Friday, January 22, 2016

New Year's Resolutions - 2016

Ahhh, New Year's Resolutions. Many of us make them, and few of us keep them. I usually don't have a list of resolutions. I figure it's best to start improvement at any time, and not wait for the flip of the calendar to get going. 

This year, however, I decided to set a few personal goals that I figured would help improve my quality of life. 

1. Read 18 books.

I have shelves full of books that I haven't read, but I have seemingly endless amounts of time to devote to Twitter, Facebook, etc. As of the time of this post, I've already finished John Grisham's The Rainmaker.

I've also suspended my Facebook account, but more on that in a future post, and I'm reading Bob Dylan in Americaand Rich Roll's Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World's Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself (this one is via Kindle, so I can read anywhere when I'd normally pop open Twitter). 

2. Write 12 blog posts.

This will be my second post of the year, so I'm already ahead of last year's schedule. I really enjoy being able to go back to old blog posts to see what I was up to in year's past, so even if no one is reading, I'll try to be a little more consistent this year. It can't hurt my writing ability either, which I feel has been slipping with my diminished output. 

3. Set a PR in a 5k and a 10k.

In 2015, I ran my first 10k (the Bluff City 10K) at 58:43 and set a PR in Common Table Health Alliance's Million Calorie Burn 5k of 24:47 (which got me second in my age group). This year, I hope to best both of those times. If I can avoid injury, I'm confident that won't be a problem, since my training times have consistently been beating those lately. 

I know, these aren't the loftiest goals, but at least it's something.  

What about you? Did you set any New Year Resolutions? 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

My Favorite Albums of 2015

2015 turned out to be a really good year for music. I found myself drawn into albums from a wider range of genres than usual, and this list certainly reflects that. I'm certainly not making the case that these are the best albums of the year, or that I won't discover other 2015 albums later that I'd put on this list. These are just my favorite 2015 albums as of today. 

In no particular order, here are my 10 favorite albums of 2015

Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free

Sufjan Stevens - Carrie And Lowell

Eric Church - Mr. Misunderstood

Alabama Shakes - Sound And Color

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly

Chris Stapleton - Traveller

Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear

Lucero - All A Man Should Do

Death Cab For Cutie - Kintsugi

My Morning Jacket - The Waterfall

Here are a few others I've really liked, but either just missed the top 10, or I haven't really had the chance to fully digest. 

Kamasi Washington - Epic

Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit And Think and Sometimes I Just Sit

D'Angelo - Black Messiah

Wilco - Star Wars

Kacey Musgraves - Pageant Material

Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen - Hold My Beer Vol. 1

Ryan Adams - 1989

Leon Bridges - Coming Home

Modest Mouse - Strangers To Ourselves

Aaron Watson -The Underdog

Drive-By Truckers - It's Great To Be Alive (This one deserving of a top 10 ranking, but isn't really new material)

What about you? What are you favorite albums of 2015? What are you looking forward to in 2016?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My Favorite Christmas Albums

It's no secret that we love Christmas music (and Christmas movies) around our house. We play it almost exclusively from well before Thanksgiving until after New Year's Day. We've even been known to listen to a Christmas song or two in July.

While we enjoy most all Christmas Music, here are my 10 favorites with a few extras thrown in at the end:

10. A Motown Christmas

With Motown's roster back in the day, this album had no choice but to be outstanding. Michael, Stevie, The Temptations The Supremes, Smokey and Marvin knocked it out of the park with this one.

9. Elvis' Christmas Album - Elvis Presley

I remember listening to this on my grandparents' console turntable when I was a kid. Man, does this one bring back memories. I always thought Blue Christmas was about blue Christmas lights, which may explain my fondness for them today.

8. A Very She and Him Christmas - She & Him

This one is a much newer than the others on this list, but it fits right in. This is pure Christmas retro fun.

7. A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra

If you're dressed up at a Christmas party with a cocktail in your hand, what else are you going to listen to?

6. Christmas Portrait - Carpenters

Let's face it, the holidays aren't always perfect. The thing that really made Karen Carpenter stand out from the other great singers of her era was always, for me, that touch of sadness in her voice. These aren't sad songs, but underneath it all, she can make you feel what we all feel from time to time during this season.

5. Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas - Ella Fitzgerald

You've heard many of these songs in various movies, even if you didn't know it. The title couldn't be more appropriate, and this is one of the most fun Christmas albums out there.

4. White Christmas - Bing Crosby

One word: classic. This is probably the album we play the most around our house, and it (along with any of my top 10) could be my favorite Christmas album on any given day.

3. A Winter Romance - Dean Martin

This one isn't strictly a "Christmas" album, as most of the songs are just about the season of winter. That makes it a perfect listen anytime the weather is cold, so it lets you stretch the Christmas spirit well past the holiday season. Also, check out the cover art. Dean was truly one of the original players.

2. The Beach Boys' Christmas Album

This album feels like a drive along the PCH in Southern California with the top down and the sun out.

1. A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector

Another gem that puts me smack dab in Southern California. I guess you can guess where I'd want to live if money wasn't an obstacle and I wasn't such a southern boy at heart.

We all know Phil's crazy, but he made a masterpiece here.

Honorable Mentions

Soul Christmas - As a mid-south resident, it was hard not to pick this one as part of the top 10 (especially picking the Motown Christmas above it). It is still one of my favorites, and it gives a little grittier take on Christmas music. Clarence Carter's Back Door Santa is great, but maybe not suitable for the office Christmas party. Otis shines on this one as well.

Elf: Music From The Motion Picture - Honestly, this one is in my top 10, but all these songs are found elsewhere...many of them on other albums in this list.

Christmas With The Rat Pack - Like the Elf soundtrack, this one is a top 10 favorite, but the best songs are found elsewhere on the list.

James Taylor At Christmas - I know, it sounds like a Williams Sonoma store, but who can really hate on James Taylor? When I need some relaxing Christmas tunes, this is my go to.

Songs for Christmas: Sufjan Stevens - Christmas tunes for the hipster in your life.

I know there are many other's I've left off, and many of my favorite songs, like Andy Williams' Most Wonderful Time of the Year and Alabama's Christmas in Dixie, are on albums I really haven't listened to that much. Maybe I'll have to expand the list in coming years to make way for all the Christmas cheer coming out of our speakers this time of year.

Happy listening, and have a Merry Christmas!