Archive for the ‘music’ Category

My favorite music of 2010

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

I just went back and looked at my 2010 posts, and sadly I think there were only 6 posts all year.  I can’t promise that I’ll do much more in 2011, but I can say that this year I have good reason.  I have a new job that I’m genuinely enjoying, and I’ll have a baby daughter any day now.  So the blog might have to take a back seat.  BUT at a minimum I hope to be back a year from now with my favorite tunes of 2011.

For now, here’s what I was able to pull together for 2010.  As a reminder, I don’t take a strict interpretation on “best of” lists for a given year.  Rather my list reflects the music that I discovered and enjoyed listening to in a given year, and if a song didn’t happen to be released in the year in question, that’s OK with me.  I think this year only one song was released outside of 2010, but that one was released in 2004 and I don’t know how I missed it.  In any case, let’s get to the music (listed “Song” – Artist – Album):

  1. High On Your Love – Kings Go Forth – The Outsiders Are Back I don’t know much about this band, and I’m not even sure how I discovered them (though I think it was eMusic).  All I know is that the song is undeniably good and I don’t think any of my music-loving friends know about this band, which is a bonus!
  2. Patience – Mark Sandman – Sandbox This is the song that was released in 2004, and I don’t know how I missed it.  Mark Sandman was the front man for the band Morphine, and unfortunately he passed away a couple years ago.  I was a big Morphine fan, but I never knew he had a solo album.  Sandbox is a double album, and it’s hit and miss, but this tune is fantastic.
  3. Oh My God – The Cults – (Album Unknown) I don’t know how I found this song, and I don’t know anything about the band, but I like the song.
  4. In Knowing – Swimming in Speakers – Swimming in Speakers EP I also don’t know how I found this song, and I also don’t know anything about the band, but I like the song.
  5. Swimming – Breathe Owl Breathe – Magic Central I found this song on eMusic, and I’m not sure I liked any of the other tracks by this band.  The lyrics in part of the song are terrible, but the song is still charming and it’s got a tasty indie vibe.
  6. Fuck You – Cee-Lo Green – The Lady Killer I never shy away from big successful poppy songs on my best-of lists if I think the songs deserve it.  This song got a lot of chatter when it came out, and I honestly wasn’t on board immediately, but it creeps into your head and won’t leave.  I think the backup vocals are what make it so infectious.
  7. Numbers Don’t Lie – The Mynabirds – What we lose in the fire we gain in the flood I admit it, there’s a certain component of competition in this “best of” list.  I want to find songs that my music-loving friends haven’t found on their own, but really like.  This song fills that requirement for my friend and former band-mate John.  I think he’ll love it, and I don’t think he’s ever heard it.  I also happen to like it.
  8. Floating Vibes – Surfer Blood – Astro Coast I will also admit that I do some “cramming” at the end of the year to try to find good new music.  This was a result of those cramming efforts, but I think it’s a good tune.
  9. Tighten Up – The Black Keys – Brothers It’s just a good rock song.
  10. Electrocution – Nada Surf – If I Had a Hi-Fi Nada Surf made a previous best-of list, and my friend Bill introduced me to this song.  I guess this band is more than “popular.”
  11. Where I’m Going – Cut Copy – Modular Another song that I owe to my friend Bill.  I don’t think he puts together a “best of” list, so I’ll just steal his good discoveries and give him credit.
  12. I don’t Care If There’s Cursing – Phosphorescent – Here’s To Taking It Easy I like this song on its own merits, but my wife does a silly dance every time she hears this song and I love it, so there’s twice the reasons to include it on this list.
  13. Evening Kitchen – Band of Horses – Infinite Arms This album was better than you thought it was.  Same is true for this song.  When I saw the band live earlier this year, this song stole the show for me… just one guitar and two vocals.  Really really pretty.  Give it another listen.
  14. This Too Shall Pass – OK Go – Of the Blue Colour of the Sky Great band, great videos, decent live shows.  I saw this band live for the first time in 2010 and I can’t tell you why the show was only good (not great), but they have a lot of really good songs and this is one of them.  And if you haven’t already seen the video, you should.
  15. The High Road – Broken Bells – Broken Bells DJ Danger Mouse got together with that guy from The Shins, huh?  Sounds like a cool idea, and this song delivers.
  16. Rill Rill – Sleigh Bells – Treats When a group claims that they “defy genres” it’s usually either a) a marketing gimmick, or b) a shitty band.  In this case the description is true and the end result is worth a listen or two.
  17. Crash Years – The New Pornographers – Together I like the New Pornographers and I wanted to put one of their songs on this mix, so here it is.
  18. Denise – Clem Snide – The Meat of Life When I lived in NY, my friends and band-mates took me to see Clem Snide at the Bowery Ballroom.  I didn’t like it.  I’ve since come around.  There are a lot of good tracks on this album (and some mediocre ones), but this is one I liked quite a bit.
  19. Taxi Cab – Vampire Weekend – Contra This album came out  in the beginning of 2010 and it was easy to almost forget them.  Plus their keyboardist seems like a douche (they all kind of seem douchey), but their songs are undeniably good and still sound different than pretty much any other current band.

Hope you enjoy, and as always if you hear something you like please support the band by either downloading their album, or better yet seeing them live.

Click here to download a Zip of all these songs

Happy New Year!

Mason Jennings Solo at the Variety Playhouse June 19, 2010

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

The last time I saw Mason Jennings was at the same venue just over two years ago.  That show also happened to be my first date with a  girl who is now my wife, so needless to say it was fun to get to relive the experience from a very different perspective.

The big difference in the show is that this time it was just Mason, solo acoustic.  I honestly didn’t know if I’d get tired of that setup before the end of the show, but I did not – the show was fantastic. The show was entirely seated – even the general admission area up front had plastic tables and chairs set up, so that set the mood for a mellow evening.  It felt a lot like that VH1 show that was on a few years ago called “Storytellers.”  He told a little back story about most of the songs, and it really did a great job of setting them up and giving them new dimensions when he played them.

One of the stories I remembered is when he was describing a girl he used to date, and the two of them had drastically different taste in music.  He said she was into a style of music called “boots and cats,” which is music where the drum part always goes “boots n cats n boots n cats n boots n cats n” (try it out loud, you’ll get it).  She always complained that anything he played didn’t even have drums in it.  He said it’s a tough position to be in ’cause they liked each other but didn’t see eye to eye on most things.  That was the back story to the song “Nothing.”

The other one I remember is the back story to the new version of “The Field.”  He described it as his attempt to make sense of the Iraq war (which had started on his birthday).  He had talked to a lot of people who were either in the armed forces or close to those who were.  Specifically he mentioned a friend’s brother who was a soldier and a poet stationed in Iraq.  He said that through an unconscious prejudice he had previously been unable to think of a soldier and a poet as traits possible in one person.  Somehow reading the poetry of someone who appreciate the beauty of all of the details of Iraq made it that much harder to accept what was going on in the war, especially when he learned this poet/soldier has been killed.  Again this was a powerful setup for the song which he went on to play.

My wife and I snuck up to the front for the encores (and were able to get the fairly close-up picture above).  The show was a little short, probably just under 90 minutes, but it was fantastic – probably even better than the last show we saw.  To top it all off, he encouraged everyone to hang around the merchandise table and he would come say hello to everyone after the show.  A large portion of the crowd did just that (especially the high school & college girls), and he did indeed come out, sign autographs, take pictures and make friendly small talk.  Very cool of him.  I’m sure we’ll see him again whenever he comes back.

Full Set list:

  1. Fighter Girl
  2. Which way your heart will go
  3. Be here now
  4. Your new man
  5. Nothing
  6. Ballad for my one true love
  7. Lonely Road
  8. The Field (old song that he rediscovered)
  9. The Field (off of Blood of Man)
  10. California (Part II)
  11. The Fisherman
  12. Jackson Square
  13. Living in the Moment
  14. Hospitals and Jails
  15. Pittsburgh
  16. I love you and Budda too
  17. Crown


  1. Butterfly
  2. Bullet
  3. Keepin it Real

My favorite music of 2009

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

2009 Cover Art Collage

This is the 5th year in a row that I’ve assembled an official “best of” the year, though only the previous two years made it onto the blog.  2008 is available here, and 2007 is available here.  Two different circles of my friends exchanges “best of” lists, and I think everyone approaches the task differently.  My perspective probably changes each year, but my current thinking is that this “mix” should simply contain the music that I want to remember when I think back on this year.

That guiding principle simplifies some things, like the fact that I don’t care whether or not a song was released in 2009, I just need to have discovers it in 2009.  There a few more subtle considerations though.  I know this will be evaluated by my music-loving friends, and so I need to 1) make sure my list doesn’t overlap too much with theirs, and 2) make an effort to introduce them to some songs they might otherwise not have heard.  I also like to make sure to include some uncool songs in my mix – it’s dangerous to take your music too seriously.

OK, enough preamble.  Here’s the list:

  1. Hysteric  (Acoustic Version) – Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz! (Deluxe Edition) I have a love/hate relationship with this band.  I have never loved an entire one of their albums, but I usually find a few tracks on each album that I think are great.  I’m glad they chose to do acoustic versions of a couple tunes on It’s Blitz! because I like them much more than their electric counterparts.
  2. When My Time Comes – Dawes – Dawes I saw Dawes open for The Delta Spirit in February at the Drunken Unicorn.  This song caught my ear then and has only grown on me since then.  It’s a fantastic bass grove and a fantastic fat harmony on the choruses.
  3. Doomsday – Elvis Perkins in Dearland – Elvis Perkins in Dearland – I saw EP at least 3 times in 2009, and the shows ranged from good to great.  I remember this one as being a particularly lively jam live – the drummer walked into the crowd with a big bass drum strapped to his chest, and the horns are always great.  It’s fun on the album version too.
  4. Two Weeks – Grizzly Bear – Veckatimeist Great soaring ambient harmonies and a very cool drum beat.
  5. Magpie To The Morning – Neko Case – Middle Cyclone Before this album Neko didn’t do much for me.  I liked her work in the New Pornographers better than her solo stuff.  This album, however, is great.  She put on a great show in support of this album too.
  6. Beautiful – Dan Reeder – Sweetheart Don’t know much about Dan Reeder, but Pandora served this song up and I just thought it was cute and charming.  I felt it was worth sharing, see if you agree.
  7. Can You Tell – Ra Ra Riot – The Rhumb Line A friend of mine is a great photographer for bands, and I was looking through some of his work here.  I asked him who the cellist was, and he said she was from this band who was opening for Vampire Weekend at the time and sounded kind of like them, but different enough.  That’s a pretty good description, and this is a pretty catchy song.
  8. Single Ladies – Pomplamoose – (the internet) As you may remember, I put the original version of this song on last year’s mix.  It’s not that I’m completely obsessed with this song, I just think this is a really creative cover by a kind of cute white girl.  To get the full effect, you should definitely watch the video on youtube.
  9. Folding Chair – Regina Spektor – Far I really like Regina Spektor, and this whole album is really good.  I wanted to include one of the upbeat songs and I had a hard time choosing between this and “The Calculation.”  This one won out because I love the second verse where it sounds like there’s a desk bell throughout the verse.  I don’t love the dolphin sounds later in the song, but Regina is a little weird and I like that so I’ll cut her some slack.
  10. Bully of New York – Ana Egge – Road to my Love This one came to me on a Paste Magazine sampler, and this song just jumped out as a beautiful swooning melody over a fat upright bass line.
  11. No Intention – Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca This band has a really unique sound and does a lot of cool stuff with harmonies.  I had a hard time choosing one track, but think this is one of the most approachable.  I do think it’s funny, however, that the guitar solo in this song almost sounds like one of the XYZ Shreds video parodies on youtube (example here).
  12. For Beginners – M. Ward – Hold Time I saw M in Athens in 2009 and loved the show (I had seen him once before and didn’t love it).  I like this new album, and this track stood out as the “keeper” for this list.
  13. Party In the U.S.A. – Miley Cyrus – Party In the U.S.A.  – Single One day I was looking at iTunes and I got curious about what was popular.  I looked at their “top downloads” chart, and this song was #1.  I had heard of Miley Cyrus, but didn’t think I had ever heard one of her songs.  What can I say, as pop goes this one deserved to be #1.  It didn’t turn me into a Miley fan in general, but this song is great.
  14. Parachute – Shugo Tokumaru – Exit This is another tune from a Paste sampler that just sounded unique.  Plus the band name sounds Japanese, and that immediately gives them a leg up in my book.
  15. Take Courage – Andrew Bird – Noble Beast I like Andrew Bird, but I don’t love him.  I tend to like his albums more than his live shows.  This track highlights some of his likable qualities.
  16. I’m Yours – Jason Mraz – We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things Let’s be perfectly clear here: I hate Jason Mraz.  I think he’s pretty douchey.  Still, this song has a great melody, a great hook, and nice backup vocals.  It’s almost a perfect pop song (until he drops the lyric “scootch,” like a turd in the punchbowl – he can’t help but show his true colors).  Still, just like most guys hate to admit there’s one or two romantic comedies out there that they actually kind of like, I hate to admit it but I like this song.
  17. When The Devil’s Loose – A.A. Bondy – When The Devil’s Loose Great song that captures a very unique old-timey sound on the recording.  Clearly my favorite track on the album.
  18. My Only Swerving – El Ten Eleven – El Ten Eleven This album was released a long time ago, but Pandora only introduced me to this band this year, and I think this track does a great job of capturing what there is to like about this band.  It’s amazing that it’s only two people (and they can pull it off flawlessly live).  Check out a video here.  I now have an entire instrumental station on Pandora based on these guys.
  19. The Summer – Coconut Records – Davy Coconut Records is the name for Actor/Entertainer Jason Schwartzman’s music project, and this is his second album under that name.  A friend introduced me to the album, which contains a lot of great pop songs with nice harmonies and a good use of backup vocals.  I chose this track because my wife and I actually met and hung out with Jason and his wife on our honeymoon.   His wife is from Alabama, and so this song is obviously about her.  I like the song on it’s own, but it’s more fun to know that I’ve met not only the songwriter, but also the inspiration for the song.  They’re genuinely great people, BTW, but the song deserves to be included on its own merit.

Whether you patiently read all that jibba jabba or not, here’s the payoff – you can download a zip file with all of these tracks using the link below.  And as always, if you find something you like, please support the artist by buying something by them or (better yet) going to see a show.

Zip File with my Favorite Music of 2009

hope you enjoy!