Every Valley

Every-Valley-CD-300x225

I’m really enjoying this album from Public Service Broadcasting. A history lesson woven between masterful songs. Songs that tell the story of the rise and fall of the coal mining industry in Wales. The record is so emotional in places, that much like another classic, the Manic Street Preacher’s The Holy Bible, it’s not an album for any occasion – at times it can be very depressing, but this is what makes it so brilliant.

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Death of a Polaroid

I was lucky enough to be bought “Death of a Polaroid” for Christmas. This magnificent photo album documents many of Nicky Wire’s Polaroid snaps throughout the history of the band. With many people (especially technology bloggers) wishing away printed books, it made me realise how electronic books will never be able to replace some things, despite what they might hope for.

Online Services I use

Here are some of the few online services I consider worth paying for…

 

XBOX live

XBOX Live

I have been using this service since I first got my XBOX 360 in 2006. I was at first very sceptical about paying to play games online, after all I’ve paid for the game so shouldn’t the online play be included in the price? Having seen other free alternatives however (Steam on the PC, and of course the PlayStation network) XBOX Live seems a more cohesive service. Starting games is simple, as is inviting friends to voice chat. A nice way to waste some time on a Sunday afternoon.

£4.99 / month (I got an annual pass for about £27, look for special offers)

 

AudibleAudible

Audiobooks are a great way to “read” while you’re doing other things, in the gym, in the car, doing boring household chores, or sometimes just when falling asleep. The monthly subscription gives me a book each month (which when some of them are over 30 hours long, will easily last that long) and is genuinely a good way to get more reading time in. There’s an Android app, and books will play on the Kindle too.

£6.99 / month

 

DropBoxDropBox

DropBox is a neat online backup service. While Windows Live Mesh is technically superior, you can’t get more than 5GB of storage as you can with DropBox. Therefore I use it, and it’s very useful to have all your documents available wherever you are. If only the software would make is easier to sync existing folders (currently it’s a longwinded process involving symbolic links) I wouldn’t feel the need to be looking for alternatives all the time. Still, it’s a good price and the features they do have are very useful.

$9.99 USD / month

 

Spotify

I am still on my free trial of Spotify, after having initially been sceptical about “renting” music rather than owning it. Being able to try out albums is great, and now they have offline access for mobile phones it’s actually not a bad product. I have discovered a lot of new music using sites such as BBCify, which I would never have done without Spotify. It’s a shame not al of the music labels have signed up, that is misguided in my opinion. The desktop client it a bit clunky – a classic case of “design by committee” but the underlying functionality is worth the money.

£9.99 / month

I bought a CD

Today I walked into a shop and randomly purchased a CD, which I took home and played.

IMG_0008Why am I bothering to post this? Well because if recent financial results don’t improve, it might be extremely difficult to do such a thing in most UK towns in the not too distant future – which would be a great loss.

While renting music or downloading it may satisfy some – I still like to own a physical copy of my music.

My favourite music of 2010

Yes I know its nearly February but here’s what grabbed my attention the most last year (in no particular order).

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

The Suburbs

The Arcade Fire’s third album is one of those albums that sounds better as a whole that any single track. From the epic orchestral thumping of “Rococo” to the quiet introspection of “Wasted Hours” to the delightfully poppy “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” this collection of songs deserves your full attention while listening. While it probably is slightly too long, I couldn’t pick a song to drop and I’m glad they didn’t. There really is no filler on this album, a rarity indeed. Original,  catchy, melancholic this if my favourite album of the past 5 years, let alone 2010. It just hooks me every time, it has its rockier moments, it’s quiet moments but they all feel like one. The hallmark of a great album is one where your favourite track changes regularly, for now my favourite track is ‘We Used to Wait’ (checkout this amazing dynamic video) but in the past it has been Rococo, Deep Blue, Ready To Start (in fact they’ve all been a favourite at times). Brilliant.

Continue reading “My favourite music of 2010”

Announcing Podcast Tool

I download a lot of podcasts. I use iTunes to manage them on my “junk PC” (the one I install the rubbish, but necessary software like Real Player and iTunes, for syncing iPods etc).

However on my laptop I don’t want to be installing iTunes, and a quick search on Google left me thinking there weren’t many lightweight solutions out there for just subscribing to podcasts. Sure a general RSS reader would keep me up to date, but it wouldn’t download the files.
I decided to write my own bit of software, which I’ve aptly named “Podcast Tool”. It basically lets you subscribe to, and download podcasts, remembering which podcasts you’ve listened to. I’m putting it up here for anyone to test and give feedback.

Podcast Tool Main Screen

If you too download a lot of podcasts, then please give it a test.