Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Best of 2017

"Give me the deeper understanding of who I am..." is a quick snippet of lyric I've found myself returning to on a near-daily basis in 2017. This is taken from one of my favorite songs/albums of the year and gives way to the title of said album (The War On Drugs - A Deeper Understanding). Personally speaking, if this year has brought anything overtly positive, I would have to say: I'm healthy, I'm surrounded by family and friends, and I have the ability to create my own happiness (which is typically through music, surf, travel (van!), art, and food).

But, like many, I feel endlessly helpless and frustrated by an increasingly difficult American landscape. One that feels foreign, bitter, and unjust to me. The bottom seemingly continues to drop.

I certainly have no prescription to remedy the situation, and quite frankly, have wrestled with this damn end-of-year essay for some time now; but I think an upper hand lies in the desire and drive to control what you can. Because if we've learned ANYTHING at all this year, it's that life is full of uncontrollable factors. As I write, my beloved Southern California is reeling from devastating wildfires. Neighbors, firefighters (heroes), plants, animals, and property are at the mercy of a force greater than the sum of their parts. For me, that example emphasizes the fact that I don't know if everything will be ok or work out, but in the meantime, I'm going to at least try to set sail in a direction of my choosing.

English poet John Milton said, "He who reigns within himself, and rules passions, desires, and fears, is more than a king." Easier said than done, but I think it's well within reason to own your own reality. And, who knows, maybe if we all shine our personal light a little brighter, we'll begin to understand each other a little bit better. Especially if we take the first step and truly understand ourselves.

With the preamble out of the way, let me pontificate for a moment on the fantastic year that was music. We heard from artists we haven't seen in quite awhile (Slowdive, Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, LCD Soundsystem, Broken Social Scene), we also embraced younger artists exploring rich new territory (King Krule, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Julie Byrne, Vince Staples). It was a banner year for tunes and my list was rather hard to whittle down, but I managed ;)

I hope you and yours find a slice of peace & joy this holiday season. Thank you for enriching my life over the years. As always, please send along your favorites of the year, I would love to see/hear what you've been up to. All the best in 2018.



Top 10 Songs of 2017
(counting down 10 to 1)

Best Albums of 2017

*This is a meditative, Sunday morning album, if there ever was one*

*A study in past, present, and future hiphop. What a legend*

*The OOZ is a world unto itself. I recommend getting lost in it after some late night revelry*

*An album born of an artist who is both worth admiring and embracing as a new generational voice progressing an age-old art*

*Morby pens an enjoyable ode to city life and its energetic power*

*This is a prescient album that encapsulates the current American landscape through thoughtful songwriting and wry humor*

*A lush and ornate album with relatable themes from the masters of sophisticated indierock*

*This album ran up my list as the months wore on. Unfurls like an epic and takes some studying to fully grasp*

*On this record, you’ll hear expansive, hook-laden ‘American rock & roll.’ It sounds of a timeless era and the plaudits you’ve probably heard are accurate. Any other year, I'd bet 20 bucks it would be my #1*

*A cascading, dreamscape of an album. All the more impressive given their 20+ year break. They created the mold for artists like Beach House, Deerhunter and others. This is how it's done to perfection*

Honorable mentions:

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Falling Forward (an autumnal playlist)

Dusting off this old thing with some clean and crisp tunes for the beautiful season.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Best of 2016

Fresh off the warm holiday glow, 2016 started out like all years. That is to say, it was there for the taking; fresh, ripe and full of the optimism all new calendar years bring. Then David Bowie died, Earth shifted off its axis and we haven’t recovered since.
Hyperbolic much? Of course and I am grateful for many things this year, but if the loss of this iconic, beloved artist wasn't an omen for the unrest, confusion, terror and general out of control orbit-spin to come, then I don't know what could have prepared us for such a topsy-turvy 12 months.
While I won't dwell here on politics and musings about divides and frustrations. I will point out that many of the year’s best releases did the talking. General paranoia and climate change panic (see: Radiohead), black identity in America (see: Beyoncé, Blood Orange, Solange, Frank Ocean etc), the difficulties and joys of pursuing work as an independent artist (see: Hiss Golden Messenger, Chance The Rapper, Car Seat Headrest) and reactions to gun violence (see: Kevin Morby’s single Beautiful Strangers, A Tribe Called Quest reuniting in response to the Paris attacks).
Amongst the multitude of beloved artists we lost in 2016, one can deduce that the arts are alive and well; and I’m bullish on that trend in 2017. Unfortunately from my vantage point – I predict many of the problems we faced in 2016 to only grow deeper and more profound. If there’s any silver lining, history has taught us that those creators we revere the most will only work harder to push their worldviews on matters at hand.
I’m also bullish on the opportunity ahead to distribute equal worth of productivity and proactivity. If ever there was a time to feel, see and realize your effect on your community and surroundings, next year seems poised to be the one to do so.
In the waning days of 2016, I had the great pleasure of seeing Henry Rollins deliver a 2.5 hour ‘sermon’ to a small audience in Los Angeles. His talents are innumerable but one great takeaway was his penchant for motivation. Rollins didn’t talk down to us as a troubled society, but spoke of our great responsibility to uphold our ‘very generous’ freedoms... to share our opinions and knowledge if someone seeks it and to lend a helping hand in our communities. Just a couple examples of the basic rights, privileges and charges we’re afforded simply by living in America.
I came across a Ralph Waldo Emmerson quote that packed in all of these feelings far more eloquently than I could begin to do:
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
I take a bit of exception with this - as I believe it’s important to live as charmed a life as personally attainable and that happiness is essential, but I gravitated to his notion of being useful. In the current state of things - I truly think we’ll need to completely break, to become fixed again. Everyone will need to be at the ready to help with the rebuild.
In 2017 - I pledge to be useful, peaceful and a difference maker. Just like many of the artists that inspire us day-to-day.
Happy holidays to you and yours. Below you’ll find my favorite songs and albums of 2016.

Top 10 Songs of 2016
(counting down 10 to 1)

Best Albums of 2016

Essential Bonus

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Autumnal Equimix - 2016

Find a view...pop a top...enjoy.

The loveliest season is back.



Friday, July 1, 2016

Rosé Can You See (a playlist for summer)

Bringin you the heat!




Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Daylight Cravings (a playlist for spring)

Roll this one top to bottom for those clear sky afternoons and open road adventures.

Enjoy the Springtime.



Thursday, December 10, 2015

Best of 2015

With 2015 winding down on, let’s say, less than firm footing - I find it fitting that (for me anyway) the best album of 2015 is arguably the most difficult listen of the year (and probably many more beyond that).

Following the loss of his estranged mother, Sufjan Stevens wrote an album that is heartbreaking, reflective, bleak and well, poignantly beautiful. All the feels, as the kids say on whatever form of non face-to-face communication is on trend these days.

From reflections on a relationship that hardly existed, to being by her side as she drew her last breathe...Sufjan took us down his path of mourning and living the heaviest of heavy. All the while managing to turn his situation into hushed, melodic phrases and harmonies that are somehow enjoyable enough to sing along to. For me though - aside from loving the music - a deeper prophecy revealed itself, which is: deep down inside - we are wired to comprehend such oppressive things.

Last spring I had the pleasure of being able to see Sufjan perform this album in an ornate concert hall in downtown Los Angeles. I was amazed at the poise and energy he was able to conjure up for the performance. He professed his deepest pain to an ever-still and reverent audience; as if he were presiding over a sermon or reading from his journal. It felt like we were being let into a private conversation...only one that was all too familiar or one we’ve had before.

How could he do this night after night, I wondered?

I suppose my best guess would be so he could feel some sense of peace and understanding.

Now, I think that’s where this wiring business comes into play. I believe those are the two most prominent emotions missing when something goes awry but our inner compass does its best job to right the ship.

Regardless of his intention - I find an obvious through line to the current unsettling nature of things. Unfortunately our daily routines are being shaken and intruded upon, leaving us searching for those two said emotions.

What can we do until there’s a restored order of things, I wonder?

Well, surely there are joys we can participate in...whether it be reading a book, watching the sunset, surfing a wave, getting lost in a piece of art or even listening to the melodic heartbreak of another man’s tribulation. Engaging in pursuits that elicit new experiences and knowledge will naturally lead us to - yep, you guessed it - peace and understanding.

With Carrie & Lowell dominating my ears over the past year and of course the tragic world events that took place in Paris, San Bernardino and beyond...one thing has never been more certain to me: life is a precious, beautiful thing that we - sort of - rent (not too unlike that car from Hertz you drive around on vacation).

Sounds silly, but I’ll stay with that grotesque analogy. It seems ever more important to put some miles on this life, get it dusty and when the journey is over return it in a condition you can be proud of… or something?

I recently read a story about two cousins who lost their lives while attending the Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan. These guys sounded awesome. Skilled chefs, musicians and devoted fans of the bands they loved. They were always surrounded by a tight-knit group of friends and family at a restaurant where they worked. They were by all accounts, full of enthusiasm.

I’m heartbroken by their ending but I feel a strange sense of calm after learning they lived a life continually doing the things that made them happy. “Rock!” Was the caption to a picture taken by one of them that horrible night. For me, it’s now an honor to do so with that story in mind.

Furthering that account - I was touched by an interview featuring the band that simply played rock & roll for those wanting to enjoy a night out at a club (not dissimilar to countless evenings you or I had this past year).

How could that band ever perform again, I wondered?

Jesse Hughes (co-founder) proclaimed quite simply: because we have to. For the fans, for their own livelihood, for a semblance of normalcy. Just another example of incredible human spirit that switches on in the face of extreme circumstances.

If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that beauty can be found in almost all things.

But no matter how many ups and down, I guess I’ll always wonder how life can be equal parts profound and punishing.

I hope you’ll shine bright this holiday season and that you and yours will find peace and understanding in all that you do in 2016.

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”

~ Ernest Hemingway



Top 10 Songs of 2015
(counting down to 1)

Best Albums of 2015

10) Little Wings - Explains

9) Tobias Jesso Jr. - Goon

8) My Morning Jacket - The Waterfall

7) Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

6) Jamie xx - In Colour

5) Deerhunter - Fading Frontier

4) Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear

3) Tame Impala - Currents

2) Kurt Vile - b'lieve i'm goin down...

1) Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell

Honorable Mentions

Natalie Prass - Natalie Prass
Wilco - Star Wars
Martin Courtney - Many Moons
Jack and Eliza - Gentle Warnings
Ducktails - St. Catherine
Destroyer - Poison Season
Phil Cook - Southland Mission


Missed this record from 2014...LOVE

Hamilton Leithauser - Black Hours