danvk.org » music http://www.danvk.org/wp Keepin' static like wool fabric since 2006 Thu, 09 Oct 2014 15:59:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Favorite Albums of 2007 http://www.danvk.org/wp/2008-01-04/favorite-albums-of-2007/ http://www.danvk.org/wp/2008-01-04/favorite-albums-of-2007/#comments Fri, 04 Jan 2008 20:45:31 +0000 http://www.danvk.org/wp/?p=270 (See also podcasts, TV shows, books and movies)

This is the last post in this series before we resume our regularly scheduled programming. I still discover most of my music through Pitchfork’s lists, so I’ve included links to those lists where appropriate. You may also want to check out my Favorite Albums of 2006.

Silent Shout
(The Knife – 2006; PF #1 album of 2006)
Pitchfork’s fave album of 2006 is one of my fave albums of 2007. The opening beat/song really pull you in, and the first nine tracks are all good, with “Marble House” and “Like a Pen” being standouts. The last two tracks are just miserable though, I mean “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts” bad. This was the only album that I discovered through the 2006 list that I really enjoyed.

In Rainbows
(Radiohead – 2007; PF #4 album of 2007)
With its innovative “pay what you want” online distribution, it’s a good thing Radiohead made such a great album. It sounded nondescript the first time I listened to it, but quickly grew on me. Favorite tracks include “Bodysnatchers”, “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” and “Jigsaw Falling into Place”.

Hip Hop Is Dead
(Nas – 2006)
I’ve already reviewed this album before, so it should come as no surprise that I liked it! It’s too bad that every Nas album gets compared to his first. Maybe he wishes he pulled a Radiohead instead.

Music for 18 Musicians
(Steve Reich – 1974; PF #53 album of the 1970′s)
It’s on the PF list, but The Rest Is Noise inspired me to listen to it. I enjoyed it the first time through, but couldn’t say I was really inspired. Then I started hearing those bass clarinets everywhere: the sound of a bus engine, the rhythm of a toothbrush across my teeth. For bonus points, try picking out the 18 musicians. (I think this would be really hard!)

Midnight Marauders
(A Tribe Called Quest – 1993; PF #75 album of the 1990′s)
I could do without the interludes, but the main tracks are fantastic grooves, combining jazz, funk and hip-hop. Favorite tracks include “8 Million Stories”, “Sucka Nigga”, and “Midnight”.

(Joni Mitchell – 1972; PF #86 album of the 1970′s)
I first heard Joni Mitchell in high school but was nonplussed. Then I heard a CD of songs whose names all contained the word “California” on it about two years ago. Joni Mitchell’s “California” made an appearance right after Tupac’s “California Love”. It’s certainly a ridiculous sequence, but I’m been torn on whether it’s also a good one. It’s tough to follow “California Love”, so maybe you should just go for something as different as possible. Once you get used to her voice, this is a really enjoyable album.

FutureSex/Love Sounds
(Justin Timberlake – 2006; PF #25 album of 2006)
As a friend of mine explained, we should all be thanking JT: “I didn’t even know sexy was gone, but he’s bringing Sexyback!” I was also really impressed by his concert at Madison Square Garden, which I saw on TV. You can watch clips of it here.

(Jeff Buckley – 1994; PF #69 album of the 1990′s)
The most famous accidental drowning of the last 15 years. I prefer the harder rock songs to the more down-tempo ones like “Lilac Wine” and “Hallelujah”. Faves are “Last Goodbye” and “Eternal Life”.

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Using Track Parser http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-12-24/using-track-parser/ http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-12-24/using-track-parser/#comments Mon, 24 Dec 2007 19:27:29 +0000 http://www.danvk.org/wp/?p=245 pitchfork-tracks.png Pitchfork Media has released their two standard year-end lists, the Top 100 Tracks of 2007 and the Top 50 Albums of 2007. As usual, they’ve been lampooned all over the web, including one critique in pie chart form. For me, they made for perfect listening on a long car drive this weekend.

In my case, this list led to a good use of my Track Parser script, which is in all likelihood the most useful program I’ve ever written. It’s an AppleScript for iTunes (i.e. Mac only, sorry) that lets you apply regular expressions to track names/tags. Here’s how I used it today…

Through some strange turn of events (certainly nothing to do with this), I found myself with a playlist of the top 100 tracks. The music was all there, but none of the songs had their “Artist” field filled in! Here’s where my Track Parser script came in.

I googled around and quickly found this page, which has some commentary on the list, as well as what we’re interested in: a copy of all the songs/artists in simple text form. (For what it’s worth, I agree with his reactions.)

I copied the list and ran two regular expressions to get it down to just the artist (s/ ".*//g and ^\d*: if you must know). The tracks are in reverse order of what we want (100 to 1 instead of 1 to 100). So I ran pbpaste | tac | pbcopy to put the #1 track at the top of the list. Or I would have, if Mac OS X had the tac command. Instead, I ran this monstrosity:

pbpaste | perl -ne 'push @x, $_; END { print for reverse @x }' | pbcopy

to do the same thing. In retrospect, I should have just sorted my playlist in reverse track order.

Next I went into iTunes and selected my songs. I ran “Track Parser (Clipboard)” from the Scripts menu, clicked “New Pattern” and put in “%a” to extract the artist from each line. Track Parser handled the rest. Total time: about five minutes.

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What’s worse than a song stuck in your head? http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-08-07/whats-worse-than-a-song-stuck-in-your-head/ http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-08-07/whats-worse-than-a-song-stuck-in-your-head/#comments Wed, 08 Aug 2007 06:00:44 +0000 http://www.danvk.org/wp/?p=196 talkingheads.jpgNot being able to remember the name of a song whose instrumental part is stuck in your head. It’s maddening!

NPR plays these fifteen second instrumental clips from popular songs between segments on some shows. I’ve listened to enough music that I’m usually really good at picking out the song. But this one escapes me. And there’s no words, so I can’t search for it!

It brings the whole issue of literacy into focus for me. I don’t think twice about writing a thought down on paper, but when it’s a bit of music, I’m totally powerless. I can’t really reproduce it (it’s got some weird reverb effects going on) and I certainly can’t convey it to someone else. It’s a prisoner in my mind. All I can say is it’s got bass and syncopated, reverbed percussion, like Squarepusher’s “Iambic 5 Poetry“, only more upbeat.

The only way out: I have to listen to every song in my library until I find it. ARGH!!!

Update: Two days later, my fifth guess paid off! It was 0:15 through about 0:30 of “Warning Sign” off More Songs About Buildings and Food by the Talking Heads. For the record, my previous guesses were: Pixies, Pavement, R.E.M. and Boards of Canada.

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New iPod! http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-07-19/new-ipod/ http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-07-19/new-ipod/#comments Fri, 20 Jul 2007 05:15:58 +0000 http://www.danvk.org/wp/?p=189

Either through misplacement or theft, I lost the dano, my iPod nano, sometime last week. It’s OK. It was only a 1 GB nano, and I won it in a drawing. I paid nothing.

In fact, I last bought an iPod in April, 2004. Here’s what it looked like:


That red glow was totally trendy. It’s pretty wild to compare the technical specs on each. The prices were identical – $300 each. What’s 3+ years done to the iPod?

  2004 2007
Price $294.24 $302.02
Capacity 15 GB 80 GB
Battery Life ~5 hours “20 hours” (we’ll see)
Size 4.1″ x 2.4″ 4.1″ x 2.4″
Thickness 0.62″ 0.55″
Weight 5.6 oz 5.5 oz
Display 2″, 160×128 2.5″, 320×240

So all the specs have improved, and the thing’s gotten smaller. Who ever said the march of technology was a bad thing? I’m mostly excited about the video capabilities. If I throw some TV episodes on there, I can jog with my iPod, commercial-free!

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I’m OK, how are you? http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-04-20/im-ok-how-are-you/ http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-04-20/im-ok-how-are-you/#comments Fri, 20 Apr 2007 07:06:38 +0000 http://www.danvk.org/wp/?p=133 An awful realization tonight: I live all of five minutes from Palo Alto, work for a software company, and I haven’t listened to Radiohead’s “Palo Alto” since I came to California! Consider that fixed…

I learned one thing from the wiki article I linked to above. “Palo Alto” was originally called “OK Computer”, and was going to be on the album of the same name. The song was cut and renamed, but the original name stayed in their minds for the album. It’s interesting because “OK Computer” is a fine metaphorical title for the album, but a great literal title for the song that became “Palo Alto”.

In a city of the future,
it is difficult to find a space.
I’m too busy to see you,
you’re too busy to wait.

Well I’m ok, how are you?
Thanks for asking
Thanks for asking.
Well I’m ok, how are you?
We hope that you are ok too.

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Recent music and books http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-04-14/recent-music-and-books/ http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-04-14/recent-music-and-books/#comments Sat, 14 Apr 2007 07:25:39 +0000 http://www.danvk.org/wp/?p=130 Albums:

- A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory (1991)
- R.E.M., Murmur (1983)
- The Velvet Underground, Loaded (1970)
- Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1962)

Some albums are just inextricably associated with times and places in my life. Loaded wins that award for summer 2006. It’s hard to say how long you have to wait to know, but the early returns have Reasonable Doubt as the sound of starting at Google.


- Kenneth Browser, The Starship & the Canoe (1978)
- Eric S. Raymond, The Cathedral and the Bazaar (1997)

Hopefully I’ll write more about both these books in the next week or so.

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Nas: Hip Hop Is Dead http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-03-12/nas-hip-hop-is-dead/ http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-03-12/nas-hip-hop-is-dead/#comments Mon, 12 Mar 2007 08:29:16 +0000 http://www.danvk.org/wp/?p=102 nashiphopdead.jpg I recently noticed that a friend was intrigued by Hip Hop Is Dead, so I figured I should write a little about it. As the two readers of this blog know, I’m a big fan of Nas, or at least of Illmatic. And that’s a distinction that no small number of people make. Nas’s predicament reminds me a bit of Bob Dylan’s. No new album of Dylan’s will ever be called “his best ever”. It would be absurd. The highest praise his new albums can be given is “the best since Blood on the Tracks“. High praise, but I imagine that kind of prior success would weigh heavy on an artist. That being said, this is his best album since Illmatic.

People often talk of a Golden Age of Hip-Hop from around 1988 to 1993. The golden age is characterized by rapidly-developing new genres, fabulous albums, and social consciousness. In my mind, Illmatic represents the culmination of it. After the golden age, rappers started to fall more and more in love with their money and egos, which led to ridiculousness like the Tupac/Biggie and Nas/Jay-Z rivalries. In Hip Hop Is Dead, Nas shows everyone how far hip hop culture has fallen since the good old days.

Nas makes it crystal clear how much he loves that culture, and how in tune he is with its history. On “Carry on Tradition,” he calls out the younger rappers for not knowing their roots: “I got an exam, let’s see if y’all pass it / Let’s see who can quote a Daddy Kane line the fastest”.

Having just watched The Freshest Kids, I was particularly struck by the line “Can’t forget about the old school / Bam, Caz, Mele Mel, Flash / Rock Steady spinning on they backs” in “Can’t Forget about You” (video). That track was produced by Will.I.Am, who has a special place in my heart because he came to the Googleplex. He also produced the title track, which has one of the most ludicrous choruses I’ve ever heard:

If hip hop should die before I wake
I’ll put an extended clip inside of my AK
Roll to every station, murder the DJ
Roll to every station, murder the DJ

No bones about it, Nas is passionate about his Hip Hop. Another stand-out track is “Still Dreaming”, which is his collaboration with Kanye West. Its mood is more laid back and reserved than the rest of the tracks, but it’s a welcome break.

Funniest moment on the album: in the few seconds between “Who Killed It?” and Jay-Z’s “Black Republican”, you can hear a computer voice saying “Hip Hop is so fucking d…”. And then Jay-Z comes on with a symphony in the background. I can’t help but think that this is a great jab at Jay-Z. Even though they’ve “reconciled their differences,” Jay must still represent everything dead about Hip Hop to Nas.

In the end, Hip Hop Is Dead is less a condemnation of contemporary Hip Hop and more a celebration of its history. Perhaps it will open people’s eyes to that rich history.

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Stuff I’ve Enjoyed Lately http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-02-23/stuff-ive-enjoyed-lately/ http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-02-23/stuff-ive-enjoyed-lately/#comments Fri, 23 Feb 2007 07:11:03 +0000 http://www.danvk.org/wp/?p=99
The Freshest Kids: A History of the B-Boy

Fun history of hip-hop and breakdancing in particular.

Modern C++ Design, by Andrei Alexandrescu

If ever you thought you understood C++…

Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, by Haruki Murakami

A much easier, faster read than The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but I prefer my darkness alone in the bottom of a well rather than in a subterranean cavern with a plump 18 year-old who may or may not be a sex interest.

King: Man of Peace in a Time of War

A look at Martin Luther King’s principle of nonviolence in the context of the Vietnam War. The extended clip of King on the Michael Douglas show was fascinating. In the future, we’ll be seeing more and more legendary figures in down-to-earth contexts like this.

Malcolm X, Directed by Spike Lee

Malcolm X’s life forms a fascinating counterpoint to Dr. King’s, and this is one hell of a movie.

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Favorite Albums, 2006 http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-01-07/favorite-albums-2006/ http://www.danvk.org/wp/2007-01-07/favorite-albums-2006/#comments Mon, 08 Jan 2007 03:53:19 +0000 http://www.danvk.org/wp/?p=52 This isn’t a list of my favorite albums that came out in 2006. It’s a list of albums that became favorites of mine in 2006, regardless of when they were released.

10. The Mountain Goats, The Sunset Tree (2005)

Learned about it from the Pitchfork 2005 list, which has been mysteriously excised from Pitchfork’s site. I love the album cover. It’s a pretty quiet album. The last two songs are eerie and wonderful.

9. Joy Division, Substance (1988)

I’ve known I should like Joy Division for a very long time, but sometimes it just takes that extra kick to make it happen. In this case it was seeing how excited Nathan got when “Dead Souls” randomly played in the background at someone’s house. Now that song stands out for me, too, and it was the key to finding more and more to like on this album. It’s a singles collection — I still haven’t been able to get into their original albums.

8. Jay-Z, Reasonable Doubt (1996)

I decided that Jay-Z was pretty cool in 2005, when Pitchfork put Blueprint as the #2 album of 2000-2004. Then I thought about Blueprint some more, and decided that, on second thought, maybe I didn’t like Jay-Z after all. So I didn’t get around to listening to Reasonable Doubt until I saw it on this list. I really love the sound of this album, starting on the very first track (right after the skit). The guest spots are incredible, with Memphis Bleek on “Coming of Age” and Foxy sounding tough as nails “Ain’t No Nigga”. And “22 two’s” may just be the cleverest song I’ve ever heard.

7. Michael Jackson, Dangerous (1991)

What do Hurricane Katrina and Michael Jackson’s Dangerous have to do with each other? Not much, but Katrina did drive a mysterious girl from Tulane over to Rice who convinced me that MJ wasn’t so bad. According to her, this album was “probably his artistic height,” so I had great expectations.

Tracks 1-6 are incredibly upbeat, but at 5-6 minutes a pop, the front half of this album gets incredibly tiring. But then we start healing the world and things settle down until the end. I was forced to sing “Heal the World” in grade school, so the song has been forever ruined for me. But “Black or White” is amazing, and the remaining tracks are solid, easy listening. And then there’s “Dangerous” to close things out.

Michael Jackson may be better when his artistry is less heightened, but Dangerous is a solid album.

6. Talking Heads, Sand in the Vaseline (1992)

I’ve always been a fan of Remain in Light, but the rest of the Talking Heads songs just didn’t click for me. Then I heard a story about David Byrne giving a concert in the Eighties while “coked out of his mind,” and somehow that did the trick.

Sand in the Vaseline is a singles collection and it was great company on my ride across the country, particularly the second disc. Standouts for me were “Lifetime Piling Up” and especially “(Nothing But) Flowers”.

5. Art Brut, Bang Bang Rock and Roll (2005)

A winner from the 2005 list. Who can resist “Formed a Band”? I normally prefer more mellow songs, but Art Brut is best when they’re completely strung out. “Good Weekend” and “Modern Art” are two of my faves. I went to the San Francisco MOMA a few months ago and suddenly had “Modern Art! Makes Me! Want to ROCK OUT!” stuck in my head, and it made me smile ear to ear. Who the hell says that?

4. The Velvet Underground, Loaded (1971)

I decided to listen to this album after seeing how happy “Sweet Jane” made somebody when it came on at a party. Sweet Jane makes me happy, too, as do the rest of the first three tracks on here (“Who Loves the Sun” and “Rock and Roll”). The rest of the album took a lot longer, but it came around. I still love the start. “Who loves the sun? Who cares that it makes flowers? Who cares that it makes showers, since you broke my heart?”

3. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! (2005)

The big winner of Pitchfork’s 2005 list for me. Rarely does an album simultaneously do well on the year-end best list and the year-end worst list. I think the opening track is there to make “Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away” sound just that much better. Standouts are “Details of the War” and “The Skin of my Yellow Country Teeth”, but the whole album sounds great. Except for the opener “Clap Your Hands!”, of course.

2. Belle and Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister (1999)

It’s amazing that I didn’t discover this album sooner, given its prominent placement on Pitchfork’s 90′s list. I made an MP3 CD of the top 13 albums on that list a few years ago, and at #14 B&S just missed the cutoff. It’s too bad. I loved this album almost instantly, especially “Stars of Track and Field”, “Get Me Away from Here I’m Dying” and “Judy and the Dream of Horses”. All three are perfect songs. It takes me back to good times in high school and college, feeling innocent and in love. Did I mention that “Stars of Track and Field” is just great? It’s forever changed my image of high school running with the girl who “only did it so / that you could wear / you terry underwear / and feel the city air / run past your body”.

1. Nas, Illmatic (1994)
In all fairness, I liked Illmatic before 2006, but this was a really good year for me and Nas. Forget the whole rivalry with Jay-Z, this is just Nas showing what he can do. “New York State of Mind” sets the tone for the album. It’s got a simple, perfect beat. It’s just a few piano notes over and over, but with Nas’s words over them, it sounds downright menacing. “Life’s a Bitch” is a perfect track with a perfect guest spot by AZ. Almost every track on this album is fantastic, and only “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” feels at all over-produced. The lyrics are incredibly dense but somebody must have told Nas “enunciate” before he recorded this, because they’re not too hard to pick out. Every once in a while you’ll catch a few lines that just blow you away. The album’s loaded with gems: “keep static like wool fabric”, “I need a new nigga, for this black cloud to follow / Cause while it’s over me it’s too dark to see tomorrow”.

“One Love” is another standout that’s a letter to his boys in the tank. He lets them know how things are going, and then there’s lines that hit you like these: “So stay civilized, time flies / though incarcerated your mind dies / I hate it when your mom cries / it kinda makes me want to murder, for real-a / I’ve even got a mask and gloves to bust slugs / for one love”.

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Race/Gender in my iTunes Library http://www.danvk.org/wp/2006-12-07/racegender-in-my-itunes-library/ http://www.danvk.org/wp/2006-12-07/racegender-in-my-itunes-library/#comments Fri, 08 Dec 2006 06:42:36 +0000 http://www.danvk.org/wp/?p=57 Mostly out of curiosity, I tried to do some race and gender statistics on my iTunes Library this evening. Weighted by number of tracks I’ve played in the last three months, here’s how my iTunes library breaks down. By race:

  • White 1340 tracks played
  • Black 505 tracks played

By gender:

  • Male 1833 tracks played
  • Female 12 tracks played

This is by race/gender of the lead vocalist only. Apparently I’m sexist but not racist. The numbers don’t change too much if you count Michael Jackson as white.

I haven’t been able to find a good way to automate this. There’s tons of directories of musicians and bands, but none of them include information about race or gender. The closest I’ve found is the Notable Names database which has some musicians, but nonspectacular coverage.

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