Current Listens: Needle Drop

Recent heavy rotation plus occasional deep cuts

Tomorrow begins a new section on this website. It’s to be called Current Listens, and that’s what it’s about. To a degree, it’s an answer to a frequent question I receive: “What have you been listening to lately?” It may prove to be an experiment, and it may prove to last long-term. It’s going to be a weekly collection of recommended listening. The list may be long some weeks, and short other weeks. The descriptions will be concise, or as concise as I can be. I don’t, personally, enjoy posting without context. That’s just me. Below is some background on the idea:

I try to write about a track each weekday on That’s what the site’s Downstream section is about (though lately it’s been, entirely uncharacteristically, full of modified recordings, in the form of my own Buddha Machine Variations). There’s far more music, however, that I’m interested in than I can write about in that focused context. I receive hundreds of email requests most weekdays (from musicians, record labels, publicists) to listen, and I “discover” lots in my own listening and exploring.

This next point is worth its own paragraph for emphasis: Most of what I write about is music I come upon, not music that is sent to me. That isn’t because I necessarily trust my explorations more than my inbox. It’s just that exploring the internet is more interesting than exploring my inbox. (Also more interesting than email: visiting record stores, going to concerts, having conversations.)

It’s been suggested to me on several occasions that I address this perceived burden (an embarrassment of riches, to be clear) by just re-posting to lots of the inbound music, and to let readers sort it out. I feel, though, that would merely shift the burden. The point of publishing, which I started back in 1996, is for it to be mine, to have an editorial point of view, to present things from my perspective. (Even as I’ve experimented with having guest contributors, that remains the case.) More importantly, the “embarrassment of riches” (of being surrounded by vast amounts of music) mentioned above is no longer solely the experience of the music critic. Thanks to streaming services, everyone has too much to listen to; even if their email inboxes don’t overflow with requests, their more broadly defined inboxes do.

It’s also been suggested to me I get back to putting together playlists on streaming services. I’ve given this a go on SoundCloud, Spotify, and Google Play Music in the past. I enjoyed it to a degree, but the absence of context, of producing liner notes, made it less interesting than it could be (again, for me). I did two episodes of a podcast, which was a lot of fun, but also a sizable amount of work. I may get back to it, but blogging is where all this Disquiet activity began. It’s worked, and it still works.

Which is where this new Current Listens section comes in. Current Listens is a listening diary, of a sorts. It’ll collect recent-favorite music I haven’t (or at least haven’t yet) done a longer weekday entry on. Much of this music is available on a variety of formats and platforms, not just whichever one I happen to utilize for embedding purposes. Current Listens will kick off with three categories:

New: Recent(ish) arrivals and pre-releases

Repeat: Favorites mentioned previously

Archival: Old(er(ish)) records on my mind

Check it out tomorrow. Thanks. And in the interest of conversation, if there’s something you’re enjoying lately, mention it in the comments below. Just please don’t use the comments to promote your own work. This isn’t the right venue.

This Week in Sound (Update)

The best tips in life are free.

I got another issue of the This Week in Sound email newsletter out last night. Topics included:

▰ hearing tiny earthquakes
▰ “anti-road rage” electric car sounds
▰ machine listening of “keyword spotting”
▰ sonification skepticism
▰ TikTok as musical tool
▰ + more

You can subscribe, for free, at

Folks ask about a paid version. I don’t think, at the moment, I’d do that. Substack’s minimum fee for subscribers is $5/month, I believe, which is more than I’d expect someone to pay. I may add a “tip jar” at some point. The main tips I’d appreciate, though, are examples of sound you come across, especially in specialized fields where sound may not normally be a topic of conversation.

Offline(ish) Weekends

And plans

Hello from my Starship Earth cabin. Hope you’re secure in yours. Ship-wide communication was fun last weekend, but I’m taking this weekend off social media. This has been my mode for a long time, and while I appreciated being connected last weekend to friends as the tide in the current global scenario continued to shift, I’m going back into weekend offline(ish) mode again.

Suggested activities:

☐ Start a sound journal.
☐ Re-read a fave book just for its sound.
☐ Watch a movie silent with a fave album.