Saturday, January 30, 2016

Song of the day (2)

"World Away", by Tweedy.

From 2014's largely under-the-radar "Sukierae" double album: private music nevertheless released for public consumption. Meaning it was made for the sake of making it: always the best reason. (And we now know it didn't completely drain Jeff Tweedy's creative coffers.) 

But why are we here? Because Spencer Tweedy demonstrates otherworldly gifts by managing to make something done in 7/4 time sound funky as heck. I can't imagine that's an easy thing to do.

Bonus beats: he can also do it live.

Song of the day (1)

"It Means I Love You", by Jessy Lanza.

New Jessy Lanza. Assisted, as with her first album, by Jeremy Greenspan.

I can go for that.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Me and Apple Music, we got a thing goin' on

The first thing I would say about Apple Music is that it's a whole lot of fun. In fact, it might be the most fun you can have for twelve bucks a month, if you are a music nerd who has a decent broadband speed and an internet plan that gives you unlimited data. (At this moment in history 1000 gigabytes per month works for us.)

You feel a sudden urge to listen to some Laibach? There it is, more Laibach than you can poke a trident at. Old-skool Dunedin sounds? Where do I start? Donny McCaslin? (Because, y'know, "Blackstar".) Check. Electric Miles? How many weeks have you got to spare?

But, as Jeremy Clarkson so often said on "Top Gear", there was a problem.

A sensible person would do the research before leaping into the unknown. Me, not so much. Having dived into Apple Music with my ears pinned back, what I discovered, as many people (I now know) seem to have discovered before me, is that if, like me, you have eleventy million random songs sitting in your iTunes folder on your computer, then, when you sign up to Apple Music, the metadata (I have no idea if that's technically the right word) for all of those eleventy million random songs, even your 15-year-old's Garageband experiments, are sent into the cloud: problem number one. Apple then proceeds to upload all of the songs that don't match its own database into the cloud: problem number two. Those that do match songs in its own database it doesn't upload, but if you have given your own copies of those songs cover art, or tagged them in a particular way, all of that gets tossed out and replaced by Apple's defaults: problem number three. Then, when you turn on the Music app on your phone, all of that metadata from those eleventy million songs (remember those?) from your computer gets replicated on the device, clogging it up and making it impossible to find the music that you have manually synced to the device in order to be able to listen to it offline, which was the point of having a fancy phone in the first place: problem number four.

I reckon four is enough problems. But we can't quite leave it there. I spent an inordinate amount of last weekend (let's not mention here how not-impressed Adrienne had by then become) clearing most of those eleventy million songs from the computer, and switching off something called the "iCloud music library", in a vain attempt to start from scratch, naively thinking that by doing so I could at least get rid of the forest of useless "ghost" songs from the phone. But it was not to be. It seems that Apple remembers, even when you would prefer to forget.

But, or so they say, time heals all wounds. In the space of a week, Apple Music and I have come to an accommodation. There turns out to be a way to switch off the metadata from my phone while still being able to store on the phone, and listen offline to, stuff from Apple Music that I might (hypothetically) otherwise have been sent to the dark(ish) web to, uh, obtain by other means; e.g. new albums by Tindersticks and Tortoise. And I suppose giving the laptop a thorough clean-out has merit anyway. Also, I was fortunate (or anal) enough to have backups of everything, so all of my obsessive tagging and filing was not lost forever. So it's all, as they say, good.

But back to Apple Music itself. It isn't perfect, of course (although this is, in a way, surprising for an Apple product), and the integration issues between iTunes and Apple Music really ought to be addressed by the company. (I don't see why they can't do it by way of two separate programs/apps, but what do I know?) What is missing? The entire Tzadik catalogue, for one. That was actually the first thing I looked for, and initially I thought its absence might be a deal breaker. But I haven't found many other huge gaps like that (the Soul Jazz and ECM catalogues would be nice), and so much else is available that it probably doesn't really matter. Once you have played around with it for a while, it becomes almost embarrassingly easy to instantly listen to anything you choose from a surprisingly high percentage of all the recorded music currently available. The curated playlists and radio stations I am still finding my way around. I may not use the radio, given that there is so much else that is directly searchable and able to be listened to as and when; but some of the playlists have been smartly constructed, and have already sent me off in new directions. (Who knew that Panda Bear sounds like our old favourite The Reels?)

If I think of it, I'll let you know in three months' time whether I decide to pony up for the paid subscription. I probably will.

Hope that helps.

Wait, did somebody mention Laibach?

(Any excuse.)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

2016: Let The Good Time Roll

If you can start the year off with a new song by Cornershop, it's going to be a good year.

(nb quite possibly the cheapest video ever)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

David [Not] Live

I wasn't intending to add to the reams that have been written about Bowie in the past few days, but I suspect I'm not going to be able to move on until I have gathered my thoughts. So here goes.

The first time I knowingly, and with intent, heard a song by David Bowie would have been the Soul Train video of him doing "Golden Years". But I had been aware of Bowie as "Bowie" much longer ago than that, on account of my cousin was a major fan, and so I had come across a number of Bowie records while looking through the records at her house. (My aunt was appalled. Men wearing makeup and dresses?) I also remember a conversation with the sons (a few years older than me) of a sharefarmer who worked with us, this must have been around 1976, regarding my confusion about the recent chart success of "Space Oddity", which I understood to be a much older song. (I had no idea then that something in the charts might not be entirely "new".)

I think that my first Bowie album must have been 1979's "Lodger", which I bought as soon as it came out and for reasons that I no longer recall. This was the Australian pressing, without a gatefold (making the sleeve patently ridiculous as well as cheap) and with a complete lack of sleeve notes. The absence of credits, I suppose, added to its mystery, but I wanted desperately to know who was involved in this fascinating album and had no way of finding out. I was well into my Eno obsession by then, and I could see a few "Eno" writing credits on the label, but "produced by David Bowie and Tony Visconti" told me less than I would like to have known. I would probably have fallen under the spell of ""Heroes"" and "Low" much sooner otherwise. (It possibly says something about me that the most exciting thing about the "Bowie Is" exhibition was seeing the actual EMS synth used on "Low". I may have squealed.)

Bowie went quiet after "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)" (an album I didn't rate as highly as Marcello has now convinced me I should have, although I did win a copy of the seven-inch of "Ashes To Ashes" at a Blue Light Disco held at the Fish Creek hall), and a year and a half later I went off to University, to new and exciting times. My access to music increased exponentially, and I quickly moved backwards to "Station To Station" and "Young Americans" (as well as ""Heroes"", "Low", and the two Iggy Pop albums produced by Bowie), and developed at least a passing acquaintance with his earlier work. Bowie reappeared in 1983 with "Let's Dance". I hated it. "Let's Dance" seemed to me, who was hungry for new and different sounds, to be the ultimate in selling out. (I am aware that I allowed particular youthful "attitudes" to cloud my vision in relation to certain records; this one, I remain convinced, I was right about, notwithstanding Richard Cook's glowing review in the NME.)

At that point, I crossed Bowie off my list, although I did allow myself to be talked into venturing out to the no-longer-existent VFL Park, Waverley, for the Melbourne leg of the Serious Moonlight tour. What do I remember about that show? How far away the stage was, and consequently how small Bowie looked. How the sound was like listening in a canyon; it was all around you and yet impossible to catch. How the car park was impossible to get out of afterwards. It is quite possible I was only there because of the lure of seeing The Models as support act; although of course by then they had started to turn their own gaze towards the possibilities of megastardom, making them the perfect match for Bowie, but for all the wrong reasons.

I thought then that that was it for Bowie and me.

And then he came back.

And then he was gone.

So, what was it all about? For me, at the end of the day(s), it was all about that incredible four-album run from "Station To Station" to "Lodger" (the latter being the one they always ignore in career run-throughs, but I am not (just) being contrarian when I say it is my favourite Bowie album; it really is), without which I would be nothing.

Try to imagine a world without Bowie. More than once he saw where music could go and dragged it, sometimes shockingly, in that direction. Beyond music, he forced people to question their own prejudices, broaden their own horizons. He watched. He listened. He adapted. There will always be someone. We were fortunate, I think, that that someone, in the late twentieth century, was Bowie.

David Bowie. Magpie and chameleon.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Bowie's In Space

What if your favourite David Bowie song wasn't even a David Bowie Song?

Kids these days.

As for myself, I'm not finding this to be as funny today as it was two days ago. But it is clever enough, and sympathetic enough to its subject, that I'm confident that with the passage of time I will one day be able to enjoy it as much as I once did.

(Click the link above to watch. Embedding, understandably enough, has been disabled.)

I can't go on, I'll go on.


(From an original idea by Carl.)