Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Review: Napster 2010

I spent Saturday night with Napster. Our first date went well. In fact, we're now going steady.

You'd be forgiven for being skeptical of my new infatuation. I am, after all, on the rebound. I'd just learned that Lala, my steady flame, will be euthanized at midnight on June 1. I'll miss her.

So when a marketing person from Napster offered to hook me up with a free 30-day trial of a beta version of the service, I gratefully jumped all over it. (I'm told that the "new and improved look isn't going to be fully released until next year.")

While I'm not accustomed to paying for it, and the girl has a couple of personality flaws and physical defects, I still rate her pretty highly. Here's my analysis of her assets:

First impressions.
I had twenty-two May 4 new releases on my "must-hear" list. Napster has 16 of them available in their entirety today:

8 Ball & MJG- Ten Toes Down
Bone Thugs-n-Harmony- Uni-5: The World's Enemy
Pablo Casals- Bach: Six Suites for Solo Cello (Remastered)
Willie Colon & Ruben Blades- Siembra
Court Yard Hounds- s/t
Deftones- Diamond Eyes
The Fall- Your Future Our Clutter
Godsmack- The Oracle
Hillsong United- I Heart Revolution
The Hold Steady- Heaven Is Whenever
Jowell & Randy- El Momento
Cyril Neville- Essential Cyril Neville
The New Pornographers- Together
Doug Sahm- He's About a Groover: An Essential Collection
Trina- Amazin'
Nikki Yanofsky- Nikki

These titles aren't yet available at Napster:

Chris Brokaw & Geoff Farina- Angel's Message To Me
Philip Catherine- Concert In Capbreton
Flying Lotus- Cosmogramma
Ben Goldberg- Baal: The Book of Angels 15
Rudy Ray Moore- Dolomite (Reissue/Expanded with 28 bonus tracks)
Frank Sinatra/Antonio Carlos Jobim- The Complete Reprise Recordings

That's not bad. And while they don't have the Dolemite reissue, Napster lists 35 other Moore albums. That's a whole lot of cussin'! And the absence of the new Sahm was more than made up for by the presence of Groover's Paradise, a 1974 album I've never heard in its original format until today.

Those unsightly feet.
Napster's search engine is horrendous. Users must know exactly how Napster has arbitrarily listed an item. The system is absurdly non-intuitive. Entering "Robyn Hitchcock," for example, doesn't automatically turn up his new album. Napster has separate listings under "Robyn Hitchcock," "Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptions," "Robyn Hitchcok and the Egyptions," "Robyn Hitchcock and The Venus 3," etc. Napster made me struggle to finally find Propellor Time. And classical music? Forget about it! It's just too much work.

The big tease.
I suspect it's a label-driven issue, but it's enormously frustrating that only thirty-second snippets are available for some albums. I've noticed most regularly with several (but not all) releases from the ECM and Nonesuch labels. Forget, consequently, about streaming Pat Metheny's Orchestrion.

No kiss-and-tell.
While I enjoyed the social aspects of Blip, Lala and Last.fm, that same element can also be intrusive. Napster, as far as I can tell, doesn't publicly reveal my playlist. It's a relief to know that my obsession with vintage Stanley Clarke and with Slipknot's Iowa can stay my dirty little secrets. (Whoops.)

Chantilly lace.
A few additional features also charm me. I love being able to simultaneously view the cover art for every available album under each entry. The "Other Members Like" feature is also attractive.

Her pretty voice.
The sound quality is fine. And unlike Lala, Napster lets me listen to the same song over and over again.

I'm not prepared to get married to Napster. But I think she's going to move in with me. We'll take it one month at a time.

(Random original image by There Stands the Glass. Because Google inexplicably slapped me with a "Blogger DMCA takedown notification" yesterday for a post that featured an photo I found from a band's MySpace account, I'm reluctant to use any outside images.)


bgo said...

You can stream the new Flying Lotus at his MySpace site. Or you can find elsewhere too ;)

Uncle John would've approved and loved it. Cameo by cousin Ravi.

Chris Doolittle said...

You are my Napster BB. If you don't mind I will let you listen for me and then I will filter your suggestions. This is how much I trust and believe in your critiques.

Happy In Bag said...

Thanks, BGO and Chris.

brucedene said...

I can hook you up with the Dolemite OST, if you're interested.

Happy In Bag said...

I appreciate it, BD, but I'm good. "And I ain't lyin'!"

Rick in PV said...

Have you heard of Wikimedia Commons? Great source for copyright-free images.

bigsteveno said...

That Doug Sahm album isn't actually new, is it? Google seems to say there's an album about ten years old by that title, but it appears to be yet another repackaging of the early stuff on Huey Meaux's Crazy Cajun label.

Happy In Bag said...

Unfortunately, legality has nothing to do with it, Rick. Written label and artist authorizations mean nothing to Google. Besides, I kind of like the concept of laying an "antique" tinge on images of outdated electronics.

That is correct, BigSteveNO.