Sounds Like Texas: The Best of the Lone Star State

We know everything is bigger in Texas, but is the music better? This week, check out reviews of three albums by The Lone Star State’s greatest!

PearlJanis Joplin
Pearl

Listening to Pearl feels a bit heavy, and there’s certainly reason for that: Janis Joplin’s last, the album was recorded near the very end of her life. After succumbing to an overdose at 27, she would never live to see it finished and released. Her tragic ending was a symbol of how she lived: erratically, but remarkably—an incredible voice and presence that belonged to a very troubled woman. Pearl is both a testament to her incredible talent and a hint of what could have been.

One of the album’s greatest strengths is Full Tilt Boogie, the backup band that’s with her through every track. Together with Janis’ big voice, they create a sound that lets her rock, but keeps her refined and smooth. She doesn’t overpower them, nor they her—it’s a harmonious combination. On tracks like “Cry Baby”, Janis is her full, belt-y self, brought down to earth with Full Tilt Boogie’s influence.

This album has an organization to it that other Joplin records lack, and it’s a refreshing and new take on her music. Previous albums like Cheap Thrills have essentially lacked structure; while letting Joplin’s trademark rawness show is great, the extra guidance in these songs lets her shine in a different way. Her intensity is kept in check just enough to let the songs fully develop, but not so much that she never has her big moment. This album has taken an already incredible talent and refined it into something that much more listenable.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Cry Baby”, “Mercedes Benz”

 

370176-largeLos Lonely Boys
Los Lonely Boys

Los Lonely Boys are certainly true to their Texas roots—they call their musical style “Texas Rock n’ Roll”, a fusion of rock, soul, country, blues and Tejano. A group of three brothers, the band is forging those influences into a brand-new and extremely inspired sound. To cement their status as a true Texan band, the group recorded this album at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales recording studio.

At the heart of this album is their incredible music talent and creativity. Rather than making the album hard to follow, the group’s numerous musical influences instead work their way into a track list that is incredible varied and creative, yet cohesive. That variety turns out to be their greatest strength on Los Lonely Boys: “Crazy Dreams” is a masterpiece of guitar riffs, while “Dime Mi Amor” shifts effortlessly into a Latin-rock structure that echoes Carlos Santana.

Variety isn’t these brothers’ only talent, however: this album shines on instrumentals, vocals and songwriting. Rather than sticking to their Texas roots, their talent elevates them to what feels like a new genre: their songs are crafted with incredible nuance; they find a place in both your heart and your mind. Whether it becomes the soundtrack to your summer party or a quiet at-home listening session, this album deserves a place in any music collection.

Don’t Miss Tracks: “Crazy Dreams”, “Senorita”

 

67224-largeGeorge Strait
Troubadour

It’s impossible to write a compilation of Texas music without at least one country album, and there is no country star more worthy of such a spot than the King of Country: George Strait. Texan-born, George Strait has released dozens of albums and had dozens of No. 1 hits. Twang is a testament to his signature sound and the solidifying of his status as country’s music supreme ruler.

A true Texas star, Strait’s collection not only contains nary a bad album, but manages to stay true to his Texas sound. After releasing so many albums, Strait still manages to find a new sound on Troubadour. The album finds him looking introspectively, creating a soft, mellow sound that is calm and soothing without ever slipping into melodramatic or depressing. On this album, he certainly sounds like a Troubadour—a singer who has had a long and varied career, but always manages to emerge that much better.

It would be easy to mistake Troubadour’s 12 songs for simple tracks, but his sound and songwriting prove otherwise. He’s enlisted a lot of outside songwriting help here, including Buddy Cannon and Monty Holmes, but the songs weave together into a calming, cohesive collection. Despite the number of people involved, the album keeps its attitude going all the way through: it’s a subdued, intimate album that sounds like the soundtrack to events you’ll want to remember. Strait stays true to his Texas roots for a reason: why mix it up when you do it so well?

Don’t Miss Tracks: “River of Love”, “It Was Me”

 

[Album Review] Caroline Smith: Half About Being a Woman

Half About Being a Woman
Caroline Smith

Caroline Smith, who we originally met back in July 2012 at a house show in Madison, gave us a taste of her new material that night when she performed the song “Child of Moving On”.

Contrasted with the more indie rock sound previously conveyed with her band, Caroline Smith & the Good Night Sleeps, this new song showcased a more soulful Caroline, with deep roots in soul and R&B.

That’s exactly what Half About Being a Woman is all about: Soul. Within the first few seconds of the first song, you know that this album brings something different to the table. It showcases Caroline’s powerful, soulful voice, over songs that range from more beat-driven R&B to slower jams about love.

That’s not to say the indie element is completely lost in this album. Songs like “Magazine” and “Walking Off Strong” sound very intertwined with indie rock still, with electronic garnishes. Contrast that with those slow jams including “All That I Know” and “Half About Being a Woman”, and you’ve got an album featuring the best of both ranges which Caroline so successfully masters.

This album really is incredible—and that’s coming from someone who went in with no preconceptions. I’m going to go ahead and say you’ll enjoy this album if you enjoy Billie Holiday, Norah Jones, and classic neo-soul queens like Erykah Badu. But keep in mind, it comes with a modern twist—and it doesn’t fully depart from the original indie rock sound which Caroline’s band started off playing.

Half about Being a Woman is now available on Murfie. Check out the track clip previews and I know you’ll want to hear more!

This Week in Music History (April 9th-15th)

What’s music history got for us this week? Learn up and boogie down!

4/9- On this day in 1977, ABBA scored its first US No. 1 hit on the Billboard singles chart with “Dancing Queen”. The song was the group’s 7th US Top 40 hit, and would also hit No. 1 in 13 other countries. 

4/10- On this day in 1956, Nat King Cole was attacked onstage while performing a show at the Municipal Hall in Birmingham, Alabama. The attackers were five racial segregationists looking to make a political statement. The group was arrested, and Cole returned to the stage later that night for a second show.

4/11- On this day in 1994, Oasis released their first single, “Supersonic”. Although the track peaked at No. 11 on the charts, it eventually sold over 215,000 copies, making it the band’s 13th highest-selling single.

4/12- On this day in 1954, Bill Haley recorded “Rock Around the Clock” at Pythian Temple studios in New York City. The song, which went on to become a worldwide No. 1 hit, is widely considered to be the track that began rock and roll’s rise to fame.

4/13- On this day in 1967, Nancy Sinatra and Frank Sinatra were No. 1 on the singles chart with “Somethin’ Stupid”, making them the only father and daughter team in history to have a No. 1 single. The song was originally written and recorded by folk singer C. Carson Parks.

4/14- On this day in 1969, Paul McCartney and John Lennon recorded “The Ballad of John and Yoko”. Lennon performed lead vocals and guitar, with McCartney on bass, drums and piano. After the song was released, many radio stations banned it because of its controversial lyrics.

4/15- On this day in 1972, Roberta Flack began a six-week run at No. 1 on the US singles chart with “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face”. The song, written in 1957 by Ewan MacColl, was featured in the Clint Eastwood film Play Misty For Me. 

Oh, so you wanna own these gems, and hear them in lossless format? Check out our CD marketplace where you can stream (mp3, FLAC) and download in your favorite format (mp3, acc, FLAC, and ALAC)!

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5 disc-ripping fails: What you risk by digitizing your CD collection yourself

So, you’re thinking about digitizing that CD collection of yours. Before you rip away, there are a few things to consider before ripping your CDs at home, since the pitfalls are ones that could ruin your original goal of flawless work that is worthwhile.

There are many reasons why Murfie’s trusted service is ideal for music collectors who want perfect rips of their CDs, which they can download and stream. Murfie prevents the common drawbacks that arise when trying to rip at home.

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5. Wrong file format

It’s safe to say that many folks rip their CDs in mp3 format. While this format is the default on most drives, many people don’t realize that it compresses the music in a way that loses tiny details in the sound. Hence, it’s known as a “lossy” format.

The reason why some people compress music into to mp3 and other lossy formats is to save space. Discarding tiny bits of data is how this is achieved. This makes for a sound that is close to, yet not exactly identical, to the original recording.

Selecting the wrong format may also mean that your music won’t play on all of your devices. At Murfie, we rip and store the music from your CDs in lossless FLAC format, providing the flexibility to transcode to virtually any bit rate at any point in the future. Downloads in mp3, aac, and lossless formats FLAC and ALAC are included with all the CDs you send in. This means your music can bounce around all your devices, easily and without any manual conversion on your end.

4. Wrong bit rate

Even if you select the right file format, you’re still not out of the woods. Selecting the right bit rate (unit = bps) is important because it affects the amount of information processed per unit of time. More bits per second allows more details to be processed, making for higher quality sound.

Bit rate only applies to lossy formats (mp3 and aac) since lossless formats (FLAC and ALAC) make an exact replica of the original recording. Large music retailers like Amazon and iTunes provide digital music downloads in lossy 256 kbps mp3 and 256 kbps aac formats, respectively.

We’re fans of a higher default bit rate at Murfie, making for better quality sound. We use at least 320 kbps for mp3 downloads, and 320kbps for our standard free streaming. That’s a higher default rate than Amazon, iTunes and Spotify. 320 kbps streaming is available on Spotify, but with a premium paid membership. And as for Murfie’s paid premium streaming membership—well, that’s in lossless FLAC format, of course.

3. Errors/Incorrect Metadata

How do you know your rips are error free? Going back to listen to everything once you’ve ripped it and cross-checking track titles and album metadata against other sources will more than double the amount of time you’re spending on digitization. Every disc that’s ripped at Murfie is checked twice against our database to ensure all metadata like album title, artist name, and track names are correct. If Murfie does your ripping, you won’t have to worry about the unpleasant experience of putting your disc in a drive to find there is no metadata at all.

Metadata aside, Murfie uses AccurateRip to ensure the files themselves are seamless. We actually clean CDs that need to be cleaned, and polish CDs that have scratches. All this is to ensure error-free downloads and flawless streaming.

2. Data loss

Long-term, secure storage of your data is essential if you want your work to be worthwhile. Computer crashes, hard drive issues, theft, and other factors can be a nightmare for music collectors.

When your discs are ripped at Murfie, the original FLAC files are stored on our server, always available for you to request another download if your original is lost. Your discs can be stored in our secure facility in Madison, WI, alongside ~500K others that our members have already entrusted to us. With your original disc and FLAC files made available to you 24/7 for streaming and downloads, we’ve got the security of your discs covered in a way that goes above and beyond your average backup.

1. Your time

Time is money. Based on our calculations, a person can rip 10-20 discs per hour if they have one CD drive on their computer. That’s not counting any manual metadata entry and error checking.

Say you have 200 CDs in your collection. It would easily take you 10-20 hours to digitize everything. Is there something you’d rather be doing during the time it took to rip those discs? If your answer is no, check out these handy guides for ripping discs on Windows and Mac computers.

What’s your time worth? If you’re ripping at home, you can expect to process a maximum of 20 discs per hour. Again, time is money—and for $1/disc, Murfie can process your CDs for flawless streaming and downloads, shipping included. Let us do what we do best.

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Murfie is working to bring you uncompromised anywhere/anytime digital access to your music collection, in the highest quality possible. We’ll make your perfect ripped files available via downloads to your computer or hard drive, and via streaming to your iPhone, iPad, Android phone and tablet, web browser, and Sonos and VOCO device.

Do you have vinyl records that you want ripped too? Email info@murfie.com to learn more! Are you an all-round audiophile? Check out our lossless FLAC streaming available with Murfie HiFi.

Murfie is music collecting perfected. Request a shipping kit and begin your uncompromised collecting and listening experience!

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Sample Spectrals

Comparing Audio Formats: High-Resolution vs. Current Standards

With the introduction of PonoMusic’s Kickstarter (which at the time of writing sits at just about $5.3M in crowd-funding with almost two weeks left), high-resolution audio has been on the mind of a lot of music lovers lately.  The Neil Young-backed campaign currently has over 15,000 backers, with over 13,000 backers preordering an actual, physical PonoPlayer, which shows that there is a real demand for higher-quality audio.

But what is high-resolution audio?  The simplest answer is that high-res audio is digital music that uses larger samples at a greater frequency than standard CD “lossless” audio.  It all boils down to more data representing the audio you’re listening to.  If you’ve ever downloaded lossless audio in formats like FLAC and ALAC (both offered on Murfie), you’ve probably gotten CD-quality files that use a 16-bit sample size and 44.1 kHz sample rate.

The team behind PonoMusic looks to push the currently less popular high-res audio standards into the mainstream.  These files typically use a 24-bit sample size at a sample rate of either 96 kHz or 192 kHz.  In the past, these files were prohibitively larger, but increased network speeds and decreased storage cost has finally made them a viable option.

(Note: According to their Kickstarter FAQ, the PonoMusic store will offer files at CD-quality, not just high-res, stating that the store “has a quality spectrum, ranging from really good to really great, depending on the quality of the available master recordings.”)

Neil Young + Pono

Image Copyright CBS (via The Quietus)

The only remaining question, then, is if the difference in quality is worth the added cost.  Additionally, labels have been slow to make albums available in this quality, and many works were never recorded in a way that allows for high-res products.  I don’t want to take a position one way or the other, but I do want to give you the chance to test out some high-res music and decide on your own.

To help you decide if high-res audio is for you, we’ve enlisted the help of The Cypress String Quartet, who have generously allowed us to share a sample from their release Beethoven: The Late String Quartets.  Below, you can download a high-res test sample in 24-bit / 96 kHz FLAC (which Murfie currently offers for vinyl digitization), as well as CD-quality 16-bit / 44.1 kHz FLAC, 320 kbps MP3 and 320 kbps AAC.

Audio Format Comparison Samples (right click & “save link as”):

All formats in one zip folder

High-Res 24-bit / 96 kHz FLAC
CD-Quality 16-bit / 44.1 kHz FLAC
CD-Quality 16-bit / 44.1 kHz ALAC
320 kbps MP3
320 kbps AAC

If you need a program to play the samples, VLC media player is a free, open-source application that will do exactly that.

So, what do you think?  Take a listen to the samples, and let me know in the comments or hit us up on twitter.


Note: These samples are provided courtesy The Cypress String Quartet, who reserve all rights.  Please do not re-distribute without permission from the quartet.