Great New Music in the Middle of 2014

A few weeks ago I got a text message from Melanie Ness, an old friend from my competitive swimming days in Worthington, Ohio. She said:

So… random question: What’s your most-played song this week? (…I need new music)

Although I responded to her with some specific suggestions, I figured others might benefit from some new songs for their old playlists, too.

Bleachers is a one-album band created as a side project by Fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff. Songs off their first album, Strange Desire, are equal parts 80s synth and anthemic drum beats. I especially like Wild Heart, Wake Me, and Like a River Runs, although most people will love the optimistic tone of I Wanna Get Better the most.

In a reference to an Indian restaurant chain, Bombay Bicycle Club is a moody, melodic, guitar-driven indie rock band. Three University College School students—all of which 15 years old or younger— formed the Canals in North London in 2005, but then later adopted a fourth member and changed the name of their band. My favorite album is 2011’s A Different Kind of Fix, with highlights How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep, Lights Out, Words Gone, and Shuffle, the latter being my favorite. If you’re in the mood for bouncy, Brit rock, check out this awesome band with a deep catalog.

Slow, contemplative, and stunning, S. Carey is a percussive genius whose main gig is the drummer and pianist for Bon Iver but who also releases solo albums during tour breaks. His songs would play nicely with roadtrips across Iceland or boating during sunset. Try his newest album, Range of Light, for truly beautiful songs Glass/Film and Alpenglow.

With a little twang, reverb, and Bob Dylan-esque vocals, Philadelphia’s The War on Drugs is a great end-of-summer band that makes you feel as if the work day is over. I’m not a huge classic rock fan, but their newest album, Lost in the Dream, is decidedly modern and really good. Try out my favorite songs on the album: Under the Pressure, Red Eyes, and Disappearing.

So what do you think? Any other great new artists or songs that I should hear? Send ’em my way on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

How to Overcome Your Fear of Flying

I get a little freaked out when I fly. According to some sources, it’s called aviophobia, but I’m not sure my fear is actually strong enough for an official label.

On a flight from Nashville last fall, during which we attempted to land in a derecho-like storm, I harkened back to my camp days and sang desperate renditions of “Over My Head,” “I Love You Lord,“ and “Sanctuary” under my breath. My brain gets carried away on calm flights, too, as I start to imagine the many scenarios in which the plane will nosedive or blow apart. I have even noticed an increase to my phobia over time as I experience more flights—you’d think it would get easier, but for some reason it has not.

Recently, airlines in the United States have begun allowing electronic devices during taxi, takeoff, and landing. It used to be a widely held belief that signals from electronic devices—even ones set to airplane mode—could interfere with a plane’s instruments. But with the new mandate it’s become a little obvious that they’re just fine.

Thankfully, I discovered a trick, a travel hack, that helps me overcome my fear of flying.

Rather accidentally during a bumpy flight takeoff, I set my iPhone to play Heather’s Song by Andy McKee, a terrific all-guitar instrumentalist. The song was a light, cheerful, playful mix of a August Rush-like childhood quality, and it had me bouncing in my seat, bobbing my head, and embracing the minor turbulence with the attitude of a kid again. It was fun!

The trick here is to find a song that channels feelings which counter your fear. Play the song on repeat with headphones, and embrace the turbulence as something enjoyable. Face your fear head-on and disarm it, rather than hide from it.

And if that doesn’t ultimately work like it has for me, then try reading this article on how to overcome your fear of flying. It’s more factual and less playful, but it might help nonetheless.

Please let me know if you have any tips or tricks on overcoming your fear of flying. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

Today I Turned 30 Years Old

Today I turned 30 years old.

That looks a little intimidating now that I’m typing it out. But over the past few years, I’ve managed to accomplish quite a bit thanks to a little prodding from my 30 Before 30 list—a bucket list with an end date of today, August 6, 2014.

Actually, I didn’t finish my list. And while that should probably make me sad, I’ve decided to take a glass-is-half-full approach and dwell on the great experiences I’ve had as a result of the list. After all, I only created the thing about a year and a half ago, and I checked off 22 of the 30 items on the list. I guess I didn’t give myself enough time!

I’ve decided to roll over the unfinished eight items from my 30 Before 30 list into my new 40 Before 40 list. They’re still important to me, and now I have ten more years to get them done.

One thing I’ve learned is that having a publicly-posted set of goals motivates me to get them done because other people read them. During meals or trips or online conversations, I’m constantly reminded by my friends and family of the things I want to accomplish. And really, honestly, it’s just a game—a truly fun one.

The first day of my thirties has been filled with blueberry pancakes, boating in the sunshine on the lakes of Sioux Lookout, Ontario, and spending time with my family. I also received a startling number of international mail from all of you! (Thank you so much, by the way; they were really fun to read.)

Being 30 really isn’t all that bad.

40 Before 40 Bucket List

Some people create a bucket list filled with items that must be completed before they “kick the bucket,” which to me sounds a little too far in the future and also a little macabre.

There are others such as my friend, Danny Dover, who set a specific deadline that is much sooner. Why wait until the end of our lives to create new memories?

Since I didn’t quite finish my 30 Before 30 bucket list—I only gave myself about two years to get it all done—I decided to roll over the few remaining eight items into my 40 Before 40 bucket list. And here it goes.

Since I have ten years until I turn 40, I have until August 6, 2024, to accomplish these. And I only have one rule: the list cannot be modified after my 31st birthday.

  1. ✓ Live in another state
  2. ✓ See the Badlands
  3. Go to a rodeo
  4. Go to an MMA fight
  5. Visit Yellowstone National Park
  6. Visit Glacier National Park
  7. Visit Zion National Park
  8. Visit Mammoth Cave National Park
  9. Eat at three Michelin three-star restaurants
  10. Build a six pack (the muscle kind)
  11. Buy a same-day plane ticket
  12. Visit all fifty states
  13. Become a published author
  14. Go fly fishing in a river
  15. Ride a jet ski
  16. Ride on an elephant
  17. Fly in a floatplane (“puddle jumper”)
  18. Walk on a glacier
  19. Take a yoga class
  20. Take a dance class
  21. ✓ Take a cooking class
  22. ✓ Drink wine in France
  23. Drink beer in Germany
  24. Eat gelato in Italy
  25. Eat sushi in Japan
  26. Sleep in a tree house
  27. ✓ Hike a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)
  28. Attend the Olympic Opening Ceremonies
  29. ✓ Attend a TED conference
  30. Participate in a flash mob
  31. Get a hot stone massage
  32. ✓ See an active volcano
  33. Go to an oxygen bar
  34. Attend an opera
  35. Go Zorbing
  36. Visit an island in the Caribbean
  37. Ride a sailboat
  38. Hike a portion of El Camino de Santiago
  39. Fish in a fjord
  40. Bathe in a geothermal hot spring

So there you have it: my 40 Before 40 bucket list. What do you think? Can any of you help me accomplish one of these?

Hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ and let me know.