cool things I did in 2016

Bianca and I started a podcast about ’90s kid nostalgia and we do it every week

I explored how Beyonce killed genre in an essay for Fuse

I appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered to talk about Bey’s Lemonade

Explored an East New York warehouse for a piece on secondhand clothing for Brooklyn Magazine’s December/January issue

Went behind the scenes of One Direction’s first music video with their costume designer, choreographer and director for Fuse.

Traveled upstate to interview Ra Ra Riot about their homecoming show for Brooklyn Magazine

Had a heart-to-heart with JoJo about our parents’ addictions for MTV

Rachel Platten and I talked about how she’s more than “empowerment girl” for MTV

Learned how to do the “Cha-ching” dance with Chairlift for MTV

Hung with Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart for a Noisey piece on The Kills

Ate ice cream with Big Wild for Noisey

Hiked all over the Cloisters and talked friendship with Frankie Cosmos for Fuse

Talked about being an immigrant in Donald Trump’s America with Jai Wolf for Fuse

Went down to a racetrack in Austin for Taylor Swift’s only concert in 2016

Did a bunch of stuff at Firefly, including rummaging through their lost and found and getting blissed out with Gallant

Published the hardest thing I’ve ever written

You don’t care about my Best Songs of 2016 list

Since you don’t care, and no one is going to read this, here are my 16 picks for Best Songs of 2016.

16. “Youth” – Glass Animals

Honestly, you probably are already scrolling down my list to see if our tastes align. But the reason I listened to this song so much in 2016 is because I feel like there’s a thousand things rushing at me on the chorus. A controlled high, but an unfamiliar one.

15. “Dang!” – Mac Miller feat. Anderson .Paak

Whatever. You don’t care that this song has one of the best beats of 2016, that Anderson .Paak almost singlehandedly raised up this Mac Miller joint with some type of ’70s funky soul. The brass, the sax, the flow, the lowkey disco feel, dang! You don’t care that Mac “just eat pussy, other people need food.” You don’t care about the trippy breakdown or breezy outro.

14. “Fuck With Myself” – Banks

I know you’re not reading this, but if you were, you’d know that I’d listen to Banks’ “Fuck With Myself” whenever I needed a little ego boost. 2016 is the year where I truly stopping giving certain fucks. When I wasn’t feeling myself, I’d pop on this song and Banks would, ever-so darkly and moodily, remind me that “my love’s so good, so I fuck with myself more than anybody else.”

13. “Alaska” – Maggie Rogers

I’m pretty pissed that it took me most of the year to discover this song. It’s about hiking on a glacier in Alaska and leaving the past in the past, which I’ve done before. Not only do the lyrics apply so accurately to my life that it’s creepy, but the beat is so acoustic feeling that you almost forget that there’s electro elements. Not to mention the harmonies. Ah, the sweet, unconventional upper-register harmonies.

12. “Glowed Up” – Kaytranada feat. Anderson .Paak

Since you’re not reading this — you’re not even on my website, even — I might as well just put this out there that “Glowed Up” represented my entire April. There’s something otherworldly in the alien-esque voice swiveling underneath the heavy mechanical beat, something that comforted me as I adjusted to a new world in another corporate job. There’s also something comforting in the throbbing, brash synths and cooler-than-you feeling in Anderson .Paak’s raspy storytelling. April vibes, man.

11. “Be Alright” – Ariana Grande

This is that dance-in-your-kitchen-after-a-taxing-day jam. No matter how shitty you’re feeling, this song will get you out of it, if you let it. It’s the best song with a xylophone this year, and surprisingly, there’s been a lot of xylophone this year.

10. “We Don’t Talk Anymore” – Charlie Puth feat. Selena Gomez

You’re on a different website right now, pretending to read one of their articles, but just know that I get what people say about Charlie Puth. They call him Charlie Poop. Anyway, if you know me, you know that I’m a ride-or-die Selena Gomez fan, so I checked out this joint when I found out she was on it, and as soon as I heard the tricky acoustic guitar riff in the beginning, I was hooked. You try playing that!! From the tropical, bouncy chorus to the extremely genuine feel that Gomez gives the lyrics, it’s a bop.

9. “You Don’t Know My Heart” – Rachel Platten

This chorus goes hard! I wish everyone listened to Rachel Platten’s Wildfire album, but there’s nothing I can really do to change your mind. This song is about Rachel’s fight with her sister, which is so relatable *rubs elbow obnoxiously on your arm with a smirk*. I love the explosion of sounds, the sense of urgency and the tenor sax that honks up a storm. I kind of want to mosh to this song.

8. “The Greatest” – Sia

I should probably be spending my time writing something more constructive that I’m getting paid to do, but I like writing about these songs, so I’m gonna keep going. Sia knows how to write a hit with a dark, twisted edge. “The Greatest” is an upbeat, motivating anthem but there’s a little bit of desperation in there. When she’s saying “I’m free to be the greatest here tonight,” which, by the way, has great inner-phrase rhyming, she’s building ego off a pinch of hope.

7. “Crying in Public” – Chairlift

“Crying in Public” is about a love that so all-consuming that you can’t hide it, no matter where you are. It takes over and isolates you, so the next time it makes you cry on the train, you won’t even notice. Caroline from Chairlift sings so sweetly on this ballad, and I love the underwater distortion, the bright pulses and the warbled bass among it all.

6. “Aftergold” – Big Wild feat. Tove Stryke

Dance. Dance. Dance. This song is a symphony of tropical sounds. The instrumental stands on its own, but when he added Tove Stryke to the mix, I was happy I could finally sing along to one of my fave tracks of the year.

5. “Colour Sum” – Chelsea Jade

If you’ve been reading things I’ve written since 2011, which, like, why would you, you’d know that I’m a fangirl for Chelsea Jade. She just has no bad songs. “Colour Sum,” with its throbbing bass and her cave of layered vocals, makes my heart burst. Probably because it’s about sex.

4. “Everybody Wants to Love You” – Japanese Breakfast

The chorus is everything in this tune, which pulls some light-as-a-feather-stiff-as-a-board wackiness and makes me float every time I hear it. It’s the call and response. It’s the group-sung “Everybody want to love you.” It’s the lyrics: “Will you lend me your toothbrush? / Will you make me breakfast in bed? / Ask me to get married / And then make me breakfast again!”

3. “Easier Said” – Sunflower Bean

Ugh, I’m barely following myself, but Sunflower Bean is easily one of my most listened-to songs of 2016. I dig the easygoing synth that gushes out warmth like a hot-air vent. And the reverbed AF beach guitar going crazy all over it. I love the melancholic vocals and the depressing lyrics. “Easier said than done / I hear you right the first time.” Everything about this song will make it timeless for me.

2. “Same Ol’ Mistakes” – Rihanna

This Tame Impala cover was unexpected on Rihanna’s ANTI, but it quickly became my favorite. It’s six minutes and 37 seconds long, which is great, because I never want it to end. With a menacing Scarface-esque counter-melody, rubberband bass and a celestial vocal echo, “Same Ol’ Mistakes” takes me to a different place. The lyrics urge me to take risks, dare to be uncomfortable, not settle for how things are going. “Stop thinking you’re the only option.” There’s so much more out there.

1. “All Night” – Beyoncé

Sometimes I start crying as soon as I hear the Outkast trumpet samples. When I caught Bey’s Formation Tour in Queens this year, she revealed that “All Night” is her favorite song to perform, further solidifying it as my favorite track off Lemonade. After an album’s worth of internal struggle, fighting true love, battling with acceptance and finding forgiveness, “All Night” is all about redemption. “And my torturer became my remedy.”

 

Here’s a Spotify playlist of all the stuff I listened to this year on repeat.

 

I asked my friends to describe their cats as muffins

Sarah: “probably like gluten free vegan nutless carrot cake because he’s kind of an obnoxious pain in the ass but still sweet”

Katie: “Xena’s a bran muffin because she likes to be a part of the pooping process (sitting on a lap/watching from the shower.)”

Lauren: “hes prolly like lemon poppyseed cause hes good but hes a bitch”

Brenna: “hmmmm, cranberry, because she’s sweet but a littttttle sassy”

Gil: “Belgian double fudge chocolate chunky munky: because shes’s black beautiful and has a big swinging belly that hangs downs and swings side to side”

Laurie: “Gilbert (who is my cat) would be a cappuccino muffin with walnuts, because he wakes me up and is a nut. And he has a dark side that is lovable. And he is alternately comforting and disruptive. TOASTED walnuts because he has flava”

Alanna: “Tink would be a double chocolate chip muffin because she is sweet and a taby. Grayson would be blueberry muffin because he can be tart and sour but is still sometimes sweet”

Rae: “she’d be a blueberry muffin because she’s sweet, just the right amount of tart, and beloved by many”

Zach: “Irie: peanut butter with…butterscotch chips…because of her swirly light colors. Rav: dark chocolate with marshmallow stripes

Mike: “Jalapeno corn muffin. Both sweet and fiery”

Ilana: “She’s brown and white. So cinnamon swirl

Stacy: “Banana nut. Because he’s kinda a classic cat aka banana but he’s a litttttle bit crazy. I guess banana nut chocolate chip. Because he is sweet too.”

Allison: “White Angel food cake! Cause she’s a white beautiful Angel! And she’s sweet!”

my track-by-track review of wheatus’ lemonade

wheatus

Hi guys! Iconic Long Island rockers Wheatus released Lemonade, their groundbreaking EP in 2005. Although the project is pretty much entirely scrubbed from the Internet because the songs were re-recorded for other things, I know you’ve been waiting 11 years for my hot takes on the EP, so let’s get started.

1. Lemonade — “Do you remember the way it was for us/ Before all of the blow jobs on the bus,” they sing, describing pure, relatable anguish. The “lemonade” in this situation refers to better days, when they would sit “on the porch drinking lemonade” together. It is sad. The video is equally as sad.

2. Anyway — Someone on YouTube uploaded this deep-cut. Their user name is “OASIS will be the best band ever. True.

3. The Deck — This one is nice, but who is he talking about in the song? Hmmm… Checking Twitter for more facts about this Wheatus song.

4. Freak On — “What has come over you? Hey now sugar you’re actin’ like a hooker,” frontman Brendan B. Brown yelps, putting that woman in her place. Fun fact, Brown was at a One Direction concert I attended at Jones Beach in 2013, and Harry Styles shouted him out in the crowd.

5. Randall — Perhaps the most declarative moment on the EP, we learn that the lead singer’s name is actually Randall.

So there you have it!

singing and not being normal

5SOS – ‘She Looks So Perfect’

One Direction – ‘Steal My Girl’

One Direction – ‘Fireproof’

Nelly Fur-tado – ‘I’m Like A Bird’

Oh Land – ‘Head Up High’

Taylor Swift – ‘Blank Space’

Iggy and Britney – ‘Pretty Girls’

Nicki Minaj – ‘Bed Of Lies’

Die Antwoord – ‘Ugly Boy’

Fiona Apple – ‘Hot Knife’

Taylor Swift – ‘All You Had To Do Was Stay’

Janelle Monae – ‘Yoga’

Simple Plan – ‘I’m Just A Kid’

Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj – ‘Bang Bang’

Nicki Minaj feat. Beyonce – ‘Feeling Myself’

Your life is pathetic and I made it that way

You should be slaughtering birds, piercing through their feather flesh with your pin-like claws
You should eat theirs head but leave theirs bodies. You have the power to be wasteful. You’ll hunt other birds
You should be curling up in a nook bedded with dry leaves–the driest of leaves because you like to hear them crunch
You should be sleeping in grasses while birds and bunnies zip by quickly, afraid you’ll wake up and assert your dominance
You should be bounding for no reason, trotting through your kingdom because you are free
You should be feasting on the bloody, gamey meat of a chipmunk, licking the fat from your chops with your bristly tongue
Instead, you get a quarter cup of kibble, filled with corn and soy and the faint taste of meat that crunches dryly between your fatal incisors
Instead, I abandon you in the morning and return twelve hours later. You’re happy when I’m home because I feed you, not because you respect me
Instead, you are respected by no creature. The squirrels and birds snicker outside our window as you warn them what’s in store for them if you were ever to get out
Instead, we laugh at your trivial attempts to hunt, how you lash out on a crinkly paper toy because there’s no real game to kill
Instead, you pace the hallway with boredom, dreaming of when you were cold on the street, but at least you had your freedom
Instead, you are imprisoned by someone who doesn’t respect you either. Because if she did you wouldn’t be called “cute.” You’d be a fighter, a boss, and she’d bow at your paws.

i don’t want to let you down

My boyfriend asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital.

I considered how brave I was, thinking of all the times I’ve walked home in the dark alone, how I could chance week-old yogurt without hesitation, how we had once lain carelessly in the middle of the street when we were falling in love. “No,” I said. “I’ll stay and watch the dog.”

We were upstate after learning his dad had had a heart attack. The loss of oxygen in his dad’s brain caused him to seize and twitch. His mom cried almost constantly and my boyfriend Pete and his brother masked their emotions by watching TV and putting off the hospital visit until they were at least seven episodes deep into an Anthony Bourdain show.

I wouldn’t go to the hospital, but I could return their library books, have iced tea with their elderly neighbor, heat up the leftover ravioli friends were bringing them, wash their windows and give their dog treats after it pooped. I could be supportive in those ways. They were exhausted but unable to sleep and hopeful out of necessity. After five years together, I could see them at their most vulnerable, but I wouldn’t let them see me at mine. I would stay home.

Maybe I should’ve gone.

After a while, when we returned to our apartment in Brooklyn, my boyfriend needed more than my microwaving skills. He needed emotional support — someone to just be there, to talk, to not be so entirely wrapped up in her own shit all the time — and that wasn’t something I could serve up.

I was selfish. Jealous even — a painful admission. He had a dad, and I didn’t.  It was a juvenile feeling, but, in that time, I thought, “He has to be the OK one because things are slightly less crappy for him.” My dad had died a few months earlier, and I simply couldn’t care for two healing people. So I left.

….

It all came back to me when I heard Sharon Van Etten’s “I Don’t Want To Let You Down” this week, three months after I ran away from New York City. The music itself is strong and sturdy, but as the modest guitar staggers over small melodic hills, it opens the song up for confession: “When dreams go black, I didn’t want to see the light.” I had given up. I left my co-workers, my friends and my boyfriend and moved in with my mom upstate, secluding myself from every outside problem I could think of. I shut out everyone and holed myself up in my childhood bedroom with nothing but my cat and my 2003-era John Mayer poster to keep me company. I didn’t want to see the light.

Sharon comes in with the chorus: “Overboard/ I don’t want to let you down.” She sings the last line again and again, her voice like the exasperated wailing you do when you’re too tired to cry normally. “I don’t want to let you down.” There was a lot of crying. I cried sitting alone at home at my dad’s spot on the couch, I cried when I went back to Brooklyn to get my stuff from our apartment, and I cried when my dad came to me in a dream starring my ex-boyfriend’s new girl and said “That’s life.”

The first time I saw my dad cry was when we watched the news broadcast on September 11th, then again the next year when his mom died, then again while listening to Neil Young’s “Sugar Mountain.” He felt everything. He let people know that he loved them. His eyes got watery as he packed me up for my move to New York City after I had gotten a post-grad job. “I always knew you’d end up there,” he told me. Yet, here I was, back to where I started, shoveling snow on the driveway where he used to park his mini-van, far away from the dreams he had hoped I would follow and the love he had hoped I would give.

….

As Sharon sings, I think about my dad. He didn’t have complex plans for me. All I had to do was be independent, hard working and financially stable (which was only problematic when I told him I wanted to be a journalist). He wanted me to be happy. He wanted me to have self-worth. But now I was crawling back to mommy, when I was supposed to be self-sufficient.

“I don’t want to let you down/ I don’t want to let you down/ I don’t want to let you down.”

I don’t know who Sharon is singing to on this song — a partner, a parent, or whomever — but how heartbreaking is it to hear those words — “I don’t want to let you down” — repeated over and over like a daily pledge to someone who isn’t there? It’s as if she’s making a promise: I’ll do better if you come back. Please come back.

I returned to New York in my dad’s mini-van, and Pete and I carried my belongings down four flights of stairs. He willingly took the heavier boxes, I hauled a closet’s worth of clothes and we briefly fought over my Beck record. And then I asked him to stay with me.

“You left me,” he said, looking away, hurt. “When I needed you the most.” He had given up too.

There’s a second voice layered underneath Sharon’s soprano. It’s low, quiet and almost embarrassed. I wonder if it’s intentional how her singsong pleading is paired with a meeker undertone, like dueling personalities. Half of me is too proud to say that I’ve messed up, but half of me wants to beg and wail for forgiveness.