The Best Of January 2015

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You may have heard that January is over. To acknowledge the overness of this past month, I have gone ahead and compiled a playlist entitled “Best Of January 2015: You’re Worth It, So Change It“. Most of these songs were released within the past 31 days, a few came out a little earlier, and amidst this, there are some older songs that resonated with me within this time period.

What’s the story behind those selections? I’m so glad you asked! Both “Pony” and “Human Nature” were songs that I’ve been wanting to perform at karaoke for ages, and I finally gathered up enough courage to give them both a try a week ago. You can watch an embarrassing video of me singing about my saddle over here (if that’s something you’d be into). It should go on the record that my saddle is, indeed, waiting, and it would behoove you to jump on it as soon as possible. A saddle can only be patient for so long.

 Sofia Talvik‘s “If I Had A Man” was one of my favorites from her album The Owls Are Not What They Seem, and since she personally reached out to thank me for my support over the years, I thought I’d include it here and, in the process, let you know that she’s currently raising funds for her next project Big Sky Country. This reminds me that I should probably respond to Sofia’s very, very nice e-mail.

Hmm, what else? Bette Midler‘s on there, because I just bought my darling boyfriend tickets to see her as an anniversary gift. (Seven years!) Taking Back Sunday is there, because apparently I am an angsty teenager stuck in a grown man’s body. The Tri-City Singers, Coko and Dolly Parton are the counterpoint to all that defiant screaming, each offering a bit of joy and inspiration.

The newer songs don’t have as many stories attached to them. The dance remix of that Lily Wood & The Prick song played constantly while I was traveling in Los Angeles, along with Selena Gomez‘s “The Heart Wants What It Wants” and Usher‘s slightly sex positive (but also slightly condescending) bop “I Don’t Mind“. They all grew on me, because that’s what happens when you drive around in sunny weather listening to the same three songs over and over again.

Everything else is just random stuff I like, arranged in a somewhat cohesive manner that should (hopefully) flow with each transition. It should be noted that the entire self-titled Vallis Alps EP is worth checking out, Fifth Harmony has proven to us the importance of horns in pop music, and “Oh My Zeus” is the greatest song you’ve never heard about two girlfriends chatting on the phone about a womanizing Greek god.

If you are somehow still reading this, then I’d like to remind you (or tell you for the first time) that original artwork by yours truly is now available through Society 6. I’ve made the decision that, from now until May 7, all profits made from sales on the site will be donated to BAGLY – The Boston Alliance of LGBTQ Youth. Links to a few of my favorite designs are included below:

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Winter Is For Blockheads (2015)

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The inspiration for Winter Is For Blockheads came from the opening track “Ecor Rouge” (which originally appeared on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench‘s debut solo album You Should Be So Lucky). To me, it felt like a vaguely depressing, slowed-down version of the type of song Schroeder would play in a Charlie Brown holiday special. His fingers would effortlessly dance across the keys of his piano, as each note commanded the gang to stop doing this, take their seats in the auditorium and make room on the stage for some real artists.

One by one, a series of mysterious strangers would emerge from behind the curtains to perform. The mood would remain solemn, yet engaging and remarkably cathartic. Each attendee would sit on the edge of his or her seat in order to truly appreciate the beauty presented before them. The VIP guest list would include Snoopy, Frieda, Linus, Violet, Pig-Pen, Shermy, Sally, 3, 4, that random guy no normal human could identify and, of course, you.

Here is the set list that you would all witness:

  1. Ecor Rouge” – Benmont Tench
  2. Piano Ombre” – François & the Atlas Mountains
  3. Green Jackets” – Catherine Ireton (featuring Go Away Birds)
  4. Lived and Died Alone” – Shamir
  5. Parar a tiempo” – Ximena Sariñana
  6. Churchill” – Samantha Crain
  7. Casino” – The Notwist
  8. Don’t Tell Our Friends About Me” – Blake Mills
  9. May as Well” – Angel Olsen
  10. Ed Reed Jersey” – The Range

During the final song, Shia LaBeouf would appear on stage, gyrating wildly in a nude leotard alongside a hologram of Martha Graham. Major dance critics—none of whom were actually in attendance at the show—would refer to his movement as “intense” and dripping with “raw emotion”. Their reviews would also include a shameless note to head to the gift shop and pick up a memento to remember everything you saw, heard and felt.

Now That’s What I Call Autumn! (2014)

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Every year, the media agonizes over selecting a song that defines the summer season. It’s a silly tradition, yet most of us partake in the discussion (even if it’s just to shake our fists at Iggy Azalea, Robin Thicke, Katy Perry or whatever other problematic pop star dominated the airwaves for a few months). The chosen winner is, almost always, an upbeat track that people would describe as “catchy” and/or “fun”.

My personal picks for 2014 were documented here. They veer away from the standard with selections like Joe‘s “Till The Rope Gives Way“, Nina Persson‘s “Sometimes” and Jinkx Monsoon‘s “A Song To Come Home To“—each equipped for singing along on a long drive—but the usual formula is in effect with breezy pop numbers like Charli XCX‘s “Boom Clap“, Hilary Duff‘s “All About You” and Mariah Carey‘s highly underrated “You Don’t Know What To Do“.

With fall upon us, I’ve spent far too much time contemplating what the season sounds like. The concept for my playlist “Now That’s What I Call Autumn! (2014)” went through several transformations before I eventually decided to throw together all the bits and pieces and call it a day. Here is a list of the various inspirations:

  • White people drinking pumpkin-flavored beverages in coffee shops and saying “ah” after every sip.
  • Trees performing an extended striptease until they are completely naked in front of us.
  • The crippling realization that winter is right around the corner.
  • Feeling jazzy in your favorite cardigan or sweater.
  • Pretending the handle of your rake is a microphone to perform for an invisible audience in your backyard.
  • The satisfying crunch of dry leaves under your feet.
  • Waiting for The Great Pumpkin.
  • Saying you’re going to go apple picking, then never finding the time.
  • Being annoyed that holiday decorations are out too early.
  • Looking out a window at foliage and letting your soul say “ah”.
  • Practicing your signature walk in a crosswalk, as if it’s your personal runway.
  • Pie. Just pie.

Now that I’ve bored you with this embarrassing collection of clichés, you’re welcome to head over here for a full tracklist… And, hey, just for fun, why don’t you leave a comment or tweet at me your personal picks for the songs of the season? I’d even just love to hear what you feel defines a song of autumn, if anything.