DESERT ISLAND DISCS: SARAH O'BRIEN

DesertIslandDiscs_sarahobrien May's Desert Island Discs come to you courtesy of my favorite May Birthday girl, and one of my very best girlfriends, Miss Sarah O'Brien. Jared thinks I like depressing music, but I've got nothing on Sarah. But depressing music is some of the best out there, and this list is no exception. And coupled with Sarah's trademark wit, this is one of my favorite D.I.D. posts yet. Here's what she had to say...

Click here to listen to all the tracks!

I’ve thought through this entire process it would be a lot easier if I could say I was bringing “Sarah Strickland’s Honeymoon Mix” from Ricky or the Original Mix CD from Beau. So many of these songs date back to the days of mix tapes traded between friends.

1) Sanguine by The Avett Brothers... I wish there were a way to calculate the hours/days/weeks I have listened to The Gleam on repeat in my car. This song, among so many gems from the band, is a personal favorite. It has a musical sort of Serenity Prayer quality, telling you to keep on going and give yourself a little damn credit now and then when you’re feeling low. Or maybe it’s a beautiful, beautiful song about “The Shining.”

2) I know it’s Going to Happen Someday by Morrissey... Choosing a favorite Morrissey or Smiths song has always been nearly impossible for me. I know some I don’t love, but whittling down to one great love is so hard. Maybe it’s the other pics I have so far, but I’ve always loved this one. Again, a hang in there, don’t give up song.

3) Breathless by Adorable... Against Perfection has to be among one of the best, most under rated shoegazing albums of all time. Trust me, when a fella sends the 19 year old you a song with lyrics like “My eager eyes came stumbling down/over this pristine view/my second-rate poetry/ just isn’t enough to describe you,” you’re going to remember it for life. It’s just the knee-buckling, story tale version of the way I would like to be adored.

4) Feels Like Home by Trio II... I’ve always imagined that Dolly, Emmylou and Linda called each other up and said “we’re not going to let those guys have all the fun with The Highwaymen, are we?! Hell no!” and formed their own ladies’ super group.  Over two albums in the 90’s these ladies knocked it out of the park. I remember listening to the first Trio album in the car on long rides up to Dallas to visit family and also coveting all those outfits they wear on the album cover.  Now, if you haven’t figured out that I’m a sad, sad sack with a hopeful heart for love, this will bring it home, as it were. “Feels like Home” is just that done/we’ve-found-it-after-all-this-time love song.

5) Blue Savannah by Erasure... I love erasure. Andy has the voice of an angel and Vince is a musical genius. Period. Again, it’s next to impossible to choose a favorite, but I’ve listened to both Blue Savannah and Chorus so many times for so many years. I flipped a coin and landed on this amazing song about finding love/home. I’m a broken record.

6) Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks... The Kinks in the late 60’s and early 70’s were amazing. Sure, they were great outside that, too, but when you can crank out “Days” and “Waterloo Sunset” two of the best songs ever written, that says something. Kirsty MacColl does a great version of “Days” you should all check out.

7) Perfect Day by Kirsty MacColl and Evan Dando... Speaking of days and Kirsty MacColl, she and Evan Dando did the most amazing cover duet of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.” Great, great song; I love it more than the original.

8) Hang Loose by Alabama Shakes... Let’s wrap this up with something from this decade! Apparently I self medicate with music. See above and take a listen for a guess at why I love this. There’s a fantastic version of this song at the Live at KEXP Vol. 8 CD that’s even MORE soulful, speedy and rocking than the studio version.

Runner up: Sarah by Mojave 3... This is probably my favorite ever “Sarah” song, but who chooses a namesake song?! It just seems like me.

Thanks, Sarah!! :)

DESERT ISLAND DISCS: AL GIESLER

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DesertIslandDiscs_algiesler February's Desert Island Discs are brought to you by another Texan and one of the most genuinely nice guys I know, Mr. Al Giesler. (Check out his equally super nice wife's amazing sewing blog, Moon Thirty.) I first met Al in the Galaxy Barn at Pickathon 2010 while waiting for Langhorne Slim to play what was to become one of the best shows I've ever seen. Al is an avid concert goer, and has seen most everyone worth seeing (and usually right before they got huge), so it doesn't surprise me at all that so many of the tunes on Al's list are live recordings. There's just something different about the energy from a live show, and few people appreciate that more than Al...

Click here to listen to all the tracks!

1) The Weight (live at The Last Waltz) by The Band (featuring The Staple Singers)... Volumes have been written about this song and its impact on the landscape of history, musically and otherwise. One of the best things I have ever done is see Levon Helm perform. Frail and ill of health, he presided over his drum kit with the energy of a twenty year old. It breaks my heart knowing how much Levon didn’t want to see The Band come to an end.

Fact: Mavis Staples' clapping in this song is the best clapping in any song of all time. Period. - Allie

2) Let Me Roll It (live on Wings Over America) by Paul McCartney & Wings... I saw my first concert of my choosing when I was 12 years old. I have watched people perform on stage as often as I can ever since. I haven’t seen Sir Paul live, but this song represents to me what a concert should feel like… the energy of the crowd, that guitar lick, lighter in the air, singing along at the top of your voice … absolute bliss! (For the record, that first show was current Geico pitchman Eddie Money opening for April Wine.)

3) The Next Best Western by Richard Shindell... Good songwriting will put you right in the heart of the story. Richard isn’t writing hits, but he is writing songs that inspire other songwriters.

“At four a.m. on 80 East, It’s in the nature of the beast To wonder if there’s something missing… I am wretched, I am tired. but the preacher is on fire And I wish I could believe”

4) All Things Must Pass by George Harrison... I have a lot of love for The Beatles, and have also spent a fair amount of time with the solo works of both John and Paul. Outside of a greatest hits compilation, I had not given George’s offerings much attention. But recently I purchased a turntable, and I have hit a few jackpots at the casinos (read: really good vinyl at Goodwill stores). My love for George grows with every spin of this tune.

5) Dreams Can Chase You Down (Daytrotter version) by The Low Anthem... A band that I had to see live to fully appreciate. They make music with the most unique and unconventional instruments ever to grace a stage. This song was written by Dan Leftkowitz, a founding member of the group. He had left by the time they recorded this as a bonus track on a numbered, letterpress printed version of their third studio album Smart Flesh. The version they recorded for their second Daytrotter is absolutely gut wrenching with the emotion they deliver.

6) Houses on the Hill by Whiskeytown... Oh to be a fly on the wall when Ryan Adams, Caitlin Cary and crew were penning these songs. Musically and lyrically this gets about as close to perfection for me as it gets.

7) Box of Rain by Grateful Dead... Damn, that A chord comes crashing in and is your entry to one of the most important recordings of the last 50 years. American Beauty and the Grateful Dead shaped my musical horizons permanently. Their live energy was the benchmark that all others are held against. It’s not about musicianship, but they can hold their own. It’s not about lyrics, but they are strong. It’s about that sense of “we are all in this thing together,” about enjoying the show with every sense of your being with all your brothers and sisters in synch. Not many measure well against this benchmark but every once and awhile a band comes along with another course correction…

8) Salvation Song (live at Merlefest 2006) by The Avett Brothers... I live a blessed life. I see a lot of live music and I love sharing the experience with my friends. Several years ago my wife, best friend and I went on a roadie to see Dylan in Vegas. On the trip we were spinning the current (Feb/Mar 2006) Paste Magazine sampler disc. One of the tunes kept coming into our consciousness and inevitably one of us would ask, “Who the hell is this again?” The tune was Talk on Indolence by The Avett Brothers. To be honest I wasn’t sure if loved or hated it, but the song got my attention. We all saw them live later that year and a new benchmark was set. Maybe it’s their live show…with its unfiltered, give-all-you-got-every-time performance. Maybe it’s that they (band and crew) are some of the most genuine people you could ever meet. Maybe it’s the absolute respect they give to their fans, their peers and themselves. Maybe it’s the tunes. Whatever it is, it is pure, honest and true and you are missing out if you haven’t heard about “our” little secret.

Note that I couldn't find the Merlefest version, but the one in the link is from the same year and similarly awesome...

Thanks so much, Al!!! :)

turn it up: november's most played

(Lyrics by Shovels & Rope, design by me)

With November coming to a close I thought I'd do a little recap of the songs I've had on power rotation this month...

My obsession with Shovels & Rope is clearly still going strong. Seriously, if you haven't listened to them yet stop everything and do it now. Also watch every live recording you can find on You Tube. They're that good, and from all accounts super nice, humble, and funny, which only makes me love them all the more.

There are a few oldies but goodies I rediscovered this month... turns out Emma LOVES listening to Late in the Evening on the way home from daycare. I know I've hit a good track when I hear "whoooo!", "yay!!" and claps coming from the backseat. I also got nostalgic for Pickathon with one of my favorite live tracks from the festival. And if you haven't heard Mr. Hathaway's version of "Jealous Guy" yet, you're welcome. ;)

In addition to the Spotify tracks, it's been an excellent month over on Daytrotter. We've had the Mumford & Sons session on repeat in this house all month long. It's filled with old folk covers and features Dawes and Abigail Washburn. It's might just be the best Daytrotter session to date. The new Ryan Bingham session that came out yesterday is also quite good.

What have you been listening to this month?

(PS... remember that if you're viewing this in a feed reader you'll need to click over to the blog to see the Spotify tracks.)

turn it up: thanksgiving edition

(Lyrics by Edward Sharpe, design by me, but I'm not sure of the photo source so please only copy if it's for personal use. Thanks!)

Happy almost Thanksgiving! Dinner prep is in full swing and my mouth is already watering thinking about all of the delicious food we'll get to consume on Thursday. And the time I'll get to spend with my family while eating said delicious food. That's pretty nice, too. :)

Here are some Thanksgiving-ish tunes to get your groove on to while you're cooking up a storm this week...

turn it up: my desert island discs

Welcome to another new feature on the blog: Desert Island Discs! In the spirit of the long-running BBC program, I'll be asking my friends and fellow bloggers to send me the 8 tracks they couldn't live without. I thought I'd start things off by sharing my own...

1) Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen... This might be my favorite song of all time. It's everything I want in a song and I'm never NOT in the mood to hear it. "Now our luck may have died and our love may be cold, but with you forever I'll stay." <---- Kills me. Every. Single. Time.

[embed size="compact"]http://open.spotify.com/user/121515752/playlist/1VA2qxQtqliGC1Fw3xXiig[/embed]

2) Bring It On Home To Me by Sam Cooke... Is there a better Sam Cooke song than this? Not if you ask me. From the first notes of the piano my head is swaying and I get lost in Sam's soulful voice. His girl can do him all kinds of wrong and he still wants her back. We've all been there, Sam. (PS. Betty Harris has a shoulder for you...)

3) Cry to Me performed by Betty Harris... As far as I'm concerned, the female soul singer buck stops with Betty Harris. Excuse my language, but she sings the absolute shit out of this song. If I could sing one song well, this would be it. (I can't, for the record. But I sure do try.)

4) Don't Think Twice it's All Right (demo version) by Bob Dylan... There are about a million versions of this song, and I'm pretty sure I've heard them all. But this (THIS!) is the best version. I promise. It's so raw and simple and just perfect. "I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind / You could have done better but I don’t mind / You just kinda wasted my precious time / But don’t think twice, it’s all right." Perhaps the most poetic FU of all time.

5) Feelin' Good performed by Nina Simone... Please tell me I'm not the only one who spent many a morning in her 20s singing this in front of the bathroom mirror. It's the ultimate pick me upper, which might come in handy if I really was stuck on an island forever.

6) Let It Be by The Beatles... I prayed a lot when I was a wee lass, like a good Catholic school girl should, but found I didn't quite relate to God or Jesus, so I would ask them to "put Mary on" (ha!) and she and I would chat about stuff. So when I was old enough to understand the lyrics of this song I was like, "Mother Mary comes to me, too!" It became my anthem for coping with my parents' divorce, and it still makes me feel better when I find myself in times of trouble.

7) Swept Away by The Avett Brothers... Obviously.

8) Tonight Will Be Fine performed by Teddy Thompson... I love Leonard Cohen, but I have to be a bad music snob and admit that I like other people's versions of his songs better than I like the originals. No song is that more true for than this version of Tonight Will Be Fine. It's such a genius song, and Teddy Thompson covers it so beautifully. The last verse is probably the best verse in all of music and it gives me chills every time I hear it... "Sometimes I see her undressing for me / She's the soft naked lady love meant her to be / She's moving her body so brave and so free / If I've got to remember that's a fine memory."

(PS... The Spotify tracks don't show up in the RSS feed, so if you're viewing this in a feed reader click on the link so you can hear the tunes!)

date night

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Before Sunday night, Jared and I hadn't been on a date in seven and a half months. SEVEN AND A HALF MONTHS, people! That is craziness. But with all the chaos of the move it just wasn't happenening... plus we both work a lot, and we get such little time with our boo boo. It's really hard to sacrifice any time we get with her, so it has to be for something really good. And this past Sunday was just the excuse we needed. Our favorite band, The Avett Brothers (more about our love for them here) was playing in Baltimore and we knew we had to go.

We ramped up a sitter over the past month so that Emma would be comfortable with her, we really liked and trusted her, but when the time came to leave we were so nervous. No one had ever put Emma to bed besides us! So for the first couple of hours I was definitely that cliche mom on a date night who was checking her phone every few minutes. All I wanted was that text saying she was sleeping soundly. And right as we were walking into the venue, we got it. Best text ever!

Once we could finally relax, we had SUCH a good time. I can't tell you how great it was to be out just the two of us, especially seeing our favorite band. We had great seats, the set list was nearly perfect, and it felt great doing something that was so quintessentially us. We've been seeing The Avett Brothers live since 2007, and this was show #12 for us... in that time we've gotten married, had a baby, and moved across the country. They've been a constant in our relationship and something that always brings us back to each other. I can't think of a better way to spend our first date night in what felt like forever.

Now that we've ripped off the babysitting bandaid, we're hoping to make it a regular thing. Any recommendations? What is your favorite thing to do on a date night?

swept away

When I think about the songs that have meant the most to me in my life, Swept Away tops the list. I make no claims about it being a brilliant song, or even my favorite Avett Brothers song, but it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Swept Away was one of the first Avett Brothers songs that I really fell in love with – it had no personal meaning for me at the time, it was just a very sweet and honest love song. The kind of song that’s very hard to not be touched by. But it took on new meaning after Jared and I started dating. We had been very close friends for about a year and a half, so we thankfully got to bypass all the getting to you know you awkwardness of new relationships. He’d seen me at my worst and vice versa. It didn’t take long for either of us to realize that what we shared was very different from what we’d experienced in past relationships (i.e. drama, frustration, self-doubt… the general BS that comes along with staying with the wrong person for way too long.) We never had to question how we felt about each other… the love we came to share was something I could trust in completely. It’s why when people ask me how I knew Jared was “the one,” I always reply: I just knew.

About 6 months after we began dating, a lot of things started changing for us… Jared got a job in Portland and had to move there without me until I could find a new job and join him. Neither of us wanted to leave Seattle (we didn’t know at the time how much we’d end up loving Portland) and we didn’t know how long we’d have to live in different cities. Around that time, Jared and I were riding in the car together and Swept Away came on. This wasn't anything out of the ordinary since The Avett Brothers dominate our iPods, but this particular song hit us differently that day… we both kinda looked at each other, and from that point on, it was our song. Maybe because it put into words what we were unable to:

“Well life is ever changing but I will always find a constant and comfort in your love…”

Swept Away would come to be a big part of some of the most important days of my life. It was playing when I walked down the stairs of our house to find rose petals, the biggest vase of roses I'd ever seen, and then Jared down on one knee asking me to marry him. And it was playing 9 months later when Jared and I had our first dance at our wedding.

This past Monday, The Avett Brothers were in town to play a last minute benefit show (for the Terra Nova Community Farm) at the Crystal Ballroom. The Avetts' Ballroom shows are pretty legendary (to this day, their 2nd night at the Ballroom last year is without question the best show I've ever seen), and on top of that Langhorne Slim and Black Prairie were opening and they only planned to release 500 tickets. Not surprisingly, the announcement lured in hardcore fans from across the country.

The morning of the show they recorded a short live performance at Kink.fm that we were fortunate enough to win tickets to. We got a chance to meet them after the performance and while I was a speechless goof, my wonderful husband managed to mention to them that Swept Away was our wedding song, which prompted me out of my stupor long enough to ask them to play it that night. (It would be our 10th Avett Brothers show, and we had yet to see them play it live.)

Later that night, they started in on the 18th song of what was an already unbelievable, fan wishlist filled set, and I couldn't believe my ears. They were actually playing it. There we were, standing in the front row, finally getting to see them play this song that meant so much to us. For the entire length of the song I stood there filled with gratitude, disbelief, and love... love for Jared, love for this song, this band, this night. And when we thanked them after the show Seth said "Aw, we were hoping you guys were here to hear it. We played it for you." Even typing that just now I still can't believe it all went down the way it did.

It's hard to put into words how special this show was... the crowd was filled with diehard fans, and they knew it. They played every song as though it was a thank you to the fans... fans that loved them long before they were on a major label and getting radio play, when they were just 3 guys and sometimes a cellist, playing without a setlist, breaking strings and screaming out country tunes. If I had to pick any show from the last 3 years to see them play Swept Away at, this would have been it. It was a perfect night, and I’m so grateful to have been there.

Click here to watch The Avett Brothers performing Swept Away at the Crystal Ballroom on 8.30.10.