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Friday, July 25, 2003

Music

I've become an enthusiastic fan of XM Radio, which is a subscription-based satellite radio service for people that realize that FM radio sucks. Houston, for instance, is utterly beholden to Clear Channel Communications, which plays the same ten songs over and over and which crams just shy of 30 minutes of advertising per hour into their programming. For those of you in Austin, you just have no idea how bad radio can be, because Lady Bird is fighting a read guard battle against the very Forces of Darkness. For more on the evil of Clear Channel, see this and this and especially this, which contains a handy method of searching to find out which radio stations in your area are owned by the Death Star.

For $10 a month, XM radio offers 101 channels of radio, organized by type of music or talk. It was originally rolled out in car stereos, but has taken on a new life outside the car as Delphi has created a portable unit. The sound is better than FM but not quite CD quality, the screen shows you artist and song title at all times, and the selection of music is a hell of a lot better than anything I ever heard on FM. And though about ten of the most-popular channels have ads on them, those ads are never longer than one minute long, and total no more than eight minutes per hour -- which I regard as acceptable. The coolest thing about XM for me is that I find a new group that I like every day. The second coolest thing is the channel "Special X," which is a repository of totally random stuff. I have heard Russian folk songs, Lee Marvin warbling show tunes, surf music, bizarre kids' music from the 50s, and parrot training records.

In other record news, I continue to regard Fountains of Wayne's new album "Welcome Interstate Managers" to be one of the best pop albums I've heard in a long, long time. Radiohead's "Hail to the Thief" may be the best album of the year so far. I am also really digging the new album by Broken Social Scene, "You Forgot It In People." And the new Manitoba disc "Up In Flames" is starting to grow on me, though it's been a slow process.

On the other hand, the critically praised "Neon Golden" by The Notwist started strong but has left me cold. And I continue to regard the White Stripes as fun, but not addictive.

 10:20 AM

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