Like an Olympic marathon runner finally entering the stadium, we're slowly getting to the end of a momentous year.
In music that means album-of-the-year lists coming at you from every angle. A good place to start, however, is the excellent independent label 4ad. On its website, 4ad.com, the label is streaming a playlist of its "year in sound", featuring tracks from 4AD's 2011 releases. With music from Atlas Sound, St Vincent, tUnE-yArDs, Bon Iver, Zomby, Gang Gang Dance and more, it is well worth a listen.
Opera that speaks truth to power
Philip Glass's wonderful Ghandi-themed 1980 opera Satyagraha – roughly translating from Sanskrit as "truth force" – was recently revived at New York's Metropolitan Opera House. Sensing a moment – and some kindred spirits – members of the Occupy Wall St movement set up camp outside the opera house for the show's final night last week. The composer was in attendance for performance and protest. The New Yorker music critic Alex Ross filmed Glass with the protestors: he recited the final lines of his opera, which were repeated by the crowd in the occupy movement's "human microphone" fashion. It's quite a scene – watch the video on Ross' blog at ind.pn/spIVc8. Also on The Awl website is an excellent discussion of events, plus an appearance at the protest by Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson (ind.pn/syAM91).
Stone Age man back from the grave
Another artist in the 4AD stable is Mark Lanegan, one time member of the Screaming Trees, the Queens of the Stone Age and a prolific collaborator. In February, with the Mark Lanegan band, he will release his first solo record since Bubblegum in 2004. The new 12-track record is called Blues Funeral and is preceded by the single and album opener "The Gravedigger's Song". The track premiered at ind.pn/v3WmW9 and can be downloaded for the cost of an email address. Lanegan sounds as gravel-voiced as ever, singing hoarsely over chugging rhythms like Tom Waits backed by QotSA, or an American cousin to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
Mixing with pop's top producers
The second season of Red Bull's series The Producers, made in collaboration with Vice, has been up and running for a few weeks. In it, producers drop into Red Bull's London recording studio to work on some new music and explain how they do it. For last week's episode, Mike Skinner worked on his new D.O.T. project with Rob Harvey, former frontman with the Music. Prior to that, the producer Kwes was in the studio, while this week's episode sees pop producer DJ Starsmith in the hotseat. See the episodes at ind.pn/ugCV9j and ind.pn/uNLpSs.