Tag Archives: top 5

5 Songs for Shoveling Out The Driveway

#Snowdaze...
#Snowdaze… (photo by hcmz)

Remember snow days when you were a kid? The anticipation of a day without school, the awe and wonder of a world covered in fresh powder, and the possibility of catching some awesome air as you flew down those pristinely blanketed white hills on your favorite sled of choice. Those were good times, y’all. Good times.

These days when considering the implications of an impending winter storm, I immediately start thinking about the amount of time I’ll need to spend shoveling off the driveway and walkways in front of our apartment. Sledding– and fun, moreover– doesn’t usually figure into the equation. Just the necessity of the task at hand and the summoning up of the will to #gitterdone.

It’s not all bad, of course. It’s good exercise and it gives me a reason to get out of the house on a day when I’d otherwise be stuck inside all day. And I hate being stuck inside all day. So really it suits me just fine.

And there’s some fun to be had in it. Snow storms have a wonderful way of getting entire neighborhoods outside and talking with one another, creating space for conversation and camaraderie. And sometimes, when it’s 7:00am on a Sunday morning, you’ve got a 1/2 inch of snow and ice on the driveway, you’ve got work in an hour’s time, and the rest of the world’s still fast asleep, the best thing to do is to plug in the headphones, crank up the jams, and get to work.

I recently read an article about the 16 personality types of snow shovelers, and definitely felt a kinship with a number of them (I think I tend more towards the incrementalist mindset, with a hint of perfectionist / snow angel mixed in).

Regardless of what kind of snow shoveler you are, the tunes below are perfect for mixing the raw, unadulterated enthusiasm of childhood excitement with the slightly more refined– if not slightly more weathered– perspective of responsible adulthood. Like your preferred post-shoveling beverage of choice, they’re meant to be enjoyed responsibly.

1. Good Charlotte – Anthem

I remember purchasing this record at Tower Records during sophomore year of high school and thinking this was the best $9.00 I ever spent. Though that sentiment may not have stood the test of time, this song still has the right amount of energy to get you into the mindset of getting stuff done. Particularly the sort of prolonged heavy lifting required for snow removal. Maybe… maybe it was meant as an anthem for the perennial underdogs of the world, but somehow it’s still the sort of jam that every human person can enjoy (imagine that…). By the time Joel Madden gets to the first chorus, you’ll find yourself plowing through snow with the sort of intensity usually reserved for someone working out their long repressed anger and resentment at the memories a schoolyard bully– even if you’ve never had one. “Y’all got to feel me, sing if you’re with me.” Oh we’re with you, Mr. Madden, we’re all with you.

2. Weezer – My Name is Jonas

Let’s keep the angsty, distortion-rich energy flowing, shall we? High school was a fun time for music discovery, though an inordinate amount of it was consumed by my love for this band. Their Flying W Weezer Rock Music baseball tee was definitely one of my favorite shirts (and incidentally also one of my other “best $9.00 I ever spent”), and this album also seemed to be on near constant rotation for a good two and a half years. Does it matter what the lyrics mean? No. Especially not when you’re faced with a white matted landscape of 3-foot snowdrifts that need clearing before you can so much as even dream of reliving your days on the sledding hills as the fastest thing on a hard plastic toboggan.

3. Citizen Cope – Son’s Gonna Rise

A song for when you’ve hit your stride. Your stance is good, you’re remembering to breathe well, and the snow slinging’s coming as natural as a bird flies. Yeah, so maybe that never actually happens, but the song nonetheless has the power to carry you through. Let Mr. Greenwood’s mantra be your guide:

Well a son’s gonna rise in a mile
In a mile you’ll be feeling fine
In a mile you will see, after me,
You’ll be out of the dark, yeah
You’ll get your shot.

Whether it’s a shot of espresso, cocoa, or the simple satisfaction of a job well done, you’ll get it. Just keep at it.

4. Frank Sinatra – Come Fly With Me

At first I scoffed when my friend Glenn told me that Old Blue Eyes was on his personal winter shoveling mix. But then I thought about it again, and it made total sense. It’s not necessarily going to get you hyped up or keep you in the groove. That’s not the point. It’s fun, plain and simple, the way a snow day is supposed to feel. This little ditty goes a step further by transporting you to the fanciful, wonderful– and warm– far flung destinations of the world on the wings of his don’t-skimp-on-the-sugar-y sweet croon. And here we find another reason to listen: for those times when you want to get away, but can’t.

5. Taylor Swift – 1989 (album)

All of it? Yes, all of it. All of it in its super rich 80s synth pop wonderment. That Sunday morning solo snow slinging campaign I mentioned? I’m not ashamed to say that this album got me all the way through it. It just made so much sense. From the devilishly pointed wordplay of “Blank Space,” to the pulsing backbeat of “Bad Blood,” right through the breathless coda of final two tracks. “Think I’m finally clean,” she sang as I scraped up the last of the gray icy sludge from the asphalt, and somehow I knew she was right.. at least until the next storm came around.

What’re your top five tunes (or albums) for powering through your own obligatory bouts of seasonal snow slinging? I’d love to hear’em.

Monday Mixtape: ‘Tis the Season for Ballads and Slowjams

love - it's right in front of you
it’s right in front of you.

Valentine’s Day may have come and gone, but love is always in the air. At the very least it smells better than the old snow and rock salt combination that’s been so prolific these last few days and weeks. Just like with any other special occasion  Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be the only time to celebrate love and appreciation for someone else. It’s something to be acted upon often and appreciated always.

When words fail, as they conveniently seem to do when you’re saddling up close with that special someone, music has a remarkable way of filling in the gaps and saying it all for you. It doesn’t really require a lot of breath to say the “right” thing anyhow. A few lines will do it.

With this in mind, here are a few songs to help you carry that Valentine’s Day flavor throughout the week and feed into the moments that come after, each song’s individual merits described… in 5 lines or less.

1. Bill Withers – Lovely Day

Timeless, thy name is surely Bill Withers. This breezy ballad has the power to transform even the most mundane task into the most euphoric and blissful experience of one’s waking hours. Trust me. You will never look at shoveling the driveway or cleaning the bathroom the same way after giving this song permanent residency on your daily chores playlist. Go forth in good spirits.

2. John Splithoff – Love Affair

And after the working day’s done… a helpful, healthy little attitude adjustment. Something to use while you’re fluffing the pillows, lighting the candles, creating the after-hours ambience, and setting the mood for an intimate little evening (while maintaining some pep in your step). Have some fun, go all out, and put it all on the tab of this up-and-coming music maker’s debonaire baritone. You’ll be glad you did.

3. Tedeschi Trucks Band – That Did It

No denying it: TTB does a phenomenal job with their cover of the sultry 60s blues/soul classic, selling it on every possible level, from horns to high hats, guitar licks and tantalizing vocal tricks. This one goes out as much to the single people as it does to those non-single people… and perhaps even more so. It shivers and shakes, beckons– but never begs– you to get good and close so you can know it’s every last breath. It clocks in at just under 8 minutes, which might be just enough for some. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting more.

4. Al Green – I’m Still In Love With You

Ain’t nothing like the real thing, and Mr. Green is the genuine article when it comes to the genre of soulful love songs and slowjams. This one hits all the quintessential bases (not to mention high notes): an airy, heavenly high tenor and falsetto accompanied by a faithful, complimentary cacophony of horns, backing female vocals, and groovin’, happ’nin’ beat. This puts the delicious strawberry jam topper on your three-day weekend toast of wholesome wheat goodness. Play on, Mr. Green, play on.

5. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Slow Down Love

Days get hectic, people get crazy. Put this one on and do as the lady says. Slow it down, keep it cool, count your blessings, and reconnect with what really matters: making time for intimate moments with the ones you love. The rest of the world can wait. Get yourself back in the moment you’re in right now.

Now doesn’t that feel good? Doesn’t that feel right?

photo by Robert Egger

Monday Mixtape: 5 from 2005

remembering old songs is like remembering old loves

Before we get started, on Friday I was informed that a previous Monday Mixtape post of mine was selected by Blog Better Boston’s monthly themed {hub}LINKS roundup. This month the topic was Winter in Boston, and this post was selected.  Here’s the list of the other Boston Bloggers whose work was selected. Be sure to show them some love!

  • Styled By Jess shows us a recipe to make the most delicious, gooey S’Mores hot chocolate!
  • Country Design Home shares a DIY tutorial on painting snowflakes on vintage blocks.
  • Start planning your next vacation to get rid of those winter blues! Start here with Take Time Away‘s top travel apps.
  • Union Jack Creative looks at a craft cocktail book, and a hand-lettered cocktail recipe.
  • Trends and Tolstoy shares a few tips to keep you stylish during the frigid New England winter.

Now on to your regularly scheduled programming.

2005 was a damn good year for music and a damn gooder year for music discovery. College’ll do that for you, particularly if you’re the type of person who associates with the college radio scene.

The question is whether the music so cherished during one particular moment in life will stand the test of time and endure through the ages. Music tastes evolve and mature (or so I’d like to believe), and the right songs have the ability to evolve and mature with us, while others fade into nostalgia and insignificance.

Let’s see how these former heavy rotation contenders have held up in the intervening years.

1. Hot Hot Heat – Goodnight Goodnight

Then: Energetic, grippy, undeniably catchy tune. The story of the bitter, dejected lover that supplies the fuel to this punchy  2-minute parcel conveys a level of angst I never had the pleasure of experiencing personally. But what does it matter– this thing rocks. Lock and load it, wind it up and let it go.

Now: The beats goes on and the words resonate a little more too, but it does seem to fall short of being a song for the ages. But again, who cares? This song was never meant to be anything more a charged farewell to bad love, written and rendered in driving, anthemic style. Fire it off at will and you’ll still feel that inescapable charge.

2. The Killers – Change Your Mind

Then: An oft overlooked track from the debut album of a band that had a bang-up 2005. Compared to other much loved tracks on the album (Mr. Brightside and Somebody Told Me among them), this one feels more subdued and more sincere even as it totes much of the same pomp and flourish of the rest of the album. It was the one track on the album that seemed to fit any moment of any day.

Now: Without a doubt it’s still a great track and one that, upon revisiting, feels immediately fresh and new. I’m less certain of the subtleties I once thought I saw in it though, and there’s a definite whimsy bordering on silliness to the lyrics that I hadn’t noticed before (“the sun is gone / before it shines”).

Sun or no sun, at the end of the day it’s still a song that carries with it the endearing theme of second chances and putting it all on the line for the ones we love: “If the answer is no, can I change your mind?”  How about it?

3. The Strokes – Is This It

Then: The spark that set on a musical obsession that included bands like The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, The Kaiser Chiefs, and a whole host of other “The” named bands. An understated way to open an album that really rocked and could easily be listened to on repeat without losing its momentum or shine.

Now: It’s still a killer track, and I still love this band even as I refuse to accept that this band ever moved on to bigger, better, more experimental sonic waters. This band will always be stuck in the early aughts to me. I’m not ready to let go yet.

4. Regina Spektor – Raindrops

Then: Simple, lovely, and poetic. Discovering her style of song craft was akin to finding an oasis in a sea of rowdy, rambunctious, and otherwise noisy fodder. She wasn’t above experimenting with strange chord progressions, dark subject matter, or avant garde structures either, which always kept it interesting. This little b-side that could  made it on to no fewer than 10 mixes made for friends that year.

Now: Simple, lovely, and poetic. Somethings never change and that’s all right with me.

5. Guster – Diane

Then: This one always struck me as the perfect soundtrack for the first kiss scene in a romantic comedy. They’d start it off at a fair volume immediately as their lips meet and then back it off slightly, continuing in the background as the two newly stricken lovers trade happy, knowing looks, and sweet, blissful words of good night. The music then swells to a fever pitch to match the euphoria of the male lead as he walks back to his apartment. The song embodied the feeling of deepening jubilant satisfaction and the promise of good things to come.

Now: Much like the tune before it, this one holds up well. It’s lovely and endearing and perfectly wonderful, even as I’ve realized that the lyrics don’t match up as nicely with the scenario I originally had in my head.

“We lie together and we say it’s love / Who were you just thinking of Diane?”

And there it is: the pesky, persistent sound of relationship insecurity. Are they two people who think they’re in love? Is he all alone in these feelings? What could she possibly be thinking about?

Still, it doesn’t really change the tone of the song completely. It just gives it additional depth and complexity. Just like a song, properly aged and vetted, should.

photo by NeverendingStomp

Monday Mixtape: 5 Songs for Freedom

mlk

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 – 5 Songs for January

Headphones-blondi227

Behold the power of positive thinking. It’s the best way I know to start of a new year, or, at the very least, a new week. I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions since writing about my music resolutions for 2014, and I’ve thought of a few others as well (I can relate to quite a few of the ones on this list), but one that transcends music and all other experiences is to stay optimistic. When I really think about it, keeping a positive outlook can be as big a help as coffee for starting and sustaining me through the tougher days.

And it just so happens that the same 5 songs below that have been rattling around in my head lately all seem to tread on similar themes like persevering when things are tough keeping that positive outlook. Maybe it can come from within as in the case of the spurned lover in the killer blues track from Tedeschi Trucks Band, but often we need the help of others to support us or help us to keep our heads up, as in the selections by folk Americana prodigies Jason Isbell and Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers. Sometimes you gotta get real spiritual about finding the strength a la the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and sometimes… sometimes you just gotta embrace the dips and pitfalls to get the perspective in the first place (enter the wonderfully retro, dancy-schmancy pop sounds of Haim).

The holidays having come and gone, there’s no getting around the fact that winter has definitely set in, and many people consider today to be the most depressing day of the year. With all this negativity around, it’s good to know that, if all else fails, music is there to restore your faith, or, at the very least, help keep you on the right track during the winter doldrums.

*artwork by blondi227