14 Best Songs of 2014 (So Far)

This post originally appeared over at the Lefty Pop.  Lefty Pop is the pop culture and politics site I contribute to twice weekly.  Go check it out.  Lots of funny, talented writers call it home.

New music, is there anything better?  Okay, perhaps there are a few things that rank higher in life, but not many.  I seldom sit in silence.  My life has a constant (well made) soundtrack provided by my iPod, Spotify, or the humming of whatever ear-worm that has worked its way into my cranium.  We’re over halfway to the finish line of 2014, and so far, this year’s audio offerings have been rather pleasings.  Here are 14 of my favorites in no particular order.

Best Songs of 2014 (14)-  Midge Ure: Are We Connected?

Remember Ultravox?  They were responsible for that melodramatic 80s new wave hit Dancing With Tears in My Eyes.  Midge Ure was the vocalist/guitarist.  Since 1985, he’s been riding solo, but he is still bringing all the new wave exaggerated emotions this girl loves.

Best Songs of 2014 (13)-  Leisure Cruise: Believer

Dave Hodge (of 90s Bran Van 3000 roots) and Leah Siegel (a local NY songstress) formed Leisure Cruise as a soundtrack to their imagined story about final time on earth prior to colonizing a new planet.  It’s been said to, “Imagine the music of a John Hughes film if it had been written by Bowie, remixed by Johnny Jewel, and fronted by a female Prince, and you’ll start to get the idea.”

Best Songs of 2014 (12)-  Speedy Ortiz:  American Horror

Remember how amazing Liz Phair was back in the 90s before she got all poppy and over produced?  Yeah, that’s Speedy Ortiz.  Raw, feedback laden guitar and deadpan, angsty female vocals have earned this band constant rotation in my playlist.

Best Songs of 2014 (11)-  Future Islands:  Seasons (Waiting on You)

Imagine if a guy with spastic moves, death-metalesque vocals (toned down), and vaguely Joaquin Phoenix looks fronted an indie-electropop band.  Future Islands is what you’d get.  They earned a place in indie hearts after their performance on Letterman wowed Dave.  Go check it out and enjoy the Cookie Monster vocals.  I’d rather share the official video which is even more bizarre.  Sympathetic nod to the right?

Best Songs of 2014 (10)-  Phantogram:  The Day You Died

The electronic rock duo eased their way into my faves a few years ago with Don’t Move and When I’m Small.  Their 2014 album followed up with multiple highlights.

Best Songs of 2014 (9)-  Beck: Unforgiven

This may be my favorite Beck.  I listened to his new album Morning Phase in its entirety at least 25 times.  Mellow, dreamy, and beautiful.  If heaven had a soundtrack, this would be a strong contender.

Best Songs of 2014 (8)-  311: First Dimension

You’re really surprised 311 made this list aren’t you?  Like I’m not going to offer up a track from my favorite band.  Check out my review of their latest album, Stereolithic.   My favorite song on the album changes weekly.

Best Songs of 2014 (7)-   Mastodon:  The Motherload

Mastodon’s new album, Once More ‘Round the Sun, was just released.  Fans have eagerly been anticipating it following the much loved 2011 album from the Atlanta rockers, The Hunter.  It was worth the wait.  Solid.  Yes, I have Mastodon on the same playlist as Phantogram.  Variety people, it’s the spice of life.

Best Songs of 2014 (6)-  Jack White:  Would You Fight for My Love?

I’m kind of digging what living in Nashville is doing to Jack White.  His latest offerings chase the ripping guitar with a bit of twang.  The result is rather pleasing.

Best Songs of 2014 (5)-  Kongos:  Come With Me Now

Super catchy.  Who doesn’t love a bearded accordion player?

Best Songs of 2014 (4)-  The Pretty Reckless- House on the Hill

Apparently the lead singer was on Gossip Girl.  Regardless, I love what they’re offering up so far.

Best Songs of 2014 (3)-  Temples:  A Questioned Isn’t Answered

Anywhere a band is creating psychedelic rock that would easily be at home on a commune, I’ll be there to listen with a smile.  Why does this music make me so happy?

Best Songs of 2014 (2)–  Cloud Cult:  Chemicals Collide

Strings may be my ultimate weakness.  Throw a violin or cello into a track and I’m all in.  Besides what part of “experimental, environmentally conscious band formed in the 90s” doesn’t sound like it was made for me?

Best Songs of 2014 (1)- Tokyo Police Club:  Tunnel Vision

A fitting indie rock track to end the list.

 

 

311 Wows Fans With Stereolithic

I know I’ve been a bit silent for the last week.  I just got back form 311 day in NOLA!  What a blast!  Now I’m back jamming out to Stereolithic while I catch up at work.  Check out my album review that post on Lefty Pop today:

 

http://www.leftypop.com/2014/03/14/311-wows-fans-stereolithic/

 

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Stay positive & love your life!

-Melissa

Five for Friday: 5 Songs for Your Valentine

We’re busy here in Atlanta defrosting and just in time to warm it up for Valentine’s Day!  This week’s Five for Friday post is dedicated to the love song.

Love is funny.  When you find the right person, everything suddenly seems so much rosier.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy on my own, but a great partnership is like happy on roids.  I’ve been lucky enough to find someone who makes each day a bit sunnier and each minute spent together not long enough.  Every love song truly feels like it was written for us and my love for him just continues to grow with each passing day.

 

5:  Chairlift- I Belong in Your Arms

 

4:  Third Eye Blind- I Want You

 

3: Alabama Shakes- Be Mine

 

2:  The Avett Brothers- The Greatest Sum

 

1:  311- My Heart Sings

 

And because it’s so incredibly hard to choose between so many great love songs, I give you a bonus.  Not your typical love song, but it will always mean the world to me:

Incubus- Are You In?

 

What are some of your favorite love songs?

 

Stay positive & love your life!

-Melissa

i-love-music

 

Happy Valentine’s Day Matt!

 

Today:

Listening to: Marble Sounds – COME HERE

Eating:  Left over spaghetti.

Random thought:  Love is scary, because it means giving up control of the most vulnerable part of you and trusting completely in another.

 

 

Twisted Mixtape Tuesday: Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

Weather got you down?  Cold making you act like a baby?  Yeah, me too.  I prefer blue skies, sunshine, and the smell of fresh-cut grass.  Right now, however, I’m eating lunch in my office located in downtown Atlanta watching the snow fall outside.  From 32 stories up, safe in the confines of my office, it looks beautiful.  But I’m still dreaming of spring and summer.

This week, Jen over at My Skewed View asked for a playlist to cheer up a friend.  Mine seems to have some semi-unintentional weather related theme going on.  It can’t be helped.  Come on sunshine!  Here you are my interweb buddies,  5 songs (and a bonus) guaranteed to cheer you up even in the bitterest of cold!

Day by Day- The Dirty Heads

Love these lyrics:

Bright lights on
Coming off the hinge
Rambling on like a Led Zeppelin
I got my sword and my pen like mad mordagin
Outta the abyss starting to ascend
Top of the class peak of the summit
Throw your worries of a cliff watch them as they plummet

Shine on You- Matisyahu

Love these lyrics:

Oh my soul has been so low
Make them clouds fade to blue
So my love can shine on through
Shine on you

 

Mr. Blue Sky- ELO

Love these lyrics:

Runnin’ down the avenue,(Pant, Pant, Pant)
See how the sun shines brightly
In the city on the streets
Where once was pity,
Mr. Blue Sky is living here today.

 

Drivin’ on 9- The Breeders

This song isn’t really conventionally happy, but it makes me smile!  Maybe it makes me think of long drives with the stereo cranked and the windows down.

Love these lyrics:

Drivin’ on 9
I sure miss you
Pass a motel
Looking at the pines

Sun Hands- Local Natives

 

Love these lyrics:

The most beautiful colors chase the sun
They wrap her trail in a taunting gesture
That seems to sing out loud,
“this is what you’re missing”

 

Bonus:

Outside-311

A nice little, happy b-side-

 

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Four instant happy makers for me:  summertime, best friend, music festival, King of Pops!

 

Stay positive & love your life!

-Melissa

 

Today:

Listening to:  Arctic Monkeys – Pretty Visitors

Eating:  Sesame Ch’kin, bok choy, veggies and rice.

Drinking:  H2O, but a Monster will be had soon.

Random fact:  Skiing is not on my list of “fun” vacation ideas.

 

Twisted Mix Tape Tuesday: Doc Martens, Flannel, and Angst (or me as a teen)

So today Jen Kehl and crew over Twisted Mix Tape Tuesday asked for the 5 songs that made us who we are!  Well folks, I’ve already done this post!  And since I had a work lunch today, that’s very fortunate for me (as I have zero writing time)!  Go check out the Five Albums (with corresponding favorite songs) that defined my teenage years because, let’s face it, our teenage years have a HUGE influence on who we become.

Five for Friday: 5 Albums That Defined My Teenage Years.

 

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Those 5 albums yielded this…..yikes.

 

Stay positive & love your life!

 

-Melissa

 

Today:

Listening to:  Naked Eyes – Always Something There To Remind Me

 

Twisted Mix Tape Tuesday: Slow Jams aka Kill Me Now

Ya know there are just some things in life that I don’t do.  I don’t chew with my mouth open (and if you do this around me, you may be on the receiving end of a slap).  I don’t watch Crossfire.  I don’t do R&B (minus a few very minor exceptions).  Seriously, when I saw that we were doing slow jams this week, I almost puked.  Because in my version of hell R&B would be the soundtrack.

Level 1:  Mary J. Blige sings my life story.

Level 2:  R. Kelly plays an extended version of his entire catalog…..on repeat.

Level 3:  Barry White just moans and breathes and says shit like “oh” in the mic for eternity.

Level 4:  Well, you get the picture…

Seriously, I can’t handle it.  Right up there with R&B is whatever type of music Celine Dion is.  So maybe when I get to hell’s core they will blast a mash-up of My Heart Will Go On and some Michael Bolton song.

Rose didn’t let go, Jack killed himself because he heard that song coming from the boat’s deck.  It was just too much to endure.

Anyway, imagine my relief when I took a closer look at the instructions:

Relaxing slow jams. You wanna chill, you want your friends to chill. Any genre from rock to jazz to hip-hop, but it’s gotta be slow-jams

Ok, I can hop on board with this!  I mean, I’d much prefer to rock out, but at least I don’t have to forfeit this week out of concern for my mental health.

So here are some “slow jams” (ugh, even that phrase makes me shudder….Mufasa, Mufasa, Mufasa), that don’t make me want to kill myself.  In fact, these songs soothe my rock n’ roll brain.

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Ooooohh, say it again!

 

Let’s start with one by my favorite group.  This song was written about a friend who committed suicide.  So it doesn’t have a very uplifting message, but it is a beautiful song nonetheless.

Beyond the Grey Sky-311

 

And because I can’t stop listening to …..Like Clockwork (QOTSA’s new album), I’m including this.  This really is the best album to come out this year!

The Vampyre of Time and Memory-Queens of the Stone Age

 

I found this one through the movie “Rockstar”.  I listened to it over and over again after I got it off the internet without purchasing it….It was a different time people!  I included the movie clip so we can all enjoy Mark Wahlberg.

Colorful- The Verve Pipe

 

Not many bands can get me to chill like this one.

Mykonos-Fleet Foxes

 

An unlikely song for my Smashing Pumpkins favorite, from the soundtrack for “Lost Highway”

Eye-Smashing Pumpkins

 

Gotta feed the hippie soul.  Jen, we need to do a hippie list!  Jam bands, 60s, love, the whole shebang!

A Million Years- Alexander

 

OK, because of the vocals (which by the way are amazing, Andreya Triana is awesome), I guess this is R&Bish.  Bonobo is one of my ultimate chill bands.  Check out their whole Black Sands album for a good introduction.

Eyesdown- Bonobo feat. Andreya Triana

 

I’ll end on a singer who I didn’t think I’d enjoy.  She was over hyped and exploded onto the scene.  I initially dismissed her as another chick jumping on the Adele train, but she’s got chops.  Big time.  This song is brilliant and so is the video.  Well worth the 10 minutes.  Song starts 3:48 if you want to cheat.

Ride-Lana Del Rey

 

Stay positive & love your life!

-Melissa

 

Today:

Listening to:  Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork  for the millionth time.

Eating:  Broccoli, gardein “chicken”, quinoa

Drinking:  H2O

Random fact:  I detest palmetto bugs….worse than R&B even.  Growing up in FL, you’d think I’d be use to them.  Yeah, not so much.  I turn into a baby and shriek like I’m being murdered.  So imagine my ultimate horror when one fell out of my towel and onto me getting out of the shower this morning.  No words folks.  I’m happy to be alive.  Now, does anyone want to come remove the 1000 trees from my yard so I can be free of this fear?  The pest guy says “If you have a lot of trees, they’ll get in your house.”  Ugh, unacceptable.

 

 

 

 

 

Twisted Mix Tape Tuesday: It’s Alright to Feel Good (Best of 311)

So glad that Jen gave us an easy assignment for this week’s tape!  Getting caught up on yesterday’s Trifecta Writing Challenge and making sure I busted out my mix tape would have been pretty rough on one lunch break if this thing didn’t write itself!  But making a best of for the band of your choice is a cake walk!

Here’s the fun part! The rules of Twisted MixTape are as such: Try and create a 5 song mix based on this week’s theme. This week our theme is Best of Any Band, make a 5 song playlist of your favorite songs from one band and you’re done! Easy Peasy for our Holiday Weekend!

Take it easy, make it flow, remember in your mind you are creating your mixtape for a friend.

Shocker, I’m picking 311.  So the big challenge here is to keep the list to (around) five.  And the last time I made a best of playlist of 311 songs I ended up with 60 (and that was after struggling to cull some out).  Today’s Best of 311 list will be sticking to a theme within a theme:

It’s Alright to Feel Good

All of these songs lift my spirit and put a smile on my face.  They just make ya feel so good!

Uncalm

Notable lyrics:  “You make me feel uncalm and I think I like it, make me think of a song that I could not write yet.  Melodies create themselves, I’m just a conduit.  You make my heart accelerate and I’m on to it.”

1, 2, 3

Notable lyrics:  “It’s alright to feel good. It’s alright for nothing to be wrong. The deepest dream that we have could be tomorrow’s song.”

Running

I’ve include this before, but it’s my favorite 311 song.  I can’t leave it off the list!

Notable lyrics:  “Oh livin’ is a journey.   Waking, believing, running.”

Stealing Happy Hours

Like “Running”, this song comes from my favorite 311 album, “Transistor”.

Notable lyrics:  “We’re snatching bits of time that no one else can seem to find.”

Do You Right

Notable lyrics:  “Like I said it before, I’ll say it once more, knew you would make me feel so good.  Wanna do you right. Can’t get enough, this is the stuff life’s about and it trips me up.”  and  “Bright mornings, days when I want so much, I want nothing; just this life and no more.”

Bonus:

My Heart Sings

Since this also belongs on a Matt and Melissa Love Anthem playlist,  it obviously makes me immensely happy.  Therefore, it is the perfect song to close out this happy playlist.

Notable lyrics:  “My heart sings when I think of you, that is what you do.   A melody that will settle me, that is just the thought of you.”

Stay positive & love your life! 

-Melissa

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Twisted Mix Tape Tuesday: Twice as Nice (Duos and Duets)

It’s Tuesday and you know what that means, time for another Twisted Mix Tape!  This week our hostess with the mostest, Jen over at My Skewed View, gave us this directive:

Duets or Duos

(Two people who don’t normally sing together singing a song or a musical group that is 2 people, Simon and Garfunkel, Hall and Oates, etc.)

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Like Sonny & Cher?

Guess what, I read that “or” as an “and” thereby circumventing the rules this week and including 10, count ’em 10, awesome songs:  5 duos (as in bands with two vocalists singing together) and 5 duets (special pairings).  Ha, Jen, you can’t make me play by the rules!  And since my list should be twice as long as the rule followers, I’m calling it:

Twice As Nice

Let’s start with the duos-

Standing on the Shore- Empire of the Sun

As I’m still fairly new to this mixed bag of musical goodness we call TMT, you all haven’t quite learned that my taste is all over the map.  Seriously, my music collection looks like someone dropped acid and was let loose in Best Buy.  With that being said, let me introduce you to one musical niche for which I’m a sucker, Australian pop.  Yep, anything coming out of the land down under that includes some synthesizers and weird poppy elements is going to find its way right onto my iPod.  Case in point, this duo.  If you’re not already familiar, get ready for a WTF moment.

The Greatest Sum- The Avett Brothers

Right from that insanity into The Avett Brothers.  See what I mean?

This is one of my very favorite love songs.

Wild-Royal Teeth

Here’s some newer pop.  Royal Teeth, I can’t decide if this is a really stupid name for a band or if it just sounds too “hard” for the type of music it is.  Name aside, I dig these guys; mostly the female vocal.  And she’s so stinking pretty that I almost can’t stand her.  She looks like a porcelain doll.  Plus these guys have a keytar in their band.  That is always a bonus.

The Con- Tegan and Sara

Hard to pick a favorite by these two.

Home- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Still my favorite song by this group.  Every time I see them live I have the urge to run off and join a hippie commune.  Life would be so real, man.

And now the duets…… 

You Don’t Know Me- Ben Folds & Regina Spektor

Who hasn’t felt this way in a relationship?  “It was that we were the cliche’, but we just carried on anyway.”  This is a good one to crank up in the car and have a little sing-a-long fun.

Congratulations- Justen Furstenfel (Blue October) & Imogene Heap

This one kills me every single listen.  It’s so beautifully painful.

Beautiful- G. Love & Tristan Prettyman

G. Love is beyond underrated.  This guy…..pure musician.

Say Hello to Heaven- Chris Cornell & Eddie Vedder (Temple of the Dog)

I guess this really belongs in a super group mix, but I can’t complete a list of duets without featuring two of my favorite vocalists together.

Jackson- Florence Welch & Josh Homme

Who doesn’t love this Johnny Cash/June Carter classic?  Also, it’s a way for me to sneak Josh Homme into yet another post.

And since I’m already cheating the system and always looking for ways to push more 311 on people, how about we close with my favorite song by my favorite band:

Running-311

Stay positive & love your life!

-Melissa

Today:

Listening to:  The xx – Angels

Eating:  Arugula and heirloom tomato salad.

Drinking:  H20

Random fact:  My Mom and Dad called me Honeybee as a child.

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My Neck Hurts & Other Observations from Saturday’s 311 Concert

Well Saturday has come and gone.  And I’m now sitting in my office at work suffering from what Kasi and I have deemed a 311 hangover.  This happens when the exhilaration of the concert wears off and you realize that your next event is many months away (in this case, 311 Day in NOLA next March).    Saturday was truly wonderful.  Not only did I get to share another 311 concert experience with the bestie, but it was Matt’s first 311 show.  I was beyond anxious for him to get his first dose of them live.  He was a casual fan before, but as my boyfriend quickly realized that was going to have to get stepped up.  Well guys, he wasn’t let down!  He had a blast.  Here are my observations from Saturday-

Rain.

It poured here on Saturday.  Shocker.  It’s basically rained everyday for two months.  It made for a soggy tail gate and some muddy feet, but thankfully the weather started to cooperate around the time the gates opened.

G. Love is a white dude.

Matty wasn’t too familiar with G. Love and was surprised to see a white dude on the stage.  I got a good chuckle out of that.  His other comment was, “Why isn’t this guy huge yet?”  Good question.  He’s had great success over the years but has never really broken through.  He and the Special Sauce put on a nice show.  The guy’s just stupid talented.  I was sad to see his set end.

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I still know all of the words to many Cypress Hill tunes.

It was just odd.  I honestly can’t tell you the last time I listened to these guys, but there I was spitting out the lyrics word for word.  I guess some stuff just sticks with you.  They put on a good show.  Their percussionist and DJ were on point.

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The pit is not for everyone.

I’m not talking about a mosh pit.  311’s never really suffered from the standard hardcore mosh scene.  If anything, you might get a little contact during “Do You Right” (dubbed the happy slam dance song).  Mostly it’s just a lot of jumping and dancing and singing.  But it’s still hot and it’s still very crowded.  That said, I was fairly annoyed by the end of 311’s set due to the amount of folks going in and out of the pit.  It’s hard to enjoy yourself with someone shoving their way through every 10 seconds.  I think this stemmed from three things:  they oversold that area, people without wrist bands were getting in,  and people weren’t prepared for what it would be like.  In my opinion, once the show starts, you’re in.  311 sets are normally only about an hour and a half long.  So do without that extra $12 beer.  It’ll probably get spilled anyway.  And go to the bathroom while the opener is on.

One VERY sweaty guy that snuck in next to me proclaimed, “Hi I’m from Jackson, Mississippi and I’m sweating my ass off.  It’s probably all the drugs I did.”  And then a bouncer came and drug him out.  He stood in the chair behind us and danced like a maniac for the rest of the show.

“SA’s an animal.”

Well technically, he’s a robot.  But this was Matt’s quote.  He’d never seen SA do his thing and was getting a huge kick out of him.  And I, of course, got a huge kick out that!  SA is my fave (by a narrow margin over my other 4 faves).

It was a great set.

Sure they played some standards , but that’s a given for any band.  But they gave us some picks we don’t get to hear live very often.  At one point I remember yelling, “So many songs from Transistor!  I love it.”  The guys immediately to my right laughed.  The guy to my far right just continued to yell “P-Nut”……like he did during the song before…..and for the entire concert.

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P-Nut indeed.  (photo credit: Constance Highsmith Osborn)

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Everyone’s energy was insane.  (photo credit:  Jimmy Cannon)

Thanks for another amazing night guys!   We’re off to count down the day to 3/11/14!

Stay positive & love your life!

-Melissa

Today:

Listening to:  Haydn, Franz Joseph – 2. Andante

Eating:  Salad

Drinking:  H2O

Random fact:  I slept for almost 12 hours straight last night even after napping on the couch all day.  I just can’t hang like I used to!

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Soaked and gross and happy.

Five for Friday: 5 Songs That Remind Me of My BFF

So this really needs to be a two parter, because I have a pair of besties.  This is post is specifically about five songs that remind me of Kasi.

Kasi and I met during our college years.    We were nearly instant friends.  I think it stems from the fact that we’re eerily similar in a lot of ways and for some reason we don’t get on each others nerves after a few minutes.  It’s odd.  She likes a lot  pretty much all of the same things I do.  Scary movies.  Check.  All things 80s. Check.  Things that are super nerdy (ie. science, reading, fantasy).  Check.  But probably the biggest thing over which we’ve bonded is music.  We make a point to see each other (she’s in NOLA and I’m in ATL) at least 2-3 times a year.  And the trips are always centered around music.  I head to Voodoo Fest every year.  We took a 311 cruise earlier this year.  And TODAY Kasi is on her way here for the 311 concert tomorrow!

So here they are, the 5 songs that remind me most of Kasi.  No matter where we are, if one of these songs comes on, life pauses for a few minutes.  Because all of the lyrics (and dance moves) must be performed!

Number 5: Dexy’s Midnight Runners- Come on Eileen

Number 4:  The Offspring- Bad Habit (specifically for the part at 2:31)

Number 3:  Vanilla Ice- Ice Ice Baby

Number 2:  House of Pain- Jump Around

Number 1:  311- Stealing Happy Hours

Honorable Mentions:

Anything by Duran Duran

About 100 more 311 songs

Big Country- In a Big Country

Simple Minds- Don’t You (Forget About Me)

Journey- Don’t Stop Believing

Michael Jackson- Billie Jean

…..and at least 20+ more 80’s songs.

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So many Halloweens ago.

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  Last year at Voodoo Fest.  Angsty zombies.

 

kasi

  This year on the 311 Cruise.

Stay positive & love your life!

-Melissa

Today:

Listening to:  311 – Waiting

Eating:  Leftover quinoa, lima beans, boca burger

Drinking:  H2O

Random fact:  Kasi and I were set to dress up like Beavis and Butthead for the costume party on the 311 Cruise, but Norwegian lost her luggage (which held our costumes).

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