GBV! GBV! A Primer to Guided By Voices

The world is essentially divided into 3 groups of people when the band Guided By Voices (GBV) is mentioned:

  1. Who is GBV?
  2. I heard they’re great but they have like (literally) a thousand songs. I don’t even know where to start with something like that.
  3. Arguably the greatest rock band in American history? Love’em.

I’m pretty much going to assume most of you fall into group 1. So let me give you a short summary of this legendary band in bullet-point fashion. (You DID press play on the playlist above while reading this, right?)

Notes on GBV:

  • Robert Pollard is the lead singer and constant in the band.
  • #2 above has a point. Pollard, his side-projects and GBV are incredibly prolific, sometimes releasing 3 albums (or more) in a year. There are easily 1500+ songs in the catalog.
  • As you might imagine, that kind of productivity can be pretty hit or miss.
  • GBV has recorded much of their catalog with a very lo-fi aesthetic, recording on basic equipment that gives the music a lot of tape hiss and less than pristine sound quality.
  • Most of their songs are pretty short; under two minutes is not unusual.
  • Most bands find a couple of hooks, turn them into four minute songs, add a few more and call it an album. GBV writes 15 killer hooks and 10 decent ones, lets you hear each one for a minute or two, then moves on to the next song.
  • There are a few albums that are absolutely perfect from beginning to end: Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, and Under the Bushes Under the Stars.
  • If you are looking for a single place to start, Human Amusements at Hourly Rates: The Best of Guided By Voices is where you go.

You don’t need any of that, though. Spend another ten minutes skimming the songs in the playlist linked at the top of this post. Listen to it the next couple of times you’re browsing the “World Wide Web” and you’ll be hooked for sure.

Additional Reading:

TL;DR: GBV is one of America’s greatest rock bands. Check out the playlist above a few times and join the GBV club.


Rdio Is My Favorite Streaming Music Service

I was an early adopter to Spotify. I loved it, told everyone about it and even became a subscriber (mostly to get rid of those awful ads). Over time, there was a lot that frustrated me about Spotify, such as:

  • Music Management: I grew up in the time of albums and I still like to organize my collection that way. In order to save an album for future listening, you have to create a playlist for each album. This just doesn’t work.
  • User Interface: Spotify is clunky, ugly and not very intuitive.

But that’s only two things! Right, but it’s the only two things that matter. This is where Rdio (pronounced ‘r-dee-oh’) excels.

  • Music Management: See an album you like? Just add it to your ‘Collection’. This is then treated much like if you had an actual, physical album but with the added bonus of being able to be sorted and searchable.
  • User Interface: Rdio really does have a beautiful interface that actually makes you want to browse your collection. When playing music, you can have the album art front and center, over a blurred background of the same.

This is the playlist I created from The National’s show in Indianapolis, August 2013:

What about cost? You can get unlimited web streaming for either service for $4.99/month.

Both services do playlists well, allow sharing, etc.  I will say Spotify has more resources and access to some artists that Rdio doesn’t. However, Rdio has a tremendous selection and I’m never at a loss for something to listen to, whether it’s an old favorite or something I’ve just heard about.

I’ve used them both and Spotify frustrates me every time I use it. Rdio is just fun to browse and has a clean, easy interface. If you listen to online music, I think Rdio should be your choice. Follow me there!

TL;DR: Rdio has the best way to organize your music collection and it’s the most fun to use.

In Appreciation of Madvillain

Madvillain: Madvillainy was released on my 30th birthday, 10 years ago. I had heard the buzz about it for months and decided to pick it up that day. I went to Luna (the best music shoppe in Indy) and picked up the last available copy. Happy Birthday, me!

I still listen to this album as much as anything I own. It’s brilliant, fun and feels like you’re listening to the past and the future all at once. Listen here:

The Onion A.V. Club has an article going into a lot of detail about just why this album is so good. Check it out if you like but you can take my word for it: This is one of the great hip-hop albums.

Sky Ferreira: Night Time, My Time

The new Sky Ferreira album is terrific. I’ll admit, it took me quite a while to come around to it, mostly because that album cover is more depressing than sexy. There’s just nothing about it that says how much fun this album is.

The first two songs are very good, but ’24 Hours’ is where this thing really kicks in for me. From that point on, it’s just a blast to listen to. ‘You’re Not The One’ and ‘Heavy Metal Heart’ are as good as any two-song set I’ve heard in a while.

Give this one a shot. It’s catchy, well-crafted pop music with a little edge. Nearly every song is a contender for the best song here, which is quite a triumph these days.