Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Hipster-Free Singles Club Vol. 1

I often like to think of myself as walking a line between classicist and modernist. I try and pattern my writing in the style of the archetypal fanzine – like Legs McNeil's Punk, although if SPACE wants to cast a parallel with the far more recognized/reviled Lester Bangs I ain't gonna stop 'em – but I do so with the implicit caveat that I am at best an "Internet journalist" and at worst a digitally-insulated pretender. Likewise, I pattern my podcast after the mixtapes of my youth and the pirate radio that has always been, for me at least, only a sort of divine myth, a mere slip of enlightened hearsay. But this I also do through a distinctly digital, undeniable contemporary avenue.

This is simply to say that the old ways, which we as nerds often bypass, are not all purely passé. In spirit if not execution, we are all moving forward in the footprints of those who came before.

A fitting example of a great idea that has fallen out of favor is the single, those surgically precise excerpts from new albums that were once a staple of that grand and toothy dinosaur we call the recording industry. Back in the day these releases – in the form of 45s, CDs or even the dreaded "cassingle" – were the driving force of popular music. But, much like print media and paying for pornography, the very existence of the Internet has all but killed this once noble creature. In an era where anyone can preview an album and purchase just the songs they like for a buck a pop, this inexpensive refuge of the youthful music lover of days gone by has become a clearly antiquated concept.

Or has it?

With the wealth of entertainment options available via your broadband connection, the bulk of it free, do you ever feel a tad overwhelmed? With so many songs by so very many artists a mere click away, are you ever shocked to find your library flooded with more new content than you could possibly digest? And wouldn't it be nice if someone could point you toward a single track by a single group that stands out as one of their best and most indicative pieces? Better still, if it were the artists themselves doing the pointing?

The time has come, my friends, for us to resurrect the single. And, moreover, to claim it as our own.

With a nod to this idea of putting novel twists on the old ways, I introduce a new project. It is called the Hipster-Free Singles Club, and it is, just as the title implies, an ongoing collection of virtual singles from new and upcoming albums released across various (geeky) musical strata. But unlike the earliest singles, those tiny slips of vinyl that still enchant me so, the HFSC will not serve to simply promote a solitary artist or project. Instead it will spotlight exemplary work from a number of acts.

Consider it a split, double a-side single that highlights new work from some of the best musicians our meta-community has to offer. Plus an exclusive remix – the b-side – from a talented producer that blends the two together. All wrapped up in a charming package provided by a gifted visual artist.

Oh, and available for free!

This first volume splotlights Hidari, a J-rock outfit that blends guitars and warm vocals with skillful, chirpy keys, and their good-natured nemesis, Chicago's own titanic chip-poppers I Fight Dragons. Lead singles from their new releases – Wine and Chocolate and Cool is Just a Number, respectively – are supplemented by a mash-up from my Canadian brother Snake Eyes, and all of this is given a proper face by Web comic artist Dave "The Knave" White, whose images have perfectly captured the eclectic spirit of the project.

I honestly couldn't be prouder of the way this volume came together, and I hope to make this a recurring project that pops up every 3 or 4 months to highlight more of the amazing work being done in our midst. So take a listen, see what piques your interest, and follow up at your leisure. This four-headed beast is something that can't easily exist in the real world, but on the Web, where we reign supreme, it is a viable option.

Unleash its power below, and take your iTunes back. One song at a time.

Download Hipster-Free Singles Club Vol. 1: East Meets West

In its entirety (RAR format)

Single file downloads:

Front Cover by Dave "The Knave" White

Back Cover by Dave "The Knave" White

Printable CD Cover by Dave "The Knave" White

Track 1: Hidari – "ChocolaTommy"

Track 2: I Fight Dragons – "The Faster the Treadmill..."

Track 3: Snake Eyes – "Chocolate Treadmill"

Playlist File

Liner Notes


Matt said...

I'll need to check this out when I get home, but I'm already in love with the idea.

Also, the single isn't fully dead. The indiepop scene is still head over heals in love with the idea of releasing stuff on 7" singles, much of it exclusive, non-album stuff.

Shael Riley said...

Awesome album art!

Awesome assonance!

Church said...

iTunes has, in a backdoor way, re-popularized the concept of the single. The studios still resist, of course, but when haven't they?

Nice idea, can't wait to give a listen.

Z. said...

True, Matt, but most of our fellows don't ever pick a particular album single to use as a touchstone for new listeners. And I really think they should.

Glad you like it, Shael. Dave really went above and beyond. He's even got a nice breakdown of the design process at his blog.

Lemme know what you think, Church.

Gareth said...

Looks awesome Z

Hipsterplease, the blog that keeps on giving...

Z. said...

Thanks, Gareth. I needed that. :)

DV said...

Finally got a chance to listen in the car. Enjoyed thoroughly! And indeed the album art is great.

Z. said...

Glad you're feeling it, Data. Hopefully I'll get to work on Vol. 2 soon.

Alphador said...

there's a website here.

Z. said...

Lies! All lies!;)

Shael Riley said...

That Faster the Treadmill mash-up is slamming.

Mark R Brand said...

The key advantage to singles in cassette and CD form used to be the B-side alternate versions of songs you could only get packaged in that way. I remember so many bands where I bought a stupid single of an album track I already had because the alternate B-side was endlessly more legit/raw than what was on the album. Lots of bands are getting this right to us fans now and iTunes is actually not terrible for this either.

Mark R Brand said...

And yes, that mashup is rad.

Z. said...

Thanks, Shael. Snake does good work.

I love me some b-sides too, Mark! :)

Anonymous said...

@Shael Riley
if it's the riley from THe Grammar Club
when I Try to enter it warns me that it is an at risk site that can harm my computer, possibly from a third party source that may have messed with the coding of your page, can you look into it?
I need to re dl your cd.