It took a while, but I finally took the big step and made a couple of my tracks public on SoundCloud. I’ve had the interest in and desire to make my own music for a long time, but I finally got around to it when I bought my first MIDI controller keyboard a couple of months ago. It came with Ableton Live Lite, and that’s where I started.
Next step was an excellent course on the always excellent Coursera that led me to produce my first two (well, actually three) tracks. They are both made for assignments in that course.
Both tracks are a bit rough around the edges, but they were submitted in time for a deadline. I’ll finish them later, I swear.
The same Coursera course also led me to the excellent music collaboration platform blend.io which is where I share my work. Right now I’m working a new project called “NewProject”. All my work is shared there under a creative commons non-commercial license. Information wants to be free, man …
I’ve since replaced my cheap 61 key MIDI controller with a much better quality 25 key MIDI controller from Akai – the MPK225, as well as gotten my hands on an audio interface and a decent recording microphone. Next step is getting the Novation Launchpad Pro when it’s released – any day now! Oh, and I got a license for Ableton Live too, taking advantage of the weak Euro. That software is amazing!
Oh, 2011. Such a nice year in music it was. I want to follow up on my hugely successful post about the top 10 albums of 2010 with a similar list for 2011. As a service each album will also include a link to that album on Spotify and/or Rdio, if it exists there. That should make the music accessible to anybody, because let’s face it: You suck if you don’t have a Spotify or Rdio account. Or maybe you’re just not interested in music? Anyway, consuming music these days is soooo easy with services like these, and 2012 will probably be the first year where I don’t buy a single CD. I bought 1 CD in 2011, and that CD is obviously on the list below – the music purchase itself wasn’t exactly a great success. Well, I actually still subscribe to the excellent FabricLive compilation series to get my fix of contemporary music from the British Underground. It’s actually possible to purchase that compilation as downloads instead of a physical CD, but I simply can’t get myself to pay for music (or movies for that matter) if I can’t handle a tangible object. So in that way the premium streaming services are a very good way for me to stay legit along with the excellent Google Music service which allows me to stream my entire music collection from my Android phone.
Inspirations and sources
The streaming services are also an excellent way to discover new music through their excellent use of various social networks, and that is the source of a lot of the music I’ve discovered this year. As always Roskilde Festival and their always excellent lineup is a great source of inspiration, and I can’t help myself from being heavily influenced by some of the live shows I’ve seen with a couple of the artists in my list. I really love a good live show although I haven’t seen quite as much as I would have liked to in 2011. And that’s probably going to get even worse in 2012 when the junior DJ makes his scheduled arrival in late February. Oh well …
I listen to a lot of music on my bike commute to work. This is the perfect setting for the more difficult music that requires some contemplation to settle. Another scene is the office speakers, but that only works with music that everyone can accept, as this is a working environment, so we definitely listen to a lot of chill wave. And the last setting is the gym, where the intensity of the music sets the intensity of the workout.
Stuff that didn’t quite make the cut
Tough decision to get the shortlist down to 10 albums, but you always have to make a choice. I really wanted to add some Skrillex (rdio / spotify) to the list, since 2011 was the year I discovered his awesome electronic music, but his best album is from 2010, and the stuff he has done in 2011 is good, but not quite good enough for the top 10. Another one that almost made it was Pala by Friendly Fires (rdio / spotify), but again this album isn’t quite as good as the first one. Cults (rdio / spotify) almost made it, but I guess I decided not to give in to the hype. Another one that didn’t make it was The War on Drugs with Slave Ambient (rdio / spotify). With this one I guess I find it really annoying that I can’t tell the album title from the artist title. And one of my favourite Danish hip hop acts Suspekt didn’t quite make it with their Elektra). I was really impressed with that one on listening to it the first couple of times, but it slipped out of my mind after a while. Also it isn’t quite as good as Prima Nocte from 2007.
I’m moving well outside of my comfort zone with Mastodon. It’s almost metal, and the live concert I caught at Roskilde Festival last summer featured several variations of mosh pits right in front of me, which isn’t something I typically see at concerts, although I fully appreciate how it adds to the atmosphere of the event. Not a lot of acts in this range of the genre spectrum on my all time favourite list, but since I discovered Mastodon through “Crack the Skye” I’ve been a fan. Incredible skill combined with excellent production quality where you can actually distinguish each instrument instead of the typical wall of distorted noise you hear in other metal. Compositions and harmonies are of equal high quality and the drummer is out of this world. Favourite moment is where the drums build up the composition of the whole song during the intro of “Dry Bone Valley”. They’re also excellent live and I was soooo tempted to join the mosh pit last summer, but it’s probably a good thing I didn’t. I guess Mastodon is what Metallica would be if Metallica didn’t suck …
First Danish act on the list this year. Nanna Øland was clever in picking this name for herself, since she is clearly aiming for something much bigger than Denmark and she clearly has the potential to break through. Also she is really hot … I love the ambition this lady has – the first track of the album is even called Perfection. Despite the name of that track the album isn’t perfect, and there are tracks I usually skip over, but there are amazing tracks as well. The combination of beautiful grand scale compositions with electronic elements and Nanna’s amazing voice really do it for me in tracks such as “White Nights”, “We Turn It Up” and “Sun of a Gun”. Oh Land reminds me of another wonderful Danish artist named Randi Laubek who did two amazing albums more than 10 years ago but got too cutesy after that. I hope Oh Land retains her edge and I can’t wait to hear and see what the future holds for her.
She actually performed around the corner from where I live, but unfortunately I was busy trying to do a surprise audition for Simon Cowell at the Ago on Melrose that night. Hoping to catch her next time she is in LA.
Chase & Status had a sure spot in my list, but then they almost blew it by being the biggest disappointment live when I caught them at Roskilde Festival. There are so many potent tracks on this album that I could imagine would work wonders in a live setting and I had really been warming up to the concert in the months before it by listening to the album LOUD when working out. Roskilde Festival always has amazing sound at their concert and electronic music almost always works live. Except on this occasion. The sound was bad and not nearly loud enough and there was a bad angry (not good angry, such as during Mastodon – bad angry!) atmosphere. They even cut the front of house sound at one time during the concert to keep the crowd from going mental, and the act kept playing because nobody had told them the only sound that could be heard came from their monitors,
So I actually stopped listening to the album after that. Frightened Rabbit suffered a similar fate a couple of years ago when I realised the lead singer sounds horrible live. I forgave Frightened Rabbit because the albums sound really good, and I’m willing to forgive Chase & Status as well. Their music is way too powerful to be dismissed because of one bad live experience, and I actually think I would give them a second chance if they came to a club near me. The music is really intense, the buildup during the tracks is always amazing and it’s not really possible to find a bad track on the album. The guest list is also really good and adds a good variation to the album.
It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for Kanye West and the way he brands himself. He happened to do the best album and the best single of 2010 and he is probably the best hip hop producer right now. And Jay Z is another old favourite of mine and one of the finest and most skilled rappers ever. So this collaboration was eagerly anticipated by yours truly. Kanye West always manages to balance on the edge of being way too much in everything he does, but he hasn’t tipped over the edge yet and this is no exception. The album is a grand masterpiece of pop hip hop and Jay Z definitely got his swagger back. “Lift Off” with is a perfect example of how the production is almost too much – it starts with an ” All Engines Running” sampling and the song really lifts off with a grand horn section and Beyoncés glorious contribution. Everything is turned up to 11 in this one and it just works.
The Watch the Throne tour definitely adds to the grandeur of this collaboration. I was fortunate enough to attend it a couple of weeks ago and it was a tour de force from two gentlemen with an incredible catalogue of songs and the knowledge that they are the kings. Kanye West started “All of the Lights” over 3 times because he wasn’t satisfied with the response from the audience and they ended the show by playing “Niggas in Paris” seven times in row and turning the Staples Center into a gigantic rave.
I somehow managed to miss “In Ghost Colours” when it was released in 2008 so I didn’t know Cut Copy until Zonoscope received a very favourable review in Pitchfork in early 2011. But I’m glad I read that review and got to know Cut Copy. It’s a little difficult for me to tell my impression of the two albums apart since I started listening to them at the same time, but they’re both really good. This is also the first album on the list found acceptable by the working environment, so it’s been given a lot of airplay at the office. I don’t know what it is about this album, but it just makes me really happy. Maybe it’s the pictures it creates in my mind? I love the way “Need you now” builds up and adds new layers for every verse until it puts all of the layers on top of each other at the end. Music for dancing, that’s for sure
4/5 – Washed Out: Within and Without & M83: Hurry Up We’re Dreaming
You might be surprised to find these albums so far up the list once you’ve read all the bad things I’m about to say about them. These two albums are at the peak of the Chill Wave that really hit hard in 2011 and they’re very alike in my opinion, hence the shared ranking. Chill Wave is the equivalent of lounge music of the 90′s in that nobody can be offended by it, it works as background music for sex and it doesn’t really mean anything. This music is also acceptable to everyone in the office, since it is acceptable to everybody. I haven’t bothered listening to the lyrics for any of the albums, since both titles are just so damned stupid that I can’t really be bothered to start paying attention. In writing this I just realised there is a track on the bonus dics for “Hurry Up We’re Dreaming” called “My Tears are Becoming a Sea”. I rest my case …
But where lounge music is really, really bad, both of these albums are really, really good if you allow yourself to be sucked into the wave. Like Air back when they still mattered. Ridiculous music, but at the same time beautiful and sexy.
Hooray, the king of the hipsters made my list along with every other “Best of music in 2011″ list out there. There are many things that get me really offended about Bon Iver, his beard, his flannel shirts and his staying in a cabin in the woods to record his previous album. But maybe these are traits of his fans and not of Justin Vernon himself? I mean, he actually seems like a guy who wants to create incredible music and not worry too much about maintaining an image. He did after all contribute to the incredible “Lost in the World” with Kanye West on the number one album last year.
“For Emma, Forever Ago” is definitely too introvert for me and I dismissed it and Bon Iver when I heard it a while ago. But this new album is incredible. Every single track is amazing. The way it opens in “Perth” sends shivers down my spine every time I listen to it and Justin Vernon sings like an angel. And when it breaks into the chorus first time it is almost too much to bear. “Holocene” made me want to re-learn playing guitar.
I bet that guy gets laid a lot, but I bet he has also helped a lot of other guys getting laid by giving us this incredible album. Bon Iver is the reason I want to go to Roskilde Festival next year even though I don’t have any vacation to spend on it because of the arrival of the Junior DJ. Speaking of the Junior DJ I’m planning on letting his or her arrival in this world be accompanied by this incredible album.
Malk de Koijn can’t be easily found on the streaming services. They’re way too old school for that. They’ve also managed to assemble an incredible fan base after they dissolved back in 2003 (or 4?) so obviously they wanted to sell real physical albums instead of making 1/8000 of a cent every time someone plays one of their songs on Spotify. Well I’m really old and part of the original fan base that actually liked and loved the best rap group in the universe before the fan base went ballistic around 2008. I have two copies of each of the first two albums so naturally I had to own a physical copy of “Toback to the Fromtime”. I ordered from Target Distribution well in advance of the release and paid around $40 to have it shipped to the US. It arrived several weeks after the official and had a huge scratch that ruined every single track on the album. I reached out to Target but never managed to get hold off anyone. Fortunately for me there are many fans out there, so when I announced the horrible state of my CD on Facebook no less than 5 of my friends uploaded a digital (and almost legal) copy of the entire album in various places for me to download. Thanks, guys, you are true friends.
UPDATE: I somehow managed to write the wrong email at Target Distribution. When I wrote to the right one, they got back to me almost immediately and shipped a brand new, un-scratched version of the CD. Thanks, Target.
I have so many great memories with Malk de Koijn, and most of them have something to do with Roskilde Festival. 2007 was the muddiest year in Roskilde history and we were pretty miserable most of the time. I remember one late night when it was impossible to find anything to drink, but our neighbours offered to share their horrible red wine with us on the condition that we would play Malk de Koijn really loud on our camp stereo. Great party, and shortly after we found several beers buried in the mud.
2003 had us all struggling to stay awake for the Malk de Koijn concert that started Monday morning at 3.30 am. I remember buying a case of beer around 1.30 am when everything seemed dire to restart the party. It worked and most of us made it up there for a perfect concert, excluding one friend, let’s call him D, who almost aggressive when we tried to wake him up for the concert he had been babbling about all week. I remember biking 20 miles home after the concert ended.
2009 was the re-union of Malk de Koijn at Roskilde Festival. That was one eagerly anticipated concert, and a lot of the festival was about planning how to make it to the front of the stage for the 2 am concert Saturday night. Due to a most unfortunate turn of events I kinda forgot to sleep between Friday and Saturday so my chances for making the concert were pretty bad if I had had a normal festival Saturday. The weather didn’t exactly help – it was unbelievably hot and my wife actually dropped from a heatstroke sometime around noon. I stayed away from the festival site all day gathering my strength in the shade of our camp and didn’t see a single concert. We went to the festival site around 9.30pm to get in line for the concert, more than 4 hours before the scheduled start, and the line already had hundreds of people in it. Staying in the line wasn’t too bad at first, as we were able to get food and beer and sit down to enjoy it, but a couple of hours before it started, somebody got to their feet in the line and a chain reaction forced us all to stand in order not to lose our place in the line. The next couple of hours were not the funniest of my life, and we lost most of the group, including one unfortunate friend, let’s call him D, who had also missed his sleep between Friday and Saturday but hadn’t spent the day gathering the necessary strength to make it to the concert.
Standing in that line sucked – I remember being hit by a plastic glass of water that was thrown from the the front of the line. I could see it coming from a distance, but I couldn’t move and I couldn’t get my hands up, so it hit me lige i face. And when they finally opened the gates, we didn’t make it into the closed pits, and the crowds were going really mental in their eagerness to get in. We were stuck 6 meters from the gates but couldn’t reach them. After 15 minutes the gates were opened again to let a new group of people in, and we really fought to get to the front of the line, but unfortunately they were closed rightin front of us. At this point an announcement was made that no more people would be let into the closed pits, and they told us to turn around. But there were still hundreds of people behind us, so we couldn’t even get away from our spot in front of the gates where we would miss not only the closed pits but also the general audience area. So things were looking really bad when the crowd manager with whom I was having a heated discussion received a transmission from the front of the stage. Shortly after he announced quietly that he had been allowed to let another 50 people in, and when they opened the gates my wife, one friend and myself were among the very last ones to be allowed into the garden of Eden. Completely worn out from the fatigue of standing in a horrible line for hours I still managed to jump several feet into the air, and one of the best concerts of my life started right at the point when we ran around the corner.
The Danish Broadcast Radio “released” a live recording of the entire concert and listening to the audience in between and during the songs brings back all those fantastic memories once again.
So plenty of memories and three amazing albums, the last one at least as good as the first two. But not the best album of 2011.
It’s worth asking the question of why “Bon Iver” isn’t the best album on my list. If we detach all the albums on this list from my context, it would be the best album. But this isn’t a list where I take myself, my memories, my experience and my expectations out of the equation. Music is about emotions, about how it makes you feel. About who you are when you experience it, how it moves you and changes you. Who you are sharing the experience with and how it makes you feel that you are sharing this experience with these other persons. The Malk de Koijn album brings back memories of so many great experiences and in it self it is a brilliant album. But when I listened to “Glass Swords” for the first time I immediately knew that this was the best album of 2011 and not even the return of the best rap group in the universe can change that. I regard music as the supreme art form, art as the supreme form of human expression and as such “Glass Swords” becomes one of the finest works of human expression I’ve ever experienced. This will probably not be the case with a lot of other people. I know the good people at my workplace really hated this album when I played it, but what I hear transcends time and space and takes me to another world. The aesthetic experience and expectations I bring into my encounter with this album transforms it into this magnificent work of art for me. My feelings are those I have when I see the opening scene in Blade Runner, when Arthur Dent and Slartibartfast travel through the planetary workshop in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, when reading the first two books in Orson Scott Card’s Ender Wiggin-series or when playing Turrican II as a 12 year old boy.
The soundtrack above is what it reminded me of. The most awesome soundtrack for a computer game ever, although I can appreciate that it might not sound that impressive today. But it certainly rocked my world in 1990 (or whenever it was).
Another reference is “Music has the Rights to Children” by Boards of Canada. It has the same qualities in that it feels completely disconnected from time and takes me out of this world. “Music has the Rights to Children” is one of the best albums ever, and “Glass Swords” is as good as that.
“Glass Swords” sits in a niche where not a lot of people will appreciate the qualities it has, but it certainly hit the spot for me. My favourite music for travelling in the whole world, both on the inside and outside.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of music as a consumer and have been for a long time. I heard an interesting podcast the other day from the Danish radio station P1. The program was “Harddisken” and the topic of the podcast was on consumption of music in a modern world with a panel discussion between different lobbyists, one from the streaming service WIMP, one from the public library streaming service Bibzoom and one from the semi-public Danish music rights organization KODA.
The discussion wasn’t really a discussion – all of the panel members seemed to be in agreement that music streaming services are the best thing since sliced bread and that it will revitalize the music industry. But it got me thinking about the way my own consumption of music has changed over the years. The way I consume music is really a combination of my great two greatest interests: New music and technology.
The Napster Years
My preferences in music are very picky. I don’t want other people to choose for me, I believe in my own taste, although I am heavily inspired by some music resources, in particular Soundvenue Magazine and Pitchfork Media. But I don’t want anybody to choose my music for me, so some of the classic online music services like online radio and more modern genre-based services like Pandora don’t really work for me. I was one of the heavy users of Napster back in it’s prime for that very reason. To me, Napster was basically a gigantic music library where everything seemed available. My music taste wasn’t very evolved back then, and that might have been the reason why it felt like I could find everything I was looking for. After the slow death of Napster I had kind of a dead period of music consumption myself.
The CD years
When I eventually picked music up again I became bit of a HIFI geek, buying a decent amplifier, a CD deck and a set of very good (and very BIG) Dali speakers. I still had quite a large collection of illegally downloaded music, but my collection of music started growing by buying CDs which I then ripped to my computer. One thing that I’ve always really hated about illegally downloaded music is that the quality is usually quite bad and that it’s very hard to keep it organised because the various pirates around the world apply their own organisational schemes instead of relying on proper ID3 tags. Because of that and because I wanted to go in a more legit direction I eventually deleted the entire collection of crappy illegal music and started maintaining my own collection of music ripped in high quality and with decent ID3 tags from my own collection. That collection has continued until today, and I now have around 90GB of music, which is nowhere near the 2 TB of music the typical music pirate “owns” but quite a considerable collection considering it’s mainly from physical music.
But finding new music has always been a problem. I’ve never really enjoyed going to record stores and listening to music because their selection (at least in Denmark) is always so limited and the prices (also in Denmark) are ridiculously high. I prefer exploring in front of my computer by reading the reviews and recommendations from my peers, but the problem is that it’s very difficult to actually HEAR the music you’re reading about. As mentioned I’m quite concerned about quality, so the crappy samples offered by services like MySpace (please die soon, it’s a pain to watch you suffering like that), allmusic or the crappiest of all: YouTube (ptui!) wasn’t really a solution. So I admit that I still had to resort to the flavour of the time in P2P networks like DC++ and various torrent clients to find the music before eventually buying it on CD online at UK prices (roughly half of Danish prices). I also subscribed to a number of music providers over the years, including the monthly Soundvenue Sampler and the montly Fabric! and FabricLive! CD.
Enter Spotify! (and Rdio)
Spotify had existed for some time before I eventually picked it up. You couldn’t get it in Denmark without going through some trouble and I still had my large CD collection and huge, expensive HIFI system so I was quite happy without it. But moving to the states left me without my huge stereo and CDs, and the only quality equipment for consuming music I had left was my UltraSone headphones and my (second set of) Etymotic earbuds. I still had my collection of music, some of which I could store on my new 16GB iPhone and listen to, but I had to find a way to find new music. The answer was pretty obvious in Spotify. So I went through the trouble of getting a Spotify account, which was just as complex in the US as in the States, but it was definitely worth the effort. I pretty much completely stopped downloading illegal music as soon as this service was made available to me. Being fortunate enough to have unlimited data on my phone I could connect to and find all the music I wanted. I since lost the debit card I used for my Spotify trick and had to close my account, but fortunately the very similar Rdio service had launched shortly before that, and I switched to that. Being an early adopter was a bit painful, but they’ve definitely caught up and now offer a very solid service.
Cloud music libraries
Unfortunately services like Rdio and Spotify have one big problem: While they have a HUGE collection of music, they don’t have EVERYTHING. In particular I’m missing some of the music from my old collection, which I now rarely get to listen to, because it’s so bloody inconvenient to have to sync the music to my iPhone. It just feels so old-fashioned having to connect to a computer and decide what music you want to put on a device with limited storage. But I believe I’ve found the answer in the cloud-based music libraries. I’ve started uploading my collection to my Amazon cloud drive, and that music is now available to me in the quality that I like (because I’m the one who ripped it) while I’m on the road. The big drawback is obviously that I can’t play the music from my iPhone, since Big Brother has decided against it, but at least it really rocks from my computers and my Android devices. My Amazon cloud drive is free for now, but it only has 5GB of storage. Another player I’m waiting with excitement for is Google Music, which is unfortunately in closed beta. And I guess Apple will launch a similar service with their iCloud this Monday, which is a bloody shame, because that’s probably the real reason why Apple won’t allow the Cloud Player in their app store – we all have to use the Apple approved service instead. This all puts me in a very awkward position, since the iCloud will probably only work on iDevices, but as the iPhone is my primary device, it leaves me with little choice.
My future as a music consumer will consist of a combination of streaming services, Rdio currently being my weapon of choice and one of the cloud based music services to serve my music collection to me wherever I might be. The next month or so will tell which service I choose, but I really hope Apple will allow me to make the choice myself, although I seriously doubt it.
This winter saw the end of The Streets with the release of his fifth and final album “Computers and Blues”. Mike Skinner announced that he would only make five albums and he announced it before releasing his fourth album, and if you go to website now, it’s officially closed.
So that’s it then – in many ways I feel The Streets was the soundtrack of my twenties and that a lot of my stories have been lived and told through The Streets, so I thought I’d share something through writing.
Maybe soundtrack of my twenties is just a little off. I’m 32 now, and the last album only just came out, and the first time I came across The Streets was in 2003 when I was 24 years old. So let’s flashback to Friday June 27th around 10 pm.
“I produce this using only my bare wit”
First time at Roskilde Festival for me – arrived Wednesday night and passed out maybe 5 hours later from having chugged way too many beers. I was supposed to meet some guy and get a sleeping bag from him, but that never happened, so I’m extremely cold all night. Next day the music starts and my mind is just blown away by seeing and hearing music I’ve never heard or even heard of before. This thing about going to concerts with a bands I don’t know at all is completely new to me, but it really does wonders. And the weather is beautiful, the girls look gorgeous and you’re slightly intoxicated from beer all the time because you start drinking from when you wake up. Fast forward to Friday night – getting your mobile phone charged is extremly difficult, the infrastructure isn’t really in place for that yet in 2003. I’ve gotten lost from my friends and is pretty much just walking around the festival area very drunk. I remember being very close to just walking back to my tent and then maybe picking up a party there. But then the beats appeared out of nowhere and they’re pulling me towards the Metropol tent. It was the sound of “Don’t Mug Yourself” from the debut album of The Streets – “Original Pirate Material”. Completely intoxicating and yet so simple a sound, and the way he delivers his rap is just out of this world – I’m standing there mesmerized for the rest of the concert. There is a rave going on in the tent, it’s extremely hot inside and I only see the last 20 or 25 minutes of the concert. But I come out of the tent after the concert with a completely changed perspective on music.
“I do the science on my laptop, get my boys mashed up”
I was playing music before that incident, mainly as a singer, and I even had a bunch of CDs. Also this was right after the time of Napster, so I did my share of illegal downloads. But I wasn’t really a consumer of modern music until after I walked out of the tent that Friday night in late June. Listening to those strange beats that were so intoxicating to me made me realise that there was an entire world of music that I didn’t know, and I wanted to make sure that I was never going to miss out on anything like that ever again. Actually when coming home from the festival and telling the whole world about this amazing band, my flatmate at the time Janne told me that she had already played The Streets to me months before, and I didn’t seem to notice it back then. Sorry about that, Janne …
So The Streets matured me into being genuinely interested in music, and my CD-collection just exploded after that. Ever since then I’ve consumed music by reading about it on various music sites, visiting artist websites, using the illegal file sharing software of the time to download tons of music and then eventually buying the CDs. And whenever I went to a festival after that, especially Roskilde Festival, I would spend hours and hours online researching the artists as they were released for the lineup to make absolutely sure I wouldn’t miss the first two thirds of a concert like The Streets ever again.
“See I reckon you’re about an 8 or a 9, maybe even 9 and a half in four beers time.“
So listening to the beats from The Streets got me interested in music in general, but with the release of “A Grand Don’t Come for Free” in 2004 I also realised the lyrical universe of The Streets is truly unique and magnificent. I was actually quite disappointed when the album first came out – I was looking for awesome beats like the first album, but didn’t really find that. But slowly I began really discovering it one single at a time. And when I realised the whole album was one conceptual story, I was once again blown away. The emotional peeks of that album are so intense and you really feel like invited inside of this person telling this story that could be your own story. It took me a couple of years to fully understand this album, but now that I do I have to say that this the best album of all times for me. “Dry Your Eyes” still has quite the opposite effect of drying my eyes when I listen to it today, and the overwhelming feeling of how it all comes together in “Empty Cans” still gives me major chills. And “Blinded By the Lights” is the most powerful electronic symphony ever with probably the best “Don’t do drugs, kids”-message I’ve ever seen in both the lyrics and the music video.
So with “A Grand Don’t Come for Free” we got the best album of all times. And on Friday July 4th 2008, Mike Skinner was back at Roskilde Festival, this time in front of an audience of more than 60000 people. This time he gave me the best concert he has ever played and the best concert I have ever seen.
“All stare, eyes glazed”
It’s already been a spectacular festival this summer of 2008, and a beautiful summer it is. I’m getting married in August, the weather is once again marvelous, my wife looks gorgeous and I’m fully enjoying this time of holiday with friends and my love. Friday July 4th is about to become the best concert day I’ve ever had, having already seen extremely powerful and emotional performances from Mogwai and Robyn. Mike Skinner enters the stage late – it’s a 1 AM concert, but everybody is soooo ready for it. And what happens that night is pure magic. He delivers that same intimate rave feeling from 2003, but this time the crowd is more than 60000 people, and every single one of us worships his every move. It can’t be good for you to have to walk down from the stage after a performance like that. He must have felt like he was having sex with every single one of us that night.
“Knock out the lights, lock the locks and leave”
The third and fourth albums both had memorable moments, great lyrics and great beats, but they never really reached the height of the first two albums. Maybe it’s impossible to achieve the best possible beats and the best possible lyrics again? They were both great albums and I do pick them up and listen to them, but the magic isn’t really there. But with “Computers and Blues” I think we’re back up there once again. And listening to his story this time I can hear how my own life has changed and I also think I understand why The Streets had to close at this point.
So thanks a lot for giving me so many powerful experiences, including the 5 times I’ve seen The Streets live. And I’m pretty sure I will be able to pick up and listen to at least 3 of the albums for many years to come and listen to them as a diary of how my life was in my twenties.
>2010 represented a shift in the way I digest music. Everything started the way it used to, with me going to concerts and festivals and buying 4-5 CDs every month with whatever music I find inspiring at the moment. That has been my rhythm for the last 6 or 7 years. I tend to find the music I like through a couple of favourite websites like soundvenue.com and pitchfork. com and the Roskilde Festival is also a huge inspiration in discovering new music.
However all that changed in April 2010 when I realised that I would be going to LA. I really didn’t want to buy any more CDs, since they would only have to go into storage, so I stopped buying music from day to day. I’ve always found it REALLY difficult to purchase music in digital formats. I’m probably old fashioned and stuck in an ancient paradigm of consumerism, but I have a really hard time paying for something if I don’t get a physical copy. Especially since I’m a HIFI geek who had a huge expensive stereo back in Denmark, and I always hate playing MP3, WMA or AAC over that stereo. I prefer my physical CDs, but that was to be no more …
So I had a huge gap from April to August where I didn’t really do that much to discover new music, except going to the Roskilde Festival in early July. Fortunately that changed a lot when coming to LA, where I opened a Spotify Premium account. Spotify isn’t really open in the US yet, but with a little creative fraud one can create an account and pay through a PayPal account. Spotify really changed the way I digest music, especially with the mobile version of the service. I also happen to have pretty good conditions for listening to music: I have my bike ride to and from work, now even longer than before. It takes roughly the same time as a typical album. And our office has a set of lovely speakers that we can connect to through the lovely AirFoil application. So lots of music every day.
In the new year I’ve had to switch from Spotify to Rdio, since my trick for paying for Spotify no longer works after I got a new credit card. But Rdio is cheaper and has a better selection, plus it was created by Janus Friss and Niklas Zennström, and I really like those guys. On the downside it’s only available in the US and Canada, and the desktop application leaves A LOT to be desired.
So to make a long story short my favourite 10 albums of 2010 have been found through mixed sources. In a “normal” year I would have bought all of these CDs, but with the change in my music paradigm I only have half of them on CD.
My list is very personal and a couple of the albums are heavily influenced by my previous experiences with the artist, such as live performances or previous albums. I’m ashamed to notice right now that not a single one of my picks is a debut album.
10: Arcade Fire -The Suburbs
Yet another incredible concert in 2010, this time at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Went there with a couple of colleagues, we only just got the last tickets. We had limited vision from our seats and the sound was HORRIBLE, so we decided to cheat our way to the very front of the balcony, some 60 rows down from our original seats, and that was a very good decision, since the rest of the concert was pure magic.
Another favourite band of mine “The Suburbs” takes that even further.
9: Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
I love a concept band as much as the next man. Somewhat disappointed by their performance at Roskilde Festival this year I still love their eclectic approach to music and how that approach seems to grow with every new album (Although I haven’t heard the new one yet). This music is all over the place and tells a bunch of really interesting stories and I’m sure it will stand the test of time just as good as the previous albums from Gorillaz.
8: Kashmir – Trespassers
Only Danish album in the list so far, but a really good one. If Malk de Koijn had released their 3rd album in 2010 there would have been 2 Danish albums in the list, but alas …
Kashmir have never made a bad album, and with “Trespassers” they continue that trend and establish themselves as the best Danish rock band by far. I’ve even started convincing a couple of US friends that they should listen to this shit. A good friend of mine shot an award winning video for “Still Boy”, which also happens to be the best track on the album. Check it out:
7: The National – High Violet
I’m not that big on lyrics. In my world vocals work as an instrument alongside all the other instruments of the music, and I almost never pay attention to the lyrics. But I’m willing to make an exception with The National. Both the music and the lyrics make you want to kill yourself … but in a good way. High Violet is not the best album from them, but it’s still very, very good and I find myself returning to it whenever I’m in need of that special atmosphere created by The National. And Matt Berninger’s barytone voice is extraordinary. One of the best singers today …
6: Autechre – Oversteps
Autechre is a very special kind of band. I’ve seen them live 2 times, both times with the scene in complete darkness, and I believe that’s how they always perform live. Their music reminds me of Mogwai in having these huuuuuge overwhelming sound landscapes that should be played LOUD and powerful. Difficult to get into but very rewarding once you break the code.
5: Foals – Total Life Forever
I’ve always had a thing for the latest hyped band from the UK that will once again establish British rock n’ roll as the best in the world. There have been a couple of those over the years, and some of them have even made it past their debut album, such as Foals. This hype thing is really funny, but I do so enjoy the distinct British rock sound much more than US rock n’ roll, and I really don’t think the UK has got anything to prove.
Anyway Foals have a really good understanding of a catching melody and a juicy guitar riff, and the lead vocal is really, really good. Rock n’ Roll for dancing but with plenty of longevity.
4: Four Tet -There Is Love in You
Best music for lovemaking of 2010. Should be a genre in itself. I’m a sucker for atmosphere in music and Four Tet have always been able to create a very special, esoteric and erotic atmosphere in their musical landscape, and this album is the best they’ve done so far.
3: Robyn – Body Talk [Explicit]
2010 was a big year for Robyn. I’ve been a huge fan since her concert at Roskilde in 2008. She wasn’t even in the lineup but was called in when M.I.A. cancelled. I was really pissed that I didn’t get to see M.I.A. that year, but the replacement concert was one of the most unbearably intense and beautiful concerts I’ve every seen. Check out this video – you will notice how Robyn can’t bear all the love coming from the audience. I cried during that concert and seeing this video brings back all of those emotions once again. Only love and music can give you that kind of feeling …
“Body Talk” was that big 3 album project announced in 2009 and fulfilled in late 2010. A very powerful undertaking, and Robyn is ready to take over the US with Body Talk [Explicit] that takes the 5 best tracks from each of the 3 albums. You have to admire the ambition of Robyn. I think she will break through the wall in the US in 2011 and become a superstar.
2: Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot
I believe this album came out during my summer break from music, and I only recently discovered it in December. But am I glad I did. This is the missing Outkast album, and suddenly I’m starting to have my doubts about who was the true genius behind Outkast. Andre Benjamin seems to want to pursue a career as an entertainer, and since he actually does a really good job at that I wish him the best. Especially when Big Boi takes care of their musical heritage so well. I’m a huge fan of Outkast, and this album really feels like the next step for that sound. I hope we haven’t heard the last from Big Boi. Check out the live(?) performance of “Daddy Fat Sax”. The fattest Atlanta sound …
1: Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
I was completely and utterly blown away by this album! I’ve been a fan of Kanye since I heard the “Jesus Walks” single for the first time, and I’ve seen a couple of amazing performances on the Roskilde Festival Orange Stage, but I actually thought he’d peaked with “Graduation” in 2007, something the title also hints at. Especially since I considered “808s & Heartbreak” to be somewhat disappointing. But I now fully understand that “808s & Heartbreak” was simply an exercise in style that lead to this masterpiece. Kanye West wants to be the greatest rapper in the world, and he’ll never achieve that. But what he lacks in rap skills he fully makes up for in production skills and musical vision. This album sticks out in 100 different directions and yet it all comes together beautifully. My absolute favourite track is “All of the Lights”. I must have listened to that track 250 times by now. The way it builds up in the beginning is like a symphony, Rihanna’s vocals are so sexy and strong, those weird horns sound amazing and the drums are just magic. Even Fergie’s part work out well, and her vocal is usually just annoying. Kanye West has always been at the front of mainstream hiphop, and this album is a masterpiece of that genre.
I also want to say that Janus Køster-Rasmussen from Euroman officially labeled himself as a wanker with his claim in the last issue of Euroman that Hiphop is dead as a leading genre in popular music(!) It may have been a poor year for Danish hiphop, but my number 1 & 2 in my list are some of the best mainstream hiphop albums of all times, and it really pisses me off when a wanker music journalist like Janus fails to recognize that. I guess he has some kind of beef with Kanye West, since he also mentions the cover for “My Beautiful Dark Twister Fantasy” as one of the biggest fails of 2010. It isn’t a very good cover, but surely you should be able to find bigger fails in 2010?
Just had to get that off my chest. I enjoy a good album review, but Janus Køster-Rasmussen just made my list of reviewers that can’t be trusted …
>This weekend my colleague Stevie and I had decided to go the Sunset Strip Music Festival. A jolly music festival where a large portion of the Sunset Strip had been blocked to host 2 outdoor stages. A number of the clubs along the strip were also part of the party, including the legendary Whiskey a Go Go. Headlining the festival were a number of acts from very small to huge international names – the one thing they all had in common was they weren’t exactly the most contemporary of artists.
My main reason for going there was Smashing Pumpkins who closed down the bigger of the 2 outdoor stages at 8.20 pm. It’s never been my fortune to see them live before, and although I wouldn’t claim to be a fan of theirs I have to admit I’d simply forgotten how incredibly powerful their music really is. It was a walk down memory lane with a band led by a Billy Corgan who was really on fire that evening. He was charming and fun, and even played his guitar with his teeth at one point. I managed to record him giving a speech listing his musical inspirations followed by one of their many great rock songs “Cherub”.
We actually missed some of the other big acts in the street like Common, Slash & Kid Cudi, but that wasn’t too important, as the big thing was Smashing Pumpkins, and that concert in itself was well worth the $65 dollar entry.
After the concert we went to a couple of the bars along the way, starting with a double Jack Daniels on Whiskey a Go Go, enjoying a show by the Greek/American rock vocalist Electra and band. That performance seemed to set the theme for the night, as it featured a geeky band with a really slutty lead singer doing late 80′s metal with high pitched screaming and singing. It was very hard to say for sure if they were for real or not, but it was certainly great fun. The lead singer and the band all were excellent musicians, but it sure was tacky …
We went next door to the Cat Club, which consisted mainly of a scene where you could get really close to the artists. We saw the end of the concert with Dirty Sweet, and they were actually pretty good – although the lead singer did use quite a large amount of time explaining how they really couldn’t stick around after the concert, as they were moving on to play a charity gig at some church.
Next up was Prohibition Rose, and the fun was starting to peak, as the slutte lead singer / geeky band combo was taken to a whole new level. Unfortunately I had a computer crash today, and my iPhoto images weren’t recovered with Time Machine, so I can’t document it, but the lead singer certainly compensated for her lack of vocal skills in her sexy and scantily clad performance on stage. Stevie and I were all the way up front during the beginning of their show, and it got pretty intense at points, especially since Stevie insisted her mom was in the audience. This time I’m pretty sure the band was dead serious about their attitude, so I simply have to admit I don’t get it.
The next band were simply too cool to be true. Diamond Lane have the coolest hair, the coolest late 80′s heavy rock and the coolest logo. Not to mention their on stage attitude, which was absolutely hilarious.
They even had a their own crew of groupies with enormous tits and goth makeup directly in front of stage. At the end of the concert, one of the guitar players threw his plectrum out into the crowd. I found that kind of funny, wince it’s impossible to see a plectrum in a dark concert hall. When a drummer throws out his drumsticks, you can at least see it, but how can you ever hope to catch a plectrum? Nonetheless I held out my hand, and the plectrum landed in my hand – a perfect 2 year wedding anniversary gift for my wife the next day.
After that amazing show we went back to Whiskey a Go Go. There were a huge crowd gathered at the time to listen to some Guns n’ Roses cover. I really hate cover bands, but after having listened to this for a while I had to admit that they were doing a pretty fucking amazing job at covering Guns n’ Roses – being the GnR ignorant that I am I was soon to learn the reason for that. The cover band were Adler’s Appetite led by former Guns n’ Roses drummer Steven Adler, and they did a fine job. I did actually go after one of the drumsticks this time, since that would be legendary, but the fight proved too much.
An incredibly funny journey back to the late eighties and early nineties was completed with a killer version of “Welcome to the Jungle”, and I have to say that the music scene in Los Angeles is certainly proving itself. I love it. Next up is (hopefully) Big Boi, House of Pain and Eminem at the Epicenter Festival in late september.
>So, one thing I’ve really been looking forward to is the concert scene over here. We’ve already seen a bunch of really good concerts, and they certainly are plentiful over here. Also concert tickets are really cheap, so we get to see a lot.
On the first weekend I had my wife over here, we went to Hardfest 2010 in the Los Angeles Historic State Park in downtown. A 1 day electronic festival featuring a pretty impressive lineup of US and UK electronic acts. And 1 headliner from Belgium. It was my first opportunity to see both Diplo, Major Lazer and Caspa, and all at the same time. And a lot of other cool acts on top of that. Great atmosphere, lots of people and great music too. Oh, and my first really annoying encounter with a pretty flawed US alcohol policy, but that’s a topic for a later post of it’s own – still need to research some more. Here is a little bit of the Diplo concert recorded on my iPhone:
Lots of kids dancing with too little clothes on – Also a topic to be covered in a later blog post. But here is a sneak peek:
We live in Marina del Rey close to Venice, and Venice is full of all kinds of live music all the time. We went to Danny’s Deli on Windward Avenue on a weekday night, and had the pleasure of seeing a very traditional jazz orchestra. After the concert this lovely couple gave a duet.
Last weekend we went to the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance. A 2 day festival where they close down a couple of streets in Silverlake and have 6 stages featuring a lot of different underground acts. We were only there on Sunday and only caugt a couple of acts. One of them was Meshell Ndegeocello. I didn’t know her before, and her Indie/Funk style isn’t exactly what I would put on my stereo at home, but in the setting sun with a lot of happy gay people it was a really good experience. I’m definitely going back to that festival next year, hopefuly for both days this time.
This coming weekend features the Sunset Strip Music Festival with the Smashing Pumpkins, Slash, Common and others. I hope I can convince my wife to go, but she claims she is too young for Smashing Pumpkins, which is sad, cause I think they’re really good. Also Chemical Brothers are playing Sunday at the Hollywood Bowl, so plenty to do this weekend.