Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Manhattan Blogger?

Holy shit. Among the running of the Top Phrases Least Likely To Be Used To Describe Me:

John Ore, a blogger in Manhattan, devotes an entire blog to chronicling his iPod’s shuffles.

I was contacted late last week by Open Source, part of Public Radio International. Seems they'd done a show on the shuffle feature of the iPod, and in doing research, came across my little gem of a blog (I'm listed in the "Extra Credit Reading" section).

As a follow up to that program, Open Source ran a feature on the shuffle phenomena:

To find out, I plugged 'iPod,' 'shuffle,' and 'ghost in the machine' into Google Blog Search. That netted me a handful of bloggers who see methods in their shuffles’ madness (and some fans of the 'Ghost in the Machine' album by The Police). John Ore, a blogger in Manhattan, devotes an entire blog to chronicling his iPod’s shuffles. In his first post on ShuffleLog, he says that he has a hunch that his shuffled songs follow 'secret Contact-esque patterns.' I emailed him to ask what he meant.

I cracked off a few hastily-prepared responses to Julia's queries, since I was on the way out the door to dinner in Brooklyn, and they were planning on taping from 7-8pm that evening. My responses weren't the most measured, but they got the point across. Julia ended up running the feature and excerpting several of my responses.

But damn, check out the 100 or so comments to the original show, and the comments to the feature. There's some serious geekery in there, and it seems I didn't even come close to scratching the surface in my half-baked attempts to find patterns in the noise. But hey, I'm just a "blogger in Manhattan".

(Many thanks to Julia, by the way, for stumbling across ShuffleLog and asking for my insight for her feature.)

The search continues...

Friday, March 02, 2007

Poisoning the Well

We haven't had an honest-to-goodness ShuffleLog since last year, I've been preoccupied by hockey, and I may have irreparably compromised this little experiment.

More trips to the record store and raiding of the corporate coffers led me to be listening to a lot of new music over the last few months. Some of it was also stuff I discovered that I had on my old 20GB iPod and hadn't really listened to that much (Rocket From The Crypt, for example). In all, several records worth of stuff was vying for my attention.

The problem was this: my old 20GB iPod sucks. The battery literally lasts for about a day, whether I use it or not. The battery drains while it's sitting there on my desk at work, and sometimes it just cold freezes up. So it's not very good as a portable device, as much as I dig the fact that it holds a ton of stuff.

(Side Note: I'll eventually kick down and get a new, larger-capacity iPod with video capabilities, especially when/if my bonus ship comes in. But with Apple's announcement of the iPhone, I'm sorta deer-in-the-headlights, and thinking of holding out for that, even though it's only really an 8GB device.)

One of the side effect constraints of the original ShuffleLog premise was that my iPod nano only holds 600 or so songs. In a closed environment, we'd get a pretty clean look at shuffle patterns. But, life would be boring without new music. And new music would be boring if I couldn't listen to it on the subway. Hence the dilemma: I need to swap stuff out of my nano in order to listen, say, to Bloc Party's new record, and in doing so, I screw up the delicate balance of the ShuffleLog. I'd already started poisoning the well, so I sort of went all out recently.

Not sure if I can catalog all of the stuff that got knocked off, but here's what came over:
  • Rocket From The Crypt, RTFC -- No nonsense rock'n'roll from a band that is in the same company as Afghan Whigs, Archers Of Loaf, Drive Like Jehu, Girls Against Boys, Rancid, Reverend Horton Heat, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Superchunk, The Supersuckers, and Urge Overkill. That's pretty good company.
  • Broadcast, The Noise Made By People -- A former co-worker walked into my office one day last year while I was listening to Stereolab, one of my favorites. She wrinkled her nose at it, claiming that Stereolab was just a knock-off of Broadcast. To prove it, she made me rip The Noise Made By People. And now, almost a year later, I found it hidden in iTunes, and decided to give it a shot. It's not bad, evokes Stereolab's organ-laced atmospherics -- after all, it was Stereolab who released Broadcast's singles in the late 1990s -- and the 1960s art-rock outfit The United States of America.
  • Bloc Party, A Weekend In The City -- OK, I've been waiting for Bloc Party's sophomore record ever since their single "Two More Years" came out last year. I absolutely love that single, and I'm a big fan of the first record Silent Alarm. Sure, they get a bad rap like the Arcade Fire do for often being the hipster flavor-of-the-month, but I don't give a shit. The second record took some listening to. It definitely grows on me, and is more nuanced than the first. Not sure there are tracks that are as addictive as "Two More Years" or "Eating Glass", but "Hunting For Witches" comes close. And there are certainly "prettier" songs on this record, like "I Still Remember" and "On". Can't wait to see them on March 30th.
  • Elliott Smith, Figure 8 -- My brother turned me onto the Portland-based singer-songwriter, and his 60s-influenced "Baroque pop" is rich and expansive. I really dig his stuff, and was disappointed to learn that he committed suicide in 2003.
  • The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Behind The Music -- Another brother recommendation, these guys immediately remind me of The Dandy Warhols. Except these guys are from Sweden.
  • Silversun Pickups, Carnavas -- I came across these guys browsing Live 105's best of 2006. What a find. Carnavas is an amazing record, top-to-bottom, evoking at times The Breeders and at other times the Smashing Pumpkins. "Waste It On", "Lazy Eye" and "Common Reactor" blow me away, and I've been listening to this record over and over for months. This is one of those records that you look back on and say, yep, that was my record of the year. Like Handsome Boy Modeling School's So, How's Your Girl? Except a totally different genre.
  • TV On The Radio, Return To Cookie Mountain -- Couldn't ingest a bunch of new music without including a New York band in the mix, so Brooklyn's TV On The Radio gets the nod. Good stuff, experimental and noisy.
With all of this new good stuff to listen to, I've been remiss in my ShuffleLog duties. The above alone represents 92 tracks. That's 13.14% of the even 700 tracks that now occupy my iPod (up significantly from the ~620 we started with). Statistically speaking -- and from a position of no authority at all -- we may have irreparably altered the experiment. But we'll see.

And with the release of a new AIR record, Pocket Symphony, and the new Arcade Fire, Neon Bible, I'm sure I'll have plenty of amateurish music review ramblings in store.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

If You Like Old Time Hockey...'ll probably hate this.

I've been busily cataloging my transition from Oakland beer-leaguer to New York beer-leaguer, playing ice hockey in Chelsea Piers' Division 6 for the Blue Bombers.



Monday, January 08, 2007

Product Placement

Oh, I almost forgot another new title that I picked up over Christmas: DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist's Product Placement DVD.

Yeah, I know the DVD came out in 2004, and the tour was in 2001. But with all of the iPod-twiddling of celebuDJs like DJ AM and Steve Fucking Aoki, it's refreshing to watch/hear two accomplished turntablists showcasing the art form of DJ'ing. The entire show -- which I saw live at the Fillmore in San Francisco in 2001 -- features DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist mixing nothing but 7" wax. Beyond the feat of manipulating the smaller-form 45s as a true DJ should -- you know, scratching and cross-fading -- the music they select is infectious, old-skool and hilarious, including a sweet rapstructional on "Cooking With Gas".

It was amazing live, it's amazing to listen to, and fun to watch as they compile footage from the Product Placement's tour stops in Tokyo, the UK, LA, San Francisco and NYC. Like Mix Master Mike, who's as entertaining to watch as he is to listen to, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist actually perform as DJs, rather than head-bob mindlessly behind an iBook.

The DVD also comes with the companion CD, all for just $24.99. Discogs has a pretty good track listing of some of the amazing cuts featured during their 5-city tour.

Out With The Old, In With The New

What does going home for the holidays mean? Well, of course, drinking and going to one of my favorite record stores, Criminal Records in the A-T-L.

Year end makes you wonder what releases that you missed along the way. I had my brother in tow, and armed with fragmented bits of recommendations from work, we made a run to Criminal. I was also thinking about some of the year-end lists, like Idolator's Jackin' Pop 2006 Survey. Like trying to cram in all of the movies before the Oscars, I needed to get current.

And what better excuse for being derelict of my ShuffleLog duties than to listen to some of the new gear.
  • Band of Horses, Everything All the Time -- I really like this one, and it's no surprise that "Funeral" is topping the 2006 lists. It's a terrific single, plenty haunting, and it stands out as a little more rocking than many of the other almost acoustic numbers. "The Great Salt Lake" is another epic.
  • Interpol, Turn On The Bright Lights -- My brother recommended this one, their first. I'd heard plenty of Interpol back in SF, most notably "Evil" from their second album. I dig this record, but it's too bad that I bought She Wants Revenge's eponymous record before this one, since it's too easy to draw comparisons between the two. Lots of Joy Division-esque brooding on both, although Interpol are a bit more melodic where She Wants Revenge can be more plodding and monotone.
  • NaS, Hip Hop Is Dead -- I'll admit that most of the current rap (not to be confused with hip hop) like 50 Cent, Ludacris, Jay-Z, etc. leaves me cold. And while the occasional catchy track emerges ("In Da Club"), typically I'll bypass it unless it's in a cool mashup. But NaS is definitely making a statement here, and it's a good one. Plenty of dropping "nigga", but you gotta give him props for berating current MCs, daring them to "name a Big Daddy Kane lyric", and having a track in which he vows to "Carry On Tradition".
  • At The Drive-In, Kaya EP -- I knew I had heard of these guys, since they released their last full-length record on the now-defunct Grand Royal label, which was started by the Beastie Boys. This short but sweet EP showcases some solid hardcore, and while I don't like their successor band (The Mars Volta), I can get into this EP.
  • Prince, 3121 -- Bought this for my mother, since we got her an iPod for Christmas. Gotta love that Prince still brings it with songs like "Black Sweat".
With that, I present the last ShuffleLog of 2006 (from a while was scribbled on a piece of paper hastily as I got ready to go for a run, and it's been swimming around in my man-purse for a while). Enjoy!

ShuffleLog 13-December-06
  • The Postal Service, "Recycled Air" - Give Up
  • The Bravery, "Public Service Announcement" - The Bravery
  • The Bravery, "No Brakes" - The Bravery
  • Massive Attack , "Exchange" - Mezzanine
  • Morcheeba , "The Sea" - Big Calm
  • The Postal Service , "Sleeping In" - Give Up
  • Gabriel & Dresden , "Dub Horizon" - Bloom (Disk 1)
  • Atlas , "Compass Error" - GU024: Reykjavik
  • Foo Fighters, "In Your Honor" - In Your Honor (Disk 1)
  • Avatar, "Dub in Time" - GU024: Reykjavik
  • Arctic Monkeys, "Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But..." - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
  • The Lovemakers, "Is It Alright?" - Times of Romance
Holy cow, will you look at all of that symbolism?
  • Two from The Postal Service
  • Two from The Bravery
  • Two from GU024: Reykjavik
  • Two "Dub" songs
  • And a quad from The Lovemakers (also featured 5-Oct-06, 9-Oct-06, and 5-Dec-06)
Way to end the year with a bang.

Monday, December 11, 2006

ShuffleLog 6-Dec-06: Some New Stuff About the New Stuff

Over the past few days, while neglecting my ShuffleLog duties, I've gotten around to sampling some of the new music that I picked up over Big Game weekend. My old 20 gig iPod has been a useful surrogate, allowing me to add 6 new albums to it without disturbing the delicate (and disturbing) ecosystem we have here for ShuffleLog.

What's the word on the new stuff?
  1. Junior Boys, So This Is Goodbye -- Our expert editorial staff here are work claim that Junior Boys "remodel new romantic pop as etherealized neo-soul". All I know is that this record is amazing, ethereal, haunting, melodic and beautiful. Great moody pop stuff with fun synth hooks, they remind me of The Postal Service, which is a flattering comparison in my book.
  2. Sufjan Stevens, Greetings From Michigan - The Great Lake State -- I first saw Sufjan Stevens perform live at the Beacon Theater this past August during a benefit for Dave Eggers' 826 Writing Project. He's an amazing singer/songwriter, and Greetings From Michigan is a beautiful, expansive sample of Americana folk. I really like this record, and listening to it provides a nice contrast to the daily grind while walking around New York.
  3. Lady Sovereign, Public Warning -- I'd seen Lady Sovereign, contributor to the UK's alleged grime scene that includes The Streets, for free this summer at Summer Stage. I dug her style, but the venue and sound system didn't lend themselves to Lady S-O-V's machine-gun rapping or mockney accent, so most of the time she was undecipherable. Studio production makes her debut record, Public Warning, just awesome. She's got definite skills, and some laugh-out-loud funny rhymes ("I don't have the biggest breastes / But I write all of the bestest"), and a unique cadence and style that evokes Mike Skinner as well as reggae. Catchy and cheeky.
  4. Gym Class Heroes, As Cruel As School Children -- My brother recommended these guys, who are a hip hop quartet that play all of their own instruments rather than rely on sampling. Sort of like the Beastie Boys on Check Your Head. They sound very tight, and their musical range is pretty impressive. As I'd said, some of the lyrics seemed a little cliche, and some of the subject matter just doesn't reach me, like "New Friend Request" exhorting someone to add them as a friend in MySpace.
  5. Tenacious D, The Pick Of Destiny -- It's funny, because the original order of this list was random, representing what I picked up in the order it was found in the bag. But it's clear that the order -- kinda like ShuffleLog -- belies some inner pattern. For example, the quality of the record or my initial reaction to it. Here' Tenacious D's new effort is definitely at the bottom of the ladder. To be fair, I only listened to part of it as iTunes was ripping it, but what I heard was pretty unimpressive. Imagine some of the more pedetrian tracks on the debut Tenacious D record. Say, "Rock Your Socks", where the wit and creativity of Tenacious D yields to cliche. Well, imagine a whole record of this. That was my first impression of The Pick Of Destiny: sort of a tired concept that outlived its usefulness. I'll give it a few more shots, though.
  6. DJ Shadow, The Outsider -- I was warned that the new DJ Shadow record was apparently one of the most annoying mixes a KALX DJ had ever heard. But I dig DJ Shadow, and had to check this out. Based on the first 5 or so tracks, I'm afraid that the unnamed KALX DJ may be right: a mix of styles, eras and genres that felt jarring rather than integrated. I'm definitely going to spend more time with this one.
That said, here's the second of the 20 gig iPod's ShuffleLogs. Some interesting tidbits in there, making me scratch my head and go back to my entire battery of music to see what I've been neglecting lately.

ShuffleLog 6-Dec-06
  • Ladytron, "Startup Chime" - Light & Magic
  • Deep Dish, "Part 1" - GU025: Toronto
  • Fingerfest Inc., "Autoporno" - GU021: Moscow
  • Fugazi, "Burning" - 13 Songs
  • ABBA, "One Night In Bangkok" - N/A
  • The Knuckleheads, "Turn That Fucking Music Up" - GU005: Tokyo
  • The Cult, "She Sells Sanctuary" - Love
  • Lyrics Born, "Hello Remix" - Same !@#$ Different Day
OK, no repeats, since it's a different iPod (albeit with somewhat of a superset of what's on the nano). But some interesting results: the predicatable representation of the Global Underground catalog, as well as Ladytron and Lyrics Born, repeat ShuffleLog participants.

But, oh, how cool is it to have an ABBA remix of Murray Head's "One Night In Bangkok"? I have no idea where I got that, by the way. Also, the perennial Cult track "She Sells Sanctuary", which inevitably reminds me of being drunk in my friend Tony's Volvo station wagon on the Bay Bridge late at night. Have I revealed too much?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

ShuffleLog 5-Dec-06: Something Old, Something New

I'd like to welcome another new guest ShuffleLogger: my old iPod.

During an action-packed weekend back in NorCal (read: 17 straight hours of drinking on Saturday), I got the chance to visit one of my favorite record stores on the planet: Amoeba Music on Telegraph in Berkeley. Always a chance to stock up on new stuff, despite the fact that I always forget what I want to buy the second I cross the threshhold.

Here's what the haul netted:
  1. Junior Boys, So This Is Goodbye
  2. Sufjan Stevens, Greetings From Michigan - The Great Lake State
  3. Lady Sovereign, Public Warning
  4. Gym Class Heroes, As Cruel As School Children
  5. Tenacious D, The Pick Of Destiny
  6. DJ Shadow, The Outsider
I haven't listened to any of this yet, except for Gym Class Heroes, who I failed to realize have a few tracks on the Snakes On A Plane soundtrack. Guess I should have bought that $5 pirated DVD on the 3 train a while back. As Cruel As School Children is a pretty cool record, although I've only given it one run-through. The mix if musical styles coupled with hip-hop is really fresh and catchy without being cliche. However, the lyrics on a few tracks seem to be pretty wack, especially "New Friend Request", which deals with the vagaries of asking some chick to add you to their Friends list on MySpace. Um, yeah.

After returning home, I immediately wanted to rip the new stuff and listen to it on the way to work. But the nano's 4GB was in no shape to accomodate 6 new records at once, and I didn't want a wholesale change in the music composition that's been powering ShuffleLog.

So I decided to trot out my old 2nd generation 20GB iPod. You know, the one with the crappy touch-sensitive buttons that don't "click", with the row of controls above the scrollwheel. Mine always seemed to freeze up and crap out when I lugged it on runs, and the battery life is shite. But damn, it's got 3147 songs on it, 5x what's on the nano.

And while I only got a chance to load Gym Class Heroes on the 20 gig, I lugged it out anyway to see what it would serve up as a ShuffleLog. After fumbling around trying to find the Shuffle setting that I'd never used on it before (it's buried in the menus, rather than its own option in the main menu), I finally got it to shuffle.

Here's what we got:

ShuffleLog 5-Dec-06
  1. Chemical Brothers, "Leave Home" - Gone In 60 Seconds Soundtrack
  2. The Lovemakers, "Is It Alright?" - Times of Romance
  3. Oakland Faders, "Track 38" - Fader Nation Vol. 1
Outstanding. Drag out the old iPod, still get a friggin' Faders track. And a repeat, at that. As well as ShuffleLog darlings The Lovemakers (13 appearances in 276 tracks to date).

In the interest of full disclosure, there were also 3 other electronica tracks that came up on this ShuffleLog. But in its infinite wonkiness, the 20 gig rebooted itself while I was scrolling through the Now Playing list trying to capture the tracks. The 3 above are all I came away with.

Not surprising that some serious Global Underground would come up from the 20 gig. Courtesy of my buddy Sandy, I've got close to their entire back catalog ripped.

The mothership has spoken.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

ShuffleLog 29-Nov-06: The New Skool

Looks like the transfusion isn't getting rejected by the patient, to mix medical metaphors.

Oh, and I finally got a chance to do a non-beanie road test of my new Bose earbuds I've been assaulting you with so much lately. Results? A little disappointing.

I went for a run Wednesday night, knowing that I'd be abusing my body and soul over the weekend at Big Game. It was unseasonably warm, so no need for a knit cap or anything, just the Chinese knock-off Cal camo hat I bought on the street in Berkeley last year. This was the first real test of the earbuds on a run, and while they weren't nearly as shoddy as the stock iPod earbuds, they certainly didn't stay in my ears like I'd expected. I had to adjust them and re-seat them in my ears several times during my run, although the sound quality still came through above my gasping for air. I'm still using the S size silicone tips on the earbuds, so perhaps I need to try another one of the sizes that come with them (M or L). Also, I was wondering if moisture (read: sweat) would cause the silicone to become more slick and therefore more predisposed to dislodging. I'd long lost the spongy black things that the iPod earbuds ship with, but those at least seemed to resist moisture a bit.

Anyway, more testing to come. The upshot? Ever since I watched the end of the New York City Marathon (go, Latvia!), I seemed to have been moderately inspired: twice now I've increased my run by almost 50%, spontaneously, to almost 5.5 miles total from my typical 3.75 miles. Thrice around the Lower Loop.

ShuffleLog 29-Nov-06

  1. Foo Fighters, "Times Like These " - One By One
  2. Outkast, "Chronomentrophobia" - Idlewild
  3. AIR, "All I Need" - Moon Safari
  4. The Beastie Boys, "Gratitude" - The Sounds of Science (Disk 1)
  5. Pixies, "Velouria" - Bossanova
  6. Kasabian, "The Doberman" - Empire
ShuffleLog: now 66% new! Ever since I added some new stuff, ShuffleLog's been slowly breaking it in. Two from Kasabian's Empire, two from J5's Feedback, and now one from Outkast's Idlewild. Not the first time it happened -- when I added Massive Attack's 100th Window back before the rant, it promptly showed up.

I don't know if this is poisoning the experiment or not -- we're still getting plenty of repeats, and trifecas are becoming commonplace, indicating an uncanny affinity for the same stuff and therefore a pattern. But just you wait until next week.

ShuffleLog 28-Nov-06: Golf Clap

Holy shit. We actually have a new CYHSY track? Not a repeat?

Wonderful. We've now played almost 70% of that record in less than 300 ShuffleLog tracks. First to 100% gets automatically removed from my iPod. Unless, of course, you just happen to annoy me for a while.

ShuffleLog 28-Nov-06
  1. Nat Monday, "Waiting" - GU021: Moscow
  2. Peter Murphy, "Cuts You Up (LP Version)" - Cuts You Up
  3. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, "Clap Your Hands!" - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
  4. Danny Howells, "Fast Lane" - 24:7 (Disk 1)
  5. Nouvelle Vague, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" - Perfecto Chills Vol. 3 (Disk 2)
Repeats bracketed by new appearances. Almost like the perfectly-spaced medley of new and used. I'll stick my head in the oven if I start tracking that.

Love that Peter Murphy track, by the way. Don't know what it is. Makes me nostalgic for my Bauhaus days, perhaps.