This Is the Good Stuff Vol. 4 – BEST OF 2019 EDITION

More good stuff!

Today's edition is all about the stuff I dug the most in 2019. It's a long one, so I hope you're sitting down and you have used the restroom. Do you have a nice beverage? That would be great, too.

Let's get started!

Music Stuff

I listened to tons of music this year. In 2019, it was important for me to diversify the content going into my earholes, so I made a point to spend more time with unfamiliar artists. For the first time in I don't know how long, The Grateful Dead was not my number-one most-listened-to artist of the year (they came in at number 11). Interestingly, Vulpeck slid down the charts in a big way, too, after being quite dominant in 2018. I used to load the queue with their music; now I find myself skipping it more often than not. That being said, I really, really dug the new Fearless Flyers LP, which has me wondering if Theo Katzman and Woody Goss (members of Vulfpeck who are not members of Fearless Flyers) are the elements of Vulfpeck that offend me. I don't know.

Mostly, it was a great year for music. I discovered a lot of new stuff and reacquainted myself with music that had disappeared from my life for a while, appreciating it in different ways through new ears. Stuff like that.

I did not go to as many shows this year, largely because a lot of my favorite bands started playing at Santa Fe's Meow Wolf instead of coming to Albuquerque's Launchpad or Sister Bar. Social anxiety cropped up in 2019 quite a bit, too, and that kept me away. But I feel the absence of live music and I don't like it. So I'll do better in 2020.

I use Last.FM to keep track of my listening stats and data. 2019 was the first full year I had done so in a while, and it's been fun to follow along. All the stats with regard to my personal music-streaming habits come from Last.FM. I recommend going there to create your own account and connect it to Spotify if you're into that sort of thing.

Anyway...

Here are some of the people, albums, experiences and other stuff that made 2019 such a fun year for music in my life:

Listening to Women

Women have to work harder than men to get noticed and be accepted in the music industry. In 2019, I became aware that women also have to work harder than men to get noticed and be accepted in my personal conception of what makes good music. I fancied myself an equal-opportunity listener. But then I checked my stats and found that my listening is dominated by male artists. Algorithms don't help matters, working to help listeners listen to more of the same stuff they already listen to. And because the industry, at large, does not provide the same opportunities for women as it does for men, the algorithms recommend male artists far more than they recommend women. The cycle continues on, marginalizing women artists by default while it props up dudes who fart into their voice memos and call it "art."

Anyway, I made a point to listen to more women in 2019. I created a Spotify playlist featuring my favorite women artists as well as women artists I was intrigued by or had heard about or who had some association with artists I previously enjoyed. Through this process, I diversified my listening, discovered a number of artists who would not have appeared on my radar otherwise and reassessed my opinions of some male artists who took advantage of my relaxed listening policy in the past without delivering the musical goods (I'm looking at you, Foxygen!).

Here are a few of the excellent women artists who entered my musical world and contributed to its groovy rotations in 2019:

I'm really glad I did this. The music was getting a little stagnant; all I needed was to optimize the female energy and balance it more evenly with the male energy. Simple, really!

Jamila, Jeff, Joni, Jimi and Fiona

I think these artists deserve special mention. They are people I have loved at various times in my life as a music fan. They surprised me by asserting themselves boldly in 2019.

Jamila Woods appeared on my musical radar in 2018 and made it to my end-of-year list, where I described her as an "important" artist. I am happy to say that she continued to provoke, entertain and intrigue me with her music in 2019. She is building a legend and it's been fun to watch and listen to.

At the time of this writing (December 18, 2019), Jamila Woods is tied with Hiatus Kaiyote for the number-one spot on my list of most-listened-to artists for 2019 with 113 plays.

Jeff Buckley is one of my all-time faves. But because his life was cut short tragically just a few years into his career as a recording artist, his catalog doesn't contain a whole lot of music. Prior to 2019, I figured that I had listened to Jeff Buckley about as much as I could listen to Jeff Buckley. But this year, I began to regard him as more of an influence on my music career, particularly after becoming a stronger singer.

At the time of this writing (December 18, 2019), Jeff Buckley is my fifth-most-listened-to artist of 2019 with 102 plays.

Joni Mitchell is a musician I have always respected, but I never felt close to her music. That changed in 2019 after seeing this performance of "Coyote" in Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese. Just look at how the music flows from her with such ease! I want to be like that! I was heavily inspired by Joni Mitchell in 2019. Shortly after seeing this performance, I wrote some new songs in open tunings (more on that later). Are they any good? Who cares!

I also continued listening to Joni Mitchell frequently throughout the rest of the year. At the time of this writing (December 18, 2019), she is my tenth-most-listened-to artist of 2019 with 74 plays.

Jimi Hendrix is motherfucking Jimi Hendrix, man! I mean, come on! Whenever I think I'm over Jimi Hendrix, he finds his way back into my earholes and reminds me why I carved him into my personal Mount Rushmore so long ago. I don't know why I ever stop listening to him. But I'm grateful for the joys that come with rediscovering his music. This year, the sprawling Songs for Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts was released and I once again knelt at the feet of my master. I bought a Strat-style guitar this year and I intend to use it in a manner consistent with the practices developed by the eternal Jimmy James years before I was born.

At the time of this writing (December 18, 2019), Jimi Hendrix is my 14th-most-listened-to artist of 2019 with 65 plays.

Fiona Apple does not have a name that begins with the letter "J," which makes her inclusion here all the more impressive. Her first album, Tidal, was one of the first pieces of music I loved that the people I was hanging around with at the time did not love. I had a crush on her and her career. To me, she has always been endlessly listenable. But in recent years (she hasn't released an album since 2012's The Idler Wheel...) I had begun to listen to her a lot less. I rediscovered her music in 2019 and was struck by how much she has influenced my music. I mean holy shit! Her craftspersonship has changed my brain so much that I am imitating her even when I am not trying to imitate her. Where did I get the changes from for my song "The Road that Takes Us Home"? From Fiona Apple's "The Way Things Are," obviously! Damn, what a great artist! She is working on a new album now. I am eager for its release. She is one of the best songwriters.

At the time of this writing (December 18, 2019), Fiona Apple is my 13th-most-listened-to artist of 2019 with 66 plays.

NPR Tiny Desk Concerts and the NPR TIny Desk Contest

Man, there were so many good ones this year! Here are some of the performances I enjoyed (with commentary where I felt like providing it):

I also entered the NPR Tiny Desk Contest in 2019. That was a lot of fun! I made a video for my song "He Wasn't Right" and uploaded it with my fingers crossed. I did not win the contest; I have no idea what the judges thought of my entry or if they even watched it at all. But the endeavor was a huge success!

People watched my video and complimented me. I watched other peoples' entries and complimented them. I made some new friends. Crucially, I met my friends Jason and Melissa Kadinger of Meri Dean fame through the contest. Now Jason and Melissa are learning my songs and rehearsing as my backing band.

By the way, you should go check out the music of Meri Dean. It's great! They just released a new album called Don't Feed Monsters. I'm on it. They're going to release another new album soon. They are excellent musicians, fantastic performers and fine people.

I plan on making an even more significant impression and make even more friends in the 2020 Tiny Desk Contest. I'll let you know how it goes.

American Utopia

David Byrne is one of my musical heroes. Stop Making Sense, the Talking Heads concert film from 1984, is listed below as one of the notable films I saw this year, even though I have seen it probably dozens of times over the years.

Anyway, David Byrne made an album called American Utopia a little while ago and then he started touring with a unique stage production, also called American Utopia. The performers – about a dozen of them including David Byrne – wore matching outfits and made their magic on a stage completely devoid of the usual detritus like amps, drum kits, microphone stands and all that. Everyone was free to move, even the percussionists, who wore their instruments marching-band style.

I did not see the American Utopia tour, but I watched one of the shows from the tour on YouTube about 20 times in 2019. Sadly, that one is no longer available to watch online, but this fan-shot video is.

I have not seen the Broadway production of the show, which began earlier this year (here's the original cast recording), either. But I just got word that my friend Erin saw it tonight. Damn. I hope I can see her soon so I can vibe off the groovy energy she is no doubt still carrying around from the show.

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Television and Film

I really love movies and TV shows. I am becoming much more discerning, though. I realize that I'm just fine if I don't watch every show that's on every critic's year-end top-ten list or whatever. Just give me the good stuff, man.

TV Shows I Dug in 2019

I watched less television in 2019 than in previous years. But I think I enjoyed it more. Here are some of the shows that I was able to watch without looking at my phone or picking up my guitar this past year (with selected commentary):

  • Russian Doll
    Sign me up for all the loopy time-travel, science-fiction-stuff-is-happening-to-a-relatable-character content.
  • True Detective Season Three
    Back to S1 levels of excellence!
  • Barry 
    The "ronny/lily" episode... Damn.
  • Crashing
    The one with comedian Pete Holmes.
  • Killing Eve
    A disappointing second season, but still pretty compelling. Great performances.
  • Game of Thrones
    Absolutely my least favorite season of the show. Even so, the second episode ("A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms") is an all-time classic.
  • I Think You Should Leave
    Wow. Bart Harley Jarvis is such a fucking asshole.
  • Dead to Me
    It was just fun to watch the leads hang out and drink wine and talk
  • Deadwood
    Finally!
  • Black Mirror
    A disappointing new season, but the "Twin Dragons" episode was kind of fun.
  • Euphoria
    Stylish!
  • Succession
    This is the best show now. I look forward to it in a manner similar to how I used to look forward to Breaking Bad or classic Game of Thrones.
  • GLOW
    Just a great hangout show.
  • LOST
    The rewatch!
  • Chernobyl
    Gross.
  • Watchmen
    Amazing! My second-favorite show of the year.
  • Rick and Morty
    It's back and ready to confront the toxic segments of its fanbase, kinda.
  • The Mandalorian
    MANDO!!!

Movies I Dug in 2019

I tried to watch movies instead of starting new TV shows in 2019. It worked out okay. I found some cool ones. I went to the theater a few times, too. I saw new releases and watched some not-so-new ones, too. Here's what I remember watching (with commentary):

  • The Favourite
    Give Yorgos Lanthimos a camera and a script and I will be the first in line to watch the results.
  • Stop Making Sense
    For, like, the bajillionth time.
  • Roma
    That big car in that tiny garage.
  • The Dirt
    The outrageous Mötley Crüe biopic. I can't recommend it, but I'll never forget it.
  • Ready Player One
    The book was better, but the movie was better than I thought it would be.
  • Big Business
    The one with Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin from the '80s. It's one of Annie's childhood favorites.
  • Us
    Jordan Peele's followup to Get Out. Not quite as cohesive as his first film, but still pretty amazing.
  • Dumbo
    They made a new Dumbo for some reason, which I watched with delighted children.
  • Inception
    Finally! I'm pretty sure the top stops spinning.
  • Blockers
    It was really funny!
  • Deadwood: The Movie
    A nice conclusion to the TV series.
  • MacGruber
    My favorite kind of stupid. And it was filmed in Albuquerque!
  • Above Us Only Sky
    The John Lennon biopic that shows Yoko in a new, more flattering and more accurate light.
  • Knocking Down the House
    Go AOC!
  • Jupiter Ascending
    God, I love overly ambitious sci-fi that doesn't quite pull it off! This is definitely one of the finest examples of that particular kind of movie.
  • Dune
    Speaking of overly ambitious sci-fi that doesn't quite pull it off.
  • The Future Is Unwritten
    The Joe Strummer biopic. I had seen it many years ago, but decided to revisit it again after noticing it was on Hulu. I wish that guy was still around.
  • Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese
    Shenanigans!
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
    I can see why some people hated it. I can see why some people loved it.
  • BlackkKlansman
    A pretty insightful film marred by a weird pro-cop message.
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
    Brad Pitt driving around late-'60s Hollywood is excellent entertainment.
  • The Prestige
    One of my all-time favorites! It's always great to see David Bowie as Nikola Tesla.
  • The Discovery
    Perhaps too batshit for even me to enjoy.
  • Serenity
    See my commentary for The Discovery. Multiply by 20.
  • Always Be My Maybe
    A sweet, sweet film featuring many laughs and incandescent performances from Ali Wong and Randall Park. Geez, I almost forgot about this one!
  • Mission Impossible: Fallout
    Excellence in action filmmaking.
  • Apostle
    Creepy and surprisingly psychedelic.
  • A Quiet Place
    Almost too relentless with its scares. An enjoyable thrill ride marred by a weird conservative isolationist point of view.
  • The Endless
    More fucking around with time! Put that shit directly in my veins!
  • The Invitation
    Probably my favorite of the horror/thriller movies I watched in 2019.
  • Creep
    What a creep!
  • Creep 2
    Even creepier!
  • Ghostbusters 2
    I had never seen it before. Not great. Not awful. A pretty good hangout.
  • The Ritual
    Bro horror.
  • Bird Box
    I loved this! They did a really smart job with the structure of the movie.
  • Climax
    This is Gaspar Nöe's best film. Outrageous violence and amazing dancing.
  • El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
    I was just like, "meh." But it was good to see the gang.
  • I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
    Atmospheric. Not a lot of meat on the bone, but it was delicious.
  • The Blackcoat's Daughter
    Sally Draper is a monster.
  • Playing with Fire
    For the kids. Not bad! John Cena's body makes him appear as if he is a different species.
  • While We're Young
    I'm a year or two behind on my Noah Baumbach/Adam Driver collaborations. A bunch of white-people bullshit, but enjoyable white-people bullshit.
  • The Irishman
    And I did it in one sitting!
  • Psychonautics
    Fellow former Wisconsinite Shane Mauss embarks on psychedelic journeys. For people too lazy to read Michael Pollan's 'How to Change Your Mind.'
  • Amazing Grace
    Aretha sings gospel. With Bernard "Pretty" Purdie on drums!
  • Fantastic Fungi
    Mushrooms + time-lapse photography = a great time at the movies!

Podcasts

I listen to a lot of music, but I spend just as much time listening to podcasts. By the way, be on the lookout for The Matt Kollock Show, which is a podcast I'm producing. It will debut in early 2020.

Anyway, here are some of the podcasts I listened to in 2019:

Promenade Albuquerque

Annie and I often talk about how we want to do different stuff in our city. Check out the local theater scene and things like that. This desire brought us to the Q-Staff Theatre in May to check out one of the final performances of Promenade Albuquerque, which we were told was really cool.

It was really cool.

It's all on a bus that weaves its way through the city. Albuquerque is just one of the cities that has hosted the production, but each one has been tailored to fit its specific and unique location. So the Promenade we saw was different from the original Promenade, which was "staged" in Budapest, Hungary.

Anyhoo, yeah, it's on a bus. Like, a big city bus. Audience members ride the bus and wear headphones that serve the audio portion of the program. Characters get on the bus and get off the bus. The bus stops for us to see characters engage in drama and shenanigans at various places throughout the downtown area. It's remarkable.

I enjoyed the performance and was impressed by the depth with which it addressed the nature of our city. The performers were excellent. The driver, who also had to be a performer, was safe and brilliant at executing his role. My mind is blown thinking about the logistics that must have been involved in pulling it off. Go see Promenade if it comes to your city, okay?

Plant Medicines 

Cannabis and psilocybin are my friends. They have been for a while. They will be my friends for as far into the future as I can see, too. We work together to solve problems and generate innovations. We write songs together. We experience awe together. We heal trauma, ease anxiety, erase fears and have a great time doing it all. 

I want to share these amazing friends with everyone else who is called to them, so I'm going to do what I can to help decriminalization efforts. After all, there was never a good reason for them to be criminalized in the first place. If you are interested in learning more about this stuff from a progressive-policy point of view, I can't recommend Psymposia highly enough.

In 2019, I decided that I wasn't going to be ashamed of my usage of plant medicines. No more guilt. I'm doing what I'm supposed to do. No one should feel guilt or shame about using these things. And no one should be incarcerated.

The Milwaukee Bucks

The 2018-2019 season was the best one for Bucks fans since 2001. But they got bested by the Raptors. Fuckin' dinosaurs. It's fine, though, because the 2019-2020 Bucks appear to be even better at basketball than their predecessors. They just completed an 18-game winning streak, which is the second-longest in the team's 49-year history. In this blog post, I predicted that they would win the next NBA Championship. Today I stand by that prediction. But mostly I am grateful for the thrills the team has thus far provided in 2019.

Dickies Coveralls

I don't think I'll ever wear anything else for performing ever again. I ordered my "jumpsuit" back in May and wore it for the first time at a gig on June 1st, 2019. The world has not been the same since. Now I need to get some more colors. And probably some accessories. And that hat I keep talking about.

The Yamaha StagePas 400i Portable Public Address System

You may remember this apparatus from a blog post I published back in February.

At the time I purchased the system, it had been a while since I spent any money on any big-ticket music items. So I was a little scared. I needed the system to move forward with my career, yet the cost to obtain it – and all the extra stuff to go along with it – was not insignificant.

I am pleased to say that this system served me incredibly well in 2019! Easy to set up and tear down. Everything works like it should. The sound is great. Plenty of power for my purposes. Super portable. All that. What a relief!

In addition to powering my live music performances, the system was transformed into a karaoke machine at the New Mexico Governor's Mansion for a memorable birthday party in July, 2019. I also fired it up to blast our special Holiday Open House Playlist at our first-annual Holiday Open House. Good times!

If you are looking for a nice little reliable and reasonably priced public address system, I can recommend the Yamaha StagePas line highly.

Bulk Guitar Strings from Strings and Beyond

Sweet Jesus, I break lots of strings!

If you saw me perform at Byron Fest 2019 – which is a lovely little festival that takes place every summer in beautiful Columbia, Missouri and is organized by my friend Byron, who has an awesome amplifier and guitar pedal company – you saw me break four strings in less than one hour. That was a record. Even so, it is normal for me to break strings. In fact, it's highly unusual for me to get through two hours of playing without breaking at least one string. It's kind of frustrating.

I play the heavy-ass "medium" gauge strings (13-56, for those playing along at home) and would play even heavier strings if they would not damage my instrument. I swear it's not a macho thing; I think they are way funkier than lighter strings, plus they break less frequently than lighter strings. But they still break pretty fucking frequently.

So I've learned to buy guitar strings in bulk. 25 sets at a time. And I get them from Strings and Beyond. Every once in a while they have a 15-20% off sale, so I can get my strings for less than $3.50 per set. Not bad. It sure beats going to goddamn Guitar Center and paying, like, $8.00 per set or whatever. And S&B always sends a nice, handwritten thank-you note along with some picks and stickers. Lovely!

D A D G B D Tuning

While we're on the subject of guitar strings...

I was listening to a podcast (one of the ones mentioned above, no doubt, but I have no idea which one) with Colin Hay of Men at Work fame as the guest and he was talking about how he used D A D G B D tuning to write a couple of the band's biggest hits – "Overkill" and "Who Can it Be Now?" I had been in a bit of a songwriting slump earlier this year, so I thought I'd try this tuning out. Basically, it's just detuning the E strings down to D. So drop-D but with both E strings.

This tuning dominated my at-home guitar playing and songwriting in 2019.

It worked really well! I wrote four new songs in this tuning, and I think they are among my best. Thanks, Colin!

The Bosque

It's the name we have for the ribbon of forest that bounds the Rio Grande here in New Mexico. Annie and I live, like, a five-minute walk from it. I spent a lot of time there in 2019. Just looking at the river and walking around and stuff. It's a true oasis. In September I fell on my face while running through the cottonwoods. It was a sacrifice the Bosque demanded. Much respect.

Kirkland Cashews

Annie and I depend on her dad, Ron, to get us stuff from Costco. It's stuff we can't live without: For Annie it's abundant LaCroix water; for me, it's abundant Kirkland cashews. You know, the giant thing of cashews that costs, like, $16? That. I go through a couple of those every month. Actually, I consume one of them in four-to-six days. Then I wait around for a while just jonesing until Ron makes another run.

Maybe we should get our own Costco card. We've thought about it. But then we would surely allow our addictions to get the best of us. Better to have Ron be the buffer and buyer.

Blaming Mercury Retrograde

Fuckin' Mercury retrograde. I feel like it was happening all through 2019. Knock it off!

M'Tucci's

Yeah, that's how it's spelled.

Sometimes all I want is a nice big plate of spaghetti. I know the place with the apostrophes will always come through for me.

M'Tucci's has two locations in the Albuquerque metro, and I enjoyed both of them in 2019. In addition to the delicious pasta, M'Tucci's features excellent service, a full bar with all the good stuff (and people with the knowledge to and expertise to give life to said full bar with all the good stuff) and a nice vibe.

I even got to perform at M'Tucci's Moderno this summer. It was truly one of my better performances. Naturally, I rewarded myself for a job well done with a big plate of spaghetti after completing my set.

When my mom visited in October, we celebrated my birthday (and Balloon Fiesta) by having a lovely dinner at M'Tucci's flagship location. Three full bellies; three full hearts. Thanks, M'Tucci's!

Los Poblanos

Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm is the fancy place where the fancy people stay and have dinner while in Albuquerque. Annie and I, being not-quite-so-fancy people, hang out here more often than we probably should. But it's so nice and so lovely. Magical, really. There are peacocks and guinea hens and alpacas and a friendly kitty named "Mouse." Lavender. They have all the lavender. A nice restaurant, Campo, and a terrific bar with a lavender (natch) margarita I sometimes dream about. It's great.

We visited too many times to count in 2019. We even stayed at Los Poblanos back in April, which made us feel like we were far from home even though we were just a few miles away.

Omaha, Nebraska

We swung through Omaha on our way back from the aforementioned Byron Fest to spend a couple days with my sister. She's lived in Omaha for the past decade or so, and I always love spending time there. it's a low-key great city if you catch the climate and Missouri River just right while you're there. Excellent restaurants and walkable neighborhoods and beautiful parks. Stuff like that.

Omaha provides a really nice change of pace from the desert dwelling I've gotten used to. And it's only a one-day drive from here (if you are willing to drive for 14 hours straight)!

Meow Wolf

I finally got to spend time at Meow Wolf while I was in Santa Fe in late June. It did not disappoint. It is my kind of place. All psychedelic. Why haven't I gone back? If you'd like to know more about this place and my experience there, I wrote a little bit about it in this blog post.

Sticker Mule

I ordered a bunch of stickers and pins from Sticker Mule in 2019. By the way, you can get $10 off your order if you use the link in the previous sentence. I love their stuff! High quality with fast turnarounds. And they have lots of sales.

Hey, you want one of the aforementioned stickers or pins? Let me know and we'll work something out.

You Guys

Writing and updating this blog has been one of the dominant activities of 2019 for me. It would really suck if I didn't have readers, so I'm really happy you're here. You are one of the best things about my 2019. I look forward to nurturing this relationship in 2020, don't you?

See you next year!

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