Blog Post Header Images For Photoshop Newbies

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Today I’m going to show you how I make the intro pictures for my posts. I use photoshop CS2, but you’ll be able to do this with most versions of photoshop- and a lot of other programs too if you know where all the tools are. This is a pretty basic technique you can use to make a lot of different things once you master it, so hopefully you’ll find some good ways to put it to use!

Step 1: Create a new document. Big images are good- just not too big! It’s a good idea to make it as wide as your content is. If you don’t know how big it is, find an image that you’ve included that is the right size. Copy it, and then create a new document in photoshop. The height and width should match that of your copied image when you create it. I personally use 600×500, because that’s what works for my blog size-wise.

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Step 2: Create a background. You have a lot of options here. You can do a simple colour background by using the paint bucket tool, which would look like this:

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Or you could use an image background like this:

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Or you could use a patterned background like this: (hint: colourlovers.com is a great place where you can create your own tiling pattern! great for backgrounds)

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I created my patterned background by finding a black and white image I liked. I pasted it onto my document, and then created another colour layer underneath it like this:

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I then adjusted the fade level on the pattern layer until it was the colour I wanted.

Step 3: Add the text. Having a bunch of non-standard fonts to choose from makes this bit a lot easier, and picking the same collection of fonts for all your images helps with your branding. It makes everything look the same, and like it all belongs together. A good place to download new fonts is dafonts.com. They have every font you could ever need, and installation instructions there that are easy to follow. Pinterest also has a wealth of suggestions.

Once you have your fonts, you need to know how to arrange them. I like to use multiple fonts on the same image for visual interest, but you can use the same font. The same font would look like this:

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When using the same font, I like to switch up the size of the text to put the most important keywords bigger. Like this:

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Combining different fonts takes a little trial and error to get right. I like to use a combination of handwriting-type fonts and blockier/sleeker fonts to contrast. That’s why my standard post images look like this:

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Here are some other examples of font mixing to give you some ideas:

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You can see how easy it is to create a different aesthetic feel by using different fonts, so try to pick some that match your blog’s brand and give off the impression that you want- not just ones that look good.

And that’s it, save and you’re done! Quick and easy, right? You can save the template as a .psd file and keep the layers intact so you can open where you left off and not have to start from scratch every time if you use it more than once.

I’d love to see what you create, best of luck!

7 Quick Tips for Faking Confidence

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Confession: I am a nervous giggler. When I get nervous, especially in front of crowds of people, I giggle even when there’s absolutely nothing funny going on. Once, in an acting class, I was preparing a piece with another student to perform and I swear I didn’t make more than two run-throughs of the script without bursting into laughter. It was aggravating and embarrassing and I’m pretty sure that guy was praying I’d get the chicken pox just to get me out of his hair. I’m not a bad actress, and I’ve since gotten over my stage fright, but I’m always afraid I’ll get into another situation like that again and giggle myself out of a great opportunity.

We all have times when we feel less than confident, even if we normally have good self-esteem. First dates, job interviews, having lunch with that disapproving aunt who keeps asking why you haven’t married rich and why you’re not the CEO of Google by now… No one is 100% confident 100% of the time. Here are some of my tips for faking that confident swagger even when you have no idea what you’re doing.

1. Bigger is better. It worked for Henry VIII, and it can work for you: relax your muscles and take up as much space as you can without looking utterly ridiculous. Don’t sit up straight on the edge of your chair like you’re in the principal’s office. Sit back, use the arm rests, stretch out your legs instead of crossing them. If you need desk or table space, use it the way you would your own desk or table, don’t just take up the little corner allotted to you. Filling up space is a visual indicator of confidence, while people who are unsure tend to shrink nervously like they’re trying to make themselves invisible. Own your own space, and you’ll look like you own the whole room, even if you don’t feel like it.

2. Preparation, preparation, preparation. If you can prepare yourself, it’ll make you look polished and even perhaps give you some actual confidence for the task ahead instead of just faking it. It can be something as simple as remembering to take tissues to wipe off your sweaty palms, or having a few unusual ice breaker questions ready for a lull in the conversation.

3. Listen. Don’t spend the whole time focusing on yourself and worrying about what to do or say. Take a breath and focus on what the other people around you are saying or doing, and only think about a response when they are finished. It’ll allow you to respond thoughtfully, and save you from blurting out something you didn’t mean to!

4. Smile. Smiling sends a message to your brain that you’re happy, even if you’re not, and releases the appropriate chemicals. It can be a great way to trick yourself into relaxing, and it also shows those around you that you’re having a good time and are relaxed.

5. Do something with your hands. Fidgety hands demonstrate nervousness, and can even be misread as an indication of lying. Occupy your hands with a drink, focus on how you’re holding the mic, or offer to hold something for someone else in order to occupy your fidgety fingers.

6. Don’t use wishywashy words. This is the moment to pretend that you’re a witness to a crime, and are being cross-examined by a cutthroat defense lawyer. “I think he went out the back door” will get you annihilated on the stand. “He went out the back door.” doesn’t give him reason to doubt how sure you are (even if you’re not). Avoid phrases like “I think”, “I believe”, words like “probably”, or “might”, and filler words like “um”. It will make you sound like you know your stuff and are confident in your ideas.

7. Know what you want. What do you want from that interview? What do you want from giving that wedding toast? It might sound simple, but when you have clear, specific goals to fixate on, it’s easier to get there. It’s easy to get sidetracked, go off on a tangent, or try to fit so much information into someone else’s brain at once that nothing fits at all. Being specific about your intentions means that other people will be more likely to understand them, and that you’ll have a better idea of how to get there even if you’re mostly winging it.

 

What are your confidence faking tips? Let me know in the comments!

Pop Is Not a Dirty Word

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Every time someone asks me what kind of music I make, I hesitate. On the one hand, I love talking about my music and I am always flattered when someone shows an interest. On the other hand, I feel like the moment I explain it, they’ll look at me a little differently. I love the kind of music I make, it’s exactly the kind of sound I love, but the words I use to describe it can carry a lot of bad connotations.

Fitting my art into a box and slapping a label on it isn’t as easy as it sounds. I sometimes wish I fell into an easier genre to say, like jazz, or rock, or even classical. That’s not what I want to fall into, but, it would be less embarrassing to explain. See, I like my sound to be dark and laden with violins, piano leads, and deep, throaty drums. I like it to have clever and soulful lyrics, and I want it to make people feel something deeper than just a need to get on the dance floor and grind with a stranger (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It is pop music, but it’s not the kind that you tend to hear overplayed on the radio at the grocery store. When I tell people I make pop music, I feel as if all they conjure up are images of Britney and Justin Bieber, or pretty girls with acoustic guitars making covers for youtube. I don’t want that label to make people think I didn’t work hard to make it, or that it’s just “ear candy”.

I could add a whole lot of adjectives to it, to make it sound better. People look at me a bit funny when I call it dark pop- after all, how could the quiet girl with the hipster glasses pull that one off? I could say electronic, as a lot of my inspiration is more electronic, but I don’t use a lot of synths or electrobeats. I could say indie, but people associate that with acoustic, which isn’t really my bag. I don’t like to say pop, but there aren’t many other words to use, either.

So I keep saying pop, and I keep hoping whoever I talk to will understand that I put in effort, that the lyrics are meaningful, that I want to make them scream and cry and fight back all at once. I am a pop artist, but I want to be respected. If I have to put myself in a box, if I have to slap a label on it, then I’d like for pop not to be a dirty word anymore.

2 Albums to Add to your Weekend Playlist

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For some reason, I’ve been in a new music slump lately. I haven’t been discovering a lot since I stopped listening to last.fm and suspended my google play account. Actually, I’ve been in a music slump all month. I haven’t created anything or found anything new… until now! I think maybe all that I needed was some fresh inspiration, and today I finally managed to stumble on some. Here are two albums you should add to your weekend playlist that might inspire you too!

Rae Morris – Unguarded

With a vocal style that sounds eerily like Ellie Goulding, merged with haunting piano backings makes it a soulful and catchy album. Released just this past November, I don’t know why she hasn’t been brought to my attention before.

Indiana – No Romeo

More traditionally “pop-y” than Rae’s, this is edgier, and reminiscent of Banks’ Goddess album. I can’t put my finger on what it is, but she feels fresh to my ears, which is a relief after listening to the same four chord progression played on the radio all day at work. I’ve already got Bound stuck in my head, and I think she’s going to be on regular playlist rotation for quite awhile now.

What do you think? Tell me in the comments!

What’s in my Tea Cupboard?

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I didn’t always have a love affair with tea. I hated it right up until college, when I started to need both the caffeine and a small, cheap way to relax. We got one of those specialty tea places downtown near where I used to hang out, and I got immediately hooked as soon as I realized there was more to tea than just Earl Grey and English Breakfast. I started trying teas that tasted like ice cream cake and lime gelato, and I fell hard. Now I have more than twenty types of teas in my cupboard- not counting all the single bags I’ve gotten from swaps and hotels- and I even worked at a tea shop for about five seconds this Christmas. Since I’m such an addict, I thought I’d give you guys a peek into what’s in my cupboard and how I like to store my teas.

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David’s Tea was my gateway drug into the world of tea. Shopping there is addictive, and I love going in to smell absolutely everything. My favorite kind of tea is rooibus because it has no caffiene and I don’t have to worry about oversteeping it. If you’ve only tried black or green before, I encourage you to branch out and give it a try! If you’re unsure about a tea before you buy it, especially if you shop online, check out its reviews on steepster.com. I don’t always agree with the reviews there, since everyone has different tastes, but majority rules is usually a good way to tell if a tea is an overall winner or a dud, and the community there is very helpful.

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I’ve learned a few practical things about tea lately- like how rooibus can be steeped indefinitely but black tea will get bitter within a minute if you leave it in too long. Iced teas require twice the amount of tea because the ice dilutes it. I always have to beware teas with hybiscus in it, since that’s what usually makes a fruity tea that deep red colour- and it’s too bitter and tangy for me if it’s used too much. Tea can be like fine wine in that there’s a lot to learn and so much to taste!

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Also, don’t believe any companies or brands when they try to hype the health benefits of tea too much. It’s true that tea does have some health benefits. I know that some good chai will settle my stomach, and I love licorice teas for my sore throats- but the fact is that most health benefits companies claim cannot be substantiated by science. When I worked at a certain tea place I’m reluctant to name (not one pictured here!), I was taught to tell customers that white teas were hydrating, and that oolong teas were great for losing weight, but all teas are hydrating because you’re drinking water and oolong teas are good for losing weight because an ingredient in them (caffeine) is shown to stimulate your metabolism- even though the caffiene in oolong tea is all but insignificant. There are a lot of claims being made that can’t be substantiated by medical studies currently- they may be true, but only some of tea’s health benefits have been proven. Be careful!

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The reigning queen of my tea cupboard right now is Alpine Punch by David’s. It’s not currently on sale (I think), but it smells like marzipan and almonds and tastes just as strong as it smells which is rare. It’s also amazing when blended with other teas. I have about 300 grams of it since I adore it so much (for reference, 30g of a tea will usually last me 4 months or so, depending on how often I drink it compared to other stuff in my collection).

As for teas you can actually try, I recommend Stash brand Chocolate Orange! It’s about $4 for a box of 20 bags, and it tastes like those chocolate oranges you get at Christmas. It’s like heaven. Protip: for double chocolateness, make the tea like you usually would and then mix in hot cocoa mix once you take the bag out. Trust me, it’s amazing.

Other favorites: David’s Tea Snickerdoodle, DT Jumpy Monkey, Twinings French Vanilla Chai and Celestial Seasonings Sugar Plum Fairy blend.

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What’s your favorite type of tea? Are you a fellow addict, too? Let me know in the comments!

My Post-Grad Job Search Update

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It’s been 9 months since I graduated- 7 months since the official ceremony. For those 9 months, I’ve been looking for a job.

I didn’t expect this. I’m the kind of girl who has a plan, who works hard, who follows through and gets things done. I was on the student council, I was the editor of a magazine, I was in mentorship groups and sometimes even managed to impress my professors. I took the law school admissions test and scored in the top 6%. I was unstoppable.

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5 Tricks to Get S#!t Done

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I hate to break it to you, but it’s halfway through January already. How’s that New Year’s resolution going for you? Are you still going strong, or is willpower beginning to fade?

The first week of commitment to something new is always a honeymoon period for me. It’s full of excitement and motivation, and I’m proud of every temptation I manage to resist. It gives me something to think about to get me through dull days at work, and something to look forward to doing later- like cooking a healthy meal, writing another post, or finishing a song I’ve been working on.

Then, I get to the swampy middle. It’s a dark place, full of alligators and mosquitos and undead voodoo priestesses. All of these dangers once seemed cool and exciting and I thought I was strong enough to handle them, but like a character in an adventure novel, I begin to long for the comforts of my mosquito-free couch and the safety of losing myself in a Netflix binge. My motivation wanes. The goal seems further away than it ever has. I’ve given up and gone back to my couch lots of times when I get to this point- but there have also been times I’ve slogged on and reaped the rewards. I highly recommend the latter, it’s worth the tiny bit of sanity you lose along the way. In case you’ve also found yourself in the swampy middle lately, here are some tips and tricks that work for me to get me past the ‘gators.

1. The 15 minute rule. You can sit around and wait for motivation and inspiration to do that thing you just don’t feel like doing right now. That is an option.  Unfortunately though, if I waited to do things only when I felt like it, there would be a lot of things that didn’t get done- and nothing would ever happen on time. I like to enforce the fifteen minute rule on days when I reaaaaaally don’t want to sit my butt in my chair and do something. Turn off all distractions, put your phone across the room, and set a timer for fifteen minutes and work on it. If you scrap everything you’ve done at the end of the fifteen minutes because it’s awful, then fine. If you don’t do anything else after that fifteen minutes, also fine. At least you did something- and, once you get started and are able to focus, you might even find you’re in the mood after all.

2. Find your best time. The last summer of college, I didn’t have that many obligations. I didn’t work every day, so I got to wake up when I felt like it, go to sleep when I felt like it, and work on my own projects when I felt like it. I found that between the hours of about 11:30 and 5:30, I’m not nearly as productive as I am earlier in the morning and after dinner hours.Learning this was absolutely invaluable though, because it meant I could scheduele dates with friends and time in the sun during my least productive hours for a break, and then make sure I had the rest of the day free when I knew I’d get more out of my time. I realized slogging through the afternoon when my brain decided to be uncooperative was not beneficial to everyone, because by the time I got to the evening, I was desperate for a break and got half as much done as I wanted to. Learn when you’re able to work best (even if that means waking up at 5am or staying up too late on a work night), and then make the best out of the hours you know you’re at your most creative.

 

 

3. Create a deadline. If there’s never a deadline for you to finish your goals, it’s easy to procrastinate and put things off indefinitely. If you set yourself an end date (or multiple end dates), you can hold yourself accountable and it makes it easier to know what you should be schedueling in, and when, in order to meet that deadline. It also helps to compete or work with a friend. If you know someone else is going to be counting on you to do your part, or if there’s a real and mostly immediate consequence for not achieving your goals, (like having to listen to your friend gloat about beating you), then you’re more likely to hold yourself to it.

4. Break it down. Sometimes, a goal can seem too daunting. For example, if your goal is to read 50 books in a year, that can seem like a lot. Even breaking it down to one book a week can seem like a lot when you have work and other obligations! A great way to reduce anxiety is to break a goal down into its simplest steps. You could break each book down to a certain number of pages a day, and then commit yourself to reading 15 pages at breakfast, or 30 pages on the bus ride home. Break it down to its most easily achievable minigoals, and it will feel a lot more easy to swallow- and you’ll feel good for achieving something, even if you don’t meet every mini goal along the way.

5. Find some support. Even if your family and friends are on board with your goals, it’s even better to be able to have a community around you who’s going through the same thing or trying to achieve something similar. If you can’t rope some friends into helping you achieve your goals, look online for message boards or twitter chats or subreddits (or create some of your own) to talk to people doing the same thing to help motivate you and keep you accountable. With the whole of the internet at your fingertips, there’s no excuse to go through it alone!

What are some tricks you use to help you stay productive? Let me know in the comments!

Tinder Dating Diaries: Awkward Moments Edition

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Dating guys I met on the shallowest app I’ve ever seen may not seem like an accident, but for me, it has sort of happened that way. Like a lot of people, I started using Tinder out of curiosity, and then continued using it just because it was entertaining. It’s a good way to kill some time in line at the grocery store, and get a quick ego boost while I’m at it (even though we all know most guys swipe right on everyone anyway…). While I suppose it’s not impossible to find your soulmate on Tinder, I never took it seriously. I’m not even all that interested in dating right now, much less blind dates which can be awkward or even scary with the wrong person.

Despite that though, I’ve so far managed to get three dates from Tinder without intending to, and I haven’t even gotten a little bit murdered like my mother would assume would happen. This is why my family can’t know I blog- who would I tell all my secrets to then, hmm? My cat is a terrible listener. It all starts with an innoccuous message that’s interesting enough to be worth responding to (most of them aren’t), and then some conversation for a few days that makes me think that we could get on- and then by the time the all-important ask comes around I’m too curious to say no. Some of the dates went well. Others… not so much.

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3 Things to Do to Pretend You’re a Grown-up



I don’t really claim to know anything about being an adult. I’m 22, and I vehemently do not want to grow up completely. Yes, I do my own dishes and pay bills, but I still have never had a relationship last more than six months, or had my own car, or had a serious talk with someone about my retirement fund. Still, I manage to fake it quite convincingly sometimes. Here are a few grown-up things to start doing to convince people around you that you’ve got it all together.

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1. Write thank you notes. 

When I was little, my mom used to make me write thank you notes after Christmas and birthdays. I was never too keen on the habit then. I was always grateful for my gifts, don’t get me wrong, but thank you notes always felt a little redundant. Now, though, I’m glad I learned early.

Thank you notes are the kind of thing that make you stand out. People love to feel appreciated, especially when it’s just the little things. Thank you notes tell people that you think about them, that their contribution of time or money or advice or stuff meant something to you- and people respond to people who make them feel appreciated. Go ahead, buy some cute stationary and see what happens.

How to Choose a Bottle of Wine

2. Find out what kind of wine you like.

It may not be your drink of choice, but sometime, somewhere someone’s going to ask you to pick something off the wine list and you’re going to want to know what you like. Whether it’s a fancy restaurant with your new boss, or trying to impress a boyfriend’s parents with a good wine selection when they invite you over to dinner, you’re going to be happy you know what to pick when the time comes even if you still exclusively order appletinis and shots at the bar. Even if you already drink wine, it’s good to know whether that $8 bottle is going to be a hidden gem or taste like mouthwash.

The best way to do it is go to a wine tasting with a friend- or host one yourself. You provide the snacks, everyone else brings a bottle, and you spend the night eating cheese and getting a bit tipsy. Here are some good infographics to get you started too!

3. Figure out the difference between cheap-but-good stuff, investment purchases, and doesn’t-fit-in-my-budget-but-I-“need”-it stuff. 

Unless you’re lucky enough to have an unlimited bank account (hint: you aren’t), you’re going to have to figure out the difference between three kinds of stuff. In high school, you probably bought a lot of $15 bras that wore out after two months and $20 perfumes that made you smell like a giant vanilla cupcake dipped in rubbing alcohol. You’ve probably come to realize since then that there’s a difference between cheap and good quality. Is everything expensive good quality? No. You learned that after buying that $30 mascara that flaked off and left you looking like an early-career Avril Lavigne. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably also had those moments where you walk into a store and suddenly need a lot of things that you didn’t know you needed until you saw all the pretty colours lined up on a shiny shelf.

You know you’re an adult when you can pick out the difference between that $10 vintage bag that will last you a few years of wear and tear, the $10 bag at that shop in the mall that will fall apart the first time you wash it, and the $450 bag that is so cute but you don’t want to have to spend the next three months paying it off (plus interest) on your credit card. Learn what things you should spend a lot of money on (a good winter coat), and what things you are better off finding elsewhere for cheaper (designer jeans). Splurge wisely, my friends, and only on things that are truly worthy of your hard-earned cash.

What are the best things you started doing to fake adultness?

Music Listening Habits – A Year In Review

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When I tell people that I have an exact record of almost all the music I’ve listened to since my junior year of highschool, they’re usually pretty impressed. I’ve been using Last.fm religiously for years now, and while I haven’t been happy with the changes they’ve made post-Spotify-acquisition, I’m still addicted to their stats. I love being able to have daily/weekly/monthly/yearly/all-time counts of the artists and songs I listen to. Every now and then going through my library brings out forgotten gems that I haven’t listened to in years, or helps me discover similar artists. It also tracks every guilty pleasure I listen to, too (those occassional pick-me-up Britney plays sure do add up).

I thought that since it’s a new year and all, I’d go through last year’s stats and do a year in review of what I’ve discovered, listened to, and rejected!

Most played artist: The Cab 

This really surprised me, since Natalia Kills has ruled my charts ever since Zombie came out a few years ago, but I’ve been obsessed with their EP and their new album Symphony Soldiers. I don’t usually listen to a significant amount of rock, but they just hit the spot. Vegas Nights is still one of my go-to acapella dishwashing songs, and Temporary Bliss and Animal are just plain addictive. They win the highest rank by 22 plays at a whopping 248 plays this year.

Most played song: COBRA by Marie-Mai

This one also surprised me. It’s a catchy song, but by no means my favorite. It was definitely on repeat a lot on my gym playlist though, which is probably a big reason why it got here. Marie-Mai is a French Canadian artist that I don’t imagine many people outside of Canada have heard of, which is a real shame. She’s not anything special musically, but she delivers solid albums on a regular basis and one of her songs usually makes it on whatever playlist I’m making at the moment.

Top 8 Artists:

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Top 5 Songs:

1 Loved track
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Top Artists in December for the Past 5 Years:

2010 – Orianthi, Amy Pearson, and FM Static

2011 – Annie, Cassie Davis, and Lillix

2012 – Jessie J, My Favorite Highway, and Example

2013 – This Providence, The Classic Crime, and Dinah Washington

2014 – Banks, The Cab, and Tove Lo

I definitely cannot stomach all of the sickly sweet pop I used to listen to, and you can see how I’ve branched out over the years. I haven’t listened to half the artists in 2010-2012 in a long time. I think it shows how I’ve matured, and how my music taste has matured. There are more artists I respect musically in my library now than there were before. I feel like I’m able to appreciate different styles now that I’ve taken my own musicianship more seriously. I love seeing how much I’ve changed- or how little in some cases (My Favorite Highway is an enduring love).

Musicians I Can’t Believe I Just Heard This Year

Agnes Obel – I don’t usually like downbeat, relaxing, acoustic music. It’s not the kind of music I make or listen to. But Agnes… Agnes is different. She is simple and beautiful and yet interesting all at once. I listen to Tokka on repeat a lot still- it will never get old for me.

Tove Lo – She just appeared on the scene this year, and while I think Habits is definitely overplayed by now, I don’t think she’s overrated. Musically, she’s not the most talented I’ve ever heard, but some of her gritty lyrics just get me in a way that I haven’t been gotten before. I’m not sure if that’s me growing up or just her talent, but either way, she was one of my top five this year.

Karmin – Not usually the type I listen to, but there’s no denying that these kids have style. It’s a guilty pleasure. I’m not sure whether it was the intro to Gasoline that won me over, where it shows off the male half of the duo’s smooth as melted chocolate voice, or whether it was her honesty in the Acapella bridge where she sings falsetto and can’t hit the high notes. Either way, I don’t care what anyone thinks. They’re catchy and fun and I need some of that in my life.

Foxes – I played White Coats, Youth and Clarity on repeat so much that I’ve started to get a bit sick of them all, to be honest. Foxes rides the line between ‘basic pop’ and ‘interesting electronic’ to create chemistry without seeming dull or too obscure. Plus, her hooks are so much fun to belt out, it’s hard not to get addicted.

Broods – Some of their songs are absolutely haunting, and I think they’re a good embodiment of the kind of music that I didn’t start falling for until recently. They hit all the right notes for what they’re trying to achieve and I fell hard for Sleep Baby Sleep this year.

Adele – No, seriously. I didn’t start listening her until this year. Someone Like You made my breakup playlist, and I gotta admit, it’s hard not to sing along.

My musical new years resolution: listen to more of the good stuff, and less pure ear candy! What does your music library look like now compared to a year ago?