The Music Hideout: Now with more samples!

A good old friend of mine told me once that it would be a lot easier to understand my boring reviews if there were at least a couple of samples to listen every time there is a new review. I’m a little slow sometimes, and while I’m well aware of the extra job it represents, I’m doing an effort to upload a couple of samples for every review I do.

Nothing flashy, just a couple of tracks I enjoy from the album being reviewed. Also I’m planning on doing this backwards, which means uploading a couple of tracks for each one of the about 50+ reviews I’ve done during this adventure. It will take me some time to catch up on all of my past reviews, that’s for sure, but hopefully it will help to shed some light on those folks who are looking for some tunes that can go along with the reviews.

Thanks for reading… and now listening ūüôā

My favorite albums of 2011

First of all, I want to apologize for the rather inconsistent year around here. It wasn’t my intention to be like that, but unforeseen consequences forced me to put this project on hold, as I was unable to keep mentally stable enough to produce something worth reading. I’m also not promising a stream of articles following this post, as I’m still in the process of returning to what once I considered normal, but I have all the intention to return to write once again.

And another disclaimer, this post is titled My favorite albums of 2011, but you should know up-front that this is not a comprehensive list of albums I enjoyed that were released in 2011. This goes more in the line of “Music that kept me busy this year even though it wasn’t necessarily released this year”.

So, let’s get started…

10. ¬†Halou – “Wholeness & Separation”

Halou - Wholeness & Separation

Halou - Wholeness & Separation

Commonly mistaken for just another trip hop band, Halou was among the most exciting discoveries I did this year. Not only I learned the huge difference between trip hop and dream pop, but also found some truly emotional stuff right here, and not just the cheap emotional song that you forget about three months later, but some serious damn good material that I can always come back and enjoy just like the first time.

 

 

 

9. ¬†Samantha James – “Subconscious”

Samantha James - Subconscious

Samantha James - Subconscious

A lot more electronic driven than her previous material, the sound and feeling this album has is what my mind always come up with when I think about sensuous female vocalists. It is not just the sound though, this is a wonderful mix of feelings, wrapped around a nice, sophisticated and elegant package. If only more mainstream music would be anything like this, I would be the happiest bunny of them all.

 

 

 

8. ¬†Frou Frou – “Details”

Frou Frou - Details

Frou Frou - Details

I know, I’m already too late for this party, but a good album should be enjoyed just as much even if it is ten years old, right? ¬†RIGHT? ¬†Anyway, the point is, it is always hard to find some specific album where you can actually enjoy more than two or three songs, and Details happens to be one of those rare cases where a good amount of enjoyable songs are all together in the same place. And just as I did when I reviewed it a few months back, my only regret is that there was never a second album released under the Frou Frou moniker. Yes, I know we have Imogen Heap, but still…

 

7. ¬†Alter Bridge – “AB III”

Alter Bridge - ABIII

Alter Bridge - ABIII

No, this is not a mistake, there is a proper rock album listed as one of my favorites of this year. Many of you might not know that I grew up listening to stuff like this back in my teen years, and the truth is that nowadays the amount of rock music I listen is not even 10% of my listening habits, but still I consider rock to be one of my main influences. ¬†Now, strictly speaking about this album, Alter Bridge is constantly raising the bar with every new release, and not only they managed to deliver something even better than previous “Blackbird”, they managed to make it look like a minor effort compared to this new album. Absolutely loved it from start to finish.

 

6. R√∂yksopp – “Senior”

Röyksopp - Senior

Röyksopp - Senior

I always expect every new R√∂yksopp album with lots of curiosity, and most of all, hunger to discover which paths they are exploring now. So far this has proved to be the best way to embark on any new release by the mythic Norwegian band. Senior, just as expected isn’t like anything they have done before, and it might come as a shock just after people were devouring the more lively Junior. The truth is, you can’t compare apples to oranges, and Senior¬†is in a completely different league than Junior. Both are great, but you really shouldn’t put them together.

 

5. ¬†Goldfrapp – “Seventh Tree”

Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree

Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree

This isn’t the greatest, not even the latest album released by Goldfrapp to date, but it came to me at a time when I was starting to realize I was in need of some inner peace, and this just fitted in perfectly in that state of mind. It was like a breath of fresh air just when I was running out of it. Mixing downtempo, trip hop and the theatrical voice of Alison Goldfrapp in the same album is an almost guaranteed success formula. Seventh Tree¬†is a must for times when you need to ease your mind.

 

 

4. ¬†The Postmarks – “Memoirs At The End Of The World”

The Postmarks - Memoirs At The End Of The World

The Postmarks - Memoirs At The End Of The World

I just love bands like The Postmarks. If the 60s / 70s sound is not your cup of tea, you will probably think of this just as a gimmick to get some attention, but truth is that The Postmarks is a little more than that. These are some awesome tunes that happen to be wrapped in another era feeling, which doesn’t take away the fact that this is music to be enjoyed no matter which era you come from. It can be a little dangerous though, you can get too attached to this and you run the risk of getting burned at the genre, and that would be a shame.

 

 

3. ¬†Foo Fighters – “Wasting Light”

Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

Whoa! Another rock album in this list? Yup, I listen to a lot more rock than you might think. The thing is, I just love the Foo, and even though the releases after In Your Honor¬†weren’t exactly my favorites (most of them were just OK in my opinion), it wasn’t until Wasting Light that I rediscovered how awesome this band can be. I almost missed the entire album after my liking for Walk¬†started to fade, but somehow I returned for the whole enchilada and it certainly paid off. This is the old Foo back again, they are not afraid to take your ears by surprise and inject a strident dose of their characteristic sound.

 

2. ¬†Halou – “Halou”

Halou - Halou

Halou - Halou

The last album before Halou ceased to exist is without a doubt one of the happiest moments in music for me this year. I discovered it nearly by accident, and that’s probably the reason why it ended having an even sweeter taste. Even more surprising for me was the fact that this sounds very little like Wholeness & Separation, this actually feels a lot more like alternative rock at times, it certainly flirts with some elements that weren’t present in any other album before, and to be honest, I spent weeks lost at this album. The genius move here is that while this feels a lot more alternative than ever, it still retains those mystique moments, that vague and intriguing spark that makes your mind fly to places you know only a few are able to reach.

 

1. ¬†R√∂yksopp – “Junior”

Röyksopp - Junior

Röyksopp - Junior

One year later and this is still at the top of my list. For someone who listens lots and lots of new music every single month, this is proof that something this good can last for ages. Released last year, it amazes that a year after I’m still learning new things from this, it’s ridiculous. And even more amazing is the fact that at first sight this album has all the ingredients for a great dancing album (and apparently it is, I don’t like dancing so I wouldn’t know), so is always nice to be taken by surprise by more subtle and stealthier elements spread here and there when you try to make sense of the whole experience. This is without a doubt the best album R√∂yksopp album released to date, hands down. Doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t explore the rest of them, they are all awesome, this is just the peak of their talent (so far).

 

Well, as you can see, I tend to listen to very different stuff through all the year. Sometimes I get stuck at something for weeks and maybe that is something that holds me up and I end up not listening to many other things, and that’s something I would like to improve next year. Feel free to comment on my musical taste this year!

Random thoughts: Time for new clothes, Part 2

A while back I commented about the decaying state of my iPod skin, and was not until last two weeks that finally decided to solve that problem. As usual, I went to my favorite provider for this sort of products, and picked a new one.

Here’s the process documented in pictures. Loving that retro 8-bit urban cameo style my iPod has now ūüôā

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Random thoughts: Life without mainstream music

The function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought

Free yourself

It’s been nearly 5 years since I last tuned to a commercial radio, and it’s been a hell of a ride since that point. Can’t really point out the motives behind that decision, I guess I just grew tired of it and wanted to explore something different. ¬†One thing I’m sure though: I never did it just to become the weird dude that listens only to his underground and nearly unknown stuff, as if that would give you some sort of aura that puts you apart from the rest of the world.

But the truth is that there is a great deal of satisfaction on crafting your own musical taste according to your own discoveries. From my own experience I learned that this is pretty much a solo journey, where those around you will probably never even notice something is happening other than the fact that you’re isolating yourself from the music everybody else listens to. ¬†And it is a very rewarding path to follow once you realize that you came across artists, bands and genres that open new worlds to you, yet you would not have known of it from most mainstream media outlets.

It is a bittersweet victory. Sweet because it is like the first time you logged on to the internet… that excitement and feeling of freedom and the endless possibilities when you discover something new. Then comes the somewhat bitter part: having almost no one to share it. ¬†Some might think of that as one of the advantages of it, but to be honest, to me the purpose of this was never to be different, or to build a wall that others might no be able to pass.

In the spirit of not give the wrong message, I’m not advocating for people to stop listening to what they like, I’m more in the line of letting people know that once you reach the point when you get bored with what mainstream music has to offer, or simply wanting to explore the darker and undoubtedly more diverse path of underground music, there are plenty of choices and routes to follow.¬† I took that path 5 years ago, and have absolutely no regrets about it, in fact I consider myself very lucky to have devised it.

Unfortunately there is not a manual or a For Dummies book about this, it is pretty much like a trial and error process.  If you are in the early stages of discovery, you might already know where you are heading to, but if you are just curious and want to give this a try, you should probably be better off with recommendation systems like Last.FM or Pandora for some time, and once you already know a couple new artists you should do what I always do: get always the full album for each song that you liked, even when you know absolutely nothing more about it.  This pays off around 50% of the time, at least for me, sometimes you will find nothing more there, and sometimes you end up discovering truly amazing pieces of music that will lead you further into new directions.

If you are actually considering trying this, please do it for the right reasons, and not just to give out a statement against the mainstream music industry (in the end, you thought they would actually pay attention to your rants?), or to look cool for listening something different that nobody else understands. We don’t need that kind of people on our boat ūüėČ

At the end of the day what matters is that you found something you feel comfortable with and you actually enjoy it.

Random thoughts: Time for new clothes?

Here’s a timeline of what’s been going on with my iPod’s clothes (namely a skin).¬† I’ve never been a fan of protective cases, they ruin the sense of manipulating your iPod the way it was meant to be manipulated.

For those unaware, it was a rocky beginning, having to take it to the store to be replaced 2 times, and it was not until the third replacement that I finally was given a good one.¬† Here’s a picture of those first moments after receiving the replacement:

Shiny new

Shiny new

Things got really interesting when I bought a custom skin from DecalGirl.  The results speak for themselves:

Pretty cool huh?

Pretty cool huh?

However, that was more than a year ago, and unfortunately time and daily use has started to take its toll on my beloved music box’s skin.¬† Here’s the current state of the skin (as of April 2,011):

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I think it is time for new clothes, and that brings me to the difficult process of selecting the right one, buy it and wait a couple of weeks before it arrives in the mail…¬† More to come as this story unfolds.

Random thoughts: Evolving habits

Remember the audio cassette?

Remember the audio cassette?

Being someone who was born in the mid 80s, I still can recall music back in the days in the form of vinyl records, audio cassettes and all that kind of sorts that someone who was born in the last decade would consider museum material.  I was recently thinking that even those of us who have experienced this huge advent of technology in the last 20 years, still give all of this for granted.

Let me put it this way:¬† Any given day you jump into your car and plug your iPod with the latest songs you purchased on iTunes the day before, from an artist who lives 7,000 km away.¬† Or even better yet, you plug your smart phone and you just stream your favorite online radio station while you’re driving to wherever you’re going.¬† Sounds familiar huh?

Of course, it hasn’t always been like this, and more precisely, we know that today’s standards will also be obsolete within a short period of time.¬† What can we expect from the future? I would love to have Arthur C. Clarke’s vision to glimpse something so futuristic that wouldn’t be feasible to any John Doe today, but that would be completely normal 50 years later (geostationary satellites, anyone?).

I remember that when music recommendation systems were first launched, there was this general feeling that music could also become the next social experience that would change the way we listen to music today.¬† Services like Last.Fm or Pandora to name just a few.¬† But to this day I still have my doubts that these kind of services are the definitive answer.¬† I, for one believe that music can’t be picked up by a mathematical algorithm, because 90% of the time my Last.Fm recommendations turn out to be not something I like (35,000 tracks listened and it still can’t recognize what I like???).

Maybe the channel we use to listen to our music is just half of the answer?  I mean, we merely swapped terrestrial airwaves for internet connection and added some apps in between, but the rest is pretty much the same.

In the meantime, I’m grateful for not having to carry 30+ CDs with me every time I want to listen some music every time I hit the road…