Jeanne Recommends: “Style” by Taylor Swift

On the first day of July in 2016, I was at the hair salon getting my blonde highlights refreshed. As I waited for the color to develop, I flipped through a magazine and half-listened to the music that was playing in the salon. A song with a distinct 80s vibe came on and sparked memories of the pop songs I’d loved as a teenager. Over the cacophony of hair dryers and gossip, I caught snatches of lines about James Dean and tight skirts and crashing. The refrain “we never go out of style” reverberated in my head. Later, I consulted Google and learned that the song that had been tantalizing me was one of Tay-Tay’s — I’d never really had an opinion about her one way or the other before that day.

That holiday weekend, I went on three dates. The first was a hollow hookup, the second was a coffee date with a needy guy whose divorce wasn’t even final yet, and the third was a casual dinner with an otherwise normal-seeming dude who let slip toward the end of our meal that his ex-girlfriend had a restraining order against him. Three up, three down. I returned home from that dinner, defeated yet somehow still hopeful, to find about 30 text messages from bachelor #2, which I deleted before blocking his number, and one from a guy I’d spent some time with the previous month but didn’t expect to hear from again. That message was just a photo: a shot of a deck overlooking a lake, with a can of Yuengling Lager sitting on the railing.

I laughed, and then tapped my reply: “Oh, you bitch.” How dare he tease me with tasty beer I couldn’t even get in Arizona?

I sat on the floor in my living room, played “Style,” and really listened to the lyrics. I thought of my beer-teasing friend and felt the first rush of… something.

I say “I’ve heard that you’ve been out and about with some other girl, some other girl.”
He says “What you’ve heard is true but I
Can’t stop thinking about you,” and I…
…I said “I’ve been there too, a few times.”
’Cause you got that James Dean daydream look in your eye
And I got that red lip, classic thing that you like
And when we go crashing down, we come back every time
’Cause we never go out of style, we never go out of style…

(Song recommendation by Jeanne Sharp)

Seigar recommends “Morrow” by 070 Shake

Futuristic LGBT force.

Danielle Balbuena is a proud New Jersey rapper with Dominican roots, and all this shows in her single “Morrow”. The pop alternative track goes further than a hip hop song usually does, and brings back the atmospheric dark melodies of Michael Jackson, The Weeknd or Lenny Kravitz (I belong to you). 070 Shake got this name because of “070” collective that she belonged to, and her playing ball skills: “shake weave”. Her guest appearances in Kanye West and Nas records helped her to attract attention, furthermore, she is also a known fashion model.

070 Shake album sounds fresh and determined. Though, it has received mixed reviews, but I think it will be part of the end of the year lists. 2020 has started quite strong in music: Destroyer has just released his new brilliant album, Sewerslvt has got the third position with a breakbeat hardcore in the web rateyourmusic, Halsey has shown she can compete with Lorde for the alternative queen of pop tittle, of Montreal has released their most commercial and fun album in years, and don’t forget Georgia, my last pop dance recommendation for Memoir Mixtapes.

Among all these acts, 070 Shake has something personal to say. The latin intro of “Morrow” gets the attention and the lyrics complete the hook:

An early mornin’, no clouds up in the sky

She’s paranoid, but still she don’t know why, yeah

But still she don’t know why, yeah

Danielle uses the female pronoun, she doesn’t hide she likes girls: “I don’t really identify myself as queer or gay or anything. I just like girls”. 070 Shake is here to shake the world.

Enjoy her melodic alternative R&B. This song is lush! And if you enjoy this one, don’t miss other great songs in this record: Guilty Conscience, Microdosing, Under the Moon and Daydreaming.

(Song recommendation by Seigar)

Michael Recommends “Norman Fucking Rockwell” by Lana Del Rey

It’s that smile that wells in your face when you drop him off at the train station. You’re driving home, thinking of your next time together in two days. It’s that feeling when the song comes on again–you’ve been listening to the album on repeat–and you want to know where your other half is, if this song is a connection you’re sharing right now. It’s a feeling that’s too complex to comprehend in an instant, that leaves you chewing on it for days and days.

It’s winter break. We have weeks off after the first semester in our MFA program. By chance, my boyfriend is the only other Rhode Islander in our program, and we spend a lot of time in cars, visiting each other, meeting for coffee, yoga, movies in Providence on January nights, driving to state parks to enjoy rainy views and Norman Fucking Rockwell!

Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell!dazzles from start to finish. Its titular track in particular stokes the sweetness of nostalgia and affection. She calls out the camp and cliché of American dreams, which, cast against the sugar of romance, seem to give the indulgence of these feelings an excuse. If we listen to her self-aware songs every day we spend together, maybe we’re self-aware too. It gives us a pass to profess such bald, proud affection. The dreamy piano contrasts with the lyrics–you’re just a man, that’s what you do, you make me blue. Listening, I feel my unabashed smiles turning up, the desire to kiss, hold hands, and swoon.

Because maybe Lana’s juxtapositions convey with full nuance how it feels to live in America this year. Because maybe we’re still two men dating in North Carolina and even have to remember that in Rhode Island, in New York too. Maybe that means that everything is two things at once–holding hands is political, is really only about us.

(Song recommendation by Michael Colbert)

K Recommends: “The Third Sequence” by Photek

(Photo from artist’s Facebook page/Photographer: Philippe McClelland)

My senior year of college was strange. I started having physical pain and used my allowed absences in my courses for things like colonoscopy preps and going home for fibromyalgia doctor visits. I got my first migraine around that time and was diagnosed with anxiety. The prescription benzos and muscle relaxers were new to my body and brain; I slept through classes or stared through my professors, trying to present as a human not about to fall apart.

I went to therapy and meditation group but my coping skills were lacking. Getting through a day was harder but I managed to catch up and stay afloat. I shared an apartment overrun with ladybugs with the one person I connected with on campus also dealing with mental and physical health issues. In 1998, it wasn’t commonplace to discuss these things.

I stayed up late chatting with people all over the world who bonded through rave culture. I joined because I knew someone on there and was up at odd hours. Although I never went to a rave I enjoyed learning about the music and finding other types of electronic music that interested me.

My boyfriend did his best to take care of me and my anomalies. He had video games and I’d lay on the floor of his place in a buzz of medication side effects playing Wipeout 2097 (aka Wipeout XL); a particularly futuristic racing game with a killer soundtrack. Prodigy, FSOL, Chemical Brothers… just some of the badass noise permeating the game’s landscape as my flying machine launched through space and time, avoiding obstacles. This was my escape from ache. I was in motion. The battle wasn’t personal. At new turns/levels, the music shifted beats and tech sounds. Here my future wasn’t so filled with bloodwork and dropping classes as it was avoiding fictional mines, missiles.

The whole soundtrack takes me to a place of comfort and distraction at a time when I was first navigating chronic illness. Over 20 years later, I am still climbing hurdles of physical and mental hurt but music continues to be a big part of my treatment.

(Song recommendation by K Weber)

Memoir Mixtapes Vol.10, B-Sides

Resilience, etc. by Katie Krzaczek

To read this piece, click the album cover below.

About the author:
Katie Krzaczek is a freelance journalist originally from Philadelphia, now based in New York City. She would die for three things: dogs, Gritty, and Alex Trebek.

 

Carly Recommends: “I Can Lift a Car” by Walk the Moon

Even now, I spend half my time sugarcoating — or at least, working hard to keep the darkest parts of my experience and self just far enough beneath the surface of my writing that they don’t frighten anybody away. As someone with a deeply unhealthy share of violence in my life, I admire art which holds its wounds close, which refuses to hand over its darkness. Which can also just be a beautiful story. A good one. The first forty times I heard “I Can Lift a Car” by Walk the Moon, I didn’t realize there was any darkness at all, and that made me love it even more.

Then the realization started. As small and simple as the lyrics, the ache in my chest which blossomed chanting, screaming along on the five, weaving between sun-stained evergreens in my violently purple Volkswagen Jetta:

I won’t lose it I won’t lose it I won’t lose it I won’t lose it I won’t lose it

Hold it steady hold it steady hold it steady hold it steady hold it steady

I was facing what felt impossible: settling into a new home, new state, new self after college. Twenty-three years old and already two men with clenched fists in the rearview. The ridiculous paradox of still being in love with someone who once made me fear for my life. The reconciliation of intimate detail, beauty, and loss, wondering which memories, which present-day experiences, were real, and which were the product of gaslighting and post-traumatic stress.

When I come home, when I come home, oh, I hear you washing in the shower

Mirages of you, mirages of you, even steam pouring through the crack at the floor

That unspoken: I miss _______.

Person after person kept calling me strong. And people love to tell you that when you’ve been through something they can’t fathom, something they don’t want to talk about: you’re not only strong but brave. A survivor. Invincible. When all I wanted was to name the implicit contradiction, I was simultaneously desperate to embody the praise. I wanted to believe myself as tough as I kept being told I was, because if I could do that, be a superhero, a survivor, maybe I wouldn’t lose it. Maybe I could hold steady long enough to actually heal. I’d find myself taking the longest-possible way home, singing:

I CAN LIFT A CAR! I CAN LIFT A CAR! I CAN LIFT A CAR! UP! ALL BY MYSELF!

I can live through the thing.

I can life a car UP! I can lift a car UP!

Because of course I can. Like the narrator of this song which hides its wounds but bleeds and bleeds and bleeds if given the chance.

I felt like I could lift a car, too, because I could fill my hurt body with sound, blast that song till my speakers fuzzed out, scream. Remember my deep, desperate sadness. My fear. My weak. My confused. My, still, love.

In my infinite, total, unstoppable badass. I lived.

I can lift a car up. All by myself.

(Song recommendation by Carly Madison Taylor)

Memoir Mixtapes Vol.10, B-Sides

In the sun stream by Olive Andrews

To read this piece, click the album cover below.

About the author:
Olive Andrews is from Ottawa, ON and is a Creative Writing undergrad at Concordia University. They are the 2018 winner of the Gabriel Safdie award in poetry. Their work has been published or is forthcoming in Plasma Dolphin, The Veg, Metatron #Micrometa, Dreamers Creative Writing, PRISM international, and more. They live in Montreal, QC.

Memoir Mixtapes Vol.10, B-Sides

Gunpowder and Sky (after Aimee Mann) by E. Kristin Anderson

To read this piece, click the album cover below.

About the author:
E. Kristin Anderson is a poet and glitter enthusiast living mostly at a Starbucks somewhere in Austin, Texas. A Connecticut College alumna with a B.A. in classical studies, Kristin’s work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including The Texas Review, The Pinch, Barrelhouse Online, Puerto del Sol, and FreezeRay Poetry. She is the editor of Come as You Are, an anthology of writing on 90s pop culture (Anomalous Press) and is the author of nine chapbooks of poetry including Pray Pray Pray: Poems I wrote to Prince in the middle of the night (Porkbelly Press), Fire in the Sky (Grey Book Press), 17 seventeen XVII (Grey Book Press), and Behind, All You’ve Got (Semiperfect Press, forthcoming). Kristin is an assistant poetry editor at The Boiler and an editorial assistant at Sugared Water. Once upon a time she worked the night shift at The New Yorker. Find her online at EKristinAnderson.com and on twitter at @ek_anderson.

K Recommends: “Xpectations” by Unloved

(Photo from Unloved’s record label, Heavenly Recordings, website)

There’s this backbone throughout the series “Killing Eve” that holds dark plot lines and risky, love-hate relationships together. It’s chilling. Surprisingly, it’s not childlike, sociopathic Villanelle. It’s not Eve, who desperately seeks to understand a killer but is allured by how Villanelle carries herself. The song, “Xpectations,” by Unloved is a major feature of the overall show. It acts as the soundtrack’s spine: alluded to from season to season.

I watched “Killing Eve” twice. The first time I enjoyed playful, surprising scenarios. The music tempted me. It was as entrancing as the scenes; slipping around corners, flirting, leading into secret spaces, making decisions under the influence of infatuation. I decided to watch the series again to pay attention to the seductive tunes. “Xpectations” is the song we encounter in the first scene of the show that introduces us to Villanelle, her unconventional style and lack of empathy. “Xpectations” appears in end credits, but parts of the song reappear to remind us it is always there: every other song a derivation of it.

The lingering mood in “Xpectations” connects to the 1960s French/international pop and similar dreamy music played (it’s not shocking that a Cigarettes After Sex song shows up). These songs were made for those with bedroom eyes who fall into rabbit holes of intrigue like Eve. More songs by Unloved play across episodes and act as a musical score. Viewers find familiarity in those tracks courtesy of “Xpectations.” Listening to each song is like hearing a whisper and turning around to find a cool breath of air.

“Killing Eve” isn’t for everyone, is violent, and the interplay between Eve and Villanelle can be confusing. “Xpectations” reflects this idea beautifully as it exemplifies things we say when we try to convince ourselves we are not backing down or giving in…

I’ll never give into your… your reflection…

Stop, where you are. I’m yours to love. I’m yours to hate. Isn’t that one and the same…

But then we dare to do the opposite — momentarily become spineless.

(Song recommendation by K Weber)

Memoir Mixtapes Vol.10, B-Sides

If I Buy Her Candy, Will She Know Who I Am? by Harmony Cox

To read this piece, click the album cover below.

About the author:
Harmony Cox is a Midwestern essayist, humorist, and storyteller. She writes about intersections between feminism, pop culture, and personal experience. Her work has appeared in Narratively, Longreads, McSweeneys, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. Her writing has been selected for Narratively’s Top Ten of 2018, Story Club’s Story of the Month, and other honors. She lives in Columbus, Ohio and is a frequent featured performer at local open mics and literary events. She loves dogs, coffee, and writing things for you- yes, especially you.