Monday, June 4, 2018

4 Podcasts That Feed My Soul

Lately I've been listening to a lot of podcasts on my commute. And there are a few specifically that I'd like to mention here because I find them constantly encouraging and fascinating and they fill my heart with joy and hope. Maybe they will for you too.

1. Conversations With People Who Hate Me. YouTuber Dylan Maron started this podcast by reaching out to people who left hate messages on his past and talking through it with them, and now the conversations often include him mediating between other content creators and the people who leave hateful messages on their work. What I love is that this is not a podcast to try and change anyone's mind as much as a podcast just to remind us that, as Dylan says at the end of each episode, "there's a human on the other side of the screen." Listening to the civil disagreements Dylan and his guests have together and how they learn from each other's different perspectives gives me hope. I love how Dylan always centers the conversation on empathy and understanding the other person's experience. It's exciting and rewarding to listen to.

2. Where Should We Begin? A couples therapy podcast. Couples therapist Esther Parel hosts one-time counseling sessions on-air, and we get to hear both snippets of the session and Esther's musing on it later, sometimes even musings like, "If I could go back, I would have done it differently." The issues range from sexual compatibility issues to forgiveness from affairs to abuse to caregiving through chronic illness, and Esther treats each couple with such hope and such compassion that I have actually cried a couple times listening to it because I get so wrapped up in it all.

3. The Robcast. Rob Bell gets labeled a heretic a lot of the time in conservative Christian circles, but his writing on art and faith changed my life as a young adult and I continue to love his work. A lot of the stuff he says on his podcast isn't terribly new, but he couches it all with such joy and optimism and understanding that I never leave feeling guilty (something that can't be said of almost any other Christian teacher I listen to, whose goals always seem to be to just make me feel crappy about myself). His sense of grace and love and empathy for the people around him oozes out to me through the airwaves and leaves me feeling heard and understood, even though, of course, I'm the one listening.

4. Good Christian Fun. My newest discovery of all of these. Two Christians host this podcast about Christian pop culture, and while a lot of it is being snarky and silly about how strange Christian pop culture is (because, yeah, it's weird), they often go much deeper into the aspects of faith that have gotten lost or warped in these culture wars. They have a guest on every week, many times someone who is no longer or was never a Christian, and (as you can see is a pattern with these podcasts that are filling my soul) the empathy with which they treat their guests whose beliefs are so different is refreshing and lovely. It's a very funny podcast, but it also feels like a place where people can open up and have the conversations I never felt like I could have had in my church. (The Facebook community for this podcast is incredible as well -- very much following the tone set by the show itself.)

These four are all worth checking out if you need something positive and interesting to add to your day. They add to mine!

Friday, April 27, 2018

"Body Talk" by Robyn (150 Albums by Women #143)

NPR compiled a list of the 150 greatest albums created by women. I've decided to listen to these albums, from #150 all the way up to #1. But to give myself a bit of forward momentum and have a sense of when I was "done" with each album, my method is to listen to the album one time all the way through, then with each subsequent listen, I'd remove my least favorite. This lets me listen to the best ones most frequently without having to sit through too many that didn't work for me at all.

Album #143 is Robyn's "Body Talk," a 2010 dance pop album. This is the newest album thus far on this playlist, as well as the most purely "pop." What surprised me was how interesting it was lyrically. A lot of electronic dance pop doesn't venture into unique or interesting territory beyond "let's all dance," but these songs are about everything from unrequited love to the difficulties of being friends with an ex to recovering from a bad breakup. It was also great music to listen to on my morning commute when I needed to wake up for the day. A lot of the songs ultimately started sounding too similar and blended together, but a few definitely rose above to become my favorites.


5. Indestructible. The music for this song is just okay, a typical pounding electronic beat and a mediocre melody, but it ended up this high on the list because I really enjoyed the lyrics. The album as a whole goes back and forth between braggadoccio and vulnerability, and this one mixes the two in a very interesting way.

4. Call Your Girlfriend. This was the one song I knew already before I started listening to the album, although I knew it from a cover version rather than the original. I like the sound of it, and some of the lyrics are interesting, but I kind of hate how condescending some of these lines are ("And it won't make sense right now, but you're still her friend"). It's still a fun song, though.

3. Dancing On My Own. My first couple listens to the album, I thought this might be my #1. Slowly others started climbing above it, but I still really enjoy it. I listen to these as I drive, and this one is an AWESOME driving song -- the beat really feels like it's pushing you forward and not just holding you in place, if that makes any sense at all. And I'm always going to have a fondness for songs that are about unrequited love, even several years into a very happy marriage. The angsty teen inside me still hears this and connects.

2. U Should Know Better. This one took a couple listens to get into, but when I did, I loved it. The only thing keeping it from being #1 is that I'm not a huge fan of how muted the lyrics are in comparison to the loud music. But this one is so much fun, and the lyrics are clever, and I love how aggressive it is. It makes me wanna be like, "YEAH! GET OUT OF MY WAY!" and those are always really enjoyable for me to listen to.

1. Fembot. I liked this one from the very beginning, but it just kept growing. There's an intensity to the music that I really enjoy, and I'm all about songs that use nerdy metaphors to talk about love (or, well, in this case, mostly sex). It's everything I like about this album encapsulated into one song, and it's one that will definitely stay in my rotation for quite some time.

The albums I've listened to thus far in this project, in order:
1. The Roches - The Roches
2. Robyn - Body Talk
3. The Breeders - Last Splash
4. Patty Griffin - Flaming Red
5. Alicia Keys - Songs in A Minor
6. Oumou Sangaré - Moussolou
7. Terri Lyne Carrington - The Mosaic Project

Monday, February 19, 2018

"Last Splash" by The Breeders (150 Albums by Women #144)

NPR compiled a list of the 150 greatest albums created by women. I've decided to listen to these albums, from #150 all the way up to #1. But to give myself a bit of forward momentum and have a sense of when I was "done" with each album, my method is to listen to the album one time all the way through, then with each subsequent listen, I'd remove my least favorite. This lets me listen to the best ones most frequently without having to sit through too many that didn't work for me at all.

Album #144 is The Breeders' "Last Splash," which took me a little while to get into. It's sort of punk, sort of surfer rock, lots of distorted vocals, and it was initially frustrating that I couldn't hear or understand the lyrics. After a few listens though, I found myself really enjoying it and my favorites definitely floated to the top. Even the ones I didn't love became enjoyable to listen to.


My top from the album:

5. Saints. This has such a fun interesting sound to it that vacillates between the two primary sounds on the album: light and breezy, and angry punk.

4. Do You Love Me Now? There's a really lovely mournful feel to this one, and for some reason I'm digging the muddled vocals more than I usually would.

3. S.O.S. I would never have guessed that my top five would include two instrumental pieces, but this and my #2 are both super interesting. I like the sort of ominous feel of this one.

2. Flipside. And this one is such cheerful surfer rock. It was an especially fun treat to hear for the first time in the middle of a lot of darker punk songs.

1. Divine Hammer. This was probably my favorite starting on my very first listen. I like the simplicity of the lyrics and how cheerful the song is. It's just a fun piece.

The albums I've listened to thus far in this project, in order:
1. The Roches - The Roches
2. The Breeders - Last Splash
3. Patty Griffin - Flaming Red
4. Alicia Keys - Songs in A Minor
5. Oumou Sangaré - Moussolou
6. Terri Lyne Carrington - The Mosaic Project