Remember When You Used To Listen To Albums?

I employ the past tense “used to” because you may not anymore. You may instead listen to kickin’ tunes; the greatest hits; anthems; floor fillers; singles etc. Since Rob was kind enough to ask what was up for debate next, this was a topic that came up over the weekend.

Now that there’s no compulsion to listen to those album tracks that aren’t as seductive as the singles, why bother with them? The digital revolution has underlined the power of The Song. The album as a concept seem a bit redundant. And why should an album deserve to sell well when it’s relying on three or four solid tunes (that may well have been recorded separately under the guidance of a superior producer) and merely supplemented with a host of second-rate fillers that are little better than b-sides, or instrumentals or at worst, ambient nothingness?

But then isn’t this the price you pay for discovering a couple of gems? A few songs that really should have been singles or a slow-burn epic that is structured so that it builds or even explodes into a euphoric wonder (it might sound all the sweeter for you having invested that bit of extra time). There might even be a few songs that didn’t appeal or washed over you the first or second or even third time you heard them that have over time become your favourite tracks that you might never have heard if you had only downloaded the singles. Maybe you’ve now listened to those same singles so many times that you’ve reached saturation and let’s face it, you’ve gone off them now. And let’s not forget those concept albums that are structured so that each track developes on the last or is mixed into the next track or the album as a whole tells a story where removing a track would be like editing out a chapter of a novel.

Maybe your playlists are made up exclusively of party favourites or head bangers and you only bought singles before or had to use that track skip button too much before but maybe you miss developing an appreciation of the whole album and those pieces that allow the oft overlooked keyboardist/bass guitarist (who is a virtuoso with a musical saw) of the band to display their genius?

We got to talking about which was best overall. I’d be interested to know your opinions and also whether the digital music revolution has forced or made people naturally lean towards one way or the other.

Adventures with my iPod

Of my 8112 items in iTunes 316 of them are music videos, little movie shorts, cool ads or comedy sketches and I’ve got some 931 photos or scanned images in iPhoto. The time has come to sort out the external video feed so that I can put these up on a TV. Anyone’s TV.

Since beginning to dump files onto the iPod in late February I knew I would want to get the slideshow and video jukebox capabilities of the little fella configured. I’d read various web sites about people using a jack plug to 3 X phono plug (any traditional camcorder A/V output cable) to export your images I thought that this would be easy, and it was. In the end.

Firstly getting hold of one of these cables on the high street isn’t all that easy as PC World, Dixons etc. didn’t stock them. They stock all manor of kits that include a few things that are useful and plenty that you’ve either already got or don’t want that must be artificially expensive. In the end a quick search on eBay allowed me to pick one up for a few quid. Hoorah!

The other thing that wasn’t clear to me at first was that you need to set the iPod up to feed the video out of the jack, it won’t do it automatically. You also can’t watch video on an external source and on the iPod’s screen; it’s an either/or scenario. This doesn’t bother me though.

So now the videos work and I can show pictures on a TV with an accompanying soundtrack made up of a playlist or whatever I’m currently listening to in the iTunes library. I’ve only got a few problems at the moment. Firstly it doesn’t seem to be possible to play just music tracks when the video out is activated and secondly the slideshows I’ve created in iPhoto don’t seem to appear on the iPod; just the photo albums that spawned them (which I haven’t done that much with).

The good thing is that although I can’t find out how to shuffle music vids on iTunes or to get one to follow on from another in full screen mode without selecting it for each track after it’s started playing, the iPod does automatically do this so I’ve got my video jukebox afterall. And after I’ve tinkered with my photo albums I should have everything I’ve been after. Then only problem will then be memory and managing it all. So far I’ve been able to download everything and synchronise each program but when I have to be choosy about what goes on there, it’ll suddenly become more time consuming. Maybe it’ll be time to upgrade by then!

On The Circuit

Live music is great. There’s no two ways about it. Naomi and I popped up to that fine establishment The Lamb last Wednesday for a catch up and happened upon an open mike night which was superb. Although all the acts were just person + guitar they all managed to find their own sound within the same acoustics and as well as someone dropping in a predictable (yet comforting) Levellers tune (“15 Years”) someone did a great cover of “Sleazy Bed Track” by the Bluetones.

On Friday, after a wee snifter of absinth, I caught a bus from Welland into Worcester (yes, you did read that right) to see Marc and his band The Steaming Heads play a set at the fabled Marrs Bar. Marc had mentioned that he’d be on stage from 9:00pm in his heads-up e-mail and the bus got me in to Worcester at nearer twenty past so I was annoyed that I’d missed a brace of ditties. I needn’t have worried as I came in to find an electro/rock/funk act in full throw, sounding somewhere between the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Cooper Temple Clause, and they were really going for it. By ten Marc showed up, having been absent up until now because he’d been watching the football in the pub. Marc had a few seconds spare to say hi before he clambered into some dungarees and a beret, grabbed his bass and began plucking the familiar chords of the Cajun/bluegrass version of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”. This has to be heard to be believed. I stayed until I had to run for the last bus from Crowngate back to Welland (yes, you did read that right) which meant that I had to miss the second half of the set. It also meant that I got home though so that was alright. Unfortunately, shortly after selecting my White Stripes playlist on my iPod for the journey home (fitting I thought) and getting on the bus, my three pints caught up with me and the resulting need for the toilet tortured me for the entire journey home (a full forty minutes due to the bus going via Hanley Swan AND Upton). I leapt from the bus at my stop and vaulted over the church wall. Had I realised that the ground on the other side was considerably lower than the pavement I probably wouldn’t have jumped with quite so much urgency. After picking myself up I was able to relieve myself against the wall. Unfortunately a couple of giggling girls chose that exact moment to walk past along the pavement and catching the sight of the top of my head and a pair of furtive eyes beneath it, they squealed and ran off. I would forever be known to them as that guy who likes to hide out in church yards and pee. The graveyard was much harder to leave than it had been to enter and I had to contend with brambles, branches and other nasties and after emerging I looked like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards; the fact that I’d dragged myself through the hedge in question didn’t make any difference. Despite the unusual finish to the evening it had been a good night though. My next adventure will be a night out with Dom. Wish me luck!

In A World…

Where the debate is all, one man must struggle to find everyone’s opinion…

The Cats Vs Dogs battle has been fought; the victors proved to be the cat-doting hoards. It’s upsetting that I’m having my coffee and canine world overturned by the tea-drinking cat-loving masses but it’s time to move on.

This Holiday Season… I’d be very interested to know how everyone’s movie-going Summer is coming along. Namely, what’s been your favourite Summer blockbuster of the year so far? I’ve now had the chance to see Mission: Impossible 3, The Da Vinci Code and X-Men: The Last Stand and with the exception of Hugh Jackman and Co have found the experience to be lacking. It didn’t help that M:I:3 (or M:I:D as I’ve renamed it due to it’s causing Multi-Infarct Dementia in my fragile little mind) had its sound levels so high that every explosion caused pain, but did it have to be so awful? The stunts and the action were spot on but why does a film like this feel the need to justify itself by trying to be so clever? In a film that is defined by its action, why bother to include ridiculous plot twists that cause the film to disappear up its own arse and why use a cast of very gifted actors when your characters are unbelievable, paper thin and spout poorly written dialogue? I just wanted to see some stuff blow up…

I don’t know where to start with The Da Vinci Code as it was entirely my own fault. I should have realised that the combination of Ron Howard and Tom Hanks would prove fatal but good marketing, hype, and work of mouth overcame my suspicions. I wish they hadn’t because that was two hours of my life (at least) that I’ll never get back!

How about your goods selves; how have you fared? Have you had different experiences to me? And are you looking forward to the remainder of the Summer blockbusters; Pirate of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest and Superman Returns?

Do tell.

Little Acts of Kindness

“Little acts of kindness; Make us all feel better.” How true. Monday had seen me spend me all day at Malvern College making a small amount of headway with the interminable dull CLAiT course I’m currently doing. Now don’t laugh, I’m not doing this because I’m entirely computer illiterate, merely because I have no recognised computer qualification and I did have to admit to myself that I’d never actually been shown how to use Excel, Database or Power Point and probably should know. I foolishly thought I’d be able to gain my qualification in a couple of mornings but so far it’s taken a little longer than that. Mainly because the supervisor has to spend a lot of time with people who need a lot of attention (my class mates range from people with learning difficulties to people with attention issues, people with both and older folk with no grasp of IT whatsoever) and despite the fact that I’m doing very basic stuff and completing an assessment is very straightforward I still need to be handed the actual exercises and assessments. Consequently I complete my task and then have to wait around for ages for an audience with teacher. I’m getting a lot of reading done but it’s so slow and frustrating. Anyway a day of this and I’m ready to kill someone. Or maybe it was the other way round. Dad collected me on Monday afternoon and informed me that a “tube” had arrived for me. I didn’t recall ordering anything and I didn’t think I’d been doing any sleep shopping or making any drunken bids on eBay so I was puzzled. I asked Father if the tube had made any ticking noises or smelled peculiar but he didn’t think it was an assassination attempt. I got home and saw that the tube in question had a California postmark on it once I saw Mr LJC’s name on it I guessed instantly that it must be a movie poster. But which one? Tearing away tape with fury I was delighted to find a glossy new Casino Royale poster with Craigy looking his most convincing yet as “Her Majesty’s Loyal Terrier”.

Thanks Mr Cinema Purveyor!