“Girl Groups: Because no one can do it alone.”
As you’ve probably figured out by now, I have particular affection for YA novels that reference music that I like. So when the BFF character in We Were Never Here by Jennifer Gilmore gives the main character an “old-school” mix CD of girl bands with the words above stenciled on the case, I cheered. She’s right. We can’t do it alone, and while music can’t fix our problems, it can save us. As the protagonist notes in the book: “There are different ways to be saved.”
On that note, here is some Sleator-Kinney. Because you can’t do it alone.
Also on my girl group playlist: Bruise Violet.
I have always tried to avoid getting stuck musically. The chances that the music of my youth is the only music worth listening to has always seemed preposterous enough to keep me searching for new music. And when I say “searching for new music” I really mean listening to the bands my (musician) partner suggests to me. Hey, he knew I would love Catbath as soon as he heard them. He was the one who put Lookbook and Matt Latterell CDs in the car for my commute. It’s a good system.
But lately, it’s been all about the music of my youth. In a fit of cleaning and organizing one afternoon, I unearthed a box of CDs that probably hadn’t been unpacked for our last two moves, and it was like Christmas. My commute music for that week was at least fifteen years old as I pulled out a handful of CDs each morning. Old Death Cab for Cutie. Old Modest Mouse. Old stuff from bands I’d forgotten I even liked. It was really, really fun.
Then I happened upon this list of the 40 Greatest Emo Albums of All Time, and my musical nostalgia grew even larger as I found myself listening to Braid and Sunny Day Real Estate and feeling seventeen again. But it was when I put Cap’n Jazz’ Analphabetapolothology in that I really recaptured something. Cap’n Jazz, arguably weird and experimental music that wouldn’t appeal to everyone, had been my Get Stuff Done music. It was what I played when I was doing/working/ making. It seemed like I was always in the middle of a project back then, and Cap’n Jazz was project music. It made me want to do stuff. It still does, it seems.
I think I finally realized why people get stuck musically. It isn’t about the music of their youth being the pinnacle of musical expression as I judgmentally assumed. It’s about staying connected to the time when you felt most free. For me, that was the late 90’s and early 2000’s, when I was writing every day and making zines regularly with Cap’n Jazz keeping me going. I might not be putting Analphabetapolothology in my regular rotation, but I can say that I won’t go for as long without listening to it again.
Adam Levy has been mostly known to me as part of the Bunny Clogs since I had taken my daughter to a few of their performances as local events, but he is best known for being the lead singer of the Honeydogs. In the last several years, though, Levy has added another role to the list of things he is known for in the Twin Cities: Mental Health Advocate.
In 2012, Levy lost his son to suicide. Since then, he has become a vocal part of the mental health community pushing for a world that works for mental health rather than attempts to respond to mental illness when it becomes a crisis. His new record, Naubinway, delves deeply into the loss of his son. The songs are personal and, at times, quite raw. It is a tribute to loss and the healing power of art and sharing.
You can hear him speak about the record and listen to the title track from the record in this video:
I am very glad that people like Adam are sharing their experiences with mental illness, and I hope that this openness leads to less stigma and more people getting the care they need.
For my fellow librarians: I will be reading the Mental Health in YA Lit series at Teen Librarian Toolbox in 2016, and I hope you will be too. After all, as quote from TLT:
“According to the NCCP, approximately 20% of adolescents have a diagnosed mental health issue. Most mental health disorders begin to present in the adolescent years. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among adolescents. According to NAMI, 50% of children who present with a mental illness will drop out of school.”
This is too important to leave unspoken. Thank you to all those speaking out and all those listening.
I didn’t drive for years, and I loved it. I loved not having to deal with other drivers or finding parking or any of the other hassles that come with driving. But in the time that I have resumed my status as a driver, I realized what I missed. Yes, there is the convenience of driving your own vehicle versus planning around a bus ride, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I missed listening to music while driving. I had forgotten that the car was the place I ended up connecting to music most often, and it feels so good to have that space again. My latest driving soundtrack has been Matt Latterell. He has a new record out now, and the release show at the Cedear Cultural Center was fantastic. But I’ve been stuck on his 2011 release Life on Land.
As I said in this post, his songs tell stories. They are full of sincerity and the truth as he sees it. Both records are well worth the listen.
“All the best things in my life have started with a Dolly Parton song.”
So begins Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, which is easily one of the best teen novels this year, in my opinion. Willowdean Dickson is a girl whose story is well worth being read. Even if you (like me) don’t have any interest in beauty pageants, give this book a chance.
In honor of Dumplin’ now being available for purchase (and I do recommend you do purchase it), here is some Dolly.
Lookbook’s Wild at Heart was the soundtrack of 2010 in the Twin Cities music scene. It was in the background of a lot of memories from that time for me, but I must admit that I feel like I didn’t really connected with it until recently.
One morning when I left for work several weeks ago, Wild at Heart was in the car’s CD player, presumably left there by my partner the day before. It was when I was driving that it clicked for me. It went from a band I knew and kind of liked to my summer music obsession. It makes sense, I suppose. After all, it seems driving is a part of all the songs on this record. Singer Maggie Morrison said,
“I can only write my parts of the songs when I’m driving around in a car,” she confided. “That way, I don’t have to worry about anyone hearing me. I can be as experimental as I want or as loud as I want, and I’m a lot less self-conscious.”
For many of the tracks on “Wild at Heart,” Morrison would take off from her mom’s house near Madison, Wis., for long, fast drives around the farmland valleys.
Lookbook turned my summer commutes into dance parties in the best way possible.
“I wondered who his favorite Beatle was. Probably Paul. Grown-ups always seemed to like Paul the best.” — Apple Yengko in Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly
Apple’s favorite Beatle is George, but “Blackbird” written by Paul is her favorite song. Maybe because she would like to fly away from her life in which she isn’t pretty enough or American enough for the girls at school. Whatever the reason, it’s worth a listen now no matter who your favorite Beatle happens to be.
I have admitted my pop culture ignorance on this blog before, but I’ll share it again for those who missed it: I would not have recognized a Beatles song until I was in my twenties. But I have since become a big fan. As Apple says, “Once you listen to the Beatles, you can’t go back.” I’m not sure I have a favorite Beatle, but I do think most of my favorite Beatles songs are on the Blackbird Fly playlist.
If you have ever felt like music just might save your life, Blackbird Fly is for you. Share this book with middle schoolers who appreciate realistic stories about fitting in and making friends. If Apple’s enthusiasm for the music doesn’t make Beatles fans out of the kids who read this book, I don’t know what will.
The Local Current blog has covered some of the most notable women in Minnesota music history here and here for Women’s History Month. I’m sure they’ll also highlight the fantastic all-women bands that are playing out locally right now, but I wanted to share a couple of that I think deserve some attention.
- Kitten Forever is a riot grrrl inspired punk band. Rift Magazine reviewed their 2013 release Pressure: “The band’s anthemic axiom ‘Do you wanna get loud? Yeah you know you wanna.’ aptly initiates the album of 13 poignantly short songs. Listeners needn’t be well-versed in riot grrrl ideology in order to enjoy the listen, since this release strips the genre down to its essential pieces: unabashed femininity, honesty, partying, and punk rock.”
- L’Assassins are surf rock with a bit of rockabilly thrown in. The Current said, “These ladies aren’t following anyone’s rules. That attitude is what makes L’Assassins one of the most refreshing bands in local music right now.”
- Puff Puff is the newest of the three all-women bands I’m featuring today–and I should note that their current line up includes a non-female after bass player Tanja Sturges relocated out of state–but they are my personal favorite. Their surf/garage/twee sound is the sort of thing that has me spinning Puff Puff’s music frequently. They promise a new 2015 EP recorded with the original line up, and the one song released from it is well worth the listen. This is a band to watch, and I’m not just saying that because they are friends of mine. ;)
If you have any interest in women in music, check out Record Collecting for Girls by Courtney E. Smith for a fun and opinionated look at women in music that takes on everything from not being taken seriously as a female music geek to questions about the universality of the female voice. Fascinating reading. I’ve recommended it before, and I’ll probably do it again.
Also check out some of my previous music posts featuring female musicians: Speaking Music, Caroline Smith, Lucy Michelle, and Zoo Animal.
Or, if you’re like me, you’ll want to read some music-related teen fiction. I’d recommend Supergirl Mixtapes, The Disenchantments to start with. More great titles are on my Book Lists wiki.
What women have you been listening to?
Zoo Animal may have taken the last year and a half away from the spotlight, but Holly Hansen’s minimalist, poetic style has remained among my most-played music choices as it has for the last several years. I was thrilled to hear that Zoo Animal was playing shows again, and even more excited to learn that it was going to be an early show with another local favorite, Fort Wilson Riot, opening.
We were there with our seven-year-old in tow. She was the one in the pirate costume. I love it when we have opportunities to share our love of music with our daughter, even if it did mean that my view of Zoo Animal’s set left something to be desired. Even from a distance, it was a powerful performance.
Later this month, you can hear Zoo Animal get Loud at the Library in St. Paul. I love it when my favorite musicians play at my favorite places. :)
- Read more about Zoo Animal on this blog here and here or see my photos of the show here.
- Listen to their latest releases here.
- Watch a documentary about Holly Hansen and her songwriting here.
Books and music have always been my two main interests, but I end up talking & writing about books a lot more, especially online. As least for today, I’m changing that. Here are four bands I’ve discovered recently:
- One evening this week I heard a song on Radio K as I drove home. It turned out to be a song from Cool Choices by S, a former member of Carissa’s Wierd. Anyone else remember Carissa’s Wierd? Anyway, I’m loving the Cool Choices record. Read more about it and stream some of it here.
- A couple of weeks ago, I happened to catch Brilliant Beast play at the Kitty Cat Klub, and I liked their dream-pop/fuzz-pop sound. Read about their 2013 record, Where Do You Want, here.
- I wrote about Falcon Arrow last year. If you liked them then, you will want to check out their latest record, Tower, which came out in August of this year. Read more about their “acrobatic” record here.
- When I first heard Speedy Ortiz, I thought: the teenage me would have loved this band. I guess I haven’t changed that much because I am crushing on it pretty hard even now. Read about them here or catch them live here.