Tuesday, December 17, 2013

End of Year Mixtapes Special Edition: My Top 25 Tracks of 2013

Are you ready?! Are you ready to feel all the feelings?

I know I am.

That's right: It's Year Three of my End of Year Mixtapes Special Edition blogtastic music celebration! My top 25 tracks of the year! (For a blast from the past, check out my favorites in 2012 and 2011.)

Let me preface this year's list by saying a couple of things. One, this is not the place to celebrate Yeezus. (Or Miley. Or Robin Thicke. Though I will still agree/argue that "Blurred Lines" was catchy as fuck.) Two, it was a little hard to focus on finishing this, as THE QUEEN—yes, duh, Beyoncé—just dropped her surprise album last week, and I've pretty much listened to nothing else since. That said, I wasn't quite prepared to change this list into 14 Yoncé songs and ignore all these other tunes that have been near and dear to my heart.

So, let's do this! Behold, the songs that had me hitting replay again and again.

I hope you enjoy them even a fraction as much as I do.

25. Laura Mvula — “That’s Alright”

You know how I love my Brits. And while I enjoyed the entirety of Laura Mvula’s album, Sing to the Moon, this track was a clear standout for me. Her other songs, “Like the Morning Dew” and “She,” might showcase her classically trained voice more, but this song (and video) showcases that she is a boss. This stomping, snappy bizness starts off with her declaring, “I will never be what you want and that’s alright” — followed by my favorite, “Tell me, who made you the center of the universe?”

24. Jay Z featuring Beyoncé — Part II (On the Run)

I just can’t help myself. I love when these two collaborate. “She was a good girl until she knew me” — uh huh, Jay, uh huh. Wonder what it’s like being married to the Queen? (Oh wait, I think I just found out this past week. Ahem, "Drunk in Love" ... which is terrific, aside from the troubling/confusing Ike Turner reference. The fuck, Mr. Carter?) Wait, I'm getting off track here. The return of Bonnie and Clyde!

23. Foxygen — “No Destruction”

2013 started off with a bang, thanks to Foxygen’s We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic, which I promptly fell into a deep, deep obsession over. This song absolutely delighted me, and made me want to sing to any Logan Square hipster who annoyed me: “There’s no need to be an asshole, you’re not in Brooklyn anymore.”

This summer I saw Foxygen perform at Pitchfork, and I think singer Sam France actually thought he was scaling that Blue Mountain he sings about as he climbed all over his set with his pants constantly falling down. He was absolutely off his rocker, and I loved every minute of it.

22. Marques Toliver — “Magic Look”

My love of Lianne La Havas led me to first stumbling upon Marques Toliver, and that promptly turned into love of his beautiful violin-playing and soulful voice. He put on a great performance at Lincoln Hall this year—which included him scolding audience members who wouldn’t put down their damn phones and stop chatting—and afterward I met him and was exactly as dorky and awkward as you would imagine. “If Only” was a close runner-up for my favorite on Land of CanAan, but there was just something about “Magic Look” that was just, well, magic.

21. Arctic Monkeys — “Do I Wanna Know?”

I was late to the game with the new Arctic Monkeys album, and then was pleasantly surprised how much I loved the whole damn thing. This song killed me, with: “(Baby we both know) / That the nights were mainly made for saying things that you can't say tomorrow day.” Well, shit.

20. John Legend — ”Made to Love”

John Legend is my husband. Yeah, yeah, so he had to go and get married in real life or whatever, but it doesn’t stop me from loving him, his new album, and this one in particular.

19. Low — “Just Make It Stop”

When I first heard this song in January, I was feeling all kinds of smug that I could listen to this tear-jerker and not weep. I was lucky enough to see Low twice in Chicago this year. While I was maybe having a wee bit too much fun at Pitchfork to get too sentimental about anything, when I saw them the second time, with the Chicago skyline behind them and a warm breeze blowing (yes, it was a warm, gentle, breeze, don’t take this away from me), I’ll be damned if I didn't choke back a tear during the few minutes this song played.

18. Kelly Rowland — “Dirty Laundry”

When I first heard this song, it felt like a swift kick in the gut. On top of the fact that it’s a beautiful, personal song, it’s an important one, too. I listened to it again and again. I still cry when I listen. Kudos to you, Kelly Rowland.

17. Rhye — “Open”

“I’m a fool for that shake in your thighs.” And from there, Rhye had me. Woman was one of my favorite albums of the year, and this track in particular just slays me. I said it before; I’ll say it again: "I wanna make this plain / Oh, I know you're faded / Mmm, but stay, don't close your eyes"

(For some puzzling, yet awesome, reason, Rhye released two videos for this song, so I’m sharing my personal favorite of the two.)

16. Phosphorescent — "The Quotidian Beasts"

I was listening to the Phosphorescent album non-stop right around the time I was reading Cheryl Strayed’s amazing book, Wild. So that might have had some influence on the fact that this song made me want to run off to the wilderness alone and just howwwwwl. But, umm, maybe that’s only me?

15. Blood Orange — "You're Not Good Enough"

Ohmygod, Dev Hynes. I loved you at Pitchfork, I loved your album, and most importantly, I love this song, even if you tell me, “I never was in love / you know that you were never good enough”:

14. Disclosure featuring Sam Smith — “Latch”

My devotion to Sam Smith has been pretty well documented here this year, so this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. And while I do recognize that this is a Disclosure song featuring Sam Smith, whatever. It’s all about Sam Smith for me. And yes, this beat certainly helps.

13. Alice Smith — “Cabaret”

Alice Smith released She, her follow-up to For Lovers, Dreamers, and Me (only one of my favorite albums of all time) this March, just in time for my birthday, and just in time for me to spend the better part of my year blaring this song way too loud into my earbuds. Maybe cause no one has ever demanded, “Where are you going with your life?” and sounded so damn great.

12. Lion Babe — “Treat Me Like Fire”

I kicked off the Mix Tapes in 2013 with this one, and I still quite agree that there was no better way to start the new year than with this: a big, sexy ROAR. Lion Babe, aka Jillian Hervey, aka Vanessa Williams’ daughter, aka lioness goddess. I mean, Lion Babe. You’ll see.

11. Tegan and Sara — “Goodbye, Goodbye”

Tegan! Sara! My darlings! My long-standing love affair with these two took a turn this year, when they transformed into a pop smash, and I couldn’t be more delighted. While I did wish the teenyboppers surrounding me at Lollapalooza this year knew a single word to any of their older songs, I can’t blame them. Cause I was freaking out right along with them when this song played, jumping up and down, yelling, “Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye!”

I spent many winter mornings at the start of 2013 walking downtown with Heartthrob blasting, feeling alternately defiant during this track and then crushed and defeated when it segued into “I Was a Fool,” one of my other favorites from the album. So let’s stick with the fun defiance, shall we?

10. Arcade Fire — “Reflektor”

Look, just cause Noel Gallagher has a bunch of gripes about Arcade Fire doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy them. This “sleek, dark disco epic” got a little help from David Bowie and had me constantly singing, “Entre la nuit, la nuit blah blah” to myself with delight.

9. J Cole featuring Miguel — “Power Trip”

I’m just going to ignore completely how utterly creepy this song becomes when you pair it with the music video. But know that I recognize that, okay? Okay? The point is, it still hasn’t gotten old every time Miguel comes in and sings, “Would you believe me if I said I’m in love?” I believe it. And that second verse just kills me. I can’t help myself.

8. Volcano Choir “Byegone”

Dammit, Justin Vernon. I don’t even know what it means when you say, "Tossin' off your compliments, wow/Sexing all your Parliaments" — and I don’t care. This song explodes right from the start, and I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that at certain times, I’ve listened to it and felt like my heart might burst.

“Set sail! Set sail! Set sail!”:

7. AlunaGeorge — “Your Drums, Your Love”

Because: “I’ve been treading water for your love / whether I sink or swim, it’s you I’m thinking of.” That’s all.

6. Eleanor Friedberger — “Stare at the Sun”

“If that was goodbye, then I must be high” — YES! Yes, exactly! Good god, how I’ve been loving Eleanor Friedberger this year. I got to see her perform at Empty Bottle in June, and it was magic. (I saw her again more recently, opening for Colin Meloy, and that was NOT magic, but I’m pretending that didn’t happen.) This song makes everything okay! Everything!

5. James Blake — “Retrograde”

"So show me why you're strong / ignore everybody else / we're alone nowwww"

Well fuuuck, James, I wish we were. My god, I feel so much.

4. The National — “Demons”

Any year that The National releases an album is bound to be a great one for me. Any year that The National releases a new album and I get to see them play live is an even greater one. And that I did, in the boiling heat at Lolla this year, as I beamed into the sun while Matt Berninger and crew rocked my face off like always.

It’s pretty tricky for me to pick a favorite when it comes to these guys — I mean, “Graceless”! “Hard to Find”! “Pink Rabbits”! — but there was just something about this one I just can't get over. “When I walk into a room / I do not light it up / Fuck” gets me every.fucking.time.

3. HAIM — “Falling”

HAIM! I first felt the butterflies of a crush last year, when HAIM squeezed their way into my top 25 of 2012 with “Don’t Save Me,” but this year marks a full-blown, head-first love affair. This song starts off their terrific, terrific album and sets the mood just right.

2. Local Natives — “Colombia”

Back in March, I shared maybe one too many feelings in a post about Local Natives, but I don’t regret it. I don’t have the space here to fully explain what this song means to me. This song obviously has nothing to do with me, but it has everything to do with me. Somehow, someway, I hope my mom can hear it.

1. Janelle Monae featuring Erykah Badu — “Q.U.E.E.N”

Finally, my number one, my Q.U.E.E.N. Oh my fucking GAWD, I love this song so, so much. It's six minutes of electric-lady badassery. Or, as I wrote before, "Where does one even BEGIN with this song and video? The lyrics are gold. The beats are gold. The outfits! The dancing! BADOULA OBLONGATA!"

So, going into the new year, I think we should all remember two things. One: "Even if it makes others uncomfortable / I will love who I am"; and two:

The booty don't lie. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tis the Season

I am really getting in the Christmas spirit this year. Maybe it’s my new Christmas tree. Maybe it’s because my annual reading of Holidays on Ice had me laughing my ass off on the train to myself even more than usual. Maybe it’s my “Let It Snow” Spotify playlist. Maybe it’s from watching Christmas Vacation on a twice-weekly basis and texting quotes to my cousins nonstop.

Whatever it is, I’m going with it.

Yesterday I read this article, “The sentimental, cynical, undying charm of A Christmas Story,” in which the writer makes a lot of wonderful points, not just about that movie, but about the holidays in general. She writes:

"But what happens after that perfect Christmas, when you get the ultimate shiny, exciting thing you asked for, then realize it can’t get better than this? A Christmas Story doesn’t say, but we adults know what happens: The wanting of mere things starts to lose its glittery seasonal appeal. The magic of childhood yuletide fades, and eventually morphs into something else.

There’s a moment in the season-two Christmas episode of The Wonder Years—a TV series that does a much more sentimental version of the narrated-flashback trick from A Christmas Story—when narrator Kevin Arnold describes that transformation as one where the holiday stops “being about tinsel and wrapping paper” and starts “being about memory.” If you believe that’s what happens to Christmas when we grow up, then it makes total sense that narrator Ralphie looks back on the Christmas Story December with such wry wistfulness. It’s because very soon after, possibly the following year, Christmas turned into a time for him to look back, instead of looking forward.

The warm, achingly bright glow of nostalgia is what makes Christmas such an emotional holiday, and it’s also what draws some people to A Christmas Story."

First off, anyone who references The Wonder Years in an article about anything knows exactly what she’s talking about, in my humble opinion. But it’s the part about “the warm, achingly bright glow of nostalgia” that I think is so on point.

My childhood was packed with special Christmas memories. Going to my grandparent’s house on Christmas Eve, with our “Christmas Classics” or “A Very Special Christmas” tapes blaring in the station wagon (later, the Taurus). My brother and I would sing along to Jim Nabors’ “Go Tell It On the Mountain” and Run DMC’s “Christmas Is,” laughing hysterically to ourselves. While at my grandparent’s, we’d all help decorate their tree, one with those absurdly enormous multicolor bulbs and silver tinsel that got everywhere. My grandma would always let me set up the nativity scene on the windowsill, something that filled my child heart with joy and pride. On the way home, we’d usually give my great-grandma, Nannie, a ride home, and Mom would sit in the backseat next to me, a blanket over us as I rested my head on her shoulder and we looked out the car window in awe at all the Christmas lights on the houses.

On Christmas morning, my brother would run to my room to wake me up at an ungodly early hour, where we’d immediately run to the living room and squeal over our newly-filled stockings and presents under the tree. Then we’d run to our parent’s room, where we’d immediately get shot down about them getting up at 5 a.m. to open presents.

So we’d put on the shortest Christmas movie imaginable—typically, How The Grinch Stole Christmas (what is that, like 35 minutes long?)—and then run back again to wake them up. By this point, they’d usually cave, and as they made their coffee, we’d start passing out the presents. Stockings came first, followed by the presents. I always got to start the rotation of unwrapping, because I was the youngest.

Usually after all the presents were unwrapped, you’d find me in the recliner, already reading one of my new books while surrounded by wrapping paper. Next would be a Christmas breakfast, also marking the moment when Dad would inevitably try to play his Three Tenors Christmas album or Mom would try for Gloria Estefan. Afterward, we’d spend the day with my dad’s side of the family, which included two of my favorite Christmas memories with my Grandma Hamm—the year she gave me sugar cookie dough as a gift, and then the infamous year when she gave my younger cousin Claire peanut butter, which Claire promptly started eating with her fingers in the middle of the room, much to the aggravation of my Aunt Linda and the delight of me.

The point is: I was one lucky kid. I don’t have any sad or bad memories of the holidays, just ones like these. The last year my mother was alive, I was 17, a senior in high school. She almost died of a blood infection just a week before Christmas, but by Christmas Day, she was back home, feeling better—or at least putting on a hell of a show for all of us. I actually got sick that year, coming down with a fever on Christmas Eve, and I unwrapped those final presents with my mom in the room with a cold washcloth on my forehead, burning up with fever. But it didn’t matter: she was there. We were all together. It was a gift.

The holidays were the hardest after she was gone. They’re still hard. But we’ve had a lot of time for new traditions, and new family members to celebrate with, like my dad’s girlfriend, Debbie, who insisted I needed a Christmas tree for my apartment and knew just how much I would love to have some of my mom’s old ornaments. We have my one-year-old niece Polly, who could make even the coldest Grinch smile when she winks one of her gorgeous brown eyes, one of her new tricks. (I can only assume she'll be reading Dickens by her 3rd Christmas.)

So yes, I get a little emotional at the holidays, like when I burst into tears when I found the snowman ornament, the last ornament I ever picked out with my mom. I miss her terribly at this time of year. But I also know that I will always have those memories with family, and more to create with family and friends. Nothing can take away the memory of leaning my head on my mother’s shoulder, and staring at the holiday lights with delight.

Happy holidays to you all, and I hope, if there’s anyone special you’re missing this season, you have great memories to cherish, knowing that no matter how much time passes, those will always remain.

Now let’s drink some eggnog and make merry! It's getting too real around here.

And don’t forget:

“And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he's gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse!”

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Mix Tapes: You Wear Smug So Very Well

My brother sent me “Logan’s Loop” by Andrew Bird this past weekend. And as I sat in my Logan Square apartment listening, having only moments before, actually driven around the circle in Logan Square, I was so utterly delighted I clapped my hands with joy. And then listened to it five more times.

It’s his song, “Pulaski at Night,” though, that I want to share here. As with “Logan’s Loop”—and most Andrew Bird songs—again, the word that comes to me as I listen is delight.

“Greetings from Chicago / City of / City of love”:

Spotify really is a wonderful thing. Along with the delights from Andrew Bird that my brother shared, today, my friend Brad sent me this song by Poliça. His message with it was “All the feelings.”

As usual, Bradley, you are correct. I actually didn’t really pay any attention to the lyrics on my first five listens or so (because yes, I’ve listened to this at least 10 times today). But I’m paying attention now, and damn:

You’re pushing me away and then you’re pulling
You wear smug so very well
If you were in love with me I could never tell

It’s time for you to go
But I’ve glued my feet to your floor
It’s time for you to leave
But I’ve wrapped my hand around your leash
It’s really quite confusing

Speaking of all the feelings, like most of America, I saw "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" this weekend. So let’s listen to a song from the soundtrack! Here’s Sia being fucking rad like always, with a little help from The Weeknd and Diplo.

Happy almost-Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Like Fire Balloons in the Sky: The Inspiration, The Courage, to Share

"I see me, my eyes filled with tears, because it was all over, the night was done. I knew there would never be another night like this.
No one said anything. We all just looked up at the sky and we breathed out and in and we all thought the same things, but nobody said. Someone finally had to say, though, didn't they? And that one is me."

— Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

My fixation with Zen in the Art of Writing has probably spiraled out of control, into a strange place. (Not probably, clearly: after all, inspired by said book, I’m writing things like THE LAMP and THE MOUSE.)

But lately, I keep opening the book, in a desperate search for some inspiration, and keep feeling drawn back to the passage above. Out of context, it can mean anything and nothing. To give you the actual context, though: he's describing a final memory with his grandfather, lighting a fire balloon and releasing it into the sky on the Fourth of July in 1925. It's incredibly beautiful. It even inspired him to write a story called "The Fire Balloons," many years later. Bradbury also wrote about that night, and about his inspiration for the story, for The New Yorker:

But I could not let it go. It was so beautiful, with the light and shadows dancing inside. Only when Grandpa gave me a look, and a gentle nod of his head, did I at last let the balloon drift free, up past the porch, illuminating the faces of my family. It floated up above the apple trees, over the beginning-to-sleep town, and across the night among the stars.

We stood watching it for at least ten minutes, until we could no longer see it. By then, tears were streaming down my face, and Grandpa, not looking at me, would at last clear his throat and shuffle his feet. The relatives would begin to go into the house or around the lawn to their houses, leaving me to brush the tears away with fingers sulfured by the firecrackers. Late that night, I dreamed the fire balloon came back and drifted by my window.
Fire balloons or no fire balloons, I'm still drawn to this idea from the passage in Zen, of sitting quietly, looking up at the sky and relishing the moment. Not sure when, if at all, to say something.

It's like how I feel about writing; how I feel, specifically, about this blog. As I've strayed from posting on this blog—even neglecting my beloved Monday Mix Tapes for months, gasp!—I found myself losing inspiration in general. After only publishing a post here and there every couple of months, it's easier to think, maybe this blog has almost run its course. I don't know. But the more you wonder when is the right moment to say something (to write, rather), the more you continue to merely sit quietly. (In my case, this means getting an idea, thinking about it, and watching Frasier instead of writing, and sharing it.)

Maybe, like many things, this blog, and what I get out of it, is just not quite what it was before. And that’s okay. Maybe it’ll just be exactly what it is. Whatever that may be. Ultimately, though, I hope to never lose the inspiration to write, and to share, however that happens. And wherever it goes on the Internet, or even if it just stays in my journal.

Would releasing a fire balloon into the night with his grandfather have remained such a poignant memory for Bradbury, had he never written about it? Probably. But luckily he shared it, so we could see, if only for a moment, the way he saw it, looking up in the Illinois sky in 1925.

I’m certainly no Ray Bradbury, but I like the idea of saying something. There may never be another night like this, after all.

Like he wrote:

“And, after all, isn’t that what life is all about, the ability to go around back and come up inside other people’s heads to look out at the damned fool miracle and say: oh, so that’s how you see it!? Well, now, I must remember that.”

Monday Mix Tapes: You Never Could Have Been a Good Lover

I'm pretty sure I was in love with this new Blood Orange by 15 seconds in. And while Dev Hynes could pretty much be singing about anything, and I'd still think he sounded great, these lyrics in particular fuel my obsession. They're hilarious and awful and true. ("You never could have been a good lover/ Watch what you say/ Could never mean a word and still hurt you")

Oh, Dev Hynes, you're good enough for me (but my standards were low anyway):

Then, fitting with my love of all things Alice in Wonderland, I stumbled across this weird, beautiful little gem (via disco naivete). Looking forward to hearing more from Mononoke after hearing this:

I'm a little late to the game with the latest Arctic Monkeys album (it came out in September, so in Internet time, I'm YEARS behind). But damn if I'm not listening to the whole thing, and this song in particular, "Do I Wanna Know?" on repeat. My bf Sam Smith also does an incredible cover of this, making me suddenly start to think being in limbo with someone must be the most wonderful, sexy thing in the world.

"(Didn't we both know) That the nights were mainly made for saying things that you can't say tomorrow day"

Do I wanna know? Ooof. I'm not sure if I do. The whole damn album is packed with questions. But I love it:

Happy Monday! (Did you miss me? Do I wanna know?)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


The lamp next to my bed is broken on the top, and tilts slightly to the side. A crack runs across the top, past the jagged edges from where the glass had shattered.

I love it. I cannot bear the thought of ever having a different one. (I used to have two. But the other one, that matched it, broke as well, years ago. Back when the breaking of such a lamp was just an annoyance rather than a complete devastation.)

I still remember how I felt after my then-boyfriend knocked the lamp off the nightstand, as I kneeled on the carpet in my bare feet, picking up shards of glass. I don’t remember why it got knocked over, though. Was it a careless gesture during a fight? Was it from a drunken stumbling? I can’t remember. I just remember how I felt, picking up the shards. Knowing it was never going to be perfect again.

It’s dangerous to leave it, he said. The edges of the glass are sharp.

I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care!

I hated him for breaking the lamp. I hated me for caring so much about a stupid lamp.


It was my lamp. My mother had bought the two lamps for me, to match my new, big bedroom after my parents expanded our house. I had been so special, with my new, huge room. To get to my new room, you had to walk through a hallway—and to the left, right before my new room, was my bathroom. My own bathroom, with my own shower.

I was special, then. I was a child.

The matching lamps—one for the nightstand, one for the dresser—reminded me of the ones that had been in my grandma’s bedroom. Antique (looking, at least), with two globes, one big, one small. If you twisted the knob in the middle once (one click to the right), the bottom, small globe would glow. One more click, and the top would, too. Another click: both, glowing. The lamps were flowered, much "girlier" than most things I liked. But I loved the clicking: one, two, three.

I’d put my book down next to the lamp when it was time to go to sleep. One last click, and then darkness.

The lamp is broken on the top now, and tilts to the side. A crack runs across the top, past the jagged edges from where the glass had shattered.

But I still love the clicking: one, two, three. I still put my book down next to it when it is time to go to sleep. With one last click, darkness.

It reminds me that at one time, I had a mother who bought me two matching lamps, to match my new, big bedroom.

And that is something. That is special, still.

This post is part of a little writing experiment inspired by Ray Bradbury, to "conjure the nouns"—read more details here. Former entry: The Mouse.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mix Tapes: An Actual Mix Tape!

Whaaaat? That's right. An actual mixtape! (Well, sorta. A playlist. Whatever.)

Perfect for a Wednesday night when it starts storming/pouring five minutes after you've ordered takeout. At least, that's what just happened in my life. Dammit.

Thanks, Spotify:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Weekend Mix Tapes Edition: Tossin' Off Your Compliments, Wow

Sam Smith has the kind of voice that wraps around you like a blanket, comforting you with its beauty and raw emotion. (Or is that just me?) I first heard this with "Lay Me Down," with his acoustic version that's so impeccable and intense it'll make your heart break. Then there was his acoustic take on Disclosure's "Latch"—which was already great—and holy shit:

This week, he's done it again with "Safe with Me," but this time with some production from Two Inch Punch that takes things to a slightly different place. Get ready to believe in love:

Then there was this terrific, minimalistic video—lights in tree branches, that's it—to match perfectly with Volcano Choir's song, "Byegone" (Volcano Choir = Justin Vernon of Bon Iver with band Collections of Colonies of Bees).

I don't know what I love more: when Vernon starts declaring, "Set sail! Set sail! Set sail!" or at the end when he sings, "Tossin' off your compliments, wow/Sexing all your Parliaments" — what does that even MEAN? Oh, just listen:

Finally, in other music news that left me absolutely delighted this week, AlunaGeorge's debut LP, Body Music, is now available to stream. It's perfection. Standout tracks: ALL OF THEM. But here are a couple of my favorites.

One week till Lollapalooza madness! Happy listening.

Tearjerker Alert: Danny & Annie

TRIGGER WARNING: The following video depicts a story of true love, voiced by the actual couple and displayed in heartwarming cartoon medium (think: UP). If you have a beating heart, this will likely make you feel a little blubbery. And if it doesn't, get out of here: you have no soul.

Earlier this week, my friend Beth sent me this video during the work day. "Maybe save that for later," she warned, "#tears" — so like the smart young lady I am, I waited until I was out of my open layout office space and alone in my apartment to watch it. 

Thank God I did, considering I not only got teary-eyed, I actually got so choked up I made one of those weird, hiccup-y cry noises that made my cat Layla look at me suspiciously. 

Without further ado, the story of Danny and Annie (presented by StoryCorps). This is the kind of stuff to melt cynics' hearts everywhere. Enjoy.

"You walk in with me, you walk out with me."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Let the Breeze In

[image via herpaperweight]
After last week's Chicago heatwave—and spending much of that directly in the sun while attending all three days of Pitchfork—today's almost-cool breeziness has been so refreshing. And that's not to say that I've been wandering around, enjoying the weather all day. I actually spent my day waiting on a technician from AT&T to show up (who finally arrived 40 minutes past my 4-hour service window)—and then waiting another three and a half hours for him to fix the lines that would give me my Internet back. 

But my windows are all open, and from the second floor of my apartment, the breeze has been blowing in since I woke up this morning. While I waited for my Internet to return, I read Vogue and Vanity Fair. I painted my toenails. I folded my laundry and poured extra cream in my coffee. I tried a new circuit workout. I wrote a letter to my grandmother. Life without the Interwebs wasn't so bad after all, I figured. Aside from the increasing anxiety that I was never going to get work done for the day. 

Once the lights on my modem finally flashed from red to green, I started frantically catching up on work for the day. But then I decided to calm down. I'd get it done. I poured myself a glass of wine and listened to Camera Obscura and Daft Punk while I wrote. 

I got it done. 

And I feel just like this picture. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

In Other "News," Turns Out Women Like Getting Laid, Too

"It is by now pretty well understood that traditional dating in college has mostly gone the way of the landline, replaced by “hooking up” — an ambiguous term that can signify anything from making out to oral sex to intercourse — without the emotional entanglement of a relationship.

Until recently, those who studied the rise of hookup culture had generally assumed that it was driven by men, and that women were reluctant participants, more interested in romance than in casual sexual encounters. But there is an increasing realization that young women are propelling it, too." —"Sex on Campus: She Can Play that Game, Too," by Kate Taylor

“Sex on Campus: She Can Play that Game, Too,” an article published in The New York Times on July 12, begins with a description of a young woman called A. When “A.” finishes her night’s worth of studying, she texts “her regular hookup, the guy she is sleeping with but not dating.” As the article goes on to describe: “He texted back: Come over. So she did. They watched a little TV, had sex and went to sleep.”

Apparently, it’s noteworthy that college women are more interested in pursuing their degrees, partying with their friends, and getting laid than falling in love and being in a relationship. While I see the good intentions behind articles such as this—women are driven; women want to have sex; women like to work hard and then party hard—ultimately this article, like many others on this topic, leaves me only rolling my eyes and feeling angry.

Why am I rolling my eyes? I’m rolling my eyes because in 2013 it’s only “an increasing realization” that women are propelling casual sexual encounters. I’m rolling my eyes because of women like Susan Patton, “the Princeton alumna and mother who in March wrote a letter to The Daily Princetonian urging female undergraduates not to squander the chance to hunt for a husband on campus,” who said:

“I thought, ‘My gosh, what have we come to that these brilliant young women are afraid to say that marriage and children are significant parts of what they view as their lifelong happiness?’ ” Ms. Patton said.

“They have gotten such strong, vitriolic messages from the extreme feminists saying, ‘Go it alone — you don’t need a man,’ ” she added.

First off: Plenty of brilliant young women truly don’t view marriage and children as significant factors to their lifelong happiness. It's not that they're afraid to say it. They actually aren’t interested. Shocking! Second: LESBIANS. They exist. Fucking acknowledge that. Not every woman is straight. (Maybe the group she talked to were all straight women interested in marriage and children, but that is simply not representative of every woman.)

But then we get to the “strong, vitriolic messages from the extreme feminists” and I just have to laugh. As this article points out: “But, in fact, many of the Penn women said that warnings not to become overly involved in a relationship came not from feminists, but from their parents, who urged them to be independent.”

(So none of these parents are feminists? Sounds to me like parents who urge their daughters to be independent and driven are exactly that.)

Now, why am I angry? I’m not angry because of this article. I’m angry because this article has to exist in the first place. I’m angry that the first young woman interviewed for this story was only comfortable being addressed as A., which is not even the initial of her first name! The need for anonymity was so important that she was only comfortable using her middle initial.

And why?

“Because they believed that talking publicly about sex could come back to haunt them — by damaging their reputations at Penn, their families’ opinions of them or their professional future — the women spoke on the condition that their full names would not be revealed. Most are identified by their first or middle names or by a middle initial.”

Reputations. Family opinions. Professional futures. These are the things at stake if women dare to not only be free with their sexuality, but are free to speak about it openly. And even with the anonymity, A. was still not comfortable revealing how many sexual partners she has had!

Perhaps articles like this are a step in the right direction for women, and our right to be sexual beings, just as men. But I long for the day where these articles aren’t necessary.

Where women who say they “hook up” rather than pursue relationships because they’re focused foremost on their studies aren’t, in turn, scared that this choice would jeopardize those future opportunities, should their identities be revealed.

I’d like to read an article about women hooking up that doesn’t include the inevitable rape plotline, with the underlying message that women must be wary about getting too drunk, because then what might have been a casual hookup could turn into a casual rape.

I’d like to read about results of a sociologist’s study that doesn’t result in saying that men aren’t focused on pleasing women in hookups because of the sexual double standard, “which sometimes causes men to disrespect women precisely for hooking up with them.” And that women aren’t judging other women for their sexual experiences and reputations!

Enough already!

Now let’s listen to En Vogue!


Monday, June 10, 2013

Monday Mix Tapes: Love is an Exquisite Kind of Pain

It's no secret that I think Jessie Ware can do no wrong. Because she can do no wrong. Here she is, performing "Confess to Me" with Disclosure on Jools Holland and perfecting the art of a bare midriff:

Speaking of women who can do no wrong, I think it's been a little too long since Lykke Li has made an appearance here. Never fear! She's featured on David Lynch's upcoming album, and it's slow and dreamy and just right.

And oh wait, I have another fantastic female vocalist to talk about: Eleanor Friedberger. I saw her at Empty Bottle here in Chicago last Friday—perfect timing, as I'm currently obsessing over her new album, Personal Record.

One of my favorites from the album is "I'll Never Be Happy Again," although nothing can top "Stare at the Sun," in my humble opinion.  But "I'll Never Be Happy Again" is the perfect track to lead into that one. It feels wonderfully dramatic and yet calmly realistic to me at the same time, and I love it. "After perfection, it's all downhill"; "Love is an exquisite kind of pain"—girl, I feel you.

Finally, here's a track from Quadron's new album, Avalanche. (Quadron = electronic soul duo, singer Coco Maja Hastrup Karshøj and producer Robin Hannibal of Rhye, another love of mine.) I listened to this album this morning while I got ready for work. Then I listened to it again while I wrote some Groupons. And then again while I made dinner. In other words, I like it a lot.

This one, "LFT" (Looking for Trouble), is in heavy competition with the track "Better Off" (featuring Kendrick Lamar) as my favorite.

Happy almost Tuesday! Maybe next time I'll feature some dudes. I think there are some men making music somewhere, right?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Big Open Book Between Us

“Some changes happen deep down inside of you. And the truth is, only you know about them. Maybe that's the way it's supposed to be.” — Judy Blume, Tiger Eyes

When I was a kid, my mother loved to take pictures of me reading books. Curled up in the recliner on Christmas morning, reading a new book while still in my pajamas; stretched out on a towel on Wrightsville Beach; laying across the floor at Grandma Hamm’s house. All with a book in my hands.

I didn’t realize just how many times she’d taken photos like this until I graduated from high school, and she gave me a present: A photo album that chronicled my life so far. All 18 years of it. And on almost every other page, I’d find these sorts of photos.

My favorite, though, is one that my mother didn’t take. That’s because she’s in it. It’s from 1995. We were at my Uncle Gary and Aunt Deborah’s house, probably for Thanksgiving. I love it because of our matching smiles, dorky glasses, and the way we both have one hand placed on the big book open between us. Mostly I love it because it says so much.

I couldn’t tell you what the book was, but I do remember the comfort, the safety, of being curled up next to my mom on a couch, reading a book. I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember—even when I wasn’t technically reading, but as I listened to her as she read us The Berenstain Bears books, my brother Jay and I on either side of her.

It started with the Berenstains. Later, we had Laura Ingalls, Nancy Drew, and Trixie Belden. And then: Margaret. Steph. Deenie. Sally J. Freedman. Karen.

If you grew up in the 70s or 80s, you might have recognized many of those names. They’re all characters from Judy Blume books. By the time I became familiar with these girls, I’d outgrown the nighttime ritual of Mom sitting at the end of my loft bed, reading me Little House on the Prairie books or her old Trixie Belden’s.

But it was because of my mom that I did get to know them. And when I say get to know them, I mean exactly that. Like so many other young girls, I devoured Judy Blume’s books—always finding something in each protagonist that I would identify with so deeply, so intensely, I’d think, How did she know? or, It’s not only me!

Then, in high school, I snagged Mom’s paperback of Summer Sisters. I fell in love with it. I fell in love with Vix, the main character. I obsessed over Caitlyn, her “summer sister,” just like Vix did—and resented her, too. It felt real.

I’ve read Summer Sisters almost every single summer since that first reading. I took it to Wrightsville Beach, the summer after Mom had died, when it was just Dad and me. I sat on the balcony of our hotel reading it, just like Mom had sat reading books so many different summers when we had visited, all as a family. Reading it was like taking a vacation from my heartbreak. I didn’t feel sad or angry or confused. Everything felt right again.

I owe my mom and Judy Blume for that gift. From my mother, I have my love of reading, a lifelong comfort. When I want to talk to my mom sometimes so badly that my chest actually hurts, I can pick up a book and feel okay again—or at least not think about it anymore. And obviously, so many women have Judy to thank for writing the stories she has, for sharing these characters that so many of us can find ourselves in, even if it’s in a small way.

Last night, I had the absolute thrill of meeting Judy Blume. She finally made a movie out of one of her books, Tiger Eyes. Out of all of her books, she had to make a movie out of the one I never read! The movie played at a theater nearby last night, and Judy Blume was there for a Q&A session following the screening.

She was wonderful. She was down to earth, kind, and full of joy. She choked up talking about how meaningful this story was to her. She talked about her son, Larry, who directed the movie, with such love in her voice. When the Q&A was over, even though she had made a comment about how exhausted she was from all of her traveling and weekend’s events, she still stayed and talked to the people (mostly women), who were lined up waiting to meet her. My favorite was the woman, probably my age or younger, who was standing behind me, clutching a beat up paperback of Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself. She’d had her mother FedEx it to her so she could have Judy sign it.

As for me, I stood clutching Mom’s now very worn paperback of Summer Sisters. I nervously handed it to one of my lifelong heroes and asked her if she would sign it, telling her it had been my mother’s.

Judy flipped to the title page and sort of raised her eyebrow at me before she started to sign. “You must have been pretty young when this came out.” Then she laughed. “And I was 60!”

It was a quick moment, and nothing extraordinary. But to me, it was extraordinary. Like this wonderful writer (and person) wrote in Tiger Eyes, “Some changes happen deep down inside of you. And the truth is, only you know about them.”

No one but me knew that at that moment, I felt as content as I did sitting on a hotel balcony reading my mother’s old paperback. No one but me knew that for just that quick moment, meeting Judy Blume, I felt like I could almost hear my mom laugh again. Almost. And it was enough, almost.

I think of Davey, the protagonist of Tiger Eyes, so distraught over the death of her dad, but yet still so strong. At the end of the movie, she dives in the ocean and swims. You know she’s going to be okay.

Thanks to a little help from Judy Blume, so many of us know the same.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How Much Was Mine to Keep?

"And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep." ― Kurt Vonnegut

Last week, the editor-in-chief at my job called all of us in for an announcement. As I walked toward the cafeteria with my friend Logan, we joked that this was it. They must be announcing layoffs. I lined up against the wall with a pit in my stomach as I looked at the managers, and waited for them to start talking. I told myself I was being negative, but from the looks on everyone’s faces, I knew it had to be grim.

What we learned that morning was far worse than that. My coworker, 26-year-old Bobby Cann, had been killed the previous evening riding his bicycle home from work. As others cried—some quietly, some loudly and openly—I felt like I was folding into myself as I bit the inside of my cheek and forced myself not to do the same. As we all walked out of the cafeteria, the collective stunned silence was unbearable. People who had walked in late had bewildered looks on their faces. “What is it?” they asked.

I tried to answer, but could barely get the words out, the tears coming as soon as I spoke.

"Were you close with him?" someone asked, and I shook my head no.

[Memorial for Bobby, via here]

When I got back to my desk I felt sick. Someone—an oblivious coworker, I could only hope—was laughing. Everything just kept going on. But yet it didn’t. Everything felt off.

Meetings were canceled. Emails were sent. But there were still things to write, things to do. We all just kept going on.

Finally, work was over for the day. I got on the bus, surrounded by so many others, just trying to get home from work like I was. Just like Bobby had been the evening before. I felt deeply sad. Because I did not know Bobby well—no more than smiling at him as we passed each other in the hallway, or making small talk in the office kitchen—I doubted my own feelings. Why did I feel so angry? So sad? So sick about the whole thing?

As soon as I got home, I flopped on my bed and stared at the ceiling. I stared at the ceiling until I couldn’t bear it any longer, and then I grabbed my yoga mat and unrolled it. To be able to concentrate on breathing, exhales and inhales, felt like such a gift. Once it was over, I laid motionless on the mat, sweating and breathing heavily. I didn’t realize I had been crying until I stood up, several minutes later.

Finally, I allowed myself to feel all of the emotions of the day. A young man had been killed by a drunk driver, and it was tragic. I might not have known him well, but many did. So I felt sorrow for his family and friends. I felt pissed off at the drunk driver, another person close to my age who, with one horribly stupid and selfish mistake, had stolen a life and in turn ruined his own.

I felt glad to be alive. I felt selfish at the thought. I felt.

I felt.

In honor and memory of Bobby Cann, Groupon is running a campaign with Active Transportation Alliance to raise funds for more protected bike lanes in the city.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Power of Music: Mali's Ban and Kelly Rowland's 'Dirty Laundry'

"Music is a language that communicates what we cannot always say in words; it assures us of our interconnection." — "The Day the Music Died in Mali," by Sujatha Fernandes

I read this op-ed regarding militants' ban of music in northern Mali first thing this morning, and I haven't been able to stop thinking of it since. Can you imagine a world without music? I certainly can't. As the author wrote, some Malians have described the ban as akin to "banning the air we breathe"—and I can say with utter conviction that I would feel the same way.

The power of music has been on my mind lately, with the release of Kelly Rowland's new song, "Dirty Laundry," a gut-wrenching personal story about the singer's former violent relationship.

Britt Julious wrote a wonderful piece about the song for WBEZ, calling it "one of the most important songs of 2013." I couldn't agree more. As she wrote:

"The statistics for domestic violence are sobering. We assume that because we are not actively talking about it all the time that it is not there. We assume that if it is not in front of us everyday that it can't possibly exist. And yet, the numbers do not lie. The number one killer of African-American women ages 15 to 34 is homicide at the hands of a current or former partner, says the ABA. As well, only 17% of African-American sexual assault survivors report their assault to the police. The importance of this song and Rowland’s experiences can’t be reiterated enough. Later in the song (and years after her relationship ended), she sings:

I got my shit down pat/Think I had it good/And they don't know how bad/Fooled everybody/Except myself/Soaking in this hurt/Bathing in the dirt

Like many of her listeners, Rowland kept her experiences a secret. Outside she exuded strength and charisma, but inside she kept a secret. She was shamed herself, never being able to reveal her experiences to the public."
This song gives me chills with each listen. It's beautifully constructed, with an accompanying piano and beats that match each telling line. The lyrics paint the picture perfectly:

And I was trapped in his house, lyin’ to my mama
Thought it could get no worse as we maximize the drama
Started to call them people on him
I was battered
He hittin the window like it was me, until it shattered
He pulled me out, he said, “Don’t nobody love you but me
Not your mama, not your daddy and especially not Bey”
He turned me against my sister
I missed ya
How can we question music's power when we hear a story like this? It again makes me think of the people in Mali, separated from their music. As Sujatha Fernandes wrote in her piece, "A world without music is also a world without stories."

These stories, like Kelly Rowland's in "Dirty Laundry," aren't just catchy lyrics. The music is significant. I can't put it any clearer than Britt Julious did in her piece:

"The courage to speak out can be difficult for many. If only one woman listens to Rowland's work and sees in it the courage to speak out that is one life potentially saved."

Let's hope so. And let's also hope the Malians soon get their air back, fully.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Monday Mix Tapes: You Gotta Testify (Because the Booty Don't Lie)

We need to talk about Janelle Monáe. I thought my love for her was pretty intense, but then she had to go get my girl Erykah Badu involved and make me love her even more.

Behold, Q.U.E.E.N:

Where does one even BEGIN with this song and video? The lyrics are gold. The beats are gold. The outfits! The dancing! BADOULA OBLONGATA!

I just can't stop with this.

"And is it true that we're all insane? And I just tell 'em 'no we ain't' and get down"

This might be my favorite track of 2013 thus far. THAT'S RIGHT.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mix Tape May Madness: Gatsby, Demons, Daughter!

Can we talk about how this May is going to be the greatest month of ALL OF OUR LIVES?

Or maybe just mine. But seriously, guys...

First up, there's going to be a James Blake DJ set happening in my life. A JAMES BLAKE DJ SET!

Shortly after I calm down from that happening (you know, like a week later), I'll be seeing Daughter at Lincoln Hall. And I have a sneaking suspicion it's going to be amazing:

Then, the moment I've been waiting for, for what seems like an entirety. The Great Gatsby comes out in theaters. (Here's hoping Tobey Maguire doesn't ruin everything for all of us.) But regardless, we need to talk about the soundtrack.


As if all of that isn't enough excitement, The National's new album, Trouble Will Find Me, comes out May 21st. (To explain just how pumped I am about this, I think my documented love of The National speaks for itself.) I'll be seeing them for the third time this summer at Lollapalooza, and I simply cannot wait to sing along and weep and spill red wine all over myself along with Matt Berninger in the Chicago August heat!

Not to mention: This. Single. ("I can't fight it anymore, I am going through an awkward phase...")

This could be the best May yet!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Poetry Slam Tuesdays: To Be Wild and Perfect for a Moment, Before

by Mary Oliver

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
 to break my heart
  as the sun rises,
   as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open--
 pools of lace,
  white and pink--
   and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
 into the curls,
  craving the sweet sap,
   taking it away

to their dark, underground cities--
 and all day
  under the shifty wind,
   as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
 and tip their fragrance to the air,
  and rise,
   their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
 gladly and lightly,
  and there it is again--
   beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
 Do you love this world?
  Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
   Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
 and softly,
  and exclaiming of their dearness,
   fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
 their eagerness
  to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
   nothing, forever?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday Mix Tapes: Once We Get Across the Border

"It seemed he had little pity for me and the divorce I'd brought on myself. He, Eddie, and Karen liked Paul. I couldn't make them understand why I'd had to smash things up. But you seemed so happy was all they could say. And it was true: we had seemed that way. Just as I'd seemed to be doing okay after my mom died. Grief doesn't have a face."

— excerpted from Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
I'm a little more than halfway through this wonderful book by Cheryl Strayed. I had just finished reading this passage when I got to my train stop tonight on the way home from work. The book details her amazing story about hiking more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail alone  — and throughout, it also details her grief of losing her mom.

Reading this book is cathartic, so much so that it's probably a gamble each time I open it on the train and start reading it, surrounded by strangers. I so far have managed not to start crying in public over it, which is impressive, given the material and the power of her writing.

It's not just the way Cheryl Strayed captures her feelings of loss over her mom, or the way she captures her alternating terror and jubilation while on the trail alone. It's also the way she directly addresses her faults, as well. After her mother's death, she spiraled into a series of bad choices with men and drugs, which also led to her divorce from her husband, a man whom she still deeply loved.

At this point you might be reading (if you haven't stopped already, bless you!) and thinking: What the hell, Alison? I thought we were going to be talking about fun music, not getting all serious again. 

Well, it really is getting there, I swear it. After reading this particular passage, I came home and heard this song by Say Lou Lou (formerly Saint Lou Lou). It's called "Julian," and to me, it feels brave and hopeful and exactly like how I feel when reading that book.

There's something about the lyrics, "I'll get you through the check points/I'll get us through the night." There's a sense of displacement, but under it all, this hope that we're going to get to the right place eventually. ("Oh, Julian.")

I haven't written that much lately. After my last post about Local Natives, a couple of people commented to me that I seemed sad. When I wrote it, I was. But then today, I listened to that same album and I didn't feel sad anymore. It wasn't that I no longer felt anything. I just felt something different.

It's kind of like how Cheryl Strayed felt hiking the PCT, I think. One day, she's miles away from water on a hundred-and-something degree day and feeling like "a big fat idiot," but then the next:

"As I spoke, the doubts I had about myself on the trail fell away for whole minutes at a time and I forgot about being a big fat idiot...I felt like a hard-ass motherfucking Amazonian queen."

So with that said, here's one more track for your Monday mix tape. It's the kind of song that makes me stop worrying that while I might feel like a big fat idiot one day, the next I might be a hard-ass motherfucking Amazonian queen.

Sometimes, you just have to feel it. Whatever that may be.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Every Night I Ask Myself...

Local Natives played in Chicago tonight. I was originally planning to go, but that didn't work out.

Maybe it's for the best.

I’ve been listening to their new album repeatedly since it was released, so much so that it’s become deeply personal, and almost representative of these last few months of my life, strange as that may sound. And since most of that listening has been through my ear buds, riding the train and walking to work, it’s also become an album that for me, speaks specifically to my solitude as well. It's how I feel bundled up against the harsh Chicago winter wind. It's how I feel, being alone with my thoughts as I walk to work in the mornings.

I know that if I start playing Hummingbird, the new album, right as I step out the door on the way to work, by the time I get to the elevators at my office building, the last song, "Bowery," will have just started. I know this, because I've been doing it at least once a week for the last two months.

One day, one of the first days, "Breakers" came on and I was so excited, I couldn't stop grinning as I stood, alone on the crowded train.

One day, one of the worst days, I listened to "You & I" and pressed my cheek against the cold train window. I didn't realize I was crying until I caught a woman staring at me, with that specific, kind sense of worry in her eyes that nice people give strangers they see crying in public. So I decided to just keep crying, because I needed to cry and because the songs were asking all my questions for me.

"When did your love, when did your love grow cold? The closer I get, the farther I have to fall..."

It’s funny how I can love an album so much when it makes me feel so deeply sad. But perhaps sad isn’t the right word. The album also makes me really damn happy. (I swear.)

But there's something about these songs. I feel it in almost every one. A yearning for something. Another fan said to me: "It's definitely a breakup album."

Maybe. But it's so much more than that. It makes me feel a yearning for so many things—things that I know I can't have, and things I didn't even realize I missed or wanted until that moment I hear it through the song. Either way, it's a feeling of wanting, of needing, something that seems just out of reach. But maybe if we keep listening, we'll get there.


The song "Colombia" begins with a slow, steady piano, and the words:

"The day after I had counted down all of your breaths down until
There were none, were none, were none, were none;
A hummingbird crashed right in front of me and I understood all you did for us."

From my first listen, I knew immediately what it was about.

I wanted to be wrong. But I wasn't. It's a song for vocalist Kelcey Ayers' mother, who passed away in 2012, and as the song builds, and builds, I'll be damned if you can't feel every ounce of his loss come through every plea.

"Ohhh, every night I ask myself
Am I loving enough?

Am I loving enough?

Patricia, every night I'll ask myself
Am I giving enough?
Am I?"

I can't tell you how many times I've listened to this song. I can't tell you how many times I ask myself those same questions.


The Saturday morning the tickets went on sale, we’d been out late at another show the night before. But we were serious about getting these tickets. He'd set an alarm on his phone to make sure to buy our tickets as soon as they went on sale. When the alarm went off at 10 am, he got out of bed, grabbed his laptop and carried it over, and bought us our tickets from bed.

A little bit later we walked to get breakfast, and the sun was shining. It was bright, too bright for how cold it really was. Our fingers were interlocked together but we were a million miles apart.

Across the booth from him at the diner, I gripped my coffee mug and looked down, and then up at him, trying to read his eyes. He smiled at me, but his eyes didn’t. I had a feeling, then, that maybe we weren't actually going to go see Local Natives together in March.

Because his eyes said everything that I knew he wasn't going to say. Or at least wasn't going to say again, not when the sun was so goddamn bright and it was so cold outside and all I could taste was the coffee on my tongue.

Later that day, I played "Heavy Feet" as I walked down the street away from his place, and to the train.

"After everything, after everything/left in the sun shivering"

The album comes to a close with "Bowery," which is perfect. ("Can't tell if the ceiling is rising or if the floor is falling down.")

I'm sure Local Natives put on a beautiful performance tonight. But I'm okay, right here.

"At the time I wasn't with you

At the time I didn't care."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Poetry Slam Tuesdays: the dance & the terror (the dead musicians & the hope)

It's been far too long since we've revisited For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange.

Sooner or later, I will likely have excerpted the entire choreopoem, piece by disjointed piece. But for now, this:

lady in purple

i lived wit myths & music waz my old man & i cd dance
a dance outta time/ a dance wit no partners/ take my
pills & keep right on steppin/ linger in non-english
speakin arms so there waz no possibility of understandin
& you YOU
came sayin i am the niggah/ i am the baddest muthafuckah
out there/
i said yes/ this is who i am waitin for
& to come wit you/ i hadta bring everythin
the dance & the terror
the dead musicians & the hope
& those scars i had hidden wit smiles & good fuckin
lay open
& i dont know i dont know any more tricks
i am really colored & really sad sometimes & you hurt me
more than i ever danced outta/ into oblivion isnt far enuf
to get outta this/ i am ready to die like a lily in the
desert/ & i cdnt let you in on it cuz i didnt know/ here
is what i have/ poems/ big thighs/ lil tits/ &
so much love/ will you take it from me this one time/
please this is for you/ arsenio's tres cleared the way
& makes me pure again/ please please/ this is for you
i want you to love me/ let me love you/ i dont wanna
dance wit ghosts/ snuggle lovers i made up in my drunkenness/
lemme love you just like i am/ a colored girl/ i'm finally bein
real/ no longer symmetrical & impervious to pain

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mix Tapes, Thursday Edition: Falling

Look, it's likely I'm going to have nightmares about this video, but it (and the song, duh) is just too awesome not to share:

It's probably best that we follow all of that up with something a bit, you know, lighter. So c'mon. Join me in my love of HAIM, which only grows stronger by the second thanks to:

Speaking of love, I absolutely love this and I really want someone to love it with me. Won't you? ("give me a chance I'll make you a ring/and we'll fly to our wedding")

And finally, this. It was as if Kendrick Lamar was just thinking to himself, what song could I remix that would make Alison Hamm feel overjoyed? And then he did exactly that.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Let's Go Get the Shit Kicked Out of Us By Love

It's that wonderful, terrifying time of year again, when I walk into Target with a plan of buying cotton balls and conditioner and instead leave with multiple bags of dark chocolate and hot pink socks and an overwhelming sense of confusion.

You know what I'm talking about, don't you?

It's Valentine's Day week.

[via here]

Not one minute after I tweeted this the other day:

I was snarling at my Facebook feed that was inundated with articles about love and dating while unwrapping my Dove heart-shaped dark chocolate when I saw it.

Dove had written me a little love note on the wrapper. It said:

Be your own Valentine.

Goddammit, Dove! Stop writing me notes about how I should sleep under the stars tonight and listen to my heart. I just want to eat some chocolate. Leave me alone!


Valentine's Day has always annoyed me. Now, before you all start thinking, "oh here we go, another bitter feminist eating dinner with her ten cats and bitching again," just hear me out.

I'm all for love. I'm all for flowers! I'm all for chocolates! All of these things are awesome. So when I say Valentine's Day annoys me, I'm not saying I hate the idea of people taking a day to show another person that they're special. I'm not saying I hate the idea of people thinking February 14th is a great time to get naked together and eat lots of chocolates shaped like hearts. Because that's what Valentine's Day is all about, right? Chocolate and nudity?

But seriously, my annoyance simply stems from all the silly pressure and expectations and inevitable disappointment that can come along with that. I'm not mad about it, though. Hell, I might even wear pink tomorrow. (Actually, that's a lie, I'll be wearing black, like I do every day.)

So now that we're all clear on my stance on this oh-so-important holiday, I'm ready to do something I don't typically do. I want to talk about love.

Recently, I was rejected. (Boo hoo, blah blah, I'm not going to get into details.) For whatever reason, it got me thinking about this time I was rejected by a boy in high school. I was completely enamored with this guy—in spite of the fact that he really wasn't all that nice to me and constantly flirted with my best friend and very likely still had another girlfriend at his old high school that he pretended not to have. So it shouldn't have been that big of a surprise to me the day he announced to me while we were sitting in the gym bleachers that he liked hanging out with me and all, but he didn't want to be my boyfriend. Instead, I felt like he'd just drop-kicked me in the gut and then laughed hysterically as I writhed around in pain. Big, fat tears started falling out of my eyes that I quickly wiped away when I saw some younger girls across the gym smirking at me.

Whyyyyy? I asked myself. Why aren't I good enough? What's WRONG with me?

After school, I promptly went home and cried to my mother. Always my cheerleader, she shook her head during my story and then said: "He's clearly an idiot." Then she launched into a tirade about how smart and beautiful and funny I was, ETC. ETC.

On the one hand, fuck yeah, Mom! On the other: Yes, that dude was kind of an idiot, but the thing is, he wasn't an idiot for not liking me. And I wasn't an idiot for liking someone who didn't like me back in quite the same way.

Quite simply, it just is what it is. Sometimes we get rejected. Sometimes we're the ones doing the rejecting. It's the nature of love and dating.

But while I'd like to think that now, 10 years later, I'm way too mature and self-assured to immediately launch into the same "Whhyyyyy? Why aren't I special?" line of thinking after getting rejected by someone, that same whiny voice still pops in my brain.

It blows. No one likes getting rejected. But what can you do? Absolutely nothing. You can't trick someone into thinking you're the most badass person on the planet and that obviously they could never love another person more than you.

Unfortunately, my 28-year-old self can't run crying to my mom with tales of my failed romantic endeavors. However, my 28-year-old self can buy wine at the liquor store down the street.

So after my most recent romantic rejection, after allowing myself one night of crying into my wine and contemplating breaking framed photos over my knee, I decided to accept it.

It didn't work out. But you know what? Something will.

My main boo Aziz Ansari put it best when he told the A.V. Club:

AVC: Do you have any basic advice for people who think they’re falling in love?

AA: Does the person love them back? If so, enjoy every single second of it. This is the most fun part. I believe it’s really hard to meet someone you have that much of a deep connection with, so you should cherish it.

If the person doesn’t like them back, oof. I’m sorry. That’s a hard situation and it’s not always easy just to move on. When you meet someone you really like and connect with, I think that’s very special, and not to be taken for granted. They discuss this in Before Sunset, one of my favorite films, in a way that really struck a chord with me. Julie Delpy’s character says when she was younger, she thought she’d meet many people of the opposite sex that she would have a special, deep, personal connection with, but as she got older, she realized that’s not the case, and you realize how rare those kind of connections really are. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found I agree with this sentiment.

Sometimes it can be easy to romanticize our unrequited loves, though, so maybe be wary of that. Again, you want what you can’t have. And if someone’s being shitty to you, just move on. If someone’s being shitty to you, no matter how great they are, that’s shitty, and you don’t want be with someone who treats you shitty. Ultimately, there will be someone you meet that you like as much or more, there always is.
It's really true! There always is.

So I just want to say to anyone reading this out there on the Interwebs: Don't let tomorrow bring you down if for some reason it doesn't work out the way you hoped it was all going to when you were eating pints of ice cream and watching Sleepless in Seattle for the 20th time while weeping.

Maybe tomorrow will be great! Maybe it will be the most romantic day of ALL OF OUR LIVES! Or maybe, it will just be Thursday.

Whatever! Just remember, as my dear friend Beth put it so perfectly last night as she quoted Love Actually for some reason while staring into a basket of crawfish:

"Love actually is...all around."

Don't forget that! And whether you're single, married, or juggling 15 different admirers right now because you are just that much of a boss, the fact is, somebody out there thinks you're awesome-sauce. Because you are. (Unless of course, you are this guy. In that case, nobody thinks you're awesome. I hate you.)

But for everyone else:

So let's do it. Let's go get the shit kicked out of us by love.

Happy Valentine's Day!


[seriously. crawfish.]