Blur the lines, change the faces
A Monday Playlist
“This is a Low” by Blur
“Faithless” by Altered Images
“Face to Face” by Siouxsie and the Banshees
“Age of Consent” by New Order
“Bluebeard” by Cocteau Twins
“Haunted” by Poe
“Dream Baby Dream” by Suicide
“Nothing Was Stolen (Love Me Foolishly)” by Phosphorescent
“Like Dylan In the Movies” by Belle and Sebastian
“Lost In the Supermarket” by The Clash
“Catch My Fall” by Billy Idol
“When You Were Mine” by Cyndi Lauper
“Linger” by The Cranberries
“Here’s Where the Story Ends” by The Sundays
“Sugar For the Pill” by Slowdive
“Halah” by Mazzy Star
“No Surprises” by Radiohead
“Alive” by Drugstore
“The Spoils” by Massive Attack, featuring Hope Sandoval
“Puppet Clouds” by The Prayers
“De-Luxe” by Lush
“Sparks are Gonna Fly” by Catherine Wheel
“Grey Cell Green” by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin
“Just Like Heaven” by The Cure
“Extreme Ways” by Moby
“Only Shallow” by My Bloody Valentine
“Pearl” by Chapterhouse
“Cali” by Ride
“Love Spreads” by The Stone Roses
“Sight of You” by Pale Saints
Blur the lines, change the faces
There are now four stories spinning around in my head vying for my attention, fighting for purchase of the ever-crowding creative city of my insides, wrestling it out for that strangely coveted spot of “the project” I’m working on now. If I could I would quit everything else and just write them all, let them each have their space and their say, but that’s not realistic, feasible, or any of those “practical” words (insert practicality here), so I think that maybe this clumsy girl needs to learn how to juggle and work a little bit on all of them.
Girl to the Front (Let’s Finish Something)
That said, this notion (or plan, or naive goal) does conflict with my desire (and need) to finish one project at a time. I have issues with finishing, with not running away in the middle, with not being seduced by the “new thing”, that I need to confront head-on. Will I ever be able to finish anything if I dabble in everything?
Or is this a symptom of my perfectionism, a symptom of my anxiety disorder and low self-esteem issues. If it doesn’t come quickly and perfectly, I give up or put it aside. Or is it fear of vulnerability, of putting something I’ve spent so many years and years working on out into the world where it may be rejected. Another symptom, or issue – deep, wide, and encompassing rejection and abandonment issues.
I’’m listening to Liz Phair. It started because I was doing a write-up on Whip-Smart which led me into a nostalgic spin in her first three albums. The ’90s were all about me and my love of female musicians. It was Lilith Fair and Riot Grrrls nearly 24/7. I was in my twenties. I was a mess. I was lost and found and all those things in-between. I was questioning everything about myself – my sexuality, my relationships, my dreams, my body. I was rash and bold and brave and spontaneous. I wore my heart dangling on my sleeve. I fell in what I thought was love a lot (it was never love, at least not the big kind, the kind that you hope will last). I broke my so-called heart a lot. I made a ton of mistakes and made a ton more changes. I met some amazing people who would become some of the best friends I’ve ever had, and most of them lived far, far away from me. The internet and I met (and yes, I fell hard – I was falling hard all the time in the ’90s). And yes, I needed A BIG LOAN FROM THE GIRL ZONE (to quote Tori, though I am listening to Liz right now).
I think of the characters I’m playing with. I decided to kill one recently, though I don’t know how I’ll be able to do it as I love him so very much. I became reacquainted with another character this week, one I’d thought not to touch again, but she showed up all smiles and issues and stories to tell. She is the most like me (if it could be memoir I’d let it, but there is so much fear in that for me – so she stays in the land of creative non-fiction/fiction, for now), which often makes her the hardest to write.
I need to take more photographs of places I want to eke out as setting and space. Honing my skills of setting and space, of being able to bring them both to life in a way that the reader can feel and see and smell and maybe even taste the surroundings is something I’m focusing attention on right now. It’s not a strong suit, and I don’t want to over-do it, but I want to get better at it.
Visuals are a big thing to me, so I feel like a good practice would be to take photos and use them as writing prompts. See how much I can describe a place or space. Get down to the tiniest details, but also swoop in from an aerial view. I think it might help.
I wish I could sleep more. That insomnia would ease up a bit. That I wouldn’t finally fall into that delicious level of sleep where dreams come right before my damn alarm is set to go off. I walk around most days now feeling like a “walker”, shuffling from work to school to home to another failed attempt to sleep again.
I close my eyes and all the characters come to life. Stories unfold, plots and dialogues and things that I don’t want to quiet because I need them. But could they just take a night or two off from my brain? Let Ladysleep and I have a two-night affair or something?
“Supernova” by Liz Phair
from the album, Whip-Smart (1994)
The first Monday Top 5 Music Obsessions since the RELAUNCH is an all-women-in-music musical affair. What better way to start a Monday, I say. I’ve been blasting these 5 songs all morning and early afternoon – on repeat. Maybe you’ll want to, as well.
The Top 5 starts off with my first listen favorite track off of Jenny Lewis’ fantastic new album, On the Line. It is the last song on the album and it references Los Angeles, as so many Jenny and Rilo Kiley songs have; usually, a surefire way to know I’m going to dig a song. If you like the track I highly encourage you to check out the entire album. You’ll love it.
Next up is a new-to-me song that I heard for the first time early this morning via this week’s Spotify Discovery Weekly. I adore the “Made For You” Playlists that Spotify compiles each week. Margo Price is definitely a welcome new-to-me artist. I look forward to diving in and hearing more of her music.
One of my forever favorite 10,000 Maniacs tracks is next, which flows so perfectly into the next two by Mazzy Star and Belly. I love them all so much.
I’d be stoked to hear what you are listening to, and obsessing over, this Monday. I’d be even more stoked if you shared them with me in the comments below.
Ready for my Top 5? Here we go…
Top 5 Music Obsessions – March 25, 2019
1. “Hollywood Lawn” by Jenny Lewis
off the album, On the Line (2019)
“And you keep dreamin’,
If you keep dreamin’,
keep sleepin’ through the night.
‘Cause your demons got reason to fight,
and you keep dreamin’, yeah, yeah.”
I adore this song. I love the message of love and hope, despite issues and polluted Los Angeles air and personal demons. There is something soothing here, beautiful and real, and heartbreakingly hopeful. It fits in well with what I’m trying to accomplish in my life right now. A search for peace and joy, vulnerability, mindfulness, and joy.
“Hollywood Lawn” transports me to the front lawn of my childhood home. I picture myself with one of those big blankets we kept in the back of our blue Oldsmobile station wagon. The thick and itchy one that always had sand in it from many trips to the beach. I’d throw it on the grass and drag out toys, or stacks of books, on late Summer afternoons, hoping other kids would notice, and come over to play.
Most of the time, though, I’d remain alone and lie back on the itchy blanket, losing myself in cloud-fantasies, or pages of Nancy Drew mystery books.
Sometimes I still feel like that little girl, but the green grass and itchy blanket are blog post entries, playlists, and social media posts. I’m still there waiting, offering what I have to share, hoping for some real connection.
2. “Hands of Time” by Margo Price
from the album, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter (2016)
“When I hit the city I joined the band,
started singing in the bars and running with the men.
But the men they brought me problems,
and the drinking caused me grief.
I thought I’d found a friend,
but I only found a thief.”
That lyric, “I thought I’d found a friend, but I only found a thief” is what sunk this song deep into me. Damn. I’ve definitely met too many thieves in my life. I wonder if I’ve been a thief myself, to anyone else?
Margo Price, where have you been hiding? How is this the first time I’ve ever heard you? I love the storytelling in the track, the country/alt-country/folk/pop sensibilities that have all merged together, and I love her voice.
I want more.
3. “Like the Weather” by 10,000 Maniacs
from the album, In My Tribe (1987)
“Do I need someone here to scold me,
or do I need someone who’ll grab and pull me out of this four poster dull torpor,
For it is such a long time since my better days.
I say my prayers nightly this will pass away.”
It was this album, and this song, that started me off with Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs. Soon after I’d become a forever fan, falling hard for all of the band, and Natalie’s solo albums, and seeing them, and her, play live as often as I could.
This song is the perfect example of 10,000 Maniacs style of songs. Happy, jangly, pop-folk sound, and deep, emotional, heavy lyrics.
This track, which is about depression and agoraphobia, has grown in relevance to me over the years.
It always hit hard though, from the first time I heard it, singing about something so often left in silence – especially back in its 1987 release.
Natalie would go on to do the same things, style and lyric wise, with her solo albums. This is something I’ve always loved about the band and her music. Something that will always bring me back to the songs.
4. “In the Kingdom” by Mazzy Star
from the album, Seasons of Your Day (2013)
“Walked up the stairs
The sunlight hit my face
See all the people just standing ’round
If all is right in the kingdom tonight,
You know your place and time.”
I realized two Mazzy Star things recently.
Thing 1 is that whenever I’m alone in my room/the house and I think to put something on to listen to it is almost always Mazzy Star lately. Even this morning, early, before the sun, I’m in my kitchen getting ready to make coffee and I call out to the “Echo” my boyfriend got me for my birthday and say “Hey Echo, play Mazzy Star”.
Thing 2 is that I never explored their 2013 album, Seasons of Your Day, very much. I listened and loved a few tracks, and left it at that. But now I’m digging in deep and falling hard for the album as a whole, and all the songs. Right now its this track – “In the Kingdom” – that I can’t seem to get enough of.
5. “Shiny One” by Belly
from the album, DOVE (2018)
“Come my fallen angel.
When the call comes,
you answer it.
When the call comes,
you answer it,
I’m still so into Belly’s most recent album (DOVE, released last year). The songs are so good. “Shiny One” has been my current favorite from the album. Something about it reminds me of their early-career hit, “Gepetto”. Almost as if “Shiny One” is Gepetto grown-up. It’s like what the ’90s grew up into (at least the ’90s through the lens of music I obsessed the most over).
I dig the religious undertones and/or subtext to this song. I love the broken-up with/fallen angel feeling to it, too. As a girl who grew up going to parochial school and church, I can relate. I tend to relate to the fallen angels of the world, feeling very much like one myself.
Top 5 Music Obsessions – March 23-March 25, 2019
Drinking Buddies was written and directed by Joe Swanberg, and was released in 2013. It stars Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, and Ron Livingston, and centers around two co-workers at a craft brewery in Chicago. The movie delves into the complexities of love and friendship, and the complications that can arise in both.
The movie premiered at the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival. It also screened at the Maryland Film Festival that same year. (from Wikipedia)
Drinking Buddies (2013)
Written and Directed by Joe Swanberg
Movie of the Day
“That’s the problem with heartbreak, to you it’s like an atomic bomb and to the world it’s just really cliche, because in the end we all have the same experience.” – Kate
My best friend told me about this movie, recommending I see it, and she has never steered me toward a movie I didn’t end up loving. Drinking Buddies was no exception.
Seriously, if she tells you to watch a movie be prepared to add it to your “favorite movie” list immediately.
My first watch of this film hit me hard on so many levels, and in a very personal way. It is a very honest look at relationships and friendships, but also it is about finding yourself and knowing yourself, and understanding where you belong. Those are hard “knowings and understandings” to get to in life. Perhaps the hardest things we will ever do (if we choose to, at all).
There are no easy answers in the film (or in life, really). There is no actual closure, or any “everything is tied up” at the end. To be honest, I am okay with that because that’s how life is, and it makes the film even more relatable and real.
Even if sometimes I’d like it to be easy, that I’d like closure everywhere it’s needed, and want everything tied up in a pretty bow at the end (and in the middle, too), I know that isn’t reality and its comforting to have that kind of discomfort in this film. It ultimately makes me feel less alone, I think.
m rewatching the movie today and am curious how it will affect me this time around.
The cast in Drinking Buddies is incredible, and are some of my favorites – especially Olivia Wilde and Jack Johnson. I wish there were more films with both of them, especially more films of the real life/indie variety like Drinking Buddies.
Side note: Drinking Buddies is available to stream, and on DVD, through Netflix. It is also available to rent on Amazon and YouTube.
“Nightswimming” by R.E.M. was released in 1993 as the 5th single from the band’s 8th album, Automatic for the People, which was released in 1992. The song is a ballad featuring singer Michael Stipe accompanied by Mike Mills on piano, a string arrangement by former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, and a prominent oboe played by Deborah Workman towards the latter part of the track.
I’ve always felt that the oboe is what set this song apart, and makes it all the more memorable.
“Nightswimming” by R.E.M.
from the album, Automatic for the People (1992)
Song of the Day
“The photograph on the dashboard,
taken years ago.
Turned around backwards so the windshield shows,
every streetlight reveals,
the picture in reverse.”
Michael Stipe sings about a group of friends who go skinny dipping at night, which he claims was him drawing similar experiences from R.E.M.’s early days.
Bassist Mike Mills recalled that he was playing a piano riff at John Keane’s studio in the band’s hometown of Athens, Georgia. At the time he almost discarded what would become the melody to “Nightswimming”. Michael Stipe heard it and was immediately attracted to its sound.
Mills recalled: “I never thought it would amount to much because it was just a circular thing that kept going round and round and round. But it inspired Michael.” (from Wikipedia)
While the song was not included on Out of Time, the demo recorded during those sessions was used for Automatic for the People, with a string arrangement by John Paul Jones added to the track.
Mills has also claimed he recorded the piano part at Criteria Studios in Miami, on the same piano used by Derek and the Dominos on the recording of “Layla”. He has described his piano playing on the track as “circular”.
“Nightswimming” was performed solely by Micheal Stipe and Mike Mills; Stipe sings while Mills plays the piano. R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck noted that the absence of drummer Bill Berry and himself from the song was typical of MANY tracks on Automatic for the People, where one or more band members would not appear on a given track.
The song’s inspiration has been a subject of debate among the band members. Stipe, in a 2001 interview with Esquire, suggested an origin of the song:
“A few years ago, I wanted to write a song about night watchmen, so I hired one to guard the R.E.M. offices in Athens. I bought him a uniform and a flashlight and everything. He turned out to be kind of crazy and called me up in the middle of the night to tell me dirty stories about the Kennedys. I wrote the song about him, but he was so paranoid he said he was going to sue me, so I changed the lyric from ‘Night watchman’ to ‘Nightswimming.’”
Mills has another story: “It’s based on true events.”
He went on to explain that in the early 1980s R.E.M. and their circle of friends would go skinny dipping after the Athens clubs closed at night.
“We’d go to parties, we’d go to the clubs and we’d go to the Ball Pump, and there would be any number of these same 50 people, so it was a very tight circle of friends.”
Peter Buck holds a similar interpretation. However, Stipe has denied that that is the topic of the song; rather, Stipe says the song is about:
“[a] kind of an innocence that’s either kind of desperately clung onto or obviously lost.” (from Wikipedia)
More theories persist about what “Nightswimming” is about/is inspired by. Another account suggests that it is a nostalgic look back by Stipe to his childhood spent on the secluded shores of lakes and ponds.
For many American teens, these secluded shores serve as one of the few places of freedom and autonomy in their lives, which accounts for the strong and fond memories that Stipe may have of this place.
In this rare place free from the influence of authority figures and structure, the teens become their true selves in a Romantic/Transcendentalist sense. As such, the memories of the place are fond, but the feelings are unattainable as life’s realities and responsibilities make it impossible to ever be that same Romantic “true self” again.
If “Nightswimming” is part lies and part truth, that’s all the better for a song about memories. “It describes something that I touched on a lot later on the record Reveal,” Stipe said, “which was kind of the summer as an eternity, and kind of innocence that’s either kind of desperately clung onto or obviously lost.” In this song, the situation falls into the latter category. “These things they go away,” Stipe croons, “replaced by everyday.” (from DiffuserDiffuser)
“Nightswimming” (live) by R.E.M.
For me, the song unlocks a memory of my own. It goes something like this.
Years ago, in the company of two good friends, we sat parked by the ocean. We were driving up the coast to Santa Barbara and had stopped to take a picture. This was pre-cell phones and pre-selfies. The windows were all rolled down and a late August breeze blew into my red Honda hatchback.
I snapped a picture of the three of us, huddled together, smiling with sunglasses on. I look at that photograph now and recognize the shine of youthful dreams on our skin.
There is a second photo, too. It is our reflection of us in the rear view mirror. An accidental shot that is slightly blurry. Sometimes I prefer it because there is something about it that captured the moment off-guard. It feels so honest and vulnerable and stolen.