Posts Tagged ‘Spotify’

Spotify My Soul – April 16

April 16, 2012

A few things I’ve been listening to on Spotify and a few other places:

  • Shins, Port of Morrow.  Five years since the last full-length release under his Shins moniker, James Mercer hits another one out of the park.  Was a big fan of his work with DangerMouse on the Broken Bells project and had liked the Shins stuff I’d heard before.  He’s got a voice that can tackle a variety of styles with an effortlessness that is matched with some equally varied musical accompaniments.
  • Submarines, Love Notes/Letter Bombs.  Thanks to Erin for mentioning this band to me, she told me her sister was totally obsessing on this group.  Whenever anyone’s really into a band, I want to check it out.  Glad I did, this is some very good guy/girl indie rock.  Especially liked the song Shoelaces.  And they are a LA band, so now I gotta try and find out where they are playing around town.
  • Underworld, 1992-2012 Anthology.  A techno group that kinda got lost in the electronica shuffle of bigger acts like Chemical Brothers and Prodigy, I was always a fan of their sprawling, chugging electronic epics.  You probably know them from their contribution to the Trainspotting soundtrack, Born Slippy, but other tracks like Rez and Cowgirl still sound great close to twenty years later.
  • Jack White, Blunderbuss.  Ok, not a Spotify listen, but this is streaming for free right now on Itunes, and they are conveniently taking pre-orders.  If you were following my Pinterest page, you’d already know this (shameless plug) and have listened to it too.  I just finished it a few minutes ago, still digesting, but I liked it.  Standout to me was track 8, I’m Shakin’, which could easily have been a Black Keys track on Brothers (which is a  compliment in my book).  I think White Stripes fans will like it though it’s a little less stomp and a little more finesse.  I’m less familiar with his other side projects, so can’t really say how they compare to those records.
  • DVA, Nunovo Tango.  A song here instead of a whole album, this song appeared in a wicked 10 minute short of the full-length ski film All.I.Can. that won the Best Feature at this year’s Banff Film Festival.  There’s usually a few songs you hear in films there that have you scanning the song credits.  Sadly, this one didn’t have any credits and I resisted the urge to Shazaam during the screening, so I did some old-fashioned detective work and found it.  It’s just a really fun song with a sound that’s totally original (minus the female vocal around 25 seconds in that I swear is lifted from Portishead though I’m blanking on the song).

Here’s a video that shows the other song (one of my fav LCD Soundsystem tunes) used in the All.I.Can. edit with some amazing urban skiing footage:

Spotify My Soul – February 6

February 6, 2012

Resurrecting this column after a hiatus when Spotify was giving me trouble, but now all seems well again.  Here’s a few things I’ve been listening to the begin the new year.

  • David Ackles, Subway To The Country.  An artist I read about in Rough Trade’s The Best Music You’ve Never Heard, Ackles was a singer-songwriter who released several albums in the late 60s and early 70s.  A favorite of Elton John, he definitely has some of the theatrical flair of John and a voice that at times reminds me of Neil Diamond, though his subject matter often delved into darker territory than either of those artists.  He goes almost into full-on showtunes in 1972’s American Gothic, which was a little too much for me.  Subway to the Country, the album before Gothic, still has some orchestral moments, but also some countrified tunes with a standout being Main Line Saloon.
  • Dennis Wilson, Pacific Ocean Blues.  Best known for being the drummer in the Beach Boys and introducing Charles Manson to the Hollywood music industry, he should be better known for his really good solo album released in 1977.  A gravelly voice and some beautiful instrumentation that brother Brian would be proud of make for a really good listen from top to bottom.  Opener River Song is as good a place as any to start.
  • Can, Tago Mago.  Having a resurgence in popularity in recent years, this album was recently reissued in a 40th anniversary version with some bonus live material.  If you like sprawling rock music fueled by aggressive drumming, this is an album you’ll want to listen to.  There’s elements at times that presage a lot of noise rock that’s become it’s own genre.  Oh Yeah is my favorite, starting off with the sounds of thunder and rain and then melding into drums, bass and vocals that sound like they’ve been looped backwards.
  • Lana Del Rey, Born to Die.  Lizzy Grant’s transformation to Lana Del Rey started off well; the release of Video Games garnered a lot of well-deserved buzz.  The disaffected vocals bemoaning a lover more interested in video games than her affection along with some trip-hop backing makes for a legit good song.  Leaving aside some of the other reasons she’s gained unpopularity since then (see Pitchfork’s review for a rundown), the reality appears that she’s a one-trick pony.  Only Born to Die, the opener on her debut, catches any of the same magic as Video Games; the rest of the songs are just flat, they have the detached air Lana seems to exude on camera, which makes for a very boring album.

A Few More Odds and Ends from 2011

December 30, 2011

A couple last random thoughts that didn’t make it into my last post:

  • Following up on my mini-rant about Spotify, I did have a little back and forth with customer support on email that resulted in a suggestion to try downloading their new Beta version.  Not exactly fixing the existing problem, but for now it seems to have done the trick.  The new beta seems to be functioning well; still puzzled what happened with the production version I was running.  As I said before, I like the huge library they have and the ease of use, but I’m worried about the long-term viability of their service.
  • This week I started my Google Music account and downloaded a few free songs from their for sale collection on the Android Marketplace.  There’s some decent songs for free download that you might not have in your library.  It moved out of a beta version in November, I just hadn’t had the time to check it out until now.  The interface was easy to jump into and the ability to store up to 20K songs is intriguing.  I haven’t yet uploaded my music library, but probably will at some point, if for no other reason than to have it stored somewhere else than on my computer.  A good introductory how-to guide is on CNET.
  • In my thoughts on best of, I probably should have put another album that has gotten a lot of rotation in our house since it came out, the Civil Wars’ Barton Hollow.  It’s become a go-to album when you just want to relax and be soothed by some great voices accompanied by spare but beautiful guitar.  And the Cults self-titled debut is top-to-bottom filled with some really good tunes, try Bad Things for a track you probably haven’t heard from that album.
  • I’m just finishing up another Rough Trade music book, this one was called The Best Music You’ve Never Heard.  I really enjoyed this; while there are quite a few names that I recognized (though hadn’t necessarily listened to a great deal), there were also quite a few new singers and bands that were covered that I had never heard of.  Skewing a bit heavy on 60s era bands, there is still a lot to find for lovers of most music genres in here (section titles range from “I Write the Songs” about singer-songwriters to “Not for Export” covering reggae and world music).  I found enough stuff in here that I would at least like to check out to cover all of 2012.
  • I haven’t written much at all about soundtracks in this blog, but I recently bought my first full soundtrack in awhile.  I grew up with the Muppets: the TV show, the first Muppets Movie is the first movie I recollect seeing in the theaters, and I distinctly remember collecting the souvenir glasses from McDonald’s that were a tie-in to the Great Muppet Caper, I even dressed up as Animal for Halloween this year.  I recently went and saw the movie, and it was very good, suprisingly so.  Part of why it was so good was the music, which has always been an integral part of the Muppet experience.  Jason Segal and Amy Adams both have some good numbers and we’ve definitely been singing Man or a Muppet around our house.  My personal favorite is Fozzie’s bastardization of Rainbow Connection for a Reno casino lounge act.    Waka waka!
  • Leave you for the year with a track from the new Roots album (still digesting this one, not sure if it measures up to Things Fall Apart as a whole, but definitely some good grooves):

Looking Back at 2011

December 19, 2011

It’s been a good year for listening to music.  I felt like I listened to a lot more new artists (at least to me) this year than I have since I was a teenager.  I also rediscovered a lot of old albums that I hadn’t heard in awhile.

Best (and worst) music platform – Since it came to our shores earlier this year, I’ve been a big fan of Spotify.  One of my recurring posts this year revolved around recounting what I’d been listening to on Spotify.  Easy to use with a huge library, it was a great way to listen to new albums in their entirety as well as catch up on old albums I haven’t heard since I had a cassette player.  So why’s it also get a worst nod.  A few weeks ago, it started crashing my computer any time I tried to run it.  Like total freeze-up crash, have to manually power down and restart the machine crashes.  In trying to find an answer, I’ve uncovered a wealth of problems others have with the app.  I also found that customer support is spotty (sorry).  I finally found a customer support email; I did finally get a response after two weeks, asking me what version of Spotify I was running.  We’ll see if they can come up with a solution.  Wonder if the expansion to the US has overextended the service and its employees?  Only time will tell.  In the meantime, I’m going to be checking out turntable.fm and rdio to see what they have to offer in 2012.

Best Concert – Ben Folds at The Wiltern.  I loved the stage banter, the energy, and the music was phenomenal.  I went in with only a little bit of knowledge about his music, but I left wanting to hear more and learn more about him.  That’s the mark of a good concert.  Honorable mention to Portishead and to John Vanderslice.  I didn’t write about the Vanderslice show, but I’ve seen him three times now and each show has been distinctly different.  And his drummer, Jason, was amazing to watch.  I ended up missing the Bon Iver show, but Sarah told me that it was very good (I believe her).

Favorite Album – Rome by DangerMouse and Daniele Luppi.  I feel like a lot of year-end lists become top heavy with material released toward the end of the year, which I understand since the songs are fresh in reviewer’s mind.  Rome came out in May, which is a long time ago in today’s millisecond attention-span world.  I also am also only basing my choice on albums I actually listened to in their entirety, which I admit isn’t a lot.  But, I come back to this one because, like his collaboration last year as Broken Bells, as an entire album, the songs meld into a cohesive unit and he can just really create a vibe.  Here, he’s wisking you away to the set of spaghetti westerns with a tribute to the soundtrack sound of that era (most notably Ennio Morricone).  Honorable mention to Little Dragon’s Ritual Union, for the same reason basically.  A lovely arrangement of electronic music that makes you stop thinking of individual songs (much better than the sprawling and Pitchfork-loved M83 album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming).

Biggest Surprise – The Whole Love by Wilco.  After Sky Blue Sky, I kind of lost interest in Wilco and didn’t even bother to listen to their next album.  They seemed to have lost a lot of their bite, both lyrically and musically, from previous records.  I had heard nothing of their new album, but decided to give it a listen when NPR was doing a free preview of the album.  To my amazement, I heard the rockin’ Wilco from Summerteeth days.  I’ve seen Wilco twice, now I have a new reason to go see them a third time other than Jeff Tweedy’s amusing stage talk.  Honorable mention to the Beastie Boy’s new album, Hot Sauce Committee Part 2.  Another group that I had just lost some interest in, but this re-ignited interest.

Best Music Book – Read the super comprehensive history of the Velvet Underground put out by Rough Trade.  Not knowing much about the band other than the songs on their greatest hits albums, this was a good and thorough introduction to the band, as well as the solo careers of all its members.  Can be a bit overwhelming, but overall a good read.

I’ll try and come back with a few more year end thoughts before the year actually ends, but if not, have a great new year filled with good tunes and good times.

Spotify My Soul – November 1

November 29, 2011

A couple of weeks late due to traveling and work, but a few albums and singles and the best week ever for prog fans since Rush re-emerged in 1997?

  • Black Lips, Arabia Mountain.  The latest album from the Atlanta garage rockers, I was relieved to see they’d ditched some of the darker, slower numbers from the second half their last album.  I was wondering whether Mark Ronson’s influence (he produced the album) would be evident, but I didn’t really feel this was anything much different than other Black Lips albums, which is fine by me.  They still are standard bearers for the latest generation of garage rock bands.  Favorite song so far, the whistle-driven “Raw Meat.”
  • M83, Hurry Up We’re Dreaming.  Garnering a 9.1 review from Pitchfork that included some rapturous praise, I decided to check out this double-CD.  There’s some good stuff on here that veers toward shoegaze (my favorite track was “Wait”), but overall I wasn’t understanding the “epic”-ness that this album was characterized with.
  • Justice, Audio, Video, Disco.  Another album from an electronic artist, but this one is a serious curveball.  The French duo’s first album was full of some club-ready bangers, most notably the true-to-its-name “D.A.N.C.E.”  Their followup, while referencing disco in the title, has its main influence in the progressive rock of the 1970s (think Rush, Yes, Queen, etc.).  While I applaud their effort to pay homage to music that they obviously love, I have a feeling they didn’t really care if this alienated fans of their first album.  While songs like “Canon” are enjoyable as  pastiches of prog stomp (think Queen) and noodling, as an album it just didn’t hold up.
  • El-P, Rush Over Bklyn.  Continuing the prog revival is El-P with his latest single.  Ummm, yeah you probably weren’t expecting to ever read that sentence.  The independent MC and producer is known for dense, complicated beats and equally complex rhymes.  Released on Legitmix, a new outlet for artists to legally sample copyrighted music without going through sample-clearing process, El-P actually makes a hip-hop song work with the main samples consisting of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”.  You can listen to it here.
  • Black Keys, Lonely Boy.  Since this single came out, several other songs from the forthcoming El Camino have also been released.  So far, this would be the stand out track from the ones I’ve heard.  Continuing some of the more upbeat, less bluesy tunes on the fabulous Brothers album, this is a hard-charging tune that still packs in some cool riffs and a very catchy chorus.  And much like the Keys, a simple yet effective video accompanies the song:

Spotify My Soul – October 17

October 17, 2011

Found some good stuff this week and rediscovered a few old albums I hadn’t listened to in a long time.

  • Jimi Hendrix Experience, Axis: Bold As Love.  The second album the Jimi Hendrix Experience recorded, and put out less than a year before their debut Are You Experienced.  Given the iconic status of that first album, that this second album is so solid is pretty amazing.  The biggest hit to come from this album would be “Little Wing”, but my personal favorite is “If 6 was 9.”
  • Mayer Hawthorne, Do As You Do.  Stones Throw and Mayer do it again.  Another solid album from the soulful crooner with some great music to back him up.  Favorite track right now is “Dreaming,” which starts off with some orchestral music that makes it sound like the beginning of a classic Frank Sinatra track, and then shifts gears with a jaunty piano for Mayer to sing along to.
  • Icebird, The Abandoned Lullaby.  The newest project from RJD2, this time pairing with a singer from Philly named Aaron Livingston who did vocals on a track on D2’s last album.  Livingston’s got a good voice, and RJD2 puts down some happy beats for him to sing to.  I’ve been listening to this a lot this week.  Standouts are “Gun For Hire” and “Going and Going. And Going.”
  • 65daysofstatic, We Were Exploding Anyway.  Some very good instrumental rock/noise.  Only one song features any vocals, though the band did recruit one Robert Smith to sing on “Come to Me.”  Fans of Explosions in the Sky and other similar acts should definitely want to check this record out.

One other thing I’ve been listening to on Spotify is an NME playlist of the British music mag’s selection of their top 150 songs of the past 15 years.  A lot of good songs and some new discoveries to be had with this list.  I’ll be writing more about this list soon.

Leave you with some Icebird:

Spotify My Soul –

August 12, 2011

Hopefully a running item, here’s the albums I’ve listened to in the past few weeks on Spotify:

  • Bon Iver, Bon Iver – Was giving this a listen to start getting pumped for our September date with Mr. Vernon and friends.  Really good, a lot more musical depth than their debut.  Some may not like this change; the kind of people that didn’t like when Bob Dylan went electric.
  • Lykke Li, Wounded Rythms – Also gave this one a listen before Li’s show at the Greek this week.  The two opening tracks, Youth Knows No Pain and I Follow Rivers, are spectacular.
  • Little Dragon, Ritual Union – Had heard some touting of this band on NPR’s All Songs Considered.  As I said on Facebook, this is a relaxing, chill album.
  • Iron Maiden, Iron Maiden – Ok, this was the first cassette tape (yes, I’m old) I bought with my own money.  As a 12 year old boy, how could I resist this cover:

I was curious whether I would still like it as much as I did all those years ago.  You know, it holds up for me.  Great guitar riffs, and Paul Di’Anno’s pipes are sharp (I’d forgotten Bruce Dickinson wasn’t with the band yet).

  • Funkadelic, Maggot Brain – I’d never listened to this whole album.  The long instrumental-heavy tracks were a great soundtrack as we washed our car on a sunny weekend afternoon.

So what are people listening to (on Spotify or otherwise)?

 

That Hit the Spot(ify)

July 30, 2011

A few of my friends had been talking about this new music website called Spotify.  It’s a streaming site that apparently has around 15 million songs on it and had only been available in Europe.  And best of all, it’s free*.  And now it’s here for us Amuricans!

Go to the site and you can request an invitation, or if you have any European friends, they probably have a few invitations to dole out as Spotify has given those users invitations to introduce Statesiders.  Or if you are flush with cash and like cutting to the front of lines, you can sign up for their unlimited or premium service.

If you go the free route, you’ll get an email with a link.  After a quick account setup, you download the spotify player.  It was quick and doesn’t seem to be a space hog or cause any sort of crashes.  The interface is clean and simple, I was up and running in no time and doing searches to check out how deep the library really was.  I checked into a band playing at Spaceland here in LA tonight, and generally Spaceland bands are a step before “up and coming.”  Spotify not only found the band, but every album from them.  So, it’s a great tool for music hounds and can eliminate the need to head to file sharing sites to download music.  Now you can give a preview listen to an album and then decide whether it’s worth spending your hard-earned money for the mp3 or CD version.  For example, I was flip-flopping about purchasing the new Beasties album, but gave the whole album a listen and I’ll definitely be using some Itunes credits to get it.

Spotify will also upload all your songs on your local drive and sync your playlists on Itunes.  There also seems to be a nice interface with Facebook, so that if you are diggin’ a song, you can share it with your friends.  I apologize in advance to my FB friends, as I will probably be taking advantage of this feature often.

Now, regarding the asterisk I put next to free above, if you decide not to pay anything to Spotify, you do have to put up with intermittent ads.  This isn’t that much of a problem when you are just surfing around, but when you are listening to a full album it can be a bit annoying.  I was listening to Bon Iver’s newest disc, and the peaceful calm his music creates was interrupted several times by jarring ads for Spotify’s pay services or DJ Khaled’s new album.  I’ll probably stick with the free service for now, but if I ever enter the smartphone world I might think about an upgrade since the pay services seem to offer more functionalities to those users.

I’ll give an update after I’ve had some more experience with it, but my early review is a definite recommend.