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My Favorites of the Year

December 31st, 2011

It’s that time of the year, where everyone with an opinion makes their best of lists. Well this fella is no different. Below I’ve listed some of my favorite things of year, from web design books, to music, to apps. It’s all things that I feel strong enough to have an opinion about.

Album of the Year: Yuck (s/t)

This album came out of nowhere for me. It’s the self-title debut from the band Yuck. Their lo-fi sound is fun and sounds both new and familiar. I think the best description came from my Twitter friend, blogger, and former Program Director at the excellent WOXY.com Mike Taylor, where he described the album as sounding like a “singles collection.” This was not due to lack of cohesion, but because of uniqueness and high-quality of the tracks.

Highlight Tracks
  • Get Away
  • Holing Out
  • Georgia
Other Contenders
  • The Strokes – AnglesHad almost forgotten how great this band was! Their sound has matured over the years, but still have the rawness that “This Is It” such a hit.
  • Tycho – DiveAs someone who LOVES Boards of Canada and Ulrich Schnauss, I was excited when I heard about this album by Tycho (aka graphic artist Scott Hansen). The moody, post-electronic album is great when designing, coding, or just sitting around pondering the universe.

Song of the Year: “Amor Fati” by Washed Out

For me, this song just went into my ears and then spread into every cell in my body. It’s a beautiful piece of chill-wave that has such beauty and emotion that it makes me lose touch with reality and think about how lucky and blessed I am, but also that everyone I know and love is going to die, all within all within the same beat.

Other Contenders
  • Foster the People – Helena BeatTotally infectious. Makes me think about getting ready to go out for a night on the town with friends.
  • M83 – Midnight CityIn a year without “Amor Fati,” this would’ve been the song of the year. Hearing it used in a Victoria’s Secret commercial cheapened the artistic value of it a bit (says the guy with the Amazon affiliate links), but whenever I hear the song I think of Adriana Lima, which I guess isn’t a bad thing.

BBC Essential Mix of the Year: Seth Troxler

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve listened to this mix, mostly at the gym or running. The beat carries through so well and creates a great soundtrack for exercising that just makes you want to keep going. It’s also fantastic for just walking around town making you feel like you’re the too-cool, annoying character that you don’t really like, mostly out of jealousy in a movie that has sweet theme music. I mean, the mix starts out with Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” so right off the bat you know it’s going to be awesome.

Other Contenders
  • Derrick Carter
  • Japanese Pop Stars
  • Above & Beyond

App of the Year: Keyring

I just got an iPhone this year, so having a robust app universe to play in is a relatively new thing for me. Sure Android has some good apps, but they opften don’t have the refinement of their iOS counterparts. I’m not sure when this app came out, but since I only got an iPhone in October, it’s new to me. What’s made this so fantastic is that it has reduced the number of store loyalty cards I’ve had to carry which has reduced the bulk on my real keyring by about 20%, which in the world of skinny jeans with tight pockets is rather significant.

Other Contenders
  • Starbucks
    This app has given me a new perspective on addiction. I’ve never been a big Starbucks fan, but living in a one-bedroom condo, sometimes to get some of my freelance projects completed, I need to go to a coffee shop. I received a $10 Starbucks gift card from the good folks at Yahoo, so I downloaded the app and added the gift card to it.
  • Chase
    Depositing a check with your phone??? I felt like I was from the future the first time I did it and still can’t believe it worked.
  • Instagram
    All it is have some pre-made filters that you can apply to your photos, but the social aspect is so much fun and so addicting. I’ll take picture of the most pedestrian stuff, put it in Instagram and miraculously, it looks great.

Book of the Year (Technical) : Responsive Web Design by Ethan Marcotte

The last few years have brought so much change to the world of web design with broader options for web typography, expanded capabilities with HTML5 and CSS3, as well as the explosion in usage of mobile devices with web access. The increased usage of mobile devices that could access the web has caused designers to figure out a solution to creating sights that would work best on desktop devices and mobile devices. How could this be done without creating multiple fixed width sites that would be served up based on some sort of javascript that would detect browser size and serve up the appropriate website.

The biggest problem with that is that when you update your website you have to do that for multiple versions, but creates extra, unnecessary work. Responsive web design is the method coined by Ethan Marcotte that uses three components – a flexible grid layout using percentages for layout components, CSS3 media queries, and flexible images and media. This creates a single website that is flexible and able to provide an optimal site no matter what size browser is being used. The book is quite short, but is written in a very approachable voice and includes the link to great a example site that displays the concepts being described. I built this website using the things I’ve learned which I believe has helped to create a better website is able to age and evolve more gracefully than a fixed width site would.

Other Contenders

Book of the Year (Non-Technical) : Ready Player One

As a child of the 80s, I was immediately intrigued when I heard about this book. It takes place in 2044 where the Earth is in post-apocalyptic ruin do to wars and energy crisis. After the death of a billionaire who had been a video game designer, he had decided to give away his fortune to a person who could complete a challenge he created. The challenge takes place in a virtual reality world called “the Oasis” where people log in, use their avatars to live in a virtual world, and life the lives they would prefer to live in the real world. The challenges are all based on the billionaire’s favorite music, video games, tv shows and movies from the 80s and some of them are so geeky and wonderful, I get chills. I’ve also consumed the book in audio format, so it feels like I’m Fred Savage and Wil Wheaton is my pop-pop telling me a story. How’s that for the perfect 80’s metaphor.

Other Contenders
  • Steve Jobs – Walter IsaacsonOK, this was actually going to be the Book of Year until the very last week. This was a fascinating book about who has had a tremendous impact on the job I did today. It painted an interesting picture of a complex and brilliant man, who at many times was very cold sometimes even childish.
  • Just My Type: A Book About Type – Simon GarfieldThe History and interesting stories of Typography and how they are used, in both good and bad ways, in different areas of our society.

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