Hey look, a regular feature I can keep up with!
Every week, I will post what I have been listening to, watching and reading lately (& maybe an “other”).
I’ve been spending so much time listening to audiobooks (see below) that I have had zero time to discover new music. Generally, the only time I’ve listened to music this week is on my walks, which has been one of three things: Radiator Hospital, Spotify’s indie running station, and The Strokes.
I unabashedly love The Strokes, even though it’s embarrassing to say so now. Their melodies are magical. I know people dismiss the last 3 Strokes records but so many of the songs are unbelievably catchy. It’s unfair how good the songs are. Julian can write a fucking hook. In their best songs, the vocal melodies float over competing guitar melodies. It’s a formula they perfected on their first two records, Is This It and Room on Fire. Something happened after RoF–maybe they started to hate each other or get huge egos or wrote everything separate or only put out records as The Strokes because they would sell better than solo releases. Whatever it was, their records declined in quality over the next three, but there were still gems to be found: “Juicebox,” “Under Cover of Darkness,” & “One Way Trigger” are some of my favorite songs they ever recorded.
I had always planned to do an “Underrated Records” feature on Julian Casablancas’ Phrazes for the Young. It has been completely forgotten, buried wherever people put Comedown Machine. Besides horrible album titles, Phrazes has little to do with the least-liked Strokes records. It’s confident, crazy catchy and so much fucking fun. I hope his next record sounds more like that and less like that LP with the VOIDZ.
Until a few days ago, I had never seen one full episode of The X-Files. When PJ and I lived in our teeny tiny apartment, he bought all the DVDs and watched every episode. Alone. Currently, we are watching mostly mythology episodes and those deemed interesting by my husband, in order to save time and maybe, one day, get excited about those 5 episodes of The Americans on the DVR that we haven’t watched.
After one season, the most important thing I have to say: David Duchovny is a fucking treasure. I see now how every procedural or sci-fi show I’ve seen has characters like Fox Mulder: sarcastic, funny, rebellious, and a believer in the face of skeptics.
Hits, directed by David Cross, and starring Matt Walsh, Wyatt Cenac and many other funny people you have probably heard of, recently got added to Netflix. It definitely thinks it’s a satire of the modern, YouTube world, but it struggles to find the laughs. One of the leads is a poor woman’s Greer Grammer, but her character is written to be such a delusional moron that it’s hard to like her. In fact, everyone is a delusional moron, from Dave (Matt Walsh), thinking he can change his small town by attending city council meetings and filling his three minutes with poorly-planned rants; to Crystal (Amy Sedaris), holding on to the little fame she got being on Star Search in the 80s; to Donovan (James Adomian), a Brooklyn hipster who brings attention to Dave with a supercut video on YouTube.
The only people that are grounded in reality are Christina (Amy Carlson, who played Josie on Another World!), the city councilwoman and presumptive villain; and her son, Bennie (Michael Cera), Donovan’s weed dealer who plays a video of Dave to he and his wife (Erinn Hayes, whom I always love). I typed all of this out, reliving the characters, and didn’t laugh once. The ending, where everything devolves into chaos and small-town insanity, is HILARIOUS and so well-done. I wished the buildup had been as looney and enjoyable as the release.
I also watched Nashville (as promised) and Orange is the New Black. I am so far behind on OINTB but I wanted to get through season 2 for Emmy time. It’s still problematic to me: I don’t hate Piper when she’s being assy and funny and punching Taryn Manning, who totally deserved it. I hate how lonely and desperate she comes off. I get jail is isolating and weird, but PLEASE find someone to make out with that is not Alex, who is kind of a drip.
Chapter 9: These Boots are Made for Listening; excerpt from Tracy’s book Tales of a Female Music Enthusiast that she’s publishing one chapter at a time on her website. I am lucky to call Tracy my friend. She inspired me to learn to DJ and (not as cool) to start getting up at the ass-crack of dawn and go on walks. She has also had a really interesting life, growing up outside of NYC in the 80s and early 90s, discovering a passion for music and getting to see great shows and work at the best record stores. She is not the kind of person that says, “I know so-and-so and own all these cool records and have done all these rad things,” while you are talking to her. She is not a name-dropper. Therefore, reading these self-published chapters has been this amazing journey through her past. Sometimes it’s sad and I want to hug her but other times it’s fun to read about her discovery of and obsession with music. Tracy is now in Positive No (I made my film debut in their video, which I will write about when it’s complete) and has a cute house full of vintage goodies (so many cool record players!!) that she shares with her partner-in-crime Kenny, who happens to play guitar for Positive No.
In the comments of my last pop-culture-a-go-go post, I asked my friend Christina about her incredible act of actually finishing books while she has a busy job (guilty) and two young boys (uhhh I have a cat who is very needy). She told me her secret, which she has told me before, but I finally listened: audiobooks.
Did you know many library systems loan out e-audiobooks the same way you can check out e-books? I can search for them on the website, place my hold, and in a few days, I get an email that my book is ready! My county uses Overdrive, an app I put on my phone–you can search there, but I think it’s easier on the library site, where I can see how many people are ahead of me in the hold line.
I wanted my first e-audiobook to be fluffy and entertaining, so I chose Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, possibly because it was the first book in the list I wanted to read that was immediately available. I don’t think starting with All the Light We Cannot See would have worked out for me. Short review: it was wonderful, with a realistic heroine and well-drawn relationships, but I was uninterested in the fanfic and everything about Simon Snow (Rowell’s version of Harry Potter).
The second book I listened to this week was Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, a selection of my book club from a few years ago that I did not read because of stupid grad school. Short review: totally delightful send-up of rich people and family relationships. Bonus awesomeness: the narrator was Kathleen Wilhoite AKA Liz from Gilmore Girls! She did different voices and inflections for every character, which was helpful, since the whole book was written in emails and invoices, with some narration from Bernadette’s daughter Bee.
Listening to books takes longer than reading them, but I can “read” while working, driving, gardening, and cleaning. The library selection is limiting–next up is Rowell’s Landline–but there’s generally enough of all the big lit fic books that I should be busy for a while.
What pop culture have you been getting into this week?