Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Fall 2018 Playlist: Annotated

Fall's a good time for most things, and music is no exception. I just wish the season would last longer! Especially in Chicago, the crisp air and changing leaves are all too fleeting. Speaking of which, I need to buy a new winter coat.

Let's celebrate Fall while we can, shall we? This playlist should help.

1) "Cutting Shapes," Girl Ray: Girl Ray's another winner from one of my Discover Weekly playlists—thanks, Spotify! If you wish Nico and Belle & Sebastian were the same band, good news—Girl Ray fits the bill. I could have put about a million songs from their Earl Grey album on this playlist.
2) "If You Really Love Nothing," Interpol: When I noticed Interpol was playing Riot Fest this year, I was excited to see them solely for the nostalgia factor. But if I were in a band, I would hate it if nobody listened to my new stuff—so I gave their 2018 album Marauder a spin. And it's surprisingly good! Especially the first half. This song is the album opener, in fact.
3) "Big God," Florence + The Machine: The album High as Hope came out in June, and ever since I have been waiting eagerly for Fall so I could put this song on the playlist. It's Florence at their best—powerful, majestic, a little scary.
4) "seedless," serpentwithfeet: I was *psyched* that serpentwithfeet released a new album this summer—it was a good summer for new albums in general, actually. Anyway, I've never heard another artist like serpentwithfeet. It's...male Björk opera hip-hop? It's wonderful.
5) "Borders," St. Beauty: This duo opened for Janelle Monáe when I saw her at the Chicago Theatre a few months ago, and I was immediately impressed with them. You should listen to their whole album, but this song is a good start.
6) "Hangout at the Gallows," Father John Misty: When I heard this song, my first reaction was somebody's been listening to George Harrison's solo stuff lately. Definitely has a vintage sound, the melody is killer. That chorus—gets me every time. When he performed it at Riot Fest I literally stopped breathing for a few seconds.
7) "Mariners Apartment Complex," Lana Del Rey: Lana Del Rey could write the same song over and over again and I'd listen to it every time. I get her vibe, or her vibe gets me—when I was doing that internship in L.A. I especially understood. It's West Coast music. I was pleased to see she dropped new autumn-appropriate music right before I started making this playlist.
8) "Don't Judge Me," Janelle Monáe: Dirty Computer is one of the greatest albums of all time and there will be one song from it on each of my playlists this year—I already have it planned out. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't expose as many people to Ms. Monáe as possible. She's literally perfect. This song is chill and also pretty. You'll like it.
9) "Right Down the Line," Lucius: I wasn't as into the latest Lucius album as I hoped I'd be—but I was really into this cover of a 1978 Gerry Rafferty song.
10) "Almost Every Door," Mountain Goats: Am I going to put a Mountain Goats song on every seasonal playlist I ever make? Probably. They snuck up on me. I'd always listened to them casually and then one day they were one of my favorite bands. This song is off their very recently released Hex of Infinite Binding EP.
11) "Let it Down (original version)," George Harrison: Father John Misty's new George Harrison-esque song got me listening to George Harrison again. What can I say? He's the thinking person's Beatle.
12) "65th and Ingleside," Chance the Rapper: New Chance! Always a good thing. This song is sort of the oddball among the four singles he recently released, but I like it. I like oddballs. It was also needed for the tricky folk-to-hip-hop/soul transition the playlist was making here.
13) "I Never Loved a Man [The Way I Loved You]," Aretha Franklin: We lost one of the greats. Had to honor her. What a voice.
14) "Self," Noname: If you're not listening to Noname's new album Room 25, you're doing life wrong. It's so so so so good. I was reluctant to add this specific song at first, just because it's so short—but it's one of my favorites, and it definitely works with fall weather.
15) "(I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence Dear," Blondie: I finally got to see Blondie at Riot Fest and Debbie Harry was perfect and I love her and it was freaking awesome and ohmigod.
16) "How Simple," Hop Along: Frances Quinlan is the lead singer of this Philadelphia-based band, and while their songs are good in general, her unusual voice is really what makes them great. I've put them on my playlists before. I would recommend listening to their entire catalog.
17) "Lonesome Love," Mitski: Another fantastic album that dropped this summer! Am I the only one who thinks Mitski often out-St.-Vincents St. Vincent? I could have added lots of songs from Be the Cowboy to the playlist—it's very autumn appropriate.
18) "Changes IV," Cat Stevens: I recently joined an online competitive trivia league, and Cat Stevens was an answer to one of the questions, and that got me listening to Cat Stevens again. I forgot how much I like Cat Stevens. 70s folk perfection.
19) "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands," Bob Dylan: There are only 19 songs on this year's fall playlist, but I figured I could get away with it since this song is nearly 12 minutes long. I added it because I was having a discussion with my sister recently about Bob Dylan. I was explaining that this is the only Bob Dylan song that makes me feel feelings—a lot of his songs are okay, but this one gets to me. It's the chorus. Just beautiful. And the song is repetitive, but not in a bad way. It becomes soothing, reliable. Anyway, Molly was flabbergasted by my opinion. To each their own, I suppose.

It appears that the overarching themes of this year's fall playlist are: Riot Fest, the 1970s, album-openers. Seems about right.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Riot! Riot! Riot!

As the title suggests, I attended Riot Fest this weekend in beautiful, sprawling Douglas Park. Although I didn't "riot" so much as relax on the lawn listening to music while other people rioted.

I ate two hot pretzels in a span of three days. Two! It was glorious.

Bands I saw:
  • Typesetter - Wow I'm so cool I know a band who played at Riot Fest so cool. Turns out that if you walk confidently, you can just stroll backstage and nobody's going to stop you. There's free bottled water back there! Show was rad, as always--their new album comes out in October. Get on it. 
  • K. Flay - I had never listened to K. Flay before, but I'd heard good things. I did like her music--though whoever was doing her sound was awful. It was like listening to a blown-out speaker in an old car. Her cover of Harvey Danger's "Flagpole Sitta," however, was charming.
  • The Bombpops - When they said they'd signed with Fat Wreck Chords I was like, oh, of course they did. Talented, pleasant enough to listen to, but derivative. Harsh? Perhaps. They seem like good people. I just wasn't bowled over.
  • Taking Back Sunday - It turns out Taking Back Sunday has released roughly one million albums since I was in high school, none of which I cared to hear. But it was all worth it when they finally got to "You're So Last Summer." THE TRUTH IS YOU COULD SLIT MY THROAT AND WITH MY ONE LAST GASPING BREATH I'D APOLOGIZE FOR BLEEDING ON YOUR SHIRT. High school, man. High school. 
  • Gary Numan - Caught only the end of his set--it takes an hour and a half to get to Douglas Park from my apartment via transit, so I was doing my best. I enjoyed watching him, and I enjoyed watching the crowd even more. I was born in 1988, so I mostly missed that decade, and so did my parents since they were getting married and raising me. Everything I've learned about the 80s I've had to piece together myself, and artists like Gary Numan are just another piece of the puzzle. I like trying to imagine a time when loads of people were like YES! THIS GOTH SCI-FI NEW WAVE DUDE! Not that he's bad! I just have a hard time imagining someone like him getting popular these days. Anyway, "Cars" is stuck in my head now. 
  • Cat Power - I am only the most casual of Cat Power listeners. No matter--I just chilled in the grass and drank a beer and let her soft voice lull me. An wonderful way to spend a sunny afternoon. 
  • Elvis Costello & The Imposters - I'm also only a casual Elvis Costello listener--greatest hits and no more. It was a fun show, but I think he couldn't hear the monitors? He often seemed a few beats behind.
  • Interpol - High school again! Unlike Taking Back Sunday, Interpol was well aware that we only wanted to hear their first two albums, and they delivered. (But for the record, I did give their new album a listen and it's actually pretty good, especially the first half.) In my opinion, their songs sound especially nice outside--they're very atmospheric, and the sound just washes over you in waves. Whoever did their lighting design was inspired--it was gorgeous. 
  • Johnny Marr - Caught the end of his set. Never a bad day when you get to bop around to some depressing Smiths songs. "How Soon is Now" is an excellent closing number.
  • Blondie - ohmigodBlondieohmigod. I'm obsessed with Blondie--this was easily the thing I was most looking forward to all weekend. And that 73-year-old goddess Debbie Harry was perfect. I wish I were 1/10 as cool as her. She's the ultimate fuck you to people who think aging women are disposable. It was essentially a greatest hits show--"One Way or Another," "Call Me," "Rapture," "Heart of Glass," everything. But they also played a few songs off their latest album Pollinator--which is actually a great album! I have listened to it many times! So anyway Blondie is the best don't @ me.
  • Alkaline Trio - Because of course I saw Alkaline Trio, along with every other human who was a Chicagoland area teen in the early 2000s. Huge crowd. Lots of singalongs. Always fun. 
  • Father John Misty - I love Father John Misty's music, and after a lackluster third album I was super pleased with his fourth. His lyrics are so cynical, and I think if I had to hang out with him for a day I'd probably chuck something heavy at his head, but his voice is so beautiful I don't even care. I've seen him live several times--memorably on the roof of The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas--but he really outdid himself this time. When he performed his new song "Hangout at the Gallows," I was literally breathless. I lost. My breath. No breathing. Also need to congratulate whoever did his lighting design because it was phenomenal. 
I unfortunately didn't get to stay for any of the big headliners because while I would have liked to see Beck and Run the Jewels, and while Weezer is cheesy-but-fun, I have a dog to care for and also I'm an old lady. I've been living off ibuprofen all weekend. Hot pretzels and ibuprofen. 

I would like to propose a lineup of all-female headliners next year, if I may. Distillers just dropped new music for the first time in 15 years, so they'd be perfect. Couldn't we reunite Bikini Kill, too? And let's be real--Lady Gaga and Janelle Monae are punk AF. Someone should let me plan music festivals. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Vote! (from your couch)

The midterm elections are less than two months away, and I just wanted to take a quick moment to plug one of my favorite things:

Absentee voting!

Initially I voted absentee because I was literally absent. I first voted for president when I was studying abroad in Rome. Since then I've also voted from Las Vegas and The Netherlands, even though I was still registered in Illinois.

But now I prefer to vote absentee. It has two distinct advantages to regular voting:
  • I don't have to get off my lazy butt.
  • I can research the candidates while I fill out the ballot.
Admit it--at one point or another, you've walked into a voting booth and been faced with an extensive list of local officials you've never heard of before. Maybe even positions you've never heard of before! What is a comptroller anyway?! (Comptrollers do money stuff, FYI.) 

When it comes to voting, the internet is your friend. I normally just sit down on my couch, ballot at my side, computer on my lap, and I Google the candidates one by one so I can decide who I prefer. Too many candidates to handle at once? I can spread it out over a period of several days--most states only require that your ballot be postmarked by election day. 

Absentee voting makes me feel like I'm actually making informed choices. And it's so easy! The ballot comes to my door, I fill it out, I pop it in the mailbox. The end. 

The one downside? I don't get a sticker. But because I'm at my apartment, I can reward myself however I want. An "I voted today" sticker doesn't compare to "I voted today" ice cream, now does it? 

Absentee ballots are already available in many states! can help you find your local voting resources. Join me in lethargically performing your civic duty. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018


I recently joined a competitive, invite-only online trivia game called LearnedLeague.* For every weekday in the month-long season, you play against one other person in your division, and you each answer 6 questions. However, guessing the right answers doesn't always mean you win. You can see your opponent's stats, and you use those to determine which defensive points you're going to assign. For example, if you see that your opponent has never missed an art history question, and you have an art history question that day, you'd probably assign 0 points to that question so they gain nothing by answering it. These questions are incredibly difficult--on a good day I get three correct answers. One day I got five! And I still lost that day--though I was playing the highest-ranked person in my division.

But I'm not here to discuss the logistics of the game. I'm here to discuss science, and how I apparently don't know anything about it. I have missed every single science-related question since the competition began. Every. Single. One.

This is frustrating, because I thought I knew some stuff about science? Like photosynthesis! Photosynthesis is the thing where plants turn sunlight into food. Via...magic, I guess. Science is magic, right? I know that Pluto's not a planet anymore. That is definitely science. We are all made of cells and cells are very tiny. White light is actually made of many colors. Water is made of hydrogen and oxygen.

I'm no expert, obviously. But I do read a decent amount of pop science articles online, and I had to study biology and chemistry in high school like everyone else--I even took honors bio! I think the problem is that it goes in one ear and out the other. My poor friend Austin has explained the theory of relativity to me at least twice, and I just...can't remember what it means. Something about curved space-time, maybe?

The issue is not that I don't use science in my daily life. That's true, but there are loads of things I don't use in my daily life that I remember in great detail. Like the wives of King Henry VIII:

  • Catherine of Aragon (divorced)
  • Anne Boleyn (beheaded)
  • Jane Seymour (died in childbirth)
  • Anne of Cleves (divorced)
  • Catherine Howard (beheaded)
  • Catherine Parr (outlived Henry)
It's strange that I can recall the important women of Tudor England, but not the basic building blocks of life itself. 

I think I'm going to start listening to some science podcasts during my commute--maybe it will stick that way. Please comment with your favorite science trivia, and I'll try to memorize it. And wish me luck for LearnedLeague--I will most certainly need it. 

*Sorry, trivia fans--because I'm in my rookie season, I have no invites available at this time! Let me know if you're interested, though, so I can reach out later.