Top 10 Albums 2017

It’s that time of year again where I review my top 10 albums of the year, and try and come up with a top 10.

This year has been rich with music for me, according to Spotify I have listened to over 50,000 minutes of music and 2700 artists – and some of my old favourites have made their way into the top 5. The data looks like this:

My top ten albums is a more subjective list, and I’ve tried to put them in some sort of order.

  1. Meursault / I will kill again – They describe themselves as ‘epic lo-fi’, I’ll say that this was one of the interesting listens I had in 2017.  At times challenging and funny the stand out track for me was Klopfgeist.  I saw them live in London in July, and I’m happy to report that the live experience is as good as the recorded.
  2. Tricky / Ununiform – it’s always an event when Tricky releases something new, and this was no exception.  With the usual dark and layered vocals, interesting collaborations and multicultural references, ununiform stands amongst his best. Stand out track – Bangboogie with the Kazakh rapper, Scriptonite.
  3. Arcade Fire / Everything Now – I really wasn’t sure at first, but this soon fell into regular rotation.  Billed as their ‘disco’ album, it has some standout tunes. Especially ‘Put your Money on Me’, with its pure pop Abba-esque climax
  4. Cigarettes after Sex / Cigarettes after Sex – From El Paso, Texas this four-piece crept onto my radar gently in the summer, on the strength of a couple of singles, I booked tickets to see them live at the Roundhouse in November. I’ve seen this reviewed as a ‘one-note album’, but what a note! Stand out track – sunsetz
  5. Baxter Dury / Prince of Tears – 5th album from the son of Ian Dury, this is a fantastic listen. Lo-fi hop-hop beats and a deadpan, funny, almost spoken delivery.  Standout track – Miami (for the brutal precis of the city)
  6. Four Tet / New Energy – ambient, world-wise electronica from the laptop and circuits of Kieran Hebden. The stand out track 2017 seeped into my consciousness and demanded exploration of the remaining tracks.
  7. Loyle Carner / Yesterdays Gone – I truly hope this is the sound of future London, woke rap with eloquence and sensitivity.  Stand out track – Sun of Jean (featuring Mum) or The Isle of Arran.
  8. Lorde / Melodrama – after a four-year wait, the second album from Lorde was worth the wait, from the precision pop of Green Light to the more epic Liability.
  9. The XX / I see you – ‘That’ sound doesn’t get old, danceable and relaxing at the same time. Stand out track – A violent noise (especially the Four Tet remix)
  10. Mura Masa / Mura Masa – the Sound of summer for me, ephemeral & poppy. Like an urban calypso.  Loved it.  Stand out track – Love$ick featuring A$AP Rocky.

Finally, some honourable mentions:

  • Marlon Williams / Marlon Williams – released in 2015, but only making my radar this year.
  • SZA / CTRL – late entry, but an amazing sound.
  • Kendrick Lamar /Damn – golden boy, unique talent.

Migrating to Evernote #1

For many years I had been a OneNote devotee, with a work culture that encouraged using the free software, there really wasn’t an alternative for an electronic note-taking solution.

However, some recent problems with synchronisation and organisation meant I wanted to find another solution.  I’ve recently made the move to Evernote, and I thought I’d capture some tips for anyone planning the same move.

Why Evernote?

I mainly use paper for note taking, removing the barrier between me and anyone I am meeting with and allowing me some creativity.  I enjoy the act of writing something down, I use Moleskine books and disposable fountain pens.

However, over the years I have discovered that having a second brain is also really useful, so I have become dependent on electronic notes as a kind of wiki to back up my brain.

I spent a lot of time evaluating my needs and my ecosystem and came to the conclusion that Evernote had the best solution for me, combined with reliable syncing across PC and IOS devices, and a layout and workflow that seemed to fit my way of thinking.

Moving from OneNote to Evernote

Once I had committed, this was actually the easiest step. Evernote has the ability to Import from OneNote books – open your Evernote client and select FILE, IMPORT, MICROSOFT ONENOTE:

The wizard will hand hold you through the process.

Using that function I was quickly able to pull in my multiple Notebooks from OneNote.  The whole process took less and ten minutes, leaving me with all of my OneNote items listed in a single notebook, but with the taxonomy I had built in OneNote applied as Evernote tags.

In my next post, I’ll talk about how I have defined my organisation in Evernote, and how I use notebooks and tags.  If you want to try Evernote for yourself – please use this link.


Brain Diet – November 2017

Inspired by Kottke – here’s a snapshot of the media that is currently feeding me:

  • Watch: Tin Star (Sky Atlantic) – Binge watched this great series about a British cop played excellently by Tim Roth, who moves with his family to Canada for a quiet life. When tragedy strikes, his life takes an all too familiar path.
  • Listen: Charlotte Gainsbourg / Rest (Spotify) – Fantastically lush electronica to support some great songwriting and vocal performances. Beautiful album.
  • Read : Satya Nadella / Hit Refresh (Amazon) – Easy reading from the CEO of Microsoft, part biography, part business book, part manifesto on the future of technology.
  • Watch: Mindhunter (Netflix) – Another binge watch, set in the early 70’s as the FBI begin research into serial killers.  Features some great scenes as the team interview some of the most notorious names from the American crime psyche.
  • Listen: Baxter Dury / Prince of Tears (Spotify) – Louche beats, laid back spoken vocals and a guest appearance from Justin Williamson (Sleaford Mods) make this a must listen album for the end of 2017.
  • Read: Working Out Loud / John Stepper (Amazon) – Excellent book with some easy to read, practical advice on building better relationships that can benefit your career or any other area of life.  Supported by an interesting blog here.
  • Watch: The Deuce (Sky Atlantic) – Set around Time Square / 42nd Street in New York (known locally as The Deuce), this is a great series focusing on the prostitutes and pimps that inhabit the area in the early seventies.  Starring James Franco in two roles, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as a prostitute turned pornographer.


I came across the beautiful Japanese concept of ‘nemawashi’ yesterday, which is an informal process of laying foundations for a proposed change or project.  I guess we would call it ‘socialising’, or consider it gathering feedback to reduce the friction of the proposal.

The word ‘nemawashi’ comes from gardening and literally translates as ‘going around the roots’. A gardener would gently dig around the roots of a tree over an extended period of time to prepare the tree for a move.

Moving a tree is hard. Take your time.

Sometimes, landing an idea or a change is difficult and involves laying groundwork in a deliberate way so as not to introduce shock into a process.

Nemawashi.  Playing the long game.




I have spent this week feeling overwhelmed.  Too many inputs, too many ideas, too many ‘things’.   I have exhausted all of my tactics, switching off distractions, knuckling down, caffeinating and relaxing.

There are too many open loops. 

Then I came across this quote:

Life punishes the vague wish and rewards the specific ask. – Tim Ferriss

I realise that my situation is of my own doing. If I increase the specificity of my ask, close down some of the questions, make the decisions for myself – then the loop gets closed.    If I think specifically about email, rule #4 of the Email Charter is in play: Quash Open-Ended Questions.

I feel less overwhelmed now.  It is in my hands.



Brain Diet – October 2017

Inspired by Kottke – here’s a snapshot of the media that is currently feeding me:

  • Four Tet / New Energy (Listen : Spotify) – eclectic, worldly electronica that is simultaneously soothing and twitchy.  Highlight, Two Thousand and Seventeen.
  • Halt and Catch Fire (Watch : Amazon TV) – I loved series 1 and 2,  am now catching up on Series 3 where the characters are busy inventing the internet.  Possibly the best thing on TV since Mad Men.
  • Olivia Belli / Max Richter: Piano Works (Listen : Spotify) – simple piano versions of Richters works. Minimal, beautiful and spacious music. 
  • Jeanne Bliss / Chief Customer Officer 2.0 (Read : Amazon) – great read with some excellent insights into the customer office role.  Five solid principles to bring the customer life in your organisation.
  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross / The Vietnam War Original Score (Listen : Spotify) – I haven’t seen this PBS series yet (on the BBC iplayer), but if the OST is anything to go by, it should be excellent. 
  • Electric Dreams (Watch : Channel 4 TV) – Ten part series of short films inspired by Philip K Dick, great cast and some excellent screenwriting make this a good weekly watch.
  • Matt Watkinson / The Grid (Read: Amazon) – interesting approach to thinking about how a business runs, the moving parts that impact each other and help you make decisions.
  • Adam Buxton Podcast (Listen : Web) – always a funny, and interesting listen. Recent highlight is the Johnny Marr edition with great insights into the creative process.



Simple productivity

Don’t spend too much time on productivity tools and systems. Just follow this simple rule.

Find the most important thing. Do it now. Repeat.

It is really very simple. Stop making it complicated.


Walk the journey

It’s not difficult. Stop making it look difficult. You are kidding no-one.

Delivering good customer experience is not hard. Just put yourself in the shoes of your customer, and live the experience they get.

Examine every step. Forensically. Do it multiple times, and make mistakes on purpose. By experiencing your customers’ journey, you can see the challenges and make the adjustments you need to drive improvements.

When you’ve done that, do it again. It’s not difficult. Keep on doing it.

Rinse and repeat until you have ironed out all the creases. Until you have cracked the code. Until you have found ways to make your customer happy.

Not just satisfied. Happy. 

You can invest in all the tools and studies that you want, but nothing will replace walking in your shoes of your customer.

Once you have done that.  You can move to the next step.


The future is here

When I was a teenager, the future was the Babel Fish. A fictitious fish that could be inserted into an ear to deliver translation from any (galactic) language.

Later, with typical geek humour, we had which was clever but didn’t offer real time translation like its fishy namesake.

Then Skype did some cool stuff with translation, which felt like the future.  Until today, when Google launched the Pixel earbuds, which translate 20 languages in real-time.  And they’re wireless too.

It’s not quite a fish you stick in your ear, but this is truly the future. I can’t wait to see how these work, and whats next.



On Sadness

This weeks news has been relentlessly heavy going.  The sadness in Las Vegas, Puerto Rico and Spain is almost unfathomable.   In amongst the news stories, I found this quote:

You could not have been born at a better time than the present, when we have lost everything – Simone Weil

Sometimes it is hard to see through the smoke, but there has to be an opportunity in the situation.  A chance to show our compassion, and our love. A chance to show that we can change things and reform. A chance to make the pendulum swing the other way.

The thing about pendulums we too easily forget in the darkest hours; they swing back. Right now, one is quietly supercharging its return – Alain de Botton

I hope that we can supercharge each other with compassion and common sense.