Orange Juice, ETC

The blog of Elias & Theresa Carlson

Tag: Music

Music For Touching

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I hope you all had a great weekend. We had a fun time celebrating our brother/brother-in-law Joseph’s Birthday while exploring the Salton Sea and Salvation Mountain. If you are ever in Southern California and have the opportunity, I think it is worth the drive to see these strange places.

I discovered Cookies through the blog For Me, For You and was immediately hooked on this catchy album. If you need some music to get you through your Monday, give Music for Touching a listen. It might even make you want to dance.

Lastly, you might have noticed that we changed our header photo and bio photos. It was about time we gave the blog an update to reflect our California surroundings.

Farewell, Summer

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When I was in High school, I saved my money and bought an external CD burner. This was a big deal. Computers didn’t come with built in CD burners back then and there were only a couple of Senior guys (the ones that drank two liter bottles of Mountain Dew while they did computer repairs) that even had them. Plus, this thing was about $200, that is a lot of money for someone with an after-school job at Floors and More and a clothes buying habit. But I needed it, to make mixed CDs. Thank goodness for Napster.

When we met our dear friend Jeremy he introduced us to a whole new kind of playlist. For years he has been making beautiful playlists for each season of the year. As time passes, he can bring up those playlists and be transported back to that season, re-living the feelings and memories of that time in his life. The bonus is that he has a catalog of awesome playlists that are season/weather/day appropriate. Of course, we had to do the same.

I started doing this a little over a year ago, combining Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. I have found it is not only a great way to remember a season of life, but also a great way to remember some of the artists I discover. With so much music at our fingertips it is so easy to hear something once and forget about it.

Since it is Labor Day weekend and we are about to say “farewell” to summer, I though I would share my Spring/Summer playlist. I hope you enjoy it as you soak up the last rays of summer, preferably with friends, at the beach.

Find us on Rdio:
Theresa
Elias
Jeremy

Tyson Motsenbocker: Letters to Lost Loves

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Photo: Jaimie Motsenbocker

Tyson Motsenbocker – actual person – has long existed in my mind as something of a myth, a legend, a fantastical creature. I first heard his name back when Joseph was at college in Spokane. Tyson had gathered a ragtag bunch of chain smokers, Joseph among them, and started a little band called Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful. Their songs were often good, if a little uneven, and beneath the occasionally raw production you could hear the talent, both musically and lyrically.

I say Tyson existed as a myth because for many years I’d only heard tales of his songwriting prowess (and volume) from Joseph, yet I’d never actually met him, though I’d seen a few KPB shows here and there. Fast forward to the present day. Joseph and Tyson both moved to California. Tyson to San Diego, and Joseph to Pasadena. As you know by now, Theresa and I recently followed her sister, Joseph, and our hearts to Long Beach. And I finally got to meet Tyson.

As it turns out he’s pretty awesome. Not that I doubted it. But it’s always a wonderful thing to meet a person you just click with. He’s creative, a bit introverted, eloquent, and has fine taste in motorcycles among other things. I know someone else a lot like that, although perhaps less eloquent… (it’s me in case you were wondering). We’ve become fast friends, and it’s been wonderful to get to know the man behind the legend in real life.

Since his KPB days I’ve been fortunate enough to listen to Tyson’s musical evolution, usually via top secret rough-cut MP3s that Joseph would email me on the sly, under oath to share them with no one. Over the years the raw talent on display in college has come into full bloom. Gone is the unevenness of the young musician. In its place is polish and depth. His best songs are capable of, as Joseph would put it, “shutting you up, sitting you down, and making you feel stuff.”

Cutting to the chase… As you know I was honored to help Tyson produce a few videos for his ongoing Kickstarter project. They are all live now (see below) and there are 8 days left in his campaign. He’s tantalizingly close to his goal of $10,000. I think you know where I’m going with this. If you haven’t already, watch the videos. And if any of them move you, as I’m sure they will, please consider donating a bit to make this project a reality.

You can contribute here: Letters to Lost Loves LP

Tyson Motsenbocker : Always from Japhy Rider on Vimeo.

Tyson Motsenbocker : You Didn’t Wait for Me from Japhy Rider on Vimeo.

Letters to Lost Loves // LP and Short Stories Kickstarter from Japhy Rider on Vimeo.

Music! Video! Music Video! Tyson Motsenbocker’s Kickstarter

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Last month Tyson Motsenbocker commissioned me to shoot 3 Kickstarter videos for his upcoming full-length album + book project, Letters to Lost Loves. We had a blast in the studio and I’m completely thrilled with the final product. I can’t wait to hear the full album.

There will be two more videos coming out in the next few weeks, each of which is a live-take of a brand new song from the album. Stay tuned!

If you’d like to make the world a better, more beautiful place, get yourself on over to his Kickstarter page and contribute.

Top 25 Songs of 2013

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It’s that time of year again! Welcome to the annual Orange Juice ETC, Top 25 songs list. As usual Theresa and I spent the better part of our six hour journey to Idaho scouring our playlists for the songs we enjoyed most in 2013. It was an excellent year. Several artists on our “All-Time Favorites” list released new albums, and as usual a flood of new artists found their ways into our ears and hearts. As it turns out, the most difficult part was keeping the list at 25. We ended up with 34 songs that we just couldn’t imagine leaving out, so this year we are including a 9 song Honorable Mention section.

The only big change this year is that we are ditching the MP3 downloads that we’ve done in the past. Theresa and I have really gotten hooked on rdio a streaming music service that we think is superior to Spotify. So this year you’ll need to subscribe to the playlist on rdio, or listen to it below. We apologize for the inconvenience, but we really think everyone should sign up for an rdio account, it’s the best. And for those of you who are already invested in Spotify, never fear, rdio has a playlist transfer feature that will pull your existing catalog over from Spotify. No excuses!

If you already have an rdio account you can keep tabs on what Theresa and I are listening to by adding us to your contacts:
TheresaElias

Enjoy!

Top 25 (in no particular order)

1. Vance Joy – Riptide

2. The National – Hard to Find

3. Foy Vance – Feel for Me

4. Lucius – Two of Us on the Run

5. Phosphorescent – Song for Zula

6. Junip – Your Life Your Call

7. Vampire Weekend – Obvious Bicycle

8. Sing Fang – Young Boys

9. Papa – I Am the Lion King

10. Andrew Belle – Sister

11. Tyson Motsenbocker – Blink Behind the Leaves

12. Emma Louise – Pontoon

13. Dan Croll – From Nowhere

14. Valerie June – Wanna Be On Your Mind

15. Arcade Fire – Porno

16. Salt Cathedral – Move Along

17. Lorde – Bravado

18. The Shouting Matches – I Need A Change

19. Gregory Alan Isakov – Amsterdam

20. Matt Corby – Resolution

21. Andrew Bird – Pulaski at Night

22. Rayland Baxter – Bad Things

23. Caveman – In The City

24. Cayucas – A Summer Thing

25. Sydney Wayser – Alright

Honorable Mention:

26. Mikky Ekko – Pull Me Down

27. Kisses – Huddle

28. Washed Out – It Feels All Right

29. Minor Alps – Lonely Low

30. Volcano Choir – Tiderays

31. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – We the Common (for Valerie Bolden)

32. Phoenix – Bourgeois

33. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – War Zone

34. The Boxer Rebellion – New York

Kings Canyon in Three Parts (2/3)

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Fishing the Run Well by Jeremy Spyridon

Let me tell you what happens when you fly-fish for the first time in your life. You will fall. You will hook more rocks than fish. You will catch your rod on branches. You will tangle your line into knots you never knew existed. Your skin will burn beneath a merciless sun. Your body will be beaten, your skin will be scraped, scratched and scarred. You will curse the name of God on a whim. And then you will have the audacity to look up as a hundred swallows ride currents rising from the canyon floor into the golden beams of a setting sun and wonder if it all was worth it. And not just this day, but each day that had come before it.

Such was my state of mind as I limped pitifully back up the canyon walls. In the end, it was not my smashed knee that slowed my pace. It was not the gear that clung to the sweat on my back. It wasn’t even my wounded pride. It was my will, my worth, my identity. For the first half of our journey back to the car, I was able to keep up with my companions. But as our ascent continued, my spirit dove deeper and deeper into shadow. Thankfully, Elias and Joseph did not wait for me and continued at their own determined pace. As they rounded the next switchback, I stopped and accepted my fate. I chose to be left behind.

As I looked down into the canyon, watching the swallows dance in the diminishing sunlight, I reflected on the day. It had worn on me in ways I could not have imagined. After 6 hours of fishing and not even a single bite, I decided to lay down my rod and rest beside the river. With my hand in the current, I recalled bass fishing with my Dad. I remembered the excitement of rising before the sun. I remembered the joy of being on the water. But then I remembered something else. I remembered enjoying casting, but always hoping I wouldn’t catch a fish. I remembered taking long breaks just to enjoy basking in the sunlight. I looked forward to the next can of Diet Coke, but rarely the next cove. And above all, I looked forward to the long drive home that included a stop at Pizza Hut and hours spent listening to The Blues Brothers. But I never wanted to catch a fish.

I wondered what that meant about me. Was it true that I didn’t want to catch a fish? All these years, was I truly not competitive? Or had this always been a way to protect myself from defeat? Am I weak? Is this why I fear intimacy? Am I going to die alone? Fuck. 28 and single. My gaze rested on the golden peaks surrounding me. How like life, to survive so much pain and suffering and loneliness and, in the end, all you get to take with you is a few faded memories of some nice views that will someday pass away with the rest of you. Deeper and deeper I dove. Here I was, in one of the most breathtaking places I had ever beheld, questioning my next breath. I suddenly resented Joseph’s passion for fishing. I coveted Elias’s obsession with film photography. I hated what I had become. And so I looked at my feet on the cliff’s edge and thought, “it’s just one step.”

It had all begun with a simple question. Somehow, asking myself if I wanted to catch a fish had led me to question living another day. Of course the thought was no more than a selfish, self-indulgent pity party, but it happened. And it wasn’t out of nowhere. There was a chain reaction of thoughts that led to that moment, and I ignited the fuse each step along the way. Like a game of telephone, lies become evidence for more lies, and in the end, you’re left with something that makes no sense at all. You see, the mind is a powerful thing and yet it can be so stupid. Did you know that your body cannot tell the difference between reality and imagination? It’s true. Your body reacts the same way to a real tragedy as it does when you speculate worst-case scenarios. You experience the same stress when you lose your job as when you worry about that unsettling look your boss gave you yesterday. Finding out a loved one has been in an accident leaves the same scar as when you wonder why they didn’t answer your phone call. The difference is, you can imagine the worst over and over and over again. And when you do, you’re literally traumatizing yourself. Over and over and over.

The next morning I awoke bruised and beaten, but with a miraculous hope for a fresh start. We would give the river one final go before beginning our journey out of the canyon. We followed the river and found the run we were looking for. This was it. I was going to catch a fish. I even prayed for it. And then, to the amusement of God and all His angels, my very first cast, I hooked the tree above me and broke the line. I began to curse… and then took a breath. I felt my thoughts getting away from me again, so I stopped. Like the rudder of a ship, the slightest degree can have you end up in Iceland or Africa.

I took my rod and broken line to an isolated area and sat for awhile. I remembered something Joseph had said the day before as we descended into the canyon. He spoke of “fishing the run well.” You only get one, maybe two, chances to get a fly in front of a fish before he knows you’re full of shit. You study the environment. You observe the insects nearby. The formation of the river. The structure beneath its surface. Each bend, each shadow, each ripple. You consider the life of the fish and where they might rest. You take this all in, make your judgement, and then commit. You comb the river, bit by bit. You lose yourself in being present. And you watch your line with all your might. Then you move to the next spot and do it all over again. You fish the run well. The context was fly-fishing, of course, but we all knew there was something greater at stake.

Sitting alone with my pitiful situation of a rod, I decided to take a moment to start over. I remembered the knots I had learned the day before and went to work. After some grueling moments of patience, my rod and my spirit were ready. I spent the rest of the morning fishing the river on my own, reading the current, choosing my strategy, and then deliberately executing it to the best of my ability. I fished that river well. Up and down, near and far. I began to understand my rod. I felt the fluidity of my movements. My fly began to land exactly where I’d intended. And I loved every second of it. I loved it so much, in fact, that I over-fished the same runs simply out of the sheer joy of being able to cast without catching every single branch, log and rock I came across. And I thanked God for it. I never did catch a trout, but I learned that fishing a run well has absolutely nothing to do with what you catch. At least it didn’t for me.

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For the photography nerds: All photos taken with an iPhone 4 and edited using VSCO.

Jeremy is a talented graphic designer by day. You should really check out his portfolio. He recently made a playlist called River Teeth inspired by our trip, which you can listen to over on his music blog, Icarus & Occident.

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Must Listen Music: The National

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The National have been with me for a while now. Though they have seven albums in their discography, my relationship with them began in 2007 with their critically acclaimed album Boxer. It was followed by a step back to 2005’s Alligator, held steady with 2008’s The Virginia EP, and evolved into a full blown love-affair when 2010’s High Violet rolled around.

I’ll never forget the first time I heard one of their tracks. I was a young designer, fresh out of school, just beginning to get a taste for all the “real world” had to offer. Steady paychecks, long work hours, and an internet-fed explosion of new music. When a co-worker played a song from Boxer, I don’t remember exactly which one, my ears perked up and I immediately asked him, “Who IS this?”. For those that know me well, that’s usually code for “holy crap I love this song.” He graciously supplied the name of the band and album, then recommended that I watch their La Blogotheque around-the-dinner-table video (below) to really get a feel for their staggering talent. I watched. My mind was blown, my fate sealed. The National have steadfastly occupied a slot in my favorite bands list ever since.

Along the way, I’ve managed to suck friends and family alike into the vortex of my admiration. Now before the gushing continues I should say, The National isn’t for everyone. Few people fall in love with them upon their first listen, as I did. For most folks it takes time and repeated exposure before the spell begins to take hold. And some people just plain don’t like them. I’m ok with that. I just happen to adore them.

Their music tends to inspire wine-snobish verbal description. Words like “lush, layered, and complex” often pop up in reviews. Their lyrics are odd, their subject matter mundane, even morose at times. But for me it’s the melodies. It always come back to the melodies, and the gorgeous music supporting them. Their songcraft at its best is subtle and simple. It draws you in with a single note, a clever line or hook. Upon repeated listens you find yourself immersed in a swirling world of strings and melancholy. Again, it’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely for me.

Now, I’m no music critic. So let’s cut to the chase. A few weeks ago, much to my delight, their latest album Trouble Will Find Me was released. I listened to it on repeat for a solid week, and still listen to it at least once a day. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever heard. I won’t bore you with more musical hyperbole, I’ll just leave you with this: In my opinion The National have solidified themselves as one of THE great American bands. I wish I could make everyone love this album as much as I do. This is my humble attempt to do so. I hope you enjoy it.

Oh, and eternal thanks to my wicked sweet brother Joseph who thoughtfully purchased their album for me on vinyl (unabashed hipster alert). Yay!

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Top 25 Songs of 2012

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It’s that glorious time of year again. Time to compile and share our Top 25 songs of 2012. Theresa and I spent the better part of the 6-hour return drive from Idaho sifting through iTunes, listening and re-listening to tracks from our favorite 2012 albums. It’s quite a task to undertake, but we hope you enjoy listening to this playlist as much as we enjoyed making it. As with any “best of” playlist, there are notable absences, so our apologies if we left off some obvious candidate.

As usual, we have a .zip file with all the MP3s + custom album art in case you want to plug this into your phone or iPod. However, this year features a new twist: a Spotify playlist! Now you can listen to all the songs with a clear conscience. As with last year, each artist’s name links directly to their website, so if you hear something you absolutely adore, we strongly encourage you to go grab their album.

Without further ado, here is the Orange Juice, ETC Top 25 Songs of 2012. In alphabetical order by artist.

Download: Zipped MP3s (165MB)

Or: Open in Spotify

If you missed last year’s playlist, don’t fret. Here it is.

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1. Bahamas – Lost in the Light
A mellow, simple, soulful track. The kind of music that makes you want to close your eyes and gently bob your head. And when those backups singers kick in, it’s magic. This entire album is fantastic, one of the best of 2012 in my opinion, and if you aren’t familiar with Alfie Jurvanan’s music you ought to give it a spin sometime.

2. Beach House – The Hours
When it came time to make our selection from Beach House’s 2012 album Bloom we found ourselves having a difficult time. The problem is that there’s not a weak song on the album. After much deliberation we landed on “The Hours” which encapsulates everything that is wonderful about Beach House. Turn it on, and submerge yourself in this dreamy, wave-washed soundscape.

3. Ben Howard – Esmerelda
Ben Howard has become something of a staple in our household since his 2011 release Every Kingdom. It’s the album that inevitably gets turned on every time we drive through the North Cascades, or head to the ocean. Naturally we were thrilled to discover that he was releasing a 4 song EP in 2012. Esmerelda is the standout track from that EP, and the best way to describe it may be “darkly beautiful”. Imagine if you will, a storm-whipped ocean swell, and you’ll begin to get the idea.

4. Benjamin Francis Leftwich – Pictures
Ok. We’re cheating here a little bit. Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s album Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm was released in 2011. However, we didn’t discover this little gem until about a month ago, and it’s been playing nonstop ever since. Mr. Leftwich creates beautifully wrought, guitar-drive songs, and “Pictures” is one of his finest.

5. Brandi Carlile – 100
Sometimes it seems like Brandi’s been with us a long time now. But in reality she only just burst onto the scene in 2006; her kerosene soaked vocal chords burning holes in our heart with every smoky wail. I wouldn’t be suprised if she goes down as one of our generation’s greats. The James Taylor or Paul Simon of our era. Despite her rough edges, Brandi is capable of creating heartwarmingly sweet, simple songs. The kind of melodies that you can’t get out of your head. “100” is a fine example of Brandi at her best.

6. Bright Moments – Tourists
There’s so much to enjoy about this song. The percussive complexity, the infectious melody, or the heavenly trumpet arrangement that closes the song out. But it’s that soaring falsetto in the bridge that gets me every time. It’s well worth the 2 minutes and 43 seconds of toe-tapping goodness before things really take off.

7. Daughter – Home
Spacious reverb, piano, and some delicious percussion make an ideal backdrop for Elena Tonra’s hauntingly beautiful voice. The standout track from Daughter’s little 4 song EP leaves us wanting more.

8. Delta Spirit – Time Bomb
Delta Spirit is another band whom I’m convinced will go down as one of “the greats”. Their third album finds them exploring new sonic territory without losing the things that make them great. I’ve decided that “Time Bomb” might be one of my all-time favorite songs. Ever. That seems like a bold statement to make for a song that’s not even a year old, especially when you think about all the brilliant songs there are to choose from. But for me, this is as good as it gets. I’m not going to try to describe it, just put it on next time you have a quiet moment and soak in Delta Spirit’s genius.

9. Electric Guest – Under The Gun
Electric Guest make their second appearance on Orange Juice ETC with this fine track. Their song “This Head I Hold” appeared on our Hipsters Workout Mix. “Under The Gun” pairs a sublte, buzzing bass-line with percussive piano lines. The melodies are gorgeous and the vocals somewhat reminiscent of Michael Jackson. Overall it’s a thoroughly enjoyable pop track with a sorrowful edge.

10. Father John Misty – Well You Can Do It Without Me
Father John Misty produced one of the finest albums of 2012 with Fear Fun. It was a challenge to pick the best song, and if I’m honest I might pick “Only Son of a Ladies Man” or “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”. However this raucous, delightfully clever song might be my favorite. It’s definitely the most fun, and when Joshua Tillman attempts to shred his own vocal chords several times it only adds to the atmosphere.

11. First Aid Kit – Blue
Speaking of brilliant female vocalists, not many do it as well as Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg of First Aid Kit. Their fine album The Lion’s Roar has been another constant companion for Theresa and I this year, and “Blue” is a fine example of the delicious harmonies and soaring vocals that are their trademark.

12. Foy Vance – Be The Song
“Be The Song” from Foy Vance’s lovely 4 song Melorose EP is quite a departure from his soulful debut album Hope; more Bon Iver than Stevie Wonder with a guitar. If we’re honest we’ll admit it was a bit of a disappointment at first, if only because we’d come to adore the style of his first album. However, after a few listens we got over it and began to appreciate the subtle beauty of this track. Our appreciation for the song was solidified upon seeing him live in Seattle. On stage, the power of his voice and his brilliant musicianship took the song to a whole new level.

13. Geographer – Lover’s Game
Geographer won our hearts with their 2010 EP Animal Shapes, and “Lover’s Game” from their latest album Myths delivers another addictive dose of danceable, synth-laden goodness. Lead singer Michael Deni’s voice is a unique blend of soothing and celestial, and when he kicks into his high falsetto, backed by Nathan Blaz’s cello, the result is heavenly.

14. Good Old War – Can’t Go Home
Yet another album I can’t stop playing. Good Old War are a bit of an enigma. Their music is so catchy, so infused with glee, and the joy of life, that I should be experiencing the equivalent of post-Halloween sugar crash after 2 or 3 times through the album. But I’ve listened to the entire album at least a dozen times now, and I just keep coming back for more. And that’s really the beauty of their music. They’ve somehow created super-catchy, feel-good folk-pop that is refreshing instead of nauseating. So fasten your seatbelts, put on your stomping boots, and prepare for a rollicking good time with “Can’t Go Home”.

15. Husky – Animals & Freaks
It’s always wonderful to witness a band just nail a feeling, both musically and lyrically. Husky have done it with this song. The best word to describe it is “haunting”. Lead singer Husky Gawenda’s clear high, slightly nasally voice suits itself well to the story. From the ethereal backing vocals, to the storyline of an old man haunted by a once-in-a-lifetime encounter, it’s pitch perfect.

16. John Mayer – Something Like Olivia
John Mayer and I have always had a bit of a standoffish relationship. I’ll accuse him of being an enormous tool, and he’ll come back at me with a perfect melody, and an oh-so-catchy blues riff. I’ll decide maybe he’s not so bad, and then he’ll do something toolish again and we’re back to square one. His recent album Born and Raised was no different. First there was that stupid hat. Then I heard the god-awful I’m-a-good-guy-with-a-spotty-past first single “Shadow Days”, (seriously this song should be a candidate for WORST songs of 2012) and I was ready to write off the whole album. But I toughed it out and listened through a few times, for Continuum’s sake, and what I discovered was an album just 2 songs shy of perfect. If you remove “Shadow Days” and the annoyingly-repetitive “Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey” it’s seriously brilliant. And “Something Like Olivia” features all of Mayer’s best qualities. It’s bluesy, bouncy, heartfelt, and endearingly forlorn. And because I’m married to a real life Olivia, it’s carved out a warm little niche in my heart. Every time I hear it I think about how lucky I am to be married to Theresa. You win Mr. Mayer. You win.

17. Josh Ritter – See Me Through
Cut from Dylan-esque cloth, Josh Ritter’s lyrics are often sprawling, complex narratives. But in 2012 he released a lovely little 6 song EP called Bringing In The Darlings. Eschewing his usual narrative complexity, these songs are best described as simple and sweet, both lyrically and musically. That doesn’t mean they are any less wonderful than some of his more ambitious work. “See Me Through” is a delightful combination of gentle finger-picked guitar, and sweetly memorable melody.

18. Lord Huron – Brother
I’m always a sucker for a song about brothers. I have 3, and I love them all dearly. Theresa has no brothers but I know she can relate given the close friendship she has with her older sister. Whenever I listen to this song I’m carried away, remembering past adventures, and dreaming of future ones with my brothers by my side. And that seems to be what Lord Huron does best. Through the power of music, they create adventures for the mind, carrying you to distant lands, inspiring longing in the heart.

19. Lost Lander – Cold Feet
Lost Lander have created a lush musical atmosphere in this thoroughly enjoyable song. The production is impressive, as an array of digital and analog noises are skillfully woven into the fabric of this soaring tune. Buzzes, clicks, scratches, whirrs, bells, and whistles. All make their appearance as the song progresses. It’s an assault on the senses, but one you’ll find delightfully catchy.

20. Michael Kiwanuka – Bones
Michael Kiwanuka has the kind of voice any musician would kill for. It’s smooth, rich, and brimming with emotion. He brings to mind such legends as Bill Withers, or Otis Redding. So much so that the first time I heard one of his songs I wondered if it was an old 50’s song I’d passed by. But no, Michael is a mere 24 years old. “Bones”, the 4th single from his debut album, is a brilliant example of British soul at its best. I’d highly recommend you pick up his album Home Again as soon as you possibly can.

21. Nada Surf – When I Was Young
I was a little late to the game with Nada Surf. I never liked their big hit “Popular” from back in 1996, so when I was introduced to them by a co-worker sometime in 2007 I didn’t even realize it was the same band. I soon discovered that I’d missed out on 3 stellar albums. They’ve since become a staple in my musical diet. “When I Was Young” is a fine example why I love Nada Surf. They’re never going to blow you away with their lyrics or musicianship, but they consistently put out enjoyably refreshing indie rock. They’re probably not for everyone. But for me, there’s just nothing quite like a good Nada Surf song.

22. Santigold – God From The Machine
Santigold writes genre-blending R&B/rock/electronic dub songs that would make for great pre-fight music, should you ever need it. You can’t help but feel a little bit tougher with a track like “God From the Machine” pulsing in the background. Throw it on next time your working out, or if you just need a quick shot of badassery.

23. The Staves – Tongue Behind My Teeth
The Stavely-Taylor sisters – Emily, Jessica, and Camilla – were not born with silver spoons in hand. No, each was blessed instead with a set of flawless golden vocal chords. It seems they’ve taken the old proverb, “a chord of three strands is not easily broken” to heart, choosing to sing together instead of pursuing individual interests. And thank goodness. When those voices blend in three-part harmony, the only way to describe it is “angelic”. Enjoy.

24. The Tallest Man On Earth – Leading Me Now
Hailing from Sweden, Kristian Matsson aka The Tallest Man On Earth, creates distinctive, gorgeous, American-style folk songs. His voice takes a little getting used to, but like many fine things in life it grows on you, until suddenly you find yourself beginning to crave it. “Leading Me Now” is a fine example of his energetic finger-picking and earnest songcraft.

25. Youth Lagoon – Daydream
There seems to be a lot of home-recorded indie pop floating around out there. Most of it is pretty hit-or-miss, with the odd gem buried amidst the rubble. But Trevor Powers of Youth Lagoon has created an album that is fantastic end to end, filled with memorable hooks cloaked in swirling atmospheres. The tone throughout is hushed, almost child-like at times. At least at first. In “Daydream”, what begins as a quiet introspective lullaby builds gradually into something grander and more expansive. Most of the tracks on this album have the same effect, and you may find yourself delightfully surprised when these simple songs expand skyward in the space a few minutes.

California drownin’ out the windowside

I arrived in Pasadena late. 2am approximately. I’d successfully navigated the labyrinth of LAX, picked up a rental car, and snaked my way up the 110, obsessively checking the GPS display of my “space phone” to ensure I hit the Pasadena exit. Theresa was happily off to Hollywood as 1/4 of a quartet of giddy, giggling girls, and I was looking forward to a weekend of adventure with my brother.

Joseph greeted me at the door of his tiny apartment me with a big hug, and a glass of Bruekelen Distillery’s finest Whiskey. He told me that he’d recently finished a new song, that I had to hear it, and that the only place he could play it for me was in the lower level of the parking garage. Ten minutes, three flights of stairs, and two cigarettes later this happened:

There are few things quite as grand as watching the people you love blossom into the fullness of who they are. Joseph is my best friend, but it wasn’t always so. Once upon a time I tried my best to stifle the glorious qualities that now enchant the people fortunate enough to call him a friend. It’s not an unusual story. I, the older brother, often cruel and belittling. He, a fiery upstart, unwilling to give an inch. Thank God, my sabotage failed. I’d have missed out on so much.

I’m not sure how it happened but somewhere along the way we became friends. I suppose I matured, and as I did he graciously forgave. Perhaps, as we let our guards down and learned to appreciate one another, we discovered that our hearts were tuned to the same frequency. Deep calling to deep.

We spent the weekend together in epic fashion. Our first adventure was a jaunt up Eaton Canyon to the top of Eaton Falls. Finding the normal trail too easy, we clambered up the side of the canyon and followed a ridge around until we came to the top of the falls. Our thirst for adventure slaked, we headed South to Huntington Beach for a bonfire, where Joseph serenaded a rapt group of friends with his latest songs. The following day we drove deep into the San Gabriel mountains, on the lookout for scenic views, marveling at how different the terrain is from our native Washington ranges. Our time together was filled with conversation, good music, and a welcome splash of sunshine.

While I can’t say I have any desire to live in L.A., or Pasadena for that matter, I’m glad I’ll have an excuse to visit for the next three years. Far more than that, I’m glad I have a brother like Joseph with whom to share life. I’ll leave you with a small piece of writing that came tumbling from my pen shortly after my return to Seattle. It is an ode to friendship and brotherhood. It’s simple, and probably a little sappy, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

What joy it is, the fellowship between brothers. Once enemies, striving, wills clashing like flint and steel. Now at peace together. Shoulder to shoulder. The one knowing the other as well as himself. Over mountains and through woods, their conversation flows like silver streams. They grow up together in strength and wisdom like two trees intertwined.

Note: All photos of me (Elias) except that one self-portrait were taken by Joseph.

Far from home where the ocean stood

Today 25 years ago a rather spectacular event occured; my brother Joseph was born. Unfortunately he is currently in Pasadena, likely bemoaning the Golden State’s lack of Autumn, trout streams, and adoring nephews. Since we can’t have him here in person we decided the next best thing was to curl up with his cover of Johnny Cash’s “The Long Black Veil” and look at pictures of him being epic (his most frequent state of being).

Joseph we love you and we miss you. We can’t wait until you’re back in the Northwest where you belong. In the meantime we hope our presents help to take the edge off when grad school gets rough. Happy birthday beloved brother.

Video by the talented Kurt Daniels