My Top 10 Albums of 2011

I’ve done my “top 10 albums of the year” every year since 1999 (Ever since we made it an official tradition at TVT Records).  It’s a great way to keep track of and remember the music that made a difference to me throughout my life.

Of course, a few problems arise whenever one is making lists, and I’d like to list some of those here:

  • Inevitably, as others release their lists, I will find myself panicked around December 15th when there are an additional 40-50 albums that I’ve never heard of that others say were their favorites that I have to listen to before finalizing my list.
  • No matter what I do, I will realize 5 minutes after I hit “send” that I forgot an album I loved in favor of one I really liked but haven’t gone back and listened to that much.
  • In February I will hear an album I completely missed out on but would have been on my list.

I keep all my lists here on the site (yes, RSS readers, you will have to actually click through), and I’ve helpfully created Spotify playlists for all the albums that are available for each year (because I love you!).

So without further ado, here’s the final Top 10 of 2011 list. (you can see the unedited version in the sidebar)

You can also Listen on Spotify.

In no particular order:

A.A. Bondy – Believers (Fat Possum) – Late contender, but totally glad I didn’t miss this one.  Moody indie/garagey rock and balladry from the former Verbena singer.
Marcin Wasilewski Trio – Faithful (ECM) – Delightful melancholic european jazz.
Frivolous – Meteorology (Cadenza) – Clever and playful tropical jazzy IDM-y house music
Dustin O’Halloran – Lumiere (FatCat) – Mournful, lovely, cinematic piano + string ensemble (featuring the ACME Ensemble, who guested on the latest Grizzly Bear and Owen Pallett records) from the composer of Marie Antoinette
Peter Bradley Adams – Between Us (Mishara) – My favorite guy-with-guitar album of the year.
Ezekiel Honig – Folding In On Itself (Type) – Organic, found sounds, intimate, rhythmic, pulsing, wood-y (not wooden). My favorite from the uniformly excellent Type label (sorry, Nils Frahm)
Noah and the Whale – Last Night on Earth (Mercury) – My favorite ecstatic pop/indie/rock album of the year (think random strings and brass). Wears its Tom Petty influence on its sleeve.
Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky) – Just epic. The “biggest” record here.
Ellie Goulding – Lights (Polydor) – My favorite pure dance-pop album of the year.  Great synths (sorry chillwave).
Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow (ANTI-) – The sexiest she’s ever been. The sexiest Stephen Fry has ever been. There’s a song about seducing and bedding a snowman.  Yeah.
Mountains – Air Museum (Thrill Jockey) – The best electronic droney post-rock album of the year.
Ari Hest – Sunset over Hope Street – His best since “Someone to Tell”, but i didn’t end up going back to it much
Dela – Translation Lost (Drink Water Music) – My favorite hip-hop album of the year
Sarah Jarosz – Follow Me Down (Sugar Hill) – Who thought that a bluegrass album could make the list? Not I, but the songwriting is super strong.
Does It Offend You, Yeah – Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You (Cooking Vinyl) – Great stoopid party album. (Sorry, Justice)
Starfucker – Reptilians (Polyvinyl) – Another 80s-synth influenced pop album. Very fun but didn’t have the replay value to keep it on the list)
Arnaud Rebotini – Someone Gave Me Religion (Blackstrobe Records) – 1/2 of Black Strobe delivers one of the most interesting IDM-y house records of the year. Worth it for the 13 minute shiny

M83 – Like a “Kim and Jessie” covers record that just won’t end.

A new chapter, and a look back.

The stated purpose of this blog as of this writing is to foster discussion about the connection between human challenges and business challenges.

Over the last 3 years or so, we’ve talked about giving to others, being better communicators first, being curious about (and with) those around us, handling our fear, dealing with loneliness, de-emphasizing our egos, adjusting when conflict arises, focusing on context more than eventsbeing compassionate, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, giving ourselves a framework for creativity, sharing and connecting through our storiesnot dwelling in the negative, and even about some reflections.

Loch Alsh - reflection
Image via Wikipedia

These topics are ones that a lot of us (myself certainly included) struggle with regularly. What has been interesting is that the same things that we struggle with as people are also things that companies struggle with, and that we can use the same tools that we use to address challenges in our interpersonal lives to begin to shift how companies operate, inside and out.  This is what I’ve tried to point out more often than not here.

The fractal, scalable nature of what keeps us connecting (and keeps us from it, as well) is truly remarkable, when one is attuned to it.

Trying as best I can to avoid us vs. them thinking in my own head through connecting with people has really led me to begin to see the patterns (the “Matrix Code”, to geek out for a moment) behind many of the interactions that happen.   Being able to channel what I’m learning into this blog and have it resonate with even one person is so rewarding.

What I’m thinking about now is: What’s next?   There are thousands of blogs covering communications, from the perspective of tactics, strategy, psychology, life coaching and productivity, Buddhism and even parenting, each sharing variations on a theme of connection.

I’m certainly not the only one who talks about these subjects, nor the best or most regular blogger, but I’m proud of what’s happened here on my little corner of the interwebs, I’m ever grateful for those of you who choose to spend a few moments reading and responding (although selfishly I wish more of you would chime in and join the conversation happening in the comments).

As I begin the next chapter in the evolution of me (with some stuff that I will be announcing soon), I wonder how I can be most useful to you?

My intentions for this blog moving forward are to try to document my refocus on what matters to me (talking with passionate people about what matters to them, and collecting those stories into a cohesive overall story), and the process of making that into my full-time vocation.

What say you?

And So I Open.

There’s a sense of “opening”.

I’m going to need to simplify, to get other things out of the way to make room.

There is fear of committing to this life. A sense of scale that is as intimidating as it is false.

There is no forever commitment, there is only right now.

It’s been made clear that the pursuit of a mommy job to take care of me and keep me safe is not the next step.

So instead, I open, a little. I take on projects. I begin. I propose. I go for coffee. I reconnect with those similarly afloat, looking around, wondering what’s next.

This is next. It scares and excites me. It makes me want to turn around and look for mommy. There is no mommy. There is only this. We make our own mommy.

And so, I open. I peek my head outside and look around. I see others, blinking in the blinding sunlight, unsure where to look, they too waiting for their eyes to adjust.

And so, I open. And connections appear, slowly. Some give a friendly wave. Some stare from their mommy arms, envious, confused, reluctant to touch. Some come over and say hello and how are you and what do you love and let’s share, the landscape is so much less daunting when we venture out together for a time.

And so, I open, mommy’s embrace ever hovering, like a fuzzy carrot on a gnarled stick. But we make our own mommy, that one isn’t my real mommy, doesn’t really love me, doesn’t love what I can do.

And so, I open, a little.

And step forward.



Inhale. Deep.

Dear full-time job hunting

Dear full-time job hunting,

I know we’ve flirted off and on throughout the years, and when I left my last gig, we got more serious. But there’s something you need to know. We’ve been together for almost a year now, and I have to tell you that I don’t think its going to work out.

You’ve made big promises, made me feel like if only I’d stick with you that everything I want would come to pass, that I could get out of NYC, be able to afford all the toys I could ever want, and live a fulfilled life.  I know that many others have been convinced to stick with you, that you can make it all better, but I think it’s time for me to bow out.

Broken Up Tags on BeaconIn a way, I’ve always known that your promises are not for me. I’ve gone down that road for a long time, with different partners off and on, and I’ve always felt financially secure when I’m with them, but never really felt alive. Ultimately the desk, computer and phone you’re dangling like a carrot is not what I’m looking for anymore.  You’re all about the promise of security at the cost of autonomy and stifling of creativity, and that’s just not what I need right now.

You may not know this about me, job hunt, but my parents are artists who forged their own paths without needing you much, and I need to figure out where my own path is. I need to focus on myself, try a bunch of things on my own, experiment.  Sure, some things won’t work out, but this is the right decision for me, I feel sure of it.

We’ve had our good times, and I’ve learned a lot from you, so please don’t think that I didn’t value our time together.  I’m a little nervous about sharing this with you, job hunt, but that’s part of how I know that it’s the right decision for me, and for you too.  You’ve had a rough few years, and you’re certainly not at your best right now.   Maybe taking some time for yourself will help you too!

In the meantime, I’m going to start working on some projects, many of which I will post about here, should you decide you want to check in on me.  I’m going to spend some time looking for people who are more like me, people I can inspire and be inspired by, and I’m gonna connect with them to the best of my ability to try to create something special.

Please don’t be sad, maybe we can be together again someday, but, you know…don’t wait up for me.



On Vulnerability

[Inspired by Brene Brown’s awesome TEDTalk “The Power of Vulnerability”, which I really recommend you watch before reading this post.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.]

[and also inspired by Amber N’s Things I Wish People Knew About Me]

Vulnerability is a scary thing. We spend a lot of time avoiding that feeling, but as Brene says, it turns out that vulnerability is a key component in connection, doing meaningful work, having fun, pretty much all that matters in the world.

This year has been a struggle for me to remain vulnerable.  Being unemployed since January in this current economic climate is a scary thing.  I decided early on to look for something that is a good fit for my skills and interests and that I can get excited about, rather than taking a job that I’d be good at but would not feed my passion and curiosity for exploring the stories behind why people love what they love.  This is great in theory, but in practice has been a constant struggle to not feel like I’m being totally selfish and silly (despite this being the right thing to do according to not just me), which leads to me putting up walls.

Image by JJSchad via Flickr

In any case, I can feel myself putting up new walls, and I think it’s reflected in my interactions online, and probably in person too.  So, this post is my attempt to ‘strip off’, if you will, and thrust myself outside of whatever self-imposed comfort zone I may have put myself in.

That said, here’s my Things I Wish People Knew About Me:

I had a very tumultuous adolescence. By the time I was 11, my parents (who had been together over 20 years) were in the process of fighting constantly and ultimately my mother moved out when I was 14 or 15.  I lived with my father until I was 25.  This became a situation that required many walls be put up to keep my emotions in check, and these walls still exist today, though I’m working on letting them go.

I never went to college, and I only regret it sometimes. People are often surprised by this, but after my traumatic teen years (including dropping out of Bronx Science, before landing at Urban Academy, which I’ve posted about before), I was in no rush to continue the educational process.  So I got a job instead.  Although I’m not convinced that college as it exists today is still a worthwhile investment, I do think that the social aspects of it could have been valuable for me.  This comes up in job interviews.

I have a really hard time giving myself credit for what others think I do well, therefore I’m often dismissive and have a hard time “selling my accomplishments”. Part of the challenge of growing up an only child and being ‘a smart kid’ is that the expectation that we will always do brilliant things leads to a self-censorship of anything we might not be good at.  This New York Magazine article explains it more eloquently than I can, but the gist of it is that somehow the goalposts for me being excited about the quality of my work is always just a bit further down the road.  I’m much more likely to brush off and discount compliments and praise than to own it. See also: this list looking sort of like a document of insecurities.

I’m a nerd for many things, so many paths seem interesting to me. I love baking (I hope to own a tea house with fresh-baked goodies when I retire), music is a central passion (I play five instruments, and DJed for over a decade in local goth clubs), I’ve even become a bit of a tea nerd lately (did you know there’s a social network called Steepster for tea fans?).  I’m always curious, always interested in learning more and it’s really easy for me to find something new to delve into (yeah, I’ve wasted more than a few evenings on Wikipedia)  My broad curiosity, while a great asset when tasked with exploring a topic, sometimes feels like it gets in the way of me being able to choose a focus. I sometimes envy those with a singular passion who can build a goal within it and drive toward it.

Curiosity is my favorite character trait in another person. You take your senses of humor and your big or small anatomical attributes.  Curiosity is where it’s at.  A curious mind is the baseline for all creativity, adventurousness and smarts.  I love curious people, and I hope to pursue my professional goal of feeding that curiosity for as many curious minds as possible.

So there you have it, five things I wish people knew about me.  It felt good to be vulnerable if just for a moment.

Thanks for listening.


Photo Credit: Thanks by kizzzbeth, on Flickr