Monday, May 30, 2005

Could You Imagine...

... a story like this in our country?

Belinda Stronach, the ambitious and rich rising star of the Progressive-Conservative Party of Canada throws over both her party and her boyfriend to switch to the Liberals, take a seat in the Cabinet and save the government from having to face another election. Even The West Wing wouldn't have dreamed up a story this unlikely. Gotta love those Canucks!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Recent iTunes Additions

  • Take It Easy (Love Nothing) - Bright Eyes - Digital Ash in a Digital Urn
  • Gold Mine Gutted - Bright Eyes - Digital Ash in a Digital Urn
  • Lua - Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake It's Morning
  • We Are Nowhere and It's Now - Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake It's Morning
  • Smack - Bettie Serveert - Log 22
  • One That Got Away - The Anomoanon - Asleep Many Years In The Wood
  • Elliott Gould Is In California Split - Head Of Femur - Hysterical
  • Televators - The Mars Volta - Deloused In The Comatorium
  • The Widow - The Mars Volta - Frances The Mute
  • Inertiatic - The Mars Volta - Deloused In The Comatorium
  • Drunkship Of Lanterns - The Mars Volta - Deloused In The Comatorium
  • The Shepherd & The Chauffeur - A Northern Chorus - Bitter Hands Resign
  • Beverly Hills - Weezer - Make Believe
  • Casimir Pulaski Day - Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
  • Baboon - The Mountain Goats - The Coroner's Gambit
  • Family Happiness - The Mountain Goats - The Coroner's Gambit
  • In A Funny Way - Mercury Rev - The Secret Migration
  • Take Your Carriage Clock And Shove It - Belle And Sebastian - Push Barman To Open Old Wounds
  • The Execution Of All Things - Rilo Kiley - The Execution Of All Things
  • Vibrate - Rufus Wainwright - Want One
  • Twin Cinema - The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema
  • Hey Now Now - The Cloud Room - The Cloud Room
  • Spoon - Gimmie Fiction (Entire Album)
  • Emerge (Selways Memory Boy Superstar) - Fischerspooner
  • Emerge (Terranova Remix) - Fischerspooner
  • Emerge (Westbam Remix) - Fischerspooner
  • Smells Like Emerge - Fischerspooner vs. Nirvana
  • Ben Folds - Songs For Silverman (Entire Album)
  • Garbage - Bleed Like Me (Entire Album)

Hey, Bernie!


It's been a long time since Room 222, hasn't it?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Future Of The CD?

Interesting post here from Mark Cuban's blog, "blog maverick," discussing the future of the CD as the unit of music commerce and the ways in which it is destined to be killed. While his grasp of basketball talent is not always sure, his grasp of the digital world does seem to be on mostly solid footing.

The no-brainer part of his entry is that the way we listen to music is changing -- quickly and forever.

" occured to me, that I haven’t used my CD Player, portable or at home, in a long, long time. That I rarely, if ever see anyone walking around with a portable CD player anymore. They have all been replaced by MP3 players. ... MP3 players are changing peoples listening habits. We don’t carry folders filled with CDs anymore. We carry our library in our MP3 players. We don’t listen to CDs. We listen to playlists that we adjust all the time. We don’t burn CDs anymore, it’s too time consuming. We copy all our music to our MP3 players so it’s all available at our fingertips.

All of our music in a single device. Available to us wherever we are, for whenever we want it. Music how we want it, when we want it. Easy and breezy. That’s how we want to consume music."

Slightly more perceptive is the reason why CDs still exist even now:

"At least until the music industry goes to DVD Audio or copy protected CDs, I know that with the CD, I have control over my music. I can make my own personal copies. I can put them in apple format for my IPod, Sony format for my new digital walkman or PSP, MicroSoft format for my PC, or whatever else comes along.

That’s the only good reason to own a CD. To deal with the hassles that you know will come from having to deal with all the different formats that MP3 players will support in coming years."

This is almost the complete truth. I have a wall of about 1,400 CDs. My iPod and iTunes on my computer have essentially reduced these to backup files -- some with interesting cover art. The rest of the truth, though, is that these CDs contain digital information -- information that is much denser than the information contained in the mp3 files on my iPod.

In other words, CDs sound better than mp3s.

This is a bit of a cliche, but like most cliches it is one because it is the truth.

For all music, but particularly for classical music, it sounds better from a CD, and this is true even when listening to iTunes on my stereo. The difference is subtle, but it exists.

But not forever.

I think that the real death knell for CDs (at least for people like me) will come when hard drives (whether in portable players, laptops or desktops) are large enough and downloads are fast enough that CD quality sound files (or even better -- remember that the CD standard is essentially arbitrary) can replace mp3 quality files. At that point there really will be no need to have CDs as anything other than backup.

Cuban goes on to examine how these changes in music consumption patterns will inevitably lead to changes in music distribution methods. What is odd about his forecast is that he seems to predict that the product will look essentially like that currently offered by iTunes (single song or album availability) but that the medium of distribution will remain housed within a brick-and-mortar retailer ("record" store, Wal-Mart, etc. -- albeit through the use of a self-serve kiosk).

What he doesn't mention is: A) how this solves his previously identified problem regarding digital rights management ("If I want to buy downloads from the net, it’s like trying to figure out which mortga(g)e to take out on a house. No(t) because of the cost, but because of all the rules and regulations. Do I want to limit myself to 5 computers. Do I want to always keep my subscription live. Do I want to store the music in a proprietary format that only a couple devices can use. Those are all tough decisions to make when the only thing I know with certainty is that the device I’m using as an MP3 player today, is NOT going to be the device I’m going to be using 18 months from now."), and B) why the end distributor is likely to be a brick-and-mortar retailer rather than on online retailer who will be accessed by consumers wherever they are (at home or wirelessly).

Isn't the end of this more likely to be a product that weds the wireless communication of a Blackberry with the storage (increased storage, moreover) and playback capacity of an iPod? With such a device you could theoretically walk down the street listening to a song which spurs the memory of another song -- one you'd just have to have. Within seconds you could buy the song, download it directly to your device and be ready to listen to it when the current song ends. Direct to player (as Cuban intends), with no middleman whatsoever.

And everything in full CD sound quality.

The Top 26 Albums Of The 1990s (Part 6)


Who: Luna
What: Penthouse
When: August 8, 1995
Why: Losing Galaxie 500 was a shame, but the result, as is often the case, was a positive development. Out of the ashes sprang both Magic Hour – a great noise rock outfit whose No Excess Is Absurd barely missed making this list, and whose mid-90s shows at the Lounge Ax remain among my very favorite concert memories – and Luna. Dean Wareham hooked up with an Australian, a Feelie and a great guitarist to form this group and release a series of terrific albums culminating in Penthouse. The album consists mostly of moody languor, with a couple of faster-paced numbers thrown in as a change of pace. The album’s centerpiece is “23 Minutes In Brussels,” which actually clocks in at a mere 6 ½ minutes of chugging grooves and spinning solos. Stereolab’s Letitia Sadler makes an appearance on the Francophone finale “Bonnie and Clyde.”


Who: Son Volt
What: Trace
When: September 19, 1995
Why: Losing Uncle Tupelo was a shame, but the result, as is often the case, was a positive development. Out of the ashes sprang both Wilco – more about them later – and Son Volt ... wait a minute, I’ve got this terrible feeling of déjà vu, I ...

The dynamic at work in Uncle Tupelo was actually more like that in Sebadoh, even as the post-breakup dynamic was more than a bit like Luna. Like Sebadoh, Uncle Tupelo featured two songwriters with different and compelling visions of what their band should be – visions that eventually resulted in two completely different career paths. Jeff Tweedy initially took the poppy route with Wilco, a route which eventually morphed into their artier, critic-friendly work in the Oughts (as well as a date at Madison Square Garden) – emphasizing the alt in alt-country. Jay Farrar took a more traditionally country route with Trace, albeit through an American Stars ‘n’ Bars prism. Rockers are here aplenty, but it is the slow country tunes that really stick in the memory. Tear-Stained Eye" features plenty of banjo, pedal steel and delicious harmonies to raise Gram Parsons’ ashes from the desert; “Ten Second News” pairs the Times Beach dioxin contamination and the 1993 Mississippi River flood to paint a bleak portrait of mid-1990s Midwest living; the album’s closer, “Mystify Me” takes a page from Exile On Main Street with a bit of bluesy country honk. The staying power may not have been there for Son Volt as it has for Wilco, but for this brief moment, Farrar set the bar high.

Keep A Secret

Who: Mysteries Of Life
What: Keep A Secret
When: February 27, 1996
Why: A bit of a Boston alt-supergroup transplanted back to the heartland. Husband-and-wife team Jake Smith (of Antenna) and Freda Boner (of Blake Babies and Antenna) formed the core of this Bloomington,Indiana quartet, which made this one masterpiece and vanished to a sort of limbo where they exist until today.

The key to the record’s sound, as is so often the case with great albums, is the instrumentation: guitar & bass yes, but also cello and a standup drum kit (heavy on the tom and the high-hat). All were used in the service of a set of spectacularly tuneful mid-tempo rockers written by Smith. I first heard of the existence of this album on an NPR story, and the sad truth is that I don’t believe I’ve heard it anywhere else on the radio since.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Most Recent iTunes Random Plays

  • Drinking Muddy Water - North Mississippi All-Stars
  • Two Sisters - Royal Crescent Mob
  • Porcelain - Moby
  • The Ballad of a Ladyman - Sleater-Kinney
  • News of the World - The Jam
  • Try - Marshall Crenshaw
  • Breakdown Championship - The Jim Yoshi Pile-Up
  • She Bangs the Drums - The Stone Roses
  • Down in the Tube Station at Midnight - The Jam
  • Keep on Truckin' - Eddie Kendricks
  • Express Yourself - Madonna
  • Isolation - Joy Division
  • The Road - Tenacious D
  • My Bouts With Pouncing - The Van Pelt
  • Jerkin' Back 'n' Forth - Devo

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Birth Song

Do you know your birth song? The song that was #1 onthe Billboard Chart the day you were born? Mine is "The Twist" by Chubby Checker. This may be significant, but it's just possible that it's not significant at all.

My wife's birth song is "It's My Party" by Lesley Gore. My oldest daughter's is "Baby, Baby" by Amy Grant, and my younger daughter's is "A Whole New World (Aladdin's Theme)" by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle.

Friday, May 13, 2005

The Top 26 Albums Of The 1990s (Part 5)


Who: Sebadoh
What: Bakesale
When: September 1, 1994
Why: One of the stranger bands to trod the alt-rock earth. Born of Lou Barlow’s ejection from Dinosaur Jr., the band began as thrash rock kings and ended as high-end power balladeers. In between a majestic peak was reached with this album – perfectly balanced on the cusp between where they had been and where they were going, full of thrashy, speedy power ballads. The key to the band when they were at their best was the tension between the two primary songwriters, Barlow and Jason Lowenstein. Their dynamic was familiar to Husker Du fans – as with Bob Mould and Grant Hart, they never seemed to collaborate so much as compete -- but when they were both at the top of their games (as on Bakesale), the result is a sustained volley of pure pleasure. This is shown to its greatest extent on the pairing of “Not A Friend” and “Not Too Amused.” It seems almost impossible that these songs weren’t written (the first by Barlow, the second by Lowenstein) with each other in mind, but the lyrics are so bitter that it also seems impossible that they could have been written to each other while the band was still intact:

“Not A Friend”

I'm not a good friend, I'm not a friend at all
It's never resolved, I'm nervous when you call
My words are limp, and my mind is dry
I try to be polite, but I feel like I'm stuck for life
I follow my heart, it leads me far from you
No matter how close we are, I'm far, far away
I have too much now to fill my day today
I'm not a good friend, I'm not a friend at all
I don't need obligations to our crippled conversations
I’d never tell you, it’s something you should know
I'm not a friend at all, oh, please let me go
Somehow I don't trust you
I don't trust myself
And I may never forgive you
‘Cuz I can't forgive myself
Somehow I don't trust you
I don't trust myself
And I may never forgive you
‘Cuz I can't forgive myself
Don't break my stride
Don't break my stride
Don't break my stride
Don't break my stride

“Not Too Amused”

What was that you just said?
That didn't make any sense to me
It's not the way I see it, man
I'm almost tired of listening to you
Why do you tie me up with words?
The way your eye shifts makes me wanna go
Black-jawed living room couch professor
When will you be through with me? I'd like to know
Everywhere I go I feel it
But I won't talk, I won't get stuck with you
Everyone's so lonely I dig it
But I'm afraid I can't share this with you
So don't make me your captive
I don't feel like talking your shit
I nod my broken head
I'm not too amused with humans

Lyrically black and bleak, the music for each shares a sense of doom, of a slowly but inexorably tightening grip of tension. The screws are turning. A remarkable pair of songs from a remarkable pair of songwriters, but these two are merely the tip of the iceberg on this album.

To Bring You My Love

Who: P.J. Harvey
What: To Bring You My Love
When: February 28, 1995
Why: The blues, as channeled by a skinny little British woman. Demographically she is as far from Blind Lemon Jefferson as a human can get. In spirit – pretty damn close. Polly Jean has had some great albums in her career, but this remains the most thematically and musically consistent. The themes: sex and death. The music: classic blues riffs – killer blues riffs. Liz Phair’s album on this list is a one of the great albums ever by a chick, but this is what a real woman sounds like.

The Bends

Who: Radiohead
What: The Bends
When: April 4, 1995
Why: In 1993 Radiohead was a one-hit Nirvana sound-alike. Now I’ll grant that the one hit remains one of my favorite songs, but apart from “Creep,” Pablo Honey had (and has) little to offer. With this album, Radiohead began at a leap to become what they are today – the best band in the world. While they’ve grown and changed with each record since, The Bends is probably still their most influential album – if only because Coldplay, Travis, etc. are still stuck on aping it so successfully (in terms of the quality of the imitation as well as the impact on their bottom lines). The record lacks the conceptual pretensions of the band’s later albums, but doesn’t lack for great songs. Like waves on a beach, they just keep coming: “Planet Telex,” “The Bends,” “High And Dry,” “Fake Plastic Trees,” “(Nice Dream),” “My Iron Lung,” and on and on and on. What a great band sounds like before they decide to become artistes (not that they ever really lost anything in that exchange) – a truly great alt-rock record.

... And One More ...

The great Spoon played live on "Morning Becomes Eclectic" this morning. Watch it here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Hey, Remember This Guy?

The Onion A.V. Club has a great little feature this week (last week?) consisting of excerpts from Elvis Costello's self-penned liner notes to the albums included in Rhino Records' reissue set. Some great stuff, including this "perspective" on the making of Punch The Clock (released in 1983):

"Between 1979 and 1983 something strange happened. The British government mutated from an annoying and often disreputable body that spent people's taxes on the wrong things into a hostile regime contemptuous of anyone who did not serve or would not yield to its purpose."

Sound at all familiar?

Anyway, the article provides a great reminder of just how great Costello and the Attractions were back in the day (2 of the 16 greatest albums of the '70s and 1 of the 19 greatest albums of the '80s).

If you're at all interested in what he's up to these days (I'll admit that I'm basically not), here is a terrific live set and interview from "Morning Becomes Eclectic." This is the aptly named KCRW (Santa Monica, CA public radio) show -- hosted by the eminently British Nic Harcourt -- that is unparalleled when it comes to in-studio live sets from great bands. A great number of these are archived in RealVideo on the KCRW website (as is this set from Costello). Other archived acts include: Jem, The Decemberists, Andrew Bird, Beck, M. Ward, Bloc Party, The Arcade Fire, and PJ Harvey. Check it out.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Recent iTunes Additions

  • Pane Of Glass - Sally Crewe & The Sudden Moves - Shortly After Take-Off
  • Entertain - Sleater-Kinney - The Woods
  • Good Morning, Aston Martin - Sally Crewe & The Sudden Moves - Shortly After Take-Off
  • Heartbeat - Annie - Anniemal
  • House Of Jealous Lovers - The Rapture
  • My Wife's Crazy! - David Cross - It's Not Funny
  • Tulips - Bloc Party - Tulips E.P.
  • Lull - Andrew Bird - Weather Systems
  • I Need More Love - Robert Randolph & The Family Band - 2004-06-13 - Bonnaroo
  • Starts Off With A Bang - Mobius Band - City Vs. Country
  • Growin' Up - Bruce Springsteen - Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.
  • They - Jem - Finally Woken
  • Come on! Feel the Illinoise! - Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
  • The Decemberists - Castaways And Cutouts (Entire Album)
  • Andrew Bird - Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production Of Eggs (Entire Album)
  • Andrew Bird on Morning Becomes Eclectic, April 6, 2005
  • Beck on Morning Becomes Eclectic, March 31, 2005
  • M. Ward on Morning Becomes Eclectic, March 29, 2005
  • Love In A Trashcan - The Raveonettes - Pretty In Black
  • The Happies - Meet The Happies (Entire Album)
  • Tell Balgeary, Balgury is Dead - Ted Leo + The Pharmacists - Tell Balgeary, Balgury is Dead
  • The Anointed One - Ted Leo + The Pharmacists - Hearts Of Oak
  • The Crane Takes Flight - Ted Leo + The Pharmacists - Hearts Of Oak
  • Walking Through - Ted Leo + The Pharmacists - Tej Leo(?) Rx Pharmacists
  • The Gold Finch and the Red Oak Tree - Ted Leo + The Pharmacists - The Tyranny of Distance
  • Loyal to My Sorrowful Country - Ted Leo + The Pharmacists - Tell Balgeary, Balgury is Dead
  • Ghosts - Ted Leo + The Pharmacists - Tell Balgeary, Balgury is Dead
  • Congressional Dubcision - Ted Leo + The Pharmacists - Tej Leo(?) Rx Pharmacists
  • Biomusicology - Ted Leo + The Pharmacists - The Tyranny of Distance
  • My Lord Will Be Gardening - Lilys - Precollection
  • Secret Society - David Last - The Push Pull
  • Cat-Silver - David Last - The Push Pull
  • The Push Pull - David Last - The Push Pull

Monday, May 02, 2005

Most Recent iTunes Random Plays

  • Church on Sunday - Green Day
  • Learnin' The Blues - Frank Sinatra
  • Tombstone Blues - Bob Dylan
  • Oh! - Sleater-Kinney
  • Here It Is Again - The Beautiful South
  • Spoonman - Soundgarden
  • Tomorrow Never Knows - The Beatles
  • Some Other Time - X
  • Testify - Rage Against the Machine
  • Car Song - Elastica
  • Chesley's Little Wrists - Pavement
  • Spin The Bottle - The Juliana Hatfield Three
  • Too Old To Rock And Roll: Too Young To Die! - Jethro Tull
  • Everything in Its Right Place - Radiohead
  • The Argument - The Sea And Cake