Yottamusic rescues Rhapsody (for me)

Yottamusic LogoAs I am a new convert to the amazing OS X via my Macbook Pro, I have been going through the process of discovering which apps that I love do/don’t work on the OS. Many do work, contrary to popular thought, but one such app that does not work is Rhapsody.

After realizing that there is no way that I could ever afford to buy all of the music that I wanted from Apple’s iTunes Music Store, I stepped into the world of subscription music services. After trying out just about every product on the market, I have come to the conclusion that Rhapsody is the best by far. Now imagine my dismay after learning that Rhapsody is a Windows only app! I was so disappointed that my favorite music discovery application was gone forever. Luckily for me, a few Google searches after getting over my sadness, I discovered Yottamusic.

Yottamusic seems (at first) to be just another subscription services sans a desktop application. It was the little note that says that Rhapsody users need not register that excited me. Yotta turned out to be an amazing service that uses the Rhapsody music library as a back-end and some great AJAX in the front-end to create a very sleek user experience. The best way to describe it would be to say that it is the Web 2.0 makeover of a service trying so hard to get out of the 1.0 stage.

Yottamusic works with many different browsers, and if you happen to be using one that they don’t officially support, they let you know immediately (but that doesn’t mean that your browser will be shut out). I understand that Rhapsody’s web service works with Firefox on OS X, but it’s interface and design is very sluggish and unintuitive. Yotta is its younger, edgier sibling that has all of the unnecessary bells and whistles left in the dust. If you do nothing else, check out the Intro Comic that they have to describe their product.

Update: Yottamusic has been shut down by Rhapsody. Replacement? Mog.

Justice – †

Justice - † This might be completely ridiculous on my part, but I still haven’t decided (for myself) whether Justice really is Christan or if they are just playing the part. Now as to this new LP coming out in about a month titled “†”, I think I might have found a bootleg floating around somewhere, and I might have a review right here for you! A song by song review can be found about 1 centimeter below:

  1. Genesis (7/10): A nice opening track. The intro to the song was what they opened Coachella with (I believe). The beat is strong throughout, it could have done with a bit more variation or development of the samples used. Good track, not their best.
  2. Let There Be Light (8/10): Once again, good track. I’m glad that they put one of the tracks that develops with an industrial edge right up front on the record. This track was released on the Waters of Nazareth EP.
  3. D.A.N.C.E. (9/10): The current single floating around right now. Probably the most catchy song to be found by Justice. I don’t know where they found this sample, but it is genius. The way that they can mix a catchy beat perfectly with a chopped vocal sample is amazing. Hints of disco or funk tidbits begin to show themselves here.
  4. New Jack (6/10): This song just doesn’t do too much for me. The samples seem too mix/matched; there isn’t any continuity among them. It has all of the driving forces that Justice is known for, but their choice of samples here falls short. The warble comes in at an inappropriate time, and it stays too long. Not a fav.
  5. Phantom Pt. 1 (10/10): Following New Jack with Phantom Pt. 1 brought my spirits up. Phantom Pt. 1 was released on the D.A.N.C.E. EP, and it is by far my favorite track on †. Just turn it up in your best pair of headphones, and you will see why I say this. Talk about a rockin’ electro track. The sample used here has been identified as being from Goblin’s Tenebre. After comparing the original track to Phantom Pt. 1, it is safe to say that this is in no way a rip off of another artist’s work. The sample has been chopped to pieces and put together in a truly Justice-esque manner.
  6. Phantom Pt. 2 (9/10): The first time listening to this track, you will probably be confused. It seems overly random. The good news? Once you actually get the tune, this song rocks. It carries over the industrial overtones of Pt. 1 and adds some disco flavor into the mix. Great track.
  7. Valentine (7/10): “Valentine”, to me, seems like a very long intro to “The Party”. It is a good track, but doesn’t seem to serve much of a purpose. It’s stuck in here. Not needed. Also, is it just me or does it sound like they sampled Britney Spears’ “Me Against the Music”? I speak of the airy noise at the beginning. I know it could come from anywhere, it just that it reminds me of that song.
  8. The Party (7/10): A song with actual lyrics that don’t sound like they are sampled (because they aren’t). I’m not sure who sings, but the lyrics are meant for a party song (hence the title). The problem is that there isn’t too much music to go along with the fun lyrics. The music seems like a continuation of “Valentine”. It could use a bit more of a kick. Sounds like Three 6 Mafia is sampled here.
  9. DVNO (6/10): While so many people are praising the vocals of this track, I can’t stand them. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t reject vocals off the bat if they are falsettos. I reject them if they don’t sound good. Compiling this problem is the fact that they drop the music out in the middle of the track; now I have nothing to distract me from the horrible vocals. The music itself isn’t half bad. It’s a mixture of their signature distorted beats and disco stabs. Least favorite track on the record.
  10. Stress (8/10): The title of this song is really evident is the music. The tension of the song is heightened by the high pitched strings that can be heard throughout the track. I really do like this song though. The last strands of disco are evident here. They are minor, but they contribute all the same.
  11. Waters of Nazareth (10/10): Second favorite track on the record. This was the first song by Justice that I ever heard. After hearing it, I had Justice categorized as an industrial group. Definitely wrong. This song rocks from start to finish. The distorted samples kill your ears without relenting for a second. If you can’t stand the first 10 seconds, get out, the song just compiles on top of itself from there on. Pure electro joy.
  12. One Minute To Midnight (9/10): A great closing track; “One Minute to Midnight” closes much better than “Genesis” opened. A slight downer track with a sweet baseline that makes you rock back and forth. It lets you calm down after the massive electro explosion that happened during the previous track. Continuous and true to Justice, it is a nice way to end this musical journey.

† is set to be released on June 11, 2007 on Ed Banger Records.

Linkin Park – Minutes To Midnight

Linkin Park - Minutes To Midnight CoverYou ask for my guilty pleasure, and I will respond Linkin Park. I have loved them since Hybrid Theory; although I admit that I didn’t get “Crawling” the first time I heard it. This “nu-metal” sound wasn’t something that I was hooked on. Korn and Limp Bizkit were nowhere to be found in my music collection. Looking back at a time when pop music was *NSYNC or Britney Spears, Linkin Park offered me my first taste of what breakbeat or turntablism or metal or anything in between might be. In no way am I saying that they are the epitome of any of these styles, but with tiny bits thrown in here and there, teen angst and a tad of electronica struck a chord in my musical soul.

Now to this album, or how it compares to LP’s previous two. Let it be known that I had high expectations for Minutes to Midnight. I loved the complexity of Meteora when compared to Hybrid Theory, but Hybrid Theory‘s raw edges drew me in too. Alongside the many critics and fans of LP, I believed that the rapping needed to find a different place after Meteora was done. Here, it has done just that. It is only featured in two or three tracks (but only one of those benefit from it).

Let’s start with my favorite tracks: “Given Up”, “Bleed It Out”, “No More Sorrow”, and “Shadow of the Day”. If you have listened to the album, you will know that all but “Shadow of the Day” are fairly heavy, fast paced songs. “Bleed It Out” is the above-all winner on this CD. It does feature Mike’s rapping (with profanities, see the PA sticker?); it is a showcase of what LP is. It has a very long buildup, but the slow addition of instruments as the song builds makes the climax even better. “Shadow of the Day” is the track that I feel shows the maturity of LP the most. It is slower, and its calculated nature is impressive to say the least.

The pacing of the album seems to have some rhyme or rhythm until the pattern of fast song/slow song goes on one too many times (around track 7: “Hands Held High”). Then we hit “Valentines Day”, and any hope of another fast-paced hard rock song is lost forever; this track sucks. The biggest disappointments are “Hands Held High” and “The Little Things Give You Away”. Why would anyone pick this song to close their “mature” album? It’s slow, cliche, and boring.

As to the criticism that LP has diluted their material with ambient electronic landscapes, I have no idea where those ideas are coming from. Meteora was the electronic album. Minutes to Midnight is the rock album. Minutes to Midnight is a good album, but I don’t feel that it is the best album that LP could have put out right now. It’s a tad disappointing, I really wanted my next guilty pleasure album…

Bono still thinks it’s everyone elses fault

AIDS Red RibbonThe essence of this news story by Reuters is that Bono still thinks that the richest countries around the world aren’t doing their part in the search for the cure of AIDS. Bono thinks that these countries (the United States, Japan, Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy, Russia and France) still have a long way to go in terms of their due responsibility of aid to Africa’s poor.

My turn. I think that Bono needs to stop flapping his mouth. It seems like nothing he says is constructive, and if he does try to throw in some original ideas, they are either unfeasible or plain ignorant. Eradicating HIV/AIDS is an ambition goal that hopefully will one day be overcome, but diseases that are based so much on human behaviors can’t be cured simply by an injection or treatment. As long as stigmas like the idea that a man infected with AIDS can be cured by having sex with a virgin are in existence, these diseases will continue to spread. Continue reading “Bono still thinks it’s everyone elses fault”

Creative Zen Stone proves the Shuffle is crap

Creative Zen Stone Color Range

Take a good look at that image. Now realize that this 1GB flash media player costs only $40. Seeing the word Zen branded on these little devices tells you that they are part of the Creative Zen line of a wide variety of media players. And like many of Creative’s products, it does what Apple’s products do at a drastically reduced price. Apple’s Shuffle, which does the exact same functions (play music files randomly w/o an LCD screen), costs $80 (double the Zen Stone).

The Zen Stone exemplifies my main problems with Apple’s products and their pricing schemes. Apple is able to charge ridiculous prices for ordinary products employing technology that has been available for years. There is no use trying to deny that their marketing and PR departments are probably the best in the world, but I still don’t think that their products justify their prices. Paying more for an inferior product isn’t cool, though it might be fashionable.

Björk – Volta

Björk - VoltaBjörk’s new CD… For me, Volta has been the most anticipated album by Björk. Hyped press and intriguing interviews combined with her show stopping performance at Coachella really put me on end for Volta to be released. The first few leaked songs gave me hope that it would have the feeling of Homogenic with the pop sound of Debut, something that I feel Björk needs to reinvent. So in a nutshell, how does Volta make me feel? Half-fulfilled.

I was so ready for a more accessible album by Björk; something that I could show my friends and not get the “I don’t get it” looks Björk instills in so many people. From what I heard at Coachella, Volta would be exactly that. Her old greatest hits with “Earth Intruders”, “Innocence”, “Wanderlust”, and “Declare Independence” thrown into the mix gave the impression that Volta would be a more “up” album than the murky Medulla. Even Björk’s interview with Pitchfork has her saying that it would be a “fun” and even “poppy” record; this is not the case.

The album does feature a heavy dosage of brass; I’m not too sure that it’s beneficial. Because so many of the tracks do rely on the horns for their warm ambient tones, it limits the sound that I have come to know as Björk. One plus side of the brass is that they make their tracks seem fairly immediate. In one of her video interviews, Björk describes Volta as being fairly spontaneous; the brass section contributes quite a bit to this end.

Here’s a paragraph dedicated to my favorite song on the album: Innocence. But first I must admit my guilt at enjoying the two Timbaland collaborations the most. Now that that’s out, Innocence packs a major punch. In case you don’t believe me, just listen to the track; one of the samples used sounds like a guy getting punched in the gut. The beat here is insane. It is very repetitive, but that is something that I like about the track. In addition to the sweet but short beat, the main synth is sweet, if not sweeter than the beats. It is a very wobbly tone to it and its high pitched distortion give it a unique sound that I have never heard before. To me, its what an Asian synth would be if someone took it and applied every kind of degrading effect on it (and if there were synths for difference places of the world). The lyrics are very nice as well, but the music is what I love about it.

As you can probably tell, I have very mixed feelings about Volta. The slower tracks don’t grab you like “Hidden Place” or “Unravel” do, but the more upbeat tracks are unforgettable. I give Volta a slight-medium thumbs up (that is a technical term in case you aren’t familiar with the nikgomez.com rating system…)

Spiderman 3: A laughing matter

Spiderman 3 Poster

Talk about a letdown of massive proportions. Yesterday I went to go see Spiderman 3 with fairly high expectations. I figured that they were justified seeing as this currently rumored to be the highest costing movie ever (around $500 million). Boy was I wrong.

As the theater experience began, I had nothing to complain about; the previews were sweet! Pirate of the Caribbean 3, Shrek 3, and other great movies had me in a good mood. The beginning of the actual movie wasn’t bad either. A nice love scene and success for MJ opened very nicely. Then the depression hit. She was fired, Peter was being just stupid, and Harry was screwing everything up.

It was around this time that the writing (screenplay) went to hell. Parker got “emo”, and my friends and I couldn’t suppress our laughter at the absurdity of what we were seeing. Died black hair? Eyeliner? On the world’s best superhero? I don’t think so. Everything just seemed so very cliché; there was nothing new or unique to be seen. The whole idea of a villain coming back to life was overdone, and the “other worldly poison” moved too much like a high-tech Hexxus from Fern Gully (one of my favorite 90’s kids movies).

The abundance of Spiderman-swinging-around-the-city scenes were overbearing. The fight scenes, while sometimes cool, were either too short, long, or unrealistic. I understand that saying that a movie is “unrealistic” is fairly ridiculous to say, but to have someone’s face ground against the side of a moving train and be unscathed is even more ridiculous. While one might argue that Sony was trying to stay true to it’s key demographic (young boys), why the PG-13 rating?

While Spiderman 3 gave me a good laugh, lines like “wicked cool” made it impossible for me to take it seriously. My verdict? $500 million wasted.

The Coachella 2007 Experience

Zach De La Rocha @ Coachella

Here is the short version of my Coachella Experience. I’ve tried to organize this in chronological order from Friday to Sunday.Bands

  • Friday Favorites: the Noisettes, Silversun Pickups, Arctic Monkeys, Björk
    • the Noisettes were spectacular, very unique… same goes for Silversun Pickups (sweet drummer)
    • Tokyo Police Club=huge letdown, dissappointing
    • Arctic Monkeys need to move around a bit (physically), but great music
    • Interpol needs to never play music again
    • Björk needed to play forever, I was starstruck
  • Saturday Favorites: Hot Chip, Kings of Leon, the Arcade Fire, the Red Hot Chili Peppers
    • the Cribs needs a wardrobe change, good music
    • Hot Chip wins the “Funnest Show” award
    • MSTRKRFT (and most DJs) need to move around a bit, I know that your Macbook is sweet, but there’s a crowd to entertain
    • Kings of Leon brought the hard rock
    • the Arcade Fire needs a new sound guy (maybe that was Coachella’s fault)
    • Red Hot Chili Peppers needed more BloodSugarSexMagik, amazing light show though
  • Sunday Favorites: Lupe Fiasco, the Roots, Rage Against the Machine
    • Mika should be the lead singer of an 80s hair metal band
    • Lupe Fisaco wins the Grammy (or he should have at least)
    • Against Me! brought some pure punk to Coachella
    • The Roots almost made me cry, up there for best all weekend
    • Willie Nelson should sing more about pot, that one song was hilarious
    • Crowded House should have left the stage after the water bottle incident
    • Manu Chao was overly repetitive, extremely high energy
    • Rage Against the Machine never left, they play as if it’s still the 90s. Amazing. Amazing…

It really is hard to believe that it is over. This event that I have obsessed over for three months has come and gone. It was so worth it, and I will be there next year rain or shine.

Digg’s one mistake might take it’s life

Digg.com LogoIn case you don’t use digg.com, it’s a social news site where users can “digg” the articles/webpages/anything they like to push it to the front page of digg.com. It’s every website’s dream to hit the front page of digg because it means thousands upon thousands of page views within moments. Digg has over 1 million users now, and they have turned on the digg management faster than anything I’ve ever seen.

What sent the diggers up in arms? The removal of a story submitted that had hit the front page about the 32 digit hexadecimal code that is used to unlock the encryption on HD-DVDs. This code is similar to the “illegal prime”number that was used to crack DVDs. The number is illegal to publish and copy because it can circumvent all of the copy-protection put on HD-DVDs, which means that HD-DVDs can now be pirated. Digg removed this story immediately because its moderators said that it was a legal matter for digg, and that it could not be responsible for such content on the site.

Diggers are viewing this as a persecution of their right to free speech, and rightfully so. Another little fact that enraged diggers is that reddit and other large social news sites didn’t immediately take down the posted links to the code. It has become an issue of standing up to the MPAA and RIAA (two groups which the digg crowd would lynch, burn and the stake, and mutilate if they had the chance); this is something that digg did not do. Rather than trying to put up a fight to battle DRM, digg bent over and acted like a little baby.

Finally, it has come to surface that Diggnation, a podcast done by digg owner Kevin Rose and his friend Alex Albrect, have been sponsored by HD-DVD in the past. Conflict of interests? I think so… Continue reading “Digg’s one mistake might take it’s life”