THE ROUND-UP…AND JAZZ-FM: WHERE COOL DIES

It’s hella-snowy here in Toronto today. These are the days I enjoy working in an office and don’t involve traveling to visit clients and such. Even though going out on the road offers you the opportunity to listen to terrible radio.

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How is it that commercial terrestrial radio sucks so profoundly now? You’d think the rise of the Internets would give station managers incentives to try new ideas and play songs that doesn’t feature the words “Hot” and “Womanizer” and “Cold.” But no, it’s always so much easier to cut staff, reduce playlists and bend over and take it good and hard from Clear Channel-esque corporate conglomerates — nine out of ten shareholders agree!

Drive-to-work commercial radio morning shows are basically a wasteland now here in Toronto. MIX-99.9/999/Virgin Radio/Whatever Astral Media Thinks Works This Month has Mad Dog and Billie, which has the unfortunate distinction of reminding Toronto when KISS-92 owned Toronto’s airwaves back in 1999 with the unholy union of BSB, N’SYNC and Christina Aguilera (before she turned into a Cher-like parody of a Diva). CHUM-FM has Roger, Darren and Marilyn – an okay lot simply because they’ve been on-air longer than some of the performers CHUM plays have been alive. I’m not even going near CHFI or E-Z Rock.

CBC Radio One & Two get free passes because they produce pretty damn good radio, even if Radio One’s a bit intense sometimes for 7:45 a.m. Tom Allen makes Radio Two pleasant to listen to — where else can you get Neil Young, The Sadies and MGMT all in one hour?

In any event, I’m very much looking forward to products like these becoming standard in cars.

Anyway, more on this in a minute.

* Video game sales are reportedly weathering the economic downturn. This is good news. I’ve been hankering for more bombastic TV commercials like the ones for Resistance 2.
* MacWorld 2009 has been roundly panned as a whimpering lame-o for Apple’s No More Annual Fanboy Clusterf*ck. Too bad Mr. Jobs is not doing so well.
* Want to see something scary? Here’s a map of the Borg Wal-Mart’s progress across the U.S. &/or A. Yay for economic downturns.

JAZZ-FM: I’m gonna be honest — I used to like Toronto’s “jazz” station. Nowadays, I listen to it for two reasons:

1) To fall soundly asleep at night while smooth, smooth sounds shut off my ability to appreciate crazy-awesome jazz;
2) To provide me reasons to turn on the iPod and listen to Vampire Weekend. Every.Single. Morning.

I’m no dummy when it comes to how stations like JAZZ-FM works. Ross Porter – JAZZ-FM’s Commander-in-Chief – probably doesn’t like the fact almost all of his hosts have to play non-threatening, easily digestible Smooth Jazz every hour of every day because corporate sponsors and donors can’t deal with challenging, edgier music that might have been composed while artists were tripping out on acid (never mind Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and other jazz artists were cooked out of their minds often enough — Armstrong smoked more pot than Amy Winehouse and Holiday did heroin).

Still, doesn’t change the fact the station’s got about as much edge and cultural/musical diversity on air as a sandwich shop in Leaside. Since when did the Long Road to the Middle become the norm for JAZZ-FM?

More pointedly — who exactly is listening to the morning show with Ralph Benmergui and Precious-to-a-Faultline Jaymz Bee? I swear: who among the listeners want to hear yet another reference to a movie that stopped being cool in 1978? Since when did jazz become the exclusive domain of white Baby Boomers?

Anyway, at least the station’s web site is good. And the 24/7/365 host-free audio streams online are pretty good.