misc-joy

Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

music

Remixes, Pop, and Electronica Create my Top Five Albums of 2018

By on December 24, 2018

As we reach the end of 2018, it’s time to reflect upon the music released this year. With the advent of streaming services, it feels a bit like being in the 1980s when I could buy a release at Tower Records and then exchange it if I didn’t like the album. This year, 106 new releases made it to the end of the year. And still being an “album” kind of guy, I am focusing on full-length releases or EPs. No singles. My purchases are a mix a vinyl and digital download. When buying vinyl, I am happy to support bleep.com from the UK.
Starting with over a hundred albums created some challenges for picking the top five, so I started with a shortlist of twenty.
  1. Abul Mogard, Above All Dreams
  2. Alt-J, Reduxer
  3. Anna von Hausswolff, Dead Magic
  4. Bob Moses, Battle Lines
  5. Cat Power, Wanderer
  6. Chris Carter, Chemistry Lessons Volume 1
  7. Claptone, Fantast
  8. The Field, Infinite Moment
  9. How To Dress Well, The Anteroom
  10. Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer
  11. Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour
  12. Laurel Halo, Raw Silk Uncut Wood
  13. Loma, Loma
  14. Low, Double Negative
  15. Marie Davidson, Working Class Woman
  16. Rhye, Blood
  17. Ryuichi Sakamoto, Async Remodels
  18. Tirzah, Devotion
  19. Tune-Yards, I can feel you creep into my private life
  20. Young Fathers, Cocoa Sugar

Clearly this list crosses several different genres of music from country to pop to electronica to alternative so my top five will draw from across the spectrum.

The FieldThe unbroken sound of Infinite Moment by The Field is perfect for headphones and needing to get work completed. Turn it up and focus on writing or a project and the hypnotic and ambient sounds will carry you through. The electronica starts slow and quiet and builds into repetitive sounds of drums and keyboards. This is the sixth release by the Swedish producer Axel Willner. It is melodic and hypnotic. Popmatters writes, “The Field’s Formula for Musical Escapism Has Yet to Fail.” You can grab it on Bandcamp.

 

 

 

Chris CarterSticking with the electronic theme, the next nod goes to Chris Carter Chemistry Lessons Volume 1. Bleep writes, “Drawing great influence from 60’s radiophonic wonderment as well as the darker strains of traditional English folk music and wrapped up in an entire history textbook of industrial and electronic diaspora, Chris Carter’s first solo album in two decades Chemistry Lessons Volume 1 was a testament to his thirst and endless quest to craft innovative, mind-blowing electronic music.” I hadn’t heard of Chris Carter until this year and from the moment I heard “Blissters,” I knew it was my kind of music. Even though the tracks are short, especially compared with The Field mentioned above, they easily carry me and lift me up into the beauty and comfort of music. Carter is certainly someone I will revisit since I didn’t really listen to electronic music back in the 90s (except for the annoying DJ who lived next door to me at the time).

 

Async RemodelsThe number three and four spot are going to remix albums. I loved both the originals and these remixes make it even better. Ryuichi Sakamoto is a genius and Async Remodels revisits his 2017 Async release through the ears of Oneohtrix Point Never, Fennesz, ARCA and others. The gentle piano brings tears of joy and appreciation. Allow yourself to sink in and be moved. And when you are done listening, go watch the documentary CODA. The other remix is completely different by bringing a hip-hop and soul sound to Alt-J’s 2017 Relaxer. Reduxer’s hip-hop artists from around the world include Australian Tuka, France’s Lomepal and Kontra K from Germany. The blending of the sound of Alt-J is clearly present Alt-J-Reduxerbringing a harder edge to the softer Relaxer. To be honest, I am not a huge hip-hop fan (though I like the new Vince Staples) so walking into the familiar sounds of Alt-J made it easy to appreciate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Janelle MonaeBy this point, you are probably wondering where the traditional lyric album is on my list. Picking from Anna von Hausswolff, Cat Power, Janelle Monáe, Kacey Musgraves, Rhye, and Trizah is a tough call but I am thrilled this list includes only women! What have I enjoyed listening to and singing along with the most? The number five spot goes to Janelle Monáe. Certainly she has made many lists this year. Pop and soul at its finest along with the vulnerability and politics of being a queer woman of color in America. And the track “Make Me Feel” clearly points to her Prince influences. Guest artists include Grimes, Zoë Kravitz, Brian Wilson, and Pharrell Williams.

 

Naturally, I don’t only listen to new releases. A few that I particularly enjoyed this year were Tell Me How You Really Feel by Courtney BarnettLet it Die by FiestEulogy For Evolution by Ólafur ArnaldsExile in the Outer Ring by EMA, Singularity by Jon Hopkins, and probably my favorite being Apocalipstick by Cherry Glazerr (can’t wait to see them in March!).
And for the complete list of 106 releases from 2018 …

(more…)

Adding Songs to Music Library with Apple Watch

By on July 15, 2017

I listen to a lot of music in my car. And I also don’t like pushing buttons on my phone while driving. And using Siri to add a track to my music library is super easy, but it interrupts the music playing. Yuck!

Apple Watch ScreenshotIf you’re an Apple Watch owner, then you’re in luck. While the track is playing, you can activate Siri on the watch by pushing on the crown (it’s a little safer than handling the phone while driving and I can keep my hands on the wheel and eyes on the road). Then just day, “add song to my library.”  That’s it! It will add the currently playing song. 

Stories from our Lives

By on April 22, 2016

Music Banner - April 22

This year is turning out to be a decent year for new music. I’ve got so many new releases in my playlist and I’m happily making my way through the material. Here’s a few tracks that I’ve been particularly enjoying in the last week.

Frightened Rabbit – Get Out

I have the last couple Frightened Rabbit releases and while I have enjoyed each, none of truly grabbed me in a big way. With the release of Painting of a Panic Attack, I’m finding myself really digging each track when it plays. This is one in particular is really good.

The Field – Pink Sun

One of the places that I buy music is bleep.com. They mainly focus on electronic music and I’m rarely disappointed by their recommendations. This was recently recommended and I started listening to it with great interest. The release is called The Follower from The Field.

Sinead O’Connor – Trouble Soon Be Over

As a 30-year fan of Sinead, I always appreciate when something comes from her. This track is from a release called God Don’t Ever Change, a compilation of artists sings songs by Blind Willie Johnson. There are a ton of great songs on it but this is one of my favorites.

Underworld – I Exhale

Not much to say about this track, and never really owned any Underworld in the past. But with the Karl Hyde and Brian Eno collaboration last year, I thought I’d give Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future a spin. I like it. And what’s not to like about breathing.

Yeasayer – I Am Chemistry

Like Frightened Rabbit, I have a couple of Yeasayer releases. I like them but don’t super-love-them. The opening track on their latest release, Amen & Goodbye, is a dead ringer for the Beatles and it sounds really awesome. This track here follows immediately after. And, like Frightened Rabbit, I’m thinking this release is pretty strong overall.

Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian at Best

I tried to keep the list to five, but needed to include Courtney Barnett. What’s not to like from someone who names their album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Leslie and I went and saw her perform last week in Pomona and it was a fun and rocking show. She writes great lyrics and definitely knows how to have fun. Enjoy this recording from her latest release but recorded a couple years ago.

Enjoy the music and maybe I’ll post another set of tracks in another month or two.

My Musical Tastes

By on October 10, 2012

I’m not surprised by actual musical tastes as recorded by last.fm since 2008. I’m into indie, folk, rock, experimental and electronic, including (artists in the order of number of plays):

David Sylvian, Radiohead, U2, Shearwater, Sufjan Stevens, Elbow, Beck, Daniel Lanois, The Flaming Lips, Spiritualized, Porcupine Tree, Joe Henry, Björk, Grizzly Bear, Andrew Bird, Bill Frisell, Brian Eno, Bob Dylan, Nine Inch Nails, Coldplay, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Patrick Watson, Loney Dear, Peter Gabriel, Massive Attack, Beirut, PJ Harvey, Sweet Billy Pilgrim, Pat Metheny, The Decemberists, Steve Jansen, Rocco DeLuca & The Burden, The xx, The Beatles, Sonic Youth, Eddie Vedder/Michael Brook/Kaki King, The Rolling Stones, Imogen Heap, James Blake, Thich Nhat Hanh, Talking Heads, Grinderman, Sigur Rós, Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabaté, St. Vincent, Animal Collective, Brian Eno & David Byrne, Feist.

Adventures with iTunes Match

By on February 11, 2012

This post is about bit rate and mono files while using iTunes Match. For those of you who don’t know, for a small fee ($25/year) my entire music catalog is moved to the Apple servers and I can play it on up to five devices. The service will sync my playlists and keep track of the play count. The best part is any file that “matches” in their database that is less than 256k in my collection, is easily upgraded with just a few clicks. That’s worth the first year fee alone. The service is limited to 25,000 tracks (I have about 15k) and the audio quality music be a minimum of 96kbps.

I have hundreds of dharma talks by Thich Nhat Hanh in my collection. These will not “match” with iTunes but I am able to upload them to the cloud if they meet the 96kbps criteria. Unfortunately, many of these files are below this threshold. Fortunately, it is possible to trick iTunes into uploading the files by “converting”

them to MP3 files with a higher quality. Obviously, the files won’t actually have a higher quality but they will meet the criteria. To keep the files small, I “upgraded” them to 96kbps and then deleted the original files. In the case of mono files, the custom setting had to be adjusted to 192kbps to get the mono files to threshold because of how iTunes handles importing files. It took a few days to get everything converted and uploaded to the Apple servers, but all tracks are now in the cloud.

My next project is to get everything synchronized between the two home computers and the one work computer. I noticed some discrepancies between the track numbers on each of the computers. Shouldn’t be too difficult. Seeing a winner with iTunes Match. Are you using this service? What has been your experience?

This Is Not Hardcore

By on April 12, 2011

Don’t feel much like writing tonight, though I’ve had a good run since committing to writing something everyday. Instead, you get a music mix. Hear tracks from Nicolas Jaar, James Blake, Radiohead, Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie XX, Elbow, and Mogwai. All great new stuff.

Tools for a Music Obsession

By on February 8, 2011

I grew up in a musical household, attended church where singing was a regular activity, and learned a couple of instruments (piano and violin). Unfortunately, as I moved into adulthood, I let go of the playing of music and transitioned my passion into developing a very deep appreciation by listening and critiquing music rather than creating. Therefore, I’m always looking for the best method to consume and manage my music hunger and addiction. To complicate matters, I listen to music at home, in my office, and on my 45-minute commute. (more…)