Leon Bridges makes me feel like I’m moving into the future and the past at the exact same time. Good Thing is just as wonderful and vintage as Coming Home, with a little more grit around the edges: the barely distorted guitar hook on “Shy”, the fuzzy keyboard solo at the end of “Bad, Bad News”, the snappy 80s synthesizers on “You Don’t Know”. I can set this album on repeat for hours at a time.
Battle Lines, Bob Moses
Ella Mai, Ella Mai
Malibu Nights, LANY
Ruby, Macy Gray
Voicenotes, Charlie Puth 😑 #WHYYYYYYYYYIMSOEMBARASSED
“Getting Curious with Jonathan van Ness”
2018 brought us the revival of Queer Eye and I truly didn’t know how badly I needed it. I started listening to JVN’s podcast “Getting Curious” and it is a complete, utter joy. He hosts a different expert in each episode to talk about what makes him curious - and the huge, colorful range of topics keep the podcast interesting every week. A few of my recent favorite episode topics have included fighting climate change, medical marijuana, flipping red states in the midterms, the history of the study of ethics, abstinence as addiction treatment, and the origin stories of his four other Queer Eye compadres. JVN’s joy and ferocity is so contagious. This podcast is never dull and I look forward to it every week.
“Code Switch” is an NPR podcast all about race, ethnicity, gender, cultural identity, and how all of these things intersect in modern society. The operative word there is “intersect” - it’s about the layering and mixing of all of these different elements of identity, and how multifaceted identity can be. I’m a mixed race woman and my whole life, everywhere I go, the question “But like, what ARE you?” has followed me around. (I love giving deliberately obtuse answers and watching people’s confusion). Grandmothers from a hilarious number of nations have at some point come up to me speaking everything from Spanish, to Tagalog, to Italian, to Portuguese, reacting in total disbelief when I can’t answer back. My experience is just one among a complex, endless sea and I love “Code Switch” for exploring how deep that sea is. It acknowledges, honors, and extrapolates on the experiences of people from multifaceted backgrounds, and acknowledges that labels matter, but can be fluid. It covers the way identities play out in society in both a deeply personal and extremely public, social way. Some episodes are biographical, some are about current events, some are historical, some are political, some are scientific, and all of them are deeply engaging. It’s intense, fascinating, complex territory that could be disastrous in the wrong hands, but the hosts, Gene Demby and Shereen Marisol Meraji, are absolutely incredible. In fact they just released an episode detailing how a professor at University of Texas San Antonio decided to make an entire course based on “Code Switch” and I would do like, prettttttty much anything to take that class.
“Broken Record” is a new podcast that combines a couple of my favorite, favorite things: music and Malcom Gladwell’s voice 😊 Gladwell and Rick Rubin zoom in on artists, songs, genres, and music history. It’s pure music-nerd joy.
“Making Obama” is a deep dive into the political journey & rise of Barack Obama, and it’s fascinating. Through interviews both with Obama himself as well as his former bosses, colleagues, and backers, we get an honest portrait of a man looking for his place in a city famous for ruthless, volatile politics. It’s not worshipful or rosy, but it’s still a comfort to hear from a President whose ideals were centered around a greater humanity and justice instead of their own pathetic ego. I digress.
“On She Goes” (Season 1)
I’ve already written on the blog about my love of “On She Goes”, but get this: this is the only podcast that I’ve ever listened to all the way through, TWICE. That is how much I love it. The later seasons are good, but the first season with Aminatou Sow as the host is absolutely diviiiiine, and I wish she was still hosting…but I digress again! “On She Goes” is about traveling the world as a woman of color, and not only does Aminatou have a ton of wisdom to drop on the topic (she’s the daughter of international diplomats she’s been everywhere!), there are tons and tons of intelligent, hilarious, engaging guests who offer their stories, expertise, and tribulations with so much heart. I absolutely adore the first season of this podcast, and if you’re even thinking about trying to see the world, listen to the first season of “On She Goes”. 😊
Already covered/honorable mentions:
“Switched On Pop” (a perennial favorite)
“Bad with Money with Gaby Dunn”
“Serial” (Season 2)
Goodbye Vitamin, Rachel Khong
This book gripped me, broke me, then scotch taped me back up. It centers on a family dealing with Alzheimer’s as it creeps into every single aspect of their lives. Khong’s writing style is sparse, direct, and as un-flowery as it gets, yet I felt overcome with emotion reading every page. I felt so attached to every character in the story (particularly it’s heroine, Ruth) that I read the last few pages in slow-motion as I realized the whole thing was ending. I didn’t want to leave them.
Men Explain Things To Me, Rebecca Solnit
It’s not an easy one. I cried and sighed and yelled a lot while reading it. It’s not perfect, and I actually found myself frustrated with the lack of acknowledgment of intersectionality at a few points, but I still recommend it.
In Paris, Jeanne Damas and Lauren Bastide
Of course one fashion book had to make this list, who do you think I am?!?!?! 😂 This book is a lovely account of the stories of 20 Parisiennes, all from different neighborhoods and walks of life. You get a peek at their lives, style, loves, beliefs, families, and histories. For me it’s as much about personal style as it is about Paris itself. It’s a treat to read.
City of Scoundrels: The 12 Days of Disaster That Gave Birth to Modern Chicago, Gary Krist
I’m a real nerd for city histories, and City of Scoundrels is the nerdiest book I read/loved last year. Also, it’s about Chicago, so of course I love it. Set in 1919, it is about a period of twelve days in which Chicago was brought to its knees by fires, strikes, riots, and murder. It’s narrative history, and all of these events really happened - but the way Kirst writes makes it feel like fiction, which makes it even more unbelievable that it’s a true story. I’m honestly not sure if the book explains how these days “gave birth to modern Chicago”, but it’s fascinating nonetheless.
Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers, Rupi Kaur
Feels like these two need no explanation. Just read them and prepare to feel ignited.