Top 5...


By request, I've been asked to share my 5 favorite albums and live concerts that I went to from 2009. And... well, I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but as a fervent music listener, I'm not much of an "album buyer". Honestly, I'm more akin to listen and sample an album and tracks on line at such places like the Hype Machine or and then buy the two or three songs that I like the most. Generally then... those tracks will make their way to my ipod and be listened to from home, at work, at the gym and will eventually end up on a mix CD that I use in my car for road trips. On the converse though... I love love love going to see live music and will gladly shell out $15 or more dollars for the one time opportunity to see a band, live in concert. This is also a big reason as to why I moved to Portland, Oregon. On almost any given night of the week you can go out and listen to your favorite band or find your new favorite band. Having said all of that... here goes:


As stated....I don't buy hard copies of music too much because I'm hardly ever sitting still in one place long enough to listen to them. As well, little plastic cases start taking up a lot of room in my tiny apartment real quick. However, having said that... I will pick up a disc if it's an artist I have an undying love and adoration for. And, luckily... two or three of these "said artists" happened to release new albums this year:

1. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone

I've been waiting for Neko's new album to drop for forever it seems and Neko never fails to disappoint. Not only do I love just about every single word that drips from her mouth... but she puts a lot of creativity into her album artwork as well. I was especially pleased with the work on this one, as Neko and her art director, Kathleen Judge, have been nominated for a Grammy for Best Recording Package. As well, she also included art work from Amy Casey, a painter out of Cleveland who's work I love. My favorite track on the album is probably "I'm An Animal".

2. Brandi Carlile - Give Up The Ghost

To anyone who knows me... this is no big surprise. I have been a massive fan (my friends refer to me as a "super fan") since 2004 and I was pretty much salivating waiting for this album to drop. I like the flow of the album and vibe it gives - starting out from the rocking opening tune with Amy Ray "Looking Out" all the way to the sweetness of "Oh Dear". While I've seen Brandi "trying out" her new music for the past couple of years, there were no massive surprises on this one, however... the tune "I Will" struck me pretty hard on the album and it was one that I missed. I'd say it's my favorite from the album.

3. Tegan and Sara - Sainthood

Like most Tegan and Sara albums, I need to listen to it a few times for it to really sink in. There latest album, Sainthood, took MANY relistens... but once it set in, holy shit it didn't let go! I found myself listening to it over and over and over again and pretty much every song on the album made my workout playlist. My favorite is "Someday".

4. Gregory Alan Isakov - This Empty Northern Hemisphere

I have Brandi Carlile to thank for introducing me to Gregory Alan Isakov. It was a little more than a year ago last February that I traveled up to Bellingham, WA to see him open for her. While people milled about and chit chatted during his opening set... I sat, listened, and took in his wonderful soothing voice. Even better, was when Brandi came out and sang with him.. their harmonies worked so well together that I couldn't wait for his album to be released a few months later (as Brandi joined him for vocals on it). I'd have to say that even though it's a cover, my favorite song on the album is Leonard Cohan's "One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong". It's such a hauntingly beautiful song that I find myself repeating it frequently and taking something different away from it each time.

5. Vetiver - Tight Knit

This is one band that's been swinging around for a few years, but it took me until this summer to find them. I love their vocals and harmonies. It's what I'd call "easy and breezy"... you can play it in your car driving to the beach, have it going while you're sweeping the floor, background music for your porch party playing four square... you name it, if you want to be happy... listen to this. Overall, I just really enjoy their music. "Everyday" and "More of This" are excellent tracks to sample from this album.


While a few weeks ago I wrote a blog to a similar theme (but it was more or less based upon the shows I videoed) I will share with you my favorite live shows from last year. Luckily, in all of them but two (Neko Case at the Crystal Ballroom and Raise the Roof) I have video that I shot.

#1. Gillian Welch and David Rawlings No Depression Festival, 7.13.09 Seattle, WA

I've pretty much been waiting my whole life to see Gillian Welch live and this past July I got the chance at the first ever No Depression festival. The whole day was a great venture in live rootsy music getting to hear everyone from Zee Avi, to Sera Cahoone, Justin Townes Earle and Iron and Wine, but by far my favorite act of the whole night was the last act. I'm looking forward to their new album that's gonna be released soon.

#2 Neko Case - Middle Cyclone Tour 6.5.09, Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR

While I sadly don't have any video from this show (I'm thinking they had a pretty fierce camera policy or maybe actually for once I wanted to see a show without my camera and just take it all in - which I can't imagine me actually thinking that but anyways), I got to the venue late due to some personal drama and fought my way to the front of the stage. I apologize to those I left behind, but no way in hell was I going to miss this show. NO WAY. Needless to say, I pretty much loved everything about it. Neko had great set decor and cool backdrops (thanks to Judge again) and she and co-singer Kelly Hogan are pretty much a riot on stage with their witty banter and dialogue.

#3 Brandi Carlile - Give Up the Ghost Tour 10.22.09, Schnitz Hall, Portland, OR

When I sit down and think of it, I saw Brandi perform about six times last year. I'd like to say that every show is amazing and it blows me away... but after a while honestly, many aspects of many shows tend to run together. Ideally I could write a blog just based upon my top five Brandi shows of the year... however, I'll just limit Brandi to two entries here. I'm choosing this show over the other ones for the fact that it was the most memorable based upon the music that was played, where I was sitting, who I was sitting with and the video I got. Thanks to a kind friend I wheeled and dealed and received two last minute two front row center seats to the sold out show for my gf and I. I was most looking forward to seeing Katie Herzig sing a duet with Brandi that I had heard, was pretty friggin amazing. And... it was. Secondly, since the release of Brandi's new album... I'd been captivated by her new song "I Will". I managed to turn my camera on and film it and was treated to one of the most moving performances I've ever witnessed from a singer.

#4 Brandi Carlile - Raise the Roof Benefit Show 09.06.09, Triple Door, Seattle, WA

This show gets its billing based upon, not Brandi and the Band, but the amazing people who joined me at this concert and pooled together to raise money for a great cause (while getting to take the stage and steal the show from the band at the same time). Friends of mine from all over the US flew in to attend and help raise money for the Looking Out Foundation. A non-profit that Brandi put together which since it's creation, has helped fund local music programs in public schools, help families in need, sent money to Haiti, and also helped women fight for their lives in the face of violence. Add in all these great things, my friends, good music, and a swell poster design by moi, and you have a recipe for a memorable evening.

#5 Chris Pureka 04.16.09, Mississippi Studios, Portland, OR

I love Chris Pureka and I loved this show of hers. Normally Chris just plays solo, but on this tour she was joined by some friends on stage who had a banjo and a violin. There was a great energy in the room that night. Maybe it was coming from Chris and her friends or maybe I just felt it since I was with all my friends that night too? Maybe we all just fed off of one another? It's hard to say, but it was a great night of music.

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