Saturday, 13 October 2007

Drowning In Music

Debates rage elsewhere on the price of the new Radiohead album and whether or not the digital revolution is a good thing or a bad thing. I've been downloading music legally (and otherwise initially) for around six or seven years. People are waxing nostalgic about the pros and cons of vinyl and CD's. I have no idea where my LP's and Singles went, possibly lost or accidentally discarded in some house move or other. I can't say I miss them much (except for that white vinyl 12" of Bela Lugosi's Dead- DOH!), I was never one for aesthetics of the gatefold sleeve and the warm crackle of needle on groove.

I'm actually starting to get a wave of nostalgia about the early days of illegal downloads. Anyone else remember the pleasures of searching for lost favourites and downloading them over dial-up from Audiogalaxy or pre-respectable Napster?

Nowadays, all music is listed to digitally in my house. If I listen upstairs in my study, it's via a PC to my collection on a networked hard disk, using headphones or speakers. If it's wanted downstairs, there's another PC there to pipe music from the same hard disk. The same computers can also deliver or 6Music. They can also propagate music out to the various portable devices, such as my battered iPod 'Classic', or to the dog's Shuffles. This all sounds very impersonal and technical, but in the words of Ellen Barkin's character in Barry Levinson's film Diner, "I just wanna hear the music."

I still add to my CD collection, although I have nothing to play them on except the computers. I just find that if you buy it on a CD, you can rip it to whatever format you like, and you've always got a back-up for that inevitable disk failure. Largely though, my CD's gather dust.

I've decided not to take up Radiohead on their generous 'pay what you like' offer. The reason for this is time. I've got a backlog of album's that have barely got past a first listen. Some of the comments on Andrew Collins' blog talk of nine listens of In Rainbows in the first day. How? I'm still trying to squeeze in extended listens to:-

  • Hey Venus by Super Furry Animals
  • Going Way Out with Heavy Trash by Heavy Trash*
  • Dark on Fire by Turin Brakes
  • Icky Thump by The White Stripes
  • At My Age by Nick Lowe
  • The Crane Wife by The Decemberists
  • Funeral by Arcade Fire
  • Lady's Bridge by Richard Hawley

I have a 15 minute car journey to work, which is is usually sound-tracked by something from my ipod, but it's not long enough to get a handle on a whole album.

I'm curious about other people listening habits. Where and when do you listen to new albums. When so you listen to old favourites. When do you listen to the radio? When do you sit in silence?

*Whilst throwing this post together, I forced myself to listen to one of my un-listened to albums. I picked Going Way Out with Heavy Trash by Heavy Trash. Highly recommended! Especially if you like the idea of Jon Spencer performing a kind of Eddie Cochrane/Tom Waits rockabilly blues/punk -meets The White Stripes.

Rock'n Roll Lives!


Gwen said...

I think I'm a little behind. By the time I was upgrading to CD format, dowloading had already taken off. I have the radio on when I wake up at 6.30 and listen to it on the way to the station. AFter that I don't really. When I wass younger I used to listen to it in the evening, but I tend to be too busy now. It's probably a bit sad really but there it is.

Dale Stewart said...

I've been collecting music for 30 years now and have it on several different formats. As a songwriter I only use the MP3 format to distribute my music on the net. When I listen for pleasure it's usually on CD. But, I keep a turntable hooked up to the computer/receiver to listen/rip records. Some songs sound really good on vinyl, others better on digital.
I wrote a piece a few days ago about file sharing from the point of view of a songwriter.

Five-Centres said...

It's MP3 all the way for me now. It's so portable. It's the best invention ever, after the dishwasher and salad in a bag.

Jon Peacey said...

I don't have an iPod or suchlike (or proper speakers on my laptop) because I don't like using headphones as I'm afraid of losing my hearing or not hearing the car/ knife speeding towards me. So, I only use hardware in the home: the Romantic in me likes my old vinyl but the practical realist prefers the shiney discs!

Ishouldbeworking said...

This question has several equally interesting bits and so far I have not had time to give them due consideration.

To use a hated phrase, "bear with me".

Valentine Suicide said...

Yep MP3's are great! However Since I wrote this post I've been plagued, in my minds ear, by THAT SOUND. The one where the needle touches the vinyl, and play that first little crunchy bit of silence. I'd quite like to hear it again...

I don't have a dishwasher 5C. Am I missing out?

JP I strggle with discs and cases. Things always get misplaced or scratched, I'm so cack-handed. So having nothing to hold or file away is a huge bonus.

isbw - your comments are always worth the wait!

Ishouldbeworking said...

Right, let's have a quick bash at this one. It set me thinking. How DO I come across new stuff, for example?

I have the radio on all day when working from home ( not when I'm with a patient, obviously. Could be a bit distracting.). It's always Radio 4 during the day: I can listen to pretty much anything apart from 'You and Yours' (although I could just be making this up in order to make myself look a bit highbrow).I never feel like listening to rock music during the day, but now and again I will put Radio 3 on ( although once again, this may be a self-serving lie).

In the evenings, I have 6 Music on from about 7.45 ( after Front Row, since you ask). Tom Robinson plays quite a good balance of old and new stuff, though I often wish he'd stop pretending to be quite so senile. My attention has been caught by quite a few of the live bands he and Marc Riley have on - which would generally then take me on to iTunes, in the first instance, for a poke around.

I like being able to listen to the short samples, and to download individual tracks rather than whole albums - it means you can avoid much of the 'filler' stuff and tailor what you buy to your own taste. I also like browsing through the ranks of 'other people who bought this also bought..'. and scrolling through various IMixes that catch my eye. Some of them go straight on my iPod, which I always have with me when I'm out. More often than not I'll listen to a playlist.

This trawling around can all be quite time-consuming, but is certainly a way that I've identified new stuff I like. I had a phase of using 'Pandora' for a while, but found some of their ideas very odd..."Like The Wedding Present? You're BOUND to like Neutral Milk Hotel!" ( no, actually.)

I also have a few gig-buddies who are very good at sniffing out new things, and who are not averse to the odd 'on-spec' gig ( hence, we will be going to spend an evening in a couple of weeks with Canadian electro-rockers 'Holy Fuck'). We pass information, ideas and Chinese burns backward and forward.

My CD-buying has dropped off dramatically. As another who was raised on my sister's cast-off vinyl, I never liked the CD format and didn't buy my first CD until 1998, when the Flaming Stars and the Fall both put out albums that were only available on CD. The CD collection has been culled and what is left - about 500 CDs - sit in the living room with the 600 or so remaining vinyl albums ( 200 went to the charity shop in April). I have a CD player and a turntable still in the room; both of them get used, especially when I need to drown out the noise of my opera-singer neighbour (grrr).

I note vinyl is having a renaissance, but I won't be going there again. I loved it, aesthetically and acoustically, but to go back now and start self-consciously buying it would seem like an affectation.

I haven't yet got round to downloading the Radiohead album, but I don't imagine that when I do I will get QUITE the frisson of pleasure I used to get from lovingly unwrapping and exploring a new LP. Like clenching one's teeth around the well-worn stem of a Meerschaum pipe, this kind of pleasure is consigned to a bygone age.

Does that help, VS?

Valentine Suicide said...

Gawd, there's more information in that comment, than in Wikipedia!

I rarely get the opportuninty to listen to the radio during the day. So any new music comes from weekend listens to 6Music, although I have forgiven Shaun Keaveney, and now allow him to wake me up again.

I'm kind of with you on the 'get the good tracks' strategy, but was always of the opinion that an album was meant to be some sort of 'cohesive whole' (wow), and that I might be missing out. Took me ages to 'get' Neon Bible', but was well worth the effort.

Try and sample that Heavy Trash if you get the chance. It may turn you back into a rockabilly.

Ishouldbeworking said...

Sorry about that, VS. Never use one word where you can use several hundred, that's my motto.

I'm going to seek out Heavy Trash. Chinese Burns Rules Apply, though.

Gwen said...

Ah but are Chinese Burns more painful in Vinyl or MP3 format?

Ishouldbeworking said...

You're off the hook, Chinese burn-wise; that is SUPERB, right up my street. I bought the album, and off the back of it a great live Crunchy Frog album featuring Tremelo Beer Gut ( now who could resist THAT?).

It's the sort of music best heard from the seat of a Waltzer, being twirled by a dark-quiffed dreamboat in a check shirt. Don't you agree?

Valentine Suicide said...

Gwen I think digital violence should be a crime. Analogue is probably still ok though.

I'm glad you like HT, isbw. Now I think THAT would be a band worth seeing live. Also I'll see if I can get Alvin Stardust to twirl your waltzers. So to speak.

Rob said...

I used to LOVE audiogalaxy... I worked at a website (that never launched) for Universal Records in the days before broadband and we used to spend our days downloading track after track after track and burning mountains of CDs. Thanks Universal!

Ishouldbeworking said...

Why mention Alvin now? It just sent me straight back to iTunes. I started with 'Jealous Mind', and then blew thirty quid on other 'gems' from his era. I only just stopped myself when I realised I was just about to purchase 'Solay Solay'' by Middle of the Road. GAH!!

Valentine Suicide said...

I think the time has come to tell yourself "I have enough music".

You'll be downloading Racey next?

Ishouldbeworking said...

Did that MONTHS ago ( really )!

auntiegwen said...

Whatever happened to Bauhaus ? I used to like them too.

Only use the ipod when running and in the car listen to the cds of whichever of the weans shouts the loudest

Valentine Suicide said...

Your devotion to Racey is well documented, isbw.

Bauhaus reformed last year, Auntie G (are you my real aunt?). And toured, I didn't go though.

I did see them '83 though, when P.Murphy was at his post-pneumonia, crowd-hating worst. We got chased around the streets of Hanley by rampaging gangs of non-Goths afterwards as an added bonus. Great night!

Ishouldbeworking said...

I went last year! Brixton Academy.They were fabulous (apart from Daniel Ash's terrible Samurai hairdo. Just because you still have enough hair to do that with, doesn't mean you should).

Before that the last time I'd seen them was in November 1982 at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester. I got there two hours early so I could get right to the front. I could see every run in Pete Murphy's tights. He was gorgeous.