Caroline

lizard queen. always in the bath, with cats or watching seinfeld. ponytail enthusiast, witch baby, wednesday addams look-a-like. based in texas chainsaw level south. honorary spice girl.

Top Five Times Taylor Swift Showed Us How Many Friends She Has on the 1989 World Tour

I spent more money to see the 1989 tour than I’ve ever paid to see anything ever and my show didn’t even have a special guest but whatever I only have eyes for Taylor (and Little Mix and Alanis Morissette and Charli XCX) so here’s a list of the top five guests on the 1989 tour I didn’t get to see!

  1. Charli XCX: Charli wore glitter co-ordinates with mustard colored pompoms around her wrists and platform black clogs to perform “Boom Clap” which is what I would also wear if Taylor invited me on stage. I like Charli so much because she lacks pop star finish but is still a pop star who works with the biggest, shiniest pop stars and offers a Daria type dead face to counteract Taylor’s huge white teeth.
  1. Fetty Wap: 2015 was Fetty’s year and I’m sorry he had to see Taylor dance to “Trap Queen” but he’s a pro and looked at home with 60,000 twinkling cell phone lights behind him. Fetty is loose charm and zero affectation or persona, two things I think the 1989 stage really needed and he casually delivered in the three minutes he was there.
  1. Alessia Cara: I read an article recently about “Here” that I desperately wish I had written that basically addresses the lack of pessimism in top 40 music and how “Here,” a huge top 40 hit, has carved a place for itself amongst the hyper presence of most pop music. “Here” is reverse FOMO wherein the fear lies in both the social anxiety and social indifference the non pop part of our brains often feel. I think Cara is cool and slept on and I like her as a foil to Taylor’s brand of caring too much because sometimes we don’t care at all and that deserves radio play too.
  1. Alanis Morissette: My Alanis roots are deep – Jagged Little Pill was my first cassette deep and I remember self-censoring the curse words in “You Oughta Know” when my dad walked by my room. I’m not sure what I resonated so strongly with at age 7 but I think my mushy kid brain knew it would be important later. Taylor introduces Alanis with “she defined the generation of female songwriters and taught us you could get really, really mad if you wanted to,” which is maybe exactly what 7 year old me recognized – an angry woman. Likely I recognized a pretty lady with long brown hair and attached myself to her for those reasons but I do think Alanis filled an emotion slot I didn’t even recognize was unrepresented. I am not naïve enough to think that Alanis singing 90 seconds of “You Oughta Know” had a profound influence on the audience but maybe Taylor citing her as a teacher of the female emotional craft did. I don’t think younger audiences have as many emotional outliers as maybe we did in the 90s – we had women representing a range of emotions and providing commentary on every imaginable strand of the female narrative but they weren’t mainstream or accessible as children with only the radio and TigerBeat magazine as resources. I also love that the lyrics “is she perverted like me, would she go down on you in a theatre” had the spotlight at a Taylor Swift show.
  1. Little Mix: I wrote a treatise on this already so peep that here.

letter(s) from the editor(s): caroline’s top ten albums of 2015

I think 2015 has been my favorite year in music in my adult life so far and I started with a top 10 that grew into a top 50 that I’ve now scaled back down to a top 10 with much stress and pained squirming and whining sounds. I also am choosing to only rank my top 3 officially and the leave the rest in no particular order because I can’t handle the responsibility and I’m not even sure how to compare the things on this list to one another. Also, I know this seems silly to say but this list is comprised only of the things I heard this year so I can’t speak to releases that I didn’t spend any time with and I’m sure some of them would have made this list if I had. OMG here we go!

Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late: Drake is the only fuckboy I have time or love for and I swear to god Lorde produced this record. Listen to “10 Bands,” “No Tellin’,” “Company”

Wavves – V: Nathan Williams makes me trust dudes again because he spans self-doubt and self-hate and romantic shit and creepy brain ooze while somehow making a middle part work and possessing not an ounce ego. Forever filling my quota of bratty dude noise. Listen to “Pony,” “Way Too Much, “My Head Hurts”

Best Coast – California Nights: My cosmic big sis blaming her problems on the moon, writing her own chapter in the greater female narrative and pissing off rock dudes every damn day. Listen to “Fine Without You,” “Jealousy,” “Run Through My Head”

Oddisee – The Good Fight: Wordy and anxious but full of chance and the plea to try. Listen to “That’s Love,” “Contradiction’s Maze,” “A List of Withouts”

Little Mix – Get Weird: I can’t be succinct about Little Mix. Listen to the whole thing and go see them on tour and thank whoever every day that we have them.

Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ: A study on fandom and heroes written by the nicest dude in the world, considered a hero by many. Listen to “The Legend of Chavo Guerrero,” “Heel Turn 2,” “Werewolf Gimmick”

Colleen Green – I Want to Grow Up: An exploration of the purgatory of young adulthood and how your narrative isn’t wrong just because it is different. Listen to “Deeper Than Love,” “Whatever I Want,” “Grind My Teeth”

  1. Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp: The soundtrack to the rise and fall of the most headfucking non-relationship of my life; the first time I’ve listened to sad music and liked it. Literate, poetic, a revival of southern charm and very reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor – shadowy, funny and very mean. Listen to “Breathless,” “Summer of Love,” “Poison,” “Grey Hair,” “Half Moon”
  1. Mac McCaughan – Non-Believers: The most romantic dude alive – his lyrics on relationships and life with another person make me miserable because I haven’t found that but also un-jades me with each listen. Mac has a soft heart and knows how to tell stories in the short space of a pop song. He is an overflow of technical skill and warmth – best all around and the true (humble) pinnacle of pop punk. Listen to “Box Batteries,” “Real Darkness,” “Lost Again,” “Wet Leaves,” “Only Do”
  1. Grimes – Art Angels: The pop student and pop scholar – the most comprehensive understanding of what pop music is and can be, Grimes is the surgeon extraordinaire who stitched together this Frankenstein mosaic with glitter thread and sweated over every documented sound on this record. This is the opposite of découpé and the fatalistic approach to creation, the opposite of white dude William S. Burroughs and his druggy brilliance – this is talent and a true representation of kaleidoscopic psychedelia. I said this about M.I.A.’s Matangi in 2013 and want to echo that now – this is the best top 40 pop record that isn’t actually top 40 pop. Grimes is not human – she is an alien sprite in a cowboy hat, a savant and the most well-read contributor to popular music and popular media we have. Listen to “Flesh without Blood,” “Kill V. Maim,” “Easily,” “REALiTi,” “Venus Fly”

The Coven of Pop: Taylor Swift, Little Mix, & Fifth Harmony in Santa Clara

I was drunk last night when I found out that Taylor Swift brought Little Mix on stage during her show in Santa Clara. I was wearing a floral romper and a green wig and had been holding hands with girls all night at a wedding where I knew no one except my date. I was glowing and floating around on a cloud of compliments delivered exclusively by women and felt their hands twirling the ends of my mermaid hair and passing me cake and earlier in the day I read the quote “Love between women is so strong and that’s why you’re afraid.”

I’m working on a larger project in which I explore what I’m calling the “coven” of pop music and what that means for female audiences. I’m not sure how many times I can express this sentiment but pop music is a genre by women, for women and while I do think there is a definite and pointed lack of girl groups in the pop circuit, I also think solo artists (Nicki, Beyoncé, Taylor) aren’t really solo anymore. Girl gangs are IT for the first time since the 90s/early oughts (in my opinion) and it seems much more permanent this time. Think about the Britney/Christina rivalry and making fun of Jessica Simpson vs. the Girl Power ideology of the Spice Girls and the supremacy of Destiny’s Child. Maybe girl-on-girl pop rivalry was mediated by the press in the 2000s just like the recent Taylor/Nicki feud but it seems so transparent now, so obviously an attempt to turn women in on each other and in on themselves. Either way, outside attempts to dissuade relationships between the powerful women of pop seem laughable now, flimsy and easily, excitedly buried. Women aren’t allowing themselves to be attacked anymore but they aren’t letting their peers fall prey either.

Girl groups, somehow, are still struggling in the pop climate of no boys allowed. I think press and media and the Dudes in Charge still believe they can trick audiences into picking sides, showing support for one female instead of all females and sustaining the construct that women exist to compete, never to support. This doesn’t work as well in girl groups – it’s harder to breed & stoke competition in a group of women working as a singular force greater than its individual parts. But, don’t worry, audiences are still only allowed to like Little Mix OR Fifth Harmony, never both.

I’m sure we all recall the rumors of the tyrannical hand of Taylor Swift – telling her friends what to wear as to not “upstage” her when they join her on stage for guest duets on the 1989 tour and forbidding them from speaking about her personal life in interviews (which, really, is that such a crazy demand?). Taylor had Fifth Harmony out with her in Santa Clara & wore the same costume as the rest of the girls. She sang half a verse and got swallowed up in a mass of girl and hair. She tried so sweetly to do their choreography. It was not The Taylor Swift Show with her famous friends as backup dancers – it actually reminded me of the “Bad Blood” video in that sense; Taylor as the gracious host, not the queen. She marches in line with her army, not out in front of them – she blends in and camouflages herself amongst them.

I don’t believe that Little Mix needs “help” in the sense that they are struggling or failing or are incapable of reaching Spice Girl-level global relativity on their own but I do think Taylor was right to use her platform to showcase the revival of Girl Power by bringing Little Mix on stage with her. I read nasty things about Taylor daily and she’s my big sis but I certainly don’t think she’s faultless and I do think she should continue supporting the girl gang cause to include artists who can’t get the recognition or attention they deserve because of the state of the industry and the misogyny hardwired into producers and consumers (Taylor has work of her own to do but that’s not what this piece is about). The female narrative isn’t happily received or respectfully represented even at its most basic and the girl group is flagged as a danger – women must unlearn and then relearn (teach themselves) basic interactivity with each other (and themselves) outside the barbs of the patriarchy and the inherent inclination to destroy rather than foster, to demonize rather than celebrate. I think this applies as strongly on a woman-to-woman basis as it does for the individual female and her relationship with herself. Little Mix have honored this loyalty and exploration of the female since their conception and I’ve been waiting for Taylor to pay attention. I saw a tweet manip of Taylor telling her followers to buy “Black Magic” on iTunes and the real life version of these events is so much better. Taylor introduces them and says “they have each other’s backs” and Little Mix rises from below the stage and create a perfect pentagram with the addition of Taylor’s hand. The whispered chant of when all is lost & love is tragic, cast a spell, it’s called black magic creeps out of the fog and Taylor tries hard not to grin but personas be damned, everyone’s face splits with joy & Jade’s cow eyes reach another level. Little Mix is a coven on their own and Taylor is undoubtedly a witch; the combination of the specific energy that radiates from girl groups and the Madonna of Taylor Swift creates a social big bang, a meteor shower we haven’t seen in nearly twenty years.

Pop music now, or more, the women that make up pop music rather than pop music as an institute, seems dedicated to women collecting women, the construction of covens and safe, nurturing spaces in which women use their power for each other instead of against each other. Taylor’s voice doesn’t ring out, it doesn’t compete, it blends and bolsters, just as her hand completes the pentagram. Taylor has power, she’s realized its potential and she’s sharing it while Little Mix have always operated on a shared power source. They are giving and receiving and it is symbiotic and fecund. Taylor’s power grows when she sends it out from herself and she has found a coven in Little Mix. She leans on them in turn, sinks to her knees in front of Leigh; each member of Little Mix worships every other and Taylor, usually alone on the stage, takes the opportunity to exercise physical praise, touching and flouncing and resting on the power of her surrogate coven.

Not Pop: Skitch & My Punk Revelation

If there is one thing I’m sure you’ve surmised from the content of my work on witchsong it’s that I’m a pop bunny. A fluffy pop bunny. Even during my “lost years” in high school, I was still listening to pop punk & couldn’t stray beyond the boundaries of a certain sound. I’m also reluctant to indulge the qualifying subgenres of music & for that reason, I call everything pop. I really only feel qualified to talk about pop music because that’s what I like & that’s what I listen to but it’s also what I think about & formulate opinions on, what I study; I am a student of pop, first & foremost. I’ll use that statement in my defense later if I truly fuck up this review.

I found the band Skitch (skate witch, hi Aly!) on Chastity Belt’s Facebook & clicked through mostly for the name but also because I trust Chastity Belt. They are a 3-piece from Seattle, Washington, currently unsigned but with a 3-song demo on bandcamp. I listen to a lot of bands on small labels but I haven’t foraged for music in a long time & honestly, can it be called foraging when I saw a link of Facebook? I think yes, at least for me, because I rarely partake in digital listening, I always buy hard copies of everything & I rarely preview things online before I buy. Skitch is a punk band & I’ve learned about the D.I.Y. element of punk from reading Aria’s work & I think bands putting their music online & having a Gmail address & name dropping other bands doing the same types of things is a type of D.I.Y. mentality. I see only Skitch & what Skitch has decided to put on the internet; they are in control & the interfering hand of God is visibly absence. There’s no shitty merch, no posed photoshoots, no lackluster singles all decided upon by powers outside the band & there’s no psycho label heads running them into the ground (i.e. One Direction). Skitch is free to be Skitch.

Please refer to the top of the page where I say I know nothing about anything that isn’t pop & remember that as you continue to read. I’m either intimidated or uninterested in all other genres of music – if I don’t have a pop base to attach to, I’m lost. So when I approached Skitch, I was a little nervous. I think pop & punk are meant to be the antithesis of each other (says who, I guess) & in some ways they seem unable to reconcile & exist to serve the same cause but I’m finding that to be less & less true the more I explore & the more I learn from Aria. Skitch has a song called “Beyoncé” & that’s when I stopped being scared. The last lyrics are a staccato chant of “I just want to listen to Beyoncé now” punctuated by symbols. There’s a punk band in my hometown & their Facebook profile photo has a Taylor Swift blanket hanging in the background & I can’t help but make parallels, feel some semblance of a connection, not between the bands but between the convergence of punk & pop that I never anticipated to find. The lyrics from the self-titled track, “we’re not a girl band, we’re not a girl band, we’re not a girl band” remind of me Carrie Brownstein speaking about the phrase “girl band” & how you wouldn’t qualify a band as a guy band, as if guy band is the rule & girl band is the rare exception.

I find comfort & pleasure in Skitch because they are touching back to things that resonate with me. They have a song called “Tinder,” & I, resident Tinder queen, feel very taken care of by this band. I feel like Skitch is my peer, like they are singing for me instead of to me. Pop is rarely meta, it doesn’t blatantly reference itself & discussing pop within other media is my livelihood so hearing Skitch, a non-pop band, sing about pop & online dating & girls is sort of revelatory.

I Could Go On & On & I Will: Taylor Swift in Charlotte, NC

Is there an award for number of times written about Taylor Swift because guess what, I’m about to do it again. This contains spoilers for the 1989 World Tour!

I saw Taylor Swift last Monday. I went the day before the show & bought high-waisted shorts because nothing else made sense. I looked up the set list in fear of being unprepared but mostly I just wanted to know how many times I was going to cry. I listened to “Love Story” maybe 10 times on the drive, punctuated by the “Bad Blood” remix, trying to get my Taylor ratios right.

She looks exactly how I thought she would, even from far away. A tall, glittery blur with a splash of red in the center; I swear I could see her lipstick from my seat, the highest peak in the room. Her mouth was wider than I anticipated, toothier. Her makeup never budged but she fidgeted with her sweaty bangs and I saw her chest heave. She took the stage in strides, flexed her colt legs, stomped & paused & posed. She can’t keep her chill on stage, can’t stay in character, can’t keep her twinkly eyes quiet enough to just perform. She’s too in love.

She played all of 1989 and of course I wanted to hear my Taylor foundation but right now, she’s 1989. She took songs from Fearless & Red & Speak Now and made them make sense for her now. I don’t think Taylor has ever been embarrassed by any emotion she’s ever felt. I think she thrives on documentation, writing it down exactly as she felt it so she remembers it correctly forever. She never deadens anything and the repurposed songs from her earlier records serve Taylor now, serve us now. I don’t think she’s growing in a vacuum & that’s probably why she trusted us to accept the new order of Taylor Swift. She can’t let go but she won’t look back & she’s evolving but some parts of her are inherent & fixed. I think “You Are In Love” is perhaps the greatest example of this. She sang it with an acoustic guitar at the very end of the catwalk, had us echo her & I felt like she was going to cry when she looked out at all of us. And you understand now why they lost their minds and fought the wars and why I’ve spent my whole life trying to put it into words. You can hear it in the silence, you can feel it on the way home, you can see it with the lights out, you are in love, true love.

 She took a moment before “Enchanted” to say that she writes about what she finds romantic, sitting in a princess dress in front of her piano, picked out the chorus & before I had time to cry she melted into “Wildest Dreams,” & I was too blindsided by the parallels to get choked up. She stood up & the skirt of the dress & the piano sank into the trap door of the stage, she stepped out into the center in a glittery jumpsuit & you could see Taylor in kaleidoscope. She’s still devoted to exploring the fantasy & the romance & reveling in the theatrics but she has stopped ignoring the darkness of fairytales. I felt like I was seeing the most complete version of Taylor Swift, her third puberty, her growing pains & benefitting more than I ever have.

I can’t believe how many times she changed clothes, how she shouted her way through “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” how hard I cried before “Clean” even started & of course I wish I had documented more but I couldn’t keep my hands steady, couldn’t sacrifice time to stillness when I needed to point & toss my hair around & screech in disbelief. Everyone in the audience had armbands that were meant to light up when she came on stage & they were coordinated to match her light show, everyone flashing pink & soft yellow & red & white, a steady pulse that connected us to her, to each other. The armbands still light up if you move, days later, a little E.T. finger reaching out to Taylor wherever she is now & her lighting up in response.

I thought I would be more upset about the show being over but I’ve padded my life so heavily with Taylor that it wasn’t jarring to see her live & then step back into my post-show life. I listen to her more than anyone else, she’s on my phone case & by extension, in all my selfies. I tag her on Instagram all the time. She’s fixed for me, a constant & seeing her live just made her bigger & realer & sweatier. She becomes less of a fantasy for me everyday, more applicable & I know that’s partially because things are changing in my life, I have more cause to apply her now, less emotional void, more faces I’ve saved to my camera roll, more specific boy sadness than I’ve ever had before & she is making me thankful for those things. Her love glow hasn’t dimmed & mine won’t either. She’s my big sis & I have to stop before I cry again.

I Contradict Myself: On Oddisee’s “Contradiction’s Maze” & Taking Care

Confusion is the theme of my life. I like watching aimless characters & listening to transitory voices, mirror media. Otherwise I get down & afraid that something is wrong with me, 23 with not a lot going on, one year out of college, B.A. still in the cardboard mailer, still working retail, still living at home. It reads like the plot to Post Grad but I don’t have blue eyes like Alexis Bledel. Stop the movie at peak conflict & insert me, erase the last 45 minutes because that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

I hate how much I love Song of Myself” but I cried in my American Literature class at 19 when my professor read parts of it aloud & I’m unable to detach. It’s like those supposed chemicals women release after an orgasm that induce attachment, my unforeseen Walt Whitman crygasm. I don’t read it often because I fear a total emotional collapse but I realized yesterday at work that I’ve found the musical equivalent.

The track “Contradiction’s Maze” from Oddisee’s The Good Fight is my 4-minute reminder that I’m big & full of contradictions & can probably do whatever I want. It is also my reminder that sometimes sitting on the couch is necessary & will provide me temporary happiness or at least will temporarily shut me down like a drone, which is also necessary. I find it difficult to write about male voices because they don’t often resonate with me – I feel like male voices are rarely in transit, which I know is generalizing, but men (white men) aren’t always tasked with growing up, boys will be boys even after they’re dead. I think they escape the fate of “figuring it out.” I find refuge from this in few places – Childish Gambino & Oddisee most consistently, Kendrick Lamar lately.

“Contradiction’s Maze” questions everything; nothing is safe or guaranteed, everything is weightless & buoyant, no tethers & near constant particle collision but every choice there is to make in life seems to possess a grave heaviness, the ever present spikey ball of lead in the stomach. You want to be kind to yourself in all the ways you know how but is kindness allowing yourself to relax or pushing yourself forward despite how tired you are?

Oddisee’s bravado isn’t lost; his strength isn’t compromised because he wants for opposites. He has options, he wants them all. Stability is a dream, a hardwired wish. He wants for homemade dinners & fast food, for vacations & the grind, for unlimited spending & frugality, for religion. I think I want a job at an office/I am the epitome of what a boss is/A paycheck every two weeks/over losing out on sleep for the fear that I go starving/and yet I wanna take more risks/I don’t want take more losses.

Maimouna Youssef provides the chorus, deceptively smooth, reflective & tinged with the simmer of panic, a near lamentation before Oddisee’s hustle shocks you to a boil. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself & he doesn’t seem apologetic for “wasting time,” but there’s no ease, he’s offering the unrest that I’m so accustomed to hearing from females. He isn’t reveling in the in between, he’s pushing against it, trying to find the balance. He’s unsure about everything & he’s troubled by it – there is no shrug here, no apathy or oh well. His discontent spiders in every possible direction, infinite tentacles touching infinite possibilities leading to infinite questions. I think I’m in a maze/I feeling conflicted within my brain/This contradictions got me feeling strange/Is a phase/Or is this the way?

I resonate with his selfish fear, the dread of the what if. How is anyone meant to know which choice is best & within what parameters is best defined? I think we are serving ourselves by questioning, by moving. A lack of clarity isn’t condemnable & sometimes we need to be reminded.

 

Help Me, Sporty Spice: A Workout Playlist

Amy Schumer has a bit about masturbation & she says if the temperature changes, she loses it, her concentration is broken, just never mind. That is how I feel about working out. My ability to workout hangs in the balance & if even one element goes off, I’m done (for weeks, honestly). The key component of my workout success is what I’m listening to (& how swishy my ponytail is) so here’s a playlist. I had a really good workout this week & now I think I know shit.

Beyoncé:
“7/11”
I don’t advise starting your workout with Beyoncé because you’ll go too hard & exhaust yourself within the 3 minute space of this song & you’ll wheeze your way through the next 57 minutes on the elliptical – okay 27 minutes, fine. Also, just look at her legs. That’s it.

“Run the World”

“Flawless” Beyoncé feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimamanda’s spoken section lights a fire under my ass like nothing else. I have also cried in the gym while listening to this, running the fastest I’ve ever ran.

Cher Lloyd:
“Swagger Jagger”
Made for riding an exercise bike, looking cheeky, winking, blowing kisses & waving patronizingly.

“Talkin’ That”
Cher has no chill & that’s what I need when I’m working out. I feel like I’m in a music video & it’s just jump cuts of me pulling faces & wearing pigtails.

“Over the Moon”
Her lil brat voice makes me feel very punchy. She also partially raps & partially sings so I can go hard for like 30 seconds during the verses & then take it down during the chorus.

“M.F.P.O.T.Y.”

 

Destiny’s Child:
“Survivor”
There is nothing to say. You know.

 

Grimes:
“Go” feat. Blood Diamonds
Grimes wrote this track for Rihanna but she turned it down so Grimes recorded it herself. You have to pedal fast during this track. Sometimes I listen to it twice per workout.

 

Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj:
“Bang Bang”

I am often worried that a member of gym staff is going to tap me on the shoulder & ask me to calm down because I’m dancing on the elliptical & they could get sued if I fell off & brained myself.

 

Little Mix:
I save Little Mix for the last 15-20 minutes of my workout because they are seriously the only humans capable of giving me enough energy to finish an hour on the elliptical. Without Little Mix, I probably wouldn’t work out. I low-key do the choreography from their videos. I particularly like listening to “Word Up!” because they are in gym clothes & Jade is rolling her eyes on an exercise bike + Sporty Spice is there kicking & leaning to the side with her arms crossed. I wish it was safe to work out in velvet platform trainers.

“Salute”

“Wings”

“Move”

“Word Up!”

“Stand Down”

“A Different Beat”

“How Ya Doin’?”

 

M.I.A.:
“Y.A.L.A.”

 

One Direction:
“Little White Lies”

I mostly don’t get down to 1D when I’m working out because I don’t want to think about them while I’m sweating within an inch of my life, underwear up my ass, glasses slid down my nose but Zayn’s echoed “what we came to do” makes me forget about all of that for a blissful 20 seconds. Then I snap out of it & disgustedly scroll away from them as fast as possible.

 

Taylor Swift
“You Belong With Me”

DO NOT listen to this while you are trying to run. You will stop & go home.

I Blame it on the Moon, I Blame it on my Mood: Growing Up with Best Coast

I bought Green Day’s Dookie when I was 12. I grimaced at the name but tried to keep my cool in the face of my definition of punk, the precipice of the next five years & a lot of ill formed (faux) suburban unrest, an extension of the decade I was born into but slept through. I was 12 & stuck to my Discman, memorized, internalized, pledged allegiance to Green Day’s then 7-piece catalogue; my first musical Big One since the Spice Girls. The recognition of an album or a band as intrinsically descriptive of an emergent part of you, the foundation of a personal cornerstone, doesn’t happen often. You have smaller, more frequent building blocks but the consumptive few, the formative, the path to you, presently, all start the same; the slow, pleasant, happily inevitably tip forward into the kaleidoscopic next few years.

Best Coast at 18 (& 23) did what Green Day did for me at 12 but more narrowly, more concentrated & with a greater sense of purpose. It is difficult to know what Green Day really represented to me as a preteen but Best Coast has navigated my past 5 years, faultlessly but not blindly.

Green Day told me what to be pissed off about, what to question & what to worry over, what to blow a plume of smoke at but Best Coast mirrors Best Coast with such tight reflexivity that you sort of have to apply your own circumstances & run parallel rather than fuse into one. Bethany, up until California Nights, sang inward, “I” laden & I could slot myself in but I never felt like the lyrics were directed outwardly. She writes consistent Dear Diary lyrics that have universal appeal, simplicity that’s easy to tap & extract, a macrocosm that blooms from her microcosm. California Nights, after the initial listen, felt like something I had listened to infinitely, a given, a hallmark – something I had memorized & pinned down & cut open & diagramed with little pins from the last 6 months of my life. Something that meant something before I even got to know it.

BC is often chastised for similitude but I don’t think that’s a weakness. I think each record Bethany writes grows a few inches beyond the last. Taylor Swift commented on the contingency between female songwriters being condemned for writing about relationships when their male counterparts aren’t & I think that is equally applicable for a band like Best Coast. Songwriting is narcissism, a journal read aloud without the betrayal & all artists, regardless of genre, employ the confessionalist method to some extent.

BC represents the transitory & the stagnant we all experience, trapped on the couch for most of Crazy For You but California Nights has motive & you can feel it inching forward. Self awareness is paramount on this record, full of pointed questions for the self, to Bethany from Bethany asked in a way that feels like the potential for growth, a want for knowledge in the hopes of improvement, self-help in self-effacement. Her lyrics are chant-like, power in repetition & the snap of waking up better, different – when will I change/visions of hope/visions of love/more than before I want them to come. The track “Fine Without You” offers pointed advice, something I’ve craved from BC since the beginning, verses for the benefit of her audience, her way of saying “this is what I’ve been implying over the course of 2 full lengths & an EP but I finally feel sure enough to say it explicitly.” If you spend all your life comparing yourself to her/eventually you will find/there’s no one like you in this world/I know it’s hard/I know it’s hard to understand/but you’ve got to let it go/the situation’s out of your hands.

 Best Coast songs are brief, overall & in my opinion, are much more lyrically driven than instrumentally but nearly every track on California Nights includes a space for a musical interlude, a place to reflect & shake your hair. As far as musicality goes, the fuzz that generally permeates BC records has slacked significantly – there are moments on Crazy For You where I strain to pick up vocals but California Nights is crystalline & multi-edged; her vocal nuances are audible, few details lost in the haze. Bethany dubbed herself (& her twitter account) Bratty BC several years ago (see the track “Bratty B” from Crazy For You) but that moniker is repurposed for California Nights. She drags her vocals in places, very California, a vocal fry with an arched lip. Her complacency no longer reigns – she’s a little frustrated, a little pissed off, singing with a sneer & more spit than I’ve ever heard.

Bethany posted a photo to Instagram from a recent photoshoot with the caption “BC all grown up” & I do think California Nights signifies a turning point for her – the familiar elements of Best Coast still populate the record, it is undeniably a Best Coast record but there is a touch of polish, no more hiding beneath the fuzz blanket. She’s still charming, she’s still moody, she’s still drinking by the pool but she doesn’t revel as much in being lost — she wants for things, wants for change, her discontent transformed into potential energy. This record is the vulnerability of Cher Horowitz’s inner monologue, her existentialism, her pouty worry & her outward confidence, her precision & command & I think that’s what BC wanted all along.

Best Coast is on tour now – click for dates.

He Couldn’t Handle Enchanted: Mix Making By Myself

I recently said I wanted to stop talking about myself so much. I said I wanted to take a more objective approach when writing about what I was listening to. But before I do that, here’s a playlist about a boy I really like(d) that hasn’t texted me in 12 days.

Tacocat – “You Never Came Back”
thinks he sees the universe/thinks he’s blessed but it’s a curse/chemistry has changed/wires rearranged/he’s burning/he never came back (to me)

Colleen Green – “You’re So Cool”
thought I saw you on the street/I called your name/I yelled baby/I got caught up too much in fantasy/love is strange/& so am I/but I don’t want no other guy/I can’t believe how cool you are to me/I ain’t got no job to occupy my time/so what else should I do/but think of me & you/all I do/all I do/all I do/all I do/is sit around & think of you/think of you/think of you/all I do/all I do/all I do/is think about you

Wavves feat. Best Coast – “Nodding Off”
don’t call me friend/I’m not your friend/don’t call me nothing at all/I stopped waiting for you call/stupid & annoyed/waiting for your call/god’s been nodding off

Taylor Swift – “Wonderland”
didn’t it all seem new & exciting/I felt your arms twisting around me/I should have slept with one eye open at night

I chose this song for several reasons. Firstly, I was listening to it a lot when I first started speaking to him. Secondly, I put it on the 16-track Taylor Swift only mix I made for him. & thirdly, I think I’m the only person who doesn’t believe that the entirety of 1989 was written about Harry Styles & maybe that is just me protecting my feelings & I know I should not speculate about this relationship but I feel like it lasted maybe 3 days & come on – Harry Styles is not a bad boy. He falls down too much. Plus, like, he’s not that good of an actor. But I do think this song is about him & the reason I like it so much is because I assume most people wouldn’t think such a, what appeared to be, brief relationship would warrant a song of this intensity. But it did because it was her relationship & she said so. I think about that every time I chastise myself for undermining what I’m feeling in regards to this relationship. It felt like the “I’m dizzy all the time” start of the relationship & this feels like the cold dregs at the end. It’s whatever I want it to be.

Charli XCX – “Need Ur Luv”
boy you really messed around/put me six feet underground/always kick me when I’m down/but I’m still driving through your town

This anecdote is both light & heavy – light because I’m going to frame it as comedy but heavy because it actually induced several hours of very dark worry. A few days after he stopped texting me I convinced myself that something had happened to him. He’s either a dick or he’s dead. The only contact information I had was his phone number & his address which feels both clinical & intimate, like his doctor has his phone number & his address but not his Facebook but also when was the last time you gave your address to a potential romantic interest you met on Tinder? He clearly was not responding to texts & I wasn’t going to call him (Posh Spice voice – I’m not that desperate, thank you). So I Googled his address but as I’m writing this now, I’m unsure of what I thought I was going to find that would help me know if he was injured or just playing that bubble game on his phone & ignoring the buzz of my genuine worry.

Sleigh Bells – “Love Sick”
love sucked/love sucked/he gave up up up up

Metric – “Sick Muse”
watch out/cupid stuck me with a sickness/pull your little arrows out & let me live my life

Sleater-Kinney “Start Together”
I don’t know/what you want/but I got/what you/baby don’t you leave me/baby don’t you go/I’ll roll with the punches/roll out the door

Kate Nash – “We Get On”
so I proceeded to get drunk & cry/& lock myself in the toilets for the entire night/Saturday night/I watched channel 5/I particularly liked CSI/I don’t ever dream about you & me/I don’t ever make up stuff about us/that would be classed as insanity

Potentially the most important song on this mix as it deals with the non-relationship relationship & how your emotions will transpire regardless. How you will cry & eat peanut butter from the jar. How your friends will laugh at his moustache. How you’ll be plagued by the potential. & in my case, how I’ll die a little bit every time I message another dunce on Tinder because I’m trying to find a replacement & also hoping if I swipe long enough, I’ll find him again & we can start over. Or I can just deliever my famous one-liner: r u fookin jokin me m8?

Waxahatchee – “La Loose”
& this charming picture of hysteria in love/it could fade or wrinkle up/I don’t hold faith in much/I know that I feel more than you do/I selfishly want you here to stick to

Cher Lloyd – “Sweet Despair”
I don’t really know what’s in the cards of life/all I really know is my tears won’t dry tonight/love was hidden within your smoke/blinding lights & disheartened hope

I did a tarot reading for him a few days before The End & I did it properly. I won’t say that the readings I’ve done in the past weren’t thoughtful & focused but I prepared a sacred space for this prick. & the reading included the Queen of Wands. If I were a tarot card, I would be the Queen of Wands. So of course, I was like holy shit, that card is me! That card represents my presence in his life! We were brought together so I could help him & teach him & guide him! Maybe with my help he won’t be unemployed, unenrolled in school & eating burritos for every meal. Literally every meal. I also chose this song because I was potentially catfished & it fits that theme.

Lily Allen – “Littlest Things”
so come on/tell me/is this the end

Littlest Things” is one of the saddest songs ever for me. Lily Allen is a softie & I think she gives a lot of herself away before she realizes what she’s doing & then she’s like shit, I’ve done it again. She’s a stud muffin. But I don’t think it should be a feeling of oh shit, I expressed emotions. Oh shit, I tried to get close to you. Oh shit, I liked you & I didn’t pretend otherwise. There’s an open-endedness to this song & I think that’s what makes me the saddest. I deleted his number & all our texts & he’s not on Tinder anymore but I’m still waiting for him to text me back because I feel like he has to. Or even more, waiting for him to show up at my house & say sorry. Also, I got a really cute haircut & I want him to see it, so.

Sleigh Bells – “Run the Heart”
you take a heart/I can take out two/you take a heart/I can take out you

Colleen Green – “Wild One”
I gave my guy all the love I could provide/what more could I have done to keep him by side/he may be insane but I’ve always loved him so/what choice do I have now but to let him go

Waxahatchee – “Breathless”
you always walk so slow/if I was foolish I’d chase a feeling I long let fade/& we could be good for days you take what you want/you call me back/I’m not trying to be yours/you indulge me/I indulge you/but I’m not trying to have it all

The whole mix was almost just Waxahatchee songs. Too sad to discuss. Please listen to Ivy Tripp if you have any questions.

*please see Can You Handle Enchanted for context

Beating Cool Girl Syndrome with Bethany Cosentino

In preparation for Best Coast’s new release (California Nights, due out May 5th on Harvest Records) I wanted to recite some stuff from my diary about Bethany Cosentino. She’s my truest twin heart. She has a cat called Snacks, a necklace that says Snacks, eats a lot of snacks. She took a photo beside a Taylor Swift perfume advert. She is also So Cool 101, my turbulent intro into the world of the unattainable cool girl, which I know sounds uncomfortable & unpleasant & I suppose in some ways it is because I mostly just want to scream SHE’S ME! I LOVE HER MORE, I GET HER! SHE WAS ELAINE BENES FOR HALLOWEEN ONCE! Her popularity remains in an upturn. She’s talked about like an alien babe novelty & I understand her poster girl status, Weird It Girl, but I’m still a little pissed about all the girls wearing her Urban Outfitters line & looking cute in a cropped letterman jacket. I know this is kind of my schtick, talking about all my moms & how they narrate this weird valley of my current life, the way I champion & dissect what it means to be without rest, my constant touchback to the 90s but BC was the first of her kind for me. She reintroduced me to media I loved as a child & reframed it, taught me how to repurpose it for adulthood (or whatever this current waiting room is called). IMG_0877

It is hard not to get a little jaded, a little green when your favorite steps out from your bedroom & into the light. I saw her photo in a recent issue of Nylon & wilted even though I’ve been campaigning to have her as the cover girl for years. I think I tweeted Nylon about it or maybe even wrote them a letter. I feel incredibly yoked to her, like her younger sister away at college, a secret emoji text code, but I also feel like she lives in California & I live in South Carolina & I’ve never seen her live & wouldn’t know what to do if I met her.

I have substantial sister envy & likely very inaccurate notions about what it means to have a sister or be a sister. I have an aunt I’m quite close to but I didn’t spend a lot of time with her until my teens. I missed out on the Alexia & Hayley Wheaton years. I think BC is a blend of both Wheatons so I don’t know who I’m meant to be in this scenario – the nonexistent family dog? A Kimmy Gibbler type? I think the root of my sisterly impulses towards BC come from the confessional, dear diary lyrical content of Best Coast songs. I don’t have to break the lock or smooth the duvet. This is where cool girl syndrome ends.

I have adopted BC as a foil for the micro & macro of my current life. She’s so strong but she’s always crying. I think of her alone in her house or alone by her pool, the want & need & embodiment of being alone. It looks like a choice on her, I think I want you & I think I need you but I’m probably wrong. I like that she can be alone & likes to be alone but also gets tired of herself. There’s a lot of personal unrest attached to BC, a lot of complacency, a lot of rhetorical questions answered or ignored by sleep or alcohol or by purchasing a Bart Simpson bodysuit. I remember feeling so totally aligned with her when she went for acupuncture treatments to help with anxiety but was too anxious to go in so she sat in her car & took selfies instead.

She talks about her mom a lot – I lost my job/I miss my mom/I wish my cat could talk my mom was right/I don’t wanna die/I wanna live my life – even my own mother asks me a lot of questions/I tell her I don’t to talk but she doesn’t stop/she’s just wondering & to me this feels like asking for help, a very small white flag in the life of a twenty something. I think a lot of pop music, as important as it is to me, leaves me feeling like I must find a resolution, like I must be strong & flip my ponytail. Pop music, lyrically & structurally, has no room for aimlessness, no room for fear or the grey loom of “what if.” Pop music is all about the rebirth, the ascension. I’m grateful for this & require it most of the time but sometimes I want to hear the lines I don’t remember what it means to be me or the fear of my identity is standing right in front me/I want to run but I can’t see/I want to scream but I can’t speak/I want it to be you but I know its me & feel the panic crest but then feel the terror subside to make room for the softest ease of “Oh, how did she know?”unnamed-49

BC reminds me of all the witchy loves I’ve had in my life, reminds me heavily of drinking my first strawberry daiquiri at the beach watching Hocus Pocus. She’s a few years older than me, enough that I feel I’m safe, looked after when trusting her inadvertent advice – my cosmic big sister. I feel towards her the way I feel towards Stevie Nicks, very inherent, a thread brought up from the center of the earth that we both hold, the most natural sense of lineage & matriarchy. I know this all seems a bit overwrought but you know it when you feel it. I even bought something from that Urban Outfitters line.

all images from Bethany’s Instagram