LHG’s Top 14 Albums of 2014!

Okay, so I’m a week late, but hey, better late than never, right? It was once my all-time dream to write for SPIN Magazine and be the female Chuck Klosterman (okay, it still is my dream) but sometimes I realize that when I write about music, I am anything but objective. I’m usually emotional and my own feelings stem into the songs I love the most, so I guess what I’m really getting at is that if you’re looking for an unbiased report of the “best albums in 2014” you might want to click away. Below is the list of tracks that I loved, unashamedly, and probably obsessively talked my friends’ ears off about while they politely nodded.

Anyway, let’s get to the good stuff! Because I was raised in the everyone-gets-a-trophy generation, I have to start by saying that there were a few albums that just missed my countdown, and are as such, “honorable mentions” of my year. In no particular order, they are:

All were excellent, and yes, all are linked to Spotify for your listening pleasure- but remember, vinyl is best!

What really went into permanent rotation and obsession in 2014? To the countdown!

14. Lake Street Dive, Bad Self Portraits

These are the kids who were actually successful music majors and had fun while they were at it. Play this album at a dinner party, play this album in the car, but mostly play this album when you’re alone, because your attempts to singalong to Rachel Price and try to master her smooth, incredible voice might be in vain, but it’s still an amazing mix of songs to make you feel like you’re living in your own personal modern jazz club. (But seriously, when do I get to sound like her?)

Key Tracks: You Go Down Smooth, Seventeen, Bad Self Portraits, Rabid Animal

13. Bleachers, Strange Desire

Take the best things about the 80s- power rock, singalongs, John Hughes-esque scores, Yoko Ono, and whoa-whoa’s- and put them with the sharpest indie songwriter producer on the block currently and you’ll get Jack Antonoff’s baby: this album. Just reread that sentence, say yes, and play it.

Key Tracks: Wild Heart, Rollercoaster, I Wanna Get Better, You’re Still A Mystery

12. Miranda Lambert, Platinum 

There’s a reason this girl can do whatever she wants and is at the top of her game, and that’s song selection and vocal range. Miranda can do twang mixed with powerhouse guitars mixed with major harmonies and it all comes out perfect. Her clever songwriting has only gotten better, too, and I’m forever a fan.

Key Tracks: Platinum, Priscilla, Bathroom Sink, Old Sh!t, All That’s Left, Hard Staying Sober

11. Shakey Graves, And The War Came

A little local Austin love that’s going to be big this year. I can’t wait to see how 2015 treats him. You know that artist that weird indie kids who go to art school and your Dad’s best classic-rock-inclined friends both love? Oh, you don’t? Put on this album and find out.

Key Tracks: Only Son, Dearly Departed, The Perfect Parts, Hard Wired

10. Lee Ann Womack, The Way I’m Livin’

Hello country music and a woman- two things I have desperately missed out on seeing together in the same sentence. Lately the genre hasn’t put many women at the forefront, but Lee Ann Womack is leading the charge without even campaigning- just on the laurels of this album alone. If nothing else, I am convinced that she has the hands-down best voice in country music and that she is also a vocal angel sent here to save us all. Moreso, this album lets her take us to church (more on that metaphor later, though) with bluegrass-y goodness and sassy lyrics. What a lady.

Key Tracks: Chances Are, The Way I’m Livin’, Tomorrow Night in Baltimore

9. Noah Gundersen, Ledges

Warning: you might cry. This may not be the soundtrack to any sunny days, but when it rains it pours, and Ledges is a good flood to be caught in. Noah Gundersen writes honest songs that cut deep, but isn’t that why we love music? To help us express things, or at the very least, give us the means to say, “me too” to any revealing lyric? I hope so. Crack open a bottle of whiskey before you start this one, but don’t make any immediate plans, because you’ll need to digest feelings of love lost, worn childhood, addiction and bleak hope. Also, maybe turn your phone off to avoid that temptation to text your ex.

Key Tracks: Ledges, First Defeat, Liberator, Cigarettes

8. Lydia Loveless, Somewhere Else

It’s so hard for me to find women songwriters that I love, but when I do, I love them with the ferocity of a mother lion protecting her cubs, since I feel like the music industry doesn’t do a good job keeping them around. Fiercely so, Lydia Loveless earns her place in my heart and in this list as an all around badass. She and I are the same age, and for better or worse, her lyrics feel like I could have come out of my own journal, so for that fact I love her like she’s my own personal, darker and more relevant Taylor Swift (although, I have to admit that even though I’ve never been a T.S. kind gal, I actually liked 1989.) Regardless, hooray girl power! She’s the type of girl who’ll shoot a gun (and some whiskey) with you. She’s the type of girl with a killer record collection. She’s the type of girl who can make a song about drunkenly calling your ex sound almost romantic, and for that, I applaud her (and also realize drunk texts/calls are becoming a theme in this list? Oops.)

Key Tracks: Really Wanna See You, Wine Lips, To Love Somebody, Head, Somewhere Else

7. Eric Church, The Outsiders

If you didn’t know better, someone might try to tell you that Eric Church was a major country star. While that’s partially true, he’s also apparently a fan of every other genre, as he mixes them in this gem of an album. There’s nods of Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac, AC/DC and yes, even some Hank Williams Jr in these tracks, but mostly, there’s a man who just loves music and songwriting and can’t stay in one place, and trust me when I say that I’m so thankful he doesn’t.

Key Tracks: Cold One, Talladega, Broke Record, That’s Damn Rock & Roll, Give Me Back My Hometown

6. St Paul & The Broken Bones, Half The City

Get ready for your ears to be rocked and taken back to a time when vocals and horns married together for a big-band-whoa-is-this-real-music-or-what moment that lasted. I dare you to not be blown away by the raw vocal talent of Paul Janeway (like how he completely nailed this Otis Redding cover!) Oh, and when his band joins in? Mm. HMM. You just go ahead and try not feel something. You feel it, don’t you? Feel it in your soul? That’s what this album does. Every song is a ride of funk mixed with fun that hits you in the insides. SPATBB mix lighthearted flirting in Call Me with pure, tear-me-in-half heartache on Broken Bones and Pocket Change, and  you’ll thank them for both. You’ll love this album, your Mom and Dad will love this album, and anyone nearby while you play it might just start dancing, so be warned. Oh, and seeing them live? You’re not even prepared.

Key Tracks: Like A Mighty River, Call Me, Broken Bones & Pocket Change, I’m Torn Up

5. Shovels & Rope, Swimmin’ Time

If you don’t know, you might think this married couple has an entire backing band, but it’s just the two of them, consistently making music that’ll knock your socks off. This album is an instant classic (along with their 2012 release O’ Be Joyful) mostly because they mix the love of Johnny and June with the unhinged nature of Sid and Nancy, and the result is music that makes me so happy we don’t have to pick one genre. Go ahead and have em all: swamp, americana, rock, country, singer-songwriter, comical, sincere, and just simply, Shovels and Rope, preferable banging on drums and guitars all day long.

Key Tracks: The Devil Is All Around, Evil, After The Storm, Mary Ann & One Eyed Dan, Coping Mechanism

4. Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds In Country Music

If you know me at all, it’s that I’m tired of apologizing for my love of country music, and I’ll be damned if this album didn’t help me overcome that. This album (literally) sounds like Waylon is living inside of every song, so of course I love it,  but it’s the way that Sturgill just did the whole thing- big labels be damned and released it independently. It sounds like old mixed with new, from lyrics about drug trips to  You don’t have to work on a farm to be authentic to the style, but the truth’s in the delivery and the sentiment, and Sturgill’s songwriting and musicianship proudly seal him with the title of “country” – a word that’s been tarnished and stepped on and redefined all the time. This new title is one that he won’t apologize for and I think it fits pretty damn well (not to mention the fact that it’s also a kickass album musically and his voice is a near-perfect gravel to tell you about the hard life he’s lived.)

Key Tracks: Turtles All The Way Down, Life of Sin, Living The Dream, Long White Line, The Promise

3. Ryan Adams, Ryan Adams

If you’ve loved Ryan Adams even a little, then this album is for you (and since I love him like a lot, I’m still preaching on its perfection). He’s struck several chords between rock and roll to Americana to sad-drunk-guy-serenading you and this album has all of them mixed together. I finally got the chance to see him live this year, too, so hearing these on stage mixed with “My Winding Wheel” and “Oh My Sweet Carolina” and “Magnolia Mountain” along with his sincerity and excitement to be playing in Austin also makes this album a sentimental pick. But more than that, it’s always amazing to see someone who’s been around so long still make consistently great music, and this collection of tracks makes me just as excited for whatever he puts out next. Plus, ask any fan of Tom Petty and/or sound-engineer friend you have and they’ll rave about this one for a while. (Oh, you didn’t know all sound engineers loved Tom Petty or you don’t have sound engineer friends who talk about gear all day? Lucky you.)

Key Tracks: Kim, Shadows, My Wrecking Ball, Feels Like Fire

2. Damien Rice, My Favorite Faded Fantasy

Ahh yes. For 8 years, 8 LONG YEARS, I have waited for this day. I have blogged multiple times (embarrassingly) about how much I wanted a new Damien Rice album to happen. I have set @damienrice’s tweets to be delivered to my phone in case he announced anything new, partly in fact that I am overcoming a 9th grade fangirl love of him, and partly because his old albums meant so much to me that I could hardly imagine a new one, and this one….well, sigh. It wasn’t the same—but that’s what made it even more perfect! It was Damien 8 years later, broken up with his longtime collaborator Lisa Hannigan, and I was me 8 years later, also having broken up with a few people and habits since he last gave me an album to love in 2006. This album was new for both of us, short but sweet, packing honest-to-a-fault lyrics with sweeping instrumentals and gorgeous vocals and sentiments that put him on the map in the first place. You feel like you could crush the sincerity of this album with its delicate moments, but at the same time, it’s so comfortable to fall back into his emotionally-charged world that you might not leave. Maybe someday I’ll stop loving sad music, but probably not.

Key Tracks: ALL OF IT! But, if you make me choose: The Greatest Bastard, I Don’t Want To Change You, Colour Me In, It Takes A Lot To Know A Man

1. Hozier, Hozier

It takes a lot of soul and goosebumps-inducing sounds to steal the top spot as a new artist from all my other favorites, but this album did it in a huge way. Besides my obvious crush on Hozier, his voice and his man bun, these tracks all hit me right in my heart and ears and didn’t leave. Before the world caught on to Take Me To Church (and yes, I admitedly sound totally hipster with that sentence) I was living in Nashville and uncomfortable with my life, relationships and job, and I remember the local radio station started playing this amazing song that bowled me over the first time I heard it, driving down 8th avenue to work at 4 AM. It swelled and it felt emotional and it felt like something brand new,  and has stuck with me since. There’s a joy in getting wrapped up in an album and this one did it for me from start to finish, and well into all the live performance videos I researched on Youtube, too. Hozier’s the real deal, putting everything into live performances while also making artful albums with both rock and soul, and I have a feeling 2015 is going to be good to him and to my new obsession with him.  Speaking of, if any of you know of any cute single guys with man buns and guitars, well…

Key Tracks: NO, SERIOUSLY, ALL OF IT. but if you make me pick: Jackie and Wilson, Someone New, Work Song, To Be Alone

Whew! Since you made it this far- 2 things:

1. Here’s a playlist of my key tracks as a reward:

2. I want to hear from you! Surely I can’t be alone in my music snobbery! What were your favorite albums of 2014?

Hannah Hunt

I’ve been thinking a lot about writing a “Best Albums and Songs of 2014” list as a blog post, which I will invariably have to make because it would be a tragedy to you as the internet to not hear what a 24-year-old music snob considers the best few minutes of instruments and voices to be released this year, and also because this was actually a year in which two of my favorite musicians of all time put out highly-anticipated new albums that both gave me a lump in my throat upon listening. However, before talking about the good, I guess you have to talk about the other stuff, right?

I didn’t make a “Best Albums of 2013” blog post last year, but if I did, I’m sure Modern Vampires Of the City would be on it. MVOTC is an album that came out last year by a band called Vampire Weekend that has probably been the butt off too many “so-called” hipster jokes (but also one I personally never wrote about, so I guess not every hipster joke, right?). It was well-received in the indie music circles that obsess over 4-piece scruffy white dude bands and way-too-highly paid music critics who work for Rolling Stone and SPIN alike. It was a slightly different sound for Vampire Weekend and I know that there’s some technical term that escapes me for the way the audio engineer mixed the tracks, but suffice it to say that it sounded more “recorded” and “new age”. It still had bouncy melodies and tribal drums and nonsense lyrics that were fun to guess like Vampire Weekend’s older 2 albums and it ended up as a huge spring-to-summer playlist pick of 2013.

I guess it was a small bit personal, too.

I remember that you bought the album before I did, since you were always reliable at doing so. My memories are a little shaky, but I would almost go so far as to say that I think you preordered it on vinyl, as that was a habit that only solidified our chemistry, because we both valued tangible old-school technology and actually paying for music we loved. Living in Nashville at the time gave us this automatic veil of respect for the art of an album that we carried like a banner everywhere we went, and liner notes were our bibles. “Music City” is a nickname we hate but love in its simple perfection, because it fit our favorite thing to talk about. This unbridled passion for talented artists and very lifeblood of discussing new songs we heard on the local radio station that were about to blow up or how every band was trying to be the Lumineers in 2013 (which sucked) or how the Grammys were a joke yet somewhat important fueled our conversations at Tennessee coffeehouses and off-the-highway dive bars, which were, coincidentally, also full of other critics and songwriters drinking and discussing and karaoke-ing, too.

But, I digress.

Before I purchased Modern Vampires Of The City, a good friend of ours had told me that she’d nearly been moved to tears upon the first listen, which wasn’t an uncommon compliment in our musically-saavy community, but still stuck out in my mind. A few days later, you had listened to the whole album one night (with a glass of whiskey nearby and the candle I convinced you to buy at Target burning) and told me all about it over the phone in a tone of almost-reverence. It may not have been the most important album your well-tuned ears had heard, but you convinced me that I needed to listen to it because it was really something. 

And so, I did listen to it in your car the next day. We were driving around Interstate 440 with multiple people in the backseat- naturally, I was riding shotgun, as my neediness was in full swing- and Modern Vampires Of The City was playing as our background music, which isn’t terrible, but, as we both agreed, isn’t ideal for the first listen of an album when you’re trying to analyze it and see if it stands out. Oddly enough, you kept skipping Track 6 with little explanation, just mentioning that neither you nor I was  “ready” for it. About an hour or so later, we’d dropped off our caravan of riders and were alone the car. You looked at me with a seriousness that felt odd for a midday drive, and then you skipped to Track 6 with the dashboard controls.

“It’s time. You ready?”

(Sidenote: This was always something I admired about you: how you let things speak for themselves. I always feel the need to upsell my favorite things to people before letting them dive in, as if they require rationalization, but you were convinced great things held their own weight. I would have given a speech on why Track 6 would change your life, but you just pressed play with a confidence and the tiniest hint of a “you’ll-thank-me” smirk.)

It began. We listened to 3 minutes and 58 seconds of indie-music-somewhat-love-song bliss in full with the sun shining through the car windows, like we were scoring the soundtrack our own poorly-directed episode of Girls or a dollar-store imitation of Garden State. It was my first listen to this particular track but it sure-as-hell hit me. This was so different for this band we’d both loved- it sounded so personal. With the speakers up high and Ezra Koenig’s voice pleading with me about being afraid of growing older and trust and time and money, I felt very 23 and just a little emotional. Suddenly, at the 2:39 mark, the song just changed oh-so-slightly and that was it- I was hooked. I wanted this song in my back pocket at all times and I wanted to hear it again and I wanted to talk about it, but also not talk about it right away as to not ruin the magic or the moment.

You sighed pretty heavily as it faded out and simply said, “…and that’s Hannah Hurt” after the song finished playing, and we drove around some more without speaking for a few minutes, as if it was still all sinking in. I’m sure eventually we changed the conversation to Instagram or other records out that week or where we wanted to eat that night, but I remember that 3 minute and 58 second nothing-but-music moment as clear as day. Oddly enough, your original song title was actually incorrect. The song’s name is actually “Hannah Hunt” but your substitution of “Hurt” was an interesting quirk and a point that I’d try to write into every later story of us I told, but could never do successfully, as if it was supposed to be foreshadowing or mean something deeper.

It didn’t.

Regardless, “Hannah Hunt” (/Hurt) would stay with me heavily for several months, whether I wanted it to or not. It would be a song that I would turn to if I wanted to think about you when you were gone, a song that I’d play if I wanted to cheaply exploit my own emotions, and a song that I’d listen to on repeat on both good and bad days. Every time I heard it I went bittersweetly back to your car and that lazy afternoon and listening to something beautiful and sad that I loved all at the same time, with someone I loved at the same time who was a little sad and beautiful, too.

I heard it again last week and it wasn’t the same. I was driving home from work on a particularly windy Austin road and my shuffle-mode iPod decided to grace me with the same quiet beginning and light driving piano I know oh-so-well. I instantly remembered that day over a year ago in a different state and I remembered sitting shotgun in your car and I remembered seeing your face and your haircut I loved that you got after we’d met, but it wasn’t overpowering. It was simply a song that brought something back and though my heart still swelled in my chest at the 2:39 mark, I was okay after it ended. All the hard stuff about reliving the past and relationships ending and moving on and moving away wasn’t attached to it anymore. It was just track 6 on Modern Vampires Of The City, a track I liked, a track I could singalong to and talk about, and most of all, a track that told a story and let a memory exist again for 3 minutes and 58 seconds peacefully. You know, without hurting.

My eventual “Best Songs of 2014” List is full of singer-songwriters and high-rated indie releases that I’ll claim took the most out of me these 12 months and captured my attention and ears and heart, but I’m sure that tucked into the mixtape of songs that really stuck with me this year, “Hannah Hunt” will exist, as it has for over a year now.

And, maybe just as a personal gesture, I’ll go for a drive with it playing and think about sunshine on dashboards and breathe in every note, because I can, and because things are okay. Time changes your favorite things but also heals them.

Plus, when you really think about it, my car speakers are just as loud, there’s a lot of road ahead, and the album doesn’t stop after Track 6.

Things We Need To Start Complimenting Each Other On In Our Twenties

That parallel parking job you did was so expert! The whole time you were googling the restaurant before we left to see if they had a lot and then when you found out it was only street parking, you tried to casually suggest somewhere else for brunch, but regardless, when we arrived, you pulled between two large oddly-spaced vehicles with such ease, never losing your cool. You even kept the in-car conversation going, pretending as if you weren’t internally panicking about accidentally backing up 3 centimeters too far and totally embarrassing yourself! You’ll surely be able to get out of that spot, too, without having to walk home. Kudos!

Way to go on your salad! We all saw you chomping down on several green leaves of lettuce at lunch and could actually manage to still make out the colors of the vegetables present, instead of only seeing a pool of ranch dressing. We hope this isn’t too forward, but are you going all organic? Are you participating in a clean eating challenge on social media? Regardless, your choice in lunchtime wellness is truly an inspiring choice to us all. Get yourself a pizza for dinner, you health guru, you.

You put on actual pants today! I know you had the option to walk out of your house in pajama material or stay home and disregard them altogether for some terrible Lifetime made-for-tv movie that somehow sucks you in every time, but you, by an act of your own selflessness and determination, truly took it to the next level and wore actual fabric with a zipper attached out into the world. Your extra effort to clothe yourself will never go in vain. We are all proud of how you pulled it together and put on a professional front…and back, technically.

Your email response time was impeccable! You may be a pro at avoiding long work message-chains that require a thought-out and spellchecked response, but you tackled this one with sincerity, speed and aplomb, instead of letting it hang over your head all afternoon. I don’t want to presume anything, but are you going to check your voicemails next, too? An overachiever like you is hard to find, so keep up the perfect pace.

Congrats on not bringing up your past failed relationships! I know that it was really tempting to harp on your ex that you can’t forget or share your breakup stories again at a volume that the whole rest of the coffee shop could hear, but you managed to politely continue the conversation without resurrecting your emotional baggage! Even when those friends you were with brought up engagement rings and babies, you kept smiling like the token “cool girl” from a movie that doesn’t have insecurities, and remained somewhat calm in your own single skin. Hip, hip, hooray for you and your heart!

How about that fancy drink you just consumed?! We may still be young, but you truly pulled a sophistication card by ordering something other than PBR, bottom-shelf wine, and “just whatever is the well liquor”. Did you just ask for a cocktail that didn’t have “bomb” in the name and decide to also sip on a water at a bar that has some actual lighting instead of only neon signs? Adulthood looks good on you.

Let’s hear it for you NOT bailing on plans! First pants, now this- wow! Fighting the temptation to stay in and watch another season of the ever-addictive Game Of Thrones (because, dragons) is a tough task, but you actually followed through with the invitation to be outside your house- in public!– and faced the fear of not knowing enough people where you were going or being over or underdressed, and you did it in style. Think of the memories you made tonight, think of the Instagram-worthy moments that happened, and think about how even if you still watched an episode of Game Of Thrones when you got home, you still maintained a friendship or two just by showing up. Good job, pro.

You made a thing! You put effort and time and your own talents into making a business plan, a painting, a screenplay, a big event, a comic book, an album, a poem, a casserole, a thesis, a fun youtube video, the first draft of a novel, a cheap bookshelf for your apartment, a killer resume, a handmade gift, an important speech, or just a great outfit, and you made that thing with your own two hands. You might have had help, you might have failed once or twice (or forty times) getting it there, but you actually created in a world that tells you that our generation doesn’t create anymore. It doesn’t matter how small an accomplishment, because you crafted and labored and put actual thought into something beyond yourself, and for that, the best compliment I can give is, Fantastic! Splendid! Delightful! Delicious! Crazy-Good! Life-Changing!

Now, go do it all again.

Decorating Your TwentySomething Apartment

You did it! You made it to your twenties! Some days you feel gross and unaccomplished, like the hair clogging your own bathtub drain, but some days you feel like an Instagram photo that got over 15 likes- you know, accomplished to be here, even if the accomplishment is a little lame in and of itself.

Nevertheless, you have to live somewhere, and whether that means with your “landlords” (the name you gave your parents so that you sound more adult) or in an old “charming” (a nice word that means broken-down) house with 5 other roommates, fresh decor is key in transitioning into the put-together-person that every TwentySomething article online tells you that you are becoming.

So, let’s get started on revamping your space!

1. Get a plant!
Plants are great, because plants let you pretend to take care of something! Kittens and puppies are cute and all, but even a baby cactus looks adorable in the right light, and watering it from your “vintage” (rusty) sink is a lot cheaper than buying pet food. Not to mention, plants never have to go to the vet, you don’t have to walk a plant, and if you get at least 3 pieces of foliage, your space will look just bohemian enough, as if you shop regularly at Free People, even though you may only be able to afford half a shirt there! Plus, people say plants bring in fresh air and good energy, and since your starter job probably doesn’t provide health insurance, you better soak up all those chlorophyll vibes!

2. Display your Accomplishments
Just because you are young and maybe you’ve never had to actually pay many bills until now does not mean you haven’t done anything! Think about what small moments have given your life some meaning, and make sure to give them some wall space. You can hang your college diploma on the wall and pledge allegiance to it every morning, promising that you’ll try to do something with your education other than googling solutions to tech issues that your coworkers are having, organizing the office, and testing all the fonts in Microsoft Word. Put up a photo of a great romantic dinner that you enjoyed, so that when you’re eating peanut butter sandwiches and considering downloading Tinder because dating seems bleak, you’ll remember that one time you ate something with fresh vegetables and flirted like a grownup instead of only through texts! Lastly, put up your First Dollar from your First Adult Paycheck like restaurants do when they open and make a sale, and then promise yourself you won’t take it down and spend it. (Well, unless it’s an emergency.)

(No, a Doritos Locos Taco is not an emergency.)

3. Jars and Pallets FOREVER
I have yet to meet a person my age, me included, who is not at least a little bit excited about mason jars and shipping pallets. Call it the rise of Pinterest, but mason jars can literally be used for anything in the eyes of our generation, and finding a pallet on the side of the road is akin to Columbus bumping into America all those years ago. Drinking everything from iced coffee to wine to water out of a mason jar seems quaint enough, like you cared about style but also just decided to recycle what you had, but you can also use them for storage, lighting, and if you happen to have any duty in your friends’ weddings in the next 10 years, just volunteer for something involving mason jars and you’ll be set. Pallets are usually free, and for those of us who want to have the novelty of a “dumpster-diving” story without actually chipping our manicure, they can be acquired pretty easily. In fact, even as I write this I am picturing these pallet beds that I still have yet to make and thinking how chic I would feel laying on them, like my own version of a Martha Stewart catalog.
(Added bonus: the cheap pasta sauce you live on for a week probably comes in a ‘cool’ jar that can be reused! Broke and fabulous!)

4. Forget your cares with Christmas Lights
You know what’s cheaper than a really great lamp that gives you reading light? Off-season Christmas light prices. You know what looks way more hip in a photo than overhead lighting? The glow of dim Christmas lights. You know what might automatically make you seem like you probably rent a place and don’t own it and might still be stuck in college in your mind? Christmas lights as your main source of brightness.

5. Ugly things are still things and you need them
I think having some not-so-cute pieces in your home or space when you’re young is important, and maybe it’s just me, but it adds a story. Keeping the stuff you thought was cool when you were a few years younger cause it still works or cause you can’t afford anything nicer is truthful, sometimes painfully. But that rickety chair, those mismatched colored hangers that seemed like standard-issue in dorm rooms across America, that old pile of pillows on the ground or wimpy air mattress or beat-up futon with overwashed sheets that you do all your dreaming on reminds you that you’re still working, still aiming for more, and still building a home while you build yourself and your resume.

One day we’ll all look back on our terrible style and bad furniture and just be thankful that we had personality and had somewhere to sit. (Assuming that we still can sit because of all the damage that we did to our spines with beanbag chairs, lumpy discount beds, and couches we found on the side of the road, and while we’re writing another check to our Chiropractor when we make it to our 40s, complaining about our neck hurting from staring at our laptops and thumb pain from decades of texting.)

However, the future still looks pretty bright for us. (Just not too bright, because we’re trying to save on our electric bill this month so we can use the money to go to that music festival, so please only turn on the light if you absolutely need it.)

Have the Second Damn Piece of Pizza

Friday night is supposed to be Pizza Night.

You know if you eat just one slice you’re going to feel like you’re still hungry in a few minutes. Better yet, someone else at the table will forget the unspoken dining rules and take what is clearly marked as your hunk of cheesy goodness because you all know you’re splitting the bill evenly anyway, and they know if they just keep the conversation going, everyone will lose track of who had what.

Everyone except you, that is. Because you notice, and because you’ve faced this before.

You’ve fought hard, and it’s an ongoing fight, but not just against the freeloader in your friend-group. You’ve fought against the mental numbers in your head.

The number of minutes you’ll need to exercise to work off the combination of dough and cheese (and mighty fine pepperoni, if you’re lucky), which leads your brain to remember the last time you exercised and chastise yourself on it being a.) too easy or b.) not recent enough. You’re going to stare down that pizza slice growing cold and play the cards out in your head, I just know it. Others at the table are relaxing over a meal, but you’re silently bargaining with yourself that if you do this, if you indulge in the American peace offering of cheesy perfection, that you’ll be really good tomorrow. You know, like, wife-of-a-celebrity good. You’ll eat things with whole grains and vitamins that you read about in the Get-Fit-Now book you never finished, and you’ll make your own salad dressing because you also heard Ranch makes you fat, even though dipping in it is the Southern equivalent of adding salt to your food- and Oh! SALT!- you’ll cut back on that, too. And while you’re at it, you’ll hide the breakup ice cream in the back of your freezer that you haven’t finished yet- because you have decided that you can take as long as you want to get over him- when you get home, and you’ll finally go to that spin class your coworker said had the cute instructor. This slice of pizza could change your life, you swear, for the better, because it’ll be the last piece of happiness you enjoy before you swear your existence away to bikini-body-boot-camp workouts you found on the internet coupled with a juice cleanse that you scored a Groupon for. Not eating this pizza slice could be the story that you tell your girlfriends about when they say you’re looking skinny weeks from now, or the experience that puts you ahead at your next High School Reunion, or the reason that guy finally asks you out next week.

I know– it’s a lot, right? An awful lot for just a piece of pizza.

Almost too much.

You ignore the greasy triangle you claimed earlier and you try and jump back into the conversation with your friends like you didn’t just live a whole week of choices and debates in your head, but it’s exhausting.

It’s overwhelming, it’s unfair, and it’s not adding any goodness to your life, but you know what will? Dismissing everything and grabbing that slice. It’s going to be delicious, and you’re going to live another day.

What matters is that you’re just as focused on how you’re shaping up in the inside- in your gut feelings and thoughts and heart and character- just as much as you are dead-set on visualizing the way that slice will make your thighs look.

Now, I know you’ve heard this before, and I know that Sunday School lessons of ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ have been preached to death, along with body-positive speak that you chanted in Middle School health class, but you still argue with yourself before every meal. You still give in to the accusations against your particular silhouette, you still have to take a deep breath before you look in the mirror, and you still let the numbers on your clothing labels define you. There are still nights where you curse your arms in a sleeveless dress like they called you a bad name and when your mascara runs because the same dress really looked better on the mannequin. You listen to Beyonce’s “Pretty Hurts” and cry every time, and that’s okay. You know that magazines are photoshopped, but you’re still filled with anger an hour after looking through a Victoria’s Secret catalogue. Accepting yourself isn’t one-and-done and you’re living proof of that, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having to remind yourself of your worth beyond the scale.

But, I do want to convince you that this whole ordeal takes time.

And, if you can spend this much thought, talent, emotion and time on one measly slice of pizza, imagine what your beautiful brain could do with a situation that matters. With a friend’s broken heart. With a passion you should pursue. With a clear look at the things that bring life.

So I guess all I’m saying, from one work-in-progress to another, is take care of yourself.

 

Oh, and have the second damn piece of pizza.

I Started A Line of Wines, You Guys

A woman I look up to daily, Miranda Lambert, has her own wine line, and I’ve always been jealous of her puns- in particular, the “White Liar” Chardonnay. At this point in time, if you’re interested, you can also enjoy wines curated and created by Drew Barrymore, AC/DC, Sting, and the beards over at Duck Dynasty, so I figured that if any major celebrity could make it happen, I should take my own crack at it. Besides, if you never try (the wine), you’ll never know (if you should drink the whole bottle).

So, may I present:

The Lion-Haired Girl Wine Line!

“Business Cashz”

– a full-bodied red that looks good when held in your well-manicured hand and rocking your J. Crew shirtdress that you stalked online until it went on sale and rationalized as a great office wardrobe staple for an after-hours event.* ( *Does not actually contain any alcohol whatsoever, so that you don’t make any embarrassing comments at a work function, but still can sip like an adult.)

“I only wanted an appetizer anyway”

— a bubbly Rosé that hits you with a surprisingly sharp finish, akin to the feeling of opening a menu at a really nice restaurant and realizing while you don’t go out, and no, 2-for-1-pizza-and-beers-night doesn’t count

“Call Your Parents”

— a Pinot Grigio that once chilled and opened, should be finished within the evening. Though initially tart, it develops a sweet aftertaste the more you let it breathe, and once your defenses are down, you realize that they’re really on your side and want the best for you in every situation. The grapes, I mean. The grapes definitely want the best for you.

“Netflix”

— I’ll be honest, it’s actually not a wine we make in-house. This is just Barefoot Moscato or Skinnygirl Margarita, depending on just how your night is going and bank account looks.

“This Again?”

— a single-serving-sized mini bottle of Cabernet that doesn’t need to be chilled, so that it can be busted out at any time to console a past decision, problem, person, hair color, or terrible moment that still cripples you, but can be finished quickly so you don’t linger on these feelings AND so that you don’t feel pressure to down a whole bottle so it doesn’t ‘spoil’. Popular for weeknights.

“Reality TV is A Hobby”

 – a sparkling white that you’re almost embarrassed to buy, but it’s just so easy to drink. Comes with a bedazzled glass that can hold the entire bottle, so you don’t have to share. Pairs well with a Real Housewives marathon (Beverly Hills, Orange County or Atlanta preferred, but any city works).

Sold in a 2-pack with our other popular sparkling white wine,

“That Girl”,

— tastes exactly like a Pumpkin Spice Latte, actually.

“21st Century Breakup”

— a blend of grapes that don’t really go together, but you try to rationalize that it’s going to taste good anyway. The label might be a little deceiving, or it might have aged a little too long. A small sensor in the top of the bottle sends a text alert to your 4 best girlfriends when you uncork it, while at the same time locking your personal phone and computer from all social media and texting functions. It always gives you a headache the next morning, but that’s because you’re not really yourself when you’re drinking it, and these things take time. (Can be ordered in bulk.)

“The Small Things!”

an extra dry champagne that’s not hard on your wallet. It’s sold with non-optional edible glitter to add to each glass. Customers have told us they used it to celebrate job promotions, birthdays, graduations and engagements, as well as good hair and lipstick days, paying off credit cards, new pets, mastering a Pinterest recipe on the first try, welcoming a new friend, making a fitness goal and actually achieving it, getting enough hours of sleep, and simply being thankful for your life and letting yourself gently learn from mistakes. (Can also be ordered in bulk.) (Should be ordered in bulk.)

 

 

 

(Fine Print: Pre-orders are now available via Twitter. First batch expected to ship in August of 2015 because I have to give the grapes I stomped on in my vintage bathtub and then mixed with alcohol time to get old and wine-y. No refunds. Also, legally I’m supposed to tell you that I don’t know how to technically make wine, but I’m sure there’s a Youtube tutorial somewhere.)

Signs That You May Have Been in Show Choir At Some Point

You still get the strange urge to use jazz hands when making a point, or you just turn these jazz hands into a large gesture that in no way looks natural, but you try and play it off as such

You are critical of any work that claims to be musical and give your own running commentary of American Idol and The Voice auditions (bonus points if you have auditioned for any of those shows and still share your own ‘professional’ opinion on the experience)

You are aware that you are being a little too judgmental at the Karaoke Bar, but why would someone try to follow your Martina McBride, Josh Groban, Aretha Franklin, or Celine Dion with a weak Red Hot Chili Peppers performance? I mean, come ON.

You either-

  1. Want to strangle anyone who brings up Glee because it’s not realistic and also your choir department was way more talented and also WHY ALL THE ACAPELLA and no one looks that old in high school and no, Lea Michele, just stop with those expressions please.
  2. Want to hug anyone who brings up Glee because you have all the soundtracks and just know that life could be a musical, like, if we all just tried harder!!!!
  3. Say that Glee is lame or you have no opinion on it but secretly despise everyone on that show for getting more famous than you, because, did ANYONE in that tv show pull off 4 years of intense diaphragm exercises and singer’s posture and writing I.P.A. and memorizing minor scales? Didn’t think so.

You harmonize…with everything from commercial theme songs to the worst Miley Cyrus remix on the radio, without realizing it and to the chagrin of people who are also trying to sing along, making you look like a know-it-all or show-off

Your ear has been exposed to so many different kinds of music or languages and styles to sing in, that you find it hard to pin down just exactly what genres you like

There are far too many embarrassing photos and videos of you singing that exist, but you also know that it’s a rite of passage to wear a stupid bow tie or itchy unflattering dress in order to rise to the top of the vocal elite

You remember lyrics but forget what song they go to, or you spend an afternoon singing a melody into the Shazam app on your phone because you remember it, but not the words

You’ve ever considered/thought/muttered/bragged about the fact that you or someone you know might have ‘perfect pitch’

You primarily still count to 8

You have 5+ different remedies for sore throats or losing your voice, and they may involve everything from lemon juice to honey to whiskey to echinacea- bonus points for a hot toddy with all of them- to taking a ‘vocal rest’ or gargling with homemade salt water

You get annoyed when a crowd of people can’t clap correctly and on the beat. Who are these amateurs?

You have an uncommon knack for getting into tights, lipstick and false eyelashes in 3 minutes flat- and it’s a skill that you’ll keep with you and will come in handy more often than you think

No matter your gender, there’s probably still glitter on your body from some show outfit that you can’t get off

There is a chance that you may still describe things as needing to be “more legato” or “syncopated” or “dissonant” and that’s not strange at all

You get choked up during that song – you know the song- when you go see a musical, and there’s nothing you can do about it

You probably weren’t the most popular in high school, but that means you have time to grow into your quirks now and appreciate the way singing shaped you into the perfect weirdo you always needed to be

You still can’t pass a stage or see someone else in the spotlight without thinking, even if in the tiniest part of your soul, “What if that was me up there instead?”

Even if you can’t pinpoint why, you’ll always be sentimental for music and the community that it brings, and even if you never sing in any sort of choir setting again, hey, at least you’ll always make great playlists