Here are my 25 favorite songs from the year 2009. I don't boast a thoroughly exhaustive music catalog, but I do try to listen to as much as I can across as many genres as possible. From an album standpoint, I was disappointed with this year of music. But there are some great tracks. Click on most of the titles to listen/download the song.
I had a great time strolling through NorthPark Mall today. One highlight, besides hanging with my friend Cassie, was hearing the Badly Drawn Boy tune "Donna & Blitzen" for the first time. It's a fun indie holiday tune. Listen/download the track below.
Jin-Ya Huang. I first met Jin-Ya during a group excursion to the Chinati Hot Springs in the middle of nowhere, Texas (somewhere south of Marfa) earlier this year. Until last night, I never knew she was an artist/photographer. I was in Dallas this weekend and attended the opening of a group exhibition, entitled "Snow White", at Barry Whistler Gallery. Jin-Ya's piece (seen below hanging in the gallery) was my favorite of the show.
Not sure how Washed Out (aka Ernest Greene) never made it onto the blog before now. I've been listening to this stuff for awhile now. Their Life of Leisure EP is one of my favorites of 2009. Download the track "Feel It All Around" below.
Dalton Rooney. It's cold outside. Rooney has an interesting series of winter photographs you can view here. He has also discussed winter photographs on his blog here. He also has a print for sale through collect.give. Trifecta.
I heard the Celine Dion version of John Lennon's "Happy Christmas (War Is Over)" tonight on the radio. It reminded me of what a great song that is. I can't say that I track with everything that Lennon stood for, but I do believe that at the core of the Christmas season is the message of peace, that found in Jesus. So in that sense, war really is over. You can download Lennon's version of the song below.
A few weeks ago, I posted the latest single, "Cousins", from Vampire Weekend's forthcoming album Contra. I think I might like the B-side to that single even better. The track is "California English Pt. 2". You'll find Part 1 on the actual album. This reminds me a lot of Discovery. I tried and tried to find an mp3 of the song, but the best I could do was the YouTube video below.
Red River (1948). One of my favorite Western films. You can't beat a cattle drive from the plains of Texas to the fertile ground of Abilene, Kansas. Throw in a little father/step-son drama and it makes for one of the great films in the Western genre.
I have been having strange dreams lately. Normally I don't remember my dreams. These nights I remember them more often than not, but I'm not sure if that's such a good thing. Anyway, it's a good excuse to feature the track "Little Dreamer" on the blog. I think you'll enjoy it.
Home Alone is not just my favorite holiday movie. As lame as it may be to admit this, Home Alone is my favorite movie of all-time. In the 19 years since this movie was first released (by the way I can still remember seeing it in theaters over Thanksgiving in Dodge City, Kansas back in 1990), I have learned 99% of the lines in the movie. Below is the Home Alone theme, composed by the incomparable John Williams, as well as a montage of some of Kevin's best booby traps from Home Alone 1 & 2. Enjoy.
The latest Take Away Show from La Blogotheque features Phoenix roaming the streets of Paris. Like most everything Phoenix has done in 2009, the band kills it in this acoustic performance. Watch the set below. Check out the Take Away Show archives here.
A few of my favorite photographers (and some others I just discovered today) have joined forces for collect.give, an opportunity for photography lovers to purchase art and support worthy causes simultaneously. The website offers inexpensive photographs for sale, all in editions of 40 or less, with 100% of the proceeds going to support worthy causes of the photographers' choosing. You have to check it out! Allison V. Smith. Kevin Miyazaki. Susanna Raab. They all have work for sale for $75 or less, and most of the work is $40 or less. I think I'll be updating my Christmas list...
What The Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell, a collection of pieces Gladwell wrote for The New Yorker. I'm also asking for a year-long subscription to The New Yorker. I put Gladwell and Chuck Klosterman on the top of my list of favorite modern non-fiction authors.
William Eggleston, a native of Memphis, Tennessee. The cover of Spoon's forthcoming album, Transference(in stores January 19), features a photograph by Eggleston. See the cover art and listen to a track from the album below.
Another great Thanksgiving is complete (though our family's celebration will continue through the weekend). We have grown considerably over the years. This year 34 people squeezed around 3 large tables to eat 2 turkeys (or was it 3?), 15 pounds of potatoes, and a cornucopia of other traditional favorites. As I write this, I am in the basement making myself comfortable on an air mattress while most of those 34 family members snuggle into various nooks and crannies around the house. There is literally no vacancy, hence the blog title and the excuse to post another photograph from my trip to the prairie.
It's early Thanksgiving morning. I'm having trouble falling asleep on the air mattress in my basement, so I thought I'd post a few recently developed photographs from my trip to the Kansas Tallgrass Prairie Preserve. See more at my Flickr page.
Tonight I found myself reading a piece by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker. The article, entitled "How David Beats Goliath: When Underdogs Break the Rules", examines the strategies, both successful and unsuccessful, employed by underdogs when facing heavy favorites. Like most of Gladwell's writing, the article is bent towards the cerebral, jumping from junior-high girls basketball to Lawrence of Arabia to the Traveller Trillion Credit Squadron tournament (a naval war game) and back. Still, I found the lessons for success to be intriguingly practical: effort trumps ability; play to your strengths and away from your weaknesses; don't be afraid to challenge conventional wisdom. You can read the article at the link below. Also, check out Gladwell's blog if you are interested.
Mark Feiden. I have noticed various photographs of the Kansas prairie hanging on the walls in the building where I work. This week I finally stopped to find out who shot all of the photos. It turns out it is Mark Feiden. I'm a sucker for photographs of the prairie. Technically, the photograph above was taken in the Texas panhandle, but it was the largest image I could find online.
While sitting in the doctor's office yesterday, I read an interesting article in Sports Illustrated entitled "The Hoops Whisperer", highlighting NBA trainer Idan Ravine. The article, which is actually an excerpt from Chris Ballard's book The Art of the Beautiful Game, explores Ravine's unorthodox training methods and the intimate attention he pays to his clients' psyche. The article reminded me of something you might find in a Malcolm Gladwell book. Though this article features NBA athletes, the principles of psychology Ravin uses to tailor his approach to each client are useful regardless of industry. The article, which you can access through the link below, is well worth the five minutes it takes to read.
Lee Friedlander. AVS mentioned that his book New Mexico was one of her favorites, so I looked him up. He has some great stuff. If you look him, beware. He has a series of nude photographs he took that you'll probably want to avoid.
Animal Collective release a new EP today entitled Fall Be Kind. I just bought it on iTunes. I love love love the track "What Would I Want? Sky". Check it out below. In other news, I wish fall would be more kind to me.
My new favorite iPhone application is Words with Friends. Basically it's an asynchronous game of Scrabble. I can't get enough - especially with the epic battle currently underway with Ben Rector. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you need this app. Oh, and my user name is just my first and last name. Find me on there and we'll play!
Over the weekend I made a trip to Oklahoma City to see some friends and was introduced to the music of Laura Gibson. I really enjoy her album Beasts of Seasons, which features little more than Gibson and her guitar. Download a track from the album below. I've also posted a concert she performed for NPR.
I get spend the Thanksgiving holiday with all of my cousins packed into my house. In honor of my holiday plans, Vampire Weekend has released a new track entitled "Cousins". Watch the music video below. You can download "Cousins" on iTunes right now. The new VW album Contra drops January 12.
Cormac McCarthy, author of the novel adapted into the Academy Award-winning film No Country For Old Men, uses his writing to explore concepts like love & loss, life & death, home, God, and fate. His are heavy books, full of violence, adventure, existential questions, and exquisite prose. I continue to find, in the midst of the struggle that life can be at times, that my appreciation for his writing evolves. Furthermore, McCarthy's ability to meticulously piece together vivid landscapes word by word reminds me that even the smallest details can be incredibly meaningful.
Some covers can be a bit self-indulgent, but Ellie Goulding's take on Bon Iver's "The Wolves (Act I & II) is a worthwhile rendition that pays homage to the original version in a stripped down sort of way. Also, check out jj covering lorentz & m. sakarias (whoever they are) below that. It's a cool track.
I didn't pick up Laura Veirs most recent album, but I loved Year of Meteors when it dropped in 2005. Her upcoming album July Flame is released on January 12. Enjoy two tracks from the album below. She is very smooth.
Laura Veirs - "July Flame" (link removed by request) Laura Veirs - "I Can See Your Tracks" (link removed by request)
Art Sinsabaugh. An underappreciated photographer, Sinsabaugh gained notoriety for his "Midwest Landscapes" and "Chicago Landscapes" collections published in the 1960's. Many of Sinsabaugh's photographs are part of the Hallmark Photographic Collection which was donated to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.
Speaking of Britt Daniel and Spoon...they just announced the release date for their forthcoming album. Transference will hit store here in North America on January 26. Considering that I have played their last album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga more than any album in the last two years, I am pretty excited about this news. Watch the music video to "The Underdog" below that, one of my favorites from the band's last album.
Tonight I came across Britt Daniel's (lead singer of Spoon) rendition of Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home to Me". It sounds a bit like The Beatles if you ask me. Download the track below. Find more mp3s of Spoon covering other bands here.
One Fast Move Or I'm Gone: Kerouac's Big Sur is a documentary exploring the life and literature of Jack Kerouac through the lens of his semi-autobiographical novel Big Sur. The film features a soundtrack created by Jay Farrar, of Son Volt, and featuring Benjamin Gibbard, the indie superhero from Death Cab for Cutie. The lyrics for each song are taken directly from the Big Sur novel. For those fans familiar with the Home music series, these songs will remind them of Gibbard's solo additions to that series. I've added two tracks below for download.
No, I'm not talking about Sufjan Stevens' red-white-and-blue inspired musical endeavor. I stumbled across The 50 States Project, a collection of 50 photographers (one from each state in the Union) assigned to capture fingerprints of their State while staying true to their style. Photographers involved in the project, which runs through the end of this year, are given a new assignment every two months. By December 31, the project website will have 300 photographs showcasing the majesty and diversity of the American people and landscape. Check it out. I've only just begun to look through these photos, but I added a few of my favorites below.
It's not cool to admit this, but I just finished the Harry Potter book series. My girlfriend loves the books, and, back in September, I decided to commit to reading all seven books in the series as an act of love towards her. Six weeks later I have completed the entire series. In spite of the fact that I have never been interested in magic or wizardry, I found the Harry Potter series to be a compelling read, full of unexpected plot twists, extensive character development, and the timeless scenario of good versus evil. J.K. Rowling's storytelling ability evolves and improves as the series progresses. My favorite book was series finale Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. Though I was skeptical and embarrassed to read these books, I found them throughly enjoyable. Take a few months to leisurely read through the series and you won't regret it.
Fans of Mat Kearney will enjoy this live set he performed for Daytrotter.com. The set includes the songs "All I Have", "Chicago", "Nothing Left to Lose", and "Closer to Love". Go here to download free mp3s of the performance.