Requiem for the iPod

Categories: All In, Digitalia

Yes, they're still around -- what an iPod looks like today.
The year was 2002, and I was in the back of my mom's Chevy high-top. She was driving my brother to Sam's Club to pick up his new blue iPod 1st Generation. For months, I watched him listen to Papa Roach and moody pop-rock queen Avril Lavigne as he sat in his bedroom lifting his 8-pound dumbbells -- that is, until I got my own iPod a couple years later. Gwen Stefani, Outkast, Hoobastank, it was all on that little thing. And quite frankly, it was all I would ever need. IVAN GUZMAN

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Lily Allen at House of Blues, 9/13/2014

Categories: Digitalia

Photos by Jack Gorman
Lily Allen
House of Blues
September 13, 2014

During the span of her decade-long career, Lily Allen has managed to attract consistent press attention for her outspoken, disparaging remarks towards pop-music heavyweights, and when she dropped new album Sheezus earlier this year, that bodacious attitude came right along with it in full force.

On the album, and as she performed to a sold-out crowd Saturday night at the House of Blues, Allen constantly references the major pop music girls, especially those within the ranks of Miley and Katy Perry. Just take her stage set-up, for example; the HOB stage was lined with giant baby bottles that lit up with bright LEDs, a cartoonish spectacle that follows the trend set by Miley Cyrus in a number of her live performances.

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Five Forgotten Band-Based Video Games

Back when I was a lad, I remember borrowing a SEGA Genesis in order to play Michael Jackson's Moonwalker and thinking there was nothing odd about it in the slightest. It was a tie-in game to a hit film starring one of the greatest American musicians of all time near his critical peak; putting that in a video game is a license to print money.

However, it was nothing new. Musicians have been putting their stamps of approval on video games featuring their likenesses since the medium was founded. It's just that most people never hear about them. For instance, did you know about...

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Joe Ely + Apple: A Love Story

Photos courtesy of LC Media
Joe Ely, wisely holding a guitar instead of a shotgun
Improbably, Joe Ely is learning to ease up on the gas pedal a little. The Lubbock-bred performer has long been known for live sets and a work ethic both so intense he's often seen as a Lone Star counterpart to his friend Bruce Springsteen. But Ely, a force in Texas music since his days with cosmic-country trio the Flatlanders, recently wrapped a nice-and-easy Midwestern mini-tour with co-headliner and friend Alejandro Escovedo, and admits he can appreciate not pushing himself into the red all the time.

"I don't have to go through the same things I've already been through," says Ely from his home in Austin, where he has lived since the Flatlanders emigrated from the South Plains in the early '70s. "I've learned through experience. We still love to play, but I don't have to stay on the road the whole year anymore.

"I used to just stay out there," he admits. "One time in Lubbock I went out on a tour, and by the time I came back my car was gone and my house was gone. I was supposed to have been gone for a month and a half, and I was like gone for eight months. One tour led to the other."

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We Love the VMAs Because They're Rigged

Categories: Digitalia

Anthony Quintano via Flickr
"If, for any reason, this voting process is interrupted, is found to have been tampered with in any way, or for any other reason that Sponsor believes in its sole discretion to be reasonably necessary, Sponsor reserves the right to select the winners at its discretion."

This is what it says at the bottom of the MTV Video Music Awards voting page, and what it basically means is that MTV can completely disregard the fan voting results and choose the winner they want, for lots of different reasons. Total baloney, right?! Nine year-old me is fuming right now at the thought of all my votes for Kelly Clarkson's "Behind These Hazel Eyes" being nothing but a waste of time, a mere speck in my browser history lost to some overarching marketing deal.

The idea of these popular fan-voted music awards shows "rigging the system" has been gossiped about for years now, although a quick skim through the terms and conditions page on many a voting Web site can give some solid proof to speculators out there. But it recently popped up again when a couple of Viners sent out some pretty angry, accusatory tweets after not winning the Teen Choice Awards they were nominated for.

Now, you may be thinking, "Sure the petty TCAs pick the winner that will leave the overall majority of tween girls satisfied, but the VMAs? Who strive on the basis of being 'all about the fans'?"

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Panic! at the Disco at The Woodlands, 8/19/2014

Categories: Digitalia

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Panic! at the Disco
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
August 19, 2014

Panic! at the Disco in 2014 is definitely not what it was before. The "baroque rock" band that joined the likes of Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance in 2006 to capture the souls of teenage girls going through their respective "scene queen" phase now only consists of one original band member, lead singer Brendon Urie. Co-founder Spencer Smith couldn't join Panic! during this summer's "Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die!" tour because he needed to take some time off to deal with repercussions of alcohol and substance abuse, while other members each left somewhere along the band's eight-year, four-album timeline probably due to creative reasons.

Urie being the only remaining original member seems fitting, though, because he is and always has been the charmingly hyperactive, attention-seeking one in the band -- the type of person every pop rock band wishes to have as their front man. You'd think so many losses would force Panic! to downsize. However, Tuesday night they played the biggest venue they've ever played in the Houston area, and played it well.

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12 Highly Entertaining Indie Artists on Twitter

Categories: Digitalia

Photo by Jim Bricker
Vampire Weekend at FPSF 2014
Way back in 2006, I bet the founders of Twitter had no idea the social-media platform would become the force it is today. Sure, you can interact with your friends and whatnot, but perhaps the coolest, most intriguing part of Twitter is the way it makes us music lovers able to see what our favorite musicians are up to.

Just think about it. Your favorite artist -- whether some nobody musician who makes beats in his or her basement or even a legend like Cher -- is most likely active on Twitter. It allows us to form what often seems like a personal connection with our idols, while we've found that some less-popular acts totally triumph in the tweeting game against those with 40-plus million followers like Katy Perry and Justin Bieber.

We've compiled a list of 16 indie artists who you should probably think about following on Twitter below, so go on a quick unfollowing spree, do what you gotta do to make some room on your timeline for some fresh, new 140-character goodness from artists who are contributing some fresh, new sounds to the music world.

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The Five Best Songs About Donkey Kong

On this day in 1981, the video-game juggernaut that was Donkey Kong first saw release. It was a game that broke new ground and keeps finding an audience today. It was the first game to feature Mario (who, by the by, was cast as an abusive pet owner seeking to re-capture his poor gorilla), the first arcade game to use cut scenes to tell a story, and the title that launched Nintendo as the force that would pull the entire video-game industry back from the brink.

As for me...I will always remember being a kid and a Nintendo Power subscriber who was one of the lucky ones to receive a VHS tape full of footage from Donkey Kong Country addressed to me in the mail. That's what we had before YouTube, kids, and I have never felt more like a VIP before or since. It's still one of my Top 10 games of all time.

Donkey Kong has also made an impact on the world of music, and today we salute that impact with five songs.

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The Five Best Reasons to Use SoundCloud

As streaming services grow to be the norm and more and more people turn to YouTube, Spotify, Bandcamp and SoundCloud for their music listening experiences, it might seem overwhelming to bands trying to maintain an online presence. Do you have to use them all? Should you focus more attention on one over another? Which one is even best for your particular brand?

We here at Rocks Off don't particularly have a preference; we'll seek out music wherever we can find it. However, we've been thinking lately that for some bands, SoundCloud might be the best service of any for a variety of reasons.

It's not that we're in SoundCloud's pocket for any reason, but that site offers a few key advantages that might make it more ideal for your band, depending on what you do and what you're looking for.

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Amazon's Funniest One-Star Classic Album Reviews

Photo by Nathan Rupert via Flickr
As a music writer, it can be beneficial to seek out other music reviews to see what people are thinking, aficionados and trolls alike. Let's look at Amazon, a popular site where I admit I've spent a bit of money and time. You can find anything here, down to your most basic grocery-shopping needs.

As with all other comment sections, really, Amazon's consumer reviews can be deafening. These critics have opinions that they absolutely have to defend, or else they just want attention. Others just get really excited sharing their naysaying opinions, and sites like Amazon provide a wide audience. Today we thought we'd help widen some of these reviewers' audiences (hopefully alongside our own) with a top-notch, annotated selection of Amazon's one-star album reviewers.

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