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Alex Carnevale
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Mia Nguyen
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Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson

This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Thursday
Oct122017

In Which We Make The Right Choice After All

American Buffalo

by ETHAN PETERSON

Mr. Robot
creator Sam Esmail
USA

About two-thirds into the third season premiere of Mr. Robot, an elaborate proof that even a revenge fantasy can be made dull through its own generic willpower, Sam Esmail begins laying into Donald Trump. For people like Sam who thrive on words, and the general, reductive meaning they are able to apply to ideas, moments and opinions, the president is impossible to understand.

To their credit, artists, doctors, lawyers and citizens all educated, have been taught to live and die by their words. For those of this tortured mindset, any other approach could make no sense of their lives. Verbal articulation is how they define themselves and their relationship to others. Well, the president is not great with words, so he does what anyone might do who can’t speak or write very well: he shows how little power speech has.

Eliot (Rami Malek) is a similar creature. When he does speak, a manifesto comes out, but it is not really of his own doing. His truer, more authentic self is beneath the turgid recitation of the ills of society. Beneath this veneer, his shyness tells a more nuanced story. More than anything, what drives him is wanting to be liked and respected. Such personages – I can think of many who share this ultimately useless view – intimately understand what others most want to hear. This, they believe, is the best purpose of speech.

Eliot’s sister Darlene (Carly Chaikin) recoils from all this. When someone starts talking to her, she either responds profanely, runs away, screams, or has a panic attack. At other times, she represses her introverted calling, and dominates others through an otherworldly combination of presence and enthusiasm. Once she feels she has lost her cause, however, she returns to a state of grace.

Eliot’s friend Angela (Portia Doubleday, easily the best actor on the entire show) watched her mother die from the bad actions of a large corporation. She allows this singular tragedy to corrupt every other moment of her life. Angela pushes love away at every intersection, and when she cares for those like Eliot, people who cannot care for themselves, she wields a silent combination of pity and hate. I said Mr. Robot was dull, and it is, but the men and women standing in front of computer terminals throughout the show are all fairly alive.

Quite possibly a word, or a series of words, might serve as a guide to some future act. But the words would fairly fade with time. Irving (Bobby Cannavale) strongly believes words mean something very important. When he is promised a free milkshake after his tenth hamburger, he is intent on collecting. In short, he is like you and all your innocent, naive friends. They believe it is right to judge people by what they say. (“Action talks,” someone said, “and bullshit walks.”). Philanthropy, someone without a soul said, is the way that brands will win. We have prized speech over content, and this is actually how Rome fell, if I’m not mistaken.

Mr. Robot suffers from a similar fate. Nothing much really goes on in it. Every once in awhile, someone will suddenly and unexpectedly receive exactly what they deserve.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.

Thursday
Oct122017

In Which We Take A Lesson Out To Dinner

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.

Hi,

I have been friends with a guy I will call Alan for a few years. We both play music but never play together (different styles); still we have kept up with each other over the years.

We have good chemistry when hanging out one-on-one, and I've always enjoyed it whenever that happens. Alan's made it clear that he would be open to something more, but I am concerned that things might get competitive with both of us sharing similar goals. The few times that it has come up, arguments have tended to ensue. Am I right to be wary of conflict?

Bess M.

Dear Bess,

No happy relationship was ever described by the words, "we fight a lot about about melodies." With that said, ground rules for a relationship can accomplish a lot, just as the security of a prenup can assuage the mind of the more financially sucessful party.

Here are some ground rules to keep in mind considering your situation:

1) What kind of music does he play? House? Cool.

2) What are his thoughts on Savage Garden? Neutral. Cool.

3) How well does he know the lyrics to "Girlfriend in a Coma"?

4) Did he seem really low-key and collected when he found out that Thom Yorke unexpectedly released an album? Great.

That should do it. Tread carefully.

 

Hi,

I go out with a group of friends who always order wine at every meal. At first I didn't mind not being the only one drinking, but our dinnertime conversations are becoming progressively sloppier and it makes the evening something of an ordeal. 

Is there any way to improve these circumstances without coming off as a killjoy?

Maureen A.

Dear Maureen,

Wine, or sad juice as it is called through the greater Pennsylvania area, was created for Europeans who have less problems and anxieties than Americans. Wine is highly addictive: some experts believe it is even more compulsive than cocaine.

Your friends are therefore ensconced in the saucy, grapey grip that won't let go. The only way to free them from their urges is to take things even more thoroughly in the messed up direction, until the entire group can barely wake up the next morning. Next time y'all meet up at dinner, you can meekly ask for a dry evening. It will be that day that each of your liquored-up friends will understand one of life's most important lessons: sobriety can, at times, be as exciting as chardonnay.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. Access This Recording's mobile site at thisrecording.wordpress.com.

 

 

Tuesday
Oct102017

In Which We Black Out The Capitol Lights

Today we welcome our new music editor, Janice Levens. Ms. Levens is a poet and musician living in Los Angeles. She is writing under a pseudonym for reasons that will become clear as soon as 2018. Her reviews will appear every Tuesday until she is suspended from This Recording for social media-related reasons.

photograph by Shane McCauley

Flyover State

by JANICE LEVENS

Cry, Cry, Cry
Wolf Parade
Dan Boeckner, Spencer Krug, Dante DeCaro & Arlen Thompson
producer John Goodmanson
October 6th on Sub Pop

The voices of Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug sound a lot alike. When we last left Wolf Parade they were fresh off 2010's astonishing Expo 86, a sterling return to form after 2008's half-hearted At Mount Zoomer. The best tracks on Expo 86, like "In the Direction of the Moon" and "What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had to Go This Way)" were written by Krug, and this trend continues on Cry Cry Cry, a tightly woven studio album by this four-piece of artists who still struggle to reach a cohesive compromise in sound.

Much of Cry Cry Cry was written on Vancouver Island, the warmest part of Canada. Fittingly then, much previous angst has been wrung out of Krug and Boeckner. The man who wrote and performed "I'll Believe in Anything" on Apologies to the Queen Mary only peeks out from behind the gauze in tracks like the echoing ballad "Am I An Alien Here", when Krug pretends at being depressed: "Happiness is easy, it's a story that you tell." You know he is lying because only a few stanzas later he is complaining about David Bowie being dead.

photograph by Shane McCauley

Boeckner is somewhat depressed about the U.S. president, but for the most part he seems a lot happier with his first marriage in the rear view mirror. His other project is Operators, and the tracks he produced with Devojka, Sam Brown, and Dustin Hawthorne - free of Krug's trademark inflections and orchestral effects - seemed a fresh and exciting on 2016's eclectic Blue Wave.

In Wolf Parade, it is Boeckner who adapts to Krug's style, and while it is a decent echo of Spencer's darker use of synthesizers and guitar, his compositions never approach the highs of "Baby Blue." Still, he gets close on "Flies on the Sun", because any credible reflection of Spencer Krug is pretty much like looking at God in a puddle. And to be completely fair, he is a far better live singer than Krug and his voice is substantially improved from when Wolf Parade originally formed.

Despite his experimentation with his solo-ish project Moonface, Krug's songwriting retains a morbid core, like apples that differ in color and taste. Even Krug's more frivolous songs like "Valley Boy" still touch on the vague sadness that is the inevitable consequence of interacting with people he does not respect. As usual, Krug's lyrics manage to come across as devastating and sincere even when they approach the absurd, as they do on "Lazarus Online" when he suggests, "Let's rage against the light." It is meant to be hokey - "like getting punched in the heart" - but it is still weaker than anything you would find on 2005's Apologies to the Queen Mary, a masterpiece that included the best selections of Krug's early work.

On "You're Dreaming" Krug sings, "Never mind the time/I’m up all night with the century ghosts/They don’t have a mind/They would never think of leaving/And we’re dreaming." You see, once you achieve your dream, as Krug has with his considerable, deserved success, all you can actually do from then on out is imagine what it would be like if that dream had never come true. Krug explains it would be "just like life," only not. "Scenes of shattered glass, all your systems in collapse." Krug, we can infer, is waiting for some future tragedy to arrive so that he can become beautiful again. Cry Cry Cry, then, is like a self-contained snow globe of potential sorrow, one that can only come true by being shattered in retrospect.

Janice Levens is the music editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles.