"Temporality is part of the truth" -- Chuck Klosterman

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

iTunes, Amazon, CDs, MP3s, and a Half-Hearted Attempt to Start a Blogfest

I currently own 55 albums that dropped in the year 2011. That's way too many for some people. For me, it's just the beginning. I'm sure to double that in the next year or two. My 2010 iTunes list boasts 115 albums. But wait. What would you say if I told you that number rose to 177 for albums from 2009? It's true.

This is what they look like. No video. No photos.
Just 30,000 songs on each of them.
And I still need another one if I'm to carry all of
my music around with me.
Most people know I'm a connoisseur, that I own some CDs, that I listen to music much of my time. But I'm certain no one until now realized the extent of my addiction. Not my wife, not my Amazon account. Me? I've known it all along. It just got that much worse when my wife bought me my first iPod three years ago. Now I own two iPods. The classic, big kind. None of this "nano" bull pucky that holds about fifteen tracks. I could carry around a Sony Discman if that's all I wanted.

With the iPod came iTunes. I love fiddling around with the various permutations of organization. And keeping everything organized is so much easier when it's just a digital list than when it's a shelf full of jewel cases that need to be moved from one end to another.

I tried the iTunes store, and my first music download was Specimen's Azoic just so I could hear "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" again. If you've never heard it, listen to the whole song, all the way through the screechy goodness of feedback at the end. It's sublime. (Ignore the video, though. Like most, it's pretty terrible. Just push play and keep reading.)

Soon, my darling wife showed me how to download music from Amazon, which I discovered is not only an easier site to navigate than the iTunes store, but it is cheaper to buy music there as well. It used to be that most individual songs were only 89 instead of the 99 cents at iTunes, but recently I've noticed that most songs are now 99 cents on Amazon. I rarely buy single songs, so it's cool that most full albums to download from Amazon are only 7.99$, rather than the usual 9.99$ from iTunes. Plus, every month they have a load of mp3 albums available for only five dollaroonies, and every day they have a special deal for 2.99$ or 3.99$. Often that's some new release like Death Cab or Florence + the Machine. My first mp3 download from Amazon was the day The Killers album Day and Age dropped. It cost 1.99$. Which is pretty awesome.

I didn't mean for this to turn into an ad for Amazon.com (check out the new Kindle Fire! wink wink).

I still buy CDs. Often from Amazon. It's pretty amazing how often you can find used CDs for a penny. Of course, you pay for shipping, but that's three bucks you're then paying for an actual physical compact disc, complete with liner notes and production credits. Sometimes you can buy an mp3 album with a digital booklet attached, but it's not the same.

The greatest record store in Denver.
Or a couple times a year my wife will see I need to get out of the house and she'll send me away to Twist & Shout or Wax Trax where I can spend hours sifting through the bins and end up with a couple dozen used CDs to take home. I have a hard time spending more than five dollars on a CD, though, because I know that I could order it from Amazon for cheaper. If you wait long enough, the CD you want is always available for super cheap online.

My point is that I buy a lot of music. And that I blame my wife.

The guy who owns Twist & Shout
was my high school English teacher.
And I've been pondering writing up a Year-End Best Of... Extravaganza, but it's become difficult. I own 55 albums released in 2011. Culling them down to ten or whatever is hard. It's not like I go out and buy crappy music. Deciding on the best is no easy task. So what I've decided is that every Monday starting in December I will write about a few of what I would consider the outstanding ones from the year. I have no idea how to start a blogfest or anything (anyone want to give me some pointers?), but if you want to join me in December to talk about the best music of the year, that'd be swell.


  1. Hmm, I don't know much about the music that came out this year. I do like that "Human" song you posted a video to, but that's from like 5 years ago. I don't keep up with this stuff very well, I'm afraid.

  2. Hmmm... I don't think I own anything that came out this year. I usually pick up used cd's from the pawn shop or thrift store for fifty cents or a dollar then rip them to the computer so I can take the songs I want and put them on my little mp3 player. I think I need to go have a big cleaning out of my collection. Last time I looked I had about 150 different artists and somewhere around 19,000 songs. Yikes!

  3. I have never bought any music off of Amazon. I think I need to change that because I like the idea of cheap.

  4. We are an itunes family with multiple styles and permutations of ipods and players. I'll have to check out amazon's music. We use amazon all of the time as we have kindles as well. But with all of this digital stuff we still have hundreds of jewel cased CD's. They are alphabetized as my hubby is a little anal...

  5. @ Bryan: Well, then in five years you can let us know if Katy Perry or Lady Gaga had the best album of 2011.

    @ darev: I can't decide. Is only listening to 150 artists a lack of open-mindedness or true loyalty to artists that you like?

    @ Michael: Sometimes I think that I experience new things because I check it out just because it's cheap.

    @ laughingmom: Every year my household gets more gadgets. And I have to have my CDs alphabetized, too. I tried it with my books once, but it didn't work out. I need an actual library in my house.

  6. Hey, I also have a black classic iPod. I also do not intend to dispense of it anytime soon.
    I don't know a lot about running a blogfest, but I'd be happy to participate.

  7. I've mostly been using Spotify for my music nowadays. It doesn't offer everything, but it's pretty close.

  8. @ McKenzie: I keep them wraped up tight in rubber casing. It's like they're new. And I'll see about making the blogfest more official.

    @ Rusty: I haven't tried Spotify. I'll have to check it out. Thanks.

  9. This is a cool idea! I love, LOVE, music too, and I'm always on the lookout for something good. I'm excited to see what you recommend. So far, from what I've read on your blog, we have a lot of overlapping musical tastes.

  10. Your reasons for favoring Amazon over iTunes are excellent, but they left out my favorite one, which is that Amazon MP3 sells *MP3s*. Not M4As or AACs or M4Ps or any of that DRM-infested crap. Just honest-to-Bezos MP3 files that are not likely to pop up and complain about whether or not they can be played wherever I want to play them.

    I am not as voracious a consumer of music as you are, but it is something I'm passionate about. What's true for me, though, is I'm far less attached to date or currency. (Not money currency -- I like that well enough -- but, y'know, "currentness.")

    Okay, I can tell this is going to turn full-blown, so I will just go post it over at my place, paulobrian.livejournal.com.

  11. Okay, as soon as I said that, I thought better of it. I'm going to post it as a comment here after all, for reasons that will become clear in a minute.

    As I was saying, I am always bringing new music into my life (or music that is new to me, or music that is not new to me but is in some form that's new to me), to the extent that I pretty much always have a considerable backlog of stuff to listen to. A contributing factor is that I don't want to buy a new album and then listen to it a couple of times. I want to *learn* it -- I'll listen to it 15 times if it has 15 tracks. Also, I tend to discover an artist and then dive deep into that artist, seeking out 3 albums from its back catalog instead of 3 other albums that came out in the last 6 months.

    The backlog tends to feature a variety of different things, for a variety of different reasons, and I'm not sure I could say it constitutes any kind of favorites list. However, what I have done for the past 9 years is, as I listen through the backlog, choose a favorite song from each album I've listened to, and then cull those down to an 80-minute selection I can gift on CD to some other friends of mine who also love music and don't mind me spilling my latest obsessions.

    And as it happens, I make that CD as a Christmas present for them. And as it happens, they live in Wales, so I need to make it well in advance to accommodate the mailing delay. So, as it happens, I run my music-listening year from November to October. Which means, as it happens, that I just made my "Best of 2011 (actually November 2010 - October 2011)" this last weekend.

    So in the spirit of answering your question, here's what that list turned out to be. I'm posting it here because the recipients read my blog, but not yours, so my post here won't (I *hope*) somehow turn into a spoiler for their Christmas present. Note that these are not necessarily (in fact, not *mostly*) songs that came out in 2011, but rather songs that I listened to and loved in 2011.

    1. Dear Prudence - Siouxsie & The Banshees
    2. All This Beauty - The Weepies
    3. Here Comes The Sun - Paul Simon with David Crosby & Graham Nash (from the 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame concerts.)
    4. True Faith - New Order
    5. Secret Love - Stevie Nicks
    6. Moonlight (A Vampire's Dream) - Stevie Nicks [Okay, yes, Stevie *did* have an album come out in 2011.]
    7. Germ Free Adolescents - X-Ray Spex
    8. Shoot The Moon - Hugh Blumenfeld
    9. The Space Race Is Over - Billy Bragg
    10. Picture Window - Ben Folds & Nick Hornby
    11. Helpless - k.d. lang
    12. Living In Twilight - The Weepies
    13. The Sound Of Settling - Death Cab For Cutie
    14. You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby - Kirsty MacColl
    15. On Sunday - 'Til Tuesday
    16. Rocks And Water (live at Chautauqua 2011-08-27) - The Weepies
    17. Sea And Sand - The Who
    18. Here Comes The Sun/The Inner Light [Transition] - The Beatles (from LOVE)
    19. Add My Effort - The Weepies
    20. Cheaper Than Free (featuring Dave Stewart) - Stevie Nicks

    Yeah, it was kind of a Stevie/Weepies year. And I have lots to say about the reasons why I picked the various songs, but I think those liner notes actually *will* turn into a post-holiday blog post. I did one of those a couple of years ago -- http://paulobrian.livejournal.com/24738.html.

    And that's my answer to your question. I just couldn't wait until December.

  12. @ Julie: Thanks. I'd like to see what you think is cool, too.

    @ Paul: I thought about mentioning the part about MP3s and MP4s and 5s and 6s, but I didn't think I could explain it well. But really, I don't care what the file is called as long as it plays, and Amazon's files always play, that's true.

    I appreciate your philosophy on internalizing music. I do tend to buy so much so often that I don't get to know music like I used to. That makes me a little sad to think about.

    I also like your idea of making a year-end playlist, and you've got an impressive list here. I've heard the Weepies a little (my sister really likes them a lot), and isn't every year a Stevie Nicks year with you?

    I have a hard time getting down to individual songs. Every once in a while a song will stand out from the rest, like the song "Bay of Pigs," the last song on Destroyer's album "Kaputt" this year, but that's rare.

  13. Yeah, it's true that every year is a Stevie year, but this is the first one since 2001 in which she's actually released a new solo album.

  14. My significant other discovers the extent of my obsession with amazon mp3 downloads every month when he looks at the credit card bill.

  15. Brent - Wow. My iPod is...let's say, well-loved? It has three scratches on the screen, some terribly faded stickers, and the back is no longer reflective.

  16. how fun! I love music too. I bought an iPod for my husband, but myself, I still do CDs. old-fashioned!

  17. At the moment I only have about 150 artists in my list. It changes. I'll get new things and listen and sometimes I will add to the list and sometimes I won't. There's a hard core of my favorites, of course. Moody Blues, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull.. Those will never go away. But when I find a new "like" I try to get everything they ever did, then pick and choose my favorite songs and add them to my listening list. Sometimes my mp3 player gets overloaded.

  18. wow... I have NO idea how many artists/albums I have in iTunes. I'm a little scared to check. Even on a year to year basis... Because in the past year and a half my tunes have grown exponentially as I've grown in my writing. Music is SUCH a huge inspiration to me. (I frequently post songs that inspire my WIP/characters on my blog.)

  19. I know nothing about music. There are a couple bands I like, but I don't think I've bought an album for a couple years. Thanks for helping pick up my slack so the whole industry doesn't crumble!

  20. Pointers on a blogfest? I'll let you know when I've figured out if The Noughties Blogfest was a success today...

    Dave Wrote This

  21. Visiting from Dave's Noughties Blogfest

  22. @ MJ: So does my wife. But she never says a word. See, it IS her fault.

    @ McKenzie: The music must be protected. !

    @ Tamara: I, too, resisted. I still want to have actual CDs. But it's so nice to be able to have anything I want with me all the time.

    @ Sara: The beauty of iTunes is that it adds everything up for you. I used to have to count my CDs. Because I have to know how many. It took forever.

    @ Vicki: I try to do my part. You won't be able to blame me when the music industry implodes.

    @ Dave: Thanks. I'll check back with you.

    @ Dafty: You were a little early. What, do you life on the other side of the world or something? Hope you checked back again to see the Noughties post.