April 2020

I’m very late with this month’s playlist post, sorry:

Lucky For You – Novo Amor, Gia Margart – This bass is really nice; reminds me of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers though I’m not sure what song. Any ideas? Their voices go really well together.

Gloria – Henry Jamison – A nice song, and then you get to the chorus and the bass kicks in and it’s great.

Putting The Dogs To Sleep – The Antlers – I really love those guitar strikes; its a powerful call and response between the vocal and another instrument.

This Is Not Who I Want To Be – Joanna Sternberg – Really exquisite song writing. The melody in the verse is really just a few notes, which I would never be brave enough to do, but the way the chords move underneath really works.

New Partner – Palace Music – This is one of those songs that you’re sure you’ve heard before even when you never have. Unless I had and didn’t remember. Either way lovely chorus; nice overlapping harmonies.

Stranger’s Kiss – Alex Cameron, Angel Olsen – Another duet. The production is really interesting. I thought it must be from the eighties but it’s modern. The song writing is reminiscent of that time too. Reminds me of “Total Eclipse Of The Heart”, which can never be a bad thing.

Every day is a Sisyday

Living in with restrictions on what we can do means that all the days start to feel the same. We start to lose track of what day of the week it is, since it doesn’t really matter anyway. I’ve started feeling like a need a word to use when I can’t remember the day of the week. It needs to be a new word for a day of the week which connects to the idea that every day is the same.

Most of our days of the week are named after Norse gods, but I struggled to find a figure in Norse mythology who would represent the idea of the relentless repetition of every day being the same. Often people used “Groundhog day” in this way in reference to the film, but it seems like a bit of a corruption of the original idea.

Instead I’ve started calling every day “Sisyday” in reference to Sisyphus whose fate it was to push a boulder up a hill every day for eternity. If you feel similarly about life in lockdown you’re welcome to use it!

Glitter

Every year Automattic gets together for a week long meetup, to reconnect with old colleagues, meet new ones and enjoy spending time together in person. At the end of the week we have a big dinner, the Automattic band play some music and there’s lots of dancing; we let our hair down and have a good time.

This new song is inspired by the feeling at the end of that party, the end of the week, and the feelings that time generated. I had some help with it…

Cover art for Glitter - A photo of a classic VW bus with a photobooth inside it and two people standing outside. There are costume clothes for people to put on. Over laid in a paper cut style is a disco ball, some paper cups, some shoes and some glitter.
Cover art by Hannah Pearson

Lyrics

Grab your coat
And take it with you
We are leaving
This party soon

Disco ball shines
In the rising sun
Empty cups dance
Let's lay in the grass

Now your makeup's blurred and there's glitter in your hair
We danced till the moon had gone
Now your makeup's blurred and there's glitter everywhere
What do we now the music is done?

Talking about
All of the things
We can't say feelings
Let's pretend we are teens

Alcohol spins
Hands are touching
Lets forget
It's tomorrow

Now your makeup's blurred and there's glitter in your hair
We've danced till the moon has gone
Now your makeup's blurred and there's glitter everywhere
What do we now the music is done?

Sprinklers start
Shoes have been lost
Don't close your eyes
Let's never sleep

Distant friends laugh
Adult kids play
Now it's getting cold
Let's go back and do what we're told

Available on Spotify and everywhere else

March 2020 Playlist

I Only Ever Loved Your Ghost – Jens Kuross – Jens Kuross was a new discovery for this month. This is such a lovely song.

Phantom Other – Department Of Eagles – Give it time. It’s a slow burner, but the end is just so weird and wonderful!

Do You Want To Build A Snowman – Stellar Kart – This punk cover of the Frozen classic just works really well, in a surprising way. Especially the “I wish you could tell me why” line…

Restless Heart – Yasmin Williams – I remember years ago when I heard this version of Ocean by John Butler that I just wanted to listen to music like this forever. But the album version is a real disappointment. I became obsessed by this song and kind of ripped it off myself. However Yasmin Williams seems to have bottled the magic of this song, and this way of playing guitar and has it flowing out of every pore. I must listen to some more of her stuff…

Giant – Vampire Weekend – I suppose this was a b-side from Contra, but it’s really really good. I especially like the harmonies on “Califoooooornia”.

The Anchor – Jens Kuross – Another Jens Kuross song. This reminds me of Thom Yorke, which is high praise. Attention to detail in melody as well as production and instrumentation is often lacking and that’s where this really shines.

Po’ Howard / Green Corn – Lead Belly – I’ve been listening to a lot of old blues songs recently, spurred by my love of “Where did you sleep last night”. The first of these songs is really good.

On Video Calls

As more people start to isolate themselves we are turning to technology to connect more than we have ever done before. One of the most high bandwidth ways to connect is through video calls. I do a lot of video calls for work, so thought I’d share my experience and tips to help them go smoothly.

Muting

The most important thing to get right with a video call is the sound. It’s really important that the person who is trying to speak can be heard clearly. Therefore if you are in a noisy environment it’s best to have your microphone muted when you aren’t speaking.

Headphones

If you have more than one device connected to a call in the same space, it’s really important that you use headphones if you want to talk. If you don’t do this you will create a feedback loop. (This is because if you talk into one device and then it comes out of another, the first device will pick up the sound from the second and it will loop round).

Personally I find headphones immerse me in a conversation better and make it easier to focus on the call, so I would always recommend them if possible.

Conversations

When a call involves group discussion, it’s usually better to avoid having some people in the same location. The problem is that those people who are in the same location end up having discussions which can’t be heard by those who are joining remotely.

If you are in a call where you expect many people to speak, it is much better to have everyone join from their own device. This means everyone is interacting in the same way and ensures everyone can participate equally.

This can create strange situations where people in the same space end up going to different rooms for a call, but this is usually the best way to ensure that everyone can be involved equally.

Video

If possible its good to leave your video on so that the person who is speaking can see that you are listening and try to read the facial cues that would be normal in a real life conversation.

However sometimes if you have a poor internet connection, turning your video off might be a way to improve the quality of the call.

Microphones

If you really want to get fancy I would recommend using a headset with a boom mic (for example this one), as the sound quality really improves a lot when the microphone is close to your mouth.

February 2020 Playlist

Harvest Moon – Widowspeak – I heard this (or something that sounded a lot like it) on a trip to Portland this month. Then it turned up in my Discover Weekly. It’s a very nice chilled cover of this song, and very comforting on a cold rainy February day

A Case Of You – James Blake – Another cover. I keep discovering more James Blake songs that I love. He does a great job of making this his own.

Fight To Make It Up – Takénobu – I’ve never heard of Takénobu before, but I really like this. It’s a cello and a violin, and two voices, which is a very unusual combination. It reminds a lot of the Jesca Hoop and Sam Beam collaboration “Love Letter For Fire”.

Half-Light – Rostam (feat. Kelly Zutrau) – This is a really great song and really interesting production too. The way it develops is really interesting too, from piano, to a more full sound and then back down to a guitar.

Who Loves The Sun – The Velvet Underground – This sounds nothing like The Velvet Underground that I know. I can hear all sorts of things in here. Great harmonies too.

Summer Skin – Parekh & Singh – Another new discovery. The layers on this are really nice; its a good example of how different tracks melding together really well. Another lovely melody. I’m noticing how many of these songs allude to sunshine; probably because it’s February.

See You Soon (Acoustic) – Jukebox The Giant – This band is a new discovery for me. This song has a really nice melody. It’s a grower.

Goodbye February. I’ll be back.

January 2020 playlist

Every month I make a Spotify playlist with my discoveries for that month. This is the one for January:

Curls – Bibio: I love the combination of electronic and analog sounds. A very nice sound.

Killer + The Sound – Phoebe Bridgers, Noah Gunderson, Abby Gunderson: I keep seeing the name Phoebe Bridgers around. I need to check out more stuff by her.

Night Shift – Lucy Dacus: Really interesting words. I love the way this explodes at the end. The chorus is super catchy too.

Warm Foothills – atl-j: A good song and a really nice warm sound.

Sing About It – The Wood Brothers: A very useful message

Funeral Singers – Sylvan Esso & Collections Of Colonies Of Bees: This is really interesting combination of the darkness of Sylvan Esso and the warmth of COCOB.

Masterpiece – Big Thief: Big Thief are my new obsession. I would have added a couple more songs to this month but I try to keep to one per artist. This song is a masterpiece.

I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free – Nina Simone: Not a new discovery, but it had a whole new meaning to me this month.

You’re The One – Dirty Projectors, Robin Pecknold, Rostam: Another interesting collaboration. These voices compliment each other really really well. More please!

Cut Your Bangs – Girlpool: This reminds me of Best Coast. The melody is exquisite. I keep expecting it to break out into a noisy chorus but it never delivers. Maybe that’s ok.

Model Railway For Sale

My friend’s grandfather moved house, leaving a model railway in his loft. It was headed for the rubbish dump, so I tried to rescue as much as I could. Much of it ended up being broken or damaged, but I expect much of it will be of use to someone. There is a lot. It’s listed on ebay.

You can bid on ebay.

It’s not a train track.

Vocoder Only playlist

Ever since I heard “Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap in 2005 I have been obsessed with songs that only use a vocoder. I have only ever found four of them:

Do you know any more? The only rule is that they have to be a cappella songs that use some vocal harmony effect.

Books I read on my sabbatical

One of the many great benefits of working for Automattic is the three month sabbatical, which I have just completed. Among other things I spent a lot of time listening to audiobooks. Here is my complete list of sabbatical listening/reading: