Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!
Love to Sew (Podcast)
In short: My pick gives you everything a sewist could want in a podcast. It’s also an interesting insight into how audiences connect with brands that are authentic.
Helen Wilkinson and Caroline Somos host the specialized podcast Love to Sew. From Vancouver, BC (Hello from over the water!) these two ladies chat about sewing, making, and small business. They also interview guests involved in sewing, printmaking, and fabrics from all over the world.
Sewing used to be considered a Home Economics class or a necessity skill because you couldn’t afford to purchase clothes. Lately, sewing has gone through a revival. A lot of people are turning to their hands, and needle, to make their own clothes.
Many are discovering this art because they refuse to support fast fashion any longer. Others, because they are tired of not fitting into the “sizes” offered by mainstream fashion. For me, it’s a combination of these things, combined with the fact that it’s a huge stress reliever. When I’m sewing I’m concentrating on the feel of the fabric, the design of the pattern, and also trying to figure out how this 2D pattern becomes a 3D object I can wear. I’m definitely not thinking about my start-up!
I love the podcast because I learn A LOT about sewing. Every episode teaches me a new skill, or how to look at the craft in a different way. Helen and Caroline also come across the mic as “themselves.” They have corny jokes, make up songs and craft a mean sewing pun. The success of their podcast reaffirms my belief that if you are yourself and share useful information with your audience, people will connect with you. Any brand can learn from that.
How does this low-tech hobby keep me grounded at my startup? Read the full blog post here.
Shake the Spirit by Elle King (Album)
TL;DR: Her talent as a songwriter mixed with her smoky voice are a recipe for success. This album works through some hard emotions but stays fresh with mellow beats and well-written lyrics.
I remember listening to the radio a couple years ago and hearing a song that made me think “wow, that girl’s voice is way better than all the other mediocre pop songs on the radio right now.”
Fast-forward a few years and Elle King has come out with her second album. A real pleasure to listen to, it showcases a depth of soul that is rare for a pop radio star these days. Her voice is husky and thick, with moments of southern soul and blues. When I listen to the album, I get the sense that she’s using her music to get emotions off her chest, like you would with a close friend.
The songs “Baby Outlaw” and “Shame” ease you into the album with a fun beat. From then on, tracks start to get more serious. It quickly becomes evident that she’s gone through tough times in the last few years. “Good Thing Gone,” “Runaway,” and “Chained” are slower ballads that show the sadness she is feeling as she works through the failure of her relationship. “Sober” brings to light other issues that she has faced head-on in the making of this album. It ends on a positive note with “Little Bit Of Lovin,” a self-encouraging track with gospel vibes.
Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World by Billy Bragg (Book)
TL;DR: A definitive history of the 20th century’s first youth-led musical movement.
Skiffle music evolved from the UK’s traditional jazz scene in the mid-1950s. This occurred roughly parallel to the evolution of rock n’ roll in the US. Marking a strong change from the stale, ponderous, overly-produced BBC sponsored pop music of the time, Skiffle featured energetic interpretations of traditional folk and blues songs. These tunes were not easy to come by and were readily sought out by the music-loving teenagers of the time. Expertly written and researched by punk/folk musician Billy Bragg, Roots, Radicals and Rockers is a definitive look at the oft-overlooked genre that went on to inspire artists as diverse the Beatles and The White Stripes.
Dimanche à Bamako by Amadou & Mariam (Album)
In short: They fell in love at a school for the blind and have been making music ever since. This afro-blues-world album features traditional African instruments- you will not be able to stop your toes tapping along to the beat!
Amadou and Mariam met at a school for the blind in Mali. After discovering their shared interest in music, they started performing and recording tracks. In 2003, they were approached by famous world music star Manu Chao, who went on to produce their album, Dimanche à Bamako. The album was hugely successful and won the BBC Awards for Best World Music Album in 2006. Now, at age 50 and with many grandchildren, the duo continues to make music and tour the world.
Dimanche à Bamako is an energizing and diverse album. Most of the tracks are bluesy-funky-world-music-mashups, like “Taxi Bamako” and “Beaux Dimanches.” The album also features sparse, beautiful songs like “M’bife” and “M’bife Blues.” While you probably don’t speak French or Bambara, you will still be able to feel the emotion behind the lyrics. Oh and if you are already a fan of Manu Chao, you will enjoy the catchy and upbeat tracks “Senegal Fast Food” and “Camions Sauvages.” His signature style really shines through on these two, as well as his unique vocals.