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Sunday Songs: 5/7/23

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles!

Here we are in May, and I’m very nearly done with finals (and my first year of college? how 😀), and now I’ve got a fresh batch of songs, brought to you by a wikipedia rabbit hole, a beautifully cursed mashup, and what happens when you absorb too many Twilight memes by osmosis without actually watching or reading it. The internet is a lawless wasteland.

Enjoy this week’s songs!


“Ain’t Got No – I Got Life” – Nina Simone

does anybody know if this extended version is anywhere on streaming? I’ve only been able to find the shortened version…honestly a crime if you ask me

Like a lot of songs that end up on these posts, I stumbled upon this one fairly randomly—a Stereogum post on Instagram from a few weeks back commemorating 20 years since Nina Simone passed away. I just heard a snippet, and immediately went hunting for it on Apple Music—there was something so deeply captivating about it. And judging from the wikipedia rabbit hole I went on yesterday evening instead of writing this part of the post, it won’t be the last time. (“Sinnerman?” OKAY I DIDN’T EXPECT TO JUST…ASCEND THERE FOR A MINUTE HOOOOWHEE I’m gonna talk about that one in a few weeks at least, mark my words) But this one’s been on my mind a lot recently. From what I can tell, much of Nina Simone’s legacy is built from her more famous protest songs (see “Mississippi Goddam”), which damaged her career in the sixties but solidified her as one of the most important musical figures of the civil rights movement. This one slightly fits into that category—it’s a cover of sorts, mashing up two songs from the musical Hair (“I’m Black/Ain’t Go No” and “I Got Life” respectively). But even beyond the way Simone made these songs mesh together so effortlessly, there’s something more that she breathed into this song. Given the context of her life and her continued fight to help civil rights efforts in the U.S. and how much that affected her musical career, there’s something that she put into this song that nobody else could’ve. Even as her songs were banned from airplay and her career took a hit, she kept on producing this music, a commanding declaration of “I’m here, and there’s nothing you can do about it—You may have beaten my spirit, but here I stand.” Can’t get much more beautiful than that.

“Can I Go On” – Sleater-Kinney

There’s really no feeling quite like when shuffle digs up an old favorite from the depths of your music library. Unparalleled euphoria of remembering what it was like listening to a song for the first time…

That being said, I feel like I’ve lost Pretentious Gay Hipster™️ points since…this is only one of about three (tops) Sleater-Kinney songs that I actually like. Carrie Brownstein is great, don’t get me wrong—I love her work on what I’ve seen of Portlandia and in The Nowhere Inn, but Sleater-Kinney just rarely does it for me. I saw them live with Wilco a few years back, and…okay, I spent most of their set waiting for Wilco and hoping I’d like something, and I did like a few things. (There was also the secondhand embarrassment of them telling everybody to sing along during “Modern Girl” and very few people singing…oopsie) But I’ve never been a fan of either Brownstein’s or Corin Tucker’s voices—they work together, to a certain point, but they verge on grating for me. And other than this and “Modern Girl,” there’s nothing that’s really pulled me about most of their songs.

And admittedly, the minute that I found out that The Center Won’t Hold, which includes “Can I Go On,” was produced by none other than the woman, the myth, the legend, St. Vincent, it all made sense. I like this song because I like St. Vincent, not necessarily because I like Sleater-Kinney. There’s St. Vincent all over this song, from the plethora of effects on the guitars, which scream and shimmer in equal measure, to the chrome-like polish that doesn’t discredit the indie-ness of the band, but still makes it sound as smooth as ever. And even though I’m not a fan of their voices, the commanding harmonies of the chorus scream in perfect tandem, making for a rallying cry of a song that makes exhausted lyrics sound triumphant. A sprinkle of Annie Clark magic makes everything better.

“Supermassive Black Hole” – Muse

We know it. We love it. What is there to say about this song that hasn’t already been said? So I won’t bore you. I’ll narrow it down to it’s two biggest contributions to pop culture (I think):

  1. The Twilight baseball scene (I have never seen Twilight) (I intend to keep my exposure to scattered memes)
  2. This:

bask in the eternal glory of the supermassive bottom jeans. BASK.

“Wherever You Go” – Beach House

Beach House has been one of those bands that I really should be super into, given my somewhat shoegaze-leaning tendencies. The only reason is that I haven’t gotten around to listening to everything—I’ve loved the handful of isolated songs that I do know (“Space Song,” “Levitation,” “Woo,” etc.), and Bloom is on my insurmountable album list thanks to a recommendation from, of all people, my 9th grade honors English teacher. (I really shouldn’t be surprised about that. I bumped into him at a Spiritualized concert not long before I graduated last year. Shoegaze recognizes shoegaze.) The Beach House awakening, or something along those lines, is bound to happen soon, but for now, I’ll stick to random songs found in random places.

Like this one. Of course the song that I happened to randomly find in the background of a video was on their B-Sides and Rarities album. Again: I don’t have the Beach House experience to necessarily back this up, but with their other songs, I’ve noticed a slight degree of intentional production polish to make their songs sound as spacey as possible—which they absolutely do. But this song has all the lo-fi feel of a demo without losing any of that enchantingly drifting quality, with every instrument cranked up to sound as starry as possible. Victoria Legrand’s vocals always make me want to close my eyes and levitate (no pun intended), as the best shoegaze does—taking its sweet time to sweep you off your feet and into the clouds.

“Rubberband Girl” – Kate Bush

Unlike something like The Kick Inside, I’m not sure, even though scattered Kate Bush songs like these have grown on me a ton, that I’ll go all in on The Red Shoes. The only other song I’ve heard is “Big Stripey Lie,” and…okay, to the disappointment of Kate Bush’s #1 fan (my brother), I really haven’t been able to get into it, now matter how hard I try (sorry 😭). I appreciate the weirdness, but…it doesn’t do anything for me personally. And I’ve heard that the rest of The Red Shoes isn’t the best of her work, but I’m not about to diss everything about her. This queen just got inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, after all, I’ll put some respect on her name. Why wouldn’t I be, since this song stands before you? IT’S SO WEIRDLY CATCHY. I LOVE IT.

This seems like it leans more on the radio-friendly side of Kate Bush, but even she can make radio-friendly as oddball as she can. Her voice transforms from her ordinary singing tone to a velvety hiss to something as springy as the rubber bands she sings of. It’s a delightful trickster of a song—it still sounds firmly 80’s, even though it was released in 1993, but then it devolves into Bush saying “here I go :)” all innocently, and then dropping into the most wondrously weird and distorted “uhh-UHH-uhh-UHH” chorus I’ve ever heard at around the 3:40 mark. There’s a full horns section. You’ve got some Van Halen-y guitar solos sprinkled in. Under the reverb-y, 80’s polish, her weirdness has never ceased. Regardless of how you view the merits of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, you can see how much of a shoo-in she was.

Since this post consists entirely of songs, consider all of them to be today’s song.

That’s it for this week’s Sunday Songs! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Sunday Songs: 4/23/23

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you well.

I may be slightly sick, but I did not lose my lack of coherence, so today, I give you a very famous banana, Wall-E, and the only band that can make a Black Sabbath song sound dainty. Have fun trying to bring it all together. I certainly did.

Enjoy this week’s songs!


“Heavy Bend” – Big Thief

With full sincerity, I mean this in the absolute nicest way possible: the beginning of this song sounds like an Apple ringtone. An Apple ringtone, but the kind that has no business being as much of a banger as it is. Like the Piano one. Did any of that make any sense? I need a Taskmaster-style choreography to this one now. Would this give Noel Fielding shrew vibes?

My Big Thief/Adrianne Lenker conversion has begun, thanks to my brother and his girlfriend, and every day I’m inching closer to listening to Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You. But this song is unique—everything, from the echo of Adrianne Lenker’s sighing into the microphone to the hypnotic, harp-like strums that feel like the auditory answer to dew-covered spiderwebs in the early morning. That hypnotic quality reminds me a lot of “Bicycle,” another song that I raved about a few months ago, that shares the quality of feeling enchantingly impressionistic, like a painting imbued with motion. And as much of a cliche as this is, “Heavy Bend”‘s biggest crime is being too short. Some songs work as short and snappy (see “We’ve Got a File on You,” “Pam Berry,” “A Little Bit of Soap,” etc.), but this song feels like it’s begging for a key change, a bridge, just something to propel it beyond a minute and 36 seconds. On the other hand, that makes it tantalizingly easy to play on repeat. If you play it enough times on loop, you can just pretend that it’s longer. Denial is the first stage of grief.

“All Tomorrow’s Parties” – The Velvet Underground & Nico

nothing like cackling at niche jokes alone in your dorm, amirite?

I’ve finally got around to listening to another classic album—one that I’d heard about half of beforehand anyway, but still enjoyed, for all of its legend, discomfort, and strange beauty. A classic story of a disaster and a sales flop becoming a tried-and-true classic, every song feels like its own world—a very seedy, eerie, and hazy world, but a world all the same. I doubt anybody will ever describe Nico’s voice better than the journalist Richard Goldstein, who described it as “something like a cello getting up in the morning.” I wouldn’t automatically put it on my top 10, but it’s clear that its lasting legacy isn’t without reason.

“All Tomorrow’s Parties” is one of the songs that was relatively new to me, and it quickly became my favorite of the album. There are so many layers to it, more than the peelable, bruised, Andy Warhol banana on the album cover. It chugs along like a great machine, elephantine in its size, slow in its looming progress. Nico’s distinct voice, thick, resonant and cavernous, plows it along, drawing a long shadow over the music. Each piano chord seems to plod along, even with how rapid each chord is. It almost feels like a dirge in the way it seems to crawl, certainly for the fate of said “poor girl” that the song describes. Unlike “Heavy Bend,” this song is the perfect length—the typical 3 minutes doesn’t give it enough time to loom over the listener, but just over six minutes gives it all the time in the world.

“I/0” – Peter Gabriel

“gay rights” – Peter Gabriel 2023

Oof, another beautiful one…I’m just glad this one is easier to swallow than “Playing for Time,” but it’s just as powerful.

Peter Gabriel’s had his fair share of movie involvement, from writing various film soundtracks to providing the tearjerking end-credits song “Down to Earth” for Pixar’s Wall-E. So it’s not surprising how easily he can slip into that cinematic smoothness with such ease. Certainly helps that the Soweto Gospel Choir, the same choir that performed with him on “Down to Earth,” provided backing vocals for “I/O” as well. Even though every song from the forthcoming i/o (stop trying to capitalize the i STOP TRYING TO CAPITALIZE THE i) has been paired with a visual so far, this one is practically begging for its own Pixar movie, or even just some animated music video. You can feel every bit of nature creeping through this song, from every creature mentioned in the lyrics to running water and green hills.

was this another gateway to sci-fi for baby Madeline? probably.

If we’re keeping with the Pixar theme, that would be two Pixar movies that he would hypothetically contribute to with a deeply environmentalist message. I’ve never been a die-hard Disney or Pixar fan, but Wall-E is special to me in so many ways—it was one of the first movies that I ever saw in theaters as a kid, and 15 years later (Jesus, I feel old), it reflects on humanity’s disconnect from nature, and the dangers of thinking that we’re the masters of everything that we can grab at. The scene where Wall-E reaches up to touch the stars still fills me with incredible awe. But, as with everything, we didn’t listen, and now we’re in the landscape where a handful of corporations are responsible for polluting a large part of our planet. And that is why we’ve become disconnected: as soon as we forget that we’re as much a part of the Earth as every other plant, animal, and other entity, we think that we can get away with all of this. And that’s what Wall-E tried to tell us in 2008, and it’s what “I/O” is telling us now: “So we think we live apart/because we’ve got two legs, a brain and a heart/we all belong to everything/to the octopus suckers and the buzzard’s wing.” Here and now, I’m glad that at least one other old white guy besides David Attenborough recognizes this. Happy belated Earth Day.

“Step On Me” – The Cardigans

I can’t pull the “I LiKEd tHiS sOnG bEFoRe IT wAS a tIKtOk sONG” card because I technically didn’t know this song in particular, but with David Bowie as my witness, I can swear that I did grow up listening to The Cardigans in the car quite a bit. I’ve had the luck of having very few songs I know become “tiktok songs,” but I’ve found that it’s no use griping over it and insisting that “[you] liked it before it was cool.” People are just going to assume that you got a song from some popular place, and that is the case sometimes, as much of a pretentious hipster I am. I vehemently despise tiktok’s obsession with speeding up every song that gets popular (WHY), but either way, it led me back to The Cardigans and to First Band on the Moon, and I’m happy with that—and happy that everybody else seems to be enjoying it.

(Does anybody know if this song was attached to a certain trend? I know that it’s vaguely trending, but I’m not sure how or why—I’ve just seen it with a few unrelated art videos…)

“Step On Me” is one of many lovely bites of pop on First Band on the Moon, and one of the best—certainly my favorite track on the album. Nina Persson casually just created the national anthem for people-pleasers with this one—a song about dodging your own needs, letting people walk (sorry, step) all over you: “go on and step on me,” even as the object of the song stands on her left foot and breaks it. With a crunching, muted intro that continues to punctuate the end of every chorus, everything about this song is proof that The Cardigans. got the recipe for a good pop song down to a science back in the 90’s—Nina Persson’s deceptively delicate, ringing voice, no shortage of hooks and catchy lyrics, and radio friendliness without over-simplicity. Every time the scratchy, muted intro comes on shuffle, I can’t help but drop everything and turn up the volume. Like I said—The Cardigans had pop music down to a science. No wonder they’re trending again. If you can make a Black Sabbath cover sound dainty (MULTIPLE TIMES), you can pretty much do anything.

“New York City Cops” – The Strokes

Like Jack White, Julian Casablancas is just one of those musicians who I really want to hate, but then I hear songs like this that are just so undeniably catchy that I just can’t hate him all the way. That being said, the thought of him still makes me want to roll my eyes all the way back in my head, mainly because of flashbacks of him taking over Sirius XMU and saying something along the lines of “now, this next song is from a 60’s punk band from Peru…oh, you don’t know them?” I really wish I was kidding.

Even though the beginning feels a little manufactured to me (the staged-feeling quality of Casablancas screaming, then going back on it: “ahahaha………didn’t mean that at all 🫦”…oh, please), the rest of the song is a masterfully tight piece of post-punk (oh, post-punk revival…okay, fine). It’s delightfully uptight—it all feels boxed in a cramped room, but it takes the confines of that room runs with it, never once loses momentum after the first drumbeat. The rough edges of Casablancas’ voice contrast perfectly with each scratchy guitar chord, a constant buffet of sound that never loses its sandpapery texture. I mean that as a compliment—it’s not a grating sandpaper, but more of the hard-edge, punk sandpaper that makes The Strokes sound the way they do. And although this song was subject to some abysmally bad timing in the U.S. (the song was initially removed from the U.S. release because the album was released so close to 9/11—the chorus of “New York City cops/but they ain’t too smart” was, understandably, a massive no-no so close to such a tragedy, even if it was completely unintentional), I’m glad “New York City Cops” ended up seeing the light of day a significant amount of time after the fact.

Since this post consists entirely of songs, consider all of them to be today’s song.

That’s it for this week’s Sunday Songs! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Book Review Tuesday (4/11/23) – Stars & Smoke

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Here’s the thing—I’m not sure if I would read this book if it weren’t for Marie Lu. It’s not the kind of story that I would normally pick up, but if I’ve learned one thing as a longtime fan, it’s that she’s deft at writing for a variety of different genres. After finishing Stars and Smoke, it proved my point—I probably wouldn’t have read it otherwise, but it was still a fun read.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Stars and Smoke (Stars and Smoke, #1) – Marie Lu

Winter Young is on top of the world. The former backup dancer has had a meteoric rise to fame with his solo career, with sold-out tours and chart-topping albums every year. But his talents are wanted elsewhere—as a spy.

For Sydney Cosette, Winter is the key to taking down Eli Morrison, a prominent crime boss. After Morrison’s daughter, Penelope, requests a private concert for her birthday, Sydney and her colleagues recruit him for the Panacea Group, a spy organization willing to do the dirty work that most won’t do. Winter is the perfect opportunity to infiltrate Eli Morrison’s rank—and take him down for good. But sparks are flying between Winter and Sydney—sparks that could compromise the mission itself…

TW/CW: poisoning, murder, loss of loved ones

I’ve been a fan of Marie Lu since middle school, and she’s become an autobuy author for me, no matter the story—in my experience, she’s shown herself to be incredibly versatile when it comes to hopping genres. When I saw the description for this book, I knew one thing: I probably wouldn’t have read this book had her name been on it. It didn’t seem like my type of story. And although that’s still true, Marie Lu gave it her best shot at that magic touch that she applies to every novel she writes.

Lu said that in the acknowledgements that after the pandemic and all of the chaos and awful things that have happened as of late, this book was meant to be a piece of light escapism to distract from it all. Given how dark some of her works have gotten, I really respect creating a book just for that purpose—some days you can’t swallow a whole, literary masterpiece full of emotional turmoil. And as with every other novel she’s written, Lu achieves that goal perfectly. Stars and Smoke is pure fun—it’s the YA version of an action-packed blockbuster, filled with fun and romance. Lu keeps the plot and pace going steadily, and I never found myself getting bored.

However, even though most of the book hinged on the premise of said romance, it barely felt fleshed out. In the last 2-3 years, I’ve seen the “enemies to lovers” trope being slapped on advertisements and blurbs for books as a selling point from its popularity from both fan fiction and BookTok. Listen—I adore the dynamic when it’s done well, but the trope has become such a buzzword that a lot of authors seem to have forgotten what it’s really about. All too often, the stretch between “enemies” and “lovers” is virtually nonexistent, making for a half-baked romance that ends up feeling like it has no chemistry—going to complete disgust to head-over-heels in love in no time at all.

Stars and Smoke, unfortunately, fell into this trap as well, which is frankly surprising, since Marie Lu has done enemies-to-lovers (and romance in general) well before. Winter and Sydney seemed to have hardly any chemistry at all—they seemed to go from “eh, I really don’t want to work with [x]” (and vice versa) to “excuse me while I write a chart-topping love confession for [x]” in a very short span of time. The “enemies” part was very understated too—not that I’m complaining, but if anything, it was more “mild annoyance to sorta lovers, I guess” than anything. Again: enemies to lovers has become a complete buzzword. Trope terms are helpful, but love is often more complicated than that, and the key to getting them right is to recognize the nuance beyond the basic premise of the trope.

All in all, a light, fun novel that lacked in the romance department, but delivered in the pure escapism that it promised. 3.5 stars!

Stars and Smoke is the first in a planned duology, concluding with an as-of-yet unnamed sequel set to be released sometime in 2024. Marie Lu is also the author of the Legend series (Legend, Prodigy, Champion, and Rebel), the Young Elites trilogy (The Young Elites, The Rose Society, and The Midnight Star), the Warcross duology (Warcross and Wildcard), the standalone Kingdom of Back, the Skyhunter duology (Skyhunter and Steelstriker), and many other books for children and young adults.

Today’s song:

criminally short

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Sunday Songs: 4/9/23

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles, and happy Easter for those celebrating! 🐣

I’m still riding the boygenius high, and I will most certainly be riding it for much longer (that is a threat), but I promise I’m listening to a few more songs…maybe…

Enjoy this week’s songs!


“Cool About It” – boygenius

Never in a million years would I have predicted having a song with banjo in it constantly on repeat, but life is full of surprises. All the better if said songs are delivered by the likes of boygenius.

I’ll surely be raving about boygenius’ recently released full-length debut the record for the next month, but this song, after their first four singles, is taking center stage in my head constantly. With a melody inspired by Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” and sparse, gentle instrumentation that lets each member of the supergroup bathe in the spotlight, it’s a quiet, introspective highlight. Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, and Phoebe Bridgers take turns reflecting on the mixed emotions of painful, strained reunions with exes and old friends, hidden lyrics shine through in not-so-hidden lyricism—”I can walk you home and practice method acting/I’ll pretend that being with you doesn’t feel like drowning,” in Bridger’s final words. boygenius have let their joint talents meld together in a handful of different structures, but somehow, this neat, boxed-in sections where one singer takes the lead per verse make for a song that truly feels like all of them. And as gently as bubbling water in a creek, their harmonies rise as one for each chorus—my heart can’t help but leap a little when each of them harmonize to the final line of each verse: “even though we know it isn’t true…”

[fanning face] The power they have, I swear…

“You & I” – Graham Coxon

I’ve been meaning to get more into Graham Coxon’s solo work ever since my 2021 Blur frenzy, and through the nuggets of song titles that I seem to remember completely at random, I’m getting more and more excited about it. The only song of his that I know that isn’t a cover or from the soundtrack of The End of the F***ing World (which I still need to watch…), it’s an unadulterated dose of tight, anxious Britpop straight to the veins; even without Blur and all of the detriments that came with its fame, it’s clear that this is the kind of music that Coxon was meant to play. And he plays it well. Each punchy chord feels laid out on a precise grid, and from what I can gather about him, it seems like something he would do. “You & I” is a distinctly polished song—not in the way that an over-produced, Top 40 hit is, but polished in the way that every edge has been meticulously sanded down to perfection, not a note out of line. These nervous, uptight white guys know their stuff sometimes…

“Everybody Wants To Love You” – Japanese Breakfast

I’ve gotten bits and pieces of Japanese Breakfast over the years—I remember being in the car all the way back in middle school and hearing a piece of NPR about her debut album, Psychopomp, and being interested, but I don’t think I ever got around to listening to it then. With all the buzz around Jubilee and her acclaimed novel Crying in H-Mart, I figured I might get around to giving Michelle Zauner and company a listen. Like “You & I,” I remembered the title of this song at random, and I’m so glad I did!

“Everybody Wants To Love You” feels like the 2010’s, indie rock answer to a poppy love song of the 50’s or the 60’s. Everything about it feels cheery—the bright, practically glittering guitar tones, the sharp pep of Zauner’s voice, and the starry synths that seem to leave sparkling trails over every second of the song. Add a wonderfully catchy guitar riff and package it into the pop-standard 2 and a half minutes, and you’ve got something that feels like it could come out of any era. Well…maybe not any era—some of those lyrics definitely would not have flown in the mainstream before the 60’s, but that’s not the point. It’s just 2 and a half minutes of joy, purely and simply.

“A Quiet Life” – Teho Teardo & Blixa Bargeld

Over break, I went through the first season of Netflix’s Dark with my family, and ever since, I’ve ripped a solid half of the songs from that show and slapped them haphazardly into my music taste. Seems like that’s largely the case for a lot of the commenters on this video too (all of the Dark references have passed the vibe check with absolutely flying colors), and, among other things, Dark reminds me how good it feels to be so invested in every part of a show—not just the story itself, but every little detail that goes into it. Like the music.

I won’t go into how perfectly this song melds with the overall themes and the last episode of season 1 of Dark for fear of spoiling something so wonderfully intricate, but it’s chilling on its own as well. Blixa Bargeld boasts such a rich voice—it reminds me a lot of Jarvis Cocker, with that same rasp at the edges of the resonance you can feel in your chest. Just like Dark’s absolutely disturbing score, Bargeld’s vocals seem to buzz in moments, turning from something human into the hum of putting your ear next to a beehive. There’s a deeply poetic feel to everything in this song’s atmosphere, with the orchestral composition forming in the background and the gloom that seems to settle over every note like fog. It creeps along like frost, painted in the same grays as the album cover. What I’m trying to say here is this: whoever was in charge of the music direction for Dark—I SALUTE YOU. BLESS YOU.

“Demi Moore” – Phoebe Bridgers

Phoebe Bridgers is a distinctly 2020 artist in my musical canon. I first listened to Stranger in the Alps in the early months, before everything went…y’know, and Punisher came out that summer. But unlike Punisher, an album that’s a no-skip for me to this day, some of the songs on Stranger in the Alps didn’t do it for me on the first few listens. It’s understandable—Stranger was her debut, and with Punisher, she had more time to hone her craft and sound. But I’ve recently come back to some of those songs that I didn’t warm up to the first time; some of them still don’t impress me, but “Demi Moore,” along with the harrowing “Killer,” took a while to grow on me.

With a title borne from a misheard lyric (“I don’t wanna be stoned anymore” became “stone Demi Moore,” this song, like many of her others, lingers in the hazy, middle-of-the night lairs of vulnerability. Especially on Stranger, the instrumentals often take a backseat to Bridgers’ singing, letting the emotional side speak for itself amidst quiet synths that flicker like satellites in the night sky. Phoebe Bridgers’ voice floats along like misty fog over a creek, all at once thin and full of emotion.

And again—normally I can’t stand banjos, but these somehow work because of how…quiet they are? Sorry for the banjo slander here, but…I can’t help it, I’m sorry. I was forced to learn in 7th grade for school, but I didn’t enjoy much of it, save for trying to pluck out a rendition of “It’s A Wonderful Life” from memory. I’ll begrudgingly admit that it did help me get a bit of head start on playing guitar, but I still have a vendetta with the instrument. I digress.

Since this post consists entirely of songs, consider all of them to be today’s song.

That’s it for this week’s Sunday Songs! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Sunday Songs: 3/15/23

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you well. 💗

I’m not even touching the fact that we’re somehow already halfway through March, but the passage of time is fine, right? Right? Hopefully the shades of red in this week’s songs are blinding enough to distract you from the fact. Would’ve been a more fitting color scheme for Valentine’s Day, but I’m a non-conformist if nothing else.

Enjoy this week’s songs!


“To Love” – Suki Waterhouse

It’s been a few years since I found out about Suki Waterhouse via Apple Music and “Johanna,” but now, I’ve come to the conclusion that she’s only ever made…one or two different songs. Is she good at it? I’d say so. A good 90% of the time, at least. Strangely, her songs work better solitarily for me; after listening to her debut album I Can’t Let Go in full, I had a decent listening experience, but, again—same song 10 times. It got a little tiring, but I got some nuggets of goodness out of it.

So after I found out that “To Love” had been released, I went in expecting more of the same. Lyrically, it’s still the same song, but it’s gotten me so excited that the instrumentation has started to change! Waterhouse has embraced sweeping maximalism in this song, with starry guitar tones reminiscent of the 70’s, an orchestral hum in the chorus, and no shortage of grandeur as she sings of losing herself in a once-in-a-lifetime love. And with all of her songs, her airy, sparkling voice provides an anchor for the journey that the instrumentation goes on—light on one verse, then diving straight into an ocean of orchestral wonder. It easily separates itself from most of her other catalogue, and although I can easily see her riding the same wave for the rest of her musical career, part of me is still holding onto hope that she’ll embrace this feel.

“Heather” – Sorry

After I heard about Sorry and “Starstruck” from my brother a few weeks back, I went on a brief frenzy and downloaded a handful of songs from their 2020 album 925 and then left it alone. I still need to listen to said album, but when the dust settled, I was left with “Heather” as one of the standouts. In contrast to the wry, post-punk sensibilities of “Starstruck,” “Heather” gently sways, a listless stare out the window as a spring drizzle trails down the glass. Threads of chaotic instrumentation linger in the background, but the song remains a gently rocking hammock, keeping momentum but never snapping loose. Asha Lorenz’s voice comes off continuously tired, slipping at the edges, but it’s the perfect fit for this song, singing of “The only one you’d choose/to spend your rainy days with.” Somehow, this song is able to make the line “we’ll lie like dead birds in the heather” sound bizarrely romantic, just as innocuous as the acoustic guitar strums. Even with Lorenz’s voice croaks in the background of the chorus, there’s still a gentle whimsy to it, an easy head-nodder to stare up at a sunset to.

“Black Math” – The White Stripes

The cycle never ends. I see any interview with Jack White. I want to hate his guts. And then this comes on shuffle, and I really can’t…WHY DO YOU KEEP DOING THIS TO ME? CAN YOU NOT BE SO OBNOXIOUS SO I CAN PROPERLY APPRECIATE HOW FANTASTIC OF A GUITARIST YOU ARE, DUDE? He’s the kind of guy with the misplaced bravado to say that, on the eve of him filming the documentary “It Might Get Loud” alongside The Edge and Jimmy Page, they would probably “get in a fistfight.” Most of the time, that kind of bravado doesn’t have the talent to back it up. I’m not justifying…him™️ at all, but for once, he has the sheer musical talent to back it up. There’s a reason that he was put alongside the likes of The Edge and Page.

Just like the way it unexpectedly appeared on my shuffle not too long ago, “Black Math” immediately kicks in with a sudden and propulsive burst of guitar. White’s fuzzed-out notes, all at once tightly controlled and wild and reckless, never steer off course—every intricate riff tossed in feels intentional, as though they were lined up like chess pieces, stationary but ready to attack at any second. Though the momentum skids into a sludgier, crunchy, slow-tempo area in places, there’s never a sense that either White or White (that’s not confusing at all, and again, Jack White specifically did not have to make it even more so…really, dude, why) have let the reins go free, still holding a tight grip on a timelessly tight song.

“Burgundy” – Warpaint

Black? Burgundy? We’ve got an interesting musical color scheme here…surely I won’t be piling both of these songs on my “songs with color names in the title” playlist that I made because I got bored…nuh uh…

My tendency to give mediocre to bad things “just one more chance” hasn’t led me anywhere 95% of the time. It applies to way too many parts of my life. But sometimes, there’s that 5% off-chance that an artist will prove me wrong, dredging up an occasional offering of brightness, and that’s what I’ve found here. Hopefully, this won’t be the reason that I keep doing it with music, but…

Most of what I know of Warpaint boils down to two songs. I’ve loved their cover of David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes,” which my dad turned me onto shortly after Bowie passed away, and when we still had the radio in my mom’s car, “New Song” was on heavy rotation on the indie station. I tried to listen to their 2014 self-titled album a few years back, and though the details of the music itself are fuzzy, the disappointment I felt was distinct—nothing about it really did anything for me like I thought at least one song would. And yet, when I saw this appear on an Apple Music playlist the other day, I had a morbid curiosity to see if there was anything of worth in this song—lo and behold, there was. Bare and quiet, it ambles along gently, with Stella Mozgawa’s subtly syncopated drums. Emily Kokal seems content to let her vocals fade into the soft, unseen corners of the song’s musical landscape, making for an atmosphere that seems to drift like fog around your hear, constantly evaporating and reforming itself, ever-changing. It may not be enough to give the band as a whole another chance, but “Burgundy” is a song that I’ll surely keep in my back pocket.

“Of Course” – Jane’s Addiction

I suppose we’re ending on a weighty one, aren’t we?

Jane’s Addiction is one of those bands that’s been ever-present in my life, but they only land with me every few songs. It took me a long time for this one to grow on me, as most of their songs do, but upon listening to it again, I was first struck by just how fantastic this violin is—I never knew his name before this song, but can we appreciate Charlie Bisharat for a moment? Against the rolling-wave, cyclical feel of the song (more on that later), his playing is fiercely frenetic, all at once jagged and rich with vibrancy, brighter than the red on the borders of the album cover for Ritual De Lo Habitual. Even when the other instruments take center stage, Bisharat’s playing shines through, translating itself into the lyrics themselves—I love how sharp and stinging the notes become after the line “When I was a boy/My big brother held onto my hand/And he made me slap my own face”? I’m a sucker for instances where the instruments become just as much a part of the lyrics as the lyrics themselves.

Lyrically, on a surface-level listen, it would be easy to take this song cynically—there’s images aplenty of human animals eating and clawing at each other to reach the top, the constant motif of getting slapped in the face. But the slap in the face is key here—all of that dog-eat-dog cynicism is flipped to the chorus of “a sensation not unlike slapping yourself in the face.” All you’re doing with that violently competitive mentality is screwing yourself over. It’s easy to miss, but it’s an important distinction to make—I could go on for ages about how capitalism has infected so many of us, especially in the U.S., with this mentality, but beyond the song, I like to take it as proof that working against each other is what will drive us into the ground. It’s become a little too relevant in the past few years, but even though “Of Course” has a somewhat universal message, it’s one that resonates a lot with these troubled times. Biting at each other’s heels is never getting us anywhere, and it never has. Jane’s Addiction may be generally hit-or-miss for me, but they struck gold when they put this out into the world.

Since this post consists entirely of songs, consider all of them to be today’s song.

That’s it for this week’s Sunday Songs! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Weekly Update: November 14 – 20, 2022

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you well.

It’s getting colder still down here—we had not one, but two big snows this week, which resulted in having no classes the Friday before break! Needless to say, I only left my dorm to get breakfast and lunch that day before I went back home. Hot chocolate season.

Despite the cold, it’s been an exciting week! Namely, I had the incredible honor of meeting Alison Bechdel!! She came to speak to my comics class, and I even had the opportunity to workshop some of my own artwork with her! It was such an unforgettable experience, and one I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. (And I didn’t ugly cry this time!!! Got a little choked up, though. She liked my Frankenstein phone case haha) And speaking of big feels, I’ve been reconnecting with my middle school self now that it’s confirmed that the Search for WondLa TV show is officially coming to Apple TV+ sometime next year. It’s times like this that make me wish I could deliver messages to my past self, just to tell her that her middle school dreams are coming true. This show better be good.

I’ve had more time to read this week, and it’s been a mixed bag, but I definitely found a gem or two amongst them. I stopped by the comics shop on the way home, and between all of those (me & all my silly little X-Men spin-offs) and Scattered Showers, I think I’ll have plenty to read this week.

Other than that, I’ve just been making an excess of hot chocolate (big thank you to my mom for supplying me with all those hot cocoa packets), drawing, learning some more Radiohead on guitar, and finishing the new season of the Great British Bakeoff. (Now I need to start watching the Holiday Bakeoff to fill the void…)


Vicious (Villains, #1) – V.E. Schwab (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic – Alison Bechdel (for school) (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Killing November (Killing November, #1) – Adriana Mather (⭐️⭐️)

The Trouble with White Women: A Counterhistory of Feminism – Kyla Schuller (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

The Depths – Nicole Lesperance (⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)




Scattered Showers – Rainbow Rowell (anthology)

Today’s song:

seeing the smile in a few weeks (!!!!!!) and apparently they’re playing this in the encore??? GOOD STUFF

That’s it for this week in blogging! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Book Review Tuesday (12/8/20)–Blood & Honey (Serpent & Dove, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

After finally getting to Serpent & Dove back in July, I found out that the sequel was slated to come out in September. I put in on hold at the library soon after, and it finally arrived about a week ago. But sadly, although book 1 managed to stay afloat of its messy worldbuilding with a fast-paced plot and lovable characters, Blood & Honey lost momentum–and stretched it out over 500 pages. Disappointing, but still entertaining.

WARNING: This review will likely contain spoilers for book 1, Serpent & Dove.

For my review of book 1, click here!

Enjoy this week’s review! Blood & Honey (Serpent & Dove) (9780062878052): Mahurin,  Shelby: Books

Blood & Honey (Serpent & Dove, #2)–Shelby Mahurin

After a near-fatal encounter with Lou’s mother and the Dames Blanches, she, Reid, and the rest of their band of misfits are on the run. Under the radar and stranded in the woods, they know that making the wrong move could result in death, or discovery by Morgane, Lou’s sadistic mother. But their paths are forced to separate, and they find themselves going on strange journeys. And as both roads begin to lead to certain doom, they must find each other before time runs out.

black and white coraline gif | Coraline cat, Coraline aesthetic, Coraline  jones

Judging from most of the reviews, Blood & Honey has become very divisive–the reviews are either gushing or utterly disappointed. Sadly, I’m leaning more towards the latter camp, even though this one wasn’t as anticipated of a read for me as it was for a bunch of readers I know. A bit of a letdown for me, but it was still entertaining nonetheless.

From what I’ve heard, Serpent & Dove was originally slated to be a duology, but got turned into a trilogy at the last minute. And it shows–Blood & Honey fell into the unfortunate trap of becoming the disappointing middle book. One of the things that I loved most about book 1 was the plot; it constantly kept me guessing, and I loved going along for the ride with Lou, Reid, and the rest of the gang. But in book 2, the plot felt tragically weak. We’re led up to an anticlimactic event with a series of loosely tied subplots that didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose save for a bit of tension in having the characters separated. And Blood & Honey is a pretty thick book–the hardcover edition that I read was a whopping 528 pages, and a good 80-90% of it felt like filler. I hate to say it, but it almost felt like a chore to read.

Another aspect that shone for me in book 1 was the characters. Luckily, Mahurin stayed true to them for the most part in Blood & Honey. I loved being back with Lou, Reid, Coco, Ansel and the rest of the gang again, and there’s certainly an interesting direction being taken with Lou. There’s…a hint of a corruption arc going on with her? Maybe that was just me? Either way, I liked the almost “descent into madness” plot Mahurin was alluding to with her. (Also, THE WHITE HAIR!) Lou and Reid’s romance was also a joy to see blossom, as always. But some of the characters from book 1–namely Beau and Madame Labelle–didn’t serve much of a purpose. They didn’t have much of a role, and I remembered next to nothing about them from the previous book. The side characters were similarly forgettable, and I didn’t see much point in them aside from fleshing out parts of the world. However, I will say that I LOVED the twist with Claud–but no spoilers, of course. I’m not that heartless. 😉

Even though the worldbuilding is still kind of a mess, I like all of the new aspects that were added to it in Blood & Honey. I mean…blood witches? Werewolves? The possibility of MERMAIDS? OTHER SIMILARLY SPOOKY WOODLAND CREATURES? Oh, and I loved all of the little ghost creatures that tagged along with the gang. (I forget the technical term they had for them.) Absalon has my heart.

Animated gif about gif in Oh my Goth! by 𝕷𝖎𝖘 𝕮𝖑𝖎𝖔𝖉𝖍𝖓𝖆

And even though Blood & Honey was certainly a letdown, I think I’ll stick around to see what happens to the gang next. Even though that ending was awful. Nope.

All in all, a sequel that failed to live up to its predecessor, but still provided for some fantasy fun. 3 stars.

That Could Have Gone Better GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Blood & Honey is the second book in Mahurin’s Serpent & Dove trilogy, preceded by Serpent & Dove (book 1) and soon to be followed by Gods & Monsters (2021).

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Weekly Update: July 13-19, 2020

Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you and your loved ones well.

You know what one of the strangest feelings (for me) is? Sometimes, I’ll watch a certain movie so many times that I’ll only be able to see a certain actor as the role in said movie, and then I’ll see them in something else, and it’s either impossible to make the connection or it just weirds you out for a bit. Sorry, that was kind of long winded and weirdly-worded, but I’m not sure how to put it into words. But anyway, I watched Alien (1979) on Friday night, and let me tell you, seeing John Hurt after having only seen him in the Hellboy movies (when he was far older than he was in Alien) was weirdly bizarre. I’d just permanently imagined him as Professor Bruttenholm, so…

Also, the John Hurt Professor Bruttenholm will always be the superior Professor. The reboot was way too out of character.

[ahem] Now, back to our scheduled program…

Overall, I’ve had quite a nice week. I’ve gotten a lot of reading done after said library haul, and though there were a few disappointments, I enjoyed everything that I read. Camp NaNoWriMo has been going smoothly as well; I surpassed my goal of 5,000 words for my short story, and updated it to 7,500 so I could get to the end of July. It’s one of those instances where I wish I could just give my past self a little reassurance–the first few days, I panicked a bit that my short story was too short for the word count limit. And now, here we are…

Everything Is Okay GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Other than that, I’ve made lots of progress with my puzzle, watched Alien, listened to a bit too much Josh Cohen, and started watching Cursed. I enjoyed the book, and I’m about three episodes into the show. The trailer looked like it could go either way, and so far, I’d say it’s pretty good. Once I finish it, I’ll try and put together a review. We’ll see.


The Iron Flower (The Black Witch Chronicles, #2)–Laurie Forest (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25) The Iron Flower (The Black Witch Chronicles Book 2 ...

Surviving the City (Surviving the City, #1)–Tasha Spillett and Natasha Donovan (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Surviving the City (Surviving the City (1)) (Volume 1 ... -

All the Wandering Light (Even the Darkest Stars, #2)–Heather Fawcett (⭐️⭐️⭐️.5) All the Wandering Light (Even the Darkest Stars Book 2 ...

When We Were Magic–Sarah Gailey (⭐️⭐️⭐️) When We Were Magic (9781534432871): Gailey, Sarah: Books




The Burning Page (The Invisible Library, #3)–Genevieve Cogman The Burning Page (The Invisible Library Novel Book 3 ...

Serpent and Dove–Shelby Mahurin Serpent & Dove eBook: Mahurin, Shelby: Kindle Store

FORESHADOW: Stories to Celebrate the Magic of Reading and Writing YA (anthology)–Emily X.R. Pan et. al. (eARC)

Foreshadow: Stories to Celebrate the Magic of Reading and Writing ...

Dustborn–Erin Bowman (eARC)

Dustborn by Erin Bowman

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week in blogging! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” (A Brief Announcement)

This is going to be a super quick post, but I just wanted to briefly celebrate something.

Yours truly–The Bookish Mutant–now has 100 followers!

Image result for celebrating gif"

Though I’m not going to do anything fancy here to celebrate, I do want to thank all of you. For sticking around, for liking, sharing, and supporting my posts, and bonding over a shared love of books, among other things. Lots of love to you all 💗💗💗

For consistency’s sake, here’s today’s song:

I recently downloaded Henry Jackman’s score to X-Men: First Class. So far, it’s not my favorite score of all time, but it’s certainly genius in its own way. Even just the addition of an electric guitar and bass to an ordinary orchestra made all the difference. Mutant and proud. ❌


Again, thank you all for supporting me/this blog through it all! Have a great rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

thank you for reading.jpg

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Uncategorized

Book Review Tuesday (5/15/18)-Defy the Stars

Hey everyone, and welcome to this week’s Book Review Tuesday!

Before I begin, I apologize for posting nothing but BRTs for weeks. I’ve got some fan arts that I’ll probably post this weekend. I also saw Avengers: Infinity War over the weekend, and honestly? I have no tears left to cry. I thought of reviewing it, but I probably wouldn’t get through it without spoiling, like, everything. I know how horrible it feels to have things like that spoiled for me, so I’ll save you the pain. All I’ll say is that I emerged from the theater sobbing.

Now, for the weather.

I’m surprised that I didn’t post a review of this book earlier. I got it at the library a few months ago, and I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOVED IT. And the sequel (Defy the Worlds) is just as good, if not better, and I’ll probably review it some time after this. Enjoy your review!


Defy the Stars

Since the human race has colonized other planets, tensions have been growing higher and higher. Years ago, Earth would have been the home planet of Noemi Vidal. But now, she is a soldier fighting against Earth, for the planet Genesis. When a mission goes terribly wrong, Noemi becomes trapped on an abandoned enemy ship, the Daedalus. There, she discovers Abel, the most advanced mech ever created, who has been on this ship alone for over thirty years. Despite their previous allegiances, Noemi and Abel know that in order to save their homes, they must join forces. As they venture through the known universe, they discover things that make them question what they previously believed, and uncover secrets that could be fatal in the wrong hands…



I’m naturally a sucker for fast-paced, sci-fi adventures in space, but this exceeded all expectations. Not only was the world building and plot spectacular, but I LOOOVED the characters. Abel, especially. In this series so far, he’s probably the closest thing I have to a fictional crush. Not quite hot or anything, but he’s just kind of overall lovable, and every scene with him is heartwarming.

Also, I won’t spoil who, but there’s a character that reminds me of Professor Bruttenholm from Hellboy. Just sayin’.


Well, I hope you enjoyed my review, and have a great rest of your day!