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I apologize for the fact that the blog has been broken on and off for the past month.

It should be working completely now. Nothing was too difficult to fix, I’ve just been neglecting it. But not because I have forgotten, or lost interest. I’ve just been busy.

I have a bunch of new music that I’ve been enjoying and hopefully will get a chance to post soon.

Thanks to The Modesto Kid for letting me know that somebody was posting about pet seat covers on the blog.

(Lesson #1, I should put my own blog in my RSS feed. I get e-mails when people comment but not, apparently, for new posts.)

It appears that somehow the WordPress setting was changed so that new users were defaulting to administrators. So the spam-bots created user accounts and then had full access to the site.

They didn’t change my password, thankfully, so I deleted the new accounts (along with the posts) and changed the setting so that new users won’t be admins.

If anybody knows if there is something more that I should do, let me know in comments, but it looks like it’s relatively easy to clean-up. I’m just not sure what the hack was to update the WordPress setting, so I don’t know where the security hole is.

Oops

It looks like the site got switched to require login for commenting. I’m not sure what “upgrade” triggered that, but I’ve switched it back so that log in isn’t required.

Also, since I’ve been thinking that I should be posting something, even if I don’t have time to write up a long description, here is Blondie live from 1999.

I like that line, “If you forgive me my ferocity, I won’t forget your sweetness.”

RS passed along to me a web page that is fascinating, occasionally astonishing, and capable of sucking up huge amounts of time.

Billboard magazine has put up a chronological list of the 1000 songs that have hit #1 on the hot 100 chart at some point since it began in 1958, including a link to a video of each song (usually but not always the version that charted).

It’s an astonishing compilation of pop music history.

It’s interesting to see some trends, like the fact that in the 80s there was a lot more turnover at the top of the charts than there has been since. There were 231 distinct #1 singles in the 80s for an average of just over 2 weeks at #1!, compared to 140 in the 80s and 150 since 2000.

Want to see the Supremes on Television in awesome reflective blue gowns, it’s there. Want to be reminded of how young Rod Stewart was in 1971?

Or you can just be amused at juxtapositions like the fact that “Come On Eileen” was the song that knocked “Billie Jean” out of the #1 position (and was, itself, replaced by “Beat It” which then gave way to “Let’s Dance”)

(cross-posted at unfogged)

Reader Jennifer Lynch sends in a link to this article about music blogs for and by vinyl collectors.

Of those “Home Of The Groove” is the only one that I had previously heard of, but it looks like a list worth browsing.

I have to say that I, personally, have never been a vinyl collector.* I have friends who like vinyl, and I have nothing against it but, when I was first starting to listen to music I decided that it would be simpler to just stick to one format. At the time I didn’t realize how many CDs I would eventually end up with, so “simple” may be relative, but I have continued to stick with that decision.

I do appreciate, aesthetically, the people who are posting old 45s to youtube (for example). There is something great about just watching a video of the 45 playing as you listen to the song. I don’t know how much difference it makes to the sound by the time you record the sound digitally and upload it, but I do think it’s stylish.

*I do have a favorite vinyl find — I once came across a mint condition Laurie Anderson single of “Oh Superman” in the laundry room in my apartment building.

Having just encouraged everybody to buy an album in my last post, I have another one to recommend.

I have mentioned before that, when I get a new album, my general approach is to listen the first couple of times in very general way. I try to get a sense of the mood, themes, and high points of the album so that gradually I learn what I should be paying attention to, and figuring out both the best mood and perspective to appreciate the album, and also how it works.

I just got “Blood and Candle Smoke” by Tom Russell (not to be confused with Tom Rush). It’s the first album of his that I’ve heard, and it’s great and one of the things that most impresses me about the album is how brilliantly sequenced it is, and how the album progresses. Listening to it felt like one of the most surprising, involving, and emotional first listening that I’ve had in a long time, because the album took me through the process that I described as it progressed. Listening to it I felt like, without me working at all, it was teaching me as the album progressed how to listen to it.

Putting it on for the first time, the first couple of songs were good, but felt just a little bit obvious. The told stories — interesting ones, and well crafted, but they didn’t surprise much. I found myself feeling a little bit disappointing, at that point, that it seemed well crafted but not as smart as it could be, it seemed like it just lacked the extra effort that takes a song from competent workmanship to a performance. Little did I realize that that they were just setting me up.

The most important way in which the album progresses is the relationship between Tom Russell and the band. AMG describes the production on this album as being different from anything he had done before and so it’s particularly impressive that it succeeds so completely:

Co-produced with Craig Schumacher, and cut at Wave Lab Studios in Tucson with members of Calexico and others, it sounds like nothing else in his catalog. Russell played his guitar and sang live with the band, providing little direction and allowing the musicians to open up a natural space around him. Instrumentally, this collaboration employs everything from mariachi and jazz horn sections, reverbed electric guitars, organic acoustics, and miniscule drum kits to hand percussion, marimbas, accordions, talking drums, Vox organs, and Rhodes pianos. The backing and duet vocals by songwriter Gretchen Peters add warmth, depth, dimension, and presence to Russell’s songs.

However it was that Russell invited the band to be willing to take creative authority on some songs they more than rise to the occasion. In the first half of the album they provide excellent backing for Tom Russell with plenty of power on “Santa Ana Wind” and drive on “Criminology” but as you go deeper into the album they feel more and more like full creative partners, and the songs become less story-like, less linear, and more directly emotional.

Take, as an example, “Mississippi River Runnin’ Backwards” the song almost exactly at the mid-point of the album. You can hear some of the progression that I’m talking about within the course of the song. The song is about New Orleans after Katrina. It starts with a quotation from “Old Man River” and a scene-setting opening verse which work but, again, feel constructed (and make me think back to Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927″) but the song really lands (like a punch) when it gets to the chorus for the second time, when the backup-vocals answer his call of “everybody sing” and the band plays with so much energy and so much ache at the same time, it pays off the emotional promise of the verses. At that moment the song is great, with no qualifications necessary.

I will warn you that, for some reason, the .mp3 conversion isn’t kind to the song. The texture and depth of the music are lacking and, in particular, the piano is rich sounding in the original recording and thin and slightly tiny in the .mp3. But, really, buy the album — it’s worth it. It’s good and it’s surprising. What more can you ask for?

As one last note, I was realizing that it would be convenient for me to try to finish up the Living Room Songs post by Thanksgiving. So I will pick up the pace on that, so I encourage everybody to keep checking in.

Update: Link to song added.

There’s a very interesting discussion happening in the comments on the last post.

I was excited to see that the album of the day today at all music is Failure.

See my thoughts on that album.

That seems like an auspicious beginning to the day.

This is not music related, but just something I want to have available for myself. Below are two passages from Freeman Dyson on Robert Oppenheimer.

Read the rest of this entry »

Software Recommendation

Over at Unfogged, there was a discussion that included some advice about media players.

Based on that I have started using Foobar and hear a significant improvement.

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