Reggie and the Full Effect - Last Stop: Crappy Town
Now playing:Artist: Reggie and the Full Effect
Album: Last Stop: Crappy Town (buy)
Track: Smith & 9th (listen)
This album is darker and more serious than previous Reggie albums. The hard songs seem angrier. But it also has a few of the super-catchy, upbeat Reggie tracks, and a couple really pretty ones too, including this one.
The Notwist - The Devil, You + Me
Now playing:Artist: The Notwist
Album: The Devil, You + Me (buy)
Track: Where In This World (listen)
This isn’t really an album of singles, and it’s not as catchy as their previous album, Neon Golden. But it has grown on me, and songs like this one and "Good Lies" build nicely from start to finish, adding new layers and sounds as they progress.
Alabama iPhone App Now Available
After nearly two months of not approving my iPhone app, Apple finally approved it last week while I was away on vacation. It’s called Alabama, it’s a music player, and you can get it here.
I created Alabama because I love music, and I love whole albums. I don’t listen to singles, I don’t skip tracks, and "shuffle" is something I would never do to an album. When you’re that kind of music listener, and you have hundreds of albums, scrolling through a long alphabetical list of artists or albums is annoying and unsatisfying. I can never find something that I want to listen to that way.
So I created an app which is a simple music player with one important additional feature: a "Pick" button which picks one album at random from your music library. You can then simply tap the Play button, or tap Pick again a few times until you find something you feel like listening to.
Another neat thing about Alabama is that it actually uses the iPod application to play the music, so it keeps playing when you quit the app. And conversely, if you start playing something via the iPod app, you can quit that and launch Alabama, and then tap the "Now Playing" button to view what’s playing within Alabama’s interface -- which is superior to the iPod’s interface because it uses letters that are large and actually legible to display the artist, album, and track names.
So check out Alabama for your iPhone or iPod touch. There’s a free lite version and a 99-cent full version.
The Almost - Southern Weather
Now playing:Artist: The Almost
Album: Southern Weather (buy)
Track: Say This Sooner (listen)
If you can stand to visit MySpace, you can also stream the whole Southern Weather album from there.
Here’s a video about whether you should quit your job to become a musician, and in particular about the (un)glamorous life of a touring rock band. It sounds about right from what Andy tells me.
This is apparently the greatest freakout ever. Someone sent it to me a few weeks ago, and then I saw it again last week on The Factor, so you’ve probably already seen it by now. Be warned though, it’s probably as disturbing as it is hilarious.
Finally there’s the most effective alarm clock in the world. I just placed my order.
Mayday Parade - A Lesson in Romantics
Now playing:Artist: Mayday Parade
Album: A Lesson in Romantics (buy)
Track: Jamie All Over (listen)
These guys are great. They’re like a cross between Seville and Cartel. The whole album is super catchy.
The New Amsterdams - Killed or Cured
Now playing:Artist: The New Amsterdams
Album: Killed or Cured (buy)
Track: Strangled By The Thought (listen)
The amount of great material produced by these guys, from The Get Up Kids to The New Amsterdams to Reggie and the Full Effect, is just amazing.
The Snake The Cross The Crown - Like A Moth Before A Flame
Now playing:Artist: The Snake The Cross The Crown
Album: Like A Moth Before A Flame (buy)
Track: Hot Anger, Soon Cold (listen)
This is only a 6-song EP, which is a shame because it’s amazing. And from what I’ve heard of their newer stuff, it doesn’t sound anything like this.
Calexico with Iron and Wine - In the Reins
Now playing:Artist: Calexico with Iron and Wine
Album: In the Reins (buy)
Track: Sixteen, Maybe Less (listen)
Armor For Sleep - Smile For Them
Now playing:Artist: Armor For Sleep
Album: Smile For Them (buy)
Track: Hold The Door (listen)
So this isn’t "now playing" quite as often right now as it was about a year ago, but I’m backlogged on posting. It was a tough call between "Hold The Door" and "Somebody Else’s Arms" but the former won out.
Helmet - Size Matters
Yesterday, a large number of Microsoft’s Zune portable music players spontaneously died in their owners’ hands.
After spending much of the day digging into the problem, Microsoft said that it had traced it to a software bug "related to the way the device handles a leap year." Apparently the Zune was expecting 2008 to have 365 days, not 366.
Though this does suck for Microsoft and for their customers who bought the Zunes, it makes me feel a little less bad about any bugs I’ve had in any of my applications.
The fix for the glitch? Patience. The company said the internal clock on the players should reset itself at 7 a.m. Eastern time on Thursday. [...] Those who were hoping to provide the soundtrack to New Year’s Eve parties had no choice but to find a friend with an iPod.
Realistically though, there’s probably not much overlap between "people who’ve bought a Zune" and "people with enough friends to host a party."
At least the Zunes came back to life a day later.
When Apple debuted the iPhone App Store I immediately downloaded a few of the free apps, including 3 radio apps: AOL Radio, Last.FM, and Pandora. But I never tried any of them out, until tonight. I’m not sure why; maybe I figured that over the EDGE network they wouldn’t work, or wouldn’t work well.
Tonight while driving home and listening to Macbreak Weekly, I heard Leo mention that he’s streaming his live shows and they work over EDGE. That got me thinking and I remembered that I had these radio apps.
I fired up AOL Radio. It played without skipping, but the audio quality was pretty bad. And AOL Radio stations are sort of like regular radio stations in that you pick a station/genre and then you have to take whatever it gives you.
I then tried Pandora, and the quality was not great, but was listenable, and it also played without skipping. And I quickly remembered why I love Pandora: it played Craig’s Brother, then Just Surrender, then June, then Thrice -- all bands I love. (For a quick explanation of how Pandora works: you just type in the name of a band or song that you like, and it then creates a custom "station" for you of similar music. You can give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to each track it plays. It’s remarkably good at picking stuff I like based on the songs I give it.) (Update: there’s a "high quality" setting in the app’s prefs, so I’ll have to try that while driving to see how well it plays.)
When I got home, I tried the Last.FM app; its audio quality is superb (still over EDGE) and doesn’t skip at all, though the fact that I’m not in a moving car now may have something to do with that. I’ll have to test it in the car. But I’m especially impressed with how Last.FM chooses its songs: it automatically has a "Your Library" preset consisting of all the music you’ve ever played through a Last.FM-enabled player, which I’ve been doing since 2004. The songs are streaming from Last.FM’s servers, but it knows basically all the tracks in my library, so effectively I have my whole library with me -- except that I can’t choose songs or albums; they play like a radio station.
All in all, I’m very impressed with the radio situation on the iPhone. In fact I’m surprised how good it is, especially over non-3G cell networks.
iPhone 2.1 Software Update: Podcasts Get Some Love
I got in early on the iPhone 2.1 update, and the whole process from download to finished update only took about 10 minutes. Not bad considering the fact that on the last update, some people’s phones were rendered useless for a few hours until iTunes was finally able to activate them.
Podcast lists are now displayed using the show name & title format, with the title being displayed at a smaller text size. This means that you can see more of the title on the screen, which is important for podcasts like TED where each episode has its own topic. For example, a recent episode was displayed on the 2.0.2 software as "How to survive a nu..." (IIRC), but is now displayed as "How to survive a nuclear..." Perhaps that’s not a huge change, but for some titles, 5 extra letters can make the difference between knowing or not knowing what the heck the episode is even about. The full title of this episode is "How to survive a nuclear attack - Irwin Redlener (2008)", and unfortunately there’s not a single place on the iPhone where you can view the full title like that.
Another nice new feature is that, if you select a video podcast from the Podcasts menu, instead of from the Videos menu, then it will be able to play in either vertical or horizontal mode, auto-flipping as you turn the iPhone, like many other apps do. For some reason, from the Videos menu, only horizontal mode is supported. One nice thing about this vertical video mode is again related to the title of the media: the same podcast from above displays as "How to survive a nuclear attack -...", which gives us 9 more letters of the title than the podcast listings page does. Unfortunately, in horizontal mode, the title isn’t displayed at all, which is a shame since that’s the mode where we’d be able to see the most of it! [Update: looks like this feature was actually present earlier, at least in 2.0.2, and I just didn’t notice it until now.]
One more nice touch is that for podcasts (and presumably TV shows and movies), the blue dot that appears next to items that you haven’t yet watched or listened to, and that disappears once you have, now displays as a half-empty dot for items that you’re in the middle of. That’s extremely useful for people like me who listen to lots of podcasts.
This one may have actually been fixed by iTunes 8, and not iPhone 2.1, but: when using the Remote app on the iPhone to play audio/video in iTunes on your computer, if you selected a video podcast which can also play as an audio-only podcast, iTunes would only play the audio. It now plays the video too.
And the Genius feature is really pretty sweet. When a song is playing, just tap the Genius icon and the iPhone will instantly generate a new playlist of similar songs. It’s Pandora for your own music collection. And in iTunes itself, there’s a Genius sidebar that will suggest songs that you don’t currently own, so you can buy them from the iTunes Store.
Unfortunately there’s still no friggin’ scale bar in the Maps application, but what can you do.
Bush - Letting the Cables Sleep (Nightmares On Wax Remix)
Now playing:Artist: Bush / Nightmares On Wax
Album: Letting the Cables Sleep (Nightmares On Wax Remix) (buy)
Track: Letting the Cables Sleep (Nightmares On Wax Remix) (listen)
I haven’t followed Bush since their album Razorblade Suitcase (1996) and haven’t listened to the radio in about 10 years, so I’ve never heard the original version of this song. But sometime last year, this NOW remix started playing in the Groove Salad stream on SomaFM, and I loved it. Apparently it was only ever released as a single, and possibly only in the UK, though it’s also apparently been included on this comp.
Alien Ant Farm - truANT
Now playing:Artist: Alien Ant Farm
Album: truANT (buy album)
One of the things I love about Alien Ant Farm is that they explore different song structures and tempos with results that are usually interesting and catchy. They’re not extremely off-the-wall experimental, but they aren’t quite straight-up rock either. In this track, there’s the verse, then there’s a bridge which is sort of more like a chorus, then there’s the real bridge, and finally the real chorus.
Musicbox, Meet iPhone
Here’s what’s left of Musicbox v2.0:
Behold, Musicbox v3.0:
More photos and details here.
The old musicbox system served me well, but since I’ve always bought 2 or 3 new albums per month, it got to be a pain having to take the system out of the car every few weeks and bring it in the house to add new music to it. And nowadays about half of my listening is podcasts, which are updated daily or weekly, which would just be totally impractical to keep updated on the old system. With the iPhone, though, it’s always automatically up to date with the latest music and shows.
Iron and Wine - Our Endless Numbered Days
Now playing:Artist: Iron and Wine
Album: Our Endless Numbered Days (buy album)
Thrice - The Alchemy Index Vols. I + II: Fire & Water
Now playing:Artist: Thrice
Album: The Alchemy Index Vols. I + II: Fire & Water (buy)
Track: Open Water (listen)The open water chills me to my bones, but it’s the only place that I feel alive.
I’m fascinated by rivers and the sea so it’s no surprise that I’m a sucker for songs about them. The Alchemy Index has Thrice going in a slightly different direction yet again, and they produced the album themselves. The "Fire" disc is hard rock, not unlike some earlier Thrice but more rough and raw. "Water" is where the real experimentation happens, being mostly acoustic and electronic as opposed to hard rock. And as with their previous albums, the result is fantastic.
Emery - I'm Only A Man
Now playing:Artist: Emery
Album: I’m Only A Man (buy)
Track: Don’t Bore Us, Get To The Chorus (listen)
This music and vocals in this song’s chorus are very catchy, upbeat, and just fun, but at the same time the lyrics are extremely serious, even grave. And interestingly, the point of this song isn’t what you think it is; only the final bit of lyrics reveals its true meaning:
I’m never satisfied, so let them all fall side by side.
Side by side, one more will fall tonight.
One more to promised lies.
The morning brings the dreadful light,
so you can see that you have fallen.
Emery is among my favorite bands, and lyrics like this are one of the main reasons. They’re often criticizing the actions or behaviors that they’re singing about, but if you don’t know Emery’s music well or you don’t pay close attention to all the lyrics, then you might not even know it.
Emery’s first album, The Weak’s End, had a ton of screaming, but also lots of nice melodic parts. The second album, The Question, had less screaming and was perhaps more poppy. And this their third album is sort of more dark and earthy in a way, but also more diverse, as with the electronic part in this track. But what all three albums have in common is that they’re great: catchy music with deep, interesting, and sometimes mysterious lyrics.
My American Heart - Hiding Inside the Horrible Weather
Now playing:Artist: My American Heart
Album: Hiding Inside the Horrible Weather (buy)
Track: Moving On (listen)
Cartel - self-titled
Now playing:Artist: Cartel
Album: Cartel (buy)
Track: This Is Who We Are (listen)
My main impression of this album, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of it, is that it pales in comparison to Cartel’s previous album, Chroma. And that’s a shame because it’s not that this is a bad album -- it’s quite good in fact -- but rather it’s just that Chroma is pretty much impossible to top. Still, the new album is worth owning, and it’s growing on me over time.
Yellowcard - Lights and Sounds
Mae - Singularity
Telefon Tel Aviv - Remixes Compiled
Artist: Telefon Tel Aviv
Album: Remixes Compiled
"I’ll make it easy: either you want him, or you want me."