2014: my year in music

Happy New Year, lovelies!  I’m in the process of cooking up my resolutions but in the meantime, I’ve been thinking about this post for quite some time.  2014 was a big year for me—in music.  I really got my money’s worth on my Spotify this year.  The following are some albums I loved that were released in 2014 and a couple that escaped my eye in 2013 that I played incessantly (abused) in 2014.  Enjoy!

If you looked at my Spotify most listens for 2014, you’d probably see this album on top.  The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream.  I’m pleased to see it topped some other online charts cause it’s getting the recognition it deserves.  It sounds almost etherial but definitely based in rock n’ roll.  The vocals sound super Dylan-esque (with a pinch of Dire Straits) and the music is borderline jam band but please don’t let that taint your initial impressions cause there’s a lot of synth in there.  The epic An Ocean In Between the Waves is a song that, at just over seven minutes, isn’t long enough.  I seriously want to dance like no one is watching.  2014 held two great concert disappointments – one of which is seeing The War on Drugs in Omaha (long story… same night as bags league – blah, blah, blah – no excuse is good enough).  I continue to kick myself over it but I can tell you that I won’t make that mistake again.

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While we’re on the subject, the second great concert disappointment of 2014 is not walking the five minutes to the 80/35 festival downtown when Boy & Bear had their free set.  Again… kicking myself.  But I could hear the end of their set from my apartment and let me tell you, it was so beautiful despite the distance it had to travel to meet my ears.  Even though technically Harlequin Dream was released in 2013, I played the heck out of it in 2014.  It started, quite literally, the moment their set was over and I listened heavily throughout the year.  Lyrically, this is where it’s at for me.  Their stuff is cheeky, well-written and the music backs it up.  Picking just one song off his album is really difficult because they’re all wonderful in their own right.  Please listen.

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Beck made a new album this year… so there’s that.  I couldn’t include a list without including Morning Phase.  This was an album I was so excited about that I continually streamed it off the NPR first-listen website days before it was actually released.  As you guys may already know, Sea Change is one of those albums that will forever be in my Top 10.  This entire album is simply delicious.  Listening for the first time was an experience because it sounds so much like Sea Change.  This album is all the beautiful things.  Imagine your happy place… right now… this album is the soundtrack to that happy place.

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I almost feel bad making a segue from Beck but there are more albums to be discussed.  That said… another massive listen for me toward the latter part of the year was Delta Spirit – Into the Wide.  I paid this album no mind initially because of my deep love for Ode to Sunshine but when my birthday surprise included a trip to Omaha to take in the Delta Spirit show, I had to give it a listen.  It was on after that.  The album is great but seeing them live is even better.  I gain so much respect for artists after seeing their live show and Delta Spirit were so gracious and fun and talented.

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I would be incredibly remiss if I didn’t include Broken Bells – After the Disco.  I realize this album might be a little more mainstream (like me saying my favorite band is Coldplay) and oft overlooked but I am a sucker for James Mercer.  And Danger Mouse.  ‘Nuff said.  While I’m not in love with every song on this album, it got a lot of play time during long drives.  It’s not actually a very long album and all the songs flow incredibly well.  I love the sound of the disco music with modern, clean, James Mercer vocals.

 

Notable 2014 players: 

Albums that didn’t get enough listen time: the full length release by Haerts happened this year!  Looking forward to more of that in 2015.  Spoon – They Want My Soul because yeah, Spoon.  I love their ability to change/reinvent their sound at any given time while maintaining that wide-body-guitar hum throughout.  I’m a huge fan of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and Gimmie Fiction and I was really looking forward to this release – I just haven’t listened enough.  Coldplay – Ghost Stories.  I love Coldplay.  I really wanted to listen and love this album but the truth is… it’s just *too sad* for me at the moment.  And I love sad.  My heart just breaks listening to the words and the music and it’s a gut punch for looking back on my own mistakes and sadness.  I think everyone can relate; I just need to be at a place where I won’t cry my eyes out at the first chord.  So I go back to their old stuff a lot (looking at you Live in 2003 which is unfortunately NOT on Spotify.).

You guys, there was SO much good stuff that went on in 2014—so many releases by some of my favorite bands.  One of the best things about music is its ability to shape what we want to listen to.  That’s happened to me a lot this year and I’ve gotten to experience my own tastes changing and evolving as a result.  The albums I’ve mentioned are the ones that will come with me into 2015.  They pass the Ryan-test of being lyrically and musically sound.  Music by artists that I feel are truly that: artists.  These albums get stamped in time so the next time I listen, I’ll remember where I was or what I was doing; I’ll feel happy or sad.  I believe that music is the soundtrack to life—the ultimate enhancer.  My hope is that maybe you’ll listen to some of this; maybe it won’t be for you but maybe some of it will… and we’ll have connected in the way that many others do across space and time.

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what i’m listening to

Hey guys!  I came to the conclusion that it’s going to be tough business for any blog post to follow Avery’s story.  So while I’m cooking up something bigger about inspiration, let me tell you about the things I’ve been listening to that are currently inspiring me daily.

As you guys know, I’ve been loving on the podcasts lately.  Below are the ones that I lost myself in—to the point I was holding my breath:

This American Life: Dead Men Tell No Tales

I had no idea about this story.  I don’t even remember hearing it in the news.  The research done for this story must have spanned months and, quite honestly, been pretty dangerous.  Considering everything that happened to the “characters” in this true story, it left me feeling a little conflicted about the tactics used by the FBI when interviewing the suspects.

Snap Judgement: The Pact

The Angeli Symphony story is incredible.  It’s a tragedy that turns into an unbelievable success.  I’m so inspired by Stuart’s resolve… I don’t want to say too much lest I ruin it but if you want to feel inspired by a man convinced of his higher calling, give it a listen.

The Moth: Fog of Disbelief

This is the story of Carl, an American who was actually working at the nuclear reactor site during the earthquake at Fukushima three years ago this week.  Listening to the raw emotion in his voice is gripping.  It’s completely unfathomable what he must have gone through.  I hear his words but I can’t imagine the fear, the disbelief, the magnitude of what he experienced.  The part where he talks about the 23rd Psalm… there were tears in my eyes.  For the power of the human spirit, listen.

Unfictional: Family Justice

This is quickly becoming one of my favorite podcasts.  Unfictional is similar to The Moth and Snap Judgement in that it’s simply people telling stories.  I don’t meant to say “simply” cause the stories are usually amazing stories but it’s people like you and me.  The second story, from Ed and Melanie, is both hilarious and my worst nightmare.  To lose a pet that’s essentially part of the family would be devastating to me.  Ed and Melanie have a way of telling it with the suspense of a detective story and a healthy dose of hilarity.

And… I couldn’t compile a list without you guys knowing my favorite podcast episode ever.  It’s a tie for number one and I’ve gone back to listen to these time and time again—they’re just that good.

Radiolab: Lost & Found

Emilie’s story (the last story), Finding Emilie, is a story that has stuck with me since I first heard it in 2011.  I think about all the ‘what ifs’ when I listen to it… what if Emilie hadn’t been able to communicate with Alan?  What if Alan hadn’t had the connection he did with her – to pull her through?  At the heart of this story is love.  I think this story will touch your heart too and if you’re like me, you’ll visit it time and again cause it just.sticks.with.you.

And co-number one…

Radiolab: Patient Zero

I have a bit of an obsession with disease.  I think pathology would be a great backup plan for me.  Patient Zero tells us the origin of AIDS and Typhoid—and it’s told exquisitely.  I have recounted these stories to family and friends at least a dozen times but I can’t do it quite as well as Radiolab does.

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Inspiration has also been coming from great new music lately.  I won’t gild the lily too much on these albums cause they stand on their own perfectly fine without my flourish.  The first of which has already been receiving acclaim by people far more qualified than I to give it.

Beck – Morning Phase

Beck… I love you.  I especially love when you’re contemplative, reflective, complicated, sad and the music is big and orchestral.  I loved you in Sea Change and this is the perfect companion to its brilliance.  I listen to this album from beginning to end and then start it all over again.  Great with the sunrise and coffee, great on the afternoon drive, even better in the evening with a healthy glass of red.  Beck for all.

The Family Crest – Beneath the Brine

Oh.em.goodness.so.good.  There is no other way for me to describe this album.  Apparently, it was funded by a Kickstarter Campaign… which is amazing.  The title track is beautiful and a close second would be “The Water’s Fine” which has this incredible Frenchy sound.

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I hope you all find some inspiration through these recommendations!  Happy listening!

DSM to CLE and back

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This would be a great time for a catch-up post. It’s been almost two weeks (goodness!) since I took some time off work, jumped in a rental and drove the ten hours home to visit my family. (Shout out to books on CD for keeping me awake!) It was a bit of a whirlwind trip. Despite it usually feeling rushed, I like to keep some degree of regularity when it comes to seeing my family; time with them is always a bit of a recharge for me. This time was especially important (but more on that soon!!!).

It felt so good to jump back into the life I left as though I never did. As it always has been, staying with my mom, time is filled with laughter, home-cooked meals, coffee talk and I usually sleep like a baby. When I stay with my sister, there is always laughter (a common theme for our family: we love to laugh), deep talks about things that really matter and we’ll usually follow one another around the house just because. So this trip home, I stayed a bit with my mom, a bit with my sister, had breakfast and catch-up time with my lovely step-mother; had meals, shopping and time with some of my favorite friends; I packed as much as I could into the little time I had. I hit my bff’s sister’s wedding reception on Saturday as soon as I got in. On Sunday, after the usual Kate/Ryan ritual of Mexican food, I hit the road to go to my mom’s. She took the time I was home off work so we got to spend a good 2.5 days together. Saying goodbye (albeit temporarily) to my mom is never something that gets easier. I got the expected “the house is so quiet” phone call and it tugged at my heart.

I ended my CLE trip by staying two nights with my sister and her husband, then I packed up shop and headed to Chicago where I’d meet some Iowa friends for one day of Lollapalooza! I’ve never experienced anything quite like Lollapalooza. It was organized very well and I was only really disappointed with one show – everyone else brought it down. We started the day with The Neighbourhood, meandered over to Smith-Westerns from there, checked out Houndmouth (huge surprise! They’re amazing live!), cut that a little short to make it to Band of Horses (I desperately wanted to see them and they didn’t disappoint.), caught a private show by Frightened Rabbit, skipped Imagine Dragons because the crowd was so intense, saw the official show for Frightened Rabbit and then had it in mind to see some Lana Del Rey. Saying the Lana fans were out of control would be an under-statement. I was tired at that point, my feet hurt and I was getting pushed around by teenage girls clamoring to get up close to Lana. So I took it to the back and what I heard of Lana was really impressive. She sounded even better live.

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(Chicago)

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(Band of Horses!)

I wish I could bottle up the feeling of being home with my family; I know my words don’t paint near enough of a picture. The experience in the bottle would consist of waking up to the sound of country music and the smell of coffee that’s been on since 4 am when my mom wakes; seeing the sun come up and hearing the birds sing in the trees from the enclosed porch; walking in the grass with no shoes on, eating blueberries right from the bush; having heartfelt conversations with the ones I love fiercely and cooking recipes that my mom’s mom used to cook from (some of them literally taped to the inside of the kitchen cabinet doors). It was always a concern for me that my family lacks tradition. I went through a phase a few years ago where I felt like it was the most important thing. However, I realized being home that tradition is all around me. It may not be something as obvious as a family reunion every year but my family is warm, welcoming, refreshingly transparent and the things we do and the things we make are all in celebration of the time we get to spend together.

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(Homecooked meal = worth the 10 hour drive)

stuff I love: music edition

I can’t even believe that for as much as I love music, I have yet to do a music-related blog entry.  I finally feel like I have some decent music taste so why not share it with you all?  (That was a little backhanded compliment to me, from me—did you see what I did there…)

I am drawn to music that I wouldn’t be able to make myself.  Granted, I can’t make music at all but I’m really drawn to the nuances in songs that take it from being only okay to being something truly magical.  Spotify is pretty much the best invention ever (I say that a lot, I think).  It completely changed the way I listen to music.  I used to have to rely on friends and the old standby, NPR, to find good new music.  While NPR is still trusty, Spotify recommends obscure bands that I may not have found on my own (and when I say “on my own” what I really mean is Under the Radar Magazine).  If you don’t have Spotify, I highly recommend you get it.  I happily pay for my subscription every month so I can listen to it outside wi-fi (like at work).  The picks below are just some of the songs/bands that would show up on my top plays because they’re on constantly.

Haerts,BRR,PacAir

From the top:

Haerts – Their song “Wings” has pretty much been on repeat since I found it.  It’s produced by St. Lucia (whom I love) and there’s the perfect mix of 80’s pop and synthy-electronic.  I don’t normally get into girl singers (cause I hold them to a higher standard when it comes to music – their voices all sound the same to me) but this girl is a mixture of The Bangles and Gwen Stefani.  I am really into it and I can’t wait till they release an EP or a full-length album because I want more!

Bronze Radio Return – Up, On & Over.  Amaze.  I can listen to this entire album which is a rarity for me.  They have a great mixture of twang, tambourine and banjo without being country.  It’s easily my go-to when I’m at work and I want something fun.

Pacific Air – I don’t remember how I found them.  I decided to give a listen recently and have been playing it often since.  I think it was the song Sunshine that converted me.  They’re kind of My Morning Jacket meets Temper Trap.

TroubleWillFindMe

The National – Obvi this had to be on here.  I started playing High Violet two years too late, so to say I eagerly anticipated this album would be an understatement.  Trouble Will Find me is the perfect follow up to an album I enjoyed so well.  I can’t stop listening to Humiliation and I Should Live in Salt (and Demons).  I think if I ever met Matt Berninger, I’d ask him what the heck he’s singing about.  I never have any idea.  For example, I recently read that Humiliation is about drones ruining a dinner party — I would have never guessed that.  Whether I know what he’s singing about or not, I love the melancholy sound and Matt Berninger’s baritone; it compliments the music, which itself is unfussy and stands on its own beautifully.

LordHuron,Fitz,Neighb,JB

Lord Huron – Lonesome Dreams.  This is another indie-country album that I can listen to from beginning to end.  There are a few surprises (the percussion is a really nice touch) and it just makes this album solid.

Fitz & the Tantrums – Okay, okay—I know all the cool kids have been listening to Fitz forevs but I’m just now getting on that train.  It’s a super fun summer album.  The Walker is heavy on repeat around here.  In the car with the windows down, in the apt while I’m cleaning; it’s catchy and gets stuck in my head.  Listen to it.

The Neighbourhood – Album: I Love You. Thank you NPR for this one!  Sweater Weather was the first song I heard and it’s probably number two in my Spotify top plays (after Wings, of course).  This album is hard to describe.  It doesn’t sound like anything I’ve listened to in a while cause it’s kind of hip-hop meets indie pop.  It’s produced really well and I was really surprised to like this album as much as I do.  Try it out so you can say you got in on the ground floor.

Jeff Buckley – Oldie but always good.  Grace is an album I can revisit time and time again—and I have recently.  Lover, You Should Have Come Over may be one of the best songs written (I know saying that is a tall order).  He just sings it with such conviction (as he does most of the songs on the album), raw passion and honesty.  Jeff Buckley was a huge talent and it’s easy to hear why.

what’s going on?

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I have to tell you, time has completely escaped me lately!  I had to make an unexpected trip back to Ohio last week on the heels of my extensive vacation while Rach was in town.  My grandpa passed away so my mom flew me home so I was able to be with my family.  While it’s never easy in those situations of loss and mourning, it sure was good to see my family.  I just wanted to give you all a quick little update to keep the blog momentum going!

The National : I am supremely obsessed with them lately.  As the self-proclaimed queen of melancholy music I don’t know how I wasn’t a groupie before now.  I say that because I have ‘High Violet’ on repeat and I’m pretty sure it’s very two-years-ago.  Bloodbuzz Ohio was my theme song on the trip home.

Orange Leaf : I am thisclose to needing an intervention.  It’s right around the corner from my apartment and that spells danger.

Family : So I was home for my grandpa’s funeral recently and my sister and I stumbled on a treasure trove of family goodies.  There were some old pictures of my grandma from when she was a girl and I found myself getting lost in them.  They were just black and whites but she was such a lovely girl.  I got lost in the idea of the picture-taking itself.  Those photos were simply a moment in time, captured on film back in the 30’s and 40’s.  They are surprisingly special to me.  We also found our great-grandma’s journals from the 80’s and 90’s.  I was able to see another side of her that I was too young to know.  She was as pure as the driven snow.  I think about my own journals/diaries and how they’re loaded up with feelings and desperate attempts to sort myself out.  Hers were so much more of the day-to-day activities and had such little family gossip and really focused on her hopes for her loved ones.  Seems I get my optimism affliction honestly.

Shoes : Okay, this one is less of a proper “update” but I got myself some new running shoes today.  The last time I went running I had foot pain (what’s that about?!  Certainly not that I’m the 3-0).  We’ll give those little babies a try when we stop getting this monsoon that’s forecasted for the next two days.

Remy : I’m starting to get the distinct feeling that she’s lonely.  For the first time last night, since we moved in to our place, I caught her playing.  The rest of the time she’s hiding in the closet, looking out the window by the bed or following me around.  I’m considering getting another cat.  Be warned: I’m dangerously close to being a cat-lady based on my ‘cat to square footage’ ratio.

Reading : I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire on this one.  I just finished an amazing book called “One Last Thing Before I Go” by Jonathan Tropper.  Amazing.  I’m also reading the new Gwyneth Paltrow Cookbook, Unbroken (still), Love 2.0, A New Earth, and another Jonathan Tropper book.

Looking forward to : warmer weather that motivates me to get out of bed early, organizing my kitchen, the new National album, learning how to use my new digital-I’m-a-real-photographer-camera (!!!), and maybe trying out Cross-Fit.  I’ve been getting that summertime feeling of wanting to learn something new.  Last week it was playing the drums, this week it’s knitting.  I can assure you, I have enough to learn on my plate (um, WordPress, still) but I’m hoping to channel my creativity into something.

Lastly, I am loving my Olive Button earrings.  I have mustard and chambray and am eyeing the gray chevron to add to my burgeoning collection.

Whew.  That was a lot of stuff but I’m glad we’re all caught up, you guys.