My Top Albums Of 2015

If 2014 was “something of a down year for music”, then 2015 was even worse. I listened to as much music as ever… but most of it was from years past. My second most played album of the year was CHVRCHES’ The Bones of What You Believe, from 2013, while other albums from 2013, 2006, 2012 and 1983 rounded out my overall top 10. In recent years, I could easily come with at least 15-18 candidates for this list; this year I struggled – mightily – to come up with 10. I even briefly considered making this a “Top 8” or “Top 6” instead of the traditional 10!

Below are my Top 10 albums of the year. After that you’ll find selected stats from my page.

My Top Albums of 2015

10) New Order – Music Complete – I didn’t love this album, but you know what? It didn’t totally suck, which is more than I can say for New Order’s last two (or three) albums. I think the band struck a pretty good balance on this album: sounding like the old New Order I loved so much, but not sounding like a retread of all those old songs from the 80s. They didn’t do anything wild and crazy or unconventional on this album… but that’s OK. It’s good enough as it is.

9) Priest – Priest – Priest is a synthpoppy band from Orlando made up of singer Madeline Priest and producer David Kazyk. Priest herself shows promise, and could be one of the up-and-comers on the synthpop scene. However, while this album shows flashes of brilliance, it also shows signs of being overproduced and worryingly mainstream. It’s one of those discs that starts off great, and you want to hear more. But by track 5 you’re like “OK, I’ve heard this. Time for something else”. Still, it’s worth a listen… and it’s worth keeping your eye on Madeline in the future.

8) (tie) Sarah Cracknell – Red Kite and Pete Wiggs – How We Used to Live – It’s a Saint Etienne two-fer! Just the other day I realized I’ve been listening to Saint Etienne for almost 18 years… which made me feel really old. Sure, there are a lot of bands I’ve listened to longer – I’ve been a Duran Duran fan for 33 years, for example. But I only discovered Saint Etienne after I graduated from college… which somehow seems so much longer ago than liking Duran Duran since elementary school. So yeah, the band took a hiatus this year, allowing lead singer Sarah Cracknell to release her third solo album – Red Kite – and fellow bandmate Pete Wiggs to release How We Used to Live, the soundtrack to Paul Kelly’s 2013 film of the same name, which celebrates life in London from 1950 to 1980. Like most of Cracknell’s solo efforts, the album starts out well, and kind of ends with a whimper. Plus, there’s something that’s just so… girly about her solo stuff. I don’t know how else to describe it, but that’s how I feel. I love Sarah and her music, but bandmates Pete Wiggs and Bob Stanley give the band’s music an “edge” (or maybe an “oomph”) Sarah’s music lacks on its own. As for Wiggs’ soundtrack, it’s interesting stuff. It’s not something you’d throw on for the hell of it – I can’t picture myself doing household chores to it – but it’s great “thinking music”. Tune in, space out.

7) Marsheaux – A Broken Frame – If you’ve spent any time at all following my music tastes, you’ll know that this Greek synthpop duo are one of my faves from the past couple years. Even though I didn’t listen to them nearly as much this year as I have in the recent past, they still hold a very comfortable lead in my “most scrobbled band ever” stats on If the title of their newest album sounds familiar, it should: the girls decided to cover Depeche Mode’s 1982 classic… like, the whole thing. And it’s good. Quite good, actually. The girls pay a beautiful homage to one of their most influential artists, yet make it their own at the same time. The only reason it doesn’t rank higher this year is because it’s a cover. As nice as this album is, I want original content from these ladies, and maybe we’ll get that in 2016.

6) Beach House – Depression Cherry – I like Beach House as much as the next guy, and I think this is a solid effort. But lemme toss this out at ya: my girl just bought a new (used) car that came with a free trial of SiriusXM. I really like the SiriusXMU station, but one day I noticed that I really couldn’t tell one Beach House song from another. I’m only partially joking. So listen to this album; it’s good stuff, but it all runs together after a while.

5) Pale Blue – The Past We Leave Behind – Pale Blue is mainly Mike Simonetti, a man who started his own record label in 1993. While the label initially focused on hardcore punk stuff, it later expanded to include many other genres. He became interested in synthpop, and formed a label called Italians Do It Better with Johnny Jewel, producer for Chromatics and Glass Candy. Pale Blue is Simonetti, with help from vocalists Elizabeth Wight and Jana Hunter. The Past We Leave Behind kind of tells you everything you need to know about the album: it’s bittersweet, airy, lonely, and downright elegiac at times. It’s not life changing, but then, one gets the notion that’s it’s not supposed to be. I’m not entirely sure it works as a full album, though. I get the feeling that, had Simonetti pared it down to six tracks and called it an EP, it’d be in the running for record of the year. But this disc never wears out its welcome… it just hangs around a bit too long for comfort. I do, however, look forward to a follow-up. Should the stars align just right, these folks could be magic.

4) Best Coast – California Nights – Bethany Cosentino finally got her hit! Best Coast have been rocking their special blend of jangle pop and surf rock since 2009, and while they were instantly popular with the in-crowd, they seemed to just miss hitting the mainstream. Until now. As soon as this album came out, the band started appearing everywhere, especially the late night talk show circuit. And why not? The album is full of fun fuzz rock, running the gambit from “stuff you can work out to” to “slow and wistful”. The problem with this band, however, is what Pitchfork called “diminishing returns”. Bethany and Bobb appear to be very nice people, but one wonders how many more albums they can crank out in their current configuration. You ever listen to Bob Dylan or Pink Floyd and wonder what the message behind the lyrics is, as if they were speaking almost totally in allegories? Yeah, that’s not a problem with Best Coast. Cosentino is as straightforward a lyricist as it gets, and she often makes Katy Perry’s lyrics seem like Keats in comparison. And when I wonder if their music alone can carry them, I’m inclined to say no. Still, California Nights just might be the high water mark of their careers.

3)  Gliss – Pale Reflections – It’s hard to pin down this Danish-American band. Their early albums were a lot of damn noise. But then they went and made Langstrom Dans in 2013, an album I really, really loved. It wasn’t quite as heavy, repetitive and “stuck in the mud” as most shoegaze stuff. It was almost like some kind soul took the best parts of shoegaze, knocked the cruft off the rest and made it much more accessible. Pale Reflections seems to be a compromise between the band’s early sound and that of Langstrom Dans. It’s not nearly as… “dreamy” as Dans, but it’s not the “in your face” sound from their earlier discs, either. At times, you’d almost think you were listening to their fellow countrymen, The Raveonettes… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

2) CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye – Confession time: I didn’t like CHVRCHES the first few times I heard them. The rest of the synthpop subreddit went nuts over them, but I just didn’t get it. Until one day, when I did get it. And CHVRCHES have been my most listened-to band since. I’ve played the hell out of The Bones of What You Believe, and spent much of the summer hyperventilating over their next album. And then it came and… it was pretty good. The tracks I love on this disc, I really love. But the ones I don’t like so much.. I really don’t like. So while I can’t seem to tire of “Leave a Trace” or “Clearest Blue”, I hit always hit the skip button on “High Enough to Carry You Over”, which is something I didn’t do with any of the tracks on Bones. According to, I played tracks off Every Open Eye 114 times since September, but that’s mostly just 3 or 4 songs. I don’t think CHVRCHES are in some kind of sophomore slump… I guess I just expected too much. Hype can do that.

1) Purity Ring – Another Eternity – Holy shit… where have you guys been all my life? Purity Ring are Canadians Megan James and Corin Roddick, and their music is… sublime. Beautiful. Transcendent. It’s every damn thing you could want in electronic music. I’ve traditionally been one of those people who has to listen to an album 2-3 times before I like it, but Another Eternity sucked me in from the very first instant, and never let go. Much like the premiere of Mad Men, I felt inexplicably drawn into this universe, only in this case it’s a world of shimmering synthesizers and drum machines. It was only after the first 2-3 listens that I realized that the band are on 4AD Records, and that explained it all. If Purity Ring aren’t “Cocteau Twins you can dance to”, they are certainly the spiritual successors of the name, and they are worthy of such praise. And unlike Every Open Eye, every damn track on Another Eternity is good. I certainly have my favorites, but I won’t skip over any tracks on this disc, and often just listen all the way through… one of the only discs released this year I do that with. As a bonus, their live show is amazing: James makes all the costumes herself, and both she and Roddick play custom-built synths, including one that looks a bit like a minimalist Christmas tree that lights up when struck with a drumstick. Even if it wasn’t the only concert I’ve been to this year, it would certainly be the best.

Raw Data from

All playcounts are in parenthesis

Most Played Artists

1) CHVRCHES (352)
2) Purity Ring (286)
3) Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark (148)
4) Marsheaux (119)
5) Postiljonen (106)
6) 10,000 Maniacs (105)
7) The Sounds (102)
8) Gliss (87)
9) The Raveonettes (78)
10) Saint Etienne (73)

Most Played Albums Overall

1) Purity Ring – Another Eternity (2015) (230)
2) CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe (2013) (131)
3) CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye (2015) (114)
4) Postiljonen – Skyer (2013) (98)
5) Pale Blue – The Past We Leave Behind (2015) (65)
6) The Sounds – Dying to Say This to You (2006) (64)
7) Best Coast – California Nights (2015) (62)
8) Purity Ring – Shrines (2012) (55)
9) Sarah Cracknell – Red Kite (2015) (47)
10) Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark – Dazzle Ships (1983) (46)

Most Played 2015 Albums

1) Purity Ring – Another Eternity (230)
2) CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye (114)
3) Pale Blue – The Past We Leave Behind (65)
4) Best Coast – California Nights (62)
5) Sarah Cracknell – Red Kite (47)
6) Gliss – Pale Reflections (43)
7) Pete Wiggs – Saint Etienne Presents: How We Used to Live (37)
8) Soko – My Dreams Dictate My Reality (28)
9) Say Lou Lou – Lucid Dreaming (22)
10) Marsheaux – A Broken Frame (21)

Most Played Tracks

1) Purity Ring — “Begin Again” (75)
2) Postiljonen — “We Raise Our Hearts” (63)
3) CHVRCHES — “Leave a Trace” (49)
4) The Sounds — “Painted By Numbers” (46)
5) CHVRCHES — “Get Away” (42)
6) Owl Eyes — “Nightswim” (41)
7) CHVRCHES — “Recover” (37)
8) Purity Ring — “Bodyache” (36)
9) The Sounds — “Living in America” (33)
10) CHVRCHES — “Clearest Blue” (32)

NIFTY GADGET: International Power Strip

Almost all gadgets these days are auto-switching, which means that the electric guts of most laptops, tablets, mobile phones and media players can automatically switch to a different electrical system. If you were going to Europe, for instance, you wouldn’t need to bring a voltage converter, just some plug adapters like these:

US plug adapters
pic via Amazon

When you get to Europe, you just insert your American plug into one end of the adapter, then plug the adapter into the wall outlet, and you’re done: your device handles the rest.

You know what would be even better, though? How about a European power strip with universal plugs!

universal power strip
pic via Amazon

The business-end of this power strip is an EU plug, but the outlets on the strip can accept several types of plug: 2 or 3 prong US plugs, the UK and Ireland’s comically large plugs, native European plugs and more. It also has two USB ports providing a total of 2.1 amps.

I bought one of these for a recent European vacation, and couldn’t be happier with it. Our hotel room in Brussels only had one available outlet, so the missus and I were able to charge our many devices without a problem. We rented a private apartment in Paris, and the bedroom outlets were in inconvenient locations; I put the power strip in the living room, and the four of us took turns charging things off it. Very handy indeed:

The power strip in action

Here’s a cellphone pic of the strip in action, charging (from left to right), an Anker 5-port USB charger, a European cell phone with native charger, my Asus tablet, and my iPod Nano via USB.

The iFer power strip is available from Amazon for around $15.99.

Resetting a HomeGroup

Networking has never been Windows’ strong suit, especially for home users. With Windows 7, Microsoft introduced a new feature called HomeGroup that should (in theory) make home networking easier. You just go through a dead-simple wizard and are given a password. Go to other Windows 7 (or later) computers on your network and go to Control Panel > Network and Sharing Center > Homegroup > Join Homegroup and enter the password. Done… at least in theory.

But the HomeGroup applet doesn’t have a simple “delete this network” or “reset this network” option. If you create a HomeGroup on one computer and that computer later goes away – via upgrade or hard drive crash or the standard wipe and reinstall – you’ll still see the ghost of the old computer on your network: if you try to create a new HomeGroup, you’ll get the following message: “[user] has already created a HomeGroup on [old computer]. Do you want to join it?” Of course, the old computer is gone, so you can’t join the HomeGroup. If you go to a different computer still connected to the HomeGroup, you can only leave the HomeGroup, not create a new one or get rid of the old one.

So how you can you get rid of an old HomeGroup? It’s simple, if not the first thing you might think of: fully shut down all the computers you want in the HomeGroup (sleeping or hibernating them won’t cut it; you have to shut them down fully). Then power on the computer you want to use to create the new HomeGroup. With all the other computers off, you should be presented with the “Create HomeGroup” option:


Windows 10: The Bug in Windows Photo Viewer

Windows 10 comes with a slick new image manager with the imaginative name “Photos”. It’s nice and all, but it lacks some of the features the XP-era Windows Photo Viewer had. For one, Photos doesn’t display the file name in the title bar; you have to click multiple times to see the filename. This is frustrating if you’re working with pictures that are very similar, say multiple takes of the same pose, or pictures that look very similar as thumbnails, like screen caps.

While XP’s Windows Photo Viewer is included in Windows 10, and can easily be made the default imaging app, the version of WPV that ships with Windows 10 has a super-annoying bug: if you click the right or left arrows to scroll through pictures, images are always displayed in alphabetical order, regardless of how you have the folder sorted. In previous versions of Windows, you could sort the pictures by size or date, and when you scrolled through the pictures in WPV, the app would respect that sort order.

Thankfully, it’s an easy fix. Just copy the following text into your favorite text editor, like Notepad, and save it as a .REG file. Then right-click the file, choose “Merge” and click “Allow” or “OK” to the warning that appears:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00






If you’d prefer to just download the reg file, click here.

Slow Chrome?

Ever since Chrome updated to version 46.0.2490.71, it’s been slow as molasses on my Windows 10 computer. Last night was the last straw: at one point, pages were taking anywhere from 2-6 minutes to load! And lest you think there’s something wrong with my internet connection, Edge and Firefox work just fine, thank you very much. Another sign that something’s wrong with Chrome specifically: it’s also taking the browser an extraordinarily long time to open local resources, like the bookmark manager and settings page. You know something’s wrong when you click “Settings” and it takes 2 minutes to open!

I don’t know exactly what’s happening here, but I have found a way to fix it: go to Settings, click “Show advanced settings”, uncheck the “Use hardware acceleration when available” box, then restart Chrome. You should find Chrome is much faster than before, and pages will no longer take minutes to load.

Adding More Storage to the LG Tribute

As I said in this post, I own a cheap Android phone. If you don’t want to go back and read that article, I’ll give you the short version: I owned three Android phones – each costing between $179 and $299 – and all of them were junk: they locked up, they spontaneously rebooted and stock apps crashed. So I bought a $79 LG Tribute phone just to “tide me over” until I could switch carriers, or until my carrier got some new phones. But I ended up really liking the Tribute: it does everything I want an Android phone to do, and it doesn’t crash or reboot or give me much trouble at all.

In fact, the only two things I don’t like about the Tribute are the subpar camera and lack of storage space. I can’t do much about the camera, but I can fix the storage space issue. Here’s how. To add space to your Tribute, you’ll need a large (16 or 32GB) micro SD card, a few free apps, and about 30-45 minutes.

But first, a warning: THIS PROCEDURE WILL ROOT YOUR PHONE. Although I have done the following procedure on my phone 4 times now without incident, there is a NON-ZERO chance that you could screw up something that will render your phone unusable. Please read the instructions below fully before trying this on your own phone. If you don’t understand something, please read the instructions until you do, or leave a comment so I can help. Having said all that, I am not responsible for any damage to your device!

What we’re going to do is root the phone, then install an app which divides your SD card into a FAT32 (Windows) partition and an ext4 (Linux) partition. We’ll then install an app which moves your apps to the ext4 partition on the SD card and creates symbolic links (symlinks) on the phone’s storage, which “tricks” Android into thinking the apps are installed there instead of the SD card.


If you already have a 16GB card in your phone, go to Settings > Storage > SD card and see how much free space you have. What we’re going to do is shrink the existing partition by half. If you’ll still have plenty of free space left over after shrinking the partition, then you’re good to go. But if going from 16GB to 8GB will only leave you with a few hundred megabytes free, you’re going to need to either move some stuff off the card or upgrade to a 32GB card.

Either way, you need to back up the contents of the card just as a precaution. You can do that by attaching the phone to your computer and copying the files, or turning the phone off, pulling the SD card and putting it in an adapter and card reader. Whichever way works for you.


The first thing you want to do is enable USB Debugging. Click on Settings > About Phone > Software Information and tap “Build Number” seven times. You will know this is working because the phone will say something like “Tap 3 more times to get Developer Options”. Once you tap the full seven times, go back to the main Settings screen. You’ll now see an “Developer Options” menu. Click that, then click “OK” to the warning message. Lastly, scroll down and tap “USB debugging” to enable it.

Next, go back to the main Settings screen and tap “Security”. Scroll down to the “Unknown Sources” option and tap it to enable it. Click “OK” to any warning messages you may get.


Using your phone’s web browser to go this page and download the latest version of KingRoot. This is a well-known rooting app, and it’s hosted on XDA, one of the largest Android enthusiast sites. It’s safe and legit, I promise. The download links are near the top, just under the introduction section. Download the file and save it to your phone (click “OK” or “Allow” if you get a “this file may harm your phone” warning).

After downloading, open File Manager and go to your Downloads folder. Tap on


(the file name might vary according to version). Android will ask if you want to install the app. Tap “Yes” or “Allow”.

Once the app is installed, run it. You will see a screen that says “Root access is unavailable” and a big blue “Start Root” button. Tap the button, and a round progress meter will appear. It will probably go very slowly at first, but once it gets to around 24% it will move very rapidly. You should get a “root successful!” message. If so, reboot your phone, if the app asks you to. Also, note that KingRoot might reboot your phone while trying to obtain root. It never has on my phone, but you’ll see an on-screen message that it might need to.


Go to the Play store, search for “Aparted” (web link) and install it. Reboot your phone if the installer asks you to.

Next, go to Settings > Storage > SD card and choose “Unmount SD card” – this step is crucial!

Next, open Aparted and tap “Tools”. check the box for your existing FAT32 partition (this will most likely be “Part. 1: FS: fat32”. Scroll down and choose “Resize” from the drop down box. Drag your finger across the blue partition from right to left to shrink the partition. You want it to be roughly half the size it is now, but don’t worry about getting it exactly half the size: you almost certainly won’t get it exactly half. When you’re ready, tap “Apply”. Aparted will then shrink the existing FAT32 partition to the size you chose.

Next, tap the checkbox for the first available empty space – it will likely say “Part 2: FS: empty Size: 7989MB” or something similar. You’ll know you’ve chosen the right one when the the empty space to the right of the existing FAT32 partition is highlighted. Once you’re sure you’ve chosen the right one, select “Create” from the drop-down box. You’ll then be presented with a list of file system types. I know ext2 is normally preferred for external storage like this, but I tried it twice and it did not work. I have never had a problem with ext4, so select that, then tape “apply”. When Aparted is done, you should have an 8GB FAT32 partition (for camera pics and external storage for your apps, like downloaded Spotify music) and an 8GB ext4 partition for your apps, Reboot your phone if Aparted asks you to. If not, exit the app, then go to Settings > Storage > SD card and choose “Mount SD card” is allow Android access to the SD card again.


Go to the Play store, search for “Link2SD” (web link) and install it. As always, reboot your phone if the installer asks you to.

Open the app. Click the upside-down pyramid next to “Link2SD” at the top of the screen and choose “User”. Although it’s possible to move almost any app to the SD card, at this time I do not advise you to move system apps, just user apps (apps you have installed on the phone). It possible that moving a core Android app to the SD card could crash the phone, and besides, moving the user apps should free up plenty of space.

After choosing “User”, you should see a list of apps on your phone. Tap one, then scroll down and tap “Link to SD Card”. You should then see a screen that allows you to choose which types of files to move: the application file, the dalvik-cache file, the library file (which may be greyed out if not applicable) and the internal data (which is only available in the paid version of the app). Choose the first two (or three, if library is available) and click “OK”. Link2SD should move the app and create symlinks on your phone. If you get a “cannot find entry point” error, go back to Link2SD’s main screen, click the three lines at the top left and choose “Recreate Mount Scripts”.

If the first move was successful, continue on to other apps. Note that some apps, like Spotify, do not like being moved at all. I tried moving it, and Spotify would take FOREVER to load and eventually hang. So I moved it back to my phone’s main memory. But most apps will work just fine, and if you move enough of them, you’ll end up with tons of free space on your phone. After moving most of my apps, I had room to install the regular Facebook app (not Facebook Lite, as I was using before), Facebook Messenger, MyVegas slots, Firefox, Accuweather, and a lot more!

I also bought Link2SD Plus, my first-ever paid-for Android app. As mentioned, the paid version lets you also move the app’s internal data. This can free up even more space on your phone, but be careful with this. Your phone’s internal storage is much faster than an SD card. For an app like Facebook (which often has 150MB of internal data on my phone), moving the internal data to the SD card can make the app very slow to start, almost to the point of being unusable. You’ll have to experiment with this on your own, as I don’t know which apps you use and how much internal data they have, and what your personal threshold of “takes too long” is. But know that moving the data around isn’t an “all or nothing” proposition: you can always move an app, test it out, then go back to Link2SD and click “Remove Link” to move all of it (or just the internal data) back to the phone if you’d like.

Lastly, note that Link2SD keeps an eye on app updates. If you link an app to the SD card and it later gets an update via Google Play, Link2SD will automatically move it to the SD card for you after the install. It can take anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes for Link2SD to see the change and initiate the move, so don’t download an update to Instagram and immediately open it: wait for a blue SD card icon to appear in the notification area. Once you get the “Link2SD has moved the application ‘Instagram” to the SD card”, the app is safe to use.

SONGS I LOVE: “Painted By Numbers”

Man, it’s been forever since I’ve done one of these, yes?

The Sounds are a Swedish band with a really cool New Wave-ish sound. They’ve got this “Missing Persons meets The Cars” vibe that I really like.

I discovered them thanks to the NBC sitcom Welcome to Sweden. Their song “Living in America” was used as the theme, and during a binge of season 2, the song got stuck in my head. So I went online to find more. I still like that song, but I like this one even more: