, recorded, and posted songs on his blog at a staggering speed and jaw-dropping rate. For a stretch of time he was posting new songs for download nearly every single day! Plus, he has posted 5-9 song EPs, has an ongoing Virtual 7″ series, and perhaps most impressive of all: he takes requests! He recorded several cover songs suggested by fans (including one song by the aforementioned Jay Reatard, and the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody”!!). For his “Healing Music” series, fans could suggest personal themes and Mr. Cox himself would write a song for them. I hate to apply crass marketing catch phrases to the arts, but talk about “building buzz”!
The Bradford Cox model for music is particularly thought-provoking because he shows you don’t need a record label to make music or gain an audience. The old “suits” would say that without Major Label promotion money you won’t reach any sort of audience, but this philanthropic approach will always garner organic PR, and Atlas Sound was no exception. This should be a case study for SEO and Viral Marketers in years to come. For now, Wpromote has its ears to the street, to say the least!
…And for anyone who’s been living under a rock for the past 3 years, Lil Wayne took over the world of Hip Hop (and bad auto-tuned pop) with prolificacy as well. There’s something to be learned from all this…