Monday, 21 December 2009

More Christmas Music

I love Christmas music and will listen to all sorts of stuff at Christmas that I wouldn't normally entertain. For example, I am quite happy to Step Into Christmas with Mr John and sometimes I will be simply, having a Wonderful Christmastime with Mr McCartney. (I do however draw the line at stupid songs about travelling spacemen with Mr De Burgh - everyone has to draw the line somewhere!) As far as I'm concerned, you cannot hear Merry Xmas Everybody by Slade often enough - despite a claim by the Performing Rights Society that almost half the world has heard it! In case you are in the 58% who have avoided this gem so far, here are the boys from Slade showing how to do the perfect Christmas single:

If however, you are looking for something a bit different in the last few days before Christmas, the radio station XFM could come to your rescue. This year, they have links to what they call the Twelve Videos of Christmas. This list includes U2, The Killers and The Darkness - excellent! Last year, they provided an alternative Christmas playlist with some interesting, not to say downright bizarre choices. (One of my favourites from this list has to be Everything's Gonna Be Cool This Christmas from Eels.) Unfortunately, the player widget doesn't seem to be working so I created a Spotify Playlist with as many of the tracks as I could find. I've shared the playlist, so feel free to add your own off the wall Christmas tracks - you may get some ideas on the BBC playlist from 2006.

What are your Christmas favourites?

Friday, 18 December 2009

Free Download Friday #40: Final Friday in Advent

Here are a few Christmas tracks from a variety of sources. I hope you enjoy them.

First up, I make no apologies for linking agan to Joe Bonamassa's version of Merry Christmas Baby. The man is a genius and one of the greatest Blues guitarists alive (in my humble opinion).

Next is a jazzy take on Jingle Bells from Ayiesha Woods. If you like what you hear, there are another couple of tracks for free download from Aliesha on the same page.

And finally, a link to the NME Daily Download page for Christmas which gives an interesting mix of indie, rock and downright weird Christmas tracks. (As an added bonus, they link to last year's Christmas page - I don't think all the links are still working but there's still a good few that are.)

So, from Blues, to Jazz, to Indie, to weird... hopefully you'll find something to enjoy.

This is the last of my Advent Friday downloads this year. I hope you have enjoyed the music I've posted links to and that you enjoy the Free Download Friday posts. Let me know what your favourites are and I'll try to find more like that for future posts.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Free Download Friday #39: iTunes Holiday Sampler

I'm not sure how long this will be available but the UK iTunes store is currently offering an eight track Holiday Sampler as a free download.

331/365: Lights
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
It does its best to provide something for everyone with artists ranging from Classical (Charlotte Church) to Country (Rascal Flatts) and Gospel (Aretha Franklin) to... er... Glaswegian (Glasvegas)! I must admit that I found it hard to dislike any of these tracks. Even the ones I didn't think I would enjoy have something to commend them. For example, I was not familiar with the name Rascal Flatts but I found their version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen to be surprisingly good. Similarly, Charlotte Church's Dream a Dream is a bit over-cooked for my taste, but it's Christmas, and if you can't over-cook things at Christmas, when can you?

The stand-out tracks for me are Aretha Franklin's Angels We Have Heard On High and Glasvegas with A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like a Kiss). However, as I said, just about something for everyone, so, what are your favourites?

iTunes Holiday Sampler (UK only?)

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

My new iPhone - Music to my ears

"I don't know why you are so smug. You just bought your iPhone, you didn't invent it!"

Ge Wang playing Star Wars theme
using Ocarina on his iPhone

Originally uploaded by Steve Rhodes
...And yet, I remain smug. Sorry.

Here are some of the music apps that I've been playing with.

First up, is the app and the Spotify app - listen to your favourite streamed music on the move. Both are applications that I used for a long time before I got my iPhone and both work just as you would expect. And talking of streaming music, there are a bucket load of "radio" apps out there. The first one I tried (and so far I've stuck with) is Streamitall - streamed radio stations from around the world that cover pretty much any musical genre you can think of.

So much for listening to other people's music. What about creating your own? Two apps I've enjoyed playing with are:
  • Dog Piano Jr - A piano keyboard that woofs! Singing dogs. Excellent! Comes with three different woof sounds. It drives my family daft and our spaniel Colin looks confused when I play with it. Great fun!
  • DigiDrummer Lite - Unleash your inner Neil Peart! I tried a few free drum apps and I liked this one the best. Nice big drum pads that are easy to hit and a record function even on the free version.
And to finish, two apps that are just great fun.
  • Shazam - Various people recommended this app and at first I wasn't convinced - I couldn't see the point. Then I tried it and was hooked. The idea is that you hear some music, say on the radio, and want to know what it is. So, you fire up the app, let it record a few seconds of audio which it then sends off to a database (AI system?) somewhere and within seconds it comes back with the name of the track, links to where you can buy it, a discography of the artist, a biography of the artist and a link to YouTube so you can watch the video. Stunningly brilliant. In my initial testing, it coped with everything Rock Radio threw at it!
  • Tap Tap Revenge 2 - This is simply a fantastic game and what makes it even more impressive is that it is free! It's a bit like Guitar Hero - you have to tap different areas on the screen as markers fly past in time to the music. Different levels and extra tunes for download - loads to keep you going. Best of all, a two player game where the two people play, at the same time, on the same screen - one at either side of the device - literally head to head! Probably my favourite game at the moment.
What are your favourite music apps? Also, I've deliberately only listed free music apps but are there any that are worth paying money for?

Friday, 4 December 2009

Free Download Friday #38: Classical Christmas

Second download Friday in advent and this time it's gone all classical. Magnatune is giving away a free Christmas compilation with 24 tracks. There are some great classical guitar tracks from James Edwards, some beautiful choir pieces and some tracks that on first listen I thought was a cello but is apparently a viola da gamba.

What's your favourite track?

Magnatune Compilation

P.S. If you want something a bit more contemporary, can I suggest the following? It's not a download, but it is a suitably festive music stream. Thanks to Jim from Aye Tunes, I found that Miss The Occupier did a version of Christmas Wrapping for Radio Scotland's Vic Galloway Show. Enjoy!