This summer has been a lucky one, as far as music goes. Three of my favorite artists have dropped new albums, and they all have their share of genius. In May, Mary Lambert released Bold, a rock-band follow-up to her brilliant debut. Jason Isbell released The Nashville Sound in June, but I was busy, and I’m just now listening to many of the most tender and introspective tracks. Josh Ritter just last week released Gathering, a slower-paced, more reflective offering than 2015’s Sermon on the Rocks.
These are the songs that will bring me back to my Baltimore summer, this hazy, humid interstice during which I am both lonely and not lonely, employed but rarely accountable for how I spend my time, living in community and in a tiny bubble of my own. I’m learning important things about how to be a person, and this music is both a lens and a mirror-frame for that long, tiresome, necessary process. Of course, it’s not just the latest releases that I’m listening to. I have very little music on my phone, which has the unintended, but happy, consequence of helping shape a pretty coherent soundtrack for the summer. Here’s what I listen to while bouncing joyfully over potholes and revving up hills while my heart leaps ahead:
- Secrets, Mary Lambert, good for late-night drives and early-morning bike rides, both
- The Essential Mary Chapin Carpenter — although it also brings me back to my bike trip over the Smokies with Eric, which may remain my best and only bike vacation forever
- The Oh Hellos’ self-titled EP
- Hozier’s self-titled hit album
- Southeastern by Jason Isbell, which has accompanied the entire ridiculous peregrination from my last days in Burlington to here
But in the kitchen, it’s Lori McKenna, the Weepies, Angel Haze and the three new albums. I’ve also been listening to Clipping, who I first heard a few weeks ago, like every other This American Life fan in the country. I’m in the kitchen a lot, but it’s not that I’m cooking again; I very rarely cook right now, for a host of reasons, only some of which I know. But I do wash the dishes, clean the fridge, and perform a variety of other tasks that I have come to realize are spiritual in nature — at least for me, this wayward flower child so often enraged by the senselessness of civilized life. I have been neglecting these spiritual duties, so it’s no wonder I’ve been feeling adrift. Composting is hard in the city of rats. Cleaning is hard in a collective house where only a few of us seem to care. It’s easier to let it go, be satisfied feeding myself, put the recycling in the bin and call it a day, but it’s been eroding my purposefulness over time.
I realized this all of a sudden a couple of days ago when I found myself fighting back tears while trying to explain to Matt why I don’t make jam right now. I didn’t actually know why I don’t make jam right now, and I don’t know now, but I do know that not being in the kitchen deprives me of a pretty essential part of life that I call religious in my head and self-correct to spiritual. It’s something about the combination of ritual, satisfaction, and necessity. I came back to my collective armed with a little bit more knowledge about who I am and what I need, and I cleaned our fairly disgusting fridge and sorted everything into humans, hens, rabbits, and compost. No trash. ❤