What’s making me happy this week, March 29

A look at what’s making me happy this week, and how you can enjoy them, too. You’ll find an archive of my “happy picks” here.

Teenage Talk by St. Vincent

teenagetalkOriginally recorded for HBO’s Girls , St. Vincent’s Teenage Talk is an adult’s melancholic reflection on the terrifying, thrilling, laugh-so-hard-you-pee moments of youth that the young are too naive to appreciate.

Annie Clark (who performs as St. Vincent) explained the song’s origin to Jimmy Fallon, noting that it’s about the dear friends she had in her hometown of Dallas, Texas:

“Our entire objective was to make each other laugh. We were kind of outsiders and we had to find our way through the maze of a suburban Texas childhood. I wrote this song in memory of our fun times. It’s something that I cherish a lot.”

It’s so elegantly written. The second stanza of the first verse is:

“We snuck out that night
Rolled the Chrysler down the driveway
But once we were inside
Couldn’t figure out where we were off to”

Not only is that funny and relatable (Annie says it’s based on a true story), it’s insightful, suggesting how kids are often eager to grow up, even when they don’t know where they’re going.

The coda brings the relationship to the present day, and asks a question:

“How do you see me now?
Now that I’m a little bit older, older
Nevermind the albatross
Smoldering on my shoulder, shoulder, shoulder, shoulder”

It’s sweet and dear, recognizing that precious moment in time without succumbing to it. I just love this song.

Smoke by Mosa Wild

mosasizedSmoke, the debut track by Mosa Wild , is a haunting display of emotion and artistry.

They lyrics feel like we pick up a narrative in the middle, and leave before we get to the end. As the last note fades, I feel mournful and wanting for the rest of the story.

Singer Jim Rubaduka’s deep, organic vocals seem in direct contrast over the swelling synths and guitars as he seems to sing about the end of a life, or at the very least, a love:

“I’m on track though our eyes dim
She said when’s the last time
You saw me smiling
You know I was on my final page
I can’t read your fast signs
And now I’m barely thinking straight”

This is such a powerful song that I can’t wait to see what Mosa Wild does next.

What’s making me happy this week, Oct. 2

A look at what’s making me happy this week, and how you can enjoy them, too. You’ll find an archive of my “happy picks” here.

Audible Channels

audiblechannelsAmazon turned to Audible last week — which it snapped up for $300M in 2008 — for a new benefit for its Prime members. Audible Channels is a mobile app that features curated collections, or “playlists,” of classic short stories and original audio dramas.

It’s absoutely perfect for a commute or an afternoon walk. Over the last week I heard sci-fi stories, a good, old-fashioned zombie story (it is October after all) and more.

I especially enjoyed an origial series called Damned Spot, which looks at the places at which great horrors have occurred. How does violence change a place? After everything has been cleaned up and life has moved on, what remains?

If you love audiodramas, audio books or great radio, this is for you. Snap it up, Prime members, for a story in your pocket wherever you go.

Smartphone Photography 101

Photography Concentrate with Lauren and Rob has published a fantastic article: Smartphone Photography 101. It’s a very deep dive, covering everything from choosing a phone, composition and sharing. If you simply read my description, it sounds like any number of guides you’ve already read a thousand times. That’s not the case. This is a nice article that deserves your time.

“Soon…” by Flybear

flybearFlybear is a musician with a whole five tracks to his (her?) name. Apple Music suggested I might like the song “Soon…” earlier this week, and it was dead-on right. A dance-y, house-y instrumental track, it’s been putting me in a good mood all week long:

Also, “Flybear” is such a great name.

And that’s what’s making me happy this week.

Use YouTube for music on your iPhone

via GIPHY

My 13-year-old’s dramatic eye-rolling made me a better iPhone user.

I recently discovered that I can use YouTube for listening to music on my phone without it taking over what’s happening on my screen. Here’s what I mean.

My daughter was describing a song to me, but couldn’t quite recall the title or artist. As a TECH GOD I grabbed my iPhone and launched Apple Music. “Just use YouTube,” she said with the disdain typically reserved for someone who had just kicked your dog.

I would, but YouTube commandeers the iPhone. If you’re using the official app, any video that’s playing stops as soon as you navigate away. The same goes for YouTube.com in mobile Safari. Unless you do the following:

  1. Go to YouTube.com in mobile Safari.
  2. Find the video you want to listen to and get it playing.
  3. Hit your iPhone’s Home button to navigate away from Safari.
  4. The music stops. Don’t panic! Just swipe up to reveal the Control Center (below)
  5. Hit the play button.

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That’s it! Hit the Home button one more time to dismiss the Control Center and use your iPhone however you like while the YouTube video plays in the background. I had no idea this was possible.

Hence the eye-rolling.

The iTunes problem

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Now 15 years old, Apple’s iTunes is like The Borrow in Harry Potter. As the Weasley family grew, new floors, rooms and wings were added, one on top of the other, resulting in a confounding structure that only its builders understand.

Today, “The world’s best and easiest to use jukebox software” is anything but.

Just this morning I sat at my desk and launched iTunes. My goal was to put the Monument Valley soundtrack on repeat. If only I were a wizard.

Let’s play, “How do I make an album repeat in iTunes 12.3?” Well, here’s Play and Shuffle, but no repeat:

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 9.19.10 AM

 

Perhaps it’s up here. There’s shuffle again, but no repeat:

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 9.19.25 AM

 

Weird. Maybe if I minimize the window a button will reveal itself. Nope.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 9.19.50 AM

One last try. Maybe the menu bar? Oh, there it is!

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 9.20.26 AM

No keyboard shortcut, no button, no option in the app’s preferences to make it a button. “Repeat” is not an obscure function that most people won’t use. I shouldn’t have to spend two minutes digging to find it.

I want to love iTunes but it’s at the point where it needs to be scrapped completely and re-worked. I should’t need the Marauder’s Map to find basic functions.

The ultimate London playlist

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When I’m traveling in a foreign country I love to soak up the culture. Music is a big part of that. Today, I enlisted the help of my friend and Londoner Myke Hurley, who created an “ultimate London playlist.” I tasked Myke with coming up with a list of songs that any Londoner would say are representative of his or her fine city. The result is below.

– London Calling – The Clash
– Going Underground – The Jam
– Waterloo Sunset – The Kinks
– Down in the Tube Station at Midnight – The Jam
– West End Girls – Pet Shop Boys
– For Tomorrow – Blur
– Common People – Pulp

Heading to London this summer? Put these songs on our iPhone now to get into the mood and experience a small bit of London culture.

If you’d like to share a playlist of music from your city, let me know!

TUAW supplemental: Circles for iPhone

circlesiphonee

Earlier this week, I reviewed Circles for iPhone, a snazzy new memory game from Snowman 1. It’s fun and very challenging. I tend to do well at it, and it’s because of my training in music. Here’s how I’ve been winning at Circles.

Pardon me while I go all “music theory.” One of the main conventions of music is the time signature. It determines how many beats are in a measure of music, and which note value gets one beat. In 4/4 time, or “common time,” one measure gets four beats, and a quarter note is worth one beat. Here’s an example of 4/4 time:

You can see how the video counts beats one, two, three and four. After four, the next measure begins on beat number one. That’s what I do when I play Circles.

The first four tones are the first “measure.” Once I’ve learned the first measure, I’ve got it. Then I learn the second measure one “note” at a time. Eventually I “play back” the first and second measure. Then the first, second, and third, and so on. Since each section of Circles features 15 levels, you only need to memorize about four measures of “music.” You can do that, right?

  1. “Snowman” in this context always makes me think of Oryx and Crake.