Thumbs vs. Stars

I’ve been into digital music for a long time.

Back in the days before Napster, I remember getting songs from shifty FTP sites and spending a week ripping my CDs to my computer. I’ve also listened to a lot of streaming music, starting when one of the earliest versions of Windows Media Player featured a directory of radio stations with online feeds.

From the early days, my player of choice was WinAmp. I still use it to listen to my music on my computer and phone. Lately, though, I’ve been branching out- to Google Music (to store my music elsewhere and to buy new music) and services like Spotify and Pandora (to discover new music, or to listen to something I may not own). Each service/player has its own peculiarities, but there’s one thing the three streaming programs have in common that sets them apart from WinAmp how users rate songs.

Years back, WinAmp added a feature allowing users to give star ratings to songs. You give five stars to the songs you really like, zero to the ones you hate. Works great, especially if you have a large collection.

Spotify and Pandora opt for the simple thumbs up, thumbs down approach. For the most part, it makes sense if you’re adding new music to a playlist. Give a song or artist enough thumbs down and you’ll never hear it again. But for songs that are already on the playlist, it’s useless. Google Music also uses this approach, which doesn’t make sense. With Google Music, you’re listening to songs you already own. Why would you give a bunch of songs you own (for non-ironic purposes) thumbs down?

I’d much rather (for songs I’ve already said I wanted to listen to) rate a song with the more specific system. If I give a bunch of songs a thumbs up, that means I like them. But I don’t like them all equally.

If I had it my way, every way I listen to music would allow me to rate songs on a 1-100 scale. But that’s why I don’t write software.

Hope’s Favorite Alternative Music Artists

For as long as The Civee and I can remember, Hope has been into music. From our first few days with her, music (not just kids music) has quieted Hope and now that she’s old enough to pay attention, it entertains her.

She has been into Weezer for a while. If a Weezer song comes on while we’re hanging out at home or driving in the car, she will immediately identify it as a Weezer tune (and that includes songs that I don’t play all the time). But now, if we’re listening to the radio and a non-Weezer song plays, she will ask who plays it. For example, the other day Van Halen’s Jump was on. She asked “who plays this?” I replied “Van Halen.” She waited a few seconds, then repeated her question. I repeated my answer, adding “featuring David Lee Roth.” She asked a few more times, with me each time stating Van Halen and adding a few facts about the song. So by the ninth time she asked, I replied “Papa.” “Papa sings this,” Hope said.

So everytime she hears a non-Weezer song she will ask who plays it. She keeps asking until we reply with the name of someone she knows. Her grandmother sings Crazy Train. Her Uncle played Rockit. And her bus driver sang a bunch of 80’s rock tunes.

So if you ever meet Hope and she asks you if you sang The Safety Dance, please just smile and nod politely.

No New Weezer Album? Say It Ain’t So Pat

It’s been roughly two years since Weezer released three albums in the span of a few months. Since then, the band has toured, released a few covers and held a cruise I heard was pretty cool.

The band’s plans for the foreseeable future include playing together and more shows, but no new album. As Baltimore’s City News reports from an interview with drummer Pat Wilson:

“No news,” says drummer Pat Wilson.

Even though we have had multi-year stretches without new songs before, it’s still frustrating each time. In early 2011, the band released a few clips of an interesting-sounding group of sea-themed songs. And they have a ton of unreleased material from their 20 years together as a band. But for some reason, they’re not in any rush to release anything new.

It’s going to be a long winter.

Ten Awesome Weezer Songs You’ve Probably Never Heard

Weezer’s first album came out 18 years ago last month. Since then, they’ve released eight (or nine, depending on who you talk to) more, along with a plethora of b-sides and other songs that never even made it to an album.

I’ve written before about the large amount of material the band has produced but never released. But there’s a whole other category of Weezer song I’ve never really written about before: those songs that never made it to an official release (album, compilation, b-side or official digital companion) that somehow ended up in the hands of the fans.

Ten years ago, while working on their fourth album, Maladroit, Weezer put multiple versions of each album contender up on their Website for the fans to download. But they didn’t stop there- they also uploaded early versions of their fifth album demos (which never made it to an official release) and lead singer Rivers Cuomo shared many of his home demos with fans.

The reaction to the songs being shared was mixed. Fans debated the quality of the material, but most appreciated the chance to hear the songs throughout their development. To those who became fans after the Maladroit era, many of these (and other unreleased material) remains a surprise. And that’s the point of this list, to look at a number of Weezer songs that haven’t been “officially” released but are readily available.

In addition to the list above, I’m not counting Rivers’ solo demos or songs from his Boston shows (that’s what the Alone series is for). Nor am I counting early versions of songs that ended up on an album (if I were, the “doo-doo-doo-doo” Burndt Jamb and If You Want It would be on the list). Most of these songs were recorded between 2001 and 2002. That era is so heavily represented because that’s the source of most of the unreleased songs. Also, I’m relying on YouTube here, and the only available versions of these songs are from concerts, so I apologize in advance for the quality.

Here we go: Ten Awesome Weezer Songs You’ve Probably Never Heard (unless you’re a die-hard crazy fan):

10) 367

Put up on Weezer.com sometime in April of 2002, after the Maladroit sessions, but before the album was released. It featured what seemed to be a more personal theme than anything on Maladroit and some great instrumentation. The band would revisit this song later that year, but this is the best version.

9) Everybody Wants a Chance to Feel All Alone

From an acoustic session in the fall of 2002, released along with a version of Private Message (keep reading). The lyrics (seemingly involving choking) are a bit…different.

8) Saturday Night

Recorded with a slew of other songs in the summer of 2001 in Washington, DC, with Mikey on bass. Not sure what the song is about exactly, but it sounds like they’re having fun here. Weezer later attempted this during the Maladroit sessions, but it sounded differently.

7) My Brain is Working Overtime

Yes, a demo version of this song was available on Alone II. But this version is from the summer of 2000. This was one of the first new songs played by the band after coming back from their 1998-2000 hiatus. A poor version of this was available immediately after that first show (which took forever to download back in the days of dialup). Thankfully, better versions still surfaced.

6) The Victor

I can’t find a version of the best take of this song -released along with 367, the song features the same instrumentation and real point of view. Additionally, the April ’02 version started off with a near-minute long instrumental jam. This take, from later on in the year, isn’t as good, but is still pretty decent.

5) Sandwiches Time

Weezer recorded three different versions of this oddly-named tune, in the fall and winter of 2001. One version featured Rivers singing in his normal voice. The other two, well, you can hear for yourself. I also have to mention this is Hope’s favorite Weezer song title.

4) So Low

This goes without saying for all of the songs on this list, but I really think Weezer missed out by not putting So Low on an album. I first heard it at the Detroit show in September ’01 and got chills listening to it. The band played this a bunch of times in the fall of 2001 and then forgot about it. It resurfaced in the summer of ’02, but was changed to Mansion of Cardboard, a song about homelessness, and the magic was gone.

3) O Girl

Another one of the Summer 2000 Songs, or the first batch of Post-Pinkerton new songs. The song is energetic with a crazy (in a good way) chorus. There’s probably a better-sounding version of this out there, but it’s great to see this one being played.

2) Private Message

This is from the same acoustic session as Everybody Wants a Chance to Feel All Alone. This is actually the fourth version of this song we have (but I couldn’t find a video of my favorite, the original from April ’02). Personal lyrics and a great sound here, with the electric version featuring an energy that was only touched upon in the songs that made up Maladroit.

1) Baby

Some would say I’m cheating here. This song is from a show Rivers performed in Boston in January of 1998. However, bandmate Pat Wilson played the drums at this show. Additionally, the band would attempt this song in the spring of ’98 as they tried to get their third album off the ground. This was one of those songs Rivers wrote as a reaction to Pinkerton, a quasi-romantic repetitive song with lyrics that were poetic, but not personal. I’m not sure what this song is about (some interpretations of the lyrics are downright creepy), but I love it.

As I mentioned, most of these were released around 2002 and were recorded during an era where the band shared everything. Even with what we have, there are a number of good songs that didn’t make the list. While they don’t share as much anymore, they have opened up the vaults slightly. Other bands are using digital distribution streams to make money off their unreleased songs. If Weezer ever does the same, I might as well just send them my paychecks directly.

Weezer’s Blue Album Turns Legal

Weezer’s first album Weezer (also known as The Blue Album) was released 18 years ago today.

I could go on and on with an in-depth track-by-track analysis, but all I really need to say is to me, this is the perfect album.

I didn’t hear any songs off of this album until September 1994, and didn’t get the album until that Christmas (my first CD), but I’ve been listening to it ever since. It’s the album that got me into music. Before that, I had bought, listened to and enjoyed music, but I can’t say I ever was really into a band before Weezer.

It should also probably be noted that another Weezer album, 2005’s Make Believe was also released on May 10th. While not as perfect as Blue (I can’t get behind We Are All On Drugs and Beverly Hills gets old), it’s still a very enjoyable album.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some listening to do.

Happy 20th, Weezer!

Around these parts, February 14 is known as International Weezer Day. On this date, twenty years ago, Weezer practiced together for the first time.

According to band assistant, historian and all around great guy Karl Koch:

On 2/14/92 Rivers, Pat, Jason (on acoustic guitar, which he would retain untill late fall 1992), and Matt (newly arrived from Berkeley, CA), got together at T.K. rehearsal studios, in West LA, and rehearsed for either 3 or 4 days straight. On the 3rd day, somebody rolled tape for a while…

Note that weezer wasnt actually named yet. On the original tape the following band names were all crammed on the label, a joke on how no one could decide on the name for the band yet. Some were old names, such as “Fuzz”, but there was also such notables as “Meathead”, “Outhouse”, and “Hummingbird”, and I know some other names being kicked around were “the Big Jones” and “This Niblet”.

Unlike a lot of other bands, Weezer didn’t toil in obscurity for a long time before making it big. They signed their first record contract 15 months after their first practice. The band’s lineup changed (for the first time) during the recording of the Blue Album in 1994, when guitarist Jason Cropper left and was replaced by Brian Bell. Original bassist Matt Sharp left in 1998 and was replaced by Mikey Welsh and later Scott Shriner.

I first heard Weezer a few days after my 17th birthday in 1994 and got the Blue Album for Christmas that year. And I’ve been listening to them ever since. Last week, a poster on the All Things Weezer message board asked why us fans listened to Weezer. I left a long and rambling, but inconclusive response.

Even though their first album came out 17 years ago, it still sounds fresh and new to me. I’ve always liked the way they’ve sounded as a band. Also, their music meant something to me. Nine (or eight, depending on who you talk to) albums later, I can still say the same thing. They’ve experimented with song styles and structure, but their stuff still sounds like Weezer.

I’ve been to 11 Weezer shows (even meeting the band after one of them). I’ve been a part of many online fan communities. I’ve kept up with the band during hiatuses that seemed like they would last forever. It’s been a fun 17 years for me, and I hope 20 years for the guys in the band.

It seems cliche to with them another great 20 (or more) years. But I would like to see them rocking for as long as it keeps them happy.

Happy 20th birthday, Weezer.

And happy International Weezer Day to all of you out there.

Like Her Dad, Hope Loves Weezer

Yes, I’ll admit it- I listen to a lot of Weezer around Hope. I listen to other music too, but it just so happens that I listen to more Weezer than anything else.

And Hope has picked up on the Weezer awesomeness. As I’ve mentioned before, Weezer has a lot of kid-friendly videos. And every now and then, Hope and I will watch Buddy Holly or Keep Fishin’ (for some reason, she cries when she sees the puppies in the Island in the Sun video). Earlier this evening, we were watching the Buddy Holly video and she started going crazy.  I captured some of it on camera, but this is tame compared to what she was doing at the start of the video.

I don’t know what’s better- her reaction to the video or her correctly identifying The Fonz at the moment when he walks in. Although, the whole going to get No Neck and fixing the chair thing is cute too.