The Traveling Wilburys

Traveling Wilburys

I’d like to commend Parks and Recreation for an excellent choice of series-closing song — the Traveling Wilburys’ “End Of The Line.” I’d also like to say thanks for the difference the show has made in my life.

Parks and Rec didn’t just make me laugh, though it did that plenty. And it didn’t just produce profoundly warm and fuzzy feels, though it did that more and better than any show I can remember. For someone like me, who is convinced of the power, purpose, and collaborative imperative of government, it was deeply inspiring.

There are a zillion reasons to be cynical about the president, or congress, or your local government, but Leslie Knope’s optimism has been like an antidote to that tired and ultimately destructive way of thinking, much like the Daily Show was during the W administration. Knope transcended the screen for me. That’s partly because Poehler exhibits many of Knope’s best traits by being such a big-hearted and socially conscious public figure. (Have you seen her “Ask Amy” videos?) It’s also because it feels like her character is even bigger than the show. I’ll never forget the first time the words “Be the Leslie Knope of whatever you do” popped up on my Tumblr dash. I was like “Hell yes! I’m gonna do that!” And even though I can’t — Knope’s example is asymptotic, and no human being could do what she did within the framework of a 24-hour day — I’m grateful when she pops into my head, because it reminds me that you can always care a little bit more and work a little bit harder.

One more word about transcendence: Before I had a chance to watch the finale, I saw a GIF of the scene where Knope has a college library named after her, and for a second, I thought it was footage of an actual graduation where Poehler had received an honorary degree and a school had decided to name its library after Knope. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if that happened. That’s how much value I’d place in her example.

I could go on, about Ron, about Andy, about the beautiful way the show depicts friendships, especially between men and women. But more than anything else, I wanted to say thanks to Parks and Rec for regularly reminding me, via Leslie Knope, that there’s a better version of myself out there — of our country, too — and that we should never stop trying to be better. In that sense, this is anything but the end of the line.

The Traveling Wilburys — “End Of The Line” [iTunes]

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Anousheh

Anousheh

I’ve been spending lots of time with Anousheh’s new Make Noise album lately. As it happens, it’s caught me at a fairly weighty moment. Both Mrs. YHT and I have had family members pass away recently, and we’ve taken turns giving each other colds that have lingered. Those two categories of hardship certainly pack unequal emotional punches, but their confluence has been one hell of a drag. Baby YHT has been a source of happiness throughout — she’s getting bigger every day and we’ve started feeding her real foods and relishing her hilarious reactions. Still not sure whether she loves or hates applesauce. That was a fun one.

It’s entirely random that Make Noise caught me at this particular moment, but I’m glad it did, because I’ve found it to be a great comfort.

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Father John Misty

Father John Misty

Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear album has taken over my life. Well, my record player’s life, anyway. The Decemberists vinyl Valentine’s Day present Mrs. YHT got me managed to break the stranglehold, but Honeybear is still spinning regularly at YHT headquarters. It’s an incredible album. I’d also call it vital.

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Bon Iver

Bon Iver

Looks like some serious (well… Southerner-serious) snow is on the way in RVA, so I’ve activated my Bon Iver snow day record bunker, which is comprised of the three 12-inch singles released in conjunction with his self-titled masterpiece and the Blood Bank EP that preceded it. I don’t normally splurge on singles, but these have dynamite B-sides — covers of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” John Prine’s “Bruised Orange (Chain Of Sorrow)” and Peter Gabriel’s “Come Talk To Me.” And Blood Bank is my favorite kind of EP — one that documents a pivotal moment. In this case it’s Vernon’s transition from the cloistered simplicity of For Emma, Forever Ago to the vastness of Bon Iver.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hope y’all are having a spiffy Valentine’s Day and have someone sweet to buy something sweet for. Here’s a sweet song to add into the mix — Warren Zevon’s “Mutineer” covered by the married duo of Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires. The performance above comes courtesy of WNRN in Charlottesville, but the pair just released a recorded version the other day (iTunes link below).

Much love from my corner of the interweb.

Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires — “Mutineer” (Warren Zevon cover) [YouTube/iTunes]

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Pharoah Sanders

Pharoah Sanders

I spent most of Sunday morning and afternoon listening to records and doing chores (Can you still call them chores when you’re an adult? Because they still feel like chores…) and there was this moment during the first track from Pharoah Sanders’ Thembi album — “Astral Traveling” — when the bottle of green dish soap I was using to refill the in-sink soap pump thing started making the exact same chirping noise that the record was making. The world can be a pretty miraculous place if you’re willing to set the miracle bar super low.

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Pops Staples

Pops Staples

The Grammys were weird, right?

Don’t worry, I’m not here to whine about the Beck/Beyoncé thing. I’m pretty sure I’d achieve more asking my computer printer for a car loan than I would blog-complaining about who won the Album of the Year Grammy. It’s the ceremony in general I can’t stop thinking about today. Parts were OK — I liked the heartfelt tributes to victims of police violence, and I thought Sia’s Kristen Wiig assist was imaginative and fun  — but so much of the show felt like it was devised and executed by people who’d been orbiting the planet for the last year. Like organizers had been observing the music made on Earth from a distance. The awkward pairings. The myopic focus in the major categories (seemed worse than usual). The relentless and often stilted use of the word “friend” when celebrities were introducing each other. Just really, really strange.

You know what else is strange? Life. I’m not being facetious — it is.

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