There's more ads down here, and they help support us so, y'know, check 'em out...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 Down For The Third Time

This is a bit of a shock - is going dark...again. I don't know whether it's simply a bad economy, or complications from its move to Austin, TX, or what, but they are throwing in the towel and, this time, it looks like it's for good.

Hope not. They've done a stellar job, and I hope they can figure out how to continue to do so. We've held a long-standing respect for them here at Altrok (and, in fact, their Program Director, Mike Taylor, has graciously contributed to Altrok in the past.)

To put it another way, as I just mentioned to Mike in email:

"Good luck to you and the rest of the staff - you've fought the good fight for far longer and at a higher level than many others have had the resources to, and you haven't ever compromised."

We'll keep you posted.

SXSW: Who's Buzzing?

In the wrapup for SXSW (which we here at Altrok do not have the liquid funds to attend, unfortunately) it appears there's several attempts to identify the bands that created something like a "buzz"'s a roundup:

Locally, New Jersey's Star Ledger gave some column inches to the hometown boys, with Titus Andronicus getting the "wailing away on a little stage" pull photo. Other shout-outs went to Status Green, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Roadside Graves and Any Day Parade.

The New York Times' slideshow of the proceedings leads with Frightened Rabbit, following up with Warpaint, Jj, Marina And The Diamonds, The Morning Benders, Memory Tapes (offered up as part of the "Glo-fi" phenomenon - laptop poppers, in my opinion, who are of course not unwelcome.) Apparently Hole and two thirds of The Dixie Chicks (trading as The Court Yard Hounds) were looking for new audiences as well, and they wrap up with a piano driven, string-quartet augmented performance from Germany's Hauschka.

The Vancouver Sun pulls together a nice piece on the final celebration of Alex Chilton's life at Antone's. Looks like everybody wanted to be on that stage.

And if you'd like your SXSW news filtered through celebrities and celebrity watchers, there's no better place than MTV's roundup. (That's the sound of me smacking my forehead...)

Settle in and do some reading - and keep us playing in the background while you do it...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Altrok 90.5 HD2 - Modern Rock Awaits You, And Not Just At The Jersey Shore

Well, y'know, I wish I didn't have to be such a plugster, but hey, ya don't promote, ya don't get listeners.

Altrok 90.5 HD2 is ON THE AIR. The actual air, as opposed to just over the Internet (though we're still broadcasting there.) We're an over the air radio station with a library that's only better than the one FM106.3 once had because we've had ten years to add deep alternative tracks that actually came out over the last decade (and that you didn't hear because, well, there wasn't an FM106.3 to play 'em for you.)

One other little thing: this is Public Radio, so no commercials.

So we've got the music, and we've got the transmitter. We just need listeners, and that's where you come in.

By the way, we've tweaked the audio so that everything sounds even better whether you're listening on iPhone (yes, there's an app for that), online, or on HD Radio. (Yes, we're still learning how to operate the transmitter, so if you're a fan of broadcasting flubs, you'll probably hear some of those, too. Yeah, we've wanted to run a station forever, but that doesn't mean we were gonna start as experts on day one...)

And Michele McBride provides news in the mornings, bless her soul.

We've also got a Twitter feed and a Facebook fan page - they'll update you once an hour with a teasingly slim view some of the bands we'll be playing some time in the near future. (It's only teasingly slim so that we don't anger the Music Industry Gods - we'd like to let you in on the whole playlist, but that would be telling.)

Here's the last fifty tracks we played. If these light your wick, keep it lit by tuning in, either using your HD Radio at the Jersey Shore (tuned to 90.5 HD2) or online (choose a link, any link.)

The Radio Dept. - Heaven’s On Fire
The Fiery Furnaces - Tropical Iceland [Single Version]
BPA, The - He's Frank (feat. Iggy Pop)
Cake - I Will Survive
You Say Party! We Say Die! - Laura Palmer's Prom
Rudi - When I Was Dead
The Sisters of Mercy - 1969
Cat Scientist - I Saved An Airplane
XTC - Cherry in your tree
Morningwood - Best Of Me
The Church - Deadman's Hand
Green Day - Holiday
Miike Snow - Silvia
Big Audio Dynamite - V. Thirteen
The Fall - Hot Cake-Part 2
Doves - Sky Starts Falling
Franz Ferdinand - Do You Want To
Beck - Where It's At
Goldhawks - Where In The World
World Party - Ship Of Fools
A Million Years - Suspicious
Swipe - I Am Gospel
The Jam - Precious
Daryl Hall - NYCNY
Sparks - Tips for Teens
Cut Off Your Hands - Happy As Can Be
Maps - Die Happy, Die Smiling
plus-minus - Trapped Under Ice Floes (Redux)
Bettie Serveert - Deny All
R.E.M. - Radio Free Europe (Original Hib-Tone Single)
Broken Bells - The High Road
Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint - Six-Fingered Man
St. Vincent - Now, Now
Modest Mouse - Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes
The Heligoats - Fish Sticks
New Order - The Perfect Kiss
The Shazam - Squeeze The Day
The Bongos - Numbers With Wings
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Breaking the Girl
Modern English - Tables Turning
Johnny Cash - Personal Jesus
Bad Lieutenant - Twist Of Fate
The Lemonheads - Mrs. Robinson
Detroit Social Club - Black And White
Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart
The Bamboos - On The Sly
Bubblegum Lemonade - I'll Never Be Yours
The Psychedelic Furs - Into You Like A Train

If that does it for you, tune in - you'll show our tasteful and well-appointed landlords at 90.5 The Night that giving us a whole radio station was a good idea. (Conversely, if we don't burn up the online listener slots, they'll think it wasn't such a good idea. I'm just sayin'.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Altrok 90.5 HD2 - Try It Again...

We've made some (fairly significant) changes to the quality of the audio on Altrok 90.5 HD2 (both when you listen via HD Radio and when you listen online.) Tune in and check it out - and if you'd like hints about what's coming up, link in to our Twitter feed - once an hour, it'll give you a clue about the bands we're going to be playing (though nothing more specific - that would anger the music industry gods.) For instance, Stone Roses and Bad Lieutenant (the new band from ex-New Order/Joy Division members) are going to be showing up in the near future...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

OK Go: New Album, GREAT Video...And Now EMI-Free.

OK Go and EMI have parted ways. This is likely a trend.

They explain rather eloquently here.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Looking Toward A Melody Future

It's pretty clear that this year's Pinfield Era Melody Reunion (which Ed Wong refers to as the Melody Reflux) was a huge success - Ed brought the equipment, the Club brought the consumables, I brought the video projector, Stiffy Biceptz brought the classic candid photo set and no small amount of logistical expertise, Pat Pierson, Lisa Uber, Pete Santiago and myself brought the records, Matt Pinfield brought Matt Pinfield, and you brought the party (and many thanks to Laura Schneider for having the good sense to create a Facebook event so more people could bring the party....) The drink profits went to a good cause, and you danced like nobody was watching (and since I wouldn't want to stand in the way of you continuing to do that, I swear, I haven't looked at a single one of the pictures posted on Facebook, honesttagawd.)

So, what's in store for the future? A few things...

The nearest is The Melody Reunion Replay, a full replay of the night's festivities, which we'll be doing soon at Altrok 90.5 HD2. I'd hoped for this coming weekend for the playback, but with a new radio station running it seems big fish keep flopping into our frying pan, so probably another weekend will pass before we can do it. I'll keep you posted.

Secondly, the All-Eras Melody Reunion (for all eras up to 2000, with everyone invited) generally comes up in September, so keep an eye out for that as well.

And, of course, this plug: if you liked what you heard at the reunion, you'll hear a lot of it (and a lot more) at Altrok 90.5 HD2, where we now get to carry on the legacy of FM106.3 with an actual radio station all our own, taking advantage of a bit of new technology. If you're at the Jersey Shore, you can pick us up on an HD Radio at (naturally) 90.5 HD2. If not, why not tune in online and let us know you're out there?

(By the way, some of you were regulars at The Green Parrot, which, like The Melody, is now the site of a hospital parking lot. The fact that there's another club that had such a dedicated following is not lost on us...stay tuned.)

Kathryn Bigelow: Early Work

Kathryn Bigelow is the first woman to win the Best Director Academy Award...but not the first director of a New Order video to do so. That honor goes to Jonathan Demme.

Even so, here's her contribution to New Order's oevure, where she somehow apparently convinced them to go all hair-metal...

...and for good measure, here's Demme's.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

ABC Versus Cablevision: Could Both Lose?

Short answer: both are already losing. Cablevision's trying to play the sympathy card, and failing. ABC's losing three million viewers in the Northeast for tonight's Oscar telecast because of their own greed.

Cablevision is playing hardball, as businesses that are supposed to make money do. They pay a lot of money for access to cable networks, and we pay them a lot of money to bring them to us. When their prices get too high, we cancel; when network providers' prices get too high, Cablevision cancels. If they do it sloppily, which they did earlier this year with the Food Network/HGTV fiasco resulting from their sloppy negotiations with Scripps Cable, and which they're doing now with the ABC/Disney fiasco, they incur the wrath of angry customers, who threaten (and occasionally actually) cancel.

The Food Network/HGTV thing was interesting, in that there were so many ways Cablevision could have handled it better. Having replacement channels ready to go would have been a good idea...anything other than the whining they did on the channels where the Scripps networks had gone missing. And they're doing it again on the ABC broadcast channels - nobody liked it the last time, and nobody's handling it well now.

But ABC/Disney is only in this position because they thought they could make money off of over-the-air stations they're already making money off of.

Let's go back a few years. Cable companies once lived entirely by a provision called "Must Carry" - basically, if a TV signal was receivable in a cable company's service area, the cable company was obligated to carry it. No ifs, ands or buts. This gave a livelihood to a lot of fringe stations that wouldn't have been carried under other circumstances - in the New York area, for instance, it's why so many people were able to watch the Uncle Floyd Show when it emanated from a small shack in West Orange, NJ. The signal was receivable within the areas the cable companies served, and so cable companies were obligated to carry we got to see The Ramones and Squeeze on television before anyone else did, thanks to "Must Carry". I call that "value for your cable dollar".

The bigger broadcast stations kvetched heartily about this, partly because they saw someone else making money off of what they saw as their turf (even though they wouldn't have had nearly as many viewers without cable) but mostly because it put the tiniest TV stations on more of an even footing with them. Remember, when big business complains about something, it's most likely not the issue they're complaining about that's actually bothering them - it's the one they can't talk about for fear of alienating the public. And if there's one thing big business can't stand, it's competition.

So the FCC buckled under to their whining and gave them an opportunity to make money off the cable systems, by charging the cable systems to carry them. If they did this, however, the "Must Carry" rule no longer applied...the cable company was free to tell them to go take a flying leap.

Nobody's taken more advantage of this than ABC/Disney, since they're the proud corporate parents of ESPN, a massively-watched cable service. ABC/Disney has made carriage of ESPN a part of a package deal that includes both their troubled channels (ABC Family) and their over-the-air channels on the ABC network. (Fox has done the same, using Fox Broadcasting's over-the-air stations as a chip to bargain for carriage of their less-watched cable networks. That explains the TimeWarner Cable foofahrah earlier this year. It's been a big year for cable skulduggery.)

By making the ABC Television Network a bargaining chip in the cable industry, ABC/Disney made it vulnerable to exactly these sorts of shenanigans - and no matter how much ill will Cablevision generates, ABC/Disney has allowed business strategy to get in the way of the basic purpose of the ABC Television Network - to fulfill their responsibility as a broadcaster as much of the public as possible.

Over-the-air broadcasters should remember that they are broadcasters first, and their business decisions should support that. ABC is now only reaping the fruits of policies sown years ago; they should recognize that and change course. "Must-carry" is the only sane way to run a broadcast network; Cablevision should be delivering viewers to their doorstep for a payment of exactly zero.

UPDATE: It appears that this is, indeed, the result of a long negotiation between Cablevision and ABC over the entire cable package - and Cablevision's claim that ABC's trying to bump up their fee by 20% seems to hold water. It was ABC that pulled the plug on their Cablevision feed of WABC in New York just after broadcasting an angry message, casting it as a reason their viewers have to "Save ABC 7".

The truth, Cablevision viewers, is that the fate of your ABC viewing is firmly in ABC's hands, no matter what ABC's ads tell you.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Welcome To The Machine (That OK Go Built For Their New Video)

OK Go have assisted in the building of a magnificent machine to feature in their video for the song "This Too Shall Pass". So magnificent, in fact, that it threatens to overpower the song itself. Take a look:

The, it's pretty good, but THE VIDEO...

Gorillaz "Stylo" Has Cars & Guns...

...and about as much plot, CGI, and action movie star power as your average action flick, thus making it that much more entertaining.

No embedding allowed, so here's your link:

Gorillaz - Stylo (YouTube video)

Monday, March 01, 2010

It's Official: WBJB-FM Announces HD Multicasting

It all happened on Rich Robinson's show at 2PM Eastern, and I was happy to be on hand, along with Fox (head of Brookdale Student Radio, 90.5 HD3) and Station Manager Tom Brennan, for the announcement. Here's your aircheck...fourteen minutes spent discussing the past and the future.

HD Multicast Announcement on 90.5 The NIGHT by BrookdaleStudentRadio

For the record, I'm head of Altrok 90.5 HD2 (officially, "Content Manager, HD2".)

Driving Tales (With HD Radio In Full Effect)

I took the long way around to get to New Brunswick for the Melody Reunion (about which you'll be hearing much more in the coming days) because I figured it was a great opportunity to get out on the road with my pocket HD radio and see just how big a tract of land the new Altrok 90.5 HD2 signal can legitimately call its own. From Freehold, I picked up Route 33 and headed east, then east-north-east on Route 66, and then picked up Route 18 in Ocean Township and headed north, then west, then northwest to New Brunswick.

HD works better when you're standing still than it does when you're moving...which is a bit annoying when it comes to driving around with a portable player jacked into your car stereo with a wire long enough to do double-duty as an antenna. Note that a properly installed car HD Radio would likely have a much better antenna array to receive with. But it did work, and here's what I found:
  • I started by moving my car to a spot on my somewhat-distant-from-the-Lincroft-transmitter driveway that I know gets me an HD signal from 90.5. Tuning in, you first get 90.5 The Night's FM signal, and after a few seconds the radio picks up the HD signal and locks on. From there, you can click up to 90.5 HD2, where our little experiment in broadcasting resides. "Locking on" is important for this experiment, because I know I'll be traveling through areas that the signal won't reach - and when that happens, the radio goes silent. (Honestly, it takes a little getting used to, but if this is what it takes to bring Modern Rock back to the Jersey Shore, so be it.)
  • Route 33 seems to form the southernmost boundary for getting the station when you're not moving. As I tooled along 33, the 90.5 HD2 audio popped in and out as expected, with the signal finally getting fairly reliable near the Garden State Parkway before chopping up again further east. (As I said, a choppy signal in the car translates to a signal that you'll be able to receive reliably at home, once you find a spot in your home that you get it from.)
  • Same results heading east on Route 66; a somewhat choppy listening experience, getting a bit better when I started heading north on Route 18...
  • ...until I hit the Deal Road exit. At that point, dropouts ceased and I got a nice, consistent listening experience heading north on 18...
  • ...past the Eatontown interchange...
  • ...on up to Route 34...
  • ...past Route 537...
  • ...and then it started getting choppy about a mile from the Route 79 exit on Route 18. Since by this time Route 18's path took me directly away from the broadcast tower, the degradation accumulated quickly. The last squawk of the station I was able to hear was around the Route 9 intersection with Route 18.
So, in summary, it's not exactly a border blaster from days of yore, but in today's extremely conservative programming climate, it'll do quite nicely. Very importantly, your mileage may vary, but I found that with a long enough wire connecting the pocket radio to whatever you're listening to it with, you can get the most signal possible. Red Bank, Eatontown, Ocean Township, Tinton Falls and Long Branch seem well-covered by the signal, and folks living there shouldn't have too many problems listening in. Asbury Park, Ocean Township, Wall, Howell, Freehold, Manalapan and Marlboro are choppy at best in the car, but a stationary radio placed carefully should bring it in. North of the tower, the hills throw the signal for a loop, so I don't expect nearly as much consistent (or even predictable) coverage in that direction.

Help may be on the way from the FCC, who recently announced an increase in power available to digital broadcasters; if 90.5 can take advantage of it, the map may fill in nicely. We'll keep you posted on our progress.

In the meantime, you probably don't have an HD Radio yet, so you're more than welcome to listen in using our Internet station. You may have noticed me pointing out discounts on HD radios...though the two cheapest are now sold out (watch this space, though, for some other deals when we can find them) and now you know...the rest of the story.
Please Look At Our Advertisers (Or The Website Gets It)
Congratulations, you've found the hidden text.
Welcome to, also available at and Here's where the remaining listeners of several fine radio stations have retreated, regrouped, and built a replacement strong enough to stand on its own. It builds on the independent legacy of New Jersey's FM106.3, New York's WPIX and WLIR, Oklahoma's 105.3 The Spy, the pre-buyout mindset of KROQ, WBCN and WHFS and of every other alternative station that was destroyed at a moment's notice - not because they weren't making money, but because there was bigger money to be found elsewhere.
We've stood by as truly independent alternative rock radio died. Sure, something called "alternative" took its place, but we know for sure that anything that "tests well" with soccer moms just ain't alternative. (Even if some of us happen to be soccer moms.) So we've taken matters into our own hands.
This really is independent alternative rock radio, visible here at and audible at our web radio station. It has the classic music that fired our passions back in the day - or that we maybe only heard about from our elders - but it's mostly made of the new music that does precisely the same for us now. We're paying attention to scenes all over the world, watching the energy build, and waiting to see what it creates. Wherever it happens, we'll make sure you can hear about it here. We've been slowly building all this since 2001, and now that you've noticed us, we're glad you're here.
Of course, it's only here because you want it to be here, and it can only stay if you help it along - especially by checking out our advertisers (they support us) and by listening (the more that listen, the more visible we are.) Please use the "feedback" link above to let us know whether it works for you, and what you want it to be as the future unfolds. (And if you need help hearing it, let us know that, too.)