Archive | Music

Favourite Tracks From 2020

There was a lot of good music released in 2020. The Apple Music playlist embedded below has a list of my favourite 20. I was going to cut it down to a top 10. But it was too hard. So it is a top 20!

Interesting Stuff – Week 31 2020

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Culture

The Observer had a good series of articles on Facebook and how it influences politics and culture. 

The Guardian reported on proposals to tax over-40’s more to pay for social care in later life. My initial thoughts on this are positive. It seems like a good idea to me. Works in Germany and Japan according to the article. Doesn’t add to burden on younger people, who already have a raw deal with rent and mortgage costs.

Universities have been in silent trouble for a while. COVID-19 may be the tipping point for many. This article in Nature is a good synopsis of the crisis.

Doesn’t look like remote work will end anytime soon in the big tech companies. Google said their staff will be working from home until at least June 2021, as reported by Ars Technica. The same article also outlines long term plans by Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Microsoft to extend remote working. Apple followed them this week. As AppleInsider detailed.

This is fabulous. During the lockdown, an amateur woodworker from Belgium built an electric guitar from scratch using a thick wooden shelf he had to hand. This 26-minute video summarises the build. Well worth 26 minutes of your time.

Technology

More information about the Twitter security breach came to light this week. Ars Technica reports on how the attackers used spear-phishing techniques to get access. 

But it turns out that the hackers were teenage amateurs, rather than some sophisticated or state-backed outfit. They have all been arrested and charged. Wired has the details.

On the topic of spear-phishing: it often uses social engineering techniques to get access to peoples data. Here is a short video that shows how easy it is for scammers to get your info over the phone.

Following the poor Intel results last week, and the announcement of more delays to their 7 nm fabrication process, the company announced some changes in senior roles. One notable one was the appointment of Irish engineer Ann Kelleher to lead the processor division.

Science

We will probably never know how life started on Earth. Deep time and plate tectonics recycling the Earth’s crust will have destroyed the evidence. But it was likely via pre-biotic self-organising chemical reactions. New research  summarised in Chemistry World last week shows evidence of some self-replicating molecules showing metabolism. Remarkable stuff. 

It’s been a busy few weeks for Mars exploration. NASA successfully launched its Perseverance rover this week. It follows in the trail of missions from both the UAE and China. Hopefully, they will all get into orbit and land successfully.

Apps

This is intriguing. Algoriddim djay Pro AI – Neural Mix music app for iPad. It can extract individual vocal, melody or drum tracks from songs. And allow you to mix in different ones from other sones. Using an AI-based algorithm. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with the DRM protected Apple Music I have. But for non-DRM protected tracks, it is is pretty impressive.

Dea Matrona – so good!

There is a lot of good music coming from many new and upcoming bands and musicians right now. That’s always been the case of course. I don’t buy into the idea you hear that there is no good music “these days”. People who think that aren’t exposing themselves to new music. I discover most new stuff via Twitter or the Apple Music recommendation posts on Instagram stories or weekly email. Some recent examples of new discoveries for me are Yonaka, Alice Merton, Ariana and The Rose, Charly Bliss, Du Blonde, Ina Wroldsen, Klara, Soak, and Wild Rivers. All great.

The latest discovery came via Twitter. Barbara Whearty posted a video of the band Dea Matrona busking a version of the Fleetwood Mac song Go Your Own Way in Belfast city centre at Christmas. Wow! It is so good. The video has since gone viral, and at the time I write this has been viewed over 480,000 times. After seeing this video, I listened to their original music and their other videos on YouTube. Two of their songs from last year made it into my top 10 list.

I love it when a new band or artist comes out of left field for me. Although in this case, the fact that I’d never heard of Dea Matrona before is entirely my fault. They have been playing gigs in Northern Ireland and beyond for a couple of years. As you can see from their videos on YouTube. I might need to get out more!

You can tell when a band is the real deal. And Dea Matrona are the real deal! Their playing is tight, and they have that crystal tone that all good bands have. Their vocals are excellent, with both singers voices having slightly different characteristics that complement each other. Their own songs are terrific, and the mix of classic rock covers they play with them is spot on.

I was lucky enough to see them live at their Black Box Belfast Out To Lunch Festival gig last week. They are superb live. Lots of bands simply play music at the audience when performing. Sod that. We can listen to the music anytime. At a show you want a performance, and Dea Matrona deliver. They are colourful and kinetic on stage, and best of all they look like they are having fun playing the new and the classic tracks. They also have good crowd interactions between songs, with anecdotes about how songs got written, and things that happened at other gigs. It is astonishing how much stagecraft and musical ability they have for such a young band. Not forgetting that the two singers also swap lead and bass guitar duties a few times during each gig. Literally handing their instruments to the other. From what I could see this meant that when Molly McGinn was playing bass, she was operating the guitar pedal effects board for Orlaith Forsythe on guitar, as they didn’t change stage positions. Remarkable. I’d bet that drummer Mamie McGinn could probably play guitar or bass as well if required! Of course, we only see the tip of the iceberg (hat tip to Scott Flanigan on this point) and not the thousands of hours of study and practice that all three band members have put in to get this good. Kudos to them as it has really paid off. They are a remarkably good band and they will be huge in the future. Rightly so. They deserve it.

Check out their upcoming Ireland gigs here, and their YouTube channel. And have a look at this cover version of Joan Jett’s song Cherry Bomb to see a band having fun!