2016 in Music

As the year slowly crawls to an end, it’s time to line up those yearly summary posts again. First out is my year in music.

I usually use a bit of Last.fm data and Spotify‘s year in review-feature to brag about my fantastic taste in music. But this year, Spotify is lagging a bit behind schedule on getting the data online. Either that, or they’ve decided to not do it in 2016. No need to worry, though, because the great minds at Last.fm has decided to go all in with their own Your Year in Music feature.

And what a great job they’ve done. Beautiful data everywhere!

According to Last.fm, my top 50 artists for 2016 were Lonely The Brave, Nothing But Thieves, Biffy Clyro, Sync24, Bersarin Quartett, Aes Dana, Astropilot, Black Foxxes, Solar Fields, Brian Eno, GoGo Penguin, Tycho, Hol Baumann, Nils Frahm, Ben Lukas Boysen, Asura, H.U.V.A. Network, The Midnight, Hammock, Kent, Mutemath, Carbon Based Lifeforms, Nujabes, FM-84, Hidden Orchestra, HVOB, All Tvvins, Ulrich Schnauss, I Awake, Moderat, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Boards of Canada, The Weeknd, Circular, Coldplay, Koan, Frank Sinatra, Ishome, Kettel, Cell, Ben Howard, Lymbyc Systym, Brambles, Moddi, deadmau5, Kristian Kristensen, Yosi Horikawa, DumDum Boys, Frank Turner, Metallica, and Volbeat.

It’s the usual mix of electronica and altrock, spiced up with a little Las Vegas Big Band & Jazz. Interestingly, British act Lonely the Brave manages to keep the number one spot on my list this year as well. They played support for Biffy Clyro (3rd most poular band this year) in Oslo in late October. Somehow, I managed to miss that concert. I beat myself up pretty bad because of that.

The Most Relaxing Sounds on the Internet

I don’t know about you, but I can’t really concentrate while listening to other people’s chatter. Sitting in a shared office space, then, makes it challenging to focus on solving a difficult problem. And getting into the flow we code monkeys yearn to settle in, is outright impossible. The solution for me is to put on a pair of nice, noise-cancelling1 headphones, and tune into some of my favorite relaxing sounds on the internet.

For your reference, here’s a list of my go-to sites and sources:

  • You are listening to. This brilliant service takes random ambient tracks from SoundCloud and mix them together with police scanner chatter from a big American city of your choice. I get the irony in the fact that I just wrote I can’t concentrate when listening to chatter, and now I’m recommending a service that features it. But it works surprisingly well as background static.
  • White noise generators. What works even better as background static is actual background static. White noise is awesome for getting in the zone, but it takes a little practice. Any white noise generator should do. Just search the internet for “white noise generator“, pick a random one and you’re good to go.
  • Rainy Mood. If you need something a bit more tangible than white noise, you should give Rainy Mood a try. It’s exactly what it says on the tin: Rain sounds. You do run the risk of falling asleep while listening to this one, though, so stay away from it right after lunch.
  • SomaFM. This online radio station is home to several awesome electronica streams. Their main attraction is Groove Salad, which I’ve been listening to on and off ever since SomaFM came online in 2000. Among their other top notch channels are Drone Zone, DEF CON Radio, and Space Station Soma.
  • Ambient Space Music. This is a Spotify playlist compiled by some random fella named Evan Witten. This might be him. Or not. It’s not important. What’s important is that his Ambient Space Music playlist is amazing.
  • Ultimae Records. French record label Ultimae Records is home to some of the biggest names in ambient, and downbeat electronica. Solar Fields, AES DANA, and Carbon Based Lifeforms are just a few of the amazing artist attached to this label. The same Evan who is responsible for the Ambient Space Music playlist, has also taken upon himself to compile a playlist of everything Ultimae Records has released that is available on Spotify. Great stuff.
  • c0ding 4 Fun & Profit. Another Spotify playlist, and a shameless plug from myself. This is where I collect tunes that are not in any of the other playlists, or tunes that work very well whenever I need to focus.

If this doesn’t make your day at the office better, nothing will. Except maybe for some coke.

As an added bonus, I’ve also got a (collaborative) playlist that’s great if you’re ever forced to work in Confluence. It won’t help you relax, but it’s great for channeling that Confluence anger.

RIP Kent (1990-2016)

One of my favorite rock bands, Swedish Kent, has decided to call it quits. Here’s why that’s no real catastrophe.

After 26 active years, the band will release their final album, “Då som nu för alltid”, this year, pushing the number of released studio albums to a very respective 14. The album will be followed by a Scandinavian tour, concluding with the closing concert on 17 December.

I first discovered Kent when they released their third album, Isola, back in 1997, but didn’t really fall head over heels in love with the band until the release of their fourth album, Hagnesta Hill. After that, I obtained copies of what I missed from their back catalog and continued to purchase new Kent releases on CD up until the 7th release, Tillbaka till samtiden, in 2007. From there on out, Spotify has covered my musical needs, including new Kent releases. Over the years I’ve also gone to a fair number of Kent concerts, and my closet is full of well-worn, washed out, and too small band t-shirts – because you don’t throw away band t-shirts.

OK Go: “Upside Down & Inside Out”

OK Go is back with another one of their brilliant single take videos. This time, they’ve decided to use Facebook as their launch platform. I can’t embed anything from Facebook without logging in, and that’s hard to do without an account. Even with one, I’m not sure if it would be possible to embed the video on my own site.

Someone has of course uploaded the video to YouTube already, so here’s a nice embed for you:

If the video is pulled from YouTube, you can also watch it on Facebook.

Once Upon A Time In Shaolin

Is music art? Most people would probably regard Johann Sebastian Bach‘s compositions as art, while fewer would give the same label to Ariana Grande‘s work. One group of people who definitively define music as art is Wu-Tang Clan. In March 2014, the New York City hip hop group announced that they would be releasing exactly one copy of their next album, Once Upon in Shaolin. Many artists make special collector’s editions of their albums, but Wu-Tang certainly decided to take it to the next level, as explained by member RZA:

“The idea that music is art has been something we advocated for years. And yet its doesn’t receive the same treatment as art in the sense of the value of what it is, especially nowadays when it’s been devalued and diminished to almost the point that it has to be given away for free. […] We’re about to put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of [modern] music. We’re making a single-sale collector’s item. This is like somebody having the scepter of an Egyptian king.”

You might think that this isn’t really a problem for people who would want to listen to the album. Sure, that one exclusive copy would be expensive, but why couldn’t a record label simply purchase the album and make it available through streaming and hard copies? They’d quickly cover the cost of purchasing the master album through licensing and sale of copies, wouldn’t they? In theory, it’s a great idea, but the good fellas of Wu-Tang are way ahead of you: The sales contract contains a clause that the album can’t be commercially exploited until 88 years after its purchase. It can be exhibited publicly and it can be given away for free, however, but that meant the buyer had to be a good guy without any commercial incentives, and people like that are few and far between.

Disregarding RZA’s massive ego, I thought what Wu-Tang was doing with Once Upon A Time In Shaolin was brilliant.