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Playlist: Cold War Kids

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Gated neighborhoods. Prefab houses. Minivans and manicured lawns. Think you know all about the suburbs? Think again. Indie rockers Cold War Kids hail from that ur-suburbia, the SoCal Valley, but the jolting barroom dirges on debut LP Robbers & Cowards make a persuasive case that the suburbs are the new bohemia. Songs such as “Hang Me Up To Dry” are gritty like the city, mean and pretty, and the perfect soundtrack to an alcoholiday with the fam. You can go home again. You know why? Because you never left.

Designer Jump for Joy: Samantha Pleet

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Even as a child, I had a strong sense of personal style. There was the Wonder Woman year, for example, and the year of purple, and – triumph de la mode – the year I wore matching plaid skirt and vest sets. Do not ask. I have no idea.

Beauty: Nailed

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Once upon a time in my life, a manicure was a half-hour procedure that involved about ten minutes of coloring my fingernails with waterproof marker, and another twenty sitting a time out for getting red streaks all over the kitchen table. I always went for red, and I generally still do, even now that my DIY days are long gone. But what I have longed for all these years is a nail polish color that goes on the way that marker used to: Sheer and not-quite-red. Rescue Beauty finally delivered the goods, with its Chinoise polish. One coats ‘nostalgia-inducing; two coats’ sexy gleam will remind you that you are all grown up now. Be as bad as you want: No time outs.

Icon: Sunday Girl

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I think I was five. I know it was Sunday, because Sunday night was Muppet night, a big event in my house. It could have been a re-run, but for me, seeing Deborah Harry sing her Blondie hit One Way Or Another to a troupe of Muppet monsters was the beginning of something original: Cool. Cool is not a concept that comes quick to a kid; it is too abstract, too subjective and ephemeral, and up to that moment I had no idea that something so obscurely alluring existed in my cozy world. I didn’t have a name for it then, and even now, I find cool a hard thing to define. Maybe it was the slinky way she moved, or maybe it was the insouciant way she wore her slinky clothes. Maybe, perhaps, I discovered cool in her combination of silliness and self-possession: Look up her appearances on the freaky early 80s series TV Party, and she exudes nothing but grace, even when surrounded by a supporting cast more outré than Muppets, and even when she is delivering a lesson on the proper way to pogo. I caught that episode on DVD recently, and was dumbstruck by Debbie all over again. Whatever cool is, she will always personify it for me. And I still wish my hair looked like that.

Back to the Future

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The first clothes I ever loved were made for me by my mother. Jumpers, tunics, spin-out skirts that went horizontal when I twirled; much as I resented standing still for measurements in her room filled with patterns and fabrics, I gloried in having a personal couturier. If I wanted butterflies on everything one year, I had them. Life was good.

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