Quantcast
Video of the Day

Masthead

Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

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

Live and Active Affiliates
This area does not yet contain any content.
Wednesday
Mar142012

In Which We Respect The Limits Of Force Fields

For the Duration

by KARA VANDERBIJL

Katniss Everdeen is one of the more unlikable characters in all of literature, falling only slightly behind Gollum. It is hard to put a finger on what makes her as repulsive as she is. Her asexuality makes her hard to identify with, which might be part of the problem. I am tempted to blame it all on her blatant refusal to consider anybody else, but that is, after all, what most teenagers (and some twenty-somethings) are like.  Surprisingly — or perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the literary mood of our times — various males trail after her for the duration. Is this what high school was like? Did you have any love interests skewer one another with tridents for your affection?

Panem, Suzanne Collins promises in The Hunger Games, is a world only several hundred years in the future of our own. Its citizens whisper “May the odds ever be in your favor” to one another. Oppressed by an unwavering Capitol, far away in the remains of the Rocky Mountains, they starve in twelve outlying districts. One this side of the apocalypse, people cannot make provisions for a potentially awful future — the worst possible future has already occurred. It is too late for them to fund cancer research, fight totalitarian regimes or protest the advent of the Cloud. To make matters worse, every year the Capitol draws two teenagers from each district at random to participate in the Hunger Games, a bloody competition reminiscent of Survivor or a day in the life of a Roman gladiator, which streams live on Panem’s national broadcast.

Despair over the annual death of 23 teenagers, as well as the constant flow of propaganda from the Capitol, has turned the average citizen of Panem into a passive victim. They simply wait for the roll of the dice, the draw of each name, hoping to a nonexistent future deity that it will not be theirs. This time, it isn’t sixteen-year-old Katniss’ name that is called, but her younger sister Prim’s, despite all the precautions that they have taken. In a moment of sheer insanity Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place at the Games – and in exercising this freedom, seals her fate as a catalyst for the revolution.

This is hardly an act of altruism. Katniss has been a rebel from the beginning, hunting outside the boundaries of the twelfth district with her best friend Gale and selling the game at a local black market. But while Gale’s actions are motivated by a heroic hatred of the Capitol, Katniss finds her motives in a well of self-interest so deep that Ayn Rand could drown herself quite happily in it. Katniss was in it to survive long before she was called to the Games, and the tension between her blatant refusal to consider others and the knowledge that she’ll have to depend on them drives the entirety of the story.

Undoubtedly the time spent in the Games arena is the most entertaining aspect of the book, if only because this is where the majority of Collins’ imagination seems to have expended itself. Outside this deadly, man-made environment, details are scarce. The districts are difficult to envision. The Capitol, in all of its supposed beauty, escapes description. As the story progresses, Katniss and her band of loyal followers step into larger and larger arenas, first breaking the smallest rules, poking at the limits of force fields and challenging accepted reality, and finally overriding the regime’s televised propaganda with truths of their own.

For all of its possibilities, the future rarely inspires an original thought in human beings. Miranda July recently tried to find one and had considerable difficulty emerging from a T-shirt. Why is the imminent unknown so difficult to ignore? It is not as if the future is ever present. Why can’t I disregard its existence, dismissing it as I do the average mathematical equation? For the longest time, I refused to read a book with the word e-mail in it. The future is the only event that will never come to pass if we refuse to acknowledge its existence.

Kara VanderBijl is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. You can find her website here. She last wrote in these pages about the history of feminism. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"No Starry World" - Miike Snow (mp3)

"Garden" - Miike Snow (mp3)

"Black & Blue" - Miike Snow (mp3)

Tuesday
Mar132012

In Which We Don't Do Coke In The Bathroom Of The Restaurant

The Siesta

by JACKIE KRUSZEWSKI

Waiting tables has never paid my bills, a fact which I prefer to hide from my colleagues with deep sighs about the price of just about everything. But through the managerially-induced eye rolls, the horrific tippers, the empty-table boredom, and the mild injustices of everyday service industry work lies my dirty secret: I could quit any time I want. I went to pick up my last paycheck from the French restaurant and ended up with two shifts a week. My name is Jackie and I am addicted to waitressing.

I tried to quit a few months ago. I got a raise at my non-profit, a sizable one, and I wanted my weekends back desperately because it was almost Christmas. My weekend shifts were a welcome excuse to stay in New York for Thanksgiving and not spend $200 on trains to avoid my father’s girlfriend at whatever trashy buffet joint his family had reserved for us for the occasion. But I couldn’t miss Christmas with my mother and sisters for the third time in a row, and my friends were coming to New York for New Year’s Eve. So I gave my notice.

The second weekend in January I came back for my last check. “So you, you want to take a few shifts again, yes?” Bruno, the diminutive French owner, asked. Turns out, he hadn’t rehired, just reshuffled, and I suddenly felt a surge of usefulness that I’d never felt at my day job.

I first waited tables in the summer of 2004 after my first year at college. It was also my first summer driving (overprotective mother), and I planned my route to the restaurant to avoid stopping on steep hills in my stick-shift 1988 Astro van (RIP Vanna).

La Siesta was a family-owned Mexican place in suburban Richmond. The Zajur Family patriarch had had the prescience to open Chesterfield County, Virginia's first Mexican joint in the 70s when it was just concrete hick sprawl south of Richmond. His sons and daughter spoke of the La Siesta heyday of their youth — before the competition for $8 burritos and enormous margaritas had shown up. Rue the day!

La Siesta employees included: two white career waitresses from neighborhoods nearby, a few Mexican guys my age who had learned English well enough to wait tables, an older Mexican man who had been an architect in Mexico and was now a host, and of course the more recently-immigrated kitchen staff who labored over vats of ground beef in the back and were probably supporting vast families back home with remittances.

The two other women waitresses were in their mid-30s and both named Rena. They had been there long enough that they’d arranged to work just on tips (ie: IRS-free). They thought I was cute and virginal (f*ing dimples) and by the end of summer, they were inviting me to their bacchanal cookouts where we smoked weed in the shag-carpeted living room while their toddlers and teenagers of different fathers ran around the double-wide trailers outside until the wee hours of the night. They introduced me to frozen margarita mix and tequila and lectured me on the importance of birth control.

The kitchen staff was mostly confused by me: why was this white girl in college waiting tables and driving an Astro van?  I had spent the year between high school and college in Argentina so my fluent Argentinian Spanish was doubly confusing. The Zajurs explained that Argentine Castellano has a snooty, European slant to it — a faux-aristocratic lilt that made them laugh every time I opened my mouth. I was the kitchen staff’s mascot.

The Zajurs barely noticed me. The family practically ran the local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and were profiled by the city newspaper in rhapsodic prose, congratulating them for being successful business owners and model immigrants. The focus on their heritage was mildly absurd considering the 30-/40-something-year-old Zajur children had never lived a day in Mexico, but they all had well-dressed kids and were both deeply religious and politically conservative — the kind of Mexicans Virginia could get behind! Just don’t ask questions about the immigration status of the guys in the kitchen.

Of course, the Zajur Family politics didn’t jibe very well with my new liberal arts curriculum and recently-discovered sense of self-righteousness. I was quietly disdainful of the Zajur children, their inherited business, their assimilated values, their subpar flan. But this was also my very first job — I was ingratiatingly eager to please them all, as this was the Real World with Bosses and Colleagues. I was part of a Team — the Renas believed in me — and there were people to be fed!

La Siesta, however, didn’t exactly attract sophisticated clientele. I refilled many a chip-and-salsa basket for families trying to fill up on freebies so that the second half of their burrito plate could be tomorrow’s lunch. I had more than one person argue with me about the ounce-age of their margarita. The ridiculously cheap lunch specials brought in white and blue-collared workers alike, all demanding faster service and three Coke refills for less of a tip.

These were the days of smoking and non-smoking sections in Tobacco Country. Women in scrunchies would perch their infants precariously on their knees to light up and tip me 5% because I’d “put down the hot plate too close to their baby’s hand.” Men would stumble out to their pick-ups after five coronas before I could meekly offer to call them a cab. (The blond, 90-lb. Rena, on the other hand, once shoved a lumbering hick onto the pavement in order to snatch back his keys.)

Then again, I wasn’t the brightest waitress back in those days. I once poured the secret XXXrta-spicy-habanero sauce all over the steaming fajita plate at a customer’s behest. The entire restaurant had to be evacuated when people’s eyes caught fire. I made an army of children cry all at once.

Nevertheless, I worked my ass off that summer and brought in enough cash to fund my extracurriculars for the next three years of college. When I was home for Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break, I was happily roped into shifts. Once in DC after college I signed up for a second job waiting tables at a bland but high-traffic “neighborhood bistro” on DuPont Circle a few times a week. And again here in Brooklyn, a kitschy French bistro called Moutarde.

Restaurant work keeps neurons firing in my brain that might die otherwise. The sheer physicality and pressures of it are somehow comforting - it feels like running a race, the kind where you cross the finish line with sore feet and $200. How many shifts you do and how hard you work is directly proportional to how much you make — a simple capitalist truism that is not always reflected in non-profits.

There I watch people get doughy and become masters of delegation. I watch people procreate and suddenly think they are entitled to leave work at four. I watch people suddenly be too good for certain tasks after a salary hike. I watch thousands of donor dollars being spent to coddle those same donors so they’ll give us more to spend on them. I exaggerate, of course; non-profits are full of talented people doing valuable work but there are thick layers of inefficiency in an office environment that would be excised by a thrifty restaurant owner in seconds. The contrast between the two worlds can put things in perspective.

Bartenders, busboys, wait staff, line cooks — the people you meet in restaurants are far more interesting than most. Many have creative pursuits, ill-advised tattoos, recreational drug habits, sordid tales from their past, and fascinating sex lives. And they’ll tell you everything. You'll learn more in 10 minutes than you’ll ever know about the colleagues you see five days a week.

Rampant sarcasm, sass, gossip, petty disputes, strong personalities, hook ups — these are the sine qua non of restaurant culture. Waiting tables exacerbates any judgemental, nasty and racist qualities you already have, but it also makes you better at hiding them strategically. Never doubt for a second that your server hasn’t pegged you for a good tipper or a bad tipper right off the bat, or that they don’t already know that you’re going to complain about your food after you ask for myriad substitutions that she has to plead with the chef for. Now, whether that means she puts in minimal effort and risks the self-fulfilling tip prophesy, or whether she vies desperately for your affection in order to disprove her own snap judgment, that’s another question.

I am the latter, boring into your soul from my perch above your table. Do you like the silent, stealthy waiter who anticipates your needs and keeps the table minimalist? The deadpan, witty type who gives it to you straight about the quality of the salmon? Do you want me to flirt with you? Because I will, oh I will. I will compliment your wife’s purse and flash dimples while I’m pouring your wine and make up stories about the awful mess the kids who sat here before you made so that you feel sophisticated and unencumbered. “Remember, wifey, when the kids used to be such terrors at restaurants? So nice to have some peace at our age. Bring on the crème brûlée! What a nice little waitress.”

Restaurants are a goldmine for twitter feeds and writing material - a human petri dish of social interactions and intimacies. I have seen dour-faced couples spend their meal on their respective smart phones. I’ve seen the adorable parents trying awkwardly to sweep up their kids’ mess, as well as the nasty ones who, I swear to god, must be encouraging their toddler to throw French fries on our floor.

I have watched blind dates, breakups, morning-after brunches. I’ve had crotchety 70-year-olds tip me 10 percent — only to have their mortified children come up to me after and press bills into my palm. I’ve watched poorly-endowed men impress their dates by ordering the most expensive bottle, only to have no idea what they’re tasting for. (Hint, you’re tasting to make sure the cork wasn’t compromised, not because we expect you to comment that it’s “tannic” or “oaky.”)

Waiting tables is not (surprise!) intellectually demanding. You just have to be efficient, organized and mildly articulate. And you need patience, serenity and stamina (read: cocaine, for some). The reason so many creative, scenester types work in restaurants — besides the flexible schedules and the decent haul — is that it doesn’t suck out your mental energy and soul like office jobs can.

I can come home from a Sunday brunch shift around four, my arms exhausted, my feet aching. But my mind would be alive — circuitry engaged by the physical demands of serving, like that runner’s high people speak of, or what yoga does to some. A bottle of wine and six hours later, I’d have several poems written, a few essays outlined, be in bed by 10 and ready for my day job bright and early the next morning.

My day jobs, god bless them, have noble pursuits (the environment, science education) but I am, and likely always to be, a mere cog in the machine, churning out memos and carefully crafted databases that are utterly crucial and utterly banal. I come home, my body flaccid and my brain withered away by ostensibly productive but uncreative pursuits, and all I can muster the energy to do is watch Law & Order and resew a button on my Ann Taylor cuff.

I could make more money if I quit my day job and waited tables full time. Don’t think I haven’t thought about it. But most of the other servers my age are saving up their money to go back to school and pursue their creative ventures full time. They have the courage and confidence in their talents enough to risk the career insecurity of an MFA (a Masters in Financial Anxiety, as my father would say) or the like. I like health care, and happy hours, and blazers with rolled sleeves so I can pretend I’m working up a sweat at my desk. And, if I were to give into my waitressing addiction, the Renas would be very disappointed in me, wherever they are now.

Jackie Kruszewski is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She blogs here and here and twitters here.

"Farther On" - Xiu Xiu (mp3

"Kitten Revolution" - Xiu Xiu (mp3)

"Juarez" - Xiu Xiu (mp3)


Monday
Mar122012

In Which We Revisit The Notion Of Music In Time

by BRITTANY JULIOUS   

On an unseasonably warm Wednesday, I worked from home and took breaks to walk around my Ukrainian Village neighborhood. I enjoyed Rhye’s “Open” before, but the warmer weather grounded the song.    

 "Open" - Rhye (mp3)

In early February, Rhye - a collaboration between Milosh and Robin Hannibal from Quadron - released the falsetto-heavy jam “Open.” The song is a smooth, quiet, and sensual jam indebted to Sade’s Lovers Rock. Every blog post I’ve read about the song misses this clear connection and it left me confused. Contemporary music criticism is built on references. A small review for one musician will connect the dots - or create ones that were never there in the first place. We often rely on knowing what came before. It allows us to understand the new music we are listening to. In many ways, it is a means of building substance in instances where we are not sure there is any. Sade’s “By Your Side” coupled nicely with Rhye’s soft song, and later I added Sinead O’Connor’s cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U." These are songs of comfort and tied to seasonal pleasures: the way the sun grazes your skin just so; the way the air is crisp and fresh, as if it’s been rejuvenating during the brutal and long winter months; the way everything tastes better.

"Night Forest" - Lapalux (mp3)

I purchased When You’re Gone, the debut EP by Lapalux and its maximalism worked until temperatures hit 60 degrees. That sort of intense, intricately-produced sound overpowers one’s moods. It works best when the cold seems neverending.    

"Fuck It None Of Y'all Don't Rap" - Evian Christ (mp3)

Late last year, my friend Gabe - a voracious listener who understands and appreciates the ways in which we produce and consume music - sent me links to Evian Christ. Christ was then anonymous and his anonymity admittedly made his music more interesting. Relying heavily on Tyga samples, Christ’s most captivating song, “Fuck It None Of Y’all Don’t Rap,” is an aggressive statement toward the state of a few years worth of haunting, moody, indecipherable, and often beautiful songs. “Fuck It” is not dismissive outright, but I know that the first time I heard it, I was taken aback by how infrequently I hear music that seems almost downright rude toward its audience. It’s not a cheeky first single like Azealia Banks’ “212” or a startling culmination of beats and samples like on Clams Casino’s “I’m God.” There’s a lot being said and the depth of aggression made many of the rest of the tracks on Kings and Them, Christ’s debut mixtape, pale in comparison. “Fuck It” was a move forward, and it’s difficult to move back from that point of visibility.    

"212" - Azelia Banks (mp3)

Azaelia Banks’ later tracks find the same problems. Imagine sitting in a black mesh office chair in a cubicle in an office that is poorly lit. You’ve been placed in this environment as your job and company is in flux. Sometimes it becomes difficult to discern the days and so you turn to the the clips and edits, mixtapes and soundbites.

I first heard Azealia Banks’ “212” in such a setting and it was her enthusiastic lyrics coupled with production by Lazy Jay that made the song such an instant classic for so many people. Banks has continued to release singles in anticipation of the debut album (Broke With Expensive Taste) she is currently working on and will be released sometime in the fall. But none of these newer singles - such as “NEEDSUMLUV” or “Liquorice” - capture the energy of “212.”    

That’s not to say that any of the songs are bad. They’re not. But the game Azealia plays is one that challenges the formula of popular music. Her singles always feature the production of emerging or eclectic producers (Machinedrum, Lazy Jay, Lone) and it is this dedication that showcases the inconsistency of her sound and aesthetic. Because she is new to the scene, she has the opportunity to figure out what works for her. Or, she can continue what she is currently doing, which is curating a sound that works much like a mixtape or iTunes collection. This is the best that’s out there, she’s saying. I’m presenting it to you right now.      

A week or two ago, the new online music site MTHRFNKR coined and embraced the genre name “arthouse,” a sort of catch-all for independent r&b and “intelligent” cross-genre dance and electronic music. A year or two ago, I would have cringed over attempts at naming emerging genres of music. But now the creation of genres interests me. The easiest route an audience can take is to criticize the creation of such genres and the idea that the music of now needs to be categorized and boxed in by a “term.”    

But when people ask me what types of music I most enjoy, when I say “classic disco” or “mutant disco” or even “90s r&b,” they know what I’m talking about. I don’t need to recite a list of band names. I’m not a facebook profile. And I understand why people try to do it now. Genres ground the music we’re listening to in many ways. It puts them in a place, in a time, in a setting, in a moment of history. It’s a way of thinking about music on a larger scale. It’s not just about this one band. It’s about these bands, these musicians, this moment and the way the world works and how we consume the things that matter most to us.    

"Climax" - Usher (mp3)

The greatest thing Usher could have done with his career is go back to his roots (singing) in order to create a song that sounds more original and interesting and unlike everything else out there. He has been a Top 40 singer moved not by his artistic pursuits, but by the force of the market. “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” was an embarrassment not because it was a bad song (taken as a whole, the song was better than the majority of the chorus-less, dubstep-driven singles of his peers), but because it was further demonstration of the sacrifices the Top 40 performer must now make in order to stay on top. Usher is no longer a 16-year-old prodigy of hard abs, baby face cheeks, and an overstated swagger.    

“Climax,” released with production by Diplo and orchestration by Nico Muhly, is the best single thus far of 2012. If it breaks through, it will be the song that brings the underground (a different underground, a non-dubstep underground) to the forefront. Like many genres and aesthetics, this can go a number of different ways and although I wish for the best, I understand that “they can fuck this up.” If this production and intonation succeeds, it will reinforce the appeal of a clear voice, a smart instrumentation and lyrics that beg to be memorized. This is “intelligent” music, through and through. 

photo by Zainab Adamu "Queen$" - THEESatisfaction (mp3)

“QueenS” by THEESatisfaction fulfills a similar role of charm and instant gratification. Members Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White’s song is so catchy that I was certain I had heard it many times before. It instills in the listener the sort of knowing familiarity of a perfect pop song.    

"Sayso" - Evy Jayne (mp3)

Evy Jayne’s “Sayso” is not a perfect pop song, but it perfectly captures whatever it is we call the music that’s been coming out of Canada: dark, lonesome, pained. I’ve been listening to the song for the past month or so and still can’t discern the lyrics. That’s irrelevant; this is music that plays to a mood. I don’t need to know what the singer is saying. It’s about the saunter in her diction, the wobble of the bass. It is a long song and sounds even longer the more you listen to it. It drags you in and won’t let go.    

"Nova" - Burial & Four Tet (mp3)

Everything I’ve heard from Four Tet, I’ve enjoyed. But I’ve never felt motivated enough to want to listen to a whole album. Burial works differently. Before first listening to Burial, I was told that his music was “important”, and more than five years later, that description holds true. Each new work fulfills the desire to listen to music that is grounded and substantial. Burial soundtracks certain aspects of life in the city: the moments before you open the door to a venue of sound and sensuality, the night bus home, the walks late at night to one’s bed. And “Nova” fits within this narrative scope, satisfying and emotive.    

photo by jason nocito

"Myth" - Beach House (mp3)

I maintain impossible expectations for my favorite performers. Unlike my reactions towards the latest Burial, while listening to “Myth,” Beach House’s latest single for their fourth album, I realized that I was more excited to be Hearing New Music From Beach House than the song itself. Fan devotion can mask the problematic aspects of a new song. “Myth” is a good song, but it is not great, and it pales in comparison to the strength of “Norway,” the first official single from Teen Dream.    

"Halcyon" - Orbital (mp3)

Earlier this week, Orbital released “New France”, a song featuring Zola Jesus. I admittedly never listened to the band before and so this first single was a chance to go back. “Halcyon” is probably the loveliest and one of the strangest songs I’ve ever heard. First released in 1992, the song is a classic electronic and acid house track.    

I have heard it described as a perfect rave song, a memorable moment for the dance floor. As I listen to it now, it fits in with most of the music I devour day to day. Created for what many unfortunately describe as a subgenre, the appeal and production mirrors the hip hop, the house, the pop that is heard everywhere from dingy nightclubs to radio stations. The soft vocals, the perfect sample, the euphoric beat. It’s a simple formula, but one that works. Created for ebullience, it is a classic, memorable, and addictive song. This is intelligent.     

Brittany Julious is the senior editor of This Recording. She tumbls here and twitters here. She last wrote in these pages about Party Girl. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

digg delicious reddit stumble facebook twitter subscribe