Archive for the 'recorded music' Category


Covers vs. Originals

Here’s a series of related questions:

Is the original version of a song always better than a cover version?


Is the version that you heard first (original or cover) always better (in your opinion) because it’s what you’re used to?


Are there any examples of cover versions you heard after already being familiar with the original where you feel the cover is the better version?

Please share your thoughts in the comments.


iPod upgrade

I got my iPod Mini in early 2004 and it’s been pretty solid since, though its relatively small storage capacity has been a source of frustration from time to time.  In the last year, however, the battery life really tanked.  Not only did it not play for long after being charged, but if I charged it up on Friday and didn’t use it all weekend, it would be totally dead on Monday morning.  That got pretty annoying.  So, I had been thinking about buying a new iPod.  I wanted something that had good battery life and large enough capacity to store almost my entire music catalog with some room to spare.  However, I didn’t like the idea of spending hundreds of dollars on a new iPod when my current iPod still basically worked.  So I decided to upgrade my Mini. Continue reading ‘iPod upgrade’


Music news

I think it’s been a while since I’ve written anything about music. That’s not entirely surprising, though, since I didn’t really have anything to write about. Last night, however, I got a new album: Reinventing the Wheel by Andy Gullahorn. I’ve known about him for quite some time since he’s a good friend and frequent collaborator of Andrew Peterson. However, I had never really listened to any of his stuff until the last few days. For some reason, I decided to check out Jill Phillips, who is Andy Gullahorn’s wife and her site led me to his, which I have enjoyed (for its humor content) since the days when he still used Microsoft Word to create it (which is actually not that long ago). Anyway, I found the Youtube ad (which is pretty funny) he created to promote his new album and I got interested in hearing more of his stuff. So, I listened to some of his stuff on his MySpace page and to the 30-second clips of his songs on iTunes.

Finally, I just bought the album.  I don’t regret it. I’ve listened to it the whole way through a few times and I really like it. There are a few stand-out songs on it, either because I really like the music (“Original Cliche”, “Nobody Wants to Work”), or because the subject matter resonates with me (“That Guy”, “More of a Man”). Overall, it’s a solid album. He is a very talented guitarist and a capable singer. Although much of his website and his commercial is very silly, his songs are pretty sober (except for “Roast Beef”, which is about his friend, Andrew Osenga, losing one of his toes to his lawnmower).  Well, I would say that the themes in the songs are sober, but the way in which they’re presented is sometimes silly.  I think I would liken it to a good serious movie – some humorous elements are interspersed in order to prevent the movie from becoming totally morose.

In any case, many of the songs are thought-provoking, so I feel like the album is intellectually and/or spiritually satisfying as well as musically satisfying.  He’s a Christian and some of the songs have Christian themes, but I would say that this album is generally more accessible to non-Christians than Andrew Peterson’s albums.  In fact, probably only 3 (out of 11) songs have explicitly Christian themes (“Desperate Man”, “That Guy”,”Holy Ground”).  He sings about his family a lot (“How Precious Life Is”, “Desperate Man”, “Alright Here”, “More of a Man”,”Enough Time”, “Give It Time”) , which resonates strongly with me but might not be so powerful to single folks or those with no kids.  If you’re intrigued by my assessment of it, check out his stuff on his MySpace page and listen to it for yourself.



Ok, so this post isn’t actually about potpourri. Rather, it’s just a mix of a bunch of stuff that I’ve collected over the last two weeks.

  1. The Pirates won again tonight (2nd in a row) after losing 6 straight, including being swept again by the Cubs. Matt Morris and Adam LaRoche are officially terrible. Nate McLouth, Xavier Nady, and Ryan Doumit are awesome.
  2. I had thought about starting a new segment on my blog where I post a line from a song to see if people can figure out what song it’s from. Then, I realized that, in the age of the internet, that task is trivially easy. I had planned on using the line “Who put the shield around the ‘k’?”, from “K for Karnival” by Nothing Painted Blue but just typing the line into Google gives you the answer. Curse you, internet.
  3. I also thought about introducing a repeating segment in which I would post a picture as a RAW file and have people submit their take on it. I may still do this if people are interested.
  4. On Patriot’s Day our family had an outing to see the Boston Marathon. On our way home, I saw this:



    That’s right, a “Wii Sports” jacket. Now, I like my Wii as much as the next guy, but I’m not about to wear something like this.  That said, the “Wii Sports” jacket is a step above the bowling pin costume I saw the same day:


    Alright.  I think that’s enough for now.  I’ll post more when the mood strikes.


What to do about music on tape and LP

Yesterday I bought “Thick as a Brick” by Jethro Tull from the iTunes store using a gift card I got for Christmas. The obnoxious part of this is that I already own the album, albeit on cassette. As a matter of fact, I own a lot of music on cassette. I don’t think I got a CD player until around 1994, so the music I bought up to that point was mostly on cassette or vinyl.

In any case, the 1990’s were a great time for record companies. In addition to all the new music they were selling, they were selling lots of CDs because people were migrating their music collections from cassette and LP to CD. Part of the difficulty the music industry has had in the last few years is that they had gotten used to extra revenue from people re-buying music they already owned in order to migrate to CD. However, for most people, this migration is now complete and record companies’ revenues have fallen dramatically. Furthermore, while people are now migrating their CDs to MP3, that can be done without buying the music again (though the RIAA has argued that ripping a CD and adding it to your iTunes library does not qualify as fair use.)

I think I’ve added most of the CDs I own to my iTunes library, but there’s still a lot of music I own that is much more difficult to import. Some of it I have already bought in digital form from eMusic (Pavement, Superchunk, Pixies), which wasn’t too painful since it only cost me like $0.30/track. However, not all of the music I own on cassette and LP is available from eMusic. If I want to add this music to my computer-based digital collection I have the following options, roughly in order of potential illegality (least to most):

  1. Re-buy the music from iTunes or Amazon (or elsewhere). (This is the most unquestionably legal approach, though some tracks are not available in digital form (eg. b-sides of singles released only on vinyl)).
  2. Convert the tapes and records into MP3s by one of the following methods. (I haven’t heard anything about the RIAA taking issue with this practice. That does not mean, however, that they view it as acceptable. Most likely, it is unacceptable to them but they have not attacked it explicitly since it is seen as low-threat and the sound quality would be somewhat degraded.)
    1. Connect a standard cassette player or record player to the sound card of my computer, import the music as .wav files and convert to MP3. This wouldn’t cost anything but it would be very labor-intensive and tedious.
    2. Buy products specially-designed to import music from cassette or LP, like a cassette deck that fits in a 5.25″ drive bay in your computer or a USB turntable. These make the process less painful, but they’re like $100 each. I could buy a lot of albums in MP3 format for $200. As mentioned before, however, some of the music I have on LP or cassette may not be available as MP3s from any online store.
  3. Re-buy the music on brand-new CDs and import the music into my digital library. (The RIAA would love it if I bought the CDs. However, they’d be less enthusiastic about me ripping them and adding them to my computer’s music library. In their eyes, I should buy the album on CD and MP3.)
  4. Re-buy the music on used CDs and import the music into my digital library. (Used CDs are/have been a point of contention for the RIAA, in addition to the act of ripping. If I were to subsequently sell the CD and keep the MP3s, the legality of this approach would have just gone down some more.)
  5. Borrow my friends’ CD copies of your music and rip them into my collection. (The RIAA would definitely take issue with this, though they’re unlikely to find out about it. While in some senses it might seem like this is justified, there is something about this that makes me uncomfortable. I think it has to do with the quality issue. When I buy a cassette, I buy the music subject to the quality constraints of the format. I don’t feel that I am entitled to a copy of the album at a better quality just because I have paid for the music in a format that offers inferior quality (and is also cheaper).)
  6. Download MP3s of the music you already own via P2P file-sharing. (This is likely to get you in trouble with the RIAA. I would be reluctant to do anything that might attract their ire. Even if you’re guilty of nothing, simply being accused will cost you money. Also, the argument from #5 applies here – having bought a song in some format doesn’t necessarily entitle me to a free copy of the song in any format.)

There aren’t a lot of particularly attractive options in the above list. I object to re-buying things I already own. However, it is undoubtedly the most convenient option, which is why I have done it. Fortunately for me, my taste in music changed substantially toward the end of my cassette years, so much of the music I own on cassette is of little interest to me now.

What about you? Do you have a lot of music on cassette or LP? If so, what have you done about it? Do you still listen to it in its native format or have you converted it to digital? Let me know how you’ve solved this problem. Also, if you disagree with my analysis above, let me know where you stand on these issues.


Rediscovering old favorites…

… is fun. Yesterday I listened to Man, or Astroman? – one of my favorite bands from my high school years. Right now I’m listening to Superchunk, which was also a high school favorite.

Speaking of songs from high school, I was shocked the other day to hear a song from the 6ths as the background for a TV commercial. The song (“Here in my heart” from Wasps’ Nests) is from an obscure album (it’s not available from the iTunes store) by an obscure “artist” – actually a side project (among many) of Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields fame. Anyway, it came out in 1995, right in the heart of my high school years. Ah, the memories.

And, yes, I am deliberately using ellipses in the title/beginning of all of today’s posts.


The end of an era

I’m thinking about quitting eMusic.  I’m tired of having to find music each month to download and I’m tired of having to keep track of which day my month’s songs will expire so they don’t go to waste.  They’re definitely still the best deal in town but the selection isn’t fantastic and, with the launch of Amazon’s new MP3 download store, I can get reasonably priced, high quality, DRM-free tracks elsewhere without a subscription.

Right now I have 50 downloads to use on eMusic.  I’m thinking that after I use those up I’m going to quit and use the money I would have paid to eMusic to pay for the online backup service Mozy.

Anyway, this is where you come in.  How should I use my final 50 downloads?


Allow me to recommend…


This is a picture I took of the Cambridge street from which the band Bishop Allen took its name.  Apparently, the two main guys lived on this street before they moved to New York.  Anyway, before our trip to Pittsburgh I downloaded their album, The Broken String, which I have listened to a lot recently.  Adrian recommended it and I agree with his recommendation.


Crisis averted

I just finished downloading this month’s installment of songs from eMusic.  I wound up getting the following albums:

  • Andrew Bird “Armchair Apocrypha”
  • The National “Boxer”
  • Portastatic “Summer of the Shark”
  • Unwed Sailor “The White Ox”

Andrew Bird came on recommendation from a number of people, most recently Liz.  I got The National on recommendation from Adrian.  I’m not a big fan of the guy’s voice, but otherwise, it seems good.  I’m a Portastatic fan from way back and I think “Summer of the Shark” is the only full-length that I didn’t already have, so I remedied that.  Finally, Unwed Sailor is another instrumental rock/post-rock outfit that produces music good for listening to at work.  This is their latest, so I thought I would pick it up.  Maybe, once I get a chance to listen to these carefully, I’ll share my thoughts on them.  Or not.


eMusic suggestions?

My eMusic downloads “refresh” (read: expire) on July 20th.  This means I have about 26 hours to find 40 songs to download or my $10 is wasted.  So, current or former eMusic subscribers, I need your help.  Tell me what I should look into.


May 2022

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