Sunday, March 24, 2013

The state of television, the state of me

It is a great irony of the Internet that a medium that is widely acknowledged as fostering anonymity among its users actually makes me feel more self-conscious.

To be clear, I'm not one to go trolling on a YouTube video and post comments like "carly rae jepsen is an old hag! God doesn't exist!!!!11!!!!" or even go trolling on the most niche of niche posts--things like this--and spew about how "the season finale of Homeland was a pile of dog poo and anyone who thinks otherwise is a first-class idiot!!!!"

No, if anything I'm extremely delicate with whatever I post on the Internet, in a public forum, mainly for fear of sounding like a first-class idiot, or maybe an old hag, or maybe just someone who's grammar illiterate (always proofread everything).

As it is, I am afraid of ruffling feathers (and in the wide expanse of Internet, I seem to stand squarely in the minority on this). I never want to say something offensive or ignorant, so I find myself using lots of "I think"s and "I feel"s and "Maybe it was just me"s. Some could call this timid; I call it cautious (spin!). There's really nothing worse than an obnoxious troll who for some reason derives pleasure from ticking people off. It's like going to someone's birthday party and stealing all the presents; it's a bitch move.

But I am also a very defensive person. I don't want to ruffle any feathers, but if a few fly off, I'll be prepared to defend their dislodging. It is certainly not my favorite quality about myself, but I'd be dishonest not to admit it. I've always been sensitive. Now it's manifesting itself in my love for certain television shows.

. . . .

It is hard to deny that, at least looking at the more narrow realm of cable (both basic and premium), and thus excluding the sorry Big Four networks, we are living in a golden age of television. Never before have we had such a glut of shows to enjoy.

Do you like your drama moody (or mod-y) and office politicky and with smoke in your eyes from the slow burn of stakes creeping higher? There's a show for that. Or maybe you're fascinated by a man who, in the span of a year, is ripped from our hero-loving hands and presented to us as a truly despicable, merciless villain, preferably with Southwestern backdrops and some meth alongside? What are you waiting for? Maybe still you're an Anglophile who's got a thing for post-WWI settings and lap-it-up soap? Here you go. Or maybe you find yourself diagramming on a massive cork board what it would be like if a manic depressive female CIA agent fell in crazy stupid love with a POW who also happened to be an Al-Qaeda sleeper agent? Look no further. (And that's just on Sundays!)

There's really something for everyone, whether you like your television to be thrilling, gripping, and twisty or slow, artful, and character-driven. Or maybe you like a mixture. (Maybe you like zombies!) Cable television is in the midst of a great golden age. More and more television shows begin to look like movies in their cinematography. Production values are getting higher. The writing is getting smarter and cleverer as audiences are becoming more devoted and invested in the medium. The acting pool is a wealth of talent (take your pick from any of the following: Bryan Cranston, Maggie Smith, Mandy Patinkin, Kevin Spacey, Laura Linney, and the list goes on for days. Every year pilots with A-list movie stars are being produced. This go-round you can add Robin Williams to the list). Even first-class feature directors are getting in on the action: Ang Lee, David Fincher, and Jonathan Demme have been at the helm (or will be) of many top shows.

So it's no surprise that as the quality of shows themselves become greater, so too does the involvement of fans themselves. I've long thought that television is the most personal and intimate of all entertainment mediums. More so than film, which we view in a theater as a single confined experience, for only about two hours of our lives. More so than books, which for all their ability to craft a vivid universe can never be rendered fully the way that something on a screen can. (When you read, do you picture things in color? I feel I'm always imagining in black and white.) More so than music, which is grand in its ability to inspire emotion (hate, love, joy, sadness, disgust), but still remains fleeting. It is for our ears only.

Television hovers over them all. Television is ritualistic, it is habitual. When you love a TV show, you know exactly what you are doing every Sunday at 9 pm. You are sitting down on the couch and watching Mad Men. When a show is really good, it becomes "appointment viewing." As in, "I own a DVR and could totally watch this in two hours or tomorrow or the next day but I have to watch it rightthisverysecond." We make an appointment (with ourselves, with our TVs, with perhaps millions of other people around the country doing the same thing) to sit down--maybe on the edge of our seats--and watch a program for an hour. It's like meeting a friend for coffee every week at the same time (or, if you're like me, it's like having a job interview every week at the same time for the sheer amount of anxiety and anticipation that precedes the actual appointment).

And we let TV into our homes, into our living rooms, into our most personal and intimate spaces. When I think about some of the most successful or long-running TV shows, I think about the characters on these shows and how close I still feel to them to this day. Monica and Chandler and Phoebe and Ross and Joey and Rachel felt like my friends after ten years. (It's no coincidence that the final shot of that series was of the famous frame on Monica's apartment door, a clever wink to the audience, for we, too, had had such an intimate and up-close look at the lives of these six people for a full decade.) On Gilmore Girls, the quirky Stars Hollow townies were so endearing--despite their sometimes over-the-top annoyingness--that I still feel strangely protective of them (I love you, Kirk! But Taylor Doose can go fall in a hole).

Television infiltrates our lives in aspects that other mediums simply cannot. For many people, it's what brings them together at night after long days of school or work. It bonds them still the next morning with their peers and coworkers. Are people talking about Silver Linings Playbook or the new Taylor Swift album around the watercooler? No, they're mostly talking about "Zou Bisou Bisou" or who got killed off Downton Abbey or the gutting interrogation between Carrie and Brody.

Television brings us together. But it also tears us apart.

By its very nature, because it is so personal, television can hit at something deeper. Or at least that's what I'm finding. Maybe I'm just getting older and more cynical and hardened and jaded (I'm all of 21, by the way). Maybe it's that I've begun reading more entertainment and culture blogs (like Vulture, AV Club, and Salon) and am more exposed to differing opinions on shows that I previously only viewed in a vacuum (how the hell else can I explain watching Grey's Anatomy into its eighth season?). Maybe it's just because of my obsessive, addictive tendencies that lead me to latch onto certain TV shows and defend them at all costs (hey, the first step is admitting you've got a problem, right?).

Whatever the reason, TV shows are becoming a lot more serious for me. I frequently have to remind myself that 1) It's only a television show and 2) It's okay if my tastes and preferences don't jibe with other people's.

Recently, the FX drama The Americans debuted to widespread critical acclaim. The show takes place in 1981, shortly after Ronald Reagan was sworn into office as President, and follows a husband-and-wife team of "deep cover" KGB spies, played by Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell. I was excited to watch the pilot, which was hailed as the best since Homeland's in 2011. Of course, the magic word for me is "Homeland" so I tuned in, waiting for that magic to strike.

And I kept waiting. Three episodes in, and I'm still waiting to feel compelled by this show, to understand what all the critics are so swoon-y over, to finally "get it." True to form, I found myself both on the offensive ("These characters aren't compelling. This guy's annoying. How is this great TV?") and on the defensive ("Maybe it's just me but..." and "I think the reason why I don't like this show is...").

And on the surface, I think my reasons for feeling apathetic toward this show (and also toward ones like Mad Men, which I feel is overrated and whose creator/auteur I find abhorrent) are perfectly rational, if also incredibly subjective. But I think my irrational problems with The Americans hit at something more, hit at the pervading bully culture that thrives on the anonymity of Internet culture.

In a world and a culture increasingly governed by extremes, it's hard to have your opinion heard when it's not easily crafted to garner a reaction. And our society's insistence on overexposure, the proliferation of media outlets devoted solely to telling you who just dyed her hair (er... is this groundbreaking?) or who is the best- or worst-dressed (but don't objectify women! that's bad!), naturally leads to pedestals and to people to push others off of them. The higher up they prop you, the farther you have to fall. Thus the backlash is born.

The entire notion of a backlash suggests something deeper in our culture. Why do we feel so inclined, entitled even, to become bullies to people's work, to people's living? As consumers (of media, of products, of everything) we are of course entitled to our own opinions. When people make anything designed for consumption, whether it's the super corporation making a gadget, or a local producer of handmade marmalades, or Steven Spielberg, or Mike White, they open themselves up to the public discourse. They become susceptible to extremes: unreserved love or unreserved vitriol. Very few people garner unreserved apathy, and curiously that might be the cruelest fate of all.

When I think about the term "backlash" and the competing sides of the "unreserved love and unreserved vitriol" coin, I think first and foremost of Lena Dunham, the multi-hyphenate behinds HBO's Girls. I feel like the term "backlash" was invented for her, but the truth is that she is the not the first and surely won't be the last to come under public fire for literally anything and everything.

Most critics love her show. We normal folk? It's a mixed bag. Why? Take your pick of reasons: she's too fat, too naked, a bad actress, a horrible writer, not funny, the product of nepotism, #firstworldproblems. Think of something horrible and it has probably been spewed at this woman, who's five years older than me and, for her work on Girls, has received two Golden Globes, a Writers Guild of America award, a Directors Guild of America award, and four Emmy nominations. So is it jealousy? Why do people feel so personally repulsed by Dunham and her TV show (repeat: It's just a television show)? What's more, why do they feel the need to comment on it every chance they get? (It's ironic that a show about the hipster culture in Brooklyn brings out a greater legion of "too cool for it" haters than I've ever seen. Then again, hipsters do love irony.)

. . . .

The culture surrounding television these days is also a mixed bag. There is a lot to hate: the obsession with meaningless violence; the reliance (in network TV especially) on old and tired formulas (two people move in together! throw in a baby! and a grumpy neighbor! and a salacious old lady!); the double standard of likability for men and women (a topic that endlessly fascinates me); and pretty much everything on CBS. But there is also a lot to love. Television is an incredibly rich medium these days, and the longform narrative is tough for film to compete with. The storytelling is richer. Especially for women, in which, once past the age of 40, the good roles continually diminish (unless you're, say, Meryl Streep) until you're just playing the mother to an actress probably 12 years younger, television offers dynamic, bold roles for women of all ages. Glenn Close was 65 when Damages finished the run that earned her two Emmys. Kathy Bates was 62 and Emmy-nominated on Harry's Law. Connie Britton is 46 and playing a kickass-and-taking-names-type country star on Nashville. Jessica Lange, 63, scares the bejesus out of me in her Emmy-winning role (and general existence) on American Horror Story.

Even relatively younger actresses like Christina Hendricks, 37, or Claire Danes, 33, have found comparatively greater success on television than in film. In an interview last year, Danes accurately summed up the general film/TV quandary: "I remember, [the Homeland role] came up on the same weekend that I had read for the secretary role on that J Edgar movie and I was like, 'Do I want to play the secretary to some really compelling person, or do I just wanna play the f-cking compelling person?'" (Amen, sister.)

And more so than film, television culture is one built on minutiae. It's no surprise that the recap atmosphere has made us hyper-critical, often overwhelmingly so. Would we ever judge a 12-chapter book by the state of things after chapter 10? I doubt it, but that's basically what happens at 12 am Monday morning when reviews of Sunday night shows go up. Part of it is, of course, the water cooler environment that TV fosters. Some shows, too, reward attention to detail; it's just how you watch them (think Mad Men). There is certainly value to be found in engaging in meaningful discussion about this increasingly richer medium. But you need only engage in the conversation for a few moments to realize that someone has already crashed the party. And what about this person? He's not looking for meaningful discussion. He watches the show and then berates every aspect. He picks it apart. He is a bully. What about these people?

. . . .

And so when the Homeland backlash began, which started in early December 2012 and lasted a few weeks, I felt correspondingly annoyed, defensive, and outraged. Homeland had swept many of the major categories at the Emmys in September, the target was squarely on its back, everyone was waiting with bated breath for a single misfire. It'd be futile to attempt to defend certain plot points (I'm looking at you, Carrie chasing Nazir with a metal pipe!), but the truth is that some people will hate anything no matter what. They'll hate it because they'll be the first ones and feel a sense of superiority. It's the hipster mentality: I loved this before it was cool or I hated this before it was uncool. These people are the most infuriating to encounter, because they're not looking for lively and intelligent discussion, only to spew hate about a show (apparently they're the only ones who notice how hideous of an actress Claire Danes is; who'd have thunk it?). There is no hope for these haters. They jump the shark on jumping the shark!

And yet... they are the ones I always feel most compelled to respond to. Because when someone insults a show, a show that I watch every week and enjoy watching and really love, they're insulting more than just the show. They're insulting my taste. They're insulting me! You can imagine the rabbit hole this quickly leads down. But it's only a television show. And that's what I continue to tell myself. 

Still, it wasn't hard for me to recognize that in many ways my irrational distaste for The Americans feeds from my irrational love for Homeland, the first show in which watching made me feel a part of the zeitgest. The first show in which watching made me feel a part of the conversation. The first show in which watching made me feel smart and adult. (Never underestimate the power of wanting to feel part of the "in crowd.")
It's not off-base to attribute my dislike for The Americans to my proclivity to defend Homeland. The minute I began to view it in that prism, it never stood a chance. It's a hard thing to watch a show and accept that you will never really love it, or that it will take some time until you do. When there's so much matter swarming around for your attention, why bother with the things you only like? More and more I'm finding that something that is good just doesn't cut it. "Like" is not good enough (hey, maybe that's why I've grown weary of Facebook). Something either needs to be terrifically awful (and so it was that hate-watching was born) or just plain terrific (Homeland, Girls, Mad Men, for me at least). At the same time, you want to be a part of the conversation. To not watch is to be left out of the conversation.

. . . .

And so I can't help but wonder: am I a product of this culture, or is this culture a product of people like me? I am certainly no saint. I really can't be bothered to block parts out of my week to watch a television show that I don't love, and I especially can't see the appeal in then actively participating in a conversation about it. But I caught the last half of Grey's Anatomy a few days ago (for the first time in months) and tweeted about just how awful it was (it really was, though, I promise). Nikki Finke, the founder of industry website Deadline, does some deliciously hateful live blogs for awards shows that I love to follow. The website Television Without Pity has built its entire reputation on being snarky; the best, if harshest, dialogues about television also happen to take place here (in my opinion, at least).

Still, I find myself eager to change my trajectory, to avoid becoming one of those hardened, bitter, cynical viewers. I don't want to derive some kind of masochistic pleasure from watching something I hate. I certainly don't want to become a spoil sport.

All of this, too, may seem silly. (Remember, it's just a television show.) It may seem like I'm overthinking things. Making a mountain out of a mole hill, and all that. Maybe I am. But television, and the ways in which we consume it, reflects on other aspects of our lives and personalities, too. What you watch, how you watch, when you watch, and most importantly why you watch seem to hint at something beneath the surface, something elementary.

For example, I recently started watching Scandal. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what attracts you to a certain television show. This one is addictive and crazy and kind of escapist. There is a procedural aspect to it that's comforting in its repetitiveness and reliability. I also cannot underestimate the power of feeling a part of the conversation. Scandal has seen a big surge in popularity these past few months, and I wanted to see what the fuss was about. Watching this show was a reflection on the innate desire to belong; it was also a reminder of the power of the delicate balance between being pushed but not being pushed too much. We like our habits and our routines. In the words of Lorelai Gilmore, "As long as everything is exactly the way I want it, I’m totally flexible." Bend, but don't break.

And what do I have to say about this show? Well, it's guilty pleasure TV, first and foremost. I make sure to preface all of my opinions about this show with this disclaimer, lest someone think less of my taste. I make no qualms about my problems with this show, but I also give credit where it's due. It's fun, a thrilling ride, entertainment above all. But I'm still taking it (too?) seriously: there are issues with character development and narrative structure and yada yada yada. I tell myself that its creators would want their art to be taken seriously and judged. But do they? No artform is perfect, and often imperfection is still beautiful.

But is it possible to love something and just let it be? Is it possible to hate something and just let it be?

. . . .

But the question remains: what's the best way to self-correct? Again: am I a product of this culture, or is this culture a product of people like me? (Which came first: the chicken or the egg?)

The question begins to morph when I look at it as a wheel instead of a defined sequence of events. It's not A, then B. Rather, A is B. And who knows when this cycle started. Could we trace back one from the other, spinning around counter-clockwise until we arrive at the singular start point? Perhaps there was some sort of immaculate conception and it just began to be?

But this vicious cycle--of simultaneously feeding into the culture and feeding from it--seems like a waste of energy to me. A waste of mental resources, of time, of breath. Our hours could be much better served doing something else, something progressive, something good.

And yet... and yet. I'm still drawn back. I still look at the grade for each episode of The Americans and feel something (is it pleasure? I-told-you-so catharsis? I can't be sure) when it's B-level. I'll still follow Nikki Finke's live-blog of the Emmys in September because it's hilarious and I enjoy her insight. I will watch Mad Men this spring and enjoy it when it's good because I enjoy good television; the scary part is that I might enjoy it more when it's not so good because I think the show could be taken down a few notches.

I am a product of this culture, and this culture is a product of me. I am this culture. To change one is to change the other.

It is hard to change a culture. I think it might be even harder to change myself.

Friday, March 22, 2013

angsty ladies

Oh, hey there.

I'm currently sitting on a very long post that's proved rather difficult to parse through and arrange in a way that isn't just "here's what I think about x, y, and z in order b, g, m. Oh and this: it's only semi-related." It's proving rather manic and looking like this so far:
And what I need is my inner Saul to come in and arrange it in a neat little timeline. Like this:
Preferably color-coded. And preferably as some sort of compelling string ensemble plays in the background. Is that so much to ask?

Anyway, to fill in the time in this fallow yellow (I promise that's the end of the Homeland references) period I thought I'd revisit a topic I just covered (sorta). A few months ago I posted about my favorite gloomy songs. It was perfect for the doldrums of winter, but now we're easing into spring, and I'm feeling a bit livelier.

Enter angst. Specifically lady angst. I made a great little playlist on iTunes called "angsty ladies" (which I alternately pronounce in my head like "hey angsty ladaaay" and "all the angsty ladies") which features ladies being angsty, obviously.

It's filled specifically with some 90's ladystars but no matter the decade they hail from these ladies make me feel broody and riled up and simmering with righteous indignation. GIRL POWAH.

"Cherry Bomb" by The Runaways: There is no better lady angst song than this. I feel like any song that uses the word "daddy" in a kind of bratty, whiny tone is firmly in angst territory. Also any song in which the vocalist is literally yelling (a common theme, as you'll see below). There's something kind of seductive about this song. Perhaps it's the sultriness that cherries suggest (I personally find figs to be the most sensual fruits but "Fig Bomb" just doesn't have the same ring to it, y'know?), or the "ch-ch-ch-ch-ch" repetitions. There's something kind of badass and angsty about being one of the first all-girl rock bands, too, am I right?

HONEST ANGST THAT OWNS IT (it being everything...)
"Bitch" by Meredith Brooks: For some reason the lady who sings this song reminds me of the character Heather in The Blair Witch Project which I can only rationalize because both have brown hair and are bitches. But don't try to tell me that you can listen to this song and not start breaking out in a kind of angry, bark-esque yelp when the chorus plays. "I do not feel ashamed" that this happens to me regularly and "I wouldn't want it any other way." Let's revel in our various personas: bitch, mother, child, lover, sinner, saint, tease, goddess, angel undercover. Hell yes, Meredith/Heather!

For comparison...

"Breathe Me" by Sia: Okay, this song makes me feel so many things, chiefly angst, but also sorrow and trepidation and anxiety. It's so perfect. Just the way she says "Ouch": resigned, like she's stubbed her toe but could hardly care, like she's reaching out to something that's too far beyond her grasp. This song is purest prose in lyrical form. It was famously used in the final minutes of the Six Feet Under series finale. Now, look, I've never seen this show but I watched that montage and felt drained and gutted and weepy and also in awe of the power of music and film when in perfect synergy.

"Stay (I Miss You)" by Lisa Loeb: Okay, y'all. This song plays in the movie Reality Bites, which is the most 90's movie you'll probably ever see. And when I say "quintessential 90's" what I really mean is Winona Ryder, whom I kind of secretly LOVE, and find endlessly interesting, and I wish she was working more than she is now (that is to say, at all) because I think we need more 90's realness in 2013.
So many things about Winona Ryder (pre-shoplifting, that is) fascinate me. Like how she was engaged to Johnny Depp! Or her super angsty role in Girl, Interrupted. Or her friendship with Claire Danes, which is the most 90's friendship I can ever think of.
 Winona and Claire, BFFs until they weren't. 

There is a documentary about Ben Lee called Catch My Disease about his musical career and life and, back when Ben Lee and Claire Danes dated (yes, let that sink in for a hot sec), they were part of a social circle that is kind of astoundingly cool: the aforementioned Lee and Danes, Ryder, Michelle Williams (who seems in a perpetual state of shy angst/gloom), Jason Schwartzman, Zooey Deschanel, Christina Ricci, and the list goes on. Apparently they'd all hang out in Claire Danes' SoHo loft and shoot home videos and play guitar and lay in her hammock. It's so 90's. Anyway, this song makes me yearn for that alternate reality. I wonder if Claire and Winona still talk....
Claire Danes' SoHo loft, so very 90's. It looks a bit different today.

"TiK ToK" by Ke$ha: I know, it seems kind of odd to include Ke$ha on this list. But I sense some form of inner angst in her that manifests as CRAY in all her life endeavors. She doesn't sing, she sneers, she doesn't laugh, she cackles (a variation on Megan Draper's "you don't smile, you smirk" line from Mad Men, and by the way I LOVE MEGAN DRAPER). The same way that a starlet like Lindsay Lohan or Amanda Bynes has acted out lost her mind as a result of likely inner turmoil, I get the feeling that Ke$ha's shenanigans are the product of some past trauma.

"Just a Girl" by No Doubt: I'm trying really hard to think of an opening riff that's more awesome than the one on "Just a Girl." As far as I'm concerned, this was Gwen Stefani at her finest, pre-B-A-N-A-N-A-S, pre-L.A.M.B. This song has a great "suck it! I'm a lady"-ness to it that's infectious. It's aggressive but taunting; it's the person that insults you and says "but no offense." None taken, sista.

PUNKY ANGST, PART THE SECOND (aka Angst with a Bindi)
"Don't Speak" by No Doubt: Written after the break-up of Gwen Stefani and that guy in No Doubt who plays the bass, this song has a yearning angst. You can really feel the emotional turmoil bubbling beneath the surface. And if the actual lyrics weren't indication enough, the music video of Gwen flailing and doubling over while her bandmates look on unaffected ought to do it. What's more angsty than half whining, half singing to a garage full of "meh" dudes?
 Oh hey, bindi...

Pretty much everything on Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette: Y'all, I LOVE angsty Alanis Morissette (so much better than VH1/vanilla Alanis) and she was never in finer form than in her debut album that is basically just Angst: In Musical Form. Let's take a gander.

"You Oughta Know": This one starts off hushed, kind of ominous. Then the hissing starts. I find this song is excellent to play in the car with the volume turned way up (to drown out your angst, and your singing voice). The chorus is infectiously, deliciously hateful (as is the entire song) in a big "eff you, man!" way. If the five stages of grief were accompanied by songs, this one is pre-packaged already for anger.

"Hand in My Pocket": If "You Oughta Know" was "eff you!" then this song is like "eff this!" It's kind of lackadaisical and "fine, fine, fiiiiiiiine" (three cheers for AM's pronunciation of most words). And you can never go wrong with a harmonica solo. This song also seems very quintessential 90's because it always conjures the images of plaid shirts (preferably one with pockets).

"You Learn": My favorite part of this song happens at the 38th second with the background whisper of "like a jagged little pill." What a perfect title for an angst-filled album. It's very Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted. By the way, this is the acceptance stage in lyrical form.

BONUS! "Ironic": After "You Oughta Know" this might be AM's most popular, quote-ready song, and mostly because she has absolutely no idea what irony is. But! I present to you a defense of the many situations in her song.
I don't think it's that far-fetched to assume that Alanis was watching My So-Called Life one night and heard Brian's explanation of irony and then decided to write a song filled with the most weird situations ever. Let's collectively give Alanis a break.

"Criminal" by Fiona Apple: Okay, so maybe anything by Fiona Apple would qualify in this category. But watch this music video and tell me you don't feel icky. This is what would happen if that Emma Stone for W Magazine shoot were translated into a music video 15 years ago. Nevertheless, Fiona's deep, kind of husky voice translates well to angst. Especially when she's wailing about "need[ing]... a good defense / cause I'm feeling like a criminal" and being a "bad, bad girl." I mean, I guess it's supposed to make you feel uncomfortable.

BONUS! "Valentine" is superb and makes me want to jab my finger at people and tell them "I root for you! I love you! You you you you!" "Paper Bag" is similarly awesome, if not so recent, and also perfect for singing in the car, although don't ask me how I know.

Anything by Birdy: This lady is all of 15 years old, and as such imbues her (beautiful, lovely, perfect) music with tinges of angst and sorrow and I sort of just want to give her a hug. She manages to take a rather upbeat and jaunty Phoenix song and turn it on its head and make it sad and mournful. She does the same thing with Fleet Foxes. She even makes "Skinny Love" bearable. Kudos, girl. Keep on angstin' on!

"Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Connor: In the words of Lorelai Gilmore: "When life gets you down, Sinead's really the one to teach you some perspective." AMEN. Nothing compares to you, "Nothing Compares 2 U."

There are few other ladies who are only sometimes angsty, and I present to you a completely non-inclusive list below:
"Paris Is Burning" by St. Vincent: Ominous, somewhat dissonant, basically what a psychological thriller would sound like if condensed into a song.
Most stuff by The xx: Moody, electronicky, deep, broody.
Rihanna on "Love the Way You Lie": Don't try to tell me that Rihanna is not the most angst-ridden pop star living.
"I Knew You Were Trouble" by Taylor Swift: Don't try to tell me that Taylor Swift is not the most angst-ridden pop star masquerading as the most angst-free pop star living.

Like my gloom post, I want to leave off on an anti-angst note. What's the opposite of angst? It's got to be carefree goodness, and, you know, I really don't listen to much sickly sweet music like that. But you know who I think of when I think of music that gives me a headache for being inconceivably twee? Hello, Zooey Deschanel! She masters anti-angst with her black tights and hula hoops. Ya, girl!