I have a large enough collection of digitized music that I cannot ever listen to it all without resorting to various tricks, or allowing universal randomization to choose for me, or by choosing themes to build around. Yesterday, I was working in my my (digital) darkroom, and needed to come up with a title for a photograph that revolved around a revolver. My first thought was “Happiness is A Warm Gun”, because that is such a great song, but then my mind wandered, bang bang…
If I had to choose, my favorite “gun” songs would be, in no particular order, Jimi Hendrix – Machine Gun; Beatles – Happiness is A Warm Gun; Pogues – A Pistol for Paddy Garcia; Leo Kottke – Vaseline Machine Gun; The Clash – Guns of Brixton; Warren Zevon – Lawyers, Guns And Money; Junior Walker – Shotgun; The Pixies – There Goes My Gun; and Felice Brothers – Frankie’s Gun! Of course, this could change by tomorrow.
To amuse myself, I make iTunes playlists. Below the fold is a playlist honoring the rain. I tried to remove all the “train” songs, and “brain” songs, and “Lorraine” songs, and so on, but maybe a few linger despite my best intentions. On the other hand, I left “rainbow”, and “raincoat” because, you know, that’s close enough. Stay dry! or stay wet!
parenthetical note: my Applescript1 only allowed me to select 100 songs at a time, so I broke my massive playlist into 4 sections.
They might sound like great song titles, but “21st Century Record Player,” “Earth Storage” and “Thanks for Listening” aren’t new Neil Young tunes. They’re trademarks that the rocker recently filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Rolling Stone has found, and they indicate that Young is developing a high-resolution audio alternative to the MP3 format.
According to the filed documents, Young applied for six trademarks last June: Ivanhoe, 21st Century Record Player, Earth Storage, Storage Shed, Thanks for Listening and SQS (Studio Quality Sound). Included in the filing is a description of the trademarks: “Online and retail store services featuring music and artistic performances; high resolution music downloadable from the internet; high resolutions discs featuring music and video; audio and video recording storage and playback.” The address on file corresponds to that of Vapor Records, Young’s label. (Young’s representatives declined Rolling Stone’s request for comment.)
Young faces about a year of paperwork before the government will register his trademarks. Last week, they were approved for publication in a public journal for 30 days, a step that allows competitors to challenge Young if they find his registration harmful. The journal is set to be published later this month; if the trademarks face no opposition or snags, Young must then file documents detailing how he intends to use the trademarks, which the government could register as early as the holidays, according to the filing schedule.
A press release issued last September by Penguin Group imprint Blue Rider Press, which is publishing Young’s upcoming memoir, may have revealed the working title of Young’s entire project. In addition to the memoir, says the release, “Young is also personally spearheading the development of Pono, a revolutionary new audio music system presenting the highest digital resolution possible, the studio quality sound that artists and producers heard when they created their original recordings. Young wants consumers to be able to take full advantage of Pono’s cloud-based libraries of recordings by their favorite artists and, with Pono, enjoy a convenient music listening experience that is superior in sound quality to anything ever presented.”
Trademark is just one step on a long road to a technology being available by consumers, but it is a step.
Parenthetical note: I wonder how good one’s ears would be to be able to tell the difference. I had a modest stereo system back in the days of record players, and never had an audio-freak friend, so I’ve never heard really really good music reproduction. I rip CDs at 256 VBR, which sound decent enough, but I wonder.
Neil Young has long fulminated against the sound of digital music…
You know what the biggest problem with music today is? Sound quality. That’s Neil Young’s take on the issue, anyway.
For years, the musician has been obsessed with improving the way modern music sounds, sonically speaking. In an interview with Walt Mossberg and Peter Kafka at our D: Dive Into Media conference, Young, the perennial music purist, said that while modern music formats like MP3 are convenient, they sound lousy.
“My goal is to try and rescue the art form that I’ve been practicing for the past 50 years,” Young said. “We live in the digital age and, unfortunately, it’s degrading our music, not improving it.” While modern digital encoding schemes might sound clear on our iPods and smartphones, they only feature a small percentage of the musical data present in a master recording, and Young is on a crusade to correct that.
“It’s not that digital is bad or inferior, it’s that the way it’s being used isn’t doing justice to the art,” Young said. “The MP3 only has 5 percent of the data present in the original recording. … The convenience of the digital age has forced people to choose between quality and convenience, but they shouldn’t have to make that choice.”
So what’s the solution? New hardware capable of playing audio files that preserve more of the data present in original recordings, said Young. Ah. But who’s going to produce that?
Said Young, “Some rich guy.” And evidently some rich guy was working on such a device. The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs. “Steve Jobs as a pioneer of digital music, and his legacy is tremendous,” Young said. “But when he went home, he listened to vinyl. And you’ve got to believe that if he’d lived long enough, he would have done what I’m trying to do.”
Robert Siegel talked to Bob Ludwig, a record mastering engineer. For more than 40 years, he’s been the final ear in the audio chain for albums running from Jimi Hendrix to Radiohead, from Tony Bennett to Kronos Quartet.
“The ‘Loudness Wars’ have gone back to the days of 45s,” Ludwig says. “When I first got into the business and was doing a lot of vinyl disc cutting, one producer after another just wanted to have his 45 sound louder than the next guy’s so that when the program director at the Top 40 radio station was going through his stack of 45s to decide which two or three he was going to add that week, that the record would kind of jump out to the program director, aurally at least.”
That’s still a motivation for some producers. If their record jumps out of your iPod compared with the song that preceded it, then they’ve accomplished their goal.
Bob Ludwig thinks that’s an unfortunate development.
“People talk about downloads hurting record sales,” Ludwig says. “I and some other people would submit that another thing that is hurting record sales these days is the fact that they are so compressed that the ear just gets tired of it. When you’re through listening to a whole album of this highly compressed music, your ear is fatigued. You may have enjoyed the music but you don’t really feel like going back and listening to it again.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love the convenience of digital music, but something has been sacrificed, namely nuance. For CDs I rip myself, I use higher settings1 than the default 128 kbps – which to my ears sounds like a shitty little AM transistor radio.
A few interesting links collected December 16th through December 17th:
The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs : AT&T: Chokehold is “irresponsible and pointless” – It’s their own fault, of course. Go look at their financial statements and open up the Financial Operations and Statistics Summary and look at capital expenditures over the past eight quarters. I’m no math whiz, but it looks like capex has gone down by about 30% over the time period. Scroll down a bit to the Wireless section and check out data revenues — they’re up 80% over the same period.
WordPress › Pretty Link « WordPress Plugins – Shrink, track and share any URL on the Internet from your WordPress website. You can now shorten links using your own domain name (as opposed to using tinyurl.com, bit.ly, or any other link shrinking service)! In addition to creating clean links, Pretty Link tracks each hit on your URL and provides a full, detailed report of where the hit came from, the browser, os and host.
Roundup: Domestic Bliss | Wired.com Product Reviews – Baratza Virtuoso Coffee Grinder The difference between just-crushed and preground beans is like the difference between filet and jerky. I need the Virtuoso. Conical burrs mash beans without heating them and dulling the flavor like blades do.
Using Google Public DNS – The Google Public DNS IP addresses are as follows: 22.214.171.124 126.96.36.199 You can use either number as your primary or secondary DNS server.
Fullundie: 2131 South Michigan Avenue – A totally incredible batch of garage and psychedelic rock & pop singles from the vaults of 60s Chicago label USA Records and the affiliated Destination, the company charted a few hits, but released a ton of killer singles that have been lost for decades.2131 South Michigan Avenue was put together by Sundazed and it’s absolutely one of the most beautiful and rewarding lost 60s rock compilations we’ve seen in ages.
A few interesting links collected September 1st through September 2nd:
Will Chicago See a Hotel Strike? – Chicagoist – Chicago's hotel workers are clocking in today without a union contract, as negotiators from UNITE-HERE Local 1 and the Hotel Employers Labor Relations Association has yet to reach an agreement on a new pact. The previous contract expired at last night at midnight. “It’s been a fight to even just get to the table,” a spokeswoman for the hotel workers’ union told Crain's. “We’re not close, and I think we’re looking at the possibility of a major fight.”
JONNY GREENWOOD: They sound fine to me"
I would add, they sound fine if they are recorded at a high enough sample rate.
Washington Post Crashed-and-Burned-and-Smoking Watch – And if it is indeed the case that the Washington Post is recycling the public views of ideologues, hacks, and torture-tourists like Marc Thiessen as inside scoops, then Finn, Warrick, and Tate granted anonymity to their sources because naming them would by itself discredit the story. There is a place for anonymous quotes in journalism, but this is not it.
A few interesting links collected August 31st through September 1st:
Glenn Greenwald – Swampland – TIME.com – Can’t decide if my favorite part of this laughable Joke Line aka Joe Klein article is the article itself, the comments ripping Klein to shreds, or the thoughtful response Glenn Greenwald made on his Salon.com blog. Or all of the above. Klein should be so embarrassed as to resign and become an upstate bee keeper.
The internet was supposed to bring vast choice for customers, access to obscure and forgotten products – and a fortune for sellers who focused on niche markets.
But a study of digital music sales has posed the first big challenge to this “long tail” theory: more than 10 million of the 13 million tracks available on the internet failed to find a single buyer last year.
The idea that niche markets were the key to the future for internet sellers was described as one of the most important economic models of the 21st century when it was spelt out by Chris Anderson in his book The Long Tail in 2006. He used data from an American online music retailer to predict that the internet economy would shift from a relatively small number of “hits” – mainstream products – at the head of the demand curve toward a “huge number of niches in the tail”.
However, a new study by Will Page, chief economist of the MCPS-PRS Alliance, the not-for-profit royalty collection society, suggests that the niche market is not an untapped goldmine and that online sales success still relies on big hits. They found that, for the online singles market, 80 per cent of all revenue came from around 52,000 tracks. For albums, the figures were even more stark. Of the 1.23 million available, only 173,000 were ever bought, meaning 85 per cent did not sell a single copy all year.
Turns out the Long Tail [wikipedia entry] received so much press because reporters wanted the theory to be true, and because Chris Anderson made a plausible case for it. Scientific Method, hunh, what is it good for, absolutely nothing (when it comes to selling books). I’ll say it again…
Mr Page and Mr Bud believe, however, that their findings seriously undermine Mr Anderson’s thesis, which came with subtitles such as: How endless choice is creating unlimited demand and Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More.
“I think people believed in a fat, fertile long tail because they wanted it to be true,” said Mr Bud. “The statistical theories used to justify that theory were intelligent and plausible. But they turned out to be wrong. The data tells a quite different story. For the first time, we know what the true demand for digital music looks like.”
Mr Page, who carried out the economic modelling for Radiohead’s In Rainbows album, which was released free on the internet1, said: “The relative size of the dormant ‘zero sellers’ tail was truly jaw-dropping. Rather than continue to believe the selective claims of ‘here’s another great example of the long tail at work’, we wanted to find out how longtail markets should be analysed, plotted and interpreted.”
"This week artist Gabriel Villa was putting finishing touches on this mural in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood. Now someone has brown-washed the work. Ald. James Balcer (Ward 11) told WBEZ this morning that he called the city’s Streets and Sanitation Department to have it destroyed."
Liquid Dilemma: Godzilla vs. Ralph Records – I stumbled upon a collection of LPs from San Francisco based label Ralph Records, mostly recorded in the 80s and now out of print. They blew my mind. The record dealer claimed that he got them directly from the keyboardist of weirdo experimentalist band, The Residents.
For all the little kids, the Performance Enhancement Cereal is you take the Frosted Flakes, and you take the Froot Loops, and you mix them together, and then you get some of them sliced bananas and you put them on that thing, and then you get a big old bowl. The kind of bowl if you pull out out your mother say, "Boy, you better put that bowl back!" And, then you pour that milk … "You better get a job eating all that milk."
Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic mostly likes it:
After scrapping sessions with Rick Rubin and flirting with will.i.am, U2 reunited with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois (here billed as “Danny” for some reason), who not only produced The Joshua Tree but pointed the group toward aural architecture on The Unforgettable Fire. Much like All That You Can’t and Atomic Bomb, which were largely recorded with their first producer, Steve Lillywhite, this is a return to the familiar for U2, but where their Lillywhite LPs are characterized by muscle, the Eno/Lanois records are where the band take risks, and so it is here that U2 attempts to recapture that spacy, mysterious atmosphere of The Unforgettable Fire and then take it further. Contrary to the suggestion of the clanking, sputtering first single “Get on Your Boots” — its riffs and “Pump It Up” chant sounding like a cheap mashup stitched together in GarageBand — this isn’t a garish, gaudy electro-dalliance in the vein of Pop. Apart from a stilted middle section — “Boots,” the hamfisted white-boy funk “Stand Up Comedy,” and the not-nearly-as-bad-as-its-title anthem “I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight”; tellingly, the only three songs here to not bear co-writing credits from Eno and Lanois — No Line on the Horizon is all austere grey tones and midtempo meditation.
It’s a record that yearns to be intimate but U2 don’t do intimate, they only do majestic, or as Bono sings on one of the albums best tracks, they do “Magnificent.” Here, as on “No Line on the Horizon” and “Breathe,” U2 strike that unmistakable blend of soaring, widescreen sonics and unflinching openhearted emotion that’s been their trademark, turning the intimate into something hauntingly universal. These songs resonate deeper and longer than anything on Atomic Bomb, their grandeur almost seeming effortless. It’s the rest of the record that illustrates how difficult it is to sound so magnificent. With the exception of that strained middle triptych, the rest of the album is in the vein of “No Line on the Horizon” and “Breathe,” only quieter and unfocused, with its ideas drifting instead of gelling. Too often, the album whispers in a murmur so quiet it’s quite easy to ignore — “White as Snow,” an adaptation of a traditional folk tune, and “Cedars of Lebanon,” its verses not much more than a recitation, simmer so slowly they seem to evaporate — but at least these poorly defined subtleties sustain the hazily melancholy mood of No Line on the Horizon. When U2, Eno, and Lanois push too hard — the ill-begotten techno-speak overload of “Unknown Caller,” the sound sculpture of “Fez-Being Born” — the ideas collapse like a pyramid of cards, the confusion amplifying the aimless stretches of the album, turning it into a murky muddle.
Meanwhile, the album’s ballyhooed experimentation is either terribly misguided or hidden underneath a wash of shameless U2-isms (the three-note ring Edge nicks from “Walk On” for “Unknown Caller”, the “oh oh oh” outro from “Stay” apparently copied and pasted into “Moment of Surrender”, etc.). While Eno used to work his unique sound-bobbles and ambiance into the fabric of U2 songs, he seems content to offer spacey intros totally disassociated from their accompanying tunes here (see: “Fez – Being Born”, “Magnificent”). And oftentimes the band mistakes risk-taking for ill-fated arrangements and decisions. “Surrender”– reportedly improvised in one seven-minute take– comes across as lazy indulgence, and the title track’s hard-nosed verse is torpedoed by its deflating fart of a hook. As the go-to sonic innovator of the group, the Edge dials in a particularly dispiriting performance throughout; his rare solos usually pack in enough panache to fill stadiums but his bluesy blah of a spotlight on “Surrender” would barely satisfy a single earbud.
“It keeps getting harder. You’re playing against yourself and you don’t want to lose,” Adam Clayton told Q last month. And he’s got a point. After nearly 30 years of chart crashing and sell-outs, starting afresh can’t be easy. There’s only one “One”. In a way, U2 spoiled their followers by consistently questioning themselves while writing songs that straddled the personal and collective consciousness. But Horizon is clearly playing not to lose– it’s a defensive gesture, and a rather pitiful one at that.
In order to fulfill his obligation to his early solo label Bang Records,Van Morrison sat down in 1967 or so and cranked out 31 songs on the spot, on topics ranging from ringworm to wanting a danish, to hating his record label and a guy named George. Make sure you get past the first few tunes – it takes him a few to get cooking.
Oh, and the lyrics are here, worth another giggle.
Unfortunately, WFMU had to take down the tracks. If you are looking for a copy, contact me privately or leave a comment, I might know where to direct you.
Jump And Thump – 1:09
Shake And Roll – 0:59
Stomp And Scream-1:14
Scream And Holler-1:16
Shake It Mable-1:14
Hold On George-1:31
The Big Royalty Check-1:37
Freaky If You Got This Far-1:06
Up Your Mind-1:14
All The Bits-0:55
Twist And Shake-1:17
You Say France And I Whistle-0:55
Blow In Your Nose-1:26
Nose In Your Blow-1:03
Go For Yourself-1:21
Want A Danish-1:05
Here Comes Dumb George-0:57
Hang On Groovy-0:58
Dum Dum George-1:27
Apparently, these 30 tracks have since been actually released on CD. Wow, not sure I’d pay actual money for these songs, most are best heard infrequently. Funny to hear once a year, more than that, not so much.
The Bang Sessions, as most fans of Van the Man know, present Morrison when he is very good and when he is absolutely wretched. The good, of course, is his first solo album, Blowin’ Your Mind, an engaging set of ambitious folk-rock which borrows equally from R&B and jazz, winding up with songs as ebullient as “Brown Eyed Girl” and as haunting as “T.B. Sheets,” with a lot of ground covered in between. The bad is the songs that he wrote and recorded in a bid to get out of his contract with Bang — obstinate, stream-of-conscious ditties and nonsense that he wrote on the spot; it’s interesting in theory, but nearly unlistenable in practise.
Some additional reading October 5th from 14:51 to 19:56:
Daily Kos: The Guilt By Association Game – “with John McCain facing the prospect of getting his ass handed to him in November, he has decided that the mavericky thing to do is to swift boat Barack Obama by playing the guilt by association game. Great idea, Senator Straight Talk…but it’s no fun to play alone, so let’s add a couple of more players:”
Daily Kos: Rabid Republicans in Rural MO: We. Hate. Her. (Updated) – “turns out that they really, really, really, really did not like the fact that Palin flat out did not answer many of the questions. They found that to be outrageous. After all, the entire reason they were watching the debate was to see her answer questions, doggone it.They also did not like all her attempts to be folksy. To them it just came off as, um, I think the word they used was “phony.” In fact, the candidate who seemed to them to be real and more like them was not Sarah Palin but Joe Biden.
The women, in particularly, did not like Palin’s flirty, winky act. That went over like a lead balloon. And both the men and the women did not like her “Can I Call You Joe” schtick. They found that to be disrespectful to Senator Biden.”
Sound In Motion: Acoustic Submarine – “an AMAZING bootleg of The Beatles, culled from several (unfortunately unlisted) sources, but this 39 track collection is excellent in sound quality, song selection, and really, just rarity.”
Cop Light Parade is the long overdue follow up to High on Stress’ 2005 critically acclaimed debut Moonlight Girls. The first album received excellent notices and airplay in not only their hometown of Minneapolis MN, but across the nation and from as far away as the UK, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Cop Light Parade is the culmination of three years of weathering enough personnel changes, geographic obstacles and wardrobe malfunctions to have killed a less recalcitrant band.
Following the sudden departure of founding member Jon Tranberry, the band welcomed Jim Soule, who took up the bass guitar and played his first show a few days later opening for Jackson Browne at a huge outdoor festival. The band returned to the studio to begin work on its second album only to be set back by another unexpected loss. Guitarist/songwriter/raconteur Ben Baker moved to China, having already contributed heavily to the recording. Baker continued to work on the project, utilizing new school technology and old school frequent flier miles, while Chad Wheeling, a curiously youthful yet grizzled veteran guitarist, joined singer/songwriter Nick Leet, drummer Mark Devaraj, and bassist Jim Soule in finishing the record.
Bringing things full circle, Cop Light Parade was recorded with great care by Jon Tranberry. An advance single of the title track of Cop Light Parade has been released worldwide and added to dozens of radio stations (online, terrestrial and satellite), once again drawing raves from outposts of the blogosphere from San Francisco to Istanbul. Reviewers have favorably compared the band’s “almost alt.country” sound to REM, the Replacements, Wilco, and Josh Rouse among others.
CD is currently available at CDBaby (where you can listen to stream of the album to decide whether or not to purchase it). Also more info at their MySpace page Check ’em out when they come to your town…