Music, Weirdness

Download Blues

Today morning, I was on the bus playing one of my Spotify playlists, and suddenly I had this urge to listen to ‘Masakali’. One of the cool things about Spotify is its extensive library, and sure enough, ‘Masakali’ came up in the search. But not the original version, this was from Mohit Chauhan’s unplugged sessions, and a brilliant live rendition it was. I began playing the complete Unplugged – Mohit Chauhan album, and by the time the acoustic version of ‘Dooba Dooba’ was underway, I thought I should tell people about it. Spotify, like any self-respecting application nowadays, allows you to tweet about what you’re listening to and I did, accompanying it with a handy link. Of course, none of the people in India could access it. And then I had to google for “mohit chauhan unplugged 320” which brought me to a handy download link that I could share. (That’s a hint for you, in case you want to listen to something and torrents are not handy at the moment)

And they wonder why people pirate. Seriously, what does a guy have to do in order to share music? Send Youtube links, sure. And if I can do that, why not anything else? What, in this day and age, explains the stupidity of disallowing applications from working in certain countries? Fuck you, music companies, I am not asking for free music. All I need is a way to painlessly recommend music and listen to music others are recommending without having to jump through hoops. You are not “restricting” anything, you are just adding an extra step to whatever it is I have to do. The logic and economics of this escapes me.

Paying for Spotify has removed the need to (illegally) download – and manage – a huge library of music. I do not need to carry my external HD around. The app really has everything, or close to it. Sure, not all of Rahman, but I am discovering a shitload of new music every day and I don’t need to worry about storage. Or even being on a network all the time, because the handy “offline” feature just downloads the songs to the phone. Something like this was long over-due, because I am still not happy with 99 cent downloads. I do not need to own or store all of the music I have, just be able to listen to it where and when I want.

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to another of these questions that do not really matter to anyone but me. You see, I use Last.fm fairly extensively. Not the radio station, but the site’s excellent mechanism of storing scrobbles. It gives me a neat way to keep a record of what I am listening to and to track this data historically. I therefore get a little anal about tagging tracks properly. [aside: Fucking piracy sites. Every one of these sites have serious ego issues about proving ownership. So the artiste-name becomes “www.downloadmeh.com” or whatever the site is, so does the album-name. WHY? Isn’t it enough to just sign the comments section of the ID3 tag, fellas? This means I have to spend time cleaning up the tags before I listen to the songs, because I really do not want to know that I am listening to a track called ‘songs.pk – songs.pk – Hawa Hawa(songs.pk)’.]

With Indian film music, however, we have a problem.

Take any film track. You have the composer, the artiste and the lyricist. Whose name should go onto the <Artiste> field? Sure, I put in the name of the singers, but I lose the information that this is an AR Rahman song I am listening to, unless Rahman is singing the song himself. This also adds a peculiar kind of chaos, where we have no fixed way of noting different artistes in a track. For example:

  • Sukhwindara Singh/Sapna Awasthi – Chaiyya Chaiyya
  • Sukhwindara Singh, Sapna Awasthi – Chaiyya Chaiyya
  • Sukhwindara Singh & Sapna Awasthi – Chaiyya Chaiyya

Which one of the above do you use? Currently, last.fm treats all of these as different artistes and not as individual artistes separated by a symbol. Like I said, this screws up the historical scrobble data in a bad way. Not only are every one of these differently worded artiste names treated differently, there’s no correlation between this track and one sung by Sukhwindara Singh by himself, or with some other singer. Sure, I could just replace the singer name with AR Rahman, but what happens if I want to know who the singer is? The only solution I could come up with is to rename the track as – AR Rahman – Chaiyya Chaiyya (feat Sukhwindara Singh & Sapna Awasthi), but that adds to the title of the song, which is pretty stupid once we get into songs involving 4 singers or more. Let’s not even get into the confusion that arises from Indian singers changing names every other year for numerological efficiency. As of right now, I have no idea if Sonu Nigam is called Sonu, Sonuu, Nigam or Nigamm. Or if he has dropped a vowel or two.

You know what we need? Standards, that’s what we need.

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This and that

I had never thought I would be so enchanted by someone mutilating books. ( link via Eddie Campbell)

Had the most awesome experience last night when I saw, for the first time, a 20-minute video of Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts performing along with singer Mai Yamane live in Tokyo. Must have been the best audiovisual experience for me since Bjork: Live at Royal Opera House. There are videos of the Seatbelts floating around on youtube, but I had resisted watching them, bad audio-visual quality being part of the reason. Yamane, by the way, is the singer most associated with Ms Kanno’s compositions, her distinctive voice the hallmark of tracks like ‘The Real Folk Blues’ ( WHAT? You haven’t heard it? Go check out my mixtape already. Track 13, to be precise), ‘See You Space Cowboy’ and my personal favourite, ‘Rain’.

SQUEE moment 1: Yoko Kanno, dressed in a red trenchcoat and black top and shorts starts dancing to ‘Tank!’, the Cowboy Bebop theme, as the saxophone soloist goes wild.

SQUEE moment 2: Mai Yamane and Yoko Kanno start doing a bizarre robotic dance during ‘Want It All Back’, coordinating each other’s movements and adding to the fun of the song.

SQUEE moment(s) 3: Ms Kanno plays a plethora of Cowboy Bebop tunes on the piano, each tune effortlessly flowing into the other.

All in all, an amazing video. You can download it from most bit-torrent sites around, if you are interested.

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Which reminds me, demonoid.com has been down for more than 48 hours now. Even Wired.com takes notice and talks about possible litigation by CRAI ( the Canadian version of the RIAA ), so fingers crossed.

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Reading Barry Lyga’s Adventures of Fan Boy and Goth Girl, something that I had been on the look out for since I read the preview chapter. ( Hmm, I wonder how I got to the site in the first place…Neil Gaiman linked to it? Possibly. ) Lyga wrote some bad comics – a couple of Warrior Nun Areala in the dark-and-speculatory nineties, and this is his first novel. Falls squarely into the YA category, and managed to get my complete attention by mentioning the words “Giant Size X-Men #1 in mint condition” in the second paragraph. As it turns out, the Fan Boy in the book is the narrator and the book namedrops Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Promethea and Swamp Thing. Seems there’s also a guest appearance by Brian Michael Bendis, heh. And oh, I am “reading” the audiobook, because the actual thing isn’t really available in India.

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A link-encrusted post

I love Charles Addams. He’s one of the few cartoonists with a truly macabre sense of humour – there’s Gary Larson, there’s the mindbogglingly brilliant Bunny Suicides, there’s Jhonen Vasquez with Johnny The Homicidal Maniac – but Addams came much before all of them, and his cartoons can still make you laugh and cringe at the same time.

Now I had seen Charles Addams’ primarily through Dell paperbacks picked up at various second-hand bookshops. While these books were printed on fairly high quality paper, I was always bothered about why the reproduction of those little pen and ink masterpieces was so blurry. At times, you had to squint really hard to figure out what the picture was all about. The tones would bleed into each other – the general appearance was that Addams liked his work very dark and hard-to-figure-out-unless-you-looked-carefully types.

But today, I realised why the Dell paperbacks of Addams’s work was that way. It was because they were reprints of oversized hardcover books, which were abso-freakin-lutely gorgeous. The artwork on these books was crisp and required no squinting.

Now how do I know this, you wonder? Because I picked up a first edition hardcover copy of Charles Addams’s Black Maria today, for only a hundred rupees.

And I also re-found the soundtrack to Ocean’s Twelve. And I bought the complete run of Preacher (1-66, and some specials) for $82.10, which includes shipping ( the seller refunded part of the shipping charges to me because he could ship it cheaper), and the remaining run of Swamp Thing Vol 2 ( issues 45-171), also for 83$. There was a sale on at secondspin.com and I ordered a 3-disc collector’s edition of Dario Argento‘s Suspiria and a ten-volume collection of Sonny Chiba movies for the grand price of 23$. My credit card is moaning rather loudly right now, so I will let it sleep for a while. Six months. No, three. Erm, let’s see.

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