Best of 2013 (A Personal List)

December 31, 2013 at 4:54 pm (Uncategorized)

I cannot BELIEVE 2013 is almost over. It’s absolutely crazy. With that in mind, though, it is time for my favorite (and only recurring) segment: My favorite albums of 2013.

If you missed 2012, you can find that list here.

The rules are thus: 2013 needed to be the first time I heard the album–I couldn’t have heard more than a single off of any of the albums released prior to this year and they had to be albums by a single artist/group (mix tapes wouldn’t really make sense, though I got some great ones).

Oh man, I’m so excited. Also, this is going to be incredibly difficult. There has been so much fantastic music this year, and I am leaving off albums I know are deserving. But this is MY top 10 list, dammit, and these are my rules.

Here we go!

10. Bad Blood; Bastille (2013)

This album should PROBABLY be up 2-4 notches on my list, but alas, it arrived too recently in my listening queue. A bouncy, at times introspective-in-spite-of-itself album, Bad Blood is the the rhythmic pop I didn’t know I was waiting all year for. My favorite track is “Laura Palmer,” which somehow simultaneously makes me want to dance, fall in love, and run away from everything all at once. Pompeii is the song getting all the radio play, but by my estimation it’s probably the 4th or 5th best track on the album (not a bad thing). I also dig the harmonics on this album, and applaud their ability to strip down sections of tracks to give them a little extra weight. Really solid.

9. Move In Spectrums; Au Revoir Simone (2013)

Normally I am not a lover of electronica, but this Brooklyn trio has changed my tune to a degree. Three women, singing in fantastic harmony, to tracks that make you want to bounce around…what’s not to love? The only (sadly) group I got to see live on this list this year, Move In Spectrums is a fun album, and they sound even better live than they do recorded, which undoubtedly biases me to a large degree. They also responded to me on twitter, which probably gets you an automatic entry onto this list. Fortunately they are good enough to listen to regardless of online interactions. An indie group I highly recommend you check out!

8. Yeezus; Kanye West (2013)

With Kanye West releasing an album this year, it will come as a shock to absolutely no one that knows me that he’s on my top albums of the year list. In fact, the only shocking thing about this ranking is how low it is. I’ll be honest, this album is…different. I think it’s brilliant in a lot of ways, but it’s not one that I find myself listening to for pleasure on a regular basis. Bound 2 is easily the most “listenable” track on the album, and gives off that classic Kanye vibe we love, but Blood on the Leaves is probably my favorite track. It has shades of 808s & Heartbreak, but the richness of some Kanye’s last couple albums. Artistically I love it but the fact that I can’t just hang out with it in the background drops it a few slots.

7. In Our Nature; Jose Gonzalez (2007)

Another album I came to later in this year, it’s merely my favorite Jose Gonzalez album. I discovered him a few months ago and have been just listening through his discography on repeat. It’s the mellow guitar I just can’t get enough of, and his voice is so interesting. This is the kind of music where I can lay on my bed, stare at the ceiling fan, and just think. This is a great example of less being much, much more. Light harmonies in the background and light instrumentation equal a heavy dose of aural joy. Cycling Trivialities is my favorite track on the album, with Teardrops a close second.

6. On A Clear Night; Missy Higgins (2007)

I love Missy Higgins. I have been listening to her for years. Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered basically all I had been listening to was “Sound of White,” (which in itself is a great album), but not On A Clear Night. I promptly went out and bought it on Itunes, and there was about a month where I didn’t listen to much else. It’s a pretty “typical” pop album, heavy on guitar. The Australian accent gives an interesting tinge to her voice. On the whole this album just makes me feel good. Favorite track is Going North, which I wish was about three times longer than it is.

5. Random Access Memories; Daft Punk (2013)

This album is so much fun. At times mellow, at times pulling you out of your seat, it’s great music for either the background or foreground. Electronic beats and autotune pervades, but the thing you notice when you really listen is the musicality of the album. There’s a ton of stuff going on. I don’t consider myself musically enlightened enough to really give you a rundown of it all, but I enjoy the heck out of listening to it. Get Lucky is one of my top 10 songs of the year. I just can’t get enough of that tune.

4. Oh My God Charlie Darwin; Low Anthem (2009)

I discovered this album last January, more specifically the title track “Charlie Darwin,” and I was smitten. Mellow guitar, piercing vocals, some sick background harmonies…I have a musical type and it gets me every single time. The cool thing about this album, though, is it has some range. There’s more mellow stuff, but there’s also a bit of an edge to some of the pieces that I don’t enjoy quite as much but definitely keeps you on your toes. A varied, interesting, and often slightly weird album, it nabs the #4 spot on this list.

3. The Blessed Unrest, Sara Bareilles (2013)

Remember when I said that Au Revoir Simone was the only group I had seen off of this list? I lied. I don’t know how I forgot that I witnessed this amazingly talented woman live in concert, but for a brief moment I did. Fortunately, I had the good sense to list her album on my “best of” list, which sparked my memory. This album is mostly really sad, except for “I Choose You,” which is one of the happiest, most I’m-gonna-be-in-love-forevaeva tracks I’ve ever heard. Which is somewhat strange, but it’s all really really excellent, so I’m not complaining. At times booming and at others very subdued, there’s a lot of variety on The Blessed Unrest, even though it’s mostly about heartbreak. I’m a sucker for an amazing voice, and Sara Bareilles has one. A great pop album, and one I will undoubtedly return to time and again.

Actually, you could make a case that I’m telling you this is the best album of 2013. The next two on our list are not from this year.

2. For Emma, Forever Ago; Bon Iver (2007)

What can be said about this album that hasn’t been already? It won a ton of awards, and yours truly was just really late to the party. I like to think fashionably late. Harmonically interesting, at times haunting, this album makes you nostalgic for things that haven’t happened yet. I love it. Re: Stacks is perhaps one of my favorite songs of all time, and (in case you were wondering) is a fantastic break up song.

For Emma, Forever Ago was a strong contender for my album of the year, but couldn’t quite beat out the top one on our list…

1. Say I Am You, The Weepies (2005)

I got into The Weepies in a BIG way this year, and so in a sense this pick is representative of ALL their music (it’s not cheating, this is my list). In very real terms, though, this album is amazing. I don’t know if there’s a bad track on it. It’s got the laid back vibe I really enjoy, great harmonics, and the switching off of lead vocals between male and female voices gives the album more variety than you might expect from just two people.

In a year that has included a lot of heartache for me, this album couldn’t have been any more perfect. This album is like, “yes, life sucks. But maybe it’ll, you know, get better eventually.” That was the message I needed, even when I wasn’t super sure that it was all going to be fine. That’s the beautiful thing about music. Sometimes, when you need a particular song (or album) it shows up and helps you deal with all the bullshit.

Say I Am You also includes my song of the year. Fuck you 2013, you were awful in a myriad of ways that I could describe in a long and whiny blog post, but will instead just leave the song here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EutQvRlqACU

 

Happy New Year everyone! It is my sincere hope that 2014 is everyone’s year.

 

Honorable Mention: The Oh Hello’s, The Oh Hello’s (2011)

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In Our Natures

December 29, 2013 at 9:05 pm (Uncategorized)

I am reminded, again, how easy it is to be totally negative. I see it all the time around me – people being unnecessarily cruel, or hurtful, or simply mean spirited. 

I am reminded how easy it is to be thoughtless with our words and actions, to project our internal pain onto others, and how easy it is to look at things but not really see them.

I think much of the time this thoughtlessness is a defense mechanism, because callouses are what naturally develop when something gets ripped up. We all experience pain at some point, and it sucks. So, to not feel it anymore we shield ourselves, put up walls, become cynical. I think that’s a natural progression. The problem arises when the walls become indistinguishable from yourself, when your anger ceases to be protective and starts to pervade your heart. You know those people who just can’t seem to say a single nice thing about anyone? Always out there, always prompt to criticize? Those people make me sad. 

I especially am saddened because I think a lot of them lash out because they wish the world was different than it is, for one reason or another. Instead of trying to make their ideals come into vision, though, they just pump negativity into the world, which I don’t think will ever bring about real change. Hate begets hate, anger begets anger, and when we hold the coals in our closed fists we are the ones who get burned. Anger burns hot and quickly, but it’s like pouring gasoline on the fire. Sustained change can only come about as a slow burn…you need a vision of what the fire is supposed to look like, you have to stack the wood in such a way that you build a sustainable source of warmth. You can keep the whole world warm, or you can burn it down. I know which I would prefer.

 

On the other side of the negativity spectrum are people who are constantly negative, about most everything, for no discernible reason I can see. I feel like it must be exhausting to be so negative. I wonder if I can be nicer to them, say something kind, turn their views around…but it can be difficult to know what to say that doesn’t come across as a) condescending and b) would come off in such a way that it would actually be helpful. I don’t know what they’re going through or why they feel the need to lash out at the world. What I do know, though, is that moods are contagious, and states of mind are powerful things, especially when we’re in groups. Mob mentality is powerful, and people seem to lose their ability to see other people as human beings. I am thinking most specifically of religion and at times sports, but it’s scary how we so quickly reduce real human persons to “the other.” It’s frightening how quickly people stop using reason, or at least all reason outside of their immediate self interest in the next hour. 

It’s a bit scary how quickly the high functioning sections of our brains can be usurped by our basest parts. This, I think, is one of the more compelling reasons for me against the idea of some eternal soul. We’re just biomechnical machines, and you can fuck up our circuitry in all kinds of interesting and terrifying ways. If you really want to lose a lot of your faith in your own intuition and abilities check out some of the research that has been done linking lead exposure to violence and crime rates. 

It would be fair to ask where I’m going with this (I was asking myself that question as I wrote the last couple paragraphs) but I think what I’m driving towards is that we are products of our environment, but we can CHOOSE what that environment is. We can choose to cultivate a heart full of love and compassion, we can choose not to direct our negativity towards others, we can choose to care about fixing our societal ills and crumbling infrastructure and build a better world. We can choose to disagree amicably, we can agree to find common ground. I don’t have illusions that it will be easy, but I am certain it starts with each of us.

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Dark Dark Dark

December 27, 2013 at 11:54 pm (Uncategorized)

Expectations are strange things. 

They’re just thoughts, but they can define everything you do. For instance: I was worried about how my Christmas would turn out this year, and it turned out that it was one of the most interesting, memorable, and enjoyable holidays I’ve ever had. Now, I am certain that in a purely objective sense it was a good day, but I’m also pretty sure that it seems even better in my mind because my expectations were low going in. 

I guess the point is that it doesn’t make sense to hype things up or down before they happen. Just let them happen. 

 

Shifting gears…

 

I think to some extent I’m afraid of what I want. I am scared that the things I want in life, in love, etc, are not the things I should want, which is silly because how can you help that? I am still looking for the person I am hiding in the shadow of the person I want other people to see me as. It’s a side effect of wanting to please everyone…you can’t do it. But I want to. It’s a process getting over that. 

I think ideally I might get to a place where the people I love and respect would love and respect me, and that would be enough. It’s tough because if I get to know someone, I will like them 9/10 times. Even the people I don’t care for I’m sure I could grow to enjoy if I knew their backstory. I think that’s why I do better in 1:1 situations. It allows me and them to just be people with less pressure. Crowds always come with a set of expectations. 

I worry that I might fall in love. I worry that I might never fall in love. I wonder why some friendships work and others fail. I wonder if I become too committed to friendships that just were never meant to work. I fear that the reason some of the people that I really enjoy being around are fairly unresponsive to me is because they never really wanted to be my friend in the first place, but some force of events happened to bring us together for a while and they have finally broken free. 

I know, for certain, that I hold on to things too tightly. What worse sin is there for a Buddhist? Attachment leads to suffering, yet on I cling. To ideas, to stuff, to things beyond my control. I’m working on it, but it’s a slow process. 

 

At the end of the day I think it comes down to the fact that I am reconciling the person I always thought I wanted to be with the person I am. I need to be OK with being me. Be kind to myself. To not just pay lip service to my value as a person but to really think that I have it. That’s the challenge.

 

 

“Repeat anything often enough and it will start to become you.” -Tom Hopkins 

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Cycling Trivialities

December 16, 2013 at 10:11 pm (Uncategorized)

As 2013 INCHES its way towards the finish line, I reflect that this has been the worst year of my life.

Now, not all of it has been bad, of course. My worst year still pales in comparison to even the average years of many others, and there have been plenty of great moments. If you take the whole of it together, though, I am glad it’s coming to an end. Now, I don’t believe that the changing of the calendar year has any tangible effect on how our lives look, but I do believe that moving to a new place and getting a new job can. 

In case you don’t follow my life quite as closely as I do, the news is that a) I have a new job and b) as of yesterday, I have a new place to live. It’s a nice little apartment with a friend of a friend, and it seems like a pretty ideal living situation. It’s also in my price range and is not tiny or a dump, which wasn’t a given. I’ll move in the first week of January, which is very exciting! I’m ready for new challenges, new adventures, and new friends. I feel like a lot of the last year has been life happening to me. I want to make my life happen, instead. I am going to be bold the best way that I can be, and try to get a little bit better every day. 

So that’s that.

In only somewhat related news, my latest musical kick has been Jose Gonzalez. If you haven’t listened to him before, I highly recommend it, especially the album In Our Nature. It’s super chill, melancholy acoustic guitar-y music, and I absolutely love it. The track “Cycling Trivialities” is both the inspiration for the title of this post and 8 minutes of self reflective wonderfulness. I enjoy it so much in part, I think, because it expresses exactly what I feel these days. Namely that the wheel keeps on spinning, the same unimportant things will come up again and again, and life depends so much on how you respond to it. 

Life requires intention. It requires us to weed through the shit that happens to us all the time and make ourselves through conscious choice. It is being present, for the good and the bad, and if things go well it is us making the choices that bring about a kinder, more compassionate, open, and more selfless world. It’s not easy. 

I don’t really anticipate that making these big changes in my life will make me feel better about everything that’s happened right away, but hopefully by doing my best to make choices that improve me, I can be the Jordan I’m supposed to be.

 

 

“Thus did my siblings and I learn one of the hard lessons of life: the best way to strip the allure and dreaminess from a lifelong dream is, very often, simply to have it come true.” 
― David James Duncan, The Brothers K

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