Moving music

…or “GoodbyePod”?

I read this Pitchfork article today, all about the excitement of owning a Discman back in the 1990s. And they’re right – it really was something special. Compared to its predecessor, the Walkman, it was a massive step forward. Bigger and more ungainly, yes, but then it had to be because compact discs aren’t very… well… compact. But it was worth it for the ability to skip tracks without the guesswork of holding down the fast forward key for twenty or thirty seconds, like you’d have to do with a tape.

Aside from the size (and consequently, the weight as well), there were other drawbacks. The motor would use up the three or four AA batteries in a disturbingly short time and if you bumped, knocked it, the sound would skip would skip skip. But these things were worth the hassle for the sheer joy of digital music pumping into your head.

Of course, I couldn’t afford a Sony Discman. Not the official one. It didn’t bother me too much though because I’d never been able to afford the official Sony Walkman either.

“You’re only paying for the name,” I would argue. And although the sound quality on the real thing was surely far better than on my no-name-brand equivalent, the £1.99 headphones I was probably using would have been a great leveller, anyway.

I enjoyed tolerated my faux-Discman for a couple of years before I moved on to a Minidisc player (a top of the range Panasonic, no less). This was a step forward, but was also a bit of a pain because you couldn’t buy pre-recorded Minidiscs, so I had to buy them blank and copy my CDs across to them. But there were so many advantages: the size was the big one – this would literally fit into your pocket – as would the spare discs. The battery life was better (and it only took one battery), and it was much better at handling bumps without interrupting the music. Best of all though, you could add track names to the music and they would scroll across the screen while the song played.

This then was the future.

And then along came the mp3. I had a couple of small mp3 players before I got my first iPod in 2005. There wasn’t much difference in size beween my sexy Panasonic and my (white) second generation iPod, and while the battery life was a massive improvement, I’d never struggled with that on my Minidisc player anyway, so that didn’t make much difference either.
But while I could have 15 tracks on any given Minidisc, my iPod could hold 1500 or more. Amazing – sure – but I never did manage to listen to them all in one day.

Fast forward (no pun intended) to the present day, and I’m ready to move on again. My current iPod is full and while (as with many Apple things) it is a design classic, it also (as with many Apple things) isn’t the most user-friendly device. Add the disaster that is iTunes to the mix, and I’m actually done with Steve’s nonsense now. It’s time for another change – and I haven’t made that decision lightly, given that I like to listen to a lot of music while I’m on the go. This must work.

The choice, were I living in the UK (for example), would be clear: streaming. And yes, I do have some streaming service accounts and they work quite nicely, just as long as I am sitting next to a big wifi, as you might often find yourself doing overseas. But data in SA is ridiculously expensive and limiting, and instantly destroys any idea of wandering around listening to music over the net. And so while I like to have these things as a back up, the more obvious answer for me is a 128GB micro SD card in my phone: instant access, effortless movement and choice of tracks, virtually zero battery usage and all on something which I was inevitably carrying on my person anyway.

Apparently there’s not much of a market for single-purpose music players anymore. But I suspect that’s partly a matter of amnesia. We didn’t know it in 1998, but we were lucky that our portable listening devices did not badger us with news alerts and text messages. If they had, the euphoria of the Walkman experience would not have been so pure.

OK, so that is one drawback, and it’s true that pretty much nothing would interrupt my Discman experience back in the day (even though I had a mobile phone back then), but times have changed and if I’m honest, I quite like to have the option to keep in touch – just as long as I can choose to switch it off for the duration of any given album.

I’m open to other suggestions if you have any. I need space for about 12,000 tracks (because you never know when you’re going to need to hear Babylon Zoo’s Spaceman or White Town’s Your Woman) and I’m not willing to go back to CDs. (Oh, and I need a solution for my Windows PC as well, please.)

Weekend Listening: Everything Everything

The fourth album from this Manchester-based Indie-Synth outfit has been gracing my ears for several (or more) weeks now. It’s really, really good. Really good. The best good. Really good.
And with them releasing a third single from A Fever Dream, it’s high time that I shared something from it. Trouble is – which one?

Desire? A powerful monologue about needing to own and control everyone and everything, with a brightly colourful performance video.
Can’t Do? A desperate plea to escape a demanding and possibly doomed relationship, with a fitting video featuring emotional contemporary dancers.

Or this one: Night of the Long Knives with diving synth drops every few bars and a suitably busy, eclectic visual offering.

There’s lots more good stuff on this album though. Commercially good stuff, nogal. If you’re looking for something (mostly) energetic and just eminently listenable for the upcoming weekend (and beyond), may I humbly – and most highly – recommend this

Fullpod

My iPod is full. Yes, I still have an iPod. I realise that having an iPod is horrendously old-fashioned, but I still have an iPod.
Also, it’s a big iPod. So it’s even more uncool.

But being uncool is not what this post is about. This post is about the fact that my iPod is full. And with so much good music coming out recently and soon (Depeche Mode, Future Islands, Slowdive to name but a few), I need some more space.

It’s either a new iPod or some culling. And because I’m still poor after buying my Mavic (and will be so for the next several years), I’m going to have to lose some music. But what should go, because I love all 11,000 songs on there, otherwise they wouldn’t be on there, right?

Right?

Well, I have started a random playlist on my journeys to and from work. And when a track comes on that’s obviously bilge, I check who is performing it, and I decide whether they get culled later. Not everything will go based on one song. Everyone has their off moments. But it will put them in the firing line.

So far? Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley (who were really only ever on there for a roadtrip with the mother-in-law), Train (saw them at Glastonbury 2003: one good song, otherwise trash), Robbie Williams (through it all, he offered me protection), Kylie Minogue (probably bought for a party in 2012), and Lana del Rey.

That last one raised an interesting question though, namely:

What the f… (ishcake) is Lana del Rey doing on my iPod?

Is this some sort of illegal land grab on my iPod’s hard drive? Do I need an interim court order to get it removed? (spoiler: no, I just click delete). The most worrying bit about this is that I don’t ever remember putting her stuff on there.

And we’re only one day in.
It’s left me very worried about what else I’m likely to discover on there.

But the premise is good: concentrating more on quality rather than quantity. Just like I don’t do on this blog.

Acoustic a-ha

Just when you thought it was all over…

a-ha will make a live acoustic album and concert film from a series of intimate performances to take place between June 26 – June 30, 2017.
The album, DVD and broadcast are scheduled for release in November 2017.
In early 2018, a-ha will take this special acoustic set on the road, giving the fans a new way to experience the music they love.

So… where are we going to see them this time, I wonder? After all, there’s still time to slip a couple of tickets into my Xmas stocking, darling…

The a-ha.com page is currently oversubcribed, suggesting that there is significant interest in this endeavour. The venues for the “series of intimate performances” haven’t yet been announced, but the first confirmed dates are in January 2018 and are in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

Presumably, the Cape Town leg of the tour will be in February or March.

I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

Musical offerings

‘Diverse, eclectic and actually rather good’ was one review of my recent musical purchases. They included (but were not limited to), DJ Shadow, Chemical Brothers, Grandaddy, The Duke Spirit, Haley Bonar, Primal Scream and Kate Tempest.

And they’re all good, but those last two have been taking most of my attention. And there’s a chaotic link, with the Primal Scream album being Chaosmosis and Kate Tempest’s Let Them Eat Chaos. Some message for us all there, perhaps? Two different sounds though, with a real old skool 80’s electronic feel to the Primal Scream offering. There’s Depeche Mode, some OMD and there’s even Zebra & Giraffe (I know, right?), all mixed with a hefty does of Britpop. It is, brilliant. Standout tracks include Private Wars, the gorgeous Autumn in Paradise and the wonderfully quirky Where the Light Gets In:

It’s unapologetic electronic fun. Positive, bouncy pop for the most part, but then those moments which take you back to the late 90s and wonder if you’re listening to James or Dodgy. It’s a really good, easy to listen to album. Try it.

Oh – and if you’re wondering about Kate Tempest, that’s amazing too, but deeper, harder to formulate opinions: it’s taking a whole lot more time to digest. So watch this space for more on that one.