If you’re looking for a happily ever after, that was my last post. This one is about Our Chemical Hearts, or to be more accurate, it was inspired by Our Chemical Hearts.
Readers know going in that Our Chemical Hearts isn’t a Happily Ever After kind of story. The marketing material that arrived with my advance reader copy listed “10 Things You Need to Know about Our Chemical Hearts” with the number one point being “The book you’re looking at is not a love story.”
This is the book for when you want to cry and remember how love can consume you completely and then spit you out. So if you’re looking for tragic romance, this is the book for you. And if you don’t fall in love with Henry Page before the book is over, you are a different person than I am. ;) The other side of the promo piece had a playlist of break-up songs for every stage of grief from Alanis Morrisette (anger) to Gloria Gaynor (acceptance). Honestly, when you’re through with the sad story of Henry Page and Grace Town, you’ll probably need the playlist to help you through.
You may recall that I’ve posted about break up songs before with a rather embarrassing story about a break up from my past and my break up song of choice (Bjork). I won’t repeat that here, but I will offer a choice from the Our Chemical Hearts playlist from the “Bargaining” section. Here is “Goodbye Goodbye” by Tegan and Sara:
This past Saturday morning, I woke up with a bit of a cold, and my plans for the day looked much less enticing than they had the day before when I promised to take my daughter to see her favorite local band play an all ages show in the middle of the day. I tried to convince her that a movie marathon of her choice was just as good for the chilly Saturday, but her disappointed eyes ate at my mom-guilt enough that I took some cold medicine and off we went to Indeed Brewing for the Hullabaloo.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned Catbath on this blog before. My husband recommended the band to me after he caught their set at Cause Spirits & Soundbar, which has been closed for a while now. “Trust me,” he said, “This is going to be your new favorite band.” He was right, of course. Though now he probably laments introducing me to them given my habit of listening to my favorite records over and over again. If it were possible to wear out a CD, we would have worn out our copy of It’s Bathtime a long time ago.
Somewhere along the way, our eight-year-old daughter started singing along with the Catbath songs I played in the car or at home while we went about our business. Then she started requesting Catbath when I let her pick the music. Recently she talked about how Catbath is her favorite band at Sharing Time in her third grade classroom. She was genuinely surprised that none of her classmates had heard of them. I never set out to raise a hipster child, but somehow it seems to have happened. ;)
In any case, she loved the show. It beat a movie marathon any day.
How could you not love the feminist pop-punk that is Tacocat? If the “feminist pop-punk” didn’t hook you, how about these song topics: cat-calling, mansplaining, menstruation, and late public transportation? Seriously. Some of those topics might make you mad, but Tacocat will make you have fun.
Here’s a video of a song from their latest record, Lost Time, because we all love Dana Katherine Scully, right?
“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.