Best of 2015 (A Personal List)

December 30, 2015 at 6:22 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

One of my favorite recurring posts that I do is a top 10 list of my favorite albums from 2015. I effed it up last year and didn’t do a list (spoiler: the top album was Taylor Swift’s 1989), but I won’t be repeating that mistake again!

Here are my personal rules for this list: 2015 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, no compilations.

If you’re curious, here are my top 10 lists from 2012 and 2013. A lot of really wonderful music showed up for me in 2015, and top to bottom this might be my favorite group of tunes yet, though had I done one for 2014 the combo of Yes!/1989/Lights Out probably would have given this one a run for it’s money. Actually, that’s a lie, but it’s mostly because of the album that takes the top spot on this list. If you know me, you already know what it is, but are you willing to wait for it?

10. Chasing Rubies (EP); Hudson Taylor (2013)

The #10 album on my list is actually an EP, consisting of 4 songs from the Irish folk duo Hudson Taylor. I love acoustic guitars and sweet harmonies; this album has both in spades. What it lacks in length it makes up for in quality, and the fact that I’ve listened to it about a thousand times lets this album sneak onto the list. Though all 4 tracks are wonderful, my favorite is “Butterflies.”

9. The Silent War; The Silent War (2015)

I discovered the Silent War quite by accident when they opened for The Weepies at a show in Portland this summer. I was immediately impressed enough to get this album (or rather have my friend Rebecca buy me their self titled album, since she insisted on paying me back for the Weepies ticket. Great idea, Rebecca!). This album, coincidentally, also features an acoustically oriented duo in Garrison Starr and Adrian Gonzalez (who you might know from The Rescues). My favorite track off this album is “Some Kind of Soldiers,” which features one of my favorite lines in ANY song from 2015 – this is the silent war/this is what we’re fighting for/reclaiming victories that we’ve already won. I can also award myself some serious hipster points for this entry, since their album is not yet out in digital format. You’ve got to have a physical CD. I assume that will change shortly, but for now…super underground. Where’s the line to renew my Portland card?

8. Days Are Gone; HAIM (2013)

If you had asked me 4 months into 2015 “Jordan, what’s your best album of 2015? I would have given you the #2 entry on this list. However, I would have quickly added that it barely grasped that spot, because this album is GREAT. How it took me 2 years to get on the HAIM train I’ll never know. Eventually, though, I did get on, and I LOVE this album. “Jordan,” you say, “what the hell is it doing all the way back here at #8 then?” Sadly, there was a lot of fantastic music this year, and I honestly think it’s mostly recency bias that pushes Days Are Gone to the back of a logjam at the midsection of this list. I could have put 5-8 in any order and I would have felt good about myself. For better or worse, though, it ends up here. My favorite track off this album is “The Wire.” It rhymes with fire, which is what this album is.

7. Safe Travels; Jukebox the Ghost (2012)

In what I feel is most appropriately described as a musical blend of Billy Joel and A Great Big World, Jukebox the Ghost is an outfit I first heard this year opening up for Ingrid Michaelson at Edgefield. While they have a more recent album as well, it paled in comparison to 2012’s Safe Travels. This album is both excellent AND takes the listener on an emotional roller coaster. You can be rocking out one moment and listening to what is almost an introspective lullaby the next. I really enjoy these guys. My favorite track on the album is “Don’t Let Me Fall Behind.”

6. So There; Ben Folds & Ymusic (2015)

Ben Folds is one of 4 artists gracing this list that have appeared here before (I guess I know what I like), but So There might be one of the more interesting selections I’ve ever put on a favorite albums list simply because the last 3 tracks of the album are 3 movements of a concerto. I am not usually big into instrumental music, but I really enjoy what he’s done blending something of a pop sound with the classical music genre. My favorite track on the album, however, is “I’m Not The Man,” which…woof. Feelings.

5. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful; Florence + The Machine (2015)

Florence + the Machine is a longstanding favorite of mine, and she did it again with How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Chock full of jams and ballads (and jammin’ ballads), this album is big and beautiful. It feels more purple than blue to me, though, for whatever that’s worth. It also contains what might just be my favorite song of 2015, “Which Witch.” Not only is it fantastic wordplay, it’s definitely the song I belted in the car most in 2015. It’s definitely the reason this album moved to the front of a crowd of really solid albums I talked about in the Days Are Gone section.

4. Sirens; The Weepies (2015)

We’re out of the logjam section now! The final 4 albums on this list are just SO. DAMN. GOOD. There’s a clear winner, sure, but this is where we ascend to the next musical tier in my mind. The Weepies make another appearance on an end of year list for me, and add an extra layer of awesomeness by introducing me to the #9 album. The Weepies are absolutely one of my favorite bands, and Sirens, recorded while Deb Tannen was going through cancer treatment, is a beautiful piece of work. Not much I can say about the Weepies that I haven’t said before, but from the first haunting chords of “River from the Sky” I was hooked on this record. It’s incredibly hard for me to pick a favorite off this album; every track is a win. However, if pressured, I would pick “Crooked Smile.”

3. What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress; Sara Bareilles (2015)

The first musical on this list (oh no…have I said too much?) isn’t exactly a musical at all, but rather a collection of songs from the new Broadway musical Waitress. In fact, if you didn’t know better you might assume this is just a Sara Bareilles album. It’s quintessentially her, and reminds me a lot of Kaleidoscope Heart. The fact that she brings in Jason Mraz to do the duets with her doesn’t hurt, either. Fun fact about Waitress: it’s the first Broadway show with an all female creative team! It’s the kind of progressiveness you might expect from one of the premier artists of our time. I love Sara Bareilles, and I love this album. My favorite track is “I Didn’t Plan It,” which is both musically awesome and exceptionally appropriate for people in the midst of transitions.

2. Carrie & Lowell; Sufjan Stevens (2015)

Sufjan Stevens…another longtime favorite, another artist with an album on this list. I got the chance to see him perform last summer, and my god it was worth every penny. The man is brilliant. This album is brilliant. A sort of love letter to his late mother, this album drips with emotion. I will also always love it because I listened to it a ton in Asia, and that association will always stick with me…falling asleep on the other side of the planet, listening to the strum of a guitar. The opening track, “Death with Dignity,” remains my favorite.

1. Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording); 2015

How does a bastard orphan son of a whore and a Scotsman dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence impoverished in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar? Listen to the musical Hamilton and you’ll find out! I could talk until I’m blue in the face about how wonderful this music is, how important it is (on a number of different levels), about all the cool musical and historical things that happen in this show…but honestly, if you’re reading this you probably know me and therefore are painfully aware of my love for Hamilton. I love this show for a number of reasons, but I might most love it because my first term of grad school was really hard in a lot of ways, and Hamilton was there for it. There were days when literally the only thing getting me through was this show – days where I was stressed and upset and wanted to give up. But Hamilton didn’t, and neither did I. In the darker moments this show was there for me, in whatever ways, and I will always be grateful for that. #1 in my heart and #1 on this list for 2015. My favorite track? So hard to pick…but either “The Room Where it Happens” or “Hurricane.” You could probably convince me in 5 minutes to change my mind to any song in the show, though.

 

Honorable Mention: Forest Fires (EP); Axel Flovent (2015)

 

I’m always looking for new tunes, so if I egregiously whiffed on something in 2015, let me know! Maybe it’ll make it onto next year’s list 🙂

Advertisements

Permalink Leave a Comment

Satisfied

October 25, 2015 at 3:37 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I love the rain, especially in the fall. The way it sounds falling on the roof. The smell in the air. It’s important to remember the things you love when life gets crazy.

When I haven’t been doing grad work I’ve been listening to Hamilton (a new musical) basically nonstop for the past two weeks. It’s incredible. You should check it out. One of the big themes in the show is this idea of Hamilton never being satisfied – he has to keep going nonstop all the time. His ambition allows him to attain dizzying heights, but it also leads to his political downfall and eventual death in a duel against Aaron Burr. I think that theme, though, dissatisfaction, affects all of us in various ways. We all have things about ourselves or our lives that we’re unhappy with, and we deal with it in a multitude of ways. I want to lose weight, I want to get better grades, I want a partner, if I only had x or y I would be finally happy, etc. Sometimes we drink to forget, sometimes we distract ourselves, sometimes we take action and change ourselves. Sometimes the things we want to be different are things that we can work on fixing. In those circumstances it’s important to take it day by day. Everyone (myself included) seems to feel that everything is a race across a finish line – if I do this one thing, I will finally be happy. I will finally be satisfied. It’s important to look at our goals day by day and moment by moment, though, because life is just one long continuation. It’s just one process. We’re never done. We are constantly “being.” The more we can become OK with that, the happier we will be. You have to be kind to yourself.

For today, though, I am mostly thinking about the things that are not under our control. I’ll say it again – you have to be kind to yourself. No one is perfect. No one has all the answers. Most of us have very few answers. I don’t particularly trust people who tell you they have all the answers (maybe that’s why I can be a bit standoffish toward organized religion as a general concept). Something I try to do is be OK with not knowing. I want to have the answers, but the world is large. Can I be enough, just being me? What if I fail? What if I do something stupid in front of my classmates, my peers, my professors? I know I really want to be liked; to be loved. What if no one does? What if I have all these implicit biases, and I say something hurtful? Can I atone for the mistakes I’ve made? Can I make less in the future? I’ve been mostly single for the past three years, does that say something about me? Can I be satisfied with myself? Can I be satisfied with someone else in my life eventually? Can I stop asking rhetorical questions? Am I wasting my time writing this now instead of working on my paper that’s due tomorrow?

I’m afraid of all those things, but I need to be OK with being afraid. That fear, I believe, is normal. Grad school is supposed to be hard. Your mid-20s are supposed to be a time of transition. As a book I read would say, it is the “defining decade” of your life. It’s about building a foundation of a house that won’t ever be truly finished. It’s the first verse of the song of your life, and you get to play it in real time. Every moment of my life needs to be enough. I need to be able to find satisfaction in my life, and find motivation in my dissatisfaction. Eckhart Tolle says “Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.” Where would I rather be than right here, right now? I am me because of everything that has happened; me in everything that IS happening. I am luckier than many.

I could be thoughtful. That would be enough.

I could sit here, in this moment. Live here, because this moment is all there is. That would be enough.

I could view myself with kindness. That would be enough.

I could take one step toward my goals. That would be enough.

I could love, even when I’m upset. That would be enough.

I could make a mistake. That would be enough.

I could fail. That would be enough.

I could go confidently in the direction of my dreams. I could go unconfidently in the direction of my dreams. I could stall out for a while and stare at the wall. That would be enough.

I am enough.

Permalink Leave a Comment