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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Best Of 2010 - Now With Fixed-Up Volume Control!

Aheh. Y'know when you click your mouse by accident, then take a cursory look at the screen and think no harm done...until you discover you pasted something confusing in the wrong IM window?

Well, this is something like that. I accidentally lowered the volume on one of the two virtual "decks" in our radio station's software. Result: every other song sounded really quiet...unless you were listening on HD, since [heavily simplified technical explanation follows:] the HD transmitter stuff fixes that.

Since I listen via my HD radio, I didn't notice - and thanks to an alert poster in the comments section below for cluing me in. All better now.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Best Of 2010 Airs Throughout The Blizzard...

Last night, we started airing the Best of 2010 instead of our regular current-song playlist at Altrok 90.5 HD2. There was a lot of great music released this year, and we're playing everything we think is most worthy from throughout the year. Of course, we're playing just as many of the classic alternative tracks you know you can only hear at Altrok 90.5 HD2, too. It's just like we usually roll, only betterer.

It's been a great year for us - the best since we started playing with this web-radio thingy back in 2000. We went from being a web-only commercial supported station to a real live commercial-free, listener-supported broadcast signal in March, and plans are in the works to make Altrok 90.5 HD2 bigger and better in the new year.

This is all happening because you're there listening to us, and we thank you profusely for extending us the honor. We'll be continuing to live up to those expectations in the new year, and we hope you'll stay along for the ride.

Why not start now - since the eastern seaboard's getting a whole lota fluff dumped on it, wouldn't Altrok's Best Of 2010 be a great way to bide your time 'til the plows come? Our playlists are loaded with the best the year had to offer, and the transmitter's pumping out the wattage - all you've gotta do is tune in online or on your HD Radio - either way, we're there for you, and with your continuing support, it'll stay that way.

Thanks again for a great year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

"48(ish) Vaguely Dysfunctional Hours Of Christmas" On Til Late Christmas Night

Okay, it's on - 48 hours of Altrok's Christmas selection, featuring new and classic songs both reverent and revolting for your holiday listening pleasure. Oh yes, there will be Altrok 90.5 HD2 on your HD Radio at the Jersey Shore, or just click here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Altrok Adds Christmas Music, Takes The Holidays Off

We've added about six Christmas songs per hour to our Altrok 90.5 HD2 rotation, and we'll head into A Vaguely Dysfunctional 48 Hours Of Christmas starting at Midnight on Christmas Eve Eve (12:00am December 24 to 11:59pm December 25.)

Then we'll splatter the station with the best tracks from 2010, from midnight December 26 to the moment the New Year starts.

For our Friday night FM shows, however, we're taking a break - two very special program blocks, 90.5 The Night's 24 Hours of Christmas on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and The Top 90 Albums Of 2010 over New Year's, will take precedence over the Altrok Radio FM Showcase (and, actually, Car Talk, Forward Into The Past, and eTown, so we're in good company.)

We'll go back to our regular format on New Year's Day, and our first show of the New Year will be on January 8...stay tuned to Altrok 90.5 HD2 'til then, 'cause we've always got something interesting to play (and you're looking for "interesting", right?)

Here, for no related reason (outside of the season) is an amusing video...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Do Da Dippity

Several times in this column I have written about classic alternative music turning up in commercials, and how cool and somewhat surprising I found that to be, given that alternative music in general never truly conquered mainstream culture. Sure we've had our moments, with a few choice bands and songs becoming popular. But I always thought that the use of more top 40 type songs would be more effective, given the fact they were so popular and recognizable. Perhaps that's the reason they aren't used now that I think about...hmm...

Anyway, a recent car commercial from Kia features the song "The Choice is Yours" from the early nineties hip-hop act called the Black Sheep. The track came out in the 1991 time frame and was one of the great hip-hop/rap songs that Pinfield played at the Melody on a regular basis. It was a Melody dance floor favorite for many months that year and further solidified Pinfield as the hippest DJ in town, who could pick good music from any genre and make it work. Rap and hip-hop were alternative music styles, although not many folks figured that out. Of course Pinfield did.

In 1991, hip-hop and rap were still very dangerous and downright scary to mainstream American (white/corporate) culture. Those genres were assumed to represent everything that white America feared--angry aggressive black men coming to seek revenge on the society they believe was the cause of their misery. Movies such as Do The Right Thing, Boyz n the Hood and Juice brought the drugs, violence and suffering of inner city life right to middle class America's doorstep, and attached to it was the music of the day, rap and hip-hop. Of course it only takes a bit of examination to realize the music was a shout out for action and attention to the problems, and not a promotion of the violence or drug culture.

What a difference twenty years makes in the digestion of pop culture. Long faded away is any energy of anger or subversion, although the lyrics still carry the message. What remains is a ridiculously catchy tune so infectious that even the most white bread suburbanite would be hard pressed to resist a bit of head bobbing, if not outright pogoing. Yes,it is the ideal pogoing song, the beat time is perfectly in synch with the jumping frequency of the typical 5' 9", 150 lb. white dude in black leather boots...

And of course it's that catchiness and relative unfamiliarity that make it an ideal song to have in a commercial. The ad is funny, with a stylish but not too aggressive urban hip-hop theme where the characters are chilled out rats, bobbing their heads to the song. The first time I saw the ad I started singing the song and jumping around my living room. My wife was once again amazed I knew the song and I had to tell her the whole story. More importantly my older boys wanted to know more about the song and the band, so I ran to my CD collection and found my copy of the track. Unfortunately, the album version I have is a very lame early version of the song. I then remembered I had down loaded the "good" version of the song featured in the commercial, and the one Pinfield had played at the Melody. I played it several times, and for the next week or so, frequently caught my boys singing it to themselves and their friends.

Kia's might not be the best cars on the road, but if their commercials are indicative, they might be the coolest.

Do Da Dippity indeed.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

WOXY's Mike Taylor: Blogging, Podcasting, Networking

After the lights went out at (again), I'd hoped the individuals associated with the station would strike out on their own and figure out a way to do what they were doing. It's kind of the reason I'm here doing what I'm doing - when I get free time, I can't do anything else. Neither can they, and we're happy to let our obsessions entertain you, the listening public. (You are listening, aren't you?)

So for Mike Taylor,'s former program director, there's now a blog, The Big Beat, where he opines about the sorts of things I opine about, though he actually does it a bit more often. After a while, he quite naturally graduated up to putting out a fairly regular podcast, and now he's hooked up with This Is Fake DIY, a very good music blog indeed.

It's a good thing we're all so obsessive in such productive ways. Go, enjoy...then remember Altrok 90.5 HD2's on 24/7, and tune in here, too...

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Gang Of Four Pouring Everything Into New Release

I got a message from Gang Of Four that their upcoming album, Content, will be available in a superdeluxe version. How superdeluxe?

The Ultimate C O N T E N T Can

**Only Available 12/1-12/15**

To celebrate the release of C O N T E N T, Gang of Four has personally designed the limited-edition Ultimate C O N T E N T Can. Pictured on the cover of the standard CD and vinyl version, the Ultimate C O N T E N T Can contains the album and all the great items listed below. A must have for Gang of Four fans and chroniclers of pop culture alike.

Each Ultimate C O N T E N T Can contains:
* CD copy of C O N T E N T including the track "2nd Life," exclusively available with this package
* Smells Book: Scratch n' Sniff book reflecting key areas of human activity
* History Book: art piece on ceramic tiles depicting the last 40 years of world history
* Blood Book: vials of the band's blood!
* Emotions Book: Rotoscoped photographs of the band's emotions
* Words Book: lyrics

That's pretty superdeluxe, and all for the low low price of $49.99. But I've got some mixed emotions here...

On the one hand, all the music I've heard in advance of the album is, frankly, awesome. "Never Pay For The Farm" is particularly good, and the reworked "Glass" (part of a free EP that may or may not be on the album) is, in my opinion, superior to the original. The free EP can be requested at the band's website.

On the other hand:
  • Many of the features here set me on edge. Vials of blood and scratch-and-sniff book of key areas of human activity? Seems a bit biological to me.
  • Will buying it give me a chance to win a free trip on The Magic Christian?
  • A little voice inside my head keeps repeating "return the gift..."
On the other other hand, I'm pretty sure the band's aware of this, and a statement is being made here. Hey, it's rock 'n' roll, ain't it?

So if you want that gaudy display, you can order it directly from YepRoc, now their label here in the US. If you'd like the disc itself, you can pick it up at Amazon on CD and on vinyl.

And if you just want to hear stuff from it, there's always Altrok 90.5 HD2, isn't there?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Jack White Claims His Own Resale Markup

I like Jack White a lot. I think much of what he tends to do is the Right Thing to do in a world where those that are supposed to know what to do (the record labels) really don't. With the announcement that Third Man Records, White's label, is selling limited edition vinyl releases via auction on eBay, I think he's continuing to do the right thing.

I'll back up a second and tell a story that Mark Evanier has told on his blog (which is voluminous enough that, at the moment, I can't actually find the actual story. I'm pretty sure it's there somewhere.) The story goes that Jack Kirby, the legendary (and legendarily underpaid) comic book artist was asked at a comic convention to draw a sketch for a young fan. One of the legendary things Kirby was apparently legendary for was his ability to dash off a sketch incredibly quickly, and he did so for the kid, who then turned around and shouted for all to hear that he had an an "original Jack Kirby sketch" now available for sale.

Kirby saw to it that it was the last time anyone would be able to make that claim.

White claims there's a guy in a black SUV who pays homeless people to stand in line around Third Man Records in Nashville whenever there's a limited vinyl release going up for sale, and frankly, I believe him, even if the guy in the SUV is metaphorical...because someone makes serious coin from auctioning White's releases, and up 'til now, it wasn't Jack. Rather than react the way Kirby did, he's doing his own scalping, and I think his reasoning's pretty intact. If you want it, you want it, and if you're willing to pay a premium to get it, you'll pay White. If you don't want it, shaddap.

There's a fundamental understanding of the "object of desire" at work here, too, and it's something Factory's Tony Wilson (not the best businessman in the world, but a great pop culture theorist) espoused as well: the value of music is really no greater than the value of its packaging. Music itself is ephemeral, and it was only the ability to capture it and sell it as a package that catapulted the recording industry into the lofty financial position it was once in; it's the fact that it no longer controls the means of replication, and its complete ignorance of that loss of control until it was too late, that has sent it into the death spiral it's currently enjoying.

But the fact that Jack White chose to start a record label in this day and age, and has done so with the nearly obsolete but oh-so-tangible vinyl record as its platform of choice, tells me he had a different set of ideas in mind regarding how one should run a record label. Yes, of course, he wants to create music and sell it, but as important as that is, it's just as important to him how he sells it. So when he sees people making money off his releases, he doesn't do what a record label would typically do (sue the profiteers, probably unsuccessfully, or if successful, sink a lot of money into legal fees before seeing a penny, if one is seen at all.)

No, he profits from his own work. That's sort of what the artists beholden to the classic record industry should have been allowed to do all along, but the record industry was too busy making money to cut them in on the deal. Thankfully, times change.
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