Tuesday, June 28, 2005

It strikes silently, with the fury of 1,000 RSS feeds

Everybody has a blog these days, and we're finally getting to the point where "everybody" means "all of my friends". Yesterday, as I added the eleventh blog to my already-bloated Firefox bookmarks, I decided I needed something better.

Enter Newsninja. It's a web-based RSS feed aggregator, and it means never having to click through a dozen bookmarks, hoping to find an update or two.

Basically, you tell Newsninja what sites you want it to watch. Most blogs and news sites publish an RSS feed (see that little orange icon down in the right corner of Firefox?), which you then plug into Newsninja's setup screen and assign to a category (such as... well... "blogs"). Every hour or so, Newsninja goes out and checks all of the feeds in your profile for new items and publishes them in a sexy overview format.

Just by going to one site, I can see which of my friends have updated their blogs, and which sites I regularly follow have new content. Did I mention it was free?

Go forth, sign up, and delete all those stupid bookmarks.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Album of the Indeterminate Time Period

For years now, I've been a packrat when it comes to music. I'll download (err... legally acquire) anything I can get my hands on that might even remotely appeal to me. On a passing recommendation, I'll grab entire albums by an unknown band without even hearing a sample. Of course, this is a good way to end up with a lot of crap; tell someone you've got a soft spot for mellow indie girl-pop, and you'll get a dozen suggestions for amazingly forgettable albums.

Every so often, however, my undiscerning download habits dredge up an incredible album by a band I've never heard of.

The latest such album is "Good Morning, Beautiful" from a band called Irving, which was recommended to me by some of the SA Goons. I'm not sure exactly how to categorize the musical genre -- AllMusic lists them as either indie pop or "neo-psychedelia".

Whatever. The album sounds like a fusion of some of my favorite artists: Pavement, They Might Be Giants, Mazzy Star, The Beatles, and even a little Simon and Garfunkel thrown in for good measure. There's even the occasional hint of lo-fi neo-garage-band, but not enough to make Irving sound even remotely like another White Stripes clone.

Aside from the catchy tunes and clever lyrics, the thing that really blows me away about this album is the diversity of the tracks. It's rare that every track on an album manages to have its own individual character without making the final product sound like a jumbled mess, but Irving has managed to pull it off. Check it out if you're looking for something a bit different.

Other stuff lurking in my MP3 player:
Nine Inch Nails - "With Teeth" - It's gone from a bitter disappointment to one of my favorite albums. After a few listens, you start to appreciate exactly what Trent Reznor has done here. It's not as deep as The Fragile or as raw as The Downward Spiral, but it's still genius.

Self - "Ornament and Crime" - Self's upcoming (and quite possibly never-to-be-released) fourth album. I can see why a record label might not want to publish this, but it's faithful to the Self tradition of producing offbeat, clever, catchy music. The free, web-released B-side album, "Porno, Mint, and Grime" (download it!) has some excellent tracks as well.

Fishbone - "The Reality of my Surroundings" - Okay, this is over ten years old, but I don't think I appreciated it properly the first time around. It is by far Fishbone's most rocking (and under-appreciated) album. The songs carry a subtle anti-violence message and a not-so-subtle anti-drug message, which is an interesting contrast to the gangsta rap scene that was exploding when this album came out.