New Music Friday: Care by beabadoobee

beabadoobee is the stage name of 20 year old British-Filipino singer Beatrice Laus. “Care” is the first single off her forthcoming debut album, Fake It Flowers. The song came out back in mid-July, but I heard it for the first time this week. It has a real 90s female rock vibe going on that I am digging. I’m pretty much into anything that makes me nostalgic for times that aren’t these at the moment. Take a listen.

New Music Friday: Devon Gilfillian and The Killers

So I have another twofer for you this week. I spent most of the week thinking I was going to write about Devon Gilfillian’s new song, but then this morning I kept hearing songs off of The Killers new album that came out today and I was more in the mood to write about that so I thought I would just switch out my song choice. But then I felt bad not writing about the Devon Gilfillian song so I’m doing both.

Cracks in the Ceiling by Devon Gilfillian feat. Joseph

“Cracks in the Ceiling” is a song that Devon Gilfillian wrote with the sisters from the band Joseph as part of NPR’s Morning Edition Song Project in which they are enlisting artists to write songs about this moment. Devon Gilfillian was thinking about a difficult conversation he had with a friend who grew up in the South and voted for Donald Trump about Black history and his own experiences as Black American and wrote this song about needing to seize this moment when the world has stopped to have difficult conversations about race and racism.

My Own Soul’s Warning by The Killers

The Killers are a band that I like okay and generally enjoy when I hear a song by them, but I also have never gotten super into them. I’ve never bought one of their albums nor felt compelled to go to one of their concerts, which should pretty much tell you what you need to know. But as a band that has now been around for 20 years and still very much has an identifiable sound, even their new music makes me feel a little nostalgic for what now seems like much simpler times. As I said above writing about The Killers today was not on my radar at all, but I heard two different songs off the album this morning and they just really felt like music I wanted to listen to right now. The sort of grandiose sweeping sound of their songs was just what I needed today. I probably never would have listened to this entire album except for the fact that I heard these songs in the exact moment that I did. I’m digging the whole thing especially the songs that feature k.d. lang and Weyes Blood even though I’m not sharing either one of those songs. I just went with this song because I felt like it exemplified The Killer’s signature style and the mood I’m going for.

New Music Friday: Kathleen Edwards and Ashley Ray

I bet you thought I wasn’t going to have a New Music Friday post for you today. I actually wanted to listen to several new albums that were out today before I decided on what to write about. That meant I couldn’t write up anything until after work instead of first thing in the morning. I couldn’t even settle on one song after that, so you get two today.

Birds on a Feeder by Kathleen Edwards

Kathleen Edwards put out her first album, Total Freedom, in eight years today. She had actually quit her music career and opened up a coffee shop called Quitters in Ottawa, Canada. Then Maren Morris apparently invited her down to Nashville to do some songwriting together and it ignited a spark. So here we are with a brand new album most people thought would never happen. The whole album is lovely. I highly recommend listening to the whole thing. Even better go watch the online album release concert she did from her coffee shop for World Cafe.

I’m going to highlight the song “Bird On a Feeder” because it feels like being wrapped in a warm blank on a cold winter’s day to me. It just makes me imagine sitting in front of a fire in a cabin wrapped in a blanket with a dog sitting at my feet. I feel like it’s a song I’m going to be coming back to a lot this winter.

Just a House by Ashley Ray

Pauline is Ashley Ray’s third album and hopefully the one that helps break her out in the country music scene because it is amazing from top to bottom. It’s a very personal record, which I’ve seen called a photo album of her life growing up in Kansas. I feel like that’s a very apt description. The album title comes from her grandmother and the song of the same name on the album is about all the good and bad things she inherited from her. It’s full of fiddle and banjo and I love it, but it’s not even the song I’m going to talk about. One of the things I love about the album is how much it features the aforementioned banjo and fiddle as well as pedal steel. I love all these things, so it’s no wonder that I’m highly attracted to Americana and country music for which these instruments are staples. Oddly then I’m choosing to highlight a song that features none of those instruments.

I couldn’t resist “Just a House” though. It’s co-written with Natalie Hemby and is all about Ashley trying to encourage her mother to leave the house that’s sort of falling down around her, but her mother doesn’t want to leave because it’s where she lived with Ashley’s father who died in a tragic fall on their farm when she was a child. It’s a very sad, but beautiful song.

Good Things Roundup

It seems like it’s pretty hard to come by good things these days, so I want to make sure I’m documenting them when they do happen. There were a number of things that made me happy over the past week or so, so I thought I would write up a quick post about them.

  1. We have now entered one of my favorite times of year when all the noisy bugs of summer are out in full force in the morning and the evening. Cicadas, crickets, katydids are all out there humming away now and I love it.
  2. I got a couple of surprises from friends that made me feel loved and it reminded me that I have some really great friends even if I don’t really get to see them much in person these days. Some friends went out to a farm and cut a bunch of sunflowers and dropped one off to me as a nice little surprise. That happened on a day when I was feeling really down on life and people, so it was perfect timing and very sweet.
  3. The other day I was watching TV and a character eating popcorn for some reason really made me crave the caramel/cheddar popcorn mix from Garrett’s Popcorn in Chicago. I looked into how much it would cost to have some shipped to me and decided I didn’t want popcorn that much. I did find two different brands of cheddar/caramel mix popcorns at the grocery store that I decided to do a taste test of. The Cretors came closer to the Garrett’s, but still wasn’t as good. The Smartfood I didn’t care much for. I posted about all this on Facebook, and then a couple days ago I opened up my door to a tin of popcorn from Garrett’s that one of my friends sent me after seeing my post. I have the best friends y’all.
  4. I got to actually see some friends in person this weekend. Some friends from DC drove up and we got carry out brunch and sat socially distanced in the grass behind my house. It’s a friend I’m used to getting together with fairly regularly, but who I hadn’t seen since we parted ways in the Tampa airport after going on what was in retrospect a very ill-advised trip to St. Pete Beach on the very week that the world decided that COVID-19 was a pandemic. Had our trip been one day later we would have canceled, but literally up until the point we were in the air flying to Florida the media was still downplaying how bad this was going to be. It was really good to be able to see each other again. I’m trying to be a little bit braver while also being completely responsible to see friends in person while the weather is still nice enough for us to sit outside because unless things change I don’t see myself spending time with people inside this winter. It’s going to be a long, lonely winter.
  5. Blacksauce biscuits are also making me very happy. Blacksauce is beloved staple at farmer’s markets and festivals in Baltimore serving up delicious biscuit sandwiches and more. I always got a Blacksauce biscuit for breakfast every Saturday morning pre-pandemic. For 3 months we did not eat any food that we did not cook in our own house. After the research kept reiterating that it was unlikely you would get it from eating carryout, we finally started getting carryout on my birthday. That opened the door for me to also finally start eating Blacksauce again. They are not at the farmer’s market right now. Instead they’re cooking out of a restaurant that closed last year and are doing scheduled pickups in their parking lot. The sandwiches rotate every weekend and some of my favorites only ever come around once or twice a year, so it’s been a nice stretch over the past three weeks with some of my very favorites: fried green tomatoes, roasted figs, and fried chicken with spicy honey. It’s summer so the roasted peaches have been in heavy rotation. I love that one too and will get it as soon as one of the rare ones that I love isn’t on the menu.
  6. Both universities that my library serves announced last week that they are going virtual for the fall semester. There was one day where it seemed like one would be virtual and one in person, which was going to make life very complicated. So I’m happy they got on the same page and that my co-workers who were going to have to go back to campus and interact with a bunch of students get a reprieve from that. I’m also grateful that I was and still am able to work from home through this.
  7. And that leads into my perpetual reminder to myself that as terrible as all of this is I have it really good. I am as I just said able to work from home. I still have a job. I enjoy spending time with my husband and my cat. We’re doing this in a time where it’s possible to still stay connected with people virtually instead of being completely cut off. And I’m not having to make any agonizing decisions about what to do with my kids this school year. I am extremely privileged in this situation, and I don’t want to lose sight of that either despite it still generally sucking.

Newport Revival Weekend

Thanks to COVID-19 the 2020 Newport Folk Festival was canceled. Anyone who knows me or who has been reading this blog for any length of time should know that Newport is my favorite weekend of every year. It is a completely soul restoring event that has been sorely needed in the last few years and ironically was unable to happen this year for some of the reasons that it was needed more than ever.

In lieu of an in-person festival, this year they put together a series of online events to celebrate the history of the festival and use it as a fundraiser for the Newport Festivals Foundation, which supports music education and this year has extended their work to support artists who are out of work due to COVID-19.

They dug into their 60 year archive and put together a radio festival that mimicked the actual festival as much as it could. It ran for the same hours that the festival happens every year. It included broadcasts of some complete sets from previous years as well as themed compilation sets full of songs from the full history of the festival. That mirrors what the actual festival does as there are always compilation sets full of a number of artists who will come out and sing together around a common theme whether it be a tribute set to an artist like the Grandma’s Hands Band set, which was a tribute to the music of Bill Withers that they replayed as part of this or something like civil rights songs. They even had a surprise set on the setlist for the weekend. Jay Sweet who organizes the festival has long said that he would love to not even let people know who is playing until they show up to the festival that day, so he always sprinkles in some sets over the weekend that are listed just as a surprise set. The surprise set for this was a Joni Mitchell set from the early years of the festival.

It was actually really great to listen to festival for the most part. I spent a lot of time texting back and forth with a friend who is also part of the Newport Folk Family. It was nice to relive some of the things from the festival that I really loved. I could picture being at the festival and seeing them. There were also a couple of sets that I was happy to get to hear because I missed parts of them the first time around because there are three stages and you can never be everywhere at once. It was cool to listen to some of the music from long before my time as well. There were a couple of things like the set from Jack White that I skipped the first time around and this made me know that I made the right decision about. I’m also not sorry that I skipped out on the Beck set because it was raining and I don’t care that much about Beck, though I will say that now having listened to it he definitely gets the festival and did not get up and do a “Beck set”. He really made it a set for Newport. I always love when artists realize the importance of where they are playing and don’t just get up and do what they do everywhere.

In addition to the radio festival they did special after hours events as well just as there are during the actual festival. I never go to those because I am done with crowds by the time the festival proper is over for the day. On Friday night you could pay for an airing of one of the three concerts they did for Mavis Staples’ 80th birthday last year. I had really wanted to go to one of them, but they were in New York, Nashville, and L.A. and based on timing I just couldn’t make it happen. So one of the few good things about this pandemic has been able to see some things like this that were just hidden away in a vault somewhere and which probably would never have seen the public light of day otherwise. It was wonderful and I’m really glad I got to experience it even in this limited way. As I’ve said many times before Mavis Staples is a national treasure and it was so delightful to see so many artists I love celebrate her.

Saturday night was another paid show. This one involved an actual concert at Fort Adams where the festival is held every year. Deer Tick who are a local Rhode Island band who have a huge connection to the festival did an in-person socially distanced (for the band, no audience) concert that they recorded with special guests who appeared from their respective homes. As many online concerts as I’ve watched since this all began it was really nice to see an actual band performing together rather than connected in their little boxes via Zoom or whatever even if I still had to watch it through a screen.

Sunday night there was a free film called Our Voices Together. Looking back now they never said it was going to be a documentary about the festival, but that is somehow what I got in my head it was going to be and is sort of what I wish it had been. I was looking forward to seeing footage of previous festivals and hearing people talk about the history of the festival. There was a little bit of that, but mostly it was favorite Newport artists playing songs either alone or in the little Zoom box style with their bands that I was just saying feels a little soulless compared to people actually playing together. I mean I love all the music and the artists that were in the film, but it wasn’t really what I was expecting or necessarily hoping for. I will say that the cover they did of “What the World Needs Now is Love” featuring a metric ton of artists from festivals past was amazing and I wish they would at least make that one song available to rewatch again since the entire film is only available for 24 hours from it’s premiere.

I’m really glad they pulled all this together. I definitely ran through the gamut of emotions listening and watching everything all weekend. Sunday I did hit an emotional low point of sadness thinking about there not being an actual festival this year. There were a lot of tears, but there were also lots of moments of joy. I sincerely hope we can get our act together so that there will actually be a Newport Folk Festival in 2021 because it cannot come soon enough.

TV Diary: Meh Edition

In my previous TV Diary post I promised I would have another post talking about recent shows I watched that I didn’t really care for. Some of these shows are decidedly not great while others were just not for me.

Stargirl

I debated whether I should put this show in this post or in the previous one, but since the other post had a lot more entries already I decided to write about it here. Stargirl is yet another CW superhero show. This is by far the hokiest of all the superhero shows I’ve ever watched. It centers around a teenage girl who discovers that her new step-dad is a former superhero and suspects that her own long missing father was superhero Starman, who was killed when she was a small kid. His former staff seems to want her to be it’s new master and now she’s training with her step-dad and some other outcast kids she recruited. It’s okay. I don’t love it. I find that I’m more interested in the non-superhero parts of the show, but there aren’t enough of those to sustain my interest. I’ve still been watching it while my husband has it on, but I’m not sure once we ever get more television back that I will keep watching.

Hollywood

I barely payed attention to this Netflix show created by Ryan Murphy about old Hollywood. I wasn’t really intersted in the story at all and I found it highly unrealistic that so many women and minorities were in positions of power in Hollywood. That’s not even true today.

Perry Mason

I never read any Perry Mason books nor watched the original series, so other than knowing Perry Mason was a lawyer I didn’t really know much about him. I gather that this show creates an entirely new backstory for Perry Mason and at least thus far is pretty much connected to the original properties in name only. In this version Perry Mason is a private detective. It’s a show that I can see some people enjoying, but I just don’t care about it. I’ve been in the room when my husband is on it, but I really couldn’t tell you what’s going on at this point.

You’ll Be Gone in the Dark

This is a documentary series on HBO based on the book of the same name by Michelle McNamara about her research into the Golden State Killer that eventually led to his arrest, unfortunately after her untimely passing. I’m not really big into true crime stuff. I didn’t read the book either. I can see this show appealing to people who did read the book or who are into true crime shows. This is just one that is not for me.

Outer Banks

I would say that this show is not for anyone, but Netflix just renewed it for a second season this week so I guess it is for some people. I thought this show was so bad that I didn’t even finish it. When I realized we were only halfway through I pulled the plug. There was no way I wanted to watch another five episodes of this show. It’s some sort of teen murder mystery thing set in the Outer Banks with the addition of the divide between people based on the working class people who live there and the second home summer people. I thought it had potential as a nice soapy, teen drama, but I did not find it interesting or engaging at all.

New Music Friday: exile by Taylor Swift feat. Bon Iver

I have a New Music Friday post for you in which I’m talking about Taylor Swift’s new surprise album. I did listened to it once, but that will be the last time I listen to it. For the most part Taylor Swift doesn’t do much for me. I like a random song here or there, but mostly her music leaves me cold. This new album was no exception. The only song I really cared for was “exile”, which she sings with Bon Iver and that’s mostly because it sounds like a Bon Iver song.

New Music Friday: Sleep at Night by The Chicks

The Chicks, formerly known as the Dixie Chicks (ask me how many times I had to remove Dixie from this post due to habit) released Gaslighter, their first album since 2006 today. I hadn’t really cared that much for the first single they released off of it, the title track “Gaslighter”, but I really do like the full album. In fact I think “Gaslighter” is my least favorite song on the album.

It appeals to me musically. Lyrically I’m agnostic. It doesn’t really speak to me at all. It’s mostly from what I’ve read and can tell by listening to it a sort of catharsis for Natalie Maines writing about her very messy divorce from Adrian Pasdar. I don’t care that much about celebrity relationships, so I’m uninterested in whether all the things she sings about actually happened or not. I do really like the sound of most of the songs though, and since I’m rarely paying that much attention to lyrics these days I’m happy to just have some new songs that bring back the sound of The Chicks.

I’m sharing “Sleep at Night” because I think it’s one of my favorites from the album. The album was produced by Jack Antonoff, so it definitely has a little bit more of a pop vibe. There are still a lot of typical country elements here though. This song is perhaps one of the poppiest, but there is still the very recognizable banjo in the mix.

TV Diary: Watch This Edition

Still sitting here in quarantine, so I’m watching a lot of television. I mean I always watched a lot of television, but now I really watch a lot of television. That means just a few short weeks since I wrote my last TV Diary entry I’m already back to write about a host of new shows I’ve been watching. It already felt long, so I’m splitting it into two posts. This one is shows I either really liked or I thought were decent enough to watch. The next post will be shows that I didn’t particularly care for. Some of them are objectively bad and some of them are just not for me.

Wynonna Earp

I really don’t understand why Wynonna Earp is not a bigger thing. I mean I guess because it’s a SyFy show, but even so for as much as people love Buffy the Vampire Slayer I’m surprised this show hasn’t broken out more because I feel like they share a lot of the same DNA. There are currently three seasons available on Netflix and the half of the fourth season they shot before COVID shut everything down is premiering on Syfy at the end of the month. We’re nearing the end of season 2, so maybe it goes way off the rails in season 3, but I love what I’ve seen so far.

I think maybe I didn’t pay close enough attention to the first couple of episodes because my understanding of the mythology of the show is a little fuzzy, but the general gist is Wynonna is an heir of Wyatt Earp. Somehow there is a curse that brought the people he killed back to life as revenants and the Earp heir is the only one who has the power to kill them or something. I guarantee they did a better job of explaining this, but I was probably playing around on the internet and not really processing it. There’s more supernaturally stuff that gets added in along the way. Doc Holliday is also still alive somehow and becomes a sort of love interest for Wynonna as does her boss at the secret government agency also trying to fight the demons.

Wynonna is a great strong, sarcastic female character that as I said reminds me a lot of Buffy. If you are someone who is a fan of Buffy I definitely recommend watching this show.

Normal People

I never read the book that this Hulu show is based on. Apparently it is very beloved, but I somehow had never even heard of it. I don’t know if my thoughts on this show would be different had I read it. I liked the show and enjoyed watching it. However, I’m not sure I felt about the characters the way I was supposed to feel. It follows the relationship of Marianne and Connell beginning in high school and into their early twenties as they get together and break up and get back to together again in several iterations. I think we were supposed to be rooting for them to be a couple and some respects I certainly did want them to get it together and make it work, but mostly I was like these people do not in fact have a functional relationship. I don’t think Marianne is capable of having one without some serious help given the damage her family did to her, and I’m not sure exactly what Connell’s deal is but he’s definitely got some issues too. But also maybe the show also thought that they shouldn’t be together either. It’s not very straightforward. I at least think other people who love the show and book think they should be together.

The show is set in Ireland and is produced by one of the BBCs. It definitely feels very different than American shows in a way that I appreciated. I will warn you that it is practically like soft core porn in a lot of episodes. I would definitely not watch this show at any time you might be in danger of kids walking in on you watching it. I appreciated that there was some equal opportunity full frontal nudity and it wasn’t just the female actor being expected to bare it all. And though there was a lot of sex and nudity it didn’t feel gratuitous or just there to be titillating. The sex was for sure a major part of their relationship. Anyway, I enjoyed watching it and I’m still thinking about it, so that’s probably a sign that it’s a good show.

The Babysitter’s Club

I loved The Babysitter’s Club books when I was a kid, so even though this show is for sure not aimed at me as a 42 year old woman, and I have no kids to watch it with I binge watched all 10 episodes in one day. I think they did an excellent job updating it for today while also staying true to the original stories. It’s been 30+ years since I’ve read any of the books, so it’s not like I remember everything about them, but from what I do remember they seem to be sticking to at least the major plot points and character traits that I remember. Even though I am 100% the opposite of Claudia, she was always one of my favorite characters in the books, and I really adore the actress they have playing her in this show. I think they also did an excellent job casting Kristy. I’m less sold on some of the other casting particularly Stacy for some reason. I am on board with them casting non-white girls to play Marianne and Dawn though because it may be cliche, but it’s also true that representation matters.

Upload

The reviews of Upload, which is a show on Amazon, were mixed when it came out so I never bothered to watch it. We have now entered the portion of quarantine where I’m starting to watch stuff that I probably wouldn’t have watched otherwise. This show was better than I thought it would be. Basically it takes place in a future where when you die your consciousness can be uploaded into some sort of virtual afterlife, but the trick is if you want it to happen you have to pay for it and of course how good of a virtual afterlife you can afford depends on how much money you have. The main character dies in a suspicious self-driving car accident, which is a plot point. Since his family is poor, his rich girlfriends decides to pay to upload him into some fancy afterlife, but now he is reliant on getting her to continue to pay for things for him. Meanwhile he’s developing a relationship to one of the people who works for the company who is still alive in real life, but whose avatar he interacts with in his virtual world when she is sent to help him transition into his life there. I’m not sure if there is going to be another season of the show eventually, but I liked it well enough that I would keep watching.

Love Life

Love Life is one of the few original series that premiered when HBOMax came online. It’s sort of an anthology series starring Anna Kendrick. The premise of the show is that every person on average has some number of serious relationships before they find the one they’re meant to be with. Each episode chronicles a different one of her relationships. There are definitely through parts to the story, but each episode also to some degree feels very self-contained. It was fine. I didn’t love it, but it was a decent enough watch especially when I had nothing else to watch.

The final episode gave me a little bit of an existential crisis though. It takes place on New Years of this past year and is the episode where she meets her true love. I just wanted to spend the whole episode yelling at the characters to enjoy what they have now because in a few short months everything will be different. Instead of just enjoying their happily ever after I’m sitting there thinking about how their fledgling relationship is going to have to endure lockdown in New York and living in a tiny apartment with a baby and her art gallery shutting down. It definitely gave a different feel to the end of the show than they were going for.

Cougar Town

I didn’t watch Cougar Town when it was on. The premise of the show to start with seemed very gimmicky and I was not interested in it. I had heard that the show pivoted away from that and just became a show about friends hanging out and drinking lots of wine. That is very true. It really didn’t take them long to make the switch. It happened way earlier in the first season than I was expecting. I’m about halfway through the 6 seasons of the show and it has been an excellent diversion. At least so far it’s a good little sit-com that I would recommend watching if you haven’t already.

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

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

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

Held Down by Laura Marling

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

Time Moves On by Phantom Planet

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

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

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

Strangers by Mt. Joy

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