Hard News by Russell Brown

31

Friday Music: Better Bit Rates For All

If you're anything like me, your iTunes library is a legacy mess of songs purchased, grabbed or ripped over the years. Some of my tunes predate iTunes itself. Frustratingly, many of them have been ripped at low bit-rates, with encoders that weren't very good. There are dozens of albums I bought from eMusic at 160kbit/s, which seemed reasonable at the time. Altogether, there are thousands of them -- and the idea of replacing them with better-quality versions has seeemed fanciful.

Until now. Last year Apple launched iTunes in the Cloud, which makes your past and new media purchases from the iTunes Store available on any of your Apple devices. Handy if you have a lot of devices and bandwidth isn't a problem, but not really compelling for me.

But one component of iTunes in the Cloud is very interesting: iTunes Match. Match is primarily a way to get your music into the cloud without having to actually upload every song on your hard drive. You pay $39.95 for a year of the service, allow Apple to analyse your iTunes library  for a few minutes and it tells you how many songs it has matched. In my case, it was about 5200 of around 8000 songs.

I stopped the process after that -- and before the 3000-odd unmatched songs could upload -- because my intention was not actually to have my whole library in the cloud. What I was doing was following the workflow described here in a Macworld article on how to use iTunes Match to upgrade all my low-bitrate songs in one go.

Basically, you let iTunes do its Match thing, then identify which of your matched tunes are below 256kbit/s (in my case, a bit more than 3000 of the 5000 matched songs). And delete them. Scary, I know. But deleting your old songs is the way to get Apple to deliver you shiny, new, DRM-free 256kbit/s AAC versions of your old tunes.

The files are watermarked with your Apple ID, but otherwise unrestricted -- and they'll still be there on your hard drive after you don't renew your service for another year. Sure, it's not lossless (and you don't have the bandwidth for that), but it's a hell of a lot of value for a one-off $40 payment. You've also rehabilitated that part of your library in a copyright sense -- you've paid some money, you're legit.

BUT ... I strongly recommend you make a backup. Just drag your iTunes folder (it's in your Music folder) over onto an external drive. You may need it. I found about 300 of my matched songs didn't download -- they had a ready-to-download icon next to them in the library list (there's a guide to iCloud icons here) but were greyed out and inert. I tried various fixes suggested by the internet, but what worked in the end was manually re-adding them, waiting a minute or two for Match to re-scan them, deleting them again, and then downloading the 256k versions as per the original Macworld instructions.

(It's helpful to add Bit Rate as a column in your view options, under the iTunes View menu, so you can tell your old files from your new ones.)

It's a manual process, but it does fix the problem. And -- yay! You've upgraded a whole lot of legacy tunes; something you wouldn't or couldn't have done any other way.

 The iTunes Match mechanism clearly isn't perfect yet (it may be that more songs will match eventually for me -- I have quite a few marked as not yet processed) but what it has done represents more than ample value for my forty bucks. If anyone else has a crack, let me know how it goes. 

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Lawrence Arabia has a new video, for 'The Listening Times'.

The US NPR website has James Milne explaining the background to the song.

When I was putting together a report for Media3 (10.25am tomorow on TV3, repeated at 11.50pm Sunday) on UK Channel 4's Drugs Live: The Ecstasy Report, I figured I needed some pictures of comedian Keith Allen (who is seen in the programme necking an an E for the sake of science) on the munt. I found such pictures on an admirable website called Techno Dads, which has a post on this wild video of the Happy Mondays playing in New York in 1990. It's pretty amazing, not least in that it's a marvel that anyone could be that fucking trollied and still hold together a gig. Keith's the dancer who isn't Bez:

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Loui the Zu has his first official commercial release. It's called 'Fake Friends' and you can buy it here on iTunes and listen to it on TheAudience:

Also on TheAudience, a new demo from Flip Grater.

It's from work towards an album she's recording in Paris, and loooking to crowd-finance via Indiegogo. If you'd like to drop a coin in the virtual hat, all the details are here.

A cool new tune from Motocade:

And Computers Want Me Dead's infectious 'Little Steps'. Click through for a free download:

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South Auckland OG Ermehn has his first new album in years -- the subject matter on Trained to Kill is reliably (and autobiographically) gangsta but the productions, all by Anonymouz, cover a range of styles. As ever, Ermehn's flow is so good you forget that half the time he's not rhyming. This is a substantial album. There's a sampler video on YouTube:

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Hat tip to George Darroch for finding this tasty, intriguing Cure remix:

It's the lead track on the free-to-download mixtape Virgin Magnetic Material - Vol.16 Fascination St. by AquabyAqua.

Massive Attack gently reworked by Disco Syndicate (but really -  Tracey Horn?):

For a number of years, I proposed to the Big Day Out promoters that they should be booking Pretty Lights (aka DJ-producer Derek Vincent Smith) and finally, they did it -- in the first year without a New Zealand BDO. Happily, he's playing Auckland and Wellington side shows. I have my tickets already. Meantime, new track!

You can download that, as with all Pretty Lights music, for free (or a donation) from his website.

Two more magical reggae remixes from Birmingham's JT:

And:

From out in the spaceways, an golden hour of Sun Ra, mixed:

Beck remixes Philip Glass. This is nice:

Does anyone else hear 'Manhattan' from the new Cat Power album and think, "Bruce Springsteen"? Anyway, gorgeous Cousin Cole remix:

Some bloody proper house music, free download for the next 24 hours or so only:

And, finally, you must dance to this in your kitchen tonight:

Righto. That'll do you. Have a good weekend.

PS: Next Thursday from 5.30pm, Billy Bragg is making an instore appearance at Real Groovy Records. He'll be answering questions, telling stories and playing a song or two.

The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by:

theaudience

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