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Posts Tagged ‘mp3’

The new Radiohead

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

A couple days ago I finally downloaded the new Radiohead album, In Rainbows. I still haven’t quite figured out what I think about their distribution method (if you’ve been living in a cave somewhere, they are offering the album as a download and allowing fans to pay whatever they want for it; a CD release isn’t coming until next year). I decided to pay… nothing. I feel okay about that for a couple reasons: point one, these are 160kbps MP3s we’re talking about here, not lossless files or even VBR MP3s; and that ties into point two, that if I like this I’ll probably go ahead and pay for the CD when it comes out. Also, these guys make a shitload of money anyway and since I have the option, I’d rather invest my music budget into bands that lose money with every record and play in shitty holes in the wall for 5 fans at a time.

Kick over any given virtual rock on the Internet and you’ll find a debate about this innovation in music distribution, so I won’t get into that here. Regarding the music itself, well, it’s okay. I probably like it more than anything they’ve done since Kid A, so that’s great, but I’m not exactly blown away. As a tangent, I find it really amusing the way that Pitchfork likes to verbally fellate this band to a ridiculous extent, giving the album a 9.3 (I honestly thought they were going to give it a 10.0 even before they ever heard it) and running like five or six news articles and full-length features about the album, in addition to the review. Sometimes that website is just absurd. In any case, In Rainbows is definitely a solid effort, if a surprisingly chilled-out one, and I’m looking forward to listening to it some more. I don’t think it’ll ever rate the equivalent of a 9.3 on my scale, though. That’s what, a Gnosis 14? No, I expect this one’s more like a strong 10.

Maybe the most fun thing about this sucker is that there’s no cover art provided, so fans have taken it upon themselves to make their own. Here’s a place with a ton of covers, some of which are really, really great. But my choice for easily the best of the bunch is this one:

20 Things You Must Know About Music Online

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

Via HypeBot: a free 96-page book in PDF form, “20 Things You Must Know About Music Online.” This seems to be targeted at musicians trying to figure out how to use the Internet as a distribution mechanism for their art, but many of the concepts could apply to anyone trying to market anything using the latest Web 2.0 fads. Pretty interesting read.

The most interesting piece to me is “The Death of Scarcity.” This is a concept that the conventional music industry definitely doesn’t get:

There may have been a time where you would press a thousand copies of a CD, give away a couple of hundred as promos, and try and sell the other eight hundred. Now, you can press a thousand, give away a million, and still sell the thousand.

The death of scarcity makes a nonsense of the notion of the ‘lost sale’. If someone would never have bought your music in the first place, but acquires the music through some other means (perhaps as a recipient of one of those million promotional copies), you haven’t “lost a sale”, you’ve gained a listener.

More importantly, you’ve gained attention (remember that word — it becomes important).

NYT op-ed slams RIAA

Friday, April 6th, 2007

Yesterday, the New York Times published an excellent op-ed by a couple guys who owned an independent record store in NYC that went under in 2005. What’s great about this piece is that it puts forth the argument that, while downloading and file-sharing is hurting not just the major labels but also the little guys, a good portion of the blame can still be placed on big industry (RIAA being the figurehead of course) rather than the inherent selfishness or evil of consumers (the stock RIAA argument — “they don’t play by the rules and we’re the victims!” — that makes me severely uncomfortable, to say the least).

Basically, the argument is one that I’ve put forth before and read in a few other places, but rarely in so concise and cogent a form: that the record industry is guilty of mishandling the onset of new technology and basically just been flat-out stupid, not only trying to defend a technology that is over two decades old (CDs) and grossly inefficient and out of date, but actually jacking up prices on them in some cases. It’s akin to paying $5,000 for an IBM PC-AT or an Apple IIgs.

The recording industry association saw the threat that illegal downloads would pose to CD sales. But rather than working with Napster, it tried to sue the company out of existence — which was like thinking you’ve killed all the roaches in your apartment because you squashed the one you saw in the kitchen. More illegal download sites cropped up faster than the association’s lawyers could say “cease and desist.”

Also, they bemoan the record industry getting in bed with the likes of Best Buy and Wal-Mart to undercut prices, “[b]ecause, ideally, the person who came in to get the new Eagles release with exclusive bonus material would also decide to pick up a high-speed blender that frappéed.” It’s a great article, arguing that not only has the RIAA put profits before music, which is something that should surprise no one at all, but also that they’ve put short-term profits before long-term business savvy.

DC Improvisers Collective: good stuff

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

The soundtrack for much of my workday today has consisted of the free live MP3s available from the DC Improvisers Collective, who oddly enough I never knew anything about until I got an e-mail yesterday advertising their CD release show at Crooked Beat Records later this month. I’m leery of bad improv (I’ve seen a few failed*, noisy improv shows here in DC and they are not generally a pleasant experience), but this stuff was a really pleasant surprise. I will be going to this show for sure, and I’m bummed I haven’t known about these folks until now.

If you’re looking for some free-improv to (not) groove to today, check the first link above, there’s a lot of music there. I especially like the cut from The Warehouse Nextdoor on January 18, 2006.

* “Failed” improv of course is a strange term, and really only refers to improv that doesn’t trigger any positive response in my head. That is, I can’t see the connections between what the different players are doing, in addition to the fact that the sounds they are making don’t move me intellectually or emotionally. I’m pretty close to aesthetic relativism in general when it comes to music, but this is especially true when it comes to improv.

What’s spinning, January 28 edition

Friday, January 28th, 2005

Mike Prete asks the question: What have you been listening to lately? Well, okay, he didn’t really ask it that explicitly, but I feel like answering anyway. I’ve been unemployed for the past two months - quit my job at the beginning of December - so I’ve had plenty of time on my hands to listen to good stuff (and catch up on some promos that I was sent long ago).

Currently spinning is free-jazz alto saxophonist Tim Berne’s The Sublime And. - a totally brilliant live album from his Science Friction band - Berne on sax, plus his usual sidemen on guitar (the inimitable Marc Ducret - I’m trying to track down his Qui parle?), drums, and keys/electronics. This stuff totally rips. I’ve definitely been on a kick lately exploring some of the more out-there modern jazz - the downtown scene, the Blue Series stuff, lots of the better stuff on Tzadik, etc. Berne’s work may be edging closer to my favorite among it all, though knocking off Electric Masada’s 50th Birthday Celebration disc might be a tall order.

Otherwise, well, a lot of the stuff I’ve been listening to has been the stuff I’ve reviewed recently. For a while I was back to metal, listening to Amorphis and Dissection and the like - and right now I’m trying to find myself a copy of Gorguts‘ followup to the absolutely brilliant Obscura, From Wisdom to Hate. The release of K.A had me revisiting a lot of my old Magma - I think K.A may eventually become my favorite Magma album, because it’s got all the ingenuity of the old stuff, but with way, way better production and sound.

And I found some tapes of my old radio show, “In Praise of Listening,” that I did for one semester my sophomore year at WYBC, Yale’s radio station, before their Internet stream went down for something ridiculous like an entire year. Listening to that brought back some pretty neat memories, and reminded me of a lot of old stuff I haven’t even thought about recently - like, say, that great surprise from Rockenfield/Speer, Hells Canyon.

The neat thing about my listening style is that I now listen almost entirely to MP3s. When I get a new CD, I rip it immediately to MP3 - I have a 160-gigabyte hard drive dedicated entirely to music, and a 40-gigabyte portable MP3 player (the Creative Nomad Zen Xtra - a slightly clunky and considerably cheaper iPod clone). Because of this, I have ready access to practically my entire music library whenever I want. No hunting around for CDs, no having to switch CDs every time I want to listen to something different. Sometimes this is bad, because I get all ADD. But most of the time it’s great, because it means that I listen to a much more diverse range of stuff than I would otherwise, and I’m much more likely to, say, listen to old stuff that I haven’t pulled out in years. I don’t have enough inclination to go get my old Pink Floyd CDs, but sometimes I have enough to scroll down to the Ps and click on “Echoes”. I was a little afraid my listening habits would go completely bonkers with this newfound freedom when I made the switch to MP3s, but I think the real effect has been almost entirely positive.

But I digress. How about stuff I’m looking forward to? Let’s see - the Naked City box, the new Present (oh man), the new Mars Volta (I think it’s either going to be really, really awful or really good), the new Silver Mt. Zion. That’s some good stuff. But I would be pretty surprised if 2005 turns out to be a better year for new music than 2004; last year was really, really good in my opinion. I think it’s going to be hard to keep my best of 2004 list down to ten albums, in fact, especially if I accumulate much more from 2004 over the next 11 months before I write the list.

In short, though, most of what I’m doing right now is trying to restrain myself from buying shitloads of new jazz CDs until after I get a job and have some cash flow again. Oooh, it’s hard sometimes.

So I got an MP3 player

Monday, February 23rd, 2004

A little before last Christmas I went and bought myself a 40GB Creative Nomad Jukebox Zen Xtra (how’s that for an overly long name). It’s noticeably larger than an iPod and the interface, to be blunt, sucks ass - but it was also more than $200 cheaper than the comparable 40GB iPod. I’m not generally one to pay extra bucks for style, and this was no exception. I can put up with the shitty interface.

So anyway, the interesting thing about this purchase is that my listening habits have changed. That in and of itself is neither interesting nor particularly surprising: when you suddenly have the capability to carry 500 albums (encoded at high-quality variable bitrate) in your pocket, some things are bound to change. What is interesting is how my habits changed: I now am more likely to listen to full albums rather than random individual tracks. This is surprising, to me at least: I’d think that given the ability to access any of thousands of songs with the touch of a button, I’d listen more to great songs rather than entire albums, which more often than not are padded with weaker songs among the good ones.

Indeed, when I had my CD player in my car I would invariably listen to mix CDs that I’d made - personal greatest hits collections. Now, when I plug my Zen Xtra into my cassette adapter, I skip the playlists and just listen to whole albums. Previously, I rarely had the patience to sit through an entire album in the car. The annoyance of having to switch CDs while driving meant that, instead of listening to original CDs, I burned mixes so I wouldn’t stick in a CD, get bored halfway through, and have to change it. Now, because I can just push a few buttons to change to a new album if I get bored halfway through, I’m far less hesitant to start playing a full album from the beginning. This all makes sense. The mystery is, why is it that now I seem to have more patience and am more frequently able to listen to an album in its entirety?

Maybe part of it is a physical fetish thing. I see all these great CDs lying around, and just seeing them makes me think of the music on them and makes me want to listen to them. So I’m compelled to keep switching CDs. With the MP3 player there are no visible cues as to other music I could be listening to, so I have no motivation to switch music and am instead content to listen to whatever I’m listening to already.

I’m rambling. But this is odd. I remember posting a long time ago that I was afraid of what an MP3 player might do to my already-fragmented listening habits; evidently these fears were entirely misplaced.

Should I get an iPod?

Saturday, February 1st, 2003

And here’s an interesting musing about iPods from that same site. My brother got one of those things, although one of the 5GB models. It’s pretty sweet. I think I’d love to have one, if I had the cash to spare, but the thought of how much my listening habits would change is actually a big deterrent. Besides, making the transition from CDs to MP3s would be a big pain in the ass, even though I’m partially doing it already since I bought a CD/MP3 player for Christmas.

I have plenty more thoughts on this, but not right now.

Been downloading some good stuff lately

Friday, February 1st, 2002

I’m on an MP3 binge. I’ve been listening to Dream Theater’s new one, Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, for a while now - since before it came out - on MP3. I like the first disc a fair amount, but so far the second one just strikes me as alternately (or simulatenously, sometimes) boring and cheesy. Hmm. That’s a real shame, because I thought Scenes From a Memory was their best effort since Awake. Oh well. I blame Jordan Rudess.

Other MP3s I’ve been listening to include Xploding Plastix’s Amateur Girlfriends Go Proskirt Agents, the first half of which fucking rocks. I don’t know how to categorize this sort of music - I guess it’s vaguely IDMish the way Thievery Corporation is, but more active, faster-paced, with more jazz influence. Maybe it’s acid jazz? I dunno, but I love it. Also, a few from Bardo Pond’s Dilate - which a friend told be to check out. He described it as Mogwai-like with female vox, but I find that somewhat inaccurate - more like a slower My Bloody Valentine or Sonic Youth, I’d say. Something along the lines of Yo La Tengo’s more droney stuff. I like it.