Cozy Up With these Reads

The season of lattes, knit sweaters, looming finals anxiety and ceaseless tater tot cravings has fallen upon us! Brace for impact as Ugg boots are pulled from the depths of suburban closets, the pervading scent of pumpkin spice invades homes everywhere and Michael Bublé plays on repeat in a fiery loop. As the cloudy skies and early nightfalls basically beg us to stay inside all day and relish in the ancient practice of procrastination, we rely on Netflix, comfort food, cozy blankets and books for sustenance.

Most of you may not consider reading books as a part of the perfect fall equation, but those of you who do, this post is for you. The following list of books is meant to make you feel like you are the epitome of fall aesthetic goals, reading a book whilst drinking English Breakfast No.1 with the sight of crunchy, orange tree leaves right outside the windowsill. Basically, reading these books makes me feel fuzzy and cozy, so I am sharing them with you in the hopes that they have the same effect this fall season. 

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

For a classic love story that weaves in loss, hope, dreams and everything in between, read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” It may be as basic as a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, but that’s part of its charm. Beautifully written and not cheesy at all, “The Great Gatsby” will either make you really nostalgic for your own past or cathartically release your cynicism of the future.

Anything “Harry Potter” by J.K Rowling

It’s always a good time to read or re-read anything from the “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling. However, reading any or all of the books by this wondrous author during the fall is sure to put you in the best crunchy leaves and cozy blankets mood.  I prefer to go for the first books in the series to get the full nostalgia effect, but anything is fair fall game here!

“A Separate Peace” by John Knowles

What’s better to read than a book about friendship and loss at a time when you just want a good cry? This book by John Knowles is beautiful in its depiction of the realistic, perfectly imperfect friendship between main characters Gene and Finny. Although it may be a little on the sadder side, this book will have you sniffling while dreaming of its New Hampshire setting and yearning for pumpkin pie to fill that newly punctured hole in your heart.

“Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

Mystery lovers who want a book they will not be able to put down, “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn is for you. This is a read that is so intense and mind-bending that it will have you quarantined with tea and blankets all day. If you have already seen the movie, try to forget it, because the book is so much better!

“The Shining” by Stephen King

For those of you not down for the romance and sniffles, there is always Stephen King, whose work in “The Shining” will have you reaching for the cozy blanket – this time to cover your entire body and hide from the fear. Not exactly a cozy read, but definitely one to get the chilly, fall feels that make you want some greasy comfort food and happy people to keep you company.

The Kahlo Effect

Frida Kahlo’s impact as an artist and Mexican icon reaches far beyond her unique style and admirable pompadour. She recognized human pain for what it was: bearable and beautiful in its human exclusivity.

Many people tend to forget or simply don’t know the effect of Frida Kahlo as an artist during and after her time. This short commemoration of her story and art is meant to remind the aforementioned individuals that the Kahlo effect is perpetually alive and universal. 

For those of you who might not know, Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist of the early 20th century whose talent and colorful lifestyle made her a celebrity throughout Mexico, the U.S.A and Europe. She was born on July 6, 1907 in Coyoacán, Mexico, to a photographer father and extremely Catholic mother. Frida’s artistic aspirations were deeply influenced by her close and loving relationship with her father from a very early age. However, as her interest in art was developing, Frida contracted polio. At only age 6, Kahlo had to endure months of bed rest, contracted diseases that affected her spinal and leg development and ended up with one leg that was visibly thinner than the other (Kahlo’s iconic look with long traditional Mexican skirts actually comes from her wanting to hide this fact!). Although this already seems like a lot of pain for one person to handle, at age 18 Frida was involved in a horrific train accident where a handrail pierced her abdomen and forever changed her life. After, she was once again confined to bed rest, but now she also had to face a future filled with perpetual fatigue, chronic pain, invasive surgeries and heartbreaking miscarriages.

After the accident, Kahlo used painting to cope with her pain. She painted most of the masterpieces we know her for today just laying on her bed, trying to make sense of her tragic reality. Her life went on to include a scandalous three time marriage with Diego Rivera, controversial political advocacy for communism and companionship with history’s most notorious artistic celebrities. But what’s really important about Frida Kahlo is not how big of a star she was or continues to be. It is the legacy of her art. Kahlo’s artistic obsession with her own physical and spiritual self creates art that reflects universal pain, longing, passion and desire.

The Kahlo effect found in each one of Frida’s paintings, is a forced exploration of the self that steers you towards examining and ultimately appreciating all those times you’ve ever felt broken and were fishing for the will to live. Kahlo shares her suffering, worth and desires with authenticity and courage, and that is what has made her so artistically powerful. The mirror of self exploration pieced together by her art helps us to feel not alone in our human emotion and less irrational in our ‘dramatic’ expressions of pain. The Kahlo effect is real and beautiful. If you have not yet experienced it, I highly recommend taking a real look at her pieces. 

 

All images and rights belong to Frida Khalo.

Hispanic Talent Not to Sleep On

With the recent outburst of Hispanic/Latin reggaeton in the mainstream music realm, the concept of Hispanic music has more often than not been reduced to music simply meant for grinding and pregaming. Although a little booty shaking is always good for the soul, Hispanic music actually encompasses a wide variety of genres, countries of origin and sounds. It’s always good to explore beyond the “Despacito”s and discover the smaller, yet infinitely talented Hispanic artists that deserve equal acclaim. Having grown up in Mexico, I’ve accumulated quite a list of Hispanic artists I love, but for the sake of time I’ll keep it to the few I’ve recently discovered within the alternative scene that I find intoxicatingly great.

Little Jesus

  • Little Jesus is an alternative/indie rock band from Mexico City, Mexico that has been playing music since 2012. Their two albums, “Norte” and “Rio Salvaje,” include an incredible repertoire of songs that are as sweet as they are sexy. With the exception that all their music is in Spanish, their music reminds me of Hippo Campus with a dash of The Kooks’ edge. Good songs to listen to to get a feel for the band are “La Magia,” “Tqm,” “Norte (Bonus)” and “Mala Onda.” 

CLUBZ

  • The new wave style guitar duo originating from Monterrey, Mexico has been making music together since 2014. They also have a total of two albums, “Texturas” and “Épocas, ” and each one is more unique than the next. Their sound is psychedelic, sensual and unexpected. Their music reminds me of Sylvan Esso’s skillful use of synth, combined with with Tom Misch-esque guitar vibes. Songs to listen to to get a feel for the artist are “Popscuro” and their new single “Afrika.” Pro tip: watch the music videos too!

Monsieur Periné

  • Originating from Bogotá Colombia, this ensemble of musicians is out of this world talented. Their music draws inspiration from the Afro-Colombian sound with implementations of both Latin and European influences. Active since 2008 and with two albums to their name, “Hecho a Mano” and “Caja de Música,” Monsieur Periné writes music that radiates color. Their songs are sweet, passionate and perfect for that Sunday morning “cafecito” or “chocolate Abuelita.” If you enjoy artists like Natalia LaFourcade and Julieta Venegas, you will fall in love with Monsieur Periné. Songs to listen to for a feel of the artist are “Nuestra Canción,” “La Playa” and “Tu M’as Promis.” 

The Chamanas 

  • Probably the most recognizable name from this list of artists, The Chamanas have made an incredible impact on the Mexican Froterizo culture by making it a focal point of their music. Originating from the border culture in between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, The Chamanas create music that is as multidimensional as their culture. The band’s sound draws inspiration from traditional Mexican folklore, pop, danzon, indie and synth. All this to create music that is dark, unique and downright hypnotizing. Their most recent collaboration with artist ODESZA, along with their two albums, “NEA” and “Once Once,” show the intense versatility of the band and their ability to reform what Latin music is. Songs I recommend listening to to get a feel for the group are “Purple Yellow Red and Blue,” “Dulce Mal” and “Alas de Hierro.”

Bigott

  • This Zaragoza, Spain native is the only artist from the list who writes and sings his music primarily in English and French. Similar in sound to Elliot Smith but less folky and more upbeat, this artist stands out as a beautifully poetic lyricist with a voice so deep it forces itself into your soul. With eight albums to his name, Bigott might be my favorite artist from this list. His music is soulful, sensual and goosebump inducing. It is the kind of music that I would have on my emo or rainy days playlist for those times that I just want to stay in, eat Häagen-Dazs by the pint and mourn the perfect boyfriend I’ve never had. Songs I strongly recommend by this artist are ” The Reno Poem,” “I’m little retarded,” “The Jingle” and “First Local Recording.”

Photo Credits: CLUBZ image by Daniel Patlán, Monsieur Periné image by Ralf Schulze, The Chamanas image by Rodrigo Díaz, Bigott image by DONOSTIA KULTURA

 

A Villainous Return to Music

Queens of the Stone Age’s latest album entitled, “Villains” is the dream soundtrack to your hellish disco fantasy.

The phrase “dancing with the devil” takes on a very literal sense with their seventh album, released on Aug. 25, 2017. The hype preceding this release was not only a result from the band’s four year hiatus since releasing their now landmark album “Like Clockwork.” The hype was mostly surrounding the fact that the entire album was produced by “Uptown Funk” musician/producer extraordinaire, Mark Ronson, whose pop musical connotations seem antithetical to those of Queens. Although hardcore Queens fans may see this collaboration as nothing short of sacrilege, I found the fusion of Ronson’s funk vibes with Queens’ twisted hard rock a unique concoction that freshens Queens sound without discarding its intoxicating eeriness.

Ronson’s influence is mostly present in the album’s uptempo and intermittent synth-esque riffs that are impossible not to dance to. Songs such as “The Way You Used To Do” and “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” are the most obvious examples of this given their unforgiving, upbeat and villainously cool nature. Along with “Domesticated Animals” and “Fortress,” Queens created a musical quadfecta that still holds their signature darkness and hypnotism, but now with a builtin dance party.

The intense guitar riffs combined with the sultry cadence of frontman Joshua Homme make listening to the album a fun act of mischievousness and dark indulgence. Although some of the songs fall short in sharpness when compared to the aforementioned quadfecta, ie “Hideaway” and “Head Like a Haunted House,” the whole album is a successful attempt at rebooting the band’s sound without entirely dismissing their brand.

Personally, I think “Villains” is a great album that missed the “perfect” mark by a very small margin. But, who really cares if it’s perfect or not when the music makes you feel so darn cool?