Top 10 albums released since May 1985

Aaron and I spent much of the month of January mulling over music from our past and the present. What album and songs had the most influence on us growing up? How could we compare some of our favorite artists of today with those that filled our stereos as teenagers?

I believe that it’s nearly impossible to create a perfect list of albums that one considers the “best of the best” since their birthdate. But, since this post has been sitting in my drafts folder for over a month, I figured it was time to be bold and share my list with the world. So, with no further ado, here are my favorite albums that have come into being alongside me:

The Format – Interventions and Lullabies EP

Local artists + west coast sound = heart stolen. I fell in love with The Format as I started college and saw them perform several times. The lyrics coupled with the quirky voice of lead singer Nate Ruess cemented The Format was one of the most formative musical influences as I transitioned into adulthood.

Gnarles Barkley – St. Elsewhere

This album is a cornucopia of surprise. A shift from dark to playful to plain weird over the course of five minutes. And the beats. The beats.

Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill

Jagged Little Pill was the first CD I purchased from Sam Goody’s (RIP Sam Goody’s). Not only did I nearly melt this album from listening to it so often, it was the first time I realized the power of an angry women. I oughta know.

Lost in the Trees – Past Life

Lost In The Trees was such a brilliant, captivating group of talent. It was crushing to see them end their run last year. But, the treasures they left behind are vast. It was difficult to select only one of their albums for this list. You can’t go wrong with any. This album in three words: haunting; raw; unearthing.

Dave Matthews Band – Before These Crowded Streets

I couldn’t possibly have a top 10 albums list without my boy Dave on it! Back in the days of AOL Instant Messenger, my AIM handle was “davegroupie101”. Others may argue that Under the Table and Dreaming is the group’s best album, but Before These Crowded Streets had the most impact on me. Trying to pick ONE song from this album to highlight was a daunting task. “Halloween”? Easily one of the best crank it up to 11 in the car and scream along with it songs. “Crush”? Yes, it’s time to take our clothes off together. While this clip of “Spoon” doesn’t feature Alanis Morissette like the album, this last track is both captivating and heartbreaking.

Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More

Where did Mumford and Sons come from so quickly? Again, another album that top-to-bottom has not a clunker. Besides their incredible gift of musical performance, I think the songwriting of Mumford and Songs makes them vastly superior to the rest of the fleet. From “Awake My Soul” – In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die. And where you invest your love, you invest your life. Simple. Poignant.

Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso

Another musical influence from recent life: Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn have fused their geniuses together to create sounds that strike every inch of your body. And, they are from Durham! Similar to Mumford, the detail to words is so powerful and not to be glossed over.

TLC – CrazySexyCool

How could I not include T-Box, Left-Eye, and Chilli? This trio rocked my world as a young girl, particularly through this music video. Did I understand everything they were trying to convey in this song and overall album? Not quite. At least, not at that time. Again, this was a whole new way for me to see women embracing their voices, their sexuality, their power. And, it certainly made me avoid chasing waterfalls (at least, I would like to think it did).

The Rosebuds – Loud Planes Fly Low

Not that one ever wishes ill on a couple, but if everyone who ended their relationship made music like this, it may seem like a semi-reasonable request. Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp unpack their chaos and hurt on this album. It’s all about change. And, is that a bad thing? The album leaves you with no clear answer.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication

I know the critics will point to Blood Sugar Sex Magick as THE RHCP album to make most top album lists. For me, Californication was the hook. As a young thing, I gravitated towards more pop style but began to seek out songs with edge: “Scar Tissue” was the gateway song for me on this album. This album brought me funk, incredible guitar/drum/bass playing, and Anthony Kiedis looking…well, hot.

Alright friends: what albums would be on your top ten list since you have been born into this world?

Things you are “supposed” to love: music edition

During my travels last week, I tuned into the All Songs Considered podcast celebrating the show’s 16 year “birthday.” The hosts selected one song from each of the 16 years that best encapsulated the year that was in music.

I try to be “cool’ and “hip” (does using those words completely negate me from achieving that status?). But, there are certain musicians that I try and try and try to like because I believe that I should. Either because I drool over other artists who are “similar” or because I have this notion that society does, and if I don’t, there may be something wrong to be. Social pressure is real. No one wants to feel like the odd person out during a conversation on pop culture.

So, I’ve compiled a few musical artists that, based on previous listening history, I should technically love. But, I don’t. It’s not you, musicians, it’s me. Here are a few:


Her quirky voice, poignant lyrics, and fusion of sounds align with my musical tastes. I’ve tried hard to swallow down her songs, and they all end up getting stuck. I feel like I’m wearing a wool sweater, and the itching begins. And all I want to do is rip that sweater off.


A band that always creeps onto top lists of decades. Granted, I haven’t listened to their latest release (the aptly titled Star Wars). But I have a distinct memory of driving back from a work trip, and the only cd that my boss had that who I knew the artist was Wilco. Filled with hope of falling in love with their winding path of musical sounds, I ended up being castigated and told I was no longer allowed to pick the music. And we cut off the CD halfway through.

Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams covered all of Taylor Swift’s 1989 album – which is the closest I’ve come to really saying “Yes, I’m a Ryan Adams fan!” And, the song “New York New York.” That’s about it. My lack of lust for Mr. Adams is harder to quantify. It’s one of those: “He just doesn’t move me” answers.

Let’s do one more…


I realize there might be friends who will be appalled with me. I can say that I have tried to be a Radiohead fan. Throughout college, I collected their music (often through LAN parties – now there’s a fun factoid of my past!) and would turn it on (streaming through Windows Player – word). I didn’t feel the click that I desperately wanted to. Radiohead is a band that I will attempt to re-connect with at this point in my life. We’ll see what happens…

Are there musical artists that you feel you should be a bigger fan of based on either your listening habits or social pressures?


Vol I: 5 things that made me happy this week

As an homage to my “friends” at Pop Culture Happy Hour (oh, how I wish we were friends in real life!), I’m going to try and do a series of blog posts reflecting on aspects of my previous week that made me happy.

My friend Liza mentioned that one of her goals for 2016 was to “celebrate accomplishments in a more meaningful way.” What a brilliant idea! Most of us focus solely on our failures and mistakes and brush off accomplishments nonchalantly.

While “what is making me happy” may not fall under the definition of accomplishments, I hope it will serve as a positive reminder for me – and maybe you – that so much in our lives can and does bring us joy. Sometimes, we just forget about it.

  1. Old School Hip Hop jams

This actually started the night of New Year’s Day. In previous posts, I had noted that Aaron and I used to have some epic dance parties. Unfortunately, those had fallen by the wayside over the last couple of years. Then, 2016 happened. And, after some wine and a game of Scrabble, we threw down thanks to the power of YouTube bringing us some classic videos like these:


The beats of ole kept on rolling this week thanks to a Spotify playlist (and the fact that my co-worker was 100% on board) on our trip back from the coast.

2. The return to public transit


Driving was once one of my favorite activities. In the last few years, it has become a dreaded routine, and, some days feeling like survival of the fittest. With free WiFi and relative peace of mind, I was able to hop on one of GoTriangle’s regional transit buses both Thursday and Friday this week, giving me an extra hour where I could choose what to do: work, read, not have to worry that the driver next to me glued to their iPhone won’t nudge me into the guardrail.

3. Curling, eh?


Yes, the Triangle has its own curling club (appropriately named the Triangle Curling Club). On Friday night, the group held an open house, offering some hands-on introduction to the sport of curling.

Note: it is MUCH harder than it looks. The power comes from that back leg pushing off a starting block. But, then you have to transfer all of your weight into your other leg, kept in a perfect 90 degree angle. Oh, and then you have to get this 44lb stone closest to the “shot rock” at the other end.

From the initial taste, we are hooked. We will be back, especially since it is just a hop, skip, and jump away from our home.

4.Reminder that some politicians are human

Not that I have doubted President Obama’s sense of compassion, but his speech this past week on taking executive action on curbing gun violence in our nation moved me immensely.

All of us should be able to work together to find a balance that declares the rest of our rights are also important — Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights that we care about as well. And we have to be able to balance them. Because our right to worship freely and safely –- that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina.  And that was denied Jews in Kansas City. And that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek.  They had rights, too.

Our right to peaceful assembly -– that right was robbed from moviegoers in Aurora and Lafayette. Our unalienable right to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -– those rights were stripped from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown. First-graders. And from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

And, the response to critics of President Obama’s emotional response during his speech from the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah was spot on:

5. To Read: Little Bee


I finished Chris Cleave’s 2008 novel to start off the new year, and it was achingly beautiful and painful. It tells the story of two people, brought together by tragic circumstances, and how they unpack the history that led to their connection, and also how they move forward together…or not. Could I be more generic in the description? Probably. I don’t want to give anything away about Little Bee and her struggles and triumphs in this incredibly well-written story.

So, what’s making you happy this week?

Six things I am crushing on this week

To start with a bit of cruel irony: after noting in my post yesterday that I had yet to succumb to slipping on ice during any training runs, I was four-tenths of a mile into my 8 mile run and…you guessed it:


I ate it. Luckily, I performed the classic Hollywood fall of my legs flying up in the air and landing on my butt.

After a quick curse word and a double-check of all limbs, I proceeded on to knock out the remaining 7.6 miles amid much more ice. It was a very jilted run in regards to my route – a lot of U-turns. And, sadly, this morning’s freezing rain will be pushing my run today to…this afternoon? To the “wish I could” history books? It’s March. It’s time for spring.

I feel compelled to touch on a variety of topics this morning, so I have opted for the infamous list post in order to fulfill my own whims. From literature to legumes, here are six things I am crushing on this week:

#1: Chickpea cutlets from Post Punk Kitchen

chickpea cutletsLike mini-chickpea burgers of love

In need of something meaty, crunchy, and delicious? These cutlets – with their hint of lemon – will rock your world. They are easy to make and require few ingredients: chickpeas (duh), wheat gluten, bread crumbs (I use Panko), some thyme/paprika/garlic/sage, a little lemon zest, soy sauce, olive oil – BOOM! You have a chewy plant-based steak. I have fried them both times (it’s all about that crunchy, baby), but baking the cutlets in the oven is an option as well. You can find the recipe here.

#2: Hot jams: Ibeyi, “Ibeyi”

ibeyiPhoto via NPR’s All Songs Considered blog

Twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz first blew my musical mind on NPR’s First Listen with then soon-to-be-released album Ibeyi. Their playful, sensual, and haunting French-Cuban ballads are enhancing and evocative. I immediately pre-ordered the album, which is NOW available for your listening pleasure! Right now, I have “Ghosts” on repeat, which is the third track.

#3: Sold – Patricia McCormicksoldPublished back in 2006, this novel explores the horrific world of child trafficking, in particular from Nepal to India. Through the eyes of Lakshmi, a 13-year old Nepalese girl, we journey with her as she is sold into the sex industry by her stepfather as his gambling habits have netted the family a debt they can no longer pay with their crops. It’s written in almost a verse format – short bursts of text tracing Lakshmi’s experience, her naivete, and her realization of her new reality. The novel is raw and unapologetic in telling her story – as is the story of thousands of young women in this part of the world. I highly recommend reading it, as it will educate and anger the reader (well, it did me). This was in my 2015 reading stack, and it was one I had difficulty putting down.

#4: Another glorious Costco find – red lentil pasta!

RotiniOh Costco – you did it again! Chocked full of protein and fiber, this red lentil pasta proved to be an excellent substitute to the standard durum flour variety. It doesn’t boast any overpowering flavor. We topped the noodles with a marinara sauce one night and a peanut/ginger curry a few nights later. Great texture and very filling.

#5:  Dreaming of house decorating

After abandoning Pinterest for the last month or two, I jumped back in headfirst on a quest to find barn doors. When Aaron first mentioned these as an idea to close off our dining room, I was a little on the fence. Barn doors? This coming from the woman who had burlap a plenty at her wedding, I know. But, I am now 150% on the hunt for a barn door-esque look for our dining room. Here are some that I have just fallen in love with:

barndoor4I also love the fact La Croix is in this photo

barndoor3Likely no animal head behind our future door…

barndoor2Does the dog come with the door?

barndoor1It just screams GREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN

#6: The powerful medium that is Twitter

Yes, tweeting road conditions in the Triangle may earn you five seconds of fame too. Twitter – from questioning dress colors (which I honestly did not follow nor care to follow) to breaking international news to chronicling a llama escape – this social media platform continues to amaze and bewilder me.

Alright, those are six things that I am sharing with you. Would you be kind enough to share something YOU are crushing on with me?