Music you might hear during breaks at a conference

~ 23 January 2008 ~

I need your help. This Friday, the 30 designers of our team will assemble in the main auditorium of the stunning Salt Lake City Library for our First Annual Design Review. We’ve been planning this full-day event for a couple months now and I’m really excited to see how things turn out. I may blog about our approach at a later date.

For now, we’re down to the wire, and I need your music suggestions. Picture this: You’re at a conference. [Insert design or web rock star name] just delivered a killer session on typography or CSS5 (or both) and it’s time for a break. What song(s) do you expect to grace the room in tribute to the moment?

Frankly, I’m not at all experienced with this sort of thing, and I’m probably the last person you’ll ever find behind a turntable. I’ve started compiling a few tracks in this iMix (iTunes required). Concur, poke fun, or add your suggestions in the comments.

Update: The completed list is now available. Thanks for all your suggestions.



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1   Tim Van Damme ~ 23 January 2008

What about some movie/game soundtracks? They have a sense of neutralness over them, which should fit fine in the background.

2   Rick ~ 23 January 2008

Depends on the age of the crowd, really. Usually some classic rock (think 70’s, 80’s and 90’s) goes well at conferences.

See this Wikipedia page for a small sampling of artists that are usually appreciated by the young and old. Just my $.02

3   Tyler ~ 23 January 2008

By the looks of that mix, you’re not much of a Slayer fan are ya? hahaha

4   Chris ~ 23 January 2008

Tom Waits would win some “wow they’re playing this?!” points with anyone who knew. Other favorites that would score some happy - The Pixies and Violent Femmes

5   Charlie Park ~ 23 January 2008

Oooh. Yeah. Blister in the Sun would be pretty good for that. Maybe The Cure’s Just Like Heaven?

6   David Joyce ~ 23 January 2008

Give the event an Apple vibe and play Coldplay, Feist and the Black Eyed Peas.

7   oAk ~ 23 January 2008

“All That We Perceive” by Thievery Corporation from the album “the Richest Man in Babylon.” The slow groove of the bass line would “fill” the room but wouldn’t be obtrusive so it wouldn’t interrupt conversation.

8   Douglas ~ 23 January 2008

I don’t know about you guys, but anywhere I here the “Once” soundtrack is where I want to be.

9   Jemaleddin ~ 23 January 2008

You know, I was listening to an old “This American Life” podcast on my way into work, and as an essayist paused, the soft, sweet opening bars of “Science vs. Romance” by Rilo Kiley swelled in to fill the space, and I thought, “Holy crap do I love that song.” It’s not just a beautiful song, though it is, sung by a beautiful girl. It’s also got a nice theme that fits with modern design stated right in the title. Balancing the science (tools, browsers, software) of creating and presenting design with the romance of the message that you’re trying to convey is what design is all about. Give it a listen.

10   Alf Kåre Lefdal ~ 23 January 2008

It would make a difference wether you played dinosaur (classic) rock, jazz or some modern electronica…

Taking into account the subject of the conference, I would go for the same music that you hear in upscale bars, making people feel sophisticated and relaxed.

Trip Hop (e.g. Thievery Corporation), Brazilian Jazz (Getz, Jobim, Gilberto), …

11   Brett ~ 23 January 2008

Rebellion by Arcade Fire…it just kind of transcends multiple genres.

12   pr10n ~ 23 January 2008

8 Ball by Underworld

Queen Bitch by David Bowie

I’m really biased towards 8-ball simply because it never fails to cheer me up. Queen Bitch on the other hand is a must. As long as it isn’t to played too loud it think it would make great background noise.

13   Jared Christensen ~ 23 January 2008

I think Imogen Heap’s “Wireless” or Sigur Ros’ “Hijomalind” would fit in nicely with the tracks you’ve already selected (which ain’t bad at all!).

Definitely let us know how the design review goes. It’s a great idea.

14   Anthony ~ 23 January 2008

I think in this sort of situation you don’t want that’ll ask for too much attention.

One type of music I’ve noticed is pretty good is obscure cover versions.

Comedian Ross Noble (genius) used to play like hill billie covers of well know tunes in his intermissions. It stays in the background, but when you catch a bit of a tune it gets you thinking - “oooh whats that - I know that!”. It’ then becomes a conversation starter.

I think it was the Pickin’ On… series. (e.g. Pickin On U2, Pickin’ On Modest Mouse, Pickin On Led Zepplin… etc etc)

It sounds a bit naff, but it honestly works!

15   Stephanie ~ 23 January 2008

In a small room, I’d go with funny stuff: Hands to Boag, Code Monkey and other Jonathan Coulton selections. In a larger room, though, no one would be able to make out the lyrics. In a larger room, I’d probably go for really upbeat songs: “Weekend Song” by the Freestylers, “Everybody Got Their Something” by Nikka Costa, “Have Fun, Go Mad” by Blair.

16   Matt ~ 23 January 2008

I’d think you would want something innovative and exciting. If you want it to sound recognizable, I second the soundtrack scores. My top two suggestions: Moby’s Extreme Ways from the Bourne Ulimatum movie and He’s A Pirate Tiesto Remix from the Pirates of the Caribbean.

Maybe you don’t necessarily want lyrics because it’s “background music.” Check out these songs from Tiesto’s album Elements Of Life:
Driving To Heaven
Ten Seconds Before Sunrise
Carpe Noctum
Bright Morningstar
Elements Of Life

Then again Cameron, why not just outsource the music to your coworker Jason Lynes, the music junkie he is?

17   David ~ 23 January 2008

You can’t do an event now and not play CSS’s “Music is My Hot Hot Sex”. It’s like, well, destiny.

18   Tanner Christensen ~ 23 January 2008

Soulja boy.

19   Travis ~ 23 January 2008

Anything by AIR. Perfect background music. Punk covers of 80s songs are good too: 99 Red Balloons by Goldfinger or The Boys of Summer by The Ataris.

20   dp{i} ~ 23 January 2008

whitest boy alive!!!

21   Clifton ~ 23 January 2008

Can’t Take It In by Imogen Heap

Dixie Breakdown by The Deer Lick Holler Boys

Snowflakes Falling I by JT Donaldson

The Real Thing by Nor Elle.

22   paul ~ 23 January 2008

how about music written by a designer? is my band ;)

23   Antonio ~ 23 January 2008


24   patrick ~ 23 January 2008

I agree with AIR and Whitest Boy Alive. Maybe some Beck, Hot Chip, or The 4A by The Incredible Moses Leroy.

You should really check out a band called Kunek. They have an album called Flight of the Flynns that’s on iTunes.

Another album that would be even closer to what you already have in the mix would be Since We Last Spoke by RJD2 (especially 1976).

25   Scott Nelle ~ 23 January 2008

Go into itunes radio > ambient > Groove Salad. All set. :)

Groovera: Jet City Lounge is good as well, and conveniently located near Groove Salad.

26   Chris ~ 23 January 2008

I highly recommend anything by El Ten Eleven. If fonts had a sound, El Ten Eleven would be it.

27   Mr. Ho ~ 23 January 2008

Shameless self plug for my band, WAITIKI: - Exotic Tiki-tainment from Polynesia and Beyond!

mr ho

28   Frank Jepsen ~ 23 January 2008

Love that title. Sounds like a Brian Eno album.

29   Carl Peterson ~ 23 January 2008

What about some old-school electronica like Massive Attack’s Mezzanine, or Moby’s Play?

MGMT’s new album has some great, ambient-like stuff on it.

30   Scott Schlegel ~ 23 January 2008

How about “You’re the best” from movie “The Karate Kid”?

31   Andrew Hedges ~ 23 January 2008

Particle Man by They Might Be Giants

32   Rebecca ~ 23 January 2008

How about Pompeii by E.S. Posthumus?

33   Tony Ballinger ~ 23 January 2008

Go with something like Senor Coconut’s album “El Baile Aleman” which features covers of Kraftwerk songs. Older folks might get a tickle from hearing Kraftwerk covered as a latin band, and younger folks might just think it’s catchy. I heard it during the intro of a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club show and I had to ask the DJ about it.

34   Andrew Le ~ 23 January 2008

The Postal Service for that clean, modern sound.

35   Cameron Moll ~ 23 January 2008

Lots of great stuff here, really enjoying plumbing through everyone’s suggestions.

Pickin’ On… series.

Ha, that’s wild. Gave the U2 stuff a spin.

whitest boy alive!!!

Me, or the group? :)

El Ten Eleven

So, is some of their work featured in the Helvetica movie? Sounds familiar. (Love the music they chose for Helvetica)

I’m now wondering aloud if anything from Flight of the Conchords would fly in a conference setting.

36   Michel ~ 23 January 2008

ever heard of the Beta Band? check out their tune Dry the Rain you can also find some good stuff for free from Better than Ezra. Also there is this website called we7 with free downloads from cool artists like dave matthews… you should check it out - I like your iMix thoug

37   Dan ~ 23 January 2008

- the standard way: Massive Attack, Air.

- the “other” way: “Make my logo bigger” theme.

good luck!

38   Helly ~ 23 January 2008

No Tiesto. No electronic music that makes you feel like you are in a dark warehouse party or club with tons of sweaty people. I say yuk to that.

Yes to Arcade Fire and Yes to J-dilla and Madlib.

39   Mike D ~ 23 January 2008

‘Aclectasis’ by Steroid Maximus, otherwise known as JG Thirwell, the wonderful composer for the fantastic Venture Bros.

Or, if you can get your hands on it, the overture at the end of the movie Cloverfield. Excellent bombastic Godzilla-esque theme music.

40   Ray Stone ~ 23 January 2008

I say some soft melodic indi like Teenage Fanclub. Keeps the energy high and spirits up but subtle enough to allow conversation.

41   jp ~ 23 January 2008

I am Robot and Proud

42   yani ~ 23 January 2008

stairway to heaven - led zeppelin

43   Robert Spangler ~ 24 January 2008

Yeah I would definitely agree with Andrew Le on playing some Postal Service.

I’ve also been a bit obsessed with ‘Sorry’ - Youth Group I feel like that might be the right feel for the event.

Good Luck!

44   Blake ~ 24 January 2008

Zero 7. Thievery Corporation. Explosions in the Sky. Pelican. Mono. Massive Attack. Battles.

Listening to Battles now. Awesome.

Good luck!

45   John ~ 24 January 2008

You MUST play “Over and Over” by Hot Chip.

46   Gary Bristow ~ 24 January 2008

Sigur Ros
The Delgados
Massive Attack
Talking Heads

47   LDB ~ 24 January 2008

I would steer away from the down home, bluegrass pickin’ on anything.

Some world genre music might be better, like Afro-Celt sound system or youssou n’dour (probably didn’t spell that right)

Straight up Modest Mouse is good.

For a twist on the Tom Waits, use a track off of Wicked Grin by John Hammond Jr.

Eighteenth street lounge has a great compilation called “modular systems” (nicola conte, thievery corporation, etc.).

Add Morcheeba to Blake’s list.

Love Girls remix of Robert Plant’s Shine it all around.

48   Simmy ~ 24 January 2008

I’d thrown in some Band of Horses. Any of it. Maybe some “The Funeral” or “Is There a Ghost”. Also, some Ben Kweller might give a kick of sunshine. Any of the first six songs on his self-titled album are all great.

49   kyle ~ 24 January 2008

No help in the music department. Is your Design Review open to people in the area?

50   Matthew Reinbold ~ 24 January 2008

I’ll just echo what kyle said - is this design review open to other folks in the area? Is there a link to find out more info?

51   Cameron Moll ~ 24 January 2008

Unfortunately, no. We discussed the idea, but logistically it won’t work for this event.

52   John ~ 24 January 2008

How about giving another designer the opportunity to show his skills, and get Scott Hansen of Tycho to help you out?

53   Jeremy ~ 24 January 2008

After I attended AEA Seattle last year I noticed that Zeldman posted the playlist that they used during the breaks. I really enjoyed their selections. The list is available here.

54   Cameron Moll ~ 24 January 2008

How about giving another designer the opportunity to show his skills, and get Scott Hansen of Tycho to help you out?

We’ve actually got some of his stuff in rotation, just doesn’t show up in the iMix because it isn’t on iTunes.

55   Jeff Foter ~ 24 January 2008

Any desire to have a guest dj that actually spends almost as much time behind turntables as they do designing? Overkill?

I’d do it for perks ;)

56   Chris ~ 24 January 2008

Yes, most of the Helvetica soundtrack was El Ten Eleven.

57   Mike ~ 24 January 2008

I’m thinking along the lines of Minus the Bear. A bit quirky, but so tight and technical I think it fits.

Or you could just go totally crazy with some old Pink Floyd, like Interstellar Overdrive or Astronomy Domine. You gotta love Syd.

58   bennion ~ 25 January 2008

nice mix. that massive attack album is one of my all time favs! a little too late but check out ‘the sea and cake’, ‘tristeza’, ‘beck (sea change)’ and ‘andrew bird’. good stuff. thanks for sharing the iMix.

59   Suffian ~ 25 January 2008

The Kooks! Elle Rollo! Prefuse 73! Bob Marley! Meet Uncle Hussein! The Roots! Incubus!

60   ~ 25 January 2008

earth and venus by andy davis

…and anything by ryan adams

61   Shane ~ 25 January 2008

I’m too late, and I totally almost checked your blog last night, but then I hit the update button, and it was taking longer to update tahn I wanted to wait so I went to lay down and I was going to come back later, and I fell asleep watching the Net’s and Golden State game.

Anyways I saw a lot of good suggestions anyways, one I would of suggested. But I also looked at the mix you had going and it was already looking really good.

A group to add to your I need to check out list is Pinback, and The Hoosiers, also Josh Rouse.

Anyways sounds like a fun day. I hope all goes well.

In the future Death CAb For Cutie or Postal Service is always a must have in my opinion. Modest Mouse wouldn’t hurt either.

62   jason lynes ~ 25 January 2008

dude. best comment thread in a while, on any blog lately. great suggestions from everyone. i almost think we could put on a conference of just great music. forget about presentations, and just mingle over some great sounds. i wonder if sxsw music is as good as that?

to everyone wondering about a SLC conference open to the public: we’re working on it. i really hope we can do these kinds of things often and open to the public. we need it up here!

63   Stephen Capp ~ 27 January 2008

If they have not already been mentioned - Zero-7, Sia (who did a bunch of Z7 vocals), Boards of Canada and AIR are all great picks for background chill and/or work. Cat Power and Emilliana Torrini offer up some super sexy vocals too!

64   Thomas Ham ~ 27 January 2008

Nick Drake, or if you want something more modern, try Nujabes.


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