SADs Songs, Vol. 5

Change is gonna come.

Change is hard.

It’s scary. It’s one of those things you can’t plan or account for many times. You can’t see into the future, ask a question of a Magic 8 ball and predict what’s coming. Did anyone think that this pandemic was going to last into 2021, this time last year? It was supposed to be gone by April, those 15 people who had died in March 2020 were to be the last.

And yet.

It’s a weird time. It’s the changing of the season. I always feel restless, as the world turns. I’m always ready to go, but I don’t know where to go. And furthermore, there is nowhere to go. We made it past the stretch of sunsets that happen before 5pm. But is anything actually different? We’re still isolating. Still isolated. Still locked down. Shut down. Just…down. Most human interaction I have is on the phone or on a Zoom screen, even still. It’s wearing a little thin. Some people I haven’t seen since 2019. Some I’ve never even met in person.

I haven’t posted a new playlist in a while because of a very first-world problem: I’ve been looking for a Spotify alternative. The algorithm broke — for me, and it sounded like, for many, last year. Like the algorithm looked at the state of the world and thought that those of us music-seekers only wanted comfort listens and decided to just play the same 25 songs over, and over, and over. If that isn’t a metaphor for the longest month that was 2020, I don’t know what is. Adding insult to injury, when I started making playlists on the platform, the algorithm devolved even further for me, as if my playlist-curation suggested those were the only songs ever.

But I don’t want this to be a complaint session. Change is hard. It’s scary. But if my life has taught me one thing, it’s that you can’t plan for ten years ahead, whether it’s your music-listening service or your apartment or your job. You can’t even plan for five years ahead. The future is scary. Change is the worst. But in 2021, I have to often wonder: would down be better than steady? At least, it would be something different? The fact that you can’t plan for 15, 20 years from now doesn’t mean you should sit on your ass, at home, under lockdown. Yes, don your mask, please. Wash your hands, please. But don’t just let yourself go.

I’ve been doing it wrong. Looking at it wrong.

My point is, I’m working on getting the playlist creation experience back online, so there is no new playlist this month. There is a playlist. Just not a freshly-shorn one.

For the next few newsletters, I’ll be sharing previously-curated The Hott Rock playlists that I had migrated over to Spotify at one point or another. I don’t have any context clues for them, so I apologize — no pithy preamble. But at the very least, it’s a break from the monotony. Which I think we could all use right about now.

Change is hard. But sometimes, change is gonna come whether you like it or not.


February’s best reads

My Year of Reading continues. I decided not to participate in the 50Books Challenge, because number resolutions are dumb. Instead, I’ve been challenging myself to read fiction — in some form or another — every day this year.

I’m terrible at reading full-length novels, which probably has something to do with why I’m terrible at writing full-length novels. I consistently lose interest in the midpoint of Act Two, and switch to something different. Hopefully I’ll finish some longer works this year, too — of others, and of my own.

But, I love short stories for this reason. Here are some I especially enjoyed this past month, in no real order of importance:


SADs Songs, Vol. 5 (kind of)

I have zero context for this playlist. This is not technically a vintage playlist from The Hott Rock of old, but it does capture the spirit of that show more than any other SADs Songs playlist to date. I shared this on my blog before I decided to switch to newsletter format, so if you’ve seen this before — apologies. Hopefully you can enjoy it now under the SADs Songs umbrella.

  • If U C My Enemies — Rubblebucket

  • Different Now — Chastity Belt

  • Billions of Eyes — Lady Lamb

  • Whites Not My Color This Evening — Cherry Glazer

  • (I’ve Got) Trouble In Mind — The Limiñanas

  • To the Boys — Molly Burch

  • Archie, Marry Me — Alvvays

  • I Will Miss the Jasmine — Shannon & the Clams

  • Pet Carrot — Palehound

  • New for You — Hinds

  • Peaceful Easy Feeling — The Blow

  • Pull Shapes — The Pipettes

As always, if you like any of these artists, please consider checking them out on Bandcamp or giving them a spin.

Listen Now


There’s something manic about the way that Spring comes in hot, isn’t there? After so much dormant time, so much hibernation, it’s hard to want to run so soon. But here we are.

I’m looking forward to lighter and longer days, trees bulging with pink blossoms, and more excuses to move.

Until next time,

Meredith

SADs Songs, Vol. 4

Whose side are you on?

I’ve been reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe with Charlotte lately. 

It seems a pretty apt New Year’s book. Wintry, magical, and full of fantasy. Just what you want during an attempted coup. I’m not making light. But I wanted to share a story. That’s what we do, right? Twenty years from now, Charlotte might tell her own daughter that she read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe on the eve of one of America’s worst historical events, and what the book meant to her in this time. Here’s what it’s meant to me.

As it happens, the copy of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe that I own is my childhood copy, from the 1980s, a small paperback collection that included individual editions of each book in the series. When I opened the copy recently, out fell a faded slip of paper: a spectre, as has happened to me throughout my life of owning and saving and carting around stacks of dead trees as if they’re children, or gold, or something in between. Things find a way of clinging, leafing into the folds, be they game tallies or bookstore receipts or ticket stubs.

On it was the phone number of my childhood crush, back when we had to do things like write down phone numbers, and back before I lived in a city where we could write down phone numbers without writing down an area code. It was written in the cursive writing I know very well to be that of my mother’s, a few scribbles in pencil, the reverse side with tallies from a game of dominoes. In the upper-right hand corner, my own handwriting. Purple felt-tip pen, awkward cursive of my preteen years, not as practised as my mother’s. Bleeding through the page, even still, like a living, breathing ghost: L.W.W., pg 41.

Did I end up with my crush? No. Am I still finding meaning in a children’s book, thirty years later? Yes.

I turned to page 41, hearing the voice of Professor Snape booming in my head as I did so, and could not for the life of me remember why I had marked or made mention of such a page. But it is the start of the chapter in which Lucy has found her way into the wardrobe and told the truth, Edmund has found his way into the wardrobe and lied, and the two eldest Pevensies, Peter and Susan, are trying to determine what to do about this Narnia problem that they now have. While searching for answers, Peter and Susan are admonished by the old Professor of the house that the logical solution to their problem of Lucy’s belief in the place is to believe her, as she never lies, while her brother Edmund, Narnia-denier, is less trustworthy. 

In times like these, I wonder, who do we believe? More importantly, what does it say about us when we choose who to believe?

The thing that I’ve found in times like these is not to shut oneself in a wardrobe — as C.S. Lewis points out, time and again, it is a very bad idea to do so. But when my world leaders have failed me, when my communities have failed my friends, when watching the news fails my sanity, when everything about reality seems like a failed experiment, it seems fitting, then, that perhaps there is no better time in which to find a reason to believe that a place like Narnia must exist. An ideal to which we aspire as people, a place where we can defeat evil, in whatever form it may take, even that of a Turkish Delight-peddling White Witch, such a world must exist and be attainable. Our belief that evil can be vanquished must be enough to melt even the longest, darkest winters. 

Do we believe Lucy? Do we believe Edmund? Do we have the faith in ourselves to make such a choice?

I know which side I’m on. I’m on the side of long walks, good reads with my kid, and thoughtful playlists.


Reading for Winter

For the adults in the room, I’ve been indulging in a few darker reads lately.

  • The Only Good Indians by workhorse-writer Stephen Graham Jones is the first book in many moons that is wholly un-put-downable

  • Songs of a Dead Dreamer is a collection of short stories by Thomas Ligotti that often times may feel like you’re in the middle of an early Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, and others tears your guts out and shows them to you afterwards

  • Short stories by award-winning fantasy writer Usam Malik, whose first collection, Midnight Doorways, is imminent


Listening for Warmth

This month’s playlist is the equivalent of carving a corner out of a Tauntaun and then climbing inside to keep yourself from freezing to death. It’s been Dark Times™, to say the least. But music often provides just the right veil between reality and insanity.

I made this playlist back in December, as I headed out for a rainy walk. I don’t always make playlists on the fly, but I’ve been attempting to curb my tendencies to over-plan and under-produce. And so this playlist came into being.

This playlist is heavy on the pop, because honestly. I have plenty of excuses to have a good cry these days, okay, Katie Crutchfield? You still managed to make the list again, anyway. But even I can’t listen to female-fronted alt-country all the time.

  • For Sure — Future Islands

  • Never Tear Us Apart — The National

  • Fire — Waxahatchee

  • Ferris Wheel — Sylvan Esso

  • Moonlight — Future Islands

  • When Am I Going To Lose You — Local Natives

  • Money — Widowspeak

  • Peach — Slothrust

  • Temple — Thao & The Get-Down, Stay-Down

  • Neon-Lights — Dancing Years

Listen Now: SADs Songs, Vol. 4


Benediction

I leave you this week with the words of Langston Hughes. There’s never a bad time to read Mr. Hughes, of course, but this seems a better time than any to do so. From his sermon-poem, Let America Be America Again:

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine—the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Be good to each other.

Be good to yourself.

Until next time,

Meredith

SADs Songs, Vol. 3

Warning: alt-country ahead.

Note: I wrote this back in November (I can’t even remember!) and then the distraction-heavy November gave me too much else to do. So I gave myself a break. But there’s some good stuff in this one, so if you’ll forgive my lateness (the title of my memoir, more than likely), I’d love to send you some more. At some point. This was always supposed to be an as-the-mood-struck-me sort of deal. So here we are, sending while the fire is hot.


The change of the seasons is difficult, even without a pandemic. Somewhere around the middle of October, I start trying to squeeze every last drop of summer like the year is a tube of toothpaste. I have to maximize our outings, maximize the daylight, and maximize my productivity. I do this every year, like clockwork. Like spring cleaning, only — with adventures. And then in the middle of November, I’m ready to collapse into a heap and hibernate until February. That’s pretty much my state of mind right now.

When we feel this way, the best thing is to take stock. Inventory the things we’ve accomplished. Triage the work yet to be finished. Set goals for a more productive quarter, year, decade. Ruminate on the possibilities rather than the missed opportunities. I’ve been doing my best to keep a paper trail of this year, to catalog and corroborate my time, and pat myself on the back whenever necessary and able.

There are a few things I’ve been doing this year to attempt to have such a paper trail. I’ve been attempting the Ray Bradbury DIY MFA, which suggests reading a short story, a poem, and an essay every day. This has not been easy, but I’ve been reading a lot and keeping track on a spreadsheet of what I have read. This part of my life pays off in so many ways — it’s so much more than just making scratch marks on the walls. Like season two of every television show ever made, it’s an expansion of my world view. You know. The part right before the gang is broken up and dispersed, again.

I’ve been keeping a journal, also. A meditation, yes, but more than anything, a paper trail in the truest sense of the word. I haven’t had an active paper journal since the days before LiveJournal became a thing, but it’s been so nice to have someplace constructive for my thoughts that is just for me. As writers we worry that some day our journals may be the source of scrutiny in order to understand and perceive our work, but I’m trying not to let that idea get to me. I’ve completed my first paper notebook in about 15 years.

And, lastly, I’ve been submitting work. There is no better paper trail than the rejection slip, of which I have accumulated many now. It’s been two years since my fiction was accepted in any outlet, but I think it’s a matter of market and timing. I still maintain that rejection letters get sent on Tuesdays and I’ve been trying not to play Rejection Roulette, where I simply check my inbox over and over with a glass of bourbon at my side to celebrate (or assuage, depending on outcome). Submissions are terrifying, but I’m learning to love them as a part of the writing life. The best part about getting a rejection is knowing that no one is going to read something you wrote that’s objectively bad. And eventually I’ll have a ticker tape parade.


New poetry online

My first poetry publication ever came alive and in the world on Election Day. Amid the nail-biting and PTSD leftover from 2016. It was the boost I needed here as I was rolling up the aforementioned toothpaste tube on 2020 and wondering what else I could possibly squeeze out of this year before throwing it in the proverbial trash. My micropoem, Lantern, is in Episode 39 of my favorite podcast of the moment, The Cryptonaturalist.

Apt, as ever, this episode is all about finding hope in the darkness, a perfect piece to read or listen to on a rainy November day. About how your life is not going to fit into the three-act structure, and it’s okay if it doesn’t, or if you haven’t figured out your midpoint yet. For the narrator, Jarod K. Anderson, lanterns are harbingers of hope. I’m trying to inject a little bit of that into my own life, writing and otherwise. This certainly fits the bill.

The Cryptonaturalist is a dark, weird, strange nature podcast. If you like Welcome to Nightvale, but also Lake Woebegon, you’ll enjoy The Cryptonaturalist. (If podcasts aren’t your thing, you can read the poem in the transcript archives.)

Listen Here


October’s best reads

Listen, I sat on this email for a month, okay. I haven’t tallied November’s best reads — as yet. But I bet in January I’ll have a Best of 2020 list for you. I’m always a little late to the party.

Before we dive in to the playlist, here’s another kind of play list. Some are older than others. All are new to me. Here are my favorite short stories that I read this past month, in no order of importance or favoritism. Add these to your own paper trail. You’ll be glad you did.


No more wind or dirt

This month’s playlist is my musical mood board for my current longform project. Set in New Mexico, there’s childhood trauma, an abandoned well, and the possibility that an urban legend featured in a popular horror novel might be real. (Spoiler alert: it is. And it’s terrifying.)

I did my best not to include more than one Neko Case song. Or more than one Thrift Store Cowboys song. But it is heavy on the alt-country, and is something that I would have listened to on one of my many drives from Lubbock to Albuquerque, the breadth of which is the setting for the project. Will I ever stop writing about the American Southwest? Surely so, but, not for now.

  • Where’d All the Time Go? — Dr. Dog

  • From a Soon-to-Be Ghost Town — Fruit Bats

  • Blue — The Jayhawks

  • Honey and Smoke — Neko Case, k.d. lang, Laura Veirs

  • Damn New Mexico — Thrift Store Cowboys

  • Jeannie Becomes a Mom — Caroline Rose

  • Buena — Morphine

  • First Love / Late Spring — Mitski

  • Crystal Night — Black Lips

  • Unholy Faces — Florist

  • Rattling Bone — Iron & Wine

  • Pass It On — The Coral

Get Playlist


I wrote this back in October, or November, believe it or not. I can’t quite remember how long ago. November was a roller coaster of voting, claims of fraud, publications, reading, being stuck inside, and pandemic depression. It was not my best month, and I let the newsletter backslide. But I’m still here, still truckin’. Still working, writing, reading, and trying to keep my head above water.

I hope you’re succeeding in whatever it is you’re up to.

Until next time,

Meredith

SADs Songs, Vol. 2 is here

Remain valiant.

Meditation for writers (and others)

Did you know that Jerry Seinfeld meditates? Apparently he’s been meditating — specifically, transcendental meditation — since 1979. Which explains a lot about how the actor, writer, and producer has remained so calm after living in New York City over the course of the past five decades.

I’ve felt very discombobulated this year. I’ve used that word a lot. I live a stone’s throw from CHOP, or the block formerly known as CHOP. The Hugo House, the writer’s haven to which I belong, is dead center in the middle of the CHOP landscape. The idea of going to the writing center now gives me hives. But there is some good there: little free grocery tents. Street art. A shuttered police precinct. Korean food and beer. Memories of good and lovely people and creativity and production. Productive conversations about what to do from here, how to move forward.

But hearing the sirens all summer left me, to say it mildly, concerned. I was wound tighter than a spool of barbed wire. I’m still working on unspooling.

I forget a lot of the times to take care of my whole self. I get focused on taking care of my creative self, or caught up in the external self, but not the parts of me that need to do things like eat nutritious foods or sleep regularly or get outside and get fresh air. That last part, of course, has been more difficult than usual this year. Between quarantine and the smoke, outside has been toxic. It’s literally on fire. There’s been no way to store up the sun, or even human interaction, for the long winter months ahead. There’s hardly been a way to escape Seattle.

Now that the air is more clear, walking has again become my meditation. Playlists and the making of them has become one for me also. I thought this list would be a seasonal one, but it turns out I’m enjoying it too much. It gets me out of my head. It snaps my neck back from whatever position of repose it would rather be in, like that girl in the Ring, but slightly less dead. It keeps me from texting exes, or spending too much money. It’s been a hard year: personally, professionally politically. But we can’t let that stop us.

This playlist gets me off the couch. It gets me outside. It’s perfectly suited for a long fall walk in a long wooded park, of which Seattle has plenty. I’ve been an avid Volunteer Park nymph since moving back to Eastlake, but I’ve been attempting to explore parks and botanical gardens to which I’ve never been. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that I’ve lived two decades in this town without visiting the Arboretum before now. I’m not sure a canoe ride from the UW boat lunch back in my youth counts, exactly. It’s a different experience on land, for sure.

On a non-playlist note, I lost 20 pounds this summer between diet, exercise, and taking care of my whole self. In spite of everything. Because of everything?


SADs Songs, Vol. 2

There is some science behind this playlist. The first few songs are intended to get your heart rate up. They are driving songs. Forces of nature to propel you against the cold and the fog. Three-minute escapes to help you forget the fact that you’re tripping over halved chestnuts on the trail.

And then it dramatically changes. You can’t not meditate when you listen to Florist. There is no other option. If that song in that moment does not snap the synapses in your brain out of their fugue state, I don’t know what will. Just try it. Go for a walk and see. You’ll find yourself following leaf trails as they drop from an unknowable branch above.

After that, it picks back up again. But there are ups and downs, too. Just like Seattle hills. Just like life. It ends on a positive note. As I hope this all does.

Veterans of this list might notice something different about Vol. 2 — non-female voices in the mix. It’s 2020, after all. No reason to exclude an entire gender from what would be a perfect mix of music. Plus, it’s so easy to get in a rut and just put Lucy Dacus or a Lucy-Dacus-related-project on every single playlist. I no longer have the programming gods at a radio station to tell me what to do, so I’m doing it my way.

Here’s the playlist:

  • Forth Wanderers — Slop

  • Bacchae — Open Wound

  • Diet Cig — Harvard

  • Florist — The Fear of Losing This

  • Hurray for the Riff Raff — Living In The City

  • Little Wings — Look at What the Light Did Now

  • Haley Heynderickx — Drinking Song

  • Field Music — -h-o-u-s-e-k-e-y-z-

  • Beulah — Emma Blowgun’s Last Stand

  • Kevin Morby — Harlem River

  • Langhorne Slim — Sea of Love

  • Remember Sports — Get Bummed Out

  • p.s. eliot — Incoherent Love Songs

If you enjoy any of these artists, please consider supporting them during BandCamp Fridays. The Florist vinyl albums are particularly nice. Diet Cig offers colored — and confetti! — cassettes, which are still a thing, apparently. The next BandCamp Friday is November 6.

Listen on Spotify


Don’t walk — run to the polls

Cheesy, sure. Allow me a rare political moment in the playlist space. If you’re not currently fed up with our broken system of government, our propagandist-in-chief, or our. I don’t know. Our entire system, at this point? To paraphrase James Baldwin, we cannot change what we have not faced, and the only way to face it is by dropping your ballot off in whatever means is available to you.

Since this list actually has subscribers from all over the place, I suggest, if you haven’t voted in awhile, if you just don’t know what to do about voting, if you need some voting advice, to check out these resources below.

If ever there is a reason for meditation, for a long walk in the woods, it’s the long walk in the wilderness that is our current political climate. We can climb out of this darkness, out of the tall grass. But not without a fight.

In the words of p.s. eliot: Remain valiant.

Better Know a Ballot


Thanks so much for being here. It’s so nice to feel as though I have a connection to the outside world in the wake of stay-home life. A reason to check in and share things.

As for a benediction, today would mark John Lennon’s 80th birthday. SADs Songs’ title came from Imagine, and although the Beatles and I have a love-hate relationship, they still remain one of the most influential bands of all time. Charlotte adores Yellow Submarine and, for now, it’s on repeat at our house.

Until next time,

Meredith

SADs Songs, Vol. 1

Flashback Friday is in full swing.

Hello! Hi there! How are ya?

It’s been a wild week in Washington state, what with the smokey skies, and, you know, the President threatening sedition against Mayor Durkan. I’ve felt cooped up, shut up, and isolated now even moreso than back in March when lockdown began. When everything is insane as it is now, and only posing to get weirder, I have to look for something good to hold on to. What better thing than music?

These are songs from “back in the day” — a flashback Friday playlist, if you will. Songs from my youth that I obsessed over and enjoyed. As always, the playlist prominently features riot grrl and female-fronted music. If that’s not your thing, why are you even here?

I’ve added SADs Songs, Vol. 1 to Spotify.

Today’s tracklist includes:

I’ve linked to the artists’ Bandcamp page where available. It turns out The Muffs and X-Ray Spex are so vintage that they don’t care about that ish. Please consider supporting artists you enjoy during, well, all times, but especially right now.

On the first Friday of every month in 2020, Bandcamp will waive its fees for artists to sell on their platform. Add that to your calendar and get yourself some great music and swag.

I’m hoping to post a couple of playlists every season, frequency to be determined. Let me know what you think of this one. Enjoy.

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