Radio, Radio

Elvis Costello – Radio, Radio

I finally got the email I’ve been waiting for this evening, telling me that Rdio is folding. I’d read that they’d been bought by Pandora and would be filing for bankruptcy protection and that Pandora was going to take the parts of Rdio they liked and graft them on to Pandora but Rdio hadn’t said anything official to its users before now. Sigh.

It’s because I just admitted that I was at peace with my streaming music app. I am the kiss of death for online music services. Do you have one you want to go under? I’ll join it and become a regular user and then it is doomed to failure. I’ve lost count now how many music sites/apps I’ve been a fan of that have closed up shop.

I’ve got a Pandora account but I haven’t used it in years. I’ve got a Spotify account that I only use if I wanted to have a friend listen to a song and there was no other way to get them to hear it. I have the Amazon music and Google Play music apps on my phone, plus the Bandcamp app, TuneIn Radio, Soundcloud, not to mention the other ones that came pre-loaded on my phone that I never use. I’m not lacking in ways to listen to music online, I just don’t like any of them.

Here’s what I liked about Rdio. It was integrated with Shazam and Songkick. I am more of a Bandsintown user but just the fact that it would give me a heads up if the band I was listening to was going to playing nearby was a great feature. If I Shazamed a song, it would automatically add it to an Rdio playlist so I could check out the band more when I was at the computer. They had good, mostly accurate suggestions of other bands in the same vein as what you were listening to and they made it easy to find new music. They didn’t have everything but it was as close as a streaming music service could get to browsing through your local record store with your friends. And it was easy on the eyes.

When my car’s tape deck died I bit the bullet and paid the $10 a month so that I could have full functionality on the app instead of the web version only. I didn’t use it all the time but if I wanted to listen to particular things, it was the best solution.

Spotify is ugly and feels like the bully of the streaming services. I hate the free version, with its ads for itself constantly interrupting and the scroll bar forever shifting location so you are always clicking on the ad space when you’re just trying to move down the screen. I don’t like the way it always wants to load the app instead of just using a web version when I’m on the computer. It drives me nuts when I encounter a Spotify embed someplace while I’m surfing on my desktop because you can’t just click and have it play in place, it has to boot up the app and get you to login, blah, blah, blah.

The email made it sound like we have a couple more weeks before they shut the whole thing down. I’ll probably end up using Spotify but if anyone has a different music app they like (besides iTunes, this has to work on my Android phone), let me know.


Yo La Tengo – Ohm

My daughter asked me to help her with her math homework tonight. I’m sure I learned what she’s studying at some point but I have only the faintest clue how to go about solving these equations and the way I was taught is probably not how they teach it now.

It’s hard to counsel kids about advanced math subjects when you have forgotten all of it yourself. I often think it’s sending the wrong message for me to even try because I run the risk of admitting that it’s something I had to memorize for a test, promptly forgot, and have never needed again. This kind of math problem is more my speed.


Radiohead – Idioteque

Things have reached the tipping point, I really hope. Earlier today I was full of rage about the total ignorance and hatred that people in, or vying for, high political offices were spewing. Truly the most vile and disgraceful comments I have ever heard.

As the day wore on, however, I came to see things in a slightly different light. The statements about Syrian refugees made by Donald Trump and others are indefensible. So, now we know. Now there’s no more guessing just how stupid they are and just how racist and xenophobic they are. We no longer have to wait for the other shoe to drop, they’ve done it. They are showing their true colors, and anyone who still supports them is just as guilty.

This is really happening. Did you ever wonder how Nazi Germany happened? How someone who was as clearly unhinged as Hitler was could rise to power? This is how. Enough people who bought into lies told about those who practiced a different religion than the one they knew. Enough people who were small-minded enough to let fear take over their better judgement. And still more people who thought, well, I don’t want to confront anyone, I don’t want trouble, if I just keep quiet maybe it will go away.

I have it easy. My friends and family are equally disgusted by what’s being said and my elected officials are speaking out on behalf of the refugees. I don’t have to worry about getting into a fight with some relative at Thanksgiving about their backwards political views. I’m sorry if you do, but do it anyway.

Joe Hill

Billy Bragg – Joe Hill

I saw a mention earlier today about a Joe Hill tribute out in LA a few days ago in memory of his death 100 years ago today. Given how little some people know about this country’s history, I thought I’d post this Billy Bragg cover of the Phil Ochs song.

These are dark days for us history majors. I am on the verge of tears from the amount of stupid, hateful things I read about today. Unbelievable.

By Degrees

Mark Erelli – By Degrees

It’s crazy how things seem to be spiraling out of control since the attacks in Paris on Friday. Did you hear what the idiotic mayor of Roanoke, VA has said? It’s not just a race to the bottom, it’s a stampede. It somehow feels even worse, even more knee-jerk reactionary than during the W. years. It’s shameful.

I really don’t even know where to begin. Plus, I know I’m preaching to the choir and my little online footprint is so small that my spouting off about how ignorant politicians are ginning up fear to score political points against an outgoing president is not going to make a particle of difference.

There’s a college in Maryland right now that has shut down and sent all of its students home until after Thanksgiving because of a home-grown threat by a student. Yet there’s a Texas state legislator who doesn’t want any refugees to enter the country because it’s too easy to buy a gun here and just think what they could do. That’s not from the Onion either. Seriously, how does this hypocrisy not give people whiplash?

So I’m just going to keep on looking for ways to restore my own sanity. Listen to songs that help me know I’m not alone, count myself extremely lucky to live where I do, and be thankful for the company I keep.


Public Service Broadcasting – Gagarin

Several weeks ago I heard a song, once again on my local college radio station, as I was driving home. The dj had read some information about the song that was pretty interesting so I Shazamed it to look it up later. An online friend said he’d been listening to the album for a couple of months after he’d heard it on his college radio station. I was curious enough to look up the rest of the album and more information about the band.

The band is Public Service Broadcasting, two nerdy looking guys from England going by the names J. Willgoose, Esq., and Wrigglesworth. They use audio and film clips from old public service announcements and news reels which they set to music. The song was on their album The Race for Space, nine songs that trace the history of the US and USSR space programs by highlighting different chapters in each nation’s story.

The more I read about them and listened online, the more intrigued I was. The reviews of their albums on Amazon were nearly all 5-stars and for this record especially they recommended buying a physical copy so you could get the booklet that comes with it. I don’t need much arm twisting when it comes to getting the liner notes so I ordered the CD (much as I like records, the CD seemed more practical for me right now) and have not been disappointed.

It is worth it. The whole album is fantastic. You can just have it on in the background but it really deserves to be listened to more closely. I find myself getting pulled in to these stories and, this is not going to come out the way I want it to but, I feel like all of the day-to-day distractions fall away. I’m really immersed in these scenes of the space race.

I almost hate to choose just one song for this post because they work so well in the context of the whole and I can’t really pick a favorite. I lean toward “The Other Side” because it’s so expertly done – but I don’t want to give it away.

So if you’re curious and/or like this song, check out the whole album. And here’s some more links to see how they pull it together when it’s just the two guys* or when they add some people to flesh it out for a larger stage.

*The Tiny Desk Concert link is from last year and features songs from earlier albums but equally cool.