VOTD – Mumford & Sons // “The Wolf”

The sun came out in Jersey today and it felt like the first day of summer.

Like most people, I’m sure I’m not the only person who has specific music they listen to at certain times of the year. When fall comes around I start bringing out my Fleetwood Mac and Jose Gonzalez, winter I devote to the Ratpack and summer, well summer’s when I like to dance and I like to rock.

I have a lot of albums that I associate with summer: Kings of Leon’s Come Around Sundown (as well as Mechanical Bull), Foster the People’s Torches, Marina & the Diamonds’ Electra Heart, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals The Lion, The Beast, The Beat, I mean I could be here for days.

But if there’s one album that signals summer’s fast approaching for me, it’s Mumford & Sons Wilder Mind.

For Wilder Mind, M&S decided to put down the banjos and just rock. Contrary to popular opinion, I really liked when M&S went back to their roots and plugged in. With a little help from another one of my favorites, Aaron Dessner from The National, they put out one of the greatest (and underappreciated) rock records of the last five years—yeah, I said it. 

The genius of this records lies with the fact that although the overall sound and musical structure went in a different direction, the things that make M&S so great—their lyricism and sentiment—didn’t.

So as the sun beat down on my face today, I whipped out my copy of Wilder Mind, put on track number three, rolled down the windows and rocked on cause damn it, summer’s almost here.

So grab your headphones, plug ’em in and vibe with me and Mumford & Sons “The Wolf.”

VOTD – Tor Miller // “Carter & Cash”

Today I found myself looking through old ticket stubs, reminiscing about some of my favorite concerts.

Anyone who knows me knows that if you really want to make my day, you’ll take me to a good concert. I’m sure it’s not too much of a surprise given that you are reading a blog about my favorite songs, but it’s a fact nonetheless.

Now, I’m lucky because I’ve been to a lot of great concerts, especially in the last few years. I’ve seen big acts like Coldplay and Mumford & Sons, smaller acts Hippie Sabotage and Marina & The Diamonds and legends like Paul McCartney and Fleetwood Mac. But one of my favorite concerts I think I’ll ever go to I went to in September 2016—Tor Miller.

Tor Miller is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter based in the Greater NYC area and boy is he good. I saw his show at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn and he brought the place down. Not only that, his opening acts—Sean McVerry and Paperwhite—were sick, and how many times can you genuinely say you enjoyed both opening acts at a show?

The best part about the whole thing, besides the company I kept and the fact that I was able to to get his album two weeks early on vinyl, was the fact that we were front-row/leaning on the stage/staring Tor directly in the face the entire show. Granted, the venue is pretty intimate to begin with, but still. 

I’ve been a fan of his for a while, but the song that first introduced me to his music was this one. I had been browsing through iTunes one day when I came across it and as a huge Johnny Cash fan I was immediately drawn in by the title, but it was the song that made me stay. His voice, his instrumentation, his lyricism, his style— it’s all dripping with his obvious influences (a lá Bowie/Springsteen) but it still has this magical element that is all original and all Tor.

So grab your headphones, plug ’em in and vibe with me and Tor Miller’s “Carter & Cash.”

VOTD – Ludovico Einaudi // “DNA”

I had a lot of writing to do today.

When I’m tasked with a lot of writing in one day, it’s easy for me to get overwhelmed or worse—procrastinate.

Unfortunately, due to the workload I’m currently under, alongside the fact that it’s almost the end of my college semester and I’m graduating in less than a month, my “senioritis” has begun rearing its ugly head and all its pitfalls are attacking me at once, especially procrastination.

Fortunately, when I do procrastinate, I still like to be productive so I found myself organizing my bookshelf for the first time in years. In the midst of this, I came across a folder from my “Writing in the [English] Major” course a couple semesters back and decided to take a look through some old papers to see if something in there could drive up some motivation within me to write.

This was a class that I really enjoyed with a professor I’ve taken four times in my college career, so it definitely wasn’t a cringeworthy experience to be looking back on this work. I wrote many papers that I’m still proud of in this class, but there was one in particular that I completely forgot about aptly titled, “My Personal Writing Process.”

This was the first paper we were assigned and one meant to be a short, introspective and reflective piece on what writing meant to us as well as how we approached it. Now writing processes change with time, but after rereading that paper for the first time in two years, I decided to repeat my process from back then to a T.

I cleared off my desk, made a cup of tea, opened a new Word doc, brainstormed for 20 minutes, stretched for 20 minutes and once I felt like I was ready to write, I incorporated the last step—I put on Ludovico Einaudi’s album Una Mattina.

This is an album I used to always put on when I wrote but after some time, it became something I stopped doing. I also forgot how great it actually works for me.

Whenever I needed to focus when writing, I put this on and I can’t for the life of my remember why I ever stopped because once I did today, words flowed out of me like water from a fountain.

It. Was. Amazing.

This gem, in particular, was always my go-to song on the album, so I figured since most people suffer from writer’s block from time to time, and most aren’t familiar with Ludovico’s work, I’d kill two birds with one stone by introducing you to a great musician as well as a possible cure for your writer’s block.

So grab your headphones, plug ’em in and vibe with me and Ludovico Einaudi’s “DNA.”

 

VOTD – Mat Kearney // “Ships in the Night”

Rain always puts me in a funny mood.

Like many people, I find that the weather affects my day in more ways than one, especially when it comes to how I’m feeling that day. When it’s on the rainy-er side. I find I’m either drowning myself in the melancholy of The National or reveling in the optimism of Mat Kearney—today was the latter.

I’ve loved Mat Kearney before I even really knew who he was thanks to his 2006 hit, Nothing Left to Lose, which is a song that everyone will recognize even if they don’t recognize Mat’s name.

When I really got into his music was after the release of Young Love in 2012. This album is one that I consistently turn to when I need something to relax me and remind me that everything will work out in the end. The lyrics to most of the songs on the album are filled with introspective thoughts and stories about love, relationships, family, and life, making it perfect mood music for a rainy day—and “Ships in the Night” is no exception.

The song focuses on a relationship that’s struggling but throughout it all—the problems, the baggage, the hectic schedules, the missed flights—is determined to come out on the other side in one piece. It also has a killer chorus that is sure to be stuck in your head for days, along with a beat you’ll never want to forget.

And when you think about it, good music for a rainy day from a sixth-generation Oregonian sounds right, no?

So grab your headphones, plug ’em in and vibe with me and Mat Kearney’s “Ships in the Night.”

VOTD – Alexz Johnson // “That Girl”

Today’s “Vibe of the Day” is going to be a little bit different than the rest because this one is really personal to me and my musical journey.

Today I’m going to share with you the song that first made me want to pick up a guitar.

I know some of you were expecting this story to revolve around a Beatles song or something, but alas, you’re mistaken. It wasn’t a song from one of the greatest bands of all time that made me want to pick up a guitar, it was a song from a Canadian teen drama that aired circa 2004.

Life’s weird, isn’t it?

The show was Instant Star, the channel was The N and the artist was the star/actress/singer/songwriter/badass of the show, Alexz Johnson.

Instant Star revolved around a 16-year-old girl who wins a singing competition (novel idea, right?) and the aftermath of her win—recording her first album, life as a teenage musician and a budding romance with her slightly older producer. Ya know, your typical teenage drama stuff, NBD.

While I’ll admit that the show does have a degree of cringe factor watching it back in 2017 through my 21-year-old eyes (most episodes can be found on YouTube in case you’re wondering), this show was everything to me when I was younger and so was its soundtrack. I even remember dragging my mom down to our local CD Warehouse (throooooowback) so we could special order the soundtrack from the first season. Getting the phone call a week later that they had gotten it in was the best day of my young life.

The dedication was real ya’ll.

I played that CD to death, but there was just something about this one particular song (and this one) that I kept coming back to and still do to this day. I love this song now just as much as I did back then. The words still make me feel “some type of way,” Alexz’s voice still sends shivers down my spine (such an underrated vocalist) and every time I hear the guitar breakdowns, I get the same rush I did Christmas morning 2005 when I unboxed my cherry red Ibanez electric guitar for the first time after begging for it for months.

Yeah, it’s melodramatic angsty teenage love-rock goodness from 2004, but it’s what put Sally (that’s my guitar’s name—I was 10 sue me) in my hands and my butt in guitar lessons. Without my guitar, I wouldn’t have discovered half of the music I did over the next decade and, as corny as it sounds, I honestly wouldn’t be who I am today—and I have this song (and Alexz Johnson) to thank . . . or blame, you decide.

So grab your headphones, plug ’em in and vibe with 10-year-old me and Alexz Johnson’s “That Girl.”

VOTD – U2 // “Vertigo”

If there’s one song that I love with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns, it’s this one.

When U2’s How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb came out in 2004, I was obsessed. With this being the lead single, I naturally gravitated towards/ferociously consumed this song like my CD would be taken away from me at any minute.

I mean, just listen to this song and try not to dance—I dare you. 

It’s virtually impossible not to dance to that iconic guitar groove. Add the video to the mix and it’ll be mere seconds before you find yourself up and at it, doing your best Bono impression while stumbling around the fake collapsing desert of your imagination.

So grab your headphones, plug ’em in and vibe with me and U2’s “Vertigo.”

VOTD – The Rolling Stones // “Hey Negrita”

I know, I know – I’m a little late, but it’s with good reason.

Last week was a bit insane. However, Thursday was a particularly good day and I knew from the get-go it was going to be because I woke up with this song in my head.

Like most of last week, Thursday itself was a busy day for me. I had a final for one class, work, and a speech to deliver that night, so when I woke up with this song in my head I took it as a good sign—whenever that happens I tend to have a good day because, and there’s no other way to say this, this is my jam.

Look, I could talk about this song all day.

I could talk about Ron Wood’s killer bluesy-reggae guitar lick that makes this song the magic it is and shows why he was such a fantastic addition to The Stones.

I could talk about the semi-problematic title, which, I promise you, is not a racial slur—it’s an antiquated term of endearment to call a South American woman Negrita and I’m 99% Jagger was referring to his Colombian wife at the time, Bianca, “con amor” for lack of better words. Also see: 1976. 

I could even talk about the amazing music video which features prime 70’s Mick doing his best Carmen Miranda impression while gyrating around with legendary keyboardist Billy Preston.

But it might be better if I just let you watch for yourself with that last one.

So grab your headphones, plug ’em in and vibe with me and The Rolling Stones “Hey Negrita.”

VOTD – J Dilla // “So Far To Go”

It was a dark and dreary day in the neighborhood today. . .

Okay, well it wasn’t that bad. The streak of warm sunny weather we’ve been having here in Jersey came to a bit of a dip today when some clouds and a harsh wind rolled in, necessitating some serious fuzzy sock wearing and tea consumption on my end.

Whenever a gloomier day like this comes around, I like to put on some music that I know will warm me up spiritually. Now, I don’t mean religiously, I mean spiritually. Something with great lyrics, a great groove, and a beat to warm my soul. So, naturally, I reached for J Dilla’s repertoire.

Now when most people first get to know me, they think that my music taste is going to steer clear of Hip-Hop, Rap, and RnB since I’m a huge rock fan, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

You’re talking about a girl from New York . . . who grew up in Brooklyn . . . in the late 90’s to early 00’s . . . with a sister 10 years older than her. Think about it. 

Hip-Hop, Rap, and RnB are what ran the neighborhood I grew up in and ended up being some of the first music I was ever exposed to thanks to my older sister (*FUN FACT* because of her, to this day I can still rap Funkmaster Flex’s Biggie/Tupac live freestyle verbatim —come at me bro.)

But honestly, as an art form, I’ve always been a huge admirer of the genres and one person who always captivated me was J Dilla. As both a producer and an artist, it’s hard to come to his level stylistically. There’s a reason he was lauded so early in his career and continues to be in death. With Dilla’s beats, you don’t just hear them, you feel them.

And today, like I said, I was in the mood to feel something warm and I knew I’d find what I was looking for in one of my favorite euphoric J Dilla collabs (featuring two of his long time collaborators, D’Angelo and Common.)

So grab your headphones, plug ’em in and vibe with me and J Dilla’s “So Far Gone” featuring D’Angelo and Common.

VOTD – Jack Peñate // Pull My Heart Away

Ever have one of those nights where you find your old iPod at the bottom of a forgotten box at the back of your closet and decide to go on a binge of your old high school playlists?

No? Just me? Bueller?

Well, that’s exactly what I did last night . . . and, inadvertently, into this morning.

While doing some spring cleaning, I came across one of my various memory boxes that I hadn’t touched in years just collecting dust at the back of my closet. After gagging over the awful jewelry and embarrassing photos that encompassed most of the box, I found my purple iPod nano laying in the corner, in need of a dusting and some charging.

Now, I’ve gone through many different music devices in my life, but this iPod will always be a special one to me because of the years of my life it represents. They say never go back to high school but man did this bad boy bring me back.

After it hit 100%, I put on my headphones, lied down and let all of the amazing (and amazingly awful) music that made up my high school days play as memories ran through my head like music videos.

Naturally, I fell asleep. But as I woke up I found that my iPod was still playing (they just don’t make em’ like they used to, now do they?) And for the first time in almost seven years, I rediscovered this gem that I had almost completely forgotten about—even though it inspired the name of my old Tumblr blog at one point. Go figure.   

So grab your headphones, plug ’em in and vibe with me and Jack Penate’s “Pull My Heart Away.”

 

VOTD – Grace Mitchell // “NOW”

Today I randomly woke up with a Grace Mitchell song in my head.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Portland’s own cool-girl songstress Grace Mitchell, GET WITH IT. This girl has talent oozing out of every her pore and she may just be the most rad 19-year-old in the game today. Seriously, don’t sleep on her.

But as I said, I woke up today with one of her songs in my head. However, it wasn’t the one this post is about – it was one of her other bangers, my personal anthem of 2016, NOLO.

So I did what I normally do in these situations and opened up Spotify. As I went to put the track on, I noticed that, unbeknownst to me, Grace recently put out a new single. I pressed play and then proceeded to let out my loudest and heartiest “YAAAAS” of the week (granted, it is only Monday.)

The song is freakin’ great. The video she just put out last week is also freakin’ great. All in all, it’s pretty freakin’ great.

So grab your headphones, plug ’em in and vibe with me and Grace Mitchell’s “Now.”