Life In The Q

The days in quarantine blend together into one endless feature of “Groundhog Day.” The nights feel lonely and, somehow, even longer. Luckily, when society’s been put on pause, the music still plays. Here are a few albums that should keep you going through life in the Q.

Music for Slow Mornings and Black Coffee… After Hours by the Weeknd

Fans have been quick to call After Hours the Weeknd’s best album yet. And, even though Trilogy will forever be one of Abel’s masterpieces, it’s hard to argue with this claim. After Hours is the perfect mix of the Weeknd’s dark, sultry past and more recent mainstream pop future. Tracks such as “Alone Again” and “Scared to Live” are reminiscent of the start of his career when he was a lesser-known, drug-riddled Canadian rapper, while, “Blinding Lights” and “Heartless” remind us of the Weeknd at the Kids’ Choice Awards. Abel, however, is far from the underground rapper we came to know in Kissland and Trilogy.  He’s become a star(boy) and fame is often getting the best of him. The singer details the trials and tribulations of said stardom in “Escape From LA.” After Hours demonstrates the versatility of the Weeknd as an artist. Abel maintains his brooding demeanor and sensual vulnerability from previous projects while introducing a new, retro sound and seamless production.

Music for Working Out or a Quarantine Party… Eternal Atake by Lil Uzi Vert

It’s difficult to not think of Eternal Atake as a collection of one-liners waiting to be used on some teenage boy’s Tik Tok. Obviously, this assumption is not far fetched since POP, Lo Mein, and Homecoming have already gone viral on the app, and it makes sense why. Uzi’s wordplay and topics — women, luxury items, drugs — embody the glamour and hype of being a rapper. Tik Tok fame aside, I was critical of EA at first. I was hoping for a project with the same level of playfulness and creativity as Lil Uzi v. The World or The Perfect LUV Tape or consistency as Luv is Rage 2. Eternal Atake, however, fails to deliver a consistent message and while it claims to be a concept album, the lengthy tracklist weakens the album’s attempt at creativity. Apart from its futuristic production and obscure song titles, the album feels about as astronomical as an elementary planet project. 

The overall production of the album is phenomenal and there are definitely some stand-out songs. The beginning of “Baby Pluto” is reminiscent of a spacecraft takeoff and the pace sets the tone for what could be a genre-bending album. “Celebration Station,” “Venetia,” and “Chrome Heart Tags” play on the intergalactic theme. While “I’m Sorry” is at best a half-assed attempt at vulnerability, it’s still catchy and adds depth to the album. The album ends with a tribute to “XO Tour Llif3,” thanking his fans for their continued support and stating that the artist is done — done with love, feelings, and relationships. The money, women, and fame have catapulted him to space and it looks like Uzi has no plans on coming back down. 

Music for when you’re feeling experimental…  A Written Testimony by Jay Electronica


Jay Electronica has been a mysterious legend within the rap community since he first arrived on the scene over a decade ago. In 2010, the New Orleans based rapper signed with RocNation. However, since signing, he has yet to release any studio-length albums, opting instead to release singles and collaborations. That was until “A Written Testimony.” Title wise, the record speaks for itself — Jay Electronica spends 10 tracks preaching the words of the Islamic religion, sprinkling in excerpts from American minister and political activist Louis Farrakhan along the way. Electronica begins the album with a sample of Farrakhan’s “Who Are the Real Children of Israel?” Here, Farrakhan states that “the black people of America are the real children of Israel/And they, we, are the choice of God/And that unto us, he will deliver his promise.” This track segues nicely into “Ghost of Soulja Slim” which features an exceptional performance from Jay-Z. Unfortunately, Jay-Z’s appearances on “A Written Testimony” make it feel more like a collaborative project between two artists than a feature. Overall, the album is unique and it’s well-produced but I found myself looking forward to Jay-Z more than Jay Electronica.

Music for the Mind…  3.15.20 by Childish Gambino

Piecing together 3.15.20 is kind of like piecing together a puzzle — fascinating at first but more complex and frustrating the deeper you dive in. With a blank cover and indistinguishably titled songs, 3.15.20 leaves little room for interpretation at first glance. It could follow along the lines of Gambino’s 2013 project “Because of the Internet,” edgy with exquisite wordplay and a series of bars. Or, it could be a follow-up to “Awaken, My Love,” a more eccentric, experimental album. There was confusion and curiosity surrounding the latest album among fans, and last year’s releases “This is America” and “Feels Like Summer” did not provide any answers. Fans were expected to wait for the album with no clues or context given. 

At first glance, the album itself didn’t give many clues either; and, the first few listens may have you questioning how this all pieces together. 3.15.20 presents a slew of ideas that struggle to come together as one collective piece. There is no doubt that the album is creative. It feels like escaping into the inner workings of Gambino’s mind; it’s just hard to grasp the continuity or connection. Upbeat tracks (“35.31”) are accompanied by visceral chaos (“32.22”). Childish’s interesting guest appearances further this claim — 21 Savage (“12.38”) and Ariana Grande (“Time”). It’s hard not to ask yourself, why?

Gambino’s music has always drawn both curiosity and critique. He is vulgar, eccentric, and brutally honest. But, what exactly is he trying to say here? My mother said it was the kind of album she would listen to on the beach while reading a book. My brother, disappointed, said that Childish was making music for himself and not the public. One thing is for sure, to fully appreciate this album, you cannot listen to it passively. The Guardian said it best, 3.15.20 is “a comprehensive deep-dive made for the dedicated concentration of self-isolation.” 

Music for the Soul…  My Vibe by Mt. Joy

There’s a loving nostalgia in lead singer Matt Quinn’s words. They are simple — falling in love with strangers — and yet they make you nod with understanding and empathy. The music is reminiscent of Kodaline’s “In a Perfect World;” it is the kind of band you’d turn during a long road trip through the mountains. In My Vibe, Mt. Joy presents fans with six sweet songs of love, heartbreak, and acceptance. The album starts with a slow start with the EP’s title song, “My Vibe.” The track is upbeat and playful, setting the scene for a man working through how to get better post-breakup. But, it pales in comparison to its neighbors. In “Rearrange Us,” Quinn masks the pain in lyrics such as “come on, rearrange us, and tell us that the pain don’t change much at all, it’s just a part of growing up” with his calming, careful voice. The band swiftly moves from crushed to crushes, singing of the lightheartedness of new love in “Let Loose.” The EP concludes with a heart-wrenching goodbye, “Every Holiday.” Quinn croons to his audience, “every holiday I feel that depression from all this division.” He softly speaks of how this division tears up our personal lives and relationships.

Music for a Power Walk…  Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa

Need an excuse to shake your ass through your neighborhood during your daily walk? Dua Lipa’s “Future Nostalgia” is capable of bringing out the baddest bitch in even the weary of soul. The artist’s sophomore album is fun, edgy, and so incredibly empowering. Musically the album has a retro vibe, reminding me of pop icons like Madonna or Janet Jackson. Vocally, Dua Lipa has an undeniably strong presence reminiscent of Lizzo or Ariana Grande. At its essence, Future Nostalgia embodies the paradox of the title — Dua Lipa simultaneously mixes the nostalgia of female pop’s past with the potential of its future. Dua Lipa reminds us of the all-encompassing feeling of falling in love and the blissful honeymoon stage in “Levitating” and “Pretty Please.” Playing off of Olivia Newton John’s classic, “Physical” chants “All night I’ll riot with you/I know you got my back and you know I got you/So come on, come on, come on/Let’s get physical.” It’s not a request, it’s a demand from the self-proclaimed “female alpha.” 

Whether you’re looking to spend the day staring out the window or blasting your music through your living room, these albums give you the versatility and flexibility to go through any phase you please during quarantine. Let me know what you think about the albums and share your opinion. Most importantly, stay safe and healthy.


Ten Kinds of Bread to Make While You Practice Social Distancing

I know we’ve all been watching bread videos over the past few weeks. Whether your friends are posting their failed bread attempts on Instagram or you’ve been watching Jamie Oliver’s “Keep Cooking and Carry On”, I’m sure you’re tempted to make your own bread. Below there are three categories of bread to make: beginner, for all of our first-time bread makers, intermediate for those who have mastered a loaf or two, and expert, for experienced bread makers and the extra bored alike.

Beginner

No-Knead Bread

No-Knead, simple bread is probably the easiest bread and definitely the best one to start out with. This recipe from IHeartNaptime is super simple with four ingredients: all-purpose flour, active dry yeast, water and salt. That’s it! This specific recipe is great because you don’t need a baking stone, like you would for other bread recipes; an upside-down baking sheet works just fine! Overall, this bread is easy, quick to make, and just a simple crowdpleaser.

No-Time Bread

Want to make bread fast? Like, super fast in bread terms? Like, do you really not want to wait hours for your bread to rise? Here’s the perfect bread for you! While a lot of the no-knead bread is already incredibly fast-rising, “No-Time” bread is even quicker than that. In this recipe from Kitchn, the fast-rising aspect comes from microwaving the bread in intervals for a few minutes. Although this bread might not have the same flavor as some longer-rising bread, it’s quick and a good place to start for those still working normal hours at home.

Focaccia

Onto more specific types of bread! Focaccia is known to be a great bread for beginner bakers, and it’s incredibly easy to customize. There’s plain focaccia, skillet focaccia, rosemary focaccia, tomato-herb focaccia — any and all kinds of focaccia are possible! A great place to start is with Bon Appétit’s classic focaccia recipe; it only takes about an hour to rise and 30 minutes to bake. Once you master the classic focaccia, you’ve mastered all focaccia.

Basic White Bread

I’ll be honest, I can’t remember the last time I had just basic, white bread. If you’re missing that classic bread perfect for grilled cheese and toast, why not make your own? Now, white bread is probably the most “difficult” on this beginner’s list, just because it’s a little hard to perfect. Your water has to be the perfect temperature, it needs to rise in warm air, and it takes a little longer to make than the other beginner’s recipes. Despite this, I think if you have the time, this is the perfect bread to make. Everyone loves white bread, so it’s definitely worth it to learn how to make your own. MyRecipe’s white bread is a great recipe to follow!

Flatbread

Flatbread is genuinely such an easy bread to make — it’s only 5 ingredients, and you don’t even need to use your oven. You just make your flatbreads and throw those bad boys on your stovetop. Like focaccia, flatbread is also super easy to customize. This garlic herb flatbread recipe from Minimalist Baker is a great example of that. The best part of flatbread is its versatility; you can make personal pizzas, shawarmas, or just dip the flatbread into some hummus!

Intermediate

Ciabatta

Because ciabatta is a high-hydration bread, it’s a little harder to make than our beginner bread types. It’s a little more involved, but the pay-off is totally worth it. It might take you a few tries to make the perfect sponge and dough, but Baked by an Introvert has a great, step-by-step recipe (with plenty of pictures!) on how to make the perfect ciabatta. This is definitely not a one-day recipe, so make sure you have at least two days dedicated to this bread!

Brioche

Brioche bread is 100% my favorite kind of bread. It’s just so fluffy and delicious. It’s a little difficult to make for the same reason as ciabatta: it’s a high-hydration bread. Also, you really should use a stand-mixer when you’re making brioche just because it needs a LOT of kneading. This is also a pretty involved bread because you have to change the temperature of the oven while it’s baking, but c’mon, it’s brioche. I personally really like Fifteen Spatulas’ brioche recipe because of how streamlined it is.

Baguette

Ah, the baguette. I won’t lie, baguette’s are notorious for being difficult to bake. They have relatively simple ingredients, water, yeast, flour, and salt, but the technique is where the difficulty lies. Scoring specifically is very hard to perfect. It’s a great bread to try if you want something a little more aesthetically challenging! Baking a Moment’s baguette recipe is rather straightforward with more of an emphasis on flavor than looks, so it’s a perfect place to start for the novice baguette baker!

Expert

Sourdough

Yes, sourdough is tedious, but it’s also so delicious. Sourdough takes days to make. And by days, I mean, like, five at minimum. It’s intense. This is because you have to have sourdough starter, which has to sit so the yeast can become activated. It’s a great bread to make if you’re up for a challenge, and if you’ve made a few of the other recipes on this page. Tasty’s video on sourdough is super helpful to make sure your sourdough looks like theirs. The best part is if you have any leftover starter, you can use it for your next loaf to speed up the process!

Croissants Is including croissants on a list of breads controversial? Yes. Do I really think croissants are bread? Yes! Do I think they’re pastries? Also yes. Who cares about their classification, they’re super hard to make. I can already promise you that you will not make these properly on your first, second, or third try. This is probably the best time to learn how to make one of the most difficult pastries/breads, though. Why not come out of quarantine as a croissant connoisseur? If you’re up for it, the croissant recipe by Tasting Table is a great one. My one piece of advice: patience is key here.

How to Enjoy Social Distancing

We are proud to partner with Texas’ own H-E-B around the #TexansHelpingTexans campaign. Texans have shown so much heart during these trying times and over the next month we will be sharing ways to stay positive, uplifting activities, and ways to help fellow Texans. Days of quarantine can get long and boring. That’s why we put together a list of some of our favorite activities during social distancing . Join the movement by using the hashtag  #TexansHelpingTexans on all your social media platforms.

Online Exercise Classes

Online exercise classes are perfect for beginners and gym rats alike, and Black Swan Yoga has been holding free livestreams on their Instagram Live. The Austin studios have been hosting classes from 6 A.M. to 8:30 P.M. If Yoga isn’t your style, Peloton is having a free 90-day trial on its app, Golds Gym is making its app completely free until the end of May for users, and Planet Fitness is having a free daily class at 6 P.M. CST on its Facebook Live.

Reorganize a la Marie Kondo

Why not use your time at home to spark a little joy and get to KonMari-ing your space. You know the drill, throw out everything that doesn’t bring you joy. Maybe even watch a little Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix to get some ideas from Marie herself.

Zoo Livestreams

If you’re tired of watching Netflix but can’t seem to get away from your computer, zoos around the nation got your back. From the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Live Cam to the San Diego Zoo’s Baboon Cam, the world is your oyster in terms of what to watch. A personal favorite is the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam where you can watch two giant pandas, Tian Tian and Mei Xiang.

Food Delivery

There’s plenty of elderly Texans who need assistance during this time getting their groceries, so if you want to help during this time, driving for Favor is one of the best ways to assist those you don’t know. If you’re looking to make a little money and just get out of the house, driving is a great way to help. Plus, you make your hours, so you can keep binging away! You can sign up with Favor here.

Trendy Cooking

If you haven’t made the Tik Tok trending Dalgona coffee or if you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon of making your own bread, do it. Any kind of out of the box cooking is perfect for when you’re locked up at home, and maybe you’ll come out of this as a Masterchef!

Support Local Restaurants

Supporting local businesses during this time is incredibly important, and if you’re getting bored of cooking, go ahead and check TakeOutTracker.com out to see if your favorite restaurant is doing takeout. If you’re looking for something new, check our their curated lists with titles like “The Italian Job” and “Thanks For All the Fish”.

Donate Blood

Donating blood is one of the most crucial actions people can do to assist in the fight against coronavirus. You can make an appointment with The Red Cross on their website, as well as on the We Are Blood website.

Hike and Bike Trails

Missing the outdoors? You’re in luck because numerous of Austin’s hiking trails are still open. Any of the trails are great for walking your dog, getting your family out of the house, or just getting some alone time. Remember to keep the 6-foot distance between you and other hikers, though, and try to go during off-hours to avoid interaction even more.

Remote Movie Night

Spice up Facetime with your friends by adding Netflix into the mix. All you have to do is download Netflix Party through Google Chrome, choose something good on Netflix, and send the link out to all of your friends. It’s a safe, social distanced movie night.

Meditation

It seems like you can’t escape negativity or stress about the upcoming months, but with meditation apps like Calm and Headspace, you might be able to find a peace of mind. Both apps boost the ability to reduce anxiety, assist in sleep, and boost confidence.