Why’s it so hard to accept the party is over?

Hi. I missed my blog, so I’m posting my long-ass end-of-year music email for 2017 here. Sending love to you and yours for the year ahead.


First, a few hopes for pop music in 2018:
  • More Latinx crossover hits. I am ready for Juanes to return to his “Dámelo” roots and get Rihanna on a track. Just don’t let DJ Khaled produce.
  • Come to think of it, more Rihanna everywhere. For someone who didn’t release an album, 2017 was Rihanna’s year. I would like to see this trend continue.
  • A collaboration between Khalid and Zayn. The world needs these young men of color to be in their feelings TOGETHER.
  • More unapologetically queer pop music. Hayley Kiyoko, Halsey, Lauren Jauregui, Shura, Kehlani…it’s a good time for openly gay/bisexual pop stars to profess lady love in the mainstream. I would love to see this translate to the pop country scene too, on principle.
  • More solo female rappers getting #1’s. Cardi B was the first to top the Billboard since Lauryn Hill NINETEEN 👏🏻 FUCKING 👏🏻 YEARS 👏🏻 AGO. I am ready for Princess Nokia, Young M.A., Cardi, and literally anyone but Iggy Azalea to ascend to the heights of Top 40 success, thank you.
Anyway, on to the main event.

Favorite Albums of 2017

1. Ctrl, SZA

Sometimes an album drops and it seems like all of your friends and all of the famous people you follow on Instagram that feel like your friends got together to listen to it at the same time and forgot to invite you. That sums up my June, when SZA released Ctrl and it took me a full month to listen to it. This, despite the fact that I a) loved the song “Consideration” from Rihanna’s ANTI, on which SZA is featured, and b) wrote a blog post telling my readers (parents, tbh) to listen to the lead single, “Drew Barrymore,” back in February. I don’t know. Sometimes I just don’t have my act together.

2017 brought me a job reviewing college application essays prior to their submission. I can’t tell you how often I exhorted high school students to scrap the general in favor of the ultra-specific. Ctrl lays bare why I did so–the easiest way to connect with your audience is to speak your truth, as only you can. Everything about this album, from the beats to the lyrics to the pleading, yearning, sometimes bizarre vocals, feels so uniquely SZA. And yet, it also feels like she crawled into her listeners’ brains to mine their personal experiences for material. Lines like, “I get so lonely/I forget what I’m worth/We get so lonely/We pretend that this works/I’m so ashamed of myself/Think I need therapy,” or “Fearing not growin’ up/Keeping me up at night/Am I doing enough?/Feel like I’m wasting time,” are eminently relatable; SZA gives them shape, cadence, and rhythm unlike anyone else I’ve ever heard.

It’s worth noting, of course, that there are parts of this album that are not universal. When I listened to “20 Something,” the final track, I cried as I heard SZA’s voice come through the speakers, aching with a kind of weary fear: “Hopin’ my 20 somethings won’t end/Hopin’ to keep the rest of my friends/Prayin’ the 20 somethings don’t kill me, kill me.” In a world that continues to treat Black life with passive dismissal at best but active violence just as often, these words reverberate like a plea for the mere dignity of being allowed to age, to gain some solid footing in the world, to get to the point where you can pay for your own damn phone plan. It’s a reminder that honoring the sanctity of Black life means letting it be mundane and messy, and to do so without the threatening backdrop of violence.

I love every track on Ctrl except “Doves in the Wind” because I truly cannot stand Kendrick Lamar’s verse. Skipping that song, I listened to this album at least once a day every day for two months straight and I would do it all over again.

2. Melodrama, Lorde

Most of my memories from living in Pittsburgh center around being cold (it was the Polar Vortex and the radiator in my room only worked some of the time, after much coaxing). Every day I would yank my thick black Timbs over my feet and pray they would grip the ice on the sidewalk that descended at a merciless 30 degree angle for several blocks from my front door to the bus stop. I only fell once. That winter was the era of Beyoncé, which filtered through my ear buds on heavy rotation for months. The only other album that regularly snatched a spot on my playlist? Lorde’s Pure Heroine. It was perfectly suited to the bitter cold that seeped into every last corner of my body–somehow imagining myself among defiant teenagers counting coins on the subway in New Zealand allowed me to conjure a little bit of heat to shield me between bus transfers.

Melodrama shows us what happens when the kids pooling their money for a night out grow up, fall in love, and get dumped. But this isn’t just any old breakup album–it’s a sparkling, messy chronicle of becoming an adult through all sorts of missteps in love and lust. At one point, Lorde leans heavily into the hyperbole that befits the early days of a relationship she already knows is doomed: “Our thing progresses/I call and you come through/Blow all my friendships/To sit in hell with you/But we’re the greatest/They’ll hang us in the Louvre.” In a moment that perfectly captures the irreverence that makes this album great, she adds, “Down the back/But who cares/Still the Louvre.” Lorde knows that stepping into adulthood can feel so serious as to actually feel absurd. On Melodrama, she grapples with the tension of honoring the intensity of it all without losing her grip on reality.

3. Take Me Apart, Kelela

Kelela’s EP Hallucinogen was among my favorite non-2016 albums of 2016, and I was thus anxiously awaiting the release of her debut full-length album. I will spare you the verbosity of the prior album “reviews” here. As I aimlessly scrolled through the comments on Kelela’s video for “LMK,” the lead single from this album, I came across this perfect summary from MsLoupe: “Kelela come thru rnb goddess of the future….. she took it back to the 90s and then took us forward to 2053 AD.” That’s exactly it. Kelela manages to occupy past and future simultaneously, as though she were a shapeshifter or time traveler meant to usher us in to a brand new musical era so comforting in its familiarity. Press Rewind and you’ll be on a goddamn spaceship to a totally novel sonic universe, with Kelela at the helm.

4. DAMN., Kendrick Lamar

I would say that nine times out of 10, I don’t like Kendrick Lamar’s features (see: Ctrl). On his own albums, the ones where he gets to develop his ideas and flows for more than a couple measures, he much more readily achieves the greatness his reputation suggests. Sometimes an artist is so critically-acclaimed, one wonders whether praise of their newest release is just a perfunctory exercise among music critics. In Lamar’s case, after the great Grammy Heist (see what I did there) of 2014 that robbed good kid M.A.A.D. city of its win for Best Rap Album, I wouldn’t be mad if the critics were pandering. But DAMN. really is as good as everyone says it is.

Kendrick Lamar lives, breathes, and makes art in the liminal space between sin and salvation. Perhaps more than any other of his contemporaries, he lays bare the discomfort of trying to situate himself in the context of gargantuan fame without becoming a villain. DAMN. is filled with lots of clever rhymes, word plays, and flows, but where the album gains its power is in the notion that Lamar can’t simply outsmart his discomfort. The tension will always remain–it’s why “HUMBLE.” sounds like he’s flexing and effacing himself. The key for him is to continue building the connection to something bigger than than whatever promises fame appears to offer, to turn instead to God, his people, and the unrelenting demands of personal growth.

5. Aromanticism, Moses Sumney

It took me awhile to warm up to this album, held at bay for the same reason I ultimately came to love it: Moses Sumney wants to keep whoever is listening at arm’s distance. The instrumentation is often minimalist, which allows Sumney’s crisp, high, and melancholic voice to stand out in stark relief. In defiance of the lovers who would not make space for him in their lives, Sumney decided to carve that space for himself, one where his pain is given the acknowledgement it deserves. The album is bleak in a way that robs the listener of the simple narrative that being spurned by a lover makes you more resilient. Perhaps that becomes true in the end, but when you’re wading through the muck of unending rejection there is great power in asserting the full weight of your sadness. Sumney does so to chilling effect with a stunning falsetto that pierces through all the bullshit and says what we all know to be true: it stings like a motherfucker to feel like you’re not wanted.

6. American Teen, Khalid

This summer, I went to my five year college reunion and hung out with my friend’s 16-year-old daughter. After we parted ways, we tried to maintain a Snapchat streak and I failed miserably after two days because I am old and boring. Apparently 27 is the age when teens become utterly incomprehensible…or so I thought, until I found myself driving around town and belting out the words, “Yeah we’re just young, dumb, and broke, but we still got love to give” with the utmost sincerity. A 19-year-old was reflecting my exact state of mind right back to me.

Khalid blurs the line between earnestness and ennui in the way only a teenager could. That youthful blend of tenderness, hope, vulnerability, and the desire to still be cool somehow is so effective at reminding the old cynics that all any of us are trying to do is find the people that make our hearts a little less lonely, even if we stumble. Take away the smart phones and subtweets that place Khalid’s debut in the present moment, and you’ve simply got a timeless, thoughtful meditation on what it’s like to test the waters of love and romance for the first time.

7. The Nashville Sound, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

Before I listened to this album, I got a text from my dad that said, “Jason has a new song about amphetamines.” I like that my dad feels like he’s on a first name basis with Jason Isbell, and that he thinks that my life is so replete with amphetamines that it was worth singling out that particular detail to nudge me to listen to the album ASAP. Indeed, the opening track “Last of My Kind” (the one with the amphetamines) hooked me for its melancholy beauty. Jason Isbell’s songwriting is always stunningly poetic, gruesome, and self-effacing; that quality, mixed with his clear, resonant vocals and enchanting guitar work, is the why he sits high on my list of favorite musicians.

Isbell has never shied away from grappling with social issues, but in his first release since last year’s election, his songwriting is that much more direct. In “White Man’s World,” he sings about racism as an existential threat to humanity not only for its inherent violence but also for the way it distorts, twists, and haunts the souls of those who benefit from it–like him. There’s no pandering or posturing here, just a clear articulation of the notion that liberation for one is tied up in liberation for all. Will it surprise anyone to learn that the first time I listened to this album, I started crying at track four, the aforementioned “White Man’s World,” and didn’t stop until the end of track six, “Anxiety”? I’m very predictable.

This isn’t my favorite of Isbell’s work, but like his other albums, there is a fascinating interplay between personal and societal pain throughout this album, with little glimmers of romance and hope or something like it mixed in. Perhaps not in style but certainly in substance, Jason Isbell is a clear inheritor of the Springsteen legacy. Maybe that’s why I love him so much.

8. MASSEDUCTION, St. Vincent

I’ll admit it: there are a lot of solo female musicians that I like more in theory than I do in practice. People like Grimes or Angel Olsen deserve a lot of praise for their multifaceted talents, even if I don’t particularly enjoy their music. St. Vincent always fell into this category for me–I thought it was badass that there was this weird, kind of spooky guitar savant making rock’n’roll records that I nonetheless didn’t want to listen to. I confess to being more interested in St. Vincent as a celesbian than a musician, which makes me feel like an asshole.

But this album hooked me. I read a review that noted it’s the poppiest of St. Vincent’s albums, but that that was less about her selling out than it was about her making pop formulas bend to her style. It’s like St. Vincent surveyed the pop landscape to pick and choose what was worth transmogrifying into a catchy, bizarre, and haunting meditation on the rock’n’roll standbys of sex and drugs (with a few bits of social commentary thrown in). I like this album because it’s unsettling and messy despite St. Vincent’s glossy technical mastery.

9. Fin, Syd

If Justin Bieber is the fuck boy I love to hate, Syd is the fuckboi I love to love. The world desperately needed a super gay R&B album filled with sultry slow jams and songs that are just the right mix of corny/sexy that make you roll your eyes a little even as you turn the volume up. Syd’s voice is as airy as can be, a quality she knows can disarm any love interest’s defenses when wielded with confidence. Her equal parts bravado and self-doubt make her alluring and approachable. Syd’s mastered what I like to think of as “seduction inception”–a deftness at pursuing whoever she’s chasing that’s so effective the girl will end up thinking going home together was her idea all along.

10. Drunk, Thundercat

Would I have included this album in my Top 10 were it not for the fact that it reignited my whole family’s appreciation for Michael McDonald? Yes, but that certainly helped its case. I know it’s extremely passé to use the word “groovy,” but honestly, that’s the best way to describe Thundercat’s bass lines. He settles into a groove and explores it, bringing the listener along as he carves out the landscape of each riff and each song. His vocals are at times manic, tongue-in-cheek, or resigned, and occasionally his style of singing belies the content of his lyrics, forcing a deeper listen. In a course of a single day, a person might play a bunch of video games, muse about the earth disintegrating at breakneck speed, plan a vacation, and consider the possibility of imminent death. That is to say, each day is filled with moments and ideas both big and small, and in 2017, the quotidian has expanded to encompass an almost incomprehensible amount of destruction. Thundercat places The Big Stuff in this album squarely where it belongs: right in the middle of everything else. And then he makes it sound groovy.

And the rest…
 

11. SweetSexySavage, Kehlani
12. Not Even Happiness, Julie Byrne
13. H.E.R., H.E.R.
14. Everybody Works, Jay Som
15. The Navigator, Hurray for the Riff Raff
16. 4:44, Jay Z
17. Rest, Charlotte Gainsbourg
18. 1992 (Deluxe), Princess Nokia
19. The Order of Time, Valerie June
20. Awaken, My Love!, Childish Gambino
21. Ash, Ibeyi
22. Plunge, Fever Ray
23. Process, Sampha
24. The Two of Us, Chloe x Halle
25. Rainbow, Kesha
26. I See You, The xx
27. Culture, Migos
28. FREE 6LACK, 6lack
29. Big Fish Theory, Vince Staples
30. Good For You, Aminé

These albums I appreciated for various reasons, but didn’t necessarily enjoy:
  • The Kid, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
  • A Crow Looked at Me, Mount Eerie
  • No Shape, Perfume Genius

Quick s/o to the disappointments, from “meh” to “utterly unlistenable”:

  • Everything Now, Arcade Fire
  • Black Origami, Jlin
  • The Ooz, King Krule (I want to know who is responsible for the massive amounts of critical acclaim this album has received because it is awful)
  • American Dream, LCD Soundsystem
  • No One Ever Really Dies, N.E.R.D.

Favorite Non-2017 Albums of 2017

  • Heavn (2016), Jamila Woods. For some reason I couldn’t get this on Tidal last year in time to include it on my list, but it’s fucking incredible.
  • ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones? (1999), Shakira. The rest of this album could be complete garbage and it would still be great because of “Ciega, Sordomuda.” Lucky for me, the whole thing is great.
  • Court & Spark (1974), Joni Mitchell. It would be too cliché if I said Blue.
  • True (2012), Solange. This album turned five this year and it continues to bang. Plus it gave me one of my favorite music videos (and songs) of all time.

Favorite Singles of 2017

Here’s a playlist for this, uh, eclectic mix of songs.
  1. “Despacito,” Luis Fonsi feat. Daddy Yankee. What could I possibly say about the perfection that is “Despacito” that hasn’t already been said through its 16-week-run at the top of the Billboard 100 and 4.6 BILLION YouTube views?
  2. “Praying,” Kesha. There has not been a single time that I’ve heard this song that I haven’t openly wept. Kesha’s voice is gorgeous, this song is heartbreaking, and I hope that every time she sings it the demons that birthed it get a little bit weaker.
  3. “Green Light,” Lorde. If you’ve made it this far, then you know there’s nothing I love more than some messy feelings set to a catchy beat. Thanks, Lorde.
  4. “The Weekend,” SZA. I just want everyone to know that Justin Timberlake wrote this song.
  5. “Cut to the Feeling,” Carly Rae Jepsen. First, HI DAD. Second, as much as I love “Despacito,” Kevin Fallon at the Daily Beast rightly noted that CRJ should have had one of the songs of the summer but didn’t because “straight people ruin everything.” Unassailable argument.
  6. “Bodak Yellow,” Cardi B. When I die, please write, “If I see you and I don’t speak, that means I don’t fuck with you” on my tombstone.
  7. “LOVE.,” Kendrick Lamar. The combination of Zacari and Kendrick Lamar is very, very good–tender, thoughtful, and earnest. It’s K Dot at his softest and I love it.
  8. “Young, Dumb & Broke,” Khalid. Tag yourself: I am all three.
  9. “Strangers,” Halsey feat. Lauren Jauregui. Please someone tell the showrunners behind The L Word reboot to make this the theme song. Side note: it says a lot about Halsey that she rose like a phoenix from the ashes of collaborating with the Chainsmokers to make so many fucking bops this year.
  10. “I’m Better,” Missy Elliott feat. Lamb. All-time queen of futuristic hip-hop. This song would be better without Lamb imho, so here’s hoping that Missy gets a solo #1 in 2018.

Favorite Music Videos of 2017

  1. “Despacito,” Luis Fonsi feat. Daddy Yankee. We already know everyone on God’s green earth loves this song, so there’s not much more to say here except: this video is the perfect bisexual male fantasy and no one can tell me after watching it that Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee aren’t desperately in love with each other.
  2. “Lemon,” N.E.R.D. feat. Rihanna. Does having Rihanna shave your head make you an incredible dancer? I’m not sure, but Mette Towley could convince me that’s true. She absolutely steals the show here.
  3. “Green Light,” Lorde. Lorde is the reigning queen of awkward dancing (sorry CRJ). Here, she brings her rage and resentment to life in sometimes explosive, sometimes sputtering movements over the course of an evening dedicated to hitting the town alone after a breakup.
  4. “Feelings,” Hayley Kiyoko. This video is very goofy, charming, and seductive. I love that Kiyoko directs most (all?) of her own videos, and that this one was shot in a single take. It complements the song’s notion of being such an emotional dork that you always come on too strong (#relatable).
  5. “Boys,” Charli XCX. I’m sure a lot could be said about how effectively this video does or does not subvert the male gaze, but instead I will say: Khalid with puppies! Aminé’s impish smile! Joe Jonas’ insatiable love of pancakes! Mostly boys are the worst but I like this video anyway.
  6. “New York,” St. Vincent. Annie Clark delivers exactly the type of aesthetic feast you would expect: minimalist scenes awash in bright colors and an eclectic mix of textures. Amid all of it, she looks unflinchingly into the camera with a hardened expression that somehow simultaneously hides and betrays her heartbreak.
  7. “Family Feud,” Jay Z. Part of the premise of this 8-minute, Ava Duvernay-directed video is that a multiracial group of women revises and updates the U.S. Constitution in 2050, with a grown-up Blue Ivy Carter at the helm. Even if the video didn’t feature so many of my favorite celebs, I would love it for the concept alone. Can we make Blue Ivy president, like, yesterday?
  8. “HUMBLE.,” Kendrick Lamar. After the first chorus, where Lamar exhorts his listener to “Sit down/Be Humble,” the shot pans to him sitting with his friends at a table akin to that in the Last Supper. Comparing yourself to Jesus will always be the ultimate flex.
  9. “Drew Barrymore,” SZA. What I love about this video over, say, “The Weekend,” is that it really captures the sense of SZA just being on the cusp of superstardom. It’s at once silly, grungy, and melancholic. Plus it features a cameo from the actual Drew Barrymore.
  10. “LMK,” Kelela. Another choice YouTube comment from Namir Fearce: “FUTURISTIC R&B // FAITH EVANS/JAGGED EDGE VIDEO IN 2098 A.D.”

Favorite Random Musical Moments of 2017

Favorite Concerts of 2017

  1. SZA, The Gothic Theater, Englewood, CO.
  2. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, with Frank Turner and Amanda Shires, Red Rocks Ampitheatre, Morrison, CO.
  3. Arcade Fire, Pepsi Center, Denver, CO.
  4. The Drive-By Truckers, Ogden Theater, Denver, CO.
  5. Lucero with Paper Bird, Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver, CO.
2018 resolution: go to concerts, like, at all.
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Keep getting up when you hit the ground.

This week has been painful. You know by now, of course, that the Senate met under cover of night to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act along party lines (with the exception of Rand Paul, R-KY). Protests in support of the ACA have been popping up across the country, including here in Colorado, where roughly 600,000 people will lose coverage gained through the state exchange and Medicaid expansion, key hallmarks of the federal law. The fear over how to pay for your medical bills, especially when you have a preexisting condition, is what economic anxiety looks like (despite what you may have heard).

Do

I suggest you find a protest in your city or town, flood your elected officials’ phones with calls in support of the ACA, and show up at in-person district events to let your senators and representatives know we won’t be returning to a time when people with preexisting conditions couldn’t get health care (looking at you, Mike Coffman).

We are staring down the inauguration of a deeply loathsome man. It is worse than any horror movie. We will have to fight and resist every day he sits in office, and likely for many years and lifetimes to come. Let’s start with a march, and then carry on from there. As you know, the Women’s March on Washington is expected to draw up to 250,000 women to the National Mall next Saturday, January 21, to mobilize in support of gender, racial, and economic justice (meet the women who are organizing the march). If you can’t make it to D.C., there are dozens of Sister Marches being organized across the country. Please go!

Read

I’m about seven pages into Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, love of my life. My reading pace has slowed since finishing In the Darkroom, which I mentioned last week, in large part because I’m still reeling from that book’s discussion of the rise of Hungarian fascism/nationalism that’s now firmly taking hold in the country’s parliament.

One of the key components of Hungarian identity, as Faludi describes it, is the constant postulating of Hungary as a historical loser, rendered impotent and maimed after the Treaty of Trianon. That notion of perpetual victimhood leaves Hungarians to reach into the past to crystallize a mythic, nostalgic, “true” Hungarian identity, based in Magyar ethnicity, that prospered before outside forces (read, Jews and immigrants) supposedly contributed to the country’s economic decline in the 20th century. The deep anti-Semitism and hostility to Syrian refugees that pervade Hungary’s current sociopolitical landscape suggest a chilling return to the country’s fascist past, where the project of Making Hungary Great (Again?) was carried out largely through ethnic cleansing. The simplest way to cast your country as a winner? Get rid of everyone you deem a loser.

Which leads me back to Springsteen. If you’ve heard even one Bruce Springsteen song, then you’ve heard a kind of homegrown lore about the blue-collar white Americans who are just trying to make ends meet, do right by their families, and have little bit of fun. These are the types of people, we’re told, voted for trump after getting fed up with feeling like losers. Nevermind, of course, that trump represents the billionaire elite that orchestrate and profit from the white working-class’s continued economic despair. White elites have spent centuries stoking such pervasive racial animus in this country that it doesn’t sting white folks to lose to a white billionaire. It stings to lose–or think you’re losing–compared to someone who isn’t white.

What’s always gotten me about Springsteen is that embedded in the mythology of the down-on-his-luck everyman are clear villains: the shrugging VA liaison; the ruthless factory foreman; a corrupt and vengeful judiciary; hell, even American militarism itself. Springsteen has always used his music to empathize with the people he grew up around, and even to reckon with his own past, but he does so without scapegoating the people of color who often fare much worse in real life than the antiheroes of his vast body of work.

All this is to say, if you’re trying to win, you better be sure who your real enemies are.


Here’s some more stuff to read this week if you, like me, want to be extremely sad:

On the fracturing of the 20th century’s global geopolitical structures:

On the incoming regime’s conflicts of interest:

On the depressing parade of clowns that are the cabinet confirmation hearings:

On the questions feminism should make us ask:

On the too-little-too-late stance of the established left:

On a Sisyphean struggle against police brutality:

And finally, on why we can’t go back:

  • Abortion’s Deadly DIY Past Could Be Its Future by Rebecca Traister.

    “That the right wing’s focus is not simply opposition to abortion but also reducing women’s access to contraception gives away the game: Theirs is an effort to keep women from making decisions about when, if, and under what circumstances to have children, and thereby to keep them from exerting agency over their families, their work, their partnerships, their sex lives, and their bodies. That the restrictions on access most profoundly affect those with the fewest resources means that abortion is not just about women’s equality; it is at the very heart of economic and racial inequality.”

Listen

If you’ve spent every day since November 8th needing to give yourself a mirror pep-talk: Never Give Up” by Sia.

If you’ve sworn off man-children for 2017 and also forever: A double-feature of “Guys My Age” and “Fuqboi” by Hey Violet.

If you’re ready to stick it to someone who doesn’t appreciate you: Tired of Talking” by Léon.

If you’re all about embracing your imperfections and are also a little bit of a Francophile: Tilted” by Christine and the Queens.

If you wish you had caught the first half of the Formation World Tour: Sugar Symphony EP by Chloe x Halle.

Look

I’m going to go see Hidden Figures this week. Maybe you will too!

Amita Swadhin Testifies Against Jeff Sessions, reminds the world that far too many children continue to suffer from abuse with little to no structural support from the state.

Shea Diamond sings an a cappella version of “I Am Her” in front of a backdrop featuring Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

You should absolutely watch the trailer for I Am Not Your Negro, constructed from James Baldwin’s writings and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson.

Jeanine Michna-Bales takes us Along the Old Underground Railroad, One Photo at a Time.

 

Until next time, y’all.

Let’s try something new.

At the end of every year, my brother sends a long email to an ever-widening circle of friends and family recapping his year in music. He lists his favorite albums, tracks, and concerts, sprinkling in discoveries from another time or era that made their way into his musical lexicon in that particular year. It’s been a delight to read for the past seven or so years, and in 2016 he finally inspired me to tackle a similar challenge. I’ll spare the greater internet (ha) what mostly ended up being a 3,000 word treatise on the joint sublimity of the Knowles sisters and try to do something a little different here.

At the beginning of every year, I tell myself, “This will be the year I finally listen to new music/watch the hip new TV shows/see a single movie!” With the exception of a massive cramming session during December 2016 where I listened to approximately 25 new-ish albums, I fail miserably at this task each time. I also tell myself that I’ll finally start writing in that long-neglected blog I’ve let languish in some far off corner of the web, my memory jolted by a form email from WordPress that managed to pummel through my spam filters.

I’m a person who does things in fits and starts, but as my late 20’s lurk around the corner (shudder), I’m going to give my best effort to becoming one of those fabled people who do things consistently, for longer than six months. I had such a good time writing that long 2016 music email that I realized perhaps I could join my goal of becoming a more Cultured Person™ with that of writing anything at all, and so the idea for this series was born. In many ways, it’s a riff off of the Ann Friedman Weekly (to which I encourage all to subscribe) in that I’ll be making some recommendations based on what I’m reading, watching, and listening to in a given week, with some of my commentary interspersed. Maybe there will be other sections too! Who knows. This is all an experiment at making myself engage more consistently with art, others’ as much as my own. I’ll make it up as I go.

Without any further ado, let’s get into it.

Do

Turns out as I was writing this, a bunch of activist-oriented stuff floated to the fore. Go figure! Here’s some stuff you can do if you’re feeling extremely blue that there are only 11 short days until the incoming administration begins to rip our already-in-shambles democracy asunder.

If you have 5 minutes:

  • Check out the Sister District Project and sign up to volunteer. The new organization aims to mobilize activists and voters in blue districts to support their comrades in red districts to build progressive power at the local and state levels.
  • Consider how you might participate in the Anti-Inauguration. Might I suggest heeding The Call from the Movement for Black Lives as a place to start?

If you have 15 minutes:

If you have 30 minutes or more:

  • Get up to speed on effective political advocacy. I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the Indivisible Guide, a clear, straightforward outline for how to engage in defensive activism against a racist, neo-fascist policy agenda.
  • Follow Rewire Media’s legislative tracker, which documents, among other things: proposed legislation restricting reproductive justice; so-called “religious freedom” bills that allow businesses exemptions from complying with nondiscrimination laws; and nefarious “bathroom bills” that enshrine social and economic discrimination against trans and gender-non-conforming individuals.

Read

If you’re looking for a novel:

  • I recommend Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It’s a sweeping chronicle of the interwoven lineages of two Ghanaian half-sisters, one of whom marries an English slave trader and the other who is sold into bondage. This book is stunning in its scope and complexity, and Gyasi’s matter-of-fact prose is at once nuanced, compassionate, and unrelenting.

If non-fiction is more your speed:

  • Check out In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi. On its surface, the book is about the author’s Hungarian Jewish father who undergoes sexual reassignment surgery in her 70’s. But deeper than that, Faludi grapples with what it means to forge an identity at the nexus of gender, religion, and nationalism, and what relationship (if any) our present selves have to the past or the “truth.”

If you’re more of a multiple-browser-tabs-open kinda person:

Listen

If you’re a girl who likes girls (romantically or otherwise): Citrine EP by Hayley Kiyoko.

If you’re into sexy, smooth-talking, and kinda minimalist hip-hop: Ego Death by The Internet.

If you want to honor the late, great Carrie Fisher’s give-no-fucks attitude about mental illness: Out of the Garden by Tancred.

If your entire life is one big ’80s dancehall illusion: “Nothing’s Real” by Shura.

If you want a back-to-basics lesson on how to holler: Your Number” by Ayo Jay.

If you’ve been meaning to brush up on your seductive witchcraft skills: Potions” by SEE.

If you’re glad (like me) that someone finally wrote a song celebrating the A+ combo of little titties and a fat belly: Tomboy” by Princess Nokia.

Watch

If you were wondering what all this Golden Globe fuss is about: Moonlight, which is so gorgeous that it almost renders all other movies meaningless (I kid, kind of). I’ll be honest: I don’t really like movies that much. But occasionally I feel compelled to see something (in theaters!) and it just blows me away, makes me wonder why anyone allows anything that isn’t up to the same caliber to get produced in the first place. Moonlight was one of the few movies in recent memory that’s done that for me. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Bonus read: this interview with André Holland, who plays adult Kevin with an astonishing level of care and tenderness.

If you just finished setting up your monthly recurring donation to Planned Parenthood: BoJack Horseman, season 3, episode 6. (If you don’t have Netflix, I am sorry. Please enjoy this hilarious link to bojackhorseman.com instead.)

If you’re still using “password” for all your passwords: The Basics of Internet Security.

Until next time, y’all.