Filed under "Retrospective"

2022 Music Report

2 January 2023 • Filed under ,

Whew. That was a hell of a year.

The struggles that emerged at the tail end of my 2021 bled well into 2022, but things slowly improved over the year. Yay! And as my increased writing output might suggest, music has been my primary coping and—let’s be honest—escape mechanism, and spinning my little musical cocoon took my listening time & volume to ridiculous all-time highs that I don’t ever expect to surpass.

I also don’t expect to ever top the explosion of discovery I experienced at the tail end of 2021, but I continued seeking out new music and found quite a bit to get excited about. As the vibes will testify, I got super back into shoegaze—specifically the Japanese variety—but shoegaze also seems to be making somewhat of a comeback as a component of many bands’ sound. I’m here for it.

Music is good therapy; not a solution in and of itself, but a comfort all the same. To that end, I made it a point to be more mindful of personally fulfilling endeavors last year, and listening to music definitely qualifies. I became a more intentional listener, making it the activity rather than something that happens barely noticed behind other tasks. I realized that laying in the dark with nothing to do but listen was something that I hadn’t done regularly for many years, and it is satisfying.

I hope your musical year was fulfilling as well. If not, perhaps there’s something here that could kick off a new era of discovery. Shall we?

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2021 Music Report

5 January 2022 • Filed under ,

Last year was uneven in so many ways. You would think that being on lockdown for much of the last two years would have resulted in more music consumption than usual, but it turns out I was on track to listen to less music during this pandemic than at any other time over the last 17 years (that’s how long I’ve been tracking my listening activity with I’d blame the unprecedented onslaught of Zoom meetings, but my listening time had already been in slow decline for years; lockdown just accelerated the trend. I also escaped into gaming a whole lot in 2020, and a bit into 2021. So, it was really only in the last three months of 2021 that the floodgates opened back up, and I started listening to music again with mucho gusto.

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Musical Notes, 2018

5 February 2019 • Filed under ,

2018 was an unexpectedly exciting year for me, musically. The most interesting part is how impactful these discoveries were, and how serendipitously they came into my life.

Andrew W.K.

The year was already pretty rough thanks to a certain Cheeto-colored man-child and his tornado of deplorables, but some personal stuff also went down during the spring & summer that was especially difficult. That’s undoubtedly the reason why Andrew W.K.‘s latest album You’re Not Alone resonated so deeply and so immediately.

For those not familiar with Andrew W.K., you may still faintly recall him as the white-clothed, dirty, sweaty, bloody, headbanging “Party Hard” guy. That’s certainly how I remembered him. I had listened to “Party Hard” many times over the years; it’s fun, it’s primal, it’s loud, it’s aggressive, it’s… really good. That’s undoubtedly why Spotify surfaced the new album to me.

You’re Not Alone still has plenty loud and fun stuff, but there is also an unexpected amount of life-affirming, persevering, and positive messaging — themes that were present in a way on Andrew’s first album I Get Wet, but now in a much less hedonistic fashion. This positivity comes through loud and clear in songs like “Keep On Going”, “Music Is Worth Living For”, and “Give Up On You”, but it’s even more amplified by the three spoken word interludes peppered into the album. Here’s a sample, from “The Feeling of Being Alive”:

If you ever feel like something is very, very wrong — wrong with life, wrong with yourself — I understand. I have that feeling too. But in actuality, that feeling isn’t wrong. That feeling is just being human. That intense feeling inside is the feeling of existing, of being alive, of being a person. It’s a mountain to climb, it’s a test to pass, it’s a challenge we are ultimately worthy of. And rather than dread or resent this challenge, we can embrace it, we can learn from it, and we can celebrate it. Life is very intense, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Understanding this is what partying is all about.

It’s corny as hell, but I still get goosebumps reading that. It’s been my emotional response all along, and the feeling that helped me get through that summer. But as good as it felt, my first logical impulse upon hearing these positive messages was that he couldn’t possibly be serious. This was some kind of act. It was cheesy and overblown and dramatic, and there had to be a catch.

And maybe there is some element of meme, or showmanship, or whatever. There are really dissonant combinations that make it easy to question the authenticity of the message: this intense, muscled, heavy metal man with the most sensitive of thoughts; this huge, loud music paired with encouraging, persevering lyrics. I think that’s what makes Andrew W.K. so interesting.

What definitely exists in these words & music is sincerity. I spent a fair amount of time on Youtube watching Andrew W.K. interviews, and it became clear to me that in contrast to his cartoonish, goofy, and sort of caveman stage persona, he is completely sincere about making music that lifts people up and brings them joy.

Andrew’s made a ton of music, and it’s all worth checking out. You should also take a look at his weather report and guest appearance on FOX News. You will laugh, I promise.

Rolo Tomassi

Rolo Tomassi came onto my radar late in the year thanks to a recommendation. I almost didn’t bite. I mean, look at those young twee faces. I figured I was about to take the on-ramp to Polite Indie Rock Town and fall asleep at the wheel. I should have learned my lesson by now and stopped judging bands by appearances. However, I was sufficiently intrigued by the latest album’s title — Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It — and the album artwork to give it a go.

The album starts out with the tranquil instrumental “Towards Dawn”, with its loopy blips, mellow keyboard, and breathy chorals. OK, cool, I think. I like blippy music. Then the second track, “Aftermath”, kicks in — a nice mid-tempo indie rock song with shimmery guitars and pretty soprano vocals. I actually like this song, I think. I’m glad I took a chance on this. I settle in to enjoy some nice melodic background music while I work. As the second track nears its end it begins to get epic as the guitars and drums get louder and layered with some keyboard. I’m liking this part a lot. Another fine decision, Jared!

“Aftermath” ends and the fading guitars give way to a pecking, ominous, and disconcerting keyboard riff leading into to the next song, “Rituals”, that makes me stop working and perk up. Something is definitely happening here. Then, unexpectedly, the keyboard slams into a grinding wall of slow & heavy drums and guitar, which builds and then breaks into a frenzy.

The screamed vocals definitely caught me off guard. This was probably the most genre-defying trio of songs from the same artist that I’ve ever heard. If you’d played them for me in a mixtape, I would have thought they were 3 different bands. What a journey.

Welcome to mathcore, a genre I’d never heard of but that is characterized as such:

Mathcore is a style of music that combines the speed and aggression of hardcore punk and extreme metal with rhythmically complex dissonant riffs and abrupt tempo changes. Although its roots can be traced to post-hardcore and math rock bands of the early 1990s, mathcore was eventually established in the late 1990s and early 2000s by pivotal albums of Botch, Coalesce, Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan. It is often categorized as a subgenre of metalcore. Other names that have been used to refer to mathcore include noisecore and experimental metalcore, highlighting its connection to noise music and experimental music.


And screamed vocals. You’ll want to brace yourself for that part.

I haven’t branched out to many other mathcore bands yet, but Rolo Tomassi are apparently somewhat of a maverick in the genre, mixing in styles that don’t normally belong there (Exhibit A: those first two songs). Regardless, that definition of mathcore is pretty spot-on in describing this band. It is primarily very heavy music with aggressive vocals. The “rhythmically complex dissonant riffs and abrupt tempo changes” are brain candy; I can’t seem to get enough.

I’ve also been listening to Rolo Tomassi’s Grievances album, whose opening track is the antithesis of Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It — an immediate, blistering assault of drums, guitar, and dual screamed vocals.

I have a feeling that this kind of music is a visceral love/hate choice for most people, but I love it. It’ll get your blood pumping.


I’ve been a longtime fan of Metric and have written about their albums and shows at length. They’ve changed a lot over the years — as all artists should — and as a result there was a time when I just didn’t really connect with what they were putting out. Synthetica held a bit of my attention, but Pagans in Vegas lost me entirely.

So it was a pleasant surprise that I found out from a friend on Twitter that a new Metric album had come out, and — even more — that I liked it!

Watching Metric grow has been like watching more and more clay being added to the armature of a beautiful sculpture. In the beginning, the music was sparse and angular, but wholly enjoyable. Each album added a bit more substance, even as certain styles changed. Not all of those shifts agreed with me, but they are there, and they are important.

To me, Art of Doubt adds more shape to what I think was probably the most polished, pleasing Metric album: Fantasies. In terms of songwriting, arrangement, recording, and production it’s probably the best the band has ever sounded. I love many of the other albums for different reasons, but that’s why I love it most.

Or do I?

Art of Doubt achieves some of the most gorgeous melodies, catchiest hooks, and stellar production of any Metric album and tempts to supplant Fantasies. I mean, the chord changes on “Risk” are just the most devastatingly beautiful Metric-y thing ever, only possibly outdone by the chorus of “Underline the Black”, with which I am hopelessly obsessed.

All “the blogs” are saying that this is Metric’s return to classic form after some experimental back alleys, and I have to concur. It’s not a throwback or a comeback, but more of a return to a brighter timeline. After not being able to say this for quite some time, it’s nice to say that I’m excited to see them play in a few weeks.

I hope they play “Risk”.

Update: THEY DID. And “Black Sheep”, which was a super bonus.

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2010: The Year in Tweets

3 January 2011 • Filed under ,

Nice. I still remember the password to my blog.

Jon Tan’s year’s-end retrospective was a fun read, as was that of my dotcomrade Travis Isaacs, so I figured I’d give it a shot as well. The problem with following in these two fine gents’ footsteps is that I suck at photography, both the “taking the picture” part and the “recognizing that this would be a good time to take a picture” part.

But one thing I apparently don’t suck at is blathering all over Twitter. A quick review of my tweets from 2010 confirmed that I predictably chirped about pretty much all the important (and sooo many unimportant) events of the year.

So, without further ado: my year in tweets, with commentary.

Time to put this project in a headlock.
January 4, 2010

The year started out with a frantic race to the finish line with our You+Dallas project, the ongoing redesign of Blinksale and at least 2 other incubating projects. I shipped my best stuff in 2010, and it sure feels swell.

The Tablet may be the one thing Apple has done in the last 10 years that has done absolutely nothing to excite me.
January 5, 2010

Heh. And here’s what I tweeted 3 months later:

Got to play with an iPad for a bit this morning. Keyboard is truly awkward, but everything else is pure awesome.
April 5, 2010

Mmmm, tasty crow! My skepticism turned to curiosity as I started seeing some of the real-world applications of the device. Now, after getting an iPad for Christmas this year, it has already taken up near-permanent residence on my coffee table, serving as a stellar substitute for my laptop or iPhone for many activities. It’s a lot of fun, and holds a lot of possibilities. I can’t wait to see how it will evolve.

Making plans for a backyard transformation.
February 2, 2010

In late 2009, we tore out a massive, ugly (and massively ugly) 20×30-foot deck left in our backyard by previous owners to make way for something less… hillbilly-ish. This year, we succeeded in putting in a smaller but nicer stone patio, flower & gardening boxes, 4 trees and 6 bushes. These days, there’s nothing more relaxing than sitting outside on a warm day, enjoying the sights, smells and sounds. Time and money well spent.

Had a great time at the Bright Corner reunion shindig, Been a while since I'd seen most those guys. sniff good times…
March 7, 2010

Bright Corner is the little company that brought me to the Dallas area almost six years ago, and I credit my co-workers there for most of my subsequent successes. They are not only my friends, but my mentors. It was great to get most of the old crew back together to reflect on the past, discuss the present and get excited about the future.

March 21, 2010

Wait for it…

Seven inches of snow on the ground this morning.
March 21, 2010

I’ve lived in Texas almost my entire life. We get the occasional dusting of snow. Sometimes it even sticks for a few hours. But this? This was pretty extraordinary, especially for March. Unfortunately, I don’t think I could live anywhere that it snows on a regular basis, because after a while I was kind of coming unhinged by the sight of snow. Not a fan, as it turns out.

Redesigning a beloved web app. One that I & thousands of others have used for years. The stress. I feel it.
April 12, 2010

By April, the design for the new Blinksale had been chosen and I was working my way through all the various pages. Having incredible respect for the Firewheel/Alamofire crew (who originally built the app), it was a bit unnerving to be putting my fingerprints all over Blinksale.

Steam for Mac may end my use of Boot Camp for gaming.
May 12, 2010

I’d been gaming from Windows via Boot Camp for years, but as great as Boot Camp is, it’s a real inconvenience to have to load up a different OS just for gaming. Though Steam for Mac has its issues (and a limited Mac games catalog), it is still so great to be able to play most of my games on OS X. Look me up. I’ll give you one guess as to what my Steam handle is.

omg omg omg omg rdio
June 5, 2010

I can’t tell you why I never tried a music subscription service before, but for 5 bucks a month, it’s tough to beat Rdio. 2010 was a fantastic year of music for me, and it has much to do with this great music service. I discovered a boatload of both new and old music in what was a sort of mid-year musical renaissance.

Tonight was my third time seeing Imogen Heap perform. It’s still not getting old.
June 10, 2010

I don’t get out to many shows these days, so I choose wisely. You can’t really go wrong with Imogen Heap. Her charming stage banter is only surpassed by the great music. This show was especially great, as she had a full band along for the ride!

New work: You+Dallas.
July 1, 2010

You+Dallas launches! It was a rough and tough road, but ultimately an incredibly rewarding experience. I learned so much about managing complexity, design patterns, working with developers, documentation and much, much more. EPIC PROJECT. What a relief it was to ship it.

The new Blinksale is live.
July 1, 2010

Whew! A month after You+Dallas launches, Blinksale’s redesign rolls out! Clearly, I’ve been busy. Though this redesign was mostly a reskinning of the app, there was a bit of new visual design thrown in. And, a couple weeks later, Blinksale added brand new functionality the the workflow in the form of estimates.

Do you have video content that you’d like to sell? Would you like said selling to be dead-simple? Hit me up; I have a protip for you.
July 26, 2010

Um, did I even sleep this summer? Between our You+Dallas client work, and work on Blinksale, our scrappy little studio had been developing a cool new way to buy & sell videos online. Monetizer, as it is called, was beta-launched at the end of July and has been enjoying a steady stream of signups and tire-kickers every since.

This phone is friggin gorgeous.
July 29, 2010

iPhone 4: best birthday present ever. It may be the finest piece of industrial and software design I’ve ever seen. Even now, I hold it and feel like I truly am living in the future.

Instagram is great! Makes me wish I hadn’t bought Hipstamatic a couple weeks ago.
October 8, 2010

Though there had been other apps with the same or similar functionality, Instagram was the first to craft an experience that felt natural and fun. I had just purchased Hipstamatic and was bemoaning its complexity and rigidity. Instagram was a breath of fresh air, and a great social experience to boot.

Are you a Blinksale customer interested in taking credit card payments on your invoices? to get on the beta list.
December 8, 2010

Though only released in private beta at this time, Blinksale gets a huge upgrade feature: Blinkpay. A $10 add-on to Blinksale, Blinkpay will initially allow clients to pay invoices with a credit card. The option to pay with electronic check + other related features are rolling out in the next few months.

This has been a huge undertaking. The feature itself touches many parts of Blinksale, and had to be carefully integrated. Working with payment processors was also a huge challenge. The feature seems fairly simple, but you would not believe the plethora of paperwork and minutiae required to make it work. But that’s the point, isn’t it?

Goodbye, Viewzi: :(
December 28, 2010

Though Viewzi was no longer being developed and had been essentially left to drift on the internet seas almost 2 years ago, the site was still available to those who liked using it. But the time came when it no longer made sense to continue supporting the non-trivial costs of keeping the service online, and we pulled the plug. Viewzi was a great idea, and I’ll always remember the time I worked on it fondly.

It is so quitting time.
December 29, 2010

And so ended my last day of full-time employment at Doublewide Labs/Blinksale. It was a fantastic run, and I’m so glad I was able to be a part of such great opportunities. I will still be involved with design and product development to some extent, but not as my full-time gig. Thusly, I am currently looking for work in the Dallas area (or via telecommute). I’m excited for the possibilities!

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2005: The Year in Hyperlinks.

12 December 2005 • Filed under

Joy and rapture, it’s that time of the year again. Time for me to roll up my sleeves, clear the cobwebs out of my skull and dump groups of five all over this page. Predictions for the new year? Nay, nay. I’d just be embarrassed, once again, when the personal jetpack didn’t emerge in 2006 like I predicted it would. I’ll leave fortunetelling to Nostradomus and Cameron. Besides, I’d much rather guide you through the swellness that was 2005. Shall we begin?

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2004: The Year In Hyperlinks.

15 December 2004 • Filed under

Just when you thought you couldn’t stand the wait any longer, I toss my “best of” list into the fray. There’s nothing groundbreaking about “best of” lists, and the chances are good that you’ve already perused one or two lists from more prominent writers. Heck, I’m probably going to rave on and on about the same things, too.

Exciting, huh?

Top 5 Hilights of 2004 The Last 14 Months

  1. Creed broke up.
  2. Apple released the G5. Jared posts that the G5 came out in 2004, only to realize in horror that his brain is still stuck in 2003. A full lobotomy has been scheduled.
  3. Ashley Simpson got owned by a tape deck.
  4. The SSSH Campaign.
  5. Saddam Hussein gave up his rathole.

Top 5 Albums I Heard in 2004

  1. Metric – Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?
  2. Juliana Hatfield – In Exile Deo
  3. Jimmy Eat World – Futures
  4. The Cutters – In The Valley of Enchantment
  5. The Jane Anchor – Second Wave

Top 5 Movies of 2004

  1. The Incredibles
  2. Hero
  3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  4. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
  5. The Terminal

Nods: The Village, Saved!, Anchorman.

Movies I plan to like before the year’s end: The Life Aquatic, House of Flying Daggers, A Series of Unfortunate Events.

The 5 Movies So Bad, They Owe Me Money in 2004

  1. The Forgotten. I wish I could forget this cornball plot.
  2. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. It’s like watching a train wreck. Twice (never let it be said that I don’t love my wife).
  3. Ocean’s Twelve. Disappointing plot.
  4. 13 Going on 30. Tom Hanks did it better, and didn’t have to revive the “Thriller” dance to sell tickets.
  5. Van Helsing. Van Helsucked.

Favorite 5 Flash Websites of 2004

  1. Voxhon
  2. Digital Kick
  3. homeostatic
  4. Amplifier
  5. Billy Harvey Music

The Prettiest 5 Web Journals of 2004

  1. Justwatchthesky
  2. Binary Bonsai
  3. Airbag
  4. smallTransport
  5. Jason Santa Maria

Favorite 5 Web Writers of 2004

  1. Greg Storey
  2. Jon Hicks
  3. Jeff Croft
  4. Todd Dominey
  5. Eris Free (write more often!)

Best Live Show of 2004

Metric @ The Parish
Emily Haines is a woman possessed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen weirder dancing or more intense performing, but it works for this band. Extra points are awarded to the band for playing something like 5 shows in Austin during or around the time of SXSW. They work hard for the money.

and finally…

Top CMS of 2004

Textpattern, the little PHP engine that could.

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