Thursday, June 12, 2008

Today's Cues: Not bad, for a Slacker


God bless CNET.com podcasts. For folks that are slightly tech-nerdie like me, it's a gold mine of really cool information. Like the day their MP3 Insider podcast talked about Slacker. Slacker Radio is, IMO, the coolest streaming internet radio site yet. The name is a misnomer...this site works hard to keep you musically happy.

Like Pandora, Last.fm and other similar streaming music sites, Slacker allows users to build customized radio stations - for free on the basic subscription. You tell Slacker what you want to hear, build your station from your artist choices, name it, and away you go.

The area where Slacker rules over it's very worthy competitors is in the degree of user control. Because it's free streaming internet radio, you can't control what song you're going to hear. But unlike it's competitors, you can tell Slacker the artists that you only want to hear, and that's all you'll get. So, you won't get strange selections that Slacker thinks you'll like. Just the artists you want. Pandora and Last.fm, as great as they are, don't offer that option yet.

In your station options, you can choose to discover new music through Slacker, and it will throw in selections similar to your chosen artists in any given station. It does ok in this area, not great. Pandora, because of it's Music Genome Project background, still totally owns all other services in the music discovery arena. But if you're just in it to hear what you want to hear, Slacker is the hands-down industry leader...so far.

Want to check it out? Here's a Slacker playlist I put together called The Voice and The Pen, featuring singer-songwriters. Enjoy!

Today's Brew: Farmer's Friend...indeed.



I recently made a trip to Glenwood Springs, Colorado - the first time I'd been there since I was a teenager. Great little town on Colorado's western slope - with great views and a very impressive peak (Mt. Sopris) not far away.

I happened into a liquor store on my first night there, looking for A) something nice and cold and brewed, and B) something I hadn't tried before. I found just the thing in Palisade Brewery's Farmer's Friend.

Palisade, Colorado has become better know recently for producing some pretty decent wine, but this beer should grab some attention also. Farmer's Friend is an Irish-style ale. The Palisade website describes it as "brewed by caramelizing the sweet wort in the kettle to develop a sweet malty character in the finished beer." I found the taste to be very similar to Smithwicks, although a touch more hoppy. This despite the website's indication of a low hopping rate. Nonetheless, it's a darn fine beer that finishes very nicely.

A note: as with most beers of this sort, your enjoyment will increase tremendously if you get it out of the bottle. Decant (and not into a plastic party cup, but something glass) and let it breathe for a few minutes. The extra oxygen really balances out the flavors.

Palisade Brewery has just recently begun distributing its beers throughout Colorado, unfortunatly I'm not sure if they're available outside the state yet. But if you're ever in the neighborhood, drop by their tasting room. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Today's Cues: Attack of the Hair Bands

Just a quick note. As if the controller of the cosmos had decided that the universe had been without some good Hair Metal for too long....two 80's-90's iconic bands have new albums out.

Whitesnake (yes, they of the Tawny Kitaen on-the-hood-of-the-car-in-the-video fame) are back with a new album, Good To Be Bad. Quite frankly, the thing kicks ass. Whitesnake's David Coverdale always produced songs with hard, driving verses and insanely harmonious, bombastic choruses, and this offering is like taking a ride in a very welcoming time machine. Awesome.

Not to be outdone, Def Leppard, the band that set the watermark by which all other pop-metal 80's bands measured themselves, put out a new album this week. The title is lame - Songs from the Sparkle Lounge - but the music is awesome. This is as close as Lep has been to their much-heralded 80's sound since, well, the late 80's.

More to come on these two albums, but for now, follow the links for a taste.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Today's Brew: Shiner Blonde



Texas is home to a mighty fine microwbrewery - the Spoetzl Brewery. You may never have heard of Spoetzl, but you've heard of their most famous brew - Shiner Bock.

Take a stroll down Austin's 6th Street on any given night, and the Shiner Bock will be flowing. I don't exactly know how Shiner Bock became the college beer of choice in Texas in the mid 90's, but it did. And it's still wildly popular.

But Shiner Bock isn't the only offering from Spoetzl. They have a full slate of very good beers, one of which is Shiner Blonde.

Today, Shiner Blonde isn't the same beer it used to be. Seems that once Spoetzl started distributing the stuff outside the Lone Star borders, they watered it down, to make it more mass-marketable. That notwithstading, it's still a fine spring and summer brew; more taste than any American macro, but not too heavy to enjoy by the pool or lake on a hot day. In fact, this is one of the beers that I use to wean my friends off of macros and introduce them to the world of craft beer. So, call it a "bridge beer" perhaps - but pick up some for the summer, and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A strange conversation....at least the priorities are straight...

"I'd rather be sitting here at home talking to you on the phone than sitting at a bar drinking beer alone."

"I doubt that. You love beer."

"Yes, but I love you even more than I love beer."

"Really. That's sweet."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Today's Cue: Showdown by ELO

I rediscoverd this song recently on my mp3 player. It came up as part of a playlist I downloaded. ELO was the first band of the modern rock era to widely incorporate orchestral instruments into it's music - and that is never more evident than on this single.

Showdown is dominated by strings. You can hear the electric bass and a lone keyboard, but the first 2/3 of the song is primarily strings. Big deal, you say. Probably a ballad.

Hardly. This song rocks. But the arrangement is so magnificent, it's easy to overlook that you don't hear an electric guitar until a solo after the first two verses and choruses. Jeff Lynne was a genius at creating elaborate, glorious orchestral rock. ELO had a bevy of hits in it's heyday, and this is one of the best.

Today's Brew: Buttface Amber Ale


This nice little brew comes from Big Horn Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado - a sister company to CB & Potts Restaurant.

Buttface Amber Ale is incredibly smooth drinking. Great malty flavor with very little hoppiness. The interesting thing about this one is that is has a rather creamy finish - uncharacteristic in most of the other ambers that I've tried.

I've had this beer from the tap at Potts and from the bottle - which is done in limited availability (I found a six-pack at Total Beverage in Northglenn, CO). If you pick up the bottled version - the brew sets up much nicer if you decant first and let it breathe for a minute. I would recommend a glass for this one.