What Am I Listening To? – March 2020

To say that this month didn’t go as planned would be a massive understatement. At the beginning of the month, I was gearing up for a relaxing vacation in Hawaii, which is where I figured I’d be when writing this column. Then the Coronavirus happened – or rather, America finally got serious about defending itself against it, and most of us went into a prolonged period of self-isolation. The upside is that I’ve had even more time than usual to binge on music while working from home (and I’m fortunate to have a job that lends itself well to telecommuting). The downside is that, try as I might to be objective, some otherwise good music released during this season is going to be forever entwined with the memories of being stuck at home and praying to God that none of my family members or loved ones get sick. Maybe I’ll be able to turn that around and come out remembering some of this as the music that helped keep me company and lift my spirits during an intense and difficult part of my life? Only time will tell.

Here are my first impressions of the latest from Phantogram, SHEL, Alex Wong, Hayley Williams, Leigh Nash, Cindy Morgan, Holden Days, Collective Soul, Peter Bjorn and John, Mandy Moore, Matt Wertz, Jason Wade, Sufjan Stevens & Lowell Brams, Pearl Jam, Elbow, and Sleeping at Last.

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Divad’s Soundtrack #79: March-April 2009

There’s a lot of war, betrayal, decay, and destruction that plays out over the course of these two discs. You wouldn’t guess it right away from a lot of the up-tempo song selections, nor from the downright worshipful songs that bookend the set, and certainly not from the lovely scenery taken from a few of my favorite hikes that got chosen for the the cover art. This didn’t come from some weird place of turmoil in my own life – either it was a reflection on conflicts going on in the world at the time, or else I just sort of realize a theme was pulling itself together in the individual songs I was enjoying around that time, and I put them together in such a way that it really emphasized the common thread between a lot of them. There’s also some weird stuff about astronauts and aliens here and there… and a few songs that were chosen to commemorate an unusually warm Southern California spring. So it’s not all dark clouds and disasters and bullets and bombs and blood. But yeah… I guess it’s mostly that.

In with the New:
The Reign of Kindo
Neko Case
Doves
Sara Watkins (as a solo artist – appears previously with Nickel Creek)

Out with the Old:
Third Day
Delirious?
Joseph Arthur & the Lonely Astronauts

Listen on Spotify:

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Divad’s Soundtrack #78: January-February 2009

Right at the tail end of 2008, and into early 2009, I was feeling a pretty strong dose of the economic anxiety that I think a lot of Americans were feeling at that point. Part of it was due to Christine being in transition – knowing she didn’t want to work in daycare any more, but not feeling another calling to a type of job that was both exciting and feasible to pursue. So we were living off of just one income for the time being, and it was hard not to worry about our future plans getting stalled out as a result of this. Fortunately she knew what to do to help get my mind off of the worries, and a pair of trips that we ended up taking along the central California coast in January and February did quite a bit to lighten the mood in that difficult transitional phase of our life together.

In with the New:
Animal Collective
Fiction Family
Josh Ritter
A. C. Newman
Blitzen Trapper
Joseph Arthur & the Lonely Astronauts

Out with the Old:
Code of Ethics
The Myriad

It Was Worth a Try:
The Welcome Wagon

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Divad’s Soundtrack #77: November-December 2008

I was really optimistic at the end of 2008. It had been a tough year, but things appeared to be changing for the better. Still, I think I was more aware of a lot of the turmoil in the world around me than I had been before. I can sort of see a cycle in these songs that I picked back then, which starts out with hope – perhaps hope that was placed in imperfect humans who meant well but couldn’t fix everything we wanted them to fix all at once – and then it moves into a sequence of frustration, jadedness and cynicism, fear, conflict, war, and even death. Ultimately, with the arrival of the Christmas season, it comes right back around to hope again… but it’s tempered with a lot more grace and patience and wisdom than the first time around.

In with the New:
Annie Moses Band

Out with the Old:
Jaci Velasquez
Sanctus Real

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Divad’s Soundtrack #75: July-August 2008

I’m just now realizing how richly nostalgic a lot of the summer imagery is within this set of songs I put together ten years ago. In August of 2008, Christine and I embarked on a truly epic road trip through the Southwestern states of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. With the exception of our previous trip to Las Vegas, Christine had never been to any of these states before, and I hadn’t been to that part of the country in quite a while myself. On this trip we took in the Grand Canyon, Sedona, the Valles Caldera region of northern New Mexico, Santa Fe, some superlative sections of the Colorado Rockies, Salt Lake City, three Utah National Parks (Arches, Bryce Canyon, and Zion), and finally Vegas on our way back to L.A. It took 12 days, and it tested my limits as a driver in ways that taught me to think more carefully about how many hours on the road I’d be committing myself to on future trips. But it was a great bonding experience that taught us we could enjoy nothing but each other’s company for long stretches of time out on the open road, and to this day it’s one of my most fondly remembered trips.

In with the New:
Fleet Foxes
Katie Herzig
My Morning Jacket

Out with the Old:
Fauxliage
Ivoryline

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Divad’s Soundtrack #63: July-August 2006

My memories of the summer of 2006 are largely dominated by fond remembrance of our first trip back to Hawaii since we got married. Visiting family, and friends who were now starting to feel like family, made Oahu seem more and more like a second home, though there was still plenty left for me to discover. The second part of the trip was to the Big Island, which was a first for both of us. Despite how much I had enjoyed Kauai and Maui on past trips, the Big Island quickly emerged as my favorite part of Hawaii, due to the scenic and biological diversity on display – it was like an entire continent in miniature. This still stands out as one of my all-time favorite trips.

In with the New:
Pearl Jam
Rock Kills Kid
House of Heroes
Leigh Nash (as a solo artist – appears previously with Sixpence None the Richer)

Out with the Old:
downhere
Jack Johnson

It Was Worth a Try:
Thom Yorke (as a solo artist – appears elsewhere with Radiohead)

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Divad’s Soundtrack #62: May-June 2006

One of my favorite memories from the early years of our marriage is all the places Christine, who was still relatively new to Southern California and seeing it through different eyes than I always had, found for us to explore together. For some reason I seem to romanticize the idea of exploration, of filling in a previously unknown spot on the map that most of the people you know might not know anything about, and sharing that new experience together. Ten years later, I still haven’t lost my excitement about that, but new places like those have become harder to find, so I tend to look back with fond nostalgia at the “innocence” of finding out for the first time that some of these beautiful places were tucked away, far from the typical overcrowded tourist spots.

In with the New:
The Violet Burning
Rosanne Cash
Belle & Sebastian

Out with the Old:
Shaun Groves
The Corrs
Charlie Hall
Dean Gray

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Divad’s Soundtrack #61: March-April 2006

Spring 2006. Lots of rain that winter made for good hiking in those months. Life was relatively free from turmoil as far as I can remember, so a lot of the songs I chose for this mix, particularly on Disc One, instead identified with the difficulties others around me were going through. Disc Two has a more drawn-out set of mellow songs to wind it down than my mixes usually do, which may reflect my more peaceful state of mind at the time, though it’s in sharp contrast with the heavier material at the beginning of that disc. Figuring out how to transition between the various moods on these soundtracks is a puzzle that I will never completely solve.

In with the New:
Jack Johnson
The Listening
Justis Kao
Matisyahu
Dean Gray

Out with the Old:
Superchic[k]
Mark Schultz
Fernando Ortega

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Divad’s Soundtrack #60: January-February 2006

There are certain years in my life that I’m heavily nostalgic for. Just seeing the number “2006” brings a flood of memories back, most of them incredibly happy ones. It’s not the only such year, but it’s the example that comes to mind most readily when I ponder which year’s been by favorite so far. It was the first year that Christine and I really got to settle in as newlyweds, with big dreams but no pressure to make big plans in the near-term future, and with the stress that lingered throughout most of 2005 finally gone, this to me is where the “honeymoon” truly started on a more emotional level.

In with the New:
Thrice
KT Tunstall
Calexico

Out with the Old:
Bethany Dillon
Ken Oak Band
Chris Tomlin

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