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Ben Gibbard talks “Black Sun” and having his own line of custom Fender guitars

Since the late 1990s, Ben Gibbard has been a prominent voice in indie rock as singer-songwriter for the platinum-selling band Death Cab for Cutie. The Ben Gibbard Mustang brings his melodic style to the stage with a modified ‘70s Mustang, featuring a chambered ash body, a 3-way rotary pickup selector switch and a rock-solid hardtail bridge. Watch Ben dive into his songwriting process using his Signature Mustang in our latest episode of Tracks.

For more info on the Ben Gibbard Mustang: fender.com/ben-gibba…

🎧 Listening to Keep It Like a Secret by Built to Spill

🎧Listening to The Blue - EP by Death Cab for Cutie

The lost art of deep listening

Randall Roberts, writing for Los Angeles Times:

But most of us are half-assed when it comes to listening to albums. We put on artists’ work while we’re scrolling through Twitter, disinfecting doorknobs, obsessively washing our hands or romancing lovers permitted within our COVID-free zones. We rip our favorite tracks from their natural long-player habitat, drop them into playlists and forget the other songs, despite their being sequenced to be heard in order.

I previously mentioned listening to just one album in this manner. Three would definitely be a full on exercise.

Randall also mentions one of my favorite albums:

In 2006, the Staten Island rapper Ghostface Killah, best known as a founding member of Wu-Tang Clan, issued his fifth studio album. It’s about wine’s evil cousin, cocaine. Called “Fishscale,” the album is an hourlong, Tarantino-style action-adventure film, and one of three albums I programmed for a recent night with music.

After a cuss-heavy intro, “Fishscale” commences with “Shakey Dog,” a cinematic punch akin to a car chase opening an action movie. We’re with Starks on the way to a robbery. He’s in the backseat eating fish and dipping French fries into ketchup. He drops tartar sauce on his shoe, a portent that the advancing plot might not go as planned. By the end of the song, nearly a dozen people are dead and a bullet has grazed our hero’s ear.

I’ve always felt “Shakey Dog” should get the short film treatment, because that’s exactly what it is. Just that track alone. And there’s still a whole album ahead of it.

But, I feel like one of the only people on Earth who knows about the glory of Fishscale. I listened to this album back when I used to listen to albums more. I would pickup something new, listen to it track by track, and score every song from one through five stars. I distinctly remember Run the Jewels’ first album getting fives across the board. I miss doing this.

No, I Am Not Getting Rid of My Thousands of CDs

Anthony Tommasini, writing for The New York Times:

Most of these recordings are available online. But not organized in volumes like archival documents, with extensive notes, essays and information.

I too still have many of the CDs I’ve collected over the years. I even have prized possessions within those. That said, I can’t say I’ve pulled them out in quite some time. As I speak, I don’t currently have any piece of equipment out to listen to them on. Still, I don’t see myself giving them up. There’s things about CDs (or LPs) that make it worthwhile to me. The photos within the liner notes and even the liner notes themselves. I like reading through the liner notes of each album by The Roots, as Questlove always tells backstories within them.

There is something to be said about listening to albums in their entirety. Many albums are meant to be heard from front to back. Each of Kendrick Lamar’s past few albums have been concept albums, for example. Even if it’s not a concept album, the artist and producers often have a reason for why songs are ordered the way they are. I feel like I need to get back to this.

An idea bouncing around in my head is to listen to an album a day. This is where I sit down, but headphones on, and just listen to an album from front to back uninterrupted. I’m not saying I’ll do this every day, because life is life and I’m not trying to put pressure on myself like that. But, I like this concept. I’m up for suggestions.

Listening to: Lo Tom - LP2

It’s a bit brief (only 25 minutes), but this eight track project from members of Pedro the Lion & Starflyer 59 hits hard. David Bazan’s lyrics are introspective & thought provoking as usual.

D’Angelo's Masterpiece 'Voodoo' Laid Out the Blueprint for a New Masculinity

Luis Minvielle, writing for Okayplayer:

D’Angelo was able to create this state of expression, of inclusive intimacy and universal love, by embracing his own femininity, and embracing what’s feminine in soul music. The liner notes are exact: “If we are to exist as men in this new world many of us must learn to embrace and nurture that which is feminine with all of our hearts.”

Voodoo is still one of my favorite albums to date. Its expression of love in its deepest and most intricate ways with a soundtrack which captures the mood beautifully are what keep me coming back to it. It’s deep, but not inaccessibly deep.

Listening: Gang Starr - One of the Best Yet

20191101 gang starr

Gang Starr’s first album since 2010 and the first since Guru’s passing. I’m always a sucker for Premier’s beats, I would never expect a project like this to be half assed by him, and this definitely feels like more than just a few beats with old Guru throwaway verses on it. It feels like a fresh Gang Starr album.

Combining Playlists with Shortcuts 🎶

Before the iCloud Music Library came along, I had a good system of smart playlists in iTunes which built on other smart playlists to create what amounted to my own personal radio stations. These playlists were dynamic, ditching tracks which once they were played, to keep from hearing the same track over and over again and giving other tracks a chance to breathe.

Once the iCloud Music Library came along, these playlists became a little obsolete. They worked just fine within iTunes on the Mac. But, for whatever reason Apple has, they never synced to the cloud based on the fact they were built off of other smart playlists. I’ve tried other work arounds, including trying to build all these rules into a single playlist, but things can get messy quick.

Enter Apple acquiring the app Workflow which has been since rebranded as Shortcuts. Shortcuts allows you to create what are essentially macros, which makes repetitive tasks streamlines and quick, for iOS and iPad OS. In this case, Shortcuts has solved my problem with combining smart playlists while on the go. With this workflow (which I found on Reddit then added a small edit), I can select the playlists I want to build off of and create a song queue, shuffled and with no duplicates.

This allowed me to get a little creative with some smart playlists. The way I had things set up before was to have playlists within a certain genre set by how new the music is, which goes as follows:

  • New - From the current year (or two) which was added to my library within the last nine months
  • Recent - From the last five years, excluding anything in the new music list
  • Classic - Anything prior to five years
  • Decade lists - 80s, 90s, and so on.

With this, I added a little twist. For each of these options, I created three separate playlists with song limits of 50, 100, and 200. I think of it as measuring the amount of each ingredient I want. I’ve also made a smart playlists of favorite bands with a song limit of 100, to insure through all the randomness I have in my library, that I’ll definitely get something I like. All these playlists kick a song out once it’s played, allowing a new track to move in. Running the workflow looks like this:

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At this point, you select the playlist you want to build from, hit done, and the rest takes care of itself. You have a fresh custom playlist every day. The key here is you can list the playlists you want to build off of, you just have to make sure they are spelled correctly. But, this means if you want to use Apple Music’s own frequently updating playlists, you certainly can.

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You can download the Shortcut here.

I had never noted until now that the drummer in the Motownphilly video was Questlove from The Roots.

(h/t John Book)

Nas’ Lost Tapes 2 cover looks like my purple tape after I stepped on it by accident. I’d never felt so crushed to lose music. I’m still mad about that even though I don’t listen to tapes anymore. 🎶

Albums I Hope to Listen To This Week 🎶

I’m going to try listening to more full albums and rate tracks as I go along. Here’s what’s on my radar this week:

  • Nas - The Lost Tapes 2
  • Common Market - Triple Crown EP
  • Big K.R.I.T. - K.R.I.T. IS HERE
  • The Black Keys - “Let’s Rock”
  • Royal Teeth - Hard Luck

I think if I start small I can get through it, then go from there.