iTunes younger, cheaper, cooler cousin is no longer very young, very cheap nor very cool.
What with the creeping prices the leaking of indies and embracing of mainstream, eTunes… i mean emusic has just become a smaller, cheaper, crapper version of iTunes.
I’ve bailed after finding less and less of your catalogue appealing each month I was struggling to actually fill my (much diminished for the money) download quota.
What started out as a really cheap, risk free way of finding new bands became a much less cheap way of wading through mounds of crap, old music to discover the occasional gem.
Neither am I a diamond miner, nor am I a long-tail cool-aid drinker so I’m afraid I’ve had to say good bye after a fun (at first) five years…. I kept holding out on the hope that one day you would come to your senses. But you never did, so I guess it’s…
…Good Bye Emusic…
emusic is really starting to take the piss. Price hikes and monthly song quota cuts has already dented its once proud image as “iTunes’s younger, cooler brother.”
Now we have a site with buggy, sub standard download software and a policy which aims to make you repurchase tracks that have failed to download fully.
OK, so what happened?
I clicked on the download button, and the album started to download. (Much slower than it used to, I might add.) I then paused the download momentarily by accident (clicking the pause button).
When I clicked resume, it resumed from the next song! I now had two 30 second snippets. Nonplussed, I cancelled the download in the hope that I could restart it… Nope
Going back to the website, I found that there was no longer an option to complete your album… I’d have to pay the whole $6 to download the whole album again!
It’s a download site, for fuck’s sake and they’re charging me PER DOWNLOAD, when it’s THEIR SOFTWARE THAT’S BROKEN.
I really think that this time, I’m done with emusic.
For reference, here’s the mail I sent to their customer support… Not my most eloquent prose, I must admit.
"To whom it may concern" I paused the download.... when I resumed, it tried to download the next track... I now have four half downloaded tracks.... I thought if I cancelled the downloads, and reselected them manually I'd be ok... but IT SAYS I ALREADY DOWNLOADED THE TRACKS. With the OPTION OF REPURCHASING (WHAT THE F***?!) ARE YOU KIDDING! This is not good enough... You are not iTunes, the only thing you have going for you is that your prices are cheap... If you can't make a system as painless as iTunes you will go out of business. Please let me redownload the songs which I paid for but now don't have. The album is http://www.emusic.com/album/modwheelmood-Pearls-to-Pigs-MP3-Download/11475231.html It says I have 7 tracks but I don't. I'm getting sick of music's draconian "REPURCHASE" policies requiring me to justify my existence every time you have a bug in your software. Yours, Disgruntled, Craig Lloyd.
Was I reviewing an album or a complete online persona? (luv the teddy)
How I found him.
I was checking some suggested artists out on LAST.FM when I came across Ronald McDonald as a suggested artist…. FTW? So, I clicked only to find Steampunk among the genres connected to The Red Haired Clown. I was surprised to find the steampunk actually existed as a music genre, and as a fan of brass goggles (not the clown), I clicked the tag and was presented with a list of thumbnails of artists associated with Steampunk… And there he was, his iconic profile, a beacon of light among the dully and morbidly Gothic profiles that were plugging themselves by adding the avant-garde SteamPunk tag to their profile.
I’m really sorry, but even Emilie Autumn, who classes herself as Victoriandustrial, was far more Steampunk than any of the emo faces I saw here! And so I was compelled to click on the austere, out-of-place-in-his-own-genre profile of Dr. Steel.
As I always do before I listen to a new artist, I clicked on his gallery and was confronted with a menagerie of slick images. The sheer imagination, originality and production values of the photos effectively demonstrated what a consummate detail-artist he is. Not only that, but the wide range of influences, including Vaudeville, Jules Verne, Victorian, Lincoln, Industrial, Frankenstein, Tom Waits, Nine Inch Nails, Vlad Tepez and Marilyn Manson are truly a delight to behold.
More importantly, although coming across as intensely, almost pretentiously stylish and cool, there was an immediate intelligence matched with an equal aura of playfulness and frivolity to the images that was outstanding.
On the Dr. Steel profile page of Last.fm there was a suggestion of the Dr. Steel Show, so heading over to Youtube I soon found them and each one just has to be watched!
Dr. Steel Show
- Ep #1
- Ep #2
- Ep #3 – doubling as Back and Forth music video.
Immediately beguiled, I headed over to emusic.com in the hope that his albums would be available; they were!
He has made only three albums since 2001 so was clearly not what one would call prolific, nor, by his mere 13,000 odd LAST.FM listeners could he be considered in any way mainstream…
I listened to the 30 second clips before choosing People of Earth as my first album.
People of Earth
First up, the song titles are a mixture of Frank Black and Frank Zappa. Fibonacci Sequence… C’mon Seriously? And he made a song about it? What is this, the The Songatron?
- Fibonacci Sequence
- Planet X Marks the Spot
- Back and Forth
- Bogeyman Boogie
- Ode to Revenge
- Secret Message
- Atomic Superstar
- We Decide
- Winky in C Minor
- The Singularity
This album has a number of highlights, from the high energy glam rock opening of Imagination through to the grind-rock of The Singularity, there is a cohesion and theme which sets this album apart from a number of concepts.
The second track, Fibonacchi Sequence is a remarkably unbalancing mix of absurdism and industrial rap, which somehow manages to cover the subject with humor.
The first real highlight of the album comes with Planet X Marks the Spot, an upbeat number cleverly bemoaning the mess that humans have got themselves into. The faithful sampled Mariachi strings and brass, keep the pace and energy levels high with a catchy hook being peppered throughout the song. As the most instrumented song on the album, It also features accordion, saw and bow, music box and steel piano.
Dr. Steel rages against blind consumerism in the catchiest song of the album, Back and Forth (as played in Dr. Steel Show Part 3 – above), which combines an outstanding combination of the swinging 20’s muted trumpets and double bass on top of throaty lyrics.
The weakest part of the album is the instrumental Bogeyman Boogie, which while having an attractive Spanish Guitar riff, comes across as a pale Zappaesque imitation shot through with rather nasty Scoobie Doo cartoonish sound effects… Sorry but this one’s not a keeper.
Dr. Steel gets himself all glammed up and dramatic with the unsettling Ode to Revenge, a Gothic Opera which flits somewhere between Tom Waits at his creepiest and Joe Cocker on heroin. It spins the background story of frustration at modern (American) society and a Fight Club like desire to “Burn it All Down”
Glutton is a Metal-driven, stadium-filling power anthem which has Dr. Steel screaming his way though the track at breakneck pace. This is perhaps the only song you’ll ever heard featuring a Dalek chorus.
He breaks out a Bowie-like spread of electronica for Secret Message, a song which seems to me to suggest someone going mad and beginning to spot messages and patterns in the static.
Atomic Superstar is a curious ode to Godzilla as he rampages through the centre of Tokyo. Fun, perhaps but, but it comes across more a confused and incoherent mess of disparate styles rather than meshing like the other, superior tracks on this album. not as memorable as the other tracks on the album.
Another excellent track can be found in We Decide. Which has Dr. Steels relates a cleverly crafted story in a close miked radio croon over Spanish guitar, accordion and double bass with a simple and very catchy riff. It is notable for its lower tone, more laid back instrumentation and harmonic backing choir.
The Doctor gets all “Nightmare Before Christmas” for Winky in C Minor, another instrumental which comes across more stocking filler than wanted present.
It does however prepare the listener well for the darkest and lyrically most interesting number of the album, The Singularity, which is a darkly brooding rock track on the convergence of humans and technology and the transcendence of genetics.
All in all, Dr. Steel has produced another album, which while not being Earth shatteringly epic in any way, does set out to do what it was meant to… Entertain.
It is an excellent example of production, flair for the humorous and is very, very catchy.
Give Dr. Steel a listen on You Tube.
I just watched the recent Apple Stevenote (keynote speech by Steve Jobs) and as usual, Apple chose some uplifting music for the Macbook Air advert at the end of the show, to which I found myself humming along.
Then it hit me who the song was by!
It would seem that Elbow, the band named after what the Singing Detective described as the “loveliest word in the English language,” have finally “arrived!”.
Was it the Murcury Prize they won a few years back that would ear mark them for success? Nope.
Was it the fantastic performance of said song at Glastonbury in the same year? Nope…
No, Apple’s choice of backing track for their new Macbook Air 13″ and 11″ might just prove the break this epically talented band needs to get them and their remarkable back catalogue spanning 20 years or so, some much needed air time.
Here’s hoping that a day like this is just what elbow need to nudge them into the spotlight.
Cloud Cult is a band with a long history that I have just started to appreciate. They are hard to identify because of their eclectic mix of acoustic and wired instruments with genre busting arrangements swinging from lo-fi to orchestral not just within any particular album, but within a single track!
As concept or “story” albums go, this one’s story is somewhat low key. It is a loosely themed collection of songs telling the story of the birth of “Puck” his alienation from society, his initial attempts to fit and final rejection ending in death. Depressing subject matter, perhaps, but delivered with a lyricism of startling compassion and warmth that sounds more “hope springs eternal” than Armageddon.
At first I was a little underwhelmed, but having become a fan of The Mountain Goats, Elliott Smith and Lost in the Trees, I knew that repeated listens would bear dividends… And I wasn’t mistaken. What at first appears to be a mishmash of unrelated tracks, or unrelated verses within the tracks, turns out on careful listening to be a finely crafted story of the demise of a young man who had done nothing to deserve his fate.
Who Killed Puck?
- Where it starts – A track I prefer to think of as “I found God” since that lyric is repeated throughout the whole song. It is a coming of age classic where a boy is constantly reaching higher highs and lower lows on his trip through adolescent to adulthood. Repetitious and remarkably catchy, the simple construction belies the multilayered music that builds slowly throughout the track. It would appear to be the story of the meeting of Puck’s parents.
- Conception – One voice, one guitar, recorded on a tape deck and filtered to death doesnt get much lower fi than this. A killer melody tugs on the heartstrings and makes this track a Low-Fi masterpiece. Seems to be talking about the soul of Puck moving into its host…
- 9 Months – a meandering, instrumental track that sways from a Mike Oldfield, Amarok-style multilayered drum heavy “native” rhythm to his electric-guitar heavy, riff laden and back without going anywhere… An ode to Oldfield, perhaps… There is a sense of frustration in the song but it’s title would suggest it is the birth of Puck…. Ending inthe whispered lines “I am Human”.
- Pucks 6th Birthday – a Micro segue of a warbling childlike taunt…. unsettling stuff. Thankfully short.
- Becoming One of You – The story of a boy who does anything and everything to fit in with the crowd, ultimately ending in disappointment and rejection. The Eels could have sung the first minute or so of this song, but the almost Heavy Metal like bass and electric guitar which come into the forefront as the track progresses might give the fact away that it wasn’t. At just under a half of the way through, the song takes a left turn and heads into familiar electronica overladen guitarwork with repeated lyrics, as is common throughout the tracks on this album…
- Ad Brainwash (Part 1) – A minute or so is samples and sounds from the swinging sixties, highlighting consumerism and idleness which blurs into the main event:
6 Days – One of the highlights of the album. A mutating rhythm underlies a narrated discussion on the brevity of Human existence. Based on a speech by David Brower, an environmentalist and the founder of Friends of the Earth. Nice, but I don’t see how it furthers the concept of the album.
The lyrics are so compelling, I took the liberty of quoting them here:
Compare the 6 days of the book of Genesis
to the 4 billion years of geologic time.
On this scale, 1 day equals about 666 billion years.
All day Monday, until Tuesday noon
creation was busy getting the earth going.
Life began on Tuesday noon
and the beautiful organic wholeness of it
developed over the next 4 days.
At 4 P.M. Saturday, the big reptiles came.
5 hours later, when the redwoods appeared
there were no longer big reptiles.
At 3 minutes before midnight, man appeared.
One-fourth of a second before midnight, Christ revolted.
One-fortieth of a second before midnight, the industrial revolution began.
We are surrounded by people who think
that what we have been doing for
one-fortieth of a second can go on indefinitely.
They are considered normal.
But they are stark. raving. mad.
- Pretty – Puck finds temporary solace in the infatuation with a girl. The key word being temporary. Starting off with one voice, one guitar, the song builds into one of the strongest, most a soaring climaxes of the album.
- Sane As Can Be – The song starts off as a gentle acoustic track marks the middle of the album and is perhaps the turning point in Puck’s life as he goes over the edge as he reveals his secrets and philosophy to his girlfriend, who appears to reject him. This turning point comes as the song flips to an electric guitar track with some fine Metal drumming. Comparisons might be drawn to About a Boy mutating into Susu or Spoon.
- Do You Ever Think About – Segue hears two people discuss suicide as its rhythms build into something which would have fit on the heavier bits of “War of the Worlds”
- Ad Brainwash (pt 2) – Are two segues in a row technically segues at all? Who knows.
- Ready To Fight – This song continues on where from Becoming One of You left off and reveals Pucks anger boil over and his rejection of society and its values.
- Who Killed Puck? – A “noise track” more than a song. You can quite literally hear Puck’s whole life flashing in front of him with lyrics from ‘conception’ leaking in in the background, suggesting his soul’s return to the ether.
- You Can’t Come Back Again / Close – A beautiful ode to the end of life… turning full circle to ‘Conception’. Again building into a climax of Mike Oldfield “Guitars” proportions.This is where the fun ends, so you might as well stop listening here.
- Bonus track 1: Lies – A funky yet unremarkable track about, funnily enough, Lies. If it were to fit into the album, it would have been something that Puck got angry about.
- Bonus Track 2: The Yin and Yan of Sex: A dull closing track. enough said.
OK I admit this is a recycled post… It’s late, I was asked by a pal on facebook to offer some music suggestions… Half way though, I realised I was actually listing music I like…
I’m avoiding my mainstream faves, like Radiohead, PJ Harvey, The Pixies etc. and it’s a time limited (I gave myself 20 mins to compile this and not a minute more…) report so don’t say “sux compared to xxxx or what about”…. unless you’re offering me some hints on what to listen to…
Here’s some music by people who actually mean what they sing…
Angela Ai – She’s an ABC, somewhat Christian overtones, Piano heavy, Broadwayesque, moments of shining beauty from the darkness.
Tom Waits – Kentucky Bourbon Fried Blues from a man who practically lived on the streets to get his inspiration.
Damien Rice – Awesome emotion, Catholic upbringing, the guy literally has to be carried off of stage on a stretcher.
Magdalen Hsu Li – OMG real life slapyaindaface songs! A truly beautiful person who quite literally went through hell. Famous for her classic, “Fuck Bush” which is actually far lower quality than her usual stuff.
And the rest:
who else who else…
Sia… what a soulful woman. luv luv!!!
Imogen Heap… Best full on fem voice since the Annie Lennox of Eurythmics and solo fame.
Sarah Nixey of Black Box Recorder – Political and Social disconnect brought to life in song.
Emilie Autumn – Life vs. Death, Religion vs. Sex. Violin vs. Rock. Awesome talent, unique voice: Mega intelligent, witty, a gorgeous lolita and a great songwriter (she’s actually one of the finest living violinists on the planet) she’s also a bag of pure contradiction.
The Decemberists – Widest eclectic vocabulary of any band, mixed in with a sweeping vista of influences.
Savatage – Metal – As is often the case with metal, heavy moral/corruption overtones but played out to a T… have Two great albums, Gutter Ballet and Streets.
Gregory Hoskins: Fund this guy randomly last moth… Mix of Sting, Paul Simon and Buena Vista Social Club. The guy is gold.
Didn’t have much to go on but I hope this helps.
’nuff already. I’m off to watch Battlestar Galactica.
(NO SPOILERS, DON’T WORRY!!!)
I complained that after eight episodes the program was apparently going nowhere. Well, it would appear that I have managed to manage (!) my expectations.
I am now currently half way through the second series and things have changed quite a lot.
At last, they have created an overall story that permeates the whole series, pushing weekly events into the background for the greater good. Sure there are still titbits that a casual viewer can enjoy, but the story has found its own pace and style and now rewards continued viewing.
The characters are becoming fuller, less random and more interesting with every episode. Minor roles have also become more interesting and stimulating. Real surprises await the viewers and well written, quirky humour litters the whole story.
More importantly, they’ve got the sex scenes under control. I am not a prude, by any stretch of the imagination but by the end of the first series, I was just getting annoyed at the random and graphic nature of the sex that seemed to be added to every second scene, regardless of whether one was needed or not. This second series is like the second year of any long-term relationship. The sex has got a lot more thoughtful, less random and more meaningful. It’s actually now used to enhance rather than obstruct the flow of the story.
Most importantly though, the story threads are themselves heart-warming, touching, funny and moving and sometimes even thought-provoking!
Even the token straight male part has managed to redeem himself with a bit of depth and character!
It’s as if the show itself now has the confidence to carry itself with its audience in the directions it originally intended to go without recourse to cheap titillation.
Whatever the cause is, I’m happy to invest another 13 or so hours in this series.