Every summer I’ve experienced has a soundtrack that goes with it. Whether it’s Dog Days Are Over during the summer of 2011 or Golden Boy during Summer 2017, there has always been a summer theme song. Pop radio also participates in the “song of the summer” phenomenon, anxiously waiting to see which song will go viral with the masses.
Even though most of us in Summer 2020 aren’t doing what we originally planned, the summer still deserves an awesome soundtrack. I’ve discovered a new sound in my Spotify mixes during my time spent alone at home and, may I say, they’re all bops. Here are my picks:
~how i’m feeling~ by Lauv
Lauv’s sophomore album is the equivalent of a deep breath for your ears. The entire album is easy to listen to, fun, and hits those seldom discussed emotions everyone feels. He teams up with multiple artists for duets including Alessia Cara on Canada and Anne-Marie on fuck, i’m lonely.
Two standout songs off the album are Modern Loneliness and Billy. Billy is a buoyant song where the protagonist leaves behind a past where he was bullied, taking that negative energy to fuel him to strive for better things in life. The beat behind it is infectious, and paired with the dual level of synths underneath, it makes for a song that is often stuck in one’s head.
Modern Loneliness is the final song on the album and serves as a thesis statement for the intersection of Lauv’s internal feelings and how the current generation interacts with each other. The song begins morosely, just Lauv and a piano reflecting on how he’s become the person he is. It gets an uplifting injection of guitar after the first chorus, opening up into an enveloping sound by the second. He, and the gang vocals behind him, very aptly state that the current generation is “never alone, but always depressed.” The song is comforting, reflective, and saddening for the listener and the artist alike.
Quinn XCII has been a mainstay of my summer listening. His orchestrations are diverse: in a single song, he has soaring strings incorporated with a pan flute as the main percussive beat and even adds accents from a harp. The acoustic instruments blend seamlessly into the otherwise electronic landscape of Flare Guns.
If musical experimentation isn’t your cup of tea, try Stacy, the lead single off his newest album A Letter To My Younger Self. The gentle keys draw you in for a peaceful yet intriguing listening experience. Notice the multiple guitar effects to create layers under the poppy drums and back vocals. The sound is enveloping and fun, as with the rest of Quinn XCII’s music.
His music is beautiful. Above and below the surface, there is so much depth to his songs. One can listen actively or passively and still gain value because of how well constructed his songs are, but I suggest truly listening in to the extra touches that are meticulously placed throughout every song.
Level of Concern by Twenty One Pilots
Twenty One Pilots is pretty well-known across the radio waves. I haven’t been the largest fan of their music post-Blurryface, but Level of Concern is a certified quarantine bop.
The song is written during and for the experience of quarantine. The overall story of the lyrics don’t seem cohesive, but separate bits make sense. Musically, each part of the song effortlessly melts into the next. The electric guitars set a static chord progression throughout except for the bridge. The piano leading the bridge into the final chorus is the aural version of twinkling stars. Listen for similar piano notes during the second chorus to tie the song together.
This playlist is Spotify specific because it’s automatically generated by them. It has the perfect spread of good summer vibes from Bryce Vine to AJR, The Band CAMINO, and PEABOD.
The lead song the playlist is based off of, Playlist by Kid Quill, is a jubilant nod to the club music of the early 2000’s. If you need a theme song for your socially distant beach trip, this is the song you should be blasting. The three chord repetition in the keys keeps a peppy thread throughout the song, leading into the outro which samples OutKast’s So Fresh, So Clean and Nelly’s Ride Wit Me among others.
Other notable songs on the playlist include 100 Bad Days by AJR and La La Land by Bryce Vine. The throbbing bass uniquely creates almost a ‘negative soundscape’ during the verse of La La Land under the light guitars which is contrasted by the full sound of the chorus. The song is done with tact, ensuring the chorus does not accost the listener, then returning to the bass line of the verse in anticipation of the bridge.
If you’re wondering why a pop/rock band such as AJR belongs on a playlist with easy summer hip hop jams, look no further than the first fifteen seconds of 100 Bad Days. The synths throughout the song seamlessly integrate it with the rest of the playlist. The horns and the bass in the swell of the chorus remind the listener of the previous song on the playlist, La La Land, proving that good vibes are not confined to a single genre.
The playlist rounds itself out with the complex sound of Jon Bellion. Stupid Deep acts as an equalizer that calms the listener from some of the more sprightly songs, while still maintaining the simple, positive energy that this playlist invokes.
Most of these songs aren’t within a genre I would normally listen to. My music taste mainly focuses around alternative rock, musicals, and male British singer/songwriters. However, I love all these new music finds, and I’ve discovered that they aren’t too far away from music I already listen to. It juxtaposes Summer 2020: even though I’m not doing what I originally planned, I’ve still found happiness in the different and unusual. With this new music, let’s all find the silver lining in our lives and listen to some good vibes.
An Athlete’s Guide to Self-Sufficiency and Mental Resilience
With Angelo Rossetti
by Abigail Roth and Angelo Rossetti
Lockdown has undoubtedly been a difficult time for everyone, especially those who have been prohibited from doing what they love. Athletes, specifically, and those who enjoy sports just for fun, have been unable to join together with their teammates and friends, and have had to put their athletic development and goals on hold. Now, as athletic centers begin to open and gatherings are increasingly permitted across the U.S., sports lovers will be able to get back out there and work on their skills. It is during this time of reopening that I was able to speak with the greatest influence in my athletic endeavors, tennis instructor and author extraordinaire, Angelo Rossetti. An inspirational man on and off the court, Angelo has been developing a teaching method that helps athletes get in the best mental shape to perform on the court, field, or track. He has named it The 3-2-1 Method, and it encourages an athlete to self-coach as they work on different tasks, promoting mental and emotional resiliency. I asked him about his new book, Tennacity: The Tenacious Mindset On & Off the Court, and how his methods can be applicable to people like you and me who are looking to get back out and play.
Q: Hi there, Angelo. Tell me a bit about yourself.
A: I was certified over 25 years ago as a United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) Elite as well as a Professional Tennis Registry (PTR) and United States Tennis Association (USTA) High Performance & Mental Skills certified teaching professional. I am a 2X Guinness World Records™ titleholder of two different tennis titles; the Longest Tennis Rally (25,944 strokes lasting 14 hours and 31 minutes) and the Longest Tennis Volley Rally (30,576 volleys lasting 5 hours and 28 minutes), both of which acted as fundraisers for charity. I studied to be a Dale Carnegie instructor, as I wanted to learn and teach the best ways to learn! I was elected in 2017 as one of the youngest Presidents of USTA Connecticut (2018-2020). I was a Division 1 player at the University of Connecticut, where I earned a B.S. degree in Sports Science with a concentration in Sports Marketing. I have been awarded multiple prestigious awards by the USTA; the one I am most proud of is the 2005 USTA Sportsmanship Award. In 2007, my identical twin brother, Ettore, and I were ranked #1 in New England Men’s Open Doubles and I was top 10 in singles. One of my other proud accomplishments was earning the National 2016 USPTA Lessons for Life Award by helping raise over $112,000 for the nonprofit organization Save the Children. I’ve coached women’s teams and captained and played on 5.0 and Open USTA men’s teams. I have a passion for speaking, having done so five times at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI, as well as at the Connecticut Invention Convention at UConn’s Gampel Pavilion. I am philanthropic-minded and still raise money for causes I care about, most recently helping to generate close to 3,000 petition signatures and going on a media tour to help save UConn tennis. I have coached not only tennis but basketball, soccer, and lacrosse. I live in Hamden with my wife and two children, a daughter, Madison (Maddie) and son, Andrew (Andy). I have a passion for caring for and inspiring people at every age, on and off the court. I believe strongly in the 4 Gs: Get a Dream, Goal Set, Goal Get, and Give Back, which leads to success in tennis and in life. I love sharing ideas via the written word.
Q: What is the 3-2-1 Method and how did you come up with it? How has it been helpful to you as a coach during lessons?
A: The 3-2-1 method is a way to learn quicker, more effectively, from the inside out rather than the outside in. It allows the student to be more aware of what’s happening so that they can coach themselves in matches. It was originally inspired by Tim Gallwey, author of the Inner Game of Tennis, and then crystallized while getting to know and hit with Sean Brawley, who was mentored by Tim. I have read the Inner Game of Tennis several times as the mental aspect was the strongest part of my game according to my coach and teammates when I played at UConn. I was interested in learning and teaching others to be mentally strong and resilient, especially under pressure. Mental strength and emotional resilience is something extremely important now with the “new normal” of dealing with COVID-19.
The key to coaching or teaching athletes is having them learn to “control the controllables;” which leads to stronger skill acquisition and retention. What’s important is not doing everything right but focusing on the right things. But what are the right things? If someone isn’t aware of something, then it doesn’t exist in their mind’s eye. Just like a magician uses misdirection to set the audience up for their trick, we as tennis coaches must have our players avoid the pitfalls of focusing on the wrong things, that is, technique or the result.
As an example, let’s discuss the point of contact (P.O.C.), or the placement of the tennis ball on the strings of the racquet. When you hit the ball on the sweet spot call out “3.” When you hit the ball just off the center of the sweet spot call out “2.” When you hit the ball on any part of the frame then call out “1”. I make players promise that they won’t use the result (whether the ball was hit in the net or out) as a bias for their number. A solid 3 hit into the bottom of the net is still a 3. The two goals are the accuracy of awareness and improvement of the number of point-of-contact hits. If you hit the frame and call out “3,” then something needs to be adjusted and if you hit the sweet spot and call out “1,” something was awry as well. Over time you want to get more 3s and 2s, and less 2s and 1s. Every hit should have a number called out to ensure that the player is focused on every shot. Have them call it out as soon as they know. This is helpful because the sooner you know the quality of your shot in competition, the earlier your anticipation, which helps with improved preparation for your next shot. Try not to have the players call it out too early; that is, guess. Also, try not to have them call it out too late; that is, delayed awareness or reaction.
You are removing opinion and replacing it with fact and perception. A “1” shot isn’t bad; it just is a “1” or it just is, what it is. Keep in mind that you are not correcting if the number is incorrect. This is not about “fixing” anything; nothing is broken. It is about a sense of being, mindfulness, fine-tuning, refining and honing your awareness. Not correcting, refining. Not fixing, fine-tuning. Remove “good,” “bad,” “wrong,” or “right.” It just is what it is.
Next, ask these crucial questions:
1. Was it easy or difficult to call out the number?
2. Did you remember to always call out the number?
3. How were you able to call out the number? (visual, auditory,
or kinesthetic awareness)
4. Were the numbers increasing over time? If they did, they improved.
The beautiful thing about this method is that you can apply 3-2-1 to any shot, strategy, or circumstance. Your game, whatever it may be, will improve once you refine your awareness. In addition, you aren’t focusing on the many things that would be negative distractions; who is watching you, what the score is, how poorly your doubles partner is playing, if your opponent is being coached, bad line calls, etc. In other words, if you focus on 3-2-1, you can’t focus on the negative things that would deteriorate your game. This gradually removes counter-productive emotions and replaces them with logical thinking and fact.
Q: Tell me a bit about tennacity.org and your book! How and when did you decide to focus on these projects?
A: Over ten years ago I told my brother Ettore that I wanted to write a book. He said, “Well if you set a world record first, then you can write your book.” We set the U.S. record for the longest tennis rally in 2007 but it wasn’t until August of 2008 when we set our second record did I know that a book was inevitable. It took me a while to make the commitment to it but once I did it took me about four years to finish my book, Tennacity: The Tenacious Mindset On & Off the Court, which is available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble. I would like to give thanks, also, to USA Olympic Gold Medalist Laura Wilkinson, whose course, “The Confident Competitor” helped me get over the last hurdle toward publishing the book.I also purposely started a blog, www.tennacity.org, to force myself to regularly put my thoughts, insights, and inspirations into writing. I wrote about one new article per month, which typically represented a new chapter in the book. I will be launching an online course named after the book that will stem from the blog, so definitely check it out!
Q: In these strange coronavirus times, how can athletes stay mentally sharp and strong even when they may not be able to get out and play/practice?
A: Athletes can journal every day to be aware of what they are thinking. Monitoring positive self-talk and rephrasing negative, counter-productive thoughts to positive ones is key to strengthening any athlete’s mental game. I actually created the “10 Coronavirus Controllables” (below) to help athletes with being both positive and productive during these challenging times. I believe that people should focus on improving themselves and comparing themselves with only themselves. You won’t have time to worry about others, but rather, you’ll stay focused on being the best that you can be on the field or court and off.
The 10 Coronavirus Controllables
#1. BE AWARE OF WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
Ask yourself when you start to feel anxious or worried “Is there something that I can do RIGHT NOW to remedy this?” If not, then it’s an uncontrollable. It is what it is, shift your focus to your controllables.
#2. CONTROL YOUR CONTROLLABLES
Once you know what your controllables are, control them. You can control your attitude, effort, grit, resilience, joy, and being present. Be aware of the world around you but don’t control others. Focus on controlling what you can – YOU.
#3. PROCRASTINATE YOUR WORRY
Use natural procrastination to your advantage. Put off your worry of your uncontrollables to a future date … and maybe that date will never come.
#4. BE PRODUCTIVE
If you can structure your day you’ll be in a better mindset. Small successes and accomplishments will lead to positive energy and emotions. Create daily routines and stick to a daily schedule, even though it may be drastically different than what it was in the past.
#5. PRACTICE GRATITUDE & FORGIVENESS
It’s scientifically proven that expressing gratitude puts you in a better mindset. Come up with at least one specific thing that you are grateful for and write it down or act on it like sending a thank you note, checking up on someone, or just being thoughtful. Life is too short to hold grudges or worry about what people think of you. Forgive others for something that may be festering. It will not only make them feel better but it will make you feel better.
#6. BE EMPATHETIC
Ask others how you can help them. This is a great way to hone your listening skills. Be PRESENT for others and for yourself. The best way to help yourself is to help others. We are all in this together. Together we make each other better.
#7. READ MORE
This is the ideal time to finish the book you’re on or pick up a new book to dive into. Time block at least 10 minutes per day for reading or listening to audiobooks or podcasts.
#8. MAKE JOURNALING A HABIT
Having a daily journal can help with jotting down ideas, inspirational quotes, reflections, how you can reinvent yourself and how to become a better and stronger you. Even if it’s using it as a way to meditate, reflect, or express gratitude, journaling is a positive habit to continue to develop.
You can be aware of what’s going on with COVID-19 but don’t focus on it (unless you are a doctor or healthcare professional). Focus on your purpose and what’s really important to you now more than ever, even if you have to reinvent yourself. Become the best YOU that you can be.
#10. FIND YOUR JOY – LIVE ON PURPOSE WITH PURPOSE
Stay focused on what’s unique about you. Double-down on your purpose and inspire others in the process. Reflect on how your purpose in life helps others. Be present to allow yourself to enjoy every moment, no matter how difficult.
Normal People is a story worth knowing. Written in 2018 by Sally Rooney, it explores the tumultuous relationship between Marianne and Connell, two Irish students who go through high school and college together. After becoming a New York Times Best Seller, it became a television show on Hulu that premiered at the end of April. I first heard about it when it was featured in model Kaia Gerber’s Instagram Live book club, where actors Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal (who are Marianne and Connell in the show, respectively) made an appearance to discuss the show. Both the book and the show are riveting and ultimately it is your preference whether or not you want to read it and visualize the story yourself, or watch how it is portrayed on the screen.
What is it about?
Marianne and Connell are two people who come from different backgrounds and have different social lives. Their story begins in 2011. In the town of Sligo, Ireland, their lives merge through their parents’ connection. The story starts off during the end of high school and goes until the end of college at Trinity College in Dublin. They have an on-again-off-again relationship throughout the book/show but they always remain friends. Readers and viewers can expect to see Marianne and Connell grow over time and how they adapt to each other despite their differences.
Reading the book went by quickly. It was difficult to put down since it was fun to read and easy to comprehend. Unlike the television series, the reader can experience the inner thoughts of Marianne and Connell, especially with their relationships with other people; Marianne has a terrible relationship with her older brother and mother, and Connell has a close relationship with his mother and a complicated relationship with his friends. It can also be easy to read over certain parts of the story that tie it together; for example, Marianne dealing with her aloof mother and talking about her father’s death is better experienced by seeing. However, reading can help experience events in the book in a creative way. Imagining what the lecture halls, apartments, and even parties are like can be fun, even if they end up being nothing like what the television show portrayed.
The TV show showed how different perspectives can be. As a college student in the United States, it can be difficult to visualize both high school and college life in Ireland. For example, colleges in the U.S. are based around a central campus, and colleges in Ireland are more centered around the city. The buildings featured in the show were older than I expected and looked more classic, and the apartments were different than I could have imagined. Certain scenes provoked emotion that I otherwise would not have known by reading the book. When Marianne is talking with Connell at the coffee shop, the camera and background add power to their conversation, and seeing characters cry, as sad as it sounds, adds more emotion to the story and makes me think more deeply about the things happening in the show. Both actors, Daisy Edgar-Jones portraying Marianne and Paul Mescal portraying Connell, did a lovely job and it was better than I could ever imagine, since it felt so real. Not to mention that the show has great music choices throughout the episodes; I forgot about Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek”, along with music by Kanye West, Frank Ocean, and Selena Gomez. I also discovered new music such as “Everything I Am is Yours” by Villagers, an indie Irish band. The combination of the cinematography, music, dramatic pauses, and actors transported me to a different story than I experienced reading the book. It felt so familiar yet so different at the same time.
So… which is better: the book or the television show?
Overall, it is your preference whether you want to read the book or watch the television series on Hulu. Both offer a beautiful story about friendship in different ways, but you will not be disappointed with either option. Throughout the last month in what seems to be a never-ending pandemic, Normal People has kept my mind off of what has been happening. If you want my opinion though? I would say the book was easier to get through, and perhaps it was because I read the book first and by the time I watched the television series, I already knew the story. This is not to say, however, that the show was bad; the cinematography in the show enhanced the characters and scenery and is a high-quality show. Sally Rooney is a talented author, and Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald are brilliant directors that brought the story to life.
Meditation, previously seen in the West as something more New Age than mainstream, has been around for thousands of years and is inherently the basis of most of the world’s faith systems. Meditation has seen a rise in popularity in recent years, especially in Western culture, as it has become increasingly connected with stress reduction and a boost in overall well-being. In a time of constant technological bombardment, reconnecting with space itself seems only wise. Add in the constant feelings of being stuck indoors and it makes sense to re-embrace the feelings long lost.
However, there is no singular way to approach meditation, even if you are just coming into it for the first time. There is no right way to meditate. As an associate professor of religious studies Elaine Yuen, Ph.D. puts it, “The purpose of meditation is to bring a sense of calmness and awareness.” (1) As someone that practices meditation myself, let’s work through some of the basic components that will allow you to find peace in a time of Zoom calls and screen staring.
What position do you find yourself most relaxed in? Are you the kind of person for whom a walk promotes your stress relief? Would you rather find yourself unmoving, cemented in place as the world moves around you?
These questions do not need to be yes or no answers. For some it can be a mix, or it might depend on your mood on any given day. As long as you get into a mediation rhythm, position can vary. For me personally, I enjoy a walk to get away from the computer, and sitting meditation before bed.
If you go with walking, where are you going to do it? Are you the kind of person for whom nature is the key to meditation, or are you someone who needs the power of a city to relax? For me here in New London, I love the Connecticut College Arboretum for some long weekend walking meditation.
If you do choose to go the unmoving route, what position are you going to remain in? For some, cross-legged meditation is preferable, but others find that it can be straining on the joints. Laying down can be a valid option, as it lessens the stress on the body as a whole.
A word of note, please do not feel guilty if in the process of meditation you happen to doze off. It happens to everyone, and perhaps it just means that your body needed just a bit more of a deep meditation.
Indoors or Outdoors
Where do you want to be when you commit to mediation? Is your home a comfortable space for you to exist and be in? Do you feel that you need to separate your mediation from your home? Do you have the ability to mediate outdoors safely?
While nature for some provides the purest connection to the earth as a whole, others find the comfort of home to allow for the mind to feel at ease. For some, it may be an accessibility issue, living in a place where outdoor access may prove difficult.
If meditating inside, I find it helpful to designate a space for it. Somewhere where your mind enters a meditative state when you enter the space. For me it’s the corner of my room, and I keep it clear so that my mind may also remain clear while within the space.
Sound or Silence
Do you find it hard to focus without something to focus on? Do you find relaxing moments in the purest of silence? What makes it possible for you to focus?
For some, absolute silence is needed for their minds to come to a point of ease. Yet for others, something has to exist in the space for their mind to be at rest. Guided meditations are wonderful, and it sounds odd but certain voices work better for some than others. As a transwoman, I find that a woman’s voice puts me in a calmer place than a man’s, for instance. Everyone is different, and for some people, simple white noise or classical music provides enough of a focal point with which to focus from, no voice needed.
The tougher the day for me, the more I find I need some sort of noise to occupy my mind. When walking, I like the sound of rain (over, of course, actually walking in the rain). For indoors, a fan running behind me will do nicely.
I am no expert, but these observations come from years of practice. Like anything, meditation just takes time. You just need to find your rhythm, and let yourself flow. There is no wrong way to do meditation, just as long as you are doing it.
One piece of advice that has helped me immensely is that when you get those intrusive thoughts that come up, do not just ignore them. Like a dam, they will build up until it makes it impossible to focus on your breathing. Instead, acknowledge its presence, saying something to yourself like “I see you, thought, but I will come back to you later.” This simple act allows for your mind to return to a sense of ease, much like this rock as it balances, creating a lovely alcove.
Remember, the key to meditating is just to do it. Let yourself find the way that works for you, and change if you feel like you need to. Let it be a place where you can just be you, and let your mind come to ease away from the world of technology that controls our every moment. Just breathe, and keep on going, whether that be for 15 minutes or an hour.
Are you looking for something to do while you’re baking, cleaning, working out, or laying around? Is learning from Zoom University not doing enough for you? Try a podcast! With this list ranging from news podcasts to celebrity interviews to everything in between, you’re sure to find something great for the next time you need to bake some banana bread.
1. Harry Potter at Home: Readings – Harry Potter the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone
If you read Harry Potter as a child, you’re reading it right now, or you have never read it, this podcast is for you. You can feel nostalgic while listening to the first Harry Potter book being read by notable names in the Harry Potter world such as Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter in the Harry Potter series), Noma Dumezweni (Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), and many more.
2. Secret Leaders by Dan Murray-Serter, Rich Martell
Learn about famous, successful people from the UK and US and their careers. This podcast gives listeners an inside look on just what it takes to make a successful entrepreneur. After listening, you’ll be able to take your banana bread hobby and turn it into your next business venture. My personal favorite episode? Slack: How to Work Remotely and Stay Productive with Cal Henderson.
3. Ologies with Alie Ward
Learn about different “ologies” from philematology (the science of kissing) to quantum ontology (the science of what is real) from special guests in this podcast. Hear Alie Ward ask scientists questions about topics you never knew you needed to know about. My recent favorite is Nasology (Taxidermy) with Allis Markham.
4. Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby! A Greek & Roman Mythology Podcast By Liv, Greek Mythology Geek
If you read Percy Jackson as a kid, or didn’t and are regretting it now, this podcast will inform you on everything myths—casually. Fuel your inner historian by listening to a contemporary take on Greek and Roman myths.
5. The Espresso Series By Honor Crean and Grace Volante
This is a podcast with everything you need from two students at the University of Edinburgh: original music recommendations, special guests with interesting untold stories to tell, news pieces and more.
6. Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard
Dax Shepard interviews different famous names in pop culture, food, politics and more about their lives, with a personal twist that is innately human.
7. Don’t Blame Me! By Meghan Rienks
Youtuber and influencer Meghan Rienks takes calls and gives people advice. Listen to anything from dating advice to advice on navigating friendship from the perspective of someone who feels like a big sister.
8. My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
If you haven’t heard of this podcast, now is the perfect time. Feel like you’re talking to friends while you hear about true crime stories you may not have heard of from two women who approach each story with a serious yet sarcastic twist.
TRIGGER WARNING: Deals with graphic stories of homicide and violence.
9. I Weigh with Jameela Jamil
Jameela Jamil challenges society’s opinions of weight by speaking to influential people about their value—beyond what the scale says. Listen to interviews with people like Reese Witherspoon and Beanie Feldstein and hear about what they weigh.
10. The Daily by The New York Times
A daily podcast about important news stories of our time. Stay informed about both national and global news with a 20-50-minute clip including information from amazing journalists.
11. Pod Save America by Crooked Media
This podcast comes from President Obama’s former aides and features many journalists who give you an inside scoop of the news, tell you exactly what you need to know, and how to do something about it.
12. Dirty John by LA Times
Hosted by a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist, Dirty John is a true crime podcast from 2017 about John Meehan’s marriage to Debra Newell and the abuse and manipulation which came from their relationship.
TRIGGER WARNING: Graphic depictions of abuse, homicide, and violence.
My acoustic guitar is older than I am; a gift passed down from my aunt during the summer I turned fifteen. I spent hours sitting at my desk, teaching myself with Google, manipulating my fingers to stretch just right to get the trickier chords. I was never great at guitar, but that was fine by me; I just liked to sing in my room, strumming along to my favourite songs with chords that might not have been entirely correct.
As high school wore on, my guitar sat untouched for months, and then years. It was only once I was nearly 21 and the pandemic hit that I had reason to give my hobby another try. This time, I would be better. This time, I had help.
Max Kerman, frontman of Canadian rock band Arkells, has taken to flattening the curve in his own way. Every day at 1 pm EDT, he takes to Instagram live with his guitar to teach viewers how to play different Arkells songs, before allowing fans to join him on the livestream to ask questions or make requests.
I first saw Arkells in concert in Calgary, February 2019. My long-distance friend Kira flew in from Vancouver on a whim; we had both heard their most recent album and rather enjoyed it, so we figured, why not? What we didn’t know was that we were about to see the best live performance of our young lives. From that night on, we were hooked. The experience both strengthened our connection as friends, but solidified Arkells as one of Canada’s best musical talents, in my humble opinion. From there, Kira and I went on to see them at One Weekend Only, an intimate win-to-get-in show unlike anything we had ever seen before – or ever would again.
Kira (left) and I from the front row at One Weekend Only. Photo courtesy of Sam Phelps.
Arkells, named after Arkell Street in their hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, is made up of vocalist Max Kerman, guitarist Mike DeAngelis, bass player Nick Dika, drummer Tim Oxford and keyboardist Anthony Carone. They’ve been on the music scene since 2006, releasing their first album, Jackson Square, in 2008. Like many first albums, Jackson Square packs a punch with classic rock influences in the raw vocals of “Oh, The Boss is Coming!” and songs like “The Ballad of Hugo Chavez” sprinkling in a touch of Motown (And yes, The Ballad of Hugo Chavez is about the Venezuelan President as a political prisoner.) Since then, Arkells have released a total of five albums: 2014’s High Noon won them the Juno Award for both Group of the Year and Rock Album of the Year, and their most recent release, Rally Cry, has taken them on a Canadian Tour that featured their largest performance to date at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
But it isn’t just their well-crafted lyrics and performance energy that make Arkells special. They are known for their fantastic fan interaction. With nearly 100k followers on Instagram and 75k followers on Twitter, it would be easy for fan messages and tweets to be lost to the void of the internet, but they like and respond as often as they can. And, with COVID-19, are taking these interactions one step further with their online music classes.
The first class was on March 14th and followed a simple layout: Kerman taught the chords to And Then Some, which had also been put to paper and posted to Instagram by Carone, and from there he nervously opened the livestream for questions.
“Okay guys, I’m really trusting you here,” he said, evidently nervous.
But the live question segment went fine, and continued to go fine because when Max Kerman asks you to behave on Instagram live, you don’t want to let him down.
I was a lucky viewer who got to ask Max a question. I asked if they let people know when their names end up in songs. He told me that nothing they write is scathing enough that they have ever had to.
The next few days covered some of the big hits like Leather Jacket, People’s Champ, and recent single Years in the Making, and as time went on, fans were treated to deeper cuts such as Making Due, Heart of the City and Hangs the Moon. Another added treat is that Kerman began inviting special guests to join in that he himself would interview. A particular highlight was Tessa Virtue, who inadvertently confirmed her relationship with hockey player Morgan Reilly, and child fashion icon Dylan, who managed to upstage Kerman with his impeccable style and confidence.
Kerman is also using his influence to make social change. Arkells partnered with RBC to raise money for Food Banks Canada. Fans were encouraged to upload a picture or video of their creative endeavours from quarantine with the hashtag #ftcmusicclass, and RBC would donate $100 for each tag, up to $25,000. The money was raised within days. The band has also released a limited edition Arkells x YMCA T-shirt, from which all proceeds will go to the agency’s online programs.
My days don’t have much structure anymore. I’ve been laid off from my job, and my university classes are done for the semester. Just a few months ago, I barely had time to sit down and breathe and now I have all the free time in the world. It has been a peculiar adjustment, to say the least. But it’s comforting to know that every day, without fail, I can pick up my guitar and learn something new from my favourite band.