Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you well.
The temperatures are dropping big time on campus, and I’ve been making plenty of hot chocolate and tea for the occasion. Luckily, I haven’t had an awful lot to do this week, save for a project for comics class. (We also talked about Ms. Marvel this week in that class, which was SO FUN) It’s so strange to think that there’s only about a month left in the semester—I feel like there should still be several months left, with the way that it’s flown by. Jeez.
I’ve had a little more time to read. I snagged a few books from various sections of the library last week, and I went through them, along with a few re-reads for comics class. I went home for the weekend and I was able to reunite with my beloved Kindle, so now I have that to get me through next week.
Other than that, I’ve just been catching up on The Great British Bakeoff (FINALS NEXT WEEK AAAAAAAA), drawing, playing guitar when I can, listening to Lush and Suede, and seeing Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (pretty solid!). VERY glad that Thanksgiving Break starts next week…
I’m having a nice, relaxing weekend at home (seeing the new Black Panther tonight too!!), so I figured I’d do another tag! I found this one over at Becky @ Becky’s Book Blog, and I haven’t been able to find the original creator, so if you know who it is, please let me know so I can credit them.
At this point, all of these authors—Amie Kaufman, Becky Chambers, Maggie Tokuda-Hall, and Rainbow Rowell—are ones that I immediately preorder from (or at least put on hold at the library) if they’re coming out with anything new. (anybody else excited for Isles of the Gods???)
3 FAVORITE GENRES
Anyone who’s followed this blog for a while knows that I’m a complete sci-fi fan to the bone. Absolute favorite genre!! After that, I’d say fantasy and magical realism; fantasy was my favorite genre before I got really into sci-fi, but I still love it. I’ve gotten into magical realism more recently, but I’ve read some incredibly memorable books in the genre.
2 PLACES YOU READ
During the day, I tend to read on the couch, and at night, I love to read while cozy in bed.
1 BOOK YOU PROMISE TO READ SOON
I’ve been meaning to read Viciousfor a while after loving the Shades of Magic trilogy, and I just downloaded it on my Kindle, so I’ll be reading this as soon as I can!
Even though this blog is primarily about books, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that music has had an equally profound effect on my life. Raised by two music nerds, I grew up listening to tons of Beatles and Bowie, and as I grew older, I began to mark periods of my life by the music I listened to. But there are always certain albums that leave an unmistakable mark on our lives. Some of mine have been steadfast favorites, and others I’ve only discovered in the past few months. All of them, however, have had a profound effect on me, whether it’s just been the experiencing something that’s just so, so good or marking a specific period in my life. So here are, right now, my 10 favorite albums.
Let’s begin, shall we?
🎵THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S TOP 10 FAVORITE ALBUMS🎵
10. Snail Mail – Lush (2018)
The summer of 2018 was a strange one for me—the summer before high school, and the summer I started seriously questioning my sexuality. I have Lush to thank for getting me through a lot of it, with Lindsey Jordan’s soaring guitar riffs and searingly vulnerable lyrics shining through in a debut like no other. Snail Mail is partially what inspired me to pick up the guitar—and I definitely think meeting her at a show that summer when I was a wee bisexual did something to my pubescent brain that I wouldn’t recover from…💀
9. Super Furry Animals – Rings Around the World (2001)
I remember hearing tracks like “Sidewalk Serfer Girl” and “(Drawing) Rings Around the World” from when I was about 5, but it wasn’t until this March that I appreciated this masterpiece of an album in its entirety. Something that makes me love a piece of media—be it a book, a movie, an album, or anything else—that much more is that if there’s clear evidence of how much love and care was put into it. And it’s blatantly evident here—Rings Around the World is brimming with creativity, and through all of the genres of music they explore, there isn’t a single miss. There’s something so fully-formed about it, like it just came into the world like Athena bursting forth from the skull of Zeus.
This album’s one that’s been a constant in my life; Wilco is one of my dad’s favorite bands, and I’ve been hearing them for so long that they’ve become inextricably linked to my personal history. (Wilco was my first concert, at the age of 8!) But this album in particular is the most special of theirs to me; like Rings Around the World, I’ve been listening to isolated songs from it for years, but the whole album is a true work of art, sonically and lyrically immersive and always emotionally moving and potent.
Another gem from the summer of 2018, this one always brings to mind dozens of fond memories—seeing Car Seat Headrest live (and subsequently tainting all of my concert videos from my off-key scream-singing), repainting my room, going on vacation in Chicago. Car Seat Headrest have been a favorite of mine since around 8th grade, but the more I think about it, the more Teens of Denial in particular stands out as my favorite album—clever, vulnerable, raw, and perfect for 14-year-old me to scream along to.
As I said earlier, I was undoubtably raised on the Beatles; some of my earliest memories are of hearing songs like “Good Day Sunshine” and “Yellow Submarine” in the car, and I’ve adored them ever since. I’ve flip-flopped between albums for a favorite Beatles album for years, and it feels like it changes with my mood; some days, it was Revolver, other times it was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. But between having some of my favorite Beatles songs of all time and the solace it gave me in the early days of quarantine, The White Album takes the top spot for me—I think “I’m So Tired” is my most played song on my whole iTunes library. (somehow I’ve played it over 2,500 times?? didn’t even know I was capable of such a thing 💀)
5. Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space (1997)
I fell in love with Spiritualized, as a lot of people seemed to do, after hearing the title track, “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space.” Ever since then, they’ve held a truly special place in my heart; I rediscovered them in quarantine, and this album in particular has held a top spot for me ever since. Despite all the abject heartbreak, addiction, and general melancholy present through this album (and all of J. Spaceman’s music), there’s a cosmic, immersive quality to his music that swallows me like a wave with every song. Listening to Spiritualized is more than just music—it’s an experience in and of itself.
Like Super Furry Animals, I’ve been hearing scattered Blur songs throughout my childhood, “Song 2,” “Coffee & TV,” and “Charmless Man” being standouts. But it wasn’t until last summer that I got back into Blur—really into Blur. (You all witnessed the Blurification of this blog last year…) There’s something instantly hooking about their songs—the clever lyrics, the punchy guitars that seem to burst out of your headphones. But 13 is uniquely special to me; it was my musical companion in a strange, transitionary period of my life (the beginning of senior year and being a legal adult…somehow?). Beyond that, it’s so clear that so much time and love went into this record—through every high and low, there’s a consistent resonance that you can feel in your chest. It’s a masterpiece. It’s an album that I’ve come back to ever since when I’ve felt low—there’s a healing quality to it.
Favorite track: “Tender”—also my favorite song of all time, at the moment
3. St. Vincent – St. Vincent (2014)
St. Vincent, without a doubt, is responsible for shaping some of my most formative years. Middle school was a weird time for me—I was struggling with friendships, forming my identity, and getting teased for the things I loved so passionately. And here was St. Vincent, this confident, ridiculously talented musician who wielded her guitar like a sword into battle. So you can imagine how I got attached to her. Even if MASSEDUCTION made me lose a little faith in her for a few years, she’ll always remain as a hero of mine, and St. Vincent in particular will always be a daring, fierce masterpiece that sweeps me off my feet every time—and the album that got me through 6th grade.
Yeah, okay. I fully admit that my toxic trait is genuinely enjoying certain kinds of male manipulator music. But Radiohead will always be an immensely special band to me. “The Daily Mail” was my first exposure to them (thanks, Legion!), but OK Computer opened my eyes to something I’d never experienced before—or, something that I’d overlooked before, but now fully appreciate. Like Spiritualized, every Radiohead song is a fleshed-out landscape, an experience that lifts you off your feet, even when the lyrics are unbearably heartbreaking. OK Computer is an album that I wish I could listen to for the first time again—it’s an unforgettable, dystopian masterpiece, and it’s proved itself to stand the test of time.
David Bowie has been a constant companion in my life; one of my earliest memories that I can think of is hearing “Kooks” in the car. He’s been another hero of mine for years—again, he came to me in middle school, at a time when I was an outsider and unsure of myself, and stood as a glaring reminder to be myself—no matter what. This album in particular is, in my opinion, a perfect album; there isn’t a single bad song, and each one is a world of its own, spinning lyrical tales that span from the cosmic to the tender and everything in between. It’s an album I always come back to, and one that I’ll always hold close. Some of the other albums lower on the list may change or switch orders over the course of my life, but I doubt I’ll ever come across something quite as stellar as this.
Happy Thursday, bibliophiles! Probably just gonna dispose of the “this isn’t a bookish post, but screw it, I’m still gonna use the bibliophile greeting” joke at this point. It won’t be missed.
Those of you who’ve followed this blog for a while know how much Snail Mail means to me. Her music soundtracked the strange transition from middle to high school, filled with raw, genuine emotion and unforgettable guitar riffs. Especially during the summer of 2018, her music meant so much to me. I even got to meet Lindsey Jordan at a show that year; she was such a sweet human being, and she even gave me her guitar pick at the end of the show! She’s one of the reasons why I play electric guitar now.
Fast forward to the past few years. We hadn’t gotten anything besides a cover single since 2019, and from the jokes she made at the last show about her manager overbooking her on the last tour, I started to get worried. I distinctly remember several conversations with my mom that ended with “well, hopefully she’ll feel better soon, and then she’ll make an album about it.”
And, surprise, surprise, an album she made! Valentine made me remember all over again how much I love Snail Mail while marking a natural evolution into a newer sound.
So let’s begin this review, shall we?
VALENTINE – SNAIL MAIL (album review)
TRACK 1: “Valentine” – 9/10
Getting this unexpected news on a cold September morning instantly brightened my day. It was what made me remember how much I loved Snail Mail. Even though Jordan’s voice has shifted to a deeper, raspier tone, this could have easily come off of Lush, with its soaring guitars and angsty declarations. And yet, it provides the perfect, most natural bridge from Lush to Valentine. It was the perfect first single, and it’s the perfect album opener.
TRACK 2: “Ben Franklin” – 8.5/10
Knowing that “Ben Franklin” got its name from the “presidential-type beat” memes adds a whole new layer to the song. It’s a good layer, for sure. Brings back memories of the night before taking my APUSH exam.
After the wondrous familiarity and “Snail Mail’s back!”ness of “Valentine,” “Ben Franklin” provided an organic segue into a newer, synth-dominated sound. Sultry and smooth, it’s the perfect blend of guitar, piano, and synth, all set to an instantly catchy beat. It’s a new direction for a musician who normally dominates her sound with guitars, but it feels just as genuine as anything from Lush or Habit.
TRACK 3: “Headlock” – 7.5/10
Though “Headlock” doesn’t wow me as much as some of the other tracks on this album, it’s solid proof that after all this time, Lindsey Jordan is just as much herself as she was in 2018. The evolution of Jordan’s voice shines in this song; her voice is just as raw and beautiful, but now it’s deeper, fuller. Combined with catchy guitars and pianos, this makes for a solid Snail Mail song.
TRACK 4: “Light Blue” – 9/10
Wanna wake up early every day
Just to be awake in the same world as you…
Snail Mail, “Light Blue”
In an album consisting almost entirely of songs about the ugly side of romance and breaking up, “Light Blue” provides a single spark of hope and pure love. Acoustic guitars and soft strings make for a heartwarming declaration of love, enough to make even the coldest heart melt. Leave it to Snail Mail to deliver genuine emotion in all its forms.
TRACK 5: “Forever (Sailing)” – 8.5/10
Whatever you decide,
I’ll chase you from the city to the sky,
And lose myself for you a thousand times…
Snail Mail, “Forever (Sailing)”
Like “Ben Franklin,” “Forever (Sailing)” contains so few of the guitars that became a hallmark of Snail Mail’s music. But even without them, it provides a glimpse into the evolution of her sound, making a steady, catchy beat out of a story of a relationship doomed to fall apart.
TRACK 6: “Madonna” – 9.5/10
Without question, my favorite of the three pre-released singles, and one of my favorite tracks of the album! The thrumming bass-line introduces a one-of-a-kind song, cleverly telling a story while seamlessly transitioning between heavy guitars and smoother, synth-driven slow points. I truly adore this song, everything about it just makes me so happy that Lindsey Jordan is back to making music?
(Also, the bass-line immediately made me think of this song…if I knew how, I’d try and make a mashup…)
TRACK 7: “c. et. al.” – 9.5/10
I went into this album hoping that I’d find the song that Snail Mail played live at the show I went to in 2019, one that she said “wouldn’t be out for a while.” After a few listens (the key change threw me off the trail), I found the famed “Baby Blue” song!
And it’s just as beautiful and raw as it was when I saw it love. Like with Lush, it segways into the sadder, more hopeless side of Snail Mail’s discography, providing a worthy companion to songs like “Deep Sea” and “Anytime.” The acoustic guitar accents Jordan’s voice perfectly, making for the perfect recipe for tugging at my heartstrings.
TRACK 8: “Glory” – 10/10
You owe me,
You own me,
Couldn’t even look at you straight on,
Shining in your glory…”
Snail Mail, “Glory”
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! Without a doubt, my FAVORITE song on the whole album. Everything about this song makes me so giddy, and it’s so wonderfully Snail Mail…GAH. The driving beat that ticks along in the chorus, Jordan’s soaring voice and clever lyrics, and the strong guitar throughout. Everything, down to the way that Jordan’s voice rings out on the final “glory,” makes for a perfect song. And can we appreciate the subtle “you owe me/you own me” turn of phrase? Golden.
TRACK 9: “Automate” – 8/10
I wouldn’t say this one quite matches how good the rest of the album is, but that in no way means it’s a bad song. At this point, the concept of a bad Snail Mail song is about as likely as the sun not rising tomorrow.
Oddly, my first thought upon hearing the intro was “SPOON.” It particularly reminded me of something like “The Beast and Dragon, Adored” or “The Way We Get By.” I don’t even know if Spoon is an influence of hers, but that’s what immediately came to mind. Either way, “Automate” is a song where you can almost see the beat pushing forward in front of your eyes. Compared to the rest of the album, there’s something that’s missing from it that I can’t place, but it still holds up in the grand scheme of it. Plus, guitars.
TRACK 10: “Mia” – 9/10
Mia, don’t cry,
I love you forever,
But I’ve gotta grow up now
No, I can’t keep holding on to you anymore,
Mia, I’m still yours…
Snail Mail, “Mia”
“Mia, don’t cry…” no, I’m crying. And there’s nothing you can do to stop me.
Like “Anytime,” “Mia” serves as the perfect melancholy closer for a near-perfect album. The solitude of Jordan’s voice, an acoustic guitar, and a string section brings out the somber tone of the song, making the lost love within it all the more heartbreaking. It’s hard to surpass “Anytime,” but I believe that “Mia” barely does just that.
Shoot, now I’m getting all sad…lemme just go back to “Glory” for a minute…
I averaged out all my ratings for each track, and it came out to an 8.9, which I’ll round up to a 9. Valentine, though rife with stories of love gone wrong, lifted my spirits and restored my hope in Snail Mail. There’s nothing that Lindsey Jordan can’t do, both as a songwriter and a musician, and this album is a beautiful, emotional testament to the fact. I’m so excited to see her live again in April!
Since this is an album review, consider this whole album today’s song.
That’s it for this album review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
The past 2 or so years have both been dumpster fires, and that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Mostly 2016, but you know what I mean.
And this year?
Weeeell…I wouldn’t quite go so far to say that it was good, but it was less of a dumpster fire. You get my drift?
I’d be lying if I said that 2018 was easy. I had to face many daunting obstacles, make some difficult transitions, and come to terms with some truths about myself. But you know what? I managed to overcome those challenges, and I bet that you were able to do the same with yours. But if we look past all that we’d like to forget about this year, parts have been pretty awesome. I got to have so many new and wonderful experiences (Chicago, Sequoia National Park), discovered LOADS of new and spectacular books (some notable 2018 releases included Heart of Iron, Thunderhead, Honor Among Thieves, A Conspiracy of Stars, The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik, and a few others), some amazing films (Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, The Crimes of Grindelwald, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Antman and the Wasp, and I haven’t seen Aquaman but I’ve heard that it’s great), incredible music (Lush, Twin Fantasy, etc.) and much more. Of course, we’ve had some not-so-great moments in those respects (The Light Between Worlds, Venom, etc.), but overall, it’s been alright. And regardless of what kind of year we had in 2018, we’ve got a lot to look forward to in 2019.
I saw a meme the other day that was kind of hopeful, however silly it was.
And I’m really hoping that this will be the way things are. If it gets too bad, I’ll just remember that Dark Phoenix, Avengers: Endgame, Soul of Stars, Honor Bound, King of Scars, and An Anatomy of Beasts are in our futures. So let’s try to make 2019 the inverse of 2016, everyone. Make it good. 🙂