Thursday, December 31, 2009

favorite albums of 2009

A year-end blog is coming soon, but in the meantime here is my list of favorite albums from 2009.

10. Thrice – Beggars

A late entry, this is not my favorite album from Thrice as they continue to go in a different direction, but Beggars is complete with some great tracks. The Weight is a song any couple considering marriage should check out.

Key track: The Weight

9. Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band – Outer South

It took some warming up to, but the singer/songwriter from Bright Eyes gives some less-angsty tunes with a different band. Conor doesn’t even sing on my favorite track, Difference is Time.

Key tracks: Difference is Time, Slowly (Oh So Slowly)

8. Brand New – Daisy

I’ll get some heat here because this is also not my favorite work from Brand New, but this is Brand New like em or not. They continue to drift more and more into darkness with Daisy and there are definitely some explosions on this album, like its opener, Vices.

Key Tracks: Bought a Bride, At the Bottom

7. fun. – Aim and Ignite

It took me until this year to listen to The Format, which was a mistake, so thankfully I jumped on the bandwagon early with fun. This album is full of catchy tunes that stay true to the band’s name.

Key tracks: At Least I’m Not As Sad (As I Used to Be), Walking the Dog

6. The Fray – The Fray

I may take even more heat here in saying that I prefer this self-titled work to The Fray’s first album, How to Save a Life. There are incredible singles on this album, but the guys hit us with a complete album from top to bottom. You Found Me is absolutely my favorite song in years.

Key tracks: You Found Me, Syndicate, Never Say Never

5. House of Heroes – The End is Not the End

Okay, this album was released digitally in 2008, but I didn’t buy it until their hard copy release this year. House of Heroes came back with 16 tracks of pop-punk genius. Every track will get caught in your head, but the lyrics are what keep you coming back for more.

Key tracks: By Your Side, Code Name: Raven, Sooner or Later

4. The Takeover UK – Running with the Wasters

No, they’re not British. In fact, they’re from Pittsburgh. This album displays The Takeover UK’s old-style rock-and-roll paired with new-style energy. Their lives shows are a sight to behold, with a dedicated group of fans dancing non-stop.

Key tracks: Running with the Wasters, Ah La La, Don’t Wait Up

3. Taking Back Sunday – New Again

I did not listen to Tell All Your Friends in its entirety in high school or even college. That being said, this is my favorite TBS album. They’re never going to recreate Tell All Your Friends, so be amazed by what they’re giving us. This album didn’t leave my CD player for weeks because the end roped you right into listening to the beginning again. They’ve grown up, singing about becoming fully entrenched in adulthood.

Key tracks: Summer, Man, Everything Must Go, Carpathia

2. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You

These guys are my favorite band. I&L&Y doesn’t always provide the up-tempo banjo/acoustic/hi-hat/kick drum combo that fans have become used to, but this is lyrically the best album from some of the best songwriters today. The Avetts continue to blow up from this album, having performed on late night TV three times. Check out their live show, you’ll be hooked.

Key tracks: January Wedding, Laundry Room, The Perfect Space

1. Rx Bandits – Mandala

This album is a masterpiece. Rx Bandits continue to be terribly underrated, probably because they can be associate with ska still. But Mandala brings what …And the Battle Begun promised was coming. From start to finish, Mandala hits you in the face, confuses you, explains itself, then hits you in the face and starts again. It is a designed chaos. The musicianship is second-to-none, complete with drumming parts I couldn’t imagine even starting and guitar solos that flow one piece into another. Combine the vocals making Mandala another album with songs you can’t get out of your head, but also can’t comprehend.

Key tracks: Hope is a Butterfly, No Net Its Captor, Bled to Be Free (The Operation), Breakfast Cat

Honorable Mention: Cartel – Cycles, Say Anything – Say Anything, Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything to Nothing, Relient K – Forget and Not Slow Down

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

don't give up

cancer scares me quite a bit. it probably scares me more than anything and definitely scares me more than it should. any time i think about it i consider the things i can do to live a healthier life and try to google what foods i should eat to prevent cancer in my own life. it's a scary thing to know that there is a disease which kills so many people that does not have a high rate of elimination once it's a part of your body. in this day and age of medicine it sometimes feels like we are invincible because there aren't many diseases that can take us over, but the thought of cancer makes me feel helpless.

jim valvano was a legendary basketball coach for north carolina state. he coached the wolfpack to an upset national championship in 1983 over the houston cougars which featured future nba players and hall of famers. jimmy v was a spectacular motivational speaker and a great man in sports. he also died of cancer in 1983, 2 months after giving a famous speech at the espy awards which can be seen here:

in the midst of this speech valvano motivates us all to live our lives to the fullest. he makes this suggestion: "To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."

on this day of the jimmy v classic, which is in celebration of the jimmy v foundation for cancer research, i want to encourage everyone to experience these things. allow life to take you over. laugh daily. think daily. allow your emotions to overcome you daily. if we do these three things daily we will live amazing lives. but more importantly, if we don't do these things daily, then are we even living?

you only have one life to live. one opportunity. take advantage.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


without connection, we would die. we hear studies about how babies who aren't held and loved tend to not develop the same as babies who are. this makes a lot of sense. my parents cared so much for me as a baby and as a child. and now my sister and brother are doing the same for their children. and i hope to do the same for mine. this simple act can go a long way in helping someone develop as a human.

i think the same remains true as we get older. i wrote a few months ago about disconnection, so some of those ideas might overflow here, but it's something i've considered more again.

there's nothing like feeling a connection with someone. i literally feel chills when i have a breakthrough in a relationship with someone, like the first time a conversation at work progresses past our dislike for waiting tables, or the first time i hold a girl's hand. it makes me feel like we can see each other as more than just co-workers or more than just friends. i think it makes sense to say that a major goal in our lives is to create these connections between ourselves and others. 95% of all people marry, so right there is the goal of finding a mate with whom we make a unique connection.

justin vernon spent three months secluded in his father's northwestern wisconsin cabin after battling with mono and breaking up with a band and a girl. he wrote the majority of the album "for emma, forever ago" by his band bon iver in that time. ray lamontagne did a similar thing in a cabin in maine. these things fascinate me because it makes me feel like they'd come back to civilization with a newfound respect or understanding of being connected with people. i consider the possibility of doing just this, although i doubt it will happen, not necessarily to write an album but moreso to rewrite my life. going through a fasting of any sort will give you a new vision of how that thing effects your life.

for similar reasons i must have time to myself every day. this is usually at the end of the day before i go to bed. this is time for me to do whatever i want, which usually involves listening to music. even when i am by myself, i am making a connection with someone else. i'm connecting with justin vernon, scott avett, or andrew mcmahon, as they sing their words into my ear. i write in my journal words that may be shared with others in the future, or may simply be shared with a future version of myself. i'm writing this blog to connect with you. i play guitar or drums in hopes of connecting with future band members. over the past year and a half i have spent more time by myself than i have in a long time, but even while i'm by myself i am constantly doing things to connect with people. as i've gotten older i think i've just found new ways to make these connections.

most importantly, i am constantly connecting with God. He hears all of my thoughts. He caters to all of my needs. He gives me all the words to write in my journal, in my blog, or in my songs. i like to believe that when God sees us connecting with one another he gets that same chill that i get. furthermore, i hope that when God sees me sharing His love with others that he gets an even bigger chill. i know i do.