Archive for the ‘reviews’ Category

The Lost Art of Creating a Mix Tape

Posted by matt on August 12, 2009

mixtape3.jpgIn the land of multi-terrabyte hard drives, iPods, MP3’s and ‘infinite playlists’, the art of actually using some restrain and editing to create a cohesive, interesting representation of your musical self is an art form long lost.

On my continual quest for quality and fresh music, about twice a year I create an 80-minute mix CD of my ‘favorites’ that I’m rocking at the moment.

While I haven’t made a ‘mix tape’ since college (yes, that is an actual one of mine above), I still have a CD player in my car which is where 90% of the mix is consumed.  Some rules I follow when creating my mix:

  1. A majority of the music must be < 1 year old - While I might create a ‘best of grunge’ mix or something like that, for the most part, I want to hear new music.  The life of the CD is usually around 3-6 months until I am ready to make a new one.
  2. Genre variety - I want to hit 2-3 genres at least, but no hard and fast rules.  Just not 80 minutes of metal–the mix needs some contrast (not so true of “Ultra Mosh II” above…)
  3. No more than 3 songs from the same artist/album - If you really like an album, it forces you to pick your favorite 3.  Also, mix them up throughout the mix
  4. Fill the 80 minutes as best you can - For my mix below, it clocks in at 79:59.11.  Yes, less than 1 second to spare! (with 0 second breaks between tracks as well)
  5. Try to make the tracks ‘flow’ - This can be tough… I don’t spend hours doing this, but you typically want some contrast without abruptness
  6. Don’t repeat a song from one mix CD to the next - Yeah, that song may be your favorite, but if that’s true, try and find a re-mix.  I did that below w/ the 2 Bloc Party tracks.

While you could, of course, do this exercise with an MP3 playlist, often you wouldn’t use any harsh editing because you usually don’t have constraints (after all, an 80 min. mix encoded at 256K is only about 160MB, which most every MP3 player has at least 10-100 times that much room…)

So without further ado, here is my Summer 2009 Mix.  The first thing you might notice when reading the below is that YOU HAVEN’T HEARD OF ANY OF THESE SONGS OR BANDS.  Well, the mix is mine, so that’s your problem…  I typically try to put some indie, punk, alternative, electronica, so while you may not know them, the songs work for me (and they are good, trust me).  Own your mix, it is something that is probably truly unique to you.

Matt’s 80-minute 2009 Summer Mix: (with links to either the video or a streamable version of the song)

  1. Bloc Party - Ares (Villains Remix)
  2. Julian Plenti  - Games For Days (Paul Banks of Interpol, solo album)
  3. Röyksopp ft Robyn - The Girl & The Robot
  4. Future Of The Left - Stand By Your Manatee
  5. Flight of the Conchords - Sugalumps
  6. Does It Offend You, Yeah? - With a Heavy Heart(I Regret to Inform You)
  7. Silversun Pickups - Growing Old is Getting Old
  8. Late of The Pier - Space and The Woods
  9. The Bird and the Bee - Diamond Dave
  10. Flight of the Conchords - You don’t have to be a Prostitute
  11. The Mars Volta - Cotopaxi
  12. Sunspot - Grand Guignol
  13. Bloc Party - One Month Off (Filthy Dukes Remix)
  14. The Bird and the Bee - My Love
  15. Future of the Left - Arming Eritrea
  16. Does it Offend you, Yeah? - Attack of the 60ft Lesbian Octopus
  17. Silversun Pickups - Panic Switch
  18. Flight of the Conchords - Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor
  19. The Bird and the Bee - Polite Dance Song (this video is soooo David Lynch)
  20. Sunspot - Sweet Relief
  21. Silversun Pickups - Catch and Release

That clocks 79:59.11.  Do you still make mixes?  Favorite ones you’ve made?  Comments, baby.

Popularity: 20% [?]

Posted under how to, music, reviews

Palm Pre vs. Treo 700p with SERO Plan

Posted by matt on July 27, 2009

palmpre3.jpgWhile there have been countless comparisons of the Palm Pre to the Apple iPhone, I haven’t seen many comparing the Palm Pre to the Treo line of products (Treo 650, Treo 700p, Treo 755p, Treo Centro). There are still tens of thousands of old Sprint SERO customers on a Treo 700p (or similar) that like me, are looking to upgrade to something. The old Sprint SERO plan was at it’s peak around 2-3 years ago, so many Sprint customers are either rolling off their plans, or at a minimum, definitely ready for a new phone.

I was a Treo 700p user for 3 years with heavy use on a $30 SERO plan (upgraded later to $45 with unlim. text). For over a year of that, I also extensively used email, RSS, web, Twitter, Twitpic, Facebook, etc. I made the move from the Treo 700p to the Palm Pre in early June 2009, and decided to put together the comparison of what you have to look forward to (or what you have to give up): NOTE: this comparison was written on 7/27/09 and is based on Palm Pre WebOS v1.1

Read the rest of this entry »

Popularity: 24% [?]

Posted under how to, reviews, tech gadgets

10 years of Sunspot Pictures (the band, not the sun)

Posted by matt on June 11, 2009

SunspotIt’s hard to believe, but I’ve been friends with Madison, WI rock band Sunspot for over 10 years!  Since tomorrow they are releasing their 5th full-length album, Singularity, I thought I would post some of my favorite pictures I’ve taken of Mike, Ben and Wendy over the last decade.  Out of over 8000 (!) that I’ve taken, here are 130 ordered chronologically that are my favorites.  Check it.

Almost as crazy as attending one of their live shows is the number of digital cameras I’ve owned over this same time frame…it’s pretty nuts:

  • 1999-2001 Largan Lmini 350 - 0.6 MegaPixel - this thing was terrible in most every way, but it was digital, which is what a digital guy needs.  Yeah, 0.6MP.
  • 2001-2003 Sony FD-90 - 1.6MP - Great optics, but sloooow camera.  Made you slow down, but almost too much.  I still have some pictures I really like from this camera.  If it only had 10x the sensor quality.
  • 2003-2005 Olympus 5050z - 5.0MP - My first prosumer camera, this taught me the photo basics, mainly aperture, shutter speed and ISO.
  • 2005-2006 Canon Digital Rebel -  6.3MP - The first in a crazy-upgrade cycle of Rebels.
  • 2006-2007 Canon Digital Rebel XT - 8.0MP - I started selling stock photos and the upgrades in both lenses and cameras now were ‘funded’.  It’s nice when your hobbies pay for themselves.
  • 2007-2008 Canon Digital Rebel XTi - 10.1MP - Sensor cleaning = good!  A great camera, I only really upgraded because in stock photography it helps to have higher MegaPixel for increased size for increased $$.
  • 2008-2009 Canon Digital Rebel XSi - 12.2MP - While still a very capable camera, I’ve vowed this is the last Rebel I’d buy… the 50D (or 60D) or 5D MarkII product line is next for me, but I’ve been investing in lenses lately.
  • I had a Casio Exilm EX-Z57 which I used only for a couple of shots at shows (since I had the Rebel then).  What’s most interesting about this camera, is it is what Wendy uses for her “Drummercam” photos!

Finally, I also have a video of Sunspot from their March 2009 show at the Frequency. They are playing their song “Neanderthal” and they segue into some Megadeth.

It’s shot with my Canon Vixia HF100 HD video camera.  It’s flash based, small with a great quality picture, even in low light.

Be sure to check out Sunspot live if you get a chance–they don’t disappoint!  Pick up their new album too!

Popularity: 13% [?]

Posted under music, photos, reviews, shows

HGTV’s Man Land: Vegas City Style Casino Basement

Posted by matt on June 5, 2009

Over 2 years ago, my friend Chad Draheim was contacted by HGTV for a show they were doing entitled “Man Land” (they found his ‘casino basement‘ blog post).  After the long wait, it was on HGTV last Saturday!  Even though it is episode #2, they played it as the premier episode.

Since most people aren’t watching TV @ noon on a Saturday, (and it’s nowhere to be seen online) I decided to rip it from my DVR.  I edited it down to 7 minutes which is just the part featuring Chad and Kitt’s Basement:

In the clip is Chad, Kitt and Keely Draheim, the host George Gray, Chad’s brother Brian, Apollo Marquez, Matt Griswold and me!  It was a lot of fun to film, and it was interesting seeing how much time, effort and footage goes into just 7 minutes of television (i.e. they edited my interview down to about 7 seconds, which is probably a good thing since I don’t really remember what I was talking about).

Man Land is available in HD on HGTV and looks like it will continue to be on Saturday’s at 1PM eastern and pacific, noon central.  Enjoy!

Popularity: 8% [?]

Posted under TV Shows, how to, reviews

Album Review: Silversun Pickups, Swoon

Posted by matt on April 8, 2009

Silversun Pickups - SwoonArtist: Silversun Pickups
Album: Swoon
Wikipedia Genre(s): Indie rock, Dream pop, Shoegaze
Matt’s Fav Tracks: Panic Switch, Growing Old is Getting Old, Sort Of
# times listened: Moderate (10 - 25 times)
Matt’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Album: Amazon
MP3’s: Amazon non-DRM

I was introduced to Silversun Pickups a few years ago listening to XM radio, of all places and really dug their album “Carnavas“.  With the 2 obvious hits on that album, it was a little more inconsistent than I would have hoped, and I ended up putting the 2 tracks on playlists rather than listen to the entire album.

Enter Swoon.

I’m going out on a limb saying that Swoon will be one of the best alternative albums of 2009.  You listen to it and you instantly know it’s Silversun Pickups, but it still has a great newness to it.  The songs are more solid, yet explore the familiar, dreamy territory that is all their own (with a sound that Smashing Pumpkins wish they could have morphed into).

800px-silversun_pickups_01.jpgI was afraid that after the success of Carnavas that SP would mellow out, but am quite glad they didn’t go that route.  While some quieter moments exist on the album, other parts sound good REALLY LOUD.  They rock out with the best of them, and even with ‘indie’ as one of their genre labels, they don’t wuss out like too many other indie bands do on their sophomore album.

Lead singer singer Brian Aubert still has that off-beat, androgynous voice that works well with their sound.  Many of the melodies and guitar solos are quite simple, but unbelievably catchy (like the main riff and baseline in “Panic Switch”).  They’ll be running through your head all day after just a few listens.  SP is really good at the distortion-noise stuff too, if you are into that.

Check out the video for “Panic Switch”:

If you are bored with much of the music out today (who isn’t) grab this album (it comes out April 14th, 2009) for a fresh look at a genre nearing it’s 20th birthday.  It’s close to 5 stars for me, but giving it 4.5 out of 5 stars until it grows on me a little more.

Popularity: 7% [?]

Posted under music, reviews