Three Albums: 2022

A few of my favourite albums.

Beth Orton: Weather Alive

Sublime sounds, beautiful tunes, lovely playing — including drummer Tom Skinner of Sons of Kemet and The Smile.

Apple Music · Spotify

Tomberlin: i don’t know who needs to hear this…

An album of consistent pleasures; I found myself coming back to it often. Choice lyric: “You paid for lies to be made truth / Does that fuck with you?” You know who you are.

Apple Music · Spotify

Oren Ambarchi, Johan Berthling, Andreas Werliin: Ghosted

Hypnotic.

Apple Music · Spotify

Three Tracks: 2022

These were a few of my favourite tracks.

The Smile: Thin Thing (Live at Montreaux Jazz Festival)

Radiohead is one of my all-time favourite bands, but for some reason The Smile’s A Light for Attracting Attention never quite grabbed me. After I saw them live (Seattle, December), I wondered if a reason might have been that, while Radiohead works (worked?) out songs live, often over the course of many years, A Light was a “pandemic album.” The track “Skrting on the Surface” was a candidate for this list, being perhaps the closest thing to a Radiohead track we’re ever again likely to get; but in performance everything came alive and “Thin Thing” was one of the highlights. The interplay of Yorke’s bass and Greenwood’s guitar at 3:12 is just so great.

“And then, she’ll steal the photos / From your phone.”

Apple Music · Spotify

Beth Orton: Weather Alive

Long ago, I had a copy of Orton’s Trailer Park; but I lost track of her over the years. The Pitchfork review of her new album prompted me to have another listen, and the album one of my favourites of the year; the title track is a standout. She and her band were great live in Vancouver in November.

“Almost makes me wanna cry / The weather’s so beautiful outside.”

Apple Music · Spotify

King Hannah: It’s Me And You, Kid

How many years has it been now that most of the best rock tracks are by women? Well, in this case a female vocalist. Anyway, a simple but grand pleasure.

Apple Music · Spotify

BC Hydro: Just Give Me My Fucking Bill, OK?

Every month, I receive an email from BC Hydro. Here it is.

I can:

  • Make a payment (from your bank account by entering transit number, instituion number, and account number — essentially paying by cheque, in 2022 … but, okay)
  • See my payment options (Online banking, direct withdrawal, pre-authorized payments, equal payment plan, credit card, by mail, at a Service BC location (outside the Lower Mainland), Electronic Funds Transfer — fair enough, but I have never used any of these; I just want to see the bill, get the amount, and pay via my bank’s site)
  • View your detailed bill — yes, please! I mean, can’t you just attach it to the email? Thanks.
  • View your electricity use — this would, presumably, be on my bill
  • Join Team Power Smart. Um, what?
  • Set up pre-authorized payments — fair enough
  • Phone scam info. Okay, but you sent me an email
  • Payment options for my bill (again?)
  • Move or cancel account
  • How to read my detailed bill — well, if I had the bill I’d be able to follow along, right?
  • Get help. I feel I need it at this point. But probably not the kind of help they have in mind

I want to view my bill — I don’t care so much how “detailed” it is, and wish they’d just attached it to the email, but I click or tap the button. This is what I see, after signing in:

Keep in mind that I clicked/tapped a button in the email that said “View your detailed bill”. I kind of expect that I might, you know, see my bill. But no. I won’t bother to inventory the absolute mess of information that is irrelevant to my task here. Here is what I have to scan to find, every month:

Question: How is “View my bill” distinct from the original “View your detailed bill”? Where along the way did I lose the detail? What detail? Is it important? Okay, well, I guess I’ll settle for my dumbed-down bill: remember, all I really want is the amount so I can … oh yeah, pay the bill.

So I click/tap the teensy little button that BC Hydro apparently does not want me to see — for reasons I can’t guess. Don’t they want my money? Why is “Starting a Challenge” or “Joining the Team” (is this the Electricity Olympics?), or contests, or consumption — only the last 7 days, mind you; is this a teaser for the “detail” initially mentioned … why are any of these things and more, more important than what I was initially promised? Wait, what was that? Oh yeah, my bill. So, the microscopic button leads here:

This is only the content that fits on my 5K display. But once again, I’ve been sold a false promise: “View my bill” actually should read “Display yet another messy page of crap that really has nothing to do with your bill or anything else you might be interested in” — but maybe that (a) didn’t fit in the button; and (b) would have been too large a target, distracting from the truly important information on the page, like kWh and the projected cost of my next bill.

It seems that a once-a-month task provides just enough time to forget exactly where the thing I was looking might be located on the page (as far as I recall, this mess hasn’t changed in years; the incompetent consultants who put this together may have long-since retired to a tropical isle). But oh yeah, there it is!

Recall: I have been offered:

  1. “View your detailed bill” (email)
  2. “View my bill” (after authentication … also, why has “your” changed to “my”?)
  3. “View PDF bill”

So clicking/tapping the link, will I see my/your detailed/not-detailed/summary bill? It’s a mystery but at last I have reached my destination.

Dear BC Hydro: Just Attach My (Your?) Fucking Bill To The Email, OK?

CBC, HomePod, and Siri

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information available on how to access CBC content using Siri on HomePod and HomePod mini, so I decided to put together a guide based on my experience and research. Last updated January 2023.

All results below are from tests on my 2018 HomePod stereo pair running HomePod Software Version 16.2 with the new Home architecture on January 2, 2023.

I bought my first HomePod in June 2018. I listen mostly to Apple Music, along with some podcasts — and CBC news and radio. More than half of my interaction with HomePod is via voice.

CBC has several pages addressing HomePod support:

  1. How can I use Siri to play CBC? (last updated circa mid- 2020)
  2. Do I have to enable anything on my Apple HomePod? (last updated circa 2019)
  3. How to play CBC Radio on your new smart speaker (December 2018)

Here’s a review of the commands provided on those pages, and their current status.

Page (above)“Hey Siri …”Result
1“… play CBC Radio.”Siri says “Here’s a station inspired by CBC Radio One Vancouver on Apple Music” or “Here’s some music like CBC Radio One Vancouver” or “Now playing music similar to CBC Radio One Vancouver from Apple Music” and then plays CBC Radio One Vancouver. Weird message, correct result.
1“… play the latest news from CBC.”Siri says “Now playing Apple Music” or “Here’s Apple Music” but plays the latest episode of The Intelligence podcast from the Economist, or The Moth podcast. I have followed both of these podcasts.

When I first started this page, I got “The World This Hour” podcast.
2, 3“… play CBC Radio news.”Plays “Because News” podcast. Previously played the “Quirks and Quarks” podcast.
2, 3“… play CBC Radio 1.”CBC Radio One Vancouver. Not sure whether this is because my location is being referenced.
2“… play CBC Radio Music.”As of September 2022, after months of playing CBC Radio One Vancouver, started playing CBC Music Vancouver! However, it reverted to The Debaters as of January 2023.

CBC had fixed this some time in 2021. Previously I got random episodes of “The Debaters” or “Afghanada;” once I got The Massey Lectures.

On the 2018 page (3), there is a video with Piya Chattopadhyay demonstrating the “play CBC Radio One” command. The video ends by promoting a url, cbc.ca/smart, which as of this writing only has instructions for Amazon Alexa.

Page (2) states “We will continue to work on our Apple implementation of the voice experience and will announce late in 2019 when it’s ready to go. Stay tuned!” Page (3) says “New experiences are coming in 2019.”

Communications with CBC

I wrote to CBC in June 2019, and received the following from CBC Audience Services:

“CBC Radio One is limited to the Ottawa feed on HomePod.  CBC Music is not officially supported on HomePod either. All a work in progress and changing constantly. We are continually working on improvements and upgrades on all digital platforms.”

There is a lot more CBC content Siri on HomePod can access besides Ottawa Radio One (see below). But since that message, CBC had stopped responding to emails or tweets on the subject until, quite unexpectedly, an email arrived July 11, 2022, which stated in part:

“This is a known issue which we are currently investigating. Please read the following CBC Help Centre article referring to this issue: NEW Issues connection to CBC Radio networks on internet devices [apparently updated around the end of June 2022]. We do apologize for any inconvenience.”

It’s not clear whether by “this” they were referring to issues with HomePod in general — every time I email or tweet CBC I include a link to this page, but have no way of knowing whether they’ve looked at it — or some specific issue, perhaps the recent problem with CBC Music Vancouver.

It’s also unclear who has responsibility for ensuring that Siri can be used to access CBC content. The page sent to me above says to “reach out to the software support team for your device or service and ask them to contact CBC directly.” But is this TuneIn (the service that provides radio to Apple Music and hence via HomePod)? Apple? I replied with all of these questions, but in a response sent July 19, 2022, only got back “As the article link from our help centre says:” with the first and third paragraphs of the above page quoted, and “That’s all I can give you for the moment.”

Siri Command Reference

Particularly with the introduction of the HomePod mini, these issues would seem to be a significant oversight on the part of CBC. But in the meantime, I’ve discovered through trial and error that there are other commands that work, over and above the few documented on the original web pages from 2018-20. I also looked at the TuneIn pages for CBC stations and music. The following is my analysis of what plays based on various commands. (I have omitted podcasts, since they can be asked for directly; some generic commands like “play the CBC news” happen to redirect to podcasts.)

“Hey Siri…”ResultNotes
“… switch to CBC news.”“Sorry, I’m unable to switch your news source preferences to CBC.”Used to work, and still plays The World This Hour when I ask “…what’s my update?”
“… play the CBC news.”World Report podcast.This used to — and I think probably should — play The World This Hour. It played The World at Six podcast for a couple of months until the November 2022 update.
“… play CBC Music.”CBC Radio One TorontoWas playing CBC Radio One Vancouver for me in August 2022, perhaps based on my location; regressed to this previous behaviour in October.

Station artwork is, for some reason, the 1974–1992 CBC logo rather than the CBC Radio One logo that all the other stations use.

“… play CBC Music Vancouver.”SuccessAppears to have been fixed as of August 8, 2022.

As of July-August 2022, I was getting Barbara Peatland: Canadian Composers Portraits. Starting around July 2022, resulted in “Now play CBC Music Vancouver, Provided by TuneIn. … Sorry, there was a problem with Apple Music.”

For a few weeks in May 2021, this no longer worked as CBC Music Vancouver disappeared from TuneIn. I tweeted at CBC and TuneIn and only TuneIn responded. They wrote, “CBC Music Vancouver have decided to restrict their stream within mobile device users only. This means CBC Music Vancouver can’t be accessed through smart speakers or receiver such as HomePod.” However, a week or so later the station had been restored to TuneIn. But this makes me wonder whether there might be a movement at CBC to try to force people to use their Listen app.
“… play CBC Music Halifax.”SuccessFixed some time between July and August 2022; for a time I got back, “Now playing CBC Music Halifax … Sorry, there was a problem with Apple Music.”
“… play CBC Music Edmonton.”SuccessFixed some time between July and August 2022; for a time I got back, “Now playing CBC Music Edmonton … Sorry, there was a problem with Apple Music.”
“… play CBC Music Winnipeg.”SuccessFixed some time between July and August 2022; for a time I got back, “Now playing CBC Music Winnipeg … Sorry, there was a problem with Apple Music.”
“… play CBC Music Toronto.”Norma Beecroft: Improvvisazioni Concertanti No. 1, From Dreams of Brass, Collage ’76, Jeu II, Accordion Play (Canadian Composers Portraits) [link]Strange and longstanding error. CBC Music Toronto is listed on the TuneIn Local Stations page, although for some reasons with the old 1970s logo rather than the CBC Radio One logo.
“… play CBC Radio One.”SuccessUsed to play CBC Radio One Toronto for me; now plays CBC Radio One Vancouver, and I assume my location figures into this.
“… play CBC Radio One Vancouver.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One St. John’s.”SuccessSt. John’s, Newfoundland
“… play CBC Radio One Saint John.”SuccessSaint John, New Brunswick. In October 2022 I noticed that this is no longer listed on TuneIn’s Stream CBC page, but it still works.
“… play CBC Radio One Kelowna.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Toronto.”SuccessStation artwork is, for some reason, the 1974–1992 CBC logo rather than the CBC Radio One logo that all the other stations use.
“… play CBC Radio One London.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Kitchener-Waterloo.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Halifax.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Moncton.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Edmonton.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Prince George.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Ottawa.”“I couldn’t find CBC Radio One Ottawa in your Apple Music library.”This has stopped working since I started this page.
“… play CBC Radio One Winnipeg.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Sudbury.”SuccessIn October 2022 I noticed that this is no longer listed on TuneIn’s Stream CBC page, but it still works.
“… play CBC Radio One Montreal.”SuccessIn October 2022 I noticed that this is no longer listed on TuneIn’s Stream CBC page, but it still works.
“… play CBC Radio One Victoria.”Success
“… play CBC Radio One Charlottetown.”SuccessIn October 2022 I noticed that this is no longer listed on TuneIn’s Stream CBC page, but it still works.
“… play CBC Radio One Regina.”SuccessIn October 2022 I noticed that this is no longer listed on TuneIn’s Stream CBC page, but it still works.
“… play CBC Radio One Fredericton.”SuccessIn October 2022 I noticed that this is no longer listed on TuneIn’s Stream CBC page, but it still works.
“… play CBC Radio One Thunder Bay.”SuccessIn October 2022 I noticed that this is no longer listed on TuneIn’s Stream CBC page, but it still works.
“… play CBC Radio One Goose Bay”SuccessIn September 2022, I checked TuneIn’s Stream CBC page for the first time in a few months, and discovered this station had been added. Bonus!
“… play CBC Radio One Barrie”“I couldn’t find CBC Radio One Barrie in your Apple Music library.”As for Goose Bay above, discovered this had been added. However, Siri isn’t able to find it.
“… play CBC Radio One Kingston”“I couldn’t find CBC Radio One Kingston in your Apple Music library.”Again, new to TuneIn some time in 2022 but can’t be accessed by Siri on HomePod.
“… play CBC Radio One Peterborough”SuccessIn October 2022, I checked TuneIn’s Stream CBC page, and discovered this station had been added — it resulted in an error until the November 2022 update.
“… play CBC Radio One Saskatoon”SuccessAdded some time in September 2022.

There’s clearly some room for improvement here. CBC should at least fix the incorrect mappings. It’s unclear to me what the relationship is between an entity like CBC and Apple, but there’s a blurb and link on Apple’s Siri for Developers page for integration of a streaming service with HomePod (I don’t currently have an Apple Developer account, so I can’t view the page).

Please let me know if you have any updates or other information, and I will try to keep this page current.

Three Tracks: 2020

Three pieces that I kept coming back to in the (first) year of Covid-19.

Nine Inch Nails: The Worriment Waltz

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross said “the current [pandemic] crisis was the reason they completed the two records in the first place, ‘as a means of staying somewhat sane'” (Pitchfork). While my neighbourhood was boarded up in the spring, this track in particular seemed the pitch-perfect soundtrack; but both albums — Ghosts V: Together and Ghosts VI: Locusts — helped get me through that initial strange, disconnected time.

Apple Music · Spotify

Kelly Lee Owens: On

A Hopkins– like perfect balance of melody and electronics; her second appearance on these lists of mine (see 2017). The outtro, hinted at through the verses, is crowning. “And so / Let go of the hope / That it could / That it could be.”

Apple Music · Spotify

Phoebe Bridgers: Garden Song

That processed guitar sound on the classic changes! “No, I’m not afraid of hard work / I get everything I want / I have everything I wanted.”

Apple Music · Spotify

Other

No real honourable mentions this year; I am starting an equivalent “Three Albums” list that mostly takes care of that. My Jazz list also moves there this year.

See also 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019.

Three Albums: 2020

I’ve posted a “Three Tracks” list for a number of years (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020), but have always run into a bit of a problem: single cuts versus album tracks. A lot of the listening I’ve done has always been album-oriented; this has only increased for me in the era of Apple Music and HomePod (“Hey Siri, play the latest album by …”). So this list represents full-length works from which I have found it difficult to pull a single song — though I’ve done so for the videos below, largely randomly.

Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters

A masterpiece. The album that convinced me that I needed a separate list for complete works, not just songs, every year.

Apple Music · Spotify

Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud

A pleasure from beginning to end, over and over.

Apple Music · Spotify

Nine Inch Nails: Ghosts V: Together and Ghosts VI: Locusts

These two ambient albums got me through the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Apple Music (Ghosts V, Ghosts VI) · Spotify (Ghosts V, Ghosts VI)

Honourable Mention

Live Forever, Bartees Strange (Apple Music, Spotify) — must get back to this one; it’s really struck me the few times I’ve put it on.

Jazz

I’m not as much of a knowledgeable or dedicated or focused jazz fan, though I listen to it a lot; here are a few albums I played many times in 2020.

SOURCE, Nubya Garcia (Apple Music, Spotify); Suite: April 2020, Brad Mehldau (Apple Music, Spotify); Blue Note Re:imagined, Various Artists (Apple Music, Spotify); Gogo Penguin, Gogo Penguin (Apple Music, Spotify); Rythme De Passage, Emie R. Roussel Trio (Apple Music, Spotify); Life Goes On, Carla Bley, Andy Shepperd & Steve Swallow (Apple Music, Spotify); Essais, Volume 4, Pierre de Bethmann Trio (Apple Music, Spotify); Dance, Tingvall Trio (Apple Music, Spotify).

Three Tracks: 2019

Three tracks that satisfied my ears in 2019.

Sharon Van Etten, “No One’s Easy to Love”

True. “Don’t look down, my dear, don’t be surprised […] Don’t look back, my dear, just say you tried.” Bonus points for striking perhaps the most musically interesting note of the year: the second note of the second “love” in each chorus’s “No one’s easy to love.”

Apple Music · Spotify

Vampire Weekend, “This Life”

Song of the summer. “I’ve been cheating through this life and all its suffering / Oh Christ, am I good for nothing?”

Apple Music · Spotify

Patrick Watson, “Here Comes the River”

Pathos for a difficult year. “Well Mary kept sewing / Holding on to her TV / Even if the water was rising past her knees.” I believe this is the only one of my yearly “Fall” playlists (all songs I’ve gathered in the last few years are here on Apple Music) to make it to this list so far.

Apple Music · Spotify

Honourable Mentions

“Terminal Paradise” (Apple Music, Spotify), or pretty much anything from either of their two great 2020 albums, by Big Thief. “Venice Bitch” (Apple Music, Spotify) Lana Del Rey. “Sisyphus” (Apple Music, Spotify), Andrew Bird.

Jazz

I listen to a lot of jazz, but I’m not knowledgeable enough and my listening is not sufficiently comprehensive to produce any kind of narrowed best-of list. I put some of my favourite albums into a Recent Jazz playlist on Apple Music.

See also 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018.

Three Tracks: 2018

Three tracks that defined my year in 2018.

Low, “Always Trying to Work It Out”

Hard to pick a track from my favourite album of the year, but this is a standout. “Everybody says that the war is over / It isn’t something you forget so easily.” Can’t wait to see them live in March. I hadn’t seen the video until I put together this post.

Jon Hopkins, “Singularity”

The wait was worth it. Moves in a melodic/rhythmic way that seems unique to him. Great live, as well.

Lucy Dacus, “Night Shift”

Women seem to be making the best rock music these days. “Hooo-oo, woo-oo-oo oooo-oo, whooo-ao-oo waaa-yyy-yooo, ya-aa-yoo i-yoooo; oo-ii-yaaaaaaaa, i-yaaaaaaa, aa, aa i-yaaa-yoo, oo-waaa-aa-aa.” Best lyric of the year, makes me tear up every time I hear her wail this.

Honourable Mentions

Snail Mail, Stick (“What is it about them / They stick around”); Thom Yorke, Suspirium (“Is the darkness ours to take? Bathed in lightness, Bathed in heat”).

See also 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017.