Skip to content

A Sufjan Celebration

February 2, 2015

Sufjan series imageA few weeks ago our beloved national troubadour Sufjan Stevens announced a new album titled Carrie & Lowell set to be released on March 31st. This will be his first solo album in five years and my anticipation is quite high.

If the official album trailer is any indication, this album will lean more toward folk than electronic music and, for me, that’s a good thing.

There are shades of electronic touches in the trailer so I don’t suspect that this will be a Seven Swans redux, but perhaps something more akin to Illinois than to The Age of Adz. Regardless, I’m excited.

With that excitement comes a fresh commitment to writing about music. The plan is to take an as-objective-as-possible look at each of Sufjan’s previous album releases and record my take here. My love for the music of Sufjan Stevens is well documented and ever present so I have no dreams of journalistic disinterestedness, but I’ll do my best. Here’s how the plan will shake out:

Feb 3: A Sun Came
Feb 10: Enjoy Your Rabbit
Feb 17: Michigan
Feb 24: Seven Swans
March 3: Illinois
March 10: The Avalanche / The BQE / All Delighted People
March 17: The Age of Adz
March 24: Songs for Christmas / Silver & Gold / Chopped & Scrooged
March 31: Carrie & Lowell
Check back tomorrow for my look into his first record.

Whole 30 Postmortem

February 1, 2015

finished-the-w30-IGToday marks the first day after Whole 30 and we both made it through the whole 30 days. Nearly a month without sugar, grains (kind of), beans, alcohol, or much whining.

Truth be told, it wasn’t all that bad for either of us. Because I don’t eat meat I had to make a few concessions that aren’t right in line with the Whole 30 mentality but which fall within the guidelines for vegetarians (tofu and tempeh primarily), but Jenna was steadfast with the program and did a magnificent job with it. Neither of us had outrageous cravings and I feel confident saying that we both mostly enjoyed the challenges of Whole 30.

Overall, I don’t think we feel much different than before, but we’ve both learned quite a bit about our eating habits and have gotten the chance to rethink our relationships with food.

Here are my take-aways:

1. Sugar isn’t as important as I once thought. We both love dessert and since we haven’t had any sugar since the beginning of January, we’ve learned that it’s possible to finish a meal and not top it off with ice cream or cookies.

2. Fruit is a delicious treat.

3. I really love grains (especially rice) and beans.

4. Advanced meal prep makes life quite a bit better.

5. Roasted veggies are my jam.

6. Dairy is not necessary.

Number six, for me, is the most important.

For the past two years I have been vegetarian and the two years before that I was vegan. Starting today (post-Whole 30), I’m back to vegan. There are a number of factors in this decision but it really comes down to personal ethics. If my ethical beliefs on food will not allow me to consume meat, then it follows that I cannot make the choice to consume animal products in general. The egg/dairy industry feeds directly into meat industries and I cannot buy into that in good conscience.

Please don’t read any judgment in the paragraph above. If nothing else, Whole 30 has revealed that food is an intensely personal matter and it’s fraught with emotion, tradition, and preference. A vegan diet is right for me, but you’re free to your own choices.

All that having been said, here’s to less animal cruelty and more delicious meals.

Whole 30

January 6, 2015

doing-the-w30-IG-300x300On January 2nd Jenna and I embarked on a little dietary journey called Whole 30. If you’re not familiar, it’s a 30-day commitment to a pretty restricted diet that intends to rework the participant’s relationship with food. I say that: Jenna’s done most of the prep work for us. There’s a book, a pretty robust website, and tons of other resources that she’s plumbed, but I’ve just been along for the ride. I’d certainly agree that my relationship with food consumption could use a solid change–but I’m not too excited about it. Still, I’m in and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t count unless you blog/post to social media about your experience with Whole 30.

If I’m not miscounting, I have nearly completed day 5 and it’s not been too horrible. The first two days were a little rough, but then I discovered that potatoes–even regular potatoes–are part of the program. After a good potato fix, I’m feeling less hungry and generally happier.

The biggest issue is that Whole 30 really isn’t designed for people who don’t eat meat. I’ve been meat free since early 2011 and I really have no intentions of changing that, but it’s difficult to get protein within the Whole 30. In order to get protein sufficient for this program (which, mind you, cuts out legumes and soy almost entirely) I’ve had to consume a ton of eggs. I’d rather not eat eggs, at least not in this quantity. Despite all that, I think this Whole 30 business is a good idea and I’m glad to be giving it a try. I know several folks who are much happier having completed it–so much so that they keep going back to it.

Perhaps the best new about Whole 30 is that it’s completely cool with kombucha. With that in mind, I finally put my mind to making my own. Having squandered the scoby that I was given, I’m growing my own from some unfiltered/unflavored kombucha. More fermented foods/drinks, say I.

Favorite Albums of 2014

January 2, 2015

2013 was a great year for music.

So good, in fact, this much of it bled into 2014 and muddied the waters for many music critics. For example, there are arguments that no album in 2014 was better than Beyoncé which was released in December of 2013–too late to make it onto most majors lists but too early to be on lists for 2014. For me, the album Death Speaks by David Lang featuring performances by Shara Worden, Bryce Dessner, and Owen Pallett was released in 2013 but it colored all of my listening in 2014 because I didn’t discover this incredible piece of music until January of this year. Because of that, I paid perhaps too much attention to The National, My Brightest Diamond, and Owen Pallett. I promise, though, that it was worth it.

All that having been said, 2014 was another solid year for good tunes. Below is a list of my favorite albums of the year and a few more than I couldn’t not mention.

10. Perfume Genius

Standout Track: “Queen”

9. The Antlers

Standout Track: “Palace”

8. Flying Lotus

Standout Track: “Never Catch Me”

7. Jack White

Standout Track: “Black Bat Licorice”

6. Grouper

Standout Track: “Holding”

5. My Brightest Diamond

Standout Track: “This Is My Hand”

4. Taylor Swift

Standout Track: “Style”

3. Mimicking Birds

Standout Track: “Bloodlines”

2. Sharon Van Etten

Standout Track: “Your Love Is Killing Me”

1. St. Vincent

Standout Track: “Digital Witness”


Honorable Mentions


Cloud Nothings



Not Enough Data


FKA Twigs


“I Wish It Was Christmas Today”

December 24, 2014

I Wish It Was Christmas TodayBecause tomorrow is Christmas Day, why don’t you get in the festive mood (though you just missed out on Festivus–sorry) and listen to this cover we recorded quickly and with little regard for quality. All we were shooting for was festive glory and merriment. As the title suggests, we really do wish it were Christmas today but I suppose I can wait a few more hours.

Check out JKITT on bandcamp.

Not Quite Top Ten

December 23, 2014

Next week I’ll post my favorite the albums of the year, but I can’t stand not talking about a few other great albums that came out this year. I know you’ve been clamoring for some musical opinions from me so I’ve got a few lists for your reading pleasure.

Great New Albums from Artists I Love

This list is self-indulgent for sure. It’s a collection of albums from artists I’ve loved for years that released new material this year. Sure, the albums are great but they didn’t make the cut for the top ten.

Here they are in no particular order (except–you know–alphabetical).

Damien Rice: My Favorite Faded Fantasy

My Favorite Faded Fantasy is Damien Rice’s first full-length album release in 8 years and he’s made it worth the wait. In many ways, he picked up where he left off with 9 and has run with it.

Standout Track: “I Don’t Want to Change You

First Aid Kit: Stay Gold

I’m not sure how it’s fair that Scandinavian sisters can pull off beautiful Americana music so well. In their third album, First Aid Kit have improved on their storytelling abilities and their harmonies are as tight as ever.

Standout Track: “Master Pretender

The New Pornographers: Brill Bruisers

I love this group. For some reason I’ve found that I only really love every other album they release. As it turns out, Brill Bruisers is part of the off-cycle, but it’s still solid. I may have to change the rule set a bit. Still, Bejar, Case, Newman, and all form an impressive team and this record is not to be missed.

Standout Track: “Champions of Red Wine

Nickel Creek: A Dotted Line

This album is one of my most anticipated releases of the year. It’s been far too long since the bluegrass wunderkinds of Nickel Creek released a record and this was great. They explore relatively new territories with their sound and do a fine job catering to long-time bluegrass fans while still reaching a broader fan base.

Standout Track: “Hayloft

Owen Pallett: In Conflict

Once known by the moniker Final Fantasy (changed for obvious copyright reasons), this Canadian strings-virtuoso created one of the more sonically interesting records of the year. He seems to always find the ideal setting for his interesting voice. There is a, say, gruffer tone on the album than his last, but it works. Beyond this great selection of songs, he’s done a service to the music industry (and fans alike) by breaking down the music theory behind some of this year’s biggest hits.

Standout Track: “The Riverbed

John Mark McMillan—Borderland

The song “Future/Past” is the biggest “hit” from the record, but there’s much more there. McMillan has a way of presenting subjects in a fresh way that is unique in the Christian music genre. Beyond his classification, though, he’s created a fantastic album start to finish to allows the listener to explore emotional material that is rarely touched in popular music.

Standout Track: “Borderland

Overrated Albums

What discussion of music is complete without a little negativity? Here are a few albums that—to me—do not live up to their hype.

Sun Kill Moon—Benji 

Run the Jewels—Run the Jewels 2

Weezer—Everything Will Be Alright in the End

Really, there’s no reason to much elaborate. The tunes on this album are overrated. In the case of Sun Kill Moon, the music is mediocre and the music maker is proving to be a relatively terrible person.


Album I’m Most Surprised to Have Loved

Todd Terje: It’s Album Time

Just give it a listen; I’m pretty sure you’ll love it too.


A New Dawn for Radio

December 19, 2014

serial-social-logoBy now, you’re surely aware of the Serial podcast from WBEZ and This American Life. If you’ve not had the opportunity to hear it, Serial is a story told over a whole season–long long long-form journalism. The first season told the story of a murder trial and conviction that happened nearly fifteen years ago. The primary character–Adnan Syed–has been imprisoned in a Maryland correctional facility and Serial suggests that he may or may not have committed the crime. The season concluded on Thursday morning with the release of its twelfth episode. By most accounts, the podcast was/is a triumph. I can’t remember a single media source affecting so many people around me–not a one.

What intrigues me, though, is that Serial may open the floodgates of podcast listening among the masses. At the end of the final episode Sarah Koenig made an unsubtle plug for their other podcast/radio show This American Life. She invited listeners of Serial to expand their experience of podcasts and radio to other forms and, I hope, sparked curiosity about what other forms of radio can be experienced.

Radio, like television, is increasingly consumed on-demand rather than in real time. Over the week I accumulate a half-dozen new television episodes and as many radio shows to catch up on during down time. As entertaining as Serial is, I hope that more listeners will tune in to other great podcasts.

Below I’ll list some of my favorites.

This American Life

The Moth

Stuff You Should Know


All Songs Considered

Wait Wait. . .Don’t Tell Me!

Beyond those that are broadly appealing, there are countless niche podcasts that bring new topics to life and allow devoted people to delve into their subjects deeply. Some that come to mind are Two Gomers where you follow two relatively unathletic fellows who first attempt to run a half marathon then tackle other races and The Spokesmen that is a roundtable discussing all things cycling related.

What others should I be listening to? What are some of your favorites?