Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sideways in Solvang

Just returned from a great weekend wine tasting with friends in Solvang, CA. It was my boyfriends birthday. We stayed at the Solvang Inn & Cottages and took the "Sideways" tour of many of the wineries and vineyards surrounding Solvang in the Santa Ynez Valley. Our stops took us along route 246 from Solvang to Los Olivos to Buellton. Tasting and tours began at the Roblar Winery where we enjoyed a Mediterranean lunch filled with exotic cheeses and meats, then onto the Bridlewood Winery where they offer a horse-carriage ride around the vineyards, then to Brander Vineyards, next was the Firestone Winery where we learned about the wine making process through a guided tour and we finished up at the Demetria Estate where we were personally invited inside to hang out with the sommeliers. Throughout the weekend, we dined at the Hitching Post and Los Olivos Cafe' restaurants made famous by appearing in the movie, Sideways. Solvang is a quaint little Danish town with European style shops and restaurants along the main Copenhagen Street.

Jason Mraz @ Hollywood Bowl

My boyfriend and I recently went to see Jason Mraz at the Hollywood Bowl. It was the 2nd time that I've seen him in concert. My boyfriend has known him for a while. They worked together on an album that my boyfriend produced called, Jason Mraz Inspirations for Target. Of all of Jason's albums, the latest one, "We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things" is my favorite. On his third album, he again experiments, this time exchanging his acoustic persona for more blue-eyed soul than ever.

Sure the album’s first single, stripped down ballad I’m Yours, is typical man-with-guitar Mraz, but on other tracks he gets hip, trading in the acoustic guitar for jazzy electric piano and brass solos. Album opener Make It Mine engages with vibrant lounge-inspired melodies and Mraz’ trademark “la-la-las.” Then he brings the funk on the smoothly seductive Coyotes with its computerized beats and imagery-driven lyrics (“No wonder I’m a one woman man/ She keeps my heart in a jar on the nightstand”). Or there’s the deliciously tongue-in-cheek Butterfly, an innuendo laden ode to love laid out over energetic trumpet flourishes.

But don’t think We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. sees Mraz completely turning back on his troubadour roots. He duets sweetly with Colbie Caillat on beachy ballad Lucky where the two extol the virtues of falling in love with your best friend. And to close the album, he aptly chooses the quiet but impressive Beautiful Mess that reminds listeners that Mraz unplugged almost always trumps everything else.

As a fan of Mraz, its easy to be blindsided into automatically loving any new music he makes. All his usual stylistic devices are accounted for: spitfire delivery (see borderline rap song Dynamo), witty/incisive lyricism (Love for a Child) and inspirational balladry (Live High or as I call it, Life is Wonderful 2.0). Still, fan or not, We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things. is a must for anybody searching for grown-up pop with personality.