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Merry un-Xmas Mix 2010

My daughter on Christmas morning

2010 was a great year for music.  Instead of compiling a list of favorite holiday songs like I have in years past (Merry Xmas Mix and That Was The Worst Christmas Ever), I decided to make an album with 18 of my favorite songs from the year.  To qualify for my Merry un-Xmas Mix, a song only has to meet two standards: 1) I enjoyed listening to it in 2010. 2) It is family-friendly.  Cee-Lo, Jonsi, Kanye West, and Mumford & Sons all had songs disqualified for failing to meet the second standard.

The songs, and how and why they made my list follow.

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What’s Become the 3rd Annual Request for Music Recommendations

Jay-Z: The Blueprint 3; David Bowie: Best of Bowie; David Gray: Draw the Line; Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest; Andrew Bird: Noble Beast; Owl City: Ocean Eyes; Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon; The Bird and the Bee: Please Clap Your Hands; The Black Eyed Peas: The E.N.D.; U2: No Line on the Horizon

My favorite album of 2009 was undoubtedly Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix which I previously wrote about.  Of the albums listed above–and previously unmentioned in this space–none quite captivated me in a way that inspired me to write about it until I wanted to solicit recommendations after receiving a bounty of amazon gift cards for Christmas. I am probably to blame for this phenomenon because my selections over the last two years have overwhelmingly been indie/arty/folk/chamber pop type selections. To earn the recommendations I seek, I will post some brief thoughts on each of the albums pictured above.

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Phoenix, The National, Jars of Clay, Dark Was the Night, Andrew Bird

Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix; The National: Alligator; Jars of Clay: The Long Fall Back to Earth; Dark Was The Night (Red Hot Compilation); Andrew Bird: Armchair Apocrypha

Five of my more recent acquisitions are listed according to how much I’ve listened to the albums, which is not to say the order of their worth because that can certainly change over time.

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Sad music for sad times

For reasons I won’t go into this year’s holiday season sucked.  The sucking had nothing to do with the generosity or thoughtfulness of my family and friends who blessed me with gift cards to itunes and amazon.com, where I’ve been making most of my music purchases lately.  I used a good portion of the gift balances to purchase albums I’ve wanted to buy but passed over in favor of new albums, and to purchase albums that I had downloaded when I was in college but never paid for.  In reviewing the albums I noticed that I bought mostly sad music made by white people for white people.  In place of the usual short reviews I write about albums, I’m going to create a few superlative categories and pick from my newly purchased albums to fill them. The nominess, in no particular order, are:

   

Sufjan Stevens: Seven Swans || The National: Boxer || Fleet Foxes: Sun Giant EP || Jars of Clay: Closer EP || Beck: Mellow Gold; Modern Guilt; Midnite Vultures; The Information; Sea Change || Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago; Blood Bank EP || The Black Crowes: Warpaint || Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot || Iron & Wine: The Sheperd’s Dog || Rufus Wainwright: Poses; Rufus Wainwright Read the rest of this entry »

It is beginning to sound a lot like Christmas

I love Christmastime.  Three ways this love is manifest:

  1. I tie an awesome small wooden Santa around my neck with a green string.
  2. I watch four movies: It’s a Wonderful LifeNational Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Elf, and Love Actually.
  3. I listen to a lot of holiday music.

The main purpose of this post is to discuss the third point, holiday music. When it comes to finding quality holiday music, I find myself on the fence that separates festive from compulsive.  The search began in the days of free napster when I had no scruples about downloading and distributing pirated music.  Though financially strapped I had blank CDs, a CD writer and a lot of time so I decided to spread holiday cheer by making a delicious compilation of Christmas songs from contemporary artists for my family and friends.  The aptly titled Merry Xmas Mix was a hit; five years on and we’re still listening to it while eating Chex mix and chocolate covered coconut balls and playing Scrabble around the dining room table. Read the rest of this entry »

My itunes balance is $0

 

David Crowder Band: Double Take, The Velvet Underground & Nico, Sandra McCracken: The Builder & The Architect, George Michael: Ladies & Gentlemen – The Best of George Michael, Coldplay: Viva la Vida, My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges

After an itunes Christmas I was left with a healthy itunes balance.  I made it all the way to June before exhausting the generosity of family and friends.  This post will serve as part review, part confession.  See: Michael, George

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Jack Johnson: Sleep Through the Static

Jack Johnson’s latest album Sleep Through the Static is an easy listen. The familiar combination of simple arrangements and a mellow singing style produce a hummable delight. The album’s lyrical content is a bit more socially and morally pointed than his past endeavors but any bitterness or anger is softened by a subtle, unimposing delivery.

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Juno (the Motion Picture) and Juno (Music from the Motion Picture)

Last weekend I saw the Jason Reitman comedy Juno. It was superbly funny, honest and endearing. The characters are refreshingly genuine, the dialog sharp and a potentially polarizing storyline is delicately presented without pretense. It is a comedy along the lines of Best in Show.

Ellen Page plays Juno and is undoubtedly the star, though all the film’s actors performed excellently. JK Simmons is particularly funny as Juno’s father; Jason Bateman is a convincingly pathetic yuppie in the midst of 2/5-life crisis, married to a suburban stereotype well portrayed by Jennifer Garner. Juno’s brazen words and actions provide most of the humor. When Bateman’s character first meets Juno and innocently asks, “Juno, like the city in Alaska?”, Juno simply replies “No,” and offers no platitudes to soften the moment. Not all the humor is uncomfortable or abrasive. It comes hard and fast and will make the film worth watching a second and third time.

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an itunes Christmas

Sufjan Stevens: Illinoise, Red Mountain Church: This Breaks My Heart of Stone, Red: End of Silence, The Shins: Wincing the Night Away

My favorite gift to receive is an itunes gift card. I love buying new music and having an itunes gift card gives me no choice but to do just that. Thanks to my generous friends and family I am able to start 2008 checking out lots of good music. The fun is often in the search. I came across the four enjoyable albums pictured above in four different ways.

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Jars of Clay: Christmas Songs

Christmas Songs When I received an email announcing the new Christmas album by Jars of Clay, I immediately pre-ordered it; Jars of Clay is my favorite band and I am a sucker for Christmas music. Part of my excitement was fueled by Jars of Clay’s Little Drummer Boy single, which remains one of my favorite Christmas songs. Each year I buy at least one Christmas album to supplement my itunes Christmas playlist. I was so excited about the album that I broke my rule of not listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving so I could sample the album when I first received it. To my dismay I was disappointed at first listen. The album seemed overly somber. The two most traditional songs on the album, “O, Little Town of Bethlehem” and “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” do not resemble the songs we sing in church each Advent season. A month later it was still the first album I got out to listen to as I prepared blueberry pancakes the morning of Black Friday.

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