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Saturday, December 31, 2016

50 Postings for 2016

Here's a nice little achievement for this blog. Fifty blog postings in 2016. I've never written so much for this blog, and I feel good about it. I hope to continue this trend throughout 2017.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My 20 Favorite Albums of 2016 Part 2

It's finally come to this. My top 10 favorite albums of 2016. Without further ado....

10. We/or/Me: Everything Behind Us is a Dream
I first heard of local Chicago artist We/Or/Me aka Bahhaj Tahezadeh in an article on the Chicagoist website back in January. The article described We/Or/Me as: "a local singer/songwriter who has been self-producing gorgeous albums in the traditions of 1960s British folk music." Boy were they correct. Everything Behind Us is a Dream is an album that demands the listeners attention, and is a perfect example of the incredible folk scene in the Chicago land area. If you are looking to get into folk music, We/Or/Me is a great place to begin.

9. The Claypool Lennon Delirium: Monolith of Phobos
I cannot explain to you how excited I was when I first found out that Les Claypool from Primus and Sean Lennon had formed a band. I knew immediately that their album would be one of the most unique sounding records I have ever heard. Monolith of Phobos is proof that my assumption was correct. This is a great prog-rock record, that explores some pretty far out topics. From prescription drug addiction to 'Head', the feature film produced my The Monkees. This record is truly a treasure.

8. Rogue Wave: Delusions of Grand Fur
Delusions of Grand Fur is Rogue Wave's best album is 2007's Asleep at Heaven's Gate. The album finds Rogue Wave expanding their sound, but staying true to what makes them a band with staying power. It features some catchy indie-pop songs, and that showcase meaningful lyrics. It's almost like a sequel to Asleep at Heaven's Gate.

7. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Skeleton Tree
I was scared to listen to this record at first. It was almost as if the emotional impact this record promised would be too great for me to handle. Skeleton Tree focuses on the tragic death of Cave's son. This is Nick Cave at his most rare and hurt. After listening to this album numerous times, all I can say is that Nick Cave is one strongest individuals in the world. This record sees him at his lowest, and he brings the listener right there with him. And yet, there is a sense of hope throughout the album, that is truly inspirational.

6. Yeasayer: Amen and Goodbye
Yeasayer's latest release utterly blew me away with how intellectual it was.This record is unreal in the very best way possible!! From religion and philosophy to social media and life in the 21st century it has it all. And the actual music written shows a band hitting on all cylinders. With Amen and Goodbye, Yeasayer may have just re-defined what it means to be an indie rock alternative band.

5. Norah Jones: Day Breaks
This record is so good!!! Day Breaks sees Norah Jones returning to her jazz roots. If you were a fan of her first album, Come Away with Me, you will absolutely love this record. Day Breaks sort of feels like a proper sequel to Come Away with Me. Personally, the last track, Fleurette Africaine (African Flower), is the highlight of the record, that is well worth your time to listen to.

4. David Bowie: Blackstar
What can I saw about the late great David Bowie that hasn't already been said? Same goes for his 2016 and last ever release Blackstar? Upon its release, critics called the album spectacular. After Bowie's death of cancer, it became his magnum opus. Any music fan NEEDS to listen to it at some point in their life. It lives up to the hype.

3. Moby and the Void Pacific Choir: These Systems are Failing
For any person who says that Moby's music is too blah, I present to you These Systems are Failing. These Systems are Failing sees Moby at his heaviest ever. I think I can best described the sound of this record as a mixture of punk and EDM. It also features very heavy politically relevant lyrics. I've had fun with this album too. I would play it for people, who I knew didn't like Moby's music. I wouldn't tell them who it was till after I saw their initial reaction. All parties came away with a different perspective of who Moby is as an artist.

2. Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool
I love A Moon Shaped Pool. It is a beautiful record. For me, it is on par with their 2007 release In Rainbows. And it is sort of a return to form for Radiohead. In 2011, Radiohead released King of Limbs which I found to be very robotic in sound. Where King of Limbs was abrasive, A Moon Shaped Pool is melodic. And with the untimely death of Thom Yorke's partner Dr. Rachel Owen, it takes on a whole new meaning.

1. Esperanza Spalding: Emily's D+ Evolution
The word masterpiece is thrown around a lot. And I am just as guilty of throwing that word around as anyone else. With that being said, please believe me when I tell you, Emily's D+ Evolution is a masterpiece. What Spalding does on this album is absolutely incredible. She creates a fusion of jazz, classic rock, RnB, and pop. It is unlike anything I have ever heard. It's an album that ten years from now, I'll be able to listen to, and hear something new that I had never heard before. Because I am a music nerd, I have a list of my all-time favorite albums written down. It's time for me to add to the list.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

My 20 Favorite Albums of 2016 Part 1

2016. It will be a year to remember. From the numerous deaths in the music community, which included David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, and Prince, to the Presidential election, and finally the death of icons Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, and Carrie Fischer.

But even in the sadness that has accompanied this past year, we have also seen some absolutely incredible musical releases. In fact, putting together my top 10 list was a challenging task. Limiting myself to just 10 albums seemed to be very unfair. So instead of my usually top 10 list, with a few honorable mentions, I've decided that for 2016 I'll have a top 20 listing of favorite albums.

Now without further ado, here is part 1.

20. Frightened Rabbit: Painting of a Panic Attack
Frightened Rabbit's latest release sees the band changing their sound slightly. The band is still producing "big sounding" music, but it's much more personal. This albums sees them going deeper in their exploration of relationships, all the while producing incredible pop songs. Finally, the band continues their tradition of coming up with great titles for their records.

19. Regina Spektor: Remember Us to Life
Full disclosure. This is the first Regina Spektor album I've listened to in its entirety. The entire time I was listening, I kept thinking to myself, why haven't I checked her out soon? It's so good, and is a great showcase of Skeptor's pop charm, and fantastic piano work. I find this to be a great beginners record to Regina Spektor's discography.

18. The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl
Yes The Beatles made this list. It is true that this album contains no new music from the band. But what it does contain is a taste of what it was like to see the greatest rock band in history live. It's utterly magically. At their heart, The Beatles were just a rock n' roll band, and that is what you hear on this release. It's the closest someone my age will ever get to seeing the group live.

17. The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome 
If at any point you are looking at getting into the blues, this is a great beginners blues album. The magic of this album is that the Rolling Stones make the blues accessible to individuals who may not go and check that genre out. But after hearing the Stones' covers, they might do so. Additionally, The Stones sound like they are having fun on this album. The passion they have for the blues is apparent, and it will bleed through your speakers, and hit you square in the face.

16. The Lumineers: Cleopatra
Early in 2016 The Lumineers delivered in my opinion a perfect folk pop record. The songs are beyond catching, and the album showcases the bands strengths of melody and lyrics. It is not very hard to picture all of these new songs being sung to in a large stadium setting. Cleopatra has made the Lumineers a very big band.

15. Bob Mould: Patch the Sky
It's always weird for me to read an article that argues that guitar based rock is dead. To refute this claim, I would simply play this new album by Bob Mould. It is heavy on the guitar, and old school garage rock. Mould is beyond confident in his craft, and the we the listener reap all of the benefits. This is a must have for anyone looking for a guitar centered album.

14. Sarah Neufeld: The Ridge
About a year ago I got into a TV show on Amazon Prime called Mozart in the Jungle. The show is centered around the "New York Symphony", and classical music in the modern world. Because of it, I have been searching for some great classically inspired music, and I didn't need to look very far. Violinist Sarah Neufeld, from indie giants Arcade Fire, delivers a very modern sounding classical music album. The melodies are haunting, and the star of the show is her violin. I cannot suggest this album enough.

13. Tegan and Sara: Love You to Death
Tegan and Sara continue their string of making fantastic pop songs. If you are a fan of 80s synth pop music, along with heartfelt lyrics, Love You to Death is a MUST have. Tegan and Sara have this way of making you feeling every emotions that they are feeling. It's pretty captivating.

12. The Last Shadow Puppets: Everything You've Come to Expect
Alex Turner, frontman of the Arctic Monkeys, continues to prove himself as one of the best frontmen in the indie rock scene. He continues to prove that with the latest effort from his side project, the Last Shadow Puppets. As I'm thinking about it, has Alex Turner made a bad record yet?

11. Moon Hooch: Red Sky
If you are looking for modern jazz music that will get you on the dance floor, Moon Hooch is the band for you. Every song is catchy, upbeat, and makes you want to shack your booty. I dare the staunchest music snob not to dance to this music. It is physically impossible.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Final Thoughts on Sickness

It's weird. I was sick for so long that it feels weird to be feeling better. I must of been sick longer than I thought. But thankfully, I am feeling better.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Stream of Random Thoughts for December 18th, 2016

1. I'm still recovering from the illness that first developed almost two weeks ago. It's remnant, a pretty substantial cough. But for me, the most upsetting part of this illness is the melancholy that accompanied it. Maybe it was the coldness that came or the disappointing news that hit me at work recently, but whatever it was, I was very melancholy throughout this illness. Luckily I have recovered, but it was rather surprising. One item that did help lift my spirits is when I reflected on all of the positive aspects and people in my life. Hence why I have made a note to myself to do more reflecting on a regular basis.

2. For my birthday I received a fantastic book entitled: "The Opposite of Loneliness" by Marina Keegan. Keegan was an aspiring writer who was killed in a car accident in 2012. This book is a collect that her writing teachers and family put together of some of her best work. It includes short stories, and essays on life.

There is a particular essay in the beginning portion of the book, also titled "The Opposite of Loneliness" in which Keegan discusses the fear she is experiencing with the thought of graduation from college. As she progresses in the essay, she wrote something that grabbed my attention big time. Towards the end of the essay, Keegan essential says, don't live in fear of not doing. Do! If you want to write, write.

I didn't realize until I read that sentence that I really needed to read it. It gave me a sense of encouragement that again I didn't know that I needed it until I read it, to continue with my storytelling and artistic pursuits. Sometimes that act of doing is far more important than the finished product. Again something I will remember for when I work on my podcast series.

3. This entry is very much like a journal. I wonder if that means I should get an actual journal. I love the idea of having one, but the thought of others seeing me writing in it, would probably cause me to be embarrassed. Which I shouldn't be, but I'm weird like that.

4. It had been over two weeks since I've read a book, and damn did it feel good pick one up. Can't allow for that amount of time to elapse like that again.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Sick In Bed

I've begun my week long vacation in bed sick. It started on Wednesday night with a mild cough, that morphed into a full blown hacking storm. I've placed myself on house arrested, and decided to watch season 3 of Mozart in the Jungle. It was a terrific choice on my part. Season 3 is so good!!!

What I most admire about the show is the humor and lightheartedness. It's not a heavy show, and it doesn't try to be. It is what it is, and that is all. With the current status of our societal environment, this for a welcome change.