I wanted to get my two cents in on my greatest influences in music, film, and books during 2006 as it seemed a year of shifts and new experiences. You may or may not notice that many of these things were not new in 2006, rather they were new to me in 2006.
- Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas- I posted about my discovery of this great singer and bluegrass band earlier in the year and my respect and love for the music, especially as egged on by Dave Bertoglio, has only grown. Alison Krauss and her band have been around forever, so they are nothing new, per se, but for some reason, their music just clicked for me this year. It’s funny, because there were inklings years ago that I might like this kind of music when Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? and their song “Man of Constant Sorrow” came out way back in 2000 (There exists a video tape of me and Nick singing this tune together at my parent’s house in
). But it has taken me this long to jump on the horse (as it were). And while I really love Alison’s signature voice, it is really the other elements of the band that have grabbed me. I have to admit that I have become quite the bluegrass fan and can’t help but perk up whenever I hear a banjo and though I now know the instrument that Jerry Douglas plays is called a dobro, I didn’t know at first and thought that he was making a regular guitar sound that way. I have since also learned that he is considered the best dobro player in the world. I have enjoyed seeing him play with and sans Krauss on such programs as the wonderful James Taylor tribute concert that aired on PBS over the holidays and playing with Garrison Keillor’s band during his New Year’s Eve special. I look forward to seeing them in concert someday. Laramie
- Sufjan Stevens- At the end of 2005, I had only just begun listening to the radio program All Songs Considered and was officially hooked on it after listening to their annual “best songs of the year” countdown. Sufjan’s 4th album
was consistently being ranked in the number one spot, so I knew that I better hop on the bus and see what the fuss was all about. It is safe to say, now, that Steven’s (a former creative writing major) sometimes pop, sometimes not music was very much the soundtrack of my year. I have listened to the songs on each of his albums (as well as all of the songs from his Christmas songs collection) hundreds and hundreds of times. I wonder if it will be hard for me in the future to listen to his music and not think about Norton Anthologies and the ASU shuttle. I am now (as well as every other kid in Illinois ) a life long fan and can only hope that he completes his 50 States album project. Check out this performance from Austin City Limits. This too. America
- Iron & Wine- One of the shifts that occurred for me this year was a shift toward more quiet, acoustic music. In addition to the five groups listed here, I have found myself listening to more classical and jazz music and spending much more time with my own acoustic guitar (I even bought a new one this year!). Iron & Wine is, essentially a guy named Sam Beam. And while he is in the same genre (maybe) as some of the other artists that I have mentioned here, I think that he is very different. His music is almost like a whisper when compared to these other groups. I love it. His collaboration with Tucson’s Calexico and the album that they produced (In the Reins) along with Beam’s 2004 album Endless Numbered Days got top spots in Ipod consumed tunage this year.
- Jose Gonzales- Gonzales was a late entry for me, but he stuck fast. I don’t quite know what it is about his 2005 album Veneer that moves me—especially since I am usually not very complimentary towards overly short albums (his clocks in at just over 30 minutes). But it does—move me, I mean. The songs are short and soft, but they are intense. His guitar playing, which is entirely done on a classical guitar, is droning and full and his voice is melodic and has a comforting quality to it. Besides Alison Krauss, his music is the easiest for me to recommend and it has almost universal likability. I missed seeing him in concert at a very small venue in
last autumn—mostly, I think, because I had only really head of him when he came through. I didn’t know! Tempe
- James Taylor’s complete catalog (instead of just his ever-present Greatest Hits album) has come to be much more meaningful to me this year(especially songs like: “Don’t Be Sad ‘Cause Your Son is Down” and “Frozen Man” but with new respect for “Sweet Baby James”). I have always been a fan, but JT has now moved to everyday listening status.
- The Decemberists- In a lot of ways, Collin Meloy is, for me, this year’s Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie/Postal Service). The dudes look like they could be brothers, but this added to the fact that they both sport high tenor voices and front post-Indie rock bands kind of seals the deal. The two artists’ music, though, is quite different. The Decemberists are to Irish seafaring folk music what the Postal Service are to the Pet Shop boys. My dad would be proud to know that with the help of bands like the Decemberists, the accordion is making a comeback.
- John Mayer’s “Stop this Train” Off the 2006 album Continuum (also a big album for me last year), might just be my favorite song of the year. For some reason, the lyrics to this song got to me. I think it may have something to do with the fact that John Mayer and I are nearly the same age (he is only four months older), share the same first name (which he refers to in the third person in this song), and it is a song about getting older and not knowing what to make of it. Plus it is one of those songs that you can listen to over and over without getting tired of it. John Mayer is consistent—but he always manages to be innovative as well. I loved his Trio album—who can’t get behind a lyric like “Gravity is working against me; gravity always gets me down”?—and (maybe minus “Waiting on the World to Change”) really love Continuum. I also just found out that he was nominated for 5 Grammys this year.
- Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”- Is Gnarls Barkley a fad band? Probably. Was “Crazy” one of the best songs of 2006? Absolutely.
I don’t know that I can go to one or really even a group of movies as being stand out for me this year, but thought I should mention that due to the amazing Tivo ability to search and record any movie you may have ever wanted to watch in your entire life—ever. So, this year, I have tried to watch as many of the classics as I could find.
Tina and I have also enjoyed 24, Lost, Heroes, Scrubs, and only recently (technically not qualifying for this 2006 report) the Office.
While you might think that a Literature major would have read a lot of books in the past year…well you’d be right. I read like crazy last year. My favorites were: Moby Dick, Empire Grill,