More mobile music

Smartphones and tablet computers dominated the holiday gift season, so more and more people will now have mobile gadgets that give them access to their music. Of course Apple was one of the winners, as the iPhone and the iPad were huge hits. Also, younger kids expect gifts like the iPod Touch if they can’t get the more expensive items.

Then you have the emergence of Amazon with the Kindle Fire. It didn’t get the best reviews, but at $199 it was an incredibly popular gift this year. The good thing for Amazon is that it brought a host of new people over to their ecosystem to sell them music, books, movies and TV shows. This makes them a real competitor to Apple and the iTunes store.

Amazon has tons of older customers who have been buying eBooks for years through older Kindles. Not they can market music and games to them as well. This will also drive more online gaming, even with older users who like things like bingo and poker over games kids like. New smartphones and tablets like the Kindle Fire will make it easier for them to play bingo online, or to download their favorite songs.

The landscape out there for digital content and entertainment just keeps changing. The music industry now has Pandora and Spotify competing with iTunes. It will be interesting to see how iTunes holds up with these new trends and without Steve Jobs.


The Lunatic Is On The Grass: Rollins Does Floyd with the Lips

Given that the Flaming Lips just released a new album (Embryonic) a few months ago, you’d think they’d either be taking it easy or, at best, prepping to tour behind that album. Leave it to them, however, to take a left turn and do something different….like, say, release another new album.

Well, sort of, anyway.

Prepare yourself for the Lips’ take on Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, which was made available today as an iTunes exclusive. It’s a strange little release (like you’d expect anything less), with some tracks credited to the Lips, some listed as collaborations with Norman, Oklahoma’s pride and joy, Stardeath and White Dwarfs, and a couple credited solely to those guys without the Lips. What’s arguably most interesting about the album, however, is that it also features vocal contributions from Peaches and Henry Rollins.

Rollins? Really…?!?

Yes, really…and I know this because I checked in with him to ask him about it. My questions were simple and so were his answers, but at least it’s straight from the horse’s mouth:

How did you come to team up with the Flaming Lips for this project?

They asked me.

What’s your Pink Floyd background?

Not a fan.

What was your favorite track on the record to tackle?

The general laughing, it was difficult to make it feel real.

If pressed, are there any other albums you’d be interesting in revisiting like that? Not necessarily classic rock, of course…

No. I don’t think about things like that. Seems like too much work when you could be moving forward on something new. You could say that about the Lips, but they have a new album out, so it’s not like they’re sleeping on the job.

True enough, Mr. Rollins. True enough.


21 Century Breakdown: Mike Farley’s Top 10 Albums of the 2000s

The past decade to me was less about musical trends and styles, and more about how I listen to music. I’ve always been a mix tape guy, and as the ‘90s moved to Y2K, I was entering the world of burning mix CDs. But then around 2004, everything changed, and changed for the better, when I discovered iTunes. Now I could not only make up my own playlists from my music collection, but I could order single songs for 99 cents and add those to my collection. Suddenly I was re-discovering songs from my childhood and teen years, and basically every phase of my music-listening life. And I could arrange all those songs any way I liked…playlists galore and, as I described them, “kickass mixes.” Every four to six months, I make a new play list of what I’m currently listening to, and date that as a new Kickass Mix, something I can go back to that makes me remember what I was doing and feeling at that point in time.

As for the actual music I’ve been listening to and enjoying, there are a few acts that have entered my iTunes world this decade that have become favorites that I can’t get enough of, no matter how many times I listen: The Damnwells, the Silver Seas, Ari Hest, Jason Spooner and Butch Walker, to name a few. I know that radio is basically a shell of its former self and we find and listen to music in so many different ways, but I, for one, have fully embraced the digital world of music.

Here are my picks for top albums of the decade.
1. The Silver Seas: High Society
2. Jason Spooner: The Flame You Follow
3. Ari Hest: The Break In
4. Stereophonics: Langauge, Sex, Violence. Other?
5. The Damnwells: Air Stereo
6. The Southland: Influence of Geography
7. The Damnwells: One Last Century
8. Josh Rouse: 1972
9. Butch Walker: Left of Self Centered
10. Paddy Casey: Addicted To Company


The Fray covers Kanye, hits a home run

The Fray

The other day I heard the Fray’s cover of Kanye West’s “Heartless” on the radio. It’s amazing. Not only is there a completely different rock element to the song, but Issac’s voice is brilliant. With the new, piano-driven arrangement, there’s much more depth, especially when listening to the lyrics.

The track was originally recorded as par of The Fray Live, which is available on iTunes, and was released to radio April 21. While the Fray may have committed a cardinal sin and covered a song that’s currently on the charts, they’ve managed to do so magnificently. There’s not another band I can think of who could have attempted the switch without faltering. It just goes to show that the Fray aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Make sure to check out the new single on iTunes, or you can listen to the song for free on YouTube.


iTunes Tips & Tricks: “Neglected Favorites”

If you’re like me and feel sometimes that your music collection is a little too vast, here’s a little trick that I learned not too long ago. I have 4000+ 4- and 5-star rated songs, and I realized that there were some personal favorites that I wasn’t hearing on a regular basis. (For all it’s features, iTunes doesn’t do the greatest job of shuffling through big playlists.)

Using iTunes’ “Smart Playlist” feature, I was able to create playlists of songs that I haven’t heard in some time (six months, a year, whatever).

1. Go to File > New Smart Playlist
2. In the first two drop-down boxes, choose “Rating” and “in the range.”
3. Choose 4 to 5 stars (or 3 to 5, if you like).
4. Hit the plus sign to the right to add a criterion.
5. Choose “Last Played” and “is not in the last” 6 “months” (or 9 months or whatever span you like).
6. Hit OK
7. Rename playlist “Neglected Favorites” (or whatever you like)

You can also add other criteria, like genre, artist or whatever.

So now you have a playlist of all of your top rated songs that you haven’t heard in the last six months. Once you start this playlist, songs will start to disappear when they’re played. As time wears on, new songs (that haven’t been played on your iTunes or iPod in the last six months) will begin to appear.

iTunes won’t let you forget a song!