The Music I Listened to in 2018 (#24-1)

In 2018, I listened to over 1,700 different musicians (and +10k unique songs) on Spotify. My last post broke down the artists that made up my top 50-25. Here’s the rest of what I listened to the most in 2018: 24. The Roots There’s probably nothing I could say about The Roots that I (or a bunch of other people) haven’t already said. BUT – this year I saw Black Thought’s unbelievable TEN MINUTE LONG freestyle on YouTube, and it was like I was hearing someone invent rap all over again for the first time – HE’S TOO GOOD. Watch it. 23. Thelonius Monk I’m certain there are enough Monk recordings out there for real jazz students to make a career out of knowing it all, but my listening has been comprised of just two albums: “Alone in Paris” and “Piano Solos.” The material is similar – both include “Round …

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The Music I Listened to in 2018 (#50-25)

In 2018, I listened to over 1,700 different musicians (and +10k unique songs.) At that scale, this list of my top 50 artists only represents about 3% of the total that I heard. So what the hell are numbers worth, anyway? As much as you can learn from recorded statistics and quantification, some of the most essential things in life will still slip through, uncaptured. When it comes to music listening, that means: a Blues Traveler radio sing-along in my wife’s car; the walk-up music just before a home run at Nationals Park; hours of spinning A Charlie Brown Christmas on vinyl. Spotify doesn’t know about or remember any of those moments, but I do. Likewise, some of the best concert performances I saw this year – Florence & The Machine, Snarky Puppy, and the Wu-Tang Clan – were by artists who aren’t on my ‘most listened’ list, but who …

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More Trips to the Record Store

Part 1. One of the first rules of writing is knowing your audience. I think this rule was established before the internet existed, because in 2018 when I publish a blog post, my audience is Google’s search algorithms. It’s dirty knowledge that I wish wasn’t true, and it keeps me from publishing posts more often. If someone like myself (someone without oodles of readers) wants what they’re writing to be found, we have to game the machine – this far in, I should have already mentioned: Wimbledon, Demi Lovato, Hailey Baldwin, and Mamma Mia 2, because that’s what people searched for last week. But I tuned out of Wimbledon after Federer lost, I haven’t even seen Mamma Mia 1, and who is Hailey Baldwin? I kind of know my audience, if my audience is the algorithms, but I don’t like my audience. Not liking your audience can make a person …

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Wolf Alice performing at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC

The Music I Listened To in 2017: (#24-1)

I listened to 544.66 hours of music on Spotify this year – about 13 full-time workweeks – and captured all the data with Last.fm. The ranking is ordered by how many times I listened to a song by the artist, with #1 claiming the most listens. My top 50-25 artists were published in the last post. So here, without further ado, are the rest of them. My #24-1 most listened artists of 2017: 24. Anderson .Paak .Paak may have crept into the top 50% of my artists this year on the strength of his NPR Tiny Desk concert alone. I probably watched it 30 times this year. His record ‘Malibu’ is great too. 23. Jon Hopkins Surreal soundscapes that thrive on simplicity. Hopkins can have an impact as strong as an artist who goes five times as loud because of the clarity of his compositions. 22. Eric Satie When I …

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The Music I Listened to in 2017 (#50-25)

A long while ago, the painter Paul Gauguin wrote: “To be an honest critic, one must not love.” So maybe writing this post makes me dishonest, but I’ll take the risk: I’ve put together a list of the top 50 musicians that I loved in 2017. This is the time of year when all the critics start listing things. The top ten this and the top twenty that. I listened to Rolling Stone’s ‘Top 50 Albums of 2017’ podcast a few days ago and caught the bug. I’m going to borrow their format, but they can keep their judgments and assumptions about how the newest things matter the most. Unlike them, there is nothing timely about these rankings. Many of the artists had nothing to do with the year 2017. Look for the zeitgeist somewhere else. I listened to 544.66 hours of music on Spotify this year – about 13 …

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the Anthem sings a tribute to 9:30

  I was a little sad when I first heard I.M.P. was opening another club in DC. I love the 9:30 club so much. I’ve been going there for longer than I haven’t been. Why change it up? Why mess with perfection? Then last night I walked into The Anthem for the first time… and it all made sense. There’s a big, classy lobby when you first enter. A glass elevator rises up to the terrace area from near the entrance, with access to balcony levels above. Cymbals hang like tiny spaceships in the three story atrium, leading to a crab’s eye view of a rooftop swimming pool (unfortunately, part of nearby condos, not the club.) Moving out of the lobby and into the concert hall… the space is enormous. The floor is probably twice the size of 9:30, the balcony 3 or 4x bigger. The stage is huge, too – I can …

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I guess I like ‘Podcasts’ Now. Here’s a few shows you should check out

I had avoided Podcasts for many years after they surfaced because of what they were called. Words derived from commercial products just seem gross to me. They’re lazy. Maybe I also just didn’t enjoy listening to people yap, instead preferring all the music that became so limitlessly available around 2008. But, times change. For the past few months, I’ve been listening to several ….Podcasts…. (the term still makes me cringe) and gathering information, insight, and entertainment.   Here’s a roundup of what’s been in my queue: Longform Longform has been great to hear writers talk about their craft. It’s an interview show that spends an hour or more asking good writers great questions. So far, I’ve heard Josh Dean, Malcom Gladwell, and Carol Loomis. Listening to Josh Dean sent me careening down the David Foster Wallace rabbit hole, since some of his stories were edited by Dean for the New …

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Jack Baker drummer of Bonobo at Coachella

Interview with Jack Baker, Drummer of Bonobo

Since the April 2013 release of the album ‘The North Borders,’ the electronic music group Bonobo has gained immense popularity by performing more than 175 concerts in 30 countries around the world, delighting over 2 million fans from Milwaukee and Moscow, to Istanbul and England. Along with a core group of live instrumentalists, Jack Baker made heads nod all along the way with his incredible drumming and percussions. I reached out to Jack, who was very kind to answer a few questions for the first interview I’ve ever posted on ‘Brian Writing.’ The truly wonderful North Borders – Live album was just released. Do you have any favorite moments or tracks on it? Did you know an album was in the works as you were performing on the tour?  Cirrus is my favourite tune on the album, mostly because we start the live set with it.  The adrenaline kicks in when I hear the opening bell parts and you know the show is about …

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two Sundays in Sydney

Sunday, Sept. 22 Calexico, the American alt-rock band, performed at the Sydney Opera House. Like most tourists in the city for the first time, I might have been content to watch someone scrub the stage with a mop just to get a glimpse of the inside of one of the world’s most fascinating structures. Thankfully, Calexico, a band I enjoy very much, brought their drums and guitars and saved the janitorial staff from the task of entertaining me. Last year, I was introduced to Calexico’s funky blend of rock and traditional Mexican folk music by their performance on the Austin City Limits TV series. At the Opera House, they sounded great, and were enhanced by the building’s superior acoustical design. What surprised me, from my seat in the furthest row back from the stage, was how sedated the crowd was. When I’ve seen videos of Calexico performing elsewhere, it’s clear …

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on Language, and the Careful Appreciation of Rap Music

When I was 9 years old, a rapper named Calvin Broadus from Long Beach, California, released an album called “Doggystyle,” using the stage name Snoop Dogg. Somehow, through the pop-culture distribution channels of the early 1990’s, a cassette tape of that album made its way into the Walkmen of me and my third-grade friends. We tossed around Nerf footballs and drank juice from paper boxes on the carefully landscaped lawn of our shiny, brand new elementary school while Snoop chanted into our boombox, “for all my niggaz and my bitches and my bitches and my niggaz wave yo motha fuckin hands in the air, and if you don’t give a shit like we don’t give a shit, wave yo motha fuckin’ fingas in the air.” According to my parents, the first word I ever uttered was “moon.” There was something special about the way it sounded, I think – almost …

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