in recent years

   

   

totally top five 2k12: GIVEAWAY – closed

Because I spent the end of 2012 thinking about all the best stuff that I watched/read/heard/bought this year and then subjecting absolutely anyone that would listen to me to my obnoxious opinions, I am feeling particularly grateful for both my media consumption and the cool-ass people I’ve met on the internet. The internet is great for this whole thing, you know? Shouting your opinions into the void as loudly as possible and, sometimes, getting a response back! There are other people in the void. Did you know that? Crazy.

Anyway, inspired by this gratitude and by the awesome Jessica of The Belle Lumiere who sent a copy of The Fault In Our Stars winging my way the second I complained that I hadn’t read it yet and told me only to pay it forward, I’m having a giveaway!




The Prize for a Winner Located in the US:+
– A one month subscription to Hulu Plus
– A paperback copy of The Song of Achilles
– A digital copy of Lavender Diamond’s Incorruptible Heart

The Prize for a Winner Located outside the US:
– a $20 e-certificate to Amazon.com

The Rules:
You must comment on this post! You can comment only once! Multiple comments will disqualify you from the giveaway.
– You can reblog this post for one additional entry. You must be following my Tumblr. Likes do not count. Must include #ashrussell in your tags. Multiple reblogs disqualify you from the giveaway. You must include a link to your reblog in your comment on this post or I cannot count your extra entry.

That’s it! Comments will be open until 12am CST on January 7th 2013. The winner will be chosen at random using Random.org and contacted no later than 12pm CST January 7. If the winner does not respond within 24 hours of contact, a new winner will be chosen.

+ If the winner already owns a portion of the prize, substitutions can be made at my discretion.

Update: The winner of my first ever giveaway is the awesome Rae from Say It Ain’t So who is one of my favorite bloggers (No, seriously, go look at the amaaaaaazing pictures of Louisville she posted!) and one of the most loyal readers and commenters I could ever hope to have! Congrats to her and thanks to everyone who entered!

totally top five 2k12: stuff

The sixth and final of my Totally Top Five 2k12 posts! And it’s all about the non-media things that I really, really loved this year! Let me show you how my materialism extends far beyond fiction!

5. Paper Mate Liquid Flair Medium Point Pens [amazon]

I have a Pen Problem. I am so, so picky about what kind of pens I’ll use and on what papers it’s acceptable to use them. I’ll buy a 12 pack and decide two pens in that they weren’t worth my time. I’ll steal pens from friends, family, and strangers alike. I’ll stand in an office supply store and try every single open stock pen available to me. It’s a search. It’s a quest. It’s a Problem.

I’ve got some favorite standbys: Staedtler Fineliners are great, have great flow, and I’m obsessed with having all those colors (I have the 20 pack.) at my beck and call. I’m partial to the Pilot Neo Gels. Sharpie Pens are awesome and I’ve gone back to them a lot recently. I love Pilot B2P pens for just about everything and are what I carry in my bag at all times.

But earlier this year I was looking for a new, thicker felt tip and the Paper Mate Liquid Flair line kept coming up in all my Google searches for the best felt tips. I ordered a box even though they were a little more expensive than I usually like to go — a buck a pen is my sweet spot — and I wasn’t disappointed. They have good flow, they’re great for lettering and doodling, they’re solid in my planner and notebook. My biggest complaint is that the tip breaks down a little faster than I like and they smear on Moleskine paper. I expected the second (Everything smears on Moleskine paper.), but not the first and considering how much I like writing with them, it’s not a big deal.

You didn’t know I could talk about pens for that long, did you? Yeah, well. I cut out three additional paragraphs.

4. iPhone & iPad apps — Tweetbot & Paper & Afterglow

I had been using the free version of Echofon for Twitter basically since I got my iPhone in 2009 and I had been pretty happy with it. Then the iOS 6 update happened and it totally lost its shit. Bridget recommended Tweetbot and I sucked it up and spent the three bucks and haven’t looked back since. Tweetbot is pretty and functional. It elegantly integrates lists. It lets you mute pretty much anything, quickly and painlessly, and also lets you choose the duration of the mute. I can mute #elementary for a week until I’ve caught up or I can mute #getglue forever so I never have to see those dumb automated tweets. My only complaint is that its native browser can be a little tetchy about how it displays certain links (Looking at you WhoSay!) but it’s not a big deal. Tweetbot is the bomb and every other client sucks.
Paper is a gorgeous notebook app for the iPad and the fact that I’m recommending it is kind of a big deal because I don’t even have an iPad. My girlfriend does, but I use it maybe an hour a week and that entire hour is spent using Paper. I’ve had this really intense delusional fantasy my entire life that if I just find the right pen or the right marker or the right paper or notebook that I’ll suddenly be good at art. Paper is the first thing to ever get close to making it a reality. It doesn’t make me good, but it does let me get something close to what I’m seeing in my head on to the paper. I like the watercolor brush and the felt tip pen/fine marker the best and I love the sort of inherently rough nature of the whole deal. It’s a little too expensive — you have to basically buy every in-app thing they offer to make it as useful as it should be — but it’s been pretty worth it so far. Sometimes you gotta spend some money to have some fun.

Afterglow is a photo editor for the iPhone that’s super useful. I have a 3GS, so my camera isn’t that great, and Afterglow gives me the ability to make the kind of tweaks and adjustments I’d make if I ran all my iPhone pictures through Photoshop. The filters aren’t particularly special — if I’m going to filter something I post to Instagram, I’m probably just going to use an Instagram filter — but being able to make adjustments to highlights, shadows, contrast, and brightness have made all the difference in how happy I am with my iPhone shots. I’m also a big fan of the frame options, even though I don’t use them very often. Sometimes you just need to make the picture of your mom shoveling snow into a circle, you know?

my mom is tough as hell
 

i bought a few books 3. Kindle [amazon]I actually got my Kindle from my parents in June 2011, but I’m including it anyway. I read enough on it in 2011 including We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Hunger Games trilogy, and Everlost, but I didn’t really appreciate it until this year when I realized you can get e-books real cheap. They do 100 Kindle Books for $3.99 and Under and you can always find stuff if you poke around a little. I am broke 99% of the time, so pricing a book at $2.99 is an easy way to trick me into buying it. The Daily Deals are a particularly good way to snag stuff cheap. I literally just grabbed Stephen King’s Under the Dome because it popped up as a Daily Deal. That’s like $0.002 a page.

This year, I’ve carried my Kindle with me 90% of the time I leave the house and it’s usually sitting next to me at home. I like paper books still — I paused writing this to open an Amazon package full of books, actually — but the convenience of the Kindle is unbeatable. I can download a book anytime I want, almost anywhere. It rules.

2. Apple TV [apple | amazon]

We bought our Apple TV after I exchanged emails with LG and was informed that our beloved bluray player would probably never receive an app for Hulu+. I just wanted to watch Parks and Recreation on our TV! So we did about a day’s worth of research and my girlfriend ended up rushing to Walmart to buy the little black box that would improve the quality of our new North Dakota lives.

After a fight with it after its first update — never, ever update immediately following a release — and five-ish months with it, I still really love our Apple TV. I love it. I love the ease of it, I love that all of my streaming accounts are right there in one place, and I love that all of the apps are pretty and functional and easy to navigate. The Netflix app on our bluray was the worst because you could only access your queue and even then it was hit or miss if something was going to show up in the right place or sometimes at all. You couldn’t search or browse and it sucked a lot. We really only use Hulu and Netflix and I hate that there’ll probably never be an Amazon Instant app, but it’s still been well worth the cost.

I’m not going to lie to you though, you’re probably just as well off — if not better — buying a Roku. They have great reviews, offer mostly the same things including the Amazon Instant that the Apple TV lacks, and it’s about half the cost depending on which model you buy. We looked at the Roku long and hard and still decided to go with Apple TV instead, but you’re also probably not as picky and anal-retentive and annoying as me, so it won’t matter to you that the Apple TV is prettier, has a cleaner remote, and better menu design. I’m willing to pay more to appease those parts of me. Sometimes.

1. Hulu+ [referral link]

I feel like I’ve had Hulu+ forever, but mostly I think that’s because I feel like I could never again live without it. I think I got it in early 2011 so that I could watch Parks and Recreation (This is starting to sound like a theme in my life…) and I’ve had it on and off since. My life is always better during the on periods. My Hulu is like my child or like, I don’t know, my beloved bonsai tree. I love and care for it, trimming away episodes in a leisurely fashion and adding favorites to fill it out when it seems thin. I worry about ti when an expiration date nears.

My complaints about Hulu are not always small and there are many. I think they’re kind of shitty at consistency — 30 Rock has gone web only and back at least twice since — and they don’t communicate change well at all. There’s no rhyme or reason to what is available when and where which isn’t their fault — the network contracts are to blame for those details — but they don’t communicate them at all. Even though you pay $8 a month, you still have to watch commercials — this is still not totally their fault — and they never remember your commercial preferences even though they say they care. Their interfaces are pretty terrible on the web and their desktop app is abysmal.

But despite all of that, I still love Hulu the best and I still think $8 a month is a totally reasonable price to pay. I don’t have to fight with my dad over our one totally useless DVR drive (Don’t even get me started on Directv…), I get to watch Fox shows that I would otherwise not have access to (We don’t have a Fox affiliate here. I know.), I get to watch CW shows in HD (The affiliate here looks like they run their episodes through a shredder before they air them…), and I can curl up on my couch and marathon 10 episodes of a show without having to do anything. Seriously, it just plays the next episode in my queue as long as there are episodes to play.

Plus, if you sign up through this link we both get two weeks free. That’s rad. You won’t regret it.

totally top five 2k12: books

Since 2009, I’ve set these loose, kind of dumb goals for myself at the beginning of the year because I keep track of all the things I watch and read on my listography. Watch 250 episodes of tv, watch 100 movies. I can’t remember what prompted me to start doing it, but it’s second nature now. Really anal, intense, annoying second nature. Watching and reading things makes me better at watching and reading and writing things, so I guess tracking it makes it feel more purposeful? Who knows. I’m kind of nutty in general, so.

Anyway, I’ve met my movie and tv goals the last three years (I have no idea about 2009 because Listography either didn’t have an archive function or I didn’t know about it and I deleted those lists. You cannot even begin to fathom how much this haunts me.) but I haven’t met my book goals. I never meet my book goals. There is no book goal I could meet because I can never, ever read enough. But, really, the amount of reading I did this year is paltry and embarrassing.

Despite that, I read one of my favorite books of all time this year! So even if this list isn’t as effusive as I’d like because I had little to choose from, I still have that to fall back on?

5. Lionel Shriver, We Need to Talk About Kevin [amazon]“I didn’t care about anything. And there’s a freedom in apathy, a wild, dizzying liberation on which you can almost get drunk. You can do anything. Ask Kevin.”

This book being on my list this year is a sign of just how little I read this year and how much I didn’t like what I read because I read this in August of 2011 and decided to use it to round out my top five for this year instead of choosing something I didn’t like enough to ramble about. (Sorrry, Jennifer Egan, I just didn’t like your book.)

We Need to Talk About Kevin is literally only at number five because I didn’t read it this year. It’s better than every other book I read in 2011 and almost every other book I read in 2012. And I’d be hard pressed not to tie it at number one.

Shriver’s writing is really careful and pompous and delicate and, because it’s an epistolary novel, it serves to elegantly characterize and flesh out Eva’s character. It was so hard to read this book — emotionally, though my Kindle’s dictionary got a workout, which is seriously saying something — and when I finally finished it I felt like I hadn’t taken a deep breath in days. I read it over the course of a day or two and I could not put it down. I carried it with me everywhere and ignored my girlfriend, the internet, and my entire life for it. And I sobbed. I came out of this book a different person than I went in and it was exhausting. It took me days to recover from it, like it’d crawled under my skin and taken over, and not always in a good way.

I was trying to find a quote to share earlier and instead re-read fifteen pages. It’s that good.

4. Lois Lowry, The Giver [amazon]“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”

Pretty much everyone I know read The Giver in eighth grade. I didn’t. Granted, I’ve never read much of what’s been assigned to me — I have a BA in English and an MFA in Fiction — and in eighth grade I read a largely modified curriculum because I had a wonderful, attentive teacher who helped expose me to new things. I don’t know if she assigned everyone else The Giver but, regardless, I didn’t read it until this year when it was — surprise, surprise — for sale on Amazon.

I like Lowry’s books a lot. Gossamer is one of the best books I got out of my undergrad program and I read The Willoughbys this year too and liked it a lot. She understands tone for children and young adults, but she never condescends. There’s magic in her books, sparkle that almost feels tangible. Everything feels possible and real.

I was really moved by The Giver and I didn’t expect to be. I thought it would lean too far toward parable or morality tale, but it teetered exquisitely between the obvious and the expected. It also dealt with pain, friendship, and family in ways that felt really refreshing. Growing up is agony, but The Giver turns that simple statement into an entirely new world with high stakes and great rewards. I’m glad I missed it in eighth grade because 27 year old me was much better suited for this story.

3. Lish McBride, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer [amazon]“Most people felt lost after high school. Sometimes I felt like I’d never really been found in the first place.”

I have had a really weird relationship with Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. I snagged it because it was on sale for the Kindle and I liked the title a lot and the blurb, so I bought it and let it chill until I was done with Back to School with Judy Blume. I started reading it and it was pretty passionate then I got distracted and forgot about it then I read it and thought it was sort of muddling and flat then I loved it again then I ignored it for a long while then I picked up my Kindle and I said, “Ugh, fine, I am going to finish this thing.” and I read it in bed, rolling around in a weird mix of elation and disappointment.

There’s a lot of good stuff in there — a good, solid concept, a nice cast of likable characters, solid female characters, some funny dialogue, a dash of random weirdness, and a lot of pretty exciting, but never overindulgent violence — but it also feels plodding at times, lobs clunky pop culture references like rocks at the reader’s head, and relies on the idiocy of its lead character to keep up the mystery for too long. I mean, it’s one thing to scream disbelief when something outrageous happens to and around you, it’s an entirely different thing to be a complete moron about it. Sam verges easily on the moron side of things and it’s kind of a bummer.

I wasn’t even going to include it on the list and definitely not at number three, but as time passed it lodged itself in my head and wormed its way into my list. It might not have been the best read, but it was, for the most part, a fun read. I’ll probably spend money on the sequel and there’s a free short story too. Who am I to argue?

2. Neal Shusterman, The Skinjacker TrilogyEverlost, Everwild, & Everfound [amazon]“Great tragedies have great consequences. They ripple through the fabric of this world and the next. When the loss is too great for either world to bear, Everlost absorbs the shock, like a cushion between the two.”

Neal Shusterman’s Unwind is one of my favorite books of all time. So when I saw that he had another kind of sci-fi, kind of fantasy thing and it was a trilogy, I obviously jumped all over it. I mean, who doesn’t love a young adult trilogy?

The Skinjacker books are weird and they’re not always perfect. They clash pretty deeply with my nihilistic atheism though there is no exact mention of God — or at least not one memorable enough for me to cling to — and there’s not exactly any indication that there’s an afterlife. Everlost as a concept relies solely on the idea that when you die you “get wherever you’re going” and, for the kids that populate the trilogy, that hasn’t happened yet and what happens before they can makes for two-and-half compelling books. It loses it’s steam in places, particularly in the third book (accounting for the missing half) but it was never enough to deter me from needing to see the end.

The thing that drives me to read young adult books is that, though the writing can often be beautiful and complicated and transcendent, the story always comes first. And I love stories. I live for stories. And the stories that take place in Everlost are stories that I really and truly loved.

1. Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles [amazon]“Achilles’ eyes were bright in the firelight, his face drawn sharply by the flickering shadows. I would know it in dark or disguise, I told myself. I would know it even in madness.”

The Song of Achilles got under my skin. I read it in six-ish straight hours and I rolled around in bed screaming and wailing and it didn’t let me go for three days afterward. I have told everyone I know to read it. I’ve twittered about it a million times. I posted a passage on Tumblr and have generally harassed everyone I know about it. Nobody’s really listened and my girlfriend refuses to read it because she saw how much I sobbed, but I still won’t shut up about it.

Miller’s writing is beautiful, the pacing is great — quick but lingering in the right places — and it manages to feel expansive and understated at the same time. There’s something incredibly effective in narrowing the Trojan War down to a single point with Patroclus’ voice driving it.

It is lovely and exciting and joyful and sexy and quick and devastating and awesome. It’s riddled with gorgeous details — there’s a scene of fig juggling that I think about on the daily — and these incredible moments of anticipation that are unbeatable. Desire, I find, is one of the hardest things to communicate in a story and this is just rife with it. It never feels forced or tawdry and it manages to be unbelievably hot without ever feeling excessive.

It’s erotic gay fan fiction of Homer’s Iliad and it’s $3.79 on Kindle right now. I’m not sure what else you need.

totally top five 2k12: tv

The 7 Elements Required for Me to Watch & Enjoy a Television Show:

1. likable characters
2. humor (No matter the subject matter, no matter how dark, I MUST laugh.)
3. FRIENDSHIP
4. people who like/love each other and are not constantly cruel to one another
5. pleasurable dialogue
6. charm
7. a reflection of real life/myself/people I know

Even if I don’t mention it specifically, I promise that each of these five shows meet all seven of these requirements to varying degrees. I also like my TV to be diverse and to have female characters that are competent, interesting, and vital. Not all of these shows are as successful at that.

5. Teen Wolf [season 1 | season 2]

Let’s be real, Teen Wolf is terrible. The production values are awful, the special effects are B-movie-in-the-digital-age status, and the creature design is embarrassing. The acting isn’t always… great. The writing is 40% laughable. The continuity is so atrocious it actually makes all of genre television weep. Tragically, for me and the millions of other people trapped in this hellacious show, it’s also weirdly great?

The thing that hooked me was Stiles Stilinski the sidekick-foil who is probably easily in my top ten favorite fictional characters of all time list. And his relationship with the actual lead, Scott McCall because, as this list will rapidly attest, for me friendship is everything. Over time though it’s like… suddenly there are lots more things to love about the show — Derek Hale and his sassy Uncle Peter and Lydia Martin and Jackson Whittemore and Coach Finstock and Sheriff Stilinski and Melissa McCall (The adults on the show are great.) — and watching a group of teenagers navigate a bunch of weird-ass supernatural shit all on their own in the age of Google. It’s fun! It’s funny! It’s kind of gory! It’s terrible but really great! What do you want from me?!

4. Sherlock [season 1 | season 2] & Elementary [amazon]

I watched Sherlock way back in January and I watched it obsessively and intensely and forced my girlfriend to watch it with me and rewatched it and just generally loved it. The easiest way to hook me on a show is to write dialogue that feels good to listen to and Sherlock has it in abundance. There’s not a moment I don’t enjoy listening to everyone talk. The second easiest way is to make the show about friendship and Sherlock also has that in abundance. Friendship! Snarky, snappy dialogue! Attractive British people!

We started with Elementary when it started in the fall and it was love at first watch. Sherlock in New York! Watson’s a smart, awesome, beautiful woman! It’s Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller! Sherlock has compassion and insight and intuitive skills, but is brash and a little rough! Watson’s caring and quick and there to hold him back from going to far! Friendship! It’s great! Basically, sorry if you’re dead inside and can’t appreciate an erotic literary adaptation crime procedural on CBS.

I had not just zero interest in Sherlock Holmes before watching Sherlock, I had negative interest, but it’s so good it managed to hook me anyway. Even Elementary can’t convince me to care about the stories, but give me all the television. All of it. Give me a futuristic cyberpunk version where Sherlock’s an android and Watson’s a middle-aged, washed-up professional hoverboarder. I will be its number one fan.

3. Bob’s Burgers [season 1 | season 2]

Bob’s Burgers is the best animated show since the best seasons (3? 4? A few after that? It was a good era.) of The Simpsons and by far the best on network TV right now. Honestly, it’s one of the best shows on TV right now, period. It’s funny and it’s weird and it’s got a great voice cast and the writing is just really solid and refreshing and fun. I laugh a lot when I’m watching this and it’s the intense kind of laughing where I have to pause it to get my laughs out so I don’t miss stuff. I really love Tina and Gene and Linda and I love the family as a whole. The thing I love most about Bob’s Burgers though is that it depicts a pretty average family that really and truly loves each other. Family is basically blood-friendship, so you know I’m on board.

2. Ben and Kate [amazon]

Ben and Kate is the best show of 2012 that basically no one is watching. It’s so funny and well-written and the characters are all really awesome. They make mistakes and they learn from them in a way that doesn’t feel trite or sitcom-y. And — I hate people who say this because it just sounds like such a dumb, elitist thing — it feels really, really authentic. The characters just feel really human and genuine! It’s all about family and friendship and creating and living a life that makes you happy with a family you build from the people you love most in your life. I’ll be honest, I do a lot of crying during this show, both the happy kind and the sad-but-still-happy kind. And I really love it for it.

It has a full season pick up, but its ratings are really low and it’s so unlikely to get a second season and it just bums me out that a show this funny with this much heart and writing this good can’t find an audience. Or, really, I can’t believe networks are still operating on a model that relies so heavily on traditional ratings that don’t accurately reflect a show’s actual audience.

LOOK, BEN AND KATE IS REALLY GOOD. PLEASE WATCH IT.

1. Suits [season 1 | season 2]

Suits is great. I mainlined all of it recently because USA helpfully put it all up online (and also made it available On Demand if that’s a thing you have available to you) because we had to put one of our dogs down and I was very sad and very unwilling to even think about reality. (This is only slightly different than how I feel on a daily basis.) I was hooked from the first exchange between Donna and Harvey because it was witty and charming and it was such a clear sign that the dialogue was going to be phenomenally enjoyable. The dialogue on Suits appeals to me in the same way that the dialogue on Sherlock does: I don’t understand it all because there’s a lot of technical jargon-y stuff, but it’s still wildly pleasurable to listen to.

As you must expect at this point, Suits is also about friendship. Harvey and Mike’s friendship and Donna and Rachel’s friendship and Donna and Harvey’s friendship. And all of the friendship. It’s also about pop culture references (which, I will admit, can sometimes get tired) and sort of smirky humor and they say “shit” a lot which is not a thing I thought you could do on USA! And also it has a really decent soundtrack.

totally top five 2k12: albums

5. Alabama Shakes, Boys & Girls [itunes] I’ve only had this album for like a week and a half, but it settled itself all over me and hasn’t let up since. If I’d had it a little longer or put less weight into how much I listen to stuff, it’d be a hell of a lot higher up on the list. I heard “Hold On” on Pandora a few times earlier in the year, but it never really grabbed me until I heard it at the front of the whole album. It’s a great song, all hopeful and plaintive and hungry, and Brittany Howard’s voice is p h e n o m e n a l. I could listen to her sing the phone book. “Boys & Girls” is another favorite and it showcases her voice in the same way that “Hold On” does, all beautiful and wailing.

Boys & Girls is kind of vintage-y and lo-fi and it’s the kind of album you should listen to on a hot day while the sun is setting and you’re drinking something cold and extremely alcoholic. It sounds like what a million other bands have tried to do, but it sounds utterly effortless. It’s like… This isn’t what Alabama Shakes are trying to sound like, it’s what they’re meant to sound like. Gorgeous.

4. Marina & the Diamonds, Electra Heart [amazon]Marina Diamandis’ first album The Family Jewels was one of my most listened albums of 2010 and 2011 and it’s something I put on a lot because the songs are all so solid and beautiful and even after all this time they haven’t gotten even a little bit old and I was looking forward to Electra Heart immensely. Sadly and irritatingly, I’ve been broke-ish all year and had to settle for listening to badly ripped versions on YouTube until about a week ago. Man, do I even have to tell you how much quality matters? Like, Alabama Shakes, this’d be a lot higher if I’d had it longer.

My favorite song on the album is “Starring Role” I think. For the moment at least. And I sing the “you like my dad / you get on well / I send my best / regards from hell” part all the time. The acoustic version is gorgeous too. My other favorite is “Living Dead” which is, sadly, only on the import. But you should listen anyway.

3. Lana Del Rey, Born to Die [amazon]I did not want to like Lana Del Rey. I don’t like the kind of trash-twee floral headband, dreamy, filthy American flag aesthetic. I don’t like her socio-cultural appropriation. She is a problematic artist.

I started listening to Lana Del Rey because I was forced to. This summer was a particularly sweltering one in southern California and I have only one friend with a pool and, as you learn from birth, you never turn down an invitation to a pool, even if that friend tortures you by playing music you don’t want to listen to on repeat. I am a very chill human being though, so I tolerated it. And then suddenly I liked it and then I was begrudgingly spending money on it. Damn it. Swimming Pool Stockholm Syndrome. Favorites: “This Is What Makes Us Girls”, “Dark Paradise”, “Diet Mountain Dew”, “National Anthem”, and “Summertime Sadness”. Just put it on and float in a pool and drink something kind of fruity but too booze-y and close your eyes and point your face into the sun and give in. Just give in.

2. Ellie Goulding, Halcyon [amazon]I would have never downloaded this album without hearing “Anything Could Happen”. Period, end of story. This song is transcendent. When I first heard it, I posted about it on Tumblr and Facebook and said, “IF YOU AREN’T RUNNING THROUGH A FIELD WEARING HEADPHONES AND SCREAMING THE WORDS TO THIS AND CRYING BECAUSE THE WORLD IS BEAUTIFUL AND HAS SO MUCH POTENTIAL AND PEOPLE CAN BE AMAZING WONDERFUL CREATURES THEN WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE GOD DAMN IT” and, were it not like six degrees outside with six inches of snow on the ground I would still be doing this. Also, I’d apologize for the capslock, but I still feel that strongly.

Anyway, the rest of the album is just as good and very worth spending your hard-earned money on. I particularly recommend “Only You” and “Figure 8”, the latter which I was just scream-sobbing into a pillow like twelve hours ago. So good.

1. Lavender Diamond, Incorruptible Heart [amazon]I ended up with this album because I was perusing Amazon’s $5 albums page (Albums should always be $5! I would buy all the albums, all the time.) and saw that it had a free single — “Everybody’s Heart’s Breaking Now” — and I bought it and I fell in love so hard. Her voice! It’s so ethereal and magical and beautiful. I feel like I’m in a movie, like I just broke up with my long-term partner and I’m walking further and further into the water on a beach and I’m wearing a linen shirt and a long white skirt and the wind is blowing my hair and I’m just sinking deeper into the water in slow motion.

“Light My Way” is also great, really dance-y and cheerful and “Just Passing By” is really pretty and float-y and sleepy. Same goes for “Come Home” which makes me feel sort of weepy in a sad, but beautiful way. Also, “Forgive”. Also, the whole album.