New Music Friday: The Staves and Julien Baker

I sometimes feel this made up pressure to pick only one song to write about in my New Music Friday posts as if I’m breaking some rule by talking about more than one song. I often share more than one song as I did last week, but in my head I’m always feeling like it’s wrong to write about more than one thing for some reason. This is all leading up to me sharing more than one song today in case you didn’t figure out where this was going.

I’ve been kicking the song “Good Woman” by The Staves down the road for awhile now. The single came out last October. I don’t think I heard it all the way back then but definitely several months ago now. I didn’t write about it then and eventually thought I would write about it when the full album, of which this is the title track, came out on February 5. Due to some life stuff I didn’t feel like writing that day and thus it got skipped. I decided I wanted to circle back around to it though because I do love this song so much and decided it was dumb to not write about it just because there was newer music to share.

The Staves are an English indie band composed of sisters Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor. They have beautiful harmonies and live in the same space as other harmonically wonderful sister bands like Joseph, HAIM, and First Aid Kit. I especially love the way the harmonies just build and build in this song. I love it more every time I hear it. Go take a listen and actually listen to the whole album while you’re at it.

I also wanted to write about Julien Baker’s new album Little Oblivions, which came out today. It’s mostly about her relapse from sobriety and her attempt to come back from that. It’s a great album and brings in a full band, which is not something she’s done on her previous albums. I’ve always found Julien Baker’s music to be pleasant, but it’s not something I ever really sought out. I think her earlier work was so spare that there was nothing really hooking me and compelling me to go listen to it. That is not the case with the new album which is much more full and lush with sound while still retaining a complete sense of being a Julien Baker album. It reminds me a lot more of the music of her fellow boygenius bandmate Phoebe Bridgers and the music they did with Lucy Dacus as the aforementioned boygenius. The song “Favor” on this album actual reunites the three of them. It is great and really makes me hope that we eventually get another boygenius album. I decided though I should choose a different song to highlight here though that is just Julien Baker. There’s a lot of good songs on this album, so it was hard to choose. I eventually decided to go with “Highlight Reel” purely because it has the word highlight in the title and that seems fitting,

TV Diary

Britain’s Best Home Cook

If you’re lamenting the fact that you’re all out of Great British Baking Show episodes have I got the show for you. There are two seasons of this show on Hulu. It is very much in the vein of the Great British Baking Show though it involves both baking and cooking. Mary Berry is even one of the judges! It has the same sort of gentle rhythms of the Great British Baking Show with watching pleasant British people cook and be encouraging and helpful to each other. There are three rounds. In the first one, the Ultimate, the cooks have to cook their ultimate of something that they get to plan and practice ahead of time. In the rustle up round they get presented an ingredient that they have to use as the highlight of their dish on the fly. Then the final round, the eliminator, only the cooks who have not done well enough in the first rounds participate. It’s a little bit like the technical challenge in GBBS in that they’re given a recipe and whoever cooks it least well is eliminated. A woman named Claudia Winkleman is the host and I like her more than all of the hosts that have ever been on GBBS. They made some changes in the show between seasons 1 and 2. Most of them were for the better, though I liked the original parameters of the rustle up round better.

The Queen’s Gambit

The Queen’s Gambit is a quick 7 episode series on Netflix based on the book of the same name. It’s about an orphaned girl in the 1950s and 1960s who is taught to play chess by the janitor at her orphanage and turns out to be a real prodigy. She also deals with addiction issues that were created by pills given to her during her time in the orphanage. It’s a really engaging show that I liked a whole lot even though there are long sequences of people playing chess which I know next to nothing about. It has a lot of real fashion porn too. Once she starts getting money from winning chess tournaments and ups her wardrobe I want like everything she is wearing. My book club has decided to read the book this is based on for our next meeting, so I’ll be curious to see how they compare to each other.

Dash and Lily

This was a cute Netflix Christmas show based on a YA novel. Dash and Lily are teenagers that are both alone for Christmas for various reasons. She decides to leave a diary with dares in it for someone to find in the Strand Bookstore. You just have to go with the hand wavey part that would result in a teenage boy being the one to pick this book out and take up the challenge. They then correspond with each other back and forth through the book and encourage each other to grow and expand their horizons. It’s exactly the kind of show I’m looking for this time of year.

Over Christmas

Over Christmas is a 3 episode German show on Netflix about a guy who moved out of his small town to pursue a music career in Berlin, but it’s not going as well as he had hoped. Now he’s returned home for Christmas where he discovers that his brother is dating his ex-girlfriend and his parents have been keeping a big secret from him. He also winds up connecting with his brother’s high school girlfriend so it’s a rom com too. Given how much of a jerk he is at the end, things probably get resolved a bit too quickly and neatly but overall I enjoyed it and would recommend watching if you like this kind of thing and don’t mind subtitles.

How to with John Wilson

It’s hard to figure out how to describe this HBO comedy show. The six season first season just finished and I really liked it. John Wilson tackles a different topic in each episode including things like scaffolding, how to split a check, how to make small talk, and how to make the perfect risotto. You never see his face, but the whole thing is dry voiceover over footage, mostly of New York City, that is created in a dry, humorous way. The last episode which was obviously mid-filming when the pandemic hit took a whole different turn because of that which made it really interesting. I’ve never watched the show Nathan for You, but I’ve heard other people compare this show to that so maybe that bit of info will mean something to you and help you decide if this show is for you.

Deaf U

I thought this show about students at Gallaudet University would be more akin to shows like Last Chance U and Cheer, but it was not anywhere near as good as those shows. Those other shows brought you into a culture in a way that helped you understand it more and felt like a realistic look into the lives of the kids they were following. Deaf U was more sensationalistic. It was like look at deaf college kids. They drink and have sex too! There were a lot of conversations that felt like they were very set up for the camera too as people would just walk up to each other and jump right into these huge issues without any preamble. I could be wrong, but it seems like the filmmakers found out about these things and then told the kids to talk about them on camera. It felt very forced at times. It also gave me very little information that would help me understand deaf culture of life at Gallaudet. There was a little bit about “deaf elites”, but even that wasn’t explored that much. There was nothing about Gallaudet as school. There were no scenes inside the classroom or talk about what makes Gallaudet different from other universities or why someone would want to go there. It was a very disappointing show.

Doom Patrol

Since Doom Patrol moved from DC Universe to HBO Max and it stars my tv boyfriend Matt Bomer I decided to give it a chance. Unfortunately most of the time his pretty, pretty face is covered in bandages. What is even the point? There were some things I liked about it, but by the end of the first season it had a hard time keeping my interest. The episodes were too long and the first season was three episodes too long. I’m not sure I’m going to bother with the second season or any additional seasons that are made beyond that.

B Positive

B Positive is the newest Chuck Lorre sitcom on CBS this season. It stars Thomas Middleditch as a sort of schlubby guy who is recently divorced and has just found out that he needs a kidney transplant. Annaleigh Ashford plays the high school acquaintance he runs into at a wedding who drunkenly promises him a kidney. For reasons she actually agrees to go through with it which means he has to help keep her clean from drugs and alcohol for three months so she can actually donate it. There’s a lot of side characters too with Sarah Rue as his ex-wife, a teenage daughter, the people he sees at dialysis, and the people in the old folks home where Annaleigh Ashford’s character works. It’s not a great show, but I like those actors and it keeps me entertained enough. I doubt it’s going to see longer than this season. I’m not really sure how the premise goes on longer than that.

Truth Seekers

This is a Simon Pegg/Nick Frost comedy horror show along the lines with what they’ve done previously in movies. Simon Pegg is only in about 1 minute of every episode as Nick Frost’s boss at an internet company called Smyle. Nick Frost plays a network installer/repair person for the company. There always seem to be some sort of horror mystery involved in whatever job they’re on and eventually it ties into a larger story. It was fine. If you like other Pegg/Frost projects you’ll probably like this well enough.

New Music Friday: Look the Other Way by Katie Pruitt

Katie Pruitt has been teasing this song, which she released on Wednesday, on her Instagram for weeks, so I’ve known for a while that this song was going to be New Music Friday post for today. I wrote about her new album, which this song is not a part of, back in the spring. It’s one of my favorites of the year, and I’m really bummed that I didn’t get to see her in concert this summer as that show was of course one of the many that I had tickets to that got canceled due to COVID-19.

I think this song speaks for itself, but it’s all about breaking out of our own comfortable lives to fight for justice instead of just looking the other way because it’s easier and/or it doesn’t affect us personally. It’s a great song and one I definitely need to be better about applying to my own life because it’s far too easy to feel defeated and feel like I have no power to change anything.

New Music Friday: Nandi Bushell Official Theme Song by Dave Grohl

My friend texted me the other day telling me I should make this my New Music Friday song this week. Although there are a couple other songs that came out today that I could have written about I didn’t feel overly compelled to write about any of them, so I’m taking her up on her suggestion.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story Nandi Bushell is a 10 year old girl who is a great drummer and who challenged Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters to a drum off. It went viral on social media and he responded eventually declaring her the winner of round one. Then he wrote this song for her with his kids. You can read about the whole thing in this article.

I do not care one little bit about the Foo Fighters’ music. It is not for me, but Dave Grohl from what I can tell is a super awesome guy. After 1000 people in Cesena, Italy recorded a version of “Learning to Fly” to convince the Foo Fighters to come play a concert in their city Dave Grohl responded and they eventually did. He also once finished off a concert after breaking his leg in the middle of the show when stage diving. He just pulled up a chair and kept going so as not to disappoint the fans.

He also made some really excellent music documentaries in the fantastic documentary film Sound City about Sound City Studios and Sonic Highways an HBO docuseries, which explores the musical history of various American cities. I highly recommend them both if you if you have never seen them.

So my point is that even though I don’t really care for the Foo Fighters’ music myself and I will probably never listen to this particular song again, I am really happy that guys like Dave Grohl exist in the world to help bring us all a little joy.

New Music Friday: Turntables by Janelle Monae

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about here today. I didn’t come into today with anything in mind and after listening to NPR Music’s New Music Friday podcast and what Spotify had to offer me in my Release Radar playlist I still wasn’t really feeling anything. Then right as I was finishing my walk this morning WXPN played Janelle Monae’s new song “Turntables”, which is from the forthcoming documentary All In: The Fight for Democracy. It was just the song I was looking for this morning because I really need to believe that the tables are in fact about to turn and that there is a more just America on the horizon. I’ll be over here listening to this on repeat.

Another Good Things Roundup

I’m still here trying to make sure I find the good in all the terrible that is happening. So here’s another list of some of the things that have brought me joy in the past few weeks.

  1. Beautiful Labor Day weekend weather. I literally could not have asked for better weather. The whole weekend of was gorgeous. I spent about 4 hours hanging out with a friend outside on Saturday and several hours outside reading in my hammock on Monday. Beautiful weather always makes things feel better.
  2. As I just mentioned I spent time hanging out with a friend on Saturday. Other than a few minutes when I dropped off some drinks back at her house in May I hadn’t seen her in person since March. We both got take out from different restaurants in the neighborhood and then sat outside camped out under some trees in the shade in the back of my house. It was so nice to spend time with her.
  3. And speaking of the grassy area behind my house, it has been a real life saver in these times. I don’t really have a yard to speak of. We had what was a small concrete patio that we have since had jackhammered up and turned into a proper parking pad. Many of our neighbors have also turned their outdoor space into a parking pad as well, so we have all started treating this patch of grass that separates our rowhouses from the parking lot behind them as our communal backyard. A couple people have strung up hammocks between trees. I’ve seen people sitting out there under the trees working. I and others have used it to gather outdoors with friends. In the before times it was pretty much only used for people to walk their dogs. It’s still used a lot for that, but it’s nice to see that it has taken on a new life.
  4. Carryout french fries that aren’t terrible. For my takeout lunch on Saturday I got a shrimp salad sandwich with friends from Rocket to Venus. They have handcut fries that are always kind of limp, so they were actually still pretty good and similar to their normal state even as carry out. I’ve found all the other carry out fries I’ve had since this started to be pretty terrible because as soon as they throw them in a take out container and shut it the steam builds up and makes them soggy. It’s nice to know I can get some fries that still taste pretty much like they’re supposed to instead of questioning why I’m continuing to eat cold, soggy fries that don’t taste very good.
  5. While we’re on the subject of food, you may recall in my last good things round up post that I mentioned getting biscuits from blacksauce kitchen and that I had yet to eat the peach biscuit this year, though I was sure I was going to eat one soon. I did in fact eat one since then, but even better blacksauce and the Charmery collaborated and created a roasted peach and buttermilk biscuit ice cream. Two things I love put into one delicious treat. What could be better?
  6. Pretty much since the pandemic started and artists had to leave their tours Amos Lee has been doing a weekly Thursday night concert on Instagram Live. It’s something I look forward to listening to every week. Most artists are playing online for tips or trying to raise money for some cause. He never seemed to be taking money for anything that I could tell, so I asked once and he said he was just playing music and wasn’t collecting money for anything. I bought some merch I wouldn’t have bought instead to try and throw him some support. Then a week or two ago he started off saying that his uncle had just died and he was going to be raising money for a homeless shelter in Philly that his uncle did work with in honor of his memory. In the one hour he played probably about 60% of the 1,000 or so people watching donated and raised over $16,000. It was really heartwarming to sit there and watch the amount tick up while he was playing. It felt really nice to finally be able to give something back for all the joy his music has brought me every Thursday night.

New Music Friday: Lay Me Down Easy by Carolina Story

Carolina Story is a band composed of spouses Ben and Emily Roberts. They met in college and apparently in order to impress Emily, Ben learned how to play a bunch of songs by her favorite artist, Brandi Carlile. So you know I’m already interested. They apparently spent a decade playing music wherever they could play and considered leaving the music business altogether to focus on raising their young family. Instead they wound up recording their first album in 2018. They released their sophomore album Dandelion today, their first with an outside producer.

I adore the entire album. I’ve already listened to it multiple times already today. It’s perfect Americana music. I love the whole album and had a hard time deciding what song to highlight. I settled on “Lay Me Down Easy” because it’s got both harmonica and pedal steel in it and I’m a sucker for songs with harmonica and pedal steel. Plus it has some beautiful harmonies. Basically it’s Danielle catnip.

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: 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.

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.