Love Is In The Air, Free Valentine MP3s Rain Down Like Tears: First Up, Aidan Moffat (ex-Arab Strap)

heartarrow2This Valentine’s Day weekend, barely legal mp3s will run wild and free across the Internet. Many bands are offering free downloads of songs from upcoming albums, and we’ll be compiling and posting them here as they roll in. On deck so far is new material from Aidan Moffat (from Arab Strap), the Handsome Family, Mobius Band and Casiotone For The Painfully Alone (how apropos). Remember: You’re never alone if you have a killer mixtape (and maybe some ditchweed and an Xbox).

aiden366bAidan Moffat was, and is, a miserable Scottish bastard best known for his membership in Arab Strap, the drunk, evil, foul-mouthed and generally more fun cousin of Glasgow mates Belle And Sebastian back in the Scottish-pop golden era. How To Get To Heaven From Scotland (Chemikal Underground), his latest LP under the name Aidan Moffat And The Best-Ofs, is out next month. Download an mp3 of album track “Big Blonde” here or stream the song below.

“Big Blonde”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/bigblonde.mp3

Classic Alternative: Beastie Boys “Paul’s Boutique” [Capitol]

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By the time 1988 arrived (think hard, now: Poison, Def Leppard, Debbie Gibson and George Michael’s “Faith” comprised the day-glo pop soundtrack of the moment), the Beastie Boys had already experienced a full career by generally accepted hip-hop standards: a number-one album (1986’s Licensed To Ill, the first hip-hop release to go to the top of the Billboard charts), an accompanying bacchanalian world tour complete with cage-dancing girls and a giant inflatable penis borrowed directly the Rolling Stones’ playbook, the requisite MTV hit (“(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)”). But then came the backlash: a Liverpool show that dissolved into riot and an assault arrest for vocalist Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, the litigious end of their Def Jam partnership with future Columbia Records CEO Rick Rubin and their subsequent self-imposed banishment to Los Angeles. It was a weird time for the Boys, and 1989’s Paul’s Boutique became the even weirder byproduct of that era: hip hop’s first “headphone album” and a masterpiece of massiveness that remains, to this day, the finest thing in the Beasties’ catalog and one of the greatest pop albums of all time, right up there with OK Computer, Revolver, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea and Blonde On Blonde on the scale of universally recognized, full-length rock ‘n’ roll righteousness.

So where did the frat-boys-in-da-hood goofiness end and the genius begin? It’s the beats, stupid: the richly evocative cut-and-paste sampling favored by their new producers, the Dust Brothers (Mike “E.Z. Mike” Simpson and John “King Gizmo” King), turned the Beasties’ prototypically goofy boasts and pop-culture tidbits into nuggets of solid gold, weaving together no fewer than 105 samples into a rich, psychedelic tapestry of snippets from artists as diverse as the Ramones, Eagles, Loggins & Messina and Fatback—sometimes all within the context of a single track (“High Plains Drifter”). Amazingly, the stringball of sound hangs together as a cohesive statement, one completely unimaginable previously and totally unreplicable afterward. Indeed, the album’s stacks o’ wax proved to be the end of sampling on this scale as we knew it, given the costs involved in gaining clearances from all the artists concerned, as the contemporaneous lawsuit between Gilbert O’Sullivan and Biz Markie quickly proved.

Hovering atop it all were lyrics unlike anything the Boys or their peers had attempted to date: a name-dropping, party-hopping, Dick Fosbury-flopping survey of pop culture that bobbed and weaved between daytime-TV references (“Shake Your Rump”), random sports trivia (the album’s surehanded hit, “Hey Ladies”) and a heartfelt love letter to their native New York City via 12-minute-plus epic “B-Boy Bouillabaisse,” a 26-track samplefest that managed to create mini-suites feting Manhattan’s Chrystie Street subway stop, Jamaica Queens (“Stop That Train”) and Adam “MCA” Yauch’s native Brooklyn in the process. (Trivial pursuit: A college friend of mine can be seen leaning out of the window directly above the green arch on the album’s front cover photograph, a panoramic view of downtown New York as seen from the corner of the Lower East Side’s Ludlow and Rivington Streets). In hindsight, it’s clear that the Boys were pining for home, and in many respects Paul’s Boutique now reads like an extended letter from daycamp from a troop of slightly neurotic, emotionally wrought (but nevertheless fun-loving) expatriates.

Despite the critical accolades heaped upon it at the time, it took the record a decade to sell less than half the copies of its predecessor and remains, if possible, something of an unheralded classic among the masses. But let’s recognize and give respect: Paul’s Boutique (which has just been remastered and reissued) is the Beastie Boys’ finest hour and an indisputably top-notch component of the hip-hop canon. It’s also much better than that: a flawless, burning hunk of funk that has emerged as one of pop music’s all-time greatest releases. Belie’ ‘dat.

—Corey duBrowa

From The Desk Of Ben Lee: Garma Festival

benleealogo750news118d“No guilt, all pleasure,” sings Ben Lee on his forthcoming album, The Rebirth Of Venus (due April 28 on New West). Lately, the 30-year-old Australian singer/songwriter has been on a mission to deliver radio-ready pop songs for the rest of us, mixing up hooks and politics and letting it all hang out. Shortly before he appeared on Jay Leno last week, Lee did a Q&A with MAGNET on the topics of Venus, his recent marriage to Ione Skye and the “mistake-pop” of his past and future.

As guest editor of magnetmagazine.com this week, the world’s most enlightened pop star shares thoughts about his latest revelations—from music to monkey gods.

garma540bLee: Garma Festival is an Aboriginal gathering of the tribes that happens in Arnhem land, northern territory of Australia, every year. This part of Australia is considered sacred land to the Aboriginal people, and you have to be invited onto it to take part. Once there, you camp and learn about issues facing Aboriginal communities in modern times, as well as see the “bungul” every afternoon. This is the time when all the local tribes gather and do traditional dances for each other, imitating animals and spirits of their ancestors. As an Australian, I had only really learned about Aboriginal culture from schoolbooks, so going to Garma was a life-changing experience for me. I realized how alive and vibrant the ancient culture of Australia truly is.

Lost Classics: Lifter Puller “Fiestas + Fiascos”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

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:: LIFTER PULLER
Fiestas + Fiascos // Self-Starter Foundation, 2000

“Woke up in the grass with the assless chaps!” The Hold Steady may be getting all the critical acclaim these days, but Craig Finn was funnier in Lifter Puller. Devoid of the classic-rock posturing that characterizes Finn’s current band, Lifter Puller’s instrumentation sounded just like any of its indie-rock contemporaries: Put it on a bill with Pavement, Archers Of Loaf and a faceless Chicago post-rock outfit. All of which made Finn’s lyrics about druggy Minneapolis nightlife seem more like an inside joke and less like teenage nostalgia. Fiestas + Fiascos, the group’s final album, was a complete narrative involving the rise and fall of a disco called the Nice Nice, recounting the patrons’ massive nights and the girls who liked to get bombed on the bass and the Bombay gin. Needless to say, if you’re a fan of Hold Steady song characters such as Charlemagne and Holly, you’ll love Nightclub Dwight and the Eyepatch Guy.

Catching Up: After a brief stint under the glitchy laptop-rock guise of Broker Dealer, Finn formed the Hold Steady with guitarist Tad Kubler. Drummer Dan Monick is a music/fashion photographer. Bassist Steve Barone began a lip-synch comedy-rock act called the Hawaii Show and now works in advertising.

“Space Humping $19.99”:

From The Desk Of Ben Lee: Built To Spill’s “There’s Nothing Wrong With Love”

benleealogo750news118d“No guilt, all pleasure,” sings Ben Lee on his forthcoming album, The Rebirth Of Venus (due April 28 on New West). Lately, the 30-year-old Australian singer/songwriter has been on a mission to deliver radio-ready pop songs for the rest of us, mixing up hooks and politics and letting it all hang out. Shortly before he appeared on Jay Leno last week, Lee did a Q&A with MAGNET on the topics of Venus, his recent marriage to Ione Skye and the “mistake-pop” of his past and future.

As guest editor of magnetmagazine.com this week, the world’s most enlightened pop star shares thoughts about his latest revelations—from music to monkey gods.

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Lee: There’s Nothing Wrong With Love is one of the most romantic indie-rock albums of all time. Everything Built To Spill has done has been pretty great, but this 1994 record is so full of yearning and amazing melodies that it’s kind of undeniable. When you meet someone else who loves this album, it’s a real bonding experience. The guitar solos are massive, the lyrics poetic in their everyday-ness. There’s something not quite right if albums like this get lost in the dustbin of history. It is epic. I come back to it every few years, and it never sounds dated.

“Car”: