Smoke or Fire - This Sinking Ship

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Now playing:

Artist: Smoke or Fire

Album: This Sinking Ship

Track: This Sinking Ship (listen)

"We need the strength of our family’s arms, not a false sense of solidarity."

Posted by Anthony on at 06:36pm

Circa Survive - On Letting Go

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Now playing:

Artist: Circa Survive

Album: On Letting Go

Track: The Greatest Lie (listen)

For as long as nodivisions has existed, I’ve been using it as a means to promote the bands that I like.  It started as a giant monolithic listing, then switched to a dedicated blog, then more recently to a concise "Now Playing" listing in the sidebar.

All of those methods have proven to be unideal in the long run for various reasons, and it now strikes me that the simplest and most obvious thing to do is just make posts on the main blog about what I’m currently listening to.

One of the most important (to me) things about my website is its ability to facilitate communication and foster discussion, so that’s one big advantage that the blog has over the concise "Now Playing" sidebar as a place to post music: the sidebar listing doesn’t allow feedback or discussion.

And because updating a website regularly can be tedious -- even if you really want to and intend to do it -- it helps to make it as easy as possible to make your updates, which is another advantage that the blog has over an old-fashioned monolithic page or a static HTML sidebar element.

A year or two ago, I would have worried that posting music items on the blog would cause them to get lost amongst all the other non-music postings.  But the presence of categories / tags means that that doesn’t have to happen: simply visiting nodivisions.com/tag/NowPlaying will list them all nicely.

So this is the first of those postings, and it’s long overdue: I’ve had this album for about six months now.  I plan (hope) to take care of some of my music-posting backlog over the coming weeks.

Posted by Anthony on at 02:17am

Audio and Video

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How do you improve on one of the greatest songs of all time?  Well, you put it into the pilot episode of Miami Vice, for one thing.  But what if it’s 2007?  Then you make a video of a freakin’ gorilla playing the drums for the song.  (If anyone can figure out how to actually download a copy of that video, let me know.)

In other audio-related news, the August 4th 2007 episode of Car Talk is hilarious.  I mean generally this show is really funny, but this episode is especially good.

And what would be a post on NoDivisions without a comment about the iPhone?  Let me just say that one of my favorite things about the iPhone is that, thanks to iTunes’ podcast support, I always have the 5 latest episodes of all my favorite radio shows with me -- Security Now, Car Talk, The Radio Factor, Science Friday...  Sadly, those last 2 are only previews, not the full shows, which is just dumb.

Also dumb is that NPR won’t make a podcast of All Things Considered.  What’s the point of that?  First of all, it’s free to listen to on the radio every day.  Second, it’s free to stream from the NPR website every day.  Third, it’s "National Public Radio," which prides itself on being all free and open.  So what are they so afraid of when it comes to making a podcast of it?  It’s just another example of a clueless dinosaur media outfit paralyzed by FUD when it comes to the internet and technology -- which is especially pathetic in the case of NPR which is supposed to be all liberal and progressive and forward-thinking.

Posted by Anthony on at 06:33am

60-Cycle Hum in Your Stereo? Check Your Cable TV Line for Ground Loop

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The traditional solution to "mains buzz" or "mains hum" is to make sure that all of the components in your audio/video setup are plugged into the same outlet, thus ensuring that all grounds are at the same electrical potential.  As long as there’s no potential difference between grounds, then by definition there’s no voltage, so via Ohm’s Law there can be no current flow, and thus no unwanted hum caused by the current flow.

I just finally got around to setting up my receiver here, and got some pretty nasty hum right away, which I figured was due to the computers being plugged into different outlets than the TV and receiver.  So I ran an extension cord from the computers’ power outlet over to the TV/receiver, but it made no difference.

After a little bit of searching I found out that the coaxial cable line can cause a ground loop with the other components in the system, because it’s actually only grounded at the cable company (!) and not at your house.  Sure enough, unplugging the coax resulted in beautiful silence through the stereo speakers.

To fix the problem, you need to break the ground loop, which can be done with an old 75-ohm to 300-ohm matching transformer (Radio Shack Cat. No. 15-1140).  Of course, you need a 75-ohm signal for any modern TV equipment, so the solution is to buy 2 of these transformers and hook them together: the second one reverses the transformation done by the first, so the output signal is (theoretically) the same as the input signal, except that the ground loop is broken.

Radio Shack’s Cat. No. 15-1253 is pretty much the same thing except in the opposite gender, so I bought one of each to make it simple to hook the two transformers together.  But note that item 15-1253 does not break continuity between the input and output grounds (outer shield), so using two of those won’t break the ground loop; you need at least one 15-1140.

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Posted by Anthony on at 05:41am

Hello iPhone

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On Sunday, Kim and I went down to the Apple store in King of Prussia and I got an iPhone.  Despite people lining up outside the stores for hours and even days before the 6 PM Friday launch (including Philly’s mayor John Street), most Apple stores were still well-stocked with iPhones by Sunday, and I had no problem getting mine.  We walked into the store and it was a mob scene: there must have been 100 people in the tiny ~1500 square foot store.  If I had wanted to check out the iPhones that were on display, I would have had to wait for quite a while, because people were three-deep around those displays.

Fortunately, I had been getting psyched about the iPhone for at least the past six months, so I didn’t need to play with one to know that I wanted to buy it.  I just walked up to an Apple store employee and asked, "Do you still have 8 GB iPhones in stock?"  He said he thought they did, and sent someone into the back to check; he came out with my iPhone, and I was out of the store in under 5 minutes.

No one knew for sure how many iPhones Apple was going to have available at launch, hence the thousands of people lining up 6-12 hours in advance across the country to make sure they got one.  It turned out that there were plenty of iPhones, at least at most Apple stores.  It was a different story at AT&T stores -- the only other place that iPhones are available -- with most of them selling out the first night.  All told, the estimates are that Apple and AT&T sold over half a million units during the launch weekend.

I’m not sure why I didn’t go out on Friday night to try and get an iPhone.  I guess I wasn’t 100% sure that I was going to get one right away, plus the word was that it was a hassle at AT&T stores, and the closest Apple store is an hour away from us.  But then as I read various bloggers saying that it did indeed live up to most of the hype, I caved.

One of the ways that Apple is redefining the cell phone business is that the account activation process is handled by each user individually, at home, over the internet, using iTunes.  You don’t need to spend an hour in the store with some clueless salesman getting stuff set up.  There were reports that some people who were already AT&T customers initially had trouble with the activation process, but for most people it was quick and easy: it took less than 10 minutes in my case.

Apple also managed to get AT&T to offer a plan that’s actually reasonable: $60 per month for 450 minutes, with free nights & weekends (and including rollover minutes), and unlimited internet access.  Many (most?) other smartphone data plans are $80-$100 per month, often with only limited internet access, and severe overage charges.

The iPhone itself is amazing.  It’s so thin, so solid, so industrial, the screen is huge and gorgeous, and the interface is so simple and useable it’s like a dream.  The decade-long nightmare of horrible cell phones is finally over.

For me, the combination of the real internet, email, and Google Maps in a portable device is just priceless.  The fact that it’s also got a cell phone, a camera, and an iPod, plus that it’s gorgeous, only make it more compelling.

The screen is about twice the resolution of most standard computer screens, which means that text as small as 5-6 pt is crisp and totally readable.  When browsing the web, though, you only need to double-tap on the portion of a page that you want to read (for example the main content column) and the iPhone automatically pans and zooms that area to be full-screen, with nice large text.  Scrolling up or down, and panning left or right, is as simple as dragging your finger across the screen.

There are a few things that need fixing: there’s no way to select/copy/paste text; you can’t save images (or any files) from websites; you can’t upload files to websites (the Browse/ChooseFile element is grayed out); the Google Maps app lacks the little scale image in the lower-left corner; the on-screen keyboard doesn’t always rotate into wide-screen mode, sometimes forcing you to use the narrower version of it.  But all of those are software issues, and since the iPhone is a computer running Mac OS X, Apple can (and will) simply issue automatic updates via iTunes to fix them.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that the iPhone is probably the coolest product I’ve ever purchased.  I can’t put it down, and when I finally do, Kim picks it up and can’t stop playing with it.

Here are some iPhone photos including side-by-side comparisons with a couple of my old phones.

Posted by Anthony on at 06:18am

Submerge

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I just wanted to say I’m glad there is someone else out their who thinks Submerge was great.  I’ve been trying for years to follow up on those guys, but have had no luck.

Posted by Eric on at 11:52am

Show: New Found Glory, Cartel, and The Early November

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Kim bought us tickets to go see New Found Glory with Cartel and The Early November last Sunday at the Electric Factory.  NFG was the headliner but we like Cartel and TEN at least as much as, if not more than, NFG.  So we were psyched and it was an awesome show.  (Not least because the venue is now smoke-free, woot!)

We were late getting there, though, so we only caught the last 2 songs of Cartel’s set.  They played Q and A from Chroma, which they said they don’t usually play live (probably because "A" is a 10-minute song that starts out rock but morphs into techno).  It was a good performance, but one thing really bothered me.  Cartel is a very sing-along band; that’s part of why they’re so great.  But on the choruses, the vocalist sang the whoa-whoas totally differently than they are sung on the album!  When you’re a sing-along type of band, and your music has lots of whoa-whoas in it, and you play a show of those songs, you can’t change up the whoa-whoas!  You just frustrate and alienate your biggest fans that way.

The Early November put on a really good show.  My one complaint is that the background vocals were pretty much inaudible.  For some bands or songs, that wouldn’t matter, but in a few of their songs the background vocals cover alternating parts with the lead vocals, so if you can’t hear the background vocals you’re missing half of the picture.  For example, in "Hair" (the single from "The Mother, the Mechanic, and the Path"):

Lead: "All I know, at the end of the day, is I love to smile now..."
Background: "...even if that’s fake."
Lead: "All I know is I’m done acting, and I’ll be happy for your life..."
Background: "...even if I hate it all."

New Found Glory played an awesome set and I didn’t really have any complaints.  I had followed the band during their first 2 albums "Nothing Gold Can Stay" and the self-titled album, and then they somehow dropped off my radar for a few years.  When Kim got tickets for this show, I bought the 2 newest albums "Catalyst" and "Coming Home" (and I love them both), but I didn’t get "Sticks and Stones", which they ended up playing 4 songs from.  So it did stink to not be able to sing along to one-third of the songs they played, but other than that, it rocked.

Posted by Anthony on at 09:40pm

Microsoft Zune

9 replies

Microsoft released the Zune today.  This thing looks totally sweet, but unfortunately it only comes in a 30 GB capacity.  I only have about 70% of my music collection copied onto my computer in MP3 format, but even that is 32 GB, already larger than the Zune’s capacity.  That would leave me a) no room for my existing collection, b) no room for future expansion, and c) no room for any photos or videos at all.

Once they release a new version with an 80+ GB hard drive, and with the ability to access the internet wirelessly (it already has wireless hardware, but only to connect to other Zunes -- lame), then I’ll really be excited about the Zune.

Posted by Anthony on at 01:07pm

Groove Salad, Business, and The Secret to Charcoal Grilling

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Wow, quiet times around here, no?  I know it’s time to make a new post when I get one of those "are you still alive??" emails from my mom.

I’ve been extremely busy with work, which I’m extremely thankful for.  July was my most profitable month to date, and business -- both sales and custom work -- seems to be steadily picking up.  Don’t get me wrong: my income is still no match for my student loan bills, but I’m making way more money doing web programming than I was making as a PC technician.

A couple weeks ago, Dan imparted unto me the secret to grilling with charcoal.  My problem has been that the coals are always too cool to put a nice charred exterior on meats, yet ironically I still can’t avoid making things more dry and well-done than I’d like.  Dan’s tip was to spread the coals out unevenly (after they turn gray, of course), so that they are just a single layer deep on one side of the grill, but stacked up on the other side.  That way one side of the grill is extremely hot and puts those nice grill-lines on your steaks, but you can move them off to the other cooler side after that.

To wrap things up, I’d like to say that Groove Salad on SomaFM is a great internet radio station.  They call it: "A nicely chilled plate of ambient beats and grooves."  It’s largely instrumental, and on the occasional vocal track, I usually enjoy the vocals too.  I listen to it pretty much all day every day.

Posted by Anthony on at 09:37pm

New Music: Patrick Nissley; Snow Patrol

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Patrick Nissley is one musician I can’t stop listening to right now.  He’s actually the brother of my friend Andy, which is the only way I ever would have discovered him, and that bothers me because his stuff is so good that he should be extremely well-known.  Unfortunately that’s not how the music industry works, but I digress.

Patrick’s music is largely electronic, but it’s not techno really, and not really electronica, or anything like that.  Trying to describe music in words is always hard, and not really necessary when you can just instantly listen to the music to see for yourself, but I do want to say that while the music itself is good, the vocals are extremely strong and good.

So, on to the music: Andy sent me 2 unfinished recordings that Patrick made a while ago, called October and Prove.  When I contacted Patrick to ask if I could post these on my site, he basically said "sure, but those aren’t finished..."  Trust me, download them right now, because they are probably ten times better than whatever else you might happen to be listening to right now.

Patrick has only 3 songs that are publicly available that I know of: they are all available on MySpace, which sucks, but at least he did enable the "download" option so you don’t have to go back to the MySpace page every time you want to listen to them.  The first song is Everywhere Everything, released under the name Monodramatic, and the other 2 songs are The Waiting Time and The Lovers Dancing, released under the name The Takeover (which is actually a whole band and not just Patrick making all the music 100% himself).

Update: Patrick’s current band is called Inner Party System (or maybe it’s InnerPartySystem with no spaces).

The other band that I’m playing nearly nonstop right now is the pop/rock band Snow Patrol.  Apparently they toured with U2 on the Vertigo tour, and had a song on the TV show Grey’s Anatomy last month, and have a couple singles on the radio, but I had never heard of them until someone uploaded one of their songs onto my FileChucker demo.  I’m hooked on their album Eyes Open, which you can listen to some of on their website.

Posted by Anthony on at 05:11pm

Apple Throwing Its Weight Around

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Apple has been in trouble lately in Europe, because the songs they sell on the iTunes Music Store are locked by a DRM scheme that makes them unplayable on any Digital Audio Player except the iPod.  When the average Joe goes into Best Buy, he can purchase any one of a bewildering array of makes and models of DAPs, of which the iPod is only one; but if he purchases one of those non-iPod devices, then the songs he buys from iTMS won’t play on it.  That’s stupid, and I know at least a couple people who’ve been in exactly that situation, so I can see why governments or trade groups are mad at Apple over it.

But according to a recent article on Ars, Apple may also be in trouble in Norway for a different reason:

Quoting Ars Technica:

Norwegian law provides a "cooling off" period after a purchase, during which the consumer can opt out of a transaction and return the merchandise for a full refund.  Needless to say, there’s no cooling-off period in iTMS’ terms of service.

Now that’s really stupid.

This is 2006.  You can’t just take old laws that applied to physical goods and slap them onto digital transactions without considering the differences between the situations.  In particular, digital goods (like music files, video files, and computer programs) are fundamentally incapable of being returned.  That’s because there’s no way to guarantee full return of a digital product; the merchant has no way to be sure that the consumer has deleted the original file, or that he hasn’t made any copies of it.

In general, I’m a big fan of the whole idea of return policies.  But when the product is instantly available with just a few mouse clicks, when it’s something that you’ve most likely already heard before, and when it costs 99-freakin’-cents, then I think that 1) the consumer needs to show a little restraint and take responsibility for his actions, rather than having a government force companies to give him a "cooling off" period, and 2) anyone who’s pretending that it’s a big deal to not be able to return a 99-cent song needs to just stop pretending.

Posted by Anthony on at 11:33pm

MySpace Sucks; MTV Sucks

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Thursday has a new album coming out.  But before it’s even released, you listen to the whole thing by downloading it.  To download it, you can either a) visit the band’s official MySpace page and listen to a stream of it, in an annoying Flash-based audio player, in horrendous sound quality, or b) just use any of the P2P networks and download the whole album in near-perfect quality MP3 files.

Taking Back Sunday has a new album coming out, too.  You can also listen to the whole thing before it’s released, on MTV’s "The Leak" webpage.  But The Leak, in addition to being in an annoying Flash-based page, doesn’t even work in any browser except MS IE.  In Safari it pretends to work, suggesting that you download Windows Media Player to play the music, but then WMP bombs out with an error.  In Firefox or Mozilla, you click on the "Play whole album" link in The Leak and it just sits there, doing nothing.  Of course, you can always just fire up your P2P client and download the whole album in near-perfect quality as MP3 files.

This is so irritating.  Why are huge media companies and record labels such freaking morons?  They literally make it as difficult as possible to utilize their services, and if/when you are finally able to make them work, they make it as unenjoyable as possible by making the quality absolute crap.

I’m so frustrated and angered by this, but the thing is, I will always buy the CD once it comes out, because it’s the right thing to do (supporting the artist, etc, even though the labels screw them on that too) and because I want to actually have the liner notes and the high-quality source audio to make my own MP3s.  But lots and lots of people don’t care about doing the right thing, nor about the liner notes or the CD itself.  The labels are only driving away their own profits by being so stupid.

Posted by Anthony on at 01:26pm

Best Album of 2005 (and Other New Music)

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It’s a couple months late for any "Best of Last Year" type stuff, I know.  But anyway, my favorite album of 2005 was Lions Write History by In Pieces.  I posted about their first album, Learning to Accept Silence, three years ago; as you can tell from my post, I really loved that album too.

The band had kind of fallen off the map for a year or two after that first album, which made me really sad because they were so good.  I didn’t hear about the new album until a few weeks after it came out, which was also the first time I heard that the band even still existed, so I was psyched.  But I also learned that they had gotten a new vocalist, and since the vocals were one of the best parts of the old album/band, this had me worried.

But my fears were laid to rest as soon as I heard the new album.  The vocalist was different, yes, but somehow similar to the old one, and at the same time he was much better.  The entire album is like that, in fact.  And to use a cliche, Lions Write History is obviously more mature than the first album -- but in a good way.  It’s like how Brand New’s first album Your Favorite Weapon was really good, but then their second album Deja Entendu was so much different, so much more mature, and just so good, even though you still loved the first album.

One of the things I really like about Lions Write History is that most of the songs have little to no formal structure.  They sometimes have a repeating part that’s sort of a chorus, but the music and/or tempo on the "verses" is often totally different for each verse.  And the songs are really long, so in these various non-standard song sections they do a lot of neat exploratory musical stuff.

Of course you can read a thousand words about a song and have no idea what it sounds like, so here are a couple songs you can listen to.  One more thing before we get to that, though: the lyrics on Lions Write History are really good and deep but also mostly very abstract, so I emailed the vocalist Dan Barrett to ask if he’d be willing to explain them to me.  He wrote me a long response and I don’t want to just publicly post all his comments here, but I’ll include the gist of his responses for these two songs.

In Pieces

Genre: rock, modern rock, indie rock, progressive rock

Juarez, Mexico: This song is about the out-of-control crime situation (specifically murder and rape in this case) in Mexico.

Lyrics: One of the warmest countries, and the coldest spot on this cold, gray earth that you call a planet.  And suddenly all of this makes sense.  Way too much sense.  And your American money didn’t buy me a sense of safety.  We watched the ground crack open, and you’re seeing all of their bodies.  We see it every day.  They’re open to the air.  But all we want now is to be happy.  Black cross.  Oh, we know it.  So take this desert sky, and ask me if I’ve ever had sex.  Put your hands around my neck and twist.  Was that good for you?  But all we want now is to be happy.  March 14th, two days before my birthday.  Oh, we don’t expect her back anytime soon.  There’s no such thing as justice in Juarez, Mexico.

Completely Inevitable: This song is about being in love with someone who is long gone, someone who doesn’t care whether you love them or not; it’s arguing against their apathy, trying to make that person feel something beneath their oh-so-cool exterior.

Lyrics: I hate this, this is all I can be.  I hate this, this is all I am.  And I saw you on the battlefield, and I saw you.  Too many second chances, we both know that.  So go ahead, smoke your cigarettes, and I don’t care, and I dare you.  From the way that you walked in the room, yeah we knew, an angel of death.  Oh, so don’t scream like that.  This is impassable terrain.  Shrug it off, and move on.  Because if you’re not dead now, you will be soon, like childhood friends and memories.  Everything is forgotten, nothing is redressed.  You have more to do with all my insecurities than I want to admit.  I can’t, it’s too much, make it stop now.  I don’t usually do this kind of thing.  That’s why I hate myself.  I’m dead.

You can listen to a few more In Pieces songs on their MySpace page, albeit in typical sucky MySpace quality.

Coheed & Cambria

Genre: rock, modern rock, indie rock, progressive rock, sci-fi rock

Each of Coheed & Cambria’s three albums to date is pretty much a masterpiece I’d say.  The music is amazing and the lyrics are very interesting.  The albums are all telling a single story, the details of which are not entirely clear, but the short form of what is known is that Coheed & Cambria are the parents of Claudio (the vocalist), and they have had their memories erased and have been tricked into believing that they must kill their children to save humanity.  Claudio is the only one of his siblings to escape this fate, and he is now trying to defeat the forces that did this to his family, and save the world in the process.

Because of the nature of the story, the albums/lyrics are somewhat violent and there’s lots of talk of death.  There are also parallels to Christianity and (real) humanity, as the wikipedia page shows.  It’s a complex story but I don’t think you necessarily need to know or care about the story to enjoy the music.

And of course, Coheed & Cambria are not a new-for-2005 band, but the tracks here are from their 2005 album Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness.

Ten Speed (Of God’s Blood & Burial): I’m not entirely sure what this song is about, though the wikipedia page gives some details.  The title seems to be an allusion to Christ since I don’t know any other religion whose God was bloodied and buried; but the lyrics don’t really seem related to the title.

Wake Up: this one is a love song, and it’s uncharacteristically slow and pretty for a Coheed song.  There’s only one reference to death in the whole track!

Copeland

Genre: rock, modern rock, indie rock

Copeland makes catchy rock music.  Their album In Motion is pretty much great end-to-end, and the two tracks below are from it.  You can hear a few more of their songs on their Purevolume page.

No One Really Wins Love Is A Fast Song

I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business

Genre: rock, modern rock, indie rock, semi/mostly-acoustic

I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business is a mostly-acoustic side-project of the vocalist from The Early November.  They have released just one album, a self-titled one; it’s actually from 2004, but I didn’t get it until 2005.  Whatever, but it’s really good.  This is one of those albums where every song is a gem and it’s really hard to pick just 2.  You can hear a few more of their songs on their Purevolume page.

Timshel: starts out slow, but listen to the whole thing.

The Best Happiness Money Can Buy: catchy like gangbusters and way too short.

June

Genre: rock, modern rock, indie rock

June is an incredibly catchy band.  Their album If You Speak Any Faster is awesome.  You can hear a few more of their songs on their Purevolume page.

OK Corral Elevators Are Matchmakers

ST

Genre: techno (not really), IDM (not really), electronic (sorta)

ST (Stefan Ternemar) makes sweet electronic music.  Note that it’s NOT dance music: dance music sucks, ST rocks.  You can download both of his EPs for free: Emotions In A Box and I’ll Meet You There.  Here are the 2 title tracks.  I’m pretty sure these are not from 2005 but that’s when I first heard them.

Emotions In A Box: this song sorta sounds like a Nintendo game.  Actually it could be straight out of Mega Man.  It’s awesome.

I’ll Meet You There: the vocals on this track are great.

The New Amsterdams

Genre: rock, modern rock, indie rock, mostly-acoustic rock

The New Amsterdams are of course a Get Up Kids side-project, just like Reggie and the Full Effect.  And also like RATFE, they are amazing.  You can download the whole album Killed Or Cured from their website, and you should.  Here are a couple tracks from it.  (The New Ams have also released an even newer album called Story Like A Scar that’s available to buy, as opposed to being downloadable from their site.  I don’t have this album yet but it’s sure to be great.)

Heaven Sent Strangled By The Thought

Until Next Time...

There are a few more new bands / bands with new albums from 2005 that I want to post about, but that’ll have to wait for another day.

Posted by Anthony on at 01:27pm

Sony's Nasty CDs & Wal-Mart's Nasty Music Service

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Last year, Sony sold some audio CDs that secretly contained rootkits -- essentially a nasty virus, albeit one that doesn’t self-propagate -- that not only seriously messed up your system, but also contained security holes that allowed hackers to mess up your system, too.  They’ve received all kinds of bad press about this, and rightly so, and have since been schooled by the justice system for it.

The settlement allows people who purchased one of their nastyware-infested CDs to get a free replacement along with 3 free album downloads from places like iTunes or Wal-Mart.  The list of available albums is pretty slim, but I can find 3 on there that I’d like to have.  And since I purchased the album "Faso Latido" by A Static Lullaby last year, which is one of the infected CDs, I’m in the money.

Not owning an iPod, I thought I’d check out some of the other download services, like that offered by Wal-Mart.  I won’t even bother to link to their site because 1) their site structure is awful, with ugly unintelligible links that look like they might not even work outside an existing session, and 2) their music download service is IE-only, Windows-Media-Player-only, and Windows-only.  From their FAQ:

How can I get the best performance out of Wal-Mart Music Downloads?

To avoid problems with downloading and playback, please make sure you do the following:

Use Internet Explorer 6.0 or later, or Windows Media Player 9 or later

Disable pop-up blockers

Disable firewalls

Disable download accelerators

Oh, sure, that sounds great!  While you’re at it, why don’t you unplug your computer, put it outside in the rain, and have your dog take a dump on it.

If I’m not mistaken, you can buy songs from ITMS and burn them to a CD, even if you don’t have an iPod, right?  It looks like that’s what I’ll probably do.

Posted by Anthony on at 04:15pm

Pandora

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The other week I discovered this new free internet radio service called Pandora.  You create an account with them and then enter the names of a few songs or bands that you like, and it plays those songs/bands as well as other music that sounds similar to it.

So Pandora is similar to Yahoo’s Launchcast service, except where Launchcast is designed to be compatible with as few systems as possible, Pandora is based on a platform-independent technology (Flash), so I can actually use it under Linux.  And it also doesn’t just pick "similar" music based on a list of genres that someone decided should apply to your songs/bands; instead, they’ve actually done some much more low-level research into the acoustics of the music itself:

Quoting The Music Genome Project:

Together we set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. We ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or "genes" into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song - everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It’s not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records - it’s about what each individual song sounds like.

Over the past 5 years, we’ve carefully listened to the songs of over 10,000 different artists - ranging from popular to obscure - and analyzed the musical qualities of each song one attribute at a time.

The first band that I put into Pandora was I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody’s Business.  If I had written this post a few weeks ago, I could have told you what the first few similar bands they played were, but alas, I have forgotten.  I do remember, though, that I was impressed with how many of them were other bands that I already knew and liked.

What’s also cool is that within the first week, Pandora got me hooked on two new bands that I really like now: June and Copeland.  I had never heard of June before, but a few people over the past couple years have mentioned Copeland to me, and I just never got around to looking into them.  The songs that Pandora has played have been from their 2005 album "In Motion," which I just bought the other day and I really love.  The June songs are from their 2005 album "If You Speak Any Faster," which I’m sure I’ll be getting soon, too.

And speaking of music that you should go check out, Kim and I went to see Mae last night at Mr. Small’s Theatre here in Pittsburgh.  We both love this band, and we thought the show was really good.  Actually, now that I think about it, the last time I saw a Mae show was the first time I had ever heard of them: they were one of the opening acts (along with Riding Bikes) at an Elliott show at the Church in Philly.  And the guy I went to that show with was the first person who told me to check out Copeland.

I won’t go into too much detail about the Mae show last night because it looks like Kim is on the case.  I’ll just mention that the vocalist seems like a really nice and cool guy, from what you can tell by just looking at someone while they’re singing.  He was quite the sweaty beast though, because it was really warm in the place and he had a long-sleeved shirt on.  I realize that there’s really no benefit to you, loyal reader, in my mentioning that last bit; it’s just that I love to say "sweaty beast" whenever the opportunity arises.

Posted by Anthony on at 11:07pm

New Thrice Album

1 reply

Sorry for the lull in activity around here lately; I’ve been really busy these past couple of weeks.  But here’s something really cool from the new Thrice album (Vheissu):


This hollow in my chest is filled with reasons not to sing, but I found one: I know we are not alone.  We feel an unseen love.  We are sons and heirs of grace.  We are children of a light that never dims, a love that never dies.

-- Thrice, "Music Box"

Posted by Anthony on at 11:08pm

Musicbox!!

2 replies

Yesterday I had the displeasure of listening to a CD in my car.

I bought the album Light a Match, For I Deserve To Burn by The Beautiful Mistake (which is quite good) at Best Buy, and wanted to listen to it on the way home.  It’s been a long time since I have listened to a CD in my car, since I have almost all my CDs copied onto my musicbox computer and I listen to them from there instead.

So I put the CD in, and listened to it, and it was good... until I hit a few bumps.  To be fair, they were pretty serious bumps, but certainly not uncommon in Pittsburgh.  In the space of about 15 minutes, the CD player skipped 4 times on bumps like that.

Upon hearing that irritating sound, I realized that it had indeed been a very long time since I’d last encountered it.  In fact I’ve had my musicbox in my car for 2 years and 2 months now!  And to think that at first, I wondered if it would be too rough of an environment to put a computer (more specifically, its hard drive) into a car.  In all that time, there hasn’t been a single skip to speak of.

Happy belated second birthday, musicbox, and thanks for being so super!

Posted by Anthony on at 01:30am

Billy Corgan

3 replies

Billy Corgan released his first solo album today, titled The Future Embrace (or, "TheFutureEmbrace").  You can supposedly listen to the whole thing on his website, billycorgan.com, but it seems to just play 2 or 3 songs over and over; however the whole album does play properly from his myspace page.

Also on his website, under "confessions," he is writing his autobiography.  There are 32 chapters done so far, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely.  You might have to be a Corgan or Smashing Pumpkins fan to appreciate it though; I’ve lived through each album since the early 90s and they were my favorite band for a long time (and still are one of my favorites), so to get such a deep and personal look into his life and what went on recording Pumpkins albums (and the Zwan album) is fascinating to me.  But I do think his writing is also funny and his story is generally interesting anyway, so maybe you don’t have to be into him or the Pumpkins to enjoy reading his memoirs.

The Wikipedia has a wealth of information about him too, in a short summarized form.

Billy also put out a full-page ad/memo in today’s edition of his hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune, in which he announced that he wants to bring the Pumpkins back together.  Given the way that guitarist James Iha broke the band up five years ago, and the fact that bassist D’Arcy Wretzky has been characterized as a "mean-spirited drug addict" by Corgan, I wonder if that’s really possible.  On the other hand, Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin (who is one of the best drummers I’ve ever heard, particularly evidenced on the SP box set "The Aeroplane Flies High") have always been 95% of the band, and they have remained good friends through everything, so it could technically work without James and D’Arcy.  The amazing Zwan album is evidence of that.

Here’s part of what Billy said in the ad:

Quoting Billy Corgan:

For a year now I have walked around with a secret, a secret I chose to keep.  But now I want you [his hometown fans] to be among the first to know that I have made plans to renew and revive The Smashing Pumpkins.  I want my band back, and my songs, and my dreams.  In this desire I feel I have come home again.

The part that I bolded captures and conveys some of the magic that is in the Smashing Pumpkins, and in everything that Billy Corgan writes.  He is jaded with the music industry, but he has none of the "look how cool I am because I’m so jaded" attitude that many rock stars (wannabe or otherwise) seem to have.  He puts his heart and soul into his music, bringing that dream to life in a contagious way on every recording.

Posted by Anthony on at 03:23pm

Grab Bag

3 replies

The new Armor For Sleep album is really good.  Check out this track from it.

Over the past few days I’ve taken a lot of photos:

Ducks and Fog on K-Milk Pond Clouds and Skies and Shiloh Treeline at Dusk

Finally, check out this awesome error I got from one of the ancient Mac OS9 systems at work:

posted image

"An unexpected error occurred, because an error of type -110 occurred."

Posted by Anthony on at 02:06am

Music

1 reply

I noticed you referencing Dutchland Diesel.

Hoorah ! those dudes are from my neck of the woods, Rock on

Posted by Dave on at 08:31pm

Flac!

8 replies

For the past 4 or 5 years, every time I’ve bought a CD, the first thing I’ve done is put it in my computer and make MP3s from it.

At first it was just for convenience -- double-clicking on a folder to play an album is much easier than going through a few hundred CD cases, finding the one you want, taking it out, putting it in a CD player, etc.  Not to mention that you can tell a computer to do cool things like "play a random album" that you can’t really tell a stack of physical CDs to do.

Once I created my musicbox to play MP3s in my car, that was another reason to have all my music in MP3 format.  No more fumbling with CD wallets looking for something to listen to while driving, and no more only having 40 or 80 albums with you at any given time, never having the one you want to listen to.

For about 2 years now, I’ve also been keeping the WAV files (uncompressed CD tracks) on my computer, instead of deleting them after creating the MP3s from them.  Since WAV is uncompressed, each song is about 40MB compared to about 4MB per MP3, so it takes up tons of space on my hard drive.  But I realized that my huge CD collection would be lost forever in the event of a fire or theft, so I wanted to have them backed up this way.

Now I have about 200 albums (about half my collection) taking up about 71GB on my hard drive.  And my hard drive is filling up.  Last night, Andy pointed out that tools like Flac, which do lossless compression of WAV files, can compress the files to about 70% of their original size.  I had heard of such lossless WAV compressors in the past, but never considered 30% to be impressive enough savings to make it worthwhile.  But now, with my hard drive filling up, and the realization that I have 71GB of WAV files, having 30%*71GB=21GB of free space sounds amazing.

So I’m happily flac-ing all my WAVs as we speak.  And thankfully on Linux this is accomplished with just one simple command:

find /music/cds/ -type f -iname ’*.wav’ -exec flac --best --replay-gain --delete-input-file "{}" \;

When you consider that a nice 250GB hard drive can be had for only $136 nowadays, and that 1GB holds 3 albums in flac format, and that most computer audio players can play flac files directly... having your entire CD collection on the computer is more economical and sensible than ever.

Posted by Anthony on at 01:34pm

Baby got ..... Bible?

2 replies

So a buddy of  mine sends me this link.  I became very scared.  I don’t know what to think.  It seems the guy know’s of moshing but is unable to do it with people half his size.  Anthony, I need you to tell me if this is good or bad.  If I feel slight nausea should I turn it off or go with the flow?

Posted by kaiser on at 08:18am

Creep Records

1 reply

My friend Mike is working on a documentary for Creep Records, and he’s got some videos online.  Creep is the home of Dutchland Diesel, one of my favorite bands, who holy cow have updated their website for the first time in literally 4 years.  (Well, they might have updated it a while ago; I haven’t been checking recently since it had been inertial for so long.)

Posted by Anthony on at 12:48am

Tsunami Relief Concert

2 replies

My friend Tom from Unisys tells me there’s a tsunami relief concert coming up near my hometown.  There will be 15 local bands and the show is from noon to midnight.  If you’re in the West Chester area on February 12th, check it out.

Posted by Anthony on at 02:45pm

Catorce?

11 replies

At the beginning of the song "Vertigo" from U2’s latest album, you can hear the lyrics "unos, dos, tres, catorce."  That’s almost Spanish for "one, two, three, four," which would make sense.  But it’s actually "ones, two, three, fourteen."  Why is "one" plural and why "fourteen" instead of "four"?  With U2 being the world-travellers that they are, and being very plugged in to other cultures (especially helping the less fortunate in other cultures), I wouldn’t guess that it’s an error.  On the other hand, while I could see "catorce" being maybe some kind of joke, "unos" just seems honestly incorrect.

Posted by Anthony on at 06:25pm
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