There’s A Love and It Grows: One Direction’s “Walking in the Wind” and Zayn’s “Golden”

One Direction recently celebrated their six year anniversary. As new solo contracts get signed during this hiatus and the first summer without a tour passes, now is the perfect time to reflect on One Direction’s creation. A cultural phenomenon I’m happy to have witnessed myself, One Direction has helped create our modern conception of pop-rock music – through their own music, launching the career of 5 Seconds of Summer, and inspiring subsequent copycats.

It was written about endlessly for the last year that Zayn Malik’s departure from One Direction would see him creating a new sound space for himself as a musician. It is true that ZAYN’s solo album relied heavily on R&B, a sound that was not heard in One Direction’s tracks. However, the slick production value of Mind of Mine was no surprise. ZAYN’s release is among the biggest records of 2016 behind Kanye West, Drake, and Beyoncé. Critics acted shocked by his performance on the charts as if ZAYN was not a veteran pop performer with five years of industry experience and a rampant following. His rise to the top of the charts was no accident. “PILLOWTALK” and “LIKE I WOULD” do not forget his pop sensibilities, but build upon them with solid engineering from top producers.

As I wrote about One Direction’s fifth album Made in the A.M. in November on witchsong:

The much publicized and debated departure of Zayn Malik from One Direction in March 2015 is not obvious in the seamless vocal recording—full, textured and layered, perhaps now more than ever as they even managed to record several tracks with a 24-piece orchestra at Abbey Road Studios—but Zayn’s absence is unquestionably evident in the melancholy and poignant lyrical content of Made in the A.M.  Zayn’s departure has given them the vocabulary necessary to express rage, remorse… to reminisce. The album has been dedicated time and time again to the fans. The unspoken dedication is to the boy who left center stage in March.

This is clearest in One Direction’s deluxe edition bonus track, “Walking in the Wind.” The track, which to me is reminiscent of Paul Simon’s Graceland, cannot be extracted from the narrative of Zayn Malik’s departure from One Direction on March 25, 2015. The song was written by Julian Bunetta, John Ryan, J.S. Baylin, and, most importantly in this case, Harry Styles. The track ruminates on a sudden departure.

The fact that we can sit right here and say goodbye
Means we’ve already won
A necessity for apologies between you and me
Baby, there is none…

Made in the A.M. is an album written in the early morning haze of tour life. It’s also an album written in the aftermath of a departure of a beloved “brother”, best friend, and colleague. The era of Take Me Home bops has ended, darkening with age and the complications of fame. Made in the A.M. carries the weight of worldwide scandals, ended love affairs, and Zayn’s exit. There’s a real maturity to the sentiment we’ve already won. One Direction did win. Well, not the competition. But what they won was more important. They won over each other’s hearts, and in turn ours. We’ve already won holds onto the burden and pressure of goodbye. It allows the memories of the past to maintain their joy, sentimentality. There’s an acceptance of the current state of affairs, and an understanding that what is currently the status quo will one day change. There is an earned ease to Harry’s lyrics.

“Walking in the Wind” meanders; it’s reflective and aimless. It’s looking, searching for a landing.

We had some good times, didn’t we?
We had some good tricks up our sleeve
Goodbyes are bitter-sweet
But it’s not the end, I’ll see your face again…

Zayn’s departure is intrinsically a part of One Direction’s follow-up album. It is a part of the album’s narrative, but also of One Direction’s – just look at the promotional press surrounding the release. There was not a single interview that did not discuss Zayn’s sudden exit. The boys handled the questions well, but there were fractures. Days where the endless litany of the same questions seems to crack their veneer. Harry making fun of Zayn’s ying-yang tattoo or Louis admitting to The Sunday Times Style that their friendship was altered by the exit.  We had some good times, didn’t we might as well be accompanied by a reel of This Is Us clips. I’ll see your face again everywhere, in the flurry of paparazzi flashes that will constantly follow the five of them, no matter if they reside in London, Los Angeles or Bradford. Goodbyes are bittersweet and that was never more clear than in the months following the Facebook post on One Direction’s official account confirming Zayn’s exit. Vomiting in the middle of the night after Zayn spoke to The Sun about his departure, I didn’t think my mouth would ever stop tasting sour.

“Walking in the Wind” feels like a confirmation from 1D that it’s ok to wrestle with the past, present and future of the band.

You will find me, yeah you will find me
In places that we’ve never been
For reasons we don’t understand…

There will be reminders of One Direction for years to come, even if their current hiatus extends from two years to permanent. A postgraduate album of sorts, Made in the A.M. is a reflection of the fluctuating dynamics of band mates/friends/significant others as allegiances and priorities change.  Zayn Malik’s CV will always start with The X Factor, Simon Cowell, “Torn” and four other boys. Their skin is inked with tattoos that speak to the bonds forged during late nights on Bus 1 and on Madison Square Garden’s stage. The memories of #1 hits and bong hits. There’s been a manipulation of the past in interviews and cover stories, but we were all there. We’ll never forget the history that was made.

It’s fitting that Louis, Zayn’s best friend and partner in crime, gets the last verse of “Walking in the Wind”:

Yesterday I went out
To celebrate the birthday of a friend
But as we raised our glasses up to make a toast
I realised you were missing…

There are afternoons where I’m listening to Made in the A.M. stuck on the subway, and my body jolts as I wait for a voice that will never come. Last year, it seemed like Louis was taking Zayn’s departure just as hard as I was. No one seems to have captured that emotional journey more completely than Louis – the immense sense of loss, the melancholy.

A man of few words while in One Direction, Zayn didn’t let Made in the A.M. get the last word. ZAYN’s solo debut (released on the one-year anniversary of his departure from One Direction, a level of management shade that Shakespeare is jealous he did not write) Mind of Mine allows us unrivaled access to his current headspace, which is filled mostly with romance, weed, sex and goodbyes. It’s a young artist trying to find his own identity after years of contributing little outside vocal runs. Here ZAYN had the final say in all creative decisions, at least according to his label.

In “Golden,” a Mind of Mine bonus track, fans get what feels like a direct response to “Walking in the Wind.” The first verse begins It goes and it’s golden like sands of time / I hope and I hope you’ll still be fine… The piano-driven track continues:

The choices we make change the path that we take
But I know
That somewhere out there there’s a path that we chose
There’s a life that we share, there’s a love and it grows…

The life that they share is in the pop charts, in their continued success as musicians, and in the lingering memories of One Direction fans. There’s a love and it grows… While this might have felt like proper fan fiction in the summer of 2015, there seem to be glimpses of their mended friendships. Or at least, Liam and Zayn’s continued bond according to interviews with Beats 1’s Zane Lowe and FADER.

I hope and I hope you’ll still be fine
I know that it’s bright
Look through the light and see it’s meant to be…

ZAYN wishes them the best in their future endeavors. He knows that the future is “bright” for all of them. These boys are a “jigsaw piece” that I am happy we got to watch, catapult to international acclaim for five years making exceptional pop-rock tracks. Like ZAYN, I too, after months of agony and indecision, think it was “meant to be.” The future is bright. I can’t wait to stand inside the light and see.

You Say You Want A Revolution: Nice As Fuck at Bowery Ballroom

We’re Nice As Fuck
Wish you good luck!

–Nice As Fuck, “NAF Theme”

It was a nice surprise when a friend sent me a VISA gift card for my birthday. I could finally justify spending money to seeing Nice As Fuck’s most recent show in New York City at Bowery Ballroom. I kept missing NAF perform (at the just closed The Deep End Club or opening for M. Ward). I pinched myself as I hit “confirm payment” thinking about how I would get the chance to see Jenny Lewis for a second time this year, and witness Tennessee Thomas and Erika Forster groove up close. This summer has been oppressively hot in New York, and without One Direction I have had little to look forward to. I was geeked about having the opportunity to see one of my favorite musicians in a totally new dynamic. Jenny Lewis, the lead singer of Nice As Fuck, has had an impressive solo career for the last ten years. She came to fame in the music industry in her previous band Rilo Kiley. Tennessee Thomas was a drummer in the rock group The Like. Erika Forster established her name with Au Revoir Simone.

I got off work on August 1 ready for the revolution. I’d spent months scouring the Instagrams of Tennessee Thomas and Jenny Lewis as their friendship led to the formation of the new rock trio. I giddily got excited as Matt Hitt and Alexa Chung popped up around the band. The network of New York models, artists, and performers all coming together in solidarity. Despite waiting to buy a tee and beer, I managed to snag a spot right in front of Jenny Lewis’ mic stand. I’m not kidding when I say I was on top of the keyboard. I figured you don’t let a chance like this go by without grasping it.

Alix Brown DJ’d the first hour of the evening as we waited around NAF’s staging on the floor of the Bowery. The songs set the perfect tone for the evening, even though I will admit, I didn’t recognize a single song. However, I was happy to sip my beer, snap pics of the staging, wonder if Alexa Chung would be at the early show (she was at the late show), and subtly shake my hips to the tunes.

NAF came out a little after 8pm for their first show of the evening at the Bowery. Dressed in black pants, Nice As Fuck black tees, green military jackets, black berets, heavy winged eyeliner with bold lipstick, NAF were a conglomeration of radical 60s counter-culture attire and attitude. The Bernie tee taped to Tennessee’s drum set was a nice touch, a shout out to her advocacy and campaigning for the Senator in his Presidential bid. NAF asks for all those in attendance to unite in a desire to experience connection, love and freedom.

naf

This was the point when it settled in just how close I was going to be to Jenny Lewis during the set. As you can see, without zoom, I felt like I was pretty much in her personal space. But in terms of art, there was a great closeness that developed between artist and audience as the set began. With no barrier, not even a rope, we were a part of their raucous set. It was contained chaos performed with a smirk.

NAF performed “Runaway”, off the new album, first. In the aftermath of Jenny Lewis’ rumored break up with writing partner Jonathan Rice and her move to the East Coast, it’s hard to not read her own departure into the lyrics. The solace Jenny has found alongside Tennessee and Erika is obvious in her stage presence, and her Instagram posts where her smile is infectious, large. All three performers seemed genuinely humbled by the outpouring of love for their set.

Jenny Lewis sang the opening verse of “Cookie Lips” directly to me. As I sought to break eye contact do to the overwhelming feeling of having my favorite singers eyes on me, she sang Oh cookie lips, give me a crumb /Oh cookie lips, are you the one? As Tennessee explained before the song began, “Cookie Lips” is about a lover who gives you enough of the “cookie” to keep you wanting more, but it’s ultimately “crumbs.” A lover who ghosts. I think I just got ghosted by cookie lips / (What a dick). The song is fresh, young. Fun. It’s also catchy as hell.

Universe pulls us together
For tonight
Cookie lips

 

If you want to know who I am? 
Just ask any of my friends

“Higher” was a stand out of the night. The soaring vocals, bass and drums pulsing within the confines of the Bowery. True love never dies / I’m getting higher and higher. Jenny’s stage presence was electric, intense. She was actually lit up. The confidence she has as a performer so clearly comes from years of experience on the road, and it’s hard to look away as she commands everyone to join in the experience. To revel alongside her.

The set drew to a close with “Door” and “Guns,” the two most obvious songs of revolution and power on the album. “Door” has a recurring exclamation of Don’t Close The Door! An insistence that the message of peace and love brings about real unity. “Guns” is a call for us all to put our guns away. Nice As Fuck doesn’t want to be afraid. The album, written this past spring, feels like a direct reaction to the current political climate. As Jenny instructs, the solution is revolution. NAF’s politics cannot be ignored. They don’t want you to be able to look away, misinterpret. Leaving, I felt like over the course of 9 songs I had become closer with the band. I somehow understand their energy, their sound better.  I’m excited to see what they all do with this side project in the future.

I highly suggest checking out this new act if they stop into your area. Join the revolution! You can check out The Deep End Club’s activism blog and even buy your own NAF tee before attending. Let’s all try to be a part of the solution!

Setlist:

Intro – Jem and the Holograms theme
Runaway
Angel
Homerun
Cookie Lips
Higher
Mall Music
Door
Guns
NAF Theme

JUST WATCH ME: Cher Lloyd is Getting Activated

How blessed we are to be alive in this, the second #summerofCher, even if it is kind of getting more into the #autumnofCher. I like fall better anyway, so I’m pleased. At any rate, the new season of Cher Lloyd is finally upon us.

Cher Lloyd is very good at this thing which I love, which is the use of straight up nonsense syllables to express emotion. I find something very pure and kind of transcendent about that – the idea that your love, or rage, or whatever else, is too much for language. It started with “Want U Back”, ramped up on Sorry I’m Late with “Dirty Love” and “Just Be Mine”, and now we have “Activated”.

The other thing about this song that makes me really excited for the album is the lack of a traditionally recognizable chorus. I’m seeing it more and more – “Dangerous Woman” is a good example, 5H’s “Flex” and Little Mix’s “Move”, Selena’s “Same Old Love”, Demi’s “Cool for the Summer”, and both of Meghan Trainor’s new singles. There’s still a recognizable refrain, which you can classify as the chorus: they like ‘ooh’, they like ‘ooh / baby just wait on it / when I do the damn thing just watch me. But it’s not as separate from the rest of the song as something like, say, the chorus of “You Belong With Me”. It’s more subtle, less musically distinct. Some of these songs even use the same lyrics as the bridge rather than introduce a new element, simply changing the pacing or the pitch. It makes for a different kind of listening experience, I think, because it’s more difficult to say when the song “should” end. I could listen to “Activated” on a loop for several hours, probably, before I got tired of it or really even noticed that it was repeating. There is nothing to snag, nothing to hang you up in the flow of it. You all know I love Taylor more than life, but you know when a Taylor Swift song is over. This song – and others like it – are less in-your-face. They’re not exactly background tracks; they demand more attention and care than that. But they’re not something that you have to drop everything to focus on. “Activated” is predictable, but in a different way than something like “Sirens” is. It’s difficult to describe, but if you listen to it, you’ll get it.

“Activated” feels more mature than Cher’s earlier work somehow, and that might just be me, but I am so ready for this album, for the direction she seems to be headed in. Hopefully we’ll see more from her soon, and in the meantime, you have this slinky neon video to watch.

Shura — “Nothing’s Real”

A dreamy, hazy intro is the first thing you get from our newest pop princess Shura’s debut album. Scraps of dialogue from Shura’s father and what sounds like a rocket blasting off in the distance tune in and out like a fuzzy radio. As “(i)” fades, it’s replaced by the album’s title track. Nothing’s Real shifts from ’80s homage in songs like “What’s It Gonna Be” to near imitation in “Nothing’s Real”. Shura uses this album to take on a presence like those of the early ’80s queens, each track presenting a girlish, almost naively feminine voice.

The defining measure of the album is Shura’s introversion. In songs like “2Shy”, Shura channels the spirit of Molly Ringwald in 16 Candles, right before Michael Schoeffling is about to kiss her over the cake. Shura is hesitant, whispering over a powdery synthetic build about her desire — maybe? — for a sort of relationship with this person she might just like.

Despite this uncertainty, Shura doesn’t stray from being articulate in “2Shy”. Each note is perfectly in place, never straying from the heartbeat of the song. She might be murmuring, caressing the lyrics, but the phrasing is too deliberate to ignore: Headphones on, got a cigarette rolled, I know / I shouldn’t light it ‘cause I haven’t had one for weeks.

Shura’s shy and sweet, but she’s also deliberate and aware of everything happening around her. It’s this deliberation that drives her individuality and really matches her to the early ’80s greats. “Nothing’s Real” shows off her power more so than any other track off the album. Instead of the soft thrum of a heartbeat, the album’s title track epitomizes the throb of restlessness, ticking through the dragging hours of dissociation and panic. There’s nothing soft or playful about “Nothing’s Real,” though the hesitation and uncertainty remains

Other songs are harder to categorize. “What’s It Gonna Be”, a track with a video you should have already fallen in love with, balances indecision (incidentally, the name of another song off the album) with a defined, upbeat assuredness. Nothing’s Real is all about going boldly forward into the unknown, and suddenly the sounds of the rocket in “(i)” make a lot more sense.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the final two tracks off Nothing Is Real. Each over nine minutes long, “White Light” and “The Space Tapes” feel unfinished and uncensored. “The Space Tapes” relies on instrumentation and has the vibe of an R&B song, so much so as to be tonally distinct from the rest of the album. Both pieces include slow fades to silence, only to pick back up again with an entirely new theme. It’s almost as if Shura were piecing together a few incomplete bits of her brain, unsure what to do with them — so she just stuck them to the end of the album. “White Light” and “The Space Tapes” share a refreshing distinction from the power and precision of the rest of the album, and they add yet another layer of humanity to Nothing’s Real.

Shura’s debut album didn’t strike a chord with me because her music sounds exactly like the theme to a John Hughes movie. It didn’t strike a chord because she’s a British pop princess, or because she made a cute LGBT music video (although that certainly didn’t hurt). It resonated with me because Shura leans heavily into teasing out different aspects of what we, the audience, are led to believe make her a person with doubts and fears. Making music in itself is a scary thing, but deliberately making your art reflect a deep, true part of yourself is even scarier. So here Shura goes, boldly forward into the unknown.


Carson is a 23-year-old who discovered the joys of the Backstreet Boys two years ago, when she fell down a pink fur-lined rabbit hole into the world of pop. She has since taken it upon herself to make an exodus into the underbelly of the glitter-covered beast. You can find her Spotify account here and you can also find her on Tumblr

The Story of Us: Steven Hyden’s YOUR FAVORITE BAND IS KILLING ME & Chuck Klosterman’s BUT WHAT IF WE’RE WRONG?

7c8a7566596aeee98516ae8744f347f6The release of Steven Hyden’s book Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me has been on my calendar for months. A former Grantland (~RIP to my favorite website~) staff writer, Hyden wrote what might my favorite major publication review of any One Direction album in 2013 when he noted that the best rock song of the year was on “Midnight Memories” (yes, obviously, he was referencing “Little Black Dress”). A Midwesterner, Hyden feels like a rare breed in the male-dominated world of rock criticism in his willingness to embrace new music. He reviews the likes of Drake, Joanna Newsom, and Beach Slang all with sincere enthusiasm and insight. If you’re looking for another podcast to download about rock music, Hyden now hosts “Celebration Rock.”

I was excited when it was revealed Hyden’s new book would be about rivalries in music, and what they say about all of us. Hyden writes welcoming prose about music that does not have the elitism of Pitchfork. His knowledge is extensive, but he’s willing to gently explain the background history of Neil Young, Kanye West or Prince to new music fans.

Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me succeeds in letting us know the bands behind major music rivalries, while illuminating Steven Hyden himself. In his chapter on Jack White and The Black Keys, Hyden writes about the difficulties of men in their thirties making friends at their children’s activities. As he notes, “I get that ‘Why can’t Jack White and Dan Auerbach be friends?’ might seem like a frivolous question: speculating on the status of the relationship between two similar celebrities is a silly exercise. But what I’m really asking is this: Why can’t I make more male friends?”

The rivalries chosen span decades, an expansive look at how musicians have sparred over credibility, image and chords. As Hyden told The A.V. Club, “Let’s be real: Musical rivalries are never totally about music. It’s about sympathizing with a particular worldview represented by an artist over a different worldview represented by an ‘opposing’ artist. You are what you love—and also what you choose not to love.” I highly recommend Steven Hyden’s book if, like me, you’re interested in what the music you like says about you, about us as a collective community.

I myself had a chance to catch Steven Hyden on his book tour in New York in conversation with Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield. I knew I had found “my people” when it only took 35 minutes for Rob Sheffield to name drop Harry Styles and his iconic tattoos to a room of mostly thirty year old men. It was great to hear the two of them expand upon projection, Oasis versus Blur (one of the many rivalries covered in Hyden’s book), the mythology in music of mystery versus/or equating with authenticity (“Is a curated Instagram that different from artists selecting iconography for fans to dismantle on a 70s album cover?”), records as imaginary friends, and using pop culture—specifically music—as shorthand to describe who we are.

I was drawn to the discussion of authenticity as it is an idea that witchsong and its staff continues to come back to when celebrating and loving musical acts. I personally do not believe that the curation of an archive of Instagram pictures and commentary is inauthentic. (I could tell the older readers in the audience did.) All of us, celebrities, teens, and girl-across-the-cubicle are documenting our lives (for better or worse) through social media. The dialogue between fans and performer has never been more open. The discourse online is what has propelled Troye Sivan and Halsey to international acclaim. There are Instagram accounts clearly overseen by performers in partnership with professional photographers (Adele, Coldplay, Fifth Harmony), and then there are the personal accounts of performers that offer further insight into their achievements, dalliances, frustrations (Louis Tomlinson of One Direction, Justin Bieber, Jade Thirlwall of Little Mix). However, mystery remains. Harry Styles may give me a picture of his feet, but there is often very little clarity. I can read the same symbolism into the picture of his feet that prior fans used to read into a Radiohead album cover. The images are still open to discussion, interpretation, projection. Mystery remains despite more avenues to learn about their likes, dislikes. Instagram doesn’t equate with inauthenticity just because it is off the cuff. Hyden himself noted that Led Zeppelin’s curated album covers, notably without their likenesses and beloved for their mystery, comes from the same meticulous attention to detail that modern stars now use to catalog new tattoos, paid promotion, and international landscapes.

For any of us who have loved music, who have used it to talk about ourselves, Hyden has an extraordinary section where he admits—like Chris Christie does with Bruce Springsteen—of thinking of his favorite musicians as imaginary friends. I’m glad that in the course of reading Hyden’s book, it felt like I had made another imaginary friend with which to argue, agree, and affectionately underline.

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Chuck Klosterman is my favorite author. Earlier this year I wrote about Jessica Hopper’s The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, a refreshing take on music, by acknowledging my love of Klosterman’s work. He is the formative author of my teen years. I got the book thanks to a recommendation from Lost’s Jorge Garcia in Entertainment Weekly. My worn copy of Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto traveled the halls of my high school and later the globe to China and London alongside me. It has been gifted to friends for birthdays, loaned to roommates with dog-eared pages. I’ve laughed alongside Chuck for over ten years. His new book But What If We’re Wrong? seeks to think about the present as if it were the past. Therefore Klosterman takes what we believe will be the celebrated idea in any given field in hundred years and undermines why that will be wrong. Our projected ideas of the future are very rarely right. Klosterman interweaves his own opinions in with interviews from George Saunders, David Bryne, Ryan Adams, Dan Carlin, and Richard Linklater.

It took eleven years to finally be in the same room as Klosterman. I didn’t have him sign my book after his reading at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square, because I was afraid of blurting out one of the following upon meeting him: 1) “I’m pretty sure I’ve projected your personality onto every boy I’ve ever liked.” 2) “Your ex-girlfriend who chose a night in Portland seeing Coldplay’s first U.S. performance over you is probably a large part of the reason I (subconsciously) justified flying to Wembley to see One Direction.” 3) “Why did you unfollow me on Twitter after one fucking day?” 4) “What’s Rembert Browne’s phone number?”

Klosterman’s book was the perfect summer read. I could pick it up between two connecting flights, a June wedding, and work errands. I recommend reading the essays in chronological order. This is a book meant to be read from cover to cover. Don’t start at the end.

If you’re interested in checking out an excerpt before buying, Klosterman’s chapter on football was featured in GQ.

The book covers varying topics from science, football, and music. An intriguing question for fans of witchsong: “What will be the defining memory of rock music, five hundred years from today?” Klosterman wrestles with the idea of what musician or band will come to stand singlehandedly for rock music as the composer John Philip Sousa is now synonymous with American military and patriotic marches. Will it be The Rolling Stones? The Beatles? Elvis? One Direction? Oh, sorry. That last one was my own interjection. Klosterman deftly parses through difficult questions, and illuminates how our culture will be remembered. But What If We’re Wrong? is not my favorite book Klosterman has ever written, but I understand the evolution of his career. He is no longer a man in his late twenties who wants to dissect The Real World and porn. He is interested in analyzing larger questions. That’s ok. I’m willing to follow him to whatever intellectual discussion he wants to write. Much like Hyden, Chuck Klosterman is interested in evaluating how we define ourselves, what that definition meant and will come to mean.

it’s alright, it’s okay: another playlist

Otter-Pops

it is sticky hot outside and the world is ending one day at a time. here is a playlist full of songs that will hopefully feel a little bit like a cool breeze, like wading into water, like distraction, maybe like peace.

wild – troye sivan ft. alessia cara
still too long ’til the weekend still too long ’til i drown in your hands

you don’t get me high anymore – phantogram
man i am faking it the best i can

rotten teeth – holychild ft. kate nash
i can never be the girl i wanna be no no i’m never free

blessings – chance the rapper
when the praises go up the blessings come down

sometimes – ariana grande
i ain’t even think of leavin’ sometimes

ice cream colours – corinne bailey rae
you make me dream in ice cream colours

kick, push – lupe fiasco
so we kick push kick push coast

red lights – chloe x halle
turn off the world dance with myself like ballerinas

moth to the flame – chairlift
i can’t help it i’m a moth to the flame

you’re the best – wet
well baby you’re the best we’ll figure out the rest

i love you always forever – betty who
you’ve got me almost melting away

thursday girl – mitski
glory to the night it shows me what i am

god only knows – the beach boys
as long as there are stars above you you never need to doubt it

boyfriend – tegan & sara
i need to know the rules if you want me to play

electric love – børns
she’s sweet like candy in my veins

radio – lana del rey
now my life is sweet like cinnamon like a fuckin’ dream i’m livin’ in

Summer, babe: Playlist

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playlist

NAO – Fool to Love
I was a fool to love
I was a fool to love you

Catfish and the Bottlemen – Twice
Cause when you love the way you’re living it gets hard to fret about much

Flume – Never Be Like You (feat Kai)
I would give anything to change
This fickle minded heart that loves fake shiny things

Little Mix – OMG
Oh my gosh, I did it again
He said I broke his heart, it keeps happening

Wet – It’s All in Vain
Tell me, baby, say it slowly
All the things you never showed me

Drowners – Pick up the Pace
I have searched all the terraces for you

ZAYN – dRUNk
Right now I’m emotional

AURORA – Life on Mars
Now she walks through her sunken dream
To the seat with the clearest view
And she’s hooked to the silver screen

Mitski – Thursday Girl
Somebody please
Tell me no, tell me no

The Stone Roses – I Wanna Be Adored
I wanna be adored
You adore me

Ellie Goulding – Here’s to Us
There’s something in the way, love is never enough

One Direction – Walking in the Wind
Yeah you will find me
In places that we’ve never been
For reasons we don’t understand

Beyoncé – All Night
Kiss up and rub up and feel up
Kiss up and rub up and feel up on ya

New Video Monday: Haley Bonar’s “Kismet Kill”

I’ll be honest. I am not a person who hated high school. In fact, I kind of loved it. I went to a small, tight-knit school that didn’t have an issue with smart kids (to a certain extent) or theater kids (as long as they were “normal”). I feel weird sitting next to friends who told me they hated their high school experiences. And with good reason! Being bullied or excluded is brutal, and I know that — although my high school wasn’t exactly tolerant — I’m very privileged to have been able to speak my mind and be myself, more or less. And I don’t think I’ll ever wish that I could go back to being in high school! My brain is more developed, I have deeper friendships. I’m getting closer to chipping away at who I might be, and it’s all very exciting. No, I don’t miss high school. But the feeling of being a ball of potential? The stability of knowing what each day is going to bring, but that it’s not going to be forever? I do miss those feelings.

In “Kismet Kill” (“kismet” meaning fate, a word I had to look up), Haley Bonar shows the worst of what my life could end up like. When the prom queen (I wasn’t a prom queen, but I had my own little sources of pride that no one but I will remember) wakes up, she’s in the post-apocalyptic world of banality. A cracked disco ball lying forlornly on the side of the road. Empty airports, empty parking garages, empty top floors of once-impressive buildings. Giving birth to a plastic doll (sometimes the apocalypse offers hilarity in its tragedy). Always stagnant in a world where you’re completely alone.

“Kismet Kill” strikes a chord in its almost overplayed dramatics, because sometimes being a grownup feels like a personal apocalypse. Every day I worry that this is the first day of the rest of my life (this? How can this be the first day?), my world is a little bit shaken. Sometimes, the gravity of growing up breaks us all.

You can watch the video for “Kismet Kill” on NPR’s First Watch. Bonar’s album, Impossible Dream, comes out on August 5.


Carson is a 23-year-old who discovered the joys of the Backstreet Boys two years ago, when she fell down a pink fur-lined rabbit hole into the world of pop. She has since taken it upon herself to make an exodus into the underbelly of the glitter-covered beast. You can find her Spotify account here and you can also find her on Tumblr

Send Me Your Magic: Paperwhite Live in DC

I want intimacy in my music. I look for emotion in songs and yank it out with my bare fists, ingesting it into myself. And what is a concert but a way to project music’s intimacy into three dimensions?

While a successful artist — the one with “the X factor”  — can entrance a stadium full of thousands of people, a different challenge presents itself in the smoky back rooms of shady concert venues. An intimate venue calls for an intimate presence: We’re all in on the secret, shared between the back room’s enclosed walls.

In one such back room at the Black Cat (semi-discovered DC dive bar and concert venue), Paperwhite frontwoman Katie Marshall invites us inside her secrets. Throughout her performance, I imagine her standing in front of the gates of the Secret Garden, finger crooked towards us. She deftly breaks the rusted lock and pushes the gates open, hair swinging behind her and catching impossible glints of sunlight, allowing us to see the most intimate parts of her.

Katie occupies all of center stage, constantly reaching out and pulling us into her. She makes eye contact with every audience member in the venue as we crowd closer. Her eyes are at times fierce and passionate, but the warmth — the invitation — never leaves her face. Her bandmates, including brother Ben Marshall, drink in the audience with warmth, too. While they tend more to frame Katie than to draw attention to themselves, they’re happy to do so and bask in the atmosphere of the stage.

Paperwhite’s music is itself an expression of intimacy. Epitomizing dream pop’s ‘80s-synth movement, EPs Escape and Magic reach out to us the same way Katie Marshall does during her performances. We feel hypnotized by airy positivity; our heads nod and our bodies move until we’re all grooving together amidst shimmering electronics. All of Paperwhite’s songs — though particularly ones like “Wanderlust,” “Storm,” and “Magic” — encase us in a longing that eclipses words.

When we experience this three-dimensional performance of intimacy, longing, and shared secrets, we are connected by the synths, the movements, and the words alike. But best of all, Paperwhite’s reaction to us (the audience) is just as awestruck as ours to them. Katie let us into her secrets, and we somehow did the same for her. Just by collectively releasing our inhibitions to enjoy a shared experience, we lowered the barriers between audience and artist. We had as much to give Paperwhite as they had to give us.

The concert ended and Katie talked, took selfies, and signed phone cases, but the audience/artist dynamic had not been restored. We were still equals. We thanked her for her performance, told her she didn’t need to be so surprised that people deeply connected to her work. She thanked us for showing our support, for understanding what she was trying to give us. Our mutual respect and adoration allowed us to share that most intimate experience — the concert — in a way none of us are likely to forget.

I want you to notice/Some moments are rare/Don’t take me for granted/Just take me there
-“Take Me Back”


Carson is a 23-year-old who discovered the joys of the Backstreet Boys two years ago, when she fell down a pink fur-lined rabbit hole into the world of pop. She has since taken it upon herself to make an exodus into the underbelly of the glitter-covered beast. You can find her Spotify account here and you can also find her on Tumblr

Some Music Videos You Maybe Forgot About But You Shouldn’t Have, Because They Are Great

It is finally starting to feel like summer here in Denver, and this weekend I sat outside and drank a Lime-a-rita (because my liquor store was SOLD OUT OF LEMONADE-RITA, which I am still angry about) and ate a popsicle and listened to a lot of music. It was very soothing and I hope that all of you are able to have a similar experience very soon, and I am going to try to facilitate that as much as I can. Here are a bunch of music videos that, if you haven’t watched them in awhile (or at all, somehow), are very deserving of some of your time today. Not quite a popsicle on the porch, but maybe close enough for a Thursday.

YOGA – Janelle Monáe

Get off my areooooolaaaaaaa.

MY LOVE – Justin Timberlake

I mourn FutureSex/LoveSounds almost daily.

IRREPLACEABLE – Beyoncé

Cargo shorts!!!! Overalls!!!! Gay-ass girl band!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’M OUT – Ciara

I mean. Speaking of gay-ass shit.

CALL YOUR GIRLFRIEND – Robyn

Still delightful. Still mesmerizing.

Do you agree with the (correct) opinion that Lemonade-rita is by far the best flavor of -rita?? Do you think JT will ever recover from making his best album in 2006 and slowly declining since then?? Did you see that stupid movie with Amanda Seyfried that I saw twice in theaters??? It was really bad and I don’t recommend it but I also talk about it all the time. Remember when he was on SNL as Bon Iver and put himself to sleep with his own music? Justin! Come back to us! We deserve so much better than “Suit & Tie” and I know there are some jams on whatever that album is actually called but nothing compares to FS/LS. You know what’s cooler than a million dollars, Justin? Making a better album. Remember when that joke was relevant? All right, I’m going back to work.