Monthly Archives: October 2013

Girl power: Female singers who, well, rock

I went through this really long phase of listening to only bands with lead male singers. This wasn’t a conscious decisions; it’s just nothing with a female singer had really jumped out at me for some time. But since last fall, I’ve discovered a handful of really solid/catchy female-led acts to obsess over.

CHVRCHES

999517_10151635433996743_1229253383_nThis summer we went to see this electronic band from Scotland, CHVRCHES (pronounced “churches”), that I had discovered on the Internet and that barely anyone had heard of. Most of their music was found on YouTube at the time. Their first album, “The Bones of What You Believe,” just came out a couple of weeks ago. But like all things cool, New Yorkers were on top of it and the show was packed. The bass was way too loud — thank goodness for bringing ear plugs, like old people — but still really fun. And although I already knew I loved the lead singer, Lauren Mayberry, because of our mutual adoration of cats and similar petite frames, her Glaswegian accent and politeness really won me over.

Then she wrote an op-ed for The Guardian about online misogyny toward female singers, I decided she is extra-super awesome.

Purity Ring

248479_10151235235441743_218374958_nLast fall we went to see the Canadian electronic duo Purity Ring (I sense an ironically religious theme to these bands’ names) in Brooklyn, which is what made me interested in the indie electronica genre and was how I was introduced to CHVRCHES, to be fair. Anyway, the girl member, Megan James, has a great voice. And these songs are hard to get out of your head. Especially this one:

I probably don’t need to tell you about Purity Ring anyway, since they played at ACL this past weekend and everything, so they are basically famous.

MS MR

WEBOKMG_7840Even though I saw these two open for Grouplove last year right after Hurricane Sandy, I forgot to take a photo of them. This New York-based (woohoo) musical duo sing sort of jazzy/soul-inspired pop music. Mostly I remember being mesmerized by Lizzy Plapinger’s overwhelming coolness. I mean, look at the hair! She has this crazy hair and she was wearing deep red lipstick and this flapper-style dress and singing her heart out, and all I could think is, “I will never in my life be that cool.” I know you’re thinking, “purple hair, Rebecca, really?” You had to be there, I guess.

Here’s a video in which blue-haired Lizzy looks cool in a retro diner and cheerleaders inexplicably vomit glitter.

She & Him

She-Him-she-and-him-22649560-560-457Oh, like you didn’t know this was coming. Indie darlings Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward are adorable. Their music is fluffy and adorable and vintage-inspired, making it perfect for a July 4 weekend outdoor concert in Central Park. And, oh, hey! I went to that concert. It was hot and humid, but Zooey looked flawless, as always. (Fun fact: People seem to have a strong association between me and Zooey-related things, although I do not care for her TV show, “New Girl.” Like they’ll be all, “Zooey D is growing out her bangs?!? You know who needs to hear about this? Rebecca!” I kid you not. But I do care deeply about Zooey’s bangs, I do.)

I know it doesn’t fit with the theme of this post, but my main tiff with She & Him is that poor M. Ward gets shoved into the background a lot. Check out his solo stuff or work with indie supergroup Monsters of Folk to get a real feel for this guy’s talents.

Anyway, She & Him did a second encore at their Central Park concert this summer, and performed a cover of “I Put A Spell On You” that was, well, spellbinding. Zooey held on to those notes like they were going to run away! The woman is talented. And flawless. Have I mentioned that yet?

Lorde

658ca3de6c101564273c1f1260977347So in case you live under a rock (or don’t obsess over these things, like I do), you know that this 16-year-old New Zealand-based singer-songwriter has been taking the music charts by storm with her single “Royals.” While this seems very random to me, it is a great song. Her whole album, “Pure Heroine,” is worth a listen. Or two. Or three. I have to go with the majority on this one: girl’s got talent.

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Twenty-four.

I turn 24 in 36 minutes and counting. I keep waiting for Hagrid to break down my door at midnight and tell me that Hogwarts is terribly sorry, I’ve had magical powers this whole time and my owl just got quite lost all those years ago.

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In all seriousness, I hate drawing attention to myself on my birthday, but it is always a weird awakening this whole aging thing. I distinctly remember turning 10 because the waiter at whatever restaurant I picked said something like “You’ve reached the two-digit years!” and I realized it is very likely I will only be in the “two-digits” for the rest of my life. Weird. I’ll probably feel nauseous when I turn 30.

24 is a pretty insignificant age. You still have to pay extra for renting a car, as Sean and I are reminded as we rent a car for our highly anticipated Highway 1/Pacific Coast Highway tour of California from San Diego to San Francisco this upcoming week.

Half of me can’t believe I’m already 24. I feel like just yesterday I was attending high school marching band practice, applying to colleges, studying for AP exams, shopping for my prom dress. But at the same time, I feel a lot older than 24 sometimes. I’m already married — a rarity for a 20-something in this city — I have a college degree, I’m entering my third year of full-time employment (say what?!?), I don’t live with my parents, I’m responsible for the care of another life (a cat’s, but still). I help pay for rent, bills, groceries, insurance. I recycle. I pick up prescriptions from the pharmacy. That makes me feel so old.

I never feel so much 24 as when I stay up too late on a weeknight or go to happy hour on a Tuesday or eat cookies for “second breakfast” at work or buy yet another coat because you can never have too many and it’s FALL!!! I mean, married and employed or not, you’re only 24 once. When I find out other people are buying houses in the suburbs or are having babies (and are more or less my age), I never feel so young and confused by their extremely responsible behavior.

 

Even though it’s technically our belated “summer” vacation, I feel like this California trip is partially a really big birthday present. I’m so, so excited to not think about work for a full 10 days and see the Pacific Ocean, eat amazing fish tacos, discover new craft breweries, learn more about American history, plow through another book on the long flight there and back, and generally get a break from the “East Coast” culture.

Last night when I had just stepped into the shower, Sean was trying to brush his teeth and the ENTIRE GLASS SHELF of the medicine cabinet somehow got stuck to the toothpaste tube, knocking a whole bunch of stuff off the shelf, and breaking my water glass in the process. As Sean angrily swept up the glass shards, he banged his head really hard on the sharp corner of the medicine cabinet door. Sign: It’s time for vacation.

This evening, as I left the office (late, I might add) from the subway, a rat practically RAN ACROSS MY TOES and dove into a pile of trash. At a busy intersection of Lexington in midtown! There were a million people around! How is this possible?!? Sign: It’s time for vacation.

Tonight, as Sean was loading our last pre-vacation round of laundry into the machines, a mouse stared at him curiously. In our basement. Sign: It’s time for vacation.

I love New York, I really do, but what’s up with the perpetual dog-urine-and-pot smell?!? There’s a really great skit in the third season of Portlandia when the temporary mayor of Portland complains that the city isn’t a real city because of this, that, and the other reason. At one point, people start dumping buckets of urine on the streets of Portland to give it that authentic, urine-ish urban smell. Soooo accurate.

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(I used to naively assume this was just dog urine, but one day I was walking home in my own neighborhood, and a homeless, handicapped man started peeing RIGHT NEXT TO ME on the side of the road. I stupidly did a double-take and practically sprinted away in horrific realization. It’s not like I was the only person walking by either.)

Anyway. Time to escape this place for a bit. I’m so excited to explore San Diego and San Francisco. I’m a little wary of L.A., but I’m more than willing to give it a shot.

Tomorrow we’re celebrating with a fancy dinner at Le Parisien. Because you can never go wrong with French cuisine on your special day.

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Don’t you love New York in the fall?

“It makes me want to buy new school supplies. I’d buy you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” – the best movie ever (or maybe not, but one of my personal favorites, so pretty close to the best ever)

You-ve-Got-Mail-meg-ryan-281782_400_270

I feel like I talk about You’ve Got Mail too often, and I apologize, but it is my go-to “comfort” movie. You know how people have comfort foods? Chicken noodle soup, mashed potatoes, baked mac ‘n cheese — usually something not so good for your body, but perfect for your soul? That’s what “comfort” movies are. They might not be life-changing or Oscar-worthy, but they fill your insides with warm happiness and make you go back for seconds.

And usually you know the whole film’s script by heart. *raises hand*

I have seen You’ve Got Mail what must be at least 50 times since it came out in 1998, despite never having actually owned this film on VHS or DVD. I just borrow it from the library or rent it at least once a year, and retreat to my happy place. There is just so much to love about this movie! But for simplicity’s sake, I’ve narrowed it down to 10 reasons.

12021906341. Meg Ryan’s character, Kathleen Kelley, owns the most adorable children’s book store. And her attitude about children and reading is just so great. “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.”

2. This is one of those movies that romanticizes New York, to borrow Woody Allen’s words, “all out of proportion.” And I love it! You can even see a nod to how unrealistically romanticized it is when Kathleen is opening up her shop at the beginning of the film and says, all love-struck, “Don’t you just love New York in the fall? Isn’t today just a beautiful day?” and in the background, a cab driver and another automobile driver are shouting their lungs out at one another. Just like the real New York.

It shows all the charming aspects of the city — the picturesque change of seasons, the cozily decorated shop windows, the bustling street fairs and farmers’ markets, the tiny cafes where you could meet the love of your life — and none of the grime or grit. The Upper West Side, where the story takes place, is truly lovely. Those brownstones!

3. Having now lived in the city for more than a year, it’s fun to spot New York institutions that are still around and seen in the movie. There’s H&H Bagels, Grey’s Papaya, and Cafe Lalo, for starters. It’s also very true to life that even though it’s easy to hate on corporate coffee like Starbucks, everyone seems to go there before work (isn’t it ironic that Kathleen is so bent out of shape about megachain Fox Books moving into the neighborhood, but happily pays for an overpriced Starbucks latte?). I don’t go to Starbucks often, but when I do, it’s usually a block from my office, and I always run into one of my co-workers.

“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are, can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee, but an absolutely defining sense of self. Tall! Decaf! Cappuccino!”

(I’m either a tall, skinny dirty chai latte or a tall blonde coffee, black. Coffee orders sound kind of like you are ordering up people. Don’t think about it too much.)

tumblr_mu0v7rs8IN1sjd89no7_12804. I adore the nods to Pride and Prejudice in the story. It’s not just that the characters discuss the book (or that it is one of my favorites), it’s that their feud-turned-romance parallels the story of Darcy and Elizabeth, right down to their contrasting socioeconomic classes and lifestyles. The movie is also a nod to the black-and-white holiday film The Shop Around the Corner, in which two shop associates unknowingly pen love letters to one another. So that’s cute.

5. Meg Ryan’s character’s adorable, shabby chic apartment! Her adorably simple and monochrome wardrobe! I’m pretty sure this fictional character is responsible for my lifelong obsession with cardigans and a brief stint with turtlenecks, too. Did I mention her adorable children’s bookstore? So much adorable!

6. Tom Hanks in this movie is just so impossibly charming. When I think of Tom Hanks, I usually think of him as a “dad” figure because I’ve grown up with him as an actor and he’s done some kids’ movies, and honestly, he’s not the stereotypical hunky Hollywood romantic lead. He’s got that goofy curly hair and the big laugh, but Nora Ephron’s dialogue just makes him impossible not to like!

I mean, that line! The heartbreaking line. You know the one. “Well… if I hadn’t been Fox Books and you hadn’t been The Shop Around the Corner, and you and I had just, well, met… I would have asked for your number, and I wouldn’t have been able to wait twenty-four hours before calling you and saying, ‘Hey, how about… oh, how about some coffee or, you know, drinks or dinner or a movie… for as long as we both shall live?'” Hello! Marry him. Marry him right now, Kathleen Kelley. You could totally see falling for his character via email, and then just deciding once you meet him that the goofy hair isn’t so bad. Also, I hear the guy does a great Woody the Cowboy impression.

7. I love how outdated all the technology in this movie is now. Dial-up internet! AOL Instant Messenger! Macbooks that could double as door stops! People sitting at home waiting for their land lines to ring! References to VCRs! The next time you watch this movie, pay special attention to the fact that the only two programs Kathleen and Joe appear to have on their laptops is a shortcut to email and another to AOL’s strangely primitive form of “the Internet.” No word processing programs, no Solitaire. Nothing else. That really makes me laugh.

8. Also some of the New York stuff is outdated, too. Mainly the great line from Christina, the 20-something sales associate at The Shop Around the Corner: “If we fold, I won’t be able to find a new part-time job. And then I won’t be able to afford my rent, and I’ll have to move! To Brooklyn!” Said with much horror. Brooklyn is where all the cool kids go these days, Christina. And it’s actually becoming more expensive to live there at a faster rate than Manhattan. Who would’ve thunk?

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9. Speaking of Brooklyn, I’m pretty sure Kathleen’s boyfriend in this movie is the original hipster. Here he is with a typewriter! No laptops for George! He here is celebrating the virtues of radio over television! Here he is using phrases like “Jeffersonian purity” to describe independent businesses! Here he is fearful of dating Republicans! I bet he lives in Williamsburg these days.

10. The ending to this movie is just so perfect. Not to spoil it for you or anything, but it is a rom-com, and *big gasp* THE TWO MAIN CHARACTERS END UP TOGETHER. And no other movie’s ending makes me feel quite so warm and fuzzy inside except for maybe the end of Breakfast at Tiffany’s because not only do Holly Golightly and Paul Varjak kiss in the rain, Holly also recovers her lost cat, Cat, from the dumpster in the alley. This ending mainly moves me because I find it very upsetting that she would disown her cat and throw him out into the alley, so I am deeply relieved when she finds him again. (Oh, by the way, there are no alleys in Manhattan!!! Way to go, Hollywood writers.)

Anyway, the ending to You’ve Got Mail involves a dog, so it’s also a winner.

you've got mail ending

Do you have a favorite movie you could watch again and again? Even if you know it isn’t exactly a “good” movie, per say?

I’m also a huge sucker for the Little Women version with Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon. I especially love Christian Bale in it as Laurie, a fact that disgusts most young men in my life, who prefer to think of him only as Batman these days.

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