12 days at home was a wonderful gift, but this morning had me back on 128, running the classic Route-3-To-Winter gauntlet while avoiding sports radio after another bewildering Patriots loss. Luckily, I actually heard some music instead of the usual morning chatter, and was thusly inspired to write something about this year’s early-season favorites.

Frirst off, “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots. I know it’s been out on the Alt-Rock charts since spring, but the powers that be (correctly) pegged this one as a crossover hit and I’ve been hearing it in regular rotation on Top 40 for a few weeks. With that being said, it really hooked me over the weekend for various reasons. First, it’s pretty haunting, kind of like a deconstructed version of “Sweater Weather” with less instruments, a slower tempo, and a waaaaay melancholy message. Second, the lyrics are pretty intense and dare I say meaningful, a wanderlust-y and innocence-lost tribute to childhood and living without responsibility. I can relate. Third, well, in general I’m pretty stressed out so the idea of this song basically hit the spot.

Take these lyrics:

Sometimes a certain smell will take me back to when I was young/How come I'm never able to identify where it's coming from/I'd make a candle out of it if I ever found it/Try to sell it, never sell out of it, I'd probably only sell one

(nodding)

Or these:

We used to play pretend, give each other different names/We would build a rocket ship and then we'd fly it far away/Used to dream of outer space but now they're laughing at our face/Saying, "Wake up, you need to make money”/Yo

Truer words have rarely been written. Especially coming back to reality from vacation.

The second song on my early 2016 hit list is from the opposite side of the angst universe. “Stand By You” is Rachel Patten’s follow-up single to “Fight Song”, which ICYMI went intergalactic over the summer, and I’m probably the only one who likes it better than her original hit. It’s super-catchy, incredibly good to run to, and channels a little bit of Katy Perry and "Roar", a little more of Madonna, and the outfit of Shiri Maimon in “Ahava Ktana” along the way, although despite Patten’s Jewish credentials I don’t think she was looking that far for inspiration. Feel free to click on that last hyperlink to juxtapose the videos. With that being said I really, really don’t like the video to "Stand By You"… but when I’m running and listening to the song the video doesn’t matter at all.

Lastly, and this is just a throw-in because I have to say something about it.

Until last week I hadn’t seen “Pitch Perfect.” I mean, it didn’t SEEM like a movie that I would enjoy, but after my wife charitably watched two episodes of “The Expanse” with me on Friday (which is an incredible show BTW), I grabbed a snack and came back to the room to find "Pitch Perfect" on. With a frown, I sat down and prepared myself to dislike it intensely.

Wrong.

I absolutely loved it.

The reasons why are many, and probably destined for a future blog post, but I will say that one of my favorite parts was the “Party in the USA” minibus scene. Why? Well, I shamelessly and completely still love that song in general (although it feels way older than 2009), but beyond that I love how the Bellas get aggressively intense about singing it. Watch Chloe and Aubrey and Stacie’s faces as they look so desperately and demandingly at Beca, urging-bullying her to join in, and then watch Beca as she goes all in. Amazing. Amazing. That, plus Fat Amy’s typical antics and the assorted a-ca-statements that ensue capture the spirit of the movie so perfectly. I guess this means I have to see Pitch Perfect 2 now.

Happy New Year to all.