Time well wasted

Saturday, February 11, 2012
Crystal Bridges
I really dislike cold weather. Even with the mild winter we've had, I've still spent very little time outside lately, so my wintertime photography is certainly lacking. But knowing that the leaves of spring would soon hinder my view, I had to get out and get this one before it was too late.

In the months since my first picture of this museum, it's garnered almost nothing but praise from every notable publication in the country - LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, etc. It was even described by the Post as the most talked about museum opening in a generation.

I think it's pretty swell.

Crystal Bridges
posted by Brian @ 10:27 AM   1 comments
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Top 10 albums of 2011
2011 was a fantastic year for music. Some years I have trouble coming up with 10 albums (I think I had 7 in 2009), but this year was no problem. I'll even list some at the bottom that I liked but didn't make the top 10 cut. This year I'm back to having a desk job, so I've had plenty of time to listen to lots of fantastic albums, lots of not fantastic albums, and lots of albums people swear are fantastic but I just don't see it. I even listened to every (or at least part of every) album on Paste magazine's top 50 albums of the year. You'll find some albums here that you'll find on nearly every other top list, but there are quite a few differences as well. Personal preference I suppose. Anyway, here goes:

10. Ten out of Tenn Vol 4.
I don't normally put compilation albums on my tops lists, but this one is just too good to not list. Ten out of Tenn is a group of friends/musicians who release music individually, but compile a best-of of sorts from each of their individual albums. I'm not sure that I could describe the sound without going into each artist individually, but suffice it to say that you should just listen to it. It sounds like you'd expect music coming out of Nashville to sound - not folk, but not rock, just lots of acoustic guitar, piano, and great singing. Just trust me on this one.
Favorite Track - The Ladder by Andrew Belle

9. Gym Class Heroes - The Papercut Chronicles II
Probably the most unexpected on the list. Hip-hop is a guilty pleasure, in fact, despite the number of times I've listened to this album, you'd have never seen it on my spotify feed because I always go into private listening mode. But I'll admit it here. Not every track is good (which is why it's at #9) but it has quite a few really good tracks, including one (Holy Horse**** Batman) that features Nate Ruess (of the Format and currently Fun.) whose very unique voice is a personal favorite. Speaking of Fun., their new album comes out in February and if the few tracks I've heard off it are any indication, it'll be on my list next year. Check it out. Anyway, back to Gym Class Heroes. You've definitely heard the Stereo Hearts song if you listed to pop radio, and if you liked that you'd be well served to listen to the rest of the album.
Favorite Track: The Fighter

8. Leeland - The Great Awakening
Hip-hop then Christian? I don't understand it anymore than you do. Leeland's albums always make my top lists, so I don't know that I have much new to say about the band. Their sound in the contemporary Christian genre is completely unique, but despite this each album has a unique feel. I don't dislike other contemporary Christian music, but much of it is watered down and tries too hard to be pop music. Leeland's albums seem like honest, authentic prayers put to music. I wish my Church would play their songs.
Favorite Track: I Can See Your Love

7. The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow
Poison and Wine is such a good song that I'd have considered including this album even if I hated every other track, but luckily the rest are great as well. It's a beautifully haunting song about the impossibility of easy love - the love/hate that characterizes most relationships. It's actually the theme of the entire album with the "civil wars" not referring to our country's past military conflict, but the civil war that rages within relationships. Or at least that's what I assume. Maybe they are just history buffs...
Favorite Track - Poison and Wine

6. Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto
I'd say there's at least a 50% chance I'll eventually see this as far better than number 7 of this list, but for some reason, for three of my favorite bands (Coldplay, Snow Patrol, and Death Cab) it takes me a little while to get into their albums. Eventually I end up loving them, but it's not love at first listen. I've had this album a month or so, which really isn't enough time yet. It's already started to grow on me, but it's still one of my least favorite Coldplay albums. I think part of it is they're trying some new things mixed with classic Coldplay and I'm just not sure how I feel about it. Princess of China for example is a good song, but it doesn't feel anything like Coldplay. They've thrown in some hip-hop elements into a number of songs, and while it's good, it's not why I love Coldplay. There are still a few very Coldplay-ish songs on the album like Don't Let it Break Your Heart and Charlie Brown, so I've got those at least, but I'm not sure if I'll ever embrace the newer sounds.
Favorite Track: Charlie Brown

5. The Head and the Heart (self titled)
This one came out of nowhere. I had never heard of this band until a few weeks ago. I'm not positive if I found them on Spotify or saw them on someone else's top list, but it is fantastic folk music - heavy on the piano, upright bass and bass drum with a bit of acoustic guitar strumming, tambourine and cymbal thrown in for good measure. The fantastic sound of the male/female duo closes the deal. It's no Mumford and Sons, but it's probably my favorite folk album since. Paste Magazine obviously loves folk music, so I listened to a number of folk albums, and this was by far my favorite this year.
Favorite Track: Down in the Valley

4. Bon Iver (self titled)
For Emma, Forever Ago was a fantastic album, but in my opinion, this album is even better. In contrast to the other albums, I'm not even positive why I like this album so much. It's very different. The songs aren't sing-in-your-head catchy, but his vocals and the instrumentation just blend together in an indescribable way. This makes it very difficult to pick a favorite song because again, unlike any of the other albums, I never listen to a single track off this album - I listen to it the whole way through every time.
Favorite Track: Perth (but really all of them)

3. William Fitzsimmons - Gold in the Shadow
In 2008 William Fitzsimmon's The Sparrow and the Crow was my favorite album, and probably remains as one of my favorite albums of all time. The album, written as an apology to his ex-wife, is depressingly sad, but beautiful and amazing at the same time. He took a few years off of writing and then came back with Gold in the Shadow which chronicles his resurrection from the darkness that surrounded his divorce. The sound is noticeably more upbeat and positive, but maintains a distinct element of sadness that characterizes his works. It's no Sparrow and the Crow, but it's still very good.
Favorite Track: Fade and Then Return

1. (Tie) Needtobreathe - The Reckoning
You're not likely to find this album on any other top lists - especially not at number 1. I think this is partially because the band has heavy Christian undertones, although is not what you would call a Christian band. If not for this, I think they would be more well known and more critically acclaimed, but that's just an opinion. I've listened to this band for a number of years now and have enjoyed all their albums, but this one is by far their best. It's southern rock at its best in my opinion. Think Kid Rock style music - only good. I was lucky enough to catch this band in concert literally in my back yard this year (probably 200 yards from my apartment). They're even better in concert, check them out if you can.
Favorite Track: White Fences

1. (Tie) Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys
This is another album that you won't see on most people's top lists, but it really should be. I think 2008's Narrow Stairs (which is better than people give it credit for but is admittedly my least favorite Death Cab album) left people thinking the band had peaked. Nothing will live up to Transatlanticism (which is one of my favorite albums of all time) but Death Cab is far from being done making good music. It took me a little while to get into it (pretty normal for this band) but I like it so much now it's in the running for second favorite Death Cab album. It's that good. I was able to see these guys in concert this summer and if anything they didn't play enough of this album (they did however play nearly all of Transatlanticism which was amazing). For a few months over the summer I spent about 4-5 hours a day most days studying for my comprehensive exams, and I listened to this album at least once for each of those days. If it's good enough to make studying statistics tolerable, it's at least worth listening to.
Favorite Track: St. Peters Cathedral

#1 Album that didn't actually come out in 2011. Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight
So most years I include these sorts of albums in my top 10 list, but I thought I'd do it differently this year. This was my favorite album of the year - even though it came out 4 years ago. It's Scottish, a little bit folksy, and a little bit Brit Rock, and all good. It's a breakup album, so it's a bit sad, but the fast tempo will keeps it from being depressing. It's no William Fitzsimmons in other words. But it is fantastic, I honestly can't stop listening to it. It was another staple in the studying routine.
Favorite Track: The Twist

Other artists that released albums this year that weren't my favorite, but that I enjoy:
Ben Rector
Jack's Mannequin
Mayday Parade
Deas Vail
posted by Brian @ 11:45 AM   1 comments
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Owning a nice camera means that you're often asked by family to take pictures. I imagine if I took family portraits for a living this would annoy me, but luckily I don't - so it's actually a lot of fun. Plus my aunt pays me in cheesecake.

I have no professional lighting equipment, so I used a combination of unshaded lamps and a huge work shop light held by my mom. It wasn't perfect, but the cost to effectiveness ratio was very high.

posted by Brian @ 12:21 PM   1 comments
Monday, November 21, 2011
Stone House
It's fall in Arkansas, which means two things: fantastic foliage, and Razorback football. I've tried taking pictures of the stadium during a game, but I just haven't figured out a good way to do it. Until then, here's more foliage.

This house is so old it has a name and a sign out front. I remember reading the sign and seeing that it was called Stone House, but can't really remember anything else about it. I've never lived in a house that had a name, but I'm pretty sure I don't want to.

Stone House
posted by Brian @ 8:22 PM   3 comments
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
I got detention once in my life, and it was probably the only trip I made to the principal's office as well.

So what was my crime? Drugs? Swearing? Skipping class? Back talking teachers? Parking in the teachers parking lot on a Saturday since there was no one there and we had an early morning soccer match?

If you guessed the last one, you are correct. Rules are rules I suppose - even if it doesn't matter.

I've just never been much of a trouble maker, or maybe the modicum of trouble I did cause went unnoticed. Either way, it's always a bit startling now days to be reprimanded. My crime this time? The camera.

I doubt people with little point and shoot cameras or iphones get much scorn from security, but when you haul around a large camera (especially if you have a tripod) you're automatically seen as someone up to no good. I'm not sure why this is, but I've been told to stop taking pictures on a number of occasions by security guards. No police yet, but I'm sure my day is coming.

So this is the restaurant (called Eleven) at the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR. That's right, there's a world-class art museum in Arkansas - thanks to Walmart of course. Cameras are allowed inside, but apparently you're only suppose to photograph the art (who would want to do that anyway?) not the structure of the building. Luckily only one guard cared enough to stop me, the rest either didn't notice me breaking the rules or realized that I was not in fact trying to destroy the museum.

posted by Brian @ 11:46 AM   2 comments
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Yellow Rock Sunrise
8pm decided to go camping
9:30pm made it to campgrounds
10pm convinced a group of hippies to let us share their campsite because all the others were full and then spend the rest of the evening trying to get them to keep the noise down for the sake of all the families at the campgrounds
2:30am bedtime
5:30am alarm then 1.5 mi hike in the pitch black scary woods

I'm far to old for any of this, but when it comes to hiking to see sunrises I can be convinced that pretty much anything is a good idea.

In hindsight, it was.

Yellow Rock
posted by Brian @ 9:08 PM   8 comments
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
The Hills of Malibu
Malibu was nothing like what I expected. Knowing celebrities lived there I expected it took look very commercialized with nothing but malls and Starbucks, streets lined with palm trees and the other things you see in movies. Turns out it looks nothing like that (or at least not what I saw). It actually looked more like this, even in the "city" (it's only 11,000 people so city probably isn't the best word for it).

Possibly even better than the scenery was that the entire weekend the temperature was in the mid 70's, while Arkansas was a blazing 100+. So like many others, I find myself dreaming of living in southern California - although likely for vastly different reasons.

posted by Brian @ 8:07 PM   2 comments
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