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9 Things To Chill To Until The Crisis Is Over

Image by Eric Nopanen

Music, podcast and culture writer LeeAnn Carlen has traveled the world several times over and still manages to stay  completely caught up on Vanderpump Rules. Ask for her recommendations for  Indian food in London or the best sweet shop in Sydney - she'll always have a quick answer and many more "secrets of the locals" to tell. Still, LeeAnn's biggest guilty pleasure is hanging out in her Nashville backyard with her fur-baby and 3 unwelcome opossums.

Photo: Eric Nobanan

May 8, 2020 by LeeAnn Carlen

There seems to be a faint, white light at the end of the ‘Rona tunnel and our nationwide house arrest may be coming to an end sooner than we thought. Anyone else a little sad about this? Just me? I’m cool with that.


For much of the past 8 weeks I’ve been a ball of anxiety; not about the virus, but in making sure I got enough DONE. If I’m not working, then I MUST be productive in other ways, right? Surely, I should have a novel written or know a new language by the time this is over. I’ll really regret it when this is all over if I haven’t done something useful with my time.


Then at some point last week I had the thought, “I’ll really regret it if I don’t use at least some of this time to rest”. And that was a full-on Oprah-level AH-HA moment for me. So while I’m still doing things that need to be done, I’m also making sure I’m taking time for things that I want to do, sleeping more and just generally appreciating the gift of unassigned time.


While I’m chilling, here’s what I’m listening to:




While I wouldn’t say that every single song on this album is a smash, there are still BANGERS GALORE. “Don’t Start Now” is the first of them and also happens to have been the first single (a smart move). That song has yet to get old for me. Funky bass with a disco vibe? Don’t mind if I do! I listened to "Cool" on repeat for literally HOURS before I even finished the rest of the album. It’s might be my very favorite track. “Pretty Please” - which counts songwriter sirius Julia Michaels as a co-writer - comes in a very close second. That song is a bop-and-a-half, for reals. “Love Again” is a fun song that samples “Your Woman” by White Town (where my 90's kids at?!) which actually sampled “My Woman” by Al Bowlly, which counts Bing Crosby as a songwriter and so - keep this for trivia night - Bing Crosby is listed as a songwriter on Dua Lipa’s album!





Ok, I’m tempted to just leave this part blank because I damn near have no words. I have an actual love affair with Caitlyn Smith’s music and I was a little nervous that this new album might not be able to live up to 2018’s Starfire. Luckily, as is often true, I was quite wrong. It’s not even fair to try and break out my favorite songs because the album is solid gold from top to bottom (and I don’t give a compliment like that freely). I’d love to tell you more about this album but I actually have to go and listen to it on repeat. Again.




It has been 8 long years since we’ve had a new album from Fiona Apple (and more like 15 since we’ve had a really good one, amiright?) So I was excited -  nay, ecstatic - to hear that she had a new album dropping. While  I wouldn’t say it’s her best work, she is still a musical genius in my book - probably my favorite ivory tickler - and I will never be mad at anything she puts out. I just don’t see myself listening to it on repeat ... ok, you get the idea. The first two tracks- “I Want You To Love Me” and “Shameika”- are probably two of my favorites and the strongest on the album. “Rack of Hits” is another favorite and definitely sounds like it could have been a reject from Extraordinary Machine. “Cosmonaut” and “Drumset” are also reminiscent of a Fiona from time past. Still, I’d highly recommend a listen - mostly because music doesn’t sound like this anymore. It would be beneficial to everyone if we just dialed it back in this direction a few notches.

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This LA duo recently released their first single from their forthcoming second project. “City” is ambient, alternative pop at its finest. Their voices layer and harmonize in a way that only sisters can. The timing of the song - whose lyrics include “Moving on up out of the city/Moving on up out of the crowd/If you come with me we’ll be living/ If you come with me right now” - was pretty spot on for no one knowing that a worldwide Pandemic was about to take over.  If you’re not familiar with these gals, I highly recommend you check them out.





Ronan Farrow’s book (Catch and Kill) and subsequent podcast (The Catch and Kill) are some of the most entertaining, investigative journalism pieces that I’ve listened to in a long time. (That’s right, I listened to the book and I would highly recommend that you do as well.) In case you’re unfamiliar, the story is the telling of Ronan’s investigation of Harvey Weinstein while at NBC and NBC’s subsequent burial of the story. This story has more layers than a dip at a southern potluck, and even if you think you know the whole story, I guarantee you don’t. I recommend reading/listening to the book first.  then tackling the podcast, as each episode dives deeper into one element of the story.

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This podcast is WILD, you guys. Season 1 is all about pyramid schemes and multi-level marketing. The first few episodes really address how pyramid schemes worked back in the 60's & 70's - honestly, they sound kind of awesome! - and move into modern times and the landscape of “Multi-Level Marketing.” Did you know that MLMs are barely regulated at all? I mean, technically they are, but also nobody really cares; because of a big legal battle with Amway back in the day - and the political motivations behind Amway's  win - now MLMs can claim they’re “just like Amway” to fly under the radar and completely get away with ripping people off! IT. IS. CRAZY! Whether you love MLMs, hate them, or are generally indifferent, I promise you this will be an entertaining and informative podcast. They do seem to be coming for my precious essential oils "membership" in Season 2, but I’m not super far into it yet. Season 1 is a winner, for sure.

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Oh boy. I can’t quit the Gracie Abrams lately. Her new single, “I Miss You, I’m Sorry” shows maturity in song-crafting that is far beyond her years. Her music is vulnerable and delicate and intimate and just feels real somehow.

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While we sadly have to wait 'til the end of August to get this full album, there are four strong-as-hell tracks available at the time of this writing. “The Steps” gives me full-on Sheryl Crow vibes (from her C’mon, C’mon days) and I mean that as the HIGHEST form of compliment. “Every time I think that I’ve been takin' the steps | You end up mad at me for makin’ a mess | I can’t understand why | You don’t understand me”. Oh yeah, raise your hand if ya' been there. “Now I’m In It” brings on all the “I Want You” by Savage Garden feels, with just a tiny dose of Wilson Phillips sprinkled in. “Hallelujah” draws heavily from folky, 1970's influences  -  Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young and the like, so it’s basically heaven - but it’s the production that truly sets this song apart. It feels a lot like you’re casually chilling at The Bluebird with the Haim sisters while they play you a track off their new album.  “Summer Girl” is probably the weakest of the four, but I’m still not mad at it. Interestingly,  I’m picking up a 90’s influence on this jam as well. As far as I’m concerned, Haim is more than welcome to keep churning out these nostalgic sounding tunes, 'cause I'll definitely keep listening.




The Strokes are one of those bands whose core sound never really changes but some how they manage to make new music sound actually new and not just regurgitated. It is a real talent to have a sound so distinct that people immediately scream, “That’s The Strokes!” but not have your albums plagiarize  each other. It's musical magic, I tell ya! This new album, The New Abnormal, is quintessential Strokes and makes me want to follow them around to all the music festivals that are definitely not happening this summer. Whomp Whomp.

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