music mondays: a great day for pop music

haimAlright guys. Here’s the deal. I’m in love. With HAIM. Their album, Days Are Gone, came out today and you should go buy it right now. But let me confess something before we go on. When I first heard their single, Forever, I liked it but was a little put off. I just thought it sounded too much like a Gloria Estefan song, or some other old pop song, but I could never nail it down.

I have since realized the error of my ways. HAIM is like gloriously, awesomely updated 80s and 90s pop music. I have missed good pop music since approximately 2002, when Justified came out (but we will get to that later). Now, HAIM isn’t definitively a pop group. According to Wikipedia, they are a ROCK BAND. I would call them pop-rock. But if you read any reviews of them, you’ll be sure to notice the frequent comparisons to 80s era Fleetwood Mac, or The Bangles, or some good 90s R&B. THOSE ARE ALL THINGS I LOVE. So naturally, I found myself enamored with HAIM.

The group is made of three sisters from LA and a drummer. Fun fact: baby Haim and I share the same birthday (different years). Their parents formed a family band when the girls were still in school. How awesome is that? And their band was called Rockinhaim, hilarious. Anyway, these girls have been playing music together for a long time and it shows.

So, I’ve been listening to their EP, eagerly awaiting the release of Days Are Gone, and the day is finally here. NPR has been streaming the album, so if you aren’t willing to drop $7.99 at iTunes, go take a listen. I really love this whole album, but if I have to pick some favorites, Honey & I is way up there. It’s like Vampire Weekend meets Wilson Phillips in the best way. The album closer, Running If You Call My Name, is also one of my favs. It’s more atmospheric and I think shows the reach that their sound has.

Okay, shift gears a bit. The other good news for pop music is today’s release of The 20/20 Experience: 2 of 2. Honestly, I haven’t listened to the whole thing yet, but I do like Take Back the Night, and trust that in the reign of terror Miley has on pop music, JT will always be better. He definitely has a case of “artists make better art when they’re sad” (don’t even try to tell me Cry Me A River isn’t one of the best pop songs ever), but he’s still the current king. And also, JT + Timbaland forever.

Addendum: After listening to all of part 2, I’m really disappointed in it. This is a great example of the failed double album. As a friend of mine put it, part 2 just feels thrown together. Instead of wasting energy trying to put out two albums, he should have put everything into making one really solid album. The songs on part 2 don’t even work together. Some are really clearly pop tracks, like Not A Bad Thing (which I actually don’t hate), others are hip-hop infused and some are heavier, like Only When I Walk Away (which I do hate). And then. AND THEN THERE IS THIS COUNTRY SONG IN THE MIDDLE. Don’t be fooled, Drink You Away may not sound completely like a country track, but bro, it is. I mean, it’s called Drink You Away. I was also really hoping for shorter tracks on part 2, I don’t know what the fascination is with 8 minute pop songs. COMMENCE CRYING OVER THE END OF JT’S POP CAREER.

Nah, I still got your back, JT, but I expect more from you.

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grammar gripes: people are LITERALLY ruining the English language

My government teacher in high school, Mr. Madden, used to drive me crazy with the word literally. He would pronounce it litally. “You LITALLY don’t know anything about the Constitution!” Like he had a Southern drawl and was a good ol’ boy. Except he wasn’t. He went to Miami and I’m sure he grew up in Ohio.

I’m also confident he did not use literally correctly at least 75% of the time, and I’d like to take this opportunity to blame him for my generation’s corruption of this word and subsequent redefining.

Now, in case we have not been properly introduced, hello, my name is Meaghan and I am a prescriptivist. For the most part. (What’s funny about this is prescriptivist isn’t a fully accepted word yet. Ha!) I openly admit it. I am a grammar snob and I judge people. I’m probably judging you right now. The other part of my confession is, I don’t know everything. I’m certain I say/write things incorrectly too. I try to restrict my snobbery to things I expect you learned if you grew up in America and graduated from high school.

But one of my big pet peeves is how obsessed people have become with using literally in a completely inaccurate sense. I know I’m not alone. The Oatmeal’s description of literally is the best.

And recently, a very sad thing happened. The OED caved to all you abusers of the English language! Now, I first heard that Google changed its meaning of the word literally to include the completely inaccurate, ass-backwards way of using literally to “express strong feeling while not being literally true”. And I thought to myself, “Google can’t just CHANGE THE MEANING OF A WORD. They aren’t the OED.” And then I found this post about the OED. They changed their definition too!!

And I put my head down on my desk and cried. Not really, but I thought about.

People talk about Mark Twain and Chaucer using literally in this alternate sense, but I have chosen not to accept these arguments as motivation to change the meaning of the word. If you haven’t looked it up yet, the first (and only true, IMO) meaning of literally is “in a literal sense; exactly”. As in, in actuality. When people use it in the other (wrong) way, they don’t, in fact, mean anything literally at all!

So I say, you can take your false meaning of literally and LITERALLY shove it up your ass.

Whoops. Sorry. I guess what’s done is done. I know there’s a pretty interesting history of words’ meanings changing over time. (Check out this list from Slate.) But don’t expect to hear me concede on this soon.

music mondays: ani, typhoon, and a surprise.

Well, it was a full weekend of live music, and in varying settings too. A couple weeks ago we won an actual prize for winning pub trivia – Ani DiFranco tickets. So I knew we were (most likely) doing that on Saturday. And I’d bought tickets to see Typhoon at the Wex Sunday night. But first, a SURPRISE.

A few weeks ago, Parker said he might have something for us to do on September 20, but he prefaced this by asking just how bad my motion sickness is. (I can barely ride in the backseat of a car without feeling nauseated.) So I told him I could take some Dramamine and hope for the best, still not knowing what potentially nausea-inducing activity I’d agreed to.

So Friday rolls around, and I get in the car unaware of our destination. Two hours later we’re in the southeastern Ohio city of Marietta, walking down to the riverbank of the Muskingum. (Confession, I didn’t know what river it was.) As we get closer to the river, I realize what we’re doing – WE’RE TAKING A RIVERBOAT CRUISE. Awesome. But I started looking around and noticed some people wearing 40s era themed outfits. I’ve never been on a riverboat, so I didn’t know if this was a regular thing, like how a handful of people actually dress up for Ladies 80s. As I stepped onto the boat, a woman handed me a flyer:

flyer

It was a floating riverboat concert with Pokey LaFarge! COOOOOOL. I realized some of the people I’d seen dressed up were band members. They play jazz/ragtime/country/music you’d hear on a riverboat and wear stylized clothes from the 40s. Check out the website. There were more non-band members dressed up, so it’s still unclear whether people just dress up for riverboat rides or they are big time Pokey fans. Regardless, it was a really unique and fun event. (Also, I didn’t feel sick!)

pokey

On to Saturday night. Truthfully, I’ve never listened to Ani DiFranco, unless someone puts one of her songs on a mix for me. But we still wanted to go check it out. Overall, it was a good show, despite knowing only a couple of her songs. She didn’t really pick up speed until the last half hour, and she only played for about an hour and twenty minutes. If I was a diehard fan and had paid $30 plus service fees, I may have been disappointed with the length of the show. Still cool to see a legend of the singer/songwriter world.

And finally, Sunday night. I was really excited when I saw that Typhoon was coming to the Wex. Usually their ticket pricing is reasonable and it’s a nice change from other music venues. Sadly, this show was in their “black box” set up, which is not my fav. If you haven’t been to a show like this, let me explain. In the black box set up, everyone is standing on the stage. The curtain is drawn, so you don’t see the auditorium, and there is a smaller stage set up at one end of the real stage. So in one aspect it’s interesting because it creates this intimate setting, but that’s also its downfall. NO ONE TALKS OR MOVES AROUND. Now I’m not saying I want people to talk through a whole set, but I mean that people are silent. It’s weird.

Anyway, I only recently heard Typhoon. Their second album, White Lighter, came out in August. I love the whole thing. Typhoon would probably be labeled “indie rock”, which is basically not a description, but they’re hard to categorize. There are 11 band members, with horns, two sets of drums, violins, guitars… And they actually sounded really good live. I’m always impressed when a band with a lot of members can still sound cohesive.

typhoon

The lead singer and songwriter, Kyle Morton, was bitten by a tick as a kid and contracted Lyme Disease. Many of his songs are about growing up with this illness, and themes of mortality are common. Typhoon’s songs are often anthemic, in a good way (not in the party anthem way). My favorite off of White Lighter is Dreams of Cannibalism (I don’t know about that video though), but Young Fathers is also up there. They put on a really great show; I’d go seem them again tonight if I had the option.

music mondays. the inaugural post: alt-j and lord huron

In an effort to write more consistently, I’ve been trying to think of columns, if you will, to have on my blog. I asked the Twittersphere for suggestions, and my friend Kristen said FAVORITE NEW SONG. (She actually said favorite song of the moment, and didn’t say it in all CAPS, I just did that for emphasis.)

So, say hello to MUSIC MONDAYS. I’ll probably broaden beyond just a favorite song to talk about albums and any live shows I may have seen recently.

It has turned out to be a great day to kick this off! Two of my favorite bands from 2012 are touring together. I mentioned both Lord Huron and Alt-J in my post 2012 in favorites. I got to see Alt-J at CD102.5 Day in March and they were sooo good. Lord Huron came through town in June, but I had another commitment and couldn’t make it. That these bands are touring together but not coming to Columbus was a terrible blow to my musical soul. (Note: I don’t have any personal musical ability, just (IMO) excellent musical taste.)

So last night Parker and I started looking at the tour dates to find something close enough for us. Turns out, they play in Chicago tonight, but it’s sold out. After scouring Craigslist and StubHub, we changed our focus to the Detroit show on Tuesday night. Also sold out.

Meaghan: This is THE WORST!
Parker: I will look on Facebook like a smart person and see if there is any info about the show and more tickets.

So, Parker finds the FB page for Royal Oak Music Theatre and GUESS WHAT?! They are doing a contest for two tickets to the show. To win the contest, you had to comment on their FB post describing why you deserve to be there and tag the friend you are bringing. At that point, all the posts were pretty lame, lacking in creativity, and (in your best Gretchen Wieners voice) those people totally did not deserve to go!

Parker writes his post, explaining how Alt-J and Lord Huron were the stars of his summer road trip playlist, and wouldn’t it be the perfect end to summer to see these bands together? We decide to work on a more involved post for me that will use the track titles.

It’s Tuesday morning and I’m looking at the track titles from An Awesome Wave and Lonesome Dreams. We’re both concerned that this is going to be too corny. Parker tweaks and adds to what I wrote, and this is what we came up with:

It would really be Something Good if you fulfilled my Lonesome Dream of seeing these bands Tessellate at Royal Oak! This would be my first trip to your theatre, but if I win I promise I Will Be Back One Day (unless Curly Joe’s vocals Dissolve Me away). It would be my Fitzpleasure to use my second ticket on Parker, who roadtripped to the Ends of The Earth this summer with these two bands topping his most played list. I am not the woMan Who Lives Forever, so help me win something before time runs out. Do it for Matilda. (And, for the record, triangles really are my favorite shape.)

BAM. Musical wordsmithery right there. Of course we won. No one else stood a chance.

So tomorrow I’ll be heading to lovely Detwah (that’s French for Detroit) for what I have no doubt will be a memorable groovefest. Look back at my original post for some info on both bands, and if this tour comes through your city, go see them.

good eats: lemon poppy seed bread

lpsbread

Since I was a kid, I’ve loved any lemon poppy seed baked treat. I’ve tried a few recipes for muffins and bread, and this one, from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles is my favorite (with a few alterations of my own).

 

 

 

 

Ingredients
Bread:
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp poppy seeds
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp freshly grated Meyer lemon zest

Glaze:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp turbinado sugar
2 tbsp freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a regular bread pan (9×5 in). The farmgirl uses two mini bread pans, but I don’t have any of those. Plus, I feel less bad about eating 2 slices from the regular sized pan than 4 from the mini pan.

Add the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and poppy seeds to the bowl of a stand mixer. If you only have a hand mixer, that should be sufficient. In a separate bowl, mix the milk, oil, eggs, vanilla, almond, and lemon zest. Slowly add the liquid mixture to the dry, mixing on low until combined. Mix on medium for another minute.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 60 minutes. My oven is one of those mini apartment-sized ovens (not to mention old), so yours may bake faster. Check for doneness with a toothpick at 45 minutes.

While the bread bakes, mix the glaze. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl using a whisk. If you don’t have turbinado sugar, you can use 1/3 cup regular sugar. I like the extra crunch that raw sugar gives the top of the bread. You can also use regular lemons, but I like the Meyer lemons because they are less acidic and a little sweeter. Now, if you’re feeling really ambitious, you could brown the butter, but that’s a lot of work for only half a tablespoon. Be sure to let it cool a bit before adding it to the other ingredients.

When your bread is done, remove it from the oven and immediately brush the glaze over the bread while still in the pan. The glaze will soak into the bread, making it really moist and yummy. (Sidebar, the only time it’s okay to say moist is when baking/eating baked goods.) Let the bread cool for about 20 minutes. Trust me on the cooling part. I’m always too eager and shove burning hot food into my mouth, but this bread really is better after the glaze has soaked in and cooled a bit.

Enjoy!

PS – If you’re feeling really really ambitious, you could whip up some vanilla butter to put on your bread.

boobread

Boo was really hoping to get in on some bread.