David Levithan’s Other People’s Music Poll, 2013

It’s here! The annual David Levithan highly unscientific music poll! Here are the winners:

  1. Lorde, Pure Heroine (38 votes)
  2. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City (32)
  3. Haim, Days are Gone (24)
  4. Beyonce, Beyonce (21)
    The National, Trouble Will Find Me
  5. Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob (20)
  6. Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe (16)
  7. Janelle Monae, The Electric Lady (15)
  8. Arcade Fire, Reflektor (14)
    Kanye West, Yeezus (14)

Click the link above for the long list of recommendations.

As usual, only one of my favorites was in the top 10 list. It’s posted on the site among 114 others, so I’ve pulled it out for your convenience 🙂

Jon S’s list is anything but Common

The Knife, Shaking the Habitual

I had been looking forward to another album from The Knife ever since 2007’s Silent Shout, which set the bar for goth pop. While Shaking the Habitual wasn’t everything I hoped it would be, particularly some of the rather self-indulgent extra long jam session tracks in the middle, The Knife took bold chances and tried new things rather than resting on their laurels. Plus, “Without You My Life Would Be Boring” is an incredible track.

Chelsea Wolfe, Pain is Beauty

Another album I’ve been waiting on. I’ve picked up every Chelsea Wolfe album since 2010’s The Grime and the Glow. She has such a haunting, distinctive voice. Similar to Zola Jesus, but more gritty and folk. Unfortunately, her music composition wasn’t nearly as developed as Zola Jesus. At least, not until Pain is Beauty. With this album, we’re finally hearing the promise that was hinted at but never owned until now.

Mutual Benefit, Love’s Crushing Diamond

The latest album from Mutual Benefit is a masterpiece of gentle, earthy reflection. Not a single song detracts from the feeling of sweet reverie.

my bloody valentine, m b v

Honestly, I had not been waiting for this album. At all. I mean, I loved 1991’s Loveless just like every other emo grunge teenager, and probably for a few years after I would have wanted a follow up. But that was a long time ago. If anything, I was nervous that this new album might detract from the legacy, like some other come back early 90’s bands. Boy was I wrong. Unlike The Knife, who blazed new ground, or Chelsea Wolfe, who grew into herself, my bloody valentine just did their thing. And it was just as good. In fact, it was possibly better. Deeper, more intricate, and just a hint at what might lie ahead.

Rhye, Woman

While I’m mostly an indie rock/folk with a decent helping of electronic kind of guy, I grew up in a house that had Sade more or less on endless repeat. I don’t have a wide knowledge of R&B, other than my longstanding obsession with Erykah Badu. But I know when something is pretty much perfect. And if you are looking for an album that is one non-stop, slow smoldering, “take your pants off” song, this is it. Also, rather fascinatingly, despite the fact that there are moments I would swear I was listening to Sade, the lead singer is a man.

Daft Punk, Random Access Memories

My eight year old son loves the previous Daft Punk albums. He discovered the band when they did the soundtrack to TRON: Legacy. He was highly disappointed with the new album, saying it was “kinda boring” and “slow”. Maybe this means that both Daft Punk and I are getting old, but I love it. In fact, I think it’s my favorite Daft Punk album to date. A perfect blend of classic electronica, dance, and pop.

Vampire Weekend,_ Modern Vampires of the City_

These guys. I don’t really know what to say. They keep trying stuff, it keeps being really good. Some things are pure carry over from the previous albums and some things are startlingly new. I wish there’s been a bit more focus on percussion, which is my absolute favorite thing about the band, other than Ezra Koenig’s voice. But still, it’s a damn good album.

Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt

I loved the opening track of this album so much I put it in the video I made about my Man Made Boy tattoo. Katie Crutchfield adds some new layers and more instruments to the sound from her previous album, American Weekend, but loses none of the intimacy and heartache that made me swoon over that album, too. It’s so nice to see some straight up folk rock with depth, nuance, and humor.


Moody, dark, soulful, and with a solid beat, this album harkens back to the glory days (or glory box??) of classic trip-hop without ever feeling nostalgic or tired. With the de-emphasis on vocals, and a driving, dynamic album-length arc, this is the perfect music to write something creepy to.

Swearin’, Surfing Strange

I don’t know what they fed those Crutchfield girls growing up, but I want it for my kids. Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield has a sister named Allison, who is in the band Swearin’ and while somewhat less of a frontwoman, she is no less talented. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t discover Swearin’ on my own. My little brother turned me on to them, suggesting that it sounded like my kind of thing. And boy is it. It’s a little like early 90’s alt-grunge when it wasn’t being pretentious, and a little like late 00’s indie when it wasn’t been whiny, and a little like the inside of my brain all the time.

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, We the Common

Look, I’m not saying it’s actually the best album of 2013. But it was unquestionably THE album for me. I had some trouble getting into Thao Nguyen’s previous work, but this album is so generous, so accessible, that it’s been like a bridge to all her previous offerings. It’s an album for the outlaw in all of us. It’s the rambler, free spirit, laugh out loud even when you know damn well you look like an asshole album. In my humble opinion, we could all use some of that.

Haunted At 17 Blog Series

Nova Ren Suma’s new novel, 17 & Gone, comes out tomorrow, March 21, and to mark the release of this story about a 17-year-old girl haunted by the missing, she’s asked some authors she knows to join her in answering this question… What haunted YOU at 17? 

That's me on the far right in the Frank Black t-shirt. I have very few pictures of myself from this age.
That’s me on the far right in the Frank Black t-shirt. I have very few pictures of myself from this age.

I was unathletic, creative, and sensitive. For a boy growing up in Ohio during the late 80’s, these were not good qualities. You got beat up a lot. So I spent pretty much all of middle school hiding in my bedroom with my nose in a book. I had no friends and no reason to think I’d be getting some anytime soon.

Then, in 1990, as I made the graceless transition from middle school to high school, I discovered Jane’s Addiction. No one else in my small conservative, all boys Jesuit Catholic school had ever heard of them, and even if they had, I’m sure they would have considered the band “too weird”. So I continued my quiet exploration into underground rock alone, listening to Kurt Cobain and Trent Reznor whisper and wail about angst and alienation. It made me feel that somewhere out there were other kids listening to this music, feeling the way I felt.

And then two things happened in rapid success: my mother forced me to go to community theater classes, and the first Lollapalooza came to Ohio. That was when I discovered a community. There were other people like me. Weirdos, misfits, freaks, right there all around me. People who didn’t care that I couldn’t throw a football, that I questioned my religion, that my parents were divorced, that my step-brother and step-sister were black, that my family was run by a strong, independant woman, and that we had gay friends. To my surprise, I found other kids out there who even shared some of these qualities with me.

So I stopped trying to fit in to the Midwestern conservative hellhole in which I was trapped. I stopped trying to be “normal”. In fact, I started to take pride in my otherness. I may have even gotten a bit belligerent about it. Rather than be ashamed of it, I used it as armor agains the bullies and jocks and everyone else who had ever picked on me.

Even more importantly, I had friends! We would go to bands, discuss Anne Rice and Douglas Adam, and read poetry at open mics. We did it all loudly and defiantly, in smokey coffee shops and back booths at Denny’s because we didn’t care any more what the popular kids thought. We were pro-Feminist, pro-Gay, pro-Equality, pro anything really that pissed off the Conservative Establishment. We did theater and art and music and whatever else we could think of to mark ourselves as different from–and, okay, I’ll just go ahead and say it–as better than Normal.

But then suddenly it was cool to listen to these bands, to wear Doc Martins and flannel, to feel “disenfranchised”. They called it “grunge” or “alternative”. Jocks grew their hair long and tried to discuss the meaning of Pearl Jam songs with me (a band I’ve always hated, btw). With growing horror, I realized we were being assimilated by the pop culture Borg. Then Kurt Cobain killed himself, and everything was thrown into question. If Kurt couldn’t hack it, how could the rest of us? It felt like Normal had won, the Establishment could not be beaten, and our weirdtopia was nothing more than a meaningless blip, a childish notion. 

What haunted me at 17 was the fear that I would never escape my hometown, that I would never achieve my dreams, that my only two choices were to accept conformity or die. But it was precisely this fear that goaded me on. That would not allow me to give up. I’d be damned if I would go down without a fight.

In some ways, it is that fear, and the defiance it inspires, that drives me still.

To see all the authors taking part, be sure to visit Nova’s blog distraction99.com.


Rachel and Steve – Troubled Waters

Rachel and Steve – Troubled Waters

I asked my friends Rachel Hardin and Steve Fragale to record a rendition of the old folk song “Troubled Waters” for Misfit. At one point I had this whole grand idea of building a trailer/video around it for the launch. But my lack of time, experience and skill in creating video got in the way. So that’s disappointing.

But who needs a trailer? This track is awesome all by itself. Better than I could ever have hoped! Rach and Steve, will you two just start a band already?!

Columbus Book and Music Twitter Giveaway

It is sad but true that when someone asks me where I’m from, most of the time I can’t just say “Columbus”. People don’t know where that is. So I have to add “Ohio.” Every. Single. Time.

If I were to say “Atlanta” or “Buffalo” or even “Cleveland”, I wouldn’t need to clarify by telling you what state it’s in. You’d probably just know. But people outside Ohio rarely know Columbus. I think it has something to do with the fact that we don’t have a major league baseball, professional football, or basketball team. We just don’t have the national name recognition.

But we don’t need sports. Because we have ART, people! We have great music like indie rock band Times New Viking. And we have great writers like…me! (and James Thurbur, of course)


So I’m running an I <3 Columbus giveaway to make people aware of this great, under-appreciated city! Two lucky people will be randomly selected from the entries to get:

  • A signed copy of Struts & Frets in its awesome new paperback cover glory.
  • A CD of Dancer Equired, the new album from Times New Viking. Here’s the video for one of the singles, No Room To Live. If you like stripped down, lo-fi indie rock, it really doesn’t get better than this. Also, band member Adam Elliott told me he liked Struts & Frets so that makes me like them even more 🙂

And if enough people enter, I’ll giveaway more stuff. Don’t worry. I’ll think of something cool.

Open to international entries.

How to enter

Post something about Columbus on Twitter. “I love Columbus” or “AW YEAH COLUMBUS” or “Columbus ROCKS!” or whatever works for you. Hell, you could even say “Columbus SUX!” or “Death to Columbus!” if you want. I don’t care. This is about name recognition. Just make sure you include the word “Columbus” and mention me @jonnyskov so I know you did it, and also @timesnewviking because if they get enough random Columbus love, it’ll totally freak them out.

Contest ends Friday at Midnight, EST! So do it now!

Misfit playlist

Here is the official Misfit playlist for you music geeks out there. Trying out 8tracks.com. Let me know if you experience problems. Full track list is:

  • Motherless Child (feat. Portishead) – Tom Jones
  • Troubled Waters – Cat Power
  • Places – Wildbirds & Peacedrums
  • True Affection – The Blow
  • Sick Muse – Metric
  • Another World – Antony and the Johnsons
  • The Good That Won’t Come Out – Rilo Kiley
  • My Backwards Walk – Frightened Rabbit
  • Your Next Bold Move – Ani DiFranco
  • Dark Come Soon – Tegan and Sara
  • Samson – Regina Spektor
  • The Garden – Mirah
  • I Don’t Feel Young – Wye Oak
  • Runaway – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Love Love Love – The Mountain Goats
  • Dog Days Are Over – Florence and The Machine
  • We’re All Going to Hell – The Bastard Fairies

The YA Rocks! event for the NYC Teen Author Festival

The YA Rocks! event for the NYC Teen Author Festival was a blast. Here are some pix of Tiger Beat doing their thing.

Best song of the night: The last image is some poor library intern on his first day on the job that Libba coerced into holding up poster boards with the lyrics of the Tiger Beat original tune “YA Song”. Galley Cat has a video of that song from a previous performance. It’s a nonstop barrage of YA book references with the stirring chorus “Holden Caulfield is Not an Asshole”.

Best moment of the night: Libba sits down at the keyboard, leans into the mic and says, “You know what I like best about playing keyboards with two broken elbows?” [pause] “Not a damn thing.”

Moment I decided I will love Libba forever: When she gave me a shout-out during Midnight Radio. If you don’t know this song, go watch Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Now. Do it now.

Smart chicks who rock!

From reader Lex, via my contact form:

I notice that your book features a male protagonist in a band in high school at a battle of the bands competition. Is there any female presence in the music scene in your book? I’m in college now, but I spent all 4 years of high school as a female guitar player (no, I don’t suck, either, just because I’m a girl) trying to put together a rock band, and getting treated like crap because of my gender. For this reason I am very interested to see if gender is equally represented, or at least ADDRESSED in your book, or if you’ve just got a bunch of stereotypical high school guys bumming around on their instruments and leaving the girls to be groupies.

This message troubled me. I don’t think the girls in Struts & Frets are weak. In fact, I would say Jen5 is the strongest, smartest, and most self-assured character in the book. But still. No female musicians? What was I thinking?!?

Well, I can’t be all things for all people, the story is done and there will be many more to come. I promise to you, Lex, that I will rectify this egregious error in a future work. In the mean time, here are some of my favorite smart chicks who are currently making noise today. These are not just pretty faces manufactured by the music industry. They are songwriters, musicians, and often producers of their own label. The next time some asshole guy tells you that you can’t be a guitarist because you’re a woman, I suggest you hand him an album from one of these amazing people. If he still doesn’t get it, then there is no hope for him and you don’t want to be in that band anyway.