This Week in Music History (May 7th-13th)

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

The Mamas and the Papas5/7- On this day in 1966, The Mamas and the Papas began a three-week run atop the US singles chart with “Monday Monday”. The group won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group for this song.

The Beatles - Past Masters5/8- On this day in 1964, The Beatles began a 14-week run on top of the US singles chart. The reign was a result of three back-to-back No. 1 hits, including “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (on top for seven weeks), “She Loves You” (on top for two weeks), and “Can’t Buy Me Love” (on top for five weeks).

Louis Armstrong - Hello Dolly5/9- On this day in 1964, Louis Armstrong hit No. 1 on the US singles chart with “Hello, Dolly”, making him, at 62, the oldest artist to ever hit No. 1. This record was broken in 2011, when Tony Bennett topped the charts at 85 with his album Duets II.

12646-large5/10– On this day in 1965, The Rolling Stones recorded the first version of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” at Chess Studios in Chicago. Although the original track featured Brian Jones on harmonica, a re-recording completed two days later in Hollywood contained a different beat.

365913-large5/11- On this day in 1981, Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley died at age 36 after melanoma spread to his lungs and brain. His birthday, February 6th, was proclaimed a national holiday in Jamaica to commemorate him, and his compilation album, Legend, became the best-selling reggae album of all time.

46-large5/12- On this day in 1973, Led Zeppelin began a three-week run at No. 1 on the US album chart with Houses of the Holythe band’s fifth album. The group’s third No. 1 album, it went on to spend 39 weeks on the US chart.

12921-large5/13- On this day in 1970, the world premiere of The Beatles‘ film “Let it Be” took place in New York City. The film, a documentary about the band’s experiences recording and rehearsing songs for the album Let it Be, features a rooftop performance by the Fab Four.

You can own these and other pieces of music history by hitting up our CD marketplace! Each album purchase comes with unlimited streaming and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and Apple Lossless. :-)


Ally Boutelle
@arboutelle

Ally is a communications intern at Murfie, blogging about all things music. When she’s not typing away, she cooks spicy food, does hot yoga, and reads weird history books. She’s also a college student double majoring in history and journalism.


Staff Picks: Ally’s Folk Picks

Up until recently, I definitely did not consider myself a fan of folk music—I barely could name a folk artist, and never thought to add folk music to my listening rotation. In the last few months, however, I’ve become hooked on folk as a new soundtrack to car rides, homework sessions, and everything in between. Here are a few of my newfound favorites.

The Head and the Heart - Let's Be StillThe Head and the Heart
Let’s Be Still

The Head and the Heart’s sophomore album has solved the problems of the bands overly fast-paced debut, slowing it down to allow for more thoughtful songwriting and lusher instrumentation. The melodies here are beautiful and complex, incorporating violin, banjo, piano and guitars into a smooth and mellow sound. Combined with singers Josiah Johnson and Jonathan Russell’s vocals, the album is the perfect combination of soulful and lighthearted.

This band masters the art of creating ballads that are heartfelt, not sappy, and it shows. Highlights like “Cruel” showcase the band’s excellent songwriting, which lends itself perfectly to their newly quiet and pensive sound. The result is a new kind of folk music—thoroughly modern, not lost or stuck in decades past—that seems to have real staying power. The Head and The Heart have discovered what works for them, and they’ll withstand any shifts in what’s popular in music. This album ultimately plays like a plea to just take a moment, be still and listen—the rest will work itself out in time, after all.

> Don’t Miss Tracks: “Cruel”, “Homecoming Heroes”

Indigo Girls - Indigo GirlsIndigo Girls
Indigo Girls

The Indigo Girls are everything a musical pair should be: they certainly collaborate, but their differences in style ultimately create a stronger and more interesting final product. This album at times has a split personality, moving from the upbeat, bouncy “Closer to Fine” (one of my personal favorite songs) towards brooding tracks like “Blood and Fire” that ruminate on topics like love and faith. Although the songs reflect each member’s individual personality, they nevertheless compliment each other seamlessly.

This album is raw and powerful—it feels almost unedited at times, but in a wonderful way. The tracks capture their passion and let their personalities and opinions shine through, never asking them to keep anything in check. The power that surges through these songs, however, suggests a musical duo whose talent will take them far. Combined with their truly poetic songwriting, the Indigo Girls create a commanding musical presence that captures attention and demands that you really listen to every last word they have to say.

> Don’t Miss Tracks: “Closer to Fine”, “Secure Yourself”
> Check out this Murfie Podcast that we recorded with Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls!

Joan Baez - Diamonds and RustJoan Baez
Diamonds and Rust

Although previous installments of Baez’s work centered around her anti-Vietnam war activism, Diamonds and Rust brings her back to her soulful, yet commercial, roots. The album is flush with outstanding music influences, including contemporary jazz greats like Larry Carlton and covers of legends the likes of Stevie Wonder. Although Biaz shines on cover tracks, original songs like “Children and All that Jazz” reveal a new style that’s personal and extremely appealing.

The real hero of this album, however, is the title track “Diamonds and Rust”, arguably Biaz’s finest achievement as a singer/songwriter. Written about her relationship with Bob Dylan, the track reminisces about what once was in a way that is intensely intimate.  Her most popular track ever, the song is a folk classic and a whole new standard for the soul-baring love song category. The sheer power of “Diamonds and Rust” combined with the album’s other shining moments makes this album the best of Baez.

> Don’t Miss Tracks: “Diamonds and Rust”, “Winds of the Old Days”


Ally Boutelle
@arboutelle

Ally is a communications intern at Murfie, blogging about all things music. When she’s not typing away, she cooks spicy food, does hot yoga, and reads weird history books. She’s also a college student double majoring in history and journalism.


This Week in Music History (April 23rd-29th)

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

6384-large4/23- On this day in 1971, The Rolling Stones released their classic album Sticky Fingers in their native UK. The album, which was the band’s first release on their own label via Atlantic Records, featured art by Andy Warhol, whom the Stones hired for $15,000.

128999-large4/24- On this day in 1979, the state of Georgia made Ray Charles‘ “Georgia on My Mind” its official song. Charles, a Georgia native, recorded the track in 1960 as part of his album The Genius Hits the Road

146-large4/25- On this day in 1987, U2 began a five-week run atop the US album chart with their fifth studio album, The Joshua TreeThe album topped charts in over 20 countries and sold over 25 million copies. Bono and company also went on to win a Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

4999-large4/26- On this day in 1969, Led Zeppelin played their hit song “Whole Lotta Love” in front of a live audience for the first time. The show, which took place at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, was part of the band’s second North American tour.

35056-large4/27- On this day in 1976, David Bowie was detained by customs officers at the Russian/Polish border after attempting to board a train. The officers detained Bowie after finding Nazi books and memorabilia in his luggage, which he claimed were being used for research on a project about Nazi propaganda leader Joseph Goebbels. 

359561-large4/28- On this day in 1973, Pink Floyd‘s iconic album The Dark Side of the Moon hit No. 1 on the US album chart. The album went on to see a record-breaking 741 weeks atop the Billboard Chart, and now has sold over 45 million copies worldwide.

102762-large4/29- On this day in 1933, country music legend Willie Nelson was born. Nelson is one of country music’s most recognizable and influential singers and songwriters, and is also a poet, activist, actor and author. He has appeared in over 30 films, co-authored several books, and campaigned for numerous causes, including the use of biofuels.

All these pieces of music history are available in our music marketplace! Every CD purchase comes with unlimited streaming (Web, iOS, Android, Sonos) and downloads in mp3, aac, FLAC and ALAC.

Where to find the Murfie Web Player

The Murfie Web Player has moved! You can find it on your personal navigation menu, near the top of the website. Sign in and start streamin’ those tunes of yours!

Hopefully you’ve been digging all the new improvements to the website—we’re always here to help if you have any questions. :-)

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 5.10.12 PM

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)!

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.

Interview with Thorsten Loesch of iFi (Makers of the iPhono Preamplifier)

Recently, we introduced you to the Pro-Ject Audio RPM 5.1 – the turntable that will be driving Murfie’s (currently-in-beta) vinyl service. Today, I’d like to introduce the iFi iPhono Preamplifier. The iPhono is a versatile phono preamp that is helping us accurately reproduce the audio on your LPs as it was originally intended.

For those who don’t know, when vinyl records are pressed, an equalizer is first applied to the audio in order to compensate for some of the physical qualities of vinyl. For example, pressing un-equalized audio into vinyl with no manipulation to the lower range could cause grooves that are too wide for the stylus. To make up for this, different companies have applied different EQ curves before masters have been created. To get accurate audio reproduction, you must then apply a equalization to the raw signal from the record you are playing.

In the process of doing that, you also have to worry about amplifying the signal to line level without adding noise or distortion. There’s also an added complication in that you have to accommodate the myriad EQ curves used over the years.

The iFi iPhono Preamplifier helps us tackle these issues with a simple and robust setup. I sat down for a chat with Thorsten Loesch (Chief Designer at Abbingdon Music Research and iFi) to discuss iFi, the iPhono, music and more.

John: First of all, thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. Tell me a bit about iFi. On your site, I see that iFi is a company striving to be green. Can you tell me what that means to iFi, and what steps you’ve taken to make audio gear green?

Thorsten: Thank you. First and foremost, being majority-owned by Abbingdon Music Research, a maker of ultra-fi audio products, we are upheld to a high, corporate standard. Here in England, as part of the EU, we have to adhere to the EU regulations, and from 1st Jan 2013, the Standby law meant that all electronic products must consume <0.5W when in standby. We went down the other route, which is to not have a Standby option. So the iFi unit is either on or off!

Even when in use, our products only consume 9v. We also use as few plastics as possible – for obvious reasons. We endeavor to make our product range to offer as much long-term enjoyment as possible, so that the user does not have to change any iFi product, or if they do, then they can pass onto friends or family.

Our packaging is 100% cardboard so it can be recycled. These small initiatives give you a snapshot into how we try our best to be environmentally-friendly while still making really, really great sounding products.

John: You guys seem to have been quite busy lately. You were recently at the Guangzhou Show, and you’re headed to CES in January, correct?

Thorsten: Yes. We are going to showcase the nano iDSD and iCAN series at CES. These are palm-sized products aimed at the broader market for audio on the move, but executed to a very high-quality.

The nano iDSD is a ‘Digital-to-Audio Converter’ so with suitable Computer/Smart Device, one can send the highest quality (lossless as opposed to lossy) files and enjoy them direct on in-ear monitors. The nano iCAN is a Headphone Amplifier that has 10x the power of a normal iPhone to ensure aftermarket headphones perform to their full potential.

John: The piece of equipment we’re excited about here at Murfie is the iPhono preamp. Can you talk about about the design of that device?
Continue reading Interview with Thorsten Loesch of iFi (Makers of the iPhono Preamplifier)