The New Year is always exciting for me. I love to look back and make lists of some of my favorites of the previous year. It has been a ritual of mine for a while as a way to keep a nostalgic record of the years. Music is obviously a big part of how I experience life. A favorite covers list is actually something I had yet to do until now, but I already feel that it’s going to be a necessity moving forward. That said, this was an extremely difficult process. After a couple weeks (or a few months) of repeatedly listening to hundreds of tracks, I was able to narrow my engorged list down to 15. Here they are below in no particular order – to rank them would have delayed this article until the Spring:
With a mouthful of a name like Jasmine Van Den Bogaerde it’s no surprise that she quickly adopted a stage name, Birdy. Although don’t let the girl with the cute name and equally cute, fifteen-year-old, brace-filled smile (if smiling at all) fool you. There is an incredible maturity to her voice that belies her years, giving the impression of a lifetime of brooding not yet earned. Playing the piano since the early age of four and winning a UK talent contest at the age of 12 contributed to her signing a record deal by 14. Her self-titled debut album was released in the UK only via Atlantic Records in early November.
Considering my mix this week was inspired by Josh Ritter’s “Another New World,” I suppose it’s only appropriate that I went on a bit of a journey to make it. At first I was thinking that I would stick to American poetry references that were vaguely about adventure and exploration – immediately settling on “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. Just as quickly I decided that “Woods” by Bon Iver needed to be on it. Then, however, I found myself veering farther away from the poem, focusing more on the theme of discovery and the unknown. I tried to stick with songs tonally similar to the Bon Iver track, but it was hard to commit to one genre so thought I would at least strive for an “offbeat edge” for a common thread. And so, like any long journey (at least any journey of mine) I probably got lost a few times along the way, but I’m pretty please with where I found myself in the end.
I know I declared my unparalleled love for the Northeast earlier in the week, but Chicago alone might just elevate the Midwest enough to give the East Coast a run for it’s money. Chicago – home of my alma mater, where you can find a plethora of the most original theatre in the world. Land of Lollapalooza and the Pitchfork Music Festival. Wrigley Field. Deep dish pizza. Lake Michigan in the summer. Sometimes I wonder why I left…OH RIGHT, THE RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE FOR THE MONTH OF JANUARY IS 19 DEGREES. Seriously. When it hurts to breathe for weeks at a time, palm trees year round are much easier to digest.
Weather and the greatness of Chicago aside, the Midwest is still wonderful. Ask anyone from Omaha, NE and they will bend your ear about how amazing their city is. It was a “must-do” to trek out to Madison, WI at least once in college to experience their Halloween celebrations. Notre Dame football was a huge part of my childhood, and my very first concert was in Cleveland, Ohio. And who can talk about Ohio without mentioning Cedar Point?
On the opposite end of spectrum, musical theatre loves the Midwest. There are entire musicals dedicated to Midwestern cities (Chicago and Meet Me In St. Louis) not to mention a slew of songs: “Kansas City” (Oklahoma), “Summer in Ohio” (The Last Five Years), “Ohio” (Wonderful Town), “Iowa Stubborn” and “Gary, Indiana” (both Music Man), “Kansasland” (Curtains) and the list continues.
Yes, despite its deceptive title (it’s much more mid than west) the Midwest has a lot to offer all around. So sit back an enjoy some sweet grooves…
Mars Arizona played this past weekend at The Echo for the Grand Ole Echo Kick Off, and can be caught next in Santa Barbara TOMORROW night at the So Ho Music Hall. Show starts at 7:30pm
In my research I also found this article about the effect of Gordon Lightfoot’s song on the families of those lost in 1975 wreck. A touching story that shows just how important a role music can play in life.
And how could I forget some good ol’ jazz? This time, muppet-style.
Bonus points if you can understand what I’m talking about in the title of this post.
Look around the next time you go to the gym – from the beefy dude hitting the bench press to the soccer mom pounding the treadmill, who doesn’t have an iPod? This week its all about work out tunes, starting with my favorite place to dig on some cool tunes – yoga. What strengthens your warrior one and chills out your savasana?