Tag Archives: Music

PTJ 209: Fights and Flights

It’s been a loooong campaign and Election Day is just a few weeks away. If you want to beat the crowds, J.D. has a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint on how to see if your state allows early voting — and what you need to bring to the polls. Meanwhile El Kaiser has a few new headphones to inspect. In the week’s tech news Google checks facts and flights, Samsung is still scrambling to douse the Galaxy Note 7 fires, Facebook Messenger has some suggestions for your online discourse and there is a squadron of Taunting Drones buzzing drivers south of the border. Want to find out more? Just press Play.

Headphone Review Models

Status Audio CB-1 Closed Black Studio Monitors
• thinksound On2 Monitor Series

Links to This Week’s News Stories

PTJ 148: Apple and Hillary Turn the Beat Around

Apple released iOS 8.4 this week unleashing Apple Music and Beats Radio with it. Also in the news  an unmanned SpaceX cargo flight exploded in flight;  Google and the government try to prevent car accidents at train crossings; and Apple loses federal appeal on ebook price-fixing  case. You know there’s more news and more snark so give the show a listen.

New York Times reporter Laura Holson joins us to discuss presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton’s use of the online platform Genius (formerly known as Rap Genius) allowing people to annotate and leave comments on the speech she gave to launch her campaign.

There’s no truth to the rumor that she’s using Whisper to trash GOP hopefuls.

Here’s Vickie Sue Robinson’s “Turn The Beat Around”. Why? Listen to the show and all will be revealed. Now, shut up and DANCE!

PTJ 147 News: Lady Justice

Good on ya, Taylor Swift! Now, you may not care for her music or her sudden promotion to New York City’s official “global welcome ambassador,” but the young singer/songwriter knows how to stand up for herself and her fellow musicians trying to make a living. In a public post on her Tumblr page this past weekend, Ms. Swift called out Apple over the lack of artist royalties during the three-month free trial period of the company’s forthcoming Apple Music adventure — and said she’d be withholding her latest album from the service. But Apple, for its part, did the right thing. By Sunday night, the company announced that it’d be paying artists their due royalties for all the music streamed during the free trial of Apple Music. (Of course,  conspiracy theorists are suspicious about the whole thing, like they always are.)

googleplaymusicApple Music rolls out on June 30th, but Google is not waiting around for it. The Big G announced a new, free ad-supported version of its subscription-based Google Play Music service for  “giving you a new way to find just the right music and giving artists another way to earn revenue.” (Oh snap, Google.) If you’re looking for a new stream, the service is available now via the Web and will be hitting Android and IOS devices soon. If you find you like Google Play Music and want to subscribe, you get ad-free offline listening, song skips and on-demand access to more than 30 million tracks for just $10 a month. Spotify has got to be feeling a little nervous these days.

Meanwhile, the Tidal music service has hit a bit of a rough wave. The company has booted its interim CEO after three months.

In legal news, Verizon says it’s completed its acquisition of AOL on paper. The Federal Communications Commission did not actually have to approve this particular deal because AOL did not have any licenses before the FCC that would have tripped that trigger. The agency, however, has been keeping itself busy by slapping a $100 million dollar fine on AT&T for misleading consumers about unlimited data plans and throttling.

eyeballIn guv’ment news, the regular document dumps from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowdon continue. A new post over on The Intercept blog details how the NSA and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, have reverse-engineered consumer antivirus and security software products. (In more government news, the State Department of the United States is having an epic fail over in the biometrics department.)

And on the subject of biometrics, a new research paper from scientists at UC Berkeley and Facebook’s AI Research division has found that The Social Network’s facial-recognition software can often identify people in photos, even when their faces are looking away from the camera or partly obscured. The team used Facebook’s algorithm on 40,000 public photos pulled from Flickr and found it could accurately ID people about 83 percent of the time. Oh, and Facebook’s Instagram has just updated its Search tool.

echoAmazon’s Echo device is now available to members of the general public now. The voice-activated, Internet-connected  9-inch tall cylindrical Bluetooth speaker streams music and answers questions just like Siri, Cortana and Google Now. If your life needs an Echo, head over to Amazon’s site, pay up $180 and start watching the mailbox after July 14th.  Amazon is also throwing a little artificial intelligence at the problem of fake product reviews over on its main store site and is cleaning up the astroturf.

As promised, mayorships are finally back in Foursquare’s spun-off Swarm app. Let the check-in competition begin once again.

In Windows 10 news, Microsoft has tried to clarify just who gets the new system for free. Recently, there was some confusion as to whether people in the Windows Insider preview program who didn’t have legitimate copies of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 would get the free finished copy of Windows 10. (They get to stay as previewers.)

As a wrap-up of last week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, The Mary Sue blog notes there are 23 games announced at the show that feature “badass playable female characters.” Lady justice, indeed.

spidermanAnd finally, with great power comes great responsibility and Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan certainly knows it — as well as her old-school Spider-Man. The Court sent down a decision in the case of Kimble v. Marvel, in which the Supremes declined to overrule a precedent that kept patent-holders from collecting royalties after said patent expired. In her written opinion for the majority on the case, Justice Kagan showed off her comic-book chops with multiple Spider-Man references. Now, just imagine if she was a fan of The Punisher….

The Galapagos Syndrome

There were two news items this week that really resonated with me. At first glance the similarities weren’t obvious but as I kept going over the findings in each story the connection became clearer.

First off, streaming audio continues to grow in 2014 with almost 80 billion streams reported. Not a surprise. Neither is the fact that CDs continue their apparent inexorable slide into oblivion, registering a 14% plunge when compared to equally dismal sales figures from 2013.

But here’s the eyeopening point. According to Rolling Stone magazine and other news sources, interest in vinyl continues to be a noteworthy music industry trend.

The 12-inch record had its best sales year in decades, moving 9.2 million units; a 52 percent increase over 2013.

Vinyl sales now account for six percent of all physical music sales.

The other fascinating business bulletin was out of Japan. Market researcher MM Research Institute noted that flip-phone shipments rose 5.7 percent to almost 11 million in 2014 while smartphone shipments fell 5.3 percent to just shy of 28 million, down for a second year in a row.

The argument can be made that both flip-phones in Japan and vinyl records in the United States are experiencing a phenomenon known as the Galápagos Syndrome.

This term refers to an isolated development branch of a globally available product and alludes to the phenomena Charles Darwin encountered in the Galápagos Islands which helped in the development of his Evolutionary Theory.

In the late 90s and early 2000s, Japanese cell phone technology was years ahead of what electronics companies were producing in other countries. Smartphones like the iPhone have taken a huge chunk out of the Japanese market but the flip-phone is still extremely popular.

Vinyl, while technologically inferior to the CD, offers a more tactile and satisfying experience for the listener. The combination of the warmer analog sound, larger album art, and traditional liner notes and sleeves makes vinyl a much more attractive option for the music lover.

After being derided by their manufacturers and generally ignored by consumers, the 12-inch record and flip-phones continued their evolution with incremental improvements.

Record companies use heavier virgin vinyl at pressing and better quality paper for sleeves and gatefolds. Enhanced recording techniques make audio quality vastly superior to what was being produced at the height of vinyl’s popularity.

Flip-phones offer similar functionality to what’s found on smartphones and have features like physical keyboards and voice-call quality that in many cases are superior to what you’d get on a rectangular slab.

Both the record companies and electronics manufacturers believe the sales spikes are fads but come on admit it, deep down we all miss flipping our Startacs open like Captain Kirk did with his Starfleet issued communicator…

I Still Don’t Know What a ‘Pencil Peer’ Is

On this week’s show I mentioned “The Sound of the Crowd”, a Human League track that ignited my love of synthesizer-based music and, by extension,  my continuing fascination with computers and electronics.  This is the 12 inch version of the song which is what I heard blasting out of the record shop that fateful afternoon many years ago…

Machine Music But Human After All

DaftPunkRAMDaft Punk, the pioneering French dance-music duo, will debut their first non-soundtrack release in eight years next week and after previewing the album on iTunes, Random Access Memories reveals itself to be a hit and miss affair with, admittedly, more hits than misses. Thomas Bangalter (the silver helmeted “robot”) and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (the gold “robot”) have essentially created a tribute album to their music heroes that only just barely manages to keep the trademark synthesized and sequenced Daft Punk vibe. The pair worked with several top session players who played live and imbued most of the tracks with an organic feel missing from the former club DJs previous albums. Daft Punk’s now legendary stage shows highlight the duos ability to connect with concertgoers, a lesson many newer synth-heavy acts must master at the start of their careers as they no longer have the luxury of avoiding live performances and perfecting their craft in the recording studio.

CapCitiesLiveAt a sold-out performance earlier this month, Capital Cities, a scruffy yet lovable synthpop duo, wore their Daft Punk influence on their satin jacketed sleeves. The band has obviously mastered the art of charming an audience but in an engaging manner that is the direct opposite of the detached and robotic performances of Daft Punk. Their goofy enthusiasm was so infectious I couldn’t help but get caught up in the fun. For the encore of the short set featuring songs from their upcoming debut album, In a Tidal Wave of Mystery, Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian dived into the audience and danced with the worked up crowd. Their interaction and joyfulness had us all completely swept up in the performance.

I was in the music business for many years and became so disillusioned by it that I turned the page on that part of my life. This new music landscape lets acts like Capital Cities maintain a more intimate connection with their fan base, unlike the studio-centric pop-rock juggernauts of a few years ago, and is allowing jaded veterans like myself to get lost in the groove once again.

Episode 47: We Had Joy. We Had Fun.

J.D. helps us get the most out of our Webmail and Pedro gives us his view on the state of the pop music scene. In the news, Microsoft prepares to unveil Windows 8.1; Samsung and Android continues it’s smartphone dominance; the latest reports from Google’s I/O conference; Archos releases a tablet specifically designed for the kitchen; Nvidia begins taking preorders for their Shield mobile gaming system; and the HTC First Facebook Phone appears to be on the road to oblivion.

Sound Decisions

In his eternal quest for the Perfect Pair of Headphones that sound great and keep the background noise out of the mix, Pedro Rafael Rosado takes a listen to two new models:

P3

The Bowers & Wilkins P3 headphones ($199.99)

700M

The NuForce NE 700M titanium-coated in-ear headphones ($75)

How did the gear hold up against the cacophony of the New York City subway system?
El Kaiser tells all in Episode 41.