October 23, 2015

A Dose of Sweet Spirit / The Empty Bottle / Chicago

On Wednesday night, I got a righteous dose of Sweet Spirit.

Here's the story;

A buddy of mine, Robbie, messaged me earlier in the month about this band I needed to check out, along with the link of upcoming tour dates. They were a band from Texas called Sweet Spirit. He had seen them open for Spoon, as they opened on a number of their shows, and he had fallen in love with them. I was informed that Britt Daniel was a big fan of the band and would come out and jam with them during their sets. I love Spoon & I love Britt Daniel. I also trust the hell out of Robbie's musical opinion. I went ahead and purchased the tickets and decided to trust him even further by not even listening to them. He was completely confident that I'd dig the hell out of them. I wanted to walk in without having heard their music and fall in love on the spot. I am normally not that kind of girl. Normally I like to be really familiar with what I'm about to go and see. I even go as far as looking at set-lists ahead of time, which is horrible. I don't know why I cannot seem to go with the element of surprise anymore. I suppose it just depends on the show.

I was able to go without listening, with bubbling curiosity for weeks, until HOURS BEFORE THE SHOW. I CRACKED. I could not resist. I needed to know what was about to go down. I put on Cokomo and fell in love instantly. Check out Bandcamp for their EP, and donate some extra money, would ya? I went from excited to stoked and continued to play them until it was time to head over for the show, which was over at The Empty Bottle. This is a great little spot to go and check out artists that are rolling through Chicago for the first couple trips through and/or get exposed to new music of both local artists and those on tour.

We got there early and were able to see the two bands that went on ahead of them (there were four bands playing that night); Skip Church, which had this really incredible raw sound that made me think they were on the brink of something real good. The Mad Doctors were there reppin' Brooklyn and throwing around sound (and toilet paper), and third was Sweet Spirit, and sweet it was.

Now, I like to be hospitable for artists I love, along with those rolling through Chicago early on. This was a tasty combo of both. They were here back in April at The Burlington, but unfortunately was completely off my radar. I am glad I was able to catch them on this tour, while it's still nice and intimate. Next time they come through, I doubt that will be the case. I decided to bring them some boxes of cookies from my work. I figured I'd likely be able to leave them somewhere that they would be able to get them or pick them up, but then I realized it would also be a possibility to actually just hand them off to them. I wanted to make sure that they got some of that sweetness back and had some good to enjoy on the road. Luckily, the plan went off without a hitch and it was totally worth carting them around all night. I was able to hand them to Sabrina during their setup, which resulted in a quick, yet nice exchange. I didn't want to hold them up during their time to get prepared, but they sat on stage through the duration of the show and she even came back over to make sure I got a picture of them with her boots (they were some pretty rad boots).


They kicked up the set up with 'Poor' which is such a great starter jam, gets you right into the thick of the groove. The dancing started immediately. The kind of music that just kind of takes you and moves you. The stage presence is fantastic, definitely engaging and full force. Sabrina has a wonderful way of entertaining the crowd and taking command of the environment. Her vocals are right at home on the stage and they hold a unique sound. She belts out fantastic lyrics whilst dancing and throwing her body around in wonderful ways. The rest of the band compliments everything so well, they have a rather large group, and they all work together so well. There was this phenomenal energy that really takes you in. The crowd was definitely feeling that momentum and others joined in the fun of making their bodies move about.

Mid-set she says from the stage she gives me a shout-out from the stage and notes the cookies and gives a shout-out to the Bakery. It was a lovely moment and totally unexpected, since she had already thanked me and had chatted briefly. Hell yeah.

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Highlights for sure included 'Chained & Tied'. 'If You Wanna', & 'Take Me To A Party'. It was such an enjoyable experience from beginning to end. I had such a great time and really absorbed everything that was being thrown down musically. I was lucky enough to snag their set-list, which was HANDWRITTEN! Oh, the glory!

We also bought a fair share of merch; a tshirt, 10" EP, & their 7" single with Britt Daniel (!!!), and we were more than happy to give our money to that band. I ended up going back and trying to get a picture with Sabrina and she was more than happy to comply. It was the cherry on top of a rockin' night and it was all exactly what I needed.


All in all, it was a great show that left me ridin' high. My ears were ringing and my brain was shaken about, rattled up by righteous tunes. I am so thankful that Robbie got at me and told me to check them out. I look forward to seeing where they go from here. They have such an awesome support base and I know that they have some real solid ability. Cannot wait to see them next time they swing through.

Their tour has pretty much wrapped, however, keep and open eye and ear to what is going on with this band. They will be well worth your time and energy! Here's to 'em! 



October 14, 2015

[REVIEW] The Musical Journey: Joan Armatrading

Last Wednesday night, the musical glory was all mine.

I saw THE Joan Armatrading at City Winery. It was the first show of her three scheduled for Chicago. I believe it was her 197th show of this tour. Also, THIS TOUR IS INSANE. I doubt I will ever see a concert shirt like this again.

The anticipation for this show was incredible since I had bought my ticket so far in advance. I never thought that would happen. I remember tweeting;

can we please rally for a Joan Armatrading concert??

I had NO CLUE she was on tour. I assumed she would remain on my artist bucket-list and that I would never have the glory of seeing her perform live. When I decided to see if this was a possibility and then saw that she was actually on tour, I lost it a little (okay, a lot) and frantically looked up tour dates. However, her Chicago shows in April had already been sold out and I could not afford what they were going for from other sources. I also expressed this anxiousness via twitter (yeah, I know) and was informed by Ryan Arnold (THANK YOU!) over at XRT that she would indeed be coming back to City Winery in October. Assurance was mine and I realized that this could actually happen. I snagged the ticket when they went on sale and let the excitement build. I had planned to go solo to this show for a multitude of reasons, which really just consists of the fact that no one I knew had really ever heard of her or wanted to spend the money to do so, but also, I figured it was something I needed to do on my own. I knew it was going to be an emotional night and wanted to just soak it all up without any distractions. 
Six months later, the time had come. October was just getting into gear and the 7th rolled around as quickly as I had wanted it to. I was absolutely over the moon for this show. I had been excited for plenty of other shows and artists before, each one holds their own bit of magic and unique talent. This felt different. I never thought this would happen. I had grown up with her music and then came back to it at a later age and re-connected with it. The songs that were once words and melodies became entangled with meaning and emotion. I needed to see her play those songs live before me. I needed to have that musical closure, the pleasure of seeing it happen.
If you haven't noticed, shows mean A LOT to me. For some people, it's just something they do. For me, it's some serious shit. I want to experience the hell out of that band. I want to dance, I want to feel the vibe of the crowd, and capture the energy in the room. I want to dress according to artist and venue. It's a lot of preparation, mentally and emotionally. So while I'm already rather giddy about shows in general, having a bucket-list show is something I can't necessarily put into words, but here's me trying.
I had never been to City Winery before this event. I had no idea what to anticipate or really where or how I'd be sitting. First of all, I don't like sitting at shows. It's just...sad. Initially, I had purchased a ticket near the back of the venue so I COULD dance. I thought "Perfect, this way, I will only disturb this back group of people!" I arrive and find that the seating is extremely close together, like, airplane style. I was squeezed in there pretty good and knew that this would simply not be my thing. I immediately asked where I could stand or if there was some sort of "groove spot" because dancing, or, well, moving, would not be happening in that seat. She pointed me to an area and I decided to check it out (don't worry, I ordered wine first). It was the most ideal space; tons of room, groovy lighting, and high-top chairs lined along the sides. It was also way closer and had a killer view of the stage. I decided this would be my spot for the show. I had gotten there much too early, it started later than I anticipated, but that's my own fault for not actually looking. When it's Joan Armatrading, you don't have time to read, you just find out a date and a location, and you just show up there. I had two glasses of wine, a fantastic staff, and a lovely crowd of people to keep me company in between sets.
The opener, Kristina Train, was quite fitting for Joan Armatrading. I love when opening bands blow me away. It's such an unexpected feeling, because you're pretty much just there to be there, and then you walk away getting wrapped up in a new artist. Satisfying feeling for sure. That girl was great.
It was requested that no photography took place, and I figured I'd respect that. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the actual concert, but I'm glad didn't have my phone out. I've learned to leave that to the professionals and to just enjoy the experience as it is. Take it in as it's happening.

Once the opener left the stage, Joan's guitars were polished, and the lights were dimmed, the show was ready to start. Joan took the stage to the sound of worthy applause and I dropped to my knees in excitement. That's just some of the random occurrences that will happen for me at a show ("I'm up here!", "I'm down here!", "I'm crying!", "I'm dancing!"). She was about to strum and sing her way into magic.
I had been sincerely hoping that she'd come out and play 'All The Way From America'. It's just the perfect intro song and what I always imagined she'd open with. AND SHE DID. It was absolutely what I had wanted. It reminds me of when I listened to it as a kid, a musical comfort for sure.

She continued to play all of my favorite songs, especially 'Love & Affection', 'The Weakness In Me', & 'Down To Zero', with the exception of 'Prove Yourself''. It was a killer set and it consisted of her doing it all herself. I would have loved to have seen her with a band, but it was nice seeing her up on stage, cranking it out solo. As expected, I cried, I danced, and I sang along. 'Down To Zero' was the one that tugged at my emotions the hardest. I was not expecting that, which made it even better, cathartic even. The range of emotions this show took me on was just as I expected. I'll refer to it as the emotional slap"I was in complete awe the whole time. I could not grasp the fact that it was happening, but I am so glad that it did.

Set-list chocked full of stellar tunes. I was so happy she played 'Rosie' and 'Drop The Pilot' back-to-back. That was a righteous little groove session. We all sang along to 'Willow' for the closer and it was a beautiful experience from beginning to end. Her fans are lovely people and I had some marvelous encounters. I always meet the best people at shows and it's an experience I am grateful for; great conversations about music and life, which for some, is one of the same.

I do have to say, that this time, unfortunately, I did NOT get the set-list. I was caught up in conversation with an awesome woman who stood next to me during the show and missed the chance. And so it goes... There was only one set-list and it belonged to Joan. The guy who got it was just as into the set-list game as I was and beat me to it. While it would have been the cherry on top, it was easy to be happy for him, for I knew how much it had meant to him. I even went to the sound check booth before the show started to see if they had one available and if they'd put it aside for after the show. No such luck. Oh the downfalls of technology (as I write an ONLINE blog)...
Once everything had fully wrapped, my t-shirt was purchased, and the building had cleared, I decided it would be worth it to stay after and try to meet her. I had gotten lucky at shows before and met some of my absolute favorite musicians by doing this. I went out by the tour buses to discover, luckily, that there were a few other people waiting already. I really didn't want to wait that out by myself, but figured that no one there would be into it. I believe I was the youngest one there. People literally came up to me after the show and thanked me for being there and for dancing (my pleasure, folks). I waited amongst some really rad people for a solid 90 minutes with no such luck. She seriously snuck out of that building stealth-style. There were so few of us, so it was a bummer that there wasn't a quick hello or a meet n' greet, but I completely understand that some artists are simply not into that vibe at all. While I understand it, I still wanted it to happen. I do not regret the time waiting one bit. The people I shared that time with made it so much fun. I love the bonds that come from the shared love of music and shows and hearing about show experiences from other enthusiasts.
A top-notch occurrence! At this point, it's like, "Who do I see now?!". I have seen so many musical artists that I never thought I'd get to see live and now I'm just filling in spaces. Trying to see any show and add on to the long lists of artists I've seen. Here's to the next wave of show excitement!

Oct 21. Sweet Spirit @ Empty Bottle
Nov 20. James Bay @ The Riv
Jan 22. Vance Joy @ The Riv


August 4, 2015

The Lolla Laydown / 2015

Ah, what a weekend! What a glorious weekend that has so many aspects that I absolutely live for; sunshine, live music, groovin' amongst the people, and SO MANY GOOD VIBES. Yes, Lollapalooza took place this past weekend and it's safe to say that it is my ultimate happy place. While I've only attended three years now, I feel that I've made the absolute most of them, soaking up every ounce of the glory. The glory is always mine!

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The line-up came out in, oh, I don't know, March? I remember that day. I remember thinking that it was something I needed to check immediately at work and did not care of the repercussions of checking material that was not relevant to the job itself. When I saw who was expected to play, I believe I literally squealed, or made some unbearably loud noise for being in a store-front environment. Then I think I took it to another level by running around and verbally expressing my excitement in words that probably didn't make sense, very likely I was just attempting to string sentences together involving Florence and drooling on myself in the process. IT WAS HAPPENING, MY QUEEN WAS HEADLINING! FINALLY.

However, while Florence + The Machine sealed the deal, SIR PAUL McCARTNEY?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Alabama Shakes? Oh yeah! Alt-J? For sure! Glass Animals? Sign. Me. Up. The bands looked solid and I needed to be there. Luckily, all went well with acquiring tickets and I knew I had a way into the happiest weekend on earth, well, two tickets. I decided that Friday and Sunday were my best routes to go and they certainly did not disappoint.

See, the thing about Lollapalooza, is that it serves as something you look forward to all summer. It's something you endure, something you do in the name of loving music. So many amazing artists come together and beat the heat to give us some of the best festival performances we've ever seen. We meet new people while running into old friends. It's the range of options you have before you, the different types of music, where there's truly something for everyone. It is the best feeling to be under that skyline whilst observing and taking in everything that is going on around you. LOLLAPALOOZA IS MAGIC.

But it's also unbearable heat and humidity in between the evacuations from the festival due to thunderstorms. It's going with the flow, checking out artists you've never heard of, and finding a place to groove in the lawn. It's planning your bathroom breaks accordingly so you don't have to leave your favorite artist when you're near the front in a sea made up of thousands of people. It's having to deal with the Bud-Light only beer options. It's grabbing a slice of Lou's deep dish or a pulled pork sandwich from Smoke Daddy and sittin' on the curb promising yourself that this is all totally great for your immune system. It's all part of the glory, the MAGIC.

______________________________Friday, July 31st

2:15. Glass Animals: YES. I am so glad I got to see them in time. I was actually quite worried because I wasn't sure how early I was going to go and whether or not I was going to go solo. I ended up going early to catch them because I knew I could not miss them. I got EXTREMELY lucky with timing. I walked up as they played my three favorite songs; 'Gooey', 'Pools', and 'Hazey' - they also threw a Kanye cover in there 'Love Lockdown'. They did a hell of a job making it their own style, it was delivered exceptionally well. I wish I could have seen them in a more intimate setting, like the Bottom Lounge for their pre-show, but groovin' in the field to their tunes was quite fantastic, and groove I did. Things got funky.

3:30. Father John Misty: I checked him out for the sole purpose of checking him out. I have heard a lot of wonderful things about him but have never given his music a fair chance. I figured seeing him live would be a wonderful way to do that. I dug his grooves; definitely something you see with a best friend or a sweetheart, and not necessarily solo unless you're more familiar, but that's okay. He was fucking hilarious. He said some of the funniest stuff from the stage that made it that much more worth it.

::crowd member shouts out question::

FJM: "Oh, so you wanna ask questions, do you want like a fucking Q & A session? Is that what you want? Okay, what?"

Random crowd member: "Do you want to go to brunch?"

FJM: "They asked if I wanted to go to brunch. I don't eat brunch. ::long pause:: I eat lunch twice. Let's hear it for that!"

::crowd cheers::

FJM: "This is way too easy."

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5:45. Alabama Shakes: OH, HELL YES. This was just one of the reasons I was so revved for this festival. I saw them back in March at my beloved venue, The Chicago Theatre. I even was lucky enough to meet Brittany outside after the show. She is a beautiful human being. Despite being blown away by them in that venue, I knew that they thrived in an outdoor setting. QUEUE IT UP! I hadn't heard Sound and Color before the previous show from a few months ago, but now, having become very familiar with it (okay, in love with it), my excitement was on point. As usual, they were phenomenal. They experienced some technical difficulties, but was fixed in a matter of minutes and seemed even better when Brittany boomed "BROKE THE FUCKIN' P.A. SYSTEM!". Perfect.

7:45. Sir Paul McCartney: I can tell you right now, that going in Friday, I never expected to get rocked that hard. I mean, I was expecting him to be awesome, I just didn't fathom that it would be as life-changing as it was. The crowd around us was chocked full of beautiful people who were looking to groove, share the spirit, and soak up every ounce of what was happening before us. We danced endlessly, sang along to every song, and LOST OUR MINDS.

Let me tell you, my number one show will always be Florence + The Machine, December 4th at Chicago Theater, HOWEVER, this was just a different circumstance and experience.

I have never had an experience like this at a show before, and that could be for a few different reasons. I am so grateful that I was there that night. So many tears of sheer joy. It really took so much out of me in the best possible way. Let's not forget how he pulled Brittany Howard from Alabama Shakes on stage to accompany him in rocking the hell out of 'Get Back'. MINDSPLITTING.

Me and Dan were happy clams watchin' Paul McCartney.
(except, yeah, we're not actually watching him in this picture, I get that)

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_____________________________Sunday, August 2nd


While the weather looked nice and tasty that morning, people who had looked at the weather (it's Chicago, so EVERYONE), knew we were expecting storms. I saunter in with my two friends just as they announced evacuation. BEAUTIFUL! Of course, you could see the storms brewing to the west, getting ready to charge at the "Lollapalooz-ums (thanks, Paul)." We all dealt with it, found some shelter somewhere, and came back in at 3:30 after standing unbearably close in humid conditions at the gate front. Crowd mentality at its finest. They got things moving real quickly though. You can't blame them for taking such precautions. This jived up the schedule a little bit, so times below may not be accurate, just going off memory. Sunday was really just vibing with what my friends wanted to do. There's a handful of bands I wanted to see, but there's always only so many you can get to. Sharing the experience with friends makes these shows that much better it seems. 


3:30. Moon Taxi: Okay, sure. Why not. We were there, we wanted a field to sit in, and the tunes sounded good. REALLY good, actually. I was pleasantly surprised. That's what I love about festivals. Your ability to never hear of someone, decide to check them out on a whim, and fall in love with their tunes. Our goal was to sit in the lawn, I ended up groovin' instead.

4:30 (give or take). Angus & Julia Stone: a friend in the group wanted to see them and I wanted to ride their vibe for awhile. They ended up being pretty rad. Of course, everyone was over the moon when they played 'Big Jet Plane'. I loved that song without paying proper attention to who it was. It will happen when it keeps coming up on your Rdio playlists when you aren't paying attention.

5:15. Odesza: Okay, we really just wanted to sit down and hang out because someone in our group wanted to see A$AP Rocky, who was playing on the same stage a bit later. I think we just really wanted to hunker down in one area, which was perfectly acceptable in yesterday's heat. However, they were rather engaging, and I liked them, and if I wasn't trying to preserve my legs for Florence, then I would have been womp, womp, wompin' all around that lawn.

6:30. Gogol Bordello: Watched his set from a distance while we sat in-between both stages. He's always a funky performer. Of course, I was quite stoked when he played 'Start Wearing Purple', because, well, who can disagree with that?

7:15. A$AP Rocky: Initially, I did not think I'd be seeing him, however, when you have a friend who really wants to see with it, you go, and you're more often than not, pleasantly surprised. While this would have been something I don't think I would have gone to other wise, I'm glad I did. It's just a fun time, especially when you're with two girls who dig the groove.

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Bre, Me, and Bailey waiting for ze Queen!

9:00. FLORENCE + THE MACHINE: WHAT I WAS WAITING FOR! MY SIXTH FLORENCE SHOW! I always get extremely anxious and emotional when I see Florence. I don't know why, but I think I just want everything to go really smoothly and enjoy every minute of it without anything getting in the way of that. Basically I treat it like it's a damn wedding day or prom moment or something.

I wanted to be really close in the crowd, but not so close that I wouldn't be able to move or dance. I require plenty of that, especially room to cry and get down on the ground in fetal position. Weird things happen for me at Florence shows, but they're always epic. Last night was no exception.

By the time she had come on, the sky had turned into a tumultuous mix of gorgeously dispersed lightning, strong winds, and distant storms. Here is the thing, Florence is really her own force of nature, and having the meteorological spectacle going on behind us as she performed was just, well, electrifying to say the least. She never fails to bring full force energy when she comes to Chicago, hell, when she goes ANYWHERE. I was so happy that SO many people got to be exposed to her live performance last night. So many people were absolutely blown away, and as usual, so was I. The real cherry on top was when she said she'd be playing 'St. Jude'.

That song carries so much weight for me. I have been listening to it constantly for weeks straight and am absolutely in love with the song and the music video (it's rare to have both). It's just heavy. It's pure emotion. The first chord played, and I lost it. Immediately burst into tears and just rocked back and forth, taking in the musical glory. Of course, during this, I fell to my knees and sobbed a bit more. I love when this happens at shows. This is pivotal. One moment you're up dancing around and singing having a great time, and the next song has you completely caved, on the ground, sobbing. THAT IS THE BEAUTY OF MUSIC. Your favorite artists should be able to move you like that. That's what Florence does for me. And I am so grateful for that.

That moment where she mimicked the video and put her fingers in her mouth and extended her hand outward toward the crowd - THAT WAS EVERYTHING.

While the lightning provided a glorious backdrop in addition to our city skyline, it's ultimately what ended up cutting the show short. She was going to play until 10:30 with the schedule re-do, but due to the approaching storm, got cut off around 9:45/50. This meant only 45 minutes versus the 1hr 30min that was planned. However, even seeing her at all was a such a treat. They played a glorious array of songs and the ones they did play were quite perfect and fitting for the setting. She kept spirits and energy high by bursting into the crowd, running through the aisle, and of course, taking off her shirt during 'Dog Days', making the security guard sprint for his job. So. Glorious.

1) What The Water Gave Me 2) Ship To Wreck 3) Shake It Out 4) Rabbit Heart 5) Cosmic Love 6) Delilah 7) St Jude 8) What Kind of Man 9) Dog Days Are Over

Florence's Scoreboard (taken from her Facebook)

All in all, this weekend was fantastic. I am so glad that I got to experience another wonderful year at Lollapalooza. I really don't have too many pictures; I tried to experience as much as possible without taking pictures or trying to get video. There were some things that I do feel had to be captured, and of course, I always need a picture of me looking overly excited in a field!

I hope everyone who went had an amazing time this weekend and had some sort of life-changing musical moment. I certainly did. Here's those who live for the music!


June 3, 2015

[REVIEW] How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful ♥

THE TIME HAS COME. Florence, along with her glorious machine, released their third album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful earlier this week (June 1st- UK Release, June 2nd- US Release). I can tell you, it's causing quite a stir among the Flows; her utterly devoted fan base who thrives on any information, music, or news Florence related, and considers the first album listen a sacred experience (or is that just me?).

I would like to give you some idea of how long I've been waiting for this, but I cannot provide such information. Florence has miraculous timing, both lyrically and emotionally, when it comes to releasing her new material. I always seem to align beautifully with what she's trying to convey within her songs. The timing is almost essential to ensure my well-being. If you have ever read this blog, or talked to me for about 45 seconds, you know that I have some history with Florence. With all of her albums, I can remember the first time I heard them all, very clearly. That first listen is extremely important to me.

We all knew this album would be a little different. We knew she wanted to use horns, we knew she wanted a big sound, we just weren't sure in what form we'd be getting that in. Her voice, is obviously the most essential instrument here, it always has been (don't tell Tom...). We were given 'What Kind of Man' a couple months ago as a lovely introduction to this album; a song that, by the end, stirs up quite a bit of energy, and is delivered in an almost angry manner that holds a bucket full of emotion and bitterness. You knew that her vibe was changing, but in the right way, a lovely progression for a lovely artist.

'What Kind of Man'

Then came along 'Ship To Wreck' which immediately piqued my interest. It was very different from the first single. You could hear the despair and contemplation of her past actions coated thick with musicality, and portrayed in a cheery way that made you long for hearing it at a festival (I'm looking at you, Lollapalooza). This is highway music. This makes you want to cruise past all of your emotions and just get to the place you want to be, past the questioning, past the regret. 'Delilah' brought another round of fun to the singles that were released, similar to 'Ship To Wreck', but still ringing true to that tinge of anger we hear in 'What Kind of Man', but this one holds more realization. I feel this track rings so true to any girl who's ever waited around and put things aside in the name of getting what she wants from the man she's after. In this instance, it's that phone call you keep checking your phone to see if you missed, that response or answer you're longing for.

'Ship To Wreck'


In my eyes, Florence can do no wrong. This album, as a whole, is absolutely fantastic. I feel like we have some of the same Florence we've always had, but with distinct variations that give this album, and Florence, a stronger presence. Her look has toned down in certain elements, she almost has this raw approach to the music she's creating right now, and I love it. Every time I see her lately, I just get a major David Bowie/Patti Smith vibe from her. You can see influences from Patti and PJ in this one, but to me, she will always be able to hold her own without much comparison. She's always embraced anger and rocky emotions in her music, making the melancholy moments seem almost magical through her lyrics and ability to emulate that emotion through her vocals. There are certain songs that really exhibit her vocal ability as we hear trails of her voice gliding along beautifully on the high notes, an almost dreamy effect. Her albums always have a lovely range of those softer, sweeter songs, mixed in with songs that engulf you whole and leave you with a reaction that just makes you want to jump around a bit, and release whatever strife is stirring about inside.

I'd have to say, after giving this about 7-8 full run-throughs at this point (first listen for me was yesterday morning) that my favorite songs, besides the early releases, which include 'What Kind of Man', 'Delilah', 'Ship To Wreck', and 'St. Jude', because I love them all, would have to be 'Hiding (Bonus Track)' and 'Mother'. The former has such a gorgeous sound to it, it's so sad, but perhaps hits me the most. 'Mother' has so much strength embedded within, it almost has a gospel effect. But let me tell you, 'Which Witch' is phenomenal and carries a different vibe that isn't your typical Florence, but it completely works. It almost has a tribal effect or something you'd hear at some sort of religious induction ceremony (you get that feeling at the end). It absolutely takes me each time I hear it. The title track, 'How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful' is also, well, beautiful. The use of the horns in this song give it a majestic presence. A presence that lets you know that the soundtrack for summer emotions reside within this album. The song favorites will obviously change over the course of time, and each some will have it's own way of hitting me as time progresses. They will move me in ways I cannot quite explain.

I am so over the moon that it is finally here and that I love it all the way through. I knew that I would, but the possibility of not loving it as much as past material is always a bit scary. I'd love to know what you guys are thinking about this album and your favorite tracks. Of course, when it comes to Florence, I always have more to say, but this is where I stand right now.

She nailed it yet again, head on. Thank you, Florence. Thank you SO much. Xx


September 25, 2014

Another awesome wave, but This Is All Yours.

Ah, it's been awhile. However, I like to come out of the woodwork to talk about great things or things that hold importance to me. Alt-J's latest release of This Is All Yours definitely makes that list.


After seeing them in March 2013 over at The Metro, having the lucky encounter of meeting Gus afterwards, and then seeing them again at Lollapalooza that year, I was all about Alt-J. Seeing how much they have grown, not only musically, but also in terms of their fan-base, is awesome. I was over the moon about An Awesome Wave (and I still am), and while I like so many of the songs on their own, I still believe the album is better listened to in full. It seems it was completely intended that way, and rightfully so. This Is All Yours definitely holds that same effect. Like their first album, which remember, snagged the Mercury Prize, there are some parts that are scary slow, almost like a melodic dream sequence. I like that effect in albums, as long as there is some sort of nice variation throughout. I feel like Alt-J knows what they're doing with this. If you recall, An Awesome Wave was loaded with small interludes (three of them to be exact), all contrasting between the heavier jams, like 'Fitzpleasure', 'Breezeblocks', and 'Tessellate', which were all absolute works of art and are some of my favorites. Trying to pick an favorite off of that album is like trying to pick the best kind of pizza- they're ALL good. I highly recommend just buying their first album, but if you can't do that, check it out HERE.

What I really enjoy about Alt-J is their ability to have such a cathartic effect. The range of emotions that their songs are able to cover is absolutely astounding. You get that feeling of grit it one song, and then float away on the melody of another. On their latest, they are down a member. Gwil had left the band, and the three that were left created a musical journey. On This Is All Yours, like the former, 'Intro', kicks this one off. I absolutely love the later version, perhaps even more than I liked the initial. It feels like a destination whenever I listen to it. It offers some sort of vibe that I cannot quite fully explain, perhaps the figurative feeling of someone unscrewing your capsule of inhibitions and thoughts and letting them swirl around in some other setting in some other place. 'Arrival In Nara' is one of those "scary slow" songs that almost acts as an interlude, however, it allocates you to have some sort of escapism within the flow of the song. The lyrics are beautiful and falls upon such a glowing harmony of notes. It makes me think of a million things at once, and the song seems to become my backdrop for all of those thoughts and emotions I'm currently feeling. It's nice to have songs that are this gentle, it's just unfortunate that most of the time I prefer some sort of groove to my jams. As I stated before, it's one of those songs that works when sampling the entire album. Then you have 'Left Hand Free' which sounds like something that The Black Keys and Tom Petty had a say-so on; it's got that freedom to it, that scratch of twang and pop. It's the obvious choice for the single off of this album, but there's so much more to explore, since most of the album doesn't sound like this. You can most likely find me going crazy to 'Hunger of The Pine' or 'The Gospel of John Hurt', which both have an excellent vibe to them. A little bit groovy, a little bit dark, but definitely lay the vibe down thick. 'Bloodflood P II' is a rad follow up for sure. A relaxing and beautiful add-on to the awesome 'Bloodflood' from An Awesome Wave. Again, it's hard to choose just one song that hits me the right way, because so many of them do. This album just has this earthy vibe, a tribal effect; some songs just make you feel this awesome sense of connection. Maybe that's just me, but I feel that it is a truly beautiful album. Alt-J knows how to put some exquisite sounds together and merge some of the most magical things into musical perfection, there are so many parts that are so emotional and so gentle...

Needless to say, it is absolutely worth your time. I wish I had an open field surrounded by forests, a phenomenal pair of headphones, and a warm breeze to properly listen to this album, to fully let it sink in.  However, any other way works, I promise.

April 10, 2014

Time To Burn: A Smoker's Opinion on Cigarettes.

Alright, now I'm hoping this post won't be a drag, but I've been wanting to conjure up a few thoughts on something that I've been doing for roughly three and a half years. That "thing" would be smoking cigarettes. Now, I'd like to say I know what you're thinking, but it's not like that. I don't even know how I feel about it. Still. I knew when I started occasionally bumming cigarettes that I would likely become hooked, or have some desire to carry out that lifestyle full-time, but it wasn't like that, and then again, it sort of was.

I made a conscious decision that if I was going to smoke cigarettes, I would act as if I had some conscious idea about what I was doing...and I did.

I told myself that if I did decide to ever buy a pack, it would be something that wouldn't kill me quite as fast. That for me was American Spirits. Perhaps it was a throwback to when I obsessively read Gossip Girl in Freshman year of high school...

"She sat down next to Blair and pulled a crumpled turquoise-colored pack of American Spirits out of her
pocket. She’d started smoking them when she and Aaron had gotten together, because they were
supposed to be all natural and additive-free." ...okay excuse that.

When I first started picking up packs, one would last me a little over a week and that smoking lifestyle lasted for quite awhile. I guess you don't really remember what makes you gradually smoke more and more as time goes on, but I'm guessing it's attributed to the smoker's environment and playbook...oh and stress level? Once people know you smoke, you're more likely to end up smoking, even when you don't even have the desire, because at this point, it becomes a social habit. It's still odd to me, because I went from being indifferent to cigarettes, to absolutely hating them and finding them pointless, to acceptance, to actually becoming a smoker. It's been quite the journey.

Despite all of the facts about smoking; how addicting it is, the destruction it leads to, the toxins you're adding to your body, the need, the craving...it's not like that for me..but then again, it sort of is. I DO feel cooler when I smoke, but I'm sure it's all in my head. In my short three years of smoking (yeah, I know, in the scheme of anything, that's not a long period of time for such a habit), I can't say I've ever "craved" a cigarette. I have never found a cigarette so dire that it comes before anything else. I always try to figure out WHY I smoke. I used to be so against smoking something that really gave you little added benefits, besides temporary stress relief (which smokers know is a vital reason), but then I guess I sort of came to this minor understanding that for ME, it's about taking a moment to focus on breathing and to just do something so mindless and simplistic that gives you a reason to be outside. While I have committed to American Spirits for the most part, there have been other brands that I have fallen in love with over my smoky little journey, those would be Nat Sherman, Dunhill, and Hestia. I guess you can say that I go for higher quality tobacco, or a "lighter" smoke. I like the idea of American Spirits, but I hate the idea that they are still owned under big tobacco, R.J. Reynolds, who doesn't seem so pleased with other companies having the ability to call their tobacco "all natural and additive free"...

I've even saved empty packs of nights that held importance.
The night I smoked from on December 4, 2012 (Florence show)
and the pack I smoked on my 24th birthday.

Fantasias, hands down, have to be one of my favourite things to smoke.
They are such a wonderful conversation starter and they smoke super light.
I don't like overpowering tobacco, so sipping on these in the summertime is perfect.
Of course, I still flip a lucky even in these packs. Got to!

red on red, baby.

However, for the daily smoke or for the night out, Naturals and Black and Golds are the way to go.
I love the box for these and they smoke like the Fantasias. I'd LOVE if they came out with an
"Ice Pack" and it contained menthol cigarettes wrapped in different shades of blue.

I've never been a big fan of the mainstream cigarette brands; Marlboro, Camel, Parliaments...none of those seemed like the right choice for me. I knew better than that. I have never bought a pack of these, have I bummed them, sure, but even in desperation, I will pass up the cheaper, shittier smoke to find what won't leave me feeling nauseous when I get midway through. To each their own, I know people that absolutely disdain what I smoke, so it just depends what you start with, the amount of effort you're used to exerting for your drag, and how long it lingers for. Cigarettes, although all there for the same purpose, have such particular tastes for particular people. It's all about preference.

For me, cigarette smoking has always been built on a social occasion. I prefer puffing a cigarette with the company of someone else. I believe that smoking should be a leisurely thing; a moment in your day where you pause, inhale, and sort your thoughts and chit chat. I disdain the smoking happenstance where you throw on your coat and kick back puffs until you're no longer freezing and you become relieved once your cig is too short to puff. With this brutal winter, smoking was a real pain for people like me. I didn't WANT to make it something that lasted a short period of time, because that's not why I smoke cigarettes. It almost became a "Hey, let's go smoke for some reason for us to get out of this house", but needless to say, I survived.

Then, thanks to social networking, Hestia got at me when I posted a picture of a convenient store haul that included to packs of American Spirits. They told me a bit about them and encouraged me to give 'em a try. I went to their website, and ordered "just two packs", which is just $12. Here's the thing; as I said, I like natural tobacco, and choosing a smarter vice. I prefer to give my money to small business and something I believe in, versus something of less quality that will ultimately have worse consequences. So Hestia's thing is that they sell only online in order to keep costs down, which is smart. I like their whole idea, I like what they're striving for, and it's a company I feel comfortable promoting and telling people about (if you only knew how many people I've actually talked about them to...my god). The company has also been fabulous in their social marketing/networking and I always respect a company who's equipped with proper social skills via online interactions. They respected the fact I was promoting them, and regardless of the fact I had put my order in, they left a pack for me to pick up and enjoy for free at the Lincoln Hotel so I could start enjoying them sooner. This was a super swell move on their end. While hopefully this wasn't a huge inconvenience for them, it definitely made me feel like a valued customer.

Photo: Me and my new @hestiatobacco swag!
Here's me outside the hotel with my Hestia swag

So my opinions on the actual smoke? Hestia's are awesome, however, they would not necessarily replace my daily cigarette consumption. They're definitely a more reserved smoke that shouldn't be sucked down 6 times a day, in my opinion. Perfect for the summer nights. The tobacco in there is fantastic, it's the paper that may give it the biggest difference. Since it is cigar paper, it definitely has that cigar taste. I enjoy cigars, but I can't smoke them anywhere near a daily basis. They burn slower, so you have your 6-8 minute burn with one of these bad boys. I love the packaging design, although, with the way I shove things around in my pocket, I'd need to muster up one of those cigarette holders to slide inside the package, because the package itself is a great little conversation stater, much like the Nat Shermans. Like I said, I've told a ton of people about this product and have given them out to share and have people try them. That's what I like doing most, is finding something new and different, and spreading the word like wildfire (not that I would start any wildfires...). I really like being that person that shares that new product with people in order to have them try something that they're not familiar with. So do I recommend smokers ordering a couple packs from their site? Absolutely, because even though I don't use them as a daily smoke, others might. Others might enjoy them much more than their cigarettes their consuming now. Plus, as stated above, two packs cost LESS than one of the packs you're grabbing from the shelves now, IF you're a city dweller, but you suburb folks can afford to switch it up a bit for a new breed of smoking. You won't regret it trying something different!

I mean, awesome, right?

I'd love to hear any opinions on what you smoke now or what you think about any of these brands listed. These companies are great about social networking as well if you want to give them a little love; Nat Shermans: @Nat42nd and Hestia: @HestiaTobacco.

All in all, I smoke cigarettes with the twinge of regret and pure joy. I enjoy stepping out and taking a moment to puff on something with good flavor, but I am conscious of what I'm doing to my body; lungs, skin, teeth, etc, so I do try to do what I can to make up for my habits. I will also say, that if I ever noticed any effect on my aerobic activity, I would have cut back, because that's motivation enough. For being a smoker, I am very active and do not have the struggle of coughing or gasping for breath after a solid amount of cardiovascular activity. It scares me that this won't always be the case. While I enjoy smoking, and I'll support these brands no matter what, there will eventually naturally come a time where I will hang up the habit. That time is not now, but it is in the eventual horizon. My opinion? If you're going to smoke, make it the good stuff.

.    .    .


February 3, 2014

The Art of Make-Up // Lessons Learned

Finally. A chance to sit down and write about this topic that's been bouncing around in my head for the past year. Yeah, it's make-up related, okay, well it's only about make-up, but it's the journey that I've been on with it that makes it seem worthy of talking about. As of right now, I would consider myself a pretty big fan of make-up. I wear it every day, I get way too excited about new palettes, and hell, even old palettes, and it's something that always has the ability to vary depending on the day and the mood. If you would have pulled me aside, say, I don't know, 12 months ago and asked me where I stood on make-up, there probably would have been no definitive answer. Sure, I wore it and had a pretty good selection of random drug-store products from the past years, with a few higher-end GWPs my mom would pass on to me, but I hadn't come to appreciate it yet.

This makes me think of the time where my dad took me out shopping when I was in the eighth grade and I wanted to browse around Sephora. He let me have one of those whole make-over deals where they make you look all natural even though they use 15 different things, and was so sweet and bought me most of the things she used on me. This was a rare event for my dad and I. First enough to be out shopping, and then him footing the bill for this make-up regime that would hopefully make me look a bit better. I brought all this stuff home and hardly used it. However, I realized its worth, kept it over the years, and made sure to dabble in it over time. I was never one for taking longer to get ready than really necessary. I always tried to have my outfits picked out in advance and my makeup kept to the same products in order to necessitate pretty much the same look each day. I also never really understood how someone could spend so much money on something like make-up. I always kind of stuck to that whole you-can-get-more-for-less when it came to buying new stuff and always stayed within conventional brands. I loved the idea of toying with outrageous colors and looks, but could never quite get it right and it always seemed a bit intimidating. Oh, I'm sorry, I mean really intimidating. 

I was never really "shown" how to do my make-up. Okay, I probably was, and my mom is reading this with her head in her hands because I can't remember the time she taught me the proper way to apply blush. I did however spend a large amount of time sporting a decent bit when I was a kid,due to skating competitions, but I wasn't a make-up prodigy at a young age...or at any age really. I mean, I cared about how I looked and I did my face up well for having the tools at hand that I did. Now it's a bit of a different story.

Cue up to last February, ha, actually, a year ago TODAY, where I got recruited to work at Ulta. The three current managers had pranced into my restaurant where they were greeted by me, their hostess. There I was, chatting them up whilst seating them, and upon the ring-out, they had asked me if I was interested in a position.

This is actually me on THAT day last year.
This was the very thing I was wearing. I was in support
of the Ravens who had won the Superbowl the night before,
and was wearing as much purple and gold as I could muster.
I mean, I knew how to do my make-up, I had
the cat-eye going in this picture, but it just seems like a forgery now...

I had taken them up on their offer and was kind of over-the-moon about the whole thing. First off, I will say, that I was recruited for sure on my personality. I connected really well with this group of gals. It definitely was not for my skills in the application department. So I started working there and I could tell there was a lot to learn. A LOT. Like I said, I had never really CARED about HOW make-up was applied, I just went for it and hoped for the best. I had such a small clue about what thing was better than the other, and how a different brush could make a world of difference. I asked the girls so many questions about products, especially during 28 Days of Beauty and other campaigns with large sales on certain items, and ended up building up my inventory beautifully. I got some great items for some great prices, and I even got things that I had no real idea what they were for, but found out how to use them, and became attached. We had a lovely little discount there and such a rad group of girls who knew their stuff when it came to all things beauty. It was such an awesome experience to be thrown into an environment like that, where people come to you for questions and opinions. You're forced to learn it really quick and get your recommendations straight. What you always end up learning in life, some things at different points depending on the product at hand, is that you're going to have to pay more for quality. Quality often does not come cheap and requires a bit of investing and brand loyalty. Did I feel bad recommending the $22 mascara over the $8? No, because you're going to use less at a time and be happier with your turnout. It's hard to say that though, because even though I KNOW high-end products and cosmetics have a better turnout, it can be hard to justify spending certain amounts on certain items. It's about knowing what products are worth the money, and what products can be supplemented. I became attached to quite a few brands over the course of working there, specifically Urban Decay, Benefit, LORAC, and Smashbox. I recommended these brands often and tried to learn as much as I could about various products. Even for the six months I did work at Ulta, I still couldn't fully nail it, I still wasn't fully armed with a proper make-up stash.

What was funny, was that even though I bought so much when I worked there, ever since I've left, I've been able to buy more, even without my discount. When my transfer fell through when I moved and I came to terms with the fact that I'd no longer be an Ulta girl, I still found myself turning to that store when it came to my beauty needs. I had fallen in love with the aspect of high-end makeup, bright colors, contouring, brush sets, palettes, and of course, $22 mascara. Some real stellar coupons came my way, gift cards from Christmas, and of course a small influx of money, which led to some real awesome purchases over the past couple months. With what I'm currently equipped with, and having my experiences working at Ulta and recommending products and inspiring beauty, I honesty feel I have such a large appreciation for make-up. I know, that sounds exceptionally lame, but hear me out.

An artist sits down at an easel and pulls out brushes and paints, and lays them out around them. Depending on the mood or the vision for that day, they'll pick up a brush, dabble it in color, and begin to create. They'll grab another brush and accent whatever it is they've just applied to the page, and they'll continually build and add on and modify. This is what putting on make-up feels like each day for me, and for so many other people. The options seem endless, the looks you can create have little limit. The brushes you choose to use will create the effect, and how you wish to apply it can make all the difference. It's fascinating to me how much I learned in the past year about something I've been doing for the past 12 years. There are certain things you realize you simply do not need, but you also discover those products that make your life just that much better. People constantly knock make-up as something one uses to cover up true personality or call it a form of deception. Many are there for the expression, accentuation, and art aspects. For years I did my make-up in such a boring way to satisfy the fact I was wearing it and getting by. Now that I have the tools and the means, I'm given so many more options.

 The daily mashup: Napoleon Perdis Primer, Neutrogena or Benefit foundation, Physician's Formula minearl powder, Hoola Bronzer by Benefit, High Beam by Benefit, Erase Paste by Benefit, LORAC eye primer, Inika loose powder, Laura Gellar baked marble eyeshadow, Smashbox Sparks wondervision palette, & NYX brow powder.

I ordered this mother of all brush sets on BHCosmetics. I initially got it to add in a few brushes
as gifts, and then took my functioning brushes and added them in with the set and kept the rest of them.

Ahh. My mascara/eye liner bag. This is chocked full of goodies. My mom scored me this set;
that allowed me to boost up on certain products. Smashbox, CK One, and Benefit
have to make some of the best mascaras and I'm stoked they were all in this kit.
 I use the liquid liner by LORAC and I think it's just the bee's knees.
I love it and it was such a remarkable change switching from Revlon to Front of The Line in terms of look and application ability. I honestly shuffle between mascara all the time because I have so many
lurking in the bag. I absolutely adore colored lashes, so I have purple, turquoise, and blue mascara all on lock, but green mascara would be pretty righteous as well...

Confessions of a Concealaholic was also another must-have for me.
It came equipped with a mini primer and erase paste that I use often. I love
this concealer and recommend it for sure.

Stila's self-adjusting blush is Coral is pretty rad and always a part of the daily game.
....yeah I dropped it. :(

 The choices! Some days are harder than others on trying to pick a look to go for. These palettes pretty much sum-up what you need to have in terms of shadow colors. I adore these palettes and recommend them any chance I get. Lorac Glo-Getter & Pro Palette, Urban Decay's Naked 3, Vice 2, and Ammo Palette. Smashbox's Wondervision Mega palette. They all have awesome pigment and a great range of colors within each palette, which makes them all pretty worthy of owning.

Here's some recent & decent shots that show off the make-up.


So all-in-all, the whole process felt like a journey. Not having any clue and wanting to spend very little time on these things transformed into me being able to recommend products and likely spend up to 25+ minutes on my makeup. I'm just glad that I had motivation that gave me that opportunity to learn more about something that seemed so frivolous before. It's time well spent; it does dive right into that artistic tone and gives you the freedom to accentuate and create what you'd like upon your face. It's not deception, it's an art form.

x x