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Interview with Wheelhouse [Podcast]

Q: What do you get when you put four funny dudes in the same room to talk about music? A: Quite the entertaining interview.

Wheelhouse is a four piece Americana/Bluegrass band keeping the red dirt style going hard in Madison. The energy at their live shows is infectious—on Tuesdays at the Come Back In, they’re met with cheery beer-drinking patrons who dance, stomp, and hoot n’ holler a bit too. Now Wheelhouse is releasing a new album called Meanwhile Back At The Ranch, with promises to deliver a sound as ear-catching as their live gigs. Their CD release party is Saturday March 28th at High Noon Saloon with Wisconsin reggae-rockers T.U.G.G.

In this short interview, the Wheelhouse guys talk music, the changing industry for fans and musicians, and of course—whiskey!

Pre-order Meanwhile Back At The Ranch ($10) ► email info@murfie.com!

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch - WheelhouseWho: Kenny Leiser, Frank Busch, Nic Adamany and Mark Noxon; interviewed by Kayla Liederbach
What: How musicians make a living, those first music purchases, and the glorious power of Wheelhouse Whiskey
Where: Murfie HQ, Madison
When: Friday, March 20th, 2015
How: Recorded by Kayla Liederbach
File: mp3 version

What is Murfie?

Murfie’s platform enables customers to stream their physical music CDs and vinyl conveniently from the cloud to browsers, mobile devices and wifi connected home stereo systems, at up to lossless and hi-res quality. Murfie customers can also download their music in FLAC, ALAC, mp3 and aac, and instantly add new and used music to their cloud collection from the Murfie marketplace.



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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6 Reasons Why Music Ownership Matters

Why own music in the digital age? When you buy digital downloads or streaming subscriptions, you’re sacrificing important benefits that are tied to ownership.

Buying CDs and vinyl gives you several ownership rights, and with the Murfie service, you don’t have to choose between owning music and the convenience of streaming and download access. In short, Murfie exists to give your physical collection the cloud upgrade it deserves. We rip your CDs and vinyl and upload the music to your Murfie account for you to download and stream on all your devices.

But still, why even start with owning CDs and vinyl when you can just download and stream music? Here are six reasons why ownership still matters in the digital age.

  1. Your music will always be yours.

You can obtain digital music in a snap nowadays. Whether it’s streaming with a service, or listening to digital tracks you bought online, you have access to the music—as long as the service exists.

If you’re renting your music with a streaming service and the service closes, or you decide not to subscribe anymore, you end owning nothing. If you bought a digital download somewhere, you won’t have access to re-download that music after the service is no more. Even if the service stays put, oftentimes you’re limited in the number of times you can download.

When you buy CDs and vinyl records, you’ve made a real investment in your music. These are properties you truly own and control. Your money is well-spent, and Murfie helps maximize the enjoyment of the music you own by moving it to the cloud for you. And if you’d rather not store the physical disc on a shelf at home, well, store it here at Murfie!

  1. The quality is better.

Let’s take a look at popular music services and their bitrates, shall we? iTunes = 256 kbps. Amazon = 256 kbps. Spotify = 160 kbps (ouch!). Spotify does have 320 kbps available to subscribers who pay $9.99/month.

At Murfie, your CDs and vinyl are ripped in lossless FLAC format, providing 1411 kbps of audio quality. FLAC is a favorite of audiophiles who enjoy the highest quality music they can get. At no extra cost, you get unlimited downloads of your Murfie collection in FLAC, ALAC, 320 kbps mp3, and aac, and free streaming in 320 kbps mp3. We too have a paid streaming tier for $10/month—but it’s lossless FLAC streaming of course!

  1. You’re not limited to a device or service.

Buying downloads or a streaming subscription limits your listening in key ways. Many services are walled gardens that make it difficult to transfer your files when you change devices. When you own your music, you’re always in control of where, when and how to listen to it.

  1. There’s no “Buyer Beware” terms and conditions.

Did you read the terms and conditions? When you purchase digital content online, you’re agreeing to whatever that fine print clearly (or not so clearly) says. Sometimes the fine print gives the vendor rights to alter or take away what you purchased. The “Buy” button itself historically implies ownership, but that’s not true anymore.

  1. You have rights to sell, trade, or gift.

Ever heard of the first sale doctrine? It allows you to sell your CDs and records if you no longer want them. It’s a freedom that we as consumers deserve. At Murfie, you can buy any CD, stream it, and return it within 24 hours if it’s not for you. You can also decide what CDs you no longer want and sell them on the site. We also have a nifty gifting feature that lets you gift an album to a friend!

  1. You can will your music to your next of kin.

Unless you own your music, you won’t be able to pass it on to someone after you die. The fate of digital assets after death has lately become a buzz topic. Your Murfie collection, in all its digital glory, comes from your physical CDs and vinyl with ownership rights attached to them—so you can will your music just like the contents of a safety deposit box. It’s yours, after all!

Escape to Witch Mountain (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Album Review: Escape to Witch Mountain (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Johnny Mandel

Last week, I was witness to some small magic. Or perhaps it was a minor kind of miracle. Let me explain…

Some of us at Murfie HQ were sitting around one afternoon, discussing the music of old movies we loved as kids. Films like Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang were brought up, of course. I immediately thought of Escape to Witch Mountain, and we started reminiscing about the utterly creepy theme by Johnny Mandel that opens the film, with protagonists Tia and Tony running in silhouette from viciously barking dogs.

Escape to Witch Mountain

That opening scene scared me when I was younger, so I’d hit fast forward on our VHS player. I always thought it was an odd contrast to the whimsical scenes of Tia communicating telepathically with cats, or Tony using his harmonica to telekinetically control marionettes. But that’s what Escape to Witch Mountain is; it’s what you get when you put Hammer horror director John Hough at the helm of a novel adaptation for Disney. Kid’s movies in the ’70s weren’t afraid of scaring you (e.g. How creepy was almost everything in Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory?).

While we chatted, I did what I always do in these situations—I looked for the soundtrack. Much to my dismay, I couldn’t find it. Nor could I find very many releases of Johnny Mandel’s work in general. Digging deeper, I was saddened to learn that the only released version of any music from Escape to Witch Mountain was on an obscure Disneyland Records illustrated storybook LP narrated by Eddie Albert (who plays Jason O’Day). This news was particularly shocking since Escape to Witch Mountain was—at the time—one of Disney’s most successful live action films.

Escape to Witch Mountain Disneyland

Not quite what I was looking for…

I was beginning to lose hope that I could show my colleagues this wonderful music from my childhood without lugging in my parents’ VCR. I loved Escape to Witch Mountain so much that I learned Tony’s melodic riffs by ear during my brief stint taking harmonica lessons. It is, to this day, some of my favorite movie music.

But then the magic happened. A bit further down the search results, I stumbled upon a recent post on the INTRADA forums. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because they’ve released literally hundreds of film and video game soundtracks, both new and old. Imagine my surprise when, upon reading the post, I learned that not only was INTRADA releasing the Escape to Witch Mountain soundtrack, but it was out that very day! That’s right—40 years after the film’s release, on a day that I just happened to be wishing for a soundtrack, INTRADA was delivering with their full, limited edition Special Collection Volume 309 release.

Johnny Mandel—who is perhaps best known for “Suicide Is Painless” from M*A*S*H—was absolutely ahead of his time with Escape to Witch Mountain. Mandel’s deceptively simple themes were performed with a massive 50-odd-member orchestra, but with the addition of harmonica and eerie drones from the Moog synthesizer. The outcome feels like an alien adaptation of 1970s Disney fanfares. Playful tunes like “The Flying Camper” would be equally at home in any Disney film from the era, but Mandel’s biggest successes come when he subverts those expectations. There are ideas continually introduced throughout the film’s score which are later echoed via synthesizers that sound equally otherworldly 40 years later.

Not only has INTRADA teamed up with Disney to make this soundtrack finally available, but they’ve done so with more detail than could have been anticipated. The main themes are here, but so are all of the film’s musical cues and then some. For their limited CD release of the soundtrack, INTRADA (with producer Douglass Fake) have put together just about everything they could salvage from Disney’s long-term storage tapes ca. 1975.

Escape to Witch Mountain (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

That’s more like it!

The main score itself clocks in at just over 36 minutes, cues included. INTRADA has done a nice job of weaving together the more traditional soundtrack-type pieces and cues in a way that makes narrative sense within the context of the movie. The CD starts with Mandel’s “Main Title”—creepy dogs and all—and continues from there. While it may sound like overkill on paper, the cues are unique enough that they make sense tagging along. As mentioned in the liner notes (which are extensive and appreciated), many of these cues introduce motifs that reappear in future scored pieces.

It is worth noting that the thoroughness of this CD means you will likely hear many repeated themes throughout its duration, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In many cases, a score is not put together with the intention that you listen to it apart from the film, but to Mandel’s credit, the included cues combine their own voices to tell the story. While Tony’s telekinesis may be signaled by a theme for harmonica (in reality, master Tommy Morgan), Tia’s telepathy is portrayed by an accompanying swell of Moog synthesizers (played by jazz musician Paul Beaver). Furthermore, the emotional state of the characters changes how the themes are executed.

The aforementioned soundtrack and cues would be enough to satisfy a fan of the film, right? Not for INTRADA. When I said they released every piece of material they could find, I wasn’t exaggerating. After the main score, they’ve included ten extra tracks. Thanks to the diligence of some forward-thinking folks at Disney, the recording sessions were stored in a way that allowed INTRADA to re-assemble orchestral pieces without harmonica or synthesizer cues. The result is seven previously unheard arrangements of more traditional orchestration.

Continue reading

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Do you agree with the “Blurred Lines” verdict?

The jury has spoken! If you haven’t heard, a lawsuit recently found Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams guilty of copyright infringement, as their hit song “Blurred Lines” has proven to be too similar in composition to Marvin Gaye’s classic 1977 song “Got To Give It Up”.

The results of this lawsuit sparked interest in the music world, of course because of the popularity of each song, but also because there are believers that Thicke and Williams aren’t guilty of any wrongdoing. They’ve argued that the similarities between the songs are on a R&B genre and style level, not on a composition level—but the jury thinks otherwise.

Thicke and Williams have to pay $7.4M to the Gaye family as a result of the lawsuit. But now, the Gayes also want a federal judge to prohibit all future sales, distribution and performances of “Blurred Lines”.

Marvin Gaye’s children, Nona, Frankie, and Marvin III, published an open letter explaining their reasoning. It’s a very interesting read in terms of understanding what happened with the lawsuit, since Thicke and Williams were actually the ones who brought the Gaye family to court.

The open letter has heavy meaning in terms of creating music in the future. If the results of this lawsuit will be applied to all future music creation, then musicians who try to emulate a style connected to a certain genre or time period will be in trouble. Take reggae for example—almost all reggae songs use similar stylistic elements and lyrics that fit them into the reggae genre. The Sleng Teng Riddim, for example, has been used at least 380 times in different songs.

Do you agree with the “Blurred Lines” verdict, which found Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams guilty of copyright infringement? Vote below! Add your comments too!

broke

Album Review: “Broke with Expensive Taste” by Azealia Banks

It’s finally here! After the surprise success of her 2011 single “212 (feat. Lazy Jay)”—which currently sits at 86M+ views on YouTubeAzealia Banks has finally released her debut album Broke with Expensive Taste.

Azealia Banks - Broke with Expensive TasteIf you’ve followed Azealia Banks in any capacity, you’ll know that the beginning of her career has its share of misfortunes. Beyond being a bit of a trouble maker on Twitter (a search for “Azealia banks twitter” currently brings up more results about her beefs than her actual account), Banks has been completely public about disagreements with her ex-label management at Interscope.

Shortly after dropping the video for “212,” Banks announced she was working on Broke with Expensive Taste and signing to Interscope. Things didn’t work out, and fans were left waiting. In the meantime, Azealia Banks did manage to put out her 1991 EP with Interscope and the self-released Fantasea mixtape. This past November, without notice, Broke with Expensive Taste was released by Prospect Park (Universal), and after another 4-month wait, the CD version is finally here.

That’s the lead-up, so how is the album itself? In short, Broke with Expensive Taste is a mixed bag. As someone who has waited for the album since its announcement, it’s great to finally have it in my hands. I can’t imagine the trouble Azealia Banks had to go through to get the rights to this album from Interscope and work out a new release plan, and the delays certainly did not help.

Broke with Expensive Taste is all over the place as far as production and style go. In a way, it feels a lot like her Fantasea mixtape; a combination of great house-influenced tracks and sometimes-odd experiments that don’t always hit. Banks’ verses are generally on-point, and her singing is mostly good—even if the results aren’t as consistent.

Album singles “Heavy Metal and Reflective” and “Yung Rapunxel”—both of which were produced by Lil Internet—were released quite a while before the album, and they’re both still enjoyable. Other album highlights include “BBD,” “Luxury” and “Miss Camaraderie”. My personal favorite has to be “Chasing Time”, which highlights the type of production and songwriting I enjoyed most on 1991 and Fantasea.

1991A few tracks like “Idle Delilah” have questionable production, and they’re just a bit of a mess. In the aforementioned track, Banks’ vocals (and much of the overall track) sound like they’re being pushed to distortion. It’s not necessary, and doesn’t fit well with the rest of the album. “Desperado” is similarly messy. “Gimme a Chance” somehow starts out as an indie-rock-sampling hip-hop track that morphs into a Latin dance. It doesn’t really work for me, but at it’s great to see this kind of experimentation early in the album.

Unfortunately, the Ariel Pink -produced piece “Nude Beach a-Go-Go” is an experiment that doesn’t fair as well as some of the others. While I do appreciate unabashed silliness, Banks’ decision to include a lo-fi beach party surf song on the album is iffy at best. Azealia Banks is known for writing some dirty, dirty verses, and she really missed an opportunity to work her magic on the happy-go-lucky surf tune. It sounds like she tried to go that route, but the result wasn’t as clever as Banks has shown she can be.

I think the history of this album’s release is important context, because it certainly feels like more of a baseline for what Banks can do, rather than a perfection of any one thing. Like her Fantasea mixtape, Broke with Expensive Taste really does have some excellent tracks, but it just feels bloated. There is a lot of stuff that doesn’t need to be here; besides the questionable tracks, “212” makes an unnecessary return, and it could have been cut after its release on 1991. Either way, this doesn’t need to be a 16-track album. Some of the tracks that were written back in 2011 and 2012 while Banks struggled with her label could have been cut.

That said, is it worth getting? Yes! Even though I will skip “Nude Beach a-Go-Go” 100% of the time, there is a lot to love about this album. I will certainly be excited to hear whatever Azealia Banks cooks up next, and I’m willing to bet we won’t be waiting another four years for it.


John Kruse
@johnkruse

John Praw Kruse is an Operations Manager, and Product Manager for the Murfie Vinyl Service. In his free time, John makes music, including scores for indie films and various shorts. He is the founder of Mine All Mine Records and the Lost City Music Festival. John devours new music.