My Top Albums Of 2023

2023 was an… unusual year for music. As far as individual tracks go, 2023 was a bumper crop! My Fall 2023 Spotify playlist had to be split in two because there were just SO MANY great songs showing up on Spotify!

But as far as entire albums go? Ehhhhhhh, not so much. I know some of you are thinking “dude, are you CRAZY? 2023 had albums by Caroline Polachek, Lana Del Rey, boygenius, Small Black, Depeche Mode, Alison Goldfrapp, Mitski. 100 gecs, Fever Ray, Sufjan Stevens… we even got a flute record from André 3000!”

I get it. I do. But while I found many, many great new songs this year, full albums seemed to elude me. Which is why I broke one of my longstanding rules this year. Oh yes – there is RULE BREAKING this year!

So let’s get to it: below are my ten favorite albums of 2023. The list comes from my Last.fm stats generally; I almost always tinker with the specific order of the albums. After that are the honorable mentions, followed by the “Band of the Year”, “Song of the Year”, “Live Song of the Year” and the raw data from Last.fm.

My Top Albums of 2023

10) M83 – Fantasy – I’ll be honest: M83 is one of those bands I wish I liked more… especially since Spotify says “French indietronica” is one of my top genres, and these guys (with Daft Punk and Air) basically created the whole thing! Yet, M83 is a band I listen to and like the hits (but wore “Midnight City” into the ground… badly). So, while this is a pretty good LP I’d recommend to anyone, it says something that this year was so slow that a band I’m ultimately kinda “meh” about makes the Top 10.

9) Slowdive – Everything is Alive – Good to have ya back, guys.I don’t know you ended up as THE most evergreen tree in the shoegaze forest, but here we are.

8) Alice et Moi – Photographie – Alice Vannoorenberghe or Alice Vanor for short, or her stage name, Alice et Moi, has released a ton of good singles and EPs. Her song “Éoliennes” was even in a teaser for Netflix’s You:

That’s her music – slow, but with a beat… sexy… European. It’s EXACTLY the kind of music you’d see in a show like You… or a Longchamp commercial. Photographie builds on the success of all those singles, EPs and her debut, 2021’s Drama. But while I like this album, I understand the “it starts to sound ‘samey’ after a  while” criticism. Like I said, it’s a slow year for albums.

7) Munya – Jardin – Montreal’s Munya does pretty indie pop, end of story. One of the later tracks on this disc – “Un Deux Trois” – sounds like a parallel universe Madonna, where she ended up French-Canadian and in Montreal in 1983 instead of NYC.

If the French is too much for you, here’s her slightly funky cover of “Bizarre Love Triangle” (LOVE THAT BASS!)

She’s a lot of fun. This album is a lot of fun.

6) Kid Francescoli  – Sunset Blue – What’s there  to say? All of Kid Francescoli’s albums have made my “Best of” lists, excepting the first two (that predate my lists). And really, why wouldn’t his stuff be here? If “French indietronica” is something you might be into, he’s one of the biggest names. His music is fun, catchy and almost always has a beat. There’s a time and place for slow, almost ambient music… but Kid Francescoli time ain’t it. If you want to feel like you’re hanging out in a hipster lounge in Marseille… this is the artist (and album) for you! And speaking of, Kid (actual name Mathieu Hocine) is from Marseille, and he dedicated this album to the sights, sounds, smells and memories of his hometown. It’s a great album to listen to while walking, and a great album to play for a party. Keep up the FANTASTIC work, sir.

5) Cosmetics – Baby – This is the point in the list where I launch into a tirade about Johnny Jewel. And yeah, it’s a thing: Jewel, musician and producer, broke up Chromatics and ran off many of his labels most talented artists. You may remember the Italians Do It Better band Heaven, who had a indie hit called “Truth or Dare”:

Or, if you saw Chromatics on their 2019 tour, you might have seen Heaven’s lead singer Aja playing synths with Desire. Anyway, I guess as part of the IDIB fallout, she left the label and restarted her previous band, Cosmetics.

It’s just pure synthpop. And not every song works, but I really like them, you guys:

Continue reading “My Top Albums Of 2023”

Clearing Individual Jump Lists in Windows 10

Jump Lists are one of the coolest features of Windows 10. If you pin an app to the taskbar, you can right-click on the app’s taskbar icon and see a list of your most recent documents (items), and even pin ones you use the most:

Jump Lists in Windows 10

In the Spotify menu, you can see I’ve pinned Alvvays’ Blue Rev album, and have recently listened to Gorilla vs. Bears’ “Best of 2023” playlist, a couple French indietronica tunes, then my own Top 100 list. So in the future, I can just right-click the Spotify taskbar icon and choose Blue Rev and the album will play.

But while Windows offers a way to clear ALL your jump lists, it doesn’t have a way to clear them on a per-app basis.

Let’s say your boss is going to use your computer, and you don’t want her to accidentally see your Word jump list with its “UPDATED_RESUME.DOCX” and “40 Ways to Kill Your Boss.docx” entries.

Make sure the app in question is closed, then copy and paste this into the Start Menu:

%AppData%\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Recent\AutomaticDestinations

If this doesn’t work for some reason, you can just open File Explorer and go to C: > Users > [your username] > AppData > Roaming > Microsoft > Windows > Recent > AutomaticDestinations. Click “Date Modified” at the top of the column to sort them by most recently updated:

Jump Lists in Windows 10 2
(click to embiggen)

Now, right-click on the taskbar icon in question and pin a document to the list, or unpin an existing one. Doesn’t matter. Refresh the Explorer window, and the jump list you just edited should be the first one on the list (check the timestamp on the file to be sure). If you’re sure it’s the right one, delete it.

Lastly, test the Jump List: it should now be empty, and will re-populate  as you use it in the future. If something’s gone wrong, you can always restore the one from the Recycle Bin if necessary. But also, if you’re sure you’ve deleted the right file and everything is the way you wanted it, delete the file out of the Bin so that prying eyes won’t see it!

A Warning About Ordering Records From Europe

So, if you don’t know me, I collected records in middle and high school… back in the 80s when dinosaurs roamed the earth. In fact, I recently got a new storage solution for my records and went through my core 80s collection for the first time in ages. I posted many of my favorites to my Instagram account – just scroll back a couple months.

Anyway, I got out of record collecting in the early 90s, when it seemed like CDs had conquered vinyl once and for all. And from 2008 until 2020, I’d buy a record every few years, be it an old favorite or colored vinyl,” just because”.

I really started buying vinyl again in 2022. I’ve ordered maybe a dozen LPs from Europe, and I’ve discovered something: European LP mailers suck. Like, almost all of them. So if you really want a record from Europe, it may be worth your time to see if anyone in the US has it. Not only will shipping be much cheaper from the US than the EU, we here in the US use proper packaging.

This is mailer for a record I ordered from Norway. The center of the mailer had a “tear here” strip, so that’s how I opened it. That part’s SUPPOSED to look bad. But the problem here is that while the cardboard is thick, it’s very soft. It feels like it was made with mostly recycled cardboard. In any case, you can see all the dents and bends the record suffered on the way here. The record arrived with a torn and dented outer sleeve. I emailed the label, who opened a new copy of the LP and mailed me that sleeve. They coulda avoided all that by just using better quality mailers.

Norway Mailer 01

Here’s another shot of the Norway mailer, at a slightly different angle, so you can see all the dents, and how thin it is on the side:

Norway Mailer 02

And this is the mailer a French company sent my copy of Alice et Moi’s new album, Photographie in. In this case, the cardboard itself is actually quite strong. But again, it’s so thin – thinner than an album sleeve – that it offered little protection, and the sleeve was again damaged in shipment:

French Mailer 01

French Mailer 02

I could email the label about the damaged sleeve, but I’ve just learned my lesson and will think long and hard before buying overseas again. Unless it’s Saint Etienne’s Christmas stuff. I’m helpless against their Christmas records.

And speaking of the UK, of the dozen overseas records I’ve ordered, Rough Trade was the only vendor who packaged their LPs well. And I know I only showed you two examples of bad packaging today. But it seems to a Europe-wide thing: I cross my fingers with every overseas order knowing it will be packaged horribly no matter if ordered from Scotland, France, Germany, The Netherlands or Belgium.

And hey… it’s easy to criticize. So tell us, oh wise one, what does a GOOD mailer look like? Well, this is what Polyvinyl Record Company uses here in the US:

US Mailer 01

US Mailer 02

That Alvvays LP was shipped between two pieces of thick, study NEW cardboard, surrounded by more thick, study NEW cardboard, and one more layer of thick, study NEW cardboard! You could STOMP on this thing and it wouldn’t hurt the record.

And here’s a mailer from Fat Possum Records out of Oxford, Mississippi. The packaging is similar to Polyvinyl’s and more than adequate for the task. But I just wanted to share their corporate motto, perhaps my all-time favorite: “We’re trying our best”

Fat Possum Mailer

The Mystery of Douglas Edgar

This is James Douglas Edgar. He was a golfer, born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England in 1884. He won the French Open in 1914, and after WWI he moved to Atlanta, where he became the professional at Druid Hills Golf Club.

Douglas Edgar

He taught future golf legend Tommy Armour and helped Georgia Tech’s phenom, Bobby Jones, become the most successful amateur golfer in history.

Edgar won the 1919 Canadian Open by 16 strokes, still the largest margin of victory in a PGA event. He came back the next year and won again, becoming the first golfer to defend a Canadian Open title.

He had a hip condition that hampered his swing but came up with an even better swing that gave him more distance and accuracy. He wrote a book, The Gate to Golf, that described the new swing and revolutionized how golf is taught down to this very day.

Douglas Edgar seemed to be on the verge of golf superstardom. Which makes the events of August 8, 1921 all the more tragic.

Shortly before midnight, Edgar was found face down in the street, in a pool of blood, near his home on West Peachtree Street. He bled out before help could arrive. It was initially thought that Edgar had been the victim of a hit & run; Good Samaritans tried to help, inadvertently contaminating the scene. So forensics, such as it was in the 1920s, didn’t help. There were even witnesses who claimed to see the hit & run. But none of the area residents reported hearing any cars at that time, much less an accident. And when an autopsy was performed, it was determined that Edgar had been stabbed, a perfect shot into the femoral artery in one of his thighs.

The murder remains unsolved. There were rumors that Edgar had gotten into a spot of gambling trouble, but while he did gamble on matches, he wasn’t known to gamble obsessively or to wager large amounts… certainly nothing to warrant killing over. The most likely explanation, as police and journalists privately said at the time, and later researchers would agree, was that Edgar was simply sleeping with the wrong married woman.

He is buried at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta.

Why I Love This Song

I screwed around a lot in high school. I was one of those kids who wouldn’t shut up in classes he liked, like history and English. Believe me, few Duluth High students held stronger opinions about the Battle of Hastings and Ezra Pound than I. However, I just.. could… not… stay… awake in classes I disliked, such as… well, most forms of math, honestly. That’s assuming I even showed up at all. After all, can’t you learn more about the human condition in one afternoon at the High Museum than you can in a whole week of Mrs. Pierce’s class?

So, not surprisingly, I had to start my collegiate career at community college.

How long ago was this? It was so long ago that Atlanta still had separate morning and evening newspapers. I mention this because I had to subscribe to the morning paper for 10 weeks for an economics class.

One morning I grabbed my copy of The Atlanta Constitution and drove to school. The traffic gods were kind that morning, so I had plenty of time to pick up a cup of tea at the Student Center. I sat in the near-empty classroom, reading the paper and sipping my builder’s tea. And there I spotted the blurb:

German supermodel Claudia Schiffer will be making an appearance from noon until 2PM at the downtown Macy’s tomorrow to promote her new Guess? perfume.

Me, having clearly learned nothing from screwing around in high school, thought: “I have a female in my life I could buy that perfume for. And meeting Claudia Schiffer sounds like WAY MORE FUN than Algebra 98.” So I went to my first class the next morning, then drove to Macy’s downtown.

The queue wasn’t as long as you might imagine. There were only 30-35 people ahead of me in line, and I wasn’t even trying to rush there. To be honest, Claudia Schiffer was always way down my supermodel list. I always have been, and forever shall be, a Christy Turlington man, with Helena Christensen as my side chick. There certainly wasn’t anything WRONG with Claudia Schiffer. She was just #18 on the list because there were 17 models I thought were prettier. Yes, even Shalom Harlow.

But then she finally came out from behind a makeshift curtain. I was a ways from her, but I remember thinking “wow, she’s a lot prettier than I expected… like A LOT prettier!” And, as the line got ever-closer I just COULDN’T BELIEVE how pretty she was. I mean, there were posters of her plastered in almost every direction of the fragrance department. I could look at those posters all day and think, “yeah, that girl’s pretty”, but then to turn my head and actually SEE her? In the flesh? Godammighhty! It was like my blood pressure went up five points every step closer I got to her.

Then the moment finally came: I was THERE, the width of a high school cafeteria-style table across from Claudia Schiffer. Imagine all the love and care and feeding and education and attention it took to make ME. The countless hours of effort of hundreds, perhaps THOUSANDS of people, from doctors and teachers to cafeteria ladies and Vince at the Pleasant Hill Jiffy Lube. All those people, just for me to look Claudia Schiffer dead in the eye and, for want of anything else better to say, said:

“You’re SOOOO PRETTY. I just wanna die!”

My “one chance” with a supermodel, and I sound like Marcia freakin’ Brady telling Jan about a secret crush. Thankfully, rather than look alarmed, she just kind of grinned, I guess secretly celebrating me officially being the 10,000th man she’d turned into a complete pile of helpless Jell-O.

“OK. But… your name… for the shirt?”

“Oh [sheepishly] Jim. J-I-M.”

She signed “To Jim, Claudia Schiffer” on a Guess? t-shirt, smiled and handed it to me. To my credit, I’d recovered enough to prove my German classes weren’t completely useless by giving her a “Tschüs!” then stepped away before making the situation any worse.

And that’s why I like this song.

Outlook and PST “Corruption”

Microsoft Outlook is still a popular email app, used by companies across the world, and home users like myself.

But it seems like Microsoft 365 editions of Outlook have an annoying habit of complaining that a user’s PST file is corrupt and refusing to start. You’re directed to use the SCANPST tool, which says it fixed the errors… but Outlook soon starts complaining about it being corrupt again. But IS IT really corrupt? Is all your data just… gone?

Maybe… but probably not. One habit I picked up from an old timer somewhere along the way (and that refuses to die) is that you’re supposed to run SCANPST on a PST file repeatedly (sending the backups to the Recycle Bin, just in case), until the tool says “only minor inconsistencies were found in this file”:

Outlook SCANPST window

In my version of SCANPST, the “Repair” button is even greyed out, so I couldn’t even run it if I wanted to. So you don’t run the tool once. You run it 3-4, maybe even 5 times, until you see the screen above.

Anyway, if you’ve run SCANPST several times, and you’re sure your hard drive\SSD isn’t failing (by running chkdksk for example, or getting S.M.A.R.T. warnings, or corrupted files in other apps) then chances are Outlook has just gotten stuck in panic mode and needs help getting out of it:

Shut down Outlook, then open REGEDIT and navigate to

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\16.0\Outlook\PST

You may wish to back up this key for safety. Once that’s done, delete the LastCorruptStore and PromptRepair keys. Open Outlook… and everything should be OK now.

A Neat Firefox for Android Trick

Google Chrome, the desktop web browser, is known for its vast library of extensions, small browser add-ons that fix minor (or major) annoyances. One of the most popular types of extensions are ad blockers. I can’t imagine surfing the Internet without uBlock Origin, and neither should you.

But Google, the company, has long resisted allowing Chrome for Android to use extensions. They claim it would be a support and security nightmare. And maybe they’re not entirely wrong. But without any kind of aggressive ad blocker, using Chrome for Android is just downright painful – pop-ups, pop-unders, video ads, those ads that take up the whole screen that you have to scroll past. I’m just trying to read about my favorite band’s next tour, but Chrome is allowing the site to make my phone look like an epileptic slot machine.

Firefox for Android does support extensions. Sort of. Once upon a time, you could use *any* Firefox extension on mobile, but for the same security and stability reasons as Google, Mozilla blocked most of them. Instead, they whitelisted 16 “official” extensions for Firefox Android. But one of those is uBlock Origin, which means you can get the same high-quality ad blocking on your mobile browser as on your desktop!

But wait… there’s more! Until recently there was an extension called Bypass Firewalls Clean that, as the name suggests, allowed you to bypass the paywalls at hundreds of news sites. Mozilla recently yanked the extension from Mozilla’s extension repository. We don’t know why, although the extension’s author suggests unhappy media companies issued Mozilla DMCA notices on his work, rather than it being a security issue on his part.

The good news? You can still download the extension from the author’s github page. Even better, the author created an oft-updating set of rules that allows uBlock Origin to act exactly like Bypass Paywalls Clean! Although this “trick” works in both desktop and mobile Firefox, it’s especially interesting for mobile in that it essentially gives a bonus extension that wouldn’t have been available ordinarily.

To set it up in either desktop or mobile Firefox, just open uBlock’s settings, go to “Filter Lists” and scroll down to “Import”. Paste the following URL into the box that opens:

https://gitlab.com/magnolia1234/bypass-paywalls-clean-filters/-/raw/main/bpc-paywall-filter.txt

So now you have uBlock AND Bypass Paywalls Clean on your mobile browser!

There are a lot of other great features of Firefox for Android to check out – I like how easy it is to send tabs to\from my desktop to\from my phone to\from my laptop, or pull a tab from my desktop session up on the phone.

Sharing Wi-Fi Network Info

Today’s tip is a simple one, but one that I don’t think a lot of people know about.

If you have guests and want to share your Wi-Fi info with them, but it’s difficult for some reason – maybe you have a long or complex password, or maybe the person you want to share with is hard of hearing, or maybe they just got a new phone and don’t know how to add a Wi-Fi network, whatever – there’s an easier way. You need an Android phone on your end, but their phone can be Android or iOS:

Make sure your phone is connected to the Wi-Fi network you want to share and also that your screen is set to maximum brightness. Also have your guest unlock their phone and have their camera open and ready.

Open the Wi-Fi applet on your phone and tap the “Settings” (gear) icon near the top of the screen:

Sharing Wi-Fi 01

Click “Share”:

Sharing Wi-Fi 02

A QR code will now appear. Have your guest point their phone (camera) at the code. They will see a pop-up  asking if they want to join your Wi-Fi network (the exact wording differs from Android and iOS). Tap “Yes” or “OK”:

They should then be instantly connected to your network, no need to type the password manually. However, if it doesn’t work for some reason, the password will be shown under the QR code. This is also a good way to find a forgotten Wi-Fi password. And don’t forget to turn your screen’s brightness down to a reasonable level when done!

EDIT: To anticipate your next question, YES, you can print a screencap of that QR code and frame it, or tape it to a cabinet., or whatever.

My Top Albums Of 2022

2022 was an amazing year for music! I have a gigantic list of great albums that came out this year… and I also had one of the best years ever for concerts, seeing Yumi Zouma and Magdalena Bay in Atlanta, Beach House and Alvvays in Asheville, and Purity Ring and Cannons here in Charlotte! Wow!

Also, my apologies for not getting this out sooner. I wanted to publish it in early December, but life kept interfering (as did the list itself, more on that later). So I planned to get it out the week between Christmas and New Year’s, but one of my clients had a serious, LEVEL-1 DISASTER I had to address. I love billable hours, but didn’t have the “relaxing week of nothing” I was hoping for.

So anyway, below are my ten favorite albums of 2022. The list comes from my Last.fm stats generally; I reserve the right to tinker with the specific order. After that are the honorable mentions, followed by the “Song of the Year”, “Live Song of the Year” and the raw data from Last.fm.

My Top Albums of 2022

10) Lovers Lake – Lovers Lake – It seems like every year I stumble upon a new artist for which there is little to no information. Lovers Lake is that band for 2022. Their Last.fm page just says “if you know anything about this band, add to the wiki!”. Spotify’s bio only lists their socials. I haven’t looked through every post on their Facebook, Insta and Twitter pages, but as yet I haven’t learned anything about them. Where are they from? How many are they? Who knows? But their self-titled debut album is pretty good! It’s heavily influenced by vaporwave, but it’s a well-rounded album with actual instruments – real guitars and basses! There’s lots to love here, if only we knew more about them!

9) Kid Moxie – Better Than Electric – It seems like the #9 spot on my lists is reserved for acts “showing up out of nowhere” every year. And just as Munya’s Voyage to Mars surprised me in 2021, so too did Kid Moxie’s Better Than Electric in 2022. This is a surprisingly solid album, although for some reason it doesn’t include her (pretty awesome) cover of “Creep”.

Continue reading “My Top Albums Of 2022”

Firefox: Clearing “Recent Locations” in Bookmarks

Another day, another Firefox tip!

I’ve been using Firefox for years, and I’ve had one minor (but annoying) problem for a long time now: when you go to save a bookmark, there’s a handy list of previously used folders. That way you can quickly choose a folder to save the bookmark, rather than click through the entire folder hierarchy.

Firefox Bookmarks
Problem is, this list stopped updating about 5 years ago.  The issue followed me through several versions of Firefox, on both desktop and laptop. I could save a hundred bookmarks in some other folder, but this list of recent folders has looked exactly as shown above since 2016 or 2017. And it was super annoying, since I mostly only use bookmarks as a session-saving type system these days. I save each Firefox window in a folder called “Sessions”… which I always had to manually click to, since the folders shown above never updated.

But yes, there is a way to fix this:

1) Open a new tab in Firefox and enter “about: config” (without quotes) into the address bar. Click “Accept the Risk and Continue” when prompted.

2) Type (or paste) “devtools.chrome.enabled” into the search box, and when it appears, double-click it to change the value from FALSE to TRUE. Close the tab when done.

3) Click the hamburger menu in the upper-right of the window and click More Tools > Browser Console. A small window with a bunch of techo-gobbledygook will open:

Browser Console

4) Type (or paste) the following at the cursor on the bottom of this window:

await PlacesUtils.metadata.set(PlacesUIUtils.LAST_USED_FOLDERS_META_KEY,[]);

5) Restart Firefox. When you try to bookmark a page, the previous locations should now be empty, and will refill over time as you save to various folders.