Software, Hardware, Silverware

Entries tagged: Music

Everybody loves music. The Beatles and Vampire Weekend are the best at it, though.

Repeat Stuff

I’m an on-again off-again fan of Bo Burnham. His TV show on MTV was amazing, one of the highest quality, funniest single seasons of television I have ever seen. His latest special, “what.”, was terrible. This song, “Repeat Stuff”, was one of the only decent moments from the special. The video is out today and I think it is his best music video to date.

Apple Buys Beats

The Beats deal is real:

“Music is such an important part of Apple’s DNA and always will be,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “The addition of Beats will make our music lineup even better, from free streaming with iTunes Radio to a world-class subscription service in Beats, and of course buying music from the iTunes Store as customers have loved to do for years.”

The iPod of Prison

Joshua Hunt for The New Yorker:

The pocket analog radio, known by the bland model number SRF-39FP, is a Sony “ultralight” model manufactured for prisons. Its clear housing is meant to prevent inmates from using it to smuggle contraband, and, at under thirty dollars, it is the most affordable Sony radio on the prison market.

Pull Your Head Out of Your Ass, Bon Iver

Dan Ozzi for Noisey on Justin Vernon’s imminent retirement:

You get to travel the world, playing massive venues packed to the brim with cute hipster chicks looking to get down on your Bone Iver. And then you play “Skinny Love” and the entire room’s humidity goes up from the audience collectively soaking through their polka dot rompers. If you wanted to, you could easily throw orgies where you are the default stud in a 1000-person fuckfest of Zooey Deschanel look alikes. In fact, you could probably just bang the real Zooey Deschanel if you wanted to. Actually, have you ever banged Zooey Deschanel? She was married to the dude from Death Cab For Cutie and your songs are like, a million times wussier than his!

The Worst Song of This or Any Other Year

Rob Sheffield for Rolling Stone:

Note: I have zero interest in persuading you to agree with me. If you enjoy “Blurred Lines,” I wouldn’t dream of changing your mind. But I’m still amazed, after all these months of airplay, at my immature and irrational loathing for this song. Understand, it’s not simply a reasoned critical perspective, pointing out the obvious flaws in craft and tone. It’s more like: I want to hurt this song. I want to wound it emotionally. I would fantasize about punching this song in the nose, if songs had noses. I want this song to cry.

“Blurred Lines” is nominated for two Grammies.

Oh, and this:

Nothing in 2013 sucked like “Blurred Lines.” And this was the year we got a Leonardo DiCaprio remake of The Great Gatsby. Everything next year will just have to suck a little harder.

Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2013

Smart list.

“Like a Rolling Stone” Official Video

48 years after its debut, Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” (Rolling Stone’s #1 song of all time) has an official video. It’s interactive and (sadly) Flash-based — best viewed in a desktop browser.

Viola Organista

Robert Sorokanich for Gizmodo:

From the audience, this instrument looks like a typical grand piano. Then the maestro takes his seat and begins to play. It’s a sound nobody has heard before, because this instrument, designed by Leonardo Da Vinci five centuries ago, has just been built for the very first time. And it sounds heavenly.

The viola organista was invented by da Vinci with characteristics of a harpsichord, an organ and a cello. In the place of a piano’s felt hammers, spinning wheels draw across the strings like a violinist’s bow. The player operates a foot pedal to spin the wheels, playing notes on a keyboard identical to a piano’s. But the sound, sinewy like a stringed instrument but with a piano’s direct, well-defined tones, defies comparison to traditional instruments.

The Ohio State University Marching Band’s Hollywood Blockbuster Show

These guys are good. (Nothing beats the horse though.)

Pandora to Lift 40 Hour/Month Limit September 1

Gee, I wonder why.

“I Won’t Say I’m in Love”

From Hercules. A break from the usual, but this is just a really great song. I wish Disney would get back into making classic, two-dimensional animated films. The Princess and the Frog gave us all a little hope, and then nothing.

Six Year Old Kills It On America’s Got Talent

Wait for it…

iTunes Radio Royalties 10x Higher Than Pandora

Husain Sumra:

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple sent its iTunes Radio terms to independent record labels last week and the paper was able to review a copy of the contract. It dictates that Apple will pay record labels both in royalties on individual song plays, as well as how much advertising Apple is able to sell.

During iTunes Radio’s first year, Apple will pay a label 0.13 cents each time a song is played, as well as 15% of net advertising revenue, proportionate to a given label’s share of the music played on iTunes. In the second year, that bumps up to 0.14 cents per listen, plus 19% of ad revenue.

That’s compared to the 0.12 cents — that Pandora pays labels per play, although the paper says Apple will be paying publishers more than twice as much in royalties than Pandora. For streaming music, publishers and record labels are paid independently.

As I suspected, iTunes Radio will be paying significantly more than Pandora. More than ten times as much, actually. While $0.13 may not look like a lot, keep in mind that the sale of a song generates only $0.70.

My Song Got Played On Pandora 1 Million Times and All I Got Was $16.89

David Lowery:

As a songwriter Pandora paid me $16.89* for 1,159,000 play of ‘Low’ last quarter. Less than I make from a single T-shirt sale. Okay that’s a slight exaggeration. That’s only the premium multi-color long sleeve shirts and that’s only at venues that don’t take commission. But still.

This is absurd. As the artist, he has zero recourse.

One more reason to drop Pandora this fall for iTunes Radio1.

  1. That said, I haven’t heard any similar horror stories regarding iTunes so I’m hoping that iTunes Radio will be paying artists fairly. I don’t actually know for sure. ↩︎

Modern Vampires

Last year when Jukebox the Ghost released their third album, Safe Travels, I was critical of it for getting too serious at a detriment to the fun and upbeat style I loved about them. I posited a theory of “third album syndrome” and wondered if Vampire Weekend could escape it. Turns out they could. Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend’s third effort, is out now. I’ve been listening to it for a week now, and it’s my favorite album of all time.

Modern Vampires is a continuation of the technological experimentation first pushed with 2010’s Contra. Auto tune, pitch-shifting, and echoes all play a part in the first single off the album, “Diane Young”. It’s modern, in that it is available to the band only through computers, but it sounds and feels completely natural. It’s so tastefully done you don’t recognize it as techno. It’s just good punk rock.

Modern Vampires of the City on Vinyl

Modern Vampires pushes also the clever lyrics and wordplay we’ve come to expect of Vampire Weekend. “Leave me to myself / Lead me to my cell” is a particular favorite, off “Everlasting Arms”. “Hannah Hunt” is brimmed with eloquent lyrics: “A gardener told me some plants move but I could not believe it / Til me and Hannah Hunt saw crawling vines and weeping willows / As we made our way from Providence to Phoenix”.

“Hannah Hunt” is my favorite track off the album, and I think Vampire Weekend’s best track to date. It, like all of the songs on Modern Vampires, has been ceaselessly iterated upon. Nuances catch your attention the third, fourth, and eighth times you listen to it (and you will). When Ezra Koenig sings “In Santa Barbara…” the guitar shifts to a tropical sound and you can hear the lapping waves of the ocean in the background. It may sound cheasy reading about it, but trust me, it is beautiful. “Hannah Hunt” is a soft track for two and a half minutes, and then five drum beats bring it into the most equisite ninety seconds of songmaking I’ve ever heard.

All of the songs give of this aura of development and iteration. It is clear that the Vampires have been relentless pursued perfection on this record. Each song is handcrafted and stands on its own. At the same time, they are together cohesive and tell a story. Said Rostam Batmanglij (guitar, keyboard, and backup vocals) in a recent interview:

I think we realized there’s no easy way to arrive at having twelve songs that you’re very proud of. There’s no shortcuts that can be taken. You just have to write and write and write and rewrite and revise. Hopefully that’s what we’ll always do. We’ll always be as hard on ourselves as we were on this record.

If I had one major criticism of Vampire’s debut, it would be that the tracks were too individual. Individually great, yes, but as a whole it eas clear the album was a collection of singles. Contra swung perhaps too far in the other direction; the songs didn’t stand quite so well on their own. Modern Vampires of the City is right in the middle. It’s best listened to as a whole, straight through, but you can shuffle it into your other music as you please. I don’t imagine you’ll want to listen to anything else, though. At least for a while.

Waiting three years for Modern Vampires sucked, no doubt. But if this is what Vampire Weekend can deliver with three years of work, then bring on 2016.

MVOTC is Here

Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend’s third studio effort, is in stores today.

A ‘Space Oddity’ in Space

Commander Chris Hadfield filmed the first music video shot in space, to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.

Vampire Weekend at the Roseland Ballroom

These Vampire kids are pretty good. (Don’t watch if you don’t want to be spoiled for Modern Vampires of the City.)

UPDATE: The video of the entire performance has been removed, but videos of a few individual songs are now up. I’ve replaced the link for this post to the video for “Ya Hey”.

Update 2: A “director’s cut” of the Roseland Ballroom performance is now on YouTube. But who knows how long that’ll last.

Unveiled: ‘Diane Young’

Vampire Weekend embraces technology so tastefully and to such great effect. They are the kings of modern music.

Vampire Weekend Debuts Two New Songs

From the double A-side single, Diane Young / Step: “Diane Young” and “Step”. No iTunes link yet.

UPDATE: Modern Vampires of the City is available for preorder on iTunes, and you’ll receive “Diane Young” right away (no joy for “Step”).

The Postal Service Debuts a New Song

It’s called “A Tattered Line of String”, and yes… it’s good.


The 25 billionth song, “Monkey Drums” (Goksel Vancin Remix) by Chase Buch, was purchased by Phillip Lüpke from Germany. As the downloader of the 25 billionth song, Phillip will receive a €10,000 iTunes® Gift Card.

Modern Vampires of the City

Vampire Weekend this morning announced the title of their next album: Modern Vampires of the City. I don’t know how I feel about that, but the album artwork and disc artwork they’ve released alongside it are gorgeous.

Vampire Weekend to Release Third Album in May

Vampire Weekend on Twitter:

LP3 complete. May 7th.

The Rolling Stones’ ‘Doom and Gloom’

The Rolling Stones’ new single.

Ohio State Marching Band Performs Half-Time Video Game Tribute

The highlight of last night the entire college football season was Ohio State’s half-time show. My freshman year of high school, our marching band tried something similar; it wasn’t quite as impressive.

Third Album Syndrome

Safe Travels, Jukebox the Ghost’s newest album, is out this month. I’ve finally got the chance to give it a listen, and I’m sad to report that Jukebox has fallen ill to what I’ll call “Third Album Syndrome”.

The album, their third, lacks the upbeat, happy that hooked me into Jukebox about a year ago. With Let Live and Let Ghosts and Everything Under the Sun, Jukebox crafted a masterpiece that I can listen to on repeat for hours and never tire of. The only other band that’s captured me in such a way is Vampire Weekend. I’ve actually drawn several comparisons between the two groups: in both cases, the first album contained many great singles that are fantastic to listen to on their own. Both band’s sophomore albums contained more mature tracks and more cohesive albums that are enjoyed best when listen to as a whole. And with both bands, their songs (at least on a surface level) talked about inconsequential topics (commas, UFOs) that might be a bit obscure, but — importantly — aren’t whiny, bitchy, or moany.

Safe Travels, on the other hand, is definitively serious. I’m not necessarily even referring to the lyrics, but to the songs in general. There’s a certain moodiness and angst to the entire album1 that makes it a much less fun to listen to, and Jukebox the Ghost’s fun was one of its best attributes. “Everybody Knows”, the twelfth track from Safe Travels is the notable exception and my favorite track from the album. It manages to capture some of the magic of “Schizophrenia” and “Hold It In”. So there’s hope.

A Plucked Guitar String

This is a blind and probably ignorant/arrogant assumption, but I get the impression that young (or maybe just small) bands think that at a certain point they need to “get serious” with their music. The problem is that their Hakuna Matata-nature2 is what we fell in love with in the first place, and if you change that, what do you have left? That’s what I call “Third Album Syndrome”, and I hope Jukebox can come back from it.

Perhaps I haven’t given this album enough time, and perhaps my opinion will change like it did with Contra. I still love Jukebox’s non-standard instrumentation and Ben Thornewill’s vocals, but I am concerned for album number four, and worried about Vampire Weekend’s third.

  1. I have no idea how to write about music. ↩︎

  2. Seriously, not a damn clue. ↩︎

Robot Quadrotors Perform James Bond Theme

Who’s excited for Skyfall?

An Ode to the Compact Disk

Linus Edwards:

Looking at the remaining rows of CDs, all resting in their growingly antiquated plastic cases, it reminded me of Toy Story. I could picture anthropomorphized CDs coming to life after the Best Buy closed for the night, lamenting how they are ignored, how their friends have been taken away, how they soon will be shipped to the surplus warehouse to spend their remaining days before unceremoniously being crushed in a trash compacter.

If a new album is coming out that I’m really jonesing for, I tend to buy the disk. It feels, as Edwards says, much more substantial and real than a list of songs in iTunes.

Eddy Cue Accepts Grammy Award on Behalf of Steve Jobs

Eddy Cue:

On behalf of Steve’s wife, Laurene, his children, and everyone at Apple, I’d like to thank you for honoring Steve with the Trustees Grammy Award. Steve was a visionary, a mentor, and a very close friend. I had the incredible honor of working with him for the last fifteen years.

Accepting this award means so much to me because music meant so much to him. He told us that music shaped his life…it made him who he was. Everyone that knows Steve knows the profound impact that artists like Bob Dylan and The Beatles had on him.
Steve was focused on bringing music to everyone in innovative ways. We talked about it every single day. When he introduced the iPod in 2001, people asked “Why is Apple making a music player?” His answer was simple: “We love music, and it’s always good to do something you love.

His family and I know that this Grammy would have been very special to him, so I thank you for honoring him today.