Current Playlist, Part Two

Hi all!

How are you? How has your week been? Mine has been relatively quiet, save for rehearsal, but that changes today as I kick off the new semester. I can’t say I’m ready for the onslaught of assignments, but I am excited about my course options and, of course, the chance to reconnect with friends.

As I enter into “school mode,” I have my playlists at the ready. Like so many, I love to work and write to music – especially when the artist is new to me! I shared a few of my favorite albums back in the summer and had such a fun time writing the post that I wanted to do a second round. That in mind, here’s a sample of what I’ve been listening to as of late. Any recommendations of your own?

Jade BirdFirst, have you heard of British singer Jade Bird? I can’t get enough of her recent EP, Something American, and I’m clearly not the only one. NPR writes that it’s a “heartfelt blend of intimate songs;” at Pitchfork, the songs “could be plucked straight from the American heartland.” She’s been labeled a country singer, but I think that’s a disservice to the blend of blues, Americana, and folk that she so effortlessly delivers. Do check her out.

favorite tracks: Good Woman, Cathedral (Acoustic)

The Wild ReedsIn a similar vein is indie folk group The Wild Reeds. Relatively new to the music scene, they released their second album, The World We Built, just last year. I only stumbled upon their music earlier in the fall semester, but I’ve had it playing non-stop ever since. Their harmonies are something to admire. (Related: watch their NPR Tiny Desk Concert for a mid-week pick-me-up!).

favorite tracks: Fall To Sleep, Everything Looks Better (In Hindsight)

Earl St ClairI’m convinced I could listen to R&B artist Earl St. Clair – with his distinctive raspy voice – for days. He combines that signature wail with an infectious old-school energy on his debut album, My Name is Earl. The seven tracks have been my go-to workout music as of late, but it could easily transition to early morning playlists. One listen, and I’m sure you’ll draw the same conclusion: he’s an artist to watch.

favorite tracks: Criminal, Feeling Alive

Greta IssacLike so many of the artists I’ve enjoyed over the past year, Welsh singer Greta Issac is an emerging voice. She has only a few singles, but each and every one is constructed with care. Don’t be thrown by the genre of electronic pop; her work is refreshing (and incredibly catchy). All that said, I’m eagerly awaiting the release of a full-length album, but in the meantime, you can find me playing “You” on repeat.

favorite tracks: You, Tied

ALA.NIListening to ALA.NI’s EP, You & I, is like a trip back in time. It’s an album that asks you to pause, listen, and give it your undivided attention. Why this is exactly is hard to pinpoint. Is her trademark 1930s microphone that she uses while recording and on tour? Is it the parallels between her work and that of classic icons like Billie Holiday and Judy Holiday? Whatever the reason, all I can say is that I’m a huge fan.

favorite tracks: Woo Woo, Roses & Wine

Pale HoneyI’ll admit: I first looked into Pale Honey because of the duo’s name (What can I say? I was curious!). After listening to their two albums, however, it became clear that their music was right up my alley. Devotion, which came out earlier this fall, is true to the Swedish band’s “minimalist rock” style. It’s not only compelling, it’s packed with punches of raw emotion, thanks to singer Tuva Lodmark’s stand-out voice. I dig it.

favorite tracks: Get These Things Out of My Head, Real Thing

IbeyiIf an Adele endorsement isn’t enough to grab your attention, it will only take a  listen to the first minute of Ibeyi’s single, “Deathless,” before you too are a fan of twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz. They’re a talented pair: blending Yoruba, French, and Afro-Cuban styles, they’ve created a sound that is wholly unique (and mesmerizing to listen to). I can’t wait to see what they make next.

favorite tracks: Deathless, No Man is Big Enough for My Arms

The Band's VisitIt wouldn’t be a Ciao Bella music post without a bit of Broadway! My current favorite is The Band’s Visit, a musical inspired by the film of the same name. While I would love to one day see the production, for now, I’ve settled for listening to the cast album while I bake or get ready in the morning. Star Katrina Lenk has a voice like no other, and composer David Yazbek should be praised for his beautiful music and lyrics. Excellent stuff.

favorite tracks: Welcome to Nowhere, Papi Hears the Ocean

Aldous HardingHow does one sum up the music of New Zealand singer Aldous Harding? Melancholic, dreamy, and stunning, Harding’s sophomore album is a well-drawn story; she finds sadness in celebration and growth in heartbreak. One reporter even writes that her songs will “put a spell on you.” (They’re right). To be short? I absolutely adore her songs, and I think (hope!) you will too.

favorite tracks: Party, Imagining My Man

Harry StylesFinally, Harry Styles’ solo album is old news at this point, but given how many times I play it throughout the week (i.e. a LOT), I figure it’s worth a shout-out. I was never a One Direction superfan, but give me Styles’ rock-pop mix, lovestruck lyrics, and stylistic croon, and I’m all ears. As seems to be the theme of this post, if you haven’t listened to it, it could be worth a try by the end of the week.

favorite tracks: Woman, From the Dining Table

Have a lovely Wednesday!
B

The Wild ReedsSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

Advertisements

Recent Reads / 03

Hello!

Happy Tuesday! How is your week coming along? I had a wonderful and restful long weekend with my family—it was just what I needed, especially now that my winter break has come to a close! I move back to Brown today for the new semester; classes start next week, but over the next few days, I’ll be in non-stop rehearsals for my next stage management project: an all-femme production of Julius Caesar in February.

I’m excited for the coming months, but I admittedly wish I didn’t have to swap my young adult novels for course textbooks. I may not be able to read as much as I did on break, but I can at least share a few reviews that have been sitting in my drafts! I did a similar format back in the summer, and I loved how it allowed me to highlight a few favorites from my recent reading pile. What books have you read (and would recommend!) as of late?

Recent Reads 03[1] To start, anyone in the literary world would have to be living under a rock not to have heard about Angie Thomas’ stellar debut, The Hate U Give, at this point. It has been on my feeds since it was published last February, it continues to dominate the NY Times Bestsellers list, and filming for its big picture adaptation has already begun! Such praise is wholly deserved. While I felt it was a touch too long, the areas that plod – and there are few – are readily made up with dialogue that immerses you in every scene, an authentic and touching family dynamic, and a plot that speaks to the injustice of police brutality. This is a book that the YA community needed years ago. I’m only glad it’s found such a large following now.

[2] For middle-grade readers, let me recommend Greenglass House, a wintery, adventure-filled mystery from author Kate Milford. It was the first book I read this year, and I can’t think of a better note on which to start. It’s modern, yet timeless, charming, yet distinct, existing in a world where winter storms are reason to share stories around the fireplace, inn guests are not who they always claim to be, and attics hold trinkets and decades-old secrets (If you couldn’t guess, Milford has a way with atmosphere). You can be sure that my next snow day will be devoted solely to reading the newly released sequel, if only because I’m anxious to return to main character Milo’s story.

[3] Have you read anything by Emma Mills yet? If you haven’t, can we remedy that? I myself waited until this past Christmas to read a book from the well-established YA author, and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t check out one of her novels sooner. Foolish Hearts, her latest work, is nothing less than pitch-perfect contemporary. Following narrator and high school senior Claudia as she works on a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it has a plot that had me grinning from beginning to end and characters that I want as my very own friends. If that all isn’t enough to convince you, grab it simply for the stunning cover. In short: love, love, love.

[4] Finally, another book I read on my winter break was Being Mortal, a thoughtful and sobering meditation on modern aging from surgeon Atul Gawande. In just under three hundred pages, he deftly switches from an explanation of nursing homes and current elderly care practices to recounts of his experience with patients nearing the end of life to finally, a reflection on his own father’s passing. At times, it felt intense, but that’s less a fault of Gawande’s skillful prose than a result of a culture that so rarely discusses death. If the subject piques your interest, I think you’d do well to read it alongside When Breath Becomes Air and What Makes Olga Run?. 

Have a terrific Tuesday!
Bella

Psst. In December, The Hate U Give was banned from school shelves in Katy, Texas. Fortunately, as I write this post, it’s back for students to read, but it nevertheless highlights how stories can be taken from and made inaccessible to the very readers who need them most. That in mind, and if budget allows, consider donating a copy to the campaign above and/or to your own local Little Free Library. It’s a book that deserves to be in the hands of high schoolers.

Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies (Take Two!)

Hello!

Toffee Chocolate Chip CookiesWhen I was little, the end of December marked the end of winter magic. Christmas decorations stored away and holiday break only a memory, all that was left to January and February was school and snow. Now, however, I revel in the coziness and quietness of the winter months. If the change is a result of growing older, I’m not sure, but it’s nevertheless the time of year where I crave chances to write and bake (you can only imagine how I’ve spent these past few weeks at home).

It was on a recent chilly evening that I whipped up a batch of Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies. I shared a different recipe for these a while back, but ever since I saw a salt-sprinkled and chocolate-heavy version in a recent issue of Bon Appétit, I’ve been meaning to revisit it. Whether you have a case of the winter blues or you look forward to January as much as I do, let this be a reminder that sometimes, it’s just cookies, in all their brown butter and chocolate toffee bit goodness, that you need.

Two kitchen notes, before we begin. First, you may be tempted to rush the chilling of these cookies – I don’t blame you – but this dough requires thirty minutes to an hour in the fridge for best results. Second, you can, of course, skip the toffee bits and simply use whatever leftover Christmas chocolate you have on hand. The cookies will still be delicious (I promise!). With that said, if you have the ability to splurge on ingredients, this is an instance where it’s entirely worth it.

Toffee Chocolate Chip CookiesToffee Chocolate Chip Cookies Loosely adapted from Bon Appétit

ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar (alternatively, use 1 cup light brown sugar with 1 tablespoon molasses – works like a charm!)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 chocolate toffee bars (such as Skor or Heath), chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • Coarse salt, for sprinkling

to make

  1. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir frequently, until it foams, browns, and smells somewhat nutty, five to seven minutes. Pour into a separate bowl and let cool slightly.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars until combined. Scrape down the bowl, then mix in eggs and vanilla.
  3. Reduce speed to add flours, baking soda, and salt. Mix in the toffee pieces and chocolate chips by hand.
  4. Let dough chill for thirty minutes to an hour. (I haven’t tried it overnight, but I’m sure results will be similar!).
  5. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease or line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop dough into small 1-inch balls and place in rows. Sprinkle each cookie with salt.
  6. Bake cookies for nine to eleven minutes, or until golden brown and firm at the edges. Let cool before transferring to a baking sheet, and enjoy!

Have a lovely Wednesday!
Bella

Psst. If you’re asking, “Bella, is that a bandana with cookies on it?!,” you’d be correct. It’s from the wonderful Madewell x Milk line, and it’s my current go-to accessory when styling my tote! If you’d like it for yourself, you can find it HERE.