Thursday, December 23, 2010

TLA Year in Review: When everything changed in 2010

I'm not even going to make excuses this time around - every year I do a review of the past 12 months on this here blog, so why quit now? I always get a little kick out of digging through the archives to see what the hell I was going on about this time. Hopefully it's somewhat enjoyable for you, too? Maybe there's something interesting that you missed...maybe I'll throw in something new...maybe it will make you want to claw your eyes out? I don't even know. Here we go!


Hah, look at that! The first post of the year was all about me quitting my day job. Which I totally did! And though the year has since been filled with some very extreme financial lows, mental hurdles, and general Hard Times, I wouldn't take back the decision for the world. I have learned so much, been able to do more than I ever would have still chained to a desk, and managed to eke out a basic living by writing and making music. That is, simply put, amazing. And hey, I have health insurance now! And I've moved up from a 40 oz. of Pabst to a 40 oz. of Miller High Life. It's the champagne of beers! I'M RICH, BITCH!

We also kicked off "Chapel," the web series I've been working on all year and which just released part one of its season finale the other day. For a show that runs on Facebook and the Dollar Store, that's pretty damn good, if I do say so myself.

This post gleefully announcing the arrival of high speed rail just makes me sad now, though.


I helped throw the second annual Fire Ball masquerade party at the High Noon Saloon (number three is coming Jan. 29!), and that was cool. I started to learn just how glamorous being a freelance writer is. And how much not being insured can suck.


We filmed the second (two-part) "Chapel" episode of the season in a very cold, very awesome underground skate park. My pontificating over at Emily's Post got itself a perma-link (and now, several months later, I'm about due for a landing page and link to the RSS feed, which does exist!). And my band, Little Red Wolf, officially began the process of recording our first album. Also for some reason I decided to torture myself a live-blog a viewing of "Twilight: New Moon." Never again.


Apparently I was busy going outside and getting some sunshine or some junk, because there's just one lonely post from that month. About going outside and getting some sunshine.


 I spent some quality time feeling sorry for myself, and then attempted to get my band into Lilith Fair (it didn't work out).


Took a great/terrible trip to perform at something called Freakshow-a-Go-Go in Seattle and got my ass robbed while I was at it. Well, got my bag ass is fine, thank you.


Took a much needed, theft-free vacation to Rock Island with a handful of good friends and had myself a merry time living off-grid for a week. And then I got my hands on some mixing equipment and put together my first DJ mix in ages - which was super fun and damn I miss doing that.


What's summer without a gay pride rally? NOTHING I'll tell you. Of course, me being me, I couldn't just let it pass without criticizing someone for something.


Still had hope that Russ Feingold would hold onto his Senate seat. Hold on, need to sob for a minute.......OK, back. Little Red Wolf released an EP!


Pretty pictures and my own It Gets Better tale. I didn't blog about it, but Halloween weekend was absolutely spectacular. Little Red Wolf played as an all-'80s girl pop cover band one night (aka The Lisa Frank Unicorn Experience, and I got to be Pat Benatar for an evening), then as ourselves the next night for the Neil Gaiman/American Gods convention at the House on the Rock. I KNOW, RIGHT?!

Also I wrote this vignette about something I witnessed while writing in a coffee shop downtown. Will be attempting more such shorts, both fic and non-fic, in the new year.


I got a little bit older; wiser still up for debate. Live-blogged the mid-term elections and probably drank myself into oblivion over the results. I don't remember. Talked about my love-hate relationship with Oklahoma. And I made you a mixtape! You can still download it for free.


Everything happened in December. It's still happening now, for a few more days, at least. First, I release my favorite music of the year mixtape. Little Red Wolf released our debut, full-length album! I'm still riding high on that one, as I'm genuinely psyched with how the record turned out. So far, too, been hearing nothing but good things about it from other people. Not just my family!

We had ourselves a very snowed in but totally awesome CD release party to celebrate, and then one of the band members left on a round-the-world vacation for three months and the rest of us are still kind of in mourning about it. Mixed emotions! You can help me feel better by purchasing the CD, though.

I went to the capitol and had a Life Event which I will tell you more about next year. And the nation finally repealed Don't Ask Don't Tell. Truly, not a bad month.

Bring it on, 2011!

No sassy cheerleaders, though. I'm genuinely excited to see what the new year brings. The band is planning to do some touring, I'll continue to work on my novel and maybe actually even finish it, the play I'm currently rehearsing for will go up in late January...good things. And I am grateful, always.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


It's done. Finally.

My country gets one step closer to living up to the ideals upon which it was founded. Now if we could just get around to legalizing gay marriage nationally, the Wisconsin State Journal's Sunday edition would have actually been correct when it declared DADT to have been the last bastion of legal discrimination based on sexual orientation in the U.S. (I wish I could find a link to the article, because I about spit out my cereal when I read it in the paper).

I've been feeling a little excessively upbeat for the last couple of days - because of the DADT repeal, and for some big (awesome) personal reasons. I'm going to do my best to hold on to that as the winter drags on and my vitamin D levels drop off.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

If Only We Were Just Like We Are

It's done, it's here, for real for real! My band, Little Red Wolf, yesterday officially released our debut album, If Only We Were Just Like We Are! After just under a year of recording, mixing, tweaking, etc. the damn thing is finally done and available to the world and I could not be more thrilled.

Seriously, I am so incredibly fortunate to get to work with the other three talented and amazing women in this group. And I really do think it's a good record, if I do say so myself.

And I was grateful to everyone who braved the literal blizzard last night to attend our CD release show here in Madison. We steamed up the Project Lodge and had ourselves one hell of a little blizzard party, complete with a disco dance-off after our set was done with local cover supergroup VO5 (and many thanks to them for coming out to play with us). We had to dig quite a few people's cars out of the snow and ice afterward, but I like to think it was worth it.

Now we've got three months off from gigging (one member will be out of the country), during which we'll be trying to promote the hell out of the album and schedule some small tours for next spring/summer. Lots of work, but I'm excited about it all.

And hey, if you're curious (and I hope you are) to check out the record, you can listen to previews of all the songs and then, if sold, pick yourself up a copy via our CD Baby page. The album is also available in Madison at the Exclusive Company, B-Side Records, and Strictly Discs. Within the next couple of weeks you'll also be able to buy the album digitally through a bunch of places like iTunes, etc.

Before all the serious work starts, though - for today, I'm going to curl up indoors and enjoy the sense of accomplishment. No matter what comes next, I have this, and that's pretty damn awesome.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The best/my favorite music of 2010

It's that time of year again! When everyone starts navel gazing to reflect on the year that was and the year that might be. I am not immune to the impulse, of course, though I recognize that our system of tracking time is highly arbitrary and other cultures mark the new year very differently. Still, I find it somewhat helpful to use the turning over of the calendar year as a time to take stock and make plans.

It's part of why I do my "Best of" mixtape each December (officially going on four years now). I love the hell out of music, and putting together a compilation of my favorite tracks to come out each year kind of provides me with further motivation to, y'know, keep up with things.

I remember a few years before I started doing these mixes when I'd get to everyone's year-end lists and realize how much great stuff I'd missed out on. No more! And this was a damn fine year for new tunes. I tried to create a list that was somewhat diverse, or at least reflective of my various musical tastes. If you know me in Real Life you're likely to get a copy as my holiday gift to you (and feel free to ask for one if I miss you!). Otherwise, here's the digital version, for your edification:

Em's Best of 2010 Mixtape: "Throwbacks and Future Love"

1. "End Love" by OK Go, from Of the Blue Colour of the Sky.
Put aside the fact that OK Go consistently creates some of the most mind-bogglingly awesome videos to accompany their songs and you're still left with really solid music. The whole of this album is more than worth a listen (and a look, of course), but this particular track is one of my favorites. Catchy, melodic synth-pop with feeling. [Watch the video]

2. "Cold War" by Janelle Monae, from The ArchAndroid.
This woman (, sorry), I swear. The album is a fascinating collage of styles - from the upbeat funk/bop of this particular track to some seriously psychedelic stuff, it's a daring enterprise. I don't think Monae has quite reached her full potential with this record, though - which is awesome, because she's already phenomenal and I can barely begin to imagine where she'll go from here. [Watch the video]

3. "We Used to Wait" by Arcade Fire, from The Suburbs.
So Arcade Fire was supposed to be one of those new hotness indie bands that went away after their first record. Or that's what I had in my head for some reason - probably because everyone and their mother wouldn't stop gushing over Neon Bible when it came out. Turns out I'm a moron and this band is actually really very rad. Their newest record, The Suburbs, is gorgeous and plays like a concept album but with very little pretense. [Listen here]

4. "Apply" by Glasser, from Ring.
I admit, this was a last-minute addition to the list after I heard it on the recent NPR All Songs Considered podcast listing albums they'd missed this year. I can't help it, though, it's a fabulous track and so far the album is proving to be pretty unique and interesting as well. [Watch the video]

5. "Dreaming" by Goldfrapp, from Head First.
Oh Goldfrapp, I just can't quit you. Every record this outfit releases is almost entirely different from the last and I love it. Head First is like an '80s electro-pop album but with far better mastering and a deeper sense of...well...everything. It's fantastic. And so are you. [Listen here]

6. "Shades of Marble" by Trentemøller, from Into the Great Wide Yonder.
This record. Holy shit. So good. I was first introduced to Trentemoller through his excellent remix work - and frankly, when I heard about the album I was a little hesitant. There have been far too many instances of an artist I love for remixes who then releases original music that is, simply put, terrible. Happily, that is not even remotely the case here. And this track does a good job of representing just how versatile and lush Trentemoller's original work is. [Listen here]

7. "Paradise Circus" by Massive Attack, from Heligoland.
Although the album itself is far from being Massive Attack's best work (um, Mezzanine anyone?), it does contain one particularly stand-out track in "Paradise Circus." Moody, melodic, beautiful - everything I've come to know and love from this group. Check out this fabulously understated remix of the song by Gui Boratto, too. [Listen here]

8. "Snowden's Jig" by the Carolina Chocolate Drops, from Genuine Negro Jig.
I had hardly heard this trio before they came to Madison over the summer and played to an ecstatic, packed crowd at the Orton Park Festival. And boy howdy are they talented. Plus, this is some really great, classic bluegrass - I mean old school. But with a bit of modern flavor and youthful vigor thrown in for good measure. It's awesome to see my fellow young folks learning from the old and bringing back styles and traditions that were at risk of dying out entirely. This track in particular I find haunting and gorgeous, and there's something weirdly unsettling about it, too. Read about the band here. [Listen here]

9. "If I Had My Way" by Patty Griffin, from Downtown Church.
Patty Griffin can do no wrong. That voice! I mean c'mon. And I love that she explores a different theme on each record. She is a consummate storyteller, a folk singer in the best sense of the word, and on this album Griffin takes a look at more traditional spiritual music and style. [Listen here]

10. "Better Things To Do" by Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, from I Learned the Hard Way.
I have Stephen Colbert to thank for introducing me to Sharon Jones, which is really a shame for me because she's been around a lot longer than that, being equally as awesome. This is a great R&B/soul record, a sort of throwback to the '60s-era Motown style right down to how they physically recorded it. [Listen here]

11. "Fuck You" by Cee Lo Green, from The Lady Killer.
The summer jam of the year and you couldn't even play it on the radio! Ballsy. Brilliant. (except for the part where his label, I presume, made him do the public-friendly version called "Forget You" that was then covered, just to really kill its spirit, by Gwenyth Paltrow on an episode of "Glee" - gross). [Watch the video]

12. "Awakenings" by Sarah McLachlan, from Laws of Illusion.
My girl! Awww yiss! While 1994's Fumbling Towards Ecstasy will forever remain my number one favorite album of all time (for various reasons), her newest opus ain't no slacker. It took a little while to grow on me, and certain of the tracks still feel...forced...but there's plenty to like here, too. Including this track, which I love. [Listen here]

13. "Madder Red" by Yeasayer, from Odd Blood.
 This was another band I'd decided was just a hipster approved flash in the pan, but then the damn album grew on me. Plus then Kristen Bell, my secret girlfriend, did this really bizarre/hilarious music video for this song, so really, what was I to do? Anyway, good stuff, and very much their own sound. [Watch the video]

14. "I Found A Whistle" by MGMT, from Congratulations.
You have to respect a band that can go from having a wildly popular, omnipresent, dance-friendly first album to doing what MGMT did with Congratulations, which is to pretty much do an about face and try something entirely new. [Listen here]

15. "Soldier On" by Little Red Wolf, from If Only We Were Just Like We Are.
Um, so this is my own band. Is that tacky? I don't even care. I can't properly put into words just how excited I am that we're finally releasing our first full-length, so instead I put it onto this mixtape. [Listen here]
The Lost Albatross