2011 music wrap-up, and mixtape 107

In only approximate order of favoriteness, here is my year-end wrap-up. As usual, a few of the entries on the following list were released earlier than 2011, but that is when I discovered them, so I'm allowing some slack. Though most were actually released in 2011.

This year I acquired about the same amount of new music as last year: roughly 130 new releases, and just about all of it was released within the last 3 years.

Number of these bands that I saw perform this year: 37.
Number of these bands that performed at DNA Lounge this year: 2.
So, that's two more than in the last four years combined. Go Team.

Here's your shopping list:

  • The Naked and Famous - "Passive Me, Aggressive You"

    This album is so great that I saw this band three times this year, and one of those times was at a large outdoor festival, which I normally can't tolerate. So that says a lot. In addition to being the best album I heard this year, these were also the best live shows I saw. I love both of the singers' voices, and they have a great drummer. Huge favorites are Girls Like You, which rises to Common People levels of bitterness, Punching in a Dream, All of This and The Sun which gives me chills.

  • Fight Like Apes - "The Body of Christ and the Legs of Tina Turner"

    I saw these guys at SXSW in 2009, and this album might be even better than that year's "And the Mystery of the Golden Medallion", and the lyrics and song titles are just as hilarious. I'm especially fond of Pull Off Your Arms And Let's Play In Your Blood.

  • Chromatics - "Night Drive"

    The first of these bands who actually played at DNA Lounge! Let's have a slow clap for that.

  • The Joy Formidable - "The Big Roar"

    They're in that vaguely "4AD" part of the sonic world, but when they rock out with the wall of guitars and bombastic power chords, it's kinda like if the Cocteau Twins started channeling Metallica. No, it's nothing like that at all, and this is why I don't often try to write about music.

  • Le Butcherettes - "Kiss & Kill" & "Sin Sin Sin"

    These guys are very much in the vein of PJ Harvey back when she was awesome (which is to say, Dry and Rid of Me). The singer is actually frightening live. She's got this stare that makes you think that she might just dive off the stage, tear off your face, and wear your skin as a hat. Then she dives off the stage...

  • My First Earthquake - "Friction"

    The second of these bands who played at DNA! I also saw them three times this year. They are a lot of fun.

  • Ema - "Past Life Martyred Saints"

    This music is hard to characterize, but it's disturbing and creepy and catchy. There's a lot of high-octane crazy in these lyrics. I like her voice a lot; reminiscent of Kim Gordon, I guess.

  • Warpaint - "The Fool"

    Dreamy, slo-mo and a little spooky, like their first. This album might be better, but it's at least as good. Go see them live! They are fantastic.

  • The Coathangers - "Larceny & Old Lace"

    It's a bit more polished and less raw "punk" than their previous releases, but it's a more solid album over all.

  • Niki and the Dove - "The Drummer"

    There are a number of recent bands who sound a lot like this, and many of make music videos with a similarly-strange visual style. What are they putting in that Scandinavian water? If we imported more Voss, would music and clothing go that way here, too?

  • Stripmall Architecture - "Feathersongs for Factory Girls, part 2"

    Part 1 made the 2010 list, so it's only fair that the second half get a mention this year. This was probably their sneaky plan all along.

  • Julie Christmas - "The Bad Wife"

    This has kind of a 90s riot grrrl feel to it. It reminds me a little of Babes in Toyland, or more accurately, the spookier stuff on Kat Bjelland's Songs of the Witchblade album.

  • Uffie - "Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans"

    I really like the music and vocal style on this album, but man, this has some of the most inane lyrics ever written. As a friend said, "Yeah, you pop that glock, you little Kylie Minogue-looking motherfucker. Who's a little gangsta! You are! Aren't you just adorable!" It's kinda like that.

  • Yelle - "Safari Disco Club"

    These songs sound exactly like every other Yelle song, so if that's what you're looking for, this is that. (That is was what I was looking for.)

  • Ume - "Phantoms"

    A great indie-rock band I've seen live many times over the last few years have finally released a full length. It's good, but it doesn't quite capture the energy of their live shows.

  • M83 - "Hurry Up We're Dreaming"

    This album definitely feels like a single unit rather than a collection of songs. Earlier M83 stuff has been hit or miss for me; a few great songs and a lot of stuff that I barely notice. This has fewer stand-out tracks than the previous ones, but it's more pleasing as a whole.

  • Los Campesinos! - "Hello Sadness"

    This is a good album, but it's not nearly as good as their previous efforts. There's not a lot of range on this one, I think; all of the songs kind of run together for me, and the lyrics seem less clever.

  • Emika - "Emika"

    It's kind of trip-hoppy (which is a rarity these days) with a whiff of the dirgeyness of witch house.

  • Grimes - "Halfaxa" & "Geidi Primes"

    I really like her cartoony little voice. Halfaxa is a much better album than Geidi Primes, but I'm a sucker for Dune references.

  • The Dogbones - "The Dogbones"

    This band is the remains of Daisy Chainsaw with a new singer. If you were thinking to yourself, "Wow, I really wish there was a new Daisy Chainsaw album", here it is. If you weren't thinking that, it's probably because you haven't listened to enough Daisy Chainsaw.

  • Steed Lord - "Heart II Heart"

    The vocals here are way house-ier than I usually go for, but this album grew on me. It's possible that I was unduly influenced by the amazing music video for 123 If You Want Me. The chunky analog synths are nice.

  • The Soft Moon - "The Soft Moon"

    This is an actual goth band recording new material in the Twenty First Century, frsrs. When I saw them live, I felt that I had been physically transported back to House of Usher in 1993, specifically that tiny 3rd floor room at DV8 where they did smaller bands. Maybe it was the smoke machine. The smoke machine was epic.

  • Cold Cave - "Cherish the Light Years"

    Similarly, though I haven't seen these guys live, if you told me that Cold Cave was a mopey 80s synthpop band that had been decanted from cold storage and given modern production gear, I would probably believe you.

  • Duran Duran - "All You Need Is Now"

    Seriously, what? Ok, you may think it's surprising that I put a new Duran Duran album on this list, but it's actually a pretty good album that sounds a lot like their early stuff, but that's not the most surprising part. The most surprising part is that there was also a new Gang of Four album released this year, and it's awful. Yes, it's Two Thousand God Damned Eleven, and both Duran Duran and Gang of Four released new albums, and the Duran Duran album was the good one of the pair. What the eff.

And... now I've run out of steam. Writing these micro-reviews is really difficult for me. Here are a few more bands that I enjoyed and that you should check out despite me not having been able to squeeze out a sentence about them after having written the above:


And finally, here's mixtape 107, which includes one track by each of the above artists (at least until the various dinosaur record labels pull them off of Youtube or retroactively prohibit embedding or something, as they do constantly.).

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Current Music: as noted

The Turing Police say you have more than two problems.

Occupy Babel!

Hard-to-parse protocols require complex parsers. Complex, buggy parsers become weird machines for exploits to run on. Help stop weird machines today: Make your protocol context-free or regular!

Protocols and file formats that are Turing-complete input languages are the worst offenders, because for them, recognizing valid or expected inputs is UNDECIDABLE: no amount of programming or testing will get it right.

A Turing-complete input language destroys security for generations of users. Avoid Turing-complete input languages!

Ensure computational equivalence of protocol endpoints: use only regular and context-free protocols!

Needless to say, you also doom us all to inhuman toil for the One whose Name cannot be expressed in the Basic Multilingual Plane.

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Google Plus: Still keepin' it klassy

parislemon: Dear Google+

Earlier today I noticed something funny. My Google profile picture -- the picture associated with my Gmail account, my GChat account, my Google+ account, etc -- had vanished. A bug? Nope.

It turns out, Google -- without telling me -- went into my account and deleted my profile picture. Why? Because I am giving the middle finger in it. See: above.

While ridiculous prudish, I figured this was probably the case so I uploaded the picture again to make sure. Sure enough, gone. At least this time, Googler Alex Joseph left a comment as to why:

As the first point of interaction with a user's profile, all profile photos on Google+ are reviewed to make sure they are in line with our User Content and Conduct Policy. Our policy page states, "Your Profile Picture cannot include mature or offensive content." Your profile photo was taken down as a violation of this policy. If you have further questions about the policies on Google+ you can [ go fuck yourself ].

[...] Anyway, I've fixed my attitude and uploaded a picture (below) which should hopefully be in line with the terms of service no one actually reads anyway:

Previously.

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Today on the Lying with Numbers show...

Nielsen Soundscan Stops Making Sense

For like the 4th year in a row, Nielsen Soundscan is trying to convince us all that selling a billion things for $1 is somehow a sales increase over selling a half-billion things for $10-$15 each.

"According to the Nielsen Co.'s year-end figures, music purchases - CD, vinyl, cassette and digital purchases of entire albums (grouped together as total albums), plus digital track downloads, singles and music videos - attained a new high of 1.5 billion, up 10.5% over 2007." -- Ken Barnes, USA Today

This requires you to believe that selling three songs for $1 each is an improvement over selling a CD for $15. This is about the stupidest fucking way I can think of to measure sales when the price disparity between items is so great and the "gain" is in the cheapest item. But the L.A. Times went with it, using a headline that says "Overall music sales hit an all-time high in 2009; Taylor Swift's Fearless is the year's top-selling album." The truth is that no, they didn't, and no, it wasn't.

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Denial of service via hash bucket collisions!

This is clever:

Researchers have shown how a flaw that is common to most popular Web programming languages can be used to launch denial-of-service attacks by exploiting hash tables.

Researchers Alexander Klink and Julian Wälde explained that the theory behind such attacks has been known since at least 2003, when it was described in a paper for the Usenix security conference, and influenced the developers of Perl and CRuby to "change their hash functions to include randomization."

"This attack is mostly independent of the underlying Web application and just relies on a common fact of how Web application servers typically work," the team wrote, noting that such attacks would force Web application servers "to use 99% of CPU for several minutes to hours for a single HTTP request."

Basically you pass a zillion parameters that hash into the same bucket (meaning you need to know the bucket size) and the hash table goes O(N^2) while trying to parse the arguments to see if they're even valid.

Easily thwarted by keeping N small by limiting request size or number of parameters early, but it's a neat trick anyway.

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Leap Weeks

This is kind of a neat idea: The Hanke-Henry Calendar. If, instead of having a 365-day year with a leap-day inserted every 4-ish years, you have a 364-day year with a leap-week inserted every 6-ish years, you end up with a 12 month calendar where every day/month pair lands on the same day-of-the-week every year. The error between calendar day and solar day stays about the same.

There's not a chance, of course, but it's a neat trick. It's the Dvorak keyboard of calendars -- worse, because everyone would have to change at once. The switch from Julian to Gregorian took two centuries.

Sadly, the combination of the author's 1992 web design, and the fact that he also wants to eliminate time zones and put everyone on GMT, puts him firmly in the "internet kook" category.

Also. Previously.

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Legislative schadenfreude

Prop 8 lawsuits lead to attack on Prop 13: A lawsuit argues that Prop. 13 was improperly approved.

(Prop 8 is the "we hate teh gays" one. Prop 13 is the mid-70s Republican-minority power-grab that explains why California is the 8th largest economy in the world but has a public education system that consistently ranks 49th out of 50 in the country.)

In analyzing Proposition 8, the state Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Ronald George, laid out those definitions and concluded that the measure was properly thought of as an amendment, for though it did great and noxious damage to the rights of gay Californians, it did not reach the structure of government itself. Reading the court's opinion in that case, Norris said he had two reactions. "I thought the outcome was correct ... even though I didn't like the outcome," he said in an interview last week. "And I was intrigued by Ron George's review of the various California Supreme Court cases over the decades on the distinction between an amendment and a revision."

That started Norris thinking: WasProposition 13, which was passed as an amendment, really a revision? [...]

That language has had a profound impact on the power of the executive and the Legislature. The power that it constrains -- the authority to raise public funds -- is among the most fundamental of government. And the requirement gives more weight to some legislators -- and, by extension, their constituents. As the lawsuit notes, "legislators opposing a tax increase are given the functional equivalent of more votes than those legislators who favor such proposals."

The result is that Proposition 13 has altered power in the Capitol and appreciably weakened the ability of the Legislature to pass new taxes, which sounds an awful lot like a "change in the basic plan" of state government.

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Astrophysics

Doing the math we can conclude it will take 1.7 x 10^17 years for our sun to generate the same amount of energy as a cubic light year of cheese.

Be warned, however, that at 977 kilograms per cubic meter, or 8.27 -- 10^50 kilograms per cubic light year, the Schwarzchild Radius of a cubic light year of cheese would be 1.23 -- 10^24 meters, significantly greater than the 9.46 x 10^15 meters in a light year. From this we can conclude that a cubic light year of cheese, should that somehow manifest itself, will immediately collapse into a black hole.

So while you would think a cubic light year of cheese would be the obvious choice over the sun, if you are presented with a choice between them, the numbers suggest you would be far better off choosing the sun.

Previously, previously, previously.

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"And By Raging I Mean Flailing, And By Light I Mean Relevance"

A fine rant:

David Young, Hachette's chief executive, says: "Publishers can't meet to discuss standards because of antitrust concerns. This has had a chilling effect on reaching consensus."

Mr. Young lays it flat out: that laws prohibiting anticompetitive collusion and price-fixing are having a "chilling effect" on major publishers' attempts to collude, fix prices and thwart competition.

I can't imagine a functioning adult saying this with a straight face, but there it is. "Laws against doing evil things are having a chilling effect on the efforts of aspirant evildoers." I'm sure it's a problem for somebody, but as far as I'm concerned, mission accomplished, gold stars all 'round, well done laws and keep up the good work.

As has been noted many times, by many people, we've juiced up the entirely artificial copyright laws of the world to the point that if libraries weren't already a centuries-old cultural institution, there's no chance they'd ever be able to come into existence today. And here in this miraculous age of free-flowing information, that's sad as hell.

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Man misses mouse and shoots roommate, revealing child rapist

"Police said they suspected alcohol was involved."

A Utah man who was trying to kill a mouse ended up shooting one roommate and getting another arrested for child rape, while a fourth roommate slept through the whole thing.

Taylorsville Police Sgt. Tracy Wyant told Deseret News that the first roommate, 27, had been trying to kill a rodent when he missed and the round went through the kitchen wall and struck a second roommate, 28.

Officers responding to the scene early Tuesday morning found a 13-year-old girl hiding in a basement closet. She told police she had been having an affair with the third roommate, 34-year-old Paul Daniel Kunzler. During an interview, the Children's Justice Center determined that the girl had been having sex with Kunzler over a period of four months.

"The Aristocrats!"

Also, I was wondering: "The mouse did survive."

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