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Alex Carnevale
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson
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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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Tuesday
Jan292013

In Which We Recall It At A Moment's Notice

The New York Review of Hooks Vol. 6

by BRITTANY JULIOUS

Party Girl breaks through every few years because it has to. Whether it is Parker Posey's perfect humor, the fashion, or the snapshot of a forgotten New York, the film continues to impact new audiences for its perfect combination of the outdated and the timeless. In the end, the movie is a coming of age story about a twenty-something woman in a big city, a plot that is straightforward and always memorable. But for many fans, the music is what is most memorable.

Earlier this month Peace Biscuit re-released the film's soundtrack as a free download. Listening to the two volumes was a pleasurable representation of the eclecticism and charms of the film, but what has always stuck out in my mind was a scene toward the latter half of the film in which Mary (Parker Posey) organized Leo's (Guillermo Diaz) 1000+ record collection using the Dewey Decimal system. After a momentary fit of anger, Mary helps Leo find the records he needs to use for his set at Renee's, the "hottest" club in the city. In a classic moment of music fandom, Leo begins to shoot off names that were, have become, and continue to be legends: Grace Jones, Tom Tom Club, Parliament, Madonna, Erik B. & Rakim. It is not just the way that Leo recites the list. It is the fact that he has one and that he can recite it so quickly. Like any true music fan, what he needs at any given moment can be recalled at a moment's notice.

"& It Was U" - How to Dress Well (mp3)

"Set It Right" - How to Dress Well (mp3)

How to Dress Well gave the performance of his career and I missed it. His live performance was even more profound than his latest album, Total Loss, as audiences were able to understand and witness the layers of change and death that proved invaluable in the creation of this latest record. Or so I heard. I don’t doubt the claims. I only wish to have been there during this show, on the South Side of Chicago, in mid-December, in order to be immersed in a sound that already sounds extravagant and lovely through tinny speakers.

In interviews musician Tom Krell described the music for this album as a reaction to immense loss in his own life. It was, "dealing with the initial shock, anger, misery and pain, then working it through in my music." This pain is present, heavy, and soul-shattering. The first time I began to listen to the record, I had to stop not because I could definitely relate to his pain, but because it sounded so direct and impenetrable. Total Loss sounds like an intrusion on Krell's mind, his tears, and his anger. And yet, it is because of the rawness of the record that it is so powerful and damn good.

"Set it Right" in particular is a stand-out track. It's brutal both in lyricism and instrumentation. Compared to lighter, lovelier-sounding tracks such as "& It Was U" or "Running Back," "Set it Back" is direct in it's yearning. Krell sings about the people he misses – friends, loves – and the desperation is palpable. In that sense, we have been there. We have all been there.

"London" - Ofei (mp3)

In recent months, this sort of musical earnestness has become the norm for a variety of musicians of different levels of popularity. In particular, I'm thinking of musicians Oppaa, Mmoths and Ofei. All three released songs that have elements that sound as if the songs were created in tandem with each other. Oppaa's "N'questia," is a step forward from an earlier single he (W.B. Allen) released nearly a year ago. Built on rich samples, a steady beat, and vocals that highlight a smooth melody, "N'questia" sounds immediately familiar and comforting. It's the sort of song that is pleasant and sophisticated. In contrast, Ofei's "London" sounds bare and stark, but still packs an emotional punch. Likewise, in producer Mmoths' new single, "For Her" featuring vocalist Young & Sick, the rhythm is steady. The melody is crisp. The lyrics are mournful. If you are a young man looking to talk about your feelings, now is as good of a time as ever.

Earlier this week, when the temperature dropped to near zero in Chicago, I tweeted "Kate Bush Weather" because I knew instinctively what was needed to complement the brutal weather. There is not an iciness, but an isolation in Bush's music that seems right for the brutality of winter. It's just right for both hours spent at home in hibernation and also for those quick jaunts on near-abandoned streets and roads. I don't know if her music would work as well during this time in a heated car. Walking alone, facing the elements head on, her work seems just right.

"Billions" - JoJo (mp3)

"Thinking Out Loud" - JoJo (mp3)

While not as openly and directly earnest as the musicians mentioned earlier, JoJo's new mixtape, Agape, is driven by a desire to create music that speaks to her various influences and cultural background. JoJo is a Boston girl and she slips in bits and pieces of her hometown and heritage through skits that sound taken from the back of a local local pub. More importantly, on songs such as "Take the Canyon" and "Billions," JoJo gets to focus on what made her such a compelling pop star in the first place: her strong, soulful vocals.

Last year, The FADER suggested that Craig David was "having a moment." Even before the perfect remixes by Ryan Hemsworth and Sango of his early single, “Fill Me In,” the past stylistic choices of David's music was evident in singles by Disclosure and Bondax. When I mention David's stylistic choices, what I mean is the way in which he combined elements of the underground with the mainstream to create an effect that was immediately charismatic and memorable. Besides emerging crossover artists, other more established mainstream acts such as Usher broke through again to radio listeners who perhaps don't listen to the radio. Last year’s “Climax” was a testament to restraint and perhaps a precursor to the latter half of 2012 and music in 2013.

"Nuclear" - Destiny's Child (mp3)

"Suit & Tie" - Justin Timberlake (mp3)

There was not a lot to love on the surface when listening to Justin Timberlake's new single. It wasn't just that it sounded different than anything else out now. It sounded old. It sounded lost. I listened to 2006's FutureSex/LoveSounds in anticipation of the song and was thoroughly disappointed by the contrast in production. Although his last album and new single featured the same producer, Timbaland, what was missing was the great push forward toward the future of music. FutureSex/LoveSounds anticipated the synths of the past five years, but did so in a manner that made the record an instant classic. Production was both heavy and created with a light touch. It was never dance music to have dance music. It was never maximalistic production just for maximalism. However, although "Suit & Tie," Timberlake's new single is not as immediately show-y as "Sexy Back," it can grow on the listener. It has a welcome loveliness that will make the chorus turn into something of an ear worm.

The new Destiny's Child single, in contrast, does not build or grow on the listener. It's interesting to see that both performers of the last decade also chose producers of the last decade. Changes in mainstream musical direction feel much more fluid, but listening to the new singles demonstrates how quickly music has turned direction. Both "Suit & Tie" and "Nuclear" sound outdated and of a different era.

Although this potentially stifles any hope for a true Destiny's Child reunion, for Justin Timberlake as a solo artist, it could at once be a push in the direction of something different for the mainstream. Like the suggestion that Craig David is having a moment, mainstream music is in a moment of flux, open to changes that can occur with a strong push in one direction versus the other. The mellow, loving, sweetness of "Suit & Tie," could help turn this tide. 2012 saw a greater appreciation for music that sounded calmer, more collected, and less hurried through the likes of Frank Ocean, Miguel and Solange. Although the last couple of years have produced a handful of dancefloor gems, it has also suffered in repetitiveness and homogeneity. A 180 can only be a good thing.

Brittany Julious is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She tumbls here and twitters here. You can find the last edition of The New York Review of Hooks here.

Monday
Jan282013

In Which We Imitate Our Loves

Nearer Everything

by ALEX CARNEVALE

What the American male really wants is two things: he wants to be blown by a stranger while reading a newspaper, he wants to be fucked by his buddy when he's drunk. Everything else is society.

Wystan Hugh Auden arrived in New York City in January of 1939. His friends in New York shared the attitude of his friends in England: they were as unhappy to see him arrive as the English were to see him leave. "Just a note to ask you not to bring Auden and Isherwood to see me," wrote Louise Bogan to Edmund Wilson. "I can't say I want to spend an evening being examined by two visiting Englishmen as a queer specimen."

Impressions of Auden and his friends Christopher Isherwood did not noticeably improve by the spring. "He's pretty eccentric and does strange things like picking his nose and eating what he finds," observed Paul Bowles.

with his one time sexual partner and friend Isherwood

Auden was unsurprised at the vastness of American wealth. That he was used to. It was this country's waste that deeply bothered and disturbed him. "The great vice of Americans is not materialism," he wrote, "but a lack of respect for matter."

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In between trying to get New York's monied elite to give him and Isherwood money of their own volition, Auden reviewed only the books he liked. (He had no stomach for rendering negative notices.) Despite his relative poverty - he and Isherwood shared a shabby Yorkville apartment - he prioritized taking Benzedrine in the mornings and Seconal at night. The upper intiated his writing for the day, and the downer allowed him to sleep after all that had happened.

When he finally quit amphetamines twenty years later, his social charm - what was left of it - disappeared as well.

Wystan and Chester

At the beginning of April, Auden met Chester Kallman at a poetry reading he was giving in Brooklyn. A few weeks later he wrote his brother John

Just a line to tell you that it's really happened at last after all these years. Mr Right has come into my life. He is a Roumanian-Latvian-American Jew called Chester Kallman, eighteen, extremely intelligent and I think, about to become a good poet. His father who knows all and approves is a communist dentist who would be rich if he didn't have to pay two sets of alimony. This time, my dear, I really believe it's marriage.

After the two had sex for the first time, Auden gifted his new partner a volume of William Blake.

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Auden's focus on Kallman arose out of his own loneliness in his new country. The next year he would be able to summarize his plight better: "The person you really need will arrive at the proper moment to save you."

The couple was temporarily separated while Auden taught for a short time at St. Mark's School in Massachusetts. He disliked the buttoned-up place as soon as he arrived, finding the faculty and administration closed-minded and anti-Semitic. When he returned to Kallman, the two planned a bus trip to New Orleans. The entire way down Chester attempted to seduce every hot young thing he came across. Auden called it their honeymoon.

The book he came back to again and again during this time was Pascal's Pensées.

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The pair moved on. About 130 miles north of Albuquerque, Taos represented the home of D.H. Lawrence's widow Frieda. They did not care for these new surroundings either, with Auden quipping that "it's curious how beautiful scenery tends to attract the second rate." The diverse community of writers in the area only emphasized how much it would never be as engaging as New York.

Auden refused to shower during this period: he would only bathe himself in a proper bathtub. (As Stravinsky would put it, "He is the dirtiest man I have ever liked.") They were driven out of New Mexico, to the Grand Canyon. Auden concluded he could only stay for a moment or forever. With the kind of bizarre sincerity he became known for, he wrote that "the Boulder Dam gives one hope for the human race."

God returned to Auden's life around the time that Hitler entered it. In response, he began reading Kierkegard almost exclusively. Publicly he remained quiet about the war, admitted later that "All that could be said, had been said. There was no point in my saying it again, a little more hysterically." He registered for the draft, applied for U.S. citizenship and moved to Brooklyn.

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Chester Kallman could always bring out Wystan's jealous side. It was not a great look for the older man. The lack of sexual chemistry between the two became a sticking point; Kallman wanted to fuck and be fucked as intensely as possible, and Auden could not begin to service his needs. "I don't think," Auden once said, "Browning was very good in bed."

It was equally destructive that Kallman seemed to delight in the jealousy his behavior inspired. This drove them apart for a time. Whenever Kallman quoted Hart Crane, Auden reacted like he had been slapped in the face. Auden took a teaching position at a small college in Michigan and then in Ann Arbor.

from a course on romanticism he taught at Swarthmore

After a miserable time at the puritanical Swarthmore, Auden returned briefly to Europe for the first time in six years in spring of 1945. Upon setting foot on English soil, he said, "My dear, I'm the first major poet to fly the Atlantic." He visited Italy and Germany, finding them both inadequate in different ways. He now felt the only place he could learn to improve as an artist was New York City.

He returned there later that year, moving into a studio apartment in Greenwich Village. This constituted his first time ever living alone, and there was never a moment when the place was anything but an absolute mess. There he composed his new book.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. He tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about Jack Reacher.

"It Comes And Goes" - Dido (mp3)

"The Day Before The Day" - Dido (mp3)

 

Saturday
Jan262013

In Which We Circle What It Is We Want

After Breakfast

by DAN CARVILLE

Six of them came riding up.

There was something that began that way already. He left this thought and came back to it, and the idea had been changed to Five baying wolves approached out of the darkness.

He could give no real consideration to the rewarding symbol that the digit five provided. He also found it was difficult to write about or even imagine a cold place while he was in a warm climate.

He drove the rental car from the hotel to his father's modest cottage after breakfast. (He always fasted until lunch.) In the backyard, a grey armadillo haunted the modest garden. The armadillo's behavior accomplished four discrete things.

1) The first was that his father became so bothered by this desecration he had to start taking a higher dosage of his blood pressure medication.

2) The second was that the armadillo's numerous bowel movements created strange reactions from the plants in the array.

3) There was no longer the possibility of an ant problem.

4) The fourth was that the armadillo was agitated, possibly by his father, possibly about something completely unrelated in the animal's own life.

The wolves that approached (in his story) were unexpectedly kind. The underlying message was that even the most harshly regarded unconscious thing possessed, within it, the opposite virtue as well. He explained this idea to his mother in her hospital bed. It was difficult for her to talk, but she did listen intently. After awhile she croaked, "That is a cliche."

The next day, his father had fallen over in the garden looking for the armadillo with a small shovel. His body was fine, but his pride was injured. Reclining on his couch, his father kept saying, "The devil! The devil!"

His mother's nurse was a lovely woman of about 43 named Vela. She told him a story the next day while they waited to have an x-ray of his mother's torso taken. It went like this:

A great detective arrived at a typical scene - a messy, bloody body. Three calico cats continually circled the deceased woman, spooking some of the detective's fellow officers. Animal control was on the way, and the cats did not look particularly friendly, but they did not do anything aggressive except for their pacing. He told his men to make sure the cats did not molest the body. The detective stepped outside and, using sticks he found nearby, planted three makeshift grave markers in the ground.

When animal control arrived, they would not touch those calicos.

It turned out that the dead woman, before her passing, had eaten a large breakfast. Her stomach ruptured out her undigested pancakes, eggs and sausage. The cats were going to have it if she could not. He could not really find a moral for this story, but he wondered if the detective had meant to save the cats or solve the crime. Possibly both, but also, he may have just been having a laugh.

In the ensuing week his father became increasingly agitated, and more determined to rid his yard of the offending armadillo. He asked his father if he knew for certain there was only one armadillo. His father replied, "If I kill the one I see, the rest will vanish."

More events revealed themselves. When he saw his father, he saw the grey armadillo. When he saw his mother, he saw an old woman with breast cancer. When he saw a cat he ran away.

Dan Carville is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about running in place.

"Black Tongue" - Feist (mp3)