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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Visionary Old Man Neil Young's New Trick: Pono

Rolling Stone once described Neil Young in its "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" issue as a "restless experimenter... who transform[s] the most obvious music into something revelatory."

Admittedly, I don't know much of Neil Young's musical catalog, and there's something about that high-pitched voice...but wait, before you all start throwing tomatoes, lyrically he transforms obvious ideas into songs that can feel revelatory. I've also noticed that he uses his money and fame beyond the music world as an inventor, often tackling ideas such as electric cars and the battle with music piracy.

He was behind the creation of a luxury-series hybrid electric car powered by biomass, and most recently has been putting his clout behind Pono, the digital-to-analog music service he's set to introduce this week at SXSW in Austin.

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An Indiscriminate List of Top Bandcamp Downloads

Categories: Digitalia

Creative Commons
Anything with a copyright date of 1922 or earlier legally has no owner and is in the public domain. If you're a musician, cover that song. If you're a paid blogger, plaster that picture wherever you'd like in your work. For the most part, that is. This is something we bloggers have to work with here.

That being said, all sound recordings in the United States are said to be under copyright protection until February 15, 2067, small print aside. So, completely royalty-free music does not exist in the United States right now. Songs either have to be attributed and paid for, or just covered and properly distributed, etc.

If a song has a copyright date of before 1922, it can be covered then distributed at your own free will, but other recordings of the song cannot and must be licensed, as they are still under copyright law. This was decided as constitutional in the early 2000s, right as the Internet was being used by more people to share and develop creative works.

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Flux TV Aims to Stream Houston Acts to the World

Last month Studio713 and Regressive Records unveiled their latest project, Flux TV, with a launch party and screening held at River Oaks Theatre. Now the Flux TV iPhone app is set for release on the Apple's iTunes Store tomorrow.

"Since the studio's inception three or four years ago, we've released work for bands like New York City Queens, and we've released about 25 videos into the Houston market," explains NYCQ singer/guitarist John Allen Stephens, who also works as a producer and engineer at Studio713.

"We've come to realize that we're a multimedia studio, and because we're a boutique production company with a small, defined staff, we felt like we were moving in that direction naturally," he says.

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Is the New BeatsMusic Worth It?

Categories: Digitalia

A year ago, Beats by Dre headphone giants Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine announced the next step for their brand was to launch a digital-subscription music service. The news was not met with the greatest approval.

After all, the existing marketplace -- crowded with streaming leaders such as Pandora and Spotify, relative new kids like Rdio and Google Play, and godfather Rhapsody -- had been contributing to many fans' large music libraries for years now. Why did these two guys, who had already pocketed millions and redefined how we hear music, need to jump into this world? But much like their headphones, Beats' pitch has been about quality, more specifically focusing upon what's next.

Tuesday, BeatsMusic debuted as a free download on multiple mobile platforms from Android to Apple's iTunes store. The subscription is $10 a month following a trial period; AT&T users can opt for a $15 family plan to let five family members listen on a total of up to ten devices. The service offers more than 20 million songs on demand, the ability to follow fellow users (much like Spotify) and the ability to download tracks for offline listening.

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Chiptune Star Perfecting the NESKeytar

Categories: Digitalia

Photo courtesy of Greig Stewart
Three years ago I brought to your attention a chiptune artist from the UK named Greig Stewart. Chiptune music is works played through retro video-game sound equipment like the sound card on a Game Boy. Stewart was riding high on the Guitar Hero craze like everyone else at the time, but decided that instead of a guitar he would produce Theremin Hero. And by God, he did.

Since then I've kept an eye on him via Facebook, and along with local filmmaker Joe Grisaffi he serves as an occasional retro-video-game consultant for gaming articles for us. Now he's like Vanilla Ice; back with a brand new invention. Ladies and gentlemen, the next step in chiptune stagecraft: the NESKeytar.

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Do Gig-Finder Web Sites Really Work? Local Musicians Sound Off

Photo by Nx Doyle/Courtesy of Rhonda Roberts Music
Rhonda Roberts
If you've been lucky enough to catch Rhonda Roberts in concert, you heard a confident voice singing original, Beatles-inspired indie-pop. She spices things up with a little Tin Pan Alley while masterfully plucking away at ukulele.

And, if you have seen her in concert, there's a chance you saw her because she booked the gig using ReverbNation.

ReverbNation is just one of the Web sites today's independent musicians use to promote their work; others include Sonicbids, GigMasters and BandWagon. All offer various services, but a major component is connecting musicians with promoters to book shows.

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Yes, My Musician Kids Have Jobs. They're Musicians.

Artwork by Jaime Torraco/Courtesy of Kittens of Industry
Recently someone I kinda-sorta know asked about my son.

He's doing great, I said. He and his band are on a 30-city tour.

No sooner than I'd answered this fellow, I regretted it as simple math scribbled itself onto his brain's chalkboard. Thirty shows minus my son being at home, where he lives, equals, "Your son doesn't have a job?"

Yes, he has a job, I explained. His job is being in an active, touring band.

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UPDATED: Houston's Best Internet Radio Stations

Optimo Radio: Houston's one-stop rap shop.
UPDATE (Friday, 9:30 a.m.): Corrects Rock 101's mobile-app notation to "Yes."

Much like newspapers, radio has been irrevocably changed by the rise of the Internet. With broadband broadly available, there are fewer and fewer reasons to flip on the dial, so even giants like Clear Channel have added Web-based platforms like IHeartRadio to replace lost terrestrial listeners, offer more variety, gobble up even more revenue, or most likely some combination of the three.

Last week Apple took it even further by introducing streaming radio to its latest iTunes upgrade, and a few days before that the somewhat awkwardly named Musicradio Bop '70s station signed on as the newest member of the Houston-based Bop Radio family. As an Internet station, though -- no air breaks, no local ads -- of course you might never know it was based in Houston.

That got us thinking that it might be a good time to see how many other Internet stations we have in our midst, so the past few days Rocks Off has been seeking out and sampling as many as we can find. (If we missed one or two, just let us know.) Good thing, because our recent experiment listening to KRBE all day long might have put us off radio for good.

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The Iconic Album Covers That Need to Become Internet Memes

Categories: Digitalia


I don't know anyone who doesn't know what an Internet meme is. In case you don't, I think the best definition is found in the Urban Dictionary (yep, that's a thing, too, Web novice). It says a meme is "an internet information generator, especially of random or contentless information."

This random and contentless information is often carried across the 'Net on the back of some image or another. Quite frankly, I believe some of those backs must be getting very tired. How many more Socially Awkward Penguin or Y U No Guy posts before they are rendered completely ineffective?

It's time for some new meme images to emerge, so why can't they emerge from our record collections? Here's are some I think could take a bit of the weight off the backs of Grumpy Cat and Bad Joke Eel, God bless 'em:

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