There are these mornings, when the bus ride is like waking up third world or secondary planet or first fledgling nightmare. Backpack upon briefcase. Every configuration of facial hair and body musk—last night’s alcohol bleeding through perfume, students and corporate office warriors battling the commute and headache and weariness, armed with nothing but burnt coffee […]

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We Found Justice In Our Beauty

  We met underground, in an above-ground world. He was beautiful: the biggest, brightest tiger.   We stood together as a who’s who of the animal kingdom raced past us. Together we became tiny, like Thumbelina and her flower-fairy prince, and walked through tall grass.   He showed me the blood, dried and sticky on […]

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never never never

my cousin and I find the body of a bat on the ground near the old church demolition stones my cousin and I listen to a radio show about butchering We eat venison and white rice shrimp sautéed in so much butter The butcher reads a story she eats less meat The plane in the […]

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A Drink to My Mental Health

I stopped drinking for a month. A few of my friends quit drinking for January and that’s where I got the idea, but I was late to the game. I started on January 23rd because I was headed to AWP on February 26th and I certainly wasn’t going to make it through a writing conference […]

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Sorry, Girls. I’m Done.

Take it back, universe. Take back my Icona Pop “I Love It” download. Take back the fro-yo addiction. Take back all of my Girls defenses on Twitter, on my blog, in bar conversations, the think pieces. Let me hurl them at the window like so many Glaciology textbooks. SPOILER ALERT The third season of Girls […]

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Brewing Bad

SingleCut Brewery hosts “Ladies’ Night” seminars on beer every month at their brewing headquarters and taproom in Queens. Footage of the Rolling Stones was projected on a wall and stacks of records were on display behind the bar. Welcome to SingleCut Brewery, one of New York’s finest breweries, located (more precisely) in Queens. Last month, […]

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A Soldier’s Story, Part I

This is the story of a WWII soldier stranded on a Pacific island for a month, forced to eat raw monkeys and move only at night. The story was told to me by the soldier’s son, himself a Vietnam veteran. It was one of only two war stories his father ever told him–the story of his first […]

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Good Grammar

As far as I’m concerned, Austin’s South by SouthWest [SXSW] festival marked the beginning of the music season. From here out it’s all live tunes and sunshine, right? While indie and electro artists and fans are gearing up for the fun-yet-increasingly-corporate festival lineup, it’s hard to beat catching great acts in hometown venues. Here are several shows worth looking forward to.

Hannah Reid of London Grammar, coming to Portland's Wonder Ballroom March 28 and Seattle's Neumos Crystal Ball Reading Room on March 29.
Hannah Reid of London Grammar, coming to Portland’s Wonder Ballroom March 28 and Seattle’s Neumos Crystal Ball Reading Room on March 29.

London Grammar: March 28

These days, it’s almost impossible to discuss modern music without mentioning the internet: that polarizing and unifying, equalizing and stratifying force that it is. The music industry has felt its clumsy oligopoly crumble for at least the better part of a decade, but it’s getting smart again. Artists are getting their start by uploading songs directly to the internet and finding fans worldwide, as London Grammar did late 2012 with the release of “Hey Now,” and the mainstream is watching.

London Grammar’s album If You Wait is a soulful, ambient treat. The prize of London Grammar’s sound is lead vocalist Hannah Reid’s rich, stirring voice. Clean reverb from guitarist Dan Rothman and trip-hop sounds from multi-instrumentalist Dot Major (drums, keyboard, synth) contribute to the album’s depth. The haunting cover of French electro-house artist Kavinsky’s “Nightcall” and the simple-yet-poignant “Shyer” are two stand-out songs. Without the power of Hannah’s incredible voice to back up the bare, straightforward lyrics in “Wasting My Young Years,” they might be a tad cliche. But in this case, her raw honesty brings a universal quality to the music. London Grammar, March 28 at Wonder Ballroom

From left: Dot Major, Dan Rothman & Hannah Reid of London Grammar
From left: Dot Major, Dan Rothman & Hannah Reid of London Grammar

Chvrches: April 10

Not only can bands now reach more fans than ever from all over the world, but more internet trolls than ever can harass, threaten and attempt to undermine the female artists in those bands too. Chvrches‘ lead vocalist Lauren Mayberry publicly called out her online abusers in an open letter last fall, saying that she will not tolerate the constant stream of misogyny that awaits her every time she opens the band’s social media sites and email. A band born on the internet (as Lauren puts it) can benefit, surely, but also suffer from over-accessibility.

Luckily for Chvrches and their many fans, it’s still all about the music. The band’s debut album The Bones of What You Believe features immediate melodies and snapping percussion. The Scottish electronic pop trio gives us the catchy and vibrant single “The Mother We Share,” while “Tether” is dreamy and lo-fi, recalling an 80s futuristic minimalism. While the group’s experimental sound isn’t for everyone, they execute their sound well. Lauren (who also happens to have a law degree and a masters in journalism), shines in “Night Sky” where her voice sounds pretty and high. Then there’s “Lies,” where she takes a slightly lower tone with lyrics that seem like a barely masked critique of the stale blind following of religious or corporate devotion. Chvrches, April 10 at Crystal Ballroom

From left: Iain Cook on guitar, Lauren Mayberry on vocals and synthesizer & Martin Doherty on synthesizer
From left: Iain Cook on guitar, Lauren Mayberry on vocals and synthesizer & Martin Doherty on synthesizer

Typhoon: May 3

Incubated in nearly a decade of Oregon’s lush green wetness rather than the cold wires of the inter-web, Typhoon is a study in complex, hearty arrangements and upbeat, lyrical breaks. One listen through Typhoon’s latest album White Lighters will yield more talk of death, corpses and funerals than maybe you’re used to in 45 minutes, but do not be intimidated. As long-time fans of the Portland-based band know, Typhoon is not afraid to face mortality. On “Artificial Light,” frontman Kyle Morton–whose well-publicized battle with Lyme disease as a child shapes much of his songwriting–places his tangential lyrics at a comforting clip against the swell of horns, drums, violins and piano. At times the intentionally choppy hit “Young Fathers” sounds as if all 11 members of the mini-orchestra are contributing vocally, creating a bellowing rock-anthem sound. At other moments it’s just you, some percussion and a dose of contemplative realism. Typhoon, May 3 at Mississippi Studios

Typhoon's many members in Portland, Oregon.
Typhoon’s many members in what appears to be Forest Park in Portland, Oregon

Purity Ring DJ Set: May 15

For those who caught Purity Ring last year on tour with Blue Hawaii (in Portland at the Roseland and Seattle at the Neptune) or at their starry outdoor set last July at Oregon’s high desert What The Festival, this show will be a little different. This time the audience can expect a solo set and the group’s signature hanging cocoons and giant custom-built, light-up instrument will likely be spared from the dirt and grime that coats Branx.

Like London Grammar, Canadians Corin Roddick (instrumentalist) and Megan James (vocalist) found their initial success online with their clicking “Ungirthed.” The duo blends drafty, buried hooks with sharp synth and warped samples in their debut album Shrines. Megan’s piercingly clear voice and eerie lyrics carry us through landscapes that are at once odd and ecstatically pleasant. A delightfully restrained drop in “Saltkin” speaks to the delicacy of the project, while the complexity and strength of the melody in “Fineshrine” shows refined power. In “Grandloves,” Megan is joined by Young Magic on vocals, and together they sing a chilly song so lovely and sad it could be two ghosts contemplating the end of their relationship.

This is music for those inclined to heavenly beats, or as the show’s producers Abstract Earth Project puts it, “lullabies for the club.” Purity Ring DJ Set, May 15 at Branx

Purity Ring's Corin Roddick and Megan James
Purity Ring’s Corin Roddick and Megan James

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The Real Game of Life

When Rich Peverley collapsed and had to be resuscitated in the tunnel behind the bench during the March 10th Dallas Stars and Columbus Blue Jackets NHL game, his extreme medical emergency didn’t just draw massive attention because everyone thought they’d just watched a hockey player die live on TV. It also set off an unprecedented […]

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Am I Good Enough?

I was speaking at a local high school about writing. Afterward, a girl came up to me with a notebook of handwritten poems. She showed them to me shyly and asked, “Are they good enough?” I didn’t need to read them to know that they were good enough. She was fifteen. She had a dream. […]

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