January is always the month when I get to catch up on recommendations from fellow music lovers that I wasn’t aware of in time to evaluate them for myself in the previous year. Thus, if you’re someone who knows me personally, or if you run a blog/YouTube channel that I follow, and you posted some sort of a “Best of 2018” list toward the end of the year, there should be at least one thing you recommended that I decided to check out for myself this month.
Here are my first impressions of the latest from Django Django, Iceage, Lovebites, Myles Kennedy, Kacey Musgraves, Snail Mail, The Nor’easters, Coldplay, Evanescence, Switchfoot, and a compilation from Blurescent Records.
In Brief: These classical/electronic reworkings of old Evanescence songs work better than expected, for the most part. At times the song selection is lackluster, or else the arrangements aren’t quite ambitious enough to set them apart from the originals in memorable ways. But it was clearly a labor of love for Amy Lee, and I get the sense that perhaps for the first time, we’re hearing some of these songs as she had once envisioned them in her mind.
We’ve reached the midpoint of my personal hit list now – at some point in the 40’s is where we cross the threshold from the material bubbling just under the “5 star” barrier, to the material that I feel fully earned the highest marks in each glowing review that I wrote. The higher up we go, the more unbridled my joy in going back and revisiting the great music that the 2000’s had to offer.
In late June 2007, I finally achieved my lifelong dream of taking a trip to Alaska. I had been obsessed with the far-flung corners of our country since first learning about the 50 States as a child, and being with Christine had given me ample opportunity to explore Hawaii, but this far-off northern land eluded me due to the logistical difficulties of getting there. We finally took the plunge and flew into Anchorage (with a few days’ layover in Seattle to hang out with Jennie and her husband Dave), rented a car, and took a road trip throughout the southern and western parts of the state – excluding the Panhandle, most of which you can’t drive to. The trip still dominates my memories of that summer, as one of the absolute most superlative places I’ve ever laid eyes on.
In with the New:
Some interesting themes pop up on this mix I made in the spring of 2007. A few are intentional, just due to how well certain songs fit together: Sleeping and dreaming. Travel and transportation. Retreating to quiet, natural places. Other themes might not have been intentional at the time, but are interesting upon looking back at them now: How people deal with loneliness. Wondering if your life has a clear, God-ordained purpose. Gender roles and sexism. What it means to show empathy, and when to cut fake friends loose. Some heavy stuff here, particularly in the back half, which is interesting because I was relatively happy at this point in my life.
In with the New:
Meg & Dia
When I look back on the final closing months of 2006, I remember feeling cold on the outside, but warm on the outside. That’s because the two cover images I chose for these mixes were from outdoor activities in the late autumn weather, in places that had both become meaningful to me many years before, but that I was now experiencing with a newer group of friends. 2006 was one of my favorite years all the way through to the end, and I felt a sense of peace about the holidays arriving that year, which isn’t a normal thing for me. The holidays weren’t without their moments of upheaval – my uncle Dean passed away just before Thanksgiving, and it took us over a month to coordinate with folks so that we could hold a memorial service. But there were also happy family memories, as Christine and I got to have her parents and my mom together for Thanksgiving for the first time, and we adopted our cat in early December, who Christine decided to name “Anberlin”, of all things.
In with the New:
Peter Bradley Adams (as a solo artist – appears previously with Eastmountainsouth)
Sean Watkins (as a solo artist – appears elsewhere with Nickel Creek and Fiction Family)
Out with the Old:
He Is Legend
The Violet Burning
It Was Worth a Try:
Chris Thile (as a solo artist – appears elsewhere with Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers)
What I remember most when I listen to this set of songs from the fall of 2006 is moving and starting anew. After spending a year or so in the apartment we’d inherited when Tim moved out, Christine and I decided to finally look for our own place together. The location we ended up with was convenient in that it was close to the school Christine was working at, and halfway between my job and church, right off of Mission and Granada in Alhambra. The downside was that it was right by the train tracks, and the building would gently shake when the trains went by in the middle of the night. It took some adjustment, but it truly felt like our own place for the first time in our relationship.
In with the New:
Future of Forestry