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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

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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In Which We Stop Counting The Masseuse's Lies

The Light of My Something


Enough Said
dir. Nicole Holofcener
93 minutes

Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is the only masseuse in the world who has never had a pedicure. She is a snob. Her daughter is a snob; same goes for her daughter's friend. Her boyfriend is a snob, her best friend is a snob. Her ex-husband is a snob. His wife is a snob. Her friend's maid is a snob, her clients are all all snobs, especially Marianne (Catherine Keener), who is probably the queen of all snobs. Nicole Holofcener has reduced the behavior of all white people to its basic component wanting to be better at something than someone, anyone.

In her cathartic and disturbing masterpiece Friends with Money, Holofcener made a maid the centrifuge of her Los Angeles satire. That this maid looked to be, from all evidence, Jennifer Aniston, hampered her point a bit. Louis-Dreyfus is a lot more believable in the role. "I guess I'll have to find a hobby," she says, because her daughter is headed to Sarah Lawrence in the fall. There is no way of knowing whether she means it, because she lies so often.

Amazingly, Eva condescends to date an overweight man named Albert (James Gandolfini). Gandolfini resembles a balloon about to pop. Whatever charm he might have retained from his signature role has dissipated, and if you rolled him down a hill and off a ramp at a high speed, he would soar into the sky. He works for a television museum, but informs Eva that he loathes contemporary television.

Later Albert explains that he only likes Jack Benny, whom I presume was a slaveowner. My knowledge of the television of the 1930s (1830s?) is limited at best.

Eva finds out that Albert's ex-wife is her client/friend Catherine Keener. Ensconced in fabric so enveloping it resembles a muumuu, she explains that her ex-husband does not have any friends, although, "Neither do I." Keener then goes on to relate all the ways she found her ex-husband inadequate: she wasn't interested in him sexually, he never seriously tried to lose weight, he didn't have any bedside tables.

Chief among her complaints is the way he swirls his guacamole. Watching the nearly comatose Gandolfini try to sit on a couch (he more perches, like an orangutan) and reenact the source of his ex-wife's complaint is a last meal of sorts. It is certainly no fun.

There are precious few laughs in Enough Said, not because Holofcener's script isn't cynical enough. It is so cynical it makes Gulliver's Travels look like a ringing endorsement of its time.

Toni Collette plays the one semi-likable character, a therapist named Sarah who detests her patients so much she makes fun of them eating their own mucus at dinner parties. The only thing sympathetic about her is that she has a terrible, unhappy maid.

Eva's daughter seems mostly inclined to ignore her mother in the months before her departure. As a surrogate relationship, she mothers over Chloe (Tavi Gevinson), who comes to her with such difficult questions as, "Should I fuck my boyfriend?" (She should and does.)

Tavi's cinematic debut is not a total disaster at times she projects an earthy somnolence, other moments scream her inexperience. Still, outside of Please Give's Abby, young people are usually just an appendage in Holofcener's films, mini-mes destined to suffer the same travails as the parents they so closely resemble.

Holofcener is coming to her point throughout, however. At first, only a few people felt sorry for themselves. The rest were just glad to be alive. Things could have been worse; they could be in Saigon/Vietnam/Korea/Iraq. Feeling sorry for yourself has become such an attenuated art form that it represents a moral given. A matter of degrees separates us only, of how sorry for yourself you feel, and what you deserve in spite of all the lies you told, or because of the truths you inherited.

It was difficult to watch Gandolfini's acting ability decline with his health. (Even Marlon Brando would have turned aside the dinner that finished him off.) It is even harder to spend one second feeling sorry for him, and it is unlikely he ever managed to feel sorry for himself.

Although his personage here is loathsome (he accidentally shows Eva his penis during brunch and begs her to compliment it), at least, in stacks of digitized video of the past, he has found something to enjoy. All around him, these people do not even have that.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Can't Wait" - Arcade Fire (mp3)


In Which We Don't Like Music Made By Boys

Male Diptych


1. Justin Timberlake

It is a prominent feature of my personal #brand that I don’t like music made by boys or boy things in general. As far as boys are concerned, I have historically favored Backstreet Boys: as a tween, when I would receive issues of YM or Teen People featuring their rivals *NSYNC, I would rip the magazines’ covers off.

Still, Justin Timberlake is difficult to hate. He’s a solid musician, a pretty good actor, and an always delightful Saturday Night Live host.  In his solo music career, he has shown artistic savvy far exceeding his boy band origins. I had low expectations for Timberlake’s album The 20/20 Experience, which came out in March of this year, considering its boring-ass lead single “Suit and Tie” and the fact that six out of ten of the album’s tracks are over seven minutes long.

But I was won over by The 20/20 Experience’s creative, orchestral arrangements and ecstatic melodies. For my money, “Mirrors” is one of the best radio singles of 2013. Nevertheless, when I heard Timberlake was releasing another album of ten extremely long songs this September, I was all, “uh oh.” The 20/20 Experience was such a critical and commercial success that I wasn’t sure how Timberlake could pull this off twice. And guess what.

He couldn’t. The 20/20 Experience2 of 2 is as hackneyed and lame as the first installment was fresh and interesting. Timberlake is still working with his long-time collaborator Timbaland on 2 of 2, but the lush disco strings of 1 of 2 are replaced by boring, weirdly retro drum machine beats. There are times when 2 of 2 sounds kind of like *NSYNC, which I’m pretty sure Timberlake would take as the world’s worst insult.

Silly metaphors are a hallmark of both installments of The 20/20 Experience — on “Strawberry Bubblegum” off of 1 of 2 he sings (over and over), “Be my strawberry bubblegum… let me love you ‘til I make you pop.” But on 2 of 2, where there is nothing compelling going on musically, the corny lyrics are glaring. “True Blood” is a truly embarrassing track about, yes, vampires: “It’s that demon in me that’s got me screamin’,” Timberlake sings, “Makes me wanna build a coffin for two.”

At times this metaphor mania reminds me of country songwriting — especially on “Drink You Away,” where Timberlake partakes in the venerable tradition of personifying varieties of alcohol. “I can’t drink you away,” he sings. “I’ve tried Jack, I’ve tried Jim, I’ve tried all of their friends.” This can be charming, granted, but so many of the lyrics on 2 of 2 are so bad they’re unforgivable. On his lovemaking jam “Cabaret” he sings, “I got you saying Jesus so much it’s like we’re lying in the manger.” This might be the most profoundly unsexy simile of all time.

2 of 2 closes with the ballad “Pair of Wings,” on which Timberlake acknowledges that he can’t protect his love from pain, but says, “If I could I’d fly you away/On a big old pair of wings.” This is a hidden track, and if you ask me, it wasn’t hidden well enough. It exemplifies 2 of 2’s creative exhaustion — the lazy lyrics, the nondescript melody, the tendency towards the cheesy. The thing is that most artists would be satisfied with releasing one very good (and very long) album in one year, and they should be. If 2 of 2 were released as a bonus disc, I could take the songs at face value, but as a companion to 1 of 2, the comparison is just unfortunate.

In some ways Timberlake’s solo career reminds me of Paul McCartney’s. Both were “the cute one” in their original groups, and they are used to being indulged, which has led to wildly inconsistent creative output — for McCartney, it has meant both the successes of his albums like Band on the Run and Ram and his writing and releasing dozens of tracks that are boring, trite, and bizarre. For Timberlake, it has meant both the success of The 20/20 Experience - 1 of 2 and the disappointment of The 20/20 Experience2 of 2. If that comparison sounds like way too big a compliment to Timberlake, keep in mind that he was in *NSYNC and Paul McCartney was in, you know, The Beatles — which was a pretty good band, despite being comprised entirely of boys. 

2. Drake

“This is nothing for the radio,” Drake sings on “Tuscan Leather,” the first track on his new album, Nothing Was The Same, “but they’ll still play it though.” Drake clearly suffers from the same ambivalence about being a hugely successful pop star as his mentors Jay-Z and Kanye West. West impregnated the most overexposed woman on the planet and then made a scary, angry album about how he hates being a celebrity. On “Moment of Clarity” off The Black Album, Jay-Z says, “If skills sold, truth be told, I’d probably be/Lyrically, Talib Kweli,” expressing a weird desire to be a “smart” rapper instead of a gazillionaire. “Who else making rap albums doing numbers like it’s pop?” Drake asks on Nothing Was The Same and I’m like, “Um, Kanye?”

West made it acceptable to rap about growing up suburban and middle class, and Drake took that shit and ran with it. He talks about his bar mitzvah money and his mom driving him to the set of Degrassi in her Acura. People have made fun of him for his track “Started From The Bottom,” since he obviously didn’t have it hard growing up, but that’s the point. “Boys tell stories about the man,” Drake sings on “Started From The Bottom,” “Say I never struggled, wasn’t hungry.” He’s saying that just because you don’t grow up poor, it still isn’t easy to become one of the most successful rappers in the world, which, point taken.

I saw a Tumblr post that was supposedly Drake searching for porn; it was just a gif of someone searching “personality” on PornHub. I had a hearty LOL over it. But Drake’s main contribution to hip hop is that he writes in an honest and self-aware way about relationships. “I got trust issues,” he sings on “All Me.” “I’m the type to have a bullet-proof condom/And still gotta pull out.” Wasn’t that a Girls plot line?

Drake mostly favors fuzzy, sensual, stripped down production like his bro The Weeknd. At times the drum-driven and moody arrangements almost remind me of Phil Collins. Collins and Drake are soul twins in their own way — both make smooth, sexy, catchy music that reveals an unexpectedly intense, insecure, and sad persona behind it. Like Kanye said, “We all self-conscious, I’m just the first to admit it.” Confidence is bankrupt.

On Nothing Was The Same, Drake imitates David Alan Grier and Damon Wayans saying, “Hated it!” in their classic In Living Color sketch “Men On Film.” “The Fresh Prince just had dinner with Tatyana, no lie/All these ‘90s fantasies on my mind,” he sings on “Tuscan Leather.” You don’t need a Buzzfeed list to tell you Drake is a ‘90s kid. I don’t know if Drake is trying to pander to the internet’s nostalgia baiting or it just happened that way.

But those lyrics might give you a sense of why a leaked Drake album caused a Twitter feelings frenzy. 50 Cent had his breakthrough in 2005; Twitter was founded in 2006, and after that, as they say, nothing was the same. On “Own It,” Drake sings, “Next time we fuck/I don’t wanna fuck/I wanna make love.” Drake, I told you, I’m into having sex. I ain’t into making love. So come give me a hug. If you into getting rubbed.

Alice Bolin is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. She last wrote in these pages about Bangerz. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. You can find her twitter here and her tumblr here.

It was known as Poptober, when Alice Bolin brought you

an insightful look at Miley Cyrus' breakup album

an extensive investigation into Lorde

scathing critiques of Drake and JT

and the month isn't over yet

"Someday Sparrow" - Laura Cantrell (mp3)

"Barely Said A Thing" - Laura Cantrell (mp3)

The new album from Laura Cantrell, No Way There From Here, is out now in the UK and will be released in the U.S. in January 2014.


In Which He Moved Here While I Lived In California

The Difference


Around ten years have passed since I’ve been seventeen. When I go to the free screening of the Chicago independent film Maydays, I am one of the few people at the high school who barely skews the mean age in the auditorium to maybe eighteen. Maybe. I didn’t have a chance to go to the Latino Film Festival in the spring to see it and regretted it. I have been waiting to find a copy or a screening, so when my friend e-mailed me about a community showing, that’s where I spend my Friday evening.

Filmed in Chicago during the NATO/G8 summit, the film is a hybrid documentary-love story, focusing on Alicia, a high schooler at Benito Juarez High School, living in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. She meets Daniel, a lanky boy from the North Shore (portrayed as tony as we all talk about it in the City), at a Model UN conference and their relationship begins. Pilsen, officially named by the City as the Near West Side, was first home to “Bohemians”, or people from the Czech Republic and Poland, but now currently houses one of the biggest Latino populations in the city, predominantly from Mexican origins.

I am not from Pilsen but am almost from the city of Chicago, although not quite. I have lived in the neighborhood since I graduated college on the West Coast, slowly moving from three flats and their combination of terrible landlords, elevated track lullabies, and the continued seeping soot of the Coal Plant.

My neighbors and friends worked on the campaign to close it. Sometimes I pretend I can still see the END COAL graffiti on the smokestack out my window, from Greenpeacers two years ago. Benito Juarez is about five blocks from my apartment now, and many nights I’d cut through the courtyard with brass sculptures of Mexican heroes, often defaced, either seething to warm copper smells on the summer nights I got off work late or avoiding the frigid and dangerous metal on my way to the bar.

And I’m not Mexican-American. I go around the world calling myself a halfie, blithely assenting to whomever has decided to play ethnic-guessing games on our first impressions that yes, I’m Latina, no, my Spanish isn’t that great, but thank you for the compliment on mi accento. The movie, however, and Alicia’s story (who I share a name with, sort of, and if you are pronouncing it with a “Sh”, you are doing it wrong) kept me watching the trailer for weeks as I waited for Chicago’s summer to finally show the hell up.

Maybe I would have been less impressed, less happy with how much the movie met my expectations if I had seen it in a quiet theater with four screens, or at a college screening. But surrounded by high schoolers who are probably background extras, who walk along the alleys and corner stores and fruit ladies every day, the movie gained more of its verite.

When Daniel requests Alicia on Facebook after their day downtown at Model UN, the auditorium cheered. When Alicia’s friends throw shade on Daniel and his suburban lifestyle, we gave the appropriate, “Ohhhhh!” burns, snickering when he drops her off on the North side with a, “Go play Pocahontas and John Smith, right?”

Maydays is a paean to being young and falling in love, how falling in love with someone in a city makes you love that city, too. In the first days of their relationship, Daniel skips class and travels via bike, commuter and elevated train to Alicia’s house. She takes him around the neighborhood. I remembered the moments I have been in love, or trying to be in love in this neighborhood, doing the same things. Walking on sunny afternoons buying vintage clothes only to abandon them on closet, sharing mango con chili, pointing out murals, all the things a date should be that I never get to do anymore, by virtue of the ease of drinking beer after work.

At the end of this adventure, Daniel and Alicia end up in the suburbs, where she pointedly corrects his mother on her Anglo-pronunciation of her name. As a teenager, Alicia’s mother frustratingly has to come pick her up at his suburban house. The scene where her over-extended mother smacks her on the head for Alicia calling her mother an embarrassment brought back to me the fury of adolescence. I remembered how the face sets on car rides full of nothing but fighting or alienation, how furious my family made me, but how they at least knew where I came from. My mother will tell how guera she is, but always pronounces my name correctly, especially when I’m in trouble and it involves the entirety of the conjuring.

Daniel, it seems, works to widen their contact zone. In scenes he is in the city, interested in her friends, her zine she makes with the help of her abuela, a former neighborhood activist, her endless curiosity. She is more of an artist than I ever was in high school, taking photos and using old Mexican films to express her vision of the world.

I barely dated a boy who was white in high school, and I say this because I kept the relationship going through college. He was part of the reason I ended up in Pilsen he moved here while I lived in California. I spent summers and winters at their house near the Western boundary. When I stayed in that apartment, four tiny rooms and a view of the warehouses, I told my parents I needed to because of the jobs I worked downtown, which was partly true and partly because I wanted to drink and fool around with him, pretending we were adults already.

There were many reasons we didn’t work out, most of which I’ll pin on age (to be kind). The fights we had about privilege and race, and the things he wouldn’t understand, gnawed at me, never left. He moved to Pilsen with our mutual friends at the time (who he gave up, but I still live two blocks from), Mexican-American, who gave me shit for being pigmentally challenged, whose parents speak Spanish with me and berate these boys to do the same, and they live here now.

We would drive down Ashland in the summer with Manu Chao’s “Me Llamen Calle” blasting out the windows, hungover, and I felt something I’d never felt in the suburbs. By this time I was in college, where people tried to be respectful of things like mixed-race, transnational identities, la frontera, apologizing for assuming where my tongue could go.

But the difference I needed him to understand was the difference he felt threw before him, an axe, a border. Partners and friends I have had since them have had the same problem a white woman lover, now friend, who I took Spanish with (the only Latina in the class), who couldn’t understand why it hurt me that she told me to do better because I should’ve been able to, an abusive older man who left me voicemail slurs over the phone, friends who tell me, Well, since you pass, it doesn’t really hurt you, right?

And mostly these hurts were combined into others, like Alicia. It still amazes me that any of the friends I’ve known and still love since high school survived it. Her confused feelings for Daniel notwithstanding, her pains hit me: parents who fight and a father who is absent but doting on her, her mother who calls her “gordita” and criticizes her eating.

In a scene explaining exactly how fraught young adolescent relationships are, she tries to explain to Daniel on the phone how awful it is when your mother is constantly noting what you eat, and he responds with an awkward story about how he used to sleepwalk, and ended up one night atop his mother’s SUV. In my case, it has always been my father and my tias who are happy to tell me when I’ve lost weight, or how going to the gym is a bien awesome hobby.

During the NATO summits in Chicago last year I worked downtown at a bike store, waiting to start graduate school. The streets were empty and for weeks I’d been hearing talk everywhere my coworkers telling me leftists were going to molotov out our store windows, my leftist friends encouraging me to attend sign-making parties. Like Alicia I have no shortage of comrades in my life, people who have made real change, whereas I am happy to cheer on the striking teachers at the three schools in a six-block radius of my six-flat. I would ride home on alternate routes, thinking how quiet it was in River North during the G8. Watching this movie, and the footage shot during the protests, I wondered how much I was missing out on.

Daniel and Alicia, and their friends from both the neighborhood and the suburb, attend the protests, and the people interviewed are real: Code Pink, the ISO, the Black Block, the CTU. During this time, she attends a party at Daniel’s house, where his father first asks if she’s from Brazil, and then he and a friend comment on how the changing landscape of Pilsen is ultimately for the better.

Of course no movie can encapsulate the complexities of something like “gentrification”, a word I hesitate to use. All it does is scatter everyone into thoughts like pepper around a bar of soap. I hope one day to watch this movie and try and explain to someone what it was like living here, in Chicago, when I can still buy Hamms at the 4 a.m. bar and carry, and walk by the bar selling ten dollar cocktails. I realize I am an outsider too. I just also realize I’m an outsider with the safe feeling of this neighborhood I can’t explain and don’t want to try to.

But I also want to make sure I can see this movie in the years to come. As the winter arrives, it made me miss Chicago, even though I live here. The days of Chicago, in May, in my neighborhood with paleta carts and block parties and micheladas and bandannas around our necks and bicycles, are beyond compare. Filled with the post-rock soundtrack I have come to love, Maydays makes me think I want to continue my adult-adolescent years I have cultivated in Pilsen.

This year I have started to feel a bitterness towards Chicago (again), and how I am still riding bicycles, and trying to do community work I don’t make enough money for, and writing poetry. I am still losing friends to other cities, or worse fates. Maydays gave me those afternoons and nights back, riding in borrowed cars along the Stevenson, jumping into our dirty, frigid third coast, nights on stoops and back porches with forty ounces of beer.

The movie doesn’t even end with the close of summer, which is a truth. And it does not end how you’d think, which is how everything works at age seventeen. In this city we’re always hoping and pretending that warmth will come again, and what will we do to our streets when it does? How many nights can we spend on them and where are all the places we will go?

Carmen Aiken is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. She is a writer living in Chicago. She tumbls here.

Photographs by the author.

"King of Bongo" - Manu Chao (mp3)

"Bienvenida a Tijuana (live)" - Manu Chao (mp3)