Category Archives: nostalgia

i was once a loyal lover


The release of Ben — sorry, Benjamin — Gibbard’s excellent solo album last week got me thinking about how much I used to love Death Cab for Cutie. Not just love — like, LOVE love. (In case it wasn’t clear from that eloquent proclamation, this love blossomed most brightly during my freshman and sophomore years of college.)

I wore out my digital downloads of Transatlanticism tracks, gobbled up Plans as soon as it was released, saw them on tour, and then… things just kind of fell off.* When Narrow Stairs debuted in 2008, I was mildly obsessed with epic eight-minute-plus single “I Will Possess Your Heart,” but I didn’t really care for the other singles, and when a friend lent me a copy of the entire album I just kind of shrugged and the music rolled off, not leaving any sort of strong impression, good or bad.

By the time Codes and Keys came around last year, it was the same story. I liked “You Are a Tourist,” but NPR’s advance stream of the entire album left me cold. I didn’t even bother seeking out a copy until last month, mostly out of guilt at my fairweather fandom. During that same transaction, I also finally got myself The Open Door EP, which I had heard about and wanted to acquire upon its release but for some reason just never purchased.

Wracking my brain for reasons as to why that could be — after all, I had already heard a couple songs off the tiny tracklist and liked them a lot — I looked up the release date, and then realized that its early April 2009 debut was smack dab in the middle of my harried completion of a soul-sucking, time-thieving magazine prototype production project at grad school. So, of course, some things were bound to fall by the wayside, right? I mean, I was barely sleeping, spending hours upon hours in the computer labs staring at slapdash layouts, even making arts and crafts projects in my failed attempt to be a creative art director while also making my life even more difficult than it had to be.

Honestly, sometimes I think my membership in the music fan club should be revoked. Yes, I was beyond busy, but I knew about this EP’s existence, and should have made more of an effort to acquire it. It would have come in handy to have on my Zune for all those long hours in the lab, and probably would have provided a nice respite from the craziness swirling around me, if only for those five tracks.

Rather than regret my musical transgressions, I’m just going to enjoy what I have now — and boy, am I ever. As the chorus goes in this post’s title track: “You can’t even begin to know how many times I’ve told myself, ‘I told you so.'” I still may not be a very loyal fan (I can think of many other bands against whom I’ve committed similar sins, and for that I am sorry), but I’m trying. In this age of  overstimulation and distraction, digital or otherwise, sometimes “better late than never” is the best that you can do.

*Many people will note that I could never have been a true Death Cab fan in the first place since I sort of ignored their earlier releases, which apparently all the cool kids think are really their best work. Fair point. But to give me back some credibility, I do have a handful of illegally downloaded tracks from Something About Airplanes, The Photo Album, We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes, and You Can Play These Songs With Chords, and even LIKE some of them. But I’m a simple girl with simple tastes and if I don’t care for music I move on, no matter how much I love the band in question. Sorry.

everybody, put your best suit or dress on


While not technically the new year yet, I couldn’t resist the Death Cab reference. This time of year always brings out the nostalgia in me — as I’m sure it does in just about everyone else, too — and what better time to get sappy and reflective than at the end of this year and on the cusp of the next? I’m pretty sure it’s what the holiday was designed for. (Nevermind the whole changing of the calendar thing.)

Aside from a few mishaps along the way, 2011 was a pretty kickass year, at least in my personal life. My parents celebrated their 30th anniversary in May. My brother got married in June and shortly after found out he and his wife are expecting their first child (baby Claire is due in March, and Aunt Katie can’t wait). My adorable nephew, Dante, turned 1 in November, and after spending some time with him around Christmas I can already tell he’s a brilliant child, if his ability to figure out a toy basketball and hoop after one attempt is any indication. (Scholarship, anyone?)

And of course, the best thing happened in August. After months of planning and planning-related headaches, I married my fantastic, goofy best friend, and four months in, we’re as happy as ever. I don’t want to gush too much (my Facebook friends are more than familiar with my ability to wax poetic about my happiness, sometimes to the detriment of others — apologies for that), but suffice it to say, the day itself was wonderful, and so far, the life we’re building together is pretty great. I’m looking forward to many more years of this fabulous existence with my husband by my side.

I hope to write a more exhaustive end-of-year pop culture recap in the coming days/weeks (I’m currently working on a retrospective music mix, which is taking much longer than anticipated, mostly because I keep coming across new tunes to add to the pile), but for now, let me end this one with a few of the things I enjoyed in 2011:

This commercial • Spontaneous trips to Boston & NYC to visit much-missed friends • Seeing “Starry Night” in person • Bossypants • My first iPod • Dancing to Lady Gaga with my father- and mother-in-law at my brother’s wedding • 50/50 • Randomly discovering new music • Repeatedly singing the chorus of LCD Soundsytem’s “Drunk Girls” with my husband apropos of nothing • Leslie and Ben’s coupling and Ron Swanson’s wisdom & ‘stache on Parks and Recreation • The first half of Mindy Kaling’s book, which I started yesterday and absolutely love already • WEQX • Sam Roberts Band • “Internet Killed the Video Star” • Continuing my obsession with Chris Jones and Esquire, especially this piece • Honeymooning in Maine and everything that went along with it, especially the copious amounts of seafood and Dark & Stormies • Mike and Tom Eat Snacks • The Muppets and its fantastic soundtrack • Buying way too much music on Amazon • Inadvertently becoming a USC fan (sorry, Dad), to the delight of my husband and his college friends • Giant teacups filled with Strongbow • My teal skirt from H&M • Big metal chickens • To-die-for dessert at New World Bistro • The soups/sandwiches/smells at Placid Baker in Troy • The “New Girl” theme song • A signed copy of Simon Pegg’s book with a personalized wedding message (thanks, Jaime!) • Hilarious and heartfelt presents/cards/speeches from our wedding, and our sunglasses favors • Having a husband and becoming a wife •

…and Mondoro champagne, which Nick and I drank on one of our first dates, at our wedding, and many times in between, and what we’ll toast with tonight to ring in the new year.

Cheers to 2011; bring on 2012.

the sky looks like an astro pop

Some songs get stuck in your head and you want to die. Butch Walker‘s “Last Flight Out” has been in mine for three days and I couldn’t be happier about it.

The tune is actually kind of glum in theory (the singer is flying away from his love for the last time), but its soaring chorus and crunching guitar riffs transform it into nothing short of an anthem. There’s also something delightfully kitschy about Butch’s shout-out to now-defunct Astro Pops.

Uplifting, nostalgic, and bittersweet — who could ask for anything more?

party like it’s 1999

The nostalgia train continued to wind its way through my week when I attended Guster‘s Lost and Gone Forever 10th anniversary tour Friday night at Rochester’s Main Street Armory. This comment from one of their facebook fans summed up my sentiments nicely:

“Guster… Rochester, Ny… Lost & Gone Forever Ten Year Anniversary Tour: That makes me happier, it was what I wished for, and either way… it makes me feel like I am the center of attention. Like I’ve just been shot from the barrel of a gun all the way up to heaven. Now that’s two points for honesty on a rainy day where I spy myself looking in the mirror wishing I was someone else, me and no one else. Fa fa fa fa fa fa fa… I’ll never be the same again.”

Impressive. (Okay, they missed “So Long.” Still.)

I distinctly recall making an art project sophomore year of high school that prominently featured lyrics from “Either Way” and “Center of Attention,” and lovingly taped an acoustic version of “Barrel of a Gun” off of 94.1 back in the day (which I desperately need to figure out how to transfer to mp3). Consulting my old music notebook (which is a blog post in itself — this thing is intense), I had LAGF at #6 on my top ten all-time favorite albums list in early 2002, and at #3 when I re-evaluated the list in March of 2005.

So, yeah. You could say I love this album. (Although you could also say I just love the late ’90s, since 3eb’s self-titled debut and BNL’s Stunt were numbers one and two, respectively, on this later list.)

With all this pent-up adoration, I couldn’t have been happier to score a pair of tickets to this concert, one of only eight stops on the tour. I’ve been to seven or eight Guster shows now — by far the most of any band I’ve seen — and they amaze me every time. If you haven’t seen them yet and have the chance, you must. You’ll be blown away, guaranteed.

What made Friday’s show — and the tour itself — so special was that the band played three sets, one of which was LAGF in order and in its entirety. I’d never seen an album performed that way, and it was cool, if a bit surreal, to know exactly what was coming next.

guster-11-06-09

super blurry cell phone pic #1

While the first set was wonderful, of course, and featured some of my Keep It Together favorites like “Amsterdam” and “Come Downstairs and Say Hello” (seriously, how great is that song?), the LAGF set was, well, what I wished for. Hearing songs I hadn’t seen them play in years, alongside perennial favorite “Happier” and classics like “Fa Fa,” only further cemented my love for this group and this album. (PS, how ridiculous is that “Fa Fa” video?!? I completely forgot it existed. Ah, the power of YouTube.)

I love me some audience participation, so fulfilling Ryan’s request for us to whistle and clap during the appropriate moments in “All the Way Up to Heaven” was especially fun (I love me some whistling, too), and the powerful closing one-two punch of “Two Points for Honesty” and “Rainy Day” left me simultaneously supremely satisfied and starving for more.

Once again, Guster gave it to me (that’s what she said), bringing down the house during the encore with yet another stellar version of “Airport Song” (with vocoder!), punctuated by the crowd pelting them with ping pong balls. And coming in a very close second to the awesome that was the LAGF set, Ryan, Brian, Adam, and Joe ended the show by coming to the front of the stage to perform a mic-less, acoustic rendition of “Jesus on the Radio” (which you can stream and download — along with the entire show — here).

guster-JOTR-11-06-09

super blurry cell phone pic #2

It was great harmonizing with my fellow concert-goers, and this last gesture from the group was the best, most intimate send-off we could have asked for. Like I said, Guster just keeps getting better. Here’s to a great decade, and here’s hoping their music legacy will last a million years, or more.

Do you have any Lost and Gone Forever memories you want to share? What was on your top ten albums list in high school? (Were you even that obsessive?) And what’s your favorite song that features whistling? Leave it in the comments, kiddos.

a tale of two say anythings, pt. 2: the lloyd dobler effect

I’m not old. I’m not. So why is the 20th anniversary of Say Anything… making me feel so overwhelmingly nostalgic? Yes, it’s a movie I love, but I was only a few years old when it came out, and I haven’t watched it in years. I only remembered certain plot details after perusing the film’s IMDB page.

And yet. There’s something timeless about the movie, which young writer-director Cameron Crowe knocked out of the park back in April of 1989. The dialogue is magnificent, and some of main character Lloyd Dobler’s lines are so heart-wrenching, I actually ache for him.

Sure, there’s Lloyd’s famous summation, “I gave her my heart, and she gave me a pen.” But what really got me as I browsed the movie’s quotes page — which is fantastic, by the way; damn, Crowe is good — was this:

“And one more thing — about the letter. Nuke it. Flame it. Destroy it. It hurts me to know it’s out there.”

How can you not feel for the guy?

Of course, the film is remembered best for and defined by The Scene, the one where John Cusack hoists a boombox over his head, plays Peter Gabriel, and wins back Ione Skye’s heart. And rightly so. Maybe it’s cheesy, but it’s also completely wonderful. And as one EW editor described in this great narrative, it actually works.

To commemorate the movie’s 20th anniversary edition DVD and Blu-ray release Tuesday, a “Mobler” of Lloyd clones, complete with boomboxes, descended upon New York’s Times Square, culminating in an acoustic performance of “In Your Eyes” by none other than rockers the Lloyd Dobler Effect.

mobler-mob

the mobler takes to the streets.

While some said this publicity stunt smacked ever so slightly of desperation, it was actually the perfect way to promote the film’s latest re-release. Lloyd, too, was desperate when he stood outside Diane’s window. And the ensuing wave of nostalgia that surely washed over any female who witnessed the event is almost certain to create a rush for this package. I know that I’m itching to own the movie now.

The Lloyd Dobler Effect. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Tell me, dear readers: what’s your favorite part of Say Anything…? Would Lloyd’s boombox trick work on you? Would you ever date a guy that wears a trenchcoat, anyway? And is 1989 John Cusack not the most adorable, fresh-faced thing you’ve ever seen? Answer these questions — or just say anything — in the comments.

beep beep, beep beep. yeah.

the band-aided one himself.

the band-aided one himself.

While driving back from Albany this past Sunday night, I popped in a CD I hadn’t listened to in ages: the mix I made for my best friend Connie when she got her license, better known as The “Happy Road Test” Ultimate Driving Mix.

As the mix began with the most fitting track of them all — Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me,” naturally — the singalong also began, and didn’t stop until Swirl 360 kicked in 18 tracks later. (Or at least until the CD started skipping like hell and, defeated, I had to eject the poor sucker. Mom’s Vibe isn’t too keen on playing burned discs.)

What amazed me most as I listened and laughed and sang was not the randomness of some of my song choices (The Red Hot Who?), but how fitting a time capsule these 19 songs were for that moment in my life. I was 17 when I made the mix, and didn’t have my own license yet, but I knew that these were the tracks that I would have wanted to hear if I myself were behind the wheel.

Save for a few songs that I wouldn’t be too sad to see go, I have to say that I was pretty much dead-on in my selections. This was the first time I listened to this disc while I was the one driving, and it was awesome. The singing/shouting to “Bohemian Rhapsody” was especially epic, though I must give props to my rapping abilities (“‘Yo Nelly, can we get tickets to the next show?’ Hell no! You for real?!?”) and memorization of the harmonies in “How Bizarre.”

If I were building an Ultimate Driving Mix today, I’d probably make a lot of revisions to this early list. But these 19 songs will always hold a special place in my nostalgic, driving heart. For real.

The “Happy Road Test” Ultimate Driving Mix:

  1. Nelly – Ride Wit Me
  2. OMC – How Bizarre
  3. The Beatles – Drive My Car
  4. Fastball – The Way
  5. Gin Blossoms – Hey Jealousy
  6. Incubus – Drive
  7. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
  8. Something Corporate – I Woke Up in a Car
  9. John Mayer – Why Georgia
  10. The Early November – Sunday Drive
  11. The Ataris – Boys of Summer
  12. The Red Hot Valentines – Firecracker
  13. Phantom Planet – California
  14. Paul Oakenfold – Starry-Eyed Surprise
  15. Third Eye Blind – Motorcycle Drive By
  16. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – The Impression That I Get
  17. Barenaked Ladies – Brian Wilson (live)
  18. Tom Cochrane – Life is a Highway
  19. Swirl 360 – Candy in the Sun

Tell me, readers: Have you ever smoked an L in the back of a Benz-y? Driven in the sun, looking out for number one? Seen a Black Flag sticker on a Cadillac? Not minded when the cigarette ash flies in your eyes? Woken up in a car? Let the cops chase you around? Seen that the road that they walk on, is, indeed, paved in gold?

Leave the answers to these questions, along with your favorite driving songs, in the comments.

jump, jive, and whales

twitter's popular "fail whale" error message.

twitter's "fail whale" error message makes me seriously consider joining the site. © Yiying Lu

Batten down your hatches, landlubbers, for I’m about to tell ye a tale.

Whales are my favorite animals, a love I can trace back to an obsession with the movie Free Willy* and annual childhood trips to MarineLand. I still have a stuffed orca, Whaley, from one of those visits, who may or may not still sit on my bed.

(*Yes, I know that killer whales are more closely related to dolphins. But considering they’re the BAMFs of the ocean, I think of them as one of the family. Plus their genus name, Orcinus, means “from hell.” Awesome.)

I’m a sucker for these sea-dwelling creatures in any material form they may take. Calendars, posters, jewelry, anatomically incorrect Beanie Babies, even one of those horrendous spray-painted t-shirts from the mall — I have owned and treasured them all.

Today my collection is considerably pared down, but my eyes and ears still perk up at the slightest mention of anything whale-related. That’s why I was delighted to come across Heart on a Stick‘s A Goddamned Guide to All These Goddamned Whale Bands. (Part Two is here.) Whales and music served up with a side of snark? Yes please!

The list is exhaustive (“but not comprehensive,” warns the author. “I left out Namu the Disco Whale, just to be mean.”), featuring dozens of whale-monikered artists. Who knew that Whale is the new black? (Or Wolf/Bear/Hands/Tapes/Cassettes/Crystal, as the case may be.)

I thoroughly recommend reading through the whole Guide, which is sprinkled with wit (my favorite!), fun facts, and a few pretty good bands. WALL•E and Fudgie the Whale also get shout-outs.

The best offerings from a musical standpoint are The Devil Whale and Freelance Whales:

Freelance Whales, whose vocalist reminds me of The Format and synthesizers of Hellogoodbye, is also blessed with one of my favorite names of the bunch. As a freelance writer, I feel for these guys; I can just imagine some poor, frustrated porpoise trying to scrape together a living as a whale.* This is what happens when I’m left alone with my thoughts.

(*Actually, “freelance whale” is a pretty fitting description for the orca.)

Other contenders for best name include:

  •  British Whale: While the name is a combination straight out of my own personal version of heaven, the usually-entertaining Justin Hawkins (of The Darkness fame) disappoints here with only two tracks, both abysmal.
  • Prints of Whales: Another fantastic juxtaposition, this time adding puns to the whales and Britishness. Their MySpace page offers the cheeky tagline “Putting the ‘O’ back into Cuntry,” plus the most giggle-inducing friends list I’ve seen in quite some time. (Thank you, Scrotum Clamp and Gob$au$age.) If it weren’t for the fact that I don’t like their music, I’d be in love. As it is, I’m still slightly smitten.
  • Simien the Whale: Named for a misheard Rusted Root lyric, though I question the band’s ignorance. This song is a classic.

I’ll stop here for fear of ruining the rest of the list’s lustre. Suffice it to say, it’s a worthy venture if you’re up for a whale of a time, mateys.