Introducing the collection …

[Collectorz Music]I made a New Year’s Resolution to write more, particularly in my blogs, but a data clean-up project pretty much distracted me for the last few weeks. released an upgrade to its Music Collector database software that finally includes support for Unicode. It’s been a highly-requested feature but one that’s been difficult to implement. I’ve been using the software to track my music collection since the late ’90s, and I would have loved Unicode support at the peak of my Japanese music craze.

This upgrade pretty much set me on a course to clean up my data, which in turn allowed me to explore features in Music Collector that I’ve never used.

One such feature is an account on Collectorz Connect, an online version of the software maker’s desktop products. Here’s the collection.

I used to keep track of my collection online with various other services, such as Rate Your Music and Discogs, but given my particular … eccentricities, I would end up adding a lot of titles to these services. All that duplicated data entry strikes me as wasteful, if not tedious.

The Connect account allows me to stroke my ego without having to keep adding the NUMBER GIRL discography to dozens of databases with conflicting schemas and style guides.

I’ve also been using the Collectorz Music mobile app to organize shopping lists. I just sync my desktop database with the app through wi-fi, and I have a handy reference during my crate digs.

I’m pretty sure all this centralized organization has contributed to an increase in expenditures. The vinyl bug that bit me last summer has morphed into land grab for CDs. They’re going out of print, and what happened to vinyl in the early ’90s is now happening to compact discs. People can’t get rid of them fast enough, which means ripe picking for those of us who still like to own music.

If you browse my most recent purchases, you’ll find very few titles from new artists.

Yup. I’ve become one of those music consumers — stuck in the past and disconnected from the zeitgeist.

Looking ahead: March-May 2014

Utada Hikaru, First Love (15th Anniversary Edition), March 10

Utada Hikaru was a teen-ager when she released her debut album in 1999. My how they grow up, and damn am I old.

Juanes, Loco de Amor, March 11

Around the time Juanes released his third album, Mi Sangre, I was more in the frame of mind for rock en Japonés than rock en Español, but streaming services have allowed me to catch up and rekindle my interest.

[Cocco - Pas de Bourée]Cocco, Pas de Bourée, March 12

Cocco releases are few and far between these days, so a mini-album after three years is better than nothing.

Kylie Minogue, Kiss Me Once, March 18

Kylie Minogue takes a Duran Duran approach to albums — the scaffolding is much the same, but the details differ from one album to the next. That makes comparing Fever to X, or Body Language to Aphrodite unproductive. So too I imagine with this album.

[Royal Wood - The Burning Bright]Royal Wood, The Burning Bright, March 18

Yeah, Royal Wood has a great voice and his songs are rather good. But allow me to be shallow and mention that he’s really, really pretty.

The Bad Plus, The Rite of Spring, March 25

This trio made arrangements of Gyórgi Ligeti etudes. They have the moxie to tackle Stravinsky.

Inventions, Inventions, April 1

Matthew Cooper of Eluvium + Mark Smith of Explosions in the Sky = post-rock super duo.

Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball (Deluxe Edition), April 8

I wouldn’t have started listening to country music if it weren’t for this album. The Deluxe Edition includes outtakes and a documentary DVD of the making of the album.

Matt Alber, Wind Sand Stars, April 14

Matt Alber has been two for two in making the year-end Favorite Edition list. Will he make it three for three?

Natalie Merchant, Natalie Merchant, May 6

I’m hoping the mirth Natalie Merchant displayed at her show with the Seattle Symphony in 2011 makes its way to her second album for Nonesuch.


Metadata Hell

[Metadata screencap]

I’ve been in metadata tagging hell.

I updated iTunes a few weeks ago and somehow managed to wipe out my music library. Not to worry — it was only metadata that got lost, not any files. So reconstructing the library wouldn’t be difficult, just tedious.

I’ve used Musicbrainz to manage the tagging of my files since 2006, but the service has expanded greatly since then, supporting a number of fields that weren’t available when I first ran my library through its database.

So I thought I’d take the time to re-tag my collection and perhaps contribute a few more edits to Musicbrainz itself.

The effort reminded me of a big blind spot that the recorded music industry refuses to acknowledge — the lack of an industry-wide standard for metadata.

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Favorite Edition 2013

2013 was definitely a personal best in spending on music, with 296 purchases as of this writing. Compare that with the 94 purchases from 2012 and 72 from 2011.

But only 59 of those 296 were new releases, a scant 17 percent of the total. In previous years, that percentage would be half.

So where did all that cash go? Vinyl.

The purchase of a new speaker system ushered a vinyl renaissance, and I’ve pretty much embarked on crossgrading the better parts of my digital collection to analog.

I’ve long ago abdicated any responsibility for being a heatseeker, but this year pretty much made it plainly official.

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On the playlist, or crate digging the bargain bins

My main intent with collecting vinyl is to acquire albums I have on CD that were created before 1990, the year when the transition to CD started to take hold.

But occasionally I’ll run across a bargain that’s too hard to pass up. Wall of Sound, a record store in my neighborhood, moved up the street, so the store held a garage sale. I came away with a bunch of stuff for $0.50, as well as a number of grabs from a box of freebies. Jive Time Records has bins full of 99-cent deals, and Everyday Music has understock priced under $3.

As a result, I’ve ended up with albums I would never have purchased otherwise, and there’s nothing like discovering something likable that’s was gotten for cheap.

Here are the acquisitions, the good with the bad:

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Amazon prices major label CDs lower than digital? For some titles …

Now that I’ve fallen into the black hole of vinyl collecting, I rarely ever visit the CD sections of the local music shop. My penny-pinching tendencies have pretty much made Amazon my default for the now-rare instance when I want to buy CDs. (Or, as I like to call them, “high quality audio backups.”)

I’ve noticed something happening on Amazon — prices for some major label titles on CD are lower than their digital counterparts.

[Amazon prices of Purple Rain by Prince]

A few weeks ago, I decided to get Purple Rain by Prince and the Revolution. My first instinct was to use part of my eMusic quota to download it, but I did a price comparison between eMusic and Amazon and discovered the most economical way to buy the album was to order it on CD. On Amazon MP3, the album cost $9.49. On eMusic, it was $6.49. But to order a CD on Amazon: $4.99.

I ended up buying it at Everyday Music for $5.99. I didn’t mind paying the convenience fee.

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Rest in peace, Foxytunes plug-in

When YAHOO! announced it was shutting down a number of its services, tech reporters and geek commentators focused on pioneering search engine Alta Vista. But buried in that announcement was the most heart-wrenching news for me personally — the end of Foxytunes.

When YAHOO! acquired it, Foxytunes was starting an evolution from browser plug-in to music encyclopedia. Maybe someone somewhere thought Foxytunes usage could be leveraged to funnel users to YAHOO!’s music properties.

But development on the plugin languished, which wouldn’t have been an issue if it weren’t for the death knell of the accelerated Firefox release schedule. The Firefox plugin architecture is structured in such a way that plugins must report which versions they support. When a new version of Firefox gets released, plugin developers have to ratchet the version number in a configuration file, even if the code itself doesn’t change.

YAHOO! would update Foxytunes just in time for Mozilla to release yet another version of Firefox, thus ensuring the plugin would never be compatible. After a while, YAHOO! just gave up.

And the world is a sadder place for it.

Foxytunes was the perfect aid against clueless music site owners who insisted on setting the autoplay attribute of their embedded Flash files to true. Because, really, who would be listening to their own music while visiting their site? When such an obnoxious site would blare its cacophony, I could pause my player with Foxytunes while I stashed the offending autoplay file in my AdBlock Plus black list, then resume my player without switching windows.

One thing I missed when I switched from Firefox to Chrome was Foxytunes, but by then, the lag in releases had already started to wean me from dependence on the plugin. CTRL+TAB came back into my muscle memory, and Foxytunes became a distant but fond memory.

I’m hoping someone would rescue the plugin code from YAHOO! (Unlikely.) Of course, cracking open the source of a Firefox plugin is as easy as changing the .xpi extension to .zip and unzipping the file. I don’t have nearly enough gumption to wade through the code that powers Foxytunes, but I have faith someone with more fortitude would do so.

Honestly, I would rather there be a Foxytunes-like plugin for Chrome. I ought to look.

In the meantime, rest in peace, Foxytunes plugin. Like Homesite, the Tweetdeck Android app and Google Reader, you were a useful piece of technology ravaged by the demands of a fickle marketplace.


Favorite Edition 2013: Half year

If I were to characterize the general theme of the Favorite Edition 2013 list thus far, it would be “chill”.

The albums I’ve been drawn to the most are very quiet, not the usual blast of sturm und drang I usually indulge. But just because they’re quiet doesn’t mean they aren’t unsettling.

Perhaps more telling is the number of new releases I’ve listened to so far this year: 15. Not a big pool from which to draw a list of  10 favorites, which is why there are only seven.

Compare that with the total number releases I’ve bought, including catalog: 61. Yes, I get deeper into catalog the more I age.

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Analog is the new mid-life crisis

Kronos Quartet, Wayne Horvitz, the Replacements, R.E.M. on vinyl

I knew it would happen eventually, despite my best efforts to resist. One thing I try to bristle against is fashion, even if on some level I agree with said fashion.

And right now, vinyl is fashionable.

It’s a fast-growing format, according to the New York Times. Though only 1.4 percent of the total market, vinyl record sales has seen an 18 percent growth since 2011. Manufacturers, however, say they press far more than sales indicate.

But my resistance to this resurgence is rooted in memory. I bought records when I was the age of the young people snatching them up now. From 1985 to 1989, I built a collection of nearly 90 some odd records. Then the demands of convenience encroached on my purchasing habits.

A cassette tape Walkman was easier to bring on a bus ride than a turntable, and eventually, a portable CD player offered a better listening experience than a Walkman. Back then, compact discs were priced higher than records and cassette tapes because they were considered the “premium” format.

The industry transitioned away from those analog formats and trained consumers to accept premium prices as baseline.

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