Saturday, December 22, 2012

But enough about me. What do *you* think of 2012?

I only posted about music, but I'm interested in your opinions about all art forms that came out this year. What was your favorite music, what were your favorite books, what were your favorite movies that came out this year?

(I will point out that this year I did not go to a movie theatre even once, so my vote on that question won't be super-helpful. I don't dislike movies or theatres. I just never go, and I'm not sure why.)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fifteen Favorite Albums of 2012

For about a million reasons, I never make a best-of list for any year. They're so contentious. People get grumpy. People complain about overlooked genres, overlooked artists, songs, etc.  Never mind how impossible the task of narrowing the music down and saying something pithy about it is a potentially doomed one from the start.

But, on a happier note, I wanted to share a list of 15 albums I've loved this year. No doomed tasks here, just wanting to share the love. (I initially had 25 but that was a bit unwieldy.)

In the hope of making my list pleasant and not all bitchy and snobby and contentious, some disclaimers:

-These are 15 of my favorite releases, which just means that there are 15 albums that I really like and you might enjoy.  I didn't want to split hairs over which album, on this list or not, was "the best" from any sort of aesthetic or critical standpoint.

-I really wasn't trying to be comprehensive for its own sake.  I could have listened to genres I know nothing about to include some of those songs out of a sense of completeness, but that felt tokenistic and dishonest.

-There are some surprising omissions. A lot of the albums that topped lists everywhere aren't here. It doesn't mean I don't love them, just that these have, to date, resonated with me more. But there will always be omissions, and trust me when I say that there were far too many runners-up to name!

This list was ultimately fun to make, and it surprised me. One thing that surprised me is that a few of my all-time favorite artists released albums this year, and those albums are not on this list.  But that's fine; it makes room for some fresh new favorites.  One blessing that I had this year was that I got to speak to some of these artists, so I linked to those interviews where they exist.

I hope you enjoy.

1.Lost in the Trees-A Church That Fits Our Needs

I don't remember how I discovered "Lost In the Tress." I just remembered being interested, even before I heard the music.  Once I heard the music from this album, A Church to Fit Our Needs, though, I knew, as dramatic as this sounds, I'd forever be changed. This album both celebrates and mourns lead singer-songwriter Ari Picker's mother, Karen, after her suicide. It is glorious and painful at the same time, and it's quite sad that this album hasn't appeared on more year-end lists. (My Rumpus interview with Ari Picker.)

2.First Aid Kit-the Lion's Roar

I think many of us this year were blown away by the harmonies of these young Swedish sisters. This is my favorite song of theirs, so I'm delighted they made not just a video but such an enchanted one.  To cut to the chase, I asked them loads about this video in our interview.

3.Sean Rowe-The Salesman and the Shark  

Sean Rowe was a new find for me. I unabashedly love the Anti label, and I came across him simply because I was I saw he had an album forthcoming on Anti. And what an album it is! There's a string octet and his insane baritone and all that goes into him and his music, which is, well, a lot.  In my interview with Sean Rowe, I quoted my favorite song from the album, "Signs."  It's another one of those songs that is triumphant and destroying at the same time.

4.Passion Pit-Gossamer
Ok, so I used to live in Boston/Cambridge/That Whole Mess, which is home to Passion Pit.  And I read all the press that came with their first album but never felt like checking it out, perhaps because I was convinced it was overhyped.  But this year, I listened to their 2012 release Gossamer and was more than happy with it.  "Love Is Greed" is my very favorite from that record, but there isn't a video for that.

5.Hilary Hahn and Hauschka-Silfra

This was one of those collaborations that seemed to come out of nowhere, at least for me.  I knew of, loved, and interviewed viruoso violinist Hilary Hahn. Long before I knew of her incredible body of work, I was fond of Hauschka (who I also chatted with), known for his impressive prepared piano work that spans several albums.  But I had no idea that the two would ever come together and make an album.  And it's just as great as you'd expect.  If you don't like classical music, this is a good album to kind of ease you into things that would be considered more contemporary classical.

6.Julia Holter-Ekstasis

Ah, yes, Julia Holter. I fell in love with her when last year's Tragedy came out. Her impressive voice and all the things she did with it let me know she was a rare talent. On Ekstasis, she only upped her game.  (I did a brief interview with her at the time of Tragedy and then reviewed Ekstasis for The Quietus.)

 7.Amanda Palmer & the Grand Theft Orchestra-Theatre Is Evil

I began listening to the Dresden Dolls in 2003. Their singles hadn't really broken yet, but my then-boyfriend had a radio show, and they sent him cool stuff, plus he thought their first album looked intriguing.  Since then, Amanda Palmer and I have had a long and storied history, especially given my time in Boston.  While I admit that I have often felt ambivalence towards some of her projects and statements, I ultimately feel a lot of love and respect for Palmer.  Perhaps more importantly, I felt that her crowd-sourced 2012 album, Theatre Is Evil (with the Grand Theft Orchestra) was excellent. This song/video is a definite highlight for me and has gotten me through some terrible days, but the song that usually moves me the most is the stunning "Trout Heart Replica." (Unfortunately, there is no longer online evidence of either of my interviews with Amanda Palmer, but I did include a concert review and some pictures I took at the show.)

8. Banga by Patti Smith

 Patti Smith just doesn't stop delivering. The first track on this album gives me shivers.

 9. Purity Ring-Shrines

I actually still don't know much about this band, but I always enjoy putting on this album and this song in particular.

 10. Xiu Xiu-Always

I have no idea which Xiu Xiu album is my favorite--there are far too many. But I know I love Always for many reasons. "Hi" is a tremendous single, as is "Honeysuckle" (which is the first song bandmate Angela Seo ever wrote!). And "Smear the Queen" with Carla Bozulich. And "Chimneys Afire." It's just all good. I was some serious kinds of bummed when their drum machine broke and they couldn't play a traditional show in Madison.

 11.Dead Can Dance-Anastasis
 A surprising return by a band I didn't pay enough attention to the first time around. This thoughtful release deserves all the excellent press it got. I interviewed Lisa Gerrard about it as well.

 12. The Sister by Marissa Nadler Definitely one of the forgotten gems of 2012. A companion album to last year's self-titled release, The Sister is full of songs that mirror and interweave with songs from earlier releases in fascinating ways. One of the things I most love about Marissa Nadler is how she invents characters and carries on their stories across several albums sometimes. Marissa and I chatted at The Quietus this year.

 13. Sharon van Etten-Tramp Well, duh. My favorites are "Serpents" and "I'm Wrong."

 14. Mountain Goats-Transcendental Youth
 Hooray hooray! A new Mountain Goats record is always cause for celebration, and this one is particularly celebratory. (Hint: there are horns now!)  I did an interview with John Darnielle, but it hasn't posted yet.  Regardless, you should investigate him as a human being *and* a criminally good songwriter because he's so full of interesting chatter and does such good work for the abortion rights movement.  (In our interview, just to bait you, he talks about why he prefers the term "abortion rights," so that wasn't just me re-politicizing the term.)

15. Mt. Eerie-Clear Moon/Ocean Roar

This is technically two albums, but they go together, were created at the same time by Mt. Eerie (aka Phil Elverum, who used to record as Microphones), and really illuminate each other. They played a little show here at a recital hall on campus and that shimmering wall of sound was gorgeous and perfectly overpowering. (Interview with the snazzy Elverum here.)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mail me some water! (I am perfectly serious.)

I need as many people as I can find to send me some special water.

Let me back up a bit.

I'm a Unitarian Universalist. There's an annual tradition in UU churches called a water communion. You can read about it here:http://en.wikipedia....Water_Communion

The gist is that people bring water from their summer travels or from local places that are special to them, like favorite bodies of water or even their garden hose.

Today was my church's Water Communion, and I missed it, but I've decided I want to have my own Water Communion with people across the miles. So in the near future, I want people to send me some water (any amount is fine) with a note as detailed or brief as you like about where the water is from and why it's special to you. (Please no toilet, pet dish, or bong water, not that I really need to specify that.) I'll be mixing all our water, but I'm not sure what I'll be doing with it.

I am definitely going to be writing an article about this for a UU magazine, so please make sure you let me know your full name so I can quote you if I like. (Also let me know if you don't want to appear in the article.)

I have no idea how much water I'll get. If you want some of the mixed water, I'll do my best to get some to you. I will also send out copies of my article to all who contribute whether or not it's published. Email me at erinlyndalmartin at for my address, or comment with your email address and I'll write you with my address.

Thanks for reading this. I'll try to think of some way of thanking everyone who sends water. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Contributions to Pussy Riot benefit anthology

"We Are All Pussy Riot," said original Riot Grrrl Kathleen Hanna on
behalf of the Russian all-female punk rock group who was sentenced to
two years in prison for hooliganism after performing an anti-Putin
song earlier this year.

We are all Pussy Riot. We have all been discriminated against, had
people attempt to silence us, to persecute (or even prosecute) us for
daring to be who we are.

To help support the legal fees and fight for freedom for Pussy Riot,
we (Darcey Steinke and Erin Lyndal Martin) are producing an e-anthology that will be available 
online on a pay-as-you-like basis with the proceeds going to Amnesty International
and earmarked for Pussy Riot's defense.

But first we need contributions of writing and visual art for the
anthology.  Your piece(s) do not need to be directly related to the
band. You can write or make art about the band, censorship, Riot
Grrrl, punk, the power of music, or anything else you deem relevant. All rights revert 
to the author/artist upon publication. There is no payment for contributors.
Please send your submissions as an attachment to

The deadline is August 27, 2012.

Please circulate this call for submissions to any listservs, friends,
or social networking sites to which you have access.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Let me read your slush!

Hi again!

I don't know how many editors read this, but I wanted to announce that I'm looking for a lit mag that could use another poetry reader/assistant poetry editor type thing. If you're familiar with my work, you'll know that I tend away from the narrative and more towards the experimental or lyric, but I'm open to what kind of subs I read. Please email me (erinlyndalmartin at gmail dot com) if you are interested in having me help out on your journal. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Let's go down to the Mermaid Cafe and I will buy you a bottle of wine...

...not really, but I'm writing you from Madison's fine Mermaid Cafe. I am currently the only patron here, and I like that. I bought the bottomless coffee, but I'm still on my first cup. Drinking slowly as I flit between tasks.

My big news is that I have finished my third poetry manuscript, COLONY COLLAPSE, and have begun sending it off to contests and presses. I'm excited about this book, which I've been working on since the end of 2007, come to think of it. I kept thinking of things to add, but, in the words of Belle & Sebastian, "this song has got to end some time." If you have suggestions for places to send it, please do feel free to let me know.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying a quite mild Wisconsin winter. Short sleeves mild. Heck, sleeveless mild. And sunshine! The worst part of WI winters for me is usually the darkness, not the cold, but there is rampant sunshine, so that helps my spirits greatly.

Also, for any literary sorts who might read this, I'm very likely going to be making my AWP debut this year. (Not as a reader or anything; just going.) It's close enough that I feel like I should finally see what all the fuss is about if I can get the logistics to come together. Who else out there is going?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Halloween! And poem commissions!

Hello, ghouls and boys!

It is fall here in Madison, or so say the lovely yellow-leaved trees and few bare branches outside my window. Halloween in Madison is traditionally a pretty big deal, so there are plenty of ways to celebrate. I am still deciding how I will do it up this weekend, but I'm sure I'll have fun. I like to celebrate both the sacred and secular meanings of Halloween/All Soul's Day. The pagan name for Halloween is Samhain (pronounced "sow-en"), and typically that is when the veil between this world and the next thins. One Day of the Dead tradition involves leaving a trail of marigold petals to your door so that your beloved departed can find you. I tried that one last year, only to realize when I got home that I'd bought the wrong kind of flower. So it goes. I bet most of those I've loved and lost would rather have a trail of whiskey anyway.

Though I'm not publishing right and left (a few links below) right now, I think this is the most active writing life I've ever had. I have so many projects, including my first screenplay, and I want to work on them all, all the time. However, starting at midnight Halloween/November 1, most of my projects will take back burners on a really giant stove. That's right, I'm doing Nanowrimo again this year, and you should too. I did it back in 2004 and 2005. Both years, I was able to finish despite grad school responsibilities, so I'm not worried about finishing this year now that I have more time to spend on it. I do hope that I'm able to pull this off better than the others I tried, though. I'm not going to give too much away about it, except to say that it's dark fantasy and Pan's Labyrinth has been a big inspiration.

A new writing project that I'm excited to offer is poems by commission! For a donation of any amount (well, at least a dollar!), I'll write you a one of a kind poem on the topic of your choosing. You can also pick the tone (funny, sad, etc.) or leave that to me. Hopefully if you're reading this, you've read enough of my work to know that the chances of getting a mushy love poem are slim and your chances of getting something weird are high. Please just drop me an email if you'd like to sponsor a poem: erinlyndalmartin at gmail dot com is my address. As I writer living on disability, you have no idea how much every dollar I get means to me, so your generosity is appreciated. I also love to write for people and hopefully improve their worlds a bit, so I like to hope this is a win-win situation. :)

Finally, here's a round-up of stuff:

-Still reading for the Buffy-inspired poetry anthology. Email me at the address I just gave above if you have a submission.

-My Kickstarter to publish Pneumolalia! is still active:

-New interviews with Jolie Holland, Over the Rhine, and Times New Viking at Pop Matters: My contributor page

-Review of Peter RIchards' Helsinki in the new Sink Review: Sink Review

-Poem at Ghost Ocean Magazine

-And, as always, tons of great music interviews at Euterpe's Notebook.

Thanks for reading, and hope you get the good candy when you trick-or-treat.