Category: Opinions and Rants

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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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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Why what I want from Hawaiian music will never become a reality

I’ve spent the last few days visiting family in Hawai`i, and I’m reminded of the one genre that I probably dislike as much as garage rock: Hawaiian music.

It shouldn’t be surprising that someone who grew up in Hawai`i would develop no taste for the indigenous music. When I lived in Texas, I met more than my fair share of people who grew up there and felt no affinity for country music, let alone Tejano.

I like exactly one song in the Hawaiian music genre: “Moonlight Lady” by Gabby Pahinui. I like it so much, I even recorded a cover of it — in the style of My Bloody Valentine.

Hawaiian music is rooted in the spirit of aloha, a word that means affection, peace, compassion or mercy (so Wikipedia tells me.) That’s where my disconnect with Hawaiian music resides — I’m not very affectionate, I’m too cynical to buy into peace, my compassion has its limits and mercy? What’s that?

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Favorite Edition 2012: Quarter final

Five years ago, my listening habits changed pretty dramatically.

I turned 35, and I decided to get out of the rat race for finding the next big thing. MP3 blogs hyped bands based on a single download. A Pitchfork reviewer would sneeze, and the entire indie rock ecosystem would crumble. The 80s revival refused to die.

So I retreated into catalog, and the number of new releases I would seek out dropped by half. I still bought the same amount music, but the distribution between old and new skewed to the former.

And that makes 2012 an odd year. It’s the first in half a decade where newer releases dominated. There’s just one qualification — most of those new releases came from regulars. The Great Catalog Shift also meant a drastic reduction in discovering new artists.

Still, it’s heartening to be in a position where I’m scrambling to cut albums off the favorite list than squeezing in something just to fill space.

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Favorite Edition 2012: Quarter three

So far this year, no album has made me fall in love with it. At the same time, a lot of albums have been vying for my affection to various levels of success.

As a result, the list is in a lot of flux at the moment. In previous years, a few albums usually manage to put a stranglehold on their rankings, leaving the stragglers to fight out for the bottom ranks. This year, I’m actually hesitant to rank anything until December.

If there has been anything definite, it’s the disappointments. Hello, Valtari. Sorry, Royal Wood.

So here, then, are the contenders for the year-end Favorite Edition list with preliminary ranking:

  1. Santigold, Maker of My Make-Believe
  2. Jeremy Denk, Ligeti/Beethoven
  3. Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE: I didn’t even hear about Frank Ocean till the gay blogs started mentioning his coming out as bisexual. I have no expertise on what makes a good R&B album. All I know is that channel ORANGE appeals to me. In strange way, it reminds me of James Blake’s self-titled album, though both albums are pretty far apart on the musical spectrum.
  4. Scissor Sisters, Magic Hour: I like looking at Jake Shears when he’s wearing as few clothes as possible, but I wouldn’t want him to serenade me. While I’ve mostly been ambivalent to Scissor Sisters in the past, Magic Hour, for some inexplicable, reason has charmed my pants off. Jake, that is an invitation.
  5. Tokyo Jihen, Shinyawaku: I had previously listed Tokyo Jihen’s live album, Tokyo Collection, on this list, but Shinyawaku collects some of the band’s best material, most of which never made it to an album. “Kao” and ” Pinocchio” stand out in particular.
  6. ZAZEN BOYS, Stories: ZAZEN BOYS III still makes me cautious to jump into new ZAZEN BOYS material, but Stories turns out to continue the sober streak forged on ZAZEN BOYS 4. Make no mistake — this album is still all sorts of angular, but Mukai Shuutoku and company actually maintain the kind of focus ZAZEN BOYS III failed to subvert.
  7. TOUMING MAGAZINE, TOUMING MAGAZINE FOREVER: Of course, if you still miss NUMBER GIRL hard, there’s always TOUMING MAGAZINE.
  8. Duran Duran, A Diamond in the Mind
  9. Gossip, A Joyful Noise: I think I’m finally making peace with the fact Gossip will not be the rock band that brought Standing in the Way of Control into the world. All that to say, this album is far better than Music for Men.

Honorable mentions:

  • Dead Can Dance, Anastasis
  • FLiP, XX Emotion
  • Lana del Rey, Lana del Rey
  • Molotov, Desde Rusia con Amor
  • OBLIVION DUST, 9 Gates of Bipolar
  • Quruli, Rutsubo no Borutsu
  • Tokyo Jihen, Tokyo Collection

Favorite catalog:

  • Fugazi, Repeater + 3 Songs
  • Dead Can Dance, Aion
  • John Lunn, Downton Abbey
  • The Old 97’s, Too Far to Care (Deluxe Edition)
  • Oriental Love Ring, In This World

Favorite Edition 2012 Midyear

I usually try to track my year-end favorites throughout the year, but of course, this year has been different. And because of all that upheaval, I can’t say I’ve been paying much attention to newer releases. I’m surprised I managed to rank as many items as I did, although two of them are live albums.

The rise of digital downloads and streaming services put new releases in competition with catalog. I still listen to a lot of music, just not much music released in the current year.

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Favorite Edition 2011: Quarter Final

The overriding theme of 2011 could take on a number of guises. It could be the Year of the String Quartet. Or perhaps the Year of New Amsterdam Records. An argument could be made that it was the Year of Spotify.

It certainly wasn’t a year dominated by Japanese rock. Yes, the top half of the Favorite Edition 2011 list is occupied by Japanese artists, but they’re the concentrated minority in a series of lists dominated by string quartets and new music ensembles.

My tastes have been shifting gradually away from Japan over the past few years, but it seems 2011 marks the first real evidence of that wane. Another indicator — new release e-mails I receive from CD Japan don’t actually feature specific albums by artists I like. They’re all compilations now.

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