Tag Archives: Brandi Carlile

Labor Dave Weekend 2014

7 Sep

We went 2 of the 3 days. We spent the big bucks on seats. We made a sign for the opener (Brandi CArlile!) and for DMB. Which we worked really hard on and it turned out adorable. We chalked the car. Planned the hair, makeup, and clothes to look extra cute. It should have been the best year!

But it wan’t. Actually, I cried crocodile tears. Lesson learned: More money spend doesn’t automatically translate to better time, more fun. Maybe it translates to better pictures? Or just experience did.

We had previously gone to the show on Sunday only. And that’s what I would advise fans to do (unless you are a binge-drinker and love obnoxious crowds). By Sunday, everyone is tired, sunburned, hung-over–and it makes them more subdued. That’s my crowd–a little less amped up, at least to the point of politeness.

Friday everyone is full of energy. They have not been cooked in the sun yet. And they’re not hung-over and low key. Friday it’s all frat boys and pushing, and so so so much smoking. Like, yuck, it’s after 1950-who is still smoking?!! We’re in WAshington state, and WA is environmentally conscious, educated, and healthy. Don’t go on Friday.

The beautiful sign ruined everything. I was excited to hold it. We worked so hard, and it was super-cute. But the first time we held it up (between songs) some frat boy fussed. I wanted to say, fuck you, you’re too busy bing-drinking, yelling, pushing, and smoking to notice anyway. But Cool got very anxious, and refused to hold the sign at all after that. Which made me severely disappointed. I tried to get her to hold it, b/c we had spent a lot of time and planning on it–but she listened to the 1 frat boy and refused. It was a huge fight!

The weekend could not be salvaged after that.

We had seats for Friday and Sunday, and of COURSE Brandi performed Sat–the day we didn’t have tickets. It was windy. The friend we were staying with was sick with a migraine. It wasn’t the good time we had planned, hoped for, anticipated, or paid for.

So just know that you don’t have to spends loads of money to have fun. Our most fun year was our cheapest and our most expensive year went the worst.

YOU make your fun time!

2019 Album Countdown: Increasing Enthusiasm (Top 3)

31 Dec

3 Lizzo:  

I didn’t want to like Lizzo, because it seemed like she came out of nowhere and took Grammys from people I really like.  I hadn’t even heard her name out there, and knew nothing of any of her songs (I guess the one pitfall of losing radio who crams hyped things down your throat).  Suddenly, she was a name I heard everywhere.

But her tunes won me over. Like, big time. For awhile I actually thought she was going to be my #1 album for 2019.  I like the female empowerment, the cool-factor within the songs, and the production value.  But my biggest reason was that this album makes you excited to listen to it.  And the feminism and body positivity sneaks in while you’re dancing.  It’s good.

–>P.S. Here’s an unpopular (honest) opinion:  I Judged on the songs, not the red carpet. I acknowledge, like most white, cis women in America (the 1st world?) I have been socialized with certain beauty standards.  I simultaneously hate these standards and sometimes feel pressured to abide by them. I think it’s important to love your body. But also strive for a healthy, toned body.  And I strongly believe you should wear what makes you happy and comfortable. I know I usually do. But I do think the formality of an event should be considered, as should what flatters.  I find her immodest outfits a travesty and train-wreck (not in a prude-way). I think she could dress dramatically and show who she is in a more tasteful way. And I always think everyone’s clothes should fit them properly. 

Saying that, her ‘fuck-your opinions’ attitude is what shines through her music and is exactly why I ranked her album so high. 

-”Soulmate” has a good message, but that percussion is straight out of 2016.  Also, I will never think trilling is edgy or gagsta-cool.

-”Jerome” using ‘juicy pots’ in a lyric is yuck!  I do like the sound of ‘your style and that beard ooh.’  What I love is, ‘Take ur ass home come back when ur grown.’  Yes! Strong woman speaking her mind. 

-”Like a Girl” is my favorite.  Super-empowering. It has a very Karmin vibe with sassy-smart-pop-rap.  “Heaven Help Me” has that sound too.

-”Truth Hurts” hooks you!

-”Better in Color” so that’s where big dick energy came from?!  Also, I normally do not care for screaming in a song, but it’s cute and goes perfectly with the tone (see what I did there?) of the story she’s telling in the song.

-”Cuz I Love You” has an epic background with good singing that hits all the right notes.

-”Tempo” is too repetitive.  I do like Missy’s breakdown.

-”Good as Hell” is catchy and uplifting.

 

2 Set It Off”

I had this tied with Mika for a minute, and this album went above his, because the whole album was strong, with no throw away songs.  This is filed under ‘Alternative Rock’ which I feel isn’t really a thing anymore.  And I wish it was because that used to be my favorite genre-what a relief to hear it (I guess I’ll accept any iteration of it as this point) in 2019!  It sounds like pop with gruff singing to me, but I did like it. They just might be a manufactured band, and you can hear a lot of influences, samples, and possible straight up copying of other bands.  And that sounds like a criticism on my part, but it isn’t. I like that they’ve incorporated a lot of the sounds I like, while keeping things energetic and fresh. The track list is diverse as a result of this, with each song featuring a different artist’s vibe:  Fall Out Boy, Epic (video game), boy band, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Jonus Brothers. . .

Courtesy of Jon Weiner Rock band Set It Off is touring in support of its 2016 album, Upside Down. agomez@abqjournal.com Sun Jan 07 16:55:59 -0700 2018 1515369347 FILENAME: 927584.jpg

-”Go the Bed Angry” Nice pop duet!

-””Hourglass” sounds reminiscent of Fall Out Boy, with slightly more rock.

-”Stitch Me Up” is a boy band song.

-”Unopened Windows” I can tell this song was included to showcase some singing ability.  And it works moderately. I’d say the singing is slightly better than mediocre.

-”Criminal Minds” I like the fast speed

-”Kill the Lights” sounds like Panic at the Disco and Fall Out Boy.  And you know how I’ve been known to like those bitter lyrics!

 

1 Taylor Swift:

I hate how the first thing I have to do is a disclaimer justifying my choice.  Taylor is as successful and rich as she is because she is talented.  And hardworking, and smart, and good at marketing and business and promotion.  And fuck society for hating on that.  And the disclaimer:  Now, now now before you judge me for being too white, too mainstream, too pop–a sellout of a reviewer, let me justify this choice.  Just like the other artists on this list, it’s solely based on this year’s album only.  Fashion, likeability, my personal staple-favoritism, does not factor into the decision of my album countdown.  The art alone is judged. Yes, I’m obsessed with Kaylor in a very real way.  And I love the Easter eggs and videos and marketing genius that is Taylor Swift the brand.  But I chose Lover as top album, because it is the perfect embodiment of 2019.  It’s so many songs.  There is a story of each one, which pretty much sums up the goings on of the year–it’s always something these days…  

-”Lover” and it’s many iterations is beautiful and self-written with introspection and pure romance.  I get heart eyes everytime I hear it.

-”The Man” The political message and feminism is at the forefront of this jam, and it’s refreshing to hear it.  I love how cheeky, yet unapologetic Taylor Swift is as she wonders what her career, finances, and life would be like without the patriarchal chains every woman wears knowingly or unknowingly.  Calling it out is good for her and awesome for gals everywhere to hear.  

-”Paper Rings” All the symbolism, all the romance!  Taylor is really at her best when she’s telling a detailed story using metaphors.  

-”Soon You’ll Get Better” It’s the ‘eat your veggies’ track, that we might not like as much as sugar,but that we need to hear.  It’s very serious and somber subject-matter, but she’s really showing vulnerability and sharing a personal struggle that’s universal.  Also, cool is that the Dixie Chicks were brought back from political purgatory to feature on the song and their country vibe sounds amazing.

-”You Need to Calm Down” political AND fun.  Sing-aloud anthem with a message. It’s fun and important.  It’s the statement we’re hungry for, the inclusion we demand.

-Cornelia Street” Features one of the most emotive moods on the album.  The singing, volume, and production emphasize feelings.

-”Afterglow’ This song is written from the opposite perspective that Taylor usually  takes. I like that it shows introspection, maturity, and accountability. It shows she’s not only grown as an artist, but as a person.

-”False God” I think we can all agree we need to hear Swift singing about oral sex.  And good for her for doing it obviously and unashamedly. And the brass in this song is a different vibe than we usually hear from Swift’s work, and really adds something.

-”Daylight” I’m glad this is a more practical love song.  We do not have the dreamy syrup-love of the early days. It’s an acknowledgment that sometimes (even true) love is messy and imperfect.  Not everything is a fairytale and sometimes strife comes about. It’s a great last track that closes the album beautifully.

-”Archer”  Tay (um we’re on a nickname basis, because her music makes me feel like she and I are best friends!) gets a really bad wrap for talking shit in her songs.  Let’s give her credit where credit is due for showing maturity in showing she sometimes is the archer and sometimes the pray.  

-”Death by a Thousand Cuts” This song tells of a turning point and evokes much sadness.  The bridge (always a Taylor strong point) is A+ here.

-”Cruel Summer”.  So it was a major mistake not to make this the first single and maybe even release it late May/early June–you know as the summer jam.  Also to showcase the album content a little better. And I think “Me!” could still have been released in June as the 2nd single because summer is a time for light content.  And gay pride is accepting of a little campiness that is “Me!” But nobody called and asked me(!). *Read* Taylor please call me or write me anytime, for advice (ha ha) or just to chat.  I’m obviously joking, but for real, contact me.

-”It’s Nice to Have a Friend” It’s a little disjointed, possibly containing more than 1 subject, but what a nice take on love.  Childhood and friendship evolving. It’s a little talked about love that everyone experiences and not that many people sing about.

-”I Forgot that You Existed” I’m ranking these tracks based on what I feel are the strongest song elements, messaging, and critically/technically (judged by people, overall).  This particular track is probably in my top 4 on the album, but I think since it speaks to the haters (yet again, which mind you I love, but critics and the public at large are tired of, and find immature) it’s down here.  I do find it super-catchy, and personally love a bitter song.

-”Miss Americana” A symbolic gesture of a song that shows Taylor is finished with all the high school-type drama.  She’s grown up now and the stupid games aren’t worth the stupid prizes.

-”Me” is the light and fun side.  We don’t always have to take everything so serious.  It’s the shameless spelling and let-loose dancing song.  Also, marketing to the kids?  Smart.

-“London Boy” You have to be clever to write satire.  And Swift’s humor shines through on this gem.

-”I Think He Knows” for me personally, this song has a pronoun problem that I can’t get on board with…  Kaylors know what I’m saying.

 

So there you have my choices for the top (and bottom) albums of 2019.  And if you’re wondering where (my former in my imagination girlfriend) Brandi Carlile is on this list…  Because after all she took on a side-project, The Highway Women.  I like the idea of a female country/Americana group.  But honestly, I would have had to put it in the changed their sound category, and I just don’t have the heart to but Brandi on the bottom of any list.  Mostly, because I have hope she will return to her earlier sound and all will be well again in my fandom.  But for now–it’s omitted.  But the rest is accurate.  At this moment in time.  Hope you enjoyed my list–it’s a year of picking out albums, listening to the songs, comparing elements, and writing–not a small undertaking.  But I love it so I hope you do too.

Album Countdown 2019: My Disappointments (19-28, rather 28-19)

28 Dec

I usually rank all of these artists higher, so I was particularly disappointed in them in 2019.  And can we just talk about how country music is totally off the rails right now?  Like, what the fuck happened to it?  Where has it gone?  It’s really superficial, lacking most of the elements I look for in a good country song.  The closest thing to it is this folksy Americana/roots stuff that Brandi Carlile ran off into.  Roots in fine in small doses.  But I want country, country!  And I’d like Brandi to go back to a more folk-rock sound.  Please and thank you.

 

28. David Gray:
He used to be one of my staples. And I was very excited to see his new album had ‘jazz’ right in the title! I really expected something. But alas, the tunes were quited and meh. And I aborted (which I never take lightly) the song by song review because of boredom.

 

27. Marren Morris
Her breakthrough albums made me an instant fan! I really liked it and had it on heavy rotation for 2 years. So I was excited to see her next effort since she has more fame, clout, money to go in a direction she wants musically. I’d have liked to see more personality on the 2nd album–it was kinda forgettable despite the duets. What a disappointment.

 

26. Madonna
File this one under: Expert Trying Too Hard. Yes, Madonna will always have it. But I could tell she was really trying to get in touch with a moment to better fit the aesthetic of 2019. Like that mom that borrows her 16 year old’s clothes to try to fit it with the kids.
“Extreme Occident” right/left/lost is not strong enough, and I found it to be a political cop-out. Madonna has never shied away from telling us who she is and what she thinks. Also, she has a large following and big audience that she influences. Finally, she’s a bit removed from the chasing fame and certainly financially stable. So what does she have to lose by making a big statement?
“Bitch I’m Loca” speaking part at the end was funny.
“I Don’t Search” very electronic (house?) with kinda dreamy lyrics. I, of course, like the “Vogue”-eske snaps.
“Faz Gastoso” is foreign language (Spanish?) and has an R&B tough-gal sound and a lot of tongue-rolling. It also has that sound given to a lot of 3rd world scenes with the instrumental breakdown and all. As a matter of fact, I felt a sense of dejavu listening to it, and was trying to figure out if it was copied from something…

 

23. Lady Antebellum:
I found the album a little ‘too.” You know overly sentimental and trying too hard.
-”The Thing That…” Nice harmony and nice like echo effect of the singing.
-”What If I Never” I liked how they alternate male vs female vocals on the verse then came together on the chorus. It’s a good concept-the thought that time might not always heal broken hearts caused from breaking up.
-”Pictures” Short and meh.
-”Downtown” Tells a story, with a lot of description.
-”On a Night Like” Is a nice love song.

 

22. Avett Brothers
-ugh! Too much talking! Every song is ruined with talk.
-”New Woman…” good political points/feminism, but I think it must have been written before Trump? It’s pretty optimistic, and the current political landscape and state of feminism is (I would say) bleak.

 

21. Jonas Brothers
The album seems quite generic and boring.
“Used to be” poppy. Just Ok.
“Love Her” is nice with the snaps and la-las.
“Hesitate” I like the sentiment of the lyrics.

 

20. Luke Combs
I was actually pretty disappointed this album was such a let down compared to the prior one that was well written. This one felt more forced and came off as phony to me–not nearly as authentic as the last album. I also thought that deep, resonant singing got lost on this one.
-“Angels Workin…” Has a good beat, is a good tailgate song, and was probably the strongest offering on this album.
-“Every Little Bit..” I like that it’s sad and cheeky. I always enjoy a good break up song, and this one is relatable.
-“Beer Never Broke” is a good tailgate song.
-“Even though…” Daddy? Um no, you’re too old for that, Luke. The song is folksy.
-“Frigerator Door’ is trying too hard to force sentimentality.
-“Mexico” is kinda short and meh-not that notable.
-“Better Together” is just OK. The singing is kinda rough.
-“Lovin on You” sounds like a jukebox song, with a good beat, and love lyrics.
-’Even Though” is too much for me. I put in in the ‘Army Wives’ category.

 

19. Thomas Rhett:
It isn’t the autobiographical catchy tunes of the other album I liked. I found most of the songs felt too short. He did more shorter songs and I wish he had added to each one even if the album turned out shorter.
-”Don’t Threaten me w/a Good Time” party song, fun, jam-band instrumentals
-”blessed” nice love song, only complaint is that it’s too short
-”VHS” is mildly catchy like the other album, but not in a strong way. Watered down summer jam.
-”Notice” is a nice, catchy love song. I like the detail in it, and I like how singable it would be at concerts.
-”Sand” is a summer party song and also a love song. I think the singing is good here-some higher notes
-”Beer Can’t Fix” is the Jimmy Buffet island song of the album. Calypso sound and duet sounds nice for the beach.
-”Don’t Stop Drivin’’ has a nice beat, more poppy.
-”Barefoot” gives a nice mental image. Has some background vocals reminiscent of the other album.

A Rainbows and Butterflies Obsession

21 Sep

But first, real quick: Ummm, when did WordPress become so user UNfriendly? Drafts are gone? I’m now having trouble uploading pictures. The auto-save didn’t work. I wrote this entire thing and it glitched at “publish” so irritating! It’s like the Myspace days, save your work elsewhere, lest lose it. Any tips?

 

And the topic at hand:

I am obsessed with Taylor Swift.  I have always liked her song-writing, and incorporation of personal details in lyrics (see so many blog posts that used her songs).  When I was driving almost 3 hours one way for all my IVF donor appointments, I must have listened to “Mean” and “Your Not Sorry” a billion times.  Her writing really touched my heart.  But I went away from her when Red came out–and was NOT available on Spotify.  Because how was I going to listen to the album without streaming?  That is also how I lost track of Adele also, who I think is super-talented and a wondrous singer.  But if you don’t allow streaming, I don’t have motivation to dig around.  And a lot was happening in Taylor Swift’s life and career at that time.  But once you’re out of the loop, it’s hard to get back in.  So I missed Red, 1989, and any Reputation stuff save for the music itself on the latter album.  I missed the dating, the clique, the feuds (except what was ubiquitous in pop-culture), and thus pretty much everything.

Brandi Carlile was my jam since, oh, 2010.  And I wish her music and everything still resonated with me now, as it had before.  I want to love it.  I wish I was still really into it.  I feel Brandi is an earnest person, with a good track record, and genuine concern about making the world better.  Her rock and folk albums were inspired, and even superseded some of The Indigo Girls’ work for me.  I like her (I guess her persona, because she makes you feel like you know her).  Her concerts are THE BEST.  And her actual singing is unmatched.  When she popped up on Zac Brown Band’s backing-vocals yesterday (listening to Spotify at work), I immediately knew it was her.

I am just not excited about this Americana direction she’s taking, dabbling in country, pandering to bullying, ect… to get Grammys.  I dutifully listen to the music she’s collaborating on, and really, really try to be a great fan.  But it’s not organically happening for me.  I can appreciate the work, I like it ok.  But my fandom is not what it used to be–and that’s disappointing.  It’s not over.  And I hope Brandi’s next album will feature the twins more, still have those notes she can hit like no other, and reignite the spark for me again.

And this post is not about how there can only be one female artist.  Not at all.  No trading is going on here.  I like them all and have a place in my heart for all of them.  There obviously, can (and needs to be) ALL the women in music.  They can all be successful, it’s important to support that, and help it grow.  I’m just illustrating that there was kind of a hole there (in my fandom?)… Which is when butterflies were bandied about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love color, love flowers, butterflies, tye dye, kittens, glitter, and unicorns, all of those things.  Always have.  It’s nothing to do with anything, just what aesthetic I’m naturally drawn to, and what incites passion and enthusiasm in me.  So when the “Me” video came out, it was my LIFE.  It was as if Taylor Swift made a video specifically for me.  Even better that little clues (Easter eggs) were throughout.  I also watched Pop-Up Video and loved all the trivia and facts and behind-the-scenes.  Same thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So just like that I was hooked back in, trying to find the meanings and read the clues.  And when super-gay “You Need to Calm Down” came on to the scene–I was floored.  It was fun, it was bright. . .  It painted Taylor (we’re on a first name basis) as at least an advocate and at most, was a coming out party for bisexual.  And that led to Kaylor.  Which is an easy word to describe a possible love between Taylor and Karlie Kloss.

PS-I don’t know what shipper means, and I don’t really care for it (I’m not 12), but that is the language used amongst Swifties, a group I’m too old to be in.  Which needs to change.  I should not be excluded just because I’m in my 30’s and can’t get on to the cool lingo.  Taylor Swift is an artist I’ve followed for a long time, I’m interested in, and who’s music/career I’m really into right now.  So I’m taking age out of it and being a super-fan (but leaving out the parts not applicable to me).

 

A lot of things made sense to me about Taylor being with Karlie.  Especially when you see the looks, body language, and intimacy between them on YouTube.  I feel like I have insider information about the difference between what friendships look like vs more.   I also know about the coming out process.  And when the lyrics of her songs are dissected in a different way–it makes so much more sense.  I am impressed by how coded Taylor intentionally or unintentionally made her lyrics and videos and media.  Like, how detailed could such a busy person get?!  Color me impressed!  That’s my very favorite thing about Taylor’s work.  Also interesting:  The LGBT community has used codes (handkerchiefs, ear piercings, etc, etc) forever to remain secret at large but still identify each other.  Which un-ironically(?) can describe Taylor Swift’s whole thing.  And what’s it called? double entrande’ ? Karlie has a computer coding school for girls, I think?  Codes, all the codes!  So now I guess I’m obsessed with accumulating irrefutable evidence of their relationship ie, I guess “outing” Taylor.

 

 

 

 

 

Which isn’t cool, and something I, personally, hate.  But I’m not doing in a blackmail way or smarmy, or anything.  More in a–knowing the REAL inspiration behind songs lets you in on the secret and allows more authentic enjoyment of the material.  It’s a little like my obsession with Disappeared (Jaycee Lee Dugard, The McStays, Maura Murry, etc, etc…) and wondering what ever happened to that person. . .  I always think about scenarios, make theories, and comb the internet for clues.  But this is a little brighter, because it’s about a true, hidden love-not disappearance and death.  But same combing for clues, making theories.

(Another blog post about that later–it’s kinda it’s own thing)

I was super into every Lover video, lyric, and Easter egg.  And thrust back into Taylor’s world-though I have a daunting amount of research to catch up on just so I know what’s going on.  There is a lot of media attention, romance stories, break-ups, friendships, characters–it’s worse than studying Chaucer.

Even more exciting-is that Taylor Swift is known to stalk her fans, get to know them via social media, then INVITE THEM TO HER HOUSE TO MEET HER.  Instant fantasy.  You know how I always want to meet them.  Hopefully the tone of this blog, and any criticisms of Taylor’s work doesn’t preclude me from that.  I thought about erasing any trace of negativity just in case.  But the integrity of the blog comes first.  Any my authenticity is always primary.  Over time, feelings can evolve, as Taylor herself knows all about.  Those were my opinions with information I had at the time, so they stay.

What I’ve learned since I wrote (especially my Reputation review) then is that the album is OK as a stand-alone.  But what really expands the experience and gives it depth are the background stories, music videos, and especially the Easter eggs.  Which is why Reputation got kind of a mediocre review from me at first (which has changed with my Kaylor knowledge) and is waaaay better now.  That’s why the Kaylor truth is so important for Taylor Swift to share, and also why it’s important for me not to go erase the past.  That’s me and my story, and just like Taylor’s works, plays a part in future works.

So that’s what is happening with Me! (see what I did there>) and why I have been inspired to write (more, still not enough-time gets away) again.  And to especially make some songs.

Best 2018 Albums: Late for New Years, right in time for Chinese New Year and the Grammy Awards **edit 4/25/19**

5 Feb

30.  Cover songs and compilation albums don’t really qualify for my best of list.  But I wanted to give a special nod to this one, because I liked it.  And also, because I usually do singles, but this year I only found 2 so I am skipping singles and just shouting out this one:

Revamp (various artists)

“Bennie and the Jets” is distorted and spacey, reminiscent of Sargent Pepper’s Loneyly Hearts Club Band album.  “Candle in the Wind” is an unplugged version that evokes VH1 Storytellers. Miley Cyrus is surprisingly emotive in her rendition of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”   Because Lady Gaga is such a shameless copycat of Madonna and her entire career trajectory, I often forget the gal can sing–and perhaps with more range than the material girl.  “Your Song” is a fitting choice for her, and she does it beautifully.  And Sam Smith is this next generation’s Elton John. His version of “Daniel” is impeccable.

Now from bottom to top. 

Here are albums I didn’t really care for:

  1. Playing Favorites, Meiko

I don’t get it.  She sings all covers.  But first, she makes them boring.  It’s all copy-cat songs, but done in the style of some weird-ass acoustic-guitar at the independent coffee shop.  Write your own songs, then we’ll talk…

  1. Delta, Mumford and Sons

Just when I was beginning to think maybe I was being too hard on them for changing their whole sound, Spotify snuck in “Little Lion Man.”  It reaffirmed my huge disappointment in where Mumford took their sound. This new album has no trace at all at the music that brought the band mainstream success.  It is slow, it’s not uptempo at all, and there is no acoustic/bango flair even a little bit. Big disappointment!

27. Life is Good on the Open Road, Trampled by Turtles

Firstly, it’s too long of a title.  More to the point, Why is their recent work so melancholy?  The sound is sad a forlorn and listening to this album bummed me out.  The best stuff is when they play super-fast, and this album had none of that.

26. Pray for the Wicked, Panic!  At The Disco

I thought this would be almost identical to Fall Out Boy since there are, like 2 bands in this genre.  Especially since both of these recent releases have religious album titles or song themes. Yet, what I got from this one was a decidedly bro-y vibe that I couldn’t get behind.  Nearly all the songs were of drinking and conjured up the worst type of frat-boy or party-monsters. I’d call this a miss, as it caters to a very specific, narrow audience.

And now the OK:

25. This House is Not for Sale, Bon Jovi

I always love Bon Jovi.  He is a legend, and all of his stuff has merit.  This album isn’t his strongest offering (or even in the top three) but it’s still good to listen to.  “Walls” and and title track, “This House is Not for Sale” are the strongest songs of the album. And I did miss that good ‘ol rock ballad that Bon Jovi is expert at writing and singing!

24.  Only Love, Jordan smith

Lyrically overwrought, but the guy has pipes!  “Feel Good” has a funk vibe that I like, and it’s really catchy.  I think the material could be toned down one or two levels as choirboy singing Disney covers leaps to mind, but the singing talent is there.  Lots of potential.

23. Golden Hour, Kacei Musgraves

I would call this poetry set to music.  Each song has great emphasis on the writing and lyrics.  I don’t really attach to it as a great album like a lot of critics and fans, and do not really think the hype is warranted.  It’s nice poems, but the singing of notes doesn’t really move me, and the songs don’t get stuck in my head…

22.  The Wandering Hearts, self titled album

They sound like a cross between Seal and Lady Antebellum.  The songs are pleasing, yet I feel a component is missing. It could be more catchy or passionate or something-I’m not certain what the last ingredient needs to be, but for now they have a lot of potential.

21.  Seasons Change, Scotty McCreary

The album is a feel good country album like those prior to This Hollywood country sound that has taken over. There are love songs and foot stompers.

20.  Bea Miller

It’s a pleasant reminder of the strong women who were so prominent in the 1990s

19.  Dark Horse, Devin Dawson

The title track is a strong, but low-key outlaw song.  “All On Me” is a stand-out. I like the voice, like the writing, and think this is an artist to watch.

18.  Nation of Two, Vance Joy

Initially I had this album ranked a lot lower because it is subtle.  I said that the album was a little too quiet and unassuming. “I’m going home” was the only catchy song, in my opinion.  Low-key is one thing, but a good hook shouldn’t be ignored entirely. When you listen (maybe ear buds were the difference? Or just more exposure?) multiple times the layers built into these songs become more obvious.  The instrumentation is varied and beautiful. And no, the songs aren’t catchy like straight pop, but they do grow on you.

The Good:

  1. Dogviolet, Laurel

Of course I want to place my name-twin’s album higher on the list and I do feel this mixing of sounds and genre-eclecticness has great potential.  It’s not strong on every track though. “Lovesick” is a mix of indie and folk with a little electronic flare.This album has an unmistakable sexuality about it.  Just the longing in the voice, and the “wanting” in the lyrics makes it sound that way. ”Recover” has that pleading to it that I’m referring to in the sexy, desperate way..  “Hold Tight” is just as catchy as Florence and the Machine and has that pop-indy vibe going. “All Star” is sensual, and bitter. And my favorite track is “Adored” which is pleading and angry at the same time.

  1. Volunteer, Old Crow Medicine Show

Happy-bluegrass.  Is there enough harmonica in music these days?  This album was fun to listen to with songs like “Methamphetamine” and the familiar tune “Flicker and Shine.”  It reminds me of Virginia City—or just Virginia mountain music.

  1.  No Roots EP, by Alice Merton

“Roots” reminds me of a more tribal Florence and the Machine.  There is a bit of funky playfulness. I can feel Merton’s feminism is each song, not so much due to any rawr lyrics, but more the combination of tenacity, strength, and longing in her voice.  “Lie to My Face” is the strongest song on the album, an anthem telling some deceitful, philandering partner where to shove their BS–in a sarcastic way.

  1.  Encore, by Anderson East

The back up singers lend a soleful, community feel to the songs.  “Girlfriend” is the stand out of the album. I saw them perform it live (as opener for Brandi Carlile) and it was meh–very lackluster.  For the studio-version, they added some more oomf. It has more percussion, more angst behind the vocals, and makes me feel when I hear it.  The other two songs I really liked were, ”All in my Mind” and “King for a Day” which are both very catchy.  In all, I wouldn’t say Encore is a contender for the top of my list.  But I do think Anderson East has a ton of potential, and we’ll be hearing more from them if they amp of their songs, and keep them interesting.

  1.  Vide Noir, Lord Huron

Sometimes, even I’m surprised about how this best album list shakes out.  I just listen and rank them against each other. And where they fall on the list is all about how that album only compares to the other albums from the year.  I will comment, of course, on person lives, concerts, and my personal biases, but the rank is about how that albums stack up against the other offerings of that year.  This is my second favorite band right now, because their concerts are near-perfect. The execution and energy is top-of-the-game stuff. They really need to put out a live album, because their studio work does not even come close to being as great as their performance at a concert!  “The Night We Met” feat Phoebe Bridgers, is a story song. “Ancient Names, (Part I)” is probably the best example for a new listener to sum up the band’s trademark sound. I like Vide Noir, because the songs all fit together in a cohesive way.  Now, let’s get on a concert album or compilation of live shows.  I’ll be first in line to buy that CD!

  1.  My New Moon, Amos Lee

This album is what I’d call stoner/hippy-rock.  It’s peaceful and easy to listen to, just like you’d expect.

  1.  Black Coffee, Beth Hart & Joe Bonamessa

“Black Coffee” will get stuck in your head and is a good single (and title) for the album.  And I especially liked the cover of “Sittin’ on Top of the World” as it showcased exactly how Beth Hart can take down to Earth material and jazz it up with her husky vibrato.  And Bonamessa really takes this into jam-brass territory with his seemingly improvised playing. It’s a sound that puts me right in a dark, smoky jazz night club. I need chicken and waffles after Black Coffee.

Top 10:

  1.  The Port Saint Joe, The Brothers Osborne

The deep voices, the harmony, the outlaw country attitude.  It’s a modernized throw-back to my grandfather’s country, and I like it.  I find it fun to listen to, and a little different, while being ultra-traditional.  I could drink to this, for sure. I could dance. I could do housework and feel bad-ass.  It’s nice to hear a band that isn’t a super-glamorized, polished version of music. Grand Ol Operey sounds without the slick-money sound of most other country.  

  1.  Mania, Fall Out Boy

They still have their signature sound, in a genre they pretty much pioneered.  He’s hitting the notes-like, whoa. The lyrics are some seriously thought-out writing.  “Bishops Night Trick”

Takes FOB out of frat-boy only status, sounding exactly like Panic at the Disco, into a serious place, where talent is evident.  The album has a theme and the songs flow nicely from one to the next. I’m as surprised as you this even made the list, let alone cracked the top ten.  They have an epic-sound in this album,(listen to “Church”) and a tight theme. It’s the singing, itself that really pushes this album to that next level.  Well done, FOB, you’ve risen above bro-status, into major-player.

  1.  Raising the Bar, Terry Clark

I initially rated this album toward the middle of my list.  The songs alone are OK. It’s the theme and flow of the album as a whole that really makes it special.  This is the album you write/listen to when you’re freshly divorced and back in your rural home town trying to readjust.  “Giving Up Given a Dawn” is exactly reminiscent of that sentiment. “The One That Got Away” is a good break up song, full of bitterness and regret.  And you know that kind of writing has a special place in my heart. I love a good, fuck you song. “”As Long as There’s a Bar” is a good down-trodden country song.  “Young as We are Tonight” is about moving on, maybe rebounding, definitely getting drunk and making questionable decisions. And the song that naturally follows, (or precedes, depending on how you look at it) is “Bloody Mary Morning” which speaks of morning drinking.  I think the album is cohesive, and has a strong theme. “Cowboys in this Town” is a strong single, which talks about this divorcee seeing other options for suitors–that might even be better than what’s his name. jA+ for finding a theme and really sticking to it, and making me feel like I’m part of a situation and in that place, both physically and mentally.

  1. By the Way, I Forgive You, Brandi Carlile

I have to put the disclaimer out there, that compared to Brandi’s own body of work I didn’t care for this album.  It’s obvious to me she is Grammy-pandering. An example is the contest for fans to play “The Joke” most number of times for opportunity to win things.  That, is a tactic to increase stats. And it’s plenty fair but desperate, and manipulative?  Yup, it’s that too. I’d like to see a more natural and organic fan growth and actual stats.  Not just from Brandi, but industry-wide. Let’s get the $$$$ out of music and talent IN. Still, it’s Brandi Carlile!  Compared to others she’s still a head above the rest. “Hold Out Your Hand” has fast parts, melodic pieces, and some sass.  It’s like the old cowboy talk-alongside and special and different. Really, the only reason she ranked even this high on the list is because her technical singing skills are better than anyone else this year.  In the future I’d like to see the songs have more variation from each other. These all blended together for me. And I hope she’ll put the twins a little more to the forefront instead of relegating them to background status as she has in the last two albums.

  1. Come  Tomorrow, Dave Matthews Band

This is more of a singing album (vs instrument jamming) then the band has had in quite some time.  I attribute it to the lack of Boyd Tinsley, which I am disappointed about. His violin made the band interesting and differentiated them from every other band.  Though, Tinsley was a mediocre violinist at best, it still added flavor. That being said–he had to go. That sex-abuse stuff just will not stand with me (and the band, apparently).  Though I would have liked more of a public response condemning that behavior. And I guess then I would have complained it was hypocritical considering live outtakes with objectification of women going on by Dave and Carter.  Clean up your acts. Anyway, more to the point of the album’s quality–I like the writing and I like the softness about it. Dave’s voice is admittedly, shot–all that smoking, drinking, and screaming to “Halloween” will eventually take it’s toll, as is evident in “That Girl is You” which is a screetchy-dog-sounding horribleness in the beginning.  Was it intentionally bad? I don’t know, but someone in the editing room should have spoken up and chopped it. That’s the one blemish, and the rest of the album stands up, with superb, well-thought lyrics and sweetly sung choruses. “Virginia in the Rain” is a good example of beautiful, romantic lyrics, that are nice to listen to on a date. Nothing compares to “Crush” but this set of songs is in the same category.  And will make for some nice slow-breaks in the concert. “Black and Blue Bird” (another bird-titled song?!) is a nice, slower song on this album. The rest of the songs are also very nice, and still have jam-potential as we heard at the Stateline Concert. DMB is getting older, and cracks show from time to time, but they still hold up. And they still know how to put on one of the best live shows!!!

Top 5 Albums of 2018:

  1. Songs for the Saints, Kenny Chesney

Do not count me amongst Chenney’s long-time fans, though I am aware he has had an enormous following for a long time.  I never got on to his stuff and didn’t really “get” the appeal. Actually, I thought it probably had more to do with the look of his butt in his jeans than his tunes.  Songs for the Saints is substantial though. I like the melding of easy-Jack Johnson-type strumming with island-country. “Get Along” is a good example of this hybrid. Easy-going, peaceful, fun to listen to.  And I’m not sure that “Ends of the Earth” isn’t a Kenny Chesney that features Lord Huron–I know a mash-up when I hear one (even an uncredited one).

  1. Man of the Woods, Justin Timberlake

Once I got a grip on the theme-and that the album is decidedly NOT rugged as the title implies, I liked it.  Read: there is nothing woodsy about the album. It’s a love letter to his wife and cozy lifestyle full of funk and pop lyrics.  Same funk and dance as usual, and the same saccharine lyrics (sometimes gross:  “your pink my purple”?  yuck!!!), too.  But also the same calliber of really bringing that performance aspect to the table that we have come to expect of JT.  Let’s see this one on Netflix also!

  1. This Ones for You,Too, Luke Combs

Because these songs were on such heavy rotation this year I kept feeling like it must be an older album.  “One Number Away,” “When it Rains, It Pours,” “Must’ve Never Met You” wait–are these new songs?? I’ve been hearing them on the radio forever.  They’re like old, familiar friends by now. But the record is from 2018 and the songs are so catchy they just took hold quickly. I think it’s a good mix of country and pop.  Gravelly-voiced, cheeky lyrics combined with hooks that stay with you. I can’t wait for more. If this is where country is headed I like it.

  1.  Home of the Strange, Young the Giant

“Something to Believe In” is strong, it’s catchy and makes me want to sing, and when the band performed the song live at Innings Festival it was so extra.  “Nothing’s Over” is a little more low-key (comparatively) and still catchy in a mesmerizing way. This is my favorite band right now, because they are so great in concert–very high energy.  And they can write catchy, yet lyrically-relevant material. I (of course) wanted to rank this CD in the number one spot, but I think Ben Harper catches a wider variety of sounds, harkens back to jazz/r&b/rock’s roots in America, and masters several different instruments.  But Young the Giant is going to take the world!

 

–>late addition–<

Oh no!  How can this happen?  I’ll tell you:  The email that had been my primary in the past gets auto-forwarded to my new primary email.  And this has always worked well.  I still give whatever email address and everything ends up in the one I check-no effort required.  And I use different addresses for different purposes.  So I was always receiving emails.  I might have noticed an issue if emails just stopped altogether.  But sometimes I’d forget my passwords on whatever and have it emailed, and just never get that email.  So I thought whatever it was I was using was acting all glitchy–since the email and password weren’t working.  And I can’t remember how I figured out there was an issue, but my email had stopped auto-fowarding.  Like, months and months ago though.  What a mess!  All my Amazon notices were going to an email that I wasn’t receiving, as was Geico, and (this brings me to the point of why the preceding paragraph is in my albums of the year blog) my music fan artist update stuff.  I was not getting Dave, Brandi, or the Indigo Girls.  What a travesty–I missed everything!

So I see TODAY that the Indigo Girls did an album with the symphony that I completely missed 😦  And Amy Ray put out an album in 2018. . .

Holler, Amy Ray

This is most definitely Ray’s best solo effort.  And is #2 on my list of albums of the year for 2018.  It’s the country/Americana that I think Brandi Carlile is trying to strive for (in order to get a Grammy in a smaller, category-which did end up working for her, she got 3?).  Ray, unlike Carlile (who as a fan, I think obviously strayed a little from her authenticity in the last 2 albums) stays true to herself in Holler.  I think Ray makes the transition to a new genre easily, and steers clear of disingenuousness.  Her gravely, rough voice works great with the material, and she is genuine to her past aesthetic (of folk/rock, sometimes punk–ish), while breaking into new territory.  The songs are still edgy and full of advocacy and rebelliousness, as Ray’s writing has always been.  But there’s a rural feeling to it that is fresh and welcome.

The varied instrumentation that always features in the Indigo Girl’s songs is still present here, and brings a homey, desolate vibe.  Banjo, violin, percussion, even brass brings to mind listening in a shed, a dilapidated shack, or in the middle of the woods.  I think this is the closest Amy Ray has ever gotten to her inner self.  Every listen just whispers authenticity-there is no put-on here, and it’s a subtle change.  I think Ray has found that sweet spot, and I hope her next album is similar to Hollar!  I’m sad I didn’t find it until the 2nd quarter of 2019.

And Drumroll Please……

The TOP album of 2018:

 

  1. Choke Cherry Tree, Ben Miller Band

A new face/voice.  Every song makes me want to listen more.  Each track seems to feature a different instrument.  

“Trapeze” has the melody of a patriotic march, and the lyrics of a circus.  The chorus Makes me think of the Bayou. It ends in a cacophony of brass and other things that sound familiar but I don’t hear enough to identify.  See what I mean about novel and interesting? “The Outsider” is like a church-picnic stomp. It makes me want to see the band live to see what they would do with it.  “Sketchbook” has a fast pace and a story-telling cadence. “Nothing Gets Me Down” is folksy-outlaw. See how each song is so unique, yet the compilation of songs goes together well?  And the brass flare-ups make “I Got Another One” special and different. “My Own Good Time” has a waltz time key. And the singing is very folksy-evoking campfire days of yore. “Mississippi Cure” is haunting with gorgeous strings, yet upbeat with some catchiness of a pop song. Lyrically it is the most powerful song on the album, bringing race into the conversation-but in an organic way- not forced or pandering. And I think an accordion is happening on the song.  It’s a stand-out on a stand-out album! I can’t wait to hear more from Ben Miller Band-there is a lot of talent and a lot of potential for them.

So there you have it.  The top 30 albums in a kind of lackluster (unless R&B is your jam) year.  Let’s hope there’s more different types of albums in 2019.

Review of Justin Timberlake’s Man of the Woods

21 Feb

I like outdoorsy stuff.  I think Brandi Carlile’s Bear Creek album was a perfect representation of that outside feeling.  It wasn’t on the nose like this, but the vibe hit the right notes and was in the right sound and genre.

Not so with this one.  I think my biggest criticism is the name of the album.  You’ll see what I mean. . .

  1. “Filthy”

The first 30 seconds are how you open an album!  Does it fit with the purported theme of this particular album?  Absolutely not.  There is nothing woodsy or outdoorsy about this electric/dance track.  It’s grand, it’s loud, and it’s futuristic.  I also like the robotic background noise.  And the breakdown at 2:45 minutes in has a cool horror movie sound to it.  What I didn’t like was the video on YouTube that ended in major objectification of women.  Why are skimpy bondage outfits and simulated humping necessary, Justin?

I don’t like any part of the spoken verse from Jessica Biel.  I’m glad they are a happy couple, and I don’t mind if he sings about her, or to her.  But that’s the extent of it–I don’t want her voice IN the music.  I don’t care if it’s supposed to be a story that pulls the album together.  Jessica–stay in the movies where you belong!

2.  “Midnight Summer Jam”

It’s a little retro in the singing–like something the Bee Gees would do.  But the funk sounds, and harmonica-like layers in the music bring it to a more 2018 sound.  Again, is it anything to do with the wilderness or roughing it?  Nope.  But good song if you take those expectations away.

3. “Sauce”

The beat is fun.  The song starts out sounding like something I could be into.  But then the lyrics are gross.  “I love your pink, you like my purple” ???  Ewwww.  And it’s repeated, unfortunately.  I have to think about that visual a few times.  If not for that I like the vibe of this one.  It’s funky and fun, and at one point Justin almost reminds me of Karmin.  Maybe there’s a karaoke mix without the words.

I am glad that Justin went for more, shorter tracks.  His last album had obnoxiously long songs.  And the more tracks the better, I think.  Give me my money’s worth!

4.  “Man of the Woods”

Seeing Justin dance in this video actually made me like the song more.  Which rarely happens.  Except, I wasn’t impressed with the later ballroom dancing.  Firstly, doesn’t Jessica have people to do her hair?  It looked super-ratty.  And she’s not a strong dancer, you could totally see him leading her.  I say she sticks to what she’s good at–acting.  Leave the dancing to JT.  Prior to seeing the video I thought this new woodsy vibe was a put-on.  Phoniness to cater to a certain audience, but after seeing Justin rock his plaid and vests on logs and in cabins–I realized he’s being authentic.  He is Mr. Happy now that he’s married and has kids, and a stable, relatively quiet life.

To me, this is nothing reminiscent of Montana–where I was born and a lot of my extended family still live.  Montana is being rugged, and self-sufficient, and maybe even a little uncouth (and most people in Montana are poor).  None of which describes Justin or Jessica.  But if you think about it, compared to LA, or even TN where entourages, and their people, and fans are always about–they DO feel like they’re off the grid.  In their cabin-mansion.  No, it’s not what you or I consider outdoorsy.  But to Justin–it totally is.

The song is kind of cool and catchy.  I like the syncopation, the echoed vocals, and the beat.  The lyrics are cute, and tell a story.  I think it’s my favorite track on the album–even though it is decidedly nothing to do with the woods.

5.  “Higher Higher”

This song could have been on any one of Timberlake’s albums.  It’s very “him.”  It’s everything that he’s known for, the romance, the easy dance sound, right down to the higher vocal range.

6.  “Wave”

This one has an interesting time key.  It’s unique, but it goes into some nice singing by Justin.  The lyrics, as usual, are a little banal.  I’m not sure I ever particularly liked the writing on Justin’s albums.  His specialty is the music blends, his vocal stylings, and obviously–the performance.  Not necessarily the words.  The break at 2:30 minutes in is unexpected and playful, and I like the percussion that follows.  Also, what’s a song without some whistling?  You can always expect to hear something out of place made cool and hip with Justin’s songs.

7.  “Supplies”

I like the rolling sounds (vocal trills?).  I like the background, and how it’s kind of bare.  The way the music goes reminds me of the ticking of a clock.  A countdown to the end, if you will.  The chorus is catchy, too.  This is my 2nd favorite song on the album.  I also liked the Hunger Games themed video for this one.  It supplemented the song perfectly.  Does it say to me camping or living off the land in a cabin?  No.  It says zombie apocalypse or end of the world.

8. “Morning Light”

The singing is very soulful.  And it’s typical Justin.  The lyrics are lovely, if not overly-sentimental.  The thing is, though Timberlake tends to run into the super-saccharine in his writing, I do think he MEANS it.  I don’t think he’s just writing garbage on paper to prove it’s a love song.  I feel like he might actually be that sensitive.  Alicia Keys features on this one, and the pairing is just right.  It’s a quiet song, but groovy and smokey and loving too.  It is probably what an actual evening with Justin is like.

9. “Say Something”

There’s hand-clapping.  There’s guitar.  But that’s about the extent of how country it gets.  This sounds more like a Ben Harper song, than ANY of the Hanks.  Chris stapleton is credited on this track, and he brings an earthy feel, but more funk and hippy-groove stuff that foot-stamping or truck drivin’ fare.  What I don’t really get is the message of the song.  At first, I thought it was going to be political.  And I was happy that Justin was going to use his fame to educate or SAY something.  But I didn’t love the, “sometimes the greatest way of sayin’ something, is to say nothing at all.”  I think that’s the opposite sentiment that we should have in these tumultuous times of NRA/mass shootings, pussy-grabbing Trump/me too movement, etc. . .

One of my favorite things about all of Justin’s songs is the unpredictability.  I might be able to stop a track in the middle of another artist and still have the gist of the song.  But you never know what you might miss in a Timberlake.

10.  “Hers” interlude.

First, the interlude died in the 90’s.  Second, the talking of Jessica Biel is too much.  But if I had to pick one of the spoken verses to like, it’s this one.  I can appreciate the intimacy she’s talking about, and how that’s love.

11. “Flannel”

It’s a sweet-sounding song, with some Prince–or whatever he was calling himself at the end–sounding talking.  And some Boys II Men-inspired harmonies.  But it’s a random subject-matter that I just can’t quite buy into.  I wish the words to this one were completely different.  Anything else.  Well, except your pink and my purple-ick!

By this time, I was so fed up with the spoken verse!  And this one goes on and on.  Lame.

12. “Montana”

This song could also be on any of Justin’s other albums.  There is electronic, and a funk beat.  He sings in a laid back way, and oozes sex-appeal and R&B sentiment.  If it had a different title it would be better.  To me, Montana sounds more like John Denver.  Or Charlie Daniels.  Even pow wow music.  But not this.  That’s not to say I don’t like the song–I just think it needs a name change.

13. “Breeze Off the Pond”

The writing on this one is almost terrible.  It’s a little too simple, almost childish.  But I like the tune of the song just fine.  Probably the weakest track on the CD though.  Maybe cutting it or saving it for the next release wouldn’t have been the worst thing.

14.  “Livin’ Off the Land”

I don’t really like the random talking up front.  I can see this one will inspire some awesome dancing at the concert (or on Netflix, I hope!) that I always adore.  I like the beat-boxing in the background, as it’s subtle.  And I like the catchiness.  Also, the lyrics are good too–for once.  It’s my third favorite track on Man of the Woods.  I like how it closes with a lot of string instrumentals, mixing some “country” in.

15. “The Hard Stuff”

I like the sentiment of this song.  How relationships aren’t always easy, and Justin isn’t expecting a free ride of all fun and games.  It shows he’s serious and real.  I respect that.  I think in real life Justin Timberlake is a real good guy.  Solid and dependable.  I’m glad he hits some notes and actually sings in this one, also.

16. “Young Man”

And the culmination of the CD is (predictably) the product of Justin and Jessica, their son.  And fatherly advice given my Justin to his boy.  It’s trite.  It’s cliche.  But it does complete the family theme of the album nicely.  It’s a nice arc, even if it’s too much.

So I get how this whole album was a love song to his wife.  And they had their special moments in the state of Montana.  So he’s all sentimental, and lovey.  What they are NOT, is rustic or outdoorsy.  Part of being woodsy is going without–living a sparse lifestyle.  And you just can’t do that in a mansion.  I think I (and the critics) would have liked this electronic/funk/R&B/dance album just fine, if Justin kept his camping fantasy to himself.  I’m going to think of the album’s theme more like the comfortable feeling Justin is living having a family.  I think if you think of “the woods” as symbolic of peace and quiet in your head-space, this album (with it’s silly title) is easier to swallow.  Had he named the album and some of the tracks ANYthing else, all would have been forgiven.  As it is, the album’s tone just doesn’t match what is supposed to be the theme.

Song by Song. Brandi’s By the Way, I Forgive You

20 Feb

My Spotify went one track passed the new album, and it showed how almost, melancholy By the Way, I Forgive You sounds.  It’s subtle, but by comparison to the two prior albums, it’s a lot less light-hearted.

  1. “Everytime I Hear that Song”

It’s kind of a slow opening to the album.  I would have put something more upbeat in the first spot.  But the track definitely provides the foreshadowing for what is to come:  A sentimental, serious, from-the-heart string (pun!) of songs.  The chorus is very Fleetwood Mac.  I like what the song says though.  It talks about how bad relationships are actually good because it brings us to where we were supposed to be in life.  The trajectory of our love and family would be completely different without those failed relationships.  And hearing certain songs or seeing certain pictures, triggers those memories and makes us wonder what might have been or even sentimentalize what opportunities were lost because things didn’t go a better way.

2. “The Joke”

The message that the joke is on the detractors is a good one.  The band is saying, ‘you be you, and live your life, despite what others think about it.’  The background music is resonant, and swirling, and provides enough drama to help get the point across.

3.  “Hold Your Hand”

Probably my favorite track (so far) and absolutely my fave upon the first listen through.  It’s reminiscent of that old western style that focuses more on telling a story then singing.  It reminds me of Jonny Cash, and the way he talks through every song–but it’s better.  Because there are great key/cadence/style changes that show-case Brandi’s strong voice.  I like the combination of both styles in one song.  I like how it’s cheeky, yet strong on singing-technique.  This is what the band does very best–change it up in the middle of the song.  Think “The Story” and the title track, “Firewatcher’s Daughter.”   On this song, the shouting is so fun after the 2.5 min mark!  What I could do with less of is the bad-da-das.  But I can see them involving the audience in that at a concert so maybe it will turn out all right. . .

4.  “The Mother”

I’m not down on this song.  It’s one of, if not THE strongest songs on the album.  It’s just that I heard it so early, it didn’t feel like part of the rest of the album.  I like that this song conveys love, but realism, too.  It’s one of the few mom-songs that’s not entirely lovey-dovey, super-saccharine.  Here is what little edge Brandi has left.  Sure, she’s up in the family lift all gung-ho–but she knows what she’s not doing anymore also.  I like how Brandi acknowledges that she’s missing out on things, kids are messy, and motherhood is sometimes about being tired and giving up on your own wild flights of fancy.  Also, the video is cute.  Though, I wonder how many takes it took because Evangeline looks bored.

5.  “Whatever You Do”

Another slow song.  As a whole, I think the album would have benefitted from something a little more dancy by this point.  I love the line, “I never said I’m sorry, but I meant it.” It shows how serious the writing was for this latest album.  Very thoughtful lyrics are throughout.  The best part of the song for me is after 3:08 min when the instrumentals really come out loud.  It’s haunting, and melancholy, and final.

6.  “Fulton County Jane Doe”

I had really high hopes due to the title that this would be the raucous track of the album.  Alas, it’s another kind of internal dialogue that is quiet and lulling. I think Brandi’s yips at the end are the best thing about this one.

7.   “Sugartooth”

Searching.  Judging someone without walking in their shoes.  Bad habits that keep pulling you back.  Guns and suicide.  Finding peace in death.  Without reading the lyrics or hearing the backstory, I find this song a little meandering.  Is there one takeaway point or is it just a conglomeration of ideas?  I do enjoy how Brandi sounds like she means whatever she’s singing–whatever it’s about.

8. “Most of All”

How your parents are with you even when they’re not physically there.  You resemble them.  Your speech patterns end up sounding similar.  You internalize their lessons.  This one is also a little Fleetwood in the chorus, and I think that’s reaching a little.  I believe they should stop relying on their inspirations or fitting in a certain genre, and come up with something more original.  It’s nice that the song-lyrics go full circle though.  And the emphasis on family goes well with the rest of the album.

9. “Harder to Forgive”

I think this one might be the catchiest song on the album.  Finally!  One you want to sing with.  Though the subject matter is still sentimental and internally-probing, it has some happy sentiments in it as well.  “When every broken heart seemed like the end” shows that the band is not at that stage anymore.  I like how the song goes into a march.  Again, these cadence changes are some of the band’s best work.  Where I lose it though, is when the twin’s humming sounds like kazoos.  Not. a. fan.  I think maybe it was supposed to emulate the string section, but it sounds too circusy for the previous part of the song.  I do like how Brandi ends it on a partial scream.

10. “Party of One”

I like when Brandi takes to the piano.  She doesn’t do it nearly enough.  But this song is kind of a bummer to end on.  I would like them ending on a more uplifting note.  Or at least something the conveys some inner peace has been achieved as a result of all the afore-mentioned forgiveness.  Or else–what is the audience motivation to practice forgiveness?  Or what exactly is the album trying to say about forgiveness?  Just do it, despite the difficulty of it, to–feel alone and disappointed?  I think the message should be more uplifting and present some benefit from the forgiveness.  Not end on a divorce.  And the symphonic end is kind of nice, but it felt like they didn’t really know how to close out the album, so they just played and played.

 

So that was what I gleaned from listeninging only.  I’m excited to read the track notes, hear the stories behind the songs at concerts, and see articles on the content.  I probably missed a lot of the intent–I hope so!

 

Brandi Carlile: By the Way, I Forgive You

20 Feb

Let’s get the superficial out of the way first, why don’t we?

I hate the cover art on the album.  It makes Brandi look weird and old.  Like her face is dirty and she’s a hobo or something.  Speaking of physical appearance, I can’t help but be disappointed that Brandi looks old in the face.  And she’s gained weight.  And has mom hair.  The too-cool-for-school rock star vibe I used to see in her promo material and at concerts has been replaced with a mature-almost matronly tiredness.  And I hate that it matters to me.  I don’t want to believe I was only a fan because Brandi was nice to look at and seemed on the cusp of alternative-trends.  But I did used to really enjoy that finally, FINALLY the gays could have an icon that was attractive.  It’s not that common, you know.  So there is still the writing and singing talent, but that coolness is gone. . .

Another thing that had me questioning how fickle I may be as a fan was (very unfortunately) the music.  I mean, I like “The Mother” because it’s a unique take on a common subject.  But I’d heard it at a couple of concerts already.  And Mom songs are. . .  only so personal to me.  I also snuck listens to the first few singles on YouTube, and was really sad there was no Bear Creek-esk song.  Not even any upbeat song!  Where did Brandi’s edge go, I wondered?  It made it worse that all the videos were obviously from the same session, with no costume changes, no effects at all.  The band just played.  The songs all blended together sounding mostly the same.  I was dismayed that my fan-days were over.

But I have been listening, and buying the music, and contributing on Facebook comments, and attending concerts since the Indigo Girls (another one of my favorite bands) called Brandi the third Indigo Girl.  And I think Brandi is a good person–given all personal communications I’ve seen on her page and through media.  So I wanted to really like Brandi’s new stuff.

I listened to the album as a whole on Spotify (I pre-ordered the album, but cheaped out on shipping so it’s not here yet) with an open mind.  And I missed that upbeat song.  I wanted a “Hard Way Home,” “Dreams,” or “Alibi.”  But what I could appreciate right off was Brandi’s flawless, heartful singing.  And the instrumentation–the strings are beautiful.  I could hear right away Brandi was really going for it with her notes, too.  She can always hit them, but this album had a lot of passion that was easily discerned through her voice.

I listened again.  Once, I stopped listening for that amped up song that I long for, I could notice that By the Way, I Forgive You is a lyrically-driven CD.  Brandi and Tim and Phil wrote from their hearts and souls and you can absorb that after a few listens through the album.  So I come away, actually feeling like Brandi returned to her original fans by writing something closer to Give Up the Ghost, but at a different, more settled stage of life.  She did just what I have been asking her to do–go back to her roots and be her authentic self.

So she’s not nearly as cool as she used to be.  She looks tired.  Just like me.  She weighs more–just like me.  That happens in your 30s.  And the neat thing?  In your 30s you don’t really care as much about that stuff.  You learn what’s really important.  Family.  Love.  Forgiveness.  Moving forward.  So even though I started out bummed at Brandi’s new persona (ie NOT having one.  But stripping away the edges and just settling into herself) I’m, actually pleased about the direction.  So Brandi, please forgive me for objectifying you, and not remembering to look to your internal beauty and talent.

But Brandi, please do me a favor–still play the rockin’ songs at concerts, jazz up the studio version of at least ONE of the songs on this album so I want to jump, stomp my feet, and scream the lyrics–and on the next album include another amped up song. Or a few of them.  That’s all I ask.

2016: The High Points-Ranked

3 Jan

There was more bad times then good this year.  Or more accurately, a lot of the bad points overshadowed the good.  Or their were the normal good times, but the daily grind had a lot of negative.  But here, I have happily remembered many of the good.  From awesome to major thrill, here is my Top Moments Countdown:

Honorable mention:  The Trampled by Turtles concert with Lorn Huron as opener.  They put on a wonderful show (see review blog) but the venue totally ruined the whole thing.

trampled-by-turtles

11-Kelly Coffey circuit workouts/running on the trail in the summer

Cool has gained so much ground on this front, and it makes it fun, quality time instead of a chore.  It’s really nice to do it together.  And even though it was very hot (sometimes 104F) we both ran well AND had great attitudes about it.  I hope to continue our fitness stuff for a very long time.

10-Balloon Races/kayak

This went from the top spot last year to 10th!  But not because it was bad or anything.  I packed the car to the brim, but forgot one bag.  The one with all the cute outfits I had lovingly put together over the prior weeks and weeks.  It was a fun trip, as always, but even though there were technically more days IN the visit, we were way more rushed.  We didn’t even get to play yard games!  We have to plan better next time.  And some lady chastised my family when we sat down at Dawn Patrol.  Even though there’s no tickets and no seating arrangement.  She got ugly about it, saying “we’ve been here since 3AM.”  False.  They don’t open the gates until 4 AM, and shove it up your ass, lady.  I had fun, and I always love the balloon races, but we were kinda running around.  Plus, my mom was still recovering from her radiation/surgery.  And my dad was having trouble walking around so much.  We will do it better next visit!

lauurel-remax

9-Cool’s birthday in Park City

I bought Cool (and me) a massage package in Park City.  So we could try out being fancy (that’s not our life).  It was fun, but I just don’t think I’m a massage person.  Example:  They have a sign-in sheet and it asks what you don’t want in the massage.  I wrote “awkwardness.”  My gal was like, what do you mean you don’t want awkwardness?  Long pause.  What is awkwardness to you?”  Umm, THIS conversation.  And there was a hair treatment in the massage.  But that meant either you have to walk around with straight up oil in your wet hair–or shower.  So I had a weird semi-private shower, which I’m never a fan of.  So the massage was good, but I just am not going to submit myself to any more of that.  We did get to window shop in Park City and eat at High West, so that was nice.

boss-moose

8-getting the impossible raise

My worth ethic is unparalleled.  And my department under-pays so there is high turnover.  I ended up doing way more then my share (as I have always done) on a consistant basis.  The difference was, they keep track of checklists, so I saved them and wrote everything down.  Everyone in the company, everyone, everyone gets a standard 40 cent raise at their yearly review.  Everyone.  No exception.  But I worked more so I deserved more.  And I asked for it.  My supervisor said no no straight away.  I persisted that I worked very hard.  And they couldn’t deny that.  So the head of the department said he could try to ask for more, but it had only ever happened on very few rare occasions.  I said we could at least try, and he said he’d talk to his boss, but don’t get my hopes up.  I didn’t.  But the next week, he said I got it!  I got more than the standard 40 cent raise!!!  One of very few–nobody in recent memory.  But then, because he’s a douche and he doesn’t like me (because I caught him red-handed talking shit about me to another random employee AND went to HR about it)  he ruined the moment by saying, “You got lucky.”  No, you mother-fucker, I did not get lucky, I worked hard and earned it.  And Cool further ruined the occasion by picking one of our biggest fights ever.  So this should be higher on this list, but *sigh* other people. . .  I DID buy myself a really nice fitness tracker as a gift to me.  And it is hands free/cord free/phone free music.  Right on my wrist–with no other device necessary.

7-Zoo Brew

Best idea ever!  With or without alcohol.  The zoo put on a 21 and over event, which is genius.  I don’t always want to have kids pushing me, deal with screaming, and have little people running around scaring the animals and tapping on glass.  As long as you look at the zoo before the adults get out of the alcohol lines, you can see the animals before the adults start to exhibit (pun intended) this behavior.  It’s the first time we ever saw the palace cat out, because it was actually quiet.  Love!  And we went to the very first event, so nobody knew if it yet, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves.  Subsequent events were fun too, but word had spread and it was more crowded.  That May event–perfect!

giraffes-are-tall

6-my birthday:

I went extravegent for my bithday.  Not because it was a milestone year (33) but more because I had a job where I can take (paid) time off.  So I used it to my advantage and did bunches of things all week.  I got my hair dyed special. mussel-shooters-with-quail-egg She took the color out, then did a rinse so it was subtle, purple highlights.  I loved it!  And as soon as I catch up on money, I’ll get that again.  On your birthday you get to eat whatever you want, even if the other person doesn’t like that kind of food.  Cool is a very picky eater, so I always have to go without a lot of foods.  So I chose sushi.  The restaurant was cute, and had a mural and live music too.  I got a whole platter, which I never do, but it was my birthday, and I had to load up from the prior year of no sushi and the next year of no sushi.  And I got mussel shooters, which are fun to eat!  My actual birthday we paid for Red Butte gardens ($13/person and a total rip-off) which is MUCH smaller than Spokane’s free Manito Garden.  I won’t go back lizlard-wave-up-frontunless there’s a free day.  We went to Red Robin’s for lunch, which I wouldn’t choose, but my blood sugar got low and we had no other recourse and Cool panicked and got irritable.  Then we went to an independent theater and saw one of the films that had been at Sundance Film Festival.  It was “Swiss Army Man” see my review.  I liked it, and figured it out, so felt cool.  Then we had a Grapefruit Ballist Point beer on a patio and it was wonderful.  We had planned to go to our library’s coffee and chocolate class but some obnoxious lady sat immediately next to me, wouldn’t stop engaging me, and when she belched in my face I called it quits and walked out early.  Then sent a long complain letter to the event’s organizer–who turned out to be really, really sweet.  Signed us up for the next month’s (super competitive) class, gave me coupons for free coffee at the library shop, and gave me a birthday gift of 4 artisan chocolate bars!  Like, really sweet and very apologetic (that’s not usually my life).  Anyway, so we went to an oyster restaurant instead.  I like oysters, but found the restaurant very over-priced.  The day after my birthday, Cool had paid for an experience at the aviary.  I got to go in a private room with a parrot and a bird trainer.  The bird painted me a picture.  Well,  actually she went dab-dab dab with the sponge then looked for her food treat.  Then saw she had to dab more to get more food, so quickly dab-dab-dabbed in order to get more treats.  I got to take pictures right up next to her and took my painting by her home.  It was really neat to get up close and personal and she was a cute stuff.

painting-with-picaso-birthday

5-Halloween Costumes

We loved the year we were trick-or-treating, and I’ve always loved Halloween.  But usually, one of us is stuck at work.  This year–neither of us were, so we wanted to do something really big.  A couple’s costume!  So on Sundays we brainstormed and brainstormed, and researched, and planned.  The best, easiest thing for us to do was “Lions Tigers and Bears–Oh my!”  We bought more then we wanted, and made some cool accessories.  Then, I face-paintedgracies-contest-004 gracies-contest-026my little heart out!  It took forever, but we looked good.  We had signed up for a fun-theme-run, so we dressed up for that.  And the zombies chased us.  Cool body-slammed a zombie, and outran the children.  At the end, they had voting for best costume.  Except, they forgot to call us up (they said if you think you’ll win just get up there anyway) so we had to push through the crowd–which Cool is never good at.  There was no raised stage or anything, we were just in a parking-lot, and as short people, we were probably obscured to anyone not in the front row.  And the dope-DJ who was running the thing didn’t say our name properly he called us “a lion and a tiger.”  The voting was by audience cheer.  We got second place, but after all the afore-mentioned factors, I think we were robbed!  And I think the first place winners had stacked the crowd.  So we felt we could do better.  When a local restaurant announced they were having a costume contest for cash prizes ($500 Sunday night, $500 Monday night–when it had been one night the year before for $1000) we had to try!  Even though it meant taking time off work.  So I requested a partial day off Sunday (working corporate and having not only paid vacation, but as-needed employees to cover shifts is so nice!) to gracies-contest-025get ready and go.  I did my very best face-painting work and we hung out at Gracie’s waiting for the voting.  And some ten foot tall tree man took our prize!  With some king and queen getting 2nd, and that Tim Burton wig head dude and his gal-friend taking 3rd.  Disagree and disagree.  We should have at least gotten 2nd!  So we tried one more time and dressed up for work on Monday.  Because their was a contest and a secret prize, and our boss encouraged everyone to dress up.  He didn’t encourage us for work-spirit or anything.  That douche is a nerd and his big hobby is making and dressing up in costumes–even though he’s like, 50.  He has a batman, that could legit-be used for one of the movies.  That’s how much time and money and effort he put into it.  That is an old costume of his.  This year, he was working on a Captain Sparrow costume.  Which I thought was only so-so.  How hard is it to get a mscl-halloween-contest-copydred-wig, a sash, and buy tall boots?!  So we thought we’d at least win the work contest and beat him–cause who doesn’t love a group costume?  But alas, our boss won the whole contest.  And some gal painted herself silver and wore deer antlers (big deal) and beat us for 2nd place.  We didn’t even place at all 😦  So we had fun, and looked good, but this didn’t rank higher because nobody knows how to properly judge a contest, and we should have won, but didn’t.

haunted-5k-186

 

 

4-my thousand day in a row mile

I ran so many days-in-a-row that I made it to #1000 this summer!  To commemorate the occasion, I made flyers at work, inviting people.  Even though I knew those duds and douches wouldn’t show, I was excited and there was an off-chance someone might share in that excitement–plus, I could get acknowledgement of my huge accomplishment, and tie it to my resume that way.  As part of the work in-a-row-2event, I made it a coin drive fund-raiser so we could adopt a bird at the aviary.  The money goes towards feeding and care and they give you free aviary passes, a plush of your bird, and a certificate.  Only my supervisor came to my mile, but I really hadn’t expected anyone at all, so that was OK. I wore my running skirt and felt awesome.  And I used our concert window chalk and painted my accomplishment all over Rusty.  On the way from the fundraiser to work, I was stuck in traffic.  I don’t use my air conditioner–ever–in order to save money, so my windows were both down.  I heard a, “I promise I’m not hitting on you.”  Firstly, I didn’t expect it.  Secondly, I thought–that can’t be for ME.  Thirdly, I was like–do I really want to engage with this?  So after a long time, I turned my head, and some guy stuck in the traffic jam beside me, asked, “Did you really run so many days in a row???  That’s cool!”  So that was nice.  While I was at work that night, our Hispanic cleaning gal brought her whole family inside our lab.  They all looked really happy, and they asked if any of us spoke Spanish–none of us do, all of us randomly speak German, if any second language at all.  Her husband had his phone and somehow conveyed that they wanted to buy a car.  I heard “Isuzu” and realized what happened.  They saw all my window paint, but couldn’t read English.  So they assumed I was selling my beautiful Rusty for $1000, and they were ready to take it that night!  I was like, “No, no,no, not for sale.”  And they looked very disappointed.  And everyone in my lab teased me that I broke their hearts for the rest of that week.  Only like 3 people at work donated to the coin drive (I TOLD you I work with duds) but 2 of them donated $20s.  So we got to adopt a bird for $50.  I chose a black vulture 1) because vultures are important to our world and Andy N. Condor has enlightened me to their cuteness and cause. 2) Little Chewy and Vader of Tracy Aviary didn’t have any sponsors for 2016, and that made me sad for them.  3)  Our lab is SO vulture!   We are the clean-up crew of the medical industry as we have to sniff out mistakes and correct them.  We deal with icky samples.  And–we’re all anti-social and sort of put-down upon by the hoity-toity management and the super-social client services and phlebotomists.   I hung the flyer, the certificate/facts, and the vulture plush in the lab.  Everybody likes it and we named out vulture plush, Culture, which is appropriate for us.

1000th-mile-in-a-row-003

3-Brandi’s concert

Brandi always makes our list.  She always puts on an exciting show that you come away from amped up.  But the venue was awesome!  We were right in the middle of the Deer Valley bunny area, with mountains and trees all around.  And Park City is always fun–we of course snuck into their mini Arts-Fest (only for 2 min) and ate beer cheese pretzels and drank cocktails at our fave- High West.  It also made it the best time because we packed our own tailgate and pic-nic.  We had greek pitas, watermelon-rum slushees, salads and s’mores in (separate) mason jars.  It was delicious, and topped off the day nicely.  Oh, and we got the very best parking spot where we could exit the concert first, and easily, because one of the Deer Valley maintenance workers gave us a good tip.

brandi-date

2-Utah Arts Festival

It was bigger and better then I ever expected!  There were booths where we got to see SLC’s creative side.  The live music was cool, and we got to see Beats Antique–a legit band that made my countdown–at the end, right in the park.  The highlight of the day was getting a sampling of foods from there different food trucks.  And we came home with Rogue Bear and a beautiful pinned moth.

power-lunch

1.rodeo

We wanted to do something on our holiday weekend, but didn’t know what exactly.  At that time, we lived right pioneer-days-rodeowithin walking of downtown, but lots of things were closed, and nothing pioneer-days-rodeo-2016spectacular was going on.  But they do convert the whole arena each year for “Pioneer Days Rodeo.”  We thought we’d go check it out and kill some time.  We both wore our best cowgirl outfits and walked down.  Out front we stumbled on to a signing!  It was my dream at pretty much every event I’ve ever attended to have a meet and greet with the main person, but that’s not my life.  And here, we were standing in the middle of a meet & greet, but we didn’t know who any of the rodeo people were. . .  Still, the main guy invited us to get autographs, gave us a magazine to get signed, we had hats for them to sign.  They talked, and took pictures.  Everyone was really nice!  And inside the rodeo we had a lot of fun and excitement watching all the events.  We had no idea we would like the rodeo so much!  We had SO much fun that while we were sitting in the stands, we used my phone to buy tickets for the next evening as well.

 

So that’s the best of 2016, and I look forward to an very very much better 2017!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moments of 2015-Good

1 Jan

I usually like to post all my reflections by December 31st and all my aspirations on January 1st.  Because of a full-time work schedule, and a holiday visit–it didn’t happen this year.  I’m setting aside more time tomorrow to write, but I did want to get something up on the actual 1st.  Even though I really didn’t have time because I spent the day rearranging the whole living room, organizing all the books, textbooks, class notes, and scrapbook items, and cleaning.  And that was a huge project, which was worth it because it looks so much nicer in here, there is more space (somehow, even though we added a bunch), and it’s less cluttered.  Anyway, so you’ll see the most important items in the countdown are unfinished.  But the post has to be posted on this date, I’m hungry, and times a tickin.  So I’ll edit it after dinner and after Cool goes to sleep, but for now–bare with me.

15-the relief of staying at the Missoula hotel at a halfway point in our move.

We hadn’t planned on spending the money.  Plus, the cats are generally horrible in hotels, and no sleep is had anyway.  But we finished packing, and loaded the Pensky in record time–like it was noon or something equally early.  So we decided why stay in a dusty, empty apartment when we could just shave off some miles.  We made a spur-of-the-moment reservation at our lucky hotel (lucky because they had an opening WITHOUT a reservation on Independence Day and saved me from a major allergy attack.  And from camping at pow-wow in the dust (and allergens).  The cats even slept a little that night and it made it a more bearable two day trip rather than one long haul.

14-getting a full-time position with a schedule that still allowed me to see Cool

You never know when homophobia will rear it’s ugly head.  I wasn’t sure if any work or housing protections are in place for LGBT people.  Besides, this is Utah–known for Mormons more than tolerance.  Also, work has a policy against spouses working in the same department.  Even though we’re not legal or married or domestically partnered in any way, if they want to make a case against you, they can usually find a way.  In short, asking for an alternative schedule to SEE Cool was a touchy subject.  With driving time, her job keeps her away from home from 8:15AM to 3:30PM and mine was supposed to be 4:30PM to 1:30AM.  We would see each other for 1 hour each day–while getting undressed from work (Cool) ready for work (me), and eating dinner.  It just wasn’t going to be enough.  And especially with bipolar in the mix and needing to stay apprised of the situation, it was going to be a major hardship.  I got brave and negotiated a good schedule, then it was promptly reneged (see bad moments blog).  In the end, work couldn’t give that other bitch Sundays, because that left Saturdays empty.  I was still not trained enough to take that day, and the other kid who could take it (and didn’t want Saturday, of course) is a lead–so he MUST work M-F.  So because they couldn’t move the lead, I did end up getting my schedule.  But not because they were doing me any favors.  Still, I’ll take what I can get.  And now I LOVE my schedule.  It’s really ideal.

13-Temple Square at Christmas

temple square christmas

Who knew Mormon Christmas festivity would make my top-of-the-year list?!  No, I haven’t been drinking the Utah koolade, it’s just that spectacular.  Around the temple, every tree, bush, and pond is saturated with lights.  There’s music and wreaths, and a really nice atmosphere.  Both malls have decorations, and all of downtown is dressed up for Christmas.  We took pictures, Cool stood in the middle of someone else’s marriage proposal, and we saw a fountain/light show to Christmas songs.  The best part?  We live within walking distance.  We did not have to fight for parking or make our way through the heavy traffic to enjoy it.  It’s so nice, people come from all over the state to partake.

12-exploring SLC, especially walking around the city

green haze

We didn’t move into this apartment complex to be downtown.  It just so happened that the ONLY apartment in our price range that accepted pets, AND actually called us back was practilly downtown.  We can walk less than a mile and be at both malls, the planetarium, the sports/concert arena, farmer’s market, the rapid transit–all downtown has to offer.  We took full advantage on the warm days, and even some of the freezing ones, walking everywhere this year.  And we’ve explored and taken pictures, and genuinely enjoyed this new city.  I can’t wait to explore more areas while increasing our step counts.

11-getting true weekends off of work

My whole working life I worked weekends.  Kennel work, of course, requires cleaning and feeding the animals.  As an assistant, I had to medicate animals as well.  In janitorial, those are the off-hours available to deep-clean.  I’ve never had a true entire Saturday, entire Sunday off.  Every weekend.  So when I went to a corporate job it was a really nice treat being in sync with the rest of the world (and Cool).  This only lasted for 3 months, but it was MY choice to work Sundays, and I exchanged it for Friday and Saturdays off and a late-start on Wednesday, so I’m still winning.

10-having a larger, brighter, more functional kitchen

kitchen

I knew I didn’t love the galley kitchen in Spokompton.  It was dark and unventilated and there was very little storage.  But I didn’t really how much I hated it until I got a huge, bright, super-storage kitchen that was more open.  All the kitchen stuff fits in it, AND there’s counter space!

9-getting a job in another state, before we moved

Moving is horribly stressful.  And it’s expensive.  I feel like it’s 2015, you should be able to secure jobs and housing online–but we are not there yet.  You pretty much have to be IN the state you’re moving to in order to get the job and housing.  Which is a major problme when you’re not made of money.  Because where do you stay in the meantime?  And how do you pay deposit and rent if you are not working (and you don’t know when you will be)?  It’s very scary and logistically almost impossible.  But, luckily, Cool’s Spokane company had openings within different departments in Utah.  So she couldn’t tansfer, but she was pretty well guarenteed a position in the company.  So she got a job.  Then, they had another opening in her company, and since I have a medical background and a minor in chemistry (and knew Cool), I got a job.  It was one of the greatest moments of my life because I was hired over the phone!  And it was a big relief because it gave some answers to questions and a safety net.

8-the entire Christmas visit to my parents’ house–especially the owl painting.

our owls--mine, Cools, Dad, Mom

We saw my parents a third time–a record–over Christmas.  It was special, because I’ve rarely gotten time off of work to go anywhere.  Especially over a holiday.  And Cool could come again.  So it would be the biggest Christmas I’ve ever had.  When I was growing up, it was just my parents and I because extended family lives in Montana where winter weather makes travel dangerous.  And after I moved out, vet hospitals got busy because everyone else was on vacation so where either boarding pets or using that time to catch up on their appointments, or bringing them in for Christmas-related emergencies.  So I always had to work, and be by myself over the holidays.  So it was special just having the 4 of us together.  But my parents had got Cool and I a surprise.  And they were so excited about  it.  And really building up the anticipation.  We were really worked up into a frenzy about what it could be.  At the very end, I guessed it was a painting session, and I was right!  So we were excited to try it because my parents had a good time with it previously–and you get to keep what you paint.  And my dad especially was all weird when we got there, because he was actually excited to paint, and for us to paint.  It’s a big deal, because he’s usually stoic.  The painting process was fun, and seeing all of our creations was a pleasure that lasted and lasted.  We gazed upon them, commented on their different personalities and styles, and looked some more.  We rearranged them and rearranged them again.  The whole thing was really the best from start to finish!

7-running on the trail with Cool

Aquarium with parents 134

Historically Cool HATES running.  And she’s not fun to run with because she slacks off, complains, and just doesn’t want to be there.  But this summer the stars aligned, she was in generally better shape, the weather was nice, and the trail new and beautiful.  We ran almost every day together.  She (mostly) actually ran, mostly without complaint too.  It was a time we could work on our fitness, then we walked back to the car together.  It was a really good time, being out and nature and having no distractions or screens, so we just caught up and talked to each other.  It was really nice times and now that our schedules are opposite, I miss it terribly.

6-Getting to see Brandi Carlile in concert

brandi and twins onstage

Duh!  Brandi always puts on an outstanding show.  Even though I wasn’t in love with the new album, I loved the way she performed the songs live.  She makes the crowd feel like family.  She gets me jazzed up and also moves my heart.  We weren’t stressed about standing in line or getting a good seat, so I was just able to relax and enjoy myself–unheard of for me.

5-Hope:  Moving to a better, cleaner city with better job prospects and working a job that might offer future (non-veterinary) prospects for me.

Spokane only offered so much.  We had sort of burned through what few prospects it had and were reaching a dead-end.  We didn’t want to get a Spokompton mentality or get stuck and be unable to move out, and unable to move UP in life.  So coming to Utah was amazing.  It opened doors and gave us options again.  Plus it’s a really clean, safe, walkable city where Spokane is not.

4-getting a washer/dryer

11739557_10207005138825348_509593602_n

This was a long time coming!  I had been doing coin-op since I moved out of my parents house in 2003.  And it sucked pretty much the whole time.  Taking your laundry out of your house is a burdan.  No matter the sute dorm bags, you still have to haul it.  And not just out to the washer.  You then have to leave the comfort of your house to change it to the dryer.  That’s if you trusted enough to leave it unattended in the first place.  Then you have to make a third trip to collect it from the dryer.  And good luck getting it dry–it’s never dry!  That costs a boat-load of money and forget any special care instructions or color-sorting.  That’s just not practical.  Also, think about if the cat pees on something.  Or you spill something.  Or after camping when everything is all icky.  You can’t always go to the laundry facilities at 4AM or midnight, so you then have to store that ultra-dirty stuff.  And it’s ick.  So getting a washer/dryer was AMAZING!  Now we are real people, and I love it pretty much every time I throw something into the laundry basket.

3-when my parents visited over the summer-especially the aviary day

11667304_10207126634868756_7426331088971295069_n

It took my parents 5 years to visit me in Missouri.  And we hadn’t seen them since 2010.  So when they came to Salt Lake City almost immediately after we moved here, I was really excited.  Even better, I had a training schedule at work that was only 25 hours per week–so I actually had time to see them.  We visited the aquarium and went to Cheesecake Factory, and showed them a lot of the same sights we had just barely discovered.  Nobody fought the whole time, which was a record!  That hadn’t happened in forever–we had gone through such tumultuous times.  So it was all really special and really fun.  The best was when the 4 of us visited the Aviary.  We got to feed Sun Canards by hand, watch a show, and just look at all the bird exhibits.  I love going to animal places normally, and including my parents and Cool was optimal!

2-when Cool and I had the exact same schedule, and worked together

It seems like Cool and I are always ending up on opposite schedules.  In Spokompton, I worked days, weekends, went to school, and pretty much studied the rest of the time.  While she worked swing shift.  We barely saw each other.  Then, when we got here, we suddenly had the same job, in the same department, and we worked the exact same hours.  We had the same sleep schedule, got to hang out together all day, then worked in the same room.  I loved those few months!  We could do all the errands together instead of 1 person having to suffer through it alone.  We could both clean the apartment at the same time, so it was faster and equal responsibility.  Our runs could happen together.  We had time to talk and hang out. . .  Then at work, it’s independent, but we could take our breaks together.  But then, Cool got an job offer doing billing in a cubicle upstairs which is more tailored to her personality, so in July or August, she went to the day shift and a different part of the building.  But being together was sure nice while it lasted.

1-DMB/Hot air balloons

Reno Balloon Races 065

We visited Nevada and had a great time with my parents!  My mom and I went in some historic railroad cars and got lost in Tahoe.  We were both very scared (we’ve seen the helicopters searching for unprepared stupids on TV many times) and despite that, we never fought!  Which is unheard of for us.  Especially when there’s no buffer person with us.  And very especially when we’re stressed.  So that was a milestone.  We also, on that trip, got to see Dave Matthews Band in Tahoe.  Which our seats were in the perfect spot, and it was fun to have my mom along–since she hadn’t been to a real concert in forever.  And DMB is always one of the best times.  But, the very, very best time was the balloons.  My mom and I had gone in 1994.  And it was miserable.  3 AM is too early, especially when you’re 9 yaesr old.  Even though it’s September, Nevada is COLD at that time in the morning, and we hadn’t dressed for it.  Also, back then, they didn’t sell blankets or sweatshirts, or warm beverages.  We got starving, and they didn’t sell food back then either.  My mom and I didn’t have a blanket to sit on, let alone chairs.  So the whole time we were tired, cold, hungry, cold, uncomfortable, cold, dusty, and cold.  It’s difficult to enjoy even the best things when you’re so physically uncomfortable–and I did not.  So ever since then I wanted a do-over.  I’d be prepared THIS time!  But September and college in no way work together.  Every time the Great Reno Balloon Race came around I was just starting school.  Or in Missouri, and getting ready for the first round of exams.  Or working at vet hospitals and unable to take a busy weekend off.  This year, I was only working a training schedule–and they had screwed me over on that PRN deal, so I didn’t feel guilty at all taking a week off.  I wasn’t in any kind of school for the first time in TEN years.  We could stay with my parents so it didn’t cost a bunch of money to visit.  I packed winter layers knowing I would be cold.  We made our own snacks and took hot coffee in thermoses.  We didn’t have chairs or remember a blanket, but everything else fell into place.  I was ready to enjoy myself this time!  We got a good parking spot and walked to the event, then stood/sat in one of the only empty areas.  We got to see the dueling balloons in the dark, and dawn patrol as the sun was rising.  I got great pictures.  Then, the BEST part was mass ascention.  We had unknowingly sat right down in the middle of the field, so all the balloons were blown up all the way around us.  We were right in the middle of the action!  And I got more good pictures.  It was even greater because my parents and Cool were there and everyone was in good spirits having a good time.  I had anticipated the event so much, and had previously been so disappointed, that this was AMAZING!  Now, I can’t wait to do it again.

our DMB posters

 

Overall, 2015 was a time of doubt and uncertainty.  But it was a very family-focused year and that salvaged things a lot.