Favorites of 2013: Music

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As each year passes, I’ve found it more difficult to remember what I took in culturally: did I watch/listen/read that? I’m going to use this space to catalogue my favorites, starting with music! Please let me preface that obviously this isn’t the list, but just my list as I don’t listen to all styles and genres of music. My list is in alphabetical order, but I if I had to pick my favorite musical discovery of this year, it would be Lorde.

Arcade Fire | Reflektor
Arcade Fire is a band that I regret to admit I didn’t fully understand when I first heard them. Why do they have, like, 20 members? What is with the costumes? I even had the opportunity to see them live a few years ago, but I declined and Jordan brought his brother instead. Despite my earlier mistake, I have grown to like them a lot. This album is a combination of dissonant rhythms and melodies that blend together to create a full rich sound. The dance type songs don’t feel rushed either – perfect for dancing. 

Favorite Song: Here Comes The Night Time |Spotify| iTunes|

Andrew Belle | Black Bear
Everyone needs that album. You know what I’m talking about, the album that you put on to let out a good cry, read a book, take a nap, work creatively or enjoy some good marriage snuggle time 😉 This isn’t background music, but mood setting music: pure emotive and honestly simply beautiful. Andrew Belle’s Black Bear just kind of blew me away.

Favorite Song: Many Lives |Spotify| iTunes|

Beyoncé | Beyoncé
Beyoncé almost didn’t make this list because her album snuck up on all of us! I was a Destiny’s Child fan (I can still recite all of the lyrics from “Say My Name”, despite not having heard the song in years), but Beyoncé always led that train. While, I’ve admired Beyoncé, this album is the first one of hers where I’ve actually liked the entire journey not just the pit stops (i.e. singles). Job well done, Mrs. Carter. Or as Jordan said, “I can’t believe how good this album is.”

Favorite Song: XO |iTunes|

Ellie Goulding | Halcyon Days
Technically, this is a re-release of her 2012 album, Halcyon, so I’m cheating bit. BUT there are ten new songs, so I’m just going to count it as something separate! Jordan and I first discovered Ellie when she performed on SNL in May of 2011. I was so impressed, I bought her album, Lights, and have followed her career ever since. The lyrics on this album are storytelling like a folk song, but her breathy voice and ethereal dance music creates a style all to her own.

Favorite Song: Burn (from the new released songs) |Spotify| iTunes|

Lorde | Pure Herion
It’s kind of amazing to think that a 16 year-old from NZ could take the US music scene by storm in only a few months, but that’s exactly what happened this summer with Lorde. I have probably listened to this album the most this year, particularly when I am getting ready in the morning and I need some extra pep!

Favorite Song: Ribs |Spotify| iTunes|

Paul McCartney | NEW
I love that Paul McCartney still puts out new music… and thankfully, it is also really really good. Jordan and I saw Sir Paul live at Wrigley Field a few years ago and he was amazing: played for three hours without stopping for anything, even to drink water! I also think it’s pretty cool that George Martin’s son was one of the producers on this album. If you like the Beatles sound and Paul’s songwriting then you may fall in love with this album and how some new elements are fused with the old.

Favorite Song: Alligator |Spotify| iTunes|

M.I.A. | Matangi
M.I.A. is just cool and that coolness echoes in her music. Matangi is little mixture of R&B, world music beats, synth sounds, and a whole lot of confidence. M.I.A.’s lyrics are like that friend who says what everyone else is thinking but is too afraid to say out loud. This is apparent in her take on the YOLO trend, explained in the song “Y.A.L.A.”, “If you only live once, why we keep doing the same [stuff]?”

Favorite Song: Only 1 U |SpotifyiTunes|

Paramore | Paramore
I admired Paramore’s earlier music, but it was a little young sounding for me. I kinda got tired of the pop punk music of my youth (Fall Out Boy, New Found Glory, etc.). Thankfully, I have Jordan who tends to know what’s up on good music and who encouraged me to take a fresh listen. This album is a mature Paramore and delivers wonderful pop rock songs. And even if this isn’t your style, you can’t deny Haley Williams can SAAANG.

Favorite Song: Hate to See Your Heart Break |SpotifyiTunes|

Katy Perry | Prism
I just love Katy. Prism is reminiscent of the less moody/grunge 1990s music and I mean that as a compliment! S Club 7, anyone? When I was little, I let myself fully embrace the pop ballads and sang my little heart out while roller blading down my street wearing overalls 🙂 There are also great messages mixed in through out this album. In “It Takes Two”which is essentially a song about breaking up, instead of blaming the other she speaks about how we must be the first to say “I’m sorry.”

Favorite Song: International Smile |SpotifyiTunes|

Phoenix | Bankrupt!
Back in the early years of dating (2005), Jordan came to me with the discovery of a new band, Phoenix.  Well, new to us at least 🙂 I loved them instantly and Thomas Mars (lead singer) is instantly cooler because he’s married to Sofia Coppola (one of my favorite, young film directors). Jordan and I saw them play a sold out show at the Aragon Ballroom this September and it was one of the best nights of this year. Bankrupt! is full of intimate lyrics paired with anthemic melodies and slightly aloof-synth-dance style rock & roll.

Favorite Song: S.O.S. in Bel Air |SpotifyiTunes|

Justin Timberlake | The 20/20 Experience
I grew up in that prime time to fully embrace the boy band, but I never did. My access to music mainly came from my older brothers (Blink 182 to the Cranberries), but I always knew Justin had something special. Jordan and I have really enjoyed his appearances on SNL and would wonder if a return to music would happen! This album sounds deliberate, a clear stepping stone to set him apart from basically everyone he was associated with early on in his music career (watching the members of ‘N sync perform next to him during this year’s VMA’s was just sad). This album is a little less pop and a little more soul.

Favorite Song: Strawberry Bubblegum |SpotifyiTunes|

Vampire Weekend | Modern Vampires of the City
I will always associate Vampire Weekend with my naive newly-wed days (as their first album released the same year as our wedding), and just like I continue to mature so does Vampire Weekend. They came on the scene with the vibe of preppy east-coast rockers mixed with some Paul Simon Graceland musical vibes. This third release has pushed aside collegiate songs for lyrics that evoke thoughts that arise as we/they reach their 30s. “Wisdom’s a gift/But you’d trade it for youth.”

Their dance like quality hasn’t completely vanished though, Jordan and I may sometimes put on this album and dance around our apartment listening to “Diane Young”.

Favorite Song: Unbelievers |Spotify| iTunes|

Kanye West | Yeezus
Despite myself, I absolutely bought into this album. It’s at times crass, abrasive, genius, or any other polarizing adjective you want to throw into the mix, but it also didn’t sound like anything else I listened to this year. It’s masterful in the way that it pushes boundaries and sets itself in a class all its own. I don’t know if I can say it better than the New York Times:

“An aggressive demand for attention…Yeezus arrives with all eyes and ears on Mr. West…Mr. West’s response to all that scrutiny is an album that stays as combative as its opening zap …the album is one long, efficient, inventive kick in the head.”

Favorite Song: New Slaves |SpotifyiTunes|

What were some of your favorite albums this year?

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Music Monday: Christmas Edition

Sufjan Stevens Songs for Christmas

The time has come to begin baking Christmas cookies, decorate your tree, and of course listen to lots and lots of Christmas music! I was tempted to start listening before Thanksgiving, but I held off until last week. As someone who spent much of my youth in either a band (I played clarinet) or choir, I am well versed in traditional and nontraditional holiday music; the good, the bad, and the ugly songs (I’m sorry, but “I saw mommy kissing santa claus”, is just weird however you look at it).

Julie Andrews and Bing Crosby were on regular rotation in my house growing up, but more recently, I like my Christmas music on the melancholy dreamy side. I discovered that I liked my Christmas music this way basically because of Sufjan Stevens‘ Songs for Christmas. It’s a little bit weird, but equally beautiful; new songs mixed with traditional hymns and instrumental versions. Jordan and I used his arrangement of “Holy, Holy, Holy” at our wedding.

These box sets started as personal gifts Sufjan gave to friends and family each year, eventually he bound the EP’s together; stickers and posters are included 🙂 Songs for Christmas came out in 2006 and Silver & Gold was released last year. If you are looking for a few songs to begin with here are a few of my favorites: “Silent Night”, “Sister Winter”, “Only at Christmas Time”,” Star of Wonder”, “The Midnight Clear”, and “The Friendly Beasts.”

Sufjan Stevens Silver and Gold

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For Your Listening Pleasure

Popular Podcasts

My brothers and I listened to a lot of music and children’s radio programs when we were young. Recordings of The Sound of Music and Anne of Green Gables were in constant rotation. When I was around five, I received a Fisher-Price tape recorder for either a birthday or Christmas present. It had a rounded handle, colored buttons, and a microphone! Now for the first time, I had a way to listen my own stuff on the go!

On family road trips we often listened to Adventures in Odyssey, a radio drama program. Adventures in Odyssey began as a radio show in 1987 and has since released the episodes for home listening (we had them on cassette tape!). Odysessy is a fully realized world, with interesting and deep characters that are challenged with real life dilemmas. Most episodes take place in the present, but they also focus on historical events. When I sing the U.S. National Anthem, I think of the Adventures in Odyssey episode where they retell the event that influenced the poem!

After listening to a few episodes with my family, I would grab my trusty tape recorder, start an episode and toss a blanket over my head to isolate myself with the story. I would spend countless hours each week listening, learning, and using my imagination. At first, reading didn’t come easy to me, but these audio tapes allowed me to delve into a different world, just like books can.

When I began commuting to Chicago, I learned early on that music wasn’t the best distraction for the drive. Podcasts are fresh and new – you don’t know when one segment will end and another will begin, while songs can become predictable – they are usually around 3 – 3.5 minutes each (for this same reason, I don’t usually to listen to music while I workout).

I am constantly listening to podcasts: on my way to and from work, when I cook or clean or while I’m working from home. Just like when Jordan and I began watching The Big Bang Theory this summer, when I discover a new podcast I binge listen!  Below are a few of my favorite podcasts, which can all be found through iTunes or listened directly from their websites.

Continue reading “For Your Listening Pleasure”

A Gentlewoman and Her Stuff

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While traveling in Europe, Jordan and I had four layovers, stayed in three cities and took a variety of buses and trains. All the maneuvering between cities not only required good time management but also necessary reading materials. My goal was to pack light (1 carry-on suitcase, 1 tote bag & a small purse) so I brought one book and two magazines (which I had intended on leaving in Europe). I saved my book for the later leg of our journey, but the magazines were devoured quickly.

After the first week of London and Oxford, I realized I would need something additional to pass the travel time. Jordan was the first one to spot The Gentlewoman at the Gare Du Nord train station in Paris. I initially passed, I wanted to spend pounds instead of euros, plus it couldn’t be difficult to find the magazine upon our return to London, right? Well, I was wrong and the search for it proved more difficult than we imagined! It was like searching for buried treasure as we traversed the entire city. Every news stand and bookstore we visited either didn’t carry it or had just sold out. Eventually we found The Gentlewoman in the Spitafields neighborhood of London. It’s been a few weeks now since I got the magazine and I’m still going through it. The articles, images and design come together to create a truly beautiful end product.

herschel_backpack

Another aha! moment while traveling, besides bringing insufficient reading materials, is that a backpack would be more practical than an over the shoulder tote for carrying around the necessary odds and ends. This realization happened around day three of our trip, but alas I had to deal with what I brought for the duration. Once we got home, I made a mental note to look for a cute backpack for the future.

While looking for shoes at Madewell on Rush Street in Chicago, I noticed an entire wall of backpacks. I walked out of the store with a polka dot Herschel Supply Co. bag.  Herschel Supply Co. originally was a barrel making company in the early 1900s, but have since moved on to various items that help carry our belongings.

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Marie Antoinette and Magnolias

CourtyardVersailles

Ever since Jordan and I visited Versailles this year, I’ve wanted to learn more about Marie Antoinette. Sofia Coppola’s film Marie Antoinette was inspired by the book, Marie Antoinette: The Journey. My library only had the audio version but I enjoy listening to audio books anyway. Marie was the first name of all the girls in the family and she actually went by Antoinette. That was a surprise to me! Also, if not for an outbreak of smallpoxs that took a sister and left another unfit for marriage (lookswise) it’s possible that she wouldn’t have been married off so young. She originally wouldn’t have been the next in line!

Magnolia

Magnolia trees are my favorite. This particular tree was where I read many books during the warm months. I’m so glad that despite the up and down weather we’ve had this spring, the buds weren’t ruined! They are a very delicate tree and many years a late frost has taken the flowers too quickly.

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