Face-off between Andrew Bird and Justin Bieber

What defines good music?

I’m endlessly fascinated by the arguments people make when wrangling over so-called good music versus so-called bad music.  Although music is incredibly nuanced, often this debate centers on the quality gap between popular/mainstream music and alt/underground music, with the stuff dominating the airwaves pinned down as inferior to the stuff that is less accessible.

True, it can be difficult to get an earful of alt music if you tune into channels of mass communication, but that doesn’t necessarily mean omnipresent stuff is lowbrow and the rare stuff is automatically better.  Nevertheless, many, many people (who shall remain unnamed…I like to “protect” my “sources”) think it so.  Are they right?  In many cases, yes, but in many cases, no…not all music playing on the radio 24/7 is trashtastic.  For example, Bruno Mars is quite popular these days, and he surely has talent.

Now, here’s a typical case of the too little-too much discourse.
Good? Andrew Bird
Bad? Justin Bieber

My conclusion is, who cares about definitions!?  If you’re of the opinion that Ryan Seacrest-style countdowns are populated by garbage, there’s plenty of other avenues (record store! Sirius Satellite Radio! YouTube! Murfie.com!) to quench your music-type thirst.  On the other hand, if you think that alternative music is pretentious or grating, just turn on the radio and access your good music definition by flipping to any popular station.  Moral is, considering the host of media technologies out there, definitions aren’t even necessary and kind of nonsensical…unless of course, arguing is your definition of a good time.

Shout-out from Badger Herald, shout-out to FLAC!

Appeasing audiophiles and non-audiophiles alike

The Badger Herald just published a great article on Murfie describing our green, cheap, and legit way to exchange CDs for more music.  In general, they interpret the Murfie business model and vision quite well.  I especially dug how they communicated that “while single-track downloads aren’t available, Murfie users can get entire albums for about the price of a single song on iTunes without the potential for torrent-fueled free music guilt.”  Admit it, a very small part of you feels (or would feel) sheepish downloading music illegally.  Or maybe not…

The point is, music sold on murfie.com is a great value.  And it’s legit.  And it’s green.  And The Badger Herald did an awesome job making this all plain.  There is one thing I wanted to respond to, though, and that’s the article’s mention that “hardcore, snobbish audiophiles might scoff at owning music in exclusively digital formats.”  Believe it or not, Murfie has the goods to satisfy these picky audiophile-types.  On murfie.com, music is available for download in MP3…and FLAC – a lossless file format.  Audio compressed in FLAC exactly preserves the fidelity of the original CD, providing comfort to aforementioned audiophiles that they are listening to music at a level of quality close to the original performance’s.  Maybe it is possible to have it all?

Staff Picks: Electronica

This week we like…Electronica

To honor the launch of our new digital music download function, this week’s Staff Picks is dedicated to the best of our Electronica collection.  Like Murfie, all of these albums are a surprising mix of digital and analog, and all are excellent. 

Thievery Corporation: “The Richest Man in Babylon”

HTML tutorialThis Washington, D.C.-based DJ duo draws on reggae, dub, middle eastern, and bossa nova influences and distills them into a suave, psychedelic electro-lounge sound.  “The Richest Man in Babylon” was produced with the help of a cadre of international singers and session musicians, and includes songs in French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Persian.

Morcheeba: “The Big Calm”

Morcheeba was started in the mid-90s in Britain by brothers Paul and Ross Godfrey and vocalist Skye Edwards.  After establishing a modish, trip-hop aesthetic with their first album, “Who Can You Trust,” the group expanded on their Rhodes-based, downtempo sound with the release of “The Big Calm,” a more sunny, pop-influenced album.  This album includes the single “The Sea,” which saw minor success on radio and television.

Portishead: “Portishead”

HTML tutorialAnother British electronica group, Portishead displays a considerably darker and less polished sound than the other offerings here.  Their 1997 self-titled album was released after three years of media aversion, and spawned several highly regarded singles.  The video for one of these singles, “Only You,” was produced by Chris Cunningham, and remains one of the most haunting music videos of the 1990s.

Daft Punk: “Homework”

“Homework” is the debut album of French duo Daft Punk, and easily the liveliest of the albums presented here.  Mixing influences ranging from 80’s Disco to Detroit and Chicago House culture to FM radio compression algorithms, this album is a squiggly, bouncing, thumping ode to electronic dance music.

Good times with Michael Biehn

The nostalgic value of music

Visiting murfie.com is like combing through a crowded chest of drawers – full of old stuff that may have gotten a bit dusty but nevertheless retains sentimental value.  The only difference being that the contents of, for example, your great uncle Alfred’s “treasure box” may be a bit iffy in terms of their cool quotient, whereas it’s a safer bet Murfie’s storage vault contains good stuff (if you don’t like music, that’s a bit weird).

Everyone has that song, or those songs, that evoke wistful affection.  For me, a Spacehog track (“Carry On,” anyone?) reveals my treacly heart for the alt/glam rock of the mid to late 90s.  I also get a personal kick out of Elvis music (“Burning Love“) and movies (“C’mon Everybody” from Viva Las Vegas).  My nostalgia for Elvis-era stuff is completely arbitrary (not to brag, but I lack personal associations to the 50s and 60s…because I wasn’t born yet), but the cool thing about music is that one’s source of affection doesn’t really matter.

I’m not kidding, though – most of my nostalgic predilections are random.  I am a sucker for 80’s pop culture, especially the decade’s sci-fi action film genre.  Basically anything with 80’s action film phenom Michael Biehn is good in my book.  Who doesn’t want to relive the days of “Come with me if you want to live” Kyle Reese (The Terminator); “I like to keep this handy…for close encounters” Cpl. Dwayne Hicks (Aliens); and “It went straight for the warhead, and they think it’s cute” Lt. Hiram Coffey (The Abyss)?  I do.

So now that I’ve shared some of my random (hip? probably lame?) sentimental attachments, tell me, Murfie readers – what past pop culture icons or trends make you entertain feelings of sentimental longing?  Does a certain band or song bring about wistful affection, however random or uncool?  What about a movie?  Fashion trend?  Food?

Staff Picks: Soundtracks

This week we like…Soundtracks

In honor of the upcoming Academy Awards, we at Murfie decided to dedicate this week’s staff picks to the film and TV soundtracks that have made their way across our desks recently.  Some are old, some are new, but all have been hand-selected for the enjoyment of you, the Murfieist.

Jacques Loussier/Ennio Morricone: “Dark of the Sun/Guns for San Sebastian”

Dark SunDark of the Sun is a violent adventure film from 1968 set in the Congo, with a score by French pianist Jacques Loussier.  Several tracks from Loussier’s soundtrack were later re-used in the film Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino, a confirmed fan of the original film.  Also included is the score to The Guns for San Sebastian, a Spaghetti Western also from 1968 that starred Charles Bronson and Anthony Quinn.  This score was composed by Ennio Morricone, easily one of the most influential popular composers of his time, and remembered mostly for his scores to several of director Sergio Leone’s best Spaghetti Westerns, including A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Dust Brothers: “Fight Club”

David Fincher’s 1999 adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel Fight Club suffered from one of the worst marketing campaigns in history, and was one of the most critically reviled films that year.  However, after its release to DVD, it quickly became an established cult hit due to its striking cinematography, gleefully dark performances, and of course its playful and haunting soundtrack by The Dust Brothers, known for their revolutionary work with the Beastie Boys and Beck.

Bernard Herrmann: “Taxi Driver”

Taxi DriverMartin Scorsese’s 1976 film Taxi Driver, a violent tale of the isolation and paranoia of city life in America, was dedicated to Bernard Herrmann, whose score for the film was his last.  Herrmann was well known for his work with Alfred Hitchcock, having scored Pyscho and Vertigo, and is also responsible for the unmistakable theme to Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone television series.  Herrmann’s score for Taxi Driver is jarring and evocative, and “Diary of a Taxi Driver” features Robert DeNiro’s iconic opening voiceover.

Air: “The Virgin Suicides”

Sofia Coppola’s 1999 adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel The Virgin Suicides is a haunting exercise in both dark melodrama and understated 1970s period style.  The French electronic duo Air supplied a fantastic soundtrack for this film, one which contributed to both the surreality of the film and the palatability of its dark subject matter.  The soundtrack revolves around the bittersweet single “Playground Love,” featuring vocals by Gordon Tracks, and is capable of standing by itself as an album of nostalgic, dreamy electronic grooves.

2011 Grammy breakdown

53rd Annual Grammy Awards: nominees & videos…and winners

In anticipation of the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards tomorrow tonight, i.e. Sunday, February 13 (7:00c on CBS), I thought I’d present a snappy breakdown of the 2010 Nominees, along with videos to the music where appropriate.  I’ll skip the wordy gymnastics (that I generally so love to engage in), and just move along to the list** and respective links.
**Just as a note, I’m only including the awards that are typically broadcast or most popular – otherwise, you’d be swimming through 109 categories.  If you’re dead set on viewing the complete list of nominees, do so here.

Following last night’s ceremony, winners have now been italicized!

Record Of The Year
Nothin’ On You, B.o.B Feat. Bruno Mars
Love The Way You Lie, Eminem Feat. Rihanna
F*** You, Cee Lo Green
Empire State Of Mind, Jay-Z & Alicia Keys
Need You Now, Lady Antebellum

Album Of The Year
The Suburbs, Arcade Fire
-Recovery, Eminem
-Need You Now, Lady Antebellum
-The Fame Monster, Lady Gaga
-Teenage Dream, Katy Perry

Song Of The Year
Beg Steal Or Borrow, Ray LaMontagne And The Pariah Dogs
F*** You, Cee Lo Green
The House That Built Me, Miranda Lambert
Love The Way You Lie, Eminem Feat. Rihanna
Need You Now, Lady Antebellum

Best New Artist
-Justin Bieber
-Drake
-Florence & The Machine
-Mumford & Sons
Esperanza Spalding

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
King Of Anything, Sara Bareilles
Halo (Live), Beyonce
Chasing Pirates, Norah Jones
Bad Romance, Lady Gaga
Teenage Dream, Katy Perry

Best Male Pop Vocal Performance
Haven’t Met You Yet, Michael Buble
This Is It, Michael Jackson
Whataya Want From Me, Adam Lambert
Just The Way You Are, Bruno Mars
Half Of My Heart, John Mayer

Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals
Don’t Stop Believin’ (Regionals Version), Glee Cast
Misery, Maroon 5
The Only Exception, Paramore
Babyfather, Sade
Hey, Soul Sister (Live), Train

Best Pop Vocal Album
-My World 2.0, Justin Bieber
-I Dreamed A Dream, Susan Boyle
The Fame Monster, Lady Gaga
-Battle Studies, John Mayer
-Teenage Dream, Katy Perry

Best Dance Recording
Rocket, Goldfrapp
In For The Kill, La Roux
Dance In The Dark, Lady Gaga
Only Girl (In The World), Rihanna
Dancing On My Own, Robyn

Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance
Run Back To Your Side, Eric Clapton
Crossroads, John Mayer
Helter Skelter, Paul McCartney
Silver Rider, Robert Plant
Angry World, Neil Young

Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals
Ready To Start, Arcade Fire
I Put A Spell On You, Jeff Beck & Joss Stone
Tighten Up, The Black Keys
Radioactive, Kings Of Leon
Resistance, Muse

Best Rock Song
Angry World, Neil Young
Little Lion Man, Mumford & Sons
Radioactive, Kings Of Leon
Resistance, Muse
Tighten Up, The Black Keys

Best Rock Album
-Emotion & Commotion, Jeff Beck
The Resistance, Muse
-Backspacer, Pearl Jam
-Mojo, Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
-Le Noise, Neil Young

Best Alternative Music Album
-The Suburbs, Arcade Fire
-Infinite Arms, Band Of Horses
Brothers, The Black Keys
-Broken Bells, Broken Bells
-Contra, Vampire Weekend

Best R&B Song
Bittersweet, Fantasia
Finding My Way Back, Jaheim
Second Chance, El DeBarge
Shine, John Legend & The Roots
Why Would You Stay, Kem

Best R&B Album
-The Love & War Masterpeace, Raheem DeVaughn
-Back To Me, Fantasia
-Another Round, Jaheim
Wake Up!, John Legend & The Roots
-Still Standing, Monica

Best Contemporary R&B Album
-Graffiti, Chris Brown
-Untitled, R. Kelly
-Transition, Ryan Leslie
-The ArchAndroid, Janelle Monae
Raymond V Raymond, Usher

Best Rap Solo Performance
Over, Drake
Not Afraid, Eminem
How Low, Ludacris
I’m Back, T.I.
Power, Kanye West

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
Nothin’ On You, B.o.B & Bruno Mars
Deuces, Chris Brown, Tyga & Kevin McCall
Love The Way You Lie, Eminem & Rihanna
Empire State Of Mind, Jay-Z & Alicia Keys
Wake Up Everybody, John Legend, The Roots, Melanie Fiona & Common

Best Rap Song
Empire State Of Mind, Jay-Z & Alicia Keys
Love The Way You Lie, Eminem & Rihanna
Not Afraid, Eminem
Nothin’ On You, B.o.B & Bruno Mars
On To The Next One, Jay-Z & Swizz Beatz

Best Rap Album
-The Adventures Of Bobby Ray, B.o.B
-Thank Me Later, Drake
Recovery, Eminem
-The Blueprint 3, Jay-Z
-How I Got Over, The Roots

Best Country Song
The Breath You Take, George Strait
Free, Zac Brown Band
The House That Built Me, Miranda Lambert
I’d Love To Be Your Last, Gretchen Wilson
If I Die Young, The Band Perry
Need You Now, Lady Antebellum

Best Country Album
-Up On The Ridge, Dierks Bentley
-You Get What You Give, Zac Brown Band
-The Guitar Song, Jamey Johnson
Need You Now, Lady Antebellum
-Revolution, Miranda Lambert

Wild cards

Get to know the Murfie team, round 1

A product or service is only as cool as the people behind it.  What makes Murfie go?  Good ideas and hard work – both generated by (surprise, surprise!) people.  So who makes Murfie go?  A team of smart, lively, Midwestern (yes, they can all coexist) entrepreneurs and techies who happen to like music and the possibilities of combining community and digital media.

Now, let’s take out Murfie’s deck of cards (metaphor alert! cards=people) and learn a little bit more about who really helps make Murfie tick (i.e. Murfie’s executive team players):

MATT YOUNKLE
Role at Murfie: The guy with the crazy ideas who’s crazy enough to chase after them and somehow convince really smart people to help out.
15-words-or-less professional bio: Serial entrepreneur, electrical engineer, software developer, beer tap inventor, patent holder, and startup community supporter.
Current location/hiding place of CD collection: Murfie, of course!
Favorite album(s): Sympathique by Pink Martini; Mozart Concertos 23 & 27 with Brendel on Piano; Black and White by The Bodeans.
Vinyl, disc, or digital: LOSSLESS digital.
What makes Madison great? We’re the city of friendly creatives. We work hard, play hard, and have the IQ without the attitude.
Complete the sentence: Murfie is…not just another online music experience. If you truly want to OWN your music, Murfie is the only way to go.

PRESTON AUSTIN
Role at Murfie: The world may never know. However, it seems to have something to do with figuring things out. Then tidying up the kitchen. Then figuring them out again. Then building a chair. Then figuring them out again. Then ordering some keys. Then figuring them out again. Then eating a…
15-words-or-less professional bio: Preston is one cool guy. He’s also some sort of Internet and social systems guru. (is the conjunction cheating?)
Current location/hiding place of CD collection: In the extremely dusty shoebox that originally held a very nice pair of men’s dress shoes that are still with us, on the shelf next to the box (from New Balance running shoes, lost to history) of toys I keep for cats and children to play with.
Favorite album(s): Play by Moby; Stop Making Sense by Talking Heads; No Angel by Dido; Falling Further In by October Project; Broken by Nine Inch Nails; Run Lola Run soundtrack by Tykwer; Johnny Klimek; Reinhold Heil.
Vinyl, disc, or digital: Live.
What makes Madison great? I do. You can too. There’s room for more than just us.
Complete the sentence: Murfie is…seriously kicking my ass right now, but I think I’ll get the upper hand soon and wrestle it to the ground. It’s also loads of fun to work on a music site. Music is awesome. I mean, really, what’s not to love about trading cool music???

PHILIP CRAWFORD
Man of mystery/actual wild card…for now…