wotcha! I am a #music listener and general nerd about town. I migrated from @firstname.lastname@example.org some time ago; now I help admin linernotes.club, the premiere fediverse destination for music lovers who nod knowingly at each other from across the room when that song comes on but probably won't ever introduce themselves.
I'm married, have twin boys in elementary school, and a bag of dinosaur bones that claims to be a greyhound called Rufus, but I am skeptical.
My day job is principal engineer at AWS. My feelings on this are complicated. I'm ostensibly engaged on human factors and resilience engineering but mostly I decline meetings and apologize to people. Been in the business 30 years and have complicated feelings about that too.
Best of 2021 (long)
2021 sucked. We had some personal triumphs (I got promoted, my wife finished school, the boys are back to in-person learning), but except for a brief and glorious July when it felt like we might actually come out the other side of covid the year was full of stress and anxiety and I hope the door knob hits it on the way out.
"Stress and Anxiety" was a prominent theme in the year's music also. We're now well into the second round of Pandemic Records(tm), and several of the entries in this year's list either imply or explicitly explore feelings of isolation and depression, of fatalism or bloody-minded perseverance. By the last quarter of the year though I found I had had my fill; frankly I would appreciate not having to think about the fucking end of the world for five minutes.
One thing can be said, though; artists stuck at home create. There was so much music released this year that for the first time I have a top 10 of albums I should have heard but haven't yet, and I spent more time actively listening this year than I have in a long time. The full list is below, but here are some thoughts on my Top 5:
CHVRCHES returned with Screen Violence, a record that channels anxiety into catharsis using horror movies as inspiration. Danceable, singable, and zero fucks given. Also includes the best Cure song of the last 20 years.
Japanese Breakfast - Jubilee. Another year, another amazing jbrekkie album. Zauner's asserts this record is about joy, which I think is fascinating given that the most joyful song on the thing -- Song of the Year That Isn't Chaise Longue "Be Sweet To Me" -- she spends pleading with a dirtbag lover to be worthy of her misplaced faith. A record more about the idea of joy than the feeling.
Danile Lanois's Heavy Sun, on the other hand, is authentically joyous, which is inevitable when you set out to record a secular expression of the Spirit inspired by Doo Wop. It brought me to tears one night in August and is easily the best sounding recording of the year.
At this point, Hiromi can do anything she damn well likes, and apparently one of the things she likes is composing for strings. The Silver Lining Suite is an exciting, evocative listen that recalls the works of Joe Hisaishi and Carl Stalling even as it explores the composer's fear, panic, and doubt. The suite itself is mesmerizing, but the second half of the album is stonking great fun and concludes on a note of optimistic abandon.
It should surprise no one that the two Johns' response to the state of the world in 2021 would be bleak, acerbic, gallows humour, but listening to Book is like staring into the abyss and the abyss singing back "Doodly doodly doodly-doo!" It's my favourite record this year and one of my favourite TMBG records period.
20 Dry Cleaning - New Long Leg
19 Lisa Gerrard - Burn
18 Pom Poko - Cheater
17 SPELLLING - The Turning Wheel
16 Sting - The Bridge
15 Amyl and the Sniffers - Comfort To Me
14 Silk Sonic - An Evening With Silk Sonic
13 illuminati hotties - Let Me Do One More
12 Kings of Convenience - Peace or Love
11 Mint Julep - In a Deep and Dreamless Sleep
10 Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders and London Symphony Orchestra - Promises
09 Saint Etienne - I've Been Trying To Tell You
08 IDLES - Crawler!
07 Lake Street Dive - Obviously
06 Aesop Rock x Blockhead - Garbology
05 CHRVCHES - Screen Violence
04 Japanese Breakfast - Jubilee
03 Daniel Lanois - Heavy Sun
02 Hiromi - Silver Lining Suite
01 They Might Be Giants - Book
Top 10 Records I Should Have Listened To But Haven't Yet:
- Esperanza Spaulding - Songwrights Apothecary Lab
- Manchester Orchestra - The Million Masks of God
- Wooze - Get Me To A Nunnery EP
- Skee Mask - ITLP09 - Pool
- Sons Of Kemet - Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do
- Bachelor - Doomin' Sun
- Squirrel Flower - Planet (i)
- Makthaverskan - For Allting
- Pom Pom Squad - Death of a Cheerleader
- Durand Jones & The Indications - Private Space
Best of 2020 (long)
With the dissolution of 2hrs of commuting 5 days a week I didn't spend as many hours dedicated to listening this year. In some ways this helped the rankings because anything I felt compelled to spin more than once or twice ended up in the top 10. But as the year went on, I was surprised to see just how much new music I had taken in.
Nothing particularly surprising, except that KRS-One sent a new record out to die *today*. It's a real shame the marketing is nonexistent and the production is terrible because it showcases probably his best emceeing since the 90s. The man needs a producer who can keep up and a label willing to actually tell people when he releases something.
Here are some thoughts on my top five:
The Avalanches' 3rd record is confusing. It's too long. It largely wastes huge guest talents like Johnny Marr and Neneh Cherry. The kitchen-sink sampling is present but the goofy humour is gone. But once I stopped trying to hear Since I Left You, the album's melancholia opened up to me, sophisticated and welcoming.
I discovered mxmtoon this year, and boy oh boy what a force this young artist is. Dawn in particular is tremendous, hopeful and embracing and hiding legit pop hooks. "no faker" is going to be a stadium anthem some day.
Deborah Jordan was another new discovery for me in 2020. See in the Dark starts so quiet you might miss it: lilting piano, strings and electronic washes over a warm, round bass. Then the vocals come in overdubbed into wonky jazz changes and the whole record falls into a laid-back groove so deep it never recovers. Tasty.
Everything you've heard about Fetch the Bolt Cutters is true. It's a landmark record, funny and mean and heartbreaking and inspiring. Fiona Apple is one of the greatest songwriters of our times.
The Beths' sophomore record received mixed reviews for its airy, open songs, but I think this was largely due to a mistake in sequencing; repeated listens reveal a rich, sumptuous record as acerbic and sad as FMHM but with a new depth.
Truth be told Fetch the Bolt Cutters is probably a superior artistic statement but the Beths are just too much fun.
20 KRS-One - Between the Protests
19 Subsonic Eye - Bedroom Sessions
18 Rufus Wainwright - Unfollow the Rules
17 IDLES - Ultra Mono
16 the Lemon Twigs - Songs for the General Public
15 R.A.P. Ferreira - purple moonlight pages
14 Sigur Rós - Odin's Raven Magic
13 Bumper - Pop Songs 2020
12 DJ Python - Mas Amable
11 Squarepusher - Be Up a Hello
10 Elvis Costello - Hey Clockface
09 Lamb - The Secret of Letting Go (Deluxe)
08 Sufjan Stevens - Ascension
07 Sloan - B Sides Win vol 1. 1992-1997
06 Lisa Gerrard, Genesis Orchestra & Yordan Kamdzhalov - Górecki Symphony No. 3: Symphony of Sorrowful Songs
05 Avalanches - We Will Always Love You
04 mxmtoon - Dawn / Dusk
03 Deborah Jordan - See in the Dark
02 Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters
01 the Beths - Jump Rope Gazers
Best of 2019
2019 was a bit of a let-down, frankly. Highly anticipated records from the likes of Piroshka, BLUKE, DJ Shadow and 808 State I found solid but underwhelming, while others from Beck, Esperanza Spalding and the Who were entirely forgettable. After last year's embarrassment of riches the field seems especially thin.
The story is not all bad, though. My year was mostly dominated by small records and idiosyncratic artists: Jonathan Something's sophmore outing proved he was no fluke, flying the freak-folk flag high for all to see. Aerial View's debut for Epitaph found the youngsters deftly threading the needle between surf and power pop, their hearts full of angst and yearning. And the aptly named dumb released the stupidest, jangliest nerd punk record I've heard in years and I absolutely love it.
But looming over these tiny things like a collossus is my record of the year, Devin Townsend's Empath. Heavy Devy's first since dispanding DTP is his most personal, introspective and nakedly ambitious work to date. For all its kitchen sink bombast, its overflowing musical ideas, Empath is the intimate story of a man attempting to reconnect with himself and the world, and it is a massive achievement.
10 808 State - Transmission Suite
09 Spielbergs - This is Not the End
08 Sleater-Kinney - the Center Won't Hold
07 Moonchild - Little Ghost
06 The Future Sound of London - YAGE 2019
05 the Dollyrots - Daydream Explosion
04 Ariel View - Until My Lungs Are Clear
03 dumb - Club Nites
02 Jonathan Something - Art So Small You Can Hardly See It
01 Devin Townsend - Empath
Evilchili's Album of the Year! (Long)
Sweet Zombie Jesus what a year for new music. I bought more 2018 releases in 2018 than I have bought new music in a long while. Partly this is due to blatant cheating: John Zorn and Brian Eno both released massive box sets, and They Might Be Giants dropped three albums (!), two in December. But also surprising releases came from places I didn't expect: a new
Spiritualized record! A new David Byrne record! Dead Can Dance! Dirty Goddamned Computer! Oh, and a lost Coltrane record, because down is up and up is down.
2018 is remarkable for another reason, too: artists at the top of their game *decades* in. Sloan, TMBG, Yo La Tengo, David Byrne and Paul Simon all turned out records as good as anything they've ever done. At this point I don't expect
Sloan to ever record a bad *song*, nevermind a bad record.
But my pick for Evilchili's Album of the Year goes not to any reliable stalwart companion, but to a New Zealand four-piece whose rise to the top of my list was from first listen utterly inevitable. The Beths' debut, Future Me Hates Me, clocks in at just 39 minutes but packs a tremendous sun-drenched power-pop wallop. It ticks all my boxes: boy-girl harmonies, loud guitars, sad, clever lyrics on major chords (and handclaps provided by Yrs Chili). It is,
simply speaking, my favourite record this year and possibly of several years.
Here's my complete Top 10:
01 the Beths - Future Me Hates Me
02 Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer
03 Aphex Twin - Collapse EP
04 Metric - Art of Doubt
05 They Might Be Giants - I Like Fun
06 Sloan - 12
07 CHRVCHES - Love is Dead
08 Subsonic Eye - Dive Into
09 St. Vincent - MassEducation
10 Busdriver - Electricity is On Our Side
David Byrne - American Utopia
Paul Simon - In the Blue Light
They Might Be Giants - the Escape Team
They Might Be Giants - My Murdered Remains
Dead Can Dance - Dionysus
Yo La Tengo - There's a Riot Going On
John Coltrane - Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album
Brian Eno - 77 Million Paintings (Music for Installations)
the Herbalizer - Bring Out the Sound
Ben Caplan - Old Stock
Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt
Elvis Costello - Look Now
Gnostic Trio - Netzach (John Zorn: Book Bari'ah Vol. 7)
Secret Chiefs 3 - Malkhut (John Zorn: Book Bari'ah, Vol. 10)
the Orb - No Sounds are Out of Bounds
mxmtoon caught my ear a couple of years ago with her Dawn and Dusk EPs. she took a wiggly path through video game soundtracks and covers but the new record is on its way and so far the tracks are bright and easy and lifting. She's still developing as a lyricist and has yet to really plumb the depths of lived experience but the exuberance and earnestness is refreshing.
still fighting a cold, but I'm feeling recovered enough that I'm playing #dnd with the boys. we rolled characters this morning and will shortly engage in a battle royale. PCs:
Me: half-orc bladesong wizard
Wingus: Dragonborn Drakewarden Ranger
Dingus: Dragonborn Pact of the Genie Warlock
The difficulty in this is managing everyone's feelings at the table; in the past we have had big meltdowns when we're losing. I started early by talking about how instead of focusing on how I'm getting crushed, I'm going to be excited for my opponent's amazing round and excellent play. #DadOps
this was wild. Microsoft Store is apparently a hot mess. they released a hot fix that is neither hot nor fixing anything and along the way to this conclusion i spent a good three hours reacquainting myself with the proper hell that is windows debugging, reinstalled the OS twice and upgraded once. I even recursively fucked with filesystem ownership and woo did that take me back.
Powershell is pretty nice tho.
made it almost 22 hours before having to edit the registry to *checks notes* run Microsoft Store. yep, this is the windows i remember.
Also the regedit didn't work so now we're reinstalling ahah.
Traditional Canadian jobs:
- farmer who has so much work he needs to adopt an orphan
- Mountie (handsome)
- log driver
- Mountie (goofy)
- maple syrup tapper
- being in Toronto
- gold panner
- librarian (perverted)
- archivist (not perverted)
- lonely cowboy
- contemplation (wilderness or Arctic)
- burning the White House
- tormented by the wheat fields
- married to a French Canadian
Also Jeff Buckley is overrated but Oasis only recorded one good song and it was Fuckin in the Bushes and that's six years on so I approve of this result #AlbumBowl
Well that's disappointing. not only did they have big voids, they don't read as eyes *and* the d12 tore the 8 on the mold. So pretty hard #dicefail on this one.
The clear layer was way too thick, for starters, the shimmery white resin is wrong and the multicolored "pupils" don't help. Might try a single die to test some improvements but honestly think this might just be a nope.
Oscar Peterson Trio Live at the
Concertgebouw 1958 is a terrible recording of a blisteringly good set and it makes me wonder what it must have been like to show up one night and be witness to *that* #np
Good records you should hear from 1994 that got debowled. #AlbumBowl
MC 900ft Jesus - One Step Ahead of the Spider
Masada - Alef
Sloan - Twice Removed
Stina Nordenstam - And She Closed Her Eyes
Jawbreaker - 24 Hour Revenge Therapy
The Future Sound of London - Lifeforms
The KLF - The White Room
James - Wah Wah
Dead Can Dance - Toward the Within
He/Him. Listener of music, master of dungeons, principal of engineers, caster of dice, foolerer of toms.
You gonna finish that?
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