6 Gender-Essentialist Myths About Dating and the Bedroom Debunked

Music:
The Yoshida Brothers, Hishou [2007] (***)  – The Yoshida Brothers play enjoyable instrumental music that mixes a traditional Japanese sound with a pop/rock aesthetic. 

Blogs:
 6 Gender-Essentialist Myths About Dating and The Bedroom Debunked

University of Michigan psychologist Terri Conley and colleagues went through psychology studies to see which gender myths about sex could really be proven by research and found many of the myths aren't true.  I first saw a good summary of this on Feministing and then read the link it's based on at Live Science.  Here's my summary of the two links:

1. Men want "sexy", women want "status"
This stereotype only holds up on paper when college students are abstractly asked about their "ideal mate".  When researchers looked at how men and women rated real people in actual speed-dating situations the gender differences "evaporated".  "There was no difference in the way they rated their romantic interest based on those people's attractiveness and earnings."

2. Men want may sex partners, women want far fewer
Researchers found that a small number of very sexually charged individuals were skewing the average.  Turns out the typical number of partners wanted by BOTH men and women was "one". That's right.  The typical man and woman said they wanted one partner.

Also, remember those studies where they asked men and women how many partners they had and men answered with much higher numbers than women?  Turns out a lot of men over-estimated their numbers and women under-estimated theirs (probably because of social pressures.) In studies where men and women were" tricked" into thinking they were attached to a lie-detector, men and women reported the same number of partners.

3. Men think about sex more than women do
They do slightly, but it's only 18 times a day over women's 10 times a day.  The cliché that men think about sex every 7 seconds is not true. Also, men think about other needs like food and sleep more than women too.

4. Women have far fewer orgasms than men do
Studies suggest this is true, especially in one-night stands, where women had one-third of the orgasms men had.  However, in committed-relationships, "women had orgasms 79 percent as often as men". "The fact that the gap can shrink so much based on relationship type suggests that having a partner who cares about a woman's sexual satisfaction is more important than biology." 

(This is why I hate the often repeated myth that women don't like sex.  It's more like women don't like sex where their needs aren't met.  Seems to me that men who repeat this myth are basically telling others that they don't take their partners needs seriously and therefore probably aren't going to be very satisfying in bed.  At least they warn you. )

5. Men like casual sex more than women do
There was a 1989 study where "a trained young man or woman propositioned college students."  70 percent of the men said yes to the woman but no women said yes to the man.  While the study could mean that women aren't interest in casual sex, it didn't take into consideration cultural factors. (This isn't in the article but the study took place at a Florida college post-Ted Bundy, the good looking man in Florida who raped and murdered young women,  and none of the researchers seemed to realize that this could influence the results for the women.)

In another study,  when women were asked if they'd be interested in a one-night stand with someone famous (like Johnny Depp) and men were asked about an equivalent celebrity, the gender difference "evaporated."  According to the researchers, women may reject most one-night stands because they don't think the man will be good in bed.  It also seems like safety concerns and concerns about being "slut-shamed" about casual sex are greater for women.

6. Women are pickier than men
In a 2009 study researchers  found that "people are choosier when they're approached by a potential partner, and less choosy when they're doing the approaching". In our society, men are typically encouraged to do the approaching and women the receiving. If women were to do more of the approaching, we would probably start seeing more "picky" men too.

Glow and NY-LON

TV Quote (from The Big Bang Theory):
Stuart the comic store owner: Can I help you find anything?

Amy: A comic that depicts a woman whose bosom can't be used as a floatation device.

Books:
Title: Glow (Sky Chasers)
Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan
Year Published: 2011
Rating: ***
Ages: 12 and up
Format: Read in eBook format on Nook for Droid

Fifteen-year-old Waverly  Marshall and 16-year-old Kieran Alden are the oldest children of the survivors of a damaged Earth and have lived their entire happy lives on the Empyrean spaceship while it travels to their new planet. Though now Waverly is starting to feel a lot of pressure from the rest of the ship to marry young and start having children, even though she's not sure she's ready.  Then something terrible happens and Waverly and Kieran must fight for their lives.

I loved all the sci-fi details and the tense action.  Unfortunately, towards the end, the story shifted from sci-fi action-adventure to a story about religion.  The religious stuff is handled clumsily and is likely to offend both people of faith and Atheists alike.  That's too bad because when religion wasn't front and center, I enjoyed Glow.

[Parent Note: This book would make for a good discussion about reproductive issues and ethics since a large portion of the plot of Glow is about fertility and reproductive issues.

There are some ugly stereotypes about both religious people and Atheists in the book. People of faith are vilified as either power-hungry or sheep-like followers and Atheists are portrayed as having having no spirituality or moral clarity to keep them motivated in times of crisis. The tired old wives tale about there being no Atheists in foxholes is trotted out in this story as well. The link to the Military Association of Atheists in Foxholes will be happy to explain to everyone that, yes, there really are Atheists in foxholes.]

TV:
NY-LON
– (*** 1/2) This TV romance between a New York City bohemian and a London banker aired in 2004 and is now available on Hulu.  It stars Stephen Moyer (Bill Compton from True Blood, with his British accent) and Rashida Jones (Ann Perkins from Parks and Recreation).  It's not a perfect show, but if you like romance stories about the bohemian world of  Lower East Side New York City or stories about London, you might enjoy this short 7 episode show during the holiday TV repeat season.  There is a lot of squabbling between the main characters and it's clear the show thought it would get a second season and didn't, so the end is a cliffhanger.  Still, I enjoyed the characters and all the fun New York and London details.  Available on Hulu with a free account (since the show is rated for mature audiences only).

Grimm, Who’s a Feminist?, and Come for the Lady Gaga, stay for the empowerment

Blogs:
The Rebirth of the Feminist Manifesto: Come for the Lady Gaga, stay for the empowerment – New York magazine has a good article on the expanding world of feminist blogs and how it's inspiring a new generation of young women (and men) who believe in gender equality, much like the consciousness raising groups of 1970's.  There's also list of feminist websites to get you started. Some of my favorites are on the list: feministing, feministe, Jezebel, Shakesville, and Sarah Haskin's"Target Women" videos.  One of my favorite bloggers, Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon.net, is also featured in the article. (Reader warning: There are swear words in this article since it's about the blogging world and the blogging world doesn't sugar-coat things.)

Yes, You Are – What exactly is feminism? Can you shave your legs and be a feminist?  Be a stay-at-home-parent?  Be a man? Yes!  You can do and be all those things and more and be a feminist. Sarah Bunting (a co-founder of Television Without Pity) wrote a classic post that's my favorite response to the phrase, "I'm not a feminist but…"

Here's the start of her essay:

"'feminism n (1895) 1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes 2 : organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests — feminist n or adjfeministic adj'"

"Above, the dictionary definition of feminism — the entire dictionary definition of feminism. It is quite straightforward and concise. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

"Yes, you are.

"The definition of feminism does not ask for two forms of photo ID. It does not care what you look like. It does not care what color skin you have, or whether that skin is clear, or how much you weigh, or what you do with your hair. You can bite your nails, or you can get them done once a week. You can spend two hours on your makeup, or five minutes, or the time it takes to find a Chapstick without any lint sticking to it. You can rock a cord mini, or khakis, or a sari, and you can layer all three. The definition of feminism does not include a mandatory leg-hair check; wax on, wax off, whatever you want. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

"Yes, you are." (Read the rest here.)

TV:
Grimm (***) – A police procedural about a cop who learns his family can see evil fairytale creatures hiding amongst humans.  Grimm's executive producer, David Greenwalt, was also the executive producer for the Buffy spin-off, Angel.  Like the first few episodes of Angel, the pilot for Grimm takes itself too seriously. It's as if the show had forgotten its second "m". I started to see how this show might be fun once the big bad wolf was introduced. Here's hoping there's way more of him in future episodes.

Suite Scarlett, Movits!, and My Dad

TV Quote:
"I never understood that relationship.  It was like oil and …  a Martian." Seymour Birkhoff on Nikita

Books:
Title: Suite Scarlett
Author: Maureen Johnson
Year: 2009
Rating: *** 1/2
Ages: Clean cut YA chick lit for ages 13 and up
Format: Read this YA novel in eBook form on Kindle for Droid

Suite Scarlett is a fun YA chick-lit novel about a 15-year-old girl whose family owns a struggling historical inn in New York City.  Each of the Martin children are given full responsibility for one of the suites in the inn on their 15th birthday,  Just days after Scarlett' Martin's 15th birthday, the dramatically quirky Mrs. Amberson moves into her suite for the summer. It's also the summer her older brother gets a part in an off-off-off Broadway Shakespearean play with a cute acting partner who seems to like Scarlett, and the summer Scarlett realizes just how bad the family's financial problems have become.  The novel is a fun mix of quirky characters, family issues, teen romance, and the struggling New York theater scene.

My Dad and The Art of Persuasion
My dad is one of these perpetually positive people with more energy than I can fathom.  When I was a kid he would coax me into doing things I had no interest in: like hiking for 8 hours or visiting 5 museums in one day.

My allergies have been bad this past week, so when I felt way too tired to go on my Tuesday bike ride, a little voice in the back of my brain– that sounded a lot like my dad — whispered to me: "You don't have to go on a bike ride, but why don't you just get dressed?"  

I got dressed and the little voice said, "Well, now that you're dressed, maybe you should go on a walk.  You certainly don't have to go on a bike ride, it's just a walk. Why don't you get ready?"

So I got ready and then heard, "Well, now that you're all ready, you might as well go on a bike ride.  Don't you think?"  😉 

Yep, that's pretty much how my whole childhood went.  This past week I went on 2 bike rides, did my writing, and cleaned the house all by coaxing myself step-by-step. I guess I should thank my dad.

Music:
Movits! Äppelknyckarjazz [2009] (***), Out of My Head [2011] (***) – The daughterling told me about this fun Swedish group.  They sing energetic swing Jazz/ hip-hop stuff.  It's all mostly in Swedish but it's infectious and fun to listen to.  Favorite songs: Sammy Davis Jr.. Fel Dev Av Gården

TV:
I've crossed off a lot of new shows off my watching list.  My favorite new shows to make the cut are Revenge and Up All Night.  I'm also still watching Ringer, Pan Am, and 2 Broke Girls, hoping they'll grow into good shows eventually.

Wyclef Jean, Problem Solving, and Escapist TV

Quote of the Week (From The Good Wife)
Will: "But let's not expose ourselves on a subway platform unless we have to."
Diane: "Oh, what a colorful and pointless metaphor."

Music:
Wyclef Jean, The Carnival Volume II (Memoirs of an Immigrant) [2007] (***); Greatest Hits [2003] (***) –  Wyclef Jean sings hip-hop with a healthy dose of social commentary and island flavor, and without the angry sexism that plagues a lot of hip-hop.  My favorite Wyclef Jean song, hands down, is "Fast Car" featuring Paul Simon.  If you liked Paul Simon's Graceland Album, definitely check out the song, "Fast Car". It's the perfect combination of hip-hop, island sound, catchy chorus, and social commentary. 

The Joy of Problem Solving:
Last week our weather turned so tropical I began to wonder if I'd moved to Florida and just forgot to mention it to myself. One evening when I was walking into town, I looked up the weather on my phone. It wasn't raining but the humidity was 94%!
 
The tropical weather brought my arch-nemesis pollen with it, and I once again battled with sinus issues.  To make things more fun, I also have a new kidney stone. Despite my health issues I had a mostly productive week.  What changed?

Problem solving is the savior I'd been waiting for.  My greatest comfort comes from imagining myself in a lab coat with Tina Fey glasses holding a clipboard and going over the facts and data about my situation.

The more facts I know about allergies and kidney stones, the better I can fight them.  The more data I take on my problems, the more I can problem solve and figure out what makes my conditions worse and what makes them better.   I note what I eat, what medications or home remedies I try, and what the result of each of the actions is.

It works too!  I had mild discomfort all week, yet I was able to keep the pain manageable enough to write, bike, cook, and even have some fun.

Yay problem solving!  You rock.

PS- So far, this week the weather is thankfully cool and fall-like.

TV:
Nikita (*** 1/2) –  I'm enjoying the second season of Nikita.  No, it's not a great show by any standard, but it is a fun show, with just the escapist qualities I enjoy in my TV watching.  There are plenty of pretty men and women kicking ass because of their dedicated training and expert skills.  Plus, the actors look like they have a lot of fun with their characters and just when I'm getting bored of the overall plot, the writers do something unexpected to surprise me.

Pam Am (***) – I've seen two episodes of Pam AM now and am still only mildly interested in it.  The sets and costumes are striking and I like all the characters but the stories haven't really grabbed me so far.

Terra Nova (** 1/2) – I was looking forward to this futuristic sci-fi adventure about people traveling back in time to an undamaged earth with dinosaurs.   It  has great sets and special-effects. I'd expect nothing less given its 20 million dollar budget. Unfortunately, what is doesn't have is a well-developed storyworld or good writing.  The characters are all lazy Hollywood stereotypes, their futuristic world doesn't make a lot of sense, and the plot is trite and predictable.  How disappointing! That was an easy one to cross of my list.

The Magnificient Twelve, Titanic, and New TV

TV Quote of the Week: "Just because I tell you things doesn't mean you're allowed to know them," Caroline on The Vampire Diaries.

My Life:
 I like having one of my kids at college.  The daughterling gets to enjoy the benefits of being an only child (something my son got when he was young), and I love texting with my son and reading about his new adventures in college.  I've successfully kept to my writing schedule and already had my first sub job. I had subbed for many of the same kids last year so I was called, "Mrs. Evil Octopus," all day by a bunch of happy second graders. Teaching is a lot more fun with a heaping dose of silliness.

Book Review:
The Magnificent Twelve: The Call, by Michael Grant [2010] (*** 1/2) – The Magnificent Twelve is a good choice for fans of The Wimpy Kid series and other fans of irreverent humor or lots of action.  Middle-schooler Mack has a lot of phobias. The only thing he isn't afraid of is the school bullies.  It's this quality that gets Mack selected to save the world from some ancient villain called, The Pale Queen, who had been sentenced to hell for 3000 years and has just been released.  This middle grade fantasy is packed with humor, quirky characters, and lots of action.  Apparently it's the first book in the series because the ending is pure cliffhanger.  [For ages 8-12.  Read the eBook on Nook for Droid.]

Movies:
Titanic (****) – Titanic is one of the many  popular movies I didn't see in the early to mid-90's, when my kids were young and needy.  The story pulled me in and made me care about these characters. It dealt with a lot of issues that are becoming problems again, like class inequality  and the dangers of capitalism without regulation.  Mostly, the movie made me feel like I was right there on the ship while it was sinking and suddenly I cared about the 1,500 plus people that died in this tragedy long ago.

TV:
Doctor Who, season 6, pt. 2 (*** 1/2) – I am liking the second half of this season a lot more than the first half.  The emotional level has simmered down to realistic levels,  Rory is fun and reasonable, and there have been a number of good plots.

New Girl, pilot (** 1/2) – Quirky Jess (played by Zooey Deschanel) decides to get over her breakup with her cheating boyfriend by living with 3 guys she met through a Craigslist ad. I liked the actors in the show and I enjoyed some of Jess's odd quirks (like how she has her own theme song), but there were a ton of tired gender stereotypes in the pilot. Plus, Deschanel's Jess is pretty much a  manic-pixie dream girl (kind of like the modern dumb blonde updated for a new century.).  I'm willing to give the show a couple more chances to see if they iron out some of these problems.

Ringer, pilot (***) – Sarah Michelle Geller (Buffy) stars in this noir-mystery soap opera about twin sisters.  There was a lot of exposition in the plot but I was intrigued enough to keep watching and see what the writers do with these characters.

The Vampire Diaries, season 3 (****) – The season premiere was as fun and exciting as the first two seasons.  Can't wait for the next episode!

The Secret Circle, pilot (***) – This soap opera about a town of secret witches is written by the same people that wrote The Vampire Diaries, so the plot speeds along with secrets and intrigue, though so far, it lacks the zany fun of its sister show.  Instead the show has a very CW vibe about with plenty of beautiful people and soapy teen happenings.  The Vampire Diaries also started off overly soapy for the first 6-8 episodes, so I'm willing to give  it a few more chances to impress me.

Up All Night, pilot (*** 1/2) – I enjoyed this show about new parents.  While the pilot wasn't laugh aloud funny, it did make me smile a lot. I love how Christina Applegate's and Will Arnett's characters manage to be a caring couple, totally in love with their baby daughter, without being saccharine or clichéd.  The show explores work-home issues in a fresh way with lots of respect for both the working parent and the stay at home parent.  Part of the freshness is accomplished by having the man stay home and the woman go to work — a trend I see a lot more in real life too.

Summer 2011, Part 3: Music Reviews

I didn't listen to a new album every week, but I listened to one at least every other week. Though, I mostly kept to safe choices that fit in my music comfort-zone this summer.

Albums  Listened to This Summer:

Vanessa Carlton, Be Nobody [2002] (****), Heroes & Thieves [2007] (*** 1/2), Best of [2011] (****)
Vanessa Carlton is a piano playing songwriter who sings appealing pop music.  I'd never  heard of her until I was searching for Sierra-Victor fan videos on You Tube — in a moment of guilty-pleasure Dollhouse weakness– and found a video set to Vanessa Carlton's song, "Ordinary Day". 
Favorite Songs: "Ordinary Day", "A Thousand Days", "Twilight".

Adele, 21 [2011] (****)
You've heard of Adele, even if you don't know it, trust me you have.  She's the young British woman with a deep sultry voice who sings additively good songs. I first heard her this spring when my Jazz class danced to "Rumor Has It" and kept listening to her all summer. 
Favorite Songs: "Rolling in the Deep", "Rumor Has It", "Someone Like You", "Turning Tables".

Sufjan Stevens, Michigan [2003] (***), Come on Feel the Illinoise [2005] (*** 1/2), The Age of Adz [2010] (*** 1/2)
Several of my thirtysomething Facebook friends mentioned his music (though none of these friends know each other).  He sings indie folk rock with his banjo and has a number of state-themed albums, though is newest album has a more electronic sound.  His Michigan album even has a song about Holland, the town where my mom's family has reunions.  When I had my horrible sinus infection I listened to "I Want to Be Well" over and over.
Favorite Songs: "Futile Devices", "I Want to Be Well", "Chicago", "Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, IL".

Amy Winehouse, Back to Black [2006] (*** 1/2)
Before her death I'd really only heard the song, "Rehab", and didn't liked it that much.  After her death decided to check out the rest of her album and enjoyed it. 
Favorite Songs: "Tears Dry On Their Own", "Back to Black".

Soundtrack from The Vampire Diaries [2010] (*** 1/2)
Good guilty-pleasure bedtime music, the kind of emo sugar-coated songs I like the very first time I listen and then quickly tire of. The instrumental music pieces make my life feel more tense and dramatic than usual.
Favorite Songs: "Bloodstream", "Down", "Running Up That Hill", "Stefan's Theme".

Tears for Fears, The Hurting [1983] (***), Songs From the Big Chair [1985] (*** 1/2)
The Vampire Diaries soundtrack covered a Tears for Fears song which got me nostalgic for the real thing. I hadn't listened to these songs in years.  The weird thing about music is how a song can send me straight back to the sights and sounds  I experienced when I first listened to the song.  I listened to a lot of Tears for Fears when I was Euro-railing in Germany.  It was fun having flashbacks of watching cabbage fields roll by or brushing my teeth in the tiny train bathrooms.
Favorite Songs:  "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" , "Shout", "Mad World", "Head Over Heels".

The Rapture, Pieces of the People We Love [2006] (*** 1/2)
The Rapture sounds a lot like the 80's new wave I used to enjoy.  They're the ones who sing the theme song to Misfits, though it's not on this album.
Favorite Songs:  "Don Gon Do It", "Pieces of The People We Love", "Calling Me".

Summer TV Reviews for: The Nine Lives of Chloe King, Misfits, and Friday Night Lights

The Nine Lives of Chloe King (***) – Chloe King is a normal teen living with her single mom in San Fransisco, going to school, working at a vintage clothing store, and hanging out with her best friends Amy and Paul.  Weird things start happening to her on her birthday — like she can easily walk on the edge of a bench, has retractable claws, and can hear conversations from far away.

The Nine Lives of Chloe King isn’t the greatest show ever, but so far, it is kind of adorable, fun summer TV.  Skyler Samuels, who plays Chloe, is not only beautiful, but plays Chloe with a winning combination of vulnerable likability.  The interactions with her friends are playful and realistic and the whole superpower plot is enjoyable, so far.  I love all the San Fransisco scenery and like that no one keeps too many secrets. Chloe keeps a few from her mom — who is probably my least favorite character because that relationship is a little boring — but even Chloe’s relationship with her mom has some sweet moments and the lack of secrets between Chloe and her friends keeps the plot moving and free from unnecessary melodrama.  Some of the acting is a little wooden, but overall, the leads are competent.  It’s a fun, easy to watch summer teen superpower show.

[On ABC Family, Tuesdays at 9pm Eastern Time/ 9pm Central. The pilot is available on iTunes for free; Hulu has only 1 episode up at a time for free viewing.  (Today it’s episode 3, which I still have to watch.)  The new episode is up on Hulu the day after it plays on ABC Family, then taken down when a new episode is posted. All episodes are also available to buy on iTunes.]

Misfits (*** 1/2) – is like Skins meets a British Heroes, but without the boring save-the-world plots.  Five young offenders show up for community service on a day that a wicked thunderstorm hits.  They’re all struck by weird lightening, but seem fine, until weird things start happening, like one of them can hear people’s thoughts now.  While it’s not actually on TV, Hulu is showing the first season for free online viewing on its site, one episode a week. 

The daughterling watched the first two seasons of Misfits with a friend and liked it so much I promised I’d watch once it came to American TV.  It’s entertaining so far. 

Like a lot of British shows the characters are more realistic and less polished than American characters tend to be.  The language can be a bit rough and there’s a lot more nudity and sex than on an American show.  I also like that the characters are clearly working class, instead of the pseudo poor characters on American shows, who have unexplained fantastic apartments and fabulous wardrobes. The characters are also more regular looking. Yeah, a couple are quite good looking, but not everyone is required to be as glamorous as on your average American teen show.  The daughterling says the show gets better as it goes on and that season two is even better than season one.

[The first three episodes are currently on Hulu for free online viewing. New episodes are posted on Mondays. You need to have a free account though because the content is for over 13 years and above.]

Friday Night Lights (****) – If you never watched Friday Night Lights now is your chance because seasons one through four are available on Netflix Instant. 

Kyle Chandler plays Eric Taylor, the new coach of a small Texan town where high school football is the main entertainment.  I love this show!  It’s realistic, moody, sweet, and has me cheering for the football team while at the same time thinking, "This town really needs to get a life."  You don’t have to like football to enjoy this show because Friday Night Lights is really about mentoring teens and it’s one of the best fiction shows I’ve seen on mentoring teens.

The first couple episodes have some handheld camera work but they do away with that technique after the first few episodes.  Season two has some over-the-top plotlines, but fear-not, the writers realize their mistake and get back to normal in season three.

[Netflix Instant has seasons one through four.  Season five is available to rent on DVD through Netflix too. Hulu posts a new episode for season five each Saturday, but the episodes expire after several weeks.  Currently episodes 6-10 of season five are up on Hulu. Season five episodes are also available to buy on iTunes.]

Book Review for – Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

Title: Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword
Author: Barry Deutsch
Year Published: 2010
Genre: Graphic Novel
Age Range: for ages 8 and up
Rating: ***

Eleven-year-old Mirka lives in an Orthodox Jewish community called Hereville.  Her kind, but formidable, stepmother Fruma insists that Mirka take knitting more seriously so she one day find a good husband, but what Mirka really wants is to find is a good sword so she can slay dragons.  On the way to school Mirka sees an animal that’s she’s never seen before.  Her step-sister, who has previously lived outside Hereville, tells her it’s a pig.  Mirka follows the pig and is set on an unexpected adventure where the many lessons she learned from Fruma are her ticket to making her own dreams come true.

I’d read a number of good reviews for this graphic novel.  It’s a fun story and the details about the life of the Orthodox Jewish community are respectful, detailed, and interesting.  I thought the conclusion was a bit slight, but this story is so unique and enjoyable, it’s a must-read if you have any interest in the Jewish community. 

Music Reviews From January & February

Music:
I go through music like a hummer goes through gasoline, listening to songs when I wash dishes, cook meals, walk to the grocery, and even when I fall asleep each night.  So I am constantly in need of new music. My goal for 2011 is to try to listen to a new album every week.

While I’m not immune to a catchy pop hit, I decided I wanted to try out more independent and lesser known groups this year too, from all sorts of genres: rock, pop, hip hop, classical, and everything in-between.

I’m still learning how to review music.  Unlike books, I don’t feel like I have a good sense of the vocabulary I need to describe what I like and don’t like about the songs yet. If I’ve learning anything from writing this blog, it’s that the best way to learn something is to just do it, so here goes….

A brief review of the albums I’ve enjoyed so far in 2011:

Play It Again, Jack!, by Jack in the Box (*** 1/2) – Three days after I made my album a week goal, this CD came in the mail from one of my favorite childhood friends.  How cool is that?  It’s like she read my mind. Turns out her 18 or 19-year-old son is in a band that just made an album.  The only time I met her son was when my family visited their home in Nantes, France. Greg was 12 or 13 and the two of them were arguing over how he was ignoring his piano practice to play the video game, Grand Theft Auto.

Greg must have solved the practicing issue because the piano playing on this album is excellent. Play It Again, Jack! is full of catchy pop melodies played on piano in a very listenable jazz-like cabaret style, kind of like a hipper more modern Randy Newman. While all the band members are from Nantes, France, the songs are all in English.  Every song is fun to listen to, though some songs are better than others.  [Parent Note: This is one of those albums that will make all ages happy: kids, teens, adults, and seniors.]

At their MY SPACE page you can hear several songs on the album.  You can also buy their songs or album on iTunes, emusic, and amazonmp3. They are listed on iTunes under the album name: Play It Again, Jack!  The full album sells for $10.99 or you can buy individual songs for 99 cents.

The Cost, by The Frames (*** 1/2) – This album is full of the kind of moody ballads that I enjoy listening to right before I go to sleep.  Lead singer, Glen Hansard, was in the movie The Commitments (in a small part) and also starred in the movie, Once.  The song "Rise" was recently featured in the Castle episode that focused on Kate’s mother’s murder and a number of the songs from The Cost are also included on Hansard’s album soundtrack for Once.  [Parent Note: Fairly tame lyrics you can listen to with kids in the car.]

I Will Be, by Dum Dum Girls (***) – Fun lo-fi indie pop that sounds a lot like good old-fashioned 50’s rock with a bit of a modern twist. [Parent Note: I couldn’t hear the lyrics clearly enough to be sure that I know if the album has any unfriendly stuff for kids or not. ]

Loud, by Rihanna (****) – Rihanna is one of the few commercial pop sensations I enjoy without guilt.  Her most recent album is no exception.  It’s full of catchy pop tunes you’ve probably heard without even picking up her album.  She even has a couple hits this time with an island flavor, a few soulful songs, and a couple of sexy pieces to round out the album.  [Parent Note: There are a couple kid friendly songs in the album but definitely another couple that will get you plenty of questions.  Probably this is one to enjoy when you’re alone.]