NPR - The 50 Best Albums of 2017 (Apple Music Playlist)

Holiday traditions I love:

  • Grandma’s Christmas Day lunch party
  • Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve
  • Drinking black and white peppermint mochas from Starbucks

Compiling and sharing a steaming playlist based on the NPR’s Best Albums of 20—insert year here !!!

The time is here. Below you will find a link to the playlist. Its Apple Music again this year. Sorry Spotify folks. This takes way too long to do twice and all of my “convert Apple Music to Spotify” workflows are broken. 

The 50 Best Albums of 2017:

Consensus wasn't easy in 2017. Maybe that's because the news this year kept us on edge, our eyes and ears pointed in many directions. Maybe it's due to the growth of streaming as the dominant listening platform, one whose rules have not yet fully been written. Whatever the cause, with the exception of our No. 1 album, it felt like there were few pieces of music this year that captured our attention instantly and simultaneously. Instead, we spent our year tracking down new sounds that gave voice to our struggles and breakthroughs, our search for joy and our need for release. When it was time for our staff and member station partners to come together at the year's end, we found there was plenty to celebrate. Here is NPR Music's list of the best albums of 2017.

There are a few albums on this list that are some of my favorites of the year. Thundercats’s Drunk and Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. made up a sizable portion of my listening while on runs and in the kitchen at evening. 

Many others on the list excite me. I am always down for an escapist pop album to carry me into the new year (Paramore). Vijay Iyer continues to be one of a few spiritual successors to Esbjörn Svensson Trio but I missed listening to the latest record this year. Same for Sylvan Esso. Everything they do is gold but I am just behind on listening.

A few reflections on the process from this year…

Only one album was not on Apple Music. And it was Marc-André Hamelin’s For Bunita Marcus (Feldman) . Which bums me out because I was really looking forward to it.

Apple Music has become considerably better at search, speed, and user interface. This was the easiest NPR best-of playlist I have built. 

Anyway, here is the playlist: NPR’s The 50 Best Albums of 2017

And here are links to all of my other playlists… (2013 and 2015 are personal favorites)

NPR Best 50 Albums of 2016 (Apple Music)

NPR Music’s 50 Favorite Albums of 2015 (Spotify)

NPR Music’s 50 Favorite Albums of 2014 (Spotify)

NPR Music’s 50 Favorite Albums of 2013 (Spotify)


iLok Cloud - Maybe people will not feel absolutely miserable authenticating Pro Tools?

PACE Launch iLok Cloud - Cloud Based Alternative To Hardware iLoks — Pro Tools Expert:

PACE Anti-Piracy, Inc. introduces an entirely new approach to software license protection—iLok Cloud. With iLok Cloud, software publishers can offer their users quick and easy access to their licenses from any computer with an Internet connection. iLok Cloud has the same level of robust security as the current iLok USB smart key, which will remain as an option along with machine-based licenses.

Today, PACE Anti-Piracy announces the imminent launch of iLok Cloud. With iLok Cloud, software publishers that use PACE’s licensing system will have a third option to offer their users, in addition to the previously available iLok USB smart key and machine-based licenses.

Upon launching iLok Cloud protected software, the users will be prompted to provide their username and password. That’s it—the iLok protected software is now ready for use, without any dongles or having to use a specific authorized computer. It’s easy, iLok Cloud protected software can be used anywhere, and iLok Cloud takes the risk of lost or damaged iLok USB smart keys and computers out of the equation.

The iLok is one of the primary reasons I stopped using Pro Tools years ago. Hopefully this is a step towards iLok getting out the way of people using professional music software.

Looking for a cheap, powerful alternative (or replacement) for Photoshop on Mac. Pixelmator Pro might be for you.

Pixelmator Pro:

Pixelmator Pro is an image editor packed full of innovations. From a reimagined editing workflow and simplified editing tools to machine learning powering all-new, intelligent image editing features. So the tools at your fingertips are smarter and more powerful, yet more intuitive and easier to use than ever before.

I have not updated to macOS High Sierra yet so I cannot download this, though I will say that I have had tremendously positive success with the standard Pixelmator on Mac and iOS.

This all leads to the inevitable moment that I cancel my Photoshop subscription.

Download here.

Marco Arment releases public beta of his podcasting tool, Forecast

From Jason Snell’s Six Colors blog...

Forecast: A must-have tool for Mac podcasters—>

Marco Arment’s Forecast is a newly released (into a public beta) Mac MP3 encoding and tagging tool for podcasters. It’s a tool that Marco built a couple of years ago to serve his own needs, and for the last 18 months or so I’ve been using it (in a private beta) to encode most of the podcasts that I create. Here’s an overview of how Forecast works and what it does.

I have been waiting for this for a long time.

Marco is behind Tumblr, Instapaper, and now the great podcast app, Overcast. He is an avid podcaster and really knows his stuff. I can’t wait to take this for a spin while editing my next show. The feature I am perhaps looking the most forward to is the ability to import Logic markers as chapters.

Last minute holiday gift guide

Looking for some last minute holiday gift ideas? Here are some things I have had positive experiences with in 2017.


Echo Dot:

These are so cheap and useful that we have one in almost every room of the house. In the kitchen it sets timers and does measurements. In the living room it turns lights on and off, plays music, turns on the tv, and changes the HDMI input for us (in combination with other home automated tools). In my music studio, it sets timers for student practice. They are just all around useful.


Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Red Subscription:

These days I am using Apple Music because of its rich integration with Siri and my iTunes library. But I sure do yearn for some of the features of Spotify that I lost in the switch. Things like the weekly music discovery playlists, native integration with my Sonos speakers, and all of the social features. YouTube Red ain’t bad either. It takes away YouTube ads, allows you to play YouTube while the app isn’t in the foreground on mobile devices (which it should do for free IMO), and comes with access to Google Play Music (which is an offering similar to Spotify and Apple Music).


Spire Stone: Stress Management and Activity Tracker for iOS and Android:

You likely own or have heard of a smart watch. These devices are great for tracking workouts, steps, and heart rates. But I have found that more often than not my breathing is more immediately relatable to my health. Spire is a wearable device that tracks your respiratory rate. It comes with a companion app that shows you your breathing trends. Calm is for streaks of slow consistent breathing, Focus is for consistent but elevated breathing, Sedate for moments of inactivity, Active for movement, and Stress for moments of inconsistent breathing. The app displays when during the day you are encountering these streaks and even tells you which events in your calendar are happening during those times. A lot of interesting insight can be gained by this. For example, my stress often occurs during moments of transition, like getting into the car. Spire has helped me to be more more mindful of that. The companion app even comes with guided breathing and meditation exercises. Your active minutes meditating, and respiratory rate, can sync to the Apple Health app so you can see it alongside your steps, heart rate, etc...



If you like games, and a little bit of strategy, this is one of my all time favorites. Dominion is easily a party favorite for us, even amongst our friends who do not care for strategy-rich games. Dominion is a deck building game. Over the course of a game, you try to balance a hand of victory point cards (that win you the game but do nothing when you have them in your hand), money (which can buy you things but is otherwise useless in your hand) and action cards (which can be strategically purchased to allow advantageous chain reactions.) The game is fast paced once you learn it. And by omitting offensive cards it is almost a game you feel like you are playing against yourself, but with others at the table also doing the same.


Anker Quick Charge 3.0 63W 5-Port Wall Charger:

When I pause to think about it, this might be my most used device on the list. This thing provides charge to my watch, phone, and tablet each night. When I travel, gone are the days of packing every charging brick in my surge protector. Just one brick, and I am ready to charge all of my devices in one outlet.



Looking to up your coffee game? The Aeropress is my favorite method of brewing. It consistently makes the most flavorful, balanced, cup of coffee I am capable of making. Of course, your coffee is only as good as your beans and the rest of your process, but as for the brewing, I have not found a better way. The Aeropress is also fast and easy to clean. The only downside is that it produces a small amount. If you are looking to solve that problem, you could try the Chemex, my second favorite coffee brewing method (and also a great gift.)


Philips Hue Light Bulbs:

I love controlling my house with these. I can operate them in the Home app on my phone, command them with Alexa and Siri, and create powerful automations. My favorite one includes waking me up in the morning by raising a subtle red toned light on my night stand lightbulb. It is a natural color to wake up to, and doesn’t bother my wife.


Intelliroll Terxtured High Density Foam Roller for Muscler Trigger Point Massage, Physical Therapy and Exercise:

The past few years have marked a more health conscious version of myself. Rolling out troubling muscles every day has gone a long way to help me battle some problems I am having with inflammation. Everyone has their favorite roller. This one is becoming mine. The shape conforms to the spine for easy back rolling. The shape also allows for infinite options for getting to all of the difficult spots. The one I linked here is not for the faint of heart. It is VERY hard. But the blue version is much more accessible.


Tile Mate Key Finder:

This thing has saved me so many times. Tile goes in your wallet, bag, keys, whatever, and connects to your phone over Bluetooth. While on a WiFi network, Tile remembers its geolocation. When you misplace something of yours, you can open the app, and Tile will tell you where it was last connected to the internet on a map.