song obession friday! (beginning of may)

May 4th, 2012

Song obsessions are those songs that get stuck in your head. This series of posts isn’t about what I or the other panel members think is best, but what our brain latches onto, those ear worms that loop around and around in your head.

Adrian (me):
Of Monsters and Men – Little Talks (mp3) (buy)

I’ve been listening to this whole album of Stars-meet-Iceland group-singing pop on repeat. It’s thoroughly enjoyable. This song sticks out slightly more than the rest.

Wild Light – California On My Mind (mp3) (buy)

I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area, and fell hard for everything about this fantastic anthem of a song the first time I heard it, in all its pop catchiness and life cynicism. Even now, as I write this post, I know that when the 2:31 ends, I will hit “play” again on this track because I can NEVER listen to it just once. Ever.

From that opening count-off on the drums, to where that wheezing harmonica comes in (I feel pretty certain that Springsteen would approve), this is a terrific song. Wild Light is a band I know nothing about except for this song which fell like a gem into my lap when I was looking for fodder for an SF mix; one of the dudes from the band apparently was a schoolmate/roommate of Win Butler from Arcade Fire (thank you Wikipedia). The band is from the other side of the USA, nowhere near San Fran.

In a very longsuffering way, I love how this song is a “fuck you” to the entire Bay Area, and in addition to calling out today, San Francisco, and California in general, one time on the chorus they mix it up and also specify fucking Oakland. Which I think we can all get behind. This song sounds excruciatingly good played loudly on car speakers driving on a highway in California. Or anywhere, really. I just clicked “play” again.


Father John Misty – Son of the Ladies Man (live) (mp3) (buy the album version)

This track has been bouncing around in my head for weeks; I just didn’t think it was fair game to post it before the album had been released. Now that it’s officially out, I feel no such qualms. The irony of me choosing to then link to a youtube video of his Letterman performance is not lost.

Really, this track is just the last in a 3-song arc (O I Long to Feel Your Arms Around Me | Misty’s Nightmares 1 & 2 | Only Son of the Ladies Man) that I’ve really been into – these three songs hooked me, and I then slowly began to enjoy the rest of the album.

concentrated awesome: recent song obsessions, part 2

August 27th, 2010

Jonsi @ Coachella, by Natalie Kardos
Jonsi @ Coachella by Natalie Kardos

This is a continuation of part 1 of my recent song obsessions. Just a bunch of great songs that have been running through my head over the last few months.

  • Paul Jacobson & the Madison Arm – Six O’Clock News (mp3) (unreleased, band website)

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    Heather turned me on to this song. A cover of the Kathleen Edwards original, it stunned me. Built in a heartbreaking narrative, it’s so melancholy and yet so beautiful. It’s a great arrangement with near perfect harmonies.

  • Jonsi – Hengilas (mp3) (buy)

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    From my first listen through Jonsi’s Go, I was obsessed with this. The big, open, gently moving chords–like something from Copland’s Appalachian Spring[1]–are gorgeous and welcoming. I can’t understand the lyrics, but the vocals move me as if I understand them. Just a fantastic ethereal song that leaves me wanting to hit repeat at the end of every listen.

  • We Were Promised Jetpacks – It’s Thunder & Lightning (mp3) (buy)

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    Deep inside of me somewhere there’s still a bit of High School Adrian, still listening to Seam and Sebadoh’s Bakesale, still a bit angry and still with plenty of angst. That part of me loves this song, from the first guitar notes to the Scottish brogued vocals to the build up and strong, huge guitars and fast strumming to the way the song winds down with an almost whimper. The secret is, the rest of me loves it too.

  • S. Carey – In the Dirt (mp3) (buy)

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    After NPR started streaming this album from Bon Iver’s former drummer I listened to it a few times. Initially I was a bit dismissive; “sounds like he’s trying too much to be like Bon Iver.” But it’s grown on me, particularly the beautiful moments in songs like this. This song, in fact, chocked full of them. It manages to be complex, interesting and beautiful all at once. In the end a song like this draws as much from minimalists like Steve Reich as it does Bon Iver.

  • Warren Zevon – Keep Me In Your Heart (mp3) (buy)

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    This song, the final track from Zevon’s final album–the album he knew was going to be his last–is almost begging to be called cheesy. The sentimental repeated refrain, the simple structure. But it’s not. Even after so many listens it can make me feel like someone tied a rock to my heart. On a more technical note, the tres solos are a really nice touch to the arrangement.

[1] Or, perhaps “Prarie Night (Card Game at Night)” from his Billy the Kid

concentrated awesome: recent song obsessions, part 1

August 23rd, 2010

scott of frightened rabbit

To be continued in part 2, Just because I don’t do a weekly column on song obsessions anymore doesn’t mean I don’t listen to songs obsessively. These are just some of the songs that have burrowed their way into my ears in the past few months.

  • Carissa’s Wierd – Die (mp3) (buy)

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    It’s difficult to describe what makes this song so obsession-worthy but it’s a song that I’ve listened to dozens of times in the last few months first alone as a promo mp3 download and then as part of of the newly released Carissa’s Wierd compilation They’ll Only Miss You When You Leave: Songs 1996 – 2003. Maybe it’s the layers of instruments and vocals. Maybe it’s the hypnotic way the instruments loop that draws me in. Maybe it’s the slow breakdown. Who knows why, but I know what: it’s good.

  • Lushlife – Meridian Sound [Part One] (mp3) (buy)

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    I’ve really been enjoying Lushlife’s Cassette City which I decided to check out after rewatching some of his acoustic hip hop covers. This is a favorite. There’s something particularly compelling about the juxtaposition of the subdued music with the sharp rhythms of his rapping.

  • Guided by Voices – Game of Pricks (mp3) (buy)

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    Some people missed “Web in Front”; in the indie rock cannon I somehow missed “Game of Pricks”. After a friend recommended Owen Pallett’s lovely and somewhat goofy cover of it, I checked into the original and I’ve been listening to it tons since. It’s classic classic indie rock; a perfect representation of ’90s indie rock in my mind.

  • Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros – Home (mp3) (buy)

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    After I heard a snippet of this in Community, I found that it was by one of those buzz bands that perhaps I’d unfairly written off. Certainly a catchy song–I listened to it 33 times in the first week–but the part I really like is the beginning, the whistling over the straight-beat kick drum.

  • Frightened Rabbit – Nothing Like You (mp3) (buy)

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    This is not as much of an ear worm as the others but it’s been the song I’ve listened to most over the last three months. “This is a story // and you’re not in it uh huh” is as fantastic an opening line as I know of. And it’s a great song with a buoyant chorus.

Stay tuned for part 2.

isbells make pretty, lushly vocaled folk music

April 12th, 2010

There’s not that’s gotten me out of my music blogging hibernation, but on a tip from Slowcoustic, I checked out the Belgian band Isbells (myspace).

Their self-titled album from 2009 struck me immediately. Fairly simple acoustic songs with lush vocals, often in falsetto ala Bon Iver, dominate the album. (But I think it would be a mistake to dismiss this band as a Bon Iver knock-off.) The songs are melancholy and beautiful, filled with yearning.

While the album isn’t perfect–there are a couple weaker songs–and it sits as much as a collection of songs as an album, it’s still very much worth getting and listening to, perhaps on your ipod as you walk through streets as it rains, clearing your head and sorting out your own yearnings.

Isbells – As Long as It Takes (mp3)

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Isbells – Reunite (mp3)

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You can get the album from amazon mp3 or get the CD from Belgium.

best personal music moments; or, top memorable music moments of 2009

December 21st, 2009

Sandy from Slowcoustic asked me if I wanted to take part of his “Best of…Bloggers” series and I was happy to take part. This originally appeared at there. I had a bit of a hard time deciding what “Best of” I could do for 2009 since my music involvement has been very different for the last four months of it, so I decided to do this.

Of possibly everything related to music that people rate, probably one of the most subjective is live performances. There’s so much besides the music that factors into the experience–what else happened that day, were you with friends or alone, what your expectations were, what the people standing near you were like–that one’s review sometimes not even up to the performers.

With that in mind, I present to you, in chronological order, very personal list of most memorable music moments from 2009.

  • David Bazan @ house show, Berkeley (2/18)
    I saw two of Bazan’s house shows this year but this was easily the better. Attentively sitting on someone’s living room floor, about thirty big-time Bazan fans watched him perform without amplification a few feet away. The music was great, the between-song conversation was good, the crowd was awesome–there wouldn’t be a lot of ways to make this show better.
  • david bazan @ san jose house concert

  • Yoni Wolf @ Apple Store (2/28)
    I hadn’t much considered Why? before this. This show with the frontman and an electric piano changed that somewhat. But what is most memorable about this performance was the once-off cover of “This is the Day.” I remember the hymn from church growing up but Wolf’s version that day was dark and haunting and still sticks with me.
  • yoni wolf

  • Les Savy Fav @ the Mezzanine, San Francisco (3/1)
    I’d heard many stories about the antics of Les Savy Fav live show and, in particular, frontman Tim Harrington’s antics. This show did not disappoint whatsoever. Harrington came out covered in toilet paper but quickly stripped down to his shorts. Before the night was up he spit beer into the crowd, licked the lens of the photographer standing next to me and duct-taped a girl to him. In between all of this, he managed to sing some songs.
  • spitting water

  • The Rural Alberta Advantage @ Central Presbyterian, Austin (3/19); @ Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco (7/9)
    Two very different shows but both very memorable. At the Central Presbyterian show during SxSW, I saw the band completely win over an audience of people largely unfamiliar with their music. They were on top form and I had chills for about half the show. When the finished the show acoustically in the main aisle of the church, I was in awe like everyone around me. The Bottom of the Hill show was the last Ipickmynose Presents show and it was a rousing success. Two days after their debut album came out to much acclaim, the band seemed to still be surprised by their success and performed a fantastic show.
  • rural alberta advantage

  • The Tallest Man on Earth @ the Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco (3/25)
    I’d been obsessing about Shallow Grave for months leading up to this show, which was just a week after I’d seen the Swede, Kristian Matsson, at SxSW. This show was more noteworthy than the SxSW in that this performance was just perfect. Matsson has a way of performing that is just as much about movement as it is about music. He sits during the slow beginning of a song and then stands moves fluidly to the front of the stage and looks out into the audience. After this show nearly everyone I talked to said they thought he was looking right at them, bringing the performance to each audience member in a way few artists do.
  • tallest man on earth

  • Damien Jurado @ Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco (5/5)
    I’ve seen Jurado perform about six or seven times now, but this show seemed to have what would have been my hand-picked setlist of favorites performed with intensity. In his first four songs were “Ghost of David”, “Medication” and “Ohio” and I knew it would be a good night.
  • damien jurado

  • Iron & Wine @ Swedish America Hall, San Francisco (5/7)
    I’d seen Iron & Wine a few times, including one magical time in 2004 at the Great American Music Hall, but even that time wasn’t at a venue as small as the Swedish American. Maybe this show stuck with me because his setlist, chosen by fans on his website, was filled with nostalgic favorites. Maybe it was because the Swedish American has great acoustics for solo shows. Maybe it was just a great performance.
  • iron & wine

  • Or, the Whale @ the Independent, San Francisco (6/6)
    I love Or, the Whale and this show was good, but the experience here wasn’t about the music (which was great as always). Two months before I was to leave for South Africa, the experience was noteworthy because every time I turned around there was a friend of mine or someone I wanted to talk to. It was a blast and I went home thinking I might be making a mistake moving away.
  • or, the whale

  • John Vanderslice @ Secret House Show, San Francisco (7/25)
    I’m still not sure how this all came together but my going away party in San Francisco was a secret show by John Vanderslice in my apartment to me and thirty of my friends. Completely without amplification, JV was accompanied by Jamie Riotta on upright bass and vocals. My cheeks hurt from grinning so much. It was utterly spellbinding and will probably go down as one of my most memorable music experiences in my entire life.
  • White Plains from ipickmynose on Vimeo.

  • “Oh How I’d Miss You” @ my apartment, San Francisco (7/25)
    Following JV’s performance, I played a killer soul playlist with this Marvin Gaye/ Tammi Terrell number on it. After people trickled out, my lady friend and I spontaneously danced in an empty living room to this song. But, given that I was leaving the country a week later, the lyrics were a bit too topical and near the end of the song I looked up to see her crying.
  • Sangoma Ceremony @ private home, Khayelitsha, South Africa (8/15)
    Saying yes to a series of opportunities led me to be in a tiny tin-sided house off a dirt path in a township outside Cape Town. A new sangoma (sometimes translated as ‘witch doctor’) was being initiated and there was much dancing, singing and clapping among the couple dozen people packed into the house. It was an experience that few outsiders get to have.
  • sangoma ceremony

  • Zulu hymns @ small church, Ingwavuma (9/6)
    This church is at the end of the road, literally. The tar road ends about 2km before it and the dirt road ends right at it. A few hundred meters father, the hill drops off steeply into Swaziland. The hymns during the actual service were sung in both Zulu and English but were largely not noteworthy. While I was sitting waiting for the service to begin, though, women scattered around the room spontaneously and seemingly without coordination started the most beautiful hymns I’d ever heard. Four part harmony filled the room. It was baking hot in that room and I still had chills.

What have been your most memorable music moments this year?

the room is still there, the light is just off OR the restaurant is closed but the tables are still set

August 2nd, 2009


So the month is up. I sit here with my bags packed, an empty apartment now across town and a boarding pass ready to be printed. This is it, the end of ipickmynose as we know it. What that actually means is yet to be seen, but I know I’m taking a break and if I come back, I’m not going to be blogging all the time.

I’m proud of what I’ve done here. 1137 posts over 860 days. But more than the numbers, I think I’ve written good stuff–though I still wouldn’t claim to be a “writer”–and championed plenty of bands that ought to be championed. I’m proud that I never put advertising on this site. It’s always been a labor of love and both a time and money sink, but I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t like doing it. It’s certainly been a fun pursuit.

I really have a lot of people I’d like to thank for help and support. Dave for kickass design work on posters for ipickmynose presents shows and other stuff for the site. Andy for introducing me to rad bands, making KZSU live mp3s sound better, and telling me when I was getting too full of myself as a blogger. Liz for being my unofficial editor and for being possibly my first reader. Smurph, for engineering all those KZSU sessions. All the song obsession panelists, especially Keith, my college radio hero. All the bands that I’ve met and have been great and appreciative. Fellow bloggers, for the encouragement and for introducing me to great bands, especially Will of New & Used Records, Ben, Christian and Emily of the Bay Bridged, Nick of Monosyllabic/ albondigas!, Scott of Anyone’s Guess, Oz of Hearya, Natalie of It’s Too Sunny Out Here, and Smansmith of Slowcoustic. Largehearted boy, Chromewaves and Gorilla v Bear for something aspire to.

I’d like to thank you, the readers. When I decided to branch off my music writing from my personal blog to a separate music blog, there was the implicit acknowledgment that I was writing for more than just myself. Initially I thought it would just be some friends and things and I’m still tickled that people who don’t know me read this. So thanks for that.

I’m not disappearing entirely of course. There will be things of mine on the internet that will still be around if you want to keep track of me:

Anyway, keep ipickmynose in your RSS readers or check back in occasionally. Who knows what the future will bring?

The Miracles – What’s So Good About Good Bye (mp3) (buy)

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how to write a music blog

July 29th, 2009

I have some strong opinions on how to write and run a music blog. I thought I’d share some of my recommendations on that. If you don’t feel like reading my opinions about this, tune in tomorrow for a different post entirely. I realize I’m not the right person to tell you how to start a music blog that’ll get huge but I have a decent readership and more importantly, I think what I’ve done here is good.

Originally, this was going to be a rant called What’s Wrong with the Music Blogosphere, but I thought I’d turn it into something a little more positive. If you’re interested in the technical aspects of how to run a music blog, I’m sure they’re covered elsewhere.

  1. Create original content
    This is the most important thing here. What sets your blog apart if all you do is post mp3s that other people are posting with the same promo photo that everyone else is posting? Write interesting things about the music you like or shows you see. Take and post your own photos. Make original videos or post mp3s of exclusive sessions with bands. Do interesting interviews with bands. There are so many different ways you can create original content. Be, well, original.
  2. Don’t do it for money or page views
    You’re not going to become rich or famous starting a music blog in all likelihood. You might make some pocket change from advertising or you might choose to do without ads, but the point is you should have a blog because you love music and want to share it. If you find yourself changing your blog just for the hits or posting something just because you think it’ll bring page views, reconsider.

    I think it’s okay to want more readers, but the way you get new readers and the way you get page views are different.

  3. Respect artists
    We all do this because we love music and want to promote great artists, right? Posting full albums doesn’t help an artist. Posting without linking to where someone can buy the record or failing to inform readers of an upcoming live date when you post mp3s doesn’t hep the artist. And if an artist asks you to take down an mp3, do it politely.
  4. Write the blog you want to read
    Don’t write the blog you think people want to read. Besides a few comments here and there, you probably won’t get a good idea of what most of your readers want to read, so just write what you think is good. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever listen to constructive criticism, just that you shouldn’t tailor your blog to something you think people want.
  5. Have a singular vision
    I really think the biggest benefit of music blogs, besides being able to point readers directly to music (as mp3 or video), is that they can have a singular vision: a consistent opinion or taste. After reading a blog for a while, I’ll get to know what the writer’s taste is and how much trust I put in their opinion. For example, I know I should at least consider any band Frank at Chromewaves highlights. Does this mean I think you shouldn’t have co-writers? Not necessarily as it is possible for people to have similar enough tastes that the site still has a consistent taste, but few multi-writer sites achieve a singular vision. HearYa is one of the better ones at having multiple writers while having a consistent taste.
  6. Know what you’re talking about
    No one is immune from mistakes and no one can known every band, but nothing makes me want to read a blog less than obvious factual mistakes or a gross lack of knowledge of bands.
  7. Share news in limited quantities
    This is a tricky one and I know some people disagree with me on this, but I really think you can assume every music fan reads Pitchfork news, Brooklyn Vegan or Stereogum, so they know when Band Goes on Tour! or Band Reveals Album Art! Of course there are times when news is appropriate. That artist you love is doing a house concert in your area, tickets will sell out quickly and you haven’t anything about it elsewhere? Go for it. An alternative to posting a list of tour dates is to use the tour stop in your town to do a feature about the artist where you write about why they’re good.
  8. Make your blog’s presence multi-faceted
    Promote live shows with bands you support, have bands into the studio, or have a radio show or podcast. I just think it’s more interesting than a straight-up mp3 blog.
  9. Find your niche
    Whether it be a region or a genre or whatever, I think blogs with a more specific focus tend to be more interesting and have a more loyal readership. What could be a more narrow focus than digitized cassettes from one continent? But Awesome Tapes from Africa is incredible.
  10. Ask for what you want
    There’s no point in wondering why another blogger got a press pass to an event or an interview with an artist if you didn’t even bother to ask for it. Do you want to do an exclusive session with a band? Ask for it. You might get rejected, but it’s worth a try.
  11. Be mindful of hyperbole, but be enthusiastic
    Blogger hyperbole is almost a cliche at this point, so be weary of saying everything is the best ever. At the same time, no one wants to read emotionless chatter. Every time I hear someone talk about I am Fuel, You Are Friends, they say they love how enthusiastic Heather is in her writing.
  12. There’s nothing wrong with criticism, but don’t spend all your time doing it
    I really think there’s value to honest criticism. If all you’re saying is that everything is incredible then the value of your praise becomes diminished. On the other hand, if all you’re doing is criticizing, you may come across as ornery or overly snarky.
  13. What’s with all the redesigns?
    Especially in an era where a lot of people read their blogs in RSS readers, if your site is readable and fairly easy to navigate, there’s no reason to redesign it every six months. Spend your time creating content instead.
  14. Figure out what to do when you get burnt out.
    If you post all the time, you’re probably going to get burnt out. Figuring out what works for you when you get burnt out is important. I tend to shift focus a bit, talking about types of music I like but don’t blog about a lot. For you it might be going through some old favorites or reviewing some out-there concert or who knows.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know why in the comments.

3rd annual bay area music bloggers go to a ballgame (live blogging)

July 18th, 2009


Today, a bunch of bay area music bloggers are going to a baseball game for the 3rd year in a row (see the first two).

I’ll be live blogging the game so check back on this page throughout the afternoon for updates.

11:50am At 24th St. BART. 3 minutes till the Fremont train. That’ll get me there.

1:01pm in the seats. They’re doing the starting line up. Chatting it up with the people who are here so far. Good times.

1:12pm Angels get a home run on the fourth pitch, first at bat.

1:47pm just had a ridiculous bbq pork sandwich. We’ve got a good crowd here now. There’s a baseball game happening somewhere but we’re nerding out pretty well.

2:07pm the A’s are really phoning it in here. 7-0 already.

2:26pm we’ve gone hard core into the music nerdery here. Who’s into what bands, what’s wrong with the blogosphere.

2:46pm Wow a couple runs’s a game. This would be a good comeback.

2:54pm and now we’re talking about twitter.

3:03pm Guilty pleasures here: Passion Pit is high among them…. And what you delete from your library so people people can’t tell you listen to.

3:33pm things have settled down. Not much going on in the game. A’s warming up a pitcher in the bullpen. The prize in the Cracker Jacks is a bit weird and not impressive.

4:10pm Paid attendence of 16500. Pretty sparse attendence here. We finally got some cloud cover. We’ve been baking here up till now. Some talk about blog projects and record labels.

4:25pm bottom of the 9th, 2 outs and 6 runs to make up. Not looking good. Oh Cust just hit a home run so only 5 runs to go. All of us transplants are talking about adopting local teams and how you pick your team in a two team market.

4:30 and the game’s over. A’s lose.

Update: In the end, we had representatives from ipickmynose, Hello Vegetables, Kata Rokkar, Stranger Dance, the Deli SF, New and Used Records, the OCMD, Tough Customer, SFist, Monosyllabic, Ears of the Beholder and Loud Farm. (I think that’s everyone.) Good times indeed.

dodos and riceboy sleeps (sigur ros side project) album streams, mp3s

July 16th, 2009

the Dodos at the Independent

There were a couple good albums streaming for free in their entirety. I recommend checking them out.

the Dodos Time to Die
Their third album is being released in physical form in September but the digital release is at the end of July. I’ve listened to it a few times through and it’s good. While there are definitely duds (mostly I’m thinking of “This is a Business”), but there are also songs that show the band continuing to write great songs (e.g. “Troll Nacht” and “Fables”). The Dodos are a great live band that’s also figured out how to put their songs on record in a convincing manner.

the Dodos – Fables (mp3)

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You can pre-order it from insound.

Riceboy Sleeps Riceboy Sleeps
This is a fairly new project Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi and his boyfriend Alex. I was already obsessed with “Boy 1904” and I loved “Happiness” on the Dark was the Night compilation. I’ve listened to this ambient-but-melodic album five or six times over the last couple days and I’m definitely going to buy it when it comes out.

Jonsi & Alex – Boy 1904 (mp3)

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You can pre-order it from insound.

ipickmynose to end (as we know it) in a month

July 1st, 2009

bo kaap #1
Bo Kaap, Cape Town

You may have suspected something was up when I announced my final radio show. I’ve been sitting on this news for a while and trying to decide when and where to break it. I thought this announcement would be better than it coming with no warning[1].

In a shade over a month I’ll be moving. I’m going to Cape Town, South Africa for an undetermined amount of time. I won’t be continuing this blog in the same capacity during that time. I’ve really enjoyed writing it for the last two-plus years. I’ve gotten to share a lot of music I love through it; I’ve made friends and met cool bands and had the opportunity to try some fulfilling projects.

What form ipickmynose will take after I move, I really can’t say, but I know that I won’t be posting at the current rate (9.4 posts a week, by my count) or anywhere close to it. I’ve done this blog while overseas before, but I think this time I need to spend more time in and be more engaged in the local culture. After an initial break, I may come back to posting a couple times a week or maybe I won’t; I can’t really say. But if you leave me in your RSS reader or check in occasionally, I’m sure I’ll pop in occasionally at the very least.

I look forward to writing a bunch of good posts for you before I go. Thanks for reading and have a good day.

[1] I’d also like to note the influence of one of my all time favorite blogs, Tenderbutton in announcing my demise in advance. And in using citation-style notes in blog posts.