Tag Archives: Amos Lee

#MondayMixtape – Spring Colors in Bloom

springing to life..
springing to life..

Ah, May. Springtime at its best. In New England the season’s only just gotten started. After a few early wisps of warmth in the first weeks of the season followed by a few of erratic, unapologetic chill and general gloominess, we seem to be on the right track.

As if caught off guard by this mellowing and subsequent gradual swell of warmer weather, trees, plants, and the rest of the natural world appeared to sprout, bud, and bloom all at once last week. On Saturday things appeared to be pretty calm, with all things holding steady in a chipper, seasonably appropriate green color. By Sunday, however, everything was awash in reds, pinks, and whites, and by Monday my allergies had reached their fullest expression as well.

All the watery, itchy sinuses aside, this past week has been gleaming and gorgeous. So good on yehs, New England. Let’s keep it going on this nice, gradual pace. No need to jump into July all at once. Cool? Cool.

As the flora and fauna blossom so too do the people and places about town. It’s marvelous to walk along the Common in downtown and see all the folks out and about. They’ve shed their dark, heavy winter layers in favor of lighter, sunnier fabrics in all colors of the rainbow. Aside from the occasional achy, sneezy allergies, this season is excellent for the senses.

It’s with the sights, sounds, smells, and general colorful character of the season that these five songs were chosen (you might say handpicked). Songs that remind us to be present and to appreciate the people, places, feelings, and things around us.

1. The Temptations – My Girl

An instant classic when it first came on the scene in 1965, and it still does the trick today. Maybe I’m just a sentimental fool (I am), but this song hits all the right spots, making you lean and sway like a tree in a warm breeze. From that faithful heartbeat of bass and snare to the cool, syrupy harmonic vocals o’er top of guitar and sweeping, skipping violin fills… perfection in music confection. It’s the sort of tune that melts your worries like the sun on an ice cream sundae but does it in kinder, gentler, and more pleasing, aww-shucks way than any of the more contemporary pop trifles can. A classic then, now, and forever.

2. Wild Belle – Shine

And now for something grittier and flashier but just as fun and well meaning. I first heard of these guys a few months ago from my friend Cynthia “Dancing in the Seats” Almansi but forgot about them completely until I was doing some spring cleaning the other day and heard this track  while listening to Spotify’s delightful “The Happy Hipster” playlist.

It tickles your ear with those first bouncy, head-bobbing beats, piques your interest with those playful first verses, hooks you with a killer chorus line, and finally seals the deal with that delicious saxophone solo (easily making the case for its inclusion on my nascent Saxy Perfection in Modern Pop playlist).

This one’ll get you through anything you’re up to: chores, traffic, studying… whatever. Just don’t be surprised if you start grooving along with it where you sit/stand. You’ve been warned.

3. Dogs Die In Hot Cars – Apples & Oranges

This band’s debut album spent a good deal of the 2004 – 2005 on my iPod and in my ears, and I’m glad to know that it still holds up today (even if it appears the band itself has been in a constant state of transition since then). This song in particular, with its energetic pacing and softened New Wave sensibilities, continues to please. The lyrics are simple and sweet, most of the things that give us happiness and fulfillment in life can also be boiled down into just a few words, and that’s really what this song’s about.

Here is the apples and the oranges and plums
The dandelions in the sun
The salt and sugar and the raisin and the rum
And still there’s room for everyone

There’s so much out there to be experienced and enjoyed out there. The important thing is just to get out there and do it.

4. Amos Lee – Flower

Keeping the theme of gratitude and appreciation going… this song sounds like a Saturday afternoon picnic near a picturesque lake. Spread out the blanket, put the cooler at one end, your shoes and a few books at the other, lay back and just take it all in. Catch some rays, maybe a few z’s, and just enjoy it. Sometimes it’s hard to take a break from the rush of the maddening week, but this song reminds us that we all deserve some time once in a while– a moment at least– to do just that. Put on this song and let it guide you to that moment.

5. Drew Holcomb – Can’t Take It With You

This song takes an admittedly different approach but gets at the point all the same. Sure we’ve all got a lot to do everyday, things aren’t usually easy or plainly laid out for us, but as long as we keep track of what’s really important and do all we can to make the best of every opportunity, we’ll be all right. But we only have the time we have here to do so.

It’s a heavy idea, a difficult proposition, but spring is a good time to think about it:

Is it possible to be happy and be human?
Certainly but not without the pain

Life’s not black and white and spring proves it with its fantastic display of color and warmth. And we’re here, we’re alive, and there’s a fantastically cool world out there. So we may as well enjoy it.

What songs are springing you into action these days? Hope all’s well.

 

Throwback Thursday: Campfire Songs and Evening Rituals

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These last two weeks have been hard. Really, really hard.

I know they say that the hard days and weeks are the ones that build character, but how can you build anything when it gets so bad you can hardly think straight?

It’s moments like these that get me thinking about simpler times. Maybe they weren’t necessarily happier times, but they were definitely times of greater stamina. More optimism. A greater inclination to get right back up when I was down and to push through the tough and the difficult. Moments when I felt like– when I knew– I was in control.

Moments like those evenings at camp where after a long day of activities, meals, and other moments of mostly-organized chaos, we would get our bunk ready for bed. Once they’d all showered, brushed their teeth, and used the leftover time for some of the loudest most rambunctious games of go fish I’ve ever witnessed, we’d somehow get all 12 of our overactive 9 and 10 year old boys quieting down in their own beds.

I’d pull out my guitar, we’d turn out the lights, and, regardless of how long the day felt or however many fire drills big or small we had to take care of, my co-counselor would have the kids go around and share one thing that went well that day and one thing they’d like to do better tomorrow while I started to strum a soft tune. The day’s hardships and difficulties would begin to melt away as kids talked sleepily but excitedly about ice cream pops at lunch and extra pool time during elective hour or their want to have more time at the archery range and a chance at waterskiing. Simple though these items may have seemed, there was infinite depth to these happy thoughts shared so earnestly and honestly.

Then I’d let the music build and swell and play a nice song or two to end the evening. One song would always be some pop song or old favorite that I’d reimagined in its softest, most lullaby-appropriate state, but the other would always be James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James. Here was a song that was meant to be played at day’s end to calm the wild beasts of our racing, leaping imaginations and to keep the scarier more menacing things at bay for at least another evening or two.

No matter how weary, weather worn, drooped, or down we felt,  somehow these songs always made us feel more at ease.

These days may be hard as may be the ones after that, but it won’t be like this forever. There’s good and bad in everything. I just have to look for it– both parts– and then think on it, smile at it– and then let it go. Then I’ll sit down in a comfy spot, turn the lights down a bit, and play a soft song, and get ready for my chance at tomorrow.

Monday Mixtape: 5 Songs for Freedom

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Today being Martin Luther King Day, it seemed appropriate that today’s selections reflect the values and teachings that Dr. King fought for so tirelessly. Of peace, of love, of humanity and compassion, and, above all else, of equality for all.

Certainly we’ve come a ways from the days when buses, trains, and other public spaces were segregated, and now more than ever the positive effects of their work can be seen across the US by the wonderfully diverse make up of so many schools, universities, and businesses. But there’s still a lot of work to be done. Even as we’re making good progress towards a healthier, more accepting society, racism is very much still alive, and one only has to take a look at the comments section of any social media site where whatever celebrity, athlete, or even regular old joe featured there can become a lightning rod of intensely racially charged rhetoric overnight.

It’s not just black vs. white either (if ever it was). Latinos, people of middle eastern descent, sexual preference or orientation all have some equity, ironically enough, when it comes to being in the discrimination spotlight.

As much as I often feel hard pressed to believe that we’ll ever be able to “just get along” and put an end to racism and discrimination in this country, I know that as long as children continue to be taught to love their neighbors as themselves and to respect each person’s right to life and happiness– there is hope.

The songs below echo this belief, from trying to deal with the world as it is (Elvis Costello’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding?”), to beginning to see how freedom and social justice can be brought about (Amos Lee’s “Freedom”), to taking the steps ourselves to be the change we wish to see (Michael Jackson’s “Heal The World”), and everything in between.

Change, as Mr. Cooke says, good, positive, lasting change is gonna come, but it’s not going to happen with out the conscious effort of regular people like us, willing those changes into being.

The time is always right to do what is right.
– Martin Luther King Jr.

5 Songs For Freedom, Equality, and Justice (+1 Extra For the Man Himself).

Monday Mixtape – Off to a Good Start

And just like that we’re in September. Even though I haven’t done all too much in that time, I feel the summer has been a whirlwind and that I’ve had hardly enough time to catch my breath.

All silly, minced cliches aside, it’s been a busy August. I took in some baseball, some great outdoors, and, of course, some good music. In particular, I saw one of my favorite artists, Josh Ritter. It was a fantastic show, and I’ll be sharing more about it later on, but for now I wanted to check in with a simple mix tape of melodies that have been taking repetitive paseos through my brain lately and popping up on heavy rotation on my Spotify and iTunes playlists.

I think I’ll call it my “Fall Good Vibes Kick-off Mix.” Continue reading Monday Mixtape – Off to a Good Start