Favorite Things: Rdio


There are heaps of great music-steaming services out there, now that, apparently, music is free.  Really, they should be used as over-qualified previewers in determining which LPs or CDs you really need in your collection, if permanence and sound quality matter to you. Among them,



  • Spotify: of which I might be a terrific fan, where it legal in Germany, where I am currently living, but alas, it is not. 
  • Pandora: the great pioneer and game-changer that plays a virtual radio station built on a matrix of similar-sounding artists.  A great service, but it won't play an entire album, and I've never been much of a singles guy. Also illegal in Germany.
  • Naxos: this is the largest classical record label in the world, and they're buying up smaller companies by the cello case to add to their online streaming service.  It is a subscription service, so you pay for access to their 800,000+ tracks but can stream them at CD quality, if you have the bandwidth. They also have a pretty deep bench when it comes to jazz.  
But my favorite of all, by a good long way, is
  • Rdio: Another subscription service (my plan costs something like $6 a month), Rdio features the best interface of the lot, tons of obscure recordings, a social feature that is (for once) actually useful--I'm not talking about updating one's facebook automatically every time a new record comes on, but the "playlists" feature, where some pretty tasteful people put together great jazz mixes, Christmas tunes, KEXP-based melodica, and other turn-ons for this traveller. 
I came to Germany with 3500+albums on my iTunes, but sometimes--however absurd it sounds to say it--that's not enough.  I don't know how I managed to cross the pond without a copy of Straight Six, by Poor Old Lu, or with the better of the two perfect Mineral albums, but I did, and Rdio was there to rescue me.
In addition to turning me on to bands like Wye Oak, and Cults, Rdio has been a treasure-trove of old favorites: Jeterderpaul, anyone? Joe Christmas? The mind fairly reels. 


Year's Best

 Last year, one of my favorite musicians ever, Iron and Wine, released their new album on my birthday, which felt like a gift from the world.  The year before, the band that has taught me more than any other (about art, about life) Bright Eyes, released two albums on my birthday.  It seems fitting then, that I should offer something back, in the form of a Best-of list, since this year's birthday has just passed without fanfare from the musical community.  Here then are my favorite albums from 2011, offered in a spirit of generosity rather than contention, for those of you with whom I no longer share car rides or mix tapes.



Girls- Listen Here


Iron and Wine- Listen Here


The Antlers- Listen Here
Youth Lagoon- Listen Here
Bon Iver- Listen Here



There was a lot of good work this year, but these are the masterpieces.  For those of you who don't hate Christian music, you might look seriously at the new albums by Leeland, and Sixteen Cities, which are the best things in that genre this year.  And if you don't hate screaming, you should check out the hardcore rock-opera by F**ked Up, which is breathtaking and holy in an entirely different way.