Monday, June 26th, 2023
Tuesday, April 11th, 2023
See, about a year or so ago, I took inspiration from Kevin Smokler to set about listening through my entire music library alphabetically by song title.
I think I’m going to do this! I have a paltry 10,602 songs so it should take a mere 29 days of continuous listening.
Sunday, February 19th, 2023
These were my jams
In many ways, This Is My Jam was the antithesis of the prevailing Silicon Valley mindset. Instead of valuing growth and scale above all else, it was deliberately thoughtful. Rather than “maximising engagement”, it asked you to slow down and just share one thing: what piece of music are you really into right now? It was up to you to decide whether “right now” meant this year, this month, this week, or this day.
I used to post songs there sporadically. Here’s a round-up of the twelve songs I posted in 2013. There was always some reason for posting a particular piece of music.
I was reminded of This Is My Jam recently when I logged into Spotify (not something I do that often). As part of the site’s shutdown, you could export all your jams into a Spotify playlist. Here’s mine.
Listening back to these 50 songs all these years later gave me the warm fuzzies.
Sunday, December 5th, 2021
The three-part almost nine-hour long documentary Get Back is quite fascinating.
First of all, the fact that all this footage exists is remarkable. It’s as if Disney had announced that they’d found the footage for a film shot between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.
Still, does this treasure trove really warrant the daunting length of this new Beatles documentary? As Terence puts it:
There are two problems with this Peter Jackson documentary. The first is that it is far too long - are casual fans really going to sit through 9 hours of a band bickering? The second problem is that it is far too short! Beatles obsessives (like me) could happily drink in a hundred hours of this stuff.
In some ways, watching Get Back is liking watching one of those Andy Warhol art projects where he just pointed a camera at someone for 24 hours. It’s simultaneously boring and yet oddly mesmerising.
What struck myself and Jessica watching Get Back was how much it was like our experience of playing with Salter Cane. I’m not saying Salter Cane are like The Beatles. I’m saying that The Beatles are like Salter Cane and every other band on the planet when it comes to how the sausage gets made. The same kind of highs. The same kind of lows. And above all, the same kind of tedium. Spending hours and hours in a practice room or a recording studio is simultaneously exciting and dull. This documentary captures that perfectly.
I suppose Peter Jackson could’ve made a three-part fly-on-the-wall documentary series about any band and I would’ve found it equally interesting. But this is The Beatles and that means there’s a whole mythology that comes along for the ride. So, yes, it’s like watching paint dry, but on the other hand, it’s paint painted by The Beatles.
What I liked about Get Back is that it demystified the band. The revelation for me was really understanding that this was just four lads from Liverpool making music together. And I know I shouldn’t be surprised by that—the Beatles themselves spent years insisting they were just four lads from Liverpool making music together, but, y’know …it’s The Beatles!
There’s a scene in the Danny Boyle film Yesterday where the main character plays Let It Be for the first time in a world where The Beatles have never existed. It’s one of the few funny parts of the film. It’s funny because to everyone else it’s just some new song but we, the audience, know that it’s not just some new song…
Christ, this is Let It Be! You’re the first people on Earth to hear this song! This is like watching Da Vinci paint the Mona Lisa right in front of your bloody eyes!
But truth is even more amusing than fiction. In the first episode of Get Back, we get to see when Paul starts noodling on the piano playing Let It Be for the first time. It’s a momentous occasion and the reaction from everyone around him is …complete indifference. People are chatting, discussing a set design that will never get built, and generally ignoring the nascent song being played. I laughed out loud.
There’s another moment when George brings in the song he wrote the night before, I Me Mine. He plays it while John and Yoko waltz around. It’s in 3/4 time and it’s minor key. I turned to Jessica and said “That’s the most Salter Cane sounding one.” Then, I swear at that moment, after George has stopped playing that song, he plays a brief little riff on the guitar that sounded exactly like a Salter Cane song we’re working on right now. Myself and Jessica turned to each other and said, “What was that‽”
Funnily enough, when we told this to Chris, the singer in Salter Cane, he mentioned how that was the scene that had stood out to him as well, but not for that riff (he hadn’t noticed the similarity). For him, it was about how George had brought just a scrap of a song. Chris realised it was the kind of scrap that he would come up with, but then discard, thinking there’s not enough there. So maybe there’s a lesson here about sharing those scraps.
Watching Get Back, I was trying to figure out if it was so fascinating to me and Jessica (and Chris) because we’re in a band. Would it resonate with other people?
The answer, it turns out, is yes, very much so. Everyone’s been sharing that clip of Paul coming up with the beginnings of the song Get Back. The general reaction is one of breathless wonder. But as Chris said, “How did you think songs happened?” His reaction was more like “yup, accurate.”
Inevitably, there are people mining the documentary for lessons in creativity, design, and leadership. There are already Medium think-pieces and newsletters analysing the processes on display. I guarantee you that there will be multiple conference talks at UX events over the next few years that will include footage from Get Back.
I understand how you could watch this documentary and take away the lesson that these were musical geniuses forging remarkable works of cultural importance. But that’s not what I took from it. I came away from it thinking they’re just a band who wrote and recorded some songs. Weirdly, that made me appreciate The Beatles even more. And it made me appreciate all the other bands and all the other songs out there.
Friday, December 28th, 2018
Songs I liked from 2018
Sunday, July 2nd, 2017
If you were at Patterns Day and you liked the music that was playing during the breaks, here’s the playlist. All the artists are based in Brighton.
Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017
Absolute genius! I’ll never hear Sgt. Pepper’s quite the same way again.
Saturday, December 19th, 2015
This geography lesson makes a nice companion piece to Johnny Cash has been everywhere, man.
Friday, June 5th, 2015
100 words 075
Today was a Salter Cane practice day. It was a good one. We tried throwing some old songs at our new drummer, Emily. They stuck surprisingly well. Anomie, Long Gone, John Hope …they all sounded pretty damn good. To be honest, Emily was probably playing them better than the rest of us.
It was an energetic band practice so by the time I got home, I was really tired. I kicked back and relaxed with the latest copy of Spaceflight magazine from the British Interplanetary Society.
Then I went outside and watched the International Space Station fly over my house.
Tuesday, November 25th, 2014
4 million songs on Spotify have never been played. Not even once. Let’s change that.
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
Modern pop songs retold as Shakespearian sonnets.
Monday, May 9th, 2011
Electronic rock songs about anger, loss, frustration, love, the surveillance state, the Iranian election, uranium enrichment, Twitter, gene therapy cures for AIDS, the financial crisis and World of Warcraft.
Sunday, January 14th, 2007
The Best Songs I Acquired in 2006 Ever
Richard has published his annual round-up of the past year’s music available, as usual, on CD for anyone willing to reciprocate. It’s a great idea that always reminds me of Thurston Moore’s essay in Wired magazine on the subject of mix tapes:
Once again, we’re being told that home taping (in the form of ripping and burning) is killing music. But it’s not: It simply exists as a nod to the true love and ego involved in sharing music with friends and lovers. Trying to control music sharing — by shutting down P2P sites or MP3 blogs or BitTorrent or whatever other technology comes along — is like trying to control an affair of the heart. Nothing will stop it.
Inspired by my esteemed colleague’s example, I hereby present a short list of songs from some of my favourite albums of 2006. To say that I bought all these songs would be stretching the truth beyond its elastic limit.
- Forty Dollars from the album Powder Burns by The Twilight Singers
- Off The Hook from the album Cansei de Ser Sexy by CSS
- Britney’s Massive Hole by Divide and Kreate
- Map of the Problematique from the album Black Holes and Revelations by Muse.
- Way Out from the album Show Your Bones by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
- Black Swan from the album The Eraser by Thom Yorke
- Honey Child What Can I Do? from the album Ballad of the Broken Seas by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
- O Mary Don’t You Weep from the album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions by Bruce Springsteen