Andrew Recommends: “Me and Your Mama” by Childish Gambino

Flashback to November 10th, 2016.

When “Me and Your Mama” was first released as a single, I was still in shock from what had happened two days earlier, but I wanted to keep moving forward. I was looking for things to listen to, and a new Childish Gambino single seemed like the best option.

The keys in the opening of the song calmed me down, and the whole intro lulled me into a false sense of security. The transition into the first “chorus” hit me like a ton of bricks, and I didn’t believe that it was Childish Gambino singing until the very end of this middle section. At the ending, I was at a loss. I had chills. For something so calming to switch to something so aggressive to give way to something so peaceful that quickly and that smoothly, there was no other response.

Bring it back to the present. This song still has the same effect on me. Despite hundreds of life changes, despite the passage of time, despite a slight shift in music taste, this song still hits me the same. I know what to expect from the intro, sure, but the ending still gives me chills. There’s something in the music that gets me every time.

Maybe it’s the tone shift. Maybe it’s the bass line. Maybe it’s the guitar and the keys. Maybe it’s the effects on the drums. Maybe it’s the synth line towards the very end. Maybe it’s a lot of things.

Or maybe it’s because, despite all the life changes, I’m still a very similar person inside to when this song was released. I’m not saying people can’t, or don’t, change. I’m not saying a culture can’t shift. I’m just saying some things will always stay the same.

(Song recommendation by Andrew Gardner)

Andrew Recommends: “Jettin’” by Digable Planets

Sometimes it’s best to ignore the negativity and just groove.

That is much easier said than done in today’s climate, I am well aware. Cities are burning across the world, the earth is slowly dying, and the leaders of the “free world” want to strip away whatever rights they can to make sure we live subservient to them. There isn’t a free moment away from any of this information. Social media is constantly throwing new forms of propaganda in our faces, and it’s hard to differentiate fact from fiction.

Yet even with all of this going on, it’s important to remember to take time for ourselves and remember what makes us unique. It’s important to lay back and realize that while we have hit a point where a revolution is justified, taking care of our individual health is paramount. It took me a long time to realize this, since I’m so used to worrying about everyone before myself.

It might seem selfish to worry about yourself before others when all of this garbage is happening in the world. It might seem misguided of me to suggest that ignoring the rampant negativity and grooving is the way to keep sane in all of this madness. However, Digable Planets would agree with me here, it seems.

Towards the beginning of Blowout Comb, a far more “conscious” album than their first, there is “Jettin’.” It serves as a reminder, much like “Pacifics” on Reachin’, that sometimes it’s best to just cruise around your city and listen to some music, taking in the scenery and appreciating what life has put in front of you. Whether that cruising is in a car, on a train, on foot, on a bike, it doesn’t matter. Just get out and see what is going on in your city.

This song has cleared my head in ways no song has before, and I’m certain that when you hear the bass line, the vibes/keys, and the drums, it will clear your head, too. There’s nothing wrong with jettin’ around when life is getting you down. Digable Planets are here for you, too.

(Song recommendation by Andrew Gardner)

Anna recommends: “Kill V. Maim,” by Grimes

I can get behind this look.

I only got in trouble twice, in school. In seventh grade English class, Mr. Porter, who I idolized as both an excellent teacher and the first openly queer teacher I’d ever had casually moved me to a different seat for talking with a friend. The shame crushing, unprecedented, but to him, it was no big deal. Perhaps more impressively, in fifth grade, I was given a stern talking-to for reading during recess — more specifically, for sneaking books pressed to my stomach under whatever ugly turtleneck I was wearing with an aquamarine-blue puffy windbreaker, keeping them there under awkwardly crossed arms for all of t’fillot, (daily mandatory prayer time), and reading them instead of being social during recess.

It will not shock you to hear that, otherwise, I was an extremely obedient child.

As an adult, I am now a teacher, and I often listen to Kill V. Maim on the way to work in the morning, where I separate students for talking all the time, and where I recently exclaimed, “I’VE WON AT TEACHING,” when a student said, first thing in the morning, “Miss, can we read more today? I’m just craving to get further into this book.” In a strange way, I’m supposed to encourage obedience in my students, when all I want to do is teach them to revel in language and rebel through words.

(I’m that teacher who says on an everyday basis that “capitalism is the root of all evil,” and “gender isn’t real,” or “gender is a social construct.”)

Arrest us

Sung in an aggressively peppy, bright tone, reminiscent of cheerleaders, an idea and its deconstruction, woven together seamlessly. It organizes my thoughts when I’m overthinking everything.

When she sings, You gave up being good when you declared a state of war, it reminds me of Mary Oliver’s wildly different poem “Wild Geese,” which opens with You do not have to be good.

But the part that really gets to me?

Oh, the fire it’s all right
The people touch it
I can’t touch it
Even though it’s mine

I am only ten years older than most of my students, but to them it’s a lifetime. I remember 9/11, and most of them were infants or unborn then. I voluntarily don’t have a Snapchat. And maybe this is the same obedience of my childhood in me, but I feel afraid to acknowledge my own anger — at almost anything — a fear none of my students have.

“Kill V. Maim,” manages to be totally serious and delightfully irreverent. It is a text that defies logic. It is political and it’s fun. Its backstory is pure imagination: The Godfather, vampire-style, with maybe some gender-fluidity thrown in for fun. My most-listened-to song of 2019, according to Spotify, Kill V. Maim is my morning warm-up anthem. When I’m down — which is often — and driving to work as the sun rises, it gives me a girlish voice to sing and scream along with, facing all the frustration, fear, sadness, and anger I fight, head on, with company.

Get ready. This video is a party.

(Song recommendation by Anna Press)

Lucas Recommends: “Spring” by Angel Olsen

Over the past year I’ve found myself getting more and more teary-eyed in simple, everyday moments. One of the particular situations for these moments is simply hearing a song lyric — or reading a line in a poem — that makes me think of my fiancée. When the first lyric of a song is “Don’t take it for granted / love when you have it,” I feel the challenge to take stock of how I’ve been as a partner: have I shown her enough gratitude? Have I shown her exactly how much I love her? Do I share these moments with her when they come up? Of course, in Olsen’s song, the speaker is singing of lost love, of a missed opportunity, so when Olsen sings, “I wish we were kissing,” prefaced by “I wish it were true love,” I hold in only one of those statements, because I already know it’s true love, and I always wish we were kissing.

I’ve thought a bit lately about how I connect with songs that have messages opposite — or merely different — of how I’m internalizing them, wondering if it’s a disservice to the song, the artist, the intended subject, etc. I imagine sharing the lyric “I wish we were kissing” and getting dunked on on Twitter, being told it’s not the point of the song. But the more I think about this song, specifically, the more I think of the final four lines: “So give me some heaven / just for a while / make me eternal / there in your smile.” With a song that still ends on a rumination of hope, of there being some chance at some level of relationship, even if only for a moment, using specific lyrics from it in a relationship that has worked out, that has been committed to, seems only fitting.

(Song recommendation by Lucas Bailor)

Leandra Recommends “Nellie” by Dr. Dog

Some time in July and somewhere between the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, and the beaches of Wilmington, North Carolina, we had the windows down while we took turns putting on songs we could shout the lyrics to. Two hours after we’d passed the only serif road sign in the state, and thirty minutes outside of South of the Border, I turned the music down.

“I think you’d like this.” I put on “Nellie” by Dr. Dog, asked Snail (not my sibling’s birth name, but it has since become the only name that matters) if they’d ever heard the band. No, they replied, and I turned the song back up. The song kicks off with a one, two, a one, two, three, four, a banging of a single drum before a tambourine, guitar, bass, and lyricist all come crashing in.

After the first, second, or maybe third listen, Snail had all of the words down, and “Nellie” had earned a place on our AVL 07.09.19 playlist. July was the first month that I was a premium Spotify user. Two months after I graduated from college, still working my college job, Spotify was the first thing that I knew I wanted to spend money on every month (other than insulin, food, and, eventually, rent).

The rest of the summer was full of uncertainty and heartbreak unlike I’d never felt. Breakups with quasi-partners delivered over eggs Benedict, my little sister crying on FaceTime from hours away, leaving me feeling helpless and confused, Snail moving into college not so far from the mountains where we started that July morning, and writers block so bad that I thought I’d left all my words in undergrad; that my BFA degree and the 27 words printed on it were all that remained of my logopihilia. I spent the remainder of the summer in too-dark rooms on too-bright days, making playlists with dramatic titles (Love in the Time of Melancholy; House Wine; For You, Whomever You Might Be), and, evidently, as my Spotify Wrapped suggests, listening to “Nellie” far too much.

Even now, in December, the time of minute-long days, five months after my love affair with “Nellie”, I can’t bring myself to skip it when it comes up. It brings me to a place in my mind where I am happy, even if it seems far away, through a kaleidoscope of dull colors and dreary days.

(Song recommendation by Leandra Lee)

Kim Recommends “Coming Back” by Mitch King

Hands down, my most-played song for the end of the year is Mitch King’s “Coming Back.” I found this song sometime over the summer and have played it more often than any other song this year. I listen to Pandora all day at work and I’ll create stations based on a song or band I like — this one showed up on a station based on The Dead South.

“Coming Back” is moody, reflective and has a sense of urgency behind it. Not many things in this world can give me the “feels” but music is one of them, and some songs make me close my eyes and just feelthe moment. They inspire me to create, or inspire me to dance. This is one of those songs. There is so much passion in the way Mitch sings and plays the song that I get swept into this place where it’s just me and the song. I nearly have to stop what I’m doing just so I can experience the song — especially during the guitar solo. The whole song is deliciously rich and full, which is incredible considering it’s a one-man performance.

Yup…just one guy. I heard the song before I played the music video. I expected maybe a 2 or 3 person ensemble when I first heard the song. The song is played with Mitch on microphone, guitar, harmonica, and one foot on the bass drum and one foot for the tambourine. It’s incredible. I’ve heard some of his other songs but haven’t watched videos, so I don’t know if most of his songs are like that.

This is one of those songs I crank when I need to remember that no matter how busy life gets, I can always immerse myself in a song like “Coming Home” and come out a better person when the song ends. It worked its way pretty quickly to the top of my own “Songs That Make the World Less Sucky” list.


(Song recommendation by Kim Wolkens)

Andrew Recommends: “Patience” by Tame Impala

Senior year of college was pretty rough for me. I was healing from a breakup, and I was working a job on top of an overload of classes. I had a mental breakdown at a Boygenius show on the 1st of November and ending up having to drop my secondary major just so I could finish on time. I ended up going back to finish that major this past fall, but that’s another story.

Things started to turn around in my second semester. Work was starting to feel more normal, my classes didn’t overload me with homework, and I had time to go to more shows and experience more live music. However, the most important show I went to was the day after graduation, when I saw Tame Impala at Shaky Knees in Atlanta.

“Patience” was released towards the end of March, right after spring break. I listened to it because I love Tame Impala, but I was blown away at how the song actually made me feel hopeful. Hope wasn’t something I had felt for most of this school year (in all honesty, not for almost 2 full calendar years), and this song made me feel it. Two weeks later, I used the song as a reason to publicize my struggle with anxiety and depression, and getting that out in the open made me feel like I was understood even more as a person.

All of this was before Shaky Knees, though. I listened to it a lot, obviously, but not nearly as much as after that Shaky Knees performance. Seeing Tame Impala for the first time in 3 years, realizing I had just graduated college and survived the gauntlet of senior year, being there with two of my closest friends and my mom, all of it was so overwhelming. When they played “Let It Happen” to open the set, I began to tear up. When they played “Patience” immediately afterwards, I cried.

This song has power. This song was my number one streamed song in 2019, and I intend to keep listening to it for the rest of my life.

We could all use some hope.

(Song recommendation by Andrew Gardner)

Erin Recommends: “That Teenage Feeling” by Neko Case

Neko Case should be a far more famous songwriter than she is. She wields words with the magic and power of a sorceress. “That Teenage Feeling” has been in constant rotation on my playlists lately, the struggle to love someone with the innocence of youth after you’ve lived a life that’s known heartbreak. My favorite verse is the fervent hope of her brave friend who declares; I don’t care if forever never comes ’Cause I’m holding out for that teenage feeling…

I knew that feeling once when I was very young where I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, was fueled and driven by thoughts of that girl. We fell hard in and out of love. It was brutal. After that I fell into relationships that offered a comfort zone and expectations were relatively low, the heat was set on low, no chance of anything burning down.

When my wife and I separated last year and our marriage finally ended, I figured I’d had a good run. I brushed the dirt off, tended to the bruising and accepted that I’d live the rest of my life in solitude. Then I met someone who turned my world upside down.

My girlfriend and I are ridiculous. We are currently in a long distance relationship fraught with complications. We spend hours video chatting, on the phone, messaging and sexting. We talk about everything and nothing, giggling, crying, bemoaning circumstances, repeating, “I miss you” and “I love you” over and over like a couple of teenagers.

When we met in real life fire warnings were set to red, high alert. Within a half an hour we were naked. We held hands as we walked and talked exploring the city where we’d decided to rendezvous. We’d stare at each other, grinning like fools, aching with want and desire. On a carnival ride we held onto each other with no intention of letting go because clearly we were going to fall, how we landed depended on we cushioned it for each other.

My girlfriend is a sexy nerd. She talks to me about the mystery of sea creatures, rodents and other wild things. She quotes research articles and academic scholars, she Googles everything. She has a big beautiful brain, a wicked sense of humor and takes my breath away every time I look at her. She is an incredibly talented writer who shows me how to be a better one. I want to be the best version of myself because of her.

She reads queer romance novels. I have never read any kind of romance novel. She tells me that we are like one. This makes me cringe. Especially when she says that the language we use is similar. My discomfort makes her laugh. And yet, I am far more romantic than her. She is relatively stoic (though I have cracked the code). She says romance novels are filled with daunting circumstances and obstacles not unlike our own. And even though you know how the story will end it is these things that make it so compelling.

My life derailed when I was seventeen. She has her own teenage story. We’ve declared this love story our teenage re-do. This, this is worth holding out for. This is that teenage feeling.

(Song recommendation by Erin L. Cork)

Carly recommends “Too Much” by Carly Rae Jepsen

My sophomore year of college was a haze of marijuana smoke, trying to impress the frat brothers by going shot-for-shot, dancing in the center of the room. Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” wasn’t a new release in 2013 but was a group favorite, a staple at parties. I had the privilege of lurking in the house when those parties were over, the security of a group of lmen who’d protect my girlfriends as they slowly began to experiment. A safe place for excess. Though the boyfriend who introduced me to the frat wasn’t worth the drama, and though many of the friendships turned out temporary, Carly Rae Jepsen still transports me in an instant to sweat on my neck, a hundred people crammed into a little room, singing. Happy. Cool.

Six years later, I’m getting ready for work in Orange, California. It’s April and getting warm enough to hang out on the front porch again. I don’t trust Spotify’s taste in recommendations — it keeps throwing me fouls — but I’m giving my Discover Weekly a try. And as I wing out my eyeliner and lean in closer to the mirror, a shiny, familiar voice rings over the lilting, unfamiliar beat:

Am I bad for you?
’Cause I live for the fire, and the rain, and the drama too, boy
And it feels like you never say what you want
And it feels like I can’t get through, babe

Ooh, that melodramatic boy.

When I party, then I party too much
When I feel it, then I feel it too much
When I’m thinking, then I’m thinking too much
When I’m drinking, then I’m drinking too much

All those shots. Those crowded rooms.

I’ll do anything to get to the rush
Now I’m dancing, and I’m dancing too much
So be careful if you’re wanting this touch
’Cause if I love you, then I love you too much

I listen on repeat till it’s time to go to work. Dance around my house to “Too Much” when I get home again. Transported, if only for that instant, by Carly Rae Jepsen back to sweat, back to dancing, singing, happy. Cool.

(Song recommendation by Carly Madison Taylor)