Google has decided to sunset its music platform Google Play Music by the end of the year in order to transition users over to Youtube Music. I wasn't happy to hear this since I've been using GPM as my primary mobile audio player for a number of years now- basically ever since getting an android phone, and I found many of its key features work well with how I listen to music.
Pictured: my musical modus operandi - cd, vinyl, & digital collections
A bit on that- firstly, I remain a music collector. I still buy quite a bit of music- mp3s, vinyl, and even the occasional CD. I'd rather pay $10 (hopefully to the the artist) and own the music outright than pay a monthly subscription to a platform in order to access it. And I find I connect with music better when it is part of my collection. Secondly, I tend to still listen to albums front to back rather than playlists. And when I do listen to playlists, they are typically ones I created rather than playlists curated by someone else.
Basically I've retained many of the listening habits that I developed from when I started buying CDs as a teenager in the 90s. And I found GPM always worked pretty well with that. Sure, the interface to upload the library was a bit clunky, but at least it provided a backup of my entire music library to the cloud, and made it easy to steam anywhere or download to my phone so I could listen in my car without worrying about having to use mobile data. GPM also allows for some degree of library organization, although it was always annoying that the default picture for some artists doesn't exist or is wrong with no apparent way to change. And (aside from the occasional "upgrade to the premium version" reminders) I liked that Google Play Music didn't require a subscription or play ads like Spotify does. Basically it was free and worked pretty well overall. So it was unwelcome news to hear that it was going away, and I started looking at what my other options were.
Apparently paying the monthly subscription fee for YTM makes ads go away and enables background music play. But seriously fuck YouTube Music. Maybe I just got spoiled by a free app that I found really useful for years, and bitter about them removing baseline app functionality, but after dealing with Youtube Music I was seriously considering dropping Android altogether and getting my first iPhone. But that was all before I found a couple other options to better handle my music library.
Plex is a whole multimedia platform associated with the Tidal music, and includes a media server that makes your music library available anywhere. Setting it up wasn't too bad (just pointing it to the music library folder on my laptop and letting it do it's thing), and playing music on my laptop worked fine after fumbling around some to actually find my music library among all the other stuff on there (Movies & TV, Live TV, Web Shows, etc.).
This is a platform that I didn't see as much info on when I was searching around for GPM/YTM alternatives. But the bit I read about iBroadcast made me feel it was worth giving a test drive to before shelling out $ for the premium (aka "usable") Plex membership.
First, it's totally free and at the core provides the same functionality that I enjoyed from GPM - a cloud backup of my personal music library with a mobile app the supports both streaming and offline play. The FAQ says there is a "premium service is currently being tested and actively developed. It will offer additional options, features and device support," but so far it seems like the free service provides all the features I'm looking for.
The interface doesn't have the slick (and frankly corporate feeling) design of Plex or others, but still provides a lot functionality and I find it to be highly usable. Uploading my library took a while, but was pretty straightforward. The parser did a pretty decent job automatically arraigning all my tracks into their respective albums, but even where it got confused I found I could customize anything I needed to using the Library Editor. Artist/Album artwork is easily customizeable, which is a step up from having to just live with the occasional wrong artist background picture in GPM.
So goodbye Google Play Music, fuck you Youtube Music, and long-live iBroadcast.
Without being able to rehearse or play shows as normal, focusing on new music became the next logical creative outlet. And as songs started coming out of this I assumed that for practical reasons it would continue to be basically a solo effort (like it was for "SNR" and "What the heck"). While Covid lockdown has possibly made solo writing & recording easier to focus on, it has definitely made collaboration much more difficult.
But then Alex emailed me this great song idea and I knew that this was the next one to work on. And "Having Fun" goes to show that when the song is right, working together on it comes easily despite any practical challenges. So Alex and I coordinated remotely over the past month - which basically entailed him sending me virtually finished & mixed drums, bass, and guitar tracks to sing over. So I added vocals and some lead guitar accents, and really the hardest part for me was trying to make sure anything I added didn't diminish the high quality foundation that Alex set up.
So we proudly present the thing that's been stuck in my head for the past month. It's available for streaming and download from Bandcamp (all proceeds going to the Equal Justice Initiative). And here's a silly lyric video that tries to reflect the beachy vibe of the tune. <3cg
You cut your leg off to save a buck or two
Because you never consider the cost
You find the lowest prices every day
But would you look at everything that we've lost - David Bazan, "Strange Negotiations" (2011)
Last month I saw an article about whether it was time for musicians to join the advertising boycott of Facebook and Instagram due to Facebook's reluctance to curtail hate speech and misinformation on it's platforms. My first instinct was to hope that maybe that some pressure like this could cause Facebook to change, but that hope was quickly dashed.
And I'm still thinking about our fucked-up relationship with social media and how we navigate that, both as individuals and as a collective. Some artists have made the tough choice to stop buying ads on these exploitative platforms, even though that comes at a high cost of not effectively reaching new or existing listeners.
But what can fans and listeners do? One thing is to spread the word about your favorite music, the old fashion way or otherwise. It costs nothing and means everything. Another thing is to follow your favorite artists over on Bandcamp, which also costs nothing. Bandcamp is the only platform that I can think of right now that doesn't make me feel gross and actually seems focused on users (both musicians and listeners) instead of advertisers.
And they are continuing their "Bandcamp Fridays," where they waive the platform revenue share so that money goes directly to the artists- the first Friday of every month through the end of the year.
Bazan may not have been thinking about social media giants back when he was writing Strange Negotiations almost a decade ago. But his insight into human nature makes his observations then just as (if not more) relevant today.
Homicidal Horticulturist is short but packs in a lot, and still makes space for the really interesting drum part on the chorus to shine though. The drums throughout the record are worth listening to closely. Here is a catchy jam channeling Pavement and again bringing great lead guitar hooks to bear. On it's heels is the also extremely catchy Real Allies. "Kill your enemies without making any real allies" Emory sings, right before unleashing the dueling guitars.
The Seven Seas depicts a relatable scenario from days gone by - "Tonight there is a show, seems like I outta go, but the effort that's required to untangle all the wires ... it's all imaginary when you stay home alone." Another highlight track is No Damn Good because it is just so damn good. Finally, Sojourn Suspect shifts gears with the groovy acoustic Downstream, which is reminiscent of some of the best stuff from Band of Horses. It's an excellent, interesting, and fitting closer.
I couldn't help but feel some envy while listing to Sojourn Suspect. This is very much the kind of music I'd like to be making. Recording everything by myself lately has me aware somewhat of the process, and appreciating how natural Emory's end product sounds here - everything blends just right, like it just came together with ease. The musicianship is top notch and shines through on each track - solid performances of great songwriting and exceptional creativity across the board.
I'll definitely recommend Sojourn Suspect, especially for fans of Bent Shapes, Dares, Tijuana Panthers, and (of course, Repeating Cloud label-mates) Lemon Pitch. Worth mentioning is that these are all bands I had to see live to be won over. Well, due to circumstances I haven't had that chance yet with Sojourn Suspect, but this record is so well done that it stands on its own. Hopefully these circumstances are fleeting, and Sojourn Suspect sticks around a lot longer.
We just released a new song called "SNR" as the second installment in our humble exile collection.
It's a bit more unhinged than usual for us. I wanted to make a song that jumped right in and went full stop for about two minutes. And it's undoubtedly a product of me spending too much time scrolling social media lately (particularly twitter), and the song is somewhat of a reflection on the blanket of noise that covers so many important issues going on today.
Like I said when releasing "What the heck" a few weeks ago, I wasn't sure then when the next song idea would come along or what it would be. And that's still the case now that "SNR" is finished and out there. This one really came together in just a couple days - a lot faster than I expected. And who knows - maybe the next one will too, or not. So yeah right now I have no idea what will come next, but I'm honestly pretty excited to discover whatever that is. Stay tuned.
But for now we hope you enjoy this song. We'd love if you'd stream it loud and if you share it with anyone you'd be our goddamn heroes. And if you want to buy it, the proceeds all go to the Equal Justice Initiative.
Thank you for listening. Talk is cheap. Be kind to each other. Black Lives Matter.
All proceeds from this release will go to the Equal Justice Initiative, who is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the U.S., challenging racial and economic injustice, and protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society. See more information about Equal Justice Initiative at their website eji.org.
Here's a lyric video for "What the heck" featuring animations of the Mandelbrot set and other trippy fractals. I feel like the fractal visuals go well with the lyrical themes that we're all connected as part of something larger. And even though the divisions we invent among ourselves are superficial and arbitrary, the pain those divisions cause is real and hurts all of us.
Thank you for listening and remember to be kind to each other, and that Black Lives Matter.
Here's our lyrics video for "Let's Gets Going!" inspired by all the stuff we miss doing right now, like singing karaoke and sneaking booze into the waterpark. #Stayhome and sing & dance along.
And then if you still have 3 minutes you can also check out the live version of "Level Five" recorded last summer at the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain MA.
Here's a song we've been kicking around for a while a finally got around to recording. I can't say it really fits with the 2020 energy at this point, but fuck the 2020 energy.
I prefer some Ramones & Guitar Wolf energy right now anyway. And we have some more new music coming very soon, and in the meantime we hope you enjoy this one. Stay healthy and we hope to see you soon <3
LET'S GETS GOING
ON JET COASTERS
LET'S GETS GOING
ON WATER SLIDERS
LET'S GETS GOING YEAH!
HAI HAI HAI! (はい はい はい)
LET'S GETS GOING YEAH!
This is some pretty fucked up times right now- no doubt about that. Aside from the sickness threatening us, people's livelihoods are in extreme peril right now. Particularly musicians that depend on touring revenue.
That is not us. If we play 2 shows in a week we might call that a "tour", but overall we fuck around and play music merely as fans of music, and are very fortunate to have other stable jobs that fund this otherwise non-sustainable thing we like doing.
So we want to do our part to help the actual musicians out there, and want to encourage you to do the same. That means still buying some merch online instead of at the merch table, and maybe even buying some music (direct from the artist if possible) instead of just streaming it on Spotify or whatever.
And for what it's worth, you can download all our music for free right now. If you do choose to throw some bucks our way for a song/cd/shirt whatever, we guarantee to put all proceeds back into the music ecosystem to help other artists. Those will certainly include some of our favorites like David Bazan (Pedro the Lion), Slothrust, This Will Destroy You, Los Campesinos!, Matt & Kim, Keith & Hollie Kenniff (Unseen), and Dares. And if you have a suggestion let us know that as well. There's lots of music out there to listen to while in isolation.
Stay safe, healthy, and sane out there. We'll get through this <3
*Update 12/24/2020* just noticed that David Lowery added In The Shadow Of The Bull to his bandcamp page over the summer (previously only available on limited edition CD) so I recommend checking it out and following him for timely info on any other music he releases.
I've been pretty into David Lowery's songwriting (Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven) since buying "Kerosene Hat" on CD as a high school kid in the mid-90s (and also as a college kid on a European study abroad in the early 00's). The mix of dry humor, harsh irreverence, and wistful vulnerability in Lowrey's lyrics always resonated with me. And the pairing with Johnny Hickman's smooth and skilled lead guitar work made their band Cracker stand out among their '90s alternative/grunge peers. Then at some later point I discovered that magic of Camper Van Beethoven, but that could be a topic of another blog post. Anyway, I saw Cracker play a few times in Atlanta when I was in college, and then more recently they seem to come around to Boston to play every year in January with Camper Van on the bill as well. So I had the chance to see them again last month and it was great hearing them again live.
At the show I saw the merch table had copies of David Lowery's "In The Shadow Of The Bull," a 2019 limited edition release of 1000 copies that was listed as "Out Of Stock" when I'd looked for it online a while back. I'd also noted that the songs didn't seem to be available to streaming anywhere- a bit surprising perhaps, but maybe less so if you're aware of Lowery's views on how modern music distribution affects artists' rights and livelihoods.
But a few copies the CD were available at the merch table that night - at a price considerably higher than I'm accustomed to paying for music anymore - but also it was autographed. I've also become accustomed to hearing music online before I purchase it, but that wasn't an option here. So I bought it, purely the on the blind (deaf?) faith in the artist's reputation. And I found my faith to be rewarded, because "In The Shadow Of The Bull" is definitely something special.
In this stripped down set of 7 songs, Lowery takes a look back across various periods of his life and captures moments from 1963 ("Frozen Sea") to 2010 ("Yonder Distance Shore"), with vivid reflections of his family, his friends, his loves, and his losses. Two songs that stood out immediately were "Disneyland Jail, 1977" - which warns of the dangers of doing mushrooms on Space Mountain (and passing out drunk on the monorail), and "Mexican Chickens, 1989" - which laments being too foolish and selfish to see what he had in someone before leaving her behind. I think the lyrics of this one are amazing and devastating.
An appeal in the liner notes asks the listener to be part of this project: "Please do not make copies, share on social media, or upload ... Think small. Ubiquity is overrated." And it all made sense, why the price of entry was so high, and the contents behind the gate not visible from the outside. I feel part of something now, something more like the way music was back when I was a kid in the early/mid 90s getting into a lot of the music I still love today.
So anyway, to weakly tie this back in to our band, here's a video of us playing CVB's "Take The Skinheads Bowling." Enjoy! <3 cg
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