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Women in Music: Musgraves, Mitski, and Marina

27 Mar

I have been a music enthusiast for a long time, so I must confess that I have been tracking all the songs I have listened to since 2005(!). The great thing about that is that I can follow changes in my listening habits and taste through time. One interesting pattern I’ve noticed is that I have shifted from listening to bands mostly fronted by men to a diverse range of female artists. In fact, my top 10 last year was almost exclusively female!

And so with that, I’d like to celebrate Women’s History Month by sharing with you a few albums by women that I really love.

Kacey Musgraves – “Golden Hour”
Golden Hour
You may have heard of this album if you pay any attention to the Grammys. I usually don’t, but I was very pleased to hear it had won Album of the Year, which it absolutely deserved. It was definitely my top album of 2018! I don’t usually listen to country music, but I had heard praise from other artists about it, so I decided to check it out. I am so glad I did. “Golden Hour” is a beautiful album, with soundscapes that remind me of spring, of looking up at cherry blossoms against a blue sky. It’s an album about appreciating love and the beauty of the world, as well as a reminder that our time on this earth is fleeting. Just like cherry blossoms! If you’re not a fan of country, fear not. “Golden Hour” veers slightly toward a pop sound, without sounding forced or cheesy.

Standout tracks: “High Horse”, “Oh What a World”, “Butterflies”  Hoboken Card Holders stream them now on Hoopla.

Mitski – “Puberty 2”
Let’s move on to rock. Last year, Mitski made a buzz with her new album “Be the Cowboy”. I instantly became addicted to it, with its short, insanely catchy tunes. I had heard of Mitski before, but I had not been able to really get into her music. After “Be the Cowboy”, I decided to go through her back catalog and give her old stuff another chance. A great decision!

Puberty 2” was released in 2016 and has a much more raw rock sound. What I love the most about Mitski is her incredible songwriting. In the opening track, “Happy” she personifies the feeling of happiness, who comes to visit her and “brought cookies along the way”. After the first chorus, Mitski sings:

I was in the bathroom / I didn’t hear him leave / I locked the door behind him and I turned around to see / All the cookie wrappers and the empty cups of tea / Well I sighed and mumbled to myself / Again I have to clean

I found the imagery delightful. You can find lyrics like these all throughout the album. Here’s another example from the final track “A Burning Hill”

I am a forest fire / And I am the fire and I am the forest / And I am a witness watching it

Add to that loud guitars and haunting melodies, and you have yourself an album worthy of the repeat button. Don’t be like me. Give it the good listen it deserves the first time around!

Standout tracks: “Your Best American Girl”, “I Bet on Losing Dogs”, “Happy”

Marina and the Diamonds – “Froot”
Coincidentally, this album also opens with a track titled “Happy”. Whereas Mitski lamented the fact that Happy had left her, Marina welcomes its arrival at last. Marina (who has dropped “and the Diamonds” from her name this year) is a talented pop artist, with a heavenly voice and astute songwriting. While awaiting her new release later this year, I have been revisiting “Froot”, her album from 2015. Compared to her previous work, it’s a bit more reflective, so if you’re looking for a dose of catchy pop, without it being too saccharine or mainstream, this is the album for you. Her ballads are gorgeous and her upbeat tracks will have you singing along in the shower. Seriously, try not to sing along to “Froot”, with its groovy beats and clever wordplay, I dare you!

Standout tracks: “Froot”, “Blue”, “Savages”  Check out the digital album from Hoopla.

You can also check out more music by powerful women recommended by our fellow BCCLS librarian on the BCCLS Read, Watch, Listen blog.

What are your favorite albums by women?  Let us know in the comments!

Written by:
Samantha Evaristo
Library Outreach Assistant

A Book So Good it Defies Description: They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib

27 Feb

They Can't Kill Us
Have you ever really loved a book, but had a hard time describing it to everyone? They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us is one of those books for me. I loved it so much and told everyone I could about it, but every time they’d ask me, “Oh, so what’s it about?” I would pause and then manage to stutter something along the lines of “Uhh, it’s about music, but not just music, it’s like…uhhh”

OKAY, take a seat. I’m about to settle this once and for all. They Can’t Kill Us is a collection of essays by Hanif Abdurraqib. In these essays, Abdurraqib essentially describes the world in which he lives through the lens of what’s dearest to him: pop culture. When you start reading, you can immediately tell what moves Abdurraqib the most: music. From Fall Out Boy to Whitney Houston, Chance the Rapper to Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac to Carly Rae Jepsen, there’s something for everyone. Have you ever wondered about the connection between Johnny Cash and Migos? Rejoice! You’ve found your match!

But these aren’t simply essays about music and sports and what have you. Abdurraqib covers the loss of loved ones, what it’s like to be black in a mostly white punk scene, what it’s like to navigate today’s America with an Arabic name, and so much more.

There are two things that are evident to me when reading Abdurraqib’s work. The first is his background in poetry. Even though this is a book of prose, the way he works language is poetic and an absolute joy to read. At the end of each essay, I’d find myself exhaling sharply – something I usually do after reading a particularly poignant poem. The second thing that is clear is that these are the words of a man who writes with passion. For me as a reader, there is nothing more delightful.

I haven’t (nor will I ever be able to) read all the books in the universe, but I am fairly confident that in the future, people will say that Hanif Abdurraqib was one of the greatest writers of our time. A lofty thing to say, I know! So check it out for yourself and let me know if you think I’m right or wrong.  Let us know in our comment sections who you think are some of the greatest writers.

Hoboken resident library card holders can head over to Hoopla and Freegal to stream some of the music Abdurraqib mentions in his book and more great tunes that will inspire you!

Written By:
Samantha Evaristo
Library Outreach Assistant

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