Snow Days

I’ve been complaining about our lack of real snow days this winter. While poor Boston keeps getting dumped on more than anyone can deal with Baltimore until yesterday had been sadly bereft of any real snow accumulation. We had a number of tiny little 1 or 2 inch storms, but that just makes things messy for a few hours. It doesn’t get me out of work or stop anything which is what I really want out of snow.

I don’t want ridiculous amounts of snow, but just enough to shut everything down for a day. In Baltimore that doesn’t really take all that much. Earlier this week I was hopeful when they were calling for 4-6 inches in Baltimore that I would finally get my snow day on Tuesday. No such luck. We didn’t get as much snow as they were initially predicting (surprise, surprise) and the snow happened in the evening hours after work and ended early enough that the streets were cleared. I did get half day off of work, but not the full snow day I had been hoping for.

Work has been very stressful for the past several months, so I have wanted a snow day this year more than any other year. You may ask why I don’t just take a day off of work. I will as I do still have copious amounts of vacation time to use up before the end of June, but there is just something special about a snow day. It’s a bonus day that you weren’t expecting and you just really can’t do anything else. You can’t go out. You’re stuck at home and you have an excuse to not feel like you need to be doing anything.

I finally got a snow day yesterday. It wasn’t quite how I imagined it since it happened on a Saturday. Usually I hate weekend snow days because they don’t get me out of work and they usually ruin some fun weekend plan that I have. Yesterday though I had no plans for the day, so it just gave me an excuse to be super lazy (I was only planning on being mostly lazy before that) and just sit on my couch all day. The fact that I didn’t have to get up and go anywhere today meant I didn’t have to shovel out my car yesterday either. I didn’t even get out of my pajamas. I couldn’t tell you the last time I did that when I wasn’t sick. It was a nice relaxing day reading books, watching tv, and watching the snow fall outside my window.

We won’t talk about how unfun dealing with the mess the snow left behind will be. I still have a few more hours before I have to go out and deal with that.

Album Anticipation

2014 was such a meh year in music to me. There just weren’t any new albums or artists that I was crazy in love with. There were plenty of things that I enjoyed, but just nothing that really grabbed me, took hold, and wouldn’t let go. I am hopeful that 2015 is going to change that. I’m already very excited about some forthcoming albums from artists I already love. If everything goes according to plan I expect to have new albums by Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves, and Adele at some point during the year. Plus there are already official album announcements by a number of artists I love, and the singles they have released from them are fantastic, so I can hardly wait to hear what else they have in store for me.

“Wherever is Your Heart” by Brandi Carlile

I have espoused my love for Brandi Carlile on this blog many times before on this blog with good reason. Based on the two songs I’ve heard so far off her forthcoming album The Firewatcher’s Daughter due out March 3, I think it may be one of her best. I can hardly wait to hear the whole thing a few weeks. I definitely anticipate there being a full post on that album alone once I get to hear it.

“Fool for Love” by Lord Huron

Lord Huron was one of my favorite acts at the Newport Folk Festival two years ago. I’m excited to get some new music from them. I am really loving the rhythm guitar going on in this new song. It has a little bit of a Johnny Cash thing going on. Their new album Strange Trails is due out April 7.

“Don’t Wanna Fight” by Alabama Shakes

Alabama Shakes last album had a very bluesy, old-school rock vibe to it. It seems like they may be shaking things up a little bit with the new album. You definitely have Brittany Howard’s distinctive vocals, but at least with this song the music is definitely doing something different than their last album. I’m digging it and can’t wait to hear the rest of Sound & Color on April 21.

“What Kind of Man” by Florence + the Machine

I love, love Florence + the Machine. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the Firefly Music Festival lineup in hopes that they’ll be playing since they’re on the lineup for many of the other major music festivals. I would definitely go up (over?) to Firefly for the day whatever day they’re playing. I’m too old and introverted to deal with camping out and doing the whole four day music festival thing, but my friend Lindsey and I went just for a day a couple of years ago and I would definitely do that again.

Based on this song Florence doesn’t seem to do be doing anything especially different than on previous albums. The rock guitar backing it is a bit different, but the overarching feelings and the vocals seem to be pretty much along the same lines as what she’s done before. I am a-ok with that though because I’m a big fan of what she’s done in the past. I’m looking forward to the full album How Big How Blue How Beautiful due out June 2.

Kacey Musgraves at Rams Head Live

Saturday night I went to see Kacey Musgraves in concert at Rams Head Live. I had seen her last summer when she opened for Alison Krauss and Union Station and Willie Nelson at Merriweather Post Pavilion. I was excited to see her again as the headliner. Her album Same Trailer, Different Park is definitely my favorite country album from the past few years and one of my favorite overall albums as well.

This was the first country act I’ve ever seen at Rams Head Live. In fact it’s the first country act I’ve ever seen at a venue like this that I can think of. I know a lot of indie rock bands who play venues of this size, but the only way I really ever hear country music is by listening to country radio so by the time I hear them they’ve hit it big and are already playing larger venues than ones like Rams Head or are opening for the larger acts at the bigger venues.

Due to the types of bands I generally see play at Rams Head I usually feel like the old lady standing in a room with a bunch of 20 year olds. Last night’s crowd was quite different. It was an all ages show so there were people of all ages there. In addition to adults of all ages I saw a few families with elementary school aged kids and a number of parents with teenaged children. This is one thing I really love about country music. Aside from when we’re at the Newport Folk Festival I never see families at concerts the way I do for country acts.

I was amused by the family standing behind me, parents with their teenage daughter. The dynamic was definitely your stereotypical snotty teenager and her parents that were purposefully feeding into it. I could tell that it was the teenager’s first standing room only concert as she was not dealing well with the way people shove and push around to get through the crowds and try to get a better spot at standing room only shows. Her parents were trying to teach her how to stand her ground. It was adorable. I’m sure she’d be horrified that I thought that.

The show itself was great. I had never heard of the opening act John & Jacob before last night, but I really enjoyed their music and they were great performers. They had the crowd into it even though I’m betting most people there had never heard of them before either. They are great songwriters. One of their songs was apparently used on the show Nashville and they co-wrote The Band Perry’s hit song “Done”. Most of their songs were very upbeat, but this one that’s a little more balled-y was one of my favorite’s they played last night.

Kacey Musgraves was everything I hope for in a live performer. She told stories and she sang a few covers and mash-ups (a Dolly Parton song, a countrified version of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” and a mash-up of her song “Step Off” with Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry”). We also got to hear a few songs off of what will be her new album, which she sang solo on the stage without her band as part of the encore. The theme of both of them like her hit song “Follow Your Arrow” was about being yourself and not caring what anyone else thinks. She did say that it’s a theme she keeps coming back to in her music. One song was titled “Biscuits” and the other one was called “Cup of Tea”. I have no idea what the rest of the new album is, but if the entire thing is nothing but food titled songs with the theme of being yourself I can totally get behind that.

Listening her to sing all the songs off of Same Trailer, Different Park reminded me once again about how great of an album it is. Not that I needed much reminding, but it was wonderful hearing the audience singing along with her. I still think I love “Merry Go Round” the most off of that album, and it was wonderful to hear her sing it live again with the crowd singing along.

I suspect Kacey Musgraves has a long, successful career in country music ahead of her, and I’m excited to hear what she has for us next.

2015-02-14 21.13.30

Jump Around

My friends Laura, Courtney, and Chinwe all have birthdays that are right around now, so yesterday there was some surprise birthday fun organized for them by some of my other friends. They knew there was something going on, they just didn’t know what. We started off with a delicious homemade brunch before heading out to SkyZone trampoline park.

If you are unfamiliar with trampoline parks like I was basically they are a bunch of areas composed of trampolines hooked together with the walls also made of trampolines. Although everything is connected there are individual squares to bounce in and you’re not supposed to be in a square with anyone else. There were also separate dodge ball courts and basketball courts that some of my friends went on, but I didn’t.

There was also a big foam pit you could jump into. I used to love doing that when I was a kid and took gymnastics. I didn’t bother doing it yesterday though and maybe I’m glad. One of the people I was with said she was very disappointed. She had always dreamed about doing it because she didn’t take gymnastics as a kid but all her friends who did were always talking about it. It apparently did not live up to her dreams. So maybe it’s best that I just have really good memories of doing it.

You can sign up to jump by the half hour. We signed up for an hour. I don’t know that I’ll ever do it again, but I think 30 minutes would be more than enough. I got bored pretty quickly just standing there jumping up and down. I certainly wouldn’t want to do it without a group of friends.

We of course as a group of adults were outnumbered by about 1000 small children at birthday parties there. Since everyone is in one big area it’s a little confusing because they don’t want adults bouncing next to children so they kept making us move to different areas of the trampoline court so that we were away from the little kids.

I expected to be sore today after all the jumping yesterday. I expected it to be legs that were sore, but surprise they aren’t sore at all. Instead every muscle in my back is like what did you do to me yesterday. I never would have guessed. I’m glad I tried it out, but I’m not sure it’s something I would actively seek out doing again.

It was a fun afternoon with friends. Laura, Chinwe, and Courtney I’m glad you guys were all born.

NPR’s Invisibilia Podcast

Remember a few weeks ago when I was talking about how I didn’t have time to listen to anymore podcasts? So about that. I did actually listen to season 1 of Serial on a road trip, but that wasn’t so bad because it was a contained few hours. What I really didn’t need to do was add another hour long podcast that posts on a weekly basis into my listening routine. However when I heard about NPR’s Invisibilia podcast I couldn’t help but check it out, and now it’s part of my regular weekly listening routine.

The podcast is hosted by Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel and in their own words is about “the intangible forces that shape human behavior–things like ideas, beliefs, assumptions, and emotions.” Essentially it’s various topics related to psychology and neurobiology. As someone who majored in psychology as an undergrad and who has a Master’s in counseling, this podcast is right up my alley. Each week they pick a topic such as fear or categorization and then find a few specific cases studies that they focus the discussion around. The cases aren’t always the things I think they’ll focus on based on the topic, but they are always fascinating.

I also love that they end each podcast with a “dance break”. It’s totally random and it makes me smile every week. It’s just a little thing that makes the podcast truly great. I highly recommend checking it out. It posts weekly on Fridays wherever you choose to download your podcasts from.

Country Song Roundup

In recent years I haven’t had much use for country music by male artists. Most of it falls under the category of bro country, which really doesn’t do a whole lot for me and pretty much all sounds the same. I can’t tell most male country artists apart these days. I hear their songs on the radio and though I could rattle off most their names I couldn’t tell you which artist acutally goes with which song. Most of the country music I like is sung by solo women or groups with female vocalists. Imagine my surprise to realize that some of my favorite country songs currently in rotation on country radio are by men. It’s been a long time since that’s happened. I don’t really have much to say about the individual songs, but I’m enjoying all of them at the moment and always stop to sing along when they come on the radio.

“Look at You” by Big & Rich

“Talladega” by Eric Church

“American Kids” by Kenny Chesney

The Parenthood Finale

I almost didn’t write this post because it was one of those things that I felt like needed to be posted within a day or so of it airing, but even though I knew I wanted to write this post I just didn’t have the energy in me to do it until 4 days after the finale of Parenthood aired. I guess there’s not statue of limitations on these things, so even though it may seem a little late better late than never I guess.

I have loved Parenthood throughout its six seasons on the air. I have never thought it was a perfect show by far, but it was a wonderful character based drama the likes of which don’t much exist anymore. It was absolutely wonderful at depicting the smallest parts of life, but it often misstepped when it addressed larger stories or just brushed things under the rug like they never really happened or mattered. In order to enjoy the smaller moments though you just had to ignore the parts that didn’t work so well, and I was happy to do so.

I have to admit that the final season didn’t have as many moments in it that I resonated with as I did with some seasons. I thought the finale was perfect for the show though. The best parts of this show were the ones where you just felt like you were off to the side eavesdropping on the Braverman’s lives. I loved just seeing the family together being silly and acting like families do. I felt like they did that perfectly in this episode with Sarah and Hank’s wedding being the real focus.

I think weddings work so well for ending shows like this because they provide a realistic reason for all the characters to be together and be in a joyful situation. I stopped watching ER many seasons before it eventually ended, but I always felt like the episode it should have ended on was the one with Abby and Luka’s wedding. That episode felt like a finale for me, and since I only watched a couple of the episodes at the beginning of the next season in my mind it’s what I like to pretend was the ER finale.

This finale of Parenthood reminded me of that episode with the wedding. All the family was gathered together and just enjoying each other like people do at a wedding. I appreciate that after building to Zeek’s death during the whole season they didn’t make his death and funeral the focus of the episode. I like that his death was just a small moment with him dying in his sleep, and it wasn’t some big dramatic thing.

The flash forwards showing each Braverman family unit a few years down the road were perfect as well. I loved that Julia and Joel now have a family of four kids composed in the same way that the four Braverman kids were. And hello Amber marrying Jason Street! I totally squealed out loud when that flashed up on the screen. It’s of course unrealistic that all of their lives were so happy and that Crosby was able to keep the Luncheonette afloat, but I wanted the characters to be happy in the end. I also loved that the end showed them playing baseball and scattering Zeek’s ashes on the field. It really harkened back to the beginning of the series, and I’m also a sucker for finales that call back to their beginnings. I thought it was the best ending the show could have had.

Now lets talk about the music. Jason Katims is known for his use of music in his shows. I heard more talk about it in critic circles with Friday Night Lights, but I think he did the same with this show. The finale was jam packed full of music from one to the other and every song just fit so beautifully that I was in awe. It doesn’t hurt that it was a bunch of songs that I love to start with. The songs perfectly underscored every scene including the ones that played during the wedding that were just the kind of songs you would expect would be playing during Sarah and Hank’s wedding reception. It was of course only fitting that the series should end set to “Forever Young” since Bob Dylan’s version served as the show’s theme song throughout its run. The beautiful, slowed down version sung by Rhiannon Giddens and Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam was the perfect song to send this wonderful show off into the sunset. I’ll miss you Bravermans.

Not every song was available, but of course I put together a Spotify playlist of the songs they used in the finale.