Lamps Plus

I drove by Lamps Plus the other day. The street was dark; even the McDonald’s across the street was closed. Lamps Plus was store with its lights always on, always shining in the darkness even if no one was there to see it. The stores around it had changed. The doctor’s office was now an herbal healing center and the drive-through coffee shop had been demolished and was now under construction. Somehow, this lamps store had managed to stay afloat.

I remember walking through that store as a kid during the day time. I was maybe five- or six-years-old. The store was both darker and brighter than the natural sunlight outside. My parents were busy browsing and talking to salesmen, but I was gently touching all the glass, watching their iridescent colors. I marveled as the colors danced on the walls and the furniture around me as I ran my hands back and forth along long-hanging chandelier.

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“Stop touching everything!” My parents instructed me. They were worried I might break something, which isn’t unreasonable. I was a rowdy kid, always being held after school and being infamous in my family for being what they called “accident-prone.” I didn’t even know what the word meant.

I tucked my hands behind my back, and put my head down, reluctantly following my parents and instructed my sister to do the same. They eventually walked away with the salesman, and I took that as my cue to continue playing with the light. As a kid, we don’t think too much on what was said before.

My parents returned, after what felt like an eternity. The lamps they had chosen was dull and plain: wooden square bases with a plain lampshade on top. Did they find these boring lamps in some other part of the store that I had not seen? How could they have chosen those lamps with the millions of other opportunities? I vowed to return one day as an adult and purchase the most beautiful and reflective lamps available.

“Melissa, why do you ALWAYS have to touch EVERYTHING!?”

Driving by last night, I had a deep desire to return to the store and run my fingers along the chandeliers, and the glass, and maybe this time, even follow through on my promise to buy one. But I just drove by, anxious to get home and rest after an exhausting day of work.

Most importantly, I wanted to return to a time where I lived in the present, not feeling anxious about the future, and not thinking of how much happier I was in the past. I was not worried about what I looked like or what people thought about me. I wanted to return to a time where I was my me-ist me.

I still do. I think we all do in some respect.

 

The Corner Booth

I’m sitting in the corner booth at a chain-store diner.

A stern-looking middle-aged Chinese woman named Wanna seats me. She is efficient, impatient, yet the customers seem to love her all, greeting her and saying hello even if she not their waiter.

I browse through the menu as I try not to look at the booth to the left of me. A mom, daughter and son are having a heated conversation, but every time I look over, they have calm and cool expressions.

“I just feel like he’s my first boyfriend and I should be allowed to go see him!”

“Listen to me. There’s no such thing as real love at your age. You’ll understand when you’re older.”

The son has a pile of uneaten onion rings on his plate. Looks like he had a burger. “Can I say something?”

Only the lettuce and the honeydew are left over from the daughter’s plate. “Why should he get to say something? He’s not a part of this!”

“He’s a part of this family and is a part of this conversation right now.”

I glance up at them. No one is smiling, but no one is exactly frowning or crying either. Mom is casually seated, with her right arm bent upwards and resting on the backrest of the chair.

Wanna breaks my concentration by walking into my line of sight.

“What you want to drink?” Her voice is louder than necessary, and sounds more like a demand than a question.

“Just water is fine.” A sigh of regret and relief. I wanted that sugary drink, but managed to decide against it.

I order a country-fried steak. Usually, I don’t order because I’m with my family, so I just share off their plate. I was craving something savory; crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside.

“You like pancakes or toast?”

“Can I upgrade to the French toast?”

She gives a wry smile and a quick exhale of a few breaths, which I take to be a small, endearing laugh, as she briskly writes down my order.

“Okay, I come back with your water.”

“Thank you.”

She side-steps over and takes the order of the family behind me. A 40 year old, overweight woman orders for her father, but her mother seems to be able to order just fine on her own. Wanna comes to each table in an orderly fashion and treats her job almost like assembly line: take one order, shift over, take the next. She visits the tables in our area in the same, counterclockwise order.

As soon as Wanna leaves, the 40 year old overweight woman quickly transitions into speaking Spanish to her family. Maybe that’s why she ordered for her father. She pronounces letter — especially every consonant — as she speaks, giving her tone a chirpy and rhythmic staccato. Her father speaks a slower, and lazier Spanish, dropping some letters at the end and words running into each other. He speaks more tentatively and the beats in his language match those of a slow heartbeat. I enjoy listening to them passing the rhythm back and forth, between precise and eloquent and laid back and unconcerned.

Eventually, the arguing family on the left of me leaves. I wonder if I was glancing too much to make them more self conscious about their public argument, but at times I couldn’t help myself. The differences between their body language and their conversation baffled me.

Wanna brings the food to the 40-year old woman with her parents. As Wanna sets her food down, the woman exclaims, “Wow… yummy!” The family digs in without waiting for Wanna to leave, which doesn’t seem to bother her much.

A Hispanic bus boy comes to clean the empty booth not a few minutes after they leave their seats. He can’t be much older than I am. With lightning efficiency he carefully throws their dishes and unfinished food into a large wash bin, and quickly wipes down the table, erasing the fact that a family sat together in this booth not too long ago.

An elderly couple sits down only a few minutes after the bus boy leaves. The husband is looking my way every once in a while. Maybe he’s wondering why a 24-year-old girl is eating French toast and country-fried steak alone in a diner on a Friday night. Why isn’t she out with friends? Why isn’t she home with family? Why is she at this cheap diner and not some nice ramen joint or bar down the street?

I ask myself the same questions.

Wanna comes by, asking the same set of questions that she asked me. “What you want to drink?”

After taking their order, they chat a bit, saying that they used to go to the diner that she also used to work at, but moved here after she moved. When they asked why she moved to this one, she answers quickly, “More flexibility.” Her conversation is precise; not a word said that isn’t needed. She speaks quickly and looks for opportunities to return back to her job, but this elderly couple speaks slowly and deliberately, and she is still working for their good tips. She ends the conversation and briskly leaves to retrieve their order and give them more time with the menu.

Perhaps people like her for her distinct personality. She seems to enjoy serving people without spending too much time on trivial matters, and is not a lady you will forget easily, if you’re paying enough attention.

After she returns with the water (for the wife) and the diet coke (for the husband), she asks them what they would like to eat.

Both customers are unsure of their choices. They know what they want, but they don’t want to commit. They are debating whether or not to get what they always order or to try something new.

They stick to the plan and order what they’re used to.

Each decision they make is precedented with a long “Uhhhhh…” I can tell that this makes Wanna impatient, as she starts tapping her pen and shifting her weight. The couple doesn’t seem to notice. The wife asks for advice from her husband when choosing between soup and salad. Ordering their dinner probably takes up to 3 minutes.

As Wanna speed-walks away, the husband again glances at me.

“I’m perfectly fine on my own,” I tell myself. “I wanted diner food on a Friday night by myself, not some fancy bar with my friends getting wasted. I need my time alone.” I try to convince myself. “This is what I want.”

Am I fine alone though? I came to this diner to enjoy my food and read my book, and instead spent the time watching people come and go, listening into what they thought were private conversations. What kind of human interaction was I craving in that moment to make me so attentive to my surroundings?

I don’t ponder what this means for too long. I return my attention to the present, and what I see, hear, and, smell around me.

It’s at this point that I notice that the diner is not playing any music overhead. Is this a typical characteristic of a diner? Why is this the first time I’m noticing this? All you can hear is the indistinct chitter-chatter of multiple conversations at varying volume levels happening. I try to focus on conversations further away from me, but can only hear murmurs and sparse laughter.

I finally get up to leave. The couple to my left watches as I collect my things. I smile and bow my head down, as if excusing myself. I am anxious that as soon as I leave, the husband will turn to the wife and ask, “What do you think the deal was with her? Sitting alone at this chain restaurant diner all by herself on a Friday night?”

I ate more than I should have, and my stomach feels bloated. I know looking in the mirror tomorrow morning will be hard. Everyday, I tell myself that I’ll just stop eating sugar again, but sometimes I can’t control myself, and one bite turns into a whole meal.

I take a few deep breaths in my car. I put on a new face as I drive to my next destination: a little house party with some close friends. I’ve been looking forward to seeing them, but the happiness and joy of hanging out with them is only temporary, and the fear of returning back to my stressful life worries me. An escape for only a few hours.

Fennec – “R.I.P. City” (Album Review) (2015)

Who are you? Are you really from Western Sahara? Who do you consider your influences? Why can’t I find anything about you on the internet? Why don’t more people tune into your music? The world may never know. Reveal yourself, Fennec!

Fennec, you’ve done it again. By the way, I can find very little information about you on the internet. I’m assuming you’re a female, because of the pictures that I found on both Facebook and Twitter. I know nothing about you. You’re an enigma.

And you’re an enigma whose music BUMPS. THANK YOU FOR YOUR WONDERFUL BEATS.

Recommended if you like: Jaime XX, Disclosure, SBTRKT

“Let Your Heart Break”, her 2014 release (Spotify Link), overpowered many of my work-outs and drives home. “R.I.P. City” (Spotify Link), her 2015 June release, is doing the same. Each song is so different from the next. I’ll likely never get all the names down, or remember which ones are my top tracks, but I know that Fennec’s albums are essentials for me. I’d probably include both her albums in my top 50 albums of all time. That is how much I I appreciate this artist.

Dear Fennec, you deserve recognition, so come out of the shadows. I’ll spread the word about you as much as possible. I think there should be more music like yours out there, but I want you to be famous for it first. Or maybe fame is something you’re avoiding? I DON’T KNOW! GIVE ME A SIGN!

Fennec – R.I.P. City – Full Album | Spotify Link

My favorites from “R.I.P. City” (How did I choose these as my favorites? I loved the album as a whole):

Fennec – God Amongst Men | Spotify Link

Fennec – Mazzed | Spotify Link

Fennec – Arsenic Sleep Mask | Spotify Link

Fennec – Cultist Queen | Spotify Link

There’s a lot of audio recording of people talking, including that opening track, which at times can be a drag (did she really have to make those excerpts so long? We get the idea; get to the music). That’s really the only downside I can say about this album. Like I said, each track has its unique identity and each is special in its own way. Each track flows into the next nearly seamlessly that at times. I’ve listened to this album at least 5 times since I’ve discovered it came out, and I go to the gym enough that this will be a go-to album (along with “Let Your Heart Break”) to listen to while running or doing my strength work outs.

As you can tell, I’m very passionate about this album, and this artist. So on a scale of 1-10, I’d give it a 9.1/10. It’s comparable to Jaime XX’s “Colours,” which also came out this year.

The Chainsmokers – Roses ft. ROZES (2015)

The Chainsmokers, a duo from NYC, known for their 2014 single #Selfie, which reached #16 on the US charts and #11 on UK charts.

The Chainsmokers – Roses ft. ROZES (2015) | Spotify Link

Man, I have been posting a lot of this synth-pop electronic music featuring strong female vocals (see Tei Shi, Mr. Little Jeans).

This one again, this track starts subtle in the beginning. You almost don’t see the drop of massively sick beats that comes up later on in the song. It ever so slightly starts to build up in the bridge, until you hit the refrain, which BUMPS SO HARD. It’s the type of song that you blast in your car with windows down, pumping your fists at the cars going by. Later on, it has that synth sound similar to the one used in Major Lazer’s “Lean On,” which this artist uses it sparingly enough to be perfect.

Again, this one is impossible not to move to, or at least bob your head around to as you write blog posts late into the night. It has simple enough lyrics to sing along to as well. Honestly, it’s got all the requirements to succeed as a pop song, I believe, and I wouldn’t mind if this one made it to the mainstream. I don’t think I’ll tire of it too soon. Hopefully this track makes it up there on the top charts, so that I can hear it more often when I tune into the radio.

Rozes, the female vocalist on this track.

Mr. Little Jeans – “Waking Up (Turbotito Remix)” (2015)

Made this discovery right after the the Kraak & Smaak song I posted the other day.

This remix is a completely different reimagining of the original by Mr. Little Jeans (Spotify link). The original is definitely worth listen-to, but I much prefer this remix. The original is much slower and has a little more soul to it, but the Turbotito remix is what stirs the desire within me to dance.

Mr. Little Jeans – “Waking Up (Turbotito Remix)” (2015) | (Spotify Link)

The beats fade in and out at the perfect pace and great use of Monica Birkenes’ blurred vocals. I had the pleasure of seeing this Norwegian singer live at one of KCRW’s events on the pier over the summer. At the time, she was a little flustered by the size of the crowd, and fumbled over transitions and some of the performances of her song, but her cute and quirky disposition allowed the audience to sympathize with her and bear with her difficulties. I’m sure at this time, she has gained much more experience, and given the chance, I would love to see her live again, if just to see her growth as a live performer.

Kraak & Smaak – “My Synths are the Bomb” (2011)

October is the worst month. Except for the fact that it ends in Halloween. October is the month where there are no breaks from your students. I took a day of this past week and spent the whole day at home, in bed sleeping (except for the part where I went to the doctor’s office. In my line of work, you need a good break a few times a month. So excited for November and December’s breaks.

In late September, I kept a journal. A hand-written journal, not unlike the ones I kept since I was in second grade. I haven’t updated that in a month, and I feel that large portions of my life will be lost in my memory if I don’t log them. It’s hard to keep up with all the things that I would like to do, including updating this music blog. I spent the last few weeks instead painting again, and reading some books that have been sitting on my bookshelf (Kindle’s broken for good; boo hoo!).

That being said, i have a lot of music to unload on you. A LOT. I’ve been plowing through tracks, artists, and albums. It’s a hunger that won’t be satiated.

I’m starting with this track that has such a driving energy to it that it’s perfect for almost any situation. Driving late at night, or early in the morning for a quick pump-up, in the gym either running or doing strength training, meditating, etc. It’s soothing and exciting at the same time. Though they mainly do remixes, I’m looking forward to hearing more original music from this Dutch trio.

Kraak & Smaak – “My Synths are The Bomb” (2011) | Spotify Link

I can’t not “move it with” and I don’t think I’ll tire of this track soon, despite its repetitive nature.

Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Roadrunner (1976) #tbt

Recommended if you like: Television, The Fall, Flamin’ Groovies

Throwback Thursday this week is actually something that I discovered recently, but it is retro and #tbt worthy. Here’s some indie retro music:

Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Roadrunner (1976)

It’s got that reckless and rushed quality that I love so much about proto-punk music. You don’t have to think about it too much, and you can tell the artists are just having fun with it. It’s catchy, easy, and fun-loving. Though its sounds like a lot of stuff coming out of the UK at that time, Jonathan Richman is actually born and raised in America. The Modern Lovers were put together in Boston, Massachusetts. Their producer from this song, Johnny Cale, was formerly of The Velvet Underground, and you can definitely hear the influence. It’s just 2 chords, garbled lyrics, and shouts from the back-up vocalists. It also reminds me a little of the stuff Patti Smith put out on “Horses,” which came out just a year before this single.

Anyway, enjoy!

“Pulo, Pulo” – Jorge Ben (1970)

World Music Wednesday? Should I make that a thing? I guess this also counts as a #tbt, but whatever! Guess I’ll post world music on Wednesdays from now on. Or whenever I feel like it. If you have issues with it, then start your own music blog and do your own thing.

This one comes from Brazil. It fits into MPB, or Música popular brazileira, but also aligns with tropicália and samba rock. I want to listen to more of this genre, but it’s hard to know where to start. Suggestions anyone?

Pulo, Pulo – Jorge Ben (Spotify Link)

Simply stated: this song makes happy. I bob my shoulders up and down and shimmy, especially when I’m driving down the street trapped in my car. I don’t know too much about this and I forget exactly where I found this particular track, but I’ll definitely be doing more research on this artist. He’s a big name in the world music community, and I especially love stuff from Latin and South America. So keep your eyes open for more of this!

“Aftergold” – Big Wild

Thank you, Spotify Browse. I officially love you for introducing me to this song. “Aftergold” bumps so hard it might be a permanent favorite of mine. It was love at first listen. This track is so funky, sticky, and jazzy, that while listening, it’s like I’m possessed and can’t stop moving. I loose control of my body. It’s got the right amount of all sorts of genres in it. It has that world music influence that I’m so into right now, especially when it’s mixed in with the electronic chill genre that’s becoming so popular these days.

“Aftergold” – Big Wild (Spotify Link)

Those handclaps, melodic, tinkling wind chimes and bird-like-call vocals. The strings and and percussion instruments… there is so much going on this song that I love that it’s hard for me to decipher everything that I’m hearing. The refrain, I guess you’d call it, hits you with each beat. It combines so many elements and sounds, that it seems like it could be world music, but it’s hard to determine what region of the world this one would come from. I’ll try not to understand this one. I’ll just enjoy it.

I couldn’t find very much on the web about this artist. He’s only got a few singles on his profile, so I’m guessing he’s a brand new artist. (I’m gonna guess that it’s just one guy mixing tracks. I think somewhere on the web, I saw that it was just one guy.) I can’t even find where he’s from.

Shannon and the Clams – “It’s Too Late” & “Corvette”

“Rats in the Dream House” (Spotify Link), their album that came out 2013, was something that I fell in love with immediately. There wasn’t a single track on that album that I didn’t enjoy. Which is why I’m stoked for their new releases.

They are influenced by doo-wop and punk, a wonderful combination and one that I’ve been hearing from a few new bands recently, including Hunx and his Punx, Nobunny, and Thee Oh Sees. They have a very distinct style, with the beachy-50s sounds accompanied by the fuzzed out vocals of their bassist Shannon Shaw. All put together, their musical style as well as their artistic and creative decisions about their look create an extremely aesthetic “brand.”

Shannon & The Clams – It’s Too Late (Spotify Link)

“It’s Too Late” is just plain fun. It’s got a simple guitar riff and sparse percussion. The song focuses on Shaw’s vocals, but features beach guitar interludes and solos. It’s simple and easy, and that’s all there is to it, really. This is one of those great songs that sounds happy, but actually has some depressing lyrics.

Shannon & the Clams – Corvette (Spotify Link)

“Corvette” starts out with a plucky guitar and tambourine, and subtle vocals. Then you get the whining, crying “aaahs” in the background, just faintly there, but enough to give the song depth. It’s definitely one of their slower ones, but I dig it nonetheless. This is a great one for right before bedtime, as I’m doing my nightly care routines and prepping for a good night’s rest, despite the punk-quality to it.

The video for “Corvette” even has a 50s feel to it (as well as some of their past work). It seems like all the band members really get into that old-school make-up and costume. Shannon and the Clams deserves more coverage in my opinion, and their stuff is definitely worth the listen.