Blog

back by E

I am about to hit the 2 year anniversary of the day which changed everything for me and nearly the 1 year anniversary since posting a track review. I don't believe explanations are needed as the site left my personal story the day the music-rag.com domain was bought and I lost the total control of 'my' site that I had on the blogosphere (and we both know personal posts aren't popular unless you're my mom or older sister), but I will say that after my experience, I felt a need to return to the work my parents had been doing since I was 2: reiki, readings, healings for animals and humans alike, timeline therapy, soul clearings and retrieval; all that weird shit I had to hide in public school because people still think crystals are a joke, familiars are a myth, and ancient practices are a mockery (honestly, the first time friends heard my parents mention the phrase "electronic belt of protection" I realized I needed to shut down in order to survive the rest of school and college).

After an NDE that left me with pretty severe PTSD, some still healing fucked up Deadpool hands, and an ache where someone I loved used to be, I felt the need to return to the things that made me a freak for so long because I am what I am and, in doing so, that took me out of this for a while.

Though I did not post for you or respond to emails, music was there the entire time, especially as I drove from South Florida to the other side of the country in the middle of a blizzard, driving in snow for the first time ever, with 3 cats, a dog, 2 suitcases, and a family size bag of twizzlers packed in the back of the car I picked up 6 hours before leaving. Screaming along to Rationale's "Kindred" as I crossed the St Louis bridge at 3AM was incredibly cathartic. I definitely listened to The Strike's "Human Right" more times in a row than any healthy person would or should while trying to stay awake on the infuriatingly everlasting Kansas highway. And the karmic timing of Walk Off The Earth's "Home We'll Go" starting the moment I crossed the last state line I'd pass before landing on 'home' was the first sign in years that things were going to get better. I fucking love a good soundtrack to life.

The world seems pretty shitty right now and music helps so, as I logged in and read emails from so many beautiful people with thoughts and music to share, I realized I didn't want to just forgo payment and quietly end the website. Obviously there are so, so, SO many other choices of music sites for you to choose from and I'm not going to go full out like I did when I was naive enough to think I could actually make a go of this job-wise, but I will start giving you some links to good music for your soul and your head when it's all too heavy. And hopefully my writing skills will come back; it's been a while and you guys deserve better than "loved. I've listened 12x this hour" (Barns Courtney's "Hollow", no joke).

After a lot of fresh air and room to breathe in a safe place which is blissfully far from other people. After a lot of singing and dancing and crying and losing friends because you can't possibly explain all which has happened. After a lot of drinking and late nights and early mornings and sisterly bonding. After a lot of time and grief and love and joy and healing and music. After all, I think I can tentatively say that you can expect some okay reviews from me and this site again.

Some things you should/n't expect: Interviews won't get more intense. I'm never going to feel comfortable asking strangers about their personal lives and the basic set of questions I use are succinct yet open enough that if someone is interested they can talk and explain and share; and if someone never wanted to talk with me in the first place we can just end the call as quickly as possible. Going off that, I'm also not going to agree to every interview anymore because when people are nice and into it it's awesome and I love them for being kind and open and beautiful; when they're not, those calls that last less than 7 minutes feel like an eternity and make me want to go back in time and stop my smug 2012 college self from posting an 11PM blogger post that would one day lead to this hell. I'm not putting myself through that anymore because I just don't feel like it. I already died once. I'm not going to waste my time on something terrible because I feel indebted to someone I've not/will never meet. Album reviews aren't going to happen because, unless it's an artist you truly love, who has the time? Everyone I know has heard me go on and on and ON about Lizzo and FATT and Taylor Swift and The Head And The Heart's new albums and I'm not going to put you through the exaggerated gasps and instagram memes and lyric quoting. And I'm legit just going to fill Who To Know with artists I enjoy/full out love because why not? Who cares if Samm Henshaw or Wrabel are already known? Their music still gives you those good chills and carries this enigmatic energy that wraps itself around you until you're just a little bit better able to handle whatever's been eating at you: they're people whose music you deserve to have in your life.

As stated, I dithered about for a bit while deciding whether or not to renew the site and music was there the entire time. So. I paid for the site renewal, I'm here for a bit at least, forever at most and I've got a Spotify playlist of some good stuff below for you which I've been loving over the past year or two since reviews and Media page updates halted (warning: there is so much, even after removing tracks I love. Shuffle if you care for a year worth of tracks). If you're one of the ones who've been checking back daily or weekly just to hear the Song of the Day and see if anything was updated, I quite actually adore you. Lovely people deserve lovely things and I'm going to do my best to give you just that.

Happy Holidays / Christmas Playlist by E

In the spirit of this site’s annual Christmas playlist, my personal playlist is here and below for you all to listen to (because it’s Christmas Eve and I’m too lazy to go through YouTube and put something together/Spotify is easier to stream than YouTube across devices). It’s a massive variety, all with the same holiday sentiment (because it is made for my sister who doesn’t like Christmas music; my dad who believes in the spirit of yule, good tidings, and Elvis for all; my personal affection for belting dumbass tracks like “You Make It Feel Like Christmas” and “Santa Tell Me”; and my grandmother who is super into Hallmark and any song featured in one of their movies. Ever).

I know that this year’s posts were few and far between, but 2019 will bring far more posts and a possible, super plausible, return to the old writing style (i.e. less formal because who has the time when all I really want to say is “I fucking love everything Samm Henshaw puts out and why are Smith & Thell still such a secret when Soulprints was gorgeous and Telephone Wires is a snapshot of sweet longing?”). Plus, it’s just not fun anymore when you take yourself out of it.

I truly do appreciate every one of you who continued to visit the site and check the Song of the Day while I took time to return to my family’s business and work in an environment that had little to do with technology while playing with crystals and brushing up on my reading and intuition. Music by good people only helped to fuel my connections but it took a lot to put my all into being authentic only to turn around and cut myself out of the equation while writing objectively.

Check out the Christmas playlist, skip and repeat what you may, and look for more posts about good music from kind people in the new year; because there’s always good even if all else seems bleak and music is good at helping you to remember that.

Here’s to very good music, new posts, and a bunch more Mueller indictments in 2019. Cheers and happy holidays!

P.S. Enjoy this photo of my dog in Christmas gear trying to think of a reason not to hate me.

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Vote by E

I try not to write personal posts often and only do so when I feel it necessary, so I was going to write a super long, thoughtful and rational yet passionate post about this years' election but it really can all be summed up with, don't be a dumbass.

Do you honestly believe that one of these candidates is not far better than the other? That they're even comparable? That the ill-qualified, ego-driven, charity abstaining, man who believes 'locker room talk' validates ignorant speech; financially ruined his dead brothers' family (because, hey, always look out for number 1); believes it's "smart" to cheat our tax system; and does not have enough belief in our democratic process (as a candidate to lead this proud democracy) to guarantee his acceptance of the outcomes of this election without his own subset of middle school lunchroom rules would be a good choice for us?

On the other hand, you have a candidate who is arguably the most qualified candidate we have ever seen, who actually charted as more liberal than Obama when they first began running against each other in the 2008 election (by the fucking way and only just to the right of Sanders in this election), who has spent her entire life and career in search of helping those less fortunate and openly admits that she is privileged and that's why she has been able to do so much good, yet she is having to fight tooth and nail against one of the lesser qualified candidates our nation has ever seen because she doesn't have a dick (it's embarrassing for us, as a country, really). Hillary Clinton has been a figurative punching bag for the US for decades and there is so much propaganda surrounding her that, until Sanders was out of the picture and I started looking into her, I believed her to be Sanders' 'lesser' opponent - embarrassing but worth noting - and the reason Bernie Sanders appeared to be the 'left' choice is because he is so radical and while that's all well and good, an unwillingness to bi-partisan votes is a terrible way to run a divided country. And if you'd like to start comparing notes and decrying one candidate as less liberal than the other (and therefore 'unacceptable'), consider the fact that Clinton too is offering free college with her platform and that, in 2008, Sanders, same as Clinton at that moment in time, did not believe in marriage equality; both had steep learning curves and both accepted the knowledge and progressed. But, I lost a lot of respect for Sanders when he continued running long enough after losing the primary to thoroughly divide the party in tumultuous times, so my views are, admittedly, not through such rose-colored glasses.

So stop saying that 'you guess' you'll have to vote for Clinton because Sanders lost and you don't want to be partly responsible for welcoming the end of The Great Experiment. Be proud that you're voting for our first woman president, not yet 100 years after women were granted the right to vote. Be proud that you're voting for someone who has defended human rights for the poor, sick, and disenfranchised her entire life; someone whose resume includes lawyer, Senator, First Lady, and Secretary of State who already understands the realities and responsibilities of the job for which she is fully prepared. Be proud to vote for someone who knew that it was the job of every woman to do her part to break the 'glass ceiling' before it was mainstream. Be proud that you're voting for someone that, despite decades of vindictive hate and unsolicited finger-pointing (because let's be real and talk the unpopular opinion, the Secretary of State is not responsible for attacks, that would be the Secretary of Defense or the CMC, or perhaps the GOP who refused Clinton's request for additional funding) has not broken or backed down but stands tall and allows you to say whatever you want because, at the end of the day, Hillary is smart enough to know that she can't change your opinion and that's okay, because this election is about the principled, not the principles, and she's banking on you being intelligent and rational enough to figure that out while knowing that freedom of speech is a hell of a lot more important than talking at a brick wall to try and set the record straight. Wouldn't it be great to have someone in office who knows that we're intelligent, free-thinking people capable of greatness?

We cannot actually tell you who to vote for, that's the whole point of fighting so hard for freedom of speech, equality, and the right to vote for the ideals you'd like to see in our shared democracy; but that fact is why you need to take a good, hard look at your choices in this election.

I'm not going to talk about rape culture or nasty women or stop-and-frisk or controversial voting hours for specific precincts and candidate-proposed poll monitoring or suggestions that women shouldn't vote, because I have faith that our readers here are smart enough to know better (and if not, why are you here? We like equality and kickass women and regularly feature LGBTQ artists and, honey, you are so in the wrong place). Don't throw away your vote by protesting, writing in, or voting for a third party candidate who clearly has no chance (I know, you don't vote third party 'cause there's no chance of them winning because people don't vote for them and on and on, but you're not going to change that, not in this election); vote to continue making our country better, vote for the America you would feel safe and happy to live in, vote for the future you would be proud to tell your grandkids you helped to achieve. Volunteer and donate or don't, but do the absolute least you can and get out and vote. Our ancestors fought too hard for too long for those rights for us to now stay silent and waste our moment in an election this important.

Vote.

Make An Escape From The Sound by E

A lot of personality was stripped when switching from the blog to the site, something a reader pointed out to me last Summer, so I will do my best to maybe bring back that sans souci/reader beware style of writing here.

The Music Rag began as a writing project to recover from anorexia - something all you long-time readers know - and that illness and its effects were mainstays on that old green blog. Back before the album reviews and artist interviews and site offers came through, it was just as the title implied, a rag: completely subjective posts about exams and boys and hospital rooms with something nice to bob your head to and really worth no one's time and how this *gestures emphatically at site* happened is far beyond me. I thought last year's final-go of a post said all that needed hearing and presumed everything else just didn't need saying, but we've recently been reminded of just how many people we love are still affected by mental illness and you need to know that you are all so amazing and loved, no matter how lost you feel.

I owe you guys everything, because The Music Rag wouldn't 'be' without you amazing, fantastic, awesome people. There were days, after I'd worked at two shitty jobs, visited my dad in the hospital, and crawled into bed at 3 AM before waking up at 6 for classes when I knew for a fact it was ridiculous bothering to keep it up because what could ever come out of a silly blog, but you made it real and offered a healthier distraction with focus and let me know that even though the stories were shit (seriously, one detailed how I fell off the couch and stabbed my dog with the fork I was holding), the music got to you too. Sure, our artists are these incredibly cool people who are generally just great and we're stoked we get to introduce you to so many of them now, but this website is for you because it wouldn't have happened without your unfaltering support. This post specifically is for all of you readers who supported whatever this is up to this point and for all those who were so supportive and vocal and thanked the posting of last years' NEDA piece, because I certainly wouldn't be dredging it back up for anyone else.

Because of this posts' being it is imperative to state, suicide is never the answer. I know there is this awful, building pressure in your head and it seems the only way you can alleviate it is with a bullet or a blade, but it does fade over time and one day you'll feel alive and happy again. I guarantee you, no memory is harder to shake than that of the faces of your parents and siblings and friends when you have to answer 'why?'. That look in their eyes will stay with you and hurt longer than any of those thoughts in your mind will. You are worthy of asking for help; you're worthy of being listened to.

Last years' piece ended so optimistically on that 'there are so many things worth staying around for' trope (which, have you heard Lila Rose's "All The Beauty" because, just, damn, I mean, fuck, she's good. I know, that's the type of high quality writing and shit you come here for) - and there are, there are so, so many things worth staying here for - that it made it all the more pathetic when I 'relapsed' - for lack of a less worthless word - and I was cool glossing over it, but we're here, talking about feelings, again. Can't wait!

Relapse, huh? That's a stupid fucking word. It's like calling a Cat 5 a heavy rain. You'd think it would be easier; you made it out before so this shouldn't be too difficult, but there's just something so much harder about coming out of a relapse. It's shorter, but darker. On top of the intrinsic hate you've got this sense of doubly failing and letting so many people down - again - and already knowing just how easy it is to let go while the depression is this much more hollow nearing metaphysical but still sharp in its intensity ache that's like a static, full body void and a total loss of self; like that drop in your gut when you get really bad news but throughout your body and just numbingly, frustratingly, petulantly stagnant.

The relapse started shortly after writing last year's NEDA piece and I realized as I was writing about all these old feelings that they weren't so displaced and there were so many things I still had to get over - there still are - and I knew it wouldn't be long before I was back with what felt familiar and, when it hit, I stepped back from the site.

I took time off from the site because I couldn't continue acting like I had the right to be doing this thing I never actually planned to do. I was under-qualified and overwhelmed and began eating less and working out longer and working more and delivering less. Every post was the same because every song was the same, to me, and it wasn't fair to anyone involved. I took a break because I didn't like the gross hypocrisy of talking to these artists who fit our 'Good Music, Better Artists' tagline to a 'T' and "mhmm"ing and "aha"ing to all of their "but music makes it better"-isms while my left wrist was once again raw and scabbed as I danced around the idea of finishing what was deterred before.

The first time I knew I was in real trouble again was when I felt that void, optimistically assumed it was hunger, made food and couldn't eat it, got pissed with myself that I couldn't eat, tossed in a frozen meal instead, angry ate 3/4 of a family-sized Stouffer's mac and cheese, and then promptly threw it up. I remember leaning back and resting my head against the wall and staring up at the bathroom ceiling and cursing everything that I was back to an actual tangible space to which I swore I would never return.

Long-time readers know that last Spring wasn't the first time I left music, but it was certainly more selfish. At 15 I carefully placed (straight up threw in an immature fit of rage) instruments and sheets and speakers and memories in the back of old closets and left them to gather dust because music was supposed to be this great thing that kept us safe and brought us together, always, and instead it was just this sadistic reminder that nothing would be the same because car crashes and illness and purely stupid decisions were taking people too young and everything left seemed vapid. Of course, you know my absolute love for my last and only 'favorite band' Lady Danville and how pure their music will always be to me - long story short, a friend's not-so-magic trick and "David" got me back into music - but "Cars"... I think, for most people who have attempted suicide, there's a lost piece of logic to the process and you can't actually remember getting to that final act; it's self-preservation, I'm sure, mixed with the franticness of the moment, but what you can access comes to you in these hurried flashes of hot tears and an empty chest and sweaty palms and lost bargains and unsteady breaths like a cheap TV movie montage and all I remember, clearly, is pacing and trying to find a grip. I know a lot more than I did the first time, you learn best from your failures after all, and I knew that this fast pacing with clenched and unclenched hands wasn't going to lead to great things so I grabbed my ancient iPod and meant to play "Frames & Moulding" (because 5 AM on I-10 West with the sun rising and that song playing was just one of those transcendental moments) but my shaky fingers skipped to "Cars" and it was like a switch. There was this calm of anchored memories and clear faces and, of course, the song has a lick that can actually make anything so much better if you just lay back in the damp early morning sand and listen to it on repeat.

Catchy music is implied with any of these posts, so relapses are like that part in every great song that ever was in whatever era of your life it made a difference; that moment where it hits its sweet spot, this gut reaction, where you can go left or right either getting caught up in it and falling for the music or just allowing the emotions to rip through every old wound you thought you'd sutured. It's that drop in "The Funeral" and the wondrous with no destination stream of consciousness that is "The Trapeze Swinger"; the honest verses, truer choruses, and quiet, resounding meanings that accompany haunted riffs in "A Change Is Gonna Come" or "Vienna"; the desperate to get anywhere and juvenile understandings of the punk to the core riffs that promised better in "Rooftops" or "Anthem Part 2"; the slinky quiet of "Coming Home" or "Big Parade" in a rush of classic and modern that washes over you so delicately. It's that 'what now' moment when your suicide attempt was no longer a turning point in your life.

If you've never had to claw your way out of depression or any other mental illness, Air Waves' "Fantasy" gives an elegant summary. Your mind is like this swirling static fog that's too light and airy to catch while all at once grounded to these heavy, never-ending, down-tempo beats and you're putting on a great show of acting as expected and smiling on cue but everything has this false sheen that only you are aware of and you're in a set space but it's not a safe space and that opening line, "someone take this pain away from me", gives way to these just god awful beautifully pure truths that get lost in hypnotically raw riffs and twisted but unrelenting melodies - let's not pretend this level of authenticity isn't awe-inspiring and underrated.

Truth is, it sucks getting better, initially and again. Have you ever been congratulated for finishing a small meal? For being a fully functioning and competent adult and suddenly being given the same compliment bestowed upon every 6 month old with their first bottle of pureed carrots. It's easy to step back into anorexia after you think you're out because it just gets it and not a single person who hasn't been anorexic understands a damn thing about it and hearing their attempts at relating and unintentionally belittling praises and "good jobs!" with each pound gained gets old real fucking fast. Unless you've been there, woken up with an empty stomach and been proud; worked out to the point of exhaustion and searing pain and still thought, "one more set" - not to make a personal best but because you have to; loathed every compliment that ever existed; thrown on baggy tops because the weight loss is simultaneously shameful and not enough; referred to sharp chest pains and headaches and shortness of breath as 'just the norm'; unless you've been 30 or more pounds underweight and looked in the mirror and still thought, 'I am so fucking fat,' and hated yourself for being this and thinking that, you won't understand anorexia or any other eating disorder which is so great, but also why it is so easy to fall back into something consistent and knowing, despite the absolute knowledge that it has never been the least bit logical.

Even after all this time, most of my mornings start with my being unable to avoid the mirror and instantly thinking, 'I need to stop eating'. I have reminders on my phone to eat at least four times a day and I usually silence all but two, which is miles more than where I was, but still not enough (also, how the fuck do normal people have the time to eat 3-5 meals a day. Do you work? Do you chill? How do you have that much time for food prep and eating?). Objectively, I could maybe gain 5-10 pounds and be fine. I'm certainly not going to, but if I gained one pound it wouldn't send me over the edge with thoughts of failure and disgust at this point. 10 months ago I was back to not being able to run a block without my heart being like, 'peace, I'm out,' but now I can take my dog out without dying and that's kinda pretty neat. I still think I should lose weight, at this point it's fair to say I may always believe that, but I'm aware of it and keeping track of it and that's leaps and bounds ahead of anywhere I've ever been and all you can hope for is just continual progress, no matter how infinitesimal, because it's so easy to fall backwards when you're not moving forwards.

Everyone at The Music Rag loves you guys and we get it; we've all faced our own mental illnesses at some time or another because it's a part of way more people's lives than you'll ever really know and it is possible to live and thrive in spite of it - The Wombats entire eloquently put and wonderfully weird career is built off that fact (just, everything from A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation to Glitterbug is a touch of poetic genius with a frank honesty to it and their last album showed such a gorgeously smooth maturity from This Modern Glitch - appreciate The Wombats). Find those amazing people that understand and support and encourage you to be better and I promise your weird ass life will be so much better for it.

There are a lot of ways out, but everyone here in this life has a purpose - no matter how much that reveals about my parent's admittedly new age sensibilities when raising us kids. I was 13 the first time one of my friends died. They had found the brain tumor a year before the inevitable so it wasn't sudden, but he was this living, breathing person who had been a part of the group, had instigated soccer games with laughter and vigor, secretly helped me with my first babysitting gig when the kid got out without asking for a dime, had a crush on this girl for years but never acted on it because 'no' would've been too hard to hear; he'd started to grow up with us but now the only thing any of that could ever be was a memory held by someone else. All his younger brother could talk about was how great his brother was. I remember not being old enough to understand taxes or high-heels but knowing that this vibrant person was a past tense.

We always jump to the worst outcome with our, 'but what if..,' because those negative possibilities are so awful and it's better to hang your hopes low than to have them dashed, but unsaid what ifs are a waste of so much life that could have been had. You very well could fail spectacularly, count on it more often than not, but you could meet the most amazing people in the world or have some pivotal, life affirming experience, even if it only lasts for ten minutes, because of a beautiful series of failures.

Relapses and set-backs are a part of life and the only thing about them that's a touch important is how you move on from them. This in-between might be a living hell but you are still very much alive. You don't need to feel guilty about 'wasting time' if you have to checkout for awhile to get your mind in order, but you do need to come back. I'm not saying to follow that, 'I'll sleep when I'm dead' adage because it's bullshit; people never say it about life or love, it always alludes to work and stress, and sometimes you just need to spend an entire Sunday in bed. I'm saying that life is too short to let your mind taunt you and stop you from climbing rough mountains and laying in fields with ticks and driving with the windows down when it's too hot for it and running into cold waves and driving ten hours to see your best friend's favorite band and taking an entire night to just sit on the floor with your oldest friend drinking shitty wine and re-watching The Office for the fifth time because all of life is fantastic and underrated.

I know that you can make it out of this alive, because you have to. That's it. There's no other option outside of making it. You are going to be okay. You're going to be great.