Posted in: Music

Dirty Beaches – Badlands (2011 Zoo Music)

Badlands cover

When I first heard True Blue from Dirty Beaches’ Sweet 16 EP, I have to say I was impressed. The romantic tone and undulating guitars made me want to sit by a fire on a beach at dusk, wrapped in a musty blanket with my best-girl, listening to the waves crash. It was just this over-romanticized vision of 1950s sound that got me hooked. As a sound, it was fresh and really got me interested.

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The Badlands album, however, suffers from too much of a good thing. While an EP of fuzzed out rockabilly guitars is fun, a full albums worth of difficult to decipher eclectic low-fi is a little hard on the ears. Sure there are some interesting moments on Badlands, but after about 4 songs — you get it. You get the whole thing. You think, I hope this changes a little from the predictability of the “dadada-dada-dadada-dada” and it doesn’t. It holds tight — to a fault.

Even wonderful songs like Lord Knows Best begin to grate on your nerves after the repetition of the 5 songs before it. I want to like this album, because I really have been looking forward to it, but as an album it doesn’t hold up. It stubbornly marches to the end without the love or joy you might have expected from the standouts like True Blue or Lord Know Best. By the end, Black Nylon and Hotel gave me distinct impression I was being asked to leave the beach I had so enjoyed hearing snapshots of before.

Rating: 40/100
Released: March 28, 2011

The King of Limbs – Radiohead

Radiohead surprised everyone today and released their new album The King of Limbs. Fans in the states cheered to have the album a full day early, from scheduled release, to celebrate an unusual warm snap. Spring had come early, complete with it’s own soundtrack. Somehow it felt right.

However not all people were as happy as the fans. Reviewers, surprised by the sudden release, scrambled to have some sort of reviews online. Some snarky reviews even pointed a finger at the band.

“Radiohead’s release schedule is not, you imagine, geared towards helping music critics. Minimal warnings, last-minute changes of plan and confusing announcements posted on Twitter in Japanese – does Thom Yorke not realise we have tight deadlines? The end result is a mad-rush by critics, bloggers and Tweet-freaks to be first to post their opinion on The King of Limbs’ eight tracks. Trouble is, Radiohead don’t make music designed for a hurried listen. A couple more plays down the line and the opinions you read here may be subject to change.” – Radiohead – The King of Limbs: First review

The truth is, while Radiohead may not have shattered every soundscape ever conceived with The King of Limbs they did do one thing which is an innovation in the music industry, not one solitary copy of The King of Limbs was leaked to file-sharing services. Not one review came out ahead of time. This album came out at the same time for everyone – you, me, reviewers, and the thieves. I have never heard of in the past 15 years any major album, by a major band no less, not get ratted out by some unscrupulous reviewer’s copy finding it’s way on the net.

This was a media blackout in the best way possible, and I for one was glad not to have reviewers barking their opinions at me. When did we as music listeners stop making our own decisions about what music we like or dislike by how it effected us upon our first unfettered listen. Why must EVERYTHING we consume need to be put in context by some know-it all who tells us why and how we should appreciate it. Art is about making your own mind up about what you are experiencing and no professional who spent years at journalism school is going to change that.

Today was an amazing day not just because of what I heard, but mostly because of what I didn’t.

dog with cone

TUTT 2011 E1 – Eliza Skinner of Nasty Cute

Eliza Skinner of and NastyCute visits the treehouse to discuss her new projects as well as her move to LA. We discuss everything from tiny cakes to musicals. It’s a new year and a new Tracks Up The Tree. Thanks for listening!

Download the MP3

Tracks Played

  1. Long Boat Pass by Tennis on Cape Dory (2011)
  2. Got To Move by Cake on Showroom of Compassion (2011)
  3. True Blue by Dirty Beaches on True Blue B/W Sweet 17 (2010)
  4. Too Young To Burn by Sonny & The Sunsets on Tomorrow is Alright (2010)
  5. A Coin On The Tongue by Benoit Pioulard on Lasted (2010)

All songs can be found on our January MOG Playlist.


Link of the day

TUTT 59: iChat Sucks

In our first iChat TUTT has a few issues, sound quality being the biggest. We’re still trying to lock down how we do these, but we hope you enjoy the madness.

Download me - I'm a Podcast


  1. Cameras by Matt & Kim (2010)
  2. Angela Surf City by The Walkmen on Lisbon (2010)
  3. Thank Us Later by Jaill on That’s How We Burn (2010)
  4. You Are Not Alone by Mavis Staples on You Are Not Alone (2010)
  5. September Gurls by Big Star on #1 Record/Radio City
  6. Tightrope (feat. Big Boi) by Janelle Monáe on The ArchAndroid (2010)
  7. Right On (Feat. Joanna Newsome, STS) by The Roots on How I Got Over (2010)
  8. Excuses by The Morning Benders on Big Echo (2010)

All Delighted People EP – Sufjan Stevens

Everybody’s favorite musical noodler is back at it with what can be considered a rocker… for him. Sure it’s whispery and filled with all the over-lavish overlapping lutes you’d expect from Sufjan Stevens, it also is the most direct album Stevens has made in a while. All Delighted People while full of the polite Simon & Garfunkle plucking guitars has a finger pointed out – at you, rather than toward you.

Unfortunately, there is a little too much signature musical and vocal noodling, which leaves the album feeling more like an idea rather than a statement. Nothing exemplifies this more than the unconvincing electronic passages, which sound more like Sufjan expressing his amateurish appreciation of the form, rather than its mastery. While All Delighted People is gorgeously produced, as we have come to expect, it left me feeling that Stevens is dealing with a real identity crisis between being an singer-songwriter and his newfound place as a classical composer. Songs such as “All Delighted People (Classic Rock Version)” promise a focus back on Sufjan’s roots, but the 8 minute track is a meandering composition and neither classic or rock.

While there are beautiful moments to All Delighted People which will make a listen enjoyable, the album follows Sufjan farther down the avante-guard hole he fell into after Illinoise. More strings, more production, less structure.

Rating: 60/100

Removing User Information from iTunes purchased songs

Update 31 Jul 2014

Poking around today, I have discovered that no matter the tools I use, Apple has embedded a proprietary tag set into its Apple Store purchased AACs. I found this out by trying my test again and finding that even after I completely erased all tag information from the Apple AAC – the user information persisted when loaded into iTunes. I used my tagging program of choice Kid3 and hit “Remove” which erases all tags from an audio file… However, when I loaded the stripped AAC back the file into iTunes, my user information was still there. Now you might be thinking, as I did, perhaps this information is cached? Nope, even after I deleted the file from iTunes, retagged it, and added it back into iTunes… my personal information was still there. I can recreate the problem in every audio editing program – Fission, Tagger, Tagr, Subler… no program even displays the additional tags correctly aside from Kid3. But all signs point to Apple having added a secondary set of tags which all programs miss entirely. You might think you got rid of the extra tags, but no dice – they are still there.
So, the only sure file way to remove the DRM from an iTunes purchased file is to re-encode it. Sad, but true.
Personally, I find this disheartening news and intend to cease buying from the iTunes store indefinitely. While they have created an open DRM format which allows users choice on how they use their files, which is commendable, the files are not DRM free. I’m simply not interested in supporting companies who support DRM. The End.

Update: 28 Jun 2012

Recently I found a great Mac utility that does the whole tag stripping thing from Apple’s purchased music much more effectively. The Tagger ($29) is a Mac utility which can edit and remove any embedded tags from MP3s or AACs. It works seamlessly on most files and very quickly does the process for multiple files. It’s biggest issue to my mind is its price. $30 for a glorified tag editor is… well… very high, but if you are editing masses of tags, it can be worth it. If the dev halved the price, I think they would be MUCH more successful.

Now, I am a fan of Apple’s music store. It’s the easiest way to buy music, the selection is great, and the quality is f-amazing. The only thing I’m not a huge fan of is my username and e-mail address being embedded in the audio files. (to see this screen head to FILE > Get Info)

To my mind anything other than the purchased audio accounts for DRM and I don’t want it. While I’m all for legal downloads, I’m not into being tracked, no matter how legal you make it. Lucky for you and me the account information is actually embedded at the last moment of the iTunes purchase and download process. Which means it isn’t hard embedded, it’s only some additional meta-data. I will have to mention, at this point, that this process only works on iTunes Plus (.m4a) files downloaded from the iTunes Music store. It will not work on older iTunes Protected files (.m4p) although protected files can be upgraded in the iTunes music store to iTunes Plus for a nominal fee.

To remove the meta-data, you need an program which doesn’t recognize the additional meta-information and a way to save the audio losslessly. The program that fits the bill is Rogue Amoeba’s amazingly versatile Fission ($32). It’s a lossless audio editor for the mac and it’s a seriously wonderful tool that I use on a daily basis for editing audio files and creating ringtones. To remove the meta-information, open the iTunes Plus file and re-save the audio.

That’s it. It losslessly saves a .m4a with no user information embedded and best of all, it doesn’t recode or transcode the audio (as with some other burn a CD and reimport methods). It is exactly the same quality coming out as it went in.

A few things you might notice about this process is that the file size will drop after saving. Not entirely sure why. Perhaps removing all that extra meta-data cleans house a bit. You will also notice that the bit-rate for the file will go from 256kbps to something else. This is normal and because Apple, in an attempt not to scare it’s users with different  variable bit-rates from the encoding process, makes every file share the 256kbps regardless of it’s true bitrate. Lastly, Fission adds 0:00.032 of audio to the track? While odd, this shouldn’t actually effect the sound, as it’s 0.03% of a second, so unless you have crazy dog ears, you wont hear it.

Best of all, now you have an audio file that has none of your private data attached, which in my books is truly DRM free.