Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lists are better when read with a lisp.

My 20 favorite songs of the year, not really in order, but sort of.

The Young Republic, "When I See Your Eyes, I Swear to God Our Worlds Collide"
This wins for the song that stuck in my head the most this year. I don't know if this was officially even released or where it's from or if it's genuinely from this year but the Young Republic did release some stuff, ALL EXCELLENT. If they can stay together they could take this indie world by storm what with their cute boy singer with his heart on his sleeve and their cadre of strings (that's their pic up above). It just makes my heart hurt like when I was 20 and I just wanted to know him.

More about The Young Republic

Eef Barzelay, "Ballad of Bitter Honey"
Those lyrics! The heartbreaking delivery of indie rock boy posing as ho with a heart of gold! One of my husband's favorite songs of the year too.

More about Eef Barzelay

The Hussy's, 'Tiger"
If I could sing this is the kind of band I'd like to front. Silly, sassy, poptastically delish, both of their EPs from this year are so damn fun and chock filled with handclaps and woo woos, and boy o boy do I love woo woos.

More about The Hussy's

The Kooks, "She Moves in Her Own Way"
Best pop song of the year in my opinion. It's so danceable and I can practice my fake Brit accent while I sing along!

More about The Kooks

TV on the Radio, "Wolf Like Me"
It's on everyone's list. You know why it's good. Crescendos, baby. And fury!

More about TV on the Radio

The Hold Steady, "Stuck Between Stations"
Ditto. On. Everyone's. List. Obviously super-duper swell. Lyrically it stings with greatness. Oh how Springsteen has been re-invented for the new millenium.

More about The Hold Steady

Arizona, "Splintering"
The first few seconds of this song always make me question my love of it, but then it starts to flow and by the first minute mark I'm flooded with all the feelings that put this song on this list.

More about Arizona

I'm From Barcelona, "Ola Kala"
The whole things zings, such a great uplifting tune. Just try and not shake.

More about I'm From Barcelona

Jim Noir, "Eany Meany"
This is a Sunday afternoon in song. How did he capture a feeling so well? And I discovered it from a World Cup commercial, no less. Brilliance in my opinion.

More about Jim Noir

The Rosewood Thieves, "Los Angeles"
Found this via Heather at Fuel and I can't get enough. The whole ep is real good but this song, from the piano plunks onward, well, yowsa. A couple years back I went ga-ga for the first Thrills CD and this has something-something that that CD had, (a penchant for writing songs about California perhaps?) but I can't wait to see what this young guy does next.

More about The Rosewood Thieves

Envelopes, "Sister in Love"
Oh crap. It's just so fun and so freaking catchy.

More about Envelopes

Bird and Bee, "I'm a Broken Heart"
I love breathy melancholia, I love the slight tinge of Bacharach-ian pomposity, this whole EP is so shiny in a 70s lip-gloss sort of way and I love it.

More about Bird and Bee

Lily Allen, "Alfie"
Several friends sent me various Lily Allen mp3s via email because they knew I'd love her. And yes, oh how I love the ladies who can sling those zingy barbs. Her and Nellie McKay both posses this respect and knowledge of music that came before them and both readdress it with wholly new attitude and style.

More about Lily Allen

Cat Power, "The Greatest"
Never connected with Cat Power before this CD. Maybe I needed "accessible" or maybe I just needed the Memphis thang but wow, this thing, particularly this song, just hurts its so good.

More about Cat Power

Tally Hall, "Ruler of Everything"
I like every song on this really weird record. Just pop music, at once happy and dark and did I mention weird??

More about Tally Hall

Belle and Sebastian, "Funny Little Frog"
I know this song isn't about Stuart's non-existant baby, but save for the line about "not knowing how you smell," lyrically and emotionally this sums up how I felt about my baby girl (granted months after she was born, those first ones all I wanted to do was deliver her back from whence she came.) Just jubillant!

More about Belle and Sebastian

Gomez, "Woman! Man!"
I'm not a huge Gomez fan, I mean I can enjoy some of their songs, but this one from their latest rocks me socks. Maybe it's the slight Shins meet Neil Diamond vibe or maybe it's the line that makes me smile each time it resurfaces: "For hope will spring eternal, while loves got you on your knees..." I know most "real" Gomez fans don't like this song so much... but um....

More about Gomez

Regina Spektor, "Better"
I was late to this game but now, well I absolutely love her phrasing and emotion. And the simple lyrics to this song kill. "If I kiss you where you are sore, will you feel better, or nothing at all?" And the opening sequence makes me want to learn piano so I can bang along.

More about Regina Spektor

Thao Nguyen, "Moped"
Found this on Daytrotter. Just a simple girl and her guitar doesn't get me in the gut too often these days (but a few years ago... well that is a different story). But I keep coming back to this song time and time again. It's just a bit more than cute...

More about Thao Nguyen

Julieta Venegas, "Canciones de Amor"
99 Luftballoons!!!!!

More about Julieta Venegas

Zayra Alvarez, "All The Young Dudes" (Live on Rock Star)
I'll plead my case. Last year's installment of Rock STar (INXS) really seemed to be a group of mostly moderately talented nice kids in an unfortunate situation playing for a group of moderately talented and certainly likeable ex-rockers in need of a lead singer and it made for decent TV. This season's Rock Star was pretty much the opposite: unlikeable kids and an unlikeable band and most of the contestants seemed truly untalented to their core, it was still unfortunate but it didn't make for good TV, save for one person: Zayra Alvarez, her Puerto Rican Bjork voice and wild outfits were awesome through and through, on every level. And here she covers one of my favorite anthemic songs of the 70s in an utterly quirky way (and she's held back only by the limits of the house band and television's expectations) and I only wish it was way, way longer.

More about Zayra Alvarez

**I'll fix the "more about" links later tonight! Sorry!

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Bird and the Bee

Inara George is Lowell George's daughter. He was a musician who swung with the in-crowd in Cali in the 70s, with people like Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstandt, while in his own band, Little Feat. Inara put out a CD that was lovely if not a little boring a few years back. But this year, she's teamed with this guy Greg Kurstin who has set her whole sweet sound to some elctronic beats. Throw in some foul language sing-songed in that light and airy voice and you've got yourself a hit in my book. Seriously, I love this little EP they put out in advance of their full-length that comes out at the first of the new year. This is the perfect soundtrack for my MS Getting Over the Dork You Used to Call a Boyfriend !

The Bird and the Bee, "I'm a Broken Heart"

Oddly, I haven't even had this CD a whole month and look what I found in its case? Why it's Journey's Greatest Hits!

Journey, "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'"

There is more Bird & Bee on their MySpace page.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

BFF Love, Pt. 1

Jeff Tweedy finally went off and punched a guy. Oh Jeff. Tonight, Wilco will be on NPR's online concert series for the second time (the first was February 2005). It's happening in Washington, DC's 9:30 Club. I bet he won't hit anyone tonight and I bet he makes fun of himself but also attempts to justify what he did tonight. It all starts around 9pm but will be archived for a year after its airdate. You can also listen to Jenny Lewis, Built to Spill, Regina Spektor and others that are already archived.

So last month it was my best friend Karen's birthday. With the help of some of her oldest friends from childhood, I put together a CD with a song from every year she has been on this earth. It took three CDs (she's old, ha ha) and I am going to post each volume here, starting with the first, but only for a short period of time. Below, the song list. Beyond that, a downloadable zip file. You should know, Karen grew up in Manchester, England, is generous and gorgeous and hilarious and has made many questionable fashion decisions over the years.

1966 Peter & Gordon, "Lady Godiva"
1967 Aretha Franklin, "Respect"

1968 Nina Simone, "Ain't Got No - I Got Life"
1969 Desmond Dekker & The Aces, "The Israelites"
1970 The Kinks, "Lola"

1971 T.Rex, "Bang A Gong (Get It On)"

1972 Stevie Wonder, "Superstition"

1973 Gary Glitter, "I Love, You Love, Me Love"
1974 ABBA, "Waterloo"

1975 Minnie Riperton, "Lovin' You"
1976 Elton John & Kiki Dee, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart"
1977 The Jam, "In The City"

1978 Buzzcocks, "Ever Fallen In Love"
1979 Gloria Gaynor, "I Will Survive"
1980 English Beat, "In The Bathroom"

1981 Roxy Music , "Jealous Guy"

1982 Dexy's Midnight Runners, "Come on Eileen"

Download the zip file with all the songs.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

This, That. And the Other.

So I've been out of the loop for awhile thanks to a giant beefsteak tomato of a tumor in my chest that has since been removed (and it really did look like a beefsteak tomato, my surgeon took a picture on his camera phone!) While I am still in a fair amount of uncomfortable (and occasionally blinding) pain, I am no longer bed-ridden and glued to the bad TV that makes up 99.75% of what's on the air.

What don't I hate? Of course, Gilmore Girls. Although admittedly this season's premiere started off with less than a bang. Was not my favorite episode. But the one from last week with the dirty texting and the what if Pop Tart speech redeemed. I look forward to tonight's episode.

I wish Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was better. Don't get me wrong, I really like 1/2 the show. I like the characters immensely and I never, ever found Chandler compelling, but quite like Matthew Perry as Matt, I find him cute even, in a bloated sort of way. But I can do without Christine Lahti and worse yet, the "comedy" writing is simply not funny. Aaron Sorkin can write funny, I mean, Sports Night was one of the best shows, ever, in my mind. I don't mind the stage-y thing Sorkin does with his dialogue, the stilted fast-talk that sounds hyper-real only unreal but still enjoyably sharp. (Shockingly Amanda Peet handles it well, but Lahti sounds like she's in an off-Broadway play in a too big for it's own good theater.) And what a waste of Lorelei?! Ultimately the big problem is the show within the show is just not funny or hyper real or sharp. (I'm of course, not the first person to say this.) It undermines the whole premise of the show. Why doesn't he get a real comedy writer to write that stuff? Or if he already has gotten one, why doesn't he get a better one? Still, I keep watching... for now.

I love this commercial. (Wait for it to load, it will play on this front page.)

Did you know Scrubs is on like 5 hours a day? Even more than Saved by the Bell.

During my inability to leave the house (i.e., go shopping) I ordered way too many beauty products online on Sephora. I wait anxiously for the box to arrive so that I may change my look entirely and go from once tumor-ated and tired Mommy to hot author chick with (almost always) sexy husband and brilliant daughter. (By the way, daughter essentially learned how to read this week! Nothing more exciting than that, not even the Project Runway finale.) Speaking of which, I wanted Michael to win but it appears he totally crumpled under pressure. So now who? Uli? Jeffrey? Please, not Laura.

New favorite website: She's inspired me to make my daughter bento lunches each morning. I would have taken a picture of this mornings but frankly, not so cute, save for the terriyaki tofu stars! You can't look at this website without smiling.

A most important note: I am currently shopping a book called Getting Over the Dork You Used To Call A Boyfriend. It's genius and if I can find a daring, smart publisher who is willing to actually attempt to sell non-fiction to the YA crowd, it will sell millions and help girls around the world. But meanwhile, I've created a little podcast and blog dedicated to Getting Over the Dork. You'll find it here, at Download the podcast!

Now for the music. Lady & Bird is a side project of French singer-songwriter Keren Ann's that she does with Bardi Johannson and here they cover the M*A*S*H theme, which is a very, very sad song in anyone's hands, but especially theirs. This Hem song was used in some financial company's ad, I think. It's a purty one. Au Revior Simone are not French, but rather from Brooklyn. They have another song on their website. I heard of them on my own blog, the other one, smallages, while Phil and others were sitting in for me. The guest posters - Deb, Zak and Phil - did such a lovely job, I asked them to stay awhile. I like this band, three girls, electro beats, sweet simple vocals, sing-a-long la la's. Everything I look for in a song. Thanks, Phil.

Lady & Bird, "Suicide is Painless"
Hem, "Half Acre"
Au Revior Simone, "Hurricanes"

More about: Lady & Bird (in French), Hem, Au Revior Simone

Friday, September 08, 2006

Spree, Serveert & Sewing

Last Tuesday, when I was gonna post this, an EP and CD from two bands I truly, truly have enjoyed in the past were released: Polyphonic Spree and Bettie Serveert.

The Ep from Polyphonic Spree was titled, "Wait." Honestly, it didn't overwhelm. I loved Together We Are Heavy, I just thought it was genius in concept and also just tremendously listenable. I know, people love 'em or hate 'em and I get that, I could see how the whole uplifting choral thing could be annoying but I dig it. Tim DeLaughter's lyrics aren't anything to write home about either, I mean, sometimes they make me cringe, but still, I love the SOUND. The EP has three covers: Nirvana's "Lithium," Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way" and a cover of De Laughter's old band Tripping Daisy, the song being "Sonic Bloom." I like the latter just fine, but the first two sound like bad novelties, just awful. They really are better just doing their big orchestra get-happy sweeping walls of sound. So here is the song that most sounds like it could be on Together. Don't get me wrong, I'd love for them to "grow" and "change" but not in the direction of oh say, a marching band covering today's popular hits. The EP has another new one, and the Tripping Daisy song is nice, so go get those at iTunes, where I believe it is housed exclusively, for now.

Polyphonic Spree, "I'm Calling"

Bettie Serveert put out one of my favorite CDs, Palomine on Matador. I loved Carol Van Dijk's voice. She sounded gorgeous and a little drunk. She sounded like she'd be daring and proper at the same time. I bought their first two CDs and then heard something bad and really didn't give them another listen. But I go back to Palomine all the time. Then I heard this track, from their latest, on Minty Fresh, and thought they were worth another listen. I have the EP from this CD they released in July. And this is the best song. But the CD is now out and worth a spin.

Bettie Serveert, "Hell = Other People"

More about: Polyphonic Spree, Bettie Serveert

In other news:

Hipster S
ewing Patterns
I came across this and freaked out. Built By Wendy and Simplicity patterns have teamed up to make sewing patterns that are yes, Built by Wendy. If you're at all familar with Wendy Mullin's clothing line then you know this is a wonderfully inspiring thing. There is a pattern for a swing coat that is to die for adorable and I'm giving it a swirl. Even te graphics on the patterns, at left, are cool. Pick up her book Sew U. if your sewing skills aren't up to snuff. Oh and if you're here from my (sm)all ages site and have a new little on the way, she makes a couple of baby duds that are oh so chic. Can I say enough cool stuff about this girl? No, she also makes, and has made for years, coolio guitar straps. I want the tweed one.

And Since We're Talking Sewing...
Remember, I have a book that is for the youngins' all about sewing by hand and crafting cool clothes out of their old snarky ones. I Wanna Make My Own Clothes is the ideal back-to-school gift, hostess present or kids' party inspiration. Go nab it.

The Best Fabric
I think by now everyone and their grams knows about this place, but since we are talking sewing today, has amazing fabric, if not stellar customer service. I'm particularly fond of this one and plan on making my kid a dress out of it soon. They have a few cool patterns there too.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Back to my favorite songs of late.

Heather at Fuel brought this lovely band to my attention and when this song comes up in rotation (and it does a lot because I put it in a "songs of august" folder that I keep hitting) I'm stopped for a moment by the simple piano and then the Beatles-esque vocals come in and then the chorus turns the song wholly modern. He sings the words "Los Angeles" just whiny enough (in a good way.) I could listen to this over and over. And I do. When the first Thrills CD came out, I felt similarly. They both give off such a cool Cali vibe. Course this band is from NYC and the Thrills are from Ireland. Could have fooled me.

Rosewood Thieves, "Los Angeles"

This one I got from I Guess I'm Floating. Strangely, this reminds me of my childhood, of the 70s and growing up in Florida. Which is where these two guys spent their childhood, although I suspect in the 80s. (Or even, later? That's them to the right.) You'll see this posted again on (sm)all ages I suspect.

Ivy League, "London Bridges"

Another from IGIF, but hey, this band is everywhere. The Kooks are at the top of the pops in their native UK. I'm a sucker for the accent, it's deployed rather well on this lovely little song, and when they harmonize they remind me of the UK pop I loved in the late 80s and early 90s. Fluffy pop that makes me skank and sing along at the top of my lungs. And hey, they're named for a Bowie song. That works.

The Kooks, "She Moves In Her Own Way"

More about: The Rosewood Thieves, Ivy League, The Kooks

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I may have the itunes on shuffle but I keep coming back to the same five or so songs of late. All, save for one, are hot on the blogs right now, but I figure my five or so readers that I have here aren't really stalking all the blogs so these may be new to you.

I'll start with the one that hasn't been all over the blogs, although while it was recorded several weeks ago, it's sort of old news. See, it's from my latest guilty pleasure, Rock Star: Supernova. Only Supernova isn't a band that features Gilby Clarke, Tommy Lee and the poorly spoken Jason Newsted, it's a band I saw a zillion times in the 90s that sings great songs like "Chewbaca" and "Books!" But anyway, those three asinine aforementioned bad-rock men continue to call themselves Supernova and I continue to watch the trainwreck. Mostly because of now-kicked out contestant Zayra Alvarez. Who is now gone. Which is a drag. The recording below is of one of my favorite songs and she rocked it. And they panned her. Stupid asinine men. The visual was as good as the vocals but I'm not gonna bother with You Tube because the show is so friggin bad I shouldn't even be giving it a mention. And yet, I keep watching. I love the way she sings the chorus, love it. I adore her awkwardly beautiful voice and her take on this song is just electrifying to me. But yeah, they booted her a week later.

Zayra Alvarez, "All the Young Dudes"

TV on the Radio is such a blog-adored band and this has been everywhere. But I love the energy of this song, the way it builds and builds and it makes me get up and head bang and jump around and a new song has not made me do that in awhile. If I'm in public and listening to this song it's ever so hard not to sing along. I end up rocking back and forth with a vengeance, quiet on the outside, raging loud on the inside.

TV on the Radio, "Wolf Like Me"

Oh, got to run. The other three songs. Tomorrow (or thereabouts.)

More about: Zayra Alvarez, TV on the Radio

Monday, August 28, 2006

Quick One: I'm married now.

But years ago, when I wasn't, I felt exactly this way.

And I'm quite certain that another boy felt exactly this way about me.

And yet, no one said it. And certainly, no one said it in a song.

The lyrics and sentiment of this song are so spot-on and really simple and yet also excrutiatingly astute and painful and insightful and clever. There is more in this song than in most of the young adult novels I read.

Donovan Woods, "I Ain't Saying She's Better"

...And the voice ain't half-bad either.

Oh yeah, and he's Canadian.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Secret Heart

I admit it. My husband had to point out that "Secret Heart" was a Ron Sexsmith song. The husband has a soft spot for Ron Sexsmith's romantic man songs.

I had Tivo'd Feist on Carson Daly (and fast forwarded till she appeared, man he bugs) and it was a repeat from an April 06 performance but we hadn't seen it before. She did "Secret Heart," but differently than the record, very differently. And very differently from Ron Sexsmith. And then, on further inspection, I realized, pretty differently from her KCRW appearance from earlier this year. The husband actually uttered the words "mad props" about Leslie Feist's efforts to mix it up each time and despite the ridiculously ill chosen words (he's not 15, really) I know what he meant. It isn't fun for the audience when a song is played often and the same. I suspect it would be even less fun for the performer. It just makes me like her all the more. Now, is is just me or is she like Joni Mitchell crossed with Patti Smith but thoroughly modern? That's how I see her. Her voice has that quality that is thick and dirgy at times but still remains feminine and I love it. Wanna hear what I mean? Here are all the versions, including Sexsmith's (which is just loverly and sweet and almost heartbreakingly slow.)

Ron Sexsmith, "Secret Heart"
Feist, "Secret Heart" (from Let It Die)
Feist, "Secret Heart" (live on KCRW, 06)
Feist, "Secret Heart" (live on Carson Daly, April, 06)

Wanna watch? Here is the video from her performance.

My favorite version? The Carson Daly one.

I love 80s movies, especially the John Hughes flicks. PureBoredom has posted a bunch of the songs from various 80s teen comedies. Weird Science anyone? Anywho, one of the anonymous commentators said he left out "Some Kind of Wonderful," which is possibly my most favorite of the lot. So I may have to get on that and post that next week. Then he goes and posts songs from Cameron Crowe movies! Yippee. Head on over to PureBoredom to see it all.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Cupcakes,
A Short Story by Clea

Howdy. Anybody there? I've finally finished moving stuff over from my original site to this blog-based one. Yay! And I have folded my "Yer Little Sister" site into this one. Okay so no one is probably reading this BUT JUST IN CASE, I have written a short story called "The Cupcakes" and you, yes you, can read it by going over to that lovely side bar to the right and scrolling down to the place where it says "The Cupcakes." Read it chapter by chapter and then tell me what you think. So far the only comment I've gotten was from my agent who said it was too meta for her. Yeah. And that's why it's here on my blog and not out in the world making the pub rounds. Still, I think it's entertaining. Deeply flawed but entertaining.

Anyway start over on the sidebar or start here:

The Cupcakes, Chapter One

That's a picture of Sahara Hotnights that I made into my faux cover for the book so since I'm ripping them off graphically I may as well do the same aurally. Here is a song from the girls:

Sahara Hotnights, "Alright, Alright"

Remember, my latest book is out, "I Wanna Make My Own Clothes."
And you can still get my very first book, "Hey, Day" through Merch Lackey.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Songs About Boys

I'm still hurting from a headache from h-e-l-l, so excuse my late-half-post and my whining. This one is random for sure, but I am posting songs that have boy names as the titles. Famous boy names to be exact. I didn't cover boy songs that don't have boy names as the titles such as "Just Like Anyone" by Aimee Mann which I believe is about Jeff Buckley or "Hey Jude" about Julian Lennon. Got to have boy names as titles. So here goes.

All Girl Summer Fun Band, "Jason Lee"
"Bill Murray"
Bree Sharp,
"David Duchovny"

Know any others? How about songs about famous women? Have a great weekend, see you Monday, same place. I will have artists picked by the lovely writer Tanya Lee Stone.
I Like the Like

As someone who writes for teens and loves music, I'm so intruigued with the girls of The Like. I think they would make fantastic subjects for a novel. Tennessee, Charlotte and Z, daughters of rock Men, with their coy hipster stances and saucy lyrics. Anywho, I have their two older EP CDs which are now out of print. Each one features a song not on their first official release, Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking? And so here they are.

The Like, "End of an Era"
The Like, "27 Days"

You can purchase the Like's Geffen release. And/or you can visit the band's site by clicking... now. They ave video up.
Guest List: The Pursuit of Happiness

While this is the name of a pretty good CD by the Weekend Players, it's more importantly (to me, to Tara) the name of a new YA book by
Tara Altebrando. And she has graciously agreed to give us a little sneak peek inside the book by way of some music that inspired her work. This book actually releases today! So go pick it up. Hit it, Tara:

First, a little bit about The Pursuit of Happiness (MTV Books). It's about Betsy Irving, a teenage girl who's working at a colonial village, dressing up as a farm girl. Her mother has just died and her boyfriend has just dumped her. She thinks she's going to have the worst summer of her life but thanks to Liza, an oddball who works at the village, and James, a lanky surfer who works there, too, things don't turn out quite so badly. Liza introduces Betsy to the local beach party scene, and James, who's apprenticing at the carpenter's shop, starts to carve Betsy things out of wood. Inspired by him and by an art exhibit at the village, Betsy also discovers her own gift for silhouette art--cutting shapes out of black paper. I won't give away what happens between her and James...

So: I always have music playing when I'm writing and when I was working on "The Pursuit of Happiness," I probably listened to "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" by the Flaming Lips around 500 times. The whole mood of the book is dependent on that record's melancholy and drama. I think the song that stood out most was "Do You Realize?"; its lyrics can knock the wind out of you. There's one line: "Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?" It's heavy stuff but it's so beautiful. James plays this song for Betsy in one scene and the moment solidifies everything she thinks she's feeling for him. I think that when someone plays you a song they love and you love it, too, it's very powerful. I wanted to try to capture that.

U2's "The Joshua Tree" was probably the CD I played second most often when writing. That record came out the year my own mother died--like Betsy, I was sixteen--and to this day I can't listen to it without getting chills. I think the opening lyrics of "Where the Streets Have No Name" pretty much sum up what Betsy's going through: "I want to run, I want to hide, I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside." She's being forced to deal with this huge adult thing but she's a teenager and all she really wants to do is BE, or figure out who she's going to be without everyone's expectations weighing on her. Other influences or just cool songs that I think "go with" the book:

"IOU" by Metric. This song is all Liza. She has a kind of edge that Betsy only wishes she had.

"Thirteen" by Big Star. Really sums up all the longing and frustration of young love. You want to run away with someone and spend every second with them but you can't--your parents won't let you!

"Take You Home" by Dutch Kills. Before I met my husband, Nick, I'd heard his band, Dutch Kills. I once spent a week at the Jersey Shore, where "The Pursuit of Happiness" is set, listening to "Take You Home" obsessively while sitting on the beach. I'd just been dumped by my boyfriend and I would listen to this song and wish that I would meet someone who could write a song like it--a romantic. I met Nick soon after that, and now we're married. Whenever I hear "Take You Home" now it reminds me of our first weeks of dating, how exciting and terrifying they were. I think Betsy's experiencing a lot of that with James. I'd LOVE to be able to play you another song of theirs, "Godspeed," a seriously gorgeous song about letting go that I listened to a lot when I was writing, but it's only a demo. The band's recording it for real now so I'll let you know when it's done!

Lastly, "The Pursuit of Happiness" is a summer book. There are parties and roller coasters and surf boards; the sun does actually shine. I think the Strokes are a great summer band. They make you want to drive somewhere with the windows down. "Last Night" is a particular favorite.
So thanks for listening and I hope you'll check out the book!

Flaming Lips, "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" (live on KCRW)
Flaming Lips, "Do You Realize?" (live on KCRW, too)
U2, "Where the Streets Have No Name"
Metric, "IOU"
Big Star, "Thirteen"
Dutch Kills, "Take You Home"
The Strokes, "Last Night"

*And for more Dutch Kills songs, check out their site, they have loads for download.

I agree with Tara regarding the Flaming Lips LP. I think it captures such a vivid, three-dimensional feeling from beginning to end. Anyway, buy her book today. Check out her website. And her My Space page. And fyi, she is also known as Tara McCarthy, the Tara McCarthy who wrote the siamese twin pop star book, Love Will Tear Us Apart! Buy that one here.
Rachel Cohn Spins Tracks From Her Latest "Playlist"

I'm so darn elated to have Rachel Cohn, music lover and YA author, on board today. She has this new book coming out with David Levithan called, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. I'm so eager to read this one and the following only intensifies that desire. See, Rachel has graciously passed on her "soundtrack" for the book, along with the corresponding defining moments and emotions. I've posted MP3s for ten or so, the list is far too long to post 'em all, plus where is the joy if I take all of the hunt out of the process. So first, let's get the book's set up and then to the songs, from Rachel herself:

The book is about two 18 year old straight edge New Jersey kids, both obsessed with music, who meet at a punk club in Manhattan one night, and the book follows their adventures in the city across that one night. Anyone wanting a further secret preview to the book (which comes out this May) can read into the song choices below. I'm very partial to R&B and honky-tonk - David's playlist for Nick & Norah would probably be much more indie punk/alternative. But we're both suckers for great songwriting, no matter the musical style. And so, my NN playlist:

Frank Sinatra, "Come Fly with Me" (for Nick, Hoboken boy)
Marshall Crenshaw, "Rockin' Around in NYC" (for their once-in-a-lifetime night wandering around Manhattan)
The Jam, "In the City" (same as above)
The Cure, "Pictures of You" (for Nick, wondering what exactly the "cure" is for)
The Smiths, "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" (for Norah, who thinks their date is tanking)
Abba, "Take A Chance On Me" (for Nick's breakup desolation mix - and Norah's appreciation of his song selection)
Sinead O'Connor, "I Want Your (Hands on Me)" (for Nick & Norah's chemistry)
Beastie Boys, "Triple Trouble" (for their foul mouths)
Kasey Chambers, "Still Feeling Blue" (mostly just cuz I like this song)
Green Day, "American Idiot" (for Nick & Norah's politics)
Johnny Cash, "Hurt" (for when the night isn't going so well)
Rufus w/ Chaka Khan, "Ain't Nothin' But a Maybe" (does he/she like me, or what?)
Lucinda Williams, "Something About What Happens When We Talk" (for the high Norah feels when talking through the night with Nick)
Ted Hawkins, "All I Have To Offer You Is Me" (purely romantic song that I adore)
Toshi Reagon, "This Moment" (same as above)
Boyz II Men, "Uhh Ahh" (for when things get naughty)
Eva Cassidy, "Early Morning Rain" (same as above, though really only the song title fits - the song itself, kinda sad)
Rosanne Cash, "Fire of the Newly Alive" (for unexpectedly meeting that one amazing person)
Elvis Costello, "You Belong to Me" ('nuff said)
Shuggie Otis, "Ice Cold Daydream" (for the ice room scene - and because I love Shuggie Otis on any playlist)
Astaire, "L-L-Love" (fun pop song, title says it all)
Jill Scott, "Gimme" (again, title says it all)
Tony Toni Tone, "Let's Get Down" (for Toni the Playboygirl bouncer)
Aretha Franklin, "Something He Can Feel" (what Thom says Norah can do for Nick)
The Beatles, "Something" (the only Beatles song Norah claims is any good)
Ash, "Punk Boy" (for punk boy Nick and his boys)
Le Tigre, "My My Metrocard" (song Nick & Norah sing together)
Merle Haggard, "Always Wanting You" (song Norah hears in the cab that makes her cry)

Rachel points out that the list could go on infinitely. I have to say, this is a great playlist even without the narrative and I can't wait to connect the dots. Pre-order her and David's book on Powells Books' site or Amazon. Rachel Cohn has written Gingerbread, and it's follow up, Shrimp. She has written The Steps and it's just released follow-up, Two Steps Forward. And she's the author of Pop Princess. She's one of my all-time favorites. Thank you!
If I Had My Way, I'd Read Peaches Everyday

You know that Presidents of American song from a handful of years back? I used to think of that everytime I smelled a peach. Now I think of Jodi Lynn Anderson's book, Peaches. It's a mighty fine read filled with fabulous girl characters,

I know Jodi enjoys music quite a bit and so I asked her if any songs inspired her while she was writing Peaches. She said yes! So here is her answer and you can hear/download the songs below. I can't thank you enough Jodi... I just love the relationship between song and story and you've further illustrated the connection and process.

"Each of my characters usually reminds me of a song. Leeda reminds me of this Laura Veirs song, Spelunking, I don't know if you've heard it but I love it for Leeda because of this bit that talks about how if someone looked inside her they'd see fish without eyes and bats with their heads hanging down to the ground, you know, all albinoey and stuff, and I feel like Leeda, or at least what I want Leeda to be, is someone who feels cavelike -- who doesn't really know where her center is, she is sort of all these caverns inside that aren't filled up, because she's never been loved very openly or unconditionally -- just kind of repressively and remotely/politely. Birdie, in the second book, but as an extension of the first book, reminds me of that Tracy Chapman song She's Got Her Ticket -- because Birdie has tickets to do all these things (fall in love with a migrant worker, and in the second book, to branch away from home) but you don't know if she'll use it -- and the song is a very soft, tropical sounding song, and Birdie is soft and sort of has this tropical lushness about her (her body, her sweetness). And actually, what inspired me to do the sequel at all was the Bruce Springsteen song Thunder Road. I was lying in bed with it going through my head and just hurting over the story of the song, and suddenly it seemed, that was Murphy's song -- that she spends so much of her life wishing to get out of this town that contains her - but when she has the chance (when she graduates) will she do it? In the song you feel like they so desperately need to go, but that they never will -- that they can't escape their upbringing, you know? And there's the element of Murphy and Rex being in love - and what do they do if Murphy's only chance to really survive is to leave him and Bridgewater, but there's also this thing that Murphy thinks he's the only guy there is -- because all the other ones have let her down so much -- it could be years or never before she finds someone like that again. It's a gamble for her in every way, and it's this thing calling her out of town and away from ghosts, I guess."

Laura Veirs, "Spelunking"
Tracy Chapman, "She's Got A Ticket"
Bruce Springsteen, "Thunder Road"

Jody has also written another fabulous book recently, May Bird and the Ever After: Book One. You can (and should) buy that one and Peaches at or some other fine indie establishment.

Next month I'll bring you Ned Vizzini's musical inspiration for his latest (which I have in my hands), "It's Kind of a Funny Story."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

We're the Cupcakes

Chapter Five.
Hooey! (The End)

All four girls bounced out in the morning, excited about the second round of the competition and satiated from the marathon boy sessions of last night. But when they came out, McCabe wasn’t there.

And the shower wasn’t on.

And there was a note on the fridge.

“Cuppycakes— Round 2 postponed till this afternoon, went for breakfast with Bud. XOMC”

“McCabe doesn’t sign off with X’s and O’s” said Ten.

“Geez, you’re so suspicious Ten,” Said Lola. “Take the spy hat off every now and again. She obviously had fun last night. As did we. And now we’ve got the morning to relax.”

“I think I’m gonna go back to bed!” said May and she bounced back to her room.

But she was stopped in her tracks by the doorbell.

Ten was still questioning the whole thing, “And seriously, when has she ever gone to breakfast with anyone, and on competition day, I mean, she lives to cook for us and—“

But she was interrupted by that high-pitched squeal that emanates from a gaggle of girls when plussed by a boondoggle of boys. Yes, The Nutter Butters were back, this time forgoing the windows and choosing the front door.

Theo did the talking. “Hello ladies. We heard the contest has taken a small detour and thought of no better way to waste away a morning than with our favorite Cupcakes. What do you say? A beach walk?”

“I’ll get my suit!” cried May.

“Let me just get some sunscreen,” said Vivi.

“Be right back,” winked Lola.

“No!” yelled Ten, but it was no use. The girls had retreated to their rooms to get their various and sundry sun stuff.

“This isn’t right. Something’s up, something’s not right.”

She didn’t notice that Bobby, who was swaying from side to side, had excused himself at this point. But Theo pushed his way to Ten and with his most velvet-voice said, “C’mon Ten, live a little.”

Ten stood her ground. Yes, he was cute. Yes, he was knowledgeable about all things rock and roll. But the McCabe note didn’t sit well with Ten.

The girls were quickly back and each grabbed their Nutter Butter’s arm and walked out to the beach. Once there, each couple went in a different direction.

Ten and Theo stayed back. To avoid sitting, and because she thought better when she was moving, Ten started to clean. Not that the shack was dirty, it wasn’t, McCabe kept it spotless. It was just something to keep her hands busy. Theo chased her around the living room and kitchen, trying to get her to sit, to no avail. She waxed, he worked her. She featherdusted, he flirted. Ten’s head was spinning: McCabe? Floppy hair! X’s and O’s? Long tan neck! Sticky counter? Bud Ingstarr? Sticky counter? McCabe never spilled anything! McCabe? McCabe! Oh no, he’s taking his shirt off…”

But Ten looked away. She wasn’t giving in to Theo’s charms. His perfect charms. His exquisitely choreographed charms. His oh so very specifically appropriate to her personality charms. And the others. Vivi’s boy was shy. May’s dorky. Lola’s just plain hot. This is a set up, she thought, and then she said it aloud, “This is a set up!”

“What? No no,” said Theo unconvincingly.

“Where is she? What have you done with her?” cried Ten.

“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Theo but then he grabbed his shirt and he wrapped it around Ten’s mouth, thereby gagging her.

But Ten practiced her spy skills more than anyone in that house. And Tae Kwon Do was her specialty. She plunged her elbow into his rib cage and then whipped her right leg around super Alias stylee, knocking Theo to the ground with one quick hit to the ear. She grabbed his own shirt and quickly tied his wrists together with a buntline hitch knot. Her favorite. He yelled profanity at her. She smiled and then yelled back at him, “What have you done with McCabe?”

But he said nothing. So she pushed him into the hall closet, locked it, and wedged a dining room table under the knob.

Ten then went tearing out of the house after the others.

Meanwhile, on the beach, May and Bobby were holding hands and walking barefoot in the spray of the ocean.

May didn’t notice Bobby was biting his lip, she didn’t notice he was wincing or that his ears were bright red. But she did notice that his palms were sweaty.

“Oh hon, a little baby powder will clear that right up,” she offered.

“I just can’t do this,” Bobby cried. “I really, truly like you—“

“And I really truly like you too,” said May all smiles.

“No, I mean, I have to confess, this is a ruse, a set up, a hoax. Bud Ingstarr is paying us to distract you girls, he schooled us on your likes and dislikes, on your personalities on everything and oh, I’m so ashamed.”

“Wha?” May really was having a hard time following. Remember, not stupid, just slow.

“Everything I said May, was honest and true and I’m not gonna take any money from him, promise.”

“Um, OK, wait, the other boys, it’s just a trick, they were paid? Like actual money?”

“Yes, sadly, and now we’ve got to save everyone. I’m afraid the boys are plotting to rid this town of you girls, and I don’t know for sure, but something may have happened to your manager, McCabe.”

“Nooo!” cried May, and off they ran towards the beach house.

And they ran right smack into Ten.

“Thank goodness you’re OK!” cried May.

“Get away from her!” Ten yelled at Bobby.

“Wait, Ten, he told me that this is a trick! We’ve got to find the others and get back to the shack, we’re all in trouble, McCabe is in trouble,” May’s face said it all, she was terrified.

“Bud Ingstarr paid us Ten, I’m sorry, especially sorry for how I must have hurt May here, but we’ve got to hurry,” Bobby pleaded.

Something in Bobby’s eyes told her to trust him. And as a semi-professional crimefighter, you have to be able to look in someone’s eyes and know whether to trust them or not in an instant. “You two go get Vivi, I’ll get Lola and hurry, we’ll meet back at the shack and find McCabe, now run!”

And then she added, “Oh, and if you get there first, don’t open the hall closet!”

The other girls weren’t as lucky as to have had a boy who cared enough to be honest. Each boy had maneuvered their gal down the beach: Vivi towards an abandoned water tower, and Lola toward an underground bunker built into the beach. May and Bobby came running up on Stu and Vivi. Stu simply assumed that Bobby needed a new place to ditch May, so he didn’t run, he didn’t hide. He actually waited for the two to catch up.

Stupid Stu.

“It’s three against one Stu, step aside,” said Bobby with a dashing confidence that made May swoon.

“What’s going on?” asked Vivi.

“He’s a phony, sure as baloney,” said May. “We’ll explain on the way home, we’ve got to find McCabe!”

Stu headed for Splitsville, but not before calling Bobby a traitor and cursing him for foiling his opportunity to make “big cash.” (Apparently, he really wanted a jet ski.)

Ten used her super spy abilities, the very ones she had practiced on Lola just two nights before, to catch up to the other couple and trail them without being seen or heard. Or rather, Weston didn’t see or hear. But Lola, Lola was hip to Ten’s schtick. She waited until Ten was close by, behind a sand dune, and then she whipped around and with a smile on her face said, “Come out, come out wherever you are!”

Ten jumped out with a look of vengeance on her face, Weston grabbed Lola in an instant and started running. But have you ever tried to drag someone down a beach? It’s hard to run on dry sand alone, but dragging an unwilling participant along? Ten had the advantage.

Ten leaped and pounced, landing on top of Weston’s back, taking him, and Lola, down. “He’s bad,” yelled Ten.

“Shut your mouth,” said Weston.

“He’s trying to get rid of us, I don’t know why exactly, but something’s up, he’s been lying to you.” Ten was now shoving fistfuls of sand into Weston’s eyes, ears, nose and mouth.

Lola herself kicked into gear and added more sand upon Ten’s sand. “Grab that booey,” yelled Ten.

“I love that word, booey,” said Lola as she ran over and yanked it off the side of a small boat. Ten tied Weston up, this time with a Bandini Top Knot and they dragged him, kicking and screaming to the boat. They considered dragging the boat out to sea, but relented when they realized how mean that was (not to mention how much more time it would take!)

As they were running to the shack Lola said, “I may be cured, I didn’t even want to kiss him anymore!”

Back at the shack, the girls turned the place inside out looking for clues. The thumping of Theo’s pitiful fists on the inside of the closet were drowning out their thoughts, but they persevered. When they got to McCabe’s room (which mind you none of them ever, ever went in) they all felt a little guilty. They carefully moved things around. They picked up clothes, papers and stuffed animals with their fingertips. The room was a mess, which certainly wasn’t McCabe’s style. But other than a quick glance through a sliver of a door, they had never seen the inside of this room. They really had nothing to compare it to.

Then, May heard a soft brushing noise coming from the floor, “A mouse, oh my god, a mouse!” she screamed. Bobby calmed her down, “they’re cute May, mice are cute, little noses, they like candy,”

Lola cried, “Shhh! Listen.” The girls were all quiet and still.

This is what they heard:

…. . .-.. .--. ..-. . . - - .-. .- .--. -.. --- --- .-.

“It’s morse code. Listen,” urged Lola.

…. . .-.. .--. “Help,” translated Lola.
..-. . . - “Feet,” she added. “Feet?”
- .-. .- .--. -.. --- --- .-. “Trap door!” cried Lola.

Everyone looked at their feet and then Vivi spotted it. A small knot in the pine—just large enough to stick your finger in. She poked her pointer inside and pulled. A trap door lifted up to reveal a bound and gagged McCabe, her hands secured to her sides and in her mouth, a bobby pin for which she used to create the Morse signals by scraping it against the roof of her cell.

They all lifted her out of the hole and got to work on her knots. As soon as they loosened the gag on her mouth she began to breathlessly talk, “Bud! I let my guard down girls, but that Bud Ingstarr, he did this and now, we must capture him so he never hurts anyone again.” And then without missing a beat, she added, “Why is this boy here?”

“The Nutter Butters were in on it, Bobby here confessed,” cried May, “he helped us find you, don’t’ be mad.” McCabe wasn’t entirely sure what to think of all that but she knew they had to get to the Surf Shack, pronto.

The six of them piled into the Cupcake mobile (a Volkswagon bus painted cotton candy pink on the bottom and bright white on the top) and raced down Boulevard B. But when they got to the Shack, a sign outside in the parking lot read “Closed for a Private Party, Come Back Later.”

The girls sensed this was a private party they needed to attend and they rushed the front door. McCabe threw the shack’s bamboo door open wide and the girls’ mouths followed suit. Inside the Band of the Future banner was gone. In its place? A banner that read “Introducing the Cupcakes!” And the sign was vinyl. And ugly. With a really bad cupcake logo in the left corner. Oh that hurt. And there were people sipping cappuccinos at the tables, but they weren’t townies. They were foreign to the girls, every last one. The girls knew everyone in Sunnydale.

Some were in suits, some were wearing clothes completely not age-appropriate. Thirty year old women in minis. The horror! Ten had been well-trained and she knew this smell. She knew who these people were even though she had never met them. They were… record execs!

But the weirdest thing of all, was there was a band on stage, comprised of four young girls and they were wearing unendorsed bootleg Cupcakes tees! And they were singing the Cupcakes future number one hit, “Share some love tonight”… badly! In fact, they were horrible.

“You’re butchering it!” yelled May. “Butchering!”

Upon hearing May and seeing the rest of the clan, headed up by a steaming McCabe, Mr. Bud Ingstarr, who had been swaying his hips alongside the stage, gasped and hightailed it out the back door.

“I got this one girls,” cried McCabe.

Remember I told you about her stealth speed earlier? She nabbed him in seconds flat. He hadn’t even made it out to his Miata before McCabe had in him cuffs. She dragged his sorry behind back inside. Ten called their pal, Sheriff Lauren Order to come pick up the perp. But first, McCabe had some questions for Mr. Ingstarr.

“Why’d you do it?”

“You ruined my chances of superstardom and you broke my heart,” said Bud near tears.

At with that, everyone’s head sank out of sadness over a broken heart.

“But mostly, you just ruined my chances at stardom,” he said.

Everyone’s head collectively rose feeling pity no more.

“But you had another chance with the Band of the Future show. Why’d you ruin it all for revenge?” queried McCabe.

“That show wasn’t real. The cameras were empty plastic, fake, phony, the director was an actor, the grips, all actors I hired, just like the Nutter Butters. Fakes.”

“But why did you go to so much trouble just to enact revenge against me?” cried McCabe, finally showing a touch of emotion.

“After you left, no one wanted me, my career was over. And it was your fault!”

“Right.” McCabe didn’t subscribe to the blame others for life’s hiccups philosophy. “OK so where were you going with this,” and then McCabe pointed to the faux Cupcake band who were just standing there on stage, mouths agape.

“I thought I’d take them away from you. I was poised to take over the world with your band, but you stole that from me too!”

“I didn’t take them away, you never had them,” said McCabe.

“Well, that’s true. But I could have had their likeness. I could have had their image. I already stole their songs!”

“Sort of,” said Ten under her breath, wanting to distance herself from the crème filled HoHos on stage.

“And I would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for those meddling kids!” cried Ingstarr.

Sheriff Order carted him away after telling the clueless faux Cupcakes to pack it up and move it out. She let Bobby off with a warning. She’d already dispatched officers to pick up Stu, Weston and Theo—if those were their real names.

The record execs, after watching this whole thing go down, were now bolting for the door. “Wait,” yelled McCabe. “The real Cupcakes are phenomenal, you’ll see, give us a chance, please sit back down, we can set up, we can, wait!”

But it was no use. They’d heard enough of the Cupcakes future number one hit “Laugh It Up.” And in the arms of the sugar-free Cupcakes, it sucked. McCabe knew this was neither the time nor the place to showcase the genius of her girls. That time would have to wait.

“See girls,” said McCabe, “Boys will come and go, but crime fighting is forever.”

“True, true,” said Ten, “let this be a lesson to us all.”

Vivi felt horrible. She’s been untrue to her nature, to that little voice inside her head. It was indeed a lesson. May on the other hand wasn’t really paying attention to Ten. She had learned a little teeny tiny lesson, sure, but her boy was still by her side. And Lola?

“I’m cured, really,” said Lola. “I am! Between the marathon kissing—“

“What?!” queried McCabe, but Lola just continued,

“And the lying and betrayal and then Mr. Ingstarr’s revenge scheme, it’s all too much and…”

But Lola’s pious speech meandered somewhere else.

It meandered on over to the new Assistant Sheriff escorting all the fake Cupcakes out the door. He was young, he was tan and he was mega-marshmallow hot.
We're the Cupcakes

Chapter Four.
A Confession.

Back at the home base, McCabe sat the girls down in the sunken living room to relate a story:

“Maybe I should have told you girls before we went to the Surf Shack today. Bud and I, well, many years ago, we were dance partners and (gulp) lovers. It’s a long, torrid story—“

“Oh goody, I love torrid!” cried Lola.

“That I’m not going to get in to,” clarified McCabe with a stern glance Lola’s way. “The reason I am telling you this is because I know, I know first hand what it’s like to have desirous feelings towards a man, or boy, there are chemicals that are duking it out on your insides“

“Okay, kind of grossing me out McCabe, no offense, but can you make it sound any more unappealing?” asked Ten.

“Well, maybe that’s my point dear. Now really, I understand. I’ve been there. I know those Nutter Butter Boys were handsome young men, but we make choices in life. I’ve made them. I made them back when Bud and I were much, much younger and yes, hot and heavy—“

“Can you go over that part again?” asked Lola.

“No. I chose the IDS instead of pursuing Bud. He was hurt. I was upset, but I knew it was the right thing to do. And had I not, I would never be here with you girls right now, so obviously I made the correct choice.”

McCabe’s top secret membership in the IDS, or International Department of Spies, had brought her to Sunnydale and of course, ultimately to the Cupcakes.

“Was he hurt?” asked Vivi, “you know when you told him you were going to work for the IDS?”

“I never told him,” said McCabe. “I do regret that, but alas, a good spy cannot divulge their spy-ness. He never knew about my involvement with espionage. Instead I sent him a ‘Dear John’ letter stating that I had fallen for another. It was pure lies, but as you know, a spy sometimes is forced into a position of falsification and fabrication.”

“Wow, that’s so sad,” said Vivi.

“It really is kinda,” added May.

“What about now,” wondered Lola.

“What, now? You mean Bud and I?” said McCabe as if she hadn’t thought of it herself. Which she had. But she was well schooled in the art of coy equivocations. “No, the timing isn’t right still. Besides, my first love has always been justice. And music. That would be my second love. Men just ain’t in the cards girls. But now that I’m officially out of the IDS, I think I can come clean with him, just a small attempt to make amends. So I’ve invited him over this evening to tell him.”

“And maybe, you know, maybe…” Lola was trying to imply a little hankypanky with an over zealous winking eye but McCabe shot her a Cyborg death look, the one she learned in Indoensia in 1983. Lola sat up straight, wiped the smile off her face and put her hands in her lap. Nothing worked as well on her as the Indonesian Cyborg death look circa 83.

“I expect while he’s here girls that you will be on your best behavior and give us a little privacy. But not leave the premises, is that understood?”

The Cupcakes all nodded in agreement.

Meanwhile, McCabe received a call informing her that the Cupcakes had in fact been chosen as one of two bands to return the next day. But who had any doubt?

So, after a full day of band practice, surfing and Tae Kwon Do instruction, the girls ate supper in relative calm and quiet before retreating to their rooms to give McCabe and Mr. Ingstarr some privacy.

Soon after they heard the doorbell ring and the door open and shut, there was a knock on Lola and Vivi’s window. Lola pulled back the pink and white gingham curtain to reveal not one boy, but two: Weston and Stu. Lola tried to stop the smile from covering her whole face, she really did. She knew she was doomed. “It’s a disease!” she cried to no one in particular and she opened the window.

Vivi looked scared and yet a little thrilled. “Not in our room!” she whispered.

“Right. Makes sense. Outside,” said Lola. “Boys, we’ll come out, you stay there.” Vivii followed Lola, who had done this a thousand times. Vivi wanted to be good, but McCabe’s speech had had the opposite effect of its intent. She thought it was real sad that McCabe chose crime-fighting and espionage over potential true love. She wanted to be careful, but she didn’t want to end up loveless and alone. Or managing a band of reckless teenagers. She thought she had to see what Stu was all about. And so she straightened out her skirt with her hands and smoothed her hair down before walking over to Stu and boldly taking his hand. Lola and Weston, they were already macking on the chaise lounge of the back porch. “Sorry about your hair earlier,” she said during a rare air break.

“No sweat, babe,” and they went back to kissing.

Meanwhile, Ten heard a ‘ping’ coming from her window. She walked a bit closer and heard it again. ‘Ping.” She opened the window and was pelleted with a small jellybean. Theo and Bobby we’re tossing them at their window, over the sweet smelling honeysuckle bush, and around the side of the house from where Vivi and Lola were.

“Hello girls,” said Theo.

“Hi May,” said Bobby. May giggled.

“No thanks,” said Ten and she shut the window firmly.

“Ten!” whined May. “I like him. Open that window!”

“No, you heard McCabe. We can’t get sidetracked. Our careers are too important.”

“I like him!” May said with force this time, no smile.

“NO!” yelled Ten.

“Yes!” yelled May.

And then, “Ping. Ping. Ping.”

“And I like jellybeans!” and May ran to the window and threw it open. “I’ll come out Bobby, stay there!”

“And you?” yelled Theo.

“Shhh, McCabe might here you!” whispered Ten.

“Oh she’s too busy to hear us,” said Theo.

“How do you know?” asked Ten.

“Oh, well I mean, I saw Bud Ingstarr’s Miata out front, that’s all.”

“Oh right,” said Ten, “doesn’t that worry you? I mean, this is a contest, aren’t you wary of some funny business, him being here at night and all?”

“Nope. I’m confident in my abilities. And yours.” And he flashed her this dangerous smile, the kind of smile that affects all girls, of all persuasions. “I’m not coming down,” said Ten, standing her ground firmly. “But, but I’ll talk to you, you know, from here.”

“That’ll work,” said Theo.

Theo kept the conversation on music and Ten didn’t mind at all and before they knew it hours had passed. Ten thought it was perfectly acceptable since they couldn’t touch, they couldn’t kiss, she couldn’t be entirely too distracted from a distance.

The same could not be said for the other three girls. May and Bobby were sitting on the side porch, bare feet in the cool damp grass kissing and giggling and talking about candy.

In the back, Vivi and Stu were on the double wide swing. Vivi was alternately feeling empowered and lusty and attacking Stu with kisses and then she’d feel guilty and terrible and she’d retreat to her side of the swing. He coaxed her back to kissing every time.

Lola and Weston had been making out since the moment she stepped out on the soil. They were still kissing wildly, hours later and the only difference was that both their faces were red and raw from so much action. And oddly enough, it was Lola who ended the entire garden party.

See, Lola had never been able to get away from McCabe AND the girls for any length of time. This was the very longest she had ever kissed anyone. And after all that violent mashing, her face was in fact very, very tender, very, very sore. It happens you know.

So after three and a half hours of hardnose kissing, she called it quits!

And she rounded up Vivi and they caught a glimpse of May and Bobby and they grabbed her too and they shooed Theo away, which suited Ten fine. She was enjoying talking to him, as long as they stuck to the conversation of music, but she was tired and wanted to lie down. She actually was considering climbing out her window and hitting a chaise when Lola and the gang decided to come in.

The boys were not so happy, but the girls’ were of one mind. They’d had their fun and now sleep was required. Several pleas later, the boys reluctantly left.
We're the Cupcakes

Chapter Three.
The Mysterious Case of the Bogus Band of the Future

The girls weren’t too familiar with Mr. Ingstarr. He’d been a very minor celebrity during McCabe’s own era. But here he was now, on his way back to the top apparently, hosting a new version of an old talent show—an ultimate battle of the bands. McCabe was even more excited than usual.

She retreated into her room and added a little rouge to her cheeks before they all headed out to the Surf Shack. Rouge is what older people call blush.

When the girls got to the Surf Shack three other neighborhood bands had already signed in: The Martians. The Sunshine Party. And Evil Teddy. The girls weren’t fond of those Evil Teddy boys. Even Lola found little to lust. But man could they rock.

Bud Ingstarr spotted McCabe and gave her a smooth sideways smile. McCabe returned the favor with a bat of the eyelashes and a dip of the chin. And then she waltzed on over—literally a waltz—one step forward, one step to the side, a half turn, a step back—it was all quel dramatique!

Despite the fact that the four Martians, the entire Sunshine Party and all of Evil Teddy signed in prior to the Cupcakes, Mr. Ingstarr requested to hear the Cupcakes first. He wore a very chi chi beret, black of course, and a slim dark grey suit, the type that cartoon gentlemen wore, the kind that tapered to the ankle and ended with a crisp cuff just shy of the ankle revealing a sliver of black sock and flowing into a shapely men’s wingtip. He was handsome in that silver fox sort of way, in a ‘my grandpa is sexier than your grandpa’ sort of way. In other words, not in a way that you or I could relate, but certainly his charms were not immune to someone of McCabe’s advanced age.

And that is what the girls felt was the explanation for McCabe’s waltz. Turns out, the waltz was an old routine that her and Ingstarr had years ago. They knew each other from days gone by! Why hadn’t McCabe mentioned this before? But we jump ahead. The girls don’t know all this yet.

“Let’s rock it!” yelled Lola when she heard they were first. But Vivi felt awkward, “But, but, we weren’t first. That’s cutting. I don’t cut.”

“Maybe our reputation precedes us,” offered up Ten. “I mean, we are the best band in Sunnydale, without a doubt, quid pro none.”

“Except maybe Evil Teddy,” suggested May, far too loudly.

Evil Teddy’s own singer Teddy Bear echoed her sentiment but with more, um, gusto. “That’s right we are better, the best and we were first, this is so total bul—“

You know what he said. It is not meant for delicate ears such as yours. I will leave it to your imaginations, dear girl.

After Teddy Bear ranted and raved and cursed and stomped and finally pouted (that was Ten’s favorite move) he was shut down by Mr. Ingstarr’s assistant, a lovely and curvaceous sweater-clad woman by the name of Ms. Rue Lett. She sort of swayed up beside Teddy Bear and in this thick as full-cream voice said, “Oh Mr. Bear, Mr. Ingstarr knows you boys are talented, he’s saving the best for last. Now take a seat over there and we’ll call you in a just a little bit, OK big boy?” And she winked at him. Winked! Then she added, “Besides Bear, ladies’ first.”

“What!? Seriously? NO!” yelled Ten. She didn’t want any slack cut for her just because they were a girl band.

“Oh no girls, come on, Mr. Ingstarr is just doing me a favor,” said McCabe. “It’s quite nice of him. Now Ten put that energy into your guitar and we’ll win this whole thing for sure.”

Ten looked peeved but went to set up. “Wait, why is he doing you a favor?”

“Bud and I go way back,” said McCabe in a whisper to the girls. “We’re old friends. He wouldn’t be so unethical as to put you into the contest if you weren’t deserving, but he can certainly pull a few strings and get you to play first. For me.” McCabe was still smiling a cotton candy smile that made Ten’s teeth hurt.

While the girls set up, Bud Ingstarr took the little stage of the surf shack. He grabbed the mike and with all the swagger and sway of an old lounge act, he announced the rules and regulations of this stage of the contest:

“Greetings Ladies, Gentleman and Evil Teddy, I’m Mr. Bud Ingstarr, the handsome host with the most of the all-new, once-old ‘Band of the Future’ [this last part he said in a futuristic robot voice that implied he may break out into a moonwalk at any given moment, and yet he never did] and this is how this whole kit and caboodle is gonna fly. You’re each gonna give me one song, your best song, your most dynamic song, your grooviest swinginest song. I will then choose the two bands that truly knock my sox to move on to the semi finals of the try-outs, which will take place right here, same bat time, same bat channel, only 24 hours from now, dig? The winner of that round will then go on to be one of four bands competing on national broadcast television next to me, handsome host with the most, Bud Ingstarr. Who will be the next ‘Band of the Future’ [that robot voice again!]? Why it could be YOU!”

By now, the Cupcakes were set up and the Surf Shack had filled up with locals chugging mugs of milky coffee.

“Our first big, big band of the day is made up of a gaggle of gorgeous girls (this is where Ten rolled her eyes in pain), let’s give it up for the talented, the tasty (double roll), the Cupcakes!”

May, our sweet little, drummer with fists of steel, counted them out “One, two, three and—“

You never did hear her yell four, the band was off and running with speed and sound. They sang their future number one hit, “Boy Brunch.”

May’s slamming backbeat belied her simple and pie-eyed outlook on life—she could wake up Sleeping Beauty and the whole kingdom with just one note. Her smile may have been all bubbles and puppies but her forearms were fierce. Plus, her wild blonde curls bounced like she was in one of those cheese-ball wind-machine hair-color commercials and it was actually… refreshing. As she pounded every bit of life out of her kit, sparks were flying from Vivi’s bass—she may have been careful about everything in her life, from her choices in boys to her choices in desserts, but when it came to the bass, she was carefree and careless in the most rock and roll way, and thoroughly lost in the syncopated patterns of the music. For her part, Ten was in control, as she always was, but she still managed to put a heaping helping of harrowing humanism into the voice of her guitar. The loud, unending notes danced circles around the bass and drum lines all the while keeping up with Lola’s instrument, the vox. Lola was like their super secret weapon. Lola’s voice was otherworldly and added intrigue and mystery to their sass and sonic swagger. Ten had more than once wondered if there was a chance that Lola’s voice had come out of some late-night deal with the devil, it was just that good.

Halfway through the second run of the chorus,

“The menu looks good, the menu looks yums, it’s a boy brunch and I don’t need no Tums” —

Lola’s concentration was broken and she gulped, loud.

Four boys had slowly, effortlessly, dangerously, walked into the Surf Shack in the middle of the Cupcakes song. Each more beautiful than the last, each carrying some awkwardly shaped case filled with a musical instrument. They walked right to the front with two cruising to the left of the stage, two to the right so that Lola’s eyes almost crossed—she didn’t know which way to look. Each gorgeous boy was showing off some pearly whites, and, if truth be told, each was checking out a different Cupcake.

McCabe saw all of this and began to sweat off some of that rouge. While McCabe noticed the pace had slowed a bit, no one else seemed to mind. The girls finished their song relatively in check, all except Lola who was now clinging to her mike stand in a positively dreamy state. She was staring at the floppy haired, dirty blonde boy closest to her. And he was staring at her. If this were in fact a cartoon, there would have been shooting stars or pulsating hearts connecting their dilated pupils. But it’s not a cartoon. It’s a book.

This particular boy rushed the stage and took Lola’s arm gently to escort her down. “Hi, I’m Weston and you have the coolest voice I think I’ve ever heard. Lola right?”

“Uh-huh, who, where, why?” was all she could get out.

“Weston, Weston Banks and I’m the singer of The Nutty Butters, we’re from the next town over. We’ve heard a lot about you girls.”

“Uh-huh.” Lola was still pie eyed.

“We’re here for the tryouts, you know the contest with Mr. Ingstarr.”

Now as Weston tried to have a two-way conversation with Lola, the other three members of the Nutty Butters bee-lined it to their corresponding Cupcake.

Where was McCabe? At first, when she saw this all happening she appropriately freaked. She was ready to bust up the tempestuous tea parties—Lola’s was at the top of her list—when she was sidelined by the talented Bud Ingstarr. He grabbed McCabe by the waist and whipped out a fancy move from years ago wherein he spun her dramatically into his arms. She was shaken at first. Stirred. Especially when he put his pointer finger to her lips and whispered “Shhhh.” But as he leaned in to press his soft, well cared for lips on hers, she became transfixed by his fluttering lashes, as if they were hypnotizing her with some sort of rhythmic trance-inducing suggestive pattern. And really, we must ask ourselves here, was he in fact using the ol’ Black Magic on her? Well, was he?!

During this unusual break in McCabe’s intense focus, May met Bobby, Vivi met Stu and Ten argued with Theo.

Stu: Wow, you’re bass lines are outta site, where’d you learn to play like that?
Vivi: Oh, gosh, lots of practice.
Stu: No, you have a natural gift, I’m not fooling.
Vivi: Thank you.
Stu: Oh, gosh, sorry, I didn’t introduce myself, I’m Stu.
Vivi: And I’m Vivi (she was blushing profusely)
Stu: I know.

Stu had the good looks of a boy well bred. You know the type—squared jaw, eyes the perfect distance from one another and colored a deep oceanic blue. His hair was naturally streaked with ultra blonde highlights like the sun had taken extra care when directing its heat his way. He was soft spoken with his immense praise for our little Vivi.

Across the room—

Bobby: Jeepers and jam, that’s some pounce you got there.
May: Why thank you kind sir. (Giggle.) So, who are you?
Bobby: Bobby Lee is the name and drumming is my game. But my game ain’t up to snuff compared to yours fair lady.
May: Kook. Who talks like that, I mean, besides me? (Giggle.) (Giggle.)
Bobby: Maybe we were made for each other, like heaven opened up and sent sprays of pixie dust our way. I say that’s how this here meet-cute happenstanced.
May: Huh? (Giggle.)
Bobby: So fairest one of all, tell me your name.
May: (Giggle.) May. (Giggle.)

Bobby was as goofy looking as his speech. But that’s exactly how May liked them. May’s gorgeous blonde curls could have attracted Johnny Depp in a darkly lit room, but she liked them a little askew. Bobby’s angular nose and oversized bug eyes had May’s heart a flutter. And she found his over the top banter (if you could call it that) mighty fine.

Just a few feet away—

Ten: I’m not buying what you’re selling.
Theo: Whoa, why the frozen shoulder?
Ten: Are you trying to distract us on purpose or something?
Theo: Um, no. Why would we do that?
Ten: This is a contest. I’m not a fool. Four of you, four of us, TV, stardom.
Theo: I’m not following.
Ten: Sure you aren’t.
Theo: Seriously, I’m not here to pick you up or distract you or whatever you think. I wanted to tell you, I just thought you’re playing reminded me of Graham Coxon while your back-up vocals were so sly and cool like Kim Deal, circa ’89.

Now if there was one way to Ten’s heart it would be an all-encompassing encyclopedic knowledge of rock. And roll. Plus, he seemed so earnest. And skinny. Ten loved them skinny, with that whole retro mod look complete with 60s era Keith Richards hair and pegged pants. She tried not to be flattered or impressed or smitten, but frankly it took every bit of inner strength she had.

Right around this time McCabe broke free of Ingstarr’s hypnotic gaze, snapped back to reality and headed straight for Lola, who was already sucking face with Weston right there at the coffee bar. The other girls had been too intertwined to notice. Lola’s finger was twirling the long bits of hair over his ears while they kissed, a sure sign of complete and total abandonment. McCabe firmly poked Lola in the back, which caused her to jump back with surprise and unfortunately, she took a chunk of Weston’s hair with her. He let out an annoyed wail. Lola, guilt-ridden, tried to hide her joy over scoring some cute boy hair. “But I’m crushy!” was all she could say.

Vivi was next closest so McCabe dragged Lola by the ear to where they were talking. “C’mon break it up and move it out.” Vivi smiled politely at Stu, told him it was nice to meet him, shrugged her shoulders and grabbed her bass.

The three crossed the room to May and Bobby who were staring at each other intently, without saying a word. He was writing letters with his finger on the inside of her wrist. She was giggling. “Enough!” said McCabe a bit loudly. Bobby looked genuinely sorry, genuinely afraid and said, “Oh M’am, I didn’t mean no harm. May is just, well she’s just, wow.” May giggled some more. McCabe just rolled her eyes and with the three girls in tow, hightailed it on over to where Ten was trying her damndest to not fall prey to Theo’s obvious charms. “I’m coming,” she said to McCabe before McCabe had a chance to yell at her. Ten was happy to have a solid excuse to walk away. The whole thing made her a little queasy: cute rock boy fawning over her and her rockin’ ways. She had hoped this would happen, you know, a side perk of being in the greatest band ever, but still, here it was sooner than later and while it was fuzzy, she wasn’t ready for it. Not yet.

McCabe rounded up all the girls and equipment and was heading out the door with all in tow just as Evil Teddy took the stage singing their tune, “Bucket of blueberries, bucket of blood…”