Monday, October 23, 2017

Fall 2017 Playlist: Annotated

As many of you know, I was obsessed with making mix CDs in high school. Obsessed. I'm sure I made hundreds, though only twenty or thirty have survived my teenage years; a while back I recreated as many of them as I could on Spotify.

Recently I've realized that I miss making curated playlists. I've still made plenty of playlists since the triumph of digital music, but mostly they're just related to a genre or era; I throw as many relevant songs in as I can, then put it on shuffle. But that sort of playlist-making doesn't bring the same satisfaction as taking the time to put the songs in a specific order.

That's why I've decided to start making seasonal mixes every few months. I started with my Summer 2017 playlist, and while that was great, I think I'll have even more fun if I annotate the playlists on this blog. In that spirit, let me introduce you to Fall 2017:

1. WILD FLAG, "Glass Tambourine" - Though my musical tastes bend toward the acoustic side of the spectrum in autumn, I wanted something with a bit more oomph to kick things off. A few weeks ago I rediscovered WILD FLAG, a post-punk band featuring members of Sleater-Kinney. Sometime in 2010-ish, Meg's husband (!!!) Marc was doing sound for WILD FLAG at Metro, and he managed to get us backstage. And that's when Carrie Brownstein offered me a beer. Carrie Brownstein. Me. Beer. Carrie Brownstein. I could hardly speak.

2. The Zombies, "She's Not There" - I never like to stick to one decade with my playlists, and I will always and forever love the 60s. I feel as though The Zombies were simultaneously the epitome of their time and way ahead of their time.

3. Childish Gambino, "Baby Boy" - I've been listening to Childish Gambino's "Awaken, My Love!"  regularly since it came out last winter. Can't get enough of that soulful sound. Thought this one did a good job of matching the retro vibe while pulling the mix back into the present.

4. Arcade Fire, "Good God Damn" - Though I can't say Everything Now is my favorite Arcade Fire album, it still has many solid tracks--this being one of them. The bass line here follows the groove from the previous track nicely. In my opinion, anyway.

5. Mountain Goats, "Rage of Travers" - This was one of the trickiest transitions on the playlist. I knew I wanted to include something off Mountain Goats' newest album Goths, but I couldn't quite figure out where to place it. The emphasis on the bass in this track called back to "Good God Damn" enough that I thought it might work. You'll have to let me know whether I was successful.

6. Jamila Woods feat. Nico Segal, "Breadcrumbs" - Uh-mazing Chicago artist Jamila Woods' album HEAVN came out a while ago, but it only recently became available on Spotify. I knew I had to add something of hers; the horns in "Breadcrumbs" formed a bridge between the horns in the Mountain Goats track and the horns in the following track.

7. Twin Danger, "No One Knows" - Because who doesn't love a 40's jazz-style cover of Queens of the Stone Age's first big hit? I also had Twin Peaks on the brain while making this playlist, since I'd just watched the finale of the new series, and this song struck me as something David Lynch might have used for the soundtrack, had he known about it.

8. Rebekah Del Rio, "No Stars" - This is a song David Lynch really did use for the new Twin Peaks soundtrack. It's so repetitive that it ought to be boring, but the melody is beautiful enough that it keeps me entranced.

9. Ezra Furman, "Driving Down to L.A." - I also had trouble placing this song; originally I hadn't intended to include Ezra Furman at all, but then he dropped a new single. My hands were tied. I felt that the beginning of the song was quiet enough to follow "No Stars," but was also modern enough to pull the playlist back into the present.

10. Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton, "Legend of the Wild Horse" - I've been a big fan of all Emily Haines' musical projects since I was in high school, and though I'm not in love with the Soft Skeleton's new Choir of the Mind album, I do find this song rather hypnotizing.

11. Jon Batiste, Leon Bridges, & Gary Clark Jr., "Ohio" - A legendary Neil Young song covered by three legendary artists. It's much quieter than the original, with gorgeous harmonies. Perfect for autumn nights, as well as the current political climate (unfortunately).

12. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, "Mary Jane's Last Dance" - I've never been particularly interested in Tom Petty, but when he passed I felt like I ought to pay tribute. This is one song of his that I do enjoy, and I added it here to pick up the pace of the mix a bit.

13. Waxahatchee, "8 Ball" - If you ignore the lyrics, this song sounds like a sunny autumn day. A generally cheerful melody with something of an edge to it. Whenever I hear this track I'm reminded that I don't listen to Waxahatchee nearly enough.

14. Feist, "Young Up" - I haven't listened to Feist consistently since her ultra-famous 2007 album The Reminder, but I looooove her new album Pleasure. Her songs are so simply constructed, and yet they seem to have great musical depth.

15. The Cactus Blossoms, "Mississippi" - This is another one that I liked from the new Twin Peaks soundtrack. It's a blatant rip-off of The Everly Brothers, but it's delightful, so I don't care. I placed it here to pull the playlist back in a retro direction for a few tracks.

16. Fleetwood Mac, "Gold Dust Woman" - I had the pleasure of seeing Ms. Stevie Nicks in September at Ravinia. She taught us many important life lessons between songs--for example, that it's important to own a car so that when you want to leave a man, you can really leave him. I wanted to commemorate that magical experience with a track featuring her sultry vocals.

17. Bittersweet Drive, "Buried Below" - This song is on the playlist because nepotism! Seriously though--Bittersweet Drive may be my sister's band, but I believe I'd love this song even if I had no personal connection. The first time I heard it, I knew "Buried Below" was for Fall.

18. DM Stith, "Cormorant" - Mr. Stith took his sweet time releasing a follow-up to his first album Heavy Ghost, but the wait for Pigeonheart was worth it. Many of the songs on Pigeonheart have a bit more drive behind them than this one, but the echoey background vocals on "Cormorant" remind me of the cool, whipping breezes that herald a storm.

19. The Beatles, "Long, Long, Long" - This Fab 4 deep cut is actually the first song I added to the playlist, but it ended up all the way at the bottom. I love the quiet organ in this one. And yet the final minutes of the song are so harsh compared to the rest of it that I didn't want this track to end the playlist altogether.

20. Kesha, "Spaceship" - What a wonderful song. It's simple and sweet and pretty, and the lyrics are quirky and hopeful. A much more optimistic way for the playlist to finish. I must say, Kesha's Rainbow may be my favorite album this year. It's up there, at least.

Please give it a listen and let me know what you think. Sharing mixes is the best part!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Tale of Two Weddings

A major reason I've been blogging so infrequently is that most of my spare time has been wrapped up in weddings. My dear friend Gena married Marty—the redhead of her dreams—on September 23rd, and my best-friend-more-like-my-sibling Meg married noted anarchist, musician, and vegan chef Marc just last night—Friday the 13th, of course. I was a bridesmaid in both weddings—in fact, I was Unicorn of Honor in the latter—so for the past few months my weekends have consisted of showers, bachelorette parties, and crafting sessions.

Now that both happy occasions have passed, I believe a recap is in order.

#GenaMartyParty

The morning after a rehearsal dinner at Rock Bottom that can only be described as jolly, we awoke to a beautiful, sunny September day—except that it was 90 degrees fahrenheit. Catalina, Felipe, and I grabbed breakfast at Dollop (obviously better than the fancy hotel breakfast Gena & Co. had, nbd) and headed to the W Hotel for hair, makeup, the works.

With Kesha blasting in the background and Zero Dark Thirty on TV (yeah, I know), we groomed and preened. I threw on the emergency dress that I ordered from Amazon a week before the wedding because I gained too much weight in Southeast Asia to fit into my original dress, and it ended up looking better than my original dress anyway.

Gena was a statuesque, shimmering city bride. Marty resembled a wealthy oil baron—in a good way. Dapper AF.

#genamartyparty
We took some pictures in the hotel, then piled onto a trolley to play supermodel in Millennium Park. There was no air conditioning on the trolley. We survived.

Loft on Lake was the wedding venue, and it had everything you could ever want for a chic urban ceremony—exposed brick walls, a bright skylight, simple bulbs draped across the ceiling. I am not one to sniffle, but I sure did sniffle during this marriage. My friends just looked so damn in love with each other! I couldn't help it!

Afterwards we drank beer home-brewed by Gena's dad and stuffed ourselves silly with steak and pasta and salad and gelato (!!!). The DJ did this great through-the-decades sort of set, kicking things off with The Beatles and ending the night with Chance the Rapper. When he played The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights" we collectively lost our minds.

I danced. A lot. Very sweaty.

At the end of the night we headed next door to McDonald's for McFlurries and chicken tenders. A McFlurry has never tasted so good.

Gena, Marty—I love you. If I ever get married someday, I hope he adores me as much as you two so blatantly adore each other. Your wedding was a rose-gold, glorious blossom of an event.

#HolyCatrimony

The morning after a rehearsal dinner at Revolution Brewing that can only be described as boisterous (there was a flash mob and everything!), we awoke to the one day this week that it didn't rain—thank goodness. I tied on my new purple Chuck Taylors and walked over to Stan Mansion, the fancy-but-potentially-haunted wedding venue.

Inside the mansion's gorgeous bridal suite, we readied ourselves for the party of the century. Laura did our makeup one by one while the rest of us ate bagels and drank mimosas. Eventually we slipped into our black dresses, knotted our paisley bowties, clipped on our feathery fascinators, and stepped outside for pictures by none other than Braden Nesin, who I hadn't seen in a good long while. Virtually every aspect of this wedding was a wonderful reunion of some sort.

Meg was Marie Antoinette—if Marie Antoinette were super goth. Marc was a sharp-dressed, punk-rock dream. Total babes.

The ceremony was like something out of a movie—I still can't quite believe it really happened. Anastasia balanced humor and sincerity perfectly as the officiant, and we all got to wiggle while Katy read Worm Loves Worm. Molly, Leta, and I sang three-part harmonies on Bright Eyes' "First Day of My Life."

For cocktail hour: a performance by spooky drag queen Discord Addams. For dinner: VEGAN. TACO. BAR. Enough said.

After we ate, I gave a speech! In front of hundreds of people! I hear it went well, but I don't remember much. I'm glad people liked it—I thought it was funny when I wrote it, but you never know with that sort of thing.

Then it was time for my semi-private J.C. Brooks concert. I've never been to a wedding that had an actual band before, and let me tell you, they're one hell of a wedding band. Of course, they're one hell of a band in general, which is why I suggested them in the first place. Very glad my not-so-sneaky musical scheme paid off—though I wish Gena had been there to see it with me, since she is my J.C. Brooks-loving soulmate.

I danced. A lot. Very sweaty.

At the end of the night I went back to Meg & Marc's and crashed. Don't worry—they stayed at the venue's bridal suite again, so I wasn't interrupting anything, wink-wink, nudge-nudge. This morning we brunched at Ground Control, and I ate so much delicious food that I haven't wanted to eat since.

Meg, Marc—I'd marry you both if I could. As weird as you are, you're the Platonic ideal of what a supportive relationship should be, and I've learned a lot about love from you. Your wedding was a majestic soiree, sweet and warm as whiskey with a jack-o-lantern glow.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Monday

Last night, when I was going over today's schedule in my Passion Planner, I wrote this as today's focus: "It's okay if Monday isn't perfect."

Well, Monday was far from perfect.

I'm glad and grateful that all my friends in Las Vegas are safe. I'm sad that I'm not there to hug them. I'm outraged that our government still hasn't done anything about the gun problem in this country, that they act like nothing can be done. Thoughts and prayers after the fact--however sincere--aren't going to prevent horrors like this from happening in the future.

It should be as difficult to get a gun license as it is to get a driver's license. Extensive training, then 40-50 hours of supervision. And we need to entirely ban assault rifles, which are good for nothing but mass murder.

Ideally we'd just chuck guns out altogether, but god forbid (mostly) white people lose their freedom to hunt for sport. I write this, by the way, knowing that my dad's healthy collection of hunting rifles and handguns is only a floor below me in the basement. It's an issue where we'll never see eye to eye--which saddens me. It saddens me to know that my dad doesn't care how many people die. Or maybe he cares on some level--he says he cares, and I want to believe him--but he obviously doesn't care enough. His hobby is more important to him than their lives.

How do you come to terms with that? How do you come to terms with the fact that your father, who you love, and who loves you, can't seem to muster anything more than vague sympathy for the victims of mass shootings?

Seriously. Suggestions appreciated.

Here are some things you can do to help:
===

In happier news, Pithead Chapel published my story "In Captivity" in their October issue. Appropriately, it's about grieving.