Cardigans & Edicts & MUCH Advice

We don’t want to open every week’s newsletter with “It’s been quite a week!”
But.
IT’S BEEN QUITE A WEEK, Y’ALL.
So what we needed, more than anything in the world, was an analysis of every color of cardigan Mr. Rogers wore from 1979-2001.

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If all that piece contained was this gif, <Hamilton Reference> That Would Be Enough. </Hamilton Reference>

We hope that charts marking when Mr. Rogers wore a red cardigan and when he wore a blue have the same salutary effect on your blood pressure that they had on ours.

We will be taking next Friday off so that Dame Margaret can lose her mind over seeing Solange and Chance in the same day, and so that Dame Sophie (& her daughter!) can enjoy her 20-year college reunion , but we’ll be back to newslettering on June 2nd! Have a wonderful Memorial Day, USA Dames! Have a splendid weekend, everyone!


DO NOT FORGET! #TenDames approaches in just over TWO WEEKS!

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As (tragically) true now as it was when Kat first shouted it in 1999.

Come one, come all, to livetweet the movie that led directly to Dame Margaret consciously identifying as a feminist: the 1999 teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You! The first in an moderately inexplicable mini-trend of teen movies based on Shakespeare plays, which was more common than you probably remember, this VERY LOOSE adaptation of _The Taming of the Shrew_ introduced a whole generation of teenagers to both Heath Ledger’s dimples and the works of Betty Friedan. And it remains extremely charming. The details:

When: Sunday, June 4 at 7:30 PM ET
Where: Twitter, using #TenDames to make sure you see all the brilliant & cheeky insights from your fellow Dames Nationals
How: Netflix (or an obliging DVD)

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IT’S HERE! Ask Two Bossy Dames!

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We are JUST this wise and compassionate, even if we DON’T have the soulful beards to prove it.

THAT’S RIGHT! It’s that time of the every-other-month when we dip into the pile of questions our needy readers supply over at our handy-dandy google form and pick a couple lucky people to boss! Sit back and prepare to be enlightened!!

Hello lovely Dames,

Thank you so much for all of the work you put into the newsletter - reading it is a highlight of my week. This is more of a question for Dame M, although I'd love to hear from Dame S too if she has anything to say. I'll be living in Cambridge this summer for a summer internship at MIT, and I was hoping Dame M. could provide some recommendations/must-dos for the Cambridge and Boston area. Restaurants, museums, bookstores, sights, ways to spend a lazy Sunday - all ideas welcome and much appreciated. Thanks so much! - Kiely

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You, once you follow all of Dame Margaret's careful advice.

HI KIELY!

Welcome to the Greater Boston Area! Coming here during the summer is GREAT planning-- although it means you miss us at our Equinoctial Peaks of Beauty, autumn and spring (all three days of it we typically receive), it also means you miss all the undergraduates, so it balances out in the long run. Here is my WEIRD and BY NO MEANS comprehensive list of MOSTLY JUST THINGS I LIKE that you should do in the area:

  • The best thing we have in the world is our unusually high concentration of old-timey repertory movie houses. The Brattle in Harvard Square (nondescript building, but FLAWLESS programming), the Somerville in Davis Square (which shows both first run AND classic films, all for the lowest ticket prices in Boston), and the Coolidge in Coolidge Corner (the prettiest of the aforementioned theaters whose Big Screen Classics series is a highlight of EVERY summer) are all wonderful and ALL worth a visit-- especially when Boston’s combination of high humidity and insufficient air conditioning starts to get you down.

  • For bookstores, you will want to dedicate full hours to browsing at Harvard Book StorePorter Square BooksBrookline Booksmith, and Trident Booksellers & Cafe, each of which anchor a charming neighborhood full of other fun establishments of note. If you struck out to visit one, you’d find yourself with an afternoon as full of pleasant rambling as any you could hope for.

  • The Sinclair in Harvard Square is probably my favorite place in the city to see live music, and it’s also possessed of a passable cocktail menu and a charming rooftop bar. If anyone on that list of shows jumps out at you, grab yourself a ticket and check it out. If not, the drinks on the roof are still A+++.

  • Speaking of rooftop drinks, they can also be had at Felipe’s, whose $7.50 margaritas are VASTLY more potent than anything that cheap has a right to be, and Daedalus, both in Harvard Square.

  • But, honestly, if you’re partial to cocktails at all, you owe it to yourself to go to Green Street in Central Square-- the home of Cambridge’s longest standing liquor license!!--  and ask to see their extended cocktail menu. Outside, this place looks like a particularly unassuming dive. Inside, it’s actually all lovely dark wood and bartenders with good taste and the freedom to play whatever record suits them and a 6 page list of cocktails from throughout history, all to die for, all under $12. It is my favorite bar.

  • And it’s just down the street from my favorite ice cream place, Toscanini’s, where I highly recommend you get a scoop of the burnt caramel if it sounds even mildly appealing.

  • If you like board games, or are even MILDLY curious about them, you owe it to yourself to check out BoardGame Empire, a moving game night that sets up at Christopher’s Restaurant in Porter Square every Monday and at cool distilleries as requested. Spoiler: you will almost certainly see me here.

  • The most absolutely essential Sunday plan, the one I’ll even accompany you on (SCHEDULE PERMITTING!) is as follows: get yourself out to Sofra Bakery & Cafe on the very far edge of Cambridge on a Saturday or Sunday, a little early-- before 10:30 AM. Buy yourself one of their brown butter tahini donuts (only sold on weekends) and any other pastries or Middle Eastern specialitiesthat catch your eye. Then venture into Mount Auburn Cemetery for a good long wander-- I recommend tracking down all the memorials feature dog statues. I know it’s weird to be like “VISIT A CEMETERY!” but this one is special: it’s the first in the United States to embrace the Victorian idea of pastoral death, meaning it’s this beautiful sprawling park with streets like Halcyon Way and Laurel Path, and this ridiculous viewing tower in the center, and protected wetlands, and ornamental ponds, and this HUGE and tacky Sphinx statue and there just isn’t anything else quite like it anywhere else. And then, after you’ve browsed your fill, go BACK to Sofra and pick up a bag of their pita and as many dipping sauces from their refrigerated case as feels necessary and take them back to your apartment to consume. This is the best thing you can do in Boston. I promise.

  • BUT ALSO! You should take a ferry out to George’s Island, a dilapidated Civil War fort in the middle of Boston Harbor.

  • AND IF YOU CAN BEFORE JULY 9th (when the line closes down for renovations), take the commuter rail out to Singing Beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea. It is essential that it be this beach and essential that you take the commuter rail to reach it. The commuter rail ride is a crucial part of what makes this the perfect activity.

  • And if you’re doing either of those things, bring along a sandwich fromCardullo’s or Flour or Darwin’s, because there is nothing better than setting out for a day trip with a really good sandwich in your purse.

  • OR you can take advantage of Boston’s huge array of extremely beautiful public parks, all designed by noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead before he went on to do some other shitty park no one’s ever heard of in New York! The best ones are in Jamaica Plain, the neighborhood where I grew up, but if you are A Big Walker you can start your day by visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the Fenway and then walk on through as much of the Emerald Necklace as you want-- the Fens lead to the Riverway which leads to Olmstead Park which leads to Jamaica Pond which leads to the Arnold Arboretum, which is arguably my conception of heaven on earth. Each of these parks is worth visiting on its own (you can rent a sailboat for peanuts at Jamaica Pond!), but the Arboretum is the MOST special.

  • In specifically the MIT area, treat yourself to brunch at Mamaleh’s, breakfast for lunch or dinner at The Friendly Toast (but NEVER brunch, when it is a madhouse), and pizza at Area Four. And get your colleagues to take you out for beers at the Muddy Charles, a classroom that’s been converted into a bar which allows only people accompanied by someone with an MIT ID.

  • I could go on for hours, and will probably have MANY people writing in to provide Additional Tips, so PLEASE tweet at me so I can further elaborate! But for now, this is a VERY good list to start with. And I hope you have a wonderful time while you’re here.  

Dear Dames,
My style icons:

  • Peggy Carter

  • Chuck (from Pushing Daisies)

  • Ms. Frizzle

  • Padme Amidala

  • Claire Fraser

  • Iris Apfel

However, executing on this style is challenging given that I work in a conservative business to business casual office, and have recently been confronted with a case of the olds (cartilage tear in my hip!  a podiatrist that insists I wear orthotics!  throwing my back out!).  I am finding it increasingly challenging to feel like myself and also like myself in a sea of really ugly shoes and doctor's orders.  The head part of this problem is that I'm 31 and single, and would much rather be not single...and the whole swirl of life changes, physical therapy, and cartilage tears are forever makes me feel like the Queen of All the Old Spinsters on the Shelf.  Intellectually, I realize that's a bunch of BS, but I'm finding transferring that back into reality is hindered by a serious lack of shoe options that will jive with a workplace that expects pumps or classy flats, or at the very most casually, exceptionally chic sneakers.  It is so disheartening to search for hours and find expensive shoes that are barely office appropriate.

So: my questions...do you have any brilliant shoe or fashion advice for me?  As a cusp size, I do love and frequent eshakti, but I find most of the shoe possibilities I have look too casual with these sorts of work-appropriate dresses.  They can be just across the border of appropriate if I wear pants, but I'm just not big on trousers.  I should learn to be, I know, but dresses are my jam.  I've found the website Barking Dog Shoes to be quite helpful, but also can be a little matronly (not their fault!  I blame the shoe companies).  The one pair of shoes I have found that reliably goes with dresses is these Ecco silver sneakers:

www.6pm.com/p/ecco-touch-sneaker-silver-metallic/product/8636234/color/934

And of course, I adore a good accessory, and find them to be a great way to put a little bit more of me out there, but one still must wear clothes.  

Any thoughts?  Thanks Dames!
Totally Not On The Shelf & KNOWS IT

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Based on your icons, this much we know is true.

Dear Not On The Shelf,

First of all, how much do we love that you put your style inspirations right up front? As wide-ranging cultural advisors, we really appreciate you laying out your appeal factors right off the bat. This is so helpful!

Now, as to your actual footwear conundrum, we’d like to reframe embracing sensible shoes as an act of sartorial defiance. Instead of buying into the idea that orthopedic shoes will make you appear irrevocably uncool, embrace the potential YOU as an individual have to redefine their semiotics by refusing to be limited by their reputation. Since your body is doing the things bodies are notorious for doing - namely, falling to pieces - you really do need to take care of your feet so that they’ll take care of the rest of you. Dame Sophie has lived through thrown-out backs, a broken foot-bone and physical therapy. She also has big feet (which grew a half-size during pregnancy, something __nobody tells you can happen__), now wears custom orthotics in her sneakers and limits her daily & fancy footwear to such very practical entries as these alligator patent leather clogs and these 70s-type sandals(in coral and in mint, how de-groooovy). She chooses to view this as embracing the limitations of her form and it’s been part of her look for so long - nigh on 12 years now - that nobody bats an eye (and frankly, if they did, she would back them down with a frosty glare).

And Dame Sophie is far from alone-- orthopedic clogs and the many sandal variations thereof are hugely popular among librarians, young and old alike, because of the amount of standing and walking about the job demands. Which means that there are already plenty of stylish women out there refusing to accept that an accessory that says “I must now take care of my body” must also mean “I have therefore given up on being perceived as cool and attractive”-- all you have to do is clog up and join them. As with most new things, the first time you wear clogs (or whatever type of foot-friendly shoe you embrace) with a garment you’d previously imagined they _couldn’t_ be paired with, it will look weird. The first time Dame Margaret wore sneakers with a dress, it looked a bit weird to her, and she felt funny about it. But once the newness of the action wears off, so will the weirdness-- just ask Dame Sophie.

Or look to your stated fashion icon, Iris Apfel. While she has turned her coke-bottle thick glasses into the cornerstone of her look, she initially wore those glasses because she had to. And coming of age in midcentury America, she would have had to contend with a whole host of hostile semiotics surrounding them just like the ones you’re currently reckoning with while shopping for orthopedic footwear. Rather than surrendering to the tide of public opinion, however, Iris confidently put HER mark on glasses rather than allowing them to put THEIR mark on her. We have every confidence that you can, and will, pull off the same trick.

In addition to the mental adjustment advised above, we further advise making an investment in another pair or two of shoes that will treat you well and that will last for several years. For inspiration, you can also take those silver sneakers that you like & that work for work to a specialty shoe store (Dame Sophie is a fan of Nordstrom, and of getting a shoe shop recommendation from your podiatrist; they always know where to go) and say “I need something this good!”

Because even Iris knows: 

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Dame Margaret’s 32 Birthday Edicts

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#Birthday #Goals

So, tomorrow, I turn 32. And, for passing reasons I won’t get into here, it’s been a bit of a tumultuous week for me. But one of the highlights was when, simply because she spotted me raving about their show the night prior, my friend Vicki went out to see the band San Fermin and ended up loving them. THANKS TO ME! Someone new FELL IN LOVE WITH A THING I LOVE! So I thought “How can I extend that experience?” and I realized “I KNOW, by making a list of 32 things I love that I wish more people knew and encouraging everyone who subscribes to our newsletter to celebrate me by trying out at least one!” HENCE, my list of 32 Edicts, because I can only be the monster I am:

  1. I could feign more modesty than I feel about the work Sophie and I do here, or the work I do with Andrew and Kathryn on our podcast, Appointment Television, but the fact is I am very proud of said work, and I would love more people to know of it. So maybe: forward our letter to a friend you think might like it, or revisit my writing in Praise of Dandies, on how to broach difficult subjects with your family members, and on dating for late bloomers(which is half Dame Sophie’s handiwork)-- all three pieces of which I am justly proud.

  2. ​Or give a listen to Appointment Television, if you never have. Our episode on The Handmaid’s Tale is both topical and insightful, if I do so dare to say, and I’m also quite fond of our recent episode on series finales, our close (and intermittently scathing) read of the Gilmore Girls revival, and our discussion of what works and doesn’t in historical TV shows.

  3. Listen to any one of San Fermin’s albums (my favorite is Jackrabbit) OR just go see them live.

  4. Ditto for Lucius (indie OR synth girl group perfection!).

  5. And Bad Bad Hats (girl with a chiming guitar and her heart on her sleeve!).

  6. And Carly Rae Jepsen (THE GREATEST UNCHARISMATIC POP STAR OF OUR TIME!).

  7. And Kathryn Calder (sonically lush singer-songwriter with an ear for perfect weirdness).

  8. And Basia Bulat (a modern day Carole King but with an autoharp instead of a guitar!).

  9. And Lizzo (soul-pop-rapper without whose EP Coconut Oil I would not have survived this past year).

  10. And Lake Street Dive (soul revival but you won’t get why they’re special until you see them live PLEASE GO SEE THEM LIVE PLEASE).

  11. And Dawes (Laurel Canyon California folk rock with lyrics that cut you to pieces and stitch you back up all at once-- start with their sophomore album, Nothing is Wrong).

  12. Listen to either Let’s Get Out of This Country or My Maudlin Career by Camera Obscura (the sound my heart makes when it’s singing!) in your home but with the windows wide open.

  13. I love old movies, so I am going to tell you a bunch of favorites you should try. Such as: watch The Third Man, if you’re in the mood for something cynical but correct, The Manchurian Candidate, if you’re in the mood for something cynical but campy, or watch The Apartment, if you’re in the mood for something cynical but optimistic and sneakily romantic.

  14. Watch a Preston Sturges movie. Either The Palm Beach Story or The Lady Eve.

  15. Watch an Ernst Lubitsch movie. Either The Shop Around the Corner or Ninotchka.

  16. Watch a lesser-known Alfred Hitchcock movie like Shadow of a Doubt orForeign Correspondent.

  17. Watch Charade, if somehow you did not watch that with us for our Two Bossy Dames livetweet, because it may just be a perfect movie.

  18. Watch His Girl Friday, because until you’ve seen it, you haven’t really lived.

  19. Watch Singin’ in the Rain if you’ve never seen it because SERIOUSLY WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING WITH YOUR LIFE??????

  20. Watch My Favorite YearDown With Love, or What’s Up Doc?, three younger movies that are extraordinarily charming and very much about loving some of the older movies I’ve named above.

  21. Watch Celeste & Jesse Forever, which is a recent movie, not an old one, but is quietly exquisite. It’s what (500) Days of Summer would have been if it’d had more insight or backbone, sorry for affronting you everyone who loves (500) Days of Summer-- you’re not WRONG but also you’re not quite right.

  22. Try out Terriers, a 13-episode one season wonder about down-on-their-luck private detectives trying to solve a case that’s too big for them in sunny Southern California, up on Netflix in its entirety. It’s perfect, you’ll love it.

  23. If somehow you’ve never seen Veronica Mars (I know, impossible), PLEASE WATCH AT LEAST SEASON ONE. If you have, do me a solid and try out Rob Thomas’s new show iZombie, which is GREAT, and available streaming on Netflix.

  24. Okay so look, The Hour isn’t streaming anywhere for free. Any way you watch it, you’ll have to spend money. BUT THE THING IS IT’S PERFECT, even though it ends with cliffhanger. And I just NEED to shout with more people about its excellence. Scrappy reporters in Britain setting out to make the best news show they can despite an uncooperative government regulating body PLUS SPIES PLUS LOVE TRIANGLES WHERE NO ONE IS CONTEMPTIBLE. Please just watch it please.

  25. Watch Playing House, it’s available cheaply with a $3-a-month Seeso subscription and it’s pratically tailor-made for Dames Nation.

  26. Watch Spaced, the whole of which is on Hulu, which might still be the best thing that Edgar Wright or Simon Pegg have ever made.

  27. If somehow you haven’t watched Catastrophe yet, PLEASE watch at least the first 6-episode season (all on Amazon Prime), because it’s the best romantic comedy I’ve seen in years. Imagine Knocked Up, but if the female characters had the same amount of depth and humor that the male characters did, and they male characters weren’t mildly contemptible!

  28. Watch Please Like Me so that you’re ready to listen along with Appointment Television’s TV Book Club of Season 1 (all on Hulu!).

  29. Read a book by Connie Willis-- To Say Nothing of the Dog if you want time travel AND comedy or Bellwether if you just want one of the most perfect romantic comedies in book form that’s ever been written.

  30. Read Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot and then come thank me for WEEKS ON END.

  31. Pet a great dog and send me a picture of them.

  32. Write an email or a letter or call someone you really sincerely love whom you haven’t spoken to in a bit and, in it, put yourself to the task of telling them very directly why they matter to you. Like you were getting up to make a speech about them-- think about it that hard. You will be astonished how good thing feels.    


Dame Sophie’s Bits & Bobs

Why did you grow up thinking smoking was glamorous & sexy, Sophie?
Gosh, I have no idea.

Some things I’m thinking about this week, arranged in ascending order from genuinely tragic to practical yet frivolous. CW: I talk about mental illness & death by suicide in the first paragraph below. Skip on ahead if you need to.

Friends, I am so sad about Chris Cornell. I would not even have classified myself as a Soundgarden fan before his death by suicide earlier this week, but this loss is tearing me apart, anyway. Those guys were ubiquitous in the 90s, and they clawed their way through breaking up, working apart, back to working together again. I thought he was fine, that he’d made it past the ghosts and heartbreaks of his losses, mental illness, and addiction and was happily settled into a really strong third act, and he was, partly, but also, clearly, he wasn’t. If it hurts so much for me to see yet another great musician of his generation die so young, I can only imagine how his survivors in that community feel. I’m glad he stuck around with us for as long as he did. I hope he knows how much people loved him, his voice (four whole octaves, which he managed to always use very emotionally without being silly), and his glorious, unparalleled rock n’ roll hair. For Chris’ sake, and for the sake of the people we love who are struggling to stay alive every day, can we agree to change how we talk about suicide? The old language, which dominates news coverage as well as everyday conversation, is heavy with shame and a history of suicide being a crime, and it’s really hurtful to the loved ones who survive the loss of their loved ones.

In an adjacent, heavingly full mental file folder marked Just Being A Person is Hard, here are some useful thoughts on what anxious & angry kids need to know about their brains. Surprise, this helpful, clear framing can be useful for us grown-ups, too!

Twin Peaks will be back on TV screens this weekend after a 26-year hiatus. I was devoted to this show when it first aired, sometimes watching episodes while also tying up the phone lines between my house & my best friend Alyce’s as we held our breath, laughed, and screamed our way through, analyzing everything we could during the commercial breaks. The show is a perfect example of people only getting what they’re ready to get out of media--at 15, the full horror of Laura Palmer’s murder and the ripple effects it would have had throughout her community wasn’t legible to me the way it is now as an adult and a parent. In my teens, even with the benefit of multiple viewings of each episode, I was just as focused on the dreaminess of Agent Cooper and the quirkiness of the Log Lady as on the murder. The mystery was the vehicle for me to inhale David Lynch’s creepy, luscious visual style and often vexingly elliptical storytelling methodology, which which were both _very_ odd bedfellows for broadcast television in 1990-91. The New York Times has a robust Twin Peaks reboot package out this weekend, including an indispensable Twin Peaks visual glossary and a guide to crucial episodes of the first two seasons for those who either need a refresher or who have never watched. To be clear, I am waaaaaay too much of a fraidy-cat to consider either rewatching or watching the new episodes (there’s a GIF of Killer Bob climbing over a couch in the catch-up guide that will haunt me til the day I die, I SAID GOOD DAY SIR), but I am going to follow coverage of it like I’m a one-woman surveillance team.

A number of thoughtful Dames Nationals have sent the true story behind From The Mixed-Up Tales of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, one of the most strongly formative novels of my youth and a classic for all time. Our Overdue buddies Craig & Andrew discussed it with loving goofs on their show two weeks ago, and I can also highly recommend the Jill Clayburgh-narrated audiobook to you.

As the very happy wearer of two of these swimsuits, I feel honor-bound to share with you all Boden’s Santorini Swimsuit, which is both magically flattering thanks to its clever color blocking, and very comfortable, thanks to its all-around good construction.  Boden is always distributing discount codes, and they offer free returns all the time, so if this suit suits your needs, go forth & bring your summer glamour up a notch!


The Harold Herald, Or: Oh, Come On, You Knew This Was Coming! It’s Time For More Of Dame Sophie’s Harry Styles Yelling

The face of pure, dorky happiness. Look how relaxed he is!

This might well be the last week of this feature for a little while; it seems like Harry is wrapping up his album promotional work. I say “seems like” because this dramatic, pun-loving juggler loves nothing more than to drop a surprise on us, such as last week’s charity-supporting gig, announced Saturday morning & performed that same evening in a lavishly embroidered pinky-purple suit best described as Extremely High-End Luxury Pajamas. I feel quite confident that were he to market a line of such items, they would be a wild success. (As I was writing this very thing, do you know what he did? Announced another secret show for charity in Los Angeles. Sold out in minutes, of course. Have fun, fronds!) For more regularly-published Harry #content, let me direct you to a new TinyLetter, better than words, by Allyson Gross, who approaches her 1D fandom with the zeal of a medieval saint cult member. That is a compliment.

Rolling up his shirtsleeves to expose his precious forearms. Honestly, is there no end to these personal attacks?

Okay, so! This week, Harry appeared on every new episode of James Corden’s Late Late Show this week, furnishing us with a full-court press of a charm offensive the likes of which it may take some time to recover from. So! Many! GIF and Squee Opportunities! My favorite moments were the Classic Dad Magazine-style monologue, his four excellent live performances (boy, does he shine on stage, I don’t think I’m ready for Stage Hoe Harry to return), and a Carpool Karaoke for the ages. My favorite bit was James & Harry’s very earnest duet of Lionel Richie & Diana Ross’ “Endless Love”, and I sincerely hope he adds this song, as a duet with his keyboardist Clare Uchima, on tour. Between this and his Prince-meets-Radiohead reimagining of “Ultralight Beam”, I am filled with giddy anticipation. The good doo-bees at the Late Late Show put together some behind-the-scenes photos for us all, bless them.

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Yes, our new servant is bringing out the tea tray. He’s a bit of a...dish.

Onto the album itself! Here’s my lukewarm take: Does anyone else think that the burden of expectations & breathless anticipation is almost too much for this debut album to bear? Like, people who made up their minds in advance that they would hate it got to have their minds pleasantly blown, and good for them, I guess? Similarly, people who’d made up their minds in advance that they were going to love it, love it. I’ve listened to Harry Styles a bunch and really enjoy it, but a) it’s really got more of a cozy autumnal vibe than a summer jam feel (sorry, bud, but Niall’s got you beat there by a comfortable margin) and b) I don’t think we’ll have any real understanding of its long-term significance until he’s released another two or three albums. It’s not an instant groundbreaking classic like Lemonade, but it’s also the debut album by an artist who’s never had to contribute more than a couple songs per group album, let’s have some perspective.

Harry Styles’ biggest sonic contribution may well be the unintended happy consequence of introducing a generation of listeners to Beck’s 2002 album Sea Change, which a lot of these songs closely mirror, and the opening keyboard wash to Prince’s classic “Do Me, Baby” reproduced at the top of “Woman”. And that would be great! I was telling 1D experts Syaz, Alicia & Beth a few months ago that I’d be happy with this album being a declaration of taste by an enthusiastic 23 year-old musical autodidact, and that’s exactly what I got. His reaching--for grandeur, for identity, for authenticity (prompting me to eyeroll a tad, because that term is loaded, at best, but maybe that’s my middle-aged perspective talking?)--is impressively ambitious, even as it exceeds his grasp.

What am I talking about? Ok, let’s talk songs. The skillful construction of “Two Ghosts”, written several years ago with longtime 1D songwriter Julian Bunetta, highlights what an embryonic songwriter Harry is and how much he benefits from working with a veteran who knows him well. He has strong melodic instincts, though he sometimes leans too heavily on verbal cleverness in lieu of lyrical insight (see: “Only Angel” & “Kiwi”). One comes easily, the other takes a lot of practice and the right writing partner(s).

I’m also aware that, as someone who seems to hold a minority opinion about the excellence of the desolate, weird opening and closing tracks, I’m not the target audience for this album. In some ways, I’m really more the target audience for all those 1D songs that reference explicitly the classic rock I grew up on, all of which were co-written by songwriters closer to my age. New albums that pierce my soul are few & far between at this point, and if I’m being really honest, the ones that do lately are much more in a fully pop idiom. This is all fine by me; I’m relishing this moment and looking forward to everything that comes next.

I’ll close out with some lovely, more in-depth & eloquent thoughts than I can muster:

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