Issue 27 - 08/31/20
- This Is My Chili's Manifesto
- I Can't Express My Emotions to People Directly So I'm Telling Everyone Personal Things in This Public Newsletter
- Occasionally Winter, or, How to Trick the Creativity Out of Yourself
- Matt Reviews: Young Matt (An Archaeological Study of Items Unearthed in My Childhood Bedroom)
- Sam's Controversial Opinion Hour
- Review: Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was
- Office Chart
This Is My Chili's Manifesto
Dang-level contributor Macc Spalding
Y'all have crossed a dang line.
Now I've been a proud Chili's patron for about as long as I can recall. It's my place where everybody knows my name, and that name is Bud. You could get three el presidente margs in me, blindfold me, and spin me round til I yartz lemon-lime, and I could still point to the place where a proud and somewhat dingy American Flag is framed on the wall for no discernible reason.
Do you yahoos understand how many innocent lives are inside of any given Chili's? How many frozen burger patties are stored in the closet that haven't yet breathed their first? How many frozen veggie patties are stored underneath those dripping burger patties? How many unborn baby-back ribs are begging to be born? Those babies have fingernails.
I've had enough.
Previously my had-it barometer (blood pressure) was real low. It didn't raise when the Mr. President said whatever it is you sensitive people were butthurt over. It didn't raise when a man or four whose races are irrelevant were murdered by a "corrupt" and "discriminatory" "police" "force" lacking "oversight" or "justice," or when an "innocent" "woman" was "killed" "in" "bed" with "zero" "repercussions" for "anyone" "involved." That's just par for the course as far as I'm concerned. I figure if no one else (no one in my neighborhood) is up in a tizzy about it then it ain't much to be tizzied over.
But this here I must take a stand over. This here has sent my had-it barometer through the dang roof (out of my nose and onto my good shirt.)
We live in a society, and that society lives in America, and that means that our hallowed businesses and products are sacrosanct and must be protected - I'll say it - by any means necessary (and I can get real mean.)
Believe you me, I'm a good citizen. Not disruptive one bit. I even pay my dang taxes. I'm a vital cog in this blessed machine of commerce. When the Chinavirus took my dear sister, did I let it disrupt my responsibility? No sir, I was out there every day still, shopping and eating and doing my civic duty, and I was proud to show my face doing it. When we went "broke" from "medical" "debt," that didn't stop me neither, we got a pool table and let everyone we know come over and use it. I'm a good citizen.
But when a good citizen witnesses something so wicked and demonstrative of a deep and dangerous flaw in society, he has a responsibility to act in accordance with his own judgement for the economy. I am so upset, and I'm not alone in this:
So that's it, buttered and spanked. You better believe I will be out there every day driving my Land Rover back and forth between both the Chili's'es' in my area, but especially this one. I will be dangerous and ready to protect what needs protecting most. All lives end eventually, but our replaceable products and competitive, ever-adapting franchises and the things they symbolize are irreplaceable and must be protected with blood. Just this morning I stepped out this Chili's entrance and stopped to smoke while I let out just a profound amount of gas. Looking around at the peaceful view, the innocent hazy sky, and the pristine red signage, it occurred to me that nothing in the world in my neighborhood is truly awry, and I had faith that it would stay that way. Might've made me drop my cigarette then and there.
But you upstarts just couldn't leave well enough alone, and now you're gonna find out what a real Big Mouth Bite feels like.
I Can't Express My Emotions to People Directly So I'm Telling Everyone Personal Things in This Public Newsletter
Gaffer-level contributor Marina Martinez
I am like Mr. Darcy. Not in the sense that I am a tall, dark, handsome heir to an estate in Darbyshire, but more in the sense that I am just...not great with people. To quote the man himself (well, Austen herself):
I certainly have not the talent which some people possess, of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.
If you read my article from last week, maybe you got a sense of this. I am just...not great at verbal communication. Or written communication. Really, exchanging thoughts and feelings with other people is just not my forte. It's certainly worse with people I don't know, but - and I'm sure my friends can attest to this - even if I DO know people, I still don't do a great job at articulating things all the time. But I want to, so I'm going to try. Here goes nothing.
I have lived in Austin for eight years now, and a lot has changed for me in those eight years. I moved from a small, conservative town to a large, progressive city. I was exposed to a lot of different ideas and learned to form my own opinions and think for myself. I experienced the cliche of finding and accepting myself and I've come to a point where I think I'm okay with myself. I don't mean to overshare with strangers on the internet (although, let's face it, that's what the internet is for). But everyday that I wake up to my life the way it is I feel both amazed and a little bit guilty because, at least in my mind, I doubt that my life would be the way it is without my friends, and a not-insignificant part of my mind reminds me constantly that I don't deserve any of them. That seems like a run-on sentence but who cares, just ignore that.
I love stories, especially ones about found family. These stories are usually about a rag-tag assortment of orphans, misfits, or other solo adventurers who go through some great trial or journey together and come out the other side bound together in an unbreakable bond of kinship. No, I'm not just talking about The Fellowship of the Ring, shut up. It's a very common trope and one especially loved by folks who have read about big, supportive families and want that kind of connection.
And don't get me wrong, I love my family, my 'real' family. We're not super close - and I only see them maybe once a year - but I keep in touch and try to support them as much as I can. I'm not here to rag on my parents, but they are very different people than I thought they were growing up. It's one of the great tragedies of becoming an adult, I think - finding out that your parents are just normal people with flaws, not super heroes, and that maybe their support isn't as unconditional as you thought it was. They're good, I know they are, and we always say 'I love you' on the phone, but I don't think we can love each other like family is supposed to. That's their choice, and it hurts, but it's mine too. And I think it would hurt a lot more without my friends.
That's what I wanted to write about, actually. My friends and the emotions I have about them. Why can't I be good with words. GEEZ.
I don't make friends very often or easily. I avoid meeting new people and have the social capacity of an invertebrate, so it's to be expected. But that's why I'm so consistently in awe of the friends I do have. I do not know how or why they chose to be friends with me, but I sure am glad that I fooled them into thinking that it was a good idea. They are kind, loyal, supportive, intelligent, and such genuinely GOOD people that to say I feel unworthy of their friendship is an understatement. I can tell them anything (and often do) and I know I'll never be met with judgement, just compassion. And yes, we take the shit out of each other. Yes, I usually respond to anything resembling a genuine emotion with a barf emoji. But that's only because I am constantly terrified that I will accidentally overwhelm somebody with how much their friendship means to me and they will be completely weirded out and leave me. I have a track record of caring for people a lot more than they care for me, and I'm smart and selfish enough to want to hang onto the people I have in my life while I can.
So yeah, I love my friends. I love my family that I've made in the past eight years. Especially Now, when every day brings new tragedy and anger and fear, I need them to know how much I love and appreciate them, because I certainly wouldn't be where I am and who I am today without them. I've been trying to be better about letting them know, lately, and I hope they know that. Sometimes a family can be an emotionally stunted woman, her idiot cat, and her very good friends. None of you are allowed to be weirded out by this. (If you are, lol jk dude!)
I don't know where else I was going with this. I'm not going to go back and read through it because I'll lose my nerve and delete the whole dang thing. But I guess to encourage you to tell the people in your life - friends, family, frenemies, enemies, pets, coworkers, delivery drivers, minions, etc - how you feel. Tell people you love them. Platonic love is SO important, y'all. Love is the most punk thing there is. Even if opening up to another human being is terrifying and you think you may never recover, just do it. Life is so precious, and there's not really a point to it besides spreading as much love and kindness as possible, is there?
Okay, I'm done. Please never expect me to be this vulnerable for at least the next decade. I'm going to go vomit now (metaphorically). To quote Brian W. Foster (and one of my favorite t-shirts), don't forget to love each other.
"I think you realize how much you need to have people that you love. It's not as much about them loving you - it's about you needing to love people." - Chadwick Boseman
Occasionally Winter, or, How to Trick the Creativity Out of Yourself
Trix-level contributor Andrew Piotrowski
When I was in high school, I went to a state-wide writing competition and won third place.
This is a fine accomplishment on its own, though I rarely brag about it these days. I hardly bragged about it then.
The writing was expository; the judges gave you a quote and told you to write a while on it. For my fellow Texans, it was UIL Ready Writing. For those of you non-Texans reading this:
- I'm sorry
- It was a state-wide expository writing competition
In any case, it seems I had a certain talent for taking one thought and expanding it into several pages of prose. The judges found my rambling train of thought to be interesting and unique and I advanced in the competition. One of the essays I wrote even made reference to the anonymous asker function on the social media site Tumblr, which users of the site know to be a hotbed of emotional abuse and unsolicited thirst. I, however, spun the function into a soliloquy on the power one feels in society when wearing a mask. So on and so forth.
After high school, I didn't write nearly as much as I once did. I wrote when I had to for college, with professors praising my unique points of view and authorial voice, which I attribute to reading too much Douglas Adams at a young age. These days, I mainly only write when threatened.
I've also never been a terribly artistic person. There was a time when I tried my hand at illustration and painting, but as a former Gifted and Talented child, I shy away from things where I don't immediately demonstrate immeasurable talent. Oops. Fortunately, when forced to draw for Pictionary or other social pursuits, I can tread water because of my inborn ability to Know What Things Look Like.
So, a writer I once was. An artist, passably but never impressively. And despite both of these facts, I recently decided that I wanted to design my own Dungeons and Dragons campaign from scratch, including hand-drawn reference images and maps.
I have a regular group I play with formed of friends/coworkers for whom I run a basic, prewritten adventure for beginner players. They've almost reached the end of it, so I started looking around for what I should do with them next but found myself at the intersection of Nothing Seems Quite Right Street and I Don't Wanna Pay for a D&D Book Drive.
"Andrew," I asked myself, "why don't you write something?"
"Inner voice, you're starting to sound a bit too much like Matt," I respond.
"He's handsome, isn't he?"
"Yes, but that's neither really here nor there."
"Do you think he's happy right now?"
"Why are you asking me that? You know he reads these, right?"
"Whatever. My initial question stands. Why don't you write something?"
At my core, I can be a winning combination of stubborn and contrary. So now I have no choice but to write something, otherwise I'll be right about myself, and I certainly can't have that.
Thus was born the settlement of Iblan Tur. What's Iblan Tur, you ask? It's a smartass joke that I told myself and laughed.
Is the heart of creativity just talking to yourself?
Anyway, I looked up a guide to writing your own D&D campaign and one of the recommended ideas was to design a city for your players to use as a home base instead of using one of the canon cities of D&D. This gives you some control over what resources your players have access to without having to worry about consulting or contradicting official source material. Plus, it's a good way to start flexing your creative muscles in a rather open-ended way.
My party had already met the Lords' Alliance, a fictional faction of nobles from the various cities and keeps of Faerun dedicated to maintaining order throughout the land, so I started my fictional city with an Alliance outpost and tried to suss out what kinds of buildings and businesses would thrive around this fancy camp. With one idea leading to another, I quickly had a small settlement between the coastal cities of Neverwinter and Waterdeep, with the fictional residents consisting mainly of refugees, travelers, and people who thought Neverwinter kinda sucked.
The name of the settlement, Iblan Tur, is related to the original name for the city of Neverwinter. Neverwinter comes from a dumb fantasy language that seems to be based on a northern European language, and then the translation from the dumb fantasy language to common is "Neverwinter." The language closest to the fantasy language seemed to be Norwegian, so Iblan Tur is a bastardization of Norwegian for "occasionally winter." Ha. Ha ha ha ha. It's a joke.
But I like the joke. And I like the town. In designing something out of the blue for my friends, I still found ways to make it something that make me happy. In school, I was usually writing for a goal, an award, an application, or an assignment. But this time I started writing out of a desire to create something both for myself and people I enjoy being with. And it was easy.
Matt Reviews: Young Matt (An Archaeological Study of Items Unearthed in My Childhood Bedroom), Part II
Skarn-level contributor Matt Spradling
I've found that sorting through your childhood possessions that have basically been in storage for the better part of a decade is less a stop-whistle tour of nonstop revelatory nostalgia and more an exercise in failing to remember why the hell so much junk was held in high enough regard to keep in the first place. This junk varies widely in category, from The Knife Drawer, to several stacks of empty DVD boxes, to:
This absolute juggernaut of commandeered earth has been in my possession for as long as I can remember, slowly filling with donations demanded of young Matthew for dark, inscrutable purposes. After carefully sorting them, watching Myshka run through them twice, and re-sorting them, I've determined they can all be organized into a few distinct categories.
Shells - 2/10
There are 24 entries in the shells category, and I don't care about a single one of them. Sure, some are intact and fairly pretty, but they're not exactly a rarity. If young Matt, not famous for his beach-going, could produce this many, anyone could. Good for a kitsch arts and crafts project I guess, but half of them are rock fossils which is a bit past the payload limit of paper plates and necklaces I think. There's only one worth dwelling on and that is:
The First Fossil Ever Found By Anyone Ever - 3/10
This is a fist-sized rock with a very clear shell-imprint fossil in it. I found it in a field when I was like 5 while ignoring my brother's soccer game. I proceeded to run around the perimeter of the field accosting parents, showing them this miracle I'd found and insisting it was from the dinosaur times. I believe most were excited for me but five-year old Matt didn't necessarily have the best gauge for adults' enthusiasm.
Rocks Decorated With Marker - 2/10
These are three very ordinary rocks that I think I was instructed to decorate at like a summer vacation bible school or something? One is signed like a yearbook "Larry / Christina / F?lw??r?p", another has three completely illegible Korean-looking characters, and the third was marked "pray" very largely and then named "bob" in the corner. All are marked with little dots of green and orange and red which young Matt was probably trying to make look like birthday cake sprinkles, but frankly he did a pretty lazy job. I don't want these, but releasing them into the wild seems wrong. Imagine finding one. Would ruin your walk. You'd be worried you were walking into a sort of children's Blair Witch situation.
Misc. Unremarkable Rocks (Large) - 2/10
There are 19 entries in this category. As long as I can remember my mom has had a passive obsession with large rocks for landscaping purposes. At one point we went to the quarry or something and bought two big boulders to keep in our backyard decoratively, and used various other large flat stones to make footpaths. Maybe constantly hearing "oh, look at that pretty rock" made me think rocks were inherently valuable and I collected some pretty useless ones. Five of these are sort of sparkly and marble-looking that you could probably buy a giant bag of for $10. Your guess is as good as mine.
Misc. Unremarkable Rocks (Small) - 2/10
There are approximately 100 entries in this category. I have nothing to say about any of them. I guess a lot of these were collected as some sort of souvenir from a memorable trip or experience. I can understand the urge to collect little memories like that, and in a way that seems a lot better than spending money on gift shop garbage. Only problem is, eventually you're left without a clue which memories each treasure corresponds to, and most of the memories have themselves most likely faded. Cool, sad! I'm so glad I gathered these countless breadcrumbs so that I'll never go a day un-reminded of the incessant, weary march of time.
Geode - 2/10
There is only one entry in this category, and really it's only a half. On the outside it's a very plain round rock, and on the inside there's some fuzzy-looking pale purple crystal action happening. Myshka tried to lick it and now I kind of want to lick it. Boy is this scientific or what! I don't know, I probably bought this at one of those souvenir shops that has the stands full of weird rocks in them for some reason. Young Matt was highly susceptible to advertising.
Fake Rocks - 2/10
One could argue these 4 entries completely spoil every principle the Rock Bucket stands for, but that would be a little over the top because this is a nonsense project. So, the first one of these that catches the eye is a clear, red diamond-shaped boy which is 1. Pure, unadulterated plastic and 2. Says HARRY POTTER and has a bad picture of the magic boy himself Mr. Harry Potter printed on it. I don't know why this exists. The second is a clear, bright green crystal made, again, make no mistake, of pure plastic, and I don't know if plastic comes in different grades of quality, like potats instead of karats, but this is a very low number of potats. It has a little hoop on top because it was originally a necklace that I KNOW either my brother or I wore a lot and imbued with mystical powers through sheer force of prepubescent will. Maybe I'll put it on Myshka's collar. The last two entries are two of those little magnetic rock things you could get sets of and they'd vibrate really loudly and were annoying and useless and I don't know why there are only two of them.
And there we have it. What anthropological facts can we glean about young Matt from his collection of earthware? That he had hoarding tendencies? That he was ever the optimist about the diminishing returns over time of keepsakes? That he'd developed grand visions for a rock-based barter economy in the event of a global collapse, through which he might control the neighborhood from the safety of his 9-foot tall plastic jungle gym fort, protected with the children's bow which, in fairness, he could use to take down christmas decoration reindeer from a cool forty yards? Yes. And to be honest, that might have been for the best. But now these precious and also non-precious stones present us with a more sobering lesson: some things matter less as time goes on.
Am I losing the ability to empathize and imagine and honor my history? No, it's a literal bucket of rocks and I think being honest with yourself is important. Plus, despite not actually believing in anything supernatural, I've always had a tendency to imagine my belongings as sentient things that I have a responsibility to love or else they will be heartbroken, which is a borderline traumatic concept for a kid if you think about it. That's the potentially harmful side of things like Toy Story and Winnie the Pooh I guess.
Hey does anybody want these? Not a joke, make an offer. You should also know that Beautiful Young Idiot Matthew put a bluejay feather in there which might make the whole lot just not particularly sterile, but it also hadn't decomposed over 20 years or whatever, which is surprising. Man I should get into advertising.
Quack-level qontributor Alex Speed
At 9:00PM Mountain Time (yeah get with the times idiot I'm on mountain time now) last night Matt sent me the following very convincing threat:
Write or I will send my cat after you
If you know me, you know that I am very allergic to cats and also harbor a very low-level-fear-born-mostly-out-of-respect for cats. If you own a cat and love it and care for it and all that jazz but you die during your court appointed custody of said cat - it will eat you. I own a three year old yellow lab named Gibson who is so very very stupid, but I know that if I died writing this article on the bed which we are cohabitating he would never eat my body. If I owned a cat who I maybe named Odysseus and we shared a small studio apartment in Chicago where I painted and he hunted street mice but one day I suffered a painting-related injury and died - he would eat the shit out of me. If this idea doesn't instill a weird respect-fear of cats in you please email me at mailto:email@example.com.
With all of this being said I simply cannot risk the fate of Myshka being sent after me so without further ado:
This morning I was walking to my car to go to a coffee shop and brood and read Dostoevsky and drink black coffee and tell myself I am very smart and clever for doing these things. However, upon approaching my car a very afraid duck waddled right out from underneath my undercarriage and into the street. My being alive and needing to use the vehicle I own seemed a slight inconvenience to him so he just sort of disappeared into the woods across the street from my house. He made many angry duck sounds at me but all of these occurred mid-waddle so I didn't really get to process what was happening until after my semi-aquatic friend had made a frankly impressive exit.
I told this story to Matt and he had the following very scholarly commentary of my writing:
Ducks have screw shaped dicks
What does he mean by this?
Is he trying to tell me something?
Does he wish I had a screw shaped dick?
Does he wish he was a screw shaped duck?
Screw shaped duck
It feels like maybe Matt sent the duck to install some sort of tracking device on my car but was thwarted by my vast pretentiousness. Lucky for me I have an Infinite Jest tattoo so I literally can't be killed by anything other than David Foster Wallace's ghost lecturing me about what irony is. I think I've stumbled upon something bigger than myself here, dear reader. I will do some duck recon and follow up in my new newsletter series "Alex's Screw-Shaped Duck Dickdown."
Sam's Controversial Opinion Hour
Knuckles-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer
I enjoy writing for A Newsletter for many reasons; It encourages me to be creative, it's fun to be a part of something bigger than myself, and the compliments I get after we post every week keep my self-esteem from tanking.
Unfortunately, as a new graduate student with a full time job and an unread copy of Midnight Sun, I have less time than ever to write for fun. So, in order to have something to submit, I'm going to just...give my controversial opinions on things. That's what most content is anyway, right? Oof. Also, I want to start a fight with each and every one of you.
- The Twilight Saga soundtracks are perfect and underrated, EXCEPT FOR THE MUSE SONGS.
- MUSE SUCKS ASS. They are just less-good Coldplay and I don't even like Coldplay to begin with. The fact that Steph Meyer loves them is all the evidence I need to present you with.
- Both cats and dogs are great. If you really hate one, and it's not because of a traumatic childhood incident, you need to lighten up and snuggle some critters.
- Dune is a masterclass in 1) world building and 2) how to make your protagonist just the worst. I don't like it!
- Orange Juice is the best juice. Cranberry is the second best. The others don't even make the scoreboard.
- Football takes too long and is nonsensical. Baseball is boring. Soccer, hockey, and basketball are good and make sense and are not boring. The absolute worst sport is golf and it should be illegal.
- Sharks are great.
- Spiders are great AND cute.
- Unflavored sparkling water is the best sparkling water.
- Guy Fieri is a better man that any of you could ever hope to be.
- All vegetables are very good. Well, beets are just okay.
- Twitter is garbage and will suck the life out of you.
- TikTok is great and will not suck the life out of you.
- Talking on the phone is easier and more enjoyable than texting.
- Going to the dentist is a pleasant and relaxing experience.
Okay that's all I've got. I'm gonna go read now. If you'd like to fight me please let Matt know and he will schedule a time for me to wreck you.
Review: Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was
Clairaudience-level contributor Matt Spradling
I mainly wanted to get my thoughts organized and don't expect anyone else to care about this, but good for you if you're a completionist and don't skip! Welcome to the inner machinations of my fanboy mind.
It's that time of decade again - new Bright Eyes time! The only band I know to go longer between albums than Radiohead does, albeit with more solo output from the principal songwriter in the interim. Unlike Thom Yorke with Radiohead, whose solo output tends to serve as an outlet for high-flung electronic and ambient tastes while the band serves to ground him, Conor Oberst's solo material is fairly raw, mostly acoustic guitar tracks with some light rock dressings depending on the project.
Bright Eyes albums, meanwhile, go off the rails with theatrics, pretense, melodrama, and excessive attention to detail, all of which I mean as positives. Each album has a distinct style and mood - so depressed you can't move? Fevers and Mirrors; depressed but also angry? Lifted; ten rainy acoustic masterpieces with no filler? Wide Awake; spooky Western spiritual smorgasbord? Cassadaga; spooky sci-fi shit? People's Key. All that is to say, you expect a certain kind of panache when going into a new Bright Eyes album, because that's kind of the point.
Anyway, the new one is alright I guess.
If there hadn't been several albums of really solid solo material from Oberst, I guess I'd have missed him a lot more in the 9-year hiatus between Bright Eyes albums and the nostalgia factor would have been much stronger. As it is, though, it's a little too easy to compare to both old Bright Eyes and recent output, and it's not quite as good as either. The lyrics remain firmly Oberst - poetic, spiritual, despairing, blunt - while seeing some updates in their focus. Album themes orbit around growing old, sickness, isolation, divorce, and death, and the vocal melodies are catchy but feel like they lack just a bit of both the swagger of earlier Bright Eyes and the freedom of solo Oberst.
He's said that it was all written and nearly finished recording by the start of this year, so obviously the pandemic was not an influence, but in a lot of ways the album is a perfect fit for a year of isolation: it's bookended with a dreamy walk through the snow and into a bar filled with friends, which I know is one of my greatest wishes currently, and dwells a lot on age, health scares, isolation, and lost loved ones, with a certain amount of fragile optimism in the face of it all.
I'm certainly not knocking the subject material. Earlier Bright Eyes did a fantastic job of capturing the emotional volatility of youth, but it would probably feel weird or forced if it was the same after all this time, with Oberst in his late thirties. It should be about his present evolution, and it is.
I think the main issues come from the production choices, which may be a product of Oberst approaching the songwriting more democratically with bandmates who work more in production than songwriting. The band's trio have said in every interview that they wanted the sound to be very full and orchestral and borrow elements from previous albums, which lead me to expect quite a bit of variety, but most of the songs (and there are 13 of them) actually sound both very similar to one another and over-full. Many songs don't really have a guitar or piano backbone, they're simply a large string orchestra with lots of other elements thrown in, and it makes it all very soupy and indistinct. Contrast this album with Cassadaga, in which many songs are similarly full, but each song has a very distinct style and pace, not to mention room to breathe.
I think my favorite tracks are my favorite precisely because they have a little more empty space which allows for some much-needed atmosphere to seep through. These are "Forced Convalescence," "One and Done," and especially "To Death's Heart (In Three Parts)," which best makes use of musical dynamism to convey its mood, which in this case is pretty haunting and frantic:
I've seen that void, tried not to stare
There's bodies in the Bataclan, there's music in the air
And they sing, "Éphémère, éphémère, éphémère..."
And "Wish You Were Here"
Enough blood to fill up this fish bowl
Keep swimming around
The exit's blocked, there's nowhere to go
All these same fears, year after year
All the old ones reappear
Only difference is you're not here
Also, Flea plays bass on most of these and slaps ass.
The lack of associated artwork also makes it hard to place the aesthetic sensibilities of the album, which is normally an important element for Bright Eyes. Oberst has said that multiple music videos had to be scrapped because of the pandemic, but there's also no unique single artwork or vinyl sleeve art. I've come around to liking the cover, though - bodies cooling after exploding into existence, surrounded by void, is probably a good representation of the feelings the album conveys.
I guess my verdict is that Down in the Weeds is interesting and fun as far as new releases go (like, in comparison, The Killers released a new album on the same day and it made me feel absolutely nothing) and may grow on me more over time, but is probably the weakest overall Bright Eyes album. Better entry points to Oberst's discography would be I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning (2005), Cassadaga (2007), Conor Oberst (2009), and Ruminations (2016).
Borrowed Time - Parquet Courts
When I was like 17 I heard this song/album for the first time and thought I was really cool because I liked punk rock. Then I learned that liking Parquet Courts made me a poser in the punk scene, but also liking any band made me a poser in the punk scene so I gave up and kept listening to basically just The Beatles and Radiohead for two more years. The point is if you have some angry energy you want to get out try going for a run and listening to this song while you punch the air. There's a cool false stop halfway through the song that if you time right will make you feel like a superhero no matter what you are doing. -Alex
Nobody - Mitski
I genuinely think everyone regardless of age, taste, nation, or creed would probably love this song. Are you covid-lonely and sad but also want to bop your face off about it? Mitski is for you! And also an icon. This album is a masterpiece just like your face. -Matt
Way Down Hadestown - Hadestown (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Hadestown is a musical about the Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice but it's set during the Great Depression, and is equal parts jazz, lyrical amazingness, and also, well, tragedy. Hades is a capitalist and Persephone is an alcoholic. I love Greek mythology and Broadway musicals so this is obviously the best thing that's ever happened. There are so many other poignant and incredible songs, but this one hurts the most and also the animatic that this links to was approved by Patrick Page, the actor who plays Hades. If nothing else, I hope it sends you down the musical animatic rabbit hole. -Marina
Ode to a Conversation Stuck in Your Throat - Del Water Gap
Y'all know that I love a good dancing-in-the-kitchen tune. This was on my Discover Weekly playlist and I've been bopping along to it since. Man, so many of my submissions lately are very... indie teen movie. Let's not analyze that, okay? -Sam
Paint Me A Birmingham - Tracy Lawrence
I stated in an article I wrote a few weeks ago that I was raised by my mom and George Strait, but let it be known that I was frequently babysat by any number of country singers, and Tracy Lawrence was among those. Honestly, his voice almost hits the edge of annoying sometimes but it's hard to argue with the plaintive sadness of this ballad wherein Lawrence desperately tries to commission an artist for something that will remind him of the happiness he almost had. -Andrew
This Fire - Franz Ferdinand
One time Matt and Sam invited me to go to see Franz Ferdinand with them at Emo's in Austin. It was one of the most fun concerts I had ever been to but in true Alex Speed fashion I got very very drunk very very early in the show. They closed with this song as I was starting to sober up. I very distinctly remember lying on the floor of Emo's while everyone around was crouched down whisper-yelling this song and this will confuse and haunt me until the day I die. Listen to this song but also listen to this album and also go see them live when the world is done eating itself. -Alex
Starboy - The Weeknd
I don't always particularly care for The Weeknd but I find this album really catchy in places, primarily with this song. It's so dumb and I love it. It was produced by Daft Punk, which I guess is what takes the already decent synthy future sound to the next level. It's basically a dark R&B cut off of Random Access Memories. Maybe I should have just gone with a Daft Punk song? -Matt
Move - Saint Motel
I cannot help but dance to this song and you probably won't be able to resist either. It is sometimes the only thing that can make me physically get up and do chores. I just watched the music video for the first time and I can honestly say that is not what I pictured. -Marina
Nothing More Than That - The Paper Kites
I'M FEELING VERY IN LOVE LEAVE ME ALONE. Also, remember going to shows? -Sam
Break My Face - AJR
"What doesn't kill you / Makes you ugly" -Andrew
Banner - cover art for "Nobody Changes," Conor Oberst
Chili's - somebody's Chili's
Text - somebody's text
Rock Bucket - somebody's son
Sam's opinions - somebody's opinions (Sam's)
Down in the Weeds - cover art for Bright Eyes by Zack Nipper
Hey do I actually need to do a little faux works cited down here every issue?
If the gods of copyright are going to strike me down, I doubt this will help
If this is being read in court - your hair looks nice today, your honor