Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Death Cab for Cutie -- A Return to Form After Falling Down "Narrow Stairs"

I am a Death Cab for Cutie fan. Scratch that, I am a fan of Death Cab for Cutie PRIOR to their last album, "Narrow Stairs." Let's face it, they tripped ... and tripped badly in the last go round as they tried to chart new territory (a harder, darker sound). For me, it just never worked -- and that album is largely unlistenable. I liked Death Cab precisely because their music was the 180 of their name -- beautiful, ethereal, haunting.

Fast forward to their new album that just hit -- "Codes and Keys" -- which marks a return to their softer and more melodic form. I have been in constant listen mode for the past two days, and the album is growing more and more on me. To be clear, it isn't a classic -- nor does it have a single classic track like "Soul Meets Body" or "Transatlanticism" (although the album's final track, "Stay Young, Go Dancing" comes close) -- but it has some very strong moments and only a few full misses. It is generally more up-tempo than the band's earlier works, but it doesn't try to rock out like its failed attempt with "Narrow Stairs."

I give it 3.5 stars out of 5.

Here is my song-by-song "thumbs up/down":

Track 1 -- "Home is A Fire" -- sets the overall up-tempo mood for the album -- thumbs up (half-way)

Track 2 -- "Codes And Keys" -- a bit Arcade Fire-like -- thumbs up

Track 3 -- "Some Boys" -- skippable -- thumbs down (but not completely)

Track 4 -- "Doors Unlocked And Open" -- drum machine beat -- thumbs up (half-way)

Track 5 -- "You Are A Tourist" -- the album's first single -- up-tempo vibe continues -- thumbs up

Track 6 -- "Unobstructed Views" -- mellower, bringing it back down -- thumbs up (half-way)

Track 7 -- "Monday Morning" -- classic Death Cab vibe -- a stand-out track -- thumbs up

Track 8 -- "Portable Television" -- picks up the temp again, but nothing special here -- not memorable, but not bad either -- kind of like waking up to a bowl of "Smart Start" (my usual breakfast) -- it gets the job done, but not much more than that -- thumbs flat (neither up nor down)

Track 9 -- "Underneath the Sycamore" -- skip -- definitely a thumbs down (c'mon guys, let's get back on the winning streak)

Track 10 -- "St. Peter's Cathedral" -- slows it down -- Ben Gibbard can be great, or his voice can be grating -- here is a bit more of the latter, yet the track's overall vibe saves it -- thumbs up (half-way)

Track 11 -- "Stay Young, Go Dancing" -- THE stand-out track of the album -- finishes the album strong with an almost Death Cab classic -- beautiful melody, beautiful lyrics -- THIS is why I love this band -- thumbs up (way up)!

Sorenson Media Named a Top Private Company in Mobile Space

I am proud to announce that Sorenson Media has been named as a top private company in the mobile space -- and, 1 of only 15 in the "enabling technologies" category. Here is AlwaysOn's official announcement of this honor it bestowed upon us -- and here is our official announcement that we issued just now.

Mobile is absolutely front and center in our overall best-of-breed video encoding solutions, which enable the delivery of optimized video in the broadest array of formats for playback on any device, including every leading mobile device (all iOS devices, all Android devices, Blackberry, etc.). We also have developed reference apps for iOS and Android devices that empower users to capture, upload, transcode, manage, and share (securely!) videos directly from the respective device. Bottom line -- for any business or enterprise (including media companies), we can uniquely do what others can't in the mobile world. The list is too long to discuss here, but am happy to tell you more or connect you with the right people at my company if you email me at bizdev@sorensonmedia.com.

iCloud -- Yes, It's a Big Deal, But Where's the Video Beef?

Yesterday, the Apple faithful gathered once again to pay homage to Steve Jobs and his words from on high (upon the stage, that is). This time, the message was OSX and iCloud -- Apple's long-awaited online digital hub where consumers will be able to access most of their content anytime, anywhere, from any connected device. iCloud isn't here yet, but it will arrive later this year. iCloud features 9 Cloud-related apps -- iTunes, Photo Stream, Storage, iBooks, Backup, App Store, Contacts, Calendar and Mail -- and 5 GB of storage.

Hmmm, notice anything missing? That's right, video and streaming. For now, video was largely absent from Jobs' spiel -- both premium video (motion picture, television) and personal video (your own video captured from your iPhone, etc.). Jobs' troops apparently couldn't secure the premium video streaming rights they and the entertainment companies feel they need for iCloud -- not yet at least. And, my guess is that since premium video streaming was not yet ready for prime time, Jobs and crew chose not to focus on personal video streaming.

That undoubtedly will change by the time iCloud launches later this year. Video absolutely will be front and center at that time given Apple's relentless focus on video (FaceTime, HD video capture from the iPhone, etc.).

Let's take a brief look at Photo Stream (here is Apple's official link), a cloud component that was featured in yesterday's announcement. Photo Stream enables the consumer to take a digital still from any iOS device and immediately push it into the Cloud for playback on any other iOS device, so long as you are connected to Wi-Fi. Right now, Photo Stream makes no mention of enabling the same thing with your personal videos; nor does Photo Stream feature immediate sharing of your personal media with a family or friend on a non-iOS device. But, can there be any doubt that personal video streaming and sharing is next? While video and video sharing is much more of a challenge (think optimizing video delivery across multiple devices, including non-iOS devices, and think much larger file size among other things -- longer upload times, more storage), the video game is "on" and Apple will continue to try to lead it. And, let's not forget that iCloud chose the word "Stream" in the context of photos -- of course, this is not by accident. This is a set-up for the full panoply of personal media sharing -- including personal video streaming.

Right now, video streaming is the missing link ... but not for long.