around the traps

around the traps

around the traps

around the traps

around the traps

around the traps

around the traps

around the traps

2017 mix tape

(Direct link to YouTube in case this doesn't load)

Backstory if you care. Entirely optional:

  1. Severed Heads - Dead Eyes Opened (Love Experiment) (Love Experiment isn't available on YouTube at the moment; so the 1994 remix will suffice as Tom Ellard's just uploaded a good quality copy :)). We saw Severed Heads and Itch E and Scratch E live. Hell of a fun gig, felt like a big party.
  2. Itch E and Scratch E - Other Planets. Profane and fun. Part of a brilliant set.
  3. System of a Down - Sad Statue. Just a track that really grabbed me as I was driving around the deep northern suburbia of Sydney, picking up an ebay purchase for a mate. So this feels like bombing around semi-bushland with the radio cranked up. Nothing more or less :)
  4. Living Colour - Cult Of Personality. Saw them live, finally! One of those bands I thought I'd never actually see, having missed them a few times. Awesome gig at The Metro.
  5. The Algorithm - Autorun. I'd been listening to this a bit and had posted a couple of tracks somewhere. So a mate pinged me to see if I was interested in seeing them live - lucky since I didn't know about the gig! It wasn't a question, of course I went.
  6. Voyager - Misery Is Only Company. A great gig moment - The Algorithm were part of the lineup for Voyager's album launch. Being a Sunday night there was a moment we weren't sure if we'd call it a night having seen what we'd come for. But L and I had missed Voyager supporting Deftones last year, so I figured give it a couple of songs... and there was no way I was leaving after that. It was an awesome set, the crowd and band pumped and bouncing off each others energy. They even commented at one point that Sydney on a Sunday night was putting other cities to shame ;)
  7. Skunkhour - Sunstone. After the fun of last year's Skunkhour gig, we were back with bells on for Feed. The night didn't disappoint, great energy and a crowd in full voice.
  8. DJ Shadow - Nobody Speak. Really hard to pick a track from this. We saw DJ Shadow supposedly 'opening' for The Avalanches on the Opera House forecourt (harbour side), but he was by far the standout of the night(*). There were tracks off Endtroducing that I'd wanted to hear live for perhaps 20 years... it was almost overwhelming for it to finally happen. But as the show was for The Mountain Must Fall I eventually plumped for this one to go in the yearly list, particularly with the mad film clip that's a reflection of contemporary politics.
  9. Beth Orton - Moon. We saw Beth Orton in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, a headline show for Vivid Live. It was a gorgeous gig, it seemed a little unreal. I listened to this track a lot leading up to the show.
  10. Mint Royale - Blue Song. I think this clip was mentioned somewhere almost being a pilot for the movie Baby Driver. But with a catchy hook and a great clip with Noel Fielding lip synching I played this a bunch of times.
  11. The Hillbilly Moon Explosion - My Love For Evermore. A track I'd run into on a huge rockabilly playlist ages ago, but got a bit obsessed with when I heard it again.
  12. Dan Sultan - Hold It Together. A crazy night with the gig interrupted by a fire alarm and full evacuation of The Metro. Genuinely a full evac as the crowd realised the band was in the back alley with them. One thing leads to another and we end up with a sing-along of Hold It Together. The building was cleared and we went back in... the band reprised this song and the crowd went nuts.
  13. Caiti Baker - Thursday. Debut album came out and this is the track that stuck in my head the most. Soul meets trip hop :)
  14. Leo Moracchioli featuring Rabea & Hannah - Africa (Toto cover). So much fun. After posting some of Leo's covers, we spent the best part of a day on twitter with people mining the back catalogue and posting them back :)
  15. Leo Moracchioli featuring Rabea & Hannah - the Africa outro. Leo's outros are usually silly, but in this case they made a whole extra song and the comments are full of people asking them to release this separately.
  16. Rag'n'Bone Man - Human. L grabbed me to come and listen to to this. Pulled up the video of an unlikely looking lad and a song starts slowly, but about a minute in when he really lets it out... just wow.

* No Avalanches track in this list despite the gig. It was a big musical moment for this year, but not a happy one. Their show wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great either. It made me realise the new incarnation is simply a different band; and not an even an Aussie band. They weren't excited to play in front of the Opera House, they sing about the 'subway', all of their references are American and that's the market they want. This isn't a problem (good luck to them!), it just means that the band I loved doesn't exist any more; and the notion that they are an 'aussie band' should be left to history. The specific gig left a bad taste as it was billed as Since I Left You played in full; and actually it was just their usual new-album set with a couple of old tracks grudgingly thrown in. Half the band looked bored with the old material, which isn't a surprise really given they had nothing to do with it.

That one duff note (hah) notwithstanding, it was a great year for music. Saw a bunch of great gigs including a couple that were decades overdue (DJ Shadow and Living Colour); and found new artists, both new-new and new-to-me. Pretty much what you want as a music geek :)


music, passion and algorithms

While I was at uni, in the heady early days of the web, I followed a few exceptionally ranty proto-blogs. Nobody used the word 'blog' yet, they were just episodic 'home pages'. I didn't agree with all of them, but I certainly loved the fire in the belly that drove them.

The original sites are all gone, but there are a few that other people somehow kept copies of and reposted. They meant enough to someone out there to spend the time to archive it. To preserve something from the early web wild west. Of course these mirrors are also ephemeral. They too shall pass.

Anyway, one of these was Blind Wino, by Mark Driver. I was talking to someone about music recently (which will surprise nobody who knows me enough to be reading this) and was reminded of this quote:

There are three things to be said about music:

  1. Some music almost everybody likes. It is meant to be that way. It is music made primarily for money, and everybody likes it because everybody else likes it. This is where bad music comes from.
  2. Some music almost nobody likes. It is meant to be that way. It is music made primarily as a reaction to music that everyone likes, and of the few people who do listen to it, only very few truly love it. This is where OK music comes from.
  3. Some music some people like. It is meant to be that way. It is music made primarily because these musicians don’t know what else to do with themselves. This is where good music comes from.

This remains one of the best things I've ever read about music. The whole post is good but this has stuck in my brain well enough that I could nearly quote it verbatim somewhere in the region of 15-20 years later.

It's not just music of course. People have passions that don't make sense. They have things they need to get out of their heads, because that's how their heads work. They write, paint, shoot video, write code, make music, build things. When you're exceptionally lucky your passion also makes you a living. For many their passion does not make money and so they count the minutes when they can leave the grind and get back to their life.

Yeah those three things to be said about music have inherent judgement in them. That will no doubt upset a few who truly like popular music, just like the beer drinker who has sampled every craft beer and genuinely prefers a commercial lager. But it is really just a fact that pop music of every era (and the pop end of any genre) is produced to be popular.

Just as blind tests show the major beers are indistinguishable, mainstream music is algorithmically same-y. It is produced to a formula that can be unpicked with a rudimentary understanding of music theory.

The Blind Wino post reflects a pre-streaming era where music discovery was harder and more expensive. You couldn't just fire up Spotify and click the related bands and listen to their most popular tracks. But on the other hand I think these days it's harder to form a decent connection to an artist's work, because you are directed to the most popular songs from their entire back catalogue. The awesome b-sides and album lurkers may not bubble up, because even for less mainstream music they are still data-driven.

When you hit the Spotify listing for The Cure, the top song by a mile is Friday I'm In Love and the top ten is mostly the happy boppy tracks. If you know the back catalogue you'll know most of The Cure's stuff is not happy and boppy. This leads to some incredibly confused (and bored) people at gigs who truly don't know what to do during the fifteen-minute version of A Forest.

So algorithms don't save us, because their data still weight heavily to popularity... to say nothing of most music services still promoting things entirely separately from algorithms anyway. iTunes and Spotify consistently tell me about new pop releases on their banner pages - stuff I have never listened to and basically never will. But labels are still buying popularity by telling people which artists to like.

In the old days you'd dig through crates of music at a local store; if you were lucky they'd let you listen to them for a while before you bought them. I spent a lot of time in my youth holding broken headphones together, with the volume cranked up trying to get a sense is this album for me? I found trash and treasure this way.

These days you still have to dig down into the earlier releases. Keep scrolling until Spotify stops loading new albums. See what bubbles up on YouTube. Kick off custom radio stations using seed playlists to see what it can make of aggregated data. Avoid the 'new releases' tab in Spotify and ignore the iTunes homepage - there is no data behind those recommendations; and you won't find anything that way that you won't hear on commercial radio blaring into every public space you visit.

We are yet to reach the era of post-label music. Patreon's investors wanted to crank up the fees and you still need to be well known before you can Kickstarter your way to recording an album. Artists still have to produce work that algorithms like, to get to the front page of Youtube or get reposted on Facebook, to drive subscribers and build a base. It's a new grind that at least has less smelly vans than touring pubs in Bumblefuck, Nowhereville... but you probably have to do that too, because most musicians actually want to perform to a room full of actual people and not just the recording LED on a digital camera.

Meanwhile fans know that nothing beats a gig. You can never ever get the same feeling watching a recording as you get in the moment, in the heat and energy, treading down the dropped beer cans and screaming for an encore. Plus the artist probably makes more from that cheap, formaldehyde-stinking tshirt you bought than they did from the past year's streaming royalties. Just like they used to make more from merch than they did from you buying their CDs.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.