Tag Archives: Spotify

Revisiting:Nirvana Unplugged

28 Jul

On Spotify I have been hearing a smattering of tunes all of which pop up from random instincts within my brain, such is the pain and pleasure of having an immense database of music at your disposal. At 4am I found myself listening to Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged album for the first time in years.(which yes of course I own, but Spotify makes it easy to just pull stuff up!) I’m not sure why it’s been so long, it’s not that I haven’t heard Nirvana, maybe I just felt that it had been superseded by the recent release of their legendary set at the Reading festival. I mean that album IS Nirvana personified. Three chords at their loudest, all of the hits up to that point, charismatic perilous vocals by Kurt Cobain, and the energy of a nuclear crowd and a band hungry to prove themselves. This one Reading album makes up for the array of posthumously assembled compilations and box sets and is a necessary addition to any collection of Nirvana and rock and roll in general.
However what about the first posthumous release, Unplugged? I mean obviously everyone saw the special on loop after Cobain’s unfortunate suicide and they released 4 or 5 singles/videos of the performance. Everyone’s certainly heard the album, but listening to it again I never realized how jarring this album actually is. By jarring I don’t mean the typical spiraling cacophony of the band’s sound, it’s more about the choices made by the band itself for this special.
For example, looking at the actual album and program, there are indeed Cobain originals such as Something In The Way, About A Girl, Come As You Are, but there is a deliberate lack of hits on the album. No Heart Shaped Box? No Smells Like Teen Spirit? No Lithium? For the Nirvana newbie this album gives no impression of what the band really embodied…
And yet it is the immense(in stature and number) array of covers that have caused this album to cast a long shadow over the whole band’s discography. Where Did You Sleep Last Night(In The Pines), Man Who Sold The World, a troika of songs by the Meat Puppets all stand as monuments to the brilliance of Kurt Cobain the artist, singer and rock star. It takes balls to say, we’re doing a Lead Belly song, fuck doing another performance of Serve The Servants. Or In Bloom, it could sound good on acoustic, but not as awesome as Lake Of Fire! It’s a total rock star move that had to have the producers freaking out and only adds to the band’s legend.
Of course if you remember this performance well, you’ll notice how I haven’t mention the band’s cover of The Vaselines’ Jesus Don’t Want Me For A Sunbeam. Now I love the Vaselines original, but hearing the Nirvana cover of this song again shook me. I’ve heard it hundreds of times since 1994, but yet it shook me up. Maybe it had just been so long since I had heard it, but it drove me to find the original performance on youtube to remember how it all really went down, how they looked. I hadn’t done it with any of the other songs, but this one I needed to see.
There was Kurt Cobain aged 26, bleached and comfortable in a swiveling office chair guitar slung over his lap. His face both pained and comfortable with his reading of the dour song. He never had a chance to look any different, he was gone in less than a year.
Krist Novoselic is on accordion, standing like a giant in galoshes over the rest of the seated band, using an instrument that wouldn’t be caught dead in the hands of the other bands of the era. A lady cellist adds to the gloom off to the side. Pat Smear is there too, a punk legend turned hired hand, sits with his brightly colored guitar keeping the rhythm intact.
Then hiding in the back, impending rock megastar, Dave Grohl looking younger than I ever remembered him being, actually plays guitar on Jesus Don’t Want Me For A Sunbeam. I didn’t remember it being that way at all, especially with the muted rhythm that appears throughout the song, I never realized he just kind of pulled off a kind of simplified one man band for this song.
The performance of the song itself is still perfect and moving of course, Nirvana always added an earnestness that was often missing from The Vaselines tongue in cheek anthems.
Sitting there watching them do the song, after a few spins on Spotify to reunderstand why it’s so good, I realized I haven’t really WATCHED the band in years. I mean in my head I think of Nirvana and I remember how they made me feel and why I liked them and what they meant to me as I really started my love affair with music. (I was in 8th grade when Cobain killed himself) But, I’m now older than Kurt was in that performance and by attempting to remove the lens of the band’s legacy and cultural influence, and everything that was soon to happen, I saw the whole band differently. I mean the Reading album may showcase Nirvana at the height of their power, but this Unplugged performance shows them with an innocence and sincerity. Everyone looks so young, despite the stardom and the burdens and the expectations, the covers almost seem freeing almost fun away from some of the hyperpersonal lyrics of the typical band material. In that 4 minutes, Novoselic cracks a smile, Grohl almost rushes to make sure he doesn’t fuck up, and Cobain almost seems determined to show you that yeah he really does know what he’s doing and he’s gonna prove to you all over again.

Spotify: Taking The Good The Bad Taking Them Both And There Ya Have…

21 Jul

If you want a bunch of logistical information about Spotify, such as costs or invite status, then you should totally go to one of the 8000 websites that can give you the information you need. I’m here to give some initial impressions now that I’ve actually used the service. I will try and update it after I’ve used it a few days.

In general:
I like being able to select full albums and add them to my queue.(take that last.fm) I don’t have to sit through any songs I hate(take that Pandora) Playlists.

Good: There really is a lot of music on Spotify.
I searched for a lot of different artists from an array of genre’s and was shockingly impressed. For example I started with post punk legends Young Marble Giants, only to find not only their masterwork Colossal Youth, but also a live album of the band that I’ve never actually seen before. The idea of clicking on an artist and instantly being transported to their whole discography all of which is listenable is impressive. I used Dexter Gordon as my test run(since he’s certainly famous, but not sooooo famous) and was shocked at the amount of albums that were pulled.
I will also props the section referred to as “Appears On”, which culls the array of guest appearances an artist has made onto the same page as their albums. This is ABSURDLY useful for hip-hop artists.
Bad
No Joanna Newsom=fail. There are certainly bands that are missing. Sometimes from an album that has every other song available(stupid licensing). Noteworthy internet moments such as the array of mixtapes are definitely not always a part of the service(For example some of the seminal Weezy mixtapes are there, but something like M.I.A.’s original Piracy Funds Terrorism mixtape is nowhere to be found)
In fact this whole idea of cloud music availability via licensing could set a dangerous precedent.(In fact I think iCloud could in fact end up a huge main offender in this realm) For example I decided an excellent test would be My Bloody Valentine. Now Spotify has both of their main albums and awesomely enough has both of the main Loveless era EPs. That’s all great, but what about those equally awesome Isn’t Anything era EPs…or maybe even Ecstacy and Wine? Nope those aren’t anywhere, in fact there’s no mention of them. Now I don’t expect Spotify to have everything, but as we transition to more of these services and digital distribution, what ends up missing could create a depressing state of affairs/mind wipe of intellectual information, which could make the idea of deleted/out of print albums look almost quaint.

Taking Both Good and Bad: Organization and search features
I like being able to make playlists I can share with both friends and the public. I also like the idea of making a collaborative playlist(excellent for parties). However, why can I not search for playlists directly through Spotify itself? Why should I have to go to another outside site or collection of sites(such as sharemyplaylist.com) to find some sweet Italo disco mix some dude in Holland made? While it links instantly from those sites, I should really be able to search by tags or genre directly in the Spotify search bar.
It’s easy to favorite songs, share them, and add them to your queue, but having to right click to do all of the above = fail. A few well-designed buttons Apple-style would make all of this even more streamlined and effective.
I would still love to see Spotify merge with Turntable.fm, because mixing the extensive database with the turntable platform would allow one to broadcast and party with friends all in one package.(Perhaps some actual turntable software for scratching and mixing would be awesome too.)
I doubt I’d pay a monthly fee to access the service, because I have a lot of albums and will continually get more. I also don’t need to access spotify on my phone since I have limited bandwidth. But I welcome the ad supported free version and recommend you check it out.