Ep. 112: Song “Figuring This Out” (Influenced by Vampire Weekend)

In this episode, I break apart a song called, “Figuring This Out.” This comes from my album Starting Over released back in August of 2022.

This song meshes together a whole bunch of different influences including Vampire Weekend, Modest Mouse, Animal Collective, The Walkmen, Gorillaz, Regina Spektor, and Phil Collins. I’ll dive into the specifics as we go along here.

In my head, I originally had something along the lines of a less trippy version of the Animal Collective song, Unsolved Mysteries.

So, to start with for the recording, I took a kick drum sample playing quarter notes and laid an acoustic on top of it playing eighth notes.

So this was a nice start but I felt like it was lacking some energy and grit. I started thinking about The Walkmen song “Wake Up.”

I really like the way the electric guitar sits in their song, so I played a similar electric guitar part in mine and doubled it up.

Next, I worked on filling out the beat a little bit. I had something like the beat for “Float On” by Modest Mouse going on in my head.

I added hi hat, and snare samples, which occasionally do a roll sound.

The guitars alone weren’t quite getting the feel I wanted. I started thinking about the Regina Specktor song, Fidelity.

I like the soft, pizzicato string plucks and the way they felt with the beat. So I created a similar sound by adding an electric piano in the mix.

At this point, I started thinking about how I could break up the different sections of the song so that it progresses to different places as it goes along. I changed the opening beat on the first verse of the song to a drum machine that sounds like this. I also added a fuzzy, synthesizer bass, which layers a few different sounds together. I tried to do something that Gorillaz would do. During the second verse, I add a glockenspiel sound to give it kind of a playful feeling. In the second half of the song, I added an echoey, high pitched guitar part for another texture.

Next I thought of the style of early Vampire Weekend. I like the way they are able to incorporate baroque classical instruments with their brand of indie rock music.

So I borrowed this approach for something similar in my song. First there’s the harpsichord and then a string section at the end.

To close it out, I wanted to throw in a fun drum fill at the end and the first thing I thought of was Phil Collins’ famous drum solo from “In The Air Tonight,” which sounds like this.

So I used this as a reference and programmed a similar drum fill.

For my vocals, I added distortion, reverb and delay effects. It sounded a little like the sound quality of an answering machine to me and since the first line mentions an answering machine, I created a “beep” sound to really drive the message home (no pun intended).   

In the chorus production, I went back to Modest Mouse for inspiration. I like the way they have several different voices singing the song together on Float On. I layered on about 5 different voices of my own.

Lyrically, this song is about relationships and the feeling of fear and insecurity that can sometimes creep in.

Back to the Phil Collins song, “In The Air Tonight,” there’s a very bitter line where he says “if you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand.” So in my song, I reference that line but flip it and say “If I told you I was drowning, then would you not lend a hand?” So that part of the song is about the difficulty of really speaking your mind and asking for help when you need it. 

And with that, here’s the complete song. I hope you like it.

Also, This song is available to license for your projects like podcasts and videos. Find it at archesaudio.com or click the link in the description. Use the promo code “songoftheweek” at checkout to get 50% off your purchase of this song until February 12th.

Also, for listeners of this podcast, Arches Audio is offering  10% off your purchase of the other songs in the music library, as well as any services, including audio editing, artwork, and a new course on podcasting. Visit archesaudio.com and use promo code “makingmusic” at checkout.

Ep. 111: Song “Stand On Your Own” (Influenced by Marcus Mumford)

In this episode, I break apart a song called “stand on your own,” which is influenced by Marcus Mumford. This comes from my album Starting Over, which came out August of 2022.

This one is actually the oldest song on the album. I wrote most of this song in 2019, almost immediately after my last album, Good Grief was released. I was riding off of the energy and momentum of the time and wanted to give myself a “pump up” song about following your dreams and supporting your friends and loved ones in their struggles.

When it came time to record, I took some influence with the production from the theme song of the TV show Ted Lasso, which was recorded by Marcus Mumford.

 I like the beat a lot so I created a similar beat for my song. The kick drum has a steady quarter note beat, which is sometimes called “4 on the floor” by drummers.  I used samples from the circles drum library and programmed the kick, snare, toms and cymbals in protools. Then I recorded a tambourine part of top of it. In the pre-chorus, the chords hold out so to keep the momentum up, I change the beat to this tom roll. With the beat squared away, I started adding guitars. First, the acoustic has a fairly busy strumming rhythm, which drives the momentum of the song. I think it works because it’s on top of a fairly steady beat.

Next are two electric guitars which a more simple strumming pattern to fill it out more. One of them is clean and the other has a light overdrive distortion. For the ending I wanted to kick the energy up a notch so I added two more distorted electric guitars.

So with the basic core of the arrangement in place, it felt like it needed some more melodic elements. So, after some improvising. I came up with this piano part to give it more melody and add energy. In the choruses, it plays this steady piano part which kind of anchors the song a bit. And then an organ that art just to fill things out a little more.

For the vocals, I tried to keep some movement with the melody. Some of the notes get to the edge of my. Vocal range so it makes me have to strain a little but I think I kind of adds to the emotion a bit. Here’s The vocals isolated on the chorus.

Regarding the words, I heard a quote a while back that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” and so a version of that line made its way into the lyrics of the song. 

This is the most upbeat track on the album and so I decided to put it first. I felt like it was a good way to kick off the album before diving into darker territory in later songs.

This song is available to license for your projects like podcasts and videos. Find it at archesaudio.com or Use the promo code “songoftheweek” at checkout to get 50% off your purchase of this song until January 22nd.

Also, for listeners of this podcast, Arches Audio is offering 10% off your purchase of the other songs in the music library, as well as any services, including audio editing, artwork, and a new course on podcasting. Visit archesaudio.com and use promo code “makingmusic” at checkout..

Ep. 110: Favorite Music of 2022 – Top Ten Albums

Another year wraps up and as usual, I’m sharing my favorite albums. I don’t know if it’s just me but I felt like this was an excellent year for music. Some of my favorite artists came out with new records, many of which were sounding fresher than they have in years. I’ve also discovered several new artists (well, at least they’re new to me) and I’ve been happily surprised with the quality I’m seeing, including artists from the genres of country and pop. I honestly had a hard time narrowing down my list this time, but I was able to pick 10 albums that stood out to me as my core favorites for the year; ones that I kept coming back to.

But before I jump into the top ten, let me share my honorable mentions. These are albums I listened to and enjoyed but for one reason or another, didn’t quite make the top ten album list for me:

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Smile – A Light for Attracting Attention
  • Pool Kids – Pool Kids
  • Spoon – Lucifer on the Sofa
  • Delta Spirit – One Is One
  • Two Door Cinema Club – Keep On Smiling
  • Jack Johnson – Meet The Moonlight
  • Mitski – Laurel Hell
  • Wilco – Cruel Country
  • The Lumineers – Brightside
  • Carly Rae Jepsen – The Loneliest Time

So, with that said, let’s jump in and countdown my top ten albums of the year.

10. Sharon Van Etten – We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong

This is the 6th album from this New Jersey musician. She’s an excellent songwriter, creating heartfelt, sincere lyrics and melodies that float to unexpected places. The production is filled with atmosphere and dense instrumentation, borrowing from 80s artists like Kate Bush and Cocteau Twins. But really her strength is in her angelic, beautiful voice. If shifts between sounding heart broken and beaten down by the world to soaring heights of bliss, which is to say her music is simultaneously dark and beautiful. It’s a great combination.

Essentials: Mistakes, Porta, Home To Me

Stream: Spotify

9. Gang of Youths – Angel in Realtime.

This is the third album from this Australian indie rock band, who is a new discovery for me this year. Dealing with death and grief, the songs burst out with a sincerity and earnestness often missing in today’s music. The dense arrangements weave together rock music with strings and synths, similar in approach to the music Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene were making about 15 years ago. That’s not to say it sounds dated. They have a fresh take on indie rock sensibilities, with a feeling of adventure and ambition with the production. It’s a great album and a joy to listen to.

Essentials: In The Wake Of Your Leave, You In Everything, Tend The Garden

Stream: Spotify

8. Death Cab For Cutie – Asphalt Meadows

I’ve been a Death Cab fan for a long time. They’re a band that I have the bragging rights to say, “I saw them before they got big.” Their music has evolved over the years, as any band does, but if feels like the last 2 or 3 albums have kind of missed the mark for me. They still had some good moments but not as consistent as the earlier stuff. But here they are in 2022, releasing their 10th studio album in their 25 years as a band, and sounding fresher than they have in a long time. They seemed to have bumped up the energy, in terms of the tempos and cranking up the distortion on their guitars. It’s apparent they’ve spent more time on the production, giving the songs atmospheric textures and creating some interesting dynamics with the mixing. The songwriting has also move forward, with Ben Gibbard seeming to have more to say this time around. All and all, it’s a great album and might even be one of their best.

Essentials: Roman Candles, Here to Forever, Foxglove Through The Clearcut

Stream: Spotify

7. Miranda Lambert – Palomino

This is the 8th album from this veteran country artist and she’s something of a new discovery for me. I usually don’t get into mainstream country but I gave this album a try and I’m glad I did because it’s fantastic! The songwriting is absolutely top-notch, with clever and occasionally biting lyrics. The songs have a cool swagger in the production that help them standout from other country music. She has a powerful voice and comes across very mature and confident as an artist. It’s refreshing to see someone in country breaking the mold a bit and breathing life into traditional sounds.

Essentials: Actin’ Up, Geraldene, If I Was A Cowboy

Stream: Spotify

6. Sylan Esso – No Rules Sandy

This artist is new discovery for me, thanks to my brother, Josh, so shout out to him. This is the fourth album from this electro pop group from North Carolina. It’s filled with a lot dense and interesting production ideas, from blippy drum machines and glitchy synthesizers to thick harmonies, intricate string arrangements, and off-kilter saxophones. But luckily, it’s rooted in strong songwriting, with a plain but pretty vocal approach from singer Amelia Meath. It’s a perfect blend of chaos and comfort.

Essentials: Echo Party, How Did You Know, Moving

Stream: Spotify

5. Zach Bryan – American Heartbreak

This had been a big breakout year for this young Oklahoman alt-country singer/songwriter. This is his third album in only 3 years and his major label debut, and at 34 songs, it qualifies as a triple album. Now you’d think with that many songs, there would be a lot of filler, but it’s actually surprisingly consistent. Not a bad song on here! I love his raspy, soulful voice, which reminds me of Ryan Adams or Chris Stapleton. The songs have a great energy and sense of purpose and passion. The recordings sound very raw, like many of songs might have been recorded in one take without any effects. Some even feel like demo recordings. But that’s not a negative thing. It gives these songs that much more urgency and a feeling of authenticity.

Essentials: Something In The Orange, Happy Instead, Tishomingo

Stream: Spotify

4. Alvvays – Blue Rev

This is the third album from this Canadian indie rock band, and even though they’ve been making music for over a decade, they are new discovery for me. They take conventional power pop songs and turn them on their head with hazy, dream pop flourishes and shoe-gazer experimental textures. They effortlessly channel influences from 80s new wave, like The Smiths, Cocuteau Twins, Kate Bush, and Blondie. Despite all the atmosphere textures, it’s still a very high energy and fun listen, with excellent songwriting.

Essentials: Tile By Tile, Pomeranian Spinster, Pharmacist

Stream: Spotify

3. Asgeir – Time On My Hands

This is forth album from this Icelandic singer/songwriter and, like his previous albums, it does not disappoint. He manages to continue finding new ways to develop and refine his unique sound, which combines acoustic guitar, piano, and horns with drum machines and synthesizers. The songwriting and singing is also top notch, with yearning melodies that float along. It all adds together to make some of the best moody, atmospheric, yet melodic music coming out these days.

Essentials: Snowblind, Time On My Hands, Borderland

Stream: Spotify

2. Harry Styles – Harry’s House

This is has been a huge year for this former One Direction singer. In addition to touring almost non-stop, his worldwide mega-hit, “As It Was” has spent 15 weeks at number 1, longer than any song this year and, for that matter, any song by a solo artist ever! This is his third album and I feel like with this one, he’s really come into his own in terms of finding his voice and carving out a fresh style. At times he channels Micheal Jackson with powerful vocals and tight harmonies. Other times, he blends his influences with some experimental tones, including the use of synthesizers, guitars, and other interesting vocal effects and sounds. It’s adventurous but still incredibly fun and catchy with great songwriting.

Essentials: Music For A Sushi Restaurant, As It Was, Grapejuice

Stream: Spotify

1. Ben Rector – The Joy of Music

Despite this being his 9th album, this Nashville-based artist is a new discovery for me this year. His songs are incredibly catchy and fun, with heartfelt, inspirational lyrics about overcoming discouragement and learning to savor the happy moments in life. The production throughout the album blends a good range of styles with his great voice, from piano pop to acoustic folk to jazzy funk and even hip hop. In fact, this might be only album that ever comes out with guest appearances from Snoop Dogg AND Kenny G! I was lucky to have the opportunity to see him live this year and it was an incredible show. He has so much fun, positive energy on stage. I keep coming back to this album over and over because it’s such an enjoyable listen.

Essentials: Living My Best Life, Supernatural, Sunday, Heroes

Stream: Spotify

That’s the episode. Thanks for listening. If you’re interested, I created Spotify playlists with all the music from this episode, along with more of my favorite songs.

There’s also another playlist of full albums, which actually extends this list to include my top 50 or so albums of the year. You’ll find links in the episode description.

I’d love to hear what your favorite albums for 2022 were. Go to my Facebook group for Making Music with Jake Haws and leave a comment so I can check them out.

Also, I just want to add that my podcast production company, Arches Audio, is having an end of the year sale, with up to 50% off our products and services, including editing, artwork, stock music and a new course on podcasting I just finished creating. If you’ve ever thought about starting a podcast, now is the time. The sale ends on December 31st so don’t wait. Visit archesaudio.com/blackfriday.

That’s it. We’ll see you next time.

Ep. 109: Christmas Music 2022 – John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas”

Every year, my family has a tradition of recording Christmas songs. To date, we’ve done 34 songs over 16 years. This year, we came in a day late but we still did it. We decided to tackle John Lennon’s song, “Happy Christmas.” I sang, played acoustic guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, and sleigh bells. My wife, Melissa sang and played mandolin, and all three of our kids sang as well. We ended up layering their vocals to sound like a big children’s choir. We had fun making this and hope you like it.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas. If you’re still in the mood for more Christmas music, check out our family playlist.

Also, I just want to add that my podcast production company, Arches Audio, is having an end of the year sale, with up to 50% off our products and services, including audio editing, artwork, stock music and a new course on podcasting I just finished creating. If you’ve ever thought about starting a podcast, now is the time. The sale ends on December 31st, 2022 so don’t wait. Visit archesaudio.com/blackfriday.

Ep. 108: Starting Over – Album Listening Party

It’s been a while since I’ve put out a podcast episode. The reason being is that I’ve been busy working on a new album, which I’m pleased to say is now done. It’s called Starting Over and it’s an album about getting through dark times and finding light at the end of the tunnel. I’m gonna talk about each of the songs and play it for you in a minute, but first, let me give you a little background about the album as a whole.

So, between the pandemic and things happening in my personal life, I’ll be honest, it’s been a rough couple years. And after feeling the toll on my mental health, I eventually decided I needed help. So I did a number of things. I started going to therapy and reaching out to friends I trust and opening up about my struggles. And I started going on more walks and connecting with the outdoors, and practicing meditation, and prayer and kind of listening more to my inner voice. And these have all been really helpful things but I’ve also turned to songwriting.

My last album came out December of 2018 and since then, I’ve recorded quite a few instrumental tracks but I hadn’t done much writing complete songs with lyrics. I had a bunch of little song ideas collected on the voice memos app of my phone but I had a hard time putting words to the ideas, so it’s mostly just me singing gibberish phrases over guitar chords.

Around October of last year, I began to feel more of a need to express myself in order to process some of these emotions. So I took my favorites from all these song ideas I had stored up on my phone and started writing lyrics. And once I got going, the songs poured out faster than they have in a long time. I was able to finish writing 11 songs in about a week. I’ve been more personal in my lyrics than I ever have in regards to what I’m going through and how I’m feeling and It’s been a challenge for me to be so vulnerable but it’s been helpful to my soul to be a little more introspective and express myself more openly.

After I was done writing, I immediately started recording and after about 2 weeks, the album was about 80% done. Then it sat that way for several months until eventually I came back to it, and bit by bit added and reworked the arrangements until I was finally satisfied.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Wilco lately, especially their albums Summerteeth and The Whole Love, which definitely had an influence on the sound and the arrangement choices with this album.

My wife, Melissa did the photography and artwork, which I think turned out really cool, so huge thanks to her.

I also want to mention that I was fortunate enough to receive a grant from the Utah Division of Arts & Museums, which allowed me to upgrade my audio equipment and get a better quality recording, so big thanks to them.

I hope sharing these songs will be beneficial to those listening. They’re kind of like little snapshots in time for me and If you’re going through something similar, I hope it will help you feel less alone.

So with that, I want to jump into the songs. In future podcast episodes, I’m going to break down the production of each song and talk about how it was made, so look out for those, but for now, I’m just gonna give more of a brief background about what each song is about.

1. Stand On Your Own – I wrote most of this song in 2019, almost immediately after my last album, Good Grief was released. I was riding off of the energy and momentum of the time and wanted to give myself a “pump up” song about following your dreams and supporting your friends and loved ones in their struggles. I heard a quote a while back that “people don’t care how much you know til they know how much you care” and so a version of that line made its way into the lyrics of the song. It’s an outlier on the album, in the sense that I started writing it        over two years before the other songs, but it’s also the most upbeat track. I felt like it was a good way to kick off the album before diving into darker territory.

2. Figuring This Out – This one is about the feeling of insecurity in a relationship. When things get rocky and not how you plan, it’s easy to start feeling like your life is stuck, in some way. But eventually you get through it and learn to better communicate and compromise. There always seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. This song has not one, but two nods to the Phil Collins song, “In The Air Tonight.” There’s the line about drowning in the verse similar to his and I also slipped in the iconic drum fill to close out the song.

3. Not Easy – This song is about trying to come to terms with your place in the world and getting perspective. Like a lot of people, I have big dreams and ambitions. I used to turn to people like Steve Jobs as a model of accomplishing big things. He was quoted as saying he wanted to “put a dent in the universe.” I’ve certainly had that desire (and by the way, a line about making a dent made it into the lyrics) but now I’m questioning the sentiment. It’s made me feel like if I haven’t accomplished something big, then my life hasn’t been worthwhile. I’ve had to learn to let go of that notion, be okay with where I’m at, and focus on the things I have control over. As one of my friends, Kimberly Knighton wrote in a song, “You don’t have to save the world. Just leave it better than you found it.”

4. Killing Time – This one is a story from the perspective of a teenager struggling to find a purpose in life. They’re watching the world fall apart, the future looks bleak, their parents are constantly yelling at them, and they start feeling like “what’s the point?” They’re never going to be satisfied with life so it feels like they’re just running out the clock, killing time until they kick the bucket.

5. Feeling Like A Ghost – This one is about fearing death. Watching people around me pass away has left me with this sense that life is fragile and that I or anyone I love could be gone anyday. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that we’re all going to die some day. It can be really depressing to think about but it’s also made me want to make the time I have in life count, in terms of keeping my priorities straight.

6. Heaven Help Us – This song stems from a personal story. My family recently went on a hike in southern Utah, where we underestimated our timing and ended up having to walk in the pitch dark for a few hours along steep terrain with just the light from our cell phones. We made it back fine but there was this fear in my head the whole time that we would get lost. I made the situation worse in my head, which led to some intense prayers. And so, the worst-case, “lost in the desert” scenario became the basis for this song. It’s also a religious metaphor for our time on earth and our reliance on God to return home.

7. I’m So Sorry That I Didn’t Understand – This one is about a friend of mine who recently went through a divorce. It’s about looking back at the situation with regret and wishing you had done things differently; wishing that you have communicated more clearly and been more empathetic. The songwriting style is very much a homage to Bob Dylan.

8. End Of My Rope – This one is about feeling intense moments of depression and anxiety. In these dark moments, it feels like everything is collapsing in, that the world is out to get you and there’s no end in sight.     I tried to have some contrasting elements in the arrangement. The simple two-chord progression and steady beat are at odds with the very chaotic, noisy lead guitar parts that duel with each other. The intention is to simulate the intense chaos going on in a person’s head on top of the repetitive monotony of day-to-day life and the breaking points that occur.

9. Someone Else – This one is about feeling stuck in life and longing for things to be different. At times, I just wanted to give up and start over. But while caught in the struggle, you learn to get through the hopeless moments by talking it through with people you trust. In terms of the progression of the album, this opens up the last three songs, which focus on healing and coming to terms with myself.

10. Wait For It – This one is about learning to be patient with your own progress and kind to yourself. Change is a process that takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. As I’ve worked on strengthening the spiritual side of my life, it’s given me peace and helped give perspective to my problems.

11. Coming Around – This one is about my hesitation to be vulnerable. I’ve kept a lot of my problems to myself for a long time because I didn’t want to burden anyone. Over time, it built up and felt like too much to handle. Eventually I realized I needed to get help so I decided it was time to get therapy and start opening up to the people around me. I’ve had to come around to the idea of being vulnerable (hence the title), but that decision has helped set me on a better course. There’s strength to admitting you need help. We’re not meant to do this life alone.

Thanks so much for listening and letting me share this album with you. If you want to hear it again, it’s available on Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and all the other streaming services. Please share it with people.

If you are interested in licensing any of these songs for your podcast or video projects, I have instrumental versions of each of the songs available.

We’ll see you next time.

Ep. 107: Favorite Music of 2021 – Top Ten Albums

Here we are, another year now over and a new one about to begin. You know what that means, right? It’s the end of the year list time! Listen now for the top ten favorite albums of the year, along with some honorable mentions.

To listen to the songs from this episode on Spotify, visit: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/60S3Gq540DnpXeBOaCTRYa?si=34b3f6140ba4420a

For a Spotify playlist of all the full albums from this list, visit:

Ep. 106: Christmas Music 2021 (Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Feliz Navidad)

Every year, I have a tradition of recording Christmas music with my family. Some years, we’ve only done one song and other years it’s been as many as five. This year we were able to do two song.

The first one is a techno version of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Each of my 3 kids sang on it and I used the Auto-Tune plugin on their voices, which is the first time I’ve ever used it. This was a little out of my comfort zone with production style but it was fun to push myself to try new sounds.

The second song is a bossa nova style arrangement of “Feliz Navidad.” I used a nylon string classical guitar that my wife bought for my birthday earlier this year. I also used a drum beat sample, a shaker, wood block, and bass. For the singing, everyone in my family traded off lines. We started oldest to youngest, so it began with my wife, Melissa (who is a month older then me), then I sang, then the rest of our 3 kids. Then, we all joined in together at the end.

For more Christmas music, visit: https://jakehaws.bandcamp.com/album/christmas-songs

Ep. 105: Favorite Music of 2020 – Top Ten Albums

So, as this year wraps up, I’m sharing my favorite albums from 2020. There were a lot of great records that came out, and I honestly had a hard time narrowing it down to just ten but I did, and I’m about to share them. But before I do that, let me share my honorable mentions. These are albums I listened to and enjoyed but for one reason or another, didn’t quite make the top ten album list for me:

Honorable Mentions

    • Andy Shauf – The Neon Skyline
    • Sturgill Simpson – Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 1
    • Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
    • Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
    • Deftones – Ohms
    • Jeff Tweedy – Love Is The King
    • Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters
    • Hamilton Leithauser – The Loves of Your Life
    • Idles – Ultra Mono
    • Matt Berninger – Serpentine Prison

So, with that said, let’s jump in and countdown my top ten albums of the year.

10. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Reunions

This is the 7th album by the Nashville-based veteran singer-songwriter and he’s as sharp as ever with his craft. This introspective collection of songs deal with heavy topics like death, torn relationships, racism, and changing times. The production is fairly straight-head rootsy folk-rock from his backing band, the 400 unit, with maybe a little more emphasis on the lead guitar than usual. But it all serves to compliment his echoey, raspy vocals well, giving the whole album a haunted, ghostly feel. It’s great to hear someone keeping up the tradition of creating heartfelt songs in a fresh way. He’s again proven why he’s one of the top songwriters of our generation.

Essential Songs: Dreamsicle, Only Children, St. Peter’s Autograph

Stream: Spotify

9. Laura Marling – Song For Our Daughter

Laura is a British singer/songwriter I’ve casually followed for many years. This is her 7th album and a very solid collection of songs. I love the pretty tone of her voice and the great melodies she sings. Her lyrics are very deep and personal, often dealing with heartbreak, strong emotions, and raw storytelling. In many ways, she reminds me of a modern version of Joni Mitchell or occasionally Nick Drake. The production is pretty stripped down; mostly based on acoustic guitar, with bass, drums, subtle lead guitar parts, and occasional strings and piano. But the production doesn’t really need much to it because the songs stand well on their own. It had a real classic rock kind of vibe to it.

Essential Songs: Held Down, Song For Our Daughter, Fortune

Stream: Spotify

8. EOB – Earth

This is the debut solo album of Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien. While most of the members of his main band have done multiple solo albums at this point, it’s finally his turn and the results are great. He typically sings backing vocals so it’s nice to finally hear him in the lead vocalist role. He sounds confident, mixing some of the experimental elements of Radiohead with approachable songwriting and production. This album is many years in the making, partially inspired by a year that he and his family lived in Brazil and experienced the blended music and culture available there. The songs often morph genres, like on “Brasil,” where the first half of the song begins with folk guitar picking, then transitions into a mellow EDM trance with subtle synthesizers. Other songs bring in the rock a bit more. It’s an adventurous record and a fun journey to listen to.

Essential Song: Shangri-La, Brasil, Deep Days

Stream: Spotify

7. Chris Stapleton – Starting Over

This is the fourth album by this Nashville-based singer/songwriter and it’s a very solid release. His sound teeters somewhere between country, blues, roots-rock, and pop, but at the center of it all is his raspy, soulful voice. It’s filled with power and emotion, giving the songs a lot of added weight and depth to them. The production is very slick and crisp; with great punchy drums and full, clear tones with all the instruments. Normally, it would be a little too polished and mainstream sounding for my taste but it really works here. I think I’ve respected his music for a while but this is probably the first time I’ve really connected with it and thoroughly enjoyed listening. 

Essential Songs: Devil Always Made Me Think Twice, Cold, Starting Over

Stream: Spotify

6. Fleet Foxes – Shore

They have been one of my favorite bands for many years and this 4th album was a welcome, refreshing release after being somewhat disappointed by their last one from a few years ago. The songs bring back the strong melodies and optimism of their earlier sound, along with the thick harmonies and textural instrumentation that accompany singer Robin Recknold’s distinct voice. True to the album artwork and title, their music carries an organic quality as if they are providing something of a soundtrack to nature and outdoor adventure. And despite much of the album being recorded during the pandemic, it feels bright and warm, making it a very nice and pleasant listen.

Essential Songs: Can I Believe You, Sunblind, Jara, Thymia

Stream: Spotify

5. Phantogram – Ceremony

This is the 4th album by this electronica duo and they sound as strong and confident as ever. The production is top-notch with solid, interesting beats and plenty of twists and turns with the instrumentation; including fluid bass lines, catchy guitar riffs, atmospheric synths, and punchy brass hits, The songs are very catchy and memorable; occasionally sounding funky and upbeat but other times, carrying a little edge and attitude. In some ways, their sound is occasionally reminiscent of Portishead but maybe sped up twice as fast and less depressing (if that makes any sense?). It’s a great album from start to finish; maybe their best. So, it’s a joy to hear a group like this at the top of their game and making great music.

Essential Songs: In A Spiral, Dear God, Pedestal

Stream: Spotify

4. Nathaniel Rateliff – And It’s Still Alright

Despite Nathaniel having performed for many years and hearing his name mentioned many times, this artist is a new discovery for me this year. I finally gave him a chance and I’m glad I did because this album is fantastic. This marks his 6th album release and his seasoned abilities as a songwriter show. He has a great twangy folk-rock sound with a little bit of old-timey twist, similar in style to Father John Misty or Fleet Foxes.  I love how soulful his voice sounds. It’s moving and even inspirational at times. The songs are equally impactful, with a strong passion behind the melody and lyrics.

Essential Songs: And It’s Still Alright, All Or Nothing, What a Drag, Time Stands 

Stream: Spotify

3. Gorillaz – Song Machine Vol. 1: Strange Timez

This is the 7th album released by this eclectic hip hop project in their 20 plus years of existence. If you’re unacquainted with Gorillaz, they consider themselves a “virtual band,” meaning that the members are portrayed as cartoons in their videos and interviews. You don’t usually see the humans behind the music except when they are performing live, but even then, the cartoons are featured heavily on giant screens. The sole core member of the band is Damon Albarn, who is famous for being the singer of the rock band Blur. Over the years, he has frequently collaborated with other artists to create the songs for Gorillaz, but this time, he’s taken it a step further and made every single song is a collaboration release each month as separate episodes in a web series. Some of them even feature big names like Elton John, Beck, and Robert Smith (from The Cure). This album collects all the songs from the first season of this series. There are a lot of fun tracks in this collection, featuring great eclectic production with somewhat of a funky, 80s dance influence. Great music for a party. But at the core, what really makes it work are the excellent melodies and songwriting.

Essential Songs: The Valley of the Pagans (feat. Beck), Strange Timez, Aries, The Lost Chord

Stream: Spotify

2. Ásgeir – Bury The Moon

This is the 3rd album by this Icelandic singer-songwriter, whose full name is Ásgeir Trausti (but he just goes by his first name as a performer). My friend showed me his music a few years ago and I’ve been a fan since. His style is a blend of folk and electronica with subtle additions of piano, horns, and strings. He often sings in a high, falsetto voice which gives his music a gentle feel, but the music takes plenty of surprising twists and turns. His sound reminds me of a combination of Bon Iver, David Gray, and James Blake. I love the way it all blends together and supports his solid songwriting. The melodies are strong and super catchy. In addition to the English version of this album, he also has a version available where the lyrics are in Icelandic. It’s a great album from start to finish and I found myself coming back to it over and over throughout the year.

Essential Songs: Breath, Eventide, Turn Gold To Sand, Pictures

Stream: Spotify

1. Travis – 10 Songs

Travis is a Scottish band I first discovered when I was in high school and I saw them on tour in the year 2000 when they opened for Oasis in Seattle. They were supporting their album The Man Who, which was starting to gain some traction in the US and helped pave the way for bands like Coldplay. I became an instant fan and that album remains one of my all-time favorites to this day. Over the years, they’ve declined in popularity. They’ve continued to release albums but none of them have quite reached the quality and magic they had with The Man Who. Now here they are, 30 years into their existence as a band, releasing their 9th album, which I think is among their best work. I think they really stepped up their game and tried harder than they have in a long time to make something special. What really makes it shine for me is the songwriting. The melodies are catchy, with nice rises and falls, and repetitions with a few unexpected twists. The lyrics are characteristically melancholy but with a sense of optimism. The songs are concise and get to the point, which I really like. This album is mellow and relaxing for the most part, mostly due to Fran Healy’s smooth voice and fairly straight-ahead production.  It all sounds very effortless, even though I’m sure they labored immensely to hone-in on these well-crafted songs. It’s an album that holds up to repeat listens; I kept coming back to it and enjoying it more and more with each listen.

Essential Songs: A Ghost, A Million Hearts, Waving at the Window, Nina’s Song

Stream: Spotify

Favorite Albums of 2020 – Spotify Playlist

Favorite Songs of 2020

Visit Arches Audio to get my original royalty free music for your podcasts or video projects.

Become a sponsor of this podcast through Patreon.com

Ep. 104: Christmas Music 2020

Every year, I have a tradition of recording Christmas music with my family. Some years, we’ve only done one song and other years it’s been as many as five. This year, with launching a new stock music website and our busy family schedules, we haven’t done any new songs as a family yet but I was able to put together two new Christmas songs on my own for you to hear.

The first one is an EDM instrumental version of “Once In Royal David’s City.” This is way outside the usual styles of music I normally make but it was super fun to try something new and sharpen my production skills. I kind of imagine it being used for someone’s synchronized Christmas light show.

Here’s a fairly straightforward version of “Carol of the Bells.”

I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays, where ever you are.

If you want to the rest of the songs my family has recorded over the years, visit Haws Family Christmas Songs.

If you want to license any of these songs for your podcast or video project, visit Arches Audio.

Ep. 103: Eric Bay and I Write a Song About the Pandemic

In this episode, I’m joined by Eric Bay, a singer/songwriter from Surrey, England. We talk about his music career and collaborate on a brand new song. We recorded this back in March, so you’ll hear us talk a little bit about the spread of the COVID-19 kind of at the earlier stages when more people were panic buying toilet paper and groceries.

After Eric and I finished writing the song over a video chat, we recorded our parts separately in our own home studios. Eric provided vocals and keyboard tracks along with some synth parts and I recorded backing vocals, guitars, synth, bass, drums and percussion. I did the initial mix, with Eric finishing the final mix. The song mastered by Joe Lonsdale.

I’m really happy with how it turned. I hope it can provide some optimism for people during a difficult time. Enjoy.


Knocking on the door on a rainy afternoon
Thursdays always seem to come around so soon
I could tell from the look on your face that it’s getting to ya
You wanna be strong but you’re worried about the future

A sunny day is on its way again
The clouds of fear will start to clear, my friend
These are troubled times indeed
But you got everything you need
So hold on for the sunny days ahead

Saw a man I hadn’t seen in years
Wasn’t sure if he still lived ’round here
He said the people in this town have all gone crazy
Human nature never ceases to amaze me

A sunny day is on its way again
The clouds of fear will start to clear, my friend
These are troubled times indeed
But you got everything you need
So hold on for the sunny days ahead

A sunny day is on its way again
The clouds of fear will start to clear, my friend
These are troubled times indeed
But you got everything you need
So hold on for the sunny days ahead

A sunny day is on its way again
The clouds of fear will start to clear, my friend
These are troubled times indeed
But you got everything you need
So hold on for the sunny days ahead