Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chinese Fundamentals Could Provide Global Warming’s Savior

I originally wrote this on Thursday, October 21 for The Nature Conservancy's Planet Change blog.

Reading the China Daily newspaper in the cab on the way to the airport after 10 days working in the country, I was struck with the idea that China has a real opportunity to lead the world on climate change.

One article noted that “China’s clean energy market is open to all foreign players, and many foreign companies have built a presence in the market.” That seems like a fairly straight-forward news item. But think about it, could such a sentence be written about the U.S., where we increasingly seem to be weaving an isolationist cocoon from the glories that could accompany this moment in time of endless globalization opportunities?

General Electric’s turbines in China, for example, are generating major amounts of wind power there. Meanwhile, the article noted, “China has only exported three wind turbines to the U.S.”

While China certainly has the problems that accompany major industrialization and a massive reliance on dirty coal burning, I gained a sense of real hope while visiting China that there is still time for the world’s powers to get a grip on global warming.

In the many conversations I had with Chinese citizens and environment experts while working in Beijing and Inner Mongolia (where one of our tree-focused climate projects is kick-starting), there was confidence that China is learning from the lesson of previous industrializing countries. Also, China seems to still comprehend the importance of fundamentals.

A few other headlines from that edition of China Daily: “Rationality urged for students.” “Reform leading to good governance.” There was also an editorial urging Beijing leaders to improve public transportation in a city that welcomes more than 500,000 vehicles from outside the city limits every day.

These articles, I fear, would not make it to the top of U.S. newspapers, where news needs to be about something original, post-post-modern, or Lindsey Lohan.

This Chinese fundamentalism offers to be the saving grace for us all. Or at least for the Chinese, if the U.S. and our politicians don’t begin to think a little more globally.

Adam Sandler and Gang Still Hilarious as Grown Ups

I wrote this in the air above the North Pole on Monday, October 19.

Adam Sandler’s movies may have been hit-or-miss in recent years, but there’s never been any denying his likability. Grown Ups ramps up that quotient considerably. And I thoroughly expect this group of comedians to make the exact same film in 25 years, only they’ll call it Old Dudes.

Grown Ups is daddy humor at its finest. And the message that kids need to get off their X-Boxes and iPhones and go play outside is both touching and apt.

Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and Salma Hayek nail the chemistry. The jokes never stop being funny and light-hearted, as rich Hollywood agent Sandler leads his old basketball buddies on an outing to their former coach’s funeral and then to a lake property where they all grew up. The hit a waterpark, canoe, drink, watch a hot girl fix a car, and play a fierce and pathetic hoops rematch with their childhood foes.

Obviously, nothing much happens, but this is a really fun flick. The soundtrack is the topper, with choice deep album tracks from bands like The Kinks (one of my favorites of the Davies’ brothers, “Better Things”) and Sandler’s own excellent Dylanesque composition “Stan the Man.”

****1/2 out of ***** stars

Seeds of Forest Project Planted in Inner Mongolia, China

I originally wrote this on Sunday, October 18.

My group of work friends (somehow all guys) returned last night from a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Henninge’ er, Inner Mongolia, the province that straddles China’s northern border with Mongolia.

We stayed for two nights in a largely marble joint somewhere between Ghengis Khan-style palace, mafia getaway, and The Shining hotel. Billed as The Shengle Club, it is located inside a planned community of stone and slightly-falling-apart McMansions and has its own indoor clay tennis courts, massive indoor pool, table tennis, billiards, a movie theater, full soccer pitch with NFL-caliber turf, and four really nice bamboo-floor bowling lanes.

We were entertained by the owner of the entire complex, Mr. Niu, over a wonderfully excessive lunch at a round twirling table of meats, dumplings, vegetables, huge glasses of yogurt, local vodka-like liquor, and wine. Our Nature Conservancy colleague and China climate manager Ma Jian read an email on Mr. Niu’s phone from none other than Bill Gates and Warren Buffett saying they are looking forward to visiting him in Inner Mongolia next year.

We also played tennis with Mr. Niu, who owns the local milk factory that we toured. His company, Mengniu, is the largest milk producer in China and (surprisingly only) the sixteenth largest in the world.

Mr. Niu is also replanting trees all over the land adjacent to his milk factory to help repair the drought-stricken and eroded, dusty land. With his hands seemingly everywhere in this almost Mars-like landscape east of Inner Mongolia’s biggest city, Hohhot (at a mere 3 million population), Mr. Niu is a co-sponsor of The Nature Conservancy’s reforestation project a little further out of Henninge’ er.

Our project is in its beginning phases and is relatively small, covering only about 20 square miles of a mountain that equates to about a third the size of Washington DC. The important thing to note about the Inner Mongolia project is that it will feature high-quality, sustainable, and well-researched tree planting, an element that is often overlooked in a country that plants an amazing amount of trees and admirably fights global warming successfully as a “carbon sink,” but also plants many of the wrong trees in the wrong places.

We have also opened a branch office of our China climate program in Inner Mongolia, so look for much more news in the near future about this work over at the Conservancy's newly relaunched website called Planet Change.

Even Through the Smog, The Great Wall is Still Great

I wrote this in China on Sunday, October 10.

Today was my one vacation day of the trip and I couldn’t have been more excited to visit the Great Wall of China. I booked a van through the hotel and set off with a group of about 12 travelers from Canada, England, Malaysia, and Russia to the “Mutianyu” portion, which is considered the most well-preserved section and is located about 80 minutes north of downtown Beijing.

Our English translator answered questions for much of the drive. The Wall is about 5,500 miles long. Also, China’s one-child policy was initiated way back in 1978. Farmers are the exception. They can have a second child if their firstborn is a girl. This is because farmers need boys to help them. If they have a girl the second time, they are done and can’t try again. Parents are fined based on their salaries if they have a second child. The millions of trees lining the roads have white paint on their bottom four feet to keep pests away. When asked about the thick smoke, she called it “fog” and interestingly didn’t mention the rapid expansion of coal-based industrialization in the country. What was also surprising to me was that we saw no factory smokestacks on the way to the Wall.

I had figured the smoky haze would improve or even disappear once we got further from the city. But it never did, and visibility at the Wall suffered for it. It still seemed fitting, from a climate-change perspective, to be hiking along the number-one polluting country’s most beautiful and amazing treasure in a wall of exhaust.

We were allowed a little more than two hours to explore the Wall on our own. If not for the short window, I would have climbed the 1,000 steps to reach the Wall, but instead I took a terrifying cable car and got my hiking in along the top of the rolling structure, which was lined in this particular stretch by a series of watchtowers.

The afternoon rain held off until the return bus ride. We then stopped at a local “natural Eastern medicine” facility, where students gave us foot massages and a doctor told us about how Western doctors use machines to check the health of their patients while Eastern doctors use their hands and simply check the pulse and tongue. I was suckered into buying a prescription for slightly high blood pressure. But my regular doctor has told me before that I have high blood pressure, so I was willing to accept the two-month regimen that these doctors said would repair me for good.

I finished the day by going for a swim in my hotel's fancy indoor pool and then wandering the streets until I found a “hot and spicy hot pot” joint that had no foreigners in it. There was just enough English on the menu to convince me to give it a try. The hot and spicy pot was a huge bowl with tons of terrifying-looking red peppers and the rice, pork, broccoli, and kelp that I requested. It was delicious and nothing like the awful “Chinese food” Americans eat.

Just Another Smoggy Monday (in Beijing)

This was originally published at Planet Change on Monday, October 11.

Walking off the plane the other day and into the Beijing airport, on my first-ever visit to China, I was immediately struck by how smoggy it was outside. Even stranger: the inside of the airport had a layer of smoke in it that I couldn’t decipher. Either it was cigarette smoke or factory smoke, most likely quite a bit of both.

After grabbing my luggage and some yuan (cash), a man approached me and said he would take me to a taxi. I asked him about the smoke and he said it was all from cigarettes.

After getting in the taxi, we drove for about 45 minutes and I was shocked when I realized we had already been driving downtown for several minutes. I hadn’t even noticed the tall buildings through the haze that was so thick that visibility beyond the roads was pretty non-existent.

What surprised me even more, on my one day off for this work trip, was that the smog never relented all the way to the “Mutianyu” portion of The Great Wall. Considered one of the most well-preserved sections, Mutianyu is located, by car, about 80 minutes north of downtown Beijing.

But the surprises seem endless in Beijing. On my third morning, I woke up to amazingly clear, blue skies. It stayed that way all day, and my colleagues suggested it was a mixture of the previous evening’s rains and wind directions that had cleared the pollution.

The many, many programs implemented, mostly since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, are encouraging and inspiring. There are about 400,000 “yellow label” vehicles in the region with high-emission levels that are not allowed in the city, “cloud seeding” to increase the likelihood of rainfall is performed when the air needs to be cleared before large events, hundreds of thousands of trees have been planted, and about 4,000 natural-gas buses are now in operation.

While Beijing still has a way to go to clear its air, there are promising steps being made. My first three days here (two days of smog, one day of clear skies) seem to be illustrative of the problem.

Photo of Olympic Stadium in Beijing by Flickr user rtc

Upon Arrival in Beijing

I wrote this up on Saturday, October 9, but then realized I had no access to my own blog in the land of the Great Firewall. So now I'm finally getting around to posting some missives from my recent 10-day work trip to China.

Walking off the plane and into the Beijing airport, I was immediately struck by how smoggy it was outside. Even stranger: the inside of the airport has a layer of smoke in it that I couldn’t decipher. Either it was cigarette smoke or factory smoke, most likely quite a bit of both.

After grabbing my luggage and some yuan (cash), a man approached me for a taxi. I accepted even though I wasn’t totally sure he was legit. I grew a little suspicious when we waited for an elevator and he stuck one of his long fingernails up his nose only to bring it back out with a whopper. Hopefully that’s not stuck to me suitcase somewhere.

Any way, he was a nice enough fellow and shuffled me into a cab. I gave my booger buddy the money (he said he was the boss), he told the driver which hotel to go to, and then he was gone in a flash.

We drove for about 45 minutes and I was shocked when I realized we already appeared to be downtown. I hadn’t even noticed the tall buildings through the haze that was so thick that visibility beyond the roads was pretty non-existent.

Around 3 p.m. Saturday (3 a.m. back home). I arrived at Jianguo Hotel, an upscale place with a lagoon surrounding it and all the comforts of a fancy home-away-from-home. I sluggishly worked for a couple of hours in my room on a press statement from The Nature Conservancy’s international climate policy director about the Tianjin, China climate talks, which were wrapping up as my plane landed and seemed to be progressing as slowly as ever. At one point, I literally dozed off for about 30 minutes and woke up just in time to approve the statement before a colleague sent it off to an interested reporter on deadline at the South Chin Post.

Then I hauled myself into the shower and out the door to take a stroll down the block, slightly trimming back my initial plans to hop on the subway about five stops down to the famed Forbidden City. I was approached by several ladies selling messages, socks, and other products that I didn’t want, but they were all pretty civil and not too annoying. Although I was interested in getting some Chinese food, I figured it would be a good night to settle my stomach into the scene, so I went with a Thai place that offered me a tasty red curry chicken.

I’m booked for a tour in the morning to the Great Wall.

Why You Can Feel Less Guilt About Eating That Nestlé Chocolate Bar

This post was originally published on Thursday, October 7 at Planet Change.

The massive Swiss-based company Nestlé appears committed to removing bad tree-cutting from the production process of all its products. This would be an amazing accomplishment simply because of the sheer range of its products, which includes everything from coffee to Lean Cuisine dinners to Butterfingers.

According to Nestlé’s partners at non-profit The Forest Trust, the company has begun its quest toward zero-percent deforestation on the ground at oil-palm plantations. From headquarters all the way to the ground, land-management practices throughout Nestlé’s supply chain are changing through the implementation of their “non-negotiable, minimum-standard” Responsible Sourcing Guidelines for all suppliers, employees, agents, and subcontractors.

Photo by Bloomberg News

Obama Sets Example, Thanks to Climate Effort

OK. I'm just now catching up with posting my Planet Change blogs here at Pop Culture Lunch Box. I wrote several earlier this month. This one appeared on Wednesday, October 6.

After author Bill McKibben and his climate activist group visited President Obama at the White House a few weeks ago, the administration was apparently convinced with the idea to re-install solar panels, which last adorned the building’s roof for a temporary time during the Carter administration. The sun-powered panels will heat water for the residential wing and provide some electricity, and is estimated to reduce the White House’s (and taxpayers’) energy bill by about $3,000 annually.

And it seems the president’s example is already having a domino effect. New solar projects are popping up throughout the U.S. and many more are expected to begin construction. Just this week, the first major solar plants to be built on federal land, both in the California desert, were approved by Obama’s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Further, solar panels seem to be a solution to global warming that most reasonable people can agree upon. In a little-known footnote to the George W. Bush years, the former president, who uses solar panels at his Texas ranch, had them installed on a maintenance building and two other small structures on the White House grounds.

Photo by Charles Dharapak, AP

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Planet Change, Our New Nature Conservancy Blog, Launches!!!

Along with my new colleagues on the Strategic Communications team, I've got a new site up and running for The Nature Conservancy. It's called Planet Change and it examines the positive improvements being made on the ground throughout the world in regards to the very negative impacts already being caused by global warming.

The site will look at how various people, places, and professions are being affected by strange happenings going on all around the planet. While U.S. leaders seem like deer in the headlights, many encouraging actions are happening at local and regional levels, and all around the world.

As editor-in-chief, I want to say that my colleagues and I at the Conservancy hope this site will help empower people to more clearly see the connections between climate change and their everyday lives. The Nature Conservancy, the world's largest environmental non-profit, is certainly a great platform from which to make a difference for our generation and the ones of the future.

A Reunited Guided By Voices Blowfishes Through the 9:30 Club

It's an honor to again have burgeoning rock journalist/photog featured on the site.
Francis Chung (or "Fran," depending on who you ask) attending the boisterous Guided by Voices show with me last week. I give the show ****1/2 out of ***** stars. By most standards, it was an impeccable show. By GBV standards, it could have been longer than 2 hours and could have featured a slightly better setlist. But why write my own full review when Fran covered the bases so well in DCist. A check out the great photos at the Washington City Paper:

From the early 1980s until their breakup in 2004, Guided By Voices built a reputation as one of the great live acts in rock-and-roll. Armed with some of the best material in all of indie rock -- thanks to frontman Robert Pollard’s inspired, ultra-prolific songwriting -- GBV’s various incarnations consistently enthralled its loyal fans with dynamically shambolic, three-to-four-hour marathon performances fueled by massive amounts of alcohol. Expectations were high as GBV played a sold-out 9:30 Club on Thursday night with its recently-reunited “classic” (1993-96) lineup featuring Tobin Spout and Mitch Mitchell on guitar, Greg Demos on bass and Kevin Fennell on drums. The Ohio-based quintet delivered a solid, if surprisingly brief, two-hour performance that featured a sterling set list, but -- if only because it rarely achieved the exhilarating heights of past GBV extravaganzas -- ultimately felt like a slight disappointment.
With a neon sign behind him declaring “THE CLUB IS OPEN,” Pollard led his band on stage promptly at 9:15, swigging from a bottle of Jose Cuervo before launching the set with “Break Even,” “Pimple Zoo,” and “Shocker in Gloomtown.” Though neither the band nor the audience seemed fully warmed up, “Tractor Rape Chain” provided an early highlight, as fans fist-pumped and sang along to the song’s infectious chorus in an effort to get themselves properly fired up. The middle-aged musicians seemed to put forth their best effort, nodding to their trademark stage antics of the past while showing the inevitable effects of age. Pollard demonstrated some toned-down versions of his signature leg-kicks and mic-twirls while smoking liberally on stage, and Demos and Mitchell struck oft-awkward rock-god poses, frequently with cigarettes dangling from their lips. Notably, and to the possible detriment of their performance, the band drank with a relative moderation that would have been uncharacteristic fifteen years ago, with Pollard sticking mostly to beer and only occasionally reaching for the tequila.

The set list delved into all four of GBV’s albums from 1993-96 (Propeller, Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes and Under the Bushes, Under the Stars), and also featured deeper cuts off of singles and EPs from that period. Sprout showcased his own songwriting contributions, taking the lead on understated renditions of “Awful Bliss” and “14 Cheerleader Coldfront,” while his nostalgic “A Good Flying Bird” could serve as an apt manifesto for his band’s reunion tour, and a theme song for many of the aging rockers in attendance. Frankly, the middle of the set lagged a bit, with songs like “Queens of Cans and Jars” and “Gold Star for Robot Boy” lacking some of the energy and swagger one might expect from a GBV performance.

It really didn’t feel like a “classic” Guided By Voices show until late in the main set, when the snarling guitar chords of “Watch Me Jumpstart” seemed to kick the proceedings into a higher gear. With the alcohol taking full effect both on stage and in the crowd, a rousing club-wide shout-along ensued during the anthemic climax of “Echos Myron.” It was arguably the high water mark of the show, and GBV followed it up with perennial favorite “I Am a Scientist” before sending the crowd into its fullest frenzy during a spirited rendition of “Game of Pricks,” a 90-second gem which remains one of the greatest songs in the genre of indie rock.

GBV returned for three encores, pushing the song total for the evening to 40. “Postal Blowfish” and “Don’t Stop Now” bookended the first encore, while the second was highlighted by the ever-irresistible “Motor Away.” Finally, the mini-epic “Weed King” from Propeller brought the festivities to a satisfying conclusion. Few would argue that it was the best GBV show they’ve ever seen, but Thursday’s performance nonetheless offered a nostalgic opportunity to celebrate one of the best American bands of the past several decades, and to see them play together in D.C. for perhaps the last time.

Photo by Erica Bruce/Washington City Paper

Monday, October 18, 2010

Oh No! Pop Culture Lunch Box Doesn’t Exist in China!

All our faithful followers may be giving up hope on the Lunch Box. But don’t worry, we on the content-creation end have been here all along.

The new and excellent job at The Nature Conservancy has kept me from blogging much in recent months. But a work trip to China was going to be ripe fodder for the blogosphere, right?

Well, that was until I landed in Beijing and quickly realized I would have no access to my own Communist-government-blocked site throughout the duration of my travels. My Facebook app completely disappeared from my iPhone when I tried to update it from behind the Great Firewall. Gasp! Of course, no one cares that they don’t have Facebook access in China. It saves them from wasting time and they have their own pretty nifty social-media sites anyway.

But the whole point of this particular post is: I’ve been writing the whole time I’ve been in China and will be posting way much more material than you should really be required to read about my trip here in the coming days. But please try anyway.

China is wonderful, but it’s still good to be back home.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Steve Carell Just a Little Too Schmucky

One of the good things about a long, 14-hour flight around the North Pole from DC to Beijing, China is that I got the chance to catch-up on some movies that are pretty high in my Netflix queue. Cyrus first, then Dinner With Schmucks (and looking very forward to Grown Ups on my return home in 10 days).

Surprisingly, Steve Carell is the weakness of Dinner With Schmucks. His Rain Man-like character grows tiresome (the movie drags a little painfully), his backstory is close to non-existent (how in the world does someone become such a clueless, unlovable idiot?), and Carell is amazingly unfunny, sleepwalking through the role. Maybe that’s what becoming a big star and performing in a barrage of movies lately does to comedic geniuses, like with Chevy Chase for example.

Anyway, despite Carell, this movie has a good heart and some fine and funny performances. The movie starts off wonderfully as Paul Rudd is his usual easygoing and captivating self as a “stock broker” who wants to marry his girlfriend. When Carell enters the picture (Rudd’s car plows into him while he’s picking up a dead rat in the road to use in one of his historical recreations of human history with dead taxidermied rats), the movie goes a little south.

Jemaine Clement from The Flight of the Concords undeniably turns in the movie’s highlight performance as a self-obsessed artist who also happens to be obsessed with goats, in a very existential way. David Walliams, who plays the silly Swiss billionaire being wooed to save the company where Rudd works, is also very funny.

I could think of worse ways to spend a flight to Beijing. Like constantly being woken up and bumped by the crazy lady next to me who claimed her foot was hurt and tried to cajole me into switching seats with her. I held strong and kept the aisle instead of the middle.

*** out of ***** stars

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cyrus Drips Creepy Sweet

Cyrus is a sweet little indie drama with strong acting. However, it moves at an uneven pace, especially through its second half, when a good new romance between John C. Reilly and Marisa Tomei is complicated. The troubles come from Tomei's son, played in an aptly creepy manner by Jonah Hill.

The film seems to be some sort of statement against single-parent childrearing. While early-20s Cyrus has serious growth issues, Tomei's character clearly has had a role in shaping him the way he is, such as singing in the bathroom while she showers. Awkward.

There is also distracting camerawork throughout, with the quick zoom and pans used frequently these days in TV shows like Arrested Development and The Office. this seems to work better in those short formats, but it is tiring and neurotic over 90 minutes.

The acting ultimately saves Cyrus, but I was not nearly as enamored as many of the critics.

***1/2 out of ***** stars

Monday, October 4, 2010

Teenage Fanclub Returns: No Longer Young, But Still Beautiful

Seeing as I attended this show with DCist photographer and writer Francis Chung and discussed many of these elements with him at the bar afterward, there's not much sense in writing my own review. Fran has done it exceptionally well, so the following is his version of a show by a band I haven't seen live since their show with the Afghan Whigs in St. Louis that was so long ago I can't find any reference to it at all on the Internet.

****1/2 out of ***** stars

Hot on the heels of Pavement's retrospective set at the Virgin Mobile FreeFest, local concert-goers were treated to another dose of indie-rock nostalgia on Saturday night, as the 9:30 Club hosted an all-Scottish twin bill featuring Teenage Fanclub (pictured left) and The Vaselines (pictured below).

The Vaselines' Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee released two relatively obscure EPs and one LP in the 1980s, and broke up (as a couple and as a band) before Nirvana gave them a measure of fame by covering three of their songs, including a remarkable unplugged rendition of "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam." On Saturday night, the Glaswegians dutifully delivered all three of the Cobain-interpreted songs for which they still best known. "Son of a Gun" sounded as charmingly catchy as ever, with Kelly and McKee trading boy-girl vocals over a steady backbeat and jangly guitars, and Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake joined them onstage for a slightly slowed-down version of "Molly's Lips," tooting a bike horn during McKee's falsetto chorus.

Aided by a laudably crystal-clear sound mix, the band sounded exceptionally tight both on older classics, like the audience-requested "Dying for It," and newer songs like "I Hate the 80s" and "Sex with an X," the title track from their recently-released second LP. As befits a band whose songs are replete with sexual innuendos and naughty double-entendres ("Monsterpussy," "Rory Rides Me Raw"), The Vaselines sprinkled their set with plenty of hilariously lewd banter. McKee was in a particularly bawdy mood, inviting fans who came for Teenage Fanclub to retire to the loo "to have a wank" during her band's set, and later giving an excursus on the dermatological benefits of semen and...well, things reached arguably unpublishable levels from there, so perhaps it's best to leave the rest to the imagination.

Kelly and McKee's antics were a tough act to follow, but Teenage Fanclub was more than up to the task. Indeed, the Glaswegian quintet -- which features not one, but three talented songwriters -- is one of those bands that's so accessibly good that it's genuinely surprising that the've never achieved more than moderate commercial success, though both the band and its fans seem comfortable with their underdog status. Their superb 19-song set showcased the outstanding musicianship and pop songcraft that has earned them extensive critical acclaim and a devoted cult following. Opening with "Sometimes I Don't Need to Believe in Anything" and "The Past" from its latest album, Shadows, the band kicked the energy level up a notch when bassist Gerard Love led them through "Star Sign" from Bandwagonesque, famously ranked by Spin Magazine as the best album of 1991 (ahead of Nirvana's Nevermind and My Bloody Valentine's Loveless).

Primary frontman Norman Blake resumed vocal duties on "Alcoholiday," another standout track from Bandwagonesque, while guitarist Raymond McGinley took his turn on "About You" from 1995's Grand Prix. The band played flawlessly throughout its set, displaying gorgeous vocal harmonies and dynamically mellifluous guitar work worthy of their heroes, Big Star -- although the sound engineering was unfortunately not quite as good as it was during The Vaselines' performance. Nonetheless, fans were ecstatic to hear classics like the irresistible "Sparky's Dream," and, at the end of the main set, almost everyone in the club seemed to be singing along to the indelible melodies of "The Concept." Teenage Fanclub returned for a four-song encore, playing "Can't Feel My Soul," "Sweet Days Waiting," and "Did I Say," before concluding the evening on an appropriately nostalgic note with its first single, "Everything Flows."