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TRUST YR STUPID FUCKING HEART (a playlist)

  1. Lizzo – En Love
  2. M.I.A. – Fire Fire
  3. Little Esther – I’m a Bad, Bad Girl
  4. The Last Shadow Puppets – Bad Habits
  5. Rilo Kiley – Portions for Foxes
  6. Worriers – Unwritten
  7. Colleen Green – Whatever I Want
  8. The I Don’t Cares – Just a Phase
  9. Thurston Moore – Psychic Hearts
  10. The Kills – Fuck the People
  11. Pixies – Holiday Song
  12. Dum Dum Girls – There Is a Light That Never Goes Out
  13. EL VY – Need a Friend
  14. The Cars – Dangerous Type
  15. The Make-Up – White Belts
  16. The Mo-Dettes – White Mice
  17. Thee Headcoatees – Ça Plane Pour Moi
  18. Huggy Bear – Pansy Twist
  19. Bikini Kill – I Like Fucking
  20. Mika Miko – Sex
  21. Dresden Dolls – Dirty Business
  22. Screaming Females – Triumph

(+ a bonus track that isn’t on the playlist: Jolie Holland – Springtime Can Kill You)

(listen to it at 8tracks)

It is springtime, and springtime can kill you (just like it did poor me). The light is clearer and hangs on longer in the sky each day, the birds are all singing riotous songs in the treetops. A few days ago, it was seventy degrees; I drank iced coffee and resisted the urge to cut the sleeves off all my t-shirts. It is springtime, and I am so damn restless I’m about ready to tear my skin off. I can’t focus on anything. I pick up a book, read a few pages, put it down again. I start a poem, write a few lines, quit. My notebooks are full of Jenny Holzer-esque truisms that I write in all caps. YOU WILL GET SO TIRED OF WEIGHING THE POTENTIAL CONSEQUENCES. SOMETIMES YOU WILL BE READY TO SAY “FUCK IT” AND FOLLOW YR HEART. BE A DRUNKEN SLUT. STOP THINKING. IT’S SO TIRING. TRUST YR STUPID FUCKING HEART.

I just want to trust my stupid fucking heart. Or maybe I just want something that makes my stupid heart beat faster.

I am so tired of weighing the potential consequences. When I was younger, I usually leapt into things without caring what the result would be. (And now I can’t believe I didn’t put that Shivvers song on this playlist: when I was younger, when I was younger, when I was younger.) I went for what felt good, or even bad, as long as I was feeling something. As long as it made me feel alive. But there were enough adverse consequences that I began to grow afraid. I was often on the verge of eviction, because I did things like spending my rent money on road trips. I hurt people. I disappointed people. Friends and family started telling me that I was wasting my life.

…some might say that you and I have wasted our lives so far. Yes, we have had our hearts broken more than most. (We’ve broken some hearts, too.) We’ve had brushes with the law; and we’ve dealt with pregnancy scares and unemployment and spent many mornings too hungover to even move. But we have also experienced so much poetry, seen so much beauty, received so much love. We have had more fun in our short lives than most people ever get to have; so how could we ever consider it a waste?

-from something I wrote in 2006

Maybe I still want to waste my life, if wasting my life is what it takes to feel alive. To paraphrase Dazed & Confused, a movie I watched over and over when I felt those first reckless, restless stirrings in my teenage body: I need some good old, worthwhile, visceral experience. I want to go out into the wild, twisting night, want to take drugs, get laid, maybe get in a fight. Except I don’t do drugs anymore and I don’t get in fights anymore and no, I won’t spend all my rent money on a road trip. There are certain things I’m not willing to risk, and that’s for the best. But I am tired of worrying about what other people think; tired of not doing what I want to do because it might hurt or disappoint someone in my life. I don’t want to hurt anyone, of course not, but it’s my life and it’s springtime and my heart is saying go. I want to fuck. I want to dance. I want to smash it up. I want sudden intense connections with interesting strangers. I want to take long drives in search of coffee and trouble. (Remembering that spring so long ago when I drove the seven hours from Chicago to St. Louis just to get coffee at a Waffle House.) I want to rip my tights, walk along the train tracks, get my boots all covered in good mud. I want, I want, I want. No, I don’t want to hurt anyone, but I am tired of not being myself. And I’m bad news, baby, I’m bad news.

I’m just a traveling girl with a wild mane of wavy red hair, holes in my tights, all my clothes smelling of smoke. I can roll a cigarette while driving down the freeway at eighty miles an hour. I can get drunk as shit and get two hours of sleep and drive from one town to another, then do it all again the next night. I can find my way anywhere. I can get lost anywhere.

-from something I wrote in 2007

I dye my hair red again every spring. No matter what other colors I might dye it the rest of the year, in spring I metamorphose back into a redhead. I was born with red hair but it faded to a drab brown when I hit puberty, some shitty twist of fate, so I became a bottle redhead. Red hair is fiery, brazen, witchy. (Redheads used to be burnt at the stake as witches, because it was believed they had magic powers.) Red is the color of anger and lust, love and rage. The color of blood and lipstick and my stupid, wildly beating heart. Girls like me are meant to have red hair.

It’s springtime, and I’m a wild redheaded girl for life. So take me out tonight. Take me anywhere, I don’t care, I don’t care. Take me to where the rough edges of the night meet the back alleys. Take me to the rooftops and fire escapes of your town. Take me to all-nite diners, where we can get coffee-buzzed and plot to take over the world. Let’s walk around. Let’s drive too fast on backroads. I don’t need your love, I just need a friend.

I still want all the same old dumb shit I’ve always wanted. Spontaneous adventures, crushes, mix tapes. Music I can feel in my guts, in my bones, whether it’s hip-hop or the punk rocks. Sneaky eyes and sleeveless t-shirts. Sex and danger. In the immortal words of Henry Rollins: I want to fuck on the floor and break shit. Yeah, I like fucking. I’m always restless, and next to wandering, sex is one of the few things that eases my restlessness. And I believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure, babe. I do, I do, I do.

I’ve lost some friends because I’ve failed to grow up properly. These friends used to be just like me (you fuckers used to be just like me), but they went straight. I don’t mean straight as in heterosexual, I mean straight as in normal. They became capital-G Grown Ups. They got advanced degrees and nine-to-fives and stopped making zines and got their tattoos removed. I’m an adult, too. I have a kid, and a writing career; I pay my bills instead of going on ill-advised road trips, I don’t go on benders or do drugs anymore. But I also haven’t given up crushes or adventure or art or punk; I’m still making zines and giving myself stick ’n’ poke tattoos. I’ve still got that steel-toed spark and that teenage j.d. twitch. Maybe they’re bitter because they thought growing up meant giving all that up.

We can have all of it! We can be mamas and healers and have love and morals and sweetness and good things in our lives, but we don’t have to give up the rest—we can also be wild punk rock goddesses of destruction and fuck and fight and drink and smoke and swear and make mad art, goddamnit!

-from something I wrote in 2013

I should’ve known something was up the last time I saw M.—before she decided she hated me, when I still thought we’d be friends for life—when she said: “I’m over Amanda Palmer. It’s not cute to tell young girls that it’s okay to be fucked-up.” That stunned me, because she was once a fucked-up girl, just like me. She and I used to listen to Dresden Dolls albums and talk about how eerily close to our own lives they were, how it was like AFP had looked into our souls and made songs out of them. But maybe that’s the other thing. It’s not just that M. and the others gave up their former passions. They also regret that they ever lived that way. They regret the days of chronic unemployment and ill-advised road trips, the crazy-mad love affairs, the all-nite diner marathons, the epic meals we made from what we found in dumpsters. And I don’t. No matter how I’ve changed, or how many of those things I don’t want anymore, I could never ever regret those days. They made me who I am, and they gave me so many stories to tell. To all the ones who thought they knew me best, a test to prove your prowess. Who was mine in ’99? I want last names, and current status.

No, I don’t want to wind up on the verge of eviction, or have my electricity shut off. I don’t want to hurt anyone. But it is springtime, and I am so tired of weighing the potential consequences. And I’m just a redheaded restless punk rock goddess of destruction for life, and I still want all that shit that makes my stupid, reckless heart beat faster. Loud music, caffeine, adventure, sex. If you’re like me, you’re feeling the same way. So:

WHO CARES WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK. STOP THINKING. IT’S SO TIRING. TRUST YR STUPID FUCKING HEART.

Get out, get out of your house.

The Saddest Songs Are in Major Keys

“Hallelujah California” – Luna Shadows

Daddy always warned that the saddest songs are in major keys is a line that kills me, because this song is not in a major key. But then, songs about California are usually not in major keys. It’s not a sad song at all; it’s just a melancholic California song, a song of mirages, of someone disappearing slowly into the horizon from your seat on the sticky pavement. It’s a song we hear over and over again, from “Hotel California” and “California Dreamin’” to everything Lana del Rey has ever written.

Limits EPMt. Si

Mt. Si unites the unstructured dreaminess of shoegaze with a heavily defined, often jarring beat. They allow a drop here and a chord there to push themselves out from the haze of lazy synths and floating vocals, bringing your attention to their significance in a song you could sleep through. The beat is often melodic and sounds like a natural noise, compared to all the electronica happening around it. While the harmonies and even the tracks themselves tend to melt into each other, that occasional beat gives Limits a sharp, resounding definition.

“U Up” – Soft Lit

From the title alone, I had been convinced that this song was by dudebros. Oh no, I thought, this is a song either relentlessly bashing or misogynistically embracing “u up” and I hate it. I’m so sorry, Soft Lit, for making this stereotypical assumption! Here it is: a lady (okay, and a guy on synths) giving that guy who texted “u up” an even more apathetic response. Sliding into nothing, she whisper-sings. You think like I got time/But you’re not on my mind. It’s not the “u up” itself that is the problem, it’s the dude who just can’t get over her hiding behind the lazy text.

“Don’t Worry About Me” – Frances

Frances reminds us that melodies, in and of themselves, can be sad and beautiful things in her single “Don’t Worry About Me.” If I were listening to it in my room or on a redeye flight far away from home, I would almost certainly cry. But this song eclipses a specific emotion, and my ears tend instead to focus on a single note, a pause, or an elongation. Because there’s so little to parse, I’m forced to focus on subtle changes in harmonies and cadences.

“Souvenirs” – Cardiknox

Thinking of yourself as a tourist in your own relationship is unique in just how cold it feels. “Souvenirs” is in a major key (the saddest songs are in major keys), and through it Cardiknox describes physical objects and scenarios instead of the emotions attached to them, as though they’re foreign to her. She wants — more than anything — to keep those memories as her own, but she describes them as though she’s borrowed them from a stranger.

“Good As Hell” – Lizzo

Lizzo (of “Let ‘Em Say,” a song I’ve been obsessed with since I first heard it for Broad City’s most recent season premier) dropped this single for the sure-to-be-amazing movie Barbershop: The Next Cut. And like any tried-and-true banger, the song comes with an incredible chorus: If he don’t love you anymore/Just walk your fine ass out the door/I do my hair toss, check my nails/Baby how you feelin’? Feelin’ good as hell. This is a love-yourself song that fits in perfectly with a movie that praises the inherent beauty in blackness and uses its community to fight oppression. Go listen to this song, then go reserve your ticket for Barbershop 3, which comes out on April 15.


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

Teen Dreams with The 1975

It has been so long since I felt like this. Ricocheting against myself with the force of a slammed door traveling up a wrist, howling inside the closed room of my body but still somehow wide open to the mess of things, a sea spread flat and waiting for rain, waiting for sunshine, my surface dappled and troubled and permeable, a shivering mess of light and shadow: this is where I am these days, most hours awake and some sleeping too. I tremble a lot. Sometimes I catch a smell rising off my skin, hot and sharp, floral like the magnolia petals falling off the tree at the end of the block — ground into the pavement by someone’s careless heel, firm pearl pink cut through with rot.

It’s been three years since The 1975 released a full-length album and in that time I have mostly been getting to my desk job on time and remembering to pack a salad for lunch and hanging up my silk blouses when I get home. I’ve been steady. My skin has been okay. I’m grown, is what I’m saying, but lucky for me, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it dropped two months into the first time I’ve been off the birth control pill since I was sixteen, and this shitstorm of hormones leaves me in exactly the right emotional space to experience it for what it is. I’m a teenager again, utterly defenseless against the way the world moves into and through me, a conduit, bathed in my own electricity, jittering and dripping. I start splashing and sloshing and sparking hot when a wire touches me and there is a wire touching me almost all the time.

What I’m saying is, I was ready for this because I wasn’t ready for this.

This is music for teenagers, maybe even more than The 1975 was. This is sloppy and atmospheric and posturing. These are songs with brash dumb lyrics that are trying too hard, fake-cynical lyrics that don’t manage to disguise the emotion that brims and breaks and swells beneath them. Matty Healy chooses words like a stoned college sophomore whose midterm paper is due at noon, meaning mostly it’s a mishmash of messy diction masking ideas uncomplicated enough to shine through despite that, but sometimes he gets the glitter of something genuinely great. It’s fucked up to think that the same person who wrote “If I Believe You” — which muses on religious belief and atheism with all the nuance of a pretentious seventh grader who once read Richard Dawkins’ Twitter — can turn around and put out lines as biting and clean as I don’t want your body but I hate to think about you with somebody else.

A lot of these songs revolve around romance but rarely do the women in his songs function like traditional love objects; my favorite game is flipping the characters and marveling at how easy it is to imagine lines like you used to have a face straight out a magazine / now you just look like anyone as being sung at him instead of by him. The criticisms he levels at girl after girl become, in aggregate, a story more about him than about them, and meanwhile those criticisms are things like you took a picture of your salad and put it on the internet, which rotate their subjects from reductive intellectual-bro stereotypes into tiny narratives so perfectly relatable and nuanced that I kick the air with delight every time I hear them. Does he know he’s doing that? Is he trying to be mean, or has he been dedicating himself to ensuring each person who appears in his songs seems three-dimensional enough to sustain a full-length novel? I honestly can’t tell, but if I had to bet money, I’d say he has no fucking clue.

What is infuriating about Matty Healy is that he thinks he’s so smart, but even more infuriating is that he actually is smart, just not in the ways he seems to think he is. He loves to talk in interviews about what he writes about — fame, philosophy, the bitterness of love, questioning God — but, frankly, he’s not giving us anything new on those fronts. What happens in these songs that pushes them from the trash your local litbro writes to actual fucking poetry is the way he fails over and over to be convincing, the way he demonstrates that a self is most purely beautiful in the places where it is unable to disguise its vulnerability, and he owes almost all of that to how fucking good he is at writing and producing music. It all happens in the sound.

If these were really rock songs, they’d be all wrong, but they’re all as pop as pop can be. Pick and choose any and all of the usual adjectives — lush, glittering, soaring, sugary, thumping, tremulous — they’re all there, but they’re new somehow, and that’s where the genius is. I mean, can you believe synths can still sound revelatory? Every third radio station is playing something that sounds like a Kygo remix (and don’t get me wrong, I love that), but this album is beyond that. “A Change Of Heart” starts out with a canned eighties-prom-slow-dance Casio beat and floats like a silver Mylar balloon into a theremin break which wavers gently through a sea of iridescent bubbly echoes that genuinely would not be out of place in an Enya song, and you guys, my heart! When I listen to this I forget I’m on the train, I forget I’m anxious, I forget I’m anywhere other than floating in a starry mist. I put myself at risk of stepping in dog shit every day because I can’t listen to “Somebody Else” without my chin tipping skyward while my feet move me forward over all those filthy streets that Matty Healy is pretending to talk about. This isn’t music for looking at the world clear-eyed and pointing out faults and spitting truth. This is music for feeling.

My favorite song on this album is “Paris.” I have a rule for myself that I’m not allowed to put repeat on for the songs I love, so their magic doesn’t wear thin, but I’ve broken it with this one. I think it will take me hundreds of listens more to find out why it makes my whole body sing with certainty and understanding, but for now I am preoccupied with how it sounds like acknowledging past selves — not any specific self, only those that once existed and are now gone, whether by accidental change or conscious growth. I never felt much heartache from Casablanca‘s classic “We’ll always have Paris,” and for me the buoyant refrain of how I’d love to go to Paris again, and again, and again and again, and— is its antithesis: you can choose to acknowledge an ending by glossing over your hurt with a certainty and finality you do not feel, or you can allow yourself to linger in how beautiful it would be to have it one more time. I always prefer to sink myself in the wanting. Besides, these days, walking past jasmine vines with a pink buzz of chemicals flooding my blood, it seems that sometimes it isn’t up to you anyway. No matter how much you believe a part of your life to be finished, it can always split you right back open.

splinter: playlist

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splinter. a fracture. a break. the sound of silence.

playlist.

Taylor Swift – Wildest Dreams [GRAMMY Museum]
You’ll see me in hindsight / Tangled up with you all night…

Diana Krall – A Case of You [Live In Paris]
Oh! You’re in my blood like holy wine / You taste so bitter and you taste so sweet…

Adele – Million Years Ago
Sometimes I just feel it’s only me / Who can’t stand the reflection that they see…

One Direction – Long Way Down
Point of no return and now it’s just too late to turn around / I try to forgive you but I struggle cause I don’t know…

Sufjan Stevens – No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross
Get drunk to get laid / I take one more hit when you depart…

Ryan Adams – How You Get The Girl
Say “I want you for worse or for better / I would wait forever and ever / Broke your heart, I’ll put it back together…”

Hanson – Use Me Up (Acoustic)
So, please, use me up / I just want anyone to use me up…

The 1975 – Somebody Else
I don’t want your body / But I hate to think about you with somebody else…

Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins – Happy
So I could be happy, happy / Oh so happy, happy…

Wet – Body
No one said it would be easy / But I never knew I’d be so lonely…

Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard – One Fast Move or I’m Gone
We used to dream together / But now I drink alone…

Little Mix – The End
And no one can love you, the way I used to do / But / Love isn’t fair

Jess Glynne – Take Me Home
You say space will make it better / And time will make it heal / I won’t be lost forever…

In (a Kind of) Memoriam: School of Seven Bells’ “SVIIB”

“Confusion” is the name of the penultimate track on School of Seven Bells’ SVIIB, and although it comes near the end of the album, it is the clearest encapsulation of SVIIB as a whole — a delicate, emotional paean. This album is the two-member group’s final record: guitarist and co-writer Benjamin Curtis died of lymphoma in 2013, halfway through the creation of SVIIB.

Now that you’ve been armed with this knowledge, you’re going to read this album in a certain way, picking it apart and finding the death in it, hidden beneath gentle ethereality. You’re going to find the sadness in its beauty, to notice how so many of its songs end on a single, poignant note. And once you know, is it possible to divorce yourself from that knowledge, to keep from applying it where it doesn’t belong? It’s hard to say. Some tracks, like “On My Heart”, seem to be more a reaction to ending a romantic relationship. The sharp sting of jealousy in lines like You won’t give her the ground, just forget her puts it clearly in context. This song isn’t about dying at all! It’s upbeat, but biting and confused. What are we now? At the same time, you get a sense of the unending in the repetition at the end of the song: With me, your love’s safe. It’s not a stretch to say that What are we now? is a question in two contexts — what are we now that you’re gone? What do we mean by gone?

Alejandra Deheza and Benjamin began their musical relationship in tandem with a romantic one. That romance ended before Benjamin was diagnosed with cancer, developing into a more platonic partnership — best friends and c0-creators. While “On My Heart” reigns as one of the most upbeat, enigmatic tracks on the album, others read like melancholic odes — “Elias” and “Confusion” are some of the more mournful of the bunch. “Elias” is nostalgic, focusing on specific moments and memories, and “Confusion” is a sweeping representation of SVIIB’s (theorized) thesis.

“Confusion” washes over you, bathing you in somber synths. It’s a lullaby, singing you to sleep — whatever that sleep may be. Assuming an assured tone, breathing in and out with every change of a note, Alejandra sings, over and over — again, finding the unending in these repetitions — Confusion weighs heavy/And I understand/Nothing of these changes/Changes, these changes. She reverbs and repeats so much that you don’t know what’s real and what’s just an echo.

The song takes forever to fade out, the instrumentals persisting long after Alejandra’s vocals end. You know that she’s playing you to sleep, but she’s waiting for that explanation — waiting for the confusion to clear. She’s not demanding or sad, but she seems almost haunted as she comforts you, watching you drift off into the ether.

While you should listen to “Confusion” last, if you can, “Music Takes Me” provides a good follow-up — a middle ground between School of Seven Bells’ most somber and most optimistic pieces. The steady, solid synths feel, to me, like they are attempting to discover the unknowable. I feel you as I breathe, sing the songs you sang to me/I hear you in my sleep/Seeing you with me as I dream. Magic and mystery prevail, the song showcasing psychedelics and 80’s new wave at the same time. And just when you think it’s all over, the synths melt into elongated, distorted guitar notes, a smoother hum emerges, and the song’s meter shifts, almost imperceptibly, into an uncomfortable 2/6. But soon the idyllic 4/4 returns to soothe us, and Alejandra’s voice fades out with her background music.

The greatest aspect of this album — and when I say great, I mean the largest, grandest, most all-encompassing aspect — is that it’s not sad, exactly, or angry, or even understandable, all reasonable things to expect from an album assumed to be about a loss. It’s tinged with so many different things, sadness and yearning — hints here and there — but ultimately it is a eulogy for something we can’t quite grasp. The greatest aspect of this album is its explanation of death, which is an enigma, neither positive nor negative. It just is.

You can listen to SVIIB in full on NPR’s First Listen, found here.


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

These Are Not Sonnets. Or, “honey babe”

1

You, Judy Blume, Marriage Equality.
Truly,
the great comic triumph of our time.
Three days of summer,
Three days as if kicked straight from the stars
a big fat fandango, cherry lips crack ribs
stupid good stupid pretty stupid sweet,
You kissed me.
You had me, I knew you.
In the morning I went home,
and Judy Blume touched my arm.
She, who changed my life and
mind when it was barely formed and she
who taught me how to love inside a body,
(about masturbation and mothers
and best friends and blood)
she wrote my name by hand and
you were the only person I cared to tell,
and when the sun rose again, then, it
rose on a country where women could
marry women and men could
marry men in every state and every
corner by the rule of the court and my
sweet friend cried on the phone so
I was sorry amid my joy that I couldn’t
kiss his head and my clever friend said
“so, was the sex really so good it changed the nation?”
and all my thoughts that day were purple
prose and all my purple prose for you and
Three days. That was three days.
And, it’s the kiss. So I can’t breathe.
I can laugh big and hard as I’d like
and still —
now when I leave work sick to
cry in my car about how it felt
to run my finger in an s behind your ear —
it always will be.
Even thighs pressed so tight, in
work pants knock-kneed,
tripping to stay together I fear
I know that anyone
can taste the scent of me.
I know this slickness never seemed so toxic.
And I remember. Lactic acid.
Paint and flags all
in the streets
and crying, and
Judy Blume
and you.

2

Once
When it was hot
I was wearing a romper.
I provide this detail here to set the stage, please,
let none of us forget that I am prone to
abominable judgment,
that I was perfectly naked in a port-a-potty
when I had to pee, and that I was perfectly thrilled
every single second you were around me just around me
(“I feel fine anytime she’s around me now, and she’s around me now, almost all the time,” – James Taylor. You know because in the grass I told you all the songs that make me cry. I’ve wanted to dance to something in the way she moves at my wedding since I was too small to dance in any other way but atop someone’s feet and and still I had to bother formally coming out.)
had your hands around me and, all right,
the point is it was beautiful that night
I guess the point is that
I love you
More than strawberritas or snowflakes
or “Sweet Baby James.”
I guess the point is saved to my iPhone
is a picture where I can see
my own petals opening up greedy sugared swollen spring
like in the Georgia O’Keeffe paintings that I buy as six by six calendar prints to make a lazy and tasteless joke about vaginas, then hang on my wall as an ironic statement about my own overinflated, underused intellect– No, well.
I can look now and see us rising in the twilight
and all our teeth.
This is the part — you remember — where
our legs touch all the way from hip to foot while
You say that I am going to fall in love with you.
It’s near dark and I’m wearing a romper and
you don’t pause to say the words slow, you
say it like a fact. Like a threat.
You are going to fall in love with me.
it is July,
and I have known threats and
I have been hit and I have lost teeth on
ladder rungs of simple climbs and I don’t
put my hands out toward hurricanes and
I believe that it is good and smart to
close your fist and jaw and heart, and fear,
and I will not be trod on I say I
will never melt I have just the barb I
do not allow my heartbeat
to fall into perfect unison with another because
now they have just the trick to stop it just the trick
you’ll unlearn your hard-won skill for
punching on and on
and on alone brave red chambers alone,
no key, and I have never been easy and I
(I, so easy, I, made of pink play sand & peeling Elmers glue, I, all yours)
am, anyway, frantically grateful that you were right.

3

Joni Mitchell is sick.

I know this, but a gray man tells me it the way they do, when he stretches his hands out from his overcoat to pay. I know. “But, god. Blue.” This, we breathe at the same time, like a matching set of misassembled dolls, separate but the same. And in the hidden camera show of life this makes perfect sense, sharing from the stomach on a Sunday a wound that knows no demographic.

I
could drink
a
case
of you

He actually mouths it there in infinitely accidental mercy, with eyes closed. Now I don’t have to.

I iron my hair but not my clothing. A lot of that I’ve given away. A red dress from the fourth of july that made me ill to touch. I walk and walk and curl in and out of situps on the carpet until my middle screams. I shop for products to make my face look like someone else’s. Make oatmeal in the microwave with tap water then spoon it into the trash. I put the birthday card I won’t give inside a book I’ve read to breaking. I put the blazer that my mother bought me over the shirt that I am more alive under because it feels like your eyes on me, which was like the burst and fade of light from fireworks which is like bathwater set so the metal spout can burn. I put my hands in the pockets of my jacket sometimes to keep them still because even now even after even in the cold and the dark of your stepping from my locked arms my head appears suddenly bobbing above the water and I float away on the ecstatic luck of a love so vital as to sing all the same even without its partner. And then I turn on the car and drive.

But other times
I listen to Blue.

4

double-u double-u double-u  dot fragrantica dot com is a wealth of poetics, ephemera, is art for whatever that’s worth. “this smells like high school” “synthetic in a good way” “say what you want about this one, women like it” because scent is the basest sensory experience, because there are no words for the way I unfold from the center when you — or a college football player with a similar looking medicine cabinet, now, and oh, this makes me mad– walk by. The English language has not advanced that far. It won’t. But these men with lines shaved in their faces in their perfume website profile picture say they get compliments all day when they wear it, that on the streets after the gym the masses flock forward, needful, compelled, and so I breathe out jagged, sniff right back hungry, say it’s only science when I cry at Sephora.

5

Oh

But I do love boys who love Bob Dylan
And my mother loves Bob Dylan
And I love boys who love Bob Dylan who are
so much softer than they realize, who have taken sensitivity as a pose of intellect, who believe they have a handle on the way the moon moves with just their sweet pink brains, I can
I can talk to a Dylan boy at a party and feel impossible tenderness that does not sour

But we are sad
I may finally say

with my mouth wrapped on a plastic cup and my eyes on a girl across the room. Eventually, I will have to. Can’t you hear in your own voice that you are broken? Here we are, everyday, wading through. Dear one, you. Aren’t you tired, always, from pretending to win? It only happens, then happens. We can’t stop it and we chase it and I have been so happy I have holes in my teeth now. But I do love boys who love Bob Dylan who can’t see the way their own body has rebuilt itself around the cellular understanding they heard and found and held, the truth that beneath everything is the sorrow of its absence. It is always coming and so it is always there, the throb. The wet line down each bone waits to weep and this is what allows for all the rest to matter. The slow mornings painted a supernatural sleepy green. Beer soaked summer sun fat with possibility, salt tongues, barked laughs, the spectacular stupidity of human skin, alive, exploding on contact, not the last or only organ I wished I could rip forth and give. Streetlamp light through a high up window framing the mouth shapes, starts and stops, on the only face I’d ever need to see again. The fraction of a second, hanging in exalt forever, of her hand moving from the steering wheel to my leg. Always, always the goodbye hangs on the doorframe a long-limbed joker like the boys in the bright rooms who love queen jane. They don’t know, I don’t know and we are only falling. I can’t regret having been swallowed whole.

6

I spent money on heavy shoes
a navy velvet jacket
pretzel cheddar cheese combos
39 ounces of diet coke in styrofoam
tall socks cause my feet hurt
a t-shirt bearing a politically pointed joke
three kinds of chapstick
a book of mean poems
a book of kind advice
a book about Dickensian lesbian thieves
silver hoop earrings silver hoop earrings
silver
hoop earrings
professional removal of hair from my eyebrows
serum that stings so I stay young forever,
a horrifying prospect,
Taco Bell
red wine, ad nauseum
and
toilet bowl cleaner
an Adele song
new underwear with candy colored stripes to replace the pairs her dog ate

It hasn’t helped.

7

I may never see the rest of Making a Murderer
or find a use for my cold hands that I prefer to
sneaking them in against the small of her back.
I don’t imagine I’ll order steak over the telephone or
say Serendipity is stupid and mean it or
drive that stretch of highway easy,
and I’ll drive that stretch of highway daily, or
sleep to the sound of her breathing, no. That’s
too much I won’t say it,
or sleep,
or –probably– get the blood stain out of those sweatpants
(on Sunday I cried because I got a blood stain on those sweatpants)
Or think of Lizzie McGuire the same way
Or move first in my mind to my late grandmother when I crack a Miller Lite

8

It was never actually  insane, except the taste of it.

I didn’t know before and that is so funny, like, all right I’m stupid. I throat laugh I ache I can’t believe my body now when it moves through my days, I can’t. And when we laughed I knew had bones in me, but I’m not just sharpness now I am not my skin but I like what it feels like to be touched. I do! Okay okay because I can ride in the front on the highway and I know the songs. I can hold hands. I made myself a liar by all the old rules made for safety because of how I don’t even squirm. I don’t want to crawl from under my wanting, don’t even itch about it. A miracle a spectacle a flicker flame of trust that burned down an iron cage. I never want to breathe anybody else and I leave big tips when I pick up dinner. Only sometimes. Usually she pays. Paid. I am me. I am magnanimous I am crying I am the divine sickly head rush before the starting tone sounds in a swim race, leaning forward tight and waiting to give over to the chlorine burn, the man made chill, the muscles thumping, the heart that heart. I don’t really understand. I am delirious for wanting and beside myself for getting. So, the loss. The loss is already more. I am already too far. I am laughing because one night late and bare there together all wet and made more water just crying just moving through the feeling I didn’t care. I have so many small notebooks of secrets in my entrails, up my spine, in the jumping blue veins at my elbow. I am only all that ever happened to me, and everything I’ve done, and now like nothing I put my head in her lap and tell. Or I try. Or I like to. Or I want to. I’m bent. I say yes with all of me my bottom bloody belly is yes and all my breaths. Yes out my pores yes I need I want I love I can I rest I suck I hold I open my lips I yes, in out, I am, true.

Some days I can live on the ouroboros of my love alone. The whole of me, the hole in me is full with how I see you all in shades of gold, true good, true bright, I’m nodding now, I mean it. It’s okay. Some days I can feel the lining of my stomach wearing thin and wearing through. I can feel the pieces of myself you took away by accident. I can’t be sure you even wanted them; they’re gone. I search with fingertips top to bottom for nothing. Since the first, or anyway the start of the undoing,
the becoming
the woman,
there have been stretch marks on my breasts.
Quivering white tears
of tiny failure
or, alternately
the joke of the flesh that allowed me to put on
falsely like a silk gown
for dressing or shoes for dancing or a masquerade
the pose of an older woman
freed from and unfettered by
(Finally.)
the strangeness of the body
the climbing bile of shame.

It makes no sense, I told all the girls who saw them. The girls that looked at me, prodding pink. I am made from all the smallest of humilities. And mostly hollows.

Now, I know
that my girl body long ago away in years and bends
was ready for how
your presence would stretch
the machine in my chest
to breaking, to brilliance, to greater than skin
breaking
and so made scars
And marked the conquered terrain
so any new flavor I might seek
would see how I had torn

Dear, fox-faced, flint and cashmere Taylor Swift writes too many breakup songs say the bored and boring who are already dead but are paid to write about culture, and I suppose they have never known the exquisite horror that floods the days that come after a love you were so certain of keeping that it seeped into your best kidney and your sweetmeats and bedsheets and your favorite jeans becomes a love you remember but can no longer hold. Taylor Swift is enormously wealthy and famous because a pain like that is not eradicated from the body when it is named aloud but rather the words — and the cry quite unlike words for how it is too much of the body too much of the blood and throat sludge — must repeat on and on and over, a call to arms, to god, a zealot’s prayer, a mystic’s mantra, a superstition whisper-hummed against the bathroom floor where cat litter digs into your cheek pressed on the cool tile. I ache I ache I ache.

When I sleep now, we are together, euphemistically, and in the flesh from end to end, from sweat snarled nape to tattooed ankle, and all the mixed up pieces in between, mine or yours mine and yours yours on mine mine in yours, but the room begins to burn as I wake.

9

I skipped an Eileen Myles reading I had been counting down the days til so we could buy wine down the street and smoke out the window and watch an Australian children’s television show about teenage mermaids and be naked together in dark sheets so I could press my mouth to every heat source you were blessed with and shiver at the truly startling prospect that the cruel and wild universe would allow me to feel so whole, or your hair to be so soft.

I am not won’t be was never sorry and today I would choose you, too.
I am not won’t be was never sorry and today I need you, too.

I skipped an Eileen Myles reading I had been counting down the days til so I could pick the sunburn scabs from your back and I only want to write on the wall in plain block letters we will see in slow blink tandem if ever both our glances fall again on the spot where once we were in love that, whatever else, I didn’t think twice.

Where Have You Been All My Life? Villagers Re-imagined at the WAC

Villagers, a band very much defined by their frontman, Conor O’Brien, released their first album in 2010. Becoming a Jackal had its own little promotional poster in HMV, and I bought it to impress my new friend Grace. It was the second album I ever spent money on, and I put it on my mp3 player (a Creative Zen Stone!) immediately. That anecdote tells you everything you need to know about where I was, musically, when I was thirteen.

I have Villagers to thank for a lot; not least the realization that I could actually find the music that I liked myself. Becoming a Jackal is an amazing debut album. It opened my eyes to the fact that a good album does not necessarily have to be a sad album, and not every song has to be about love. Sure, Villagers do write about love – just not exclusively.

That first album and its follow ups, {Awayland} and Darling Arithmetic, have underscored a lot of bus journeys in the six years since then. They are albums that exist in a very self-contained way, each song like a jigsaw puzzle piece fitting neatly together. Their most recent album was released last April, so I was surprised and delighted to see Where Have You Been All My Life hit the shelves in January.

The album is a reworking of songs from all of Villagers’ albums, performed live but audience-less at the RAK. Some of them, chiefly those from the earlier albums, are radically transformed. These turned out to be some of my favourites in the set. I especially loved the changes made to “Set the Tigers Free”. On the original album, the syncopated rhythm contrasts sharply with the songs on either side of it. That rhythm lends a distinctive feel to the song, but it’s completely abandoned in the 2016 version. The melody is slowed down and the refrain tune is lengthened and sustained. It makes for a different experience, but a lovely one.

WHYBAML‘s instrumentation is ethereal and eerie, but not insubstantial. Electric guitars are the root of the music, although it is still less electronic than {Awayland}. “Memoir”, a song written by O’Brien for someone else, is punchy and uptempo. The choral parts highlight just how lonely are the lyrics that he sings solo, and his falsetto adds to the haunting atmosphere. Desperation builds with the words Take my body/take it from me/it is not worthy of your memory and it doesn’t resolve itself.

The thing about the best Villagers songs is that they are simultaneously sad and happy, strange and scary and beautiful. They move me in ways that I can’t really express. One of the things I appreciate most about them is their willingness to write songs about friendship – how rare! How important it is, to be able to vocalize that feeling of grateful security with your friends:

And we’ll drink to the gentle, and meek and the kind
And the funny little flaws in this earthly design
From the Reeperbahn to the Sundarbahn
I will heed your call from the dust and the sand
And I’ll save all my stories for thee

Villagers aren’t exactly a famous band in Ireland, but neither are they completely unknown. It was a bit unbelievable to see our local little arts center on their tour posters. My mother, who liked the first album very much but hasn’t listened to the other three, thought at first that it must be a tribute band. It would be weird, though, to have a Villagers tribute band do a four-country tour, so – well, it must have been them. We bought tickets for my parents and I (I am the coolest teen in the world), and then I kind of forgot about it because so far this year my life has consisted only of taking down study notes onto flashcards and crying at the Daily Show. But then, almost without warning, we were at the Wexford Arts Centre staring up at the very real, very much non-tribute-band Conor O’Brien, and we were watching Villagers.

Villagers know how to perform. They played for almost two hours, and never seemed to flag or tire of the songs they were singing. Darling Arithmetic is a more personal album, with love songs more to the fore, and they’re beautiful live. The instrumentals were flawless, and what was really amazing to me was how clear Conor O’Brien’s voice is. It’s exactly like it sounds on the CDs. What you can’t get from the recordings, though, is how emotional his performance is. O’Brien gives – appears to give, anyway – his all to every song. He believes in what he says, and I felt and believed it too. To see Conor O’Brien standing up there with his guitar, singing I’ve been awake for so long now/and all I can see/is the light of your love/you’ve been dawning on me is, in my humble opinion, to be very, very lucky.

I think Where Have You Been All My Life is an album that is enhanced enormously by seeing it live. There is an understanding of what Villagers was trying to do with this album that I could only grasp when I saw it. The most powerful moment of this show was when they played “Hot Scary Summer”, “Little Bigot”, “Occupy Your Mind”, and “The Waves”, in that order. These songs are all about prejudice and hatred in one form or another. “Hot Scary Summer” particularly moved me; a surprising, beautiful song about modern homophobia and its consequences. Now I live inside you/and you live in me/and nothing’s gonna change that dear, he sang, eyes closed, looking angelic. We got good at pretending/and then pretending got us good. How did he take that feeling, crystallize it, and turn it into such a short and powerful phrase? All I can say is that I felt something melt and then solidify in my chest, looking at him, listening. He gets it. “Occupy Your Mind” was another star, a sneaky, funny little song released after anti-homosexuality laws were passed in Russia. To hear it live was so intense – that guitar line thumping! The whole (tiny) room was buzzin’! (I wish I could offer a synonym for buzzin’, but I can’t.)

O’Brien finished up with “No One To Blame”, which ends on an amazing little ethereal hook that I can’t really describe but that makes my heart hurt thinking about it. There’s a window in your eyes/a kind of swimming pool for swimming fools like me/oh, Mister Mystery.

The encore was the most intimate and wonderful thing I have experienced in my life. He smiled, shy, and opened up with I am the lineman of the county… “Wichita Lineman”! I had hardly dared hope, and it was beautiful.

After the show, we saw Conor hanging around outside at the merch stand, and I hid behind my mother (I can get very starstruck). My father got him to sign a ticket for me: it says to Claire love Conor, and it is worth more to me than anything in the universe. And then somehow I was meeting him, and I shook his hand and squeaked out something like long time fan and basically ran away into the January night. I have only now got over the embarrassment.

Since the gig, I have been floating on air. Nothing can bring me down. I have not listened to “Hot Scary Summer” since, nor will I, because no experiencing of it will ever again be so perfect or beautiful.


Claire Cullen is an 18-year-old who lives in Ireland. Recently she has been dealing with Hamilton-related problems, and it’s probably best not to get her started on why. Dedicated to furthering the Liberal Agenda.

The Tinder Date Playlist: 7 Songs For Girls Who Go Bump In The Night A Little Too Hard

MONDAY: “All Hands On Deck” by Tinashe

You have asked him three times already if it’s actually his name, because everyone knows “Ralph” is some bullshit you’d call a cat, not a grown-ass person. You slur that line into his ear as you stagger together towards the door at last call and he looks at you with the artless incredulity of an infant encountering “peek-a-boo” for the first time. That makes you the cooing aunt, the crinkled adult face promised to emerge from hiding with a grin each round. Good. He’s laughing, because you’re funny maybe, probably because you’ve let him put his arms around your waist and he doesn’t really have to convince you to duck into the cab he’s already called to Cambridge. You careen on hot, loose legs in the general direction of a parked Uber, “Ralph” in tow. “Ralph” smells like the first floor of a JC Penny. Ralph might be thirty-seven. “Ralph’s” hands feel weightless, like they could be hollow, but you’re quick to credit any upper thigh numbness to the liquid ton of gin you’ve consumed over the last three hours. You wonder what you’d have to stuff his fingers with to make them heavy enough for your skin to respond. Steel? Conversation? Cigarettes? “Ralph” doesn’t smoke, you asked already. He won’t taste the way you want him to. He’s talking to you about the things drunk men talk to potential one-night-stands about: how he misses hiking in Australia, how he’s only in law school so he doesn’t disappoint his dad, how badly he wants to drop out and become a rock-climbing instructor. You reassure him blandly and fiddle with your false lashes and wonder if he could ever grip you tight enough to leave a bruise.

TUESDAY: “Turn It Up” by Kelly Rowland

His apartment might be cute if he didn’t decorate with faux-Buddhist head shop tapestries. Dorm-room remnants, probably. There’s already a host of reasons you should stop having sex with Philosophy graduate students (e.g. rampant condescension, uneven beard growth, clinginess) but the fact that they all seem to live with ex-partners of one form or another features prominently in the top five. This one’s moving out, at least. Boxes of her shit crowd every spare inch of the kitchen he’s stumbling around in service of your cider. You’re too drunk to identify the metaphor. She is (was? is?) also a painter, you learn—a bad one, alarmingly bad, and prolific in the effortless way that seems exclusive to bad painters. You imagine how you’d critique the six-foot collaged city-scape of Boston on his bedroom wall while he tries to navigate the zipper on your miniskirt. You wonder what makes her laugh. Later, when he’s finished availing himself of your least interesting secrets, you ask him how it ended, why she’s leaving. If you are going to get fucked while staring at another woman’s closet, you deserve a little background. He starts to cry, because of course he does, and you hold him against your breasts and tell him he is perfect while his snot runs down your sternum. Two weeks later he will try to rip your dress off at a train station in Brighton after you make it clear you should stop seeing each other. A cabby on his way to Tremont for closing time spots the struggle, slows down without stopping, swings open the passenger’s door and pulls you in by the elbow. He delivers you silently back to your mother’s house without asking any questions.

WEDNESDAY: “Ghost” by Ella Henderson

The moment Andrew’s door latches shut you are overcome by a thick wave of loathing, but the truth is that you loathed him from the moment he bought you your first shot of Patron. You wouldn’t have gotten in the car if you didn’t want him to hurt. You hate his five o’clock shadow and his ice-blue button down and how he’s trying to find a way to get you into his bedroom without acknowledging that he wants to get you into his bedroom. He would never, ever date you, of course. Real estate Southie guys like girls who jog, you’re guessing, girls with planners and blithe, effortless motor control, not cackling barflies who pick up and move north to make bad art and vomit in public and prick their hearts on self-made spindles. You don’t know this for sure, but tequila has no time for criticality, or for undoing the ripe adolescent taxonomies that prevent you from approaching men like him when you’re sober. Oh, you approached him, by the way. Don’t forget. That’s another reason you hate him. He fell for it.

“Do you want a drink?”

“The fuck do you think?”

You toss your purse onto his faux-leather ottoman.  You bare your teeth in the shape of a smile.

“I think you need another drink, is what I think!”

“You’re a prince. Thank you, sir.”

He taps his index finger on the highest point of your knee every time he makes a point. The point he is currently making concerns his timeshare in Cape Cod. He’s pressed his lean body into the softness of yours on a creaking Craigslist couch with an urgency that numbs you further. He’s telling you how beautiful you are, which more or less equates to telling himself he is beautiful. His breath is hot and sticky. You kiss him to make him stop talking.

THURSDAY: “Cruel” by the Veronicas

You accidentally leave your copy of Irreality by Max Blecher at a fourth date’s condo in Ferndale, Michigan, and when he texts you to confirm how attentive and dull he was after you bounce in an Uber, he confesses to leafing through the first chapter. He likes having your book in his kitchen, he says—it makes him feels like the prince in a nerdy version of Cinderella. You call him from your cab and tell him sharply to stop. That’s your property, after all. He can’t just change it to mean something. The next time you see him he slides the book across the table to you in a Ziplock bag while you try to explain why you can’t get drinks next week.

FRIDAY: “Little White Lies” by One Direction

The same day your shrink suggests that maybe this abiding interest in casual sex falls a little short of productive, you book a plane ticket to Brooklyn to see a guy you have only known in person for about ten hours total. The distance makes you far more interesting to him than proximity ever could. He is short and bright but not difficult and defines himself through things and the rituals he ascribes to those things, a characteristic painters shouldn’t be averse to, theoretically. He lights candles as a preamble to sex. He loves Maggie Nelson but does not want to talk about feminism because he feels ill-equipped to talk about feminism because he is. You drop your dress to the floor when he asks you if you’ve seen Lethal Weapon, but he ignores the bait and persists in playing you the clip where Mel Gibson tries to commit suicide on Christmas Eve. He laughs at Mel’s accent. You have no idea what to do with your face.

SATURDAY: “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” by Adele

The government worker from Walpole with a recently dead mother and nervous fingers has asked you to write him a letter. He likes the way you talk, he says. You want badly for the epistolary impulse you reserve for men you love to stretch in his direction, but disappointment has left you mean, and you can’t think of anything helpful to say. You could tell him that, of course. You could tell him that he clogs your pores in choking weaves of noun-ness, of slippery experience slicked to slide over purpose. You could let him know he’s just another bearded signifier feeding his own flesh back second-to-second in endless, stake-free loops of multiple choice. You sometimes wonder if you molded him from scraps of rage and breathed air into his dick so he could blush and lie like a real man. That’s not what comes out, of course. You put pen to vellum and call him beautiful like a good girl. That is what straight men want to hear, you have learned, especially from you, since your particular breed of beauty seems to swallow viewers whole against their better judgment. An art critic would call that quality “immersive.”A painter would call it “maximal” without actually knowing what the term meant.

SUNDAY: “Don’t” by Bryson Tiller (Sevyn Streeter Remix)

You know full well that your memories lie, in the same way a photograph lies mimetically, in the same way a painting of that photograph tries to lie less. Socrates thought all human knowledge was recollection, since Hades more or less recycled its tenants after feeding them liquid amnesia. So, if learning is recovery, then forgetting should feel like home, not like bereavement, right? You split a plate of poutine with a Literature PhD candidate who tells you how shocked he was that MFA kids so often proved such lazy readers—their responses were always based on taste, not analysis. Creatives are scavengers, you argue. Your kind doesn’t read; you comb rocky shores for gold. You need meaning to shine so badly you forgo scrutiny to grab transcendence faster. You crave sublimation. And you bite his neck because that’s how you recall intimacy now, in negatives. The men you fuck form the contours of an empty space exactly the depth of your divestment, and their absence inhabits your skin beyond a haunting. You’d kill to be lonely. If you aren’t trying to shed shadows, you’re desperately salvaging details you didn’t even know you coveted before they began to fade. The sex is fine. He texts you the night before he moves to Wisconsin to see if you want to come watch Blackadder reruns on his couch. You put your phone on silent.


Torey is an east-coast gin enthusiast currently wrapping up her painting MFA somewhere needlessly far from the ocean. More grown men have caught her eating ham out of a bag than she is comfortable reporting. Her mom is way, way funnier than she is. 

Just Moving in Slow Motion: Daughter’s “Not to Disappear”

Not to Disappear is an apt title for Daughter’s latest album, which sounds like it’s always just on the edge of fading completely into nonexistence. That’s not to say the songs are insubstantial, just that they float very delicately in and out of silence. Daughter has always had a gentle, melancholy sound, and on their latest effort, there’s a subtle undercurrent of anger underneath all the surface beauty of the music. Where their earlier EPs and albums relied on Elena Tonra’s soft, soaring vocal delivery to ground the songs, Not to Disappear uses an electric guitar to construct the central hooks and melodies. Each song starts off simple and ambient, with a few plucked guitar or piano notes behind Tonra’s hushed voice, but builds to a rousing finish, adding one instrument at a time.

Moving on/Just moving in slow motion/To keep the pain to a minimum, she sings on “How”. It’s this lyric that really underscores the emotional truth of this album: loss takes time to overcome, and loneliness can feel endless and brutal. I don’t know you now/But I’m lying here somehow, Tonra says on “Fossa”, her voice simultaneously lifting and blurring the words together. She whispers over and over to herself, I can’t be what you want/I can be what you want. But it doesn’t matter either way, no matter which is the truth, because Not to Disappear takes place in the aftermath, after the dust has long since settled.

The instrumentation is what really shines here, like the driving drums on “Numbers” that could belong easily to a U2 or Muse song: heavy, stomping, and clearly written for an arena show. After a sprawling, sparkling opening on “Doing the Right Thing” that loses the vocals in the shuffle, the songs stops in its tracks as a lone acoustic guitar matches Tonra’s vocal melody while she sings Then I’ll lose my children/Then I’ll lose my love/Then I’ll sit in silence. It’s a rare moment where the lyrics are sung directly into the listener’s ear, with no filter, no layers of atmosphere between the bass notes. The electric guitar (with enough reverb over it to make the National jealous) is the album’s star, particularly on “How”, where it takes over the chorus in a little riff that’s equal parts messy and glorious and melodramatic. It’s one of the best moments on an album filled with great ones.

The songs bleed into each other, with the echoing guitar that opens and closes each track, the tone and tempo that rarely diverges from the simmering, quietly angry melancholy. The only outlier is “No Care”, which is about a minute shorter and at least twice as fast as all the others. Oh, I’m too drunk to fight/hurling curses at your surface, Tonra sings over a frantic dance beat. No care, no care in the world/I don’t care, I don’t care anymore, she says, and you barely believe her.

If I had one complaint, it’s that the simple beauty of the music makes it hard to connect to the emotional weight of the words. Tonra seems to sing the entire album in a light falsetto, never placing any pressure on her voice. The result is that she sounds detached from her lyrics, somewhat hidden in the ambiance, the lush instrumentation. I feel numb/I feel numb in this kingdom, she sings deadpan, and I’d tend to agree. In the kingdom that is Not to Disappear, she sounds numb and exhausted, especially in comparison to that electric guitar, which carries most of the emotional energy of each song.

A thorough listen reminds me of light filtering through a thin, translucent fabric, as if each song’s core is caught between layers of gauze. Beautiful, yes, but almost hidden in the haze, the carefully constructed bleakness of its atmosphere. But a daze of an album isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You can lose yourself in its gossamer beauty, in the expansive, drifting sonic world it creates. If you’re lucky, you might even get to disappear.


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: 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.