Why Write?

I’ve always been a documenter. I got my first diary as a birthday present when I was eight years old. It had Snoopy and Woodstock on the cover and a flimsy lock that opened with a key that I lost within the first ten minutes. Of course, a bobby pin and strong fingers had the same effect – thank goodness I didn’t have siblings! Continue reading


Initial Impressions of Neil Jackson’s debut album, “The Little Things”

There’s a quote from my favorite movie, Playing By Heart, that goes “Talking about love is like dancing about architecture.” I feel the same way when it comes to writing about music. I’m not a professional critic, but I am a singer and I know what I like. And I like Neil Jackson (and not just because he’s hot and British).

The Little Things (Album Cover)This morning, I was running late, but the bus was running even later, so I ended up walking 30 blocks, most of it uphill, to get to work. This is after I blow-dried my hair and spent some time I actually trying to put together an outfit. I got to work, sweaty with windblown hair, but in a surprisingly good mood because I’d used the walk to listen to “The Little Things.”

I’ve followed Neil’s music for about a year now, back when he was just posting videos of him singing and playing his guitar in a little room on YouTube. (I guess that makes me a Hipster Neil Jackson Fan? Ha!) Because this was my introduction to him as a musician, I think he sounds best when you can hear his fingers, plucking the guitar strings as he croons the lyrics. His voice is smooth and rich, a soothing balm on my soul.

1. Holding a Candle
This was the first single (and video) from the album, but I think it’s the biggest outlier from his usual style. It’s more produced than any of the other tracks and even his accent fades when he sings. I enjoy the lyrics and melody, but I don’t think it’s indicative of the rest of the album.

2. Drive
The lyrics on this one weren’t my favorite, but I’ll listen to it over and over again for the lead guitar line. The faint bongo drums in the background give this a California feel, and I can easily imagine driving down PCH in the sunshine.

3. I’ll Be Your Home
As Neil tweeted about his experience recording the album, I was most curious about how the songs I was familiar with from YouTube would sound when properly recorded and mixed. The addition of a piano to the guitar helps balance the vocal effects, making it feel more produced. The last 30 seconds where everything drops out, except the piano, is exceptionally beautiful.

4. Hear in Time
It’s hard to keep the grin off my face as I listen to this little ditty. The pickin’ guitar and the rhythmic clapping just make me happy. It’s damn catchy and I know I’ll have this one in my head for a while now.

5. Save Me Tonight
Sad, whispery Neil with a guitar may be my favorite version of him. I really like the way the orchestra sneaks in gradually as the song goes along. There are moments when it overwhelms his subtle vocals, but the melodies are so pretty that I don’t really mind.

6. Gonna Have to Change
And we’re back to peppy and catchy, which just makes me smile (as does the surprise falsetto before the chorus). Again, this feels very California (shout out to the 405!) and I see the video taking place on the beach with lots of laughing, Frisbee and frolicking in the waves. His vocals feel very American, almost country, especially the little laugh at the end.

7. The Little Things
Neil’s British accent is back in full force on this track, which is fantastic. The guitar lines are even better than the YouTube version and his vocals are smoother, drawing you into the story of his Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I could have done without some of the other filler instruments, but that’s probably because I’m used to the stripped down version.

8. Got Your Own Shoes
I had to laugh at Neil’s use of “groovy” in the chorus (don’t worry, I had a similar reaction when Matt Morrison used “demagogue” in one of his songs), but then it gets sad, and I felt a little bad. It’s not my favorite track, as it has a lot going on, vocally and instrumentally. I’d be curious to hear the story behind this one.

9. Falling in Love
This is my new favorite song! It’s got a great jazzy piano/snare drum backing to Neil’s whispery vocal, evoking visions of dancing in a smokey club in a slinky black dress with a beautiful man. The trumpet solo in the bridge is unexpected, but it fits with the theme, even if it is a bit louder than the mood previously set.

10. When the World Was New
I absolutely adore the guitar line in this song and I love that Neil kept this one so simple, just acoustic guitar and his vocals. It’s the truest to the YouTube version, and yet the quality is just SO much better.

11. Rocket to Mars
This is the second single off the album and the video will be released next week. It seems much more indicative of Neil’s style, while incorporating the orchestra. And it only seems appropriate that the album end with a sweet guitar line.

I was already a fan, but the album has lived up to my expectations in almost every way (still needs “All That I Am!”). I’m hoping that there will be a live tour or at least a few shows in California because this music begs to be heard live. In the meantime, the digital download of Neil’s album is on sale at his website for $8.00 ($1.99 less than Amazon and iTunes), making it a great deal while putting a few more pence in Neil’s pocket.

In Celebration of My 10,000th Tweet

I joined Twitter on April 20, 2009. In those 1,221 days, I’ve managed to tweet 10,000 times. That’s way more than I ever thought possible when I joined three years ago. I joined to keep up with @joshgroban and @rainnwilson because their updates were overwhelming my Google Reader. I picked my Twitter handle because I planned to tweet from my various trips (and also because JennInTheCity was already taken!). I did live-tweet my trip to Chicago the next month, using my clamshell cell phone to post grainy pictures of Wrigley Field and Italian ices. But it’s become so much more than that. Continue reading

“Pretend all the good things are for you, pretend all the good things are for me too”

This afternoon, I caught up with Carolyn Hax’s column, which was posted on Facebook by Carolyn Hax and STFU, Parents. Given the clear bias in the first Letter Writer’s letter, I was shocked to see how many of the comments in both places defended the LW, even though Carolyn did not. While I did my laundry this evening, I got to thinking about the balance (or imbalance) between friends at different stages of their lives.

Luckily, I’m blessed with fabulous friends, most of whom are married and have kids. Though not a kid person, I adore my niece and nephews (related by both blood and love). Just like my friends are part of the family I chose, their kids are part of my chosen family as well. In fact, I had just returned from a birthday party for the three-year of one of those friends when I read the article. Of course, I know that I was free to to decline the invitation (as the commenters suggest) and not buy a gift, but why would I? It’s an honor to be a part of his life and share the day with his extended family. They also invite me over for dinner occasionally, requesting that I bring nothing but myself, gifting me with good conversation, a little bit of chaos and tiny human hugs.

It’s been a month of birthdays around here though. It starts with P in the middle of March, followed by A at the end of March and then C at the beginning of April. Throw in a baby shower gift for my best friend from college (due in June) and it’s been an expensive 30 days for gifts. Each family had approximately the same amount spent on the gift for their child, but collectively it adds up. I’d never presume anything about anyone else’s finances, but perhaps the LW should ponder where her friend is buying gifts at “a $25 gift here and there” for more than just her family. If the fundraising dinner is still too expensive, then she should explain that, but her friend isn’t wrong that the balance of gift-giving is likely off balance.

Though I don’t have this problem with my own friends with kids, I think it’ll be nice when those with and those without can see things from the other’s point of view. The friend was a little out of line in giving a line-item analysis of gift-giving as a reason why her fundraising dinner wasn’t too expensive, but the LW could stand to think about things outside her family-oriented paradigm as well. Some of us aren’t “choosing” to not get married or have babies, so it would be nice if the events we do have in our honor are treated in the same way. It’s not about bean-counting, but acknowledgment of value. And hugs from tiny humans – those really are the best!

little things revealed

I am currently reading John Adams by David McCullough and though I’m only 25 pages in, it’s proving to be the interesting read I had hoped it would be. It’s amazing to me how much information can be gathered by historians from such innocuous sources.

The strong clarity of her handwriting, the unhesitating flow of her pen across the paper, line after line, seemed at odds with her circumstances. Rarely was a word crossed out or changed. It was as if she knew exactly what was in her heart and how she wished to express it–as if the very act of writing, of forming letters, in her distinctive angular fashion, keeping every line straight, would somehow help maintain her balance, validate her own being in such times.

As a quasi-historian myself, it makes me curious what might be said about my handwriting, my letters. What am I unconsciously putting out there in the world for history to find?