Inside my heart beats like a girl

Did you know No Cities to Love, the new album by Sleater-Kinney, came out this year? Because I swear it’s been running in my veins for a decade.

Just thinking about the fact that Sleater-Kinney came back together for an album and a tour after nine years apart turns up the little pilot light inside of me. I can’t believe I got to see them in February, in between giant blizzards. I can’t believe how good the album is. All of their albums. They’re all on fire, sizzling, aching, desperate, strong. So as the year ends, I really want to say something more about them. About the album. About what it means to me, and how important it’s been. But I don’t know how.

I want an anthem
A singular anthem
An answer and a force
To feel rhythm in silence
A weapon not violence
A power, power source

Okay. Forget my past. Forget when and where and how I discovered Sleater-Kinney. Forget the electricity every time I listened to “Words and Guitar,” the utter shock when The Woods came out like a freight train, different and exactly right. Forget how I want parts of “One Beat” tattooed on my stone heart. Forget all of that, and remember that they broke up in 2006 and I never saw them. Remember that they went on to do other things, and I thought, that’s good. Portlandia is fun. The Corin Tucker Project is great. Wild Flag is a racehorse.

The weird thing is, if you had asked me my top five favorite bands a year before S-K came back, I might not have thought to mention them. I never stopped listening to them, but I would’ve answered with something else, and maybe when I thought about it a while I’d say “Oh yeah, and I still like Sleater-Kinney.” But the second there was hint of new life, new growth, new shoots furiously springing up from a plot I’d been walking by every day, well, it was like some secret dream had come true.

No Cities to Love made Sleater-Kinney essential to me again. Essential to me being conscious, to understanding some inarticulate part of me that is never satisfied.

A while back I read Girls to the Front which is a sort of history of riot grrrl, then I saw The Punk Singer, which is about Kathleen Hanna, and then to culminate it all came No Cities to Love. Like the world was reminding me how important all this was to me when I was a teenager, angry without understanding why, dissatisfied and yearning. It all came back as I’ve grown up, growing somewhat steadier, finding kindness and some contentment, and it came back to remind me that I’m still not satisfied. Some things may be better than they were, both in the world and just for me personally. But it’s not good enough. There are still things that make me angry and dissatisfied, keep me yearning for tomorrow to be better, only now, maybe, I can articulate some of it.

My baby loves me, I’m so angry
Anger makes me a modern girl
Took my money, I couldn’t buy nothin’
I’m sick of this brave new world

I’m not saying these feelings are good and useful. They’re desperate and hard to manage. They’re rough on you, inside. Sometimes you feel useless and powerless, no matter how many ways you think you might be able to do something — something else in life gets in the way, or you act and nothing changes, or you act and see something else, and it’s never-ending, you’re always wanting more, you’re always wanting better, but. But the world is the world. There’s always something. You will always have this feeling. What it needs is a sound, a voice, another person claiming it with you.

I close my eyes and think hard enough and I can still see and hear and feel the way Corin clung to the mic and sang-screamed-wailed “gimme love” near the close of the concert; I can feel the beat of the drums and the throb of guitars and the way Carrie eats the line “leave them nothing to devour”; I am transported back and singing along to “Modern Girl” with everyone else all of us feeling every damn word. I’m not one for Group Experiences, but this is my tribe, this and #spacewitches.

I feel so much stronger now that you’re here
We’ve got so much to do, let me make that clear

The videos below are from my concert, but a video can never ever capture the live concert experience, especially for a band like Sleater-Kinney. But for what it’s worth, I was a little farther back than the first video, but on the other side, in front of Carrie.

Y’all, I love Sleater-Kinney a lot. Just wait until I get my hands on Carrie’s memoir.

Bite-sized podcast reviews

It’s really hard not to compare things to Welcome to Night Vale, so I deeply apologize for the repetition.

TANIS: I want to write something longer up about this show. Figure out all the ways it works for me where the Black Tapes didn’t. Then again, maybe as it goes on it’ll disappoint me too! The first few episodes of the Black Tapes drew me in pretty effective, after all. But Tanis! In episode two there’s a bit of a House of Leaves homage, and a numbers station, so brownie points are earned handily. However! I will say there’s still some small bits of failure when it comes to verisimilitude or believability or the stupidity of the characters or something.

I mean: “You can search text in a PDF?” “I can,” Meerkatnip says smugly. GIRL, ANYONE CAN.

I am hella suspicious of Meerkatnip, by the way. This is unreasonable but a fun way to live.

WORMWOOD: Old Fashioned Radio Drama. The acting is so far over the top that I think it might be in low-Earth orbit. The writing too. But! I am fairly into it. I like Xander, and sometimes Sparrow too. Everyone else? Eh. There’s a lot of overacting and unnecessary accents, as mentioned before, but it’s still fun. There’s a good balance between Creepy Things, Terrible Violence Off-Screen, and People Being People, so I don’t feel hit over the head with the horror, despite some nonsense about “evil staining the souls” of whoever. I also deeply appreciate that this is archived. There are several seasons to get through, and then it’s over. Three storylines, from what I can tell. I like endings. I like serials, but I also want to know that the creator is working toward something.

KING FALLS AM: This one stands out to me primarily because the acting of the two main characters is pretty good. I’m not entirely sure what’s going on. It’s kind of vignette-y, and there’s no clear throughline. The most recurring plot is the producer’s crush on the new librarian, which I do like, though. I saw it described as Night Vale but darker, and I don’t know if that’s accurate. Night Vale gets plenty dark. It’s Night Vale but less philosophical, less inured to the weirdness that’s happening. It’s early days on this one. We’ll see if I keep listening. I don’t have the greaaaatest track record.

SAYER: Moments of trying to be like Night Vale and failing; attempting to imitate the surreal horror delivered in a calm, detached voice, the AI enumerating terror and threats as though they are neither of those things. Except the delivery is terrible. It leans on the punchline too hard. The voice is processed, the threats are too obvious, and the thing that is horrifying is emphasized with an echo, or a slight reverb, or a pitch change. It is too overt. And it lacks something that Night Vale has, which might be heart, or empathy.

ESCAPE ARTISTS/APEX/SELECTED SHORTS: I have tried more standard fiction podcasts, like the Escape Pod/Podcastle/Pseudopod group, and Apex, and Selected Shorts, but the format doesn’t work well for me. For fiction, since I’m not coming back for the week to week discussion between personalities I like, it needs to have something else to make me remember it the next week. Otherwise I’ll just ignore that little blue dot in Stitcher. So a serialized form, or at least somewhat recurring characters, is necessary. And the lack of a consistent authorial voice hurts it too; not being familiar with every author on these sorts of podcasts means I’m gambling every single time.

NOSLEEP: The NoSleep podcast has yet to draw me in, though I haven’t tried terribly hard. The narrator turns me off completely and I can’t take it seriously. Come on, guy, you don’t need to be so ridiculous. Stop putting on a “creepy” voice and telling me how scared I’m going to be, and actually scare me. He’s like an old midnight movie host. I bet he wears a dracula cape. And the episodes are terribly long.

Basically, I’m just saying: TANIS and LIMETOWN need to update faster.

A post that is ultimately about Limetown

Inevitably, in the fall, I turn once again to horror. Desperate to find horror that scares me, that appeals to me, that gets me. In the back of my mind I suspect that I’m either incapable of being scared by fiction or I’m fundamentally misunderstanding what people man when they talk about the effect horror has on them.

I’ll keep you posted.

I keep trying books, sometimes movies. Movies are tougher. Jump scares are cheating, and not scary. That’s surprise. That’s not fear. That’s sticking out your foot to trip me and saying you beat me in a fight because I’m on the ground now. Movies are also tougher because ugh, who has time to sit down for two hours in a row? Unless it’s marathoning Sense8 or catching up on The Toast or Twitter okay I see the problem lies with me. Strike that second objection to movies.

The point is podcasts. This year I got really interested in podcasts as a medium for horror, because

  • shorter than movies!
  • I can listen at work!
  • indie!
  • there really is something about the additional emotional pull of a story when it engages even one sense, which, let’s be honest, I love books, but they don’t typically engage your senses in the story. Yes, tactile feel of paper, smell, whatever. But that’s universal to books, and has nothing to do with the specific story it’s trying to tell you.

I have a list. I always have a list. Because so many things won’t work for me, for arcane and mysterious reasons that a therapist could best explicate, but: I’ll do my best.

Here are some podcasts in an arcane and mysterious order:

Lore. Not fiction. But I really like it! Some of the episodes benefit from the short length, and some feel really abridged. Sometimes after an episode I’ll go look up more on the topic, and sometimes at the beginning I’ll realize I already know the story, and I’ll squee a little at my desk.

Wolf 358. Caveat that I’m still not sure if anyone would categorize this as horror, rather than scifi, but I’m curious about fictional podcasts in general. The reason I can’t promise the genre is that I was only able to get through one episode before bailing. Life is short, my friends. Too short to spend on a story with yet another snarky male protagonist.

Shadowvane. I just listened to the first few episodes of this today, and while I think I’ll probably keep going, it is the most hokey of all of them. It feels very acted, and I swear if they throw one more terrible and hammy accent at me, I’m out. But maybe if I think of it as an old fashioned throwback, I can get past that, because the premise of a powerful medical company appearing altruistic and possibly controlled secretly by a beast that requires something is kind of intriguing.

The Black Tapes. Aaagh. I want to like this one. Maybe I do! One day I was feeling a nonspecific anxiety, for no reason I could fathom, until it dawned on me that I’d been listening to The Black Tapes all morning. But as I continued, I never experienced that again. I finished the first season, but the weaknesses in the writing and acting really got to me. They don’t quite nail the necessary verisimilitude to keep me in the story enough to creep me out. There’s some unnatural, stiff or unnecessary, dialogue, not helped by the occasional flat (or overly affected) delivery. And the ending to the season was disappointing as horror usually is, abrupt and unfinished as serials often are. So.

What bothers me most, because its such a small stupud thing to repeat, is that no one in the Black Tapes world knows what a podcast is. The reporter has to explain every time, noting that “it’s not radio” like it’s the year 2000. Is that supposed to be a running joke? If so, it’s terrible and they should learn what a joke is.

Limetown. Limetown is the one that started me on all the podcasts. There were three episodes available when I discovered it, and I was pretty into them. A little unsettled, even. One might say I was creeped out. It’s more focused, each episode centering on one interview, which helps it avoid a lot of the small issues of The Black Tapes. The reporter seems less stupid than the reporter for The Black Tapes. It’s not about demons and ghosts and the paranormal, which I suspect also helps me like it more. It’s science gone wrong and shadowy figures out to get you and sharing thoughts (with pigs) and so on. It’s extremely well done, so I am waiting eagerly for the next episode and wishing/hoping/praying that it’s not actually going to be only 7.

NEXT TIME: I just listened to the first episode of Tanis, new from the same people as The Black Tapes, and I am way, way more into it. Time will tell if the same problems crop up, but the reporter is different, and the subject matter too. There are no demons or evil monks yet. Only a mysterious mythology.