witchsong

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: ZAYN’S “PILLOWTALK”

ALY: I had mixed feelings – confusingly, frustratingly mixed feelings – when I listened to this, and I think that’s due mostly to the video. I am sorry: this is not the video for me. I do think it’s an extremely interesting use of bodies and sex to create something that I ultimately don’t find sexy, but I don’t need to watch it again.

The rest of my mixed feelings came from something akin to disappointment, a sort of underwhelmed “hm” that even now I am ashamed to admit. I think what it comes down to is that my feelings were hurt when he left and no matter what this song was, it was going to take me some time to warm up to it. My girlfriend called me at two in the morning and we talked about it – she’s a Zayn girl – and I kind of needed that, to hear her so genuinely thrilled and excited about it, to sort of thaw me out. I was trying to be objective about this – about the debut album of someone I have loved for years, someone who hurt me but not intentionally, someone who is spreading his tiny little art-bro wings and flying – and I was just like, why? Why now, of all times, do I need to be objective about music, a thing that I have never once in my life been objective about?

This is the truth: I don’t know a lot about R&B, and my truest love is pop music. On first listen, this song underwhelmed me, but I woke up with nobody but you / body but me / body but us / bodies together pulsing in my skull.

This is another truth: If this album were Zayn yelling “FUCK ONE DIRECTION” over a bassline I would still listen to it, and I would be sad about it but I would still love it, because this – all of this – is important in ways that I cannot even begin to articulate, this fact that Zayn is becoming what he wants to become, and everything that entails. The way he is engaging with fans, with the world, and yes, with himself as a young Muslim man of color; all of this is part of this song, and this album, of Zayn Malik as ZAYN, and to pretend it’s not is to deny something incredibly, really significant.

ASHLEY: Zayn’s debut as a solo artist is rife with conflict for me. We should start there. I’m so incredibly happy to see him release music as a solo artist—find his own identity on the charts, including dropping his last name to mirror the likes of Beyoncé—but it’s been hard to get to this moment. There’s been relief, and there’s been irritation parsing through FADER and Billboard cover stories. It has been “paradise” and a “war zone.” “PILLOWTALK” is a strong debut—I can’t wait to hear it outside of my iPhone on the off-chance I actually step into a Manhattan nightclub soon, and watch people grind to nobody but you, ‘body but me—but it’s not the groundbreaking single that will change the music industry as it’s been touted in multiple cover stories.  I guess what I’m saying is, “PILLOWTALK” will fit in on Top 40 radio right alongside Bieber and Drake. He’s gone in a new direction, but that doesn’t mean it’s revolutionary (particularly the video which objectifies a woman and uses her as prop for Zayn’s own sexual awakening).  The timeline of artist’s using their sexuality to proclaim their musical agency goes back decades. Maybe it’s that as a fan of “Zayn Malik from One Direction”, I often daydreamed of him singing The Weeknd tracks on Bus 1 with Liam laying down the track. We’ve known since his X Factor debut what his allegiances and references were musically. Zane Lowe and other male rock critics might be surprised by the depth of Zayn’s mind, but I am not. It’s the music that all of us who followed Zayn Malik’s career for five years have known he is capable of recording. It’s good, meandering. Sexy. Climb on board / We’ll go slow and high tempo… Hold me hard and mellow… The production of the song elevates the lyrical content. As promised to The Sunday Times, “PILLOWTALK” is Zayn’s exploration of sex. A place that is so pure, so dirty and raw / In the bed all day, bed all day, bed all day / Fucking you, and fighting on… Zayn is all grown up, a twenty-three year old man who in the last year alone has cut ties with his former bandmates and fiancée in order to go back to his Bradford roots and reclaim the identity he feels he lost between the shuffle of stadiums and hotels. A year from the date Zayn Malik left One Direction, ZAYN will release “Mind of Mine” on his own terms, my pre-order will be ready for download. I need to hear “Befour” and “It’s You.” My enemy, my ally / Prisoners…

CORBIN: I tried to write a serious and nuanced review of “PILLOWTALK,” but I can’t. Not that I’ve ever had any interest in “””objective””” evaluation of music anyway, but, it is impossible to listen to “PILLOWTALK” as a standalone piece of music rather than a new installment in the greatest narrative saga of our time, Everything Relating To One Direction, and I am so thrilled to be here to witness it that my usual avenues of critique are all blocked off and all I can do is bask in how delighted I am that ZAYN, now a single-name entity stylized in all caps, is free to make this Gap commercial about vaginas. He made a whole album of this Drake-meets-the-1975-sounding music!!! He’s releasing it on March 25th, a year to the day from when he left One Direction!!! All of this is a real thing that’s really happening and we get to watch it unfold like a lily between the legs of a supermodel!!! Life is beautiful and poignant and strange and I am going to go to sleep tonight with reck less beHAV IAAah echoing in my head. God bless us every one. Buy “PILLOWTALK” on iTunes.

KENZIE: I am not impressed by what Zayn, or should I say ZAYN, is bringing to the table lately. Part of that is, of course, One Direction-related. I don’t like the way he shirks any accountability in the current relations between he and his former bandmates, the way he is so easily forgiven any responsibility in the lapse in communication. Yes, I have some complicated feelings about all the One Direction drama last year, and I’m sure that is impacting the way I approach ZAYN now. But even beyond that, I’m just not into the whole image being presented right now. When I was a guest on #SWOONSTEP I said that I’d paid my dues with an artbro phase, that those days were behind me. I meant it. I really, really dislike guys whose Tinder profiles would just read “420 + pussy = life” beneath a moody over-filtered picture of them where you can’t see their face, and that is exactly what ZAYN is leaning into right now. Last night when I listened to the song the first time, I made a note on my phone that reads simply, “the ways he says Fuck with the heavy emphasis of a 12-year-old saying it to his friends for shock value.” I’m not surprised. This is exactly what I expected ZAYN’s first single to sound like, the video looks exactly like I thought it would, blooming vagina-flowers and all. But this is all in line with a ZAYN I find sort of blandly irritating, like an annoying guy in your class that you can’t wait to be rid of at the end of the semester, even if you are secretly hoping you run into him at a party where you can blame the desire to kiss him on alcohol. Plus, okay, yeah. It stings that he claimed he was going to make #realmusic and #realart and then we got a college freshman’s intro art class project run through every Windows movie maker filter. “Kiss You” is, objectively, a much better video, and I’m not sorry to say it.

All of that being said, the video is pleasantly and surprisingly gay in between being terrible, and the song is pretty enjoyable if you mumble along so that all the goofy artbro lyrics are obscured. ZAYN’s voice is spectacular and I hadn’t even realized how much I missed hearing him until he started singing. And I mean, I’m fake as hell and I’ve listened to this song on repeat all day; I just pretend the lyrics are “hmm hmm hmm ba duh da duh reck-UH-liss behavi-YUUUUUUH ba duh duh dummmm.”

TESS: When Zayn left One Direction I was too busy falling in love to care, and today, as the first #zingle is released unto the world, I am too physically ill with heartbreak to have much of an opinion about it one way or another. “Pillow Talk” is pretty lyrically humorless and dull (pleasure/pain, light/dark, hard/mellow, paradise/war zone, like, “so dirty and raw” okay, bud, I get it), and I personally have never had much patience for the “Yes I Have In Fact Had Sexual Intercourse” genre of music unless the song has a certain amount of levity and wit to engate how boring it is to hear some boy brag about the fact that he has fucked a girl before but, you know what? I’m happy for Zayn. It is 2016 but the way that we talk about and relate to sex culturally is still so fraught as to make all openly sexual pieces of media A Statement by default. I may not find “Pillow Talk” to be particularly “sexy”, but there is no denying that it is a song about sex, and for a person of color, a young brown man whose sexuality is inherently coded as aggressive, volatile, and other in a milquetoast lily-white society and subsequently repressed– a young brown man who spent five years of his life making white music with white boys under the control of white people — this territory is all the more treacherous to explore. Zayn Malik singing about fucking and fighting in the bed all day isn’t just Zayn Malik singing about fucking and fighting in the bed all day. It is Zayn Malik employing a right to sexual autonomy and sexual expression that the world would prefer he didn’t have. If Zayn wants to be a gloomy Drizzy Jr. with a swirl of Miguel and the most cringeworthy moments of The 1975 then that is what I want for him, too. I probably won’t listen to this song very many more times, but I am glad it exists. Art is an exercise in actively making the personal available for public consumption, and the process of its creation involves so many lenses and complexly moving parts that the idea of authenticity and the fact of artifice blur until the two are in fact one slippery amalgam. I don’t mean to imply that I am interested at all in interrogating what is or is not “real” in a piece of art, a meaningless endeavor, but that when someone is able to take a step closer to a version of their truth, we are all better off.

Furthermore, Gigi Hadid is so beautiful I want to give her both my kidneys.

carson’s top 5 new songs of the week

“The Sound” – The 1975

In which Matty Healy is, yet again, a bit of a dick to some romantic interest — You’re so conceited that I say that ‘I love you’/What does it matter if I lie to you — and acknowledges exactly how much of a dick he’s being — It’s not about reciprocation, it’s just all about me/A sycophantic, prophetic, Socratic junkie wannabe.

Plus, you’ll note a few references to “Girls” — outright, And we left things to protect my mental health, but more subtly, She said “I got a problem with your shoes and your tunes/But I might move in. Layered with disco beats and abstract references to philosophy, “The Sound” is only the latest in The 1975’s fantastically self-aggrandizing, self-deprecating singles released for their upcoming album. Mark your calendars: I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It will be released on February 26, 2016.

“Run” – Tiggs Da Author ft. Lady Leshurr

Apparently this song is on Fifa 16 (which has been out for quite a while and certainly before 2016). If I were you, I would be really angry that it only just now became available to stream on Spotify and the like. Not only is “Run” the perfect sports anthem, it’s also the perfect pre-gaming anthem. It’s the perfect lazy days anthem. A good song is one that can fit nearly any occasion, and this one does the job very well.

“Overcome” – Laura Mvula ft. Nile Rodgers

Taking the form of an inverted church song, Laura Mvula pushes soul through a powerful pop anthem. She adds a lot of gospel elements to the song overall, adding in a choir (complete with church organ) and creating general thematic and lyrical repetition, for example. It makes sense — a song about suffering and overcoming is a narrative told time and time again, always beginning with a single voice speaking out and finding its groove halfway through. A sudden explosion as more voices join the rising chorus, until the voices become an echoing refrain of strength and empowerment. “Overcome” ends up as a round — one Laura Mvula repeats the final line of the song, only to be overtaken by another Laura Mvula, unending.

“Conquerer” – AURORA

We’re brought to life with yet another Fifa 2016 track! I was at first surprised to find that a song with such a happy-go-lucky melody is on the soundtrack for a video game that mostly concerns people aggressively kicking a ball around. Then I listened a little more closely to some of its lyrics: But there’s no seduction only destruction/Oh fantasy take me over and break me. It turns out to be dark, exploring what may be a non-sexual attraction to Machiavellian characters. And suddenly “Conqueror” adds a layer of insidiousness beneath a fun, bubblegum melody. I’m still not sure why it’s on the Fifa 2016 soundtrack, but I’m happy it is.

“Small Talk” – Ekkah

Be sure to watch the video on this one. Gaze at these beautiful women with glitter packed onto their eyelids. Watch them dance inside glow-in-the-dark hula hoop and coordinate apathetic arm movements. Listen to the impassioned voices of these stunning ladies purr in syncopated harmony, and feel the synths rise to the occasion of a crystal-sugar one-night stand. What do you wanna do? They ask, already knowing the answer.


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

NEW MUSIC FRIDAY: HINDS’ “LEAVE ME ALONE”

It’s not that the words “garage pop” have never tickled my fancy, exactly. They certainly sound cool, especially when they’re put next to each other – they seem in contradiction, one oozing grungy pretension and the other gently blowing pink sugar into your face. Unfortunately, the music itself is what I find… difficult.

But put “Spanish girl group” and “normcore” in front of those two words, and suddenly I don’t care how difficult my experiences with garage pop may have seemed. And so, the first LP presented by Spanish normcore girl group Hinds, Leave Me Alone, enters into my consciousness. You expect normcore girls to be the epitome of cool and of taste. But people don’t live in just one box, a refrain I must repeat to myself over and over again.

Hinds is pessimistic youth, from the way they dress to the content of their videos, to the overlay on each track — rather than harmonizing, they sloppily speak over each other. Often, they aren’t even singing the same things. As one member finishes a line, drawing out the last word, another intentionally interrupts, unapologetic, because she too has something to say.

“Warts” deviates from the sound of the first two songs off the album, just ever-so-slightly. The distortion on the guitar subsides, and while every song on Leave Me Alone sounds like a beach track, the mellowed-out instrumental backing in “Warts” brings the group’s overall sound right up to the shore. “Warts”, like each and every one of Hinds’ tracks, features a lot of meaningless noises and simpering shrieks towards the end of the track, which really ties it all together in a gloriously petulant way.

Speaking of chilled-out beach vibes, “Solar” — the only instrumental piece off the album — paints a picture of a perfect day, sitting in Retiro Park in Madrid by the lake. It’s May, the sun hotter than you imagine a spring day’s sun could be. You’re wearing a black, ruffled bikini top and cut-off shorts, and you’ve just found the perfect place to throw down your towel.

You kick off your Keds and stick your toes in the water, watching ducks heckle tourists for bread crumbs as the sun sparkles on the water. A paddle-boat passes by and you lay back, closing your eyes, as the song fades out and is replaced by snippets of Spanish coming from a nearby family you can only half-hear. The beauty of an instrumental track like “Solar” is its ability to create a visual behind its shimmering guitars, lazily floating in and out of view.

Four Spanish chicks getting drunk on a bottle of whiskey, alternate takes between angry and giggly, lip-syncing as close to the camera as they can get without actually touching it. Four silly girls throwing chips into each other’s mouths, pretending to pout to the camera only to burst into laughter, plastering themselves with temporary tattoos and trading swigs of a bottle of OJ. Add to these elements the lines I am stealing your cigars / just ‘cuz they’re closer than mine and the repetition of all I’m asking is for you to make a move and you get a syrupy sundae of ambivalence and lazy nights at local bars.

There’s so much wanting in this album, but the wanting is tinged with levity, of understanding that wanting to be famous and wanting sex is always there in you, but it’s not an important thing. It’s all about having a laugh, even if every song is dripping with vaguer notions of desire that Hinds-the-band and you-the-listener can’t quite reach. Sometimes the fun-loving stands strong against the ambitious. The desire for that perfect San Diego night to play on repeat is tempered by the knowledge that the perfect nights of the future will be just as endless.

What I’m trying to say here is that nothing else matters because you have your band, and you have your girls. Your life is the best kind of indie movie, and everything will be okay.


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

NEW MUSIC THURSDAY: SIA ALERT

In brief new music news, Sia just released a new track from This Is Acting, and it’s produced and co-written by Kanye.

Also it was one of the seven million tracks originally intended for Rihanna’s probably-never-coming-out Anti. But whatever! Whatever. Sia deserves it more anyway.

For a late-period Kanye song, it’s quite upbeat. For a Sia song, it’s pretty undramatic! With a sweet little bluesy hook of the rock organ, maybe? I guess what I’m saying is that “Reaper” could most certainly be the best single off This Is Acting, is all.

Expect a more complete New Music Friday post tomorrow!


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

I Am Who I Am and Who I Need to Be: Out of the Woods

Taylor Swift has always been a source of incredible sincerity. Sincere is not the same as authentic and no, I will not be talking about authenticity because I think it’s a boring, boring way to discredit pop music, its makers, and the people who listen to it. I don’t think I need to explain Taylor’s sincerity very much, because the song “Fifteen” exists and serves as a much better explanation than I could ever dream of writing. The point is that Taylor, in her image and her music, has always been a heartspace of unfiltered earnestness and love, for me and for so many others. And in 2015, the sincerity was compromised.

1989 Taylor is sharp, all angles and perfect answers to interview questions. She is so sparkly, which is something she’s always been, but nowadays it’s less people throw rocks at things that shine and rhinestoned guitars than it is the hard glint of the mirrored disco balls of New Romantics. 1989 Taylor is a diamond – glittering, beautiful, and hard hard hard.

There’s nothing wrong with being hard. There’s nothing wrong with someone making themselves tougher by encasing themselves, especially when that someone is an international pop star famous for her emotional vulnerability. None of us have any right to expect Taylor to lay herself bare to us. But I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t become disenchanted with her in 2015.

You see, Taylor has always meant every single word she said. She believes so strongly in telling stories to pull through her emotions, and I’ve always trusted her to tell me her truth. In her I found a place to feel my heart understood. That’s not to say that I took her word as gospel or anything, but I believed her. I believed that the girl in the dress wrote me a song.

Let me be clear: none of this means I stopped believing her, or that she’s meant any less to me, or that I think she should become her younger self again. It’s just that it was hard for me, and (from what I’ve gathered) a lot of other fans, to find that same vulnerability, that sincerity and earnestness that was once so easy to see, under the layers of shine and gloss. I got distracted by all the refracting light and glittering mirrors, so carefully placed by Taylor and the media and us, and I mistook this distraction for disillusionment.

But Taylor has never been an illusion; she’s so adamant about that. I was there; I remember. How could I have forgotten about that? Taylor’s validation of her experiences through assertion of presence extends far beyond the narratives of her songs. It’s also a part of who she is as a person, all the way from Taylor Swift™ to just Taylor. I was there is not just a way to read and make sense of the past, it’s also a way to understand the present. In every version of herself, in every way, she’s here, she’s been here, she was right here the whole time.

In the “Out of the Woods” video, Taylor Swift wears a blue dress and runs through a muddy forest with wolves snapping at her feet. She crawls through the dirt and she drowns and she escapes and she walks through the fire, all so she can find an unscathed version of herself and tap this Taylor on the shoulder. After all this time, after all she went through, she is here.

I didn’t cry the first time I watched the video, because I was with a crowd of people and it was playing on TV as part of the New Year’s Eve special. I actually found myself making fun of the video, but the second the words left my mouth, I knew something was wrong. Taylor has never been a source of cynicism for me, but I guess it turns out that she’s not the only one who’s been sharpening her edges. So I went home and cried because I knew my heart was colder than it used to be.

The Taylor who taps herself on the shoulder at the end of the video is not the same as the Taylor in the pretty blue dress, hair blowing in the wind. She has mud caked on her face. Along her arms are scratches where the tree branches and vines have curled around her. She’s thrown her necklace over a cliff – she’s thrown herself over a cliff – and her dress has been torn apart by wolves and fire. She looks cold and tired, and her eyes are sad, but she reaches out to her old self because it’s all she can do. “Out of the Woods” is a song about memory, constantly repeating I remember, I remember, but it’s not really about any one specific moment. I remember is a phrase rarely accompanied by a second clause. She remembers whatever you need her to, she remembers for the sake of memory, of honoring all her past selves, every version of herself she’s ever been or wanted to be.

Taylor Swift taps herself on the shoulder to say that she’s right here, and she remembers.

And in that moment, I remember, too.


Asif Becher is a 16 year old recently discovered cat lady who lives in the desert. She is often asked to “chill” about Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Taylor Swift, a suggestion she finds absolutely ridiculous. You can find her on Twitter and on tumblr.

Foals Steal Christmas…and the Show

Sitting on Santa’s lap while watching Foals shred must seem like a scenario to rival your trippiest sugar plum visions, right? Well, I must have made the Nice List this year because that was my reality at Chicago’s The Night We Stole Christmas festival.

Running December 3rd through 6th and featuring steady acts like Twenty One Pilots, Bastille, The Struts, and Silversun Pickups, the four-night lineup yielded a ring of Yuletide cheers throughout the storied Aragon Ballroom. I attended Sunday, the final evening, wrapped in intoxicated denial of the work week ahead. Eager to meet the masters of feisty English rock for a third time, I milled with my concert crew until Highly Suspects surrendered the stage to Foals.

The Oxford natives emerged and started a set that would rouse even Old Saint Nick. First up was “Snake Oil” from their latest album, What Went Down. The five-piece continued to stoke a fiery set with upbeat oldies like “Olympic Airways” and “Two Steps, Twice”, fresh fuel via “Mountain at My Gates” and some in-between pleasers (“Spanish Sahara”, “Providence” and “Inhaler”). With Yannis’ perfected pendulum guitar swing, a dash of effervescence and a bold awareness of “the journey”, these musicians held the room for ransom.

“Providence” has proven a stage favorite and key player in Foals’ arsenal. This performance was no exception. While the rest of the band circled up, mid-track, Yannis wandered into the crowd, extending the crescendo of carnal lyrics and free-form guitar. “I’m an animal just like you. I’m an animal just like you” echoed and accelerated. Even from my post at the very back of the venue, the building energy was infectious. The followers concurred.

The band manages to corral indie rock and dance-punk into one arena with aplomb and maybe some slight negotiating, seizing already enraptured followers and those looking for the missing links in their audio collection.

While their latest release spins like a recap of the previous records, it rumbles with newfound meditations and explorations, sonically and conceptually. Of course, as already alluded to, a live sampling is the best way to witness the band’s evolution – an interactive time capsule complete with enough stamina to shatter even Clark Griswold’s 25,000-bulb display.

In light of all that noise, these gentlemen have now been thrust to the top of my must-see (again…and again) list. Take note.

While Foals are a tough act to follow, Silversun Pickups transcended expectations and not just in the wardrobe department. Nikki Monninger nailed basslines in a shimmering blazer/skirt union, which, combined with the lightshow ricochet, provided a stage-bound disco ball. Totally festive, totally major.

The visual pomp didn’t outshine their skyrocketing sound, though. It merely partnered with satiating performances of new thrills (“Nightlight” and “Circadian Rhythm”), radio favorites (“Panic Switch” and “The Pit”) and the forever crowd-fusing last dance, “Lazy Eye”, a performance which alone could have earned them closing rights.

I left the Uptown venue in a daze. I know who “stole Christmas”, but who snatched the past hours I spent swaying under a star-filled ceiling? Did Krampus join in the ruse? I fumbled around in my pocket for a glove, and instead brushed my ticket – a concrete reminder that all the magic of the night wasn’t just a pipe dream.

I’ll trade a drowsy Monday for that pre-Christmas gift any day.


Where is Meaghan Lee‘s mind? It’s often splashing in a pool of puns, Spotify playlists, or obscure movie quotes. Sometimes she deviates from her primarily monochrome wardrobe. 

Popular Magic (Shake It Off)

I’m gonna put on a little more
lipstick. Gonna hitch my little black dress so high they can
see the tattoos on my thighs, then put on my leather jacket
and drive. Forget drinking in alleys, this time I’m gonna
dance on rooftops. Yeah, sadness and heartbreak are facts
of life, and the haters gonna hate, but honey, I’m just gonna
shake it off.

-Jessie Lynn McMains, from “Popular Magic

1) I was supposed to be writing a jazz playlist, but I couldn’t, and it’s all Taylor Swift’s fault. A few weeks ago I decided it would be a good idea to blast 1989 while dying my hair, which turned into me listening to “Shake It Off” eight times in a row. I listened to “Shake It Off” multiple times a day for three days straight, and sought out every T-Swift cover I could find. Then I listened to my other favorite ladies of pop music – Lana Del Rey and Beyoncé. I wrote a fucking poem about the way pop music makes me feel, and I got my copy of Megan Falley’s Bad Girls, Honey: Poems About Lana Del Rey in the mail.

When it came time to finish up the jazz playlist, I couldn’t. All I wanted to write about was how much I love pop and how much I used to hate it and how it’s ridiculous that it’s taken me until the age of thirty-three to fully embrace it.

2) It’s not entirely correct to say I used to hate pop music. The truth is, I didn’t give it half a chance. I was into pop as a kid but by the time I turned twelve I’d immersed myself in the grunge and alternative rock thing. Shortly after that, I got into punk and indie rock, and shut myself off to anything popular or mainstream.

When I first got into punk and indie, I ranted in my zine about indie cred and elitism. “I’m so tired of having to be one thing, just one thing, to maintain my place in the punk scene,” I wrote. Punks seemed so hellbent on pigeonholing everyone that you weren’t even allowed to enjoy more than one subgenre of punk without getting flack. “If you’re a ’77-style punk, you sure can’t listen to emo. If you’re a hardcore kid, you’d better not like any pop punk bands. If you’re goth-punk, you can never listen to skacore. And if you listen to anything mainstream, god forbid, you’re labeled a poser. Because if you were a real punk, you would have come out of the womb with a mohawk haircut and a Born Against record in your hand.” I admitted that I liked not only all kinds of punk and indie, but also non-punk, non-indie stuff like Counting Crows and Jewel and the Spice Girls.

I spent so many years in subcultures wherein I had to prove myself in myriad tiny ways – everything from how I dressed to how many obscure bands I’d heard of. I spent so many years getting anonymous comments in my webpage guestbooks (Guestbooks! Christ, I’m so old.) like die poser die. I spent so many years listening to mind-numbingly stupid songs like “She’s A Poser” by Teen Idols. I’m telling you, that song is truly stupid and awful. It’s about a girl who likes more than one kind of music and, worse than that, hangs out with more than one kind of person. She likes Ramones, and the Boyz II Men, and when she trips acid, the Grateful Dead. One of the other lines is: I wish she’d learn to think for herself someday. According to the song, being open-minded and enjoying more than one thing means you’re brainwashed, but if you pick one style or genre or subculture and never stray outside its bounds, then you’re thinking for yourself. Fucking gross.

All those years of being beat over the head with those “rules” exhausted me. Because I was so exhausted, I let my guard down, and became one of the elitist indie-punk kids I swore I’d never be. At least I never called anyone a poser in their webpage guestbook. I still had that going for me.

3) The first time I listened to Taylor Swift was June of this year, when I started mapping out ideas for “This Is A Torch Song.”

I realized that while I was well-versed in popular music from the 1930s (such as The Andrews Sisters and Cole Porter) through the 1990s, I didn’t know much about anything since then. But as it was a piece about women in popular music, I knew I had to include Taylor, as she’s sort of the Pop Queen. (Brief nostalgic anecdote: there’s a Ben Lee song called “Pop Queen,” which I always associated with the straight girl I had a torturous crush on through most of middle and high school. It still kills me to listen to because I picture her cotton candy-color streaked hair and her gorgeous smile.) So I bought a few of her older songs, and the entirety of 1989. The older stuff didn’t move me, but 1989 sure did. I could dance to it! I could sing along to it! It was fun!

The first track I fell in love with was “Blank Space.” Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane – but I’ve got a blank space, baby, and I’ll write your name. As anyone who knows anything about me could tell you, that is the story of my goddamn life. I’d like to hear a punk cover of it. Someone pointed me to I Prevail’s cover, but they change the pronouns to make it hetero, which is hella boring. I want to hear a girl punk band or a queer punk band cover it – I’m thinking either Bad Cop/Bad Cop or Hunx and His Punx. I’m imagining the Hunx and His Punx version in my head as I write this, and it’s epic – Hunx’s flirtatious, bratty voice sighing I can make the bad guys good for a weekend? Sign me the hell up.

4) Not only did I internalize punk and indie elitism, I internalized misogyny. Especially when it came to things like the music I listened to, the way I dressed, and my other interests.

I started calling myself a riot grrrl in 1994. Despite the message of spread girl love, not girl hate, I compared myself to the mainstream/popular girls and decided I was better than them. It stemmed from insecurity – I thought no one liked me because I was a nerd and a weirdo, so I told myself they were too stupid to see how awesome I was. “I’m better than all those girls who spend hours on their makeup and listen to Top 40 radio. I’m a feminist and a punk and a writer. One day they’ll see how cool I am, and they’ll feel bad for ignoring me for so long.” Years later, I discovered that many of the people who I thought hated me had been dealing with their own shit, and thought I was too cool for them. It made wonder how many friendships I’d missed out on because I was busy acting like an uptight, elitist dicknail.

Another way I internalized misogyny was by listening to dudes I dated tell me that the music they liked was superior to the stuff I liked. The intellectual indie dudes made fun of the “generic punk bands” I loved, and pushed me to listen to post-hardcore and anti-folk and math rock and noise and blah blah blah. The Tr00 Punx dudes laughed at my pop punk records and my not-so-secret love for chick folk singers, saying that stuff was “girly.” Girly, meaning not hardcore enough, not punk enough, less-than. Though I never stopped listening to what I liked, it was impossible not to take some of it to heart. What is it with dudes? Why are there so many of them who force their girlfriends to get into everything they’re into, but won’t even attempt to show an interest in their girlfriends’ faves?

5) I was never a punk purist. I never was able to limit my music library to one kind of music, or one subgenre of punk, without getting bored.

I was an indie snob. I tried not to listen to anything mainstream, or at least not anything current and mainstream. Pop was fine, but only if it was either retro pop or indie pop. That’s weird to me now – I felt okay about listening to ‘60s girl groups or ‘80s new wave, but I couldn’t listen to Destiny’s Child or Pink?

And the indie pop I listened to? Most of it was of the twee variety, scrawny British or wannabe-British boys whinging about tea and cigarettes and how some girl broke their heart. What a snooze-fest.

I did have guilty pleasures that were neither punk nor indie, and I admitted to those…but I used them as weapons. As strange as it sounds, I used them to make myself seem more punk, like: “I am so punk that I don’t even care if you know I listen to this terrible, mainstream music! Fuck you.”

6) It has been a long, slow process to cure myself of special snowflake syndrome, and the elitism and misogyny bound up in that.

One thing that helped was embracing so-called girly and frivolous things like makeup and fashion. I’m not saying that should be every woman’s path to ridding themselves of internalized misogyny. But it helped me when I realized that makeup and fashion were fun, and that I could get all glammed up and still be smart and feminist. The other thing that helped was embracing pop music.

A girl I dated aided me in both those things. She was high femme. I only saw her wearing pants twice in the entire time I knew her, and she was usually dressed in some shade of pink. She also had eclectic taste in music, and felt no shame about it. We’d go on dates to makeup counters at department stores for their free samples and makeovers. Then we’d go back to her place and get stoned, and model outfits for each other while listening to OutKast’s “Hey Ya” or the Spice Girls’ “The Lady is a Vamp.” She was a vamp who could shake it like a Polaroid picture, and I miss her.

7) When I finally allowed myself to listen to and enjoy pop music, I felt free.

It takes so much work to be punk or indie. You’re always having to prove that you’ve heard of all the right bands, and that you heard of them first. There’s no such litmus test for pop. I can say: “I’ve only been a Taylor Swift fan for a few months, and I’ve only been into Lana and Bey and Nicki for a little longer than that,” and no one tries to tell me I’m not a true fan. I mean, someone could, but that would be ridiculous. I don’t have to prove my pop cred, I can just let myself get caught up in the music.

Pop music makes me feel young again. It gives me a teenage feeling I never had, because I was an insecure, indier-than-thou jerk. When I was young, it was punk that taught me how to be reckless, but now that I’m older, it’s pop that tells me I can still live with wild abandon. Even the sad pop songs feel like lush, glamorous sadness, rather than the whiny sad-bastard stuff I used to think was so great.

8) “Blank Space” was the first T-Swift song I loved, but last week it was overtaken by “Shake It Off.” That song is so damn catchy, and it makes me feel so good.

When I listened to it while dying my hair, I made up a little dance. I decided that if I still did burlesque, I would do a routine to that song. And, as I said, after listening to 1989 on repeat, I started looking for covers of the songs from that album. The best “Shake It Off” cover I found was by Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox. They do it in the vein of Motown, and it’s one of the few covers I’ve heard that has as much pizazz as the original. I also like the Screaming Females cover quite a lot, because it’s punk as hell, and Marissa Paternoster rules. As far as “Blank Space” goes, Postmodern Jukebox does a killer cover of that one, too – it’s not the punk cover I want to hear, but it is cabaret-style, and that’s the next best thing. I listened to the entirety of Ryan Adams’ take on 1989, but it’s pretty blah. I’m a Ryan Adams fan, but he turned T-Swift’s alternately heartbreaking and wild songs into…sad-bastard music.

Part of the reason I’m so into pop music these days is that I’m less interested in dudes than I used to be. Not as people, but as creators and as purveyors of taste. I’m not saying that all women like pop music, or that pop is only for ladies. There are dudes that make pop music, but the stuff I’m into is almost all sung and created by ladies. It’s just– I’m bored of straight dudes talking about their sexuality, singing about all the things they’re gonna do to some woman’s body. But hell yes I want to hear Nicki Minaj rap he toss my salad like his name Romaine. I’m bored of straight dudes talking about their sadness, singing about how they can’t get over the ice queen who broke their heart. But damn right I want to hear Lana Del Rey croon I lost myself when I lost you, and I still get trashed, darling, when I hear your tunes.

9) I spent so much of my life trying to prove myself. I spent years trying to prove I was punk, and then I pushed back too hard the other way and tried to prove I wasn’t punk.

Now I have reached a point in my life where I don’t care about proving myself. I am no longer interested in living up to anyone’s ideas about what I should wear, what I should listen to, or how I should act as a punk or an ex-punk, a thirty-three-year-old, a bisexual woman, a mother, a writer, or anything else. It turns out that the identities and situations I used to think of as either/or were false dichotomies. Now, I don’t want either/or, I want both/and. I want to put on my tightest jeans and my stompiest boots and tear it up in the pit one night, and the next night I want to put on my flowiest dress and dance to flamenco records with my best friend. Or, fuck it, sometimes I wanna wear a flowy dress to the punk show and stompy boots to dance to flamenco! Or both together! I want to be smart and a feminist and wear makeup and short skirts and shave my legs and armpits when I want to and not shave when I don’t want to. I want to travel and be a homebody. I want to work in my garden and bake cupcakes and drink tea and take my vitamins, and stay out late and get drunk and cause trouble and give myself stick and poke tattoos. I want to write poems and read tarot cards and go to protests and get crushes on women and men and non-binary babes. I want to listen to Bikini Kill and Taylor Swift. I want it all, no matter what other people say about it.

Because the haters gonna hate, but I’m just gonna shake it off.


Jessie Lynn McMains is a writer and zine-maker currently based in southeastern Wisconsin. She writes about nostalgia, desire, identity, music, wild girls, and her misspent youth.

witchsong top fives of 2015, albums edition

Sophia’s Top 5 4 Albums To Cry To of 2015

1) Carrie and Lowell, Sufjan Stevens

My mom loves this album; she heard an NPR interview with Sufjan Stevens while driving my brother to his karate classes and she listened to it, sent me an e-mail about it—“Sophia!! Have you listened to the new Sufjan Stevens album?” and that was enough to make me cry. I miss my mom, you know, but mostly I miss being sixteen and living at home, a quiet kind of mourning for a relationship that is still good but won’t be the same. There is a song on this album that goes “the only thing that keeps me from driving this car / half-light jack knife into the canyon at night / signs and wonders” and Sufjan’s voice is barely a murmur and the guitar twinkles gently in the background. The sob hitches in the back of your throat and it’s only natural.

2) Downers, Jamaican Queens

On this album there is a song called “Emo + Poor” and that is the main thing I have to say about it, really. This album sounds exactly like sinking into the horrifying black sludge of your brain feels, the kind where you aren’t really even trying to claw your way out anymore. I just wanna eat pills and sleep and you don’t understand me. I listen to this album when I would rather pull my own teeth out than touch anyone or listen to anyone, maybe, ever again. I’m still emotional and poor. From “Joe”: “In my defense, my dad’s a Republican / my awful grin says ‘yeah, come on in.’” This album is so awful and I am so awful and I am sitting in the car with this in my headphones on repeat for six hours. Singing along very softly, “you were a charming kid but now you’re grown” which is just the way it goes.

3) Beat the Champ, The Mountain Goats

Maybe you are a person who cries regularly about professional wrestling and I hope that you are, I do. I am not but I do regularly cry about this, a concept album about professional wrestling (I know nothing about professional wrestling.) I don’t know how to talk about this album except to say that it is mostly about sometimes winning and often losing, about having a hero and then maybe not, about small human figures like shadow puppets made so huge against the light in all our eyes. I have seen this album live twice and both times I have stood very still with my spine very straight, paralyzed by the force of my own strange devotion, fist stuffed in my mouth sobbing during all the piano solos.

4) Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording), Hamilton Cast

Listen. I mean, listen. Everyone and their mother has heard of Hamilton now and the hype is very real but this is an album about the delicate suspension of myth and truth, about storytelling, and it is important not in spite of but partially because of what everyone says. There is a song on here about George Washington retiring and I cry and cry. I think a lot about wanting to be a story and this is an album about people who are also stories, the way we make those stories back into people when we reconstruct them in our minds. This album is crying about George Washington at 2 AM sitting on your bathroom floor and the tile cold underneath your palms, fingernails curling up—crying not really about George Washington at all.

Top Five Albums We Didn’t Really Talk About But Kenzie Wishes We Had

  1. Shamir, Ratchet
  2. Flo Morrissey, Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful
  3. The Dead Weather, Dodge and Burn
  4. CHVRCHES, Every Open Eye
  5. Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material

5 ALBUMS ALY WOULD HAVE LIKED TO LISTEN TO IN 2015 HAD SHE NOT BEEN BLINDED BY HER FAVORITE POP ARTISTS

  1. Big Grams, the self-titled EP by a group that consists of Big Boi (of Outkast) and Phantogram (of every indie kid’s dreams). It’s apparently not gotten great reviews, but I am intrigued enough by the premise that I would have listened to it had I not been looping Get Weird incessantly.

  2. Black Lines, by Mayday Parade. Nothing’s as good as their first album – the one before the vocalist with the scratchy voice left – but the following few had enough tracks that I really, really loved to keep me interested. If Revival hadn’t dropped on the very same day I might have noticed it.

  3. Tetsuo & Youth, by Lupe Fiasco. I am always trying to get back into Lupe Fiasco – there are three or four songs of his that I will never get over, and The Cool was really formative for me somehow, but I have never managed to like… keep up with him, if that makes sense. Like, I kind of didn’t know he was still making music. But I would have listened to this if I’d known about it. It probably doesn’t help that Reflection showed up about a week later and stole my heart.

  4. Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit, by Courtney Barnett. She might win a Grammy! She might be the only one nominated who deserves a Grammy! I don’t know! I haven’t listened! I blame Froot for this one.

  5. Magnifique, by Ratatat. I didn’t even know that this had come OUT and honestly I am furious. I love Ratatat, like, a lot, and I wish I had known they had more music because I could have been listening to it all! damn! year! I don’t even have an excuse!

Honorable mentions: Motion City Soundtrack, Blitzen Trapper, The Neighbourhood. I was told (erroneously, apparently) by Wikipedia that we would get new Atomic Kitten this year, as well as Becky G, Crystal Castles, and – somehow – Fleetwood Mac. None of these things have occurred, although there are eleven days left in the year. I am hoping to expand my listening scope this coming year – most of these artists are those whose work I’ve previously enjoyed, and I still didn’t manage to hear any of their new music. And that’s not even getting into the artists I don’t know about! All I’m saying is that I tend to get into musical ruts, and this year was pretty good evidence of that. One of my resolutions for 2016 is to broaden my horizons. Hopefully next end-of-year will see me with a longer list of things I did listen to, rather than a still-meager list of could-haves.

witchsong top fives of 2015, reads edition

Five Books of 2015 That Have Not Yet Relaxed Their Grip on Aly’s Heart, in no particular order:

1. The Fifth Gospel, Ian Caldwell. I am perhaps too much of a sucker for books about faith, the study of faith as an exercise in scholarship, investigating faith and people struggling with their faith, but even taking that into consideration this is in my top 5 books not only of the year but probably of ever.
A priest can forgive a stranger so quickly that a boy can’t imagine how hard he will find it, someday, to forgive his own enemies. Or his own loved ones. He has no inkling that good men can sometimes find it impossible to forgive themselves. The darkest mistakes can be forgiven, but they can never be undone. I hope my son will always remain a stranger to those sins.

2. The Library at Mount Char, Scott Hawkins. I am not sure what to say about this book except that I almost didn’t read it because it is described as “Joe Hill meets Neil Gaiman”, which was enough to put me off it forever, but instead – for some reason – I read it. It is beautiful and weird and crushing in a strange breathless way. It is very dark and very, very bright.
The only real escape from hell is to conquer it.
 
3. All the Rage, Courtney Summers. I would follow Courtney Summers into the longest darkest night. This book came out on my twenty-fourth birthday and I didn’t read it then but when I did, months later, it was still almost too much to bear. How long does it take before you stop relating? Trick question.
You know all the ways you can kill a girl?
God, there are so many.

 
4. Welcome to Night Vale, Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor. If you haven’t listened to the podcast you should, despite the… rabidness of some of its fanbase. Night Vale is a comfort to me, something soothing beyond words, something that feels like a gentle personal gift to me in the darkest parts of my life. Listen to “A Story About You”, listen to “Through the Narrow Place”. Read this book, which takes place in Night Vale but which does not require prior knowledge of its strangeness.
Josie produced a glass of water, through practiced manipulation of cupboards and valves and municipal plumbing. Neither she nor Jackie was impressed with the human miracle represented by how easily the glass of water was produced.
 
5. Vivian Apple at the End of the World, Katie Coyle. I named the horoscopes after it. It remains painfully, beautifully important, and the sequel is just as good.
The way we live our lives is not sustainable. I don’t just mean recycling and turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth. I mean the way we treat each other. The way we pick and choose whose lives are important—who we actually treat as human. There is nobody on this earth whose life is not of value.

Honorable mentions:
The gender-swapped retelling of Twilight, Life and Death (Stephenie Meyer), which would have made the list if it had been gay but is still pretty easy to make gay when you read it.
I thought about falling to my knees on purpose. This was the kind of beauty you worshiped. The kind you built temples for and offered sacrifices to. I wished I had something in my empty hands to give her, but what would a goddess want from a mere mortal like me?

George, Alex Gino, a middle-reader book about a young trans girl that made me cry buckets of tears and then smile through them.
She looked in the mirror and gasped. Melissa gasped back at her. For a long time, she stood there, just blinking. George smiled, and Melissa smiled too.

Tess‘s Top Five Reading Experiences of 2015

  1. Women in Clothes, in the bathtub for periods of fifteen minutes to an hour over and over for so many nights and mornings all year long. With red wine in a coffee mug, or canned beer, or Diet Coke from a fountain, in a plastic bucket, pulled to my mouth by a long striped straw. With pruned toes and pink cheeks. Making notes in extra fine Sharpie pen, usually blue. I have never minded how the ink bleeds through.
  2. Hesitation Wounds by Amy Koppelman. I peeled off layers on an orange couch in an overheated library basement and did not move once to stand. I have not recovered.
  3. Inferno : A Poet’s Novel by Eileen Myles on a Peter Pan bus to New York to visit with adorable friends and a number of rats.
  4. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt, tear-soaked and chainsmoking on benches and ledges across the Mount Holyoke campus.
  5. Dryland by Sara Jaffe on a week day in late September while sitting on a swing my mother bought for herself when she realized nobody was going to buy it for her, moving my body back and forth slowly with the flex of a toe, in time with the book’s gentle, tangy pulses of adolescent lust.

Top Five Books Kenzie Spent Her Own Actual Money On in 2015

  1. Courtney Summers’ All the Rage is stunning and important and so painfully resonant you could just cry. I read it three times, and I have plans to read it again. For all the girls that know the ways the world tries to kill you, for all the girls the world won’t listen to. I was on the holds list for this at the library before it was released, and I bought my own copy before I was finished with it.

  2. Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ would have changed my life if I’d read it in high school; reading it now, it’s still one of the best books I read this year. The way Willowdean and her body are spoken about on the page, the relationship she has with her own body, simply the acknowledgement that fat, happy girls exist in the world. It took me more years than it should have to see that reflected in the things I read or watched. But I’m glad I have this book to recommend to people now, at the very least.

  3. Jessica Hopper’s The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic is such a beautiful book that it probably would have made this list even if it wasn’t a wonderful read. Wisp-thin pages and gold-gilded edges, a soft-touch cover and well-chosen typeface. It really is stunning. But more than that, it was the only book that actually inspired me to break out post-it notes and a pencil and underline passages, make notes in the margins, flag pages for future reference. Hopper is an important force in music writing, and her Twitter conversations on women in the music industry are both depressing and enlightening; she’s also just a damn good writer. A good book to own.

  4. eBook copies of Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, for reasons obvious and self-explanatory, despite (clearly) not having been published in 2015.

  5. Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad is not her best work, and not published this year either, but even the things she writes that run middle of the pack for her are leagues better than a great deal of the things people tell me to read. I love Margaret Atwood. She has a whole shelf on my bookshelf. This book, purchased while walking solo around Powell’s in Portland on my first-ever trip across the country, is slim and precise in so many ways I am not, but it is angry in ways I understand. I didn’t read it until the day I arrived home again, but I sat on the couch and read it in one sitting and instagrammed the best pages.

Ashley‘s Top 5 Non-witchsong Articles About One Direction in 2015

1) Racked’s “The Absolute Necessity of One Direction”

“Me loving like One Direction is as much about embracing their positivity and romantic sincerity as it is about mourning the failure of the wider world to even faintly reflect either. One Direction created one of the most compelling fantasy worlds for girls in music history, they fortified it by being gentle and gave it life by surrendering so much of their own lives to the group.”

2) Rolling Stone’s 16 Reasons One Direction Are on Top of the Stadium Rock Game”

“Harry and Louis are the Stevie and Lindsey of the mermaid-tattoo-era stadium-rock eye-contact game. Louis’ eyes are dark, intense, controlling, with a surly ‘damn your love, damn your life’ edge. Harry’s eyes say ‘I hear the darkness you’re expressing and it’s important to me but my heart tells me to twirl right now,’ so he twirls and touches his hair. The brooding look vs. the beatific twirl. When one of them gets happy, the other gets wistful. When one of them gets bitchy, the other gets sugary. I could watch them sing together for hours.”

3) Matter’s “Soft Power: How popstar Zayn Malik is rebuilding the modern Muslim man in an age of Islamophobia”

4) Complex’s “Catching Feelings: on Zayn Malik, One Direction, and the Value of Fandom”

“The true, enduring value of One Direction dawned on me once I realized the emotional refuge and antidote to toxic masculinity they provide for the young girls (and guys) that populate their fanbase. In a music industry that simultaneously treats teen girls as the most lucrative consumers but the least respected audience, One Direction speaks directly to them and says something that their demographic doesn’t get to hear as much as it should: You are important.”

5) The Muses’ (Jezebel) “Behind the BoyBand: Q&A with Caroline Watson, One Direction’s Stylist”

Bonus (6!) because I don’t play by the rules: Buzzfeed’s “How One Direction Helped Me Find My Girls”

“These girls are creating a world for themselves where they feel safe and supported and encouraged to express themselves, and it’s incredible. Why are so many people so eager to mock women for “acting like girls” by expressing passion in fandom, when we as a society allow men to fanboy over sports and superheroes well into adulthood?”

♡ Contributors of 2015 ♡

[Louis Tomlinson voice] Massive, massive thank you to everyone who wrote for us this year – we wouldn’t be witchsong without you, and we’re so thrilled with the incredible things you created. We are honored to be a site that people want to contribute to, and we hope you come back again and again and again. Thank you, from the bottom of the witchy cockles of our hearts, thank you.

♡ Isabel, who wrote about Kelly Clarkson
♡ Liz Zaretsky, who wrote about Cher
♡ Luisa V. Lopez, who wrote about “Ayo”
♡ Sika Wheeler, who wrote about The Directionettes and One Direction and Leikeli47
♡ Mareen Fischer, who wrote about One Direction
♡ Lilian Min, who wrote about Bad Witch Aesthetics and Made in Heights and Babeo Baggins
♡ Melody Brandston, who wrote about Teenage Feelings
♡ Gretchen Kast, who wrote about FKA twigs
♡ Kristin Henderson, who wrote about Cassadaga
♡ Diana Hurlburt, who wrote about Female-Fronted Metal and Smart Girls and SEXWITCH
♡ Veronica Heney, who wrote about Songs About Drowning
♡ Andrew Necci, who wrote about Hole
♡ Dhaaruni Sreenivas, who wrote about Parents and Music
♡ Emily Beth, who wrote about Roommate Songs
♡ Torey, who wrote about Weird Love and 95.5 and Jazmine Sullivan
♡ Shannon Thomas, who wrote about Sparks
♡ Allie Simmons, who wrote about Gender Identity and Blur
♡ Rebecca Coates, who wrote about Brand New
♡ Mandie Williams, who wrote about Wet and Destroyer
♡ Daniella, who wrote about Jamie XX and FKA twigs
♡ Asif Becher, who wrote about Amateur Love and Sylvan Esso and Twenty One Pilots and “Hurricane” and “Four Pink Walls” and “Same Old Love” and “Kitchen Sink” and Codas and Endlessness and Endings
♡ Amulya Tadimety, who wrote about “Everyone’s Gonna Be Happy” and Mourn
♡ Cathi Beckstrand, who wrote (and drew) about Grimes
♡ Carson Bear, who wrote about Alessia Cara and Best New Music and Troye Sivan and the Chieftains
♡ Claire Cullen, who wrote about Kita Alexander and FOXTROTT
♡ Madeleine Foley, who wrote about Hamilton

We also had two of you start the year off as contributors and now you’re going with us into 2k16 as part of our staff, so a shoutout to Ashley and Jessie as well. It is a scary thing to put your trust in a baby website, a brand-new voice, and all of you did that as contributors – some of you multiple times! You put your faith in us, you lent us your voices, and it means so much. Our first year in the world was so bright, and that’s in no small part thanks to all of you. All the love, ws. x