Ten years ago today, I sat in the newsroom at MTV with my colleagues trying to process the enormous blow the indie rock world had just suffered with the mysterious and tragic death of Elliott Smith. Admittedly, I had only a cursory knowledge of Smith’s music upon his passing, but over the course of the past 10 years, I’ve come to know his strumming and his sorrow all too well.
No one did melancholy as exquisitely as he did.
A few years later, I would produce a Smith memorial package for Vh1, and I relished pouring over all of the archival live performances and painfully shy interview clips. I watched them obsessively, again and again. Though he at times alternated crooning about being strung out or lovelorn, it was all beautiful.
The man may have been tortured, but he was also brilliant.
So today, on the 10 year anniversary of his death, it seems only fitting to salute another one of my musical heroes gone too soon. Granted, it has little to do with wooing women – other than that his catalogue is the perfect thing to throw on if you find yourself entertaining one late at night – but please indulge me this momentary pause for a man whose songwriting was powerful and fragile at the same time.
If the extent of your familiarity with Elliott Smith is that he’s the guy who did that song from “Good Will Hunting,” then you’re doing yourself a disservice. Download his albums now, thank me later. But whether referring to his early material, or his posthumously released work, it all resonates. Ben Folds said it best in his song “Late,” written as a tribute to his friend Elliott: “The songs you wrote got me through a lot, just want to tell you that. But it’s too late…”
According to the calendar, gentlemen, it’s spring. According to Miss Wingman, bullshit.
Yes, I’d like to finally retire my sleeping bag-esque down coat for the season, but something tells me that we’re still far from out of the freezing-our-asses-off woods yet. So, on it stays, for now.
But what I will do is throw open the windows and let some life back into my apartment. And, of course, crank my iPod speakers while I clean.
If any of you were planning on doing the same – seriously, I bet your place could use a good sprucing up – then the least I can do is provide you with some tunes to accompany your domestic overhaul.
Out with the old, in with the new. And that goes double for those photos of your old girlfriend you’re still holding onto, boys. But with music, that’s not always the case. Mixing in some classics in with the new stuff never hurts, as long as it all has an upbeat vibe to usher in the new season.
So here are some of my recent favorites, in no particular order. I hope this spring cleaning playlist puts you in a warmer weather mood…
“Sight Of The Sun” – Fun. Aside from the fact that these guys are reaching Kardashian-like levels of over-saturation lately, that doesn’t diminish the fact that they are (and have been for years) SO GOOD. And, true to their name, just plain fun to listen to.
“New York” – Angel Haze. The darling of SXSW this year (that’s “South by Southwest,” for all you Amish, musically unhip kids), Angel Haze is a Michigan-born rapper on the rise. And she also kicks some serious hip hop ass, for what it’s worth. With lines like, “…You b****es are lyrically like some f**king down syndrome; no offense, no shade ‘n all, but y’all b****es on knees like babies crawl,” Haze isn’t afraid to throw down.
“Mirrors” – Justin Timberlake. Hate on JT all you want, jealous dudes, but there’s no denying the kid’s got talent. And his new album The 20/20 Experience is no exception. True, I haven’t loved his recent stuff nearly as much as his pre-I’m-Trying-To-Be-The-Next-Michael-Jackson era albums (Future Sex/Love Sounds, I miss you). But if this track doesn’t make you nod your head, you might want to check your pulse.
“Step” – Vampire Weekend. Nothing says sunny days and windows rolled down like the high-pitched, feel good music of these ivy league hipsters (with nonsensical lyrics, to boot). And for those jonesing for some new tracks, the VW boys have a new album, Modern Vampires of the City, arriving just in time for summer (May 6th).
“Feel This Moment” – Pitbull feat. Christina Aguilera. OK OK fine, so this track is a little girly. Feel free to substitute it with practically anything Pitbull, because Pit is not only a one-man Miami party on two legs, but he also pretty much exudes sex. In a mildly scary way, but still. Dude’s got game.
“I Do” – Gin Wigmore. This chick’s got a trippy, vintage-sounding voice (think gravelly, not grandma). But the real kicker to this catchy little tune? The true mark of all sun soaked, lazy day music…wait for it…a ukulele. It’s the kind of track that makes you wish you were sitting on a dock swinging your legs off the edge into the water. Or, you know, in your apartment organizing your sh*t. One or the other.
“Backseat Freestyle” – Kendrick Lamar. Nobody’s been this amped up for the return of west coast gangsta rap since the days of Snoop and Dre. Who, incidentally, have practically anointed Lamar their successor and protege. Forget that most of his music is less aggressive-sounding than one might expect within that genre, he still has a solid flow. I don’t love all of his tracks, but this standout is definitely an exception.
There’s nothing worse than that stretch of the calendar after the holidays are over and before it gets warm again. Miss Wingman can’t fast forward to the spring, but I can provide you with a soundtrack with which to entertain while you’re freezing your asses off. It’s almost as good as it being April already…almost.
Much like most of the music I recommend, it’s a schizophrenic collection of tracks to say the least. The only thing they have in common is that they’re all f**king stellar, therefore worthy of download. Some are new, some are not, but all are in heavy rotation on my iPod right now and should be on yours, too. So fire up your Spotify (or iTunes, if you haven’t yet leapt into the 21st century), and give these a shot.
“Reservoir Park,” The Dutchess & The Duke – What decade is it? The tambourines will make you swear you’re listening to the Mamas & The Papas. Only way cooler. (Don’t let that description deter you).
“Blitzen Trapper,” Furr – Folky guitar at its best. Even if you don’t like folky guitar.
“Who Did That To You,” John Legend – Arguably the best part of “Django Unchained.” And there were a LOT of good parts.
“Stubborn Love,” The Lumineers – It’s practically impossible to listen to this and not start tapping your foot. Trust me.
“Animal,” Miike Snow – Whether you go regular version or the Mark Ronson remix, this ska-inspired track will end up on repeat in your head. And that’s a good thing.
“Happily Ever After,” Gin Wigmore – This Elle King vocal doppelganger has an equally gritty sound. Not to mention lines like, “It’s been a long time coming and this house is burning down, don’t know how I ever loved you.” You know what they say about hell having no fury…
“100 Black Coffins,” Rick Ross – Another winner off the “Django” soundtrack. Dare you not to run home and download it after seeing the movie. Rick Ross might be terrifying, but this track is definitely not.
“Downeaster Alexa,” Billy Joel – Don’t even ask me how this one crept back into rotation on my iPod, but now I remember what a badass song this was. He might be our parents’ age, but Billy Joel is still a stud.
“I Get Around,” Tupac – Another throwback, I know. But has anyone ever gone wrong with a little ‘Pac in their life?
“One Lovely Day,” Citizen Cope – What can I say? I’m a sucker for some Cope.
And that’s the gist of it, gentlemen (and ladies). Not all of these are new, but maybe they’ll be new to you.
If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, or just need a little inspiration, music is the best outlet. In this girl’s opinion, at least. And even if you’re not, loading up on some good artists is the best way to soothe the sting of a 5-day work week commute after so much holiday time off. So search these out and give them a try. And if you like what you hear, remember to pay it forward and share them.
First things first – despite the ambiguous title, this is NOT a post about Game 4. Though if you’re Westbrook, you can’t seem to beat the Heat, either. (Zing! Had to, it was too easy). And this is coming from an OKC supporter, sadly. But I digress.
Ahem…where was I?
Wouldn’t it be great if summertime meant refreshing dips in the pool, breezy sail boat rides and being fanned on the beach by people with giant palm tree leaves?
(*Insert record scratch noise here*) Right. Well that’s not the world we live in, hate to burst your bubble. But, even though the official kick off of summer sometimes carries with it sticky, punishing days like today, it doesn’t mean you can’t rise above the heat. Have no fear – Miss Wingman has compiled the Top 3 Ways To Stay Cool This Summer. So peel yourself off your chair, crank the AC and grab a pencil, ’cause you might want to take notes, gentlemen.
Wingman Wipes: No, I did not make this up, but based on the name how could I NOT include this on the list? Also, this invention should be mandatory for all men in the greater New York City area…and beyond.
What are they? They’re dude-friendly wipes infused with aloe, ginseng and peppermint that you use to clean off the grime of your day before leaving the office, heading out for a date, or when things just get downright swampy. Obviously a shower is the preferred clean up method, but these will do just fine in a pinch.
They can be used to blot your face, neck, underarms, or any place you think could use a little refresher – it’s all fair game. And no, they’re not the size of the moist (ugh!) towelette you get after eating wings, they’re larger and more durable, promise.
Available for only $4 at Grooming Lounge, these wipes are the best thing to happen to wingmen since…well, me! Stock up for the work, the gym or even the beach to banish salt and sunblock buildup – they’re totally worth the investment. Trust me, women everywhere will thank you.
If that doesn’t do the trick, try cooling down from the inside, out. Even though ball park beers and happy hour specials do a decent job of staving off the heat, do yourself one better with a Frozen Cocktail All-Star Lineup.
Photo credit: Danny Kim for NY Mag
I know what you’re thinking, fruity drinks are for chicks. Erroneous! Well, mostly erroneous at least. If you order anything pink or icy any other time of year, you might get some curious glances. But in the summer you can get away with it without having to scream “DON’T JUDGE ME!” at strangers giving you the side eye.
So if a blender is your new best friend, then you’re in luck, because the folks at Grubstreet have compiled a list of the best slushie joints in the city. That’s upscale, booze-filled slushies to be clear (though the kind you drank as a kid are still stellar, in this girl’s opinion). From coconut-infused pisco sours to frozen basil lemonades, these standout joints have covered every base. Check out as many as you can on dates or just for fun. But beware of the brain freeze, boys.
And lastly, if you can’t lower your temperature, you can at least raise the volume on your iPod and distract yourself from a sticky commute by blasting some Cool Tunes For Summer.
Some music just screams sunny days, road trips or backyard BBQ to me, so why not break those bands out when the forecast beckons? Check out the following girl-friendly summer music. And if upbeat’s not your style, there’s plenty of shoe-gazing, tortured-types on Spotify or iTunes instead.
Of Monsters And Men – Psst! All you Mumford bandwagon types? These guys are better.
Fun. - Even though they’re massively overplayed (Thanks a lot, Glee) they were still goddamn fantastic on Aim & Ignite and now Some Nights.
Cabin By The Sea – A new one in my rotation, but nothing says “summer” like ska and reggae beats
Rodrigo y Gabriela – Because they make you feel like you should be drinking Horchata
The Black Keys – Recommended for windows-down car rides
Brett Dennen – Favored by surfers, tree-huggers and optimists of all ages.
The Beach Boys – Do I really need to explain? Two words: new album.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I guess that makes imitation involving your kids (and nephew) not just flattering, but downright outstanding.
Miss Wingman is still reeling over Adam Yauch’s untimely loss, but things like this video reenactment of “Sabotage,” directed by Portland-based filmmaker James Winters soften the blow a bit.
Did I mention it’s done entirely by children?
Though the world will never get any more Beastie Boys videos in their truest form (Nathaniel Hornblower, we miss you), this brilliant clip reminds us all why we liked them in the first place. I hope MCA enjoys it as much as the rest of us. And somebody please get Winters a medal for this one. Coolest. Dad. Ever.
Most days I hammer away at my keyboard wondering if anyone is feeling exactly the same way I am. I click-clack on about love, lust, or plain old douchery, depending on the hour or my mood. But today wandering down that same road didn’t feel right, because I don’t just know – I’m certain – that others feel the same way I do upon learning of the loss of Beastie Boys co-founder and rhymin’, stealin’ badass, Adam Yauch.
So indulge me for a moment if you will, because one of my heroes is dead, and writing about anything else would just be inauthentic.
“Born and bred Brooklyn U.S.A.; They call me Adam Yauch but I’m MCA…”
I suppose it’s only appropriate that I was in Brooklyn when I heard that MCA was gone. I’d been doing that obnoxious thing where I was reading the news feed on my phone as I walked, head down, oblivious to everything around me. Then I saw it… and I froze. I stood there in the middle of the sidewalk for a good minute, feeling like the volume of the world had been abruptly turned all the way down.
And I begged for the words to be wrong.
“Fuck,” I said out loud (sorry, mom). “No. Fuck. No no no…” I think a lot of people were similarly poetic when they found out, too. There’s really nothing else to say when you hear something like that, is there? Only I wasn’t just reading about some guy in some band that lots of people who never owned Paul’s Boutique or couldn’t recite a verse claim to be huge fans of now, especially after something like this happens. I was reading about a member of the only band I’ve ever really considered to be a part of me. Like one of my limbs was just lopped off, and I wasn’t prepared to figure out how to go on compensating for its loss, how to adjust to life without it.
Licensed to Ill came out when I was in first grade. First. Grade. And yet within a few years, it became my favorite album of all time – still is. That fact consistently surprises people, like when they learn that my favorite movie is a blood-soaked, historic war tale (“Braveheart”), or find out exactly how many tattoos I have. Like somehow my girly exterior belies all of this, covers up my sheer affinity for people and things that can f*ck shit up.
In high school I drove around blaring “Hey Ladies,” “Root Down,” “Get It Together” and the newly-released Hello Nasty album like the certified badass that I wasn’t, in my white girl voice, in my parents car. My sports teams took the field to “Sure Shot” like the suburban hard-asses that we weren’t, and in college my dance team choreographed a suggestive routine to “Girls” like the wannabe skanked-out Jesuit school girls that we definitely were. The Beasties were everywhere that I’ve gone, and if my iPod could be depicted by a pie chart, a sizable slice would belong to them.
To this day, I’ve been known to walk out of a bar in disgust if the jukebox is conspicuously lacking in Beastie-ality, I know every word to at least half of their catalog, and I long for the days when the only “situation” people talked about was doing homework on the train to High Street station, with no mention of the Golden Ab’d One (sigh).
I’ll never forget the day at my old job when my boss told me I’d be interviewing them for the first time. It had been my biggest dream and deepest dread from the moment I’d started my career interviewing bands and celebrities for a living. “Shit!” I thought. What if they weren’t everything I’d always imagined they were? What if I met the single most important band I’d ever really call myself a “fan” of, and they disappointed me? What if, in real life, they sucked?
I’d never been nervous doing interviews, but the day I sat down across from them I could feel my breath get shorter and my voice get higher as I introduced myself. It was like the part of the roller coaster ride where you slow climb to the top. Exciting, scary, but mostly you just try desperately to keep from hurling.
The thing about the Beasties, who I ended up having the pleasure of interviewing a few times over the course of my career, is that they loved, LOVED, to mess with people. They’d run circles around your questions, making hysterical, nonsensical statements back, playing off of one another like some perfectly attuned hacky sack circle of total BS. You never really knew if you were in on the joke or if you were the joke.
But I remember that MCA was always the one who I looked at to gauge how badly I was being played. If anyone cracked a smile or tried unsuccessfully not to laugh, it was him. He had a kindness that took pity on the likes of me, I wasn’t the first one they’d done this to, nor would I be the last. And if they seemed cooler than you when you spoke to them, it’s because they reallywere. Not in a pretentious way, it was just fact. Though they’d never be the ones to bring it to your attention.
I can still remember the gritty, old New York feel of their Oscilloscope offices, their hipper-than-your-average-white-guy sneakers and tees, and thinking when I walked away from them (more than once) how lucky you’d be to have one of these guys be your dad.
And now a little girl is without her impossibly cool, thoroughly decent father, and that’s brutal and unspeakably sad, any way you slice it. My heart breaks for everyone in Yauch’s inner circle today: for his wife, his child, and for Mike D and Adam. That’s the kind of chemistry, history and dynamic that can never be replicated. Can never be substituted. And all that they can hope for, and we can hope for as fans, is that the hole left in his absence will get smaller eventually over time.
That’s the thing with Adam, and with the Beastie Boys. People will throw around words to describe him like “pioneer” and “legend” now, they’ll mourn the loss of his gravelly rhymes and activist lifestyle. And they’re right on all counts. What the Beastie Boys did for hip hop at a time when three smart-mouthed, white, punk kids dared to charge the scene was unheard of. It was brazen. It was irreverent. It didn’t only take talent, it took balls.
But the thing with legends and pioneers is that they seem impossibly far away for your average fan. They’re the kind of unattainable that us common folk never really expect to be able to grasp with two hands. But Yauch was different. He was as regular a guy as you could ever be… if you were an ordinary guy with extraordinary lyrical talent, that is.
So tonight I mourn the fact that I’ll never see the Beastie Boys perform live again. There will be no more cryptic, silly interviews in the future. The mic will never be rocked quite as hard as when Ad-Rock, Mike D and MCA took the stage together.
Lastly, thank you, Adam, for the years that you fought for your right, sabotaged the competition, and showed us all how to elevate the game. Your beloved five boroughs weep for your loss, and I salute you. For a guy who was never anything but down to earth, it’s only fitting that you now take your place in the heavens with the rest of those we lost too soon.
Spring is here, and not a moment too soon. And now that Mother Nature is finally cooperating, it’s time to move your workout outdoors and have a little fun. Miss Wingman tends to enjoy running – correction – enjoys the feeling of accomplishment after COMPLETING a run. So, I thought it only fair to share with all of you my latest running playlist. Just in case you were in need of some new fitness tunes.
“Authority Song” – John Mellencamp (Because no one ever went wrong with a little ‘Coug in rotation).
“Move Along” – The All-American Rejects
“Red Nation” – Game feat. Lil Wayne
“What I Like About You” – The Romantics
“Howlin’ For You” – The Black Keys
“‘Til I Collapse” – Eminem & Nate Dogg
“Ni**as In Paris” – Jay – Z & Kanye West (Can’t have an upbeat playlist without a little Jay and ‘Ye. True story).
“Bad Girls” – M.I.A.
“Now That We Found Love” – Heavy D & The Boyz (Yes, it’s old, but it also kicks ass. I dare you not to bob your head.)
“Hello” – Martin Solveig & Dragonette
“All Alone” – Fun. (Pretty much anything by them qualifies, but this is a favorite)
“All Night Long” – Type3 Vampires
“Sure Shot” – Beastie Boys
“The Eye of the Tiger” – Survivor (Oh don’t act like it’s not the most motivating exercise song of all time. And while you’re at it, might as well throw in the Rocky Theme, too).
“She Doesn’t Mind” – Sean Paul feat. Pit Bull
“Little Talks” – Of Monsters and Men
“A-Punk” – Vampire Weekend
“We Found Love” – Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris (Yes, it’s a girly song – get over it – it’s also really, really good for running).