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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
There’s a thing that’s been going around Instagram for a while called the 30 Day song challenge where you post the image listing your prompt for each day in your Insta Stories along with a music clip from the song you choose to go along with that day’s prompt. Given my love of music you would think that I would have jumped on this right away, but I didn’t because I always feel like I can never think of things.
It’s why I was not a great bookseller and would be a terrible public librarian. I am terrible at reader’s advisory because as soon as someone wants recommendations I’m like books, what are books? It’s why I can never eat at restaurants outside my neighborhood that aren’t on OpenTable because I just can’t remember that they exist if I’m not looking at a list of their names.
But eventually I got bored because, you know, quarantine and decided to give this a go. I sat down and plotted out all my songs ahead of time. I didn’t want to include more than one song per artist so there was definitely some shuffling around along the way as I had to figure out other options when I wound up with multiple songs by the same artists initially. There were also a couple that I changed along the way when I thought of something I wanted to use more than what I had originally written down.
Since it’s a 30 day challenge I decided that June would be the perfect month since it has 30 days. It just so happened that the prompt for a song from the year you were born was the Day 18 prompt and my birthday is June 18th, so it seemed like it was kismet. Anyway, if you don’t follow me on Instagram or for some reason wanted a permanent record of my song selections I decided to turn it into a blog post too. That way I could add a little context to some of my choices too.
- A song you like with a color in the title – Pink Moon by Nick Drake
- A song you like with a number in the title – 1957 by Milo Green
- A song that reminds you of summertime – Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen – This is the best song of summer that ever existed. You could not escape it back in the summer of 2012 and I never got tired of it. I still love it and think it a perfect summer song.
- A song that reminds you of someone you’d rather forget – Worn Me Down by Rachael Yamagata – I don’t really have anyone that I’d like to forget, but this was a song I was super into when I broke up with the last guy I seriously dated before I met my husband, so I went with it because it seemed the closest thing to the prompt I could come up with.
- A song that needs to be played loud – Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin – I mean this doesn’t really need an explanation. If you’re not listening to this song loud you’re doing it wrong.
- A song that makes you want to dance – Dancing on My Own by Robyn – Perhaps a little bit too on the nose, but I don’t care. It’s a great song that makes you want to dance and who doesn’t want to be inspired to have a personal dance party. Plus this video of people dancing and singing to the song in the subway station under MSG after a Robyn show there always makes me smile and is something I go back and watch when I need a little joy in my life.
- A song to drive to – Windows Are Rolled Down by Amos Lee – Again as song that’s title is perhaps a little too on the nose, but it’s still the first song I want to drive with my windows down to every spring.
- A song about drugs or alcohol – Break Out the Champagne by Amanda Shires
- A song that makes you happy – Alive and Kicking by Simple Minds – Every time I hear this song it makes me really happy. It was an 80s song I forgot about for awhile, but at some point in the late 2000’s it wound up on on iPod in a workout mix and it’s been a perennial favorite since then.
- A song that makes you sad – Elephant by Jason Isbell – It’s a song about someone dying of cancer, so you know the sad is kind of built into it. I love this reaction video to it.
- A song you never get tired of – Pictures of You by The Cure
- A song from your preteen years – Constant Craving by k.d. lang – During my actual preteen years this song was everywhere for awhile and it wasn’t something that I particularly loved at the time. As a preteen it unsurprisingly didn’t speak to me. As an adult it’s one of those songs that I’ve developed an entirely different relationship to and now it’s a favorite.
- A song you like from the 70s – Dreams by Fleetwood Mac
- A song you’d like to be played at your wedding – I wanted to use Ray LaMontagne’s You Are the Best Thing for this prompt but for some reason it wasn’t available on Instagram, so I used my actual wedding song Just the Way You Are by Billy Joel instead.
- A song you like that’s a cover by another artist – America by First Aid Kit – I adore the harmonies in this song. They’re great in the original version, and I think I might like this cover even better.
- A song that’s a classic favorite – For the life of me I cannot remember what song I used here. I had a couple written down that I wound up using for other prompts and apparently didn’t write my actual choice down. I guess it wasn’t that much of a favorite.
- A song you’d sing a duet with on karoake – The Boy is Mine by Brandi and Monica
- A song from the year you were born – Forever in Blue Jeans by Neil Diamond
- A song that makes you think about life – When My Time Comes by Dawes
- A song that has many meanings to you – In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel – I have so many memories of this song from various times in my life.
- A song you like with a person’s name in it – Josephine by Brandi Carlile
- A song that moves you forward – Shake It Out by Florence + the Machine – I actually had Maggie Rogers’ Back in My Body written down as my song choice for this prompt, but then when I went to post it this song popped in my head instead and I had to go with it instead. It for sure is a song that makes you want to pick yourself up, shake off the bad stuff, and keep moving forward.
- A song you think everyone should listen to – This Land by Gary Clarke, Jr.
- A song by a band you wish were still together – Poison and Wine by The Civil Wars – I loved The Civil Wars. I first learned of them when I saw them open for Adele in a little club in Philly right before she broke it really big. I’m sad that their band ended in a civil war of its own. I’ve tried the stuff they’ve both done solo since they broke up and none of it has the magic they had when they were together.
- A song you like by an artist no longer living – Have a Little Faith in Me by Joe Cocker – I adore pretty much every version of this song, but Joe Cocker’s is my favorite.
- A song that makes you want to fall in love – Into the Mystic by Van Morrison – If you pressed me to name my all time favorite song I would probably name this one. It’s a perfect love song.
- A song that breaks your heart – Waiting on June by Holly Williams – Written about her maternal grandparent’s relationship this song is a beautiful ode to their relationship. It paints a perfect picture of a life together. It’s the only song I have ever seen an entire audience full of people weep to during a concert. I love this song and the entire album it is from and it makes me sad that Holly Williams doesn’t really play music anymore.
- A song by an artist whose voice you love – Baby, Now That I Found You by Alison Krauss
- A song you remember from your childhood – Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears – I have loved this song ever since it came out when I was a kid. I still do. The first year I started creating annual playlists in Spotify I tried to add a song a day that I heard during the day and I really liked. Since then I’ve changed my playlists to only songs that I like released during that year and I add them as I hear them and not on a daily basis. Anyway, this song is the only one that I accidentally added more than once during that first year because I like it so much.
- A song that reminds you of yourself – American Girl by Tom Petty – Tom Petty is one of my favorite all time artists. I’m still sad about his death. I’ve always said that if I played baseball American Girl would be my walkup song. It’s always the song I choose whenever I have to answer a question similar to this one.
This morning I have a new song for you by Brandy Clark, not to be confused with my beloved Brandi Carlile. “Who You Thought I Was” is off her third album, Your Life is a Record, which came out last Friday. It’s been getting a lot of excellent praise, which is well deserved because it is a fantastic record. Brandy has been writing and recording in Nashville for about the past decade or so and despite much critical acclaim has never really managed to break through on country radio, which with this record she says she has come to terms with and is happy with where her career is now. I still think it’s a shame because she is wonderful songwriter and performer. The larger country music world is missing out.
The Dixie Chicks are back and this time with new music! They did a reunion tour a couple years ago that I went to, but they didn’t record any new music to go along with it. They’re releasing a new album for the first time in 14 years on May 1 and just dropped the first single, “Gaslighter”, from it on Wednesday. Shock of all shocks my local country radio station even played it! I never thought I’d hear another Dixie Chicks song on mainstream country radio again. Add in their history with country radio to today’s antipathy towards female country artists and it’s a modern day miracle!
It’s not my favorite Dixie Chicks song ever. It may or may not grow on me. The Dixie Chicks have never been a band where I have loved every single song that they’ve put out, so I’m not that concerned that I don’t love this particular song. I’m super excited to have new music by them and am very much looking forward to hearing what’s on the rest of the album.
I had a completely different country song by a female artist lined up to talk about this morning, but instead I’m going to talk about this song that isn’t really new at all by any stretch of the imagination. Based on the date it was released on YouTube it’s actually almost exactly one year old. However I’m going to go with it for a couple reasons. First, I heard it on actual country radio for the first time yesterday, which makes it count as new to me. Second, the reason that was notable for me was because this is one of the songs I heard the songwriter Zach Kale sing at the Listening Room Cafe in my recent trip to Nashville.
I don’t want to actually say too much about the song “I Hope” by Gabby Barrett because part of the fun of hearing this song for the first time is not really knowing where it’s going. It’s a great country song that way. I don’t know of any other genre that is so good with lyrical turns as country music is. This was one of my favorite songs of the night, and I’m excited to have heard it on country radio and sung by a woman no less.
I hope you all are ready for some country music by women because after my latest trip to Nashville I’m even more determined to promote female country artists. Despite what country radio would have you believe, they do in fact exist. It’s only January 24 and I already have enough new music tagged to write New Music Friday posts for an entire month. That will obviously only continue to grow. I think I might just write about country ladies until I run out of them.
My first post is actually about Little Big Town, a country group that is mostly fronted by ladies but which is composed of two women and two men. So there are some songs fronted by men, but for the most part Karen Fairchild is their frontwoman so I’m going to go with it. They have actually been a fixture in country music radio for the past decade until this album apparently. Their new album Nightfall came out last Friday, but I haven’t heard either of the singles that have been out since last fall on my local country station.
It’s probably because the new album for the most part doesn’t fit into country music’s current obsession with men and their obsessions with trucks, women, and drinking. Stephen Thompson from NPR music called it “…very adult songwriting. Songs for grownups about grownups.” That is not something country music seems terribly interested in. It’s not really a surprise that country music radio didn’t want to touch the first single off the album, “The Daughters”, which contains lyrics like
“And pose like a trophy on a shelf
Dream for everyone, but not yourself
I’ve heard of God the Son and God the Father
I’m just looking for a God for the daughters”.
Aside from the one dumb drinking song that I guess they thought was obligatory and which I skip every time I listen to the album, the whole thing is fantastic. It’s beautiful and profound country music with songs that address real issues. It’s by far my favorite Little Big Town album. Of course it’s the only Little Big Town album I think I’ve listened to all the way through. Although I’ve enjoyed their singles in the past they did not for whatever reason ever inspire me to dig deeper, but the two songs I heard off this album to start made me want to listen to the whole thing and I’m so very glad I did.
I really do encourage you to listen to the entire album, but if you don’t want to at least listen to “The Daughters”.
I’m in Nashville right now so it feels right that this week’s New Music Friday post is about Ashley McBryde’s “Martha Divine”. It’s a great country rock song with a great twist on the old country trope of songs about taking some sort of revenge on the woman who cheated with your man. In this case it’s actually a daughter going after the woman who her father cheated on her mother with. This is a fantastic song, and I’m going to super mad when country music radio completely ignores it. Don’t let the literal man get you down. Let me help you find the great female country artists that the Nashville machine will make you think don’t exist anymore.
Today I have a new holiday song for you from the recently released compilation record, A Dualtone Christmas, containing Christmas songs by artists on the label. I’m talking about “Holiday Song” by Amos Lee. I love the ideas in this song. This time of year more than any other we talk about peace and in this song Amos Lee talks about not just wishing for peace but being an agent of peace even in the smallest of ways with lyrics like “my peace will start with me” and “to my gift I will be true and do what little I can do”.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and the little things that can bring great joy. I was thinking about some of the things that have brought me the most joy this year are little things that people in my neighborhood do. I’ve written about some of them here and some of them I’ve been planning to write about but haven’t yet even though I have the photos to go with the posts. It’s just little things like switching out flags, putting little seasonal hats on the spiral of ceramic cats they have on the wall of their house, painting light posts, and creating a gnome garden for neighborhood children. Also, the man who started cleaning the library overnight this fall before he leaves in the morning writes messages of encouragement on a whiteboard near the entrance. I love seeing them when I come in every morning and was especially delighted to see his final message of the year on Wednesday. It’s hard to read the actual message in the picture, but the fact that he brought in this Santa balloon and drew him going down the chimney made mine and I know a lot of other people’s days.
It makes me think about what am I doing to bring joy to people or to try and create peace. At my church we talk about shalom meaning nothing missing, nothing broken and that’s the peace we’re working towards. Living in a city where the problems seem so intractable and are getting worse every year instead of better sometimes it’s hard to see how anything can make a difference. Add to that everything else horrible that’s going on int he world and most of the time I just feel a sense of defeated hopelessness. But then I’m reminded that sometimes even little things matter. It’s part of the reason I did the year of the cookie project in 2018 to try and bring a little joy into the world. I never feel like I’m doing enough on a larger scale. I mostly just throw money at the things I believe in, which is of course needed but it never feels like enough and I know the sacrifice would be giving more of my time because it’s what I’m more selfish with. So I will spend this season reflecting once again on as Amos Lee says what my gifts are and using them to do what little I can do to do my part to create peace and a world where nothing is missing and nothing is broken.