Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Simfy-ly great!

Posted: September 1, 2012 in Uncategorized
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One thing that’s perennially frustrating as a technophile living in South Africa is knowing the wealth of technology and entertainment options that users enjoy overseas and that we simply don’t have access to. As a technophile and music lover, one of those options that I missed the most was a streaming music service like Spotify. Well, I miss it no more: Simfy has come to my rescue!
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What is Simfy (or Spotify for that matter), I hear you ask? Even if you don’t ask, I’ll tell you. It is a music streaming service that gives you access to their entire music catalogue, about 18 million tracks, for a flat fee of R60 per month. You can look up any artist or album you like and listen to it, as often as you like, as long as it’s in the catalogue. Think of it as renting all the music in your local Musica – actually, more like all the Musica stores in the country – for that R60 per month. The only requirement is Internet access, because the music is digitally available so has to be streamed or downloaded. Personally, I love the idea of thinking of a new album or artist – or even some golden oldies – and then being able to listen to that without having to go out and buy the album.

What is Simfy like in particular? It’s available on your PC, Android and iOS devices; I’ve tried all three formats and I’ve been pretty impressed. The catalogue is extensive and apparently growing all the time and I’ve been able to find all the music I’ve looked for. Admittedly my taste is fairly mainstream, so your mileage may vary, but I have been pleasantly surprised to find all the Christian contemporary music that I’ve looked for. You can search by album, artist and track and build your own playlists as well.

As mentioned, you do need Internet access to get to the music but it can at least be downloaded onto your device for offline listening as well. The music is encoded as a 192kb MP3, which is acceptable if not great quality, and works out at a download rate of about 85mb per hour. That’s still a potential downside for bandwidth limited SA, but any kind of uncapped account (which are actually pretty affordable these days) will be just fine.

For those looking askance at the thought of paying for the service, let me emphasise that it’s the only truly legal service of its kind in the country at the moment (yes, using other routes should bother you!). And, honestly, it’s half the price of one CD per month. I think that’s quite a bargain. But don’t just take my word for it: there’s a two week trial available for the service, so hop on over to simfy and give it a whirl. I think you’re going to like it.

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WOW Hits 2010

Posted: January 14, 2010 in Uncategorized
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This is the latest annual compilation of CCM from the WOW team. Again a sample of the most popular hits of the preceding year, it features big names like Casting Crowns, Toby Mac and Third Day, familiar ones like Michael W Smith and Jars of Clay and newer stars like RED, Group 1 Crew and Britt Nicole.


Once again, I really enjoyed the compilation. It does take a couple of spins to be appreciate all the individual tracks (does sound a bit “samey” at first) but it’s worth the effort. Last year I was struck by the number of “crossover” tracks; this year my chief impression is of there being a number of “big” tracks – you know, roaring guitars, soaring strings and all-out singing. Part of me wonders if this is in any way a reaction to the tough year that was 2009, but it makes for a rousing album in any event. Good for blasting away a day’s frustrations on the drive home.

Having so many artists on one album (30 in all) means that buying this album is a quick and relatively risk-free way to get a picture of the current cream of the crop. What does this mean for sales of conventional albums, I wonder? With the ability to download individual tracks of a artist rather than having to buy a whole album to own them becoming ever more popular, perhaps compilations will become the face of the future. Perhaps, too, this will enable musicians to concentrate on producing fewer, higher quality tracks rather than having to worry about filling a whole album. Who knows?

All in all, a worthy addition to the series and I’m well satisfied with the purchase.

— Posted From My iPod

If you’re going to rip your music…

Posted: February 5, 2009 in Uncategorized
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…do it properly first time round. Until recently, I just used the default MP3 format when ripping my CDs to my computer and thought it was perfectly good enough, especially done at 192k. It seemed like a good idea because I knew that all mobile devices with a music player would recognise that format and I have a few of those – no, really! Well, the Apple monster prompted me to use the AAC format when I was loading music for my son’s iPod Shuffle (I chose to do it at 256k) and so I had the opportunity to compare the two side by side.

Wow. Big difference. So much so that I started to wonder if it was just bad production values on the albums that I’d ripped to MP3 format but redoing those albums confirmed that it was rather the format of the track itself. After spending way too much time online researching the difference, it seems that the MP3 format cuts a lot of detail off the lower end of the sound spectrum to try to save space, whereas the different compression used by AAC manages to save space and still retain that detail. “Born in the USA” sounds a whole lot better now, punchy and not like Springsteen is playing it tired and thin at the end of a long, long gig. Trying WMA as another alternative (also at 256k) showed that the now aging MP3 format (it’s over ten years old) just can’t cope as well when it comes to capturing the music properly.

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I must admit that reading around the subject did reveal that it’s often a matter of personal taste, but I’m sure you’ll hear a difference no matter what stage you’re at. As a tip for enjoying your music on the move – stay away from MP3! Hope you’re listening, Apple…

WOW Hits 2009

Posted: January 22, 2009 in Uncategorized
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I’ve been a little short on up to date music recently, so a couple of Christmas vouchers that could remedy the situation were most welcome. The problem with being out of touch, though, is that you’ve no idea what is current and good when you walk into a music store. I settled on WOW Hits 2009 because it promised to have a good compilation of recent music and I’ve been pretty satisfied with their offerings in the past. I didn’t recognise too many songs or even artists when I looked at the cover but decided that was a good thing in terms of what I wanted.

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It’s taken several spins, but I’ve really come to like the double CD. The sound was contemporary but a bit same-same first few times round; now I can appreciate the differences between the tracks. Quite a lot of adult contemporary (does the fact that I like it mean I now have to be an adult?), also some rock, pop and a smattering of country. Some tracks (“How you live” by Point of Grace, “Unbreakable” by Fireflight, “Your Grace is Enough” by Matt Maher) are immediately likable, whereas others have grown on me (“Song of Hope” by Robbie Seay Band, “Give Me Your Eyes” by Brandon Heath, “Sleeping In” by Nevertheless) to surpass them as favourites. One thing that did interest me about the collection of tracks was that several of them seemed to be “crossover” songs: though they are all gospel bands, the songs themselves were not overtly so. I’m not in touch enough to say if this is more of a trend than it was several years ago, but it was noticeable on this album.

All in all, the album has served its purpose well. If you’re looking for a good compilation of CCM, you won’t go far wrong with this one.

Blast from the past

Posted: January 19, 2009 in Uncategorized
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The Best of Mango Groove (2002)

On my left hand I have
King of Kwela – Spokes Mashiane

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I remember attending a PJ Powers and Hotline concert in Durban way back in the late eighties which was supported by a fresh, exuberant and unknown band called Mango Groove. Though Hotline were in one of their more successful patches, they were completely blown off the stage by the supporting act, to the extent that, when a clearly irritated Powers asked the crowd if they would rather see Mango Groove perform again, they (unimpressed with Power’s cavorting on stage – hey, it was Durban) bayed an enthusiastic “Yes!”.

This album collects all Mango Goove’s hits that I so fondly remember,  capturing their infectious, toe-tapping rhythms and easy to sing melodies. From the get-on-the-floor “Dance Sum More” to “Hometalk” to the poignant “Another Country”, everything is there to remind me how enjoyable the music was without being pretentious. Driving bass, Claire Johnston’s soaring voice and, of course, the great pennywhistle and horn pieces: excellent stuff. Though some of the music goes back a long way now, it’s still appealing to all – you should see how much my young boys are enjoying it!

Mango Groove is still around and have actually released another compilation entitled “The Essential Mango Groove” but this album, which incorporates most of the tracks on that one anyway, was going for only R39.99 ($4!) on Kalahari.net. Couldn’t resist the bargain, bought it a couple of weeks ago and don’t regret it for a second!