Playlist #1: Traveling

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When you’re packing to go traveling, you need a good playlist to keep you steady through your adventures.

I’m about to spend a summer in New York City and a semester in London, UK. I’ve always dreamed of living in these places. I’ve been to both cities a few times, but now I’ll be able to really look around, see what these places have aside from the tourist experience. Also, next semester I’ll be able to travel outside of the UK to other countries.

I’ve always loved traveling and going to new areas, be it in the United States to destinations such as Sitka, Alaska or Yellowstone National Park, cities in Canada such as Toronto, or various places in Europe, such as Glasgow, Scotland, Barcelona, Spain, or Nice, France.

These songs listed are memories and dreams – both the types of songs associated with different travels, and songs that inspire me to keep visiting different corners of the world.

Also, you can listen to the playlist on Spotify – Travel playlist

1. Road to Nowhere – The Talking Heads

Great song to get pumped for the journey. Also, it kind of has that “travel for the sake of traveling” kind of vibe. Also it speaks to me on a deeper level as I get lost a lot… so I’m constantly on roads to nowhere… literally.

2. Thunder Road – Bruce Springsteen

This one has a special place in my heart. I’d listen to this in middle school and think of all of the different places I was going to go to. I guess I can tell my younger self I was able to do it. That’s kind of a cool feeling.

3. Who Are You – The Who

This one is a simple one. Just watch that one scene from Louie and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

4. Ocean Breathes Salty – Modest Mouse

I have a memory of me listening to this song on the plane ride over to Scotland to visit some family friends. I think this is a self-conjured memory, though, as I visited Scotland in middle school and I didn’t start listening to Modest Mouse until high school. But I still like to have that fake memory.

5. Let Me Entertain You – Robbie Williams

Okay, so this one illusionist on a cruise I was on did this crazy trick where he was sitting on a motorcycle on stage and then there was a flash of light and then he appeared from behind the audience riding the motorcycle. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. And – he did it all with this song playing in the background.

6. Pomp and Circumstances – Smashing Pumpkins

Another song from a cruise experience – this one is a bit more artsy-fartsy. My favorite thing to do was sit on the deck, draw in my sketch book, and just blast Zeitgeist, straight through. I don’t even really remember drawing all that much – I just really dug Smashing Pumpkins and looking out onto the sea.

7. Postcards from Italy – Beirut (not on Spotify)

I’m a postcard collector and sender – I love receiving postcards and I’ll send them out, even if it’s from school. They’re just fun little things, I feel. That and I have more motivation to write a postcard than an actual letter.

8. The Winner Is – DeVotchKa & Michael Dyanna (not on Spotify)

From Little Miss Sunshine, one of my favorite movies and a fantastic road movie. I loved the sense of realism – how hot they looked in that car is definitely something my family has experienced with our annual trips down to the gulf in Alabama. That and I really dig Greg Kinnear’s dad socks.

9. Satellite – Dave Matthews Band

The first time I watched the sun rise was in a coach bus on the way to Disney World with my high school’s marching band. I woke up kind of early and put on this song and watched the sun lift above the trees. A really peaceful moment.

10. California One/ Youth And Beauty Brigade/ Ask – Colin Meloy

This is from his solo album after Castaways and Cutouts came out. I remember sleepily listening to this for the first time on the plane ride to Boston as I was visiting colleges. I liked the song so much that I listened to it again and fell asleep to it.

11. Manhattan – Kings of Leon

The first time I visited New York City, I got the flu. It was my freshman year of high school. During a performance of Curtains, the show featuring David Hyde Pierce (whom of which I was an aficionado of at the time), I threw up. I was determined to finish watching the show, so my body held it together for the second act. The next few days I spent recuperating in a hostel near Central Park. So, my initial impression of the city was a less than pleasant one at best. I went back my junior year, though, and immediately liked it better. I liked it so much that I decided to go to school in New York with the hopes of eventually living in the city. Funny how some things work out.

12. Belongings – Clock Opera

I had traveled around my whole life, sure, but moving? That was a newer concept to me. The only time I had moved in my life was when I was 8 months old. Moving to college was big for me. The weeks leading up to the move were emotional, as I was starting to realize how much I was going to miss everyone. This song describes that feeling perfectly.

13. Wake Up – Arcade Fire

As much as I was realizing I was going to miss people away at school, I also was ecstatic to go to SU. It was the place I had really wanted to go, and I was entering a major I was stoked for (I mean – how much fun does something like “Television-Radio-Film” sound?). This song was in the background of a welcome video Syracuse played at one of the prospective days. It became my anthem for getting psyched about going to school.

14. Rivers and Roads – The Head and The Heart

I listen to this song whenever I’m homesick. Not really about “home,” though, more about people. So, when I’m in Syracuse, it’s when I’m thinking about all of the people I miss in Chicago. Now, after two very full years at Syracuse, I listen to it and I miss the people that I met at school. I’m sure I’ll listen to it off in NYC and London on those days when I miss home in all of its forms.

15. England – The National

I’m a bit of an anglophile. Ever since Monty Python and the Holy Grail, I’ve loved British culture, art, music, comedy, drama, you name it. Last year, second semester of freshman year, I was starting to realize that I was getting closer and closer to when I could apply to study abroad. Listening to this song with the snow swirling all around inspired me to keep that dream going. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do my whole life, and I can finally go to the place I’ve always wanted to study in less than 100 days.

16. Gotta Knock A Little Harder – The Seatbelts

I listened to this going to and from Breckinridge, Colorado. On the way up the mountain, it was to pump me up for a trip of epic skiing. On the way down, it was a sense of relief that I was able to survive a horrible bout of altitude sickness and still be able to get some skiing in.

17. From Finner – Of Monsters and Men

I just really like how this song talks about how you can be miles and miles away from home and yet still be really, really happy. I feel like that’s something I’ve felt with a lot of different places I’ve visited, and especially with Syracuse.

18. Loud Pipes – Ratatat

Coolest song to blast while wearing awesome shades and driving your car. In my case, it’s a boxy, green Honda Element. Epitome of classiness.

19. Going to California – Led Zeppelin

I’d really like to study in LA, and it’s something I’m going to try to do within the year. Also, I think that this would be the perfect song listen to while looking out the window, driving.

20. Weather With You – Neil Finn

A great sort of send-off song – it reminds me of the Irish Blessing. So to all of those who are planning on traveling or like to travel: may the weather be with you!

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Of Monsters and Men: The meaning of a band and the Aragon Ballroom concert experience

A few days ago my dad asked me which song defined my past year at school.

“It’s okay if you say you don’t have one,” he said.

I, being the motormouth that I am when it comes to things like movies, television, and music (good thing that’s my major, right?), rattled off a couple bands and songs that made up my experience, trying to piece together what was the one thing that defined the year.

What I didn’t realize, however, is that he was right. It wasn’t just one song or one band. But, there were a couple notable bands.

And Of Monsters and Men was one of them.

Before I saw them at Lollapalooza last year, I was like everyone else and had only listened to ‘Little Talks.’ Now I’m like everyone else and listen to the album on repeat. But it was that concert that inspired me to religiously listen to that band. I was so intrigued by their sound and their stage presence that I wanted to listen to them more. That, and I felt like they deserved my attention away from the concert experience, because, unfortunately, it was a pretty lousy crowd. My friends and I were surrounded by seemingly particularly-taller-than-normal guys that were quite crude, and, let’s face it, drunk off their rockers. There isn’t anything wrong with imbibing at a concert, but if you’re going to be one of the sardine-like moshers, at least have some consideration and try to attempt to sober up before you invade peoples’ personal bubbles.

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So, My Head is An Animal was added to my list of albums I played on repeat. What made this album particularly special, though, is that it was the perfect workout album.

Without “King and Lionheart,” “Mountain Sound,” “Six Weeks,” and “Lakehouse,” I would have never lost the weight that I did.

Of Monsters and Men had spirit and optimism that’s rare to find. It incorporated wanderlust, love, inspiration, friendship all into an album. There were the strong percussive songs like “Six Weeks,” and the uplifting trumpet solos in “Lakehouse.” I got a boost of confidence and courage every time I listened to them, and when you’re trying to establish a healthier lifestyle, incorporating uplifting music into your routine is some of the best advice I can give.

They also were just fun. They were perfect to walking to class or running to on a sunny day. Also, the album was very dance-able, which is a plus in my book.

So after nearly a year of becoming incredibly endeared to this band, I saw them again, and was determined to give them my undivided attention.

The opener was Half Moon Run – a band neither my brother, dad nor I had heard about before we went to the concert. We were pleasantly surprised, however, as their sound reflected my sort of style of bands that I enjoy.

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“They kind of remind me of Local Natives!” my brother said.

It was just four of them, and they knew that not everyone in the crowd knew who they were, but that didn’t stop them from head banging and jumping around on stage. Their set was short and sweet – only a half an hour long. They were gracious and fun, with an impressive variety of songs. One song was dance-y and the next had people swaying and slowing down.

My brother and I then moved from the outskirts of the crowd on the right of the stage into the heart of the crowd, centering ourselves right infront of the stage which donned a large curtain. The speaker system filled the room with various French female vocalists, and I was convinced they were all Edith Piaf.

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“No, Claire. They aren’t all Edith Piaf songs. That’s just the only French singer you know,” my brother said.

He was right, I have to admit.

After about a twenty minute wait, the band came out from behind the curtain, their shadows showing up in blue lighting. They started “Dirty Paws” and then…

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The curtain came down in a flourish, revealing the band and their set.

The backdrop for the show was made up glowing hanging orbs, which would change color along with the rest of the lighting. It was beautiful, and the array of shades and shadows that played on the stage was also a visual delight.

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The band pretty much went through their entire album, and while not in order, they did start with their first song and end with their last song for the encore. In the midst of the show, though, they did play a few unreleased tracks. Needless to say, I was giddy when they played the new songs.

As much as I love standing and dancing to bands, I would really love to see Of Monsters and Men in a more intimate setting. A small lounge set up, with people all sitting around the band, enjoying the music and maybe getting up to dance for songs like “Little Talks.”

Despite this, I still loved the show. I’m always a sucker for clapping along to a song, and especially if the rhythm isn’t just a basic clap-a-long. Variety in clapping styles is something I appreciate.

“Lakehouse” was the best song they performed.

“This is a song about the summertime,” Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir said before leading into the song. There were some hoots and hollers from the crowd, from those excited for the next couple of months to come.

The song starts out so simply, so calm. And then there’s the switch of vocals and the building percussion, and then – it gets soft again, but not as soft as the beginning. And the song just swells and swells and swells into all that’s left to do is sing “La la la la” because the song has reached a new level of euphoric instrumentation and sound.

It made me think about all the good in my life and all the excitement that I have in store for me. The unknown, the future. But also, it made me think about the happiness of good memories and the friends and family that I have and hold so dear. If bliss was a moment, it was dancing to that song.

They of course “ended” their show with the ever effervescent “Little Talks,” and then came out for their encore, which was “Yellow Light.”

“This is our last song, it’s a lullaby.”

Funny, because usually when I listen to it, I’m usually waking up.

Not only is this an album that is perfect for working out to, but it is also a perfect album to fall asleep and wake up to, especially for long train rides. I don’t sleep well on trains, so having at least one enjoyable element to an overall non-enjoyable sleeping experience is nice to have. I’ll put on “Dirty Paws,” and before I know it, the train is rocking and moving along the countryside as “Yellow Light” begins to play.

Out of all of the visual effects the concert incorporated, the fake, falling snow with the encore was the best. It just gave a peaceful, passionate feel to the performance, and nice ending touch.

We left the concert satisfied. It was just a good experience, and sometimes you need that good, solid experience. It helps put everything in perspective.

Especially to the travelers out there, with songs like “From Finner.” You can find happiness and inspiration anywhere.

Album of the Week: 5/13/13

Discovery – Daft Punk

The internet’s relentless drive for new information all of the time has proven itself once again this week with Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories leak. As thrilling as the new music from the French duo is, it’s important to take a moment and appreciate their previous albums, and in particular, the one that got me obsessed with the band: Discovery.

I came to Daft Punk way late into the game, and wasn’t immediately taken by them in the first place. The one song that I heard part of was ‘Emotion,’ and all I could think was When does it end?

Fortunately, I had the good graces of the internet and YouTube to change my mind – with this particular video that I’m sure you’ve already seen a dozen times.

And from that video, I ended up watching another rendition.

And from there, I ended up listening to the song on repeat for a good week.

Before Daft Punk, I had always had this sort of distaste for electronic groups. I just didn’t even venture into that genre, and the closest that I got to liking a electronic band was Passion Pit. Even then, though, Passion Pit still has the feel of an indie rock band.

With Daft Punk, though, I was being exposed to not just electronica. There was funk and soul and rock and techno and so many different elements all in one song, in one album, all coming from one band.

So, naturally, being enthralled with ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ led me to become engrossed with Discovery. ‘High Life’ was perfect for the quick pick-me-up going to class on a dreary day (and it always reminded me of this hilarious Phoenix Wright parody video that I can’t seem to find again). ‘Face to Face’ gave me this giddy sort of feeling, with its smooth singer and funky beat.

After listening to the album continuously, it became a sort of ‘cornerstone’ album for me. These are the albums where I can be doing anything, and without fail, this album will work. It’ll be perfect for background music, allowing for reflection, or just great to dance to. Most importantly, though, it became an album that I can sleep to.

These albums are the best of the best. The albums I can sleep to mean a simple thing: it’s an album so dependable that is allows the same sort of thrills when I first listened to it, and I can rely on the positive feelings that the albums give me to the point where I don’t even need to be awake to enjoy the album. I’ll sift in and out of consciousness, and wake up happy, listening to a good song no matter which track it is on the album.

Discovery joined the list. Now, with Random Access Memories available for streaming, I’ll be able to see if I can add another Daft Punk album to the list soon.

Track of Choice: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger