Artwork from the Song Diaries era

The Song Diaries by Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Of all the pop girls that I’ve listened to from the U.K., she has consistently put out high-quality music since she went solo from her band, theaudience, in 2001.

Hit after hit.

My favorite song of hers is If You Go from the “Trip the Light Fantastic” album. It’s sonic perfection.

There isn’t anything that she’s put on her albums – and I’m talking deep cuts like Let’s Get Physical – that haven’t found a space in the jukebox of my heart. That’s how much I love her.

Just as I was going through serious withdrawal after the release of Familia, she announced her pregnancy with Mickey and then hit us with the news that she was releasing The Song Diaries (paid link), orchestral versions of the hits from her back catalog, and a few surprises.

I watched her Instagram with bated breath, as she kept throwing out teasers of her in the studio, and her promo tour. I can’t wait to see her live. I’ll be one of the only Americans in the crowd screaming the lyrics!

The final tracklisting is loaded front to back.

(paid link)
  1. Groovejet
  2. Take Me Home
  3. Murder on the Dancefloor
  4. Move This Mountain
  5. Music Gets the Best of Me
  6. Mixed Up World
  7. Catch You
  8. Me and My Imagination
  9. Today the Sun’s on Us
  10. Heartbreak (Make Me a Dancer)
  11. Bittersweet
  12. Not Giving Up on Love
  13. Young Blood
  14. Love is a Camera
  15. Wild Forever
  16. A Pessimist is Never Disappointed
  17. Love is You
  18. Take Me Home (orchestral disco version)
  19. Murder on the Dancefloor (orchestral disco version)

You don’t need to be a fan of Sophie’s previous work to enjoy this album. I feel like it’s even a good introduction to her stuff. You get a little bit of every album era, but with the fresh sheen of an orchestral version.

Her vocals absolutely SHINE on every track. I could seriously sit here and tell you to listen to the restraint. She knows her strengths lie in her vocals, but she doesn’t lay it on thick, which is the trend in pop music.

Her creepy songs, like “Catch You” and “Love is a Camera,” are fantastic with the orchestral backing. That’s another thing that I love about her. She deeply explores stories that you don’t see in pop.

I love the spookiness and ethereal this version of “Move This Mountain” sounds. The original is an atmospheric love song, but the orchestra elevates it. I almost wanted the strings to be bolder. When they pause before the bridge (“take this chance/I won’t repeat it”), I wanted a cleaner drop before Sophie kicked in her vocals. The backing choral style vocals towards the end are pure frisson too, whew.

I love that she tackled “Love is You,” the disco track that was the sample for “Groovejet.” Her interpretation fits perfectly too.

I was surprised by how restrained “Bittersweet” sounded in this style. I think it’s the perfect yin to the uptempo disco yang of the original.

Her additional orchestral disco versions of “Take Me Home” and “Murder on the Dancefloor” are instant classics.

I Feel It Coming by Sophie

Her cover of “I Feel It Coming” by The Weeknd in the same orchestral style was such an inspired choice to promote the album too.

Fan or not, I encourage you to check out The Song Diaries (paid link), let me know in the comments if you will! And if you already have, what’s your favorite cut?

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Photo by Tom Rogerson on Unsplash

Boys in the Band

I didn’t even like the band, but my friends were dragging me along. Who am I to turn down a free show? The band’s name was Love Split Mystery. They were part of the post-punk revival, you might even call them emo with their shitty lyrics and bass lines that sounded exactly the same. It was payday, and my best friend Natalie called me before I left work. I had bills out my ass, and this paycheck was going to keep them at bay for a little bit longer.

“Ingrid, guess what?” Natalie said cheerfully over the phone.

“Wha?” I replied, trying to balance holding my lunchbox and purse, whilst unearthing my iPod and keys from my purse.

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Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Human Racing

Surviving is a verb
Living is too
Breathing, smelling, touching
Words that imply movement
I've not stopped moving
Since yesterday
Whenever that was.

Wish I could stop time
The rat race
Aging
Death
Sex
Taxes

Memento mori, Latin
'Remember you will die'
Keep that hubris in check
We're all born to die
A monied death
If you didn't buy it,
you're the product.

Can't stop, won't stop
We don't even know how to stop
Stop the ride - the human race -
Please exit through the gift shop.
Icon of a hand, hoding a pen, writing love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean

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cover of the age of innocence by edith wharton

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

The novel was published in 1920 about 1870s New York society. It’s fascinating how one look, one casual phrase could destroy a person’s entire reputation. I think that’s still true, but for the most part, we can start over somewhere else and bounce back. If someone is ruined (the Beauforts, more so Regina than Julius, highlighting the gender discrimination of the time), it’s unheard of.

The specter of New York looms as its own character in the novel, and all of its citizens play their lives out so spectacularly. Wharton paints this wonderfully manipulative underbelly even while its inhabitants breed their discontent as it has been done for generations before.

I honestly have no gripes. The phrasing, the pacing. It reads incredibly well today. What I think is interesting about it is that we see the novel strictly through Newland’s lens, so what he thinks he sees isn’t necessarily what’s there. Yet he spends the novel bashing how others can’t see what he sees, especially when explaining his mother and Janey’s favorite pastime: inviting Sillerton Jackson over for dinner for a gossip.

(paid link)

As the narrator, Newland is representative of how we treat people ourselves even in this day and age. We all wear masks. The one we choose to present publicly is generally vastly different from the ones we wear privately. No one is an open book, no matter how much they claim to be. Yet we judge everyone based on their public masks. It was ridiculous then and is now.

Wharton captures that unsettled feeling with the Madame Olenska character completely. She’s unaccustomed to American society, and she does things that piss people off, yet no one wants to explain why it’s inappropriate. I sympathize with her character completely.

Newland absolutely is a product of his background. I loved that he didn’t realize until the last moment that he was being played by May. He notes a few times in the course of the novel that he sees her struggling through the fog of her brain, trying to form an opinion. I honestly believe May knows exactly what she was doing. He said several times throughout the story that May is a clone of her mother, Mrs. Welland. Mrs. Welland knows how to play the game. Seeing May play it is par for the course if you ask me.

He spends the novel talking down about everyone and doesn’t realize that maybe they’re all feeling as stifled as he is. But they’re satisfied with their lot in life. They were born into this life. Why judge someone on that? I don’t denigrate him for that. However, as educated and as open-eyed as he claims to be, he really is as naive as the rest of them.

I am glad that his romantic inner life is validated by seeing his own children live their lives, and what once would have been considered uncouth (i.e. Dallas marrying Fanny) is accepted without any criticism. It’s amazing how quickly culture and society are changed from generation to generation. We see this today. The world our parents grew up in is nothing like how it is for us. Our children will not live this life that we do. We may try to pass on values and opinions, but the future will march on, taking the good from the previous, and casting away the bad.

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Photo by Niclas Moser on Unsplash

40 Steps

“When does the new tour start again?” Nicola Allen asked randomly.

“In a month. After this last bit of appearances, we’re coming home for a bit. Why?” her best friend Christopher Donaghy asked.

“‘Member how you’re always asking me to come to visit?”

“Well, yeah.” He and Nicola had been best friends since high school. As the eldest member of Love Split Mystery, high school was a long time ago. He and Nicola had bonded over a mutual love of video games. Nicola was a professional game tester now, while Chris – AKA “C-Dawg” – was a member of the band, focusing his career on his second-most important obsession, music.

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remember me by mary higgins clark

Remember Me by Mary Higgins Clark

Back when I was a wee little Gilly, my Ma got roped into a subscription for Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. This novel appeared in vol. 217 in 1995, when I was 12. I didn’t have the luxury of going to the library often as a child. It truly was a treat, because it wasn’t a thing that I was allowed to do.

My Ma never had time to take me to the library because she had other things to do, and keeping my rambunctious kid brother in line at the library was damn near impossible. Our activities had to be a joint event. If it only served one of us, we didn’t do it at all. She was also financially averse to library fees because I would forget when they were due. So how do you keep fees at bay? Don’t check them out in the first place.

That’s why I’m big on libraries as an adult. Don’t EVER take for granted that you have access to a library. The books I got at the school library were devoured before they left campus, so I never had anything to read by the time I got home. I had books of my own but they were rare and eventually fell apart from the rereads.

(paid link)

I distinctly remember doing a book report on Remember Me because I was enamored of the story! Historical events influencing the present has always fascinated me, as a reader and a writer.

Anyways, I recall my teacher politely telling me that I deserved the A+ grade she gave me ’cause I rocked that report. However, because it was a condensed version, I should strongly consider reading the real thing, and never to turn in another book report on a condensed version of a book, haha. To me, a story is a story, and it didn’t matter what form it came in. Still, I think that way in the physical vs. Kindle debate.

I had thought of the book off and on since I first read it, and I finally got around to rereading it. I think it could have used some fine-tuning in a workshop, to be honest. No rose-colored glasses for me.

And though I knew what was going to happen, I kept turning the pages.

After the novel ended, it made me wonder how suspense works a number on our brains as a genre. What about it propels us to keep our eyes peeled for clues, read between the lines when a character says something, and to maybe overlook how the plot unfolds.

Truth be told, I did enjoy the full version, and take my seventh grade English teacher’s word for it: don’t read condensed versions!

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Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

A Fairy Tale

One of our in-class poetry prompts was to take a translated poem and translate it in our own way. I chose Salma Khadra Jayyusi’s A Tale.

I have no father-in-law
I'm sure he exists
He sleeps, fucks my mother-in-law
(Hopefully she's a nice lady and will treat me well)
He showers, and is a good Christian.
A good Christian is rare in this country
Hypocrites, the lot of them
God knows the cross I bear
Would make the Virgin Mary cry
Wonder how many brothers and sisters
He fathered before my husband
Natural, illegitimate, aborted.
My husband has a 50/50 chance
of mirroring my father-in-law
A hypocritical Christian
An honest atheist
A good father to his real kids
A bad musician in the car
Someone is playing a game
In the house that I grew up in
The house where I thought
A marriage would free me
My castle, my abode, the place
I thought I'd never leave
Pry the deed from my cold, dead hands
The house where AJ scratched my cheek
My people are maids
My people eat bratwurst
My people make wine
My people run with the bulls
My people dance with dragons
My people conceal carry in the dark.
Icon of a hand, hoding a pen, writing love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean

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seven sins mixtape

Seven Sins of the Sisters: The Companion Mixtape

The mixtape I made for Seven Sins of the Sisters.

  1. The Fallen (paid link) by Franz Ferdinand
  2. 20 Dollar (paid link) by M.I.A.
  3. Overrated (paid link) by Siobhan Donaghy
  4. Wonderwall (paid link) by Oasis
  5. Mixed Up World (paid link) by Sophie Ellis-Bextor
  6. My Song (paid link) by Mutya Buena
  7. If I Ruled the World (paid link) by Nas featuring Lauryn Hill
  8. Human (paid link) by The Killers
  9. Poster of a Girl (paid link) by Metric
  10. Down and Out (Piano Rendition) (paid link) by The Academy Is… featuring Sheldon Miller
  11. Oh My God (paid link) by Mark Ronson featuring Lily Allen
  12. Invincible [HAARP Version] (paid link) by Muse
  13. Bonus Track: Mixtape (paid link) by Butch Walker

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seven sins of the sisters: a creative photography project

Seven Sins of the Sisters (2008)

This was my final project for Nevada State College’s Outlaw Genres class.

I was born, baptized, and confirmed a Roman Catholic. There is a part of me that both agrees and disagrees with the way the Church works and its teachings. There is one thing that I know is true. I believe that my faith has made me the young lady that I am today. The opportunity to create something in place of an essay inspired me to bring together three things that I am: a female, a Catholic, and a photographer.

I tried not to focus only on the past sins of the Church with this presentation. Women of all ethnic backgrounds and social classes have limitations implied by our sex that persist in this day and age, as shown throughout the readings of this class. I believe that goes hand in hand with the idea of sins as taught by the church. I did not want to focus on the “bad” part of the institution of sins either. The Church has also included a virtue for every sin in order to allow spiritual growth.

The Seven Sins

Envy

Like Frances in “Grace” by Carmen Morones, I envy people my own age or younger to whom everything comes easy. My personal struggle with envy is that at twenty-five years old, I do not know what my calling in life is. I have never pursued getting my writing or my photography published, nor auditioned for bands. Instead, I have only held myself back for a few reasons: the fear of failure, as well as lack of others like me in the mainstream. I did not even know there was a term for it: internalizing oppression. This is a theme that came up quite often throughout the readings.

Gluttony

This is a simple photograph, bottles of liquor. I was a bit culture-shocked when I first moved here from Northern California five years ago. I do not remember the liquor aisles being this complex. I could not think of a better way to capture gluttony than through the overabundance of alcohol poisoning opportunities that can be found in Las Vegas. How does this apply to U.S. Third World women? In the psychological sense, women of color are expected to give everything they have to others, to think of everyone else before their own feelings, and that their own thoughts are not their own. Their oppressors feed on their silence like gluttons.

Greed

At the time of the creation of this project, I worked for the corporation that built CityCenter. I started in the company as more information about the project began filtering itself amongst the employees. It goes without saying that most corporations believe the end justifies the means. Greed applies to women of color by the mere existence of the feminist hegemony. Feminists often do not care who is made invisible in their pursuit of finding themselves. They do not question or welcome others who might be going through the same identity issues.

Lust

This photo combines the images of the Whore of Babylon from the Book of Revelations, as well as the Robot Maria from Fritz Lang’s 1928 film, Metropolis. All women have had two specific labels placed upon them since the beginning of time. They are virgins or whores, and sometimes they are both. The religious subtext of the whore is included. Chapter 17:4 of Revelations states: “And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication.” Since I could not get a doll to hold a golden cup in her hand, I took the image of Robot Maria to do this instead. The Robot Maria was created to incite the lustful desires of the men both above and below ground, which causes the climax of the film.

Pride

Obviously the most popular depiction of the sin of pride is Lucifer’s fall from heaven. In terms of U.S. Third World women, the combined cocktail of having pride, being aware, and questioning people over you invites invisibility, as seen in bell hooks’ “Talking Back.” But instead of falling from heaven, Lucifer accepts his fall from heaven with open arms, and the Strip stands quietly behind, ready to assist him. I climbed a mountain behind my house to capture this shot. It was thrilling and scary, and the only other thing I came away with was a screw embedded in my tire.

Sloth

Women of color often wear masks to cope with the suffering that they cannot share with anyone else. They must hide their aches, disguise their pain, and trudge through the motions. Homework is the reason for my slothfulness. I am drowning in expectation, but sometimes, I don’t even know whose expectations I am trying to fulfill. The mask in the middle of my dining room table signifies the mask that I wear in public, and only take off when I am at home. I added the yellow color afterward in Photoshop, which represents the “yellowface” caricature in Hollywood. As a student of film, seeing yellowface in film long after blackface was taboo anger me.

Wrath

Suicide is seen as the ultimate acceptance of a mortal sin. It signifies the ultimate refusal of the gift of life. However, the act is sometimes the final coda of a desperate U.S. Third World woman, as seen in Janice Mirikitani’s “Suicide Note.” The actual blood used in the photograph is a nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” The blood he used was chocolate sauce.

The Seven Virtues

Charity

Charity is a virtue used against women of color. Not only do they suffer the loss of identity when they come to America, but they also suffer crises of miscommunication, lack of control of their immediate world, and much more. But when they ask for it, preconceived notions about charity is placed upon them. Every Friday, there is a man holding a sign asking for money at the eastbound 215 exit and the Strip. I do not know his story, but he embodies the virtue of charity for me. We are all trying to survive, man, woman, and child, black, white, yellow and red.

Chastity

There is a part of me that still straddles that fine line of kidulthood. There are many young women who do. How does one leave their childhood behind? Is it gradual? Is it easy? Should it be? Should I feel guilty for asking these questions? The rosary is mine. They represent my favorite color and my birthstone, the sapphire. The shoes are old ones from my mother. The model in the photo is my youngest niece Katherina Rachelle. “Will I ever lose these old Catholic blues that direct my shoes” is a lyric from Siobhan Donaghy’s “Overrated” and was the direct inspiration for the photograph.

Diligence

There are some U.S. Third World women who “make” it. Just by having this class, voices are heard that might not otherwise be heard in a traditional literature class. That is why “Undercurrent” is the perfect title for the presentation. Literature created by women of color is still found under the mainstream even though it has grown by leaps and bounds. This photograph captures that unabashed concentration in their work. In terms of a self-portrait, while the end is unknown on my journey, I need “nothing but song” to keep me going.

Humility

To be considered humble is a virtue most prized in a woman, doubly so in a U.S. Third World woman. This is maybe truer when you think about the model minority myth. Social constructs insist upon the virtue of humility in both concepts. But humbleness can be mistaken for silence and used against a woman of color. This is an unintentional interpretation. It was just me and the Arizona desert. I was enjoying the silence, humbled by the beauty and the need to forget who I was for a spell.

Kindness

No kindness is ever freely given to a woman of color. They are so misaligned and underrepresented that kindness is not a word often associated with them. This is sort of a send-up of the virtue, as dolls are usually a little girl’s best friend. But my niece finds herself rejecting one. Andrea R. Canaan’s poem, “Girlfriends,” questions why women of color do not support each other in this way, unconditionally. Women of color so often leave one out, hiding behind the bamboo screens, unable to participate for whatever reason.

Patience

America is not known for its patience. We shy away from anything considered abnormal or unacceptable, anything that gets in the way of our own needs without any regard to their fellow man. This is a theme that is seen throughout “Making Face, Making Soul: Haciendo caras.” This photograph speaks to every person, that there is someone out there who believes in them, regardless of birthplace, skin color, sexual orientation, sex, and creed.

Temperance

This virtue teaches the ability to choose from right and wrong. Quite often, women of color have no choice in the way they grasp the English language. There will always be a mental block as English is not their native language. But they have a choice. They use their native tongue and open themselves up to ridicule for the language barrier, attempt to learn the language and lose their native tongue or even go as far as to create a third tongue. This photograph is definitely an ironic interpretation of the virtue and was inspired by the 1999 movie, The Matrix.

Icon of a hand, hoding a pen, writing love, peace, and adobo grease, Guilliean

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This small but mighty podcast examines how words on the page sound different when the creator brings the words to life. Join me as I celebrate all the diverse emerging voices that I can find, and the industry folks behind the scenes too. Want to be featured? Submit your pitch!

It’s time to step into the spotlight.