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The end of 2012

Dec20

It’s that time of year again. The only time of year when I will consistently write something on this blog. It’s the end of the year, and that means a “Best of music” list. This year, however, I’m going to do something a little different. There will be two lists. 2012 was a great year for music. However, most of that good music, in my opinion, came in the form of a reissue. The brand new music was…. kind of “meh”. Therefore there will be one list for new music, and one list for reissues. 

One quick note before we get to the lists: I hate describing music. I’m pretty terrible at it. Therefore, when I could, I copied some short descriptions from my friend Chris who runs the music blog echoocho (which I have a mix tape on). They’ll be much more descriptive and helpful than anything I could have written.

 

New Music Released in 2012:
 

Tame Impala - Lonerism
Recommended Track: Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
Their debut album, Innerspeaker, came out in 2010 and was pretty steller. It was heavy, and classic sounding. Their new album is a bit lighter and more catchy. Yet it was still able to keep everything that made their debut awesome.

Jakob Olausson - Morning and Sunrise
Recommended Track: Riding on the Wind 
Chris sums it up best: Haunting, melancholy folk music from an organic beet farmer in Sweden.  It sounds like a long lost folk relic, an effect heightened by the private-press type “stock” cover art.

Twerps - Twerps
Recommended Track: Dreamin
Technically this may have come out in 2011, but I don’t think it hit the states till 2012, so I’m going to include it here. Austrailia has been putting out a lot of good music lately, and this is another one. 90’s style jangly guitar rock.

Mad Scene - Blip
Recommended Track: Lorelei
From Chris: A “supergroup” of sorts, in which members of The Clean, Yo La Tengo, and others came together for the second time in 17 years to record a warm, eclectic set of VU/Modern Lovers-derived indie rock.  The buzzing, analog production from Sonic Boom (of Spacemen 3 and Spectrum fame) makes the whole affair as comfy as a thrift store couch. 

Grizzly Bear - Schields
Recommended Track: Yet Again
Grizzly Bear may be getting more poppy with each album, but they still put out a consistently good album.

Angel Olsen - Half Way Home
Recommended Track: Acrobat 
Originally from Missouri, now residing in Chicago, this is her debut and it’s fantastic from start to finish.  She’s toured as a vocalist with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, and I can see why. Hauntingly beautiful while also dark and sparse.

Mount Eerie - Ocean Roar
Recommended Track: Ocean Roar
I tend to like everything that Phil Elvrum has put out, and this is no different. Heavy metal inspiration plus Phil’s folk leanings.

Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold
Recommended Track: Borrowed Time
I can’t top what Chris said so I’ll just paste: Driving slacker-rock that, like many revered 90s indie records, could use a bit of pruning, but the many solid tracks are great.  Hits a sweet spot in the Pavement, Tyvek, Feelies, sort of orbit.

MMOSS - Only Children
Recommended Track: Hands
An album that is consistently good. If you like fuzzy psychadelic folk music, give this a listen.

Julia Holder - Ekstasis
Recommended Track: Marienbad
Ethereal bedroom laptop pop

Honerable Mentions:
Ty Segall, Sharon Van Etten, Bird by Snow, Spritiualized, Isengrind, Pheromoans and Dirty Projectors 

 

2012 Reissues in absolutely no particular order

 

Lee Hazlewood - Cold Hard World / Dark in My Heart
Recommended Track: Dark in My Heart
Two compilations of the incomprable Lee Hazlewood. These two albums are a perfect blend of Johnny Cash and Tom Waits.

Misty Hush Revival - Your Heart is Broken
Recommended Track: Your Heart is Broken
A great reissue of a rare and sought-after 1972 LP by this Staten Island garage band.

The New Dawn - There’s a New Dawn
Recommended Track: (There’s a) New Dawn
This Oregon band printed off 500 copies of this record in 1970. Thankfully Jackpot records released it, so we can enjoy the dreamy and moody soft rock.

The Clean - Odditties
Recommended Track: The Clean
Long overdue 2LP reissue of the cassette-only compilation of unreleased tracks, demos, and studio tinkerings.  Hit and miss, but there is some great stuff on here.

The Great Unwashed - Clean out of Our Minds
Recommended Track: Hold onto the Rail
Essential reissue of some of the best music to come out of the Flying Nun camp, showing a bit more subdued and acoustic side of The Clean.

The Scientists - Rubber Never Sleeps
Recommended Track: Frantic Romantic
A live album that was, up until now, only available on cassette. Properly brought back with some vinyl. 

Donnie & Joe Emerson - Dreamin’ Wild
Recommended Track: Baby
Two brothers from a logging town were pushed into music by their dad. They made this album while in their teens. Even if most of the songs were terrible (which they aren’t), I’d include it here simply because of the amazing soulful track “Baby”.

Dane Sturgeon - Wild ‘n’ Tender
Recommended Track: Queen Bee
Technically this wasn’t reissued. However, I stumbled onto an original copy this year, and a documentary on Dane Sturgeon came out this year. So, that’s reason enough to add it.  This album is completely unique and hypnotic.

G.I. Gurdjieff - Improvisations
Recommended Track: All of them
Gurdjieff was a Russian mystic who influenced writers, thinkers and artists (e.g. Frank Lloyd Wright and many French surrealist writers).  In the last year of his life, he held dinner parties at his Paris apartment where I am sure very heady conversations took place.  He concluded the dinners by extemporaneously playing his harmonium (pump organ) for his guests, who reportedly were often brought to tears by the performances.  These recordings are musty, warbly things and are very beautiful.  A cool historical and musical document, a museum for the ears and mind.  One piece was recorded mere days before his death in October 1949. - Chris

The Steps - Krontjong Warna-Warni
Recommended Track: Mudiang Priangan
Similar to Dane Sturgeon, this hasn’t been reissued. In fact, as far as I know there isn’t much information on this at all other than someone found it, copied it to a cd and now you can find it in the remote corners of the internet. I really hope that someone does do a proper reissue of it, as it’s a great 1970’s pastoral Indonesian surf album. 

Honorable Mentions:

Toy Love (for fans of Ty Segall and Jay Reatard), Karen Dalton, Wicked Lady, Heaven & Earth, The Shoes, Tsege Mariam Gebru, F.J. McMahonDrywater and David Arvedon.

Posted on December 20, 2012 in Random

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D3.js

Oct23

One task at my new job is to build our interactive charts. After researching frameworks, we settled on D3.js. The reason we decided on D3 is because it is one of the most robust frameworks available, while also remaining flexible and web standard agnostic. It’s ability to work in SVG, Canvas, or HTML (by taking data and generating HTML tables), allows you to decide what method the data should be presented in. SVG, Canvas and HTML all have their pros and cons and a framework shouldn’t force your hand into one or the other, which is what many frameworks do.

One issue I did have with D3 were the tutorials. While there are a ton of them, it was tough to find ones that explained the rationale behind the code. Because of this, I wrote a tutorial for the blog Codrops which can be read here:
http://tympanus.net/codrops/2012/08/29/multiple-area-charts-with-d3-js/

I also created a gist for the code:
http://bl.ocks.org/3630001 

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Posted on October 23, 2012 in Web Development

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The new HOK.com

Aug19

A couple months ago, I developed the new HOK.com for TOKY Branding + Design. It’s a site I’m very proud of. I had some help from Kathy Sprehe with the news section, but otherwise I’m responsible for the development of every other part of the site - the CMS, the front end architecture. All of it. It’s a beautiful site and I encourage you to take a look at it. Communication Arts has already selected it as a “Webpick of the week” in July, 2012. You can also read a little more about the project on my site here.

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Posted on August 19, 2012 in Web Development

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While I've been away

Jul23

It’s been a while since I’ve last blogged. But I promise I haven’t been slacking, I’ve actually been quite busy. In particular, I’ve been busy with a handful of things things:

  1. I took on a new job as a senior front end developer with BASIS Science
  2. HOK.com launched a new website. I built this while working at TOKY. This is a project I am very proud of and deserves its own post at some point. In the mean time, it’s already been chosen as a Communication Arts Webpick of the Day!
  3. I’ve written a jQuery Audio slideshow tutorial for Codrops

I do plan on being more active here, so please keep an eye on this. I’m hoping to release some D3 tutorials in the near future, too. 

Posted on July 23, 2012 in

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PhotoSeed Wins a Webby!!

May11

photoseed-slide-1

I am extremely proud to announce that PhotoSeed has won a Webby! It won for the Art category, beating out Google Art Project, The Walker Art Center, Colossal, and Dean West Photography, which was incredible company to be in.

PhotoSeed was a project that took a bit to get going (as most projects do). It was something David Spencer (Spence) and I had talked about, along with Mark Katzman and Curt Von Diest way back in early 2009. We are all avid photography collectors. We actually had made decent head way before we all were consumed by other projects. I hadn’t spoken with David for about six months when I saw him at a talk Katzman gave at the Saint Louis Museum of Art. After the talk, I was energized to work on something photography related and told Spence that we must do PhotoSeed. He has an amazing collection, and I’ve read many of his writings on Luminous Lint. He needed his own site.

After that, things started to fall into place. I was able to get Jay David to do design, while I worked with Spence on how his content would be all tied together. I did development for the site, with TOKY Branding + Design being kind enough to allow us to use Eero, the CMS I developed while working there. From there, it was up to Spence to enter all the content. As of May 11, 2012, there are over 1,800 works, and 4,500 images. If you don’t already subscribe to the RSS feed, I encourgage you to do so. Every week, Spence puts up another great post detailing something that I have never heard about. He has taught me more about photography than any textbook or museum.

PhotoSeed was a wonderful project to work on, and I couldn’t be happier for David Spencer. He has created a website like no other.

Posted on May 11, 2012 in Random, Web Development

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2012 Webby Awards

Apr10

The 2012 Webby Awards were announced today and I am lucky enough to have three projects mentioned. Two as nominees and one honoree. Voting starts tomorrow, so please vote!

Nominee: PhotoSeed
Category: Art
URL: http://www.photoseed.com/

photoseed

 

Nominee: World Chess Hall of Fame
Category: Cultural Institutions
URL: http://worldchesshof.org/

chesshof

 

Honoree: Contemporary Art Museum Saint Louis
Category: Cultural Institutions
URL: http://camstl.org/

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Posted on April 10, 2012 in Random

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jQuery Retina Plugin

Mar25

This weekend I decided to create a jQuery plugin to help images look better on retina devices. Currently this is only an issue on the new iPad (aka, iPad 3) along with the iPhone 4 and 4S. However, this will soon be incorporated into Android and Windows mobile devices, as well as OSX and Windows desktops.

Retina devices have a greater pixel density than what non retina devices have. So images that are not retina optimized will look blown up and pixelated on retina enabled devices.

A quick solution is to check if the device retina enabled, and if so, swap out the image with one that is twice as large. Have no worries though, it will still take up the same amount of space on your web page. The plugin I wrote supports a couple options for this:

  1. Check if the image has a data-retina attribute on the img tag.
  2. Add a suffix to the filename (for example, ‘-2x’)
  3. Custom callback so users can dynamically assign the retina file names - this is useful on Wordpress installs where the images file names all get appended with their file size.

The slideshow below shows screen caps of what retina sized and standard size images look like on an iPad.



You can view an example on your retina device here: http://retina.tylercraft.com/

It’s also up on GitHub, so please feel free to let me know about any bugs, or if you want to contribute more features.  https://github.com/tylercraft/jQuery-Retina

Posted on March 25, 2012 in Web Development

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Artful Travels: Searching Out the Spiral Jetty

Jan20

Note: This is cross posted on the TOKY blog as part of a new series about artful trips our staff have taken.

The Spiral Jetty is an earthwork sculpture constructed in 1970 by Robert Smithson. It’s located in the remote Rozel Bay on the north arm of Great Salt Lake in Utah. Even though this is one of the most unique works of art I’ve ever seen, I primarily remember it because of the adventure it was just to get there.

In 2006, my wife (girlfriend at the time), Rachel, and I took a trip out west. We love National Parks, and always manage to base our vacations around them. This vacation was no different, with an itinerary that featured Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, and a drive through the Grand Tetons.

With some convincing on Rachel’s part, we added one more park to the list: Golden Spike National Historic Site. To be clear, though, her primary objective was to see the Spiral Jetty.

After leaving Jackson, Wyoming, we took Highway 89 south through the beautiful Bridger National Forest, passed through Logan, Utah, and made it to Brigham City, where we stayed in a classy 20-room Howard Johnson’s, one of the few hotels in the area.

We woke up early the next day and started our pilgrimage. After about an hour driving through a desolate, arid landscape, we finally arrived at Golden Spike; the temperature was already in the upper 80′s. At this point we had not seen a single sign for the Jetty. The only reason we knew we had 15 more miles was thanks to the Dia Foundation’s somewhat comedic directions (“Immediately you cross a cattle guard. Call this cattle guard #1”; “If you choose to continue…”).

Spiral Jetty road

Even with Dia’s instructions, we weren’t sure if we were going in the right direction. Every fork or cattle fence made us stop and question if we missed a turn. Thankfully, there was one sign that let us know we were not on the right path.

Spiral Jetty sign

As we got closer, I started to feel as though we had driven to another planet. In the distance I could see the lake, which was blood-red. It’s color is “due to the presence of salt-tolerant bacteria and algae that thrive in the extreme 27 percent salinity” (Wikipedia). The land around the lake was extremely arid and covered with large volcanic basalt rocks and the occasional rusted shell of an automobile.

Spiral Jetty rocks

The road came to a stop, and we went on foot down the only trail we could find. After about a mile we came to the Jetty. At the time of our 2006 visit, the water was high and the tops of the rocks were barely sticking out over the red water. Stopping on a hill, I had one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had. TheJetty was in front of me, abandoned oil drills in the distance, dried salt beds to the east and volcanic rock behind me. I felt as though I stumbled into Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan. Aside from Rachel, it seemed as if no other person existed.

Spiral Jetty look

The website for the artwork explains how it was built: “Using black basalt rocks and earth from the site, the artist created a coil 1,500 feet long and 15 feet wide that stretches out counterclockwise into the translucent red water.” While the rocks were originally black, due to the salt, they are now primarily white.

It’s worth noting that the Jetty is only visible when the level of the Great Salt Lake falls below an elevation of 4,197.8 feet. Since the Jetty was built during a drought, it was submerged for three decades until 2004, when it was exposed for almost an entire year.

Spiral Jetty white rocks

After walking out as far as we could on the rocks, we meandered a little east of the Jetty to some dry salt beds. The Great Salt Lake has a history of oil drilling, and this area felt like a graveyard for it. The horizon was decorated with abandoned oil rigs while the foreground was scattered with rusted-out oil drums.

Spiral Jetty salt flats

To be honest, I hadn’t been very excited about this part of our trip. The Jetty looked interesting in photos, but I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the two days of my precious vacation time. However, after being there, I can honestly say it was one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had.

If you find yourself a day or two drive from Utah, I highly encourage a visit. You won’t forget it.

An endnote: In 2011, the Dia Art Foundation’s lease on Spiral Jetty expired, and the state of Utah took it over. There were many fears over the future of the Jetty, including threats of oil drilling nearby. But just last week, the Dia Foundation announced that it has successfully reacquired the lease from the state, for at least the next 10 years.

Posted on January 20, 2012 in Random

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That time of year again...

Dec14

It’s that time of year again! Here are my favorite albums of 2011. I choose these based on how often they stay in my playlists, and how I think they will fare in my future playlists. So, without furthur ado:

1. Peaking Lights - 936 (Buy)

2. Ty Segall - Goodbye Bread (Buy)

3. Tom Waits - Bad As Me (Buy)

4. The Caretaker - An Empty Bliss Beyond This World (Buy)

5. Colin Stetson - New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges (Buy)

6. tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l (Buy)

7. Shabazz Palaces - Black Up (Buy)

8. The Weeknd - House of Balloons (Download)

9. Dirty Beaches - Badlands (Buy)

10. DARKSIDE - EP (Buy)

11. Mina Tindle - EP (Buy) (this track is not from her EP, but it’s the only one I could find)

12. M83 - Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (Buy)

13. James Blake - James Blake (Buy)

14. Run DMT - Dreams (Buy)

15. Bill Callahan - Apocalypse (Buy)

16. The Sandwitches - Mrs. Jones Cookies (Buy)

17. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (Buy)

18. Cults - Cults (Buy)

19. Black Lips - Arabia Mountain (Buy)

20. Julianna Barwick - The Magic Place (Buy)

Honorable mention to John Maus, White Denim, Toro y Moi, ScHoolboy Q. I also hope Cloud Seeding makes more songs with Marissa Nadler, as their two song release ‘Ink Jar’ was fantastic.

I’d also like to mention my love for everything that Dust to Digital brings to light. They recently released a 4 cd set of John Fahey and it’s amazing. You can listen to the first disc here: http://soundcloud.com/dusttodigital/sets/john-fahey-your-past-comes-1/

Posted on December 14, 2011 in

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An App!

Nov13

Well, I finally did it! I have an app in the App Store. Last week an app for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis was approved by Apple. You can download it for free here.

This was a fun project that I was able to see from start to completion. I had a chance to try out a number of javascript libraries that I’ve been wanting to try. Some didn’t work out, but others did. I decided on Backbone and it was an absolute delight to program with. It kept things organized and automated just the right amount. Too often, I feel that frameworks try to do too much. Backbone was just right. Quick, effective and never in your way. For animation I used Zepto, which was great as well. Its touch events seemed much more responsive than others I have tried.

I also used iScroll to achieve the fixed navigation. I had hoped to get the app submitted before Apple released iOS5, which fixes the CSS fixed positioning bug. Depending on how many iOS4 users we have will dictate when I can remove that from the app.

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Download the app for free here.

Posted on November 13, 2011 in Web Development

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