I live in a town with approximately 12783 really great places to eat. Most of them are comfortable, reasonably-priced, and apart from the occasional line-around-the-block-for-brunch scenario, they are welcoming and easy to access.  Even with all that being true, I tend to eat at one of the same dozen or so restaurants over and over and over.

I suppose it could be said I am a creature of habit, though I bridle at classifying myself that way since it seems to imply I am a stick in the mud with no sense of adventure. More, I think it is that by the time I want something to eat, my adventurousness is eclipsed by my need to be sure that what I am about to consume will be tasty and satisfying. This impulse can and is frequently overridden at the urging of almost any dining companion apart from my child who is even worse than I am when it comes to new food ideas.

It occurs to me that the best way to overcome this tendency is to schedule into my restaurant circuit the introduction of at least one new option per month. Considering how often I eat out, this would still represent a small fraction of the opportunities I could be taking. And though I think about doing this pretty regularly, it happens most often that I leave the house with good intentions, see the Casa Del Matador come into view and think, “Fuck it, I’m getting some flautas.”

This is also the pose I tend to adopt most when it comes to music. Though I know that both as a lover of the medium and an artist I should be listening to new material in the service of broadening my experience and inspiring my craft. For the first time in years, I can listen to music at work, which means I have hours every day where I can access streaming music in several formats. Not only do I function better with a melody in the background, I am afforded a huge swath of time in which I may now experiment with hearing new artists at my leisure. The trick here is not to get sucked into the Simon & Garfunkel vortex that is my Pandora…

To that end, last week I plugged The Head & The Heart into the algorithm to see what it would come up with. To the discovery of TH&TH – and many other favorites besides – I am forever indebted to friend Les. As much as her direct recommendations, the benefit of lazy post-run mornings at Naramore Acres listening to “College Rock” on her Direct TV feed has yielded a wealth of recent discoveries; Broods, Beach House, Goshen97, and James Bay to name just a few. I could just follow her around and discover new music with near constant success, but she is inconveniently located for such and I must content myself instead with a semi-monthly inundation instead.

Pandora, when presented with the morsel of my favorite band in recent memory, produced some stellar things in response. First to the plate was The Lone Bellow, which is perfectly characterized by the band as “Brooklyn Country” Though I’m vaguely irritated by their hipstertorian affectations, I have always been a fan of the kind of vocally driven, melodically opulent and emotive style they embrace. I was at first completely convinced that the vocalist was the lead singer from The Black Keys, but apparently he’s in The National (who I also love) instead. I probably listened to their track “Marietta” on repeat for about 4 days straight. Poor Hodie.


Why isn’t SHE wearing a vest?


Next in the mix was a band I had heard recommended on NPR, but failed to follow up on; a pair who performed under the name The Civil Wars. Her voice, utterly luminous coupled with lyrics that found an echoing place in my heart to take up residence. His musical presence lending foundation and nuance to places she could only light. Together they created some of the most compelling music I have heard in as long as I can recall. That they are no longer making music together is poignant in the way that only discovering a band after it has broken up can be. So much the better to cherish what is there to enjoy, I suppose.


If we never look at each other, maybe we can keep the band together a little longer…


Their EP “Bare Bones” is one of the most singularly nourishing experiences I have had musically in a good long time. Stripped down to acoustic essentials, this records is truly bare. Speaking for myself, it settled in under my skin. This music feels resonant and familiar and mine. Hozier had a similar effect on me, but what The Civil Wars made is so much exactly the kind of music I do and want to make I think it’s impact is naturally more profound.

Clementine came with me to Bend, and though I was so completely without my voice I wasn’t able to do the kind of songwriting I’ve felt inspired to, holding her in my hands and simply playing other music that touches me seems to have an electric effect. By opening myself to something out of the routine, I am confronted by new horizons within.

Too bad there isn’t a Pandora for restaurants…