This sums it up.

OF COURSE.  The inevitable end-of-year summary, and my life would be incomplete without throwing my 2 cents into the fray.  I usually just do a music list, but I feel like 2014 was a weird year for media (or maybe just my consumption of it), so I’m going to highlight…whatever I feel like highlighting. Nothing is in order.


Taylor Swift – 1989 of course.  I’m not just partial to TaySway because she helped me write a good blog post…she killed it this year.  Her album is pop goodness, her promotion was spot on, she’s hilarious, and I think she will continue to climb.  Hail the Year of Taylor.  A vignette:

(SCENE: Jana meets up with Katie) 

Katie: Is that a Taylor Swift shirt?

Jana: Yes.

Katie: You mean you own 2 Taylor Sw-

Jana: Yes.


Icie – we found each other on Twitter and I listened and loved it.  Smart lyrics and um…British rap.  Yes, please.  Broken Violins is great.

Drew Kennedy – Drew released Sad Songs Happily Played, which is a live album he didn’t know was being recorded while he was performing.  This is the coolest way to make a live album.  He is such a good writer and if you don’t have it, well…get it.

Kelley Mickwee – Kelley is one of the best singers period, and her debut solo album You Used to Live Here is full of amazing songs.

The Belle Sounds – Black Stone EP.  This band sounds like nothing in Austin at the moment, which…face it, can we all admit how refreshing that is?  Noelle Hampton’s songs are gems.

Emily Shirley Suffering Soul.  Emily’s releasing a single at a time these days, which I love.  This one captures some sort of cinematic genius where you can almost picture Quentin Tarantino getting out of a muscle car in the middle of the desert when you listen.  (This is my own personal movie, take a listen and apply your own).

Sara Barreilles – her album The Blessed Unrest did not come out this year but she was nominated for album of the year at the Grammys for it and this single – I Choose You – came out this year and it’s so good.

Susan Gibson – OF COURSE.  This would be a favorite even if I wasn’t in the audience.  The Second Hand: Live at the Bugle Boy is the thing that captures the genius of the Gibson live show, in a great venue, FULL of great people.  The perfect night on disc.  If you have not heard The Second Hand or The Best of You well GO LISTEN WHILE I WAIT.  I AM WAITING.



Amy Schumer – I am fairly convinced she is the smartest thing on TV these days.  Watch any of these sketches for her biting satire.



Serial – I know, everyone’s talking about it, but it is pretty interesting.  The parodies are even good.

Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin – this show went on hiatus last year and I was sad.  Now it’s back.  Alec has many skills but I think radio host is one of his best ones.  It makes me want to have my own show and talk to people, which is weird for me to want.

With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus – the set up of this podcast blew my mind.  Every week Lauren is a new character and her guest is actually the HOST, making Lauren the special guest.  As the theme song says, “She’s the host but she’s always a guest and the guest is a host so she’s not really the host, it’s With Special Guest Lauren Lapkus, with your host as somebody else.”  Whoa.

Caity Weaver’s 14 Hour Search For The End of TGI Friday’s Endless Appetizers.  Just…read it.  Pure genius.



Yes Please – Amy Poehler: No brainer.  Amy’s book is different than most other comedian tomes I’ve read and I’m good with that. She’s smart, kind, and oh yeah, funny.

The Power of No – James Altucher: James is my favorite blogger.  He writes about real stuff and getting better at life, as opposed to all the self-improvement blogs that contain an air of unreachable perfection.

The Remembering Process – Daniel Barrett and Joe Vitale: This book is amazing and I’d be saying that even if Dan the Producer of Awesome hadn’t written it.  Truly, get this and reframe how you think.  It has done me wonders.

Through the Woods – Emily Carroll: I never thought I’d be caught up in a graphic novel of scary stories, but I found Emily Carroll one day and she sucked me in.  It’s Hitchcockian in its creepiness, which is about the right kind of creepy for me.

These end of the year list things are always fun and popular, but I can’t keep track of a whole year, people. It’s hard to remember what is a 2013 release. The fact of the matter is my listening habits have shifted with the rest of the world and I listen to a lot of single tracks. It is what it is. I’m not listing a lot of hip stuff. Lorde is cool but I am tired of “Royals” on the radio every 30 seconds. Patty Griffin put out a couple and she sounds like Patty. Katy Perry’s album sounds like Katy Perry. One of Natalie Maines’ best tracks on her solo album was a Patty cover. WHAT? It’s all good, but sometimes fleeting.

On the flip, these are all albums that caught my interest and kept it.

Drew Kennedy: Wide Listener


Drew is a smart writer and his songs are all gems. While I rant above about only liking singles this year, Wide Listener holds my attention the whole way through. “Age and Color” and “Rose of Jericho” are good places to start. He also wins for favorite album art, how cool is that?

Brandy Zdan: Lone Hunter


Brandy came to Texas from Canada and I am super glad she did. She sounds like nothing else in this state, and I have had Mourning Dove stuck in my head in total for approximately 1/32nd of this whole year. Seriously, it’s going to get stuck in your head. Brandy writes with metaphor and poetry, and her guitar playing is fantastic. Get it.

Demi Lovato: Demi


The only list of 2013 where you’ll see Drew and Brandy followed by Demi Lovato, but hey. This is my favorite pop album of the year. It’s mature, hooky, Demi can sing like a fiend, and she manages to (thus far) avoid the drama and circus that a lot of the pop folk have going on these days. She’s a lived a little, and you can tell it from some of the song topics. Just look at all that dirt on her arms!

Holly Williams: The Highway


I’ve been following Holly since her first album, and this one continues her streak of excellence. I can’t really imagine trying to follow up on a family name like Williams with a music career, but she’s more than capable of handling it. “Railroads” and “Without You” are stand outs.

Lady Gaga: ArtPop


Ok, of COURSE this is on my list because I unapologetically love Gaga.   I think she is the best thing to happen to commercial pop in a long time.  This is a good record. That being said, I am not in love with every single track, but that’s what happens when someone delivers what is, to them, a piece of art. “Applause,” “Swine,” and “Gypsy” are my favorites.

Haim: Days Are Gone


I found these girls on a music blog early this year, happened to find them at SXSW, had my mind blown, and now they are all over the TV and festival circuit. Good on them. This record is full of chill pop-rock-80’s hybrid tunes, but go see them live and prepare for your face to melt off. Best of both worlds.

I am really looking forward to 2014…the first half of the year brings us releases from SUSAN GIBSON (yay!), Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Rosanne Cash. Oh, and some folk-pop from moi. Brang it.

Since we made it through the fake apocalypse, I figure it’s safe to go ahead and make my list with the intention that you all are still around to read it. So many of my favorites put out albums this year…most people on my “must buy on first day of release” list made something new. It was a good musical year in my world.

These are not in any order because…I can’t.

1. Tift Merritt – Traveling Alone
Tift Merritt

I’ve known of Tift for a long time and have all of her albums, but this one grabbed me on the first listen and now I’m a devoted fan…finally.  Sometimes I’m slow, but I don’t regret the slowness.  Best tracks: Traveling Alone, To Myself

2. Mary Chapin Carpenter – Ashes and Roses

No list made by me is complete without some MCC on it, and while I am biased you can go read about 1000 other reviews of this album to know it’s one of the best of her career and she keeps getting better.  However she does it, I’m glad.  Listen to: Transcendental Reunion, New Year’s Day

3. Walt Wilkins – Plenty

Mr. Wilkins is perhaps the patriarch carrying the torch for Texas songwriters right now…he’s smart, thoughtful, an amazing performer, and about as soulful as they come.  Plenty is country, acoustic, and a songwriter album…but overall it’s just a great record.  Listen to: Something Like Heaven, Hang On To Your Soul

4. Rose Cousins – We Have Made A Spark

Maybe one of the best voices ever in my book…the anti-diva.  Rose Cousins’ style is quiet and haunting, and her words are some of the most simple yet powerful of the writers I love.  Listen to: All the Stars, If I Should Fall Behind

5. Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur
az_2675_Voyageur_Kathleen Edwards

Another Canadian!  Kathleen has been amazing since her debut album, and Voyageur is a bit more lush in the production area than previous efforts.  Listen to: Change the Sheets, Chameleon/Comedian

6. David Ramirez – Apologies

David is an Austin-based writer who tours all the time and I know it’s weird, but I’ve never seen him live.  His albums, however always have at least one track that grabs me and makes me spin is 459 times in a row.  On Apologies, that track is “Stick Around.”

7. The Trishas – High Wide and Handsome

I’ve had the luck of seeing these ladies perform in various conglomerations over the years – as in a few Trishas at a time just because that’s how the gig was booked.  I did see all of them in their Trisha glory at the Big Barndance Festival in Taos and they are the real deal.  Four part harmony is always in style.  Listen to: Rainin’ Inside, Liars and Fools

8. Mindy Smith – Mindy Smith

Mindy is a writer that pretty much says it like it is and sings it like her heart is breaking, which is always a good thing for a folk singer.  Even though it’s self-titled, this is her 5th album because she rolls like that.  Listen to: Pretending the Stars, Closer

9. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – The Heist

My friend Mary insisted that I check this guy out and I listen to her whenever she tells me about music…and she was once again right.  Rap with a social conscience.  Listen to: Ten Thousand Hours, Same Love  (iTunes)

10. Garrison Starr – Amateur

Garrison is another one that has made a lot of albums and they’re all great.  She’s more rock and electric but still a very grounded songwriter…which is what makes this great.  Listen to: I May Not Let Go, To Garrison on her 29th Birthday

11. Tori Amos – Gold Dust

Another one of those artists that just keeps releasing new projects and they’re all good.  This one is Tori working with an orchestra to re-work some of her past catalog.  It works, and it still sounds like Tori.  Listen to: Flavor, Star of Wonder (iTunes)

American Songwriter Magazine (one of my favorites) always has this “On My Deathbed” section where they pick people’s list of best albums and publish them. I had forgotten I filled one out once until someone on Facebook alerted me that they saw my list. I was a little nervous because I didn’t even remember what I had listed, but luckily, I’m still cool with all of these.

Deathbed Album List in American Songwriter

Starting to push out the EP for reviews…a scary process but FUN nonetheless, especially when you get reviews like this from the kind folks at The Needle and The Groove…a great, personable, and well written music blog. I’m not just saying that because the review of For & Against contained this sentence:

“Songs like “Drive Around,” which calls to mind the long gone days when a car could be the heart and soul of any relationship…the kind of songs that made Springsteen the Boss…and amid it all, echos of Jericho and Jesus.”

All I know is they get it. And I thank them for it. Show them the love, folks.