My favorite albums of 2014

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Because there aren’t enough “best of” end-of-year lists out there, I figured I’d throw my hat in the clickbait ring with my favorite albums of 2014. Originally I planned to limit the list to 10 albums. People like that number. It feels safe and warm and cozy. But then I thought, “10 isn’t a lot. Especially with all the music I added to my iTunes this year.” (106 albums, EPs and splits to be exact.) So I’m going with 15 albums. Cause punk. Cause anarchy.

Note: These aren’t ranked, just listed alphabetically. It was hard enough picking only 15.

1. Most influential album of the year
Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
A while ago I wrote a blog post the day Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender. Fast forward two years and she’s taken the experience and created one of the best albums of the year, and easily the most important album Against Me! have made.

2. The album that makes me wish AIM still existed so I could make 10 away messages that correspond to each of its songs
Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness – Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness
Chances are you listened to Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin in high school. If it’s been a while since you’ve heard from Andrew McMahon, pick up his debut solo album. It will remind you why you fell in love with his songwriting all those years ago.

3. The best pop album made by a couple of punks
Antarctigo Vespucci – Soulmate Stuff
Once upon a time, Chris Farren (Fake Problems) and Jeff Rosenstock (ex-Bomb The Music Industry!) got together, became BFFs and wrote seven killer pop songs. Good dudes making good shit. The end. 

4. The album I never expected to like
Beartooth – Disgusting
I know what you’re thinking: “Wait… Beartooth. Isn’t that the new band from Caleb Shomo, former king of crabcore/Attack Attack! vocalist?” It is indeed, but no crabs were harmed in the making of Beartooth’s debut album. On Disgusting, Shomo took all the bits and pieces of metalcore and washed out all the bullshit that makes people roll their eyes at the word “metalcore,” leaving listeners with an album that’s heavy, catchy and at times inspiring. Side effects include: Sudden desire to go to the gym and get your swole on.

5. One of many awesome 2014 releases from Tiny Engines
Cayetana – Nervous Like Me
Tiny Engines is the little record label that could. This year they released a zillion awesome albums. (I rounded up.) Philly band Cayetana’s debut album, Nervous Like Me, is on that roster of awesome (along with Somos, Dikembe, etc.). Listen to it, become totally smitten with lead singer Augusta Koch and her tales of adorable awkwardness then give it to your girlfriends—or boyfriends! We’re all-inclusive here.

6. Best pop-punk album for people who don’t like pop-punk
Chumped – Teenage Retirement
I love a good old pop-punk jam about hanging with my friends, hating my hometown and listening to Saves The Day as much as the next person, but change can be good. I adore Chumped’s 2013 self-titled EP, but their debut full-length blows it out of the water. There’s a reason Teenage Retirement is turning up on everyone’s best albums of 2014 list.

7. The sophomore album that didn’t disappoint
Have Mercy – A Place Of Our Own
Go ahead and keep talking about the “emo revival.” While you’re doing that, I’ll be over here listening to Have Mercy’s latest album on repeat.

8. Another phenomenal release from Tiny Engines
The Hotelier – Home Like Noplace Is There
Tell you what: Just go to tinyengines.limitedrun.com and listen to everything in the label’s catalog. But only after you finish reading this list.

9. Best album to definitely not under no circumstances stage dive to
Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again
Whether or not you agree with Joyce Manor’s views on stage-diving, there’s no denying this album is 19 minutes of fun punk sing-alongs. (Just go with it.)

10. Best album by a band that successfully changed their sound
La Dispute – Rooms Of The House
Granted, La Dispute didn’t change their sound so much as tone it down. As someone who was quite of fan of frontman Jordan Dreyer’s pained, ragged vocals, it took me a little time to get used to his quieter side on Rooms Of The House. After several listens though, I soon realized Dreyer’s voice may be subdued but the passion behind it isn’t.

11. Best album by a band that everyone will be talking about two years from now
Marmozets – The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets
Marmozets remind me a lot of Paramore, and not just because they both have female singers. It would come as absolutely no surprise to me if in the year of our lord 2016 everyone is talking about this band. Just remember: You heard about them here first.

12. Best album by a band whose lead singer is the musical son of music’s great frontmen
Plague Vendor – Free To Eat
I have such a major crush on this band. Frontman Brandon Blaine sashays around the stage like a young Mick Jagger/James Brown/Iggy Pop—and he’s got the chops to back up the swagger. His fellow band members  weild their instruments with just as much skill, melding punk, soul and rock ‘n’ roll into a sound that’s unique, refreshing and a hell of a lot of fun.

13. Best album by my favorite band
Say Anything – Hebrews
Time to come clean: In 2012 I did a list of my favorite albums of the year. One of them was Say Anything’s Anarchy, My Dear. Truth be told, it wasn’t one of my favorites of the year. I just couldn’t bring myself to make a list and not include my favorite band. Two years later, I can say with 100-percent honesty that Hebrews is indeed one of my favorite albums of the year.

14. Best album to silently weep/sing loudly to in your car
This Wild Life – Clouded
It reminds me of being 15 years old and totally in love with the way Chris Carrabba sang. *swoon*

15. Best album by my favorite new band
Tiny Moving Parts – Pleasant Living
I still remember the first time I heard Tiny Moving Parts. It only took two lines before I said, “I loveeee this. It reminds me of Say Anything and La Dispute.” I also remember my friend replying (with a big dose of snark), “This is what I imagine you listening to while you’re in your bathtub staring at a poster of Ryan Gosling.” Maybe…. maybe….

I miss Mondays

It’s Monday. The time is 12:09 a.m. By now, most people in my time zone are in bed, gearing up for another work week. Tomorrow they’ll probably post some Facebook or Twitter status about how awful Mondays are. Something like, “I need a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus to get through today!” Maybe they’ll even post a photo of a sad-looking animal with the phrase “UGH. MONDAYS.” in bold letters across the top. I won’t be doing either of those. For the past three months, my Mondays haven’t been any different than my Fridays or Sundays or Wednesdays. They all blur together when you’re stuck at home scouring the internet for job listings.

I miss Mondays.

I miss getting up (after hitting my alarm clock one too many times), fixing coffee and listening to CNN in the background as I get ready. I miss getting in my car and having somewhere to go, having work to do.

I miss work.

I’ve never been one who’s excelled at sitting still. When you’ve been clinically diagnosed as OCD and self-diagnosed as type A, you tend to do your best work when you’re in a constant state of motion.

I miss that state.

As I was washing dishes tonight, I realized that tomorrow all my friends will go back to their normal grind, and I’ll still be here, probably in the same clothes with the same unwashed hair. And I felt a lump forming in my throat.

This isn’t my first time being unemployed. After college I spent one year and three months living at home applying for every journalism job in the continental U.S. Although it was 50 shades of terrible, I could rest a little easier knowing I wasn’t alone. I had graduated in 2010, the class of future unemployed workers. But eventually I did find a full-time job. And then I found a better full-time job—my dream job. And then I lost that dream job.

When I moved back home after college, right around the one-year mark, I began to seriously consider a new career path. I was ready to break up with journalism. Hell, I even blogged about it. Of course, it wasn’t long before we were back together. I’m not breaking up with journalism again. This time it feels like it’s breaking up with me. (This is turning into the makings of a great/terrible emo song.) Every time my friends ask me how the job search is going or if I have any leads, I want to crawl across the table and shake them. Leads? That implies that there are more than five journalism jobs available in Northeast Ohio at any given moment, let alone jobs I’m qualified for. I know limiting my search to Cleveland isn’t helping my odds, but I’m not ready to leave this city. I feel like I just got settled. And I like it here, quite a bit.

So what do I do?

If you figure it out, please let me a comment below. I’m not ready to give up on journalism or Cleveland. So I suppose I’ll keep freelancing and applying for jobs and discovering new interests and—with a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus—I’ll eventually make it out on the other side a bit wiser (and a bit more bitter, if we’re being honest).

In defense of introverts

introvert textLast week, in an attempt to keep me reading and clicking and clicking and reading until I looked at the clock and realize 30 minutes have passed, BuzzFeed posted a list of 21 Texts Every Introvert Has Sent. As the dictionary definition of an introvert, I found this list all too relatable and can attest that I’ve sent all these text several times.

But after I got a good laugh out of the list, I started to think about my own introverted tendencies and the bad rap us quiet types tend to get. I’ve been shy since I was young. (Except in school. That was the one place where I loved to shine. The only thing strong enough to take on my shyness is my love of learning and type A overachiever personality. It’s the same reason I chose journalism as a career. I love finding and telling stories to strangers. As long as it’s not my story we’re talking about.) When company would come over to our house, I would stay in my room for as long as possible, mentally preparing myself to go downstairs and face people—usually people I was related to.  In one of my lesser moments I hid in the closet for an embarrassingly long time. If you go through the photo albums from my pre-kindergarten days, you might think I was a perpetually grumpy kid. I never smiled if I was forced to pose in a picture. I would mash my lips together and suck them in, like I had a secret I physically had to work to keep. The secret was that I was scared of smiling, of being exposed.

Even now I still tense up when strangers talk to me. Whenever someone gets in the elevator with me, I let out an inner groan because I know the person will try to make conversation, and I’ll have to say something. And if my fellow elevator companion doesn’t say anything, I spend the whole ride worrying that he or she will. This probably makes me sound like the most awkward social turtle, but like most things, there’s a chance I’m being too hard on myself. If someone says “hi” on the street or chats about the weather in the elevator, I’ll say “hi” back or offer some lame comment like “It’s so nice out!” but I’ll never speak first or ask follow-up questions or try to engage with you beyond what’s socially required of me. I’m no longer hiding in closets, but I will never excel at small talk or flirting or socializing. Once, in a fit of rare confidence, I RSVP’d yes to a Meetup of twentysomething women living in my area. But the day of the event I panicked at the thought of being in a room with 15 strangers who were going to want to talk to me. I didn’t go.

Once I become friends with someone and we’ve gotten to the point where we’re comfortable saying whatever to each other, I usually hear this: “I thought you were kind of cold or above everything at first, but now that I know you, I see it’s not true.” That’s the tough part about being a grown-up shy kid. What once came across as cute is now seen as standoffish. When I hear this, I’m not offended. (Okay, maybe I am a little. Us introverts are human after all.) I mostly felt surprised that someone even noticed me enough to make a critique of my character. That’s the thing about introverts: We spend most of our time trying to go unnoticed.

So what is the point of this post about my insecurities? Consider it a PSA about for you bubbly extroverts. Cut us introverts some slack now and then. We know we can come across as unfriendly, but we really think you’re great and are hoping some of your charisma rubs off on us. Sometimes we do prefer to just be alone. Don’t take it as an insult. We still think you’re great, but it’s just something we have to do for us. Sometimes we like being quiet. It doesn’t mean were mad. (Again, we think you’re great.) It takes a while to crack through to us, but once you do, I promise it’s worth it.

Sunday.

Autumn is officially in full swing, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve picked my pumpkins, drank my apple cider and eaten my share of pumpkin doughnuts. I hope your Sunday is filled with all kinds of fall festivities.

Here are a few things that I’ve been reading, watching and listening to recently.

  • Last night I finished reading I Am Malala. Talk about an inspiring book. The story of 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who just received the Nobel Peace Prize, is one everybody should read. As someone who loved school and still loves learning, I cannot imagine my right to education being taken away from me.
  • I started watching The West Wing last month, and I am officially obsessed. I love Aaron Sorkin’s other show, The Newsroom, but unfortunately its upcoming season will be its last. Thank goodness I’ve got six more seasons of The West Wing to watch.
  • When I’m not listening to NPR’s addicting new podcast Serial, I’m playing new albums from the Marmozets, Have Mercy and the Smith Street Band. The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets is already out, and Have Mercy and the Smith Street Band will have new records out this month. I’ve already heard them (the perks of being a music writer), and trust me when I say you’re going to love them. Unless you don’t love good music. Then you’ll hate them.

In other news….

  • I want the job of running Barbie’s Instagram.
  • In case you’ve been living under a giant boulder that has no wi-fi signal, Taylor Swift released a new song this past week called “Out Of The Woods.” I really like it, maybe even more than “Shake It Off.” I’m excited to hear all of 1989.
  • Kudos to Jennifer Lawrence for speaking out on the massive leak of celebrities’ nude photos: “It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change. That’s why these websites are responsible. Just the fact that somebody can be sexually exploited and violated, and the first thought that crosses somebody’s mind is to make a profit from it. It’s so beyond me. I just can’t imagine being that detached from humanity. I can’t imagine being that thoughtless and careless and so empty inside.” Read more here or pick up the new issue of Vanity Fair.
  • Let’s end things on a positive note, shall we? Specifically, this 10-year-old girl who was SUPER EXCITED to meet Hillary Clinton. Can’t say I would have acted any differently.

Come on and ache with me

I have a confession to make, internet.

I’ve become a crier.

Not only that, I’ve become the worst kind of crier: the emotional media consumer crier. I’d like to preface this by saying I was never a crier. I used to pride myself in my stoicism. And crying during a movie? That was reserved for the very rare occasions, specifically Brian’s SongHardball and We Are Marshall. (For a girl who couldn’t care less about athletic feats, something about a good old sports movie turns me to mush.) I still remember seeing my mom—a grade A emotional media consumer—cry in the theater while watching Casper. I looked at her and said, “Why are you crying? He’s been dead the whole movie!” Boy, if my smug 6-year-old self could see me now.

When I cried during a very touching NPR podcast, I figured it was just a fluke, but it didn’t stop there. Recently, everything makes me cry. And there isn’t any discernible reason for it. I’m not depressed, going through a breakup or dealing with a recent traumatic event. Besides looking for a new job, my life is pretty normal and pleasant for the most part. So why all the tears? And just in case you think I’m exaggerating (“Emotional types always do that,” you’re thinking to yourself), allow me to present you with a list of things that have made me choke up/sniffle/cry/weep in recent memory.

  1. Episode 523 of This American Life. Tales from hospice + a story about a dying parent = me weeping in traffic on 71 South.
  2. I stopped watching 90210 back in college in the middle of the fourth season. Earlier this year I decided to pick it back up. Great idea until I got to episode 87, “The Heart Will Go On.” Raj’s cancer is back, and he didn’t tell Ivy because he just loves her so much, and I CAN’T TAKE IT. Nothing like crying on your couch on a Saturday night to make you feel good about your life.
  3. A recent episode of Modern Family. I don’t think anyone expects to cry during Modern Family, myself included. But man, when Haley was all, “I’ve made bad choices, and I’ve messed up,” and Phil’s all “Your life has value!” I’m suddenly getting misty eyed because damnit growing up is hard, and sometimes I just want someone to tell me what I should do next.
  4. 99 percent of Cheerios’ commerical, but especially this one.
  5. Ron Suskind stopped by The Daily Show back in May to discuss his book, Life Animated, which is about his autistic son, Owen, and the power of Disney movies. Seems like a standard Jon Stewart interview. Then they play a clip of Ron and Owen. When the camera cuts back to Ron after the clip, he’s a bit choked up. If there had been a camera cutting back to me, the audience would have seen me crying, again on my couch. (Maybe I should just get rid of my couch, as it seems to be the scene of most of these crimes.)
  6. The penultimate scene in What If when Wallace and Chantry are finally going to kiss, and then they give each other gifts and they’re the same gifts and… that’s it, here come the tissues.
  7. After tackling 90210 I turned my attention to The Sopranos. I was doing awesome in my resolve not to cry, until we got to season six, specifically the first three episodes. Tony was in the hospital with a critical gunshot wound. Every time his daughter Meadow visited him, my waterworks started as I inevitably thought of my own dad. By the way, my dad has never been shot or been in the mob. Right now he’s home doing one of the following: cooking, watching Netflix or yelling at the moles who keep destroying his yard.
  8. Last week’s episode of The Walking Dead. The season five premiere had a few tearjerker moments: Carol is back with Daryl! Judith is back with Rick and Carl! But what got to me was the reunion between brother and sister Tyreese and Sahsa. It’s that same art imitating life shit that The Sopranos pulled on me. Like Sasha, I’ve got an older brother who’s a total gentle giant. We may fight a lot, but if there’s ever a zombie apocalypse, I want him with me.

I’m sure I’m forgetting several occasions, but by now I’ve painted a very sad and pathetic portrait of the crier as a young woman. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take out stock in Kleenex.

72 hours of madness

That title is way more exciting than this actual post, so I’ll totally forgive you if you stop reading now.

As you may recall, Friday was not so great for me. That night, I pulled up mediabistro.com and journalismjobs.com and proceeded to become very depressed by my options. Finding a job that I a) wanted and was qualified for and b) was in Cleveland proved to be next to impossible. I immediately began to panic and started thinking worst-case scenarios (i.e. living on the street eating a can of corn I’ve pried open with my fingernails that are now 6 inches long because I no longer have the will to cut them).  Instead of continuing my downward spiral into the realm of highly unlikely but highly terrifying possibilities, I decided to take my dad’s advice. Earlier that day when I called him and told him I lost my job, he must have heard the frantic edge to my voice because he said, “Just try to relax.” To which I replied, “Have we met?”

Relaxing is not something I excel at. I think it’s one of the reasons I was so attracted to journalism. Fast-paced, multitasking, deadlines—bring it on. I thrive on it. Even when I’m not working, I tend to stay busy. If I spend a day at home doing nothing, I start to feel a bit guilty. I was the kid who never liked missing a day of school. But seeing as all the shit hit the fan on a Friday and I had a three-day weekend ahead of me anyway, trying to figure out my next move before Tuesday wasn’t going to do me much good.

So I relaxed.

I slept late, watched entirely too many episodes of The Sopranos, binged on HGTV and took a nap Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I went to Old Navy and treated myself to some new clothes. I blew off the gym and ignored my piles of laundry. I drank too much coffee and made myself a double Jameson and ginger ale last night. I ate out. A lot. I had a milkshake and curly fries for lunch Saturday. I got brunch with a friend and devoured a glorious bowl of breakfast nachos. I decided ordering five enchiladas sounded like a perfect idea for dinner tonight. I ate two scoops of heavenly ice cream from Mitchell’s that dripped down my hands.

None of these things are particulary adventurous, but the fact that I didn’t spend all weeking searching for jobs, looking into health care and giving myself even more gray hairs is pretty damn great. All that stuff will come soon enough. But for 72 hours, I decided to stop worrying. It’s the best decision I’ve made all weekend. (Although those nachos were pretty epic.)

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Diary of the unemployed

“Americans don’t expect anything bad to happen and are surprised when it does, while the rest of the world expects the worst and are not disappointed.”
-Svetlana Kirilenko, The Sopranos

This wasn’t a blog post I expected to be writing. I’ve been staring at my computer screen for a good five minutes, trying to figure out how to start it. Seeing as I just finished the episode of The Sopranos that the above quote is from, I figured I’d start with that. (When in doubt, look to the wise, Russian woman.)

I lost my job yesterday.

The good part: I left on good terms. My fellow editors have been nothing but supportive and helpful. It was a crappy situation, but I knew the ups and downs of journalism when I signed up for it. It’s not an easy field, and it gets even tougher as the internet grows and print falters. 

The bad part: I lost my job yesterday.

I absolutely loved my job. I’ve wanted to work there since I was 15. I spent a lot of time crying yesterday evening. When I got home after packing up my office—which, by the way, takes an obscenely and uncomfortably long time—I took a nap. When I woke up, I remembered what happened, and the shock hit me all over again. I’m not someone who does well with change, especially change I can’t control. I don’t know what I’m going to do or where I’m going to work. I can’t imagine doing anything else besides writing, but I also can’t imagine living anywhere else but Cleveland. Cleveland’s a big city, but the journalism opportunities are still tight, so I plan on putting out the calls for some freelancing gigs. (If you know of any magazines/newspapers/websites looking for writers, leave me a comment.)

Regardless, I’m not going to end this post on a sad note. I had enough of that yesterday. So, I’ll just end with something from Mr. Keourac.

Jack-Kerouac- quote