Top Ten Songs That Tell Stories

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is an audio freebie.  It was difficult for me to narrow down my focus–should I do favorite albums?  Favorite podcasts?  Something more themed?

In the end, I decided to center this week’s list around songs that tell stories.  I know that almost every song tells a story in some way.  I could EASILY write a paragraph about each song and why I love it–about the characters, the plot, the writing… but I’m going to let the songs speak for themselves.  Hope you enjoy!

1.) Cleopatra by The Lumineers

2.) Josh McBride by The Head and the Heart Continue reading

Traveling Solo: Thoughts From the Road

I’m about two weeks into my European adventure… and boy, is it going fast.  It feels like yesterday that I was preparing to leave L’Abri and now I’ve been to Scotland, Holland, and Germany.  There are so many posts I want to write, but every time I sit down, I’m too exhausted to find the words.

(On a side note, if you want more frequent updates, I post photos regularly on Instagram.  My username is ameliab648.  I keep my account private, so send a request.)

Maybe some day, I’ll tell you about the two days I spent in Utrecht with my Dutch friends, Jorijn and Petra.  Maybe someday, I’ll tell you about wandering the beautiful town of Heidelberg, Germany.  Maybe someday, I’ll tell you about all the footage I’m taking on my phone for videography projects.

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Heidelberg, Germany
Today, though, I’ll tell you that traveling alone is hard, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.  After months surrounded by people all the time, it is sometimes comforting to be alone. Sometimes, though, it’s not.  It’s lonely and, at points, I long for someone to share my adventures with.  Often times, I’ll go a full day without having a single conversation.  When I come to stretches of my journey where I’m staying with people, I find it hard to stop talking.  All the words that have been building rush out.

So far, I have only had one emotional meltdown and that was because I forgot to take care of my basic needs.  When you haven’t eaten or slept for a long time, your body tends to shut down.  In order to pay for all the museums and castles (and ensure that I’ll still have money when I get home) I’m keeping myself on a tight budget, so most of my meals have been supermarket food–sandwiches, yogurt, bananas, salad, nuts.  It’s healthy food and keeps me going.  I do like to splurge once in every country to try an authentic meal.

I’ve learned that half the battle is the hostel.  When living on the road, it’s important to feel secure in the place you sleep.  No matter where I am, I see my bed as a safe place, a refuge from the chaos of the world.  My bed is my temporary home. In it, I can relax, breathe, and have peace.  There are other things, though, that make or break a hostel: cleanliness, locker space in the rooms, plugs by every bed, good wifi, and a self service kitchen.  It’s important to know that my laptop and phone will have a place to charge, that my belongings will be secure when I am gone, and that I can cook a hot meal for myself.

As I journey from place to place on busses, trains, and airplanes, I usually pass the time with a book.   I’m reading That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis, the final novel in his Space Trilogy.  It’s a pretty heavy book, so I’m taking my time with it. Being in the Scottish Highlands put me in the mood for Susanna Kearsley, who writes historical romances.  I’ve finished The Winter Sea and am close to the end of The Firebird.

Another important part of any adventure is the soundtrack!  Music helps me stay sane as I wait out long bus rides and navigate strange cities.  Since its release on Friday, I’ve been listening non-stop to The Lumineers’ new album, Cleopatra. Here’s the title track:

I wish I could write more, but I’m off to catch my bus to Nuremberg… Until next time!

Weekend Coffee Share: Tired, Overwhelmed, and The Oh Hellos

If we were having coffee, you’d know right away that I am a mess.  My week was awful.

You see, I’m not a crier.  I’ll go for months and months without shedding a tear.  This doesn’t mean I’m not emotional–I definitely am.  My emotions just don’t manifest in tears very often.

That being said, I’ve had FOUR meltdowns this week.

Three happened in my car.  The first of these took place after the first training session for my new job.  The second was this morning on the way to church.  The third was an hour or so ago on my way home from church.  The other sob-fest happened over my bowl of Rice Krispies cereal on Tuesday morning.

As I said, I am a mess.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that my new job is proving more stressful than anticipated.  I’ve finally got most of the day-to-day things under control, so my time in the office goes fairly smoothly.  But there is so much I don’t know or understand.  I have zero experience with finances, bills, invoices, payments, etc.  And, suddenly, I need to know how to do all of these things.  The people who are supposedly there to help me have proved only marginally useful.

I spent the entire week doing my best to stay positive and keep afloat.  Two of my nights were sleepless ones.  The while time, I thought that, if I could just get to the weekend, everything would be okay.  HA.  JOKE’S ON ME.

On Friday, I had to go in for my second training session while the rest of my family went to the movies.  Which TOTALLY sucked.  My little brother was home from college and I wanted to spend time with him.  I got to the office a bit before seven, as planned.  At 7:08, I got a text from the lady training me (who used to be in my position) saying she would be there by 7:30.  She didn’t end up getting there until almost eight o’clock.  Which meant I spent an HOUR of my Friday night sitting alone in a cold office playing games on my iPhone because I forgot to bring a book.  Because of her tardiness, we weren’t able to cover all the information and now have to meet again on Tuesday evening.

So that all sucks.

If we were having coffee, you’d know that my fourth and final meltdown of the week happened because I almost got into a car accident on my way home from church this morning.  But thinking about that just makes me more depressed, so we won’t go into details.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I saw the band The Oh Hellos live on Thursday.  It was, by far, the highlight of my whole week.  The show was INCREDIBLE.

The first opener was a band called Family & Friends and it was obvious that it was their first tour.  You could feel their enthusiasm oozing from the stage.  Their expressions were wild and excited and you couldn’t help feel it too.  It energized the whole crowd and set the tone for the entire night. When the headliner finally took the stage, we were all screaming before they played a single note.

If I could transport myself into the past, I’d go back to being in that crowd on Thursday.  It wasn’t very relaxing, but boy it was fun.  My friend and I let loose and went crazy.  We sang along to all the words we knew.  We cheered.  We raised our hands and clapped.  I completely let loose and danced, jumping and flailing awkwardly, losing myself in the music.  Gosh, it was a blast.

You see, The Oh Hellos are a phenomenal band.  They make music not for profit, but because they’re passionate.  Their passion is evident in every note.  Their music is clearly rooted in Christian faith, but they’re not a Christian band.  Their instrumentals are rich and flavorful and all the songs have deep, sophisticated lyrics.  I’d gush about how awesome they are more, but it might be better to write about them in other posts.  (So stay tuned for that.)

So, yeah.  Aside from going to the show, it’s been a pretty crappy week.  On the bright side, things can’t get much worse.  If you don’t mind, I’m going to go curl up under a blanket with a comfort book and go into hermit-mode during the remainder of my day off.  Later, though, I’ll come back on WordPress and would really love to hear how your week has been.  What would you share over coffee?

The Oh Hellos during the finale of their set.  SO GOOD.
The Oh Hellos during the finale of their set. SO GOOD.

This post is part of a link-up at Part Time Monster

Rivers & Roads (Writing 101, Day 15)

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” Victor Hugo

There’s something about music that is essential to life.  It reaches into our souls and expresses the inexpressible.  I’ve always loved music and, after four years of failed piano lessons, played the flute in middle and high school.  These days, I don’t do much in the way of music creation, but oh boy am I a consumer.  Most of the music I now listen to isn’t played on the radio.  Top 40, while catchy, doesn’t hold much appeal.  I tend to favor indie-folk/rock–the kind of bands that you can see in small clubs for only $15.

If I had to choose a favorite song, it would have to be “Rivers and Roads” by The Head and the Heart.

The lyrics are deeply nostalgic, filled with a longing for times gone by.  It’s a song about seasons and change, how people grow apart with time.  The people who are near you now will someday be far away.  Although we know it’s inevitable, it’s still heartbreaking.  I feel like this song captures something we as humans all feel at some point in our lives.  In my experiences and travels, I’ve made some very dear friends who are now very far away.  Some are only an hour or two, others across the country, many across the world.  When I listen to this song, I think of all the people I love.

As heartbreaking as the song is, it hangs on to hope.  It ends with a repetition of the following lyrics:

Rivers and roads

Rivers and roads

Rivers ’til I reach you

There is distance between us, but distance can be crossed.  It may take time and dedication, but it’s possible to reclaim what is lost.  We may become separated from the ones we love, but we can never be disconnected entirely.  The people I care about may be far.  I miss them terribly, but there is hope.  We will see each other someday.  These ties are weakened over continents and years, but they are not and will never be lost.

Take a listen to the song and let me know what think.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

(Today’s assignment included a quote by Nietzsche, but I like Hugo’s better.)

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

All Hail Queen Brandi

You know those summer nights that have you grinning from ear to ear?  That was me last night.

The thing about Brandi Carlile is that she’s got a voice that reaches into your soul.  She digs into your roots, unearthing all insecurities and nostalgia and takes you back to a place you thought no longer existed.  She finds beauty in simplicity.  Her music is raw cuts to the bone.

As a graduation gift my older brother took me to see her at The Cabooze in Minneapolis.  It was an outdoor show and couldn’t be more perfect.  The openers were Anderson East and Iron & Wine.  I had high hopes for the later, but they were just too mellow for an outdoor show.

Brandi was such a treat.  Most of her songs center on the themes of home, innocence, and change.  I’m a pretty nostalgic person and her music hit me dead center.  I’ve been to several concerts over the past year, but this was definitely a favorite.  I’d see her again in a heartbeat.

Photo courtesy of my older brother.  Edited by me using the VSCOcam app.
At one point during the show, she strayed from the set list, pulled an eleven year old boy on stage to sing her song “Keep Your Heart Young”.  It was one of the night’s highlights.  Photo courtesy of my older brother. Edited by me using the VSCOcam app.

It’s been a great year for concerts.  My next one is The Oh Hellos in October with a college friend.

What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?  Tell me about it in the comments!

Sonshine 2015

When one of your favorite bands plays at a music festival a mere twenty miles from your house, you can’t not go.  Right?

Yesterday, I attended the annual Sonshine Music Festival with my old roommate, Alli and one of her childhood friends.  I’ve wanted to go for a long time, but this was the first summer I’ve managed to be in the crowd.  Usually, the festival takes place in Wilmar, MN–near where I went to college.  This year, the event moved not only towns, but states!  It’s now in Somerset, Wisconsin–just across the river from home.

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Alli and I after Rend Collective’s set

Although the festival goes for many days, I only went for one.  Because of the location shift and a brutal thunderstorm in the middle of the night, attendance was low.  Alli, has been to Sonshine many, many times and was shocked at how small the crowds were.

It was a perfect July afternoon–hot and sunny.  I dressed for the weather in breezy shorts and a tank top, but still managed to sweat gallons.  I can’t count how many bottles of water I consumed just to keep hydrated.

Heat complaints aside, it was really fun to see all the different bands.  I got to see Remedy Drive, a group that played at several youth conferences I attended in high school.  We watched Children 18:3, who hail from Morris (my alma mater).  I’ve seen the band’s members lead worship several times, but never perform.  They went CRAZY.  We hid in the back of the crowd to prevent getting trampled by overly enthusiastic fans.

The best part of the day, though, was Rend Collective.  Hailing from Northern Ireland, their music is folksy and hard not to dance to.  Although they’ve become pretty famous in the Christian music sphere over the past few years, it hasn’t affected their heart for worship.  Their concerts aren’t performances.  They’re all about celebration, authenticity, and family.

During Rend Collective’s time on stage, all my troubles melted away.  We were lucky to be in the front of the crowd, as close to the stage as possible.  As they played song after song, I couldn’t stop smiling.  Despite being relatively reserved most of the day, I jumped and shouted and danced without a care in the world.  The set wasn’t about putting on a good show–it was about celebrating the honor of serving a wonderful God.

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Rend Collective

We didn’t stick around for the big closing act–the Newsboys.  I know they’re one of the biggest bands on the Christian music scene, but honestly… I’m not really a fan.  We watched a few of their songs, but they completely lacked the heart and soul of Rend Collective.  So while the other Sonshine attendees screamed and shouted excitedly, we packed our chairs and headed to the car.

All in all, it was a day well spent.  I love attending concerts and they’re even better when they’re bands close to my heart. I ended up with my worst sunburn of the summer, but wouldn’t change a thing.

Want a taste of Rend Collective’s style and philosophy on music?  Check out the following video.  It’s got the same spirit as their live shows.

Tis the Season Day 6: Be Still

I’ll let you in on a secret, readers.  This Christmas series has been exhausting.  After school ended, I thought life would settle down.  I thought things would be smooth.  And I thought a week-long blogging Christmas blitz was a fantastic idea.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved writing the Tis the Season posts every day.  It’s been a big challenge, planning and writing what I hope have been fun, insightful themed posts every day.  I definitely feel like I accomplished something that I’m incredibly proud of.  But, outside the world of blogging and Christmas, the world goes on.

In the past week, I finished my semester, had my wisdom teeth removed, attended a terribly awkward family gathering, and spent two days traipsing around Duluth, MN in the rain.  I’ve had one day of true vacation, three days of mouth pain in pajama land on the couch, a day of socializing with people I really don’t care about, and two days on the road.  It’s been fun, don’t get me wrong.  But boy… blogging on top of all of this has me plumb worn out.

So, in the spirit of the holiday season, I encourage you to take some time in rest.  As crazy as the past week has been, I find myself in these little quiet moments reflecting on all the blessings in my life.  There is so much to be thankful for.  So today, in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I encourage you to take a minute to be still.

Also, the Oh Hello’s “Family Christmas Album” is one of the most spectacular holiday arrangements I have ever listened to.  Get comfortable, press play, close your eyes, and let the music flood over you.

“White Christmas”

I will admit, I had something different planned for today’s song. However, my computer decided to break on me and must blog from my mom’s iPad. Which slows things down.

So, in light of things not going how you plan them, I thought I would go back to one of my all time favorite songs. I wasn’t planning on including it because there are so many other wonderful Christmas tunes to highlight. But hey, it’s a classic for a reason.

Enjoy “White Christmas” and check back tomorrow for another day of Tis the Season!

“Silver Bells”

Today’s featured Christmas song is “Silver Bells” by She & Him.  Although it’s not one of my favorite carols, I recently discovered this version and fell absolutely in love.  I mean, it’s Zooey Deschanel and a ukelele.  What’s not to love?

Stop by tomorrow for more Christmas talk and music!