Tag Archives: music review

Dusting Off the Bookshelf

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

The tale is in the title this time. 

I was trying my best to hold off on buying new books because my bookshelf is overflowing (as it darn well should be since I am a writer & a librarian). The problem is I haven’t read some (several) of those books or I never really intend on reading them more than once. 

So, this past weekend I went through my main bookshelf and made three piles:

+books to give away
+books to read & then give away
+books to FINALLY read & put back on the shelf. 

This activity in itself made me feel accomplished (it really is the little things in 2020).

Especially because I was not only letting go, but I was dusting off a shelf that really needed it (I forget that adulting means you actually have to dust your apartment). 

Anyway, it put me in the mood to revisit older songs that I adore, but haven’t listened to in awhile. 

Sometimes revisiting the past through music can help us to appreciate where we are in the present. 

1.Atlantic City – Bruce Springsteen


One may think because I am from NJ I would follow suit in loving Bruce Springsteen. Truth is, I was a bit of a music snob that took pride in being someone that didn’t enjoy his music at all. Then one day someone told me, even if you don’t like his music – do yourself a favor and listen to the album Nebraska. It’s now one of my favorite albums and this is one of my favorite songs. If I had to only live with 10 albums for the rest of my life Nebraska would make the list. If you find yourself hesitant about Springsteen’s music like I once was, I will give you the same advice someone once gave me – listen to Nebraska.

2.The Wheel – Grateful Dead


If you’ve read any of my previous posts you know I mentioned my love for the 60s and 70s culture. I grew up a kid truly obsessed with the music and wanting to know everything about the time period. Right out of high school I went to my first Phil Lesh show – which was followed by a handful of Bob Weir, Furthur, and The Dead shows. I remember the first time I heard The Wheel live – I know jam band music isn’t for everyone, but it’s a different experience hearing it in person. At those shows I really felt like I was getting to experience a bit of a decade I wasn’t alive to live through. And oh what long and strange trips they were…

3.Try (Just a Little Bit Harder) – Janis Joplin


I’ve been listening to Janis a lot lately and dusting off my vinyl records. She’s been a favorite of mine since I was younger- I was always fascinated by her. If you really take the time to listen to this song it embodies all of the power that is Janis Joplin. The energy and the voice is all jam packed into this one song. A woman that was an icon of her time, and certainly doesn’t get the recognition she deserves compared to the men in her era.

4.For Once in My Life – Stevie Wonder


What other artist has the ability of connecting people through music better than Stevie Wonder? This song is one of my favorite Stevie songs, and it just sort of has the ability to get you out of your seat & sing along. I’ll never forget the time he did a surprise free concert in Philly (and ya’ll wonder why I talk about why I have such a love for that city…). It was right when I got back from my 25th solo birthday trip from Seattle, it felt like an extended birthday gift. I walked from my place in South Philly to Dilworth Park and got myself a seat on the lawn not too far from the stage. Stevie Wonder is timeless, and that is one concert I will never ever forget.

5.Walkin’ The Boogie – Memphis Slim


If this song doesn’t leave you speechless, I’m not sure what to say about your musical ear. I discovered Memphis Slim this year when I was trying to discover new music (for myself). This is a standout song and after you’ve listened to this – I encourage you to check out more of his music. Memphis Slim’s depiction of Blues music is like a stellar painting heard through sound.

6.Green River – Creedence Clearwater Revival


Oh CCR how I’ve adored this band for so long – I went through a phase of only listening to CCR for a bit and wanting to listen to their entire discography. Green River was the song that always stuck out for me because of how upbeat it is. Honestly, I don’t think I knew (and still don’t fully know) what the lyrics were other than when he sings “Green River”. The instrumentals are my favorite though, and even as I relisten to this song now – I realize how quickly it puts me in a good mood, and why it was always a favorite.

7.Voodoo Woman – Koko Taylor


Thanks to a new vinyl subscription I received as a gift this year, I discovered this incredible woman. Her voice will blow you away, it is absolutely astonishing. Koko Taylor, who was sometimes called “Queen of the Blues”, is one person you need to add to your playlist…right now. If you take nothing else from this post today, add any one of her songs (although I recommend this one) to a playlist. Sometimes people wonder how can you “feel” music? Listen to her sing, if that doesn’t “feel” like you’re “feeling” something outside of yourself…check your pulse.

8.Wild World – Cat Stevens


Does anyone remember Myspace? This song was on my page for the longest time. I was young and angsty with a whole life ahead of me. At the time this song meant something completely different to me, and it’s funny to even think what my world of problems were as a teenager. Not to mention how very real they felt at the time. Now, I think I just listen to this song and appreciate the life I have lived so far as well as the many years ahead of me.

Once Upon a Rock Journalist Dream

by Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

Of the many writing dreams I had for myself as a kid, becoming a rock journalist was pretty high on the list. I had a subscription to Rolling Stone magazine dreaming my name would one day be featured within the pages. 

Almost Famous was one of my favorite movies – yep I was extremely jealous of William’s luck and lifestyle (for years I was convinced I was born in the wrong decade). I was the kind of kid that was fascinated by music from previous time periods – especially the 60’s into the late 70’s culture of music. 

My love and appreciation for music runs deep. 

I have come to realize since starting this blog that the pieces I enjoy sharing most are the ones where I pick a few songs and add commentary. 

As the blog continues to grow, and transform – I would like the music sharing to continue to be a constant. (Note: I have also categorized my writing posts now. Tray’s Music Corner is where you will find song suggestion posts.)

Music has been and will always be a big part of my life – and I fully believe sharing music is one of the most intimate things people can do.

And on that note, here’s some music to get you through the week (I know the stress of the holiday season is among us and in a different way than ever before): 

1.Soul Sacrifice – Santana 

This song was my introduction into the great Carlos Santana – and let me say, this man is one of the greatest guitarists of all time. I used to ask my Dad often about Woodstock and he would tell me how much he loved this performance in particular (no he did not attend even though he was old enough at the time – yes I grew up pestering him about this.) Santana’s music is incredibly calming and I proudly own at least half of his discography on vinyl – aside from Jim Croce, Santana is my favorite music to put the needle on the record to. If you’ve never taken the time to listen to his guitar skills, please do your ears a favor and do that right now. 

2.Holiday – Lil Nas X


It’s December and this song feels like it should be played year around. Lil Nas X is a gem and I’ll admit I didn’t appreciate him to the fullest extent until he came out as Queer. This song is catchy and it is guaranteed to get stuck in your head after a listen or two. My favorite verse in the whole song (based on the fact that I love clever inserts) “Man, I snuck into the game, came in on a horse/ I pulled a gimmick, I admit it, I got no remorse/ Nobody tried to let me in, nobody opened doors/ I kicked the motherf**ckers down, they didn’t have a choice”

3.A Case of You – Joni Mitchell


Anything and everything Joni Mitchell soothes my soul. I’ve began to appreciate her music in my late twenties and now as I am beginning my thirties. These past few years living in DC I have found when I feel lost or need to be recentered I turn on Joni Mitchell. So, I share with you one out of the many favorite songs I adore. 

4.The Boss – Diana Ross

This is my “get up and dance song,” my “everything is going to be okay if you dance it out song”. Ms. Diana Ross is the Queen of my feel good tunes playlist. Seriously though this is one of my favorite songs of all time, and it is the one song I think can be put on at anytime to improve my mood no matter what. 

5.I Love Me- Demi Lovato


Demi, Demi, Demi – where do I begin? First, I think her talent goes unappreciated among the other teen stars that emerged at the same time as her. She has been through some struggles, some real life hardships (if you don’t know, I recommend looking up her story…I will alert content warning for drug use). Anyway, this song had perfect timing for me personally and it was one of those songs I loved to belt out loud word for word when I am alone in my apartment. 

6.I Know a Place – MUNA


Sometimes I go down Spotify rabbit holes – like that section that says “fans also like”. That is how I found MUNA and I am so damn glad I did. This song has been on repeat for me for over two years now. It is upbeat and the lyrics are ones that pull, at least, to my soul of souls. A beautifully written and sung song with the catchiest of beats. 

7.Hazy Jane ll – Nick Drake


I fell in love with Nick Drake’s music when I lived in Philly, and I think that was the perfect time for me to have discovered his music. Listening to this song now, it takes me back to a crisp fall day in Philadelphia with me walking through one of my favorite parks right after all the leaves have just turned into a burst of golden colors. That day I described is actually a feeling that this exact song gives me. A sort of nostalgic feeling, wrapped in a hug of hope for the future ahead of me.

8.Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads

“Same as it ever was…” no matter where I am in life I swear it seems this song keeps coming back. I remember as a kid hearing this song being played in my Dad’s truck as we would go out for a drive. The meaning of the song has changed for me as I have gotten older – when I was little I thought it was just a silly song. Now, as an adult still figuring it all out, I find myself asking the important question “Well…how did I get here?”

Have any of the songs I have written about so far sparked any memories for you? Did you discover a new artist or maybe an old favorite? Let me know in the comments below.

The Sounds of Joy

By Tray Taylor
IG: @allusiontoreality

When I first started this blog, it was mostly so I could get into the habit of daily writing again. Something I knew would bring me happiness, and maybe a few people would like to read what I had to say.

Lately, I have been trying to figure out what it is I want to keep sharing on this blog or if I should have a particular focus. I concluded that …I don’t think I have a conclusion on that.

I am a lover of music, pop culture, books, and many things that most folks don’t particularly know about me. So far, that is what I have been sharing on this blog – sharing pieces of myself & the things I love. And I think that is how I will continue – for now.

On another note…don’t you love weekends that feel like resets? That is what I had this weekend, and it was beautiful.

For the first time since the beginning of March I looked forward to a Zoom call. I was able to connect with a good friend, catch up, and talk about our experiences with writing. Incredibly refreshing and fired me up with motivation.

The other highlight from this weekend was decorating for my favorite holiday. Yes I am a person that decorates way too early, and no I have no shame in that.

My new fiber optic tree that is giving me all the vibes of joy that I knew I needed this year.

But I do know it is way too early to start writing about the meaning of Christmas, so I will transition into a few song suggestions that are guaranteed to bring you a sense of joy and wonder…not holiday related.  

1. I am America – Shea Diamond


Okay…have you watched We’re Here on HBO or are you light years beyond everything that is fabulously Queer in the world? This is the theme song to the show, and let me just say… I sincerely think there should be a petition for this to be the new Queer anthem of the US. Anyway, listen to the song and go watch the TV show on HBO (no excuse if you don’t have HBO, free trials exist ya’ll…)

2. I Love Yous – Hailee Steinfeld  


Yes, you are right this song sounds familiar because it is a sample off of Annie Lennox’s “No More I Love You’s”. Maybe this song is for you, maybe it isn’t … I will say for me – I had this song on repeat for months when it first dropped a few months back. It’s catchy and allows you to be overly dramatic as if you’re living in a break-up scene in a movie.

3. To R. – Father John Misty


My music taste is all over the spectrum, I know. Father John Misty reminds me a bit of Nick Drake (I said a bit). I am a fan of his music, and I discovered his music from another one of my favorites who listens to him – Geographer. If you’re looking for music to relax to, I fully recommend this song.

4. So Emotional – Whitney Houston


Sometimes I just need to dance it out, and I usually turn Whitney on when I need to do that. It is amazing how healing breaking out into randomly dancing can be. Between this song, and “I Want to Dance With Somebody” …I know what artist I can depend on to dance me out of any funk.

5. Sugar Baby – Megan Thee Stallion

I don’t think I could call myself a fan of music if I didn’t recognize a song off of Megan Thee Stallion’s debut album (that just dropped on Friday). This is one of my favorite songs off the album, simply because of the beat and the feel good vibe to it. The entire album deserves a listen because, damn that woman is dripping with talent.

Remember, even in our darkest of days – there is still music to shimmer some light into the cracks.

The Soundtrack of My Week

“Give yourself a break”
by Tray Taylor
IG @allusiontoreality

What a week.

As I type that I can hear Jack Donaghy in my head reminding Liz Lemon it’s only Wednesday. The show has been off for years, and I still find 30 Rock references to be relevant in my everyday life. *cue the BLERGH sound effect*

For the sake of my own sanity, I have been forcing myself to find pockets of joy in every possible way. Lately, music has been what is bringing me that flash of glittering happiness. Whether it is listening to the music on my laptop, headphones, or vinyl on my record player.

The songs are never the same genre and never within the same decade. My music taste is vast and it ranges over a plethora of time periods. I owe that to my “old soul” personality and to my Dad who raised me to appreciate a wide array of music. So, if you ever need a partner on “Name that Tune” just send me an e-mail and I am game.

I am going to share the songs that have been getting me through this week within this post. Maybe they will inspire you to make a playlist. (Just a note, I have a playlist for every season and every moment or mood. I take making playlists very, very seriously.) Maybe my song suggestions will help you to discover a new artist or song. I just know what the power of music has done for me when I use it intentionally. And maybe, with intention, you will be able to find a tune to get lost into – if even for a moment. Those tiny moments are vital right now.

So what are my songs of the week you might be wondering?

  1. Hot Stuff – Donna Summer & Kygo

Overall, this week I have been listening to (on repeat) a “disco diva” playlist on Spotify. This is a prime example of what I mean when I say the music I am listening to depends on my mood. Then, Kygo dropped this remix last Friday and it has been on repeat daily in my apartment

2. Loose Lucy – Grateful Dead

I grew up a fan of classic rock and more so grew into liking jam bands when I was a teenager thru my early twenties. If you have been to my apartment or “you knew me when” you would know that I am a bit of a Dead Head. This week I was revisiting my roots and this song had me up and dancing along as if I was at a Dead concert all over again.

3. A No No – Mariah Carey

The only person that can get away with using “irregardless” (because that is not a word) in a song and make it a bop is Ms. Mariah. I have been on a “I have a watch, but I do not have the time” kick lately with a lot of things – so this song has felt like my theme song for the past two weeks.

4. I Am Woman – Helen Reddy

This song has two meanings for me. I played it on repeat Friday after I heard the news of RBG’s passing while on the phone with a good friend. The other meaning this song has me for me was a few years ago, during my first year of coaching – the head coach had the athletes make up a dance to this song at the end of the season as a traditional team bonding activity. Lately, I have been missing that community a lot and how that place & those people really felt like a second home.

5. The District Sleeps Alone Tonight – The Postal Service

Truthfully, I have been listening to this whole album on repeat as I go for walks. This is a throwback to younger times for me, but has always been a favorite. Listening to it now has a different meaning to me than what it meant to me years ago. I love how music can grow with us, and teach us different things as we get older – even though it is the same old song.

See, I told you my taste was random. If you aren’t a fan of the music I shared this week, that’s okay- maybe the next time I share a few songs you will enjoy a couple of them.

Now, I challenge you- is there any song this week that has been giving you that glitter of happiness? Share it with me in the comments, there is nothing I enjoy more than discovering new music. Especially music that gives others a sense of joy.

Remember to keep in mind – sometimes we just need a reset, and sometimes we just need to dance it out. *See what I did there? Begin with a TV reference and end with a TV reference. Thank you Yang, Grey, and Shonda Rhimes*