Amy Tan

Best of 2015: Music, Film, Literature

Oh hey there. Let’s jump right in.

Music

2015 was a fantastic year for music. Adele and Taylor Swift reminded us that people still buy music and that pop stars still exist. Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal and a host of other streaming services pushed the discussion of “music as a commodity” centerstage. Despite where opinions settle, I think we can all agree that our streaming discussions were well overdue (and on two fronts: people paying for their music again and artists getting fairly paid for streaming).

NOTE: Amazon Prime’s streaming service (Amazon Music) is the industry’s best kept secret. It’s by far the best streaming service. Comes with your Prime account, you can download thousands of records, listen to them offline. Why is no one talking about this?

Every year I have artists and their releases that I look forward to, but this year there were some out-of-left-field albums that no one saw coming. Leon Bridges and Sufjan Stevens’ masterpiece, for instance, rocked (and rolled) almost my entire musical year.

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Someone once told me that art should look different every time you see it. I think the same can be true for music, where you hear something different every time you play it. Stevens’ latest hits the proverbial mark. Borrowing from Gregorian chants, from 70’s folk, from his own catalogue — Carrie & Lowell is lyrically transparent, musically restrained, and almost perfect. Make no mistake, people: Sufjan Stevens made a masterpiece.

There are instances, such as in “The Only Thing“, where the track is just begging for a rhythm section (i.e., bass & drums), but we don’t get it, and it’s the right choice. “The Only Thing” is about despair, about barely holding on with just a glimmer of hope. Sure, you can sing about depression with a backing band, but it wouldn’t fit here. Stevens isn’t trying to be flashy, and he’s not making anthems, what Stevens is doing is splitting open his chest and singing therapy.

As someone who’s had a similar (not exact, but similar) upbringing as Stevens, I latched onto this record like a child to his mother, and it brought me comfort many times over. Can someone with a glossy childhood enjoy this album? Of course. But who actually had a glossy childhood? (more…)

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Snowy Eyes & Ears: My Winter Break Book & Podcast Recommendations

It’s that magical time of year: the snow falls, the semester ends, cookies are everywhere. Best of all, I get to read and listen to non-homework related content! Suck it, Blackboard.

This is my last winter break ever, by the way. I’m finishing school in May. My goals include reading through my book list, catching up on podcasts, and returning to CodeAcademy to learn HTML and CSS. Oh yeah, I’ll also be preparing for a Pompeii-style resume distribution. (Shhh… be very, very quite. It’s job hunting season.) Also, are you hiring?

Sure, this is a big list to get through. How will I do it? A fresh case of Surge soda, will do. Also, you should help me conquer this list, we can be accountability partners. It’ll be like an entertainment support group. It’ll get us through the winter. I’ll bring the Surge.

Books

spyfromcold

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold—John Le Carre

I led off with this book for two reasons: 1) it has “cold” in the title, which relates perfectly to my winter theme and 2) my best friend’s fiancé said it was one of her favorite books. They’re not getting married until April, which gives me plenty of time. If the book sucks, I’ll have to shut down that wedding, Wayne Campbell style.

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