Tag Archives: music monday

Music Monday :: our thoughts on Dirty Computer and Janelle Monae live

25 Jun

First we were going to wait to talk about the album till we’d seen her in concert, since we knew we had tickets. Then the concert was weirdly timed for the posting schedule. Then we were just busy and/or forgetful. So HERE WE GO. Time to talk about Dirty Computer as an album, an emotion picture, and a concert too.

I’ve been caught up on my Janelle Monae for awhile (the entire Archandroid collection is a really good way to busy up your entire afternoon) but as soon as she released the video for “Make Me Feel” it was clear we were in a whole new league. And I (drift partner) binged her entire discography right after that video came out, and also said idly, “gee, it’d be funny if she decided to release a whole album just to come out as queer, that seems like something she’d do.” In other news, I also called Kristen Stewart being bisexual back in 2012, and I am a gay prophet.

Also, right around “Make Me Feel,” the internet suddenly arrived at the conclusion that Janelle and Tessa Thompson are probably dating. There’s literal years’ worth of clues, compiled by multiple people if you google around, and these don’t even get into the hints about each woman individually (previous queer-type themes and language in Janelle’s earlier work, Tessa passionately advocating for Valkyrie being bisexual, and playing it that way, in Thor: Ragnarok as per comics but despite studio interference, also this picture). Shipping real people can get creepy really fast, and of course they’re entitled to privacy – but is it really that creepy if they’re making an epic 45-minute movie about themselves being in love despite impossible odds? I’m just saying.

So the release of the next single, “Pynk,” was… well, it just felt like a confirmation of everything we and everyone on the internet were thinking. In this video, Janelle and several (but not all) of her dancers wear pink pants clearly designed to resemble vaginas while they dance, and in multiple shots Tessa’s head is poking out from between Janelle’s legs, clearly meant to represent the clitoris. In case you ever wondered what it would sound like if a woman wrote a song about enjoying the giving and receiving of cunnilingus, this is your answer.

Dirty Computer as a whole is, like all of Janelle’s stuff, a concept album, but it’s the first not to be directly connected to the others. In it (this is not a spoiler, the movie explains this in the first two minutes) the government is bad and considers people computers, and anyone who deviates from the norm is a “dirty computer.” This includes people who are the wrong color (not white) or the wrong sexuality (not straight) or, you know, any/all of the reasons people get discriminated against. These people are regularly rounded up and basically memory-wiped into compliance. In short, this ain’t fucking around.

As such, each song and therefore video represents a memory being wiped from Jane’s (Janelle’s character) mind. And every single damn one is Making Points, a lot of which really aren’t my place to discuss because I’m not a black woman and they’re reflective of that specific experience. There is a lot of subtle and less-subtle stuff that’s clearly influenced by Janelle’s religious upbringing, which I (drift partner) can talk about because, same hat. “I just wanna find a god / and I hope she loves me too” in “Crazy Classic Life” (which is also a throwback to part of one of her older songs, “Q.U.E.E.N.”: “Say will your God accept me in my black and white? / Will he approve the way I’m made? / Or should I reprogram the programming and get down?”) and “while I sit in my room writing letters to my church and things and such” in “So Afraid” are two of the most blatant examples, but she is also literally wearing a veil on the album cover that is meant to evoke Catholic imagery, so there you go. Also, as a person who grew up with a lot of religiously-based guilt and shame, I definitely recognize a lot of the “fuck it” vibes on this album.

And, of course, it’s really queer. Jane has two love interests in the film, Tessa Thompson’s Zen and Jayson Aaron’s Che, and they’re just a big lovely bisexual pile all over the videos. But also, it’s just… very Sapphic a lot of the time. Janelle spends a lot of time admiring ladies in these videos, singing near suggestive parts of their bodies and touching them and being touched by them and generally just appreciating them, but it’s nowhere near the skeezy male-gazey girl on girl stuff that many films and music videos and whatnot are guilty of sharing. It’s just loving and, again, appreciating, and yeah, it’s sexy but it’s also just beautiful and welcome.

Seeing her live was also quite an experience. It was at an outdoor park venue, and the place was sold out, although we suspect some of the attendees may have been there because they had season tickets to all of the park’s summer concerts, or possibly had been dragged there by adults. It became glaringly obvious who was actually there as a fan and who was there for one of the aforementioned reasons. But the people who were there on purpose were definitely at the right place, and were having a blast, and so were we.

Janelle commits 1000% to everything she is doing, and this includes props. She brought not only her throne from “Django Jane,” but her vagina pants, and also everyone else’s vagina pants, so they could all do the routine (unfortunately, sans Tessa). She changed costumes about five times, and her backup dancers did as well, because dammit, why not. She also did some of the older songs thrown in, which was nice; it was more or less the expected ones, “Q.U.E.E.N.” and “Tightrope” and such, but she also did “Primetime” after giving a very nice speech about loving the people you are with and we were gross and sappy. Somewhat to spite the people behind us.

This is a paragraph devoted to the people mentioned two paragraphs up, which is to say those behind us. There were also some teenage boys in front of us who kept making surprised faces at each other and chuckling nervously, but they were at least quiet. The people behind us (at least two men; there may have been other people with them, but they were the culprits) did. Not. Shut. Up. They were talking during St. Beauty, who opened, which was rude but honestly, especially at outdoor venues I feel like opening acts are treated a little more casually and I hoped they would settle down. They did not. They proceeded to talk, mostly about the concert itself, for the entire concert. Loud enough that I could actually follow entire threads of conversations (they disapproved of people clapping along during songs, or at least found it stupid; they didn’t like when Janelle addressed the women and/or queer people and/or brown people in the crowd specifically; they were snarky whenever it got queer; they didn’t seem to know most of the songs or to particularly like most of the ones they did know). It got to the point where, when my arm was around drift partner’s waist during “Primetime,” I considered pulling an Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way and putting up my middle finger at them. I definitely also kept glaring at them out of the corner of my eye, but they didn’t seem to get the message. Thankfully, they left before the encore, so we got “So Afraid” and “Americans” in peace, at least.

Another really cool thing is that Janelle kept stopping to be really affirming of everyone who was there, but especially black and brown and queer folks. One thing I (drift partner) have noticed that she’s done a lot lately, pretty much every time it comes up, is say the entire acronym when she references “the LGBTQIA” community. As someone who is part of the “A” umbrella (asexual) and who’s been really irritated and discouraged by the bad anti-asexual discourse in part of the queer community lately, it has been really touching and validating to know that Janelle agrees that asexual, aromantic, and agender people belong here too. She doesn’t have to keep saying that, but she does anyway, and I really appreciate it. She also got so emotional during part of “So Afraid” that she had to pause for a second because she was having so many feelings about all of us being there and being seen and validated together, and that was so sweet.

In short: Janelle Monae is everything. The end.

–your fangirl heroines.

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Music Monday :: my thoughts on Love is Dead

4 Jun

Hi, friends. It’s been a weird couple of weeks. A new CHVRCHES is exactly what I need.

“Get Out.” I’ve heard this one already, since it was one of the ones released prior to the album itself. It’s a really solid jam though. “Good intentions never good enough” I feel you Lauren Mayberry. I also like the bit about “you are a kaleidoscope.” That’s just a good word to be in lyrics of songs.

“Deliverance.” “Careful when you’re swimming in the holy water, drowning in your own beliefs.” Awww. I found a song for my Nora dearest… like five years late. This is also just a really useful motif because it’s easily understood but also rife with poetic language.

“My Enemy.” Featuring Matt Berninger, whoever that is. I was prepared to kind of zone out when it started with boyvoice, the aforementioned Matt, but now here’s Lauren joining in and suddenly it falls into the category that much of Every Open Eye falls into: songs that suit, among other things, my pro-Jemma Simmons/anti-Leo Fitz agenda.

“Forever.” The thing about CHVRCHES, or one of the things, is that a lot of their running themes ricochet between very astute and almost (consciously) childish. “The night I told you I would hate you till forever,” for example, is childish. But it’s also something that everyone understands, at least hypothetically, and that makes it a damn good song.

“Never Say Die.” See also, the category I mentioned two songs ago. This is my specific way of describing certain kinds of anti-love songs, primarily; songs about meaningful but ultimately unfulfilling and even destructive relationships. I say that it’s my agenda because, well, SHIELD canon never took it as dark/angry as I feel it could have, but nonetheless it’s there. Obviously this could apply to many many pairings across the board, or real life emotional situations, but that’s what it is for me right now. Anyway this is a beautiful track and it doesn’t reference The Goonies so that’s cool.

“Miracle.” They put a little more dark grunge in this. A little more Fall Out Boy. I’m not complaining, though, it works. I like the contrast of dark grunge and very pure girl voices. A+ good stuff guys.

“Graves.” A-ha! I’ve found one of the anthems of resistance that Lauren Mayberry mentioned that someone criticized for existing and I am here for it!!! This is a big fat cheerful fuck you to all of those all-too-prevalent assholes of modern days, defiantly belted out by a cute girl using her privilege to speak out against bullshit.

“Heaven/Hell.” A theme! I like this theme. “We can raise our glasses, dancing on the ashes as it burns.” It’s probably just Lauren’s accent that made that “burns” sound so damn cool but anyway it sounds damn cool. “Is it right if I’m a perfect actress? Playin’ the princess in distress.” Give it here.

“God’s Plan.” This begins with “you belong with me,” and it’s sung by the boy, and oh my god it’s so creepy? But I think on purpose?? This is fascinating.

“Really Gone.” Oh my freakety gods. Agenda continued. This is hardly even agenda, this is basically just canon. And in a vaguer sense a really interesting reflection on a negative relationship that someone is trying to deal with but also be rid of. Lauren Mayberry is too pure.

“ii.” Ooh an intro track. Piano and spooky low-res talking and good ambiance.

“Wonderland.” Mm, I don’t know what this applies to yet but I like this a lot. I’m always here for a good Alice in Wonderland metaphor, and it’s just catchy and good.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Music Monday :: my thoughts on Kate Nash live (and Yesterday Was Forever)

9 Apr

I’ll be doing this one like the recent First Aid Kit post because the album was released last week and I also saw her show last week and, really, that’s a much more visceral experience to discuss.

First of all: I’ve literally been into Kate Nash’s music for ten years. That’s a long freaking time. I’ve obviously been into other artists for that long or longer, and I’ve seen many of them live, but this was something I’ve been waiting virtually ten years to do. That only really hit me when we were actually at the show and I was kind of awestruck. Teenage me liked Kate Nash because teenage me liked cute quirky sarcastic British girls who played the piano and wrote interesting lyrics. Teenage me also had a massive crush on Kate Nash, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.

Then I got a little older. I noticed things like how Kate Nash sang about friendship and feminism but also, you know, maybe romantic stuff with girls sometimes. (Could she be…? Could she like…? WAS SHE A BISEXUAL WOMAN JUST LIKE I HAD REALIZED SUBSEQUENTLY THAT I WAS? I remember listening to “Sister” for the first time and being just awestruck but not entirely believing my luck until I saw the music video which, indeed, featured her and another girl. I also remember this because I posted a link to that video, in full joyousness, on tumblr – the very day before my now-wife first admitted her feelings to me. Neither of us came from having had bad love experiences with other girls, but both of us were rather gun-shy, and the timing of me linking a video that’s essentially about that same thing… well, it sticks out in my mind for obvious reasons.)

She also sang, not incidentally, about mental health stuff, and that was another thing I was learning about myself actually right around the time I first got into her music. It’s not rare for artists to sing about mental health, but it’s rare for cute pop songs to be so openly about mental health that they literally say the words “mental health” in them more than once. (Multiple songs off the new album address this particular topic, among them “Life In Pink” – which was even more delightful live, incidentally, and which I relate to almost absurdly – and “Musical Theatre” – which she straight-up said at the show was about how it feels inside her head sometimes, and which also feels very familiar.)

Basically this was something I’d been needing for a very long time, and I finally had it. Our opening act was one Miya Folick, who reminded us that riot grrl is not dead. Mad guitar riffing, plus she has an amazing voice that she was doing that cool Corin Tucker-y soprano-on-top-of-punk thing with constantly. She was also… I can’t find sources discussing her sexuality for suresies, but she seemed quite, y’know, not hetero. Fine by me!

Kate herself came out like a beautiful drama queen. Her all-girl band jammed through “Play” before she actually skipped onstage, at which point we got the beginning of “Foundations” and it was so ecstatic. There were a lot of Made of Bricks songs, which surprised me; she’d done the ten-year anniversary tour last year, so I guess they were still fresh in the repertoire, but I was delighted, make no mistake. Being as that was her first album it’s the one I first fell head-over-heels for, it was great to hear so much of it live. (I wasn’t really expecting “Merry Happy,” so when we eventually got it I kind of lost my shit; I’m not sure why that’s my favorite track from that album, but it just is and I was delighted.)

We got a fair bit of My Best Friend is You, though not nearly as much Girl Talk as I’d have wanted; we did get “Fri-End?” and “Sister,” though, and the latter was pretty much my number one want. There was also a lot of stuff from her new album, obviously, and “Agenda” from her last EP (god, I love that track). And all in all it was a joyous time.

And she kept talking about how we had to love ourselves, and if we didn’t want to say we were awesome yet we could just tell ourselves she said we were, so there, and things like that. Basically she’s awesome and I will shout it from the rooftops.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Music Monday :: my thoughts on Expectations

2 Apr

It’s hard to believe this is actually Hayley Kiyoko’s first full album, but it is.

“Expectations (Overture).” The theatre nerd in me loves when normals start albums with overtures. It just… sets up a mood. It’s very good.

“Feelings.” I obviously heard this song the day the video came out months ago, but it’s just perfect. It’s literally a song, as drift partner puts it, about how happily gay Hayley Kiyoko is. It’s a happy song about being Sapphic, you guys. It’s a jaunty little tune about loving being a woman who loves women. The world needs Hayley Kiyoko and she is a gift and blessing. Also, this song is really catchy and really true: “I overcommunicate and feel too much, I just complicate it when I say too much” is basically the cliched rallying call of the Sapphic person, who are stereotypically very, well, full of feelings.

“What I Need.” Featuring someone called Kehlani. So far this is also catchy, but then Hayley is really good at catchy. This is about a different Sapphic trope: one partner is more committed to the relationship than the other, possibly because of the second person’s anxiety about being Sapphic, and the first partner just… well, would like the other to get with it. Offers sympathy, but there’s only so much they can do. Etc.

“Sleepover.” I’ve been listening to this song since its video was released even more months ago, and it’s… a third Sapphic trope. The girl who’s in love with her best friend but doesn’t have these feelings reciprocated. She just really wants what she wants, but she’d rather have what she has than nothing at all. Having literally been in this situation before myself, #relatable. This one is a slower jam, but it’s got a lot of soul and dynamic nonetheless.

“Mercy / Gatekeeper.” There’s a trancey vibe to this. “When the city sleeps” she sings, and indeed this song feels like that proverbial urban rumble that’s meant to always be happening lowkey in large cities. I feel like this is probably constantly going on in any large city at any given time of night, which… well, introspection is kind of another Sapphic trope, so. Then it segues neatly into something that feels more like the city when it’s awake, which makes perfect sense. “Nobody can poison my feelings if they’re never revealed.” Wow rude? “Don’t let me die with my soul in the air, don’t let me die when there’s nobody here” wowwwww rude.

“Under the Blue / Take Me In.” I’m kind of spacing out to this, it’s very dreamy, but I mean that in the best of ways. And then this one segues into something that’s much more of a jam, echoing earlier musical themes and lyrics! This is really a pretty masterful piece of work, Hayley.

“Curious.” And I’ve also been listening to this one a lot. It’s yet another Sapphic trope: the more committed partner being frustrated by the other one’s indecisive, well, what presents as bicuriosity of sorts. That’s why the title is so damn clever because Hayley is curious if her potential gf is up for it.

“xx.” An interlude! That’s fun.

“Wanna Be Missed.” This is just a song of longing. It’s overtly Sapphic but come on, we all know this feel!

“He’ll Never Love You (HNLY).” The frustrated Sapphic: frustrated with their object of desire’s frustration, the object of desire’s being interested but also stuck on a guy who, well. This is catchy as hell. Drift partner gave this a listen before I did and said there was one song that “is angry Skimmons/anti-FS-y.” I think I found the thing, I’m just saying.

“Palm Dreams.” This is just sort of cheery, even if it’s not entirely actually that. “California, just a bad dream, I will hang around until you want me.” That’s cute. Her music is really very West Coast. And this one segues into instrumental introspection too! That’s nice.

“Molecules.” Holy… shit… “Pale lies of my heart, everything got shattered in the dark. Tried to be evolved, does it really matter at all?” This one also has streaks of angry Skimmons. Angry because life is mean, fyi, not angry at each other. Angsty Skimmons, more like. Which… yeah. Also, it uses science words like “molecules”and “cells” which obviously tags it. Augh.

“Let It Be.” This one was prereleased a little while ago and therefore I’ve heard it before, but mm, it’s so good. And now in light of the track before this it’s a really nice balance. Counterpoint. Sometimes life is mean but look, here, come on, here I am, let’s be gay. “Can’t imitate us it’s breaking my bones, heart up in chaos that keeps me alone, wasted the beautiful all on my own, I’m making a new home.” Hayley is sometimes referred to as lesbian Jesus and, yes. Yes.

–your fangirl heroine.

Music Monday :: my thoughts on I’ll Be Your Girl

19 Mar

Hello my dearest Decemberists! I’m ready.

“Once In My Life.” “Oh for once in my, oh for once in my life, could just something go, could just something go right” I know that feel buddy. This has a sort of 80s jam to it, and/or driving into the sunset at the end of a dramedy film. Oh, there’s the river! What river? The river. You know. The one that’s going to be in 50% of Decemberists songs.

“Cutting Stone.” This also has some 80s, although it’s and/or D&D and/or Thor: Ragnarok. I’m so glad they’ve never lost their weird. This feels classic them but also fresh and weird and new and… yes. I’m going to be jamming to this.

“Severed.” Holy shit the synth is just +++ each track. I mean this as a compliment, it’s fun and I can jam to this super a lot. This is neat because it’s a distinct era of Decemberists songs, with the synth and the 80s, but it’s all still cohesive. That riffing! The weird vocabulary! “I was born to a jackal, I was born in a whiteout, gonna smother you all till I choke you” that’s just… a lyric nobody else would be putting in a song. But this song is still upbeat enough that I could imagine it getting airplay in quasi-normal places, because people don’t always listen to words as hard as I do.

“Starwatcher.” Odds this is going to be useful to me? Pretty good. Just given the general tendencies of what I’m into. There’s stars, there’s poison, there’s almost military drumming, there’s “hold, hold, hold your ground” yeah this is right up my alley.

“Tripping Along.” This is more the cutesy (secretly dirty) side of these guys, which is also pretty classic. And dying in your arms, that’s pretty normal here. I like the Decemberists because I like oddball old-fashioned word choices and sentiments and also lingering passages of “da-da-da” type syllables. The kind of stuff that feels like it could hypnotize you but in a good way.

“Your Ghost.” Well, we’re getting straight to it. This is some vintage perfection. “And when you close your eyes I’ll still materialize” kill me this is so much delight.

“Everything Is Awful.” Ah, yes, a classic. This is a #mood although not necessarily mine at the moment but it’s definitely someone’s.

“Sucker’s Prayer.” Also probably #mood. It’s so cheerful but it’s about, y’know. Definitely not cheerful things. It’s the Decemberists so you can probably guess what that not cheerful thing is. Hint: it involves bodies of water. “I wanna love somebody but I don’t know how.

“We All Die Young.” Pulling not a punch, I see! So chipper but yet so dire. That’s kind of #aesthetic, too, as is “screaming from the back of the room.”

“Rusalka, Rusalka / Wild Rushes.” “All that you are is a star on the water” that really hits. Not too hard, but it makes an impact. A rusalka, incidentally, is a water nymph. Are you surprised? I’m not. It’s also an opera by Dvořák, so that’s just some extra Weird High Culture. “My river bride, drag me down take me away” see the thing too is that it makes me smile when the Decemberists make so many songs about dramatic things that happen re: water and death and mystical shit because they have such a running theme but it’s never actually repetitive. This slips into something a little warmer, but it’s still cohesive and folksy and just… good.

“I’ll Be Your Girl.” Awwww. This is plaintive and simple and sweet and a good happy little conclusion. We need more songs that sound like they’re being accompanied by the bubble music in Disney California Adventures. “And you never need a guy to guide you” same.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Music Monday :: on First Aid Kit Live (and Ruins)

29 Jan

I just received the album this week, and therefore figured that since we were going to see them live I’d just wait and talk about everything all at once. This means no song-by-song play-by-play, but there is still much adoration to be had.

Their opening act was a fellow called Van William, who was not really someone I’d have sought out on my own but honestly that’s mostly because I’m a musical misandrist, probably. He’s apparently besties with Klara and Johanna Söderberg, so he must be a good person.

They did play most of the new album (I’m looking at the tracklisting and only doubting if I heard a couple of them, and even then I might have done, I just don’t know them that well yet) and I was thrilled to hear. My goodness, I am addicted to these harmonies. We were seated very, very high up so I don’t think we got all of the benefits of the light show (there were projections on the back wall, but we only saw approximately the bottom fourth of them) but it was still very pretty and electric.

As for the songs I already knew, it was a good mix of things from The Lion’s Roar and Stay Gold, including both title tracks. There were no Big Black and the Blue deep tracks, unfortunately (I was really hoping for maybe “Josefin” but I knew that was the longest shot ever since it’s such a random favorite to have), but they did also definitely do “Wolf,” which I mention because in addition to “The Lion’s Roar” it’s the big one from the Game of Thrones fanmixes obviously, and also it’s noteworthy that they performed it because it’s actually just a bonus track on the album even. I feel like they might well know what’s up.

They also did a song that is unrecorded as yet, I’m pretty sure, called “You Are the Problem Here.” This is basically a punk rock feminist anthem about how abusive men can fuck off and women don’t owe them shit. It’s brill and kickass and watching men in the audience be uncomfortable when Johanna explained what it was about and why (because #timesup, y’know) was pretty funny too.

And also of note was their cover of Heart’s “Crazy On you,” which was also pretty damn punk rock. It’s fun watching these sweet girls do punk. It’s fun watching these sweet girls do everything.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Music Monday :: 2017 in music

25 Dec

It’s been a busy year for me, as I’m sure the lack of daily posting has proved. Turns out when you live with your someone your evenings are rather more occupied. But I’m definitely not complaining. What that means is that tonight’s in review is going to be shorter. I’ve been listening to a lot of stuff, just not all brand new stuff, and here’s the best of the year in any case.

6. Hopeless Romantic, Michelle Branch
Some good stuff up in here. Always fun when an old favorite sounds finds a new sound that’s also sort of that of an old favorite of yours.

5. Keepsake, Elizabeth and the Catapult
As always, Elizabeth Ziman makes perfect music the end.

4. The Con X, various artists
I didn’t actually review this album but we’ve listened to it about a thousand and one times already. What this is is, in celebration of the tenth anniversary of their classic album The Con Tegan and Sara had a bunch of their musical artist friends do a cover album. And it’s brilliant. Sara Bareilles does “Floorplan.” CHVRCHES does “Call It Off.” Shura does “The Con.” Other artists I’m less familiar with do other awesome covers. It’s remarkably gay, although it’s not gay when it’s unsettling hearing guys sing some of these songs. Not irredeemably unsettling, just it takes adjusting.

3. Melodrama, Lorde
I actually ended up looping this album and her first one a lot this summer. It’s got a particular moody aesthetic that I can groove on, and sometimes I like moody music in hot weather because it’s… psychologically cooler. I don’t know, it’s weird. But it worked. They also play a couple of the songs at my job and I subtly lip-sync to them when I’m not with customers, because I make a point to do that to my lady music.

2. Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, Halsey
Belatedly ETA because how could I forget damn me. This album is so good and it’s been nonstop in my car for what seems like ages now. Brilliance.

1. I’m Only Dreaming, Eisley
Of course! My beloveds are always going to be number one. I’m fairly sure at this point that “Louder Than a Lion” tops my list for this album’s songs, but they’re all brill and seeing them (again) was brill and I genuinely and wholeheartedly approve of them.

–your fangirl heroine.

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