It took until my late 20s to admit to myself something I’d been trying to deny for years: I love pop music. Yes, it’s true. And I refuse to be ashamed any longer! When I was a teenager, I ran in the rock/indie crowd. We worshipped either male-fronted bands or manic pixie dream girls. It was patently not acceptable for me to admit that I was secretly grooving to whatever Lady Gaga hit was out at the time. Well, guess what? Lady Gaga is an Oscar winner now, and rock has—for the first time in history—fallen to the conquering hip hop superstars.
Since pop music is mainly associated with women, it’s never taken as seriously as traditionally male genres. It’s met at best with flippancy and at worst disdain. And for a long time, this was my attitude as well. But I realize now that pop can be all the things normally associated with the more “serious” genres: progressive, subversive, political, empowering. This really shouldn’t be a surprise to me. I mean, if we jump back in time 20 years you’ll see me making up Spice Girls routines in the living room, yelling “girl power!!” and exalting the power of female friendships. I didn’t know it at the time, but the seeds of feminism were being planted, and all through Top 40 smash hits. But it took years of undoing whatever damage internalized misogyny had done to me, to see pop music not just as some silly, fluffy nonsense but as an important addition to the music landscape.
Happy new year! This post has nothing to do with the new year, but I hope these album recommendations will help start your year off on the right foot!
These albums are either sending shivers down my spine every time I listen to them (because when you go indoors to escape the cold outside, what else would you rather do than shiver there too?) or otherwise being put on my playlist on repeat:
Ólafur Arnalds. Just. Ólafur Arnalds. More specifically, these two are my faves from our collection:
Island Songs by Ólafur Arnalds (streaming on hoopladigital only)
Re:member by Ólafur Arnalds is also amazing, but Island Songs is what originally got me into Arnalds and really listening. Literally sent shivers down my spine as I listened, as well as making me very emotional at times throughout the album. (Also, what a beautiful story behind the album!)
How to describe Arnalds’ music? I think he describes it this way himself in the insert to Re:member (though I don’t have the CD in front of me and can’t verify this, so take with a grain of salt), but it feels as though I’m listening to the soundtrack of a film, except there’s no film that it follows. Ambient music? Soundtrack? Instrumental, I guess. However you categorize it (if we must), it is beautiful.
See more below the cut.
I came across this book at a book event a few month ago. Not knowing much about Mozart or starling, I started reading not knowing what to expect (except for the fact that the person at the even spoke highly of it).
I usually read non-fictions pretty slowly, but not this time. Mozart’s Starling is a lighthearted charming little book inspired by starlings, the most hated birds among ornithologists since it is considered an aggressive invader to the local species, and the fact that the most well respected composer in the world Mozart had a pet starling during his most productive and turbulent years of his short life. In order to understand the bird and how it is like living with one, Haupt raised a baby starling. This book is a mixture of fun facts, unknown history, and reflection on inspiration, harmony, and the natural world.
Part natural history, part story, Mozart’s Starling will delight readers as they learn about language, music, and the secret world of starlings.
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The Urban Bestiary
The Hidden Life of Trees
Wesley the Owl
The Thing with Feathers