When I think about my life five years ago and the life that I have now, it blows me away how different they are. For the most part, it’s been a beautiful evolution. But there’s one fundamental difference that I do miss: having a regular posse of girlfriends.
I used to be one of those quasi “Sex and the City” girls. Okay, not really — though we did talk plenty about guys and sex and dating, I think my girlfriends and I were more motivated by creativity, and the struggle to get our work out there. But my primary social life revolved around hanging out with women when I lived in NYC. My life was rich with women: drinks with women, dinner with women, long epic conversations with women, hanging out in the Korean sauna relaxing with women, making films with women, walking down 23rd Street at dawn and stumbling into Krispy Kreme after a night out dancing with women. Even when I was dating or boyfriended, I always managed to carve out some time with my ladies.
But these days is a different story. I mostly hang out with my sisters now, which of course is a particular kind of lady posse, and an awesome one. But it’s different. We’re all very different from one another. We laugh a lot together, but it’s not over the ribald, bawdy jokes I like to crack over a drink. We worry a lot about our older parents over dinners at home. We rib each other over our very Daria/Quinn dynamic when I was in high school. The love is tender and durable, but the intimacy is different. Amplify this with my natural tendency towards solitude, my novel and book writing outside of my full-time job, my innate shyness — and it means less time in general to devote to socializing and friendship in general. For the most part, I’m fine with this. But I do miss kicking back with some raucous, intelligent ladies over food and a nice strong cocktail, talking into the night.
So it kind of makes sense that much of the music I loved in 2012 is so ladycentric. I skew ladycentric anyway, but this past year in music, I’ve gone that way even more than usual. In a way, all these ladies are kind of like phantom echoes of my lady posses past. Some of the bands and musicians are vulgar, some are ardent and open-hearted, some are mystical and hippieish — but something in the music and personalities reminds me of the women I’ve hung out with in the past. Nicki Minaj is like the friend you go to cheesy bars and nightclubs with, dancing to so-bad-it’s-good pop music and making fun of guys in poorly cut leather jackets. Bat for Lashes reminds of all my quasi-hippie Brooklyn girlfriends who were always on some weird diet and exchanging info on their acupuncturists, and Cat Power is like that breed of female I knew in NYC before I left: ladies who kick around, endure and are always up for some kind of adventure and love affair, even if their free-spiritedness puts them in the margins. This isn’t the coolest list (though, you know, I did like the Metz record a lot, but it just ended up making me revisit my Unwound collection.) But the craving for more lady solidarity and good times fueled what songs, records and artists I listened to the most — and play counts on your iTunes don’t lie. Anyway, here’s the mix, and the full list with commentary is below the cut:
The Walkmen, “Southern Heart”
Let’s just get the gents out of the way. (There are a few on the list, definitely.) It took me awhile to come around to the Walkmen, but once I was on board, I was fully committed. I think they’ve grown up to be fine, tender-hearted gentlemen, and you can hear it on this song quite nicely.
Bear in Heaven, “Sinful Nature”
I listened to this once four times in a row at a listening station at a Madison-area record store and it was so blissful. That entire day was blissful, in fact — and so I put it on the list in memory of it all.
Bat for Lashes, “All Your Gold”
What a lovely voice, right?
Cat Power, “Silent Machine”
Though Moon Pix and You Are Free remain my top-level Cat Power favorites, I’m happy to hear her sound so positive and full of life on Sun.
This whole record was my 2012 jam, and I don’t care if it’s a hipster cliche. It was ethereal, beautiful, danceable, had genuine emotion and was conceptually and musically playful and complex all at once. Also: favorite video of the year. I want to write a dissertation on it, that’s how smart I think it is.
M.I.A., “Bad Girls”
M.I.A. kind of lost it with me with her mediocre last record, but then she put out this single and I really was into it. And the video as well!
Nicki Minaj, “Va Va Voom”
I could also write a whole dissertation on Nicki Minaj, capitalism, hip hop and feminism. All I have to say is: she’s still my girl through it all. I adored the rap-heavy first half of the Roman Reloaded record, but the club banger-heavy second half really didn’t hit me until I started running to it. And now I fully understand.
Santigold, “Disparate Youth”
This reminds me so much driving in the summer! I was really keen of the entire dub influence on this whole record.
Dum Dum Girls, “I Got Nothing”
Girl group redux goodness. Oh man, I love what’s-her-face’s voice.
Lana Del Rey, “Gods & Monsters”
Another possible dissertation subject! I wasn’t initially super-interested, but then I listened more and more to Born to Die and realized how much I enjoyed it. It’s sort of the musical equivalent to Play It As It Lays — the story of passive female subjectivity disintegrating — only a bit more conceptual with a dash of hip-hop appropriation. Once I regarded Lana as a musical conceptual artist a la Liz Phair, it all made sense, I swear. (Also: I still think the “National Anthem” video is really interesting on all kinds of levels.)
Azealia Banks, “Liquorice”
Foxy chick. And so 90s Downtown Julie Brown clubbin’ it dirty fun.
Taylor Swift, “I Knew You Were Trouble”
I cannot tell a lie: I really love to sing this song, especially the chorus. I can get my voice all squeaky and everything! This video also makes me want to write yet another dissertation, a compare-and-contrast kind of thing between her and Lana. I mean, it’s so similar in ways to Lana Del Rey’s “Ride” (same director and all) but it means somethng so different because it’s Taylor! Or does it…?
Miike Snow, “Pretender”
Swedes make perfect pop, don’t they? I love that in their day job they write hits for Britney Spears as production dynamos Bloodshy & Avant, and then they make great indie pop records like this. After years of trying, I am relieved to finally realize I am not a huge fan of indie pop music — I like my pop genuinely trashy — but I can get onboard with this.
Madonna, “Falling Free”
I’m first to admit that MDNA was not a great record and I really think Madonna just needed an excuse to tour so she threw together a half-baked record. But this song is genuinely lovely — I love when Madonnsky gets her choirgirl voice on and pretends she’s Joni Mitchell!
Fiona Apple, “Hot Knife”
This song makes me think of my boo. And Fiona! How great was it to have her back this year?
(Also: I actually really liked the Bob Dylan record this year, but I couldn’t figure out where he’d fit in here on this mix! Suggest a track off “Tempest” and a place for it, and I will shoehorn it in. Poor Bob, I know he is just crying knowing he can’t be on this mix with this amazing group of beautiful, talented ladies.)
Tags: Azealia Banks, Bat for Lashes, Bear in Heaven, Cat Power, Dum Dum Girls, Fiona Apple, friendship, Grimes, Lana Del Rey, M.I.A., Madonna, Miike Snow, Nicki Minaj, Santigold, Taylor Swift, the Walkmen, women