🎵 Rediscovering the joy of the album – Rian’s B-sides

Rian van der Merwe:

But in listening to it front to back several times, and not giving myself the option to skip whenever I got a little bored, I discovered depth and meaning in the songs I didn’t feel when I first listened to it. You see, songs take time. They take time to write, they take time to arrange, they take time to produce and record and mix and master. And when we treat those songs with the respect they deserve, something weird happens. We start to understand them. And like them. And make them part of us.

Easy, immediate access to any song ever recorded using just a tap or a voice command is pretty great, but I’m with Rian in that we’ve lost something because of it. One of the reasons I like vinyl is that I’m forced to live with new music for a while. I’m usually too lazy to put a different record on so I just listen to the same one over and over. I spend more time with a record, and thus feel like I become more connected with the music somehow.

Fifty-Six Questions for Young MC Upon Hearing “Bust a Move” for the First Time in Twenty-Two Years – McSweeney’s

20. In regard to the vignette where one of us fellas goes to a movie alone, sees a yellow-clad woman seated in the same row, and the yellow-clad woman says “come sit next to me you fine fellow” and then a move is prescribed to be busted, what should I take for the headache accrued from trying to absorb your weirdo nonsense word pile?

21. Seeing as the move busted at the theater is not a dance move, as was the case earlier, but rather making out (…?), how are we to know what sort of move is to be busted in any given scenario and perhaps you should purchase a thesaurus?

22. Is your chorus saying that if I want something, I can get that thing by move-busting?

Source: Fifty-Six Questions for Young MC Upon Hearing “Bust a Move” for the First Time in Twenty-Two Years – McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

I was worried that my turntable was broken when I first put on my new Clipse record from VinylMePlease but turns out it was pressed at 45 RPM instead of 33 1/3. Whew. Also, good record.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love using Roon by @roonlabs for managing my music? It’s as if it was designed by someone who would rather just listen to music than sell subscriptions.

Well that was easy. Plus I’m controlling it all via the Mac, iPad, and iPhone. Music everywhere. This is like my first time with Sonos but way better. Roon is my favorite new thing.

It’s only been a couple of days, but Roon may be the greatest thing to happen to my (non-vinyl) music listening ever. https://roonlabs.com/ (Think of the $500 lifetime subscription in terms of other audio devices and it feels almost justifiable).

Two Days With the HomePod

Remember that time I wrote that “I don’t think I need a smart speaker“? Well, I bought Apple’s new HomePod anyway. It arrived a couple days ago and I am thrilled with it.

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A combination of great sound and just-smart-enough control was enough to make me consider shelling out $350 for a HomePod. Early reviews raved about the HomePod’s sound quality, and that clinched it for me.

It may seem self-evident, but the most important aspect of any music speaker is sound quality. It doesn’t matter how “smart” a speaker is if it doesn’t sound good. I’m not talking about the smart device with a speaker you have in your kitchen for setting timers and telling you the weather. I’m talking about a speaker for listening to music. The HomePod is a speaker made for listening to music that also happens to be able to tell you the weather.

I have a few Alexa devices around the house, and I only ever ask them the same handful of questions. “What’s the weather?”, “Set a timer for 15 minutes”, “Remind me to take the trash out at 7:00 PM”.  Siri on the HomePod doesn’t need to be terribly clever to keep up with Alexa in my house.

Even so, I was worried because Siri and I have never gotten along. I gave up using it (her?) on my iPhone long ago, and I’ve found Siri on the Watch to be pretty terrible.

Not so with the HomePod. I can be listening to loud music and casually say “Hey Siri turn it down” in a normal conversational voice from across the room and she always hears me. It’s wild how well it works. Not having to think about or second-guess Siri is new to me and quite a nice surprise.

As for the sound quality, I did a quick side-by-side comparison with a Sonos Play:5 and to my (admittedly non-audiophile) ears, the Play:5 sounds better but the HomePod holds its own. The Sonos packs more of a punch at louder volumes, but the HomePod sounds “bigger” somehow. The HomePod sounds great no matter where I am in the room. Its best sound isn’t limited to any particular sweet spot. I also think it sounds better at lower volumes than the Play:5.

So, even though I didn’t think I wanted a HomePod, I’m very happy to have one. I like it so much that I’m getting another one as soon as I sell the Sonos.

 

 

I don’t think I need a smart speaker

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Lots of chatter this week around Apple’s (belated) release of the HomePod. It’s mostly the usual wild speculation and punditry, but of course I’ve been following along, as I’m interested in whether or not I should buy one.

I don’t think I’ll buy one.

I’m not an audiophile, but I do appreciate quality sound and equipment. The HomePod is interesting to me. Early reports indicate that the sound quality is a winner.

There are several Sonos speakers in my house and I like them just fine. The Play:5 speakers fill (and can overpower) the rooms they’re in. They sound great. I have Sonos in the bedroom, home office, darkroom, living room, and basement workroom. I have more Sonos than rooms to put them in. I’m probably not the best case for determining the usefulness of a HomePod. If I were just starting out it would be a tougher decision.

I also have several Echo devices. I don’t use them for listening to music because they sound terrible. I tried, because being able to say, “Alexa, play songs by Rush” was neat. The novelty wore off. I’m finding that I don’t choose music by thinking about what I want to hear. I choose it by browsing through a library: either shelves of vinyl records or Spotify. I rarely know what I want to hear without looking at something. This makes the voice-driven “smart” speaker features less interesting to me.

Speaking of music, I’ve sort of settled on Spotify. Apple Music is fine and always right there but my family prefers Spotify and I didn’t like paying for both. One could argue that since I just said that I like to first browse music, then play it, using Spotify and AirPlay to the HomePod would be fine. It would, but I’m already doing that with the Sonos (plural) so again, no need for a HomePod.

There are a couple things that could steer me toward a HomePod. First, Apple could finally get its shit together with the Home app and HomeKit. Currently I find Alexa to be more flexible and easier to use for smart home stuff. Second, Siri has to not suck quite so much. People often defend Siri to me, saying “It works great for me” or “Maybe you’re doing it wrong” but Siri and I just don’t get along. Picture me screaming obscenities at my wrist. Alexa isn’t perfect, but Siri truly pisses me off. If Siri on the HomePod somehow works significantly better than Siri everywhere else I’ve tried it, I might feel differently about the HomePod. Third, I could swing back to using Apple Music for streaming. Convenience is compelling.

This is all just me trying to convince myself to not spend $350 on yet another device I don’t need. I’m tempted to take Sonos’ “Two Sonos Ones for $350” offer just to bury any thoughts of getting a HomePod, but I kind of want to keep my options open. One never knows what’ll happen.

Too Much Music: A Failed Experiment In Dedicated Listening – NPR

James Jackson Toth (NPR):

Missing from a larger discussion is the radical idea that maybe it is the consumers who are being done the greatest disservice, and that this access-bonanza may be cheapening the listening experience by transforming fans into file clerks and experts into dilettantes. I don’t want my musical discoveries dictated by a series of intuitive algorithms any more than I want to experience Jamaica via an all-inclusive trip to Sandals.

Fine, call it nostalgia but I am firmly in the access-to-music-is-too-easy-to-appriciate-properly camp, even though Toth discovers something a bit different here. I suspect his experiment was flawed.

Streaming Services and the End of Music Collection – Variety

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Janko Roettgers in Variety:

And there’s simply no room for your 10,000 meticulously tagged MP3s in a world of an always-available 40 million songs.

This is probably true, and it makes me a bit sad, but as Rian van Der Merwe points out on Twitter:

And it continues with another probably true statement…

 

What has also changed is how we consume music, which devices we use to listen to it, how we find and rediscover songs, and how we share them with the world.

But harrumph and balderdash and who’s this “we” he’s referring to? I listen to music almost exclusively on vinyl, so my music collection and collecting isn’t going anywhere. Get off my lawn, Roettgers! 🙂