Havana in December

It’s warm and raining and the woman in the passenger seat of the cab offers me a cigarette. It’s unfiltered but I smoke it anyway. I’m sitting in the back of a baby blue 1950s Chevrolet leaving Havana.

I found myself most often drunk, wandering, lost, unafraid.

I saw Santeria—not being practiced, just reminders it was: a severed pig’s head
in a big plastic container on the street corner and live chickens crammed into a room where two men sat in folding chairs, looking outside, smoking cigars.

I thought about sacrifice. How little I know of it.

I met a bartender named Ariel who taught me how to Salsa between pouring mojitos. He took me into the bar’s walk-in freezer, then took me into his mouth like I was guava fruit. He said te amo, baby when he put me in a taxi at 2 A.M. I said it back and almost meant it.

I found ruin and salvation and I loved them the same.

A Look at Parquet Courts’ Dynamic Garage Rock

Parquet Courts is a 4-piece Brooklyn-based indie rock band. Their debut album, American Specialties, was a limited cassette release in 2011. They followed it up with their second album in 2012, Light Up Gold, which received a lot of critical acclaim. These releases established their place as a solid garage rock band with obvious roots in 80s punk, with heavy guitar riffs and lead vocals that are speak-sung (sometimes yell-sung).

The band released their third and fourth albums, Sunbathing Animal and Content Nausea, in 2014. Sunbathing Animals made its way onto the Billboard albums chart, just narrowly missing the top 50. An experimental EP, Monastic Living, came in 2015. Its a mostly instrumental project and plays with synths and electronic elements—a quite different direction from the band’s niche sound.

Their most recent album, which came out in February of this year, Human Performance, brings us back closer to the sound that listeners have come to expect from the band. The album is a little softer, mellower, less evocative of 80s punk and more reminiscent of 70s art rock. The title track “Human Performance” is a great example of that. At its core, it’s a break up song: a stoic recollection of a past relationship and the emotional trauma in the aftermath captured in deeply emotional lyrics.

“Those pristine days I recall so fondly
So few are trials when a life isn’t lonely and now if only
I’d never felt it, I’d never heard it
I know I loved you did I even deserve it when you returned it”

Human Performance is yet another great album for Parquet Courts: a band that knows their sound but isn’t afraid to experiment. And because of this, they’re guaranteed to continue to excite, inspire, and surprise.

Article originally published on next2shine.com.

Spirit Club is Back With “Room To Run”

Spirit Club, created by Nathan Williams (of surf-rock band Wavves), his brother Joel Williams and Andrew Caddick, is back with a new single. The track, “Room to Run,” is both ambient and rhythmic; at times lulling, then picking up with heavier guitar and drum riffs to fill out the melody. It features a billowing chorus with layered vocals lamenting on the need for the titular “room to run.” The killer track will be featured on their upcoming EP, a follow up to their 2015 debut Spirit Club.  Nathan Williams wrote on his twitter account @wavves, “it was an extremely tough album to record – all three of us were dealing with breakups so the tone of the whole record is very…sad/angry.” He also said that it was his first time working with producer Dennis Herring since Wavves’ arguably most-loved album, King Of The Beach. No dates have been set for the official release, but we’re stoked for it!

Article first published on next2shine.com.

10 Simple Ways to Save Money While Traveling

Let’s face it: traveling on a budget is hard. All of the everyday expenses can and will add up really quickly. Below is a list of a few simple tips to stretch your budget so you can spend more time focusing on what really matters: all of the experiences from your travels!

1. Be Wary of ATMs

Most ATMs in foreign countries charge anywhere from $2-$5 and your home bank typically charges you between 1%-3% of the amount of your total transaction. Let’s say, for example, you withdraw $60 from an ATM. Your bank charges a 2% transaction fee and there is a $3 ATM charge. You would in total be charged $75. Now let’s say you were to take out $20 three separate times over the period of a day, equaling $60. This would end up costing you $87. It is smarter to take out all of the cash that you need for the day (or however much you feel comfortable with) at one time to avoid racking up fees. Keep in mind those numbers aren’t including a foreign exchange rate, which can end up costing you even more. A good way to avoid these fees all together is asking your bank whether they have any partner banks set up where you will be traveling. Remember – always inform your bank before you travel to foreign countries to avoid setting up red flags which can lead to having your account frozen.

2. Take Free Walking Tours

Most popular tourist destinations offer free walking tours. With walking tours, you get to see all of the can’t-miss sites as well as back roads, and hidden gems. They are generally hosted by locals with a genuine love for their city. You get an authentic taste of your destination as well as lots of interesting historical information and fun facts. Afterwards, you are welcome to tip whatever you feel is appropriate for the quality of the tour.

3. Travel by Train

When traveling between countries or large areas, trains are your best friend. They’re a lot cheaper than air travel and a preferred method of many seasoned travelers. Train travel is also rewarding in that you are able to see landscapes, country sides, and villages that you would have otherwise skipped right over. You can score train deals by getting an InterRail pass.

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[View from train window; somewhere in eastern Europe]

4. Avoid Taxis

As you probably know, taxis can be crazy expensive and many a driver has been known to boost that meter up whenever possible. Avoid taxis by knowing bus schedules and routes and picking a hotel or hostel in a good location for walking. If you absolutely must take a taxi, share with someone else (only if you feel comfortable, of course) and split the fare. Uber and Lyft are also a great options if available to the city or country you’re in.

5. Haggle with Street Vendors

Some of the best souvenirs come from street vendors and a great perk to this is that you can haggle on the price. It’s easy to do – let the vendor know that you are interested but can’t pay the asking price. The vendor wants to make the sell and they will most likely bring the price down if they can. My personal favorite souvenirs are the city maps I’ve collected country by country. A great way to score some memorabilia on your trip for free.

6. Look into Travel Cards

Many tourist destinations offer travel card packages. These cards can offer discounts on transportation and free or reduced entrance into many of the city’s largest tourist attractions. A simple Google search can help you find out whether the city you plan to visit has one of these packages available.

7. Stay at Hostels

Despite what the horror movie might lead you to believe, most hostels are clean, safe, budget friendly, and will have a super friendly, helpful and multilingual staff. Most come with safes to lock up your valuables and many offer private rooms for couples or those who just don’t want to share a room. Hostels are also a great place to meet fellow travelers and are especially recommended if you’re traveling solo. Hostelworld.com is a great resource to find and book the perfect hostel for you!

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[Central Backpack King Hostel in Budapest, Hungary]

8. Be Cautious of Phone Charges

Phone charges can really add up quickly. You can incur hundreds of dollars in charges if you’re not careful. One option is to set up an international plan with your cell phone provider before you leave. For example, AT&T offers the “World Traveler Plan” where you get a set amount of texts and data and calls cost a few cents per minute. However, if you plan to stay in a country for a long period of time, it’s usually cheaper to get a prepaid phone (you can find them for less than $20) and a re-loadable calling card.

9. Check Out Local Grocery Stores

While it’s great to experience another culture’s cuisine, eating every meal at a restaurant is a sure-fire way to blow your budget. Buying a baguette and some cheese to eat for lunch instead of going out will end up saving you loads, and grocery stores can serve as a cultural experience as well!

10. Steer Clear of Tourist Traps

A good rule of thumb is that the more touristy a place is the more expensive it will be, and also the less authentic. Restaurants and bars tend to be the biggest culprits. A good way to avoid this is to ask the hostel or hotel staff or to look up reviews. Also, avoid places in major tourist hot-spots and with menus in a million different languages.

Traveling on a budget can be difficult, but it is possible. Keeping these tips in mind can help to make it a little easier.  Happy budget friendly travels and feel free to leave your best money saving travel trips in a comment below!