pjhstudios blog

My 2011 favorite albums


Below lists the albums I enjoyed the most in 2011.  2011 overflowed with good music from numerous artists and genres. Hip hop, country and polka are sadly underrepresented on my list.

  • Bon Iver – Bon Iver: The album swirls with lush arrangements and endearing, if cryptic lyrics. The tracks are places, whether a state of being or emotion, with Perth, Holocene and Michicant being standouts.  Seeing Justin Vernon lead his Bon Iver creation in concert at an opera house is definitely a highlight.
  • Feist – Metals: A more subdued album (read: no 1234-esque track) seeks a more introspective take to the coffee house chill fest Leslie Feist creates. Graveyard builds to an anthemic chorus and the album’s closer, Get it Wrong, Get it Right, sing simple, meditative phrases to close your eyes to.
  • Seryn – This is Where We Are: Out of Denton, this quintet of super talented multi-intrumentalists created an album that ebbs and flows with emotion. A mix of folk, rock, blue grass, jam band chamber pop, there’s much to discover. So Within perfectly starts out the album–short, dramatic, leaving you wanting more. River Song and We Will All be Changed lead in so many different directions.  I even had them play an unplugged set in my living room for my birthday.
  • Wild Flag – Wild Flag: Ex-Sleater Kinney bandmates lead this foursome of rockin’ ladies.  Romance charges out and makes punk seem fun again.  Glass Tambourine is a throwback to the 70s acid rock.
  • The Calm Blue Sea – We Happy Few: Post rock is basically instrumental rock. The Calm Blue Sea put together satisfying arrangements to sit back and enjoy a glass of bourbon on the patio.  They never reach the dramatics of Sigur Ros or the quiet/loud/quiet of Explosions in the Sky, and that’s not a bad thing.
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Seryn unplugged in my living room


To get a band to play in your living room, there are several steps to make it happen.

  1. Find an intimate setting large enough to fit a band and their equipment.
  2. Get owner of said place to agree to let a band play in their intimate setting.
  3. Ask said band to play in said intimate setting.

Inspired by two stories posted to Fuel/Friends music blog, by Heather Browne, I pitched the idea to my parents: to put on a show in the living room for my birthday. Reticent to the idea, I strategically, I loaded up the potential band’s music on the kitchen computer and played it for them as I talked about how cool it would be for a 30th birthday experience. Once the soothing, serene harmonies of Seryn filled the kitchen, they began to seem amiable.

“Sure, email the manager, to see if they’ll play.”

A week’s worth of emailing with the band’s manager passed and we worked out a deal. It would cap off a 4 day run of shows for the band. Seryn would play, unplugged, in my living room. I relayed the news to my parents, and they were shocked and impressed, and possibly wondering what they committed themselves to.

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Invites were sent, food ordered, the band’s whisky purchased, last minute details cleared up, logistics finalized, poster made, living room cleared, margarita machines stocked, and the dog tranquilized with doggie downers.

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People began arriving around 4:30, and the band followed, unloading around 5. They arrived in their bus, a midnight blue shuttle bus, pulling a trailer for their gear. One by one, they entered the house placing an assortment of instruments from a stand up bass, pump organ, tambourines, banjos and xylophone. And in a small world moment, Nathan, the red-bearded guitarist, and my brother, exchanged glances and immediately recognized each other.

“Hey, I know you… from UNT.”

“Yeah, you were in Bruce…”

“… and you had a girlfriend back home…”

“… you did too…”

“… and we’d talk about it all the time… “

“How you been?!”

Everything was fine.

The stage was set, and fajitas were shared, and margaritas and whisky were dispersed for the set. At five after six, a sizable crowd swelled within the confines of the kitchen to the dining room to the stairs. I thanked everyone for coming, and introduced the band.

Trenton spoke, “Hi, we’re Seryn, and we’re happy to be here to play a few songs for you and celebrate Patrick’s birthday.” And they transitioned into Of Ded Meroz.

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For an hour Seryn played, switching instruments mid song, applying bows to a banjo and a xylophone during On My Knees, singing in 5 part harmony, jamming out, letting the music ebb and swirl and coalesce into a rousing finale of Here We Are. This is a band you have to see live, for their energy, passion and camaraderie, and you can’t help but feel that and get a sense of something bigger, something hopeful, and joyful.

Friends and family lined up at the makeshift merchandise stand at the dining room table, picking up cds for themselves or others and T-shirts, too.

It was a memorable night. Chelsea, Trenton and Nathan told the story of how they all joined up (fyi, an Explosions in the Sky show is involved); my father helping Andrew, the merch guy, fix the band’s box o’ wares; taking a shot of whisky with Trenton and Nathan, Aaron showing me their spiffy Square credit card processor; my friend Mark collecting autographs with a silver Sharpie; my friend Brad suggesting the addition of a cowbell; the margarita machine drained dry; Chris arriving just in time from a wedding.

All in all, I’m incredibly grateful, humbled and appreciative for all the people who came out to celebrate my 30th.

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