Author Archive

Are We Entering A Post-Piracy Era Of Music?

September 1, 2010

With the announcement today of new iPods and a new iTunes, I think it’s time we reflected on how far we’ve come since the days of Napster and the wild west of music downloading. Along with the introduction of brand new iPods, etc. come some cold hard facts about music downloads in the current music retail climate. The numbers are fairly impressive, at least from an iTunes standpoint. In little more than a decade, iTunes has become the largest music retailer on the planet. Translation: people are buying music. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t twice as many people still downloading music illegally, but it’s a significant change that’s worth noting.

I had an enlightening moment two days ago when I went to download a Prince song (…illegally). I wasn’t looking for an entire album (BitTorrent), but only a single track from Prince’s seminal Purple Rain. How to get it? All my previous methods of obtaining a song illegally have been exhausted. LimeWire has lost in court, the other P2Ps having dropped out years ago. Even Lala, a site I had high hopes for in its golden era, has been shut down. I chuckle to myself as I realize I have nowhere to go but Amazon or iTunes to procure the track I’m looking for. What has the world come to?

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Thank God The Harry Potter World Doesn’t Take Place In America

August 15, 2010

There’s nothing that wasted college kids, retired school teachers, and seven-year-olds love to talk about more than Harry Potter. The endless debates about the death of Dumbledore (sorry, that happens in book five), how hot Emma Watson is, and what house you would be sorted into if you attended Hogwarts will never end. And for good reason. J.K. Rowling has done more than write a handful of children’s novels about magic; she’s created a living, breathing world that exists in movies, merchandising, and now a theme park. The other day, as my mind wandered to the world of muggles, potions, and Butterbeer, I started thinking about what it would be like if the world of Harry Potter was set in the United States. It’s an important distinction that the Potter-verse resides on the other side of the Atlantic, where people have a long history of getting wasted at footy matches civilized behavior and unbridled, worldwide imperialism royal traditions.

People in the United States are lazy. Sure, people in the UK are lazy too, but not on the scale and depth Americans have achieved. As an avid reader of the Harry Potter series several years ago, I would always wonder what my life would be like if I had the ability to practice magic in the confines of my own home. Countless times I imagined saying “Accio Remote!” lying in a state of atrophy, surrounded by Cheetos to no avail. Or shouted “Expecto Patronum!” at a party in hopes of impressing the hot girl in the room with your Elk/Bear/manly animal patronus. This is when I realized that as Americans, we would inevitably use spells and magic solely to make our lives easier than they already are.

Examples of which will be explored with Granger-esque thoroughness after the jump.

YouTube No Longer The People’s Republic of Video?

July 28, 2010

In the last week  I’ve been reading more than I’ve been watching videos. Lord knows, I’m no bookworm: the last book I successfully read before I plugged myself into the Matrix was assigned to me by a teacher. Instead of watching videos, I’ve been reading cease and desist notices, and “content removed by ____”. This past week I had a hard time enjoying videos I’ve come across on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, et al. because it seems as though YouTube is no longer the fountain of free content that I, along with the billions of other people on the web, have come to trust. Exhibit A:

Click for bigger version

Two weeks ago I attended a tremendous concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Kings of Leon did more than just impress me and my set of low expectations, they played a few new songs from a forthcoming album. New material from a band that’s been touring on the legs of a platinum selling album for several years is always worth noting. One track in particular, called “Immortals” was the highlight of the entire set for me. I was excited to upload my first HD video, shot on my new iPhone 4 because the audio quality came out great. Several days after uploading, I received an email and when I tried to visit the video’s page, I saw this (above). Don’t worry, I posted it on Vimeo instead. See below for face melting rock:

As someone who still avidly pays for music, something most of America can no longer say, I am in support of artists’ right to profit as the next 75 year old music industry executive. But let’s consider the facts on this: the song HAS NOT BEEN RELEASED in any form that requires money to obtain. Therefore, all I am doing, by publishing a live video of Kings of Leon KILLING IT on a new track, is providing the band, it’s record label, its management company, etc. FREE publicity at my own expense. If, let’s say, the video becomes popular (not double rainbow popular, but popular), there are hundreds of thousands of people watching a free promotional video of the Kings of Leon doing what they do best. Not to mention if someone sees the video and says “I wasn’t going to go to see Kings of Leon on this tour but if they are playing new material it will definitely be worth it!” You’re welcome, LiveNation/Ticketmaster/Budweiser/t-shirt vendors.

So why such flagrant acts of corporate tyranny these days? Just the other day I went to check out the iPhone 4 vs. EVO videos that have a BestBuy employee in hot water and got a similar message. I’m not surprised by these messages, they’ve always been there every time I went to watch a classic Will Ferrell SNL sketch, but I have definitely been seeing them rear their ugly heads more frequently than usual. These might be glitches in my browser or the Google servers, but if Chrome can’t load embedded YouTube videos on the regular, there’s no hope for anything working correctly. This is just another example of how completely misguided major entertainment companies are in their quest to make a profit off of YouTube. They want  to charge people for something they are accustomed to getting for free, if they can’t charge them for it, they take the content down. Despite what they might think, this is not a business model.

Even If You Don’t Understand, Buzzwords Will Make You Sound In-The-Know

June 8, 2010

The moment I knew the BP oil spill was serious was the first time I heard the term “top kill.” As an avid video game enthusiast, hearing the term during my morning commute tuned into KCRW, Los Angeles’ NPR affiliate, was like a shotgun firing down my spine. In my semi-delusional state (I’ve taken to drinking coffee after arriving at work to allow for maximum sleepage), the words top kill awoke me from fading away into the gray skies of the Angeleno dubbed June Gloom. But whereas I assumed NPR was reporting on the new HALO: REACH beta testing, I became aware of something much more life-threatening and pressing. Within hours, people around me were using the term as if it were the first words they’d ever spoken. “Oh well, sure the top kill could work but what about all those fish!”… “Dude, no way the top kill will be successful”… It was as if I had awoken from a dream in a post-apocalyptic, blood-currency wasteland where people were using terms of weaponry and violence as water-cooler talk. Despite having a vague understanding of what the term meant, I couldn’t shake the Mad Max and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 imagery from my mind.

This is classic of the media today, though. Whatever political pundit or news media doofus latched onto the term in a moment of elevated exasperation, the phrase was destined to become the talk of business meetings and lunchroom arguments alike. How many times in the last few years has the media created a term, or some government official spouted off a phrase that has become more than a viral video or internet meme, but an actual buzzword enveloped by the collective unconscious. People found themselves uttering the phrase, myself included, without warning or any effort to understand what it meant. A Google search results in mostly news articles but this gem is straight from the horse’s mouth: a jpeg diagram explaining the phrase from none other than BP. Click below to see bigger image.

Top Kill is an oil company operation, not the Hollywood re-boot of Top Gun

Of course the procedure didn’t work. With a name as buzzwordy as top kill it was never going to work. While I have yet to form any substantial opinion on the matters in the gulf, I do find it amusing that people use silly sounding explanations for things they don’t understand so quickly in this day and age. How can you not? If you sit at a computer with Facebook, Twitter, CNN, and The Huffington Post open in various tabs all day, it’s impossible to not succumb to it completely. I hope the government finds a solution soon though, or it will just become one more thing the Republicans can use against Obama next election [that they directly caused]. Just watch as Oil Spill is added to the list of Obama’s shortcomings including Failed War on Terror and Healthcare: all things that were created or failed under the guise of Republican foresight.

In Closing, A Poem… Goodbye ‘LOST’

May 23, 2010

Have you ever been ‘LOST’?

Have you ever been a man (or woman) of faith?
Have you ever craved peanut butter so badly you could taste?
Have you ever felt… out of place?

If you could change any moment, would you choose a different path?
If you had to save a loved one, would you suffer a smoke monster’s wrath?

Could you initiate a gigantic blast, if it meant saving your friends from having to relive their pasts?
Could you face another flash, if it meant having to listen to a cocky conman’s sass?

Would you suffer through pain, in a ditch, in the rain…
Knowing you were destined to be the pawn in someone else’s game?
Returning on a raft, could you handle all the fame?
Could you lie to all the world and pretend that you were sane?

Have you ever feared ten numbers or written hundreds of names on a wall?
Have you saved a man’s life who just experienced a devastating fall?
Have you escaped from a collapsed cave by struggling through a crawl?
Have you ever felt betrayed, seeing an old friend run to snag a football?

Would you turn another key…. to save one, instead of many?
Would you push the button? Jump down a well? Torture someone just to see…
A phone ringing, a freighter, a call on Christmas Eve

Could you kill your husband, when looking down the sights?
The father of your child, left to only whisper in the night
If you had to make a choice between what was wrong and what was right,
could you stab your mother in the back in search of a golden light?

Have you ever been left facing the barrel of a gun?
Have you ever gotten free but watched on as someone takes your son?
Have you ever desired answers but had to settle for just one?
Have you ever committed arson and spent your entire life on the run?

Could you promise to save a man, you hate with all your being?
If a cripple began to walk, would seeing become believing?
If you were shot in the back as a child, would you still be left breathing?
If you knew you’d never come back would you still plan on leaving?

Have you drank a bottle of McCutcheon and told your life story while you were sauced?
Have you ever stepped over a line of ash that’s never been crossed?
Have you died? Have you been reborn? Have you lost the ability to walk?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then you know what’s its like… to have been LOST

Click here to download a PDF version!

Things That Have Been Occupying My Time

May 13, 2010

In all the time I spent NOT blogging, you’d think I had conquered Mount Everest, slain Smog, built the Great Wall of America, or learned something. Unfortunately none of these things is true. In the time since I last posted (I won’t bother actually looking at the date; I’ll just assume it was some time short of a year but more than a week), I haven’t done all that much. But there are a few things that seem worth mentioning, in case you’ve been turning to this site as a means to achieve ultimate hipster status or perhaps learn the meaning of life. QUICK TIP: achieving ultimate hipster status is the same thing as discovering the meaning of life. Check out this link, BTW, for more detailed answers.

I bought a Buddha Machine. Ever heard of it? Didn’t think so. To many people, the thought of owning a Buddha Machine will seem completely pointless. If the idea of paying $25 for a lo-fi, self-contained, ambient music looping piece of plastic isn’t appealing to you? Then you need not apply. Let me take that sentiment a step further: if you’re not into that kind of thing, I’m not into YOU. Please remove me from your vacuous, self-righteously maintained Facebook friends list. The Buddha Machine is a brilliant device, created by two Chinese ambient music producers. The concept is simple: buy the device, listen to the audio coming out of it, switch between nine separate loops ranging in length, [insert heady way to pass the time], fall asleep. I really love the little guy. I picked it up from Amoeba and got to feel cooler than any of my friends for at least a day. Money well spent, in my book. Did I mention this site allows you to play up to 21 at the same time?

More things that have been occupying DJ Steve’s time after the jump!

‘LOST’ + The Get Up Kids = Emo Fantasy Tie-Ins

February 23, 2010

SEMI-SPOILER ALERT

OK, as of right now I am looking at t-minus seven hours until official PST LOST episode commencement. Needless to say, like most of the western world who is unfortunately being disappointed yet still gripped by the final season, my mind is a jumble of theories, flash-forwards, flashbacks, and insignificant (or are they?) points about the show. A few weeks back, after a hearty drinking session with a co-worker who shared most, if not all, of my music listening habits of the late 1990s, I went back and started listening again to one of my all time favorite bands The Get Up Kids [RIP]. Headed down this path of musical re-enlightenment, little did I know that my constantly wandering LOST-mind would draw uncanny parallels to songs I have listened to for years without ever making a connection.

I present to you, readers, the song “Valentine” by TGUK: a quintessential track off their quintessential album, Something To Write Home About. This song defined what people came to love about the band. It also ultimately led to their downfall as the band, increasingly tired of their “emo” moniker, felt forced to aggressively alter their sound and, in turn, alienate many fans. The song is below in video form and the lyrics are found after the jump. Bear with me for the mind-melting LOST tie-in.

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While Ke$ha Sets Records, Uffie Actually Produces Music Worth Bumping

February 1, 2010

Recently I’ve been exposed to the creative juggernaut that is: Ke$ha. Before you say you’ve never heard of her, stop… you have. And if you haven’t you’re probably someone who still considers the Moody Blues a contemporary artist. In 2010, Ke$ha has already been busy breaking music industry records. I consider this about as impressive/telling as setting a new hi-score in Contra, Paperboy, or any other game on a long outdated medium, but it’s worth noting nonetheless. Just about a week ago, she set the record on Billboard’s Pop Songs radio airplay chart with a mind-numbing 11,224 plays inside of one week. What does this speak less highly of: commercial radio or mankind at large? Let’s pause to digest the magic that enabled the young, blonde artist to become the 12th woman in history to “…send her debut single and album to No. 1 on the Hot 100 and Billboard 200, respectively” (Billboard.com):

Digest that? Let’s move on.

Vampire Weekend’s ‘Contra’: A Triumph Of Fine Tuned Complacency

January 21, 2010

As of last week, Vampire Weekend released their follow up to 2008’s self-titled greatest hit. If you’re like me, you picked up the new “disc” just last week on the release date but most of the Western world have been listening to leaked tracks from it since at least a month after their first album was released. In the indie world, Vampire Weekend is as hyped as they come. For a band that has managed to garner a serious following in a few short years, their songs are often characteristically uncomplex; exercises in capturing the spirit of a Woody Allen film from the 1970s, a time when none of the members were born yet. If you can believe it, there was a time a few years ago when Vampire Weekend was nothing more than a whisper of Columbia University English majors, buzzing with an excitement not felt since word spread about whatever bullshit band came before them. But now, the band can boast several tours and two full length releases in the last three years. None can doubt their formidable presence in the collective consciousness of college frat bros and Brooklyn hipsters alike.

With Contra, Vampire Weekend has done the unthinkable: they made a sophomore album with only a tinge of sophomoric-ness. I would have said it was complete devoid of all sophomore release clichés until “Run” came on, horns a blaring. But the beauty of the band and their songs can be found in the drastically understated choice of album art this time around (see picture, right, click for bigger image). To me, this image captures the essence of the band and the album in many ways. The girl, young and beautiful, seen here in a moment of half-surprise. Her half-popped, yellow Polo an example of restrained high-class culture and leisure. The mildly bemused expression on her face seems to suggest a passive relationship with the rest of the world in love with her. This is Vampire Weekend: young, talented, brimming with irony and offering a whimsical music catalog to the world with a casual sense of self-awareness but not without an air of arrogance.

More?

Prisoners At Gitmo Testify To Being Forced To Rock

October 22, 2009

Bansky GitmoThrough new interviews with detainees, startling new techniques of interrogation have been discovered from the halls of Guantanamo Bay. In my long standing career as a Qualified Torturer of Sisters (QTS), I never realized the American government was utilizing the same tactics. New information reveals that prisoners were forced to listen to a range of American music at loud volumes, including the Sesame Street song!? BRUTAL. And here I am as a young lad thinking this kind of audio assault was only useful at detaining my sister in her room. Here is the list of music used, via CNN: Gitmo Playlist.

Judging by the tracklist, it’s clear that the songs were selected well before 2009, with possible evidence to suggest they were selected as far back as 2000. Who is this mysterious “Limp Bizkit” band? There is no evidence of their existence today. Also, judging by the range of genres used, it’s clear that it was created before the advent of the Genius Mix. The Bee Gees on the same mix as Saliva? iTunes wouldn’t stand for such injustice today. What’s even more shocking is that the government is clearly demonstrating use of illegal downloading procedures. In 2005, tell me what MP3 store you could find the following tracks:

  1. The Barney Theme Song
  2. “Meow Mix” Jingle
  3. The Sesame Street Theme Song

Uhhhhh, using LimeWire to speed up the interrogation process much, George W.? I’m with the rest of the bleeding heart liberals on this front: Guantanamo Bay needs to be closed, if only for introducing foreign nationals to some of the worst examples of American music EVER. Chalk this one up to “Why They Hate Us“, Fareed Zakaria; if I had to listen to (Hed) P.E. more than ten seconds a day, I’d start reevaluating my allegiances as well.