New Music Friday: Virginia Beach by Hamilton Leithauser and Kevin Morby

There’s a new Adele song out today for the first time in five years. I’m not here to talk about the Adele song though. You don’t need me to tell you that there’s a new Adele song because everyone else already has. If you somehow are reading this while somehow having bypassed the entire rest of the internet since yesterday when the song dropped then bravo to you and I guess I’m really flattered that my blog is the one thing you look at on the internet.

Jason Isbell also released his cover album Georgia Blue today even though it wasn’t originally slated for release until November 25. He vowed that if Georgia went blue during this past presidential election that he would make a cover album of songs by artists from Georgia. He’s covering a lot of great artists along with the help of a bunch of other great artists. I haven’t had a chance to actually listen to it yet, so I’m also not talking about that today. But I’m super excited to listen to it when I get a chance later today.

I am however here to talk about the new song “Virginia Beach” by Hamilton Leithauser and Kevin Morby. Those are two artists that orbit around a bunch of other artists that I love, but for whatever reason I am not super into. I’m super digging this song though. I love the steel guitar. The line, “I have been to a Carolina” cracks me up. It’s like I don’t know I was in one of those Carolina states. I don’t know which one. Doesn’t matter. I don’t know why it tickles me so much, but it does. It may be the foremost reason that I like this song. And that’s what I have to say about that. Take a break from listening to Adele and give this a whirl.

New Music Friday: The Last Dance by St. Paul and the Broken Bones

I had a couple of other songs that I was thinking about writing about this morning and then I heard this new song by St. Paul and the Broken Bones and decided to go with it instead. I will keep the others in my back pocket as we’re starting to edge towards the part of the year where at least historically not as much new music is released. I will just let the opening lyrics tell you why I switched things up and wanted to share this song today.

“Lose yourself in a song that doesn’t make you want to cry
God knows we need it right now”

Hilton Head Vacation 2021

For a number of years now we’ve been taking a beach vacation in South Carolina in May. Obviously we just outright canceled our May 2020 trip, and back in January I could tell at the rate that vaccines were rolling out that we weren’t going to be fully vaccinated by the time May rolled around. So we decided to push the trip back a little bit this year and reschedule it for the end of September.

I had a lot of apprehension going into the trip for a long time because the case rates in South Carolina were so high and it seemed crazy to purposefully be traveling into that fire where things were out of control and there were no measures in place to contain them. It caused a lot of anxiety and thoughts of canceling for several months before the trip, but since my doctor who basically told me to keep living in a bubble due to my immunocompromised status signed off on it I managed to take her advice and still go. It also helped that cases finally started to dramatically fall in South Carolina a couple weeks before our trip so that they were still super high but only about half of what they were at their peak. Granted given the lag in hospitalizations following cases we were there just as their hospital capacity was peaking, so it’s a good thing I didn’t get bitten by the shark that was swimming along side the shore one day. The lifeguard spotted it and made everyone get out of the water.

I’m super glad we went. It wound up being the perfect beach week. I could not have asked for nicer weather. It was in the mid-80s and not overly humid pretty much every day. I quickly set up a little beach routine for every day. I got up and went for a sunrise walk on the beach. I came back and ate breakfast, and then went out for a bike ride on the beach and/or some of the bike paths around Hilton Head. After lunch I went down to the beach and sat under an umbrella and read for a few hours before going back and getting showered for dinner.

We only did take out because I was definitely not going to eat in restaurants where the vaccination rate is super low and no one is wearing masks even outside. That was fine though. I haven’t eaten at restaurants much at home yet either and not at all since cases have started going back up. We had a nice balcony, so we just sat out on the balcony and ate our dinner at the resort and then just hung out enjoying the nice weather and chatting until bed time. The most adventurous thing we did was go play mini-golf on Friday morning. It was a super chill week, which was exactly what I wanted and needed. Honestly that’s pretty much the way the vacation would have gone anyway other than that we would have eaten in the actual restaurants rather than doing take out and might have partaken in one or two of the activities at the resort like s’mores night.

I was trying to think if it was more crowded at the resort this year than it was when we stayed there back in May of 2019 or if my perception of crowds has just changed due to COVID. The common courtyards and pools didn’t seem that much more crowded to me, but the beach definitely did. I still managed to be mostly far enough away from people to feel comfortable, though there were a few times where people decided to set up right next to me for no good reason and I moved to an emptier space. I was also entirely confused by the number of school aged children that were staying at the resort. Do kids get some kind of fall break that I never got as a kid? Even then it seems really early for that even for kids who went back to school in August, but what do I know? Or has everyone just decided after a year and half of virtual school that they don’t really care if their kids miss a week of school for vacation anymore? It was very weird to me and definitely more kids than I was expecting to see given that we normally purposefully plan our vacations in shoulder season when kids aren’t quite of school yet or have just gone back.

We’ll be going back to our regularly scheduled trip in May of 2022. Hopefully things will be much improved by then and we can even go out and eat at some restaurants then. I’m already looking forward to being back at the beach, and I hope that the weather gods gift us weather as good as we got on this trip.

New Music Friday: In These Silent Days by Brandi Carlile

Of course I’m talking about Brandi Carlile’s new album, In These Silent Days, for New Music Friday this week. Whose blog do you think you’re reading? I listened to the album while taking a sunrise walk on the beach this morning (my last one before heading home, sob). I really do like it a lot, don’t get me wrong, but it’s probably the first Brandi Carlile album that on first listen did not become my new favorite Brandi Carlile album. It was bound to happen sometime, and maybe that will change with future listens. We’ll see.

A lot of the songs are definitely very influenced by Joni Mitchell, and I’m sorry to say that I just don’t love Joni Mitchell that much. Brandi would be super disappointed in me, I know. It may partly be because for most of my life the only Joni Mitchell song I knew was “Big Yellow Taxi” because it was the only Joni Mitchell song that ever gets played on the radio, and I loathe that song. I don’t hate all of her music, but I have also never in my life sat own and purposefully played music by Joni Mitchell other than the first time I made the effort to listen to the Blue album.

Like I said I don’t hate this album in any way. There are some songs I super love on it like “Broken Horses”, which is the one I’m highlighting here. I know many of the others that didn’t immediately grab me as much will grow on me. I will definitely be spending some more time with it and I certainly can’t wait for the day I get to see them play it live. Here’s hoping that’s sooner than I think.

New Music Friday: Higher by Mickey Guyton

Mickey Guyton’s debut album, Remember Her Name, came out today. I was actually kind of surprised by it because I was already thinking this album came out, but it was only an EP that I was thinking about. I previously wrote about the song “Black Like Me” that is on both the EP and this album. She’s one of those artists that has been around for a long time, but is now only finally getting some recognition and some opportunities.

Many of my favorite albums from the past year or so in the Americana/Country realm have been by Black women and it’s been making me think about how much other amazing music was out there that I never got to hear. Some small doors are finally opening for these women in this area, but it’s not like there weren’t any Black women making this kind of music until 2020/2021. It’s just that they were kept out of the room. I’m glad there is starting to be a space for them, but I know there is still a long way to go and these women have to climb a lot of hurdles to get to the same place as white artists if they can get there at all.

Mickey Guyton actually does not shy away from any of that and talks a lot on songs on this album about her struggles as a Black woman in this country. She mixes them in with some more traditional country topics like love songs, songs about small time life, and of course the seemingly now obligatory song about alcohol. The album as a whole does not sound strictly country either. There is a whole range from songs that are more traditionally country tinged to the current sound of pop country and songs that don’t even really sound that country to me at all like the song “Higher”, which is what I’m sharing because it’s my favorite song on the album though I think the whole thing is great aside from a couple songs that I don’t love. There’s so much there that you’re bound to find at least one song you like.

New Music Friday: Visions by Jose Gonzalez

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about going into today. Adia Victoria’s new album Southern Gothic came out today. The War on Drugs also dropped the single “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” featuring Lucius, which is a song I really like. However, I wrote about songs by both of those artists in recent weeks and didn’t really want to repeat so soon if I could find something else to write about. I did not realize that José González’s new album, Local Valley, came out today until I was listening to NPR’s New Music Friday podcast.

I had been enjoying the song “El Invento”, which was the first single off of the album, since it came out way back in February. I kind of lost track that there was still an album it was attached to that hadn’t been released yet. A lot of this album still has González’s signature rhythmic almost meditative guitar picking sound, but it also expands in new ways. It’s the first time he’s sung in his native language of Spanish on any of his music. Most of it’s English, but there are a couple of songs in Spanish. He also has a few songs where he gets a bit more expansive in his sound. I’m sticking with talking about one that still sounds very much like a José González song to me.

“Visions” is the song they highlighted on the podcast episode I was listening to. It wasn’t the kind of song I wanted to hear this morning, but it turns out it was the song I needed to hear. It’s been a bit of a difficult week in my brain with lots of feelings of loss and depression as so many people seem to have restarted living their lives as if there wasn’t still a pandemic raging, but I still feel stuck in isolation. It was one thing when none of the things I love were happening, but it’s another to know that they’re happening and I’m now just missing out on them. This song with it’s meditative tone and with sounds of birds chirping it in it was the perfect calm as I was on my walk just before sunrise with the ground still wet from rain and crickets loudly chirping around me.

The lyrics that reminded me everything is cyclical and life will continue to move forward in some way and that we are all connected on this world for good or ill. In a time where I feel increasingly angry at the people who don’t want to understand or care that their actions have consequences for other people and thus that connection feels poisoned, this song offered what I felt was a more hopeful interpretation of that connection.

TV Diary

Schmigadoon

Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key play a couple who are questioning their relationship when they wind up stuck in a town called Schmigadoon in which everyone acts as if they are in an old time musical with all the tropes and bursting into songs reminiscent of that era of musicals like Brigadoon, Oklahoma, the Music Man, etc. I thought it was quite enjoyable, but I can imagine it’s really only something that people who are already into musical theatre would like. I’m not sure that they’re going to do any more episodes, but they did leave the ending ambiguous enough that they could do something more if they want to. I would love to see them do another season and tackle the 80s/90s eras of musicals with stuff like Les Mis, Phantom, Cats, Miss Saigon, etc. as those are the musicals I came up with and that made me fall in love with musical theatre even though their synthy spectacle doesn’t do so much for me anymore. It’s certainly musical theatre of a time with many shows that people still find beloved.

Punky Brewster (The Reboot)

They did a reboot of Punky Brewster on Peacock. Punky is now a newly single mom recently divorced from Freddie Prinze, Jr.’s character. There was still a good kind of will they are or won’t they get back together kind of romance going on there. They have three kids of their own and then Punky winds up fostering another young girl who reminds her a lot of herself as a child. Cherry is still around as her best friend who is now running Fenster Hall, the group home that Punky cycles in and out of a few times during the original run. I really like this show, so I’m super bummed that they already canceled it after only one season. I thought it was better than the Full House reboot though it obviously was still living in the same lane as that show. It’s a bummer that there won’t be any more episodes, but I still think it’s worth a watch.

Punky Brewster (OG Version)

Peacock annoyingly doesn’t let you turn off autoplay, so that new episodes of something don’t immediately start when you finish the previous episode. Thus when I was done watching the Punky reboot it immediately started playing the first episode of the original run of the show. I kept watching because I was kind of curious what it was like after all this time. Punky Brewster was not actually a show I watched a lot of as a child. I saw an episode here or there and definitely knew about the show just as a pop culture reference, but I’m guessing I had not seen most of the episodes in the original show. It gets goofier as time goes on, especially in the fourth and final season, but the first couple seasons are actually really something. They tackle some really tough stuff and don’t shy away from the trauma that Punky would have felt being abandoned by her parents (something she’s still tackling in the reboot too). There are a lot of episodes with her worrying that Henry will abandon her too for various reasons as well as some episodes that tackle the issues of a much older man acting as a foster parent for young child that do lead her to be taken away from him for awhile. It’s some tough stuff, and I was surprised by how serious some of the storylines were in an 80s sit-com aimed at children.

Kevin Can F*** Himself

Annie Murphy stars as a put upon wife from a stereotypical sit-com like Everybody Loves Raymond. In the scenes where she’s with her husband Kevin the show is written and directed like one of those sit-coms with the same exact look and feel you get from those types of shows. However, in scenes where she is not with Kevin it is a much darker show in which she has realized how much she hates her life and her husband and starts to plot to kill him. Sometimes I think the premise is better in concept than it is in practice. I could do with less of the sit-com parts. I don’t think you need quite as much of them to get the point across as there actually are. Overall I like the show though and am looking forward to see where they take it in season 2.

This is Pop

This is Pop is a Netflix documentary show about music type things. It kind of weirdly starts out with an episode about Boys II Men, which was only weird because all the other episodes are a little bit more topical rather than about a specific group. It wasn’t bad I just thought it was odd that they led off with an episode that I felt fell outside of the mold of most of the other episodes. They also have ones on auto-tune, music festivals, Swedish pop and Max Martin, country pop music, Britpop, the Brill Building, and protest music. For a music lover like me it was quite an enjoyable little series and something you can certainly dip in and out of if you’re only interested in some of the topics.

Lupin

Everyone was raving about the French thriller Lupin earlier in the year. We just recently got around to watching it and I am quite enjoying it. We still have a couple episodes to go, so I’m not sure what happens all the way to where it leaves off after episode 10 yet. I am finding it a little bit harder to sympathize with Assane the more people he hurts along the way trying to avenge his father. It’s still a fun and engaging show though and I can see why everyone was so excited about it.

SurrealEstate

SurrealEstate is a Syfy show that is better than it has any right to be. Tim Rozon (who you may know as Mutt on Schitt’s Creek or Doc on Wynonna Earp) stars as the owner of a real estate agency that specializes in selling haunted houses by determining what is haunting them and getting rid of it. Sarah Levy (who you may know as Twyla from Schitt’s Creek) stars as a new realtor who just joined the agency after being kicked out of her old job after an affair with the boss went bad. She’s sort of the audience surrogate who doesn’t know anything about this world and has to have everything explained to her. She’s not necessarily a skeptic, but she has a lot to learn and doesn’t always agree with their playbook and often tries to do her own thing. I quite enjoy it. I think the season on Syfy is probably close to being over and since I don’t think most people reading this don’t have cable anyway just search it out whenever it eventually winds up on some streaming service.

Reservation Dogs

Reservation Dogs is Hulu show about a group of four teenage kids living on a reservation in Oklahoma who are trying to find ways to earn enough money to get out. It follows the misadventures they get up to in that quest as well as other issues they’re dealing with in their lives. We’re still only part way through the season, but I’m definitely enjoying it so far. It’s funny but also not dumbed down for a white audience. They don’t explain all the references for people who don’t know what they might be talking about because it’s not their lived experience. Even if you might not know the exact meaning there are enough context clues that you can at least pick up on that there are meanings to some things.

Rutherford Falls

It’s interesting that I can’t really think of a single tv show that is focused on Native Americans and even more actually stars Native American actors and yet this year has brought us two of them. Rutherford Falls is the more sitcommy of the two shows and also the one that is not as good. Mike Schur is one of the creators and his shows often take a season to really find themselves. This show on Peacock does feel like it has some good potential, but the first season most felt like it was figuring out exactly what it wanted to be.

White Lotus

People seemed to love the show White Lotus on HBO. I was not particularly one of them. It did have some moments, but overall I don’t enjoy watching horrible people be horrible. There really weren’t any redeeming characters on this show and even when there were small moments of comeuppance for some of them it didn’t feel great either and they will still able to use their wealth and privilege to go back about their lives even if all that wealth and privilege wasn’t really making them happy either. I never watched Enlightened, which is another HBO show by Mike White that people loved and this show is not making me inclined to do so.

New Music Friday: Introvert by Little Simz

I’m jumping out of my normal wheelhouse today to talk about the song “Introvert” by British-Nigerian rapper Little Simz. Her fourth studio album, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert was released today. Little Simz was not an artist I was familiar with before this morning when they talked about this album and played a snippet of this song on NPR Music’s New Music Friday podcast. I was immediately taken by the sound. They used words like expansive and cinematic to describe the music on this album and I can’t think of anything better to describe it. I have only listened to this one song so far because I was without my phone this morning and was using an old phone without a SIM card that I had downloaded podcasts for my walk onto via wifi. So I couldn’t pop into Spotify to listen to more of her music. I am definitely interested in digging into it more though. This song is like listening to a movie with it’s huge orchestral sound behind it. I honestly can’t think that I’ve ever heard anything quite like it.

New Music Friday: justified by Kacey Musgraves

Before we talk about Kacey Musgraves’ new song I want to tell you to go listen to Chvrches’ new album, Screen Violence, which dropped today. I would have written about that, but I’ve already had New Music Friday posts on the first two singles from the album so I thought it would be excessive to write about it again. It is the new music I am actually most excited about today. I really, really need people to go get vaccinated so that case rates go down and I can feel comfortable going to an indoor concert with 6,000 other people at the end of November to see them in concert. They are so good live, and I really don’t want to not go. I do have to say that I’m a tiny bit sad that they are about to go on tour to promote the new album since it means that Lauren Mayberry will no longer be at home to post quality cat content on Instagram of her two cats, Cactus and Poppy.

Anyway, now let’s turn to the song we’re actually here to talk about which is the first single off of Kacey Musgraves’ forthcoming album star crossed. It’s going to be her break-up album about her divorce from Ruston Kelly after their short-lived marriage. I always find break-up albums a little weird because it’s taking something extremely personal and making it super public in a way that most people’s break-ups aren’t and of course it’s always a very one-sided perspective on it. I’m not necessarily opposed to them and sometimes they are incredible (hello Rumours), but especially if that’s not the headspace you’re currently in sometimes I find them a little hard to connect to like I did The Chicks’ newest album, which was a whole lot about Natalie Maines’ divorce.

That being said I do like the first song, “justified”, off of Kacey Musgraves’ break-up album. I think she is at the forefront of trying to subvert what genre is and people’s insistence in trying to stick artists into a little box. Her music is definitely not constrained by a single musical genre. She just lets whatever influences her inspire her music no matter where it’s coming from. I’m excited to explore that aspect of the album when it comes out if nothing else.

New Music Friday: Living Proof by the War on Drugs

“Living Proof” is the first single off The War on Drugs’ forthcoming album I Don’t Live Here Anymore. It will be their first album in four years. This song has been out for about a month. I wasn’t into it the first time I heard it, but it’s been growing on me. It wasn’t exactly the more guitar heavy sound I was used to from their previous album and unlike their previous music which even if it started slow would eventually burst wide open. This song does the exact opposite of that. It starts slow and somehow goes even further into itself at the point you would expect that release. Right now it’s starting to feel perfect though as I start to burrow further back into hibernation instead of experiencing that wide open freedom we all thought we were going to have earlier in the summer. It also just feels perfect for this very gloomy, rainy day I’m experiencing as I write this. It will be interesting to see what the rest of the album sounds like when it comes out.