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The end of 2012

Dec20

It’s that time of year again. The only time of year when I will consistently write something on this blog. It’s the end of the year, and that means a “Best of music” list. This year, however, I’m going to do something a little different. There will be two lists. 2012 was a great year for music. However, most of that good music, in my opinion, came in the form of a reissue. The brand new music was…. kind of “meh”. Therefore there will be one list for new music, and one list for reissues. 

One quick note before we get to the lists: I hate describing music. I’m pretty terrible at it. Therefore, when I could, I copied some short descriptions from my friend Chris who runs the music blog echoocho (which I have a mix tape on). They’ll be much more descriptive and helpful than anything I could have written.

 

New Music Released in 2012:
 

Tame Impala - Lonerism
Recommended Track: Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
Their debut album, Innerspeaker, came out in 2010 and was pretty steller. It was heavy, and classic sounding. Their new album is a bit lighter and more catchy. Yet it was still able to keep everything that made their debut awesome.

Jakob Olausson - Morning and Sunrise
Recommended Track: Riding on the Wind 
Chris sums it up best: Haunting, melancholy folk music from an organic beet farmer in Sweden.  It sounds like a long lost folk relic, an effect heightened by the private-press type “stock” cover art.

Twerps - Twerps
Recommended Track: Dreamin
Technically this may have come out in 2011, but I don’t think it hit the states till 2012, so I’m going to include it here. Austrailia has been putting out a lot of good music lately, and this is another one. 90’s style jangly guitar rock.

Mad Scene - Blip
Recommended Track: Lorelei
From Chris: A “supergroup” of sorts, in which members of The Clean, Yo La Tengo, and others came together for the second time in 17 years to record a warm, eclectic set of VU/Modern Lovers-derived indie rock.  The buzzing, analog production from Sonic Boom (of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum fame) makes the whole affair as comfy as a thrift store couch. 

Grizzly Bear - Schields
Recommended Track: Yet Again
Grizzly Bear may be getting more poppy with each album, but they still put out a consistently good album.

Angel Olsen - Half Way Home
Recommended Track: Acrobat 
Originally from Missouri, now residing in Chicago, this is her debut and it’s fantastic from start to finish.  She’s toured as a vocalist with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, and I can see why. Hauntingly beautiful while also dark and sparse.

Mount Eerie - Ocean Roar
Recommended Track: Ocean Roar
I tend to like everything that Phil Elvrum has put out, and this is no different. Heavy metal inspiration plus Phil’s folk leanings.

Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold
Recommended Track: Borrowed Time
I can’t top what Chris said so I’ll just paste: Driving slacker-rock that, like many revered 90s indie records, could use a bit of pruning, but the many solid tracks are great.  Hits a sweet spot in the Pavement, Tyvek, Feelies, sort of orbit.

MMOSS - Only Children
Recommended Track: Hands
An album that is consistently good. If you like fuzzy psychadelic folk music, give this a listen.

Julia Holder - Ekstasis
Recommended Track: Marienbad
Ethereal bedroom laptop pop

Honerable Mentions:
Ty Segall, Sharon Van Etten, Bird by Snow, Spritiualized, Isengrind, Pheromoans and Dirty Projectors 

 

2012 Reissues in absolutely no particular order

 

Lee Hazlewood - Cold Hard World / Dark in My Heart
Recommended Track: Dark in My Heart
Two compilations of the incomprable Lee Hazlewood. These two albums are a perfect blend of Johnny Cash and Tom Waits.

Misty Hush Revival - Your Heart is Broken
Recommended Track: Your Heart is Broken
A great reissue of a rare and sought-after 1972 LP by this Staten Island garage band.

The New Dawn - There’s a New Dawn
Recommended Track: (There’s a) New Dawn
This Oregon band printed off 500 copies of this record in 1970. Thankfully Jackpot records released it, so we can enjoy the dreamy and moody soft rock.

The Clean - Odditties
Recommended Track: The Clean
Long overdue 2LP reissue of the cassette-only compilation of unreleased tracks, demos, and studio tinkerings.  Hit and miss, but there is some great stuff on here.

The Great Unwashed - Clean out of Our Minds
Recommended Track: Hold onto the Rail
Essential reissue of some of the best music to come out of the Flying Nun camp, showing a bit more subdued and acoustic side of The Clean.

The Scientists - Rubber Never Sleeps
Recommended Track: Frantic Romantic
A live album that was, up until now, only available on cassette. Properly brought back with some vinyl. 

Donnie & Joe Emerson - Dreamin’ Wild
Recommended Track: Baby
Two brothers from a logging town were pushed into music by their dad. They made this album while in their teens. Even if most of the songs were terrible (which they aren’t), I’d include it here simply because of the amazing soulful track “Baby”.

Dane Sturgeon - Wild ‘n’ Tender
Recommended Track: Queen Bee
Technically this wasn’t reissued. However, I stumbled onto an original copy this year, and a documentary on Dane Sturgeon came out this year. So, that’s reason enough to add it.  This album is completely unique and hypnotic.

G.I. Gurdjieff - Improvisations
Recommended Track: All of them
Gurdjieff was a Russian mystic who influenced writers, thinkers and artists (e.g. Frank Lloyd Wright and many French surrealist writers).  In the last year of his life, he held dinner parties at his Paris apartment where I am sure very heady conversations took place.  He concluded the dinners by extemporaneously playing his harmonium (pump organ) for his guests, who reportedly were often brought to tears by the performances.  These recordings are musty, warbly things and are very beautiful.  A cool historical and musical document, a museum for the ears and mind.  One piece was recorded mere days before his death in October 1949. - Chris

The Steps - Krontjong Warna-Warni
Recommended Track: Mudiang Priangan
Similar to Dane Sturgeon, this hasn’t been reissued. In fact, as far as I know there isn’t much information on this at all other than someone found it, copied it to a cd and now you can find it in the remote corners of the internet. I really hope that someone does do a proper reissue of it, as it’s a great 1970’s pastoral Indonesian surf album. 

Honorable Mentions:

Toy Love (for fans of Ty Segall and Jay Reatard), Karen Dalton, Wicked Lady, Heaven & Earth, The Shoes, Tsege Mariam Gebru, F.J. McMahonDrywater and David Arvedon.

Posted on December 20, 2012 in Random

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PhotoSeed Wins a Webby!!

May11

photoseed-slide-1

I am extremely proud to announce that PhotoSeed has won a Webby! It won for the Art category, beating out Google Art Project, The Walker Art Center, Colossal, and Dean West Photography, which was incredible company to be in.

PhotoSeed was a project that took a bit to get going (as most projects do). It was something David Spencer (Spence) and I had talked about, along with Mark Katzman and Curt Von Diest way back in early 2009. We are all avid photography collectors. We actually had made decent head way before we all were consumed by other projects. I hadn’t spoken with David for about six months when I saw him at a talk Katzman gave at the Saint Louis Museum of Art. After the talk, I was energized to work on something photography related and told Spence that we must do PhotoSeed. He has an amazing collection, and I’ve read many of his writings on Luminous Lint. He needed his own site.

After that, things started to fall into place. I was able to get Jay David to do design, while I worked with Spence on how his content would be all tied together. I did development for the site, with TOKY Branding + Design being kind enough to allow us to use Eero, the CMS I developed while working there. From there, it was up to Spence to enter all the content. As of May 11, 2012, there are over 1,800 works, and 4,500 images. If you don’t already subscribe to the RSS feed, I encourgage you to do so. Every week, Spence puts up another great post detailing something that I have never heard about. He has taught me more about photography than any textbook or museum.

PhotoSeed was a wonderful project to work on, and I couldn’t be happier for David Spencer. He has created a website like no other.

Posted on May 11, 2012 in Random, Web Development

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2012 Webby Awards

Apr10

The 2012 Webby Awards were announced today and I am lucky enough to have three projects mentioned. Two as nominees and one honoree. Voting starts tomorrow, so please vote!

Nominee: PhotoSeed
Category: Art
URL: http://www.photoseed.com/

photoseed

 

Nominee: World Chess Hall of Fame
Category: Cultural Institutions
URL: http://worldchesshof.org/

chesshof

 

Honoree: Contemporary Art Museum Saint Louis
Category: Cultural Institutions
URL: http://camstl.org/

cam

Posted on April 10, 2012 in Random

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Artful Travels: Searching Out the Spiral Jetty

Jan20

Note: This is cross posted on the TOKY blog as part of a new series about artful trips our staff have taken.

The Spiral Jetty is an earthwork sculpture constructed in 1970 by Robert Smithson. It’s located in the remote Rozel Bay on the north arm of Great Salt Lake in Utah. Even though this is one of the most unique works of art I’ve ever seen, I primarily remember it because of the adventure it was just to get there.

In 2006, my wife (girlfriend at the time), Rachel, and I took a trip out west. We love National Parks, and always manage to base our vacations around them. This vacation was no different, with an itinerary that featured Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and a drive through the Grand Tetons.

With some convincing on Rachel’s part, we added one more park to the list: Golden Spike National Historic Site. To be clear, though, her primary objective was to see the Spiral Jetty.

After leaving Jackson, Wyoming, we took Highway 89 south through the beautiful Bridger National Forest, passed through Logan, Utah, and made it to Brigham City, where we stayed in a classy 20-room Howard Johnson’s, one of the few hotels in the area.

We woke up early the next day and started our pilgrimage. After about an hour driving through a desolate, arid landscape, we finally arrived at Golden Spike; the temperature was already in the upper 80′s. At this point we had not seen a single sign for the Jetty. The only reason we knew we had 15 more miles was thanks to the Dia Foundation’s somewhat comedic directions (“Immediately you cross a cattle guard. Call this cattle guard #1”; “If you choose to continue…”).

Spiral Jetty road

Even with Dia’s instructions, we weren’t sure if we were going in the right direction. Every fork or cattle fence made us stop and question if we missed a turn. Thankfully, there was one sign that let us know we were not on the right path.

Spiral Jetty sign

As we got closer, I started to feel as though we had driven to another planet. In the distance I could see the lake, which was blood-red. It’s color is “due to the presence of salt-tolerant bacteria and algae that thrive in the extreme 27 percent salinity” (Wikipedia). The land around the lake was extremely arid and covered with large volcanic basalt rocks and the occasional rusted shell of an automobile.

Spiral Jetty rocks

The road came to a stop, and we went on foot down the only trail we could find. After about a mile we came to the Jetty. At the time of our 2006 visit, the water was high and the tops of the rocks were barely sticking out over the red water. Stopping on a hill, I had one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had. TheJetty was in front of me, abandoned oil drills in the distance, dried salt beds to the east and volcanic rock behind me. I felt as though I stumbled into Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan. Aside from Rachel, it seemed as if no other person existed.

Spiral Jetty look

The website for the artwork explains how it was built: “Using black basalt rocks and earth from the site, the artist created a coil 1,500 feet long and 15 feet wide that stretches out counterclockwise into the translucent red water.” While the rocks were originally black, due to the salt, they are now primarily white.

It’s worth noting that the Jetty is only visible when the level of the Great Salt Lake falls below an elevation of 4,197.8 feet. Since the Jetty was built during a drought, it was submerged for three decades until 2004, when it was exposed for almost an entire year.

Spiral Jetty white rocks

After walking out as far as we could on the rocks, we meandered a little east of the Jetty to some dry salt beds. The Great Salt Lake has a history of oil drilling, and this area felt like a graveyard for it. The horizon was decorated with abandoned oil rigs while the foreground was scattered with rusted-out oil drums.

Spiral Jetty salt flats

To be honest, I hadn’t been very excited about this part of our trip. The Jetty looked interesting in photos, but I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the two days of my precious vacation time. However, after being there, I can honestly say it was one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had.

If you find yourself a day or two drive from Utah, I highly encourage a visit. You won’t forget it.

An endnote: In 2011, the Dia Art Foundation’s lease on Spiral Jetty expired, and the state of Utah took it over. There were many fears over the future of the Jetty, including threats of oil drilling nearby. But just last week, the Dia Foundation announced that it has successfully reacquired the lease from the state, for at least the next 10 years.

Posted on January 20, 2012 in Random

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Should I use Spotify?

Aug25

If you’ve perused this blog at all, you’ll noticed I’ve had a couple ‘Best of…’ lists that featured my favorite albums from a particular year. I love music. In college I hosted a show on the college radio station, and a good deal of my income has always gone to buying cds, and now mp3s.

In case you haven’t heard, Spotify seems to be all the rage. People are blogging about how great it is and friends on Facebook are handing out invites. I caved to the peer pressure, signed up, and gave it a try. It’s truly a nice service. Granted, it doesn’t have nearly as much music as it claims. For instance, it didn’t have Radiohead’s In Rainbows, Jens Lekman Oh You’re So Silent Jens, any Black Lips albums…etc. 

The lack of these albums isn’t what dissuaded me from using the service. That’s bound to happen. What bothers me is that I’m afraid of what a service like this will do to the music industry. I know that if I paid $10/month for a service like Spotify, I’d be much less inclined to buy more music. And therefore, my music taste will be shaped completely by what is available on Spotify. If an artist isn’t on Spotify, I won’t hear them. I’m afraid that if a service like this becomes popular enough, then labels and bands will have to bend over backwards to play ball with them. Creating music isn’t the most profitable venture one can sign up for. And something like this could make it even harder.

For example, check out this infographic by InformationIsBeautiful.net:

sellingout550For the sake of music, please keep buying music. Preferably from the artist themselves.

Posted on August 25, 2011 in Random

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eBooks

Jul25

Over the past couple years I’ve had a bit of an about face regarding eBooks. When they first started becoming popular, I loathed them. I was an active participant in the group of people talking about how much they “loved the feel of a book” and how they “loved their bookshelves”…etc.

Fast forward to right now… and I LOVE eBooks. I absolutely love them. And I will tell you why.

I recently got back from a long vacation and loved being able to bring as many books as I want. I read two books in their entirety and dabbled in 3 others. Before eBooks this wasn’t possible. Well, it would be, but my back would be killing me!

I also love taking notes while I read; with eBooks (at least with the iBooks app on the iPad, I don’t know about other platforms) I can do just this without having to decipher my chicken scratch at a later point in time and all my notes, along with the text of the book itself, is instantly searchable. I’m horrible with remembering little details or fabulous quotes. Being able to instantly search for them is a godsend.

I love that I can read in bed late at night with the lights off so that I don’t keep my wife awake.

And the wanna-be eco friendly human inside me is happy that a tree doesn’t have to be cut down just for me to read a book. As lovely as my bookshelf is, I think I can get past that vanity.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love physical books. In fact, I collect old books. I really do love how they feel, as well as the type treatments, illustrations, and most importantly, that smell. And I will continue buying them. In my mind, though, there is a clear difference between old books made by hand and modern books made by a machine in a factory. I’ve purchased too many books where chapters were upside down, or completely missing. These books aren’t, in my opinion, an object that I need to hold onto and pass down to kids or have take up space in my apartment. And after moving to a new city this year, I think I’m ready to ditch almost all of them so that there will be fewer boxes to move next time.

Now, though there are a lot of things I love about eBooks, there is one big elephant still in the room that I haven’t talked about - DRM, or Digital Rights Management. For some reason the publishers didn’t learn a thing from the Apple/Record Label discussions 5 years prior. People do not want DRM. It’s akin to buying a DVD on Amazon and you then have to play it on an Amazon branded DVD player. It’s ridiculous that they want to control what I can do with a product after I’ve purchased it. And this isn’t just Amazon, it’s everyone, including Apple. The publishers (big and small) demand it. This means that I have to have an app for each group selling their book. This is outrageous and completely unusable. I don’t want to have to learn 4-5 different eReading apps.

Now, there are some publishers who sell DRM free eBooks, but they are few and far between and they aren’t offering many New York Times bestsellers.

DRM was one of the leading issues of why I originally disliked eBooks and was the primary reason I never bought a song off of iTunes. So what changed my mind? This article by Wired. I don’t want to post the instructions here due to legal issues, but if you want to start buying eBooks - and you don’t want the hassle of DRM - then this article is for you. It will give instructions to help you strip out the DRM.

And since I’d like to end this on a good note, a new eBook was just announced by a former Pixar designer. This is, in my opinion, the future of eBooks…and it looks pretty amazing.

Posted on July 25, 2011 in Random

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Blogging from The Venice Biennale

Jun9

Every two years, Venice hosts a biennale. It takes place in the Giardini, a beautiful park on the southern tip of the island. Thirty countries have permanent pavilions (dictated by international politics during the 1930′s and Cold War) in the park, and within each pavilion is a curated exhibition to present contemporary art from that country. More countries are added each year, with galleries sprinkled throughout the city.

This year, the US Pavilion is curated by the Indianapolis Musem of Art. My wife started working for the IMA last January, and is part of the team that the IMA has sent to Venice. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to tag along for the week and see what the Biennial is all about.

I’ve been to many, many museums and exhibition openings. However, I’ve never been to an opening quite like the Venice Biennale. It’s a great experience to see the best that the art world has to offer right now. There’s so much one can see. In particular, I loved the political photographs at the Danish Pavilion, as well as Mike Nelson’s work in the British Pavilion.  I will admit, however, that my favorite was the U.S. Pavilion, the three performance pieces and one interactive piece in particular. I’m not usually a fan of performance art. In fact, I usually despise it. So it takes a lot for me to really love it. The artists behind these pieces are Allora and Calzadilla.

The main performance piece, called Track and Field, is outside the entry of the Pavilion. It features an upside-down tank with a treadmill mounted over one of the treads. Throughout the day a runner gets on the treadmill and runs for 20 minutes. The tank and the treadmill have been synced to go the same speed.

Venice Biennale, Track & Field

Just inside the pavilion are the other two performance pieces, Body in Flight (Delta) and Body in Flight (American). They feature old American Delta plane seats. During the day, a gymnast from USA Gymnastics performs an 18-minute routine on the chairs. With the background of the stark white room, it is amazing to watch these gymnasts flip themselves around these chairs with such grace and beauty.



Another piece was called Algorithm. It featured a custom-made pipe organ that had a Diebold ATM built into it. Anyone can insert their bank card and withdraw money (no fees, even!). The pipe organ then produces a custom score based on the keys the user has pressed on the ATM. It’s an extremely clever, interactive work. The artists collaborated with composer Jonathan Bailey.

venice-algorithm

I’ve been to Venice once before, a couple years ago, and it was for only 48 hours. I’m quite glad I was able to be here for a full week. It really allowed me to explore and absorb the city, from Tintoretto’s at Scuola Grande di San Rocco to the seafood on Burano (another island in the lagoon).

The Biennale opens to the public on Saturday, June 4 through November 27. If you are planning any trips abroad, I highly recommend stopping in Venice during these dates!

Please note!: I am a programmer, I am not an artist or a designer… let alone an art critic. If you’d like a thorough review, please check out the The Daily Beast review.

This post was cross blogged at the TOKY news blog.

Posted on June 9, 2011 in Random

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Modern Traveler

May28

For the past week, I’ve been preparing for a trip to Italy. I’ll be going with my wife to Venice for the Bienalle. Afterwards, we will drive up to Castelrotto for some hiking in the Dolomites.

As I’ve been preparing I took stock of all the amazing tools available to travelers today. It’s crazy how different travel preparation is today than it was 10 or 20 years ago, let alone 40 or 50.

Every trip, for me, starts with TripAdvisor. I can’t imagine staying at a Holiday Inn while in Europe. I want to get off the beaten path and try a local bed and breakfast. TripAdvisor, along with other online resources, help me find those places. In addition, we can get live satellite weather feeds, along with weather history to get average temperatures - always useful when figuring out dates.

Then it all comes back to Google, as it often does when talking about things online. Google Maps. Satellite View, Street View as well as the Google Earth browser plugin. I’m in no way planning every moment of my trip. However, it’s nice to know that I can preview something before hand. I’ll then create a custom map, add about 40 markers of potential interest and then use an iPhone app like Cartographer to download it for offline use.

Then of course, there is the wonderful iPad. Travel companion extraordinaire! From playing movies, to loading up a couple This American Life podcasts as well as downloading 4 or 5 different books for the flight. No longer will I choose my reading material based on size and weight! And I can also include all my music as opposed to my disc man and binder of 25 CDs.

And last but not least, which really isn’t a ‘new’ tool. It’s just my favorite so I thought I’d include it here. A robot headphone splitter so Rachel and I can listen to podcasts or watch movies together!

Robot Headphone Splitter

I know these things won’t work for everyone. Some will probably feel that this takes the ‘adventure’ out of it. However, I’m too OCD in that I like to have things planned. I’m unable to simply get off a train, wander around and find a place. I’d be stressed every minute prior to settling on a place. All these resources let me find places I never imagined. And, therefore, make my trip a lot less stressful and more enjoyable.

Posted on May 28, 2011 in Random

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A New Site!

May22

What do you know, it’s a blog post talking about launching a new site after a year of inactivity. This is probably the 6th or 7th time I’ve done this. It’s a habit I hope to actually break myself of. To launch a site, and to stick to it! Not that I have many faithful readers or anything, but more so for my own sense of self discipline! I can do this! And I will! (i hope).

It’s a new year, and a new town. For those that don’t know, I now live in Indianapolis, Indiana. I still work for TOKY in St. Louis. My wife is now the Director of Publishing and Media at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

So…. fellow readers. I shall start again!

Posted on May 22, 2011 in Random

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HTPC

May5

About every 5 years or so I get an itch to build a computer. Well, with great after holiday flat screen sales, I decided to get a TV for the bedroom and to build a custom home theater pc (HTPC). Building computers has always been fun, even if it can get a little stressful.

In my opinion, building computers is the best way to learn about computers. As a web developer, I don’t have to worry about the hardware that goes into a computer. However, I have a  better idea of how servers work and how certain things can go wrong or cause problems.

This time around I went with the Antec NSK2480 case. It’s a little bigger than the average micro ATX case, but it was made to run cool and quite. A lot of detail and thought went into wire organization (great for my OCD tendancies) as well as padding between hard drives and the top panel to minimize any vibrations.

The rest of the hardware:

  • Gigabyte GA-G41M-ES2L
  • Sapphire Radeon HD 4670 HDMI
  • Intel Celeron E3200 Wolfdale
  • Crucial RAM
  • Scythe Mini Ninja

I also purchased a wireless logitech joystick and a Cideko Air Keyboard. So the only wires are to the tv and to the power.

HTPC

Posted on May 5, 2010 in Random

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