Hey, hi, hello.
I guess you’re expecting some sort of explanation of who I am and why I feel entitled to take up space in your inbox and what exactly this newsletter you signed up for is going to be — this being the first one and all — so I have answers for you.
1. I'm your friend Carrie, duh. (If you're signed up for this already, there's a 90% chance you are not a stranger; let's be real here.)
2. I don't; feel free to delete me if you're one of those inbox zero psychopaths. (It's not actually that productive, sorry.)
3. I don't really know! We will figure it out together!
Friends, we are playing it fast and loose with our content plans. Basically, it’ll look something like this: once a week-ish (maybe more, maybe less — life happens), I’ll slide into your inbox with a commute-length collection of:
- a ~hot take~ or maybe just a lukewarm one // some thoughts I'm just thinking // chunks of prose that may be part of something longer someday
- a round-up of things I'm watching, reading, and listening to (and therefore recommend)
- and maybe, when it comes up, a link or two to something new or relevant that I've written somewhere else.
If that sounds coo, cool. Welcome. I'm going to hit send on this while silently screaming!!!
SOME THOUGHTS I HAVE BEEN THINKING
Stevie Nicks, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and ~Fandom~ in the age of Twitter
I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a fan of an artist a lot this past week. On Friday, Stevie Nicks became the first woman to be inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. People have been talking about it like it’s some thunderous breaking of a glass ceiling, but to me, it just feels more like a mere dent that took 34 years for us to make. (I’ll save my fury about how the Rock Hall remains made up of only 7.7 percent women for another day and recommend you read Evelyn McDonnell’s piece on the problem in the meantime.)
I’m not saying that it isn’t important. It is. Of course it is. Every little crack matters. They’ll bleed into each other, spiderwebbing across that unbearably thick pane until it eventually shatters and more of us can flood in to dismantle the swath of white dudebros granted power to sit behind it. Stevie's making of one of these cracks made me proud, made me feel a resurgence of a deep admiration I once held for her that has since faded.
Sometimes, as a fan of someone or something, a musician or an artist or a band, you view their flaws as mere quirks, things that give them character. After all, these artists we love are human, and therefore gloriously imperfect. I worry sometimes that in our age of Twitter standom, people have situated themselves so deeply into one of two polar opposite ends of the spectrum — either deifying celebrities or enmeshing themselves in cancel culture — that they forget that you can be a fan of someone while acknowledging their idiosyncrasies. The tough part is if and when those idiosyncrasies become things you disagree or find fault with, things you have a hard time viewing as anything other than frustrating, upsetting, or disappointing.
The separation of art and artists is a slippery slope to traverse, and artists don’t really owe you anything more than what you’re buying. As long as no one gets hurt, or as long as they’re not just a generally shitty human, they’re on their own path and you’re on yours and it’s on you to diverge when the music stops sounding the same as it once did.
It’s hard, all these old feelings and new feelings mingling together in one unappetizing party favor bag. How are you supposed to reconcile these memories standing feet away as they played your then-favorite song and you felt so fucking happy you thought you’d burst with the sinking feeling that they might have been checked out for it? What are you supposed to do when you’re pining for those days when their music sounded so much sweeter, when it presented itself to you, free of any complications, in times of emotional need?
You figure it out. You find more music or art or books or whatever to fill in the cracks. It’s kind of like a breakup in that way. But sometimes you can find your way back.
Sometimes art and artists soundtrack a chapter of your life for a reason. You can’t ignore that inexplicable alignment of the cosmos, can’t deny the weight of its impact, can’t be embarrassed of the person you once were while under its spell or pretend that version of yourself isn’t still nestled somewhere inside you like a little Russian doll. And sometimes something happens in the world — like a significant chip at a glass ceiling — that brings that part of you out in the sunlight for a moment or two. And maybe the music sounds a little different when you listen now, but you’re a little different now, too. That’s okay. Just because love has changed doesn’t mean it isn’t still there.
STUFF I LISTENED TO
Rilo Kiley - The Execution of All Things
I love Jenny Lewis’s new album On The Line. And by “love", I mean “I have barely taken it off repeat since I got an advance a few months ago and wrote nearly 3,000 words — unsolicited — on it” love. Its mastery of both musicianship and message have cracked me open in ways only those few special records can, and has led me down a black hole of being in the mood to listen mostly to Jenny and little else.
Out of her expansive discography, though, I’ve found myself coming back to Rilo Kiley’s 2002 album The Execution of All Things over and over again. TEOAT was released when I was 11; I didn’t come across Rilo Kiley until middle school a few years later. I was 13 years old and a friend put one of the album’s tracks (“With Arms Outstretched", natch) on a mix CD and, instantly, I was in love, racing to the local library on my bike to borrow TEOAT and burn a copy for myself. Remembering my early-aughts days of music piracy made me realize that this album has been with me for half my life.
There’s all sorts of science about the influence music we listened to as kids has on our personalities today, how we’ll never quite be able to shake it. But this is one of those few albums I’m not embarrassed to have clung to. If anything, I find myself falling more in love with it as time goes on. Maybe it's because I’m now around the same age as Jenny was when it came out. The things she wrote and sang about — seeing through friends’ bullshit, confusion about where your life is headed, dissatisfaction and disillusionment, overall *gestures wildly* sadness — no longer feel like hypothetical parts of adulthood I have yet to encounter, but things I have vividly felt once or still feel from time to time. Or maybe it’s just because it’s a really fucking good album, one that's aged well, still full of biting and introspective lyrics, perfect melodies, and indelible guitar riffs and slamming drum beats you can’t help but want to play on repeat for awhile.
Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers (aka Better Oblivion Community Center) - "Shallow"
Do you love feeling feelings? Did you love the 2018 remake of A Star Is Born? Is the arrrughhhhhh ahhhhhh ahhhh ahhhhhaurhghafhgh ahhhhhh part of "Shallow" stuck in your head on a loop now? (Sorry if I just put it there!) If you answered yes to any of the above, please join me in my deep appreciation for this cover two of indie's saddest and raddest songwriters covered at their show in Brooklyn on Monday night. There's no Gaga belting, but there are a lot of heart-shattering emotions. You are so welcome.
Billie Eilish - WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
I have to be honest here. I have spent much of the past year being completely baffled by Billie Eilish and feeling extremely old and out of touch because of this.
Her music videos scared me. Her apathetic teen persona kind of grated at me. The exhausting, near-constant thumping bass in her songs reminded me of my neighbors freshman year of college, the ones whose pregame conveniently overlapped with my bedtime, the volume of their EDM turned up so loud that it reverberated into my room and shook the wall my bed was crammed up against. On top of that, she made me uncomfortable. Seeing overnight, astronomical fame happen to someone so young (she’s 17), coupled with an uneasy feeling that her songs didn’t speak to mental illness, rather, capitalized on and glamorized it, made me feel like the old lady questioning just where her parents were and how much they were enabling this.
And, yeah, all those thoughts still linger in the back of her mind, but I can’t say I wasn’t curious to give her new album — called WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? — a shot. And, friends, I regret (or rejoice? I don’t know) to inform you that I’m warming up to it. It’s undeniably catchy and provoking with moments of infectiousness. Its genre-bending combination of emo, EDM, and pop (not to mention samples from The Office that can only be best described as classic internet shitposting) is the future of pop. I don’t quite understand it yet, but I don’t dislike it.
STUFF I READ
Hollywood’s Eve: Eve Babitz and the Secret History of L.A. by Lili Anolik
In the media/literary Twitter crowd, I am embarrassingly late to the Eve Babitz party. But in the broader world, I’m right on time for the resurgence of interest around the almost-but-not-quite-It-girl-writer whose thinly-veiled autobiographical writings were the wild, carefree companions to Joan Didion’s anxious accounts of Los Angeles’ ‘70s hedonism.
Hollywood’s Eve is the kind of book that captures Eve’s life honestly, but not objectively — because, really, is it even possible to objectively write about anyone? Certainly not about the people we admire, and absolutely not about the ones we believe have led fascinating lives long overdue for accolades. Anolik writes with so much love without ever crossing into blind infatuation. It’s the kind of book writers dream of writing, the kind of book anyone brave enough to want someone else writing their life story to write, the kind of book any reader who has ever fallen madly in love with any artist through their work would want to read. I finished it weeks ago and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
Catherine O’Hara on Her Career, Sexism in Comedy, and Her Favorite Impressions (Vulture)
Look, I know this is a little old and I’ve read other articles and interviews and essays I loved in between the publish date of this one and the sending of this email. But I have found myself returning to chunks of this three-course meal of an interview multiple times and finding some great, new funny quote or nugget of wisdom to savor and silently think “teach me your ways, COH!!!” within it. We do not deserve this recent Catherine O’Hara renaissance (can someone good at internet-ing words do something with this i.e. “the Matthew McConaissance” thank you!!!), but I am so glad we’re getting it anyway.
(P.S. if you aren't watching Schitt's Creek, literally what are you doing with your life?)
STUFF I WATCHED
A New Leaf (1971)
Spring makes me want to binge romantic comedies. Something about the thawing of the earth and the way the sunlight stretches longer into the afternoon each day makes me hopeful that warmth is a possibility on the near-horizon. I'm sure this is why seemingly most rom-coms are set in the spring; if plants get to grow again, surely love gets to grow again, too.
A few weeks ago, critic Lindsay Zoladz — whose work I will devour no matter the subject and will likely reference in more than one forthcoming newsletter — wrote a fantastic long-overdue tribute to Elaine May for the Ringer. Critical essays about talented women who have never really gotten their dues are extremely my shit, and Elaine is one of those trailblazers with whom I've always been familiar and loosely admired from afar while thinking, "I really need to do a deep dive into her collected work sometime." Naturally, Zoladz's piece was the perfect incentive to spend a Friday night queuing up May's 1971 debut feature A New Leaf.
May not only starred in the film, but wrote and directed it, as well, and it's just, for lack of a better word, charming. Elevator pitch: A spoiled, middle-aged trust fund kid who sucked his inheritance dry (Walter Matthau) schemes to marry an oblivious heiress/botanist (May) so he can murder her, then acquire all her wealth. A traditional meet cute + guy gets girl + guy loses girl + guy gets girl back classic rom-com this is not. It's delightfully sharp. It's offbeat slapstick. (There's an extended scene where the joke is simply navigating a gown with confusing head holes and arm holes that, reader, made me laugh so hard I wheezed.) Don't watch the trailer — trailers for any movie made before the 90s are absolutely terrible — just take my word for it. It's on Amazon Prime, and pretty much any other streaming service you'd use, for like $3. Stream away and tip your hat to a brilliant, ahead-of-her time woman.
STUFF I WROTE
okay that's it that's the end thanks bye