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Murfie’s Year-End List: Favorite Albums of 2014

Time for us to give you some real information about the most impressive albums that came out this year. This is an eclectic list of the music that genuinely stands out to us for all kinds of reasons. If you don’t know, there are many musicians, music buffs, and music lovers that work here at Murfie, and our recommendations are not influenced from outside sources—they’re coming straight from the heart!

Here are the albums that we consider the absolute best of 2014.

Damien Rice – My Favourite Faded Fantasy

This is only his third album, and it’s been eight years since his last. The album was produced by Rick Rubin and it pretty much continues where he left off. – Pete

Eric Hutchinson – Pure Fiction

Great vocals and feel-good instrumentals are present on just about every track on this album. Play Pure Fiction anytime you want to put a smile on your face. – Matt

Fartbarf – Dirty Power

I first learned of Fartbarf putting together a list of preorders earlier this year. With a stupid name like that, I had to know what was going on. Listening to Dirty Power, I was shocked to learn Fartbarf was an impressive, dirty analog vocoder synth rock band, and not a terrible metal or punk band of some sort. This album was the biggest surprise of 2014 for me. – John

The Flaming Lips – With a Little Help From My Fwends

Come on, who doesn’t love the original Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? The Flaming Lips have given us a new twist on the classic, full of their signature (and awesome) sonic extravagance. – Brandon

FKA Twigs – LP1

This was the year I really got into FKA Twigs and a lot of her contemporaries. There was a huge influx of creative production and sound design in 2014, and FKA Twigs was a solid part of that. While I enjoyed her two previous EPs a bit more than LP1, I still really looked forward to this album. I was not disappointed. – John

Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad – Steady

Check out GPGDS if you haven’t already—for real! Their music blends elements of roots reggae with totally fun, bouncy jam rock. Most importantly, their lyrics are socially conscious. The energy at their shows is amazing, along with their ability to give you an uplifting and psychedelic experience caused by their dubby vibrations alone. This studio album is equally awesome to their live persona, and listening to it makes you feel like you’ve teleported to a venue where they’re playing. Dance dance dance! – Kayla

John Frusciante – Enclosure

John Frusciante shows again he can do so much more than we expected. A bold departure from the sweeping melodies of 2009’s The Empyrean. – Brandon

John Luther Adams – Become Ocean

If you want to know more about Become Ocean, check out my full review. As I mention in the review, I learned about John Luther Adams’ work via the excellent podcast Radiolab. I’ve been listening to Become Ocean regularly since. It’s an astonishing feat of orchestration, and it’s hard to recommend anything this year over it. – John

Phantogram – Voices

Phantogram has definitely expanded their horizons. Eleven tracks with distinct voices, all uniquely groovy. – Brandon

tUnE-yArDs – Nikki-Nack

There is probably nothing I’ve listened to as much this year as tUnE-yArDs’ newest album Nikki-Nack. I’ve been a fan of Merrill Garbus’ completely unique songwriting and structure for years, but I think Nikki-Nack is really the album that has cemented her in the public eye as a master of her craft. Seeing tUnE-yArDs play live on King Street was also one of my most memorable shows of the year. – John


Thanks to all our members for making this a great 2014. We’re excited for what’s to come in 2015! Have a happy and safe New Year everyone!

xoxo
The crew at Murfie

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[Opinion] Save the iPod!

I love my iPod! I have a shiny silver iPod Classic with a whopping 160GB of storage. For the past 4 years or so, it’s travelled all over with me, allowing me to listen to music on busses to Milwaukee (Cue: “Traveling Man”), on planes 30,0000 feet in the sky (Cue: “Leaving on a Jet Plane”), and on beaches in Jamaica (Cue: “Country Roads”).

The reason why I often listen to music on my iPod and not my phone, especially while traveling, is because it doesn’t drain my phone battery and I can access my entire collection offline. At home, I can plug it into my speaker system and I don’t need to worry about turning the music off to make a phone call.

This is why I was extremely saddened, disappointed, and upset to hear that Apple is discontinuing production of the iPod Classic! Now that the news is out, iPod Classics are selling for up to four times their original price online. But it’s no surprise, really, that Apple will be pushing people to buy the “next” thing.

I’m not alone in this sentiment. David Sims of The Atlantic says it’s okay to miss the iPod Classic. He noticed reactions like mine, and the spike in prices says it even more simply. “The surge of demand for old iPods suggests what I’ve long been thinking: There’s a hole in the market here. Something has to rush in and fill it eventually,” he says.

The hole he’s talking about is that even though streaming services exist, people still want permanence in their digital music collections. The tunes on your iPod occupy a sort of middle-ground between music rental (i.e. subscription streaming services) and ownership. With an iPod, you can collect digital music files, whether you ripped them from a CD or bought them from Apple (you technically don’t own the Apple files—you own a license to play the files according to Apple’s terms). But either way, you still can feel like you own them, because you’re in full control of where the files live.

Don’t get me wrong, streaming is great to have available! Streaming playback of my music is a great modern invention, whether it’s streaming what I own from Murfie or from a subscription service. But there’s still something convenient, and comforting, about having guaranteed access to all the music I care about in a package that follows me wherever I want to be. The iPod Classic is a great solution for the portable, offline listening and management of digital files, and I’m sad to see it go.

Sims says, “The question is whether Apple will realize its mistake or some other company will do it for them.” If another company wants to step up and make a comparable portable player, I applaud them. But hope my iPod Classic will still able to be supported in some way.


Kayla Liederbach
@djkaylakush

Kayla manages social media and customer support at Murfie. You can hear her on the radio hosting U DUB, the reggae show, Wednesdays on WSUM. She enjoys hosting the Murfie podcast, cooking, traveling, going to concerts, and snuggling with kittycats.


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Album Review: “Interstellar (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)” by Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer has written a lot of music. With over 150 films under his belt, you have heard his work—whether you can name a movie he’s done off the top of your head, or spot a tune when you hear it.

While Zimmer began his music career playing synth for new wave and punk bands (see The Buggles‘ classic “Video Killed the Radio Star“), he’s perhaps best known for his marrying of electronic and orchestral sounds. If you’ve seen Rain Man, The Lion King, The Dark Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc, etc, etc, etc, Hans Zimmer has wormed his way into your ears.

Hans Zimmer - InterstellarBeyond a doubt, Hans Zimmer’s work on Interstellar is singular in his career. The true magic of Interstellar is that Zimmer did not compose this music as a background to the film. Rather, he worked hand in hand with Christopher Nolan to create the score in tandem with production. While I highly recommend the film (particularly in IMAX, for which it was specifically tailored), Hans Zimmer’s score absolutely holds its ground as a stand-alone album.

If you’re at all interested in the music of Interstellar, you should definitely get your hands on a CD copy of the album. Not only does it feature essays about the scoring process by both Zimmer and Nolan, but the CD and packaging serves as a working star wheel (or planisphere) itself. If you’re an astronomy junkie like me, the functional design is an added bonus.

The packaging and liner notes included with the Interstellar soundtrack drive home the fact that Zimmer—along with Nolan, who serves as executive producer on the recording—wanted this music to exude the themes of the movie. The accompanying materials reveal that Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan met before filming began, at which point Nolan gave Zimmer one day to create some piece of music based on the main themes, with specific instructions to throw away past motifs common to Zimmer’s work. With no corresponding footage or plot points, Zimmer created “Day One,” which—even as an early track—serves as an emotional backbone of sorts.

Interstellar Star Wheel

This is how you do CD packaging right.

As the recording process continued, Zimmer and Nolan worked closely to integrate film and music, and it really shows. If you’ve seen the movie (again, it’s plainly worth your time), hearing Zimmer’s score will pull you back to the core moment these pieces represent.

Interstellar was almost an electronic score, but on a hunch, Christopher Nolan convinced Hans Zimmer to record an orchestra, and most notably, a full 2500-pipe organ. The real innovation in Zimmer’s score is a masterful implementation of the pipe organ. It is unequivocally and decidedly massive. Zimmer’s essay in the liner notes indicates that this was a stressful gamble, but it clearly paid off.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the Interstellar score is that Hans Zimmer proves he is unafraid of dynamic range. Unlike many modern scores (and almost all modern albums), Interstellar takes full advantage of subtle lows and impressive intricacies at volume. Pulsing synthesizers and gentle strings provide an effortless floating sensation. Tense or exciting moments are driven through with blasts of energy. Tracks like “Stay” and “Detach” are unabashedly epic.

Alright, I think I’ve satisfied whatever gland in my body has been gushing praises for the Interstellar score by now. Unlike any other work (or almost any other album of 2014), I have listened to Interstellar many times since its release. If you’ve read this far, however, I guess I can share with you the parts of which I’m not a huge fan. In all honesty, there are only two gripes, and as minor as they may be, they will likely be turnoffs for less patient listeners.

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Ownership Matters: Buyer Beware!

Did you read the Terms and Conditions?

It’s no secret that Terms and Conditions are subject to change. When you buy licensed content online—whether it’s music, movies, or some other media—your access to that content is always at risk.

Take this for example: Online gamers were able to buy full songs within a virtual social networking game created by IMVU, Inc. Later on, all the songs were truncated to 20-second clips, resulting in a lawsuit filed by Peter MacKinnon, Jr., a gamer who was upset that all the songs he paid money for were shortened. This instance shows how the uncertain future of licensed content can make your initial investment wasted if the terms change, or don’t protect you.

IMVU argued that since MacKinnon accepted the terms, he has no property rights to claim.

And that’s just it—MacKinnon accepted the terms, so it’s perfectly legal for the gaming company to do whatever they want with the songs he bought if that’s what the terms say. That doesn’t change the fact that, well… he got screwed, and everyone can see that!

We all read and understand the fine print all the time, right?

As a music fan, it’s a problem when your rights are dictated by often complex and flexible terms and not good old-fashioned property rights. The terms of buying licensed content are making this a “buyer beware” world—which seems worse than a world where what you buy is legally yours in a way you understand, forever and unchanged, across vendors and services.

If you want to buy music and have it always be yours, it’s great to go with ownable formats like CDs and vinyl. A lot of people dig digital music, and so do we—which is we built our service to provide you digital download and streaming access to a physical collection you own. The CDs you buy on Murfie and send to Murfie will always remain yours—so no fear here if our terms change. Ownership has got you covered.

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2015 GRAMMY nominees!

The Recording Academy recently announced the 2015 GRAMMY nominees! It’s interesting to see what music rises to the surface when countless recordings are released every year. You can find the full list of nominees on the GRAMMY website, but here’s an overview of some of the most popular album-related categories.

Have you heard any of these albums? Who do you think will win?! Let us know in the comments.

Album of the Year

Beck – Morning Phase
Beyoncé – Beyoncé
Ed Sheeran – X
Sam Smith – In the Lonely Hour
Pharrell Williams – Girl

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album

Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga – Cheek to Cheek
Annie Lennox – Nostalgia
Barry Manilow - Night Songs
Johnny Mathis - Sending You a Little Christmas
Barbara Streisand & Various Artists - Partners

Best Pop Vocal Album

Coldplay – Ghost Stories
Miley Cyrus – Bangerz
Ariana Grande – My Everything
Katy Perry – Prism
Ed Sheeran – X
Sam Smith – In the Lonely Hour

Best Dance/Electronic Album

Aphex Twin – Syro
Deadmau5 – While (1<2)
Little Dragon – Nabuma Rubberband
Royksopp & Robyn – Do it Again
Mat Zo – Damage Control

Best Rock Album

Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
Beck – Morning Phase
The Black Keys – Turn Blue
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Hypnotic Eye
U2 – Songs of Innocence

Best Alternative Music Album

Alt-J – This is All Yours
Arcade Fire – Reflektor
Cage the Elephant – Melophobia
St. Vincent – St. Vincent
Jack White – Lazaretto

Best Urban Contemporary Album

Jhené Aiko – Sail Out
Beyoncé – Beyoncé
Chris Brown – X
Mali Music – Mali is…
Pharrell Williams – Girl

Best Rap Album

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