The one hundred and sixteenth book: #1236 Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson

My career is built around computers and especially recently, I've been focusing a fair bit more on matters of security. Having this novel cover a lot of cryptographic topics tied in well with that and made it more interesting to follow - both the development of the simpler systems in WWII, one of the two time periods in which it's set, and that of the late nineties, which is closer to what I do now... and in other ways outdated. I mean, these days social engineering is far more of a vector of attack than purely cryptography, and with advances your key length needs to be a lot bigger, but it was interesting to read about Van Eck phreaking (which wasn't as practical in the situations the protagonist feared) even if it might not be your first approach in the modern day. Even seeing very early references to cryptocurrency is interesting.

With that said, I do feel like some of the staples of the author got a bit annoying. I get the use of some fictional countries to tell your story, but the fetishization of the author's preferred Qwghlm got distracting any time it went from a quick reference to a slightly too irrelevant bit of exposition that just got annoying quickly. Past that, though, it moved quickly and was a lot of fun taken together.

The five hundred and thirtieth album: #530 Meat Puppets - Meat Puppets II

The sound of punk, filtered through an American country lens, feels like it moves away from the band's punk roots almost as the album progresses, starting off post-punk and moving more towards bluegrass until eight tracks in, at New Gods, it jumps back in. It's quite an interesting tour through some of the related genres and the experiments the band seems to have had with them, and although it lacks a more cohesive identity because of that, it's a really nice set of tracks to listen to.

The five hundred and twenty-ninth album: #529 The Police - Synchronicity

When listening to this as a single album, it feels like the distinction between the two sides disappears when it is meaningfully present in the tracks on each. The first side is the post-punk, ska-like tracks - high energy, with synthesizers and all. The second half is a lot calmer, with several ballads - all sadder or more frightening. They are the more engaging side, with the lyrics and themes feeling a bit more complex. It's far from a perfect album for me - the two halves feel too disjointed to really satisfy everyone - but there's some good standards on it.

The one hundred and ninety-fourth classical recording: #891 Michael Tippett - Fantasia Concertante

This is a pretty impressive concerto, building on the one theme, and keeping in touch with a simpler approach that manages to build incredibly well It may not seem as intense, but it flows well and has that internal beauty to the music.

The five hundred and twenty-eighth album: #528 U2 - War

It's odd how this album feels removed from both sides of music we've been covering lately - the poppy, synthy music and the dark heavy metal. War feels grown up in a way that makes sense now, an album with a message, strong music, uncompromising and mostly gimmickless. It's just good music, a strong evolution from punk to a more centered rock album.

The five hundred and twenty-seventh album: #527 Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

This album alone is good to listen to - some good poppy tracks with the eighties synth feel that can hit you well in the right songs even if it can get overused on other tracks. The standout is of course the title track, which is already one of those songs that tends to get stuck in my head - there's just that sort of quality around it. What stands out in the album context is how at times it also feels different from other tracks - surrounded by some slower, more ethereal sounds (almost lulling you to sleep to continue the theme).

The one hundred and ninety-third classical recording: #36 Claudio Monteverdi - Combattimento

Combattimento is, it seems, the first opera - or musical theatre piece - that's on the list, and looking at the bits of staging I've seen it does feel like there's a vocal piece that has some performers separately performing as most of the piece is narrated. There are some other voices, but it feels like it's still settling in, going from a storyteller to a more involved performance. It still features the early string sounds, but the vocals are getting so much closer and it's interesting to see the development happen - almost in front of you as the piece evolves into more of a performance.

The five hundred and twenty-sixth album: #526 ZZ Top - Eliminator

A lot of the time, ZZ Top's eighth album feels like a throwback to an earlier era. With the rise of new wave and a poppier sound - something that has influenced some tracks - a lot of the hard rock tracks harken back to the decade prior, with a number of blues rock tracks really feeling like they could have been from the Rolling Stones. They're really good - If nothing else, they've honed their craft during that time - but it feels oddly out of place now. The long solos, clearly intended for more exciting reactions when performing live - do feel out of place now, but on the whole I can't fault the album.

The five hundred and twenty-fifth album: #525 Echo & The Bunnymen - Porcupine

In the post punk era, Echo & The Bunnymen's third album's psychedelic rock leans towards the gothic rock error at times, the at times bizarre sounds enhanced by a quite dark and mysterious sound. It doesn't go through the entire album, but it leans heavily on it at the end of the first side leading into the first. It's not quite as unsettling as it sounds, for the most part, but it differs per track how comfortable it gets. The sound design is great, though, and it works so well for the tracks.

The one hundred and ninety-second classical recording: #899 Pierre Boulez - Le Marteau Sans Maitre

The somewhat disconcordant nature of this piece never quite stops being unsettling - the more conventional parts lure you into this feeling of safety until it strikes with a stranger set of music again. The normal, albeit sparse parts are lovely to listen to, with the ethereal vocals adding to that feeling of disquiet that you have throughout, but there are moments that really jolt you awake. It's not unpleasant, but it makes me wonder how this plays in a big venue - there's something about the perceived intimacy of the solo listening experience that really elevates it for me here.