19 December 2011

Best of 2011 Mix

Top Songs of 2011
(may contain tunes from 2010)

Trumpets? Check.
Banjo and/or Mandolin? Check.
Surfy guitars? Yeah, baby!
Adorable male / female duets? Check aaand Check.
Song in Espanol? Si.
A song about being at sea? Oh yes, we have that too.

Here they come... in no particular order...my favorite tunes from 2011. When possible I've included a link to listen/buy the song. I hope you will consider supporting these artists.

Abrazame (uproot Andy remix) by Las Rakas is actually from 2010 but I didn't come across it until January 2011.  If this doesn't make you want to shake your booty - your booty is probably broken.

Two songs from Austra caught my attention this year. Beat and the Pulse is more trance-like and Lose It is a little dreamier. I felt validated by this find when I heard Lose It playing in a  Berlin hipster clothing store.

If Moon was Cookie by Laura Jansen (cover) - see video below.

Stamp by The Rural Alberta Advantage has the best drumming I've heard all year. The lead singer's voice is a little bit rat-like but the drums, man-oh-man. Hope I can write a drum part like this one day.

Little Talks by Monsters and Men - this song has it all: horns, accordion, great vocal parts, lyrics and it's hooky as shit. Bonus: these guys won Icelandic band of the year in 2010. Expect to hear this song in a movie trailer or TV commercial in 2012.

Icarus by Kairos - was released in 2010, but I had a hearing-it-for-the-first-time moment when I was diving in The Solomon Islands. I took it as a sign and incorporated it into my Solomon Islands recap video. It's dreamy with a nice little beat. Makes you want to listen to it while staring at the ocean on a sunny day.

Be Your Bro by Those Darlin's - let Those Darlin's charm the pants off your inner Tomboy.

I just wanna I just wanna be your brother
You just wanna be my boyfriend
I just wanna run and play in the dirt with you
You just wanna stick it in
I just wanna be your brother
I don't wanna be your lover
Woah-woah-woah I wanna be your bro

Holcombe Waller - Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan  is another cover - really ballsy. The Native American / First Peoples vocal part at the end could not have been easy to learn and it's a Buffy Saint Marie tune. You can tell that Holcombe really loves this song.

I loved the entire Wild Flag album, but primarily Romance and Racehorse. I couldn't be happier that the Traveling Wilburies for our time happens to include two chicks from a Portland band. Carrie Brownstein is one of the greatest living guitar players and that goes double for Janet Weiss on drums. Many thanks to Carmel over at Evolving Epicurian for finding this great live performance on OPB where Wild Flag performs most of the tunes off their new album.

We Have Everything by Young Galaxy -  I feel like this song would have been the closing credit music for my favorite 80s movie - had it been written in the 1980's. Is it me or does anyone else think this chick's voice sounds like Carly Simon?

Something to Brag About by Deer Tick - here's another one that I like for the lyrics. The band plays it at punk speed but it's got this kinda classic rock feel as well. If you like The Gaslight Anthem, this tune may be for you.

Here's a link to live performance. The tune starts at about 45 seconds in.

123 Forever by Apparat Organ Quartet is, as you might guess, a song made by a band with four keyboards. The vocals have a machine-like quality that adds to the flavor of the song rather than seeming gimick-y.

If you don't mind tunes that aren't in English - Ave Que Emigra by Gaby Moreno is a particularly adorable tune. It's got a vintage country-western kind of feel and she has this very cute and sincere voice.

Half Moon by Blind Pilot - is a sweet little tune by an up-and-coming Portland band. On a mix like this the song seems almost pedestrian, but I had to find a place for it. The ebb and flow of the music, the composition, everything in this song is done just right.

Analog Woodland Song by Viva Voce - some songs have a particular time of day when they sound best, we'll hear one of those tunes later. Analog Woodland Song, in my opinion, can be enjoyed at anytime, anywhere: at your desk, while driving, working out, in the morning, or on the way home from the bar. 

Hunting by Katie Kate - the first tune I heard from Katie Kate was Totebag, and I felt pretty meh about it because I wanted the totebag song to be funny or at least ironic - so I kinda wrote her off.

Then I heard Hunting and was like holy shit, this is the Totebag chick? If you've pined for more electroclash or just like a good uptempo tune, Hunting is one of the best this year.

Her whole album - Flatland - is pretty alright, I bought about half the tracks, yes, including that Totebag song. It's kinda growing on me.

Dystopia by YACHT The earth, the earth, the earth is on fy-ah! We don't have no daughter. Let the motherfucker burn! Uh, I guess this is like the hipster dance take on Midnight Oil's Beds are Burning.

Street Halo by Burial - if you already know Burial, well, this is more of the same. If you're not familiar with Burial, um, his sound is a darker dub-step. It's kinda ambient, kinda house, and a great song for driving at night.

Forget That You're Young by The Raveonettes - I love the guitar sound in this tune. The singer could be reading the phone book, really, and I would still love it.

Lonely Boy by The Black Keys - this track hooked me in the first 10 seconds. The guy dancing was just a huge bonus.

Want more? Check out:
Best of 2010 round up
Best Music of 2009 post

Here's one last tune, it's from 2009 but it was new to me in 2011 - Me Voy by Julieta Venegas. I like the song as a stand-alone, but it's even better if you check out the translated lyrics and watch the video (see below).

18 December 2011

Office Antics

I work for a fairly conservative company (by Portland standards). So I like to bring a little bit of PDX randomness to our employee break room.

Blog Plug:
Many of the ideas below were gleaned from Rats Off - a tumblr blog which summarizes itself as "the internet - so you don't have to." Rats Off is a superior aggregator of all good and funny things on the internets. You don't have to take my word for it - Rats Off was named as one of the top 90 Tumblr blogs for the second year in a row.

Without further ado, here are the 2011 break room highlights.

Lionel Ritchie - Hello Is It Me You're Looking For?

Hello Is It Me You're Looking for Poster

Henry Rollins Coloring Page

Skittle Burgers

This last one has nothing to do with something from Rats Off. It's something I was inspired to do on my own after repeated mis-uses of the word insure appeared in e-newsletters sent to our entire customer database. The word they should have used was ensure. I posted a short document explaining the difference and provided examples of how to use each word. 

grammar lesson

What's awesome is someone from our Latin America team posted a reply of sorts. The addendum notes the difference between ano and año. Please click the image above to make it bigger.

04 December 2011

The Holidays

Tonight as I sat down to Google how long is pumpkin pie safe to eat? ... it occurred to me that I don't hate the holidays. I know that's an uncool opinion, but it's true nonetheless.

You're not going to catch me caroling, or anywhere near a mall - I still hate fun, okay? But I do like christmas lights, pie, the company holiday party after-party, and buying gifts. Last year the gang at work got farting pens, not sure if I can top that one this year...
Charlie Brown Christmas Tree
I can't bring myself to buy a real tree (then there will be fewer to hug), but every year I enjoy deploying the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree at work. Also, Little Red Car gets a little snowman dangling from the rear view and of course Christmas lights. Ain't that so cute you could puke? Well that's how I roll.*

* After pulling back half the dashboard to fix my cigarette lighter plug only to find out it was a bad fuse.

There's a lot to hate about the holidays, no doubt. I wonder though - how much misery do people bring upon themselves? Do ya have to go to the mall and deal with mobs of people? Hell, no. I've done 90% of my holiday shopping online for the last several years.

I do find it a little upseting that Christmas creeps in sooner each year - encroaching on Thanksgiving during the 90's and these days it's creeping in on Halloween. You know what though? Someone is buying that shit or the stores wouldn't put it out for sale earlier and earlier. You don't see bikinis for sale in November.*

* exception for places that have swimsuit weather year-round.

People also hate Christmas because it's totally commercialized, okay sure. But buying into it is a choice. The talking heads tell us what the hot gifts are for the 2011 holiday season, but does anyone remember the 2010 list? People get over it, and usually the best gifts are the ones you didn't know you needed.

When I was a kid all I wanted for like three years was a She-Ra Crystal Castle. One year I got a bike instead. I was perturbed because it was a typical grey rainy Christmas in the Northwest and I didn't get to enjoy said bike for several weeks. The Crystal Castle I could have played with immediately. But the point is, in the end I loved that bike in the end, even though it wasn't the hottest gift.

I've also loved a lot of gifts that didn't cost anything at all. Mix CDs, a really nice note, all of these things cost next-to-nothing and mean a lot. In fact, I'd rather have a personal or funny card than another bath set with a pink shower puff and bath salts that I'm never going to use. I know, I know, it's the thought that counts, but when I get a bath set I know that thought was "I know nothing about you, but I felt obligated to buy you something."

So... I'm writing this post now because I don't want to get started on my Christmas cards. Every year I curse myself from ten years ago. If I never started sending them out I wouldn't have to worry about it now. Damn you Me from the past!!!

Here's the thing though. I complain about the obligation of sending out Christmas Cards but ultimately I am the enforcer. Deep down I must actually like doing it. In fact, the more I think about it, the whole Christmas card deal is kind of narcissistic. I spend hours scouring the internet for a card that borders on offensive and send it out with an illegible greeting for recipients to decipher.

The only inescapable misery of the holidays I can think of is having to spend time with family. But I actually like my family, so I really value the holidays because it gives me a chance to spend time with them.

Imagine if we didn't have the holidays...

I guess there would be a few more evergreen trees around and we'd all have another $200 - $500 in our pockets, but think of what would be lost. Without Christmas there'd be no leftover dessert in the fridge, no War Is Over, no SantaCon.

Also, I think we need a reason to show our appreciation to the ones who matter most in our lives. If we didn't have this preset time of year to give gifts and take some extra time off, when would people get around to it?

Okay Holiday Haters, go ahead. Hit me up with all the wretched things I missed about why the holidays are the worst time of year. But before you do, don't forget, the person who writes this missive was born on Christmas - it is my birthright to hate Christmas.