Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Struggle leads to Grace

Songs for these times.
I heard a couple songs about these times we're living in, and this one seemed to be the most perceptive and realistic. The song talks about not being able to pay the bills, but realizing that beauty lies in terrible times. I think there is a strange almost fatal optimism that is abound with Obama's inauguration, but it feels so good---and she's right, struggle does lead to grace.

struggle leads to grace Rachel Griffin

Even in the most most horrific times, the most disparaging things that we have to overcome can and often do lead us to grace. Sometimes we don't even realize the grace because we are buried in doubt.

The economy is bad, people are losing jobs, depression is looming but in a strange way, we have set the stage for beautiful things to happen.

Here is another interesting video about these times. The song is catchy, but the video is pretty touching, its based on Gandhi's quote, "Be the Change you Hope to see in the World"

One more video that to me speaks volumes is this one. Its a multinational music project. Its uplifting and inspiring. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Best Albums of 2008

I have wanted to do this for awhile, as the budding music critic inside of me is always trying to get out. My dad told me my grammar was bad in the last entry so I'll try my best to write well on this one.

All of the major publishers and media outlets get to publish their best-of lists, so I thought I would publish mine. I have included links to the artist Myspace page so that you can check out their music. They are in no particular order:

Ben Sollee-- Learning to Bend
I only recently discovered this album while listening to NPR. It turns out that he is a member of the Abigail Washburn sparrow Quartet, who plays with Bela Fleck. He is an incredible cellist, but he has found a way to bridge the classical roots of the cello with with a soulful sound of Motown with a little pop sensibility. He has an incredible updated version of Sam Cooke's "A little change in gonna come" and he has a beautiful plea to the new president, "A few Honest words." This is the kind of music we should all be hearing.

Bon Iver-- For Emma, Forever Ago
Absolutely the most beautiful piece of music that I have experienced (again and again) in years. The entire album was written in a cabin in northern Wisconsin after a bitter breakup. The lead singer, Justin Vernon has an impossible falsetto that is nothing more than gorgeous. I highly recommend listening to this album in the middle of the winter with a cool breeze on your shoulder on a park bench with good headphones. The melodies of anger and recovery will most definitely sweep you away. I also recommend checking out their house concert on the Take away shows website. The band plays a house concert then walks through the streets of Paris playing their music. This album has made 2008 bearable.

Dr Dog--Fate
This album speaks to a side of me that I don't often access--my 70's psychedelic rock side. This is an upbeat, fun album that sings. I learned of Dr. Dog on one of my favorite websites, The person writing about it said that he just can't seem to remove the cd from his Cd player, its infectious. The band brings up hints of the Beatles, but not too much. It has a modern/classic rock feel throughout. I've had it playing on my ipod continuously for the last few months.

Blind Pilot-- Three Rounds and a Sound

One of the editors for mentioned this as one of her favorite albums of 2008. I had never heard it, but after downloading it I cant seem to get enough. They play an acoustic rock with many beautiful harmonies. They have become my new Bon Iver (mentioned above) although they are a little more upbeat. After I realized how much I like them, I started to research them and found out that their west coast tour was done completely on bicycle from Washington to San Diego. With this news, of course they earned a place in my heart.

Esperanza Spalding-- Esperanza
This artist is slightly different from my other picks, but I think she is equally amazing. She is a contemporary jazz artist from Portland, who sings in English, Portuguese, and Spanish. She has a beautiful voice and creates accessible music that plays perfectly with a glass of wine in the evening. I think that she will soon be on the forefront of the contemporary jazz scene.

Okkerville River-- The Stand Ins
These guys have sort of become the media darlings of indie music, but their recognition is much deserved. They are an acoustic but rockin' band from Austin who just released the second installment of their thematic albums. Their first album was about being a star from the musicians point of view and this album speaks from the fan point of view--absolute brilliance for all you budding English majors out there. "Lost Coastlines" has the buildup and execution of a perfect rock song. After hearing it once, you'll swear you've heard it before. All together the music is fun and provocative at the same time.

The Bowerbirds--Hyms for a dark Horse
I'm not sure how I discovered this album, in fact I'm not even sure it was released in 2008, but it has really resonated through the year. Their music is somewhere between folk, Americana, and traditional eastern European dance music. Their instruments consist of an acoustic guitar, a violin, and an accordion (which is making a comeback by the way). I could picture them playing at the new anarchist cafe in Santa Cruz or at a private small venue in San Francisco. Their music is artistic yet accessible. It also has all of these wonderful nature and bird references which kind of makes me giddy.

Notable mention: Girl Talk, Shearwater, Vetiver, and Frightened rabbit.

I love music and hope that my favorites give you some insight into some of the new music that has tickled my soul this last year.

Feel free to comment about what your favorites were, or about your thoughts on some of these albums.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Green Tea and winter journeys

For Vacation last week, Meghan and I road-tripped up to Oregon (California's Canada). We decided this after many people said it wasn't a good idea, because of the weather--but it turned out to be a beautiful trip.

We drove from Santa Cruz to Eugene, which was cool but kinda dead becuase students were out of town. We then crossed the mountains from Eugene to Bend with Greg Brown singing, "Sometimes you gotta leave the I-5 and go not look for nothin'." We spent a few days in Bend, skiing, partying and soaking in the hot tub. It was a fun town. Then we crossed back over to Portland and got snowed on. Then we met up with our good friends in Portland and had a lovely 3 days with them, going to bookstores, drinking coffee, sightseeing, and of course drinking beer. Then we headed down through little Ashland and back to the Bay.

View Larger Map

Oregon was a festival of greenery. People were amazingly friendly, everything was moist with life--including Portland. We really enjoyed the city, the friends, the drinks and each other's company.

Winter is a beautiful time to see everything in a little bit different light.

I added a slideshow of the trip to the site, and here is a link to the web-album: