My Top Ten Albums of 2013

2013-06-20 21.12.10A friend of mine always has a top ten album challenge on Facebook around this time of the year. My own rule for this challenge is that I had to have purchased the album for it to appear on my list. I tend not to rank the albums as I post them, but this year I went ahead and did that too. On the Facebook challenge, I am told that the best format is to countdown — Casey Kasem style. For this, however, I am leading off with the best. That way, I know if people get tired and lose interest halfway through, they at least get my absolute favorites. It has been a good year for music, and many of the albums below have shown up on this blog as I have gotten to know them. If you haven’t experienced some of these, I would truly endorse!

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1. Neko Case – The Worse things Get, the harder I fight, the harder I fight, the more I love you

It was a tough choice, but when it came down to making my choice for the number 1, I had to go with my girl, Neko. Like Southeastern, I love this album more every time I hear a song from it. This is one that I seek out videos of live performances because she and her band just appear to have so much delight in performing with each other – including a Tiny Desk Concert where they showed up to play in Halloween costumes. Almost half of the songs begin with her amazing voice and no musical intro. Her voice is a gift. She tells stories that have fantastical elements and heart.

Favorite song of the moment: Calling Cards

jason2.  Jason Isbell – Southeastern

This summer, the night before we left on our roadtrip, we went to see Jason Isbell at Crossroads in Kansas City. We didn’t get to as much music this year as I wanted to, but this one one where I needed to be. I fell in love with Jason Isbell a few years ago when we saw him – again playing solo – at Knuckleheads. I knew his voice from Drive By Truckers, but didn’t really know his solo work. Between those two concerts, the man changed his life. He quit drinking and he found Amanda. He is happy. Southeastern is an album that reflects the journey – heavier on the hard times than the good, but you can hear the regret move to hope. One of the more delightful people that I follow on Twitter and Instagram is Jason Isbell. I don’t know if he would appreciate this description, but he is so smitten with his wife it is darling.

Favorite song of the moment: Stockholm.

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3.  Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

I knew that this was going to be a good album when, on April 27, 2013, Sam posted this on his Facebook page: i didn’t think i could like vampire weekend but this is in early song of year running. Sam had not previously been a fan. He came on board for a reason.It is a pretty fantastic song, and the album keeps the pace with this one. Ezra Koenig, the band’s lyricist is smart and it shows in the songs he writes. There are more references than you can shake a stick at, but they tied into catchy beats and creative instrumentation.

Favorite song of the moment: Step

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4. Steve Martin & Edie Brickell – Love Has Come for You

Steve Martin gets top billing on this album, but Edie owns it. As I have written before, her voice is the best. Combining that voice with Americana style is a winning combination.

Favorite song of the moment:  King of Boys

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5. Laura Viers – Warp and Weft

If you don’t know Laura Viers and you like a girl who can kill on guitar, you need to check her out. Many of Laura’s songs are quiet singer/ songwriter pieces, but she can bring on the noisy guitars every now and then. I enjoy both sides.

Favorite song: That Alice (a tribute to John Coltrane’s wife, Alice)

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6. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt

I had to remind myself (ie I needed to look it up on the Internet) that cerulean is one of the crayon colors that you will find in the big box. While I was doing that research, I also “reminded myself” that Waxahatchee is the name of a creek in Alabama. Waxahatcee the music maker is Katie Crutchfield. Katie is a wonderful guitar player and songwriter, and this is a wonderful listen.

Favorite song of the moment: Tangled Envisioning

courtney7. Courtney Barnett – Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas

I have written about Courtney Barnet recently. I am not entirely sure that  it is within the rules to include this one due to its format (double EP) and the fact that some of it was released a previous year. I don’t care. She is one of my favorite music finds this year and if I can get some more listeners for her by including her on my list, I will do so.

Favorite song of the moment: Avant Gardener

sallie8. Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside – Untamed Beast

Sallie and her band were the surprise find of the year when she opened for Thao and the Get Down Stay Down at the Record Bar this year. Girl put on an energy riot show. She kind of reminds me of one of my last year favorites, the Alabama Shakes.

Favorite song of the moment: Bad Boys

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9. Bombadil – Metrics of Affection

Again, I have written about my new found love of Bombadil before. If you just need one nice, kind of mushy song to share with someone you love, you would be hard pressed to find one better than:

Favorite Song of the moment: Thank You.

boy10. Boy – Mutual Friends

Only two of my top ten are male performances. While a person may think otherwise, this is not one of them. These two women write good songs and perform them well. I am glad to have found them this year!

Favorite song of the moment: Boris

I would love it if anyone reading this would just tell me one musical highlight of the year for you. I know I missed  many!

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Last Week’s Good Things

DSCF7556October is here! Ignoring the government shutdown –  that seems anything but good – these are some of the good things that brightened my week:

Google Chat – Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s there would be crazy predictions about what the future would look like. It was a little bit cool like The Jetsons with automated everything. It was also a little scary with technology that you weren’t sure what it would mean. One of those scary tech-y predictions was the video phone. What if someone called you up and you were just getting out of the shower? or you looked bad? or you were with someone you weren’t supposed to be with??? The concept I had in my mind, was one in which you wouldn’t have a choice. Either your phone calls were all video, or they weren’t. That is not how it turned out. We now have ways to make video connections when we want them. We can talk to family and friends as long as they have a computer and a camera. It is a wonderful thing. This week, we got to spend some time talking with Ali, Sam and Jean. It was unscheduled and fun. We got to see Banjo, some of Sam and Jean’s apartment, and Ali modelling her amazing 816 hoodie. This version of the Jetsons is just right.

DSCF7551_2Wentworth Homecoming, Lexington Applefest and VW in a Parade – This weekend was the homecoming at Wentworth. Dan and the staff at the school put so much time and effort into this. Their goal was to create a happy and memorable time for alumni coming back to meet up with old friends and new. I got to share in some of the festivities over the weekend. Not only did the attendees have a perfect autumn weekend, but they seemed to be having so much fun with one another. I have learned that attending a military school can lead to adventures and misadventures. I got to hear of a few, and I know that many more were shared among the alumni. As part of the weekend, the school organizes a parade that goes down the Main Street of Lexington. Lexington is a classic little Missouri river town. Over the past years, they have been working to grow their downtown with businesses and renovation. There is a nice little bookstore and some neat antique stores. The Spotted Pig serves cold beers and good food. Coinciding with Homecoming was the Lexington Apple Fest. Along Main Street, vendors sold crafts, antiques, and apples. Around 1:30 on Saturday, an announcement was made asking the Apple Fest attendees to make way for the parade. Immediately people moved to the sidewalks. Led by the drum crew, the little parade appeared. DSCF7541There was the Grand Marshall, Norma Maring – whose 80th birthday was celebrated all weekend – waving like it was the happiest day of her life. There was a float with the Homecoming Kings and Queens – seeming to have fun and waving like royalty. DSCF7544There were some more convertibles with school Hall of Famers. But, best for me, was seeing my VW – sparkling clean after I had given it a much needed inside and outside cleaning – driving in the parade. Dan was behind the wheel. The President of the school and his wife were in the back. Great stuff!

Lobster Rolls – Dan came home from the store a few nights ago and told me that there is a lobster sale at our grocery store all month long. “I think I am going to make lobster rolls.” Mmmmm! When Sam was in college, I had one of the best eating experiences of my life. We went to the Pearl Oyster Bar in Greenwich Village and had a lobster roll. It was packed with lobster and mayo and served in a grilled/buttered hot dog roll. Good grief, it was good! Since then, I am a fan of the simple, but delicious lobster roll. Dan was true to his word. On Wednesday he came home with some lobster tails that the grocery store steamed for him. He mixed the meat with mayo and a little onion. He buttered and toasted some hot dog rolls. They were wonderful. It is a pretty good October day when you can leave work and come home to your house in Kansas City, Missouri and feast on a freshly made lobster roll!

Neko Case on World Cafe – I know, I know! I’ve been talking about Neko Case a bunch lately, but there continues to be more to talk about! She appeared on David Dye’s World Cafe’s Podcast recently and I listened to it this week. Neko Case can sing AND talk. David started the interview by stating that Neko’s new album came out of some tough times that she was having after the death of her parents. He noted that many of the interviews after the release dealt with that experience and that he wanted to go in a different direction. Neko was happy about that, but she spent some time explaining that she was not averse to talking about it – depression/blues is a natural thing for people to go through when they have sad things that happen to them. She then started answering a number of random questions from David – books she likes, what about her house in the country she likes, how she deals with airports. The question that I most loved her response to was when he asked her what was the last thing that truly delighted her. She responded, “I gotta say, that that happens like every six minutes. I am pretty excitable. Like, I had those salty chocolatey almond things about ten minutes ago and I got to say, those were pretty epic.” That is my kind of girl! She also does acoustic versions of 4 songs from the new album that are sparkling too!

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Commemorative Stamps – This week we sent out a number of cards, and I loved putting on the stamps. In general, I am trying to send more notes through the mail. Something that makes mailing anything happier is the opportunity to use one of the many beautiful and fun commemorative stamps that the postal service offers. On our last trip to the post office, we discovered the Lady Bird Johnson stamps. The stamps are in honor of the one hundredth anniversary of her birth and they recreate five of the stamps issued in the 1960s to promote her Plant for a Beautiful America campaign. They are so pretty. I also have some postcard stamps that have different Hawaiian shirts. There is a “Made in America” series that feature early twentieth century photographs of laborers at work. I have Rosa Parks and Johnny Cash to gussy up envelopes. Going into a post office and buying stamps and not asking for commemoratives is a missed opportunity.

I hope you had a week where you can look back and recollect some of the good things. Please share one if you would like!

Last Week’s Good Things

diaryThis week saw very summery days turn quite fall-like. That was a good thing, indeed. Here are some other good things from the week that was.

1. Tamara Shopsin’s 5 Year Diary – I am admittedly a sucker for journals. In the past, I made journals. It was a hobby that I really liked, and I became pretty good at. More recently, I have bought the journals that I have used. I really love the Decomposition Book Composition Books that are produced by Michael Roger. I have two of these going at the moment – one as a catchall weekly “logbook” and one for my work to-do list/miscellaneous keeper. I got something new this week, that I am very happy with. Tamara Shopsin has created a grown-up five-year diary and, as of this week, I have me one.  Tamara Shopsin is a great artist and author. I am not sure of what prompted her to create this product, but I adore it! it has a simple, beautiful design, that I love. Every day now, I fill in 6 or fewer lines of something that was memorable/recordable from the day before. You can start anywhere, anytime. It is another way for me to be mindful of my day to day. diary1

2. In A World – Yesterday afternoon I went to see Lake Bell’s movie “In A World.” It had been a few months since I have been in a movie theater, and it was good to be back! This is being shown at the Leawood Theater which is a pretty neat old-school large format theater. In A World is the story of a young woman who is trying to break into the voiceover business. Her dad is one of the industry’s best, and he seems destined to become the next person to be voicing the iconic “In a World…” tagline in movie trailers. Of course, nothing goes as  planned. It is a fun, quirky movie and Lake Bell is fun to watch and listen to. Charming Rob Cordray and Demitri Martin also are in the cast, although the Cordray story line is a little odd/out of place. Amidst a fun film, there is a message about women’s voices that I found on point.

3. Neko Case’s The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You – When I put together my best music of the year list in December, it is going to include lots of women.  I am gearing up to write a separate post about what a good year for female artists this has been, but I need to note separately what a good thing it has been to listen to Neko Case‘s new album this week. She possesses a wonder of a voice, and she combines that voice with crazy good songs on this album. There are themes of loss and gender and parenting. There is imagery like no one’s business. My favorite:

Last night late I was watching it snow

It always goes sideways in the city

It comes right out of the streetlights, you know

Pumped out by an engine deep inside the earth’s core neko-case-the-worse-things-get

4. Comments from Important People Who Have Read Pieces of My Book – I continue to plug away on the book that I am still writing. People ask me if it is still fun, and I truthfully tell them that it really is. I like putting the pieces together. I am enjoying more the trying to fill in the blanks, although this is challenging to me. I am also working on writing more of a story and less of a thesis. This past week I got feedback from a great friend who read a chapter and had complimentary words. As importantly, he is also going to give me some critical feedback. When you look at words over and over you begin to doubt whether they even make sense. Getting some encouragement and suggestions means a great deal. The other note I got this week was from a family member of one of the main characters in my book. I opened his email this week when I woke up and started my day with some tears in my eyes. His note meant the world to me, and the spirit of it is the true reason that the book is still fun.  This story has been a gift that I have been given, and it is my charge to see it through.

5. Grocery shopping on A Friday morning – When I stayed home with the kids, we would almost always do our grocery shopping midweek and in the morning. I like to get my things accomplished early. On Friday, I took my car in for a repair. By 8:30 I was out of there and set to go home. I decided, however, that since there was a grocery store right near the dealership, I would stop in for some groceries. I don’t know if it was because it was the start of a new day, or because it was Friday, or because the Chiefs won their game last Sunday, or if it is always that way, but it was just such a friendly, happy experience. The produce guys were laughing and greeting as they restocked colorful vegetables. The woman at the meat counter was cheerful. The deli lady laughed at herself for talking to the plastic bag that wouldn’t cooperate. All through the store there were friendly, helpful staff, and seemingly happy customers. My check out person was the express line guy who called me over to his line. He talked to me about their rewards program, how he likes to pay inside at gas stations, and about something that happened with his son – all while efficiently checking my groceries out. Friday morning grocery shopping is the best!

Tell me something that was good from your week.