Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Christmas Shopping Dilemma

Gifts for all those little shitheads are expensive. At least
Santa's not selling himself...
Oh Christmas.

'Tis the season for excessive amounts of shopping.

Don't get me wrong, I like a little retail therapy now and then, but I work very hard to ignore most of my materialistic urges. Saving money is important to me. It's why devote my weekends to my second job.

But then Christmas comes along.

I want to give people meaningful gifts. Gifts I think they will actually use and enjoy. Sometimes, that means I can make things for people, other times, it means buying something.

When it comes to making purchases though, I have been trying to shift towards more local shopping. When it comes to Christmas though, that's really difficult. Yes, there are a few boutique stores that are locally owned an operated, but what about when I want to make stuff?

So here's my dilemma. I heard a statistic once (and we all know how TOTALLY RELIABLE those are) about where your dollar goes depending on where you shop. If you shop locally, about 100% of your dollar stays in your community, 13% for big box stores/chains and basically 0% for online shopping. Clearly, there's no way 100% of the money a local store makes stays local (uhhhh,  what about the utilities they have to pay and the materials they make whatever crap they are selling out of??), but you get the idea. Shopping local means more money staying local.
Was this lettuce locally grown or are you just a local vendor?

Ok, so shopping local is great. I did a bit of it, getting presents through my workplace (which is locally owned and operated and involves some very awesome people) and a few local boutiques. Great. So what about the presents I want to hand make?

I am very crafty. I like to make things. Knitting, beading, baking....whatever. But all of those things involve materials. While I am totally down to support local businesses, there has to be a line somewhere. The only way I can make knitting time/cost effective, is to buy my yarn at Michael's or some other giant box store that sells crafty crap. See, you can go to Target and buy a damn scarf for like $10-$20. It costs about $7 in yarn to make one. If I bought my yarn locally, from a local hobby shop or even a local weaver, it would cost a lot more. The whole point of making people gifts is that it's cheaper! And you know, some bullshit about homemade and from the heart blah blah blah, but really it's cheaper.

Ok, so yarn and other craft supplies are out. How about baking? Well, since there are no locally owned grocery stores around here that I know of, I'm kind of out of luck there. Damn you, Nestle chocolate chips, you win again.

You mean, I could be doing all my Christmas shopping,
 without even getting dressed?!?
At least like 13% of my dollar stays local, right? And it's better than shopping online....

These are the kind of justifications I make to myself.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The 5 Albums I Just Can't Stop Listening To

Ignore the fact that I haven't posted a blog since July. I've been in a dark place. Actually, that's a lie. I've been in Hawaii and while it does rain quite a bit, when the sun does shine, it's crazy bright.

However, when you're in a "dark place" and you've already listened to The Fragile more times than is realistically healthy for someone who doesn't own bondage restraint pants and wear streaky eyeliner on the regular, it means you eventually must go out and seek new music. Not even depressing music, either. After an 8-hour Nine Inch Nails marathon, you might actually feel like you're ready to entertain sounds that don't resemble your left arm getting caught in a blender while two midgets simultaneously serenade you and shit on your chest.  (I'll admit it; We went to kind of a dark place there and I apologize.)

You might be wondering what qualifies me to review and itemize songs on the internet like some kind of musical authority. However, instead of listing my qualifications in an attempt to validate my opinion to you, I'll show this tiny picture of me punching a shark in the nose which basically proves that I am unquestionably your musical savior: 

Glad we cleared that up. 

So, here, in no particular order, are the albums that I can't get enough of and why. As an added bonus, I've compiled all the songs here on a Spotify playlist. Enjoy.

Artist and Album: The Beatards - I'm the DJ

Genre: Rap-pop

You'll dig it if you like. . .Gym Class Heroes, N.E.R.D and 3Oh3! (That last one will make sense if you listen to "Don't Step on My Sneakers")

If you only listen to three songs, make sure they're. . ."She Was Like", "Don't Step on My Sneakers", and "Worldwide".

Why I love it:  Look, the album isn't perfect, but it's the poppy, feel-good music that you want to throw in your car and play loudly as you cruise through a city and try to look too cool for school in your mom's mini-van.  I love this album because it's that rock-pop-rap that is totally unapologetic for being like Twizzlers Pull and Peel (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QG_N87j65dA) - super tasty but devoid of nutrition.

Artist and Album: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis - The Heist

Genre:  Rap

You'll dig it if you like. . . Timbaland, Aesop Rock, and MC Chris jammed into a drink shaker and poured over the rocks. 

 If you only listen to three songs, make sure they're. . ."Can't Hold Us", "Same Love", and "Starting Over". (If you click on the playlist, "Thrift Shop" is on there too because, fuck it. I love that song and why am I limiting myself with some arbitrary number?)

Why I love it:  I had this dream once that a rapper would come on the scene that I didn't feel a little guilty about really loving. He'd have the poppy, catchy beats that are infectious (Timbaland), doesn't capitalize on being a nerd (MC Chris), and then have rhymes that are smart (Aesop) while being serious (Aesop again), and funny all at the same time (No one). Then I woke up and The Heist was all over the internet for "Same Love" and it was like Christmas came early. I love that they use real instruments interspersed with synthesized beats. They feature a lot of guests, like Ben Bridwell and Ray Dalton, and those are the kinds of collaborations that make this album stand out. Every single song is different and you'll never get that zoned-out feeling that comes with an artist that churns out an album of songs lasting 3 minutes and twenty seconds that all sound pretty much the same. (Everclear, anyone? No one? Good. They were terrible.)

Artist and Album: The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die

Genre: Electronica

You'll dig it if you like. . . Pendulum, Music to fight crime to

 If you only listen to three songs, make sure they're. . . "Invaders Must Die", Warrior's Dance", and "Stand Up". 

Why I love it:  If you aren't already a fan, you'll probably recognize them from fame garnered from "Smack My Bitch Up" which got a lot of static regarding censorship since it takes place in a strip club and that means naked women getting objectified. (NSFW) That, and apparently bitches were a little offended by the message or something. 
Anyway, I was a pretty big fan of Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned when it came out, but I thought that my love of The Prodigy both began and ended with that album. No so. It's rare when I can listen to an entire album repeatedly without wanting to skip a single song, but Invaders Must Die certainly fits the bill. The album is masterfully laid out and every song is worth listening to at least . . .40 times. Or so my last.fm profile tells me.

Artist and Album: Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal

Genre:  Folk-Pop

You'll dig it if you like. . . Mumford and Sons, Agnes Obel, Florence & The Machine

 If you only listen to three songs, make sure they're. . ."Little Talks", "King and Lionheart", and "Mountain Sound".

Why I love it:  Occasionally I'll listen to a song and it will instantly become a part of me. The music evokes an overly powerful emotion, the lyrics directly correlate to my life in an unexpected way, or perhaps the song is just so catchy that it takes me by storm. In these instances, I listen to the song repeatedly. I'm not crazy. The music compels me. I see this as my musical stress test. If I can listen to a song over and over (Reportedly at 38 plays on Last.fm but I think that number is suspiciously low) http://www.last.fm/user/yaariana without getting tired of it, the song passes.  It's like finding a four leaf clover and I treasure it. "Little Talks" is that song for me, but the whole album is beautiful and I've found it the perfect companion to paper writing, drinking tea, or emerging from my "dark place".

Artist and Album: Passion Pit - Gossamer

Genre: Indie pop-dance

You'll dig it if you like. . . Metric, The Naked and Famous, and Bloc Party with an occasional infusion of The Faint

 If you only listen to three songs, make sure they're. . ."Carried Away", "Hideaway", and "It's Not My Fault, I'm Happy". 

Why I love it:  Passion Pit delivers. People have gripes about the singer's voice and his auto-tune but you know what? I'll give props all day to a dude that can't sing but then manages to scratch out not one but two quality albums that don't have a ton of filler tracks. I love how satisfying it is when I listen to the songs on this album. The songs build and make you feel like you could break out of some handcuffs in the back of a cop car and then start a flash mob at the county jail drunk tank. Seriously though - the album grabs you right away with "Take a Walk" which hooks you and it doesn't let you go until the final track. Your foot will tap, your head will bob, and you'll be singing at least one of the songs in the shower.

I could conclude this blog by saying that I'll totally write another one soon, but let's not delude ourselves - my motivation could wane again at any moment. Instead, I'll just ask that if you have musical suggestions, leave a comment! I'm always looking for sweet tunes.