New Music Friday: Songs I’ve Missed in 2020 So Far

I generally only post about one song per week in my New Music Friday post, so there are obviously lots of songs that have come out in 2020 that I haven’t covered here. Since I don’t have anything super new that I feel compelled to write about today I thought I would circle back around to a few songs that came out earlier this year that I haven’t written about but which I really like.

I don’t think I have too much to say about any of these songs, which is probably why I didn’t write about them in the first place. They’re just songs I like.

Held Down by Laura Marling

I listen to WXPN streaming a lot while I’m working and this song has been on heavy rotation there this year, so I’ve heard it approximately one jillion times and I don’t mind. The lyrics don’t especially resonate with me, but the music is just kind of this calm, soothing vibe that I’ve been digging.

Time Moves On by Phantom Planet

I don’t really know anything about Phantom Planet other than the fact that the wrote the hit song “California” that was the them song to The OC that I never really liked and couldn’t escape for awhile. Thus, I have no idea when this song was written. With the lyrics to the opening verse

“It’s just the same day over and over
I mean, seasons will change
And we will get older
Maybe it rains
Or it’s sunny weather
But when it gets bad
Maybe it’ll get better
As time moves on
It’s gonna change before too long
And the doors will keep revolving
With everyone who’s come and gone
As time moves on”

it seems like the song was written exactly for this moment, but it could also be one of those weird songs that were written previously but wound up being eerily prescient for our times. Either way I really dig it and totally feel what it’s saying to me.

Strangers by Mt. Joy

I really have nothing to say about this song other than the fact that I really love it. It’s probably one of my favorite songs of 2020 so far. I love the music. It feels joyful and with this purposeful sense of moving forward that it hard to come by these days.

30 Day Song Challenge

There’s a thing that’s been going around Instagram for a while called the 30 Day song challenge where you post the image listing your prompt for each day in your Insta Stories along with a music clip from the song you choose to go along with that day’s prompt. Given my love of music you would think that I would have jumped on this right away, but I didn’t because I always feel like I can never think of things.

It’s why I was not a great bookseller and would be a terrible public librarian. I am terrible at reader’s advisory because as soon as someone wants recommendations I’m like books, what are books? It’s why I can never eat at restaurants outside my neighborhood that aren’t on OpenTable because I just can’t remember that they exist if I’m not looking at a list of their names.

But eventually I got bored because, you know, quarantine and decided to give this a go. I sat down and plotted out all my songs ahead of time. I didn’t want to include more than one song per artist so there was definitely some shuffling around along the way as I had to figure out other options when I wound up with multiple songs by the same artists initially. There were also a couple that I changed along the way when I thought of something I wanted to use more than what I had originally written down.

Since it’s a 30 day challenge I decided that June would be the perfect month since it has 30 days. It just so happened that the prompt for a song from the year you were born was the Day 18 prompt and my birthday is June 18th, so it seemed like it was kismet. Anyway, if you don’t follow me on Instagram or for some reason wanted a permanent record of my song selections I decided to turn it into a blog post too. That way I could add a little context to some of my choices too.

  1. A song you like with a color in the title – Pink Moon by Nick Drake
  2. A song you like with a number in the title – 1957 by Milo Green
  3. A song that reminds you of summertime – Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen – This is the best song of summer that ever existed. You could not escape it back in the summer of 2012 and I never got tired of it. I still love it and think it a perfect summer song.
  4. A song that reminds you of someone you’d rather forget – Worn Me Down by Rachael Yamagata – I don’t really have anyone that I’d like to forget, but this was a song I was super into when I broke up with the last guy I seriously dated before I met my husband, so I went with it because it seemed the closest thing to the prompt I could come up with.
  5. A song that needs to be played loud – Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin – I mean this doesn’t really need an explanation. If you’re not listening to this song loud you’re doing it wrong.
  6. A song that makes you want to dance – Dancing on My Own by Robyn – Perhaps a little bit too on the nose, but I don’t care. It’s a great song that makes you want to dance and who doesn’t want to be inspired to have a personal dance party. Plus this video of people dancing and singing to the song in the subway station under MSG after a Robyn show there always makes me smile and is something I go back and watch when I need a little joy in my life.
  7. A song to drive to – Windows Are Rolled Down by Amos Lee – Again as song that’s title is perhaps a little too on the nose, but it’s still the first song I want to drive with my windows down to every spring.
  8. A song about drugs or alcohol – Break Out the Champagne by Amanda Shires
  9. A song that makes you happy – Alive and Kicking by Simple Minds – Every time I hear this song it makes me really happy. It was an 80s song I forgot about for awhile, but at some point in the late 2000’s it wound up on on iPod in a workout mix and it’s been a perennial favorite since then.
  10. A song that makes you sad – Elephant by Jason Isbell – It’s a song about someone dying of cancer, so you know the sad is kind of built into it. I love this reaction video to it.
  11. A song you never get tired of – Pictures of You by The Cure
  12. A song from your preteen years – Constant Craving by k.d. lang – During my actual preteen years this song was everywhere for awhile and it wasn’t something that I particularly loved at the time. As a preteen it unsurprisingly didn’t speak to me. As an adult it’s one of those songs that I’ve developed an entirely different relationship to and now it’s a favorite.
  13. A song you like from the 70s – Dreams by Fleetwood Mac
  14. A song you’d like to be played at your wedding – I wanted to use Ray LaMontagne’s You Are the Best Thing for this prompt but for some reason it wasn’t available on Instagram, so I used my actual wedding song Just the Way You Are by Billy Joel instead.
  15. A song you like that’s a cover by another artist – America by First Aid Kit – I adore the harmonies in this song. They’re great in the original version, and I think I might like this cover even better.
  16. A song that’s a classic favorite – For the life of me I cannot remember what song I used here. I had a couple written down that I wound up using for other prompts and apparently didn’t write my actual choice down. I guess it wasn’t that much of a favorite.
  17. A song you’d sing a duet with on karoake – The Boy is Mine by Brandi and Monica
  18. A song from the year you were born – Forever in Blue Jeans by Neil Diamond
  19. A song that makes you think about life – When My Time Comes by Dawes
  20. A song that has many meanings to you – In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel – I have so many memories of this song from various times in my life.
  21. A song you like with a person’s name in it – Josephine by Brandi Carlile
  22. A song that moves you forward – Shake It Out by Florence + the Machine – I actually had Maggie Rogers’ Back in My Body written down as my song choice for this prompt, but then when I went to post it this song popped in my head instead and I had to go with it instead. It for sure is a song that makes you want to pick yourself up, shake off the bad stuff, and keep moving forward.
  23. A song you think everyone should listen to – This Land by Gary Clarke, Jr.
  24. A song by a band you wish were still together – Poison and Wine by The Civil Wars – I loved The Civil Wars. I first learned of them when I saw them open for Adele in a little club in Philly right before she broke it really big. I’m sad that their band ended in a civil war of its own. I’ve tried the stuff they’ve both done solo since they broke up and none of it has the magic they had when they were together.
  25. A song you like by an artist no longer living – Have a Little Faith in Me by Joe Cocker – I adore pretty much every version of this song, but Joe Cocker’s is my favorite.
  26. A song that makes you want to fall in love – Into the Mystic by Van Morrison – If you pressed me to name my all time favorite song I would probably name this one. It’s a perfect love song.
  27. A song that breaks your heart – Waiting on June by Holly Williams – Written about her maternal grandparent’s relationship this song is a beautiful ode to their relationship. It paints a perfect picture of a life together. It’s the only song I have ever seen an entire audience full of people weep to during a concert. I love this song and the entire album it is from and it makes me sad that Holly Williams doesn’t really play music anymore.
  28. A song by an artist whose voice you love – Baby, Now That I Found You by Alison Krauss
  29. A song you remember from your childhood – Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears – I have loved this song ever since it came out when I was a kid. I still do. The first year I started creating annual playlists in Spotify I tried to add a song a day that I heard during the day and I really liked. Since then I’ve changed my playlists to only songs that I like released during that year and I add them as I hear them and not on a daily basis. Anyway, this song is the only one that I accidentally added more than once during that first year because I like it so much.
  30. A song that reminds you of yourself – American Girl by Tom Petty – Tom Petty is one of my favorite all time artists. I’m still sad about his death. I’ve always said that if I played baseball American Girl would be my walkup song. It’s always the song I choose whenever I have to answer a question similar to this one.

New Music Friday: Light by Michael Kiwanuka

“Light” the song is actually a song off of Michael Kiwanuka’s album Kiwanuksa, which camr out last fall. Last week he released a new animated video for it highlighting the Black Lives Matter movement. I’ll just let him share what he had to say about the song.

“The way so much of the world has been designed has often caused me and so many other Black people psychological damage,” Kiwanuka says. “We so often hear that we are lesser than because we are Black. We are a label, a token, a statistic, and we can be dehumanized. I’ve spoken about it in my music but I wanted to declare in words that I’m so proud to be Black. We are so beautiful and have such a wonderful history of strength, overcoming, talent, innovation, creativity, invention and love.”

Also go check out this NPR list of A Century of Black Music Against State Violence.

TV Diary Quarantine Edition

Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever is a cute rom-com teen show. Devi is high school girl who everyone thinks faked paralysis after she had hysterical paralysis following the death of her father. She is trying to move on with her life without really confronting her feelings about her father by chasing a crush she has on a popular boy at school and fighting with her nemesis and competition for top of the class. I really loved this show and it’s about much more than the teen romance stuff. It’s about family and friendship and culture and the show does not let Devi off for being a selfish jerk for significant portions of the show.

Newsradio

I never watched Newsradio when it was on in the 90s though I had a cultural consciousness of it to some degree. I definitely got wrong how some of the storylines play out. In my head the show had more a narrative arc like Friends did, but it really does put the situational in sit com as the stories mostly reset every episode. I assumed that the show spent seasons leading up to the relationship between Dave and Lisa, but it turns out they got together literally in the first episode of the show and for the most part anything related to their relationship occurred within the confines of single episodes rather than across seasons. I definitely didn’t like it as much as I like some other 90s sitcoms, but it was a fine distraction. I did not however like Jon Lovitz as the replacement for Phil Hartman after his tragic death.

Quiz

Quiz was a three episode mini-series about the scandal that rocked the British version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in which a husband and wife were prosecuted for cheating to win the million dollars. I was surprised that I had no recollection that it happened until watching the show and realizing that the news broke on September 11, 2001 so there were a few things I was paying a bit more attention to. I thought it was a great miniseries that felt just about the right length and I may have enjoyed the beginning episode that went into the development of the show itself more than I cared about the whole cheating part of it.

Looking for Alaska

I read the book Looking for Alaska and remember liking it well enough so I was interested in watching the show, especially since it was created by Josh Schwartz who has a history of using great music in shows. Ultimately though I think I am way over shows, books, movies, etc. about pretentious unrealistic teens at boarding school (or camp or college). It’s been awhile since I’ve consumed anything with that bent that I haven’t been annoyed by. I just didn’t care about these characters or any of the charades they were getting up to.

High Fidelity

I definitely watched the movie High Fidelity around the time that it originally came out, but I never rewatched it and didn’t have many memories of it. You would think that it would be a movie that I adored, but it never really was. It might have been the Jack Black of it all. It’s been so long I couldn’t tell you. I think I also read the Nicholas Hornsby book at some point, but again like two decades later I can’t really say how faithful this tv version is to either of the previous properties. The show does gender flip the lead with Zoe Kravitz playing Rob, John Cusack’s character from the movie. She is wonderful in the part. I loved, loved, loved this show. It basically combined all my favorite things. It’s got fantastic music. There are great romance stories and friendships. Plus it was really funny. I laughed out loud almost every episode and I rarely laugh out loud while watching tv. I cannot wait for more episodes of this show.

Sweet Magnolia

I gather Sweet Magnolia is based on a book or possibly series of books, but I’ve never read them. It follows three woman in a small town outside Charleston. One is a recently divorced mother of three whose husband cheated on her and got another woman pregnant. One is a chef, and the other is a lawyer. Lifelong friends they decide to go into business together and start a spa. It’s basically Hallmark Channel level of quality. It’s not really very good, but the level of fluff was about the speed I was looking for in the height of the COVID crisis.

America to Me

I had wanted to watch this docuseries following kids, teachers, and administrators at a diverse high school in suburban Chicago when it first aired on Starz, but I don’t have Starz and it never moved to any other streaming platform. In the recent rush by companies to make content they have related to race available for free, Starz made this available for free for a weekend. I jumped at the chance to finally watch it and since I have no plans these days watched all 10 episodes in two days. It’s so, so good. It really perfectly encapsulates so many issues with race and racism that our country faces. It should really be required watching. I wish Starz would make it available more widely since not too many people subscribe to Starz and who are like me and even if they’re interested are not wanting to pay to buy it episode by episode.

Love, Victor

I never read the book that it was based on, but I liked the movie Love, Simon so I was looking forward to this show. Love, Victor is spinoff of the movie with the title character texting with Simon as he has heard tale of Simon’s own coming out love story as he himself is trying to figure out is sexuality under less ideal circumstances than Simon had. This show was originally slated to be a Disney+ show before they punted it to Hulu. It definitely has a vibe of being aimed more towards the pre-teen set as a result. I didn’t connect with this show as much as I did the movie. I didn’t care about the drama surrounding Victor’s parents’ marriage. Even though based on the opening lines this was supposed to be the story of someone who was less supported in the coming out process to address some of the criticisms lobbed at Love, Simon ultimately it kind of felt the same way. I think I’d rather watch a show about Mia, the girl that Victor dates for much of the first season.

TV Diary

Twenties

Twenties is the newest show created by Lena Waithe on BET. She doesn’t actually star in this particular show though, which I didn’t realize before watching it. It follows a group of black women navigating their twenties in Hollywood. It’s very stylized with lots of nods to old Hollywood. The characters were great. I liked the relationships and found it quite amusing. I really enjoyed the show and very much look forward to new episodes at some future date whenever TV can actually go back into production.

I Am Not Okay with This

I Am Not Okay with This is a short series on Netflix. It shares the same DNA with The End of the F***ing World, as they are both based on graphic novels by the same author and produced by the same creators. I didn’t care for this nearly as much as The End of the F***ing World. It just seemed like a poor imitation to me. I think the only reason I even finished it was because it was really short both in episode length and count and it came out at a time that there was a lull in other television.

The Sinner

It’s obviously no secret that I am tv lover and watch way too much of it, so I have no idea how this USA show got to three seasons without me even knowing it existed. The only reason I even heard about it in season three was because Matt Bomer starred in it, and I love me some Matt Bomer. As best as I can tell the seasons sort of stand alone with separate storylines connected by Bill Pullman as the detective investigating whatever happens that season. Matt Bomer’s character is very messed up in this show and winds up pulling Bill Pullman’s character down with him. It was an okay show, but I didn’t like it enough to bother going back and watching the first two seasons and I won’t be watching any future seasons either.

Feel Good

Feel Good is a Netflix show following comic Mae who is recently sober and her girlfriend George who is still hiding their relationship from her family and friends. I liked this show while I was actually watching the episodes, but for some reason it just kept falling out of my head when I wasn’t watching it. I kept having to remind myself what it was every time I saw it in my Netflix list and it’s not something I’ve thought a whole lot about since I finished it, but if there’s another season I would watch it.

Unorthodox

I did not read the book this very limited Netflix series is based on. When we started watching the show I didn’t realize it was only 4 episodes and then felt like I wanted to know what happened to the characters so I looked it up and it turns out the show is only very loosely based on the story. Pretty much in concept only with an Orthodox Jewish woman in Brooklyn fleeing her marriage. That’s pretty much where the stories diverge completely. It’s worth watching though.

The Baker and Beauty

Daniel Garcia helps run his family’s Cuban bakery. After publicly turning down his girlfriend’s proposal in a video that goes viral he winds up running into supermodel Noa Hamilton and getting drawn into her orbit and throwing all their lives into disarray. This was some mindless summer entertainment that was perfect for keeping my mind off of COVID-19. It’s based off an Israeli show. I don’t know if the title is literal translation of the Israeli title, but it bugs me that the show is not called Beauty and the Baker like it should be. I did also hear someone say it should have been called Beauty and the Yeast, but that’s probably taking it a bit too far.

Messiah

Messiah is a Netflix show about a mysterious man who appears first in the Middle East and then the United States. Some people say he’s a new messiah and others believe he is a con man. The show ends on what could be considered a cliffhanger, but could also serve as a satisfying although somewhat ambiguous ending since Netflix cancelled the show after one season.

Cybill

If you don’t recall the show Cybil it was a sitcom from back in the 90s starring Cybill Shepherd and was the first acting role that Christine Baranski had as more than a guest star. Cybill is a C-list actress doing guest star roles, commercials, and bad movies. Baranski plays Maryann her best friend, a rich divorcee who spends much of her time plotting revenge against her cheating ex-husband. It’s a goofy show and something I only saw a few episodes of when it originally aired because the humor was too adult for me at the time and I didn’t really get it. Now as an adult I get it, and it was kind of a mindless fun show to watch on Amazon Prime.

New Music Friday: Seeds by Rissi Palmer

Rissi Palmer is a Black female country artist. In 2007 she was the first Black woman to make it onto the country charts since 1987 with her song “Country Girl”. Here newest album Revival that came out last October extends beyond her country roots combining them with gospel, R&B, and jazz in a collection of songs mostly about race and racism, though the very personal song “You Were Here” talks about her miscarriage.

The whole album is great, but I’m going to share the song “Seeds” here. It’s a fantastic protest song and one of the songs that most has a country feel to it.

New Music Friday: Black Like Me by Mickey Guyton

At the beginning of this year I said I wanted to highlight country songs by female artists in my New Music Friday posts because the Nashville country machine does not support women even though there are many fantastic female country singers out there. With the advent of COVID-19 I drifted away from that a little bit to talk about some songs I was feeling in that moment, and then I just stopped writing these posts all together because I just didn’t have the mental energy to do it.

Well, I’m back at least for now and am getting back to my original mission while also trying to promote some black, female country artists which are rare in a music genre that like many others pretty much appropriated the roots of the music from black people and then locked them out of it. Take a look at all the work Rhiannon Giddens has done examining the history of country music and its roots in black music.

Because mainstream country music has the issues it does regarding both women and people of color, I had not heard of Mickey Guyton before last week. She had already written the song “Black Like Me” for a forthcoming project, but in the midst of everything that has been happening recently with the black lives matter movement she quietly dropped it on black out Tuesday.

It’s a very simple song about being proud to be black, but also point out that it makes her life difficult in ways that white people don’t experience. It’s a great song and perfect for this moment. Go take a listen.

Gnome Garden

Remember approximately one million years ago when I said I was going to start blogging about things in Baltimore that make me happy and I then managed to write maybe two posts before never writing another one? Yeah, it’s been so long, me neither.

I actually had a couple of posts in the works way back when that I never wrote but took pictures of things for. I ran across them in my photos the other day when I was looking for something else and thought, hey I should write those posts. They might bring the tiniest amount of joy into our currently hellish world.

This one has a little bit of sad tinge to it in that the Gnome Garden is currently on hiatus because the gnomes have had to social distance, but one day it will hopefully be back. Someone in my neighborhood has created this little Gnome Garden in her front yard and invites little kids to play with the stuff in the garden and to take things home from it for a short time.

She would post updates and gentle reminders about the garden from the perspectives of the gnomes on Nextdoor under the title Gnome News. It was pretty much the only good thing about Nextdoor. For whatever reason, even though my settings in Nextdoor were set to get a daily digest of posts I stopped getting them eons ago and never bother to go to the site because it’s mostly garbage. I did go and search for Gnome News to confirm that the reason the garden disappeared as in fact due to COVID and was informed that that it was because the gnome doctor insisted the gnomes follow CDC guidelines.

It was a delightful little spot in the neighborhood. I always enjoyed walking by it even though I don’t have kids and thus never played with anything in it. I appreciate the joy that it brings to be people, and I hope that it won’t be too long before the gnomes can come out of quarantine.

By the way I took these photos way back in September in case you were wondering how long ago I thought about writing this post originally.

New Music Friday: We’ll Make It Through by Ray LaMontagne

A few weeks ago Ray LaMontagne released a new song called “We’ll Make It Through”. He just posted it online with no other information so it’s unclear if it’s something he wrote specifically for this moment or something he wrote previously that seems to fit it perfectly and thus he decided to put out into the world.

It’s a beautiful little ballad with a message of hope. The plaintive harmonica evokes a nostalgic feel as does the accompanying video to remind us that we as a people have made it through tough times before and even though this time seems particularly challenging and is for sure the most challenging thing most people alive have experienced in their lifetimes, life will go on in some form and we will in fact make it through in some way. I like that it feels hopeful and sad at the same time because even though we as a species will make it through not every individual person will and our lives are all going to be forever changed no matter what. It’s not a rah rah we’re all in this together kind of song that often gets churned out during trying times that I often find cloying. It’s the kind of song that makes me feel like yeah this is hard, but in some way we will be all right on the other side of the darkness eventually.

New Music Friday: Dreamsicle by Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell’s newest album, Reunions, was released today. By now you should know what a huge fan of Jason Isbell I am. I’ve been looking forward to this album ever since he played “Overseas” from it during a couple of concerts I saw him at last summer. Given that was the song he was playing out on the road I was shocked that it was never one of the singles from album released before the album was out. I kept waiting for it because I loved it so much, and I had to wait all the way until today. I still adore that song and I think the opening line “Used to be a ghost town but even the ghosts got out” is such a brilliant lyric. Jason Isbell is hands down one of, if not the best lyricist currently working today.

As much as I love “Overseas”, after he released “Dreamsicle” as the final single before the album release I was pretty sure that was the song I was going to write about here today. I waited to listen to the whole album this morning to make sure there wasn’t anything that stood out to me more. The whole album is great, and I can’t wait to really dig into it and listen more closely to the lyrics instead of having it on while I’m working, but “Dreamsicle” is still the song I want highlight even though you should do yourself a favor and go listen to the whole album.

Again this is just such a brilliantly written song. Jason Isbell can evoke a mood and a scene in a song like no one else I can think of. This song is a perfect encapsulation of that. The chorus and the melody evoke this sweet nostalgia of summer nights sitting outside and eating Dreamsicles as a kid, but if you dig into the lyrics of the verses it paints an entirely different picture of a broken family. I just love it so much. It’s perfect. Who knows how much more new music we’ll even get in the latter half of this year, but even if its an avalanche I suspect this is going to be my favorite song of 2020 and everything else is going to have to work really hard to unseat it from that place in my heart.