8 Albums That Shaped My 2016...

I'll be the first to admit that I am not a huge fan of end-of the-year lists. I often find them long, opinionated, and tiresome. All that said, don't think of this as my list or a ranking of records in 2016, but rather as a post highlighting a few albums that came out this year at just the moment I needed.

In truth, these 8 albums (along with a few other single tunes) have been the soundtrack to my life for the last 12 months. They've provided me with the melodies I needed to get through a year that, if I'm honest with myself, has been a bit of a struggle on many fronts. Each of these artists have played my heartstrings in their own way, some more than others. I've listed the albums below, not in any sort of ranking order, but rather in the order I first heard them. 

Courtney Marie Andrews - Honest Life: I first heard Rookie Dreaming in the early months of this year via a pal of mine. This tune hit me. Hard. Courtney is the type of songwriter that makes me want to be a better songwriter. Her lyrics are thoughtful and genuine. I traveled down to Seattle in early May to see her play. Our paths crossed again in September when by happenstance we were playing neighboring venues in Bellingham. Her band of fellas are some of the nicest, wittiest folks I've ever met. Good people making great music; that's pretty much the dream. This album is gold. Favorite tune: Table for One

Margaret Glaspy - Emotions and Math: This little lady came across my radar early this year with the release of her single "Somebody to Anybody." Her full length album "Emotions and Math" was released by ATO records in June. I took my parents to see her in May when she made a visit to Vancouver. My mom and I met her for a quick hello after her set and co-purchased her vinyl (I gave her $5 Canadian dollars and my mom the remaining $5 in USD - thanks again for spotting me, Mom. I still owe ya'). Her growl is like none other and her songs cut straight to the point. As a writer, it's an album I can listen to again and again. Favorite tune: Black is Blue

Logan Vath - In the Presence of the Kingdom: I don't even know where to begin with this fella. After years of musical interweb back-and-forths, our real-life paths finally crossed earlier this year when I was on tour in Virginia. I first heard the entirety of his EP a few months before its release. Logan's songs are heartbreaking in the best way possible. His writing comes across as intentional and experienced. In terms of shaping my 2016 this one has done so. I think my sister Taylor's description of him is my favorite I've heard so far, "He has such a calming and soothing voice. Like a cloud or a fluffy bean bag chair." He's well worth the listen. Favorite tune: The Candidate 

Joe Purdy - Who Will Be Next?: I spent a few good weeks in early June really soaking this one in. It can be real political and preachy at times, but overall it makes me smile a little smirk each time I hear it. His voice is steady and that Rhodes piano playing throughout brings a certain feeling of warmth to my soul. Favorite tune: Kristine

Gregory Alan Isakov - Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony: I've been finding comfort in the music of Gregory Alan Isakov for years and years now, however this past January his tunes were there for me when I needed them the most. His was one of the first shows I attended when I moved to Vancouver in 2013. In early August of this year, in a little venue in Washington State, I stood alone amongst the crowd quietly reflecting on all that had occurred since moving to Canada. The highs; the lows; the growth; and the changes. Every last one of my heartstrings was pulled that night. Before I left, I purchased all 4 of his albums on vinyl - the Colorado Symphony one included. This album has been monumental in helping me come to terms with the fact that I am now the sole owner of a record player. Favorite tune: Amsterdam She'll follow me down any street no matter what my crime.

Hiss Golden Messenger - Heart Like a Levee: This album was a much needed late-in-the-year boost. I'm not sure how I would describe this one other than simply great. I find that I don't consciously know all of the lyrics to the tunes, yet I can sing along to each song word for word. My introduction to this was on a 10 mile run in which I downloaded it on my Spotify and set out on my route. I was instantly captivated and lost in the music. This is one of my favorite discoveries of the year. I missed him when he played in Vancouver in October, but he's high on my radar for next year. Favorite tune: Highland Grace

John Moreland - High on Tulsa Heat: I truly am a sucker for the sad ones. John Moreland is the type of storyteller that breaks my heart yet keeps me coming back for more. I honestly haven't given this entire album a fair listen as there are a certain few songs I find myself playing on repeat. Thank the Lord I didn't find him until the late months of 2016. I was far too much of a mess to be able to handle the depth of heartache in his writing any earlier in the year. He's a comforting sorrow, a gentle giant, and a man that I am going to be keeping an eye on for years to come. Favorite tune: You Don't Care For Me Enough to Cry

Dori Freeman - Dori Freeman: This little lady just barely sneaked in on my list. I was driving back from Seattle after a weekend of seeing Courtney Marie Andrews play, when an unfamiliar voice began to fill my car. There are some songs that when you first hear you can't let go of until you know the name of the person singing. One of my favorite things about this album is that I've only given it a cursory listen, but am already loving it. I still have time to get cozy with it, but from what I've heard so far I have a feeling I'll have no trouble at all doing just that. Favorite tune: You Say

And there ya' have it. Though there are a slew of other wonderful tunes that came out this year, I found that each of the 8 artists above have all deeply resonated with me in their own way. 

Here's to all of the new music 2017 will bring.


35 Years: A Post About Marriage...

As a blogger... No. As a human, I believe that you should talk about what you know and listen to others with more knowledge than you to learn about the things that you know little about. Quite frankly I know exceptionally little about marriage. Everything I have garnered on the subject comes from that of what I've learned from watching my parents, my sister, and my dear friends as they navigate through their own personal ups and downs of matrimony. I am about as far as far can get from an expert on the subject. I guess that would make me a novice. Or not even a novice. I'm more along the lines of a bystander, a witness, a cheerleader and encourager to my friends and loved ones who have made that lifelong commitment to another person. 

Today, my parents celebrate 35 years of marriage. 35 years. That is a number I've been dwelling on all day and can hardly wrap my head around. I know it hasn't always been easy for the two them, but through good days and bad, sunshine and hurricanes (litereally hurricanes) I've watched in admiration as they stand by one another's side and journey through life together. And I realize that in this day and age they are the exception. And I am the exception for getting to witness and be raised by the two of them. It's something that with each passing year I realize more and more the profound impact their relationship with one another has had on me. And for that I am immensely thankful.

This morning I messaged both my dad and mom asking what advice they would give to folks hoping to one day be married as long as they have. My dad replied by saying:

Be friends first. Know when to keep your mouth shut and listen. Say what you really feel and keep trying new things. Good children help.

My mother's response echoed his reply:

Don't just listen to your loved one, really hear them. Compromise is a good thing. Making each other laugh is what makes you close and appreciate your best friend.

Now I'm in no place to even fathom marriage at the moment, but I do like to think that I will carry these tidbits of advice with me until a time comes that I can put them to use. Until then I will continue to applaud and admire my parents as they continue onward together.

An ever-changing journey. A lifelong commitment.

A feat I can only one day hope to aspire to. 

Happy Anniversary, you two. 

ps: My folks have expressed to me on multiple occasions their love for the song below. I'll take any excuse to share a song by Dave.


Happy Thanksgiving...

Last night I was messaging with friends and discovered a none-too-surprising shared sentiment for Thanksgiving. It's hands down the greatest of holidays. It's good food and good wine and quality time spent with family and friends. Most importantly, it's a day to step back and give thanks for the big things as well as the day to day minutiae that we all too often take for granted.  

I had an early Thanksgiving celebration on Saturday surrounded by friends and loved ones here in Vancouver. It was inspiring to be around and have my little Kitsilano apartment packed full of ambitious, motivated, and intelligent folks each supporting the other while working toward their own goals. It was simply lovely. Note: these Canucks celebrate their day of thanks in October, so today is actually a work day here for me. Sacrilege. I know. I would love nothing more than to be at my parents bay house enjoying lunch with my brother and sisters in Florida. However, I must say that I am truly thankful to have cultivated such a loving family of friends both near and far. I can't say it enough. I am so very thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.

ps: I recently stumbled across and have been enjoying the music of this man. Welcome to the blog, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors.


Today I Turn 29...

It's hard to believe it is November 14th already. It's amazing how my last birthday feels like yesterday and forever ago all at the same time. On this day last year I was driving down forest service roads criss-crossing Northwest Florida crewing a loved one as he worked towards completing a 100 mile trail run. He won. We won. It was a shared victory and a wonderful and exciting way to spend my 28th birthday. This year as I sit in my apartment on a Monday morning in Vancouver and stare out at the gray rainy skies, I can't help but look back and reflect on all that has happened over the past year. Twenty-eight was a year of growth and change - some of it easy, some of it extremely difficult. I've always thought of birthdays as a personal New Years, and as with any approaching year, I'm excited to see what all this next one will bring. 

That said, looking back and re-reading my thoughts on the day I turned 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, and 28, I began to notice a pattern. I tend to approach each year with a very sit-back-and-see-what-happens mentality. This isn't necessarily a bad way to be, however this year I've decided to take a more proactive stance as there are so many big things I want to accomplish in this last year of my third decade. Not all of them are easy, but each of them holds a significant meaning to me. So without further ado, here is my short (not-all-encompassing) list of goals for this 29th year of my life:

  • Complete a 50k. After years of crewing friends and loved ones on these epic journeys, it was only a matter of time before I got serious and decided to take on an ultra myself. I guess now is as good a time as any to get it done. I signed up. I have my 16 week training schedule. Now all that is left to do is run. March 25th is my date. Richland, Washington, here I come!
  • Start work on another album. I realize it's been less than two months since "Virginia" was released, but in the 3 years since those songs were recorded, I've written nearly a hundred other tunes that I want to sort through and start laying down. I don't want to rush to put out another album just yet, rather I want to start working towards making the next one happen. With your help, I know it can be done. I'll have much more on this (and how you can help in the process) soon, I promise!
  • Publish 3 scientific papers. 3 is the magic number I need in order to finish my PhD. I'm currently working on 2 papers now and I hope to have those submitted in the coming months. After that, I can focus on the final chapter of my dissertation. It's been a long time coming, but 29 is the year to put my head down and stay focused on finishing this degree. I've heard from so many that there is light at the end of the tunnel and I think I'm slowly starting to see it!

I must selfishly admit that I say all of these things not for you, but for myself. I'm a firm believer that when you write your goals down, say them out loud, and tell others, it gives a sense of accountability to get them done (and Lord knows I'm gonna need that in order to accomplish any of this).

I recently asked someone who was once very close to me for advice about how to train for a 50k. His response was incredibly insightful and something I plan to apply to all of the goals I've set out above. He told me, "Just be committed to it, it's mostly mental.

These words struck a chord with me. I'm not really one for mantras, but if ever I was to have one for the upcoming year, this may be it. Twenty-nine, I'm determined to make you a year of staying committed to what it is I want to accomplish. I'm determined to make you a year of getting past my own thoughts that all too often hold me back. Twenty-nine, I'm determined to make you a year of fearlessly dreaming big and doing everything I can to make those dreams a reality.

Now, if you'll excuse me I have to go call Mema and wish her a happy birthday. She's always been my most favorite of birthday buddies. I'm so thankful I get to share this day with her.

Here's to a year of staying committed to what I set out to do! Happy Monday, y'all!

ps: I've known for some time now the tune I wanted to post on this day. The National consistently brings me joy. You know I dreamed about you, for 29 years before I saw you. You know I dreamed about you, I missed you for 29 years...


Hot Tea and Sweater Weather: A Rainy Day Musical Guide...

It's November and the gray rainy skies have already moved in and enveloped the Pacific Northwest creating a moody atmosphere that can only be described as "hot tea and sweater weather." As a true sun-loving southerner I'm the first to say that this is my least favorite of seasons. As I approach my 4th winter in Canada, I'm beginning to feel that rainy, gray winters are something I will never fully get use to. 

I know this blog has fallen into a state of neglect over the past few years, but a recent last minute border-hopping adventure to Seattle reminded me of my love for sharing music with others. As I spent the hours in the car to Washington having solo sing-along battles with the radio, my "Hot Tea and Sweater Weather" playlist began to create itself. It's been a while since I've shared, but here's a glimpse into the folks that have been playing in my head as of late (note: the Spotify playlist link can be found below):

  1. Hiss Golden Messenger: Highland Grace - This album has been on repeat for weeks now. I can't put my finger on it, but there's just something about this song. 
  2. Ryan Adams: When the Stars Go Blue - No matter how many times I hear this tune my heart still flutters a little. Julianna Raye's harmonies are perfectly haunting.
  3. Dori Freeman: You Say - Now I'm telling you I love ya gotta have ya just to breathe, and I need no reminder you don't feel the same for me. This is one little beauty to keep an eye on. 
  4. Sylvan Esso: Coffee - This one just makes me happy. It's that simple. And let's face it, if I'm gonna make it through another Canadian winter, Lord knows a little happy never hurt.
  5. Lori McKenna: Wreck You - I don't know how to pull you back, I don't know how to pull you close, all I know is how to wreck you... Oh dear Lori you're singing to a girl's heart.
  6. Cass McCombs: Meet Me Here at Dawn - It's as if all of the crisp air, snuggly, sweater-weather feels are distilled into this tune. It's had me swooning for years.
  7. Mipso: Marianne - These North Carolina kids deserve some love. Americana and innocence.
  8. The Felice Brothers: Whiskey in My Whiskey - I saw these guys play a few weeks back and my goodness did that show make me smile. A bit rough and drunk around the edges; my kind of fellas...
  9. John Moreland: You Don't Care For Me Enough to Cry - The words of this man cut deep. Sheesh, he's a gem.
  10. Courtney Marie Andrews: Table for One - Courtney's new album "Honest Life" played on repeat in my apartment for weeks after it came out. It's an added bonus that the folks in her band are so rad.
  11. Margaret Glaspy: Black is Blue - My parents and I saw this little lady back in May. Emotions and Math may be one of my favorite records of 2016. 
  12. Lake Street Dive: Mistakes - Fellow Berklee classmates to Margaret Glaspy, Lake Street Dive's newest album "Side Pony" came out earlier this year. Honestly, I haven't given it the time it deserves, but this song drew me in from the get-go.
  13. Margo Price: Hurtin' on the Bottle - I saw Margo and her all-star band a few weeks ago at a little venue in East Van. Her voice is pure country goodness. 
  14. Laura Marling: Pray For Me - She just goes so well with a cup of hot tea.
  15. St. Paul and the Broken Bones: Burning Rome - It's as if the magic of Muscle Shoals was wrapped in a brown paper package all tied up with string and delivered first class to my apartment in Canada. I would buy this vinyl solely to hear my record player crackle to life with this tune.
  16. Jason Isbell: Cover Me Up - This is a go-to Jason Isbell tune. A go-to because it's simply perfect.
  17. Jasper Sloan Yip: Love and All Its Opposites - I've a confession to make: I have randomly burst into tears while driving in my car listening to this song on repeat... Phew, that's off my chest. And now that you think I'm a total emotional basket-case, you can choose to proceed as you wish. Jasper, you and your music are lovely, my friend.
  18. Ray LaMontagne: Shelter - This song is the holy grail of cozy sheet-fort making nights spent at home with candles lit. "Trouble" may be one of my very favorite albums, period. Or at least it's pretty high up there on the list.
  19. Noah Gundersen: Poor Man's Son - I saw this fella play in a cathedral in Seattle this past weekend. It was a interesting show. A 1000 person audience silent as mice. He certainly has cultivated something special. 
  20. David Ramirez: A Rock and a Hard Place - As the hours of daylight grow shorter and shorter, this is one artist I'm looking forward to exploring more of this season.
  21. Corb Lund:Five Dollar Bill - I've been listening to this fellas ever since the December I spent recording my first album in Vancouver. He's the modern-day Canadian version of Roger Miller. It's folks like Corb Lund that warmed me up to Canada.
  22. First Aid Kit: America - I absolutely love this Simon and Garfunkel song and these two Swedes recreate it so beautifully. 
  23. Shovels and Rope: The Devil is All Around - This husband and wife duo are living the dream; touring the country and spreading joy making music with the one you love. Ain't that the dream, indeed.
  24. Breathe Owl Breathe: Dragon - This song's been making me smile for months. It's included primarily to act as a little sunburst to pull me through till the next Spring. 
  25. Andrew Bird: Left Handed Kisses - I never thought I'd see these two together, but I adore Fiona Apple with this man. 
  26. Josh Garrels: Million Miles - This is another one of those songs that has been a staple cold-weather tune. It's as if it blows in each year with the crisp fall air. 
  27. Gregory Alan Isakov: The Empty Northern Hemisphere - I started off the year going on long solo seawall walks to this one. Now when I hear it, it fills me with a strange sense of peace shrouded in a twinge of uncertainty.
  28. Joshua James: Queen of the City - This song was on repeat in the car as I criss-crossed the county during my trip to Florida a few weeks back. Now it will forever remind me of sunshine and warmer weather. I have a feeling I'm gonna rely heavily on this tune to get through the next few months.

I'll leave you for now with these twenty-eight tunes as I slowly and reluctantly begin to embrace the moody weather of the Pacific Northwest. Twenty-eight? Yes, twenty-eight. I have another week of basking in this number and I plan to make the most of it.

I do hope you enjoy.