Morgan's Rantings and Waxings

tales from an extrovert forced to be a recluse

2013 In Review

Well here’s the one time all year that I actually update my blog. I guess maybe I should rename this to “Morgan’s once a year ruminations on the previous year”. So another year has gone by, and as per usual, I’m gonna take a look back at it, both from a personal perspective, and a “best of” type perspective, so thank you for indulging me. And hopefully you get something out of this too, and knowing is half the battle.

So in case you’re curious about previous years that I’ve done this, here they are: 20122011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005.  And like every year, it’s so strange to look at those posts and think about who I’ve been in just a short few years.  As another year has gone by, once again I see how much I’ve changed, yet I feel no different.  Funny how such small gradual changes happen over time, so that a different reality seems like it has always been true.

Well anyway, with the incessant marching of time, I’ll just remind you, future Morgan, what happened to you in 2013:

  • Your band released Before They Sold Out: Part 2 (an album you are incredibly proud of), and on the release night you sold out Schuba’s!
  • Later in the year, you played  House of Blues with your band as well, which at that point was probably the most fun show you’ve ever had (hopefully future Morgan has had even better shows)
  • You got to travel to France, and you and Corinne absolutely fell in love with Paris.
  • You lived in your condo with your wonderful wife for a full year, hosted many lovely gatherings, played a lot of music, cooked a lot of great food, did some things wrong, did some things right.  Overall, life was pretty solid.
  • Oh yeah, and you listened to a lot of stuff, saw some movies, and other things that you like to organize into lists.

So one thing I’ve seen a couple friends of mine do (props to Jeff Brown and John Morrison) is instead of posting resolutions, post goals for the next year.  I like that idea, and since I post these years in review, it’ll be fun to compare goals year after year.  John and Jeff both did 30, but I think I’ll try for 10 and see how I do.  :-p

  1. Get involved in more creative endeavors (ie anything involving writing and performing)
  2. Perform a story at a story telling event.
  3. Get Common Shiner placed in a television show or movie.
  4. Make and release two official Common Shiner videos (these are in the works already)
  5. Make a pizza and a brisket on the Big Green Egg.
  6. Write at least 10 songs this year (I’m planning on doing February Writer’s Month, so hopefully that’ll achieve this goal on its own)
  7. Travel to Yellowstone with my dad
  8. Play a show with Common Shiner that tops House of Blues from October 2013
  9. Run at least 2 half marathons (so basically, just live up to the half marathons we’ve already signed up for)
  10. Blog and write more (so the next blog post I put up needs to not be 2014 in Review)
  11. End the year better than I started

Snuck in an 11th.  If all 11 of those happen, I will be very happy and content.  Heck, if half of those happen, I’ll still feel pretty good.

And now on to my tradition of summing up all the media I enjoyed in 2013.

So as usual, I’ll start with music.  This year the biggest trend was that this was a year that I was really into female led groups.  Even some of the later albums that I got into that won’t make my top 5 all seemed to have female led vocals.  So this one’s for the ladies!

Top 5 Albums

1)  Haim Days Gone By

I really had to think about this for a while, because I probably wouldn’t say that this was in my opinion the best album to come out this year, but after I discovered it, I found myself going back to this album constantly, so it’s hard to say it wasn’t my favorite.  It was something I was always in the mood for when I got in my car, and I perked up a little bit everytime I heard it playing somewhere out in public.  The way I’ve described this album is if three sisters who grew up listening to Janet Jackson and Genesis decided to make an album (and that description might be 100% accurate, I’m actually not sure).  It is unapologetically 80s a lot of the time, and overall just about as catchy and wonderful of an album as you can get.  I suspect I will still listen to this album consistently through 2014 as well.

2)  Tegan and SaraHeartthrob

Speaking of catchy and wonderful, that pretty much defines this whole album.  Tegan and Sara have always had a certain poppiness to them, and this album seemed like their “let’s go all out” effort, where they just decided to blow the pop doors off the place.  I could imagine that hard core Tegan and Sara fans might be disappointed, as this is certainly a different type of album, but I loved it.  Closer was one of my favorite songs of the year, and probably one of my favorite songs ever that is blatantly about sex.  But it’s about sex in such an adorable catchy way.  In a Tegan and Sara way.

3) CHVRCHESThe Bones of What You Believe

We had the potential of opening for them when they played in Chicago earlier in the year, and man, how I wish that would have worked out, cuz that would have been a blast.  And now they’re already way too big for us.  This album is also unapologetically 80s, but in a completely different way than the Haim album.  While Haim was in the Janet Jackson/Genesis vain, CHVRCHES is in the Depeche Mode/Dead or Alive vain.  The whole album is dark, dramatic, and catchy all at the same time.  Such good stuff.

4) BastilleBad Blood

Jake and Mike first introduced me to these guys (though I’ll give props to Charley too, who also pushed me to listen to them), and immediately upon hearing Pompeii I was hooked.  At the time, the album wasn’t even out in the US, but I was able to find it on Amazon imported for a pretty standard price, so I picked it up, and though Pompeii is certainly the best song on the album in my opinion, top to bottom, it is really solid.

5) Frightened RabbitPedestrian Verse

And what would a top 5 list from Morgan be without a Frightened Rabbit album.  To be honest, at the start of the year when this came out, I was underwhelmed.  I liked the album for sure, but given the special places in my heart that Midnight Organ Fight and Winter of Mixed Drinks hold, this one definitely had a lot to live up to.  However, as the year has gone on, each time I go back to this album, I’m reminded of how much I like it, and it really has stuck with me all year.  While it hasn’t had the “break my heart in the best possible way” type moments that FR is known for, it is still such fantastic songwriting that I’m sure I’ll continue going back to it for many years to come.

Honorable Mentions – The Dear Hunter - Migrant, Bad Religion - True North, Foals - Holy Fire, The Naked and Famous - In Rolling Waves, Sigur Ros - Kveikur, The 1975 - The 1975

Didn’t Really Have Time to Give Them a Fair Shake – Daughter - If You Leave, Volcano Choir - Repave, San Fermin - San Fermin

Top Albums I Should Have Been Into Earlier

1)  Alt-JAn Awesome Wave

This was probably Corinne’s favorite album of the year, and while I had heard of them in 2012, I never listened to them.  Finally did in 2013, and just loved it.  It’s such a strange and creative album, yet so relaxing and fun too.  My favorite track on the whole album is all vocals (Interlude 1), and it’s about 1 minute long, but I’m just going to paste all the lyrics to it here, because I think it’s brilliant:

She only ever walks to count her steps
Eighteen strides and she stops to abide
By the law that she herself has set
That eighteen steps is one complete set
And before the next
Nine right and nine left
She looks up at the blue
And whispers to all of the above

Don’t let me drown, don’t breath alone
No kicks no pangs no broken bones
Never let me sink, always feel at home
No sticks, no shanks and no stones

Never leave it too late, always enjoy the taste
Of the great gray world of hearts
As all dogs everywhere bark, it’s worth knowing
Like all good fruit the balance of life is in the ripe and ruin

2)  MikaThe Origin of Love
3)  The Oh HellosThrough the Deep, Dark Valley
4)  The PresetsPacifica

Theme Song of the Year

This one’s tough, as I didn’t really have an obvious one this year (other than We Own This off of our latest Common Shiner album :-p).  But throughout the year, my top 3 go to songs were probably:

Girl – The Dear Hunter
Closer – Tegan and Sara
The Wire - Haim

Most Disappointing Album of the Year

Bankrupt! Phoenix

I loved Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix so much, and I was so ready for this album to blow me away, and while it’s not a bad album by any means, it’s just not great, and I was wanting it to be.

The Fleet Foxes Award

As I’ve explained in the past, this is my award that goes to an album that is not bad whatsoever, but just has so much hype around it, that I just don’t get what the big deal is.  Previous winners were (obviously) Fleet Foxes, LCD Soundsystem, Panda Bear, and The Lumineers.  This year I think the award is pretty obvious, because I can’t imagine anyone ever living up to this much hype…..

Random Access Memories – Daft Punk

Again, don’t get me wrong, I do love grooving along to this album when it comes up on the radio, or in jukeboxes at bars, but my god, the over the top hype for this band is something I’ll just never understand.  I had a friend say this is one of the most brilliant albums of all time.  Really?  If so, I guess we just have different opinions about what qualifies as “brilliant”.

Favorite Movie of the Year

To be honest, I feel like I saw so few movies this year, that I’m not sure I could really make an actual numbered list.  So I’ll just list a few movies I saw that I thought were really good - Gravity, The World’s End, Iron Man 3, Star Trek: Into Darkness.  I am planning on seeing all the other Oscar movies, so my opinions on last year’s movies might change, but that’s all I can think of for now.

Worst Movie of the Year

I’ve become obsessed with the podcast How Did This Get Made, and I have a ritual of watching each movie before listening to the episode, so this past year, it goes without saying that while I didn’t have time for any Oscar worthy movies, I watched a TON of terrible ones.  In my defense, the terrible movies are far easier to watch while working or doing other things, since most of the time, they require very little attention to follow what’s happening.  So while I saw some real bad movies like Deck the Halls, Glimmer Man, Crocodile Dundee in LA, Spice World, Crossroads, even Sharknado, I think nothing for me was as terrible as….

Nothing But Trouble

I know some of you that loved that movie when you were a kid will still defend it, and that’s fine, I certainly have my share of bad movies I defend.  But I never watched it when I was a kid, I only watched it this past summer, and I can tell you that it’s one of the most disgusting and terrible movies ever made.

So I think that pretty much wraps up 2013.  Life keeps getting a little better every year, so hopefully 2014 will be no different.  Cheers!

2012 in Review

Holy crap, so the last post I made was 2011 in review over a year ago.  I think my blogging instinct is officially dead.  And as much as I almost let this whole year in review thing die this year, it’s one tradition I’m just not ready to give up on yet.  So since we’re already 2 weeks into February, let’s look back at 2012!  (and thank you Charley for pressing me on this so that my laziness wouldn’t let it die :))

Alright, so typical rundown, here’s all the previous years – 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005.  And man, Morgan, 2012 was a big one.  You’ll likely remember it forever, but here’s a rundown of the highlights:

  • You got married!!  May 19, 2012!  And while it feels like the whole first half of the year went into planning it, it pretty much went off without a hitch (well…. just one hitch I guess *rimshot*).
  • You bought a house!  Well, a condo to be exact.  But it’s beautiful, and you’ll probably still be living there for the next handful of year in review posts you do.
  • Your band raised the money to record, and then recorded Before They Sold Out Part 2, which will hopefully go down as a pretty major moment in your music career.  Even if it doesn’t, it turned out to be an album you’re very proud of.
  • You went to Italy and England, which was pretty awesome, and your job continues to be as well.

And as usual, here’s all the stuff you liked throughout the year!  Also as usual, I’ll start with music.

This was a strange year for music, because going into it I was crazy excited about a bunch of albums coming out by bands I love, and yet none of those albums made my top 5.  That said, I think I may look back at 2012 as a pretty fantastic music year, even though there weren’t necessarily any albums that I was obsessed with.  This was a year in which truly I could have put this top 5 in almost any order.  But that said, I’ll do my best on the order.

Top 5 Albums

1)  JapandroidsCelebration Rock

As with a few other bands I’ve been in love with in previous years, this was a band forced on me by my friend Allisa, and as usual she was absolutely right.  The energy and passion that these guys bring to an album is incredible, and it’s even more amazing to find out it’s just the two of them.  I also had the pleasure of seeing them live back in December, and they really do create this sound live with just the two of them.  It was a wonder to behold.  ”House That Heaven Built” was pretty much my anthem of the year.

2)  AnberlinVital

This was not just one of my favorite albums of the year, but also the most pleasant surprise.  I fell in love with Anberlin with the album Never Take Friendship Personal and then their album Cities was a masterpiece to me (so much so it was my #2 album of the decade for 2000-2009).  However, shortly after Cities they signed to Atlantic, and then very hastily released an album, that sounded like the B sides to Cities.  A couple years later, they released another full length album that was downright terrible, and I thought sadly Anberlin might be done.  This album proves that sentiment very very wrong.  It has all the over the top epic, heavy, poppy wonderfulness that first made me fall in love with them, and I couldn’t be happier to have it back.

3)  Maps & AtlasesBeware and Be Grateful

I first saw these guys open for Frightened Rabbit a few years ago, and I really liked them.  However, their last album Perch Patchwork didn’t really do it for me.  But since I knew I liked them live, I was excited for a new album from them.  And this album definitely delivered.  It’s catchy, it’s got lyrical depth, it’s unique, it’s just a solid album.  All year I think the tie for my go to ipod song was between “House That Heaven Built” by Japandroids and “Remote and Dark Years” off of this album.

4)  David Crowder BandGive Us Rest or (A Requiem Mass in C [the happiest of all keys])

This was the first album of the year that I purchased (January 7th, 2012 I believe was when it came out), and it just stuck with me all year.  It’s epic in length and in scope, and in typical David Crowder fashion there’s a depth of spirituality to the album without being corny or shallow that is hard to find in any contemporary Christian artists for me.  The songs range all over the place, but are ultimately simple to sing along to, incredibly complex in their sound, and ultimately very timeless.  This was the band’s “going out with a bang” type of album, as they announced that it would be their last, and it was definitely an epic achievement that I’ll listen to for a very long time.

5)  Of Monsters and MenMy Head is an Animal

This was the one album that I knew nothing about until it was already out.  Jake (bass player in Common Shiner) introduced them to me, and said they were “the next Mumford and Sons”.  While they do fit into that sort of sound, they felt more to me like a cross between Mumford and Sons and Stars.  The male/female vocals create a depth to their lyrics and melodies that give the songs a sense of epic-ness without actually being epic in the sound.  The very first few notes of this album were enough to grab me.  I can’t wait to see where this band continues to go, but there are definitely some timeless tracks on this album that will stick around a long time (at least for me).

Honorable Mentions - Walk the Moon - Walk the Moon, Paper Route - The Peace of Wild Things, Freelance Whales - Diluvia, Mumford and Sons - Babel, Two Door Cinema Club - Beacon, Stars - The North, The Gaslight Anthem - Handwritten, Passion Pit - Gossamer, Mutts - Separation Anxiety, Glen Hansard - Rhythm & Repose, Sigur Ros - Vitali, Yellow Ostrich - Strange Land, The Forecast - Everybody Left

Didn’t Really Have Enough Time to Give Them a Fair Shake – Imagine Dragons - Night Visions, Yeasayer - Fragrant World, The XX - Coexist, Regina Spektor - What We Saw From the Cheap Seats

Top Albums I Should Have Been Into Earlier

1) M83Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

I was late to the M83 bandwagon, but man did I love blasting this album on late night car rides this year.  Just all kinds of synth wonderfulness that is perfect with the windows down while you’re driving home late at night.

Theme Song of the Year

As I mentioned before, this is kind of a tie between:

House That Heaven Built – Japandroids

Remote and Dark Years – Maps & Atlases

And I’ll pick a set of lyrics from both to capture them.  From Japandroids:

When they love you and they will

Tell em all they’ll love in my shadow

And if they try to drag you down

Tell em all to go to hell

And from Maps & Atlases:

Started thinking about myself like I always seem to do

I couldn’t stop myself from saying what might seem theatrical to you it’s just

I don’t want anymore remote and dark years

Beautiful and wonderful stuff.

Most Disappointing Album of the Year

The Temper Trap – The Temper Trap

This album is not bad, but it’s just kinda bland.  The opening track “Need Your Love” is fantastic, and the video is even better, but the rest of the album is unremarkable, and I was so ready for this album to blow me away.  But maybe the next one will do the trick, because this one didn’t.  That said, I still love this band.

The Fleet Foxes Award

Quick explanation for those that are unfamiliar with this award, but this is the award I give to the album that is not bad by any means, and that I probably enjoy or even own, but there’s a TON of hype around it, and I just don’t get what the big deal is.  My band that I’m awarding this to this year hurts me a little bit, because I don’t dislike them, and I have so many friends that just love them, but I have to do it….

The Lumineers - The Lumineers

For me, these guys have all the old folkiness/playing music around the barn type sound as Mumford and Sons, but lacking any sort of teeth.  Their music is not bad, but in the end it is just so boring (to me).  I’m betting these guys would be a blast to have grab a guitar and sit around a campfire with while we all pick flowers and eat organic blueberries, but they’re just so uninteresting for me to listen to in other circumstances.

Favorite Movie of the Year

(my movie picks each year are to be taken less and less seriously, as every year I see less of them, and since I go to the theater so infrequently, any time I do I want to make sure there are plenty of explosions.  I know, I’m turning into that guy.  Who am I kidding, I am that guy)

1)  The Avengers

I just can’t think of anything throughout the year I enjoyed more than this movie.  I feel terrible saying my favorite movie was also one that made a bajizillion dollars, but whatever, it’s the truth.

2)  Cabin in the Woods

And my journey to becoming a Joss Whedon fanboy is complete.  This movie is just great, and it’s another good one that horror fans and non-horror fans can totally appreciate.

3)  Beasts of the Southern Wild

If I was pretending to be more artsy than I am, I would have put this one #1, so I hope you all appreciate my honesty.  :)  This movie is beautiful, the story is interesting and strange, and the acting is incredible.  This for me had all the elements of Tree of Life that I really loved, but put into a far more interesting and pallet-able story.

Worst Movie of the Year

As some of you may know, I consider myself a connoisseur of terrible movies, so I usually have quite a few to choose from.  It didn’t come out this year, but I finally saw it this year, and the award has to go to:

Birdemic

Amazingly terrible movie.  Like shockingly bad.  So watch it!

So since we’re already 2 months into 2013, I think I can finally say goodbye to 2012.  You were an epic year, and I miss you already.  But to bigger and better things!  Cheers!

2011 in Review

Every year it seems like I put this out later.  So I’m sorry for my lateness on this, but it’s still January, so it counts right?

So Morgan, since I know you like to get sentimental, here’s the quick links to previous years – 20102009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005.  And here’s some highlights of what happened in 2011:

  • The year got off to a hot start when you proposed to the love of your life.  (she said yes by the way)
  • Your band released that CD finally!  And you called it Before They Sold Out Part 1 (remember how you were complaining about how long it was taking when you wrote your 2010 year in review?  Well it was only about 5 months later, but you did finally release that album).  And it was pretty good too, and it seems like people liked it.  Also excitingly, your band wrote a whole bunch of new stuff, and are busy at the time of this writing fundraising for the next album, Before They Sold Out Part 2.  Who knows what this album will bring, but you’re pretty excited about it.
  • You’re still working for Agathon Group, and they took you to Costa Rica last year (where you also got to have a pre-honeymoon with Corinne.  If you haven’t seen them yet, you should look at your pictures on Facebook).
  • You solidified even more your love of cooking (and cocktail-making), and that’s become one of your favorite activities.  Corinne probably had something to do with that.
  • You started writing some songs for your church, which has been really fun, although your songwriting has slowed down as of late.  Don’t stop writing ya dingus!
  • You had a lot of fun with your roommates, bandmates, family, and friends, and you really don’t have much to complain about.  The Bears could be better, and condo prices could drop a little bit more, but eh, you don’t like to complain.

Oh and as always, you like to list out all the stuff you liked from the previous year, so here’s 2011:

I’ll start as I usually do with my Top 5 Music albums from the year.  This year was in my opinion, a little weak overall (I don’t know if any of my top 5 this year would have made my top 5 last year), but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t GREAT stuff that came out.  Most of the albums I was pretty into were quite heavy (although the top 5 doesn’t necessarily reflect that), with Rise Against, Dropkick Murphys, and Foo Fighters all releasing pretty kick ass albums.  This year was actually poised to be the Manchester Orchestra year, in that I was most excited for their album Simple Math to come out, and while it was a solid album, you’ll notice it only made it in my honorable mentions.

So of course, after I say that it was a weak year, it was still incredibly difficult to figure out this list.  But I’ll give it a shot.

Top 5 Albums

1) Rise Against - Endgame

I first fell in love with Rise Against thanks to Zach Vicha, who introduced me to them.  Those of you who know my taste in music well, I have quite the affinity for punk music, my favorite band of all time being Bad Religion.  With their politically conscious energetic anthems, Rise Against is taking the torch for the aging Bad Religion, and I’m totally fine with it.  Their songs are empowering, catchy, make you want to pump your fists, and then write your congressman.  I think some people may criticize them for not doing anything new with the music, but just like with Bad Religion, their songs are all about the lyrics, and with this album, their songwriting stayed crisp and inspiring.  I think there will be many more years of Rise Against, and the music world is better for it.  Just crank Make it Stop (September’s Children) in your car, and let the fist pumping begin.

2) Bon Iver - Bon Iver

There’s been an odd push back late in the year from people who have mentioned this album as being overrated.  I can certainly understand, as I’ve had a few solid albums ruined for me just because of all the hype (look at my “Fleet Foxes” Awards from previous years).  But I guess I somewhat ignored the hype, as I was just excited for this album, and it completely delivered.  The album is incredibly beautiful, and while it is still distinctly Bon Iver, it definitely goes some new and cool directions from For Emma, Forever Ago.  I never thought I would hear a double bass pedal on this album, but it’s there, and it fits.

3) Tune-Yards - Whokill

So my roommate Paul put on the video for “Bizness” off of this album back in March or something like that, and I had the song stuck in my head off and on for a month or so until I finally asked him “who was that?”  Since then, a different song from this album is stuck in my head about every month.  It’s edgy, it’s catchy, it’s goofy and strange at times, it’s just a great album.  I can’t wait to see what happens with this very young band who will hopefully be going for a while.  Bang bang my-oh!

4) The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow

This was an album that in a lot of ways was hyped up so much to me that I wasn’t really interested.  And then finally when I listened to it, I’ll be damned if it wasn’t great.  While being relatively simple, and not lyrically brilliant necessarily, there are some solid moments, and the harmonies are hard to resist.  They are a very talented duo, and will hopefully just continue to get better.

5) The Naked and Famous - Passive Me, Aggressive You

This #5 spot was really about a 5 way tie between this album, Walls by An Horse, Going Out in Style by Dropkick Murphys, In the Pit of the Stomach by We Were Promised Jetpacks, and Ceremonials by Florence and the Machine, but I decided to keep it with The Naked and Famous.  I was introduced to them pretty early in the year, and it was about the most perfect “it’s starting to get warm” outside album.  ”Young Blood” was probably the song of the summer, and it’s hard not to dance a little bit when you hear it.  It was also fun because we randomly saw them live when they opened for Freelance Whales and Foals, which solidified them as a top 5 album from me for this year, probably.

Also, just a quick mention to all of the friends of ours who released albums this past year!  Such great bands that I’m very proud to be friends with.  If you get the chance you should definitely check out:

An Aesthetic Anaesthetic - Before the Machinery of Other Skeletons
Jane Thatcher & the Pretty Pleases - (a)liveEP
Duck & Goose - A Live EP
Left Turn at Albuquerque - In Broad Daylight
Mutts - Pray for Rain
Heather Styka - Lifeboats for Atlantis

oh and of course

Common Shiner - Before They Sold Out Part 1

Honorable Mentions - Adele – 21, Battles – Gloss Drop, The Decemberists – The King is Dead,  Elbow – Build a Rocket Boys!, Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues, Foo Fighters – Wasting Light, Gotye – Making Mirrors, I’m From Barcelona – Forever Today, Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math, Mates of State – Mountaintops, White Lies – Ritual, The Antlers – Burst Apart, The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart, Paul Simon – So Beautiful or So What

Didn’t really have enough time to give them a fair shake - Peter Gabriel – New Blood, The Bewitched Hands – Birds & Drums, Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto, Tom Waits – Bad as Me, Loney Dear – Hall Music, Childish Gambino – Camp

Top Albums I Should Have Been into Earlier

1)  The Temper Trap - Conditions

This album won this award about 2 weeks into 2011.  I had heard of them, and while I did give the album a listen in 2010, I fell in love with it in 2011.  Great great album with a little bit of an edge at times, and wonderfully catchy.  Can’t wait for what they’ve got coming up (rumored to have an album coming out in 2012).

Theme Song of the Year

Lippy Kids - Elbow

This was also my most played track last year according to last.fm as well.  It’s such a beautiful song that evokes such a contended emotional reaction out of me.  I’ll just paste the chorus lyrics below, as they’re complex and wonderful.

Do they know those days are golden?
Build a rocket boys!
Build a rocket boys!
One long June I came down from the trees
And curbstone cool, you were a freshly painted angel
Walking on walls
Stealing booze and hour long hungry kisses
Nobody knew me at home anymore
Build a rocket boys!
Build a rocket boys!

Good stuff.

Most Disappointing Album of the Year

Codes and Keys - Death Cab for Cutie

This is actually a pretty good album overall, but it just goes to show how high a bar they’ve set for themselves.  Overall, I wasn’t significantly disappointed by any album this year, but something had to win this category.

The Fleet Foxes Award

 So this is the award I give to an album that came out that I think is a good album, I probably even own it, but that has so much over the top hype around it, that I just don’t get what the big deal is.  Fleet Foxes were the first band like this that inspired this award, and I actually really liked their new album, and the hype was not overblown for me, so they will not be winning the award.  In previous years, I’ve had about 12 albums to choose from for this award, but this year, I didn’t really have anyone, so I’m just gonna give the award to:

Tomboy - Panda Bear

Again, I didn’t dislike this album, but I still don’t see what the big deal about Panda Bear / Animal Collective is.  That said, the hype for this album died out pretty quick after it came out, so it’s solely because I have to award someone that I select this.  Sorry Panda Bear, I mean no offense.

Favorite Movie of the Year

1)  Tucker and Dave Vs. Evil

It’s the Texas Chainsaw Massacre version of Shaun of the Dead, and it’s as good as that sounds like it could be.

2)  Super 8

This is about as entertained in a movie theater as I’ve ever been.  It’s exactly what you would want from Spielberg and Abrams joining forces.

3)  The Muppets

Do I even need to go into details here?  Just see it.  It’s great.

Worst Movie of the Year

This is hard, because if you know me, you know that I do enjoy partaking of really terrible movies.  In 2011 I did decide to traverse the entirety of the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street series, and there’s definitely some real bad ones in there.  So in a close second I’ll say is the remake Nightmare on Elm Street, and in a solid first place:

Jason X

Jason in space.  Recipe for a terrible movie right?  Turns out, you are absolutely right.

So cheers 2011, you weren’t too shabby!  Now on to 2012!  I’d like to bring all of you with me!

Costa Rica Trip Day 3

So one thing we didn’t realize is that the sun sets at 5:30 here, and it gets really dark almost immediately after that.  So every night we’ve looked at each other and asked “how late is it?” only to discover it’s 6:45.  We’ve also subsequently been going to sleep naturally way earlier than normal, and getting up way earlier than normal.  But it’s not so bad, because the mornings here are exceptional.

View from the balcony

View from the balcony

Corinne in the hammock

Lovely place to have a morning cup of coffee.

View from the balcony

 

 

Reading on the balcony

The kitchen in Villa Azul

The driveway

Here’s from the top of the driveway, which totally rivals Alan’s driveway in Honolulu.

Our friend and trip planner Sam (also known as our Costa Rican friend, so we hounded him for information on what to do while we were here, and that’s how we ended up doing what we’ve done so far) told us that while we’re in Manuel Antonio we should go surfing (something neither Corinne nor I have done).  While we were at Margarita’s, we met a guy named Lorenzo who’s dad owns a surf school in Manuel Antonio.  So we took that as a sign, called up the Manuel Antonio Surf School, talked them down a little bit in price (as Sam instructed me to do), they picked us up and we went surfing!

We took a waterproof camera with us, but haven’t developed the film yet, so pictures of us surfing are yet to come.  However, I will say it was a blast.  Both of us got the hang of it faster than I thought we would, which might have something to do with the wakeboarding we did recently.

Afterward we headed into Quepos to a sandwich shop that Margarita had told us about that had some amazing homemade bread and pasta (and for dirt cheap).  After that we went to a little ice cream shop nearby (as I’ve been known to do).

Quepos

Quepos

This was the view from the ice cream place, and it just felt very Costa Rican.

Morgan pre-ice cream

This was me before ice cream.

Morgan post-ice cream

and then after ice cream.

Second cup of coffee

and then after spilling coffee on myself.

Our goal for the rest of the night was to watch the sunset from the jacuzzi on our balcony.  So we relaxed and read on the balcony until the sunset.  The caretaker Larissa (who I can sum up her personality perfectly with the phrase “New York Jewish Princess”) told us that monkeys will often come by, and that a sloth lives in the neighboring tree.  Much to our dismay, we did not spot either (though we’ve seen plenty of geckos!), but nevertheless the view was stunning.  Much like when visiting Hawaii, I found myself taking the same picture over and over, because it seemed to get more beautiful each time I looked.

Sunset from the Villa

Sunset from the Villa

Sunset from the Villa

Morgan in the hammock

Morgan in the hammock

Sunset from the Villa

Sunset from the Villa

Sunset from the Villa

Sunset from the Villa

The Jacuzzi

Bird!

Some sort of bird.  This was the best shot we could get of it.

From the balcony

Sunset from the Villa

Sunset from the Villa

Sunset from the Villa

Sunset from the Villa

Sunset from the Villa

Sunset from the Villa

Paradise

These are our Costa Rican rum drinks that we invented with some fruit juice and rum.  Not the most complicated drink in the world, but amazingly delicious.

In the jacuzzi

The jacuzzi was a little chilly, so this is me diving in.

In the jacuzzi

And then I was a little more used to it, and trying to strike some sort of suave expression.

Sunset from the jacuzzi

Sunset from the jacuzzi

In the jacuzzi

I like how you can see Corinne’s arm across both of our faces.

Sunset from the jacuzzi

Sunset from the jacuzzi

Sunset from the jacuzzi

Morgan in the jacuzzi

Sunset from the jacuzzi

Pura Vida!

Costa Rica Trip Day 2

We got up relatively early, and explored Margarita’s a little bit.  I believe we were the only ones staying there.

Margarita's

Flowers at Margarita's

Flowers at Margarita's

Flowers at Margarita's

Flowers at Margarita's

Flowers at Margarita's

Flowers at Margarita's

Flowers at Margarita's

Flowers at Margarita's

Flowers at Margarita's

Flowers at Margarita's

Flowers at Margarita's

Flowers at Margarita's

Palm Tree at Margarita's

Flowers at Margarita's

Flowers at Margarita's

Flowers at Margarita's

Kitty at Margarita's

Flowers at Margarita's

Pool and such at Margarita's

View from Margarita's

Corinne and Morgan at Margarita's\

Margarita's

Butterflies and Flowers at Margarita's

Morgan and Parrots at Margarita's

Parrots at Margarita's

Margarita's

Margarita's

Morgan in the rental car

After hearing several stories from Margarita, and some tips for where we should go, we rented a car and headed off to Manuel Antonio.  The GPS almost immediately got us lost, as we headed up a road that was only a road in the sense that there were not trees there.  Other than that, there were some rocks in a clearing, so I guess that was road enough for us!  We drove for a little bit until the GPS told us to take a right at the same time that we were going under what was clearly a well paved highway.  However, there was no way onto said highway.  So after attempting  a couple other bike trails, we realized we were not getting on that highway.  So we went back down the way we came, forced the GPS to recalculate route, and it to0k us through some roller coaster like winding roads, that were blessedly paved, and eventually onto the right highway.

Couple observations as we were driving:  First off, it’s oddly comforting to notice that there are dickhead drivers everywhere.  Shortly after that you realize that it’s not just that there are dickhead drivers in Costa Rica, but rather that they are all crazy.  And when you get into the mountainous roads near Jaco, it gets even worse.  Nevertheless, it is beautiful, we survived, and managed to snap off these photos.

On the drive from San Jose

On the drive from San Jose

On the drive from San Jose

On the drive from San Jose

On the drive from San Jose

On the drive from San Jose

We also got stuck in our first Costa Rica traffic jam!  Turns out there would be a few more to come.

On the drive from San Jose

On the drive from San Jose

 

 

 

Margarita told us about a spot where you could stop and check out crocodiles on the way.  And she was right!  So we had to stop

Crocodiles!

Crocodiles!

Jurassic Park

Morgan and Corinne in Jurassic Park

 

Crocodiles!

Crocodiles!

On the drive from San Jose

Then we continued on the rest of the drive.  For the record, I may have been singing the Jurassic Park soundtrack in my head the whole time.

On the drive from San Jose

On the drive from San Jose

Stopping just outside Jaco

 

Stopping just outside Jaco

Stopping just outside Jaco

Stopping just outside Jaco

Stopping just outside Jaco

Parrita

Palm Trees

Then we arrived at Villa Azul in Manuel Antontio (the place we were renting)

Villa Azul

We got a brief glimpse of the view, but were a little early for check in, so decided to get some lunch from Barba Roja down the street.

Stopping for lunch at Barba Roja

Stopping for lunch at Barba Roja

Yeah, it was lovely.

Stopping for lunch at Barba Roja

Stopping for lunch at Barba Roja

Stopping for lunch at Barba Roja

Corinne loves to say “typical Morgan shot” and take pictures like that one.

Rain over the ocean

 

I was trying to capture the rain over the ocean with this shot.

Stopping for lunch at Barba Roja

Notice the umbrella in the hair.

Stopping for lunch at Barba Roja

Umbrella drink #2

Villa Azul

 

 

Back to Villa Azul, which was far more beautiful than the pictures could describe it.

Corinne on the balcony at Villa Azul

From Villa Azul

The Jacuzzi at Villa Azul

Jacuzzi at Villa Azul

Villa Azul

At this point we were pretty wiped from our white knuckle driving, and so we picked up some food and rum from the nearby store, and had a very relaxing evening.

Rum

3 Liter of Sprite

Coconut cookies

Corinne and Donuts!

Turns out if you mix rum with various fruit juices it’s really really deliciouszzzzzzzzzzzz…………

Costa Rica Trip Day 1

Well we’ve been blessed to have internet in our two quick places we’ve stayed at so far in Costa Rica, so I figured I’d go ahead and do one of my trip diaries again, at least while I have reliable internet.

As to be expected, the first day was filled with travel.  So Corinne and I spent the majority of the day reading and watching Six Feet Under and The League.  I love traveling because of this.  Any day in which all I did was watch shows and read, and I’d feel like a loser for not getting out.  But here I get to do all that, AND say the true essence of capitalism at work as the first class passengers board AND finish their first glass of champagne by the time I’m cattle prodded back to the 27th row.  And no smoking on airplanes?  I never heard of that.  There’s an ashtray in the bathroom, so either there’s smoking on this plane, or this plane was built in 1962.

But I digress.  The moral of the story is that we got to San Jose, and to the wonderfully charming Bed and Breakfast, Margarita’s, that we stayed at, which is only one terrifying, pothole and unpaved road filled taxi journey from the airport.

This greeted us when we pulled up to Margarita’s:

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I was in love

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We’d heard that Imperial was like the Old Style of Costa Rica, so figured we’d give it a shot.

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It is quite literally the Old Style of Costa Rica.  Here’s some other random photos from Margarita’s.

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Can’t see it as well in the daylight, but I want this little rancho in my house.

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Plenty more to come in day 2…

She Said Yes

shesaidyes 1

shesaidyes 5

shesaidyes 8

shesaidyes10

2010 in Review

So ALL of my counterparts and extended counterparts (ie Will) have already posted their 2010 in review, so I’m way late to this game, but oh well, I’ll post mine nevertheless.

If you’d like to consult previous years, you can do so here: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005.  Every year I enjoy looking back at what my favorite things of previous years were.  Also, I enjoy looking at the little notes I’ve left for myself.  So Morgan, here’s what happened in 2010:

  • Band still chugging along, although you’ve been in a little bit of stasis waiting for this new album, which you’ve heard, and it’s pretty good.
  • You still didn’t chase away that girl, so well done again
  • The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup (which was exceptionally awesome)
  • Work’s still going pretty well (ups and downs, with the biggest up being that they took you to Ireland)
  • Overall, life is pretty solid I would say

Oh and by the way, Morgan, here’s some stuff you liked in 2010:

Top 5 Albums

1) JonsiGo

I was very late to the Sigur Ros bandwagon, but with their most recent release and this solo album from Jonsi, I’m pretty much all in.  This album almost redefines beautiful music for me.  It’s joyous, it’s epic, and it’s just wonderfully pleasing to your ears, and this was the album I consistently put on all year long, and still do.  This is also a rare album to top my list for the year that isn’t a lyric driven album.  This album could be the soundtrack to any epic and sweeping nature documentary.

2) Frightened RabbitThe Winter of Mixed Drinks

The general feeling from a lot of people with this album is that it’s not better than Midnight Organ Fight, but to me that’s a little like saying that brand new Saab that you bought isn’t as good as the brand new Lexus.  They’re both fantastic (I totally picked an arbitrary analogy, and I have no opinion whatsoever on Saabs or Lexi), and though it took a couple listens, I experienced the same sort of heartbreakingly beautiful moments that I felt when listening to Midnight Organ Fight. The Second time I listened through Skip the Youth, I read the lyrics along with it, and I could just feel my gut wrench when reading “Move, Move! I would but I am so tired.  Move, Move!  If I can’t shake myself, I can’t dance with you.”  As Michael Brooks once said about Midnight “this album destroys me in the best possible way” and Winter did that to me as well (even though it wasn’t quite to the degree as Midnight).

3) Mumford and SonsSigh No More

This is in a lot of peoples’ lists this year, and you can totally add me to the pack.  When listening through the title track for the very first time, and the full band kicks in toward the end, I said “woah, this shit just got real.  ”Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free”  Just beautiful stuff.  I’ve often said they sound like a Frightened Rabbit family reunion.  So no wonder I love them, I guess.

4) Freelance WhalesWeathervanes

This album came out really really early in the year (possibly even technically in 2009), and though I heard a couple tracks before the release that I enjoyed, I kind of forgot about them.  And then in like July I thought “oh, I wanted to hear that whole album” and I just fell in love with it almost immediately.  The use of banjo, guitar, and various electronica sounds, this could easily seem very forced, but it sounds so natural.  They also have some wonderfully playful and yet emotional lyrics (one of my favorites “Cut me off with your long tube socks, they don’t scream hey, let’s just be friends”) that create a wonderfully catchy, meaningful album.

5) Ra Ra Riot - The Orchard

This last slot was really a three way tie between Ra Ra Riot, Stars, and Two Door Cinema Club, but I decided to give it to Ra Ra Riot as I think I probably listened to them a little more throughout the year.  Regardless, this album is just lovely, catchy, poppy wonderfulness.  They use cello, violin, and bass better than almost anyone I’ve ever heard.  They’ve received this moniker of being the stereotype hipster indie band for some reason, and they are one that if you have heard any bad hype, you should just ignore that, and listen to the music.  If you’re not sold after the first 3 tracks on this album, then you’ll never like them (and we can never be friends.  JK BFF OMG).

Honorable Mentions - Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History, Stars – The Five Ghosts, Annuals – Sweet Sister, Bad Religion – The Dissent of Man, Brian Wilson – Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin, Fang Island – Fang Island, Foals – Total Life Forever, The Forecast – The Forecast, The National – High Violet, Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back, Vampire Weekend – Contra, Underoath – Disambiguation

Holy crap that’s a lot of honorable mentions.  Maybe I should expand to a top 10 list.  But I do like that only 5 can make the cut.

Top Albums I Should Have Been Into Earlier

1) Metric - Fantasies

When I finally listened to them, almost everyone said to me “oh, you haven’t listened to them before?”  So I was late on this one, but man do I dig them.

2) BattlesMirrored

This album came out ages ago, and it’s definitely not an album for everyone, but man, I just dig it.  It needs to be the soundtrack for any oddly demented yet cute video game (ie Little Big Planet, so good deal it’s on that soundtrack).

3) StarsSet Yourself on Fire

I had never heard of Stars until this year, and my first reaction when listening to Set Yourself on Fire was “how have I not been listening to them before?”  And then they came out with a new album this year that was also great, so well done Stars.  Sorry I was so late to the party.

Favorite Movie

I don’t see movies that often anymore, but I’ll give you a top 2:

1)  Inception
2) Black Swan

I usually list TV shows, but this year was just sort of the same shows getting even better.

Theme Song of the Year

Animal Arithmetic – Jonsi

According to last.fm (and myself), this was my theme  song for this past year.  As Corinne says, it’s the happiest song ever, and with lines like “I see you colorful, I see you in the trees, I see you spiritful, you’re in the breeze” it’s hard to disagree.  A close second according to last.fm would be Sign No More by Mumford and Sons.

The Fleet Foxes Award

This is the award I give out to the album that I don’t think is terrible, but I just don’t get what the big deal is.  This year was tough for this, as there wasn’t much that I felt this way about (as opposed to last year).  While I have friends who feel horrible about the Kanye album, I actually don’t mind it, so that didn’t qualify.  So the only album I felt this way about was:

LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening

I don’t hate this album, but I didn’t think it was all that great, and at the end of the year, Paste had it as #1, and it was really really high on a lot of other lists, and I just didn’t get why.  So it’s a weak nomination this year, but oh well.

Most Disappointing Album of the Year

The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever

This is one of those that’s tough because it’s almost impossible for Hold Steady to top what they’ve done before, but this album in particular just came off as kind of blah for me.  I think they still have some brilliance in them for sure, but this album was a little forgettable.

Worst Movie Seen

Well it’s hard to give this to anything other than Troll 2 which i did in fact see this past year.  However, it’s incredibly entertainingly terrible.  Get a big group of people together, and get your MST3K on.  It’s a blast.

So cheers to 2010!  And while this past year was a pretty solid one, I have some really good feelings about 2011.  I think some stuff is gonna happen this year.  Narrows it down right?

Goodnight Princess

The good times of Thanksgiving were cut a little short this year when Corinne had to put her wonderful dog Edy to sleep this past Friday.  She’d been up and down for a few weeks, but definitely took a big turn for the worse just before Thanksgiving.  We knew it would happen at some point, as she was 13 going on 14, far longer than a dog of her breed should live, but I’m so glad she did, as it gave me a full year and a half to spend with her, as my relationship with Corinne grew deeper.  Corinne often joked about how Edy had me wrapped around her little finger, and the pictures below may clue you in as to why that was 100% true.  She was my little princess and one of the best dogs ever (possibly even the best), and Corinne and I will miss her dearly.

Goodnight Princess.  May flights of beggin strips, doggy beaches, tables to lay under, and toys to steal and horde sing you to your rest.

Quick Update

“One day when I get old, will I remember living?
Will anybody know I came and went?”
- Christopher Andrus, December Shivers

I’m sorry I left you all with such a tease of a post before, but as Corinne and I were on our trip, I got in a little over my head with what I wanted to do on this blog, and so I didn’t have much of a chance to update stuff while we were on the road.  Pictures are up on facebook, but I do plan on updating more here too.  Problem was once I got back, I’ve been wall to wall with work.

So I’m still going to update you with pictures and such from mine and Corinne’s adventures, however, I’m also adding a new category to this blog – Family Stories.  While on our trip, we heard many family stories, and I’d like to share those with you here, and I figured they didn’t necessarily need to be in the context of this recent trip.

So that’s my plan.  I remember a time when I would update this blog all the time with various stories and writings that at the very least I found amusing, and I don’t know if it’s a lack of inspiration, a loss of focus, or a busy-ness in my professional and musical life that have caused me to not update anymore, but it’s likely a combination of all of those things.  Whatever it is, I just don’t have the blogging instinct anymore, and I want it back.  I have twitter and facebook, and I try to update those, but I’ve never been about updating just for updating’s sake, but rather I want to be saying interesting, funny, controversial, and meaningful things (even if it may only be those things to 2 or 3 people :-p).

So stay tuned, as I really do hope to get that instinct back to some extent, but with time and energy being at a premium these days, I’m definitely facing an uphill battle.