Apple Music first impressions

Apple Music - sign-up, 01, AL (1366x729)The iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player, but its design, and the digital download store that followed it, revolutionised the music industry. Some 15 years later, the world’s richest tech company is looking to turn the tables once again with its newly launched maxi service: Apple Music.

Apple Music launched on June 30, 2015, to a customary media hubbub. After updating to iTunes 12.2 and signing up for the three-month trial of Apple Music, I thought I’d share some initial thoughts about the service: what it gets right, what it needs to improve and, most importantly for some, how it stacks up against well established alternatives, such as Spotify and Deezer. Continue reading

The allure of live albums

Corinne Bailey Rae - Life is Good Fest, Sep 12, 2010, Peter Lee (1920x1080)If you’re not able to attend a concert, live albums are the next best way of immersing yourself in a more intimate matter with a performer. It’s more than simply the music. They audibly capture the atmosphere. The energy of the performer(s). The yelps of excitement that greet fan favourites. The chatter, the odd fault and the ticklish laughter that often follows. Triumphant solos, guest appearances, live-only cover songs and affecting finales that sweep you up with the crowd.

No wonder live albums – and live music in general – has become a cure for those lonely nights or times when overtime is unavoidable. Continue reading

Discovering BBC 6 Music

Before the age of podcasts, I used to listen to the radio everyday without fail. It’s started with Capital FM in the nineties then grew. 102.2 Jazz FM with Jon Scragg, Choice FM, maybe a bit of Kiss FM now and again. But by mid-2006 something had happened: I’d discovered playlists and podcasts. With mainstay, Jazz FM, going through a complete transformation, I wasn’t too happy with the new personalities or music choices. But at last I didn’t need to bother. Digital music allowed me to rip my CD collection and play it in Windows Media Player, and my Creative Zen Sleek Photo MP3 player let me bring my entire music collection with me wherever I was.

And as for personalities, discovering internet podcasts, like GameSpot’s HotSpot (with Rich Gallup, Jeff Gerstmann, Ryan Davies, Alex Navarro, Brad Shoemaker and more), meant I suddenly had access to more hilarious and irreverent commentary than I could wish for on topics both mainstream and specialist.

But since January last year when I installed a DAB radio in my room, I’ve done a U-turn and begun tuning in to radio a whole lot more. Classic FM has always been a favourite of mine, helping me to ease my hectic mind and focus when working. And although, personally, I’m not too hot for their Radio 1-like daytime shows, I’m always logging on to Fly FM (my student radio station, which I’ve also appeared on a couple times) for a bit of light entertainment and relatable anecdotes from future presenters, Jaye Harrison, Hannah Lupton and Kieran Simpson. However, if anything has reinstated my faith in radio, it’s BBC 6 Music.

In February 2006, Mark Thompson, general director of the BBC, announced that they proposed to close the station as part of the corporation’s spending cuts. This led to a storm of media attention and campaigns to save the station. It was because of all this brouhaha, and blog posts from Alex Britton and Andy Trendell, that I got listening to 6 Music myself. Featuring presenters Lauren Laverne (Northern beauty and culture vulture), Steve Lamacq and Jarvis Cocker, I’m speechless as to why I didn’t start listening before now.

6 Music has introduced me to a whole range of new musicians and music that I just wouldn’t have heard if it wasn’t for them. Regular features like Lauren Laverne’s Memory Tapes (listeners’ music memory playlists), live sessions and Steve Lamcaq’s insightful band interviews are just some of the contagious waves that this unique digital station transmits. And then there are other things like Huey Morgan’s Sunday show, their music festival coverage and quirk events like beaming music into space during their recent Science Week.

Last month, 6 Music was saved when the BBC Trust rejected the BBC’s plans to close the station (though, sadly, the BBC Asian Network will not share 6 Music’s fate) and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Full of intelligence, full of fun, full of culture, 6 Music is a platform for new music like no other radio station in Britain and I’m exceedingly pleased to have discovered it. Tune in and hear it for yourself.