the importance of having good jams

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Note: I wrote this sometime last week during finals.

So I'm in the awful throes of the actual thesis paper from hell which I had no other choice but to pick over spending the evening with a cute boy, caught up in the worst-timed writers' block possible, and in the midst of stress-induced weeping and occasional moments of self-loathing, I have called an audible and am going to now blog about something random and slightly frivolous. Apologies in advance, my brain hurts and I ate a GoGurt for dinner. Let me also apologize to future Jenny for that one.

I'm sure everyone can think of at least one weirdo who they've met in their lives, who claims they "don't really listen to music". I can conjure up my weirdo easily. This person also liked cats a lot (like, even beyond the level of I Trained My Cat To Use The Toilet And Also We Take Walks In The Cat Stroller) and wasn't fond of showering, which are possible correlations. Not liking music is like, not liking baby otters. It's really, really, really weird to not like baby otters, and it's really, really, really weird to not like music.

I'm slightly biased in some ways, having been a complete and utter band geek in high school who spent a huge amount of time playing, performing, and thinking about music. But even outside of that, music has always been tied intimately to who I am and how I reconcile myself to the world. It's the same for everyone in some capacity, because anyone can enjoy music. Same way anyone can enjoy baby otters--er, okay, I'm finished with that simile.

I remember listening to Louis Armstrong singing "What A Wonderful World" from a boombox on my first day of second grade. In middle school my two best girlfriends and I had Eminem's Marshall Mathers LP memorized from back to front for some insane reason, thanks to our weekly ritual trading on the bus and sneaky CD players under pillows, on school nights after the lights had to be off. 

High school was the age of "I Miss You" by Blink-182, and all their other songs, and a big dose of Dashboard Confessional, Neutral Milk Hotel, the Postal Service, and bad emo bands. The Shins provided the initial spark between me and my first boyfriend. I completely wore out my Jack's Mannequin, Colbie Caillat, and Eli Young Band C.Ds in my car during college, driving around town or back and forth across Texas to see friends and family who were in the beginning phases of being far away. I sang Taylor Swift at the top of my lungs with my friends, danced to Lady Gaga and Girl Talk, and fell asleep to Sufjan Stevens, all other times listening to as much and everything in between.

It would take forever to go into all my favorites, being one of those annoying people who says they "love all music", but here are some of what I've been feeling lately.

So Jealous, by Tegan and Sara.

We'll start with a throwback. I first got into Tegan and Sara toward the end of high school, and this album was on serious, near-religious repeat during my first semester of college. Not that it's some ultra-deep, life-changing music, but more like: energetic, popppy, with super catchy hooks. If you like Grey's Anatomy, I'm pretty sure So Jealous was half of the first season's soundtrack. I've been listening to this walking around the city and on stuffy train/bus rides, just because this album takes me right back to the first few months of being 18 and a little college fish in a big university pond, earphones jammed in as I walked across a green campus to my classes on crisp autumn mornings. You're welcome.

Sample lyrics: 
You say you don't see any part of me/To love in all this mess and I know
You take the good and all the bad that comes with me

Tell me you love me like /You think you want to be loved
Pull on my hand and say/Please let's just make it this way

Stick your heart inside of my chest/Keep it warm here while we rest
Tell me this love hasn't changed me, hasn't changed me at all

I wake up exhausted, it's not morning/It's back to sleep to re-dream me
We're alone and we're happy/But there you are, angry with me

Boxer, by The National

Unlike So Jealous, this one requires patience to get at its loveliness. That may be the wrong word. This is a great album, but I find that's it's great in a different way to every fan of The National. In some interview the lead singer (Matt something...I'm being Internet lazy and not looking it up) said people described his voice in terms of whiskey brands. The deepness of his voice is almost haunting, though I hate to use the cliche, and sometimes dolorous, a word I love to use. The lyrics are perfectly obscure and poetic, but not quite ornate--something more appreciated by literature and art lovers, I'm sure. The most accessible songs are probably "Fake Empire" and "Slow Show". 

Copious amounts of strings, horns, guitars, percussion elements (and a Sufjan Stevens feature on one song, so I'm beyond sold). I've been a big fan of this particular album since it first came out in '07, but have recently re-discovered it since my move into Big Girl World. No surprise, as amid the other heartbreaks of life and getting older, it laments the inevitability of the "unmagnificent lives of adults". This is an album of anxiety yet beauty, resonating elegance, and melancholy sprinkled with a little sweetness and laughter.

Sample lyrics:
Tiptoe through our shiny city/With our diamond slippers on
Do our gay ballet on ice/Bluebirds on our shoulders
We're half-awake in a fake empire

You get mistaken for strangers by your own friends
When you pass them at night under the silver, silvery Citibank lights
Arm in arm in arm and eyes and eyes glazing under

Get inside their clothes/With my green gloves
Watch their videos in their chairs/Get inside their beds
With my green gloves/Get inside their heads
Love their loves

I wanna hurry home to you/Put on a slow, dumb show for you/And crack you up
You know I dreamed about you, for twenty-nine years before I saw you

Days, by Real Estate

Okay, let's stick with the (subtle) melancholia for just another album. This album was in the background for this whole last summer for me. The opener "Easy" tells you everything you need to know about this one. Um, how cheesy was that? Moving on, to: great jangling guitars that like to strum, seamless loops, smooth rhythms, and reverb. Lyrically, Days is wistful, lighter than Boxer but dealing in similar themes of domestic life in modern, middle America. Altogether it's not complex, but it's layered beautifully and makes for real easy listening. See what I did there.

I don't know much else about this band except that I think that they're from New Jersey, and from the way the leader singer sings, I think I would like him to be my shy, sometimes hesitant boyfriend who is also really cool. I would also like to throw a beach party somewhere in Massachusetts and have this going in the background. Overall, this a nice, effortless-yet-effort-full record.

Sample lyrics:
Back when we had it so easy/I would surrender completely
I built a shelter for green beings/In the sun, in the sun

All those wasted miles/All those aimless drives/Through green aisles
Our careless lifestyle/It was not so unwise

It was all out of tune/You're entering this town
Yourself a weeping clown/You play along to songs written for you

Jealous lovers, left behind/Wonder years passed me by
Far away but still on my mind/I think of you from time to time

Whew, all for now. Hopefully you enjoyed this one, hopefully you can take these good jams with you, and hopefully I'll post these from time to time!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Here's where I've been lately:

In summer class, one being a short fiction seminar (which I loved) and the other being a literature elective (which I didn't love). One inspired me, one consumed me with stress and self-doubt. More on stress and how I need better coping mechanisms later.

In the company of one of my best friends, who came up from her graduate school in Tennessee (Physician Assistant School, which is super hardcore and beats up my program for its lunch money). I loved having her here, and was reminded yet again how much I really miss being near my best friends. We were complete tourists and it was a blast, and we also played Cinderella for two nights in a row going to a glitzy, speakeasy-modeled cocktail lounge named after a line in a T.S. Eliot poem in Wicker Park where each drink sets you back $14 and they don't let you use your cell phone inside. It was glorious. Riding in the train on my way back from dropping her off at the airport, I wondered, is this what your early 20s is all about? Everyone speckled across the country, coming and going when you can and saying your hellos and goodbyes in airports. But I thought, how sweet it is for life to be this way - the sweetness in the few moments with your favorite people, whether in new cities or in video calls or in handwritten letters, to be able to have those precious, funny moments of life at all.

In the company of men. Yes, 2012 is surely the year to end all years, as I have been going on regular dates with interesting, fun men who pay for dinner and have jobs downtown. Only jokes about the apocalypse. But, yeah, this is all new and exciting for me, and all I really have to say that, it is new and exciting. There's nothing serious yet, but refreshingly, this is exactly where I want to be. I'm having fun.

At my new internship with Young Chicago Authors. YCA is a nonprofit, arts and youth outreach that works with young people all over Chicago through poetry slams, workshops, after-school programs, and in-school residencies. I really love what they do. If you have some time, check out these videos to get a good idea of YCA does, or rather, allows to be nurtured and expressed. This was a documentary filmed about the biggest festival they put on each year, but they do a ton of other projects and programs as well.

Yes, YCA is a part of great things. I'm in Development, which entails writing/drafting grant proposals, thank you letters, and a lot of other stuff which all boils down to asking potential donors/sponsors for money because this is how a nonprofit works. After three weeks I am really enjoying myself - the people are really nice, and as I said I really love what YCA is all about, and above all I have a lot of work to do and responsibility. It's another new aspect of my life where I am so grateful for the drive and direction. Plus it's a short bus ride out to Wicker Park in view of the skyline every morning, and the bakery nearby has bacon-chocolate cookies served to you by cute hipster boys. Yeah.

And finally, I have been elsewhere. Clearly, elsewhere from this blog, but also elsewhere in the city and this little bubble of my life inside the little bubble of Earth. I've been so busy and done so many random things since my last post that I can't quite remember all the little updates, but as it should be. I'm feeling infinitely more settled, content, excited, and happy than when I first got out here. I find that I'm coming into my own, and breathing deeply. I'm still homesick; that never goes away. But, for our purposes here, I just wanted to let you know that, lately, life is good. Life is grand, actually.

Like us on Facebook

Flickr Images