Music is Still Central

PortisheadOne of my great loves in life is music. Though I can read music, and have played an instrument in the past, my primary interest is in listening to music – both live and at home. Since the children came, and we moved to a small town, I don’t see as much live music as in the past. I did try to get tickets to Radiohead at the Santa Barbara Bowl (scalpers are selling tickets for hundreds to thousands of dollars); I was not successful. I am excited about seeing Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds for the 7th time (but never at the Hollywood Bowl) with Spiritualized (3rd time) and Cat Power (1st time). Should be fun and different with that line-up. Picked up the latest Portishead, their first in over a decade, and it is quite good. I saw them in early 1995 at Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco’s North Beach shortly after the release of their debut. Definitely a hipster show. Sold out. Smokey. Very sweet music. Great film playing before and during the performance. Beth Gibbons was definitely not comfortable on the stage. I believe this show at Bimbo’s was their fourth show in North America. I was hooked, even though nothing since has been as good as the first. I have a t-shirt from that show and I can’t believe it still fits me. The new release, Third, is 11-tracks and is still sinking in to my psyche.

One thing I’ve observed since I bought an iPod several years back, is that it changes my listening experience. It took me quite some time to get used to “shuffle” because I am definitely a linear listener and have always appreciated the order in which musicians present their music. I feel a deeper connection to the artist and her work when I listen from start to finish. This is particularly the case with something like Pat Metheny, Porcupine Tree or Joe Henry – at least it is for me. I also found that when I first started going all digital mp3, I ripped at 128k which I now know is completely unsatisfactory. I am in the process of re-ripping my 600 CDs at 320k and the sound difference is very noticeable. It is thrilling to see bands like Nine Inch Nails ($5!) and Steve Jansen releasing music online in wave or high bit rate mp3 files. Thank you. This cheap, low-quality iTunes model is just that – cheap. If you are buying music online, search out the DRM-free, higher bit rate downloads or just go out and buy the physical media.

So what else am I listening to recently? k.d. lang (sweet voice, some nice song writing, but still growing on me); Robert Plant & Alison Krauss (wow, he can really sing a song); Daniel Lanois (one of the greatest producers in the world with a fine solo career, and high quality downloads); and, of course, Radiohead.