Style Guide : 10 Tracks to hear this week

Finding great music when there’s so much choice now can be tough. As part of my creative process I sift through hundreds of tracks a week and keep note of the ones that inspire me.

I thought it would be cool to share the ten best tracks I find, that I think you’ll enjoy in a new playlist called Style Guide which I’ll be updating every week.

You can play this below or follow the playlist on Spotify

 

Hotdesk: The best laptop havens for creative work and side projects. Part 1.

Having a side-project like music production or a startup means finding time and space to get lots of extra stuff done, often around a full time job. If you happen to be a parent like me then this is even more essential. What was once a peaceful abode is now as quiet as the front row of a One Direction concert.

Escaping to an oasis of calm and creative stimulation is one of life’s small pleasures. Even if you’re lucky enough to work from home already, sitting about in your pants all day will send you insane quicker than you can say Richard & Judy.

Since starting to write music and run a business I’ve been searching out the best and most interesting laptop havens I could escape to. In each edition of Hotdesk I’ll be sharing a different laptop location, scored by these criteria:

  • How good are the cakes & snacks?
  • Can you sneak in your lunch and freeload for the price of a coffee?
  • What’s the ambience like and will it inspire those creative juices?
  • How good is the wi-fi?

 

Café W at Waterstones

Cafe W – not for creatives on a diet

Just when bookshops were dead and buried, it turns out someone has had the bright idea of inserting Cafe’s in branches of Waterstones – genius. Waterstone’s describe these as:

…a haven from the high street where you can relax and read a book, meet friends, or catch up on emails using our Free Wi-Fi, all while enjoying top quality food sourced from local producers and great coffee served by our bookseller-baristas.

Having recently undertaken a freelance design contract with some days based in exotic Sutton I was overjoyed to find somewhere that could provide relief from the client’s soul destroying offices.

So how does it fair up ?

 

Snacks

More cakes than you can shake a stick at, which is top news unless you’re on Weight Watchers / 5:2 Fasting / Atkins. The gamut includes fresh gateaux, home-made cookies, flapjacks – the works. Coffee is also tasty, with complimentary cucumber or lemon water. Very middle class.

9/10

 

Ambience

It’s DEAD quiet, which is particularly apt as many of the clientele are collecting their pensions and knocking on heavens door. But If you need to concentrate, think or make music then this is a positive.

As you would expect from a bookshop, it smells like real books which is nice. And it’s top notch for finding ideas. Having a swan around the various sections of the shop before starting work will give you plenty to think about, from the latest Harry Potter to The Hungry Caterpillar, it’s all here.

On the flip side you may leave feeling middle-aged or even retired, at least at this particular branch where indoor pot plants are dotted around the place and the furniture is straight out of a retirement home. Nonetheless this makes it feel strangely cozy, a bit like your grans house.

Note that Cafe W branches nearer to civilisation do appear to be more hipster.

6.5/10

Comfy seats and the smell of books, just like your gran’s house

 

Wi-Fi

Like many places Cafe W has the good old ‘Cloud’ service. Pop in a fake email address and you’re off.

8/10

 

Freeloading

You can quite easily buy a coffee and spent the best part of a day camped out here if you want. Sneaking in your own lunch might be pushing things too far but the food is reasonably priced and they do toasties. Be warned though that it’s tough to escape without a literary purchase or two.

7/10

 

In summary

Overall pretty solid marks for Cafe W. Be warned you may end up writing an Elton John track rather than a Skrillex banger, but you will get piece of quiet, more robust love handles and some holiday reading to takeaway.

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What was your most listened to album of the year?

I recently delved in to Spotify’s ‘Your Year in Music’ which surfaces the tracks, artists and genres you’ve been listening to the most. I highly recommend checking this out as it’s a real eye opener on your listening habits.

The album I listened to the most was Pacific Standard Time by Poolside. Although this album was released in 2012, I didn’t discover it until last year via Spotify’s ‘similar artists’ feature but I’m very glad I did.

Poolside are two guys from LA who create daytime disco, music to be listened to whilst sitting by a pool. It’s pretty damn hard to beat a raison d’etre like that in my book and hats off to them for being able to explain their work so succinctly. Something that many aspiring producers struggle with.

 

The album has a laidback chillwave-meets-disco vibe with plenty of horizontal feel good action. Digging around to find some info on Poolside’s production I found this cool video of Filip’s studio where he explains some of his process.

 

Geek Alert I have to confess that after watching this video I smashed in a casio CZ-1000 off ebay for about £40 🙂

Diving into his workflow, Filip talks about moving quickly and just going with what sounds good to get tracks written. In an inspiring interview with Pitchfork, they explain that album was actually written in a month. This is great advice for anyone making music.

Poolside also only play daytime gigs and pool parties which sounds like my idea of heaven. Especially if followed up with a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake 🙂

If you don’t use Spotify or fancy a digital download then Poolside have self-released their album for $5 which quite frankly is a steal. Nice to see artists going down the self-publishing route and I’d love to know how this has been working out for them.

 

Bob Marley // Waiting in Vain // RÆVE ft. JahSon Cover

 

Kicking off 2015 with some positive sunny vibes to fend off the shitty British winter. This cover of Bob Marley’s classic fits snugly in to the emerging trend for ‘Tropical’ house music coming from artists like Matoma and Kygo who are incidentally both from Norway.

In fact an interesting piece about Tropical House on blog lessthan3.com succinctly points out:

“It’s interesting that all the Tropical House producers are from places that are cold as fuck. You think it’d be some dude from Jamaica making all this stuff, but instead it’s a bunch of nordic and northern Europeans…”

 

Nonetheless definitely loving this antidote to the full on sounds of EDM and chilly winter blues.

The Creative Class

The Creative Class is a series of interviews with renowned creatives about their take on digital technology – interesting stuff.

I particularly like the video with Fred Deakin (of Lemon Jelly fame) where he talks about the possibilities for innovation but also the distractions that come with digital tools. Ironically whilst watching this video I was completely distracted by Fred’s totally amazing record collection, Clavia Nord synth and stunning workspace!

I’ve actually been listening back to the old Lemon Jelly album ‘Lost Horizons’ and reading up on their production so I was doubly chuffed to come across this. They were a big inspiration for the track Village Green I wrote recently.

The Creative Class also features a video with Damon Albarn where he talks about using loops and video…

The initiative appears to be funded by WeTransfer and it’s very nice to see mature advertising in this inspirational form rather than having a pre-roll or banner jammed in your face. You can watch all the other videos right here.

20SYL – Kodama

I hand’t heard of 20SYL until I came across this totally awesome video which I think goes to show what a great bit of viral media can do.

The video was all shot in a garage and because I’m a bit of a music-tech trainspotter, the kit list is as follows :

  • Akai MPC-2000
  • Teenage Engineering OP-1
  • Moog Pedal
  • Novation Launchpad
  • Sequential Circuits Six-Trak
  • MicroKorg
  • Soundwagon

I don’t know if all this kit was actually used in the production of the track or if it’s just for effect.

Thanks to Creative Review and Austin Kleon for the tipoff.

The Beatles in Mono

Most of the time, my day job in the music industry feels like a regular job. Then I get to do something totally mind-blowing like listening to a remastering of The Beatles at Abbey Road!

This listening session was for the release of the new Beatles in Mono boxset. Abbey Road have recreated the very first mono vinyls which were released by the band in the ’60s. Stereo was around in the ’60s but it wasn’t widespread and because recording was limited to 4-tracks then Stereo mixes often just had the original master tracks hard-panned. You can spot this on old recordings where you can hear the drums coming out of one speaker and vocals from the other.

The Beatles in Mono

The playback took place in Studio 3 which is where the band originally recorded and the equipment used was a super high-end $85k McIntosh hi-fi. Suffice it to say that it sounded amazing. All the different musical parts sounded really alive and seemed to fit so well into the sonic space, without a stereo soundstage.

I left the session realising that this is something which is easy to forget when mixing tracks in a modern DAW. There are so many stereo tools available to us that it’s easy to get bogged down and forget that great music can sound completely awesome and make you dance or cry without a stereo mix.

 

Village Green

At the end of last year my wife and I made the decision to quit the big smoke and move out of London to leafy Hertfordshire. As my current job is based in town, I was pretty freaked out about becoming a commuter and living out in the sticks.

As is frequently the case, it turns out our worst fears are often nothing more than just that.

The commute is not one I plan on doing forever, but it turns out that getting off the train at the end of a long day and stepping into the English countryside is literally like a breath of fresh air. Taking in the trees, birds and beautiful scenery on the walk between home and the station has become a daily dose of inspiration.

…and relax

Ideas can come from anywhere but sometimes the best ones appear when you are completely relaxed and have a quiet mind.

Well what better place for this than a nice hot bath? It certainly did the trick for Archimedes.

My latest track is inspired by an amazing custom bath soak I recently received from The Bathory, a brand new venture by the guys at Mint.

It’s a different direction from my more recent up-tempo numbers, but I find that when British Summertime kicks in I’m inclined to drop things down a notch as the cold chills slowly melt away.