Top Five Albums — 2012

It’s time again for my top five albums of the year. As I was preparing for this post, and I’ve probably always known this, I realized that while I love music, I’m not going to spend time searching for the unheard-of bands, or the albums that no one knows of. I’m not a true audiophile in that sense. But I do love good music. I could never compile a list like Steve McCoy’s. I don’t have the time or the budget. And to be fair, I’m certain that there are several albums on Steve’s list that would be included in mine. No, my tastes are slightly more mainstream. And while you’ll never see the likes of today’s Pop Stars on this list you will most likely know the bands that are mentioned here.

Top Five — 2010
Top Five — 2011

Just like last year, I thought I would mention several albums that were good, but didn’t make the list 1.

Honorable Mentions

This year’s most disappointing album was Battle Born by The Killers. I was really looking forward to it, but goodness, what a mess. They seem miles away from the band that gave us Hot Fuss & Sam’s Town.

Top Five

valtari5. Sigur RosValtari

This band is Icelandic. I have no idea what they’re singing, which is okay because some of their songs use a non-literal language…basically made up sounds. It’s called Vonlenska. Wikipedia calls them an ambient/post-rock band. It doesn’t matter their language, or what Wikipedia calls them…they’re good. The music is ethereal and mesmerizing.

Best song: Fjögur píanó

 
 
grizzlybear

4. Grizzly BearShields

I didn’t pick this album up until really late in the year…but I can’t stop listening to it. Initially it reminded me of My Morning Jacket. But Grizzly Bear is better, both musically and lyrically. This album features great harmonies between Edward Droste & Daniel Rossen.

Best Song: Sun In Your Eyes

Fallen once, you’ll fall again
And lean on
Your tired hands, the crawling grass
The soft ground

lumineers3. The LumineersThe Lumineers

You know the Lumineers because you’ve likely heard Ho Hey about a thousand times on the radio. Fortunately the album is more than that one song. And fortunately, most of the other songs are better than Ho Hey. Lyrically easy on the ears…and you can sing along with all the songs.

Best Song: Stubborn Love

It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all
The opposite of love’s indifference
Pay attention now, I’m standing on your porch screaming out
And I wont leave until you come downstairs

monsters2. Of Monsters and MenMy Head Is An Animal

The guitar intro on the first song, Dirty Paws, instantly hooked me…and I didn’t stop listening. This is an  album that takes the listener from a story about bees, birds, and creatures with Dirty Paws to a romantic discourse between lovers in Little Talks. Incidentally, this band is also from Iceland. What is it about good music coming from Iceland? I thought Björk was that country’s only export. The music is whimsical, wispy, a little folksy…and good.

Best Song: Little Talks

You’re gone, gone, gone away
I watched you disappear
All that’s left is a ghost of you
Now we’re torn, torn, torn apart
There’s nothing we can do
Just let me go, we’ll meet again soon

mumford1. Mumford & SonsBabel

In my past two years I’ve had albums that might have been slightly controversial…nothing major, but enough for some to question. Maybe Babel is this years controversy. Mumford, despite huge success and a brilliant first album, Sigh No More, have collected a group of haters along the way. Apparently Mumford is now formulaic…tired…not original. Apparently their second album was supposed to depart from who they are, and what made them successful. I don’t think U2 was asked to reinvent themselves on their second album. They didn’t try that almost disastrous experiment until their 8th & 9th albums. So let the haters hate. I love this album. It was easily my favorite album of the year. While My Head Is An Animal was good, it really was a distant second.

This album is filled with arena worthy anthems. Babel  is more polished than it’s predecessor, but still fills familiar. It is pregnant with spiritual undertones and hard love. It slows down, speeds up, stops, and then does it all over again.

It’s hard to pick a favorite song on this album. In fact, it’s easier to pick the few songs I didn’t like as much. One song that really grew on me was Lover of the Light. A first listen caused me to pause and say, “wait a second, when did they become the Dave Matthews Band?” Listen to the beginning of the song…you’ll see what I mean. But once I saw the video it completely changed things for me. We lived in Wales (UK) for five years…and the video for this song was shot in Wales. We became fans of Idris Elba while living there as well. Idris directed and starred in the video. It’s an excellent story. Watch for yourself.

Having said that, Lover of the Light isn’t my favorite song on the album. Hopeless Wanderer gets that title. It reminds me of U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (which happens to be my favorite song of all time). It’s a story of searching for truth…of knowing it, and then not.

You heard my voice I came out of the woods by choice
Shelter also gave their shade
But in the dark I have no name

So leave that click in my head
And I will remember the words that you said
Left a clouded mind and a heavy heart
But I was sure we could see a new start

So when your hope’s on fire
But you know your desire
Don’t hold a glass over the flame
Don’t let your heart grow cold
I will call you by name
I will share your road

But hold me fast, Hold me fast
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer
And hold me fast, Hold me fast
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer

I wrestled long with my youth
We tried so hard to live in the truth
But do not tell me all is fine
When I lose my head, I lose my spine

So leave that click in my head
And I won’t remember the words that you said
You brought me out from the cold
Now, how I long, how I long to grow old

So when your hope’s on fire
But you know your desire
Don’t hold a glass over the flame
Don’t let your heart grow cold
I will call you by name
I will share your road

But hold me fast, Hold me fast
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer
And hold me fast, Hold me fast
‘Cause I’m a hopeless wanderer
I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I’m under
I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I’m under
The skies I’m under

Hopeless Wanderer – Live
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaIZhKkgteA&feature=share&list=UUhPzV-uAKhVMguKI7RB8uGQ

As always, let me know your thoughts – where you agree, or not.

Notes:

  1. All links are Amazon Affiliate links

Test – to the pics

This is a test post to see if a plugin is working.

To Be Seven

WesWelker

My son is seven. And I think he’s pretty cool. They had to pick a person to write a letter to in school. This is his letter.

 

Buy Good Music

Black Friday has become a ridiculous excuse to partake in the accumulation of junk…but that’s a rant for another day. Music, however, does not fall into the category of junk. And Black Friday brings about great deals on great music. Here are a few albums you should go buy 1 now:

Notes:

  1. all links are Amazon Affiliate links

You Blinded Me with Science

At PuppetConf I spoke with Tim Bell from CERN. He is an unbelievably brilliant man. I listened to him again the next morning as he gave his keynote for the conference. Much of his talk repeated the things he had mentioned the night before. But honestly, the content was so rich I didn’t mind listening again.

He spoke of the research that was taking place at CERN, how it was funded, and about his little sphere of control in the whole project. He talked about how Puppet was being used to help with his research and the research of others at CERN.

When he spoke about the projects taking place, about the things that are being researched, this brilliant man showed his utter inability to explain certain things that are happening, or have happened, in the universe. There are simply things that researches can’t explain. They have no idea why certain things happen the way they do. Of course, this inability to know is what fuels their quest to find out. They research to find the answers to the unknown.

I was really impressed with what seemed like this internal calm…to not know, yet be driven to find out. I usually hate not knowing things. I like to know. I like to have a full deck before a decision is made. But Tim, and his team, and the other researchers at CERN live in this perpetual state of not knowing certain things. And they seem to relish it. It drives them.

Listening to him was a timely reminder for me — to be comfortable yet driven by the unknown.

* Tim Bell’s PuppetConf Keynote

Haystack

Haystack_Rock

Haystack Rock – Cannon Beach, Oregon

Twitter is the new Happy Days

Hey Twitter, you don’t build a platform/service that’s free and open, build up a ridiculous user base, then change the rules on how the game is played. It’s douchey. It comes across like the kid at the playground who didn’t get his way, called a timeout, grabbed his ball, walked home and left all the other kids thinking “what the hell just happened”.

It’s not our fault you didn’t have a solid business model when you started. Or, if you did and this was it…that’s double douchey.

Twitter is the new Happy Days. The 5th season premiere included the now infamous scene where Fonzie jumped over a shark while water-skiing. Before this episode…great show. After this episode…the decline of a great show. With their new API, Twitter just gave us their 5th season premiere.

Best summary: Ben Brooks.

Others:

Maybe it’s time to throw some money at app.net.

UPDATE: Another interesting perspective – Chris Bowler

Waiting

Sometimes you only need a glimpse of something to know it’s going to be good.

Now I’ll be bold
As well as strong
And use my head alongside my heart
So tame my flesh
And fix my eyes
A tethered mind freed from the lies
And I’ll kneel down
Wait for now
And I’ll kneel down
Know my ground
Raise my hands
Paint my spirit gold
Bow my head
Keep my heart slow
‘cus I will wait,
I will wait for you

from I Will Wait – Mumford & Sons new song off their forthcoming album Babel.

Playing with Puppets

PuppetLabsOne of the things I was involved in as a teenager was being a puppeteer for my church’s children’s program on Sunday mornings. Granted, I wasn’t great (just a hint – you’re supposed to keep the top of your hand still, and only move your thumb when operating a puppet’s mouth), but I had fun and it was a way to help out the adults as they taught the children on Sunday.

I’m 37 now and am playing with puppets once again – albeit a different type.

A little backstory…I spent most of last fall looking for a new job after moving my family to Portland in August, 2011. During the process I had an interview with Puppet Labs for their Manager of Education & Training position. I did well during the interview process and the candidates were reduced to two – me and one other guy. Then something happened that I really wasn’t expecting. As a result of their process, Puppet Labs realized they needed someone at the Director level with more experience setting things up like Certification programs, and not just a manager. So, they chose not to hire either of us. But I was told I was liked and that they would keep my name and info in case anything came up in the future. I was disappointed as Puppet was really a place I wanted to work.

A month or so later I landed a job at OCHIN as an Education Consultant. It was a good job and my Director there was easy to like, over the top enthusiastic, and had built a new team hiring two others at the same time as me to join an existing trainer already with the company. Within six months of me starting my two new team mates had resigned for other opportunities, and unrelated, my Director was told she was not a good fit for the company. So there I was, the last survivor of something that had just started six months prior. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to stay there and had resolved to begin looking for a new job after returning from a trip to Japan I had scheduled at the end of May.

One week prior to me leaving for Japan I received an email from Aimee at Puppet Labs asking if I “remembered” her – of course I did – and if I was still interested in working for Puppet – of course I was. She told me that they had found their Director of Education & Training, had hired a Certification Manager, and that they were looking for an Instructional Designer. I returned from Tokyo on Tuesday, May 29, had an interview with the Director on Friday, June 1, and had a job offer the next week.

Needless to say, I was stoked. This was a huge answer to prayer and an incredible blessing. I’ve been at Puppet Labs for just a few weeks and the folks there are incredible. I am overwhelmed at how smart these people are. It’s a little intimidating, but they are all extremely helpful, from Luke – the CEO – on down.

The timing of events and situations in life can be a thing of frustration or beauty, or both. It’s one of the great dichotomies. Things you expect to be easy turn out to be difficult. Things you expect to be difficult turn out to be easy. In this case I had conditioned myself to believe that the process of finding a new job was going to be difficult. Never – in a million years – did I expect to receive an email from Puppet Labs. And that’s beautiful.

Huh?

The Over-stated & Under-simplified Award of the Day.