A Slack chat this morning led to a discussion of Funky Drummer and how often its been sampled. I ran across this good clip of the player himself, drummer Clyde Stubblefield, who played with James Brown’s band during the late-60s. He improvised the famous break that’s been used in dozens of popular tracks in hip-hop history.
I’m sure there are many like me who seek out ambient music for headphones-on, work-from-home listening. My preferences shift from soundtracks like Blade Runner, electronic drone stuff, or “focus” music like you can find on countless YouTube channels.
This list has all the great ambient works across genres; tons here that are new to me.
Deus Ex is still one of my favorite games of all time. First played dozens of times when first released, and every few years I still break it back out to stroll through the dystopian visions of Hell’s Kitchen, Hong Kong, and Liberty Island.
Probably a decade ago or more I found the original ambient synth soundtrack mp3s and still give it a listen once in a while, which sends me straight back to 20 years ago, sitting at the PC at 2am.
I delved back into the archives of these mixtapes from The Rub put together, originally back in 2007. When these came out I downloaded the mp3s and for a bunch of them I actually edited them into individual tracks so I could get them on my iPod more easily. Still have them in the iTunes library after all these years.
This one from 1982 is particularly great, but the whole series is fantastic.
This year is the 60th anniversary of Miles Davis’s legendary Kind of Blue.
This video is a great explainer of the origins of Kind of Blue’s modal jazz style and the history behind how the group came together to make it happen.
I have no idea how many hundreds of times I’ve listened to this album over the years, but it’s still in the frequent rotation to put on whenever I can’t think of anything else. A default soundtrack for working or...
I still bring out Explosions in the Sky’s 2003 album The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place periodically, my favorite from their catalog by a wide margin. I remember seeing them at a live show for the first time on the tour for this album, probably 2004, where they played this song somewhere in the set. In their shows I’ve seen in successive years, it’s one of their encore numbers.
Blade Runner is one of the best movies, but I actually enjoy the soundtrack even more. This one is my favorite, probably the centerpiece of the score that embodies the vibe of the 2019 dystopian Los Angeles from the film. This whole album is in regular rotation for me.
This live rendition by The Jazz Messengers is a great version of an even better song. It was composed by Art Blakey’s sideman and pianist Bobby Timmons (on the keys in this session). I love the blues-infected build and refrain. Lee Morgan’s blasting first solo is one of the best out there.
In college I’d listened to KRS-One’s solo albums before I ever heard his original work with Boogie Down Productions. One of my top songs is the landmark track from their 1988 album By All Means Necessary:
“My Philosophy” is the opener that sets the tone for the record, just like “Poetry” from their first album.
I love how the verse just keeps coming — no chorus, no language, just a chain of rhyming (even across bar lines) for five and a half minutes.
My dad has been putting together a playlist of all-time great songs, and mentioned to me and my brothers that we should do the same and share with one another. “Great” songs in this case don’t have to be by any particular measure other than personally important to yourself — either ones you got enjoyment out of when younger, ones that have an emotional connection, or just fun favorites you always tune in to when you hear it come on.
I started putting together my own playlist and thought I’d share them here in no particular order.
This is amazing work by Google putting air quality sensors on their Street View cars to collect air quality data. The resolution of this is amazing — to see how drastically the pollutant level changes from street to street.
I love Ryan Singer’s perspective on product development. In this post he levels critique at the now-commonplace “agile” software development process. It’s been distorted into a simplistic set of tactical process methods (building in “cycles”), and has lost what its original value was as an upgrade...
Jazz is a genre of music I never used to take seriously. When I started listening to decent music around junior high (very little of it was “good”), I would mentally lump jazz music in with the standards and classical pieces — the “music we play in band class” genre. I was even an alto sax player, but had next to no interest in learning the history of the music, or a desire to understand its styles, structure, or theory. Early in college, something turned me on to the records of Coltrane and...