Category Archives: 30 at 30

16. The Beatles

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 16 is The Beatles.

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What can I possibly write about The Beatles that hasn’t been written already? It’s unusual to see The Beatles at #16 on any musical list. Typically, they’re found much closer to the top, and if this list was about historical significance, there is no doubt that this list would be a lot different. However, it’s a testament to the Fab Four that they are on this list at all. They are definitely outliers on the list, the only group/artist that predates my life to make it on my all-time favorites list.

While the rest of the list is populated by my contemporaries who have/are producing music in the 90s/2000s/2010s, The Beatles’ last official album was recorded more than a decade before I was born. I enjoy plenty of other bands and artists that might show up on a classic rock or oldies radio station, but none of them compares to The Beatles in terms of a collection of music that I enjoy.

One of the most interesting aspects of The Beatles to me is their varied styles. It’s so difficult to pigeonhole them because their music shifted significantly over the years from album to album and even song to song. As far as I’m concerned their versatility  is unparalleled in music history, particularly with the level of success they achieved.

Continue reading 16. The Beatles

17. Jack Johnson

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 17 is Jack Johnson.

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Jack Johnson was raised in Hawaii, the son of a well-known surfer. Knowing that bit of biographical background explains the style of Johnson’s music.

He plays mellowed out, chill, mostly acoustic folk/soft rock songs that all have a laid back vibe. Johnson sings catchy songs with memorable, singable melodies. The average song on this 24-track compilation is just 3:18, with nine songs clocking in under the three-minute mark. There is a familiarity in Johnson’s style. While the songs don’t necessarily stand out much from one another musically, they blend together in a feel-good way that makes you as a listener long for that beach in Hawaii where Johnson seems to be singing.

Continue reading 17. Jack Johnson

18. Ryan Adams

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 18 is Ryan Adams.

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Ryan Adams and Adam Duritz are friends. They’ve even collaborated on a few tracks over the years. Although both of them are talented lyricists and singers, their songwriting production couldn’t be much more different. Duritz and his band, Counting Crows, tend to release a new album once every three or four years. Meanwhile, Ryan Adams’ discography, which only dates back to 2000, already includes 14 albums and nearly 200 songs.

It goes without saying that trying to narrow Adams’ musical catalog down to a single CD for my 30 at 30 compilation was quite the challenge. When all the dust settled, tracks from eight different Ryan Adams albums made the final cut.

Continue reading 18. Ryan Adams

19. Coldplay

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 19 is Coldplay.

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They’re not quite at the Nickelback level. But somewhere betweem 2000’s Parachutes and 2014’s Ghost Stories, Coldplay became one of the definitive bands to agree to hate among people who “know” things about music. In 2011, after Coldplay released Mylo XylotoGrantland ran a piece that began with this sentence: “Coldplay is the band that everyone allegedly hates, but nevertheless is still one of the most popular in the world.” This year, Grantland published a more in depth article titled “Overrated, Underrated, or Properly Rated: Coldplay” with the subtitle “The most insufferable band of the millennium or a misunderstood group of talented young men?”

Whatever it is that causes people to love to hate Coldplay, I never caught the bug. Although none of the tracks from Ghost Stories resonated strongly enough to get fast-tracked onto my compilation, I’ve enjoyed the full spectrum of Coldplay’s catalog and unabashedly proclaim them as my 19th favorite musical act of all-time.

Continue reading 19. Coldplay

30 at 30 List #3: TV Shows

 In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.

I probably watch too much television. It’s relaxing, entertaining, and nowadays it’s easier than ever to tune in. When I was growing up, I had to watch what was on one of the 60 or so channels we had from our cable provider. And unless I wanted to set up a VCR timed recording, I had to watch it when it was broadcast or else miss it entirely.

watching TV

Today, the number of channels has ballooned into the thousands. Recording multiple shows can be done with the push of a button using the DVR. On-demand services like HBO Go, Netflix, the Watch ESPN app, the WWE Network, etc., put TV viewing on my schedule. Plus, mobile devices like my iPad or iPhone give me the ability to watch TV on the go. On the track “BBC” from his Magna Carta Holy Grail album, Jay-Z raps “my whole life is leisure.” With the TV technology available to me today, sometimes I feel that way, especially during the summer, prime time for a teacher to catch up on some of the TV missed during the hustle and bustle of the school year.

My list of all-time favorite TV shows includes some current chart-toppers as well as some childhood classics. My list clearly shows my preference for comedies, and it also has some noticeable absentees. Sorry, fans of Game of Thrones, The Wire, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and INSERT YOUR BEST TELEVISION SERIES EVER THAT I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU HAVEN’T SEEN HERE. I haven’t watched any of them, at least not yet. For what it’s worth, I came up with more than 20 honorable mentions in compiling this list, so kudos to the programs that did make the final cut.

Continue reading 30 at 30 List #3: TV Shows

20. Eminem

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 20 is Eminem.

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Marshall Mathers. Slim Shady. Eminem. Whatever you want to call him, he is certainly the most controversial inclusion on my countdown so far and arguably will be the most polarizing selection on the entire list.

When I first heard Eminem I was 14 years old and in 8th grade. It was around that time that I convinced my parents to allow me to purchase CDs with the parental advisory: explicit lyrics sticker on them. Eminem’s lyrics earned that label and then some. However, I never adopted the foul-mouthed act that Eminem and most of my peers did. To this day, my curse words are few and far between.

Continue reading 20. Eminem

21. The Farewell Drifters

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 21 is The Farewell Drifters.

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I feel like I have a personal connection with every band/artist on my 30 at 30 countdown, but even more so with The Farewell Drifters. When I first discovered The Farewell Drifters, my high school classmate (Cathedral Prep Class of 2003!) Christian Sedelmyer was playing fiddle in the band.

In addition to purchasing their 2010 album Yellow Tag Mondays, we were fortunate enough to see the band play live in Erie. Yellow Tag Mondays landed six tracks on my compilation. From a sweet love song like “Love Me Good & Plain” to the storytelling of “Sunnyside Drive” to the feel-good “River Song” featuring a trademark Sedelmyer solo at the 1:50 mark, there is a lot to love about Yellow Tag Mondays.

Yet as good as Yellow Tag Mondays was, the band’s 2011 follow-up Echo Boom was even better. In my opinion, Echo Boom was the group at its absolute best. With tight vocal harmonies and amazing musicianship, the Farewell Drifters blended elements of folk, bluegrass, and melodic pop to create a masterpiece of an album—one of my all-time favorites. Getting the opportunity to see them showcase songs off the album in Erie and Buffalo further cemented its and their legacy.

Continue reading 21. The Farewell Drifters

22. Gavin DeGraw

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 22 is Gavin DeGraw.

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Gavin DeGraw released his debut album Chariot in 2003. That was an influential year for me. I graduated high school and began college in 2003. I attended my first ever concert (Counting Crows) in 2003. I also met my future wife in 2003.  We worked together at Giant Eagle. Discussing our musical interests was one of the first connections we ever made.

In 2004, DeGraw re-released Chariot with a bonus disc called Chariot Stripped, featuring “stripped-down” studio recordings of all of the original songs. When I purchased Stripped, I was left with an extra copy of Chariot, which I gave to Jessie. Even before we had romantic chemistry, we shared a friendship built, at least in part, over a shared love for music. That Gavin DeGraw CD was one of the first of many musical gifts we would exchange over the years. 

Continue reading 22. Gavin DeGraw

23. Howie Day

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 23 is Howie Day.

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Howie Day hasn’t released any music since his 2011 Ceasefire EP, and 2009’s Sound the Alarm offers the most recent of his music to make the cut for my compilation. However, his early work, 2002’s Australia and 2004’s Stop All the World Now, was influential enough to earn him this spot on the countdown.

Day fits comfortably into the singer/songwriter mold. Aside from the live rendition of “Ghost” there is not a whole lot that stands out musically, but lyrically his songs resonated. If I could make singability a word, the tracks listed at the bottom of would rate very high in terms of being singable.  That’s important to me.

Continue reading 23. Howie Day

30 at 30 List #2: Places I’ve Played Basketball

In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.

Basketball has been part of my life since about the time I could walk.

As a kid, I watched my cousin Keith Nies and the Cathedral Prep Ramblers compete in three state championships, including the 1996 showdown with Lower Merion and Kobe Bryant. I had dreams of following in his footsteps, lacing up my sneakers for the orange and black, earning a Division I scholarship, and playing in the NBA. I never realized any of those dreams. After playing freshmen and junior varsity basketball for Prep, I was cut from the varsity team as a junior, steering my basketball career into another direction playing in the local CYO league for my home parish of St. Jude.

Although my basketball career fell a few steps short of a Hall of Fame enshrinement, I’ve had more than my fair share of shining moments. They may not have been ESPN or even Erie Times-News headline worthy, but they stand out in my memory just the same. To this day, basketball is entangled in my identity—player, coach, fan, student of the game. My relationship with the game changes and evolves depending on my role in it, but I cannot imagine my life without basketball being a part of it.

As I approach age 30, it’s pretty clear that my best basketball-playing days are behind me. Still, I plan to continue to find opportunities to play as long as my body will still allow it. Whether it’s a game of H-O-R-S-E or P-I-G at a family bonfire or a student-faculty game at Prep, if there’s a court calling my name, I’m going to answer.

In my life, I’ve had the pleasure of playing basketball in a variety of different places and in different contexts. Click to read the full  list counting down the top 30 places I’ve played.

Continue reading 30 at 30 List #2: Places I’ve Played Basketball