80s Music Flashbacks

You ever stumble across something and wonder "how did I not know this was a thing?".

I was listening to my 'Discover Weekly' playlist in Spotify the other week and a song came on that made me sit up and immediately take notice. It sounded just like all those American synth based 80s TV show themes that you used to love when you were a kid. But on steroids.

Convinced it was just a song I had overlooked from from my youth, I was surprised to find it was actually new music. Made by youngsters. Wut? As I went down the rabbit hole a bit further I discovered a few other bands all doing similar. Retro Electro I've seen it labeled as. And I love it.

If this sounds like the kind of thing that would be your cup of tea, run don't walk and have a listen to Carpenter Brut, Dance With The Dead, Timecop1983, The Midnight, Le Cassette and my current favorite Perturbator

"The legend says he's half human, half synthesizer…"

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New Depeche

The new Depeche Mode single is released this week with an album to follow in March. For old time's sake I'll still give it a fair try. The me of 25 years ago would be surprised I'm not more enthusiastic. Depeche albums back then were a glorious thing to behold.

The band are a far cry from the Alan Wilder golden years these days, but I still remain optimistic that this album is 'the one'. I mean, New Order surprised us all last year with a pleasant return to form. So why can't Spirit be that surprise of 2017.


Update: Where Is The Revolution is the name of the single and I've listened to it a few times now. I don't hate it. One of their more overtly political songs in a while.

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Rogue One

In short, it's fantastic. Go see it immediately. The last 5 mins of the movie worth the price of admission alone.

I'm a lifelong Star Wars fan and must have watched A New Hope 70+ times as a kid. Like most of my generation, I was excited beyond belief when The Phantom Menace was announced. Yeah, about that. Disappointed doesn't even begin to cover how we all felt about those.

With a "fool me once…" mindset I was cautiously optimistic going to see The Force Awakens. And I loved it. Similarities to A New Hope aside, it completely restored my faith in the SW universe. That same optimism carried over to Rogue One yesterday. I was blown away. A darker, more war movie like story that just worked on every level.

How does it rate in the canon?

A New Hope
Rogue One
The Force Awakens
Empire Strikes Back
Return Of The Jedi
Clone Wars
Revenge Of The Sith
Attack Of The Clones
Phantom Menace

Update: now with 100% more Force Awakens.


Year In Music

"Hey I wonder what Kevin listened to most in 2016" you didn't ask.

For the last 10 years I've been scrobbling everything that's come out of my headphones to last.fm. In that time I've amassed quite the treasure trove of listening statistics, habits, and taste. It's interesting to look back at the things you were into over the years. You can pinpoint when an album came out, or when you first discovered a band based on a sudden spike in activity during the year.

This year last.fm have done something cool and added an explore your year in music tool that sums up my year far better than I could. Of the 1,480 artists I listened to in 2016 Killing Joke were apparently my top listen. With their Pylon album coming out tops also. I had a 62 day listening streak, and had IAMX on repeat for an entire day back in February with 120 of his tracks played.

The amount of music I didn't listen to this year is tragic. Unless I listen in my sleep for the rest of the December, this year will mark the fewest songs I've listened to since last.fm became my brain. I still love music but since 2011 there's been a noticeable decline each year. Worrying. Age perhaps?

But it's not all about me. 2016 will forever be remembered as the year we lost so many industry pioneers. Who could have possibly predicted on New Year's Eve last year the planet would be missing Bowie, Lemmy, Prince, and Pete Burns within 12 months. (Of course you were as big a fan of Dead Or Alive's Youthquake album as I was in the 80s)

Next year has to be better. More listening, less death.

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The Independent Web

Remember the good old days of blogging? Or even before that when it was just called updating my site frequently? It was a simpler time without walled gardens or the need to have an account on a service just to leave a comment. Information was free, open, and easily consumable.

(Takes in breath of fresh nostalgia)

Andy Baio recently redesigned waxy.org and penned an excellent post lamenting the state of independent blogging. He puts it far more eloquently than I ever could.

But there a few reasons why I’m sad about the decline of independent blogging, and why I think they’re still worth fighting for.

Ultimately, it comes down to two things: ownership and control.

Last week, Twitter announced they’re shutting down Vine. Twitter, itself, may be acquired and changed in some terrible way. It’s not hard to imagine a post-Verizon Yahoo selling off Tumblr. Medium keeps pivoting, trying to find a successful revenue model. There’s no guarantee any of these platforms will be around in their current state in a year, let alone ten years from now.

Here, I control my words. Nobody can shut this site down, run annoying ads on it, or sell it to a phone company. Nobody can tell me what I can or can’t say, and I have complete control over the way it’s displayed. Nobody except me can change the URL structure, breaking 14 years of links to content on the web.

Yes. That.

I wholeheartedly support all those that still run their own sites and haven't moved to Facebook/Tumblr/Medium.

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I'm somewhat conflicted about what to do with Flickr.

You see, I'm mad at Yahoo; Flickr's parent company. Both for the massive data breach, and the installation of an email scanner while trying to hide it from their security team. Read about lots of people downloading all their photos from Flickr and closing the account in disgust. The digital version of taking their toys and going home.

My gut reaction was to do similar. But I have 12 years invested in Flickr. All those sets curated lovingly by hand, the 75k photos I've added to my favorites, and the code I've written. Flickr is so integral to my photography workflow that I couldn't imagine not using it now.

Besides, where else is there to go?

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Music has been a major factor in my life since I was a kid. I've spent more time and money in record shops than I can possibly remember. As I got older the format changed but the passion remained. CDs first of course, then the rise of MP3s, Napster, and Winamp. Finally iPods, and iTunes. Life was great.

As Apple retired the iPod Classic line, those of us who relished having all their music with them everywhere were just a little nervous. The 160G Classic was the only game in town for anyone with a large collection. What would we do when our current models filled to capacity, or (shudder) died? Didn't bear thinking about. Well that day came about a month ago. My iPod disk starting clicking, and iTunes reported errors when attempting to sync. Sad day. End of an era really. And really quite jarring because I'd carried an iPod everywhere for years. I was faced with the "well, now what?" question.

Sure I could take my MacBook Pro back and forth to work and still listen to my iTunes library. But that didn't help the commute to work, nor walking around the grocery store. It was clear that the answer was to turn to a streaming service to fill the gap. Enter Spotify. I've been giving it a whirl for close to a month now. And I have to say I like it. A lot. Having access to such a vast body of work is just mind blowing. The stuff I would only dream of as a young teenager playing records in my bedroom.

I'd initially been all a bit meh on streaming because my commute to work involved long periods of driving through dead zones. But we bought a new house last month and my commute changed. Guess what? No dead zones anymore. At all. Which is great.

Finding new albums by artists you'd forgotten to buy is part of the appeal of a streaming service. I'm having more fun listening to music than I've had in a while. That speaks volumes for the service. I've found myself listening more when I'm out and about as well. Only having to have my phone with me is great, gone are the days of carrying multiple gadgets. And both the iOS and Mac clients scrobble to last.fm which is incredibly important for a statistics junkie like me.

It hasn't all been rainbows and cake though, if I'm honest. There are a few things that are kind of annoying with Spotify. I don't know how other streaming services compare here, maybe it's similar with Apple Music too?

• Song Titles – I've a carefully curated iTunes music library, to the point where all Id3v2 metadata is correct, so I looked on in horror as I saw Spotify was playing "Depeche Mode – Nothing 2006 Remastered Version". No no no no no. Just no. It may be the remastered album, but that is not the song title. And that's thrown off my last.fm stats as a result because that track is essentially a brand new song and the actual "Depeche Mode – Nothing" didn't get a play count bump. Any hardcore last.fm'ers out there will already feel the ire here.

• Missing Albums – being able to have an artist's entire discography at hand is great. Except when it isn't all there. I was in a Killing Joke mood the other day and wanted to listen to them. Some of their albums are there, some aren't. 2010's Absolute Dissent is one that's missing. Possibly not the fault of Spotify. The record label just may not have agreed to streaming rights? Annoying for users mind.

• Incorrect Tracks – I have an iTunes playlist that Spotify happily recognized. I was pleased to see "Simple Minds – New Gold Dream (Live)" start playing. This is the version from Live In the City Of Light, of which Spotify told me was indeed the album it was playing. Except it wasn't. It was a completely different live version. Grr.

So, my free trial expires in the next couple of days. Does the good outweigh the bad? Yes and I'll be paying for the service after that. No ads, higher quality streams, being able to listen when offline is worth the $9.95 a month. Will I miss smart playlists and genius mixes from iTunes? Sure. Will I find the "…Remastered Version…" in song titles annoying? Yes.

So who knows, in a couple of months I could completely change my mind and try something else. But for now, it's all Spotify all the time.

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As the year comes to a close, a quick look back at some things that happened in the life of Spencer, in no particular order.

Took the least amount of photos of any year since 2008 (shocking). New Order released an album and it was good. Acquired speeding ticket. Little one flew to England for the first time. Ate Sushi. Nephew crashed and totaled our car. Bought a new car. Almost doubled my team at work. Got two new kittens. Scraped ice off windshield in the desert. Bought a house. Moved the week of Christmas (don't do that). Filled iPod Classic (now what?).

Really, I cannot stress the point about not moving the week of Christmas. And I realize I'm the only person on the planet who still has and uses an iPod Classic. You kids get off my lawn.

I hope 2015 was a good year for you. All the best and have a Happy New Year.

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