oh :) hi :)
I could use this intro to once again be all “it’s been a minute! Wow! So sorry!” but who would I really be kidding with that faux-surprise? These newsletters are my own self-indulgent attempt to write what I want to write between working for a media corporation and writing what I ~have~ to write. So they come at my own desired pacing!!! And you all willingly subscribed (or not — shouts to all the contacts Gmail imported who have not yet dragged this mess to their trash cans) so!!! You know the deal!
This newsletter is very long (sorry, this is just who I am as a person) and long overdue. One of the things I did while working on it was make this corresponding playlist of all the music I have referenced or recommended in these newsletters thus far, so, if that’s any indication of where this is going… plz help me and my poor sweet dumb fried brain.
okay thanks sorry love u bye,
SOME THOUGHTS I HAVE BEEN THINKING
august is the sunday of months
It’s back-to-school season again; at the various colleges dotting their way across the city, eager 18-year-olds are filling carts with mini fridges and bedding coordinates and big electric fans and rolled-up posters of a Breakfast at Tiffany’s era Audrey Hepburn or John Belushi in Animal House. It’s been seven years since my last dorm room move-in, and yet each year, RAs that stand on the sidewalks of the Columbia or NYU campuses with clipboards and brightly colored shirts directing anxious parents stop me, without fail, at least once to ask if I need any help. I’m waiting for that ask again this year; it should happen any minute now.
These are the dog days of summer, that last heavy sigh where the sunsets don’t burn as hot and orange and red as they did at the peak of July but instead fade into soft, swirling purpley pinks, the time of year where the morning breeze starts to have a chill to it and you can turn your air conditioner off to leave your window open overnight instead.
It’s been years since I last sat in a classroom, but I’m still young enough to remember exactly how these late August days used to feel, still young enough to long slightly for the anxiety — good and bad — of those first few homework assignments, of having my whole day planned down to the minute, of feeling like my brain was rebooting and whirring to life again. I’m still young enough to remember thinking things were starting all over again, that this was a chance to reinvent myself, that this was going to be my year. Part of me still misses the ritual of it all.
This time of year always fills me with a deep sort of nostalgia, one that’s hard to shake in this city. I’ve rewatched Russian Doll enough times now for it to have drilled into me the underlying idea that New York is full of ghosts — some of them yours, if you’ve been here long enough. Downtown, I keep thinking the old me is still hanging around, and any moment now I’m going to run into her, whether it’s 19-year-old me crying in the dark in Washington Square Park or 21-year-old me speedwalking up Broadway from my dorm in Chibeca, late for my evening meeting at the student paper. It’s a strange thing, knowing you’re here in more ways than one.
Lana Del Rey’s new song “The Greatest” might be the most fitting and authentic anthemic ballad my generation has seen yet. Taking on the genuine hopelessness our increasingly troubled times are inflicting upon us, burnout culture, and missing a more carefree, youthful version of yourself you took for granted before all of this, it’s difficult to be a millennial and listen and not feel deeply seen by some part of it.
I walked miles up West End Avenue on Friday afternoon listening to it on repeat, shivering a little and wishing I was wearing more than a tee shirt and shorts — I’m cold anytime the temperature dips below 75º — and feeling that vague missing of something too large and intangible to possibly try to define. “I want shit to feel just like it used to,” Lana sings wistfully. It’s all too easy to romanticize the past, to feel like you had it better than you do right now, despite that rarely being the case, but damn. “The culture is lit and I had a ball,” she sings, “I guess that I’m burned out, after all.”
The past few years have been brutally exhausting, in terms of the state of the world and the overstimulation we receive from it. Nostalgia feels even more romantic and indulgent and silly now. It’s not that I miss who I was at 21 or 22 or 23 so much as I miss the way my life — and the lives of everyone I knew — felt more significant. And sure, that’s a narcissistic thing to think — that you were maybe special, on an individual level — but how can you look at the world now and not feel like it’s all so much bigger than you? I miss feeling like there wasn’t a global disaster every five minutes, miss feeling like time was limitless and not thinking the earth had an imminent end date. It feels incomprehensible, at times, to think about how monumentally fucked our planet is and think anything other than a helpless “well, what does anything I do even matter?” The Amazon is burning, for fuck’s sake. I miss not feeling like there’s simply nothing to be done, that we are so far down this rabbit hole that all the skipping of plastic straws can’t fix if those bigger than us in power who got us here don’t do anything about it, too.
August is the Sunday of months, at once holding within it both the quiet sublime ease of an unhurried Sunday morning and the creeping melancholia of Sunday evening. I might feel sad about the slipping of summer through my fingers, might sometimes get too caught up in the general malaise of being a living human person in this increasingly-dystopian 2019, but that’s not to say this other, brighter mood does not exist simultaneously. This time of year is about the ending of things, sure, but also looking forward to the future, at least in the short term. The days start to feel crisper. The oppressive heat lets up and a fog clears. You only realize how truly perfect a 75º day is twice a year: the first one after an unending, frigid winter, and the first time the sweltering summer days break. I gaze longingly in stores at long sleeved blouses and blazers, crisp trousers and chunky sweaters — clothes I stop myself from buying, unable to bear the thought of them hanging untouched in my closet for a month or so until they can be worn comfortably. Fall feels right around the corner, and we know from there, life can only crescendo until Christmas and New Year’s, after which, we’ll break and be right back in the bad stretch of a season, longing for the good times again.
On Saturday morning, I walked through the West Village playing “Lover” — a Taylor Swift song I cannot help but uncharacteristically adore (I know, if I were you I’d be asking “are you having an aneurysm?!?” but to be fair, it’s kind of Mazzy Star cosplay) — on repeat. That’s the thing about these dog days: for every bit of sadness, every “The Greatest” I bury myself within, there’s an equal and opposite blushing, starry-eyed optimistic “Lover” there to make me fall in love with everything all over again.
“Lower 9 Valentine” - Esther Rose
I don’t know if any millennials sit around thinking “what our generation really needs is our own Patsy Cline or Kitty Wells,” but that’s what we’ve gotten with Esther Rose. The indie singer-songwriter draws clear inspiration from the golden days of country music with her twangy sing-songy, bluesy melodies and lovelorn lyrics. These qualities shine on You Made It This Far, her sophomore album released this week. With a pinch more production value than her (albeit wonderful) live to two-track tape debut This Time Last Night, Rose manages to walk the thin line of calling back to music of the past without sounding like a caricature, and the result is lovely.
“Sketch Artist” - Kim Gordon
SHE DID THAT. Yes, we all know Kimmy G is one of my faves and it would be far too easy for me to just stan profusely. But I’ll be the first to say that, to me, at least, the stakes for new material are higher when they’re from someone you're a fan of — when it’s not good, you cringe as if you’re embarrassed by association. Learning that Kim Gordon was going to release her first solo album this October filled me with that sort of “oh no, what’s it going to be” anxiety. I loved the seemingly one-off track she released in 2016, but I’m not afraid to acknowledge that Gordon has plenty of “what the actual fuck” material in her catalog, too, so the result could be either.
“Sketch Artist,” the first single off her forthcoming (I’m happy to say very good) album No Home Record is Gordon at both her most familiar and most foreign. The raw, cooly detached lyrics and noise-rock guitar sprawl are there, yes, but paired with industrial spasms and delicate, glistening moments of peace. The song becomes a cut and paste collage of all these pieces, arranged in an ever-changing and rule-defying structure but tied together by her murmured vivid imagery of wind chimes striking and dreaming in a sunlit tent. With a career spanning nearly four decades, by now, the only thing we should expect of Gordon is for her work to continue to be this entirely unexpected.
At home with Sheryl Crow, a widely beloved, and wildly underappreciated, rock star - Jenn Pelly
Profiles that also serve as reexaminations of badass women society took for granted or fucked over entirely are my favorite kinds of profiles, and this is no exception. Few writers other than Jenn Pelly (whose beat typically zeroes in on feminist punk artists) could slyly point out how subversive Crow’s most mainstream songs really were — and why it’s a shame that, though she isn’t unpopular, she isn’t more widely celebrated today.
Existing at the of my two most favorite genres of movies or TV — “one charged event brings a rich white family together for all the shit to hit the fan” and “inside baseball drama about the media industry” — Succession could not be more my shit. Now in its second season on HBO, the drama centers on the aging patriarch of an international media conglomerate and his four adult children’s fight to be the heir to his throne. It’s juicy and highly bingeable (I watched the entire first season over the course of one weekend), the theme song SLAPS and is highly memeable, and the cast just keeps getting better and better (Holly Hunter, Cherry Jones, and Jeannie Berlin are all guest stars on this season). Do I need to make more of a case?
THINGS I WROTE OR DID
It’s been a long summer for this section to be absent but when it rains, it pours, baby!!! Lots of things have been in the works and are now finally starting to come out, starting with….
I’m writing and hosting season 3 of Consequence of Sound’s The Opus, a podcast partnership with Sony Legacy that reexamines a legacy album in the context of today. This season’s capsule of three episodes revolves around Jeff Buckley’s Grace, and the first two episodes are now live. I interviewed critics and musicians alike about some thought-provoking subjects, from Buckely’s embracement of femininity in a hyper-masculine alt-rock era to the ethics of posthumous fame. Tune in at the links below or wherever you listen to podcasts!
episode 1 | Grace: Post-Gender, Post-Genre: The Voice of Jeff Buckley
episode 2 | Grace: Buckley and Grace After Death
friendly reminder that if you missed any previous emails, you can read the archive here.
okay that's it that's the end thanks bye