For the longest time, I had no idea that “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was a Queen song. This totally blew my mind when I first found out. The song’s rockabilly simplicity and Elvis-tinged vocals scream 1959, not 1979 — the latter being the year Freddie Mercury reportedly penned the tune while lounging in a hotel bath tub. If I had to trace the emotional pathway that led away from this revelation, it would probably look a little something like this:
On Tuesday, I praised 2011’s wave of remix EPs for two main reasons, the first being that these companion albums provide a fresh perspective on familiar songs, which, for me, raises the value of the original compositions. But then again, I’m a sucker for intertextuality. The second reason I like these remix albums is that they put the artist in driver’s seat of something that is typically out of their hands — secondary consumption. Whether you’re dealing with remixes, live covers, or illegal downloads, songs take on a life of their own once they’ve been released, and their writers rarely benefit. Remix EPs provide a way for musicians to have some agency in a distribution paradigm that’s stacked against them. Lemons, meet lemonade. There’s another phenomenon happening right now that has that same lemonade-y feel to it, as Staunton-based musician Nelly Kate can attest: Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a service that lets you solicit funds online so you can turn your creative vision — be that a documentary, music recording, or modular and expandable crop production unit (I did not make, and could not have made, that last one up) — into a reality. After all, in the age of the interweb, why should anyone with a great idea sit around waiting for a big company to swoop in and save the day? As the not-so-great Bill O’Reilly once said, “Fuck it! We’ll do it live!” A few days ago, I found the Kickstarter page for Nelly Kate’s album Ish Ish as a result of an RVA Magazine article, and I quickly fell in love with her story. In the video on her page, Kate describes so eloquently her inspiration and goals for her album, which she recorded via reel-to-reel and will have pressed to vinyl to complete the analog process. As she mentions in the video “It takes a true sense of commitment to press a record onto vinyl,” and that’s the beauty of her project, and why it’s so perfect for Kickstarter — Kate’s passion shines through, making it impossible not to root for her. Listen below to the beautifully written and layered song from Ish Ish that she’s provided to whet our appetites, “Blue Badges,” and if you enjoy it, please head to her Kickstarter and contribute. Even though it appears that she’s reached her goal, you can still contribute at different levels and receive various gifts in return, from a digital download of the album, to a vinyl copy, to a limited edition 50-page book that features Kate’s line drawings, lyrics and inside secrets, complete with an autographed and a personal message.
Nelly Kate — “Blue Badges“
You guys! ZOMG! Did you hear the news about Ben and Zooey? OK, OK, so it’s not exactly news anymore that Death Cab for Cutie frontman and 500 Days of Summer starlet Zooey Deschanel filed for divorce after their own 500 days (give or take) of marriage. According to my sources… A. That news broke in early November; B. It’s now the middle of December; and C. I’m a terrible celebrity gossip blogger. Regardless, it’s always sad when two seemingly nice people split up (apparently not too sad to use the whole incident for a blog post setup), leaving them to wonder what could have been, and what could have been done differently. Though there are seldom second chances in marriage, fortunately for Mr. Gibbard, there are second chances in music, as his band’s Keys and Codes Remix EP exemplifies so enjoyably. All the way back in October, when Ben and Zooey were still hitched and Death Cab for Cutie’s most recent full-length Codes and Keys was but a six-month-old bundle of joy, the group started releasing one remixed track every Monday, each featuring a different guest producer, leading up to the November 22 release of a 7-track remix album. From the beginning, I was a fan. I liked the marketing — the slow rollout built suspense, letting you hear one piece of the (CHEESY ALBUM CONCEPT METAPHOR ALERT) puzzle [groan] at a time. I liked the results — the tracks vary wildly but each one offers a fresh view on the source material. But more than anything else, I like this concept. Given how difficult it is these days to profit from record sales, I love that artists are taking control of the secondary consumption market by releasing their own remix albums. Radiohead did the same this year with TKOL RMX 1234567, the follow-up to King of Limbs, as did Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr with It’s A Corporate World’s companion Horse Power EP. Some might say that these groups should leave well enough alone and let their albums stand for themselves, and it’s true that not every single one of these remixed tracks has been a winner for me, but so many of them are winners, and I can’t help but enjoy having the opportunity to look at all of these songs in a different light, like I’m hearing them again for the first time. Listen to the Keys and Codes Remix EP for yourself to decide where you stand on the matter, and if you like what you hear, head over to iTunes to make it official.
Death Cab for Cutie — Keys and Codes Remix EP