Why the iPod Classic remains one of the best ways to listen to digital music

While it sounds like its hard drive may soon give up the ghost and it can't run for more than an hour without being plugged into power, I still use my iPod Classic around the house on a daily basis. I love it and even though I've moved on to using a Fiio M7 as my daily musical driver, I'll definitely spend the time and money to keep it running.

This video from Pitchfork deftly explains what made the original iPod and its clickwheel descendants such great products, and why using a smartphone to listen to tunes, despite the convenience they afford, doesn't hold a candle to the listening experience a dedicated music player can provide. Read the rest

Concert: Kíla - Live at Vicar Street

I got my first Kíla album in the mid-1990s while I was going to university in Halifax, Canada. It was a big deal.

Lemme give you some background: my folks declared bankruptcy the week that I shipped off to school. The financial help I assumed would be there for me, wasn't. I watched, near penniless, as my fellows drank themselves into oblivion and got to know one another. I couldn't afford to participate. I couldn't afford the books from the extensive reading list I'd been given. The only thing that I had going for me was that I'd used my student loan to pay for a meal plan as part of my first semester's tuition. I quickly found the work I needed to get by, teaching music, doing audio/visual duty for the classes I was attending, rattling locks as a security guard and playing in a bar band to make ends meet. I was exhausted much of the time.

There wasn't a lot of room in my life for joy back then.

Around the middle of the school year, I received a letter from my mother. It explained that the she'd come by a coupon, good for $25 at HMV--a Canadian and British music store franchise. The thought of buying new music--new anything, really--at the time, didn't have a place in my head, given how hard it was to come by books or cover my day-to-day expenses. I've never listened to a lot of popular music. My tastes lean towards OG punk and Irish/Scots traditional music. Read the rest

Friday Tunes: The Imagined Village

The Imagine Village is what you'd call a super group.

Over the years, its lineup has included members of the United Kingdom folk music royalty such as Billy Bragg, Eliza & Martin Carthy, Simon Emmerson, The Trans Global Underground, Chris Wood and dhol drum master Johnny Kalsi. Each of the musicians comes to the collective with decades of musical excellence under their belts and an extensive catalog of tunes of their own. The re-imagination of English folk standards is the Imagined Village's game: they color well-worn chestnuts with musical traditions from around the former British Empire, occasionally updating the lyrics to reflect the current conditions and mood of the United Kingdom's citizens.

If it sounds like a familiar formula, it's because you've maybe seen it done before by the Afro Celtic Soundsystem. Both bands share guitar/cittern player Simon Emmerson as a driving force behind their music. This isn't appropriated music. It's multicultural music that draws together players from a myriad of traditions to honor the music of the past in a manner that's both exciting and new.

While "Cold, Hailey, Rainy Night" comes from a long tradition of "Night Visit" songs – music that features some dude whinging to a young lady that everything is terrible outside so she should let him in to warm up and uh, have sex. You'll hear it being kicked about the folk world, under various regional titles, around the world. This version, recorded in 1971 by by Steeleye Span, is likely one of the most recognized versions of it. Read the rest