1. Grade 11 (“junior year”) at a “party” (seven or eight girls) at my friend Lindsay’s house. I stonedly put on The Magic City and lay on the floor of her very nice living room and listened to the record from start to finish; felt like my brain was going to explode somewhere in the middle of “Revolution of Hearts.” None of my friends was into Helium at all, but everyone could appreciate how nicely the album dovetailed with the experience of smoking pot in high school. I bet Kelly lay on the floor with me for at least some of the time.
2. Sitting on the school bus in my senior year (yes I still rode the bus and could not drive and still can’t), listening to Pirate Prude and the songs from Helium’s early 7” releases, but mostly “Lucy” and “XXX” on repeat on my discman. This was the best, most satisfying kind of listening experience in which my forehead was pressed against the windowpane and I was watching miles of suburban squalor pass me by and having grandiose thoughts about moving to Boston soon and “leaving all this behind,” to the sound of a kind of shrieking I could identify with. I was living inside the most vivid and cliche moment of teen angst, and I knew it, and I pushed it as far as it could go.
3. Listening to The Golden Dove in the days after Mary and her band stayed at ASQ’s and my apartment in Montreal six or whatever years ago, noting all the bird imagery, wondering if she had noticed the heaving bird’s nest on my back balcony and the injured chirping pigeons, hoping it might crop up in her future bird imagery, loving the texture of the music and that wondering together because finally it wove me into something. We went out to breakfast and I found her very shy and sweet indeed.
4. The Little Bird Girl demos are the best for sitting on the subway in New York City and people-watching, because the songs replicate that feeling of complete and autonomous introspection in relation to a social world you can’t get away from and wouldn’t want to, because it feeds that inwardness. These listening experiences are often followed by texting or emailing Liz.
5. It’s been the best concert-going experience/s of my life, watching Mary perform with Wild Flag, and I share the excitement everyone seems to feel about seeing her do that little sideways dance, play the bleeding guitar solos, hop around and fall to the floor, achieve that chemistry with Carrie Brownstein that is both the product of great musicianship and the magic of best friend vibes taking everything over. All of that. I mean, she used to play facing away from the crowd! But the greatest thing about Wild Flag for me is the way Mary delivers lines like “Alright, say my name, say it again and I’ll make it rain in your mind” in that subdued, shy-girl, but still incredibly powerful way. Like nobody else can issue such a challenge (I’LL MAKE IT RAIN BITCH!) in such a disciplined and temperate but totally not weak manner. All of Mary’s songs on this album have this texture of friendship and shyness and summoning.