Sunday, January 31, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Music has meant so much to me but one of the things I love to do with music is to share the artists that I truly love. The first - pianist George Winston. Here's a quick description of his talents.
His melodic impressionistic style comprises much of his recorded output, choosing to record albums with specific themes and it is this genre, a cross between the range of traditional American folk music and the instrumental pop/R&B that he grew up with, that he calls rural folk piano. George also plays in two other styles that he has studied for many years, the earlier-mentioned stride and rhythm and blues piano.
If you want to know more about George, here is his Wikipedia Page.
I came across Winston when I was 11 years old. My mother was about to get remarried and she was looking for wedding songs to walk down the aisle to. My step dad brought home an album called "December" and put on a song called Variations on the Kanon by Pachelbel. They loved the song and chose it for their wedding the next summer.
It was in late fall/early winter when his notes first awoke something inside of me. It moved me. I remember that I took the tape of the album as soon as it was lying around, slapped it in my walkman, and listened to it for hours. I had never heard piano music played with such emotion. I literally have cried listening to that album for years since. It was the only lyric-less music that I enjoyed as a teenager.
Over the years, I've lost the album either in moves or people borrowing it and not returning it. I can honestly say I've purchased "December" on either tape of CD around 10 times. Thank god for IPods now and MP3s. Won't have to worry about that anymore.
If you haven't heard Variations before....here it is:
Christmas and George Winston are synonymous for me. Every year, I drive around, in what ever town I'm living in, listening to the entire album to check out the lights and festivities. "December" is one of the 10 most influential albums in my life. There are just so many memories attached to it.
It wasn't until I was in my mid 20's that I was informed that Variations was not unique to my mother and step-father's wedding. I was laughed at for believing that they were unique in that song's selection. Turns out, it's a rather popular track for weddings. It was good for a laugh for many days afterwards at my expense. It's ok though, it's still special to me and my family.
However, it didn't decrease my attachment to George's music once I learned of the popularity of the track. I've seen over 500 concerts in my life but I've never seen Winston perform. I really hope one day I get to see him play in person before he hangs it up. My Brother and Sister-in-Law bought me his box set this year for Christmas which is simply amazing.
Once again, Winston is associated with December 25th for me. I'm now addicted to the album "Plains". Not surprising, that's where I currently live.
So here's another track that I love by George. I hope you find him as wonderful as I do.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Sunday, January 24, 2010
They told us it was going to be different after it happened.
Champagne would dry. The Banners would be raised and get battered by the weather. And the T-shirt you ran out to buy would fade and get turned into a rag you used to wash your car.
“They” are people not from losing cities but rather ones who believe winning is a birthright.
The New Yorkers, Chicagoans, and Dallas-ites – people who expect their teams to raise the championship trophies cause they’ve seen tons of them. Confident fans that are used to parades and championship t-shirt buying trips to the mall.
Boston – we can now be grouped in the “they” category.
And it sucks sometimes, to realize that the hope of joining those winning cities, was in some ways better than actually becoming part of the club.
One of my friends is a Vikings fan and on Twitter he wrote about his nerves before today’s NFC Championship game between his Vikings and the New Orleans Saints. Minnesota has never won the Super Bowl. The city of Minneapolis hasn’t seen winning since the Kirby Puckett days with the Twins.
He’s pacing. He’s hoping. He’s dreaming what it would be like to see a title for the Vikes.
The city is hungry. Starving really, for a championship and today’s game might be the first time in a long time that every Vikings fan can taste the champagne of victory.
Back in 2004 when the Red Sox changed everything for me in the world of sports, I remember people saying “what would happen IF the Red Sox won it? Would Boston burn down? Would Red Sox baseball be better or worse?”
I didn’t care – I wanted to win damn it! I would tear up at the idea of seeing my beloved team do something that nobody had seen for nearly 90 years!
Let me tell you, winning is FAR better than losing but it can still feel awkward if you don’t grow up with it. It’s kind of like wearing a tuxedo for the first time in a long while – you know you are suppose to feel good in it and like the way you look but it takes some time getting used to.
The last out of that World Series against the Cardinals was a weird moment for me.
It seemed all too fake for me. Maybe it was cause I was in Alabama, maybe it was cause of the girl I was with - embraced me in a very uncomfortable, drunken hug or maybe it was cause I just couldn’t believe it was happening but I didn’t feel they way that I thought I should.
In a way, there was a touch of sadness in my heart as I screamed with joy.
A wise person once told me of my career, “Enjoy the ride, because going up is the most fun part. Once you get to the where you are headed, you’ll look back and realize the climbing up was more fun than the summit”.
And that’s how I feel about my fandom now.
It was the heartbreak that made it fun in a sick way. Bill Buckner’s ground ball gave me a memory, a moment captured for the rest of my life. Boone’s homer will forever be with me as a haunting image of my hatred of the Yankees. The Patriots SUCKED growing up. I still remember the Fridge crushing Tony Eason and Steve Grogan in the Super Bowl – our one cool season. The Celtics were great and I loved them but I never got attached to them.
The Red Sox had my heart.
I was there in 2007 on the field in Denver after the Red Sox won it again. It was euphoric to see my baseball idols up close and watch them celebrate. To shake Mike Lowell’s hand, to walk around with Curt Schilling and his wife, to see Theo Epstein raise the trophy – it will be one of my favorite memories ever.
Yet, even with that happening all around me, I thought about how long it would all last? The run can’t go on like this can it?
The Patriots started it in 2001 with the Super Bowl win in amazing fashion. I was in Tunica, Miss for the “Tuck Rule” moment. I was in Huntsville, Alabama for Adam’s kick. Then the Pats won 2 more. Then the Red Sox won 2 and then the Celtics won their 17th title.
Boston became title town USA and all of a sudden….it became routine.
Thus, this year when the Patriots got rocked by Baltimore in the first round of the playoffs after I watched, in person, Jonathan Papelbon blow Game 3 against the Angels to end the Red Sox season and the Celtics did nothing in the post season – I barely lost an wink of sleep over it.
I was numb. We had won so much that I wasn’t upset. I could look at my teams with realist eyes and say “we weren’t that good”. I was no longer lost in my fandom vision.
It was all too clear to me.
So, I’m pulling for the Vikings today. I’m pulling for my friend to get a chance to win a championship. I’m envious of those naïve emotions towards winning – that it makes all your fandom dreams come true.
It will in a way but the moment is fleeting. It doesn’t stay. There is next year for all those other teams who are trying to take what your team just accomplished away.
You climb the mountain and then you have to do it all over again.
And that advice rings true once again – going up is the best part.
Good Luck Minnesota!
PS: Cub fan: If the Cubs ever win the World Series - keep this blog post handy...you'll understand then :)
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Sunday, January 3, 2010
I often judge an album on staying power. Can I pick it up 4, 5, 8 years later and does it still move me?
Does it still have songs that are relevant and moving?
These are my favorite 10 of the MANY that came out over the past 10 years and made it into my collection.
10. Kate Nash - Made of Bricks: I loved this album from start to finish the first time I heard it. Amazing lyrics, quirky sounds, and catchy hooks. "Foundations" and "Pumpkin Soup" are great tracks.
9. The Fray – The Fray: In 2009, this album ended the decade on a constant rotation on my IPod. Favorite track is “Enough For Now”. I hope their next one is even better.
8. Lost Prophets – Start Something: I stumbled upon this band in 2004 witth this album. I had never heard a hard rock edge from a Brit band but this album is awesome.
7. Alison Krauss – Lonely Runs Both Ways: This is the album that exposed me to the talents of Alison. Bluegrass is something I had to find at the right time in my life and boy – did this album do the trick in 2004.
6. Kanye West – College Dropout: Keeping with 2004, which was probably the best year for music in the decade, Kayne West came onto the scene with the song “Through The Wire”. The MTV video also became very popular talking about an accident that West suffered and was the inspiration for the track. “Jesus Walks” became one of the biggest hits of decade of this album as well
5. Flogging Molly – Float: As I’ve said before, I like my food Italian and my music Irish (or British). This is a Irish sounding band with a California twist. Dave King is a tremendous front man and a great musician.
4. Dropkick Murphy’s – The Meanest Of Times: This band will forever be known as the Red Sox band that Matt dislocated his shoulder watching. From start to end, this will be an album that stays with me for years to come. They will forever be - Boston's Band.
3. Keane – Hope and Fears: As I mentioned in the previous article, this band was the highlight of the decade for me in terms of new music. Keane will be a band that has staying power with tremendously well written songs and melodies.
2. The Killers – Hot Fuss: If there is a soundtrack for everyone’s life, the album would be heavily on mine. I drove from Alabama to Omaha with this album on repeat. Every song is something is great.
1. Death Cab For Cutie – Transatlanticism: This is my favorite album for so many reasons. If you have never heard it – I highly recommend this album to anyone looking for great songs, touching lyrics, and tremendous musicianship.
First, let’s start with my passion: finding new bands.
Since I was old enough to make my own money I’ve been trying discover new music and buy their albums. Let’s start with my top 10 list for bands that I found over the past 10 years. These are NEW acts to ME…you may have known about them before the year 2000, but I had not.
10. Mat Kearney – In 2006, this singer/songwriter put out his first album "Nothing Left To Lose" to critical acclaim. I loved the mixture of touching lyrics and great acoustic guitar playing. The title track was the radio hit exposed me to Mat and the album was awesome from start to finish. One of my favorite lyrics from this album was:
“If everything we’ve got is slippin’ away – I meant what I said when I said til my dying day…. I’m holding onto you holding onto me – Maybe it’s all gone black but you’re all I see…you’re all I see”
In 2009, Kearney released "City Of Black and White", which is more mature and just as good as his first album.
9. Lily Allen/Kate Nash: I have to admit that I have an fetish for British female singers and I discovered these two right at the same time so I’m going to combine them into one slot. Lily and Kate both are amazing writers and have unique, beautiful voices. Allen is more popular as her two albums have both done very well. “Alright, Still” burst out in 2006 thanks to the hit “Smile” which featured the loving lyric; “When you first left me I was wantin’ more but you were fuckin’ that girl next door – what did ya do that for?” . In 2008, “It’s Not You, It’s Me” came out with a song that made me a fan for life of Lily Allen: “Not Fair” is a hysterical song about a boyfriend who couldn’t satisfy her in the bedroom.
Kate Nash’s debut album “Made of Bricks” came out in 2007 with the Brit hit “Foundations” as the main track that you probably would have heard of. I LOVE that song. Easily one of favorite of the entire decade.
8. Kayne West : I won’t spend too much time on Mr. West since everyone knows who he is and what he’s all about. I have everything he’s ever done. In 2004, “College Dropout” came out and made him a star. The decade saw 4 albums from Kayne, all to huge success. He’s my favorite rapper along side Eminem.
7. Rascal Flatts: Here’s a tip for the guys – if you’re single – take a girl to see this band live. The after party will be a success for you for sure! I’m 3 for 3 on this but that’s not why this band makes the list.
This band put out 6 studio albums during the decade and I love every one of them. I was dating someone from Boston while living in Alabama when she turned me onto this band with the song “Then I did” from their 3rd album “Feels Like Today” about two career people chasing their dreams which lead them apart…pretty accurate song for how that relationship went but:
“By now I figure, you had all your numbers changed. Been at least year, since I called you up to say – We need to talk, I got this job and I think I’m going to take it. Cause I’ve been waiting all my life for a break like this. It’s my chance of a lifetime – I just know it is. I got to go and find these dreams – was the last thing that I said….and then I did….” I was hooked for life.
6. Shiny Toy Guns: This band from Oklahoma turned me on my head in late 2008 and early 2009. A awesome mix of punk, electronic beats, great guitars, and dueling male/female vocals really made an huge impact on me. Both albums that came out this decade are tremendous and I highly recommend them.
5. Alison Krauss: Yes, I know she has been around since 1985 but I didn’t get exposed to her until 2005. I love her now and has opened me up to other Bluegrass bands like Old Crow Medicine Show. Extremely talented and a joy to listen to whatever song she sings.
4. The Killers: In 2004, “Hot Fuss” came out and became a HUGE HUGE favorite of mine from start to finish. I will later list my top 10 albums of the decade and this album will be very near the top. I love every song on it and will never forget the drive to move from Alabama to Omaha playing it over and over. Who can forget “Mr. Brightside” and the impact the song made on everyone who listens to good music:
“It’s just the price I pay. Destiny is calling me. Open up my eager eyes. Cause I’m Mr. Brightside”
Their 2nd album “Sam’s Town” came out in 2006 wasn’t nearly as good but The Killers are still a huge band for the decade for me. I’ve never seen them either which makes me mad.
3. The Fray: You might laugh at me for this selection but since 2005 when “How To Save A Life” came out and I saw this band perform at a small club in Omaha – they have been one of my favorites. Every song they do is heartfelt, well written and beautifully performed. In fact, I became a bigger fan when in 2009 “The Fray” followed and was even better than their first album. I seriously can’t stop listening to it. Piano heavy songs with tremendous hooks and lyrics – so good.
2. Death Cab for Cutie : If you haven’t dived head first into this band – you are missing one the best acts in music right now. Death Cab puts on a show that you have to see to believe as well. I first heard a song by the band at the end of the series “Six Feet Under” as the closing scene was the most powerful emotional experience I’ve ever seen on television. The song “ Transatlanticsism” was the title track of the bands 2003 album, which happens to be my favorite album of the decade.
I’ll never forget watching the characters of the show sing “I need you so much closer” as they fast-forwarded through the rest of their lives. I was a mess, crying for most of the scene. I was a fan of the band for life. On a whole, Death Cab put out 6 studio albums but really got known when they signed with Atlantic Records in 2004 and put out “Plans” in 2005 which included the hit “When Soul Meets Body”
“I do believe it’s true that there are roads left in both of our shoes. But if the silence takes you, I hope it takes me too.”
1. Keane: Of course it’s a Brit band at number 1. If you know me at all, you would have guessed that. This band however, from the first time I heard the song “Somewhere Only We Know” in 2004 locked me up for life.
“And if you had a minute why don’t we go – talk about it somewhere only we know. This could be the end of everything – so why don’t we go somewhere only we know”
2 other albums would follow in the decade: “Under The Iron Sea” which would earn them the GQ Band Of The Year award in 2006 and finally “Perfect Symmetry” came out in 2008. All 3 albums are in constant rotation on my IPod.
CHECK BACK SOON for my picks The Top 10 Albums, Top 10 Sporting Events, and Lessons Learned of the 2000’s