It’s that time again when musos try to predict the breaktrough acts of 2014. In the past I’ve always led on ’BBC’s Sound of ...’, but this year I have decided to do an aggregate listing of everyone recommended by BBC, GlobalGrind, iTunes, MTV, Spotify and others. The first is the entire long-list, followed by ’Most Hyped’ (most mentions) and finally my 5 top picks - should be something for everyone here!:
Banks - Fusing dark R&B with thunderous electronic grooves (BBC, MTV, iTunes, Spotify)
Betty Who - Effervescent synth-pop (Spotify)
Bipolar Sunshine - Rhythmic, soulful indie pop (Spotify)
Chance the Rapper - On a mission to disrupt the hierarchy of hip-hop (BBC, GlobalGrind)
Chlöe Howl - Frank lyrics and electro beats (BBC, iTunes)
Circa Waves - Liverpool garage rock revivlalists (Spotify)
Dan Croll - Charming melody-led electro-folk (iTunes, Spotify)
Ella Eyre - Rudimental vocalist goes solo (BBC. MTV)
Following YouTube’s best ever streaming coverage of Coachella, it would have been nice to see the BBC match its ambition. Of course in some areas the BBC coverage was infinitely superior, but the Beeb is still not really getting into social media, and the usually brilliant inclusions of setlists were glaringly absent this year.
I also felt that YouTube’s streaming / interface was smoother and smarter. When viewing the BBC feed it dropped out a few times and needed a browser refresh to re-establish which never happened with YouTube’s Coachella. Switching between feeds on YouTube was slick and effortless, whilst the BBC interface was noticably laggy. Finally, the BBC did not have an ’Artists on now and coming up next panel’ or ’Lineup / Agenda’ panel on the same page - so you had to flit between pages to get a proper sense of what was going on.
The BBC excels though in providing Video Highlights on its iPlayer which allows you to watch most of what went down - in any order.
I caught the following acts - both live and on-demand:
Chase and Status
I particularly enjoyed Disclosure, Iggy Azalea, Katy B, Kendrik Lamar and Rudimental - as well as B. Traits’ DJ set.
An enormous amount of input goes into every major Affino version release, and Affino 7 is no exception. Front and centre to all our considerations are our customers’ ongoing requirements and feature requests - Affino almost wholly evolves along collaborative lines between the Comrz Team and every single one of Affino’s users.
It’s frequently a tough job consolidating all the different diverse requirements into a single streamlined system, but this is what we do every day. Pretty much every tiny nuanced functionality has been specified for a particular business scenario and activity. For every major release we endeavour to simplify the user experience, which is not always as simple as it sounds as no two Affino users deploy the system in exactly the same manner.
Every consideration is made to imbue Affino with simplicity, elegance and ease of use. It thus follows that the key technological inspirations convey those same values of clarity of purpose, elegance and simplicity:
The degree of detail and finish of the many elements of the London Olympics are a key influence in the look of the new interface. In particular, we took inspiration from the dynamic keyline pictograms - which elegantly convey movement and modernity. Affino’s Key Navigation Icons are largely inspired by those pictograms - harnessing the same values of forward movement and dynamism
Apple still remains the benchmark for elegant product and interface design, and supreme ease of use. It’s focus on learnability remains a significant design influence in how we consider Affino’s daily usability and overall customer experience
Despite its detractors, the BBC is a significant pioneer online - with its iPlayer representing the first and the best of the Internet TV Players, and the relatively recent BBC.co.uk update being the first significant move towards tablet-style navigation for the main website interface
Much has been written about the exterior design of the new London 2012 Olympic Venues, Stadium and Olympic Park. There has been far less coverage of the actual interior designs of the various venues - the playing surfaces, perimeter wraps, boundary decorations and signage.
I’m fortunate to live right next door to one of the minor outdoor venues - Hyde Park, home to the Triathlon and 10K Marathon Swim events, as well as the location of the BT London Live venue. I do daily Nordic Walks around the perimeter, and the contrasting 2-tone signage looks wonderful all around the park. Just up the road from me is Paddington Station which has London 2012 welcoming / information booths and bunting, and is peppered with the resplendently uniformed London 2012 Ambassadors,
For some, the colour combinations are a little garish, but watching live via the BBC, they seem to give these spectacles added vibrancy. Where with Wimbledon it’s frequently difficult to see where the ball has landed on or outside the court - the wonderfully contrasted playing surfaces featured in this blog make is super clear this time around. I expect the London 2012 games to have a significant impact on the future indoor / floor / surface design of new sports halls and sporting venues around the world.
I’m an avid follower of the world’s leading music festivals - specifically how they are broadcast and ’packaged’ for the digital audience. I’ve kept tabs on the BBC’s and YouTube’s coverage of music festivals over the last few years, and reported back on how each has evolved their offering - benchmark events have been Glastonbury in the UK and Coachella in the US. In this Olympic year, there is no Glastonbury, so we will use BBC 1’s Big Weekend extravaganza - the 2012 Hackney Weekend Music Festival as the UK benchmark.
Where the BBC always excels is in the depth and breadth of its broadcast coverage, and in its archiving. For this year’s Coachella there was really just a smattering of play-back videos from the 3 days of live music, and no full sets. The BBC though has video highlights for pretty much every featured artist, including full sets for the festival headliners.
Watching live though was a different story, as YouTube’s Coachella coverage had better broadcast quality and a much superior interface - with full interaction! For Coachella, fans were able to connect via Facebook, Google+ and Twitter and do comments and shout-outs during the performances - on a live update feed - obviously comments are enabled for most content on YouTube. YouTube also cleverly includes the hashtag #coachellalive on all the updates posted - for maximum exposure. Moreover YouTube’s Coachella screen had a really clever rolling ’What’s On’ panel with dynamic thumbnails - which allowed you to mouse-over for live previews of each stage!
The BBC interface did not really makes the most of social media, and it was noway near as easy to organise your viewing schedule. I also noted that for last year’s Carlisle Big Weekend, the BBC was much better at posting up setlists on the artist overviews. Currently the write-ups are mostly sans setlists, which is something we kind of expected after last year!
It’s a tale of two very different approaches - as for live and direct coverage, YouTube’s system was most obviously superior, but in terms of being able to really ’catch’ the music - in terms of ’on demand access’ - then the BBC comes up trumps, as you can view after the fact - most of what you missed, which was not the case for
Last year I blogged about catching the year’s first big music festival courtesy of YouTube - who broadcast live form the 5 stages over the 3 days. I raved about the really clever interface - how they included hashtags into their live updates - and how slickly the whole thing worked, including the uninterrupted streaming broadcast itself.
This year the layout of the interface was even better - with the current and upcoming bands listed in the centre, and the updates off to the right. It was interesting to see the addition of the ’Login with Google+’ option - although I never saw a Google+ originated post - they were about 70% Twitter Updates, with 30% Facebook - I even logged on myself to post updates during the Azealia Banks and Miike Snow sets.
I did not really start watching properly until the Saturday - and thus caught a mix of highlights and full live gigs by the following artists:
The Big Pink
Dr Dre & Snoop Dogg + Eminem, Fiddy, Warren G, Wiz Khalifa et al.
Florence & The Machine
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Swedish House Mafia
I would have loved to have seen, but missed these:
I always compare YouTube’s coverage of this with the BBC’s coverage of its main music festivals. I think the actual live streaming and the social experience is better by YouTube, but overall the BBC still leads - as they provide so much better supporting materials - and actually post up much more of the video highlights - only 76 Videos are listed on YouTube’s Coachella Page - and these are individual tracks, whilst for the BBC there is normally an extended highlights (circa 30 mins.) plus a couple of individual great moments from nearly all the featured performers - a number of the videos on Coachella Live are not even the best moments from those sets.
On my somewhat dodgy Talk Talk connection, I was astounded to get a totally seamless experience over the whole event - did not drop out once - and switching between the 3 live feed options was butter smooth!
I’ve been waiting a while now for the arrival of Netflix on these shores, so was it worth the wait?
When I received the initial email invitation, it’s poor quality made me unsure as to whether this was some sort of phishing effort. This was not helped by the very basic Netflix holding page presented to UK users.
In any case, I had been waiting a while for this so I dipped my toes into the 30 day free trial. You have to enter you credit card details during registration, which will likely put off some users, but I triangulated the security certificate to be sure. Once registered, you get presented with a very elegant browsing interface, not a million miles from the one for iTunes films, but much the superior in my opininon - especially how it pops up detail information when you hover over the film / programme image.
I caught up with ’Gone Baby Gone’ - a film I had not got around to watching yet, but had always wanted to see. The whole experience from browsing, to selecting and watching is truly slick, simple and elegant. For those worried about signing up via Facebook - for everything you watch, you get the option to not share to Facebook - so that you can continue to watch trashy TV and movies without exposing your viewing choices to friends and family.
Currently, the only thing that really counts against Neflix at the moment is the rather slim selection of video available. Like many other users, I expected there to be a lot more US TV Series. Also - you don’t get the very latest films or TV - it’s mostly a series or two behind. But great if you want to catch up with films and TV you missed when they were initially releases - a couple or so years ago.
The £5.99 all-inclusive monthly fee is the perfect price point as far as I’m concerned - Netflix just needs to work on signing more studio deals and providing a larger selection.
In terms of overall experience, this is currently my favourite way of watching video online - I’m of course interested to see what Apple, Amazon (LoveFilm), YouTube and the BBC do in response to this.
I wrote a blog not so long ago about the poor state of online video, and how poorly it compared to the more traditional model of Blockbuster - which is unfortunately fast waning. There is no online service yet though which is able to deliver as wide a video libary, as quickly as Blockbuster.
It’s that time of year again when pop pundits do their best to predict who’s going to strike it big next year.
There’s no real suprises on the BBC Shortlist, certainly not in the inclusions, but there may be a question as to why Lana Del Rey has been edged out by Lianne La Havas and Ren Harvieu - I for one certainly think Lana is doing more interesting things vocally and melodically than those two.
I was never that bowled over by Nicki Minaj - sure she’s done some mean raps / flows, but for me she’s not nearly as consistent as say her predecessor Missy Elliott, nor quite as interesting as NME’s favourite newcomer Azealia Banks, who is a little potty-mouthed for sure, but is fresh and dynamic, and somehow more genuine and arresting than Ms Nicki.
One of my favourite albums this year has been Frank Ocean’s ’Nostalgia, Ultra’; in particular the ’Novacane’ track - slick, laidback, mature hip hop, superbly produced - he certainly deserves a high place on this listing.
Skrillex (aka Sonny Moore) has been a very busy boy this year, co-producing a number of records, including nu-metallers Korn’s latest album, as well as numerous remixes and own productions. Skrillex’s ’Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ EP came out last year, but has been on fairly regular rotation for me this year on my iPhone jukebox. I love this kind of Dubstep / Electro House hybrid sound, which some naysayers are unfortunately trying to denigrate by calling it brostep - obviously they don’t like to dance!
A$AP Rocky - rough and ready, urban US grimey hip hop (Not UK grimey!), some great tracks (e.g. Palace) but does not quite rise up to the lofty heights of Azealia Banks or Frank Ocean - who are superior in the rap category
*Azealia Banks - smart, witty, innovative flows with clever changes in tempo
I can totally see what the BBC is trying to achieve with their New Home Page Design, and largely I applaud their efforts, but not necessarily the results. All of us Web Professionals know that there is always a trade-off between functionality, usability and aethetics. With the acceletared rate of tablet uptake, particularly ’iPads’, we are seeing more and more tablet-style navigations as part of generic website design. Gone is the old-fashioned paging of the traditional internet screens, to be replaced by horizontally swiped pages and infinite vertical scrolling - I have a feeling eBooks will soon have infinite vertical scrolling too - even an automated setting which allow the text to trickle up the page at your pace of reading.
The fundamentals in any interface design though remain the same - focusing and guiding the user through the key information display areas / panels - in a co-ordinated order of hierarchy and prominence. And in the area of information architecture and relative prominence of content highlights, the balance is far from right.
The new above the line design is kind of like a Magazine template - mostly with single item feature tiles - and there is too little difference between the many blocks / tiles to focus the user’s eye properly on a set order of tasks. We then have the more typical Web Content Listing Highlights below the line as it were - Most Popular > What’s On > Explore >.
In the process, we have lost a significant part of the former’s information overview - there are actually far fewer items of content displayed on the screen at any one time, and in a harder-to-read format.
Several of the panels I really like on the current one are missing too - History Highlights are gone, as is the iPlayer Highlights scroller, the Music Highlights etc. etc. What we have as a replacement is much less flexible in its structure and offers content up largely in a less hierarchical fashion.
My neat pockets of information have disappeared - to be replaced by swiped masthead overviews of amorphous blocks which seem somewhat randomly arranged - you get a tile here and there corresponding with the ’Music’ topic, but rarely in the same place twice.
It’s pretty for sure, and zippy to use, but in terms of information retrieval / transparency / discoverability and reproducability it all leaves you feeling
Once again I enjoyed the festival courtesy of the BBC, in my home lounge - and entirely via the Internet. I still feel like I would want to check it out ’on location’ one of these years - as long as I had guarantees of good weather, and could attend ’Kate Moss’ style - i.e. being flown to and from luxury 5 star hotel at the start and end of every day.
With my newly acquired iPad, it was interesting to see that the only coverage available for the iPad was via the BBC’s excellent iPlayer App. The main BBC Glastonbury website is still largely flash, and the Mobile site is not really up to par with the latest advances in technology. The tipping point will be when the main Glastonbury site is done in HTML5.
Anyway, as for the 3 day festival - I quite enjoyed Friday Night headliners U2, although there were no real surprises here, same goes for Saturday’s Coldplay who featured some great new material, but did not surprise really either. Sunday’s headliner Beyoncé was magnificent though and in fine voice and full fitness dance prowess. Her set opened with a bang, and those who thought she might have front-loaded it with ’Crazy In Love’, ’Single Ladies’ and ’Nasty Girl’, were in for a surprise as her set continued to deliver the goods throughout. She included all of the Destiny’s Child hits, as well as excellent cover versions of Prince’s ’The Beautiful Ones’, Alanis Morisette’s ’You Oughta Know’, Kings of Leon’s ’Sex on Fire’ amd Etta James’s ’At Last’ there were also some lovely little mashup touches including a segment of Mark the 45 King and The Eurythmics’ ’Sweet Dreams’. Shame on all the detractors who tried to belittle Beyoncé’s performance. Beyoncé and her all-female all-in-white band performed magnificently throughout.
Another magnificent female performance came courtesty of Janelle Monáe, who had little communication with the crowd, but managed a