What Am I Listening To? – May 2020

Here are my first impressions of the latest from Relient K, Sylvan Esso, Chatham County Line, Watkins Family Hour, Joseph Arthur, Sleeping at Last, Hayley Williams, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, and The 1975.

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What Am I Listening To? – January 2020

Since I was busy for most of this month writing up my Top 100 albums list for the last decade, I decided to put a moratorium on listening to new releases until I was done with that project, so that I could completely immerse myself in re-listening to all of those favorite album candidates. I made exceptions for newly released singles and whatever else Spotify’s Release Radar brought to my attention each week, just for the purpose of bookmarking new releases in order to listen to them in full when my project was done. At times it was hard to resist the temptation – especially since 2 of the artists from my lists put out new albums this month, another three surprises me with EPs, and also a member of one of the bands from my list put out a new collaborative album with a band I’d never heard of. So most of this list of new stuff I’ve been listening to for only the last week or so, ironically, covers artists I’ve already talked about in some capacity this month, with a few bands at the bottom of the list that are genuinely new to me.

Also, I realize I’ve got a slew of recommendations from others to get to, both in terms of favorite albums of theirs from 2019 that I slept on or just plain wasn’t aware of, and in terms of standout albums they’ve given kudos to from throughout the last decade that have piqued my interest for one reason or another. I’ll start on that daunting to-do list in February!

Meanwhile, here are my first impressions of the latest from Colony House, The Innocence Mission, Everything Everything, Switchfoot, John Reuben, Stabbing Westward, Sean Watkins & The Bee Eaters, Wolf Parade, and Bombay Bicycle Club.

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Nickel Creek – A Dotted Line: It’s one of those endings where no one claps, ’cause they’re sure that there’s more.

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Artist: Nickel Creek
Album: A Dotted Line
Year: 2014
Grade: B+

In Brief: Nickel Creek is back after a 7-year hiatus with a new album which covers a lot of ground in only 10 tracks, re-establishing them as an instrumental, vocal, and lyrical force to be reckoned with.

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Fiction Family & Sara Watkins live @ Bootleg Bar

I really wasn’t sure last night whether we were going to a Fiction Family show with Sara Watkins opening, or a Sara Watkins show with Fiction Family opening. I get the idea that they’ve been switching up lead roles on this tour, likely to the chagrin of venues who want to be able to tell their patrons exactly when each act will be performing. I got tickets just knowing Fiction Family would be there, and considered Sara Watkins to be a bonus. She ended up performing first, though Sean pulled double duty in both bands, as well as Fiction Family’s bass/keyboard guy, Tyler Chester, and Sara hopped up on stage several times during Fiction Family’s set to contribute fiddle and vocals. All in all, it felt like a family atmosphere, and I’ve rarely seen two siblings with such musical chemistry as the two Watkins – they’re nigh-inseparable. Sean’s fictional bro Jon Foreman seems like the odd man out in that scenario, but the enthusiasm he brings even to small club shows is infectious. He can play a goofy country song to a small crowd with the same level of excitement he brings to Switchfoot playing one of their biggest hits in a large amphitheater. That, and an overall band chemistry that makes the live shows easily supersede the recordings, is what makes both FF and Sara Watkins great acts to see live if you ever get the chance.

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Fiction Family Reunion: Rock ‘n Roll never dies… but it sure gets old.

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Artist: Fiction Family
Album: Fiction Family Reunion
Year: 2013
Grade: B

In Brief: A short but sweet album, which feels more like a collaboration and less like a correspondence than their first album. Still, Fiction Family hasn’t quite “gelled” as a band yet.

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Divad’s Soundtrack #69: July-August 2007

We returned to California in July to find summer in full blast. Maybe it was the sudden change of environment, or maybe it was just a sense of “What now?” after fulfilling that lifelong dream by going on the Alaska trip, but I got sick and rather depressed for most of July, and I felt this general sense of weakness and unidentifiable malaise most days, especially if I put off eating a meal. It took me a while to figure out that it directly correlated to mealtimes, but I also think there was an emotional/spiritual component to it that led me to make more of a deliberate effort to reconnect with friends in my faith community, and especially with my wife, with whom I celebrated two years of marriage that summer.

In with the New:
Deas Vail
Andrea Corr (as a solo artist – appears previously with The Corrs)
Wavorly

Out with the Old:
Fort Minor
Chevelle

Listen on Spotify:

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Divad’s Soundtrack #67: March-April 2007

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:
The Shins
Lost Ocean
Meg & Dia
Hellogoodbye
Copeland

Out with the Old:
Toby Mac
Peter Bradley Adams

Listen on Spotify:

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