I’ve been in a music slump for the last six-or-so months. Of late, I listen to the news on my commute, the same 4-5 DJ mixes while running or at the gym, and then whatever N puts on at home, which tends to be instrumental/electronic/classical. I tried to Shazam something I really liked the other day, but it didn’t work.
It was confounding to me as a teenager (and after) that my parents seemed to have minimal sense of the music that was popular when they were in their 20s and 30s – coincidentally all of the stuff that I was really into in my early 30s. That impression has turned out to be not entirely accurate, but as I’m hitting my mid-30s full on, I guess I get it? Pop didn’t have much time to listen to music when he was working 10+ hour days, and Mom was home with 3 little kids and wasn’t ever really into music anyway. And there was no Spotify or internet, so it was radio or nothing, and who knows what the local radio stations were playing in the small amounts of time when they might’ve tuned in?
So having acknowledged my ongoing music slump, I resolved to listen to one new-to-me album for every workday in May. I didn’t hit that goal, but I did listen to a bunch of new stuff, and have a Spotify playlist populated with more than a day’s worth of music still to try. Perhaps I’ll try for the same goal in June!
1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
Went to the Bahamas, Traverse City, and an electronic music festival; attempted to integrate cats; biked over 1,000 miles; knit cables; tried miracle berries.
2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I’m most proud that I’ve kept up with the year of no pants. I think next year’s list is less aspirational, though it has some big ones.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yep, but many fewer friends than in previous years.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
I lost one friend.
6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
My divorce was finalized on June 5.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Trusting my gut; quitting smoking (again); back-to-back PRs.
9. What was your biggest failure?
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I was sick in January, February/March, August, and December. I had all manner of menstrual weirdness that seemed to resolve itself after tests in May. I’d like to think my insides were scared straight. A nagging hip thing started to flare badly in July, and was diagnosed in December as a hypermobile SI joint. I have done a terrible job at keeping up with my PT.
31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
More time – on the beach, in the water, on my bike, in the forest, with my loved ones, unplugged.
32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
No pants in public.
33. What kept you sane?
Running. My girls. Love.
34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I might have mentioned Nicolas Jaar.
35. What political issue stirred you the most?
I spent a lot of time thinking about urban planning than any specific political issue.
36. Who did you miss?
There are a number of people that I expected to see all the time since moving to Chicago that I just haven’t.
37. Who was the best new person you met?
This year was more about solidifying friendships with people I met previously. I met online friends Heidi and Patrick for the first time IRL, and I made friends at work.
Best non-person: the sand cat, which we visited often, and my sponge:
38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013:
I’ve lived by this quote from my friend Susie: “Lead with your fractured heart. It can be broken more, yes, but it has practice — like bones and other things, we mend and move on. Use it or, well, what’s the point of having it in the first place?”
A new relationship that isn’t really new at this point, but that continues to fill me with wonder and joy and peace.
A battery of tests proving that I’m in excellent health.
Horoscopes that tell me to follow my heart:
CAPRICORN (December 22-January 19): Despite everything I wrote to you last week about weighing self-gratification against fairness-to-others (which probably still requires some consideration), I can’t help but encourage you to veer slightly more in the direction of pursuing whatever the hell makes you happy. While it’s useful to reflect enough on your privilege relative to your friends or colleagues so you’re not blind to their potential responses, you can’t live a satisfying life by concentrating too much on assuaging others’ discontent. In fact, with multiple 5th-house planets now moving into a supportive trine to Pluto in your 1st, I’m sure you’re feeling pretty emboldened to make the personal most of any situation… and why the fuck not? These energies sure seem to be formally inviting you to intentionally put yourself at the unapologetic center of this week’s decision-making—and not just out of some future-minded commitment to ‘becoming your best self’, but in order to choose whatever will bring you immediate joy, creative fulfillment, and/or positive flirtatious attention. In closing, yes, I suppose I should reiterate the possibility that certain social allegiances could suffer tension, as envious or disapproving others react to seeing you so unapologetically serve your own pleasure. Maybe it’s because they’ve become too accustomed to you taking care of their needs first?
According to last.fm, this year doesn’t look all that different from last year in music. I finally jumped on the Spotify bandwagon sometime around February, and that has allowed me to binge on an assortment of New Wave playlists without having to identify, locate, and download whole albums in order to listen to that one track I really liked at Neo (or wherever) (but mostly Neo). I’ve also really liked using Shazam to identify tracks on the radio or at the grocery store or on the dance floor at Exit or in the middle of an Essential Mix.
Speaking of Essential Mixes, while he doesn’t appear anywhere on the below charts, honorable mention must be given to the Nicolas Jaar Essential Mix, which I listened to 29 times, or for a total of 58 hours, or 2.4 days. By comparison, I listened to my top track (New Order – Run) 89 times, or for a total of 6 hours and 40 minutes.
Top Artists of 2012
1. New Order
2. The Cars
3. Lana Del Ray
4. Talking Heads
5. LCD Soundsystem
8. The National
9. The Cure
10. Crooked Fingers
I woke up this morning sick as shit. I don’t know where it came from, but it felt a little like several essential parts of my body got together and decided to put me in time out. You’ve been doing too much, they said, and it’s time to stop. I ignored the message for a while, but when I looked in the mirror at work and didn’t really recognize myself, it was time to go home. I took photos with my phone to prove the point; when I checked just now, they’re not there.
Last night Erin and I saw David Byrne and St Vincent at the Chicago Theater. We both had to temper our slight disappointment with the knowledge that this was David Byrne AND St Vincent, not Talking Heads. But the sound was fantastic and Chicago got on its feet and danced, and when they closed with Road to Nowhere, it was like something out of an old revival, hands in the air, voices united.
I’ve fallen into that city-dwelling habit of eating out too often while observing evolution in action in my crisper. Every couple of weeks, I buy a bag of produce from Edible Alchemy and dream big dreams about what I’m going to make – and then I devour the fruit while letting the zucchinis go soft, the potatoes grow eyes, the onions shed their dusty skins.
A week submerged in The Diaries of Anais Nin. I’m not sure that I can neatly summarize it. It’s been a complicated, emotional year, and so many of the things she described resonated with my experience while also being completely foreign to me. Perhaps this, from November 1933:
Allendy took pains to delineate my character, my true nature, my human attitudes, but it was by a process of oversimplification. The mold into which he tried to fit me came to a climax the day he suggested I should take love more lightly, give it less importance, to evade tragedy. That I should take a playful attitude towards it. It should be sweet and casual, easygoing and interchangeable…This was the natural conclusion to the formation of my human self, to normalcy; and if he was right about overcoming tragedy, par contre, he overlooked the deeper cravings of an artist, for whom deep full love is the only possible form, no simmering life but a boiling one, no small compromise with reality.
Fall has arrived right on schedule. Last night the thermostat dipped low. It is 6:45pm in my living room, and my space is illuminated more by my laptop than by the waning sunlight. Laurie said that we’re losing 2 minutes of daylight each day. But still the ice cream truck sits on the corner, and I dream of swimming in the lake and of all of the summer things that didn’t happen amidst all that did.
Six months in Chicago, and Jeremy said that it sounds like I’m home. Two and a half years in Ann Arbor. Two years in DC. A year each at MPub and Kresge, two years at Gelman. Five years in this goddamned profession. Six years in a relationship, seven months out. I love Chicago. Chicago exhausts me. I’m envious of friends who have recently moved to quieter places. I worry that my life here will burn me out. I don’t know.
St. Patrick’s Day was epic this year, but not in the ways that it tends to be epic, at least in a college town. My housemates had invited people over for brunch, but many of them didn’t come, and so we found ourselves with a number of bottles of champagne, a gallon of orange juice, and a whole lot of leftover bacon and waffles on a 75 degree day in the middle of March. I sat on the porch and wrote letters. Chris took a conference call. Rachel played video games. The two of them spun poi while I sat on the sidewalk and took photos. We drank all of the champagne, texted Kat to come home, ended up in a cuddle pile on the couch with the dog and the cat. The next day, Chris emailed me to say:
Seriously, you’re amazing. I’m glad you’re in our lives, regardless of how short the waltz. Keep saying yes, yes, yes to drunken nights and beautiful people.
I’ve taken that to heart in the months since, and have been saying an emphatic yes as often as possible. This has included:
Yes to a movie on an impossibly hot day. And so I saw The Cabin in the Woods, which I would’ve never seen otherwise but really enjoyed – and had the occasion to go to the gorgeous Logan Theater for the first time in very good company. The same thing would happen later in the summer with Your Sister’s Sister (at the State with Shana and Javan) and The Hunger Games (at the Logan with Carrie).
Yes to seeing the jellyfish at the Shedd with Karina and her adorable cousin, who later listed ‘meeting Elizabeth’ among her favorite parts of her weekend in Chicago.
Yes to fancy lady sleepovers where we lounge around in vintage slips with martinis and ridiculous movies. These weekends at the Uptown Beach House were some of the highlights of the summer.
Yes to biking around the city to meet friends for cocktails – and hopefully much more of this to come now that Orange and I are back together.
Yes to going to shows. I don’t care who it is. And so I saw Café Tacvba with Karina and had a great time even though I speak basically no Spanish and even though someone dropped a beer on my head. And I saw Cameron McGill with Carl for the first time in ages, and experienced an intense – and intensely wonderful – flashback to 2005. And I went to Lollapalooza as Karen’s +1 and we wandered the grounds and saw some music but mostly just enjoyed the free drinks and the beautiful day.
Yes to borrowing books and long bike rides and neighborhood walks and free ice cream from sympathetic vendors.
Yes to nights out when my bad mood made me inclined to stay in (thanks, Annette).
A few weeks ago, I sat down to try to write about Nicolas Jaar’s Essential Mix, a piece of music that has blown my mind like nothing else has done musically in a very long time. The result was a 435 word email, excerpted here and sent just before walking to Pitchfork where, by the spontaneous grace of Carl, I got to experience Nicolas Jaar’s hypnotic set in person.
To quantify the extent to which this mix has transfixed me for the last two months, in late June, I drove from Anaheim to south of San Diego and back twice. 110 miles in each direction times four equals eight hours in the car in three separate days of driving. This two hour mix is all I listened to.
There was a day at work in early July when I listened to this mix three times, the last time spilling over into my drive home and then my 30 minute walk in the rain to meet friends for dinner. And then, after a lot of bourbon and arriving home from the bar at 2:30, I poured a digestif for my two friends, and we lay awake until nearly 5am, listening to the mix again, drifting in and out of sleep.
The Essential Mix is traditionally two hours of electronic dance music, broadcast at 1am on BBC Radio 1. Every DJ who is anyone has had an Essential Mix. This is unlike any that I’ve heard. There’s electronic music, but also classical, jazz, film scores, classical guitar, and Motown. There are weak points in the mix, certainly. There are points where you might be tempted to turn it off – Beyonce? really? – but I’d admonish you to give it a chance, particularly because just moments after the Beyonce bit, it goes to a place where I without fail turn the volume all the way up and put my head down (or back, if I’m driving) and let the music wash over me.
Pour yourself a glass of something and put on your good headphones. Get in the car and drive somewhere an hour out. Load this up on your phone or your iPod and go for a long walk somewhere quiet. Get lost for awhile.
– So hey, NATO’s coming to town! Which means that basically everything related to commuting or public transportation or the lake is just – ugh. On the bright side, it will be a good excuse to get on my bike and see the crazy.
– On Saturday, I’m taking a Chimpsy workshop so that I’ll be slightly more competent in my use of the DSLR that we bought, oh, three years ago.
– I realized earlier in the week that since I drive up Lakeshore every day, it was silly to go home, change, and then run in my neighborhood. Instead, I’m paying $1/hour, parking on the lake, and getting my run in immediately after work. I’ve also decided that modesty is overrated on days when it’s over 70, and if people don’t like the sight of me RUNNING in a sports bra and shorts, they can deal.
– It’s pretty likely that I’ll continue to obsessively listen to The Cars, as I’ve been stuck on the same song for the last three weeks.
– I’ve been stupidly busy after work every night this week, and while it’s been mostly fun stuff, I’m SO looking forward to having no responsibilities or plans other than reading magazines and watching Mad Men and thinking about summer vacation, whenever and wherever that will be.
– My grocery list currently contains three items: olives, dark chocolate, and bleach. You know, just the essentials.
Now that we’ve finally cleared out all of those “best of” and “year end” music lists of 2011—and good riddance!—here’s something different: most played songs. The songs that show up on your most played list aren’t necessarily the songs that defined the year for you. They can be timeless—the comfort songs you return to over and over again. Or they can reflect periods of brief, intense obsession, such as, in my case, with “My Heart is a Drummer” by Allo Darlin’, which I first listened to on a recommendation from a friend, and proceeded to play 50 times in a span of three days.
I’m an inveterate music binger. I get absolutely, completely hooked on a song or an album and then have to force myself to move on by enforcing arbitrary rules concerning the contents of my iPod – i.e. can’t add any other music until I’ve listened to everything on it, can only have 5 Essential Mixes on deck at any one time, etc. This tunnel vision also means that I’m slow to discover new music, especially since nearly every time I decide I need new music, I end up downloading music that is new to me but generally dates to the decade of my birth. Oops.
So, with no apologies, I present my top 5 artists and albums from 2011 based on last.fm play counts:
LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening. It’s actually not worth listing my top tracks as they’re all from this album.
Note: I have removed The Diane Rehm Show from both of these lists as while it contains interstitial music, it doesn’t meet the ‘music’ definition used for this post. It is, however, my 4th most played ‘artist’ and 2nd most played ‘album’.