Pandora, that magical little Internet radio service based on the Music Genome Project, has changed so many people's lives since its launch in November of 2005 -- and this year will see an even bigger change that may further revolutionize the way we listen to music.
"Pandora is the future of the listening part of [the music business] –- I know that's a pretty ambitious statement," Pandora founder Tim Westergren told SomethingGlorious. "The sort of mega-trend of media is the idea of people getting just what they want. It's transitioning from a "broadcast push" model to essentially me curating my own media experience. Over time, we're giving somebody the ultimate control over what they hear."
The online application allows users to plug in a song or band name and it will recommend and automatically play new music based on that user's preferences. Pandora works through a system of algorithms created by about 50 trained music experts who study and analyze each song to create a unique fingerprint for each track, which then connects it to every other song in the Genome -- some are closely related while others live way on the other side.
Currently, Pandora's system has more than 500,000 songs by about 40,000 artists in rock, pop, Latin and more. Soon, Pandora's team will expand that base to incorporate classical and world music to build the brand on a more global scale. But the biggest news coming out of the Oakland, Calif., office is that Pandora is working tirelessly on creating a portable, streaming radio, according to Westergren.
Despite the temps hovering around zero in Chicago, I'm still able to reach inside my freezer and pull out a pint of ice cream. Why? Because inside it's not just ordinary ice cream. It's gelato. Not just any gelato, but Capogiro Gelato of Philadelphia. This is truly some of the best, creamiest gelato I've had outside of Italy (and it's been so long since I've been there that I don't even know that it counts anymore). SG HQ received a package of six pints of unique and interesting flavors that when eaten alone or combined together gives your tastebuds an otherworldly rush. While Capogiro makes traditional gelato flavors like pistacchio, espresso and stracciatella (chocolate chip), it's when they get creative that shows why they're the best. Anyone can make a pint of gelato, but when you're eating any of the following flavors, you'll feel like heaven came down and greeted you on earth -- with spoon in hand: Meyer Lemon w/Vodka; Honey Truffled Caramel; Cinnamon; Burnt Sugar; Sweet Potato w/Pecan Praline; Cioccolato Scuro (dark, dark, dark!) ... gjroijkjl;kj (sorry, I started to drool on the keyboard).
Capogiro is sold mainly in the Northeast is available in one store, Bouffe, in Chicago. However, you can always buy it online directly through the website. And while it may never seem like it's going to be warm again (don't worry, it's coming), you'll be happy that when the temps to start to climb back up that you're all set with a few pints of Capogiro in the freezer.
This is a really interesting commentary on the state of the web and how it has become ingrained in the world we live in. Or have we become ingrained in the world it has created?
Last month when I was in Brooklyn, I made it a point to hit the Brooklyn Museum to catch the last week of the exceptional exhibit Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life 1990-2005. This is unlike any photography exhibit you'll likely ever see. Annie Leibovitz has had a rare look into the lives of so many people we read about on a daily basis: celebrities, politicians, royalty. Starting in the early '70s, she began shooting for Rolling Stone and then onto Vanity Fair and Vogue. In between, she's shot sitting presidents and other heads of state, including Nelson Mandela.
But, the thing that separates this exhibit from others is just how revealingly personal her photographs really are. Annie seems to always have a camera in hand, no matter where she is or what she's doing. She has chronicled so many moments of her life and her family's lives, including a candid shot of her mother, who had just turned 70, not smiling. Her mother pleaded with her to destroy the shot, because as a rule, ever since Annie and her siblings were kids, no matter what was going on around them, they always smiled for pictures. And photos were a big part of the Leibovitz family. Even more touching is Annie's celluloid storybook of her three daughters as well as her lover, Susan Sontag, who died a little more than two years ago from Leukemia. Annie captures Sontag at some of her most vulnerable points, like being transported on a stretcher via air ambulance after a failed bone-marrow transplant in Seattle.
It's nearly impossible to walk the halls of this gallery and not stare in awe at the greatness before you. Annie Leibovitz is a genius who reveals a very personal side of her life. She said, however, that "I don't have two lives. This is one life and the personal pictures and the assignment work are all part of it." While it has left Brookyn, fortunately this exhibit is hitting the road. Starting this Saturday (Feb. 10), the exhibit camps out at the San Diego Museum of Art. From there, it will continue to travel to Atlanta High Museum of Art (May 12-Sept 9), Corcoran Gallery in DC (Oct. 13-Jan.13, 2008), SF's de Young Museum (Feb 9, 2008-May 11, 2008), Paris' Maison Européenne de la Photographie (June-Sept 2008) and London's National Portrait Gallery (Oct 2008-Jan 2009). Other venues will likely be announced. I implore you to catch this show and if you can't for whatever reason, pick up the book for your coffee table.
[image from the exhibit found on the New York Times website]
Ever wonder what to do with all those old records you left in a box in your parent's basement? Yes, you read correctly, records. More specifically, 45s. You know, those little records with the big hole in the middle that preempted the cassette single? Now you can turn those little suckers into a custom made, one of a kind iPod case. For $45, you can turn your old 45s into a durable, unique carry case for your iPod -- assuming its a 20GB to 80GB (as far as I can tell, at this time, cases aren't being made for the Nano or Shuffle). Created by Contexture Design of Vancouver, each 45 case is folded and molded and made from thermoformed vinyl records that's enhanced with felt padding (made of 40 percent recycled fibers), cork and a plexiglas window that allows you to see what you're listening to while protecting the screen. One of the more innovative features is the placement of the aforementioned large hole: it turns out it's the exact size of the iPod click wheel. Fancy that. Additional openings have been crafted to account for a headphone jack and charging port opening. Order directly through 45 cases' website -- and to get $5 off, check out their poster campaign.
Now I'm not one to really hype a Skype phone (although there are a lot out there), but when I saw this trio of elegance on Everything USB last week, I couldn't resist. Constructed in a sleek black casing, these phones definitely up the ante for VoIP-related phones. Futiro, a Galway, Ireland-based design company, works under the principles of innovation, creativity and quality. Based on looks alone, they've definitely achieved the first two (the phones actually remind me of the phone on the nightstand at myhotel). The only setback on the Futiro phones is that you have to keep them plugged in via USB to operate; hopefully they'll have either a WiFi- or Bluetooth-enabled phone sooner than later. The phones, which ShinyShiny also digs, range from $55 to $75 and are available from Futiro.
Sondre Lerche, the bright-faced, smooth-voiced 24-year-old singer/songwriter who blossomed out of Bergen, Norway a mere four years ago, drew praise and critical acclaim with his debut Faces Down. Now, Lerche, who at a time claimed influences by the likes of Burt Bacharach and the Beach Boys, returns with an album of uncharacteristic -- yet charged and compelling -- music.
On Phantom Punch, which comes out Feb. 6, Lerche channels a young Bob Dylan –- in the sense that he went from an acoustic folk hero to an electric genius. By plugging in, Lerche does a complete 180 and shows how much fun he can have with his band, the Faces Down trio. The group is spontaneous, recording many of the tracks in a live setting in one or two takes to truly capture the essence without over thinking the production. With the help of producer Tony Hoffer (Beck, Phoenix), Phantom Punch is electrifying from the get go. Unsubtle in his attempt to have the songs come alive, this young troubadour crafted a collection of upbeat, engaging pop tunes. SomethingGlorious spoke with Lerche from his apartment in New York, where he splits his time between hometown Bergen, Norway to visit his young bride, who is studying in Manhattan and is an actress/model. Lerche is likely returning for a US tour this spring and has already gone back into the studio to work on "a project much much bigger than myself." Unfortunately, he's remaining tight-lipped so for now, we'll have to live in the present and enjoy Phantom Punch.
Read the entire interview below or just stream it.
SomethingGlorious: You split your time between New York and Bergen, Norway – are
you back in New York now?
Sondre Lerche: I came back Sunday night. When I'm at home, I'm in Bergen, but sort of all over the place. I go back and forth a lot between Bergen and New York. I have an apartment there but I also go to Oslo. I was just in Paris doing promotion for the new record. It's back and forth.
SG: Do you find that you spend most of your time traveling?
SL: I usually go to New York and if I'm here I'll stay for two to three weeks and then I'll go to Norway and maybe have some gigs or something going on there or in the studio. My band is all in Bergen. I'm usually traveling all the time. If I'm lucky I'm in New York for three weeks. There's a lot of travel but it's the work I do.
SG: I first saw you in San Francisco in 2003 at Bottom of the Hill and you had this cute stage presence. Your English wasn't great yet you were entertaining and engaged the crowd. Now that you've had time to mature as a musician, do you look back over the last four years and appreciate everything or is it more of a blur?
SL: It sort of feels a long time ago, and in ways it is. That was in 2003 and we just started 2007. It's not that long about, but it's four records ago. It's been an exciting ride. A lot has happened since then, with the music and songwriting and personal life. It's just the nature of that period in the sense that I was … when I did that first US tour I was probably 19. How old am I now, 24? You change a lot and your life changes very swiftly in that period. Of course when you're a touring musician and recording artist a lot of other unusual things happen on top of that. It's not like I was stoned or coked out my mind – I remember it.
SG: Was it part of the time then?
SL: No, no … I was a pretty well behaved boy. I still am.
SG: What sort of unusual things happened?
SL: It's a really strange occupation. It's a privilege. It's the one thing I've always wanted to do and was able to do it early on and make a living off it. I feel blessed and happy. But it's really strange to make music and play out for a living. I'm sure I would make music one way or another regardless of how it turned out, but when you're doing it and putting out records, in one way or another you're hoping or betting on that someone will like what you make.
Jarvis Cocker, the mastermind behind Pulp and the influencer of so many British bands that followed, has announced a handful of dates to coincide with his stop at Coachella in late April. With a new album, Jarvis, getting ready to drop in the US on April 3, hopefully he'll add more dates; the album is already out in the UK.
In the meantime, his label Rough Trade/World's Fair, posted an MP3 of Running the World, a brooding song with a wisp of hope that's apparently a hidden track on the new album. Nothing like a disgruntled musician to point out that "cunts are still running the world." I couldn't have put it better myself.
For updates, check out Jarvspace.
04-23 New York, NY - Webster Hall
04-27 Indio, CA - Empire Polo Field (Coachella)
04-28 San Francisco, CA - Fillmore
04-30 Seattle, WA - Showbox
05-01 Vancouver, British Columbia - Commodore
For anyone who has iTunes and loves to see live music, iConcertCal is a must have. In fact, for someone like me who sees a lot of live music, this is the coolest thing ever. As a music journalist, staying on top of all the shows I want or need to see is sometimes a tad cumbersome. But this free plug-in, created by two electrical engineering grad students (sure, they sound geeky, but they created a music app -- how uncool can they be? I say pretty damn cool), just made my music-going life so much easier. iConcertCal is an iTunes plug-in that searches your music library and posts upcoming shows from any artist in your database. I just scrolled through February and March and saw that some great bands, including Field Music and 120 Days, are coming through Chicago.
iConcertCal officially launched on Jan. 19 and the guys posted news on the 29th that they're already working on a new version, which fixes bugs and adds some new features (international concert listings and a radius search to areas around your city) and should be out in a few days. As of Monday, more than 9000 people had downloaded the app and even JamBase has offered to give iConcertCal easy access to its overflowing database of live music -- so if you're a band and want to get in on the action, add your shows here.
I wanted to write about this the other day when I first read about it on IGuessI'mFloating but have been bogged down with reviews for the Associated Press and URB magazine (that's why things have been a little light around here lately).
What are you waiting for? Download iConcertCal now for both Mac and PC.