Why Be Free When You Can Be Cheap? Music And A Book For Less Than A Latte

A couple of things that you might want to do with your digital pocket change today.

New imprint H&H Books have released their first anthology, Voices From The Past. Twenty-six stories under a common theme, none more than 1500 words, from acclaimed authors like Alastair Reynolds, Paul Cornell and Maura McHugh. There’s some great spookiness on offer, and the quality of stories is a notch above top. Recommended. You can pick it up from the website in ePub or Kindle formats for 99p.

Meanwhile, the creative whirlwind centred around Amanda Palmer continues to spit out some amazing songs. She, along with Ben Folds, Damian Kulash of OK GO  and her husband, Neil Gaiman (how much are we looking forward to Gaiman doing Doctor Who this Saturday? Thiiiiiiiiis much) gathered in Mad Oak Studios in Allston, Mass, to record an eight track album in eight hours. From scratch. They managed six tracks in twelve hours, which is still a remarkable achievement. The fruits of that endeavour are now available for you to download here. They are uniformly great songs – and who knew Neil Gaiman could sing? Nighty Night will cost you a buck.

At current exchange rates, then, that’s an album and a book for £1.60, and I think you’d struggle to find a latte that cheaply. Well, not one that you’d care to drink, anyway. Proceeds for both are going to charity. Get them both, make yourself a coffee, and be certain that you’ve done something good with your day.


X&HT MUSIC WEEK: The Bandcamp Option

Sorry, couldn't resist.
Sorry, couldn't resist.

Yesterday I touched on how Radiohead had developed their own distribution and marketing after parting ways with their record company. You no longer need to be a big famous rock band to do that. These days, it’s as easy as signing up for Bandcamp.

Bandcamp is a bit of a paradigm shifter. It’s a quick and easy way for musicians to get their work out to an audience, with a good-looking home page featuring your own custom artwork and full previews. For a user like me, browsability and preview options are key, and Bandcamp has all this covered. Most interestingly, the pricing is set so that the minimum the artist is prepared to charge is always the default, but you can pay more if you think the music’s worth it. File options run the gamut from MP3 to massive lossless formats. It’s a great way of discovering new music at a pleasingly affordable price point, and compensating the artists appropriately.

My latest Bandcamp download is from Stepdad, who specialise in sunny, quirky synth-pop. They have the bounce and charm of early Depeche Mode before they discovered rubber leisureware. There’s nothing particularly original or innovative at play, but it’ll make you smile and jig about, and most days that’s all that you need. You can pick up the Ordinaire EP for under a quid. That has to be worth a punt, surely.

It’s not just the little guys that use Bandcamp. Longtime X&HT Crush Amanda Palmer has released her latest album on the platform after leaving her old label Roadrunner in 2008 – a process that she extensively documented on her blog and on stage, pleading to be released from her contract after it became clear that they were simply not interested in promoting her. Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under, a mix of live and studio recordings based around her regular trips to Oz and New Zealand, shows off her punk cabaret stylings beautifully. It contains odes on a mix of subjects, including one on the horror of Vegemite, and the joy and wonder of intimate female hairstyling in the hilarious Map Of Tasmania.

You can pick up the album for 69c, but there are a ton of other options, including vinyl, artwork packages and, for $5000, An Evening With Amanda Palmer where she will come to your gaff and perform. I’m not sure if anyone’s taken her up on the option yet, but I’m sure we’ll hear all about it when it happens.

Readership, I urge you to visit Bandcamp and have a sniff around. There’s a huge range of music to explore. The preview options make it a no-risk endeavour. Who knows, your new favourite band could be waiting there for you.

Amanda Palmer and the thrill of creative differences

Many, many years ago, oh lordy, we must be talking at least 2004, my old boss offered me a lend of an album. “This looks like your sort of thing, Rob,” he said cryptically.
It was the first, self-titled Dresden Dolls album, and curse him for seeing the convolutions of my twisted little soul, he was right. It was skewed, wonky, unafraid of it’s influences, powerful, bold and brave. And I instantly fell in love with the stripy-stockinged loon that was Amanda Palmer. A clockwork Sally Bowles, a ticking song bomb. Greasepaint, corsets, minor chords and love songs to robot boys. What’s not to love?
Time moves on. The Dolls go into hiatus, and Amanda works on a solo album, Who Killed Amanda Palmer? Produced by the mighty Ben Folds, it focuses on her piano-driven pop sensibilities, and is a work of utter joy. She makes a couple of cheeky, funny promos skewering the pop world, low-budget gems that show off her penchant for dressing up and being a bit silly. I fall in love all over again.
And then the wheels come off. Her record company, Roadrunner, best known as a metal label, clearly have problems with her. And they start to interfere with the way she portrays herself, calling into question her approach, her songcraft.
Then they start calling her fat.

I’ll let the girl herself take up the story from here. 

And here’s the vid in question, so you can see what the fuss is all about.

Bellygate is clearly the thin end of the wedge as far as Amanda’s concerned. She is now involved in a turf war with Roadrunner. At stake, nothing less than her career. She’s making the perfectly valid point that Roadrunner don’t get her, never did, and are not treating her with any kind of respect or even mild interest. She wants out, and she doesn’t care who knows it.
Here’s her latest offensive, a song written especially for her label, that really tells you everything you need to know about the conflict this far. It’s utterly typical of Amanda that she should take a situation that’s clearly causing her pain and misery, and turn it into entertainment. The sign of a great performer.

Here’s to the exit sign, Ms. Palmer.


Props to Rick for pointing me at this in the first place.

Buy Who Killed Amanda Palmer here.