Monthly Archives: October 2012

Sharon Van Etten – 10/25/12 @ 9:30 Club

Even amidst Halloweekend, Hurricane Sandy nerves, and feeling starstruck after seeing Malia Obama in Georgetown last night, I cannot stop thinking about Sharon Van Etten’s performance at the 9:30 Club last Thursday.

For those of you who don’t know SVE, she’s a singer-songwriter, originally from New Jersey, who has released three albums, Because I Was in Love (2009), Epic (2010), and Tramp (2012). The first two of those are pretty clearly about a love gone wrong; she had a terribly abusive boyfriend for a while, and she reacted to the dissolution of their relationship by writing songs. At some point, she also cut her hair short, and frankly, she looked like an angry man herself. I don’t want to speculate too much about SVE’s personal life, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she had been extremely clinically depressed for at at least some stretch of time during that ordeal. At some point, she was noticed by other musicians, receiving promotional and production help from her friends in The National, later collaborating with a number of other well-established musicians on Tramp and playing alongside them at festivals.

Sharon Van Etten at the 9:30 Club (Photo: Allie Prescott)

On Thursday night, Sharon Van Etten appeared not as some broken woman, but as a strong, confident, and humble musician who could easily blow you away whether playing alone or with the other three members of her band. She had no fancy set or light show, nothing theatrical – even with only her music to offer, nothing was left to be desired. What’s amazing about SVE’s music is that it doesn’t need the light show or the fancy clothes or the staged interactions between band members. All that it needs are listeners who are willing to experience it for what it is – pure, honest, heartfelt poetry, set to music that matches it mysteriously perfectly.

From the moment Sharon and her band walked on stage and launched into “All I Can,” we in the crowd stood in awe – respectful, but clearly filled with anticipation as the song built. One of my favorite moments was when Sharon sung, “The memory of you/ the love overdue/ to carry a face/ I cannot re-trace.” In her delivery of those words was an energy that was never abandoned throughout the show.

After playing the third track in the set, “Save Yourself,” Sharon finally engaged in some charming conversation with the audience, humble enough to admit that she’d accidentally sung the words “shave yourself” during one of the choruses in the song. She told the audience, “If anyone here works for Gillette, I just want you to know that I use your products…occasionally. So we should talk or something.” It was this kind of self-deprecating humor and banter throughout the night that made Sharon so damn human. I don’t know if it’s just the fact that as a 20-year-old not-a-girl-not-yet-a-woman, I look up to Sharon for her ability to put in song what many of us just keep quiet, but to see that she is just a normal person convinced me to stop poking fun at the fact that I like this “angry woman” music so much.

Playing through tracks from her latter two albums, Sharon showed off the best of her repertoire, everything from “Peace Signs” to “Serpents” to a strikingly rich rendition of “I’m Wrong” whose textures captured the musicians to the point that they all ended up on the floor in a frenzy of sound. For me, the highlight of the show came in the middle with Sharon’s solo debut of a new song. I couldn’t find a video from the 9:30 Club, but I found a low-quality version from a Paris show earlier in the month. Yes, it is about a complex heartbreak, but…well, just listen to the song. It’s magical.

Look, I can’t do this show justice through words. I’d hoped that NPR Music would have recorded it so I could share the music, but I saw Bob Boilen from All Songs Considered walking around and not  near any recording equipment, so I doubt we’ll get that live recording. All I know is that I left on a high that was, yes, partially from meeting SVE after the show, but mostly from the music and passion and perfection.

Me looking totally starstruck next to SVE.


See that lady in the stripes? She’s my new musical idol.

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Keeping It Classy

[The following is another column published for the guide, the lifestyle magazine of The Hoya. The print version of AMPlify runs every other Friday. You can find the originals by searching my name at]

It’s no secret that at Georgetown, we play as hard as we work. It’s also no secret that by “play,” many of us mean “party.” I imagine it would be difficult to find someone who hasn’t been to at least one party where people are packed in like sardines, the walls seem to be sweating, couples are doing god-knows-what on the dance floor and Ke$ha is reminding us that “We R Who We R.” If this situation sounds appealing to you 100 percent of the time, you can just stop reading and move on to the next column. But if you’d like to take a break from the sweat and Natty Light and auto-tuned music, keep reading.

I like to think that all Georgetown students have some degree of classiness in them, though when I’m forced to leave a party because someone got sick on the dance floor, my faith wavers. Equally jarring are the moments when Joe — I mean Bro — Hoya asks me if I’m a freshman, and doesn’t give me a second look when I say no because he has correctly assumed that I’m not a desperate girl looking for an upperclassman. Let’s not even talk about the number of times I’ve seen people grinding to “Gangnam Style.” It’s after nights like these when I lie in bed with my headphones on and try to remind myself that my entire college experience need not be sweaty ragers filled with Top 40 hits. I clear my senses with what I consider to be one of the strongest assets in my iTunes library,  a playlist titled, simply, “Classy.”

“Classy.” is nothing fancy. “Classy.” is the product of my 16-year-old self trying to throw a Sweet Sixteen that was way more formal than it had any right to be. Having accomplished the mammoth task of getting my male friends to wear dress shirts and ties, I had to make the most of the situation and play the classiest music I knew — jazz, blues and anything that most grandpas would approve of. For the duration of the party, a mix of Billie Holiday,Feist, Blossom Dearie, and Nat King Cole kept everyone tame and happy. That is, until we started hanging spoons off our noses and smearing frosting on each other’s faces.

Still, “Classy.” represents good, clean fun, musicians who are true masters of their craft and a faith in humanity I need when I walk on Prospect Street and don’t want to know why there’s a pair of tighty whities on the sidewalk. I’m no expert on jazz or blues, but I know that when I want to clear my head and take a step out of the 2010s, “Classy.” is a damn classy way to do it.

Benny Goodman – “King Porter Stomp”

Miles Davis – “Generique”

Nina Simone – “The More I See You”

Frank Sinatra – “Oh! Look at Me Now”

Ray Charles – “One Mint Julep”

Norah Jones – “Sinkin’ Soon”

Nat King Cole – “Orange Colored Sky”

Count Basie – “Bye Bye, Baby”

Ella Fitzgerald – “I’m Beginning to See the Light”

Feist – “One Evening”

Marvin Gaye – “Couldn’t Ask for More”

Billie Holiday – “Blue Moon”

Michael Kiwanuka – “Bones”

Glenn Miller & the Army Air Force Band – “A String of Pearls”

Ray Charles – “Sticks and Stones”

You can hear a full mix online here:

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AMPlify Radio Playlist – October 25

There are many days when I get on air and feel like I’m at the top of the world. Everything is peachy and I’m full of confidence and enthusiasm. And then there are some days when I am just totally off. Basic knowledge of the sound board escapes me as I scramble to find something to say about music I normally talk about all the time. I try to fake it, but I’m just not 100% there.

Today, unfortunately, fell into the latter category. I was recovering from a bout of food poisoning and just did not have my A-game on. But I managed to play some pretty good music by some pretty cool ladies.

The track list is below, and you can find a mix with some extra songs here.The Grace Potter track would not upload to 8tracks, so I’ve included its own link.

  1. Kate Nash – “Kiss That Grrrl”
  2. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals – “Paris (Ooh La La)
  3. Florence & the Machine – “Between Two Lungs”
  4. Adele – “My Same”
  5. Sharon Van Etten – “Leonard”
  6. Alicia Keys – “If I Ain’t Got You”
  7. Feist – “Intuition”
  8. St. Vincent – “Jesus Saves, I Spend”
  9. Rilo Kiley – “The Execution of All Things”
  10. M.I.A. – “Jimmy”
  11. Yelle – “Ce Jeu”
  12. Beyoncé – “Schoolin’ Life”

I created this playlist for my show partially as a reminder to myself that there are many more kickass female artists out there other than Jenny Lewis and Feist, the women whose singing voices are most familiar to my ears. There are the Top 40 divas, there are the goddesses of indie who stun with their poetry and grace, there are women who float through genres and create things I could never dream of. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I’m not a hardcore feminist, and I don’t even know that if – by separating the category of music by women from music in general – we are doing that music or its creators any justice. Rather, I’m a kind-of feminist who just likes music a whole bunch. The playlist above just happens to be both really good and by women. So go listen to it, and let me know about any other female singers you’d think I’d like.


(P.S. Sharon Van Etten was amazing tonight. More on her this weekend.)

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“The Reminder” – Sometimes decisions are tough.

Today I did something for the first time in my college career – I dropped a class. I was getting hardly anything out of the course, and I knew I had room left in coming semesters to make up this one last gen ed requirement. On the surface, it might seem like an easy choice.

Yet this felt like a huge, life-changing decision, and ever since I’d seriously started considering dropping the class, I tried to be logical, weighing pros and cons. More than that, though, I found myself feeling prematurely guilty for dropping the class, trying to convince myself that if I just worked really hard, the class would become enjoyable, and I would maybe learn a thing or two from it. I became really damn emotional about the whole thing. Blame the mysteries of the female psyche or whatever you want to blame, but I was having way too many feelings about dropping a class I despised.

Still riding the emotional roller coaster, immediately after turning in the withdrawal form, I had an “oh-shit-what-have-I-done” moment. It was brief, but it was there. It was the kind of regret that told me I was wasting my parents’ hard-earned college savings, that I was taking the easy way out, that I should just suck it up and keep going.

But then I had another moment. It was a huge sigh of relief, the thought that I could now do things with my newly-free blocks of time on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30-7:45 PM. It was the realization that I could focus on my other four courses and my music classes without having to worry about this buzzkill of a class. It was the fact that I could now work evening shifts some days a week either at my internship or job. It was freedom. And more than anything, it was a feeling of pure fun. I became that weird person who smiles at anyone and everyone in public. I was practically jumping for joy. I’d made the right decision after a bit too much deliberation.

– – – – – – – – – – –

You’re probably wondering why I spent 300+ words discussing an overly emotional experience that appears to have nothing to do with music. It’s a stretch of a connection, but I think I know of an album that describes similar emotions, though maybe out of order. I thought about this today as I got home after my trip to the dean’s office – I had no idea what to listen to. I settled for the piece I’m playing with my chamber group, but the question of what album could represent this jumble of emotions bugged me all day.

image from

Feist’s The Reminder (2007) is all at once complex, intelligent, well-thought-out, honest, straightforward, and fun. Obviously Feist’s album is a masterpiece and my emotional experience a farce, but as for an album that represents the whole process, this is the best example that comes to mind.

The Reminder is full of tracks that are so deeply personal and so deeply Feist without being weak or off-putting in a way that I think some female-driven music can be. “So Sorry” is about regret and a sense of the unknown – We’re slaves to our own forces/we’re afraid of our emotions. “I Feel It All,” (because I really did feel it all) “My Moon My Man,” and “Sea Lion Woman” are upbeat and fun, all with an air of mystery. “The Park” is at once emotional and feminine and strikingly logical in the saddest of ways. “Past in Present” carries a lyrical and relative musical simplicity while portraying the great gift of knowledge from past experiences. Relevant comments are admittedly failing to come to me on the topics of “1234” and a few of the other tracks, but “Intuition” has an obvious link, perhaps more than any other track.

Even if my connections are too simplistic and my story uninteresting, I hope you still try to listen to The Reminder. Not only does it happen to convey my recent experiences, but it is an absolute gem of an album and is hands-down one of the best of the 21st century. Additionally, a friend of mine once told me that this album would be the perfect soundtrack to that complex process known as falling in love.

So go find it on Spotify, or Youtube, or iTunes, or whatever- just listen to this. Give it time, and you might also find yourself smiling shamelessly.

– – – – –


I’m going to see Sharon Van Etten at the 9:30 Club on Thursday evening. Expect a review sometime this weekend.

The AMPlify column will run in the guide this week. I’m really excited about it, so check back on Friday for that.

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AMPlify Radio Playlist – October 18

I’ll be the first to admit that this blog has been majorly lacking lately. School is in full swing (sometimes too full swing), and sometimes searching for cool music is pushed to the back burner when all of a sudden it’s 2:00 AM and I just want to sleep. Props to the many college bloggers I know who manage to balance school, activities, and their websites. It’s tough.

To make up for the radio show that I didn’t do post-history midterm last week, and to make up for the lack of posts on here lately, I decided to make a really f*cking awesome playlist for AMPlify Radio today. I needed something that was all at once raw and refined and intense and chill. I was inspired by some of the top mainstream releases as of late, like Muse’s The 2nd Law and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ The Heist, and filled in the rest with tracks by some artists who are getting a lot of hype at the CMJ Music Marathon. Admittedly, I heard of some of these acts through promoters who email me via WGTB, and for once, promoters actually sent me stuff worth listening to! So thanks to the promoters who sent along music by Snowmine and John the Conqueror.


You can listen to today’s playlist here. The tracks are listed below.

  1. “Can’t Hold Us” – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, feat. Ryan Dalton
  2. “Supremacy” – Muse
  3. “Don’t You Forget It” – Nick Waterhouse
  4. “Call Me” – Kimbra
  5. “Saucer Eyes” – Snowmine
  6. “Ritual” – Blood Diamonds
  7. “I Am the Antichrist to You” – Kishi Bashi
  8. “Broken Yolk in Western Sky” – Ben Gibbard
  9. “Fifty Fifty” – The Luyas
  10. “Move Like U Stole It” – ZZ Ward
  11. “All Alone” – John the Conqueror
  12. “Starting Over” – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, feat. Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses

FYI, several of these artists are playing in DC soon.

  • Kimbra @ 9:30 Club on 10/23 (This Tuesday!)
  • The Luyas @ The Red Palace on 11/5
  • Snowmine @ The Red Palance on 11/8
  • ZZ Ward @ Georgetown University on 11/10
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis @ 9:30 Club on 11/13
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