I Can’t Live Without My Internet Radio
A positive counter to yesterday’s semi-sob story about our lack of television… Assuming that you live somewhere you can get it hooked up, then it’s fair to say that the advent of Broadband Internet, which I do have properly installed at my office in Phoenicia, is part of what has enabled me – and thousands like me – to move to the country without changing careers. From the edge of a relatively quiet village, I can communicate all over the world in real time via e-mail, I can send and receive large music files, I can receive and print out paperwork (I even threw out old fax machine on moving and signed up to EFax, ensuring I never again have to receive a junk fax from penny stock-spammers in the middle of the night), and, obviously, I can run this web site – all without getting up from my desk. Fact, I’ve hardly had use for the Post Office across the street from me but for picking up what CDs and books still come through snail mail.
But all that is somewhat assumed and generally common knowledge. What I’m really enjoying about my new life is the new-found freedom of musical choice –namely, Internet radio from across the world. The last few days – this is my first full week in the office without a trip back to NYC – have been a revelation.
Arriving at the office, I set the iTunes to my old companion WNYC, which itself is broadcasting the BBC World News from London. I might stick about for Brian Lehrer’s WNYC morning talk show and I do subscribe to his Podcasts, but I have to admit that I’m already feeling an emotional removal from some of the localized topics at hand. (Any one noticed I have had NO comment on the upcoming NYC Mayoral Election? Or that I’ve stopped talking about the Ratner arena already?)
Soon enough then, it’s time to start ‘flicking’ the dial, and though I have absolutely NO demand for pizza joints in Seattle, I put up with ads for free delivery of pepperoni 2,500 miles away to otherwise enjoy the fantastic fruits of that city’s KEXP (available at iTunes or through the Web), which has accrued a veritable army of fanatical followers across the North American continent. How? By playing good music, employing knowledgeable and personable music fans and, while maintaining local coverage that keeps them grounded in a community, promoting their station across the continent. This week already, I’ve heard KEXP play iJamming! faves such as Sigur Ros, Paul Weller, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, the Fall, Sia, Supergrass, Zeb, The Clash, The Cloud Room – and, yes, even The Magic Numbers.
I could listen to KEXP all day. I know some who do. But after a few hours, I can tell that it’s following a playlist, so I skip over to the east coast’s most famously contrary college station, WFMU, which has found a way to announce its eclectic choices over the iTunes icon. (Which begs the question: Why can’t other stations follow suit?) But the music on FMU is just too damn weird after a while, so I bounce over to another East Coast college station, WFUV (yes, these call-letters are al too similar for comfort) which, on its World Café show, is working its way along the Gulf Coast States, from Mississippi through Louisiana and Texas. The venerable Dixie Hummingbirds, whom I had the pleasure of seeing outdoors at the Hunter Mountain Culture Festival earlier this year, are featured taking on Depeche Mode’s ‘Personal Jesus’ with an even straighter Christian face than did Johnny Cash, and then the show unexpectedly and jumps over to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and, yes, even The Magic Numbers. This, I tell myself, is a good range of music. Ironically, FUV broadcasts from NYC, where the city’s skyscrapers famously block out all but the most powerful radio signals. Listening to the station in Manhattan or Brooklyn was never an option. Here in the woods, on the web, it’s a cinch.
Working further through the iTunes Public Radio list, I access KCRW from Los Angeles, a station that, pre-Net days, enjoyed KEXP’s cult reputation. (The Morning Becomes Electic show is internationally famous, and the station released a ‘Rare On Air’ CD series of its in-studio sessions a few years ago.) But KCRW is proving overly mellow at this time of day, which reminds me to use the ‘Listen Again’ option at BBC Radio and tune into last Saturday’s Blue Room on Radio 1… Click here to hear it for yourself. But I must pause to complain… What was Rob da Bank on about with his “shock! Horror! Sinead O’Connor has made a reggae album” proclamation, assuring us with a sneer that “it’s actually quite good” Has he never heard O’Connor sing with Adrian Sherwood’s crew? And how could he be unaware of her incredible vocals for Jah Wobble’s Invaders of The Heart, singing ‘Visions Of You,’ way back in 1991? If anyone out there is entitled to record a reggae album, with our blessing and eager anticipation, it would be our Sinead.
A flick of my Mac Dashboard BBC Radio transmitter brings me back to ‘real time’ and Zane Lowe’s show on Radio 1, which announces itself in firm fashion with a Whitey remix of Basement Jaxx, the new Strokes single and the new Franz Ferdinand, all back to back. But it’s evening in the UK while the sun is streaming in my window here, so I return to KEXP, where they’re playing Kate Bush’s first release in 12 years. (Is it worth the wait? I don’t know, can any song be worth waiting 12 years for?) The afternoon DJ then describes Sigur Ros’s last show in Seattle as “the best two hours of sleep I’ve ever had… and I mean that as a compliment,” and I know exactly what he’s getting at.
I need avoid the distraction of the DJs themselves for a while, however (I find it incredibly hard to write with people singing around me, let alone talking) so I bounce over to Radio Indie-Pop, which works both on the web and as a stand-alone application, and which offers to play me the whole of the new New Pornographers album at the click of a button. (Which makes it very easy to tape or rip, should I feel so disposed.) Radio Indie-Pop is commercial and broadcaster free – just one MP3 after another. If I don’t like the one I hear – Longwave, perhaps – I merely click the forward button to hear another. It’s like having someone else’s iTunes Party Shuffle on my desktop. Someone with good taste, mind.
This particular evening, I’ve decided to sleep over at the office – still unpacking the boxes – and so I keep flicking that dial. I’m suddenly inspired to wander further afield and look up Australia’s leading rock station, Triple J. (That’s not entirely random: I’ve visited Australia twice and have a bright red Triple J t-shirt that I love.) I find the site immediately and see that, just like BBC Radio, I can listen to any show from the previous week, anytime. Instead, I opt for the live ‘Lunch’ show for the sheer outrageousness of it: it is, after all, dark as molasses here on the east coast. The lunch-time DJ, who has a similar accent to Zane Lowe’s is, appropriately, playing Australia’s own Dissociatives (whose album was reviewed at iJamming! here.) But then comes the internationally acceptable Bloc Party and the mid-day news, which leads, incongruously enough, with an item about British clubbers going death from all the loud volume before remembering its location and talking about the Australian rugby team.
That I have NO interest in and I’ve reached the point where my deliberately disoriented self wants some grounding, wants to heat an announcer give me the time I see on my own computer clock, with a weather report that applies to the Catskills, not California or Cumbria. I decide to tune into Woodstock’s own WDST, 100.1 FM… at which I finally realize that I don’t actually have a radio here.
Seriously. All this music, and not even a transmitter in sight. I find DST on the Web, and finally tune in via a cumbersome hook-up that could do with some fine-tuning itself. They have David Johansen live in the studio talking about the New York Doll movie, which will be showing as part of this weekend’s Woodstock Film Festival, and finally I’m hearing about an event I can actually attend. After floating freely round cyberspace for days on end, I’m back on something like terra firma.
But now I’ve got wonderlust. Expect frequent take-offs from here on in.