Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Now, Now

"Find a thread to pull, and we can watch it unravel."  So sings Cacie Dalager on "Thread" – the hit single off her band Now, Now’s highly-touted, almost-eponymous sophomore release, Threads. If an album could be represented by just one of its tiny, unassuming sentences, I get the feeling this would be it. Traced throughout each of the album’s carefully executed tracks, the masochistic, messy roots of what it means to unravel are plainly documented here, and they are here from the first ten seconds.

Since the album’s debut last March, the Minneapolis-based trio has earned serious praise. Dalager and her two band mates, Brad Hale (drums) and Jess Abbot (guitar) had already spent time on the road with Paramore and opened for Mates of State when they made their first television appearance on Fallon last November, and before long they were everywhere. The Current. SPIN. The back of your mind. And for good reason. Threads is an album replete with youthful yearning but lacking the saccharine, Swift-esque naiveté that seems to run rampant these days. Don’t bother Dalager with "we-are-never-ever-getting-back- togethers," she’s too busy layering complex metaphors over hazy guitars and nostalgic, grunge-era hooks. “It may be different now,” Dalager proclaims on "Prehistoric," "but the pattern won’t wash out."

The trio has achieved on Threads what any great band aims to do: make the construction of their carefully created themes and symbols appear seamless. If Now, Now reminds you of some of the better punk-rock groups from your youth on a small dose of Xanax it's no mistake: the album packs a heavy punch under dreamy, veiled nonchalance. The slight yearning brewing in Dalager's voice isn't anger or bitterness; it's not even depression. It doesn't need to be the loudest or the angriest; the frenetic sounds behind her carry enough rock credential. Instead, her voice remains calm and honest and delivers an appropriate amount of that divisive old device: angst. Which, by the way, does not need to be thrown out the window as you enter adulthood, but rather refined so your bad-assery is delivered in more unique and purposeful ways. Your angst has to have meaning. It has to tell a story. It has to help someone or convey some universal truth. And that is exactly what Threads does.

Beyond the easy Tegan and Sara comparisons, this album lays claim to a unique soundone that conjures up nothing but its own magic. Dalager & Co. weave themes of patterns formed, threads pulled, and relationships come undone throughout the album, and they do it without being predictable, trite, or (hipster gasp!) trying too hard. In fact, for someone so young, Dalager dishes out the cold, hard truth in deliciously wise bites a la Leslie Feist or Chan Marshall. The album stings in a beautiful way that’s only as sad as it is honest. “I am what you need when you can’t find it somewhere else,” she sings on "But I Do." "I am what you want when you don’t want anything else." Rather than cry over spilt milk, Dalager contemplates the fact that shit spills at all, turning her almost-youthful-angst into more acute, mature awareness. Afterall, everyone unravels from time to time. Only rarely do we have the chance to get to know our own unraveling so well through an album as intimate as Threads.

Monday, December 31, 2012


Things Society Thinks I Need to Do That I'm Not Feelin'
(brought to you by Pearl Jam...)

1) Learn to Cook
I did not come equipped to this planet with a desire to create food, for myself or others. This is terribly ironic given how much I enjoy eating. Growing up the daughter of restaurant people, I've loved food and the life events it centers around. I love mulling over a bottle of wine and a huge plate of pasta and talking about God. I love a steady flow of parmesan cheese on pretty much everything. I love huge salads, meatballs bigger than your face, beef stews, and potato everything. You know that expression, "it tastes so much better when you make it yourself?" I'm calling bullshit! At least for myself. No, things taste way better when someone else makes it for you.

Now, this is not to say that I don't boil water and toast sandwiches and crack eggs. I'm not a cave woman guys, I do know how to do some (very) basic things. But entering my mid twenties (ha that's hilarious) I recognize the growing pressure and, for some women, sincere desire, to buy cookbooks and follow recipes and generally learn how to sustain your body on your own. I have total respect for that, and the world needs you, people who like to cook, so you can cook for people like me who don't.

Most people would agree that learning to cook is an essential life skill, like swimming or not rolling your eyes when someone says something stupid. Unfortunately, I also can't fight the eye-roll, and I do the breast-stroke for about three minutes before drowning in 3 feet of water. Oh well! That's what restaurants are for. (And life vests!) And as long as there are restaurants, I will be shelling it out for a good cheese plate whenever I can afford it.

2) Be One Half of One Whole Person!
Wow, I know how annoying it is to listen to a single woman bash relationships - so that is not my intent. Neither will I proclaim LOVE IS DEAD or LOVE IS A LIE even though you gotta admit, those are two pretty convincing arguments. What I will note, however, is that Tis The Season for people to remind you life is modeled around finding your other half.

There are loads of benefits to NOT doing this. For one, you have to lie a lot less. "Yeah that shirt looks great," "aw you look JUST like (insert hot celebrity you fantasize about)" or "your family is GREAT!" and you get to spend a lot more time re-connecting with who YOU are. Some people are better at this than others. My famous play is buying a bunch of books I tend not to read. Dude, I'm totally gonna read all this literature and know a ton of shit and then when I do go on a date I'll be like WHOA can you believe Hemingway? And he'll be all...I don't know who Hemingway is because a lot of boys are stupid.

In the end, I think I'm enough of one half of one whole person for any other halfsie to handle.

3) Listen to Stupid People
There is too much "let's agree to disagree" bullshit out there. You know what I want to see more of in 2013? "I think you're wrong, go away!" Why isn't that a thing?? Is this just a Midwestern situation, or what? Moral relativism is overrated. It's time to acknowledge that not all opinions are created equally. For example, don't you think "what do you do?" or "any big plans for the weekend?" should no longer be acceptable forms of conversation?

4) Belittle Enthusiasm
If you can't be passionate about something, you're dead. Pay attention to what excites you - and what excites other people. If it's rallying for a good cause, or the perfect chocolate chip cookie - those are equally wonderful signs that you are a human being and you can still get excited about something. I hope no matter how cynical you or I become, we still long to express a passionate response to human existence. Some are more expressive about their passions than others. That's okay too. I hope a smile at least crosses your face when you think about the fact that you can do anything you want at any time in your life. That you live in a time and place where you have endless opportunities - and instead of letting that shut you down, I hope it opens you up. Trying not to shut down in a world where it would be tremendously easy to do so is a daily challenge. But it's staying open to the passion and joy and purpose of life that makes us able to connect with others who feel it too. It's staying open that allows enthusiasm for life's small things to enter through us, and keeps us from becoming paralyzed and cold - towards ourselves and others.

5) Reference Dumb Quotes
"Live, laugh, love, bitches!!!" or "I wanna be the girl that ALWAYS SMILES EVEN THOUGH SHE'S HIDING SOMETHING." Can we stop getting our words from Marilyn Monroe? Someone start handing out Emily Dickinson to these girls, PLEASE.

6) Get Wasted 24/7
Not claiming straight-edgeness or even attempting to condemn drinking to have fun. Just sayin - DOES ANYBODY LIKE TO DO ANYTHING ELSE BUT DRINK. I mean, is there anyone who will hit up a museum with me, go to a concert, walk around the lake, or see a show that isn't over the age of 30 with me because I'm struggling here. I'm a whiskey girl, and it's definitely gotten me in trouble slash contributed to some awful moments in my life. Nowadays, I enjoy a few cocktails over dinner, and sometimes like to go dancing or situate myself at an Irish pub. But I genuinely do not want to black out. I genuinely do not care about getting so out of control that I don't remember what happened the night before. It seems like our 9 to 5 culture gives us permission to turn into a total fucking asshole Friday night and forget that we're miserable during the week. It's like we think we DESERVE to get drunk for how hard we work. I can see it now on someone's FB profile. "Bill works hard, and PLAYS HARDER." See Bill drink. Bill acts like a dick. Bill is not happy with himself or the discontent he's never dealt with, and now Bill is going to spend a bunch of money buying girls drinks that have no interest in him. It gives me weird feelings, bros. It gives me lots of weird feelings.
I've spent too much money on therapy and too much time thinking back on things to believe that drinking too much will let you forget what you're not happy with. It won't. It will just keep those nagging thoughts at bay for you until you're ready to really handle them.

7) Apologize for eating.
"Oh my god I ate SO MUCH." Okay. Did you enjoy yourself? I'm not sure what you want me to say to that. And can we stop with the "THINSPIRATION" boards and crazy detoxes? You think those gorgeous Italian women from the 1950s drank nothing but vinegar for four days after eating a bunch of pizza? No. They did not. They were practical, and they were practically perfect.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bad Religion

I dare you to not give as much of a fuck today as you normally do.

Whether it be what you look like, or how others perceive you, or the outcome of all the situations you are anticipating. (As The Shins would say, Caring is Creepy.) I know, I am usually the poster-child for embracing expressive emotion, and today is no different. I'm actually daring you to not care so much what other people think about you, or your emotions, or all the labels you put on yourself and everything else all day long.

Lately I find my creative inclinations dwindling as my new job renders me with a stack of 5-10 stories every day, each with a new deadline, and most of the music I've been into lately is far from new. I can't remember a time in my life when I'm felt more out of fucks to give about other peoples' opinions. Pretty much everyone you meet in life comes equipped with their own BS that they will try to project on you to justify their own life choices. This is inevitable. The more I see myself stepping up to the corporate aspect of creativity, the more I know in my soul that with graduation looming ahead, a change has already taken place. I no longer see a job or a relationship as the grounding force in my life that will satisfy my needs. I feel untethered to travel wherever I want to, do whatever I want to, knowing that stepping up to or away from any title will never define me. I will never let my future depend on another soul. And that is terrifyingly cool.

So here you go, a little Alabama Shakes for ya + a live version of my fave Frank Ocean track. I think they go together quite nicely. If it brings you to your's a bad religion.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Love Junkie

It all started by hearing 1957 on The Current. I had only heard the first few lines before I had to answer a phone call and turn down the radio. All it took was two lines and I was hooked, like an addict clinging to any trace of the drug it desires. I heard it, I knew it, and like any great song I felt it knew me. I memorized that string of words that stuck in my brain like gum to a shoe - relentless, borderline annoying, impossible to remove. I searched those words like the junkie I know I am and discovered Milo Greene, the Fleet Foxes-inspired band whose debut album was completely new to me.

 (Sophia Loren has nothing to do with Milo Greene other than I also adore her.)

I searched endlessly to get my paws on all 13 tracks, hooked on the melodic interval songs vaguely reminiscent of early Radiohead and the more verbose tracks with gentle monikers such as Perfectly Aligned and Son My Son.  I heard the struggle of actualizing adulthood with the words "When we're older/can I still come over?" on Silent Way and I was urged to stop resisting things as they were upon hearing  "Close your eyes/everything is perfectly aligned" on Perfectly Aligned. I looked around. I breathed in and out. I slowly digested every chorus.

There are days when we exhaust all our resources. We lean on friends or family or distractions or feelings to quietly ease the noise in our head distressing our present moment. I believe any self-aware individual has these moments. They are the nervous tick motions of the head to the left, as Andrew Bird would describe them. They are the thorns in our paws, the soft spots we drift to when life seems to pile us under all of its massive expectations. If ever there were a quote I could get behind, "music is the opiate of the masses" would be it. Music is the one resource that is almost inexhaustible. There is always something new to discover. A new harmony or a couple of words or a note that hits you at the exact moment that you have felt that note in your soul. These moments are what make me an obnoxiously loyal follower to the cult of music. I will follow new music to the edges of the earth! (Or maybe just the middle of the night). I will be forever chasing that next wonderful moment that keeps me believing, that assures me of my humanity and all of its decency. Milo Greene was inexhaustible for me today, and that is why we fell in love.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Marry Me to the Sky

A veteran force to be reckoned with debuts a fresh new sound on Sun. The latest from Cat Power finds Chan Marshall not only straying from her usual bluesy tone but integrating a moral compass that competes with quicker tempos and richer rhythms that delve into powerful, uncharted territory. While Marshall's previous endeavors may have been all about the smoky, moody tonal qualities of her voice, Sun pays respect to Marshall's writing laurels. The production quality on "Cherokee" for example, is equally as wonderful as Marshall's sharp, tasty words, which sting you with beautiful rawness and metaphysical yearning.

"A wise, self-respecting woman can feel every wave" - Chan Marshall

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Let's Get Weird

So. If you don't know who David Byrne is, you might want to do a little wikipedia-ing, or googling, or ask Siri-ing, because it's about time you found out what the former singer of The Talking Heads has been up to for the past few decades. Not only has he published a book, How Music Works, but retained a close-knit avante garde following through his solo albums and spent his spare time curating photography books. Enter Annie Clark, or St. Vincent. Byrne was apparently so struck with Clark's tongue-in-cheek "Actor out of Work" video, he started courting her for collaboration. What's been born out of these two lovely minds is the strangest, most undoubtedly creative and flavorful pop album to debut in ages. (And don't worry, those are prostheses on the album cover). Here's the video for their first single, "Who."

For more of Byrne + Clark's beautifully offbeat sound, check out the full length release, "Love This Giant" which will be released this Tuesday.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fall Music Tidbits

If music has the power to heal, as well as the dual power to be indicative of a specific temporal instance yet remain timeless for its listener, then these gems have done all three for me lately. I hope you like them too.

Lost in the Light - Bahamas
With a Neil Young howl at the bridge and an eerily comforting tone (think Antony & the Johnsons minus the sadistic vibe,) Bahamas kill me with kindness with this track. I dare you not to love it.

it was my greatest thrill when we just stood still,
you let me hold your hand til i had my fill
cause this life is so long, and so you wouldn't be wrong,
bein free, leavin me on my own.

Carsong - Spankrock feat. Santigold
Santigold steals the show for me on this one, per usual, making this one of the most awesomely balanced, addictive songs I've heard in a while.

The Celestials - Smashing Pumpkins
The Pumpkins remain one of my favorite bands, and they make me think of fall and joy-riding and I love Billy Corgan and the pretty words he says so bravely. ("Everything i want is free.")

Congratulations - MGMT
Amazing song, amazing message.

Motherland - Apollo Cobra
Addictive, sugary-synth rock candy.

Just Drums - Tapes n' Tapes
A hot, jumpy classic that's hard not to dig. Always sounds a little better come September.

How it Ends - Devotchka
Beautiful, obsessive, relentless, haunting, melodic, perfect. The end credit to every movie, every story, every thought.