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Archive for December, 2007

Icing on the Cake

Cake Photo
On Thursday night, I caught the final show of the Unlimited Sunshine Tour, which was headlined by Cake, the quirky, understated, and often brilliant alt-rock band that blends intelligent songwriting, solid-but-not-flashy musicianship, and an eclectic mix of stylistic influences. The show, at New York’s new Terminal 5 venue, also featured four other acts: Agent Ribbons, Oakley Hall, King City, and Brazilian Girls ; which were whisked on and off stage in a very efficient manner to keep things moving with virtually no intermissions (often while one band played on one side of the stage, roadies were furiously taking down or setting up on the other).

By the time Cake–which was promoting it’s recently released CD, B-Sides and Rarities (Upbeat, 2007)–hit the stage at a little after 10:00 PM (the show started at 7:30), the place was packed with the band’s loyal followers, who sang along with virtually every song. McCrea complained of having limited vocal range due to a cold, but Cake was still able to crank out almost an hour and a half of their material. The band’s set drew selections from most of their 6-album catalog (with the exception of their most recent studio CD, Pressure Chief), and included many of their most well-known tunes including their two most popular tunes, “Short-Skirt Long Jacket,” and “The Distance,” but also covering more obscure selections such as their cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” the Kenny Rogers hit “Ruby (Don’t Take Your Love to Town), as well as their own “Comfort Eagle,” and “Guitar,” among many others.

Cake’s blends a solid rock rhythm section, Xan McCurdy’s tasteful guitar playing, McCrea’s acoustic guitar (he plays a small, parlor-sized acoustic through a little amp on stage, getting a thin and intentionally cheesy sound) and Vince DiFiore’s trumpet and synth parts. The trumpet is a key to Cake’s original sound, providing many of the riffs for the songs, and acting as counterpoint to McCrea’s vocals. DiFiore’s understated synth playing mainly sticks to single-note, analog-sounding lines (Fiore was playing what appeared to be a Yamaha S30 keyboard, but I couldn’t tell what was MIDIed to it).

McCrea showed his uncanny ability to get the audience involved in sing-along and clapping segments (he sometimes instructs one side of the club to try to sing louder than the other). Typical of the band’s quirky humor, gave away several young trees near the end of the show, instructing the winners that they must take pictures of themselves with the trees once planted and send them to Cake’s Web site).

Brazilian Girls, which played directly before Cake, featured the sultry vocals of Sabina Sciubba, and a lot of very catchy synth-based pop. San Francisco’s King City provided two short sets of catchy Latin-tinged acoustic instrumental music.

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Related Topics: Emusician, Mike Levine |

In the Valley of the Leopard

I recently got a new Mac Pro, and decided–contrary to my usual policy of waiting a while when new OS versions are released–to upgrade to Leopard right away. I knew I’d be facing some incompatibility issues, but figured, as long as Logic, Final Cut Pro, Soundtrack Pro, and Word worked (which they do), I’d be able to get by.

As it turns out, most of my software either worked out of the box, or was upgradeable from company Web sites. Two rather important exceptions were Pro Tools and my Waves plug-ins (I have the Musician’s Bundle II), neither of which support Leopard. I assumed that Digidesign and Waves would have already offered Leopard compatible apps and plug-ins by now (it’s been several weeks since Leopard hit), but so far, they haven’t. Hopefully, that will change soon, but if you heavily use either Pro Tools or Waves plugs, you should definitely wait to upgrade.

Now, to Leopard itself. The following are some random thoughts about my experiences with it so far. This is not a comprehensive look, but rather just some musings on some of the features I’ve used. There are so many new items in Leopard, there are certainly plenty of new items I haven’t even tried yet.

So far, I’ve been impressed with a number of the new additions. The Spaces feature lets you designate up to four separate desktops for different applications, and you can switch between them with key commands. As somebody who often has a ton of programs open, I find this to be a very cool feature. I’m still getting used to using it, and sometimes find myself trying to open programs in the wrong Space, but it will definitely help reduce the dreaded window clutter.

Another Leopard feature that I’ve found extremely handy is Quick Look. It allows you to actually look (or listen to or watch) a file without having to open the application. I’ve found it very useful when I’m auditioning loops that are in a finder window. All you have to do is select the file and hit the spacebar, and boom, it plays (in the case of an audio or movie file) or opens a preview (in the case of a document or picture). Very cool.

One of the Leopard features getting a lot of attention is Time Machine, which is a backup utility with some pretty neat features. For instance it lets you look back to versions of backed up files previous to the most recent, allowing you to restore a file to a state from a particular date. I tried to set it up for backing up my work files, but found that it’s overly simplified interface didn’t allow for enough customization for my needs. Also, my backup drives are of the same size as my primary drives, and with Time Machine, you really need a backup drive that’s considerably larger. That’s because it’s saving multiple copies of files. So, at least for the moment, I’m sticking with SuperDuper for backing up my system drive (it also has the advantage of making a bootable backup, which Time Machine doesn’t do), and ChronoSync for my file backups.

I’m impressed with the new version of Mail that comes with Leopard. It integrates To Do items (syncable to iCal) and a notepad, and looks sleeker. In general, the new Leopard look, which includes translucent menus, is pretty cool. I’m not crazy about the new folder look, however. Apple has done away with colored folders. You can assign a label (and therefore a color) to a Folder, but it only affects the name underneath, not the folder itself. As a result, the folders are a little dull looking to my view.

From a performance standpoint, Leopard generally seems to run pretty smoothly for me. However, I have been seeing the dreaded spinning beach ball more often than I did in Tiger (I have increased the number of drives in my system, so that may be a lot of it, as the beachball appears when your Mac is switching drives). Occasionally, things seem to get hung up and there’s a little delay before my computer responds to a key press. Perhaps I need to do a clean install and reinstall the system to get it to run a little more efficiently (ugh, I hope not), but I’ll wait and see. Perhaps upcoming Leopard upgrades (I’m running 10.5.1 right now) will solve that.

Overall, I don’t regret making the move. I find Leopard’s new features to be very useful for the most part, and I’m confident that the apps I have that aren’t supported yet will be soon.

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Related Topics: Emusician, Mike Levine |


The Bus, EM's editorial blog, features posts from all the EM editors on topics related to gear, recording techniques and much more. It's also home to posts from a selected group of guest bloggers.


December 2007
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