Ever since I reviewed Explosions in the Sky's How Strange, Innocence reissue for Punk Planet, I've been a huge fan of the band's material. Yes, all of their songs are instrumental, but their music is so incredibly inspiring. However, what's been annoying is that their label, Temporary Residence Limited, has put out a couple of the band's releases with insanely small pressings.
When they first issued How Strange, Innocence on LP, I believe only 300 copies were pressed. No CDs were pressed as this recording was originally given out at shows on CD-R as a demo. Then, with the eight-song EP, The Rescue, only 300 copies were pressed onto CD. The EP, consisting of songs they wrote and recorded in eight days, shows a different side of the band. Shorter songs with more instrumentation and non-verbal choral vocals in places, this is some essential listening for Explosions fans. Now, thanks to the Internet, actually hearing a CD-quality version of this EP on MP3 is possible.
Over the weekend, the band posted the EP as a free download on their site. As someone who had only seven of the eight tracks on CD, I was thrilled about having the whole shebang, even if they were just MP3s. I'd rather have the songs rather than fork over something like $60 on eBay for a physical copy on CD. But thinking about this in general, I realized that CDs have little or no monetary value with people these days. Yes, there may be a major "duh!" factor with me realizing this now, but I find this a little odd coming from a time when CDs were the way of owning music.
People may think I'm too anal about this, but if a band like Explosions in the Sky releases an album where there are no gaps between songs, listening to the album on MP3 is not the way to go. Nevermind the fade-in/fade-out feature on iTunes, an MP3 cuts up the songs by placing gaps between them. In the case of Explosions' The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place, would you really enjoy hearing a pop or a pause right as "First Breath After Coma" transitions into "The Only Moment We Were Alone"? Thankfully, the songs on The Rescue do not blend into each other, so a momentary pause between tracks is fine by me.
Another crucial factor with MP3s is the sound quality. If the bit rate is less than 192, I don't want to listen. Why? There is fluttering and distortion and they really cheapen the sound. Some say they can't hear the difference, but I can. I'd rather listen to pristine CD quality rather than a dodgy and muffled sound. In the case of the Rescue download, all tracks are in 192, so I was relieved.
In this culture of "I want it now," I can see why people don't like to sit around and wait for something. The access to information and communication with cell phones and the Internet is incredible, but that comes at a cost. While The Onion may crack us up about ADHDTV, but I wonder how disposable our culture is going. In the example of listening and enjoying music, just an MP3 is not enough for me when I'm listening to music that I really love. However, if owning a physical CD copy requires aggravating attempts to bid for one on eBay, I say to hell with it and just download the damn thing.