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I've been flirting with music streaming systems for a while now, most notably Pandora, but none have really been what I'm looking for. Pandora runs in your web browser and attempts to create a radio station of music that is similar to a song or artist that you like. It's an interesting project, but lacks the control I would prefer - I sometimes want to listen to particular tracks, not a random selection of similar tunes. The nail in the coffin with Pandora for me though, is that it isn't available outside the US any more. I can use a US based proxy server to get around the restriction, but that's another barrier to entry.

I was recently introduced to Spotify, a free, legal music streaming system. You simply register at the website, download and install the application, then you can search for and listen to pretty much anything you like. It's incredibly responsive, finding tracks very quickly and seems to have nearly everything I've tried searching for (apart from the bands that don't appear anywhere else - The Beatles, etc). The user interface is minimal and simple to use too. I've been using it for a few days now and haven't noticed any dropped connections whilst streaming music.

On the downside, sound quality is average, though it's good enough for the light headphones I use in work. Also you have to listen to a short audio advert every few tracks (one every half an hour or so I reckon), with an option to pay a subscription (GBP 9.99 per month) if you don't want this. The ads are distracting if you're trying to listen to an album in full, but it's a price I'm willing to pay given the value of the service.

Overall, this is a great service. I hope their business model is profitable enough to survive.

I haven't done any music reviews on my blog before, and now two come along at once! Linkin Park have been a bit on and off for me. When I first heard their stuff years ago I quite liked it. Then the whole Nu-Metal bandwagon started, they became really popular with kids five years or so younger than me so I went off them. I think I was in an "Everything popular is crap by definition" phase. I recently found their stuff shared on someone's iTunes at work and quite liked it. Now they've made a return with a new album so I thought I'd give them another chance. I bought the special edition, which was packaged rather exquisitely in what looks like a hardback bound book with the CD at the front, several pages of lyrics and making of info and the DVD at the back. The music is very similar to their older stuff, a mix of soft rock, scratching and some quicker harder rock with an overall vaguely political message. Sticking with what's worked in the past isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I had rather hoped they'd progress a bit further in the intervening years. There are some stand out tracks, like the U2-ish Shadow of the Day and the single What I've Done, though I think the last few tracks on the album let it down a bit. I've not watched the DVD yet, so I shall comment on that in a later post if it deems itself worthy.
This is the latest of Trent Reznor's NIN albums which came out a couple of weeks ago. I've always been a big fan ever since I used to mosh to Closer at the Krazy House, Liverpool in the late 90s. This latest album is great, by any measure, and the production values are incredible (even to the point of having a heat sensitive CD which changes its design from the heat of your player). The musical style is similar to the previous album With Teeth, though it has progressed somewhat, flowing together a lot better as an album rather than just a collection of tracks. However, it seems the style has possibly softened slightly, and the usual NIN choruses that stick in your head are lacking. It's like he's trying to recreate The Downward Spiral, but not quite making it. Even with those criticisms, this is still a great album. EDIT: I’ve since learned there was a clever viral marketing campaign involving lots of websites and TV spots to get people interested in Year Zero. I never saw any of this, so yay for me not being manipulated (I just bought the album cos it was NIN), though maybe living in the UK has insulated me from it. Having listened to the album a few more times, I'm gradually thinking more and more that Year Zero is an absolute piece of genius. It's telling a future story of a potential society in fifteen years time which extrapolates the current US administration to the point of near fascism. Also, there's a rumoured future part two to the album. Yay!

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