Hello 2018!

It’s a new year and that means thrilling new musical projects are on the horizon for 2018. The past year gave us quite a few gems including new releases from Tori Amos, Beck, Eminem, The Killers, U2, Guardians of the Galaxy 2’s Awesome Mix Vol. 2 and the first proper solo effort from Liam Gallagher before 2017 ultimately concluding with holiday gifts from Sia, Tom Chaplin and Gwen Stefani.

As we proceed into 2018, we have several exciting items waiting in the wings such as new albums from Florence + the Machine, Father John Misty, Justin Timberlake, MGMT, The 1975 and a new remake of A Star Is Born, containing new music from Lady Gaga. There’s also U2’s highly anticipated Experience + Innocence Tour, so 2018 sounds as if it will be engrossing.

Cheers to a great new year and happy listening to all.

 

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Apple Music: to Stream or Not to Stream Is no Longer the Question

Apple Music

By now everyone not suffering from chronic ennui is well aware Apple has just ventured into the world of music streaming with the newly launched Apple Music. Sadly, there’s no  point in denying that streaming is now the preferred format of choice for mass music consumption in the digital age. Apple’s latest undertaking officially kicked off on June 30 with star-studded Beats 1 radio shows featuring Elton John, Pharrell Williams, Drake, and a candid interview with Eminem. Even with all the swirling hyperbole and celebration, the real question you’re probably asking yourself right now is if it’s really worth changing your membership from your current streaming platform?

For a monthly subscription fee of $9.99 (or a six device family plan for $14.99 per month), Apple Music allows me access to its vast library of tens of thousands of tracks, coupled with my personal collection previously downloaded and/or ripped into iTunes. Alas, everything I already own in addition to Apples’ catalog live together in one place, without having to switch between multiple apps. Plus, there is a free three month trial period for new subscribers, which makes Apple Music a better bargain than Rhapsody, Spotify, Jay-Z’s Tidal, or Neil Young’s Pono.

The app consists of five major sections:

1) My Music – Here you can save music and playlists from songs within your own collection as well as Apple’s catalog of streaming tracks, all of which can be saved for on-the-go offline listening.

2) For You – This section goes beyond mere algorithms. It utilizes suggestions made by real music people including editors of Apple Music, Rolling Stone, and Pitchfork to help pick noteworthy music. It also retains your recently played tracks and uses them to create a custom made playlist. Also, you can ask Siri to locate and play specific songs and top 10 lists.

3) Connect – This social platform section is where you’ll connect directly with artists to find new and exclusive content including music, lyrics, pictures, commentaries, and videos. This is a great place to find new and unsigned artists.

4) Radio –  Apple’s new radio station, Beats 1, features DJ Zane Love, broadcasting from London, New York, and Los Angeles. The station is a live, ad free broadcast Monday through Friday, with special events on the weekends.

5) New – Here you’ll find new releases, singles, and chart-topping hits, all  compiled for you in one area. This is basically iTunes’ weekly update for new and recently released titles.

All of Apple Music’s features integrate seamlessly with iOS and Siri, allowing me complete access to both music libraries (mine plus iTunes) without wasting additional space through an external application. This reason alone was worth canceling my subscription to other streaming services as it freed up approximately two gigabytes of memory storage. Not to mention nearly 75% of my monthly fee is funneled directly back into the music industry, which is a higher percentage than other streaming companies.

Since Apple announced its new streaming service, I’ve read numerous comments attempting to cavil every speculated detail, as well as various malarkey concerning Apple’s perceived lack of innovation, causing me to ponder what exactly people were expecting. Perhaps the naysayers were waiting for Apple to reinvent music, or design a streaming app that’s capable of feeding them, wiping their asses and tucking them into bed!? Ultimately, Apple has once again succeeded in doing what Apple does best, which is smoothing out all the rough edges and limitations found in previous apps. In my opinion, a new streaming option that allows users to combine their already existing libraries and supports offline listening seems like a win-win scenario for Apple and its customers.

Creating and customizing personal playlists has never been this easy on other streaming apps, and I’ve tried them all from the worst (Rhapsody) to the best (Beats Music). It’s as if someone at Apple read my mind and added all the intuitive features I’d been wishing other music streaming services had included, i.e.: the color scheme of the album artwork incorporates into the now playing screen , the equalizer is already an innate part of the iPhone which negates wasting time maneuvering through an additional platform, plus gapless playback is actually gapless without sputtering, pauses, or hiccups. Ultimately, not only did a subscription service finally get it right, but as an iPhone user it makes perfect sense to convert to Apple Music considering the two were made for each other.

At the Closing of the Year

2013

As we say goodbye to 2013 with all too fresh memories of Miley Cyrus’ embarrassing raunch, the aural overkill of Lorde’s “Royals,” and the over saturated blandness of Katy Perry still lingering about, we can only look ahead with hope that 2014 will redeem this year’s failures.

The beginning of a new year always seems exhilarating as it promises a fresh start and a renewed faith that things can only get better. Looking into the not so distant future we can expect new releases from U2, a return to alternative pop from Tori Amos (after her last three classical infused releases), Cher’s final farewell and last hurrah (Dressed to Kill Tour), and after an extended absence from live performing, cerebral shit stirrer Lady Gaga returns to the touring scene with her upcoming artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball Tour.

Although too much time was wasted during the past few months on less than triumphant spectacles and dashed expectations, 2013 managed to deliver some great musical moments including David Bowie’s return with The Next Day, Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience, Cher’s first album in 12 years, Closer to the Truth, Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2, Christian Burns’ Simple Modern Answers, Panic! at the Disco’s Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! and of course Lady Gaga’s heady party record ARTPOP. The year’s end also saw masterfully crafted seasonal offerings by Kelly Clarkson, Erasure, and Leona Lewis, all of which brought 2013 to a fitting and timely end.

With fingers crossed and musical palettes cleansed, let’s close out 2013 by taking a beat to remember how music makes us feel as it permanently finds its way into the soundtrack of our lives. As we prepare to leap forward into a new year, let’s hope our high expectations of better days to come are fulfilled in 2014.