Tag Archives: music

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2016 Albums

1 Jan

Here is my annual countdown of top albums.  I actually kept up on it throughout the year, and things are much better researched as a result.  I tried to listen to all the big name artists and my favorite artists as they came out in 2016.  And if I had extra time, I listened to genres I like or names I thought sounded cool, or whatever Spotify suggested.  This might be my best work yet!  From last 2016 album that made the cut, to my top choice for 2016’s album of the year:

 

26.  Melissa Etheridge:  I was pretty surprised myself at how far down the list her album felt.  The main problem?  Trying too hard, and it’s a pretty grave error.  I gave leniency to artists who tried something different (and fell a little short), who only came away with 1 or 2 songs I liked, or who just kinda did the same thing they’ve always done and sounded boring as a result.  But Etheridge, is lower, because it’s like she feels a little washed up and is insecure.  I liked “Born Under a Bad Sign” but it’s a cover and let’s face it, Homer Simpson sings that like a boss.  Melissa needs to regain confidence, have a message again, and regain some passion.

25.  Alicia Keys:  I wanted to like it.  I like the stripped down, no makeup cover.  I like the message of empowered women.  I did not, however, and unfortunately, really like the album.  I wanted it to be more piano-driven.  I wanted more range in the singing.  I wanted it to be a little softer.  What I got was a LOT of 1990’s throw-back, complete with pseudo telephone call interlude and everything.  I got a toughness.  I got disappointed.  I didn’t hate “Blended Family” and I thought “Pawn It All” with it’s soul/blues vibe was the stand-out song.

24.  Bon Iver- Experimental and jarring.  I liked the last albums because it was calming and relaxing.  This one is definitively-NOT.  I can see he was trying to do some avant-garrd electronic, but the music lost it’s dreamy, meditative quality in the process.

23.  Bruce Springstean:  I like this album better than I like his other stuff (not at all).  It sounds like a blue-collar worker that just got off a double shift and stepped up on the kariokee stage–a beer in hand, of course.  It’s gritty and rugged.

 

–>>We’re entering the neutral zone.  Nothing really BAD, but not super-interesting either<<——-

22.  Gavin DeGraw:  I can hear influences of Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars.  It’s OK, but DeGraw needs to find his own voice.

21.  The Head and the Heart:  I saw these guys open for Dave Matthews Band at the Gorge one year.  And I don’t remember a thing about them.  This album is much the same.  There is nothing wrong with the music.  It’s pleasing, it’s plesant enough, it’s fine.  It’s just hardly worth mention.

20.  Hank Williams:  This bawdy tavern album should precede this fictional evening of frightened rabbits.  It’s amped up, energetic, and rowdy–as it should be.  Nothing new here though.  One Trick Pony.

19. Frightened Rabbits:  It’s Irish music after the party.  When everyone has passed their drinking limit, and the raucous singing and jigging is done, and people are passing out or crying.  Still an integral part of the scene, but certainly not the upbeat story of the beginning of the night.

18. Brittany Spears:  Is ever the perky, dancy pop star in this new (and every previous) album.  This time she seems to have more command.  The lyrics indicate she’s taking control and will not be pushed around.  The tracks are intentional.

17.  Dawes- Easy-listening.  It’s good background with nothing wrong about it.  The reason it doesn’t rank higher, is that it also has nothing particularly interesting about it either.

16.  Elton John:  I have always liked Ser John, from the crazy-saucy 1970’s-1980’s sing-alongs to the quieter, more reserved “Peachtree Road” and “The Diving Board” CD’s.  This album falls in with the more subdued fare, and that’s fine.  But compared to the previous 2 albums, it’s a little. . .  Dare I say, boring.

15.  Kings of Leon- Hipster rock.  It’s a staple.  It’s good in the car.  It reminds me of Seattle.  This album is a good effort-though there’s not a “Sex on Fire” stunner ready for radio.  “Around the World” does come closest to main-stream appeal.

14.  James Vincent McMorrow:  This music is chill.  Good for background.  It’s the type of album you would play for a quiet dinner party or to relax in the tub.  It’s the vibe Bon Iver used to be–before all that experimental SOUND intruded.

13.  Sum 41:  What a surprise entry!  I did not expect much from this band-a decade past its peak.  I was happily pleased to hear a still punkish, but more mature set.  “The Fall and the Rise” rivals anything by Green Day.  It’s throbbing beat and rebel lyrics really open up the album and made me want to hear more.  “War” is another winner.

12.  Lady Gaga:  I can’t decide if I’m inspired or annoyed by Lady Gaga’s career directory.  She ripped off the Club Kid dress code, introducing it to the mainstream as if it were her own.  And now she’s shamelessly stealing Madonna’s singing arc, going from pop hits, to more serious fare.  It’s a good recipe for longevity, but I’m not so sure I’m ready to hear her more serious side (and see her business acumen in action).  And I stand by my opinion that the Superbowl’s national anthem was awful–even if I’m the only one alive who thinks that.  But it did help to contribute to the new image of maturity this album is going for.  The standout track on Joanne is most certainly “Million Reasons” which shows Lady Gaga isn’t just photo-worthy, but has inspiring lyrics and a good voice.  Bottom line-once you get used to the fact the party-phase is over, this album is a sturdy offering.

11.  OneRepublic-  They used to be one of my new favorite bands.  I thought the songs were catchy and I liked the Native American flair of the last album.  Except this album is SO electro-pop.  A total copy-cat of Daft Punk–who I don’t think are that great.  Yeah, I said it.  I think Daft Punk is over-hyped.  And ‘Oh My My’ is is rip off of that.  Still, this review isn’t a dislike–it’s just relative to previous works and other music on this list.  Despite my harsh criticisms, I do like several of the songs.  “Lift Me Up,” NbHD,” “Wherever I Go,” are catchy, and “Better” a Twenty-One Pilots-eske electro-pap (that’s the word I coined for pop-rap) gets stuck in my head every time I hear it.

10.  Green Day-  It’s a little wrote.  Maybe they’re past their prime.  And certainly if the band is still considered (sell-out) punk, it’s barely.  But they were one of the first bands I liked, they are one of the most continuously good producers of music, and there are a few stand out tracks.  “Bang Bang” is saucy and hard-core, probably the most punk on the album, and maybe for the last few albums.  My favorite track, and the best political statement is, “We Live in Troubled Times,” which in light of this Trump victory is a spotlight to current events, and a prophecy of the future.  “Revolution Radio” and “Still Breathing” are catchy.  The rest are a little tired, but in a dearth of (main-stream) punk artists–still relevant.

9.  The Avett Brothers:  This album feels more. . .  Communal.  It’s a sort of folksy, around-the-campfire sound.  “Satin Pulls the Strings” has the rock that I look for with The Avvett Brother’s material, but the rest of the tracks were a little lighter fare.  Like they have mellowed a little–or are trying to break into that Americana Grammy category.  “Divorce Seperation Blues” with the yodelling, harkens a Dude Ranch weekend–whimsical, yet relevant to today.  I think this is one of theose albums, that you grow an appreciation for the more you listen.  And the nature of this list is sort of listen once and rate.  I think I’ll like it more and more when I’m not judging for a countdown.

8.  The Lumineers:  I’ll be honest–I expected more.  Don’t get me wrong, ‘Cleopatra’ is listed toward the top of this list for a reason.  I just really, really liked the acoustic partially-bluegrass sounds of their last album.  But all that’s gone.  The bluegrass portion of the music, anyway.  It has that stripped down feel, and unpolished sound that has been secretly perfected.  But the foot tapping aspects are no more.  Still, “Ophelia” and “Cleopatra” are catchy, radio-worthy high points of the record.

–>  getting good<–

7.  Michael Buble:  We all know Buble is my boyfriend.  And I think his business plan of jumping into an empty genre, and pandering to the middle-aged women is a genius.  But I was torn this year.  I couldn’t decide if the album was–too much pandering and disengenuine, or the result of a true passion for the almost forgotten swing genre.  It goes pretty far to the Sinatra crooning sound.  I had to take some points off his ranking because the answer to that question wasn’t quite clear to me.  But if he does MEAN it, the album is another great work.  But certainly intent matters, here.  My favorite song, is “I Wanna be Around,”  which I could not tell at first if it was a love song or a break up song.   Another strong song is the “Nobody But Me, alternate version with trumpet.”

6.  Panic!  At the Disco:  High energy!  This album is certainly a rejuvenation for the band.  I don’t follow the band members, but the sound leads me to believe a major life obstacle has just been surmounted.  Everything feels new and hopeful and exciting.  I originally heard one of the tracks in Lake Tahoe, and I felt like I was behind the times.  Because it seemed like the song had already broken out ages ago–which was not the case.  It just FELT like I missed the boat, because this is one of those albums, then when you listen to it, makes you cooler than you actually are.  Also, with original ideas over sampled tunes, this is the newest album, that seems like a familiar, old friend.  Each song could be a single.  This is a party album, a running mix, and a car-trip standby.

5.  Adele:  Everything you expect from Adele:  The soulful sound, pitch-prefect singing, that longing voice conveying heart ache.  It’s a solid effort, and yes, even though “Hello” has been parodied to death–I still think it’s the stand-out track.  “River Lea” is also really nice

4.  Lukas Graham:  A new artist, but so good that the album made my best albums of 2016 list.  The first weekend I heard this self-titled album, by this Denmark native, I was ready to make it the number 1 album of 2016.  It’s good.  I love it.  It’s different–piano, rap, R&B, blues, rock and soul can all be heard.  The singing holds up, and can almost feel gospel.  The lyrics tell a story, and it feels spiritual.  My only negative is that the music doesn’t stand up to the test of time for one reason only.  I guess America isn’t as family-oriented as many countries, because after a bit, the common mention of family got a little distracting and. . .  Tiresome?  It isn’t like close family ties are boring or annoying to hear about, but Graham mentions his family in nearly every song–and it IS just this side of too much.  But that’s a small complaint.

3.  Regina Spektor:  I usually have to be in a certain mood to listen to Specktor.  And who doesn’t hate that damned, SUPER-long “Orange is the new Black” intro that goes on and on and on while showing creepy pieces of weird faces?!  I can’t STAND that, and after like a full 5 minutes it sucks the life right out of me.  Especially during a binge-watching marathon–which, P.S. there is no other way to watch the series.  We have the fast-forwarding down to a science, and I implore Netflix to only show the intro on the first episode of a season.  Because HATE!  Anyway, Specktor, or re-GINA (rhymes with female anatomy) as I call her can get too wail-ey and spoken word poetry for me.  Normally.  I really thought her newest album overcomes all that and is female music without being too much.  “Bleeding Heart” could even be a radio single.

–>great!<–

2.  Beats Antique-  A coworker played this, introducing me to the world music, circus, jazz electronic, that I believe has technically been around for years and years already.  And as I’ve listened more and more in 2016, I feel like I’ve already been a fan for years and years.  The music just attaches in your psyche and resonates.  I saw them in concert, and thought their stage show was severely lacking–especially for such an experienced and well traveled band.  While the music calls for tigers jumping through hoops, cobras in baskets, and belly dancers, the best they did was stand holding a golden hoop.  At any rate, I hope they go mainstream.  This album is worldly and electronic, and experimental as ever–like you’d hope.  But it also harkens back to Jazz and Blues and makes you feel like you’re sitting in a dark corner of Louisiana enjoying a hurricane.

1. Kaleo:  Technically, should be listed under best new artist, but was so great they made it to my best overall album of the year list.  Well-rounded and singable, but also seriously substantial.  I love “Way Down We Go” with such obvious gospel influence is the leading single.  The band is fun to listen to, but by no means lighthearted fare.  It inspires thought.  Take “Broken Bones” with its folksy, chain-gang feel.  It makes me look to history, and acknowledge the fact that music is one of the few places where black people have carved out a platform to talk about their lives, challenges, and political concerns.  Rap music didn’t just stem from nowhere.  “Automobile” hearkens back to that 1970s story-telling song vibe.  And it’s got a catchy hook also.  “All the Pretty Girls” sounds like Bon Iver and James Vincent McMorrow, in that it’s quiet and sweet.  But I think it’s more catchy than those artists with it’s get-it-stuck-in-your-head ‘won’t you lay me down’ chorus.

 

Best New Artist in 2016

31 Dec

Countdown to the Best New (to me) Artist of 2016:

14. Cat’s Eyes- 1950’s type pop that reminds me of Linda Gore.

13. Moose Blood- Best band name, but a little bit of a depressing sound. Not bad, just a little more down then I usually gravitate toward. I would listen to another one of their albums.

12. Banks- Tough-gal, with R&B flavor and club beat.

11. The Brothers Osborne: Country and feisty. These songs WILL get stuck in your head.

10. Girl Blue- Clearly someone to keep your eye on. There is so much potential here. “Call Me Home” is soft and sweet, “One and Only” is tough and strong. I can’t wait to see where she goes, I don’t think this will be the last we hear of Girl Blue.

9. Shovels & Rope- The frenetic pace of the music is amped up and interesting. They would have rated higher if the singing was a little more pleasing. It sounds like loud talking, really. But the music is different and makes up for the shout-sings–mostly.

8. Maren Morris- The recording quality is poor, like, really, really bad-probably the worst on this list. It sounds like someone sitting in a bar held their phone up and then uploaded it. It’s sort of hollow and 1980s cassette tape–taped over a few times. The quality of the work itself is nice though. I find Morris’ lyrics and singing refreshing. “My Church” is one of my favorite tracks and speaks to how a passion can be almost spiritual. I don’t know if she writes all of her own songs, but she wrote at least one, “Second Wind” that Kelly Clarkson recorded. I like how the songs are country, but saucy. See “Drunk Girls Don’t Cry” a poem on raising your standards as a female. It’s progressive ideas in a country format–I like it!

7. The Mowgli’s- I think they may have had a prior album–but I don’t think I’ve heard anything from it. This album is sort of a soft-country crossed with Hansen sometimes (“Alone Sometimes”) and The Plain White Tees (“Arms & Legs”) other times.

6.  Shawn Mendes- Maybe he was around in 2015 and earlier, it sure seems like his “stiches” song has been at least. But I don’t know if the whole album was out earlier, or if the single dropped very early in 2016. At any rate, I see great potential here. It’s like a more mature Bieber. And “Air,” “No Promised,” and “Bad Reputation” grab you instantly.

5. The Ballroom Thieves- The background instrumentation is really the star here. There is a cello? It lends a resonant, interesting sound to the trend of going hipster-bluegrass. Don’t get me wrong, hipster-bluegrass is probably my favorite genre right now, but bands shouldn’t be doing it only to break in the business or get into a smaller awards category.

4. NEEDTOBREATHE- Let me get this out of the way first–I hate when artists use mispellings, all caps, symbols, numbers, or other nonsense in their name. All caps, one word? Sigh. But the sound is Kings of Leon meets Fall Out Boy in a church choir. It’s kinda hipster, with roack and gospel. I especially like “Happiness” with it’s churchy vibe, “Don’t Bring That” that sounds like music played in a car chase, and “Great Night” feat Shovels & Rope.

3. American Authors- Bouncy, happy, and just enough electronic to suit the Millennials.

2. Tim Moxam- Hipster country. Gentle strumming, and an old school country singing style. It’s right up my alley. “Harvest for the Queen” is so great of a song! It’s poetry on guitar.

1. The Heavy- My favorite new artist of 2016! Check out “Big Bad Wolf” and tell me you’re not a fan too. It’s interesting and upbeat. “Short Change Hero” addresses sociology in a catchy way. They sound like a cross between CeeLo Green and Lord Huron. A little bit hipster, a teeny bit motown. It’s a really good mix, and I can’t wait for more.

2016: Best Songs

28 Dec

Singles selected by me.  Some true singles, others culled from an album, some artists you know, many you don’t.  All my opinions.

-“American Woman” Ghostbusters Soundtrack by Muddy magnolias- A march and a rap and a call to feminism.  I’d like to see the Muddy Magnolias’ other works.

-“Back to the Light” Giraffe Tongue Orchestra-  I WANTED to love this band, because the name is adorable and I can just see the merch possibilities.  It’s a little too screamy for my taste though.

-“Broken Bones” CRX- Has a good beat and a sound sorta like OK Go, with that hollow-echo type sound.

-“Can’t Let You Do It” Eric Clapton-  Like hearing jazz on the train.  It’s a little soulful, but just chugs along.

-“Company of Strangers” Third Eye Blind- I remember Third Eye Blinds glory days in the 1990s.  And I really wanted to like their new album–after all, I didn’t know they were a thing anymore.  Alas, they are not.  The album was largely washed up, plain, and irrelevant.  But out of it I did pluck this song.  Strong rock roots, some nice lyrics, and a good chorus.

-“Don’t Wanna Know” Maroon 5 feat Kendrick Lamar-  I admit it, I’m not super in the Lamar fan club.  I find it chipmunkee, Alvin without the sass.  Also I feel like Maroon 5 has pre-douche and post douche songs, the before and after point that Adam Lambert thought he was the shit.  This is kinda a nice little song, but it isn’t really Maroon 5, and is most definitely POST-douche.

-“The Entertainer” KT Tunstall- I liked when Tunstall was writing songs that drag queens were belting out at Pride.  This is no “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” which is sort of a let down.  A quiet reprieve is fine for an artist, but I’m ready for her to get back to it, already.

-“F*** Apologies” Jojo feat Wiz Khalifa- With lyrics that go, “And honestly I was just about to pick up the phone, and then I realized that I di int do nothing wrong, what you want from me, I would say I’m sorry if I really meant it”.  It’s Jojo at her cheekiest.  I’m happy to see her more empowered.  And of course I love a break up song.

-“Galveston” Jeffrey Martin-  Quiet Mellencamp.  This song is poetry in tune.  It’s more about the words than the singing.  It’s a little depressed, but it’s a story depth.

-“Glory”Donny MaCaslin- Good jazz, heavy on the trumpet.  Not too fussy, but a little erratic as jazz should be.

-“Heart in a Cage” Chris Thile- has some acoustic-type country-strumming.  Is sort of that hipster bluegrass I’ve been liking lately.  Also, some nice lyrics and syncopation.

-“Jungle” Saint Mesa- I’d listen to more.  It has some singing, and rain-forest-sound breakdown, and a half-speed-rap.

-“I’m Not Afraid” (Ghostbuster’s Theme) Fall Out Boy feat Missy Elliott-  It’s a good update to the initial release.  Maybe not AS catchy, but what could be?  And Elliott, as always, sounds exactly the same.

-“I’m Sixteen” Dolly Parton- She’s sassy, it’s a feminist message, and there’s a deep base vocal in the background.  This is why we love Dolly no matter how old she gets.

-“Kill ’em with Kindness” Selena Gomez- What is this percussion called?  This is one of the 3 popular drum lines that I hear in EVERY song in the top ten lists.  And I feel like this genre, (R&B, electro-pop, dance–whatever it is) has overwhelmed mainstream music as of late.  And I’m not that into it.  It’s not bad, just not what I gravitate toward.  I like the message of this song (and the random whistling).

-“Little Spoon” Grover Anderson-  The next country love song.  It may be this decade’s “Forever and Ever, Amen” or “Remember When.”  We’re talking, sweet love song–and it just might be my favorite single this year.

-“Love My Life” Robbie Williams- I feel sorry for Robbie Williams.  I feel like he keeps searching for a genre he can excel in, but the search goes on and on.  He tried rock, did electronic, dipped into swing (before realizing Michael Buble is unstoppable in that arena), and now has slumped into the dregs of spiritual music.  The lowest of the low expectations.  It’s barely mainstream music anymore–like giving up.  This song, itself is very uplifting and I like the message, but I’m afraid this might be the last nail in the coffin of Williams’uncertain, meandering career.

-“Love on Me” Galantis-  Touches of Calypto here, some chipmunk distortion there, it’s a pure-pop lovely.

-“Might as Well be Gone” The Pixies- A breaking up sort of tune.  Sometimes discordant just like the subject matter, but lovely (if not bleak) singing.

-“Move Me” Sara Watkins- Like Lisse without so much anger.  Strong singing.

-“Nights” Snow the Product feat w. Darling- Seems like a smart gal, and it’s a rap.

-“Nothings Over” Young the Giant-  The song feels a little operatic.  Or in the same vein as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” without the cheesiness and theater.  It’s 4-plus minutes, and it is serious.

-“Please Don’t Go”Joel Adams- Humming, there’s something we don’t hear enough these days.  This song has it, and it’s a good, please stay song.  Very sweetly sung.

 

-“Shout Out to My Ex”Little Mix- It’s an upbeat hate song.  It’s all about moving on and moving up.  Uplifting with just enough trash to make me happy–and make me laugh a lot.

-“Somethin’ Bad” Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood-  Best duet of 2016!  Maybe in country music.  It’s about these two sass-lasses worked together.  The result is nothing short of awesome.  Let’s see a whole album together!

-“The Stage” Avenged Sevenfold- hard, amped-up, and all with a Spanish finish–it’ one to jam out to.

-“Thick of It” Mary J Blige-  Sometimes Mary is too much.  This is not one of those times.  She speaks the truth and keeps it real without going Mary-mode.

-“Too Good” Drake feat. Rhianna-  It’s a good break up song, and you know how I always like those.

-“Tragedy” Norah Jones- I usually don’t care for Jones that much.  I find her a little boring.  But this track is jazzy and bluesy in a way that I like.

-“Universe of Life” Feeder- A hard-rock edge to a Nervana-type 1990’s Seattle sound.  It works, especially with the break-down sections.

-“Wind & Anchor” The National Parks- Like sitting in a drum circle on the beach, singing together about an unwanted, impending break-up.

-“Writing on the Wall” Bear’s Den- It’s like Postal Service, but less brit.  I like the song, but I like the name of the band better, and I hope they do great things because I’ll bet their merch is outstanding!

-“You & Me” Marc E. Bassy- That awkward moment when you run into your ex.  Sung with rap/R&B/reggae flair.

-“Zillionaire” Flo Rida- This was still great to dance to, and made me want more!

TomTom Spark Cardio + Music

31 May

I love my TomTom Spark Cardio + Music! And a disclaimer from me—this review is fairly glowing, because I genuinely love my TomTom. I didn’t get anything at all for writing this review and I don’t work for the company or anything—this is just an ideal product for me and it took a LOT of trail and error on my part to find it. This is also NOT my first rodeo with fitness trackers. Prior to this I had a FitBit Zip and a Garmin ____ 2 (as well as various phone-apps). I like this tracker best, and here’s why:

I hate carrying things. I’m the gal who will forget my jacket or purse in the booth at a restaurant. Pockets in women’s clothes are not large enough to accommodate a phone, and will look like an ugly bulge if you do. Also, I’m afraid the phone will drop out of a pocket. Once, I tried an arm band to hold my i-pod (and in theory you could use one for a phone) and liked it at first. But the tan lines were crazy, and it started rubbing in a bad way because of sweat—so I loved the arm band less. Also I couldn’t see my upper-arm well enough to skip songs or skip the volume, especially without breaking stride. And the number one reason arm bands don’t work, is eventually mine got bigger and became a leg band, then when it grew large enough to become a belt, I tossed it. So I bought a legit, moisture-wicking running belt to carry my phone. I like it for walking around the city hands-free, but for running it has too much weight bouncing around, and I’m paranoid my phone will fall out. So the option of just wearing a watch and stringing cordless headphones through my hat—awesome!!! The number one, greatest thing over every other tracker is my ability to run/sport hands-free. I absolutely LOOOOVVED running with nothing in my hands and no cords, but still having all the data and my tunes!

tomtom spark cardio plus music

The band is about the same size as the one I bought in order to have my FitBit Zip on my wrist. And the TomTom’s band is negligibly larger than the Garmin’s. What makes it superior, is the fact the band goes through a watch-like mechanism and the loop latches down, the through end latches down, and there is a third latch that locks the band in place. My FitFit arm band just hooked one end to the other and had a cheap little plastic portion that went over that. The Garmin was slightly better then my FitBit watch because it _____________, but this is the most secure. I am not afraid it will come open at any time. Also, just like the FitBit, you can trade out the band for fancy colors or when your first one looks a little worse for wear. There are a lot less options right now then there were for FitBit, so I’m hoping for some power yellow, or patterns to come on the market soon.

The face of the tracker is very large. This is great for display purposes, because I can see it without breaking my stride too much during a run, whereas I had to really peer at the tiny FitBit Zip and sideways Garmin displays. This is only OK for wearability, so I put the face on the inside of my wrist so every outfit doesn’t scream, “fitness nerd!” and it is a little. . . Less. And yes, it still seems to track my heart rate accurately worn that way.

Speaking of the display, I didn’t think I would like the color of the numbers on the TomTom. My Garmin’s digital with backlight had made me pretty happy. I compare these to white road paint—they just sort of glow, but not by indiglow. And it goes without saying the tiny, unlighted/unglowing digital font in the FitBit fares worst—you have to peer at it in every scenario. Aside from the reflecti-color, the font is very large on the TomTom, and if you really can’t handle not having light, you just hold your hand over the face for a few seconds and it will light up. I found I usually don’t have to go to that extent, but it hasn’t been a nuisance when I’ve had to. Also, I think there might be a setting that let’s you trade all-the-time backlighting for battery drainage.

As for battery, I have not had a problem. I wear my TomTom all day as a pedometer and watch as much as for fitness tracking. It lasted a 12 hour work day just fine. My FitBit was constantly needing a new battery (like every 2-3 weeks) and the garmin was supposed to last a year. I just charge my TomTom through the night while I sleep and it’s worked out OK for me.

The music—is awesome! I used to run with my i-pod. It was one of the thin ones and help 16GB so it wasn’t terrible. But I had to hold something, and my headphone cord had to be tucked through my clothes. Then, the cord was too short for a full arm swing, so I was constantly fighting to keep my arm swing from pulling the ear buds out of my ears. This was a horrible nuisance on long runs and on the timed, sprints absolutely slowed me down. How can you sprint your fastest without having a full arm? And you either had to slow down to re-tuck the headphones in the top of the sports bra or just continue on with one ear bud getting pulled out. My TomTom, isn’t that different of a set up from the i-pods. I physically hook it to my computer in the same way. I pick some (but not all) playlists from i-tunes, which I had been doing with my i-pod anyway. The display will accommodate ____________ playlists and the music itself can’t exceed 3 GB. My i-pod held 16GB, but I rarely used all of those songs on my run, and I can just soup up my “workout” playlist if I want more variety. I bought the combo TomTom/headphones package for just-in-case, because I wanted to be certain I could play my tunes—because let’s be real, this tracker’s main selling point is its ability to play music. Then, all I had to do was navigate “up” one screen on my watch and hold the middle button of the headphones until it flashed red/blue. They paired very quickly and that was that. The headphones screw into your ears and I just pull them through my running hat in case the buds fall out of my ears during a run (there has never been even a threat of that). I can play any individual playlist straight through, shuffle any individual playlist, or shuffle all the music I imported. The sound is just as good as my i-pod. If I am not feeling a song that comes up, I can navigate “up” on the watch then “right” to skip, “left” to re-play. The only thing I don’t like about that is, IF you’re already in the middle of tacking an activity, you have to go back passed the start menu for said-activity to change the song. That ends the activity and once, I was in the middle of a timed mile and accidently ended my time/distance by skipping a song. Now, I just use the controls on the headphones—hold the front button for 2 sec to change the song without messing up my running stats.

The data does pretty much everything I want and more, and I read numerous times the heart monitor is the most accurate on the market—and bonus, no chest strap required! You can even see your bpm while you’re running and on a graph with your speed/pace later. And there is a setting for you to run in a certain heart rate zone with voiceovers that make sure you do.

The sleep tracker is not really a thing. It pretty much gives you the hours slept and leaves any other information out. The Garmin showed movement and told me when I was in light sleep vs. deep sleep with a graph and I found that very useful. This one just wants to name sleep as a feature—so I just charge my TomTom to my computer at night instead. To improve the sleep function the need to track movement and give me graphs like the Garmin. And allow me to write notes on the night like the Garmin. Oh, and have a smaller band to trade out for sleep purposes, because I slept fine in this, but it could have been more comfortable. Never mind—if you want in-depth sleep analysis get a tracker specifically for that, because even the Garmin, which was better, was still not that informative. Or best yet, get a sleep study.

I like that it will sync automatically to the phone app or I can do it at the computer. I really HATED having to always manually sync the Garmin, because my FitBit had always auto-synced if I was in proximity to my computer. So the TomTom’s syncing has been working out. The only thing I like less about the TomTom, is the MySports computer program isn’t as souped up as my FitBit program had been. For instance, I can’t invite friends to see their progress and I can’t track (or sync) food and water. If I could see my mate’s and mom’s step count and link MySports to LoseIt—my TomTom would be absolutely perfect for me.
My favorite thing about FitBit—the huge array of replacement bands and the data-heavy social website. My favorite thing about the Garmin—the tone telling me I had been sedentary too long . But don’t let the TomTom’s mediocre reviews scare you off. If you hate carrying things (even a phone) and love exercising with music I highly recommend this tracker!

Robo-Music: Countdown of Top Albums from 2015

29 Dec

I’m not certain if it’s this era in music I don’t really care for or if it’s the tastes of Utah.  Here in Salt Lake City, at least, everyone is in to DJs.  And electronic.  And very pop-1980s throwbacks.  It’s nothing live, nothing that has heart.  And that’s the whole thing for me.  I need substantial lyrics and some belting out.  Instrumentation.  The popular music in the Salt Lake City area is computer-generated or superficial.  So I feel like I’m musically starved.  And I hope it’s just this region that doesn’t know the story.  I did manage to scrape up some contenders for this list.

music- robot 2

This list was compiled based on album alone. Catalog, concerts, expectations, hype, and cuteness were not factors.  And as an aside, I posted this before really going through it with a fine-toothed comb, so to speak.  In the interest of time.  I’ve been  notorious in previous years for wanting to perfect these or wanting to listen to ALL the options, then not ever posting them.  Or posting them a year late.  So up it goes, but I may edit or add some things later.

 

DIDN’T Likes (Worst to Don’t Love Listening):

Diddy

What happened to the Puffy/Biggy days when there was a melody or two within the rap?  This is harsh and displeasing.  Almost grating.  I think it’s that electronic influence rearing it’s ugly head again.   Also, rapping was not really a thing (which is the point?) so I didn’t really connect with any lyrics either.  A disappointment.

Sleater-Kinney

Some people might like “No Cities to Love”.  I am not one of them.  But I don’t think this album is bad, it seems well thought-out and well-executed.  It is just not my taste AT ALL.

Sara Bareilles

I have liked her past albums.  Like a lot.  I think she is one of few that speaks for feminists.  And that’s so important, especially in the male-dominated music industry.  This album was barely listen-able for me.  It felt like a cheesy Disney soundtrack or a musical.  Very overwrought and sappy to the point of-barf.  I hope she goes back to her roots.

Matt and Kim

It’s TOO harsh.  I understand they are supposed to be electronic and robotic.  But “New Glow”  is robots in a war.  I need something to sing to, some catchy chorus, somewhere.  All the noise makes that difficult to find.  And even as an exercise album, which I expect substantially less from lyrically, it was too jarring and too syncopated.

music- robot

Blah-Neutral, Try Harder in the Future, and Up and Coming in no particular order (Medium-Passion from Me):

Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell

The first two songs made me think they were going to steal the Grammy from Brandi.  Which, despite a flagging enthusiasm for Brandi’s latest, I most definitely want her to WIN that prize.  So I was horrified, I really liked a couple of Emmylou’s songs.  It’s old country and Americana as the category has nominated her for, but every song was not a winner.  The album lost steam in a few places.  Aside from some boring tunes, it’s a down-home oldy-feeling work of art that a person could listen to one or two times before totally losing interest.

Jason Isbell

It’s hard not to compare Isbell to Brandi Carlile–since they’re up for the same Grammy and all.  But, this artist is ranked under Brandi, because I said I would look at the albums singularly.  And his is a whole different thing.  I think in some ways it is more listen-able then “Firewatcher’s Daughter” in that it makes easy, background music.  I like the gentleness of the sound.  But when it comes down to it, I personally like catchy things sung well and with feeling.  And this album has no hooks or unbelievable vocal range, as Brandi’s does.  But it’s a chill-mood and none of the songs are unlikeable (which I can’t always say about Brandi’s songs).  So check it out–but it BETTER not steal Brandi Carlile’s Grammy if it knows what’s good for it!

Kelly Clarkson

More of the same.  I’ve always liked Clarkson, especially her breaking up songs.  Except, I feel like her albums and sound are becoming more and more of a manufactured machine.  The genuineness is simply  not there.  I think Clarkson should write from her heart and sing from her soul rather then doing mathematical calculations in trying to secure top chart numbers and album sales.  I want to hear her stripped down and authentic–even at the risk of being less corporate.

Tim McGraw

Went skating.  Skating by on prior success, on his image, and on his fan-base.  I thought there was nothing at all special about this album.  I would like to see him strive for the next work–I know he is capable of growth, of branching out, and getting out of his comfort zone a little.  This album was put out for the sake of remaining relevant, and unfortunately, you can tell.

Jewel

On the other hand, Jewel tried too hard.  I can hear that she tried to replicate her earlier success.  But the effort had a disingenuous, forced quality about it that I didn’t like.  The poetry was there, some sweet-signing, and a little discord.  Folk was full-force, but “Picking Up the Pieces” still wasn’t comparable to “Pieces of Me” as I’m sure she intended.  Jewel formerly sold out and went straight pop for the money.  Then she tried to recapture success easily by going to the easier realm of country.  After that failed, she’s floundering–and it shows.  I wish Jewel would forget the record sales and corporate numbers and actually be genuine.  I think she has a place in music–but it’s not going to be  through her own force of will.  She needs to get in tune (pun!) with herself and her story if she’s going to get out of her slump.

Papa Roach

Also offered nothing really special or nothing really groundbreaking here.  I used to like their rebellious sound.  The blend of punk, pop, and rock they had going.  Now, it’s a little formulaic, with no real standouts.  Can’t music forgo corporate manufacture and be real?!

Avicii

“Stories” could be a great album.  But the first album, “True” (?) that I listened to raised my expectations very high so this newest one was sort of a big yawn for me.  After falling in LOVE with the last album, I just could find anything to attach to in this one.  I think it’s still OK, but it hardly equals “True.”

music- electronic

Worth Mentioning (but not a blurb):

Adele-  probably would rank on my list, but no Spotify, no rank.

Christine and the Queens- self titled

Death Cab for Cutie- Kintsugi

The Decemberists- What a Terrible World. . .

Imagine Dragons- Smoke + Mirros

Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp a Butterfly

Luke Bryan- Kill the Lights

Sports- All of Something

music- robot 3

 

AAANNNNNND Top Albums of 2015 Countdown from Good to Very Best:

11 (honorable mention).

Kid Rock

Dave Matthews Band’s Lovely Ladies must have stepped into the recording studio with Kid Rock.  This album is good, but very, very different from previous efforts.  It’s more grown up and country/blues, than rebel rock.  I liked the gospel and southern flair and thought they were appropriate to the tracks.  The thing that would make the album stronger is a little more variation in the songs.  They all started to sound the same to me.  And though cohesive as an album, even the 80’s hard-rock Gods knew to throw in a ballad once in awhile.  There should be something that doesn’t meet expectations in here to really flesh it out.  And fans of the first few albums–prepare your ears–I’m not sure you’re going to like this even a little bit.

 

10.  rebel heart

Madonna

This album would have ranked higher, because the songs that I like, I really, REALLY like.  But there was some electronic/club influence that I’m trying to get away from—as you heard.  My top 10 is all about the human aspect of music.  What I liked was the variability in the album.  It all meshed together, but the songs were distinct and had different feels and influences in them.  We have a broken heart, dancy-club, a Jamaican sound, and of course electronic.  I especially give top marks for this seldom-seen vulnerability in many of the tracks.  It’s a softer, riskier sound for Madonna, and I feel like I know her better as a person because of it.  Of course I also like the stronger side of her personality and artistry, and that’s here as well.  Madonna’s sound has matured and she has leaned tons from her years topping the charts–but she’s still got IT.

9.  firewatchers daughter

Brandi Carlile

Let me just get it out there.  No, I have to soften it a little by saying Brandi is perhaps my favorite artist of the last 6 years.  And her shows are THE best!  She seems genuine and she’s personable, and of course she’s cute.  So my expectations for a new album were SKY-high.  Bear Creek was phenomenal, in my opinion.  The follow-up was sure to be even better.  But it wasn’t.  Not to me, at least–the rest of the world seems to disagree and is finally catching on to MY band.  Washington state, especially Seattle, feel like the band is OURS.  So I very much hate to say “Firewatcher’s Daughter” just seemed to meander too far to the right for me.  I’m not saying it was bad by any means.  But usually I attach to all but 1, or maybe 2 songs on Brandi’s albums.  This time, I only really-liked 2-3.  “These Things I Regret” was good and I think sort of a fan-song.  It was more the old style, the one I fell in love with.  “Mainstream Kid” with its strength and rock-flavor is the other obvious hit on the record.  And “Wherever is Your Heart” shows the band’s range and energy.  Honorable mention goes to “The Stranger at my Door” for most awesome song-ending ever.   The rest?  Too. . .  I don’t know, maybe just not MY style.  “The Eye” is not an album-song.  It’s meant for the live, breath-taking, ‘wow that’s almost a Capella  and look how they blend together as a group’ sentiment.  But even live (at the Gorge) the choruses repeat to the point of boredom and it just got tedious to me.  The Avette Brother’s cover is good.  But it also bothers me.  One, it seems too soon cover them–the Avettes (though their catalog is HUGE) are JUST going mainstream.  Mostly, though it seems (as gleaned from show commentaries and interviews) to be Brandi’s love song to her family and a gay anthem (from her perspective, I gather).  But it’s obviously written (and unchanged) for brothers, or at least siblings.  With the ‘which one of us would Dad be proud of’ stuff.  I want her to tailor it to her needs or really, just leave it to the Avette Brothers.  And “Wilder, We’re Chained” if it’s not a direct Fleetwood Mac cover, it’s MUCH too similar, and with “The Eye” having that same tone, it just feels like a throw away song.  I guess I won’t go into any more specific song detail (because I already wrote that blog) but I feel compelled to justify my options.  I don’t like “going against” my favorites.  Because–I feel guilty for being disappointed.  I am happy Brandi Carlile’s career is finally taking off in a mainstream way and she’s getting some long-deserved media-attention.  But, I hope Brandi Carlile does not continue to scout territory which takes her farther away from her core group of fans.  I liked the former albums–even if they didn’t garner all the attention, hype, and accolades.  Though they should have and I don’t know why she’s just now blowing up–it’s long overdue.  Maybe now that everybody’s watching she can go back to the more rock-folk style that I like better?

8.  Kacey Musgravespageant material

I like it:  A cheeky country gal.  The songs are catchy and foster an independent rebel spirit that I like, and that I think is totally necessary in the still good-ol boys country network.  I think she’ll join modern trail-blazers Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood, and especially Miranda Lambert as the new spunky voice of country women, working to bust stereotypes and get outside of the social norms.  This album gives me an idea of what Musgraves stands for, and I like that message even better then the songs.

7.storyteller

Carrie Underwood

Is back to herself–thank goodness!  I love her bitter songs where she gets feisty and this album has that in spades.  Seeing Underwood sell-out and try to please mainstream (impossible/boring) was sad, so “Storyteller” is all the better.  It offers almost every song as independent woman, talking trash to some loser who mistreated her.  The passion in Underwood’s voice is back to go nicely with her always strong voice.  Love.  And I hope she remains true to her roots from now on.

6.

Mumford & Sonswilder mind

I loved their sound so much.  When “Babel” exploded onto the scene, it was stripped down, featured a kind of country feel, and was completely different.  So I’m a little disappointed the band has chosen to deviate to the sound that contributed to their huge mainstream popularity.  I liked it because it WAS different and not the normal mainstream sound.  But alas, though I’m not sure I’m on board with the band changing its tune (another pun!), but I’m judging “Wilder Mind” by itself.  And it’s masterfully done.  Really, it’s a solid work as a group.  You can listen to the album over and over and it’s a really great work.  There are no real individual songs that pop though.  And as a side-note to the band–get back to your acoustic roots.

5.Mika-1st albumMika

Mika- The Origin of Love

Yes, this album is pretty-pure pop.  BUT it is strong in a socially-conscious way.  Mike SAYS something in this album.  Opposed to Cee Lo’s closet-case, Mike is totally uninhibited gay.  Like, old-school, flamboyant, proud to be a little feminine, gay.  This album is an anthem for all the homos everywhere, even going so far as to ask, “Where Have All the Gay Guys Gone?”  And the songs are catchy and dancy which doesn’t hurt one bit.

4.  The Indigo Girlsone lost day

When I was just thinking about the album, I felt sorry that I was a little disappointed in it.  “One Lost Day” is not an evolution.  Some past albums were much stronger, showed more growth, or talked more of political issues.  But if the Indigo Girls can do anything, they can subtly change their sound to remain relevant in current times.  Just look back at how long they’ve been around.  And just TRY to sound two very similar albums from there—they are all different.  And apparently, in order to be relevant in 2015, you have to have an electronic or strong-pop flavor.  I couldn’t remember any stand-out songs when I thought about the tracks of “One Lost Day,”  and I even thought maybe the new album was a little too pop.  When I actually turned on the songs to hone in on my  list-placement, I remembered why the Indigo Girls are masters at what they do:  The album has a clear ark and tells a cohesive story. Each song contributes to an overall story.   The songs are polished and you know the duo has absolutely perfected their writing/recording process.  But there is always a feeling-invoked and an authenticity about their works.  Yes, obvious success and maybe a little pandering is going on, but The Indigo Girls still have their amazing harmonies, their political ideologies, and a personal story to tell.  I call this one polished, but not superficial.

3.  Beth Hart

Beth Hart

I didn’t even want to sample Hart’s new album, because Douche had told me once that she attended a Beth Hart concert and the artist was sloppy.  Like, obviously impaired, and asking the audience for drugs while performing on stage.  And I’m not into supporting obvious drug-addicts.   BUT I came across a recent article about Beth Hart outlining her addiction, new sobriety, and bipolar diagnosis.  So I listened to “Better Than Home”.  And I’m glad I did!  It’s bluesy and stands out from the crowd right now.  Hart’s voice is resonant and her lyrics deep.  Also, she has this vibrato singing style that’s very technical and amazing.  It’s a different sound in a sea of similar female voices.

2.Vanessa Carlton

Vanessa Carlton

Where did she come from?!  All I remember is that “A Thousand Miles” song that was over-played to the extreme until it became hostile to listen to again.  But “Liberman” is so great.  It’s a stripped-down feel, heavy on the piano, and with good song-writing.  It’s a chill listen without being boring.  I don’t know if you could over-play this album–it’s sure been heavy on my rotation and I’ve yet to tire of it.  Think Ben Folds Five, but with a female vocalist.

  1.  Cee Lo GreenHeart Blanche

This is totally beside the point, but does anyone else think Green is a seriously closeted gay?  This album sets off my gay-dar.  It’s upbeat and dancy, but in a good way.  I may not have a lot to write about the album, but I want to convey it’s a fun, yet serious album that has good singing, true writing, and I found it very pleasing to my ears.

Cee Lo Green- gay

P.S.  Yes!  I finished this entire post, BEFORE the next year.  This is the first time in 3(?) years I can say that.  I am very pleased, and this means good omens for 2016.

My Most Listened to Music of 2014

8 Dec

I’m not finished blogging.  And that dearth of posts wasn’t some planned hiatus (don’t worry, I would have warned you).  I just stopped making time, I guess.  I used to really think about my blog a lot.  If something notable would happen, I’d file it away.  At night, I would think of cute blog titles.  When bored, I might think about how I would write down an event or story.  But this last year was full of surprises.  I won’t be sorry to see 2015 become my past.  I had been in my post-bac program working very hard to get to grad schhol–and that didn’t happen.  So everything changed.  And we moved to a new state.  Again (for me) and that’s always a huge logistic, emotional, and time adjustment.  I got caught up in just getting back to a secure, stable place.  Finding the job and getting enough hours and a good schedule, check-check, and check!  Getting my car all legit for Utah-check.  And exploring this new city and state–a mission in progress.  Between that and the daily things, blogging just fell by the wayside.  But I’m in no way giving it up.  I’ve worked very hard on this collection of posts–and I do enjoy it, when it doesn’t become an obligation.  So I’m going to try to think about it again.  No promises on the quality or quantitity of posts just yet.  I just promise to put it in my mind.  Besides, I love looking back at a year, count downs, and looking ahead–which January is ideal for.

Here is a post that I’m not sure why I didn’t publish LAST December.  I probably intended on making it better–which is also  a reason I haven’t written in awhile.  I wanted to have solid ideas, write well, edit, and make sure the posts were GOOD.  Well, I’m taking that pressure off, and just getting things out there for awhile.  So about my 2014 music listening:

PHOTO_20151127_164525

This isn’t some feeling I have, it’s based on statistics from my LastFM scrobbles.  If you’ve been living under a rock, and don’t know what that is, here’s a description:  An add-on that sends every song played (itunes, Spotify, ipod, ANY program/device that plays music) to the website.  The site compiles most listened to artists, songs, and albums.  And they do it for the week, month, 3 months, 6 months, year, and overall.  Really, if you just learned a bunch of stuff–you should check out LastFM and start scrobbling.

So without further ado:

10]  Akon

Has still got it.  I’ve always liked him, and still do.  It’s good for running and during squeegee time at work too.

9]  Hans Zimmer

I think this came about out of Spotify’s Classify list.  You can pick a mood/instrument/era/etc and listen to music that represents that.

8]  Dumpstaphunk

Because I tried to give all the Gorge Caravan bands that Dave picked a fair shake.  But despite many listens, I wasn’t really feeling this one.

7]  Piano Tribute Players

For studying purposes.

6]  Linkin Park–>Burn it Down

They are one of my long time favorite bands, and they put out an album in 2014.

5]  Brian Tyler

Honestly, I can’t even tell you who this is.  Lesson–be careful what you listen to if it means nothing.  Maybe it’s on a soundtrack of some sort?  I really don’t know.

4]  Moon Taxi

WTF?  Prep for Gorge Caravan–which we didn’t end up listening to.

3]  Vitamin String Quartet–>top song:  With or Without You

A girl has to study.  But it doesn’t have to be a bummer.  I get to listen to my favorite songs without distracting lyrics, no problem with that!

2]  Brandi Carlile–>top songs 1-3:  Turpentine, Fall Apart Again, Closer to You (who knew?)

My musical girlfriend HAD to be in the top spots.  And congratulations on 3 amazing openers at the Gorge!!!

1]  Dave Matthews Band–>with 1-5 most played songs:  Lie in Our Graves (a summer tour staple), The Stone, Ants Marching, Crush, and Crash.

Of course.  Because of concert prep, excitement before and after the ticket purchase, excitement before and after the concerts, and just all the billions of versions of each song–it’s obvious it added up.