Sunday, August 23, 2015

Series - Summer Lovin': Week 9

Summer is starting to wind down for the majority of the country and yet, we're still doing a summer-themed series because... well, fall television hasn't returned yet. Doesn't everyone know that THIS is when summer truly comes to an end? Doesn't everyone else schedule their life around television? (Guess not.) Since most of you have been around for the duration of the summer, this post doesn't need much of an introduction, does it?

So joining me in my conquest this week are the following delightful women:
  • Megan, queen of Rosewood and of sass
  • Deena, queen of the Winchesters
  • Maddie, queen of the Arrow Cave
  • Lynnie, queen of cinema and superheroes
  • Lizzie, queen of Mulder and Scully

Let's get to it!

What Jenn's lovin': Re-watching New Girl

Why she's lovin' it: Last weekend, MTV re-aired a batch of New Girl episodes from season one; this weekend, they re-aired the rest of season one and a few episodes from season two. And as I re-watched these, I was struck with how much I still love this show and still love these episodes, even after four years. Though it hasn't always been flawless, what New Girl has consistently managed to do well is fully flesh-out each of the main characters. They're unique and their quirks are hilarious and relatable. And though nothing extraordinary happens in this series (random slapstick shenanigans aside), what the series does consistently is find the humor in the ordinary. There are weird teachers and co-workers. There are odd habits. There are pranks. There are neighbors. There are strange and complex relationships. And New Girl tackles them all. (And more.)

What I really love though is that New Girl manages to make the funny REALLY funny and the heartwarming extremely heartwarming. "See Ya" is one of the most perfect examples of this. It contains one of my favorite lines ever in a series ("He's a Jew in the desert. I don't want him to wander.") as well as one of the most emotional (Nick saying goodbye to everyone, especially Jess). This is a series that focuses on relationships -- whether romantic and platonic -- and it doesn't take much imagination to realize why these people are all friends with one another. Sure, they're weird. Sure, some of them can't do puzzles and some of them like to sing and dance when they're nervous. But the thread that connects New Girl is the idea that no matter how weird someone's quirks are in the group, someone else has quirks that are JUST as weird. And they love each other, not in spite of them, but because of them. That's wonderful.

Bonus lovin': I went to a live taping of the RELEVANT podcast this weekend since it is their ten-year anniversary. Honestly, it was a blast. In addition to featuring one of my favorite authors (Shauna Niequist), the live recording was a hilarious combination of past contributors and segments and new ones. There was audience participation and "edgy Eddie."

What I love about RELEVANT itself is that yes, it's a Christian magazine and also podcast, but they talk about culture in a way that's fun and -- dare I say? -- relevant to anyone. You wouldn't feel an ounce of awkwardness listening to a podcast if you weren't a church-goer. And even if you are, you'll gain a lot of wisdom and have a lot of fun in the process if you do listen to the pdocasts. The live recording was a combination of all of the elements that make RELEVANT so great and will allow it to continue for ten more years. There was Nickelback karaoke, a competition featuring really gross "sushi," and discussion of pop culture (MEMES). It was such a fun experience and I look forward to the next ten years of success for the magazine and podcast.

What Megan's lovin': How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Why she's lovin' it: When she was sixteen years old, Reena was on her way to graduating high school a year early, heading to Northwestern to study creative nonfiction, and was absolutely in love with Sawyer, the boy she'd been pining over since she was a little girl. Now she's eighteen and none of those things apply to her life anymore. Sawyer disappeared out of the blue. Reena never got to go to Northwestern because had a baby. She wondered how her life managed to flip upside down so quickly. She's still waiting tables at her father's restaurant and instead of an impressive school, she's stuck at a community college taking classes that she's less than enthusiastic about. She's finally picked up the pieces of her life and now... Sawyer's back. He never knew that she was pregnant or that she never went away to school, that she now has a boyfriend named Aaron, and that her father can't stand to look at her most days. But can Reena forget everything that happened? Can she forgive him for leaving her heartbroken and alone when she needed him most? Will she allow him to change everything she's worked so hard for?

Ooooooooh my god. I have had this book sitting in my stacks since NCTE (basically one big book conference for English teachers) 2013 and it kept falling to the bottom. I decided now was the time to read it and I am so sad I didn't read this sooner. It was absolutely fantastic. I love when a book is written differently than I've experienced before. This book was told "Before" and "After" Sawyer left Serena and it flowed so well and was beyond incredible. Most books about teen pregnancy and all-consuming love tend to all sound pretty much the same and, honestly, they don't really do it for me. But this one was really great. It explored the idea of Catholicism and how parents can see a child who is smart and driven as perfect until she discovers she's pregnant. I always find it interesting when Catholics are portrayed in media as forgiving but also very quick to judge, so I thought that aspect was really well-executed in this book. 

And love can be hard, man. Especially when you're in high school and it makes you do things you didn't imagine yourself doing. I think that's what's so special about this book; it doesn't skimp on the details of what that type of love looks like both before and after. It really captures what it means to both lose and find yourself within that cyclone of love. I absolutely love this story and am adding it to the list of books I feel everyone needs to read.

What Deena's lovin': The Great Unknown by Rob Thomas

Why she's lovin' it:  It's safe to say that, for the most part, I grew up on the sounds of Rob Thomas' voice one way or another -- first, through Matchbox Twenty, and then when he embarked on his solo career. While I will always prefer the works of the band as a whole, I can't help but love just about anything Rob puts his voice to. He could sing a grocery list, and I probably would still hum along. There's something about his music that brings out a certain amount of nostalgia in me, and I love it.

When the first single, "Trust You" was released, I'll admit, I was a little skeptical about how this album would turn out. It's definitely a catchy song, don't get me wrong, but I was hoping for something more. Despite this, any concerns I had about it basically flew out the window after finally listening to the rest of the album. One thing I love about it (and really, all of his albums in general) is that there is so much variety among the songs. Some are so catchy that you can't help but want to dance along to, like "I Think We'd Feel Good Together" and "NLYTM"; others, like "Hold On Forever," one of my favorites on the album, are more lighthearted and sweet. A few, like the title track, "The Great Unknown", "Paper Dolls", and "Pieces" have literally given me chills with their emotionally charged lyrics. I feel like this album is a perfect example of Rob's talent, and I would be lying if I said I hadn't had the entire thing on repeat this weekend.

What Maddie's lovin': Haley Reinhart

Why she's lovin' it: Summer has a sound. The music one listens to most during the summer is fun, sexy, and makes you really feel something. Some songs capture this perfectly, and one of my music "go-to's"  during the summer is Listen Up! by Haley Reinhart and the rest of her repertoire.

While television is my first and truest love, I do have a passion for music, but most of my music taste is based is TV. My playlists are filled with music from reality singing competition alumni and soundtracks from musical primetime soaps. I first came across Haley as a senior in high school during the 10th season of American Idol where she gave a multitude of star-making performances like "House of the Rising Sun" and "I Who Have Nothing" which, true Idoloonies know, earned her the nickname "The Slayer." The nickname originated since she literally is the musical version of Buffy Summers. She's blonde, petite, and adorable, but has unparalleled power, grit, and emotion in each performance. However, since she wasn't a producer-favorite, she received criticism from the judges far worse than other contestants, inciting outrage from fans all over social media including famous ones like Adam Lambert and Tom Hanks. She ended up finishing 3rd that season, and I still can't hear anyone else cover "Bennie and the Jets" ever again.

Listen Up! came out in the summer of 2012 under Idol's label and received little to no promotion, so unfortunately there are not nearly enough people who know how much of an amazing gem this album is. "Oh My!" has been my song of the summer for three years in a row. It is full of sassy and brassy vocals set to a horn-filled groove you can't help but dance to. Summer has not begun until I have heard that amazing first vocal run blaring from my car. "Now That You're Here" and "Hit the Ground Runnin'" are the flirty and fun kind of song you play while putting on red lipstick and a fabulous outfit, and Reinhart's voice truly shines. Also, as a fangirl "Undone" and "Free" are musts for reading or writing angst; and I dare every Olicity fan to listen to "Let's Run Away" and not declare it the official theme of the Olicity summer roadtrip. This album is summer to me and I have now spent countless hours listening to this while driving down southern California freeways. Moreover, last summer us Haliens were given a treat after a successful Indiegogo campaign with the single "Show Me Your Moves." The track bursts with energy and a groovy danceable beat that is bound to get any summer party started.

However, my "Haley Slays Summer" playlist has expanded due to Reinhart forming a beautiful partnership with the incredible band Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox. If you haven't listened to them before, get thee to the music streaming service of your choice with haste. Scott Bradlee has created brilliant rearrangements of top 40 hits and Reinhart's slinky neo-soul meets jazz meets rock sound works beautifully with them. Each one of her covers with PMJ has been sheer genius and I can not stop listening to it. She's covered Britney Spears and Tove Lo with a coy cabaret flirtatiousness simmering with that old-Hollywood glamour and sex appeal. However when Haley combines her retro-sound with her roots in rock music, the results are magical. Her rendition of Radiohead's "Creep" is raw, nuanced, and the perfect balance of emotional vulnerability and vocal power. Last week when Haley took on The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" with a New Orleans jazz twist, the sultry chanteuse shines like never before. She brings so many flavors to the song and the result is simply delicious. I have a playlist below for any of y'all to enjoy my musical obsession.

What Lynnie's lovin': Halestorm

Why she's lovin' it: Halestorm is unlike any of the bands of our generation. Lzzy has the voice of a rocker. She goes high, she goes low, and she makes you feel her emotion with a simple inflection of her voice. The songs revolve around her vocal range and they never disappoint. Too, the music is powerful, the bridges catchy, and while they throw back to the 80s, the songs always feel fresh. "Mz. Hyde," "Freak Like Me," "Here’s To Us," (the song that Lea Michele's Rachel once covered in Glee) and "Amen" are all songs worth checking out – among many across their years of making music. They’re still growing and discovering new sounds, a rarity for such an established band, and Lzzy’s voice remains a powerhouse throughout.

What Lizzie’s lovin': Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (both the books and the upcoming Netflix series)

Why she’s lovin' it: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is one of those books series that you read, re-read, and come back to when you’re feeling down and need a pick-me-up. I can’t explain why this is – it’s certainly not an uplifting series, not one of those tales of the young heroes overcoming obstacles only to find happiness in the end. But despite it’s generally somber tone, what the books lack in cheerfulness they certainly make up for in – well, in fun. Because, yes, apparently you can write a series of books about absolutely horrendous things happening to three young kids, over and over again, and still have your readers laughing out loud at every page.

It’s a very adult sort of funny, though. I remember finding it hilarious when I was younger, back when I read the first book. And by the time the last book came out, it wasn’t only laugh-out-loud funny; it was poignant, and deep, and just... real. To Lemony Snicket, we were never kids. Or, at the very least, we were never too young to hear the truth. And, in the end, you were never too young to find the good in the bad, never too old to find the young kid inside you, never too jaded to laugh at the stuff you should be laughing about, and never too anything to just... live.

Netlfix people, if you’re listening, you better not mess this series up. You better not give me another feeble, failed attempt at Violet, Klaus and Sunny. You better not give me just a caricature of Count Olaf. You better make me cry, and laugh, and scream, and wish for good things to happen with every fiber of my being. And you better make me understand that bad things must continue to happen, but that how we react to those bad things – that’s what makes us heroes.

What all are YOU guys lovin' this week? Hit up the comments below and let us know. Until then! :)

1 comment:

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