It's been two-and-a-half years since my post about Spotify when it had just rolled out in The Netherlands. At the time I was cautiously enthusiastic with quite a list of complaints too. In the meantime Spotify has replaced iTunes for me and I have become somewhat of a Spotify evangelist as it has fundamentally changed the way I listen to and discover new music.
Lady Gaga just released her new album Born This Way and although I really want to like her music, I simply can't. It's repetitive and lacks the catchy pop melodies and pioneering production that her great aunt Madonna has always been so good at.
This surprises me as Gaga is apparently quite musically gifted; an accomplished pianist and composer of hit songs for other artists. That's something that Madonna can't claim (although Madonna compensates by surrounding herself by highly talented producers and musicians).
Both women are obviously very smart and savvy at developing their flamboyant and often shocking image into a brand of its own and I greatly admire Lady Gaga for how she's managed to do that in such a short space of time. Her flamboyant and humorous music videos are the only thing that enable me to listen to an entire song of hers.
Why is this frustrating me? I want to like her music because I admire her. The two interviews she did with Jonathon Ross convinced me that her extravagant appearance is a great camouflage concealing an extremely intelligent woman.
Oh well, I suppose I'll just have to watch her videos on YouTube and resign myself to admiring an artist without liking her 'core business'. Some may argue that music is not her core business, in which case - there's no problem
A couple of months ago streaming music service Spotify finally rolled out here in The Netherlands. After a few days of using it, I signed up for the €10/month Premium service so I didn’t have to listen to the adverts after every ten tracks or so (they really annoy me, which is the main reason I never listen to commercial radio stations). A few months into using the service, I shall share some of my thoughts on it.
I quite like Lily Allen's new album It's Not Me It's You. It's not as good as her debut Alright, Still, but she's managed to write some catchy new tunes, some of which are the kind that echo in your head for days, like F*ck You.
The album is a mishmash of styles: balkan, country and burlesque-type tunes. Her lyrics and London accent are still her unique selling point, although I feel she's had a harder time coming up with the lyrical goods this time than the first.
Lily is currently touring. I had the (dis)pleasure of seeing her live at the Paradiso here in Amsterdam a couple of years ago. That was a bit of a let-down as she performed rather lethargically in a track suit, smoking throughout the entire concert yet complaining that her voice was letting her down. She seemed to be plodding through the setlist, eager to leave the venue a.s.a.p. Not someone who 'takes the stage'.
The video below shows her performing at the Bowery in New York. At least she dressed up for this gig and seems a little more motivated, but now her stamina (or nerves?) seem to be letting her down as she's not reaching those notes and her stage presence is not particularly strong either.
Don't get me wrong, I still like Lily Allen, but I think her music is best enjoyed as a high volume singalong in the car rather than as a live act.
Lily Allen has been working on her second album and recently completed this video to the single "The Fear". I like the verses - very Lily Allen-ish, but the chorus is just too Stock Aitken Waterman "poppy" for me. The video itself doesn't do much for me either as it lacks the humour I am used to from her first album's videos and despite what she writes on her blog, I don't get the impression she was really having fun making this.
Through my friend Blobby Bobby I discovered this rather humourous subtitling event on YouTube.
Last week I saw Sia perform on Later with Jools Holland and she made much more of an impression on me than Coldplay opening with their latest single, Viva La Vida. There's something about her voice and the catchy melody of Buttons that kept me glued to the screen. The fluorescent costumes were a great eye-catcher too.
I'd never heard of Sia, but she's an Australian vocalist who enjoyed success in the 90's as part of an acid jazz formation, before disappearing for a while. 2007 and 2008 are clearly her comeback years, her album Some People Have Real Problems being released at the start of 2008. Unfortunately it's not available in the Dutch iTunes Store, but you can get it from Amazon.
You may recognize her track Breathe Me as it was used for the grand finale of Six Feet Under.
But meanwhile, here's her performance of Buttons on Later. The costume comes off at 02:25 by the way...:
We love her even when she's singing gibberish.
BACK TO BLACK (Original Lyrics )
He left no time to regret
Kept his dick wet
With his same old safe bet
Me and my head high
And my tears dry
Get on without my guy
You went back to what you knew
So far removed from all that we went through
And I tread a troubled track
My odds are stacked
I'll go back to black
As I eagerly await the arrival of my iPod Touch second generation, I upgraded to iTunes 8 today as it is required for the iPod Touch to sync with. I'd read about some problems with iTunes 8, but decided to risk it anyway and so far so good - nothing buggy happening.
I like some of the changes version 8 has brought, including the grid album cover view.
But one of the most talked about features is the addition of Genius playlists. Basically, iTunes analyzes your library, sends the information to the Apple Store (anonymously) and feeds back information about your tracks to the Genius in your library. Then, if you play a track and click the Genius button, it will generate an "intelligent" playlist of music you should like if you were playing that track to start with.
I've experimented with it and have been pleasantly surprised by the playlists Genius compiles. They ain't 'arf bad really. OK, so there were some weird recommendations in there for my more obscure artists. But to give you an example, I told it to make a 25-song playlist based on "This Is the Day" by The The (one of my favourite bands). This is the list it came up with (with suggestions from my own library). Click on the image to view a larger (legible) version.
Not bad really. And then, if you open up the Genius Sidebar it will give you recommendations for songs you might like from the iTunes Music Store which you don't yet have. Clever little bugger that Steve Jobs isn't he?
Many people are already praising the Genius function quite simply because it is enabling them to (re)discover music they already have in their libraries but never listen to. Seeing as I have 27594 songs in my library, chances are big that I may even hear songs I've never heard before!
There's a Kate Nash clone on the scene. Another London-accented songstress to join the clan. Last.fm offered me "Faces Going Places" by Jose Vanders as something which might appeal to me if I like Kate Nash (which Last.fm of course knows I do). It did appeal to me, immediately, but at the same time it sounded almost a little too much like Miss Nash.
Vanders even does the, by now Nash-trademark, "ro-oh-oh-oad" staccato chopping up of words, but despite Vanders' young age (she's a mere 18), I'm not sure who came first. They appear to have both released albums (Vanders an EP) in 2007. According to her MySpace blog she now works at HMV on Oxford Street - so she hasn't hit the big time yet, but she has a very impressive-looking website already and her own merchandise.