Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Latitude 2010

I took a break this weekend to go to Latitude, the first time I've watched live music for fun in about a year. Latitude is held at Henham Park in Southwald, Suffolk making it my local festival. I went a couple of years back but it was bigger this year, bigger acts and more people. The toilets were also noticeably better as was the wrist banding procedure. It was generally better organized although there were a few unfortunate clashes that could have been avoided.
Latitude refers to itself with the tag line "more than just a music festival" in sufferance to its arty nature. There are stages for theatre, literature, poetry, cabaret, dance and comedy and you could easily spend the whole weekend not seeing any music; you'd be an idiot though because the music was superb. I won't go into any real depth of the other stages but I'll say that I did watch some theatre, listen to some book readings and watch some stand up. There are people that spend the whole weekend in the comedy tent; the line-up really was great this year. Robin Ince's book club was pretty entertaining as well this year, a departure from the last time I saw him. The book club mainly focused on a series of books by Guy N. Smith that all focus on giant killer crabs invading the English coast, a topic he explores in more detain in his new book which I'll have to pick up some time.
I'll give a quick rundown of some of the acts that blew my socks off. Firstly Wild Beasts were just amazing. The few technical issues aside they were one of the best sounding bands at the festival and a band that brings a lot of energy to their show, more so than their record which I love. Laura Marling was similar, her voice is breath taking, something you don't fully realize from listening to her recordings. Spoon brought a kind of energy that you rarely hear and were much more raw than I was expecting. I can’t in all good conscience say that Empire Of The Sun were good, but I enjoyed them. It was the most visually striking show I saw, but it was mostly backing track. There were four dancers and very elaborate costumes to the point of silliness, many times there were only dancers on stage dancing to a backing track at which point I saw a lot of people leave and a lot of people either pissed off or laughing at the pompousness of it all. It was entertaining though and I'm still a big fan. I had no interest in watching Florence and the Machine as I saw her last year and frankly she was terrible. I don't know if she was having a bad day, or was saving herself for some of the bigger shows but she killed the atmosphere at last years Camp Bestival. Instead I opted to watch The National, a band I know very little about other than that I loved their new album. As it happens they were brilliant, and got one of the best crowd reactions I saw at the festival.
On Saturday I spent most of my time watching stuff that wasn't music. The only bands I saw were Frightened Rabbit and Belle and Sebastian. Frightened Rabbit are one of my favourite acts at the moment and they didn't disappoint. They sounded great mix wise and the crowd loved them. Belle and Sebastian are a band that I really don't know very much of at all except their bigger hits. They played a set that showed how much they have changed throughout their career and made it feel like a coherent set. They have the luxury of having such a vast library of music that every song they played was brilliantly written and arranged. They were the only main stage headliner I watched all weekend so I can't really compare it, but the crowd adored them and hung on their every word in a way you very rarely see.
Sunday had the strongest line up of any day. As a result in fact I got sunburned to hell from standing outside too long. The night before Tom Jones announced he was playing a second set, this time main stage at midday. I was pleased because I was eager to see him for some reason and I couldn't get to the stage he was playing at in the woods due to all the crowds. He played his new album of blues and gospel covers, which was actually pretty good. His band was great and is voice is just as powerful as you would expect. People kept shouting for him to play his hits, most notably sex-bomb and I'm glad he didn't because what we got was a heartfelt performance of music that Tom clearly loves, free of the kind of trashy cheese he has become famous for. It was genuinely moving. Shortly after I saw Mumford and Sons, a band I don't care for, but they did a great performance and they sounded much better than their recordings. They were followed by Dirty Projectors who cleared a lot of Jones' fans out but treated the remaining fans to a great set. I then ran over to see Yeasayer, who I adore. They sounded great and it was good to hear mostly electronic music played well after the disappointing lack of live playing from Empire of the Sun earlier that weekend. It surprised me how big of a crowd they had drawn but they deserved it. Annoyingly I had to miss Vampire Weekend in order to see two of my favourite bands from the last few years. I really would have liked to have seen them and hopefully I will soon, they looked amazing on the Glastonbury highlights and I only heard good things about them at Latitude. Instead I went to watch Jonsi, who brought new life into an album that I have become sick of. It's interesting seeing Jonsi play solo after watching him with Sigur Ros a couple of years back. Its the mark of a great performer that he is equally as comfortable playing main stage with a band with numbers into double figures, playing epic post rock as he is playing in a tent in a four piece band playing more typical pop songs. The final band I saw was Grizzly Bear, one of my favourite bands, but also a band that looked pretty poor on the Glastonbury highlights. I wasn't sure how wise it was to watch a band that I love on record that might not live up to it and potentially kill my interest in a band that is one of the most interesting around. Thankfully they were mindblowingly good, they sounded amazing, they performed as good and as tight as they do in their recordings, and the crowd adored them just as much as I did.
I've got to say that all in all the Word arena (the second stage) was a far more pleasant place to be than the Obelisk arena (main stage). It sounded more consistently good and it had a far better atmosphere. I remember thinking something similar last time I came, but there were less issues getting in to the tent this year for whatever reason.
On a less pleasant note, you might have heard that there were two rapes over the weekend, a sad issue that could have been avoided with more of a police presence. I only saw one officer all weekend, even after the first rape. I also heard reports of violent behaviour and fires in the yellow camp site (Helen and I slept in the quiet site and had no such problems), which is pretty unacceptable seeing as events like Latitude, pay the police for their services. The people in charge of police numbers and key areas should really be ashamed, I don't know what they could have done but then I'm not paid to know either. I would also say that after two rapes, I had still only heard about them from Twitter and texts from family and friends. I've gotta say that I find it very irresponsible of Latitude and the police to not tell people to adjust their behaviour, both of the women raped were on their own, if the second had have known maybe she wouldn't have been alone and maybe her neighbours would have been more observant.
If you want to listen to any of the music from latitude Absolute radio is hosting some of it to listen to here. I've made a Spotify playlist of all the bands I loved and you can listen to it here

All pictures courtesy of Helen Wright

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Digg is changing

I'm a long time Digg user and I'd have to say its one of the sites I use most often. There is no better news aggregation site to find new articles and discus them (in my opinion). For those that don't know, Digg is a website where links are submitted and voted on by the users, the highest rated of which appear on the front page which everyone sees. Just recently Digg has released an alpha version of the revamp they have planned for the site at, dubbed Digg 4. I'm going to quickly go through a few of the changes.
Firstly, the most obvious change is a cosmetic one. Everything looks a lot cleaner, theres a lot less green and a lot more white. You could say it looks more like Facebook. The older site is on the left, the newer on the right.

Overall I'd say I much prefer the new look. There's a lot less ads too, although I'm not sure how long that will be true for.
The next big obvious change is in the fundamental way the front page ranking system works. When you open up Digg 4 you are greeted by the all new My News section. My News has more in common with Facebook or Twitter than the old style Digg, it shows stories that your friends have dug up or submitted rather than the general consensus of the world, the idea of which is to expand Digg's user base beyond that of tech and media pros, and general geeky stuff. if you only subscribe to your friends, or at least people who share similar interests to you, you needn't ever see another tech story again. To me at this moment in time this feature is largely useless, as most of my friends don't use Digg, there are a lot of content providers who I've subscribed to and this provides an easy way to see them.
There is still the Top News section, which works largely the same as the old style Digg, although I did notice that I get completely different stories in each feed. I personally bookmarked the Top News section as this is where I spend most of my time.
Another thing which has been streamlined is the submission system. content creators can now add an RSS feed of their content, each new item being automatically added and shared in the My News section. I'll be honest, I always thought submitting your own content was kind of cheating and that it ruins the organic nature of the site, but I've added my feed and I'll see if it gets me anywhere.
Digg has also put a big submission box right at the top of the page to encourage new content to be submitted.
Digg is clearly trying to position itself as a more social site, but also as a potential replacement for an RSS reader. I personally would much rather use Digg than a reader with social functions like Google Reader, but the content owners have to make their content available first.
Finally, Digg has added vanity URLs similar to Twitter and Facebook, so that your profile can now be located at user name, a feature that is made all the more useful given Digg's new social focus. Incidentally, if anyone is interested in following me on Digg 4, my profile is here.
All in all, I am overwhelmingly pleased pleased with the new Digg, I just hope that content creators get on board. I cant see myself replacing my RSS reader of choice just yet, but I do like the idea of doing so.

Friday, 9 July 2010

BT TalkTalk and the Digital Economy Bill

I'll start off by stating my position on the Digital Economy Bill, or at lest part of it pertaining to music copyright. I'm have a pretty moderate stance on piracy, I don't do it, I don't think people should do it, but I understand that people who can't afford music will do it, and that it doesn't have an entirely negative effect on the music industry.
Sure it's changed the recording industry (although thats not the only reason the recording industry has changed), but there are a lot of bands that couldn't have made it to where they are today without the immediacy of the Internet, and the publicity that can generate from a band who's music is being heard everywhere. I'm also a strong believer that the record industry fucked up, and thats why their profits are plummeting. They have lost all of the trust that they once had, and lots of music fans don't want to give their money to the kind of businesses that sue children for millions of pounds for downloading a song for free from the Internet.
Do I wish that piracy was a non- issue again? Sure! There would be an awful lot more money changing hands in the music industry, maybe I'd get more of it, but you cant put that genie back in the bottle, file-sharing is the norm, and any successful music business understands that.
The real problem I have with the digital economy bill is that it puts the power to judge people guilty of file-sharing in the hands of the content holders. There should never be a point where anyone but the courts and the police should be the people in charge of judging when someone is in breach of the law, thats lunacy. They're not trained, they're free of bias and they hold no authority.
So when I heard yesterday that BT and TalkTalk broadband want a judicial review of the DEC, that gives them more power in warning persistent file-sharers and eventually cutting them off, it made me mad. It made me mad because they are in no better stead to judge whether someone is innocent or guilty than the copyright holders themselves. Cutting off file-sharers would benefit them greatly, because without people using bandwidth heavy services like file-sharing, they need not update their struggling systems so fast.
What we need, is a system where the content holders contact the authorities, who investigate the matter and if it is deemed that the person accused is in fact guilty, then they get punished in whatever way is deemed fit (not disconnection, maybe suspension, bandwidth caps and fines though) AND that they are given a means to appeal this judgment (such as, my wifi was open).
So I say that if BT and TalkTalk want more power to cut people off, rather than suggesting that the courts take care of it, I will not use either of them ever again. We'll have to see what comes of it.

coming this week

A review of the new Digg.
A discussion on the digital economy act, and why you should boycott BT and TalkTalk.

Sorry its been so long, and sorry this is so brief. Oh and by the way, for those of you who don't know, I graduated with a first class honours the other day!

And for Digg : 6f5afc26b8bf4a0fb6cf6d3103c2b2a4
Thats a verification key for any human beings out there, I'll write about it when I review the new Digg updates

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

For those that are interested

Here is my disssertation! Feel free to read through it and share it around if you feel like it. Bear in mind that it isn't the most easy piece of text to read, Bucks has pretty strict guidelines about the format and the content of its dissertations so it might not be laid out in the most logical way.
The goal of the dissertation for me was to talk to as many interesting people as possible and it turned out pretty well, I learned a lot about digital consoles, particuarly about their weaknesses and strengths.

How might operational use of live digital consoles be improved? A Dissertation

Wednesday, 26 May 2010


I've been using Spotify for a while now and seeing as I have just decided not to renew my premium membership I figure now is as good a time as any to write a bit about it.
For those who don't know what Spotify is, Spotify is a music streaming service. You sign up for an account and you can listen to most of the music in the world (maybe) for free, with adverts. For a fee you can upgrade from this basic package and remove the audio ads. For a larger fee you can remove the ads, save the music to your computer to listen to offline, and use the mobile service.
Sounds great huh? Well it is, I would argue that there is no reason anyone in the world should have not to have Spotify installed on your computer to listen to a bit of music thats stuck in your head but you dont own, or to see what this new hyped band you've been hearing about sounds like. To listen to more that twenty hours a month though, you're going to need an invite. Spotify has two free plans, Open and Free. Anyone can get an Open account, but as I said before you're limited to how much music you can listen to in a month. Invites upgrade you to Free membership which as far as I can tell is a lifelong deal. This is a new system and if you signed up when Spotify started you wont have needed an invite because at the time they didn't have the same kind of traffic to their servers that they do now. You only get invites to give out if you have at some point paid for a subscription.
So you've tried out the free version for a while and Jonathan from Spotify is starting to grind your gears, or maybe you're just interested in trying the mobile client, or offline syncing? There are two paid options, Spotify Premium is what I've tried, as it was the only option available at the time. It's £10 a month and for that you get unlimited ad free streaming of Spotify's fairly extensive library at a higher bitrate than any other plan (320kbps VBR Ogg Vorbis no less). The mobile client is ok, although streaming over 3G will quickly show you how crap your mobile network is, and it currently has none of the social features I'll go into later. It's available for Android, iPhone and Symbian. You can sync albums offline on your phone and you will need to do this to listen without getting frustrated. Offline listening also has the advantage of allowing you a higher bitrate version than they allow streaming. There's also exclusive albums that only Premium subscribers can listen to although I can't say that I remember listening to a single one of them. The thing is, to justify spending £120 a year on a Spotify subscription you need to justify that to yourself somehow. You may think "well without ads I can listen to Spotify instead of CD's/ MP3s". What you will quickly realise is that Spotify isn't all the music in the world, far from it. There's a lot there, but there's a lot of very important classics missing, and new music generally arrives later than it does on iTunes. That and I'm pretty sure people like me who spend over £10 on music every month are definitely in the minority. Frankly you'll get a better experience listening to music with ads and buying albums you really like. If you're buying Spotify for something to listen to on the move, may I suggest the vastly superior, which seems far more reliable over 3G. Now what it is good for, and what I have found myself using it for, is building playlists for filler in between bands, syncing them offline, and using that rather than CDs. It's a good enough quality when synced that I can barely tell the difference between it and CD or lossless formats like Flac.
The £5 client simply removes the ads, no offline sync, no enhanced bitrate, no exclusive albums, and most of all, no mobile client. I guess it's worth it if you really hate the ads and just use Spotify at home and work with a reliable connection, and don't care about the audio quality.
Just recently they introduced a few really good social features that tie your Spotify account to your Facebook account. Once the accounts are connected, you can look at your friends playlists and subscribe to any you like, as well as see tracks that they have starred. The idea of sharing Spotify playlists is not a new thing though, you can post links to Spotify playlists like this, which I have seen done particularly well by Latitude, who compiled playlists of the best tracks by all of the bands on the roster. I think once Spotify is more commonly used, this will happen more.

To summarise, here's 5 reasons you should get Spotify free:

  • Great for listening to new bands
  • Share playlists with your Facebook friends
  • See what your Facebook friends like
  • Great for gig filler
  • Mobile client is interesting to play with (if faulted)

Monday, 26 April 2010

What I've Learned About Writing a Dissertation.

Finally it's all done! My dissertation is out of the way, all finished, all printed and bound. I'll post a copy online once it's been handed in, I don't want any risk of anyone claiming it as their own or anything.
I think it reads pretty well, I'm especially proud of the primary research. I think all in all it provides a pretty good grounding on many of the issues surrounding digital consoles in live audio.
It struck me that there was a lot that I could have done to make my life a lot easier, most of which I was told and ignored. I thought I'd post a list of the key lessons I learned, so that any undergraduates preparing to write their dissertation might be a bit more prepared.

1) Pick a Topic You Will Enjoy
I'd argue this is the most important point, and it's one I did actually obey. Needless to say it's a world easier to write 10000 words. More importantly though its a lot easier to read around a topic that genuinely interests you, and its near on impossible to pretend to be interested interviewing people about a topic you dont care about.

2) Start Early
Everyone says this and everyone ignores it also. It's only human nature to leave things till the last minute and when all your friends are doing them same it makes it all the harder. A better way to think about it is decide on a topic early and start reading around it. Take notes on everything you read.Other things you can start doing early is finding people who know people that you can interview.

3)Structure Your Essay Well, and Early
If your essay is well structured it will not only be easy to read, but much easier to break up into managable chunks and write. As silly as it sounds, the thing that helped me be most productive was writing a time table of topics I should write every day. Of course you're not going to stick to it, but at least you won't be sitting there wondering what you should be writing.

4)Use a Refferancing Program
I don't think I could have written my dissertation without the help of Zotero, a free plug in for Firefox which can connect to either Word or Open Office. Refferancing is the most tedious part of writing an academic paper and there really is no need to to it manually.
In addition, for a dissertation like mine, where most of my secondary research came from websites, it allows you to take notes all over the pages, automatically back up all of your sources, both on your computer and on their web servers automatically.
Zotero also automatically populates your refferance list and bibliography, as well as formatting and alphabetizing them.
There's also a social networking feature which I found to be mostly useless but might be of use to other people (my profile)

Friday, 23 April 2010

A quick update

Apologies about the lack of updates, I'm really busy with my dissertation which is in this Wednesday, but I will post the whole thing online when it's done for you to read. I'll get back to my usual minimum of one new blog post after that.
Next week I will begin the final mix down of Science Vs Romance as well, so that should be available some time soon also.

Friday, 2 April 2010

5 of the best albums I have heard this year so far.

I've found myself listening to loads of music the last few months, partly due to a break in work over easter and to keep myself occupied while I write this beast of a dissertation. Also because I've recently got back into using now that I have it on my phone. Its an awesome companion to Spotify who's catalogue is much better but sucks as a music discovery service.

Yeasayer- Odd Blood
The follow up to 2007's All Hour Cymbals, Odd Blood is a massive step forward for Yeasayer. A lot has happened for this band since All Hour Cymbals. 09 was a great year for Yeasayer, they supported MGMT and produced Bat For Lashes' hit "Two Suns" album (as well as guest appearing on a few songs). Yeasayer follow up on this with Odd Blood and odd is right, Yeasayer are all over the place. Odd Blood is a mixture of 80s pop, experimental rock and electronica. There are many highlights so far as catch pop tunes go and they're all on the first half of the album (a similar album structure to tour mates MGMT), you could argue that the album goes downhill halfway through if its singles you're interested in but theres plenty of interesting stuff in the latter half too. This is one of the most interesting albums I have heard in a while, theres something for everyone so long as you're not too fed up of 80s nostalgia already.

RJD2- The Colossus
This is RJ's first album for his own "RJ's Electrical Connections" label. More than any other, this album is the sound track to my dissertation. It's the best album I have yet found to write to, just catchy enough to hold my attention, but enough slow sections that I can really concentrate. This is thoroughly well made atmospheric, sample driven, soul/psychedelia inspired Hip Hop/Electronica album with some really great tracks and a massive step up from 2007's "The Third Hand".
I only fear that I will come to hate it if I associate it too much with this dissertation, that would truly be a shame because this album is great.

Frightened Rabbit- A Winter of Mixed Drinks
Those of you that have been here before might notice this was also in my list of most anticipated albums last month. Frightened rabbits are one of my favorite bands at the moment, satisfying my need for folk inspired indie rock, but also just for their well written, well recorded songs.
A Winter of Mixed Drinks sees Frightened Rabbit step away from previous producer Peter Katis (for the most part) and it shows. The album is arguably not up to the same consistent standard that they set with Midnight Organ Fight, but the singles are stronger than anything they have released before. Swim Until You Can't see land is one of the catchiest songs I've heard all year and touch wood its not in anyway annoying me yet. and Nothing Like You is as good as anything the band had released previously (although it does have a piss poor chorus).

Broken Bells
I've been a massive fan of Dangermouse since The Grey Album, and The Shins were one of the my personal highlights of Reading 2007, so the teaming up of Dangermouse with Shins front man James Mercer caught my attention straight away.
This album blends Dangermouse's trademark beats with Mercer's folk and country inspired indie rock to great effect. The album goes from Beach Boys inspired vocal and acoustic based guitar songs like "Your Head Is on Fire", to full band, synth led, indie rock like "The High Road", to drum machine based tracks like "The Ghost Inside" (which sounds like a mixture Danger's work with Beck and Gnarls Barkley) and everything in between.

Tom Caruana- Enter The Magical Mystery Chambers
From one guy who started his career with a mashup album featuring classic rap mashed up with Beatles samples, to an album of classic rap mashed up with Beatles samples. This time it's Tom Caruana mixing up Wu-Tang vocals with Beatles samples to great effect. It's a monster at 27 tracks but theres some real gold in there, its definitely worth a listen. It's had the Raekwon seal of approval which has gotta mean a lot, and the mainstream press has latched onto him, Caruana even had an interview in the New York Times where he talks about, amongst other things, some of the samples he used in one track.
It was originally hosted for free by Tea Sea Records (the label Caruana owns) but predictably its been taken down now, although I'm sure you can find it somewhere if you look hard enough. you really should try and get a copy because its really clever, very interesting stuff.

Honorable Mentions:
Hot Chip- One Life Stand
Delphic- Acolyte
Gorrilaz- Plastic Beach
Four Tet- There's Love In You
Animal Collective- Campfire Songs
Phoenix- Live in Sydney

Friday, 26 March 2010

Have I fallen out of touch with mainstream media?

When I came to university three years ago, I moved into a flat where the only TV was in the dining room/ kitchen, a room without sofas. It wasn't a big deal really, I missed crashing on the sofa when I was tired, but anyone who spends their first year of university watching TV is missing out.
The next year, I moved out and into a new flat, fully furnished with a separate living room (albeit without and heating), but it never got used. The only things anyone ever watched were Top Gear and sports. TV on demand is so much better in so many ways to living by TV scheduling. Not only can you watch what you want, when you want, but you spend less time watching TV in general. I'd love to say that these new found hours get spent doing more work and expanding my mind in general but theres just far more fun things to do with my time.
Apart from something to watch while eating dinner sometimes, or a film every now and again, its pretty true to say that I watch no broadcast TV whatsoever, I watch iPlayer, 4OD and I watch Lost and Fringe by downloading it and watching it when I want. I suspect I'm not alone here, TV andvertising budgets are shrinking along with their viewing figures for years. Headlines regularly suggest that ITV is fucked although it seems to struggle on, mostly on the back of a few big reality shows.

But recently I saw a video which has been circulating on the internet from The Alan Titchmarsh Show of all things. I've embedded the video below but I'll give you a brief overview of the show. Its that same argument people have been making since columbine, that kids play games then shoot people in real life. In fact, its the same argument we've been hearing since rock and roll was accused of taking our children's innocence away. The problem that I had with it was that Tim Ingham, editor at CVG and the guy brought in to argue for games. He was the only one willing to have a discussion, he said that kids shouldn't be playing adult games and that not only are they legally unable to buy them, but due to the new features in modern games consoles, parents can stop their kids playing age rated games they may have got hold of, without a password. Spot on Ingham, how could you possibly argue that non-violent games are fun in moderation and that kids shouldn't be playing age rated games and that parents should be aware of the content of adult games. He also suggested that violent games are no worse than hardcore pornography and violent films, which kids do have access to, more so than ever before.
But, and heres where I got angry, and frankly disillusioned with humanity in general. Not only were the rest of the guests completely unwilling to have an intelligent debate about the validity of games as art, but the crowd were unwilling to listen. The sheer idiocy of refusing to listen to someone who you disagree with without yelling boo at them so they cant finish their point is so upsetting to me that it worries me about what kind of people actually watch TV. Is this kind of thing really acceptable to the people that haven't migrated from TV to the internet for the bulk of their entertainment? Bear in mind that this is a show on at around 5, thats the beginning of prime time, and its the kind of show intended to appeal to parents. Parents need a balanced view of this sort of thing if they are to make reasonable decisions rather than "no you cant play games with your friends online, you must sit in front of the idiot box and watch good old Alan murder the art of conversation.
Now on the plus side spawned outcry on the internet where us gamers spend our time in between all the murders we're committing and all of the time we spend encouraging children to consume adult orientated content (although that does beg the question, who was watching this drivel in the first place).
There is intelligent TV on this subject, take Charlie Brooker's Gameswipe, which takes a balanced outlook on games. But this kind of stuff is pushed onto BBC4 late at night, where no-one will see it. The fact that the balanced discussion on topics like this is produced is in a way even worse because it means that commercial forces mean that the bilge makes its way to primetime because thats what viewers want to see. its the same reason the X Factor is primetime, but Jools Holland is relegated to late at night.

Oh, and it turns out the idiot shouting woman voice-acted in a horror game called Martian Gothic. Just in case the story wasn't ludicrous enough for you.

Friday, 19 March 2010

My opinion on the Pink Floyd case

The other day, Pink Floyd won their court case against EMI, meaning that EMI is no longer allowed to sell the Floyd's music track by track online as well as offline. Now a lot of people think that this is idiotic on Pink Floyd's case, because it is now the norm that people buy individual tracks from iTunes skipping buying the filler on the album and saving money which they can spend on more great music. Pink Floyd put the clause into their contract saying that they did not want single tracks released in the days when the album was king and singles were considered uncool. They wanted people to listen to the whole albums rather than individual tracks because of the way they make music. A Pink Floyd single does not have the same impact that listening to The Wall, Dark Side of the Moon, or Wish You Were Here in its entirety has. Their live shows were based around their albums, the tour on the back of The Wall was essentially an extension of the album. You can see why they would want people to listen to the album as a whole.
The argument that this just doesn't make business sense seems crazy to me. OK, their sales will probably suffer, but why would Pink Floyd care? I'm sure none of them are short of money at this stage, the only thing important to them at this stage is maintaining their artistic integrity. I think that the worst thing that could happen to their legacy is if they ended up being thought of as the band that wrote Money and Another Brick in the Wall, just another band with a couple of hit singles.
Now why EMI would want to monetize their back catalogue, that makes a lot of sense. The two things that EMI does really well is publishing and having the best back catalogue in the world. They're struggling at the moment, possibly more than the other two majors but these two arms seem to be holding up pretty well. The logic of trying to build new catalogue that can support the future of the company, despite it losing money at the moment, on the back of the other two arms makes a lot of sense.
But in a business that hinges on cutting artists a terrible deal that they sign and then milking them for all they can, why would a record company have such disregard for contracts the other way round? This clause in their contract I assume was pretty pivotal in Pink Floyd signing with EMI, and they did agree to it. The idea that digital singles are somehow different from CD or Vinyl singles is the exact argument that the record companies have been arguing against for years. In a standard contract, you will still pay the same packaging deduction from your royalty whether it is a physical or a digital single and yet somehow in someone's head, it doesn't count in the same way for clauses in your contract.
This is the typical arse-headed behavior that makes people hate the majors. Screwing over the people that make them their money.


Every now and again at work, everyone comes across a person who it seems is going out of their way to make your life more difficult. When things begin to go wrong they revel in it, even if it will make their life more difficult later on. Anything that goes wrong is someone elses fault and they will accept no responsibility. Anything that people suggest is a stupid idea even if it is a method that has worked time and time again.
In live music, teamwork is one of the most important skills you can have. The ability to get along with people is as important a part of getting people to trust you as having the skills or the experience. There's no place for massive egos when you're working as part of a team, where anyone can make a mistake and it will effect the running of the event.
Being an arsehole is counter intuative, and to everyone around you, makes you look like the fool, not to mention unexperienced.

Monday, 8 March 2010

A few albums I can't wait for this year.

Jonsi- Go
I'm not entirely sure where I first heard Sigur Ros, probably on a BBC ad for some wildlife program, but I remember the first album I listened to, and I remember how I felt after. The odly named "()" was one of those few albums that comes around that really does change how you think about what constitutes good music, and makes you wonder what else you'e missed with your particular brand of snobbery. Oddly it was probably this mental shift that got me listening to more music, completely unrelated to the post-rock ambience of Sigur Ros.
Sigur Ros haven't released anything now since 2008, but Jonsi released the interesting if slightly disappointing Riceboy Sleeps with his boyfriend Alex last year, which was essentially a solo effort, with alex proiding the visual art for the album. I was only disappointed with Riceboy Sleeps because of what came before it, which was in my opinion the best Sigur Ros album to date- Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust, the perfect compromise between their spacey atmospheric older music, and a more traditional rock band. Also, this album holds a special place because it was on this tour that I saw them on, which is one of the best gigs I have ever seen.

So here we are in 2010, and Jonsi is releasing a solo album, two tracks of which, Boy Lilikoi and Go Do, were released as teasers and sound up there with the best bits of Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust. Boy Lilikoi sounds like pretty typical Sigur Ros, but Go Do is something completely different. It's Produced by Peter Katis, who also produced fantastic records for Fanfarlo and Frightened Rabbit. If Jonsi can match some of the stuff he has done before, I will be ecstatically pleased.

Frightened Rabbit- The Winter of Mixed Drinks
OK OK I know this was released March 1st but I'm still waiting for it to come in the post so its going in. Midnight Organ Fight was an album I only heard about halfway through last year even though it came out in 2008. Frightened Rabbit are a band that encompasses everything I love about british indie rock at the moment. Thick vocal harmonies, interesting folk instruments, catchy but not annoying songs, all mixed up with interesting accents.
This album was written and mostly recorded in Scotland unlike their previous effort, and the band has said that this has effected the sound of the record a great deal. It's been a much more meticulous studio effort, less of a live album than Midnight Organ Fight, with each instrument being tracked individually this time, which front man Scott Hutchinson insists is the way he prefers to make records.
It's been receiving some pretty good reviews, although not in the same kind of way that Midnight Organ Fight did. I'm really excited to hear it.

MGMT- Congratulations

If you were alive in 2008 I don't think I really need to introduce MGMT. In case you were asleep, they were very much the sound of 2008 (along with Vampire Weekend). Incredibly catchy drug inspired indie rock with a heavy 70's psychedelia influence. This time they're in the studio with Pete Kember of Shoegazing band Spaceman 3.  Don't expect any big singles like Electric Feel or Kids though because for one thing, the band has been pretty adamant that they don't want to release any singles from this album. Quite how much difference that will make in these days of iTunes a la carte style purchasing but its refreshing to hear a band talking about how they want their album listen to as a whole. That and the album is by all reports, completely different to the first half of Oracular Spectacular.

Stone Temple Pilots- Stone Temple Pilots

I'm gonna come right out and say it, I hated Velvet Revolver. I could tolerate Slash's wankey guitars and the pomp rock of it all, but Scott Weiland drove me nuts. The problem I think was that as shit as Axl Rose is, Weiland pretending to be Rose is twice as bad. But at least he can still sing which gives me hope for this, Stone Temple Pilots' first album in nine years. I don't have very much to say about this. Core was one of the albums that shaped my childhood listening habits and I assume this will sound nothing like Core (you'd hope not in 2010) but it sure as hell can't suck as hard as Velvet Revolver. It's also the first STP album not to be produced by Brenden O'Brien, which should be interesting.


An album which surely can't be bad is Devo's yet to be titled comeback record. Mark Mothersbaugh said of the new album that"These new songs are pretty true to what we would be doing if we would have gone into suspended animation 20 years ago and just woke up". And if it's anything else, we'll forgive them, because they're Devo.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

My New Phone!

I reached breaking point the other day with my old phone, the INQ1 which I can quite safely say is the worst phone I've ever owned. After owning it for six months, the battery would last around about six hours when left alone in my pocket, or about fifteen minutes during a phone call, or mild to moderate usage. Besides the battery life, which I would have been perfectly happy to solve with a new battery, the phone crashed from the day I got it, simply surfing the internet, or opening a Java app would cause the screen to flicker and die, or the phone to reboot of it's own accord.
Now there was one thing I liked about that phone, and that was it's integration with Facebook. I'm not a great user of Facebook, but everone else is. The INQ1 did a great job of integrating people's Facebook profiles with their profile on the phone, meaning you could see their photos, birthday, etc straight from the address book. Also, the INQ1 having a tiny internal memory, and the mind blowing move of putting the memory card slot under the battery so that you couldn't switch it over without cutting the power (despite the fact that the sim was above the battery!) was made into much less of a problem by the fact that any pictures taken could be automatically uploaded to Facebook.
Now I was pretty set from the start that I wanted a phone that runs Google's Android operating system, because I use all of Google's services, from Blogger, to Calendar, to GMail, to Reader and I assumed that these services would be better integrated into this platform better than any other. Also, after the success of the iPhone's app store I wanted a phone with an active community making apps for it so that I could do some of the fun things I see my iPhone equipped friends playing with. I wasn't interested in an iPhone, mainly because everyone has one, but also because of the lack of multitasking, and Apple's stranglehold on their app store.
The three Android phones which seem to get by far the best reviews are the HTC Hero, the Google Nexus One, and the Motorola Droid/Milestone. I flat out could not afford any of these out of contract and I'm not due an upgrade for a long while yet.
What I settled on in the end was the HTC Tattoo which is essentially a stripped down version of the Hero, but unlike the hero, it is currently half price at Amazon. The screen is much smaller than the Hero, and it is resistive rather than capacitive, which means that it isn't as sensitive (although it is much more responsive than I expected). The other thing which has been cut back on is the camera, there is no flash, which doesn't bother me too much, and no auto-focus which does. No auto-focus, as well as meaning that I take blurry photo's like the ones above, also means that apps which rely on a good picture, such as barcode readers and retina scanners can't work, which something I didn't think of before purchase.
A pleasant surprise was that the Facebook support I so loved on my INQ1 is one of the features added by HTC's Sense interface included with both this phone and the Hero. I would go so far as to say that HTC's implementation of Facebook integration blows INQ's out of the water. Photos can be uploaded not just to Facebook, but also to Flikr, Picasa, and to the native Twitter app, Peep which in turn can upload them to your choice of Twitter image site.
An odd little extra that the phone has, is a dedicated website from HTC so that you can design your own covers for the phone (like a real tattoo I guess). I'm not going to do this, because I'd make it look stupid I suspect, that and it's a waste of money, but  maybe someone would like this feature.
All in all, I adore it, even though the screen is too small to type in portrait orientation, and the camera flat out sucks, all the strengths of the software and the not by any means shabby build quality totally make up for it. One of the main advantages over the iPhone is that, while it does have an app store (with far more free apps than Apple's) you are by no means locked to apps just from the store. Just like any computer, you can open up the browser, find an app you like the look of and install it from a .APK file (similar to a .exe installer file). All of this means that there are an awful lot of fantastic apps to extend an Android phone with. Here's a few of my favorite ones that I've found so far. They're all free, although some only for a limited time, or with limited features.
Firstly, The best IM client I could find is Meebo IM.  It is essentially a version of the popular browser based IM client, in an application. It supports Facebook chat, MSN Messenger, AIM, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, Myspace chat and YIM. I cant claim to have used all of those as I only use Facebook, MSN and Google but it sure beats booting up three separate clients
An app which has come in very handy is Total Recall, which is only free for a certain time, then you have to pay for it. The app basically records either all of your incoming, or outgoing calls, or both. This has come in handy for my dissertation research, so I can record my phone conversations without the need for any extra equipment. The sound quality is good, but my voice was recorded much louder than the person's voice I was talking to. It also only records in .MP4, .AMR or .3GPP formats. Luckily Audacity can import MP4 audio, which allowed me to compress the audio so that I could hear the other person and save the file as a .wav or .mp3 so that I could play the file in programs other than Quicktime.
Shazam is a program that can tell you what any song playing is simply by recording a short snippet and then matching it to it's library. Surprisingly, this works almost all of the time. Another cool feature is that after it has told you the song name, it can link you to copies of the song on You Tube, or Amazon mp3. It also saves a log of all the songs you "tag" so that you can look them up later.
Layar is an augmented reality app where you look through your camera and it uses your phone's built in GPS system and digital compass to overlay a layer. Layers include one to show you who has tweeted nearby, information or architecture, London underground info, restaurant  reviews, or directions to things like post boxes, hotels, pubs and golf courses. It's pretty interesting, although I suspect it would work much better in a big city, and would be dull out in the country.
All the Google apps are great (as you would expect) these include maps (which can give turn by turn spoken directions),  Google earth, Google sky map (which tells you what star you're pointing your camera at), Gmail, Calendar and You Tube. Interestingly there is no native Blogger app, so I'll have to stick to the web based client unless I can find a third party app.
Whilst multi-tasking is one of the strengths of android, It's also a weakness. Apps running in the background you may have thought you closed will eat up your processor power and RAM, but there is a solution. TasKiller is an app dedicated to closing other apps. You can either go through a list of apps and close what you want, or add a widget to your desktop that you can click to close all non-essential apps when you feel your handset getting sluggish.
All in all I'm thrilled with my new phone and I would definitely suggest it to anyone looking for a smart phone for under £200. And I'm hooked on Android now, good going Google.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Recording Science Vs Romance

Its been a while, I need to post more often really but uni is starting to get really busy now. my dissertation is well and truly under way, I've had a fair bit of work recently, and Mass Effect 2 came out which may well be the best game I have ever played (although thats probably a tie between it, the original, Metal Gear Solid and Psychonauts).
On top of that I've been in the studio with Science Vs Romance, which was my first time in the studio in about a year, and my first real experience with Pro Tools 8 (despite me buying it months ago, as I said, it's been busy).
SvR have had a slight change in direction with their new material, it's much less pop-punk meets Minus The Bear and much more indie rock meets At The Drive In. 
We've had two weekends so far of tracking and most of the editing has been done at home on my LE system. The first weekend was split between pre-production and tracking drums, bass and rhythm guitars. We've been fortunate in being able to get a band made up of such great players that we could blast through all of that in two days, I certainly wasn't expecting to get so much done. Tracking at the university's new studios has given me my first experience with an Icon desk, which is beautiful, and much less daunting than the three interfaces I've previously used (the C24, Digi 002, and the Control 24) and yet far more powerful.
Comping afterwards was made infinitely quicker by PT8's new playlist track view, which if you haven't seen it yet allows you to see all your playlists for one track at once, solo them one by one, and send sections to a new playlist at the top. This is pretty similar to the way logic takes care of it, except that it doesn't necessarily insert auto-cross fades for you.
On the second weekend, we recorded all of the vocals and Stu's twiddley guitars which is now the bulk of the session recorded down.
I'd love to show you some of the stuff we've recorded but you'll have to wait until it's all mixed I'm afraid. This is definitely the best recordings I have produced to date and I wish SvR all the luck in the world, they could do great things.
In other news, I got a new phone the other day to replace the atrocious Inq1 I've been struggling with for what seems like an age. Its great, I'll give you a run through some time this week.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy new year!

Holy crap, its 2010! If anyone is interested, my resolution is to remember more birthdays this year because last year, I was terrible.
2010 is also the year that I get back into the studio, this time with Stourbridge based alt-rockers Science Vs. Romance. Scott, Darren and I are hoping to get some great stuff out of them, they sound fantastic live.
I'm preparing to start my primary research for my dissertation now, it's going to be about work-flow issues in digital consoles when moving from analogue mixing desks. Should mean I get to talk to some really interesting people and learn some useful stuff