Has the Internet made communication boring?

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Several months ago a blogger by the name of Shaun Usher began a blog called Letters of Note. If you haven’t checked it out you really, really should. The concept behind the blog is that every weekday Shaun posts a scan of an old piece of correspondence, along with a transcription of the text. Moreover, the sender and/or recipient of each letter is usually a famous person that figures greatly into history.

I really enjoy the way that Shaun lets each piece stand for itself; at the beginning of each post he may give a small bit of context, but other than that we are left to read the letter and draw our own conclusions. It helps that almost every post is extremely outstanding, bringing history alive with emotion and drama. For example, here is a letter written by Mary, Queen of Scots to her erstwhile brother-in-law hours before she was to be executed.

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Forest Rock

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forestI occasionally have music-nerd conversations with my friend Chris Weiermiller. Last summer we were noticing the sudden influx of bands with names taken from the woods: Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, Blitzen Trapper, etc. What was more interesting was that the bands we were naming also had much in common stylistically: high vocal harmonies, lot of reverb, and a naturalistic view on the world. So I dubbed these bands part of a trending genre: Forest Rock.

Fast forward to last week– I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Sound Opinions from Chicago Public Radio. It’s a great show, and at the end of each episode they invite their listeners to leave a message on the Sound Opinions answering machine, with a lucky few to be broadcast the next week. I decided to give the hotline a call, since I had just heard them refer to a similar trend as the one I outlined above, so on a whim I left a message on their machine describing Forest Rock. I was in New York over the weekend and didn’t hear the show, but I’ve been getting email from a few friends that heard it so I thought I’d pass it on. Enjoy :)

Sound Opinions: Show 220
(Show #220, about 55 minutes in)
Listen to the MP3 Stream: (link)
Download the Podcast: (Download the MP3)

Top 10 Albums of the Decade

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I had an email thread going with some friends where we all came up with our list of our best albums of the 2000s. There are plenty of ways to define “best” but I’m going to go with the albums that I emotionally bonded with the most, those that felt like they came out of nowhere and changed the sonic landscape with a unique and creative approach. Mostly alternative music for me.

Anyway, here’s the list:

  1. Chutes Too Narrow – The Shins The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow

    I discovered this at the same time as Oh Inverted World, so the two kind of blur together for me. Catchy music, clever lyrics. That Zach Braff guy knows what he’s talking about.

  2. Hot Fuss – The Killers The Killers - Hot Fuss

    Pop songcraft at it’s best. This album breaking was the start of the whole mainstream 80’s reincarnation that’s still going today. Everything’s been downhill since then for the Killers, in my opinion.

  3. Is This It – The Strokes The Strokes - Is This It

    What a great divergence from all the high production pop crap that was in vogue at the time. The Strokes took it back to basics with a great slacker worldview to boot.

  4. Give Up – The Postal Service The Postal Service - Give Up

    Though it was eventually licensed out to every car company that wanted it for a commercial, this album started out as a decidedly non-mainstream side project of a band that itself was far from popular. Not just any artist can make electronic music sound so personal.

  5. Funeral – Arcade Fire Arcade Fire - Funeral

    Wow, these scrappy Canadians came out of nowhere and helped redefine alternative music. Every song on this album is original and totally endearing in its amateur production and brazen creativity.

  6. You Forgot It In People – Broken Social Scene Broken Social Scene - You Forgot It in People

    Wow, these scrappy Canadians came out of nowhere and helped redefine alternative music. This band still doesn’t get the credit it deserves, probably because it’s such an amorphous collective of artists.

  7. Cast Of Thousands – Elbow Elbow - Cast of Thousands

    How can it be that still so many people have not heard of Elbow? They’re one of my favorite bands, and this album is a definitive classic. I love the gritty sound they lend to their instruments, and I love Guy Garvey’s coarse voice.

  8. Parachutes – Coldplay Coldplay - Parachutes

    This album is so phenomenal, track to track. Though I love the albums that came after as well, Coldplay was at their most warm and private on Parachutes, and with their subsequent stadium-filling popularity it’s unlikely that they’ll ever again write songs that feel so intimate…

  9. Sea Change – Beck Beck - Sea Change

    Much like my #1 choice, I bought this the day it came out, brought it home, slapped some headphones on and bonded with it. Holy shit, Beck. Way to go from disaffected junk culture to the most detailed, melodic melancholy brilliance I’d heard in a long time. I’m really hoping that his life falls apart again so he’ll write some more beautiful sad songs, produced again by Nigel Godrich (who’s also responsible for #1).

  10. Kid A – Radiohead Radiohead - Kid A

    Oh Kid A! What else can I say about this album? Radiohead decided to follow up OK Computer (best of the last decade!) with a transcendent inaccessible masterpiece that blossoms further on each listen. It doesn’t matter to me that this album is #1 on many other lists. Honestly, I’m not really sure what this album is about, but I’m sure about what it means to me. I purposely don’t listen to Kid A very often, for fear that its powerful effect will diminish.

It really breaks my heart to leave off Spoon, Wilco, Bjork, The Flaming Lips, OutKast et al, but I suppose that’s what Top 10 lists are for… And then of course there are some great albums that I can’t include here because I never took sufficient time to emotionally bond with them, but I still think they’re truly great. Guess that leaves me lots of great stuff to go back and explore. If you’ve got any suggestions for me, leave them in the comments!

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