Loathsome tech bloggers across the wide world of the web are racing to get clicks for their opinions of the new Apple Music service, so if you're hungry for hyperbole about the new life or death of streaming music, plus opinions about Taylor Swift, it's your week. But if you're still curious about the form and functionality of Apple Music and its accompanying radio station, Beats 1, Indy music editor Bill Forman and I have been investigating, and we are your true friends. You can trust us.
The catalog of Apple Music is much the same as other major streaming services, so don't expect to find The Beatles or Prince. Besides Swift's 1989, a big selling point would be the high-quality recommended playlists, which aren't as easily stumped by eclectic tastes as other services. After a few minutes setting up my taste profile, I was rewarded with cuts from Melt-Banana, A Tribe Called Quest, Sonic Youth and Neko Case, a thoroughly enjoyable series of unexpected left turns.
Another very notable, if divisive, feature is the radio station Beats 1, which is broadcast live and features three principal deejays — Zane Lowe from Los Angeles, Ebro Darden from New York and Julie Adenuga from London — and others curating song selections, premiering new tracks and remixes, and conducting interviews. You know, much like radio shows used to do. It's been alternately described as either Apple Music's crowning achievement or its most crushing headache-inducer, and its main programming does perhaps lean a little too heavily on Kanye West/Drake/Kendrick Lamar cuts.
That said, deejay appearances by the likes of Elton John, Q-Tip and St. Vincent promise variety, and Beats 1 lists the artists and titles as the deejay plays the tracks, which makes it fast and easy to track down any new music you discover. Meanwhile, a rather vicious iTunes chart countdown and a hilarious interview with reggae-fusion singer Shaggy, where he claimed to be responsible for a 30 to 40 percent population increase, felt agreeably anti-corporate.
The Apple Music browsing interface isn't incredibly intuitive, but it's no worse than browsing the iTunes store, either. Fans of commercially sponsored Spotify and Pandora tiers likely won't appreciate Apple Music's $9.99-per-month fee, but with a three-month free trial available, it's certainly worth checking out.
Now, for the week ahead in local music:
Kansas City hip-hop duo CES CRU brings their "Recession Proof Tour" to the Black Sheep on Thursday, July 23, along with fellow Kansas City act Joey Cool, Missouri-based emcee Houston Zizza, and a slew of other artists.
Veteran country band and six-time Grammy winners Asleep at the Wheel appear at Stargazers Theatre on Friday, July 24.
The same night at the Gold Room, Austin-based blues artist Carolyn Wonderland, who counts Bob Dylan among her fans, is performing. She also plays Saturday, July 25, at Blues Under the Bridge, along with Daptone Records artist Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens and New York duo Mulebone.
Also on the 25th, Doctor Robert, a Beatles tribute band from Crested Butte, bring their show to the Gold Room. It won't be a moptop wig-fest, as the group doesn't impersonate the Beatles, preferring to recreate the band's more intricate arrangements live in the fashion of The Fab Faux.
San Diego electronica/trap duo Haterade and fraternal DJ duo Contrvbvnd round out a busy July 25 at Rawkus.
Finally, if you're giddy with anticipation of the larger summer festivals such as Riot Fest or Gentlemen of the Road, the 11th annual Fiddles, Vittles, and Vino at the historic Rock Ledge Ranch on Sunday, July 26, presents an opportunity to sample the best from local eateries and breweries while enjoying top-flight bluegrass. The event was recently named one of the Rocky Mountain region's Top 5 July festivals by Everfest, and features Austin's acclaimed Western Swing trio Hot Club of Cowtown and three Colorado acts: Americana duo Songs of the Fall, traditionalist string band The Stanleytones and bluegrass quartet Caribou Mountain Collective.