Todd Hasak-Lowy: 5 Fairly Recent Musical Obsessions

me-being-me is exactly as insane as you being you guest post

Todd Hasak-Lowy, author of Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You (Simon & Schuster) stops by Bart’s Bookshelf today to talk about his most recent musical obsessions.

Todd Hasak-LowyPeople sometimes ask me for a playlist.  The truth is, I usually don’t have a playlist, I usually have an album (yes, album) I’m hugely preoccupied with.  This is pretty much all I’ll be listening to until something finally tells me it’s time to move on.  The following are highlights from the last few years.  “Highlight” in this case means a recording that almost led to me being kicked out of my own house by my wife and daughters.

1. Clube da Esquina
This is the name of both a Brazilian group and album from 1972.  Some people like Brazilian music, some not so much.  If you’re in the second group, hold on a second, because what’s amazing about this album is that it sounds like what I imagine Lennon and McCartney might have created had they been born in Rio instead of Liverpool.

2. “The Ash & Clay,” The Milk Carton Kids
The Milk Carton Kids are a contemporary American folk duo.  The closest comparison I can think of is Simon and Garfunkel, during their very early years.  Like S&G, MCK have wonderful harmonies.  But the additional treat they provide in abundance are not one, but two great guitar players.  One of them plays some of the most insane solos you’ll ever hear on an acoustic guitar.

3. “Sky Blue Sky,” Wilco
“Wilco” is the answer to the question: “Who have you spent the most time listening to during the last ten years?”  I’m not sure this is their objectively “best” album—whatever that means—but this is my very personal favorite.   The album oscillates perfectly between gentle, honest love songs and potent numbers made up of layer upon layer of the very finest rock and roll expertise.

4. “For the Roses,” Joni Mitchell
This is just the latest in a string of Joni Mitchell albums I’ve lost my mind over.  The problem here, as is the case with many of her recordings, is that this album doesn’t exactly make a person happy.  So my strategy works like this: wait until I’m in a particularly good mood and then put it on so I can endure her melancholy brilliance.

5. “Carrie & Lowell,” Sufjan Stevens
This is the obsession I’m living in right now.  Right at this moment, as I write this list.  Stevens’ music—at its best, and he’s definitely at his best here—has an emotional frankness that seems almost humanly impossible.  This album, just released, is about the death of his mother.  Yes, I know, another upper.   But the music is so beautiful and the lyrics are so arresting that listening to it is an experience in purification.  Assuming an addiction can ever be purifying.

Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being YouMe Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You by Todd Hasak-Lowy

Darren hasn’t had an easy year. His parents divorced, his brother left for college, and his best friend moved state. Also, he still doesn’t have a girlfriend.

Then his dad shows up at 6am with a glazed chocolate donut and a pretty world-shaking revelation. In full freak-out mode, Darren ditches school and jumps on a bus to visit his brother, Nate, at college. But someone weird / amazing comes along for the ride.

Told entirely in lists, this hilarious novel perfectly captures why having anything to do with anyone is:

  1. painful
  2. unavoidable
  3. ridiculously complicated
  4. possibly, hopefully, the right thing after all.

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