If I Could Dance, I’d Dance to This.

It was a exciting weekend. Friday night I went to see CHVRCHES at the Black Cat with Megan, WGTB’s outgoing Promotions Director. We danced for hours to the crisp, beautiful beats of the electro-pop trio whose hype is growing faster than Feminist Taylor Swift. On Saturday I went to the hip new Malmaison for the Fête de la Musique, then hit Georgetown bars with friends. And Yesterday I worked at my bakery job to earn some cash.

It would have been nice if any of those things had actually happened. Alas, I was confined to the couch all weekend, thanks to some increasingly mysterious ankle pain that’s been bringing me near tears for weeks. Luckily, I had the company of a fat orange cat and a number of wonderful friends who entertained me, fed me sweets, and prevented me from drinking that six-pack alone as I rubbed my legs with blocks of ice.

In all seriousness, save for my lower extremities, I feel completely fine, and I was content to obey the doctor’s orders to sit things out for a few days. But damn, am I mad about CHVRCHES. Even with my oft-elderly habits, I frequently need to, in the words of Ke$ha, “let the crazy out,” and this was my chance. To put it in perspective, my only outings since Saturday have been to CVS for more IcyHot, or to the doctor for x-rays. If I had known just how restless I would become, I would have tried to stick it out on Friday night, even if it meant wearing Danskos to a club and asking random people for piggyback rides.

So here I am, left with ants in my pants, the jitters, so much pent-up energy! What better use of my time than one of my favorite activities – crafting playlists? After examining my music library with a fine-toothed comb, I have compiled a list of the Top 5 Songs I Would Dance to If I Could. Hit me up if you want to do some Sit and Be Fit to these; I hear they have exercises for, well, everything.

1. The Pointer Sisters -“Jump (For My Love).” The way Prime Minister Hugh Grant dances to this song in Love Actually is the only acceptable way to do it. The subtle butt shake, the all-out stair descent – I can think of no better way to get that body movin’.

2. Beyoncé – “Countdown.” It should come as no surprise to anyone who has attended one of my social gatherings that I am always itching to dance to this. Though I can most frequently be found dancing to it with my beloved roommate around 1 AM as a homework break, it doubles as a fantastic all-purpose crowd-pleaser. Humble brag: in addition to being able to hit every note of the “Boioioioioioioy” vocal climb, I have also created a signature dance move to accompany said vocal climb. It is so popular that Ryan Gosling copied it and put it in some movie.

3. Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – “Mais Que Nada.” Serg has been my main man since February. His tunes always make me want to dance, but since I don’t really have, you know, a sense of rhythm, I’ve settled on replicating what I see the two ladies doing in this video. It’s great! You don’t even have to move your feet!

4. Phoenix – “Sometimes in the Fall.” Speaking of not moving one’s feet, that was the one viable method for dancing at Sweetgreen’s Sweetlife Festival. I was able to rock out to the headliner, Phoenix, only after one of my radio forefathers helped me plant my feet firmly in the mudpit pictured below, the result of of a mid-afternoon monsoon. Had I not had my feet firmly anchored, I would have slipped and had to say goodbye to more than just my shoes (read: my dignity) that night . At any rate, footplanting dancing seems to be viable for those, like myself, who must remain in IcyHot ankle sleeves at all times, and it works especially well for music like Phoenix, whose sound is tight, refined, and easily complemented by hand gestures and aggressive headbanging.

5. The Argument – “No Way.” R.I.P., The Argument, the only quality musical act to ever emerge from my hometown.This song may be over a decade old, but the aesthetic goes for something even older, and it never fails to make me want to put on my monacle and bring out a cane as I sashay across the stage like Fred Astaire, or, you know, Mr. Peanut.

BONUS TRACK! If I make it in to my internship tomorrow, I will have no choice other than to politely say this to someone on the metro if I cannot get a seat.

This post will be cross-published on The Rotation, the blog of WGTB – Georgetown University Radio

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Metro Tracks: Single Tracking with MS MR

The idea for Metro Tracks started last summer when my iPod somehow shuffled a tiny fraction of my library into a blissful commuting mix. It reached aimlessly across genres and generated sonic perfection by combining bhangra, Sigur Ros, Bright Eyes, Keith Urban (?!?!), and lots more – it somehow all yinned and yanged, despite the weirdness.

This is NOT one of those playlists.

I’ve known about MS MR for a while, but for whatever reason, in the past 48 hours, I’ve listened to nothing of note other than their Secondhand Rapture (released May 14 on IAMSOUND). I don’t hate it.

The singer-producer duo is a futuristic Florence and the Machine with slightly less spook and a bit more sex. From vocals to music to presence, there’s the depth of Florence, but it’s all a bit more organic and less guarded. Below, there’s a list of the best songs from Secondhand Rapture. You’d be crazy not to check these out. (Go to Spotify for better audio quality on the YouTube songs.)

MS MR at Sweetlife 2013

MS MR at Sweetlife 2013

Head is Not My Home is the single track that launched this recent obsession. Its first verse seems fairly tame; if you aren’t listening on good headphones, you might miss the foreboding bass drum. Lizzy Plapinger’s talent really reveals itself for the first time in the chorus. The lyrics themselves, their percussive delivery, that faint “oh” paired with a well-placed boom of that cannonlike bass drum – it all makes for a truly epic chorus, one that shows itself even better in the final minute of the song, as Plapinger lets go of all inhibition and just belts. Delicate keyboards and perfectly placed backing vocals accompany the whole ride. It’s invigorating, exhausting, and 100% addictive.

“Hurricane” – MS MR’s first single

“Ash Tree Lane” – Slightly more low-key as a whole, but you won’t get away from a big, textured chorus.

Think of You has some lyrics that could have come from any angry 15-year-old’s diary. That doesn’t mean it’s not catchy as hell.

Salty Sweet – Handclaps, sliding vocals, minimalism. Irresistable.

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7 Links You Need Right Now

Bookmarks are one of the simplest yet greatest web browser innovations. Don’t have time to watch that  video or read that article now? Just bookmark it and come back to it – it’s as simple as that.

That sounds great, but it’s rare that I ever actually return to my bookmarks. With an evening to myself last night, I decided to go through some of the hundreds I’ve compiled over time and try to figure out why these things mattered to me in the first place. Here’s a list of the best (and admittedly random) 7 I found.

Seriously Good

Not So Serious-ly Good

  • Father John Misty covers “I Believe I Can Fly”
  • Drinkify – Not sure what to drink while you listen to some tunes? Enter the artist name in Drinkify, and behold – a drink recommendation!  (As a side note – these are not real drink recipes. 10 oz. of gin on the rocks for Jay-Z? Cream, tabasco sauce, and microbrew for Feist?)

Absolutely Ridiculous

  • Corn Weenie (start 2:00 in) – One of my friends would not stop singing this nonsense when he was high as a kite at 10:30 in the morning one day. I was not in that state, but I still loved the ridiculousness of this song. Be careful – it might get stuck in your head all day.
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Returning for Business

It’s been a long, long time. Between managing the station (and writing a couple things for our blog, The Rotation), training for my race, and forcing myself to finish a particularly ugly bunch of classes, spring semester was a blur. Writing about – even listening to or playing –  music was less of a priority than I wanted it to be. Fortunately, it’s summer now, and while I wouldn’t quite say that I have all the time in the world, I have much more of it to devote to devouring music both new and old.

My tastes haven’t changed much since my December love letter to Sharon Van Etten. I still listen to “All I Can” and the rest of SVE’s work quite often, though I have finally found some other female vocalists over whom to obsess, like those in CHVRCHES, HAERTS, and MS MR (and other bands whose names are in all caps, of course). I did let go of some of my pickiness about vocals, studying every intricacy of Alt-J’s An Awesome Wave. Exploring beyond what I learned in an ethnomusicology course, I fell in love with old Brazilian music to the point that I spent an hour during study days digging through Sergio Mendes and Tom Jobim scores in Lau, when I really should have been researching Nina Simone and Miriam Makeba for a final paper.

The biggest difference this semester was in how much live music I heard and how much of that came from student bands. More than ever before, I was in awe of the incredible musical talent surrounding me at Georgetown. I am so privileged to be friends with the members of Danny and the Dark and Betsy and the Bicycles, not to mention those musical people who just seem to be everywhere always – people like Gianfranco Nuschese, who plays with more energy than anyone I’ve ever met at Georgetown, and one of my best friends, Catherine DeGennaro, whose lyrics and melodies have gotten stuck in my head on more than one occasion in the past 48 hours. It hasn’t yet hit me that many of these musicians have graduated or will be abroad; I’m not ready to accept the reality that the campus music scene will be undoubtedly and markedly different come fall.

Another big development came later in the semester in the form of an idea for my senior capstone project. About a month ago, I was laying on the grass by the Georgetown waterfront on the most beautiful of days when the idea came to me, and I haven’t been able to fully stop thinking about it since. I have a strong uniting theme for what I’m imagining as a multimedia project. Gaining inspiration for the theme was amazing, and I don’t think I’d ever before been so excited about one of the crazy ideas that’s popped into my head. I have a feeling that composing/performing/recording/whatever I end up doing will be more challenging, so for now, I’m checking out a few library books on architecture and trying to keep track of my lyrical and musical ideas before they all escape me.

As for the direction of this blog – well, it’s a little up in the air. This summer, I hope to see as much live music as I can within reason; unpaid internships aren’t entirely conducive to paying for tickets. But in addition, I’m sure you’ll see a return of the Metro Tracks playlists as I commute downtown four days a week. You may also find reviews of books about music or profiles of DC artists. Thanks to my newfound vinyl collecting habit, I may pick up a random $1 record from CD Cellar every week and write about it for shits and giggles, or do the same with a CD from one of my local libraries, which have proven to be an absolute goldmine.

Though some things have changed, I hope to keep AMPlify as a platform for a non-intimidating introduction to new music and lesser-known music, with the hopes that someone else might like it too.

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‘Tramp’, or The Reason I Don’t Have a Top 10 List This Year

There are two more weeks of 2012, and the Internet is teeming with year-end countdowns of newsworthy moments, reality TV highlights, and – of course – music. While every other college radio DJ/music blogger out there has published a list of what they think was worth listening to this year, I’ve come to an unsettling realization, one that I hope to God does not discredit me in the field I want to enter. It’s embarrassing to admit, but it’s something I feel the need to share, nonetheless.

I could give a damn about the vast majority of the music released in 2012.

As I examine the iTunes playlist of music I’ve acquired this year, I see 1561 songs – 4.4 full days of music – that have been added in 2012. I’ve listened to half of those songs, but listened to only half of those more than once. A compulsive critic of the tracks in my iTunes library, I find that I considered only 6% of my music added in 2012 worthy of four or five stars.

Thinking about this, I’m ashamed. I started AMPlify in July and wrote a similar column for a student newspaper this semester. I even wrote a piece about what music I did and didn’t like this year, a sort of modified list of top albums. I’ll be frank, though – I was in a time crunch and did not give the full weight (or non-weight, as it were) to the music I wrote about. If I could go back a few weeks in time, this is the column I would have submitted.

I’ve heard Japandroids and Ty Segall and and most of the other artists with whom every music critic seems to have been enraptured this year. The simple truth is that I almost always ignored the new releases after a listen or two and returned to Sharon Van Etten’s Tramp instead. It was virtually the only music that mattered to me this year, with maybe a slight exception for Miriam Makeba and some electronic music given to me by friends. Admittedly my love for this record comes partly from the emotional connection I have with it, but even musically, it’s something I have come to know so well that I don’t think I’ve gone a day without listening to at least one Sharon song since a friend gave it to me ten months ago. Addicted may be too strong a word, though I haven’t been this into to an album in a long, long time. It has officially entered the ranks of The Reminder, Lungs, and Rabbit Fur Coat, all albums by other female artists, all albums that came out three or more years ago.

From cmj.com

Sharon Van Etten’s music was given to me when I was in a dramatic relationship that eventually disintegrated. I resisted Tramp at first; I listened to “Warsaw” and heard what sounded like Alanis Morrissette. I thought about throwing the CD in the trash. I was not going to be an angry woman who listened to angry woman music. But then a couple months later, I was under what can be described as nothing less than true emotional duress, and I credit Tramp for getting me through that. I’m mostly a happy camper now, but I remain attached to this album. Luckily it’s mostly because of the music at this point. That was true before I saw (and met!) SVE at the 9:30 Club in October, but it became even truer after.

It’s the details that make this album such a gem. It’s the perfect harmonies in every song. It’s the lines like “You’re the reason why I’ll move to the city/you’re why I’ll need to leave,” from “Give Out,” and the reassuringly simple lyrics of “We Are Fine” sung with Beirut’s Zach Condon. It’s the moment at 3:40 in “All I Can” when the song absolutely blooms. It’s the percussive, purposeful way Sharon sings “I am search-ing for your crimes,” in “Serpents” around 1:46. It’s both the hopelessness of “I’m Wrong” and the way it somehow doesn’t sound entirely unhappy. I could much more easily make a list of my top ten favorite moments on Tramp than I could make a list of my top ten favorite albums this year. There really are no other contenders.

If there’s one thing I’ve been reminded of after being a complete and utter failure at keeping up with the music of 2012, it is this – music is a deeply personal experience. You don’t need to keep up with all the blogs or charts or even your friends’ musical tastes if you’re just not into them. Give it a shot if that’s your thing, but if not, don’t let people give you crap for it. I’ve been told by a music journalist or two that my musical tastes are not diverse enough, which left me heartbroken at first, but today I’m quite all right with that.

If this post makes you want to go fall in love with Sharon Van Etten, please, give me a call, and I will be your guru – I’m sure we will have lots to talk about. But if it sounds massively unappealing, that’s cool too. Go find your soulmate of an album, and I only hope you fall for it as hard as I’ve fallen for this one.

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