When was the last time a newspaper subscription was the inspiration for a song?
This reporter isn't sure, but The Times is premiering the latest and perhaps only example, a song from L.A. indie-pop singer and songwriter Eleni Mandell, "I'm Old-Fashioned," from her recently released album, "Dark Lights Up."
"I wrote this after the first Sunday that I had the N.Y. Times and L.A. Times delivered to my door for the first time in years," Mandell writes in materials accompanying the album, which she'll be showcasing at her performance Aug. 22 at Hotel Café in Hollywood.
"I was so excited to start reading the newspaper the old-fashioned way: to hold it in my hands; to have my kids see me reading it the way I used to see my parents read it on Sunday mornings," she said. "I'm trying to get away from looking at screens in our home."
She stops short, however, of suggesting that "I love the smell of newspaper ink in the morning!"
But it gave rise to a song about her increasing penchant for doing things the old-school way, which she praises in the jaunty tune:
I'd rather wait a week to watch a show on the television
Maybe read a book or put on a record with a needle
I think the percolator works just fine a little burnt but it'll do
I like the newspaper, too, in real life and real time
And I will respondez s'il vous plait
In the video, directed by Manny Marquez, she's accompanied by guitarist Keith Karman and drummer Mike Green as she strolls the streets of her Los Feliz neighborhood.
"It made me think about all the things that might be silly but I still like to do … like walking into the post office or bank when there are more convenient ways to go through life," she said. "I'm not perfect in this regard, but I'm doing what I can to get back to a simpler way of life."
That attitude syncs up with the nouveau retro music she's made on her own and with her other band, the Living Sisters, which also includes singer-songwriters Inara George, Becky Stark and Alex Lily.
On "Dark Lights Up" Mandell also explores topics such as fleeting love that doesn't have to last forever to be valid ("China Garden Buffet"), love that vanishes in the blink of an eye ("Cold Snap") and the joy provided by the children in her life ("Butter Blonde and Chocolate Brown").
"I used to tell my daughter that her hair was the color of toast with butter melted in it because she had been a yellowish blond, but her hair was turning to brown," Mandell says. "I have no idea what color eyes she has, so I tell her they're 'ocean colored,' sometimes green, sometimes blue and sometimes gray. My son is such a boy, always taking things apart and asking how they work. This is my latest family song."
Mandell will be at Hotel Cafe in Hollywood on Aug. 22 in support of the release of the album.