Sunday, January 12, 2020

Favorite Albums of 2019

So now that I got my list of favorite albums of the decade out of the way, here is my list of favorite albums of the year 2019, at least as they stand today:

1. The National - I Am Easy to Find
2. Hozier  -Wasteland, Baby!
3. Ryan Bingham - American Love Song
4. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Ghosteen
5. Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow
6. Bruce Springsteen - Western Stars
7. The Highwomen - The Highwomen
8. Josh Ritter - Fever Breaks
9. Gary Clark Jr. - This Land
10. Elbow - Giants of All Sizes
11. Wilco - Ode to Joy
12. The New Pornographers - In the Morse Code of Brake Lights
13. Maggie Rogers - Heard It in a Past Life
14. Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride
15. David Byrne - David Byrne's American Utopia Original Cast Broadway Soundtrack
16. Jeff Tweedy - Warm/Warmer
17. Tedeschi Trucks Band - Signs
18. Jenny Lewis - On the Line
19. Brittany Howard - Jaime
20. Beirut - Gallipoli
21. J.S Ondara - Tales of America
22. Bruce Hornsby - Absolute Zero
23. Better Oblivion Community Center - Better Oblivion Community Center

24. Son Volt - Union

Monday, December 9, 2019

Favorite Albums of the Decade

My son challenged me to come up with a list of my favorite albums from the past decade (2010-2019), so here is a list as it stands at this moment. I may have overlooked a couple of favorites that deserve to be here, so this list may undergo some renovation eventually. Also, it was a real tough decision between #1 and #2. Arcade Fire made one of the most brilliant concept albums in recent memory, but Bowie's swan song, which continues to move me every time I hear it, edged them out by a nose. Also, I seem to think that 2011 was the best year of the decade, because of the five albums I picked from that year, all of them ended up in the top 10 - it just shook out that way.

Favorite Albums of the Decade (2010-2019)
1. Blackstar - David Bowie (2016)
2. The Suburbs - Arcade Fire (2010)
3. build a rocket boys! - Elbow (2011)
4. Bottle It In - Kurt Vile (2018)
5. The Whole Love - Wilco (2011)
6. 21 - Adele (2011)
7. Slave Ambient - The War on Drugs (2011)
8. So Beautiful or So What - Paul Simon (2011)
9. Wrecking Ball - Bruce Springsteen (2012)
10. I Am Easy to Find - The National (2019)
11. Elements of Light - Pantha du Prince (2013)
12. The Takeoff and Landing of Everything - Elbow (2014)
13. Lost in the Dream - The War on Drugs (2014)
14. The Next Day - David Bowie (2013)
15. Sleep Well Beast - The National (2017)
16. St. Vincent - St. Vincent (2014)
17. Transference - Spoon (2010)
18. Whiteout Conditions - The New Pornographers (2017)
19. American Band - Drive-by Truckers (2016)
20. Random Access Memories - Daft Punk (2013)
21. Brill Bruisers - The New Pornographers (2014)
22. Sound and Color - Alabama Shakes (2015)
23. My Head is an Animal - Of Monsters and Men (2012)
24. American Love Song - Ryan Bingham (2019)
25. Wasteland, Baby! - Hozier (2019)
26. The Nashville Sound - Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (2017)
27. This is Happening - LCD Soundsystem (2010)
28. Golden Hour - Kasey Musgraves (2018)
29. Hell On... Neko Case (2018)
30. Pure Comedy - Father John Misty (2017)

Sunday, December 1, 2019

PAD Chapbook Challenge: A Recap

So I've finished another poem-a-day challenge with 33 poems in 30 days (including three haiku).  I find I'm usually not as inspired in November as I am in April, and I didn't write a lot of formal verse except for a triolet and some lighter quarains. I also didn't really stick to a theme, so there may not be enough new material for a thematic chapbook. But it was a good feeling to write regularly again, and maybe some of those 33 poems are close to worthwhile. I'll share my ten favorites here, just in case you don't feel like slogging through 30 days of poetry posts:

[Day 3]
Alpha-Bits and Omega 3

I don't care one iota
if you're never a knockout like Catherine Zeta Jones.
I'd settle for Delta Burke.
My gamma never had to worry about nutrition,
so why should you? If you eat another yogurt,
you may start to mu.
I guess there's nothing nu
about health-conscious diets,
but I won't tau you what to eat or not.
You love Greek food, for instance,
with lambda die for, or a good gy-rho.
I'd beta fortune you'll live a long life.
So phi upon all of those who shame you,
although with a heavy psi,
you may admit you eta pi.

[Day 11]


have we
this tower of words
building itself on itself
reaching beyond our reach, high into the clouds
till the air gets thin, and we climb stratospheric heights
only to find that we don't understand one another anymore
what's the use in trying to touch the stars when we can't even communicate
pull back from that darkness, look at the darkness in your neighbor's face and
say take my hand, it's all right, climb down with me, and we can
breathe again, we can find something in common
we love, help me take the bricks
apart, build a place
where all of
us can

[Day 12]

You troubleshooter, in demand,
I want to know: Who fixes you?
A crying shoulder, helping hand,
a troubleshooter on demand,
a schedule most could not withstand.
Who picks you up when you are blue,
or troubled, shot from all demands?
I want to know: Who fixes you?

[Day 13]

Pocket Rainbow

All the way from the sun
through the atmosphere,
a concentrated riot of photons,
I've traveled whole, warm and energetic,
down to earth and into a neighborhood,
only to be broken apart as I stream
through a beveled window in someone's front door.

I split into many wavelengths
and  bang up against a gray-upholstered couch
in the living room as a multicolored stripe,
seven colors projected onto fabric.
I delight two little girls, who try to catch me
in their hands and stuff me in their pockets,
but in vain. I want to say, It's just refraction, kids,
it's really no big deal. But they're still too little
to understand the science of it,
and besides, their grandmother says,

You can still pretend, and sometime later today,
reach into your pockets, and pull out a rainbow
to help you smile, so that red, orange, yellow, green,
blue, indigo and violet will color your day,
like a paint box of light.

I'm just glad to be of help.

[Day 16]

Free as a Bird

"'s the next best thing to be..."
                                - John Lennon

oh, how you can soar now
over the Liverpool rooftops
over your mates, still tramping
the worn-down streets
through the grime and fog
of the city

oh, how you miss her
but she gave them your song
on a tape, and they took it
into their hearts and brought
it out again with harmonies
and his weeping guitar

oh, how you can hear it
wafting through the trees
while you rise above them all
on an updraft to clouds
and if you could you'd say
well done, lads, well done

[Day 18]
Rona's Song

On a bright May morning she stands
on the overlook to a desert valley.
She adjusts her bandana
against the wind and sand.
So much trouble, she tells herself -
the centuries of war and struggles,
the walls and cannonballs,
now crumbling and rusted,
the recently-ruined temples,
which stood for thousands of years,
and newer forces pouring like mercury
over the already punished land.  
You can say, So beautiful, or so what
she thinks, as she shoulders her weapon
and starts off to rejoin her unit.
On the way, she composes a song in her head
about how peace someday may come.

[Day 21]
River Cruise

Our longship cuts a lazy wake
up the Danube and down the Rhine
with the help of dozens of locks
that fascinate us every time,
raising us up, dropping us down
as we navigate a cultural corridor.
Budapest, Vienna, Cologne -
all jewels on this watery necklace
for us to inspect and admire.
We go topside to watch the passing sights -
little towns with scenic buildings,
and once, the trifecta -        
a church, a lighthouse, a castle.
Vineyards carpet the steep hills,
and soon we pass the Lorelei,
 a looming rock on the right bank of the Rhine,
infamous for its hazardous curve
which brought many ships to their doom.
Legend has it that the murmuring sound
sailors once heard while passing through
was a forlorn lover, a beautiful woman
who enticed them to their demise.
We slip through the snaky strait unscathed,
and continue our journey, relaxed.
For once, we have let someone else
do the driving for us, and the cooking,
the laundry, the washing-up.
From the left bank this evening,
sunset cuts through the trees,
and over chateaubriand and red wine,
we watch the wine-colored clouds.

[Day 23]
When to Play Christmas Music

First of all: never, ever, before Halloween.
That should be illegal.
I don't care if you already have
Christmas trees up in your store.
Rudolph was never destined to be friends
with the Werewolf of London,
and you can't do the Monster Mash
with jingle bells.
The two holidays are not meant to mix -
the lone exception being
The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Once you're into November, it's a toss-up:
those soft-pop radio stations
have special dispensation
to play it nonstop from November first,
but you don't have to listen to it.
Thanksgiving is a good benchmark,
although if it snows where you are
before then, all bets are off.

As soon as you've digested your turkey,
you can have free rein -
play the sacred or the secular,
the sublime or the silly,
the Hallelujah Chorus or
Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.
Just promise you won't drive your musical sleigh
crammed with holiday cheer
over your long-suffering family.

[Day 25]
Hipster Grace

Oh Lord,
or whatever higher power I may subscribe to,
bless this cold-brew coffee,
this microbrew IPA,
this kombucha, this green juice in a Mason jar.
Bless these kimchi tacos and tapas,
these sautéed ramps with kale and bacon,
this cauliflower-crust pizza with pancetta and foraged basil.
Bless this artisanal ancient-grain bread,
these matcha green tea donuts,
this blood orange gluten-free birthday cake.
In the name of Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram,

[Day 29]
Have Yourself a Merry Little Whatever

If "Merry Christmas" is your choice
I'm cool with that; go celebrate.
If you like "Happy Holidays"
you're not a person I'd berate.

There is no "War on Christmas", folks -
there's no one persecuting you.
But don't assume that everyone
must share your Gospel-centered view.

Good people come in many forms;
in fact, so do their holidays.
If peace and love is their intent
they may observe in different ways.

So understand the world has room
for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa joy,
and even Solstice if you wish;
it's more than just a baby boy.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

PAD Chapbook Challenge Day 30: The End

So here is my last daily poem for November. Today's prompt is to write an "end" poem.

Ends of Cheese

It's a tradition that started with her mother,
who used to go to a local deli guy -
"Marty at the Mart", she called him -
and she would ask for ends of cheese,
the heels of five-pound blocks too thin
to go through the slicer. For a good discount,
she'd bring home a plastic bag of all kinds
of cheese scraps - American, cheddar, provolone,
Swiss, gouda, parmesan. It was a good way
to make ends meet. Then she'd whip up
a roux and add random pieces of cheese -
a literal melting pot of international favorites.
And oh, what a fondue it would make,
or a sauce for macaroni and cheese.
Today she carries on her mother's  tradition,
out of preference rather than need.
She makes a killer mac and cheese too,
and says it's good to know that like the cheese,
when we  come down toward our end,
there is still can be a use for us.

I'll be back soon with a synopsis. Hope you enjoyed reading!

Friday, November 29, 2019

PAD Chapbook Challenge Day 29

Today's Poetic Asides prompt: Write a poem with the title "Have ________".  Just saying my piece in verse today:

Have Yourself a Merry Little Whatever

If "Merry Christmas" is your choice
I'm cool with that; go celebrate.
If you like "Happy Holidays"
you're not a person I'd berate.

There is no "War on Christmas", folks -
there's no one persecuting you.
But don't assume that everyone
must share your Gospel-centered view.

Good people come in many forms;
in fact, so do their holidays.
If peace and love is their intent
they may observe in different ways.

So understand the world has room
for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa joy,
and even Solstice if you wish;
it's more than just a baby boy.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

PAD Chapbook Chalenge Day 28

Happy Thanksgiving! Today's prompt from Poetic Asides: Write a "gratitude" poem.  So I noticed a lot of reminders on my Facebook page that the song I reference below, "Alice's Restaurant" by Arlo Guthrie, has become an annual broadcast tradition on many radio stations for Thanksgiving Day. I remember hearing it when it was new - that's how old I am. They're aren't too many songs associated with Thanksgiving, but this has become a quintessential example. (If you've never heard it, it's basically a two-minute song with a 15-minute monologue sandwiched between the verses, and it's very funny and topical.)

Thank You, Arlo

for Alice's Restaurant,
that eighteen-minute ramble
about your hippie days and the
"Thanksgiving Dinner that Couldn't Be Beat",
and taking out the trash
in a red VW Microbus with shovels and rakes
and implements of destruction,
and Officer Obie, and the court appearance
with twenty-seven eight by ten color glossy pictures,
and the draft board, and Group W,
and father-rapers, and "Kill! Kill! Kill!"
and the Anti-Massacree Movement.
It was about Vietnam - back then
everything was about Vietnam,
but for me, and countless others,
there's no Thanksgiving without it,
and we love when you assure us
that you can get anything you want
(exceptin' Alice).

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

PAD Chapbook Challenge Day 27

Today's prompt from Poetic Asides: Write a "remix" of a poem you have written this month. This can mean any of several things: For instance, take the words of your poem and scramble them to re-assemble into another poem; or write a "response" or an "opposite" to a previous poem; or as in my case, use lines from your previous poems to create a new one. A fellow poet once described this as a "self-cento" I've done this a couple of times and it's kind of fun - it's interesting in which direction the poem ends up going. For this one, I set up two ground rules: (1) I could only use the last lines of previous poems (as many as I could to make a coherent new poem), and (2) I couldn't write more than one new line between the lines borrowed from previous poems. So here is the result:


Glistening morning, 
jacket required -
you watch the wine-colored clouds
put on a Technicolor show,
and think with some irony,
Well done, lads, well done.

I want to know: Who fixes you?
You no longer think about how
peace someday may come.
Hopes roll in like tide and then
pull away into the dark water.
Time, the great leveler of aspirations.

Who's won?
It doesn't matter - you'll still have to watch
over your long-suffering family,
without worrying how their world will end.
You make a vow to

Dark forces will not end you,
leaving nothing but a stump as your legacy.
You'll fight to sail
safely to your bedroom shore,
world without end,

And here are the borrowed lines, with the day I wrote each one:
Line 1 - day 2
Line 2 - day 2
Line 3 - day 21
Line 4 - day 13
Line 6 - day 16
Line 7 - day 10
Line 9 - day 18
Line 11 - day 6
Line 12 - day 3
Line 13 - day 19
Line 15 - day 23
Line 16 - day 22
Line 18 - day 11
Line 20 - day 17
Line 22 - day 20 
Line 24 - day 25 

I made only some minor changes in some of the borrowed lines, mostly changes to the second person.