Tune Time: May 2016

Here’s what I’ve been listening to lately:

Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home.

I realized recently that I don’t listen to a lot of Bob Dylan, and that I needed to fix that to keep my rock cred. I decided to start with Bringing It All Back Home, his fifth album. This is best known as the album where Dylan made a move to electric rock and roll, which was divisive at the time. On a side note, if you stumble across older music, I highly recommend reading about its history and what people thought about it at the time it was released. It’ll inform your contemporary understanding and help you to trace its cultural importance.

What I love most about this album is its exploration of bohemia, for all of its good and bad aspects. Songs like “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” are steeped in the political lyrics that Dylan is known for, which is reminiscent of what we’re going through today re: the 2016 election.( I can’t think of one artist who’s channeling Dylan today for the same purpose.) For the most part, he shines light on hippie shortcomings and tries to create some distance from the folk movement he’s so closely associated with. I’m still trying to decipher the enigmatic lyrics and what they could mean, and that’s how I know I’ve stumbled across a great album.

It’s hard to pick my favorite tracks, but I especially dig “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” Now that I’m wading in the Dylan pond, I’m excited to see what I discover next.

The Strokes’ Future Present Past

Since high school, The Strokes have been one of my favorite bands. I was beyond excited when Future Present Past dropped out of the blue on Thursday morning, so much so that I impulse-bought the vinyl and didn’t care about the shipping cost. That’s how you know it’s real.

So much of The Strokes’ music focuses on the recurring themes of growing up, with the energy that only youth can harness. I think this is summed up so brilliantly in “Hard to Explain” from Is This It?: “I missed the last bus / I’ll take the next train / I’ll try, but you see / It’s hard to explain.”  You try and you try and you try, but you can never feel like you can get everything right — which breeds feeling of existentialism, debates of right and wrong, and of course, star-crossed love. From that first incredible record all the way to this three-song and bonus remix EP, the Strokes have tried to navigate these feelings. “Oblivius” picks that back up: the repetition of “What side are you standing on?” suggests a conflict on both personal and political levels, something frontman Julian Casablancas explores deeply in his solo work. Anyone who has ever been a young adult can find some resonance in the Strokes’ lyrics, and as someone who is on the precipice of Real Adulthood the Strokes are more important to me than ever.

My favorite song is “Threat of Joy,” because it sounds like quintessential Strokes from the riffs to the lyrics: “I cannot wait to chase it all / Yeah, I saw it in my crystal ball.” I cannot wait to see what else they unveil. Viva la Strokes.

Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City

A couple of weeks ago, Ezra Koenig played “Step” on his radio show, which made me realize that I hadn’t listened to the entirety of Modern Vampires of the City in a really long time. This album came out while I was still in college, and I spent a lot of time walking across campus and studying with it in my ears. I didn’t expect to be hit with so many waves of nostalgia when I replayed it this month, which I think mostly stems from the fact that I am back on campus but no longer a student.

Modern Vampires of the City is a dense album that deals with ontological themes of mortality, religion and time in a masterful way. If you trace the tracks as one narrative, you can see that the narrator is attempting to seek out deeper truths about who he is and his place in the world, and rebelling against what society is telling him to believe and accept. But these beliefs are also very contradictory, which makes it so wonderfully relatable. One of my favorite lyrics of all time comes from “Unbelievers,” where the narrator is simultaneously trying to work out some heavy romantic and religious stuff:

Is this the fate that half of the world has planned for me?
I know I love you, and you love the sea
But what holy water contains a little drop, little drop for me?

Later in the album on “Ya Hey,” which deals almost exclusively in Christian allusions, the narrator is extremely critical of God and faith in something that seems so removed, despite wanting that for himself earlier:

Through the fire and through the flames
You won’t even say your name
Only “I am that I am”
But who could ever live that way?

There’s a lot of other examples throughout Modern Vampires of the City that could fill a whole book about this album’s cultural relevance. What I love most about it is that Modern Vampires of the City reminds me that I’m not alone in trying to figure out the deeper purpose of my life in relation to bigger cultural mores. Ezra Koenig is one of my favorite musicians that I find a kinship in. My favorite tracks are “Unbelievers,” “Step,” “Hannah Hunt” (The beat drop at 2:31 is better than most beat drops in all of music),  “Ya Hey” and “Young Lion.” Rediscovering this album now has solidified it as one of my favorites, and I’m looking forward to rediscovering it over and over again.

Drake’s Views

In general, I thought Drake’s Views was a huge disappointment. It’s about 10 tracks too long. It doesn’t have as many bangers as If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. The album version of “Pop Style” doesn’t have the Throne feature. And to top it all off, Future is a track-ruiner. It was so hyped and overdue that Views could never have been as good as everyone thought it was going to be.

I’m also not really interested in Drake’s lyrics — even though I love the bravado and one-liners that IYRTITL perfected, I don’t care for angry-that-a-woman-slighted-him Drake, which is a pervasive theme on Views. The narrative of “Hotline Bling,” for example, is really about Drake being upset that his ex is out living her best life without him. From my point of view, it’s really none of his business. This lyrical content is old, and doesn’t do anything to help Drake grow as an artist.

With all that being said, the Jamaican dancehall tracks are the best part of Views and the songs I think will have the most longevity in the pop culture sphere. These tracks are “With You,” “Controlla,” “One Dance” and “Hotline Bling.” Drake and Noah Shebib, his record producer, have picked up some samples that scream eternal summer vibes. Even though the lyrics are horrible, the beats are infectious and examples of good producing. I will probably end up playing them all summer as part of my driving-around playlist, and I will definitely forget that the rest of Views exists.

What have you been listening to lately? Let’s talk about it in the comments.


Link Party: 12/21-12/25

A detail shot of my family's Christmas tree.
A detail shot of my family’s Christmas tree.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. I first heard excerpts of Gay Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has A Cold” on This American Life in an episode for Sinatra’s 100th birthday, and the full article is stellar.

2. What the Mast Brothers chocolate scandal tells us about ourselves.

3. I’m not entirely sold on the merits of astrology, but I found this feature about six astrologers fascinating.

4. This story about herding reindeer in Russia was fascinating.

5. Inside the making of Serial, season two.

And two bonuses, as my gift to you: This architect in Bolivia is designing incredible houses that you need to see, and Drake. On. Cake.

Happy holidays.

Link Party: 9/21-9/25

When I work events, I have a really hard time enjoying the food / entertainment just because I'm in Work Mode. Regardless, I was so impressed by Tastemade's first GALLIVANT! event. Here's an artsy shot of a chalkboard mural up at the event.
When I work events, I have a really hard time enjoying the food / entertainment just because I’m in Work Mode. Regardless, I was so impressed by Tastemade’s first GALLIVANT! event. Here’s an artsy shot of a chalkboard mural up at the event.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. I loved this essay about annotating Alice in Wonderland and the contemporary connection of Genius. This is the kind of literary analysis content I’m here for.

2. The influence of Kanye West’s “808s and Heartbreak” on the rap world of 2015.

3. A French history of fancy frames.

4. Apparently you can go across the United States for $213 via Amtrak and see a lot of cool stuff. I want to go to there.

5. The rise of #luckygirl and how admitting effort or hard work is taboo for women.

And a bonus: Here is a short video of Jon Stewart dancing to Drake’s “Started From the Bottom.” It is everything.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Link Party: 8/3-8/7

Morning walks are fantastic because I get to see my neighborhood in bloom.
Morning walks are great because I get to see my neighborhood in bloom.

I had a really difficult time this week getting interested in what I was reading and finding stuff to write about — the motivation for a forthcoming blog post. Here’s what I read that I actually found insightful:

1. Adventures in typography.

2. Infiltrating a white pride Facebook group and turning it into a LGBT Southerners for Michelle Obama group is a hardcore example of trolling that’s going to be hard to top.

3. I’m sad to say that it might be time to break up with Drake.

4. Why is Jean-Michel Basquiat’s artwork so woefully underrepresented in museum collections?

5. Beryl Markham might just be the greatest feminist icon most of us have never heard of.

And a bonus: Fascinating historical photos of New York City, decorated to welcome WWI allies in 1917.

Have a wonderful weekend and week.

Link Party: 6/8-6/12

It's so surreal to think that I will not be coming back to this place on Monday or even in September. And although I know I will  visit, it'll never be the same.
It’s so surreal to think that I will not be coming back to this place on Monday or even in September. And although I know I will visit, it’ll never be the same.

I’m so overwhelmed that so many people liked yesterday’s post. Thank you.

On to what I read this week:

1. I haven’t finished it because it might be a billion words, but Paul Ford’s explanation of coding is incredible.

2. We all knew this already, but closing bookstores is a very bad idea.

3. Secret wedding boards on Pinterest are a big thing. (Full disclosure: I do not have one.)

4. This isn’t really a story, but I have to go to this yoga studio that plays Drake during class.

5. Some really astute points on typography in UI design.

And a bonus: Please watch the Wes Anderson version of “The Shining.”

Have a fantastic weekend!

Link Party: 4/27-5/1

A thriving vine on the arbor in front of my house.
A thriving vine on the arbor in front of my house.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. A fascinating mini-profile on Louis Sarno, a musicologist that lives amongst the Bayaka in the Central African Republic.

2. It’s okay to run through The Six with your woes and then cry about it, Drake.

3. What the new Twitter Highlights tells us about Twitter and ourselves.

4. Eric D. Snider looked at some of the articles he wrote as an elementary school student for his local newspaper, and I simultaneously love them because they’re hilarious and loathe them because somehow they remind me of myself.

5. In defense of Googling everyone.

And a bonus: Don Draper does say “What?” a lot. (I’m not ready for this show to leave my life.)

Have a great weekend!

Culture Connoisseur: The Top 10 Albums of My College Experience

Music of all genres has always been a significant part of my life. Here are a few of the vinyl records I enjoy most.
Music of all genres has always been a significant part of my life. Here are a few of the vinyl records I enjoy most.

The other night I tweeted about how I tend to associate music and books. I like to listen to music while I read or do homework (which usually involves reading anyway) and can often think of a book or album and what I was reading or listening to at the time. I also realized that there are certain albums that I associate with particular times of my life. As I approach graduation from college, I’ve been thinking about the albums that have had some kind of personal significance for me in the last four years. Here are the top 10 albums that have marked my college experience.

1. AM by Arctic Monkeys

I have been listening to Arctic Monkeys since I was 13 (it was one of the first albums I uploaded to iTunes and put on my iPod nano), and will wax poetic over the band’s entire discography for days. But what has a special place in my heart is AM, which came out in 2013. I saw the band perform three times for the AM era, and know 98 percent of the lyrics. This, I feel, will be an album that I will never get tired of. “Do I Wanna Know?” is my text tone. I have the digital version, the CD and the vinyl. Out of all of the albums on this list, it is definitely the most personal. AM reminds me of September nights, driving in Los Angeles and relationships that didn’t work out.

2. Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend

This is also another deeply personal album for me, and the record that made me a Vampire Weekend fan. I still enjoy dissecting the lyrics of MVotC, which deal with time and mortality and love and sense of belonging, amongst other things. I also got to see Vampire Weekend while it was promoting the album, and I desperately want to go again. This album reminds me of my school commutes, dancing around in my bedroom and rainy days.

3. Yeezus by Kanye West

This album is what made me a true believer in Kanye West and his cultural significance. Yeezus also changed my life. It is my go-to “gotta get shit done” album, and I find something new to analyze with every listen. This is not an easy album to listen to, but I think it’s the perfect example of just how powerful music can really be. Yeezus reminds me of many late, sticky summer nights.

4. Days and Atlas by Real Estate

This is a 2-for-1, but I discovered Real Estate in my second year of college and fell in love with the beachy sound. Atlas came out in 2014, and I have had it in heavy rotation. I also like how both albums talk about what it feels like to be displaced from home. Real Estate in general reminds me of both Berkeley and Washington, my discovery of lattes, and cold-but-bright winter weekends.

5. Sunbathing Animal by Parquet Courts

I believe my good friend Valerie recommended Parquet Courts to me, and I like Sunbathing Animal‘s balance between sentimental lyrics and good old fashioned rocking out. This is also a “gotta get shit done” kind of album for me, which has gotten me through many papers and planning sessions. This album reminds me of walking around on campus, feeling like a badass for the great things I said in class or about to go take care of business.

6. Is This It? by The Strokes

This is kind of a cheat, because I discovered The Strokes in high school (Side bar: I was in love with the friend of the boy next door [who I had never interacted with] and I found out through his MySpace account [this was like, ninth or 10th grade so don’t judge me on any of this] that he loved The Strokes) and have loved the band ever since, but I have found myself returning to Is This It? over and over again in the last four years. For me, it’s one of those albums you can play all the way through without skipping anything. I guess it’s my safety blanket. And “Someday” has been resonant for me at many points in the last four years. Is This It? reminds me of listening to vinyl records in my bedroom and doodling lyrics in cursive all over my French notebooks.

7. 2 and Salad Days by Mac DeMarco

I discovered Mac DeMarco last year through my brother Graeme. Graeme doesn’t like him much anymore, but I have a soft spot for Mac DeMarco. He’s a very weird dude with very weird preferences, but his music can be very tender. “Ode to Viceroy” and “Let My Baby Stay” are two very good examples of both the former and the latter, and happen to be my personal favorites. These albums remind me of Burgerama with Graeme and the Law siblings, the last summer at Public Affairs and multiple trips to and through San Bernardino.

8. Dead Man’s Bones by Dead Man’s Bones

I bought this album on a whim in October of my freshman year, mostly because Ryan Gosling was in it. I distinctly remember sitting in the library between classes, previewing this album on iTunes and immediately falling in love. It has sort of morbid subject matter, but it is very earnest and endearing. “In the Room Where You Sleep” comes to mind. Dead Man’s Bones reminds me of fall quarters and walking to a deserted parking lot after 7 to 8:50 p.m. statistics lectures.

9. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late by Drake

This is a very recent addition to the list, but a great one. I had never listened to much Drake before this mixtape came out, and we listen to it constantly in the Poly Post newsroom. If I remember anything about my Poly Post experience, it will be our spirit animal Ferlinda Shedricks (don’t ask), “apparently” and this mixtape. It also has got some fantastic lines that I have made a part of my vocabulary, and I listen to a song from this album at least once a day. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late reminds me of Sunday deadline night and boba runs.

10. George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue

Between my second and third summers of college, I started watching a lot of Woody Allen movies. The opening scene of Manhattan references Rhapsody in Blue, and when I looked it up I fell in love. Rhapsody in Blue is the aural version of my life. It is nothing like the other albums on this list, but discovering Rhapsody in Blue is a hallmark of my attempts to widen my cultural horizons and appreciate art to the fullest. I will never forget seeing it performed live at the Hollywood Bowl last summer. Rhapsody in Blue makes me feel invincible and bold.

My honorary mentions include Allah-Las, Albert Hammond Jr., Spoon, Divine Fits, The Shins, Beirut, Arcade Fire, The Police, Fleet Foxes and The Black Keys.

Do you have albums that you associate with particular points in your life? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Link Party: 3/2-3/6

On the third floor of the University Library, there's this section of desks right below a skylight. It is my favorite place in the library.
On the third floor of the University Library, there’s this section of desks right below a skylight. It is my favorite place in the library.

Here’s what I read this week:

1. Someone mapped out all of Drake’s references to Toronto.

2. An interesting look at forensic linguistics.

3. Daniel Norris is a millionaire and the future of the Toronto Blue Jays, but he lives in a Volkswagen bus outside of a Wal-Mart.

4. Kanye West’s talk at Oxford is everything.

5. People got a chance to listen to the Wu-Tang Clan’s “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” and lived to tell the tale.

And a bonus: This really fantastic Instagram account, @ihavethisthingwithfloors.

Have a great weekend!

Link Party: 2/16-2/20

I was on my way home Wednesday night, and out in front of the historical society's museum was this beautiful blooming tree. I had to pull over and take a photo.
I was on my way home Wednesday night, and out in front of the historical society’s museum was this beautiful blooming tree. I had to pull over and take a photo.

This week was not a good one for me, creatively or academically. But I’m bouncing back, and will have more posts next week. But here’s what I  was able to read:

1. I like to think that this profile of The New Yorker query proofreader Mary Norris is a projection of my future.

2. Ruth Bader Ginsburg continues to be awesome.

3. Pitchfork‘s review of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. (I’m partial to “Energy,” “10 Bands” and “6 God.”)

4. The current Starbucks menu ranked. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be funny but I find it hysterical.

5. The discourse of FYI emails.

And a bonus: Practice your hip hop sampling with this awesome keyboard.

Have a great weekend!