"Yume" by Helios

"Yume" by Helios. Pic from hypem.com

"Yume" by Helios. Pic from hypem.com

I'm not usually one for ambient music, so when I come across an album of it I like I usually get pretty excited about it.

The album is called Yume (the Japanese word for "dream") and, as its name describes, it's full of gorgeous textures and tones that can transport you to beautiful places. This album comes from composer Keith Kenniff under the moniker Helios (he has another project called Goldmund where he does post-classical piano based music).

Yume still has 8 days until it's released, but you can stream it now for free on Hype Machine and pre-order the album through Kenniff's website

Awesome Apps: NPR One

Courtesy of npr.org

It's not much of a surprise that I am a big fan of NPR. I listen almost every day, I talk and tweet about it almost constantly, and I even include it in my social media profiles. 

But the main problem is that I don't like listening to terrestrial radio, so I have mostly had to rely on podcasts to get my NPR fix. But with NPR One, that is no longer a problem.

NPR One is a very simple and user friendly app. Just open the app and it will automatically start with both a short national and local news cast, from NPR and your local NPR member station (good ol' WNYC for me!). Then it just keeps playing stories from there without requiring you to do anything. It gives you that old radio experience, with a lot less commercial interruptions.

Of course, if you are somebody that likes to control the stuff they are listening to, you can also look up all their stories and podcasts on the app. 

NPR One is now my go-to app in the morning to get started on the day's news.

Question: What do you think of the app and of NPR in general? 

New Project: Drum & Hammer

So I listen to podcasts and music pretty much throughout the day and I love to share and talk about it, so I created this blog: Drum & Hammer. It's about all things audio, but mostly podcasts and music. For now, it's just a little Tumblr blog, but maybe it could expand into a bigger project someday. I would really appreciate a follow or any feedback! Thanks.

RIP Sam Simon

America's favorite yellow, cartoon family lost an important member today. 

Sam Simon has died today at the age of 59 after a battle with colon cancer.

Simon, along with Matt Groening and James L. Brooks, was a co-creator for "The Simpsons." He helped establish the team and style that would create the longest-running and most successful animated primetime television series. 

Other production credits under his belt include the "Taxi" television series, "Cheers," and "The Drew Carey Show." 

When not producing television, Simon did a lot a great work with charities like Save the Children and was a renowned philanthropist. 

Sam Simon was a good man and his contributions will continue to live on through the generations. I wish his family and loved ones the best in these dark times and hope they take solace in the fact that Simon did an immeasurable amount of good for this world. 

Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Is Undeniably Funny

Tina Fey is one of my favorite people working in television today. She is unbelievably witty and intelligent, with a distinctive, screwball comedy style all her own. Now, she with Producer/Screenwriter Robert Carlock has brought you "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," a Netflix exclusive.

The show unsurprisingly stars a woman named Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper, most notably Erin from "The Office") who is finally released from a bunker where she was kept for 15 years by a reverend who thought the apocalypse was approaching. After being released, she moves to New York to escape her dark past and find a better life.

By the way, yes this show is a comedy. And, I know what you might be thinking. Yes, the premise of the show is inspired by the horrific kidnappings done by Ariel Castro that were revealed in 2013.

Let's be honest, that is a terrifying backstory for a lead in a comedy. But by only lightly addressing the dark backstory through funny flashbacks and using Kemper's ability to portray unyielding optimism, the plot is able to veer away from a lot of that darkness.

Kemper is helped out by an incredibly talented supporting cast as well. Tituss Burgess (D'Fawn from "30 Rock") plays Titus Andromedon the gay, black roommate with an inclination towards laziness and an amazing singing voice. Jane Krakowski (Jenna Maroney from "30 Rock") plays the blissfully ignorant rich woman; think Jenna Maroney, but without the camera lust. And Carol Kane (Allison from "Annie Hall") plays the heroine-addicted, gentrifying-fearing landlord.  

Now, to be fair, "Unbreakable" in terms of comedy style shares a lot of DNA with "30 Rock," which comes as no surprise considering the fact that Tina Fey is a mother to both. So haters of "30 Rock," will find "Unbreakable" hard to digest.

But for those who still have that two-year-old "30 Rock" itch, will find that Kimmy has good nails for scratching. 

Slate Launches Panoply

Panoply website

Panoply website

As if you did not already have enough podcasts to listen to, Slate Magazine is adding a few more with the launch of podcast network Panoply.

"Online magazine of news, politics, and culture. Combines humor and insight in thoughtful analyses of current events and political news." - from Panoply website

Panoply will house not only Slate's podcasts, but podcasts from other media companies and journalists. Among them is The Ethicists from The New York Times Magazine, The Vulture TV Podcast, The Americans: Slate TV Club Insider, and Happier with Gretchen Rubin

On top of Slate's already successful podcasts like The Gist with Mike Pesca and Political Gabfest, Slate will be introducing Whistlestop with John Dickerson, a podcast about the history of presidential campaigns. 

I have been a longtime fan of Slate's podcasts like Culture Gabfest and Lexicon Valley and I am excited to see what they do to further this field. 

Do you think Panoply will be an innovator of podcasting or just more of the same? Let me know in the comments.

Learn a New Language on Duolingo!

Learning a new language has been a lifetime desire of mine, but despite years of Spanish in high school and two semesters of Japanese in college I can barely hold a basic conversation in either of those languages.

But now there is Duolingo.

Duolingo was created by Luis von Ahn, the creator of reCAPTCHA, as a way to fix a major problem on the Internet: the inefficiency of language translation program. (If you need proof, check out the hit song "Let It Go" translated through Google Translate). His idea was to give real people a free way to learn a language and then let them do the translations themselves. People get to learn a language free and the Internet becomes more accessible to everyone, so there is really no downside.

Duolingo, for English speakers, offers courses in popular languages like French, Spanish, and Italian, but also offers courses less-widespread languages like Irish, Swedish, and Danish. There are even more courses being built all the time by actual Duolingo users. Soon you will be able to learn Polish, Vietnamese, and even the artificial language Esperanto on Duolingo, again all for free.

Keep in mind, Duolingo will not make you fluent or a professional translator, but it will give you a solid foundation with everyday words and grammar to help you out if you ever get stranded in a foreign country.

And, hey, while you are there, feel free to add me on Duolingo as a friend! 

The Austin 100 Has Dropped!

Every year the South By South West Festival (SXSW) hits Austin, TX along with hundreds of great bands, movies, and interactive media. To commemorate this occasion, NPR Music with the help of Stephen Thompson's music taste and NPR Visuals Team eye for detail and design release The Austin 100

The Austin 100 is a compilation of 100 of the best songs from 100 different bands that will be featured during SXSW. People cannot only stream the music from the NPR website, but also download every song for free. The app is beautiful with a simple interface thanks to the NPR Visuals Team and the tracks are awesome thanks to Stephen Thompson. 

Some highlights from the list include "Pedestrian At Best" by Courtney Barnett and "Ridin Round" by Kali Uchis. And the list is diverse enough to satisfy most musical ears.

Go check out the app now and make sure you download the songs too if you like them, the link expires on April 2, 2015.

Blue Keys Award!

Photo from my Instagram page (@garveypotter)

Photo from my Instagram page (@garveypotter)

I have been awarded Blue Keys for the Cross Keys Honor Society at Saint Peter's University. It is the highest honor in the society and I am thoroughly pleased to have been awarded it. I have spent all four years of my college career working to make this a better campus and give back to a school that gave me a lot of great opportunities. Nothing feels better than having hard work being appreciated.