Seeing as this week I read Carrie Brownstein‘s Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl, I’ve been listening to a lot of Sleater-Kinney. I’ve already mentioned Sleater-Kinney in my Listen, Watch, Read series, but I feel I must mention it again. I truly believe there has never been a band like Sleater-Kinney before there existence, nor has there been one since their creation. They stand alone.
This week I want to specifically highlight their 2005 album The Woods. On my way home to Keelung from Taipei, I thought: I’d like to listen to “The Fox*,” which is the first track off of The Woods. I thought I’d listen to “The Fox” and then switch back to another playlist of various artists. But no. After “The Fox” ended and the track rolled over to #2 on The Woods – “Wilderness” – I found myself UNABLE TO SWITCH TO ANOTHER TRACK. I was hooked. And then I listened to the entire album straight through. It’s beautifully produce and flows excellently.
(Do people do that anymore? Listen to albums straight-through? I guess if you’re a big fan of an artist and they come out with a new album, you will probably listen to it straight-through. But if not, if you’re just dabbling – something the internet makes it very easy to do – I think not many people listen to albums straight-through. That’s probably a huge thing about music listening that has changed since becoming digital. With my iPod, I can switch songs instantly. If I were listening on a record, I would probably listen to more albums straight-through just because of the difficulty factor in having to change a record or skip a song or whatnot. So I guess that’s an advantage to records [forced full-album experience the way the artist intended, not cherry-picking tracks], but also a reason I don’t buy records – what if I don’t actually like/tolerate all the songs on the record?)
When I first started binge-listening to Sleater-Kinney I did listen to The Woods straight-through at some point, but I think it didn’t grab me as much as it has now. Possibly because of the power and effect of Carrie Brownstein’s memoir Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl. I think maybe knowing more of the story behind the songs made it easier to connect. I already feel connected with their earlier albums (Self-Titled, Call the Doctor, Dig Me Out, The Hot Rock) but I think perhaps that’s because I’m a young woman and those songs were written when they were young women. They were older during The Woods (like mid-30s) and that’s a life stage I haven’t experienced yet, so perhaps it’s harder to connect with those emotions?
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Season 2. There are some questionable race things about Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt in both Seasons 1 and 2, but for me it’s still overall hilarious and original in my opinion. I truly enjoyed most of the character arcs in Season 2 moreso than Season 1: Titus getting a boyfriend, Jacqueline trying to figure out who she is / wants to be, and Kimmy dealing with her trauma baggage. Now to wait another 11 months for Season 3…
As previously mentioned, I read Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl, and it was seriously amazing. I think I appreciated it on many levels: as a Sleater-Kinney fan, as a woman in the world, and also as an artist who mainly makes art as a way of dealing with emotions. I would encourage it to anyone interested in those things. Or also just fans of memoir. Although I haven’t read much memoir, it’s an incredibly well-crafted narrative, with the tension and drama building through the albums/years, propelling the reader to read and read and read chapter after chapter until getting to the climax and denouement.
It’s also really funny at times. I found the humor creep up at me when I wasn’t expecting it. I practically died laughing in a Family Mart Cafe when Brownstein described changing the script of her seventh grade mock trial and declaring that she – playing the mother of the accused – was actually the murderer. Also, this sentence about when the band had to go to couples therapy: “Enter Susan and Nina, a couple of therapists who were couples therapists, and also happened to be a couple.” That paragraph goes on to describe the therapists as the sort who “used their own relationship for examples, and as a result, details of their personal histories are permanently lodged in my brain.” I find Brownstein’s observations and voice very pleasant. And the last example of hilariosity, when describing a live performance they taped hoping to release on DVD, but the lighting was such that they looked horrible: “We should never put out the DVD unless we included a sticker on the cover that said something to the effect of: ‘Hey, the three ugliest women in America have been in a band for the past ten years, have you seen them?’” I read that on the bus and couldn’t stop laughing.
But, more important than the humor, was the narrative’s themes of creating art and finding a place for oneself in the world. It’s definitely a book I plan to pick up again in a few years, and maybe re-read on a set frequency of several years so I can keep getting reminders. There were so many wonderful passages I highlighted. Here are a few, and I encourage you to check out the book – or audiobook – if you’re intrigued:
-On really starting Sleater-Kinney (first live performances, recording the self-titled album) in Australia, not Olympia, Washington, the community where they had met and first began practicing: “There is something freeing in seeing yourself in a new context. […] There is relief in knowing that you can re-create yourself. When you’re entrenched in a community of people who know you, it’s scary to proclaim wanting to be different and wanting to experiment. […] It was an extreme way to start, but I learned later on how hard it can become to unsettle yourself, to trip yourself up, and I think that’s a good place to write from. […] The stakes should always be high.”
-On being outed by a magazine article: “If you haven’t spent any time deliberated and intentionally shaping your narrative, if you’re unprepared, like I was, then one will be written for you. And if you already feel like a fractured self, you will start to feel like a broken one.”
-On femaleness in rock: “An audience doesn’t want female distance, they want female openness and accessibility, familiarity that validates femaleness. Persona for a man is equated with power persona for a woman makes her less of a woman, more distant and unknowable, and thus threatening. […] We were never trying to deny out femaleness. Instead, we wanted to expand the notion of what it means to be female. The notion of “female” should be so sprawling and complex that it becomes divorced from gender itself.”
*FUN FACT: I was at this show – Pitchfork 2015 – pressed up against the center railing with my friend and wingman Matt. It was such a rad experience: jumping along, singing along, screaming along. The full set’s not available on Youtube, but to get a sense of how engaging the show was, this is the Pitchfork-produced video for “Entertain” from that night. “Entertain” is also a track on The Woods.