In Case You Haven’t Heard: The Civil Wars.

I don’t know, but I can’t get enough of them lately. This song in particular is beautiful and sad and lovely. I think most of us have felt like this at some point in our lives, about someone we love. So, make some tea, put on some warm socks, and check out The Civil Wars. It’s just that kind of music.

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In Case You Haven’t Heard: Melody Gardot.

Now this voice, this is something really special. Melody Gardot’s voice rides a strange line of being coolly detached, yet full f emotion at the same time. She was injured in an accident a number of years ago, and began to use music as therapy during her recovery. Luckily for us, she decided to share that talent with the world. Her album Worrisome Heart, is the perfect soundtrack for Sunday brunch, or for when you’re looking for music that’s not going to compete for your attention with another task. It’s pretty good bathtub music, too. At least I think it would be, if I were the bubble-bath-taking type. Gross. Anyway, maybe you can try it, and let us all know. Enjoy!

In Case You Haven’t Heard: Gin Wigmore.

Gin Wigmore is fun, no two ways around it. She’s this quirky combination of Amy Winehouse (bless her soul), Grace Potter, and Duffy (where’d she go, by the way?). Her album, “Holy Smoke”, is great from beginning to end. It’s especially good for the morning commute if you, like me, need a little something to get you going, and the coffee isn’t quite cutting it.

Five things to improve your happiness (or mine, as it were).

Look, it’s easy for us to dismiss the world, and our current state of affairs as less than savory. A lot of things DO suck, at the moment. That’s why it’s so important to nurture your own happiness, in whatever ways you can. Here are five things that give me joy, big and small. Try a few, or feel free to tell us in the comments section below what ranks highest on your happiness meter.

1)Take a picture everyday.
-There are a million different moments and memories waiting to be snapped every single day. It doesn’t matter if they’re poignant or pretty or well-composed. The idea is that you’re chronicling your life, and telling your own story. I think you’ll be surprised at what you capture. And you don’t need anything fancy to do so-whether you’ve got a point-and-shoot, a DSLR, or a cell phone-as they say, the best camera is the camera you have on you. If you’re really into it, start a blog, or a gallery to share it with others.

2)Tony Bennett’s “Winter Wonderland” as a mood enhancer.
-As it happens, I’m either usually irritated on my way to work, or not feeling so positive on my way home. My solution? Tony Bennett’s Christmas album, most notably the “Winter Wonderland” track. I consider this an upgrade from my former pick-me-up: Mariah Carey’s Christmas album (but I still love you, Mariah). Who cares if it’s the middle of summer? It makes me feel better. Give it a try-I promise you’ll come away happier. And if you don’t, you’re a total monster, and there’s no helping you, or that little black space where your heart used to be.

3)Develop your own soundtracks for life.
-How often have you thought, “God, life would be so much better with an accompanying soundtrack?” Or, if you’re like me, you’re on-the-spot creating those playlists in your head, as you’re experiencing things. So, what I’ve done is create those track lists, in iTunes, complete with fun title (also useful for future referencing). Now, I’ve got endless track lists for nearly every situation in life. Some examples: “Smashing Mailboxes”-for when you’re feeling angry, and very Damn-The-Man; and “Sing Me to Sleep”-full of those perfect, haunting voices that disintegrate the stress of the day. Playlists are also great gifts for people, because I think sharing music with others that represents you, and that reminds you of them, is a very, very cool thing.

4)Anonymously committing good deeds.
-This can take a million different forms-paying for the coffee of the person behind you, leaving a book that someone mentioned wanting to read in their mailbox, or raking a neighbor’s lawn while they’re at work. You get the idea. You’ve made someone’s day a little brighter, you feel good, and you’ve most likely inspired that person to be more aware of the goodness in people, and want to replicate those kindnesses. You get back from the world, what you put out there.

5)Do something that scares you.
-This sounds daunting, but I’m not talking about scaling a mountain, or voting a Tea Party candidate into office. I’m talking about doing something that maybe you’ve always wanted to, but havent, due to fear. I’ll give you an example: I’ve been writing, writing, writing since I was fourteen years old. I have boxes and boxes full of journals, notebooks, you name it. It’s what I love to do, and it makes me incredibly happy. However, it’s also incredibly personal, and sharing my writing has always been an act of vulnerability I didn’t think I was up for. This year, though, I decided to take that leap (thanks in large part to the encouragement of some great friends), and start sharing my writing, and as an extension of that, my life. It has been the most freeing, amazing experience, and I can’t even articulate what joy it’s given me. Having people respond in a such a positive manner has given me the reassurance that I did the right thing. So, moral of the story? Do what you love, and put yourself out there.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in my “Things That Make Me Happy” file. There are a million things that give us joy in life, we just have to take the time to acknowledge them. So, that said-tell us, what makes YOU happy?

In Case You Haven’t Heard: Amos Lee.

Music is a very visceral thing for me, and Amos Lee’s voice makes my heart turn over. Lame, yes, but there’s no other articulation for it. Shut up. Anyway, I chose this song to share with you, because it’s one of my all-time favorites in the world. It reminds me of a very sweet, but very sad time in my life, and it fills me up every time I hear it. How beautiful that music is such a full sensory experience in our lives. Check him out-I think you’ll dig him as much as I do.

In case you haven’t heard…

…The National, you should check them out. They’ve been in perma-rotation on my iPod for a few years now, and “Green Gloves” is one of my all-time favorite songs in the world. No matter how many times I hear it, it still gives me the same shivery feeling. Matt Berninger’s voice is killer, and I wish he could sing me to sleep every night. All of their albums are equally great (in my opinion), so pick one, and enjoy. You’re welcome.