Winter Break Ideas: Vol. 1

Published 12/22/14 by:

In this week’s edition of Winter Break Ideas you will find things that you should lend your ears to while you’re on winter break. While some of these are best for rocking out in the car, others are for contemplation with a candle burning, or for some groove-filled cookie baking.



Taylor Swift’s album 1989 – You’ve probably heard at least one track off of this album, but it’s best enjoyed with warm libations and comfortable dancing clothes, because you will want to sing and shout to these catchy tunes. So break out those footie pajamas and bust a move. (Note: my favorite track is Wildest Dreams, but Clean is climbing the ranks as well).

1989 Album Cover


Little Joy’s self-titled album – If you enjoy Elvis movies and the humor/talent of Zooey Deschanel then you’ll dig this band. They’ve got kind of a sixties beach party groove that makes me feel warm on wintery days.




Sarah Koenig’s Serial podcast – For those of you who enjoyed HBO’s “True Detective” or are still wondering who killed JonBenet Ramsey, this is going to be your new obsession. Koenig, an investigative reporter whose resume includes reporting for The Baltimore Sun, as well as NPR’s “This American Life”, delves into story behind Adnan Syed, a teenager, who in 1999 was (not convincingly) convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend. Your commute just got a lot more intriguing. You’re welcome. (PS if you ask me what a podcast is, I won’t be able to keep a straight face, even on the internet).


Serial Logo


The Turnpike Troubadour’s album Diamonds & Gasoline – A friend of mine turned me onto this band a few months ago, and I can’t get enough. They make me want to open my own Honky Tonk bar and quit this life of teaching.



What have y’all been listening to? I’m ready for some recommendations!

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2013 Year in Review: Concert Edition

Published 12/30/13 by:

You may or may not know this about me, but I love live music. I will go to any show, at any venue, except for heavy metal, or whatever category Godsmack falls under. Basically, if the lead singer isn’t screaming maniacally into the microphone, I’m there. The summer time is obviously the most popular for concerts in New England because outdoor venues can reopen their gates, but I try to make an effort to spread out my attendance to shows over the winter so that I don’t cry myself to sleep at night. Below you will find my list of shows that I saw in 2013, and the ones that were on my wish list. Please let me know in the comments who I should’ve seen, so I can be on the look-out for tickets in 2014!


Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros at State Theater Portland, Maine June 2013

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I went with a large group of friends to this show, and trekked up to Portland (about 2 hours North of Boston) for it. To say the expectations were high would be a fairly monumental understatement. The crowd ranged from older hippies to younger hippies. These guys (& gals) had been on my “to see” list for a few years, and I was thrilled to finally see them in action. Apart from the festival circuit, you don’t see a lot of bands of this size (at least a dozen people on stage) traveling on American tours as a headliner. Obviously bigger acts warrant a large back-up band, but this is a dozen people who are all part of the ensemble. It was pretty exciting. The State Theater is an awesome venue if you ever get a chance to check it out – it’s an old theater with a balcony, floor seats etc. and every show is general admission. For thirty bucks you could be in the front row, if you’re tenacious enough. I’ve seen multiple shows here, and I’m never disappointed. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros didn’t publish who their opening act was, and they moved the start time to the show up by an hour. We then endured a kind of sloppy opener, but we were confused because they looked like the Magnetic Zeros minus Edward. Could this be? Were we already seeing the headliner unbeknownst to us? Sort of. The rest of the band minus the two regular lead singers (pictured above) came out and did a 45 minute set that was kind of aimless, and the songs all blended into one another. There was a couch involved. It was bizarre. Then they took a 15 minute break, and Edward and the gang all came out, and rocked the house. They played every song I knew, and multiple songs that hadn’t been released yet. There was a lot of howling, swaying, moving and grooving going on – and that was just from the band. Edward Sharpe is what I imagine a rocker from the 70s to be like at his pique – he obviously enjoys the music he’s playing, and he feeds off of the audience. It was a shaky start, but they redeemed themselves.

Concert Grade: B

Taylor Swift with opener Ed Sheeran at Gillette Stadium Foxboro Massachusetts July 2013

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This marked the third time I’ve seen Taylor Swift play at a sold out Gillette Stadium. It’s pretty difficult for me to be unbiased about her because I absolutely adore her. It’s also hard for me to not compare this show to when I saw her on the Speak Now Tour because the girl literally sang, danced, and gazebo’d over the stadium in the pouring rain. That’s hard to beat. TSwift certainly gave it the ole college try, and managed to dazzle me by having a superior opener in Ed Sheeran. His vocals, covers, and wizardry with a looping pedal were phenomenal. I’m looking forward to seeing him again when he ventures out as a headliner. Taylor played all of my favorites, and I loved that she included a secret song in the #9 spot of her set list – meaning it changed every show to whatever she wanted it to be. On the car ride to the stadium I told my brother that I was hoping for “Tim McGraw” or “Fearless” as the secret song, and when she uttered, “There’s something ’bout the way the street looks when it’s just rained…” I started screaming like a lunatic. Other highlights included Carly Simon coming out to duet on “You’re So Vein” and Taylor waltzing around the audience to one of my all time favorites: “Sparks Fly”. 

Concert Grade: A-

Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert, Jake Owen & Thomas Rhett at Fenway Park Boston Massachusetts July 2013

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Here’s the situation: my lease on my apartment was up on July 31st. During a mid-July packing extravaganza with my brother in our sweaty, un-air conditioned apartment, I jokingly asked, “wanna see if we can score some last minute tix to the Jason Aldean concert?” My brother, who is usually the cheapskate in our sibling duo, said, “sure, we deserve it!” So, on a muggy, overcast day in July, Brad and I bought tickets directly behind first base at Fenway Park, and picked them up in a restaurant 45 minutes prior to the show. I want to clarify for everyone that this wasn’t really a Jason Aldean concert (although he was the headliner). This was a country festival. Miranda Lambert easily could’ve been the headliner, and her set list certainly showcased that, and Jake Owen was absolutely stellar (unfortunately we missed Thomas Rhett’s set). Imagine sitting in America’s best ballpark (in my humble opinion), and hearing about 25 number one hits from country radio in one concert. It was absurd. The crowd was rowdy, but they were some of the best people I’ve ever done a sing-along with. While I love Jason Aldean, I was underwhelmed by his set – it wasn’t that long, and he didn’t play enough of his new album (something I’ve never complained about before because it’s usually the opposite – not enough oldies). I think Miranda played just as many songs, and she was more interactive with the crowd. Brad complained that Miranda was “too twangy” and that it made her difficult to understand, but I knew her songs well enough that I didn’t even notice it. The highlights of the night were “Night Train”, “Gunpowder & Lead” and “Anywhere With You”.

Concert Grade: A-

Jay-Z & Justin Timberlake at Fenway Park Boston, Massachusetts August 2013

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I don’t think I need to say a lot about this concert because it was legendary, and we all know it. The highlight for me was that there wasn’t one defined headliner – they took turns performing mini-sets of songs. Moment I needed to be fanned from fainting number one:: when Justin sang “New York, New York” Sinatra-style with just a spotlight on him, and it led into Hov belting out “Empire State of Mind”. Moment number two: when Justin covered Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” which led into “Izzo”. They closed the show with “Forever Young” together, and managed to get the entire audience in Fenway Park on their feet, waving their cell phones in the air. It was majestic.

Concert Grade: A



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An Open Letter to Pop Music

Published 10/2/13 by:

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Dear Pop Music,

It’s been a while since we’ve connected, and while I miss you, I have some reservations about getting back in touch. I know you’re busy trying to “get lucky”, so allow me to recap our tattered history. My musical prowess, or my earliest memory of being keenly aware of music and its popularity dates back to the Spring of 1995, when I was in the fourth grade. I was really into Sheryl Crow at the time, and I coaxed my mom into buying me the 1995 Grammy nominee cassette tape because it featured not only Sheryl, but also Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” as well as All-4-One’s “I Swear”. This was basically a mix-tape of magic for me. The music was catchy, and my mom and I could listen to it in the car together without anyone getting embarrassed. I brought the tape into school one day, and my teacher let me play it on his boombox during snack. It was, perhaps, the most glorious, and simplest time of my life. The music showcased talent, and did not serve as a gimmick for anything or anyone. I’d be remiss to not mention that you showed up at the Grammys that year, in a big way, and you simultaneously were what was popular (and overplayed) on the radio. Pop music, you were representing well at the awards shows, and you were dictating with a classiness you no longer possess.

In fifth grade, you went from soft rock to alternative. Instead of singing about having fun, or feeling the love, I was singing about letting the girl cry (hat tip to Hootie) and if God was a slob like one of us. When one of my classmates showed up in a Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt on a Monday morning, I thought it was just absolutely brilliant. Honestly, I think it was the most impressed I’d been by a peer’s fashion in my young life. So Pop, you were doing your thing, and making adolescents of all shapes and sizes into irritable, emo, snarky human beings. We’ve never recovered, thanks to you, and I think you built some serious character in me as a result.

I now want to fast forward to 2013. I’m 28-years-old, and I teach sixth grade. If I had the time, I’d be the teach letting kids crank the tunes during snack. Although as I pondered that thought, Pop, I realized, I wouldn’t be able to let the kids listen to your stuff. What you embody now is over-sexed music with too many bleeps to count. You’re twerking, hungover, crude and bawdy. Dude, even your name, as a term – “Pop Music” has become a bit of a punchline. Adults are embarrassed to say that they like you as a genre. When adults do admit to loving “Last Friday Night” or make a YOLO reference, they quickly add in, “guilty pleasure”. That’s what your reputation has become: you make people feel guilty for liking you. You’ve definitely stopped winning Grammys. Don’t you miss being classy and adored by all? Aren’t you sick of being emulated by tweens, and tweens only?

I’m ready for you to make a comeback, Pop. I want you to be at the top of your game. I want to be able to sing along to songs with my students, and not be limited to the timeless, family-friendly Taylor Swift. So how can I be of assistance to you? Who handed you the Kool-Aid? It may take some time, but with the right backers, I think we could really re-image you. The question is: are you ready for a make-over?


Miss you terribly,



PS That chain letter you sent me last week was weird and I had to change my password on like, everything. No more, please.



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