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2011.11.17 in music

In the world of Internet-driven geeky music, there are few with more of a claim to fame than Jonathan Coulton. Certainly some are significantly more geeky, or nerdy, or whatever (the fact that I just had those two URLs available off the top of my head is rather sad), but none have the nearly universal success of JoCo — he's one of those rare nearly-universal geek idols. I was introduced to him a few years back by Robb and Savannah, probably around the same time Still Alive launched alongside Portal and the rest of the Orange Box, and I quickly collected a set of favorites which can still be commonly heard playing around my apartment today.

Savannah, Robb, and Matt have all had the opportunity to see him in concert, usually in the Boston area; for some reason, I was never in the right place at the right time... until this weekend! Opening for They Might Be Giants (another geek favorite, if not nearly as extreme, and much more popular!) at the Fillmore in San Francisco, he did a short show, hitting a bunch of his newer material and some of the classics. Having opener play everything you want them never happens — they'd never have enough time even with a full-length show, in most cases!

Still, there was much excitement to be had in the room when he opened with Code Monkey (I predicted this quite successfully), much jumping during I Feel Fantastic (for good reason!), and goofy faux-romantic swaying to Still Alive (which is insane considering the context, but I get it...)

All-in-all, it was a great time! I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for a full-length concert if he returns to the Bay Area.

The They Might Be Giants portion was also great; they did the entirety of an old album (from 1990!) — my only experience with them has been through their science-themed children's album, much more recently (well worth it, too... ignore the fact that it was aimed at children), so I didn't have as much context for their part of the show. Still, it was lots of fun; the floor was filled with excited fans, and that's all it takes to make it enjoyable!

After the concert, I had to get a cab ride back to Cupertino (Caltrain shuts down really early on Sundays...), which... is another story in its entirety!

A Musical Transition

2011.01.08 in music

I recently started using Last.fm again (I'd stopped after CoverSutra insisted on randomly bringing up my NVIDIA card, and restarted when I found iScrobbler), and I noticed something interesting about my charts: it's all albums now. Even if I don't like every song, it almost bothers me to play a single song from within an album, or to end an album early; it's pretty clear this wasn't the case three years ago.

Belle and Sebastian and Belle and Sebastian (and Amy!)

2010.11.01 in music and personal

I'm a little bit late with this post, so it's going to be very short — this month was crazy. Back at the beginning of the month, I went to two different concerts, both the same band: Belle and Sebastian, twice in just over two weeks.

The first trip was with Nate and Carol, to New York City (Brooklyn's Williamsburg Waterfront, specifically), where the concert was outdoors. The threat of severe rain and thunderstorms loomed over the concert before it started, but somehow, we got exceptionally lucky and felt not more than a few drops. The concert was fantastic; we were standing only a few dozen feet from the stage, close enough that people who were right near us ended up on stage during the audience participation part of the show.

Looking behind us, we could see the entirety of the NYC skyline lit up across the river, which was really beautiful (I've been to NYC a few times, but almost always spend the whole time in the middle of Manhattan, so I've never had the opportunity to see the city lit up at night). Also, standing in the crowd just made it feel... like it was supposed to! Like a Belle and Sebastian concert!

The music was great, the show was great, the weather ended up being great. They hit more or less all of the songs that we wanted, and did a fantastic job, and the classic banter between the leads.

The second show was just as fantastic, musically, but sitting in a theatre led to a ever-so-slightly-less-perfect atmosphere (though it was nice to have functioning legs afterwards!). Still, I had a lot of fun both times, and it was nice to see Amy again and take her to the second show!

We hung out in Boston a bit that night, and went to Comiccon the next day, which you can read about on Amy's blog.

Six Perfect Albums

2009.01.03 in music and thoughts

I don't write about music much (nor make lists of things, here, much), but I figured I'd share the six most obviously perfect albums, in case any of the few of you here hadn't listened to one of them...

This started as Robb and others poking fun at me for calling Boston's Boston a perfect album... so I set out to find a small set of albums that I was OK with calling perfect, instead, so they wouldn't make quite so much fun of me...

"Perfect" means... every song is one you wouldn't mind running into at any point, but also the album as a whole works together... and makes sense. And stuff. I don't have words for music, really...

All but one of the albums are from before I was born, and the remaining one is still 14 years old... this is mostly because of my musical taste, of course, but I think (unfortunately) that the production of "epic" music is probably declining... you can blame it on the studios, artists, society, whatever... I don't know what it is, for sure, but I'd certainly love it if someone repaired the situation!

Boston — Boston (1976)

This album was the soundtrack for most of my high school career; it remains the most consistently complete and perfect album I've ever heard. Some (Robb/Gino) call it overproduced, among other things...
Radiohead — The Bends (1995)

I was only recently introduced to this album (and Radiohead in general) by Robb/DJ/Savannah last year. The first half makes for great music the first time through; the second half takes a few plays, but eventually it's hard to hear just one song and stop without completing the album...
The Beatles — Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

For a long time before I knew any music, I had a single CD of Beatles songs. It turned out most of them were from Sgt. Pepper; hearing them in context made them all the better!
Pink Floyd — The Wall (1979)

The longest album on the list, at 80 minutes, The Wall is one that's been with me for quite a while now. You also can't claim to have listened to it until you've listened to it through nice headphones... there's a whole additional... album, if you listen right.
The Beatles — Rubber Soul (1965)

A significant part of Rubber Soul was the soundtrack for freshman year at RPI; it's also my favorite Beatles album, now, despite the fact that it's comprised of some of their more ignored-but-still-approachable songs.
Genesis — Invisible Touch (1986)

I was introduced to Genesis by Dad, who has a bunch of albums on CD, including this one. Besides Domino, this album feels short and to the point, which probably contributes a bit to its "perfection". Not complaining about Domino, either, because it's definitely the best song!

iTunes Library Size, Over Time

2008.05.27 in code and music

I've recently been merging a few different music libraries together into my iTunes library on my laptop, so I was interested to see what sort of growth my library's had, over time. I whipped up a quick Perl script (which you can grab yourself, here — though you'll definitely have to modify it to work on Windows). I plotted the data from my library with Mathematica, and got this:

There's now a cleaner-but-less-succinct Objective-C version, and its source. The built version (first link) will run and then just disappear, having created 'music-chart.csv' in your home directory, which is a CSV of: (UNIX date, iTunes Library Count) pairs. You can chart it with anything that can chart pairs... Mathematica works (ListLinePlot[Import["/Users/hortont/music-chart.csv"], PlotStyle->Thick]); Numbers might, but I've seen it do nasty things (you have to manually set minimum and maximum X values, or something...); gnuplot will definitely work...

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