Sunday, September 22, 2013

On Spain, college, and the strive for minimalism

Hey guys- its been a while. I tried to make a post in Spain, but Blogger sucks on the Ipad. Anywho this post is somewhat of a mishmash of stuff on my mind.

First a picture that captures pretty much what I wore every day while in Spain:

My sunglasses are Cheap Monday, the scarf and t-shirt are Zara, the pants are American Apparel, and the shoes are Born. While it was definitely interesting living out of a suitcase, it's great to now be back home with all my clothes.

It was only a short reunion, because immediately after getting back to Portland, I had to start packing for college (making choices about which shoes to bring to college while jet lagged is NOT a good idea). While the packing was surprisingly painless (that's not saying that I'm the most organized packer), I quickly grew stressed-out over the sheer amount of stuff I have.

Despite packing three huge bags of clothes and shoes, there was still so much left in my closet. I wasn't necessarily stressed about having more clothes than I could bring (a major wardrobe change is only a two hour drive away), it was the fact that I was still bringing so much to school. 

I was watching an episode of the "O.C." recently when Summer realizes that she can't bring her whole wardrobe backpacking through Italy on a romantic trip with her boyfriend. She then realizes that he isn't right for her (duh) and that she is still in love with Seth (duh). 

Summer's privilege in this episode hit me straight home. I have been able to collect a pretty huge closet (partially because I spent a whole year working in a clothing store). This has lead to me having somewhat of a love hate relationship with my clothes. On one hand they provide comfort and safety. I know this sounds cheesy, but I really only feel comfortable when I'm wearing something I love. 

At the same time, my closet weighs me down. It controls my ability to live in a way that is simple and minimalistic. I'm both proud and ashamed by the shoes that spill out all over the floor and the fact that I will never have enough hangers. 

I always hear fashion lovers of an older crowd praise a wardrobe that focuses on a few, upscale basics compared to an overwhelming mix of the obscure. This is advice that used to seem silly to me. Now, though, I've begun to take this advice to heart. I've realized I don't need something just because its cheap. 

My favorite buys are now always things that I obsess over, and then save up to actually have the money to buy it. Does that mean I still won't snatch up a faux-fur, multi-colored, $10 vintage coat? No. But it's one of the things that now sits in my closet as many of my more "boring" pieces make the cut to come to college with me.

I don't know where my closet will take me. Maybe one day it will be half the size it is now, but I will have spent more than my current average of $15 on everything in it. I know, though, that it will never be simple.


Saturday, August 31, 2013

What's in My Suitcase? (AKA an Attempt at European Effortlessness)

I'm about to leave for a 17 day trip all around Spain with my family. After a stressful year and a pretty uneventful summer of work I'm ready for vacation! One of the biggest struggles of preparing for my trip (besides working on my horrid Spanish) was figuring out what clothes to bring (and not bring). The idea of only having a suitcase full of clothing options while traveling in one of the most fashionable countries in the world is pretty daunting. I also wanted to bring clothes that were super comfortable, basic, and could go with everything else I'm bringing. This lead to me buying a fair amount of new clothes that compared to some of the crazier pieces in my closet are, dare I say it, boring. While at first I was sad that my traveling clothes were so not "me", I realized this was a good opportunity to add more basics to my closet and experiment with clothes I usually wouldn't take a second look at. Also, buying garments that are super soft jersey makes you not want to wear anything else ever again. 

I decided to put together a little list of all the clothes I'm bringing (which really isn't a lot). I'm also including links to the items (or similar items). One of the most interesting parts of shopping for my trip was how hard it was to find the clothes I was looking for. I had the image of the perfect blouse and the perfect sweater in my mind, but in practice, these garments were a lot harder to find. Even working in a clothing store, it took a couple weeks to sometimes find exactly what I was looking for. 

I hope this list can provide you with some ideas if you plan to travel in the future or just to add some great basic pieces to your closet.

The T-Shirt Blouse
This was one of the first pieces I had in mind when I started packing. It had to be in a neutral color (black, grey, white), flow, not wrinkle too easily, and provide a certain chicness despite the 90 degree (32 degrees celsius!) temperatures. I ended up buying two of these blouses, one in black and one in white. The black one is from Splendid and is made of a great, super soft cotton. While the white blouse (from Lovetree) is a little
sheer, it (as well as the black one) looks great with shorts or over one of the t-shirt dresses. 

The Classic Tank
The perfect piece to sleep in, wear on a hot day, or layer on a cool night. I love cotton ones that flow a bit at the bottom (this, this, or this).

The Going Out "Out There" Dress
I decided that to give my traveling wardrobe a little "pizzazz", I needed to include a few pieces that were more me. This Rachel by Rachel Roy dress is super cute, but also loose and flowy. It doesn't go with everything I'm bringing, but will be a great going out outfit. Sadly it's no longer available to buy, but here's a similar one.

The  More Than a T-Shirt
The first time I saw this t-shirt from H&M I fell in love. While technically a t-shirt, seeing that I'm only 5 ft tall, it is an acceptable dress length as well. I first bought it in a camo green, though after I found the same t-shirt in grey, I bought it too (and am bringing both on the trip!) It fits with all the bottoms I'm bringing as well as on its own or with a blouse layered over it. While I couldn't find the exact t-shirt online, I found a few similar ones (most are actually dresses!) Here's an H&M version and a similar ASOS t-shirt dress.

The Palazzo Pant
These were a last minute addition to my suitcase. I thought that I needed to bring another bottom that would be good for the plane rides (and layovers!) Palazzo pants are great because they are comfortable, breezy, and actually really cute. The pair that I'm bring are straight leg with a tie belt. ASOS has a lot of cute pairs (like these simple black ones or a more fitted version by Girl By Band of Outsiders). I also love these from Topshop.

The Sneakers
One of the hardest parts of packing was deciding on only two pairs of shoes that were "practical". I know I'll being doing a lot of walking and such and needed a pair of sneakers that were comfortable, but also not super touristy. I still had these Born shoes from a trip to France a few years ago and their classic shape and color made them a perfect fit again for travel. While they don't make those ones any more, these Converse are a great alternative. 

The Sandals 
I knew for my second pair of shoes I wanted a simple pair of leather sandals that also provided good support (view here). While these aren't the most stylish, the moment I stepped in them my feet were more comfortable than they've been in years (sorry Elizabeth and James platforms- I still love you!). Sometimes you have to give up style for practicality. 

The Jean Jacket
It gets pretty cool in Spain at night and a light jacket was definitely a most. I truthfully would have preferred a military inspired one (like this or this) because I feel it's more classic. A great Levi's jean jacket, though, is a pretty close second. 

The Leggings
Seriously. A long plane ride's best friend. I love American Apparel's

The Turtle Sweater
When I think of what I want to hide from everyone else on a long plane ride to try and get at least a few hours of sleep, this Nike sweater (in a different color here) is the perfect companion. It's a piece I've had for almost a year and I love dearly. It's cute in a sporty way while also being the most comfortable thing ever. Pro tip- pull the long cowl over your head and you can create your own little sleeping haven.

The Really Cute Bathing Suit
This goes without saying. Spain and beaches are made for each other. Practicality doesn't really matter in this area so I went with these American Apparel bottoms and this old Target top. I love the mixing and matching.

The Skirt That Flows
I have a really hard time describing the perfect skirt. It's flowy, but not too flowy and simple, but not plain and not too long, but not too short. The one that I'm bringing is a little vintage number, and I had a really hard time finding a similar one online, but I've included some options (ASOS and AA).

The Layering Sweater
This was one of the hardest pieces because it had to go with EVERYTHING. I got this Zara sweater when I was in L.A. earlier this year. It's light, but still is a good layering piece and can go over practically everything. Here is one good option from Zara.

The Not Your Grandma's shorts (or maybe)
I think a great pair of cargo shorts are the way to go when traveling. They aren't super in style right now (it took a while to find some good examples, but both these and these are really great). Despite this, I think they will always be good for traveling and look great with everything from a t-shirt to an oversized sweater. 

The Wear With Anything Scarf
Out of every piece of clothing I wrote about, this is probably the biggest necessity. A great scarf can transform the ordinary to ultra cool with just a few wraps. The endless possibilities (head wrap, belt, or neck scarf) make this versatile piece perfect for travel. Here are a few great ones (neutrals or muted patterns are best for traveling because they will go with a lot.) I love this one and this one


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My Own Personal Jordan Catalano

We all have one. Our own Jordan Catalanos. Those boys who enter our lives and then refuse to leave. Their names are written in Sharpie on our Fruit of the Looms with a small speckling of hearts. They’re older, cooler, and have a certain nonchalance that makes them men among boys.

I first heard about the species known as Jordan Catalano the summer before my freshman year of high school. To prepare me for the next four years of torture, my parents decided it was time to watch the seminal 90s cult classic “My So-Called Life”. The show follows the life of sophomore Angela Chase as she navigates high school with a new group of friends. She faces many obstacles- family, teachers, friends, but both importantly, the irresistible love interest, Jordan Catalano.

I met my own Catalano that same summer, Max. While Max lacked the gruffness and rough edges of Angela’s love interest, to me he seemed as bad as boys got. I had gone to elementary and middle school with almost the same group of 20 students from kindergarten through 8th grade. It was difficult to find my male classmates attractive when I could still remember the days when we shared nap-time.

Max, though, was different. He was older, for one thing, probably 16 at the time, and had long, shoulder length hair. He was quiet and played bass. He was unassuming, though was beyond cool in my eyes. I would say we became friends that summer, but that would probably be an over exaggeration. He had his own friends and girlfriend, but it seemed like none of that mattered.

My closeness to Max became an “in” for me at a new high school among the other freshman girls. I quickly learned that despite our perceived closeness, I wasn’t the only one who saw Max as her own personal Catalano. While this could have easily lead to negative tension between us, our mutual affection helped us grow closer.

To us, Max was worthy of rock star adoration. We would analyze every wave and smile. Even a passing glance counted as evidence towards his true feelings.

I became close with two other girls named Gretchen and Nanni, both who shared just as strong feelings for Max. Nanni was quiet, but had enviable blonde hair and blue eyes. She never slept and constantly had bags under her eyes that added a certain amount of character. She didn’t speak much, but whatever she said packed a punch.

Gretchen, on the other hand, was the one I looked up to. She would always look chic with her long brown hair controlled in a tight chignon, something that was contrasted perfectly by her oversized 90s dresses that she wore over her black dance clothes. She was the first girl I ever knew to wear red lipstick and go to “real” parties. She only spent half the day at my high school and then the other half at a different high school with an elite dance program.
She seemed to always have something to do and was always going somewhere, though could always devote a few minutes in between classes to discuss a recent interaction with Max. When Gretchen wasn’t around I felt lonely and insignificant. I imagined her spending her afternoons doing pirouettes and plies while I sat in Geometry. I envied Gretchen mostly for her electric personality. She was infamous for her forward demeanor and inability to hold back, though it felt like everyone knew her, or at least of her. When I was with Gretchen, it felt like some of her popularity rubbed off on me.

Like many high school friendships, though, ours soon dissolved. While there were many factors that led to our separation, specifically a long-term divide between Gretchen and Nanni, it was Max that was one of the final straws. After cheating on his girlfriend many times with many girls, he eventually broke up with her. 

And now, it was at a party that only Gretchen was invited to that she finally got the chance to kiss Max. While this kiss never lead to anything serious between Gretchen and Max, the fact that one of us had finally kissed him lowered him from a god, to a mere mortal.

His availability made him ordinary and boring. The kiss seemed to leave no lasting impact on Gretchen and her indifference made us question what really made Max so great. There was nothing that interesting about obsessing over a boy who was not a man. Gretchen, Nanni, and I now had nothing to bond over and we soon attached ourselves to different friend groups.

Soon after this, Max transferred to an alternative school. I no longer saw him on a daily basis and he became a memory of my first few months in high school.

I ran into Max a few weeks ago, working as a waiter at a thai restaurant after not seeing him for a year or two. I would be lying if I said my heart didn’t flutter a little when I caught his glance as I sat down at the table and again when he came over to say hi.

Max will always be my own personal Jordan Catalano. He is a reflection on my first few months of high school; when I giggled by my locker and gossiped in the bathroom with the first group of high school girls I ever considered my friends. We were still caught in the whirlwind of high school, not ready to leave. We grasped on to everything and found meaning in nothing.

And as high school already begins to feel like a distant memory, I know Catalano will never leave, no matter how hard I try to shake him. Because somewhere, in the back of my mind, I’ll always dream he’ll ride up in his beat up car, ready to take me with him.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Transcendental Youth

By their third or fourth album most bands have used up most of the creativity that fueled their early work, but for the Mountain Goats’ 14th album, “Transcendental Youth,” still packs as much of a punch as their first album. The Mountain Goats formed in the early 1990s and still are around today with lead singer John Darnielle as the core member.

While their folk rock sound hasn't changed much, their early lo-fi home recordings that focused on Darnielle's childhood and teenage experiences are a far cry from the polished "Transcendental Youth." On this new album, which came out in July, 2012, Darnielle experiments with new music genres. A few of the tracks such as the title track include horns that give the album a jazzy feel. Almost every Mountain Goats’ album has told a loose story, ranging from a slowly dissolving marriage in “Tallahassee” to a group of junkies living in a house together in “We Shall All Be Healed.” Not all their songs are this depressing though, trust me.

Before playing one of their most popular songs “No Children,” which is arguably the most bitter break-up song of all time, at a 2010 show at the Aladdin Theater in Portland, Darnielle jokingly reassured the audience, “This song doesn’t really relate to my life because I’m in a healthy relationship and have been for a long time.”

That’s one of the reasons that makes the Mountain Goats so great. Darnielle is a brilliant lyricist whose songs tell the stories of gangsters, high school metal heads, gladiators, pop singers, high school football players, and sometimes even his life. It doesn’t matter that the Mountain Goats’ songs are usually five chords at the most and feature just guitar, bass, vocals, keys, and drums, Darnielle’s lyrics make each song unique.

While “Transcendental Youth” features more instruments and has a crisp studio sound than other albums, when you hear Darnielle’s gruff, distinctive, voice on the opening track “Amy AKA Spent Gladiator 1,” a song he wrote after the death of British singer Amy Winehouse, you know it’s the Mountain Goats. The album is about a group of people living in the Pacific Northwest. Like much of the Mountain Goats’ previous work, it focuses on the outcasts and misfits of society, a group it appears Darnielle associates with greatly.

The album has some strong points, such as the title track “Transcendental Youth,” a slow reflective song which as the last song on the album features Darnielle singing with at least a little hope for the future. “Harlem Roulette,” song about fame and what comes with it features the great sing-a-long line, "The loneliest people in the whole wide world are the ones you're never going to see again.”  
    As a whole though, the album isn’t as strong as the Mountain Goats earlier work. The stories Darnielle tells aren’t as memorable as in “Tallahassee” or “All Hail West Texas” and the horns aren’t enough to make some songs blend together in a sea of blandness.

I was still excited to see the Mountain Goats when they came on tour last year. It was crucial for the Mountain Goats to play a show in Portland on tour for “Transcendental Youth,” seeing that it is the background of many songs on the album. The show took place on Dec. 16 at the Aladdin Theater, a venue I had seen them at two years previous.

At the first show I was stuck up in the balcony because of Oregon’s silly alcohol laws, but for some unknown reason I was allowed to be on the floor for this show.

I took a spot at the front of the stage and started talking to the other Mountain Goat fans around me. It immediately became clear that everyone there loved the Mountain Goats just as much as I did. I talked to two teenage boys from Idaho who had driven all the way from Boise just to come to the show.

From the opening song, “White Cedar,” which is about a bus stop on NE 33rd Avenue in Portland, to the encore “Transcendental Youth,” the audience sang along. These were obviously devoted fans. Even though the Mountain Goats don’t have a huge following, it is definitely a cultish one.

The band who played the show consisted of Darnielle, Peter Hughes on bass, and Jon Wurster on drums, as well as a small horns section. This minimalist take was a nice breath of fresh air to other recent live shows, which seem to try to feature as many musicians and instruments as possible.

The Mountain Goats played almost all of “Transcendental Youth” as well as older crowd favorites such as “Up the Wolves.” Before almost every song, Darnielle gave a little story about it. This Darnielle was different than from two years ago. At that show his stories had been long and very prepared. He seemed much more lighthearted and many of the stories were about his young son. 

Even though “Transcendental Youth” isn’t the strongest Mountain Goats album, it still sounds like the Mountain Goats. The songs are creepily relatable and it’s hard not to sing along.  Just like any other Mountain Goats album, it’s the perfect thing to blast in your parent’s old sedan on a lonely Saturday night when you have no one else to talk to.

In other news sorry about the lack of posts recently- I've been crazy busy studying for finals AND my tripod broke so no fashiony posts. I hope to be able to pick this blog back up now it's second semester and I'm not (as) busy. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fashion? Maybe? Possibly? Yes?

So the craziness of school/applying to college/having a job has made this blog a very sad place. One of my New Year's goals (which I've always hated because I never keep them) is to keep up this blog and expand to other things besides music. Since August I've worked at a used clothing store called Buffalo Exchange. It's totally changed my mindset about fashion and I've learned so much about the industry.... I've also spent a lot of money on clothes. Oh well, c'est la vie.

I feel there's this really fine line between commercialism and art in the fashion industry and specifically in fashion blogging. Showing off clothes and outfits can so quickly go from art to "look what I got". I am a little hesitant to add more fashion and style to this blog because I don't want to loose it's integrity (do blogs have integrity?) I hope to show, and maybe even inspire, by posting outfits. For years I've been inspired by blogs like The Style Rookie  and Fashion Pirate. When I read these blogs (which is pretty much daily) I'm always taken aback by the incredible style these bloggers have. They take their clothes and create works of art (I know that sounds super cheesy, but is there a better way to say it?). I love fashion and clothes, but spend my days with people who buy all their clothes at Forever 21. So maybe the internet is the place for me? Anywho, here's my first outfit post:

I like this outfit because it feels professional with the vintage lavender skirt and detachable collar (which I made from just cutting the collar off of an old shirt), but I'm also wearing a Beavis and Butt-Head t-shirt, fish-nets, and spiked Jeffrey Campbell's. I've really liked the look of combining fun graphic tees with more fitted and "serious" pieces.

Shirt- Buffalo Exchange

Collar- DIY from old thrifted shirt

Skirt- Buffalo Exchange

Tights and Socks- Sock Dreams (a really sweet socks/tights store in Portland)

Shoes- Jeffrey Campbell Stinger Spike from Sole Struck

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Love This Giant" Disappoints, But I Can Still Say I Saw David Byrne with St. Vincent Live

Weird collaborations happen all the time in music. Some of them are incredible, like Queen and David Bowie with “Under Pressure” or just wrong, like Rihanna and Chris Brown post break-up with “Birthday Cake.” (Really Rih-Rih, I expected so much more from you.) While not all collaborations work, they still can produce interesting music that expands the genres of the musicians.

I was ecstatic when I found out that two of my favorite artists, seminal New Waver David Byrne and newcomer guitarist Annie Clark, (aka St. Vincent) were joining forces. I knew this combination had the possibility to be the next “Under Pressure” or to be chaos. Byrne and Clark are two very distinct and very different artists. Byrne rose to fame during the 1970s with his group The Talking Heads. The band experimented with a variety of genres ranging from New Wave, punk Americana,funk, and world music. They gained some commercial success and are considered an influential group in the history of rock and roll. 

Clark, on the other hand, has only become famous over the past few years. She creates indie/art pop rock under the pseudo name St. Vincent. She is most known for her unique guitar playing that combines robotic progressive rock riffs with almost robotic melodies. She released her first album, “Marry Me,” in 2007 and has released two more since then. 
While she has gained some commercial success, she is not nearly as well known as Byrne. 

This was why I was excited, but surprised about the Byrne and Clark collaboration. I imagined that Byrne would play the role of the “old rock mentor” to the much younger Clark. When reading interviews with Byrne and Clark prior to their album’s release, it appeared that this was truly a collaborative process between Byrne and Clark. Byrne described their relationship as similar to that of the beauty and the beast with Byrne being the beauty and Clark being the beast. 

Their collaboration, an album entitled “Love This Giant,” finally came out in September. While there were a couple strong songs, the album as a whole was a disappointment. Both artists are known for their theatricality in both their music and stage performances. This usually creates music that is exciting and tells a story,though this magic is not there in “Love This Giant.” The songs feel almost flat and lackluster. The music is a mush of Bryne’s and Clark’s musical genres and nothing stands out. 

Almost every song on the album also features an eight-piece brass band, which creates a lot of tension in the music. While this is definitely an interesting sound, it seems repetitive when it is featured on every song. 

Despite my feelings towards the album, I was excited to see Byrne and Clark perform, just to be able to say that I saw David Byrne and Annie Clark in concert, together. The show took place at the perfect venue− the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland. I knew that the beautiful old building would be a great place to hear them play. 

Even though I wasn't crazy about “Love This Giant,” I really enjoyed Byrne’s and Clark’s performance. The eight-piece brass band that performed on the album toured with them. While they were performing, the brass band members would travel around the stage in synchronized dances - sometimes in circles around Byrne and Clark and other times approaching them slowly, like carnivorous animals, from both sides of the stage. When performed live, the brass sounded fuller and gave life to the music instead of taking away from it. 

One of the best parts of the show was getting to see Byrne and Clark perform each other’s songs. They did Talking Head classics such as “Burning Down the House”and “This Must Be the Place (Na├»ve Melody)” and the St. Vincent songs “Cheerleader” and “Surgeon.” 

At about halfway through the show, Clark admitted she never imagined she would ever play with Byrne. She told the story of how she first heard his music when she was only a young child and he was already a successful musician. It just goes to show you that any musical collaboration can happen, some just shouldn’t.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

T-Shirt of the Day: Meiko

Band: Meiko

Have I Ever Seen Her Live: Sadly no, she only ever has played 21+ shows.

Favorite Part of the T-Shirt: Meiko's t-shirts are always super cute- be it a rocket blasting off from the moon or a dinosaur saying her name.

Favorite Song: "Reasons to Love You"