Posts Tagged ‘Fiona Apple’

Now Listening: Lorde, Mazzy Star, Emmylou Harris, FKA Twigs and Other Ladyish Things

Just some lovely ladies making music for a Sunday afternoon! This is what I’ve been listening to lately. I go through cycles of being open to new music, and then just obsessively listening to a few things over and over. Like a spiral, perhaps: it widens and expands and goes upward at times, and then narrows and funnels down to deepen into one point. I’m at the wide, upward point now and open to suggestion. What are you listening to that you’d recommend? I’m up for anything!

Lorde, “Tennis Court”

Suddenly everyone is all “Lorde! Lorde! Lorde!” and she’s everywhere, even at the top of the Billboard chart. It’s super-tempting to be a hater, but you know, I really like how minimal her pop is. There’s just something innately elegant and self-possessed about her music, which is kind of amazing considering she’s 16. When I was that age, I was pretty much the opposite of elegant and self-possessed — I was a dang mess. Lorde is also something I can listen to with my nephews or niece, which makes me feel like I’m exposing them to something more interesting than some other pop tart on the charts. She uses the same pop vernacular, but what she says with it is different. Of course, one day as the crazy auntie I play to expose my kiddos to the Raincoats and the Slits and Huggy Bear and the like, but Lorde’s a nice baby step to that goal on the wide horizon.

Mazzy Star, “California”

I am beyond excited Mazzy Star is back! I always kind of had a crush on Hope Sandoval, and it’s nice to know the years haven’t blunted their romantic, slightly hallucinogenic take on Paisley Underground-ish folk. I remember when “Fade Into You” was the big alt-makeout song, though I was always more partial to their cover of “Five-String Serenade.” The new record is really nice: swoony, dreamy and pretty much everything you want from Mazzy Star, and perfect for Sunday afternoon listening.

Fiona Apple, “Hot Knife”

I really liked this record when it came out last year, but this is the song I keep going back to, again and again. There’s just something really happy and buoyant about it, but in this non-dippy way. Who doesn’t love a non-dippy happy love song, where you’re just stoked that the person you’re into is just hotness galore? I love how simple the video is as well, just Fiona singing with slightly crazy-face with her sister now and then, but of course I love it.

Arcade Fire, “Reflektor”

I can’t believe I’m putting this here, because I actually really loathe this band. I have never liked them; they have always irritated me beyond belief. You know how people are like, “Ugh! I hate U2!” and it’s this viscerally vehement reaction? Well, that’s what happens between me and Arcade Fire. It’s like gnash-teeth-narrow-eyes-clench-fists when I hear them. (And, they were once complete douchelords to an ex-boyfriend of mine who did sound for one of their shows, so there’s a bit of a grudge there as well. But I didn’t like their music before he worked for them!) And yet, I like this, mostly because it’s pretty disco-y and that’s pretty cool and not their usual thing. I can pretend they’re not Arcade Fire for a few minutes, and then it works pretty well.

FKA twigs, “Water Me”

I’m always going to have a place in my heart for left-of-center electronic music with evocative female vocals. I practically came of age with Bjork, you know? That’s bound to affect you in some way, kind of like having Pluto in your first house in your astrological chart. The influence is from deep space, but it’s definitely an undertow. I love how ethereal this is, and how it manages to be both distant and intimate…and her voice, of course, is supple and lovely. I don’t know much about this London-based artist, but I’m definitely curious to hear more.

Emmylou Harris, “Making Believe”

Emmylou Harris in the 1970s is pretty much my new style icon. I mean, just watch this and look at her, right? But more importantly, listen to her: so soulful, so clear, just kind of relaxed and perfect and plaintive. I’m on a big Emmylou jag; maybe I’ll write more about it later.

Sparks & Beauties: Liz Wrote This Beautiful Thing About Fiona Apple, Save the Dancing Indian Horses, and Deconstructing Manic Pixie Dream Girls

Hello, lords and ladies! It has been such a strange week for me, full of ups and downs and tumult and glories. But there is always so much beauty in the world, including these lovely things I’ve read, seen or otherwise absorbed over the past weekish or so. (“Weekish” = maybe more than a week, maybe a bit less, depending on my mood.) On a personal level, people have been getting and it is both exciting and nerve-wracking….I do hope everyone likes it! (Commence nail-biting.) There is a gorgeous flow of helpfulness in my life now, kind of like a circuit of generosity that I find inspiring. And I made baked kale chips and they were brilliant — favorite new snack food! But here are some other things that have made the world wondrous and lovely:

Liz’s Great Lovely Thing about Fiona Apple’s Idler Wheel

My former compadre at NOGOODFORME writes such beautiful, true things about insomnia, anxiety, nice guys and so much more. I just really feel for anyone who can’t sleep, on this primal level, having battled (and will likely continue to forever and ever fight against) persistent insomnia. Such constant vigilance, such noctural mental wanderings! Also I loved the thing she wrote about first kisses, summer and “Hot Knife.” I was in a haze of total love last summer, feeling both being melted by my sweetheart into a lovebug puddle and feeling like I had acquired that superpower on him myself, and I’d listen to “Hot Knife” and think it was pretty apt. Mutual meltability = summer love? Not to quote iconic New Wave songs, but sometimes you really do just want to melt with someone.

The Plight of the Dancing Indian Ponies

I love to read about horse breeds: hotheaded warmbloods, calm and intelligent curly horses, sensitive and proud Thoroughbreds, stubborn Arabians, steady and strong Percherons. In India they have these rare horses — Marwaris — with these ohmygod kind of flopsy weirdly adorable ears. They’re just beautiful horses all around. And they’re often trained to dance, especially for high-demand rural areas for ceremonies like weddings and such — and they wear this amazing sparkly flower-festooned tack when they do so. The sad thing is that these horses are very rare, and have faced near-extinction for various reasons. A group of dedicated advocates have brought these horses back from the brink, but they would like to see antiquated export laws in India changed so that the indigenous horse can leave the country for better, kinder homes and breeding — and also because the parts of India they’re prevalent in are short on resources to keep the breed thriving. A group of filmmakers are making a film about Marwari horses and they have an Indiegogo project going to raise money for the movie. Please give and spread the word, to at least draw attention and shed light on a beautiful animal and record its history!

I Really Loved Ruby Sparks and Am Glad I Stayed Up Late to Watch It

Everyone has already shared that great New Statesman story about Manic Pixie Dream Girls, so I won’t get into it here. But I will say that it piqued my interest in watching one of the movies it cites, Ruby Sparks, written by its female lead Zoe Kazan and starring Paul Dano, an actor I have never fancied but nevertheless have always enjoyed watching onscreen — he’s got a rare groundedness and intellect for a young male American actor. And lo and behold, the entertainment gods are watching out for me, because earlier this week, Ruby Sparks was showing on late night HBO and I decided to watch it, being sleepless and all. And I really, really enjoyed it. It’s a modest film, well-shot but by no means visually flashy — and it’s well-acted. It is essentially an update on the Pygmalion story/Galatea myth, and a riff on the dangers of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl — or just the disservice we do ourselves and to others when we indulge in romantic idealization. I thought it would be a cute little romantic comedy, but it’s actually much darker than that.

I’m not used to writing smart things about movies anymore, which is a pity, because Ruby is a very smart movie, with an affable surface concealing much darker undertones. But I will put it this way: I have never been a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I am simply not that kind of cute or gamine or ingenue-ish. I’m not sure I’ve ever been romantically idealized in my life. But I have watched as many people I know fall in love with MPDG types, or tried to mold themselves into MPDGs in order to be loved. I’ve seen people waste years pining for a picture in their mind that can’t be attained — hell, I’ve wasted years of my life pining after a fever dream of a person, until finally this dreamboat was anything but. Ruby Sparks takes the point of view of the dude in the relationship, who manages to conjure up his dream girl. At first it’s great, but then he tries to control her by literally re-writing her character — and it gets darker and darker. That’s the thing — romantic idealization is, in a very passive way, its own kind of control over a situation and it curtails the full freedom to be human. And the film shows the costs of that brilliantly. It’s a lot tougher and darker and more feminist than the cutesy trailer makes it seem. I really enjoyed it, and maybe you will, too.

On Lady Posses, And Favorite Music Girlfriends From Last Year

When I think about my life five years ago and the life that I have now, it blows me away how different they are. For the most part, it’s been a beautiful evolution. But there’s one fundamental difference that I do miss: having a regular posse of girlfriends.

I used to be one of those quasi “Sex and the City” girls. Okay, not really — though we did talk plenty about guys and sex and dating, I think my girlfriends and I were more motivated by creativity, and the struggle to get our work out there. But my primary social life revolved around hanging out with women when I lived in NYC. My life was rich with women: drinks with women, dinner with women, long epic conversations with women, hanging out in the Korean sauna relaxing with women, making films with women, walking down 23rd Street at dawn and stumbling into Krispy Kreme after a night out dancing with women. Even when I was dating or boyfriended, I always managed to carve out some time with my ladies.

But these days is a different story. I mostly hang out with my sisters now, which of course is a particular kind of lady posse, and an awesome one. But it’s different. We’re all very different from one another. We laugh a lot together, but it’s not over the ribald, bawdy jokes I like to crack over a drink. We worry a lot about our older parents over dinners at home. We rib each other over our very Daria/Quinn dynamic when I was in high school. The love is tender and durable, but the intimacy is different. Amplify this with my natural tendency towards solitude, my novel and book writing outside of my full-time job, my innate shyness — and it means less time in general to devote to socializing and friendship in general. For the most part, I’m fine with this. But I do miss kicking back with some raucous, intelligent ladies over food and a nice strong cocktail, talking into the night.

So it kind of makes sense that much of the music I loved in 2012 is so ladycentric. I skew ladycentric anyway, but this past year in music, I’ve gone that way even more than usual. In a way, all these ladies are kind of like phantom echoes of my lady posses past. Some of the bands and musicians are vulgar, some are ardent and open-hearted, some are mystical and hippieish — but something in the music and personalities reminds me of the women I’ve hung out with in the past. Nicki Minaj is like the friend you go to cheesy bars and nightclubs with, dancing to so-bad-it’s-good pop music and making fun of guys in poorly cut leather jackets. Bat for Lashes reminds of all my quasi-hippie Brooklyn girlfriends who were always on some weird diet and exchanging info on their acupuncturists, and Cat Power is like that breed of female I knew in NYC before I left: ladies who kick around, endure and are always up for some kind of adventure and love affair, even if their free-spiritedness puts them in the margins. This isn’t the coolest list (though, you know, I did like the Metz record a lot, but it just ended up making me revisit my Unwound collection.) But the craving for more lady solidarity and good times fueled what songs, records and artists I listened to the most — and play counts on your iTunes don’t lie. Anyway, here’s the mix, and the full list with commentary is below the cut:


Sparks: Welcome to Female Trainwreck Week

I’ve always been oddly secretive about what I read on the Internet. (I’m one of those people that think that what you read in some way will come to define you at some point — which is scary considering how much sci-fi/fantasy, business development and fusty classical fiction I read.) I originally posted a list of “What I’m Reading on the Internets” on my monthly mailing list missive, but then thought that public sharing was a better way to spark discussion and at least pay tribute to other Internet writers out there!

So here you go…this week I was fascinated by maybe-crazy ladies, inside guff on how people dealt with social media, a bunch of movie geekiness and had a love/hate relationship with an article written by a writer I generally loathe. So, if I were to concoct a new personality out of this week’s Internet reading I’d be…a lady driven to craziness by Twitter and anti-feminism who drowns her sorrows in a major drug habit while watching “JFK”? I don’t know!

+ Evolution of a Feisty Pixar Princess – Did you see Brave? I thought the animation was stunning but the story a bit underdeveloped — but I will always enjoy learning about the collective creative process at Pixar.

+ Cat Marnell on Jane Pratt, Her Book, and Splitting From xoJane.com – Duuuuuuude, Cat Marnell is legit smart, and legit bananas. I’ve always admired people who are brutally honest and incisive, but frankly my respect is lessened by the self-destructiveness. I think it’s maybe a mark of getting older, but my fascination with people trainwrecks is lot less starry-eyed and romantic. Once drugs have used up her beauty and youth, will there be much fascination left? What do you think?

+ ‘I Just Want to Feel Everything’: Hiding Out With Fiona Apple, Musical Hermit – In many ways this interview kind of upends all the conventions of typical celebrity interviews, and yet upholds them utterly as well. And her new record = so good.

+ Cheap, Chic, And Made For All: How Uniqlo Plans To Take Over Casual Fashion – I enjoyed reading this mostly because I love Uniqlo. I really do love their cheerful, democratic approach to fashion, I wear their jeans and underwear religiously, and never regret my purchases from there.

+ are you feeling social media-obliged? – I loved reading how Sarah Wilson lays out all her social media outlets and how she uses them. It’s a valuable practice in this age when everyone’s doing everything and it’s so easy to fritter away your time and energy on social media, thinking you are doing “work” when you’re really not.

+ Why the 21st Century Author is an Internet Entrepreneur – Reading this left me with mixed feelings and a slight sense of indignation, like, “Did Marguerite Duras or Joan Didion ever have to worry about ‘building a platform’ and getting Twitter followers? Whatever happened to having superlative craft and intensely beautiful imagination and humanity?” But you know, this is just the truth these days, at least if you aim to publish and you’re not Duras or Didion!

+ Spin’s “Girl Issue” from 1997 – Reading the Fiona Apple article above made me remember she was on the cover of the “Girl Issue” that Spin published way back in the day, which was one of my most favorite issues of a magazine ever. I remember keeping my copy of it forevs, though I don’t remember where it is. Oh, my sorrows!

+ Jackie and the Girls – Truth: I really hate Caitlin Flanagan. Okay, not her, but her ideas. But she’s such a good writer that she almost seduces you to her point of view, till you remember how utterly and deeply you are at odds with her ideologically. But in this article she captures in some way both the repulsion and the allure of the whole Kennedy mystique in a way that helps me to get it, having never really been captivated by it in the first place.

+ Rounding Up Iceland’s Horses – Just lovely pictures of nature in Iceland and Icelandic ponies! I have always loved them for their sweet faces.

+ What’s the story with your budget? – The lovely Eleanor over at killerfemme.com is writing about money management, planning and artists, a topic I’m much interested in. If you are a creative who has ever been flummoxed by the financial side of your work, Eleanor’s column is for you!

+ Why Women Still Can’t Have It All – I have soooooo much to say about this article that I find it hard to sum up here, but I’ll try just a little: No, women can’t have it all without something suffering (usually their health and sanity). I don’t think anyone can have it all, actually, though the “not having it” is different for each gender. I think we need to talk about the constant expectation of women being primary caretakers of the house and hearth. I also think what we really need to talk about here is a system that fails to support both men and women in helping to care and educate their children. I also think we need to unpack the entitledness and classist dimensions on “having it all” in the first place, too. I told you, so much to think about!