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A celebration of an end.

We’re already over a week into the new year, guys. Can you believe it? 

In some cosmic irony, I’ve had the flu for the majority of 2013. However, the one unexpected benefit of spending all day in bed is copious amounts of time for reflection. And boy, have I been doing some thinking. 

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This New Years Eve was different than any other year. I was surrounded by a huge group of my best friends, all of us dancing and cheering and excited to be young and moving on. The countdown was an uproar, champagne sparkling and flying and lights and photographs. That moment captured exactly what 2012 was for me: the celebration of an end. 

2012 was a year of firsts and an equal amount of endings. 

My last year of college began, bearing the promise of graduation. I said goodbye to my best friend and boyfriend of nearly seven years. I finished a goliath project and quit my newspaper job at the Daily Texan. A doctor told me I was a textbook depression case

And somehow, I survived to do great things. 

I traveled across the world by myself. I fell in love - not with any guy - but with a people and their language, with a country. I found a new home in Italy. I came home and got my first “adult job,” where I’ll be working after graduation. I started the long haul that is my undergraduate honors thesis. I started dating. 

I dyed my hair blue and got a nose ring. I became a local at a few coffee shops and one hipster bar on East 6th. 

I met hordes of new people, mostly because I had to. I’ve made friends in all directions and made connections in Austin’s music and literary world that are invaluable. Somewhere along the line, I developed a crew of about fifteen people that I can call day or night. 

I went to about seventy-five concerts and one festival (alone!). 

This is all well and grand. Huzzah for change and all that. 2012 was one hell of a year. 

But here’s what I really struggle with: what does all this navel-gazing amount to? The answer: nothing. 

Rather - nothing, if you don’t run with the truths you find. 

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Here’s my great truth, a realization that surfaced on a dock overlooking Lake Austin. That little strip on the water was my great solace last year, as I expect it will continue to be in 2013. What I found is this: the navel-gazing is essential because you deserve to know how you’ve changed. Stand back, marvel at yourself! You’re a gem and a wonder. And yet, remain vigilant: May your best you always be the one you’re looking for.

The Weekly Walt: “Yet, Yet, Ye Downcast Hours.”

The Weekly Walt is a weekly series that includes a poem from Walt Whitman.

Verse II: 

Despairing cries float ceaselessly towards me, 
The call of my nearest lover, putting forth, alarm’d, uncertain,
The Sea I am quickly to sail, come tell me,
Come tell me where I am speeding - tell me my destination. 

203. Verse II  of “Yet, Yet, Ye Downcast Hours” from the 1900 edition of Leaves of Grass.

Where I’ve been, where I’m going.

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This is the first time I’ve written in over a month. It isn’t easy anymore.

I should preface all this by saying one thing: I’m scared. I’m really scared. I’m scared of how you’ll react to this, how friends might react to this, how anybody might react to this - and, perhaps more frightening than all of that - the possibility that no one will react at all. I’m scared you’ll look at me and think I’m asking with outstretched hands. I’m scared. With this in mind, there’s something I need to express.

Things have been off for a while. I could feel it in my writing and everywhere else; my skin, my bones: an intangible and impressively pervasive sadness. I hurt. I hurt all the time. Some time in October, I went to the doctor at my mother’s suggestion. Seated in a room painted mint green and lavender, atop a parchment paper perch, I was diagnosed with atypical depression. 

The worst part about depression is the range of baggage that comes with the word. It’s like cancer or pregnancy: everyone knows someone who’s been through it before. It’s impersonal. It’s tricky. It’s delicate. Sharing your diagnosis is a de-robing: you’re naked and waiting for everyone to judge you. Even if you’re not looking for pity or sympathy or affirmation or a “Get Well” card, it sure as hell sounds like it. At least, to everyone who isn’t depressed. 

And God forbid you tell someone you’re on meds, because that makes everyone uncomfortable. 

It’s easy for people to ask why. In a range of hardships, my life is relatively cushy. That’s not how this rodeo works. Depression arrives unannounced, like a snowstorm overnight. One night you go to bed and the world is one way, the next morning you wake and the stuff has covered everything. The world is unrecognizable. That’s how I felt, how I continue to feel on bad days: my world is foreign and so much harder than before. 

To be honest, there is only one reason I’m writing this: David Foster Wallace. I’m in a seminar this semester focused on his canon, and it has been one of the most relevant classes I’ve ever taken. The man is pretty much the only person on the planet who has articulated how this feels, and the disease killed him. I trust him, and he believed in vulnerability. 

So, Saint Dave, here you go. I’m naked and admitting the whole thing. I’m depressed and dealing with it. 

Part of dealing is learning to love the things that I stopped loving. Writing, for example, is a thing I loved; perhaps even the thing I treasured the most. It stopped being a comfort. Penning a sentence, a word, left me hollow. 

Perhaps now it is understandable why my blog has been abandoned as of late. 

The good news - and yes, there is some in this otherwise sad tale - is that I am now on medication that is making things easier. It’s still hard to get up in the morning, but not so hard. I want to write again. 

I’m back on the horse, guys. I may be as naked as Lady Godiva, but I’m up here all the same.  

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So I saw these boys this weekend. And I say “boys” for a reason - all three band members are under the age of fifteen. Max (12), Ben (13) and Deven (14) are old school punk and they are not sorry about it. Their sound is all big hits and angsty-teen vocals. I’ve never seen a group so heavy on impact. They brought the house down in a matter of seconds. I actually got a chance to talk to Max and Ben’s dad, to whom I could only say: “Dude, you seriously win at parenting.” 

Like them on Facebook and get their EP "Faces" at any local record store. These guys will also be killing it Saturday at Fun Fun Fun Fest in November, so get stoked!  

For fans of the following: The Ramones, The Kinks, Sex Pistols.

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These guys were the first act in the Neon Indian lineup at Emo’s East back in September. I liked their sound so much that I furiously scribbled down “beachy 1960’s prom rock” to remember my first impression. Upon second listen, not much has changed: these guys have a vibe that belongs in The Endless Summer. It’s all tambourine, muted drum sounds, echoing harmonies and Beach Boys-esque guitar sounds. It makes me want to don a crocheted bikini and wear daisy chains. You, too? Check them out on Facebook or at Cheer-Up Charlie’s this Friday (no cover!). 

For fans of the following: Bombay Bicycle Club, The Beach Boys, The Shins.

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SiP SiP is a special animal. It’s a giant collective made of equal parts: mostly members of Mother Falcon (heartbreakingly good chamber pop), everyone on board is classically trained in their instrument. SiP SiP is where they cut loose. They describe it as “neo-soul,” I call it an electro-funk carnival with rap undertones. Either way, turned on yet? I saw these guys live at a Raw Paw release and lost my mind. They came out in face paint and 80’s garb and quite literally shook The Parish. If you know and love Mother Falcon, it’s a treat to see Nick Gregg featured as an electro-vocalist instead of his usual haunting canon. 

For fans of the following: Chromeo, being sexy/freaky/awesome. 

You can download their nine song EP for free (so generous, huzzah!) on Bandcamp. I had to include both videos because SiP SiP is a two-part circus: the first video is all about how crazy their shows are, and the second is just for sound quality. Enjoy!

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This electro-love fest was also one of the openers for Neon Indian. It’s all bubbles and waves - very oceanic electronic sounds - overlaid with New Wave flat vocals and call and response choruses. I remember dancing like crazy and yelling back to Cameron, “It’s like Europe, only better!” It’s 1980 all over again, baby, so put on your Wayfarers and let’s get so very

They just dropped an EP “Say What You Will,” that you can get for free online

For fans of the following: Baths, Empire of the Sun, Future Rock.

Photographs courtesy of the following sources: Residual Kid, Tiger Waves, SiP SiP, Auto Body. Pulp cowboy image courtesy of artist George Rozen

Autumn on the streets.

This season has been the only thing keeping me hanging on. Somewhere between the unbelievable amounts of reading for my thesis (I’m at twenty-two books now, not including articles), regular homework and my job, I rarely have time just to be.  

Autumn is a play on apologetics, isn’t it? The whole loveliness of it all rather makes up for the rest of the year.

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The Killers v. Mumford: who won?

This fall two goliath names in alternative rock dropped long-awaited albums. Being the music junkie that I am, I immediately purchased both: Battle Born by The Killers and Babel by Mumford & Sons. Much to my dismay, one of the two was impressively lackluster. Wondering who? Read on. 

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Battle Born is the fourth album by The Killers, the fifth if you count their compilation album Sawdust in the mix. All bias aside, this collection is pure 80’s synth sexiness. But if we’re going to be straight, I have to give you the quick and dirty version of my history with the band. 

I bought Hot Fuss in the seventh grade (read: surly goth twelve-year-old) and it seriously blew my mind. I didn’t know you were allowed to do that kind of thing with keyboards. Then, two albums later, the worst news: the band was on “hiatus”. I was horrified. Here was a band that had carried me through my angsty middle school years and into adulthood (well, at least through senior year)… all for naught? Hell no.  

And now, in yet another senior year, The Killers have delivered. Battle Born is boss.

The album opens with a hallmark generational sound, all super-synth with a foggy Flowers belting it out. “Flesh and Bone” is an choice opening track, giving listeners the roadmap for the album: Flowers proclaims that he’s “cut from the cloth of a flag that bears the name / Battle Born," all the while chorusing to the same spacey-metallic synth that made Day & Age such a favorite. Other notable tracks include “Runaways,” which hit home as a single, and “The Way It Was,” a nostalgic pseudo-ballad that practically begs to soundtrack an 80’s cult hit. You’ll swoon on this line: “I drove through the desert last night / I carried the weight of our last fight / Elvis singing ‘Don’t be cruel’ / and I wonder if you feel it, too.” Seriously, guys. Mad love for that verse.

Can’t get enough of me fan-girling over this album? Check out my album preview post

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And now for something completely different: Mumford & Sons’ Babel. This is the boys’ sophomore album, and we all know the usual fate of second albums (hint, hint: they usually suck). 

Let’s remember we’re talking Marcus Mumford and crew here, folks. I hesitate to find fault in the holy hipster gods, but it seems not even indie royalty can escape the inevitable sophomore slump. Babel lacks the energy of its predecessor Sigh No More, which is one of the main draws to the band. Who can forget the first time they heard “Little Lion Man” and drummed along like a huge dork? I mean, I did. I still do! But Babel is full of soft (though pretty!) and melodic ballads. The only songs that recall Mumford’s signature sound are “I Will Wait” and “Holland Road,” but even then - something about them sounds off. They’re 80% there. The religious/nativism pride elements are still pervasive, something real Mumford addicts will appreciate. But let’s be honest: how much did we expect the majority of the album to be thoughtful? I was hoping for a rousing return. Not so much, folks; not so much. 

No worries, though, guys. If tradition holds, these boys will put out a magnificent third album and we’ll forget all about this sleepy collection of songs. 

So who won in the long run? I’d have to give that honor over to The Killers. Those boys have done it yet again. Mumford, better luck next time. Until then, you’ll see me spinning Sigh No More

All photography courtesy of NME magazine. 

Hungry for more album and concert talk? Check out the rest of my Music Monday posts. 

Between a rock and a hard place.

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Last night I got the most sleep I’ve had in six days. Since I got in around 3:30 a.m. that number rounds out to a delicious five hours. 

With my responsibilities this semester: writing a thesis, taking a full Honors course load, balancing a part-time job, being an officer in my fraternity, and somewhere in there trying to make ends meet - I feel like I’m falling apart. 

It’s so frustrating when you imagine a time of your life and it doesn’t turn out at all like your vision. 

I thought my senior year of college would be fun. I thought I’d have the time to audit Italian, to apply for my Fulbright, to go to yoga and the gym regularly, to become a runner. I thought I’d have time to sort out my demons.

Turns out I thought wrong. 

There are twelve books sitting on my nightstand, all necessary reading for my thesis. There’s about twenty journal articles on my laptop waiting for the same attention. There are papers to be written, scholarships to apply for. And then there is the looming horror of What I Will Do After Graduation. 

It’s easy to drop buzzwords in conversation when someone asks, “So, what do you plan on doing after college?” Everyone says something impressive. 

"I’m planning to spend a year traveling, then I’m going to grad school/med school/law school."

"I already have a job lined up through my internship. It starts at six figures." 

"I’m teaching abroad and then headed to New York for freelance work." 

Oh, okay. That’s cool. 

I have the same little spiel. “I’m applying to teach English in Italy, and then maybe I’ll get my MFA in creative writing. I want to be a writer, or maybe a professor.”  

Not to be a dream-squasher or anything, but when reality sets in, I don’t think the majority of us will be pursuing the yarns we spin when asked about What We Will Do After Graduation. And that freaks me out. 

I’m a twenty-something with potential, sure. But aren’t so many of us?

In the meantime, I guess I’ll be here, floundering somewhere between Scylla and Charybdis. 

Photography courtesy of the following source.