HIGHLY RECOMMENDED W/ SHANA HARTZEL

Welcome to another HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, that re-occurring feature where I ask a person of the internet to give us all some recommendations from their top shelf of life's 5 most important categories: Music, TV/Film, Books, Internet-ing, and ANYTHING (to make sure all bases are completely covered).

Today we're joined by Shana Hartzel, one half of the brilliance behind the brilliant music blog Swell Tone (if you're not checking it out already, you should start). She is also the Assistant Music Director at YNOT Radio (where she also hosts a show highlighting what's up musically down under) and she even does some writing for The Wild Honey Pie. And somehow, in-between wearing all of those hats and going to way more live shows then probably you and me combined, she managed to give us all some sweet recommendations. So let's scroll downwards and check them out…

#1 - WHAT IS THE ONE ALBUM (OR EP OR SONG) THAT YOU THINK SHOULD BE THE VERY NEXT MUSICAL THING THAT EVERYONE PRESSES PLAY ON THE NEXT TIME THEY FIND THEMSELVES THINKING “WHAT SHOULD I LISTEN TO NOW”?

Picking just one music recommendation for an eternal music lover is some form of cruel torture. But, there is in fact one suggestion that I have been making to everyone who has asked over the past few months. I'm not one to sit and listen to an album more than once or twice. Lots of modern albums are filled with ... well... filler. I turn to playlists quite often to enjoy the best tracks in one concise but varied form. But, there is some undeniable magic in every fiber of And The Kids' debut album, Turn To Each Other. 

It sparks and flits in metaphors and riffs that tickle the imagination while still allowing you to scream along. The album is about making a statement both musically and lyrically in a way that is declarative but never accusatory. Hearing the textures ripple in and out of one another is mesmerizing.

#2 - WHAT IS THE ONE MOVIE OR TV SHOW THAT YOU THINK SHOULD BE NEXT IN EVERYBODY’S NETFLIX QUEUE (OK, DOESN’T HAVE TO BE NETFLIX, WE’RE ALL INTERNET ADULTS HERE AND KNOW HOW TO FIND ANYTHING ONLINE, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER)?

I love independent film quite a lot. There is something to me about the high risk, high reward of guessing at the quality of an independent film that always keeps me coming back for more. Little gems pop out of the overall landscape of things I have certainly regretted paying to see. Embrace of the Serpent is incredibly powerful. It's patient, mysterious, complex, and truthful. The films short synopsis reads as follows: The story of the relationship between Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman and last survivor of his people, and two scientists who work together over the course of 40 years to search the Amazon for a sacred healing plant.

Very few words are in English but there is much to be learned from every step of the two westerners' journeys through the Amazonian land. While the film is in black and white, the decisions of its characters have to make and the things they struggle with on a daily basis are so far to the opposite end of the spectrum that it takes the whole film to make sense of them

3. I (AND BY “I” I MEAN “THE PERSON THAT IS READING THIS”) AM GOING TO THE BOOK STORE (OK, PROBABLY AMAZON) TO FIND THE VERY NEXT BOOK THAT I WILL BE PUTTING SOME EXTREMELY VALUABLE ‘ME-TIME' ASIDE FOR. WHICH BOOK WOULD YOU GET, IF YOU WERE ME (AND, I SUPPOSE, YOU HADN’T ALREADY READ WHAT YOU’RE ABOUT TO SUGGEST)?

I wish I was a reading aficionado but I'm not. I have, however, recently been really getting into zines. Their short format and quirky style is exactly what I'm looking for when I pick up something to "read." In the music community and beyond, they have become quite popular again recently. It's amazing to see the individual personalities really burst from the details of the pages. Here are a few my friends have made recently:

• Alix Wiley - Pluck!: A guide to neighborhoods in Philly inspired by Japanese culture

#4 - WHAT IS THE ONE WEBSITE (OR JUST ANY OLD INTERNET THING: APP, GIF, SERVICE, WHATEVER) THAT YOU WOULD GET REALLY DOWN IN THE DUMPS ABOUT IF IT WERE TO SUDDENLY GO AWAY?

Any roommate/housemate I've ever had will quickly tell you that this is any episode/blooper reel/compilation of the old Whose Line is it Anyway. I could watch them for hours on end. Thanks to Youtube, I really can and have.

The chemistry between the three main comedians is so engaging and hysterical. It's probably funniest when they are mercilessly making fun of each other (i.e. Collin is bald, Ryan's big nose/flashy shoes etc.). Whether singing, selling something, impersonating, or slinging one-liners, their particular brand of improv is clever in such a way that it builds upon itself over an episode. 

This one was always one of my favorites:

Everything's made up and the points don't matter... unless you try to take them all away.

#5 - AND FINALLY… PLEASE GIVE ONE COMPLETELY UNAIDED RECOMMENDATION THAT YOU THINK EVERYONE SHOULD START DOING / USING / WATCHING / EATING / THINKING / QUITING / ETC-ING TO MAKE THEIR LIVES A LITTLE BIT MORE BETTER AND/OR BEARABLE.

Go to things by yourself. I've started doing this so much that I actually prefer it. When I ramped up my show-going schedule to around 5 per week, I knew it would be a lost cause to find anyone to accompany me. I think going alone to a show, a movie, a party, or whatever thing you like to do is invaluable in creating a more fulfilling experience for yourself. Personally, it helps me be more open minded, focused, and willing to make new friends.

Of course, it also comes with feeling uncomfortable at certain points but getting through those on your own makes you feel great.

OK folks, there you have it. Things that Shana thinks you should consider incorporating into your day/life. Before you go tell your friend that you no longer want them to join you at the party, go follow Swell Tone on Twitter and like them on Facebook and why not go listen to YNOT?

And maybe we can all agree to meet up here again next week to do the same thing? (and if you're interested in doing a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, hit me up on my beeper)