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Let me tell you a little bit about my dear friend, sister-in-law, and occasional bandmate, Amanda Hawkins of Ahhh Design.

Amanda is a web developer and designer who, among other talents, builds websites and custom themes in WordPress, open source web software for websites and blogs. She designed my first website and the newer version you’re currently viewing.

Amanda Hawkins knows how to build a website into a piece of art that’s organic and textured while incorporating impressive, customized development work, like my site’s albums/music section and its smooth mobile and tablet friendly responsive design. (Just adjust the width of this window or view the site on a different device to see how it adapts to different screen sizes.)

Even with very little constructive feedback from me (I’m always like, “This looks great!” and “I love it!” – in my defense, it does look great and I do love it) Amanda created a website that visually represents my personality, story and music more accurately than I could ever imagine.

Amanda also designed the art and layout for most of my albums and even handmade the booklets for throwing mud at your streetlight. You can hear her sing and play bass on “the name of every building (52-33)” from 52 of 28:

You should also listen to this small collection of her music project, Love Morris:

Moving has taken up most of my time lately, but Carrie and I took the night off for a date to see Wes Anderson’s newest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. We went to the Alamo Drafthouse on West Anderson Lane in Austin, and I’m not sure there’s a more perfect address for a Wes Anderson film. They had a photo op for moviegoers to recreate the Boy With Apple painting from the film. How could I resist?

boy with apple with beard

boy with apple (with beard)

Does the w stand for Wes or West?

Does the W stand for Wes or West?

Maria Taylor played at The Mohawk on January 22; Carrie and I had been watching her tour dates and songkick, but somehow we missed it until the afternoon of the show. I hadn’t seen her live, even though I’ve been listening to her since hearing Azure Ray’s November; I remember buying the EP at The Dirt record store in Las Cruces, NM, where I bought most of my music back then.

Indie folk singer PJ Bond opened the show, with electric guitar accompanist Marko Casso playing one fantastic song solo during PJ’s set. PJ played a great heartfelt set, and I would’ve loved to see more from Marko.

Maria played the first two songs on drums, moved to guitar, then electric piano, then back to guitar, then from guitar to drums during the closing song. It’s fun seeing other multi-instrumentalists play and trying to guess what they’ll do next. She was engaging and interactive, and seemed to be having fun on stage and with life in general.

She played two of my favorites, “Song Beneath the Song” and “Two of Those Too,” the latter as part of a two song encore for those of us who stuck around. Taking requests even though she wasn’t sure she remembered them, she said, “I write songs, I record them, then I don’t play them for a year.” I was happy to hear that, because I typically work that way, too, and I’m always nervous someone is going to request an obscure song that I can’t come close to playing.

Shortly after the show, and while Carrie and I were still debating whether we should stick around for a chance to meet Maria, she came out of the green room and chatted with us. We bonded about our writing/recording/forgetting process. It was great seeing that such a talented songwriter and musician was also so down to earth.

Maria Taylor at The Mohawk Austin

Maria Taylor at The Mohawk Austin

Carrie took this one. I’m not that good.

Everybody is talking about how listy the internet has gotten. I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but I do know my interest in making lists increased dramatically after reading Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. (Back then I had to make my lists on analog yellow legal pads, like a caveman.)

So here are four songs I loved from the get-go. The songs in this list (as it were) are still holding strong in the rotation.

Human Behavior – “Crag”

Human Behavior came through Austin in August while on tour from Tucson, AZ; their show was ethereal, intimate and surreal, the perfect blend of DIY and performance art. Whenever I muster up the emotional energy to re-read Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth, Human Behavior’s Golgotha may be the perfect complement.


Matthew McMurry – “Parallax”

During a trip to Little Rock, AR I played at the welcoming open mic at Afterthought Bistro & Bar. The hosts were friendly and there were a variety of performers from jazz to cabaret to folk. Matthew McMurry’s performance stood out with this haunting, mellow, and cosmic song. He also makes some fantastic electronica as Haunted Disco and his cousin makes awesome videos as Andrew M Films.


Mount Moon – “You Dont Know”

I heard this Mount Moon song on Welcome to Night Vale and the emotional energy immediately captivated me, with the lyrics hitting hard and close to home. Mount Moon is doing more electronic soul-type music nowadays, and the newer stuff is great as well.


Kacey Musgraves – “My House”

While Kacey Musgraves is undoubtedly the least “indie” on the list (although she did self-release three albums before making it big), the arrangements, instrumentation, and not-quite-over-produced sound of her music is a good example of how country music can be well-produced while remaining sincere and true to its roots. Carrie and I dream of someday living on the road in a camper, so it’s easy to love this song.

My friend Dan from The Yellow Dress delivered the sad news that Kumar Pallana, also known as Kumar (Bottle Rocket), Mr. LittleJeans (Rushmore) and Pagoda (The Royal Tenenbaums), passed away. He always played lovable and memorable characters, and he adds so much to Wes Anderson’s movies with such subtlety. I planned to someday visit the Cosmic Cup in Dallas in the hope of meeting him.

While looking for a sound bite of a Pagoda line I’m constantly and poorly imitating, “Oh shit, man,” I found this fantastic YouTube montage of his lines from The Royal Tenenbaums. (After I found it, I noticed the A.V. Club also included it in their post. Sometimes details escape me.)

Goodnight, Mr. LittleJeans.

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