Hey mister deejay

Please don't stop the music

image: Cassia {Flickr}

It’s occurred to me with some sense of wonder that although last week’s post was supposedly about music, it didn’t talk about music at all.  I guess I sort of used a genre — industrial metal, in this particular case — as a jumping off point to talk about trying new things in the name of learning and love.  So today, I kind of feel like geeking out about some of the music I’ve been listening to lately.  DJ Onesmartpoptart in the house!!!  Oh god, I can’t believe I just said that.  Sorry.

I’m a simpler creature than I like to admit, but since I’ve just come out and admitted it anyway, I’ll go a step further: I honestly think my playlists lately have had little to do with any actual appreciation for the songs themselves and everything to do with the fact that it’s sundress season.  A few weeks back, my Spotify queue devolved from an it’s-okay-if-someone-walks-in-on-me Black Keys/Mat Kearney/Simon & Garfunkel hodgepodge into something much less so… specifically, a late-90s pop princess buffet. This probably happened because I’d just finished a post about wanting to clean up my media diet and eschew all details of reality stars’ so-called lives, which of course made me need to listen to Jessica Simpson’s Nick Lachey-era catalogue over and over and over again for like two weeks straight.  It’s possible a few Mandy Moore ditties made it in there too.  WHY AM I TYPING THIS OUT LOUD?  Oh well.  As much as I know you’re probably judging me, as well you should, it just feels good to get it off my chest.  And admit it: those “ditties” are delicious.  They’re lovable little cake pops full of nonsense* — sinfully sweet and vapidly perfect — and sometimes in life, that’s just what you need to take the edge off.**

To cleanse the palate, I guess, this week I added some new, slightly more respectable stuff from the likes of Regina Spektor, Sara Bareilles and Kimbra, the last of whom I’ve been trying to get into for months but nothing of hers has been sticking… until now.  You know how you like the idea of a particular artist, and you have a certain expectation of them, but nothing you hear from them quite matches what you want from them?  It’s unfair and small-minded and shallow and rude, but it’s the truth sometimes, and Kimbra wasn’t doing it for me until I had a good long listen to everything on Vows in one sitting.  Then it finally clicked, and I can only think of one way to articulate why.  Here goes:

Doesn’t this song sound exactly like the part in Pretty in Pink when Molly Ringwald decides Andrew McCarthy “didn’t break her” and proves it by making her own prom dress?  Or any 80s movie scene in which the heroine grits her teeth and SHOWS THEM ALL… by sauntering into the office/club/football game/school dance wearing something super hot and trendy?  Seriously…. don’t bother looking at the video itself — it’s just a bunch of Fight-Club-meets-Christina-Aguilera’s-Dirrrty-phase silliness.  Just close your eyes and picture the inevitable slow-mo close-up of any given protagonist putting on her lipstick, doing that pucker/kiss thing that no one actually does in real life, sliding a bra strap over her shoulder and deciding once and for all to GIVE ‘EM HELL. Through FASHION.

I can make fun all day long, but :::holy cow::: that song is catchy… and so are all these other girlie confections that have me resisting the urge to just go outside in the middle of the day in a sweet summer dress and walk the dog for an hour and a half whilst drinking lemonade.  It’s June, for godsakes.  Work’s been so nonstop that I have a midday alarm on my phone that simply says “EAT.”  Were it not for my metalhead and the handful of friends who occasionally grab me by the hair and make me go have brunch, I’d gladly be glued to work all the time.  I preach balance to everyone around me but kind of suck at finding it myself.  So perhaps my treble-clef leanings of late are my subconscious self’s way of saying, “Hey, let’s get a little sunshine up in here.”

Ugh, ew, champagne problems.  Moving on: more songs worth sharing.

If there’s someone who’s drawn your ire — some boy or girl who did you wrong, some person who betrayed you in some way or has been generally making you feel like crap — this gem’s for you.  In fact, I think I’ll make it my new theme song for those little moments when someone pisses me off.  It’s like “Piano Man” meets Cee-Lo in the most brilliant way possible, and anyone who thinks that description means it’s a horrible song is not to be trusted and probably hates dogs.

Dear Sara Bareilles: let’s please hang out and be mad at people together.

And last but not least, there’s the lovely Regina Spektor.  She just released a new album and I’m kind of stoked about it.  Regardless of the fact that I live in Austin, Land of Hip Kids Who Have Seen the Future, I have no idea what’s going on.  I love Young MC’s “Bust a Move,” for example, but not because I’m being ironic or something — I just haven’t stopped loving it since middle school.  I’m clearly not cool enough to know all the underground up-and-coming geniuses of sound and whatnot, and I always default back to music that’s more than twice as old as I am anyway, so it’s safe to say Regina Spektor is about as cool as I get.  Frankly, that’s plenty cool enough for me.  I fell in love with her back when she had all those videos on VH-1 (YES, VH-1… I SAID IT) with stark black and white sets, which at the time were exactly what I wanted my “grown-up house” to look like someday… like the Mad Hatter had developed a touch of OCD and gone on a decorating rampage.  Anyway, her new album is as idiosyncratic and wonderful as ever, and it makes me want to sit around eating borscht and talking about Tolstoy all day.  Even though I’ve never eaten borscht and couldn’t name you a Tolstoy work I’ve actually read if you held a gun to my head (hear that? It’s the sound of all my old literature teachers slamming their laptops shut and throwing their hands up in the air), Ms. Spektor and her bright red lipstick still have that effect on a person.  And that’s a good thing.

OK, your turn.  Throw me one of your earbuds.  What have you been listening to lately?  I confessed my Mandy Moore to you, so don’t you dare lie to me…


*like the one in which it kind of sounds like a 16-year-old Mandy Moore is trying to solicit a male prostitute in the wilds of a vaguely Indian locale, partially because when she says “pennies,” it kind of sounds like “panties,” but mostly because over a bed of Bollywood instrumentation, she actually purrs, “How much for your love?”

**which is my defense for singing along to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” when it comes on in the car.  Let me be clear: I haven’t plunked down $1.29 for this song. I refuse. But I’ll belt it out in public like it’s my job, because that’s… better.  Or something.***



For those about to rock

image: The Shabby Creek Shop

Tonight, I’m going to my first metal show, ever.

I’m pretty much a Great American Songbook girl all the way, having grown up on a steady diet of Cole Porter standards, Rodgers & Hammerstein classics, a little bit of rock and a totally unhealthy stream of MTV pop trash for balance.  I have an open-ended appreciation for all forms of music, though, and new experiences have become something of a drug for me in the last few years.  So, when one of my favorite people I’ve ever known asks me to go on a road trip and absorb some mega-angry industrial metal with him at the Toyota Center in Houston, I’m all about hopping in the car, even though it’s going to be like this.

Ah, the things we do for love of learning… and also just for love.

Let’s be clear: my only reference point for this super-upset band we’re seeing, Rammstein, is a snippet from a song of theirs called “Du Hast” to which Beavis and Butthead banged their heads a long, long time ago when Beavis and Butthead was something people actually watched.  That’s all I’ve got.  That’s all I’m working with here, kids — a memory from the mid-90s.  The broader perspective isn’t much better; my entire metal catalogue consists of exactly one — count ’em it, one — Rage Against the Machine song that everybody over the age of five probably also knows by heart, and yes, it’s the one with the F-bomb in the chorus.  Tee hee.

Cindy Brady here, reporting live from the mosh pit!

When my boyfriend first asked me months ago — a hundred months ago — if I wanted to go to this show with him, I saw how excited he was.  He’s a planner by nature, so the advance notice didn’t really surprise me, but apparently this particular (German) band doesn’t tour the US often, and he wasn’t passing up the chance to see them even if it meant going on his own.  This boy was logging onto StubHub and making some magic happen whether I was on board or not, but he was sweet enough to ask me along anyway.  I looked him straight in the eye and said, “Yes, on two conditions.  I’ll go with you if you let me wear a bike helmet and a light pink tee shirt that says ‘Baby’s First Metal Show.'”

Know what?  That fool agreed.

Just kidding… he’s not a fool at all.  But he did agree.  This brilliant and amazing person has totally signed up for my randomness in all its forms.  He’s fully aware he’s joined forces with a pearl-encrusted borderline unicorn enthusiast.  He understands he’s in a relationship with someone virtually incapable of sarcasm or acidity, and he’s completely cognizant of the fact that sometimes, hanging out with me entails Muppet references and a completely made-up language.  Although I try to keep the fairy dust to a minimum, he knows it’s entirely plausible that his date to the Rammstein show will be rocking pigtails and a maxi dress.  I might even scamper up into that joint in some ballet flats.  (I did find a sweet pair of earplugs made to look like 9mm bullets, but I didn’t order them in time.  I mean, look, though… I tried.)

In the end, I think we’re all just people looking for other people whose dreams, fears and weirdnesses fit like jigsaw puzzle pieces up against our own.  Although I doubt I’ll walk away from the Rammstein show a believer, I’ll likely have learned how to curse a jerk out in German… so, there’s that.  Perhaps I’ll have figured out how to throw the sign of the beast without looking like I’m rooting on the Longhorns or saying mahalo. And hopefully, I’ll see and hear in person some of the stuff I’ve learned this week from the metal documentary I’ve been watching a little of each night, which was produced and directed by a diehard metalhead who also happens to be an anthropologist and which includes sound bytes from my literary spirit animal, Chuck Klosterman, who would probably sigh and roll his beady little eyes if he ever read this sentence, because a) I’m such a rock neophyte it’s ridiculous, b) this sentence is nine miles long and horrifically constructed, and c) aside from being practically unreadable, this sentence also includes an a)b)c) section, which is something he does fairly often and which, therefore, looks super-reductive coming from me.  OHAI, Chuck.  Love your work.  <awkward pause>  Kbye.

Anyway, most importantly, there’s the fact that tonight’s show is going to make my boyfriend really, really happy.  If he can sit through The Muppets with me, I can experience Rammstein with him.  He’s a good egg.  I think I’ll leave the bike helmet at home and bang my head with him just this once.