misc-joy

Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

music

6 Ways to Discover New Music

By on June 13, 2019

To discover new music is not always simple and easy. It takes time and effort for the music lover to find those gems. I am an avid listener of music and yet only scratch the surface of new music released each week. Given time constraints, I can only manage about twenty releases per week and then curate from that point. To some extent, what I listen to is based upon my past purchases and past music listening. There are some tried and true methods for curating new music releases.

Background

My music listening began with KKDG 105.9, a traditional album-orientated radio station in Fresno. In 1982 the radio ratings service Arbitron reported KKDJ as having the largest market share ever in the history of California radio and it still holds that record today.

Back then, I visited Tower Records on Blackstone (the old location between Shaw/Barstow) on Tuesday afternoons. For decades, all new music was released on Tuesdays, but even that was changed to Fridays. My first official purchase was just before my 14th birthday when my dad drove me to Tower and I bought Ghost in the Machine by The Police. I saw The Police live on September 11, 1983 at Ratcliffe Stadium located on the Fresno City College campus. The opening acts were Thompson Twins, Oingo Boingo, and The Fixx – not all particularly popular at the time. And what a lifetime ago!

Every year I write up some of my favorite music for the year. Check out my 2018 List or browse my music category. Use these links to discover new music and add them to your library.

The 6 Methods

Finding new music means listening to new music.

Every Friday I browse all the new releases on Apple Music and add anything that looks interesting to my weekly playlist. This is often based on (a) prior knowledge of the artist, (b) genre category, and (c) album artwork. I then spend some time in the coming days giving each a listen or two. Sometime the first song alone says “yes” or “no”. If it’s a no, then I delete right away and not be bothered with it any further. In addition, I also listen to a number of podcasts that feature new music. My favorites are Hypnagogue and KEXP Music that Matters. I inevitably identify a one or two new artists per episode. My other go-to places are Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

Finding new music means reading about music.

My first avenue is my RSS feed (currently self-hosted using Fever°) where I’ve collected websites that have proven useful in learning about new music. In addition to artist sites, my favorite writers on music come for The Quietus, Who the Hell, and Pitchfork. In addition to the feeds, I also receive a newsletter from bleep.com, a UK-based distributor, every week. They focus primarily on ambient, electronica, and dance. Reading can also include mainstream sources like the New York Times or the LA Times. These all provide a doorway into music that I might never hear of otherwise. Taking their suggestions, I switch over to Apple Music and add songs and albums to my playlist.

Listening to Podcast

Finding new music means reading liner notes.

The digital age makes this a bit challenging because it may mean visiting the artist site directly to learn who plays on the album and who produced or engineered the album. One of the reasons I still buy records is to get all the notes and track information (and virtually all new albums come with a digital download). Why read the liner notes? Maybe there’s a guitar player or drummer that I like. Or perhaps the producer or engineer has made music that I’ve liked in the past. For example, I’ll buy almost anything produced by Daniel Lanois. It’s truly amazing what you can learn from liner notes. Readers can gain true insight into the mind and music of the musicians.

Finding new music means going to see live music.

Between 1981 and the present, I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to witnessed more than 1,400 bands. As you may know, most bands travel with an opening act or two. Often these are unknown or up-and-coming bands. This is a great resource! For example, when I went to the Broken Bells at the Music Box in Los Angeles, the opening act was The Morning Benders whom I found to be skilled performers, friendly (I met them at the t-shirt stand), and they created very pleasant music. I bought the album that night!

Finding new music means having others who are passionate about music.

For many years, I had a “music friend” whom we would trade off on what we’ve discovered and what we are appreciating. We lived in different cities and different primary genres of music and this supported broadening both our music collections. Get a friend, or more than one.

Finding new music means paying for music.

In the age of music streaming, there is no reason to not explore new music. If you subscribe to a service like Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, or Pandora then dig into the new music sections of those services. You won’t be disappointed. If you like an artist you find on a streaming service, then make an effort to buy the track or album. Support the artists directly by visiting their website, Bandcamp, or Soundcloud channel and buy direct. It’s important for musicians to get paid for being creative and the new music continue to be offered and to allow musicians to grow. In addition to the Apple Music service, I continue to pay and download complete albums and I continue to buy records in their analog form.

Screenshot of my Music Library
Week of June 7-13, 2019

If you get confused just listen to the music play.

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.