In my last post I was talking about a song I love from the 80s, The Outfield’s “Your Love”. Today I’m talking about 2 recent songs, but ones that evoke the 60s and 70s vibe for me. The first is Liz Vice’s “Empty Me Out”. Although she gets labeled as a gospel artist, something she herself finds a little odd even though she started her singing career in church. Many people also talk about how her music evokes the early days of Motown, which is what it reminds me of. I’ve been in love with it since I first heard it a few months ago. It has a great vibe to it and I really love that era of Motown music, so I’m happy to hear it influencing music today.
I’ve also been digging Lake Street Dive’s “Call Off the Dogs”, which has more of a 70s disco vibe to it. Although I guess they’ve been around for awhile I didn’t become aware of them until their previous album Bad Self Portraits, which I really liked. It felt very different than anything else I was hearing at the time. “Call Off the Dogs” is the first single off their forthcoming album, Side Pony, due out in February. Based on this song I’m very much looking forward to it as well.
Usually when I write about songs I love they tend to be more current, but I’m heading back to the 80s for this one. For no good reason the opening lyrics of this song make me really happy. It’s not the words themselves, it’s just something about the way he sings Josie in that first line that gets me. I can’t explain it.
The harmonies that chime in from time to time also delight me. There’s a lot going on in this song music wise. It’s always a little bit of a surprise, which makes it fun to listen to. Back in the 80s it’s nothing that I ever would have said was my favorite song, but in recent years I’ve really come to appreciate it. I’m always happy to hear it when it pops up on the radio or when it shuffles up in my music. I’m sure it’s not a song that anyone else is writing down in the history books as great music, but it goes down in mine.
Today marks my four and half snow days for me. Four and a half because we got let out of work at noon on Friday anticipating the snow starting that afternoon. I’m pretty sure today will be my last day and I’ll be heading back to work tomorrow. My street was finally plowed out at some point over night last night. The rest of my commute can be done on streets that are all snow emergency routes so I know they’ll be fine. It’s only the street the library is on that I’m worried about. I guess if I get there and can’t down it then I’ll be turning around and taking a vacation day.
Unlike all the people who I’ve seen complaining about cabin fever and going stir crazy, I would happily stay in my house for a few more days. I do of course benefit from living in the city and having friends in the neighborhood so we did get out on Sunday night and have dinner with a bunch of friends. Other than that I’ve just been enjoying reading and watching TV when I haven’t been digging out my car repeatedly.
I said as much on Twitter yesterday, but I’m also very thankful that I work at the job I do. When we get large snow storms we just shut down and I don’t have to worry about going into work. I still get paid. I don’t have to use vacation time. If for some reason we’re open and I choose not to go in I don’t have to worry about losing my job. I know all of this is a great luxury, so it’s something I’m trying not to take for granted. I know there are a lot of people in this city who are forced to find a way to work or risk losing their jobs. Others who work hourly or run small businesses are losing money if they aren’t working or their businesses can’t open. Even if they are open they’re going to be taking a financial hit from people being unable to get out and patronize them for days to come. I’m very lucky and I know it.
Way back in 2011, Colin Hanks was a guest on the Nerdist podcast and mentioned that he was hoping to make a documentary about Tower Records. Over the next 4 years I never stopped hoping that the documentary would actually be made. When I finally heard All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records was being released in theaters this past fall I did a little happy dance.
It would have been happier if it had ever actually made it to a theater in Baltimore. It was one of those things that opened in New York and Los Angeles to start and then eventually made its way around the country in spurts. For whatever reason as far as I can tell it never came anywhere in Maryland. I don’t know why. There’s several theaters I can imagine having played it.
At any rate I resigned myself to waiting for it to become available online before I was going to get to see it. Last time I checked it still wasn’t available. Then last night as I was scrolling through my Twitterfeed I noticed a tweet from Colin Hanks that was retweeted by Jason Isbell, a musician I’ve mentioned eleventy billion times telling people that they should watch All Things Must Pass before the blizzard passed. I got super excited and did just that. We rented it from Amazon with some credits we had built up from declining the 2 day shipping on our Prime account.
I can’t say I was ever really someone who shopped at Tower Records. Their real hey day had passed by the time I was old enough to really be amassing a music collection. At one point in the documentary they talk about how even before Napster and the digital era they were already facing issues from places like Wal-Mart, Target, and Best Buy selling CDs at much cheaper rates. I amassed most of what once was my fairly extensive CD collection at Best Buy. It may not be cool, but it was way cheaper than buying them at somewhere like Tower Records. I definitely was in some Tower Records from time to time, but it certainly wasn’t an institution to me like it was to some people. It’s more of a signifier of the music business and how it’s changed so much in the past 15 years or so.
Even though I wasn’t a real patron of Tower Records they were iconic and as an avowed lover of music I was still very interested in this documentary. It’s basically exactly what the title says it is. It’s a documentary about the rise and fall of Tower Records, simple as that. If that sounds like something that interests you then I would definitely watch it. It was something I was interested in and I enjoyed it, but I doubt it’s something that appeals to everyone. You know which side of the equation you fall on.
At any rate I’m glad that Colin Hanks got to make the film and that I finally got to see it. It was perfect timing finding out it was available when I was stuck in my house thanks to a blizzard and had time to sit down and watch it.
Sorry I’ve been a bit absent from the blog lately. I’ve been traveling a lot and too tired from work to think about blogging when I get home. After my trip to Boston 2 weeks ago, last weekend I was in Rhode Island checking in on my in-laws who just moved there from California a few months ago. It’s a good thing I got those two New England trips in when I did because I have no excuse to not blog today given I’m good and snowed into my house.
As I’m sure anyone who looks at the news or lives along the eastern seaboard is aware there has been a blizzard raging for the past 24 hours. At last look we were at 26 inches of snow in my yard and it’s still coming down at a good pace. I won’t be surprised if we end up with 30 inches before it’s all said and done.
Tomorrow when I have to dig my car out I’m going to be a big grump about it as I am every other day until it stops being a ridiculously icy messy that I have to drive, walk, and park in every day. A fan of winter I am not. Today however it was a nice forced break in my always busy life. Granted it’s making next weekend insane for me combining all the rescheduled activities from this weekend and adding them to what was already scheduled for next weekend. Now on Saturday I’m seeing Centerstage’s production of “As You Like It” in the afternoon and then going to a friend’s 40th birthday party that night. Then on Sunday I am now seeing Garth Brooks in concert at 3 pm, which will be followed directly by our already scheduled tickets to see “Phantom of the Opera” at the Hippodrome.
Today though I am doing a whole lot of nothing and it’s lovely. It’s almost 5 pm and I’m still in my pajamas. I have no plans to change that. I never do that, but I figure if you can’t spend the entire day in your pajamas when there’s a blizzard when can you? I’ve been lucky in being able to stay inside all day. My husband and a neighbor have been trading off shoveling our sidewalk, and I’m not going to think about tackling my car until tomorrow. It’s always nice to see people being neighborly during these things. The street that t-bones into our house always has a number of people who go out and shovel the whole block. It always warms my heart. Sometimes they’ve even done the street if it’s taken too long before plows get to it. They’re impressive.
I’m warm and dry in my house. So far we haven’t lost power (fingers crossed). I’ve been curled up under a blanket with a snuggly cat on my lap for much of the day reading a book and watching the Wake Forest basketball game. It’s been a lovely day of being forced to slow down. The only thing that would have made it better was if it happened on a weekday and got me out of work. As it is I’m thinking we might get Monday off anyway. Baltimore doesn’t deal well with snow storms of this magnitude. It’s going to take awhile to dig out from this one.
I’m currently writing this while sitting in the Boston airport waiting for my flight back to Baltimore. I spent the past 4 days in Boston at the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting. I’ve spent a decent amount of time in Boston in my life, so based on what I knew I figured it would be a good location for a conference. Of course I would have preferred it not be in January. Luckily we didn’t have any real weather issues.
At any rate even though the weather was not too awful aside from the torrential rains Sunday afternoon, it turns out Boston is not that great of a city to go to a large conference in. I’m sure it’s perfectly fine for smaller conferences that take place in the Hynes, but for something as large as the ALA conferences where we take over the BCEC, which is not in the center of the city plus several hotels which are it makes for an annoying conference.
They always provide shuttle buses, but in my experience these always take way more time than it should. Between waiting and riding the shuttle between Copley Place and the convention center it took me almost an hour to get between meetings. I could have walked it faster. I only like going to conferences where I can easily walk between the convention center and whatever hotels the meetings are in. Acceptable cities based on my experience are Seattle, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, DC, Philadelphia, and New Orleans. Unacceptable are Chicago, Las Vegas, and Boston. Although sort of walkable I hated Anaheim and Dallas for other reasons. I’ll let you know for sure about Orlando in June, but I’ve heard it’s hell so I’m not looking forward to it.
Because of the getting around issues on Saturday I felt like so much of the day was wasted and that it wasn’t a super productive day. My one committee meeting Friday and all the stuff I did Sunday were productive and useful so those were much better days. I also got to see some new products demo’d from vendors that look really interesting.
In the midst of all the getting around issues on Saturday I lost my new gloves somewhere, which you would think would be a bummer. However almost immediately after losing them I managed to replace them in such a serendipitous way that made me so happy that I’m almost glad I lost them. As I was walking to grab lunch after my meeting before catching the shuttle back to the convention center from Copley Place I realized I didn’t have much gloves. I spotted a Marshall’s across the street and figured they would probably have something to replace the gloves I lost, but I need to walk to the end of the block to cross the street. As I was doing that I stumbled on a Nordstrom Rack on the side of the street I was already on. That’s where I bought the original pair of gloves, so I thought perfect I hope they still have them. They did have exactly one pair left in my size and they’d been marked down a couple of times so they only cost me $10. It was the best experience of losing something that I’ve ever had.
Other than that I as always got to meet up with some far flung librarian friends. I always enjoy conferences to meet up with people that I only really ever get to see at them. I’m always sad that we don’t get to see each other more often. I had dinner in the North End on Friday night, which if you’re not familiar is Boston’s Italian district. It was within walking distance of my hotel, which was nice. We had some delicious Italian food for dinner and then got dessert from Mike’s Pastries.
Saturday I finally got to meet up in person with a Twitter pal. We’ve been trying for a couple of conferences now, but her schedule is always so crazy at these things that it’s hard for her to find free time. We wound up having dinner with a couple of other people she knew and then someone else’s coworkers. It was a fun night and nice to meet a couple of more new people.
Sunday night I didn’t have any plans so I wound up having dinner with my friend Alison, who is always great company. If I can make other plans I try to not just have meals with friends from home who I see all the time, but her plans fell through and we were both around so it worked out. I really wanted some clam chowder. I was in Boston after all. Plus it’s almost impossible to find clam chowder in Maryland. Everywhere serves Maryland crab soup and maybe cream of crab, which is more similar to clam chowder but still not the same. Since it was within walking distance to our hotel we wound up at Union Oyster house, which claims to be the oldest operating restaurant in the United States. It’s also right along the Freedom Trail, so it’s a restaurant that certainly caters to tourists. As such the quality is as mediocre as one might expect from such a place. I guessed that would be the case going in, but it was within walking distance of our hotel and it had clam chowder and plenty of fish options for entrees, which is what I was in the mood for. I had clam chowder and swordfish. The food was middling, but since I had already figured it would be I wasn’t particularly disappointed. Plus I learned some stuff reading the back of the menu, so I call it a success.
Even though there were some annoying things dealing with getting around on Saturday, all in all it was a good conference. I’m always happy to visit with my librarian friends. I’m sad so many of them are skipping out on the annual conference in Orlando this summer. Although I don’t blame them. If I wasn’t committed to going I might skip out on it too. I’m sure I’ll try and make the most of it though.
Once upon a time in my life I used to go to the movies quite frequently. In high school and college it wasn’t unusual for me to go almost every week. Then life got busier and tv shows got much better. Now I tend to prefer watching tv to movies. In general if I don’t manage to see a movie in the theater than I’m not ever going to see it. That being said I still only usually go to the movies a handful of times every year at this point.Thus the fact that I’ve gone to two movies in the first five days of 2016 is kind of crazy.
Sunday my friend Karen and I went to see Carol. It takes place in the 1950s and stars Cate Blanchett as a housewife in the midst of a divorce with her husband played by Kyle Chandler. She meets Therese, a young shop girl played by Rooney Mara, with whom she strikes up a relationship. I won’t go into any more detail than that since that’s basically what I knew about the film going in. The story went in a direction that I wasn’t quite anticipating. It’s a much more subdued and tortured film than I was anticipating. It was lovely nonetheless.
Then last night I went to see Brooklyn with a bunch of friends. I adored the book by Colm Toibin that the movie is based on and even had the pleasure of meeting the author and hearing him talk about when he gave a lecture at my library. Based on timing I didn’t think I was going to make it out to see this film in theater, so I’m happy it stuck around long enough that I got to see it.
It too was a very lovely film set in the 1950s. Saoirse Ronin plays Eilis a young Irish girl who emigrates alone to America where she builds a life until a family tragedy draws her back to Ireland. The movie is really well adapted from the book. It’s been years since I read it, so any changes at this point were lost on me. The overall large plot points that I remember and the overall feeling of the novel have been retained.
Of the two films Brooklyn is the one with wider appeal. There is a lot more humor in it as well as other things that elicit emotion. It was a beautiful movie. As the woman sitting in front of me said, “I’m not ready for it to be over yet. Can we just stay and watch the next showing?”
If either of these movies sound like they would be your thing I high recommend them both.
Once again it’s time for my post on what was the most memorable pop culture of the year to me. It’s pop culture I consumed in 2015, not necessarily things that were exclusively released in 2015. And once again I point out that this is the stuff that made the greatest impact on me. It’s not a list of the top anything. Even I acknowledge that there are things on this list that I would not put in a top 10 or even top 20 list. They’re not necessarily the best of anything, just the stuff that I enjoyed the most or which had some special meaning to me.
Movie I Saw in a Theatre
I jokingly want to say Aloha for this category because I insisted I was going to see that movie in the theatre no matter how bad the reviews were because I miss romantic comedies. I wanted to tell Hollywood hey I miss these please make more. Well the joke was on me because the reviews were uniformly awful. I kept my word though and although I admit the movie was a hot mess I didn’t hate it. I enjoyed it much more than the reviews led me to believe I would. Hopefully Hollywood will get its act together and make more movies aimed at women. It’s not only the romantic comedies that are missing, but more dramatic stuff the likes of Beaches and Steel Magnolias back in the day.
The real movie I’m putting in this category is of course Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I really didn’t expect this movie to affect me as much as it did. I’ve seen the original trilogy a number of times and due diligently saw the prequels in the theatre not really enjoying any of them. I’m not any huge Star Wars nerd though. I didn’t have high hopes for this movie and had it lived down to my expectations I wouldn’t really have cared all that much.
I really loved this movie though. The fight scenes even kept me engaged and I could give a flying flip about movie fight scenes. Mostly though I adored the whole storyline with Rey. I never even knew how much I longed for a female lead in the Star Wars universe that actually did something until I saw this. It made me so happy that young girls like my 5 year old niece who is already into Star Wars will have a character to look up to when she’s old enough to see it. I’m actually looking forward to the next one in the series. Well done J. J. Abrams.
Movie I Watched at Home
I should really retitle this category movie I watched on a plane because I’m not even sure I watched any movies at home this year. I’m sure I did, but I can’t think of any off of the top of my head. I really prefer tv shows so much more than movies now that we’re in this golden age of television. Generally the only time I wind up watching movies unless I go to see something in the theatre is on long airplane flights.
I think of the few movies I viewed on planes this year Whiplash is the one I enjoyed the most. It’s nothing I’d ever want to watch again because it’s super intense and not really anything I’d want to sit through again. Still I thought it was a well done movie, and it kept me interested despite the description not at all appealing to me.
I read a lot of really good books this year, so it’s hard to decide in both this category and the non-fiction category. If you want a full accounting of the books I’ve read visit my book reviews blog. Ultimately I’m choosing The Royal We for this category because it is the one book I remember reading this year that I couldn’t put down. There were a number of others that I also really enjoyed and gave the same rating to, but this is the book that I couldn’t stop reading.
For my non-fiction book I’m choosing Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA by Roberta Kaplan. I feel like it deserves the nod given the historic ruling on same sex marriage that happened this year and which seems like one of the few bright spots in the blight of a year that was 2015. Also I really appreciated the fact that even though I knew the outcome the case the book was written so well I was kept on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happened.
I watch a ridiculous amount of tv, so this is a hard category for me. I binge watched all the seasons of Gossip Girl early in the year. I really enjoyed it and feel like it’s the last of the television shows of its ilk that I have to go through, which makes me a little sad. I love a good teen drama, which Gossip Girl definitely was.
Deutschland 83 was my favorite show of the summer. As I mentioned in my post dedicated to it I think one of the reasons is that the fact that it’s in German with English subtitles forced me to pay attention to it in ways that I don’t with most tv shows I watch these days. I suspect I might enjoy some other shows more if I dedicated more attention to them. That of course isn’t the only thing that makes this good though. It’s a great spy drama on it’s own and I hope it gets a second season.
This was a fairly weak class of new fall tv shows this year. My favorite of what we’ve been given is Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I was a little worried that this show would lose it’s way quickly, but so far it has been delightful every week. The songs are still great and the fact that Rebecca seems self aware to a degree that her actions are insane make it not as uncomfortable to watch as one would thing. Trust me I hate watching people embarrass themselves in tv and movies. I seriously have to watch it through my fingers. I was worried that this show would force me to do that all the time, but it really hasn’t even though Rebecca is constantly doing embarrassing stuff.
Last year I named a Parenthood episode as my favorite episode of television from 2014 and I think I’m going to repeat that this year. Parenthood ended its run early in 2015, so I’m going way back here, but the Parenthood finale is the one that really sticks out in my mind. I still miss that show and wonder what the Bravermans are up to. The finale was everything I would have wanted it to be and featured some stellar music. So here’s one last shout out to an excellent show that I wish I were still on my tv.
Last year I was almost at a loss as to what to put in this category because I felt like 2014 was such a pitiful year in music. 2015 however has been an embarrassment of riches, which almost makes it harder. Last year I just wound up choosing the album I listened to most over the course of the year. This year there’s been so much that even though I liked the music more I haven’t listened to any single album as much as I listened to the few from last year.
I mean if we’re going to talk about which album I listened to the most this year it actually has to be the Hamilton Original Broadway Cast Recording. I definitely listened to that more than anything else and that’s saying something seeing as how it wasn’t released until September.
Probably though I’m really trying to decide between Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free and Brandi Carlile’s Firewatcher’s Daughter. I was very much looking forward to Something More Than Free since I adored Southeastern so much, but I was also scared that there was no way it was going to live up to my expectations. I didn’t need to worry because it far surpassed them. It’s a gorgeous album full of songs that paint pictures that just kill me. I remember people talking so much about beautiful, painful realism of small town life created in Friday Night Lights and Isbell’s lyrics on this album evoke that same exact feeling in me.
Brandi Carlile is one artist who I never worry about if I’m going to like her next album because so far I’ve liked every single one better than the last. Firewatcher’s Daughter is no exception. I did keep forgetting that it came out in 2015 though because somehow it seems like it’s been with me forever. The songs are beautiful pictures of what home and family mean and this album really seems to elevate her to a place she wasn’t before. I adore it.
Ok guys stay with me here. I can’t believe this myself, but the song I have to write about here is Justin Beiber’s “What Do You Mean”. That’s part of the reason I have to write about it. Remember this is the most memorable song not the best song of the year we’re talking about here. I would never claim that this song was the best song of 2015, but it’s certainly memorable in that it’s the first Justin Beiber song I have actively liked and looked forward to hearing on the radio. I know I’ve heard other Justin Beiber songs, but I honestly couldn’t name you one and am not confident I could tell you I was listening to a Beiber song if you played one for me without me knowing what it was. I was shocked how much I loved and still like this song. So way to go Justin Beiber you’ve apparently graduated beyond attracting the tween /teen set.
Ok so there no way this category wasn’t going to be Jason Isbell. I was sitting here thinking whether there was someone else should go here when I saw him tweet that 2015 was the best year of his life and then I thought who am I kidding of course it’s Jason Isbell. I assume the birth of his daughter by far beats out anything else to make this the best year of his life, but the incredible success of his album Something More Than Free I’m sure also factors in. It debuted on the Billboard Top 200 at number 6 and the Country and Rock album charts at number 1. It’s quite an accomplishment and it’s of course what is partly making me choose him as my artist of the year.
I also chose him because even 2 years after falling in love with his Southeastern album my love has not abated. I waited patiently as Newport rolled out their lineup this year and was never as excited as the day they announced he would be playing a set there. His lyrics cut me to my soul with their beauty and realism. He’s the artist I talked about the most and recommended the most in 2015 so of course this category belongs to him.
I went to so many good concerts this year that it’s really hard to choose which one I want to write about here so I’ll probably write about a few that stand out to me. Obviously the Newport Folk Festival as an entire experience wins hands down every year, but I like to think about that more in terms of sets in order to be fair to every other concert I see throughout the year. The Consequence of Sound named Newport their top festival pick of the year and in this great article that really expresses my feelings about the festival Jay Sweet says he worries about people’s expectations and no longer being able to beat them every year. I am over here telling him he has absolutely nothing to worry about as long as he keeps bringing in good music. I don’t need any big headliners or crazy surprise guests. Those are all fun, but the best sets I’ve seen in each of the past three years have all been from bands I only knew about because they were playing Newport. This year was Christopher Paul Stelling whose whole set was revelation. Mostly just him up there on his guitar and he had the audience eating out of his hand. I didn’t know him before I chose to sit in on that set, but I do now. His set was amazing and ended with this awesome moment of him proposing to his girlfriend and backup singer as they were walking off stage.
I also have to mention Brandi Carlile’s set at Newport this year because she is never not amazing. I never leave one of her shows without immediately wanting to see her again as soon as possible. NPR had a recording of the entire set up on their website and I have listened to it countless times because it is so wonderful.
There was also the great first concert in the BSO Pulse series featuring Dawes in which the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra collaborates with an indie band. I love musical collaboration and this one was fantastic. I loved how the BSO is using these collaborations to help introduce new audiences to classical music and I guess maybe some classical music lovers to some new indie bands. I look forward to seeing more of the concerts in this series in the future.
Finally I have to give a shout out to Florence + the Machine. She’s been fantastic every time I’ve seen her and this year’s concert at Merriweather was no exception. I was on my feet dancing the whole time and it was definitely again one of those shows where I left and immediately wanted to see her again.
Broadway Theatre Production
Well this one is a no-brainer. I was fortunate to see Hamilton right after it moved from Off-Broadway to it’s Broadway run. Now you can maybe get tickets a year out. I’m actually going again in April, so maybe it will be my favorite show of 2016 too. For now it’s definitely my favorite show of 2015 and one of the best shows I’ve seen in a very long time. The hype is not overblown. One of the things I love about it too is that it has people I never see talking about theatre talking about theatre. Most of the time when I talk about theatre most of my friends eyes glaze over and they have no idea what I’m talking about. This show has managed to permeate the culture enough that even my friends who don’t follow theatre know what I’m talking about. It was also one of the few things that made Twitter a delightful place to be this year instead of all doom and gloom and yelling at each other. The day it was announced that Lin Manuel Miranda wrote the song for the cantina scene in the new Star Wars resulting in the Star Wars/Hamilton mashups was one of the best days.
Baltimore Theatre Production
My favorite local theatre production was Centerstage’s Marley written and directed by their Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah. It was a musical based on the life of Bob Marley. It was a jukebox musical, which I typically don’t care for. However I liked the way the songs were incorporated into the show in this case as if for the most part they were naturally being sung instead of being shoehorned into telling the story. It was a really fun show and a great way to end the 2014/2015 season.
I am really choosing this particular podcast episode because I decided I really wanted this category to be about my favorite new podcast of the year which is Switched on Pop. I adore the way they break down pop songs and really get to what makes a pop song and how they’re related musicologically to music back through history including Classical music. I’m choosing to highlight Episode 14: The Final Dropout in which they discuss how it’s become very popular for pop music to end with a sort of sudden quiet moment. It’s a great and fun look at a current musical trend in pop music and is very representative of the podcast as a whole.