Tag Archives: life

The best songs of the 2010s

Michael_Angelakos_(Passion_Pit)_in_Columbus,_2015

Back when blogs still existed — including this blog — my friend Asher wrote about a musical contradiction: “If dance music should make you want to dance, it doesn’t make much sense that the best dance album of the year makes you want to do anything but move.” 

This was 2012. The album was Gossamer, Passion Pit’s second record. In 2008, Passion Pit had rocketed from dorm room novices to indie darlings because of the single “Sleepyhead.” The track is about a breakup, but that’s apparent only if you can understand the hard-to-decipher words sung in lead singer Michael Angelakos’s falsetto voice. “Sleepyhead” was part of a Manners album that, because of its emphasis on the beats and choruses, was a relatively light-hearted affair. 

Although Gossamer had a similar bounce, it was far more introspective and its lyrics far clearer. Angelakos wrote and sang about drugs, mental illness and anorexia. After a performance in spring 2012 that included songs featured on Gossamer, he told Pitchfork, “We tried as hard as we could to pretend that we were having a good time, but we were miserable.” A week before the album’s release that summer Passion Pit announced the postponement of the rest of its tour because Angelakos was seeking treatment for depression and bipolar disorder. The personal journey he undertook to create Gossamer had contributed to his illness. 

Could we dance to that music? Should we? Continue reading

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Stuff…and not having any of it

For two weeks this summer I had to be a drifter. This transformation of lifestyle was driven not by choice but rather inconvenience as the lease at my old place ended on July 31, a full two weeks before the lease at my new place began. This is a common problem in State College, where I live as a writer, aka a conscientious objector of the real world.  Unlike in most cities, where I suspect these two weeks would be viewed as an obvious nuisance, State College has the perfect can-do attitude that turns any obstacle into an opportunity. This city, after all, ranks among the places leading this country in intelligence, as well as among the places leading this country in arrests for drunkenly stumbling into the wrong house at 4 a.m. (Ed’s note: The mayor would not confirm this last detail for me.) One of my friends opined, in fact, that bumming around on couches is a Hajj-ian experience for college town residents, an action that must be undertaken at least once. Over these two weeks I easily found refuge at two friends’ apartments and was even able to sleep on a mattress. There was no need for an extended stay motel or to browse AirBNB. Problem solved.

So the hard part wasn’t securing a free bed; it was figuring out what to do with my bed. WTF was I going to do with all my stuff? Continue reading

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The Apocalypse by Hip-Hop

So the world might end later this week. If civilization does go all Cormac McCarthy on us, I think I owe a beer to Nas, a spliff to Busta Rhymes and whatever the thinking-man’s drug is to Chuck D. Now, I won’t actually be able to make good on this promise on December 21. I mean, I’ll be dead, probably roasted by nuclear lasers, and I don’t personally know any of these musicians. It just feels like I do. Their apocalyptic thoughts and predictions have been swirling around my head for way too damn long.

Yes, it’s true. Hip-hop musicians actually do have something in common with Glenn Beck: They preach apocalyptic messages all the freaking time. Continue reading

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Thanksgiving at Twilight

Thanksgiving, which is my favorite holiday by far, makes us engage in behavior that under normal circumstances would appear crazy. This sociologically-documented phenomenon stretches all the way back to the first Thanksgiving on Plymouth Rock. Instead of serving Pocahontas’ and Squanto’s tribes a small pox cocktail like they usually did, John Smith, Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan shared a meal of turkey, fried green bean casserole and Stove Top stuffing with them, piling all of the food into a giant cornucopia. No muskets were even brought to this feast. Isn’t America great?

In modern times, these behavioral transformations are more subtle Continue reading

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Does anyone know what to do in Cedar Rapids?

I considered tweeting at Ed Helms and asking him a question of exquisitely high importance when I was in Iowa. I needed to know what somebody should do in Cedar Rapids on a Friday night.

If you’ve seen the delightful movie “Cedar Rapids,” you know that Helms would have a pretty good idea for entertainment. In the film, he attends a meth-fueled party in a heavily wooded area populated by several very paranoid and very burly men. They wear flannel, Wolverine boots and sneers. They think he is trying to steal their girlfriends. Their girlfriends happen to be escorts and not of the Ford automobile variety. I mean, who wouldn’t crave a scene like that? Continue reading

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The College Town Circle of Life

On a Sunday afternoon this summer on my way to a coffee shop, I parked my car on the side of West Beaver Avenue, a road that cuts through a leafy neighborhood adjacent to downtown. The residents are primarily college students, you know, real salt of the earth inhabitants. Rather than measure worth by monetary gain, stature is gauged by seconds spent standing upside-down atop a keg, or by swiftness of movement after lighting a couch on fire in the middle of the street. The simplistic beauty of this lifestyle reminds me of late 19th-century America, when men and women lived off the land and daily alcohol consumption stood at about a liter per capita.

I live a half-mile away from the student neighborhood in a subdivision known as College Heights. The neighborhood, for the most part, houses professors and their families. It’s kind of quiet. It is famously where Joe Paterno lived for most of his life. The houses and the inhabitants are old, the structures and the humans dating back to the 1930s.

Trash pickup here is on Monday mornings. Yellow bags rest on yellowing lawns. There is nothing else to the curbside landscape. The opposite is true in the Beaver Avenue neighborhood. Trash heaps, nearly every week of every week, are like free stores. I’ve seen skis, computer speakers, mattresses, dressers, desks, lamps, Dodge Vipers and actual vipers. Whatever does not work for you will work for someone else. One man’s venomous snake is another man’s treasure. Continue reading

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A True “College” Bar

“College” has a bar, and it is named KAM’s – all caps, just like R.E.M. and UNICEF. KAM’s is located in Champaign, Ill., on Daniel Street, across from some University of Illinois Greek residences, the Psychology building and hopefully not far from the local hospital. It smells like the inside of a shot glass filled to the brim with Jaeger, tobacco, vomit and lowered expectations, which I guess smell a little bit like Sears. Continue reading

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A Mile Away From Ordinary

I felt kinda scared when I arrived at the track that night, dressed suavely in the guise of darkness, a plain white t-shirt, and a scrummy pair of shorts Clorox can’t save. Because I have paranoia levels befitting a mother of suburban teenagers, I feared the cops could arrive, administer punishment via nightstick and then haul us to county jail. I feared I might faint or die.

OK, I really didn’t think that. That would be overdramatic. But I did anticipate excruciating pain, excruciating but voluntary pain for choosing to participate in an endurance test of sanity better known as the Beer Mile. Continue reading

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Always Sunny

The first time I saw a prostitute, I was in Philadelphia. Now, I can’t be completely certain she was a prostitute because I didn’t ask her, and it was also a Sunday afternoon, most definitely NOT the proper time for a lady of the night to be walking around, so she might have just been a stripper. She wore a lacy white dress that covered up only enough of her body so she wouldn’t be arrested for indecent exposure, had painted fingernails longer Edward Scissorhands’, and she was drunker than an on-air CMT personality. Prostitute was a SAFE assumption. Continue reading

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Away Games


I wanted to sleep on the train, but the excitement and the freshness kept me awake. It was Wednesday afternoon. I had just left O’Hare Airport, deciding to take the train instead of a cab after a friendly elderly woman offered me a free ticket she wasn’t able to use.

Stop after stop, Chicago sprung to life. We passed Addison, and I knew Wrigley’s green walls beckoned close by. We passed Grand, and I knew shoppers walked the streets above the surface headed toward the Magnificent Mile.

Each stop brought me closer to the tall buildings, to the stiff breezes off the lake, to the artificial sunsets produced by the Hancock Observatory, to a refuge. Continue reading

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