Just a couple of recommendations this week

Due to weddings and holidays, I’ve got a 10 album + backlog of things to write about. But as I’m off on my travels tomorrow I thought I’d mention a couple of the albums I’ll be taking with me to keep me occupied at the airport and on the plane to Verona.

Midnight Snow by Abscondo – I downloaded this about a week ago, and there has not been a day since when I have not listened to it at least once. This is singer-songwriter fare, but with a twist and a dark underbelly I really like. Download it here for free, or buy it from iTunes for £7.99. I did the former, but had I discovered it from another direction I would happily have paid. You might also want to check out Imperfect People, by a related group called Sungod Abscondo who I might grow to love almost as much.

Not Quite Connected by Josh Woodward – This is more acoustic and folky than the other two albums I have, but I think it is actually my favourite. There are no stand-out songs as such, but it’s all really good and has been my “walking to work” music for over a week. It also makes me feel really happy, and I suppose will be the record I associate with getting married as it is the last thing I played before the ceremony.

And that will have to be it for now. Tomorrow I head off to Italy with my lovely wife (and my EeePC for potential blogging opportunities of course).

The plan

We have decided that trying to get to Birmingham airport for 4:30am from our house is non-viable, so we’re staying in a hotel near the airport tomorrow night.

We then fly to Italy in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and will be largely uncontactable until the evening of Wednesday 27th (or more reasonably some time on the Thursday).

I’m taking the EeePC, so blog updates might happen if we manage to find a wireless hotspot, but assume radio silence otherwise.

Thanks again to everyone who made Saturday great, and also to everyone who has posted and tagged photographs over the last couple of days. I think we’re up to about 200 photos, and there are at least three large sets I’ve not seen yet.

This week’s free music

As I did last week, I’ve written a few notes on things I’ve downloaded this week. All are rated on the Sound Opinions “Buy it/Burn it/Trash it” scale.

Dirty Wings by Josh Woodward – I downloaded this on the back of listening to his most recent album last week. “Dirty Wings” is less acoustic, rockier, and gets downright political in places, but is still obviously by the same person who recorded “The Simple Life”. I really like this record, have played it on several occasions over the last few days, and would recommend it as a good starting point. I’d give this a “Buy it”, but if you are burning selected tracks then go for “Gallows Hill” first.

Orgamilk and Make This End by Fresh Body Shop – I’ve only had these a couple of days, but felt they were worth a mention. “Orgamilk” is a totally acoustic record, with quite delicate melodies and some fine songwriting. “Make This End” wants to be Nine Inch Nails, and almost manages it on a couple of tracks. I’m not sure if these guys have a career plan, or are even still together, but they are certainly worth checking out in a “Burn it” kind of way.

The Intimate Stranger by Curious – This band want to be The Cure. A lot. I really wanted to like this, but I actually couldn’t make it all the way through to the end. The songwriting is ok, but the singer’s voice really grates, and they are not doing anything I’ve not heard a thousand times before. Trash this, or better still accept that I’ve suffered so you don’t have to.

Take it or Leave it by Terremoto – Great songwriting, which reminds me of the Go Betweens (who I adore). Unfortunately, the sound quality is dreadful, and some songs are almost unlistenable because of this. I really hope someone pays for them to record these songs in a proper studio, because if they did then this would be a “Buy it” record.

Taking mobile computing to a new level?

Over the last few weeks I’ve not had an office, or even a proper place where I could set up a computer and work. As a result of this, I’ve been exploring the concept of mobile computing (using laptops for everything, and working wherever I could get a wireless signal). It’s been quite eye opening; and has actually made me more productive because it was meant if I am working on something that requires tranquillity I can move somewhere quiet, whilst if I need collaboration and input I can move my laptop to where the people I need to talk to are working.

As a result of this, I’ve got used to carrying a laptop with me wherever I go. This has lead to increased shoulder muscles (both laptops I’ve been using are on the heavy side), but has also lead to me being able to write a quick blog post, check email, or work on the fly wherever I am. At the end of each day I’ve synced all my data back to a central server, so that everything I write on any computer is all stored in the same place (and is the most recent version thanks to the wonders of rscyc). This also ensures that if a laptop I’m working on gets lost or broken then I don’t lose too much in the way of data.

My new office is finished now, but since I have just bought an EeePC I still plan on using the mobile computing model on occasion, because I think it really does work.

EeePC

I’ve finally got round to getting an EeePC, and so far I’m really impressed. I’ve installed the latest version of Mandriva on it, and have a very functional Gnome desktop, which does everything I need it to do.

Installing Mandriva was a breeze – it was just a case of changing the BIOS to boot from my external CD drive, and also to enable wireless at boot so that the right modules were loaded. I’ve uninstalled a load of stuff I don’t need, added a couple of things, and at present I’ve still got 1.2gb free on the 4gb internal flash card.

I plan on getting another 4gb card and installing the original EeePC OS onto it for testing purposes.

Computers and productivity

Every few months I like to change my working area around, and try undertaking familiar tasks in a new way. Having a new office has intensified this, and has lead to me re-evaluating my working area at home as well.

And once again I seem to have settled on a very similar setup in each. I’ve not got photographs of my desk at work, but I have taken a couple of pictures of my desk at home, which should demonstrate what I mean.

My desk (Linux laptop on the left, iMac on the right)
My desk (Linux laptop on the left, iMac on the right).
I am trying to use this laptop for everything at present
I am trying to use this laptop for everything at present.

And yes, I gave up on KDE4 after a few hours. While I’m more than happy to bounce between several different operating systems, I do have very definite preferences regarding how each one should look.

The pick of this week’s downloads

As I did last week, I’ve written a few notes on things I’ve downloaded this week. All are rated on the Sound Opinions “Buy it/Burn it/Trash it” scale, and the theme for this week is artists who have several albums available for free, and who are at least starting to make a career out of music.

Then by Black Era – I wanted to download something Italian, in preparation for our imminent trip to Italy. This was the most promising thing I could find, and it’s actually nothing like I expected it would be. It reminds me a lot of Massive Attack and Tricky, and has a darkness that I find quite appealing. All the vocals are in English, and it is the sort of album that drags you in and forces you to listen even if you find it a little uncomfortable at times. I’d give this a “Burn it”, as there are some tracks that don’t have a great deal of impact, but you do really need to hear the first few tracks if nothing else.

The Simple Life by Josh Woodward – At first listen this comes across as standard singer-songwriter fare. After a couple of further listens, I realised that this is at least as good as anything else in the genre, and that there is a professionalism evident in the music that belies the fact it is avaialble for free from Jamedno (or for “pay what you like” for physical CDs on his website – http://www.joshwoodward.com/). This is a “Buy it”, and I’ll be downloading further albums on quiet weeks I think.

House Made of Glass by Death by Panda – I will begin by saying I don’t know how to catagorise this. It’s my album of the last two weeks, and it can best be described as sitting somewhere between melodic Ambient and Post Rock. Listen to this early in the morning and it will make sense, but TRY and make sense of it and you will be left wanting. I’d buy stuff like this (and do), but for most people it would be something to stream once to see if it sooths you or annoys you, as I think it has the potential to do both equally.

The Grasping Hands of Possibility by Ruined Machines – This is fairly standard guitar led Post Rock, but quite enjoyable nonetheless. I’d say Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai would be reference points, but it touches on a few tried and tested sounds with a couple of surprises thrown in. This is a “Burn it” record that at present I will keep and listen to, but I’m not sure how much staying power it has.

Weekend tasks

This weekend has been very busy with wedding preparations and socialising. However, I’ve still found time to install the latest version of WordPress on this blog, set up some backup scripts for all my home and work computers, and also to install KDE4 on my laptop.

I’m still not sold on KDE4, but I think it has potential. I may try and use it for a few days to see if it actually does what I need it to.

Reviews of the latest freely available music

As promised, a few scribbles on things I’ve downloaded this week (mostly from Jamendo). All are rated on the Sound Opinions “Buy it/Burn it/Trash it” scale.

Ze first cidi by Delph’ sans les pattes – Very French, but very beautiful, this is a style of music I like a lot but didn’t own much of until recently. It’s what I refer to as “Paris Cafe Music” but what other people call Chanson. Definitely a “Buy it”.


The Dreamer’s Paradox by JT Bruce
– An instrumental Progressive Rock album that makes great background music. I would never pay for music like this, but it’s totally inoffensive, and worth a listen. I think this would have to be a “Burn it” at best.

Encore des chansons (2008) by Saint-Jean – More wonderful French music. I may have to download more of this as it fits the beautiful summer weather perfectly. This would have to be a “Burn it”, because I think I’ll grow tired of it eventually.

Who is on my Sofa? by Poxfil – I don’t know how to classify this. There’s a bit of dub, a bit of pop, a lot of strangeness, and very few reference points to hang it all off. Think the Beta Band crossed with ACR in a loft in Paris. I did put this as a “Burn it”, but a week on I actually really like it.

The Asylum theory by Ghostfog – German Darkwave, which is an excellent example of German Darkwave. It totally doesn’t work at this time of year but I might go back to it in winter. Probably a “Burn it”, although I might end up trashing it at some point.


Feed the Animals by Girl Talk
– Not from Jamendo, but released under Creative Commons so it belongs here. Girl Talk mix bits of existing songs into new compositions, which works a lot better than you would think. They’ve been on my radar for a while, but have just released their new album on a “pay what you want” deal, so I thought they were worth another mention. This is a total “Buy it” album, and should be played loudly at cooked meat events throughout the summer.