Tag Archives: Spotify

Weekend in London (with Buzzcocks + Cock Sparrer + Rancid)

A few weeks back we had arranged a weekend trip to London just to get away from Aarhus a bit. And planning ahead I had found a weekend with the maximal payoff in terms of concerts! Beyond that thought we hadn’t really planned that much, and mostly wanted to “go have a weekend in London” as if we were living there.

Friday

We arrived in the city at about noon and went for lunch at a pub across the street from the hotel. It went a bit outside my tradition of starting each countries with its “national” dish (fish ‘n’ chips in England, currywurst in Germany, baguette in France, and hotdog in Denmark) but pub food is a close second in the UK. And I was actually pleasantly reminded of the surprisingly decent food you can get cheaply at the pubs: it hasn’t changed or been influenced much since my time in Edinburgh, and it came with a pint.

Afterwards we went for Death: A Self-portrait at the Wellcome Collection, but in all honesty the venue was more exciting than the exhibition. Also visited a few years back, and with its free entry, nice cafe, and good museum shop it’s a nice place to hang out. This time I realised that there’s also a second floor but that’ll be for next time to explore.

We had a tea and a crumble at the cafe, and picked up some fish ‘n’ chips on the way back to the hotel. Having not looked exactly where the Buzzcocks concert was going to take place, we were surprised to discover that it was in fact a good deal outside the city and hence had to take not just the metro but also the regional train. When we finally arrived, The Mick Jagger Centre looked more like a primary school than the great venue where we were at last to see the Buzzcocks. They played a great concert though, the guitarist seemingly the one with most punk left in him, and the drummer looking like it was about time to retire. However, we had to cut it short by the last to tracks in order to reach the train station in time: unfortunately these were Ever Fallen In Love and, I believe, What Do I Get? That obviously was a bit of a let down, but given how far we were into the country side it seemed silly to risk the last safe ride back.

Saturday

Headed for Camden Market and got an English breakfast at a pub first thing there. The markets have gotten bigger since I was there in 2008, despite the story that parts of it caught fire. It really is an impressive market, not matched by any in Paris for instance. Had a curry for lunch, and a bit arbitrarily picked up Eleven Kinds of Loneliness by Richard Yates.

We then headed to Tate Modern for their William Klein exhibition. On the way we ran into some kind of Father Christmas event consisting of several hundred people dressed up for the holidays and just basically hanging out. We later saw that they had marched through London, at some point also occupying Trafalgar Square.

Great exhibition by the way, and very easily to see that he’s one of the good ones. Particularly liked how good he is at filling the frame and make the photo stuck you in (later wanted to try the same at Brick Lane, but my attempt earlier in Boston was perhaps more successful).

For the evening we decided to get last minute tickets for a play, and ended up with The 39 Steps at the Criterion Theatre — it was what looked best on the list at the box office, but turned out to be a surprisingly good show! Very good adaptation from the movie with clever use of meta language; highly recommended. The underground theatre itself was very cute, and with an elderly guy in front of us with a very contagious laughter it couldn’t have been must better. We left wishing we could go more often, even if it’s three times or more the price of going to the cinema (the actors seem to perform a more honest job anyway).

Sunday

Starting again with a market, we went to Brick Lane for a late breakfast/lunch. In no rush, we walked up and down the market, bought a few items, and got hungry again looking at all of the different options. Has it become hipster? Yes, but it is a nice place.

Afterwards we just kind of strolled around town a bit until dinner (a lovely noodle place around Leicester Square I think) in preparation for the Cock Sparrer and Rancid concert at The Forum later.

The concerts were great. A bit loud at 110 dB compared to the usual 100 dB, but energetic atmosphere and impressive venue (an old theatre I suspect). My girlfriend remembered listening to Cock Sparrer on cassette tapes in her teenage years, and for me they were a welcomed discovery — am now looking forward to Shock Troops arriving in the mail. Having instead listening a lot to Rancid I was very happy to finally see them alive and they didn’t disappoint. Should have prepared a bit better for the sing-along though.

Finally, we flew with Ryanair but talked about not doing that again. Why their initial price might be lower than the other airlines, their price curve is also a lot steep: as soon as you want a bit more (such as checked-in luggage) the price goes up quickly and you end up paying the same (if not more) than with a decent airline — yet the airports used by Ryanair are still far away, the departures are early in the morning, and they are not that good at managing overcrowding.

Oh by the way, Songkick turned out to be a splendid tool for researching which weekend to go! It gave me a combined list of all planned performances by the artists of my choosing six months ahead — and brilliant integration with Spotify.

Civil Civic + Bandcamp

A few weeks ago I ventured into something new: I bought an album digitally, as in downloadable files instead of buying the CD. I got my arse kicked, yet also made an interesting discovery.

To prolong the story, it goes back two years when I first heard Civil Civic playing at L’International. Me and a friend had spent the day café-jumping in Paris (between all the cafés with “Metro” in their name) and decided to round it off with a gig. Quite unexpectedly it ended up being one of the best I’ve attended at the venue, so naturally I went home looking for their album. I don’t believe I found it though as they had probably only released singles at the time; instead I saved a link to their MySpace page and prepared some patience.

Back in spring this year I somehow got reminded of them again. I looked on their half-dead MySpace page and found that they have now released a proper album, Rules. I listened to it a few times on Spotify and became convinced that I would keep listening to it, and hence needed to buy the album. Disappointedly, all Amazon could offer was a digital download and not the “hard-copy” CD. Alright, it’s an indie release so it’s what to be expected yet I didn’t want to settle (for the reasons given earlier). I kept looking through-out the summer but without luck.

We’re now a few weeks ago. I figured that I’d been listening so much to it that there was no way around it anymore, and started looking into where to buy it digitally. This of course involved an investigation into who provides the best files. First off, I was happy to learn that iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify all allow you to buy the music free of DRM protection. Next came the quality, and it turned out that Spotify was actually the best option: they would sell it to me (Amazon wouldn’t), they use an open format (iTunes use their own), and provide it in the highest quality. It was slightly more expensive than iTunes but not unreasonable: 99 DKK compared to 79 DKK. As a final resort before committing my sin, I called a friend with the same love for CDs as me. Unfortunately however, he could only pointed me in the direction of HDtracks without luck. I did it and ended up with 10 new files on my computer!

Now, a few days later I stopped by the website of Civil Civic for whatever reason. I had passed it in my search earlier but apparently not looked close enough. For what I found was that for 4 GBP (40 DKK) I could download the music directly from them – and, for 3 GBP extra, they would send me a CD! I ordered it of course.

The point here is that not only did I get what I wanted (the CD), I also got it cheaper than having just the files at Spotify. Furthermore, I suspect that a larger cut went to the band instead of the shareholders – I have later discovered that this might be more relevant than I initially thought: several bands are now refusing to put their albums on Spotify because the cuts they get are too small.

When caught by an act of stupidity, an occasion to rationalise it is sometimes welcomed. And how can that be done in this case? There’s the good old “it’s only the price of two beers” or “most music you buy is very cheap so it equals out”. However I this case I went with “it’s the price of experience!”. Of what? Of learning about Bandcamp, the website through which Civil Civic and numerous other indie bands are selling their music!

Compact Discs, and Why I Buy Them

I always buy my music the old way: on compact discs. Except for a few occasions where I buy it the OLD way, ie. on vinyl. I’ve stopped buying it the Old way though; those silly cassette tapes are better left behind.

I also buy music frequently, and often have it delivered to my office instead of home (saves me a trip to the post office). This means that more people get exposed to this ancient fashion of mine, and hence more people ask the question: why don’t you just buy it on iTunes? Having thought about it, here are my reasons:

Better quality. I often say this one instinctively, and people often don’t find the counter-argument before the conversation has moved on (mostly to the music on the CD). However, this reason is bullock as I don’t posses an audio system that would allow me to tell the difference. Moreover, the first thing I do is always to rip the CD to iTunes and from then on listen to it from there.

It’s cheaper than iTunes. This one is often true actually. As far as I can tell, the price on iTunes is more or less fixed, at least on a few steps. Amazon on the other hand often lowers the price shortly after release (it may be more expensive at first though, meaning I have to be a bit more patient).

The artwork & lyrics. Putting on an album and throwing myself on the couch with the artwork and lyrics sheet is a favourite. I could look up these things on the computer but I find that it takes my mind away from the album — there is always something else to look up when the fingers are already on the keyboard.

The album as a whole. This is related to the above reason, and comes from the fact that I like to see the album as a coherent unit with related songs. This is not always the case of cause, but buy the CD prevents me from buying just the tunes that are catchy at first (but also from skipping the truly crappy tracks).

Ever-lasting. Although logically silly, I find this reason quite powerful. It is the satisfaction of knowing that I can always make a new rip if the hard-drive fails. That the CD contains all the information, nothing is lost due to compression, should I one day get a proper sound system. But most importantly, that I’m leaving a trace behind for me to re-discover years from now (while this could be the case with hard-drives as well, experience tells me that what is on old hard-drives is left on old hard-drives) — I feel less in control with the digital trace, even if it fully controlled by me.

No lock-in. The CD does not lock you in to iTunes or Spotify. No-one can take it away by the click of a button or the expiration of an account. Although I may be forced to abandon CDs within the next 20 years, I am avoided the lock-in for as long as possible. 

As a final remark, let me note that I have recently been challenged a couple of times on this ancient style of buying music. Firstly, I would like to buy the Rules album by Civil Civic but have so far only been able to find it as an MP3 download. I understand that this is perhaps a cheaper option for the band, but still. Secondly, my copy of The Year of Hibernation by Youth Lagoon contained a paper slip telling me to go download two bonus songs not on the CD. I can’t judge if this is because they were added after the CDs where burned or if it is because they made a deal with the download website, but it annoys me a bit.