I’ve watched every season of High Maintenance a few times. We’ve been watching them again lately when we need a short show to watch in the evenings and this time around I’m deeply focussed not the soundtrack for each episode.
Last.fm’s is much more comprehensive for some reason. The service has seemed very flakey the past few weeks and I can’t find an alternative method for tracking so have to live with it just being janky I guess.
I have been really loving the song Doers by Bodega. Definitely one of my favorite tracks for the month.
Love the mix of drum machine and live drums on this track:
The Alison is a real gem that I found digging through Bandcamp. I’m withholding judgment a bit on Epic’s takeover of Bandcamp. I hope it doesn’t destroy the product/community and/or turn it into an onboarding platform for musicians to sell NFTs.
There are a lot of strange ones on the list, too, because I’ve found this Apple Music Playlist called Sleep Cycles that has a bunch of really excellent ambient drone stuff that I use to sleep on the couch when family obligations force me up at 4:30AM. So if you’re listening and wondering why those tracks are on there, it means I was up early so many times that some of the tracks got repeated, a bunch. Not entirely sure how or if to filter them out.
Anyway, The Weather Station was another gem of a find. So suggestive of Kate Bush but the band is also crackling with quiet intensity which I love.
As promised, I’m trying to get better with tracking my listening and less-algorithmic with my music discovery process. Here’s what I listened to a lot of in January. Maybe next month I’ll figure out some fancy way to make this list streamable? We’ll see.
Wet Dream – Wet Leg – Wet Dream – Single Slide Tackle – Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee Be Sweet – Japanese Breakfast – Jubilee Wild Blue – John Mayer – Sob Rock Tell Me Something Good (feat. Chaka Khan) – Rufus – The Women of Soul the angel of 8th ave. – Gang of Youths – the angel of 8th ave. – Single Bonny – Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen (Remastered) When Love Breaks Down – Prefab Sprout – A Life of Surprises: The Best of Prefab Sprout (Remastered) Anxious – The Housemartins – London 0 Hull 4 Happy Hour – The Housemartins – The Last King of Pop Better Now – The Weather Station – Ignorance (Deluxe Version) But Not for Me – Ahmad Jamal – Dinner Jazz Classics Remember – Air – Moon Safari Nicoteen – Bunny Lowe – Nicoteen – Single My People – Cha Wa – My People Bring On the Dancing Horses – Echo & The Bunnymen – Nothing Lasts Forever in the wake of your leave – Gang of Youths – angel in realtime. Don’t Change – INXS – GLUTTONY – EP
There are a few key variables in the shortcut, most are defined through menus as you run the shortcut. The only two you need to explicitly add to the top of the shortcut are username and APIKEY. You can get a last.fm API key here.
Username: the name of the user to use for a data source. I run this with my own username but also run it every once in a while with my musical neighbors’ usernames to create discovery-type playlists
Period: overall | 7day | 1month | 3month | 6month | 12month – The time period over which to retrieve top tracks for. You’ll select this from a menu when you run the shortcut.
Threshold (e.g. only include songs that have been listened to more than x times): the rationale for this variable is sometimes when creating a playlist you only want to include tracks that you (or whatever username you’re querying) has listened to multiple times. You’ll select this threshold from a menu when you run the shortcut.
Limit: the number of tracks to pull (note that if you select 50 tracks here but set the # of times listened threshold to a high number the playlist will only include the tracks that meet that threshold so may include less than 50 tracks).
This has been working pretty reliably for me for the past week or so, so I’m sending v 1.0 out into the world, hope you enjoy and find it useful. You can download it here.
I was struggling to keep my Marvis player settings in sync across multiple iOS devices and landed on this really low friction solution:
Go to Settings->Advanced->Export Settings and then use the share sheet the pops up to AirDrop the file to your secondary devices. The receiving device will automatically open the file in Marvis and import the new settings.
A few weeks ago I began using an iOS app called Marvis (which, I cannot recommend enough for helping to organize and find albums/playlists in your Apple Music). Using Marvis, I’ve created a few rule/filter sets that help me surface albums I haven’t listened to in a while.
However, what I am finding is a disappointingly large number of albums I have ripped or collected in MP3/FLAC over the years are incomplete.
Take this Neil Young album, After the Gold Rush for example:
Why in the world am I missing track 3?
I know that I own this CD and ripped it myself. I’m totally confused as to why the track is missing. At first I thought Apple’s Cloud Sync was somehow to blame and that this track was just missing in my Apple Library but not on the actual filesystem. No such luck. It’s missing on my external SSD as well as on my backup drive.
I am totally confused about what’s going on here!
The Great Purge
Marvis has helped me realize that I have a bunch of albums in my Apple Music Library that I am never going to listen to. Stuff that I’ve acquired over the past 20 years or so. In the early years of digital audio, in a frenzy of “digital music acquisition syndrome” I just piled my external drives up with all sorts of garbage as friends and I would trade drives. For example, I like some Bjork now and then, but do I need her complete library? Prob not.
Anyway, I have set a goal to reduce my Apple Music Library to just the essentials. I’ll keep complete albums that matter to me and remove stuff that I’ll probably never spin. But while I remove the cruft from my Apple Library, I’ll keep the source files on my filesystem/external drive so that if I ever want to reimport them, I can.
Which leads me back to my incomplete album problem. Some of the albums I want to keep in my Library have ended up being incomplete which is a bummer.
This script uses track information to calculate whether a particular batch of tracks with the same Album title represent an incomplete or over-complete album, with either too few or too many requisite album tracks. Such batches will be copied to a discrete results playlist where they can be examined. The entire Music library or an individially selected Smart playlist can be scanned. (To be clear: the script does not check some kind of online database; it uses the extant local track entry information. Thus, tag accuracy is essential.)
Of the 2,400 or so albums currently in my library (I’ve already purged about 300, so, progress!) this AppleScript found 700 that are incomplete. Now, at least some of those are because my track entry tags are missing but a lot are just plain incomplete albums. So this helps jumpstart the purge in 2 ways:
Start by reviewing the albums that are missing tracks for stuff I’ll never listen to and remove it from my library
Determine which incomplete albums I want to rerip from CD (and do so in some kind of lossless format this time around)
Hopefully when this little project is done, I’ll have an Apple Music Library that consists of complete albums that I want to listen to and not a lot of cruft. From there, I ought to be able to build out some especially useful/inspiring lists in Marvis.
Started writing this in my journal but figure it’s probably something share-worthy, here’s a quick look at what I listened to in 2021. Planning on using last.fm this year to better track this stuff.
Earlier this year during lockdown I picked up a very nice used American Telecaster. I love it. It’s the opposite end of the spectrum from my Gibson 335. They both have their place in my playing/songwriting. Anyway, picking up the tele got me listening to way more tele players including a lot of Kenny Vaughan and Marty Stuart.
Reading a bunch of Kenny Vaughan interviews, he kept mentioning Hollywood Fats, Roy Nichols and Roy Lanham so I did a lot of digging on their playing over the past year.
Somewhere in that dive on tele players, I came across Ripley Johnson who is not at all like Kenny Vaughan but as soon as I heard him playing with his Rose City Band, I immediately went over to the Thrill Jockey website and bought all of the Rose City Band albums on vinyl. There’s something that reminds me of the more melodic exploration/noodling of Jerry Garcia’s playing in Johnson’s playing and I love his tone and the sound environment of the Rose City Band albums so he was a really welcomed accidental discovery this year. He reminds me a bit of William Tyler, too, but maybe more accessible or less demanding than Tyler who I didn’t listen to as much this year as I did in 2020.
I listened to the Jerry on Jerry audiobook this year which I highly recommend for any fans of Jerry Garcia and his playing. So much good material in there and it’s Jerry’s actual voice on the interviews so that’s a joy, too. He mentions this fiddle player, Scotty Stoneman, in a couple of the interviews and that ended up being a very useful vein to mine on the streaming services and it yielded a live show where he’s playing with Clarence White though you can’t hear Clarence too well on the recording. Still great listening and I could hear that sense of abandon and really long melodic phrases in Stoneman’s playing that Jerry was so drawn to.
I continued my deep dive into Bahamas. During a break in covid my son and a friend of mine headed up into NY to see Afie Jurvanen at Webster Hall and it did not disappoint even though it was a solo show and it would have been great to see him with a full band but, man, what a great player/performer/songwriter. I’ve gone back to his Live to Tape videos on YouTube so many times this year.
Also listed many times to Sierra Ferrell’s Long Time Coming. Great songwriting, fantastic performances. Such a listenable ablum, i should buy the vinyl version if its available (or would if they were not all sold out!). Her album deserves to be sold out, all killer, no filler!
Also, waded a bit into the Hiss Golden Messenger waters. I heard Way Back in the Way Back on our local 90.5 The Night radio station on my way to a gig. Immediately after hearing it on the radio I fired it up on Spotify and listened to it about 5 times in row. Love the guitar tone on the outro solo. I listened to a few albums and spun Quietly Blowing It many times and while they were all good, nothing grabbed me like that first song.
Same is mostly true about The War on Drugs latest, I Don’t Live Here Anymore. I spun that album quite a few times. I’m not sure if it’s because of a lack of hooks or just my lack of attention but nothing from those repeated listening really stuck with me though when I fire it up when I’m putting the dishes away in the kitchen, etc, there is a really nice comfortable familiarity to the album so it may just be taking a while for it to stick.
My son had been telling me about King Gizzard for months now and every time I put them on I just wasn’t feeling it. Until I heard their latest release, Butterfly 3000. Perhaps my favorite album of 2021. I love everything about this album from the songwriting to the sonic landscape. It’s all so new and fresh to my ears and melodic, too.
John Mayer Sob Rock. A few tracks on this really stuck with me and I love the whole shitpost vibe of the album and the sounds are just incredible and are like a nostalgia bath for the ears.
I have no idea how I landed on this album but I must have listened to it 25 times this year and still find it to be one of my favorite to listen to when I’m up before dawn waiting for a reasonable hour to start making coffee:
Really a bummer that iOS makes it so tricky to log listening to last.fm. While on vacation this week I haven’t been sitting at my computer that much and have been doing a bunch of listening on my iPhone and iPad and very little of what I’ve listened to is showing up in my log over at last.fm. I’ve discovered some great music this week and feel like a bunch of those discoveries are gone now because I have no easy way of resurfacing them. Agh. So frustrating.
I’ve been buying albums from new artists for the past year or so. If I find myself repeatedly listening to a new release on Spotify or Apple Music, I buy the record. It’s usually about $30 w/ shipping which is steep but I’ve long suspected that the margin is pretty good for the artist so, why not.
I use this service called readwise that helps me remember what I read. I’ve posted about it before.
Anyway, it occurs to me that I really need something similar for my listening. Like, what artists have I recently followed in Spotify or tracks I’ve dug Apple Music, etc. I think there’s probably some way to use iOS shortcuts to get at this info. Until then, I’ve resuscitated my last.fm account and paid for the year of Pro access so I can play around with the reports and API. I spent some time at lunch today hacking away at it. I think even just getting an email that looked like this grid below of my top albums from the past month would be a great first step. Note that some of these albums weren’t actually my top albums for the month but because of a bug in one of the apps I was using a bunch of songs got duplicate/triplicate counted. I think I’ve got that worked out. Anyway, nice little programming challenge for 2021!
I’m sure there are a bunch of really excellent use cases for the new focus mode in iOS but this one that I created yesterday is a total game-changer for me. On so many occasions I’ve been playing guitar or recording something in garage band and had a phone call or text interrupt the recording session and it is really a challenge to remember to put on do not disturb each time I launch a recording session in GB.
Enter focus mode! I created a focus mode that turns off all alerts/interuptions called “Recording” and set it so that the mode is engaged every time I launch Garage Band. Focus mode is pretty intelligent and automatically puts all of my iOS devices in “Recording” mode as soon as I launch Garage Band. This is awesome and I highly recommend it!
This is still in its infancy but it’s fantastic to see AirPlay 2 support making its way into Shairport/Linux. I haven’t tested this yet as I’ve been buying old AirPort Express (amazingly, they support AirPlay 2) devices to replace my Raspberry Pi’s but it’ll be fun to pull out a raspberry pi and try to get synchronized audio playing out on my patio speakers.
I love my iPad Pro for recording. My current workflow involves laying tracks into GarageBand and then either exporting the stems out to a Google Drive where one of my band mates adds them to our band’s Reaper projects or I dump the project to my Mac and play around with the mix in Logic.
But the best part about the iPad Pro as the nucleus of my recording setup is this:
This kind of flexibility can’t be beat. I’ve made and recorded more music over the past two weeks with this setup than I’ve made in years. Some of the motivation to record surely comes from Mirror Sound and just thumbing through those pages gave me all sorts of setup ideas.
Being able to just use a USB dongle and a midi keyboard/headphone setup for moving from room to room is very lightweight/portable setup. I am also very happy with my Akai MPK mini even if I don’t totally know how to use it to its full potential.
Using the iPad Pro, I can also plug in an audio interface and do the full microphone recording setup in my office is great. I’ve got a good template setup in GarageBand for the two mic multitrack setup so as soon as I have something to record I can just pop down on my stool, start a new project based on the template and hit record. Takes about 1 minute to get setup and it sounds really damn good.
That said, I’m hoping that Santa brings the new audio interface that I’ve asked for so I can stop using my Zoom H4N as that minute of setup time is due almost solely to how long it takes the zoom to connect as an audio interface. That, and I still haven’t found a really stable USB hub that allows me to run the interface, power and my midi keyboard concurrently in my iPad. But them’s first-world problems.
Signed up. It’s a no-brainer for my family as we were already on the 2TB cloud storage plan.
It’s got Ted Lasso. Enough said.
kidding. Still AppleTV+ has some terrific stuff on it. And Ted Lasso.
I’ve hated Apple News ever since it started asking me if I wanted to open RSS feeds in it but it seems to have stopped doing that maybe? And I’m curious to see how the audio version of news works. So, verdict is out on News.
Maybe the worst music service, ever. But I sync my Spotify lists over to Apple Music and can play them on my HomePods so, there’s that. We had Spotify Family. I think I’m the only one who won’t fully make the jump to Apple Music so I kept the individual Spotify plan for myself and we’ll see how the rest of the family makes the transition. I don’t think they’ll miss Spotify like I would.
I don’t know what it is and am not likely going to find out.
Kinda excited to see how this pans out. I use Zwift right now but everything about Zwift’s bluetooth/hardware integration feels janky. Hoping Apple can do this better.
For the past several months I’ve been using Roon audio server to handle my home hi-fi listening. It’s a slightly pricey subscription model for what I use it for and I’m actively looking for an alternative. Basically, I just want a box that holds a bunch of lossless audio files and serves them up to my raspberry hi-fi/pi with a DAC on it.
Being able to control the playback through an iOS app is a must. So I’m on Roon and re-ripping a bunch of my CDs to lossless (opportunity provided by quarantine/working from home, an upside).
Besides listening to losslessly-ripped CDs, I am also really, really enjoying matrix recordings of Grateful Dead shows. Occasionally, (well, frequently) when I download matrix recordings, the .flac files are missing good metadata. Applying metadata to the Flac tracks can be a bit tricky so I thought I’d detail my process below.
Once you’ve downloaded a show, you’ll have a folder with a bunch of .flac files and usually a .txt file that contains the show information.
You’re going to want to “tag” your Flac files using the information contained in that .txt file. There are a handful of Mac apps that do meta-tagging on audio files but I use one called xACT.
X Audio Compression Toolkit does a zillion things but the one thing it does that nothing else seems to do is take a text file of song information and apply it sequentially to a bunch of audio files.
So, if you’re great-sounding flac matrix recording files are missing metadata, here’s how you fix that problem, easily, in xACT.
Open the app and hit the “tags” tab.
Load the Flac files into the listing on the left side of screen.
Next, open the .txt file that accompanied the flac files and you’ll find a listing of the songs like this:
You’ll want to edit this list to get rid of any line breaks, extra info, etc. I use TextMate to do this and it take about 2 seconds to create this:
The key here is you want exactly as many lines in the file as there are tracks in the xACT window. It will apply each line to the files sequentially. Brilliant. So, highlight the track listing (remember no blank lines!) now, in xACT click the small “Auto-name” box next to the “Title” tag field. This will pull up a window into which you can paste your sequential track names.
Click OK and then “Write Tags” in xACT. Bammo!! There you go.
I also like to add album art, the Venue, etc. and then click “Write Tags” again before uploading the tracks to my Roon Audio player so when I’m done it looks like:
Note that as long as all of the tracks are highlighted on the left you won’t actually see the Track name displayed. You want them all selected when applying Artist, etc. You can click an individual track to confirm that the Track name was applied.
Once I import that show into Roon it looks like this:
My new favorite Keyboard Maestro shortcut allows me to toggle between audio outputs (Built In Output device and my USB output). The Built in volume controls my iMac speakers, the USB output controls my Amp. So, combined with the superb Rogue Amoeba’s SoundSource, I can easily bounce back and forth between controlling my music volume (Roon, Spotify, archive.org) and my Zoom volume using my keyboards volume controls. This sounds like it would be easy and it is, sort of, by using switchaudiosource-osx (available as brew install switchaudio-osx from command line).
Anyway, this is a huge problem solver for me. Stoked. Click pic below for larger version if you want to see the actions.
On facebook the other day, a friend asked for some Grateful Dead live show recording suggestions the other day.
I can’t imagine a show that I wouldn’t listen to but I list some recent favorites down below.
There is always gold to be mined in every show, somewhere.
That said, for the past year I’ve been really enjoying matrix recordings of live shows, where an audio engineer takes a really good Soundboard recording and one or two really good audience recordings and layers them on top of one another.
I go through phases where I really just like audience recordings and sometimes when I like the clarity of really good SBD but matrix recordings are another world entirely, sort of the best of both worlds but greater than the sum the parts if you know what I mean.
Generally I categorize shows into a handful of eras -early w/ Pigpen – shows with just billy on drums-my favs, good Wall of Sound recordings circa ’74, good ’77 shows when jerry was at one of his peaks of creativity and dexterity and then the later stuff-mid 80s onward into the 90s which probably has about 3 sub-categories e.g. with Bruce, etc. but all of these categories are generally meaningless.
Sometimes in the 80s jerry plays like he did in the early 70s. He was really a magical guitar player whose catalog of ideas were like lines of poetry that he would go back to mine again and again and again. But anyway. I have been listening to about 20 or so different matrix recordings this year. Some of them standout, but they’re all standouts to me and I would have loved to have been at any one of these shows. So here’s a little sample of some matrix recordings worth listening to: