Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Do Things"

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Sounds simple, right? A common theme that pops up within discussions of happiness is the weird inability to realize that we can create our own temperament, situations and pleasure. A lot of this inhibition, of course, really comes down to some sort of problem that we have yet to identify; some reason why we can't simply get up, make things happen for ourselves and be done with it. It's like the idea of "being the fun" at the lifeless party; whether we know it or not, we're always empowered enough to effect our own situation and change the channel for ourselves (mentally and physically), so why not just do that more often?

Not that I've been in a slump of activities or any sort of rut, but one of my summer resolutions is to just "do things". I'm a pretty motivated person, so it's rare that I'll get an idea and sit on it until it's stale. But still - there are a number of adventures I've yet to have, goals I've attempted to reach and so on and so forth. So, I plan to get off my patoot and start "doing more things" that I know will bring a little merriment to my days.

Here are a few new songs that really make me want to get up and get out.

1. Heaven - The Walkmen
 (I LOVE The Walkmen and I really love this new song; they're so unique, so interesting and so fantastic live. Doesn't this sound like The Replacements?)

2. Silhouettes - Avicii
(I'm not normally the biggest house or EDM gal, but this song is kind of exciting glamorous. Perfect for sticky summer nights)

3. Small Town Moon - Regina Spektor
(I love this woman. Upon hearing her newest album, Rolling Stone called her our generation's Joni Mitchell. And the lyrics "Today we're younger than we're ever going to be"? Lovely. )

4. If I Ever Get Around to Living - John Mayer
(This is my summer 2012 album - his best since Continuum)

5. The Veldt - DeadMau5
(I like the pulse of this little tune. I'm assuming it would be great for long strolls and city drives)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Lighten Up"

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So far, one of my very favourite lessons from The Happiness Project is one that, like many of the commandments Gretchen writes about, might seem obvious and attainable - yet it's fascinating what we still can't manage to remember or attempt to incorporate in our day-to-day actions.

I've really taken to her heavily preached notion of "lightening up." I'm completely guilty of brooding moments; those days when I let the smallest thing get me down and dictate my disposition for really no good reason. I mean, how unfair is that to myself? I've been keeping the idea at the forefront of my brain thus far - in work, play, decision-making, everything - and I've already noticed a difference in feeling that this funny little life is just too short to waste energy feeling less than "light." Especially in these soothing summer months; what better time than now to dust some winter chips off our shoulders!

So, here are a few very important songs to me that, based on their positive connotations, cozy melodies and heartwarming messages, remind me to lighten up a little when I'm tempted to feel otherwise.

1. Don't Worry Baby - The Beach Boys
(This might be one of the sweetest songs of all time)

2. Tougher Than The Rest - Bruce Springsteen
(My favourite music video, my favourite Springsteen song and my Dad's favourite as well)

3. Jack and Diane - John Cougar Mellencamp
(I bet that if the opening guitar riff/drum beat of this classic was scientifically examined, it would prove to be one of the most melodically pleasing song openings in history)

4. Up All Night - Counting Crows
(This song is summer for me. Beaches, ripped jeans and caution to the wind)

5. Ooh La La -The Faces
(A great coming-of-age anthem that calls for a long weekend bonfire and major "lightening up")

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Happiness Project

This week I've been reading "The Happiness Project" by Gretchen Rubin - one woman's tale of deciding that although she was happy in her marriage and career, there were a number of things she could do over the course of a year to make herself just... that much happier.

I already feel lighter while reading it. So many of us are content, "happy" and going about our merry business without realizing that we haven't even reached our full potential for fulfillment and well-being. Reading Gretchen's own account is valuable and applies to any regular life, but it's the extensive philosophical, medical, theoretical and scientific evidence towards the case of "happiness" she provides that really sets the book apart from a regular literary experiment. Her efforts and research to prove that people (including herself) are not putting nearly enough effort into their own bliss and are coasting through life at a comfortable rate, really make you step back and assess your own possibilities in the realm of happiness and achieving your goals.

So, thanks to this fabulous book (which I've been meaning to sit down with for months), I've been trying to take little steps like "enjoying now", "acting how you want to feel" and "letting it go", for example...and the difference in my disposition in only two days feels vast. With reading this kind of book, I've started to think about what my own little project would be, how it would look, and of course - how it would sound. So, I'm going to dedicate this week to some happiness songs. Young, old and picked almost at random - these tracks are only a small example of how my happy day soundtrack might go:

1. Stand in The Water - Wildlife
(I know these guys! How adorable is this song?)

2. Chicago - Sufjan Stevens

3. Easily Bruised - Matthew Barber
(A Queen's university grad, I'm not quite sure why Barber isn't more famous....)

4. Just Like Honey - The Jesus and Mary Chain
(A staple in my musical diet for the  past decade)

5. Water Against The Rocks - Faye
(I see BIG things for this girl and her brand new track)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

One of the Greatest Performances

I have very fond memories of the first summer that my family moved to a new city in my fourth grade. My brother and I didn't know anybody; we hadn't started school yet, I was confined to a cast with a newly broken arm and the summer heat was so overwhelming that some days, playing one-on-one in the driveway was out of the question. So, often we would stay chilled in the living room air conditioning of our new house and listen to the nearby radio high school radio station blare through the speakers - calling in (because we could actually get through) to request songs by our mid-90s alternative rock favourites to pass the time. Our favourite tune to request, hilariously, was "Volcano Girls" by Veruca Salt. This screechy girl-rock anthem of the time was just angsty enough - while still incredibly poppy, now that I think about it - to amuse our bored ears while we waited for the heatwaves to pass. I think this kind of upbeat female rock was a natural stepping stone into my love of The Cardigans, Cat Power and more - but I can most definitely say that my rocker chick infatuation stems even further back than the fourth grade.

Even before those quiet summer afternoons, I grew up obsessed with Heart. The wild Wilson sisters were a staple in my Mom's discography; a collection of tunes so vast and eclectic that it's only natural music became my first love. To take a glance at my Mom - a loving nurturer who also happens to throw down in contractual law by day - you would never suspect that her and I spent evening upon evening cooped up in my bedroom while she played the classics on her guitar and I sang along. She really, really could not get any cooler.

And this right here was one of the greats that she introduced me to. From the first time I heard this scorcher and air-guitared alongside Mom, right up until present day and this rare 1976 performance being re-released from the vault - I still get tingles and chills when Nancy Wilson's timeless acoustic riff cues the first boom of the electric guitar.

Everyone knows it, everyone loves it; this song is irresistible. Rock on, girls.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Guilty Pleasure

For some people it's Carly Rae Jepsen, Justin Bieber or maybe the boy band classics. But for this girl -when the temperature is spiking, bicycles fill the streets and trees are in full bloom - a little guilty pleasure that ranges somewhere between Meiko and Sara Bareilles and sounds like puppy love, is the sugary sweetness of Lenka.

Featured in your typically happy-go-lucky Old Navy commercials and injected into the drama-filled hospital wards of Grey's Anatomy, the singer-songwriter has made a name for herself as that toothache-inducing pop fairy who will surely can soothe you out of a slump, lift you out of a rut and twirl you around in the middle of a spring day when you need it most.

She doesn't possess a complicated or profound knack for songwriting - with hits like "Shock Me Into Love", "Skipalong" and "You Will Be Mine" - but I keep her pixie voice and easy melodies in my back pocket for those days when anything else wouldn't put the same sort of skip in my step. Today, the day after a week-long wedding extravaganza and long weekend, is one of those days. Happy work week...


Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Most Wonderful Woman

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Sometimes I wonder why or how I ended up with the most wonderful woman on earth as my Mother. Everyone believes their Mother is this wonderful, and I think what it comes down to is that - each great Mother is perfect for their child in this divine and beautiful kind of way. There is no doubt that my Mother and I were made for each other.

We speak a language of our own, we have an unparalleled closeness and a need for each other, and I would be truly lost without her. She puts us before anything else in every situation, in the most kind and selfless of ways. Her heart is overwhelming. She can make everything instantly better just by being her. I try every single day to be even of a portion of the giver that she is, and I don't know how she does it with such grace and patience; I can only hope she'll help show me how to do it when I someday have someone of my own to take care of. She is perfection, and so very brave.

Here's a thank you and faraway hug to my biggest supporter, my forever best friend and the greatest love of my life. Everything in life is wonderful, because I have you.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rush Hour

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I'm currently away on course for my work - interestingly enough one that's centred around the wonderful world of e-marketing, website optimization and social media at my old stomping grounds in Ottawa - and have been racing around this city. Between flying in late, having a doctor's appointment, participating in three days of invigorating workshop, spending lunch hours and breaks on my phone, typing away from my hotel room bed, going to bridesmaid dress fittings and trying to squeeze in a little exercise and social time - I'm already... a little spent.

But, in the midst of all of this interesting learning, multimedia and hands-on work - a social media policy module included a great video short - that used a kick ass song I'd completely forgotten about.

If I manage to work in an early morning run tomorrow, I'm most definitely going to be promoting this old-school Fatboy Slim jam back on to my iPod and rocking out. It's always amazing to me the places that you discover, or re-discover, music - therefore waking you right up out of a music-related, or sleep-deprived, funk.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cover Story

Cool cover shot.

Kindness, a new electro-pop oddity (we sure don't have enough of those), is making tiny appearances all over the web right now in regards to the buzzing beat-driven debut "World, You Need A Change Of Mind" - a collection of true-to-its-time new wave mixes the kids will just love.

I've listened to the album and it's technical ticking and spurts of atmospheric instruments, and I wouldn't yet say it's necessarily wowing; although the mixing is top-notch, esepcially on downtown jams like "House". Also, something fairly intriguing is creator Adam Bainbridge's decision to cover The Replacement's forlorn and waltzy nightlife ballad "Swinging Party" - whittling it down into a plain and sonic take that lacks the distinctive heart of Replacement lead Paul Westerberg's aching voice, but makes up for it with a neat spacey kickbeat and layered men's chorus to chant the sad lyrics.

They don't necessarily compare in the same spheres of sound at all - but good on him for taking a whack at an inconspicous cover out of the veteran's discography. What do you think?

The Original

The Cover

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Morning Cooldown

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As of recently, I've begun exercising in the morning before going to work for 8:00am. This sounds a little bit nutty - even to me - but it's only a slightly earlier wake-up call and it means that working late at night, a longer commute than normal or a hungry belly don't deter me from getting it done at the end of the day. And to be honest, I'm kind of loving it. Does anyone like when their alarm goes off? Not particularly. And if you do, that's great (but I'm still calling your bluff). So, regardless of my internal groaning, I get myself out of bed, head to the gym (or perhaps hit the pavement when the weather warms) - and when it's all said and done, I feel lovely. I get ready, treat myself to a giant Starbucks tea (Passion or Refresh herbal teas are my favourites) to sip away at during my commute, enjoy that one sighting of outdoors when the subway emerges from underground to coast along a stretch of magnolia trees and start the day.

They say that you shouldn't completely change the tempo of your music when transitioning from working out to cooling down, and so during actual my work-out, I don't; I opt for slightly upbeat but not as intense for those few minutes following the last sprint or set. But when I finally make it to the subway and enjoy the ride - that's when I consider myself truly in the cooldown. Despite my day only beginning, I stare blankly, nearly forget that half hour ago I was sweating away and turn on some of my favourite morning jams to put me on the truly right track. Here is what has been taking me to work, and cooling me down (while warming my heart) this week:

This is one of the most meaningful and uplifting songs of the last decade.

Fun fact: This heartwarming tale actually makes my top five favourite songs of all-time list.

ALL Patrick Watson is pure bliss. He can calm me better than any cup of tea or catnap.

This is my favourite album right now; keep an eye out for more songs, more reviews and more Of Monsters and Men love in the weeks to come. I really can't get enough of their folky, rustic, boy/girl anthems.