The one where all will be well

One of the few good things about my long commute to work is how much time I have to listen to things in the car. Usually I pick podcasts because it makes the drive go quicker (I’ve listed some of my favorites here.) But, sometimes I like to put my windows down, my ipod on shuffle and let fate pick my music. Over the past week or so a certain song seems to come up almost every time I’m driving. Around the 5th or 6th time I started really listening to the lyrics and had kind of light bulb going on moment. The song is called All Will Be Well and it’s by The Gabe Dixon Band.  I first heard the song a few years ago when my friend Heather made me a mix of new music. Parks and Recreation, of my favorite TV shows, also used it in a montage last year and it was amazing. But even though I’ve known the song for a few years, this past week in particular it seemed to really stir something in me. I kept listening to it over and over again. The song would end and I would immediately repeat it. Take a listen before you read the rest of what I have to say. Continue reading

The One about The Beatles (covers)

Hello and Happy New Year everyone!

I hope all my readers had a wonderful holiday. Mine was lovely and active. My sister and her family kept me very busy, so I took a little break from blogging. Now that I’m back I will definitely be jumping back into my study of Jesus Feminist (find all applicable entries here in case you need to catch up). As it’s been a few weeks since I exercised my writing muscle I thought I would ease back into blogging with a topic a little less deep. That topic being, a list of my favorite Beatles covers.

I’m not here to convince you to like The Beatles. I love them. They are my number one band. If I could only listen to one band for the rest of my life, it would be them. I go through stretches where I don’t listen to them as often but inevitably when I come back it’s like putting on a cozy sweater and sitting in front of a fire; homey and lovely. They aren’t just my favorite band, but they are an important band too. Even those who may not like their music have to admit that they changed the music scene forever when they hit it big. What I love about them is that if you are into pop and top 40 you can listen to their early stuff, but if you are into experimental rock and roll you can listen to their later stuff and really enjoy that as well. (Seriously, if all you know about The Beatles are their early albums give Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Abbey Road a listen.)

OK that is it. I promised I wouldn’t spend this entry convincing you to like The Beatles. Instead I wanted to write about my favorite covers of Beatles songs. The Beatles are one of the most covered bands ever. Seriously just go to YouTube and type in “Beatles’ covers” and you will get literally thousands of results. It can be hard to know which ones are the best, but don’t worry I have painstakingly listened to many over the years and I feel confident in the list I am about to present. So without further ado here is the list in no particular order.

Rufus Wainwright- “Across the Universe”: This is from the movie soundtrack to I Am Sam which is all Beatles covers. There are a few from this album on the list and this one made it for a good reason. Rufus’ voice is just so beautiful and haunting on this song. It isn’t too different from the original which could be a mark against it. I tend to like covers that walk the line between a note for note remake and barely sounding like the song it is covering. But this song made it because his voice is different enough from John Lennon’s to make it interesting.

Stevie Wonder- “We Can Work It Out”: This cover (and one other one down the line) are the reasons why I wrote this post. I love Stevie Wonder and he makes this song his own in the very best way possible. His harmonica solo is sick! I debated which YouTube video to post but decided on the one below for two reasons; how amazing Stevie Wonder sounds for how old he is and because Paul McCartney is in the audience enjoying every minute of the performance

Aimee Mann & Michael Penn- “Two of Us”: Another song from I Am Sam. This cover perfectly encapsulates what I felt when I heard the original. It’s light, breezy, and romantic. You will feel happy after listening to this cover I guarantee it.

Ben Folds-“Golden Slumbers”: This song originally appeared on Abbey Road and is the definition of leaving you wanting more. I wish this song was six minutes long. The cover is the same way. The way it builds is so beautiful. I am literally always upset when it ends because I wish the song was longer.

AJ Luca-“Oh Darling”: Full disclosure. This is my best friend. But even if she was not my best friend this song would be on the list. A few years back AJ participated in a show where a bunch of different artists preformed the entire Abbey Road album. AJ arranged this version herself and it rocks. Paul McCartney is not just the pop crooner who sings “Yesterday”. This song is loud and raucous and hearing a woman sing it makes it even more amazing. Enjoy!

Gavin Creel-“You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”: If you only listen to one cover please listen to this one. Seriously. I know it’s from an audience recording so the sound quality is not great. But you will not regret listening to this one. Gavin Creel is on of my Broadway crushes. What I love about him is his ability to sing Broadway style and then immediately cover a pop song and do them both flawlessly. The best part of this cover is when he comes back in after the instrumental. The note he hits puts shivers up my spine. He breaks my heart while singing this song, mostly because he’s gay and I’ll never get to date him. But also because it’s so beautiful. Since this is from an audience member filming skip to 1:20 for the actual song part. (and 4:01 for the note I’m talking about)

Tina Turner-“Get Back”: I named my first car Jo-Jo after this Beatles song. The image of Paul McCartney with his full beard on the roof of Apple Studios singing this song is imprinted on my mind every time I hear this song. But Tina’s version comes pretty close to blowing that visual out of the water. Seriously she eats this song for breakfast. Amazing. Also watch her back up dances because they are the 2nd best part of this video.

Al Green-“I Want to Hold Your Hand”: Talk about a soulful cover. Al Green sounds like he doesn’t just want to hold your hand while he’s singing this song. I love this cover because the feel of it is so different from the upbeat pop original.

AJ Luca-“In My Life”: Yup, the BFF made the list twice. Listen to this number and you’ll know why. It can be difficult for girls to cover The Beatles. The range can be too high or too low, and the ever present question of what to do with those gendered pronouns lurks in the background. (For the record I am of the opinion that if you are the opposite sex it is not a problem to change them when you sing.) AJ arranged both covers herself and they are wonderful. I love the little riff she does on the original guitar part from the very beginning.

Dana Fuchs-“Helter Skelter”: Charles Manson tried to ruin this song for the rest of America, but I will not let him. The original features Paul McCartney at his most intense rock wailing best. Seriously he kills this song. This cover appeared in the Julie Taymor movie Across the Universe. I could take or leave the movie, but I am obsessed with the music. This is another instance of a woman really getting to show her chops on an amazing song. Dana Fuchs goes all out!

The Dolls-“Dear Prudence”: In her third and final appearance on this list, AJ is with 3 of her closest friends; Ariel, Mary Anne, and Megan. They formed the acapella group The Dolls while in college together. Their cover of Adele’s “Rumor Has It” using kitchen utensils went viral a few years. They rock and I’m not just saying that because I work with 2 of them. Their version of Dear Prudence is dreamy like the original but is also a unique take on the song.

Jim Sturgess-“I’ve Just Seen A Face”: This is also from the movie Across The Universe. Although the movie wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever seen I did very much enjoy looking at Jim Sturgess and his cute face for 2 hours. He even looks Beatlesesque. His voice is wonderful too. I included this particular song because not only is it adorable but it showcases his voice. I’m also including a second link. His version of the song “Girl”. I didn’t include it on the countdown because it’s only a short version of the original. I’m including the video though so that you can swoon over how cute he is. Enjoy!

The aforementioned video for “Girl”. Seriously, how cute is he!

Evan Rachel Wood-“If I fell”: The last song on my list is also from Across The Universe. Evan Rachel Wood doesn’t have the best voice , but I picked this version because I love the direction it takes the song. If you listen to the original it’s more upbeat and light hearted. The Spanish sounding guitar part and Paul McCartney’s voice make the plea of the song seem not too serious. But slowed down to this ballad like version really highlights how sad the lyrics actually are. The Beatles: deeper than you thought!

So there you have it! My favorite Beatles covers. I hope you listened to them all. (If you didn’t you better at least have listened to one of AJ’s and Gavin Creel’s or I don’t know what I can say to you.) If you haven’t heard the originals but liked what you heard here I hope you’ll give The Beatles a try!

Do you have any covers of favorite songs that you like more than others? Leave them in the comments!

The one about Christmas Music

I am usually one of those people who gets annoyed at how every year Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier. I love Thanksgiving, I really do. So why the entry on Christmas music before Thanksgiving has even happened? Well, my laptop’s motherboard fried about two months ago. It all comes together just wait. So, the internal hard drive on my laptop was not harmed (thank goodness) which means I didn’t lose every piece of information on that laptop. Because a very generous friend lent me the use of her old laptop I decided my first priority was to buy an external hard drive so in case something like this every happens again I will be prepared. I wasn’t too worried about a time frame with regard to moving data from the internal to external hard drive; until November began and people started talking about Christmas music. All of a sudden I realized, my Christmas music was sitting on that internal hard drive and there was no way for me to access it until I moved it all to an external drive! Needless to say I went online very quickly to purchase said hard drive, and thanks to another good friend, by next week I should be able to have access to all of my Christmas music. Priorities people, priorities!

All of this was to say that Christmas music has been on my mind recently. If you celebrate Christmas you know that certain songs and even certain albums become indelibly linked to the holiday. I decided to share some of my favorite Christmas albums, and I decided to do it pre Thanksgiving so that if my readers notice any gaps in their own collection they have plenty of time to stock up before December 1. Before I get started I want to say that I will be unable to go into great detail on 6 of my favorite Christmas albums as they are mixes that I cannot locate until my music is restored to me. The 6 albums were made by one of my closest friends, Heather Strange. Heather and I met in college and right before winter break junior year she made all of her friends a mix entitled “A Strange Christmas”. Heather has really great and eclectic take in music so I was always happy to receive a mix from her. But these mixes were even more special. She has made them for me every year since then and I credit her mixes with being part of the reason why I never get sick of Christmas music. The songs she picked were so different and interesting and so outside of the mainstream that it really does cure Christmas music fatigue. This entry would not be complete with a mention of those albums, and once I have access to them again I will be editing this entry with links to them so that everyone can enjoy the riches I’ve been enjoying every year since I got my first mix. (November 11: Good news! I my Christmas music back! Scroll to the end of the entry to see Heather’s songs!) Now, without further introduction; my favorite Christmas albums.

sandipattyI’m starting with pure nostalgia albums. These are albums that may not hold up super well (although I think most of mine do), and they may not appeal to every person that reads this. That’s fine and in fact almost deliberate. I love this album not because of Sandi Patty’s incredible soprano voice and ability to hold notes past the point when normal people need to breath. I love this album because listening to it brings me back to being a very small child in my family’s tiny living room in Rancocas Woods. It also brings back memories of Christmas Eve services where a few of the songs on this album were always in the program; “Bethlehem Morning”, “The Gift Goes On”, “Worship the King” etc. As discussed before I am a person with hardly any childhood memories, but my memories of Christmas have always been the most clear in my mind. I have to believe that part of that comes from music like this being so ingrained in my brain that memories were stored along with it.

amgrantOh Amy Grant. You were Christian Music’s darling, then you weren’t, then you were again…I think? It’s hard to keep track. All I know is that this album is another that is inextricably tied to my childhood. I know “Breathe of Heaven “ is super overdone in churches now, but that doesn’t diminish how beautiful it is. As a kid I always loved this album because it had variety, which in my mind meant both fast AND slow songs. For some Brenda Lee’s version of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” is the definitive version, for me it’s Amy Grant’s. Another reason I loved this album was because I could sing along with it in the written key. Go Alto Ladies! Even now Christmas Eve is not complete until I listen to her song “The Night Before Christmas.” (One of the few songs with children on it that doesn’t sound creepy.)

mannheim2Mannheim Steamroller has put out other Christmas albums, but these two are my favorites. If I had to pick only one artist to listen to over Christmas it would be Mannheim Steamroller. These albums more than any other transfer me to a very specific time and mannheimplace when I hear them. We had a very scratchy green rug in the living room of the house where I grew up. We also had a small woodstove fireplace where we hung our stockings which alternated red and white stripes and green and white stripes. When I hear these albums I can feel that scratchy rug under my elbows as a I lay on my stomach, chin propped in my hands feeling the heat of the fire and looking at the lights on our tree. It isn’t Christmas without Mannheim Steamroller.

carpentersTalk about rocking alto ladies, and you have to mention Karen Carpenter. Her voice can only be described in chocolate terms; rich, dark, and creamy. This album is both of The Carpenter’s Christmas albums combined for extra cheer. I can’t decide which tracks I love more; “Merry Christmas Darling”, “Christ is Born”, “(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays”, I can’t decide! So instead of deciding I just play it all the way through over and over again. Karen’s story has a sad ending which makes listening to her voice very bittersweet, but I like a little bit of bittersweetness in my holiday cheer. It makes me appreciate the good times even more.

charliebrownAny list of great Christmas albums is incomplete without this one. Talk about childhood! Is there anything sweeter than the little voices on “Christmastime is Here”? Jazz and Christmas are forever linked thanks to this album. There isn’t much else to say about this album except I put it on and instantly smile. Pretty good review.

relientkI was a fan of Relient K before this album came out. Their ska, pop punk sound was high school me’s jam. So when they put out a Christmas album I was of course stoked. It’s a mix of classic songs done with a Relient K twist, and silly originals by the kings of silly originals. This album makes me smile. Also, “I Celebrate the Day” is one of the most amazing original Christmas songs ever. This album can be summed up as: a creative, fun, original twists on old favorites both in song and idea. Get it. It’s amazing.

sufjan 1I found this man’s music thanks to Heather and her Christmas mixes. After I noticed that her first one had 5 or 6 songs from Sufjan, I determined to just buy the whole 42 song album. Sufjan Stevens is orginal and one of the most interesting musicians I’ve ever listened to. What I love about this album is his reverence for old Biblical hymns, verses, and carols combined with his ability to do something very outside the box musically with them. Some of the songs on here are only a few minutes in length, but all of them pack a punch. And before you leave me a comment yes I know he put out a new Christmas album in 2012 called “Silver and Gold” also full of songs. I purchased the album last year right before Christmas so I really didn’t get a chance to listen to it very much before the season ended. However, I am confident that after this year that album will also become one of my favorites. The amount of songs on this album can be overwhelming, but I would highly recommend listening to all the versions of “O Come O Come Emmanuel”, and “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The latter is particuarly breathtaking.

michaelbubleWhen I saw this album was coming out last year I knew it would be one of my favorites. Michael Buble’s voice was made for Christmas standards. Despite one clunker of a number (“Santa Buddy” anyone?) the album is really great and hearkens back to a good old fashioned Christmas in the style of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Nat King Cole.

So there you have it! My favorite Christmas albums. Please keep in mind this was a not a list of my favorite Christmas songs because of course that list would be MUCH longer. But these are albums that I listen to every track and love them all. What about you? Do you have a favorite Christmas album that wasn’t mentioned on the list? Share it in comments! I’m always looking for more Christmas music.

Here are Heather’s mixes she made me! Some songs appear on more than mix so I only put them down when they first appeared. All songs can be found on iTunes or wherever you download music!

A Strange Christmas”

  1. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas- Relient K
  2. 2,000 Miles- KT Turnstall
  3. I Saw Three Ships- Sufjan Stevens
  4. Get Behind Me, Santa!- Sufjan Stevens
  5. Baby It’s Cold Outside-Leigh Nash & Gabe Dixon
  6. Give A Little Love: Rilo Kiley
  7. It’s Christmas! Let’s Be Glad!- Sufjan Stevens
  8. Carol Of The Bells- The Bird and The Bee
  9. The Friendly Beasts- Sufjan Stevens
  10. Fairytale of New York- KT Turnstall
  11. All That I Want- The Weepies
  12. Maybe This Christmas- Leigh Nash
  13. Mistletoe- Colbie Caillat
  14. In Like A Lion- Relient K
  15. Last Christmas- Jimmy Eat World
  16. Filled With Your Glory- Starfield
  17. Holy, Holy, Holy- Sufjan Stevens
  18. Eternal Gifts- Leigh Nash
  19. That Was The Worst Christmas Ever- Sufjan Stevens
  20. Star Mile- Joshua Radin
  21. Boxing Day- Relient K

Merry Little Christmas

  1. It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year- Andy Williams
  2. Sleigh Ride- KT Turnstall
  3. I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm- Frank Sinatra
  4. Donde Esta Santa Clause- Guster
  5. 12 Days Of Christmas- Bela Fleck & The Flecktones
  6. Pocket Full Of Miracles- Frank Sinatra
  7. Once In Royal David’s City- Sufjan Stevens
  8. Angels We Have Heard On High- Sixpence None The Richer
  9. That’s All I Want For Christmas- Jessie Baylin
  10. The Christmas Song- Catherine Feeney
  11. I’ll Be Home For Christmas- Mindy Smith
  12. The First Noel- Bing Crosby
  13. Lo! How A Rose E’re Blooming: Sufjan Stevens
  14. Silent Night/Away In A Manger- Relient K
  15. Awake My Soul- Sandra McCracken
  16. Here With Us- Joy Williams
  17. Love Never Fails- Brandon Heath
  18. I Celebrate The Day- Relient K
  19. I Know The Reason- Mindy Smith
  20. Auld Lang Syne- Various Artists (from the album “Winter Songs)
  21. Hallelujahs- Chris Rice

Christmas 2010

  1. It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (Remix)- Andy Williams
  2. White Christmas: Pink Martini
  3. Get Down For The Holidays- Jenny O.
  4. Little Road To Bethlehem- Shawn Colvin
  5. O Holy Night- Sara Groves
  6. Do You Hear What I hear?- Pink Martini
  7. Perfect Gift- Natalie Hemby
  8. Show Me The River- EastmountainSouth
  9. Stay With Me Jesus- Guster
  10. Making Pies- Patty Griffin
  11. What Child Is This?- Fernando Ortega
  12. The Heartache Can Wait- Brandi Carlisle
  13. O Come O Come Emmanuel- Maeve
  14. Come Thou Long Expected Jesus- David Potter
  15. Ten Thousand Angels- Sandra McCracken

Christmas 2011

  1. Cinnamon & Chocolate- Butterfly Boucher
  2. Christmas Time Is Here- Bela Fleck & The Flecktones
  3. Sleigh Ride- Los Straightjackets
  4. Little Drummer Boy- Meaghan Smith
  5. Let It Ride- Animal Liberation Orchestra
  6. Take It To The Country- Katie Herzig
  7. Christmas In Prison- Joshua James
  8. My Father’s Father- The Civil Wars
  9. Blue Ridge Mountains- Fleet Foxes
  10. Boots- The Killers
  11. Joy Joy- Sojourn
  12. Silent Night- Priscilla Ahn
  13. January Hymn- The Decemberists

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one about Blurred Lines

This is not an entry about Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke’s performance at the Video Music Awards. Let’s get that fact straight right off the bat. But, it is about how what we watch and listen to can effect us in subtle ways. I’m not talking about video games and violence. I’m talking about something much more subtle. I’m talking about pop culture that very quietly chisels away at what society deems appropriate behavior. In particular I’m talking about sexual behavior. To be even more specific this post is about rape culture and how certain parts of pop culture can contribute to rape culture.

What is rape culture? Far be it from me to totally trust Wikepedia, but their definition is actually pretty spot on. “A concept which links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society, and in which prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape.”  What is so insidious about rape culture is how society won’t even realize it’s happening. Rape culture often begins as subtle attitudes that become accepted as fact without being checked. Rape culture exists in laws that allow a woman’s previous sexual history to be a part of the evidence brought up in a rape trial. (Thankfully this part of rape culture is facing a steady decline due in part to “Shield Laws” that no longer allow this practice.) However, I believe that the biggest offender of perpetuating rape culture, is pop culture itself. 

This brings me back to Robin Thicke. If you listened to the radio at all this summer you probably heard his song “Blurred Lines” many online and print publications decreed it the song of the summer and it was in constant rotation on the radio. I’m the first to admit the song has a very catchy hook. It’s an earworm that can’t help but get stuck in my head. The problem lies not in the music, but in the lyrics.  Just a sample from the chorus is as follows

And that’s why I’m gon’ take a good girl
I know you want it
I know you want it
I know you want it
You’re a good girl
Can’t let it get past me
You’re far from plastic
Talk about getting blasted
I hate these blurred lines
I know you want it
I know you want it
I know you want it
But you’re a good girl
The way you grab me
Must wanna get nasty
Go ahead, get at me

Disgusting right? Don’t even get my started on the video that goes along with this song. (All I will I say is: naked girls dancing around fully clothed men) First of all the repetition of the phrase “I know you want it” sends shivers up my spine. Just written down the phrase could be directly lifted from a  police report about sexual assault. Secondly, the whole concept of “blurred lines” is almost the definition of rape culture. There is no such thing as a blurred line when it comes to sex. No means no and yes means yes. I don’t know a woman who says no when she means yes. I re-read that sentence wondering if I should be so emphatic about it and I decided yes I stand by it. I have NEVER met a woman who says no when she means yes when it comes to sex or any type of romantic possibility.

This point jumps off from Robin Thicke and moves into pop culture as a whole. Think of a romantic movie you like, or a television show about dating. In fact think of any representation in pop culture of dating. How many times in books, television, and movies do we see the following scenario. Guy is attracted to Girl. Guy asks Girl out. Girl says no. Guy continues to ask Girl out in more elaborate ways. Girl continues to say no. Guy makes some big impassioned speech about how much he wants to be with Girl. Girl finally says yes. Guy and Girl go off in the sunset happily ever after. This is a very common archetype we encounter everyday. I’m not knocking the archetype in and of itself. I’m just saying that we might not even realize how the things we consume can subtly influence what we consider appropriate romantic behavior. In the real world it is not cute when a guy won’t take no for answer. In the real world it’s scary. In the real world it isn’t cute when a guy keeps asking for your number over and over again when you’ve already said no.

I’m not saying that if you like the song Blurred Lines or romantic comedies that you are a rapist. But I do think we need to be aware of the pop culture we consume. We need to call out bad behavior when we see it. I don’t think my sister would let my nephew listen to a song like Blurred Lines without some serious discussion afterwards about what makes the song problematic (although since he’s four years old I’m 100% certain he’s not listening to it at all). At the end of the day I’m not advocating boycotts of certain songs or movies or television. (I mean I just wrote a blog last week about how I’m against banning books for crying out loud.) Every person has to decide for herself what books to read, movies to watch, and music to listen to.  I am advocating discussing what makes the things we enjoy problematic and what our responsibility as consumers is to call out problematic things.

It’s not just a male problem. On last night’s The Mindy Project a character that was so drunk he could not walk on his own or keep his eyes open was kissed by one woman and then had sex with another. Before I hear cries about how I’m too sensitive and the show is a comedy so what’s the big deal let me say this. How would you have felt if instead of the above scenario happening with a male character, it happened with a female character? What if the character of Mindy Lahiri, so drunk she couldn’t walk by herself, was kissed by a male character and then had sex with another? It would make us uncomfortable right? I love Mindy Kaling. I love her show and I’ll continue to watch it. But just because I enjoy something doesn’t mean I shouldn’t point out when it becomes problematic.

What makes rape culture so dangerous is its subtly. We don’t even realize the messages we are being sent until we sit down and really peruse what we are seeing. We live in a world where violence against women is an epidemic. Women are forced into marriage and prostitution. Women are treated as second class citizens. Women are belittled and hurt by the very people put in place to protect them. It is up to those of us (women and men) who are not victims of violence to stand up to normalization of dangerous behavior and say enough is enough. Music, books, television and movies can be romantic, funny, and worthwhile without promoting the mistreatment of half the population.

What about my readers? Have you run across instances of rape culture that caused you to get as worked up as I am? Parents of both boys and girls how do you deal/plan to deal with things like gender violence and gender equality with your kids?

The One where I’m back!

Well hello there! It’s certainly been awhile. I’m not going to go into some big long explanation about why I’ve been so absent lately because frankly I didn’t make this blog to bore people to death with it. Suffice to say that I am back and ready to be a more frequent updater. This will be easier because of the first thing I have to talk about which is my new job!

I’ve been anxiously awaiting a job that will help me start a new chapter in my story and thanks to a great best friend I have one! I work the front desk at a music school in PA. The commute is long (but not during peak rush hours times thankfully), but the hours are regular. And best of all I have pockets of down time that will enable me to write more and focus more on finding that elusive Communications career I so long to find.

But enough of all of that! In thinking about my first post back after such a long hiatus I was kind of stuck on what to write about. Because it’s been so long I though I would ease back into the whole blog thing by posting  a list of what pop culture things I am obsessed with lately. It’s just a small list that includes music, movies, books and television. So without further ado here is my obsessed list.

1) Janelle Monae: Besides having the coolest first name ever this chick is one of the most interesting singers I’ve heard in recent memory. It is impossible to put Janelle into a box. Her album The ArchAndroid is an eclectic mix of pop, jazz, electronica, and rap. Seriously I dare you to try to define this girl. It’s impossible. Her new album Electric Lady comes out tomorrow and features duets with Erykah Badu and Prince to name just two. You can bet I had this sucker pre-ordered on iTunes weeks ago and cannot wait to hear the whole thing. To get a taste of just how eclectic Janelle is here are 2 songs off her newest album. (Make sure you listen all the way to the end of Q.U.E.E.N. for an amazing rap verse)

And now…something you can dance to!

2) Documentaries on Netflix: During the summer most television consists of reality shows and re-runs. So my Netflix instant account gets quite a workout. Lately I’ve become obsessed with documentaries. I find that they don’t require as much attention as regular movies so I can work on other things while having them as background noise. After watching quite a few this summer two that I would highly recommend are

First Position

Seriously, even if you are not into ballet this documentary is amazing! A girl featured in the doc dances at a school in Philadelphia that I pass every Sunday that I drive into the city for church. It’s not too long but really fascinating and all of the dancers are just lovely.

The Invisible War

A powerful and moving documentary. It can be difficult to watch but I think very important to watch. From books like Half the Sky and others like it I am unfortunately very aware of the difficulties of being a woman in other nations. This documentary shows that women in America are also facing shocking discrimination and abuse from those who have chosen to protect our nation. This doc was nominated for an Academy Award and it was a well deserved nomination.

3) Founding Mothers and Ladies of Liberty by Cokie Roberts

These books have been out for awhile but I just recently discovered them. I’ve always loved history and so I leaped at the chance to read books about the women who helped shape our nation in its earliest years. Founding Mothers focuses on the years just before The Revolutionary War up until the election of John Adams. Ladies of Liberty begins with John Adams’ election and ends with the presidency of his son, John Quincy Adams. What I loved about these books was that while they covered some of the more well known women of the revolution, Abigail Adams, Martha Washington etc, they also talk about women I had never heard of before as well as exploring popular myths surrounding women of the Revolution (like Molly Pitcher and Betsy Ross).

4) Television : again since summer just ended most of what has been on television has been re-runs or reality TV. While I have been enjoying my USA network summer shows (Covert Affairs, Suits, and Graceland). My real summer love has been a show I just recently rediscovered

House Hunters/House Hunters International

So when my parents and I travel to see my sister, brother in law, and their kids it can be hard to find television to agree on. My brother in law is a giant sports fan and doesn’t really have the time or patience to watch much else. My parents and I are typically not sports fans. (I love baseball and football but really only enjoy watching “my teams” play them). A good compromise we have always found has been The HGTV channel in particular the House Hunter shows. Is there anything better than judging people based on a half hour of watching them decide on a new house? I submit there is not! Yes I know the show is a setup and most of the people already have a new house picked out when they go on the show but who cares! I’m watching it to see the exotic locales, the couples passive aggressively fight, and the shock on all the American peoples faces when they see how small master bedrooms and bathrooms are in every other country.

So those are just a few of things I’ve been obsessed with this summer. If you try any of these out and like them please let me know in the comments! Also what things were you obsessed with this summer? It’s good to be back!

The one about guilty pleasures

One of my favorite people in the world is Amy Poehler. I read an interview with her once where she was asked what were her guilty pleasure TV shows. Her answer was delightful. She said that she hates the term “guilty pleasure” because if you like something you should just like it and who cares if other people think it’s lame. Weirdly enough I found this a very freeing sentiment and I no longer feel embarrassed to admit that I love certain things that other people would call lame or stupid. So with that in mind here are some of my NON guilty pleasures.

Top 40 Pop: It’s been very hot here the past few weeks and my car doesn’t have AC. Because of this I drive with all of my windows down which leads to some very cliche wind blowing in my hair radio blasting in the heat moments. The best music to listen to while indulging in this cliche? Certainly not The Civil Wars, Regina Spektor, and Adele (although I love all 3 of those artists). No I want some Rihanna, Britney, P!nk, and and Demi Lovato. If it’s in rotation  on the radio usually it ends up on my ipod in my Pop playlist. Sure most of these artists autotune the heck out of their voices and the songs are most assuredly not masterpieces. Who cares! They rock and I can blast them loud and dance like a crazy fool.

Young Adult Novels: Now this does not include Twilight (although if this is one of your not so guilty pleasures feel free to indulge, my best friend does!) But it does include The Princess Diaries Series and The Underworld Series by Meg Cabot. I follow a couple of blogs written by adult women who recommend young adult novels. Sure most of them have really cheesy plot lines and unrealistic love stories but that is what makes them so great! I just finished reading a book about the science behind how Evangelicals pray, and it was excellent. It was also really intense. After an intense book like that there is nothing like sitting down with a book where the heroine’s biggest problem is that she is love with her guy best friend (isn’t that the plot of 90% of young adult novels?)

The Real Housewives Franchise: Yup, I can’t flip past Bravo if those crazy ladies from NJ or NYC on the screen. Those two incarnations are the ones that I regularly watch, but I sporadically watch all of the franchises. Are the women crazy? Yes. Are they horrible representations of women hood? Yes. Are they petty and mean? Heck yes. Are the fascinating to watch? Oh my good Lord yes. Do I apologize for loving every minute of every show? No!

Those are just a few of my no longer guilty pleasures. What are some of yours?

The one about a tuneful Tuesday

I’m doing a lot of work lately on my computer. I’m also running lots of errands which means I’m spending a lot of time in my car. I like to listen to podcasts for sure, but when I have to concentrate on something or I’m constantly getting in and out of the car I’d rather listen to music. I thought I’d write about the songs and artists that I’m really into right now. If you are looking for new music this is the entry to read! So without further ado: the music I am currently obsessed with. OH WAIT. Please listen to all of these if you don’t know them. I’m purposefully only putting a small number of songs so you won’t get overwhelmed. But trust me when I say you need to listen to all of these. SERIOUSLY

Regina Spektor: Blue Lips

The album this song comes from. Far, is completely wonderful from start to finish. I’ve had this album on my ipod for awhile, but lately I’ve really been obsessed with Blue Lips. Regina Spektor is a wonderful piano player and her songs are full of such whimsy. My favorite part is the little bridge where a beautiful section of strings comes in to lift the song up to a different level. Seriously, buy anything by Regina Spektor and you will be happy.

The Civil Wars: Kingdom Come

This song was featured on The Hunger Games soundtrack. I LOVE The Civil Wars. I don’t think I’ve ever heard two people’s voices blend so well together as Joy Williams and J.P. White. They only have one album out but that album is amazing. In fact the next song I’m obsessed with comes from that album.

C’est la Mort: The Civil Wars

C’est la vie means this is life, so if you haven’t figured it out yet c’est la mort means this is death. Doesn’t sound too happy right? But it’s a sweet melancholy love song and I love it so much I would marry this song if songs were sentient beings. Seriously to save myself some time in this entry just assume that the entire The Civil Wars album Barton Hollow is on this list. Go buy it off of iTunes right now. Seriously. Do it. Right now.

Florence and the Machine: Cosmic Love

Oh Florence Welch. You are crazy. Like Imogen Heap crazy, and I love you for it. This song sounds like it was recorded in outer space. The drums beats are SICK. They are my favorite part of this song. That and Florence’s ethereal voice. Seriously, she blows my mind. If you only know Florence and the Machine from the song “Dog Days” you are sorely missing out. The rest of her album Lungs gets better and better after that song.

Delta Spirit: Devil Knows You’re Dead

The lyrics to this song are from I believe an Old Irish poem/prayer. But all this song makes me think about is Friday Night Lights. I won’t spoil when the songs plays for those of you that haven’t seen the show (but seriously why haven’t you seen that show yet? It’s the best show ever and all 5 seasons are Netflix Instant) If you have seen the show you know why I cry every time I hear this song. EVERY. TIME.

Sandra McCracken: Thy Mercy My God

Sandra McCracken is an artist similar to Sara Groves in that she writes songs that have both beautiful melodies, and beautiful thought provoking lyrics. Sandra is really into writing “hymns for a new generation” and I think she does it so well. This song sounds like it could have been written decades and decades ago, and yet it is still so accessible to the church today. I put this song on and feel immediately transformed to a spirit of worship. She appears on this list twice as well with,

Sandra McCracken: In Feast or Fallow

I’ve written a lot about how I’m in a period of transition. I know a lot of the people in my life are in the same place and are feeling kind of lost. We feel unsure about our next step and sometimes it seems like God is so far away. This song has been my comfort and strength when I feel like that. Seriously, it has over 200 plays on my iTunes. Listen to this song and be encouraged.

So there you have it. The songs I am currently obsessed with. Let me know what you think. And here is aQuestion For You!What songs or artists are you currently obsessed with? Leave a link in the comments!