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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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A lasting love affair: Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins’ Rabbit Fur Coat

If you’re anything like me, you can think of at least one album that has become so much a part of your life that it’s a religious experience every time you listen to it. This is one of mine.

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Jenny Lewis was the lead singer of Rilo Kiley from 1998 until they disbanded last year. I own the entire Rilo Kiley discography, but after more than 100 listens, I can confidently say that Jenny’s 2006 solo album Rabbit Fur Coat is hands-down her best work.

I’d be lying if I said that at least part of my love for this album wasn’t rooted in nostalgia. A friend introduced me to Jenny’s solo work after what would be one of many great summers at nerd camp. I was finally exiting my faux-punk stage and trading in the A.F.I. albums and Hot Topic wardrobe for music that wasn’t confused with dying animal sounds and clothes that were slightly less black. I went from NARP to less of a NARP. Essentially, this album entered my life during a time of great progress out of my awkward stage.

My personal, adolescent memories aside, Rabbit Fur Coat is a stunningly understated folk-pop masterpiece. Even from the not-quite-a capella opener, “Run Devil Run,” this album hooks you at the heart and makes it damn clear that you’re going to be in for the whole 37-minute ride. As it launches into “Big Guns,” Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins get you stamping your feet and leave you utterly charmed by their harmonies and handclaps. Just as you recover from the final drum beat, you’re thrown into “Rise Up With Fists!!” a song whose wit is just a small taste of what’s to come throughout Rabbit Fur Coat.

With “Happy,” things are slowed down for a sad, simple love song. After that comes another trio of fast-slow-fast, with “You Are What You Love,” being my favorite for its directness, catchiness, and clever rhymes. The album’s title track can seem like a chore to hear if you don’t listen for the story it tells with Jenny’s tired-yet-pretty voice. Even if the slowness is a bit much for you, you’re rewarded with “Handle With Care,” the Traveling Wilburys’ song Jenny covers with hipster gods Ben Gibbard, Conor Oberst, and M. Ward. “Born Secular” is straight up gospel, and “It Wasn’t Me” and the “Happy” reprise complete the album’s narrative and end not with a bang, but with a graceful, floating exit.

In all, I blame Rabbit Fur Coat in part for my embarrassing ignorance of a lot of new music. When I need something to listen to, I enter musical autopilot mode and listen to Rabbit Fur Coat one, two, even three times on repeat. It is a miracle and a privilege that I have never gotten sick of it, even after having listened to it so many times that I have every harmony memorized, every nuance of the music absorbed into my body as if it were a part of me. If you’ve ever received one of my [in]famous mix CDs, I can guarantee I’ve shared either Rilo Kiley or Jenny Lewis with you because I love their music just that much.

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By now, it’s clear that I have pretty strong feelings about Rabbit Fur Coat, but one of my favorite things to do is to listen to this album with other people. Everyone I’ve shared it with has something to say about it. My parents have both heard this album at least ten times and have never failed to pick up on some idiom or reference that I’d never caught. My friends hear instruments I’d ignored and sing along to harmonies that had somehow slipped my ears. Listening to this album is somehow both a learning experience and the most comfortable thing in the world every time. I’m not sure, but I think that’s true love.

I don’t care if you ignore the recommendations of every other post on this blog, but I beg you to go find Rabbit Fur Coat, crank the volume on your good headphones or speakers, and let your life and music library be changed for the better. And if you don’t like it, I’d really love to hear why. Let me know what you think in the comments.

But for now…

AMPlifiability level: CRANK IT UP. This music should be shared with the world.

Metro Tracks – July 19, 2012

Surprise, surprise – I had not been looking forward to my commute at all today. Since finishing the god-awful chick lit book I’d been reading, I’d been caught in this pathetic, bookless, music-less void, sick of listening to the same Robyn and U.S. Royalty on repeat, my usual go-to metro music. Clearly the stars aligned or something, and my iPod playlist of 4,201 of my favorite songs cranked out some of the very best, even when I left it up to fate, or as most people call it, shuffle mode.

So if you want to be cured of a boring commute, throw together a playlist of these “Metro Tracks” that were such a pleasant surprise for me today, and maybe you won’t notice the B.O. or the elbows shoving into you or the squish of the people who are more than a little too big for that open seat next to you.

  1. Libertango – Yo Yo Ma et al. Think cello music won’t wake you up? Pair it with an accordion and more strings, and give them a gloriously seductive Argentine tango to play, and yes, you will change your mind. I posted this as I listened to "Libertango"
  2. I Got You (I Feel Good) – James Brown This needs to explanation, just a warning: May cause intense urge to move one’s hips while standing on a metro platform. Not that this actually happened or anything.
  3. Days Go By – Keith Urban – For those of you who have ever called me a hipster, you may now take it back. I don’t like much country, but this is an undeniably catchy, poppy song. It made me wish I’d worn my cowboy boots today.
  4. Betcha Nickel – Ella Fitzgerald – A slightly tamer song to aid recovery from the fast pace of Keith Urban. And with words like, “You can fool some of the people some of the time/But you can’t fool all the people all of the time,” you’ll be reminded to be yourself during your day at work.
  5. Gatekeeper (full mix) – Feist – It’s worth finding the version of this song from her album Open Season for the gentle but captivating beat in the background and the general increase in energy compared to the original. Granted, the original is just lovely and the only acceptable version if you’re listening to Let It Die as a whole, but for a morning commute, you’ve just gotta have more oomph.
  6. Dum Dum Must Hai (remix) – Band Baaja Baraat There’s nothing quite like Bollywood in the morning, I can tell you that much. There’s also nothing like running into your boss at a crosswalk, him asking you if what you’re listening to is good, and kind of being stuck speechless because you don’t even know how to explain how or why you know this music from half a world away or why you once danced to it in front of hundreds.

My evening commute was about twice the time, so I’ll only burden you with half the songs from that.

  1. My Girl – The Temptations – The definition of a feel-good song, whether you’ve ever had someone sing it to you or not.
  2. Song for the Fields – Fields – Much darker than anything else I’d listened to today, but when I was stuck at Metro Center tonight for way too long, it was an appropriate soundtrack to my frustration.
  3. All for You – Sister Hazel – If you don’t know what song this is from the title, just go listen to it. Undoubtedly one of the best songs of the 90s.
  4. Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) – Backstreet Boys – Did I say that was a good song from the 90s? I’m sorry, I meant that this one was better. And only about 500 times more embarrassing when a cute guy asks you something you can’t hear because you’re listening to this song. Not that he could have heard, but the fact that I knew was enough. The rest of the time though, I felt like I was on top of the world.
  5. Black Mirror – Arcade Fire – And now we’re getting back into normal Allie music mode. This is perfect for walking up giant hills or escalators or whatever. It’s just the right combination of anger and self-pity and semi-inspirational sounds. You’ll feel like a hipster when you listen to this, so there’s that.
  6. Go Do – Jónsi – There’s nothing like some flowery, hopeful, chilly Icelandic music to accompany you as you sweat the final stretch to your house and walk in the door. Except maybe “We Are The Champions,” but my iPod didn’t like that today.

Depending on whether or not the shuffle/fate mode on my iPod continues to be up to par, “Metro Tracks” may or may not become a regular feature. At any rate, I hope you’ve found or been reminded of a song or two that might ease the pain of your commute.

Check back soon for a feature I’m thinking of calling “Whitest Girl Alive, Meet Mama Africa.”

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A formal introduction to AMPLIFY

Six months ago, I started a blog. I’d optimistically convinced myself that I would keep writing this blog of glorified “life lessons” all year, or at least for more than the few weeks it would end up lasting before I ran out of material that didn’t get uncomfortably personal. Unless I wanted to revert to the days when I poured my heart out on LiveJournal, this blog just couldn’t go on.

So here I am, midway through the year, and it’s back to the drawing board. Why would I give the blog thing another shot?

To tell the truth, I tell the truth. A lot. While I used to be a regular blabbermouth, spilling embarrassing, private observations like any kid, I’m pretty sure I’ve gained some degree of tact and discretion now that I’m a bit older. I’m still brutally honest, only now it’s usually in appropriate settings. I’m the girl my co-workers ask when they’ve returned from lunch and want to know whether there’s Sweetgreen left in their teeth. I idolize Stacey and Clinton from What Not to Wear – not because I’m particularly stylish, but because they’ve mastered the art of saying what simply needs to be said. It was the desire for this kind of straightforward, brutal honesty in the music world that got me thinking about this blog.

I would never deny the prevalence and importance of Pitchfork, NPR Music, College Music Journal, and the plethora of other music websites and blogs out there, but I’ve come to wonder how often we’re getting the real deal. How are we supposed to know whether these outlets are reviewing music because they actually want to or just because certain promoters are pushing for it? I have no problem with promoters or producers or programmers or anyone involved, especially since I’m a part of that world to an extent. But at the end of the day, sometimes we just want to know whether we should spend the time to listen to a song or spend money to buy an album. No frills, minimal flowery metaphors, just thoughts on whether a song is worthy of turning up the volume, of being amplified.

As I embark on AMPLIFY and the art of honest reviewing, I’m pledging a few things.

  • If music was suggested to me via a promoter, this fact will be disclosed in the post.
  • I will review a variety of music from  different genres, years, and eras. Music that I’m listening to that day, whether it’s a song I’m picking from my “never played” playlist, or something that I’ve heard a thousand times before.
  • I want to be honest and to the point. Sometimes I’ll be able to do this in a few words, and sometimes it will take much more than that. I hope to strike a happy medium that will get across the message of whether or not a song, or album is worth AMPLIFYING.

So, as I begin AMPLIFY, I ask you to do me the honor of coming along for the ride and letting me know via comment or email anything you think I can do to improve and make your experience more meaningful as a reader.