Tag Archives: music

My favorite things: Summer edition

Welcome to NYSummer is in full swing now, and as I sit here in shorts and a tank-top, I find it hard to believe just a few months ago I was bundled up in layer upon layer upon layer. Seasons are crazy, man. Especially when the only seasons you’ve previously known are hurricane season and not-hurricane season. (: I last did a roundup of current obsession in the dead of winter, so I figured it was high time for me to do another one.

1. The Morgan Library & Museum
Morgan LibraryOh my god, I am convinced this place was built just for me. I found out that JP Morgan — ya know, like the supah-famous banker — was a bit of a bibliophile and that nowadays his former home, library and study are a museum open to the public. And on Friday nights, you can get in for FREE-NINETY-NINE. My favorite price of admission! So of course I had to check this place out.

I was fully ready for a Beauty and the Beast-esque moment, in which I saw a glorious three-story private library filled with leather-bound, dusty tomes. But I got so, so much more out of my visit than that. First of all, the library room itself is GUH-OR-GOUS. The detail in the tapestry over the gargantuan fireplace and in the ceiling paintings is of the caliber typically reserved for cathedrals and other such places of worship. And who am I kidding? For me, visiting this library was a religious experience.

The museum is filled with exhibits about the history of the written word, including a Gutenberg Bible — Morgan owned three (!!!) — and a first edition of “The Star Spangled Banner” sheet music, complete with a typo. (Copy editors: important, since ALWAYS.) But the things that moved me most were handwritten drafts, edited galley proofs, journal entries, and personal letters from my favorite authors. The first one I saw was a draft of a Walt Whitman poem. I literally could not breathe when I saw it. I spent a whole semester in college studying Whitman, and to be less than a foot away from a piece of paper he touched was just too much.

I also saw scribbles from the likes of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and more! I thought my heart was going to explode, I really did. (Hello, Nerdiest Fangirl Ever, Party of One.) The thing that touched me the most about these artifacts were seeing how many revisions and insecurities these now-renowned writers had about their work. We like to think of genius as a gift, of something easy and lucky. But so many of the Great Literary Masterpieces are the product of So. Much. Hard. Work. I was completely floored.

The piece at the museum that was most memorable to me, however, was a collection of fragments of Sappho’s poetry recorded on papyrus in the third century B.C. I could not move when I saw those little scraps of paper. All I could think about was how absolutely incredible it is that humans have been creating stories for much more than 2,000 years, and what’s more, they’ve been so kind as to have them written down to share with others. And I still get to participate in this great scheme of storytelling, every time I edit a Word document or lay out a page in InDesign! I am humbled and blessed and awed. Human beings are amazing.

I just stood there in awe, and this stranger next to me also totally got it and was in awe, and then finally he said, “Absolutely incredible, isn’t it?” And I used all my energy to say, “Yes. Yes, it is.” HUMAN MOMENT OF CONNECTION, RIGHT THERE. I love museums.


2. Stay Gold – First Aid Kit

First-Aid-Kit-band-photosI saw these two lovely, folk-singing Swedish sisters at ACL in 2010 on my 21st birthday weekend. They were one of the morning performances, meaning they were not a big deal and pretty undiscovered. Two albums and four years later, they’ve come out with “Stay Gold,” and It. Is. Fantastic. I’ve been listening to it on repeat. These ladies have always had an incredible set of harmonious vocal chords, but they’ve really matured their songwriting with their latest album.

I saw them perform at Webster Hall a month or so ago, and I was blown away by how much their stage presence has developed. Also, they are adorable. They introduce their accompanists in unison and curtsy, etc. Love them! They make me long for a sister I can record albums with.

3. Friday Night Lights


I can’t believe I’m addicted to a TV show about a fictional high school football team. But at the same time, I totally can. Friday Night Lights is one of the best representations of Middle America I’ve ever seen. I love how Texas-centric this show is (cowboy boots, country music, BBQ, H-E-B, a Dairy Queen thinly disguised as an “Alamo Freeze”), but in so, so many ways the town of Dillon reminds me of my own hometown of Niceville. I mean, we did go to state semi-finals and finals. But in Florida, not Texas. (I sat next to our Lyla Garrity in my Algebra II class, I swear! She was dating an older guy on the football team, was on the cheerleading squad, was the perfectly adorable Christian girl-next-door type, and her dad owned all the McDonald’s in the county.) Part of the reason I never wanted to watch this show, despite both Netflix’s and friends’ recommendations, is because I went to every single home and away football game at my high school as a member of the marching band. Why would I want to watch an imaginary team play?

tumblr_le9sttBSLS1qbujvho1_400Thankfully, this show is about much more than football. My favorite character, hands down, is Tami Taylor, the coach’s wife. She is so flawless as a wife, a mother, a guidance counselor/principal, a friend, a community member, you get the idea. Connie Britton is killing it in this role. Even when Tami makes mistakes, as humans do, Connie’s performance makes me support her 112%. Also, to be honest, I love the way she talks! I wish I could call my husband “hon” and not sound like a total drag queen. Tami & Eric’s marriage is perhaps the most authentic, exemplary  marriage I’ve seen presented on TV. They have their hurdles and challenges, but they are such respectful, loving, and sacrificial partners to each other. I’m not even embarrassed to say I think that they are great role models, even though they’re not…you know…real.

On a slightly more lowbrow note, I wish someone had just said “Google image search ‘Tim Riggins'” to me about five years ago. Case. Closed. Sign me up to watch “this football show.”

tim rigginsSorry, but no one I knew in high school looked like THAT. That would be because this actor is at least five years older than me (nine, to be exact…Lawd!). Also Canadian, not Texan. Behold, the magical delusion of television!

Bonus points to Friday Night Lights for having a character go on to play for Texas A&M and for using actual Texas high school football footage as B-roll. One of my college friends (who, I would like to note, is one of two football players I’ve known who was not a total jerk) appears in the first season this way! Whooo.

But seriously, I cry an average of 1.2493 times per episode because the writing is so good/hormones. OK, and Coach Taylor’s speeches are the real deal. (He reminds me a lot of my high school band director. And I know music programs aren’t sports, but that man would either inspire or beat perfection and ambition into us, so help us, God. There are some teachers who view what they do as a job, and a select few others who few it as a vocation. You’ll know the latter when you meet them within minutes.) Living in a ginormous city, this makes me so nostalgic for small town life, where everyone not only knows everyone, but everyone genuinely cares about everyone. And where everyone is passionate about the same thing, at least for one night a week.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t stop watching this show. TEXAS FOREVER, JAY. TEXAS FOREVER, RIGS.

I’ll stop now, I swear.

riggins 3

riggins 4

OK, now I’m for-reals done. I swear I roll my eyes at redneck, alcoholic jocks in real life, but on TV…



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Reality check

I was working on a cheery best moments of 2013 post that I started last night, but I guess I never feel so motivated to write anything as when it emotionally affects me seriously.


Today I learned that one of my long-time very favorite musical artists, Conor Oberst, has been accused of raping a teenage fan when he was in his 20s a decade ago; he has publicly denied the allegations.

I was shocked to see this news, then sickened and saddened.

Immediately, everyone seemed to be picking sides. That seems pointless to me; no one other than the alleged victim and Conor know the truth. Either way, his career as a musician is tarnished. And most likely — because OK, I’m prone to believe her accusations — some poor girl has suffered the worst possible violation of her dignity as a human being short of having her life taken from her.

I have never idolized Conor Oberst in a role model sense. He has clearly suffered from both alcoholism and drug addictions, as well as what seems to be clinical depression. Sadly, at the height of his musical career — what I would peg around 2005 with the double-release of I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn — he was quite a mess on stage. The guy clearly needed professional help, and no one was offering it because all of us deluded young fans thought it was “inspiring” or whatever you want to call it to see someone “suffer for their art.”

What I’m saying is that the notion of this guy being capable of rape, especially involving an infatuated 16-year-old fan, does not seem like any kind of impossibility to me.

But it is not fun having to re-imagine one of your musical idols as a monster. All across the Internet (well, OK, the strange indie-fueled hurricane that is tumblr), I keep seeing other 20-somethings sharing similar sentiments.

conorIt sounds soooo cheesy to write down, but Bright Eyes (Conor Oberst’s primary musical project) has been a huge part of life. Loving Bright Eyes in high school shaped my musical taste into what it is today: a fierce devotion to independent labels and artists, with a special soft spot for the folksy alt-country/singer-songwriter revival scene. And the boy’s a poetic genius; I still contend that. I mean, come on, “We must blend into the choir, sing as static with the whole/We must memorize nine numbers and deny we have a soul/And in this endless race for property and privilege to be won, we must run, we must run, we must run”? I think that’s pretty clever.

I discovered Bright Eyes when I was 15, and truthfully, I’d never stopped listening to the albums. My friends and I wrote Bright Eyes lyrics on our school binders, listened to the latest singles on MySpace (MySpace!), and I even cut out a couple photos of Conor from a music magazine as part of a collage on a storage container. That I still have and use!

I have treasured every handwritten “thank you” I’ve received from Saddle Creek Records, the Omaha-based label Conor co-founded, in response to an online order. Bright Eyes songs found their way onto many a mix CD I gave to Sean when we first started dating; we contemplated “First Day of My Life” as our first dance for the wedding. A framed Bright Eyes at Radio City Music Hall poster features prominently in our living room. We must own five of the Bright Eyes album in MP3, CD, and vinyl format…and the whole catalog digitally, at least.

Bright Eyes was the quintessential mopey teenager music: hyper-emotional, hyper-sensitive, and dramatically real compared to the autotuned stuff you heard on the Top 40 radio station. Conor was again and again hyped as a “modern-day Bob Dylan”; I didn’t even know what lavish praise that was, or who Bob Dylan was really, I just knew Conor’s lyrics spoke to me in a way no music has communicated to me previously — about figuring out your own identity, wrestling with the troubling idea of the divine, the delicate balance between loneliness and self-imposed isolation. I did a lot of growing up listening to those albums. They were my companion on cross-country road trips from my hometown to college, during final exam cram sessions, and many a lazy summer afternoon.

And of course, Conor was at my first concert: Monster of Folk, an indie supergroup, at Stubb’s BBQ in Austin. And I saw Monsters of Folk again and later, for my birthday, Bright Eyes … on what was rumored to be their final tour, no less. I have a whole post of Bright Eyes-loving here. I had songs picked out that I would have to share with my future children one day and say nostalgic things like, “This is the song I listened to on repeat on the bus one snowy morning our first winter in New York that made think…” Short of having my favorite lyrics permanently etched into my skin, it’s hard to separate my life from those albums.

Maybe I care too much about music, but I feel betrayed, in some way.

I don’t think that having such allegations surface means that impact the music had on me and so many others is negated. But it is very difficult for me to separate the man fully from the music. The primary reason I was drawn to Bright Eyes is how deeply personal the songs sounded: you could hear Conor’s sighs and emotionally wavering voice (god, he had the sensitive heartbroken thing down).

I think the hardest thing about this whole ordeal for me has been realizing that as cynical as I am about our celebrity-obsessed culture and idol worship, I seem to have fallen a bit for it myself. I fear turning into a crazed, defensive fan, Michael Jackson fandom-style, rejoicing as he exits the courthouse following the “not-guilty” verdict. Apparently my weakness is not the beautiful faces that grace magazine covers, but rather, the comfortingly familiar voice coming through the headphones.

Anyhow, as a logical person and a woman, I think it’s absurd to automatically dismiss the allegations and disgusting to place the blame on a victim or brush it off as a mere cry for attention. I mean, really? Who blames a little-known singer-songwriter who is admittedly past the prime of his “popularity” (in quotes, because I know he only picked up in certain circles) for a crime that allegedly happened a decade ago…for the sake of ATTENTION? Doesn’t it seem much more plausible that a 23-year-old soaking up praise from music critics and listeners alike, visibly struggling with a number of addictions and mental illness, just might unacceptably cross a line?

You see, that’s the trouble.

Maybe I don’t like Conor Oberst so much at all. I mean, if this is all true.

But it is so hard to end a 10-year relationship.


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Life, lately [picture post]

People can bash smartphone cameras and Instagram all they want, but it allows me to capture all those little private moments I truly savor and want to remember — the satisfaction of whipping up a delicious new recipe, the pleasure of updating a house style/grammar guide (oh, that’s just me?), the colors of fallen autumn leaves beneath my feet, the book quote that made me catch my breath. A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

So here’s my life from mid-October to the present.


Tacos, avocados everything, endless coastlines, sunshine rays, sunglasses, sunscreen, sundresses. California is good for the soul. I also befriended a cat, a dog, and a couple of horses.



IMG_2052My first Monday back from our West Coast Trip, I waited for the fifth train to get home because they were all so packed. I kept going up and down from the local platform to the express. An exercise in patience.


IMG_2055“Touchscreen” is one word, kids. “Selfie” is the Oxford English Dictionary word of the year. Aren’t you glad there are people out there like me who care about these things? Grammar Queen status!


IMG_2076A year ago, the Scottish band Frightened Rabbit gave me the best 23rd birthday present a girl could ask for: the best concert ever. EVER. You can’t recreate the crowd and the interaction with the band of that night. Trust me, we’ve tried. We went to our fourth FR concert a few weeks ago. Always a wonderful show, but never as magical as my 23rd birthday. I still listen to their music basically every day. Check these guys out:


IMG_2110Best season of the year! My birthday! Pumpkin everything! Leaves! Boots! Scarves! Sweater weather! Halloween! Thanksgiving! Don’t even try to argue with me.


IMG_2117…on the marathon runners, of course! Human beings are amazing.


kismetI’m still volunteering with Anjellicle Cats Rescue, and loving it. I have made a number of sweet friends through this organization, and not just the feline kind!

IMG_2131I also started volunteering with a second group, PAWS NY (Pets Are Wonderful Support), which I actually found out about through a fellow rescue cat volunteer! This group provides free pet care to elderly and/or disabled NYC residents who are in financial need. This way, they can maintain the wonderfully beneficial bond with their pet. I’ve been walking little Charlie here, for a sweet lady and her bedridden sister who live a couple of blocks away. I’m becoming a dog person! What is happening?


IMG_2080Because you didn’t really think I’d forget about my No. 1 fur baby, could you?


IMG_2142Serendipity is stumbling across the Breakfast At Tiffany’s apartment building on a stroll around the neighborhood. This, after stumbling across Cafe Lallo (yes, the one in You’ve Got Mail) in the Upper West Side the night before.


IMG_2109I wish I could live in Central Park. As long as Ali could come with me.


IMG_2181Too soon, Tiffany’s. Too soon.


No pictures for this one. But I do have recommendations! The Art of Racing in the Rain (for animal lovers), Bel Canto (for music lovers), and The Night Circus (for escapists). Currently exploring Mount Everest with Into Thin Air, to up my nonfiction ante.

Onwards to the next adventure! Tomorrow is a post-work happy hour with office friends, and Wednesday is “An Evening with David Sedaris” at Carnegie Hall. Thursday is rescue cats because I have to keep my coolness-to-nerdiness ratio in check.


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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.


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.


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?


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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Current obsessions: Frightened Rabbit + JGL

I’ve listened to this song/watched this video approximately a gazillion times. However many that is. I saw Frightened Rabbit live in early April for the third time, and my obsession has only grown. So, so good.

JGL-joseph-gordon-levitt-32135050-500-750I keep having dreams about Joseph Gordon-Levitt just showing up at the apartment and we’re all besties and we (me, Sean, Ali, and Joe) just hang out and watch movies and listen to music and talk about stuff.

It’s very unsettling because dream-Rebecca is just like whatever, no big deal, but I’m also conscious of the fact that I’m dreaming and slightly freaking out. This last one is weird because it’s not like I’ve watched JGL in any movies or anything lately. I haven’t even pinned any pictures of him on Pinterest like a teenage girl in months!

I’m such a good wife.

Although I can’t resist posting this one…

tumblr_miqzy410T71qa5ga7o1_1280How precious is Sally Field fixing Joe’s bowtie for him on the way to the Oscars? This is one of the only times in my life when I’ll use the word “precious,” by the way.

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Oh well, whatever, nevermind: Kurt Cobain obsession

I have this problem. Every now then I become obsessed with something, and then I have to know everything about it. Sometimes this works out in my favor, like when I was younger and wanted to learn EVERYTHING about Helen Keller after watching a PBS show about her and then got to write a report on her life for school.

I also went through a really intense Harry Potter phase (and by “phase,” I mean 6th grade through the present time, when I still like to relate everything in real life to a fictional wizarding world) and another phase in elementary school where I checked out every book on different breeds of dogs and cats and how to care for them. I was convinced I would become a veterinarian because of this. (When it turned out I feel faint at the sight of my own blood, I decided to turn this obsession with facts and knowledge into a more-fitting journalism career.)

What’s my latest obsession? I guess I gave this one away in the post title, but it’s Kurt Cobain. Kurt Cobain, as in the junkie lead singer of Nirvana. I know, right? So random. I was a toddler at the height of Nirvana’s musical career.


But at the same time, it’s not so random. Sean had a poster of Kurt up in his dorm room for at least the first couple years we were dating, and included Nirvana’s cover of Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” from their MTV Unplugged special on his very first mix CD to me. Like everyone else on the planet, I had seen the iconic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video, with its anarchist cheerleaders and plaid-wearing rebellious teens.

To clarify, by “obsession,” I don’t mean that I am in love with Kurt (weird posthumous crush) or idolize him as a person. I don’t even think he’s a good role model, overall. But there are things I admire about him and his legacy. Mainly, I am fascinated by him.

I think obsession really took hold on our honeymoon in Seattle. We spent a good part of a day at the Experience Music Project, a museum known for its extensive Nirvana exhibit. We both love music, Sean had that Kurt Cobain poster; it only seemed fitting.


The guitar Kurt Cobain played in “Smells Like Teen Spirit” music video at the Experience Music Project.

I absolutely devoured that exhibit. I read every plaque, every caption, and gobbled up Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl’s commentary on the iPod mini commentary we shelled out extra money for. My eyes were totally opened to the profound impact Nirvana and the Northwest underground music scene’s impact on the music industry. Since I was old enough to care about what music I listened to, I’ve been a diehard supporter of indie bands on indie labels. I firmly believe that that is where real, raw, honest music is made by talented people who are not slaves to the Top 40 charts and the mass-marketing of corporate labels. Learning about the DIY fanzines of Seattle during the emergence of the grunge scene and about how Kurt made his own Sharpie-scrawled T-shirts in support of favorite bands like Mudhoney and The Melvins warmed my heart.

But as I’m sure you know, everyone has heard of Nirvana. Indie darlings they are not. Some may call them sell-outs. That’s what’s so incredible about them. They might not have been the most talented, best band ever, but for whatever reason, they blew up the music charts with music that was too messy, too obscure compared with the pop favorites of the time. They proved that people, especially young people, can recognize real passion and talent when they encounter it. I mean, “Nevermind” beat out Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous.” That is a HUGE deal. And you get to see things like that with bands like The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons passing up autotuned Katy Perry and her merry clan of bubblegum pop clones.

I left the museum with a new and profound respect for Kurt Cobain and his fellow Nirvana bandmates. I realized I listen to several bands off the Sub Pop (short for “Subterranean Pop”) label — like Death Cab for Cutie and Iron & Wine — the very label Nirvana got started with, for years.


Shortly after we got home from our Pacific Northwest trip, I sped through the Nirvana biography The Chosen Rejects. It wasn’t great, but it was a great crash-course for a newbie like me.

And then last week, I buckled down and read the 400+ page definitive biography of Kurt Cobain, Charles R. Cross’ Heavier Than Heaven.

Oh my word. I am so haunted by this story.

a4d4f3f38440508402ca704205ee8058I know that everything in that book had to be approved by Courtney Love, Kurt’s widow, who is kind of insane, but still. I couldn’t help but be sucked into the story of this sort of antihero, the loser who played his guitar endlessly, eventually destroyed his life and fame with drugs, and blamed everything on his parents’ divorce and criticism of him as a child.

There is a lot of darkness in this book, to be certain. It was emotionally difficult to get through at times. Like when Kurt learns Courtney is pregnant, and fears because they were both doing heroin at the time of the baby’s conception, she will be born a “flipper baby” — a birth defect in which an infant is born without arms, something Kurt was obsessed with sketching in his personal journals. Did you know Kurt spend several years living off and on out of his car because he couldn’t even get a job hosing down dog kennels? The first time a Nirvana song was every played on the radio — a college station — he personally dropped off the demo disc and called in a few hours later to anonymously request the single.

I seriously can’t get this book out of my head. It’s not that the writing is truly exceptional — personally, most rock ‘n roll journalism is on par with that of sports coverage — but there are so many details and quotes you get the idea that this was really someone’s life. And it’s hard to let that go.

So even though I was 5 years old when Kurt Cobain took his own life (although some conspiracy theorists will claim Courtney hired a hit-man to murder Kurt), I can’t help but wonder if something could have been done to save this troubled man. Also, how weird is it I read this book during the week of the 19th anniversary of Kurt’s death? Of all the other weeks…


At least we’ll always have the music. Nirvana’s — and all the underground classics in the making that came after. Here’s my current favorite Nirvana song.

Next I’ll have to tackle Bob Spitz’ massive biography of The Beatles, Sean’s current obsession. (:

P.S. We have the DVD of Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance sitting on our bookshelf, and I can’t wait to watch it. I already watched a Netflix documentary about the making of “Nevermind.” Like I said: I am a girl obsessed.

P.P.S. A Nirvana interview at the MTV Music Awards. Love it. “I’ve already won two of these things so far, and I’ve got three toilets. And I’ve got two in each toilet. So now that I’ve won a third, they all match.”


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Blog challenge! – Day 2 (9 loves)



1. New York City! This was a given for this list. One of my favorite activities is walking around NYC by myself in the evening, or quietly with someone else (you know, like Sean) if it is later at night. There is something so fantastically surreal about when the big, bustling city begins to wind down, and the streets in the residential  neighborhoods are empty and you can count the number of people you can see on your fingers. These are good thinking times. Right now it is the holiday times in New York, and it makes you really understand why there are songs like “Silver Bells” about it. There are decorations everywhere! Even along Park Avenue, where my office is, there are “corporate Christmas decorations” to replace the “corporate artwork.” In case you’re wondering what this means, it’s simple Christmas trees in the landscaped medians loaded with twinkling white lights. My favorite decorations are the seasonal window displays along 5th, which are the perfect blend of consumerism and festivity that suits an all-American Christmas, I think. (Tiffany’s, below.)


2. When I finish a novel that is so perfect, I close it upon finishing the last page, and then just stare blissfully at the wall for at least five silent minutes. This is a rare and beautiful moment. I cherish them for all their worth, because you can never replicate the wonder of finishing a truly great book for the first time. At least not with the same book.

3. Looking at the groom at a wedding right as the bride begins coming down the aisle. I think this is mentioned in the chick flick 27 Dresses, but it’s true. By all means, admire the beautiful bride in all her wedding day glory, but glance at the groom when he thinks everyone is looking at her. I did this at my good friend’s wedding this past summer, and he was getting choked up in the anxious moments before they opened the back doors of the church and her father walked her up the aisle. This alone made me have to fight back tears. I am an emotional mess of a bridesmaid; never ask me to be in your wedding party. Just kidding. Being a bridesmaid was one of the greatest things I’ve ever gotten to do. Except, of course, being a bride.


4. A foamy, piping hot latte in the middle of a boring work day. It’s such a small treat and welcome change from the free stuff in the breakrooms, and it makes all the difference.

5. A frenzied desire to bake late on weekday evenings. This is how I keep my sanity, folks. And my sugar tooth satisfied. I’ve totally given into the urge to make, say, zucchini muffins or coffee cake at 10 p.m. on a Wednesday.

6. Indie bands with weird names you’ve never heard of. Unless you, too, listen to such bands. In which case, let’s indulge in a cult classic together:

Time to be serious.

7. A paying, full-time job that lets me be both creative and OCD. I get to create page designs AND correct other people’s grammar…WHILE GETTING PAID. Crazy, huh? Sometimes, I spend hours just editing photos in Photoshop. It’s really not fair. Also, I work at a charming family-owned publishing company with a grandfatherly CEO who plays jazz on a jukebox in his corner office and gives out apples from his Montana ranch. My other 2o-somethings in the office are also the so sweet and we spend all day having conversations that begin, “Did you see that story in the news about….?” Oh, and I can wear jeans to work and take a bus to get there. It’s the best.

8. My adorable cat-daughter! She’s made of cute and cuddles. She can also be handful, with her strange tendency to pretend-bury her food and water bowls when they are not exactly to her liking, her bad habit of caterwauling in the wee hours of the night, and her unintentional spreading of white belly-fur EVERYWHERE. But I love her to pieces, and I can’t imagine life without her anymore. She’s a purring machine and a bringer of much laughter (and warmth!) to this household.

photo9. My best friend and husband, who gives me smiles, laughter, and love. Every. Single. Day. A lot has changed about us and our lives since we started dating at 18, but we’ve only grown more inseparable. We are the completely the same and totally different in all the right ways. We’ve seen each other at our worst, and yet he still tells me I’m beautiful when I’m wearing my glasses and sweatpants and feeling most un-beautiful. And it still melts my heart. Every. Single. Time. He is simply the best, and you don’t need to tell me twice that I should be a million times grateful for meeting my special someone at so young an age. As of December 2, we’ve been married for six months! Crazy. Where has the time gone?!? It’s been a whirlwind of change, challenges, and joy. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us in the journey ahead!

IMG_8118P.S. Sean says no more cat-children, so I guess what’s in store is definitely not any feline-siblings for little Ali Cat.


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A song for New York

I love music, and I love that there are so many songs about New York. So I’ve doing some research into what the general population considers the “ultimate” NYC song. Here are some I enjoy.

Is “La Vie Boheme” from RENT the ultimate NYC song? The lyrics to this are pretty awesome. “To day of inspiration, playing hooky, making something out of nothing/The need to express, to communicate/To going against the grain, going insane, going mad…”

Apparently Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” is considered by many to be that song. Sean informs me that if you go to certain bars and they play it, everyone sings along spiritedly. I am yet to have that particular experience, but I have heard it a disproportionate number of times since moving here in stores and the like, considering it came out in 2009. And Jay-Z did take his rapper name from the name of two subway lines (J/Z), then proceeded to sell-out four nights in a row at the HUGE new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, so I guess he is pretty New York. I do enjoy the shots of the city in the music video. “I think I’m goin’ where dreams are made of/There’s nothing you can’t do, now that you’re in New York…”

If you’re more of a classic ballet-flats-and-cardigans type of girl like me (or whatever the male equivalent of that is), you probably enjoy Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” We played this at our wedding reception, for fun. It seemed appropriate enough. “I want to be a part of it/New York, New York…”

As I’m really into folk music and singer-songwriters, I’ve gotta include Bob Dylan’s “Talkin’ New York.” I love love LOVE the verse about how cold the winter is. And how he calls the city “New York Town.” Such a classic interpretation of a newcomer’s observations of NYC life.

And as an indie kid, I enjoy Vampire Weekend’s “M79.” How hilarious is it they have a whole song about the cross-town bus route that goes through Central Park from the Upper East Side to the Upper West Side and back again? Plus, it’s upbeat and fun…which certainly beats how I usually feel on the bus (i.e., tired and crowded).

Having also been a band nerd, it would be a crime not to include George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” Nothing else quite captures the nuances of the city, I think, from tranquil Central Park to bustling, chaotic Times Square. We played this a few times, just for kicks and giggles, in the top band class in high school — it was always such a blast. Also, the theater where Wicked is performed is totally and rightfully named after this composer.

The Ramones (Queens natives!) are so iconic, I can’t NOT include them. “Rockaway Beach” is about the Queens/Long Island town, aaaand it totally makes you want to be a punk rocker, don’t lie.

I know it has next to nothing to do with the city, but I’ve loved Death Cab for Cutie’s “Marching Bands of Manhattan” for years. It’s got to be included. “If I could open my arms/and span the length of the isle of Manhattan/I’d bring it to where you are/making a lake of the East River and Hudson.”

Matt & Kim’s “Block After Block” is a great music video filmed in the city. (They are based out of Brooklyn.) Such a fun couple/band!

I could go on and on and on…your “NYC song” could be completely NOT about NYC. It could be the song your cab driver played when you first drove across the bridge into Manhattan, or the song you played on repeat while you unpacked boxes in your new apartment, or the song you listened to in celebration on your iPod after getting your first NYC job, or the one the bar played when you decided “Hey, this place is alright.” Or any number of songs. And that’s the great thing. Whatever your NYC song is, it fits right into the cacophony/symphony that is this city of millions of individuals.

Speaking of songs for NY, I’ve been listening to wayyyy more electronica since moving here, because for some reason it makes more sense in this setting, like country music in Texas and Jack Johnson in Florida. I’ve been obsessing over Crystal Castles lately. You know, just trying to expand my musical repertoire. Here’s the song “Pale Flesh” from their new album that just came out:

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‘Tis the Season!

It’s here it’s here it’s here!!

The new Sufjan Stevens Christmas album! The long-awaited follow-up to 2006’s Songs for Christmas, Volumes 1-5. It’s Silver and Gold: Songs for Christmas, Volume 6-10. I feel like Santa came early for me. I mean, there’s a song called “Ding-a-ling-a-ring-a-ling” that includes the lyrics “Jesus-is-a-king-a-ling-a-ling.” It includes guest performances from members of The National and Arcade Fire! Perfection. I haven’t listened to all of it yet, but I’m pretty sure my future child(ren) will have many fond holiday memories to these albums.

The first Sufjan holiday album is my favorite holiday album EVER. It’s quirky, it’s whimsical (flutes! bells! banjoes!). I have listened to it all the way through (and there are dozens of songs) 23049283402984 times. I sometimes start listening to it in October, just to be extra-festive. We even had our musicians play his version of the traditional hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” in the prelude to our wedding. I have always found it hauntingly beautiful.

Here’s a cheesy fan-made video so you can listen to it:

A new, slightly creepy music video to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” on the new album:

One more! One more! Fan-made animation to “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever” from Sufjan’s first holiday album:

M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel — a.k.a. She & Him — approve this post. (Their holiday album is my second-favorite holiday album.)

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Musical forever-favorites, and new ones, too

I’m going to write a random music-related post this evening. I was listening to Bright Eyes earlier today at work, and realized it had been a while since I visited their music. Bright Eyes is one of my forever-favorite bands. What I mean by that is I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of them. Since Bright Eyes — which, let’s face it, is just singer-songwriter Conor Oberst and his accompanying musicians — has been producing music since Conor was in high school, there’s a song or an album for ever stage in life, every mood, from angsty to mellow to joyous.

My beloved Conor O. I’ve confessed to Sean multiple times that this is the only other human being on earth I’d want to marry. He seemed to be OK with this truth.

I remember the first Bright Eyes song I ever listened to. I was a freshman in high school, and I noticed some interesting lyrics handwritten on my friend Annie’s binder: So I’ll keep working on the problem I know we’ll never solve/Of love’s uneven remainders/Our lives are fractions of a whole. And I asked her about it. She told me it was from the song “Bowl of Oranges” by a band called Bright Eyes. I went home that night and listened to it on the Bright Eyes MySpace page (ha, MySpace!).

I was hooked. Shortly thereafter, I purchased the Lifted CD from which that song and those lyrics originated. Bright Eyes’ dual 2005 releases of Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning followed shortly thereafter. I listened to them on endless cycles of repeat, memorized the lyrics, and had them running on a memory loop throughout my high school days.

It might sound cliche, but that music changed me. It wasn’t foreign, because Conor — being an Omaha boy himself — incorporates many of the same classic folksy instruments I grew up hearing on the popular country music radio stations my parents love. The acoustic guitars, the fiddles, the slight twang was all there. But at the same time, it was like nothing else I’d ever heard before.

First off, Conor couldn’t sing very well. At least, not in the traditional sense (he knows this, see lyrics from “Road to Joy”: “I could have been a famous singer, if I had someone else’s voice/But failure’s always sounded better”). In fact, this unique trait combined with his phenomenal song-writing skills have led him to be declared a modern-day Bob Dylan by more than one music journalist. His singing was always raw, unrefined and fraught with emotion. It felt unproduced; more importantly, it felt real.

And the lyrics? Some are tongue-in-cheek, some harrowing, all are honest. And almost all of them are quotable, too, which is how you know they’re really good. I can credit Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes for introducing me to the wonderful world of indie rock — more specifically, the singer-songwriter folk revival movement. And I never want to leave. There’s just something so wonderful about talented, slightly troubled individuals making music, making art because they can’t imagine living life in any other way. It’s not about selling albums or concert tickets, so much as expressing oneself with the feeble hope that you’ll provide a little more clarity to someone else’s life. I love that.

I have now seen Conor Oberst perform three times live, all in Austin: twice with the supergroup Monsters of Folk (Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, and M. Ward of, well, M. Ward — how could you go wrong with that combination?!?) at Stubb’s and ACL, and again for a Bright Show at Stubb’s. That last show, which was a 22nd birthday present, is something I will never forget.

Here’s a photo I took of Conor Oberst and M. Ward performing in Monsters of Folk at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2010.

Of all of the Bright Eyes albums (and I have 10 of them!), I think I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning is my absolute favorite. I love it as much now at 23 as I did when I was 16 and it first came out. I think it has extra-special meaning in my life now: Conor wrote the album chronicling his life and thoughts when he moved from Nebraska to the East Village in Manhattan. All of the stories relate in some way to morning: morning as a beginning, and morning as an ending. Conor Oberst was 24 years old at the time of recording it.

I’m Wide Awake perfectly captures a place and time in Oberst’s life. It chronicles his first memories of staying in New York City, and the metropolis rarely gets a folk singer to chronicle its streets this lucidly, at least since the hootenanny days; he frequents its parties and stumbles down its streets like a midwestern transplant instead of a jaded hipster, sings about chemical dependency and the endless pains of love, while capturing as a backdrop the build-up to a foreign war. I’m Wide Awake weaves the personal and the political more fluidly than most singers even care to try, and the consummate tunefulness just strengthens those moments where he pinches a nerve– the songs that still give me chills every time, like “At the Bottom of Everything”: “Into the face of every criminal strapped firmly to a chair/ We must stare, we must stare, we must stare.” (from the Pitchfork review)

The beautiful album art for I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning

I’m sure part of the reason I love this album so much isn’t just about the musicality of it; it’s also about the memories I have behind it. I included the song “First Day of My Life” on the first mix CD I ever burned for Sean, when we were just friends. We even considered it for our first dance at our wedding (and with lyrics like “Yours is the first face that I saw/I think I was blind before I met you/Now I don’t know where I am/I don’t know where I’ve been/but I know where I want to go,” can you really blame us?), but we ultimately decided against it because it’s a folk song and we couldn’t figure out how to slow-dance to it in any sort of rehearsed manner. I did manage to incorporate a Bright Eyes song title into the title of my honeymoon photos album on Facebook (“June on the (North)West Coast”).

I hope I still love this album as much when I’m 63 as I do at 23. I hope it always reminds me of what it was like to figure out life while living in the Big City, and reminds me that it’s OK to never fully figure it out.

And who knows? Maybe we’ll even have the “modern-day Conor Oberst” by then. One can only hope.

To conclude, a YouTube video of one of my favorite Bright Eyes songs from that album. Please listen to it if you get a chance, or better yet listen to the whole album on Spotify for free. Or best, buy the album , and support  some musicians!

“Poison Oak”:

Since we’re on the topic of music, I finished reading Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist yesterday. So cute! And what a fun experiment in collaborative writing — a female author wrote every-other chapter from Norah’s perspective, and a male author wrote the others from Nick’s point of view.

And I am able to relive on the of the MOST FUN musical experiences of my life through YouTube: Grouplove performing “Colours” at Terminal 5 last Friday night. I was there! I found confetti on my person for the remainder of the weekend. This was a fantastic show. I mean, it began with the members running out on stage to Kanye West’s “Monster” and ended with CONFETTI! Could it get any better?

No, no, it does not. (To make things even better, I watched Gossip Girl that weekend, and they played Grouplove’s “Slow” during a wedding scene. It redeemed the scene show for its utter soap opera-quality.)


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