Obsessive Listening

Music of note so far in 2016

I have been busy trying to keep up with all of the new music that has been released thus far in 2016. It is not easy to do when you work full time! I have been eagerly adding songs to my 2016 Spotify play list, and my collection of songs for the decade has grown to over 300. And I keep finding tracks that were produced in previous years that I missed. Like I said, it’s really hard to keep up!

Here are some of the many highlights that I have been obsessively listening to so far this year.

Tedeschi Trucks Band – Let Me Get By  My favorite album thus far in 2016. In fact, this will likely be one of my favorite all-time desert island albums. It has been in regular rotation at my house since its release. And I usually only choose one or two tracks from one album to add to my favorites lists, but I love each and every one, so they all appear on my 2016 list and my decade list. Susan Tedeschi (vocals and guitar) and spouse Derek Trucks (guitar) have assembled a group of musicians who are talented enough to stand on their own. Together, they are a powerhouse. Watch the whole band here on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert.

Bonnie Raitt – Gypsy in Me She’s still Rockin! I love Bonnie.

Mavis Staples – Livin on a High Note This is like an industry tribute album for her. It’s a collaboration with some more currently popular and respected names in music right now, each paying homage to a legend, a hero to many. Her voice is more sandy and gritty, and even more soulful than before.

I got to see Mavis Staples and Bonnie Raitt in concert together a few years ago. It was one of those profound moments in life, two legends performing together who you know they absolutely love and respect each other. I get chills thinking about it.

Ray Lamontagne – Ouroboros – Very psychedelic for Ray, suitable for his ethereal voice.In early April, he played the entire album at the World Cafe here in Philly. You can listen to the whole concert, and watch this video of Hey, No Pressure.

Dylan Leblanc – Cautionary Tale – Very pleasant to the ear, similar style to Ray Lamontagne.

Lucius – Good Grief Fun pop music. I don’t love the single they’ve been playing on the radio so much, Born Again Teen. It’s okay, but I think there are much better tracks on this album, like All Mighty Gosh.

Single Notes

ANOHNI – Drone Bomb Me – The video for this is just devastating. ANOHNI’s voice is haunting. This song has been described as and ” indictment of the drone campaigns carried out by the United States and elsewhere, delivered from the perspective of a young girl whose family has been killed in a drone strike.” She has confirmed that she will release a new album on May 6, Hoplessness. A tangential opinion here: She really should have won the Oscar for best song.  She absolutely should have been invited to perform on the show. What a missed opportunity.

Kindness – A Retelling – I learned about Kindness (solo project of Adam Bainbridge) last year, and this is his latest track. He recorded it for the The Long Road project, a collaboration between musicians and refugees.  Just lovely.

Anticipated Obsessions

case/lang/viers – Atomic Number This trio is nothing but a miracle, something I never would have conceived of, but when I heard about it I knew it would be amazing. Neko Case, k.d. lang, and Laura Veirs (who I admittedly am less familiar with) are releasing an album together, and touring this summer. They’ve released a couple of singles to give us a taste.

Beth Orton – Kidsticks This beautiful single was released on March 2. Looks like she’s getting back to combing her folky style with electronica, and it’s just a lovely combination. This track definitely makes me want to hear more!

Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth Sturgill Simpson is a new discovery for me, just this week, as a matter of fact. I heard a cut from this new album on the radio while I was on the way to work one day, and I was blown away. I looked him up first thing when I arrived at my office, and found that NPR was streaming the entire album. The web site says “At the artist’s request, songs from this album cannot be played individually.” After listening all the way through it, I can understand why. It is totally worth listening to from beginning to end. I don’t know what to say except that this album is like nothing I’ve heard. Twang, funk, soul, spiritual….the Dap Kings play on five of the tracks. He plays a mellow country western version of Nirvana’s In Bloom for gosh sakes! I heard a reviewer say “I just want to hug him.” So do I.

The new album comes out next week, April 15. Meanwhile, thank goodness you can stream it on NPR. I predict this is going to be one of my favorite albums this year, and maybe even make my Desert Island list.

There is a lot more! And a lot more to come! You can find my 2016 curated play lists on Spotify.

Music Worthy of Your Attention in 2015

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2015 was to listen more intentionally to new music. I have done a pretty good job of reaching that goal, if I do say so. I have compiled my list on Spotify of favorite songs that were released in 2015 (you must have a Spotify account to view and listen). I have attempted to make a list of my top ten albums. There was a lot of really great music this year, so picking only ten has been difficult. This has been so enjoyable a task that I will definitely keep it up in 2016.

My primary resources for music discovery are Spotify, KCRW, WXPN, and SOMAFM, as well as music reviews from Sound Opinions, Fresh Air, Dinner Party Download, and NPR Music. Ben Watt of Everything but the Girl fame has a list on Spotify which has helped me discover some new music. This seems to be a random collection, and it is not all new music, but a lot of it was new to me. Also, recommendations from friends have been very welcome.

I chose the albums that I have enjoyed listening to from start to finish. The following (in no particular order) are the albums that I have become obsessed with at some point in the last 12 months, listening over and over, and all have tracks that will make it to my Desert Island List.

Enjoy!

Brandi Carlisle – The Fire Watchers Daughter

Florence and the Machine – How, Big, How Blue, How Beautiful 

Lizz Wright – Freedom and Surrender

Low – Ones and Sixes

St Germain – St Germain

Melody Gardot – Currency of Man

Leon Bridges – Coming Home 

Judith Hill – Back in Time

Bob Moses – Days Gone By 

Fink – Horizontalism

Addendum January 1, 2016

Since compiling my list of favorite albums from 2015, two more have come to my attention that I would have chosen to include, extending my list to twelve. These albums are just beautiful and are worthy of obsessive listening. 

Loyalty – The Weather Station

The Chopin Project –  Ólafur Arnalds and Alice Sara Ott

Paradoxical Readings – April 2014

Recently I’ve read a couple of different articles that went viral about the wisdom most of us gain by our 40s. What You Learn In Your 40s and This is 45: The Eye of the Life’s Storm. The latter particularly resonated with me. In sum, the premise is “The emotional drama of growing up is behind you, the physical perils of aging are still to come.” Both articles speak to mid-40s being the age of perspective, of knowing exactly what it means that you are responsible for where you’ve been and where you’re going, for being wiser for having learned some of life’s hard lessons, and enjoying the present moment with gratitude. I can’t relate to everything in this article, as I am not straight and I am not a parent, but there are many nuggets of wisdom and humor that express what I feel, such as:

Your brain has reached capacity and to retain any additional information, some things leak out.

or:

At 45 your tolerance for mean people hits rock bottom. Life is too short to spend any energy on bullies.

and:

You begin to realize that granting yourself permission to just “be” is one of the hardest things you will ever attempt.

At 45, we’re all a little softer around the edges, literally and figuratively, and that’s kind of nice, actually.

This article in response to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In was an interesting read. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve talked to enough folks who have read it and found valuable nuggets of wisdom in it. This piece claims that “leaning in is killing us.” The author says that before she took Sandberg’s advice, she had more time for a personal life. All of this seems to speak to the old question of work-life balance that is never satisfactorily answered. Again, I’m not a straight woman and a parent, and I do think that is the audience for Lean In and this article, so I can’t relate to everything here. What strikes me as I read this and think about my straight female colleagues and friends who have careers and children is that, with exceptions, their male partners assume the stereotypical role of secondary caretaker of children and household. I do try not to be judgy, but it looks to me like as a culture we still have a long way to go towards gender equality in our professional and personal lives.

This article from the New Yorker about self-help books is a little depressing. The author posits that the positive thinking that these books teach their readers tend to have quite the opposite effect. I guess I don’t find this surprising.

The most effective way I have found to combat depression is to be pro-active, actually do something, as opposed to just thinking positively. One thing I do when I’m depressed is practice gratitude. I intentionally think of all of my blessings and offer up a prayer of thanks, meditate on the abundance in my life, or even send a thank-you note to a friend who has done an act of kindness for me. Practicing gratitude is included on this list of 19 Ideas to Start & End Your Day With Joy. On this post I found a few new things, and was reminded of a few I already know, to help me stay soft around the edges. These are all practices of self-loving, and good ways to stay mindful of all of the lessons I have learned by mid-life, and to stay open to continue learning.

More stats on what you can do proactively to combat depression: The Science of Happiness.

I love the Brain Pickings blog. A recent post about The Benjamin Franklin Effect tells the story of how Ben Franklin won over a a troll and a nemesis with kindness. In this story is the lesson for all of us to stop hate in its tracks by fighting it with love.

Speaking of fighting hate with love, there were a couple of really nice examples in the last few weeks. On the heels of the death of Fred Phleps, some local folks staged a demonstration of his funeral in the style of the Westboro Baptist Church, only with a compassionate twist.

In another loving response to hate, Honey Maid responded this way to hate mail that they received in response to ads depicting diverse families, including a same-sex couple and their son. I think I might be craving graham crackers!

What are you reading?

Fear And Prejudice On Trial

Perry v Schwarzenegger put Proposition 8 on trial. More precisely, as attorney David Boies put it, the case put fear and prejudice on trial.

In case you missed it last night, the recording of the reading of 8: A Play About The Fight For Marriage Equality will be available for one week. The new play about Perry v Schwarzenegger, the Proposition 8 trial has been produced and promoted by the American Foundation for Equal Rights as a strategic move in the marriage equality movement. The defendants in this case, the proponents of Prop 8, have argued successfully so far to keep the videos of the actual trial sealed. They want to keep them sealed because they know those tapes will damage their overall cause. They performed so badly and their arguments were so ridiculous that it was laughable. And the families that were there to tell their stories were so touching and compelling, public perception can’t help but land in favor of marriage equality.

You can certainly read about it, as the media covered it. When the trial was going on, I was following the news very closely as an interested party. When I read the news, I remember laughing out loud at some of the testimony. The burden of the defense, the Prop 8 proponents, was to show how “traditional” couples and families would be harmed by gay and lesbian couples getting married. They came with nothing. They could not demonstrate how this would be so, and they looked foolish and mean-spirited in the process.

So, in lieu of being able to see the tapes of the trial, we have “8”. It’s an all-star cast, including Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Jaimie Lee Curtis, Jane Lynch, John C. Reily, and others, all HUGE names behind this! And with Rob Reiner producing, there is an amazing amount of clout and power behind this. I can’t say enough how much I appreciate their commitment to the project and the fight for marriage equality.

Call to Confession, June 5th

Today’s call to confession at my church really struck me as a perfect paradox:

We allow ourselves to get caught up in the here and now, and forget to look forward to God’s future with great joy. We allow ourselves to get caught up in the promises of a glorious future full of love, and forget to live in love now.

In my yoga practice, I meditate on equanimity, and I try to carry that forward into my day-to-day life. It is the paradox of the balance expressed in the words above, being present in the here and now, yet not being so stuck there as to move into the future with joy and gratitude.

Namaste.

My Stewardship Testimony

Recently, I shared the following story with my church, which illustrates all of the reasons why I make financial contributions.

When I was a child, my family attended a Lutheran church, one of the largest and wealthiest in the Twin Cities. It was a big, beautiful building downtown, with vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows, absolutely breathtaking. A beautiful building located in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the area, where there sizable Native American population.

My grandfather had been a founding member of the church, and my parents were upstanding members of the community. They were involved in the Christian education program for adults and kids, and we had many friends in the congregation. I learned the meaning of spiritual community there. I was getting ready to begin Confirmation classes, and the church began to go down a road that forced my family to make a difficult choice. It is illustrated by this story:

One beautiful spring day, we were having a pot luck in the parking lot. There were lots of people and lots of food. Some folks from the neighborhood lined up with the rest of us, grabbed some plates, and got ready to get some food. They were hungry.

I remember being surprised and ashamed to see someone with authority tell them that the food wasn’t for them, that they were not members of the community and therefore were not welcome. The message that sent to me as a child and member of the community was that those people were not like us. They didn’t look like us, they were in need, of a different economic status, and we didn’t want them there to make us feel uncomfortable.

My mom took me aside later that day and was very clear with me: What that church member did was wrong, and that was not what Jesus would have done. Those people are members of the surrounding community, and should have been welcomed by us and offered food.

Shortly after that time, my parents made the difficult decision to leave the church. They made sure to let me know that the church was no longer representing their theological views, and they wanted to raise me with different values. They could no longer support or be a part of a community that was teaching exclusivity, not welcoming.

Growing into adulthood, I have struggled with claiming my place in the Christian church. I have hung out with Quakers, Buddhists, and all kinds of Christians, and I still hang out with Yogis and Yoginis. Finding a church home that feels like a good fit has been difficult. The important thing to me is that my parents instilled in me the values that Jesus taught, those of generosity, sharing, community, love, forgiveness, justice, and healing.

When I found Broadway United Methodist Church in Chicago, I knew I had found my church home here. At BUMC, all are welcome. This is a community that walks the walk of social justice, generosity, and love.

So a few Sundays ago, I offered up this story as testimony, telling the story of why I financially support Broadway. I give because the transgender and gay homeless youth in the Lakeview need our Youth Lounge program. I give because the Lakeview Pantry needs our donations of food. I give because the community needs the Wednesday Night Live adult education classes. I give because Broadway offers much needed support to members of our community who suffer from depression and mental illness. I give because Broadway is unwavering it its support of LGBT civil rights.

I give because I need Broadway, too. This church walks the walk of my theology.

I encourage other members of Broadway to share their stories about why they give, in whatever ways they give: Time, Talent, or Treasure.

Prayer of Confession

Today at church the Prayer of Confession really spoke to me. I have been meditating on it all day, and I thought I would just share it here:

We confess that we have doubted ourselves and you, Lord. We believe what other say about us before acknowledging what your Word says. We tend to the pain, rather than seeking your healing. We have let the stock market, bank accounts, and the economy take hold of us, always looking to appear the best. We have neglected and have rejected relationship with friends, family, coworkers, church, and community. We preoccupy ourselves with devices to distract us. WE have distanced ourselves from the needs of the world. We have worried ourselves with earthly matters, with what cars we drive, what schools we attend, what clothes we wear, and how we appear to others. Forgive us, God, for our focus on the things of this world. Show us your ways and lead us in the path of life that we might see you and proclaim, “my Lord and my God!”

Amen.