Music Worthy of Your Attention in 2015

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2015 was to listen more intentionally to new music. I have done a pretty good job of reaching that goal, if I do say so. I have compiled my list on Spotify of favorite songs that were released in 2015 (you must have a Spotify account to view and listen). I have attempted to make a list of my top ten albums. There was a lot of really great music this year, so picking only ten has been difficult. This has been so enjoyable a task that I will definitely keep it up in 2016.

My primary resources for music discovery are Spotify, KCRW, WXPN, and SOMAFM, as well as music reviews from Sound Opinions, Fresh Air, Dinner Party Download, and NPR Music. Ben Watt of Everything but the Girl fame has a list on Spotify which has helped me discover some new music. This seems to be a random collection, and it is not all new music, but a lot of it was new to me. Also, recommendations from friends have been very welcome.

I chose the albums that I have enjoyed listening to from start to finish. The following (in no particular order) are the albums that I have become obsessed with at some point in the last 12 months, listening over and over, and all have tracks that will make it to my Desert Island List.

Enjoy!

Brandi Carlisle – The Fire Watchers Daughter

Florence and the Machine – How, Big, How Blue, How Beautiful 

Lizz Wright – Freedom and Surrender

Low – Ones and Sixes

St Germain – St Germain

Melody Gardot – Currency of Man

Leon Bridges – Coming Home 

Judith Hill – Back in Time

Bob Moses – Days Gone By 

Fink – Horizontalism

Addendum January 1, 2016

Since compiling my list of favorite albums from 2015, two more have come to my attention that I would have chosen to include, extending my list to twelve. These albums are just beautiful and are worthy of obsessive listening. 

Loyalty – The Weather Station

The Chopin Project –  Ólafur Arnalds and Alice Sara Ott

What’s Making Me Happy, October 13, 2012

My favorite pop culture podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour, ends each episode with a segment called “What’s Making You Happy,” and each of the panelists takes a turn sharing what in the world of popular culture and the arts is making them happy. With that inspiration, I’m going start doing a regular blog post on Paradoxologies about what’s making me happy. It will be fun to write, the sharing will also make me happy, and it will be an opportunity to spread good vibes (think: Puppies and Rainbows!).

I’m not promising that it will always be related to popular culture, although this first blog post is. And actually, I have two things that are making me happy:

The first: WXPN – I don’t know why it has taken me almost a year to discover this station. I guess I have been listening to Pandora and my podcasts all the time. Happily, a colleague at work told me that this week they are doing a count down of the 885 Greatest Rock Songs. It made the end of the week more fun in the office, and now I (finally) know about this local Philly radio station that has amazing programming! Yay!

The other thing making me happy is Tig Notaro. Notaro is a stand-up comedian who first came to my attention this past spring in the live show that This American Life did, in an act called Groundhog Dayne about Notaro’s encounter with the pop singer Taylor Dayne. I loved Notaro immediately. She’s silly and hilarious.  Later in the summer, I saw a clip of Notaro on a blog post that was shared in response to Daniel Tosh’s offensive rape “joke”, a story that was controversial and viral in July. The post was 15 Rape Jokes That Work (debatable, but Notaro’s clip is decidedly funny).

A few weeks later, I heard through social media that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer – in both breasts. And the prognosis didn’t look good.

More about how her story came to light, about about how she was faring came out this week. The best part of the story is that she has been successfully treated, and there is only a 7% chance that the cancer will come back. I was very happy to learn this.

The other part of the story that is making me happy is that Notaro is making a name for herself professionally, with the help of a very sweet and significant endorsement from Louis CK. After her cancer diagnosis in the summer, she did a live set at a comedy club in LA, and with raw emotion told the audience about her current bumps in the road. As if the cancer diagnosis weren’t enough, she had just suffered from several other major blows in her personal life, compounding everything. Louis CK was in the audience that night in August (and had performed at the club that evening as well). The next day, Louis CK tweeted:

in 27 years doing this, I’ve seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night at Largo.

That right there made Tig Notaro go viral. So, her comedy and the very happy conclusion of this rough patch in her life, and Louis CK’s endorsement (really – what a great guy) of her work are making me happy this week. I can’t wait to see more of Tig Notaro’s work and comedy.

Terry Gross interviewed both Notaro and Louis CK about this story this week. You can hear part of her set in the story. Plus they are just great interviews.

You can purchase Notaro’s whole set on Louis CK’s site for $5.

This Week At The AFA: Homosexual v. Gay

I follow the foibles of the American (anti) Family Association, and they have been busy lately. I have received several emails from them telling the latest about the boycott of McDonald’s, who made a donation to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and made a public statement in support of the gay community. And a couple weeks ago, the AFA successfully launched a campaign to get a supposedly “pro gay” Heinz Ketchup ad off the air.

I was ambivalent about these specific incidents. While I am grateful that McDonald’s is making a statement in support of civil rights for the LGBT community, I am not prepared to patronize the business because I think their selling crap to poor people and making a product that is bad for the world. It’s as bad as smoking. That’s not even scratching the surface. There are myriad reasons why I won’t go to McDonald’s, like the unsustainable way they raise their meat…but I digress. Also, the boycott of McDonald’s just reveals the bigotry and ignorance of the AFA and their friends. Do they really believe that buying a Happy Meal will harm the institution of marriage? Yup, they do. It’s really laughable. I don’t need to waste my energy pointing out what’s obviously funny and ridiculous about that. It speaks for itself.

And I saw the Heinz ad, and it’s just weird. I didn’t find it particularly pro gay. If anything, I thought it was making fun of gay relationships in a way I didn’t appreciate. However innocuous it may appear, I think that it revealed a somewhat homophobic attitude by making fun of same-sex relationships. I guess any kind of visibility is better than none, but at this point in history we’re not at a place where we have to take what we can get.

This week, however, they’ve really embarrassed themselves at the AFA, and this also speaks for itself. The AFA’s news service, One News Now, has an auto-replace for the word “gay” — they use instead “homosexual.” With the news release about Tyson Gay’s Olympic trial this week, they reported a story about “Tyson Homosexual” instead.

I laughed so hard I cried.

Chicago Pride 2008


Dyke March Chicago 2008

Originally uploaded by TheFemGeek

We had a blast during our first Pride weekend in Chicago. Here we are at the Dyke March on Saturday, courtesy of TheFemGeek (thank you!), sitting on the sidelines watching the dykes go by. By San Francisco standards, this was a much smaller event than what we’re used to. We were laughing at the “tiny Dyke March,” but make no mistake, it was charming and fun. We do have to adjust our expectations when we say things like “if boys were here, there would be a DJ and a disco ball suspended from a crane.” I love the grass-rootsyness of this event, the drumming on plastic bins, the hand painted signs, all of the women just amazed by the large crowd…it’s all so fun.

The next day we went to the parade, and it was pretty crazy. I forgot how ferklemt I can get at Gay Pride, and I really almost lost it when the veterans marched by. There was another contingent that was fantastic, though I don’t know who they were. It was and all African-American group clad in brightly colored clothing, many twirling enormous bright flags and rifles. There must have been over one hundred of them, and they were so amazing. I also loved the two-steppers and the cheer leaders.

The parade stopped for a long time at one point. After about half an hour, folks in the crowd started talking and getting a little impatient. It was all fine for a while. Boys on top of the building across the street from us were entertaining the crowd by throwing Mardi Gras beads. Gillian caught a strand of each color for me. When a couple of cops walked by, Gillian stopped them (beer in a paper bag in hand — that’s how they do it in Chicago) and asked what the hold-up was. They told her someone’s foot got run over. It was all good, but I was just starting to get a little nervous by the time the parade got going again. People were starting to get agitated. I don’t know why they would think that it would be safer to hold up the parade for 45 minutes to an hour as opposed to getting the injured person out of there as fast as possible. This just tells me that the safety monitors don’t have it together for this event yet.

We then somehow made our way up the street (salmon swimming upstream — it was a little stressful for a moment) to the Anne Sather’s parking lot for the Girl Blast, which we heard was the place to be after the parade. The moment we got there, it started to pour. We held out, made some new friends huddled under our umbrellas, and got soaked anyway. It didn’t matter. We knew it would blow over, and sure enough, it did and more people showed up.

After a while, our new friends got a little too friendly, so we decided it was time to move on. We then hit the dance floor. The music was great, but for some reason we were the only people dancing. We didn’t care. We were having so much fun, and it had been so long since we’d been out and about, we just let go our inhibitions and cut a rug in the parking lot. Eventually others joined us.

At the height of the party, it was time to go home. It was about 5:00 and we were exhausted. For the rest of the evening I was pasted to the couch. All in all, a very satisfying weekend.

Midsommarfest

Here we are enjoying some kabobs at Andersonville’s Midsommarfest.

At the Midsommarfest in Andersonville

You can see my new purse, and the pig t-shirt I got for Gillian’s birthday. We had a great time, wandering around, checking out the music and food and the art, chatting with folks from neighborhood.

However, I could have sword that I read on the website the day before that the festival was officially green. I carried my empties around in my purse all day because the only recycling bins I could find were teeny tiny little ones right at the entrance. Not very green friendly, it seems to me.

However, we had fun, and we look forward to going back next year. I hope they are able to acquire more recycling bins and get serious about promoting green living in Chicago. And perhaps other street fairs in the city will take heed.

I ♥ Pandora

Since I started listening to Pandora, a “music discovery tool”, I have been introduced to a lot of new music that I absolutely love. Po’ Girl, Girly Man, and Kate Rusby, are just a few of the artists that I have learned about that I now listen to regularly. The concept of this technology is still a little mysterious to me. It is the “Music Genome Project,” so basically you create “stations” by selecting what music you want to listen to, either by song or by artist, and it will play songs that you might like based on similar qualities. For the most part, this works pretty well.

Occasionally, however, it is way off. With my Stardust station, for instance, I was aiming for a little cheese, a little Sergio Mendez, Chet Baker, Blossom Dearie, and sometimes it will play songs that make my ears bleed. I keep the volume turned down pretty low so as not to disturb my neighbors at the office, but no matter how quiet, one of those songs come on, and I say to myself “What is that annoying sound?” Sure enough, it’s some horrible Michael Bolton or Celine Dion Song. And if anyone catches me while something like that is playing, I feel terribly embarrassed. But I can just simply thumbs down the song, and it won’t play again. I can also ask Pandora why it chose to play that song, and it will say something like

Based on what you’ve told us so far, we are playing this song because it has basic rock structures, a subtle use of vocal harmony, mild rhythmic syncopation, acoustic rhythm piano, and mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation.

If you like a song, you give it a thumbs up, and the station will base part of its programming on that song. This is cool, too, though I have really screwed up my favorite Girly Man station this way. I was going for mellow folk, and I had it so I loved it, but after a while, I wanted a little more variety. So I added Bon Iver and Belle and Sebastian. Big mistake. It started playing Nirvana and rockous Jeff Buckley tunes, which I love, too, but not while I’m at the office. There I’m going for Jolie Holland and Madeleine Peyroux. I’ve removed some of the song “seeds,” but it hasn’t been the same again.

But in all honesty, I must say that these little hiccups are entertaining, albeit embarrassing.

The social networking aspect of Pandora certainly has potential, and I don’t think I’ve explored it enough. I just discovered the Pandora Twitter feed, which I think will introduce me to other listeners doing interesting things.

I know there are some other music listening services out there. I tried LastFM, and it didn’t really work for me. It is the same idea, giving you music based on other music you like, and it was way off most of the time. I missed Pandora, so I switched back.

I can’t help myself, either. Of course I’m going to support a company based in my beloved Oakland.

Twittering

Okay okay, so I’m a little obsessed with social networking sites. Just tonight I joined Pownce. I couldn’t tell you yet what it does, but I’m there. I think I can share more stuff there.

I joined Twitter a while back (like, in November), but I had no idea what to do with it. So I didn’t use it at all.

Within the last couple of days, two people (whom I know) have started to follow me on Twitter, so I figured i had better figure out what this is about and use it.

I’m starting to get it. It’s like a teeny tiny blog. You write 140 character updates about what you are doing. Some have compared it to the CB, which is an analogy I love. I remember when that was all the rage in the 1970s. When I was about eight years old, my family took the all American vacation, driving across country in our van. My dad got a CB for the trip. We all created handles. I think mine was “Pooh Bear,” being that I was obsessed with Winnie the Pooh.

I like the CB analogy, but I think that Twittering is more artful, more akin to haiku.