THE BLOG OF MARK SHIELDS
Yesterday the group announced what all fans have been waiting (in some instances, not so patiently) for: a new album. It's called Tomorrow's Harvest, will be release on the 10th of June and I have already made my pre-order.
|I never thought I'd ever see this day.|
My life has moved on a lot since 2006, as has a lot of things. But as the years passed the likelihood of a new Boards of Canada album became less and less, and as time went on I decided that despite my wishes, they probably wouldn't release a new album any time soon.
And then, last Saturday, a 12'' LP was found, hidden unannounced amongst the Record Store Day finds in New York City, that hinted either at an elaborate hoax or something new - it broadcast a cryptic code like a Numbers Station. Then Warp Records confirmed it was legit. Then a second code appeared, then Radio 1 broadcast a third, NPR broadcast a fourth, and then before I knew it I was checking various fan forums hourly as the clues unraveled, before the fan forum I was viewing became part of the trail.
Then yesterday, the album was revealed. I was commuting during the reveal and found out by way of a random re-tweet by a Boards of Canada related Twitter account when I got home - I could scarcely believe that they'd finally done it.
Before reading further, if you haven't, read this post on Tones of Town about Boards of Canada as I explain what the mean to me and why I love them so. Then come back.
Are you back? Good. I now have a dilemma.
See, Boards of Canada are my current favourite artist. I grew to appreciate each release I acquired over a long period of time, only recently listening to their lost-complication BoC Maxima just this past week. I have both Old Tunes tapes downloaded and own each of their official releases (only owning one physically, Music Has the Right to Children, but I actually don't know where it is right now). I have made my peace with their back catalogue - I discovered it all out of sync, out of order, and now have pretty much fully formed opinions of how each release sits in my mind, and how they relate to each other.
Imagine a story that was finished - one that had an ending of sorts, and then being told there was a future book that expanded on the characters. If you'd made peace with their fate, knowing that there was a canonical version of the events after your ending it can shake it up a lot. An actual example of this is the sixth book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, And Another Thing, heroically written by Eion Colfer after Douglas Adam's untimely death. It didn't change the books I had read previously, but it certainly did change how I felt about the ending of Mostly Harmless.
Of course, music is very different to that of a book - there is no real narrative, besides that of the album it's self. But what of my narrative? I have had eight years to dissect all their work and how it fits in my head, and now there's going to be more. And the new work will never change how I feel about the albums right now, but might it change how I feel in the future? It could. My tastes are fluid (though, admittedly, much more stationary than before) and like my infatuation with The Smiths 5 years ago, Boards of Canada could fall out of favour (however unlikely).
Don't get me wrong, however - I am not not looking forward to new material - I actually have not been this excited for a new album by anyone in my life, I think (though my younger self was extremely excited about Oasis' Be Here Now) but I am suddenly wary. I never expected new material from the group and now there will be it changes things ever so slightly. Despite writing this, I don't think I can quite explain it fully - apprehension isn't the correct term, but it is a type of wariness.
I look forward to hearing the new album at any rate. How it changes my relationship with their early work I won't know until I have heard it.
I’ve been a major proponent of Spotify for years, and I love every inch of it’s streamy goodness. However, as someone who loves music and will endeavour to expand my musical tastes for the foreseeable future, Spotify has one major downfall – the lack of some of my key favourite artists. If Spotify was to ever replace my hard drive, I’d lose quite a few artists and albums I feel are too important to lose.
So, I waited.
I waited until someone gave me one of two options; one, a cheap method of setting up my own server and cloud music upload system or two, a good service designed for music listening in mind.
iTunes is where my music is stored, for better or worse, and it launched a service similar to what I wanted only last year – iTunes Match and iTunes in the Cloud are two parts of a service that would let me load all my music onto Apple’s servers and then play it anywhere. Or so you’d think. See, even though I’d have all my music on their servers, I’d have to install iTunes to access it, or play it on my iPhone. And even then, it doesn’t stream it strictly, instead downloading it and caching it offline. Not exactly what I want.
Then there’s Amazon’s system, but even then I didn’t fancy paying for something just yet. I wasn’t 100% sold on the idea.
Google’s Play Music then is the obvious next option. It allows free uploading of 20’000 tracks (I have 11’000ish in my library) and the playing of it anywhere, via a web app in the browser, or via third party applications on the iPad and iPhone. So, this weekend I decided to take the plunge and upload all 90Gb of music to their servers. It’s taken a long time, for sure, but it’s a one time thing.
Now, I have used it a bit now and am slowly falling in love with it for the reasons below;
It’s free. I mean, it’s free like all Google things are, and maybe it won’t be for all the time, but as a solution that meant I could see if it would work, it was the best.
It works. I can use it in Chrome, Safari on the iPhone, in Firefox on the work PC (for now), and via an app on my phone and iPad. Without any problems either. It’s been utterly seamless.
It lets me have Last.fm scrobbling. This is very important to me. I thought at first it wouldn’t, which would’ve been a deal breaker, but serendipitously the app I downloaded updated this morning to allow it, and via some finagling with Greasemonkey and this cool add-in, Firefox scrobbles too. This sealed the deal for me.
I can re-download my library, if I need to. This means that not only is it a streaming service, but also a kind of free back-up service. Pretty neat. I wouldn’t use it as a back-up though, you never know when Google will stop you from doing that.
It’s free from Apple. I love Google’s services. Gmail is brilliant, Google Maps is wonderful, and now Google Play Music. But then you wonder why I don’t have an Android phone, or an Android tablet – but that’s the thing. Despite being entrenched in Google’s services I am also built into Apple’s ecosystem too. To leave for another would lock me out of all I have before. In fact, this is the best way round, I think. I have Apple’s device and OS but with Google’s services, and none of the Android hassle. Not that there is much now, natch, but moving away from a mobile OS, especially when I’ve had iPhones for 5 years now and own a MacBook, an iPad, and a second iPhone, it’d be mental to leave. But the point is that Apple’s stuff just doesn’t work the way I want it to, and it’s great that Google supports my wishes.
It’s early days, sure, but so far having all my music online, for me to stream on any device, anywhere, at any time, is feeling so much like the future I want it’s scaring me. Google Play Music is fantastic.
Notes: It converts your music to MP3 at 320kb, including lossless stuff. For streaming that’s fine, but if you have a lot of FLAC stuff (I don’t) then you might not like that aspect of it. Also it does take ages to upload your stuff despite doing some matching of artists. It’s taken me 3 solid days of uploading to put 11k on, with around 4k matched. It’s a one time thing. And yeah, I don’t think O2 has been too happy – they’ve been throttling back my Xbox and Facetime connections quite a bit. Turns out uploading 90Gb isn’t exactly their favourite thing in the world.