A music diary


September 26, 2009
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(FAQ is the next post down from this.)

I’ve been tinkering with the blog a bit, and found that Blogger is more supportive of various features like music embedding, so I decided to move my music-review posts over to there. This blog will stay open for Heartstorm and the FAQ. Here’s the blog I’ll be using for reviews:



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thesixtyone FAQ

September 25, 2009
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I’ve taken it upon myself to write up a quick FAQ for thesixtyone.com, since I see a lot of people with the same questions. Check out the site FAQ first, but this has a few tips.

I’m a new listener. Walk me through the website.

Thesixtyone.com is a music site with an emphasis on gaming. (That will make more sense as you get used to the site.) Click around the site and listen to the songs. If you like a song and want to see it get more attention, click the gray heart next to it.

Whoa, hearts? What are those?

Hearts are like points; you’re given a certain amount every day depending on your level, and you can spend them on songs. The more hearts a song gets, the better it does (usually). If a lot of people are “hearting” a song, it will show up on the most active page. If it does well, it will “post,” or go onto the recently posted page. If it does really well, it will go onto the hot right now page. You can sort any of these pages by music genre, or just look at all the songs together.

Can I heart a song more than once?

Yep. Used to be it correlated to your level (i.e., level 2 = can heart a song 2 times) but I think you need to be at least level 5 or so to start doing it now. After that, it correlates with your level.

What is a “RB” or a “listen”?

A “radio bump” and a “listen” are the same thing–clicking someone’s “listen to radio” button to hear a random song they’ve saved. Your profile keeps a count of how many times people listen to your radio, and people often bump each other’s radios as a courtesy (and many quests require it). The name “bump” hearkens back to when there were no hearts, just “bumps” made from points.

What’s this “rack” thing? Sounds painful.

The rack contains songs that haven’t yet posted. You can get extra reputation and hearts for listening to those songs. Usually you can find something really nifty in it; other times it’s … well, painful.

What’s reputation?

The amount of points you have. You gain reputation by hearting songs that other people later heart, by listening to the rack, and by doing quests and such.

What are quests?

Click the red circle next to your user name, and you will see a list of daily quests. Do those, and you’ll get points and hearts.

So what are achievements, then?

Just like in certain video games, achievements can be unlocked by accomplishing something in the site–whether that’s listening to a certain number of songs, reviving a song, whatever. You get points (reputation) for doing them.

How do I first heart (discover) a song?

Be the first person to heart it, silly. It’s not easy, but the recently submitted page is your friend.

The site swore at me! How do I get it to stop?

If you max-heart a song, the site will yell “Holy s—” at you, by default. Go to your settings and preferences, and check “filter not safe for work content,” and it won’t do it any more.

How do I feature a song on my profile?

Save a song and click “feature” under it. You can feature up to three, and can unfeature them at any time.

How do I revive a song?

The song needs to have already posted at least 60 days ago. Reviving a song is a huge deal–it sends the song straight to the “recently posted” page.

Revives recently underwent a change. Now, to revive a song, you will need to submit a “bid” from your reputation, that is, an amount of points that you’re willing to spend. It must be at least 1,000 points, and you can’t see what other people have bid. If your bid is highest after three hours, you win and your bid is picked. So be prepared to bid high.

What is “veg”?

Just a screensaver type thing. Click it and see for yourself.

What is Heartstorm?

A user-run quest on thesixtyone. Read about it here.

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Fanfarlo – “The Walls Are Coming Down”

September 22, 2009
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I really like this Fanfarlo video for their track “The Walls Are Coming Down.” The costumes and symbolism are great, and how many music videos have an escapologist performing the “classic Houdini upside-down strait jacket escape”?

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September 19, 2009
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I now have an iPod, courtesy of my school: so I can look up medical drugs and such, and to help with clinicals. But they haven’t given me all the books yet, so I’ve mostly been testing out the music functions (to help me study, of course). It’s very different from my old Sansa Clip.

Pros of iPod:
– much better sound
– more album art
– easy to make playlists (supposedly)
– shake to shuffle!

Pros of Sansa Clip:
– you can clip it on something
– has FM radio and sound recording built in
– no one gives me dirty looks on the bus for using it
– won’t break if you drop it

I’d say it’s a toss-up.

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September 18, 2009
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I’ve decided to put more energy into the blog, so I’ll start uploading old album reviews I have lying around, and try to keep up with the goings-on at thesixtyone.com.

Round Two of Heartstorm was wildly successful–I think our poster child is now Fol Chen’s track “Cable TV,” plucked out of relative obscurity (around 170 hearts, I believe) by user waltdiggs and featured for Heartstorm. The song took off, staying on the “hot right now” page for a very long time, and currently stands at 8,500+ hearts (making it the #1 song on thesixtyone for the past 30 days, and #10 for the past year!). Fol Chen was also a top artist on last.fm’s thesixtyone group that week. And many people have contacted me saying they love Heartstorm, and people keep signing up, so I guess it’s a success! This week, Round Three started, and I wish everyone luck.

I also might change the name of the blog–“Paisley” is pretty, but it doesn’t exactly evoke thoughts of music (well, maybe country music). So we’ll see about that, too.

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I Fight Dragons: Behind the Scenes on NES-Rock

September 18, 2009
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For Chicago band I Fight Dragons, saving the world–and sounding great–is all in a day’s work. This week I caught up with lead singer Brian Mazzaferri, who explains the band’s mix of pop-rock and sweeping electronic melodies–those cute beeps and bloops from old video games.

“When I heard the distinctive waveforms and patterns of the NES soundcard growing up, it was always associated with adventure, with epic journeys,” he said. The band channels that energy into their songs, be they clever tributes to video games or just plain knock-your-socks-off rock. To play the NES components of the songs live, they use various modified video game controllers, and even a guitar from the game Guitar Hero.

To start, here’s a video of Brian demonstrating the practice studio:

For those who don’t know, how would you explain NES-Rock?

Well, I’d explain NES-Rock (as we define it) as Pop-Rock music plus Chiptune, which is music made using old video game soundcards (specifically Nintendo ones like the GameBoy and the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)).

How did you get the idea to combine NES sounds with your music?

It sort of happened backwards. Bill Prokopow and I were making a demo of an early version of “Heads Up, Hearts Down,” and I suggested we try to make an intro that would be the chorus as if it were coming out of a Nintendo system. After making the demo and being immensely pleased with ourselves, I stumbled across the chiptune scene in earnest.

There’s tons of artists out there making original music using obsolete equipment like GameBoys, NES, Segas, Commodore 64s, etc, and as soon as I discovered that scene I started listening to TONS of it, and I knew I wanted to find a way to integrate that with Pop-Rock. So we set about to do it!

Do you have any advice for musicians who want to experiment with Chiptune?

Well, for anyone who wants to experiment, I’d say if you have some recording background check out free plugins like YMCK’s Magical 8-bit and Chip32. They work with garageband, audacity, protools, etc. and make it very easy to start hearing sounds right away.

For people without the background in DAW stuff but with a mind for tweaking, some of the easiest programs are Famitracker, Nitrotracker, or Nerdtracker, all of which let you program within the restrictions of the NES sound card, but there’s definitely a learning curve.

For the very hardcore, get a Little Sound DJ or Nanoloop cartridge and a Gameboy! It’s very fun to mess around with, and there’s great tutorials online.

Thanks Brian! More about I Fight Dragons:
on Myspace
on thesixtyone

(Note: I originally posted this piece on maxbumps.net on Aug 20.)

Posted in interview, video