It’s a petty argument, I know…

…but I just quit following a few music blogs that I’ve been following for quite a few years.

Why? Because they and many of their readers lost their shit yesterday when news broke that Phil Collins, following up with his recent reissue campaign, decided to release the numerous related-era b-sides and remixes as two digital-only compilations rather than physically on CD.

No, it wasn’t because of all the Phil Collins hate. I like his stuff just fine, but I’m not upset about that. I’m just exhausted by the digital hate.

People like myself, who once had a stupidly large physical collection of vinyl, cassettes and CDs but decided that having room for other things in their homes and their lives is just a little more important, have no issue with digital. Maybe it’s just me, having grown up listening to third-generation dubs from friends, that I don’t mind if the sound quality isn’t completely pristine. I’m here for the music, not for its perfection. I’m definitely of the school of Not Hearing an All That Noticeable Difference Between Digital and Vinyl and Not Caring Much Either Way. I love the fact that I can own so many complete discographies that take up an index card-sized external drive. I love that I can filter it any way I like — especially by release date. I love that I can make mix tapes by copying and bundling these same mp3s together.

I mean, I get the whole collecting thing. I used to be that person. I’ll still buy the occasional box set, especially if it’s a complete discography. I may even buy it if it’s a brand new and improved remaster. And I will definitely buy it if it’s Beatles-related. But you know how I am about collectibles. I have no space for them, no turntable or cassette player to play them on. And if they’re on cd, I’ll rip them to my collection and store them away, if I have room…and I may sell them for store credit at Amoeba at a future date. Back in the day I might have thought the mere idea of all this was heresy, but nowadays digital suits me just fine.

But let me tell you, it’s really damn irritating when a favorite band releases a new track that’s only available on a 7″ single selling for $25, or has a limited edition of 140 and only available on cassette during Record Store Day. These music blogs will fall over themselves with excitement about this sort of thing and shell out whatever money it takes, though, and I won’t take that away from them. That’s their jam, and they’re welcome to it.

I just feel left out and forgotten by the bands I happen to like when they pull this.

So when us digital people get a pleasant surprise project of things we’d like to pick up, it’s doubly irritating when those same collectors cry foul by refusing to download, shouting “no cd, no buy”, claiming label stupidity, questioning the business acumen of the musicians, and generally being pouty children. I can’t help but eyeroll. I even saw one state “why have it digital only when you can listen to it for free streaming?” Which, okay, some digital fans like streaming only, but there’s just as many of us out there who love being able to download. Not to mention there are numerous indie bands out there who are doing pretty good on bandcamp selling equal numbers of downloads and physical copies. To dismiss digital collectors like this is not only annoying as hell, it makes you sound like an elitist snob.

I’m just tired of that snobbery. I have other music blogs and sites to inform me of new releases. (AllMusic in particular seems to help greatly for me.) I’m tired of being lumped as Not a Real Fan because I don’t own the physical copy.

I just want to listen to the music I like, damn it. Is that too much to ask?

It is 5am and you are listening to Los Angeles

As I’ve mentioned on various outlets, I’ll be on a solo vacation next week, heading south to Los Angeles on a six-day trip to various parts of the SoCal Sprawl. I’m hoping to hit my usual favorite haunts: Amoeba Hollywood, Santa Monica Pier, LACMA and Museum Row, The Nickel Diner,The Last Bookstore, among others… as well as some points of interest (musical and otherwise) that I’ve been wanting to hit: a movie at Graumann’s (or whatever it’s called now), Griffith Observatory (if it’s open), Echo Park, Sunset Grill (a favorite Don Henley song!), The Sunset Strip, McCabe’s Guitar Shop, and other fun places. I’m even going to check out the Warner Bros movie lot!

So of course I have a playlist to upload to my mp3 player for the trip…. ūüôā

Fly-By: brb, busy doing a bajillion different things.

Right now I have a hell of a lot on my plate, so I’m going to take the rest of the week off so I can get caught up and give myself a little bit of breathing room. I may take next week off as well.¬† We shall see.

In the meantime, please enjoy this new Beatles video for “Glass Onion”, which will be on the new White Album box set out this Friday.¬† And yes, of¬†course I pre-ordered it ages ago!

Thirty-three (and a third?) Years On: 1985

This past weekend I was falling down the YouTube rabbit hole and stumbled up on one of my favorite Phil Collins songs, “Take Me Home”, from his third solo album¬†No Jacket Required.¬† One of the wild realizations that occurred to me was that, a little over thirty-three years later, I have visited at least half of the locations in this video, and currently live in one of them.¬† More to the point, I don’t think the fourteen-year-old me would ever have imagined that ever happening.¬† Visiting Hollywood, various parts of central and greater London, and living in Greater London was something I’d have wanted to do as a teen but had no idea if it would ever happen.¬† I just thought of it as a fun pipe dream.

I’ve been thinking about that year lately, actually.¬† On IHeart80s Radio, they’ve been playing full episodes of¬†American Top 40 (with Casey Kasem hosting), and now and again I find myself listening in, because that was the era I listened to it almost religiously every weekend.¬† Most of my radio mixtapes from that era came from those shows. That year’s chart-topping sound was an amazing mix of rock, R&B, soul, pop, and everything in between.

It was right at the end of my sucktastic years in junior high and my freshman year in high school, where I hoped my life (social and academic) would be so much better. It would take some time before I finally grew out of the small-town groupthink that I was so desperately trying to fit into and move on to bigger and better things, but for the time being I let myself get more immersed in my radio listening and mixtape-making. I still went to the school dances and hung out with my buddies, but I was there for the tunage, not for the girls. [Okay, that’s a half-truth. I was desperate, but at the same time I knew I was in no good frame of mind to have a girlfriend when I was an overly emotional twit with an overactive and underused imagination. That’s about when I buried myself in my burgeoning writing habit as well.]

I’ll be honest, I was getting sick of all the social drama. So I immersed myself in all the music that I could. If I happened to have money from an allowance (or saved up from my leftover lunch money) I’d head downtown to buy a few cassettes. I’d pick up cheap records at flea markets with my dad. I’d make copies of albums my sisters bought. Anything to buy the new albums that were being played on the radio.

It was definitely a strange time when I didn’t quite know who I was or what I wanted to do, just that I didn’t want to be what I presently was. Listening to the radio was the escape. It was the soundtrack to my writing (my other escape). Music gave me a connection to my classmates in a way that other things like sports and whatever else couldn’t. Even then I was known as the weird kid who knew every song on the charts and a lot of deep cuts on albums. Where the popular kids might not have given me the time of day, they’d ask me about some album or some band and if the album was worth picking up.

In a way, I’m kind of glad that I’ve kept that part of me all these years. I no longer use music purely as a social escape (at least not as much as I did then, of course), but I’m still a Subject Matter Expert for some of my friends. And in this internet day and age, it’s a shared interest that’s brought me all sorts of new friends and acquaintances that I might not have met in a different setting.

And here I am, writing this at home in San Francisco, one of the locations in the “Take Me Home” video I loved so much.

Living in the Eighties

In addition to writing my Thirty Years On series here and listening to my share of 1988 all over again, I’ve been listening to Sirius XM’s 1st Wave station the last few days.¬† This comes to absolutely no surprise to any of you, of course.¬† I’m an Eighties kid.¬† I spent that entire decade in front of the radio making mixtapes, in front of the tube glued to MTV, and Killing Music By Home Taping.

This means I remember a lot of the weird, wonderful and horrible things that went on in the world then.¬† In a way I’m kind of happy that I’m able to wax nostalgic — not to say ‘it was so much better then’ (it was definitely¬†different, sure, but I wouldn’t say¬†better) but to be able to see the parallels between then and now.

The reign of a useless, mindless, comic relief President (I say, despite stomach churning); the shadow of Russia and the Cold War looming just over our shoulders; the big and small wars taking place in various corners of the world; the groups of whacked-out conspiracy theorists, the fervent believers of pseudo-religions, and the willingly passive followers of evangelism; the instability of unregulated banking; the sexism of the Alpha Male; the terrorist attacks and the plane crashes; the Young Republicans and their drive to Win At Any Cost; American uberpatriotism and self-assigned exceptionalism; the classic situations of jock versus nerd and all its permutations; and of course the punks and nonconformists who were just plain fucking tired of getting broadsided with all of this and refused to play those games anymore.

I try to be positive about it all, to be honest.¬† There are days where I need to turn off the internet and take a dandelion break, or pull out my journal and bleed out some of my anxiety or frustration.¬† I don’t become blissfully ignorant about it all, at least not like I did when I was a teenager more interested in music than what went on in the world.¬† I merely look at it from a different perspective.

I get frustrated that this is all happening again — sometimes with freakish accuracy — but I’ve lived through it already, so I kind of know what’s coming and what to expect.¬† Because of this I’m not as pessimistic.¬† It’s all aggravating, yes.¬† It truly does piss me off that so many get hit with the shrapnel.¬† But somehow, at some point, it *will* get better if we *make* it get better.

We did it before, we can do it again.

Perfect Albums Meme

Name an album, in any genre, that you think is 100% perfect Рwhere you don’t skip 1 track. Р@MOBOAwards

Of¬†course I fell prey to this meme.¬† Here’s an obviously partial list:

The La’s,¬†The La’s¬†— Singer/leader Lee Mavers might think this masterpiece of his is incomplete and nowhere near what he was hearing in his head, but to me it’s a perfect album.¬† A mix of the blossoming alternative rock sound of the late 80s-early 90s, Liverpudlian guitar folk, and just a pinch of psychedelia for flavor, and it became an album that I will always think of as my favorite albums of the 90s, tied with…

Failure,¬†Fantastic Planet — On a completely different plane of existence, it’s an incredible record filled with amazing songwriting and production.¬† It’s loud, it’s devastating, and it leaves me breathless every time I listen to it.

The Beatles,¬†Revolver — Of course, I could list almost any other Beatles release here, but their 1966 album remains my favorite of theirs because it’s the moment where they changed from lovable mop-tops writing songs about love to adults writing about life.¬† Just after their folky¬†Rubber Soul and just before their psychedelic¬†Sgt Pepper.

Global Communication,¬†76:14 — If you need to own just one ambient album, let it be this one.¬† It’s a lovely album to get lost in and let your mind wander.¬† Where a lot of ambient instrumental albums can sometimes meander into navel-gazing boredom, this album keeps your attention all the way through.

Massive Attack,¬†Mezzanine — “Teardrop” is right up there as one of my favorite songs of all time, and the album it’s from is equally excellent.¬† A great example of trip-hop moodiness and clever sonic creativity — especially with this album, which uses quiet and empty spaces as part of its soundscape.

Depeche Mode, Violator — Another album that signifies a band’s change.¬† This is where they went from their classic synth-and-sample sound they’d been known for, to a full-band sound complete with guitar.¬† Martin Gore’s songwriting evolved at amazing speed here; “Enjoy the Silence” remains one of his crowning achievements to this day.

Beck, Sea Change — Before this album, he’d been known as that “Loser” guy who wrote weird and goofy Mad-Lib-style lyrics with the occasional foray into odd but listenable folk rock, but this album was where he proved just how serious of an artist he really is.¬† It’s haunting, sometimes heartbreaking, and extremely personal, but it’s also an absolutely gorgeous album.

UNKLE, Psyence Fiction — A very fitting title for this record, it’s a mix of hip-hop, trip-hop, alternative rock, rap, and more, all with a science fictional subtext.¬† James Lavelle has always been an amazing musician/producer who creates chilly and cavernous soundscapes, and this is a perfect example of it.

Indigo Girls, Indigo Girls — Ever have one of those albums where you kinda like a few songs on it, then once you finally sit down and listen to it all the way through and realize just how freaking amazing it is?¬† Amy Ray and Emily Saliers are brilliant songwriters, but they’re also brilliant at crafting a perfect vocal duet.

And one more I forgot to mention that I thought of today:

Tears for Fears,¬†Songs from the Big Chair — It’s their most famous album (I still hear “Head Over Heels” on the radio to this day), but it’s also one of my favorite albums of the 80s.¬† Poppy, jazzy, and even a little experimental, every single one of its tracks has a certain amazing quality to it.¬† [Listen, for example, to the Gershwin-esque “The Working Hour” with its slow build and blistering sax solos.]

*

I could of course come up with so many more albums to add to this list, but I’ll hold myself back.¬† For now!