Country Music Has Become a Joke

A popular local radio station recently changed their music format to country. The station had long been among my presets on my car stereo. In the past week, country tunes began working their way in to the mix as my radio scanned through the station presets. It was startling, and horrible.

I listened to some country music when I was growing up. I am still fond of the songs that I remember hearing when I was a kid. I don’t think I can only attribute that to pure nostalgia. Country music was actually pretty good back then. Artists like Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, George Strait, and Randy Travis all recorded some great music. I think that their songs appealed to a broader audience than country music does today. People who didn’t care for the genre could still find something in it to like.

Today, things have changed drastically. Country music has eroded to the point of being nothing but a caricature of itself. The songs I’ve heard on the new radio station are absolutely atrocious. Each song is more ridiculous than the one before it. All of the songs sound like music parodies. The amount of twang in this music has reached a level of absurdity. The genre is wearing dangerously thin. The tired rehashed themes that have been in practically every country song since the beginning of time are now completely played out.

I truly cannot imagine how anyone can listen to this music even for a moment and take it seriously. It’s become a joke. The people who consume this garbage and support this laughingstock of a genre need to take a giant step backward and hear this music for what it really is… Pure shit.

Wanted: iOS Music Skipping

Apple developed an iOS app for podcast lovers, simply called Podcasts. One handy feature of the app is the ability to skip 15 seconds ahead or 15 seconds behind with the tap of an icon. This has become indispensable for me, as I often like to skip back to hear something I either missed or want to hear again. These skip icons are essential for navigating close to the part of the recording your are listening to. It would be too difficult to use the scrub slider to back up a few seconds in what could be and hour or two of content.

I want the same skip feature to be built in to the iOS Music app as well. When I’m out walking and listening to music, I often find myself wanting to back up a few seconds to hear a particular part of a song again. I admit that the scrub slider is of more use for a single song in comparison to podcasts because the width of the slider represents only 3 or 4 minutes of audio. However, I keep around an old iPhone and use it as a mere iPod when I’m exercising. It’s old and the screen is cracked at the top, right along the area where the time and audio scrubber are displayed. It’s hard for me to be able to glance at the screen and find the head of the slider to navigate within a song. It would be far easier if there were skip icons that I could tap and go forward or back with ease. I don’t understand why they haven’t thought to add them. Make it so.

iOS skip buttons in Podcasts app

Radiohead Makes Noise

I am not a fan of Radiohead in any way. In my opinion, they are a talentless band that creates hideous music.

I didn’t arrive at this opinion overnight. I’ve listened to their albums from “Pablo Honey” up through “In Rainbows,” some several times. I’ve tried for years to find something about their unique sound that I can appreciate. It just isn’t there. With the exception of “Creep,” their best song by a million miles, the rest of their catalog is pure shit.

Based on that harsh assessment, I’m tempted to consider Radiohead to be a one hit wonder. Creep is the only song that warrants being played in public. Beyond Creep, I will say that the songs “Fake Plastic Trees” and “Karma Police” are pretty good, but those are the only exceptions I can make.

I can barely bring myself to refer to their recordings as music. Their recordings are nothing but noise, pure unpleasant noise. There is no musicianship to be found in any of their songs beyond the two that I mentioned above. It’s as though the band members tripped over a pile of instruments, looped that recording, and put it out as an album. I am quite serious.

The lead singer of the band, Thom Yorke, has a singing style that amounts to nothing but indecipherable whining. I can’t understand a word he is saying. Every song is a four minute whine over a backdrop of ear grating noise. Also, pardon me for being so petty, but the name Thom? It has no impact on their music, but the name Thom makes my eyes roll.

I acknowledge that there will be a lot of people who wholeheartedly disagree with my opinion, my cousin Kevin among them. That is fine. Radiohead obviously has a large fan base, though I really don’t understand how or why. Personally, I find it baffling that they were rewarded a recording contract in the first place.

Zoso Concert at Lincoln Theater

Last night I went to a live show at the Lincoln Theater. Zoso is a Led Zeppelin cover band, but not just any cover band. They play internationally and are renowned for their shows. They did not disappoint. I showed up at 9 PM and there was a long line down the sidewalk. It was packed. We pushed our way down to about 10 rows from the front for the main show. Standing only, of course.

There was an opening act that was an AC/DC cover band. It was hard rock all night. They went on stage at 9 PM, then Zoso came on at 10. They played for three hours until 1 AM without stopping. It was ear-splittingly loud where we were standing. The band put on an amazing show. The lead singer sounds exactly like Robert Plant. The guitarists and drummer were unbelievably good. Tickets were $12, but this group is worth way more than that.

I really wanted to hear them play Misty Mountain Hop, which is my favorite Led Zeppelin song. They didn’t play it, but I wasn’t disappointed. They delivered a solid setlist in their long show.

All ages were present. I was surprised at how many young people (under 21) were there. After all, Led Zeppelin is known for their 70s rock. It’s good to see young people appreciating the classics.

I took the picture below. I was pleased that I didn’t see too many people holding up phones and cameras during the show. That stuff gets annoying. I didn’t see much of that at all. The crowd was busy rocking and cheering.

Zoso at Lincoln Theater

DVD Audio Extraction Perfected

Over the years I’ve tried several different methods for extracting the audio from my collection of concert DVDs. I’ve never been completely satisfied with the results. I’ve tried makeshift copies in the past by hooking wires from my TV to my computer input to capture the sound. These days, that is definitely not the way to go.

More recently, I’ve used the Mac software Audio Hijack Pro, which captures audio directly from the computer sound card and creates an output file. That method works pretty well, but you have to time the DVD playback in conjunction with Audio Hijack correctly to get a the best results. Another problem with capturing from the sound card is that you need close programs with notifications because any system sound will be recorded on top of the music playback.

This weekend I found myself tinkering with audio ripping again. I discovered a solid method for ripping DVD audio. It isn’t a one-click solution by any means, but it’s the best approach I’ve found to date.

Instructions:

Put the concert DVD in your computer. Use Handbrake and capture the song(s) you want, one by one. Don’t capture a spread of chapters at once or you’ll end up with more than one song in a single output file. Choose the file format MP4. Under the “audio” tab, use the codec “AAC (CoreAudio)” with a bitrate of 320. If you have multiple options for the audio source, choose PCM Stereo or AC3. If later find that the sound on the source DVD isn’t mixed loud enough, you can come back and increase the gain and rip it a second time.

Once you have captured the video, you should have a collection of MP4 video files. On the Mac, use the free program Extract Movie Soundtrack. Select the WAV format and process your video files.

Once that is complete, you should have a collection of WAV files. On the Mac, use the free program xACT to convert the WAV files to MP3. I usually use the highest quality bitrate of 320 when making the final MP3 output, but you can select the quality that fits your needs.

After all three steps above are completed, you will finally have your songs in MP3 format. Sure, the process is a bit tedious, but the result is a pure audio extraction, and it’s as good as you’re going to get. I think it’s worth the effort for capturing a song here and there, but it would obviously take quite a long time if you were trying to capture every track on the disc.

Wanted: Song Lyrics Without Ads

Searching for song lyrics online has always been a major pain in the ass. I’ve never been able to find a good lyrics site that doesn’t bring with it a tremendous amount of ads, flashy things, and pop-ups. They are all completely infuriating to navigate, with or without an ad-blocker.

Even worse is listening to music on the go and using my iPhone to do a Google search in Safari for the lyrics of what I’m listening to. Pages load slowly with the crazy amount of ad content that comes with them. Usually once a page is usable, it’s typical for a pop-up ad to show up about something stupid (like buying ringtones) and I have to zoom the page to click a tiny “X” to close the overlaying window box. Horrible! I wish that everyone would make mobile-friendly sites. As for using apps, lyric-specific apps are a little lacking, as they have their own ads or incomplete catalogs.

I’m not trying to plug the site, but I tend to generally use 1SongLyrics. This site is a little less bloated than the others, but absent a better solution, I’ve chosen to settle for it.

I’ve long been calling for a lyrics site with leaner ads, but perhaps the perfect solution would be if Google would just give me the lyrics right inside the search results. They already do that with the weather and sports results. I don’t know if this would create a copyright issue, but I just want the words to a song without the fluff.

If anyone thinks they have a better solution, then I’m all ears.

Hotel California is Fatally Flawed

Everyone knows the famous song Hotel California by the Eagles. I have always loved this song. It brings back great memories when I hear it. I remember hearing it regularly back in the day when out shooting pool.

I’m not disputing that the song is great. It is. However, in my opinion, it could be superb if it didn’t have a fatal flaw. That flaw is that there is not a third chorus for, “Welcome to the Hotel California.” This has always irked me.

Since there is no third chorus, I hardly ever listen to this song all the way to the end. After the final line, “You can check out any time you like but you can never leave,” there is still 2:08 left in the song. It annoys me that it just trails off into guitar for over two minutes while never hearing the chorus of the song again.

Perhaps I am alone in thinking this way. I realize that the last line, “You can never leave,” doesn’t really warrant anything else to follow that. Still, I don’t see a reason to add two more minutes of music after the vocals are over.