Category: Music

When satellite radio works so easily in the car, why do we have to aim our home TV dishes?

On Twitter, Dr. Jason Malinowski ‏ asks: “Why do we spend so much time aiming our home satellite dish, when the car satellite radio works irrespective of direction?”  Globe Technology editor Shane Dingman says the answer is all about bandwidth. “Have you ever tried to watch a YouTube video on your phone on a really old and slow wireless network? Like, an Edge 2G network?” It’s a fairly unbearable experience, he says, because of the bandwidth issue. “It takes forever, constantly buffering. The picture is often pixelated worse than normal and it could drop out altogether. The reason for that? Video signals are huge.”

Dingman says the same could be said for a satellite signal on an ill-adjusted TV:

The reason a satellite radio provider can put an omni-directional antenna in your car and send you signals from space while you race down the highway is all about bandwidth. SiriusXM, for instance broadcasts at about of 64 kilobytes/second, which is more than enough for you to receive a fairly consistent audio signal (weather can impact signal strength, as can a range of other factors).

By contrast, an HD video signal from your typical satellite TV provider needs about 25 megabytes per second: That’s about 400 times the data being transferred compared to radio. That’s why your satellite TV antenna needs to be fixed and directional: to ensure the strongest possible signal. Viewers expect a clear, constant stream of video from their service, and that means optimizing the connection between your house and the satellite.

Disclosure: BCE operates a satellite TV system, and also owns 15 per cent of The Globe and Mail.

Follow Shane Dingman on Twitter, and for more of the latest technology news, reviews and advice, check out Globe Technology.

What are some great new bands in Canada?

The Canadian music scene is booming, but if you’re not in the know, the right bands to focus on may get lost in the noise. “What are some of the best up-and-coming bands in Canada?” asked @_Dowzer on Twitter. Good question.  Globe Arts reporter Brad Wheeler and business reporter  Josh O’Kane (who knows a thing or two about digital music streaming) share their best picks.

From Brad Wheeler:

July Talk

Their dynamic self-titled debut from late 2013 is a dramatic expression of he-she blues-wild and razor-edged alt-rock excitement. Think sweet-and-sour Metric-meets-Tom Waits, though I’m never quite sure which of singers Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay is the sweet and which is the other. They both have star power, and the Toronto quintet’s inventive videos advertise a striking live presentation. No flavour of the month here – sky’s the limit.

Steph Cameron

Here comes a B.C.-based songstress, finger picker and free spirit. From her debut album Sad-Eyed Lonesome Lady, Cameron has been likened to Dylan and Mitchell, but if I was in the comparison business – and I suppose I am – I’d see her as a young and bluesy Maria Muldaur. There’s a breezy longing to her fluid, folky material, and even if her characters are rumblin’ and tumblin’, one can hear the swagger as a front. Then again, when a suicide ballad has a line like “Give me a kiss and a good shotgun shell,” anything is possible. Johnny Cash smiles in hell.

Legato Vipers

I doubt these Ontario surf-rock boogie-meisters would know a surfboard from an ironing board. Hell, they probably wouldn’t even know an ironing board. Which means wrinkles, which is what Legato Vipers brings to the classic art of bad-ass beach music and careening psychedelic twang.  Their initial LV album glistens with stylish staccato and switchblade attitude – a soundtrack to a Tarantino lucid dream. Surf is so up.

From Josh O’Kane:


This Toronto band is reshaping what Canadiana can sound like. Through surf-pop songs and synth-y ballads, Alvvays can romanticize the Atlantic Ocean on one track and make sly hat-tips to iconic Toronto brunch spots the next. That is, in part, because of the band’s genetic makeup: the members hail from Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island, but call Canada’s largest city their home. Alvvays’s self-titled debut record is only a few months old, but there’s a heft to the band’s experience. Singer-guitarist Molly Rankin hails from, yes, that Rankin family, and translates generations of musical prowess into concise, biting pop songs; meanwhile, guitarist Alec O’Hanley has already served a tour of duty as a member of P.E.I.’s Two Hours Traffic. They’re touring through Western Canada, Quebec and Ontario in December.


Part punk, part garage, part rock and all fuzz. Solids are a Montreal duo that filter pop hooks through crunchy riffs that echo the best of their ‘90s brethren. Think Sonic Youth and Superchunk – or don’t; Solids make noisy rock’n’roll that is distinctly in the present, so you don’t need a history lesson. Guitarist Xavier Germain-Poitras and drummer Louis Guillemette run through 37 minutes of bliss on their debut album, Blame Confusion, released this past February on Dine Alone Records. Just don’t confuse them with American band The Solids, who wrote the theme for the sitcom How I Met Your Mother a decade ago.

Ryan Hemsworth:

Hemsworth has emerged as one of Canada’s most engaging electronic producers, at times dabbling in the musical zeitgeist and other times defiantly ignoring it. While the 24-year-old first became known for producing southern-flavoured hip-hop and pop-scented R&B, his growing original catalog now casts a much wider net – don’t be surprised at the sound of 8-bit lasers from the unrepentant classic video-game fan. An Ontarian-by-way-of-Halifax,   his short sonic attention span is even more noticeable in live performances, with bursts of punk songs nestled among the rap samples and original tracks.  Hemsworth’s second album, Alone for the First Time, was released earlier this month.




Why do British singers sing with American accents?

Reader Pamela Ross, from Toronto asks:  Why do British singers, like Mick Jagger, sing with American accents rather than the accents they have when they speak? I think they put on an accent when they sing, but husband thinks it’s natural. Globe Arts reporter Brad Wheeler has your answer:

The short answer is, of course, “A whop bop a-loo mop, a-lop bom bom.”  Could you imagine anyone singing the Little Richard’s emphatic Tutti Frutti scat with a cockney accent or an Irish lilt? Absolutely not.

The conventional wisdom when it comes to British singers losing their accents while singing is that the Mick Jaggers and Rod Stewarts and Elton Johns and Paul McCartneys of the world were heavily influenced by pioneering American blues, rock and R&B artists such as Big Bill Broonzy, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and Eddie Cochran. As such, it’s socially only natural that they would abandon their native enunciations in favour of their heroes’ iconic styles.

So, while Broonzy himself once said that “a cry’s a cry in any language,” it’s hard to imagine Robert Plant wailing  “Oh child, the way you shake that thing,” with his West Bromwich inflection attached.

Somewhere along the way, from the American singers of 1950s to the British Invasion singers and U.S. soulsters who came later, the American voice became pop music’s voice – i.e., the standard.  It carries on to this day, as witnessed by Adele: She speaks cockney and sings American, and probably doesn’t even give it a thought.

Doesn’t give it a thought because it’s probably also true that singing with a flat or neutral American accent is easier than singing any other way, modern linguists would argue. So, while an inherited American vocal aesthetic a social tick to a degree, more decisively it is an instinctive phonetic habit.

A 2010 study by New Zealand researcher Andy Gibson suggests there wasn’t any imitation typically involved when his Kiwi subjects sang American.  “We do it automatically,” Gibson has said. “It doesn’t require any effort to sing with an American-influenced accent.”

In contrast, the vocalists with the affectations are typically the British ones trying to sound British – looking at you Arctic Monkeys, Kate Nash, Lily Allen and, yes, Manchester’s Peter Noone, who went all cockney for the Herman’s Hermits hits I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am and Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter

In his blog entry, the linguist David Crystal explains that key identifying features of a regional accent tend to disappear when singing: the intonation (as a melody replaces it), vowel length (for many syllables are elongated) and the vocal cadence. Crystal goes on to say that vowel quality is also often affected, “especially in classical singing, where vowels are articulated with greater openness than in everyday speech.”

For elucidation, Crystal cites a quote from the English troubadour and activist Billy Bragg, who said “You can’t sing something like TheTracks of My Tears in a London accent. The cadences are all wrong. It’s also difficult to sing harmonies in a London accent. And you can’t sustain syllables for long.”

So, in answer to your question, Pamela Ross of Toronto, it would appear that your husband is probably more right than wrong when he argues for the naturalness of American accents while singing. For his win, perhaps you could take him out for a dish of ice cream – a tuttifrutti flavour, if available.

Read more from Wheeler here and follow Globe Arts music coverage here