The commuter listen

As of May 2022, I started driving to my job at Apple, three days a week. Initially, I was using our ancient beige Camry (2001), which I’d delayed repairing and had a godawful loud engine noise. I was holding out on repairs, expecting we’d get an electric vehicle (Chevy Bolt) we’d queued for a few months earlier. Eventually, I gave up on the Bolt, discovered the Camry repairs were trivial and I finally got to listen to music while driving. And then in February, a Bolt finally arrived and I could hear music on a genuinely nice audio system.

So this was my commuter soundtrack. I’ve grown a little tired of music for the time being – moved on to podcasts (like this movie show) and audiobooks for a bit. But I’ll be back to the music again before long.

Part 1

  1. yeah yeah yeahs. burning. rock, 2022.
  2. catfish & the bottlemen. kathleen. rock, 2014.
  3. friendly fires. kiss of life. rock, 2009.
  4. eight and a half. wait up. rock, 2012.
  5. maddie zahm. blind spot. folk, 2021.
  6. luna li. what you’re thinking. pop, 2022.
  7. cut copy. running in the grass. downtempo, 2022.
  8. simian mobile disco. i believe. electronic, 2007.
  9. cannons. bad dream. pop, 2021.
  10. kyle dixon & michael stein. escape. synthwave, 2017.
  11. waveshaper. future vision. synthwave, 2016.
  12. the rapture. i need your love. pop, 2003.
  13. bonobo. ketto. downtempo, 2006.
  14. beach house. only you know. rock, 2022.
  15. khruangbin & leon bridges. mariella. rock, 2022.
  16. jeremy steig. howling for judy. jazz, 1969.
  17. cotonete. super vilain wants love [dj deep & romain poncet remix]. acid jazz, 2020.
  18. the avalanches. take care in your dreaming. downtempo, 2020.
  19. prince innocence. forever & ever. rock, 2020.
  20. cigarettes after sex. pistol. downtempo, 2022.

Part 2

  1. widowspeak. the good ones. folk, 2020.
  2. lord huron. meet me in the woods. rock, 2015.
  3. johnny marr. spirit power and soul. rock, 2022.
  4. solange. losing you. r&b, 2012.
  5. empress of. save me. pop, 2022.
  6. warpaint. champion. rock, 2022.
  7. billie eilish. happier than ever. rock, 2021.
  8. yung lean & fka twigs. bliss. alternative, 2022.
  9. childish gambino. algorhythm. alternative, 2020.
  10. beyoncé. break my soul. pop, 2022.
  11. coma feat. dillon. beyond you and me. house, 2022.
  12. odesza feat. bettye lavette. the last goodbye. electronic, 2022.
  13. plaid. clock. ambient, 2016.
  14. com truise. … of your fake dimension. synthwave, 2017.
  15. robert parker. sweet nothings. synthwave, 2016.
  16. youngblood. 5 seconds of summer. pop, 2018.
  17. the weeknd. out of time. r&b, 2022.
  18. troublemakers. chez roger boite funk. acid jazz, 2001.

Soundtrack to Capstone a Pandemic

So there was a pandemic. During which I listened to my last mix, over and over again; as I jogged the exact same riverside route, and my misfitted left-ear AirPod kept falling out.

And I continued listening, and accumulating tracks. For various reasons™, I couldn’t listen to my accumulating list until recently; so the music here wasn’t exactly a soundtrack to the pandemic for me. But now, I’ve finally assembled it.

This one’s in three parts: a two-disc 2020-21 set, and a 2022 set coming up next. Traditionally, I’ve limited myself to the ~100 minutes of a CD; but whatever, let’s go with three full hours, and so we get digressively long tracks like Venice Bitch, Beau Mot Plage and America.

The primary consumer of these mixes is… me, let’s be honest. And one of the main benefits is a bunch of links I can click to find the artists’ full albums in Apple Music. So… no more obsessive MP3ing, relevelling and mixing with ancient 2004 Audacity builds.

part 1

  1. hologramme feat. fakear. felicity [fakear remix]. downtempo, 2020.
  2. kilder & jamal bucanon. what i won’t do. pop, 2020.
  3. alfie templeman. shady. pop, 2021
  4. grandson. dirty. pop, 2020.
  5. 347aidan. dancing in my room. pop, 2020.
  6. frank ocean. pink + white. r&b, 2016.
  7. washed out. too late. downtempo, 2020.
  8. caribou. lime. pop, 2020.
  9. mount kimbie. four years and one day. electronic, 2017.
  10. moderat. animal trails. experimental, 2016.
  11. luke howard. bear story i [ben lukas boysen rework]. techno, 2019.
  12. billie eilish. everything i wanted. pop, 2019.
  13. allan rayman. rose. pop, 2018.
  14. massive attack. paradise circus [gui boratto remix]. downtempo, 2010.
  15. donna missal. (to me) your face is love. pop, 2021.
  16. art school girlfriend. diving. rock, 2019.
  17. lana del rey. venice bitch. pop, 2019.
  18. flume feat. toro y moi. the difference. rock, 2020.
  19. new jackson. romancecar. downtempo, 2019.
  20. aurora. cure for me. house, 2022.
  21. shire t. burnin’ jungle. pop, 2021.

part 2

  1. e.vax. manila. acid jazz, 2022.
  2. against all logic. you (forever). experimental, 2022.
  3. the midnight. neon medusa. synthwave, 2021.
  4. gorgon city & drama. you’ve done enough. house, 2021.
  5. jordan rakei. family. r&b, 2021.
  6. james blake. retrograde. r&b, 2013.
  7. tsha. me you. techno, 2019.
  8. major lazer & nucleya feat. rashmeet kaur. jadi buti. dub, 2020.
  9. rae & christian. ready to roll [bushy remix]. acid jazz, 2002.
  10. soul square feat. pfel & atom. live and uncut. hip hop, 2010.
  11. isolée. beau mot plage [freedom reform, pt. 1 & 2]. acid jazz, 1999.
  12. plants and animals. sacrifice. rock, 2020.
  13. i break horses. silence. rock, 2020.
  14. clairo. zinnias. folk, 2021.
  15. arlo parks. sophie. pop, 2019.
  16. thievery corporation feat. gunjan. doors of perception. dub, 2005.
  17. mac ayres. jumping off the moon. r&b, 2019.
  18. fink. hard believer. blues, 2014.
  19. handsome boy modeling school feat. roisin & j-live. the truth. hip hop, 1999.
  20. girl in red. midnight love. pop, 2020.
  21. booka shade & kaktus einarsson. perfect in a way. techno, 2020.
  22. sufjan stevens. america. rock, 2020.

Keep Calm and Mix On

I listen to music while I work. I listen without lyrics. I mostly just consume what the Apple algorithm feeds me.

So, I’m not going to pretend any ownership over this list. It’s really just a “best of Apple music, 2018/19.” For the record, the stock playlists I prefer are: Untitled, Loops, Headspace, Living in the Library and Vibes.

But: at least I’m listening mostly to music from the past decade, and finding rock and r&b tracks that I like. The flavour of this mix is very low key, suitable to my mood when I put it together in February. It doesn’t really fit with the “brief relief from a coronavirus” that we’re going through now, but whatever.

I’ll be honest: no one else listens to these mixes. I make them mostly for myself, as a way to sift through the best things I’ve heard, take note of the artists I liked best, and branch out to their full albums and other work. The raw material for this mix is a solid 200 tracks that caught my eye, and it was fun to cull them down to this highlights list.

Download a zip of MP3s here, or listen with your favourite streaming service below.

  1. james blake feat. rosalía. barefoot in the park. pop, 2019.
  2. nicolas jaar. mi mujer. dub, 2010.
  3. maribou state. turnmills [edit]. downtempo, 2018.
  4. pantha du prince. bohemian forest. techno, 2010.
  5. chet faker. no diggity. r&b, 2012.
  6. calvin harris feat. frank ocean & migos. slide. r&b, 2017.
  7. allan rayman feat. jessie reyez. repeat. r&b, 2017.
  8. art school girlfriend. distance (blank). rock, 2018.
  9. alex lahey. am i doing it right? rock, 2019.
  10. cherry glazerr. daddi. rock, 2019.
  11. two people. something to talk about. trip hop, 2018.
  12. barr brothers. you would have to lose your mind. rock, 2017.
  13. ben howard. nica libres at dusk. rock, 2018.
  14. reuben bidez feat. molly parden. what you really wanted. folk, 2018.
  15. kimya dawson. tire swing. folk, 2006.
  16. wildes. illuminate. rock, 2016.
  17. dusted. all i am. rock, 2018.
  18. bearcubs. do you feel. electronic, 2018.
  19. velvet negroni. crybaby. electronic, 2018.
  20. manila killa & mansionair. wake up call. pop, 2018.
  21. bicep. vale. techno, 2017.
  22. major lazer feat. amber coffman. get free. dancehall, 2012.
  23. floating points. anasickmodular. acid jazz, 2019.
  24. martin nonstatic. innermost structure. ambient, 2017.
  25. orbital. tiny foldable cities [edit]. techno, 2018.
  26. dining rooms. you [quantic soul orchestra version]. acid jazz, 2004.
  27. alex lustig feat. akacia. in the end. pop, 2018.

A Year of Apple Watch

Last January, I bought an Apple Watch series 3. A week later, I bought a second watch.

In between, I’d learned a lesson about trying to buy used goods on Kijiji. I learned from Apple staff that the first one was stolen from an Apple Store… and Apple decides to put the watches that failed waterproofing tests in the store. I wore the watch for a swim within a few hours of buying it… and poof, it was gone.

But I’m quite pleased with the watch. I got it for three reasons: to track/improve my exercise, to reliably receive phone/text notifications, and to keep up with current technology / user interface trends. All of these have proven useful.

Let me talk about the last two first: I appreciate that the watch is less addictive than a phone, and helps you reduce phone use. I’ll go a step further: the watch’s best feature is that the screen is too small. It’s so small that I don’t want to use it for an extended period of time… so I don’t. No facebook, no twitter, no instagram, no addictions. I will happily pay extra to have a device that I don’t want to use much… which I guess is “win-win” for Apple, isn’t it?

I appreciate that it’s better adapted to human social interactions: you can turn your phone ringer off and just rely on vibrations, you can keep your phone in a bag and still get all notifications, and it’s much easier to quickly glance at a text during a meeting without looking like a jerk.

On exercise: I’m primarily a commuter cyclist and swimmer, and to a lesser extent a bit of an omnivore. Tracking all of the types of sports I do was very appealing. I was also attracted by a company that uses the addictive “gamification” approach that usually keeps us glued to our smartphones for good – to actually keep me healthier and happier.

And it’s worked: my calorie goal has risen from 400 active calories per day to 650 over the course of the year, despite a change in work situation removing my reliable cycle commute. The data’s also fascinating; while what’s captured by “Workouts” is only part of my total exercise, it’s neat to see:

Random trivia in these charts:

  • My worst month (March 2017) was the one where I spent two weeks on an urban Mexico vacation. With high heat, no bike, and two kids to manage, I got very, very little exercise. This is one reason why I like camping vacations!
  • The “seasonal” category is mostly skating and cross-country skiing, plus a little snowboarding and canoeing. Now that I live in Ottawa, I even skate to work regularly. I’m a little annoyed that Apple doesn’t track distance or provide maps for skating and skiing, though. And the icon for “skating” is a skateboard, so I’ve started classifying it as “hockey”.
  • In October, a new WatchOS version started autodetecting “walking” workouts for me.
  • The comparison of February 2018 (Toronto) and 2019 (Ottawa) is pretty striking. Winter cycling just wasn’t feasible. (And yes, I did cycle 155km in February in Toronto.) Even walking quickly enough to be classified as “exercise” was tricky on the icy sidewalks.