2017 Year In Review

I originally had somewhat more ambitious plans for my 2017 wrap up, but well, the end of the year is just about here so instead I’ll just type for a couple hours, hit publish, and call it a day.

Part of the motivation is that it’s felt like a good time again to write up some of what I’ve been thinking about in technology trends. In 2006, while I was hip-deep in Web 2.0 work (and my blog output had already fallen into the abyss where it remains today) and I wrote up a 5 year tech projection. I ended up revisiting it 5 years later and you know what, didn’t too badly. What’s interesting reviewing it now is the a few of the things that I had missed were actually on the cusp then and happened shortly after. I didn’t do a direct followup, but did do a 2013 Review in Tech writeup – the most interesting things that happened that year weren’t in consumer/SV tech scene (which was deep in their Uber for X/app obsession at the time).

In 2014 I started collecting some Emerging Tech notes that I never published. That might be worth checking out (there are some late 2017 notes as well) – these seemed to have caught the tech zeitgeist a couple years in advance but it’s a bit fuzzy on how these will play out. This year, I also started collected some notes on a future-trend focused Tumblr (it’s not private per-se, just not very publicized/widely read, although the same can be said for this blog at this point – just pissing into the wind). For 2018, I’m hoping to both publish more and to better rationalize where/how I’m publishing what I’m tracking.

In many ways 2017 was a trash fire, so before I dig into it, I did want to start off Charlie Stross Reasons to Be Cheerful style. In just about every measure of human development and global, now is the best time to be alive. For those that are interested in visualizations, the World Bank’s 2017 Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals is simply fantastic (Hans Rosling style, RIP) and again, shows the marked improvements we’ve made. If you’re into listicles, this recent article 99 Reasons 2017 Was A Great Year highlights some nice things. I started a Twitter list today that I hope to add to dedicated to accounts focused on sharing useful metrics/trends on the state of the world.

Now enough of that, and into the weeds. Per usual, I spent a lot of time reading things this year (example) – too much on Twitter and Reddit, but on the whole, more worthwhile things than not – I spent a fair amount of time digging through writings of the socio-techno-political variety, lots on crypto-economics and other financial topics, and rounded off by the usual geek topics. Also, a lot more YouTube than usual. This marked year 4 of semi-nomadicism although I may spend some more time settled to try to get through a backlog of housekeeping. Being out and about in different parts of the world helps give some perspective (places visited for the first time included Colombia, Cuba, Iceland, Greece, Kazakhstan, and Brazil).

Like many others, I spent much of the end of last year and the beginning of this year reading and thinking about the state (and fate) of liberal democracy in the modern world. I collected some of that into a doc Sensemaking in the Age of Social Media. While most of the participants haven’t realized it yet (or are disingenously denying it), we are now living in the age of weaponized information – memetic warfare. This is as cyberpunk and dystopian as it sounds, and it’s worth giving a shout out to sci-fi authors. The easiest way to understand where we are is to re-read Gibson, Sterling, Stephenson, Egan, Stross, Doctorow et al with the lens of what we are experiencing. It’s also worth thinking about how unprepared humans and human societies currently are against the future-shock mechanization of the modern infosphere (hyper-personalization and filter bubbles, bot/troll manipulation and other social signal hacks, infoglut and overload, clickbait and yes, fake news). These are second order effects that web pioneers and SV techies were unprepared for and misincentivized to address (who knew that driving engagement for advertising revenue would bring down free society, wah wah). This of course made it’s way into the news zeitgeist this year (that the modern media landscape is a key part of this dysfunction is an irony that is sadly lost to most, I believe). A smattering of headlines: Former Facebook executive: social media is ripping society apart, Facebook must wake up to its disastrous potential – it has the power to subvert American democracy, What Facebook Did to American Democracy, Facebook Wins, Democracy Loses, Can democracy survive Facebook? – now this is all a bit unfair to Facebook, after all Twitter is perhaps even more of a trash fire (and @realDonaldTrump will probably start WW3 on it next year). Anyway, before I go full rant – there aren’t easy answers, but it’s clear that we must fix this. These are design failures – some driven purposefully by misaligned economic incentives and externalized risk, and some by the short-sightedness and failings of designers, engineers, and product managers. IMO, if we can not fix this, humanity will probably not survive.

Over the course of the year I tried to crystallize a line of thought – that there were no problems humanity faced that could not be solved, if we could solve the problem of how to cooperate in rational self interest. Not such a deep insight, and not pithy enough yet (still a work in progress, obviously) but good enough as a direction to point one’s mental energy and efforts towards. (For those in doubt, and as a benchmark for this, nominal global GDP is about 80T USD – look at any looming existential crisis that we face and ask how much actual effort/cost it would take to address, mitigate, or fix.)

Also tying into perhaps the next topic, on cryptocurrencies. Or perhaps, more accurately a discussion on distributed trust network, or resilient distributed consensus in the presence of byzantine adversaries, or about censorship-resistant transactions, or incentivization structures for said networks.

Yes, we are currently in a bit of a mania phase of a bubble at the moment. One that hasn’t, but will inevitably pop (although I wouldn’t pack it in until the institutional money gets a dip – this might not even be the big bubble yet in the same way that 2014 wasn’t). At the end of it though we’ll be where we were at the end of the Internet bubble – with a whole bunch of new toys to play with that with the power to reshape society. Hopefully, having gone through it once already, we can try again a bit wiser.

A few interesting recent reads that might spark some ideas:

The Blockchain Economy: A beginner’s guide to institutional cryptoeconomics

The great ICO freeze is beginning. What does it mean for crypto in 2018?

Co-evolving the Phase Shift to Crypto Capitalism by Founding The Ethereum Commons Co-op

OK, this is getting long, and there are so many other things I want to cover.

I’m a big fan of Ramez Naam’s talks and projection on energy production costs and trends. Here’s a recent one from October:

I’ve previously linked to a fascinating writeup on AlphaZero and DeepMind. Here’s a Year in Review of AI and Deep Learning in 2017.

I’ve been thinking a fair bit about the “4chan problem” – there’s the whole Gamergate to literal nazis thing, but just repeated over, and over, the emergence (and maybe this is the actual new part, the ability to cause damage) of a generation of sociopathic man-children. The Mirai botnet came out of some socially maladjusted Minecrafters (a fascinating read; followup, background, interesting related color on how fucked IoT security is) and say, the recent swatting incident (follow @briankrebs for fascinating infosec/cybercrime insights, @radleybalko for reporting on police brutality, militarization, and how messed up criminal justice and civil liberties are in the US).

OK, well, enough of that. Perhaps a bit less on the tech insights than a more planned essay would have been. My resolution for the coming year will be to figure out a better way of collecting and publishing my research on an ongoing basis. Maybe not quite gwern style but I think that a lot of what I come across and read about might be useful to others, and the act of publishing would probably encourage better organization/clear thinking. Another resolution: trying to waste less time on the Internet.

Busy Bee

One of the things that never fails to surprise me is the sheer amount of amazing/interesting stuff that pops up every day. Over the past few months, I’ve quietly been trying to capture a few of the highlights and have been planning on figuring out a better system, here for example is a more complete list of stuff just from the past day or two of my reading. Most of this I have just sent to Pocket or my ever growing Watch List (there simply aren’t enough hours in the day):

It’s worth noting that this is a sampling from about one day’s worth of bookmarks one three aggregators (Twitter, Hacker News, and Reddit) that I only check a few times over the course of the day (this was on a travel day no less). Also that simply going back and gathering and sifting all these out took about an hour this morning.

Putting a little bit of thought on how to better manage all this.

Year End Donations

This year, I’m donating to more causes than usual. Just sharing this in case anyone is looking to do the same.

Happy Birthday To Me (What’s Shaking Leonard?)

I’m typing this on my flight from PDX-LAX today, although who knows when this will go up online and when you’ll read this. Time waits for no man and all that.

I am, however, writing this on my 36th birthday. I’m not big on birthdays – I never grew up with big birthday parties, so unlike some people, I never had too many rituals or expectations to be disabused of. On an intellectual level, I also have a bit of an objection to the arbitrary demarcation of an extra year being added to what is ultimately, just another day and so my emotional ambivalence probably also reflects some of that. (or vice versa?)

Still, significant dates do have subjective value, and at the end of the day, that may be the ultimate rubric, not to get too existential about it. Of course, the mechanistic and objective processes of reality transpire no matter how you feel about it… Well, I’m going to stop with the metaphysical caveats just so I don’t spend the rest of this post rat-holing into matters perhaps best discussed in either full earnestness or inebriance.

I’ve never been much on public journaling (or journaling in general). Despite a (self-perceived, at least) predeliction for deep inner-dialogue, it’s not something I tend to present or share, but I’m in a bit of a contemplative mood, as perhaps some others are, after this (possibly? probably?) last XOXO Festival, so I’ll indulge myself a bit today.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with XOXO, Casey Newtown wrote a fantastic summary on the Verge, Matt Haughey also wrote a bit about it, or for a more involved, thematic take, Frank Chimiero wrote a piece, The Inferno of Independence, after 2013’s XOXO (that Andy requested he present as the possibly-last-ever XOXO talk). You can also view the Netflix Original (based on the true story) movie of the Festival. Here’s the trailer:

Like Matt, I’ve been to every XOXO. I’ve been pals (that may be a bit inadequate of a descriptor) w/ Andy for a really long time, so I also get a bit of inside baseball sprinkled in with my experience, but looking back, it’s been pretty amazing and inspiring seeing XOXO grow and evolve over the years. While there are many things that XOXO is about and that XOXO did, for me, the most magical accomplishment, the thing that seems to be quite rare, was creating an environment that unabashedly encouraged (practically reveled in) vulnerability, empathy, and embracing the feels, or feelings as we called it back in the 20th century.

There’s a lot of joy, from the warm nostalgia of catching up with old friends, or the excitement of sharing and discovering awesome new projects and people, but also the sharing of the financial, emotional and psychological distress (not to mention downright toxicity on the Internet) that seems to come with being indie and creating things these days. There’s the awkwardness and discomfort of trying to find something to say to people whose work you admire (or whatever that feeling is when you decide simply not to instead), and the occasional emotional and intellectual exercises in empathy and sensitivity as you try to navigate the sometimes fuzzy, arbitrary, contradictory, or just plain hypocritical edge-cases of applied intersectionalism. It’s messy and challenging, and there’s a reason that “processing” seems to be a term that’s thrown around a lot post-XOXO. And of course, why people love it so much.

In any case, it’s been a great excuse to spend a week in Portland the past few years, and early September often seems like the perfect time of year there. The first year, XOXO literally overlapped with my birthday, and I guess since then, I’d come to treat it as a bit of a birthday gift to myself. So thanks, XOXO, and PLUR.

I should mention, by way of context, for those that are for some reason reading this and who don’t know me (hi internet), that I’ve been wandering around (vagabond, nomadic) coming on three years now. I (very) intermittently keep a travel blog here for those interested. My current plan is to take a short breather to try to clear out some of my 2m x 3m storage unit, and to build/buy a kick-ass drone (Karma? Mavic? oether?) before I continue on.

This is getting quite long, but as this is sort of a State of the Leonard type post, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk a bit about what I’m up to.

Lensley turns… 8 this year (I think?) and soldiers on (or abides, whevs). I don’t think it’s much of a surprise to say that it’s consumed less of my time and energy these past couple of years.

Back in 2006 I wrote some 5 year tech predictions that weren’t too bad. I didn’t repeat it in 2011, but I did quietly start making some notes on things that were catching my eye in 2014. Some of my recent posts reflects some of those interests. I’m in the process of creating a new umbrella for some of these interests, so expect to see more about this over the coming months.

This is getting quite long (and finishing this up, quite late), so I’ll continue with things that I’m digging (and things that terrify me) in another post.

Some Cognitive Biases

Saw a fantastic quote tweeted the other day, an excerpt from a book entitled Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics. While the book has mixed reviews, the biases are worth taking a gander at…

Here are some of the most common cognitive biases identified by social scientists.

Availability Bias
Perseverence Bias
Source Confusion
Projection Bias
Self-Serving Bias
Superiority Bias
Planning Fallacy
Optimism Bias

Do any of them privilege the truth? The answer is no. Not one. They privilege survival.

Here’s the rundown:

  • Availability Bias – overweighting importance based on memorable/dramatic/easily recalled occurrences
  • Perseverence Bias – a type of confirmation bias continuing to believe things that have been proven wrong
  • Source Confusion – misattribution of a source of a memory
  • Projection Bias – projecting your own motivations (priority, attitude, belief) on other actors (including your future self!)
  • Self-Serving Bias – the tendency to see oneself in a favorable light. “It is the belief that individuals tend to ascribe success to their own abilities and efforts, but ascribe failure to external factors”
  • Superiority Bias – the “above average effect” – overrating positives, underrating negatives
  • Planning Fallacy – programmers are probably intimately familiar with; a type of optimism bias where task difficulty/length is underestimated
  • Optimism Bias – believing that you’re less at risk of something bad happening than others

A better book on this stuff might be Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. Kahneman is a psychologist that won the Nobel Prize Winner in Economics and collaborated for over a decade with Tversky to do seminal research on cognitive biases.

Hello Blog

Somehow, we’re just about to head into the third month of 2016. Tomorrow (and I didn’t even realize this until I looked at my archives) will clock in the 16th anniversary of my blog at this domain (it actually started a few months earlier as a “class” blog while I was playing around with Blogger and followed from various personal webpage journaling/.plan file updates from a few years even before then).

OK, besides too many parenthetical digressions, what does it mean? Well, for one thing, it’s that I haven’t been updating this much lately. The numbers don’t lie there:

Where does my online posting time go these days?

  • When I things I want to share, it probably goes on Twitter, or occassionally on Facebook (mostly, my FB feed is just auto-posted tweets, though). FB comments can sometimes get involved.
  • I’m in *way* too many Slacks groups.
  • Mostly because of /r/oculus, I’m on reddit more than I really should be.
  • I post on a few other forums, on Hacker News most, commonly
  • I’ve been keeping a public Hackpad (along with several thousand private notes in Evernote, and an increasing number of Dropbox Paper notes)

While I gave Medium a tire-kick a while back, I decided that it wasn’t really my thing. The text-box wasn’t the problem with my lack of long-form writing, rather, it just hasn’t been a super high priority among the other things I’ve been doing.

That being said, I have some plans to change that a bit this year. The first step was this new coat of paint, which honestly, didn’t take quite as long as I had feared. I’d like to pull in my tweets into my blog as well, but some preliminary research shows that that’s a project in itself, especially if you’d like to rehydrate/render tweets properly. So that’s a P2.

I have a couple bigger pieces I’m working on, which should also summarize some of what I’ve been up to lately, but for now, here’s a little interview that Kit recently posted.

Not Enough Hours In The Day

If you have some spare time and looking for some fun/geeky, but not too intense reading:

Well, that’s more than enough for now. Time’s a wasting.

2015, The Year of Linux on My Laptop

I’ve written a bit about this before[1], so I won’t rehash too much, but reading Andre’s piece on how his new Chromebook Pixel has replaced his Macbook Pro, made me a bit nostalgic and wanting to write some of my own thoughts about switching off of the Mac this year.

Like Andre, this a somewhat notable event for me. I’ve always used a mix of Macs and PCs growing up, but throughout most of the 90s, I built my own PCs for personal use (running DOS/Windows, and then poking around w/ Slackware releases pretty early on). In college, I spent more of my time on Sun workstations, and ended up managing a Mac computer lab (with some NT and SGI workstations in the back), which simultaneously generated a still-to-this-day disdain for the piece-of-crap System 9, but also a growing excitement for OS X. In 2001, I installed OS X 10.0 on a brand new G3 Snow iBook – it was almost unusably slow, but I didn’t look back, and while I continued to maintain a healthy menagerie of gaming PCs and Linux boxen, OS X was my daily driver, and just about every year I’d upgrade to the latest PowerBook, MacBook Pro, and finally, for the past few years, the 11″ MBAs. It was a bit of a sad and slow realization over the past few years that each version of OS X was getting worse for me than the last, and also, that the MBA wasn’t cutting it either, especially as I started traveling full time again. I waited for the 12″ MacBook to see if it were any better, but in the end, that was the final confirmation that Apple was no longer designing laptops for me.

I’d previous tested out a bunch of Chromebooks (including traveling with one on a month-long trip in China), but even with a Crouton setup, it just never worked for me. On the X side, I’d also tried just about every single tiling manager out there (Awesome was probably the best, QTile I had a soft spot for as a Python geek), but they never clicked. This time around, I’ve been using Openbox, and it’s been great – does everything I want, gets out of the way, and its behavior is completely customizable. I spent a month or so yak-shaving (fixing about one thing a day), and in the end, I have a setup that is bespoke in a way that feels fitting considering how much time I spend on my computers.  It’s not perfect – I had to write my own site-specific browser library (works but still needs some polishing), and my 1Password situation is passable, but honestly a huge pain. Also, I’m booting into Windows a lot more than I’d like – a pure necessity to run Adobe Creative Cloud, Unity3D, and the rest of my VR development, although I will admit that Windows 10 is… not that bad.

 

Since no laptops are powerful enough to currently drive PC VR experiences, I also started carrying around a very powerful PC in a Pelican case with me (my VR bucket). Since I can also use this for my photo editing, that changes the calculus a bit for my portable computing needs. I will probably end up with something a bit slimmer/lighter than my X250 next. Since I also carry a separate mechanical keyboard, this may even end up being a 2-in-1 or tablet. As long is it runs Linux well and has 8h+ battery life, I’ll be alright I think.

We’ll see what 2016 brings, but it’s a bit sad that for me, it probably won’t ever be a Mac again.

[1] For all the details:

Bands You’ve Probably Never Heard Of, This Is My Jam Memorial Edition

This is My Jam went into archive mode this weekend. Those unfamiliar with it can read about it here, but the gist of it was that it was a little experiment in music discovery/curation that while beloved by a small community, never really found the right way to gain enought scale/daily engagement to be sustainable.

That being said, they’ve wound it down on a high note.  You can read all about the decision (the Guardian writeup is also good), and the praise they’ve received for shutting down responsibly. If you’re running a site with users, take heed; I’ve rarely, if ever, seen it done better.

One particularly neat feature of the archive (here’s mine) is the automatic generation of a Spotify playlist of your jams. Sadly, for my jams, only 28 out of 53 are available on Spotify right now. As a music enthusiast and early user (Matt, Hannah, and the EN folks are pals), early on I had decided to play around w/ TIMJ over the course of 2 months, from the beginning of October to the end of December 2011, I posted 18 tracks (only 6 of which are available on Spotify) of “bands you’ve probably never heard of.”

It’s been a really long while since I’ve posted music on my site, but I figure this is a fitting tribute. Pouring one out for TIMJ.

  • 1998 – Lanemeyer – Don’t Hate Me
  • 2011-10-09

    1998; 1,548 listeners; Kicking off “bands you’ve probably never heard of” series, read comment for more…

    flaneur: “This feels every inch of 1998.”

    lhl: “Ha, yeah, got distracted w / a phone call, posting a more detailed post now…”

    lhl: “So, first off, a little bit about this experiment. Basically, I was going through some of my music to find some of the older obscure tracks from my collection. I debated including this track, as it’s sort of objectively … not good. But I did remember these guys pretty fondly, for a number of reasons, and included these guys so I could tell the story.”

    lhl: “I actually spent most of my college years almost completely immersed in electronica of every variety, but towards the tail end, I started catching up/seeing what was was happening in the “rock” world, which at the turn of the millennium, was emo/post-emo indie rock. I think I had some (much better) Midtown tracks, and ended up finding these fellow NJ pop-punkers (and some even lesser known brethren like Humble Beginnings) either through mp3.com or AudioGalaxy.”

    lhl: “These guys ended up being mostly a stepping stone towards listening to much better punk (Lawrence Arms, Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu, Fugazi and the Dischord catalog) and to some much more emo emo that I discovered around the same time period, but that’s a story for the next track. :)”

    lhl: “(BTW, you guys definitely need to do something about the character limits!)”

    lhl: “Also, “listeners” are last.fm listeners.
    Assuming all this data will get pulled automagically when thisismyjam gets Echo Nest super cow powers.

    Lane Meyer (New Jersey, US)
    http://www.last.fm/music/Lanemeyer
    25,335 plays (1,548 listeners) “

    lhl: “Next installment, tmw.”

    gtmcknight: “This song is awesome. Actually made me go back and listen to more college-ish music like Knapsack and My Hotel Year”

  • 1998 – Vitreous Humor – Sharin’ Stone
  • 2011-10-11

    1998; 1,730 last.fm listeners; OK, it’s all awesomesauce from here on out. Also, so, so emo.

    lhl: “http://www.last.fm/music/Vitreous%20Humor

    How emo you ask? I believe that I first caught this track on a compilation called the Emo Diaries. Also, this track was on an album Posthumous, that was released 2 years after they’d broken up.

    Actually a little surprised by how few listeners are listed on last.fm; they were pretty influential in the midwest scene of the era, and as good, if not better than many of the more successful acts that followed.”

    lhl: “They were on crank!, and I have a fair amount of their catalog. Boys Life, Mineral, Gloria Record, pre-Saddle Creek Cursive releases, etc etc. I still have a crank! records sticker on one of my camera cases.

    This was around the time where I was buying the majority of releases from the labels I was following, among them: Saddle Creek (Omaha), Post Parlo (Austin), Barsuk (Seattle), DeSoto (DC), and Jade Tree (DE)”

    flaneur: “And this is why we’ll need to work on the jam archive soon ;)”

    lhl: “Yeah, sort of sucks that it just disappears. Also, do previous tracks completely disappear from the timeline as well?”

    flaneur: “Yup. That’s intentional and I think what differentiates the service, but there are still things we can (and will) do around browsing/doing things with the backlog”

    lhl: “I can understand the approach/attitude (music expiration, highlighting the current jam), but in implementation I think make it too having the timeline completely blow away the previous jam/not having history in the timeline takes ephemerality too far.

    Why leave a comment if it just disappears and no one, not even the poster might see it? Why bother spending any time writing about a jam? If the idea isn’t just to highlight tracks of the moment, the context is important…”

    lhl: “just noticed jams don’t have permalinks either, huh? puts a damper on a lot of interesting things.”

    lhl: “btw i think there is a big hole right now for an app that lets your write/historicize/contextualize your relationship w/ a track, album, band, but maybe that’s not what thisismyjam is… but it should be!”

  • 2000 – Subset – Anchor
  • 2011-10-13

    2000; 1,034 last.fm listeners; track 3 of “bands no one’s heard of” playlist

    lhl: “http://www.last.fm/music/Subset

    I first heard of these guys because I worked with the drummer (who also drummed for Silver Scooter, a slightly more well known band) in Austin the summer of 2000.

    These guys (were?) great, not to be confused w/ another band of the same name from the Pacific Northwest (Biz Markie was involved).”

  • 2001 – emotional joystick – eight
  • 2011-10-15

    2001; 8,435 last.fm listeners; slightly less obscure, but just too good of a track not to post.

    lhl: “No great story here, but this is just a killer cut and is just criminally under-listened (say vs the squarepusher or other warp releases coming out around the same time). this was released before chip-tunes became a thing, and managed to bring in just the right bit of drill-and-bass excitement to a melodic, very mid-90s afx type of tune.”

  • 2002 – Halley – Adventures of George and the robbers (record player pt. 1)
  • 2011-10-20

    2002; 619 last.fm listeners; next stop on the bands you’ve never heard of tour. some more austin friends

    lhl: “http://www.last.fm/music/Halley

    Another band another coworker was in. I’m guessing that I must have seen them in 2000 or 2001 and picked up an early copy of this song, although my timelines may have been a bit off? Amazing how hazy this stuff gets. I remember this fitting in nicely between the Minus the Bear, Pinback, and Explosions in the Sky I was listening to. This track in particular I think is phenomenal.”

  • 2002 – The Farewell Bikeride – Duet
  • 2011-10-26

    2002; 29 last.fm listeners; that’s right, your home ec class probably was bigger than the listener count

    lhl: “Hmm, the preview didn’t do a good job w/ the photo, glad it cropped ok.

    http://www.last.fm/music/The+Farewell+Bikeride

    Provo, UT pop punk band. Not sure how I stumbled upon them. It looks like have a 128kbps copy of a 2-track release here: http://www.archive.org/details/masa022

    I *do* know that they were a real band, as apparently they played in the back of a Peninsula pizza shop a few years back. Apparently a not so mindblowing show (sorry Vince!)”

    uvince: “Wow, the memories!”

    jedsundwall: “Wow. I probably saw these guys play Kilby Court while I was at the University of Utah. Taking me back.”

    bwhitman: “i appreciate your choice of “home ec class” as barometer of low attendance”

  • 2003 – Some By Sea – There’s A Line In The Sand. Are You Afraid To Cross It?
  • 2011-11-09

    2003; 8,385 last.fm listeners; not totally obscure but this Tacoma band only (self) released 1 album and 1 EP.

    lhl: “http://www.last.fm/music/Some%20By%20Sea

    One of a number of indie pop bands that seems to fall under the Barsuk sound that was popular at the time. Most of their tracks were admittedly pretty Death Cab light, but this track, IMO is fantastic. Worth a listen if you missed them the first time around.

    (Actually, looking them up on Wikipedia, they did have a full length followup on SideCho before breaking up).”

  • 2004 – Alone – When My Headlights Meet Yours
  • 2011-11-14

    2004; 74 last.fm listeners; lovely post-rock/electronic just recently discovered via a reissue by the artist

    lhl: “http://www.last.fm/music/Alone/Several+Quiet+Moments
    (there are 3 other artists named alone, but they’re not the same I don’t believe)

    Not sure how I stumbled onto this. Maybe surfing what.cd tags? It’s a nice little release that no one has heard of, just one of the many albums released out of bedrooms over the past decade of massively democratized bloop making tools.

    http://alonemusic.bandcamp.com/album/several-quiet-moments-remaster
    http://www.alone-music.co.uk/

  • 2005 – Velvetron – Deadbeat
  • 2011-11-19

    2005; 184 last.fm listeners; the folks in Chicago picked some great music for the campaign; more in comments

    lhl: “http://www.last.fm/music/Velvetron

    …referring to the 2008 Obama Campaign of course. From the Dan Zweben lick on the Super Bowl commercial, or The National (Fake Empire no less) on commercials and at the DNC.

    Of all the spots/tracks, this one by Velvetron was my favorite I think, and I’m somewhat surprised by how criminally underplayed this band is.

    Ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXAiyAf7HgA

    Velvetron’s site: http://velvetron.net/ (hey, didn’t even know they had a new album. Bought!)”

    joehughes: “Weird that the only way to give good music the word count it deserves is to comment on your own post!”

    lhl: “Well sadly, it also all disappears when you post a new song. Also, you probably won’t see this comment since I’m going to be posting a new track in a minute!”

  • 2007 – Portland – Girl In My Bed
  • 2011-11-23

    2007; 77 last.fm listeners; Go ahead. Try finding their album.

    lhl: “http://www.last.fm/music/Portland/Adrienne

    I’m not exactly sure how I stumbled onto these guys, but their entire album, Adrienne, has just a great guitar-driven post-rocky sound. As far as I know, this was their only release and it’s pretty much impossible to find it.

    If you have sufficient Google-fu, you can find that the original album was released on Punching Bee Music, a local Grand Rapids, Michigan label. It shared some members w/ the band The Mighty Narwhale.”

    iancr: “Wow. Woah. Jeez. Thanks!”

  • 2008 – Minimatic – Take on me (with a martini)
  • 2011-11-28

    2008; 2,734 last.fm listeners; French lounge remixer does a great cover…

    lhl: “http://www.last.fm/music/Minimatic

    This artist/track feels a bit less obscure to me than some of the others I’ve been posting. I feel like despite the low last.fm listener count, that there’s a more than fair chance that some people here have heard this before.

    A big reason I’m including this is because when I first heard this track, it was sort of a pain to chase down. I ended up eventually getting to the dj/producer’s site, where I wget’d a bunch of remix and mixtape tracks.”

  • 2008 – Satine – October Dane
  • 2011-12-01

    2008; ~800 last.fm listeners; first caught this on La Blogothèque. see comments for more

    lhl: “http://www.last.fm/music/Satine

    This is just a fantastic track. Maybe the best one of this whole “bands you’ve never heard of” series. I dropped them an email and ordered their EP (hand mailed via Air France) for €10 after I first heard this. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that October Dane wasn’t on it! The track was eventually released on their 2010 live album Satine Ünder Philharmonëën, available on Amazon MP3.”

  • 2008 – The Ghost Orchid – Horseshoes & Handgrenades
  • 2011-12-06

    2008; 5,306 last.fm listeners; fantastic unsigned San Diego post-rock tinged indietronica

    lhl: “Not sure how I originally stumbled on these guys (clicking through on random tags on what?) Their entire album is filled w/ the same awesomesauce, so if this strikes your fancy, they sell their album for $10 via paypal:

    http://theghostorchid.com/

    http://www.last.fm/music/The%20Ghost%20Orchid
    http://www.myspace.com/theghostorchid

  • 2008 – the Old Believers – There It Is
  • 2011-12-14

    2008; 2,471 last.fm listeners; criminally unheard folk from Portland via Alaskan duo

    lhl: “http://www.last.fm/music/The%20Old%20Believers

    This was one of my favorite albums from 2008 and this was one of my favorite opening tracks. You can actually listen/dl the whole album here: http://oldbelieversmusic.com/shhh/ , but if you like it, they probably deserve a couple bucks: http://www.amazon.com/Eight-Golden-Greats/dp/B0016CCVVC

    I think I’m about 13 or 14 tracks into my awesome bands people haven’t heard of set. Will pick up the pace to close out 2011 before I head out of town.”

  • 2009 – Ishivu – Palms
  • 2011-12-16

    2009; 928 last.fm listeners; made when he was 16? spotted on DÖDSELECTRO when it came out

    lhl: “http://www.last.fm/music/Ishivu

    DÖDSELECTRO ( http://deathelectro.com/ ) has long one of my favorite electronic music blogs and this is one of the many obscure gems that I found on it.”

  • 2010 – iambic – Satellites
  • 2011-12-19

    2010; 1,789 last.fm listeners; ambient/idm; RIYL Benn Jordan/Flashbulb, Halogen, Lusine, I Am Robot and Proud

    lhl: “http://www.last.fm/music/Iambic

    Actually, Album Leaf (but mellower) or Small Sails might also be good comparisons. A pleasant soundscapey post-rock w/ some jazzier instrumentation. Not sure how I stumbled on this. Tag search on what?”

  • 2010 – Lemâitre – Strobes Pt. 2
  • 2011-12-21

    2010; 12,512 last.fm listeners; RIYL Erlend Øye, Röyksopp, Phoenix

    lhl: “http://www.last.fm/music/Lemaitre

    Skirting the line of obscurity, but the tracks are just too fantastic. If you like this, be sure to check out The Friendly Sound (total earworm), Nishio, Blue Shift on their soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/serious-url

  • 2011 – MH – 05 In The Blackness Of The Fire
  • 2011-12-23

    2011; 538 last.fm listeners; “an attempt at a modern Great American Folk Album.”

    lhl: “http://www.last.fm/music/MH

    Released at the beginning of this year, chances are good you haven’t heard this album. If you are at all into psych or folk, you should rectify this. The entire album is available here: http://purehighonthesea.bandcamp.com/album/black-animal-2

    (It took a bit longer than I expected, but we’re finally closing in on the end of this bands you haven’t heard of jam list… I’ll probably do one more before I head out of town…)”

  • 2011 – Milo Greene – 1957
  • 2011-12-27

    2011; 2,989 last.fm listeners; and that’s a wrap 2011 and the “bands you’ve never heard of” playlist.

    lhl: “http://www.last.fm/music/Milo+Greene

    It looks like these guys have picked up some listeners since I started this list (they’re touring w/ The Civil Wars at the moment). Still, relatively under the radar relative to how. damn. good. they sound.

    They have a streaming only EP here: http://milogreene.bandcamp.com/

    and there’s a great live version of the track here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUazz0gML00

Notes:

  • This post was, of course, written while listening to these tracks
  • Assembled w/ a combination of my old playlist Python code (I actually had these tracks assembled into a playlist back in Oct 2011 but never got around to posting it) and munging of the TIMJ csv data
  • to replace the comment semicolons w/ line breaks: %s/"; /"\r\r/g
  • also, I think ggVG +y is burnt in for doing select-all pulls in gvim now. I’m not sure that’s easier than ctrl-a ctrl-c but I’ll roll with it
  • One track I wanted to post was by an LA mathy-post-punk band called Snake vs Wizard. I actually had bought a home-made EP from them in the early 2000s, but unfortunately, never ripped it before it was lost to the mists of moving. If you have a copy, drop me a line.