music mondays: 2014 favorites

As my friend Jackie pointed out, I’ve been a bit of a negligent writer recently. But since it’s still January, I don’t think it’s too late to wrap up what I was listening to in 2014. So, here is some of my favorite music from last year that I didn’t write about yet.

2014 was a year for many people to find their voice. In particular, women started to speak out against the injustices and violence committed against them. Alynda Lee Segarra has been making music with her band Hurray for the Riff Raff for a few years now, but 2014’s Small Town Heroes was the band’s major label debut. My favorite track, and the one I think was most relevant in 2014, is “The Body Electric.” Segarra has been quoted as saying she wrote the song in response to the 2012 Delhi gang rape that resulted in the death of the woman. This song is Segarra’s version of (or response to) the classic murder ballads she became so tired of hearing. It doesn’t need much explanation.

I’m going to ruffle some feathers by not claiming Run the Jewels 2 as my favorite hip hop of 2014, but I do what I want. Scotland’s Young Fathers provided my windows down summer driving music. They also shocked a lot of people by winning the Mercury Prize, beating FKA Twigs and others. Young Fathers is a three-person group, and while all the members are Scottish, one was born in Liberia and another has Nigerian parents, which gives their music an interesting edge. In a way, I think Young Fathers could be a good “gateway to hip hop” group. They are so heavily influenced by rock, trip hop, and world music, it’d be easy to find something you like. “Low” was my favorite track from their album, Dead.

Like many others, I spent the way-too-fucking-cold February and March of 2014 listening to Angel Olsen‘s Burn Your Fire for No Witness on repeat. Too hard to pick a favorite, so just watch this whole set.

It was a bummer when Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon decided to be a dick to The War on Drugs last year, but Benji was still one of my favorite albums of 2014. Yes, that Benji. benjiKozelek claims he wanted to give a lighthearted title to his album because it was so dark and sad and pretty much all about death. Nice try, Mark. You may be predisposed to like the opening track, Carissa, if you’re from Ohio, but it remains an incredibly relatable, albeit dark, song.

So now I have to give love to The War on Drugs. Not only did they put out one of my favorite albums of 2014, they also were one of my favorite live shows. Lost in the Dream has this awesome 70s/80s dad rock sound that I found so welcome in 2014. If you weren’t having solo dance parties to “Red Eyes,” you’re a dummy.

For my full list of favorite music from 2014, check out my spotify playlist. Happy listening.

music mondays: skip t. swift and listen to these women

Apparently 29 year old married men are having countdown parties for Taylor Swift’s new album, and I cannot sit idly by. So I have finally returned to music mondays to offer some alternatives to 1989.

I have been meaning to write about Lowell for a few weeks now, but finally got the extra motivation I needed, thanks T. Swift! Lowell’s (Elizabeth Lowell Boland) debut album, We Loved Her Dearly, came out in September and I’ve been swimming in its beats since then. In a world where you can barely escape “Shake It Off” for more than 24 hours, it’s refreshing to have seriously good pop music that’s also about something.

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The quick backstory on Lowell is that she was briefly a stripper before quitting to pursue music. Her song “I Killed Sara V” (her stripper name) is about leaving that self behind. It starts out a haunting, pretty track, then moves into a deceptively more upbeat confessional. I realize a 6 minute track isn’t the best intro, so maybe skip that one initially.

Her love anthem “LGBT” champions all forms of relationships and calls out everyone for their biases and discrimination. “I Love You Money” is my favorite to crank up and sing along to while driving, even though it’s a little weird to shout about loving money. But, the song is actually about Lowell kicking out a customer at a strip club.

Lowell’s debut has its highs and lows, but overall it’s a fun album that displays range and cohesiveness, the balance of pop sugar and human depth.

My second recommendation as an alternative to Taylor Swift is Jessie Ware’s sophomore release, Tough Love. You’ll have to switch your mindset a bit, as Jessie is really more an R&B artist than a pop singer, in my mind. But thank God for someone still making R&B in 2014, amirite?? Tough Love isn’t as solid an album as Devotion, but it’s definitely no sophomore slump.

The obvious stand-out is “Say You Love Me”, co-written with Ed Sheeran, but it’s actually not my favorite track. “Keep On Lying” has this unusual sound, with a beat that almost sounds like muzak, but it works. The song I keep returning to is “You & I (Forever)”. It’s a pretty classic R&B/pop song, but when the alternative is “All About That Bass”, I have no problems with classic.

Both albums are available on spotify. Happy listening!

breaking the cycle: congrats Malala!

Many have been waiting for Malala Yousafzai to win her Nobel Peace Prize, and this year the committee gave it to her. She’s only 17, but since she was a child, Malala has been a champion for education, in particular for girls. If you don’t know Malala’s story, this article has some background info.

Below is a short documentary from 2009 about Malala and her family, and their fight for education.

 

it’s time to retire the cat lady jokes.

Seriously. This line is washed up. It’s old news. Sometimes it’s hurtful. Mostly, it’s a bad joke.

I have been the butt of the cat lady joke plenty of times. I’ve even wondered if I should just embrace it. Yes, I have a cat. Yes, I live by myself with said cat. Yes, I also have a phone case with a hologram of cats on it. But you know what, I bought it because it was $10 and ridiculous and I was in a season when I needed something silly to look at every day.

One of my coworkers decided to adopt a feral kitten that’s been living near her home. I overheard some other coworkers recounting how they’d warned her not to take all the kittens since, “ya know, don’t wanna become one of those crazy cat ladies.” This is a grown woman with adult children, a husband, a home, and she kicks everyone’s ass at work. Take in one stray kitten and suddenly she’s reduced to being a cat lady.

I could argue that no one makes jokes about being a “dog lady”. But that’s pretty silly logic. Dogs, cats, what difference should it make? At the root is a deeper issue, one that is wrapped up in all the other titles a woman hears when you call her a cat lady.

Loner. Loser. Failure. Ugly. Weirdo. Single. Dirty.

Google “cat lady stigma” and you know what comes up on the first page of results? The Wikipedia page for “spinster”. That’s right. Because even Wikipedia knows that at the root of calling a woman a cat lady is shaming her for her singleness. As my coworker story points out, singleness isn’t always a player in cat ladydom, but I’d argue it’s a founding factor in the characterization. Maybe I should say caricature-ization.

Do me a favor and think twice before you call a woman a cat lady next time. Consider what hurtful names she might hear instead, thanks to the negative stigma culture has created for those of us who find ourselves to be both female and cat owners.

I adopted my cat when I had roommates and a boyfriend. Now I have neither, but I still have my cat. And I’m pretty damn happy. I wasn’t trying to fill some void in my life when I got my cat, and I’m not trying to do that now. I mean, he’s a fucking cat. But that’s a major part of the stigma, that women are buying cats because they can’t keep a partner and want to fill a void they feel. Hey, maybe that is true for some women, and I hope their cat provides some comfort to them. Or maybe they’re just allergic to dogs.

My point is, let’s move on from the cat lady shaming.

boo

music mondays: jenny lewis

Like many fans of Jenny Lewis, I’ve admired her for awhile. I listened to Rilo Kiley back in high school and college, then only sort of paid attention to Jenny and Johnny. Her last solo album came out in 2008, so The Voyager is a welcome treat for her fans. Admittedly, I’m predisposed to like (love?) this album. It was produced by Ryan Adams, the single “Just One of the Guys” is a collab with Beck, and her rainbow suit is fucking rad.

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Lewis really succeeds as a storyteller on The Voyager. She takes us on a journey as she sings about break-ups, adulthood, romantic mistakes, and even saying goodbye to her dying and once estranged father.

The star-studded and hilarious music video for “Just One of the Guys” masks the darker and somber tone of the track. Lewis sings, “When I look at myself all I can see / I’m just another lady without a baby”, a sentiment I’m sure many of my single friends have felt as our newsfeeds fill up with more and more photos of babies.

The album’s title and closing track is another that really shines. The backing vocals are provided by First Aid Kit (who also have a great new album out) and really help to fill out the song. I would love to see a Jenny Lewis + First Aid Kit tour.

I’m having a love/hate relationship with “She’s Not Me”. I like the track overall, but something in the melody kept reminding me of some other song. Eventually I realized it was the terrible song “Cruisin” from the equally terrible Gwyneth Paltrow movie Duets. Ach. Maybe a bit of a stretch, but I can’t help what my ears hear.

Overall, really enjoying these new tracks from Jenny Lewis. I hope she keeps making music for a long time. The Voyager is out tomorrow.

breaking the cycle: post 2, working women

As you all (should) know, the tech world is incredibly dominated by men. (More specifically, by white men.) I work for a software company that employs around 13,000 people worldwide. There are about 100 people in my office; 11 are women. Of those 11, only one is actually a software developer.

I was recently a “groomsperson” in one of my best friend’s weddings. I was so happy to be a part of his wedding, even though it seemed unusual to plenty of people that I, a woman, would be standing on the groom’s side. A couple weeks before the wedding, I was out to lunch with a big group of coworkers. As people shared their weekend plans, I mentioned that I was going to a bachelor party. “No, not bachelorETTE, a bachelor party, I’m a groomsperson in my friend’s wedding.” My casual addition to the conversation was met with laughter and jokes from my male coworkers, insinuating that if I was going to a bachelor party, it could only be as a stripper.

In the moment, I laughed and didn’t think much of it, happy to just be joking around with coworkers. But looking back, I wasn’t being treated as “one of the guys” in that moment. I was being singled out for my woman-ness. To be very reductive, I was essentially called a stripper for having a male best friend. And that is not okay.

As the Washington Post article described, nine women from the tech world came together to create this manifesto of sorts. They were tired of the treatment they, and many other women, were receiving in the tech world. So they shed some light on it. My experience in the tech world has not been as extreme as the situations they describe. Overall, I like the people I work with and I feel safe there. But I’m also fairly removed from the more “technical” side of things, as a writer.

The technical world has a clear woman problem. But women in all kinds of other jobs face similar treatment everyday. I’ve listened to friends describe their misogynistic bosses, who stare at the chests of female employees and intimidate women simply because they can. Women make up about half of the professional level workforce in America. But if you check the statistics on women holding leadership positions, the disparity is shocking.

Not only are we not getting the jobs, we’re being paid less. Under the Equal Pay Act, employers are required to give men and women equal pay if their roles are substantially the same. But women are still making only “77% of their male counterparts’ earnings” according to the White House. It makes no fucking sense that I should get paid less than my male counterpart, simply because I am a woman. And yet.

I’m a fan of Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls and I think Sheryl Sandberg is a boss, even though I still haven’t read Lean In yet. I loved when this ad for GoldieBlox toys aired during the Super Bowl this year. It’s good to have these girl-specific things, but how long will this have to be the way we encourage girls to pursue and succeed at traditionally male-dominated jobs? Will we reach a point in history where girls will be encouraged enough at school, at home, by mentors and neighbors, without these extra girl-specific programs?

At the root of this conversation is a necessary paradigm shift. The tech world can work on recruitment and retention of female employees, but the bigger issue is a change in thinking, one that applies across the board to women in all types of jobs. One that says women are fully valuable human beings, with the same capabilities, passion, and possibilities as men.

music mondays: chet faker and some first listens

Chet Faker‘s first full album, Built on Glass, came out last week. You probably know him for his cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity”, a crowd favorite for sure.

Faker is an electronic musician with a soulful side. If you didn’t guess, his performance name is an homage to jazz musician, Chet Baker.

“1998” is my favorite track on this album.

It’s got this great beat that makes me want to dance every time I listen. After the opening verse, he repeats the same verse for about 5 minutes (they cut down for the video apparently). Some of you might find that annoying. But, if you think of Chet Faker as an electronic musician first, it makes sense that he may be less focused on lyrical content. That said, I’m sure most people can relate to his lament:

We used to be friends
We used to be inner circle
I don’t understand
What have I become to you
Take my good word
Turn it backwards
Turn your back on me
Is it absurd
For me to hurt
When everything else is fading

“To Me” is another favorite that gets more soulful. This isn’t an album with a ton of depth, but it’s got some good beats and has been fun to listen to.

NPR Music just opened up the gauntlet recently with the number of First Listens it released. You guys know I’m not generally a country music fan, but I got mad love for Dolly Parton. “Jolene” is probably one of my favorite songs of all time. Basically, Dolly can do no wrong. She’s got a pretty wide variety on Blue Smoke, too. Covers, classics, and new stuff that leans to the pop country sound of today.

I was really excited to see Lykke Li’s new album, I Never Listen, up on First Listen. I heard “No Rest For The Wicked” a couple weeks ago, and liked it immediately.

Wounded Rhymes was such a dark, powerful, slightly scandalous album, and I really enjoyed it, but am looking forward to this more familiar sound from Lykke Li. “Gunshot” is an early favorite. It has this great 80s sound that catches you off guard.

Nikki Nack, the third album from tUnE-yArDs, is out there too. I haven’t listened too closely yet to Merrill Garbus’s latest, but I expect weird, poptastic tracks with worldly influences.

Lastly, I haven’t made it to Lighght, the newest from Kishi Bashi, at all yet, but look forward to giving it a listen. If you like strings, I recommend you do as well.

Happy listening.

Update: Chet Faker was on World Cafe on April 30. I always enjoy hearing an artist talk about their music firsthand, so take a listen.

music mondays: spring sounds

IT’S FINALLY STARTING TO FEEL LIKE SPRING. I still had to scrape my windshield this morning, but it’s currently 62° and I WILL NOT be wearing a coat this evening. Take that, Mother Nature.

When spring finally starts to truly emerge, I always want something light and fun to listen to. Cue the folk pop tracks.

NPR has been streaming Nickel Creek‘s new album, so I’ve been getting my fill before it actually comes out. Really enjoying it, but I’ll save most of the Nickel Creek reviewing for after I see them in May (!!!). “Destination” is an early favorite, as well as their cover of “Hayloft”.

Mountain Man is this super folksy female trio. I’ve listened to them in the past and saw them a few years ago when they were touring with Feist as her backup singers. They wore these kinda crazy-looking long, drapey dresses and did weird hand dancing. But I liked them. So when I heard that one of the girls, Amelia, had teamed up with electronic producer, Nicholas Sanborn, I was pretty interested. Together they are Sylvan Esso and I’ve been playing these two songs on repeat lately:

The Columbus-based band Saintseneca seems perched to reach some significant indie attention levels. I’m happy to see them do well, having caught various stages of their growth. I wasn’t a big fan of Saintseneca when I first heard them four years ago. I really wanted to like them, but their sound wasn’t as dynamic then and their songs all seemed to merge together (in the bad way). NPR is also streaming their new album, Dark Arc, out tomorrow. Check out “Happy Alone”:

This last group isn’t a folk band, but they’re still providing a great soundtrack as spring tries to get sprung. A few weeks ago, I starred one of St. Paul and the Broken Bones‘s songs on a SXSW playlist, without really paying attention to who the group was. Then, as I was driving into work one morning, I heard an interview with the lead singer, Paul Janeway, and snippets of a few more tracks. I was hooked. These guys are from Alabama and make soul music that feeds my Motown-loving ears.

“Call Me” was the first song I heard.

“Broken Bones and Pocket Change” is a great example of what this band can do.

There aren’t any good videos of it, but “It’s Midnight” is a short, soulful track, and one of my favorites. St. Paul will be crooning away tomorrow night at Skully’s. I was really looking forward to seeing them at Rumba, knowing it would be an intimate show with a packed house (and cheaper beer). They quickly sold out tickets then moved the show to Skully’s to accommodate. Good for the band, a little sad for me.

Happy listening and happier spring!

 

help me name a new column

As I said in my last post, I moved recently. It was initially a pretty awful situation. I’d been living in the same house for 3 years, with two roommates, and a terrible human for a landlord. Fortunately, I could look past the landlord and really liked where I lived. We knew the landlord was selling the house and that we’d have to move out, but were expecting that to happen in the spring or summer. BUT, being a terrible human, our landlord never kept us up-to-date on the timing. So on February 1, the new landlord sent us an email saying he had closed on the house and we had 30 days to GTFO. But he was really sorry and blah blah blah.

New landlord’s nice dressing and well-groomed beard quickly lost their charm.

I was able to find a place (thanks Jackie!) in my same neighborhood. Actually, I only moved two blocks. Two blocks in the opposite direction than I would have liked, but I was in a bind. Overall, I like my place. Sure, I had to compromise on some parts because of the short notice, but I’m satisfied.

So, that’s the background info. Should also say that I’m no longer living with roommates. So far, I love living alone (I knew that I would). Now that I’m doing this new part of life, I want to document it. So I want to start a new column, like Music Mondays, devoted to living alone for the first time, and all the facets of that.

Aspects I hope to focus on:

  • encounters with neighbors
  • not being consumed by my introversion
  • being a single, 20-something white girl in a largely low-income, minority neighborhood
  • tips/tricks for hosting in a small apartment
  • sleeping through the noise of drag racing and city buses

Here’s where I need your help. I’m struggling to come up with a name for this column. I’m not sad about my situation and I don’t want some sappy title like SINGLE AND LOVING IT :)<3!!!!  or FLYING SOLO. Woof. I asked some friends for their input, and so far my favorite suggestion, from my friend Mal, is “All This Shit is Mine”. Unfortunately, that’s just too long. But it does reflect the attitude I have with this new phase: I’m a self-sustaining human and most of the time I really like my life.

Hopefully that gives you an idea. Feel free to comment with any suggestions you have. Looking forward to sharing life.

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