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Category: culture

eMusic

The latest “discovery” in my continuing search for MP3s I can pay for is eMusic. While I really like it, eMusic is sort of a mixed bag in the online music world – half subscription service, half store, providing a strange experience at first.

Most subscription services give you unlimited access to a large library of DRM-ed tracks which all expire when you close your account. eMusic, on the other hand, is a subscription service that lets you download a limited number of non-DRM, totally standard MP3 files that are yours to keep even after the your subscription ends. You pick a service level, like $10/month for 20 songs or $25/month for 100 songs. That’s about $0.25 song – pretty amazing considering that other services tend to charge around $1.00 per song.

eMusic’s catalog tends toward the indie, which while great for me might not suit everyone (I’ve certainly found tons of music I like.). The quality also might not please audiophiles – VBR targeting an average of 192k. My only gripe is this: if I have 9 songs left on my account and I grab a whole album of 10 songs, I’d like to be able to complete the album at my currently monthly song rate of $0.25. It’d be great if the library were more vast, but that will come with time.

All in all, I love eMusic, and I’m sure I’ll be a long-term subscriber. I love buying music, I love doing it cheaply, I love generating no plastic waste or needless shipping, and I love getting standard files that will play forever.

Moreover, and my real reason for writing: if you think you might like it too, let me know. If I refer you and you join for at least a month, we’ll each get 50 free songs! That’s like four free albums. What more could you ask for? :D

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Amazon MP3

The new MP3 store from Amazon delivers a perfect modern music retail experience, at least as I’ve imagined it over the years. I like buying my music, but I don’t want more CDs – chunks of plastic that do nothing but sit on a shelf. I like iTunes, but I don’t want DRM, and I don’t want to be limited to one device. Buying MP3s is the perfect solution, and Amazon provides a fantastic user experience to boot.

You first install a small application on your machine. Then you simply browse the extensive online library. Songs are reasonably priced, usually lower than $0.99. Better yet, full albums are usually priced from $7.99 – $9.99. When you find what you like and click to buy it, the Amazon Downloader automatically puts it in your designated music folder, nicely organized, and adds it to iTunes or Windows Media Player if you like.

While they don’t yet have the selection that iTunes offers, at 2.3 million songs and climbing they have tons. The files are high quality (~256Kbps, VBR), standard MP3s. I bought several albums there this weekend, and the whole experience has been incredibly pleasing. I love knowing that the music I paid for will be easily playable on whatever device I happen to have in the future, and I love that iTunes finally has a powerful competitor.

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Frat Brat Pogo Party

I finally had the pleasure of a Fountains of Wayne concert on Sunday. Originally slated to open for Joan Jett at the State Fair, they ended up playing a free show when she canceled. They’ve been one of my favorite bands since the first time I heard they’re infections “Radiation Vibe.”

They played a very tight set featuring almost all my favorite songs (“Girl I Can’t Forget” was probably wishful thinking anyway). Unfortunately, there were quite a few silly frat boys in the party who knew nothing of FoW except for their huge hit single, “Stacy’s Mom” – a great 80s/The Cars tribute. They kept yelling “Stacy’s Mom” throughout the show, going so far as to chant en masse.

Eventually, they played it, and the crowd went nuts in a big pogo party. It was actually a really cool scene, very excited crowd, great music, my sweet sugar on my arm. It was then I noticed the American flag waving through the smoke machine in the distance behind the stage. It cemented it all together for me.

Anyway, the moment the song ended, about 30 of these plaid short/Abercrombie wearing dudes just filed out, missing the best song of the night – “Radiation Vibe” with a medley of 80s classic over the guitar solo. What a bunch of lame-os.

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Ms. Pac Revolution

I’ve always liked Dance Dance Revolution a lot, so when it came out for the Xbox 360, I had to get it immediately. Today as I was playing, it occurred to me that I could use the dance pad to play other games. I fired up Xbox Live Arcade, and sure enough, I was playing Ms. Pac Man with my feet in no time! I scored a whopping 800 points, but I can see a future here. Say goodbye to those last ten pounds!

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Wii!

I eagerly jumped on the Wii bandwagon on Friday, luckily finding one through a coworker after a month of looking. It’s a neat system. I still haven’t been able to tear myself from World of Warcraft long enough to get in to Zelda, much to my surprise, but I’m rather addicted to Wii Bowling. I enjoy the baseball as well. The Tennis is fun, but I’m bothered by the degree to which swinging the Wii Remote differs from actually swinging a Tennis Racket. Perhaps I’ll get over it, but I think it points to what I like about bowling and baseball, swinging the Wii Remote in those games more closely mirrors the actions of those sports. Nitpicking. It’s all fun.

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Ding!

In what may be my geekiest admission, I just hit level 60 in World of Warcraft. It only took me 17 days, 17 hours, and 45 minutes of playing time, spread out over the course of a year and two weeks. Woo-hoo!

It’s strange. When I first downloaded the demo of the game over the holidays a year ago, I didn’t think I’d like it: I don’t like RPGs, and I generally don’t like fantasy. WoW is just fun. And so addicting!

Now to get started on those thank-you notes…

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Rhett Miller

Other than the great coffee-shop shows by my friend the incomparable Kevin Taylor, I haven’t been to many concerts in the last year or two. My jar of First Avenue ticket stubs was starting to get pretty dusty. So I was excited when I had a chance to see Rhett Miller play there on Friday night.

He certainly didn’t disappoint. He played a dense, rockin’ set for over two hours with only a minute or two of break near the end. Rhett is such a great performer: excuberant, enthusiastic, and energetic… and he doesn’t miss a beat or kick or expression if a string or guitar strap breaks. I got to hear all my favorites from his last two albums, not to mention those from the Old 97’s.

I first experienced Rhett Miller’s music when he was the opening act at a Tori Amos concert I was dragged to a few years ago. With just a mic and an acoustic guitar, he demonstrated all the aformentioned talent along with great pop hook and impressed me immediately. I even bought the disc at the show – a rare event. Not sure what else to say. Rhett Miller just strikes the perfect balance between power pop and alt country with clever, witty, and heartfelt lyrics that never lack from inventive wordplay and allusion.

Anyway, go see Rhett when he’s in your town. Until then, spin The Instigator and The Believer until the laser breaks.

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No Longer Left

… of the dial. Minnesota Public Radio launched a new radio station (KCMP – 89.3 FM) this morning, and it’s instantly everything these Twin Cities have been missing since the brilliant Rev 105 left the air years ago. The Current, as this new station is called, is even better – essentially the same eclectic (don’t say alternative) format, but with no commercials! The station is so good that I’m not even missing my iPod, which is out for repairs after a tragic, locker room plummet. Atmosphere, Wilco, The Replacements, Death Cab for Cutie, Luna… all in the first 45 minutes… does it get any better than this?

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Triplets

I saw the The Triplets of Belleville last night at the Lagoon Theater. This is easily the funniest, most interesting, and most beautiful animated film I’ve ever seen, all with only two or three lines of spoken dialogue. Do whatever you have to do to see this movie. If it loses the best animated film Oscar to Finding Nemo, there is clearly no justice, reason, or logic in those awards. But we already know that. See Saving Private Ryan losing to Shakespeare in Love or the perfect LA Confidential losing to Titanic.

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