23 Dec 2014, 9:59pm
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My favorite 50(ish) songs of 2014

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If you came here looking for a list that looks like something from KEXP or NPR’s All Songs Considered, you may have come to the wrong place.  This list is devoid of some of their standards, like: St. Vincent, Alt-J, Beck, The New Pornographers and Aphex Twin.  I own a couple of these artist’s 2014 releases on vinyl I like them so much.  So why not include them?  The way I pick 50 is weird and needs to be tuned.  It’s not perfect, but the results are interesting enough to share.

Mid-way through the year, I switched from Rdio to Spotify because a few of my friends convinced me that more people would share good much with me through Spotify and that no-one of importance was using Rdio.  This wasn’t a huge mistake, but I did change some behavior because of it.  I’ve been a member of Google Play Music All Access since they launched, but haven’t been convinced that it’s the right platform.  That is, before they integrated YouTube.  Now I’m convinced.  I will be using Google Play Music for 2015’s work and saying good-bye to Spotify (finally).

As I mentioned, the way I select these songs for the list is to load up my play queue with new releases of bands I know, have heard of, are rated highly by blogs and sites I frequent, or have interesting band-names/album art/titles/etc every Tuesday.  Then I listen to these complete albums and any songs that pop for me for some reason get a second listen and a push to my list of 2014 highlights.  At the end of the year, I’m left with a rather dirty list of songs that I heard in 2014, but may not have actually been released in 2014.  Over the holiday break, I’ll spend hours listening to each song again and adding them to a new playlist that I created to store my 50(ish) picks for the year.  That list ends up being about 1/3 of the original playlist.  The next step is to pare down a bit so I don’t have to look up the release date of over 100 songs.  Then I make sure all songs we released sometime in the last half of the last quarter of 2013 or sometime in 2014.  Then I start to stack rank the songs in order to drop enough to get to 50.  There inevitably comes a point where I cannot drop any additional songs, so it will never be exactly 50.  I also consider two songs from the same artist and album as counting towards one in the list.  The results are then shared on Spotify, copied to YouTube videos (also curated) and then to Google Play Music All Access playlists.

So these rules are totally arbitrary, but it’s fun and easy for me to follow.  Feedback is welcome.  I’m also happy to explain some of my choices.  If enough people care for me to rate the top 10, I’d be happy to spend some more time doing that as well.

Thus, without further ado, here are my choices for the best 50(ish) songs from 2014:

31 Dec 2013, 9:45am
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Best Tracks of 2013

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It has been far too long. I’ve neglected a few things: writing, focusing on my life and communicating with people outside of FB posts and brief emails. I’d really love to get back into a routine of writing often.

So, to kick it off, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite tracks of 2013. I listened to new releases on Rdio all year, and cached away my favorites. This month, I went through all of those and tried to make a more concise list of tracks. This is the result. They are not in any particular order, and may be listed somewhat chronologically. I’m also listing each track’s YouTube video in case someone wanted to see the videos or does not have Rdio.

None of these are new to you if you listen to KEXP or All Song’s Considered often. I don’t have time to find the really good stuff that some of my friends care about. These are semi-popular musics that I like, and so I’m satisfied with them.

The Rdio playlist:

YouTube Videos:

  1. Savages – City’s Full
  2. Carla Bruni – Chez Keith Et Anita
    For the American’s reading this, Carla Bruni is Nicolas Sarkozy’s wife. Sarkozy is the former president of France. Carla Bruni is beautiful, talented, and powerful. I could not ignore her new album and had to include it on this list.
  3. White Denim – At Night in Dreams
    This is just pure talent.
  4. Superchunk – FOH
    It’s Superchunk’s new release. I had to find space on this list for them.
  5. The National – Demons
    I wasn’t as excited about ‘Trouble Will Find Me’, but this song escaped that opinion.
  6. Future of the Left – French Lessons
    ‘How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident’ was one of my favorite albums of 2013, but none of the individual songs wanted to be on this list except a relatively accessible one.
  7. Johnny Flynn – The Lady is Risen
  8. Bibio – Dye the Water Green
    Haunting. Beautiful. Reminds me of walking through a forest at the end of autumn.
  9. Samaris – Stofnar falla (Subminimal remix)
    And thus begins the electronic side of my tastes. This is such an amazing song to me. I found it by scouring and listening to new releases. Has anyone heard this?
  10. The Shouting Matches – I Had a Real Good Lover
    Everyone loves a band that they can picture playing at a county fair and blowing the pants off of everyone there. This is that band for me.
  11. Wild Nothing – A Dancing Shell
  12. STRFKR – Leave it All Behind
    Anyone ready to dance? Or maybe drive really fast at night?
  13. Holden – Self-Playing Schmaltz
    Despite the sharp random and cyclical sounds, this is extremely meditative and relaxing.
  14. Lightning Dust – Diamond
    Someone finally figured out what we actually liked about the 80s.
  15. SCRNS – TTYN
    Auto-tune, nooooo!!!!1 I’m far too old to like this song, but it’s too catchy to pass up. Great hook.
  16. Tristen – No One’s Gonna Know
  17. The Foghorns – Ain’t I a Man
    This should be every man’s soundtrack for 2013.
  18. Camera Obscura – This Is Love (Feels Alright)
  19. Laura Veirs – Sun Song
  20. Rogue Wave – College
  21. Best Coast – This Lonely Morning
  22. Happy Hallows – Amethyst
  23. Daft Punk – Doin’ it Right (feat. Panda Bear)
    I love Daft Punk, but haven’t fallen for this album like everyone else. This is the only take-away for me.
  24. Portugal. The Man – Purple Yellow Red and Blue
  25. Akron/Family – No-Room
    One of the few albums I purchased this year.
  26. Frank Turner:
    How about a 3-for-1? I combined songs I liked from an artist into groups so I could cram more music in the list.
    Losing Days

    Recovery

    The Way I Tend to Be

  27. Gold Panda – Community
  28. Saint Rich:
    Officer

    Crying From the Home

  29. The Knife – Full of Fire
    This song infected me this year. (NSFW)
  30. Islands – Becoming the Gunship
  31. Pretty Lights – Yellow Bird
    Chillest from SF
  32. CHVRCHES:
    Wasn’t this your favorite band from 2013? Me, too. Well, they’re up there.
    The Mother We Share

    Recover

  33. KT Tunstall – Crescent Moon
    A song that you hear for the first time every few years and think that everything is all good.
  34. The War on Drugs – Red Eyes
  35. Neko Case – Man
    A good friend of mine who loves music once told me that he couldn’t like Neko Case until he met a girl that loved her. Now he is obsessed. It took me a few listens to finally like her in the mid-2000s, so now is my chance to ask all of you to ‘listen to Neko Case one more time before you give up’. This song is rad.
  36. The Joy Formidable – Silent Treatment
    Admittedly, this is not The Joy Fromidable amazingness that was 2010, but this song should stand on it’s own. It is beautiful, balanced and subtle. The album version has better production than this video, but it’s still really great to hear.
  37. Vampire Weekend:
    Vampire Weekend reminds me of the Cape full of guys with pink khakis, deck shoes and polos. Nothing’s changed. They have a sound. This year’s album was pretty amazing, but I won’t be one to tout it as the #1 as many others have.
    Diane Young

    Worship You

  38. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)
  39. J Roddy Waltson & The Business – Heavy Bells
    Since I’ve avoided adding any metal, classical or jazz to my list, I have to do this.
    \m/
  40. Junip – Line of Fire
    I’ve heard this song too often on my own accord as well as on others.
  41. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
    I have a history with Arcade Fire. I’ve seen them live enough times to know what to expect. When I saw Arcade Fire on SNL this year perform this song, I was intrigued and surprised. It didn’t sound like their normal thing. Then I couldn’t find the album anywhere. ‘Oh’, I thought, ‘they were creating hype!’ BAH! Well, it was released to tons of hype as the YouTube view count will tell you.
  42. Death Grips – Lil Boy
    I love hip-hop, but don’t spend much time seeking it out. Death Grips has one of my favorite drummers (Zach Hill) and it’s so different I couldn’t help but love this album.
  43. Ananmanaguchi:
    and the two best videos of 2013 go to…
    These bitcore rockers killed it for me this year. They introduced me to a new genre, then I tried to figure out how to get as good as them and gave up and spend my time watching these videos on repeat. I mean. They sent a slice of pizza to SPACE!
    Meow

    Endless Fantasy

  44. Volcano Choir – Byegone
  45. Thee Oh Sees:
    Best SF Live act of the year?
    Night Crawler

    I Come From The Mountain

  46. San Fermin – Sonsick
    The chorus of this song has been stuck in my head all year.
  47. John Grant:
    John Grant is a great lyricist. The video for GMF is pretty great as well.
    Black Belt

    GMF

  48. Foxygen – San Francisco
    Last.fm tells me that I’ve listened to this song far too many times this year. Donovan anyone? I’m still practicing this for karaoke.
  49. Parquet Courts:
    “In your face”. These guys were amazing live, and they’re cool dudes. If you click play on ‘Borrowed Time’, my word of advice is “BOOM!”
    Borrowed Time

    Stoned and Starving

  50. Phosphorescent – Song for Zula
    Everytime I listen to this song feels like the first time. I heard a lyrical breakdown on “All Songs Considered” mid-way through the year and have probably cried to this song more than I should admit (2). This song has defined my year.

Honorable Mentions:

My Token Pop Song favorite:

14 Nov 2011, 4:38pm
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Vertical Farming and My New Obsession

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Every so often (more often than I’ll admit) I delve into a subject that captures my imagination and interest so much that it becomes part of my life for a long time. Most recently, it was the Criterion Collection and then business school and reading.  This time, I think it’s different.

Backstory:

The day I graduated college (December 17, 2004), I remember sitting on my bed and thinking: “now what?” I quickly glanced over the industry options that would put my degree to good use: defense, enterprise engineering, consulting, banking, industrial automation, electronics, etc. Nothing was really speaking to me. I went back to the drawing board. I realized that I had been on a journey to reach that day for my entire life. Now that I was there, I had no idea why.

Our basic needs are met. Our second level needs are met. Humans invented commerce, agriculture and written language. I took me five years of reading and searching to realize this. After realizing that my degree and any short term goals I had wouldn’t allow me to realize what I needed to do long term, I thought about what I would go back to school to study. Law? Too focused. Neuro-prosthetics? Not really on my moral compass as there’s too much potential to do harm. Ecology? I’d have to take 2 years of biology and chemistry before even applying to grad school. More engineering or computer science? That would only make me a specialist – and possibly not in a way that I’d want to be. Business? Hm. I could do one of the thousand things I was thinking about. And I can do it part time. That sounded like the best option economically and logically.

But it wasn’t a solid enough idea to convince the admissions board at Haas last year. I wasn’t ready to apply when I did the first time. I needed one more year to ruminate and self discover.  I’m ready now.

Dickson Despommier’s The Vertical Farm is just a book with a rather inspirational title. Most of what I took away from reading it was the idea. Taking the idea a few steps further, I came up with a list of engineering problems that I’d be interested in solving. I have the seed of a business plan in my head and in my new goals essay for admission to Haas. I think that I could cater to my personal goals of working in a city, in something to do with agriculture by owning a business that is executing specifically to the triple bottom line. I also think I can help solve one or more really big problems: job creation (here and elsewhere), feed the world, secure food, provide a viable plan for squatter cities, etc.

In school, I will want to focus on my business plan, building connections to help solve some of the engineering problems, learn about entrepreneurship, global business and continue doing research around helping the world. There’s a quite a bit of learning to be done and I’d like to keep this blog as a record of my progress. I won’t promise to update every week or month, but when I feel like I need to record something I will come here. My next post should be either the list of engineering problems I need help with or a high level framework of the business plan I will be working on. Hopefully we’ll get to see the evolution of that.

19 Jul 2010, 11:31am
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New Year’s Resolution Update – Part 2

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Here are the additional Criterion Collection movies I’ve seen since my last post:

  1. I Fidanzati (195) (Criterion Collection link)
  2. The Marriage of Maria Braun (204) (Criterion Collection link)
  3. Hiroshima Mon Amour (196) (Criterion Collection link)
  4. Night and Fog (197) (Criterion Collection link)
  5. Ali – Fear Eats the Soul (198) (Criterion Collection link)
  6. Schizopolis (199) (Criterion Collection link)
  7. Veronika Voss (205) (Criterion Collection link)
  8. Umberto D. (201) (Criterion Collection link)
  9. Jimi Plays Monterey/Shake! Otis at Monterey (169) (Criterion Collection link)
  10. Lola (206) (Criterion Collection link)
  11. The Pornographers (207) (Criterion Collection link)
  12. Knife in the Water (215) (Criterion Collection link)
  13. Through a Glass Darkly (209) (Criterion Collection link)
  14. Winter Light (210) (Criterion Collection link)
  15. The Silence (211) (Criterion Collection link)
  16. Richard III (213) (Criterion Collection link)

The last five are by far my favorites out of this group. “The Marriage of Maria Braun” is also an exceptional film. Of course, “Night and Fog” as well as “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” has extreme historical importance and “Schizopolis” is just wacky Soderbergh…which is valuable for being unique.

I’ve decided to move in with my girlfriend. So we purchased a 46″ LED television and a new entertainment center. Once we get a new A/V receiver, the visual and auditory experience I’ll have with each of these movies will be a little bit better. I’m excited about all of these things. I plan to continue the 1 Criterion movie per week contract with myself.

Since the company I worked for was acquired, I haven’t been able to go to the gym as much. This issue is multiplied by the fact that my back is still giving me problem and I’ve have a strange issue with my shoulder for the last 2 months. Regardless, I’ve dropped 5 pounds since my last writing, which is still not meeting my target, but I have aspirations to start running when I can and doing weights whenever I can get into the gym. That will help with the 1 pound per month contract.

New Year’s Resolutions update

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I have had the same New Year’s resolutions for the most recent two years:

  1. Watch 1 Criterion Collection film per week, starting with spine number 1.
  2. Lose 1 lb. of weight per month.

In 2009, I lost 1 lb. per month and watched 51 films from the Criterion Collection. This year I started tracking my progress as I was going along, so that I could catch up in the middle of the year rather than at the end.

Here is a list of Criterion movies I’ve seen thus far in 2010:

  1. Straw Dogs (182)
  2. I Am Curious … (Blue)
    (181)
  3. Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne
    (183)
  4. Indiscretion of an American Wife/Terminal Station
    (202)
  5. By Brakhage – Anthology
    (184)
  6. Stolen Kisses
    (186)
  7. The Honeymoon Killers
    (200)
  8. The White Sheik
    (189)
  9. Bed and Board
    (187)
  10. Love on the Run
    (188)
  11. Throne of Blood
    (190)
  12. Jubilee
    (191)
  13. Le Coup de Grace
    (192)
  14. Quai des Orfevres
    (193)
  15. Il Posto
    (194)

Since this is the 15th week of the year, I’m one film behind so far. I Fidanzati is at my house ready to be watched.

I’ll start posting reviews of these movies as I watch them to keep a better record. I’d like to be able to write full essays of each movie as I see it. I’ll get to that point eventually. Let’s start with just a grade and some information about what I found interesting about it.

As for losing weight, I had been going to the gym three days a week. One of those days I was dead lifting 50 reps of 275 lbs, and got somewhere near in the middle when my back gave out and I dropped the weight. I had a hard time untying my shoes afterward. After doing some research, all signs point to herniated disc. So I’m out of weightlifting commission for the near future.  I wasn’t really on track anyway. I started this year off 12 lbs less than I was in January 2009. That means I was at 252. I should be at 248 now, but am really at around 250 pretty consistently. It looks like there’s some hard work in my near future.

By the way, here are my long term (meta) weightlifting goals:

  1. Clean and Jerk body weight (by either losing weight or gaining power/strength/technique)
  2. 50 pull-ups without touching the ground (can change grip)

I’m up to 7 pull ups (from 0 one year ago) and I can power clean and jerk 185 lbs.