A Year In Everything: Leah Mandel

Planet earth mostly sucks, but sometimes it doesn’t. These are the times I felt happy to be human in 2016.

December 22, 2016
A Year In Everything: Leah Mandel Art by Emily Keegin

In a world of shit, I try to remind myself often of the things that really get me hyped. To be quite honest, there were not that many things that accomplished that in 2016 — but that only made the special parts more special. Here's everything that meant the most to me this year.

The "No More Parties In LA" / "Real Friends" leak

Ah, January. It was the beginning of Kanye's rollercoaster 2016. So long ago now, it seems, when we played the leak on the speakers in the office. "No More Parties In L.A." later became my favorite TLOP cut.

VCR at The Silver Dollar Room in Toronto

In April, I popped up to Toronto for a weekend and ended up at legendary venue The Silver Dollar Room (apparently Elvis Presley played his first show there?!) to see Sheer Mag. This wild band VCR opened for them — they were all wearing goggles and wacky outfits, yelling with a no-wave fervor. It was invigorating.

ANTI on repeat in Berlin

Rihanna's no holds barred self-love soundtracked the entire first half of the year, but especially when my best friend and I went to Berlin for ten days. The Germans didn't like us very much, but Rihanna had already taught us not to care. I also bought my first diva cup there.

Perfume Genius at FORM: Arcosanti

When I was sent off to a tiny desert town to cover FORM, I didn't know what to expect. It ended up being incredible — I saw Perfume Genius soundcheck in an amphitheater in the middle of a sunny day, and then later that night his performance rocked my world. Also, I met my boyfriend there. He took these photos. We're in love.

Josh Gondelman, Phoebe Robinson, and Michelle Wolf at The Jewish Museum with my mom

Jessica Williams was supposed to be at this event, but she never showed up. While I'm still dying to see her, her partner in crime Phoebe Robinson (their podcast 2 Dope Queens rules, BTW) did the damn thing without her, and it was fucking hilarious. Fellow funny human Josh Gondelman organized the whole, brilliant affair, and my introduction to Michelle Wolf blew me away. Also, there was an open bar and free popcorn.

Young Thug's "Webbie" at the Grand Canyon

My man and I are doing the long distance thing, so in September I flew out to Arizona and we went to the Grand Canyon. Jeffery is close to both our hearts, and "Webbie," with its calmly far-reaching production and sublime pockets of contemplation, is our mutual favorite, so of course we listened to it on the way there. Plus, when the ever-romantic Thug sings, “Lil mama overseas, I'ma Skype her,” I think of him.

When Forth Wanderers opened for LVL UP at Market Hotel

We freaked when they played "Slop." “I love too much/ to hurt this bad/ And I laugh too much/ To be this sad,” sings Ava Trilling, her voice oozing with emotion. I remember being 17, like Trilling was when she wrote "Slop," and feeling so much I thought there must be something wrong with me. Turns out, feeling deep feelings is a good thing — I wish I’d had Trilling’s courage and clarity back then.

This chicken running in shorts
Mahershala Ali in Luke Cage

I love villains. Ali's poignant performance in Moonlight was brilliant, and he brought that same depth to his role as Cottonmouth in Netflix's excellent Luke Cage, which I binge-watched.

Beyoncé and the Dixie Chicks at the CMAs

In the most beautifully feminist moment of the year, the Dixie Chicks resurfaced to perform “Daddy Lessons” at the CMA Awards with Beyoncé. My girl power heart swoons when Natalie, Emily, and Martie’s twangs intertwine with Bey’s — especially when the gals weave in “Long Time Gone.” [praying emoji] The fact that they uploaded it to SoundCloud, and available for free download, was the benevolent cherry on top.

NBA YoungBoy's 38 Baby

After election night, I didn't listen to music for two days. The first thing I played was NBA YoungBoy’s 38 Baby tape. It simultaneously soothed me and turned my heart into a puddle of goop. I worry about the kidespecially with Trump in office.

Meeting Hamilton Leithauser at BBC 1 Radio

At 15, I was changed by The Walkmen, specifically Hamilton Leithauser's raw, impassioned voice and intimate lyricism. A decade or so later, I got to meet Hamilton when he graced us with a live performance of "In A Blackout" that one time Duncan and I did a BBC1 Radio takeover. Hamilton’s voice is just as powerful to me now as it was when I first heard it.


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A Year In Everything: Leah Mandel