Emily’s Music

Emily has her own phone, which – without a sim card – is really a glorified MP3 player. On this phone, Emily has curated a playlist that serves as the ongoing soundtrack of her life. Every couple of weeks she may request a new song be added. She may delete a song (though not often). But she’s always listening.

Her song selection is mostly influenced by what her mommy and daddy play in the house, by what her gymnastics team warms up to, by songs she hears at school, and by the background music she hears on YouTube videos of hamsters eating carrots.

These are the songs that have spoken to her.

ABBA – Dancing Queen
Adele – Chasing Pavements
Adele – Cold Shoulder
Adele – Daydreamer
Adele – Make You Feel My Love
Adele – Rolling In The Deep
Adele – Rumour Has It
Adele – Set Fire To The Rain
Adele – Someone Like You
Adele – Tired
Adele – Turning Tables
a-ha – Take On Me
Anna Kendrick – When I’m Gone
Ariana Grande – Break Free (feat. Zedd)
Barenaked Ladies – 7 8 9
Bat Boy – Comfort and Joy
Bat Boy – Hold Me, Bat Boy
Beastie Boys – Intergalactic
Beyonce – Halo
Beyonce – Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Three Little Birds
Bruno Mars – Count On Me
Bruno Mars – Grenade
Bruno Mars – Just The Way You Are
Bruno Mars – Locked Out of Heaven
Bruno Mars – Marry You
Bruno Mars – The Lazy Song
Bruno Mars – Treasure
Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe
Clean Bandit Ft. Jess Glynne – Rather Be
Enrique Iglesias – Bailando (feat. Gente De Zona y Descemer Bueno)
Enrique Iglesias – Bailando (feat. Sean Paul)
Feist – 1234
Feist – Mushaboom
Feist – My Moon My Man
Feist – One Evening
Glee Cast – Defying Gravity
Glee Cast – Halo Walking On Sunshine
Hairspray – You Can’t Stop The Beat
Hozier – Take Me To Church
Isley Brothers – Shout (Parts 1 And 2)
Ivi Adamou – La La Love
Katrina and the Waves – Walking On Sunshine
Katy Perry – California Gurls (feat. Snoop Dogg)
Katy Perry – Dark Horse (feat. Juicy J)
Katy Perry – Firework
Katy Perry – Hot ‘N Cold
Katy Perry – Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)
Katy Perry – Roar
Kelly Clarkson – Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)
Lady Gaga – Alejandro
Lady Gaga – Bad Romance
Lady Gaga – Born This Way
Lady Gaga – Poker Face
Lady Gaga – The Edge Of Glory
Legally Blonde – Omigod You Guys
Loreen – Euphoria
Madonna – Express Yourself
Madonna – Vogue
Mahna Mahna and The Two Snowths – Mah Na Mah Na
Manu Chao – Bongo Bong
Mark Ronson – Uptown Funk (featuring Bruno Mars)
Maroon 5 – Animals
Maroon 5 – Maps
Maroon 5 – Moves Like Jagger (feat. Christina Aguilera)
Maroon 5 – Payphone (feat. Wiz Khalifa)
Matilda the Musical – When I Grow Up
Meghan Trainor – All About That Bass
Michael Jackson – Thriller
Mickey Rooney, Feist, Amy Adams, Jason Segel & Walter – Life’s A Happy Song
Miley Cyrus – Party In The USA
Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball
Miss Piggy & Amy Adams – Me Party
Nico & Vinz – Am I Wrong
Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Olly Murs – Troublemaker (feat. Flo Rida)
One Direction – Live While We’re Young
One Direction – What Makes You Beautiful
Outkast – Hey Ya
Paul Simon – Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard
Pharrell Williams – Happy
Pink – Raise Your Glass
Pitbull (feat. Jennifer Lopez & Cláudia Leitte) – We Are One (Ole Ola)
PSY – Gangnam Style
Queen – Bicycle Race
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now
Rihanna – Diamonds
Sia – Chandelier
Sia – Elastic Heart (feat. The Weeknd & Diplo)
Taylor Swift – I Knew You Were Trouble
Taylor Swift – Shake It Off
Taylor Swift – Style
Taylor Swift – We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
The Automatic – Monster
The B-52’s – Love Shack
The Beach Boys – Surfin’ USA
The Beatles – Hello, Goodbye
The Beatles – I Want To Hold Your Hand
The Beatles – Yellow Submarine
The Police – Walking on the Moon
Tito Puente – Mambolino
TLC – Waterfalls
Tom Jones – Sexbomb (feat. Mousse T.)
Train – Hey, Soul Sister
Vampire Weekend – Horchata
Wicked – Defying Gravity – Idina Menzel
Zac Brown Band – Chicken Fried
Zac Brown Band – Mary
Zac Brown Band – Toes

Plus songs from Disney movies, The Muppets, Sesame Street, and the soundtrack from Grease.

I am very very proud.

The Best Albums of 2014

It’s that time of year again. Time for me to pretend like I’m not the only one who actually still listens to complete albums anymore instead of just clicking on The Happy Hipster playlist on Spotify ad nauseam.

This is the ninth year I’ve compiled such a list. Here are the previous ones:

2013  |  2012  |  2011  |  2010  |  2009  |  2008  |  2007  |  2006

It’s neat to go back and see how many of my previous “favorite” albums are still in my listening rotation. Quite a few, actually. So here’s 2014!

Warning: You won’t find any One Direction, Iggy Azalea, or Ariana Grande on this list. If that’s your idea of the best that 2014 had to offer, this list is not for you. How the heck did you find this page anyway? What are you, 12 or something??? OK, enough stalling. Here we go. No excuses. No explanations. Just my favorite albums from the past 12 months:

 

10. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

St. Vincent

Her guitar may be her primary tool for shaking up and complicating otherwise strictly defined songwriting, but Clark’s voice remains the thing that defines her material, the glittering lynchpin of the glorious, ever-expanding world she’s created. [Slant]


9. Beck – Morning Phase

morning (Custom)

There’s an eerie blandness to the mood that is initially off-putting but turns into a surprisingly compelling, subtly evocative combination of sadness and contentedness. [NOW Magazine]


8. Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright in the End

alright (Custom)

Everything Will Be Alright in the End doesn’t just transport us to Weezer’s younger days–it ushers us into their future. And for the first time in a while, it’s looking pretty bright. [Consequence of Sound]


7. The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

dream (Custom)

To those of you out there who crave immediate, wistful pop music that will make you smile about the future and make you cry about the past, you won’t find a better album this decade. [musicOMH.com]


6. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Hypnotic Eye

hypnotic (Custom)

If Hypnotic Eye was just about the snarl, it’d lose steam fast. Instead, it’s only one element of a story that’s bigger and richer, which is how a storied American band returned to the core principals of yesteryear without having to pretend to forget all they’ve learned in the meantime. [Uncut]


5. The Black Keys – Turn Blue

blue (Custom)

El Camino was the sound of The Black Keys flexing their muscles as they reached for that sword, but Turn Blue is the sound of The Black Keys baring their soul and testing the parameters. [Pretty Much Amazing]


4. Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters – Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar

lullaby (Custom)

He’s building upon the past, both his own and the larger traditions of his homeland, both spiritual and actual, and that gives lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar a bewitching depth. It’s an album to get lost in. [All Music Guide]


3. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

dead (Custom)

It’s heavy in concept but sprightly and reverential in its execution, its hallucinatory breadth reminiscent of the outre jazz of Sun Ra and the wily funk of Parliament, of mid-’70s Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. [Dusted Magazine]


2. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots

everyday (Custom)

It’ll take some time to get to grips with, and requires input–this isn’t a passive album–but you reap what you sow, and if you take enough time with Everyday Robots, you’ll be rewarded with a dazzling LP that’ll lodge itself in your mind from now until your last breath. [musicOMH.com]


1. Jack White – Lazaretto

lazaretto (Custom)

A confident, brash, inventive collection featuring songs that lock into the psyche after only a few listens, the White-produced creation is lyrically and musically challenging and filled with many fresh avenues of exploration, even as it nods to key tones and ideas from throughout the history of pre-rap American music. [Los Angeles Times]


Honorable mention:
The Magic Numbers – Alias
Original Broadway Cast Recording – Hedwig and the Angry Inch
La Roux – Trouble In Paradise
Elbow – The Take Off And Landing Of Everything
U2 – Songs of Innocence
Future Islands – Singles
FKA twigs – LP1
Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For no Witness

Do you have any favorites from this year that I may have missed? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Ice Bucket Challenge

Looking back on 2014, there were a number of projects that I was proud of. But one that I feel the need to document here on the ole’ blog for posterity (before it disappears from my short-term memory) is our Ice Bucket Challenge video.

Everybody and their brother was doing it. Most had no idea why they were doing it. I was happy that my geography put me off most friends’ and family’s radar so I had escaped being challenged for the longest time. Long enough to watch everyone(!) else in the world post a video of themselves dumping a bucket of water on their heads. Long enough to start thinking about what I would do if I were to make a similar video. I secretly hoped someone would challenge me. Of course I did! We’re all attention whores.

It took an online friend from Greece (thanks, CK!) to finally tap me on the shoulder. I had 24 hours to make the video. No time to waste.

I knew I wanted to involve the kids. I’m always wanting to create video projects with them but we never seem to get around to it. This was the perfect excuse. I started brainstorming with Emily and scripting rough drafts. Yes, it was meticulously scripted. She enjoyed the planning stages, but balked when it came time to perform. Some paralyzing terror took hold of her and she convinced herself that she didn’t want to participate. She got really upset. But I needed her. And I wasn’t about to let her work herself into a tizzy for no reason. She has a bad tendency to do that. I try to get her to put it all in perspective. This was one of those times. And I did. And she did. And it was great.

We packed our costumes and props in a bag and walked to the nearby Parc de les Aigües (an appropriate place to dump a bucket of water), picking up a bag of ice on the way. We found a secluded corner of the park and did a few dry(!) runs. Emily was having trouble memorizing her lines – especially CK’s full name – and Sebastian was having trouble staying still and waiting for his cue to enter. But it got better and better with each subsequent rehearsal and we finally recorded a couple of rehearsals when it looked like we were almost ready. There was only one chance to film the good one. I wasn’t about to change clothes and try again if it didn’t come out right. But we nailed it. And everyone had a good time.

Smelling Hands

Sebastian is in a new phase where he smells his hands. All the time. He does it after pretty much any event. Like doing a cartwheel, watching TV, taking a turn in a board game, or receiving an awesome high-five. Jan says it started while I was away in the U.S. a few weeks ago but has gotten more and more frequent. I looked it up and it turns out that it could possibly be either a sign of autism, a heightened sense of smell, or an inhibited other sense that he is compensating for. Or he’s just weird. I think he might be doing it to commemorate a moment, and add detail to the memory of it. I caught him smelling his hands today and outright asked him, “How do your hands smell?” He looked at them as if he had never considered judging the actual smell before and said, “Bad. And good”. Then he ran out of the room.

Halo Choreography

This video is from almost a year ago (and yet Emily was wearing the shirt from this video today, now all stained and yucky but still one of her favorites).

When Emily feels like dancing, she does.

El Meu Cargol Sense Nom

I got home from work yesterday and found the following typed on my computer:

EL MEU CARGOL SENSE NOM

Hi havia una vegada una NENA que es deie MARIA,
La MARIA era una NENA que volie una MASCOTA, Pero la seva MARE era una de les MARES que no li agradave les MASCOTES. Un die la MARE de la MARIA VA DIR-FILLA MEVA DEMA anirem al BOSC, I ENS DIVERTIREM MOLT.
Al die despres la MARIA es va DESPERTAR, Core FILLA MEVA que anem al BOSC!
I VAN MARXAR PER EL BOSC. Van arrivar a un LLOC AMB MOLTES FULLES, ARBRES I BRANQUES PER EL TERRA. La seva MARE va purtar 2 entrapans, Una per LA MARIA I UNA PER LA SEVA MARE.
La MARIA va anar per el BOSC, Mirant a les FULLES I BRANQUES IVA TRUVAR ASOBRE UNA BRANCA, UN CARGOL!!!
MAMA MAMA Mira!!! Que es? Es un cargol! que bunic. M’alampuc amporta a casa? Si.

Conte Contat molt felice s’a acabat.

It would take less time for you to learn the Catalan language than for you to attempt to decipher whatever might be dished out after entering this into Google Translate. Just trust me, it is very cute.

Three is Red

At the dinner table this evening, in between mouthfuls of couscous and tofu, Emily told us that she had color-graphemic synesthesia.

Jan had never heard of synesthesia before. I was super excited. I don’t know where I had first heard of the neurological phenomenon but I was reminded of it recently on the Numberphile YouTube channel to which I subscribe:

I wanted to know more! So I asked, “What color is two?” And Emily responded without hesitation, “Blue”. Sebastian stopped chewing for a moment and just stared at her. I continued, “And what color is three?” This time Emily and Sebastian responded in unison, “Red”. I paused. Probably a coincidence. I followed with, “What about one?” They both said, “Yellow” at the same time. “And seven?” Sebastian was first to answer this time: “Pink!” Emily thought for a moment and then agreed, “Yeah, pink.”

They weren’t in agreement with every number, but enough to blow my mind. I can’t to see where this leads.

The Best Albums of 2013

It’s that time of year again. Time for me pretend like I’ve got my finger on the pulse of the sinking ship that is the global recording industry and list the albums that made my toe tap the most all year long, from tap-tap to tippety-tappety-tip-tap-tap.

This is the eighth year I’ve compiled such a list. Here are the previous ones:

2012  |  2011  |  2010  |  2009  |  2008  |  2007  |  2006

It’s neat to go back and see how many of my previous “favorite” albums are still in my listening rotation. Quite a few, actually. So here’s 2013!

Warning: You won’t find any Robin Thicke, Rihanna, or Miley on this list. If that’s your idea of the best that 2013 had to offer, this list is not for you. How the heck did you find this page anyway? What, do you watch MTV or something??? OK, enough stalling. Here we go. No excuses. No explanations. Just my favorite albums from the past 12 months:

 

10. Disclosure – Settle

Settle

Slinky enough for the club, down-tempo enough for a rooftop soiree, Settle traverses boundaries and expectations. [Delusions of Adequacy]


9. The National – Trouble Will Find Me

Trouble Will Find Me

The National are such a powerfully gifted band, they need no theatrics to deliver an absolutely stone-cold beast of an album. With the music that is on here there is yet another thirteen songs to savor and salivate over until the next batch of songs comes about. [Entertainment Weekly]


8. Haim – Days Are Gone

Days Are Gone

With the triumvirate of googly-eyed rhythms, sinfully catchy melodies and a breeziness that seems only fitting, they’ve served up one of the most auspicious debuts of the year. [Beats Per Minute]


7. M.I.A. – Matangi

Matangi

Her child-like rhymes may seem like she’s only toying with playground politics but she knows exactly where her strengths are; Matangi is a tribute to those talents and it’s an unmitigated thrill. Dissident, deviant, “mili-tent”; Cookie cutter pop star she is not, but a true great she absolutely is. [The Line of Best Fit]


6. Guster – Live Acoustic

Live Acoustic

Great vocal harmonies and unusual percussion are just a couple of things that set this band apart; for you drum and backbeat enthusiasts out there, percussion is lively and interesting on all of the sixteen tracks found on “Live Acoustic.” [musicalnewsandviews]


5. Atoms for Peace – Amok

Amok

Awash with beats, rhythms, electronics, the occasional guitar and Yorke’s soaring if still mostly unintelligible tenor, Amok is a record to get sonically lost within, a work whose every measure teems with a quality and a precision that only musicians at the top of their game can touch. [Los Angeles Times]


4. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Random Access Memories

By assembling a cast of their favourite musicians and delving into their adolescent memories, Daft Punk have created something as emotionally honest as any singer-songwriter confessional–and a lot more fun to dance to. [New Musical Express]


3. Arctic Monkeys – AM

AM

In the end AM not only signifies a career-defining moment that neatly places the band on a proper pedestal for all to admire–this is where not only Arctic Monkeys have come but in many ways, how they’ve masterfully conquered and continue to simply win. [Delusions of Adequacy]


2. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Modern Vampires of the City

Each verse/chorus/bridge/​intro melody, each lyric straight or knotty, each sound effect playful or perverse (or both)‑-each is pleasurable in itself and aptly situated in the sturdy songs and tracks, so that the whole signifies without a hint of concept. [Expert Witness]


1. Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Reflektor

There is so, so much content, so beautifully and flawlessly presented that it can be baffling at times. The Suburbs, to many, was decade-defining music. Reflektor, I feel, through both content and design, will be artist-defining. [Prefix Magazine]


Honorable mention:
Original Soundtrack – Frozen
Laura Marling – Once I Was an Eagle
Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse
2013 Broadway Cast Recording – Pippin
Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
David Bowie – The Next Day
Bill Callahan – Dream River
Phosphorescent – Muchacho

Do you have any favorites from this year that I may have missed? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Play In A Day BCN December 2013

As they successfully did this past summer, Giulia and Matt organized another iteration of Play In A Day this past month. And it was great. Thank you, guys!

What is Play In A Day? In a nutshell, a group of people collaborate to create a play, from inception to production, in just 24 hours. Insane! One may sign up as either a writer, director, or actor. Plays should be about 10 minutes in length. Multiple plays are created in parallel and they are all performed together the following day in front of a paying audience. Whew.

I was out of the country when they did they did the first one this past summer so I wasn’t able to participate or even see the finished product, which I heard was excellent. But I sure as hell was here this time and was eager to take part. I made sure to not schedule any 39 Steps rehearsals that day and got my entire cast involved, as well. Jan was also eager to participate but we had to synchronize our efforts to ensure the kids weren’t neglected any more than usual, so that meant that one of us had to write and the other could either direct or act. We both wanted to act, but Jan was more against the idea of writing than I was so I signed up as a writer.

Now, I hate writing. Not writing plays specifically. I had never written a play in my life! Just writing anything. Like what I’m writing right now, for example. I usually love the finished product but I find the process to be very stressful. That’s the main reason why this blog has been so woefully ignored as of late. But I decided that a jaunt out of my comfort zone would be enriching so I took the plunge.

And did I stress.

I remember about two weeks before the event, I decided that I would just start writing (cheating) well in advance to avoid as much stress as possible. If not a complete play, at least a rough storyline or a few quality character outlines. I remember watching a few episodes of It’s Always Sunny… and thinking how I would love to be able to write such funny and chaotic stories and characters. They were an early inspiration for the eventual anarchy that would inevitably result. But I didn’t write anything. More out of laziness than anything else. I think I was hoping that last-minute inspiration would see me through. I was stressed.

But not really. I was kind of excited, to tell you the truth. I had accepted the fact that I wouldn’t be writing a magnum opus in just 10 hours, and was sure that anything I wrote would be good enough for a director to play with and for a group of actors to make their own. But the night before the event I did sit down with Jan for about 15 minutes and brainstorm a few different approaches I could take. And I credit her 100% with the inspiration for what was to follow.

It may have ended up a little longer than intended. With more sound cues and costume/character changes than I’m sure were appreciated by the director and actors. But I’m happy with the final result. I think it’s funny. So here it is, my first play. If you’d like, you may read it here:
The School Nativity Play [PDF, 21 KB]
(and yes, I did stay up most of the next day creating the 15 needed sound cues, including four original song snippets)