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  • Audioscrobbler vs. last.fm and the direction of the site

    Ago 13 2008, 18h09

    I'm writing this to try to put my feelings on the recent changes into perspective When I first came here in 2004 there were two sites (which were connected but distinct) Audioscrobbler had the charts and neighbours and last.fm had the personalized radio stations. I'm not going to talk about the "radio" much because I have never really used it often and always found it lacking but I mainly use this site to get musical recommendations and read blogs and journals from people with what I'd consider good taste in music.

    so
    1st incarnation of "Audioscrobbler":

    Pros:
    1)Charts were central in the page

    2)Neighbour system seemed to update more and there were little things that i liked like being able to see "reverse neighbours" [people who had you as their neighbour). and a percentage or some number of how "close" each neighbour was to you.

    3)-Groups were better because they each time a member of a group played something it got counted in the group charts. So if someone played something obsessively in a good group it was a tip that maybe it was worth checking out.

    4)Top fans for small artists were much better because they were based on 6 month or yearly listens rather than weekly, so you got people who really liked the band rather than people who happened to listen to it 5 times last week.

    5)There was a feeling that Audioscrobbler was centered on charts and music discovery although it was connected to last.fm for people who wanted that

    6)We had a library editor.


    Cons:

    1)The charts and neighbours were updated very sporadically.

    2)The site was kind of primitive looking. I'm very much a function over form person so this didn't bother me but the people who are currently kvetching about fonts and color shades and stuff would have hated the old site. To be honest the old AS was kind of ugly.

    3)There were not a lot of pretty pictures all over the pages.


    Phase 2:"The Merger" was done around 2005-2006 and the site changed a lot:

    Pros:
    -
    1) Artists quilts and pictures introduced.
    2) Charts and neighbours updated weekly and pretty reliably.
    3) I guess the site did look better. Certainly more "professional"
    4) Weekly neighbours were introduced and were a good feature.
    5) Recommended reading was kind of cool even if it didn't work very well
    6) Various improvements to WIKIS made them more useful.

    Cons:

    1) No more reverse neighbours and no more seeing numerically how close your neighbours were to you.
    2) Tags were introduced and i generally dislike tags. They just encourage people to stereotype music into genres rather than reading the whole band description and broadening their horizons. i always saw the old AS as a replacement for traditional genres so think tags were a step backward, even if they do have some uses.
    3) -We lost our profile editor.

    4)Group charts now were based on number of people in the group who played a band rather than total number of plays. This made all but the smallest group charts all look the same with popular artists like Radiohead and The Beatles always rising to the top. I don't think anyone joins, say, the shoegaze group to "discover" those bands.

    5) "top fans" were based on weekly plays which really screwed small artists and made "top fans" pretty useless for them.
    6) Automated recommendations remained next to useless
    7) -The ability to link many artists of questionable relevance to journals was a boon to trolls and meme writers and a major annoyance to everyone else.

    THE 2008 REMAKE

    pros

    1) We got library and profile editor back
    2 ) Charts update in real time
    3) The automated rec system works a lot better

    Cons
    1) Oh my god! they killed weekly neighbours! (those bastards!)
    2)Journals are now a lot harder to find
    3)You have to click a link to see your neighbours
    4)You still can't see reverse neighbours or numerical representation of how close your neighbours are to you.
    5)The activity feed is pretty useless as far as I can tell and takes up prime real estate. Ditto for the flash player on every single page.

    6)Top fans for small artists are still pretty useless because they are based on weekly listens.
    7) There is an over-all feeling that the site is now about the radio rather than charts and music discovery and has really changed priorities from the old Audioscrobbler days
    I guess my point here is that last.fm didn't go from perfect to "suck!" over night. Many of the changes have been positive but hopefully they will continue to improve things and reverse some of the negative changes while keeping the positive ones.
  • "Pretentious" shouldn't be used as an adjective for music

    Fev 2 2007, 10h38

    It annoys me when people describe certain music as pretentious. According to dictionary.com pretentious means "Claiming or demanding a position of distinction or merit, especially when unjustified."


    To paraphrase, to me it basically means someone who pretends to be something different and especially "more" than they actually are. I don't see how this can apply to music or art. Shouldn't people try to make the best music possible? If a musician overestimates his ability to make good music, what's wrong with that? At least by trying his or her best the music can only be made better. So bands like Radiohead or Godspeed You! Black Emperor "pretentious" because they have their own musical vision and dare to try to make their music sophisticated and complicated and unique. Of course there is nothing wrong with hating these bands music if it doesn't appeal to you but to call it "pretentious" is not only misusing the word, but seeming to deny them the right to pursue their own artistic vision as they see fit.

    At the same time you get bands which seem to be petrified of appearing pretentious so they strip their sound down to such a lo-fi extreme that i find it just boring. It's like they're not even trying very hard. Thus the appearance of "indie rock" bands like Band of Horses and Bright Eyesand Julie Dorion among many others and horrible pop-punk acts like Fall Out Boy and the aptly-named Simple Plan.

    The same thing happens with lyrics. Heaven forbid a band should actually try to write good, intelligent and clever lyrics. If they do many people will accuse them of "taking themselves too seriously". So most bands try to be "ironic" and cynical because of course it's cool to be jaded. Usually these lyrics aren't actually very funny since the lyricist doesn't actually possess much skill at satire.

    My opinion is bands should do their best and take their music seriously and put every ounce of talent they have into their music. Those who don't have the talent to make seriously good music (or genuinely funny comedy music as opposed to "ironic" BS) should just get out of the way. Of course some lo-fi music can be very good and takes a lot of talent, but much of it that's coming out today seems to me just "stripped down" in order to gain "hipster credibility" and deliberately trying to appear "unpretentious" is, ironically, very pretentious.
  • 30,000 plays

    Jan 30 2007, 15h19

    30,000th track scrobbled: It's A Beautiful World:)
  • Top 10 of 2006 version 1.0

    Dez 1 2006, 22h01

    A Preliminary top 10 of 2006 list;

    [subject to change]

    1. Monica Richards - Infrawarrior
    2. Loreena McKennitt - An Ancient Muse
    3. Sleepthief - The Dawnseeker
    4. Thea Gilmore - Harpo's Ghost
    5. Unto Ashes - Songs For a Widow
    6. Current 93 - Black Ships Ate the Sky
    7. Halou Wholeness & Separation
    8. The Legendary Pink Dots - Your Children Placate You From Premature Graves
    9. Starless & Bible Black - Starless & Bible Black
    10 Cat Power - The Greatest

    I will be writing journals with comments to explain my choices and comment on other noteworthy albums of 2006 this month and may change the final list around a bit but I'm reasonably happy with that top-10 for now. :)
  • Finally giving Radiohead a real chance and the rewards therof....And some recs and…

    Nov 26 2006, 9h18

    ok so I admit I've only listened to a little bit of Radiohead in the past. It's not because I didn't like them but just because they get so much hype. I listened to OK Computer which I have heard was their "best" and...well...I thought it was a pretty good album but not really deserving of the amount of hype it got so I kind of didn't bother listening to Radiohead for a year or two. When I heard Thom Yorke had come out with a solo-album, I decided to listen to it and liked it quite a lot (and more than I thought I would). So I decided to give OK Computer another shot and also found it better than I remembered.

    But it was Kid A that really won me over. Especially How to Disappear Completely and
    Motion Picture Soundtrack. What an absolutely sublime couple of songs, just gorgeous! Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief
    are also fine albums. Ironically "OK Computer" (often "the critics choice") is probably my least favorite of all those albums; Although it's still a good album

    (I haven't listened to "Pablo Honey" or "The Bends" yet).

    So that was the highlight of my listening this week and i must say that, while it may lose me "mainstream points"(lol), Radiohead is one of the best most innovative currently active rock-type bands I've heard and deserve at least a lot of their reputation.

    And now of course I have to drop in a couple of recs :):


    Starless & Bible Black - Great debut album, think This Mortal Coil mixed in with some The Pentangle with a French female singer, beautiful melancholy music. Perfect for lighting a candle and listening to the rain through the window.

    For Shoegaze fans, I absolutely love
    Ether Aura and The Daysleepers are great as well. Both produce dreammy shimmery music in the best tradition of Slowdive and Ether Aura also brings to mind early Curve and Strange Boutique

    Marissa Nadler should appeal to fans of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds with her gloomy but beautiful stripped-down murder ballads.

    And I know I've Mentioned her before but
    Thea Gilmore is close to becoming my favorite songwriter if she hasn't already. Further listening to her latest offering "Harpo's Ghost" proves it to be a worthy successor to her 2004 masterpiece "Avalanche"

    And, probably not too surprisingly, Loreena McKennitt,Unto Ashes and Lisa Gerrard have all added to their wonderful discographies with stellar 2006 efforts.

    There has been so much good music this year. Of course I am stoked for Monica Richards first solo album coming out in December. I will try to write some kind of a list of all the great albums from this year before the end of December but it won't be a short or easy undertaking. :)
  • 10,000 tracks for the second time...Top 20 analysis and "deconstruction"

    Jun 27 2006, 21h50

    Well I reset my charts last year (because I had added a lot of albums to my profile from the last.fm radio back when you could do that) and it distorted things a bit.] Anyway I've finally got back up to about 10,000 tracks so I can look at what's changed and what's stayed the same in my musical taste. I have a bit of a problem because Terami Hirsch is listed as my #1 artist because I fell asleep with 5 of her songs on shuffle play one night and she got about 200 extra tracks that way. I had deleted those before with the profile editor but with the latest update they came back. Ms. Hirsch is very good and probably should be in the top 25 or even higher but not #1 without that mistake so anyway on to...

    1. Halou 227 plays. A bit of a surprise but not really. My best musical discovery of 2005 and one of the best ever (thank you last.fm). They really stand out from the rest of the mellow trip-hop-ish crowd (although of course I like a lot of music of that general type). Rebecca's voice is just so....I can't even think of a proper adjective for it...It's otherworldly. Monica Richards (see below) is the only other vocalist who can totally transfix me in this way. I don't know if they'll hold on to #1 but i wouldn't bet against it.

    2. The Legendary Pink Dots 216 plays. I'm not quite as obsessed with them as I used to be but what an you say about a band who has a catalog of 50 odd albums, most of which are totally brilliant. Ka-spel is easily the best male vocalist around, his lyrics are probably the best I've ever heard and they are very talented musically. In other words They're likely to stay in the top 3 :)

    3. Tori Amos 177 plays "The Beekeeper" was a disappointment to me but I still love her earlier stuff and her live stuff and her music touches me in a way that few if any other artists do. Likely to stay in the top 5.

    4. Faith and the Muse 171 plays Could easily be #1 or 2. There is something magical for me in all of Monica's music. She weaves beautiful spells disguised as music.

    5. Happy Rhodes 160 plays Probably a bit too high. I just listened to her a lot last week. She is a great singer and songwriter and definitely one of the better of the many female fronted folk-rock type artists on my lists, can see her staying in the top 20, possibly top 15 but probably not this high.

    6. Slowdive 132 plays I've been listening to them for years; Lately I've been sampling a lot of other "shoegaze" music and as much as I like some of the other stuff it just seems to make me appreciate Slowdive more by comparison. Definitely one of my all time favorite bands. "I'll be here in the morning because I'm just floating....".*Nothing* can make me "float" like Slowdive. Halou and Claire Voyant come close at times.

    7. Over the Rhine 128 playss My first great "last.fm" discovery. "Female fronted folk rock" of the first order. "Drunkard's Prayer" didn't hit me with the power of their previous masterpiece "Ohio" but is still a very good album. Another thing is that their lyrics are just outstanding and they have a lot of songs I love. May drop a bit but probably not out of the top 15 or 20.

    8.the Machine in the Garden 127 plays Probably my favorite darkwave band (them or Attrition). Summer Bowman's operatic vocals are just wonderful and almost all their music is beautiful. Maybe a little high but I love them:)

    9. Thea Gilmore 122 plays Great folk rock with great lyrics and great vocals. One of my best discoveries of the last few months. Benefiting a bit from the "newly discovered and loved artist" push in listening but I can't see her falling more than a few spots and she may hold steady or rise.

    10. The Changelings 116 plays Beautiful ethereal band from Atlanta. Definitely one of the best of the many bands I like in this general style. Everything around this section of the chart is rather "tightly packed" but I think they are in the "group" they should be in.

    11. Dead Can Dance 112 plays One of the originators of ethereal music with so many beautiful songs Both Lisa and Brendan are such great vocalists as well. One of the best bands ever.

    12. Claire Voyant 106 plays Probably deserve to be higher and will be. Victoria Lloyd's vocals just totally melt my heart and give me shivers. This is also the specific music I usually reach for when I want to relax and it usually works. One of my favorite bands of all time, can't wait for the new album.

    13. Faith And Disease 98 plays This is the real "Seattle sound" for me. Probably the most melancholy of all the great ethereal bands but not really depressing, just sad in a beautiful way. Her high beautiful vocals suit the music perfectly. Faith and Disease is definately "mood music". Probably the least diverse of all my top bands but it's a mood I really like and perversely, perhaps, makes me kind of happy as with a lot of my more melancholy music.

    14. Unto Ashes 98 plays More beautiful, slow ethereal. A bit more influenced by the "neofolk" style of such bands of Current 93(92-99) and Sol Invictus. Unto Ashes have great vocals and lyrics as well. New album coming soon and i can't wait....Really beautiful music.

    14 Hagalaz' Runedance 89 plays Beautiful Norse neo-pagan hymns. I find this music very uplifting. Sadly this band no longer exists [she is producing new stuff but I don't like it quite as much, although it's good)

    15. Edward Ka-Spel 87 plays Makes his second appearance in the top 20. His solo work is pretty similar to the Pink Dots so see my comments for them above.

    17. Attrition 86 plays Probably the most under-rated band ever at least in the dark music category. They've been around for 22 years and produced some truly great albums. fans of bands like VNV Nation and Covenant should really grab "The Hidden Agenda" along with "Three Arms and a Dead Cert", "Dante's Prayer" etc. Of course Attrition has a lot made some excellent ethereal, neo-classical and experimental music as well. They add strings to the darkwave sound [violin and electronics is such an awesome combination]. Martin Bowes is my probably my second favorite male vocalist next to Ka-spel. Anyway they are awesome, check them out if you haven't already and if Attrition isn't the most under-rated dark music band of all time they could only be beaten out by...

    18. Strange Boutique 84 plays Not to be out-done by Mr. Ka-spel, Monica Richards makes her second top 20 appearance with her earlier band. Strange boutique isn't quite as eclectic as Faith and the muse but every song they make is *really* good. "The Loved One" is perhaps the closest thing to a "perfect" album I have heard. Pure "bliss-rock" that just shimmers with power, especially augmented by her wonderful vocals. Strange Boutique should definitely be higher than 18. They are incredible...Top 5 would be more accurate..

    19 Qntal 81 plays Outstanding German ethereal band that realeased a great album last year. Just plain beautiful uplifting music.

    20. Cocteau Twins 78 plays I've always been kind of ambivelent about them. I mean I *like* them and I really like the album "Treasure" but it's taken me many years to really get in to the other stuff. But I am slowly "coming around" and liking them more and more...I don't think they've ever been in my top 20 before but they may stay there or close.

    Since this is already quite long I won't bother talking about things below 20 that maybe should be higher, time will tell.

    Just a few bands I do still really like despite their total absence from my top 50 Coil, This Mortal Coil, Arcana, Portishead, Massive Attack, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds,Current 93 and probably hundreds of others.

    Too many good artists, too few spots. But If I was in a "desert island" scenario with only the complete discographies of my top 20 (and that mysterious stereo that is always there in those things) I could be quite happy music wise :)
  • Some recent good discoveries

    Mai 26 2006, 3h42

    Most of the (to me) stuff new stuff I've been loving lately kind of fits into a category call it female fronted ethereal trip-hop I guess. Halou was the band that really got me started on this and as usually happens when I get entranced with a band I've been looking and finding very good similar stuff.


    Invisible Ballet - "Escaping Light"

    This is a side project by Rebecca and Ryan Coseboom of Halou so it's an obvious place to start this entry and also very good. The album reminds me most of Mono Chrome a side-project of another one of my favorite vocalists Victoria Lloyd (of Claire Voyant). Entrancing ethereal vocals over dancy darkewave-type beats. In fact those who have heard Mono Chrome's album will have a pretty good idea what to expect from this. Although a couple of tracks on the Invisible Ballet album are more downtempo and Halou-like. With a normal vocalist this would be just another darkwave band with not particularly interesting or original electronics but of course Rebecca is far far from a normal vocalist and they have the sense to let the electronics stay in the background while her voice is the beautiful centerpiece and, just like with Mono Chrome, it all comes off quite beautifully. Maybe it's not quite as good as the new Halou album but it's still pretty damn good and recommended.8.6/10

    Somegirl

    This is kind of synthpop with some trip-hop-like influences thrown in. Very good vocals. Nice upbeat and uplifting stuff. Maybe kind of like a 21st century update of early Eurythmics or some good new-wave type band like that 8.2/10

    Echostream - "Identity"

    In contrast to the first two bans mentioned Echostrem ethereal/downtempo side of the spectrum in fact comparisons could be made to Chandeen or Bel Canto at their best but Echostream is even better. Definately something Hyperium "Heavenly Voices" fans should hear. Although the songs "Shadow on the Ground ", "Simplify" and "Repeater" will delight fans of more electronic trip-hop. Echostream has a Japanese vocalist and she has a really good unique and breathy voice. The backing synths/piano are good but mainly minimalistic allowing her great voice to take center-stage where it definately belongs. Echostream do an absolutely gorgeous cover ofCreep which is just totally haunting and probably the highlight of the album but it's an excellent album all the way through. One of the best new bands I've heard in a while. Dreamy,floaty and melancholic with gorgeous vocals and a few touches of electronica to keep things interesting and diverse. Absolutely a stunning debut album! Very close to perfect. 9.9/10

    Beauty's Confusion - "Breathe In" This is actually a 2004 release but a new and great discovery for me. Another realease centered around beutiful vocals complimented by subtle keyboards and electronics and a smattering of shoegaze-style guitar work. This is a subtly diverse album something you can just drift and float on. Will definately appeal to fans of Portishead and Mandalay[/artists] and other bands in this vein but this is far from a deritive band. Vocalist Jenna Ferone's voice is wonderful to listen to, drifting from sultry to yearning to somewhat menacing to haunting effortlessly. Beauty's Confusion has remixesd tracks for a diverse mix of much more well known artists and when you listen to them it's not hard to see why. Both members, particularly Jenna, are very talented, and there is absolutely no confusion about this music's beauty.9.7/10

    Well I may do some more shorter reviews/recommendations later this week because there is a bunch of other stuff I've been enjoying, but the aboue (Echostream especially) are definate stand-outs.
  • little rant about silly genre names

    Mai 22 2006, 16h37

    I try to avoid using genre names when discussing music. The only ones I like are ones that describe the music in some way.I don't like putting music in little boxes either. If you must describe it use adjectives or compare it to a band the person knows.

    I find it kind of amusing and kind of annoying some of the stupid genre names people come up with or genres which are applied to so much different music they become totally meaninglesss. Some really dumb genre names that bug me [I'm not talking about the music,many of these names are applied to music I like which increases the annoyance factor.]

    So in no particular order

    So this is short for "emotional music"? Shouldn't most music be emotional? unless you listen to Kraftwerk,Front 242 or the like maybe. I know "emo" is applied to a bunch of bands currently popular with angsty teenagers which I have never really listened to but couldn't they have come up with a better name.?

    only applies to about 60-70% of the music that has been released in the last 40 years. Hardly describes music at all.

    So a band comes from a small label, how does thhat describe the music? Maybe it conveys a certain attitude but is still a very undescrtiptive adjective that doesn't have much to do with actual musical style.

    . , , - Same problem with all of these. They used to mean something at one time but they've been slapped on so much diverse music of varying quality that they really don't mean anything anymore.

    singer/songwriter This is one of the worst. Of course it is applied to people who record under their own name instead of a band namme but most people in bands are also songwriters and of course almost all bands have singers.Stupid...

    Can we get a little more pretentious please?

    it used to apply to experimental bands that made music with factory sounds and similar things. Now applies to a somewhat dark dance music. Not really much of a connection.
    is another silly related term.

    The "dream" part is good but how is this music pop? In a better world these bands would be rwegularly in the top 40 but when is the last time it actually happened?

    , Really anything ending in -core is a stupid unoriginal name.

    this one just sounds dumb. is much better.

    This one I really don't get. Aren't folk music and heavy metal pretty much diametrically opposed. For some reason some metal fans seem to want to label everything they listen to as some type of metal. So, you like folk music or medieval music or whatever. Cool, it's a lot better than death metal anyway. Deal with it :)

    Well I guess that's enough, sometimes I suppose you have to use these when describing music but that doesn't mean I have to like them.
  • Stuff I've been listening to new, or newish to me - part 1

    Abr 29 2006, 21h20

    I've Been taking aa kind of hit and run approach to music lately. Got kiind of behid on picking up new releases so have listened to a lot of different stuff, while as usuasual, and perhaps even more so, focusing on female Vocalists

    So in no particular order. Stuff I've been really loving:
    Sleepthief

    The Dawnseeker Six Track Promo [2006]


    I suppose this will inevitablly compaed to Delerium
    but I've never heard anything this good from them, not even
    Silence. The influences of many "ethereal/trip-hop/Celtic" touches are present and the vocals are beyond beautiful. Assuming the other half is comparable to the first six tracks. This is headed to a spot among my top bands of all time. Run, don't walk to get this album when it comes out in May!

    Fields of the Nephilim


    Mourning Sun

    Wow....back in 1991 when I was just making the transition from metal-head to goth rocker, I heard Elizium and it blew my mind. I have since often made the argument that Elizium is the "ne plus ultra" of "goth rock", nothing else I've heard before or ince captures the things I like about that style of music so well...The dreaminess yet harshness and energy, the unabashed grandiosity and dramatics, the flow...Unfortunately in the seventeen years since Elizium FotN have broke up, got back together, broke up again and produced a couple of pretty dissapointing albums overly inffluenced by death meatal. So, combined with the fact that my tastes have evolved alway from dark rock a bit, since 1991 I was expecting not to like Mourning Sun too much. Luckily I was very surprised in a great way. I'm not quite prepared to say it's as good as Elizium but it's up there. After seventeen years Carl McCoy has once again produced a dark rock masterpiece. Somehow he can pull off dramatics and the bombastic without sounding contrived or cheesy. The flow might not quite be there but the songs stand alone as great, pulsing with energy and psychotropic trippiness. Definately a great album.

    Halou

    Wholeness and Separation [2006]



    I don't know what I can say about Halou that would really do them justice. The vocals and music combine in a perfect synergy of sound. Quite sinmply one of the best bands I have *ever* heard. I have loved them since introduced to them through
    Blood Ruby's
    last FM group [who prduce great music in their own right].
    The new album only strenthens that impression. Actually the "Wholeness" part was released as an EP in 2003 but the new songs are all brilliant. Another definate contender for best of 2006.

    Sarah Slean

    I have had a bunch of Sarah Slean music lying around for a while and have only now got around to listening to it...My loss and now my gain. she is a beautiful singer. Somewhat of a cabaret feel, beautiful voice, intelligent lyrics, what more could you want?

    Terami Hirsch

    Another female singer/songwriter who I have been lucky enough to just discover. Comparisons to Boys For Pele era Tori Amos are apt. But her well-crafted songs certainly sound on their own and avoid derivitavness. Definately someone I need to listen to more

    Hannah Fury

    Subterfuge EP [2006]

    Hannah produces very melncholy piano music which is sometimes a bit trite but still beautiful. On her new EP she expands her musical horizons a bit with more electronic type things. [There is even a perhaps somewhat ill-conceived attempt at rap in one of the songs :)]
    But she stil delivers pleanty of what I expect, haunting ballads, with her ghostly, shimmery, totally unique and really indescribable vocals. Over-all this is a progression and a very good set of songs.

    Nicola Hitchcock
    Passive Aggresive [2005]
    I love this woman's voice and her brand of mellow ethereal trip-hop. I've been recently been geting in to he (former?) band Mandalay
    and her solo album is rather similar and very beatiful....highly recommended.



    Well, I have plenty of other great albums I could talk about but I will discuss them in the next entries.
  • Out of touch with this site and my music for a while

    Abr 6 2006, 1h53

    Sorry, I haven't been following this site or really looking for new music for a while. I just got overwhelmed with so many new musical things but I realize how much I've issed searching out and hearing new things and experiencing music which touches other similarly minded people. Thanks to all who have submitted album/band recommendations and other things. A lot of interesting things there ti listen to and read. look forward to it. I apologize for neglecting the last.fm site site and not being on SoulSeek (for the people there that I trade with).

    Mike