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Entries in Music (13)


Favorite Sounds for 2014

AT YEAR END, I'm sharing my favorite sounds — music and podcasts.


I listened to a lot of music this year, while creating The Sketchnote Workbook, here are some of the favorites I came back to again and again:

Ásgeir - In The Silence

In the silenceÁsgeir's In The Silence was suggested by my friend Brian Artka. I pre-ordered the album and once it arrived, I've had it playing at work, in the car, and traveling. It's a blend of folk, rock and ethereal vocals from Icelander Ásgeir. Favorite tracks include King and Cross, Torrent and In Harmony.

RAC - Strangers

414dWmYAtJL SS280RAC's Strangers came through the Song Exploder podcast. I love the 80s vibe. It provides me with an upbeat, energetic working soundtrack. Favorite tracks include Tegan & Sara's Hard to Hold, Matthew Koma's Cheap Sunglasses, and Katie Herzog's We Belong.

Reporter - Guggenheim

41kW7CvMNML SS280This album from Reporter turned out to be just what I needed to get deep focus while writing the manuscript for The Sketchnote Workbook. Repeated use created a habit: when this album started, I was instantly in a writing mindset. Favorite tracks include Bilbao and Berlin.


I've been a commuter since starting a contract design project in June, so I have more time for podcasts. Here are a few that stood out this year:

Song Exploder

Song ExploderMy pal Kris Hunt recommended Song Exploder with Hrishikesh Hirway. This is a podcast that deconstructs songs slice by slice using audio and interviews with the artists that create the track. Favorites include the Jeff Beal's House of Cards Theme and RAC's Let Go.

Unmistakable Creative

Unmistakable CreativeA recent addition to my listening list is Unmistakable Creative with Srinivas Rao. He has a great interview style that brings out the best discussions in his guests and make for good long-form listening. Favorites include Sarah Peck, Cal Newport, Jeff Spencer, and Joe Loya.

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History

Hardcore HistoryI hesitate to call Dan Carlin's Hardcore History a podcast, as his shortest episodes start at about 2 hours. This is effectively an audiobook feed on history, disguised as a mild-mannered podcast. It will get you thinking. Favorites: Wrath of the Khans, Blueprint for Armageddon, and Thor's Angels.

I hope you enjoy these audio discoveries as 2015 unfolds!

- Mike


Rediscovering My 1980s Mixtapes

CUT SIX Mixtape CoverThis morning with a tweet from Luke Dorny I was reminded of the many mixtapes I created in the mid-1980s and early 1990s.

Many of my friends from Milwaukee moved away to college, so I created mixtapes of new wave music for them to listen to on cassette tapes. That's right, cassette tapes.

Making the Mix

I would spend hours listening to Milwaukee's 91.7 FM WMSE, our local college radio station, capturing great music on my cassette deck.

There were no downloads, Pandora, LastFM, iTunes or Amazon MP3 available for creating music mixes. It was a matter of hours of listening, the luck of catching a great tune and plenty of re-taping.

Typically, I would create a master tape on a high quality cassette, making copies for friends from the master.

Of course, being a designer, I would always create a tape cover to complete the package, which was as much fun as capturing and building the music on the tape.

I've been slowly converting my old tapes to MP3s and thought it would be fun to share them. I hope you enjoy these two flashback mixtapes from the mid-eighties!

CUT Mixtape TWO - 1986

Download: 183MB MP3

CUT Mixtape SIX - 1987

Download: 185MB MP3

(Note: CUT SIX starts about 50 seconds into playing)


Twittersourced Earphone Recommendations

earphone-request.pngA few weeks ago, I needed advice on earphones I could wear to bed that were comfortable, portable and reasonably priced.

I was curious to see the response I'd get from Twitter, so I publicly sought my followers' recommendations on Twitter.

Here is the complete collection of @replies and Direct Messages received with recommendations and links:

bernardgomez Been using a pair of Vibe Duos for over a year now. Build quality is good but tough to work out in. Decent iPhone integration. 7.5/10

knight777 waffling between Shure 530s, Westone UM2, Westone 3 - yeah, expensive indeed :( Looking forward to your writeup!

knight777 btw, I went with the Westone 3s.

heygabe JVC Gummies. For $10, You can't go wrong.

jparato Have you tried Skullcandy headphones? I don't own a pair personally, but I've heard they're decent.

danhhoang I go with the apple premium headphones. I use tons of headphones and I think those sound the best. Just pricey. Next is sony MDR-EX71SL

jburdine @rohdesign just picked up iCover earbuds with an online mic to use w/my Touch and Skype for the iPhone

jburdine @rohdesign I'm really happy with my $25 Sony earbuds.

topmuffin @rohdesign NuForce NE-7M Stereo Earphones got these 3 mnths ago & they beat every headset I've ownd. Not sure about sleeping w/ them. #iphone #headsets

toddclausen @rohdesign don't really like sound quality of earbuds, but fav is Shure SE115s with foam earpieces like a hearing protector

bjhess @rohdesign Shure e2c's sound great, but ear buds tire my ears out so I've given up on them.

jabbott @rohdesign I've been really happy with UE 5 EBs for the past couple years. I use them almost daily,

bnyquist @rohdesign - I have had the Bose earbud headphones for nearly 2 years now and love them. Great sound, great fit.. but a little expensive.

schutzsmith @rohdesign i really like the skull candy earbuds. they're cheap too, like $15 and they are hella loud!

cdharrison @rohdesign Skullcandy Smokin Buds are what I currently use. I love em.

andykant @rohdesign I've been using Ultimate Ears 3's for a while and have been very happy with them.

bartka @rohdesign these earbud headphones are excellent: BOSE in-ear Headphones

davidhughes @rohdesign Ultimate Ears Super.Fi 5 Pros - I'd no idea earphones could sound so good!

adny @rohdesign I've not owned or used too many cans $100+, but really like the beyerdynamic DT-770's and sennheiser hd600's, fwiw.

adny @rohdesign best earbuds under $50, v-moda bassfreq - best $50 - $150 etymotic i6, imo. best cans under $100, sennheiser hd 280 pro.

drstout @rohdesign These headphones (Pioneer HDJ-2000) are expensive, bulky and you'll never fall asleep wearing them. But they're damn cool.

Arlen @rohdesign I sleep in Koss Plugs, under $20, fairly comfortable, goos sound. Koos also makes some KEB24r's that look good, never tried them.

NathanBowers @rohdesign I have and like Shure EC3 earbuds and over ear Sennheiser cans. Not sure what it's like to sleep with them. #cordDeath

steventrotter @rohdesign Skullcandy FMJ

I ended up buying Sony MDR-EX32s. They had a good frequency response and are quite comfortable. For my main listening though, I have used Koss PortaPros for years and love 'em!

Thanks Twitterfolk for your suggestions! I hope this is helpful to others seeking earphones.


New Wave 1980s Mix

A little fun for a Friday! Check out the New Wave 1980s Mix I threw together on for your listening pleasure! :-) lets you create mix tapes from music already on the web. You enter what you want to hear, drag it into a list, customize the design, name and order of songs, then publish your mix for free! Check it out.

Bands include: New Order, The Fixx, The Cure, UB40, English Beat, Heaven 17, R.E.M., Tears for Fears, INXS, The Smiths, Haircut 100, Missing Persons, Flock of Seagulls and more... :-)

Check out my Mixwit Mix Tape Collection

Related Links:
Marcus Nelson's wife was inspired by my mix tape and pulled out a New Order Substance cassette in this Flickr shot.


Great Music: El Ten Eleven

elteneleven.jpgelteneleven-north.jpgOne of my favorite parts of the film Helvetica is the soundtrack. After buying the DVD, I checked the track listing to find out who the collection of artists were.

As it turns out, the California band, El Ten Eleven, has 9 of the 21 tracks on the film's soundtrack. I've found this selection of tracks a perfect mix. The band's instrumentals have a quirky, optimistic sound which helps me stay focused whether I'm driving, sketching, writing or designing on the computer.

I've found all 9 of the Helvetica tracks on Amazon MP3 (DRM-free), spread across their 2 albums: El Ten Eleven and Every Direction is North.

Tracks from the film include: Thinking Loudly, Lorge, Every Direction is North, Central Nervous Piston, My Only Swerving, 3 Plus 4, Hot Cakes, Fanshawe and Bye Annie, Bye Joe, Bye Michael, Bye Jake.

El Ten Eleven also features 5 of their tracks as PayPal-What-You-Want Downloads on their site, if you want to check out full tracks before you buy them.