Saturday, May 30, 2009

My Yearly Rant Against Best Buy

My birthday is Monday. Stuck in Suburbia, I made the mistake of going to Best Buy to pick out an album courtesy of Mom and Pop. Hell is blue and yellow.

No doubt some regional manager decided they needed to redo the layout of the store, so I didn't know where anything was. The cd section was considerably downscaled and annoyingly cramped.

Selecting a album, in my book, is one of the great activities of my life. This time it was so stressful, I wanted to walk out, especially after some blue polo-ed woman got all up in my grill asking if I wanted any help.

They didn't have The Decemberists or Kings of Leon. Really? I narrowed it down to Green Day, Fleet Foxes and Ra Ra Riot, finally settling on Green Day. Total whim.

We've all got our breaking point folks, I officially am swearing off Best Buy. Never again. Best Buy is never pleasant, this time around was extra offensive.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Word About Pandora

Through some stroke of irony, I can be a bit slow to get on board with tech trends, so this might be old news. Recently I've started using Pandora, which is internet radio, in the realm of Last fm. etc.

The gist is that you sign up and create stations based on bands or songs that you pick. There's no guarantee that you will hear that band or song-- that's how they deal with licensing issues-- but you'll hear music that is similar in some way.

It's radio, in other words. Turn to the station that plays the music you like. Where this differs though, is that there are no obnoxious disc jockeys or advertisements to deal with, only a box ad awkwardly shoved in the margin.

Terrestrial radio is not what it used to be. Many once counted on it for exposure to new music. These days playlists are so shallow, radio doesn't completely fulfill that function as well as it used to, plus song ids are few and far between. Services like Pandora are just so freaking convenient, how can you compete? And it's free, unlike XM and/or Sirius which require monthly fees plus the initial investment to get the radio.

Don't like a song? You can skip three times in an hour. Want more info on what you're hearing? There's a tab for that. You can "thumbs up" a song, or "thumbs down" it and never hear it again. Not a bad deal.

And the catalogue? Seemingly endless. 50s/60s oldies formats have been fading out in the past few years in favor of classic rock of the late 60s and 70s, but the internet can provide a selection of music that doesn't have to exist merely because it's moderately to wildly popular. Even if the Greatest Generation isn't on Pandora or the like, their music is. (True story: I have a station seeded to The Four Freshmen.) In a respect, that's a point of comfort, that maybe older music won't disappear as the years continue to pile up.

There are many reasons to check out Pandora. Give it a try. A word of warning though, I've barely opened my iTunes in the past two weeks. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Save Paste

A week or two ago, the latest issue of Paste Magazine arrived in my mailbox, featuring the Decemberists on the cover. Having been raised around the magazine industry, I took one look at the paper quality of the cover and the thinness of the spine and said to myself "oh, crap."

If there had been any hope left, turning to editor Josh Jackson's column killed that off quick. Paste, like so many other magazines, is seeing difficult times, financially. The economy sucks and the media world is in a kind of limbo that we've never quite seen before. Everyone likes to throw around the phrase "newspapers are dead." That may be true in a sense-- as in, newspapers as we know them today, are dying, but nothing's dead yet.

Magazines are in a bad situation, but they just don't get as much attention when they struggle and eventually shutter. I think that the same idea is true for them, magazines as they are now probably will not make it.

That's why Paste's hardships trouble me so. Here's a magazine that is doing everything that any halfway savvy, J school professor or student would be harping on in the world of new media. Paste has a great website, they have blogs, videos, audio clips, photos, multimedia out the wazoo, they're using social media platforms, they're keeping their content fresh between issues, they offer incentives to the readers, they've diversified revenue streams. Essentially, they are doing everything that I have been told will save those of us going into journalism.

There's so much unfairness in the situation. I'm loathe to suggest that anyone deserves anything, but in this case I feel justified in saying that Paste deserves to see the end of this recession. It deserves to survive and carry on far into the future, continuing life as a publication we can look to for how to do navigate these uncertain waters of new media and as a standard for top notch music journalism.

And in a bittersweet example of why Paste needs to stick around, look at the effort they are making to save themselves-- a direct appeal to the readers. Reaching out to their audience. If you care, you can take some ownership. Donate. Stick a banner on your blog. Sign up for Paste V.I.P. Do something. My journalism classes are filled with talk of engaging the audience, bringing down the massive wall between us and them, because people will not stand for it anymore. They want to be pulled in and have a stake, so here's Paste putting their fate into the hands of their readers.

Though it may not matter much in the big picture, I'll say that Paste was a large inspiration for starting The Musically Inclined and as a journalism major, if Paste goes down, I feel a little like there's no hope. They sit at the top of the heap in terms of quality on all levels. This magazine means a lot.

Please don't let it die. There's a sky scrapper on the column. Click it. Paste is still alive and it's manned by smart folks who are going to find a way out of this. Help them.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Radiohead Starts Recording New Album

The BBC reported this morning that Radiohead is back in the studio. That's pretty much the extent of the details, but those few words happen to be quite hefty on their own, fortunately. The big question that everyone is raising at the moment, is whether the band will put out the new album in a similar way to the In Rainbows release. That probably depends on what the true motivation was behind the original idea, regardless of what they said. If it was a matter of audience control, being avant guard and adapting to the reality of the music industry, then the obvious route would be to allow fans to pay what they want yet again.

But, if it was more a marketing/publishing stunt, then it's time to move on and try something fresh. I don't really care. I'll buy either way. It's Radiohead. C'mon.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

LeftRightLeftRightLeft by Coldplay

Not long ago, Coldplay announced that they would be giving a copy of a live album to everyone that bought a ticket to one of their shows this summer as an extra 'thanks' for supporting them. That sucked a bit for those of us who would really appreciate such a thing and perhaps won't go to a Coldplay concert because the tickets are outrageous.

In a very smart move, the band has offered the album, LeftRightLeftRightLeft as a download off their website, for free. It's about 40 minutes long, covering a respectable mix of songs from X&Y to the latest EP, Prospekts March, while hitting some of their fans' favorites. Ex. Coldpaly can't not include "Clocks." It's a like a rule or something. They do an especially nice job on "The Hardest Part," taking it down a few notches tempo-wise while the crowd sings a long in an non obtrusive manner. "42" loses a bit of kick but its forgivable. While it's not the same as being there, the album is not a bad alternative. Being able to hear the crowd cheer and sing, and Chris Martin interact with audience-- that kind of interactivity adds another dimension to the album.

If you haven't already, download this. It's well worth it... and it's free.

Track Listing

01. Glass of Water
02. 42
03. Clocks
04. Strawberry Swing
05. The Hardest Part/ Postcards from Far Away
06. Viva la Vida
07. Death WIll Never Conquer
08. Fix You
09. Death and All His Friends

Monday, May 11, 2009

Their Hearts Were Full of... Spring, Actually

I meant to write about this a few weeks ago, but there's been a lot going on. Anyway, Their Hearts Were Full of Spring (a top notch little indie band based in the UK) are continuing their seasons project, and have released their next two songs for spring. The first song is "The Coming of Spring," which is a cover of the Rapture song. The second is "Lullaby of London," a Pogues cover.

THWFOS never fail to deliver. Both are nice, appropriately springy songs."The Coming of Spring" is quite zesty and the latter has a pleasant, ethereal lite quality to it, very pleasant.

So, if you're interested, which you should be, here's the link for the downloads from God is in the TV Zine. If you're lucky enough to catch a show you can actually pick up a cd.

Here's looking forward to summer.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


The Musically Inclined is coming up on its two-year birthday this summer. I'm pretty proud of that. In the past several months though, I haven't been too proud of the look of the blog. It just didn't really fit with my tastes anymore or how I'd like to present my writing venture to anyone who decides to drop by.

After a lot of running into creative walls and what not, I finally designed a new header that I think says exactly what I want it to about TMI. Professional and deliberate, yet not too serious, and maybe a bit edgy if I can swing it. The color scheme has a lot to do with that as well, and I'm a fan of clean aesthetics.

While this is still a regular Blogger template, it serves my functions well, and I tend to think simplicity is under rated. As always, TMI is always looking at how to improve on all fronts and I've still got some ideas up my sleeve for cool features to add.

All that said, what do you think?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Regarding Cell Phones at Concerts

I was fortunate enough to snag some snag tickets to Death Cab for Cutie back in January, and after months of waiting, actually go to the concert Monday night. It was all I could have wanted, a strong show to say the least-- and the set list was perfect.

Part of it was great though, was that I decided to take a break from being a journalist/blogger and just be there as a major Death Cab fan. I'm not breaking that promise... yet, but I would like to take a moment to register a complaint about various parties at the show who seemed to be unaware that anything was happening outside their cell phones screens.

Yes. $40 to sit on the bench and stare into a Blackberry. Really? Can we not survive without technology for a few hours? Or at least until in between sets. What's the point? How often do you get to "get away?" This concert was a very condensed and much need vacation, I wanted every little part of it. Why put an hour glass on it?

A woman sitting in front of me sat there and played Brick on her phone. If you're bored, why are you here? Seems a bit illogical. Another pair of women Twittered and checked email every few minutes. And then there's the texting. Put the damn phone away. Even if I had gotten a text, I'd have ignored it. Operating on the same principle as when I'm watching Stewart or Colbert-- don't talk to me! I'm occupied.

I don't mean to rant, but I do think that it says something awful about our culture. Apparently live music at a relatively intimate venue is not enough to hold some people.

When I first started blogging, I wrote a blog post about the vanity of concert t shirts and someone left a comment. The anonymous commenter wrote a phrase that stuck with me. He was talking about how the experience of a show, "the rare great event." I like that phrase. It applied so perfectly.

So, the next time you find yourself in a position to take a break from these ridiculous crutches we've created for ourselves in this mad society, please do. No one's dying. The cell phone will still be there, Ben Gibbard won't. In a few hours you'll have no choice but to reconnect to technology. Embrace the escapism. Enjoy that "rare great event."

Or at least know how annoying the glow of your screen is.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Singing is for People Not as Cool as William Shatner

Finals are upon us. Give me a week and I'll be back to the mad blogging. Until then check out this video which has been making the rounds lately. With my warmest wishes for the season, please enjoy the Shat.