Shuffled

Like the rest of the Faithful, I kept a weather eye on my computer a few days ago during the MacWorld SF expo. The Mac Mini is a friendly little computer which I think will do very well in the next few months, mostly by word of mouth. It has the right balance of features, speed and cost that will be perfectly fine for 90% of users. I was a little mystified by the iPod Shuffle at first – it didn’t seem like a particularly stunning product, but now I’ve thought about it, it makes more sense to view it as a stylish USB key drive that also happens to play music and syncs seamlessly with iTunes. The syncing is an important point – I don’t want to have to muck about dragging files back and forth every time I want to load it up with something new.

Considering that I’ve been meaning to get a USB key for some time, it didn’t take too long for me to convince myself to spend £69 on the 512MB Shuffle (for comparison, a standard 512MB USB key costs about £35). Yes, I already have an iPod 20GB but it’s a bit unwieldy to take to the gym or running, plus I’m not that comfortable taking it with me in places where I think there is a risk of it getting nicked. I expect that the Shuffle will sell by the truckloads. Well done Apple!

I was disappointed by the lack of PowerBook updates though. My iBook G4 800mhz, bought a little over a year ago now, is still soldiering on but it just can’t handle having nine or ten different applications (some quite processor-intensive) open at the same time and run smoothly. It’s apparent that the next PowerBook update will only be a minor speedbump anyway, which is hardly worth getting, so I’ll just have to wait until June when the prophesied PowerBook G5 is said to emerge. Oh well – at least the speed increase will be even more marked.

The Execution of All Things

I have a bad habit with music. Whenever I acquire a particularly good album or set of songs, I play them again and again continuously until I either can’t listen to them for at least another year, or manage to exert some degree of self control and cruelly cut off my access. The current album I have on near-continuous play is Rilo Kiley’s The Execution of All Things. I first heard them from a song off The Trip by Snow Patrol, a compilation album of Snow Patrol’s favorite songs; Rilo Kiley’s With Arms Outstretched was one of those songs.

I tend to listen to new artists and albums with half an ear during work, and if anything catches my attention I’ll mark it up for further listening. I was listening to The Trip by Snow Patrol one day when the Rilo Kiley song came on and I thought, ‘Huh, that’s actually really good.’ With Arms Outstretched is a simple, beautiful alternative acoustic song with female vocals on just the right side of weird (just like the lyrics, in fact). A quick Amazon search revealed that Rilo Kiley, while not being particularly well known, were very well rated and so I quickly ordered The Execution of All Things, which most people believe is their best album so far.

I haven’t heard the others yet, but it is pretty impressive. The band has a great range that isn’t easily described. The review on Amazon.com asks, ‘Are they alternative-country rockers or alternative rock crooners?’ I don’t know what either of those are, but The Execution of All Things has at least four excellent songs, which is pretty unprecedented in my experience. In comparison, I think that U2’s latest album (How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb) only has three really decent songs, and two of them sound the same anyway.

Anyway, back to Rilo Kiley. All of the vocals are by Jenny Lewis, who has a voice which is slightly reminiscent of an americanised Emiliana Torrini. Those four songs start with, appropriately enough, the title song The Execution of All Things, a weird alternative pop song with great chords and slightly bizarre lyrics. Next is My Slumbering Heart, a more traditional up-tempo pop song. The third song is With Arms Outstretched, which I’ve already mentioned, and the last is Spectacular Views, a perfect alternative rock album finisher where the guitarist gets to show off.

Rilo Kiley recently released a new album called More Adventurous. It’s yet to come out in the UK but reviews have proved divisive. Most agree that it’s a good album and that it’s more ‘produced’ than The Execution of All Things. For some, this is a good thing while others aren’t so hot on the new sound. I’m eager to find out for myself.

Not that desperate

Along with several million other people in the UK, I watched the first episode of Desperate Housewives today. I’m not sure why this deserves a post here when I’ve been watching better shows recently (namely Lost) but the buildup and hype behind this has been such that I couldn’t avoid seeing it. It was amusing enough and pulled all the right strings in terms of being funny, mysterious and dramatic – clearly good enough to pull in over 20 million viewers in the US (double that of Sex in the City). Still, I have the feeling that on the raunch-scale, a lot of people are going to be disappointed; Desperate Housewives barely registers a murmur compared to the aneurysm that is Sex in the City. Naturally, I am above such things and I think in this case I think people will get over it. No doubt we will all be watching Teri Hatcher meeting up with her ex-husband in Paris in seven years.