Joyeux Noël

Merry Christmas to all and to all a wonderful night! We are lucky enough to have been able to go home back to Utah for the holidays and it has been just perfect. I love my family, I love my in-laws and I love my friends. We're just so lucky in so many ways and even though we still have a week left, this trip has been such a perfect time.

And even though I have enough thoughts of love in my head and heart to pour out into a lengthy and thoughtful post, I've got treats to eat and a husband to cuddle with. In the meantime, enjoy a plethora of pictures from the last few days of Christmas in France.  


Ian's Top Ten Albums of 2013

It's the end of the year and the compilation lists and top tens are popping up all over the inter-web and taking over TIME in annual fashion. And while I've enjoyed putting together year-in-review posts each year on my blog, Ian wanted to post his own detailed and extremely thought out list of his top ten albums of the year.

For those of you that don't know Ian well, he has an interesting approach to music. He was a jazz singer in his high school choir and also in an electro synth pop band. He is classically trained in the cello and also happens to have a real sweet spot for death metal.

What's that? That doesn't make a whole lot of sense? He says it's because he's "way smarter than other people when it comes to music." Scoff if you want, but it's pretty much true. He is more invested in the music that he cares about and he takes the time to think about each element of it--there is no mindless background music when it comes to Ian's listening habits. This is serious business.

So, I give you, Ian's top ten albums of 2013. Enjoy!

1. The Reign of Kindo, Play With Fire - Everyone should know about this band. The Reign of Kindo is a jazz/pop group comprised of five main musicians, however their recordings make use of large arrangements including male and female back-up vocals, horns, strings, keyboards, and extra percussion. While everyone involved are extremely capable jazz performers and frequently display virtuosic talent with their respective instruments, their music features a very pop-influenced catchiness that renders the group more accessible than other more cerebral jazz acts. This is not to say this album is “dumb”, quite the contrary, it just exudes fun. The vocalist is solid and has a great sound, but I would say that the real stars of the band are the pianist and the drummer. Compared to more conventional jazz acts, the drums are much louder in the mix and have more of a rock feel to them. To get the full experience of this band, I highly recommend that you watch one of their live studio performances on YouTube. The Reign of Kindo are musicians that clearly love making music, and with Play With Fire they achieve a seemingly impossible task by creating a record not only sophisticated, beautiful, and grand, but fun and accessible as well. May I humbly recommend that you listen to “Romancing A Stranger”(below), an ever evolving track that goes all over the place, and “Dust”, which is beauty incarnate. You’re welcome.

2. Queens of the Stone Age, …Like Clockwork - Led by Josh Homme, Queens of the Stone Age are occasionally referred to as a desert rock band. I may not know exactly what that means, however Queens of the Stone Age have always been a solid rock band with a hypnotic feel and a touch of suave. The release of …Like Clockwork represents a significant step forward in the progression of this band. While this album still retains the unique Queens of the Stone Age sound, attitude, and witty dry lyrics, they make more advanced use of keyboards, classic Queens fuzzy guitars, and occasionally developed song structures. Compared to previous albums, …Like Clockwork has a more psychedelic and mature feel to it. For those who may be unfamiliar with Queens of the Stone Age, Josh Homme, the lead vocalist and guitarist, has a very easily-identified sound. His vocals contrast with the rockiness of the band in that he has a very smooth and mesmerizing voice, to be contrasted with the biting vocals of other rock vocalists such as Dave Grohl in the Foo Fighters. This album makes for a very groovy listen. “I Appear Missing” (below) is what you must listen to. Also, check out their video for “The Vampyre Of Time And Memory”. While not my favorite song on the album, the video is pretty out there.

3. The Dillinger Escape Plan, One Of Us Is The Killer - I will go right ahead and encourage most of Anna’s readers to just skip right over this one. I have a particular taste for metal, and I have even helped Anna to appreciate most of it. However, try as I might, Anna would still rather stick shards of glass in her eyes than listen to The Dillinger Escape Plan. I don’t blame her for it, and I don’t blame you either. It takes a particular taste. This band is labelled as a mathcore band, meaning a metal band that places an emphasis on complex and difficult to play rhythms, often in unusual time signatures and with dissonant tones. The Dillinger Escape Plan present a very interesting sonic paradox in that there music may at times appear to embody chaos and insanity, however every spastic rhythm is meticulously assembled. One Of Us Is The Killer shows a greater emotional range in the band, as their vocalist explores an increase in clean vocals, with a few songs having almost entirely clean vocals. Although the ferocious and dark tone of this band may be off-putting for some, this album particularly displays a great range of dark emotions and intensely powerful sounds. Not for the faint of heart. For all the softies brave enough to give them a shot, I recommend “One Of Us Is The Killer” (below). For those with veteran metal ears, I recommend “Understanding Decay”. Hold out to the very end, it’s worth it.

4. Haken, The Mountain - I found out about Haken earlier this year and it was a real treat. Coming from me, that is high praise. Haken is one of those bands that was tailor-made by the universe specifically for me. I think. They are a progressive rock band that incorporate multiple genres into their grand and sprawling compositions. They also rock pretty hard when necessary. The Mountain is another example of when a band is able to create the perfect storm by supplying both incredible talent and musical innovation. The group presents us with a combination of flying melodies provided by the guitars and keyboards, versatile base grooves, hard-hitting drums that guide through complex rhythms, at which point the vocals become a pleasant garnish. “Pareidolia” is a monster of a track and it is probably the best representation of the sound of the album as a whole. I also recommend “Atlas Stone” for its uplifting and frequently jazzy sound. It could potentially help you find the meaning of life.

5. Janelle Monae, Electric Lady - It is possible that Janelle Monae has changed my music life forever. After listening to her music, I find myself no longer wishing that top 40s pop music didn’t exist, rather I find myself wishing that there was tons of it and that it was all as good as Miss Monae. Janelle Monae is an R&B singer and songwriter, a genre which I am not very qualified to analyze. However, anyone can appreciate that she is entirely a breed of her own. Her album, Electric Lady, finishes the story that has continued over three albums of a futuristic messianic cyborg fighting against a totalitarian government with a strangle-hold on creative expression. Stick with me pop girls, I promise you’ll like her. The music she is able to produce is extremely catchy and fun, and she has impressive energy in her performances, however I am most impressed with her ability to mesh a retro and modern sound. I have never heard anything quite like it. Her particular nature is at times showcased by the artists she features on her records, such as Of Montreal and Prince. Anna’s favorite track is the slow jam Primetime, my favorites would be “Q.U.E.E.N.” (below) for a well-rounded Janelle Monae experience or “Victory” for its out-of-control vocal performance. 

6. Intronaut, Habitual Levitations - Intronaut has been very good to me because they are a band that I can listen to in order to try to make people think that I am really smart as well as get my headbang on too. Habitual Levitations sees the progressive sludge metal band move towards more clean vocals and slightly more accessible songwriting. That is not to say that Habitual Levitations is not full of Intronaut’s signature rhythmic complexity. The whole band is great, and they manage to produce a very interesting atmosphere with their music, but the star here has got to be the drummer. He is more machine than human. Check out that bassist rocking the fretless too, sometimes he gets a Jaco Pastorius-esque tone out of it. “Killing Birds With Stones” is going to be my recommended track for this time.

7. Sigur Ros, Kveikur - All things considered, the universe have been pretty good to me this year. Sigur Ros have been one of my favorite bands since I was introduced to them about six years ago. Their music has always been majestic, beautiful, and even spiritual. I have loved it. But Kveikur sounds like an album that was, once again, made specifically for me. This album shows Sigur Ros experimenting with darker tones and more electronic sounds. Whereas there past efforts have all sounded very organic, Kveikur almost sounds industrial at times. This CD is not a depressing one at all, it is still quite uplifting, it just shows a bit of emotional experimentation from our favorite Icelandic group. I recommend “Brennisteinn”. Powerful stuff.

8. 65daysofstatic, Wild Light - I don’t think that I would have ever gotten into 65daysofstatic if I had not happened to experience them in a live setting. It was a very good day when I saw them open for Fear Before with my dearest friend Jace. An instrumental post-rock band, they blew me away with songs featuring five minute crescendos and decrescendos, electronic and acoustic sound combinations, and a drummer that refused to be tamed. Wild Light shows the band reigning the drums in a little bit, which I was disappointed in at first, but it ultimately makes for a more uniform blend of sound. Please listen to “Blackspots”. It is simply enormous, and it may inspire you to become a hero. “Prisms” (below) would be my second recommendation.

9. Letlive., The Blackest Beautiful - Earlier this year I was watching a video of Letlive. after having stumbled upon them. Anna saw a bit of it, laughed, and said that it was like “hipster metal”. As much as I would have liked to argue with her about it, it wasn’t a horrible description. Otherwise classified as post-hardcore or even progressive punk, Letlive. have quite the attitude. They almost remind me of The Blood Brothers. All the musicians contribute to the high-energy sound, but almost everything this band does serves as a vehicle to frame up the vocalist’s extreme performance. The dude is out of his mind. I do not mean to say that he is the best vocalist that I have ever heard, he simply has an insane amount of energy, attitude and emotion, and a very admirable beard. I recommend “Banshee(Ghost Fame)” (below), or “The Priest And Used Cars” for those of you who really want to go nuts.

10. Steven Wilson, The Raven That Refused To Sing - Sorry readers, more prog rock. Steven Wilson is known for being one of the main minds of Porcupine Tree. For whatever reason, I could never really sink my teeth into them. However, I have really been enjoying his newest solo album, The Raven That Refused To Sing. It has an extremely old school feel to it and it reminds me of the progressive bands that my dad really enjoys. With only six tracks, this album is split between three upbeat technicality expositions, and three more delicate ballad-style tracks. For the softer half, I recommend “Drive Home” (below). The accompanying music video is quite beautiful. For the fist-pump half I recommend “Luminol”. The live performance video is cheesy at times, but extremely impressive nonetheless.


-- Ian

What a sign off, amiright?

As for me, I'll post some of my favorites (books, movies, TV, music, WHATEVER I WANT) in a later post. Stay tuned!


Funny Things Ian Says: France 2013

Since we've moved here and have consequently been able to spend a lot more time with each other, I've realized that Ian is absolutely hilarious. I mean, I always knew he was funny, but I am consistently laughing my head off at some of the things he says. There are plenty of times when I recover from a laugh attack and think "I have to write that down." Too often I forget, but luckily enough, I've remember enough to create a substantial list of funny things Ian says and possibly a glimpse into our marriage (ha)...and lots of them might be inappropriate and include swears and SHAME ON US FOR THAT, but really,

I dare you to not laugh:

After I taught Ian how to twerk, he replied, "Okay, so it's kind of hard."

"I have read a lot of books. I have read a shit-ton of books."

After walking by a bumpin' club late at night...
Me: "Do you think there are strippers in there? Topless strippers?"
Ian: "No, they're bottomless. Just like the drinks. HEYOOOO!"

"I have a knowledge of most things."

"You can totally eat Oreos before you go to bed. Then you'll have chocolate dreeeeams."

It was November 4th, the day after my birthday.
"Today is the worst day of your whole year. I will be the worst to you today and it will get just a little bit better every day until your birthday next year when I will be the best to you, but for now it's 364 day of misery ahead."

Me: "What did you wish for?"
Ian: "I wished for a sandwich."
Me: "What?!"

"I love doing body rolls. And I'm really good at them."

"You're dumb as a butt." (I don't really need to explain this one, but JSYK, Ian doesn't ever insult me fo-reals. I was laughing so hard after that one I could barely breathe.)

"You are a good wife. There are good wives, there are bad wives. And sometimes there are midwives..." (Insert obligatory eye-roll from me and self-serving laughs from him at his own joke.)

"I refuse to eat at 'Eat Salad' because the title is too bossy."

"I know that I'm not going to die of natural causes. I bear my testimony that I know that you're going to murder me." (After a long stream of really, really crappy jokes that end up being funny because they're so bad...kind of like jayus.)

Ian also talks in his sleep often. Even though I knew this before we got married (his roommate of three years had warned me), the first few times it happened, it totally freaked me out. His voice is growl-y and he often speaks in French. It can get seriously scary sometimes, but there have been plenty of nights I have almost exploded trying to keep from laughing. It's usually not clear what he says or it's in a language I can't understand, but the ones I can remember right now area few mumbled words followed by "GUNSLINGER" pretty loud. But my favorite was, "Enough with this chickenshit."

His roommate also shared one with me recently, too. "RETURN FROM THE AIR, MONSIEUR, RETURN FROM OVER THERE! AND WHO HAS THE BRANDY?"

Who the crap is this guy?


My father-in-law tends to tell pretty typical dad jokes that are medium funny, but are hilarious because of the delivery. Every time he tells a joke, it's usually followed by my mother-in-law rolling her eyes and saying "Eternity!" while actually trying not to laugh. 

They are a perfect picture of us in the future. Bad (really good) jokes and me pretending to be mad. Here's to eternity!