9.2.06

It's A Whole New World

A magic place I never knew, indeed. In an inspired moment of Disney prescience, Princess Jasmine was not actually referring to wafting her willowy way over pyramids and mountain tigers, but rather the MP3 revolution that was to hit it's peak almost a decade after her Oscar-tastic operetta.

I've literally just joined the teeming hordes of London with white wires protruding from their chest (not in University College Hospital, mind). That's right, I gave in at Christmas time and presented myself with not an iPod (for these had sold out), but a Creative player, named Sleek. Which it is. It's ace, it is, it holds about 5,000 songs which will keep me going for the foreseeable future and means I can listen to whatever I want, whenever I want.
Why just the other day it meant that, when I had a hankering for that song that goes da-duuuh-duuh-duh-duh, da-duuuh-duuh-duh-duh, I was able to flick the little thing to Wake Up by Arcade Fire. Exactly what I wanted. Brilliant.

As Princess Jasmine would explain to you though, it's not merely the ability to access your entire CD collection with a deft flick of the thumb that's the most fascinating thing about your mp3 player; no, it's 'random play all'.

I was never really taken with the shuffle switch before this. Almost old-fashioned in my outlook, I placed great importance in the running order of an album: a record should be listened to in full, and in order. Take, for example, The Cure's Disintegration, or the first Stone Roses album - to put it out of order would be banned as cruel and unusual, were this country a constitutionally-led nation. Imagine if 'Don't Stop' came on first, followed by 'Elizabeth My Dear' then 'This Is The One'. That's just silly talk. Even on my gadget, I refuse to put a single CD on random.

However. We're talking something new and previously an impossibility. You just wouldn't take a pin to your CD shelves in the hope of coming up with a completely random track, then do it all again when that song has finished. Would you? Maybe you would, in which case i'll shut up.


Just kidding, that's not going to happen. But now you can do just that, at the touch of a button (or scroll-pad of some variety, to be more accurate). And why's it so great? Difficult to put into words, really. The major draw for me is that it brings to your attention tracks previously buried away in the middle of albums that you might love, but don't neccessarily concentrate on, and therefore don't know so well.

If I were to put on OK Computer, then it wouldn't be an issue - I listened to that album continuously as a 15 year-old and love each song like a child. The aforementioned Roses record had a similarly immediate effect on me: each track hooks itself in on first listen. But, put say Four Tet's 'Rounds' on and we're on different territory. Keiran Hebden, as we all know, is an insanely talented genius and 'Rounds' (for me) is his finest achievement, a singular album of breathtaking scope and originality which I've listened to dozens of times. And yet, there are songs tucked away on there that, when heard out of context, strike one anew. No longer are you thinking well it's good, but 'She Moves She' is better, there are no comparisons - in fact you don't even know who the artist is to begin with. You think, this is a decent track, I wonder who it is, it's probably on one of those label samplers I have on here. And it's Four Tet, and you're left speechless because you thought you knew all about this man, and all his songs, but you're made to re-approach it, and it's a wonderful experience. It's 'The Angel Rocks back And Forth', by the way - go find him in the little Tesco on Camden Road and congratulate him on it.

Maybe you're like me, you buy singles or EP's because you think that's a pretty bold move in this album-orientated world, you might find something as a B-side that'll give you some extra kudos, some of the street credibility I hear the kids talking about these days. Maybe you get suckered into it because you're at a 4AD anniversary show and you know the person trying to sell you the merchandise (maybe you buy a Magn├ętophone album on spec, maybe you're dead impressed). Maybe you end up with Kristin Hersh's 'Strings' which immediately hits you as beautiful. Maybe you also end up buying Pixies singles even though you know every track like the back of your hand. Maybe you get a Tanya Donelly EP and it gets put to one side and listened to a couple of times.

Thank goodness for mp3 in these troubled times then: Desert Island Disc as 'The Storm' is, there's a song on there which hit me while stood on the platform at Drayton Park one cool evening which is just so subtle, so simple that it cuts to your very core. 'After Your Party' is a straightforward, slightly country-tinged, very TD-ish tune about the morning after that rings so true, but got so unjustly neglected on first listen.

These are just a couple of ones that have stuck out: it excites me to think what'll be the next obscure B-side, the next track 8, the next compilation filler that'll grab me by the throat.
Exciting times, it's a whole new world.

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