A haiku of music

"The Seer" by The Swans

“The Seer” by The Swans

I did have a slightly linked post almost ready, but in a slight departure from the last post, and as I always like a music post from time to time, I am going to combine an update on the “latest” music I’m currently listening to, with some Haiku. Well three Haiku, somewhat linked to each other and the rest of the post. Some readers might want to skim through the music part. Or the Haiku part. Or maybe the whole thing and just enter what you are listening to in the comment box at the end.

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Music Albums of the year 2012

Regular readers know I like a music post from time to time. This one is my end of year look at this years best albums. For me, this year had plenty of good albums, but not one I think that stood out as something really special, or ground breaking. Mojo magazine went with Jack White’s album, as their number one which shows what I mean. Good, but a bit retro. I like this album, but I haven’t played it in a few months. So for my number one, I went with something different.

Fiona Apple - The idler wheel. Best of the year?

Fiona Apple – The idler wheel. Best of the year?

Album of the year

Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

For the second year running, I’m selecting an album by a female artist (last year it was PJ Harvey’s “Let England Shake”). This one a more unusual choice for me in the respect that I had never bought anything from Fiona Apple before, prior to this year. This means to me she was pretty much a new artist, albeit one with a back catalogue to explore. However with running this blog this year, I took more of an interest in poetry, short story, song lyrics and that whole area. Fiona’s album has a clever mix of intelligent lyrics. and phrasing, and the way she delivers or sings them, with subtle adjustments in her voice, mean there is lots to continually find. It made a good balance for me against the aforementioned interests. Musically it is also pretty subtle, a little low key, a lot of percussion, but it lends a touch of freedom which shows through in the album as a “whole” (speech marks intended). Try “Werewolf” or “Regret” as examples.

Runners up, were Bat for Lashes (another female artist), which I like a lot but as a fairly recent release, I’ve not lived with it long enough. Tame Impala with its neat way of live band dance music, and rolling drum beats, is also pretty cool, and a good soundtrack to various things going on in my life.

Further close calls include Bob Mould’s “Silver Age” (regular readers will know I’m a big fan and only recently saw him live for the first time). Bruce Springsteen also had a good, accessible record in “Wrecking Ball” which seemed to fit in with this election year (in the US). See also honorary mentions which I think are all good albums work checking out.

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Monday Haiku and what I learned this weekend – 16 July 2012

You’ve had enough of cute cat pictures on Facebook right?

This weeks weekend relevant prompts for Monday Haiku are:

  1. Breakfast with the relatives – A couple of relatives from my wife’s fathers side of the family were down from further up north. Ok, a morning “restaurant” meet, and a cooked breakfast were in order.
  2. Waiting on the mailman – For some parcels that never come (and this months Mojo magazine). I ordered a couple of used but supposably good quality books from Amazon. These seemed to be taking forever to get here. Then on saturday everything arrived at once, including this months Writers Digest magazine.
  3. Amir Khan boxing again– After losing his title to a controversial decision some months ago, then his opponent being found to have steroids in his system, and being re-instated with the title, then changing his fitness trainer, Khan fights again. This time he lost via TKO. Personally I thought he was a little unfortunate. He easily dominated the first two rounds. In the third he caught an unfortunate swinging left hook behind the ear and on the neck. That rocked him and he never really recovered after that. He got knocked down a couple more times in the next round before the ref stopped it.

So here we go:

Empty stomach, wait

Please help? Omelette, toast and fruit

family brings this pause

Actually it was a good breakfast. I just had to wait for it..

Mailman bring me hope

or crush my dreams for today

deliver the goods

Now I have nothing to moan about for a few days:

Victory Amir Kahn?

yikes, a crushing loss instead

crossroads of career

Bonus Haiku is giving Carrie Rubin’s family a break this week (come on Carrie, give the sons some suggestive pictures or something). Instead we, in the me and the blog sense, are looking at our stats to see what odd search terms brought viewers here. I suspect viewers rather than readers. Oh and in the spirit of disclaimers as briefly discussed in this weekends post “At which point do I become a writer, an artist, or just myself?“, there might be some naughty words so if offended jump over the dotted lines below, or alternatively, if enticed, jump between the dotted lines below:

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Google is right here

to search that inspiring choice

Ok try, “screw my wife”

part 2:

graced with sweaty palms

the right site, ready to pop

No! Brain splats buzz kill

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Things I learned this weekend:

  • My almost 19 month old son seems to be a word sponge. At 18 months the average amount of words know is between 8 to 12. He knew a few more then 12. He seems to have learnt a lot more in the last few weeks. On tuesday this week, 5 new ones appeared in the one day!
  • Many bloggers seem to be scared of the terms “writer”, “author”, and “artist” when it relates to them and their creations. See the comments on this weekends post (mentioned above)
  • Amir Khan is a talented boxer, and an unlucky one. Tactically was he incorrect in his approach? He made a crucial mistake (or two).
  • Strikeforce on Showtime (yes I seemed to be into violence this past saturday), is a pretty good alternative to watching UFC.
  • In the US there is a really annoying commercial from stamps.com with talking heads. I think the product is about home postage or something along those lines, so the commercial points out the horrible experience of going to the post office. One such head makes my own head boil with his “There is nothing worse than going to the post office and waiting in line…” It’s an annoyance sure, but actually there are lots of worse things, and it previously inspired me to write this poem. Anyhoo, it still annoys me and this mondays poll asks “what is worse than going to the post office and waiting in line?”
Have a fun week.

Lexicon word of the day: nudnik.

Am I too addicted to buying new music?

Some recent buys and yes, I’m boring enough to burn downloaded music to CD so I can also play it via my stereo.

No results to “the experiment” parts 1 or 2 this week, I haven’t got round to writing it yet. My mind is on other projects, so I had to add a bit of finish to this half written post, instead.

I love music. Regular readers of this blog will know and understand this. An early post of mine discussed how music influences me, or more specifically, what music and writing have in common, to me anyway. I’ve blogged on music lots of times, although not too much recently. I’m always hearing new things I like on radio Sirius XMU, or reading about music that sounds interesting in Mojo magazine or on Pitchfork. So I like getting hold of it. I’m mostly talking about albums here. The snob in me looks down on just buying individual tracks. I’m an old timer in that sense. You can tell I’m a music fan when I love the album over downloading seemingly random tracks.

My current dilemma involves buying new music. Although I prefer CDs (for the quality of the format), I’m quite willing to try new music as downloads, especially when the price is good, that always seems to serve as a good introduction. But naughty Amazon.com keeps putting albums on a $5 or sometimes even less, price. So what is a music fan to do I ask you? Ok I shall give you the answer. Buy some music. Bring it on…

So I both do, and did. And you know what, it’s great. Problem is, when you get a new album, especially a half decent, or good, or great one, they take four or five listens to really open up and to begin to get to know the songs a bit. Your mind needs time to decode the layers. Usually a song that sounds great straight away, rarely lasts that long, before fading into the sometimes played. So time is needed to play new music, to fall for the lyrics, the melodies, the beat, the timbre, or whatever facet grabs you most. And I’m now getting a bit of a backlog of albums I’m trying to familiarise myself with. Here is a list of recent buys, loosely grouped into genres although admittedly some could cross into several groups:

Pop / Folk

  • The idler wheel is wiser than the driver of the screw and whipping cords will serve you more than ropes will ever do – Fiona apple
  • What we saw from the cheap seats – Regina Spector
  • Thats’s why God made the radio – The Beach Boys
  • Yours trully cellophane nose – Beth jeans houghton
  • Home again – Michael Kiwanuku
  • Tramp Sharon Van etten
  • Valtari – Sigur Ros
  • Bloom – Beach house
  • Master of my make-believe – Santigold
  • Dr dee – Damon albarn
  • Huh? – Spiritualized

Rock / Alternative

  • Maraqopa – Damien jurado
  • Oceania – The Smashing pumpkins
  • Neck of the woods – Silversun pickups
  • Open Your Heart – The Men
  • Celebration rock – Japandroids
  • Ghostory – School of seven bells
  • Funeral Blues – Mark Lanegan
  • Blunderbuss – Jack White

Dance / Soul

  • Hurry up, we’re dreaming – M83
  • Wonky – Orbital
  • The bravest man in the universe – Bobby Womack
And this is not everything either, there is probably some I’ve missed. Some of the above I am more familiar with than others. Thus far I would recommend checking out tracks from the Bobby Womack album, Fiona Apple, Jack White, Damien Jurado, Spiritualized, and if you like a good rock / slightly punk album, Japandroids. Though that said, none of the above strike me as bad thus far. For example if you’ve liked Orbital in the past, you’ll probably like that one. Oh and I’ve also bought the Sugar “expanded” reissues (when I was in the UK where they came out earlier and had dvd discs). I loved that band, they are one of my all time favourites. I’m obviously familiar with those though.
To help with this fun problem I recently received (a few weeks ago) an expensive but completely fabulous gift from my lovely wife and son. It was a pair of these superb Grado Labs SR225i headphones. You can keep your Dr Dre, or Bose headphones, I’m not criticising them, and I do own a few pairs of Sennheisers which are decent, but I prefer Grado Labs.

quiet now.. come to daddy..

This particular pair are open headphones which means if you are sitting nearby you will also be able to hear what is being played. But as anyone familiar with how headphones work can tell you, you can get a much better sound out of open headphones than you can closed ones. It is to do with the airflow. These headphones really are fabulous, they do a great job of opening up the sound, great clarity on instruments, great separation, they introduce things you have not noticed before. As a downside, they also show up when MP3 quality can be bad (the detail isn’t in the file to play), or when something has a dense mix and the separation is not there. These headphones are great, noticeably different from e.g. a $50 pair. An upgrade from my older pair Grado Labs Sr60i (also very good). And more encouragement to buy more music. Oh well, I love music, what can I do.

Music. It’s my addiction. Am I addicted to buying new music? Well of course, and old music as well. I love it. It is entertaining and inspiring in so many ways. If only I had time to do it justice. This addiction I’m ok with. Oh by the way, suggestions for other new good music are welcome below.

Lexicon word of the day: pudendum.

Mojo Music Magazine – The alternative take

 

What do you need to know about it?

Mojo Magazine is a British “Rock” magazine, although it covers other music. It covers very little hip hop or dance so I suppose it’s main focus is Rock, pop, folk, alt-country, and similar. It has been around since 1993 and truth be told was a bit “Dad” rock back then. It got a bit more Indie and alternative over the years without being too “out there”.

The magazine has interviews, but as much of its focus, if not more, is on the stories around various bands, albums and so forth. That is why I like it. It also gives away a free, and high quality cd. Often these have a theme, for example a classic album where all the tracks are covered by other artists. For example, March 2012 was Leonard Cohen’s first album. As you would imagine, several Beatles albums such as “Sgt Pepper” and “The White Album”, have had this treatment. You can get the history of all the disks at Mojo Cover CDs (a fan site).

Where did I first become acquainted?

I think from early days but I’m not sure when. The first issue I really took an interest in that I can remember was August 1995. There was a “greatest 100 albums ever” critics poll (The Beach boys “Pet Sounds was number 1). I was still building my collection so this was a useful reference point. Actually I still have that magazine as well as numerous others with special features that I like (I don’t keep them all).

Over the years I have gotten familiar with the reviews section so I have a good idea how reliable they are for different types of music, and therefore whether it will be something I would be into. As a reference point I might use Mojo, pitchfork and the guardian to gauge reviews for something I have not heard at all, but might wish to try. Or I suppose I could use Metacritic.

On the whole, I like the stories about various artists and what not, plus I do like a bit of “rock journalism“.

What to buy:

Erm, the magazine. I would say that some issues tend to focus on artists I’m not interested in, and the reverse will apply where I get an issue of artists I love. On the whole it is well worth reading and the only magazine I have stuck with in recent years.

Anything related to look at:

It has it’s own Website here. You can get a free weekly newsletter from the website, with a quick signup. You can get a look at many Mojo “greatest” type lists here.

Where to buy: Ok it’s a UK magazine so you can get it there from any newsagent. I live in the US so have to pay for a subscription through GreatMagazines.co.uk.  Or you can order it through Amazon.com.

Anything else?

Not really. Oh hang on,I did have a problem with a month or two being late, but they turned up in the end. Plus the customer service (for great magazines) is very good at sending out a new issue if one does not turn up.

Oh hang on again, if you want a music magazine with more interviews and that sort of thing, go for “Q”. Mojo is the one you want for some interviews, but also plenty of stories.

Lexicon word of the day: Valetudinarian.

Why I’m not looking forward to CDs disappearing

I’m taking a break from the Haiku (three part) introduction today. Today I’m interested in something else. It’s nothing new, and something that was in the prior issue of Rolling Stone in an article by Steve Knopper, “Is the CD era finally over? I would link but the article is not on the rolling stone website for full viewing access. In brief, CD sales continue to fall, as a result of less people buying this format, less shops are stocking them, and obviously, there is increased sales in digital download formats. The CD is predicted to be pretty much dead within the next three years. Am I a tech boff, so it’s something I’m looking forward to? I am not and here is why.

When CDs first appeared in the early eighties they were clearly the next technological leap in music distribution. Supposably indestructible (well the early thick ones were tough), but offering quicker access, such as the ability to skip tracks, and jump end to end. There were positive and negative points depending on your perspective. Positives were the access,and the quality, no more crackle and static clicks. The size, they would take up less storage space. Negatives, were they were smaller so the packaging was more formal and less art work. This was compared to vinyl obviously, arguably this was also a problem with the cassette. On the audio front, some of the CD versions were often a bit bright or shrill, too much top end. There was debate on which, vinyl or cd, offered the better sound. It was argued that vinyl was warmer. As it panned out, this might have been the case in early cd pressings, but as record companies cottoned on to how to do better digital masters, and the quality of CD players for the home improved on a cost to technology basis, CDs became the better quality format.

Within a few years, probably around 5, which seems a long time these days, CDs were becoming the format of choice. Much vinyl was being sold off, many people not only buying new albums on cd, but replacing their old collection as well. Myself, I was getting into music around 1992, so before long I had a CD player. The CD was my format of choice, by this time the digital mastering was mostly good. Some issues of old albums like the Beatles albums were not very well done and were a little flat, but generally it was the better format. I would say compare with the current Beatles CD issues, but there is more going on in those editions than a new digital mastering, and they do sound very good.

These days I have music on a variety of formatsa few thousand CD albums, some vinyl (but not a lot), some boxed up cassettes, and about 35 days of music on my iPod (which is not all my collection by a long shot). I’m a bit of a muso, I like my music, music journalism (like Mojo Magazine), and stereo (I have CD, and amplifier separates). And after a long way round we begin to get to my point.

I love technology even if I’m not that much of a tech nerd. I love my Macbook Pro, I love using it for writing projects (WordPress, Scrivener), but also to use Aperture, iMovie, or to house my digital music collection. When it comes to music, playing music through the headphones is pretty good fun. Streaming music using Airplay to the Apple TV is cool. But given the choice I would rather listen to music through my CD player and it is for one simple reason. The quality is better. It is ok through my TV, but a little bit, well “set up for TV” like. I like it through my headphones, the headphones I use “Grado Labs SR60” are decent and give good playback. But the quality through the CD player is just better. If I play my iPod connected to some speakers, or through the amplifier, the CD player is just better. It is, the sound just has more depth, or more meat on the bone. It just sounds more detailed. It does, and although the iPod / digital sound is quite good, it is just not quite good enough.

Losing CDs will have some benefits, such as saving physical space, and not having all that plastic produced, I’m not against that. So whilst losing CD in the long run is not necessarily a bad thing, right now it is. The reason is digital formats, like MP3 or AAC, or similar, are good but not good enough. There is too much compression, it loses some of the finer details. It might not be noticeable to some people but compare it to a CD version on a half decent player and you can tell the difference. This could be helped by simply having better digital files. This is something that could be done, the files on a CD are digital files, they are just larger in file size (i.e. with more detail) than the formats mentioned above. I could do this now. However, the other side of the coin with doing this, is that file sizes are larger. People would therefore need more storage space on computers, or iPods. You would also want online stores like Amazon or iTunes to support it. You might be able to see where I’m going with this. Sooner or later, someone will see this as the next way of selling music, and the same music to us yet again. There will be improved file quality, Apple and co will therefore introduce “new” larger capacity technology to handle it. Everything will be ok. Well it will if this happens before CD dies. I have no wish to buy digital format only only to find out that some bright spark introduces a better quality version a few years later. Unless they are planning to replace the old one for free of course.

Truth be told I will also miss the physical thing, the CD and the booklet. It is not at the level, due to the size, of what you used to get with vinyl, but still it added something in a lot of cases. It is not the same viewing it as PDF files on the screen. Still that will be a slight annoyance, but my main issue is with the quality. This might be making me sound old, after all old muso types complained about vinyl being on the way out, but I’ve no gripes with the idea itself, the convenience sure is useful. I just hope the CD will be around long enough for digital formats (with appropriate storage technologies) to catch up in sound quality. As it stands now, that is why I’m not looking forward to the death of the CD.

Lexicon word of the day: timorous.

A small note on Indie music (UK edition)

I have recently been reading a Mojo Magazine special on The Smiths, The Stone Roses and British Indie music. Whilst I know a lot of the stories, reading about them again is a fun thing for me.  I’m a music fan and Indie music was where I put my flag when I was finding out more about my own tastes.

To give a little background, I grew up with a lot of music played in the house. This was however fairly mainstream or classic rock type stuff, Dire Straits, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd, Neil Young, which I didn’t mind too much, or Jethro Tull, Cat Stevens, Jackson Browne, Crosby Stills & Nash, or the Eagles which I did mind, rather a lot (I’m with the dude as far as the Eagles are concerned). There were also a bunch of heavy metal records that my uncle used to bring round, AC/DC I liked, Black Sabbath / Ozzy I wasn’t too keen on. Music was there, maybe I didn’t notice it too much. As I got to my mid teens the computer games industry was really taking off so I was more into the Mega drive, then Amiga scene. Music was left in the background.

Around college times aged about 16 to 18, I was doing a media course. Some people were a bit more clued up on music than me but the weekly music press such as NME or Melody Maker, suddenly seemed interesting if not a little intimidating when knowing little of that scene. However this all changed when in one class, the Sex Pistols got an airing. I had that moment of clarity where hang on a minute, this isn’t bad, there is something to this. It changed things, it was something I wanted to know more about. So from that point I was set on my way. I delved in and bought a music magazine or two to get an idea of some bands (and probably the free cassette). These were a little more focused on Indie music and less mainstream music, of which there was a lot less crossover back then (early nineties). This gave me a place to start, and from then on, to find plenty of music that I like.

Early favourites would have been Bob Mould’s band Sugar, The Boo Radleys, Pulp, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Suede, Primal Scream and of course this was the time Nirvana went massive so they were also a big thing. Over time I got into a whole range of stuff, became a bit more accepting of some of the classic rock acts as well, realising the range of talent that went into creating music, the special moments, the origins and all those sorts of things.

I shall cover a lot more on music and my favourite bands in more posts in the future (look forward to Sugar, and The Smiths) but I feel I ought to point out that I remain more of an Indie kid, than a mainstreamer. It is nice when some cross over but it is also nice when you feel a bit more of a member of the (secret) club. I love Indie music and The Smiths are still an all time favourite. It was fun to read about them again even if there is little new to say. When I read about Indie music it reminds me of those times when I was younger and getting into music. It’s a bit nostalgic, but also fun. It all helped form my tastes now, and music is still a big thing for me. And who doesn’t like to indulge in a bit of fun nostalgia?

I should note as an aside, that the magazine made me want to check out more from the band “Felt” and possibly my favourite named band “Half man half biscuit”.

Lexicon word for the day: Vituperate