TUESDAY TUNES: “A Beautiful Woman”, Deradoorian

Apparently I chose the right time to fall under the spell of the Dirty Projectors.  While Dave Longstreth’s band has yet to announce another album, former vocalist Angel Deradoorian is getting ready to release a new album.  Her new single, “A Beautiful Woman”, has a sinuous groove and a cinematic mood, and the busy production is giving me Brian Eno flashbacks. Listen to it on Soundcloud.

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[Real] Thursday Blogging: New Year’s Resolutions

In case you missed the previous post (or my Twitter, for that matter), today is my birthday.  I turned 101, or at least that’s how I feel.

Since my birthday comes in the middle of the year, I like to make my new year’s resolutions now.  I’m not going to post any of the “important” ones, in part because I don’t particularly want to leave my finance and job issues hanging out for everyone to see, and in part because I don’t want to give “thatkyliechick69” the satisfaction of knowing anything about my health goals.  (Ah, trolls.)

Anyway.  Some of my goals and plans for the following year include:

  • Finding a new job that starts once my contract at the Lab ends.  (Boston area, social media/marketing with a side of admin, nonprofit or academic preferred)
  • Night journaling
  • Getting more proficient at tap dance.  I’m doing well in class and have been practicing for 10 minutes a day, but I’d like to keep growing.
  • Cold Sheep at least for the summer months
  • Work towards the goal of recording a punk covers EP: figure out the skills I need to learn; transcribe the songs and learn the strums; record myself practicing
  • Put together a capsule wardrobe and do Project 333 (probably in the fall, when the weather and my life circumstances will have hopefully stabilized)
  • Blog 3-5 times a week
  • Work on making this blog look a little better
  • 52 in 52.

That last one might be confusing, so bear with me.  I want to get better at playing the ukulele, which requires practice and playing before an audience.  I’d like to learn 52 new songs and record myself playing them.  My goal is to get some footage of myself playing on my laptop and post it on YouTube every Thursday.

I posted my first two songs today.  Here’s my version of “I’ll Fly Away”, which holds the honor of being the first song I learned to play and sing on the ukulele that isn’t a Christmas song.

I’m hoping this won’t become an all-ukulele-all-the-time blog, but learning to play has been one of the great highlights of the past year.  My next song, a cover of September 67’s “Hazel Motes”, should be going up a week from today, I hope.

Thursday blogging: Tomorrow’s my birthday and I’m riding high

Tomorrow I celebrate my 101st birthday. Since it falls in the middle of the year, I like to take this opportunity to look back over the past year and contemplate what I want to do next.

What did you do this year that you’d never done before?
Worked a job that had something to do with my background and aspirations. Attended a conference as a representative.  Picked up a musical instrument and learned to dance (tap and blues dance, with a diversion into swing).

Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My main NYR was to find a job, and I did that.  I am still thinking about what my resolutions for this year will be.

Did anyone close to you give birth?
My sister-in-law, as well as one of the PhD students in the lab.

Did anyone close to you die?
There were a few close calls, but no deaths, thank God.

What countries did you visit?
Does DC count?

What would you like to have this year that you lacked last year?

A greater sense of fulfillment from within, as opposed to looking outside myself for validation.

What dates from this year will remain etched upon your memory and why?
The day I started at the lab; the day I worked at the State House; the whole of the first blizzard, which dovetailed with the conference I attended.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Getting and hanging onto a job in my field!  Seeing my byline on some internally-circulated documents.  Learning the ukulele and sticking with it.

What was your biggest failure?
I’ll plead the fifth here.

Did you suffer illness or injury?

Does injury of pride count?

What was the best thing you bought? 
Dead heat between the Janet Klein Flapper Firefly Banjolele and the tickets for Boston Calling I scored.  (Replacements, woo!)

Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My boss, who has the patience of a saint; Gentleman Caller’s…oh, and my tap teacher and my ukulele teacher, for helping and encouraging me.

Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
The jabroni with the drawn-on eyebrows.  Also, the admin at my neurologist’s practice, as well as her nurse.

Where did most of your money go?
Rent or fixing my teeth.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Working at the lab!  Having a job where I feel fulfilled and happy.

What song will always remind you of this year?
“Little Mascara” by the Replacements; “I Summon You” by Spoon; “Books About UFOs” by Husker Du (the first song I learned on the ukulele); pretty much everything I’ve heard so far by the Dirty Projectors; “Goin’ Up on a Tuesday” (what?); “Take 5” by Dave Brubeck; “Te Doucement” by Blossom Dearie

Compared to this time last year, are you:
 a) happier or sadder? Happier, but aware of the transience of happiness.

b) thinner or fatter? My vintage garbadine tux pants don’t lie; I still haven’t shed my blizzard weight.

c) richer or poorer? Poorer.

What do you wish you’d done more of?
Hung out with my cohort.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
Feel disdainful towards the millennials what surround me.

How did you spend Christmas?
Arguing with my family.  Next.

Did you fall in love in 2010?
Stayed in love, which is better.

What was your favourite TV programme?

Mad Men. 

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Dead heat between the Dolores Umbridge of Nonprofits and the Martinet.

What was the best book you read?

Probably We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, thought Missing Reels was a lot of fun.

What was your greatest musical discovery?
DIRTY PROJECTORS.  Also, son jarocho.

What did you want and get?
A new ukulele!

What did you want and not get?

Did pretty well this year — can’t seem to think of anything.

What was your favourite film of this year?
I Am Big Bird, Every Everything, The Mighty Uke, Sandwiches That You Will Like, that new print of The Rules of the Game, Dear White People, The Third Man for the umpty-bazillionth time.  My taste in film has de-evolved to the point where I just want something entertaining while I knit and/or frog.  (I also enjoy crying in public.)

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Hung out in Northampton, buying yarn, looking at Louise Fitzhugh’s drawings for Harriet the Spy, and recovering from my attempt at being a rock promoter.

What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

I wish I’d decided to make an EP of murder ballads before I came up with the idea to do a punk tribute EP.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

New wave fairy godmother-meets-Lucy Van Pelt.

What kept you sane?

Knitting and the love of Gentleman Caller.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Young Alex Chilton and Tom Verlaine.  And Britt Daniel.

What political issue stirred you the most?

Ferguson, which has a direct impact on the work I do.

Who did you miss?

My dad, who died of pancreatic cancer on my birthday 18 years ago.

Who was the best new person you met?

Evan, Treasure, Johnny, Jess, Jenny, and Amy.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned this year. 

If you don’t know how to be responsible, ask.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year

WIP WEDNESDAY: I will call them…Cumbersocks

A while back, Gentleman Caller surprised me with two skeins of Purple Shirt sock yarn from Pandia’s Jewels to celebrate being permanently placed at my former job.  (Really, getting those two skeins of yarn was the only good part of said job, BUT I DIGRESS.)  It’s been hanging out in my stash, waiting for the right project.  Since we had the mother of all winters here in Boston, I decided to knit myself some socks…and only got around to knitting up the Sherlock yarn once the weather got nicer.  Whoops.

 

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My initial plan was to make the Mirror socks by Josiah Bain.  As you can tell, the yarn was a little too busy for that pattern, and even with the aid of a row counter I lost track of where I was in the pattern.  I went on Ravelry and looked for a free pattern for a pair of toe-up socks in a similar gauge.  One of the first hits was “I Shall Name Them George”, and after skimming the pattern decided to just dive in.

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The smocked pattern and short-row heel are pretty similar to my previous pair of socks, but since these pull in a little more I’ve had to knit them extra long and try them on as I go.  I cast on last Wednesday and FINALLY got the right length last night.  The heel is almost entirely turned, and I should be able to start the cuff on the train ride home tonight.  After working this section, I’m almost excited to cast on for the next sock, since I know how long it should be and where to start turning for the heel.  (Possibly while listening to Molly Lambert’s guest appearances on the “Yo, Is This Racist” podcast, which I learned about as I left for work this morning, thanks guys for letting me know this now.)

HOORAY SOCKS.

TUESDAY TUNES: Game Theory & Throwing Muses (though not together)

“curious what people shitting on sonic youth listen to as a proper alternative” — flufluflu, 2012

Glad you asked.

About a year before Daydream Nation dropped, Sonic Youth’s labelmates Game Theory released Lolita Nation on Enigma Records.  To many, the album was the band’s defining moment; to me, it’s the best double album with the word “nation” in the title that Enigma released (and I’ll stand on Thurston Moore’s coffee table in my high-button boots and say so).  Where SY’s raison-d’etre was dissonance, Game Theory mastermind Scott Miller reveled in perfect pop melodies, ringing chords, and literate lyrics…but he also had a knack for subverting the pop form with out-of-left-field arrangements, spots of harmonic dissonance, and seemingly non sequitur samples.  The way beauty and melody coexisted in Miller’s songs with intentionally ugly sounds and musical tension showed me that you can use avant-garde techniques alongside traditional structures, and that both can be valid in the same song.  Though Miller died in 2013, Omnivore Records is remastering and reissuing the long-out-of-print Game Theory albums for a new generation to discover.  If you love Big Star, Ted Leo, Aimee Mann, and the New Pornographers, or you like your pop music with a side of weirdness, you owe it to yourself to check out these reissues.  Those wanting a taste of Lolita Nation without dropping a few hundred dollars can check out the video above.

While Throwing Muses don’t have a formal connection to SY, their music also came to me at a time when I should have been delving into the NYC hipsters.  While they also traded in a form of dissonance, the dense arrangements and rhythmic anchor made them sound less messy (and the airy guitar lines read less as harsh and more as pretty to my young ears).  Kristin Hersh’s fractured narratives about outcasts and marginal characters, rife with surreal imagery, fully clicked for me when I heard Rykodisc’s reissue of the first Throwing Muses album, known stateside as “the green album”.  While “Fish” and “Counting Backwards” were radio hits in the pre-Nirvana ’90s, I’ve chosen one of their more notorious songs…a heartbreaking narrative about a shooting at a McDonalds in the mid-80s.  I love the way Kristin’s voice works against the bass groove at the beginning of the song, giving it a lyrical and musical tension.  The Muses released some great records over the years, but for my money the first album is a perfect, perfect record.

WIP WEDNESDAY: ZOMBIE SOCKS

I’m calling this a cheat because I actually finished the socks in question on my way into work today.

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These are Sarah Wilson‘s Honeycomb Socks, a free pattern I got from Ravelry.  I love Sarah’s retro details and body-con silhouette, but until I saw this pattern I never thought to make a pair of socks.  Clearly I was missing out.  The pattern was relatively easy (more on that in a minute) and has a great texture but also allows the yarn to shine.

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This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but sometimes when I’m knitting seed stitch (which this pattern resembles), I lose my place and knit two stitches in a row, rendering my work into single rib.  I made a mistake in a few rows of slipping two stitches in a row, but those were so tiny that I couldn’t pick it up on my camera.

And now, a few words about the yarn.  I knit this from Wandering Wool, a DC-area hand-dyed company whose yarn I bought at Loop DC when I went to our nation’s capitol in January.  The colorway was called Strawberries and Cream, but seeing all that crimson and white in skein form made my brain go in a different direction.

By the way, I'm writing this on my lunch break from work.  You'll just have to use your imagination.

By the way, I’m writing this on my lunch break from work. You’ll just have to use your imagination.

I kept thinking of these as the yarn dyed from blood and BRAAAAAAAINS, knit with spare bones, to celebrate the end of the zombie apocalypse.

Next on the needles: Mirror by Josiah Bain, who will be pleased to learn that I’m knitting this from yarn inspired by Sherlock’s purple shirt.

TUESDAY TUNES: “Tunic” and “Kool Thing”, Sonic Youth

Like pretty much every other white girl of a certain age, I braved the sleet and snow last Tuesday to get a copy of Girl in a Band, the incisive and heartbreaking memoir by Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth renown.  I gobbled it down in less than 24 hours, and my opinion of it was consistent with others’: her vitriol towards Courtney Love and Lana Del Rey, while understandable, was a bit much, but reading about her artistic process, her attempts at balancing work and life, and negotiating her artistic integrity kept me reading to the last pages.  Though one might read her insights on her marriage and feminine identity in music as hashtag-mainstream feminist, she spoke only for herself, and the way she wrote about being a “strong woman” in music and the intersection of art and craft kept me company.  After I finished the book, I felt inspired and invigorated.

My love of the book came as a surprise, since I was never a huge fan of Sonic Youth.  My need for beauty and melody and redemption clashed with their loud guitar sounds and apocalyptic lyrics, and I found their name-dropping, trend-hopping antics showy and irritating.  When I was growing up, I was drawn to surrealism and avant-garde techniques, but Sonic Youth’s omnipresence made me think that theirs was the only way to be an underground artist.  Reading Girl in a Band inspired me to reappraise their music, and I’ve been listening to Goo while I’m at work.  (Turbulent music can come in handy in a loud office.)

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The Carpenters were pretty far out of vogue when I first heard Sonic Youth, and their adulation of a corny, square pop duo inspired much eye-rolling in me.  At the time I was unaware of Karen’s fight with bulimia or her painful family life (or her drumming!). I’d assumed SY had adopted the Carpenters in an ironic stance that was all too trendy in their early 90s heyday.  In the years since I’ve learned more about Karen’s sad background and come to respect her place in the firmament.  The open letter Kim wrote to Karen broke my heart with its empathy and gave me some context for “Tunic”. The song sounds so melancholy and eerie, and the handmade, public access kids’ pageant aesthetic of the video just hits my sweet spot.

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So listening to “Kool Thing” while reading through a work assignment on intersectionality was poignant and galvanizing.  This was the first song I ever heard by SY…I was twelve or thirteen and I HATED it.  Hated the loud guitars and the singsongy vocals and (what I then regarded as) the shallow lyrics.  I like how she and Chuck D are standing next to one another, frustrated with “white corporate America”.  They’ve got a point there.

I can’t say I’ll ever be a fan of SY.  I think Game Theory’s work does a more interesting job of bringing unusual techniques to pure pop, and Throwing Muses did a lot more with dissonance and surprise.  But listening to their albums at this remove helps me appreciate how important they were, and I’m glad I got to that point.