New Music Friday: Christmas Music Edition

There is some new Christmas music I have been waiting to write about until after Christmas because I refuse to start listening to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. Since with the holiday this week there isn’t much else happening new music wise I figured today would be the perfect day to talk about some of the excellent new Christmas music available to you this season.

O Come All Ye Faithful by Hiss Golden Messenger

This album is a mix of your traditional holiday songs and new songs. This is the perfect Christmas album for people who aren’t super into Christmas music. The new songs mostly sound like they could be on any Hiss album and the covers of the normal Christmas songs still carry that same chill Hiss vibe that don’t necessarily make them feel like the super bright, cheery holiday fare that normally punctuates this time of year. As someone who much prefers melancholy Christmas music, this album is right up my alley. It also has one of the best Hanukkah songs I have ever heard on it. Not that I’ve heard many of them, so there may be a whole trove of songs about Hanukkah I just don’t know about, but the couple you hear in regular rotation are terrible. To highlight the songs on this album I shall leave you with “Hung Fire”, one of the original songs on the album. It pretty much encapsulates how I’m feeling this Christmas.

For Christmas by Amanda Shires

If you are someone who pretty much likes your Christmas music to be covers of the same songs just sung by different people, then this album is not for you as aside from “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve”, it is an album full of entirely original Christmas songs. Again it might appeal to those of you who aren’t so much into traditional Christmas music, but are interested in songs that give off a Christmas vibe. The music definitely has the same style and trappings of Christmas music, but with a wide variety of lyrics from nostalgic to tongue in cheek like “Gone for Christmas” I’m going to highlight “Home to Me” because it’s one of those melancholy Christmas songs that I love so much.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Allison Russell

The last Christmas music I want to highlight is a song, not an album. If you’ve been reading this blog during previous Christmases then you might recall that “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is my favorite Christmas song, and spoiler alert Allison Russell has made one of my favorite albums of 2021. So I was excited when she released her own version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Even better she went with the superior version of the lyrics singing “until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow” instead of “hang a shining star upon the highest bough”. She also sings a version of it in French. It is definitely worthy of taking a spot in my top versions of this song.

Thanksgiving 2021

It’s a little hard to be thankful right now when I feel like I’m going to be forever stuck in this pandemic and half of the people in this country are actively trying to prolong it. I feel like I’m never going to be able to do the things I love again. But as much as I feel like life sucks right now, I am very much still thankful for things. I thought about making a list like I often have in previous years, but this year I’m just going to concentrate on the one thing I’m most thankful for this year, which is my friends.

At a point in time where most people have gone back to living their lives like they did pre-pandemic including my friends, I am thankful that I have a lot of people in my life who know that I am immunocompromised and am not experiencing the same freedom that they are and have continued to adjust things in their lives to include me. They are what is keeping me sane. So thank you to friends who do online game night with me most weeks. Thank you to friends who have agreed to shift back to online book clubs after delta ruined our plans to meet in person. Thank you to friends who when someone says why don’t we go to a bar for happy hour have said how about everyone comes over and we hang out on my porch instead. Thank you to friends who have invited me to fun outdoor events. Thank you to friends who have checked in on party plans to make sure I’d be okay with the set-up. Thank you to all my friends who are adjusting their lives to make sure I still feel included even when it would easier not to. You will never know how much it means to me. I love you all dearly and am so blessed and happy to have you all in my lives. So this year friends, I am thankful for you and I am hopeful that finally in 2022 we will get to start living more normal lives.

New Music Friday: Adele – 30

I did not think I was going to write about Adele’s new album, 30. No one needs me to tell them that Adele has a new album out. If you’re into Adele you certainly know it. If you’re not into Adele you also almost certainly know it. I also didn’t really think I was going to have anything interesting to say about it based on the first single, “Take It Easy”. It’s a very stereotypical Adele song. It’s Adele doing what Adele has done up until now. She’s very good at it, but I personally had grown bored of it. I have already taken to changing the channel on the radio while I’m driving every time that song comes on. Though it is so ubiquitous on the radio right now that sometimes I just flip around from channel to channel and it’s the only song playing. I did want to listen to the whole album though, and it surprised me. I get why they chose to make the first single the one that sounds like everything that has come before, but this album is not that. There is a lot more going on sonically in this album than I would have guessed.

It starts off with the song “Strangers by Nature”, which sounds like it could have been plucked out of an old school Disney animated film with its strings, twinkly bells, and the lilt of Adele’s voice while she’s singing it. It has a lot influences from gospel, old school R&B, and also some more modern pop influences. She also throws back to some of her earlier music from 19 on the song “All Night Parking”. At first I was thinking that it had a little bit of Erykah Badu sound to it and then I was like it sounds like someone else too. Who is it. Then I was like duh, it sounds like Adele on “Chasing Pavements”. Go figure. She has definitely expanded her sound on this album, and I’m digging the results.

I think it strays less from some of her earlier sounds than other songs, but I’m going to highlight the song “Hold On” because it’s the one that was speaking to me lyrically this morning. I also like the way music starts off spare as she’s singing about feeling beat down but continues to build as she more strongly encourages herself to hold on for brighter days as the song goes on. It conveys that feeling of having to will yourself to keep moving forward until you eventual feel like you really can. She’s obviously singing about her feelings after her divorce and hoping for love, but for me right now it was speaking to my feelings about feeling defeated and trapped in this pandemic because while everyone else has decided it’s fine to move on either because they’re vaccinated or they’re not vaccinated and they don’t believe it’s real my immunocompromised self is still living in isolation.

I’m sure many of you are already listening to the Adele album or plan to, but if you like me were starting to right her off a little bit I encourage you to go take a listen. It might surprise you too.

TV Diary

For All Mankind

For All Mankind is my current entry for the best tv show you’re not watching. I don’t know why this show hasn’t gotten more traction. There have been two seasons on AppleTV+ and I have barely heard anyone talk about it. It’s an alternate history of the space race starting in the 1960s and leaving off in the 1980s in season 2. It looks like season 3 is going to jump ahead to the 90s. From the little I saw other people saying about the show it seems like people like season 2 better. I still really liked the second season, but I did like season 1 a little bit better. The show has lots of good storylines for women. There’s a good balance between character development and really good plot driven action. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will just say that it’s actually kind of a miracle that nothing like what happens towards the end of season 2 has actually ever happened in regards to the moon. If you have AppleTV+ and haven’t watched this show, go start now. If you don’t have AppleTV+, pay the five bucks for a month and treat yourself to this and Ted Lasso.

The Other Two

The Other Two started off as a show on Comedy Central, but it moved to HBOMax for season two. It stars Molly Shannon as the mother of three kids. Cary and Brooke are in their twenties and trying to make lives for themselves in New York. Their teenage brother Chase winds up becoming a famous singer because of YouTube and all of their lives start to revolve around him and his career. I resisted watching this show for a long time because everything I heard about it when it started made me think that it involved a lot of cringe comedy, which I cannot abide. I have to watch that kind of stuff through my fingers, so a whole show whose premise revolved around it did not appeal to me. I heard such good stuff about it when season two premiered that I finally decided to give it a chance. I feel like I was a bit misled on the cringe comedy thing. Cary and Brooke do a lot of dumb stuff trying to get ahead in their lives and their careers that usually backfires on them, but I wouldn’t actually label it as cringe comedy. I don’t think it has quite as much heart as Schitt’s Creek, but it is one of those shows where some people that on the surface seem kind of terrible grow and develop and actually make you like them.

Only Murders in the Building

People seemed to really love Only Murders in the Building, a Hulu show starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez. After a murder happens in the building that their three characters live in they band together to try and solve the murder through a true crime podcast. I liked it well enough, but I didn’t love it the way everyone else seemed to. I will say that the season finale featured some A+ physical comedy from Steve Martin. The episode that was focused on Sting potentially being the murderer was also fantastic.

The Chair

The Chair on Netflix stars Sandra Oh as the newly appointed chair of an English department at a small New England college. She winds up having to deal with all kinds of problems including older tenured faculty whose classes are no longer drawing students, her sort of boyfriend and fellow professor saying something offensive in a class that sends the college into an uproar, and a young adopted daughter who she has a difficult relationship with. Sandra Oh was great as always, and as someone who works in higher education there were definitely some things that rang true about this show.

Girls 5Eva

Girls 5Eva is a show on Peacock about a girl group that was famous in the 90s reuniting in present day after their song is sampled by a hit rapper. It stars Busy Phillips, Paula Pell, Sara Bareilles, and Renee Elise Goldsberry. We Are Lady Parts is the superior Peacock show about a ladies in a band, but Girls 5Eva was a decent comedy to watch if you happen to subscribe to Peacock or get it free somehow like we currently are. I don’t know that I would both resubscribing to Peacock just to watch this when season two comes out, but if we happen to be subscribed for some other reason I would watch it.

The Big Leap

The Big Leap is one of the few new network shows I’m watching this season. There weren’t a lot of them to begin with because of COVID, and I wasn’t super excited about most of them. It’s about the production of a reality show in which people a who live in the Detroit area and are down on their luck are cast in a production of Swan Lake. This show is really terrible, but also I love it. It is not good by any stretch of the imagination. Nothing about the actual show or the show within the show make any sense. It’s entirely ridiculous that so many of these randomly cast people wind up having past connections of some sort and that they all immediately fall in love with someone else on the show. The dance scenes are fun though, and it’s mindless entertainment that is entertaining even if it is objectively not good. Fox declined to pick it up for a second half of the season. Supposedly they’re saying that it was only ever intended to have 11 episodes, but 11 episodes is not a number of episodes that tv usually travels in so I’m dubious that is true. At any rate, I’m not holding my breath for a second season, and I don’t really care if there is one. If Fox had pulled the plug at any point during the season due to the low ratings I would not have been up in arms about it.

Ghosts

Ghosts is the one other network tv show I’ve stuck with this season. It’s a CBS comedy about a couple who inherit a big old house in the country, which it turns out is haunted by centuries worth of ghosts. After a freak accident she winds up being about to see the ghosts. The comedy comes from her being the only one who can interact with them and the fact that the ghosts are from all different time periods who don’t always understand each other’s references or what is happening the world today. Apparently it’s based on a British show that I have never watched. I might go back and watch it at some point as well.

Zero Chill

Speaking of terrible tv shows that I continued to watch, I submit to you Zero Chill, a British teen drama available on Netflix. It’s about a family who moves from Canada to England so that their son can join a prestigious hockey team. His twin sister, who is a figure skater, does not take the move well. The storylines in this show are kind of dumb and unbelievable, and the acting is super questionable. However it has really great music including a bunch of songs by the band Chvrches, who I love and am super sad that I will selling the concert ticket I have to see them in a few weeks because Covid cases are going up again instead of down and it seems like a poor decision to go stand cramped in a crowded concert venue with 6,000 other people.

Squid Game

Hi it’s me the person that watched Squid Game and didn’t like it. I do not really understand why everyone was so obsessed with this show. I just didn’t care about any of the characters enough to worry about who was going to be killed, and it was patently obvious that the person who one was going to win. Pretty much it was easy to know who was going to be the next character that they spent any time on who was going to get killed. There was one good episode in my opinion and that was the marble episode. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t watched, but if you have then you probably know why I liked that one the best.

The Wonder Years

I tried the new remake of The Wonder Years based on a Black family in the 60s. In theory it’s a really good idea, but it’s just not a show I’m that interested in. I never watched the original regularly either. This one has the same beats, and it just doesn’t draw me in. I’m sure people who liked the original one would like this version too.

Ordinary Joe

Ordinary Joe was one of the few network tv shows I tried. I quit it after two episodes. It stars James Wolk in a sort of Sliding Doors type story in which he winds up with three different versions of his life that you’re watching based on a decision he made in college. I wasn’t super invested in what was happening to him in any of the timelines and I just couldn’t see where the show was going to go. Like am I just supposed to watch him living three separate but sort of related lives for multiple seasons? Maybe some larger picture came into play in subsequent episodes after I quit watching, but I’ll never know.

New Music Friday: Dream Never Dies by Lo Moon

Hey it’s Friday and there’s a bunch of new albums out today, none of which I’m going to be talking about. Silk Sonic’s album is out. I’m agnostic on that one. Taylor’s version of Red is out today. Although Red is probably the one I like the most if forced to choose, I still just do not like Taylor Swift’s music so I won’t be writing about that either. Plus it’s not really new. I will say however despite my dislike of her music that I completely respect Taylor Swift’s savvy in the music business, and I totally use her as an example every time I teach a music copyright class. Amanda Shires has a new Christmas album out today too. Like Hiss Golden Messenger’s Christmas album that came out a few weeks ago I’m saving that one until it’s actually Christmas music season. I foresee a Christmas related post happening on Black Friday.

Although I’m not here to talk about any of the new albums out today, I am here to alert you to the new single, “Dream Never Dies”, that Lo Moon released a few days ago. Lo Moon hasn’t put out any new music since their first album back in 2018. I loved that album, but I hadn’t really kept up with what the band was doing at all. The only reason I knew they had a new single out was because Lauren Mayberry of Chvrches alerted me to it in her Instagram stories earlier in the week. It was in my Release Radar on Spotify this morning, though I’m not sure if it would have been there had I not already listened to it earlier in the week. Thankfully I did become aware of it though because I like it just a much as their previous work. It’s got the same sort of dreamy indie rock vibe going on. I assume this song is a harbinger of a new album, so I will be very excited to hear it whenever it comes out.

Banana Pants

If you’ve read any of my Most Memorable Pop Culture posts that I write at the end of every year, you’ll know that my favorite podcast over the past several years has been Make Me Smart. As far as I know I haven’t convinced anyone else to listen, but I still love it and think the rest of you all are just missing out. Anyway, one of the hosts of the podcast, Molly Wood, often refers to things that she thinks are crazy as banana pants. It was a term she used a lot in reference to the whole We Work IPO debacle, but it’s also been used in reference to lots of other things too.

Make Me Smart is a podcast produced under the umbrella of American Public Media’s Marketplace. Since it’s a publicly funded radio program they get some of their support through fund drives throughout the year. Whoever is in charge of the fund drive swag is really good at their job. They make great fund drive gifts related to their mothership radio show and the podcasts that have come out of it the past several years. I already wrote about some of my other favorite gifts in my sock market is not the economy socks and my super market is not the economy reusable grocery bag. I did not get it, but they also recently had a KaiPA pint glass, so named after Marketplace and Make Me Smart host Kai Rysdaal who loves IPAs and is always talking about them on the show and drinking them during the Economics on Tap Friday happy hour taping of the podcast.

In their most recent fund drive they ran with Molly’s frequent use of the phrase banana pants and created some literal banana pants. I recently got mine in the mail, and I love them. I’m going to be spending a lot of time in them this winter. They are super comfy, and they make me smile. They even have pockets! I even manifested some more merch. Last night as I was wearing my banana pants and my sock market is not the economy socks I was thinking to myself that now I just need a shirt to complete my ensemble. Then what do you know today I get an email telling me about new t-shirts they have made as merch unrelated to fund drives. I of course bought one immediately.

The banana pants are also now a little bit bitter sweet as Molly Wood just announced last week that she is leaving Marketplace and Make Me Smart for a new job at the end of November. She’s done a lot of reporting on climate change over the past several years, which has led to her new job. She is leaving journalism to go work for a venture capital firm dedicated to raising money to fund technology aimed at being climate change solutions. I am super sad that she is leaving. The podcast will continue, and I of course am still going to listen but it won’t be the same. Molly and Kai have the best podcast co-host energy. There have been many times over the years where one or the other of them hasn’t been there due to vacations or other work commitments and there was a guest co-host. It didn’t matter which one of them wasn’t there it just never felt as good to me as when they were hosting together. I know I’ll continue to enjoy the podcast, but I don’t think it will ever be able to be what it was without both Molly and Kai there.

I guess I’ll just have to sit around in my banana pants and remember the good times.

New Music Friday: Valentine by Snail Mail

There’s a new ABBA album out today for the first time in 40 years. Much to the chagrin of one of my co-workers I will not be writing about that even though she has been excitedly looking forward to it for several months. I highly doubt she knows this blog exists anyway. I will also not be writing about the new Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats album. I’ve come to the conclusion that I enjoy seeing Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats play live, but I don’t care that much just to sit around and listen to their music. I don’t turn it off if it comes on the radio or anything. I don’t hate it, but it’s not something I actively seek out to listen to. I much prefer Nathaniel Rateliff’s solo stuff.

Instead, I shall be talking about the new album, Valentine, by Snail Mail both because I like it a lot and also because she’s the hometown favorite of the new music out this week. She grew up in Ellicott City, Maryland which is outside of Baltimore for those of you reading who are unfamiliar with this area. So how could I not choose to write about the local girl. My local ice cream shop even has a new flavor they created in collaboration with her celebrating the new album.

Valentine is Lindsey Jordan, aka Snail Mail’s sophomore album. I actually don’t have a lot to say about other than that it’s a really great album from start to finish. Always impressive for a sophomore album, which are notoriously hard to make. It’s doubly impressive for someone so young who is definitely using this album to try and figure out who she is after growing up while touring her first album. The album ranges from more guitar heavy rock songs, to more synth influenced songs, to fairly spare songs. It’s hard to choose one song to represent the whole album, so I’m just going to go with the title track, “Valentine”, though I highly encourage you to go listen to the whole album.

New Music Friday: I Don’t Live Here Anymore by The War on Drugs (feat. Lucius)

The new album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore by The War on Drugs comes out today. It’s their fifth album and their first in four years. I’ve been looking forward to this album since they announced it. I wrote about “Proof”, the first single off of the album awhile back. I try not to write about multiple songs off the same album very often, which is why I haven’t written about the title song off the album, “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” before now. It’s the second single and has also been out for a little while. I love it so much though and with the new album coming out today I finally decided to cave and write about it. My other option was to write about the new Tori Amos album, but I haven’t had a chance to listen to that one yet and I really wanted to write about this song. So here we go.

Bear with me as I make a brief digression. Ellen Pompeo of Grey’s Anatomy fame has a new podcast that I hate but also can’t stop listening to. I don’t think she’s a good interviewer and this podcast reveals some rather kooky beliefs that she has that make me kind of hate her. Anyway, on the podcast she keeps talking about how she believes in the power of frequency and how people are drawn to certain frequencies and also she believes in something called frequency medicine, which she said she got into after she had a cyst on her pancreas. She said her doctors told her they would giver her 8 weeks to try her hocus pocus and if it didn’t work she was having surgery. Guess what? It didn’t work and she had the surgery, and yet somehow this confirmed her belief in it? I’m just thinking as I’m listening that she doesn’t seem to realize that she is sort of doing the same thing that the anti-vaxxers she also rails against in this episode are doing. She grabbed onto some pseudo-science thing that sounded interesting and believable to her and didn’t let go of the belief even when science and her own experience told her otherwise. The human brain is not evolved enough for the modern world y’all.

Anyway, the reason I tell that story is because despite the fact that I’m super dubious about frequency medicine and even most of her claims about frequency at least a little part of me thinks that there is something there because of songs like “I Don’t Live Here Anymore”. There are certain songs where the music just resonates with me so much like deep down into my soul that I don’t even know how to explain the experience. I think it’s one of the reasons I love music so much, and even if it’s not with music I hope that other people have something in their life that gives them that feeling. Often when I have that experience with a song it’s usually either the guitar work or something to do with vocal harmony. Thus my thought that maybe the experience does have something to do with the frequency in the song. This song gives me that experience both with the guitar and vocal harmonies. There’s something about the guitar in this song as well as the vocal harmonies that Lucius is singing that just ring down into the core of my being like I feel a tuning fork being rung inside my heart. That’s the best I can do to try and describe it. It doesn’t happen with every song, not even most songs including ones I really love, but man when it does it’s an incredible feeling. Needless to say I love this song, and now that I’ve listened to it I love the whole album. Hopefully you can experience even a little fraction of what I do when I listen to it.

New Music Friday: Love Is the Greatest by Angel Du$t

For the second week in a row I’m switching up what I was going to write about at the last minute. Before I get to that I wanted to mention that there is a new Hiss Golden Messenger Christmas album, O Come All Ye Faithful, that was released today. I am very excited about it, but I refuse to write about a Christmas album in October so wait for me to circle back around to that one some time after Thanksgiving when it is appropriate to listen to Christmas music. Joy Oladakun also released a phenomenal cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” that includes some guitar work by Jason Isbell. It’s everything I love about cover songs, but it’s part of Spotify Sessions, so you can only listen to it on Spotify.

Anyway, what I am actually going to write about is a new album by a local Baltimore band, Angel Du$t. Until this morning I had never heard of this band. I’m not actually that plugged in to the Baltimore music scene. Hence why I have also never heard of the two bands, Turnstile and Trapped Under Ice, that this band is apparently a supergroup of. This album, Yak: A Collection of Truck Songs, was mentioned on NPR’s New Music Friday podcast this morning. I dug it, so I thought I should give the hometown band a little bit of love this morning. I’m going to feature the same song they did, “Love Is the Greatest” because it’s what drew me into listening to the whole album, even though it’s a lot more low key than the other songs on album. Most of the rest of the album is more pop punk. Apparently they wanted to create an album that sounds like your favorite mix tape that you would put on in the car to drive to. I would say for the most part there are a lot of really good driving songs on it, so they mostly met their aim. You’ll have to go look up the rest of the album on your own if you want to hear that though because song is not that.

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.