↓ Download all ten songs Just like last year, though admittedly much less ambitious, I want to mark the passing of another year of with my thoughts on the most distinguished artists and albums of 2007 (according to me), and give you a song from each one to take with you.

If there’s one common theme in this disparate mix, it’s a delicate balance between such lush and abundant instrumentation and a sparse and minimal sound. As I’m fond of saying, it’s the space in between that’s most interesting, and that’s clearly the case in these ten songs, listed below in alphabetical order. Enjoy!

Animal Collective · Strawberry Jam · Unsolved Mysteries

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I would have never known about AC if not for my brother Kevin — he was the first to suggest Sung Tongs and Feels and even sent me some pre-release mp3s from Strawberry Jam. While I liked songs from the first two, SJ was so dense (and unbelievably tense) that I found it difficult to listen to in the very beginning. But again, on his recommendation, I bought tickets to see them live and then also began to listen to SJ more intently, often for days on end, as the show approached. It’s safe to say I was absolutely blown away by their show (see my pictures and my videos from it) and now I’m completely hooked on the album in its entirety. Definitely at the top of my list for 2007.

Battles · Mirrored · Tonto

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Warp heavily promoted the new BTTLS album for a number of months, but it never really caught me the way it seemed to hook everyone else. My good friend Andrew ‘Japandy’ Tweed insisted I take a second look, and I did to my great delight. I wrote about both of their incredible videos, and was lucky enough to see them live not so long ago in San Francisco (need to upload that video to YouTube, it’s amazing). I have yet to see anyone or anything play with such pace, precision, and passion; the only way I can describe it is to say that I can’t listen to their incredible album anymore: it’s too slow, too lifeless (that’s a preposterous thing to say, btw). I was exhausted at the end of their show and (still) incredibly inspired by the whole thing.

Beans · Thorns · We Rock

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I came to follow Beans when Warp signed Anti-Pop Consortium (apparently soon to be reunited, thankfully). Most hip-hop bores me — even though I would listen to nothing but hip-hop if there were more artists like Beans — instead I often find nothing but unimaginative rhythms and even more mindless lyrics. I loved many songs on Tomorrow Right Now and even more on Shock City Maverick, so I eagerly awaited Thorns. After hearing Thundermouth for the first time, I thought it would be near impossible to top that track, but he did it with We Rock. Show me someone, anyone, who rocks it harder than Beans — it can’t be done.

Björk · Volta · I See Who You Are

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Abby absolutely loves Björk, and while I do too, it’s not with the same intensity. I was definitely excited to see her show this summer, but after having seen her on the Vespertine tour before, I wasn’t expecting such an intense and high energy show. This song is equally intense, even though it’s much more sedate. I love the delicate instrumentation on this track and her beautiful lyrics, it’s yet another exquisite collaboration with Mark Bell (LFO). Tops.

Burial · Untrue · Archangel

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The reviews on Warpmart practically begged me to buy it, but the lo-fi samples on bleep sounded flat and uninspired. I debated it for several weeks, but finally gave in and bought the album just to hear it for myself. I was immediately taken by it, no doubt egged on by my then new Shure SE530 headphones (such a guilty pleasure, but damn worth it — find ‘em new on eBay, they’re way cheaper there). This album is incredible, infinitely complex and yet just right there where it should be. I find new twists and turns every time I play it. If you haven’t heard it, you owe it to yourself to get it. btw, Abby’s first impression: “It sounds like Jamie Lidell meets Boyz II Men meets Autechre”. Yep, classic.

Flying Lotus · Reset EP · Dance Floor Stalker

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When the news of his signing to Warp hit, I immediately went searching for his prior release 1983 on Plug Research. It’s an epic instrumental effort, notable for its brief but incredibly thick and dense tracks. I was immediately hooked and kept it in heavy rotation on my peaPod this past summer. Luckily, the Reset EP is all of that and a whole lot more. I played this six-track EP over and over without ever tiring of it. The bass is monstrous, the beats are genius, and the flow is absolutely out of this world. FlyLo deserves his place on Warp’s legendary roster, I can’t wait to hear what comes next.

Matthew Dear · Asa Breed · Don and Sherri

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I almost left this one off, as much as I love this album and listened to it non-stop for a month straight. I saw his show in San Francisco this fall, and well, to put it kindly… It sucked. Ass. The crowd was sparse, poor promotion perhaps, but he failed to connect with it, preferring instead to plod along with his pre-canned rockstar shtick. The highlight of the show was the next to last song, the epic Don and Sherri, also known as that sick track on the Hummer commercial. Even with the goofy lyrics, this track makes me want to shake my booty. I still love the album, in spite of the awful show. I do believe he will learn so much from this tour, and I expect to see a better show next time. I still believe!

Radiohead · In Rainbows · Bodysnatchers

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Yes, I whined about the 160kbps thing, impugned their motives, and generally disparaged In Rainbows in the very beginning. But the more I listened to it, the more I came to see that the music on this album is as revolutionary as all that surrounds its internet-only release. No one makes music like Radiohead, and Bodysnatchers in particular has my head bouncing from side to side the moment it comes on. But nothing, nothing tops the breakdown shortly after the two minute mark, and the way it builds back into the first part of the song just makes me want to play it all over again. And again. And again. I absolutely love this track.

Sky Observer · Sky Observer’s Guide 070707 · Skyway Drive

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“Space, space, space.” It’s true, Stewart Brown and I go way, way back, and I played a small part in getting this release out to the world, but that has so little to do with how strongly I feel about it. At once timeless and yet clearly of this very moment, Brown succeeded in capturing the dichotomy of his youthful, irreverent energy and his measured, masterful touch. With no hesitation whatsoever, I predict that years from now people will love this effort the way they love Boards of Canada’s In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country, as an old friend indeed. Listen to the other four songs for free at FORKLIFT ENTERTAINMENT.

The Tuss · Rushup Edge · Synthacon 9

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C’mon, we all know it’s Aphex Twin. And it’s without a doubt the most magnificent track ever created.

Late update: Here’s a pic of Sawyer helping me write this post:

Sawyer helps me write a post for my blog

On the growing masses of Apple iPhone fanatics, most of whom are ardent advocates eager to share its many virtues with you, and the lessons those of us in the music industry must apply to our business and bands, Bob Lefsetz saidbest:

So you’ve got to create something great. And it doesn’t have to sound like anything else, it’s just got to fire on all cylinders within its chosen genre. Hell, if Apple were a major label it wouldn’t have put out the iPhone because there was nothing else like it in the marketplace, there’d be no demand for it. But a great band creates its own demand. And, it takes a while for it to catch on.

We’ve been focusing on instant. Ever since we learned video can blow acts up.

But those acts crashed back to Earth just about as fast. Turns out if you want something to last, it’s got to grow slowly. You need early adopters, who believe and spread the word. You’ve got to let your act percolate in the marketplace. True riches come down the line. And they last, because you’ve got a legion of believers.

I live this every day, on both sides, with an iPhone and a small but promising music label. Believe me, the iPhone is a lot easier to share…

Earlier this summer, my good friend Stewart Brown created five exquisite organic electronic tracks for a project called Sky Observer’s Guide, and I put together the FORKLIFT ENTERTAINMENT website to present it to the world. Right now we’re seeing a handful of hits each day, with plenty of positive reaction, but very little growth momentum. At first I was disappointed, but over the past few weeks I realized that everything is proceeding as I expected, albeit much more slowly than originally planned.

We rightly recognized that putting a price tag on these songs is a barrier to entry, and so we designed the site to make the music immediately accessible. We simply want everyone to hear these songs, and if they like it they can share it with their friends. That’s why each and every song can be streamed in its entirety for FREE, downloaded for FREE, and purchased on the cheap (I know Bob will say lower the price!).

There is no field of dreams to speak of, and certainly no instant payoff, and that is why we have completely taken the money out of the experience. I do believe we will attract interest, given enough time we will develop fans with strong and lasting passions, and then and only then we will be able to reap the rewards, whatever they may be.

All of this is a round-about way of saying, “I hear you, Bob.” And I would love to hear what all of you think of the music, the strategy, the implementation, or anything else that strikes you as interesting or odd. I’m all ears.

I am not a musician. In spite of such a strong personal affinity to music, I lack even the most basic instincts among its instruments. Instead, I rely on my deep appreciation of it, one which admittedly borders on the obsessive at times, to bring me near to nirvana. To be sure, I am a helpless junkie, always looking for a new fix to tickle my ears and lift my head to the heavens…

I am fortunate to have met and become close friends with many extremely talented, and prolific, musicians in my life. We have, at various times, with various strategies, and with even more varying degrees of success, attempted to sell their wares on the open market. It was not an easy business to enter, let alone master, to say nothing of making a profit. Even with critical acclaim, the cost of doing business the old fashioned way (pressing vinyl, of course) was prohibitive.

Ultimately, we put those dreams on hold and went our separate ways. I was thrilled when Stewart Brown and I recently realized that we were living less than a mile apart in San Francisco, and finally reconnected after nearly ten years apart. We are older and wiser now, and while still foolish enough to dream that same dream, we are intent on finding new ways to fulfill it…

skyo-070707-smTo be perfectly honest, I never stopped thinking of how best to market music, and these thoughts only intensified as this “second life” of the internet and its free and easy tools of creation came to be. Brown’s music is infectious (in a very good way) and made to be spread far and wide, and it has long been clear to me that the ease of “spread-ability” is the key to success. So we set out to eliminate anything that inhibits the free flow of music, starting first with the cost to acquire it, so that everyone can hear it instantaneously. That is why you can stream every song in its entirety within the page itself, and even download good quality 128 kbps mp3s (no DRM!!) for free.

I was adamant that we spend as little money as humanly possible (I think our greatest expense so far was buying the domain name). Brown wrote and recorded the music, I designed and built the website, and Kristin tied it all together with her words. If I may say so, it looks and sounds like a million bucks!! Check it out at FORKLIFT ENTERTAINMENT.


I want to point out and thank a few of the many people who helped make this happen…

To Hugh MacLoed and Fred Wilson, two guys who continually experiment and explore new ideas in real-time, right before our very eyes. Their passion and persuasion inspire me to no end. I had trouble finding a singularly illustrative quote from each one, but if you’re at all interested in reading more there’s a combined 71 posts tagged on my del.icio.us from Hugh and Fred.

To Bob Lefsetz, who sums it up best in a recent post entitled “The New Reality”, “You can’t reach them by asking them to buy first. Quite the contrary, it’s like catching a fish. You’ve got to drop quality bait and wait.” He continues, “You establish a beachhead. You try to get people to notice you. And the way you do this is not through endless cross-linking and widgets and all the tools of the helpless, hapless wannabes, but quality music. It’s the only way you can get recognized.” That’s the blueprint right there.

And lastly, to my beautiful wife Abby, who has lived through my countless great ideas and nonexistent execution, who nonetheless never once wavered in her support and always encouraged me to go for it. I could not have done it without you. I love you.


Wow, that was way more than I originally intended to write; still, I left so much out.

I think Brown’s music is poised to take off, and I believe our approach to doing business can help make it happen. I am so excited to see where this goes. I would love to hear what you think, so leave me a comment here or on FORKLIFT ENTERTAINMENT.

As always, more soon.

On the subject of the dominance of Apple’s iPod and iTunes strategy versus the decay of the music industry, Bob Lefsetz saidbest:

A 45 held two tracks. An LP forty minutes. A CD seventy minutes. An iPod? DAYS WORTH! So, the ART FORM was challenged. How long should an album BE? Should there even BE any albums? Stunningly, both labels and artists are still debating this, still clinging to the album format when consumers only care about ONE THING! That the music be GOOD! They want a LOT of good music, and NONE bad.

I would also add that they want it NOW, with new stuff released often and in endless supply. But most of all, whatever it is, they want it FREE.

btw, I’ll have some more thoughts to add on this very subject in the next day or two. It’s really big, and I couldn’t be more proud of it. I can’t wait to share it with you.