Friday, March 30, 2007

For at least a year it has been widely trumpeted that the compact disc is dying or already dead. That may not be entirely true. I'll admit to buying only two or three CDs per year with the rest being purchased digitally via eMusic or the widely popular iTunes Music Store. The CD, though, has a certain appeal that can't be had from digital tracks. Sure, devices like iPods are becoming increasingly popular since we became owners of our first iPod in 2004 but a CD can be listened to in a thirty dollar boombox and is appealing to the masses for just that reason. It can go to the beach, it can go in your car, it can go to work with you and into your computer for your listening pleasure and you can turn it up in your very own living room.

An iPod or digital form of music isn't quite as versatile for the masses yet. Sure, with Apple's shipping of the AppleTV unit, you can now stream music from your iTunes collection to your TV and if you are savvy enough, to your home stereo or surround sound. You can pick up a wireless transmitter or cable as I have for your iPod and listen to your tunes in that manner but it still requires that piece of additional hardware. Becoming more common is a "dockable" system which allows you to drop your iPod into a cradle and listen to your vast library of tunes in that manner but the prices are still somewhat prohibitive for the average consumer.

With a CD, though, you have something physical. Recording artists agonize over the order of tracks placed on their CDs and the digital format has nearly done away with that unnoticed art form. That physical CD can be used to archive your digital tunes. It's something of substance, not just a collossal platter of ones and zeros. So while the CD may be dying, it is still a viable media format.


Locally speaking this week, the little radio station that might has added some new music, actually quite alot but one tune in particular stands out to me. It's got airy guitars and a meandering beat set to a steady drum line that compliments the gravely and obviously British accent quite nicely. The first single released in the States has actually been released in the UK since late summer of 2006 and while their tour schedule is, for the most part, outdated; the shows are affordable -- under $10. Check out the first single from "The View"

The View - Wasted Little DJs


Alternative rockers are known for experimenting with varied flavors of rock -- that's what earns them the classification of "alternative". Sure, their different sound doesn't earn them the mass appeal of pop acts or the rockers that at one time filled stadiums but their experimentation with varied sounds is just the ticket for my ears.

When I first heard this particular tune, I figured it was some obscure new-wave hit that had been pulled from some dusty archives in the rafters of some music afficionado's garage. I instantly listened closer as I fell in love with the almost excessive synthesizers and what can only be described as a perfect throwback to something I missed because I was only a year old. While it certainly isn't a new-wave classic, its retro feel certainly duplicates that era of music.

Shiny Toy Guns - You Are The One

Download it. Take it for a test drive and be taken back to 1980 with its synth-pop new-wave goodness.


This weekend brings the Easter season already as my side of the family "celebrates" the occasion. Sure to be nothing short of thrilling...


Brendan said...

I have to say, also in defense of CDs, that I think they have better fidelity than most MP3s (or whatever file format). The compression imposed on the downloadable songs seems to noticeably affect the dynamic range, and it seems especially apparent when I play the music loud, through speakers. Just not as much thump in the chest cavity from the kick drum, and less difference between quiet and burst moments.

It could be that my old fogeyness is biasing me, and I know how tiresome I found LP-philes when CDs first came out, so I'd need to do a more careful study before I'd claim this as fact. But I wonder if anyone else thinks downloaded music lacks a little something.

Sornie said...

As far as fidelity goes, I notice that radio (at least some stations) have far better sound quality than a CD which has better sound quality than the MP3s on my iPod. It depends, too, what you are playing the tunes back on. A pair of ear buds from an iPod are actually superior to a pair of headphones from my cheap cd/radio at work. You get what you pay for but I would much rather have cleaner-sounding hi-fi music than something ultra-portable.

Anonymous said...

Apple TV is fantastic and is one more reason why not to buy a CD! If only you could access the iTunes Store directly from it.

I got mine today and I'm really enjoying listening to all my playlists made with The Filter through it.

I like all this advancement and don't miss CD's or vinyl one bit.

Brendan said...

I take your point about ear buds, Sornie, but I don't enjoy listening to music that way. It makes me a little paranoid to shut out the rest of the world's sounds, for one thing.

More seriously, just as a matter of taste, I miss the ambience that is afforded by having the speakers some distance away. When the music is right against my eardrums, it always sounds "stuffy" in some way, no matter how high the fidelity.

Finally, my primary space for listening to loud music is in my car, since I'm an apartment dweller. Can't wear headphones while driving. And I'd rather use my trunk-mounted 6 CD changer than deal with an iPod adapter, and of course, have to suffer MP3 sound "quality."

C-dell said...

I think that the CD is dying being killed by Mp3 players.

Brendan said...

Fidelity update:

In all of the sound and fury about EMI's recent decision to post DRM-free music on the iTunes store, here's a factiod that has evidently been buried.

According to David Pogue: "The files will come as 256-Kbps AAC files instead of 128."

I love when I rant on the Web and the suits sit up and take notice!

Brendan said...

Oops. I meant "factoid."

But you knew that.

But I couldn't stop myself from posting this correction.

Which probably contains another typo.

Brendan said...

There's an interesting article in the NY Times about bit rates and their effect on fidelity. Check out the sidebar to the story, which lets you hear a snippet of music recorded at various bit rates.

I felt sure I could hear a difference, even on my crummy computer speakers, but it'd probably be better to have someone else click the links for you, if you're a stickler for accurate testing.