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8 FREE MUSIC-MAKING IPHONE APPS
April 15, 2016 9:00 am

Everybody likes music, but not everybody can make it all by themselves. Well that’s okay, because technology has the answer! Here are a few solid apps:

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Soundprism App

Tonepad: Picture a 16 x 16 matrix, each point representing a note in the pentatonic scale. Time is horizontal, pitch is vertical, and the instrument is a cool, muted synth, pure and serene. The program cycles through the matrix like clockwork, a measure of music before repeating. Couldn’t be simpler! Start with a blank slate and build your masterpiece from the ground up, or shuffle everything around and take it from there. Go crazy! You can even flip or rotate the matrix, just to see what happens. Sounds totally different, right? Weird! Notable downsides include ads (yuck!) and just the fact that it’s pretty basic when you think about it. Not sure how it got on this list. [3/10]

Beatwave: Boy, do I wish I had known about this little gem before bothering with that last one. Beatwave totally blows Tonepad out of the water. Not only can you add a drums to the matrix, but you can layer that onto the synths for a richer texture, and you can string along different sections all in a row, just like in a real song. Reorder those verses and/or choruses however you see fit. It’s intuitive, musically stimulating and ad-free. Now we’re talking! [6/10]

Figure: Where Tonepad and Beatwave are calm and linear, Figure is an energetic and versatile EDM paradise. Start with a highly customizable beat, throw down a phat bassline and solo on top with the lead synth. Each instrument’s tone, range and rhythm can be tailored to any passing fancy, along with the global tempo, key and tonality, so your only limit is your imagination. Isn’t that just life though? [8/10]

Auxy: This is a lot like the first two in it’s loop/matrix dynamic, but it requires a little more technical knowledge. You might be able to get a handle on Beatwave more easily, but in the long run you can do more with Auxy. Jeez how many of these are we gonna get?  [7/10]

Soundprism: This one is a mindfuck, no doubt about it. We’ve navigated beyond the “oh this is nifty” plane and are now firmly entrenched in the “I’m writing The Great American MIDI arrangement” state of being. Look pal, if I’m making serious music for other people to hear for real, I’m not doing it on something I downloaded onto my phone. Ableton, Pro Tools, Logic, or get the fuck outta here (sorry Garageband).

That said, this app is absolutely amazing. It’s like a whole new kind of instrument. Like how with an accordion you get one hand playing the bass chords and then the other playing the melody on a keyboard, except the “keyboard” here is another matrix of chords, and you can modulate between them by cycling through the color-coded modes. Rows are arranged by thirds to create triads, leading columns to represent pitch and therefore inversions (it makes sense when you try it, I promise). Musically intricate yet intuitive and engaging. Forget what I said before about not making serious music on my phone–this shit is for real. [9/10]  

Launchpad: This little number is just a simplified DJ pad (and by “simplified” I mean “still very complicated but just not as expensive”). Mix and match a huge number of preset loops to create a cacophony of EDM madness (or, you know, whatever). Similar to the last one in that you can do a whole lot of serious musical stuff with this, but just not as original. A well-executed substitute for expensive hardware. [8/10]

Groovemaker: I don’t even wanna start with this one. Picture blacklights and glowsticks. You can do some cool mixing/looping/waiting-for-the-bass-to-drop kinda stuff here, but the music itself is pretty lame. [4/10]

Garageband: I know I was talking shit about Garageband earlier, but it came from a place of love. Garageband was, is and will always be a great place to start making music. Almost as serious a DAW as the rest of them, and already installed on every Apple product you own, you really should check it out if you haven’t already. I’ll give it an honest rating here (don’t wanna make Soundprism feel bad), but in my heart it’s a 10. Always has been, always will be. [6/10]

SHOOT THE SHIT AT SXSW WITH NIKKI’S WIVES
April 2, 2016 11:00 am

Toronto’s own Nikki’s Wives came to SXSW this year, taking time out of a busy schedule to talk with us about their meteoric rise, Shaq’s security team, and a useless hypothetical question.


So you just released your first EP? How long did that take?

Nate: Very quick, very quick.

Dylan: We met this dude who was a big fan and had some big connections, and he loved what we did live so he asked us “why don’t you do a new record? We’d like to work with you on it.” So we said sure we’ll book this studio, but what we didn’t tell him is we didn’t have any songs for it yet, and we booked it in thirty days. So we took time off work, took ten days of pure writing and we wrote the whole EP. But it’s Canada, it’s minus 40 and my heater dies in my apartment, literally. So we did it with no heat and ten days for the whole record.

Nikki: We were just writing so fast, trying to get out of there.

Dylan: It’s cool to be under the gun sometimes, you know?

Nikki: I think that’s when you get the best stuff. That’s when we’re all the most creative is when there’s that kind of pressure.

Either this is gonna happen at this time or it’s not gonna happen at all.

Dylan: Yeah we like the pressure.

How do you start writing? Like ‘okay, I’m here, day one.’ Who starts?

Nate: I mean that week it was just, like, whatever. However we can get it done we got it done. Like, ‘okay I got this beat, Nikki’s got this melody…’ We just start with whatever pieces we have and then add and add and add.

Dylan: At first we could dig from our wells of whatever we had in the past, but by the end of the week it was like ‘okay, we’re sitting down at the keyboard and hopefully we hit something cool and take it from there.’

Nikki: Some days, inspiration doesn’t come until five o’clock, and then we’re there ’till like 1 am writing.

In the freezing cold midnight Canadian winter.

Dylan: An interesting story from the process was with “Forever,” the title track. We were having nothing creatively, just sitting. And my grandma, when she passed, left me this 1940s car with shot glasses, and when you take off the carafe it plays this really creepy melody.

Nate: Like a music box.

But a novelty toy?

Dylan: We recorded it and then we sat down in ProTools and cut all the notes and made a new chord progression out of it. So I mean, anything to get the song done. We pumped all the sound into a sampler and just made up a melody out of the sounds. It sounded really cool.

sxsw

So you’re Nikki, and… what are these, your husbands?

Nikki: These are my wives.

I guess I should have known.

Nikki: See, they’re dressed in white.

Yeah, I couldn’t help but notice the white outfits.

Nikki: We kinda figured that this band would be the closest thing that any of us were gonna get to a real relationship, or actually being married, so it was just fitting.

Welcome to 2016.

Nikki: It’s 2016, I can have two wives and it’s totally fine.

And they can be guys.

Nikki: Exactly.

So you guys tour a lot?

Nate: Well we’re just starting to pick up our touring, so we’re gonna be out in the US all around in the late spring/early summer. We got some things, we got some early festivals coming up.

This is the beginning of a bigger thing.

Nikki: Yeah we’ve only been together for, like… it was a year a couple weeks ago.

Dylan: We’re kinda focused on one-offs. We did that San Francisco thing, called Leather and Laces, hosted by like all the cast of Entourage and some Victoria’s Secret models.

Nate: Shaq and Kobe were there.

Together?!

Nikki: We were like, ‘holy fuck is that Shaq right there?’ We walked by like ‘wow he’s so tall.’

Dylan: He’s got all these, like, security guards but they look like children you know? All these hard little kids.

They’re huge, but … they could stop you and me but…

Nikki: They’re just meant to stop regular sized people.

If another Shaq went in there… [laughter]

Do you have a favorite American city, you Canadians you?

Nikki: My favorite was San Francisco, I just thought it reminded me a lot of Toronto but if Toronto was warm. So I liked it. What about you guys?

Nate: I gotta go with New York, I think. It’s just where everything happens.

Dylan: I was gonna say the same thing.

Nate: We were gonna say Vegas because we were there a little while ago, but…

Yeah can’t say like “well I really love Las Vegas.” I mean you can love Vegas but you can’t say it’s your favorite, can’t really rep it that hard.

Dylan: Exactly.

Do you have a specific stage persona or personality that you’re going for?

Nikki: I don’t know, we’re just on stage. It’s very much just the three of us, we have a lot of fun, we have a really great energy, so I think it kinda looks like we’re all married on stage.

Nate: We interact a lot, we feed off each other a lot. It’s a lot of communication, honestly.

Dylan: Yeah and actually doesn’t change too much if theres ten people there or if, like in San Francisco, there are three thousand people there.

Nate: We’re playing for ourselves out there.

You played for three thousand people in SF?

Dylan: Yeah it was that party, it was crazy. It was like a thousand bucks a ticket.

And you just started a year ago.

All: Yeah

Fuck you guys! [laughter]

Nikki: Yeah, it was pretty crazy.

Dylan: Fun time, the Victoria’s Secret Super Bowl party. Pretty lucky.

Nikki: I think we were all in awe.

Who’s the best dancer on stage?

Nikki: I would say Nate.

Nate: Yeah, I kinda sit down…

Well if you’re seated, that’s not really…

Dylan: It’s hard to explain.

Nate: I do a little bounce, a little shuffle.

Nikki: Nate’s the dancer.

Nate: Yeah, it’s fun.

What else are you gonna do, you know? But you’re in the back, right?

Nikki: Yeah, yeah. We get comments on it all the time, like ‘your drummer’s fucking crazy.’

Nate: It’s a weird thing, I stand up and play sometimes, just kinda move around a lot.

It’ s a physical instrument, you gotta kick the shit out of it. Do you guys have previous iterations of the band?

Nikki: We’ve all been in various bands but I used to be a solo project, then Dylan and I started writing together, and then we were playing some shows and we needed a drummer, and Dylan and Nate went to University together, so he was like ‘oh I’ll just ask my friend Nate.’

And then you got married.

Nate: Yep. That night!

You went to Vegas and had a three person wedding! 

Nikkis-Wives

Who would you say are your biggest influences? Or just is it just you in a cold room with a deadline?

Dylan: I don’t think you can really hear it in our music, but we were talking about this this morning for another thing: David Lynch.

Really?!

Dylan: We find ourselves always talking about him and how stark and kind of unsettling all his visual stuff is, and we’re trying to kinda get that going a little bit.

Translate it to music?

Dylan: Yeah, and I don’t know if it translates but it still influences our decisions even if we don’t sound like what he looks like.

That’s a great answer to… kind of a bad question. [laughter]

Nate: Musically… I mean, I like Peter Gabriel a lot, I like a lot of prog-rock bands, so like King Crimson and stuff. We listen to a lot of hip hop, Kendrick and Skepta recently.

What do you listen to in the van?

Nikki: There’s so much time that we have to pass that it goes like all over the place. Every single Kanye West record, this band Snarky Puppy which is like instrumental, I don’t even know.

Dylan: If you wanna listen to a crazy jazz fusion band from New York at south by, go see Snarky Puppy on Saturday. They’re crazy.

Nikki: It’s just kinda everything.

Dylan: Mastodon, metal, rock, like even some punk records, like FIDLAR or whatever, lots of hip hop, all over the map, jazz, Britney Spears–we love Britney. Backstreet Boys

Nikki: Get it all in there.

Do you have any one song that you think encapsulates your sound?

Nikki: I would say our debut song, the title track “Forever.”

That’s why it became the title track.

Nate: It’s kind of our attitude more than any other song. I think lyrically it really pins us down.

How would you describe that attitude?

Nikki: Um, like kind of a bad bitch vibe. Like up in Miami in a suit, briefcases of money…

Nate: Like a faded kind of vibe, an after-party vibe.

Nikki: It’s like you went to a really dope party and then you wake up the next morning and you’re still wearing what you were wearing and you pick up your cigarette that was burning…

Still burning ‘cuz you fell asleep with it in your mouth, totally get it. What’s your favorite part of your lives right now?

Dylan: This, here right here! [laughter]

Nate: This very instant.

This moment. You’ve never been more thrilled than right now, talking to me, getting this interview out on the internet. It’s gonna be sick.

Dylan: And if this is coming out during south by…

Oh no, there’s no way.

Nate: Oh. Well then I’m sorry you missed our gigs at south by! [laughter]

I have one more question. I promised my friend I would ask you this hypothetical question: would you rather be born with only one leg, or with three legs? Those are the only two choices.

[a moment of thoughtful consideration]

Nate: Ah, okay, so… when we’re talking three legs, do we have equal movement in each?

Yes, but they’re three across, not like a tripod.

Nate: So I couldn’t have three and have one amputated?

Dylan: They already call me the tripod…

[to Dylan] Yeah that’s what I figured. I set you up for that. [to Nate] Yeah you could, but then you’d have to get a leg amputated and you’d have a stump where one of your legs began.

Nate: I would go with three because I play drums and it’d be hard to drum with one leg.

Oooo and it’d be sweet too, you could play the double petal and the high hat.

Nate: Exactly.

Dylan: I’m gonna say one for sympathy girls. I’d stay real fit, hop around.

Nate: Maybe I could donate you my leg.

Do a leg transplant.

Nikki: I’m gonna go with three because I’m very uncoordinated, and I feel like one leg would just…

Dylan: Three would probably be an improvement to your life.

Nikki: Probably! I mean if someone could hook me up with a third leg…

Nate: You’d have to get extra shoes every time and throw one away. Is it two left feet and one right?

One symmetrical middle foot.

Nikki: But it would give me an excuse to buy more shoes!

Welcome to south by, where everything’s ridiculous.

POST-SXSW ARNDTERVIEW
March 29, 2016 11:11 am

Sibling rock stars Jocelyn & Chris Arndt took their soulful, hook-laden blues/rock sound to this year’s SXSW. I caught up with them at Austin’s Handlebar and discussed Harvard, Ocean’s Eleven and life on the road.


arndtSo is this your first SXSW?

Jocelyn: Yes, yes it is.

How do you like it so far?

J: It’s crazy but awesome. Crazy awesome.

How many shows have you had?

J: We had one yesterday…

Chris: We had three yesterday, then one today and one tomorrow.

Damn, not too bad for your first time.

C: [laughter] No no, not at all

Well that’s just fantastic. Now, you guys are from New York, right?

J: Upstate New York. We’re from Fort Plain which is an hour west of Albany.

Okay, so right in the middle of nowhere.

J: [laughter] Yep, right there.

That’s awesome. And you just released an album about a month ago, right? Are you happy with it?

J: Yes, very much so. It’s called Edges, and it’s our first full length, which is a big deal. We’re freaking out.

Well of course. How many… “half lengths” have you had?

C: Just one.

J: We did an EP, but yeah this time we really got to sink our teeth in.

And you got some momentum going into SXSW. Are you on tour? Is this a stop on a tour?

C: Yeah, we came down from New York, we were in Cleveland, and then Chattanooga and Nashville, then Arkansas and then Houston. Actually Dallas, not Houston.

Somewhere in Texas. It all runs together.

C: …and then we’re gonna work our way back up next week.

Back up to… upstate?

C: Yeah.

What’s your favorite part of touring?

J: [thinks for a moment] I like knowing that every night we’re gonna be somewhere different, which is weird because I feel like some people would be like ‘oh my god another 8 hours in the car,’ but it’s kinda nice to be able to travel with the music and know that no matter where you are you get to play a set but then you get to go somewhere else.

So you get that time to explore, that’s cool. What do you do on the road? Who drives?

J: Our drummer, who’s also our producer…

C: And our manager…

Oh, multitalented.

J: Yeah he does most of–well, all of the driving.

Yeah I was gonna say, it’s not just you two. How does that work? Who writes the songs?

J: We both write together.

Which is good because you have that family bond, you work off each other. Who’s older? I can’t really tell.

C: [laughter] She is.

No way!

C: [shows x’s on hands] I’m not even 21.

Get the fuck outta here!

J: …and I just turned 21.

Oh wow, well welcome to adulthood–or something. Whatever that means. Do you have a favorite city that you’ve been to on tour?

J: I really really like Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Wow, that’s random but cool.

J: It’s random. We stopped there once, I think we had played in Nashville and then they were like ‘oh this seems like a good place to do another show.’ We stopped there and now every time we’re down south we make sure we go there because people come out and really really support us.

C: The music scene there is amazing.

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And then they know you now kind of. Do you have a good following up in Albany?

C: Yeah we do well in Albany.

J: We play the city (NYC) a lot too

Of course, that makes sense. Where in the city?

J: We played the Bitter End, we played the Slipper Room…

C: We played Rockwood a lot.

Rockwood is where it’s at. They don’t fuck around–if you’re bad they don’t invite you back.

C: Yeah they’re awesome.

So you guys write together? How does that work?

J: I do the lyrics and melody, and then Chris does the chords the rhythm.

Who goes first? Do you start with the chords and then build off that, or…

C: Depends on the song, really. Sometimes she’ll come up with something and might be like ‘I need chords,’ other times I’ll go to her with a chord pattern I really like and she’ll have lyrics and we’ll sort of fit them together.

But it’s just you two, not the drummer/producer/manager.

J: Nope, just us.

And you have a bassist?

J: We have a bassist as well, Eric.

But he’s just a random dude.

J: Yeah I mean we met him in Albany.

C: He’s a student and an awesome dude.

How do you meet these people? School?

J: Through our manager, he’s the one with the contact.

How did you meet him? How’d you get started, you just started playing?

J: We had a high school band. We’ve been doing this for a long time. This was our high school job–a great job, better than most high school jobs. We had a band called The Dependents, and we’d play, like, fairs and stuff, and we were playing at the beer tent at the local fair and this guy came up and slipped us a card and said ‘Hey I like your sound.’

And you were like ‘thanks me too’?

J: [laughter] Yeah, and he turned out to be David. You never know who’s listening.

You never know! That’s why you just gotta play everywhere, see everyone, expand your audience and shit. That’s awesome. That was in high school, like five years ago?

J: Three or four.

Oh right you’re young as fuck, I forgot. Well okay. And you’ve been slowly building since then?

C: It was kind of slow for the first couple years.

J: Well first you gotta build a foundation.

C: We were working on a sound and stuff, and then this past like year and a half things have been ramping up super fast, so it’s pretty awesome.

What’s the best part of that so far?

C: Oh man.

J: I like the fact that we have a new CD, that’s a huge plus for me.

C: That’s pretty exciting. I honestly like just…

Just being a rock star?

C: Yeah it’s cool. When I was in high school it never even occurred to me that because of our music we would get to travel to California and Texas and Nashville and Michigan or wherever, and now we’re going all over the country and probably going to Canada and maybe the UK all with our music.

Whoa, whoa, slow down there!

J: It would be cool. You gotta have goals.

Well that’s fantastic. Do you guys have day jobs? Or is this it?

C: Just this.

LADYGUNN-160318_JOCELYN-CHRIS-ARNDT_SXSW_001You save up and then go on tour and stuff….

J: Well we also go to College.

Oh really? Where?

J: We both go to Harvard.

Fuck you guys! No way! [laughter] I’ve heard of it, I’ve heard of it.

J: But this is definitely our job, job.

Holy shit. Okay, so you’re both at Harvard. Currently.

J: [gestures to self] Junior, [gestures to Chris] sophomore.

What are you studying? Music?

C: I’m joint music and computer science.

J: I’m English but these days it’s mostly music, so…

Well that helps with lyrics too, right? Do you find you draw inspiration from your studies?

J: Yeah, a little bit definitely. And people. Everybody around us. You know, basically everything.

There are some smart people there. What do you think of Harvard?

J: It’s fun. I’ll tell you– SXSW is probably a little more fun. [laughter]

Yeah maybe a little. And the weather is nicer. What are you, on spring break right now?

J: Yeah.

Do you go on tour during the school year?

C: We do. We go weekends, we skip Monday and Friday–not every Monday and Friday but…

How do you…. I mean you go to Harvard, shouldn’t you be focused on Harvard?

C: That’s what some people say but, like, I kinda like music, you know? [laughter]

J: The other thing is, as long as we can do both we’re gonna do both. But if it comes down to Harvard or music, Harvard’s not going anywhere. Music is our thing, so…

How do you like the Cambridge/Boston area?

C: It’s a cool place to live. It’s pretty awesome.

J: Yeah it’s like New York’s friendlier, shorter cousin.

Friendlier… sometimes.

C: It feels less aggressive when you’re there. New York is a very “kill or be killed” vibe.

J: New York also literally never sleeps, as they say. Nothing ever turns off. Boston is like ‘midnight, better get on the last T or else you’re stuck.’

Do you play around Boston? Or around campus?

J: We haven’t a ton.

C: We honestly haven’t that much, we’re gonna start doing so more and more, but we’ve been really focused on New York, Nashville and LA for the past year.

jocelyn+&+chris+arndt-3
How do you like LA?

C: LA is awesome, the music scene is so great. We played The Viper Room, which was insane. But yeah, we’re starting to do pretty well in those three cities so we’re gonna branch out. But this is our first time in Texas.

And you like it?

J: Yeah we like it. We’re gonna come back.

Do you have any plans for today or tonight?

J: We don’t have a show tonight, not ’til tomorrow. So we’re still weighing our options.

Do you run into trouble playing venues underage?

C: Most of the time they’re just like ‘you can’t hang out beforehand, you can’t hang out afterwards, wait by the door while I get a marker to mark your hands.’ So it’s a little annoying. Vegas is kind of… [laughter] It was fun playing Vegas but they were like ‘you’re allowed to be on the casino floor as long as you don’t stand still.’

J: You can’t look at anything, you obviously can’t drink anything. I felt bad for the little bro.

C: But they let us play music, which is the most important thing.

Where did you play in Vegas?

J: We played this place the Sand Dollar

C: And then a place called… 

J: We did an open mic thing at the Beat Coffeehouse.

C: Yeah that was cool, it’s like a coffee house slash wine bar slash brewery slash record store.

J: Which is basically all the bases to cover.

Yeah that’s everything you need. Plus it’s Vegas, so…

J: Yeah we got to walk around, see the Bellagio, pretend we’re in Ocean’s Eleven.

C: Except, you know, we hadn’t just stolen a hundred and sixty four million dollars.

You can tell me if you have, I won’t tell anyone.

C: No, I mean I wish we had [laughter].

Anything else you would like to tell me/the world?

J: Check out the new album, it’s called Edges, it’s online, out now, bandcamp, iTunes, the works.

And you guys are continuing your tour?

J: Yeah this one wasn’t super long, we’re going… where are we going? Alabama on Saturday, then Cleveland…

C: Saturday morning we wake up early, Alabama, Cleveland and then we’re back.

J: We just pushed to radio, so the next couple weeks we’ll be doing that.

Playing at stations and shit?

C: We’re doing that, we’re playing a festival in Roanoke, and then the Florida Music Festival, and then between those it’s like every weekend we can we’re gonna be playing. And then a lot of radio stations.

Well that’s awesome, we’ll tune in to all those things. One last thing–can I get a selfie with you guys?

J: Yeah, sure!

C: Can we get one with you?

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AUDIODRUGS ASMR AND NERVANA
March 11, 2016 9:00 am

Let me tell you a little bit about the exciting world of binaural audio and 3-D sound. Binaural recording is a production technique used to send slightly-different audio signals along stereo channels into your ears. It is designed to be used with headphones, and it can be really awesome. Not to be confused with stereo recording–designed for your home theater or car stereo or whatever–binaural recording makes heavy use of the way your brain processes the minute differences between what each of your ears hears.

Sound only travels so fast you know, so when a sound hits one ear before the other, we can tell. This is called sound localization and is essential for human survival, but it’s not the only neat thing we can do with our ears. Audio nerds began experimenting with this way back in the 1800s, and they’ve cooked up a number of funky tricks in the meantime.

Let’s start with the basics: binaural beats (or what the hippies call “audiodrugs”). Renowned biochemist and raging megahippie Gerald Oster popularized binaural beats within the scientific community back in 1973, linking the phenomenon with sound localization, the “cocktail-party effect” and the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. The alternative-medicine community (more hippies) thought it was great and added it to their list of bullshit, and that’s where it sat for decades, slowly developing along with the technology required to refine it.

But this is 2016, and what used to be “hippie malarkey” is now serious af. Audio technology is so advanced nowadays that people are actually getting high on sound. Scientists in the Middle East are calling to ban binaural beats because of their hypnotic effect and potential for abuse. The beats have been proven to modulate dopamine levels in users’ brains, similar to marijuana and the like. This shit is for real, and we’re only getting better at it.

e308c17c445a85409e13bce467feb32dSomewhat less trippy but considerably more popular is ASMR, the YouTube phenomenon known for its incredibly quiet, spatially-localized whispering, tapping and roleplay, for the purposes of relaxation, meditation or sleep. ASMR is a physiological response to certain audio triggers usually felt on the scalp, neck and spine. Not everybody experiences it, but over a million people watch these videos every day. After a certain virtual haircut went viral in 2007, the internet started to take notice of 3D sound, and you know how things go from there. Consumer-grade technology is now capable of high-quality binaural audio (and by “technology” I mean a severed robot ears), and now every jabroni with a webcam is getting in on it. Whoop-dee-doo!

While most binaural audio can be experienced using regular, everyday headphones, a new company called Nervana has taken it a step further. Their headphones release a tiny electric charge designed to stimulate your vagus nerve (which just so happens to connect your ear canal with your brain and your heart and your stomach). It can even be synchronized to your existing music, so that as your headphone’s tiny speaker pushes sound into your eardrum, your parasympathetic nervous system is electrocuted in time with the audio signal. No, it doesn’t hurt, and yes, it’s completely safe. People are electrocuted all the time. (Ever rub your feet on a carpet or a balloon in your hair? Static electricity can kill–you’ve been warned.) And even if it’s bad for you, guess what: it feels really good and leaves you feeling good for awhile. They are set to be released this spring, but you can preorder them starting on March 15th.

Or you can just keep living your life, blind to the wonders of the modern world. Science will be there regardless, advancing humanity one fun thing at a time.

INTRODUCING CRUISR
February 12, 2016 10:42 am

Philly’s done it again, folks! The bro love city’s vibrant indie scene has popped out another killer band: CRUISR. Tight, poppy, and infested with earworms, the group’s self-titled album made major waves on its release last fall. Check it out:

Not too shabby, CRUISR. Other accomplishments (aside from these gnarly tracks) include playing Firefly, Hangout Fest, and the Budweiser Made in America Festival, touring with The 1975, and opening for Imagine Dragons, Bleachers, and Joywave, to name a few. The band has not announced any upcoming shows, but I’m sure they’re just hanging around Philly doing whatever it is people do, so be sure to stay in the loop. You don’t want to miss them.

THIRSTIE FOR BOOZE DELIVERY
January 21, 2016 6:11 am

We’ve all been there. Oh shit it’s mom’s birthday! Better get her a bottle of wine. Good thinking, that’s just what she’d want. Or maybe more like we’re already drunk but running low and it’s cold outside.

Well you really should have thought about that before the party, what were you thinking?! Or what about I’ll be late to the train if I stop at the store. Hot damn, you’re shit outta luck! What are you gonna do? If only there were a reliable alcohol delivery service in your area. There are literally billions of reasons–honest, proud reasons–for an alcohol delivery service, why haven’t they figured this out by now?

Well they have and it’s called Thirstie. Thirstie is an alcohol delivery and recommendation service, servicing cities like San Francisco, LA, New York and Miami. Thirstie relies on local distributors to actually deliver the goods, but they maintain strict oversight and consider the user experience paramount. They also produce online, drink-related content and provide reliable recommendations.

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Really ups your small-talk game. I mean, just picture yourself at your office wine and cheese party. You need pairing recommendations to impress your boss, you know how chatty he can get at parties. Tell me more about that gouda! Wow you take the subway too? Please don’t look me in the eyes. Preparation is mandatory. Thirstie’s got your back.

Really though, what else are you gonna do? Alcohol delivery is the future, and without it you’re left with limited options. You could just muster some energy and go drink at a bar, nothing wrong with that. Text your friends, “Waddup broskis, wanna hit up Skinny Jimmy’s? Lookin 2 get tipsy on some whiskey.” I think we all know that’s a no go, bro. Not gonna be one of those nights. Maybe you just give up and decide you’re content to drink the beer your brother brought you two weeks ago that nobody wanted and has been sitting in the back of the fridge ever since. Why do they even make Sam Adams’ Cherry Wheat? It doesn’t make any sense, try not to lose sleep over it.

You already know the solution, and you can download it onto your phone. You can press a few buttons and have high quality alcohol delivered to your doorstep. Holy shit, why haven’t I done this already? I know, right? You said it, buster! Download it now and thank me later.

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CHOO-CHOO! ALL ABOARD THE GRAVY TRAIN
December 9, 2015 12:00 am

Ain’t nuthin’ like punching outta work, amirite? Tipping your cap to bossman and walking out the door. “Sayonara, sucker!” Ooo boy it’s just the greatest, and you can’t help but smile. Maybe you reward yourself for getting through the day, maybe with an ice-cream sandwich and a stroll through the neighborhood. “Look at all these buildings,” you say to yourself, licking chocolate sandwich-residue from your fingers. “I wonder what’s inside? What sorts of activities are people doing in there? Can I play too?!”

Gravy1Well put down your pre-dinner dessert and grab your phone (and maybe a napkin). You need to check out Gravy, the app that lets you know what’s going on inside all those buildings. “Couldn’t I just look through the windows?” No that’s insane–how are you going to search miles and miles of buildings for activities you might be interested in? Far better to let the internet do that for you. It’s good at that sort of thing, plus it has informative descriptions and classifications that learn what you like and tailor recommendations to you. But all you really need are options–fun things to do nearby–and you’re good. Everything else is just gravy.

See what I did there? Nailed it.

Alright that’s enough fun for now. Let’s get down to business. Let’s ask the hard-hitting, life-changing question every app review requires: are you going to use Gravy in your life, or are you going to download it, take a look-see and then forget it forever? I’ll be honest (because to be anything else makes me sick): my phone is full of apps I’ll never use. It’s the product of a vicious cycle; my friend shows me something cool, I download it, decide it’s cool (or not) and then move on with my life as if the whole thing never happened. You might be the same, it’s possible. I don’t know, I don’t know who you are. You could be anybody. It’s a world wide web out there.

Well I got news for you, stranger. The answer is “Yes!” Gravy could be easily integrated into your planning routine. It is intuitive and informative, and works locationally and in real time. During that moment when you don’t know what to do Friday night (or Thursday night, or Wednesday night), click a couple phone buttons and educate yourself. There are fun things going on all around you every day. Gravy aggregates these events, activities, and general goings-on so that you don’t have to. Fifteen different small(ish) concerts within five miles. Karaoke tonight, just around the corner. Fiddler On The Roof next weekend. How else are you gonna find out about these things? Gravy is a must-have if you’re trying to go out and do stuff. Tell your friends! Tell your mother! Write it in a letter and send it to yourself via snail mail so you get it in a week! All aboard the gravy train baby! Choo-Choo!

RA RA DIET
December 1, 2015 11:11 pm

No, this is not about any holiday diets you’d like me to suggest for you. Just keep eating pie and candy ’til your swollen little heart gives out. It’s delicious and worth it.

This is about about Ra Ra Riot. Yeahhh you forgot about them didn’t you? Maybe you didn’t, I don’t know. If you did, well you shouldn’t have. They’re excellent, and poised to have a big impact on your 2016. So pay attention!

This is “Water.” (I think, right? I can’t actually read.) Ra Ra Riot and Rostam Batmanglij (of Vampire Weekend) released it in November, another in a series of Riot/Weekend collaborations. Remember Discovery? Did you know Wes Miles and Ezra Koenig have been friends since childhood? Yeah, I googled it. (And I can’t even read!) These two groups are peas in a pod, thick as thieves, closer than kittens. You’re not jealous, are you?

“Water” is just a little taste of Need Your Light, Ra Ra Riot’s upcoming album, out February 19th. Yes, I know that’s a long way away. No, I don’t like lyric videos. (All that reading, amirite?!) But this one is pretty good, made superb by the righteous tunage. That it’s a gem is no surprise–remember “Boy?” “Can You Tell?” They have tons of gnarly jams and quality vibes. Totally rad. Check ’em out!

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What are you doing down here? Go back up and click on those links! What, you think I have more to say? No way, Jose! The point here is to go listen to the music, not waste your time with an illiterate like me. Go away!

NAVIGATING THROUGH EVERY NOISE AT ONCE
November 18, 2015 2:55 am

You’ve probably seen musical genres represented visually: lines connecting artists or eras, shapes and colors defining interrelationships (with varying purviews and degrees of similarity). Sometimes they look like subway maps, constellations, or large, elaborate plants. They’re all visually pleasing, but they’re never quite the same–which is good, as it gives them each a unique insight into one specific aspect of music. Genres don’t fall on a linear scale. You could sort them by instrumentation, tempo, key, origin, lyrics, mood, relation to other music, to fans, critics, or any number of variables representing a piece of the noise.

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Every Noise at Once, an incredibly detailed visual representation of musical genres, defines its range by two general variables: “down is more organic, up is more mechanical and electric; left is denser and more atmospheric, right is spikier and bouncier.” Other than that it is minimalistic, a rainbow of small words on an empty white page. Many genres are familiar, like blues-rock, tin-pan-alley or opera. Click on indie r&b, for example, to hear 30 seconds of The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” (or the link at the bottom for the whole song on Spotify). Click on the little arrow button to further explore the genre. Exemplifying artists splatter this next page, multitudinous and fascinating. Phantogram, Chvrches, Yeasayer, Grimes, Macy Grey, Drake, Pharrell, Aaliyah, Wyclef and 500 other musicians we all know and love are messily strewn in a generally red-to-green pile of words. Listing them all would be counterproductive, because exploring them yourself–realizing how many you know, how far apart they are from each other, why they are categorized similarly–is the whole point of the site. It’s something to sit and look at for hours. It is stimulating and satisfying.

Now multiply that by a thousand and you start to understand what ENaO really is. See, that was just one example: the enormous world of indie r&b, a world quite familiar to millennial interneters like myself. But the list of Every Noise at Once’s genres lists 1,371 distinct types of music, each with an equally detailed picture of music. Many genres are regionally specific, like swedish punk or didgeridoo, or simply obscure like musique concrete or liturgical. Spoken word genres are well represented, including poetry, oratory, comedy, and drama (Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First?” is the main example for drama, LOL). You might think that’s pushing the definition of musical genre, but I got news for you buddy: we’re just getting started. Ridiculous alleged “genres” abound, some overly specific (dark-electro-industrial, progressive-uplifting-trance), some completely absurd (hauntology, corrosion, skinhead reggae). But they are all rooted in an active or historical musical community, and the most interesting ones lie somewhere between “I can’t believe that’s a thing ” and “oh I guess that does make sense now that I think about it.”

Consider abstractro, a type of abstract electronic music, or laboratorio, an avant-garde, old-timey-tech thing. Both make theoretical sense, but I’m sure I’ve never met anyone in my life who has used those completely made-up words. Abstractro? Laboratorio? They’re straight out of a cartoon like Marvin the Martian. Maybe I’m wrong and my upstairs neighbor really loves abstractro (or dansktop, witch house, footwork, discofox, etc), but I’m probably not, and the only way I’m ever going to experience laboratorio (or grave wave, sleep, dark jazz, riot grrrl, etc) is through Every Noise at Once.

They know this–that ENaO is insanely detailed and uniquely comprehensive–and actively work it to their advantage. The juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated genres is insightful and thought-provoking; who would have thought that deep jazz fusion and mellow gold could be so similar? What does it mean that nepali music and crack-rock-steady are similarly organic and atmospheric? What is the algorithm they’re using to define these relationships, and does it completely ignore details like time-period/location of origin? What is the deal?!

After clicking deeper into a genre and exploring the musicians within, you are encouraged to explore nearby artists (same as the main page) or artists representing genres on the complete opposite end of their respective spectrum. Take meditation, for example, a genre full of incredibly relaxing noises. The bottom of that page has two boxes: the meditation box (with green genres like meditation, healing and new-age), and the opposite-of-meditation box (with orange genres like edm, house and bubblegum-pop). You might not have known that house music is the opposite of meditation. Perhaps you’ve found peace at the club, dhyana in the edm. No shame.

Every Noise at Once is the most complete visual representation of musical genres I could possibly imagine. If you spend your days thinking about music, their histories and interrelationships, then spend a little while pouring over the site. You’ll learn completely new things about fascinating music from around the world, and–if you’re not careful–you just might have a little fun in the process.

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Turnover A New Leaf
September 18, 2015 3:58 pm

Ever have a bad day, but then at the end of the day you’re still jonesing for more? Itching for other things to go satisfyingly wrong? Maybe you’ve taken solace in your misery. Sometimes you just want to stare out a rainy window, but you have to drive home first and can’t figure out what to listen to on the way. Enter Turnover:

It’s difficult for a band to strike a good balance between high-energy and low-morale without sounding desperately morose. Turnover walks that line sure-footedly, pairing catchy hooks and a driving beat with washy guitars and introspective vocals. The Virginia foursome’s newest album, Peripheral Vision, represents a step forward for the band, whose earlier material is a little more “angst” than “melancholy.” You can still see the angst behind Peripheral Vision‘s maturity, however, like a teenager who’s overgrown his old fancy clothes. The band’s inner child shines through their new duds, and the result is earnest and true, an accurate reflection of a difficult transition. See for yourself as they continue their North American tour, hitting NYC’s Gramercy Theater October 1st.

If you’re like me, you’re entering autumn kicking and screaming, unwilling to forget that blissful summer so fresh in your mind. You begrudgingly dive into a marathon autumn, a whirlwind routine you’ll continue through Christmas. Turnover knows how you feel, and they can help you through it–if you let them. Will you? WILL YOU LET THEM EASE YOUR MELANCHOLY?!