Favorite Odds and Ends of 2011

Now that the big “Albums of the Year” and “Local Albums of the Year” posts are done, I’ve had time to think about all the other odds and ends of music and popular culture that I enjoyed last year. This post includes such titles as favorite song, favorite TV show, and my favorite concert, among many others.

Favorite Music Video: “Israeli Caves” – Maps & Atlases

If you missed this video, then you missed something thoroughly creative, entertaining, and adorable. The band has been hard at work stepping up its game in touring, producing new music, and making fun videos. After the artsy “Solid Ground” and cameo-filled “Living Decorations”, “Israeli Caves” took the cake with its fun storyline and adorable star.

Favorite Song: TIE – “Heavy Love” – Dreamers Of The Ghetto / “Companions” – The Dodos

There were two songs that had me completely rattled last year. The first “Heavy Love” was introduced to the world when Dreamers Of The Ghetto was selected for a special session with music incubator Shaking Through. It was one of many of the bands ‘big breaks’ in 2011, and was the perfect opportunity to steal the attentions of new fans and turn them on to this remarkable band. Recorded exclusively for the Shaking Through session in Philadelphia, the song was later released as a 7″ single along with debut track “Tether” by Indianapolis label Roaring Colonel Records. The haunting keyboard melody and steady groove of the drums that introduce the song set the mood for Luke Jones’ growling voice to come in (“I know your voice…I hear it from the depths of the void.”)

The next track “Companions” from The Dodos‘ latest album No Color hit me while I was on the road, traveling for a former job. I spent a lot of time driving through the rolling rural highways of Southern Indiana, and that song just fit the isolation of traveling alone through hillsides and farmland. It beautifully focuses on Meric Long’s soft, dreamy voice and articulate guitar playing. Also, the music video seems to match my theory that it is great driving music.

Favorite Concert: The Budos Band with Charles Bradley @ The Bluebird (Bloomington, IN)

My life was electrified on the evening of April 22, when The Screaming Eagle of Soul Charles Bradley made a stop in Bloomington while on tour with Daptone Records label mates The Budos Band. It was an experience to be experienced, and I’m glad that I wasn’t able to find video footage of the show, because it just would not do it justice. The Bluebird was packed to the max that night full of fans young and old who danced their hearts out and even cried, as the new legend took the stage (with The Budos Band backing him up). Mr. Bradley was in solid form that night, and as an opening act only sang a few songs but made them count. He was so genuine, so gracious, so real. I only wish the set had been longer. The Budos Band equally rocked the crowd for the rest of the night with musicianship that was out of this world. In fact, the crowd and band were so engaged in the music and dancing that virtually no one noticed that there was a raging tornado warning outside that night. At least, not until after the music finally stopped and we notice the huge puddles that had leaked all over the bar, stage, and even the crowd.

*Charles Bradley will be back in town for a headlining show on February 19 @ The Bluebird. Make sure you get your tickets early!

Favorite Musical Discovery: Kalispell

I’ve said nearly everything I can say about this Eau Claire band. Just click here and you can read it all. Shane Leonard is a talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist and I cannot wait for the release of Kalispell’s debut album. I’m so glad that this music is now in my life, these are songs to live by.

Favorite Musical Sneak Peak: The Revival Hour

Leading into 2011, my brain was all about the music of DM Stith. The artist, musician, and former Bloomington resident had packed his bags and jumped onto Sufjan Steven’s The Age of Adz tour, and outside of a few YouTube videos of live performances of new tracks, the artist remained too busy with globetrotting to give hints of a new record. The silence was broken in October with his announcement of a new collaboration with musician John Mark Lapham called The Revival Hour. The duo was working on new recordings (mixed by Richard Swift) and released a 2-song single “Hold Back/Run Away” on 7″ vinyl and digital download. A debut album is expected later this year. I can’t wait.

Favorite TV Show: Pan Am (ABC)

While I spent a good portion of the fall living in high school nostalgia with Jenna Hamilton on MTV’s “Awkward.“, it was the ABC female-heavy drama “Pan Am” that stole my attentions (and Hulu bookmark) for the year. Often mistaken for “another Mad Men”, Pan Am is anything but. A period show based on the stories of flight attendants at the 60s era commercial airline Pan American World Airways, the show does feature throwback sets and fashions. However, what really appeals to me about this show is that it is powered by strong, educated, independent young women having adventures and making life-changing decisions in a profession where they are generally under-estimated as simply pretty faces. It’s about time we had more shows that encouraged young girls to follow their dreams, make their own choices, and see the world. My biggest downfall with the show however, is that while the female-dominated plot won my attention, the weak male leads of the show tend to make me want to scream.

Catch up with the first season on ABC.com or Hulu.

Favorite Movie: Lord of the Flies (1963)

I didn’t watch a lot of new films in the 2011, of the few I did see in theaters, I really enjoyed X-Men: First Class, but I’d hardly call it the film of the year, it just wouldn’t be fair. I did however, spend a lot of time combing through the video collection of my local public library (which I highly recommend to anyone, you’ll find some real classics, gems, and IT’S FREE). I dove into films that I missed over the years including Funny Girl, Reality Bites, and Cry, The Beloved Country, among many others, but the film that really stuck with me was the 1963 adaptation of literary classic Lord of the Flies. Filmed in black and white along the beaches of Puerto Rico with actual children, rather than actors, the film has a sense of curiosity, suspense, and honesty that stretches across every frame. The wildness of the children as the story progresses and they evolve from schoolboys to island savages is still frightening nearly fifty years later.

Favorite Blog: Food Blogs

As a blogger myself, I am often inspired by the writing of others, and while in the realm of music, I was glued to Musician Coaching, overall, I really got into food blogs this year. When you are cooking for one, meals can become very boring and cookbooks only stretch so far. Most food and recipe blogs are bursting with photos, interactive comments/suggestions, and creative writing. My favorites this year were nationally known Joy The Baker, and up-and-coming local foodie The Hearty Herbivore. I’m not even a vegetarian, but I’ve already cooked/made plans to cook at least three recipes from The Hearty Herbivore in the last month. And Joy The Baker, that girl has some serious sass and out-of-this-world creativity in the kitchen. Her writing is inspiring and her step-by-step photos will make a weekend-chef out of anyone. Both those sites are great for the beginning-intermediate cook, but if you are really in need of something truly basic, I recommend The Vegan Stoner.

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