Given how late in the day I’m writing up this post you may have thought I wasn’t going to share a New Music Friday post this week and you would have been right. Given the holiday weekend it was a very light week for new releases and I just didn’t have anything on my radar that I felt super excited about posting about. I figured I too could take a holiday, but I got a last minute submission from a friend and figured I would write something up real quick.
I don’t really know anything about this band because until about 2 minutes ago I had never heard of them. I gather from some quick Googling that they met at UCSC and I am amused by the tagline on their website “Indie-pop duo, obsessed with guitars and falsetto.” And that’s all I’ve got. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend. May it be filled with lots of wonderful music new or old.
It’s been one month since I supposedly hit full vaccination status and about 10 days since my husband hit it. After being super locked down through the pandemic thus far, we’re slowly starting to baby step our way back out into the world. The problem is that I take a whole cocktail of immunosuppressant drugs, so we don’t actually know how effective the vaccine was for me or if it even was at all. Basically the advice seems to be that if you’re immunocompromised that even if you’re vaccinated you should act like you’re not. To some degree the world feels even less safe now for me than it did before. With case rates dropping due to people getting vaccinated mask mandates and capacity restrictions are being removed it’s now less safe for me to go into situations where I don’t know if people are vaccinated or not. I’m getting angrier and angrier at the people who refuse to get vaccinated or wear a mask and can’t seem to comprehend that their actions don’t affect just them.
I am also super jealous of people who are vaccinated that thanks to the incredibly effective vaccines that were developed in record time are able to start living their lives again in some semblance of normal. I feel like I am being left behind. I want to feel like I can go back out into the world again without putting my life in danger. I want to be able to go to stores and restaurants. I won’t even outside anywhere because I have no idea how many people there are or are not vaccinated.
I’m enrolled in a study looking at the COVID vaccines in people with Crohn’s disease and as part of that I should have my antibodies tested in about a month, but everything I’ve read about that says that unless it miraculously shows that my body did still mount an effective response to the vaccine we don’t really know what it means. There may be other immune responses that are primed that they can’t measure in the existing antibody tests or if I have some antibodies but not as many as healthy people no one knows what the threshold for effectiveness is. There just isn’t enough data yet. So in some respects I want the test in hopes that it tells me the vaccine was effective and I can start living my life more normally, but most likely it’s going to show data that no one really knows how to interpret and I’m still going to feel like I’m living in limbo.
Even with the fact that the vaccine might not be very effective for me, they are offering me some ability to come out of hiding a little bit. The fact that case rates are dropping means it’s much less likely that I’ll come into contact with virus and now that we know that it’s very unlikely for someone who is vaccinated to pass on the disease to someone else I can feel fairly safe in situations where I know everyone is vaccinated.
I’ve started seeing some friends again maskless and in non-socially distant situations. I’ve hung out with a couple of different groups of friends and one of my book clubs has returned to meeting in person. We’re still doing all of these things outside because it’s safer and while the weather allows for it why not. I’m also going to be able to see my family soon. We’re going to visit my sister-in-law this weekend and a few weeks I’m going to visit my sister and her family where my parents and my cousin will also join us. I’ve also started dipping my toe back into more public situations where I can’t know the vaccine status of everyone. I’ve scheduled a million medical appointments that I put off. Not exactly the most fun thing, but necessary. I also have gone back into some stores for the first time in a year. We’re picking back up on the kitchen renovation we were about to start right before the pandemic hit last year, so we’re needing to go to stores to finish picking out all the stuff we need to decide on for that. I also went back to in-person church for the first time since the pandemic started this past Sunday. We’re meeting outside and still masked at the Baltimore Museum of Industry’s pavilion, so it feels very safe to do. I definitely wouldn’t be back if we were meeting indoors right now. It was really nice to be able to be there in person again. There is definitely something to be said for physical community.
For now I’m trying to concentrate on the things I’m starting to get back and not dwell too much on the things that I feel like I still can’t do or wonder about how I’m going to navigate a life that is going back to normal for people either because they’re vaccinated or because they’re unvaccinated and just don’t care while I do care and may not be protected. Eventually the world is going to move on and at some point I’m probably going to have start accepting a higher level of risk than I feel comfortable with because I won’t be able to avoid it forever. See above about my anger at people who won’t get vaccinated.
But I am thankful for all my friends who are vaccinated and are being accommodating to my comfort level for doing things like shifting a suggested get together from an outdoor gathering at a restaurant to someone’s house. It’s really nice to be able to spend time with people again even if I wish I could do more.
I have two full albums for you today. Usually even if I’m talking about a full album I try to pull out a single song to emphasize, but I’m not going to do that today because you should really listen to the entirety of both of these albums.
First up is Outside Child by Allison Russell. I first became familiar with Allison Russell as part of the folk super group Our Native Daughters. She has apparently also been a member of some other bands as well that I am not familiar with. This is her first solo album and it is a very personal album about surviving the sexual abuse she suffered from her step-father as a child. Despite some of the heavy subject matter it does not feel depressing or sad. A native of Montreal, but now living in Nashville, Russell sings in both English and French on the album. She also collaborates with fellow folk musicians Yola, Erin Rae, and the McCrary Sisters. The sounds ranges from very traditional folk almost spirituals, to more pop folk, to R&B tinged folk. It’s a glorious album and I highly recommend listening to it.
I also wanted to talk about the album So Low by Lowland Hum, which is a cover album of Peter Gabriel’s album So. They released it earlier this week on the 35th anniversary fo the original album. Let me tell you how old that made feel. The answer is very. I love the original Peter Gabriel album. It is full of some of my favorite songs. Ask me about calling a radio station over and over again trying to convince them to play “In Your Eyes” so that I could record it back when I was in middle school and I couldn’t easily get access to the music I wanted to listen to. The original album is so lush and full of instrumentation and Lowland Hum strips much of that out to create a much sparer but still rich sound full of harmonies. It’s exactly what I love in a cover song. It pays homage to original but still makes it something completely new. I also appreciate that they gender flipped the duet on “Don’t Give Up”. If you like the original album I definitely recommend listening to this cover tribute.
This week I learned that I actually really like Willow Smith’s music. I don’t think I had heard anything by her since the song “Whip My Hair” that she put out when she was 9 years old. I sort of just discounted her thinking she only had any kind of career because she’s Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith’s kid. To some extent that may be true, but turns out she also makes good music. Whatever it was I just assumed that either it wasn’t very good or that it would be something that I wouldn’t like. Shame on me for writing her off because it turns out neither of those things are true, which I learned by listening to this week’s episode of the Switched on Pop podcast. They started out about in the same place I was but like me realized that Willow Smith rocks. The song “transparentsoul” is and excellent sort of emo rock song. I’m totally digging it and now I need to go back and check out some of her other stuff.
This past week would typically be the week that we go to our annual beach trip in South Carolina. Back in January I started doing the math though and figured out that it was extremely unlikely that everyone in our mixed households would be vaccinated by the beginning of May, so we decided to reschedule it for September. Since I had already taken the vacation time I decided to look for something easily drivable for just my husband and me to do. I just put into VRBO that I wanted something on the water and found a house on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia on a remote island called Gwynn’s Island.
It’s not somewhere I would choose to go back to in normal times, but since my main criteria for this trip were somewhere on the water without a lot of people this certainly fit the bill. I knew it was going to be too cold that far north this time of year to do anything super beachy, so it was fine with me that this was on the bay and not the ocean and thus there isn’t really much beach to speak of. The house had a great roof deck overlooking the bay though and I was perfectly content to sit up there and read and stare out at the water. The house itself was quite nice and was the most well stocked rental house I have ever been in. They even had bikes and kayaks we could use, though we didn’t wind up using either.
The island is pretty much all residential. There are only about 600 full-time residents. I saw stuff indicating that a lof of the homes at this point are vacation homes and second homes, but I couldn’t find anything that indicated how many homes were owner occupied vs. vacation homes. There is one restaurant right over the bridge from the mainland, but it didn’t have anything vegetarian for my husband to eat, so we didn’t eat there. The small town of Mathews is about 10 minute away and we went there every evening to grab carryout from some of the restaurants there. There is also a small history museum on the island, which we would have gone to in normal non-COVID times. Based on stuff I read about the island online it seems like it has a pretty interesting history.
While as I said it isn’t somewhere I would plan to go back to as I prefer an actual beach and a little bit more to do on my vacations, but it was a perfectly pleasant and relaxing trip to get away.
I meant to write about “Serotonin” by girl in red last Friday when the album it’s on, if I could make it go quiet, came out. I didn’t have time to write a post before work like I normally do, so I was going to do it at lunch and didn’t feel like it. Then I was going to do it after work, but I didn’t feel like it. So I never did. There isn’t anything else out today that I want to write about more than this so I’m carrying it forward.
girl in red is Norwegian singer-songwriter Marie Ulven. Her debut album addresses a lot about her mental health issues. Obviously the single “Serotonin” is a hallmark of that. It’s something she started to put together over TikTok and is the first song she’s ever taken from messing around on TikTok and turned into an actual song. She’s grown a following over the past several years with a couple of EPs and apparently it’s a signal among Gen Z to ask people if they’re fans of girl in red to find out if they are lesbians. I’m old and don’t use TikTok, so I know nothing about that but I do love the music. “Serotonin” is the first girl in red song I’m aware of hearing and it’s what got me to look into the full album, which I also really like. Go have a listen.