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2011

MONDAY, 12 SEPTEMBER 2011

Yet Another Teaser (Talk Talk)

While I had hoped that there would be some lead time, at least enough to allow me to finish what I wanted to write before anyone else posted something, it turns out the folks over at The Quietus have trumped me: today their “twenty years on” item on Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock (1991) appeared.

I’ll still be posting my own reflections on the album at some point later this week (likely to coincide with the US rather than the UK release date), so I won’t be reading their feature just yet, and I’ll refrain from saying why it’s important for me to write about the album here. Keep your browser at the ready. And, if you’re curious, those things I said were on the back burner over a year ago? They’re still there—along with the list of my 2010 favorites. Soon it will all start to appear. Really.

PERMALINK  |           

2010

MONDAY, 23 AUGUST 2010

Scheme Change

With so many things occupying my attention on any given day, I sometimes have difficulty remembering seemingly little things that I want to do. One of them—simplifying the links for individual posts in the Musings, News and Faves categories—has long been on the list of tweaks to make. But, really, I should say, was on that list, since I redid the URL scheme here a few days ago. So, where once a page might have had a link that was server-readable (e.g., “dynpost.php?post_id=[something]”) but not exactly easy-to-remember, now all such links are simpler and shorter (e.g., “post/[something]/”).

I’ve made changes throughout the site to reflect the changed scheme/nomenclature, so all internal links and navigation controls work as they did in the past. In the event that you’ve linked to one or more pages from one of your sites or mentioned one somewhere else, the old links will still work, but you might want to replace them with their shinier, sleeker successors. While altering the links, I also made some subtler, under-the-hood modifications that affect the way that search engines index the site’s material, but they need not detain us. All you need to know is that pages load faster, and your browser has to do less work. Sweet, no?

PERMALINK  |           

WEDNESDAY, 12 MAY 2010

Navigational Aids

In a few procrastinatory moments this afternoon, I added a little more functionality to the pages on the site that have archives—News, Musings and Faves. In the past, someone jumping to an archive page would be confronted with a long list sorted in reverse chronological order. In the Faves archive, which right now has only six entries, such a list was fairly easy to get through. The Musings and News archives, which now have fifty-five and forty-one items, respectively, were a little more challenging.

To make browsing more seamless, therefore, I made some minor tweaks to the code and the layout. Right below the title of each archive page, there is now a horizontal set of links which, when clicked, will allow you to jump to a specific year. The content is still sorted as before, with more recent items at the top and the oldest ones at the bottom. I had been toying with the idea of splitting each of the archives into several pages, but I think this solution is the better one for now, minimizing as it does the number of clicks one might need to get to a particular post or set of posts. At the very least, digging back into the archives might be easier for first-time readers or casual browsers. Enjoy…

PERMALINK  |           

SATURDAY, 1 MAY 2010

JPlayer to the Rescue

A few months back, the computer technology news followers among you might have noticed stories about Apple Computer’s purchasing the online music streaming service Lala. Each reporter or media outlet that bothered to comment speculated on what Apple's intentions might be, particularly as rumors swirled about the imminent release of the iPad. For now, those intentions remain unclear, but one thing is certain: as of May 31, Lala will be no more.

Why should this matter to you, dear reader? It has something to with a change you might notice in some of the more recent posts in the Musings section.

You see, last summer I started using Lala to make it easier for readers of that section to hear the songs I discussed when there were no other high-quality options already available online. I originally saw the service as a useful alternative to imeem, whose selection seemed limited and uneven. The latter was occasionally handy, as it contained some tracks (like a wonderful version of "Goddamn Lonely Love" by the Drive-By Truckers, recorded live at the Cannery Ballroom in Nashville) that weren't available elsewhere. Last August, however, MySpace purchased imeem, and by December imeem was effectively shuttered. It was around that time that I started looking for alternatives to both services. I had seen good notices for jPlayer, but, upon investigation, realized I didn't then have the time to create a custom interface (its default would have looked terrible on this site). So I left the matter for another time.

This week's Lala announcement got me to reconsider, and in fairly short order yesterday I did the coding and image creation/editing work. It was much easier than I thought it would be—though there was a lot of tricky CSS math to do. The payoff is that, for the time being, I have a much more reliable solution for embedding audio, and you have better options for hearing it and interacting with it—even if you're using an iPhone. So, check out one of the Musings (say, the one about Felt), and give the new player a try. I think you might like it…

PERMALINK  |           

MONDAY, 26 APRIL 2010

Commenting Restored … Again

Sometimes I have to take some time out from my everyday life to ask some non-everyday questions … like why folks who learn, from a certain elsewhere, of updates to the Musings page comment in that other place rather than here. I think of my small cadre of readers as highly intelligent people, ones who wouldn’t read something here, then waste time going back there when there’s a convenient link handy at the bottom of a page. Something else had to be happening, I figured. So, in the midst of some other under-the-hood updates, I did some investigating and learned that the commenting code was broken. It was so broken, in fact, that anyone wanting to comment would be confronted with some bewildering error messages and incompletely rendered pages.

The commenting system is fixed now.

If those of you who read those Musings choose not to comment in the future, I’ll have to figure out whether there are other reasons—beyond your perhaps obvious lack of time. More to come…

PERMALINK  |           

TUESDAY, 9 MARCH 2010

Back from Somewhere

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I have not fallen off the face of the earth. Nor have I abandoned this site (though I am passively abandoning Facebook—but that’s another story).

Given the long breaks between my two June posts (on Prince and Michael Jackson, respectively) and the news item that appeared on 2 December as well the months that have passed since the latter, one might be forgiven for thinking something wicked might my way have come, but nothing so vile has occurred. There have been the usual ups and downs as well as new ones for good measure, but the good news is that everything is resolved (or being resolved) and that there are potentially good things on the horizon.

Most immediately, note that I’ve finally posted my 2009 Faves list and its accompanying list of also-rans. The former is somewhat bittersweet, for it includes discs by two artists whose work I started exploring in earnest last year, both of whom died recently: Vic Chesnutt and Lhasa (de Sela). While their respective back catalogs are not that extensive, each one has lots of gems, and one might argue those two artists were producing some of their best work right at the end. Who knows what might have come next?

As for items further out on the horizon, I’ll mention only two. One, I’ve got a backlog of half-finished posts that I’ll get to soon to post here—musings on music, mortality and many other things. And, two, there’s finally some Honey-Flavored Soap news. Remember that? The long-promised album, some of whose demos are on the Songs page? Well, I’m finally working on it again after my February convalescence left me with few options for activity beyond reading and listening. During that time, while cleaning out a closet, I found a hard drive that was my only link to material I recorded before 2005—everything else was stolen in an early 2006 break-in. I’d long assumed that said hard drive was broken (it was pretty violently thrashed by the thieves), and even if it weren’t, I no longer possessed the (older) technology to get it up and running. On a lark, I plunked down money for an adapter and, when it arrived, put together the most outstanding technological kludge—a chain of adapters terminating in a USB cable fuelled by a poorly matched power supply. Miraculously, it worked long enough for me recover all of that precious data (e.g., the original backing tracks for all of those demos as well as things only my friends Erik and Albin have heard). After I’ve converted all of the tracks from my old programs and gotten everything up and running with my new setup, the re-recording and mixing will commence. Stay tuned…

PERMALINK  |           

2009

WEDNESDAY, 2 DECEMBER 2009

The Obvious and the Surprising

So, there’s not much to report here—beyond the obvious and the surprising.

First up, the obvious. It’s December, and 2009 will be coming to an end soon. What that means for me, of course, is that I’m beginning my annual jaunt through all of the new releases I’ve purchased during the calendar year to pick the best for this year’s compilation. It promises to be as strange as any of them have been over the last several years. I’m still not sure whether I’ll stick with the two-disc format (which definitely makes decision-making less agonizing) or return to the original single-disc version. Either way, expect to see a list over on the Musings page within a week, give or take, of 1 January 2010.

The other, surprising, news concerns one Elizabeth Fraser. She’s the vocalist who is best known for her work as a member of Cocteau Twins in the 1980s and ’90s and for appearances over the last two-and-a-half decades on recordings by Ian McCulloch, Felt, Craig Armstrong, Peter Gabriel and Massive Attack, among others. After being largely silent since the late 1990s, she’s recently emerged with a single on Rough Trade called “Moses,” a tribute to the late Jake Drake-Brockman. You can read her first interview in over a decade as well as hear a stream of the track at the Guardian’s website. Enjoy.

PERMALINK  |           

THURSDAY, 4 JUNE 2009

Catching up with Susan Rogers (and Prince)…

An hour ago, just when I was starting to think about shutting down the computer and going to bed, I found myself filled with curiosity. Tuesday night, around the same time, I was listening to Prince and the Revolution’s Sign ‘o’ the Times and marveling among other things at the clarity and inventiveness of the arrangements and the mixing. When I sat down earlier, that experience was still in my head, and my thoughts of shutting down came right as I started listening to Parade.

Together, those thoughts and the music led me to wonder what Susan Rogers was doing. In the mid-1980s, she was the engineer responsible for setting things up in the studio for Prince so that he could do what he does (did?) so well. And by “setting things up,” I mean she built and installed gear as well as maintained it. She placed and maintained mics and instruments. She made sure that all of Prince’s effects and processing gear always had his preferred settings, and she did some engineering for him when he didn’t want to be (or couldn’t be) behind the console.

So what did I find out? From this feature in the McGill Reporter, I learned that as of 2006 she was graduate student doing research on music and cognition. A little more digging brought up an interview in which Rogers describes in more detail what she did while working with Prince.

As to why this is a news item rather than a brief Musing in which I’d lay everything out, there’s a teasing answer. That is, there’s another reason for my wondering about Rogers. Reading about her and listening repeatedly to mid-1980s Prince is research for a post that’ll appear in a few weeks. If you know anything about Prince’s career and its peaks, you should be able to guess what historical milestone that post will mark and on what day it’ll appear. Stay tuned…

PERMALINK  |           

MONDAY, 16 FEBRUARY 2009

The Pirate Bay’s “Spectrial” Begins in Stockholm…

In the continuing saga arising from the collision of Internet music and film distribution and copyright holders, another trial started today in Sweden. The complainants in this case are major record labels and movie studios, and the defendants are the people behind (and presumed to be behind) the torrent tracking website The Pirate Bay.

What makes this case different from the many others that have preceded it—most famously the one against Napster—is the theatricality the defendants and their supporters have brought to the proceedings. Apparently, the PB team and their attorney appeared in a court filled with supporters dressed as pirates. Yes, pirates. In part, the defendants are, as one report puts it, “intent on seeing the trial as mere spectacle and sideshow.” To that end, they referred to the proceedings as a “spectrial” in a press release yesterday. In addition, they traveled to the courthouse in Stockholm aboard a restored bus, dubbed the S23K and decorated with pirate symbols, that will function as a press center throughout the trial.

The Pirate Bay founders/operators have a reputation for irreverence, often responding to legal complaints with insult-laden missives. A reply to attorneys for DreamWorks, for example, included these words: “It is the opinion of us and our lawyers that you are ……. morons, and that you should please go sodomize yourself with retractable batons.” Even more choice language appears near the message’s close (another page contains links to all of the complaints they have received as well as their replies). Still, it remains to be seen whether they will be as successful in court as they have been in garnering public support…

PERMALINK  |           

TUESDAY, 3 FEBRUARY 2009

A Little Treat for (Some) Mobile Phone Visitors

I don’t know whether there’s any existing or pent-up demand for what I’m about to announce, but here goes. In my still-nonexistent spare time, I’ve stolen a few moments over the last several weeks to do some minor coding tweaks to this site. For most of you, they won’t affect the way you view or otherwise interact with the content here. For those growing numbers of you who own a certain mobile device, however, the experience has been enhanced.

To wit, there’s now an iPhone-optimized version of the site that you can view simply by entering the URL for the main page (or any other one) in Safari on the phone. The server will detect that you’re using the Apple mobile device and reformat the pages accordingly. Note well that the navigational aids positioned in the sidebar have been stripped down and, in accordance with accepted guidelines for mobile page design, moved to the bottom of each window. If you do find yourself perusing the site with your iPhone, be sure to rotate the phone 90°, and watch the page reorient itself. Brilliant!

PERMALINK  |           

SUNDAY, 4 JANUARY 2009

A Late Stocking Stuffer?

Even though 2008 has passed, I’m still processing it through a nearly around-the-clock reappraisal of all the new releases I purchased. That’s right, I’m in the first stage of preparing the 2008 compilation. With any luck, I’ll be sending it out soon along with the 2007 compilation that a number of duties conspired to keep confined to the Javacrossknit, cough, production facility last year. Rest assured, that despite the passage of time, the 2007 comp and its younger sibling will still contain surprises.

I still have four discs to audition before making my final choices. Expect there to be tracks representing at least 24 albums on the latest comp. Expect, as well, to see a list of the recordings that didn’t make the final list on these pages soon. Once I’ve selected the remaining discs, there remain two time-consuming stages: sequencing and production. I’ll post a notice when I start mailing packages to the lucky people on the list. Stay tuned…

PERMALINK  |           

2008

TUESDAY, 28 OCTOBER 2008

The Launch of MTV Music Means There Will Be Higher-Quality Videos Available Online

Tired of having a video jones, doing an online search and having to settle for some poorly encoded item uploaded to YouTube—something recorded, say, with a camera trained on a television set? Well, you’re in luck.

Earlier today, MTV unveiled a new site—MTV Music—that reminds me of what the network was during its early years: one devoted to playing music videos around the clock. Given the paucity of available material when the network launched in 1981, a viewer could expect a hodgepodge of material that—while it largely excluded the work of black musicians—defied easy genre categorizations, including the Top 40 characterization mentioned in the Wikipedia entry on the network. Among the items I remember seeing back then on a typical day were Squeeze’s “Tempted”; David Bowie’s “Fashion”; Adam and the Ants’ “Stand and Deliver”; the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime and Modern English’s “Someone’s Calling” as well as material by Kate Bush, Ph.D., .38 Special, Phil Collins, Michael Johnson and Andrew Gold, who’d be a historical footnote were it not for his song “Thank You for Being a Friend” having been used as the theme song for NBC’s The Golden Girls later in the decade.

It’s still early days for the site. Work by the less popular artists in the list above is not yet available, but their videos were among those most heavily promoted then. Fear not, though. This news item, the one that prompted this post, indicates that MTV currently has 16,000 videos uploaded with more to come each day.

So, in the coming days, weeks or months (depending on how much you procrastinate online), join me in finding new (and old) items posted there. It should be fun. In the meantime, feast your eyes and ears on the very first video the network broadcast on 1 August 1981: The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” [Ed. 12 May 2010—The video has been removed since I originally posted this item]. (Note that the group featured Trevor Horn among its members. I’ve written about his career beyond the Buggles here.)

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MONDAY, 15 SEPTEMBER 2008

Site Updates for Standards and Discoverability

Since last month’s site redesign, I’ve been making additional programming changes here, ones that hopefully make the pages load more quickly. That means, nonetheless, that those people who still use Internet Explorer—and the visitor stats for this site, collected via StatCounter, indicate that there are a lot of you—might have some issues viewing the pages. Those problems (tiny fonts, odd indentations) are a function of Microsoft’s insistence on doing things its own way rather than adopting the standards observed by most other modern browser designers. So I recommend using Safari (Mac users) and Firefox (everyone regardless of platform).

I’ve also added one other convenience, something that other designers might categorize under “discoverability.” I’m often surprised that some Internet users have no idea what RSS feeds are or how convenient they can make being informed of site updates. Since a number of browsers can now determine whether a page has a feed automatically, I’ve recoded every one tracked in one of this site’s feeds. That means, in most cases, that the box in your browser that shows the current page’s URL will also display some variant of the feed icon: . Thus, even if you don’t use a reader, you can still use your browser to subscribe to feeds and keep current with what’s happening here. More changes are on the horizon, so stay tuned…

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TUESDAY, 12 AUGUST 2008

Site Redesigned and Commenting Restored...

After months of idle promises, I’ve finally (almost) completed all of the updates I wanted to make to this site. The most obvious one is, of course, the new layout: it’s wider and has a less oppressive color scheme and more white space. Together those changes might make the site a bit more readable. I know I love looking it at it much more in this form.

The even bigger change is one you won’t see until you check out one—or any—of the posts on the Musings page. At long last, I’ve restored the ability for people to add comments. There are a few requirements, though. For security purposes, the first time you try to post a comment, you’ll have to register (with a valid e-mail address). Once you do, you’ll receive an e-mail with a link that, once clicked, will activate your account. Then, you can login to post your comment. Every time thereafter, you’ll simply have to login using the e-mail address and password you provided.

Just in case you’re wondering, your password will be encrypted in such a form that even I won’t be able to read it—so be sure to pick something you can remember. Soon, though, I’ll add some pages that will allow you to reset or change your password in the event that you forget it or want to enter a new one.

Please do let me know what you think of changes. You can do so by sending me a note via the Contact link in the sidebar. Enjoy…

PERMALINK  |           

MONDAY, 23 JUNE 2008

Summer Musings, Comments and More on the Horizon

It’s summer now in the northern hemisphere, and that means among other things that, alongside the major film studios, recording labels large and small have been releasing some of their most highly anticipated new recordings. I’ve gotten my hands on a few of them so far, and they are predictably a mixed bunch. That is, while some have already been added to the list of items I’ll consider for the 2008 Best-Of compilation, others need a few more listens before I can give them individual thumbs-ups, -downs or -horizontals.

In the coming days and weeks, I’ll be posting capsule reviews over on the Musings page. Among the items up for consideration include Portishead’s Third, My Morning Jacket’s Evil Urges, Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah: Volume 1 (4th World War), The Roots’ Rising Down and maybe, just maybe, Coldplay’s Viva la Vida….

While I’m working on those posts, some of which are already in draft form, I’ll finally be finishing the programming that will allow viewers of this site to leave comments. There might also be a redesign in the near future, prompted by Cortney’s asking me what the purpose of this site is. While that’s a deceptively simple question, answering it does have implications for the layout and design. Besides, changing the look and feel of the site has two things going for it: (1) Folks who stumble on these pages might linger longer and (2) I’ll get to try out some of the fancy programming stuff I’ve been learning. Stay tuned.

PERMALINK  |           

MONDAY, 21 APRIL 2008

2007 Compiliation Update

Hopefully this isn’t a sign of things to come, but I won’t be getting around to finally distributing the 2007 compilation CD for a few more weeks. Yes, I know it’s almost May, and for some—especially given all of the highly anticipated releases that have appeared or will be coming soon (e.g., Portishead’s Third)—2007 might seem a dim musical memory.

At the very least, though, I should explain why there’s been such a delay. First, January and February were insanely busy times for me workwise. Nonetheless, I did manage to come up with a final sequence for the 28 tracks spread over two discs some time ago. When I was listening to the full playback to check levels and transitions, I encountered problems with two tracks and realized I’d have to push things back even more. That is, after attempting to rip them using three different CD drives, I determined that the source discs were the problem. So I ordered new copies of both discs (the replacement for one of which was backordered and arrived just today), only to still have glitches—though luckily at different points in the respective tracks. My solution now is to edit two different versions of each track into seamless, glitch-free versions. It’s going to take me some time to get to that, but those of you on the list can rest assured that something will finally be on its way to you soon…

PERMALINK  |           

SUNDAY, 6 APRIL 2008

Another New Song...

There’s a new demo on the Songs page: “Verdict.” It’s something I conceived and recorded this afternoon. While the lyrics are somewhat vague, I do have a specific target for them. I hope you dig what's on offer…

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FRIDAY, 8 FEBRUARY 2008

At Long Last, the Lists: Late, but not Forgotten…

At long last, at least for those of you who’ve been waiting, I’m posting both sets of 2007 lists simultaneously. That is, there’s an entry on the Musings page containing the albums that almost made the cut for my 2007 best-of list and another entry on the Faves page containing the ones that did. Check them both out.

While the last news post I indicated that I hoped to be done with the selection process nearly a month ago, the particularly intense requirements of a departmental job search, reading applications for admission, teaching and everything else that I do meant that I had to stall for a few weeks—in favor of things like sleeping and eating. I hope you understand.

At any rate, sometime next week (and before I go to Texas for a wedding), I’ll be ordering media and entering production mode. Thus, with any luck, those of you on the list should start checking your mailboxes at the end of this month. What you’ll receive will be as brilliant a listening experience as ever…

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MONDAY, 14 JANUARY 2008

Almost There...

Some of you have, I’m sure, been wondering where the 2007 Faves list is or whether it will ever appear. Fear not. December and the break following the term were a little busier than they’ve been the last few years, and the list of recordings I needed to give another listen (or two or three) was longer than it had been in the past.

The good news is that I’m really close to finalizing the list. I’ve been a bit more exacting in determining what constitutes a good album than I have in the past, and that’s saying quite a bit. Nonetheless, there remain only four albums for me to audition before making the final selections.

Sometime in the next few days, you’ll see the list of also-rans on the Musings page. That list will be followed in fairly short order by the best-of list. Quite soon afterwards, the mad sequencing will begin—and it will be a challenge. The amount of pop material on the year-end comp will be greater than it has been in the past. And if I can make everything come together, it’ll be, in my humble opinion, a set to rival the best hours of my dearly missed radio show.

If you’re on the list, watch your mailbox in February…

PERMALINK  |           

2007

TUESDAY, 18 DECEMBER 2007

The Listening Is the Hardest Part...

Once again, it’s that time of year when I have difficult choices to make. And I don’t mean choices about how to participate in the collective consumerist performance that is the holiday season in the US.

No, what I’m doing is listening—while sitting at my desk, sitting on the couch, lying in bed, cooking, doing dishes, whatever. As I write this (at the desk, of course), I’m looking at a pile of seventeen CDs. While I work today and for the forseeable future, I’ll be listening and making mental notes on how those compare to each other and every other new release I’ve heard in 2007. And if I’m doing that, you know that I’m in the process of putting together this year’s Best-of compilation. As always, there are a few items that will absolutely appear there, though they may not be the ones you’d expect—even if you’ve paid attention to previous Faves lists. One thing I can say for sure is that this year the list will contain less indie rock than it has in the past (there’s a Musings post coming soon that will explain why.) The next few weeks, though, are for the hairsplitting, the making of change, the trying to distinguish between six of one and a half-dozen of another. The list will be all the better for the effort.

I’ve gotten a couple of striking suggestions from friends for the title of this year’s compilation, which will once again be spread over two discs. Keep the suggestions coming, and keep your eyes on your mailbox. If you’re on the list (and if you don’t know that you are, you probably aren’t), you’ll get your package sometime in January. I would send them out sooner, but there’s an album coming out on 28 December that I have to hear before anything’s final. Stay tuned…

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WEDNESDAY, 7 NOVEMBER 2007

“Another Night,” Another Song Added to the Site

I realize that not all of you who browse this site might be feed subscribers. And for that reason, I’m posting this news item to gently nudge you to visit the Songs page.

I’ve posted there the first “new” song in a very long time. I put that word in quotation marks because the song is five years old. It comes from what, in hindsight, was a remarkably creative year for me. I’m not sure why I never posted it before. Maybe the audible hiss bothered me. Or maybe I thought the demo was too raw (bad microphone technique, minimal compression, the recording of voice and guitar on a single track) to present to the public. Whatever the case might have been, I stumbled on the track tonight and revised my earlier thoughts. So check it out. And, as always, let me know what you think…

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TUESDAY, 11 SEPTEMBER 2007

MBE at 30; Site Updates…

While doing my typical morning trawl through my favorite websites and RSS feeds earlier, I came across something I missed last week while I was in Montréal: a program celebrating the 30th anniversary of one of my favorite radio shows: Morning Becomes Eclectic. I’ve mentioned the program before, here and here, and the materials you can hear and see on the celebration program make a good argument for the show’s past and continuing relevance. On offer, for example, are the first-ever performance of “Subterranean Homesick Alien” by Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead (from 1995), a filmed excerpt of “Don’t Panic” by Coldplay (from 2000 when they were still interesting), and a 1994 interview excerpt in which George Martin describes recording the not-quite-harpsichord solo in the Beatles’ “In My Life.” Definitely worth a few minutes of your time.

In other news, you’ve doubtless noticed that the color scheme has changed. It may change again soon, depending on the response I get to this one. As I grow more adept with the tools I’m using to maintain this site, you can expect more creative and design-sensitive fare to come your way. Relatedly, as soon as I’ve finished the requisite reading and testing (for security’s sake), comments will be restored to the site.

Lastly, while I’ve been busy with travel, writing and preparation for the coming academic year, I do have a number of nearly complete postings for the Musings page sitting on my desktop. One revisits the issues raised in this post, while the others address recent films, concerts and recordings. Stay tuned. They’ll start appearing this weekend…

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TUESDAY, 26 JUNE 2007

Javacrossknitmusic Is Now Searchable...

After a little work this evening, I’ve made this site searchable. Using the handy link in the sidebar, you can search for words or phrases (no quotation marks necessary) that appear on the News, Musings or Faves pages. Have at it, and if you have difficulties please let me know using the Contact link in the sidebar. (Note: I’m still working out how to deal with apostrophes.)

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SATURDAY, 9 JUNE 2007

The New Site Is in Effect

After a lot of painstaking coding and testing, I’m nearly done with the under-the-hood changes mentioned in the last news item. All that remains is for me to re-implement the commenting system. While the free service that I was using before worked fine with the old implementation, I’m not sure whether it will work with the way the pages are now generated. When I restore commenting, another news post will make that clear. Otherwise, the new site is now live (actually, it has been since I uploaded all of the new files yesterday).

If you’re wondering why I’m making such a fuss about the design stuff, there’s a simple answer. Because I’d been so disappointed with the choices offered by free online blogging tools, especially those that make it difficult to create sites that host several blogs with a unified, interlinked system, I developed a workflow to allow me to do what I wanted. The downside of the process is that it involved my coding each page and feed by hand in TextWrangler and then uploading each changed file using a versatile program called Interarchy. Working that way was, as you might expect, time-consuming. My new workflow, whose tools (PHP and MySQL) have been available for years, allows me simply to make a new entry in a database and save the file. That’s it. When someone later accesses a page, they instantly see everything reformatted to reflect whatever change(s) I made. The upshot is that by simplifying the process, I’ve increased the likelihood that this site will be updated more frequently.

Among the things you might do to get the most out of the changes are the following. You’ll probably want to update any bookmarks to this site you might have by navigating to the relevant pages and then making the appropriate changes. Likewise, if you subscribe to any of this site’s feeds, it would be advisable for you to unsubscribe to them and re-enter the URLs in your feed reader. Lastly, while I’ve worked hard to update all of the internal links mentioned in “Musings” or “News” items, if you click something that’s supposed to take you to another page on this site and you receive an error, please use the “Contact” link in the sidebar to let me know about the problem.

That’s all for now. If you like the way things are working now, drop me a line. And stay tuned for other changes in usability….

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WEDNESDAY, 30 MAY 2007

Major Site Changes Coming Soon...

I’ve had a pretty “wild” time over the last several days, generally not sleeping as much as I should and filling what little free time I have with activity that most would deem far from productive. What, pray tell, have I been doing?

I have, once again, been implementing and testing some major under-the-hood changes for this website. While the changes in the visual design (line-height and typeface size adjustments, for example) are quite subtle, some of the other changes are more far-reaching. More to the point, I decided to make the site much more dynamic by putting almost all of its content into a database and allowing each page to be built from that data. What this will mean, I hope, is that the site is easier to navigate for you and that updating content (and especially sidebar links) will be much easier for me.

I’m tempted to say more, but I’d risk boring you. Just keep your eyes peeled for the new site, which will migrate from my home computer testing bed to the web in the coming weeks. If you’ve bookmarked any page associated with this site, you’re going to have to update your links. The RSS feed links will remain as they are…

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WEDNESDAY, 18 APRIL 2007

“Great Albums” Sale at the iTunes Store

Want to make your (legal) digital music collection a bit more classic? Need to fill some holes in your holdings? Head over to the iTunes Store (warning: this link may launch the program), where there’s a sale going on with lots of “great albums” on sale, some priced as low as $5.99. Among the (near) canonic items I noticed there were Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue, Sly and the Family Stone’s There’s a Riot Going On, Anita Baker’s Rapture, Frank Sinatra’s Songs for Swinging Lovers, the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy and Massive Attack’s Blue Lines. I won’t be buying those (since I already have them), but there are many items I’m giving a long look. You might as well have a look, too. (By the way, even though these are surely matters of taste, I do wonder whether the selectors tossed in Arrested Development’s 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of… as a joke. I’ve tried for over a decade to understand how that could even be considered a good album, and I keep coming up short…)

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MONDAY, 16 APRIL 2007

Ornette Coleman Awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Music

I received a really lovely e-mail this afternoon. From it, I learned that Ornette Coleman, whose live recording Sound Grammar was one of my favorite releases from last year, has been awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music. While I could grumble that many of his other recordings and compositions might have merited the same honor, there’s no point in that. Considering the award alongside his 1994 MacArthur Foundation grant, we can say that he has received the kind of recognition that eluded other prominent American “vernacular” musicians like Duke Ellington in their lifetimes. If you don’t have the recording, I highly suggest it as an introduction to Coleman’s music. And, from there, you should dig into his back catalogue, finding at least two recordings from each decade starting with the 1950s. It’ll be an aurally spectacular ride…

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MONDAY, 2 APRIL 2007

Finally (Maybe) a New Album from D’Angelo

I was thinking about D’Angelo this afternoon and wondering, perhaps like many others, whether or when there would be a third album from him. So I did what many curious folks might, I entered his name into Google. To my surprise, I came across a post on the pro-audio site Gearslutz. In that post engineer Russ Elevado—who helmed the desk for D’Angelo’s 2000 disc Voodoo as well as Common’s Like Water for Chocolate and Electric Circus, among others—indicated that there might be a release before the end of 2007. Barring that, the album, whose working title is James River, will get wide distribution by the end of 2008.Elevado also hinted that the album might signal another change of direction, one more toward rock (“like [F]unkadelic meets the [B]eatles”). Apparently, in addition to the Beatles, Mr. Archer has been listening to a lot of Jimi Hendrix. There’ll be some mixing sessions in May, though those will be for material from the Voodoo tour. Whatever the result of those sessions (as well as those that took place last November), I’ll keep my fingers crossed and hope for something delicious….

(By the way, the recording-oriented among you might check out this page, on which Elevado describes some of the techniques he used in recording Voodoo. It’s an enlightening read.)

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SUNDAY, 25 MARCH 2007

Comments! Comments! Comments!

By semi-popular demand, I’ve finally implemented commenting over on the Musings page. Now you can let me (and everyone else) know who you are and what you think of my rantings. This could be fun—or not…

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SATURDAY, 24 MARCH 2007

Alternate Take Is Going Off-Air

A message in my inbox late last night contained some distressing news, news that I might have known sooner had I not been on vacation for the last several days: yet another enterprising music program has fallen victim to misguided public radio programmers.

If you’ve read my Musings or followed Ear Candy for Insomniacs at any point, it would be hard for you to have missed my numerous mentions of Liz Copeland, host of Alternate Take on WDET-FM in Detroit. If you never took the time to follow the links to hear what I was raving about, you have less than a week to do so. Her final show will be broadcast between midnight and 5 a.m. EDT on 31 March. Coming on the heels of Chicago Public Radio’s recent elimination of most of its original music programming, this is sad news indeed. I’ll have more to say about the larger issues involved on the Musings page shortly. In the meantime, visit the AT page and fire up your Windows Media Player to hear one or all of the five most recent episodes. You won’t be disappointed.

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SATURDAY, 24 MARCH 2007

Earticklers on iLike.com

[Ed. Since adding this post, I've stopped using iLike, so all further references to it on this site have been removed or no longer function.]

I’ve just added another link to the Feeds page, which is a more up-to-the-moment version of the signatures that many of you see in personal e-mail messages from me. My pal J. Niimi turned me on to a social networking site called iLike that tracks the songs one plays in iTunes and records the information on a web page for all to see. Unlike other sites that require a lot of manual entry of information, this one automates the process of letting other people know what music you have in heavy rotation. As an added bonus, if the tracks are in the iLike database, you can actually sample them to decide whether you should try to acquire them.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be inviting various pals of mine to become members so we can be even more incestuously linked where music is concerned. If you’re already signed up for the service, why not add me as one of your pals?

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SATURDAY, 27 JANUARY 2007

Objects in the Mirror iMixes

This is for those people who weren’t included on the distribution list for Objects in the Mirror, my 2006 year-end compilation. How do you know whether you’re on the list? If I told you in person or via e-mail that you were, then you are, and your copy should be on the way if not already playing in your stereo. If I’ve told you nothing, well, you can probably guess what that means.

I’ve set up two iMixes at the iTunes Store which, respectively, contain the tracks from disc one and disc two of the compilation. At the very least, the rest of you can get a taste of what some of my closest friends have heard. You can sample the tracks and buy all of them directly from iTunes (except for the Patricia Barber track, which is an album-only sale) and, I presume, from the Zune Marketplace (if you roll that way). A more limited selection is available from eMusic and Napster. The best possible option, though, is to get whatever albums you think you’ll dig from your local independent record store since, at least in theory, artists receive more royalties from disc sales.

By the way, even if you are one of the lucky recipients of the compilation, visit the iTunes store anyway and assign rankings to the two discs. Sometimes a little validation goes a long way…

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SATURDAY, 6 JANUARY 2007

The 2006 Best-Of List Has Really Been Posted

Wednesday, 3 January’s news post was the equivalent of sending an e-mail message without the link or attachment that was the reason for the message. Sorry about that. As I write this message, however, I can assure you that the best-of list has really been posted. I’m certain that the mild charges of increasing obscurantism that usually come in reaction to the lists will continue, but it’s never been my agenda to one-up others with arcane knowledge. I just want to find/hear music that makes me smile, makes me think, makes me take long deep breaths and sigh. Music that did that for me this last year—and did so over the span of an album—makes up that there list. So, now, really, go check it out…

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WEDNESDAY, 3 JANUARY 2007

The 2006 Best-Of List Has Been Posted

The 2006 Best-Of list is now up on the Faves page. Those of you who are on the distribution list for the 2006 compilation have only a week or two more before your two-disc package arrives in the mail (or is handed to you by me). I opted this year to use higher quality (read: not bought at an office supply store) CD-Rs and packaging created by a Chicago design studio.

As I wrote yesterday, the decision-making process was a bit harder for 2006. In many cases, I found myself having to listen to a single borderline recording three times in a row to make a choice. I’m really happy with the final list and would recommend any of those CDs to people who share tastes as eclectic as mine. I owe a special debt of thanks to two people in that category, my friends Jeff and Jason. The former recommended two of the items on the final list, while the latter turned me on to another last summer (as well as one of the items on the runner-up list posted yesterday). For that matter, I should thank Nate for one of the items on the list posted yesterday as well. He gets a disc, too. Hopefully, the three of them will discover some other items to tickle their ears when they receive their CDs.

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TUESDAY, 2 JANUARY 2007

The New Site Is Up

Okay, so I overshot my deadline for posting the lists. Part of the reason is that the site redesign took a little longer than I hoped. Another part of the reason is that the listening and deciding were a lot more complicated this year, as the recent post (which includes my list of the “almost best” albums of 2006) on the Musings page indicates. There was one additional, and major, reason why things have taken so long: I decided to move these pages from their former host to a more dedicated, reliable space. Any of you who have been redirected here should bookmark this page as the material at the old site will soon disappear. In, like, minutes.

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2006

WEDNESDAY, 27 DECEMBER 2006

Year-End List Update, Site Changes

The listening is almost done. Sometime tomorrow or Friday, I’ll be posting both of the lists I promised last week. In addition, I’ll be debuting a new, sleeker site design, one complete with RSS feeds so that you can easily learn when new songs, musings or news items are posted. Feedback, as always, will be welcome.

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SATURDAY, 16 DECEMBER 2006

Year-End Lists Coming Soon

In what seems to be now only an annual updating (maybe things will change in 2007), I’m posting to let you know that the 2006 best-of list will be posted to the Faves page at some point in the next couple of weeks. Shortly before then, I’ll post the list of also-rans on the Musings page. Stay tuned…

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TUESDAY, 10 JANUARY 2006

The 2005 Lists Have Been Posted

Now, finally, there’s a new list on the Faves page. I’ve been keeping it a secret since I finished all of my listening during the long drive home for holidays. I was hoping not to reveal it until I knew that the compilation recipients had received something in the mail. Unfortunately, a shorter-than-usual break and an extremely hectic first week of the quarter kept me from being able to put together the compilation in as timely a fashion as I had hoped. I had hoped to spend this past Sunday finalizing the sequence and putting things into the mail … when another setback occurred: the theft of my main computer.

Not to worry, though. There will still be a compilation, largely because my aggressive off-site backup strategies are paying off. I even managed to recover (from the backup) what is perhaps the best artwork I’ve done to date. There will, however, be a delay as I track down vendors, private download URLs, old serial numbers and such to install software on my office computer to finish the project and get back up to speed. Your patience will be greatly appreciated in the coming weeks. With any luck, what was to be a holiday treat for some of you will instead be a musical Valentine’s Day present…

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2005

THURSDAY, 22 DECEMBER 2005

Lists in Preparation

Hmmmm. It’s been so long since I’ve posted anything that there are probably few explanations more extensive than the “I’ve been busy” one that might say anything useful. And, if you’ve been waiting oh-so-patiently for some news to hit this page … well, you’re going to have to wait just a bit longer.

What started as a pleasurable activity—compiling a list of my favorite releases for a calendar year and distributing a sampler to a select group of friends—has increasingly become something of a burden and nightmare. The last couple of years have seen me scrambling in late November and early December both to listen to notable releases already in my possession and to purchase and give careful consideration to a bunch of other contenders. Last year in particular, when I decided to send out a two-disc compilation, the whole endeavor really taxed me, particularly as the distribution list grew to 30 and burning, labeling and testing as many CD-R sets, not to mention addressing envelopes and putting them in the mail, consumed time that I might have fruitfully devoted to, I don’t know, relaxing….

Being totally honest, I should also admit that I was more than annoyed that a few people—each of whom barely rose above the level of acquaintance, but still begged to receive a comp in the mail (you know who you are)—didn’t even extend me the courtesy of acknowledging that they received anything. The whole experience has left me wondering whether it makes any sense to continue doing this, if ever it did.

Anyway, belly-aching aside, sometime in the next couple of weeks, you’ll see an honorable mention list on the Musings page. It will probably contain at least as many entries as the 2005 best-of list that will be posted simultaneously on the Faves page of this site. And, when you’ve had the chance to look both lists over, hopefully you won’t be too sad knowing that they, and the compilation a much smaller number of you will receive, will probably be the last of their kind…

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SUNDAY, 27 MARCH 2005

Cocteau Twins at Coachella ... Cancelled

This is a brief addendum to the last entry that I probably should have posted sooner. For undisclosed personal reasons, Liz Fraser has opted not to perform at the Coachella Festival. That effectively means that there will be no Cocteau Twins reunion there. Given the lateness of the cancellation, no other group will perform in their place.

Luckily, I hadn’t yet purchased airline or concert tickets. A number of the people who did so with more alacrity are, to varying degrees, disappointed, annoyed, and pissed. I can’t say I blame them, but I do wonder whether some of them have taken things a little too far by psychoanalyzing Ms. Fraser and suggesting that her pulling out was some sort of “diva” move. In the absence of any information, such speculation is not warranted…

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SUNDAY, 13 FEBRUARY 2005

2004 Also-Rans, 2005 Goodies, Cocteau Twins to Perform

Now is as good a time as any to reveal some of the recordings I missed that therefore didn’t make it to the 2004 compilation. Several of them came my way via Jason mere days after I finalized and distributed the first copies of the compilation (including his). He gave me a compilation of his own, spanning a few years, in return—from which the following are culled. While I knew about American Music Club’s Love Songs for Patriots over the summer, it had slipped from my mind by the time it was released in September. I bought it just at the end of December, and it has been in heavy rotation since (one track, “Home,” even made the playlist for my first WHPK radio show). Outstanding as well are two releases featuring Leslie Feist: her debut recording Let It Die, released under the name Feist, and the Kings of Convenience’s Riot on an Empty Street. Also among the Jason-inspired purchases is Matt Pond PA’s Emblems. The song “Lily Two” alone is worth the CD’s purchase price. Lastly, I’m hoping for a domestic release of Stina Nordenstam’s The World Is Saved, but the tunes “Winter Killing” and “The End of the Affair” might be enough to make a music lover and his money soon part company. Those tunes, that is, and the fact the recording was engineered by Tchad Blake, one of my all-time favorite engineer/producers, noted for his work with Crowded House, Los Lobos, Ron Sexsmith, Suzanne Vega and countless others.

2005 is shaping up to be an interesting year. In the coming weeks, I might have laudatory things to say about Marianne Faithfull’s new recording Before the Poison (which features contributions from Nick Cave, PJ Harvey and Adrian Utley, among others) as well two releases produced by Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev’s The Secret Migration—already out in the UK but not due for release Stateside until May—and Low’s Sub Pop debut The Great Destroyer). I’m not as excited about Beck’s upcoming Guero, but I’m prepared to listen with open ears.

Lastly, I’m seriously considering flying to LA and driving out to Indio for the Coachella Festival on 30 April and 1 May. After disbanding in 1998 in the process of recording the follow-up to 1996’s Milk and Kisses, the Cocteau Twins have decided to reform for at least one performance at said festival. They’ll be featured, alongside Coldplay, Weezer and Bauhaus, on the first day of the festival. (Day two will feature Nine Inch Nails, New Order, Bright Eyes and the original lineup of Gang of Four.) Some posters in the forums on a CT website are hopeful that, as was the case with the Pixies, the band will have an experience that will convince them to do a broader tour and perhaps record some new material. I’m not holding my breath.

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TUESDAY, 8 FEBRUARY 2005

I’ve Got a Radio Show

So several months after he first suggested the idea, Mike O’Flaherty finally convinced me that I should do a radio show on WHPK-FM. The first one will air in a little more than an hour. It’s called Ear Candy for Insomniacs, and you can get more information about when it airs and what I’ve played by clicking on the name.

Unfortunately, the station does not have webcasting capability … yet. I’ll post an update here with info when it does (probably in about a month).

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2004

MONDAY, 6 DECEMBER 2004

The 2004 Compilation Is Complete

After some last-minute purchases, scanning of new release lists and almost obsessive sequencing, listening and re-sequencing, I’ve finally put together the 2004 compilation. It’s a bit more meditative than previous ones, but, I hope, no less compelling. Those of you who just know you’re going to get a copy in the mail might want to avoid looking at the Faves page for the next couple of weeks.

The rest of you, as well as the impatiently curious, can go there to see the 22 new releases that made the cut. On the long list of items not included—either because I couldn’t get my hands on them to decide or because they just weren’t as strong as the rest—were the following: The Blue Nile, High; U2, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb; Jerry González, Jerry González y los Piratas del Flamenco; Mos Def, The New Danger; Violet Indiana, Russian Doll; Starsailor, Silence Is Easy; Stereolab, Margarine Eclipse; Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News; Paco, This Is Where We Live; PJ Harvey, Uh Huh Her; Los Lobos, The Ride; Kings of Convenience, Riot on an Empty Street; Madvillain, Madvillainy; Finn Brothers, Everyone Is Here and The Streets, A Grand Don’t Come for Free.

Perhaps more so than other years, this one is testament to the enduring power of word-of-mouth recommendations. For their ear-opening suggestions, Jason, Stefanie, Tehama, Jake and (as always) Erik have my undying thanks.

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SATURDAY, 27 NOVEMBER 2004

Recording Notes, the Year-End Compilation

The last several months have been, as the lack of updates testifies, extremely busy. The re-recording of tracks for Honey-Flavored Soap is proceeding nicely, partly because I recently learned a few really important things about reverb and compression. The result of those discoveries will be that the album will sound less like something I recorded in a home studio—clear, punchy and spacious. I love them so much that I’m tempted to post some of the latest mixes, but, as I indicated before, I think I’ll keep them to myself until the album is done…

I spent an inordinate amount of time today listening to a stack of CDs to choose tracks for Treasure, this year’s compilation of songs from my favorite new releases. There were so many that I’m going to follow up on Matthew’s suggestion from last year and make a two-CD compilation. Those of you on the mailing list should be seeing them in late December or early January. The latter date is probably more accurate, since it almost always happens that I hear something that I missed or that blows my mind in mid-December. I don’t see why this year should be any different, or why I should put the thing to bed prematurely. Those of you who won’t receive the compilation in the mail should stay tuned for the album list, which will be posted in the Faves section of this site.

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SATURDAY, 24 JULY 2004

Color Schemes, New Audio Content

After all the work I put into changing the color scheme (and the typeface—this site looks best if you have Century Gothic installed), I realized I should probably add a little more sonic content to the site. To that end, I’ve added another tune to the Songs page. “Possibility” is an instrumental that will probably be shortened/edited and that resulted from my having fun one Saturday night last fall playing/muting harmonics on the guitar with some deep flanging and a little delay. So, yes, even that lower-pitched, swelling, synth-like sound comes from the guitar. And it’s all one take on one guitar—but I did nearly hypnotize myself by playing the same thing over and over for about a half hour before deciding to record it. Enjoy…

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FRIDAY, 23 JULY 2004

More Site Changes, Recording Progress

“Why is it,” you might ask, “that the infrequent news updates seem to be only about site design?” Well, maybe it’s because I’m so busy with the recording and mixing work (as well as my regular day-to-day work) that I can’t spare time even for the slimmest update. So, the main point of this post is to announce yet one more subtle change to the appearance of the site. To put it simply, the color scheme was getting to me. Or, more to the point, the consistency of the color scheme was getting to me. So, I spent a couple of hours designing a style sheet for the whole site and then recoding each page to take advantage of it. The result, I hope, is that pages load faster and that colors always signify the same thing.

But I would be remiss not to say something about my progress on Honey-Flavored Soap. I’ve been slowly, through judicious use of EQ and reverb, taking the harshness and muddiness out of the mixes. I’ve also re-recorded a lot of parts, redone drum patterns, and will soon redo all of the vocals and background vocals using my good (rather than utility) microphones. Unfortunately, the results probably won’t be posted here. After all, you have to have some reason to buy the recording when it’s finished…

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TUESDAY, 30 MARCH 2004

Recording Progress, Site Changes

There’s not much to report here. The out-of-town demands of work have slowed considerably—and just in time for me to enjoy working with a new computer. Combining the more-than-doubled speed and processing power with some hints gleaned from a book I saw lying in my friend Erik’s living room, I’m finally adding some depth and polish to the demos on the Songs page. If I could just stop writing new songs to focus on re-recording, I’d have HFS out sooner than the summer.

The only other item of note is that I made some minor changes to the web page that probably won’t be obvious to any but the most dedicated readers of these pages (if such people exist). They all relate to the section that used to be called Notes. The name change seemed necessary, as "Notes" seemed simply too vague. "Musings" may not sound like much of an improvement, but it more accurately captures what someone clicking on the link would find. And, just to make visiting it a little more appealing, I’ve posted, since mid-February, varied reflections on new and old recordings that have recently, ahem, warmed my sonic space. So, if you want to understand how I really think about music and recordings, there’s no better place to start.

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SUNDAY, 25 JANUARY 2004

The Inaugural Post

So, this first item falls into the “patently obvious” category. That is, if you are viewing this page, then you already know that, as of a couple of months ago, I migrated all of the music-related info from the UofC pages to these. I hope you enjoy the redesign, particularly since I spent a good deal of time trying to create a pleasing consistency for this site. I guess I’ll hear from one of you if I’ve failed miserably.

And for those who have typically received my year-end compilations and who are wondering whether I still count them among my dearest friends, not to worry. I’m still planning on sending out the compilation. The list has grown considerably from when it was just something I made to test out a new CD burner. A couple of people who really enjoy getting them (yeah, it surprises me, too) and constantly asked when I’d be done with the compiling and burning were the first recipients. I guess persistence pays off. In the meantime, if you want to know which artists are represented on the compilation, you can use the Faves link to the left. Or you can watch your mailbox between now and mid-February.

Only in the last week or so have I resolved the technical difficulties I was having with my recording setup—all a result of my having to migrate all of my software and plug-ins to a slower computer. From roughly mid-July until last week, I was in danger of not ever being able to open and finalize the file that contained “Face the Day.” Since that was the most complicated mix to date (and since I was less than diligent about documenting how I processed the sounds), I was loathe to have to recreate the whole thing from scratch. Thankfully, now that I seem to have resolved my computer issues, the re-recording, tweaking and editing that needs to be done on the songs for Honey-Flavored Soap can commence. Of course, this means that its release has been delayed once more. Now it appears that summer 2004 is the most reliable date. I’ve come up with a preliminary sequence for the tracks to guide the editing and mixing. Stay tuned for more info…

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