’13 Reasons Why’ reminds me of Life is Strange

This week I started watching the popular (and possibly controversial, if Facebook posts such as “Don’t let your kids watch… are to be believed) Netflix drama ’13 Reasons Why’, and I can’t help but think back to my time spent playing Life is Strange with every moment. I think a lot of it has to be the way that the characters interact with each other. The playful dialog, specifically between Hannah and Clay, reminds me a lot of the way that Max and Chloe talked to each other in Life is Strange.

The style and the way that music is used in ’13 Reasons Why’ has also been reminding me of the wonderful soundtrack from Life is Strange. I’m only on the third episode of the show, but after I’ve finished each episode I’ve found myself logging onto Twitch to see if anyone is streaming Life is Strange (luckily, so far there have been plenty of streams). I think by the time I finish the show I’ll end up playing through the game once more to relive the wonderful journey.

I’ve enjoyed the show a ton so far, and I’m excited to continue watching (though I tend not to binge watch so it’ll probably take me a few weeks). I don’t really have much else to say, but was kind of curious if the show has reminded anyone else of Life is Strange, or if I’m just crazy.

 

I don’t understand why piracy is still a thing in 2016

I know I’ve talked about this before, but after listening to the song “Exposure Bank” by Sunrise Skater Kids, I’ve been thinking about the issue of piracy again. I just don’t understand how piracy is still seen as an acceptable route to obtain media without paying in 2016. With all of the options available today, getting access to a wide variety of media, be it music, movies, tv shows or even magazines, has become easier than ever. Spotify and Apple Music effectively let you download just about any album you can imagine for the price of a single album a month. Downloading music to your phone using Apple Music, for example, is as easy as searching for an artist and tapping a download button next to an album. It’s much faster and more reliable than pirating music, and it’s safer too. So why do people still pirate?

“We have so many loyal fans, It’s good to know our future rests in their hands, We all do this for the thrill, Real musicians don’t need much to pay the bills”

Napster became a thing when I was in middle school and it truly did revolutionize the way I consumed music. Before Napster I had very limited means of accessing music. My exposure to music came from what was played on the radio, what few CD’s I could buy in a year, and the music shared between friends (occasionally by trading ‘burned’ CD’s). Once I discovered Napster essentially the entire history of music became available at the click of a button. I was able to discover music quicker than ever before, and rather than spending hours at FYE using their listening stations, I could just download a song and if I didn’t like it I’d delete it.

“Buying bad music is the worst, Be sure to download every album, piracy comes first. Once you decide you like it, Get some merchandise and we’ll be supported.”

For a while most of my music was acquired via piracy, however the launch of the iPod and eventually the iTunes store changed everything again. All of a sudden it was easier to purchase a digital album than it was to pirate it. You would be guaranteed a certain level of quality for a price that CD’s could never compete with. The iTunes store was the first step in the right direction in an effort to supersede piracy as the default method of acquiring music, however in recent years another revolution has changed the music industry yet again: streaming.

When I first discovered Spotify’s premium service, which allowed you to download entire albums from just about every artist you could think of in a matter of seconds, my mind was blown. Once again an entire world of music became available to millions of users at the tap of a screen. Spotify Premium became the way I consumed music (outside of the car, in which I still enjoy my SiriusXM radio) until I switched to Apple Music upon its release. Apple Music works much the same as Spotify does, however I like the app better.

Apple Music iTunes

I can’t understand how anyone with any sort of appreciation for music could still pirate in 2016. For just $120 a year you can essentially “own” every piece of music that releases that year and all the years past. Not only that, but you have access you your entire music library on all of your devices, without ever having to transfer any files. It’s so easy it boggles my mind why anyone wouldn’t subscribe to a streaming music service.

$10 a month for all the music your ears desire seems too good to be true, and while it’s great for consumers there is some validity to the fears that the services short change artists. That, combined with the fact that I love vinyl, is the reason I still continue to buy music that I really love. For example, I’ve recently become obsessed with The Strumbellas and immediately ordered their “We Still Move on Dance Floors” album, and pre-ordered their upcoming album “Hope” on vinyl (I also bought both on iTunes, as I REALLY love them and want to support them!)

“Yeah, pats on the back, Yeah, live on the streets, You’re entitled to our music, You did so much to deserve it, Yeah, download a car, Yeah, don’t need to eat.”

There are so many options in other forms of media as well. The app Texture offers a sort of ‘Netflix for magazines” where for either $10 or $15 a month you get access to a wide variety of magazines including back issues. The higher priced plan includes weekly publications such as The New Yorker, TIME and Newsweek.

As for movies and TV, Hulu now offers an add on subscription to Showtime for $9 a month, and HBO and Starz both have streaming services that no longer require cable. You can get access to a wide variety of movies for relatively little money by subscribing to these services. If you want the latest and greatest, I still think the iTunes store offers great prices on movies. I’ve grown my library quite a bit lately just by watching out for sales in which popular movies go on sale for $9.99 or less on iTunes. A lot of new releases sell for $14.99 as well, which is cheaper than DVD’s and Blu Rays ever were. It’s cheaper than ever to watch movies legally, for the sake of the entertainment industry I hope that more people start to choose the high road.

 

Now listening to… Redman’s ‘Mudface’ and PSY’s ‘7TH Album’

There have been plenty of great albums released in the last month or so, and I wanted to share some of my favorites that have been in heavy rotation on my Spotify account.

Last month the rapper Redman released his first album in five years, ‘Mudface.’

Mudface

The album is bass heavy and features melodic, smooth and intelligent lyrics. ‘Mudface’ sounds like it came from the late 90’s or early 2000’s when compared to the Auto-Tuned club hip hop that has been popular in recent years. Like on 1996’s ‘Muddy Waters’ Redman’s lyrics float over slow, methodically crafted beats with incredible precision that is almost hypnotic. The track “Gettin’ Inside” is comparable to 1996’s “Rock Da Spot” and it’s incredible how Redman has resisted mimicking modern hip hop. Redman’s first album released 23 years ago, and although he may not be a household name like he was in the late 90’s, he proves on ‘Mudface’ (his eighth album) that he hasn’t lost his edge.

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PSY, of “Gangnam Style” fame, recently released his seventh album, featuring his latest hit “Daddy.” The music video for “Daddy” currently has over 32 million views on YouTube and has been creating a lot of buzz, as some have forecasted the hit to become the next “Gangnam Style”, the most viewed video on YouTube with over 2.4 billion views (while “Gentleman” is closing in on a billion with over 900 million views). The song is certainly hard to stop listening to, and the video is wildly entertaining.

The album has many other catchy songs as well, and the upbeat tracks make for a great running soundtrack. The album’s lead song, “Dance Jockey” is just as catchy as PSY’s other hits, with an irresistible chorus and PSY’s signature emphasis at the end of every phrase. Things slow down with “The Day Will Come”, and yet it’s still catchy to the point I want to speak along even if I don’t understand the language.

PSY may be most famous for his eccentric music videos, but his seventh album proves he has the ability to craft addictively pleasant music that is hard to stop playing over and over again.

A Playlist of great alternative

Hey there, I’ve made it to week two of this deployment, and one thing keeping going has been some amazing music. I’ve missed driving around in my car listening to Sirius XMU or Alt Nation, but fortunately I have their online service and can listen as I fall asleep (though I hate trying to sleep with headphones in!)

I just wanted to share some of my favorite songs right now. Check them out and let me know if you know of any similar songs or artists I should check out!

 

Dr. Dre’s ‘Compton’ released today

dr dre compton

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.

dr. dre compton itunes

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.”

 

Loving Twenty One Pilots’ Blurryface!

I first really listened to the band Twenty One Pilots during Sirius XM’s Alt Nation broadcast of their Bonnaroo performance. I had heard their songs a few times before (mostly “Not Today”) but that was the first time I listened to them for an extended period of time and I was in love.

Since then I’ve been listening to their recently released album Blurryface every night during the drive into work and the album is amazing! There’s not a song on the album I don’t love, but particular favorites include “Not Today”, “Lane Boy” and “Goner”.

If you haven’t really listened to Twenty One Pilots I highly recommend giving Blurryface a listen. It’s great!

 

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).

Big-bird-record-player

 

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!

Kazaa-search-big

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).

screenshotmusicmatchjukebox10worldwindowsBonziBUDDYApe

 

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!

ipod_video

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