Flowers & Concrete

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I was inspired by my brilliantly talented friend Kadie over at Design by Kadie to share the inspiration board for my latest and largest project: my wedding. One of the best pieces of advice I got during my planning was to create a mood board and stick to it. That was easier said than done, but having a clear vision of what I wanted made decision-making so much smoother. It helped me funnel my constant influx of disjointed ideas into something that made sense to the friends and family that have been helping me plan. The entire process has been an exercise in figuring out how to make all those creative bursts into a cohesive event. From the beginning, I have been drawn to the mix of the romantic and the industrial: steel beams intertwining with greenery, reclaimed letters leaned against old brick, a flowing white dress in the middle of a warehouse district, and cascading flowers contrasted against concrete.

What I like so much is its unexpectedness. Flowers and concrete don’t typically mix, and it’s rare to see steel and greenery exist side by side. But when you do, there always seems to be something inexplicably delightful about it. It’s usually in an empty warehouses and ashy rooftop or, in our case, an overgrown loading dock. It’s a beauty waiting to be discovered. There’s a sense of endless possibility inherent in these places, because you recognize that what they were isn’t what they could become. Thomas and I don’t think of marriage as redemption. Christ has already done that for us. But we do believe that marriage means a lifetime of helping each other become who God always intended us to be. It means looking at each other now and saying, “I know what you could become. I see the person God is making you into and I want to be a part of it.”

I grew up in a town where the most accessible form of entertainment was exploring old buildings and rooftops. I have spent innumerable hours in these untamed places, and the idea of having a wedding at one excites me in a way I’m not even sure I can describe. To me, these overgrown and forgotten places always felt deeply intimate and delightfully wild and bursting with the potential to transform into something breathtaking. And I guess that’s kind of how it feels to be getting married.

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An Auburn Weekend

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Thomas and I love to document. We have a natural compulsion toward capturing the magnificent and mundane moments of life: whether it’s through words, photography, music, or film. Here’s a highlight reel from the last weekend we spent together, including (but not limited to): a radioactive pond, a duck in peril, a whalebone knife, broken fourth walls, one very unladylike attempt to shove several tortilla chips in my mouth at once. And more!

The Magnetic Fields – 69 Love Songs

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We’re interested in genius. We’re interested in epic ambition. We’re fascinated with what can be made by a person with enough time and focus and caffeine. If we are drawn to Infinite Jest, we’re also drawn to the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Songs, for which Steven Merritt wrote that many songs, all of them about love, in about two years […] We have an obligation, to ourselves, chiefly, to see what a brain, and particularly a brain like our own, is capable of.

Dave Eggers, in the foreword to David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. 

The Magnetic Fields is the monstrous brainchild of singer-songwriter Stephin Merritt. Over the course of his work, and even within a single album, his sound shifts from distorted synth to sweet, honest folk. His rough, gravelly vocals are countered often by the harmonies of Susan Anway or Shirley Simms, stretched into beautiful melodies or an unyielding drone; sometimes they’re absent completely. In his three-volume album 69 Love Songs (1999)there are nods to every imaginable style, from Scottish folk to Philip Glass minimalism to punk rock to acoustic ballads. There is an ode to linguist Ferdinand de Saussure and a cover of John Cage’s 4’33”.

One of the geniuses lurking in the shadows of childhood also makes an appearance in 69 Love Songs. The album showcased Daniel Handler — known more widely under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket — on accordion. This sent me into the kind of frenzy that would cause my 11-year-old self to bow her bespectacled head in shame. It wasn’t always easy to read his novels through the perpetually tinted glass of my transition lenses, but I managed. 

Merritt writes cheeky, biting, but always sublime lyrics. Clinging to every clever verse and casually depressive lyric is a morsel of truth. Lusty quips like, “A pretty boy in his underwear/ if there’s anything better in this world, who cares?” and the resigned “Eligible, not too stupid, intelligible and cute as Cupid. Knowledgeable, but not always right, salvageable and free for the night” are met with raw reflection on love and loss:

True, I’d give my right arm

To keep you safe from harm.

And true, for you I’d move to Ecuador.

And I’d keep a little farm,

Chop wood to keep you warm,

But I don’t really love you anymore.

The bulk of this album leaves me feeling despondent but secretly relishing it. It’s the kind of music that can tap into the sort-of-sweet sadness inside of you and let you savor it. Merritt’s outlandish approach captures the little bit of insanity it takes to keep seeking out something that guarantees as much pain as it does joy. It’s that, just as much as the sheer magnitude of the project, that makes it a work of genius. 

Sounds like: whiskey in a dixie cup, smoking on the fire escape when it’s really too cold to be outside, Prozac, clove cigarettes, dressing in black and reading Camus. 

Listen:  The Magnetic Fields – “I Don’t Want To Get Over You”

Lana Del Rey – Born to Die

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When I first encountered Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans” on YouTube I couldn’t stand her. I didn’t know what to make of her theatrically sultry voice, lyrical content, or campy image. She paired lines like “you fit me better than my favorite sweater” with nostalgic footage of neon signs and a distorted recitation of the Lord’s prayer. It was such a jumbled compilation of styles that I couldn’t make sense of it. I was ready to give up and turn back to the comforting arms of Rihanna until I realized something we all had in common: Lana del Rey would make a totally insane ex-girlfriend.

I like my girls how I like my coffee: teetering on the brink of psychosis. Her recklessness, her crown of flowers, the velvet turban, the albino tigers circling her while she sat serenely atop a throne–what seemed nonsensical before now seems deliberate and compelling. There’s a manic edge to her that I find myself really relating to while I freestyle rap into a mirror wearing my ex’s sweatpants. 

Allen Ginsberg, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan mingle with Britney Spears and Eminem in her list of musical influences. Lana del Rey describes herself as a “self-styled gangsta Nancy Sinatra.” Her latest album, Born to Die, lives up to that weird hybrid.

One of the most haunting elements of the album is how self-aware she is: parodying the lifestyle that she subscribes to. In her songs, she’s all red lipstick, leather skirts, and lilac fumes and she knows it. It’s how precisely she’s able to describe living on the “dark side of the American dream”–and how deftly she hides her keen observations between lines like “Boy, you’re so dope/ Your love is deadly”–that she betrays how perceptive she really is. 

In a single song, she wavers between inane and profound. The title song, Born to Die, opens with the swell of music that sounds like the beginning of a colorized romance from the 1965 until a steady beat drops and someone in the background starts to shout. In Diet Mountain Dew, she offers up the trite mantras of pop music (“You’re no good for me, but baby I want you, I want you”) with declarations of startling insight (“Let’s take Jesus off the dashboard, got too much on his mind/ we both know just what we’re here for, saved too many times”). At the very end of the album, Lana’s “Lucky Ones” leaves us at her most vulnerable. Which is to say, still wearing nothing but a halter top made out of polyester rosebuds.

Sounds like: SPF 4 tanning oil, a haze of hairspray, driving in cars with boys, heart-shaped sunglasses, wearing your skirt a size too small, diaries with locks on them, sneaking into hotel pools, knuckle tattoos.

Made from Music

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“I’m gonna break it down to you, and it’ll change your life, alright? I feel as though music is everything. Let me show you why. Everything’s just molecules vibrating, and vibrations are the frequency of sound — so then we’re all built from sound. Everything is built from sound, so that we are music. That’s why it changes us.”

Darius ‘Slim’ Merchant, WEGL 91.1 DJ.

Starting an series of installments with quotes from interviews that I didn’t include in the article but loved all the same!