Sunday, January 27, 2013

Of Monsters & Men; My Head is an Animal.

When I filled out my Summation of 2012 thing a few weeks ago, when it came to my favorite albums of the year I mentioned Flo and Marina and then was like, "Uh, I guess that's it? That's weird," and it did feel weird because I had missed a critical mention that I only realized later: My Head is an Animal by Of Monsters & Men. 

As an added bonus of hipness (or something), this was also the only album of the year that I had loved which was also mentioned on Best of the Year lists from All The Cool Music People, like Paste and NPR and whatever. Almost every time it was mentioned on any kind of critical list, it came with a sort of disclaimer that went something like this: "So this music isn't ACTUALLY that cool or world-shattering or anything, but like, somehow we still like it anyway despite ourselves so I guess we're going to include it I mean I guess." Whatever, lists! If you like something, you like something! I'm done with disclaimers! (Until the next time I feel the need to disclaim something which will most likely happen!)

Anyway. I think I forgot about this album because I hadn't listened to it in a while, but there was this rock solid chunk of time in 2012 where I listened to it non-stop. I first heard "Little Talks" via the wonderful Amy months before it Blew Up In Your Face Everywhere You Went, from commercials to TV shows to random boring places where you have to spend your time, like waiting to get your oil changed or walking around Target. Here's the thing about this song, though: it's still good!

(Also of note: Everything recorded live for KEXP is the best. EVERYTHING. Seattle, represent.)

Once I realized that I had forgotten this on my list, and beat myself up over it--because what I include on my Best of 2012 list on my personal blog is so important to the world--I listened to the album again, and realized something remarkable about it. Well, no, let me start with the basic stuff: the basic stuff is that this is one of those albums where every single song is enjoyable. Every! Single! Song! And it makes the album such a really amazing comfort. It doesn't necessarily mean that an album has to be your favorite album ever if you like every song, but it's really COMFORTING. It makes the album really feel like a friend, moreso than others, even more than albums from artists who you may love more but whose track listings may be less consistent. Does that make sense? There is literally not a song on this album I don't like. That is SOLID. And increasingly, it feels like, even more rare than that ever was.

Okay, but here's the Remarkable For Me thing: this album also fits almost every feel. During that block of time when I listened to this on repeat--and it feels like a very vivid time frame to me now, when I listen to the album again, as happens when you listen to an album on repeat in concentrated doses and then listen again later--I was in a sort of transition, a transition from Feeling Sad and Tormenting Myself With Florence Every Day, to Maybe Feeling Like Myself Again, to Really Being Okay. This is an important transition. But the thing is, I think you can listen to this album and feel very sad: there are many melancholy tones to pick up on. And certainly "Love Love Love" is more of an always-sort-of-a-bummer-I-think song.

But I consider myself Pretty Fully Happy these days, and these songs are just as satisfying, while I'm still able to see how good they were when I was angry. Part of the reason "Little Talks" is so good is because it has that push and pull, where you don't know if it's happy or not. Where one minute they're all FINE, GO, PLEASE: "All that's left is the ghost of you. Now we're torn, torn, torn apart, there's nothing we can do. Just let me go, we'll meet again soon." And then a literal moment later it switches and says NOOO, STAY: "Now wait, wait, wait for me. Please hang around. I'll see you when I go to sleep." When angry, the conflict inherent in this song can feel so right on. When happy, it just feels like: hey, this is a damn good bouncy song!

Even "Slow and Steady," which seems like a pretty straightforward Woe Is Me song ("I spend my nights dancing with my own shadow"), can feel like that when you need it to, but it can also feel like a Fuck Yeah, And I'm Okay With Me song. (The lyrics following that line say: "And it holds me, and it never lets me go.") The chorus sways, "I move slow and steady, but I feel like a waterfall," but the question is, what kinda waterfall, huh? A waterfall of mess, or a waterfall of AWESOME? It could be either way! And/or either way is OKAY! It can be a comfort in both instances.

And even when she says, "'Cause I know, I know, I know, that time won't let me show what I want to show," in a bad place that can hurt so much, but from a better light, it's like, at least you had something you wanted to show in the first place, you know? And time is a bitch but maybe you'll be able to show it someday. Hold on to what you want to show, girl!

But, beyond my own perhaps too-much-self-analysis, when all is said and done, these dudes and dudettes are also from Iceland. And it is hard to not love adorable hipsters from Iceland!

So much flannel, so many sunglasses! Woods! So much cool! You guys!

Phew! OK, 2012 Music Reflections now (mostly) accurate. I feel so much better now.

Monday, January 21, 2013

10 Random Things I Like, A Lot, That Do Not Require Any Further Explanation**: Part III.

**: But that I will probably give anyway.

1) Body Shop Mango Body Butter. I feel like the Body Shop is a great place to get gifts, but you hardly ever buy something for your actual self, because it just feels too indulgent, or something. But when we got some stuff while Christmas shopping in December, we said, HEY, WE deserve a tub of body butter, too, dammit. And I am obsessed. Ob-sessed. It smells so good and makes me feel SO LUXURIOUS, PEOPLE. YES, I AM CAPS LOCK LEVELS OF EXCITED ABOUT IT.

2) The Patriot Guard Riders. Every time I read about these people riding from various states to form a line full of dignity and badassery to keep those mother-f-ing Westboro Baptist freaks of nature out of people's overwhelming grief, my eyes get moist with weepy happiness.

3) Pink Martini, Auld Lang Syne. Right, so, I actually started making this list in December, and this might seem a little out of season at this point, but I was going to talk about how I had downloaded all this new Christmas music to play during the month and this ended up, surprisingly, as my favorite thing of all. Pink Martini is Portland's favorite slightly-funky yet-actually-real-classy local act, and they play a couple big shows each New Year's, and the version I downloaded is from a recording from one of the shows a few years back. And it just makes me so happy. There's something about this song in general that, even while everyone's getting over being so preoccupied with Christmas music, kicks you right in the feels each year, and that somehow feels deeper than all the Christmas music, anyway, and I'm saying that as someone who LOVES Christmas music: It's not the celebration of one day, but a full wallop of half nostalgia for the year's past, and the things that might have been lost there, and half foolhardy optimism at what's to come. Basically, it is everything.

4) Nikki McClure. Everything she does is magic.

5) My new rain boots, which were a Christmas present from Kathy. Rain boots are essential here in Portlandia, and Kathy had researched this brand as being The Best, and they REALLY ARE. So superior to the Tarjay pair of mine that crapped out so long ago! (Although they served me well for a long time.) And they are so blue! I want to wear them every day even though it actually hasn't rained in like a week which also is really weird for Portland in January, discuss!

6) I swear I wasn't meaning to make this simply a brag-about-my-Christmas-presents post, but that's what it's going to be because I never buy this kind of nice stuff for myself so it is EXCITING. Like also this scarf, and these fingerless gloves, both from my mom and both comfy, wonderful knits of love.

7) Last piece of vanity: newest favoritest earrings from Zoe.

8) Trader Joe's Goddess Dressing. Tahini! I never knew!

9) Marina & the Diamonds, Numb. Last year, once I stopped obsessively listening to Florence and the Machine, I commenced obsessively listening to Marina, as evidenced by the fact that I wrote a gushing blog post here, and then flailed some more in yet another post (that I got paid for!). Yet somehow, in both posts, I never got a chance to blab about my favorite song, the last track off her first record, which I listened to on repeat at top volume in my car many many times in the fall of 2012. Being as it's a new year and all, I'm going to actually try to expand my musical knowledge past a crippling emotional devotion to two artists. I think I can do it, guys! But still, I'll harbor dreams of hearing this performed in a huge opera hall forevs.

10) Amy Poehler. Remember when she and Tina Fey hosted the Golden Globes? That was rad. Also, remember when this picture existed?

Going to try to do this more, this year. Time to really focus on the random shit that makes me happy, because this is, in actuality, the important stuff.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Reading Recap 2012.

A few days late, but courtesy of the convenience of Goodreads, here's my reading recap for 2012. For comparison, which I always find interesting, I included my results from last year in italics, with the data from this year in bold.

Total Books Read: (53) 54

Holy crap! I totally felt like I spent a lot of time reading this year, but alas, I only read ONE more book than I did last year. Maybe this proves I have a wall, or something. I will break you this year, wall! (Maybe.)

Within those books:

- Children's or Young Adult Fiction: (44) 34. Huh.

- Picture Books: (1) 0. You might think it's weird, but I am actually quite sad about this. Note to self: read more picture books this year!

- Queer Lit (YA or adult): (3) 30. Whoa. I turned SUPER GAY.

- "Adult" Books: (7) 10. I became SLIGHTLY more of an adult! (Slightly.)

- Graphic Novels (YA or adult): (11) 11. This number needs to grow.

- "Classics": (5) 2. This number dropped off promptly after the bookclub-that-made-me-read-classics dissolved.

- Nonfiction (YA or adult): (4) 5. The majority of these, however, were memoir-ish books. While I love these, I also really want to read more hard-facts informative nonfiction. You know, to be more smarts.

Some Highlights:

- The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood. Chilling. Relevant.

- A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend, Emily Horner. This is a sort of sad story that I read while I was feeling sad, and it made me Feel Things. Also started my streak of reading All the Lesbian Things at the beginning of the year, and it's still one of the best in that whole streak.

- The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Emily Danforth. I've vouched for this book so much that I feel people must be sick of it, most recently on AfterEllen, where it DID just win for Best Book in their 2012 Visibility Awards. I have a feeling it's soooo going to win a big youth award in the upcoming month, y'all.

- Beauty Queens, Libba Bray. Hilare and empowering.

- The Letter Q, edited by Sarah Moon. Queer youth. Hearts.

- The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri. An oldie (in relative contemporary fiction terms) that I finally got around to, and loved.

- New York: Life in the Big City, Will Eisner. So often surprisingly harsh, yet also often wonderful. A combination only appropriate for the place.

- Ask the Passengers, A.S. King. A.S. King = officially one of the best people on the planet.

- The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Sherman Alexie. I've resolved to read all of Alexie's works, and just recently saw that he's part of Multnomah County's Everybody Reads project this year, so looks like I'll be reading Ten Little Indians soon.

- One in Every Crowd, Ivan Coyote. Can't really describe how much I loved this book, but I really, really, really did.

- The Difference Between You and Me, Madeleine George. Oh, the ache. And the kissing. And the hard, hard ache.

- Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Jeanette Winterson. It's sort of difficult to not be extremely affected by Winterson's words.

- Astray, Emma Donoghue. Such a wide-ranging array of stories, with a really fascinating impetus behind them. Although I'm still haunted by the rape-during-the-Revolutionary-War one. Must read more of Donoghue's work.

- The Last Nude, Ellis Avery. Oh, Paris in the 1920s. Oh, immigrants and class and art. Oh, women who are bad at loving.

There were lots of others that I could mention, if I didn't already probably mention too many. Per usual, I hardly read anything this year that I really disliked--well, aside from The Sound and the Fury. That shit was weird.