January 13th, 2014
Research is still inconclusive, but it seems music has already found its home on the tournament scene
When the World Poker Tour announced its partnership with premium headphones manufacturer Monster earlier this year, the poker world once again became very divided by the issue of listening to music at the poker tables. There’s no rule against it in most major live tournaments (except for televised tables where pretty much any electronic gadget is banned), but it has been a long-debated topic. Does music help poker players focus?
Pioneer poker theorist and professional poker player Mike “The Mad Genius of Poker” Caro, one of the most vocal critics of the idea, claims that it does the exact opposite. Playing while listening to music is, in a way, anathema to traditional poker as it cuts the player off from spotting opponents’ verbal cues and tells – an important aspect that Caro says sets poker apart from other games. He further adds that electronic equipment at the table may be used to facilitate cheating.
Despite critics’ misgivings, however, it seems music has definitely found a home on the poker table. At big events like the WSOP, the white earbuds that come with Apple devices are on almost every table. Major headphones manufacturers like Bose, Audio Technica, and most prominently Beats are also well represented. Perhaps the most conclusive proof is the aforementioned partnership between the Partypoker-owned WPT and Monster: WPT event winners are given Gold Monster 24K headphones as part of the prize.
Research on music’s effect on focus and concentration is still inconclusive. It doesn’t hurt to test the hypothesis, though, and so far it seems the best choice is to stick to instrumental tracks. A 2012 article on the Wall Street Journal mentions a Taiwanese study that linked listening to music with lyrics and lower scores on tests of concentration. It makes sense: when your brain is confronted with strong verbal stimuli such as catchy lyrics, there’s less brainpower for you to use on your present task.
Another study mentioned in the same WSJ article suggested that listening to music you don’t have any strong feelings about is more beneficial. The study, which was conducted at a university in Taiwan, found that workers who either loved or hated music being played where they were working scored lowest on tests of attention. Basically, more unobtrusive background music is better. It’s no wonder then that very successful poker players like Daniel Negreanu say that they listen to meditation music or nature sounds when playing.
December 23rd, 2013
Merry Christmas and happy holidays, from our family to you and yours! Whatever you might celebrating this season, and however you might be celebrating it, we hope you’ll enjoy some seasonal tunes our friends have put together for you.
Half-handed Cloud, Liz Janes, Danielson, and a heavenly host of other terrific artists have covered movements from the first part of Handel’s Messiah—that’s the Christmas part—to Familyre’s Messiah – Part 1, a charity compilation on Sounds Familyre Records. It only costs $4 to download the whole album here or send it as an instant gift, and all proceeds go to the Red Cross to benefit victims of Typhoon Haiyan.
Another project featuring Half-handed Cloud’s John Ringhofer, The Season’s Glreekins, is also offering their very rare, self-titled 1998 tape as a present to you. Only 150 copies of the original issue were ever dubbed by the Glreekins, a seasonal band from Cattanooga, but the Glreekins are giving it away again here on bandcamp to celebrate its 15th anniversary.
My Brightest Diamond just released a cover of Bob Dylan and Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love,” which you can hear here.
So get someplace warm, and treat your ears to a little Christmas cheer. Here’s wishing you peace, joy and beautiful music this holiday season.
December 3rd, 2013
Linda Perhacs’ Parallelogram is the stuff of legend. Released quietly in 1970, the LP remained for years that rare example of a recording career consisting of a lone, largely forgotten, masterpiece of an album. Rediscovered, re-released and recognized years later, it inspired a new generation of musicians with its pure, guileless vocals, mystical lyrics, and visionary production.
But now, the Linda Perhacs story is finally entering its its second chapter, as the admiration of fans ranging from Devendra Banhart to Daft Punk has persuaded her to follow up her classic debut with a new release on Asthmatic Kitty Records. With her sophomore album, The Soul of All Natural Things, Perhacs is picking up where she left off.
It helps that her first record’s precocious lyrics and prescient sonics made that album sound as if it could have been released yesterday—but Perhacs’ voice remains so ageless, and her message so timeless, that her sophomore effort sounds almost as if it could have come out four decades ago. Whatever the case, it’s like she never went away.
On The Soul of All Natural Things, producers Fernando Perdomo and Chris Price have captured the spirit of that first album’s dreamy Canyon ambience, without favoring easy nostalgia over a direct and modern approach to the material. Fellow Perhacs devotees Ramona Gonzalez (Nite Jewel) and Julia Holter contribute their own talents to the CD, which will be also available for preorder in a hand-numbered limited edition on white vinyl, for an anticipated release on March 4, 2014.
You can preorder it here.
November 29th, 2013
Sufjan Stevens’ Silver & Gold vinyl boxset is available for sale. Two hundred copies of the the original 2,000 limited edition remain. Though AKR will keep the vinyl in print, it is unlikely that we’ll “repress” all the goodies inside.
The vinyl boxset includes:
1. One of only 2000 Limited Edition Boxsets, including five EPs on 6 vinyl discs
2. Christmas stickers
3. Temporary tattoos (non-toxic & safe for children)
4. Paper ornament (self-assembly with directions)
5. 40-page Christmas songbook with vocal and piano reductions
6. Christmas coloring book
7. Hallucinogenic photographs and psychedelic graphic design (by Sufjan Stevens, drug-free since 1975)
8. Extensive liner notes (introductory salutations and an essay on the Christmas tree by Sufjan Stevens, and a few theological words on the End Times by Pastor Vito Aiuto)
9. Download card.
10. Extra surprise stuff???
It is available for $120 (plus hefty 6lbs worth of shipping & handling). You can order the vinyl (and the CD boxset as well) by clicking here.
November 26th, 2013
Island Universe Story One and Two from Helado Negro, and the entire five-album epic from Land of a Thousand Rappers, are now available on quality, made-in-the-USA cassette tape.
Island Universe Story One comes in emerald green with gold emboss, while Two is a deep purple (also with gold emboss). You can buy
The five tapes from Land of a Thousand Rappers comes in a handmade, balsa wood storage box with laser-etched logo on front. The boxset, for $49, includes the book based on the Land of a Thousand Rappers universe, Zero Seed.
All our cassettes include emailed digital download, and a download card for your convenience. You can purchase the cassettes here, or by clicking below.
November 21st, 2013
New England area record and comic book store is taking pre-orders for a limited edition of Sufjan Stevens’ 2005 Illinois, with exclusive red and green colored vinyl that matches the award-winning artwork from Divya Srinivasan. The limited edition of 1,000 is out December 10. You can preorder it from Newbury here.
November 8th, 2013
Bryce Dessner is widely recognized for the rich guitar sound he brings to The National, and almost as widely for the discreet but unmistakably cerebral sophistication of projects like that group and his other, somewhat quieter band, Clogs. And so it may come as little surprise to his listeners in the rock world that Dessner, in addition to his performing career, has also built up a reputation as an esteemed classical composer, culminating in this week’s CD release of his music for string quartet.
Aheym, recorded by the iconic Kronos Quartet and released on Anti-Records, is only the latest step in a classical music career that has also included collaborations with composers Philip Glass and Steve Reich, in addition to cross-genre projects like the recent Planetarium, a song cycle created with Sufjan Stevens and opera composer Nico Muhly.
Stevens and Muhly exert a certain influence on Aheym. It was Muhly who proposed the collaboration between Dessner, Kronos and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus that produced the movement Tour Eiffel, recorded here, and Stevens makes an appearance as one-man choir of overdubbed Tenebre, singing the Hebrew alphabet in a nod to Renaissance settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah. Along with the album’s two purely instrumental works, Little Blue Something and the title track, their warm harmonies and layered, vital rhythms herald the emergence of a serious new composer of classical music.
October 29th, 2013
Lily & Madeleine have arrived. Just months after the release of their debut EP, the singing sisters have released a self-titled LP of all new songs.
The full-length format gives the sisters a broader canvas for musical expression, with Madeleine lending her ethereal vocals a soupçon of soul, and Lily’s wry contralto sounding earthier than ever. Lily & Madeleine reunites Madeleine and Lily Jurkiewicz with much of the creative team from their first disc, The Weight of the Globe, including producer Paul Mahern and songwriting partner Kenny Childers, but this time, the young women headed into the studio armed with the experience of making that recording, and with it a fuller sense of artistic self-determination. The resulting album is the sound of two already preternaturally assured young singer/songwriters coming even further into their own.
October 24th, 2013
The False Alarms, Fol Chen’s latest and greatest, is on sale on iTunes for just $7.99.
iTunes User pomengranates gave it five stars, calling it “future music.” User shajaaaahaaajaaa loves it too, suggesting that “in no way should you hesitate to buy this.” Here here iTunes friends.
Click here to purchase on iTunes.
October 22nd, 2013
For those listeners who literally cannot wait for Lily & Madeleine’s self-titled debut LP to drop on Oct. 29th, there’s good news. The blogosphere is counting down to the release of Lily & Madeleine with the release of one new acoustic video every day this week, starting with “I’ve Got Freedom” at CMT Edge. Fans of the elegant duo can keep up with each new video as it’s released by following Lily & Madeleine on Twitter, @LilandMad.
“Sounds Like Somewhere” is over at My Old Kentucky Blog.
The third video, for “Goodbye to Anyone,” has posted at Death & Taxes.
The fourth, “Come to Me,” is up at the Indianapolis Star.
“Spirited Away,” the fifth video, has posted over at USA Today.
Or, for a solid dose of the singing sisters, curious listeners can visit the website of New York Times, which for one week only is streaming the full album at their online Press Play feature. Visitors to the Times can preview the LP in its entirety or listen track by track to hear how Madeleine and Lily Jurkewiecz have managed to follow up on the promise of their breakout EP, The Weight of the Globe, released earlier this year.