So I finally went and did it. I bought myself an MP3 player for Christmas. Actually, make that an MP5 player.
For those who read this column fairly regularly, this may come as bit of a surprise as I've been known to rave on a bit about things like the poor sound quality of MP3s. I've also been known to rail away about how today's delivery systems of choice have helped contribute to the whole concept of the full-length album as a dying art-form.
The instant accessibility of downloadable music has once again turned music more towards a single track based medium, essentially turning time backwards to the days of the Fifties soda fountain jukebox. Which, at least to me, explains why you don't see as many truly game-changing albums released these days. That's my opinion.
Case in point? Look no further than at how much better Radiohead's In Rainbows sounded once it actually had a proper commercial CD release, as opposed to its original quality when it was a free download.
My views on these things are for the most part unchanged, by the way.
I could go on for days about how I think the "forward-thinking" progress of instantly accessible music is, in reality, a nefarious trojan horse hell bent on destroying music from within. The advent of these palm-sized delivery systems have certainly played a large role in the downturn of the music industry (not that the "industry" itself didn't already have plenty of problems of its own).
When I heard that Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson included a scene in the trailer for his new album, Insurgentes, where he actually target practices his shooting skills on a bunch of MP3 players, I about did a Tom Cruise back flip off my couch!
The truth is, much as I'm pretty sure my more forward-thinking fellow BC music scribes like Mat Brewster, and Zing-Zing have a soft spot for the ol' Rockologist, I've often suspected that it was in more of an "Andy Rooney of rock" kind of way.
And, they may be right. I don't really like cell phones either.
But this Christmas, I finally bit.
And you know what? The damn thing came in kind of handy this Christmas season. For those who haven't heard, up here in Seattle we've been snowed in under as much as about two feet for more than a week. Every time the stuff starts to melt, the temperature freezes down to around the teens, and we then get a fresh new dumping of snow. We're supposed to get another six inches tonight.
Personally, I haven't seen this much white powder since my days in the proper music industry. It's been nearly as long for Seattle as a town. I haven't been to work in a week (and may not have a job anyway come the new year, but that's another story).
So what finally got me to bite the digital music bullet was this kick-ass deal I found on a touch-screen MP5 player, which looks a lot like the one that you should see in the Amazon ad below. What makes this device so cool is that it not only stores and plays standard MP3 files, but does the same for the better sounding downloadable files like flacs.
It also stores 16GB of data, which just about covers the library I've accumulated over this past year that's been clogging up my hard drive. It also very neatly makes all of this music readily available, categorized by song, album, and artist. It's all portable, too. Not that I've been able to leave my house or anything like that for the past ten days or so…
But I was able to port the thousand or so songs I have stored on my computer to this device in seconds, and from what I can tell, there's no end in sight yet. And I've gotta admit that in these past few weeks, when the power in the house was a bit shaky, my new MP5 friend was a bit of a life saver. So, the inner gadget geek in me has been awakened. Sort of…
Does this mean I'll soon be taking the equivalent of long, hot showers with my newfound digital friend? Not likely.
Once the weather thaws up around these parts, I'm sure I'll be right back to my old-school Bose speaker system. Hell, if I had my way, I'd probably opt for a cabin up in the woods somewhere with just enough electricity to stock my cold beer and power my turntable.
But in the meantime, Springsteen's 1978 Winterland concert and the latest albums by the Killers and the Black Keys haven't been half-bad on those devil-be-damned thumbnail speakers. Any port in a storm, right?
Merry Christmas everybody!