Category Archives: Playlist

New Playlist: Songs of Spring

Boston Spring Blooms

I guess it’s almost summer at this point, but Boston is juuust showing signs of spring. Why not celebrate spring with some upbeat music? You’ll recognize some songs on this playlist from previous posts (Catey Shaw and Dan Croll, anyone?) but it also includes Patrick Watson’s soft “Words in the Fire” and Wild Child’s quirky, ukelele chords in “Someone Else.” I’m especially a fan of the collaboration between Alex Winston and the Postelles in the surf-y duet “Pretend It’s Love” and new (and dare I say…jazzy?) Iron & Wine.

Now, go! Get outside! Grab some ice cream and a cute puppy (preferably one you already own) and go picnic!

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Top 10 Holiday Songs: Tis the Season


Now that the end-of-the-semester hiatus is over, I’ve been busy cramming a month’s worth of holiday cheer into a few days. Sure, it sounds like the least joyful way to celebrate, but luckily these songs easily make days merry and bright. This post is brief because my brain is still mush, but here’s a Spotify playlist for are my Top 10 Holiday Songs for the most wonderful time of the year.

Highlights include:

    • “The Christmas Song” by Catherine Feeney and “Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming” by Sufjan Stevens (one of his 5,000 sing-along Christmas jams): Breathless and simple Christmas wishes
    • “White Christmas” by Otis Redding (from Love Actually): A cozy sweater. A warm fire. A cuppa hot cocoa.
    • “Christmas TV” by Slow Club: Charming and quirky, with lyrics  that say, “hoping something good might grow out of this mistletoe.”
    • “Fairytale of New York” by Gianni and Sarah (of Walk Off the Earth…aka the 5 people who used one guitar to play Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know”): Not only is this one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs, but they use ukeleles and whistle. Natasha of Paper Crown’s Blog sums the song up nicely, saying: “It’s bitter and it’s hopeful, and it’s sad and it’s romantic, and it’s screwed up and it’s human. It’s just real. That’s what makes it such a great Christmas song.” Amen.
    • “Skating” by Vince Guaraldi: Fluttering and festive piano chords

Do you have any to add? What are your favorite holiday songs and albums?

*Bonus (because it’s sadly not on Spotify)…Party Hard by Little Isidore: For your Kris Kringlin’ and do-wappin’ enjoyment

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With a Little Help from my Friends: Fall Folk Playlist

Nothing says fall like folk music and friendship. Too Hallmark? Too bad- you’re stuck with me. Maybe I really like alliteration, but maybe I also really like my friends and their rad taste in music.

To me, fall conjures warm, twangy, and acoustic melodies. Well let’s be real, this blog wouldn’t exist if I felt differently. But while summer is meant for punchy rock chords like the band Free Energy, spring is poppy and jingly like Allo Darlin’, and winter is slow jazz stylings of Peggy Lee, fall is soothing, sometimes biting, and overall pretty contemplative. What are some of your favorite seasonal songs?

Before Thanksgiving I polled a few friends to find out their impressions of fall music. Turns out we all came to the same conclusion: folk and fall are the perfect pair. From The Lumineers to I Am Oak, here’s what they had to say. (Shout-outs to Kelly, Swanson, Bethany, Alys, and Colin for being my muses and for You Won’t for the background music.)

Folk Selections for Fall from Alison on Vimeo.

Eager to hear these songs for yourself? Below is a Spotify playlist to meet your autumnal needs. Quick! Go listen before it’s December.

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Cover Songs: I’ll Cover You

Sure, everyone wants to take a stab at “Call Me Maybe” (I’m talking to you Fleet Foxes, Ben Howard, Cookie Monster, etc) or any Beatles song (Apparently “Yesterday” and “Eleanor Rigby” are the two most covered songs). As mentioned in a previous post- I love a good cover song. While I enjoy when they’re produced and recorded on albums, my favorites usually stem from impromptu concerts or requests. I especially love when musicians cross-genres and sounds, like when James Vincent McMorrow sings Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” or when Anya Maria croons T.I.’s “Whatever You Like.” Covers bring new meaning and interpretations to music, and are the highest form of flattery. Here are my top cover picks (for this week, at least).

  • Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine) covering Cold War Kids’ “Hospital Beds” – I could honestly put any Flo Flo cover here; it was really difficult choosing between her rendition of Beyonce’s “Halo” and this one. Her voice has similar qualities to Cold War Kids frontman Nathan Willett; haunting and borderline-screechy. I like that her version is stripped down, but she still belts the “put out the fire boys, don’t stop, don’t stop” coda. It further exemplifies the pain found in the lyrics.
    • Alex Winston covering the Black Keys’ “Everlasting Light” – Just like Winston’s voice, her version is a little off-kilter. She pairs banjo, heavy guitar, airy female backup vocals, and the slightest accordion with a pounding tempo. Cool.
    • Ellie Goulding covering Bon Iver’s “The Wolves” – I gasped outloud the first time I heard this cover. Goulding’s vocals are so pure and beautiful, and much less muddled that Justin Vernon’s. Plus it’s a capella.
    • Cee Lo Green covering Kings of Leon’s “Radioactive” – I’m not the biggest Kings of Leon fan and honeslty needed to hear’s Green’s version before giving the original a chance. Clearly acoustic covers hold a special place in my heart, but it’s refreshing to hear Cee Lo sing something other than “F You.”
  • Julia Stone covering The National’s “Buzzblood Ohio” – This song reminds me of a train-ride; Stone is contemplative and escaping worries of the past. Her falsetto contrasts The National’s Matt Berninger’s bass in a beautiful way.

If these tickled your fancy, check out my favorite cover blog Cover Lay Down for millions of folk wonders. Or, if you’re the giving kind, The Voice Project is a really great philanthropic organization that works with musicians to raise money for various peace initiatives in Africa. The “Episodes” section of their website features a wonderful web of cover songs.


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Animal Bands: Owling for You

Recently I’ve noticed an oddly-specific trend in band names: owls. And I mean more than just Owl City, people. Maybe I’m hyper-sensitive because the wide-eyed creature is one of my favorite animals, but after finding four bands that share similar, lovely sounds, I couldn’t resist sharing. These groups are no longer nocturnal. They make my head spin. You’ll get a hoot out of them. The puns will stop as you keep reading, I promise.

1. First up is Minneapolis four-piece outfit The Owls. Although their last full-length release Daughters and Suns dates back to 2007, their quirky, indie pop is not stale. My favorite tracks are “Peppermint Patty,” a biography of the Charlie Brown character, and Beatles-like “All Those in Favor“. Members Allison LaBonne, Maria May, and Brian, Tighe weave delicate harmonies among playful whistles and piano scales. For fans of: The Bird and the Bee, Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura

2. Next I’d like to introduce you to Colyn Cameron of Wake Owl. He is the Canadian love child of Ben Howard (we all know how I feel about him) and the Tallest Man on Earth; Wake Owl’s raspy vocals with eerie string accompaniment generate a powerful sound. His single “Gold” (below) is a steady orchestral crescendo and perfect for the winter months ahead.  While Cameron’s new EP was released earlier this month in the UK, we sadly must eagerly wait until January 2013 for Wild Country to hit the US.

3. Freak Owls is the indie-folk collaboration of Josh Ricchio, Kolby Wade, and Russ Lemkin. Highlights from their debut album Taxidermy are “Little Things,” essentially an electronic Lumineers song, and “Hey, Na Na Na,” an interesting mix of a capella harmonies, airy guitar chords, and endless handclaps. You can grab a FREE copy of their latest EP Orchastrates from their website. And if you can’t get enough, download of their new single “I Would” from SoundCloud. It’s a bit of a departure from their folkier days, and they sound like an echoing Arcade Fire, but hopefully 2013 will bring more Freak Owls.

4. The Hoot Hoots are upbeat, synth-y “fuzzy power pop,” and the perfect soundtrack for solo dance parties. Although they already have two albums, Silly Lecture Series and Appetite for Distraction, under their belts (or feathers?), this Illinois-based band is still cranking out energetic hooks. Feel the Cosmos drops on November 29th. If you like Reptar and Oberhofer and the Lumineers, for the love of music get your Hoot Hoot on.

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An Election Soundtrack: Let’s Stay Together

Today was an important day for American policy (prepare to be amazed as I connect this back to music). Barack Obama was re-elected for another four-year term, multiple states legalized gay marriage20 women took seats in the 113th Congress, and the 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting initiative and other NPR lovers celebrated the anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 (BAM it took less than a sentence for the music connection). While public broadcasting features more than just music, songwriting is still an imperative tool in the media.

Back in 2008 before Obama was even elected, he spoke at a Town Hall meeting at my high school. As a 17-year-old taking an AP Government class and watching some of my friends vote for the first time, I was very impressed by his speech…but also by the music selection for this event. I distinctly remember the unique string intro of raspy Ben Harper’s “Better Way” pumping up the crowd and thinking, “being President of the United States cool and all, but DJing this event would be the greatest job ever.”

Fast forward to this year’s election coverage. Last night, after hearing Beyonce’s “Get Me Bodied” and watching Obama’s headquarters in Chicago, these were the thoughts running through my head: 1) amiBeyonceyet? 2) Who wouldn’t be playing Beyonce right now 3) “being President of the United States cool and all, but DJing this event would be the greatest job ever” See a comparison?

That being said, I’m appointing myself as the DJ for this exciting election news. Some of the songs on this playlist were actually featured in Obama’s 2012 campaign, while others pay homage to great folk, political activists: Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Joni Mitchell. These singer/songwriters paved the way for future folk artists (Ben Sollee anyone?), and songs written in the 1960s are still just as relevant- I experienced this firsthand while seeing the Hard Rain exhibit at the Edinburgh Royal Botanical Garden last spring. It featured the work of enviornmental photographer Mark Edwards, looping Bob Dylan’s song “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Times They are A-Changin'” from outdoor speakers. Very poignant, beautiful, and sad. Dylan and his cohorts still highlight important issues and encourage collaboration to find this “better way.” Obama and Al Green actually summed it up perfectly saying,”Let’s stay together.”


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