Category: Music

June 18, 2012

Letter to David Lowery

David Lowery wrote a tremendously compelling piece on his blog responding to a self-professed music lover with 11,000 songs, of which only about 15 albums are legally owned.


My mind is all over the place as I write this. I’m troubled as this is the second time this week I’ve read about Spotify’s per-stream rates being dismal, David McCandless put things into perspective with a great infographic, and your own blog puts them at $0.005 per play which is actually about the highest I’ve seen. Spotify, for me, has been the service that I wish I had years ago. I use it primarily as a music exploration tool, and if I find that I’m listening to one album a lot, I buy a digital copy, either through iTunes or Amazon MP3, or occasionally buy physical CDs for their liner notes or if they include something neat like a poster. Spotify has connected me to artists I’d have never found otherwise, and it has saved me from making purchases I would’ve regretted.

The issue, that would seemingly sweep the rug out from under your argument if it were not so, is that Spotify pays the artists a pittance. To this, I ask: How are the obviously failed negotiations between Spotify and the labels my fault? The issue really goes much deeper, when you realize that the big four record labels own a combined 17% of Spotify, and the two founders own 52%, so nearly 70% of Spotify’s decision-making process comes from people that are profiting very, very handsomely from the status quo. These labels simply were not acting in good faith, were not representing the best interests of the artists, and should be the real target of the outrage, here. Spotify is a business whose prime directive is … (More) “Letter to David Lowery”

August 1, 2011

Music Club?

I’m thinking about starting a Spotify-centric music club. They’re a lot of fun, they get you to listen to stuff you wouldn’t normally listen to, you get to share your favorite artists with others, and you get to do some critical writing. I’m in favor of all these things.

The format would be something like so: Each round, there is a theme, as vague as “Favorite Album” or something like “Guilty Pleasures”, “Favorite Release of the last 12 Months” or “8 Favorite Covers”. Each week, we listen to one member’s selection and review it. The order is determined at random for the first round and then the order is reversed every round after. So a big club can take a while, but there’s no real rush and a week gives everyone time to listen and write, and if everyone’s done early you can start the next persons entry. There’s a standardized grading scale to use, as well.

I’m probably gonna start this idea whenever I use up all my Spotify invites. If you know you’re interested now, let me know and I’m gonna start a Facebook group.… (More) “Music Club?”

July 25, 2011

Spotify: Renunciation Now Optional

I don’t remember when I first heard about Spotify, the all-you-can-stream free music service that friends across the pond may refer to as the dog’s bollocks. If you don’t yet have a subscription, you can get an invite code within hours thanks to the Googles. Justin Bieber invited me.

Who invited you?

Anyway, I’ve been playing with it for the past four or five days and while there’s a lot to love, I have a few nitpicks. I’ll start with the good though. First and foremost, it’s a free service that lets you play exactly what you want. Pandora has it’s place but more often than not I’m going to have something in mind to listen to.

Second, the application is super-responsive, every track I’ve played has started within a second of hitting play. I’ve had local files take longer due to the HDD spinning up.

Third, the social innovations are great; the service connects with Facebook, Twitter, Audioscrobbler (AKA, and its own in-built social network. Drop a song, album or playlist into someone else’s inbox to share it with them directly. Collaborate with a friend or music club on a community playlist. So many great ideas, cleanly implemented and unobtrusive at the same time.

Fourth, the audio quality is good for a streaming service, if I had to guess it’s 128 to 160kbps, and I’ve had absolutely no pauses for buffering, something I can’t say of MOG which would do it every other track or so.

Finally, the selection has been, overall and for the kind of stuff I look for, impressive. There are gaps but they’re either the old farts who are vehemently against this Internet business (looking at you, Led Zeppelin, Metallica and co.) or rather obscure acts who aren’t licensed on here. Licensing is … (More) “Spotify: Renunciation Now Optional”

January 17, 2011

Great Music Has Emotion. Emotion Makes Great Music.

If you and I were ever to have a long talk about good music, you’d find that I will forgive a lot of sins if there’s real, unfaked, unabashed emotion and energy present. Case in point would be something as American as…grits. (We had a discussion that few to no things were truly an American contribution) Consider blues music, a genre that at it’s most typical is very, very structured. Even the solos are generally confined to one scale. But the great bluesmen of generations past told stories that moved the soul. Maybe it’s my internal old fogey talking, but I think if the generation of teens and 20-somethings took the time to listen to some B.B. King, some Lead Belly (Miss you, Jon), John Lee Hooker’s unique take on it, or Stevie Ray Vaughan’s modern-take on the art, they might find the prefabricated pop and rap they listen to now…somehow lacking.

Ray Charles – Georgia On My Mind (Live)

I deeply regret not having an interest in the music of Ray Charles while he was still alive and touring. I reference this live take of Georgia On My Mind for two reasons. One, you can feel the emotional connection between the man and a song he’d become attached to. Many don’t know that it was actually a cover of a much older song written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell, about Hoagy’s sister, named Georgia. But Ray took his love for the south and left no question. Two, improvising on a long-practiced piece, personally, only happens to me when I’m inspired by the song itself. To be blind but be so spellbound as to not let that be a hindrance for improvising new solos…I can hardly fathom it.

Rob Dougan – Left Me For Dead

You left me for

(More) “Great Music Has Emotion. Emotion Makes Great Music.”
January 3, 2011

Alter Bridge – Ab III [88/100]

Alter Bridge is a group that I was unaware of before starting the 30 In 30 project. Formed in 2004, they’re the oft-maligned God-rock band Creed minus unintentionally hilarious frontman Scott Stapp. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from them as a band, and knew nothing of their new lead singer, Myles Kennedy. Suffice it to say their new album, Ab III, was probably the best rock album I listened to this year (okay, I’m considering this late 2010. What of it?)

“Slip To The Void” opens with strings reminiscent of an electric harpsichord. Soft vocals on a delay give a beautiful ethereal quality. Acoustic guitar joins in and overdriven electric guitar soon after, really beautiful composition and the soundstage was used to it’s fullest. Breakdown transitions the song into melodic hard rock. The bridge going back and forth between choral one-liners and a slick electric guitar solo is fantastic. Huge emotional ending breaking down to the strings it started with. Tremendous opener.

“Isolation” is much harder rock, Drop-D or maybe Double-Drop tuning and the distortion is paired with an octave effect for a great big mean sound. After the first chorus we find double-bass speeding up the feeling of the track. Vocal work is great, adding a nice melodic counterpoint. Bridge is more excellent guitar work, the solos have been great on the first two tracks. I’m digging the freeform feel of the composition here, the bridge is ill-defined but not jarring when we return to the chorus. Unexpected noise gates at the end keep the futuristic rock sound alive. Another solid one.

“Ghost of Days Gone By” is yet another different style, we’re in much more mainstream rock, something I could see Daughtry or someone of the sort doing. But that they’re willing to do it is … (More) “Alter Bridge – Ab III [88/100]”

December 26, 2010

Time Management Fail

I should be getting ready for work right about now, but I feel like writing too. So writing wins for now. I’m getting myself psyched up for 2011 with plans and ideas for how I’m gonna keep things interesting for this Monday-Wednesday-Friday regularity of posting. My work schedule actually calls for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday off, and I have no plans to change that. So I’ll be writing a week ahead or two.

Mondays are gonna be fairly mixed with regards to music. Reviews of varying formality, top 10s, that sort of thing.

Wednesdays, my wildcard days, will likely have a lot of gaming. That’s for sure. That and whatever else I feel like writing about.

Fridays will be split between reviewing fragrances and a journal tracking Diana and I as we attempt to make custom perfumes, we’ve got about a year of off-and-on experience with it and I think we’re going to be stocking up on some new oils too. We haven’t broken out the EOs since we moved in together, so we’re both excited to get back to it.

Unrelated note, but if you haven’t been following the Steam Holiday Sale, you’re missing the true reason of the $ea$on. You can buy 55 games for $55, for crying out loud.… (More) “Time Management Fail”

December 13, 2010

Audio Infinitum (Or, Five Songs Forever)

Music lovers know exactly what someone means when they say “I love the song, but I can’t listen to it all that often,” or something to that effect. Then there are comfort songs, songs to listen to when you’re happy, pissed off, maybe even drunk. (I’m not here to judge.) But what about a song to listen to forever?

It’s funny, this is actually a project I do inadvertently when I make compilation CDs to put in the car, or playlists to listen to on repeat. There will inevitably be weaker songs that I’ll grow tired of well before others. So I’ll tweak the selections, and try to come up with that perfect playlist to represent a genre. I know myself well enough to say I could listen to these five songs, on repeat, more or less perpetually, in this order.

BT – Dark Heart Dawning

Dark Heart Dawning is a relative sleeper track of BT’s, it never appeared on a single or EP after being released on the album Emotional Technology in 2003. While I have other favorites off the album (P A R I S and The Last Moment Of Clarity in particular) none of them exhibit the understated beauty of Dark Heart Dawning. Downtempo pedal steel guitar and a simple story segue into a powerful second half with a heavy gospel overtone. That’s off-putting to some, but I love the emotion you find in a song like this. Deep down I hope BT likes this one as much as I do.

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Riviera Paradise

I became a fan of SRV not long after I started playing the guitar, probably around age 14. I had a copy of Couldn’t Stand The Weather that I still think is one of the most complete displays of skill … (More) “Audio Infinitum (Or, Five Songs Forever)”

November 7, 2010

30 in 30: Lazersword – Lazer Sword [86/100]

By request I’m putting line breaks between track descriptions. Sorry about that.

Notes: “Tar” opens up with chiptunes aplenty, transitioning into a moody electronica sound, definitely on the experimental side, a lot going on that I wouldn’t be able to really explain but that’s typical of the genre, not bad at all though you do need to be a fan of the genre to appreciate a lot of what’s going on. If you’ve listened to Infected Mushroom or Shpongle you’re suitably prepared for what’s going on here. Good opener.

“Agrokrag” opens up very heavy on dropping the beat altogether, this one’s less the realm of Shpongle and more like a Squarepusher or Flashbulb sound. The crystal synth they chose gives them an interesting sound, the track would be less palatable without it. Nice buildup to a bridge with time-stretched handclaps. Solid ending. This one’s not quite as solid as the first track but should have its share of fans.

“Surf News” has a watery opening true to its name, and the first vocal sample I could understand. This one’s even more experimental than the last, we’re getting into some obscure stuff like Prabhamandala. These are admittedly hard to grade, but the song isn’t bad.

“I’m Gone (Feat. Turf Talk)” has a wild bass drum sound opening up the track which is the first electro-rap song on here. Soundstage is a bit cluttered, instruments are drowning the vocals in the verses. The last minute or so serves as an outro and it’s top-notch.

“Batman” has a great syncopated rhythm section, with little vocal stings and pad synths throughout. This one’s pretty different from anything I’ve heard in the genre, the rhythm gives it a hypnotic quality. If you’re the sort that prefers better living through chemistry, you’ll probably have this song … (More) “30 in 30: Lazersword – Lazer Sword [86/100]”

November 6, 2010

30 in 30: Eric Clapton – Clapton [94/100]

Notes: “Travelin’ Alone” opens up the album with a tricky little blues run and organs, Clapton’s vocals are as inspired as ever, he may even be improving with age. Maracas and bongos give character to what might be a pretty sterile Lil’ Son Jackson cover without it. High hopes for the album after this opener. Arrangement is even slightly different from standard blues (that’s a good thing). “Rockin’ Chair” is a slower affair, giving homage to the original Hoagy Carmichael version of 1929. Brushes on snare, piano and clean electric guitar. Eric’s looking a bit older on this cover art but this is more of a morbidly humorous song than your typical blues. “Old rockin’ chair’s got me / cane by my side / Fetch me my gin, son, / ‘fore I tan your hide” Simple but good song. “River Runs Deep” opens up reminiscent of an old Carlos Santana song, with touches of modern strings. This one covers JJ Cale’s “River Runs Deep”, and the tone is fascinating, if you’ve heard Santana’s stuff around the Abraxas era you’ve got a good idea what’s going on here. Electric organ, vocal harmonies, latin blues riffs, even a couple of horn stings. Long chanted ending with some reversed guitar for good measure. An early favorite on the album. “Judgement Day” opens up with a gospel-blues sound, standard blues scale and harmonica, choral opening. Call-and-response chorus, as solid a harmonica solo as I believe you can really manage with the thing. I’m thrilled to hear four totally different approaches to the blues in four songs, people that say you can’t innovate in a genre like this have never given a master like Clapton a thorough listen. “How Deep Is The Ocean” opens with acoustic guitar, upright bass and piano. This covers Irving Berlin’s … (More) “30 in 30: Eric Clapton – Clapton [94/100]”

November 5, 2010

30 in 30: 10 Years – Feeding The Wolves [84/100]

Notes: “Shoot It Out” starts out feeling much darker than their past releases, dissonance and repetition used effectively. Angrier lyrics and vocals have me quite intrigued if their sound has changed drastically. “The Wicked Ones” is downtempo rock in 4/4 that reminds me of Switchfoot more than anything, in a good way. Chorus is in double-time and pretty different from anything in their past works, and there’s a screaming aspect that wasn’t there in previous albums evident in the first two tracks. Not a bad track at all. “Now Is The Time (Ravenous)” has a more Division-esque sound than the last two, complete with betrayal theme and lyrics that are generously described as hit-and-miss. Good vocal arrangement though, interesting rhythms arranging the vocals in dotted 16th notes through the chorus. Solid melody improves the track, I’m admittedly a big fan of Division so the fact that I like this one isn’t surprising, take it with a grain of salt. Interesting to note they closed this one out with a scream too. “One More Day” has Jesse singing over clean electric and acoustic guitars, transitioning into another downtempo rock song. Interesting chord choices which they’ve done well for quite a while, with a well-done bridge, but the arrangement is far from a new one for 10 Years, I’m hoping to see some innovation in this aspect on the album, though it’s admittedly tough for a songwriter to rework the arrangement they get comfortable with. Ends with violins, interesting choice. “Fix Me” goes for a hook early with catchy melodic electric and bass guitar. This does sound quite a bit like the last track honestly. Bridge has slight tinges of electronica, then dropping everything but piano and vocals and picking back up with the works 4 bars later. Not great. “Chasing The … (More) “30 in 30: 10 Years – Feeding The Wolves [84/100]”