Brian Feeney
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The Music of 2023

I listened to 1,869 tracks released in 2023. I liked 837 of those. 237 were rated best of the year. Only 47 of them made it into my Favorites list. In the last few years, fewer and fewer new tracks seem to resonate with me. I'm becoming more discerning, and I'm aging out of the music made by the young, as naturally happens. I try really hard to keep up with The Youths, yet music made by those in their early twenties continues to reflect the lives of people in their early twenties. I'm almost 43. So it goes.

In 2023, I ended up connected mostly with the records from artists who were already among my favorites. I really dug a lot of jazz and blues from the last year, but those rarely land in my Favorites list. I'm still a pop and rock guy, at heart, I guess. It's kind of bananas how many records were released this year by my favorite musicians: Gorillaz, Blur, Animal Collective, Yo La Tengo, Wilco, Margo Price, The New Pornographers, Youth Lagoon, Belle & Sebastian, Bongeziwe Mabandla, Deerhoof, Feist, The Go! Team, two from The National, four (4!) from Robert Pollard. Not all of them ended up favorites for the year, but that's still quite a list.

My listening habits have evolved in one way, I've noticed. I've been listening a little more to songwriting, specifically. That's taken me back to country music and the catalog of older songs I had once ignored. Spent more time with records from the 60s and 70s. Payed more attention to lyrics than I traditionally had before. Lots of singles from lots of artists, but plenty of The Band, Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson, George Jones, and the Staple Singers. I can see myself growing further down this route as time passes.

2023 was also a year I listened to a lot of Robert Pollard. I finished my trek through the full 2,500 songs of his I have access to. I have been a fan of him and Guided By Voices for 25 years now, but his music has really been hitting the spot for me, lately. Straightforward rock. Unpretentious. Made with love and playfulness. Famously prolific, he put out four records this year. His music simply speaks to me, and this year I fully embraced that. He's so good.

I made a few wonderful music discoveries this year: Sparks (which I'll probably write more about at some point), Mandy Indiana, Zach Bryan, Charley Crockett. And a few rediscoveries after closer listens: Fruit Bats, The Staple Singers, The Band. Maybe it's safe to say that my music listening habits deepened this year, rather than expanded. I'm continuing to appreciate stuff in new ways. Fewer surprises as I get older. But that doesn't mean there isn't more to learn.

That's where I am as we go into 2024. I plan to focus less on new music by new artists, and instead spend more quality time with the music I know I love.

Here are my favorite albums of 2023:

  • Blur - The Ballad of Darren
  • Gorillaz - Cracker Island
  • The National - First Two Pages of Frankenstein
  • Fatoumata Diawara - London Ko
  • Guided By Voices - Nowhere To Go But Up
  • Zach Bryan - Zach Bryan

And the Honorable Mentions:

  • New Pornographers - Continue as a Guest
  • The Arcs - Electrophonic Chronic
  • Youth Lagoon - Heaven Is A Junkyard
  • The National - Laugh Track
  • Yo La Tengo - This Stupid World
  • Sparks - The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte
  • Feeble Little Horse - Girl With Fish
  • Fruit Bats - A River Running To Your Heart
  • Lonnie Holley - Oh Me Oh My

Here are a couple playlists on Apple Music, if you're interested.

Favorite Tracks for 2023. Changed the rules for this year's playlist. It's all 47 of my faves, not just one track per artist.

Music I discovered/rediscovered in 2023

January 19, 2024

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A Small Design Success

Yesterday was one of those good days as a designer where a solution to a tricky problem falls into place, everyone is very happy with the results, and it looks good. It can be surprisingly hard to hit all three. Especially in a large organization with dozens of competing agendas.

This was for a small, repetitive piece of UI — a stack of 250px x 100px cards — each already dense with images, text, and other info. The requirement was to also include three to five new affordances; buttons for performing different actions. One of those actions would account for around 95% of the clicks, so preferably that one would be larger. After a couple dozen iterations, it all fell into place. Voilà. C'est fini.

Most of my work lately has been systems-level stuff. Cross-tooling design patterns and functionality. Or complicated workflows with numerous newsroom roles working in coordination. Or intra-department work where Editorial Tools and Consumer site design are partnering. These are all satisfying problems to solve. But there's nothing quite like the feeling when a piece of UI clicks into place right before my eyes. That's what pleases the soul of the art school student in me. Balance, weight, color, space, and purpose.

January 18, 2024

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January 17, 2024

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Snow Day

Snow in BK

Good morning from snowy Brooklyn. I was going to go into the office today, but I’ll take any chance like this to work from home. I’m assuming everyone else is doing the same. The return of the ol' wintery mix.

January 16, 2024

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Lego Polaroid

Lego Polaroid

Spent a few hours today building this Lego Polaroid camera. The first time in maybe 30 years I've built a Lego set by myself. It was extremely relaxing, and I'd love to do it again. We had on music while Lisa was prepping a stew for dinner. It was a cold, snowy day in Brooklyn. Perfect for a silly indoor project like this.

inside

It's from the Idea Series. I'd also love to build this typewriter someday.

January 06, 2024

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Exit: The Holidays

xmas trees pile

Every year, the edge of Cobble Hill Park becomes an official dumping ground for dead xmas trees. Last year, we carried our tree all the way over here. We didn't need to make the trek this year. We only had a little garland on our mantle.

January 05, 2024

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Silver Jews Tribute Show

Went out last night to the 4th annual tribute show to David Berman. It was a ramshackle show, but still really nice to hear a bunch of Silver Jews and Purple Mountains songs played live again. A few of the participants were friends of Berman's or had written songs with him, so the event had a warm feeling about it. Proceeds went to a suicide prevention nonprofit. 

January 05, 2024

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New Online Portfolio

New Portfolio Site

I designed, built, and launched a new portfolio at brianfeeney.design. I wanted my online professional life separated from my online personal life, and for my career to have it's very own home on the web. The site concept is of a resume which can be drilled down into, revealing portfolio work. It's still a little clunky, and I'll be improving some of the UI, soon. Making clickable areas more visually clickable. Adding more of my older stuff. Better distinguishing the process work from UI/UX deliverables. I like how it looks so far, which is why I published it, but I'm looking forward to making it better.

January 04, 2024

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New Years Eve for 2024

NYE 2024

Lisa and I celebrated with a late dinner at Bar Bête on Smith St. A really nice prix fixe, where we split the cod and steak entrees. The fireworks were going off on our walk home. 

2023 was a challenging year for a number of reasons, but we had some good things to celebrate. Our first full year in our new home, for one. Here's hoping 2024 is a better one, for everyone.

2024 Fireworks

January 01, 2024

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Brooklyn Hawk

Murder Hawk

Woke up to see this hawk outside the bedroom window planning murder.

December 20, 2023

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