Best albums; and yeah, even in order of preference:
Shall Noise Upon — Apollo Sunshine: came to this completely cold, having never even heard of them. Stylistically all over the place: whisky and hellfire on one track giving way to mellow dippiness that I think even McCa would blanch at. Ultimately, it’s Singing To The Earth (To Thank Her For You) that sold it to me.
Funplex — The B-52′s: worth the wait from 1992. Fun dance music with gleefully smutty lyrics. Now my very favourite B-52′s album.
Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes — The Music Tapes: look, it’s got Freeing Song By Reindeer on it. If it doesn’t make you shed tears of joy while you caterwaul Ride the elves’ cloven-hooved horsey … along with Julian, there’s something wrong with you.
Proof of Love — Old Man Luedecke: Chris Luedecke just gets better and better as a songwriter, and his self-deprecating stage persona as Old Man Luedecke is a hoot.
Recapturing the Banjo — Otis Taylor: great banjo work from this bluesman.
Everytime! —Sheesham & Lotus: the high-steppin’, cake-walkin’ fiddle, banjo and harmonica duo release their first official album, recorded in crackly faux-78 “Sepiatone”. Almost as much fun as seeing them live.
Earth Sciences — Laura Barrett: Toronto’s queen of the kalimba‘s second EP wins out over her full length release (Victory Garden), in that the EP has Robot Ponies, and doesn’t have the annoying final track which appears to be all of the other tracks layered on top of one another.
Luna — The Aliens: Piper-era Floyd mixed with the Beach Boys, all fed through a special Fife filter.
Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust — Sigur Rós: I still have no idea what they’re singing about, but I wish they’d keep doing it.
Near Miss: Holler and Stomp — Dressy Bessy: angular bubblegum pop, quite delightful. Definitely Demented: Live! From CarnEGGy Hall — Orriel Smith: seriously, coloratura chicken impersonations. Beyond weird, and beyond brilliant. It Came Out Last Year, So Now It’s All Car Ads: Oh, My Darling — Basia Bulat: despite that, it’s great. And she plays autoharp.
Sad to hear that Oliver Postgate passed away. Bagpuss was my series; it started just as I started school, and I caught the first episodes. I spent the whole evening learning the theme on the mandolin, and watched a couple of episodes, half-teary. Was it really nearly 35 years ago?
The music and sounds are what stuck with me. I didn’t know it at the time – but did as soon as I picked one up – that the Bagpuss waking up magic sound is a slow upwards glissando on an autoharp. Similarly, the falling asleep sound is an autoharp strummed slowly downwards. Gabriel’s instrument confused me for years – I now see it has a 5 string banjo neck, but no fifth string (like someone else I could name). To add further confusion, it’s really a mandolin that’s Gabriel’s sound.
I went to hear Chris Coole yesterday at The Local, and got pressed into the not-very-arduous duty of looking after the levels. With only voice and instrument, it’s not that hard, and I only once managed to produce an ear-splitting blast of feedback. There was a slight ring if Chris leaned forward and his guitar started to feed back a couple of times.
I also ran my first soundboard-audience matrix recording rig, with the PMD620 recording off the board, and my old minidisc recording from my table. The Local’s not short of ambient noise, so it’s nice to control it. The board gives a clean but rather dead mono recording, while the audience mics pick up lots of colour (and dropped plates, door chimes, …)
I haven’t put the full matrix together yet, but tried it on one excerpted song. Once you know what you’re doing, aligning tracks in Audacity is pretty simple – just find a clear note or beat in each track, get the tracks roughly aligned with the Time Shift tool, then zoom in as close as you can to refine the match. I suppose I should have delayed the audience track by about 0.01s to mimic the distance from the stage, but that’s a bit nerdy. Limiting the audience to 25% of the final mix, I get a great warm sound, but one that’s unfortunately almost entirely monaural.
Having had a chance to watch Julian play at close range, he plays a regular five string with the fifth removed. It sounds like he tunes DGBD, but I could be wrong.
His strum style is almost like a jazz banjo rhythm, but done without a pick. The one song he played used a familiar progression: first and fourth strings fretted at the 5th, then both down to 4th, to 2nd, then up to 3rd. Try it – it’s fun!
My home server went phut last week. There was a brief power outage, and everything else came back on — except the server. It was a three year old Mini-ITX box, and I’m casting about for ways to replace it.
To serve my immediate music serving and podcasting needs, I have pressed The Only Computer That Runs Windows into service, running Ubuntu using Wubi. Unfortunately, I do still occasionally need to run Garmin Mapsource, which only runs on Windows, and also The Only Computer That Runs Windows is also rather too nice a laptop to be sat doing server duty.
I have some options:
Get a new motherboard for the mini-itx box. Via still has some crazy ideas about pricing (over $200 for a fanless C7?) but maybe I’ll go for Intel’s snappily-named D945GCLF, which looks okay for what I need and is only $80.
I could resurrect the old Athlon box I got in 2002, but it’s big, loud, and its components are probably near end of life. Also, why disturb a mature spider habitat?
What I was really looking for was one of those tiny fanless internet appliance boxes that were so 2007 (like the Koolu and the Zonbu, both of which have moved on to otherthings), but such units, without the tied storage service contract, are upwards of $500.
I fear I may have to play by the “best of” rules that everyone else plays by this year. As I have had to rip and encode all of my albums this year, I can’t tell which older releases I bought this year. So here are the 2008 releases:
A Sound Legacy: 60 Years of Folkways Records and 20 Years of Smithsonian Folkways
Accelerate — R.E.M.
April — Sun Kil Moon
Bad Case of History — Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians
Cheap — Seasick Steve
Como Now: The Voices of Panola Co., Mississippi
Conor Oberst — Conor Oberst
Devotion — Beach House
Earth Sciences — Laura Barrett
Electronic Projects for Musicians — The Apples in Stereo
Everytime! — Sheesham and Lotus
Funplex — The B-52′s
Holler and Stomp — Dressy Bessy
In a Cave — Elf Power
Live at the Moonshine Café — Steve Payne with Al Lerman
Live! From CarnEGGy Hall — Orriel Smith
Luna — The Aliens
Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust — Sigur Rós
Modern Guilt — Beck
Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes — The Music Tapes
Julian Koster played at our house last night as part of his Music Tapes Caroling tour. We had one other guest, Dan Farrar from Dunnville. It was a great night. Julian played some Music Tapes classics (he played Freeing Song by Reindeer, my favourite ‘Tapes song so far), while Badger Saw played some carols. A fun night.
Julian plays Freeing Saw by Reindeer, while Badger Saw and Rudolph the dog look on