Category Archives: Dispatches for Luna & Max

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#20): “I Want to Be in Love With You” by Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir

I’ve always had a soft spot for gospel music. Even if I’m not all that religious, it’s the joy of the whole thing.

(I think that’s probably the point.)

When I get up in the mornings to rouse you both from your cribs, the tunes we play are usually female voices contemporary and old: Selena and Violeta Parra and Jazmine Sullivan and Fiona Apple and Remi Wolf and Rihanna and Mickey Guyton and Gloria Estefan and Nelly Furtado and Jill Scott and Aretha and Jenni Rivera and Japanese Breakfast and Selena Gomez and Kali Uchis and Speedy Ortiz and Downtown Boys and Charli XCX and Illuminati Hotties and and and

and the only real exception to the female voices of it all is gospel.

So I’ve been playing the latest box set release of Pastor T.L. Barrett & The Youth For Christ Choir a lot.

And so, there’s not much else to say except that a love song written about faith in lyrics that speak plaintively to human desire and to redemption and to compassion and to seeing the world through the eyes of someone else is a song that I am pretty okay teaching the two of you to two-step to.

There is a wild turn throughout the lyrics that makes it clear that the song is actually the desire of God to be in love with the singer—with you. I think about that humanizing element sometimes, as the two of you futz with books and sketchpads and stuffed animals in the morning: that knowledge that you are both loved universally and that nature is being ordered around collective efforts to make this world wholly for you.

By the time Barrett is losing his mind Mariah-ing about the Bible in the second half of the song he’s already won me over and, honestly, I’m probably starting the song over from the beginning.


(I think the recent-re-release of this music is at least somewhat due to Kanye’s substantial use of Father Stretch Hands on Life of Pablo but the song isn’t even the brightest of the many gems here.)

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#19): “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt” by Owen Pallett – Live At Hillside Festival

  • 4:35 – “Just one more minute!”
  • For more than a decade, this has been one of my favorite live performances to revisit.
  • Getting older, the recklessness of the situation feels ever heavier with each view, but the joy remains undiminished.

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#17) – “Love You So Bad” by Ezra Furman


  • This song got a bunch of (deserved) attention as the musical centerpiece in the trailer for Netflix’s Sex Education a few years ago (it kicks in about halfway through the trailer, around here). The climactic Wah-Wah-Wah-Wa-Wa-Wa-Wa of the song’s ending feels poised as the exuberance of new love exploding in the lives of these adolescent characters.
  • It’s a powerful ending to the song but its transcendence is misplaced (or at least misunderstood) in the context of this trailer.
    • Side note: Ezra Furman performs most of the music for both seasons of the show  (and she has a cameo in the first scene). The soundtrack is kind of a greatest hits of some of her recent-ish work.
  • See, the song starts out being about new love. But new love becomes comfortable love and hard times and buying “drugs from a parking attendant” until finally, like a Tom Waits tragedy, the song finds one character getting “accepted to college” and transcending the shared “garbage small town rat trap.”
  • (The wah-wah chorus still hasn’t hit by the time this person leaves the narrator in the dust. This is telling.)
  • The narrator gets a “dumb job” in retail, just missing this other person.
  • And then.
  • And then.
  • And then–you know this–life just keeps going.
  • And we get to the final verse of the song and it knocks me out:
    “I drew your name in the sand.
    Came to the beach ‘cause we used to go here.
    I watched the blue wave cover it over,
    Do what the ocean does best.”
  • It’s such a small thing and the simplicity of these lines feels lived in in the same way that the Dear Sugar letter in the previous dispatch does. It’s a small fist in a grand song and it feebly threatens to make the whole thing “pop” like one of my favorite lines in a Mountain Goats song.
  • It’s resignation and longing, years after this relationship’s run its course. The narrator closes with a muted shrug: “I feel fine, don’t even feel sad about it, I just love you baby so, so bad.”
  • And that’s when that famous climax rises up.
  • It’s not a moment of joyful young love. Those wah-wahs? They are the wa-wa-water of blue waves crashing over the sand. A futile effort at washing away loss and memory.

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#16)


  • “Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.”
  • From the title letter of the Dear Sugar collection, tiny beautiful things.
  • The whole letter can be read here. My copy of this book is an dogeared mess and the three and a half pages that take up this letter and the initial query are what I come back to the most.
  • The overly personal as tied completely to universal truth, e.g.:
    • “One hot afternoon during the era in which you’ve gotten yourself ridiculously tangled up with heroin you will be riding the bus and thinking what a worthless piece of crap you are when a little girl will get on the bus holding the strings of two purple balloons. She’ll offer you one of the balloons, but you won’t take it because you believe you no longer have a right to such tiny beautiful things. You’re wrong. You do.”
  • There are several other paragraphs I would paste here, but imagine it’s worth just reading the entire thing. As advice, as a narrative, as a piece of writing, I continue to learn from this letter (and the rest of the collection).
  • I’ve never read anything else by Cheryl Strayed.

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#15)


  • Ally’s best friend handmade these as the centerpieces for the tables at our wedding reception almost eight years ago.
  • A vase or two have basically moved with us from one house to another, a constant reminder of the not-so-small gifts that friends offer.
  • Luna and Max: this is the 15th dispatch of poems, images, songs, films, and more songs that I’ve been slowly sharing and collecting for you. It’s about holding fast to the good people around you. And it’s about reminding you that your words (can) always bloom with joy, with action, with rage, with love.
  • What more might we want flowers to profer than an accumulation of nouns and verbs to pollinate the world?

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#14)

  • On first listen, this song’s kind of doing a Paranoid Android, in that it sounds like three different songs mashed together. So it’s kind of also just an emo Happiness is a Warm Gun (the emo-est of the Beatles’ song title by a mile!).
  • But here’s the thing: it’s not a Paranoid Android or a Happiness. The song hangs together.
  • It hangs together out of sheer frustration, loneliness, and pleading. It’s a song about letting go and coming home and doing both at the same time. The entire thing builds up to a simple thesis: “I miss coming home to you/I hate coming home.”
  • Admittedly, the song sounds like a fine, if typical, emo/punk song for the first minute and a half. But then it goes on a journey (like a musician being a little too road-weary). Two and a half minutes in and the song drops any pretensions and just goes straight to heart-filled pathos and ennui: “All these other motherfucking dipshits can bite me.” Honestly, it doesn’t even sound like an annoying line by the time it sneaks up on you.
  • I want to yell along with some dumb “yeahs” and this song feels like the fact that I (we?) haven’t seen live music–in person–for a year and a half at this point, the longest period by several multiples since being a teenager.
  • I think about Jeff Rosenstock releasing this song (the final track on his most recent album) in the midst of a pandemic–adrift from a world and an audience. A song that demands chanting and collective screaming: “You’re the only person that I wanted to like me /You’re the only person that I wanted to like me.” And not being able to participate in the catharsis that emo thrives on.
  • And then, by transforming a joke tweet into a living, breathing, honest-to-god good ska album, he released the song again in the middle of the same goddamn pandemic. Twice the pleading, twice the angst, twice the loneliness in coming home:
    • “We relive every misstep that we’ve made in our lives.”
  • I confess I get hooked deeply on one or two songs on every one of Rosenstock’s albums. I think about the simplicity of 9/10 all the time. This verbal introduction of Festival Song–sharing his band’s fee for performing at a dumb festival … at the actual dumb festival–is one of my favorite introductions to a song.


  • “Nobody wishes for the things that they already have.”

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#13)

A triptych of covers:

  • Here’s the thing, I’m not a Springsteen fan. He’s fine.
  • I don’t even really love the original version of this song (although I think I could personally get down with it as a karaoke jam).
  • I do wonder what it says about my tastes that three artists I do like all offer drastically different takes on this song. Is “Dancing in the Dark” the indie-rock version of “My Favorite Things” or “I Got Rhythm” for jazz musicians? A familiar slate on which to do something innovative, meaningful, personal?
  • A few words on each of these versions:
    • The brattiness of the Downtown Boys in this song is just straight up jubilant. Also that… sax solo. The skronkiest of saxophone solos. It sounds both entirely out of place and imperatively necessary—something that could probably be said about every sax solo on the two Downtown Boys records.
    • Hot Chip does their Hot Chip thing adequately in this. I think it’s the interpolation halfway through of an LCD Soundsystem song that I love enough that I used it when I announced my first professor gig nearly a decade ago and that I also had a good friend perform a version of during my wedding ceremony. You just like it when things you like get combined into one (it’s the sonic peanut butter and chocolate model). I think it’s why everyone continues to love that damn cover of Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World that gets played everywhere for everything in all contexts forever (we will have our culture collapse as a montage to Izzy’s, sadly, singularly memorable recording for most).
    • I guess Lucy Dacus offers the most conventional cover of the three. I think I get wrapped up thinking about how damn good of a songwriter she is. I mean, Night Shift. I dig the levity and the fun here and it’s a joy that, to these ears, goes beyond The Boss’s original.
  • I should note that, while I don’t really love Springsteen, I guess I appreciate the work in his wake. This cover aside, I am a big fan of dumb bombastic sax-heavy pop. The upcoming Bleachers album feels like it’s basically one big Springsteen tribute (he even shows up on the first single on the album). I am overdue to draft a dispatch entry on just how much I like Bleachers, btw. Also, in the same way that that solo feels like the entire reason My Guitar Gently Weeps was brought into reality, I kind of think one of Springsteen’s greatest accomplishments was paving the way for this Sharon Van Etten cover.
  • I think the line “This gun’s for hire” is one of the dumbest things ever written in a song.
  • And it gets immediately forgiven because I love belting along with “Even if we’re just dancin’ in the dark” right after it.


  • “I’m sick of sittin’ ’round here tryin’ to write this book.”

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#12)

  • An 80-minute joyful dance through crowded streets, parks, ferries, bridges, and ballet studios. I admit that I mainly watched this on repeat in the Winter of 2020/2021 on mute with an alternative soundtrack.
  • I think it was the idea of moving, interacting, and exploring a fully-populated world that was cathartic to watch in the months that the pandemic inched closer to a year in duration. Knowing that something as fun as Girl Walk All Day could happen … and can happen again. That was reassuring.
  • It helps that Anne Marsen & co’s dancing feels accessible and doable(?) for a schlub like me.
  • A decade old film that invokes Girl Talk and some of the more annoying aspects of early oughts culture (it feels flash mob-adjacent), Girl Walk All Day just works.
  • Sure seems like Pharrell was a fan too.

Dispatches for Luna & Max (#11)


  • “and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank”
  • The absurdly close, invasive camera that slowly eases off before closing back in on O’Hara in the final seconds.
  • I aspire to end something I write with the same thudding consequentiality as “which is why I’m telling you about it.”