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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bottom 2 for September 13th, 2014

The iCloud

I hate the iCloud. Hate it, hate it, hate it.

Sure, it's nice to have the possibility of recovering lost files, but the lack of user control over it just increases the feeling that Apple can't relinquish ownership of whatever it sells to you, or let you use it in an a way in which they don't approve. Especially from the iTunes store. I've never been a fan of the iTunes store. I find it difficult to browse, and am still stung by the early days when you were stuck only being able to play it on the computer that downloaded it, or approved devices, and its unique file type that you can't edit of mess around with. There are a few songs from the DRM era that I can't play anymore because I've gone through that many computers.



Here is how I like to use my music files. I keep them on a seperate hard drive, currently holding about 160 GB of music files, just short of 15,000 tracks. I like to take a random slecection of around 4 GB (about 400 or so tracks) to load on my iPhone, which takes me about 2 or 3 weeks to get through on shuffle play before swapping out for a new set of 400 or so.. Now the iCloud takes all the tracks you've ever bought at the iTunes store and sends them to your iPhone to play, because it assumes you always will want to listen to them at any given time. And you can't delete them from the phone. They don't even show up in iTunes when you connect your phone to your computer to manage your files. They're always there. Always.

Now, I'm not the biggest audio snob, but if I think this is music I'm going to want to fully experience, I'd rather have it in the greater sound quality that CDs or LPs provide. I like notes, credits, artwork, etc, too. If I buy, or otherwise download, a digital copy of something, it's likely a lower priority - something I just want to check out, a free sample, something I don't want to have to commit to moving or finding storage space, things like that. Or, it's the only way to get it (officially or unofficially). Something like Alice Cooper's Teenage Lament '74. I'm not much of an Alice fan, but this is a great song, with one of the best opening lines ever (What a drag it is, these gold lamé jeans). Likewise, Harry Nilsson's "You're Breaking My Heart". Again, not so much of a fan of decadent post-1970 Nilsson, but I heard this in the movie Breakfast on Pluto and had to get it (also great opening line - "You're breaking my heart, you've torn it apart, so fuck you"). Or some long out-of-print jazz or Afropop record that some aficionado has posted.

Fortunately, I've not bought a lot of music at iTunes, less that 50 tracks over 10 years or so, but now every time I update the music on my iPhone, there they are, thanks to the iCloud. Like I said these are low priority songs, (plus some Madonna and fucking Gwen Steffani that my ex-girlfriend bought while signed in under my username) and I'd like to be able to skip them.

Of course there's all the privacy issues. They've got all my photos and email and text messages, call records, available to bore the NSA any time they're ready for it. I'm sure even with the location service turned off they can figure out most anywhere I've taken my phone. But that's all abstract, its these songs I don't want to listen to that I can't escape.

Which leads me to...

Songs of Innocence by U2

The album famously given away this week via the iCloud.

I thought I had deleted my iCloud account. The recent naked celebrity photo leak scandal was the last straw. Not that I have naked photos of myself in the iCloud, but it just made the concerns listed above seem that much less abstract. (My joke has been "I uploaded naked selfies to the iCloud and they deleted my account, because they wouldn't ever want to be held responsible for something like that being leaked out".)*

I haven't even connected my phone to iTunes this week. I did charge my phone by connecting it to my laptop because I was too lazy to walk across the room to plug it into the wall, is that all I took? Or, is it even more passive than that? I did open up iTunes on my laptop the other night when I first heard about this giveaway to see it the album was there, but it wasn't. But today, walking home from doing the webcast, there it was.

And it's awful. It's not so much bad music, not that it's all that good, but this is a band that had such a distinct sound, it's just disheartening to hear them make such blah sounding mush. It's terrible hearing a band that will sell several hundred thousand copies of their new record just because they have a new record seeming to be trying desperately to sound like what gets played on the radio today in order to get a hit. I mean sure, that's Bono alright, but the backing is pretty generic, as if he'd made a solo album with anodyne studio musicians. On the track Raised by Wolves, the classic sound is almost audible though the haze, its lyrics protesting religiously inspired violence, and some guitar reminiscent of that song on the Unforgettable Fire that starts with the cool delayed guitar licks (oh yes Wire, thank you internet; come to think of it, it's a lick the band Wire might have come up with as well). Listening to some of the old songs just now, while verifying the title, only reenforces that feeling. It's even more frustrating because U2 has previously incorporated new sounds without losing their original voice (think Achtung, Baby!). My advice, go rent a big house with a barn or something where you can work comfortably without distractions, take a minimal amount of gear and some trusted outside ear like Steve Lillywhite or somebody like that, and spend a month or six weeks and come up with 10 songs without any commercial considerations, and just release it. You've got nothing to lose at this point.

That being said, I've got nothing against this promotion, it's a good gimmick for both Apple and U2. I probably wouldn't have rushed out to buy this album, but I'm glad to have a chance to take a listen. But, is it going to end up on my phone every time I reload? I hope not.

Any advice on how to control the iCloud will be gladly accepted at unpopularfred@gmail.com.

* interesting observation, the Oxford dictionary now recognizes "selfie" as a word, but Blogger's spellcheck does not. Nor does it recognize spellcheck for that matter

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