Music Monday: Boys & Girls

Music Monday is a series begun in an attempt to keep me from listening to this, this, and this song for the 456,070,877th time. Every Monday I’ll offer my completely untrained and value-less opinion on new (to me) music.

. . .

Growing up, you could frequently find me playing Oregon Trail in a hoop skirt (thanks, Little House), drinking Lipton instant iced tea in a flapper dress (Betsy-Tacy), or riding my bike in Indian garb (Pocahontas). More recently, I bought a typewriter (in proper Flannery fashion) which I promptly instagrammed with my iphone. Three lessons can be learned here: (1) I seem perpetually confused as to the current decade, (2) I have fiction/reality issues, and (3) I like a mix of the old and new. The good news? The Alabama Shakes is right there with me!

Not since my Evanescence days have I felt that a band so completely captured my angst as the Alabama Shakes did in Boys & Girls. That first track was my summer theme song (and the subsequent track my life anthem).

Brittany’s voice is so full of Alabama soul (she’s been compared to Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin, though she prefers Bon Scott) it makes me want to dance and weep, respectively. The musical riffs have a very Black Keys sound to them with a little less drive and a lot less scratch, though it’s not really even fair to compare.

Each song in their debut album captures a unique emotion: Boys & Girls is a beautiful ballad of broken love, Hold On an anthem of self-sufficiency, and I Found You a classic love song. Despite the differences, there is continuity here that mimics the same strand found in real-life—things change, people come and go, we are happy and sad, but life goes on. You gotta hold on.

We have our own past and present, the Alabama Shakes and I. I first listened to a scratchy YouTube version of Hold On in BFE on the way to Bonnaroo, then that night heard them live at the opening night of the festival.

I was captured by her voice, wrapped in the dulcet tones (and the opaque cloud of marijuana smoke and body odor of five hundred people pressed against my back), but it wasn’t until later this summer that I really began listening with purpose. I needed music to make it, and this fit the bill.

The best picture I snagged from Bonarroo.
If you squint you can tell that they are people.

I have tickets to see them in September, and boy am I stoked. Regardless of my obsession with relics (I’m keeping that typewriter AND my fascination with Flannery O’Connor), the present is such a better place than the past.

Unless of course, we’re talking music.

. . .

Ps. I know that it is technically Tuesday, but Music Tuesday doesn’t alliterate and I’m all about some alliteration. I’m also all about procrastination, but I’ll be back on track next week once I get my days of the week underwear in order (jokes!).

The bestest of the best.

I have the best best friend, ever. The kind of best friend who doesn’t say “I told you so” after you make a Bad Decision even though she did, in fact, tell you so just a few months earlier. The kind of best friend who instead says, “I’ll be there in 45 minutes” and shows up with Pinot Noir and Moose Tracks. The kind of best friend who pretends she was already awake when you rouse her at 3:45am to relate your latest woes. The kind of best friend you tell people is your sister, and they believe you. The kind of best friend who takes 68 pictures of you faux laughing with your newly reddened hair until you actually laugh and she catches it.

So to celebrate her best-ness (and bewail the fact that she will shortly be 717 minutes away instead of 45), I decided to throw a party. A surprise party, of course, and a book-themed one at that. Because, oh yes, my best friend loves to read. See? She’s the bestest.

I told you so.

What we ate:

Appetizer – Spicy Guacamole Hummus Party Toasts

Main Course – Burger sliders, fries dipped in Lemon Garlic Aioli With Truffle Oil, watermelon

Dessert – Vegan Double Chocolate Cake (made into cupcakes) half with Brown Sugar 7-Minute Frosting and half with Champagne Frosting

What we played: Trivial Pursuit Book Lover’s Edition

What we listened to: Amelie Soundtrack

Books to decorate. Easy peasy considering how many I hoard (I mean, have).

You say goodbye, but I say hello.
Hello, helloooo.
etc.

We had to majorly bend the rules on this one. It’s TOUGH.

Nothing says “surprise” like five people hiding behind your face.

Music Monday: Gossamer

Music Monday is a series begun in an attempt to keep me from listening to this, this, and this song for the 456,070,877th time. Every Monday I’ll offer my completely untrained and value-less opinion on new (to me) music.
 
.   .   .
 
 

“Gossamer is a tortured beast, disguised in a crunchy candy shell.” This quote pretty much sums up the ethos of the album: an album full of catchy, can’t keep from dancing, feel-good summer tunes with lyrics that are sure to make you cringe.

Tracks to Dance To:

Tracks 01-03 are so catchy I find myself completely unable to keep still. I might have gotten a few odd stares at Oz Music, a few backwards glances as I shake it in the car, a few choice words as I grab my friend’s hand to force her to join along… So yes, it’s danceable.

Pure Poetry:

Underneath the light pop is the stuff of ages–the way that Michael Angelakos deals with his struggle makes it completely identifiable. My favorite was the hope in the struggle found in the very last song, “Where We Belong.”

It’s gotten cold in here
but a solemn warmth draws near
and with a gentle touch
all these burdens and such
fears are wiped clear
who says you ought to stay?
how’s this the easier way?
it’s far from giving up
cowards never say “enough is enough”

Scandalous:

Angelakos is quite tame with the naughty bits, wanting simply to “make love like we’re young” and “consecrate this messy thing.” He’s no Brittany Spears.

Top Three Downloads:

Track 01

Track 02

Track 12

Real Opinions:

The good.

http://www.npr.org/2012/07/15/156545328/first-listen-passion-pit-gossamer

The bad.

http://calitreview.com/29006

Cowboy Cookies

The very best cure for a case of the can’t-help-its (more commonly known as ennuie): baking.

More specifically, baking a delicious treat and then sharing it with wonderful friends while watching, for the zillionth time, the finale of Lost (and still not understanding a thing).

Then saving part of the cookie dough and baking for more friends while watching Life Aquatic, and discovering how well PBR pairs with a Cowboy Cookie.

.   .   .

Icing on the cake (Get it? Because they’re cookies.): when my roommate’s Down Syndrome brother looked at me in horror when I offered him a Cowboy Cookie.

Him: You want me to eat cow poop?!

Me: No, no. It’s the name of the cookie. CowBOY.

He picks one up trepidatiously.

Me: Do you like it?

Him: Taste like cow poop.

However, a whopping five cookies later proved (I’d like to believe) that these cookies bear zero resemblance to excrement.  A rousing endorsement, right?

.   .   .

These hearty cookies are chock-full of melty chocolate chips, salty walnuts, and rich brown sugar with the oatmeal adding that guilt-free aspect that totally makes these an acceptable breakfast of champions. It’s basically just a delicious little bite of comfort, the perfect cure for any bad day.

 

Cowboy Cookies

1 c. brown sugar
1 c. white sugar
1 c. shortening
2 eggs
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. oatmeal
1 pkg. chocolate chips

1 cup chopped pecans

 

Cream the brown sugar, white sugar and shortening. Add the rest of the ingredients, one at a time. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.

 

The Black Keys & BBQ

Destination: Charlotte, NC.

On yet another weekend adventure, I drove (well, actually I didn’t, but you know…) 14 hours in 2 days to see The Black Keys in Charlotte, NC. Totally and completely worth it.

Though we went primarily for the concert, we (as professed foodies) also decided to seek out all-things-delicious that Charlotte had to offer. I do believe I ate more grease in the last two days then in the last two years. My heart does not thank me, but my mouth sure does! First stop, a place we discovered via Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, The Penguin. We went for the world-famous fried pickles and homemade ranch, and it most certainly did not disappoint.

Afterward we checked out the neighborhood, then headed to our hotel. After swimming in the lap pool (I may or may not get as giddy as a 10-year-old schoolgirl when around water) and chilling in the men’s steam room (Spoiler alert: I did not get caught), we headed to the concert.

A coliseum of middle-aged, slightly inebriated ex-hippies dancing is always a treat, and The Black Keys certainly delivered. Any concert finished with two giant disco balls is a win in my book.

The night ended with pizza and beer. It was glorious.

The next day was also filled with delicious food and drink.

I finally saw real-life coffee art (!!) and drank what is hands-down the best espresso outside of Italy.

Also, I ate the.best.bbq of my life. As a true blooded Southerner, there is no way that I would joke about this. It was heavenly.

Midwood Smokehouse makes me want to move to Charlotte. I would do it, I would weigh 300lbs, and I would love it.

Afterward, we went back for coffee because the place was just so cute (please, please, please get a macchiato at Not Just Coffee) then hit the road (notable road snack discoveries: honey roasted peanuts, oreos chex mix, and funyuns).

Food + Fun = The perfect weekend.

 

 

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose.

~Dr. Seuss

 

 

Spring Break-ing, 2012

I just got back from the beach, and I have the perfectly tomato-red legs to prove it. We only had one actual day of sun (the others I spent in a hoodie, wrapped in a towel, admiring the ocean from afar), but boy did I use up that one day of sun. Sunscreen is for wusses (which I will happily be next time).

(1) My book of the week, (2) the cloudy beach, (3) delicious food, courtesy of the bestcooksintheuniverse, (4) obligatory nail-beach photo

It was really an excellent time, complete with nail painting to Beyonce, a fabulous game of putt putt, and loads of ice-cream, but now it’s back to reality, with papers to write, an apartment to clean, and loads of ice-cream to eat.

Only one problem: I can’t get out of bed because moving disturbs my monster of a burn.

Good thing the ice cream is near.

I Want to Go to There.

Preach it, Liz Lemon.

Last weekend was, on the whole, wonderfully relaxing.

It was a surprise weekend (that I figured out, thanks to an embarrassing large number of years as an avid Nancy Drew fan) which started off rather inauspiciously when the entire city of Tuscaloosa closed down due to threat of tornadoes (understandable, with what happened last year) that never actually came, but caused us to postpone the trip and instead grocery shop and “watch” Moneyball.

Foreboding.

I’ve heard that this movie is great, but as just hearing the word “baseball” makes me yawn uncontrollably (unless followed quickly by “hotdog,” “cheesy fries,” and “beer”), I fell asleep 5 minutes into the movie and woke up just in time for the end.

The next morning we headed up to North Alabama, armed with a playlist I compiled when at work (which for me entails watching a bunch of computers to make sure they don’t walk away. I had some extra time.):

After a slight detour which landed us at this interesting farmer’s market (that title might be a slight stretch, but their onlyslightlyexpired vitamins and Tim McGraw lamps certainly looked ever-so-appealing).

We arrived and had a picnic of homemade bread and chicken salad on the porch, with a delicious view:

View from the front.

Then off to rock-hop in Little River Canyon! Rock-hopping is one of the most relaxing activities (my third favorite exercise behind bar dancing and lake swimming). Until, that is, you fall into the frigid March waters. Not that that would happen to me, just a hypothetical.

Soon after this little accident, we hopped in the car and headed out in search of stunning views and waterfalls; we found ample amounts of both.

Ice, ice, baby.

After more food, a Mexican-inspired feast this time, we relaxed by the fire (as close to the fire as possible, actually, since the heat was out. I had to restrain myself from actually sticking my feet IN the fire. It seemed like a better idea at the time.) then fell asleep, because the outdoors make me delightfully exhausted.

The next day I wielded a fire-arm, though not before vocalizing my views on the lack of gun control in the U.S. which is ATROCIOUS, but boy are they fun to shoot. I felt a bit like a very b.a. Annie Oakley, and who doesn’t like that feeling?

And thus the weekend came to an end, though not without copious amounts of the most delicious road trip snack ever:

All of the mango and banana chips mysteriously disappeared, and then we threw raisins out the window (to help the birds, of course).

Nothing beats a good road trip.

I’m sexy and I know it…

I work out!

(Sometimes I feel like I could write pop songs. Ten words max, right? But it’s so catchy. I not-so-secretly love it.)

In France, I ran twice. Four months, two runs, and I lost weight (five pounds, but who’s counting?). Plus, I discovered a love of butter, mayonaise, sour cream, and nutella. I replaced my morning oatmeal and apple with nutella and toast, my mid-day salad with a three course meal, and my griled chicken dinner with cheesy pasta (and chocolate, bien sûr).

I don’t know how I stayed thin! I think that the French put something in their water. Or maybe it’s the 45 minutes I had to walk to get to University every day. They’re both possible.

However, now I’m back in the States and walking is not an option (unless I want to resemble the armadillos littering the streets, and that’s just Kate Moss Thin), yet I’ve retained my love of all things “unhealthy.”

What’s a girl to do? Stop eating ice cream? Heavens no!

Enter: the workout schedule.

Let’s do this.

Slightly ambitious...

The day I biked up a Hill and got Condoms

So French welcome events are very…interesting. The latest involved biking all over town, praying that I wouldn’t die on the tiny dirt trail with a 6-ft drop-off straight into traffic, looking for tents with questionnaires and prizes.

Before biking ten million miles. Note how blissfully happy we look.

Prizes, like condoms. After answering questions about “le gynocologist,” we received a packet of condoms (below, note the picture on front). The friendly French photographer then insisted we take a picture, proudly holding our prizes. I’m not actually in the picture, however, since I’m doubled over trying to catch my breath from laughing.

I hate to say that it's playing into a stereotype but REALLY?!

We then proceeded to bike up THE LONGEST HILL IN TOURS (with the people in cars on the road shouting “allee, allee!” and laughing) until we got to the ending point where we had the most amazing hot dogs in the world (on baguettes), carrot salad, couscous, potatoes, chips, drinks, and fresh chocolate eclairs, hung out with out new German friends, and listened to the band by as the sun went down.

After. Note how (a) sweaty and (b) happy to be done we are.

Hot dogs in France are amazing. Normally I hate mystery meat, but here? Delicious.

After, more shenanigans ensued in which we met Jimmy Hendrix from LA (alternatively known, 5 minutes later, as Bob from Boston) and his tiny friend D.J. P.

You never know what will happen here: condoms are prizes at University, hot dogs are delicious, and dead musicians come back to life

Can I stay forever?