Sweating Through July with New Music & Cupcakes

July, July! Are you all feeling pretty much burnt to a crisp by now, friends? I'm right there with you.

When my dad had a major stroke in the summer of 2004, I ended up spending a lot of time in the car. I'd take the train from Chicago into Homewood, Illinois, where my brother would pick me up at the Metra station and then drive me to our childhood home in Dyer, Indiana. From there, I'd grab the keys to the white Chevy Lumina that I drove throughout high school and then make my way to the hospital in East Chicago. The weather was, typical for late July in Northwest Indiana, swimmy and sweltering.

My then-roommate had introduced me to all things indie rock, thanks to her early-adopter readership of Pitchfork.com, and so during those couple of weeks of frantic driving, with the air conditioning on full blast, I happened to be listening predominantly to The Hives' Veni Vidi Vicious and Pixies' greatest hits comp Wave of Mutilation. Snotty, propulsive punk rock was just the medicine I needed to get me through the confusion of those days.

Interspersed with those albums, I'd also tune into NPR to hear snippets of that year's Democratic National Convention. It was the year of Obama's big speech, the one that likely catapulted him to the presidency in 2008. I missed it. I heard everyone raving about it later, of course, but I missed it in those days before you could grab instant replays on YouTube. I don't remember much of what or who I did hear, specifically; I mainly remember that sick sense of confusion that we couldn't possibly be in for another four years of George W. Bush as president, could we?

We, of course, were. And now, twelve years later, here we are in the midst of another DNC, and I've been intermittently tuning in, battling through a similar sick sense of confusion about what in the fresh hell is going to happen this November. Music, as ever, is a balm. In that spirit, I've created a little online mix of some of the songs I've been loving so far this year; it's available to stream online here. I've called the comp You Could Do Better, Or You Could Do Worse. (It's a line from the band Aloha's song "One Hundred Million" off their new album Little Windows Cut Right Through, but also, for real. You could do better, or you could do worse.)


2016 has been a surprisingly robust year for new music for me, and a lot of the songs I've chosen here are actually even second-tier favorites from their respective albums; look for a bunch of alternate takes to be represented when I compile my annual best-of mix at the end of the year.

At any rate, think of this as my gentle reminder that it's OK to occasionally step away from the churn & burn of the news cycle, and that it's vital to remember to find pleasure in your days wherever you can.


What's new on the blog


This month on Queen of Peaches, I go long talking about a particularly memorable meditation retreat and all the crazy things that unfolded in the following year because of it. (Yes, cupcakes are involved.)

“Late in the summer of 2010, I found myself participating in a two-day silent Zen meditation retreat.

The temple that I belong to periodically hosts silent retreats of varying length—typically either two-day shorties or five-day intensives. This was one of the shorties, and I’d signed up to attend, thinking that it would be a decent way to refresh my practice in the midst of all the other things I had going on in my life at that point.

[…]

Zen meditation retreats can be brutal. Not in the sense of Zen masters beating you with sticks or depriving you of food and water and sleep or anything like that. Just in the sense that…you’re left alone with your own mind for hours and hours at a time. The lack of distraction can be really beautiful when you’re able to sink into it, but it can also be really punishing if you find yourself in a negative mind loop for any reason. The weekend of that retreat, I happened to trip into a negative mind loop and just couldn’t get myself out of it."

Click here to read the rest.


Elsewhere!



Argh, I wish The Districts had covered the entirety of "I'm Waiting for the Man" rather than just using a couple verses as an intro to their own song. Nevertheless, even if it's not a full cover, I couldn't resist highlighting this video clip this month because of how much I adore their rough & tumble tribute to Lou Reed (apparently performed & recorded on the actual day of his death). The lead singer's vocal affectations are pure 2010s (that kind of yelpy, choked enunciation that, even in a rock context, always sounds about an inch away from all that nuevo-banjo white-bread hoedown music that I'm still patiently waiting to fall out of style), but I don't think I'll ever not love that slightly falling apart, we-can-barely-play-our-instruments sensibility unique to really young kids just waking up to the power of playing a few simple chords really fast and really loud.



Did you know that, in addition to being trained as a psychic reader and reiki practitioner, I'm also a Certified Crystal Healer? It's true! A few years ago I went through the Hibiscus Moon Crystal Academy certification program and loved every minute of it. These days, you'll usually find me wearing crystal jewelry, carrying crystals in my pocket or purse, and surrounded by a variety of crystal grids at home. I'd be happy to offer a crystal prescription for any situation in your life that you feel could use a little sparkly magic (I can place the crystals on your body in order to clear out your blocks and tune up your chakras; I can create a grid formation in sacred space that feeds power to a specific project or process; I can send you a curated selection of crystals that you can carry with you and access in your daily life as needed). Click here or just reply to this e-mail if you're interested!



From my frankincense-scented home to yours,