Picture_44 Whoah, I actually listened to a enough music this year that was released in this year that I could pick a favorite. (note: Nelly Furtado is timeless, so she'll always be out of the running) Hemstad's self-titled album put out by Catbird Records wins! Except you can't buy it now. It's sold out. But wow, check out that sample song "Fyllekärring". You should totally go back in time and buy this album.

Here's the top 20 list of 2006 of my most listened to stuff recorded by Last.fm. Number in parenthesis is the number of times played. The problem with this list is I tend to throw one band on and listen continuously, so bands like Hemsted, who got over 100 plays on my computer, don't even show up. I'd say this list is a good representation of what I completely freaked out on for a good week or so this year. Definitely the case with Be Your Own PET.

  1. Be Your Own Pet (1,008) - I really liked this band (obviously). I guess they got a lot of shit for being children of musicians or something, but the lyrics are pretty good and the music is good so I don't know what the big deal is. Good band. I'm a little amazed I listened to them one-thousand times, but the songs are short, fast, and good. Except for that one with the line about Bad Brains. Eeesh.
  2. Sublime (666) - Perennial favorites. If you didn't live in SoCal in the early 90's you won't understand. I mostly listened to obscure studio stuff and random 8-track recordings done around the "Robbin' the Hood" days. Sigh...
  3. The Breeders (573) - "Rediscovered" after discovering how awesome The Amps were (see #11). I love their cover of "Shocker In Gloomtown", though I got a lot of hell for saying I liked it better than the GBV version. Ooh, I just did it again.
  4. Pavement (543) - Will be on my list every year.
  5. The Mountain Goats (461) - Made my favorite album in 2005, I managed to get a hold of a bunch of unlabeled lo-fi stuff and probably spent a couple of days picking through it.
  6. Guided by Voices (437) - Sometimes I spend a week just listening to GBV.
  7. The Vandals (317) - Oh boy. That's shocking. Totally punk rock Republicans, but the good kind. I spent a couple days picking through these old Orange County bands I had forgotten about, I guess the Vandals got more play than anyone else. Also, a lot of that has to do with the jokey song: "I Have A Date".
  8. The Fucking Champs (300) - Mostly listening to IV. This stuff is great for programming. I'm not much of a metal fan but this is just brutal.
  9. The Flaming Lips (275) - This isn't what you think. When that last album came out I had to remind myself how much I loved these guys and to clean my brain out. This is pretty much all "Transmissions from the Satellite Heart" and "The Soft Bulletin". I can still listen to "When Yer Twenty-Two" and have vivid flashbacks of driving around LA in my little truck, delivering shit in the heat, thinking how lucky I was. I was pretty lucky.
  10. Pixies (274) - The book on the Pixies caused this. After I read it I went back and listened to everything again with fresh ears. It's great to see them get the respect they deserved, but kinda sad they are pretty much over the whole thing and just cashing checks.
  11. The Amps (261) - I completely missed The Amps the first time around. Wow, Pacer is my favorite album listened to in 2006 for sure. Fucking Kim Deal is on this list three times.
  12. Weezer (260) - Oh god, what decade are we in again? I think this is pretty much all that "Dusty Gems" collection. Specifically Paperface.
  13. Mad Professor (249) - Though it doesn't show up on this list that much, mainly because dub and reggae songs are so long, I listen to a healthy amount of Reggae/Dub/Dancehall. I think Mad Professor ranks highest because of the dub work on my favorite artists (not shown: I discovered Jacob Miller this year! Whoah.)
  14. Tsutomu Kouno (249) - This is video game music from Loco Roco. The songs are a minute long so they get a higher play count. Also: nerd.
  15. The Jesus and Mary Chain (207) - I finally bought all those post "Automatic" albums I swore I was going to buy. They were okay, I dunno why I listened to them so much, I blame that "Moe Tucker" song.
  16. The Thermals (203) - New album was very good, definitely better than "Fuckin' A". Also, again, short songs chart higher. "Pillar of Salt" getting most of the play. I would love to be in this band.
  17. Ramones (196) - No wait, I meant this band.
  18. Sweetie (196) - Oh right, I'm in this band. Is it okay to listen to your own music? I don't care. Omar writes damn good songs.
  19. Green Day (187) - Living in the Bay Area made me remember the bands of yore. I saw these guys play once at some co-op party when I was at Berkeley and I thought they sucked. Look at me 15 years later listening to the album they had just put out back then. Me + teenage love songs = BFF!
  20. Lady Sovereign (185) - Embarrassing! And that's saying something, considering items 1-19. Make way for the S-O-Veeeee!

Download 11500_youtube_music_video_links.html

Picture_2I didn't get to into it in my last post, but the other part of Coffee Break Spanish that impresses me is their adoption of good tools.

Their blog is run off of TypePad, an excellent blogging service  for businesses. I use TypePad specifically because I don't have to maintain or troubleshoot an installation, and frankly I don't have time in my life to fret over a bad database index or some dumb PERL requirement. Oh, I could run MT or Wordpress, and I know there are cool little things I'd love to do with my blog, but really, TypePad just works. I think this is why it's been such a hit with businesses who don't want to call up the IT guy every time something goes wrong with the blog.

I'm not familiar with the many podcast services and directories they use except for iTunes, but I can imagine they all increase awareness in their own way. And it looks like they use Feedburner to track it all which is very smart.

They sell course materials through PayPal, and printed shirts and clocks through Cafepress. For community boards they use ReadyBB which is hosted PHPBB.

Finally, they are paying attention to their listeners. Not long after I posted about finding their podcast, Mark,  the teacher, was in the comments so you know he's watching Technorati or at least the iTunes referrer log as I didn't link his site directly.

It's a 3rd party tool success story if there ever was one. As a web developer I'm interested in seeing where they take this, as a student I feel like I'm in good hands.

Picture_1_1 This year I decided to learn Spanish. One would think the surname, the place I grew up, the sombrero, would all indicate some working knowledge of Spanish–but no, I'm pretty much illiterate when it comes to the language.

"¡Hola, Andres!"
"¿Que? Que es, plato?"
"Yo vivo en una escuela de pescados. Plato."

See? Gibberish. Don't be fooled, I have excellent pronunciation, mainly due to years of practice imitating my dad saying "Chicago", otherwise, I'm a mess.

So, I did some looking around and it turns out there's a podcast being produced by (I'm not joking) a pair of Scottish podcasters in Scotland. The chemistry between them is outstanding, and Mark, the teacher is very good at balancing the lessons so they aren't too advanced but stay interesting. I think the key to the podcast is they try to keep it around 15 minutes and each episode builds on the previous work.

It's called "Coffee Break Spanish" and it's entirely free.  There are study materials that cost a nominal fee (like $1) that are produced along with each podcast, but I haven't needed them.

The only thing that's a little odd is the differences between the Spain Spanish versus the Mexican Spanish  my parents speak. For example, "mujer" in Mexican Spanish means "woman" but in Spain it means "wife".  And of course there is the Spain Spanish lisp that would probably get a few laughs if I tried talking to my relatives with it.

But I can't recommend the podcast enough. Check it out.