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BELIEVE IN THE SKY: APRIL 2016

Hello! It is April! It is the month of my birth and also Gerard Way’s and Kristen Stewart’s and many of our readers and two of my very dearest friends, who were actually born on the same day as me! So! It is a good month, a month I love, and I am very excited for all of us as it unfolds. Here we go!

ts eliot, “the waste land”

Aries: “What You Waiting For?”, Gwen Stefani. Take a chance ’cause you might grow.

There is never going to be a perfect time, Aries. There is never going to be what Jack Sparrow called the opportune moment, some bright shining thing that emerges from the sky and says to you yes, now, yes. There is never going to come a day when all of your conditions are met; there is no ideal time at which everything you undertake will go well. Instead, consider this your signal. This is not the opportune moment, but it is the moment in which you have a choice. You can move, now, out of the shadow and into a light of your own making, or you can stand still and wait for it to find you. Don’t stand still. Don’t wait.

Taurus: “Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)”, the Decemberists. Look for me with the sun-bright sparrow, I will come on the breath of the wind.

It is very trying to feel sad in the spring,  and very lonely. It feels somehow inauthentic. But listen, Taurus: your heart does not always correspond to the seasons on Earth. There is a landscape in your soul that is yours and yours alone, dappled with sun and shadow, snow-capped peaks next to the sea. If I can quote Whitman, and I will, you contain multitudes. You are always reflected in the world, no matter what you think, but the problem lies in that often you are not looking for yourself in the right place. This month is for meeting yourself where you are, not where you think you should be.

Gemini: “Golden Slumbers”, the Beatles. Once there was a way to get back homeward.

Your world is getting bigger, every single day, by simple virtue of the fact that you are a living thing. It can make you feel small when you think about it, the tiny boat of yourself in a vast expanding sea. It can make you want to stay still. Instead I want you to try, this month, to think of this widening life as a blessing. You are the same size no matter how many directions you can strike out in; a small fish in a small bowl feels big, but it’s confined. Recognize the incredible mobility that you have and reach for the edges of your map. Carry yourself as bravely as you can.

Cancer: “Tonight I’m Getting Over You”, Carly Rae Jepsen. No more cryin’ to get me through.

Pruning is important. It is vital, this cutting, this weeping of ichor. To stay healthy, to grow, you have to prune yourself down. Examine yourself this month. Look at the core of you, the bright flourishing new growth. Follow the branches of your life out to what is withering; take hold of those things and cut them away. You must be as impassive as you can as you do this. It will hurt, but these things are sapping you, choking you. It will hurt, but you will not miss them when they are gone – this is how you will know you were right. Protect your vitality.

Leo: “Breathe (2 AM)”, Anna Nalick. You can’t jump the track, we’re like cars on a cable.

Balance is so very important. You are a hunting creature, a seeking striving thing, and the incredible, single-minded focus you possess is a double-edged sword. There is a difference between purposeful motion and running yourself into exhaustion. It is not weakness to rest, to acknowledge that you need rest in the first place. Allow yourself some leeway this month. Be gentle with yourself; acknowledge your needs and try as hard as you can to remember that they are valid. Doing this is not straying from the path toward what you want – only pausing upon it.

Virgo: “Like Dylan in the Movies”, Belle and Sebastian. Don’t look back, like Dylan in the movies.

You will get nothing from looking back except a mouthful of salt. This month I want you to keep your eyes forward. Dwelling on what has been will not bring it back or change it; this is a hard lesson to learn but it is crucial. You cannot live your life looking at what you have left behind, at the things you have moved beyond. Start to learn to carry the past with you without taking it out, examining it, turning it over in the light. Eventually you will be able to put it down altogether.

Libra: “Everything I Am”, Kanye West. Everything I’m not made me everything I am.

You are made up of other people, of places and books and movies and paintings, the things you learn from them and the world as a whole. Everything that has ever taught you is a part of you, and this does not make you inauthentic. Even natural things are constructed – think of crystals, think of snowflakes, think of the perfect fluid grace of any skeleton. You can make your own way even as you follow in the footsteps of others – this is how you make yourself better. This is how you make the world better. Don’t be afraid of losing yourself; everything you are is yours.

Scorpio: “BeFoUr”, ZAYN. I can’t be bothered to fight it no more, no.

Try to find it in yourself to be soft this month. It is natural, when the world becomes sharp and hard, to steel yourself against it, to spark against it like flint. It is natural to bite when you are cornered. This is against your instinct – against the instinct of all animals, really – but sometimes the unexpected move is what wins the fight. Let yourself be pliable this month; let yourself yield. Slip out of the grasp of the things that would hold you, crush you, even as you drew blood from their fingers. Live to fight another day.

Sagittarius: “Birdhouse in Your Soul”, They Might Be Giants. Keep the nightlight on inside the birdhouse in your soul.

Things flourish when they are safe. They bloom when they are nurtured. There is always the temptation to dismiss the mundane, the familiar, but there has to be a harbor. There has to be a place where you can put down roots, spread yourself upward and outward and unfurl all your tiny wings. Think, this month, about the places you feel safe, and the people you allow there. Remind yourself of your foundation, the things you can rely on, the ground out of which you will grow. Learn to take these things with you as you navigate the world. Make a home inside yourself, and know that it is safe there.

Capricorn: “Changes”, David Bowie. Turn and face the strange.

Do not be fooled into thinking that you deserve your suffering. Do not be fooled into thinking that sadness is a matter of course. Remember: feelings are finite. This is a beautiful, daunting gift. Everything you feel at every moment is new, no matter how familiar it seems – you are a new person every moment, every breath that you take. There are shades and shades of everything you will ever feel and no two are the same. Listen carefully to yourself this month, the way you would try to make out a very distant, half-remembered song. Witness the minute, dizzying, endless variations of your emotions, and know that you will feel different.

Aquarius: “Out is Through”, Alanis Morissette. I think there must be easier ways

The forest is very dark, but the only way back into the sun is to go through it. It is so difficult, in the moment, in the middle of the darkness, to remember this, but this month I want you to try. I want you to remember that the sun always rises. There is always, always a way forward – there is always meaning. There is a reason you are in the dark in the first place, but the forest tries to swallow it up and keep you there. Do not let the weary actuality of the struggle make you forget what you are struggling towards. Do not lose hope.

Pisces: “Benson Hedges”, fun. You’re beautiful for all your big mistakes.

Memory is a fluid and fickle thing, something ruled by the head and the heart, something ruled by the soles of the feet. It is tempting to ignore it, to dismiss it, to try and escape it, but this month I want you to turn and face it head-on. Your memories are a part of you as much as your blood and your bones, even the ones you don’t love. Let your past exist within you, and know that it does not make you weak. Know that to hold all of these things inside you is a great and terrible thing, something to aspire to, something to be proud of. Know that it is a kind of home.

nonrequired reading: let’s be social about books

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“In the heaven of werewolves, there’s just new grass folding back into place.”

Some books I have read as of today, March 28th, 2016, that I want to talk about:

Mongrels (Stephen Graham Jones) is a book about werewolves but it is really about family, about stories, about the ways that we knit ourselves to each other. It is about the way that sometimes you have to lie to get closer to the truth – sometimes a story is diminished in the telling, so you have to scale up accordingly. It is very sad and very beautifully written, and I cried about it. It is also fairly scary at points in a sort of creeping way, and it also made me care about werewolves for maybe the first time ever. I feel about most werewolves the way I feel about zombies – their narratives are usually very predictable, very boring, and very predicated on violence as the only answer. This book went a long way toward changing my mind. 5/5 would read again.

This Is Not A Test (Courtney Summers) is a zombie book – again, not a narrative that I love – but it is about a girl who wants to die. It is a really fascinating thing to watch unfold, and it hits very close to home, and it gave me good-vampire-narrative vibes, which I think says something about me – I am very interested in people who don’t want to be vampires, in any narrative, because what they are saying at its core is that they do someday want to die. I’m getting a little off track, but it is very good and genuinely moving and I love Courtney Summers a lot, always. 5/5 will probably not read again but am very interested in reading the sequel.

Into Thin Air (Jon Krakauer) is, as you probably know, a personal account of the Everest expedition of 1996, during which a blizzard killed eight people and mangled a lot more. I knew about it, had read about it, have fallen down many Wikipedia k-holes about the death zone, the edema, the Khumbu icefall which you can only cross in the very early morning when it’s still cold because the ice shifts and falls during the day. But reading about it from Krakauer’s perspective makes it much less academic and, at the same time, much more understandable. I cried a lot – it is a very hard read, a series of very senseless and avoidable deaths, but it is honest and beautiful. 5/5 will someday read again; will not watch the movie again.

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours (Helen Oyeyemi) is a new collection of short stories by one of my favorite authors. Read it, read it, read it. 5/5 will read again ASAP.

Paper Tigers (Damien Angelica Walters) is a well-written but ultimately not-as-thrilling-as-I-wanted horror novel. 4/5 will not read again, but maybe worth a read for you if it’s been a while since you got a little freaked out.

Currently I am reading an advance copy of Kissing in America (Margo Rabb), which I am almost a third of the way done with and still undecided about. I think I like it, although I don’t love the writing, but I am reserving judgment because our narrator has a tendency to belittle beautiful girls. There is a lot of poetry in it though, and I am remembering more and more lately that I do love poetry, have loved certain poetry for what feels like my whole life. I am also in the middle of Richard Siken’s Crush (see! poetry!). Next on the list is Juliet Takes a Breath (Gabby Rivera), which I am deeply excited for. I will keep you updated.

I’m on this app now, it’s a new app, they only have it for Apple products so far, but it is called Litsy. It’s like Instagram, kind of, but only for books. There are not a lot of people on it yet, so I can’t quite tell how good it’s going to be, but I think it’s one of those that’s only as good as the content. So if you like your Goodreads app but you don’t love Amazon or whatever, and you want to take pictures of your books or look at the pictures that I take of mine, you can come check that out if you want. I’m on there as @furiosa. Do you have book apps you use other than Goodreads? Am I barking up the wrong tree? Let’s talk about it. Let’s talk! About books! What are you reading? Do you feel that the romance novel as an institution is unfairly maligned? Imagine that my head is propped on my hands and I’m doing a very attentive listening pose. Go!

BELIEVE IN THE SKY: IMBOLC & BEYOND

Hello again! Today is witchsong’s birthday. witchsong is an Aquarius, which is charming and altogether fitting, as we are collectively a long-limbed dorky weirdo who loves bananas and Stevie Nicks. It is also Ingrid Nilsen‘s birthday (happy birthday Ingrid, please call me, let’s talk about the new Glossier cleanser). Today is also Imbolc, one of the spokes of the wheel of the year, a historically pagan festival day which marks the beginning of spring and rebirth and all things bright and beautiful. It is also, not coincidentally, Groundhog Day! And in great news, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow this morning. Nor, according to NPR, did his Canadian counterpart, nor did two other independent groundhogs. So! Spring has officially been heralded. Your horoscopes will be a little different today because I want us all to take advantage of this day, which is a good time to begin things, to change things, to believe in yourself.

BELIEVE IN THE SKY: IMBOLC (AND FEBRUARY) 2016

Aquarius: Soft music with no lyrics. Piano, not orchestra.

Light a candle, a new candle, white or gold or gray. Sit in front of it, in a position that will keep you comfortable, and stare into the heart of the flame, directly surrounding the wick. Try to empty your mind, to let it fill with light, the gradations of color in the flame. You have to allow yourself to be calm, to let your thoughts go still and quiet, like water. Examine the things that come to the surface, the things that cannot be stilled, and then decide whether or not to keep them. Do not blow out the candle; either extinguish it with your fingers or allow it to burn out.

Pisces: Songs from your childhood.

Take a pomegranate and split it open carefully. Remove the seeds, letting the juice stain the tips of your fingers, your nailbeds. Fill a bowl and look at the seeds for awhile. Think about all the places they could have ended up, the ways they could grow, the potential contained in every single tiny core inside that deep red jewel. Think about planting things, about growth, about the way everything stretches upward toward the sun. Eat the seeds, one by one at first, feeling them crack under your teeth, and then take a big handful and crush it to pulp in your mouth.

Aries: Norah Jones.

Find a notebook, a journal, a sketchbook – anything with blank pages. Find a pen, a good pen, one that you feel comfortable holding. Start writing. Write down the sorrow, the joy, the petty thoughts, the things that you can’t hold inside your heart anymore that you still don’t want to say to anyone but yourself. Write longer than you think you can, past the point of thought. Write at least five pages. When you are done, do not read it over. Turn the page and close the book. Do this again tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after, until it becomes a habit.

Taurus: Bluegrass, the almost-country kind.

Find an animal, a small one – go to the pet store, if you need to. Sit for awhile and look at it, the perfection of it. What it is made for. The economy of being an animal, rather than a person, the usefulness of every feature. If you can put your hands on the animal, do so. Feathers, fur, little teeny toe beans, scales, tiny perfect teeth. A cat is a cat is a cat and it knows it’s a cat but it also thinks you are a cat. Think about your animal self, the perfection of it. What it is made for. The usefulness of every feature. Put your hands on yourself. Feel your muscles under your skin, your toes, your teeth.

Gemini: Anything that reminds you of summer.

Draw something today; it doesn’t matter what, it doesn’t matter if you never have. Take a pen, see something inside your head and then make it real, make it exist in the world. The thought takes on substance and form and becomes something beyond yourself, a part of you externalized. It is never weakness to need evidence that you exist, and for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Breathe something new out and let yourself take something new in.

Cancer: Something soft, something romantic. Spanish guitar.

Write a letter to someone, one that you have put off for too long. Write to heal wounds, to break the bone in order to reset it. Write everything you have kept yourself from saying. Think about what will happen if you send this letter, and whether this is something that you want. Leave it alone for an hour, come back to it. Read it once more and then seal it in an envelope. When you wake up tomorrow, either burn it or mail it, but do not open it again – physically or mentally.

Leo: Lush electronic songs, the kind with a heartbeat.

Find a body of water. Use your phone, the internet; there is at least a reservoir closer than you think. Drive there, if you drive, or walk. Approach the water, getting as close to it as you can. If it is warm enough, and if it is allowed, take off your shoes and wade. Sit or stand, looking at the water, feeling it against your skin. Let your eyes drift out of focus, listen to the sounds of the wind and the birds and whatever trees are there, and the water. Look into the water until you can feel your blood like the tide, gently rocking. Be still, be silent, be open.

Virgo: Jewel.

Go to the store and purchase a squash, any kind you want. Bring it home and cut it open, scooping out the seeds. Do this with your bare hands. Rinse them, keep them. Wrap the squash and roast it; or if you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, cook the squash by burying it in the hot ashes. Eat it hot, as hot as you can bear, right from the skin and seasoned only with herbs. Think about how everything comes from the earth, returns to the earth, comes again. Roast the seeds, except for a few, and eat these as well. Leave the rest outside, for the animals.

Libra: Satie, the Gymnopédies.

Look for a classical music radio station, something that will play continuously without interruption. Wait for a song you don’t know and find a place to lie down. Turn it up as loud as you can bear it and close your eyes. Try to pick out each individual instrument, follow them, travel with them for as long as you can. Let them find each other again, behind your eyelids, however you visualize them braiding into each other and becoming one sound. So many parts, and yet it creates such an elaborate, seamless whole.

Scorpio: Rumba, something sun-soaked and warm.

Plant something, a small green something. Indoors, outdoors, it doesn’t matter, but do it with your hands. Turn the earth, press the seeds into their small dark burrows and cover them gently. Think about what it is to germinate, to take the leap from not-life to life. Don’t clean the dirt out from under your fingernails right away; don’t break your connection with the earth so quickly. Keep one seed in your pocket for awhile, until you forget it is there.

Sagittarius: Your favorite band in high school.

Fill a bathtub with almost as much water as it will hold, as hot as you can bear it. Take whatever crystals you own, small bright pieces of the earth, and place them in the water. Get in slowly, inch by inch. Let yourself acclimate to the water, even if it bites at first. When you are ready, close your eyes and slip under the water, holding your breath. Listen to the sound the silence makes, the water in your ears, the muffling that is somehow still noise. Listen to your heartbeat, the steadiness of it. Lift your head out of the water slowly, lovingly, and let it drip until it dries on its own.

Capricorn: Love songs.

Write down the things you need to let go of. Do not think about this overlong; do not pretty it up. Write down what you want to leave behind, the ashes you want to rise from. Read this list out loud to yourself as many times as you need to and then light it on fire. Watch it burn until the fire dies completely. Take the ashes somewhere high – a balcony, a hill – and let the wind have them. Do not bury them; this is another way to hold onto something. Watch them go.

Today is the first day of a ceremonial kind of spring, the season where all things are made new, and although this year it’s calendrically speaking today you can celebrate it any time, especially this month. These are all things that will ground you, center you, remind you of your connection with the earth and the physical world, the regeneration that is occurring every moment of every day of your life. Little rituals, small ways to feel in control of your physical self. These tasks are yours to perform whenever you want, this month and every month, any time you feel like you need renewal.

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.

BELIEVE IN THE SKY: IT’S 2016

Hello, my precious loves. It has been a year, in both the actual temporal sense and also in the sense it’s meant when people go “It’s been a year.” 2015 was rough! Many bad things happened. Many good things happened, too, because the world is a weird and cyclical thing, but on the whole I am more than ready to welcome the new year. I am a big believer in the theoretical fresh start that a new year brings – I know that there’s backlash against that, like, you can start over any time you want! and I get that, I do, but I also like making resolutions and opening up a new journal and the whole silly parade of things that come with The New Year as an institution. I am canceling my gym membership, which may seem counterintuitive, but it’s half an hour from my house and I was locked into a yearlong contract and it’s just! not! financially sustainable! and one of my resolutions is to stop being so terrible with money. Plus now I’ve got the Fitsugar app (shouts to Fitsugar) and it is rad and free and totally kicking my ass.

Anyway! Horoscopes! I know I have not been the best messenger-of-the-stars this year, and I will not make excuses for that, but another of my resolutions is to be better to y’all. If you’re going to show up every month then so am I! It’s only right! So just know that you have inspired me to do better, to be more consistent, and generally to be awesome. You are all very, very awesome. Tell me your resolutions.

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[image via]

BELIEVE IN THE SKY: JANUARY 2016

PLAYLIST

Capricorn: “The Glory”, Kanye West. Can I talk my shit again?

This is a year for pride, Capricorn. You are – not modest, exactly, but something close to it. Secretive is probably the better word. You stack up all your accomplishments like tiny glowing things and then you clutch them to your chest, fold your wings around them, hide them and their light from the world. This year is for letting everyone know how great you are, okay? This year is for self-promotion. You have, always, this calm confidence that comes from knowing that you are competent, that you are successful, but it’s so internal! You are where you are for a reason, and I think that because you are so quiet about it you tend to forget it. You have achieved so much already, and this year is going to bring so many more opportunities for success to you. I want you to try, really try, to recognize and name your strengths and your victories this year. Look at where you are, know that you got yourself there, and don’t be afraid to acknowledge it. More importantly, don’t be afraid to share it. Vocalizing your success doesn’t diminish it.

Aquarius: “Que Sera Sera”, Doris Day. Whatever will be will be / The future’s not ours to see

You are a long-term thinker, even if you don’t consider yourself to be one. Everything you do is with an eye toward the future, a vision of your idealized life – your idealized self – that is always on the horizon. There are two sides to this coin, and you need to be aware of both of them this year. The good thing about always working toward your goals is pretty evident – you are always working toward your goals. On the flip side, though, is the looming specter of disappointment. The future you envision does not always line up with the present you are in, and sometimes that’s correctable and sometimes it’s not. The challenge you will face this year is learning what you can change and what you can’t, and what is even worth trying to change. You are on the path you’re on for a reason, and just because it seems to be veering away from the point on the horizon you’ve fixed on doesn’t mean it’s not going to take you somewhere wonderful. This year is for knowing that your work will be rewarded, even if it’s not necessarily in the manner you’ve envisioned.

Pisces: “Work B**ch”, Britney Spears. They gon’ try to try ya but they can’t deny ya / Now get to work, bitch!

This is a year for planning your attack, Pisces. You know what you want, but you need to start making actual, concrete plans for getting it. It is very easy, as the dreamiest of the signs, to think about your future in abstract terms. This is good motivation – this is actually key for you, this rose-tinted vision – but in 2016 I want you to slow down just a little bit. I want you to step your focus back from the future to the now. You cope with dissatisfaction with your present by throwing your vision forward, losing yourself in the idea of your eventual success, and I know it hurts but you need to pull your sight back to where you are. In order to get from your present to the future you want, you have to understand exactly where you are now. This is the year for really taking things into your own hands. This year is for making lists. This year is a metaphorical training montage. It is time to figure out exactly where you want to be, and then to start figuring out how to get there.

Aries: “Let’s Be Still”, The Head and the Heart. So just for the moment let’s be still

Your fear of the unknown manifests in interesting ways, the most notable of which is flinging yourself headlong directly into the darkness. Your fight-or-flight always lands on fight, and this is often useful, but this year calls for more care. The thing about blindly forging ahead is that it’s not predicated on anything other than the desire to move, which means it doesn’t necessarily matter where you end up. This year I want you to think about being intentional, about embracing your fear and sitting with it and letting it explain itself to you. Stay where you are and look out into the distance and wait for it to be revealed. Change is coming for you this year, as it does every year, and I want you to work on meeting it coolly, calmly, with a level gaze. When you lunge forward you cut yourself off from any other paths you could take, and it is worth it to look around before you leap! Being more intentional about these things can help you to see more clearly – looking at the path before you take it is boring, I know, but it will help you more than you know in the long term.

Taurus: “Mr. Tambourine Man”, Bob Dylan. Dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free

Taurus is a steadfast sign, a practical sign, a sign of the material world – it is the earth, solid and constant. This year, though, I want you to embrace the intuitive, creative side of yourself. Even as the grounded person you are, you are so imaginative, so in your head, always thinking about some new adventure – this year you need to take the plunge. There is a spark inside you, a tiny flare that only needs the slightest bit of encouragement to become a fire that will warm you at your core. There is so much enthusiasm in you, so much raw unformed energy – I want you to think about letting some of that energy out, this year. It can seem embarrassing or impractical to follow your dreams, especially the ones that are based in something as nebulous and unpredictable as the arts, but you have the strength to take the spark and make it into something that will sustain you. This is not yet a time for planning – you are too good at planning, to good at taking your impulses and corralling them. This is a time for doing, leaping, creating, letting yourself be without worrying about the practical implications of it all.

Gemini: “Roar”, Katy Perry. Used to bite my tongue and hold my breath / Scared to rock the boat and make a mess

You have a tendency to avoid conflict; it is easier to swim down than it is to take the bait. This year I want you to think about what is worth fighting for. There is such a thing as constructive conflict, as difficult as that is to believe, and I’ll be honest – you need some. Deflecting problems, sublimating your anger, these things are useful in the short term but what are they doing for you in the long run? The only way to find out what you’re willing to fight for is to fight. The only way to figure out what a conflict is really about is to let it unfold itself, to look at what is underneath it. I know it’s tempting to let things lie, to hope that they will play out on their own or, better yet, fizzle completely, but they don’t. They don’t, and they won’t, and the longer you wait to start speaking up the harder it will get for you to take that step. This year I want you to be brave; I want you to allow some conflict into your life. I want you to choose your fights; I want you to choose at least one and I want you to fight it. Let yourself be strong enough to face conflict head-on.

Cancer: “Control”, Halsey. I’m meaner than these demons

Your experience of the world is filtered through yourself. Everything that is comes to you through the layers of meat and fluff and frightened neurons that make up a person, and this is a blessing and a curse. Your external circumstances affect you, but it is what’s inside that paralyzes you. This year is going to be about working through things, about recognizing your emotions and meeting them where they are, but not letting them have purchase in your soul. There is caution and then there are self-fulfilling negative expectations, and these seem the same on the surface but one is useful and one will weigh you down like lead. I want you to try and work through the paralysis this year, the one that comes from uncertainty and fear and anxiety. These emotions want you to be hard on yourself, on the parts of you that are most vulnerable, and you do not deserve that. Know these things intimately, for what they are, and know that you can beat them. Try as best as you can to meet the future with joy, even in the face of the unknown.

Leo: “(Un)Lost”, the Maine. Unaware of where I’m going or if I’m going anywhere at all / But I know I’ll take the leap if it is worth the fall

You have a tendency to assume the worst, which can serve you well in terms of looking before you leap but also has the effect of keeping you from the things in life that you cannot guarantee. There is so much in this world that you cannot be sure of, and I know it feels safer to just keep away from those things, but – sorry – think about Finding Nemo. I promised him I’d never let anything happen to him; then nothing would ever happen to him. You can’t keep yourself away from everything that might hurt you, as much as you’d like to try. This year I want you to stop trying so hard. I want you to allow yourself to get hurt. The fear is worse than the actuality of it, and when you stop letting that fear dictate what you do you will find that nothing is as frightening as you have imagined it to be. You will find that although there are things that will hurt you, there are so many more that will reward you for taking that leap.

Virgo: “Animal Instinct”, the Cranberries. The thing that freaks me out / Is that I’ll always be in doubt

There are those who don’t trust the world and there are those who don’t trust themselves and you, Virgo, are the latter. This year I want you to work on listening to yourself, to the still, small voice. I want you to trust your instincts. There is intent in everything you do – you are such a measured sign, so methodical and level-headed, and sometimes you forget that. Trust that you have had reason to do the things you have done; trust that the plans you have made have been made with purpose. This means listening to yourself – and if you genuinely feel that you are moving in the wrong direction, trust that as well. Your instincts are different than self-doubt: one is about self-preservation, about staying alive and whole, and one is about simply undermining yourself. This year is for learning the difference, for learning how to listen to yourself and value your own voice. All the strength that you need is within you.

Libra: “Slow and Steady”, Of Monsters And Men. I move slow and steady / But I feel like a waterfall

Do not rely on the future to bring you what you want. They say that slow and steady wins the race but what that does not mean is that you get to stand still. No life is without challenges. You cannot guarantee your own success, even if it seems assured, and I know this seems frightening but what I mean is that you cannot assume you will have anything you don’t currently have. What I mean is that you need to work, now and always, to get the things you want. You will be successful – you have an incredible drive, an enviable work ethic, an ability to shoulder a tremendous burden – but you cannot simply allow things to come to you. You have to get them. This year is for actively, purposefully moving toward your goals – not hastily, not in a way that takes from others – in a way that is true to who you are at your core. You are a rare combination, a planner and a dreamer, and these facets of your personality can combine to make you lethargic (think making a to-do list and then feeling accomplished), but they also make you a force to be reckoned with. Dream big this year, but don’t stop there.

Scorpio: “Fight Song”, Rachel Platten. And I don’t really care if nobody else believes / ‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me 

This year is for taking back a sense of control over your life. You have felt dragged, up to now, pulled through your life by forces larger and more cruel than you, but enough is enough. There are things in this life you cannot control, and this is something that you will struggle with forever, but listen. There are enough things that you can control, things that you can fix your sight on that will make you feel strong. This year is for looking for those things, reminding yourself of the ways in which you have power in your life. You have felt angry this last year, almost directionlessly so, at the wide formless universe, at other people, at nothing, at everything. Take that anger and focus it down to a fine point, something that you can use to move forward, to clear a path. You may not be where you want to be just yet, but the best way to stop feeling that life is something that is simply happening to you is to influence its course. Look for small victories this year, things that will shore you up when you feel rudderless. Remember that you are always moving, always on a journey – you may not know where you are going but you can always, always steer.

Sagittarius: “Mushaboom”, Feist. Old dirt road / Knee deep snow / Watchin’ the fire as we grow old

This is a year of growth for you, the kind of growth that comes from stability, from establishing something you feel is permanent. It will be a time for considering your beliefs – about the universe, about love, about yourself. Look around and appreciate all the things you have created for yourself. This has been a year of upheaval and confusion, and you are entering now into a time where all things will become clearer, more still. You have been tested; now is the time to examine yourself and your life to see what passed the test and what did not. What are the parts of you that have made it through the fire? This burnished version of yourself, this elemental, sleek thing, this is what you will settle into this year. You are always evolving but this is a more measured, more contemplative act, testing the edges of the skin you wear and finding it to fit well. Think about the person you have become, and what had to happen to bring you into the world as you are now. Think about where you will go from this new, stable foundation, and how.

When Your Heart Begins to Break: a playlist for endings

It’s December, and the year is ending, and so are a lot of other things. It’s my last year of high school, and I can’t not be thinking about that all the time. I keep telling my friends we made it through, we really made it, because we’re only a few months away and we’ve been waiting for so long. There’s a time to think about the future and a time to set goals and plan ahead and motivate ourselves for a sparkling new year, but that time is not now.

I can’t not think about how it’s my last year of high school, and I can’t not get sentimental about that fact. I think one of the reasons the world is so irritated by teenage girls is because they forgot, they just forgot what it’s like to feel everything so deeply, to have every high and low stretched to the point of bursting. I am constantly in fear that my heart will break. People don’t like to remember what it was like being a teenager, mostly because it’s embarrassing, we’re all so embarrassing at 16, but also partly because it hurts a little too much to remember who they were when they first felt the cracks form.

I don’t know if I want to forget, because I don’t know if I’ll ever feel full to the point of bursting ever again. Maybe it’s not the best thing to feel that way, but damn it if it’s not satisfying. I sit with my friend in the car and we’re dancing even though she should really be looking at the road and we scream the words together, and I know in that instant that she cares just as much about this moment as I do. Isn’t that just gorgeous? That I can be sure that someone is feeling just exactly the same thing as me? That I can be sure that I’m not the only one who’s terrified her heart will break?

The point is that it’s not over yet, but it’s ending. It was forever and it’ll be gone soon, and these two things exist in conjunction with each other. I wish I knew a way to not ache over this, but there’s no way not to hurt over the end of a forever. All I know right now is that I can sing along to the music that made me and be sure that this feeling passes through all of us, at least until the song ends and our voices start to break.

Playlist

Wake Up – Arcade Fire
If the children don’t grow up
Our bodies get bigger, but our hearts get torn up

Heroes – David Bowie
Though nothing will keep us together,
We could steal time, just for one day,
We could be heroes, forever and ever

XO – Beyonce
Your heart is glowing,
And I’m crashing into you

Don’t Forget Where You Belong – One Direction
If you ever feel alone — don’t,
You were never on your own,
And the proof is in this song

Long Live – Taylor Swift
For a moment, a band of thieves in ripped-up jeans
Got to rule the world

Smile – Mikky Ekko
Got nowhere to turn,
And we’ve got nothing but time
But the future is forever,
The future is forever

The Kids from Yesterday – My Chemical Romance
Here we are and we won’t stop breathing
Tell it out ‘till your heart stops beating

Outro – M83
I’m the king of my own land
Facing tempests of dusts, I’ll fight till the end

 


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.

BELIEVE IN THE SKY: NOVEMBER 2015

Hello my babies, hello my honeys, hello my ragtime gals. I would like to shout out to twitter user @ravvy_rachel who very sweetly tweeted at me that she was in need of some news from the stars, which served the dual purpose of warming the dreary cockles of my heart to an incredible degree (they read the horoscopes!!! my brain shrieks) and also of getting my ass into gear because this November started off terribly, and I’ve been using that as an excuse but sometimes you gotta turn your own tides, you know? [Britney Spears voice] Choose your own destiny. ANYWAY. Here is a thing for you, before we get into this, and I will preface it by saying that it has gotten me through some cold bleak winters, and I shove joy like a knife into my own heart isn’t not the point of everything, anyway, anyway:

Reasons to Survive November
Tony Hoagland

November like a train wreck—
as if a locomotive made of cold
had hurtled out of Canada
and crashed into a million trees,
flaming the leaves, setting the woods on fire.

The sky is a thick, cold gauze—
but there’s a soup special at the Waffle House downtown,
and the Jack Parsons show is up at the museum,
full of luminous red barns.

—Or maybe I’ll visit beautiful Donna,
the kickboxing queen from Santa Fe,
and roll around in her foldout bed.

I know there are some people out there
who think I am supposed to end up
in a room by myself

with a gun and a bottle full of hate,
a locked door and my slack mouth open
like a disconnected phone.

But I hate those people back
from the core of my donkey soul
and the hatred makes me strong
and my survival is their failure,

and my happiness would kill them
so I shove joy like a knife
into my own heart over and over

and I force myself toward pleasure,
and I love this November life
where I run like a train
deeper and deeper
into the land of my enemies.

Try to love your November life, this month, and all the months that follow in its footsteps. Now we can get started.

BELIEVE IN THE SKY: NOVEMBER 2015

PLAYLIST

Scorpio: “You Learn”, Alanis Morissette. You live you learn.

I love Scorpios. I’m not supposed to love Scorpios, I think, logistically – this is one of those pairings that does not necessarily work – but some of my favorite people in this whole world are Scorpios and I admire them and value them and it is your birthday month, Scorpios, so happy birthday. This month I want you to think about learning, about the ways you are shaped by the world. It is hard to admit that you are still learning, and it is even harder to try and learn not just from people you deem worthy. You are so vast and so smart and so capable of absorbing all the information that the world has to give you, but you tend to only accept it from certain sources, in certain forms. This month I want you to open your heart to places and people and things you would not generally expect to have anything to teach you. It is a frightening thing not to know everything, to open yourself to the idea of being wrong, of changing your mind, but this is the way you grow. This is the way you become more. You take everything in and distill it down to the things you know to be true, and sometimes these things change and sometimes you change and this constant unfolding is so, so important. Don’t be afraid to keep learning; don’t be afraid to be changed.

Sagittarius: “Little Me”, Little Mix. I’d tell her to speak up – tell her to shout out – talk a bit louder – be a bit prouder.

Just because sometimes you don’t want to hear what you have to say doesn’t mean that the world feels the same way. This month is for probing gently at your feelings of inadequacy, of self-doubt, turning them over and exposing them to the light. You have a tendency to hide, to focus inward, to assume that you have been talking too loudly and too long for anyone to still be listening. I am not saying that your impulse is wrong; if you feel that you need to remove yourself from the world for a bit I want you to do that. But what I also want is for you to be sure that self-doubt isn’t what’s driving you. There are times when a little bit of isolation, of contemplation, is exactly what you need to replenish yourself. There are other times, though, when your self-imposed exile comes from fear and doubt and not from a need to be alone with yourself, and that is dangerous. The more you assume that you should not be heard the less you will make yourself heard, and your voice is too important for that. Try to nurture yourself, this month. Try to remember that you are your harshest critic.

Capricorn: “Everything is Connected and Everything Matters (A Temporary Solution to a Permanent Problem)”, empire! empire!. What It Takes To Move Forward.

I was watching Jane the Virgin the other night, and I thought of you at a certain point. Jane has writer’s block, and her writing group mentor says to her, “Most of the time the problem is further back.” The problem isn’t with the actual scene she’s stuck on, it’s further back in the book. It’s deeper than she thinks. Capricorn – the problem is further back. Your current situation seems isolated, sudden, a sharp jagged uptick in an otherwise smooth line, but I want you to take a hold of that line and follow it back, notice its actual texture. This month I want you to think about how you have come to be where you are, and the things in your life that have made you and shaped you and brought you to this point. By focusing so intently on the present moment you are sort of – sort of Bell Jar-ing the situation, does that make sense? You can’t slam a cup down over this moment and separate it from the stream of all the other moments that make up your life. This is not limbo, and everything that is happening now is influenced by larger and more subtle things than you are presently aware of. Try and widen your perspective, this month – zoom out on the map, if you will. Look how far away the rivers start before they converge. You will find your way forward by looking at the path you’ve taken.

Aquarius: “Fear and Loathing”, Marina & the Diamonds. I’ve lived a lot of different lives. Been different people many times.

Don’t let the tilting of the world, the constant spinning and shifting of the ground beneath your feet, don’t let this shake you away from who you are. You have an incredibly strong sense of self, a candle that burns in the hollows of your gut and does not waver, but lately the flame is dimming. The uncertainty of your life is scraping away at you, scaring you away from the person you know yourself to be. There will always be situations in which you don’t react like yourself, choices you make that you’ll look back on and think who was that person, what was I thinking, but these things do not invalidate who you are. Part of being a person is acknowledging that you contain multitudes, that sometimes you contradict yourself, and knowing still in an unshakable way that you are a cohesive whole. Whatever is happening lately has you feeling like your grip on yourself is lessening and that is a frightening and difficult thing, but try to hold on to this: It will pass and you will remain. Even if you change you will remain, and you will know the truth of yourself even in the darkest night. Don’t let anyone or anything make you unsure of that.

Pisces: “Talking Shit About A Pretty Sunset”, Modest Mouse. I claim I’m not excited with my life anymore.

I want you to read “Leaves of Grass” this month. I want you to think about forcing yourself toward pleasure, about the idea that smiling can actually make you happier. I want you to do this because you have a tendency toward fixating on the things that you hate, the things that bring you pain and sorrow, and in naming them so directly and so often you give them power. This month I want you to think about “dismiss whatever insults your own soul”, about the idea that you can let go of the things that hurt you. I know this is hard, I know, but I want you to be firm and vocal about the things you love. Notice the things that bring you joy and address them, talk about them, replace the litany of darkness with a flood of light. It is maybe the hardest thing in the world to just not think about something and I am not asking you to do that, because I genuinely don’t yet know how to do it myself. What I am asking you to do this month is to try and lessen the power that the painful things have over you by giving them less space in your life, in your mind and your heart and your thoughts. They won’t be gone – they will never be gone – but the less attention you pay them the less you will notice them curled in the corner. “Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”

Aries: “Mouthful of Diamonds”, Phantogram. You’ve got a mouthful of diamonds and a pocketful of secrets.

There is benefit sometimes in playing it close to the chest, Aries. This is counter to everything that the fire in your blood tells you, the impulsive shout of your birth that thrums in your veins, but it is worth knowing. You do not have to speak it out loud for it to be true, and you do not have to give away any part of you. It is tempting to lay yourself bare to be picked over like a carcass, submission as a form of power, of control, but there is a different and colder kind of power in silence. Naming your demons gives them less power, toss of the hair yeah that happened but it’s whatever, but this has become more of a reflex than a genuine urge to speak of them. When you feel like you have to talk about it in order for it to be real, when you feel like you have to legitimize yourself by exposing your rawest places, you’re no longer in control. You are offering pieces of yourself on an altar that is already slick with blood and the only things that will take heed of this are scavengers. Be cautious, this month, with the bits of yourself you put on display. Every time you open your mouth diamonds tumble off your tongue, and it is worth it to decide who really deserves them.

Taurus: “Take Care”, Beach House. I’ll take care of you if you ask me to. 

Imagine that you are a plant. This should not be difficult. Imagine that you are a plant and that there are specific ways to ideally care for you. What are those ways? That is your task this month, Taurus. I want you to establish with yourself what it looks like to nurture you, to take care of you. Once you do that I want you to think about who, in your life, actually takes care of you. Who do you allow to care for you? Who cares for you in a way that doesn’t mesh with your plant-care manual? There are different ways to express love, obviously, but much of our unhappiness comes from the knowledge that we are, empirically, being loved, and yet not being able to feel it in a way that resonates with us. Maybe someone is overwatering you, to continue my plant metaphor, because they love you so much and they’re so worried you’re going to dry out, but they’re not listening when you tell them you’re actually good with a once-a-week watering. This month I want you to think about the people in your life that take care of you and the ways in which they do that, and I want you to find your way toward making the ways that you need care clearer to them. You deserve to be loved as carefully and intentionally as you love others, and the only way to do that is to first really understand what you need and then to speak it.

Gemini: “The Chain”, Ingrid Michaelson. And if you come around again then I will take the chain from off the door.

The things you have loved have a way of coming back to you. This is because you have loved them well, as you love all things, and because you are a soft and tender creature. This month I want you to think about the fact that it is your choice whether or not to accept them when they return, your prodigal beloveds. They return, but they left in the first place. It is not in your nature to be cruel and so you allow them in, but in doing this you manage to be cruel to yourself, reopening old wounds, accepting less than you deserve. Your willingness to see the good in people is a beautiful thing but it is a soft spot in a suit of armor made almost entirely of soft spots. Listen: It is well within your rights to lock the door when the past comes knocking, to examine apologies for truth, and ultimately to choose not to open your heart again. You do not owe anyone a second chance, is what I’m saying, and anyone that tries to make you feel that way – yourself included – is wrong. Be discerning, this month, and really think about who deserves more of you than they’ve already taken. Keep yourself safe.

Cancer: “End of the Day”, One Direction. You love who you love, there ain’t no other way.

You don’t have to understand someone to love them. You have so much love to give, it pours out of you almost without your permission, and so you try to ration it in this way, to stem the flow and direct it in a way that feels safer, that you can justify. We have so much in common, they really get me, we’re like, soulmates. You have loved so many people and so many of them have hurt you, and it doesn’t make sense that you would continue to fall in love so deeply and openly, to keep your heart as full as it is. Love doesn’t make sense, though, and this is your blessing and your curse: you love so much. You can look for kindred spirits, of course, but what you can’t do is mold someone into a person that you feel like you should love, the idea of a person who deserves your love. You don’t have to understand them, they don’t have to share your interests or your hobbies or your flaws; if these things happen they are great but you cannot force them. You love who you love, as One Direction says, you follow your heart even though it’ll break sometimes. The danger of being a person so capable of love is that you will be hurt, and shared circumstances don’t mitigate that. Be brave this month, all months. Take every leap; don’t close yourself off.

Leo: “Control Freak”, Copeland. You lose your mind if you lose control.

You are a very proud creature, Leo, of course you are, and you have every right to be because you are a force of nature. What you need to know, though, what you need to hold on to through this month, is this: you don’t have to do everything on your own. This requires you to trust other people – their abilities, their judgment, their choices. It is difficult for you to relinquish control, especially because you are generally very good at doing things. But listen – it’s not about your ability to do things all on your own. It’s about the fact that it’s not good for you to do so. You don’t have to be constantly proving yourself. You don’t have to be the first one into the fight, the last one to leave the office, the most tired person at the party. You know? You don’t have to do things all on your own and maybe even more importantly, you don’t have to do everything perfectly. You don’t even have to do everything right! You hold yourself to these impossible standards, you run yourself ragged and then you wonder why your edges are fraying, so this is what I am telling you. Cut yourself some slack this month. Delegate some responsibility; let people help you. Not because you need it, but because you could use it. You don’t have to play your life on xtreme difficulty hell-level, okay? Take naps, use cheat codes. Leave work at five and don’t feel bad about it.

Virgo: “The House That Built Me”,  Miranda Lambert. I got lost in this whole world and forgot who I am. Out here it’s like I’m someone else. I thought that maybe I could find myself.

Be careful of the idols you choose. You are clever enough and determined enough to become them, to shape yourself in their image and emerge from a mold of your own making time and time again. You are capable of such self-transformation, of learning so precisely and completely how to be what you admire, that you need to be more judicious with your admiration than others do. This month is for thinking about the things you value in others and why you value them, and what they would mean to you if they were part of you instead. Burrow down inside yourself and examine what you know to be true, what you would like to change, what you value that is present in your own soul. Keep hold of these things, keep them in your sight, and you will be better able to discern what it is about a person that captivates you, makes you want to befriend them, makes you want to be them. What is charming in another person may feel disingenuous in your own skin; if you transform yourself with an eye only on the horizon you may lose sight of the shore.

Libra: “I Don’t Want To Let You Down”, Sharon Van Etten. When dreams grew black I didn’t want to see the light.

The ease with which you navigate people makes you distrust them, which is an interesting but understandable way to respond to your particular gift. You wear many masks, Libra, and it serves you well and there is a bright genuine core inside you that suffuses you no matter what, but you are aware of what you are projecting all the time. You’re always on, always ready. You are so good at sussing out a motive, at understanding what someone wants from a given situation, but lately you’re reaching a sort of terminal velocity with it. What I’m saying is that if you expect the worst from people you will find it. It is impossible not to disappoint someone who expects to be disappointed. There are caveats here, obviously – your radar for bullshit is peerless, and if you are genuinely getting bad vibes from someone I want you to trust yourself – but what I want you to work on this month is approaching people with an open mind. Game recognizes game, is what they say, but I want you to consider the possibility that there is no game. The interpersonal situations in which you find yourself are sometimes veiled negotiations, contests, but they’re not always. Trust yourself enough to know that you will feel it when someone is trying to play you; trust the world enough to know that most of the time, they won’t be.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: ONE DIRECTION’S MADE IN THE A.M.

ALY: I still have not listened to Made in the A.M. I am afraid to listen to it, honestly, because I am so sad about everything. I am going to listen to it alone, I think, which is interesting to me that that’s what I want to do because One Direction has always been for me a thing of togetherness, of experiencing a thing with other people. And I eventually want to experience MITAM with other people, and I will, but I am not ready for that yet, that rawness. But I think that that’s not what this album is about, like, the necessity of being alone in the midst of other people, the kind of blinking brightness of coming out of a darkened room into the middle of the afternoon. How did we get here? We watched the Live Lounge performance yesterday and it left me feeling strange and hollow and empty because, like, the passage of time! There is no clearer indication of how much everything has changed than revisiting the past, in superimposing it upon the present and looking at the way the edges don’t match up. “Torn” is actually about One Direction, is what I’m saying, and that realization left a sunny, windblown space inside me. Illusion never changed into something real; I’m wide awake and I can see the perfect sky is torn. You can’t ever get anything back;  you can sing the same song but there are only four boys on stage now and they look sad and scared. Their cover of “FourFiveSeconds” was almost as hurtful; just tryna make it back homeThat’s all I want. It has been five years and no matter what happens I love these boys, I love them with a clear pure fire that will never go out no matter how it sputters, but they are different now and so am I, and so are we all. I haven’t listened to Made in the A.M. but still in my soul I know what it’s about, which is this: It will never change me and you is a fiction that only growing up reveals to you. I’ll still feel the same about you is impossible just by the nature of being alive, of being a person that is also a chrysalis that is also a constantly mutable thing. Growing up is about realizing that it’s okay to feel differently, to say goodbye, to feel love and know that it is different from the love you felt before even as you feel it for the same people. Swearing that your emotions will never change is a lie and we tell it to ourselves and to everyone else and Made in the A.M., actually One Direction itself as it is now, honestly, is about opening your hand and letting that lie blow away into the hot bright empty space inside you. I don’t know if they’ll come back but even if they do it’s not like everything will be the same because it already isn’t, and I am trying to be okay with that, and I think they are too. It will never change me and you isn’t that your emotions will never change, never wax and wane and mutate, but that the idea of me and you will never change. We will always be tied to each other by something. We will aways be a “we.”

ASHLEY: One Direction has loved for years to compare themselves to lads at “uni.” If this is true, Made in the A.M. is their post-graduate album. It’s regretful, world-weary. We had it all, yeah and we walked away… The much publicized and debated departure of Zayn Malik from One Direction in March 2015 is not obvious in the seamless vocal recording—full, textured and layered, perhaps now more than ever as they even managed to record several tracks with a 24-piece orchestra at Abbey Road Studios—but Zayn’s absence is unquestionably evident in the melancholy and poignant lyrical content of Made in the A.M.  Zayn’s departure has given them the vocabulary necessary to express rage, remorse… to reminisce. The album has been dedicated time and time again to the fans. The unspoken dedication is to the boy who left center stage in March. I try to forgive you, but I’m struggling cause I don’t know how… It’s beautiful, albeit complicated, to listen to Niall, Harry, Liam and Louis grapple with the reality of their success and the physical (and emotional) loss on the road of their best friend. The isolation of fame on “Perfect” (if you like causing trouble up in hotel rooms), the confusion of losing the only comforting reality they’ve known on “Olivia” (and time is irrelevant when I’ve not been seeing ya), and the constant thrum of attention on “History” (all of the rumors, all of the fights / But we always find a way to make it out alive). One Direction does not hide the pain, anguish, and promise of the last year in their voices.

Made in the A.M. confronts the reality of what they’ve lost (and gained) in artfully crafted melodies. Made in the A.M. is a natural progression for One Direction from the harmonies and rock influence of FOUR. This album created by men who have been crowned “king(s)” because of us is ambitious, lush, and complete. “Never Enough”, “Wolves” and “Temporary Fix” are three of the strongest pop-rock tracks they’ve ever released. Eccentric, original, catchy. “What A Feeling” is a great homage to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” “If I Could Fly” might be the most intimate and sincere ballad One Direction has ever released. Edges soft, tones hushed. There’s resolve. Yes, there are still lovers as there must be on One Direction albums—I’m not trying to downplay the very real role of break ups and conceptions in the legacy of their music—but the disappearance of Zayn—I believe—has given them the language necessary to articulate twist the knife and break and, most importantly, for all of us still here, forever. “Long Way Down” laments, We had it all yeah / And we walked away… One Direction does not hide; rather they confront the last year track by track, and thank us for staying. “Walking in the Wind,” influenced by Paul Simon, directly addresses Zayn’s absence. We had some good times, didn’t we? / We had some good tricks up our sleeve… Made in the A.M. doesn’t ask for the soaring, far-reaching vocals of Midnight Memories; they’ve crash-landed. This has been a year of assessment. At the “End of the Day,” they’re still here and we’re still here. I don’t know who is more grateful. We can live forever…

CARSON: What is a first impression if it’s not really a first impression? Because it was so easy to get my hands on this album before its “official” release date. Too easy. Browsing through 8tracks and casually finding the entire album easy. Not to mention that, what, eight of the 17 tracks on the album have already been released on Spotify? So basically, sorry not sorry that my first impression is sort of hollow, but who cares? The temporarily-fixed last album is out!!! Immediate favorites: “Never Enough.” The other one, “Walking In the Wind,” I think, is the one that Harry said was based off that Paul Simon song. Right? But “Never Enough” is a Paul Simon song! A poppy, silly one at that. It’s “You Can Call Me Al” and, for good measure, Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling.” “Olivia.” This opinion is a little biased – and it now makes two songs named after close friends – but this one is just as cute as Olivia is. One part sentimentality, the other a giant reference to The Beatles. I’d say this is their most Beatles song, which is saying something – also, Willy Wonka vibes? Finally, “History” and “Temporary Fix.” More Niall songs! Well, not “History,” but to be honest “History” should just be a Niall song. As we’ve all decided in that unspoken agreement, Niall is the band’s historian. But Niall shines on this album. And all albums, giving us “Don’t Forget Where You Belong” and “Act My Age,” but particularly in this one, with some genuine bangers. I want to yell all of Niall’s songs so loudly, it hurts. Niall, or my projection of Niall, represents the best parts of this band – lads being lads, people with maybe a little bit of darkness mostly obscured by light and genuine fun-loving. It’s all Niall. Maybe this album is the band’s tribute – not to Zayn (though of course there are so many Zayn songs on here) – but to the unobtrusive glue that keeps it held together. And I couldn’t ask for a better way for them to (maybe) end.

CORBIN: The thesis of FOUR is that change will not happen once you prove that something has been happening long enough: she been my queen since we were sixteen is also I have loved you since we were eighteen is also even when the night changes, it will never change me and you is also I won’t act my age, I’ll still be the same and you will too. The thesis of Made in the A.M. is that change must happen, but whatever will happen does not invalidate what has happened. “Love You Goodbye” begins by saying it’s inevitable everything that’s good comes to an end, so the leaving can happen with grace despite the sorrow of loss. It hurts to know that you cannot rise and rise and rise forever –– we built it up so high and now I’m falling, it’s a long way down –– but doesn’t have to be we had a spaceship but we couldn’t land it. It can be we can sit right here and say goodbye because we’ve already won. Maturity is not about attaining fixity, but about learning to handle flux, becoming a person who can grow and learn and leave and become a self, over and over, in new ways. You follow your heart even though it’ll break sometimes. Ending is not erasing, and ending does not eliminate the possibility of future beginning –– you will find me in places we’ve never been, for reasons we don’t understand. One Direction will leave us, is leaving us, has left us, but left with the promise that any time I’ve gone / you can listen to my voice and sing along, and in that sense, the words of “History” have become true: this is not the end, this is not the end, we can live forever.

KENZIE: Everything about this album is nostalgic, in a way. The sound of it is clearly inspired by Paul Simon and Fleetwood Mac, they’ve even said as much; the lyrics are about looking back, about goodbyes, about endings. It’s a gift to get us across a span of time that could be a year, could be two, could continue indefinitely. But it is a gift– it’s happy, it is about accepting that things end and that it doesn’t invalidate what happened before, it doesn’t make that less important. And to be clear, I love this gift. I love it and will cherish it and I pre-ordered it and I’m probably going to buy it on vinyl on payday and I’m going to choose to believe that “I Want to Write You A Song,” a song about them writing us a song to sing along to when they are gone and we are sad, was written for me personally. It isn’t Take Me Home or FOUR, Zayn is missing, life is changing for them and the absence of One Direction is looming on their horizon and ours. For some people, that absence is going to sting too much. Sometimes people can’t let go; we’ve got albums about holding onto things and preserving, given to us by One Direction, so I know. They know. It hurts to need to let things go and to accept that good things end. And that is fair. But that doesn’t mean the good things weren’t good. It doesn’t mean they can’t still be good for you. For me, the nostalgia feels sweet and gentle, and the bops in between the nostalgia are just so goddamn much fun. “Never Enough” is full of grunting, “Temporary Fix” is fun and filthy and talks about the things you can do in the dark. This isn’t just some ballads for looking out into the sunset and taking that first step forward, it’s also fun, it is happy, it is going to be okay. We have this to tell us that. One Direction are going on hiatus. It is indefinite, who knows when they’ll come back, if they’ll come back. But we have this. We can sing their songs. The things they built, the things we built, they still exist. And that is a gift.

Songs About Endlessness: A Playlist

I like to imagine a little world, floating above our own, in which things don’t end. Everything, from the lights at the concert glowing brighter and brighter and that amazing conversation you had with someone you barely knew about how Taylor Swift totally wrote a Paramore song that one time, to the worst nights and all the crying fits. It sounds kind of horrifying, it is kind of horrifying, but there’s also a comfort to perpetuity, isn’t there? In a little world where nothing ever ends, there can be infinite you’s, all running parallel existences. Every second of your life, every single incarnation of you there has ever been, would have its own place as a completely separate entity in this world, and it makes a strange kind of sense because every second of your life is different, isn’t it? You are different every second of your life. What I’m trying to say is a little world in which nothing ends isn’t all that different from an actual lived reality. (Sidenote: this idea of endless existence is the whole basis of fanfiction and even fan culture in general. The space for the thing you love is all filled up, so you take what you love and you make a new home for it–an object in motion stays in motion and you have no reason to jump in its way).

In this world where everything runs in straight lines, unobstructed and never ending, I like to think that there is always music. It’s in this world that songs that end on a fadeout are never quieted, they just repeat those last lines over and over and over and over and over and—you get my point. The beat syncopates on, the humming synth breathes in-out forever. Songs that aren’t just immortalized, but actually immortal. A memory, a feeling, in a form where it can last on and on.

Each of these songs promise forever in their own way, whether that be eternal love or longing or pain or loneliness. I’ll never want to let you go is different than I never want to let you go is different than I’ll never let you go. You can’t promise the latter, but you can be sure that the wanting is forever. Forever isn’t a concept in these songs; it’s a place. A place where the people are talking people are talking people are talking (but not you), where all I want to be is yours yours yours. The days are long here on these endless road trips with a girl who can see right through you. In this place of forever, you are ever spinning, a voice caught in a round that echoes on and on, threads of melody endlessly weaving themselves together and ripping themselves back apart. No time, no time, no time, sure, but also there’s no time here, in this place where you repeat words often enough that they float off into the little world where everything is endless. It’s a strange notion, that things don’t have to end. But like all the strangest things, it’s just a little bit magical.

You always seem to miss how things were. You always seem to be missing something, even as it’s still happening. The writer of the song has probably changed genres, the band has probably rearranged their lineup, the singer may have gotten sick and stopped making music. But the song lives on, lingering in a world where nothing ever, ever, ever ends.

Playlist

Run Away With Me – Carly Rae Jepsen
Hold onto me
I’ll never want to let you go

A World Alone – Lorde
People are talking, people are talking
Let ’em talk cause we’re dancing in this world alone, our world alone
We’re all alone

I Wanna be Yours – Arctic Monkeys
I wanna be yours I wanna be yours I wanna be yours I wanna be yours

Hannah Hunt – Vampire Weekend
Our days were long and our nights no longer
Count the seconds, watching hours
Though we live on the US dollar, you and me, we’ve got our own sense of time

Take Care – Beach House
Deep inside the ever-spinning, tell me does it feel
It’s no good unless it’s real, hillsides burning
Wild-eyed turning till we’re running from it

Eyes – Rogue Wave
We’ll be washing my hands of attachments, yeah,
Land on the ground, one thing I’m missing is in your eyes

The Chain – Ingrid Michaelson
I’ll never say that I’ll never love
But I don’t say a lot of things
And you, my love, are gone

Wait – M83
No time, no time
There’s no end, there’s no goodbye
Disappear with the night
No time, no time

God Only Knows – the Beach Boys
If you should ever leave me
Though life would still go on believe me
The world could show nothing to me
So what good would living do me?

Strange Magic – Electric Light Orchestra
You’re walking meadows in my mind
Making waves across my time


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.

NEW MUSIC FRIDAY: LITTLE MIX’S “GROWN”

Tiny pitch: Still looking for new music writers! There is so much new music, literally every week, literally every day of every week, and we are only humans and there are not very many of us and most of us are doing this in spare moments at like two a.m. so like, help a witch out, u know? Email me aly@witchsong.com. If you aren’t sure you have feelings about new music, you can take a gander here at the list of albums that will come out this and next year, and also Spotify releases lists of new music seemingly endlessly and I am ALWAYS BEHIND, and you can request to talk about those or anything else new, and I am also interested in local bands around the country, wherever our readers are, so if you know any and you like them let us know. Okay! Thank! Heart!

I have little to say about this song besides the obvious, which is that it FUCKING SLAYS, and I hate to use that phrase. But it does. If you are one of the many people who has been sleeping on Little Mix, like, that’s fine, it’s cool, take your time coming home, but also GET ON THE BOAT BEFORE YOU MISS THE BOAT. This is so much an Ultimate Justified Bitch song, like, what a glorious thing to have some tragic high-school boy that you pined over trying to crawl back into your life, and you look down at him over your Prada sunglasses and your ponytail is so sleek and so high and your lips are so glossy and your smile is so cruel and he can’t get with you; now you’re grown. And obviously this is my own fantasy and maybe in your head when you reject your erstwhile Prince Charming you are wearing combat fatigues and a crop top a la Gwen Stefani, whatever, this is your dream, that is the whole point of this song. This is “White Horse” if “White Horse” were an incredible dance number. No matter where you are now you are grown and you are too good for everyone who dismissed you when you were still growing. It’s so cheeky, is the best way to describe it, so flippantly defiant. It sounds like a schoolyard chant. Can’t-get-with-me-now-I’m-grown. It is delightful and mean and victorious and I love it. GROWN!