vinyl shopping: of monsters and men – my head is an animal

i first heard of monsters and men this august at the osheaga music festival in montreal.  they played an energetic set in the 90+ degree weather that ended up being one of my favorite performances of the festival.  i’ve been excited to buy their 2011 release, my head is an animal, ever since.  originating in iceland, this 6-piece band has an indie-dreamy-folky feel that sounds like a cross between feet foxes/the xx/beach house/band of horses/mumford and sons.

their super-catchy single “little talks” helped propel them out of iceland and onto the international scene, and the album is a cross between these up-tempo sing-a-long type songs and a few bedroom-pop style songs which really bring out the beauty the male and female vocalists.

interlaced with mythical-sounding lyrics, this album reminded me of old folktales.

of monster and men is actually returning home and playing iceland airwaves this november, which will no doubt be an amazing event (sigur ros is headlining the festival as well).  too bad tickets are already sold out.

overall, one of my favorite purchases of the year – i cant recommend this album enough.  definitely pick it up.

smorgasburg comes to dumbo

brooklyn flea’s smorgasburg launched in dumbo’s historic tobacco warehouse this afternoon. the outdoor food fair will be open 11am-6pm every sunday until november 18th.  i’ve enjoyed the smorgasburg at williamsburg waterfront a couple times this summer, but its definitely going to be nice to have some yummy food just steps from my apartment.

highlights of my visit included a lobster roll from red hook lobster pound, gourmet pigs in a blanket from brooklyn piggies, and a delicious toasted coconut donut from dough.

my goal: to go every weekend and try all of the 80 or so vendors.  yum.

free people – september catalog

i’ve been absolutely lusting after the new free people catalog.  these are some of my favorite looks – now i just need to decide which one i can afford to buy!  i can’t wait for the fall!

book review: the art of fielding

i first saw ‘the art of fielding’ at the bookstore near my apartment in dumbo.  when i picked it up and read the back cover, i decided to pass, mostly because i didn’t feel like reading a book about baseball.  fortunately, however, my book club decided to read this for its august book, and once i started reading, i quickly realized the error of my quick judgment; i absolutely loved this book.  yes, the backdrop of the novel is baseball, but it is so much more than that as well.

the novel takes place at westish college, a small liberal arts school in michigan.  there is a lot going on in this novel, and the story went a much different direction than i originally thought it would take.  when we’re introduced to henry skrimshander, he’s a flawless baseball player who just keeps getting better and better at the game.  i was anticipating a story about his path to fame, but once henry starts to lose confidence and question himself, the novel goes in a completely different direction.  you can’t help but feel bad for henry – i just wanted to shake him and make him get out of his head – but of course this wasn’t possible.  instead, and i just kept reading and hoping things would turn out okay for him.

while henry is fighting his own battle, we’re introduced to the other characters.  mike schwartz is one of those people everyone likes – athletic, hard-working, charismatic – but he’s also wrought with disappointment when he discovers he did not get into graduate school.  his shattered hope corresponds with henry’s failings, and the two friends drift further and further apart – even more so when mike starts dating pella, the college president’s daughter who has recently left her rocky marriage to a much older man.

in a book filled with baseball, pella is a welcome addition.  but like the other characters, she’s much too self-conscious, and is plagued with a history of depression and unhappiness.  she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life and comes back to westish to try and sort things out.  her father, guert affenlight, the president of westish college, looks forward to repairing his relationship with his daughter, but he unexpectedly  becomes distracted when he falls for henry’s roommate, owen.  as would be expected, a relationship between college president and male student can’t go anywhere but down, and we watch as guert becomes much too careless and preoccupied with owen.

i found all the characters interesting and two-dimensional, and though the book is long, it didn’t drag for me.  i also enjoyed the melvillian references throughout the novel.  the college’s baseball team is named the harpooners, and the college itself has a melville undertone, complete with a statue of herman himself in the middle of the campus.

overall, this book is not to be missed.  highly recommended.

book review: the westies

the westies is based on a true story of the irish mob in new york’s hell’s kitchen during the 60s, 70s and 80s.  the story focuses on mickey featherstone, one of the prominent members of the west side gang, who ends up becoming a government informant and key witness involved in bringing the westies’ rein of power to an end.

having never heard of the westies prior to this book (and being a new yorker myself) i was intrigued by the story.  its crazy to think about how such gruesome events happened less than a couple decades ago.  some parts really did feel like i was reading something out of a movie like donnie brasco or the godfather – dismemberment and throwing bodies into the east river included.

however, while the storyline was interesting on a historical-basis, i wasn’t completely drawn into it.  as much as english tried to explain featherstone’s past and link his PTSD to his actions, it was hard to sympathize with him.  i found myself upset with the ending.  yes, he helped bring down the notorious jimmy coonan and the infamous westies, but he was also a key participant in many murders.  it really made me think about the justice system and how some people can literally get away with murder.

i’m glad i read the book, even for the simple fact of having a better understanding of the history of hells kitchen.  but would i read it again?  probably not.

beach house live @ central park

beach house - central park summerstage

summer concerts, especially in central park, are always a much anticipated event, and last night’s beach house show was no exception.  though it was sweltering hot and about 85% humidity, the band played enthusiastically for a sold out crowd of new york city hipsters. about a third of the way through the show, the rain started pouring, but it was almost a welcome relief to the heat and seemed to have added rather than detracted from the overall vibe.  victoria legrand (the singer and keyboard player) let the crowd know that, “we’re all in this together” and continued singing her laid-back, spacey tunes.  they played a good mixture of old and new songs, and it wasn’t until their hit song “myth” was over that people started meandering out of the park and onto dryer ground.  this is my second time seeing the band, and i would definitely recommend seeing them live if you haven’t already.

beach house - bloom

additionally, if you haven’t picked up their latest album, you need to do that as well.  similar in style to their prior releases, bloom is lush, subtly-complicated, and dreamy.

book review: 1Q84

i’d never heard of haruki marukami before reading his latest novel, 1Q84, at the recommendation of one of my friends.  i read every day on the subway ride to and from work – about 35 minutes each way – and at 1,040 pages, i was glad to have the electronic version of this particular work.

the story focuses on 2 main characters – aomame, a fitness instructor who moonlights as an assassin to abusive men, and tengo, a cram school teacher who spends his free time writing literature.  aomome ends up getting involved in a situation that brings her precisely-calculated life to a halt; while tengo becomes engrossed in rewriting the novel of fuka-eri, a beautiful young girl whose background involves a religious organization that revolves around “little people”, and which she fled from at 10 years old.  the two story lines are intertwined in a fantasy-like alter-world, nicknamed “1Q84″ by aomame,  this world’s most distinguishing characteristic is 2 moons in the sky, the regular moon, and a smaller green mossy moon.

the story is interesting, especially in the beginning, but i can see this novel becoming monotonous for some people (i don’t usually mind novels that drag somewhat – i guess that’s from reading all those large russian novels over the years!).  my one disappointment, however, was with the ending – there seemed to have been quite a few loose ends and unanswered questions that weren’t exactly explained/tied up.  but after thinking about it for awhile, i realized that maybe those things didn’t really matter – because at its heart, the novel is a love story – perhaps not the most conventional, but a love story nonetheless.  is it worth the time investment?  while i certainly enjoyed it, i’m honestly not sure.  i’d say 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.


movie review: safety not guaranteed

i love going to sunday afternoon matinees, so i was really happy when i discovered brooklyn heights cinema, a 2-screen movie theatre located just a few blocks from my apartment in dumbo.  this tiny theatre plays independent and foreign movies and has a quant old-school vibe.

this was a great venue to see the wonderful ‘safety not guaranteed’, a low-key indie  movie about a guy who writes an add seeking a partner to “go back in time” with him, and the team of journalists who seek him out for an upcoming story.  i thought the young aubrey plaza did an excellent job as the intern who befriends kenneth, the writer of the article.  i was also happy to see jake johnson, who i’ve only seen as struggling hipster roommate in ‘new girl’, play the writer who uses the story as an excuse to track down his childhood flame.

the movie is essentially about finding someone to connect with, and i found myself less worried about whether kenneth could actually travel back in time than in following the somewhat oddball characters and their journeys to a higher degree of self-discovery.  there is a real feeling of warmth throughout the movie which you don’t typically find in some of the higher-budget films.  overall, highly recommended.