Tag Archives: Music

My Christmas Soundtrack

4 Dec

Red-Christmas-Decorations-ChristmasIt’s that time of year again where the only type of music that fills my ears is holiday-inspired. (Besides the ’80s tunes that I require during my shower time. Hello, Mr. Big.) I do not discriminate, well I do, but my playlists are filled with many artists I wouldn’t usually listen to on a daily basis, like Mannheim Steamroller, Amy Grant, and Harry Connick, Jr (but never Jessica Simpson or the like. Never.) I actually look forward to going to work, knowing I will be listening to my Christmas soundtrack on Spotify on the way – which is always uplifting, no matter the circumstances.

So here are my top six tunes this year, the ones that I gravitate toward walking to and fro. Some have been on my favorites list for years, while others have moved up the ladder in the last couple weeks.

1) Pennies From Heaven – Louis Prima

This is not a Christmas song. It has been recorded by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Andy Williams, but I think he has the perfect voice for this song. Louis’s gravely, gritty voice plus the fast-paced beat makes it the perfect listen to while walking down the crazed streets of NYC. It doesn’t hurt that it was featured on Elf and now I believe it is a holiday song. I feel like I’m in a soundtrack to my own holiday-themed movie when this pops on.This song isn’t really a Christmas anthem, but it sure has made the rounds on the radio stations like this number has:

I Believe – Frank Sinatra

But I would never consider Annie Lennox’s version of “My Favorite Things” a holiday tune. No, that’s just freakin’ creepy, like Elf On A Shelf. Save that shit for Halloween.

2) Same Old Lang Syne – Dan Fogelberg

This song has been my go-to Christmas tune since high school. I love, love Dan Fogelberg’s work, and this song is just gorgeous. Like many of his songs, it is autobiographical, and the lyrics just paint such a sad, lovely picture that many people can relate to. The fact that it was written about a meeting between him and his high school sweetheart in their hometown of Peoria, IL and that they both kept it a secret from the public for such a long time, so damn beautiful.

3) The River – Rachael Yamagata

Yes, the Joni Mitchell original version ranks supreme. But I love, love, love Rachael Yamagata. I own all of her records and absolutely love her voice quality. And as much as I love Joni, I hate to admit that I like this version even more. It’s so sad, so relatable, and just so wonderful.

4) Wishlist – Pearl Jam

Yes. Just yes. Pearl Jam is probably one of the top bands that pop up regularly on my Spotify playlists. We actually made a wedding playlist CD as party favors (which I will post next week), and Pearl Jam made the list with love song “Just Breathe”. Vedder sings of all the things he wishes for, but ends it with the line “I wish I was as fortunate, as fortunate as me.” What we should be thinking about at this time of year.

5) Winter Song – Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson

Damn beautiful. That’s all I can say about this song. “Is love alive?” and this stanza “This is my winter song/December never felt so wrong/Cause you’re not where you belong/Inside my arms”. I listen to this song in remembrance of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. I think of the families, the community, and the extremely sad loss.

6) Still, Still, Still – Mannheim Steamroller

I remember singing this Austrian lullaby in middle school and loving the melody ever since. Whenever I hear it being played, I close my eyes and imagine it being dark at night, with the snow falling and twinkling lights nearby. I instantly get transported back to my childhood.

And while I’m not including all of my favorites, I cannot stop listening to Sting’s If On A Winter Night album and Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong. Both just delicious bites of the season.

Oh, Christmas.

Lady Crush: Carly Simon

26 Apr

A really strong woman accepts the war she went through and is ennobled by her scars – Carly Simon

Lately, I have been bombarded by articles about “the most beautiful people alive.” I know that everyone rushes to the newsstands to pick up their People Magazine to find out who looks super gorg this year, but in my opinion, the publication perpetuates the wrong description of “beauty.”

One artist who I deeply admire and would say is absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful is THE Carly Simon.

While walking to work this morning, I turned on my Spotify to my Carly Simon Collection. My beloved playlist. I get so lost in the music, still, even after having listened to most of her songs many, many times.

I was first introduced to this woman when I was a young child. My mom had many of her tapes and would play them in the kitchen or out on a drive. At the age of 11, I started to voice my confusion with her hit “You’re So Vain.” It played constantly on Lite 104.1, and while she did think the guy in question would assume it was about him, he’d be right. “So what’s the problem?” I’d ask my mother. “She wrote the song about this guy, if he knows her and thinks the song is about him, so be it. Right? This song makes no sense.” Also, why would you date a guy wearing an apricot ascot in the first place? Gross.

But I grew to love her music. Her songs are pure story, and while she has a beautiful voice, her talent as a songwriter astounds me. While the lyrics and music had been written years ago, I toted my Best Of … CD around in my car for years, since, well, since I could drive. The stories told are obviously very personal, from the heart, but still very relatable. And I always respect an artist who can share such personal tragedies and triumphs with the world.

And while many Brittany Murphy movies are laughable, I still own and watch “Little Black Book.” Because Simon’s music was key, and the storyline played out much like one of her songs. In “Working Girl,” another movie I own, “Let The River Run” become an integral part, and the movie “Heartburn.” Dear Lord, what is there not to say about “Heartburn”? It is one of my absolute favorite movies of all time. Written by Nora Ephron, starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, and with a theme written by Simon AND featuring “Coming Around Again”? Come on, that’s just plain awesome.

Besides her songs, she survived breast cancer, is a children’s author, and was married to James Taylor. And had two children with him. I can go on and on about this celebrity like I know her, but I just want to express my admiration for one of my “most beautiful people.” She’s pretty damn awesome.

 

That one song…

11 Apr
Yeah, I'm going to watch this movie tonight for the umpteenth time.

Yeah, I’m going to watch this movie tonight for the umpteenth time.

There’s a scene in “500 Days of Summer” where Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character jams out in the street to “You Make My Dreams Come True” by Hall & Oates. After a good night (wink, wink), he bolts out the door to a sunshiny day in LA. The public – including the postman and a little blue bird – join in on his happy excursion, performing a perfectly-synchronized dance to the upbeat tempo.

I am pretty fond of this movie moment for its truth; in fact, most of Days of Summer grasps at honesty of the human experience like no other film I have ever seen. There are just days or hours or seconds that feel so exhilarating, that you feel as if everyone must be experiencing said emotion at that exact time. Bliss just oozes from every corner, and only something truly horrible could bring you down from that cloud.

Almost every person on the train, subway or walking (that is not a tourist), always has their earbuds stuffed into their heads listening to some kind of soundtrack for their life. I’m always curious what it is. Could it be hip-hop, Broadway, or a Top 40 mix? What does it mean to them? My $9.99 per month Spotify account is loaded with various tunes for my every mood. And my phone carries said music with me wherever I go.

On those mornings or evenings when I’m just feeling right with the world, and that happiness just exudes from every nook and crany – I turn on a playlist that mirrors it. And it takes almost every ounce of my being to stop from dancing, skipping, and hoping that everyone in NYC will go along with my insanity. Why isn’t everyone else in step with this spectacular moment. Why doesn’t The Killers jams flooding into my ears spark something inside of them? And while my favorite music may not start a dance party on the street, I do notice people smiling more, being courteous, and not as annoying as I usually do.

What is that song or album that makes you want to start a flash mob?

Christmas: A few of my favorite things

12 Dec

We all can think of a couple of items that make the Christmas season so special to each of us. Perhaps it is a movie, carol, or distinct memory that makes us relish the holiday.

Well, here are just a few of my favorite things about this exciting time — in no particular order.

FAVORITE MOVIE:

This iconic movie ranks top on my list of Christmas movies.

This iconic movie ranks top on my list of Christmas movies.

This is hard. There are so many classics: The Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, It’s A Wonderful Life, Elf, Home Alone, the list goes on and on. For me, myself and I, there are two movies that have to watched during the month of December — Little Women and Meet Me in St. Louis. Judy Garland is iconic and absolutely wonderful, singing “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” That movie just makes me clasp my hands to the side of my head and sigh. Little Women, well I know that isn’t really considered a “Christmas” movie. Yet, with all of the winter moments and the scene signifying Christmas miracles – it gets me into the holiday spirit. It might also have to do with the fact that my late grandmother owned a copy of the 1949 version that I watched over and over, and it makes me feel a bit closer to her during the holidays.

FAVORITE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL:

I did not understand Pee Wee's more irreverent humor until later years. This is a definitely a holiday gem.

I did not understand Pee Wee’s more irreverent humor until later years. This is a definitely a holiday gem.

Movies and specials aren’t in the same category for me. Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Claymation’s Christmas, Muppet Christmas, there are so many amazing 30 minute to hour television extravaganzas that enliven childhood memories of supreme happiness. The one that I have to catch each year, with no fail, is “Pee Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special.” It is so late ’80s, it’s not even funny. No, it is super funny. From the King of Cartoons to the Magic Screen, each and every character from the beloved children show unite with stars of the time to create a Christmas spectacular. As in Pee Wee’s words, “Feliz Navi’blah!”

FAVORITE SONG(S):

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RIP Dan Fogelberg

This is super hard. From Perry Como to Ella Fitzgerald to Louis Armstrong, the classics always reign supreme. But (oh, there’s a but) I have to listen to two songs on repeat from Thanksgiving to well after the holiday season is over: Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne” and Joni Mitchell’s “River.” I’m not depressed, no, these are just original pieces from true songwriters. Fogelberg’s songs are seriously like opening up his soul to the masses. I love when music used to tell a story — one that was relatable and truly sentimental and from the heart. Both of those songs can bring me to moments in my life that I cherish and hold dear.

FAVORITE ALBUM (in its entirety):

I heart "Grown-Up Christmas List" and "Emmanuel, God With Us" so much.

I heart “Grown-Up Christmas List” and “Emmanuel, God With Us” so much.

Again, a toughy. I have to listen to at least three Mannheim Steamroller albums through December, as well as the iconic Mariah Carey “Merry Christmas” CD. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” will get me dancing in a matter of seconds and makes me feel like a middle schooler again. Yet, this honor is bestowed on “The Christmas Collection” by Amy Grant. I’m not a huge fan of hers outside of the holiday season, but it contains all of her Christmas classics. My mom and I would listen to her songs over and over during shopping trips and drives to craft fairs. Her music is the nostalgia that I require while gazing at the lights on my tree. “Breath of Heaven” is seriously one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.

FUNNIEST PART OF THE SEASON:

I'm sorry that I'm not sorry for this. I'm just sorry that you are so bitter, Suki.

I’m sorry that I’m not sorry for this. I’m just sorry that you are so bitter, Suki.

This honor is bestowed on dressing up animals in crazy costumes. My parents’ poor cat Suki is known to be the brunt of our humor (don’t feel sorry for her, she is treated like the most spoiled of princesses at their house). She is one of those animals that has a very distinct personality — meaning, she either doesn’t want to be around you, doesn’t want you to touch her, and actually just wants you to leave her alone. So when the Mrs. Claus outfit or reindeer antlers comes out — there is a distinct cringe. She falls to the ground dramatically, and doesn’t move as if she was stricken suddenly by some tropic disease. Drama cat is hilarious, for sure.

FAVORITE PASTIME:

16december2009blogcan

For me, it is Christmas Eve. It hasn’t changed with our family for more than 20 years. I spend a great deal of time during the day with my mom making homemade chili and oyster stew. We frost sugar cookies, listen to Christmas music, and talk. The entire family will go to 4 p.m. Mass at our local Catholic church. Honestly, Mass on Christmas Eve is one of the most beautiful experiences. Incense, songs, rituals — I enjoy it immensely. This is about nostalgia, as well. I spent a great deal of time during my childhood’s winter months practicing music as we prepared for the children’s choir Mass on Christmas Eve. This meant pretty dresses, pretty tights, and fighting to the death for the best solos. Anyways, we will go home, eat our big feast, play games, tell jokes, watch a Christmas movie, and open a few presents. It is one of those truly special times that I look forward to all year round.

FAVORITE FEELING:

Opening these little windows each day was such a relief for my OCD self. I need one of these now, STAT.

Opening these little windows each day was such a relief for my OCD self. I need one of these now, STAT.

The anticipation. The letdown afterwards is awful. Instead, I love to surround myself with anything Christmas and get excited for the parties, fun, and experiences that will be had. As a child, we always had an Advent calendar. It was great for me, because I could see exactly how many days were left until Christmas. Each morning, I would beg my mom to let it be my turn to open the little window on the paper calendar. It was almost better than opening up presents (almost). Being out-of-state, that feeling of childlike anticipation has somewhat returned. I am anxious and thrilled, counting down the days until I’m back with family.

ALL AROUND FAVORITE-IST:

Of course, there would be a giant cat in the nativity scene. It just makes sense.

Of course, there would be a giant cat in the nativity scene. It just makes sense.

That’s easy: Family. We are a quirky, quick-witted, hearty bunch of people. For example, this is the nativity scene that is set up at my parents’ house during the holiday season. Something look wrong with it? Yeah, my mom did that. She thinks it’s funny, and we do too. If the cat was left out of the manger, it just wouldn’t make sense to us at all. Every nativity scene needs a giant white cat, truly. I look forward to coming home next week and spending time with them. Christmas in Iowa – the best gift for this girl.

Music creates limbo brain

25 Oct

Image

Hum, hum, home … something, something, da-ti-da.

Have you ever had that happen? Scratch that, it has had to happen to everyone.
You hear a song, somewhat like it, and then … caput. It’s gone. You might remember a word, a phrasing, but that’s it. Unless you search endlessly on the Internet or randomly hear it again somewhere, it’s stuck in this place in  limbo brain.

Yesterday, I was trying on some clothes at H&M. It’s unusual for me to like what I see in the mirror in a changing room, but yesterday was different. Perhaps it was because I had just finished an interview. Or maybe it was because I had just consumed a Pecan-caramel Cinnabon and I was on a sugar high. Nonetheless, I heard a song that was super catchy and enjoyed it. It had been the background of a commercial recently or on tv, so I recognized the chorus. But it wasn’t until I heard the song in its entirety that I realized that I needed it on one of my playlists. Over and over in my head, I hammered the first line of the chorus in so that I wouldn’t forget it.

Unfortunately, when I got home, there was dinner to make, a stray cat to feed and numerous other jobs to apply for. The song was forgotten. Until this morning.

So here I have been for a good 45 minutes, trying to write in my journal, find more jobs to apply to, news to read, and I can’t pay attention. Instead, I have a few bars from this song and the word “home” stuck at the front.

After searching on Spotify, writing random things in Google, I just wrote “Home” in ITunes. And there it was. “Home” by Phillip Phillips. I listened to it a couple times and it is definitely still catchy. Didn’t know until now that he was the winner on American Idol (don’t watch that show) and that was his coronation song. Not sure it’s my absolute favorite, but what I know for sure is that the song is out of my limbo brain. I can finally concentrate on the rest of my day.

Until something similar happens, which always happens.

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