Dr. Dre’s ‘Compton’ released today

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Hip Hop fans have been waiting for the third Dr. Dre album for well over a decade. His second album, 2001, was released in 1999 and his third album has been talked about and teased since the year 2001. The album, then referred to as Detox, was expected to be released in 2005, 2008 and 2010 but it never materialized. A lot of fans started to doubt if there would ever be another Dr. Dre record, myself one of them.

Dr. Dre finally gave fans what they’ve wanted for years when he announced last week that his third album, now titled Compton, would finally release via Apple Music and iTunes on August 7th. He also revealed that he would be donating his royalties from the album to create a performing arts center in Compton.

Compton can be listened to by Apple Music subscribers or can be purchased on iTunes for $13.99.

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I haven’t purchased very many albums in recent years, however the second I heard that Dr. Dre was finally releasing an album (for real this time) I purchased it. I’ve been listening to Compton all day and it’s an incredible album. The beats, most of which produced by Dre, are superb (“Darkside/Gone” and “Issues” are two standouts). The list of collaborators on the album is also impressive. Compton features verses from those who have worked with Dre before (Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Xzibit) alongside newer and lesser known artists (Kendrick Lamar, King Mez, Justus and many more).

Compton is a strong album from beginning to end. I’ve enjoyed listening to it at the gym this morning and with the windows down in the car all throughout the day. I just can’t stop listening to it.

The album has well received by critics so far, with a score of 85 on Metacritic so far. The New York Times review offers Dre high praise, as Jon Caramanica writes “His true peers aren’t other hip-hop producers, not even tenured greats like Kanye West or Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes or even DJ Premier […] Ever since “The Chronic,” it’s been clear that Dr. Dre’s real peers are film-score composers — say, John Williams or James Horner — who communicate emotional direction with broad, legible strokes that set the tone for the details to be sprinkled atop them.”

 

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Changing how we consume music

One of my first experiences involving listening to my own music was with a plastic Sesame Street record player (as seen below).

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It’s crazy to think about how the method in which people consume music has changed during the 28 years that I’ve been alive. As I was a little older cassettes became the primary medium on which I listened to music. Every now and then I would be able to browse the music section at Wal-Mart and pick up a new cassette tape (one I particularly enjoyed was Will Smith’s “Big Willie Style”).

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I would often find myself listening to the radio and recording my favorite songs onto blank cassette tapes and then using the second tape deck on my stereo to record songs in a particular order, creating a ‘mixtape’ to listen to on my Walkman. If I wanted to listen to a song on repeat I would record the same song over and over again to the second cassette (rewinding the first each time). At one point I had a tape on which one side consisted of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Notorious Thugs” over and over again. Before I had a portable CD player I would record CD’s to cassette to listen to on the school bus or while in the car. Road trips and vacations would often begin with stopping and buying massive packs of AA batteries to last the entire trip.

Eventually I got a portable CD player and before long I was lugging around bulky CD keepers in my bookbag all the time.

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Before long the way we acquired music was revolutionized with the advent of music sharing via P2P services such as Napster, Kazaa, Limewire and others. Was it legal? Of course not, but everyone was doing it. We had dial-up internet during this time and it would take twenty to thirty minutes just to download a single song, but it was such a cool thing to be able to do we didn’t’ mind. I would spend entire nights staying up searching for and downloading songs one by one to make the perfect mixes. In high school I had a portable CD player that could play MP3 CD’s and all of a sudden I could have a single CD with 100 or more songs on it which was absolutely incredible!

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Around the same time I began using Napster and Kazaa I managed my music with a program called Musicmatch Jukebox, which at the time seemed like the coolest time ever (even as it eventually begin to include all sorts of spyware and bloatware such as the infamous BonziBuddy).

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If I wanted to listen to music my TV (or through a surround system) the easiest way to do it was to burn an MP3 CD (or data CD) and play it on a DVD player. At the time it seemed really neat, but compared to just broadcasting via Bluetooth today the method seems terribly archaic.

A few years after all of this I got my first iPod, the iPod Video, which again revolutionized how I consumed music. I could fit thousands of songs onto the 30GB device and even watch movies on it! How cool!

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At this time I had a Motorola Razr for a cellphone so the features on the iPod were pretty mind-blowing. I could carry thousands of songs and a movie or two in my pocket, how awesome was that! Another revolution came in the form of iTunes which for the first time made paying for music easier than pirating it. With a click of a button you could download an album from a reliable source and get quality sound files with nothing extra. Unfortunately, I was still on dial-up during this time so I still tended to buy CD’s.

Before long we had the iPhone and at this point you could download music directly to your phone, no computers acting as a middleman. This again changed how people bought, managed and stored their music. Many people never used a computer at all to download or manage their music, and instead just carried their entire libraries in their pockets. No more organizing files, editing tags and keeping track of everything you owned, Apple did it all for you.

For awhile this is how people consumed their music, but today the act of downloading music at all seems silly. Just how CD’s replaced cassettes before being replaced themselves by downloads (first illegally, then legally), the download has all but been replaced by streaming services. MP3 sales are down and continually falling as more and more people simply listen to music rather than purchase or download it. They do so with services such as Pandora, Spotify, Amazon and others (soon to include Apple / Beats).

So much has changed in the music industry, and it’s never been a better time to enjoy music. I use Spotify (Premium) on a daily basis and can’t even imagine a world where such a service didn’t exist. Every Tuesday I check out the new releases page and download albums to my phone to check out on the way to work. I have playlists including my favorite albums or favorite songs that I can access at anytime. It’s so easy to create workout playlists, or to simply download favorite albums to listen to as I please.

Spotify PC

Using Spotify is like having access to almost every album in a record store at the touch of a button. It’s so easy to discover new music by either listening to random albums or throwing the new music Tuesday playlist on shuffle. Find something you like and all you have to do is press a button and save it as a playlist that you can download for offline music should you choose.

I almost never buy albums anymore, and when I do they’re on vinyl (strangely enough). Is the trend toward streaming positive in every way? Possibly not, at least if you ask artists such as Taylor Swift who pulled her music from Spotify after claiming streaming hurts the artist. However, with so many services that make it easy to legally consume music, 2015 is certainly a great improvement over the wild west days of the early 2000’s. The evolution of the music industry has made our lives better and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Strangers to Ourselves vinyl

 

Girls Season 2

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I haven’t finished the first season yet (have three episodes left I believe), but I found a pretty decent deal on Season two on Blu Ray. It was $19.99 on Amazon and I had $20 in cash back credit on my credit card so I got it free! As I mentioned in the last post, I subscribe to HBO and do have access to all the seasons of Girls on demand, however I’ve been pushing the limits on my bandwidth cap lately so I decided I should watch the second season on Blu Ray.

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I haven’t bought a DVD or Blu Ray in years as I prefer to either download or stream everything I watch using iTunes or Xbox Video, but again I need to get my bandwidth use under control. Fortunately the Blu Ray pack came with an HBO Select code redeemable on the service of your choice. I redeemed it on iTunes (you also get a VUDU version) so it’ll be nice to be able to just go back and stream any episodes I wish to watch again later (I hate having to dig out DVDs, which is another reason I pretty much abandoned physical media).

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Looking forward to finishing up season one and digging into the second season. Love the show and hope to catch up soon!

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Listen Now: Weezer- Everything Will be Alright in the End on iTunes First Look

Weezer on iTunes

You can now listen to Weezer’s upcoming Everything Will Be Alright In the End on iTunes for free! Check it out here!

I have yet to give it a complete listen, but I’ll be checking it out after work tonight. I already pre-ordered the vinyl LP and can’t wait to get home and give it a listen on my turntable when it arrives. “Back to the Shack” is already one of the best Weezer songs I’ve heard in quite awhile, so I’m excited to listen to the rest of the album.

Everything Will Be Alright In the End is set to be released on October 7th. Be sure to head to their Pledge Music page and pre-order the album in a variety of formats and packages.

First listen: U2 – Songs of Innocence

Songs of Innocence

I’ve never actually sat down and listened to U2 before. I’ve heard their songs and have a good idea of what they sound like but I’ve never listened to any of their albums, or really actually paid attention to any of their songs. A lot of people love U2, I’ve just always known they’re not a band for me. Heck all I even know about U2 is they have hugely popular concerts, Bono wears sunglasses all the time and they seem to be involved in a lot of causes and world politics (whether this is true or not I couldn’t say).

U2 has been in the news a lot lately because Apple in a sense ‘bought out’ their thirteenth album Songs of Innocence and released it to half a billion iTunes users for free during their iPhone 6 reveal. Who doesn’t like free music? Well apparently the internet doesn’t. People immediately complained that the album snuck into their iTunes libraries unwanted. Personally, I feel the complaints are absolutely absurd and there will always be someone out there who will complain about anything. They could’ve given a $10 iTunes gift card to everyone in the world and somewhere out there on the internet someone would find a way to complain about it.

U2 songs of innocence iTunes page

Since I’ve never listened to U2 before I’ve decided I’d give the album a listen and write down a few thoughts about it. So here we go, I’m hitting play.

Aside from a handful of moments, (“The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”, “Volcano” and “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight”) I can’t say I’ve found much to like in this album. Most of it sounds unremarkable, background music that falls apart when listened to closely. Reading the lyrics in the digital book as I listen doesn’t help. Most everything just comes off as boring.

The parts I like most is when Bono doesn’t sound like Bono. “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight” and the verses of “Volcano” stand out as favorites (not a huge fan of the chorus). I like the darkness in his voice in those two songs in particular. The verses of “Volcano” even have a slight Marilyn Manson sound vocally which I love. If the rest of the album had more of that dark sound and less of the typical, soaring sound that has bored me for years without even having had to listen to a U2 album.

Songs of Innocence

I rated every song as I listened, and going off of the iTunes star rating Songs of Innocence gets 2 out of 5 stars based off my first listen. Seeing as how I’ve never listened to any other U2 album I can’t really say whether this is a particularly good or bad U2 album. I read in TIME that U2 sees this album as one of their best, so it may just be that I don’t like U2.

 

In 2014 paying for music is easier than stealing

In the early 2000’s up until the advent of iTunes store one of the most common reasons given for pirating music was that it was too easy not to. In recent years, however, going legitimate and supporting artists has become easier than ever. I’d even argue that that act of buying individual albums (even via iTunes or Amazon) will soon become as obsolete as renting movies at Blockbuster.

The reason for all this is the rise of streaming services such as Spotify, iTunes Radio, Beats Music, Pandora, Xbox Music and so on. Spotify has completely eliminated my desire to download albums, either by way of the Pirate Bay or legitimate services such as iTunes. For $10 a month I can stream or even download nearly any album I desire to any of my various devices. At any given time I have at least 20-30 albums downloaded to my phone via Spotify in addition to various playlists I’ve created, such as my gym playlist.

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It’s so simple to build a collection of albums, and the fact that you can listen offline is even better. Simply save an album as a playlist and tell your device to download it and you’re done. It’s nice to have the option to save music to your device so that you can listen in the car, gym or on a flight and not use any data or require a WiFi connection.

I should note, you can use Spotify for free and still save albums to playlists, however you must listen to albums on shuffle and Spotify will insert related music into your playlists as well as commercials. You also cannot download music without subscribing to Spotify’s premium service.

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On my Mac, however, I stream all of my music. I used to have countless hundreds of gigabytes of storage tied up storing music, however Spotify has allowed me to free up almost all of that space. There is one minor disadvantage to this form of ‘renting’ music as I like to look at it. Although you have a seemingly unlimited supply of new and old music at your disposal, nothing is permanent. For example, I really enjoyed Morrissey’s 2014 album World Peace Is None of Your Business, yet it recently disappeared from Spotify. The album was rescinded due to a record label dispute, and now I have no access to it at all (legally). Had I purchased it via iTunes I would presumably still own and have access to it.

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Beyond Spotify (which, if you can’t tell is my favorite music service) I also subscribe to SiriusXM and Xbox Music. I use Sirius mostly in my car, but I also enjoy the ability to stream it on my computer, phone or iPad on occasion. I enjoy using Sirius when I feel like giving up control of what I’m about to hear. It’s nice to discover new music on Alt Nation and pop open Spotify and add the album to my collection.

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I subscribe to Xbox Music because it’s an easy way to stream music from my TV and I love the interface. Xbox Music gives you the option to play music videos in place of songs when available so it’s nice to have on the TV as background noise while having drinks or conversation. Xbox Music doesn’t have quite the selection that Spotify has, but the enjoyable interface and music videos make the $10 a month seem justified.

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Thanks to streaming services I’ve saved hundreds of dollars a year while still supporting artists. I do, however, still enjoy purchasing albums on vinyl that I really enjoy. I pre-ordered Weezer’s upcoming album, Everything Will Be Alright in the End on vinyl via their Pledge Music page and am quite excited for it to arrive.

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Some iTunes 11 screenshots

I haven’t had a lot of time to play with iTunes 11 today before work, but I figured I’d leave you with some screenshots to show off the updated interface for now: