misc / and so i explode

one-hundred thirty-nine.

Kate Wax
Dust Collision

: Now, you know I'm not huge on reading music criticism, and I try hard not to let it affect my perception of an album (though admittedly I appreciate when an artist I love is lauded). However, Pitchfork describes this album as follows: "Damage courses throughout [it], and it's not the easiest listen, but like most difficult albums, it's eventually rewarding, and her vortex of haywire synths, quaking guitar, and unsettling helium squawks is powerfully magnetic" -- and that is bang on.

I am trying, really really hard, to get through all the albums I downloaded in 2011 and never unzipped. Simultaneously, however, I am trying just as hard to savour everything I unzip -- slowly go through the album, not just skim through the tracks. The combination of this led to me giving Kate Wax more of a chance than I think I would have at another point in my life. And thank. fucking. god. that I did. Because this album is incredible, and it is doing things to my insides (especially the creative bits of them) that sparkle.

Coming off of True Detective last week, there was something in me that still ached for that creepy, unsettling, not-quite-pieced-together vibe -- I didn't know Kate Wax would fulfil it when I unzipped her, though; because I downloaded it three years ago, I thought it might be a pop album or something...nope. It was weird and I wasn't sure I liked it, but my resolution meant I was going to give it a chance. And as I read Sebald for class with this album on my headphones, with increasing enjoyment of the background-noise strangeness of the first 3 tracks, "Archetype" came on. That track was not eventual. It was instant. I replayed it for the rest of the day. And the next day, when I was writing, I was too distracted by the work to press 'back,' and so the rest of the album played, and it was excellent. Horrifying, inspiring, hitting all the parts that needed to be hit, right then.

There is nothing like music that comes along at the exact right time. I don't think I would have appreciated this album the same way if I'd listened to it immediately -- I don't think it would have had the same import. I'm also pretty fucking ecstatic that I stuck with it: it's the kind of album I wouldn't have even bothered to put on my iPod under other circumstances -- and it breaks my heart, a little, to think of all the albums I never gave the same chance.

I'll just tell myself it wasn't their time, and that maybe one day I will go back through my library and find more magic.

Because this is magic.
k hanna

one-hundred and thirty-nine

Sufjan Stevens

This song played during a lovely driving-in-a-car-at-night scene in the Veronica Mars movie.       I know, I know, it's been done, but there is something about the trope--sleepy-eyed friends in car (usually speeding over a bridge or though a tunnel) windows down, wind blowing hair around the passenger's faces, flashes of light bouncing over the windshield--paired with the perfect, soaring song.

When the first notes of "Chicago" filled the darkened movie theater, my heart lifted.  I recognized the song, but couldn't quite place it--that NBC-chimes-sounding opening and that swell of strings...I knew it, but didn't.

When I figured out it was Sufjan Stevens (thanks, internets!), I thought: of course! and, I totally have that album!  Do you ever think you have something on your hard drive, only to discover that you only have one song?!  That some past version of you deemed the rest of the album uninteresting or unlistenable or boring and so deleted it save for that one song?  This comes back to the sometimes-thought that some songs can only really be heard at precisely the right moment.
k hanna

one-hundred and thirty-eight

St. Vincent
St. Vincent

I just finished reading Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch and have that choked up, bereft feeling that comes with reaching the end of a really good book.  The Goldfinch--and I know you've experienced this too--had so much heft.  The thing was an three pound beast; my shoulders sagged under the weight of it when I crammed it into my backpack; my wrists and forearms would get pins and needles from holding it up on my lap.  That and it was a kind of mental weight.  Something I carried around with me at the back of my mind the entire time I read it.

This, in a roundabout way (as with so many of my posts, and discussions of music; music cannot always stand on its own--it is so tied up with other thoughts and feelings and moments and memories) brings me to St. Vincent.  For some reason, she has always been relegated to the periphery (in that I listen to her music, but never really connect to it) until now.  It was in listening to her newest album that something finally clicked (and the thing was, I had so wanted it to click before...that, on downloading this album, I had kind of given up? that I presumed another cursory listen, a brief connection to a few songs, before, finally, deletion from my iPod).  Sometimes with music (as with so many things) everything has to align.

"And isn't that the point of things--beautiful things--that they connect you to some larger beauty?"

This music (and the words above--a quotation from the last few pages of The Goldfinch) fills me up.  Makes me feel something beyond myself.  I listened to album on repeat while doing my laundry and reading (I had, either sensibly or stupidly, decided to lug the beast along with four over-stuffed bags of laundry to the laundromat) and, by Sunday night, listened with headphones clamped on, sound turned way up (too high, probably...but it was one of those moments where the sound was just so beautiful that I couldn't seem to help it) and my limbs loose with wine. 

After almost posting another song off of the album, I came back to "Regret"...I couldn't help but appreciate the fact that regret is such a pervasive theme in Tartt's novel.  "Regret the words I've bitten/More than, the ones I ever said"...as someone who has such a hard time getting words out...negotiating that chasm between a thought and voice...how could this line not instantly pierce me--like an arrow through the heart.  "Regret" is the song that pulled me in (right from that jittery guitar line at the beginning); the one that made me (gushingly) love St. Vincent.
misc / heart on my sleeve

one-hundred thirty-eight.

Ain't Nobody
Clare Maguire
Light After Dark

: I don't want to comment on having missed this place. I just want to fall back into it, head first, so to that end, here I go stepping out of my temporary apartment in Budapest, three years ago almost exactly. Despite not having traveled alone since then, it's still among my most loved travel traditions: the first day I arrive in a new city, jetlagged and dazzled, I drop my suitcase and step outside with my camera, headphones [and albums specially downloaded for the trip], and a map. And then I just start walking. Fall into the city, head first.

Budapest was not, at the time, the most pleasant experience of my life. I was in an exceptionally raw, new place -- and something shifted in me about two days in. I had expected to spend the trip as a sort of romantic getaway with myself -- reconnect with myself, figure out what I wanted, take the time to bask in the glow of Fibs. Instead, I got smashed in the face with a whole delirious host of adult uncertainties. The trip was not a celebration of my independence, but a big question mark at the end of who I was at all. I fell apart. I am still putting myself back together. It will take me a lifetime.

But, three years have passed, a whole delirious host of adult changes in the interim, and when I look back on Budapest (or 2011, proper) now, I no longer see it as this dead zone of a year. As I wrote about with 2009. In fact, these days, I find myself returning to those years more often than the ones where I felt most intensely. That may have something to do with metaphysical emotional ~states that I won't get into right now, but I think it also has a lot to do with the fact that I was feeling a lot. Things were potent. I just didn't know how to -- or that I was -- processing them.

Thank god for music. Thank god for being able to return, in some small way, to that space, and to know that I am both of that time, in that time -- and far removed from it.

This album -- electro-Britpop, soulful powerful female vocals -- was on my headphones before I knew how to process: as I stepped out of the antique storefront below my apartment and onto Vámház körút. And when I hear it now, I am back there -- but more than that, I am back there at the beginning, before that paradigm shift, before I knew I was going to break. I was in Budapest and I was whole and this was my soundtrack. And what a soundtrack. It stands alone; it's a song I've always wanted to share with you independent of the story attached. But it is vibrant: it is a song that encapsulates that wholeness, in me. It was a song dedicated to what had loved me (more accurately, what I had loved) up to that point, an anthem against being in a relationship, a direct hit to the heart of cherry cocaine.

Now, I've changed (obviously; you know better than anyone!) -- but that independent, fiery little passionista is still raging in me somewhere. And a few weeks ago, when I broke out this song again, I felt her rise --- & it is a violent relief.

Part of me aches to be back in Budapest -- Europe, period. The scent of melting snow in late February, that freshness in the air, the promise of spring -- all that, wrapped around grey. Grey skies, grey architecture, grey streets, and Europe, despite its urban beauty, is always grey in my memory. Not negatively, at all -- and maybe that's the point. That grey feeling I get, when I am all too adult -- it's not all bad. It's mixed up, but there's a lot still there.

There is a lot here, too.
pinkamena diane pie

one-hundred and thirty-seven

Just My Kind
The Julie Ruin
Run Fast

I can't remember the last time I was THIS EXCITED about a new album; the last time I bought an album THE DAY IT CAME OUT; the last time I listened to album from start to finish over and over and over again.

Kathleen Hanna.


I can't shut up about her, I think she is JUST GREAT...from what I've culled from interviews, her riot grrrl-era zines, and Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and The Julie Ruin song lyrics...she inspires me to be stronger, more self-assured and to more confidently cement and state personal opinions.

The Julie Ruin is a solo-project-turned-band and Kathleen Hanna's return to music after years of suffering from, and being treated for, Lyme Disease.  Run Fast is awe-some...at turns dark and personal, but with a running thread of unselfconscious FUN.

"Just My Kind" makes me very, very giddy.  I have to be careful when I listen to it in public because I have a habit of bouncing in place (but then, when I do inevitably bounce, I think, who cares, this is a fucking good song, haha).  I love that it kind of has a 60s girl-group vibe with an infectious bongo beat; that it is an unabashed shout-it-from-the-rooftops love song:

I like your voice on the phone
The way you sleep at night
I like the way I know that
You're right by my side

You're the best of the crowd
And I'm proud to be your girl

This song is dedicated to you <3
misc / and so i explode

one-hundred thirty-seven.

V V Brown
Samson & Delilah

: Don't worry. Whoever said music is dead (me? a few times actually? I repent, I repent) was full-on lying. Or at least amazingly wrong.
The process of CD-buying might be, or at least in stasis (my Used CD store post still unwritten...gah), but new music -- music meant for, derived from, the 21st century -- the year 2013 specifically -- is alive. Vibrantly, unsettlingly, passionately, and somewhat electronically alive.

And it is V V Brown's valiantly claimed territory.

There's been hype about her that I've conveniently never encountered, so when I saw this weird album cover on NAR, I had no preconceptions, no associations -- just that magical part of the universe pushing me to click "read more" (how many fantastic artists I've never found because I was too busy/not in the headspace/found the artwork too unappealing to read more, I can't even fathom). You can look up the hype if you want, but I prefer my ignorance. I prefer that feeling I had when I hit play on the embedded video for "The Apple."

I thought, or was scared, that music was going the boring, grating, insanely pretentious direction of Grimes -- hipster bullshit without substance, people playing with sounds without a point. I didn't think music like this existed. I didn't think a voice could sound like that. I didn't think there was anything that could musically exemplify the year 2013, in all its delusion, chaos, technological dependence and interpersonal destruction, pretentia, and beauty, beauty, beauty, pain, the stunning overwhelming power of the skyscraper and the cityscape, the certainty that everything is going to hell and the knowledge that something else will rise from those ashes, and the very PRESENCE, PRESENT, of it all, the inescapable nature of the year 2013, of everything it contains.

I could pick any song from the album, because each pulls on a different PRESENT tendril, each unravels the sweater a little further, each leaves us that little bit closer to naked, emotionally raw. Samson & Delilah should be consumed as a whole. But I will post "Samson" if only because it's the first single, because it's as good a start as any. The center does not hold, in these songs. You'll need to listen to them all.

I am ecstatic, ecstatic, to have found her.
misc / books books books books

one-hundred thirty-six. [THEME: literature to music]

Catcher in the Rye
Catcher in the Rye

: I could never stand The Catcher in the Rye. Ever. Holden Caulfield holds zero appeal as far as I'm concerned. I read my dad's beat-up red edition when I was a teenager -- I even remember where; it was during the summer, staying at my aunt's in Kingston -- and, because I didn't know any better in high school, because I thought that canonized literature was universally appealing, because no one actually ever told me differently: I assumed that I had to like it. As a teenager and as now, I defined myself by my love of reading -- so clearly, that meant I had to like the classics. So I did, all of them, even if I actually hated them.

I try to remember to mention this to my classes whenever possible: you don't have to like what I like. Just because you hate something we read in class doesn't mean you're stupid, or that I'm boring, or that books generally are boring, or anything except that you didn't like what we read in class. And if it was a classic? All the better; flout the canon! But, high-school-teacher rants aside: The Catcher in the Rye sucks. A lot of canon literature sucks, in my eyes, anyway; I find so much of it...boring. Pedantic; oversaturated. I genuinely believe that many people read [much of] it because they never had the revelation I did -- that you actually get to define your personal tastes! You don't have to be a Chaucer scholar by extension of your love of reading; in fact, there are already way too many of them. Find what you love, let it rip you up, let it take you into the parts of yourself you had no idea existed, let it sweep you into new levels of consciousness and understanding ------------ or, sure, force yourself to read yet another Thomas Hardy tome. Your choice.

Sometimes I forget why I want to be an English teacher. Last year, I got full-on amnesia. "Remind me again," I'm sure I said over many a glass of wine, "why I teach books to people who hate to read? I hate listening to them whine; they hate listening to me talk; we're all miserable. What's the point?"And it didn't get much better this year, even faced with fairly delectable (well, as delectable as you can get, these days) classes. What's the point what's the point? Why are we reading books and discussing them? Who cares about character sketches and plot structure in the long run? whyyyyyyyyyyyy?

I first heard this song in the fall of my second year of teaching, and I just fucking loved it -- despite the title. It's too much fun: that bouncy, disco-lite-meets-Talking-Heads vibe (iii-iii-ii-iiiii! "Psycho Killer" throwbacks, anyone?); the beautiful earworm of a chorus; the lyrics (much as they emulate Caulfield); and even though I didn't like the book on which it's based, I was excited that it was a typical high school book -- because at that time, I was so excited about teaching. I only had one English course, and it was basically flawless, and I wished constantly that I could have a courseload full of English classes I could inspire and push and intelligently discuss books with.
Wishes come true (so do nightmares) and here I sit, two years later with a schedule of English courses, and had I written this post when it was intended to be posted (instead of a week later), it would have been a different story. I would have had a lot more to say about how pointless teaching English is, currently. I would have wondered whether I should throw in the passion towel and teach grammar & comprehension questions, dissociatedly.

Wait, now.
I don't have to teach The Catcher in the Rye.

And even if, one day, I do ------- I don't have to teach it their way.
When teaching goes wrong for me, it hurts in ways it doesn't hurt many other English teachers -- because for some reason unfathomable to me, those English teachers don't read (or they read the books they liked in high school because their teachers said they should, and the cycle perpetuates), or at least, they don't read with every fibre of themselves on fire; they don't care that their students leave their classes without passionately loving a book, a character, a sentence. They don't understand the obvious: the answer to my question, earlier, "what's the point?"
The point is that WE love books. Not all of them. Probably not the same ones as our students. But we love them. And we should teach, above all else, that love. Because anything else is details, is superfluous. We should show that we care. We should malign Caulfield's arrogance, praise his individuality, or not teach him altogether because the book sucks ---- but whatever we do, we should attach ourselves to it, passionately. And not every student will respond; most won't. But they sure as fuck won't ever respond to comprehension questions.

So what is the point? Why do we keep reading? Why should I keep teaching?
Because books are in our nature. Or if not books, stories -- and my medium of choice for storytelling is books, and that's what I can set on fire in a classroom, but either way ----- we, as a species, love to read. To listen. To imagine and visualize. To actively engage with characters and words and plot twists.
But more importantly, because books are in my nature.

I don't have to like everything I teach or every minute of my job; that'd be impossible. But I can take a moment to remember when I first heard this song -- back when I was bright-eyed and optimistic -- and pull that person back into me. Not all of her, because I've learned a lot in two years -- but some. That passion -- not for teaching, but for literature. Because, honestly, I am a reader before I'm a teacher --- and if literature does anything, it helps us put things in perspective.
k hanna

one-hundred and thirty six (theme: literature to music)

Pure Imagination
Fiona Apple
Pure Imagination-Single

I hesitated before posting this song because:

1. it was written for a movie adaptation of Roald Dahl's 1964 novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
2. it is a cover of the original sung by Gene Wilder
3. it is used in an advertisement for an American-based Mexican restaurant
4.1. the above-mentioned advertisement is also a gone-viral public service announcement--a criticism of current methods of food production

All that aside.
I am so excited to share it.
This song is beautiful.
Fiona Apple's cover is a twenty-first century adaptation; replete with electronic blips and beeps that add an altogether-new layer of creepiness.  As much as I have always loved this song (I have come back to it during particular bouts of depression), I have always found it a little unsettling (and, simultaneously, delightful).  I love the breadth of this version...the orchestra; the way the music swells and shrinks; the familiarity of Fiona Apple's voice.

The original composition--even if it is so very entwined with a movie adaptation--takes its inspiration from a wonderful book.
I think what I have always liked about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory--and Roald Dahl's books in general--is that they can be quite...horrifying.  He creates these vivid, fantastical lands and characters, but they are not without their ugliness.  I think that that is an important facet of good children's literature; these are the books that stay with us.

floria sigismondi / beauty trapped

one-hundred thirty-five.

Something Good
Bella Nova
Beautiful Star

: When I was downloading insane amounts of music from sites like mp3.com, back in 2005 when I first got highspeed internet, I came across some absolutely stunning gems. Stunning gems, by artists who seemed to...disappear into nothing. Bella Nova? Maybe you know them, but I certainly didn't then, and it seems like they've got nothing going on now. No Facebook or Soundcloud, no Wikipedia entry -- just a vague description on their CDBaby page:
"A trip-hop soul duo with infectious melodies ala Zero7 and Koop combining organic instruments such as Rhodes and classic Fender amps with new school electronic production. Bella Nova is at the forefront of a new breed of electro-pop."

...god, doesn't that sound amazing?! What happened to them??
Maybe they just got lost in the surge of new electro-pop (funny to think of it being a "new breed" back in 2004, but I guess this song is ubdeed a precursor), or maybe they only had an album's worth of music in them. Who knows? I don't even have the rest of the album, just this lone song downloaded from a spree years and years ago. I've always loved it; it screams "September" to me -- the beginning of fall. The beginning of something good. And it's a love song, but today, I am listening to it as a teacher at the start of a school year: a maybe. A what if. "An inclination that I am starting something good", this year. Maybe. Just maybe.

Sometimes I write posts to tell a story, sometimes to share a song. This time, it's to share a song -- this stunning gem of a song, by a band who seemed to disappear, and what a shame, SHAME that is. At least they left this behind.