Favourite music albums of 2016

I guess this year final­ly marked the end of my album lis­ten­ing behav­iour. Spotify’s Dis­cov­er and Dai­ly Mix fea­tures were the one-two punch that knocked it out. In addi­tion I some­how stopped scrob­bling to Last.fm in March. It’s switched back on now but the dam­age is done.

So the data I do have is incom­plete. I did still delib­er­ate­ly put on a num­ber of albums this year. But I won’t post them in order of lis­tens like I did last year. This is sub­jec­tive, unsort­ed and hand-picked. I will even sneak in a few albums that were pub­lished towards the end of 2015.

My sources includ­ed Pitchfork’s list of best new albums which used to be how I dis­cov­ered new music and still wields some influ­ence. I cross-ref­er­enced with Spotify’s top songs of 2016.

So first Spo­ti­fy tells me what to lis­ten to and then it gives me a list of things I actu­al­ly lis­tened to. This is get­ting weird…

Any­way, here they are. A * marks a par­tic­u­lar favourite.

  • A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… *
  • Solange – A Seat At the Table
  • Hamil­ton Lei­thauser + Ros­tam – I Had A Dream That You Were Mine
  • The Avalanch­es – Wild­flower *
  • Blood Orange – Free­town Sound
  • Whit­ney – Light Upon the Lake
  • Car Seat Head­rest – Teens Of Denial *
  • Chance The Rap­per – Col­or­ing Book *
  • ANOHNIHOPELESSNESS
  • Moody­mann – DJ-Kicks *
  • Grimes – Art Angels *
  • Float­ing Points – Elae­nia
  • The Range – Poten­tial *
  • Sepal­cure – Fold­ing Time
  • Jami­la Woods – HEAVN

Here’s a playlist which includes a cou­ple of more albums if you want to have a lis­ten.

Favourite music albums of 2015

Well what do you know, a blog post. Because look­ing back is the thing peo­ple do this time of year and I actu­al­ly have the lux­u­ry of time to look back for a change, I thought I’d com­pile a list of albums I enjoyed lis­ten­ing to in 2015 that were also released in 2015.

There were quite a few albums I lis­tened to this year that weren’t released in 2015. Those don’t show up here. If you’re curi­ous, there is always Last.fm. Most notably, I dis­cov­ered The Hold Steady through BEE and got seri­ous­ly hooked on ‘Boys And Girls In Amer­i­ca’. Some of the best rock music made this side of ‘Born in the U.S.A.’, if you ask me.

Any­way, here is a list of the 15 albums from 2015 that I lis­tened to the most, in order of num­ber of plays. A ❤️ denotes a par­tic­u­lar favourite. If you want to have a lis­ten, here’s a Spo­ti­fy playlist.

  1. DJ Koze – DJ Kicks ❤️ (Just a flaw­less mix of delight­ful tunes that lift the spir­it.)
  2. Blur – The Mag­ic Whip ❤️ (Lyri­cal­ly inter­est­ing, son­i­cal­ly a kind of review or rep­e­ti­tion of their whole oeu­vre. Atmos­pher­i­cal­ly I think they cap­tured the spir­it of the times quite well.)
  3. Tame Impala – Cur­rents (The falset­to gets on my nerves some times, but the open­ing tracks have an irre­sistible groove to them.)
  4. Court­ney Bar­nett – Some­times I Sit and Think, and Some­times I Just Sit ❤️ (Strong con­tender for album of the year. Fun­ny, imag­i­na­tive lyrics and music that sim­ply rocks.)
  5. Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down… ❤️ (It is kind of amaz­ing to me how Vile keeps churn­ing out one great record after an oth­er. This is his most opti­mistic to date.)
  6. Jamie XX – In Colour (There are a few let­downs on this one pre­vent­ing it to be the kind of dance music album you play on repeat.)
  7. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A But­ter­fly (All over the place. I dig the nods to P-Funk.)
  8. Every­thing Every­thing – Get To Heav­en (I binged on this in July and have hard­ly lis­tened to it since because of the love hate rela­tion­ship with the singer’s voice. But this remains delight­ful­ly eclec­tic and ener­getic.)
  9. Dr. Dre – Comp­ton (Not avail­able on Spo­ti­fy but I men­tion it here because I enjoyed the return to uncom­pli­cat­ed west side hiphop it offers.)
  10. Car­ly Rae Jepsen – Emo­tion (Oblig­a­tory guilty plea­sure. Each year I get hooked on one of these female pop stars. This was Car­ly Rae’s year.)
  11. Miguel – Wild­heart (Eas­i­ly the best R&B album of the year. Ver­sa­tile, sexy, musi­cal­ly inter­est­ing.)
  12. Roy­al Headache – High (Great throw­back to punk that sounds fresh at the same time. Great lyrics.)
  13. Destroy­er – Poi­son Sea­son (Wasn’t so sure about this one until see­ing them live (again) at Le Guess Who? and now that I’ve heard the songs live I under­stand what they’re try­ing to do here. These songs are meant to sound BIG.)
  14. Deer­hunter – Fad­ing Fron­tier ❤️ (Anoth­er album of the year hope­ful. Most acces­si­ble album of a band that con­tin­ues to fas­ci­nate. Musi­cal­ly and lyri­cal­ly imag­i­na­tive and excit­ing.)
  15. Maji­cal Cloudz – Are You Alone? (I return to this for its inti­mate atmos­phere.)

Hon­orary men­tions:

I should have lis­tened to these more but some­how didn’t. Here they are in no par­tic­u­lar order.

  • Low­er Dens – Escape From Evil
  • Ought – Sun Com­ing Down
  • Beach House – Depres­sion Cher­ry
  • Kelela – Hal­lu­cino­gen
  • FKA twigs – M3LL155X
  • Ratk­ing – 700 Fill

Announcing a hybrid game opera for Monster

I nev­er thought I would make an opera. But now I have.

A bit of Monster

In a few weeks time the above mar­ket square in the town of Mon­ster will be trans­formed into an are­na where fight­ers duel each oth­er using their pet mon­sters. If this sounds famil­iar, it is no coin­ci­dence.

Mega Mon­ster Bat­tle Are­na is one of 11 operas pro­duced by Dario Fo to cel­e­brate the fifth anniver­sary of the West­land munic­i­pal­i­ty. Dario Fo spe­cial­ize in cre­at­ing music the­atre in close col­lab­o­ra­tion with the local com­mu­ni­ty. They asked com­pos­er Daniël Ham­burg­er to cre­ate the opera for Mon­ster. The brief was to do ‘some­thing’ with the town’s curi­ous name, and to make it a pro­duc­tion that would appeal to youth by ref­er­enc­ing games cul­ture.1

Daniël in turn approached me, since he had lit­tle affin­i­ty for games, and want­ed the piece to not only be about games, but to be a game itself. So that’s what I helped do. By turn­ing the game design prin­ci­ple of embed­ded nar­ra­tive inside-out, we’ve man­aged to cre­ate a struc­ture in which we can both tell a sto­ry using a script, and have per­form­ers impro­vise using game rules. Those rules I designed as a prop­er game. I could give you those rules and you would be able to play it your­self.

So there will be fights, and they’ll not be script­ed. You won’t know before­hand who will win, and nei­ther will we. There will also be a sto­ry, about a hero­ine fac­ing off with a bad guy, in the best game and mar­tial arts film tra­di­tion. Sieger M.G. was our third man, the piece’s writer. A rap­per turned poet with a life-long games addic­tion, there could be no bet­ter fit.

What’s prob­a­bly most excit­ing to me is that on top of the impro­vi­sa­tion­al chore­og­ra­phy of the duels, a live band will use a rule set of their own, com­posed by Daniël, that takes the game as it unfolds as its input to impro­vise. How’s that for adap­tive music?2

It might all go hor­ri­bly wrong, or it might become a won­der­ful spec­ta­cle. If you are like me and would like to find out which it will be, head to Mon­ster for one of the shows. They’re sched­uled for:

  • Thurs­day 18 June 20:30 (try­out)
  • Fri­day 19 June 20:30
  • Sat­ur­day 20 June 20:30

Tick­ets are 15 Euro and can be bought at the venue. Once the show is over, I’ll post some more detailed stuff about the actu­al work I did. Stay tuned.

Mega Moster Battle Arena flyer

  1. There would be tons of kids from local high schools to work with. They also want­ed to use the local fire­men choir. Oh, and aer­i­al work plat­forms too… []
  2. One of the sources of inspi­ra­tion for Daniël was John Zorn. []

Reboot 9.0 day 2

(Wait­ing for my train home to arrive, I final­ly have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to post this.)

So with Reboot 9.0 and the after-par­ty done, I think I’ll briefly write up my impres­sions of the sec­ond day.

Stowe Boyd — Good talk as always, offer­ing a new def­i­n­i­tion of ‘flow’. I guess his attempt to have peo­ple open them­selves up to the ben­e­fi­cial sides of being inter­mit­tent­ly con­nect­ed was a suc­cess.

Marko Ahti­saari — Inter­est­ing char­ac­ter with a good sto­ry to tell. His free mobile oper­a­tor for teenagers scheme made a lot of peo­ple curi­ous. (Free stuff always does that, it seems.)

Lee Bryant — Very fit­ting to the theme of human?, a touch­ing sto­ry of how for­mer inhab­i­tants of a Bosn­ian town used social soft­ware to recon­nect and rebuild the town.

Julian Bleeck­er — Cool stuff on new ways to inter­act with com­put­ing tech­nol­o­gy beyond the util­i­tar­i­an and effi­cient, into the realm of play.

Dave Win­er — An inter­est­ing char­ac­ter hav­ing a nice con­ver­sa­tion with Thomas. I enjoyed his off­beat remarks and dry wit.

Guy Dick­in­son — Anoth­er round of micro­p­re­sen­ta­tions, this time with me par­tic­i­pat­ing. I stum­bled sev­er­al times. Next time I’ll pre­pare a cus­tom talk for this. The oth­er pre­sen­ters were awe­some.

Ras­mus Fleis­ch­er and Mag­nus Eriks­son — Two cool young anar­chists with inter­est­ing ideas about file shar­ing and the future of music. Too bad large parts of their pre­sen­ta­tion were read from a sheet.

Leisa Reichelt — A care­ful­ly put togeth­er overview of ambi­ent inti­ma­cy, what it is and what it’s for. Next step: com­ing up with design guide­lines for these types of ‘tools’.

Matt Webb — Deliv­ered on the expec­ta­tions raised by his per­for­mances pre­vi­ous years. Inter­est­ing to see him move into expe­ri­ence design ter­ri­to­ry and hear his take on it. Very much applic­a­ble to my dai­ly work in design­ing web ser­vices.

Din­ner and the after-par­ty were great (although it seemed that the reser­va­tions scheme had gone awry, they had no place for us at our cho­sen restau­rant). I guess drink­ing and talk­ing into the night at Vega with a lot of con­fused locals around was a fit­ting way to end anoth­er great Reboot.

Paris mashed up

Street art hero Banksy strikes again: he’s spread 500 mashed up copies of Paris Hilton’s new album through 48 record stores in the UK. This excel­lent video shows how he goes about Pho­to­shop­ping and past­ing up the book­let, insert­ing a new CD and sneak­ing it into an HMV shop. The music on the spoof album was cre­at­ed by hip-hop pro­duc­er Dan­ger Mouse.

Shot of mashed up Paris booklet

Guys like him make life in the 21st cen­tu­ry slight­ly more bear­able; Banksy proves ordi­nary cit­i­zens can pro­vide some coun­ter­weight to mass media with well-exe­cut­ed and high­ly tar­get­ed actions. HMV doesn’t agree: “It’s not the type of behav­iour you’d want to see hap­pen­ing very often”.

Thanks to Bart for the heads-up.

Bleep!

The first dig­i­tal music down­load ser­vice that gets it right, in my opin­ion, is Warp Records Bleep.

I dis­cov­ered it through Chris Heatcote’s blog (thanks Chris) and decid­ed to give it a go. Sign­ing up is pain­less, brows­ing through the music works rea­son­ably well (although they could take a few hints from ser­vices like Odeo when it comes to inter­face design) and buy­ing an album is easy, you can even use Pay­Pal, so no look­ing around for your cred­it card. Best of all is the fact that the files are plain mp3s with­out DRM. Love­ly. Give them a try!

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