apple music streaming service

from the perspective of a broke anti-streaming slacker

Thanks to the annoyingly catchy and trendy tv commercials it’s pretty hard to miss the news that apple have started a music streaming service. For anyone that has an iphone and has bought an app, and therefore has an itunes account, it’s very easy to opt into and start the free three month trial of “Apple Music”. Important reminder: go into the settings and turn off automatic subscription renewal.

The first noteworthy thing is that 3 month trial. Three months is a long time. It’s very clever. Not many companies would have the capital to pay for all that initial set up without some return in the near future. More importantly, for schleppers like me three months is long enough to get hooked.

Up til now there have been a couple of global streaming services – spotify and pandora. I tried spotify for about half an hour and was not impressed. They have no free trial. If you want to listen to it for free then they insert lame-oh advertisements after every second song – thus turning your favourite album into bad radio.

So I started trialling the apple service a couple of weeks ago expecting it to be rubbish. It’s not but the jury’s still out on whether I’d actually pay for it. It’s 12bucks a month in Australia so over a year $144 which if you’d decided to take a different path through reality, would be I guess about 6 physical albums. If at the end of that year you cancel the service then you’re left with nothing except those sweet memories. And then there’s always the chance apple will raise the price.

For me one of the big sticking points is that it’s streaming. That’s okay at home using the internet and wireless router but for outside I’m a) on a budget phone plan and use phone megabytes sparingly. I try to make 100Mb last for two months. It doesn’t work but there’s certainly no room for 4Mb per song or whatever it is. B) Even cellular coverage in Australia is patchy let alone the thought of streaming via wifi while out and about. I lose phone reception on the train between Geelong and Melbourne. But at home it’s fine and I was listening to music all day and it didn’t use any noticeable amount of bandwidth here.

The main thing I was dubious about was what music they had available. One neat thing is you just use the itunes program on computer or app on a phone the same as you would with your own owned albums. So for the last two weeks I’ve been quizzing it. I think of some old or somewhat obscure artist and think Oh you got that? – look it up and mostly I’ve been impressed. Although my musical taste has been sliding to a slightly more mainstream point over the last ten years.

They got 13th floor elevators, they got Stetsasonic, they got Ganggajang and they even got this album (just packaged differently) :


 Of course it’s always possible to find the odd artist here or there that’s not on the service, perhaps because the artist had previously taken control of the copyright to their music—taking it from whichever company originally published it. An example it the ‘90s Melbourne indie group, Sandro. Their album Hate Songs is not on there. But then you could trawl five or six music shops in Melbourne and not find the CD there either.

hate songs


 

Here is a list of other failings I found.

  •  The Bell Sisters. I tried loading up an album of theirs. It was a compilation but I don’t know that they ever really did proper albums. Some music librarian data entry person goofed because instead of those two ‘50s girls voices I got Duke duke duke duke of Earl.

  •  Swervedriver. Despite being a pretty popular alternative crusty UK grungish rock outfit in their time, Swervedriver ended up with a series of record deals from hell—or something like that. A couple of good albums were essentially buried, deleted and difficult to get a hold of for years and years after release (in the ‘90s). And indeed 1995’s Ejector Seat Reservation is missing.

  • Occasionally songs just don’t come through. Like Guantanameraby The Sandpipers. It’s the lead track of their 1966 album, Guantanamera. I click on it – and nothing. Yet the other tracks from the album play. *[Edit]* A week later I try it again and now it’s working.

  • Even for a well known artist like Aphex Twin there’s a whole lot of stuff that’s not there – like (one of my faves) the EP Mike Flowers Pops Vs The Aphex Twin, and the Mike & Rich album. That’s one thing but also Richard D James recorded under a whole load of names (AFX, Polygon Window etc.). The iTunes interface could make it much clearer in linking collections of music made by the same artist. There is an ‘artists you may also like’ thing on the side but then for example on the Aphex Twin page it lumps AFX in with completely unrelated, maudlin try-hards Autechre.

expert knob twiddlers


 

My other major criticism is the search function is always steering you back to the popular. I look up an artist and you get in order, top singles, top albums, and then ‘albums’. The top result is nearly always a ‘best of’ compilation.

I like drilling back, finding who influenced who and I just prefer to go about it more studiously most of the time and listen to one album at a time.

Or at least that’s the theory. The convenience of looking up any music you can think of and have it playing a few seconds later is pretty mind-blowing. I’m still in the phase of engorging myself and barely getting to the end of one song before going on to the next thing.

What I’d like, uh-huh

I’d like to be able to search by record label. I type in Tommy Boy, and I want to see a list of the albums released by that label. Same with 4AD and so on.

I’d like to be able to click on that 150 X 150 px jpeg of the album cover and then get a much larger HIRES version of it to look at and if possible be able to flip to the liner notes or inside fold artwork.

For us cellular-challenged Australians I’d like to see a function where an album or selection of songs could be downloaded onto an iphone in a way so that the album could be played once but then be locked—so it’s not being stolen but can be listened to once at least, offline before getting back to somewhere with wifi.

I’d like to be able to use the Siri voice recognition function (on computer as well as phone) to cue up albums or songs using only speech so that I might feel LIKE A GOD.

A whole other thousand words could be written about how streaming audio media is going to completely reshape the experience of music but I can’t do it now. I can barely think because of Jello Biafra & DOA’s Full Metal Jackoff is rattling the windows—I haven’t heard it (or thought of it) since the sharehouse in Westgarth in ‘95.

PS. It was just in the news that Australians love to pirate media more than most countries, and it was pointed out that if movies or whatever were more easily accessible (legally) and priced reasonably then people would go for it. This is where Apple Music is succeeding – in comparison, torrenting albums is arduous. And the streaming service is relatively reasonably priced.

, , — yak sox @ 9:48 am, July 23, 2015

bowling ball

I’ve just spent a week on the trains. Vline changed the Geelong to Melbourne line two weeks ago. There are more services now but they go a different way. Instead of going through Werribee and Newport they now go through Sunshine and a bunch of other strange new places. It takes about the same time but it feels longer.

Last week I was travelling during peak-times which is very different (i.e. unenjoyable) to when I’m heading to Footscray to study as I have been this last year. More services but going a different way is kind of like a friend giving you a bowling ball for you birthday, which is good because you needed one but then the person says Now I’m coming with you every time you go bowling.

Also I’m pretty open minded when it comes to ‘the ‘burbs’, at least compared to some of my terminally trendy friends but these places like Tarneit and Deer Park are morbid. Terrible little houses—designed badly, stacked together, no trees—what hell! Wyndham Vale, the furtherest out new station doesn’t even have that yet – it’s just paddocks ready to be turned into the cancerous growth that is new, car-dependent (apart from this already overloaded train service) suburbia.

So anyway I needed a new podcast to fill the time. Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin has a lot of episodes so you can pick ‘n choose the kind of interviews that are more your thing.

— yak sox @ 6:13 am, July 5, 2015

Lemon Slushie

I’m doing a short course in the melbourne cbd just down the street from Allens music store. It’s going to be hard resisting the temptation to snap up one of these lovely looking lemon-top “slash” epiphones. Cheap guitars are the best guitars but I really don’t need another one. Good to see there’s still at least one shop that has prices competitive with what’s available via the internet.

Slashy  lemon

, — yak sox @ 8:08 am, June 30, 2015

Why Runaway Train (1985) is probably my favourite movie ever

Until last night it must have been over ten years since I’d watched Runaway Train and I wasn’t even remembering it right because I thought it was Charles Bronson in it but it’s Jon Voight. And I didn’t remember all the prison scenes at the start either. But what did stay in my mind all that time was the shots of the train blasting through the snow.

Here’s what really works in this film:

1. shots of the train blasting through the snow

run-awaytrain-2


The four locos teamed together, muddy-black in colour. The long shots show the desolate Alaskan winter and the driving snow emphasises the speed of the train. This is what cinematography is all about to me; showing something in pictures that can’t be described in dialogue or words of any kind.

2. The basic elements of the plot

Apparently this was a story and screenplay originally written by Akira Kurasawa. It was later adapted by the people who put together this film but there’s something about the way the main elements of the story hang together that have Kurasawa’s name all over them. I actually don’t know that much about him—I’ve only seen a couple of his B&W 50s(?) samurai films but there’s a simple way of story-telling though visuals he got down that others have been influenced by for decades.

The reason I can tell it’s not pure Kurasawa is the way it jumps from the scenes in the train what Voight kills, and the scenes in the train line control room. It’s like going from a quality drama to Flying High! Who ever was casting or directing, in these bits at least, really dropped the ball.

control-room


3. Jon Voight.

jon-voight-as-manny


He probably did the only good acting in the film. Even then I wonder if the way he did the character might have been influenced by the way Stallone played the character Rocky Balboa. There was a couple of short monologish scenes that he nailed to the point where if this was a more popular movie then people would be parroting them the way they do De Niro in Taxi Driver.

clean-that-spot


Honourable mentions for cool things are – The actor and character that played the head prison warden. Every crazy, deathwish-seeking escaped convict needs an equally crazy sheriff hell-bent on bringing him down.

In both of these characters I can see an archetypal simplicity that Kurasawa would’ve outlined that made them so easy or successful to play.

And the on-train stunts and cinematography of the stunts. Hyper-real in how they look and the angles at which they were captured at. No CGI. The way heavy-falling snow combined with the speed of the train creates a darkening of the shot. Plus everyone knows how slippery ice is and everyone can guess how slippery it would be when trying to climb onto the nose of an EMD F7 at 70 miles an hour.

EMD-F7


Because of the ‘80s schlock of the control room I’d almost say that this was a film ripe for re-doing but I know they’d never get the good parts right. No one in the two thousand teens wants to see a train barrelling through the snow, right? We’ve got too much ADD for that. No one wants to see relationships and motivations unfolding inside a boring, boxy black locomotive’s interior. So I can live with the bits that are a bit quaint because I know that Hollywood today would red rubber-stamp the whole thing ‘QUAINT’ including the live action stunts and the symbolism of an out of control train carrying a rebel on his last flight.

 

, , , — yak sox @ 4:10 am, June 25, 2015

forty one and still having fun

Yes it was my birthday a week ago. Here is what I got!

On his 41st birthday


For over two years I’ve been wanting to watch Korg 70 000 BC and for over two years I haven’t seen it anywhere as a torrent, so here we are. I got the DVD. This is another show that I dimly remember seeing as a child on BTV6. I can remember being at a friend’s house on a Saturday arvo and seeing it. This would’ve been in 1981 or ‘82 I suppose. I won’t say too much about the actual show now because there’s not much info on the net so I might do an episode by episode synopsis. I will say that it kicked off in my birth year, 1974. And I thought the episodes would be 45mins each but are more like 25mins.


Also, Crocs. Really I was just looking for footwear that were comfortable enough to take over duties from another pair of comfortable plastic shoes made by Rivers that I now realise were crocs knock-offs. Apparently most people don’t like them and consider them hideous which is a shame because I think they’re really quite good. People say they make your feet look like hooves but my feet really are that shape. And hopefully wearing them with socks is the only thing I have in common with george w bush.


As long as the strap is back over the ankle so they don’t fly off if you are running I really think these are our footwear of the future and we all will be wearing them in the far off future along with shiny silver jumpsuits that have a big triangle on the front.

, , — yak sox @ 11:28 am, June 17, 2015

sunny day in June

Well it’s half a week now past me submitting my last essay for the semester and I feel like writing something again. I repainted my telecaster body yesterday. This is something that’s been brewing for a while and requires at least two long backstories. Nice to see flickr have stopped adding that rubbish javascript to embedded fotos.

HipstaPrint

yak sox @ 1:14 am, June 6, 2015

tiger loaf

Yesterday was the inaugural Charu-day. May 10 last year we started feeding her and not long after decided to adopt her. We’ve all had a lot of fun together but recently I can’t help but think she’s a bit like a tribble. There’s a little voice back there saying it’s time to get important things done like study but when the cat is sitting on my lap and purring… it’s hard… to concentrate.

17507495811_9e9c68671b_m

, , — yak sox @ 1:00 am, May 11, 2015

beneath the moonlight


I ended up buying a compilation of Hot Chocolate a few years back because they have so many great, wacky songs. …Cadillac is probably my fav though because it’s so deceptively heavy and has genius use of violins. The above version is especially cool because it is actually live. They must have had the horns and strings off-stage.

, , — yak sox @ 11:35 pm, May 6, 2015

all or nothin’

For slackers like me the Premier Guitar online magazine stuff is great. It’s much easier to peruse and read magazine articles about guitar than actually knuckle down and practice playing guitar.

One day a while back I was reading an article on the history of pedal steel. In short, it’s gone in and out of favour with the commercial country scene since it was invented.

The article mentioned a couple of recent artist who’ve had some sweet pedal steel twanging in their music so I had a quick listen via youtube. Most of it didn’t take my fancy but I came across Nikki Lane and her album All Or Nothin’. It’s got slide guitar on there. Al couple of the stand out tracks are KILLA and were enough to prompt me to buy the album. I still feel woe about this whole buying music digitally situation because it’s so nothing but this album at least came with a digital booklet that has the stuff that used to be liner notes—the stuff that I miss—like reading who wrote the songs, where they were recorded and such.


I guess it’s classified as ‘alternative country’ whatever that is. For me in one way it feels a lot like pop because it grabs you quick with the catchy but then there’s not that many relistens in it because there’s not a lot of depth. Dan Aubergene from the Black Keys produced the album and I can definitely hear his hand in there.



^


Speaking of interesting, guitar-playing women, I would also mention Courtney Barnett but she’s already getting enough press. Let’s wait to see if her second album’s any good.

— yak sox @ 1:03 am, April 28, 2015

SMERSH

I don’t want to let April slip away without me posting at least once here, so. How much of a surreal, sci-fi living legend (ledge) is Elon Musk? I was sitting wasting time waiting for class to start at uni the other day when I looked at this tweet of the first stage rocket booster narrowly failing a perfect landing and I was struck by how far out of the mundane this stuff is.


It’s the little things, ya know? Like how Musk named the landing barge, “Just Read the Instructions” in the spirit of Iain M Banks’ spaceship names for the Culture series. Or the fact that the electricity used for recharging Tesla cars is all offset by the power generated by SolarCity ie. the project is genuinely green, not just electric cars using fossil fuel-made electricity.

, — yak sox @ 11:38 pm, April 17, 2015
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