Review: If Only Tonight We Could Sleep

Before the start of this review, I should state that I know Matthew R. Davis. We have met at  local writing events, and we do follow each other on social media.

The thirteen stories in his first anthology “If only tonight we could sleep”, showcases the broad range of Matthew’s imagination. In this book, there is a nightclub gone wild, sentient roses, weird sisters, a lovers play list, and strange goings on in the rail yards to name a few .  Whilst each story does contain original ideas, Matthew’s clear voice does come through – especially his feel of reality. This is what makes the stories even better, in that they all start in the same place. Reality. As the events transpire and get into the fantastic, they maintain their hold on reality. In the horror genre, spiralling out of control is something that is easy to do, but Matthew does not. He maintains the control on the words and the events. 

There are a few places where a cliché does sneak in, and in one story, there is a small case of author intrusion. But, overall, an enjoyable anthology, and a talent to keep an eye on. Given the nature of Matthew’s stories, two attentive eyes might be safer.

The Best Eighties Music Mashups Ever

What a discovery I made thanks to a friend on Facebook. The Hood Internet have created what are nothing short of masterpieces as far as music mashups. The level of work that has gone into these are incredible. Each year showcases 50 songs in around 3 minutes, and as you’ll hear, it’s a long way off cramming those songs in where you can.

Have a listen for yourself, and ideally use headphones to appreciate what these folks have pulled off. We’ll update this post as new ones are added.

Featuring: ABBA, AC/DC, Anita Ward, Billy Joel, Blondie, Boomtown Rats, The Buggles, The Cars, Charlie Daniels Band, Cheap Trick, Chic, The Clash, The Cure, Donna Summer, Doobie Brothers, Earth Wind & Fire, Electric Light Orchestra, Fleetwood Mac, The Flying Lizards, Gang of Four, The Gap Band, Gary Numan, Joy Division, Kiss, The Knack, Kool & The Gang, Lipps Inc, M, Michael Jackson, Pat Benatar, Pink Floyd, The Police, The Pretenders, Prince, Queen, Rainbow, Rupert Holmes, Sister Sledge, The Specials, Squeeze, The Sugarhill Gang, Supertramp, Talking Heads, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Van Halen, The Whispers, Wire

Featuring: A Taste Of Honey, AC/DC, The B-52s, Billy Joel, Billy Squier, Blondie, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Bruce Springsteen, The Clash, The Cure, Dead Kennedys, Devo, Diana Ross, Dolly Parton, Elvis Costello, The English Beat, Frankie Smith, Generation X & Billy Idol, George Benson, Hall & Oates, J. Geils Band, The Jam, John Lennon, Journey, Joy Division, Kool & The Gang, Kurtis Blow, Lakeside, Martha & The Muffins, Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark, Ozzy Osbourne, Pat Benatar, Pete Townshend, The Police, Queen, The Ramones, The Romantics, Rush, The S.O.S. Band, Steely Dan, Stephanie Mills, Talking Heads, U2, Ultravox, The Vapors, Yarbrough & Peoples, Zapp

Featuring: .38 Special, AC/DC, Afrika Bambaataa, Billy Idol, Billy Squier, Blue Oyster Cult, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Foreigner, Funky Four Plus One, Go-Gos, Hall & Oates, Human League, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Journey, Juice Newton, Kim Wilde, Kool & The Gang, Laurie Anderson, Loverboy, Men At Work, Neil Diamond, New Order, Olivia Newton-John, Phil Collins, The Pointer Sisters, The Police, The Psychedelic Furs, Queen & David Bowie, Rick James, Rick Springfield, Rod Stewart, Rush, Soft Cell, Squeeze, Stevie Nicks, Taana Gardner, Teena Marie, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Tom Tom Club, Toni Basil, Treacherous Three, Trio, Vangelis, Yoko Ono

Featuring: A Flock of Seagulls, Afrika Bambaataa & The Soul Sonic Force, After The Fire, Alan Parsons Project, Asia, Billy Idol, Bow Wow Wow, Chicago, The Clash, Culture Club, Dazz Band, The Descendents, Dexys Midnight Runners, Duran Duran, Eddy Grant, The Fearless Four, Fleetwood Mac, Frida, Gang Of Four, Genesis, George Clinton, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5, Hall & Oates, Indeep, INXS, Iron Maiden, John Cougar Mellencamp, Kate Bush, Madness, Malcolm McLaren, Marvin Gaye, Men Without Hats, Michael Jackson, Michael McDonald, Modern English, Naked Eyes, New Order, Orange Juice, Peech Boys, The Pretenders, Prince, R.E.M., Shalamar, Sister Nancy, Survivor, Taco, Thomas Dolby, Toto, Yaz

Featuring: Billy Joel, Bonnie Tyler, Corey Hart, Cyndi Lauper, David Bowie, Def Leppard, Dio, Eurythmics, The Fixx, Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel, Greg Kihn Band, Herbie Hancock, Huey Lewis & The News, Irene Cara, Journey, Kraftwerk, Lionel Richie, Madonna, Mtume, Nena, New Order, Night Ranger, Pat Benatar, The Pointer Sisters, The Police, Quiet Riot, R.E.M., Rick James, Rockwell, The Romantics, Run-DMC, Shannon, The Smiths, Spandau Ballet, Styx, Suicidal Tendencies, Talking Heads, The Tubes, U2, Van Halen, Yes, ZZ Top

Featuring: A-Ha, Animotion, Art of Noise, Billy Ocean, Billy Squier, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams, Cabaret Voltaire, Chaka Khan, Cherrelle, Chicago, Dead or Alive, Deniece Williams, Depeche Mode, Don Henley, Echo & The Bunnymen, General Public, Glenn Frey, Harold Faltermeyer, Husker Du, INXS, Kenny Loggins, Laura Branigan, Madonna, Metallica, New Edition, Newcleus, Ollie & Jerry, Pat Benatar, Paul Hardcastle, Philip Bailey with Phil Collins, Prince, Ray Parker Jr., Rebbie Jackson, REO Speedwagon, Run-D.M.C., Sade, Scandal (featuring Patty Smyth), Scorpions, Sheila E., Strafe, Talk Talk, Tears for Fears, The Cars, The Fleshtones, The Go-Gos, The Minutemen, The Ramones, The Replacements, The Sisters Of Mercy, The Smiths, Thompson Twins, Twisted Sister, U2, Van Halen, Wham!

Featuring: Aretha Franklin, Billy Ocean, Cameo, Commodores, The Cult, The Cure, DeBarge, Dire Straits, Doug E. Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew, Dream Academy, Duran Duran, Echo And The Bunnymen, Eddie Murphy, Faith No More, Grace Jones, Huey Lewis & The News, INXS, Jesus & Mary Chain, Kate Bush, Katrina & The Waves, Killing Joke, LL Cool J, Madonna, Miami Sound Machine, Mike + The Mechanics, Minor Threat, Motley Crue, Mr. Mister, New Order, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, The Outfield, Pat Benatar, Pet Shop Boys, Phil Collins, Prince & The Revolution, The Replacements, Robert Palmer, Run-D.M.C., Schoolly D, Simple Minds, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Stacey Q, Starship, Talking Heads, Tears For Fears, Tom Waits, Whitney Houston, Yello

Featuring: The Bangles, Beastie Boys, Berlin, Billy Bragg, Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Boogie Down Productions, Book Of Love, Bruce Hornsby & The Range, Cutting Crew, Cyndi Lauper, Duran Duran, Eric B. & Rakim, Europe, Fingers Inc., Genesis, Gwen Guthrie, Howard Jones, Human League, Janet Jackson, Lionel Richie, Loose Ends, Madonna, Metallica, Midnight Star, New Order, Nu Shooz, Oran Juice Jones, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, Robbie Nevil, Run-D.M.C., Run-D.M.C. & Aerosmith, Samantha Fox, Slayer, Smithereens, Stan Bush, Steve Winwood, Whistle

Featuring: Aerosmith, Audio Two, Belinda Carlisle, Boogie Down Productions, The Cure, Def Leppard, Depeche Mode, Eazy-E, EPMD, Eric B. & Rakim, Eurythmics, George Michael, Guns N Roses, Heart, INXS, Jody Watley, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, LL Cool J, Love And Rockets, Madonna, MARRS, Michael Jackson, Midnight Oil, New Order, Pebbles, Prince, Public Enemy, R.E.M., Rick Astley, Salt N Pepa, Sonic Youth, Starship, T’Pau, Taylor Dayne, Tiffany, U2, Was (Not Was), When In Rome, Whitesnake, Whitney Houston

Distrokid: A 2020 Review

You do indeed get what you pay for.

We are not a click-bait site that strings things out to get you to stay on the page, so here’s the summary. We found Distrokid to be non-communicative over more than two weeks when trying to submit music. Tech support is essentially non-existent so we pulled the music and went elsewhere.

The fuller story

It’s a weird time: millions of people in different countries are in some form of home isolation or quarantine. Anecdotally, it appears there’s lots more creation of music going on – some lucky people are using the extra time to start or finish musical projects they are working on.

I’m one of them, and in the past three weeks I started looking around for which online option I’d take to upload my music to all the streaming services (Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Amazon Music etc etc). I had used TuneCore before, and although they fully delivered on everything they said, I didn’t particularly like their interface and thought I’d look around.

I’d had a few people across different musician groups online recommend DistroKid, so after looking at their pricing versus TuneCore and CDBaby, and reading some other info online (except one key source I missed, but more on that later), I signed up with DistroKid.

The sign-up process is great, as are the music upload features. I had my artwork and music files all in the correct format and it was flawless. Once you’ve submitted the files, you get a message at the top of the page that says you’ve been successful and that the album or single you’ve uploaded will be sent to the music services today. This is misleading on its own because rightly, DistroKid state elsewhere on their site that it can take ‘several days’ for songs to be reviewed and sent to stores. It’s a reasonable timeframe, so benefit of the doubt was given on the claim of it being sent ‘today’. No biggie.

The days dragged on and I followed the DistroKid twitter account, still not concerned. In fact I assumed there’d be some sort of extra delay given what’s going on worldwide and previous coverage of DistroKid alludes to them being a fairly small outfit. I was (and am) concerned that maybe some of them had become ill with COVID-19. Then I noticed they were posting at least daily on Twitter, either linking to something that has taken their fancy (Dave Grohl surprising a frontline healthcare worker on Jimmy Kimmel) or asking followers on their thoughts on different issues.

All normal stuff from a company Twitter account, but I noticed that amongst the responses to each tweet a regular handful of replies from disgruntled users. The theme is consistent: why am I not getting replies to my support queries and why is my music not being uploaded to the stores? Even more concerning, nearly all are ignored and the odd one that is responded to, involves the provision of a link to the DistroKid support site. I won’t bore you with the details of that, and you can actually check it out yourself, but it is one of the least user-friendly support options I’ve ever seen in respect of being able to send a message with details specific to your issue. Again, it’s totally reasonable that a small company needs to minimise queries that can be solved automatically, but whoever set up this Zendesk site has mastered the ability of making it a circular hell-hole.

This is where I realised I’d missed a source of information before signing up. If I’d checked out TrustPilot for DistroKid reviews, because that alone would have set alarm bells off for me. Reading through reviews I realised I was far from alone. Even if you believe competitors are trolling the reviews, there’s still plenty of obviously legit ones to cause concern.

When ten days had rolled around and still no submission to stores has occurred, I went back to Twitter and saw the same pattern – lots of interaction from DistroKid to any positive feedback and nothing to those asking for help. I thought I was being hard done by at 10 days wait, but there were others who were at the three week mark with the same non-communication. That was the deal-breaker for me. I logged in, finally found a way to ask for a refund (it’s the first time I found a form where I could actually type information) and then the following day clicked on the ‘Abort’ button to stop my music being uploaded to stores (if it ever were to happen). I remain skeptical of getting the refund but it will be something I will pursue very very actively.

Today, I paid an extra 25 bucks or so than DistroKid charged, to upload my music to TuneCore. To their credit, they have a very prominent message on delays in uploads due to the COVID-19 situation. And this is all I really wanted: any type of communication from DistroKid to explain that there’d be delays. It’s understandable a small team may be struggling with workload, but it’s also very easy to communicate that in a way that grows loyalty, not destroy it before it has a chance to develop. The DistroKid Twitter account shows the lights are on, but no-one gets in that door at this stage and it worries me why. There’s more to customer service than posting heart emojis or GIFs in replay to loving Twitter followers. I hope you folks are doing ok and I hope to read / see that things improve. To those reading this wondering whether to sign-up: read the good, bad and ugly reviews and make your own call of course.

One last comment: when you do a web search for ‘Distrokid review’, a lot of the higher ranked articles are from sites who are offering affiliate discounts for signing up to Distrokid, so take them with a massive grain of salt. I went back to TuneCore because it was a devil I knew, not because I’m getting some sort of deal to do so. I nearly went with CD Baby, but decided learning another interface wasn’t worth the effort. I actually wish BandCamp would offer a service to submit to other stores because I really like their approach.

Comments welcome below but ad hominem attacks or defamatory statements will be removed. Thanks to The Creative Shed for the opportunity to post this review.

Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash

Review: Kill Code by Clive Fleury

The world that Clive builds here is one that is presented clearly and tersely – this is evident given the novel comes in at 148 pages. The other reason that he is able to do this is due to there being very little in the way of new ideas. The images presented are standard post climate change / economic collapse / dystopian future.

The story follows Hogan Duran, a former police officer, eking out a life in this world, trying to feed himself and a former colleague. When the opportunity presents itself for him to improve his lot, he takes it. As is expected in this genre, he discovers the darker side of the world he inhabits. As the heroic type, he does something about it.

The voice of the main character remains constant through out the novel. There are no areas where he suddenly changes word usage.  The use of the first person creates the doubt of what truth is, which reinforces what appears to be the main theme of the novel. What is truth ? And whose truth is true ? 

On the downside, the use of the first person takes some of the tension from the action sequences. There are a few, and they are fast and to the point.

Reading this novel, there are a few places that are disjointed, as characters that have made an exit aren’t identified. However, this could have been forgiven if it had been part of the final explanation of the experience – which it wasn’t – so what could have been a plot point, looks  like a plot error.

At the end, it does feel like a volume one of a larger saga, and it will be interesting to see how that progresses.

Overall, is you are looking for a quick dystopian novel that is fairly well written, this will fill in some time and go for it. 

Review: Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

After the ride that was Ninefox Gambit, a reader could be asked how to top that. It’s a question of sequels, and one that often has a disappointing answer. In Raven Stratagem, Yoon Ha Lee shows that they can work. Taking place shortly after the events of the previous volume – one I suggest people go to – the action moves as a ghost of infamous general, the fleet he hijacks, the empire that rules them all , and the belief that goes with the imperial calendar. Much of this universe seems based around the concept of the calendar, with conflict often based on the view of a calendar. 

That’s not to say this is a boring novel. It moves along at a cracking pace, and even after reading the first, still has surprises in it. With empires, large scale battles, military protocols, it ticks all the neccessary ticks for a classic space opera. The writing style is easy to read, yet the concepts are twisted enough to require very careful reading.

Review: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

One of the tropes of modern science fiction is the large interplantary empire. From Asimov’s Foundation, to Lucas’s Star Wars, the Empire and its machinations is one of the cogs that have helped keep the genre going. It is also one of the reasons why the large Empire falling has become a bit of a cliche as well. With a name like The Collapsing Empire, you might be inclined to be a little disappointed with John Scalzi. After reading this novel, you won’t be.

The biggest problem that the large space empire always faces is distance. Scalzi puts forward the idea of the flow, which appear to be a one way worm hole. Power in the empire is at the nexus of these “Flows”. 

It is from here that Scalzi begins a fast paced story of unexpected leaders, disasterous events, and political intrigues. Each chapter is told from one character’s point of view, with all told with a distinctive voice and attitude.  This is clearly the open salvo in a series that promises many surprises, fast paced action, and a few laugh out loud moments. 

Review: Provenance by Ann Leckie

When your first book wins three major awards in the genre, you tend to set yourself a very high bar. Anne Leckie follows her Ancillary Trilogy with Provenance, a new novel that takes place in the same universe as her previous work.

This time, the story is more of children wanting parental acknowledgment, and what that can lead to. In this case, it results in a criminal busted out of a broken prison, a murder, and a political crisis. Taken at face value, Provenance looks like nothing new, but Leckie’s main character Ingray is a sympathetic one who must make their way through the events they set off.  Along the way, Leckie also looks at the importance of historical artefacts, and if the truth of them is more important that what they represent. 

The story moves with the slow burn that Leckie used in the past, and this is appears to the first of a multi volume story. It is one that I will certainly look to follow with interest. 

Review: New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

In the near future, the ice caps are going to melt, sea levels will rise, and disaster will hit the planet. Unlike other apocalypses in fiction, Kim Stanley Robinson seems to suggest that we’ll do alright after all this. New York 2140 looks at the city of New York after the disaster. The world has adjusted, with New York becoming a city of canals, where keeping the water out is as important as getting around. Into this world, Robinson places the importance of the finance trader.

The story itself starts with the disappearance of two programmers and then becomes a history of the world, a travelogue of New York, and a treasure hunt. Once the necessary enviromental issues are taken care of, Robinson starts with what appears to be his real agenda. In order to make sure his readers understand everything, Robinson has information dumps along the way. We are presented with an author who is annoyed at how the GFC of 2008 was handled, and he puts forward a solution to it.

This is not a fast moving story, but it is not boring. The characters all get thier own chapters. They are what Robinson does well – regular people just trying to get through. The fact that his future seems possible, and is logically extrapolated from current events, make this novel seem like a warning for the future. Both enviromentally, and economically – ignore his ideas at your own peril. 

Overall, a good book, and one that should be a jump-off point for discussion

Review: Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

When a family of psychics gets discredited in the 1970s, you would think that their story would end right there. 

Nope.

It is just the start.

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory picks up the story of the Telemachus family in 1995. At first glance, this could easy be a piece of nostalgia. But it goes beyond that. It tells the story of a family that is dysfunctional, committed, and more than the 1970s produced.

The story is told with a series of flashbacks that advance the story and add to the sense of loss the weaves through the story. That’s not to say that this is a depressing story. Far from it. With mob bosses and government agents, the family pulls together with the fighting, bitching, and humor that a family will do.

And when the chips are down, they all come together. The climax of the novel is one of the best endings of a story I’ve read. 

Overall, an enjoyable and gentle book.

Review: Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

In the future, corporations will rule everything and crafted drugs will help people achieve many things. Those on the fringe will fight against this same world. From this description, Autonomous by Annalee Newitz would seem like another rip off William Gibson’s Neuromancer, but it’s more than that.

Based in the year 2144, this story tells of a pirate drug maker,  who reverse engineers patented drugs and then sells on the cheap. When an issue is found with the drug, the race is on. With the help of other pharmaceutical patent pirates, an escaped indentured human, and a robot, she will try to find a cure. Hot on her heels is an Intellectual Property Police office, partnered by a brain encased in a robot’s carapace.

What I found interesting was the interaction between technologies. For those into computers, the concept that all machines identify both parties and start and end data is one that rings true. That’s where Autonomous is done very well. All the ideas put forward in this story appear to be extrapolated from current ideas. Given Newitz’s background in technology and science journalism, this is hardly surprising.

The only problem that I really felt was the development of the world itself. Granted the scenes are well written, but some locations felt that they were just names, without much difference to other locations. The locations in Africa felt much the same as those in Canada. But this is a minor qualm. 

This is a good book, from a writer whose fiction will certainly be worth watching in the future.

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