I’ve switched jobs within my company and now “enjoy” a three hour commute to Cambridge and back a couple of days a week. The drive is a pain in the butt, quite literally. Enough so that I’ve swapped my Audi A4, with its cool but lower-back-straining bucket seats, for a Prius, which has much more comfortable, elevated seats.
One of the advantages of the commute, though, is getting time to listen. I used to commute into central London pretty regularly in a previous life, and I’ve always missed just being able to sit and consume media, in text or audio form, with no other distraction and nothing that “needs doing”. And I’m not the kind of person that can listen to a lot of unfamiliar noise, particularly radio chat, when I’m checking e-mail or doing anything at work that requires any concentration.
I’ve filled this listening time with podcasts. I’ve found that the list of shows that I listen to regularly are primarily broadcast weekly. I can’t keep up with new daily shows and I hate missing any. Here are my favorites:
Penny Arcade is most well known for their comics, but for a few weeks they got into podcasting. These have pretty much dried up now, but while they lasted they were pretty hysterical if you’re into gaming. “Gabe” and “Tycho’s” goal was pretty ambitious, though, so maybe it was bound to be difficult to keep going. Their goal was to sit down at the beginning of an hour long session, go through recent gaming news and then map out a full idea for a 3 panel comic that they’d do in the next few days. Great to hear the creative process at work.
The BBC1 Newsnight
podcast is a bit of an anomaly, since Newsnight is actually a TV show, but this is an audio cast only. It works well, though, and I don’t find myself missing the moving pictures. It’s also great Monday morning listening that lets me catch up with some of the previous week’s news with a bit of depth.
The Chequered Flag is a show about Formula One racing from BBC Radio 5 that does a post-mortem straight after a race. This podcast is another great Monday morning listen, since the races happen on Sunday. Provided I’ve actually had time to watch the race. Otherwise it’s a bit of a spoiler.
The Now Show is a topical comedy show from Radio 4. I find it about 60% hit and 40% miss, which is actually quite good for this kind of thing. It’s mostly based on UK news and politics, so it may be about 5% hit and 95% miss if you’re from “overseas”. Their podcast is here in iTunes.
Morning Becomes Eclectic is a pretty huge show on the West coast of the US. Hosted by Nic Harcourt from LA it gets in some great new bands. Good way of getting to new music, as is KEXP’s Music That Matters show, from Seattle.
Like a lot of people, I keep a list of Favorite songs on my iPod. At the moment it totals 97 songs. It’s not literally every favorite in my collection. I’ve mainly added to the list when I’ve heard something I really like, so it’s by no means definitive. And it is focused on more recent music, rather then everything in my collection.
I thought I’d finish the year with at least ONE “best of 2005″ list based on this list. You have to do at least one Best Of at the end of the year, don’t you? This one is less about songs that were literally released in 2005, but more about songs that I still really like at the end of 2005, or discovered in 2005.
So here are the 10 from that list that I like the most. If you’re interested in the whole list it’s here.
1. Love Me Like You by the Magic Numbers from the album Magic Numbers. I’ve seen the Magic Numbers live two times in the last year and a bit. They carry so much energy. Great pop.
2. Let Go by Frou Frou from the album Details. I think I found this one through last.FM before buying the whole album..
3. Naked As We Came by Iron & Wine from the album Our Endless Numbered Days. Really excellent band. This one was found through the Sub Pop podcast before I started buying complete albums.
4. Mr Brightside by the Killers from the album Hot Fuss. Awesome, awesome song. And band. Great performance at Live 8. The only one I actually saw.
5. Glenn Tipton by Sun Kil Moon from the album Ghosts of the Great Highway. Don’t know where I found this album. This first track is haunting.
6. The Pioneers by Bloc Party from the album Silent Alarm. I think I had Bloc Party recommended to my by Ario at about the same time I found it on WebJay. Awesome band.
7. Feel Good inc. by Gorillaz from the album Demon Days. I’m late to the Gorillaz game, having never listened to the first album. I have now, but think this second album is quite a bit better.
8. Forever Never by Maerz from the album Wir Sind Hier (thanks to Ario for this one from one of his mixes. Full album is great, too. I’m confused whether they are called Marz or Maerz. I had more luck looking for their songs using Maerz.
9. Up All Night by Razorlight from the album Up All Night. Another Brit Rock track. I can’t separate this band from the Killers, really. Same kind of sound (to me). The Killers just have the edge.
10. He’s Just Like Me by The Proclaimers from the album Born Innocent. I have a soft spot for the Proclaimers. I remember listening to them during art class at school in about ’87. I love how Scottish they sound, how harmonic they are and how great their stories are.
Ah, who am I kidding? In compiling this top 10 I realised I haven’t even got songs from some of my other favorite albums of the year into my Favorite songs list, let alone then on to this list. So, it’s all highly unscientific and in a state of evolutions. Bands like the Editors, Wire Daisies, Syd Matters and so on should probably at least be competing, but they’re not. Still, it’s a list. And I got it in before the end of the year.
If you’re interested, there’s yet another list of albums I’ve bought recently on my wiki…
I’ve been messing around with listening to Podcasts now for about 6 months. They appeal to me because they are so fresh, but most of them don’t really meet the “bite size” criteria that I think you need for media on the go. Most of the time I use my iPod to fill a short space in my day (the exception being when I go on longer “commutes” to Seattle). I think, from my limited exposure, that podcasts are best in small chunks that you can commit to listening through fully in one sitting. This isn’t something I can do with a 30+ minute broadcast.
The podcast I’ve enjoyed the most so far is one that just focuses on releasing single tracks on a regular basis. It’s been a great way to just “try out” new bands. It’s from Sub Pop Records. Through their feed I’ve discovered some great bands, like Iron & Wine and Rogue Wave.
Next year a project called Creative Commons Three Sixty Five will be releasing one free track a day through their feed. I hope it will be as good.
I’m not sure if there’s a catch, but Amazon’s Free Music Downloads page seems pretty cool. Tracks from Moby, Bloc Party, Yo La Tengo etc…
More to try from Ario…
Another video from The Magic Numbers‘ gig I attended at the Borderline in London. This time the song is Mule.
Windows Media Player: Hi| Lo
Yes.net provides listings of songs played on radio stations, with times when they were broadcast. This page, for example, gives the list of songs played on KEXP in Seattle, this morning from 6:32am. I looked this up at about 11:30am Seattle time, so I guess there’s a litsings lag of about 5 hours.
Stephanie, my sister in law, has got her CD, “Home”, available online. She writes beautiful, personal folk songs performed simply with vocals and a guitar.
Oh, and to add to that, I did the CD art, the cover of which is a sunset shot from my old house in Kirkland.
Ario is always pointing the way to new music. Here’s a list of the mixes he’s put together over the last few years. Doesn’t cover all the stuff he’s posted about on his blog, but there’s some awesome stuff in here.