Tag Archives: pop culture

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

How to Stream Rolling Stone’s 20 Rock Albums Turning 20 in 2016 with Your Hoboken Public Library Card

27 Jul

Rolling Stone recently published an article about rock albums that are turning 20 this year. After reading it, I remembered owning and loving several of those albums back in 1996. Reading the article made me feel old, a feeling I’ve been struggling with as my eldest niece prepares for her bat mitzvah later this summer. 😦

I decided to write about some albums from the list that are memorable to me. Many of these albums (there are some exceptions) can be streamed via Hoopla Digital or Freegal, which you can access with your Hoboken Resident library card. Did you imagine, back in 1996, that streaming music online would be possible in the future? For those that prefer CDs, those are available as well.


Metallica / Load

When Napster reigned, circa 2000, Metallica was their biggest foe. Napster was popular when I was in college as my dorm’s Ethernet offered my first, life-changing taste of high-speed internet. I mention Metallica first here because their strong stance against illegal music downloading is now part of their legacy.

Metallica isn’t available on either Hoopla or Freegal, but the CD can be borrowed. Hoopla has Metallica-inspired albums for lullabies and yoga, and Freegal has this album featuring covers of Metallica songs.


Fiona Apple / Tidal

What I remember most about this album (available on Freegal and on CD) was how in-your-face it was and how I hadn’t experienced music like that before. Apple’s defiant tone in the opening track “Sleep to Dream” is like a punch in the face. This album still sounds good after 20 years, and “Criminal” is still my favorite track.


Wallflowers / Bringing Down the Horse

Time to be honest: I strongly dislike this album (available on Hoopla and CD). My brother listened to it NONSTOP in 1996 and I hated hearing it through the wall between our bedrooms. In hindsight, my brother probably hated hearing me play the Les Miserables soundtrack (I’ve written here, here, and here about being a musical theater geek) on repeat while I sang along, poorly. So I guess it’s all relative.


Rage Against the Machine / Evil Empire

Who here tried to play “Bulls on Parade” in Guitar Hero 3 and realized that you will never do it quite as well as Tom Morello? I certainly did. You can revisit this album on Freegal and on CD.


Sublime / Sublime

What’s bittersweet about this particular album turning 20 is that it also marks 20 years since lead singer Bradley Nowell passed away. Nowell died two months before the self-titled record (on Hoopla and on CD) was released, which became a breakthrough hit. Sublime broke up after this record, but “Santeria” and “What I Got” remain on rock radio playlists today.


Weezer / Pinkerton

I didn’t appreciate this album (on Hoopla and on CD) until college. Weezer had a huge hit with the Blue Album (on Hoopla and on CD) in 1994. Pinkerton, their sophomore record, had a darker, at times creepy (see: “Across the Sea”), more autobiographical tone that was so different than the Blue Album and wasn’t well received. Time has been kinder to Pinkerton. “El Scorcho” is my favorite track.

Here is a list of the rest of the rock albums turning 20, with links to either Freegal or Hoopla or the BCCLS catalog (where applicable):

Beck / OdelayHoopla, CD

Sheryl Crow / Sheryl Crow: Hoopla, CD

Failure / Fantastic PlanetHoopla

Fountains of Wayne / Fountains of WayneHoopla, CD

Korn / Life Is PeachyFreegal

Dave Matthews Band / CrashFreegal, CD

Pearl Jam / No CodeFreegal, CD

R.E.M. / New Adventures in Hi-FiHoopla, CD

Sleater-Kinney / Call the DoctorHoopla, CD

Soundgarden / Down on the Upside: Hoopla, CD

Swans / Soundtracks for the Blind: n/a

Tortoise / Millions Now Living Will Never Die: n/a

Tool / Aenima: CD

Wilco / Being ThereHoopla

Were any of these albums your favorites back in 1996? Do you now feel old after learning that these records are now 20 years old? Do you know any other albums turning 20 this year?

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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