My Favorite Songs of 2010

2010 was another banner year for music. Soundgarden reunited, Kanye twittered, The Beatles joined iTunes, Weezy was freed, and the world fought a bout of Bieber Fever. The year in music was entertaining to say the least. So with 2010 slowly coming to a close and with 2011 on the horizon, I thought it would only be appropriate to give you my favorite songs of 2010. Notice that I wrote “my favorite songs” rather than “the best songs” of 2010. I mean, let’s face it. Music is partially personal and mostly subjective. Plus, it’s virtually impossible to hear every song or album that was released in the past year. That is, unless you work for a music magazine and get truck loads of albums for free. Unfortunately I don’t. Nevertheless, armed with a vast array of musical knowledge and a limited CD collection, I give to you my favorite 20 songs of 2010.

20. Kanye West feat. Pusha T, “Runaway”

Did Kanye just admit that he’s a douchebag? Or just that he commits douchebaggery? I can’t tell. Either way this song, along with Cee Lo’s  “F*ck Off” seem to be this year’s critical darlings. Confession: I think both songs are pretty average. I only included them because I want to be taken seriously by music snobs and know-it-all hipsters. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, onto the songs I actually like .

19. Vampire Weekend, “Giving up the Gun”

Not only does Vampire Weekend have a great album cover and a star studded music video that  features Jake Gyllenhaal and a Jonas Brother, they also have one of the best singles this year in “Giving up the Gun”.

18. Justin Bieber feat. Ludacris, “Baby”

Since I’ve already destoryed my musical credibilty, I’m just going to go ahead and say it. I like Justin Bieber. I could blame the radio, the record companies or even the Biebs himself,  but mostly I just blame myself. So what if I’m a 28 year old dude and I like Justin Bieber? It’s not a big deal guys. Really, it’s not.

17. The National, “Bloodbuzz Ohio”

A beautifully written song about realizing you no longer have a place to call home. Or at least that’s how I interpret it. By the way, I’m not sure there’s another band on the planet that makes better sad bastard music.

16. Drive By Truckers, “This F*cking Job”

I may or may not have hummed this little diddy on the way into work this morning. The Dixie rockers serve up another Southern rock anthem that is both personal and infectious.

15. The Soft Pack, “Answer to Yourself”

The Strokes with a So Cal swagger, I think that’s the best way to describe The Soft Pack. They have a garage-rock sound that is both catchy and fun.

14. Eminem feat. Rihanna, “Love the Way You Lie”

A serious look back on a relationship that went horribly wrong with Rihanna’s haunting vocals providing the backdrop.

13. Crystal Castles feat. Robert Smith, ” Not in Love”

Robert Smith from the 80s band The Cure provides the vocals for new-ish band Crystal Castles who covers the 80s song “Not in Love” by Platinum Blonde. Did you follow that?

12. Broken Bells, “The High Road”

Broken Bells is like a weird science experiment gone so right! And Danger Mouse proves once again why he’s the best collaborator in the biz.

11. The XX, “Crystalized”

The best make-out song of 2010. It’s both stark  and mysterious. By the way, how did this song not make any of the Twilight movies?

10. Katy Perry, “Teenage Dream”

People respond to repetition. Unfortnately, I’m one of those people. I blame the radio for getting me hooked on this sub-par pop song.   However, it did inspire one of the funniest youtube videos of the year.

09. Scissor Sisters, “Whole New Way”

Ashley’s favorite song of 2010. An overlooked dance-tastic song with an 80s edge.

08. Drive By Truckers, “Birthday Boy”

I arrived a little late to the Drive By Truckers’ party. But I’m sure glad I showed up. “Birthday Boy” sounds like a Tom Petty song  with a little more bite. It’s  just one of those unforgettable rock ‘n’ roll songs.

07. Mumford & Sons, “Little Lion Man”

Folk rock at it’s best.

06. The Black Keys, “Next Girl”

“Oh my next girl, will be nothing like, my ex girl. I made mistakes back then, I’ll never do it again.” A catchy blues song about moving on. Warning: you will not be able to get this song out of your head.

05. Yeasayer, “O.N.E.”

A strange melting pot of musical influences that somehow sounds cohesive and interstesting. Two big thumbs up!

04. The  Gaslight Anthem, “The Diamond Church Street Choir”

The garage band from New Brunskwick, NJ does it again. Only this time with less edge and more harmony and just enough soul to make Springsteen proud. Trust me, you’ll be taping your foot in no time.

03. Free Energy, “Bang Pop”

Easily the most fun I have had listening to music this year. If I could only recommend one album to buy this year, Free Energy’s “Stuck on Nothing” would be it. It’s a free-wheeling fun ride of pop joy and the song “Bang Pop” is only the beginning.

02. Ryan Bingham, “The Weary Kind”

An Oscar-winning, Bob Dylan-esque country song about looking into the mirror and realizing it’s time to put the bottle down. I guess I might like country music afterall.

01. The Black Keys, “Ever Lasting Light”

An unforgettable gritty blues album. Its been months since I purchased their CD and I still can’t take this song off repeat. Even if every time I hear it with my headphones on I turn into a walking bobble head.

Aruba on ATVs

During our trip to Aruba we decided to book an ATV tour of the island. Joel and I four-wheeled through the hills of Cabo San Lucas in January and were smitten. This time was a little different in that we weren’t just let loose to explore on our own. Instead we followed the guide around to all of the most popular tourist desitinations, and I am so glad we did!

Our first stop was the natural bridge. And it’s basically exactly what you think a natural bridge would be. But what we didn’t learn until later was that the bridge we saw was actually just the smaller of the two natural bridges that were such a popular attraction in the past. The larger bridge collapsed in 2005. It happened in the middle of the night when nobody was around, but it still made me thankful that I didn’t know the story when I was running around on top of the baby bridge.

We spent some time climbing over the rocks near the baby bridge and cooling off thanks to the mist from the waves crashing over the rocks.

After exploring the area we were supposed to hop back on our ATVs, but Joel and I couldn’t get ours to start. And then the guides couldn’t get it to start. So one of the guides hung back to work on our machine and we took the guide’s ATV and jumped in line with the rest of the group. Our next stop was the Bushiribana Ruins.

By the time we were ready to leave the ruins, the guide had our original 4×4 repaired and ready to go. We all climbed back on and took a ride to the Alto Vista Chapel. We were more enthralled with the numerous cacti however.

The next stop was the California Lighthouse at the top of a hill. A huge black thundercloud poured on us while we were there. And then stopped as soon as we left.

We headed back down the hill to Arashi Beach where we spent some time swimming in the incredibly clear water.

After spending some time on the beach we brushed the sand off our feet and tied up our laces. It was time to head back to drop off our ATVs. If you ever decide to do the ATV tour in Aruba, which I’d absolutely recommend, go for the tour that includes the natural pool as well. We originally signed up for that tour but the rain washed out all of the dirt roads so we couldn’t get there. 

The ATVs are an awesome way to check out all of the cool touristy sites that the island has to offer. And we sure had a blast zipping around on our four-wheelers!

One Happy Island

Last year my parents offered to take us on a family trip for Christmas instead of giving us gifts. Without hesitation, we all signed on for a trip to Riviera Maya, Mexico. And since last year’s trip was so much fun, we decided to do away with gifts again this year and take a family trip to Aruba.

We decided on Aruba because a friend of my mom’s vacations there every year and absolutely loves it. My mom did all the planning (she should seriously be a travel agent, she’s that good) and we packed our bags and left Iowa behind.

So here’s the deal. It doesn’t rain in Aruba. I mean, they get about 20 inches of rain per year. So we weren’t too concerned that we were going during the island’s rainy season. But the day we arrived it was pouring and we could tell it had been for some time. Since they don’t get much rain, they don’t have handy things like gutters on the road, which made for a fairly adventurous cab ride from the airport to the hotel.

Our hotel was awesome, by the way. We stayed at the Marriott Surf Club and it would be my first choice if we went back again. The hotel is right on the beach with several pools and a lazy river, and it’s within walking distance to some great places to eat.

So since it was raining and we didn’t get to our hotel until around 6 pm, we didn’t really do anything the first night. We were all pretty tired from the five hour flight anyway.

Unfortunately we woke up on Sunday to more clouds and a few rain showers here and there. We headed out to the beach anyway and only had to run for cover a few times. One particularly long rain shower forced us into the hot tub to keep warm. But I’ll take pouring rain in a hot tub in Aruba over snow and ice in Iowa any day.

The rain cleared off that evening so we ventured to a restaurant on the beach not too far from our hotel.  The Pelican’s Nest is on a dock over the ocean and the coconut shrimp was delicious. If there weren’t so many restaurants to try out we would have gone back for sure.

On our way back from the Pelican’s Nest, we stopped in to a hopping bar next door to our hotel called Moomba Beach. Later we found out that it was only busy because the flooded roads prevented people from going into town. But we sure had a great time! Maybe a little too good because the next day was rough.

Luckily all that was on our agenda for day three was lounging around on the beach some more. And the sun was finally shining. I think we were all a little anxious to soak up every last bit of sun because we kept thinking it would rain again at any minute. We didn’t get any more rain and our overzealousness on the tanning front caused the first in a series of mean sunburns.

That night we walked through the shops and restaurants across the street from our hotel. In the middle of the shops was a stage with a fountain in the background. Like a baby Bellagio. Throughout the night, there were dancers and water shows choreographed to the Calypso music (that link is to the song that our cab driver sang for us on our way to the airport). We ate dinner at a place called Taste of Belgium, which wasn’t all that tasty. And we walked around and checked out all of the vendors’ wares before calling it a night.

So on Tuesday we went to the beach again. Surprised? And then took the bus into Oranjestad for dinner. We went to an Argentinian restaurant called El Gaucho and had some delicious steaks. We shared meals and still had too much food.

The next day we finally switched it up and took an ATV tour of the island. We took so many pictures that I’ll have to make another post about that experience.  We still managed to get some beach time in after we returned from roaming around on our ATVs. That evening we had reservations at the Driftwood, so we cleaned up and took the bus back into Oranjestad. This was absolutely my favorite meal of the week. I had the Seafood Pasta Thermidor and it was amazing! Joel spent most of his meal drooling over my plate full of lobster, clams, shrimp and pasta.

On Thursday we spent the day at the pool. And spent most of our time trying to lure the iguanas that roamed freely throughout the area. We ate at Wacky Wahoo’s which came highly recommended from almost everyone we met at the resort. The food was great but it didn’t top my seafood pasta. After dinner we stopped in at Smokey Joe’s to watch the Colts redeem themselves after their loss to Dallas on Sunday.

Friday was our last full day in Aruba so we staked out some lounges on the beach again to soak up every last drop of sun before heading back to Iowa. We were so set on not missing a minute that we ordered food from the pool instead of heading up to the room to eat. And luckily we did because we might have missed out on the awesome calamari rings!

For our last night in Aruba, we climbed aboard the Kukoo Kunuku bus for a bar crawl around the island. If you’re ever in Aruba, I would definitely get in on this (although you could probably skip out on the dinner and eat somewhere a little more tasty before jumping on the bus). We stopped at four different bars and had our water bottles filled with our favorite concoctions. There was line dancing, dancing on the bars, dancing along with a Michael Jackson look-a-like, dancing to Aruba’s favorite song and, of course, lots and lots of laughter. It was the perfect ending to our trip!

Anticipation

I know you’re here looking for our recap of our trip to Aruba. And I promise that you’ll have it soon. I’m just working on getting the pictures from my mom because she did a much better job than I did of being that annoying person who won’t keep the camera out of your face.

Anyway, I came home from our trip with sore eyes. It happened last year too, and I’m really not sure why, but it’s way better than coming home with Giardia. Well last year I was told that I had some small scratches on my eye when I returned that could have been from sand or salt water. And I had to wear my glasses for a couple weeks and put drops in my eyes a few times a day. So this year, when the same thing happened, I took out my contacts and started with the drops again. Last night I asked Joel to put the drops in for me.

Joel: “What do I have to do?”

Ashley: “I’m going to hold my eye open, and you just squirt a few drops in there.”

Joel: “Are you sure you can’t do this yourself?”

Ashley: “I can’t hold my eye open and squeeze the bottle at the same time because I know when it’s coming and I close my eyes.”

Joel: “All right.”

(I’m writhing around and squealing in agony after the drops hit my eye.)

Joel: “This is more fun than I thought it would be.”

5S-ing

I’m taking an accelerated course right now called Managing Process Improvement and Resilience: Lean Techniques & Methods for Managing Uncertainty & Risk. Huh? Yeah, I’m just going to refer to it as Lean Processes. Anyway, I’m missing an entire week of this four-week class (I’m most likely on the beach with a fruity drink right now, suckas!) so I had to make up some work before I left. My assignment was to use the 5S method on a room in my home or at work. I chose my kitchen pantry. And I thought you guys might like to see my presentation.