Larry Ryan - Caught in the net - Features - Music - The Independent

Larry Ryan - Caught in the net

David Byrne's website,
www.david byrne.com, is one of the most celebrated sites by any musician.

Here he keeps a journal, details his myriad projects and selects a monthly playlist of music that interests him.

This month's selection sees Byrne in a Brazilian mood, with a grand, four-hour mix, offering a fine introduction to music from the region: "Some contemporary stuff like Lenine, but mostly Afro-Samba bands, Northeastern stuff and some other beautifully recorded folkloric artists," he explains. Hear it on the radio stream of his site. 2008 was a busy year for Byrne.

Among other things, he released two albums, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, his second collaborative record with Brian Eno, and Big Love: Hymnal, his score for the HBO TV series. There are interesting essays by Byrne about both on his site. He also turned an abandoned ferry terminal into a giant art installation/musical instrument. Watch a short documentary about it at http://tinyurl.com/5jesqo.2009 appears to be equally busy for him, with a tour on the way, playing "songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno", including their collaborations during Byrne's Talking Heads years. The tour lands in the UK in March.

Also, a new song has surfaced, this time in conjunction with the Dirty Projectors. Called "Knotty Pine", it's a sprightly, acoustic affair and can be freely downloaded from the Dark Was the Night MySpace page – http://tinyurl.com/8au9zd. Dark Was the Night is a 31-song compilation album in aid of the HIV/Aids charity, The Red Hot Organisation, released on 17 February. Currently on the aforementioned Myspace page they are previewing a different track from the album every day with an impressive array of musicians taking part including, Bon Iver, Spoon, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens and The Decemberists. The latter band is also offering a free download on their website, http://decem berists.com, of a song from their new album, The Hazards of Love. The track, "The Rake's Song", is a catchy, shout-along stomp with grim lyrics about a man who murders his kids with little hint of remorse.

Further up the pay scale, Brian Eno is back producing U2's new record, No Line on the Horizon, alongside Steve Lillywhite and Daniel Lanois. The first single, "Get on your Boots" has been streamed on http://goyb.u2.com since Monday. It sounds leaner than the last few U2 efforts but doesn't deviate hugely from their stadium-rock template of recent times. Though it is certainly more edifying than Bono's recent attempt at op-ed writing for the New York Times – http://tinyurl.com /9v55rr. When not working with U2 or David Byrne last year, Brian Eno created a music-making application for Apple's iPhone. He wasn't the only one allowing great unwashed to make their own music with user- friendly technology. Another, Microsoft Songsmith, allows you to sing into a computer and the software will then create a tinny muzak backing track to match. Awful.

What's worse, Microsoft recently put out a gut-wrenchingly bad ad to promote it, which had The Independent's tech columnist Rhodri Marsden howling with despair on his blog ( http://tinyurl.com/7luzgs), while another site warned, "Nothing can prepare you for the Microsoft Songsmith commercial" ( http://tinyurl. com/777rox). Watch it if you dare through either link.

Next comes the logical conclusion of Songsmith – someone by name of "azz100c" has started posting versions of classic songs ("Creep", "Wonderwall", "Heard it Through the Grapevine" and more) using the programme, using the real vocals and computer-generated backing tracks. The results are strange and frequently horrifying, rendering all manner of great songs as asinine supermarket background noise; http://uk.youtube.com/user/azz100c.

Pick of the week

The A.V. ClubThe pop culture website the A.V. Club sits somewhat oddly alongside its more illustrious sister site, the satirical fake newspaper The Onion ( http://www.theonion.com). While it looks at pop-culture with a more straight face than the The Onion's arch view of the world, it frequently offers excellent commentary and features on music, film, books, TV and beyond. Topping the chart though is the altogether more positive Eighties classic "Whip It" by Devo http://www.av club.com.

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