Encores 2 by Nils Frahm, and the Joy of Live Music

It’s difficult to unpack my feelings about Nils Frahm as an artist. I remember, a few years back, hearing rave reviews about one of his albums. I can’t recall which album it was. I listened to it, and it reminded me of the type of “scholarly” music that is being produced at every college music department with an electronic music program in the country. It didn’t strike me as anything special.

Then I listened to The Noise Pop Podcast, or maybe it was Switched on Pop, and one of the hosts was overwhelmed by Frahm’s 2018 album All Melody. So I listened to that, and I felt about the same.

Maybe it was a sign that I was cynical, jaded, or just plain old. Or maybe Frahm and I went through similar music educations. Maybe he was the most successful version of all the dudes making quiet, semi-ambient electronic music at all the schools I attended. Although, glancing through his wikipedia, I don’t see any references to universities. So maybe that isn’t the case either.

But as of last year, my general feeling toward Frahm was a qualified “meh.”

Still, when I saw he was playing at a club that was walking distance from my house, I had to buy tickets. I invited my friend Brian along, and we caught him at The Ritz in San Jose.

It was at that concert that my feelings toward Frahm changed.

The Ritz is a fantastically intimate venue. It’s compact enough to reach out and touch the performer from the front of the audience. It’s small enough to only hold maybe two hundred people standing.

Frahm had an absolutely massive setup. He had several antique organs, numerous synthesizers, and enormous old fashioned amps the size of small cars.

But he had no band and there was no opening act. He came out alone. He performed alone, and the show was about him and his music. It was pure, and almost sacred in its tone at first. But as it went on he got more and more loose.

Frahm has a charming on-stage personality. Between each track he talked about his music and his writing process. He opened up his soul a little bit, and opened up about his music a lot. He got more talkative as the show progressed, until by the end he was talking about chord progressions and audience expectations. For people with a little bit of musical training, which I suspect was most of the audience, it was a magical night where we jointly worshipped at the altar of music.

On January 25th, 2019, Frahm released a new EP titled Encores 2. Does it feel like his show? Would his magical show change the way I perceived his music?

No. The album is more slow, quiet sonic meditations that owe a great debt to Brian Eno. It’s still an enjoyable album to listen to while at work, or on the train, or perhaps while making dinner.

But if you get the chance, you should definitely catch him live.

Don’t Buy a Kindle. Here’s why.

I’ve been a loyal Kindle user since the beginning. I’ve owned about twelve Kindles, from the initial basic model, through the Paperwhite, to the Fire and all its incarnations.

And the Kindle is still fine for reading books. If you only want to read books, then the Paperwhite is a great experience.

This post is aimed at the tablets. If you want to use your Kindle as a general media device, for movies, email, games, shopping, as well as books, then it is an awful choice.

I haven’t decided on which tablet to buy next. All I’ve decided for sure is that it won’t be a Kindle. Here’s why.

1. Irrelevant notifications that can’t be dismissed

I do not own an Alexa device. I have never deliberately used Alexa in my life. Yet, for three months I’ve had a notification on my Kindle that says “Alexa Accessories.” This notification cannot be clicked. It cannot be dismissed. It’s just there.

2. The Amazon App Store lacks great apps

Amazon has done little to nothing to grow their app store. As such it is a graveyard of shovelware. Do you want the latest game from Nintendo? It’s not on Amazon. In fact very few great apps or games make it to the Amazon App Store. And the ones that do are buggy. The developers aren’t debugging the issues that come up exclusively for Amazon devices. They don’t care about the tiny audience.

3. The Amazon version of Android is buggy and ugly

The ultimate reason not to buy a Kindle tablet is that the operating system is garbage. It’s buggy, slow, and ugly. For months, there has been a bug where if you click a book on your device that isn’t the most recently read book, it will just open the most recently read book. For someone like me, who reads two books at once, this is incredibly frustrating. Also, if you play an audiobook, then power off the screen, the audiobook will continue playing briefly, then stop. When you log in to your device again, a totally different book will be on the screen.

Loyalty punished…

I guess part of what makes this so frustrating is that I have been a loyal customer for so long. I’ve used Amazon devices for over a decade. I’ve purchased movies, TV shows, games, and hundreds of books through Amazon devices. To have the ecosystem devolve into unusability and irrelevance is frustrating. I know I can get the Amazon media apps, and the Kindle reader app on my new devices. That is good, but I am sad to go.

Anyway, I hope this post helps to inform your shopping.