These are some keepers from the past year as well as some stuff I’ve come across from times long past us. Hope you find stuff you like!

A compilation of a few albums that stuck out in January. Everything from punk to electronic to psychedelic pop. Enjoy free access to new music through Spotify! One notable reissue that spotify didn’t have was “Bad Debt” by Hiss Golden Messenger. Definitely worth your time and money to listen to it!


Hospitality - Trouble

Quilt - Held In Splendor

East India Youth - Total Strife Forever

Big Ups - Eighteen Hours of Static

Painted Palms - Forever 

Blank Realm - Grassed Inn 

Rosanne Cash - The River & The Thread 

James Vincent McMorrow - Post Tropical 

The Gloaming - The Gloaming

Alcest - Shelter

Damien Jurado - Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son 

Warpaint - Warpaint

The Pack a.d. - Do Not Engage

Jess Williamson - Native State 

Doug Tuttle - Doug Tuttle

Gem Club - In Roses 

Nashville vs. The World

After seeing and experiencing the theme of disappointment that has seemed to encompass the GRAMMYs nowadays, I’ve never been more delighted to live in a city where music is pure. I don’t know if it’s the fact that the city has more churches per capita, or if it’s just the people here. Not everyone believes in the same things, but musicians in Nashville all seem to have a different moral compass.

I think people here regardless of religious belief realize that offensive and “demonic,” as some have come to call it, music isn’t art. The performances that encompassed the majority of the primetime show weren’t artistic, they were a disgrace. It’s not personal expression, it’s debauchery. It’s not honest, it’s disrespectful to those who realize that music isn’t about selfishly glorifying yourself, it’s about giving your audience something to relate to. Music is meant to be a beautiful product.

There were only two or three performances that were honest in my opinion. Two being by Nashville artists, and the other being by a teenage artist out of New Zealand. I think this says a lot about Nashville. I think the music city will continue to lose out to the big east and west coast musicians now, but I think at some point, people are going to get tired of music not being about music. Most popular music is just so raucously and uncomfortably sensual that it’s almost embarrassing to listen to and/or watch. When did art suddenly become all about sex?

To me, it’s a cop out. Sex is easy. Sex sells. Sex has passed as art for centuries, but musicians are capable doing something so much greater. Nashville is proof of this. Nashville shows that musicians can express themselves artistically and still present a modest product. The music city shows that success is something more than self-glorification. It’s more than writing a top 40 hit. It’s more than performing in the primetime showcase of the Grammy’s. It’s about sticking to your guns, keeping yourself honest, and doing something your momma would be proud of.

So here’s to the folks that see the grammy’s as more than a “Golden Sippy Cup.” Shame on those who settle for anything less.

The One With The Food Fetish

For anyone who calls Nashville home or is just here for an extended stay, it is very difficult not to take the splendor of all the different coffee shops, bistros, ice cream parlors, and, of all things, popsicle bars. What is even more difficult sometimes is separating the good places from the…not so good places. Nashvegas is a weird place in the sense that Urbanspoon, Yelp, and Trip Advisor are going to send you into a bunch of tourist traps (insert sad face), so one must incessantly rely on the locals for recommendations on the hometown garb. Being a musician in what is called the “Music City,” I feel as if food is an extension of the musical element here. I mean…what’s the good of being in a cultural center if the food sucks right? So this is why I decided to give honest reviews of five places in Nashville you may or may not have heard of. I also try to debunk some of the preconceived notions about a couple of my favorite joints and laud on the places that already receive praise. 

So here we go, this is in no order of discretion. 

1. Frothy Monkey - 12 South

I know what you’re thinking. “Good grief, not this again.” Frothy Monkey is incredibly popular. When people like Taylor Swift and Hunter Hayes grace this establishment with their presence, you wonder if folks are actually here for the food or here to take a selfie with the girl that’s feeling 22. But all things considered, Frothy really isn’t kidding about “Frothy Love.” There are few other places in Nashville that I would want to be come brunch on a Sunday. My usual is the “Bill” which is a fantastic 100% Buckwheat waffle served with whatever two sides that fit your fancy (I think most go for the farm eggs and bacon). While sometimes they put a damper on my day with a very bland French Roast (no offense FM, it’s just not my taste), they usually have a nice medium roast on tap. When that’s the case, life is good. What’s so great about this place is that it’s not really a tourist trap and it’s not really low key enough to be a hipster joint. You’ll never run into a bad worker, and don’t be afraid to get the special of the day, there’s a reason why it’s called “special.” 

2. McDougal’s Chicken Tenders and Wings - Hillsboro Village 

Besides it being WAY too small, WAY too close to Vandy, and deceptively pricey, there’s not a better place to curb your disappointment on a Sunday when Chick-fil-A is closed. I’ve never been to a chicken joint where all three things are on pointe. We’re talking about the chicken, the fries, and the toast. The toast is what makes a fried meal complete, but everybody neglects it. Not McDoogs. The Texas Toast in Hillsboro Village is buttery, crunchy, and, if you like dipping your bread in McDougal’s sauce, tangy. Also, if you make a trip there, make it a must to try the Honeybee wing sauce on anything. I haven’t been able to find anything else like it in the USA, so obviously McD’s knows something that everybody else doesn’t. If you need to feel fat every once in a while, this is the place to do it. Here’s a warning though, don’t wear your favorite shirt to McDougal’s, because if the staff sees it and thinks it’s cool, they’ll want to hang it up on the wall. You’ll get a free meal and a new shirt out of the deal, but let’s get real here. You never want to see your “T-Rex Hates Pushups” shirt go. 

3. CREMA - Hermitage Ave. 

For coffee lovers only. This place is my favorite spot in Nashville. Home of a roasting school and all things coffee connoisseur, a simple cup of coffee here is life changing. Bring your best friend, your significant other, your arch nemesis, anybody. Here, coffee isn’t about being a snobby hipster who enjoys all things organic and fair-trade. It’s about sitting back and enjoying something that takes time to make. If you get one of their pour-over brews, it takes about ten minutes to get your cup o’ joe, and the staff always takes the time to enlighten you of this. They clearly don’t want you waiting for no reason, and even if you’re inexperienced in their craft, they are always happy and eager to explain to you what goes into your purchase. With a warehouse-like atmosphere near the banks of the Cumberland, Crema isn’t a coffee shop, it’s in a league of its own. Voted one of the top three coffee roasters in the US by more than a few critics, it’s a true gift that Nashville possesses. If you’re ever having a bad day or need to get away from the hectic city/college life, Crema is one of the best places to unwind. 

4. International Market & Restaurant - Belmont Blvd. 

This establishment is one that becomes near and dear to the hearts of all who step inside. A gem of Belmont Blvd. since 1975, the owner, Patti Myint, who also possesses PM, Chago’s Cantina, and Blvd. across the street, picked the perfect place to settle down an Asian market in Nashville. Just a single step south off of Belmont’s campus will put you at the front doors of this restaurant, and while its naysayers attest to its outward “sketchy” appearance, they have never even been inside to try the food. There are more flavors, combinations, and comestibles in this building than can be found anywhere else in the Belmont/Hillsboro area. If Patti’s in the house, make sure you have your chopsticks in hand, and abstain from using the soy sauce, lest you use it wrong. The folks here care so much about their customers that they do not just give you authentic Thai cuisine, but they make sure you eat it right. Customs are not out of the boat inside the walls of International Market, and don’t be surprised if you get a scolding for not using the spicy sauce in your curry noodle soup. This place wins the award for the fanciest not fancy meal in Nashville. 

5. The Pharmacy - East Nashville

This cul-de-sac of culture in East Nashville just gets the people here. While its patio isn’t the place you would want to find yourself in the winter, the line to get in the door is usually a bit more satisfying than another similarly popular place on 21st Avenue (you do the math). To be honest, the best burger I’ve ever had is not at The Pharmacy, it’s being served at Eagle’s Deli at Cleveland Circle in Boston. However, this hometown joint cures your ailments with organic ingredients, all from within the borders of Tennessee. The food is hard to describe because there is just such an attention to detail, and guys, we’re just talking about burgers, soda, and beer. If the waiters and waitresses weren’t sporting flannel shirts and jeans, The Pharmacy might literally be able to transcend time. With an old school soda rail and a traditional German beer selection, one might feel like they just stepped into the Eagle and Child with C.S. Lewis. To me, this place is nothing all too special, but maybe that’s the way it should be. There’s a lot to be said for not making things too extravagant, and The Pharmacy is a place that chooses to do everything just right instead of perfect. 

Starting Fresh

Happy New Year, folks.

For me, the new year was the greatest Christmas gift I could have ever gotten. Don’t get me wrong, 2013 gave me a multitude of incredible experiences, but I was sick of it. Between the second semester at BU, going through the transfer application process for Belmont, leaving the Boston Marathon finish line just less than an hour before the bombs went off, spending an entire summer at home, and basically going through first semester of freshman all over again, I felt accomplished that I made it through all the peaks and valleys. But, it is time to move on. 

It’s time to start fresh. 

The second semester of my sophomore year of college is starting this Monday, and if it turns out to be half of what my first semester contained, I really have it in for me. How exciting yet terrifying! Something that is even more surreal is that I looked on my student profile this morning and discovered that, according to Belmont, I technically have junior standing. With everything I’ve experienced in the past three semesters of college, maybe I should be. Rarely do I ever experience something in school anymore that I am just flat out unprepared for (knock on wood). I think something I’ve realized from this is that I have so many opportunities to do new things this semester. I’m starting exclusive lessons on the drum set which I am extremely excited about, and I am going to begin exploring new solo percussion repertoire with my primary classical instructor in order to prepare myself for upcoming recitals and auditions. Quite frankly, I want to start making a name for myself, but more importantly, I want to honor God with the talents that He has endowed me with. Also, I want to continue to show my parents that their investment in my pursuits in music is worth something. When you aren’t able to support yourself, and you’re the last child in the family to go off on their own, there is an unbelievable amount of pressure. You feel like your family legacy is tied to your successes and failures, and it’s easy to think that anything less than achieving the ideal is a disappointment. Success and failure, however, isn’t what determines whether this path is worth something. 

It is worth something because it is the path that God has allowed me to walk on, for better or worse. 

Too many people see success as the end all, and their idea of success may not even be what God’s idea of success for them is. If our idea of success is something that results in worldly satisfaction or possessions, we have truly failed in pursuing the kingdom of God like we are supposed to. As much as I love music, I try as hard as I can not to do it for the recognition. Do I want to reputable as a musician? Yes. Do I want to be famous just like half of the people I go to school with at Belmont want to be? Absolutely not. In the end, God’s not going to care about my right or wrong notes, the auditions I won or the ones I lost, or how many people filled the seats in my last concert. He’s going to care about whether I was a faithful servant to Him or not. He’s going to care about whether I used my talents to reach other people and love on them with music versus showering myself with praises and scoffing at the people that don’t understand what I do. I feel like, as far as music goes, Jesus wants me to be a friend of those I come across instead of a colleague. 

But, to make myself extremely vulnerable, being a true friend is difficult for me. 

I’ve dealt a lot with rejection in the past, and I have had tons of people violate my trust. These experiences have been as simple as someone not being forthcoming about what they truly think about me, and they have been as complex as almost being proselytized into a cult religious group. I think we’ve all experienced something similar to stuff like this, but for some reason I feel like I experience it exponentially more than others. Trusting people takes time for me, and even when I get comfortable, someone can throw all of that away in an instant. It doesn’t just hurt a lot. It hurts for a while, and as soon as you get over it, it happens again. The person that really keeps me going here, honestly, is Jesus. Whenever this stuff happens, I always find myself thinking how much Jesus was and is rejected and will continue to be rejected by the people of this world. When Scripture tells us that there was “one without sin, but none without sorrow,” I really think that shows the true nature of God’s love and grace. God was willing to be rejected like we are, He was willing to weep with us, and He was willing to put His trust in someone who He knew would eventually betray Him. At times, I ask myself, “Who am I to say that I suffer?”

So this year, no matter what happens, I’m sticking to my guns. I’m going to continue loving what I do and who I do it with. I’m not going to waste time mulling over the people that don’t care about me as much as I care about them. I’m going to stop searching for happiness and start finding joy in the life that God has given me. It’s not perfect by any means, but I never doubt that it is good. 

Here’s to 2014 being a good year. 

Christians are (insert adjective).

Christianity, or at least some version of it, has been making the press a lot recently. Usually, when I’m at school in Nashville, I don’t really spend much time on social media, watching TV or keeping up with the world much at all, but since I’ve been home for the holidays, it seems like all I’ve been seeing is a rush of judgment and prejudice from so many people in the Christian community whenever a controversial person or issue becomes part of the discussion. Whenever some famous right-winged believer faces opposition due to negative comments made toward the LGBT community or other minority groups, suddenly a significant minority, at least I hope this is the case, comes storming out of the caverns of Twitter and Facebook and other media outlets stating how this so-called Christian is being persecuted for their beliefs and that America is slowly but surely going to hell in a handbasket. 

For some reason I think I’ve heard this story before…

Let’s face it. Much of the LGBT community accuses churchgoers of mistreating them. This means being judgmental, prejudiced, hateful, bigoted, inconsiderate, and just downright mean. My only problem is not that I think that the accusers of the church are wrong; they’re telling the truth like it is. My problem is that these people are not the only people the church at large is mistreating. One of the reasons why Jesus came was to set things straight with how His people treated others because, after thousands of years of what they thought was just covenant-keeping, God’s people had become notorious for mistreating those who were “unclean.” Truth be told, two thousand years after Jesus walked this Earth and conquered sin and death for eternity, this message still fails to speak to many of those He has called to follow Him. Many churches are still dealing with racism within the walls, hate between the pews, and even misguidance from the pulpit.

Clearly, there are still some tables that need to be thrown in churches across the country.

I think the challenge for the believers who are doing their best to follow the commandments of Jesus to “love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength,” to “love your neighbor as yourself” and to “make disciples of all nations” is to keep these things from defining what outsiders think of believers as a whole. I’m reading a book called Jesus Is by Judah Smith, and from what I’ve read so far, Smith really stresses the importance of believers remembering that they will always be sinners who are only made righteous through Christ’s grace and forgiveness. Too often, believers use the Bible as a type of school handbook that strictly forbids any action that wouldn’t be representative of a “true Christian.” Last time I checked, Jesus challenged people to “go and sin no more” after they came to belief, not before.

So why are we constantly having these debates about how gay people and atheists and Obama-supporters are going to hell and that they need to repent from their sin or otherwise face the wrath of God’s judgment? Good grief, that’s not what these people need to hear! That’s not what anyone, regardless of their lifestyle or beliefs, needs to hear. I think people have heard enough about how bad they are. I think people have heard enough about what they are doing wrong. Jesus is not concerned about any of that, and neither should we be as believers. We should be concerned that there are people, not gay people, not straight people, nor any “kind” of people, just people, that have souls that are unaccounted for. These are people that were created by God for a purpose, and I’m completely sure that purpose wasn’t to be persecuted by the very people that are supposed to be leading them toward salvation in Jesus Christ. These are people that believers have the chance to spend eternity with! 

Maybe if believers all had this mindset, we’d turn off Fox News and Duck Dynasty, stop reposting anti-Obama, anti-gay remarks on Facebook, and get out of our pseudo-spiritual comfort zone and start spreading the impartial Gospel of Jesus and love to the people of this world. I want gay people to simply believe in Jesus, not “pray away the gay.” I want the most despised people in this world not to become righteous in their own ways but to become righteous because they follow Jesus, and I want the Bible to stop being a rulebook and to start being the testament to the glory, grace, and never ending sovereignty of God that it was meant to be. That’s not much to ask is it? 

The bottom line is…I know that I know that I know that I am a follower of Jesus. I believe in who Jesus was, who He is, and who He will be. I believe that this dark-skinned, most likely short, aramaic-speaking, compassionate man from Nazareth is the only hope the people of this world have in seeing life after death, not to mention life before death. I believe that Jesus died the most humiliating death that humanity could have handed to Him in order to stick His hands and feet deep into the muck of the world’s sin and rip every possibility of imperfection, disease, and injustice defining us to shreds. I believe that God the Father took on something that we all deserved a million times over, and I believe that when God the Father came to Moses and told him that His name was “I AM WHO I AM,” He meant it. There was no “God is this and that and all this other stuff.” There were no self-indulgent explanations. There was just God speaking to one of His children as a friend. He just was, and to quote a very wise professor of mine, “He just is.” 

That’s all we should ever desire to say. 

Giving What You Have

If I could possibly sum up the Fall 2013 semester in one word, I would have to say that word would be enlightening. Not in the pseudo-sentimental connotation but in the real and present definition. When I decided to transfer to Belmont back in January, I knew that God had something incredible in store for me. What I did not know or expect, however, was the volume and intensity of what I was walking into. An unveiling has been taking place day by day since I stepped on campus in August. 

Here in Nashville, you see purpose take many shapes and forms. It can be as small as jamming with friends outside at night, and it can be as large as performing with over a hundred of your colleagues in the School of Music for a nationally televised taping of Christmas at Belmont. The product of transferring has been amazing. I feel more confident in my musical ability than I ever have, I love the faculty here more than I ever imagined I could love any group of teachers ever, and most of all, I love music and everything it contains immeasurably. While this is all beautiful and motivating, it’s easy for people to miss the often meticulous life that also comes along with being a transfer student. 

Let’s face it. When someone leaves anywhere that they have spent a considerable amount of time in, they leave friends, colleagues, family, and in many cases, a part of themselves. When I left Boston back in May, I had to leave some of the most genuine friends I’ve made in order to follow my path and pursue what I believe God has planned for me. I had to leave a city that felt like home, a city that seemed to work itself around me and my interests, and city that has an incomparable amount of history and places to explore. Looking back, it’s easy to say I had it pretty good when I was still there, but I was miserable. The details as to why are a bit personal, but none of the reasons as to why I transferred to Belmont are out of the ordinary. 

In the midst of the problems that come with transferring, whether it be a different financial situation, going to a school with different rules and values, studying with teachers that have different priorities and expectations than previous ones, and so on and so forth; there are a lot of positive experiences that I’ve had coming out of it. One example is that I am one of 5 classical percussion performance majors at Belmont…talk about exclusive treatment. And my professor studied for 6 years at the Eastman School of Music with John Beck, not to mention his classmates are currently some of the most prominent faculty members at the top music conservatories and sought after soloists in the world. The connections make you realize how small the music world really is, and how possible your goals are if you simply take the time to get to know people. I’ve learned and progressed more in one semester than I did in some of my high school years. Maybe it’s a mental thing, maybe it’s physical maturity, or more than likely, it’s a reassurance that I am where God wants me to be in this season of my life. Now that’s pretty amazing. 

Now there’s so much more I could talk about, but I really only have the energy to write about one more thing. This semester, I’ve really had the blessing of understanding what really makes relationships with people in college tick. The people I met during welcome week were all transfer students, and by some miraculous cacophony of intentionality, we stuck together through this semester. Trying to live life with up 18 different people all trying to be close friends stretches one a little thin, but stretching yourself thin is almost like sacrificing a part of yourself to make lasting relationships with people. And then there is a select number of people outside this group who I’ve become incredibly close to. It’s weird in a sense that if one thing had changed at any point with these relationships, I might not have even known these people before I graduate. When people talk about God placing certain people in their lives, I think this is the kind of situation they’re talking about. All it takes is introducing yourself or seeing a familiar face from a meeting in one of your classes to begin something that escalates toward lifelong friendships. And the thing that I’ve learned from these experiences is that finding your true purpose in college and making good relationships is never about getting what you want…

It’s about giving what you have. 

Don’t listen to this at a coffee shop, otherwise your persistent jamming will bother those around you. Be careful, lovelies. 

Tune-age for your Thursday, eh?