November 15, 2009

UK Chart Singles 15 November 2009

This week, I'm giving you the top 20!

Here is the Spotify Link

I seem to be getting bored of writing reviews of individual tracks.

I'll try harder next week, but of the new entries into the Top 10 I don't like Leona Lewis, N-Dubz, Britney Spears or Sugababes much. If they stick around till next week, I'll write more.

Finally got JLS on Spotify, it's very uninspiring.

1 The Black Eyed Peas - Meet Me Halfway up 2 | 8 weeks in chart
2 Leona Lewis - Happy new entry | 1 week in chart
3 JLS Everybody - In Love down 2 | 2 weeks in chart
4 Cheryl Cole - Fight For This Love down 2 | 4 weeks in chart
5 N-Dubz - I Need You new entry | 1 week in chart
6 Ke$ha - Tik Tok non-mover | 2 weeks in chart
7 Britney Spears - 3 new entry | 1 week in chart
8 Sugababes - About A Girl new entry | 1 week in chart
9 Jay Sean - Down (feat. Lil Wayne) down 5 | 3 weeks in chart
10 Alexandra Burke - Bad Boys (feat. Flo Rida) down 5 | 5 weeks in chart
11 Lady Gaga - Bad Romance down 1 | 3 weeks in chart
12 Jay-Z - Empire State Of Mind (feat. Alicia Keys) down 1 | 9 weeks in chart
13 Chase & Status - End Credits (feat. Plan B) down 4 | 2 weeks in chart
14 The Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feeling up 2 | 23 weeks in chart
15 Michael Bublé - Haven't Met You Yet down 8 | 5 weeks in chart
16 Westlife - What About Now down 8 | 3 weeks in chart
17 Robbie Williams - You Know Me new entry | 1 week in chart
18 Miley Cyrus - Party In The Usa down 5 | 3 weeks in chart
19 Whitney Houston - Million Dollar Bill down 5 | 6 weeks in chart
20 Snow Patrol - Just Say Yes down 5 | 2 weeks in chart

Posted by se71 at 07:19 PM | Comments (0)

November 08, 2009

UK Chart Singles 8 November 2009

Listen to the Top 10 UK singles at this Spotify link

1. JLS - Everybody In Love new entry | 1 week in chart

Still haven't heard this one - at least not consciously. Only song not on Spotify. Can't believe that is a good sign.

2. Cheryl Cole - Fight For This Love down 1 | 3 weeks in chart

A catchy song. I like the heavy percussion bass section in the middle (at 2:45). I'm not sure where she has found her slightly urban/London accent from - and it is annoying me more and more.


3. The Black Eyed Peas - Meet Me Halfway up 3 | 7 weeks in chart

Yes another chart entry for Black Eyed Peas. After one listen, it's not too impressive, however, as with many of their previous songs, after a few times, you get to quite like it. Good song.


4. Jay Sean - Down (feat. Lil Wayne) down 1 | 2 weeks in chart

Fairly typical dance orientated track. Someone should lock up the vocoder machine for a few years though.


5. Alexandra Burke - Bad Boys (feat. Flo Rida) down 1 | 4 weeks in chart

Burke's first single since the appalling, but massively selling Hallelujah last Christmas. This is a crowd friendly disco inspired feel of a song. Flo Rida gives a short, and largely ignorable rap in the middle just to give the song a more modern feel. It's OK.


6. Ke$ha - Tik Tok new entry | 1 week in chart

A new name to me - with a very silly '$' symbol in it.

A computer aided vocal to make her sound drunk, and lyrics about binge drinking. It would be funny if she wasn't trying so hard to sound like Lady Gaga - and failing badly due to lack of originality. Then it all goes eurodance. It's catchy, but vacuous.


7. Michael Bublé - Haven't Met You Yet down 2 | 4 weeks in chart

I'm not a huge Bublé fan, I'm not even a big fan of this song, but it's nice to see something a bit more traditional in the chart for a change. I guess this sounds a bit patronising - but the song isn't the strongest. I am suspecting the Terry Wogan and Radio 2 effect here.


8. Westlife - What About Now down 6 | 2 weeks in chart

Westlife seem as strong as ever. This song is one of their very typical ballads, a good track with great vocal performances. it might not suit everyone, but the band do their job well.


9. Chase & Status - End Credits (feat. Plan B) new entry | 1 week in chart

Maybe one day I will be able to look at a new top 10 and recognize every artist. This is my second discovery this week.

I like this one, sounds a bit less electronic than the rest of the chart - makes a nice change.


10. Lady Gaga - Bad Romance up 4 | 2 weeks in chart

If Lady Gaga didn't exist, someone would have to invent her. Almost single handedly giving the charts the good kicking it needs with the most interesting tracks this year. And outrageous videos; if you haven't caught them yet, they are so bonkers you have to watch them several times just to try and get 10% of what they might be about.

Bad romance continues the trend - weirdly addictive gutteral chanting, catchy chorus, and a video better than many science fiction films I've seen.


Posted by se71 at 07:55 PM | Comments (0)

November 01, 2009

UK Chart Singles 1 November 2009

Here are my short reviews of the official Top 10 Chart Singles in the UK this week. If you want to listen on Spotify - here is the link

This is my 5th week, you know the drill by now.

1. Cheryl Cole Fight For This Love non-mover | 2 weeks in chart

Quite a catchy song. I like the heavy percussion bass section in the middle (at 2:45). I'm not sure where she has found her slightly urban/London accent from.


2. Westlife What About Now new entry | 1 week in chart

New entry. Who would have thought 10 years ago, when Westlife appeared as a cheap alternative to Boyzone, that they would still be going. Not me.

However, they seem as strong as ever, and I actually quite liike some of the boy bands. This song is a good track, a ballad with great vocal performances.


3. Jay Sean Down (feat. Lil Wayne) new entry | 1 week in chart

Fairly typical dance orientated track. Someone should lock up the vocoder machine for a few years though.


4. Alexandra Burke Bad Boys (feat. Flo Rida) down 2 | 3 weeks in chart

Burke's first single since the appalling, but massively selling Hallelujah last Christmas. This is a crowd friendly disco inspired feel of a song. Flo Rida gives a short, and largely ignorable rap in the middle just to give the song a more modern feel. It's OK.


5. Michael Bublé Haven't Met You Yet up 4 | 3 weeks in chart

I'm not a huge Bublé fan, I'm not even a big fan of this song, but it's nice to see something a bit more traditional in the chart for a change. I guess this sounds a bit patronising - but the song isn't the strongest. I am suspecting the Terry Wogan and Radio 2 effect here.


6. The Black Eyed Peas Meet Me Halfway up 5 | 6 weeks in chart

Yes another chart entry for Black Eyed Peas. You might think from a first listen that this isn't much good. However, as with previous songs, after a few times, you get to quite like it. Good song.


7. Chipmunk Oopsy Daisy down 4 | 4 weeks in chart

English incoherent rapping, with metaphors based on baseball (baseball love/three strikes/home run) for some weird reason. The female vocal is OK and has grown on me, but I could do without the rap.


8. Whitney Houston Million Dollar Bill down 3 | 4 weeks in chart

Whitney has lost a lot of her trademark sound, her vocal is a lot less piercing. This is not a bad thing in my opinion, but nevertheless, without that, she is just another identikit vocalist. It sounds a bit old fashioned in a disco'ey 1970s way - a bit boring.


9. Robbie Williams Bodies down 5 | 3 weeks in chart

I don't like Robbie Williams songs in general, and this is no exception. Happily, it's falling down the charts already.

Mostly it's the lyrics on this one I dislike. From what I have made out so far, they just seem like random gibberish on a religion theme. Then it's the delivery, Robbie's odd singing/not singing verses, and sweeping chorus where he almost, but not quite, sings. Is that chorus the same as the Millennium one?

Truely terrible.


10. The Black Eyed Peas I Gotta Feeling down 3 | 21 weeks in chart

Second entry from this group in the Top 10. I've gotten to like this once more as the weeks go by - it took me a long time to get the massive "Where is the Love?" as well. This is a fun song, with a feel good lyric. Something you'd definitely want to play before going out partying.

Back next week.

Posted by se71 at 08:01 PM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2009

UK Chart Singles 25 October 2009

Here are my short reviews of the official Top 10 Chart Singles in the UK this week. If you want to listen on Spotify - here is the link

This is my 4th week, and I'm starting to get used to the songs. This is due to the cumulative effect of remembering tracks that have endured through the weeks, with a only few new entries. And I've also been watching the music channels on Sky.

1. Cheryl Cole - Fight For This Love 5/10 new entry | 1 week in chart

There was never any doubt that this would go straight in at Number One. Cole got massive viewing figures on the X-Factor on TV last weekdnd, and an endorsement from Simon Cowell. Also, it is quite a catchy song. I like the heavy percussion bass section in the middle (at 2:45). I'm not sure where she has found her slightly urban/London accent from.

2. Alexandra Burke - Bad Boys (feat. Flo Rida) 5/10 down 1 | 2 weeks in chart

Burke's first single since the appalling, but massively selling Hallelujah last Christmas. The X-Factor winner has taken her time and come back with a completely different kind of song, a crowd friendly disco inspired feel of a song. Flo Rida gives a short, and largely ignorable rap in the middle just to give the song a more modern feel.

I think it's just OK, still.


3. Chipmunk - Oopsy Daisy 4/10 non mover | 3 weeks in chart

English incoherent rapping, with metaphors based on baseball (baseball love/three strikes/home run) for some weird reason. The female vocal is OK and has grown on me, but I could do without the rap.

4. Robbie Williams - Bodies 4/10 down 2 | 2 weeks in chart

I don't like Robbie Williams songs in general, and this is no exception.

Mostly it's the lyrics. from what I have made out so far, they just seem like random gibberish on a religion theme. Then it's the delivery, Robbie's odd singing/not singing verses, and sweeping chorus where he almost, but not quite, sings. Is that chorus the same as the Millennium one?

Truely terrible.

5. Whitney Houston - Million Dollar Bill 5/10 up 9 | 3 weeks in chart

Didn't realise this was lower in the chart last week. I guess it was the appearance on X-Factor (which I didn't see) which has pushed it up. This is the third X-Factor related track in the top 5. Whitney has lost a lot of her trademark sound, her vocal is a lot less piercing. This is not a bad thing in my opinion, but nevertheless, without that, she is just another identikit vocalist. It sounds a bit old fashioned in a disco'ey 1970s way - a bit boring.

6. Taio Cruz - Break Your Heart 7/10 down 2 | 6 weeks in chart

Definitely my favourite track in the Top 10. This one is really catchy and has some staying power. Quite a clever lyric too, so all round a great song.

7. The Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feeling 6/10 down 1 | 20 weeks in chart

I'm getting to like this once more as the weeks go by - it took me a long time to get "Where is the Love?" as well. This is a fun song, with a feel good lyric. Something you'd definitely want to play before going out partying. just realised that it's been in the chart for 20 weeks - seriously, it's not that good.

8. Jay-Z - Empire State Of Mind 5/10 (feat. Alicia Keys) down 3 | 6 weeks in chart

Rapping terribly dull, Alicia Keys singing section screechy and annoying. She is so talented this is a waste, like that James Bond theme last year which did her no favours.


9. Michael Bublé - Haven't Met You Yet 5/10 non mover | 2 weeks in chart

I'm not a huge Bublé fan, I'm not even a big fan of this song, but it's nice to see something a bit more traditional in the chart for a change. I guess this sounds a bit patronising - but the song isn't the strongest. I am suspecting the Terry Wogan and Radio 2 effect here.

10. Young Soul Rebels - I Got Soul new entry - 1 week in chart

Billed as an "Urban soul super group", this is a charity single along the same lines as Band Aid with new artists including Pixie Lott, N-Dubz, tinchy Stryder and Chipmunk. Unfortunately, Spotify have removed this song, so I only heard it once. Sounded enough like the original to me to make no difference. Charity singles are rarely good, this is no exception.


If you played me any of these, I can now identify the track, and artist. Four weeks ago when I started doing this that was impossible - I don't think I'd have gotten one.

Posted by se71 at 06:55 PM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2009

UK Chart Singles 18 October 2009

Another week, another chart...

Listen on Spotify


1. Alexandra Burke - Bad Boys (feat. Flo Rida) 5/10 new entry | 1 weeks in chart

Burke's first single since the appalling, but massively selling Hallelujah last Christmas. The X-Factor wiiner has taken her time and come back with a completely different kind of song, a crowd friendly disco inspired feel of a song. Flo Rida gives a short, and largely ignorable rap in the middle just to give the song a more modern feel.

Give me a week or two to hear this more, but so far it seems just OK.


2. Robbie Williams - Bodies 4/10 new entry | 1 weeks in chart

Apparently if you make a new record, when you've spent a couple of years off, they call it a comeback these days. So Robbie is back. I should probably say here that I've hated his past records, so the chances of me liking this were slim. And lo, it came to pass, that I hate this song - a lot.

Mostly it's the lyrics. from what I have made out so far, they just seem like random gibberish on a religion theme. Then it's the delivery, Robbie's odd singing/not singing verses, and sweeping chorus where he almost, but not quite, sings. Is that chorus the same as the Millennium one?

Truely aweful.


3. Chipmunk - Oopsy Daisy 4/10 down 2 | 2 weeks in chart

English incoherent rapping, with metaphors based on baseball (three strikes/home run) for some weird reason. The female vocal is OK, but it's all a bit dull.


4. Taio Cruz - Break Your Heart 7/10 non-mover | 5 weeks in chart

This one has grown on me a lot. Nice melody, a bit throw away but pleasant to listen to. Quite a clever lyric.


5. Jay-Z - Empire State Of Mind 5/10 (feat. Alicia Keys) down 2 | 5 weeks in chart

Rapping terribly dull, Alicia Keys singing section screechy and annoying. She is so talented this is a waste, like that James Bond theme last year which did her no favours.


6. The Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feeling 6/10 up 2 | 19 weeks in chart

I'm getting to like this once more as the weeks go by - it took me a long time to get "Where is the Love?" as well. It's a fun song, with a feel good lyric. Something you'd definitely want to play before going out partying.

7. Shakira - She Wolf 6/10 non-mover | 6 weeks in chart

The voice manipulation is a bit rubbish and unnecessary as Shakira has a very distinctive vocal sound already. Not a bad song though - grows on you. Agree with a comment I read about the wolf howl - a very half hearted effort. The video has to be seen to be believed - that girl is bendy.

8. The Saturdays - Forever Is Over down 6 | 2 weeks in chart

Still not available on Spotify - review to follow maybe, but had a quick listen to a 30s preview and wasn't that impressed.


9. Michael Bublé - Haven't Met You Yet 5/10 new entry | 1 weeks in chart

This new entry is a breath of fresh air. I'm not a huge Bublé fan, I'm not even a big fan of this song, but it's nice to see something a bit more traditional in the chart for a change. I guess this sounds a bit patronising - but the song isn't the strongest. Is he the housewife's choice? I am suspecting the Terry Wogan effect here.

10. David Guetta - Sexy Chick (feat. Akon) 3/10 down 5 | 10 weeks in chart

Average dance sound - vocoder vocals. Lamenting the days when songs with derogarory terms about girls in the lyrics wouldn't get on the radio. This is lazy writing. But have discovered that I was listening to the album version last week - the single uses 'chick' instead of 'bitch', even though they deliberately mispronounce it to rhyme with 'bitch'. Why can't they just write one song - have some integrity, and take the radio ban

Posted by se71 at 06:44 PM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2009

UK Chart Singles 11 Oct 2009

Week two of my experiment to rate the UK singles chart.

If you want to play along, either tune your radio to a popular music channel, or download Spotify and click below to load up the playlist of this week's Top 9.

11h October 2009 - Top 9 Singles.

I'm currently missing one song - again!


1. Oopsy Daisy - Chipmunk

Straight into No 1. This is, I think, fairly common these days.
Once again, not my kind of song. Boring, utterly forgettable.


2. Forever is Over - The Saturdays

Not available on Spotify - review to follow, but had a quick listen to a 30s preview and wasn't that impressed.


3. Jay-Z - Empire State of Mind - 3/10

Rapping terribly dull, Alicia Keys singing section screechy and annoying. She is so talented this is a waste, like that James Bond theme last year which did her no favours.


4. Break your Heart - Taio Cruz - 7/10

This one has grown on me a lot. Nice melody, a bit throw away but pleasant to listen to. Quite a clever lyric.


5. David Guetta - Sexy Chick - 3/10

Average dance sound - vocoder vocals. Lamenting the days when songs with derogarory terms about girls in the lyrics wouldn't get on the radio. This is lazy writing. But have discovered that I was listening to the album version last week - the single uses 'chick' instead of 'bitch', even though they deliberately mispronounce it to rhyme with 'bitch'. Why can't they just write one song - have some integrity, and take the radio ban.

6. The Temper Trap - Sweet Disposition - 6/10

1980s sound, like a U2 guitar riff at the start, sounds OK. Decent vocal. Probably the only traditional song in the top 10. But again so bland it's slipping away already.

7. Shakira - She Wolf - 6/10

The voice manipulation is a bit rubbish and unnecessary as Shakira has a very distinctive vocal sound already. Not a bad song though - grows on you. Agree with a comment I read about the wolf howl - a very half hearted effort. The video has to be seen to be believed - that girl is bendy.


8. Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feeling - 4/10

Very average - even after 4 listens, I can't rememeber any of it. It's a fun song though, with a feel good lyric.


9. Pitbull - Hotel Room Service - 3/10

Terrible song - toneless singing in the chorus, tasteless lyrics, boring rapping, beeping in the background that I could create in 5 minutes. Have also stolen their main riff "Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn" line from Rappers Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang. Was watching MTV Hits last night, and they refused to show the video as it was too explicit - what idiots Pitbull are.

The best thing to say about it is that it has quite a nice 15 second instrumental coda at the end.

10. Jay-Z - Run This Town - 4/10
As with New York, this song has some boring rapping, and an annoying female vocal - this time Rihanna


The whole...

Female vocal chorus which has a tune
male rapping over background verse
repeat

...is a tired formula - no one is listening to the rapping, just waiting for the singing. This is how several of today's top 10 are structured, and I just don't understand it. It has to do with the massive egos of the rappers themselves, but their lack of respect for their own abilities, and their less than average writing skills. Go and listen to some Eminem or Beastie Boys, or NWA or Grandmaster Flash - real lyrical rapping about real stuff that engages the audience.

Comments welcome, email me at robert@se71.org if you have problems with the site. See you next week.

Posted by se71 at 08:41 AM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2009

UK Chart Singles 04 Oct 2009

As I said in my last post, I'm going to write some reviews for the songs in the UK Singles charts.

If you want to play along, either tune your radio to a popular music channel, or download Spotify and click below to load up the playlist of this week's Top 9.

4th October 2009 - Top 9 Singles.

I'm currently missing Dizzee Rascal's entry at No. 10 - Bad Dizzee!

Before I started I had heard two of these songs on the radio, and seen one video. I've now listened through about 5 times. See the end for my conclusions.

1. Break your Heart - Taio Cruz - 7/10

Not bad, fairly nice melody, a bit throw away but pleasant to listen to.


2. Jay-Z - Empire State of Mind - 3/10

Rapping terribly dull, Alicia Keys singing section screechy and annoying. She is so talented this is a waste, like that James Bond theme last year which did her no favours.


3. David Guetta - Sexy bitch - 3/10

Average dance sound - vocoder vocals. Lamenting the days when songs with bitch and whore in the lyrics wouldn't get on the radio. This is lazy writing.


4. Shakira - She Wolf - 6/10

More rubbish voice manipulation - unnecessary as Shakira has a very distinctive voice already. Not a bad song though - grows on you. The video has to be seen to be believed - that girl is bendy.


5. Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feeling - 4/10

Very average - even after 4 listens, I can't rememeber any of it.


6. Jay-Z - Run This Town - 4/10
As with New York, currently at number 3, this song has some boring rapping, and an annoying female vocal - this time Rihanna (should have stayed under her umbrella)


7. The Temper Trap - Sweet Disposition - 6/10

1980s sound, like a U2 guitar riff at the start, sounds OK. Decent vocal. Probably the only traditional song in the top 10. But again so bland it's slipping away already.


8. Pixie Lott - Boys and Girls - 5/10

Nothing terribly wrong with this song, but nothing memorable or good either.


9. Pitbull - Hotel Room Service - 3/10

Terrible song - toneless singing in the chorus, tasteless lyrics, boring rapping, beeping in the background that I could create in 5 minutes. Have also stolen their main riff "Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn" line from Rappers Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang. Quite a nice 15 second instrumental coda at the end.


Overall, I'm not that impressed. There is nothing here that I would consider buying - but I'm not terribly surprised by that revelation :-) I'm disappointed by the lyrics, and I'm astonished that people are buying Jay-Z songs - they suck in so many ways.

On the positive side Taio Cruz at No 1 is a catchy song I'm liking more and more, and I woke up with it in my head this morning. Good lyrics, nice voice. Surprised by the old skool euro dance sound though. And Shakira is also quite good, spoilt by bad production.

Comments welcome, email me at robert@se71.org if you have problems with the site. See you next week.

Posted by se71 at 10:43 AM | Comments (0)

UK Chart Singles

Chart11.gif
Much has already been written about teenagers' obsession with the UK singles chart during the 1970s and 80s. I was one of those people who carried a transistor radio with me to lunch at school on a Tuesday (against the rules) so that I'd be first to know who was the new Number 1 that week.

I think our nation's love affair with pop singles has waned over the years, I know mine has. This is borne out by sales being much lower than they were. You could get to Number one in 2006 with 30,000 sales in a week - I can't find any figures right now, but it used to be a lot more.

But though physical sales have decreased, there is some hope with downloads now included in the totals, and sales are rising again.

But, I don't want to talk about sales particularly, I want to talk about quality. Are the songs in the charts actually any good? And am I even qualified to answer that question?

For many years, I've been completely oblivious of who was No. 1. Listening to Radio 1 is torture - Sara Cox, Ferne & Reggie, Chris Moyles - all talk complete rubbish in my opinion, and have me wanting to punch them after only a few seconds. "Top of the Pops" got cancelled, and since then I am only tangentially aware of what music is in the charts.

But with Spotify I realised I have a new chance to listen to what's new. Spotify allows you to listen for free to most music, and to create playlists. So I did one for this weeks charts.

Here it is.

I'm currently missing Dizzee Rascal's entry at No. 10 - but have the complete Top 9. That's enough for now, perhaps I'll extend it to the Top 20 in future weeks - these are 10 new tracks to me, but next week, some will remain in the charts, and so I can extend my reach.

So far so good. But as I said above, what is my opinion worth? Are singles just for kids? Am I too old to give any kind of judgement? The answer is yes, and no. 'Yes' because my opinion is worth as much as anyone elses - it is all subjective after all. 'Yes' because I have been interested in music throughout my life and have around 40 years of experience to draw on when judging originality. 'Yes' because I have never been scared of new genres, and I like to think I can have a stab at rating jungle/garage/rap as well as dance or pop music. But 'No' because I do come from a time when swearing, violence and misogyny in lyrics would have meant a ban of the song, and I find it difficult to get over that in what is meant to be entertainment aimed at children. And 'No' because I'm not out there in the clubs dancing to this stuff - that does make a big difference, because from what I can tell initially, the charts don't have a hell of a lot of introspective folk ballads.

So I'm going to have a stab at it, giving each song a fair chance, as casually listening to something once isn't good enough to form an opinion. I may also change my opinion of some songs as the weeks go by - this is just what happens with new music as you assimilate it and either grow to like or loathe it.

My next post will be a critique of the top 9 singles in the UK this week. I'd really welcome your input too - tell me I'm wrong, or right!

Posted by se71 at 09:50 AM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2009

What shall I listen to today?

This is a post about the state of the music industry, and Spotify specifically, but it will rather ramblingly get there through a history of my own listening habits. Sorry about that.

spotify.jpg

When I wake up in the morning, I am usually thinking about a song. I'll have dreamed it, or it will hit me as I'm getting dressed, and without even being aware, I'm humming the tune in my head. When I was at school, my only chance of actually listening to the real track were fairly slim. Maybe it was a popular song from the charts, in which case I might get to hear it on the Top 40 Chart Show on Sunday evening on Radio 1. Maybe it was something I already had in my puny record/cassette collection, and I could put it on when I got home from school. More likely, it was a classic hit of some kind and I'd just have to wait for it to come up randomly on the radio, but I'd already be humming something else by then so the opportunity was missed. Remember, in the 1970s, I didn't even have a Sony Walkman cassette player - it was that primitive.

1979SonyWalkman.jpg

Flash forward a few decades. I now have Spotify.

I woke up this morning with Taylor Swift warbling in my head. "Love Story" is a fantasticly catchy hit, in fact, it's a fantastic song all round. Not to everyone's tastes, I recognise that, but I wanted to listen to it. In the bad old days, that would have been the end of it. I cannot afford to buy every single song I like. But today I sat down at my desk at work, plugged my headphones in, and a few seconds later was listening to the full track in glorious stereo on Spotify. For free.

This is important. This importance cannot be underestimated. It is staggering, and I cannot quite believe it actually exists. [1]

The Spotify distribution model is the single most important thing to happen to music since the invention of radio.

Seriously, this is big. This changes everything.

cd.jpg

Let's go back again, back to about 1984, when the CD was introduced. How significant was this? To the music industry it was huge. There is a great article here summarising a bit about how much money the record labels made out of CDs. People liked them, their convenience, portability, durability. We replaced many of our favourite vinyl LPs with them - paying more second time around in most cases. But we were still limited by money, and space. Money is simple to understand - no one can buy everything, and so has to choose. Space is also an important limiting factor, and has stopped my buying cheap CDs, the ones I only quite like, in an attempt to reduce some of the clutter in my house.

But just how important to us as consumers was the difference betweeen vinyl and CD. I'd argue not a lot. We had the same choice and the same limits as vinyl, just different packaging. Home taping was still big - borrow a CD from a friend, your home stereo probably had a One-Click copy button. But having the original always appealed, and people built up huge CD collections.

ipod.jpg

Around the turn of the millennium, things were changing again. Computers suddenly got fast enough to make and play back songs in a compressed format, the MP3. This was important, but you needed a PC, and some basic skills, so the uptake wasn't huge in the beginning. Even now, MP3s are still fairly niche [2]. But if we extrapolate, and MP3 replaces CD, the same problems of price and storage haven't gone away. Most people will still take the legitimate route and pay for their music, and so will be limited by price on what they purchase. With today's huge hard drives, storage space isn't so much of a problem, but it's fantastically more complicated. Your grandad may pop into HMV for a CD, but will he download an MP3 from iTunes, sync it to his iPod, and connect that to his FM tuner in the car. I have enough trouble doing all that myself - I have the same CD in my car for the past two weeks because it's just too much bother to change it.

This is where I digress a little into the stupidity of DRM and MP3 pricing. DRM is how the music industry tried to stop people who bought MP3 songs from sharing them. I say tried, because happily, they completely failed. I didn't ever buy any of these crippled songs, and never would have. Would you buy a CD that only played in the player in your living room? Not in the car, not in the kitchen, not on your portable discman, possibly not even in your living room if you upgraded the CD player there. No. Seems simple and yet the music industry took nearly ten years to realise it was a stupid idea because that is exactly what they were doing with MP3 files.

Also, would you pay the same amount of money for music you downloaded off the internet versus the same songs in a physical package? I very reluctantly had to pay the same or more for tiny CDs instead of the much more tactile and pleasing vinyl albums, but at least I did get something I could hold in my hand, display in my home, and lend to my friends. But an album of MP3 songs costs about £8.00. I have to pay to download it and store it and back it up in case my computer crashes. I can buy the CD online for about the same price usually, or in Tescos. I can convert it to MP3 format very easily myself, DRM free. So why would I buy the MP3?

itunes.gif

The only way MP3 was ever going to win was if it was significantly cheaper and DRM free. This has only recently started to happen, Amazon's MP3 store is a good step forward, I bought a couple of albums off there for £3 each recently, my first music download purchases ever.

But it is far too little too late, and in fact, the MP3 prices on iTunes went up only last week. Bonkers. The record industry may think they are starting to win, with MP3 sales increasing, but I think Spotify and it's like has the power to completely kill this market in the next couple of years.

I have spent a significant proportion of my free time building up my MP3 music collection. I like having access to everything I've bought, I want to be able to listen to it wherever I am - which is usually at home or in the office. So I have a portable 160Gb hard drive where all my music is backed up to and which I used to carry everywhere with me. I can plug it into my work PC, or into a friends PC, and play the songs. But I've stopped carrying it around. When I think of a song I'd like to hear now, I search for it on Spotify, and just listen. They have a huge catalogue - not everything, but huge. So far, for me, it's been enough.

"What shall I listen to today?"

That's what I've titled this post. That's what us music lovers are thinking about a lot of the day. That's where Spotify completely blows the competition out of the water. That's where Spotify changes the way we think about music forever [3]. I am no longer limited by price - I can listen to anything for free. I've listened to all of Taylor Swift's album, still find 'Love Story' fantastic, but am glad I didn't buy the whole thing, which I'd have been forced to do in the past. I'm listening to things I like, but would never have bought. Tracks by on compilation albums that never appeared on the artists own CDs. Albums from 1980's bands which I couldn't afford at the time, and didn't buy later because the time wasn't right and yes, money.

I'm also no longer limited by space. Spotify store all the music, so I don't have to. I can listen to the beginning of an album at work, and finish it off when I get home, without carrying it in my pocket. I can even, and this might hurt a bit, give away or sell my CDs and CD storage racks, making more room in my house for books :-) [4]

Everything isn't perfect of course. I think Spotify is an experiment, and though it is really exciting now, sadly I believe it may not last. I haven't bought any CDs/MP3s since I signed up - just can't see the point as I spend about 90% of my waking life near or at a computer and so can listen to everything I want without having to pay. As more and more people sign up to Spotify, sales will go down. This will not go unnoticed by the record industry, and the adverts will not be enough to pay for the shortfall. Spotify will have to start charging, and then everyone will leave. I'm not interested in paying £9.99 a month to 'rent' music. It is a very confusing time to be trying to sell music, and maybe it could even become impossible. I know that if Spotify goes away I'm going to find it hard to part with my cash again to hear new music.

But for now, "What shall I listen to today?"
Well, just about anything.

---
[1] yes, I know all about Last.fm and eMusic. I know about Bittorrent and Kazaa and Limewire. I know about Napster and iTunes music store and Amazon DRM free MP3s. I know about that Russian site (except it's name escapes me, allofmp3 or something). These are ALL different to Spotify. Stepping stones along the way, but not the paradigm shift that Spotify is.

[2] citation needed - how much music is sold on CD vs MP3?

[3] I really hope Spotify doesn't get shut down before a critical mass see it for what it is, and for what it can be. Once people get used to it, there will be no going back, but right now, it could still die.

[4] I will not be doing this - and will write about the reason why later.

[I've only just scratched the surface of this - I've left so much out to try to stick to the point, and I know I've even failed to do that. More updates coming soon. would love to hear other's thoughts.]

Posted by se71 at 10:12 AM | Comments (0)

November 27, 2008

Rating Albums

How much do you like a particular album in your collection?

Surprisingly, it might be less than you think.

First of all, you have to rate all the songs individually. I've decided to use the most basic system included in Apple's iTunes, which allows you to give the track a number of stars, between one and five. Five is the best.

I've made up some simple rules to make it easy and quick to assign the star rating:

three stars

This is where I start. The vast majority of songs in my collection, ones which I neither like nor dislike, get three stars.

one star

There are surprisingly few of these in my collection, but there are some. These are songs that if you were relaxing in a warm bath, and they came on the radio, you would get out, and walk across a cold bathroom floor just to turn off.

five star

These are songs that when you hear them, you get a 'stop the clocks' moment, where you can't work, or concentrate on anything else. You just have to stop everything and listen.

two and four star.

One and five star songs are very easy to classify. Twos and fours are more tricky, but still fairly easy. A two will be slightly annoying and you might skip it on the iPod, but wouldn't walk across a room to switch it off. A four has moments of beauty, maybe a tiny hook you love in the chorus, but the whole thing doesn't hold together enough to make it a five.

Now, fire up your favourite music player, load an album. I'd advise only to try this with albums where you can identify each and every song by listening to only a few seconds of the intro. If you don't know the album that well, how can you fairly rate it. Now quickly flick through giving each song a star rating according to the criteria above. Just how much do you like it?

I was very surprised to find that whole albums that I own and have listened to over decades sometimes do not have any songs that get more than a three star rating. Hardly any albums get more than a single five star. Some albums get several 2 stars and nothing over a three, and I thought I liked them.

The point to all this?

My ever increasing collection of music, and my ever decreasing time, means I have to pare out the deadwood, and, as I think I've mentioned before, stop listening to crap. There are more subtleties to this [*], but broadly speaking, if an album doesn't have a few four or five star songs, should it even be in my song rotation at all.

[*] a whole album of three star songs may work well as background music while you're working, or jogging, or driving in your car. A five star song may need to be rationed so that you do not become bored with it, or it may make you feel really emotional due to associations, and so you also only play it at special times. In fact, and album of three and four star songs is probably the best compromise.

Posted by se71 at 09:59 AM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2008

Again and Again

Have a look at this new music video - great idea.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kxDxLAjkO8&eurl

Posted by se71 at 02:21 PM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2008

Dan Fogelberg

Dan Fogelberg Official Site

So farewell then
Dan Fogelberg

Not many people in the UK even know his name, which is of course a sad state of affairs given the success he had in the 1970s and 80s. He sadly died at the early age of 56 of cancer, on 16 December 2006.

I actually discovered his music at the time the album "The Innocent Age" was released. Although some later albums were also excellent, this gatefold double was probably the peak of his career. It had "The Leader of The Band" and "Same Old Lang Syne", which are his most popular songs apart from the complete classic "Longer" (released only 2 years previously on the "Phoenix" album). "Windows and Walls" was the next album, and has my favourite song "Tuscon, Arizona (Gazette)", which is an uncharacteristically depressing and negative eight minute epic, which I love.

He was a good friend to The Eagles, almost joining their band at an early stage in their careers, and he would have fitted in there musically very well. You could compare his songs with them, and with the likes of James Taylor. He had a very unique voice though, unmistakable, very emotional, perfectly suited to the songs he wrote and performed.

There hasn't been one year since 1981 that I haven't played Dan Fogelberg's music, and only recently I had a complete renaissance of everything as I finally got them onto my MP3 player. These songs sound as fresh as ever, and if you have a penchant for pop/rock with a strong country influence, then I thoroughly recommend them. Give me a shout if you're interested.

Posted by se71 at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2007

Led Zeppelin


DSC03160
Originally uploaded by se71.
Yes, I got tickets to the concert of the century.
No, it did not disappoint.
Yes, Led Zeppelin still rock.

Posted by se71 at 10:39 AM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2007

Roy Harper

How have I missed Roy Harper? I know I'm not that knowledgeable about the folk music scene, but I perusal of wikipedia quickly tells me that he is a lot more than that.

The reason I ask, is that I was at the Joanna Newsom concert at the Albert Hall last night, and he was one of the support acts. He played the complete 1971 studio album "Stormcock", simply accompanied by one other guitarist. It was a bit hard to take it all in, having not heard any of it before, but the four very long songs did have time to grow on me, and I still find myself humming "Me and My Woman" today.

More web magic (well, the Wikipedia entry links and a bit of YouTube) inform me that Roy is a mate of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin, He's had his songs covered by Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel, and he even sang lead vocal on "Have a Cigar" on the Pink Floyd album "Wish You Were Here" because Roger Waters had a bit of a sore throat and he happened to be in the studio next door.

I'm definitely going to have to chase up a copy of this "Stormcock " album. Joanna Newsom described listening to it live last night as the most important event in her life so far that she will tell her grandchildren about, and rates it as her favourite album ever, and that's good enough for me.

Posted by se71 at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

Joanna Newsom - Royal Albert Hall, 28th September 2007

Joanna Newsom RAH.jpg

(c) Georg Schroll

I was never quite sure how I'd cope with an evening of Joanna Newsom live on stage. I love the CDs of course, and have listened to them endlessly all this year. But I've been disappointed in the past by live performances from artists, and some of the YouTube videos of Joanna's other live appearances do not show her talents as well as they might.

However, as soon as the first note on the harp of "Sawdust and Diamonds" sounded, and her voice rang out amazingly clearly, I was lost completely for the next two hours. She has a quirky voice, which can take the uninitiated a little time to get used to. However some of the rougher edges seem to have vanished now, perhaps as a result of playing live and growing into the songs. If she continues in this way her music I think will become more commercial, but I hope she doesn't lose the unique style. The result however is that she now sounds far more professional, but still pleasingly individual.

Interspersing tracks from all her CD releases, with a rendition of a traditional Scottish song in the middle, the whole evening passed very quickly. Mostly she was onstage with her "Ys Street Band", three musicians on percussion, violin and what looked like a mandolin to me. The arrangements, though necessarily different to the CD, were very effective. Some songs allowed Joanna to show off complelety alone, and her virtuousity on the harp, easier to appreciate with no distraction, was amazing.

She finished off with a brand new song and then I was a bit disappointed that my favourite hadn't been played. What sort of act would play in an encore a 17 minute epic single track. The very popular "This side of the Blue" had also been missed, and it was used in a UK television advert, so I thought that was the obvious choice. I was totally amazed then when at 10:45pm, the official end time for the concert, Joanna and her three piece band returned and gave us what I felt was the complete perfect ending to the day - "Only Skin". This song has everything, and for the last year, ever since I first heard it, I've counted it as my favourite song ever, by anyone. It's loud and soft, always emotional, fast and slow, intricate and complex, and simple and pure. It stands up to multiple listens, back to back, day after day, and I'm always a little disappointed when it finishes. I got everything I wanted from it tonight. In the segments of the song where only simple harp and voice played quietly, five thousand people held their breath so that they could catch every nuance, and it felt really special to be there.

Of course, everything that Joanna did this evening made the audience feel that they were in a special place. She had as her support act Roy Harper, who played the entirety of his 1971 album "Stormcock". Both artists enthused about each others' talents in their introductions, Newsom going so far as to say this evening was one of the high points of her life. She also smiled and laughed a lot, and made a big issue of getting someone to go backstage and get her cameraphone. She asked for the houselights to turned up, and took a few pictures of the audience. The Albert Hall is a fantastic venue, and looking up at everyone from that stage, especially considering the history of the place, must be quite a feeling. Even when she stumbled on a line in the encore, she just laughed and continued instantly. No one minded. It was that kind of evening.

Posted by se71 at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2007

American Doll Possee - Tori Amos

American Doll Possee - Tori Amos

I've bought every Tori Amos CD since her debut Little Earthquakes, and DVDs and quite a few CD singles when I've been able to get them. I have occasionally been a bit disappointed in the beginning, and have then warmed to them, and then loved them ("To Venus and Back" may be a possible exception, I'm still working on that one).

I was expecting the same here, but my initial disappointment on the first two listen was worse than usual; I actually disliked the songs that I wasn't indifferent to. I persevered, I am not without endurance. I liked it even less, and forced myself to keep going. I finally couldn't take it any more, and gave up. I may never play it again.

Please to be ignoring the idiots on Amazon who give this 5 stars. Tori is a genius, listen to any other album and you will find gems of sheer perfection, but do not under any circumstances let this one near your ears, ever.

-------

The above is the review as I'd actually like to leave it, but it seems unfair not to actually mention any of the songs, and why they are bad. The premise for this album is that there are five different personalities singing songs in their own style. Unless you are going to study the lyrics and photos, and really work at understanding these differences, it's all a bit pointless as they all sound, unsurprisingly, like Tori. So lets just forget that and move on.

The opener "Yo George" isn't completely awful, and it's short and nicely sung, but Tori's anti-war effort is just an excuse for a bad pun. "Big Wheel" is also OK, though there is an annoying drum counting middle segment that spoils it. "Bouncing off Clouds" would be an OK filler track on a good album. From here on though, the next 20 tracks get worse. "Teenage Hustling" just goes on and on with seemingly little variation in the note being sung and an annoying rough guitar sound. "You Can Bring Your Dog" also has this guitar. "Fat Slut", at 41 seconds is more of an interlude, but one I could have done without. Despair sets in until "Father's Son" which I'd forgotten, and is quite nice. The next few songs are totally forgettable, a complete waste of listening time. It's not that they are bad, but when each finishes, you get a "so, what was that all about?" feeling. Imagine a comedian telling a shaggy dog story for four minutes, then walking off without delivering the punchline; the time spent wasn't completely unenjoyable, but you feel cheated at the end. Would you let him to it to you again, and again? There are the odd flashes of sounds that are familiar, licks and hooks stolen from other albums, but hacked to remove the originality, and hence the quality. And on it goes, gradually dragging you down, till you can't take any more. My media player says I've listened to this album six times, I know it's a few more more than that, but even so, and having just worked through them all again, I think I've forgotten the songs already.

Posted by se71 at 03:21 PM | Comments (0)

September 13, 2007

Listening to Music (stub)

(stub for a much longer article)

At the risk of looking like a boring old fart, I'm going to stick my neck out and say that popular music just isn't as good as it used to be. Lets take bands as the main example. The Q Awards nominations are out, and in the running are The Killers, The Kaiser Chiefs and Muse.

Muse have actually done a few good, and one or two excellent, songs. I like them, but even I have to say I usually can't get through a whole album without getting distracted. Has anyone listened to the whole Kaiser Chiefs album - or the Killers. I haven't heard one song by either band that makes my skin tingle, or even one that makes me want to hit the repeat button. Hard-Fi did a great debut album so I'm harming my argument a bit here I know, but their follow up seems to be getting less than enthuastic reviews. And don't get me started on the annoying ramblings of the overrated Arctic Monkeys.

A lot of this stuff is almost certainly great to listen to live. But the chant along choruses have as much artist merit as you'd get on the football terraces. What I'm after is music to make me sit up and listen, music that is unputdownable, music that hits me in the heart, or the head, or both. All we're really getting is a bit of uninspired guitar thrashing and shouting.

"Ruby Ruby Ruby, whatcha doin doin doin to me." Depressing that someone thinks that's the best song of the year.

Posted by se71 at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2007

Mercury Music Prize Nominees 2007

Here they are, with comments:

Arctics – Favourite Worse Nightmare - heard of it
Jamie T – Panic Prevention - never heard of it
Amy Winehouse – Back to Black - got it, like half of it
Young Knives - Voices of Animals and Men - never heard of it
Klaxons - Myths of the Near Future - got it, like most of it
Bat for Lashes – Fur & Gold - never heard of it
Fionn Regan - The End of History - never heard of it
Dizzee Rascal - Maths and English - heard of him
The View - Hats off to the Buskers - heard of them
Maps - We Can Create - never heard of it
Basuiat Strings with Seb Roachford - Basquiet Strings - never heard of it
New Young Pony Club - Fantastic Playroom - never heard of it

So, not a bad year for me, I've actually got two!!

Posted by se71 at 04:08 PM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2007

Background Music

I listen to music a fair amount. During the week I'm either also reading a book/newspaper/magazine because I'm on a train, or I'm doing comnplicated things with computers because that's my job.

Both of these activities require a major portion of my brain's processing power (not all though, creating user ids isn't that hard :-).

I love music, and I love my iPod, it's been a major reason why my music listening has actually increased a lot during the last year. I have discovered new Artists like Joanna Newsom and Muse and Damien Rice, and when I put their songs on I find myself stopping whatever else I'm doing and just listening. Playing them as background seems a betrayal, and impossible in some cases.

So, paradoxically, instead of playing the songs I enjoy most, I listen quite a lot to second tier music. This is music I like, music I would pay good money for, but music that doesn't require rapt attention in the same way as the top tier Kings of Convenience or Tom Waits.

So stand up Paulo Nuttini, Snow Patrol and James Morrison - you're pretty good really, and you get a lot of plays on my iPod, but don't get too cocky, it's just because I don't quite like you enough.

Posted by se71 at 04:09 PM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2007

Joanna Newsom in Concert

Realising that the last concert I went to was The Chuckle Brothers, I have decided that I need to get out more, and I need something a bit more adult. And so have made a booking to see Joanna Newsom in September, I've even booked a car park space, and will be dragging the rest of the family along if I can.

Newsom is a unique artist, and a bit of an acquired taste, but I have the latest CD in the car, and I'll have everyone singing along to 'Only Skin' or 'Monkey and Bear' by then - mark my words :-)

Posted by se71 at 02:50 PM | Comments (0)

January 30, 2007

Ys - Joanna Newsom

This is dense music; challenging, intricate, and confusing. After one listen, you might be forgiven for thinking it's all just one long stream of consciousness. Newsom's vocal never seems to stop, and seldom repeats anything resembling a chorus. She shouts like Bjork, she croaks like Billie Holiday, and shifts octaves like Joni Mitchell, yet is completely unique. Her instrument of choice is a harp, which also never stops, but disappointingly plays mostly a background role and doesn't really get as much prominence as .

After my second listen, the melodies started to permeate my subconscious, and made me want to listen again. I'm on listen five now and I'm only just starting to come to grips with the differences between the five tracks, but am increasingly interested in the stories being told. Snippets of songs are stuck in my head, and I need to hear them more.

The songs are about, well, I'm not much closer to discovering that yet than when I began. There is so much to assimilate it's a bit overwhelming, but I'm going to find out.

If you're tired of the run-of-the-mill ten standard songs per CD, all having simple structures, and want something a bit different, you could do worse than this. It's not easy though - you'll have to work at it.

Update: So now I've been listening to Ys for several weeks, and I can't get it out of my head, and I still only understand a small fraction of it. It's definitely the best album I've heard in a long time.

Posted by se71 at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2007

Shuffle

Just a brief thought. I was testing an iPod shuffle yesterday, and filled it with a random selection of tracks from my iTunes library. This brought home to me the real reason why I just don't like compilation CDs that much. I have a pathological need to know the name of the artist of every piece of music I listen to.

I was listening to the shuffle, and occasionally it challenged me with some electronic dance track that could have been Aphex Twin, or Squarepusher, or even Plone or Plaid, or anything from the Warp 10 six CD compilation or a host of other artists. Other times an album track I didn't know that well also caused me pause for thought as the artist's name sat on the tip of my tongue, but wouldn't go any further north into my brain. The computer with the iTunes source tracks on it was happily in the next room, so every time this happened I HAD to go there and satisfy my curiosity by checking through the playlist on screen.

So I'm sticking to album tracks in their proper order as normal from no on, and single artist CDs too. And an iPod Nano too with artist and track names displayed on screen, just in case.

Posted by se71 at 12:13 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2007

Parental Advisory CDs

Rant time.

It seems that popular music can't make up it's mind whether to be inclusive to children or not. We have some very popular female artists - like Madonna and Pink and Gwen Stefani, who make songs that are played on the radio incessantly. These women are strong role models, and the songs are about empowerment and independence and other good things, and are catchy and excellently produced. Young girls love listening to them, and this is a good thing. And then what do the record companies do? - they put the adult versions of the songs on their albums, so that I can't buy them to give to my children. This is annoying, and I'm sure the artists are missing out on a huge amount of revenue. I can't even buy the singles as the album version is quite often also included. I'm currently listening to Pink's "I'm not Dead" Album - and so far I think four songs are totally inappropriate for anyone under 16. Other than that it's a really good collection of songs.

It's particularly bad for rap and hip-hop too. Eminem is a huge artist, and has many popular songs that my nine year old could probably sing along to. That's just the radio version of course. The albums I've bought are kept on the shelf, and seldom taken out unless I'm alone in the house. In fact, I'm reluctant to buy them any more for just this reason - I do not get any time to listen to them. And if I try and find a compilation album of recent hip-hop/rap/R&B radio hits, I cannot get one that has the single versions on it - just the Parental Advisory ones full of swearing. It's a real shame because these songs are definine a generation's childhood memories.

Maybe other parents don't mind so much. Maybe the recording artists think that being edgy and controversial with their lyrics keep them more popular, and maybe they are right. If they had any integrity though they'd insist on not having their work edited to allow radio airplay to be possible - oh, but then they wouldn't get as much money would they? So they entice children in with the sugar coated version, and then give them the full aural assault when they get the CD for christmas from some dotty aunt who doesn't realise the difference.

I would have bought dozens of CDs over the years if they had had clean versions. And my kids have had much less exposure to this kind of music than they might have had - come to think of it though, maybe that's a good thing.

Posted by se71 at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)

November 09, 2006

Muse - Unintended

Three minutes and fifty seven seconds of absolute perfection. Why aren't this band the biggest on the planet.

Amazingly, you can even listen to the whole track on the band's website Click the media link, select the CD 'Showbiz', it's track 7. And even better, you can also watch a video of the song there too. What a great site.

Also, you can buy it here

Posted by se71 at 01:43 PM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2006

Stars of CCTV - Hard-Fi

I appoached this CD thinking it would be just another collection of songs about girls and having no money, and fighting on a Saturday night; to a large extent I was right.

The Streets debuted with a collection of songs much on similar topics, and made a pretty good job of sounding original, and avoiding cliche. Hard-Fi have also managed to come up with some very good material, and along with the poor kid from the streets tracks, have also had a go at the Iraq war in "Middle Eastern Holiday".

The main influences for this music, whether conscious or unconscious, come from the late seventies. There is a lot early Jam in "Gotta Reason", the background singing on "Middle Eastern Holiday" and others is as tuneless (in a good way) as it was with the Undertones, and "Living for the Weekend" echoes Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run". "Better Do Better" is a Two-Tone ska record reminiscent of The Beat in places.

The lead singer belts out most of the tracks with gusto, but isn't afraid to show a more tender side on "Move On Now". The band seem to be capable of using any sound they need, whether thrashing guitars, quirky synths, or clasical piano. It means the CD is never boring, but the lead vocal holds it together so that it forms a coherent whole.

All the songs are good, but some are very good, and there is an absolutely fantastic standout track. "Cash Machine" and "Stars of CCTV" give a real up-to-date cultural aspect to proceedings, and "Feltham is Singing Out" concretes this west London suburb angst with a young offender hanging himself in the prison there.

If you only get to hear one song however, listen to "Tied Up To Tight". This is of course another song about trying to leave the slums for the bright lights. I am finding it very hard indeed to describe just what it is about this song that makes it so great. Every listen makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck - it just works on some base level that I can't figure out. Is it the edginess of the music, the distorted guitars building up a tension that matches the lyrics? Perhaps, and that's the best I can come up with. The lyrics tend towards cliche in places "Your eyes are burning so bright", but any song with the word cognoscenti in it has got to be good.

A new band, if they are any good, only really get one chance at the angst-ridden angry young man album before they get rich and cannot do it any more - Hard-Fi haven't wasted theirs.

Posted by se71 at 12:03 PM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2006

Cutting out the deadwood in my music collection

I listen to a lot of albums, on CD, and on my computer and on MP3 players. I've always known that some of them have tracks that are less than perfect. I always persevere, persistently listening to not only every track, but also to them in the correct order (the closing bars in any song give me a Pavlovian response to the opening bars of the next one).

When I'm tempted to skip a track, I think back to the album Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. I borrowed this from my friend Richard Moore when I was at school. I listened to it and really liked it, but told him the next day that the track 'Songbird' was a bit poor and let the whole thing down. He assured me that I was wrong, that I should keep listening, and that I'd change my mind. Of course - he was completely right. 'Songbird' is a fantastic song. It's not flashy like the Lindsey Buckingham tracks, not smouldering sexy like the Stevie Nicks ones, it's a pure love song and a perfect ending to side one (yes, it was vinyl in those days). I could have given up, and determined never to make that mistake in the future.

As I'm getting older though, the amount of music I have seems to be growing exponentially and almost overwhelming me. I have decided that it is time to cut out the deadwood in my collection. I don't want to make any mistakes, so extensive listening is required before the incisions start. But we all have albums that we play which start well, meander a bit, and your ears lose interest, then maybe a really good track makes you sit up and notice again. I think it's time to stop wasting all that time listening to junk.

I've already started to make some value judgements on the CDs in my collection. I'm listening critically and asking myself the question "Would I be disappointed if I never heard this track ever again?" It's surprisingly easy, even on old favourite CDs, to say "No!". Those filler tracks are heading towards the bit-bucket of history.

It would have been fairly difficult a few years ago to actually put into practice any cull like this. It's not practical to lift the needle on vinyl, and on analog cassette the APSS (Automatic Programme Search System) functions similarly meant you had to get up and go over to the deck to press the buttons (and even then they were likely to skip past a good song, or stop at a quiet bit in the bad one).

Even with CDs it's a bit of a pain to extract tracks. I suppose I could burn a new copy of the CD with the bad songs removed and put it in the jewel case, and then file the original away somewhere. But that's a lot of effort and will realistically never happen.

No, the best thing to do is to make sure all my playlists in whatever software player I have reflect my tastes. In fact, I can keep the old playlist with all the tracks, and have a new one with just the tunes I like. I do switch around a lot between applications like Winamp, iTunes and Music Match, but I think a lot of them support the .M3U format so that's the one I'm going to try.

I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Note:
Of course, I've pretty much written off several albums already (100th Window, The Dreaming, Beaucoup Fish, Hometime, Vapor Trails.

Note 2: books and films are also on my hitlist...

Posted by se71 at 02:10 PM | Comments (0)

Gene Pitney

Gene Pitney died unexpectedly today.

I've been a fan since I was about eleven, and have most of his albums. I've also seen him in concert.

If I was forced to name my favourite male vocalist, this would be him.

A sad day.


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Originally uploaded by se71.

Posted by se71 at 01:03 PM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2006

David Gilmour - On An Island

Oh dear, where to start?

I really quite liked "The Division Bell"; was it really twelve years ago? It wasn't anywhere as good as a Pink Floyd album with Roger Waters on board, but it had it's moments. It was worthy of a sixty- eight city tour, and I went to see them in Earl's Court. They were big, loud, and very entertaining.

If you were expecting more stadium filling rock from Gilmour on this release, then you will be sorely disappointed. Only one track, "Take a Breath", actually gets the BPM count above comatose. It's the only one that shows any real sign of life, but even it isn't very exciting.

"Red Sky At Night" sounds like some kind of mini "Shine on you Crazy Diamond" reprise. "This Heaven' has it's moments, a bit smokey jazz club maybe. "The Blue", and in fact a lot of the work here, harks back to a very early album Pink Floyd did in 1972 called "Obscured By Clouds". This track sounds especially like 'Mudmen' from that CD.

The title track "On An Island" is the best song. We all want to hear Gilmour playing his trademark electric guitar sound, and it has a fairly decent bit in the middle here, and an extended solo at the end. The guitar is always there on the album, but he is just strumming with no real passion. All the other tracks are very slight, flimsy. I can hum the complete solo at the end of "Comfortably Numb" from memory - that's not going to happen with any of the work on display here.

Nearly every track make you feel as if you've stumbled upon a small band having a private jamming session in their back garden on a summer's afternoon. The music floats over you, not unpleasantly of course, it sounds nice. I think it might work well as the soundtrack to one of those nature documentaries that are so popular right now. After such a long wait for new material however, I think we deserved a bit more. "Obscured By Clouds" incidentally was a soundtrack album.

The thing that is really lacking however, the one thing that might lift the music out of this torpor and turn it into something meaningful, is the lyrics. There are words of course, well, except on the three forgettable instrumental tracks. The problem is that they are meaningless sentimentalities about how it's nice to sit by the sea, or drink some wine, or look into a child's eyes. Chris de Burgh would have thrown these lyrics out as being too syrupy and cliched. This is about as far away from "The Wall" or "Dark Side of the Moon" as it's possible to get.

A great vocalist could probably do something with the material, but Gilmour, and Waters for that matter, were never good singers. Pink Floyd had fantastic thought provoking lyrics. They practically invented the concept album. They sneered, and shouted, and screamed - they didn't actually do any singing at all really. But Gilmour thinks he can get away with it now, and his voice is just not up to it.

I think the problem is that Gilmour is just to rich and too happy. Hhe doesn't need the money, doesn't need the adulation of the fans. He has nothing left to prove. Stop being so damned nice Dave! Get some decent drums back, where was Nick Mason for this one? In fact, now you've made friends with Waters again after Live8 (that was a great performance), why don't you all go back into the studio and have one more go at a real Pink Floyd album. Waters is a bit of an egomaniac, too political sometimes, too outrageous, but together you are a perfect complementary team. You can reign him in, and he can push you to new musical heights. Get back into the studio, fight a bit, argue with each other and swear once more you'll never work together again, but don't actually split till the music is recorded.

I'd hate for you to keep on making this kind of material, so please make more effort, and I'm sure you can still rock us properly at least one more time.

Posted by se71 at 10:53 AM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2006

Lists Of Bests

Those people at Robot Co-op have been busy again, and have integrated yet another cool site into their existing environment. We've had All Consuming, 43 Things, 43 Places, 43 People, and now we have Lists of Bests.

I must admit to being a bit obsessive recently (shouldn't that be, like, forever? Ed.) with making lists. I like to know what CDs I have, what books I've read, what countries I've visited. This new site lets me create personal lists of these things, or use a list which the site term as 'definitive', a predefined list that everyone should be able to agree on.

I had a mental list of movies I never want to waste my time watching. There was nothing like this on the site, so I set one up here. This is never going to be definitive, so I set up a personal list, I hope you dislike my choices. But other people can also use it, or make a copy of it for their own purposes. They can also compare their version of the list against mine, or another user's list.

The definitive lists are things like 'Oscar Winning Movies', or 'Books by Douglas Adams'. You can have fun seeing how many items on the list you can tick off. Another example is a thing BBC did called The Big Read a couple of years ago. The British the public voted for their favourite books of all time. I determined that I'd try and read all novels in the top 100, and here is that list, and here is my progress through it.

I got so carried away the other day that I created a few definitive lists myself that I felt were needed. Here they are:

Albums claimed to have sold 50 million or more units (a bit of a cheat this - there is only one in the list)

Albums claimed to have sold 40 million or more units

Albums claimed to have sold 30 million or more units

Albums claimed to have sold 20 million or more units

The lists can be anything really, and a very popular one for some strange reason is about food - '50 things to eat before you die'. I'm 77% of my way through that one without even trying :-)

All the sites I mentioned above are linked to Lists of Bests. This interconnectedness is great. You have say, a list of books, and you check off the ones you've consumed (not physically 'eating' books of course, that would be absurd!). The line with the book on it goes green to indicate the change, and the item is added to your All Consuming account. You can also say whether you liked it or not at this stage. When you logon to All Consuming you can then see an overall view of everything you have selected on the Lists of Bests site - like this. In this way you can build up a nice record of everything you read/watch etc. And if you add them into All Consuming first, they also magically appear in any lists you browse on the Lists Of Bests site. Cool!

There are many other features too, like comments, and listing things you want to consume but haven't yet, and things you are currently consuming. It all fits together very neatly, and looks great too with the new Web 2.0 style of allowing updates to be handled right inside the web page with no long winded redrawing of the whole page.

The sites all use the same logon, with single sign-on too, so create your self a free account and have a play. It's quite addictive though, and you may get lost in there for several hours. You have been warned.


Posted by se71 at 03:21 PM | Comments (0)

March 06, 2006

12 Songs - Neil Diamond

The producer Rick Rubin does his magic on another music ledgend. However, there are many differences between his treatment of Neil Diamond, and his very successful albums with the late great Johnny Cash. (if you haven't heard "The Man Comes Around", or seen the video for the single from it, 'Hurt', then you're doing yourself a great disservice).

Diamond has written all twelve songs on this album (well, 14 songs oddly enough on my edition at least) specially for the album. Cash reinterpreted songs by other artists mostly. From the sleevenotes it looks as if Rubin played a big part in forcing Diamond to write better songs, to hone them to perfection, and then provided the (very few) session musicians to keep the sound small and intimate. I'm also reminded a lot of what Bruce Springsteen did with 'Devils and Dust' last year.

I'm only on about my third listen, and so this isn't a full review. I heard the first track in HMV the other day, and that decided me on buying it. "Oh Mary" is a song that instantly enters your consciousness and you find yourself humming all day from just one listen. The other songs that instantly connected with me are "Save me a Saturday Night" and "Face Me" - both slow, mournful sounding, as was "Oh Mary" - the faster tracks just haven't grabbed me yet though.
There are some very familiar sounding melodies, even lyrics, but I don't think I have a greatest hits package anywhere close at hand to give detailed comparisons - check back later for updates.

I'm not sure if it really is "His best work ever", which Amazon claims some critics are saying, but it's interesting that 'Q', Uncut and Mojo magazines all gave it very good reviews. It's great I think when a real but forgotten talent is introduced to an audience that didn't even know they existed.

Posted by se71 at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2005

Coldplay - Talk

The new album by Coldplay - X&Y - has a few really good tracks near the beginning, but after about half way it loses steam somewhat and finishes with some very poor efforts. In the middle of the mix though, is a great little song that should make them millions - "Talk".

They've grabbed the riff from Kraftwerk's "Computer Love" and moved it into the rock guitar realm. It sounds really good, and is as addictive in this form as it was originally when done by synth.

So where are the millions going to come from - advertising. Mobile phone operators must be jumping over each other to offer money for this track - here's some of the lyric:

"so you take a picture of something you see
in the future where will i be? "

"so you dont know where you're going but you wanna talk"

"Lets talk"

Imagine some fancy whizzy graphics, young photogenic people with cameraphones, this music emphasing the key "Talk" and "Picture" words. How can it fail?

But it doesn't even stop there - Microsoft, Intel and Apple, with their multimedia hats on, will also want a piece of the action. Products like Garageband that allow home users to mix their own music tracks will be nicely served with this snippet from the song

"you could climb a ladder up to the sun
or write a song nobody had sung
or do something that's never been done
do something that's never been done"

Of course I could be wrong. Coldplay wear their eco-warrior carbon-neutral hearts very much on their sleeves. But perhaps donating the money to world debt, and getting a second wind for album sales once this honeymoon period is fading, will persuade them it's the right thing to do.

The only thing that confuses me is why didn't they use one of their own tunes for these lyrics? Krafterk will of course need a large cut of this advertising revenue.

Posted by se71 at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2005

Corrupting Our Musical Memories

This week's court case decision on Michael Jackson made me breathe a sigh of relief. I've been a big fan of his music, the whole planet has been, for the last 20 years. If he'd been found guilty of this crime, then could I ever again listen to his songs without feeling guilty by association?

Cast your mind back a few years. What was the biggest live concert draw in Britain around Christmas. Gary Glitter. Everyone loved him and his Glitter Band. "Leader of the Gang" was a national anthem. When did you last hear it? We've had our memories stolen from us. We're not allowed to listen to him any more. When they had a Top 100 hits of the '70s program recently on TV, Gary Glitter obviously had to feature in the listing - but though they showed a still photo of him, they instantly moved on without any video footage or music. I'm sure this is the correct decision - we now know what a thoroughly nasty man he is, but it's all very sad and disappointing all the same.

Likewise, we don't hear any Jonathan King on the radio any more - "Everyone's Gone to the Moon" was one of his, "Una Paloma Blanca", that's another. I quite liked them, but I'm not allowed to now. You won't hear them on the radio, and I doubt they'll have a CD in HMV if you could even bring yourself to take it to the till.

The same thing almost happened to Pete Townshend from The Who last year, Michael Jackson has just narrowly escaped. Who's next?

There are many scandals that our pop stars can recover, even thrive from. Gangsta Rap stars like Snoop Doggy Dog and 50 Cent sell more records if they get shot or sent to prison for violent crimes, and they perform songs glamourising hatred and degradation of women. Harry Connick Junior got into trouble with the police carrying a gun through an airport, and the Rolling Stones and Beatles famously had run-ins with the law over drugs. Luckily these crimes just increase an artist's appeal, and do nothing to harm our enjoyment of the music.

So while like any other sane person I obviously abhor any crime involving children and grown men, I do have a private reason too for hoping that my favourite stars are blameless in this area. If they get convicted, their entire back catalogue will be off the radio, they'll effecively become non-people, and my happy childhood memories of listening to them will be corrupted forever. And that's a crime too.

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June 15, 2005

Hometime - Alison Moyet

This was a sort of comeback album for Alison Moyet, and it got good reviews. It even did quite well commercially I believe.

It's a professional effort, and feels good. There are some nice tunes, and that distictive vocal is a welcome respite from the mass produced pulp we're getting used to from the blond bimbette brigade.

But, you knew there was a but coming didn't you?

One judgement of an album is how much of it you can remember later. Do you find yourself humming the tunes in your head whilst walking down the street? With repeated listens do you look forward to particular tracks coming up? I'm sorry to say, that even though these songs sound good as you're consuming them, when you've finished they slip away into the ether. I've just finished listening to the whole thing, probably for about something like the 15th time, and I'm struggling to remember even one song.

Best Tracks - "Mary Don't Keep Me Waiting" is quite haunting. By far the standout track.

worst Tracks - no bad tracks really, but just not memorable enough.

Posted by se71 at 02:17 PM | Comments (0)

Vapor Trails - Rush

Rush used to be just about the best band on the planet. Intelligent lyrics, great melodies, and such a wealth of variety in pace and style. When they finished the album "Moving Pictures" in 1982 something happened to them, and they have never recovered. Some albums since have had a few redeeming tracks, "Roll the Bones" is a good title track, but with Vapour Trails they have hit rock bottom.

Every single track is bad. Every song is just a blaze of noisy guitars and drums overpowering the vocals so that none of the lyrics really make it through. Where are the melodies? I've really really tried to like this album, I even bought it in Toronto when I was there and listened to it in the car CD player to try and soak up the true essence of Rush. But, unfortunately, I have reached the only possible conclusion: it's pants.

Posted by se71 at 10:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 14, 2005

100th Window - Massive Attack

Massive Attack made a few classic albums, then one day they went in the studio with a very talented bunch of people and came out with a well produced yawn. Sinean O'Connor couldn't even save them. I think the main problem is that a track usually just starts with a small sequence, and just repeats it forever until someone finally got bored and turned off the computer. There is too little variety in tone and volume.

Good Tracks:

"Butterfly Caught" has a pretty good riff, though it is just repeated to death for 7 minutes.

"A Prayer For England" at least has a melody and some nice singing from Ms O'Connor.

Bad Tracks - The rest. All dull dull dull

Posted by se71 at 03:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Dreaming -Kate Bush

Another really rubbish album to avoid. It starts not too badly, with "Sat In your Lap" which was even a hit single.

Then it all goes a bit experimental, with Kate revealing a bad cockney accent on "There Goes a Tenner", some really nasty shouting stuff on "Houdini", aboriginal noises (and another terrible accent, this time Australian, I think) on the title track, and a complete lack of melody throughout really.

Kate never recovered her form after this disaster.

Posted by se71 at 03:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Beaucoup Fish - Underworld

First in a series of album reviews to try and reduce the amount of dross I listen to. I have a pile of stuff, and sometimes forget whether I like something or not, so give it a whirl, only to realise that it's not actually very good at all. I really shouldn't put myself through this pain. I should delete the offending work off my MP3 archive. But I know I won't, so maybe if I make a conscious effort to weed out the chaff I'll put down mental paths that make me remember not to click that play button a again.

This was an eagerly awaited album, and first impressions were good, but on repeated listening its has transpired that it's mostly a pile of whiney, repetitive rubbish, with a lead vocalist who has no clue how to sing, but a very large abiliy to drone on endlessly and annoyingly about nothing.

Good tracks - Cups (especially at 9 minutes point ) and some of Kittens.

Bad tracks - everything else, give them a miss.

Posted by se71 at 02:27 PM | Comments (0)

March 22, 2005

Tony Christie

Picture this scene, about two weeks ago say. I get out an old record by 57 year old crooner Tony Christie. I put on the excellent track "Is this the way to Amarillo?" and tell my my 12 year old daughter to have a listen.

She would have been totally non-plussed that I would even imagine her liking it, and would probably think I was teasing her.

I actually am a fan of Mt Christie, and have at home his other classic "I did what I did for Maria", and his more recent "Walk like a Panther" which he recorded with the band The All Seeing Eye.

And yet Northern comedian Peter Kaye took the song, made a comedy video of himself and some other stars miming to it, and here it is at the number one position in the UK charts, outselling the rest of the top 20 combined. And my daughter is asking me to play it repeatedly at home.

This illustrates the important musical phenomenon of style over content. When the song wasn't trendy, young people wouldn't give it the time of day. Now that Comic Relief have taken a hugely popular cult comedy star and made it interesting, the song is back at the top where it belongs.

Boy bands do this all the time too, Boyzone and Westlife particularly have taken tracks by Cat Stevens, Billy Joel and even Barry Maniloe and made them hits again. Rap artists like The Fugees have made Roberts Flack and Enya popular (though not many people humming along to "Ready or Not" probably know that).

It disappoints me that this kind of recycling is necessary. I have a huge collection of older music, which includes tracks that I know my daughter's generation would really like, but I know they never will unless some marketing trick is played on them to make it acceptable.

Posted by se71 at 10:44 AM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2005

Inexplicably Popular American Bands

There are a few bands that are immensely popular in the USA. They aren't bad bands, their music is...OK, and yet they have a cult following. Other more commercial artists (ones who people can actually name popular songs by), cite these bands as huge influences. And so they go on from year to year, touring and making albums, and getting more and more cultish.

I find this really odd. The reason why I find it odd is that the music really isn't that good. It's perfectly listenable to I suppose, someone has produced and mixed it. There are verses and choruses. Bu the vocalists are quite bad, the lyrics are boring, and sometimes the whole thing does actually veer into amateur land.

I think I know what it is they are doing right though, they are selling a way of life to people. They have a devil-may-care attitude that says "Hey, I'm doing this cause I love it, and I love you guys, and let's all open a keg of beer and have a party". The quality of the music is secondary, the volume is loud, and the whole fun style makes these college kids think they can do it too. Some of them do form their own bands, and become more popular that their unofficial mentors. Then they give the plaudits, and guarantee another tour, and other album, in a self perpetuating cycle.

Oh, I haven't named any bands yet, have I :-)

The Pixies

The Dave Matthews Band

The Grateful Dead, probably (though I have never heard them, so can't really comment yet on the song/vocalist quality)

Posted by se71 at 03:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 11, 2005

Rush

Read on Dadblog an amusing post which mentions Rush. They're not really a girly group, and I've not met anyone under 30 in the last 10 years who has even heard of them either. It's a great sourch of bewilderment for me.

Interestingly they got a mention in the Guardian today too, and even I think in the Independent last week. Both in articles about Tommy Vance's death and his famous Friday Night Rock Show, which of course heavily (sic) featured Rush.

Posted by se71 at 05:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 06, 2005

Tommy Vance

Bloody Heck - what is going on. First John Peel, and now Tommy Vance has died.

I have an eclectic taste in music, and have enjoyed output from both these DJs over the years - people who genuinely loved the music they played.

RIP.

Posted by se71 at 01:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 23, 2005

Basement Jaxx

Was out to dinner last night and not unusually for me the topic of music came up. I mentioned that I had seen Basement Jaxx in concert when I was working in Stockholm.

A Dutch guy at the table, aged about 25, looked at me with a stunned expression as if his granny had just said she'd robbed a bank. How could someone as old as me have even heard of Basement Jaxx, never mind seen them.

I gave him a good tongue lashing for that attitude, but I fear I'm going to have to get used to it.

Posted by se71 at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2005

MYLO

I created a music category, and I want to get something in here early to stop the site looking so empty.

I bought a CD last week by MYLO. Hmm, it appears Amazon.co.uk have messed up his entry as it says it's "For We Who Are Consumed By the Darkness by Sarcophagus". Anyway. (Update: they've fixed this now)

Lots of reviewers are saying he (Myles Macinnes is a 24 year old Scot, and he is MYLO) is the redeemer of UK dance music, with this being the best album of the year.

Yes, it is quite nice. But no, it's not fantastic. None of the tracks have blown me away, the ones I remember most are the ones with a really dumb sounding American guy reciting rubbish. I've tried so hard to like it, it's been on my MP3 player to and from work, and on my CD deck all last weekend, but I still think Daft Punk, Royksopp or Lemon Jelly beat it.

I think there is a lot of promise, and I guess it's given me a few ideas for writing tracks, so I'm looking forward to MYLOs next one.

Update: After repeated listening, mostly whilst out driving in my car, I have some to the conclusion that this is a really good album indeed. Interestingly, repeated listenings of Lemon Jelly's second album Lost Horizons caused me to dislike it more.

Posted by se71 at 01:22 PM | Comments (0)