Liner Notes for a Year, p. 2

As I mentioned in my previous post, I put together my annual “Year in Review” CD and wanted to put together some liner notes for this year’s choices. Here’s part 1 of 2 of that.

“We the People” – A Tribe Called Quest. Coming up with the first song to a mix CD is one of the biggest challenges. You want to set the right tone, and draw listeners in immediately. Starting on a good foot will help make sure people stay engaged, or willing to be engaged, even if they don’t love every song you’ve selected.

I went back and forth on this one for a while, really wanting to start with a Bowie song, since for me his death in the beginning of 2016 really set the tone for the rest of the year. I also obsessively listen to Blackstar when it first came out and for the month following Bowie’s death. But as this project kept evolving, starting the CD with one of those tracks didn’t feel right.

After listening through my “Songs of 2016” playlist again, I immediately knew I found my first track when it came up.

This song really had it all: An iconic group, known for addressing social and political themes in their music, releasing an album after a decades-long hiatus that spoke to the current climate of the country. And, true to the seemingly mark of the year, one of its members, Phife Dawg, passed away earlier this year.

“Wintersleep” – Amerika. I think I can credit my discovery of this song to my XM subscription–it seemed like any time I got in the car while I was still driving an hour each way to work on 95, I heard it playing on the radio. (I don’t know if I can chalk that up to coincidence as much as a limited playlist rotation on most of the satellite channels). Although it wasn’t a favorite of mine right off the bat, it grew on me and began to feel a bit like a battle anthem as I sped down the highway, usually on my way to or from Jersey, Philly, or Wilmington.

“The Ministry of Defence” – PJ Harvey. I admit I made it to the PJ Harvey party late in the game. Although her stuff has been recommended to me since college (including a mix CD pass along by an admirer which is still tucked away in a CD sleeve somewhere), I never really had that “ah ha” moment with her until fairly recently, and this song especially seemed to pull me in. I created a 2-song playlist (featuring this and “The Nurse Who Loved Me” by A Perfect Circle) that I listened to fairly exclusively for a 2-week period early in the summer.

“Fill in the Blank” – Car Seat Headrest. Car Seat Headrest was my biggest discovery of 2016 and was on pretty constant rotation for most of the year. I actually debated which song to include on this mix, since I rather obsessively listened to both “Vincent” (Which proved to be a fairly decent running song) and “The Ending of Dramamine” (this was actually the original track I was going to go with, but I wanted to use the Spotify session version, which wasn’t easily available to download). CHS taps into all those angsty, middle school feels that I’ve realized I’ll never fully get rid of. It’s proven pretty versatile, too, fitting the mood for long summer evenings just as well as it does for snowy January Saturdays. In the end I ended up going with “Fill in the Blank” since it seemed like a good introductory song to the band and to that feeling/attitude they have that I like.

“Your Best American Girl” – Mitski. This song was permeating my world for a while, but I didn’t really pay much attention to it until one day it clicked and became an obsession for me and Colin. It’s been on pretty heavy rotation throughout the fall and winter months, and when this year’s CD and some of its themes started taking shape, it seemed like a no-brainer addition. (Note, I never actually watched the video ’til just now when looking up links…Maybe listen to it first without it…)

“I Need Never Get Old” – Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. This wasn’t really a song I listened to extensively throughout the year, but I found it on one of my saved monthly playlists (Each month I create a new playlist and throw any music I hear throughout that time period onto the list so I can go back and check it out later when I’m in need of something to listen to/in preparation for this CD). While going through songs to include for this mix, I rediscovered this one, and it felt like it helped add balance to some of the more somber, heavier songs in the collection. I also dig the throwback feel and am reminded of the Jukebox Jewels tapes I adored when I was little.

Shut Up and Kiss Me” – Angel Olsen. This album is on a lot of “best of 2016” lists for a reason (clearly they got their hands on my holiday CD before coming up with their selections). Ch-Ch-Check it out.

Liner Notes for a Year, p. 1

As is now a tradition, whenever I put together my Christmas packages I also make a little “year in review” CD that highlights all the music that defines the year for me. Creating this holiday package is always fun, and a welcome creative challenge. The past few years have been more light-hearted approaches to the cards–one year recreating the infamous Kim K. “break the Internet” shot, and another poking fun at the Starbucks “Red Cup” controversy–but admittedly, this year seemed hard to come up with good material to fit the way I, and many other people, had been feeling. I didn’t want the card to become too much of a statement, but I didn’t want to ignore the sheer sense of uncertainty and trepidation that seemed to be hanging in the air. So when Colin suggested making a “Greetings from the Bunker” card for the holidays, we started riffing on the idea until the Holiday Survival Guide was born.

We got to work right away, reading various survival manuals and researching styles. It took a while to organize the content the way we wanted to, and even longer to find the right artist to partner with, but once all these elements came together, the project started to really come to life, and I really love how the guide ended up looking, especially considering we didn’t find our artist/designer ’til the 11th hour (Seriously, he rocks):

holiday-survival-guide-1

Continue reading

Remember how I said I’d come someday, baby? How I said I’d come around to see you one day?

Sometimes Christmas is about the happiness and joy of the holiday, about the time spent with family and basking in the warmth of that love. But sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s about accepting the sadness that the holidays can bring, the darkness of the winter, the long nights that give you no choice but to think and reflect, and sometimes, grieve.

I guess this Christmas has been more of the latter for me, one where I’ve just been working through my own shit, trying to understand this next chapter of my life, trying to process who I am, where I am, and what exactly I want to be doing next. This isn’t a bad thing–in fact, I almost look forward to winter for this very reason: a chance to really dig in on this heavier kind of thinking. But it certainly can come with its challenges, especially when trying to keep things merry and bright. Continue reading

Soundtrack of a Year

I’ve put together these annual mixtapes for some time now, in one form or another. Some years I focus on particular seasons, others are more a “year in review.” To me these CDs are like a scrapbook or diary—they best represent the things that happened to me, the lessons I’ve learned, and the memories from the year that I hold on to the most. I love making them, and especially love being able to share them with others.

I recently had a few people request that I create “liner notes” to go along with this year’s mix to explain the significance of the selected songs. I thought that would be a pretty cool idea, though I had no idea how incredibly challenging it would be, too.

2015 was a very good year for me in a lot of ways, but it came with a lot of serious change and challenges. While going through the monthly playlists I created with this project in mind, I was able to recount exactly what had happened in that timeframe and the emotional state I was in during most of it. It reminded me of the power of music, and admittedly overwhelmed me a bit.

Some of the songs on this list hold a lot of emotional weight for me; some are just ones I really enjoyed and think you might enjoy, too. Continue reading

An Open Letter to My Reddit Secret Santa.


Alright, so, my reddit SS was absolutely incredible to me. I’m not sure what his reddit name is, but I was able to send him this message. I figure I’ll share it below so others can have a better understanding of how much this gift means to me, and why. Also note that I wrote a lot in my “About Me,” and only off-handedly mentioned loving to read/my books and wanting to switch over to a Kindle eventually. But that definitely wasn’t the lead in my write up, so this was beyond a shock to me.

Let me briefly explain reddit and what this Secret Santa exchange is for those who don’t know. To quote from the Wiki page about it: reddit is an entertainment, social networking service, and news website where registered community members can submit content, such as text posts or direct links. Registered users can then vote submissions “up” or “down” to organize the posts and determine their position on the site’s pages. Content entries are organized by areas of interest called “subreddits.”

For the past several years, they’ve been organizing a Secret Santa event, where you are paired up with a complete stranger who also has signed up to give a gift to someone else. You can be paired with someone from anywhere across the US, or internationally if you choose.

Also note that this gift exchange had a $20 limit.  Continue reading

No thanks for livin’ on Thanksgiving; I’m still starvin’.

It’s Thanksgiving Eve and I’m powering through cups of black coffee and full albums of Wu-Tang on YouTube, waiting for the workday to end. It’s been a bit of a slow day, but a good one for bonding with new co-workers who are also looking longingly at the clock, waiting (somewhat) patiently for quitting time. It was one girl’s birthday, and so we headed over to the local wine bar for lunch, a glass of our favorite spirit, and an opportunity to share some hilarious/embarrassing stories while also sharing the details for our upcoming holiday celebrations. Continue reading

For now I am winter.

January is a tough month, one that seems to lose its purpose after its first day. Growing up in an Italian-American household, we at least were able to hold onto Christmas until January 6th–the feast of the Epiphany (i.e., when the Wise Men actually made it to the manger–tell me, though: if they were so “wise,” why didn’t they get there on time?). But this year, it seems a lot of people were ready to be done with Christmas before then. I saw a lot of trees–including our own–dragged to the curb way before that, many people proudly declaring on 26th that they were over the holiday and officially eradicated it from their homes.

The days after New Years are always the worst–weeks of celebration and anticipation finally completely exhausted, reality inevitably forced back on us. I feel like I’ve lived a thousand months in the past 2 weeks, and every day I’m more surprised that it’s still only the beginning/middle of the month.

I’m looking forward to February–even more excited for March. I just kind of feel like the next few weeks are going to seem like a lull before life officially picks back up again. Not that it’s been slow at all–I swear I actually did more socializing the past few weeks than I did during the holidays–but I just kind of feel like right now is about laying the groundwork before really busting open 2014 right. A part of me is excited about that; a part of me is a little too impatient to wait around for all the great things that I’m hoping happen this year.

I guess I’m painfully optimistic that this year will be a good year–Like, a really good year. I’m ready to bust outta my shell even more. I’m ready to take even more risks. I’m ready to start settling down and focusing on The Plan. But for now, I’m gearing up for these revelations–for now I’m prepping myself for the good things to come. I am cultivating myself, I’m waiting patiently until the time is right to bloom.

For now, I am winter.

Now I’m overcome by the light of day; my lips are near but my heart is far away…

“Thanksgiving was nothing more than a pilgrim-created obstacle in the way of Christmas; a dead bird in the street that forced a brief detour.”
― Augusten BurroughsYou Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas

I like being awake when the rest of the world is not. It’s one of the few times during the day where I don’t feel some crazy sense of urgency to get somewhere, to do something, to accomplish something before the day is done. I’d like to get better at getting up early, but that also means I have to give up my beloved late-night routine. I’m realizing that I love both for the same reasons–the feeling of being the Only One Awake, the calm of not having to answer to anyone… The benefit to switching this routine to the morning hours is that I’m able to more easily transition into a functioning adult after getting up early vs. staying up hella late. Continue reading

So long to the holidays…So long.

Well, folks– it’s officially over: Christmas, New Year’s, 2012. Back to normalcy and  patiently waiting for the cold, dark days to get longer.

It’s honestly hard to believe that New Year’s just happened this week–with Christmas already disassembled at the house, and with the desperation for routine to be re-established, I kind of feel like I’ve been operating post-holidays for weeks now.

I guess then I shouldn’t be so hard on myself for not being motivated to do much of anything beyond the things that need to be done. But there is just so much to be done–so many things I want to do with the blog and other writing projects, so much personal bettering and reading and general living and life figuring out I would like/need to do, but the past couple nights have been spent in my pajamas on the couch.

Typing this out, I realize I’m being a bit hard on myself. It’s been 2 nights, and before that, it’s been New Year’s and Christmas and all of the insanity that was December. But I haven’t felt this wiped out in a while, and in a lot of ways, I didn’t even really go “big” on Christmas this year–I didn’t set foot in a Kohl’s ONCE from Black Friday ’til now, and only ventured to the mall the day after Christmas (and that was only to rummage through plastic bins of discounted underwear with the other college-educated women surrounding me and then attempt to buy fancy, overpriced soap that was on sale for a still-overpriced amount).

I guess you can currently color me as suffering from the Winter Blues, although I’m hopeful this is a temporary storm front that will be passing soon. There is much to get excited for and be hopeful about, so fingers crossed I get motivated again soon.

Until then, I might just have to watch Love Actually one more time to hold on to a little bit more of that holiday hopefulness…

 

 

I wish the world was flat like the old days, then i could travel just by folding a map. No more airplanes, or speed trains, or freeways…There’d be no distance that could hold us back.

This has been a strange year filled with so many wonderful surprises, unexpected disappointments, unprecedented heartaches, and delirious celebrations. Although they haven’t all been easy, I am grateful for every single life lesson that was learned in 2012 and I look forward to applying this new-found knowledge to whatever 2013 has in store for me.

Here’s to uncharted territory. To the friends I’ve kept, the ones I’ve lost, the ones I’ve just met, and to those I’ve yet to meet. Here’s to new life lessons, to more growth, and hopefully more patience and grace. Here’s to the end of my 20s and the beginning of my 30s. Here’s to the tears caused by pain and by laughter, and the people who’ll let me cry both by their side. Here’s to love, to family, to new beginnings. Here’s to all the strange and wonderful things left to come!

Alright, 2013, I’m ready for you. Are you ready for me?