Sound Opinions Discusses Audio Fidelity

Digital Music, Audio Fidelity & Opinions on Moby and Destroyer

iTunes, YouTube and MySpace have completely changed how we listen to music. But have they changed what we're hearing? This week Jim and Greg invite producer Butch Vig and music journalist Bob Gendron to talk about the digital era's impact on the sound of music.

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Music News

It's been a while since Jim and Greg have had an opportunity for a "Bono Rant," but this week U2 made big music industry news. The longtime Irish band has made a deal to hand over the management of its worldwide tours, merchandise sales and website to concert promoter Live Nation. This is a similar deal to the one Madonna inked a few months ago, only U2 will continue to release albums through Universal Music. Jim has to wonder why a band as big as U2 even needs a company like Live Nation, especially because they are so notoriously fan-unfriendly. But, he's more horrified at the prospect of seeing Bono and company performing live in their '60s. As Greg reminds him, geezers on stage are all too common these days.

Live Nation's ties with Ticketmaster will be severed at the end of this year, but the mega-company is making some new deals of its own. The Dave Matthews Band and Ticketmaster have teamed up to offer concertgoers a digital album filled with material from the band's upcoming summer tour. Since the DMB tour basically every year, this may not appear to be such big news, but Jim and Greg were both shocked to see the famously grassroots band get in bed with an evil empire like Ticketmaster. Whatever you think of their music (and it's evident where Jim and Greg stand), they were always an admirable band from a business standpoint…until now.

According to Brandweek, music tour sponsorships have grown 75% since 2003 and will hit $1.04 billion this year. This will come as no surprise to concertgoers who have experienced marketing and ads at every moment of a show. But Greg wonders why ticket prices haven't gone down if sponsorships have been so profitable. Jim is equally dismayed, and both hosts are anxious to see if anyone has the courage to stand up to the brand.

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Digital Music

This week's feature is all about how music has changed in the digital era. It's obvious that the digital revolution has impacted how we listen to music, but as audiophiles know, it has affected what we're hearing as well. It seems that music fans are faced with a choice: Convenience/Portability vs. Audio Fidelity. And while digital music purchases have continued to rise (along with illegal downloading), vinyl sales are also up this year. Perhaps this means that music fans want to have their cake and eat it too. Bands like Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead have had great success offering inexpensive, lower quality digital releases along with more expensive records and box sets. Hopefully more bands will be encouraged to offer consumers a choice. In the meantime, listen to the comments from producer Butch Vig, who you may have heard on the show last week, and music editor Bob Gendron, and let us know how you like to listen to your music.

reviewLast NightPlay available on iTunes

Moby Play

Moby had one of the biggest selling albums of all time with 1999's Play, and now he's back with his eighth proper album Last Night. Jim and Greg describe the record as a one night tour of the New York underbelly. The music illustrates Moby's return to his disco roots, and as Greg discusses, the electronic artist really understands the drama in dance music, as well as the spirituality. He explains that between the beautiful melodies, emotion and beats, Last Night is a terrific album beginning to end. Jim has never been shy about being a Moby fan. He appreciates how the artist has never tried to be“cool”and how he has such an“old-school”appreciation of melody. As much as they hate to do it, both Jim and Greg agree and give Moby's new album a double Buy It.

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reviewTrouble In DreamsTrouble in Dreams available on iTunes

Destroyer Trouble in Dreams

The final album up for review this week is Trouble in Dreams from the Dan Bejar-fronted project Destroyer. Many listeners will recognize Bejar for his work with the New Pornographers. But, neither host can recognize Bejar's strengths, which are so evident on N.P. albums like Challengers, on the Destroyer release. Greg says there are a few good songs, but doesn't think his sound holds up in an entire album. He gives Trouble in Dreams a Try It. Jim goes even further, accusing Bejar of breaking every bad indie rock rule in the book. There are affected vocals, bad melodies and pointless lyrics, according to Jim. He gives the new Destroyer a Trash It.

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“America”Yes

For his Desert Island Jukebox pick, Jim wanted to play a song by an artist that epitomizes“high fidelity.”He looked to a member of his holy triumvirate of rock: Pink Floyd, Genesis and Yes. This week it's Yes' turn. Jim describes their version of "America" as a“headphone classic.”While you won't be able to hear the original vinyl audio fidelity on the radio or podcast, Sound Opinions H.Q. hopes you enjoy this cover of a classic Simon and Garfunkel song.

Featured Songs

  1. U2, Desire, Rattle and Hum, Island, 1988
  2. Dave Matthew Band, Too Much, Crash, RCA, 1996
  3. The Saints, Know Your Product, Eternally Yours, Parlophone, 1978
  4. The Cars, Moving in Stereo, The Cars, Elektra, 1978
  5. ZZ Top, Hi Fi Mama, Deguello, Warner Bros., 1979
  6. Yakuza, Egocide, Transmutations, Prosthetics, 2007
  7. Elvis Costello, Watching the Detectives, My Aim Is True, Columbia, 1977
  8. Bob Mould, Miniature Parade, District Line, Anti-, 2008
  9. The White Stripes, The Nurse, Get Behind Me Satan, V2 Records Japan, 2005
  10. Moby, I Love to Move In Here, Last Night, Mute, 2008
  11. Moby, Disco Lies, Last Night, Mute, 2008
  12. Moby, The Stars, Last Night, Mute, 2008
  13. Destroyer, My Favourite Year, Trouble in Dreams, Rough Trade, 2008
  14. Destroyer, Dark Leaves Form A Thread, Trouble in Dreams, Rough Trade, 2008
  15. Yes, America, Yesterdays, Atlantic, 1975
  16. The Nerves, Hanging on the Telephone, D.I.Y.: Come Out and Play: American Power Pop I, Rhino, 1993
  17. The Marked Men, Sully My Name, Fix My Brain, Swami, 2006
  18. R.E.M., 1,000,000, Chronic Town, I.R.S., 1982
  19. Simian Mobile Disco, It's Just the Beat, It's the Beat, Wichita, 2007
  20. Yes, The Revealing Science of God - Dance of the Dawn, Tales from Topographic Oceans, Atlantic, 1974

Footnotes

u2.com U2 bbc.co.uk U2 sign 12-year Live Nation deal variety.com Madonna, Live Nation make music nytimes.com Ticketmaster to End Live Nation Contract ticketmaster.com Ticketmaster davematthewsband.com Dave Matthews Band time.com Vinyl Gets Its Groove Back msn.com NIN makes a ‘Ghost’ of the record machine chicagotribune.com Greg on Radiohead's In Rainbows moby.com Moby metacritic.com Last Night on Metacritic metacritic.com Trouble in Dreams on Metacritic mergerecords.com Destroyer thenewpornographers.com The New Pornographers allmusic.com Yes lyricsfreak.com“America”lyrics simonandgarfunkel.com Simon and Garfunkel's homepage