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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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Monday
Mar082010

In Which It's Good To See You Girls Getting Along

Call of the Wild

by ELIZABETH GUMPORT

In the mid-19th century, the federal government turned the Everglades over to Florida on the condition that the wetlands would be drained. Sugar cane fields and rice paddies replaced swamp. Frequent floods threatened the crops, so in the 1940s, the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project built canals and levees that made possible further agricultural and urban development. Water from the Everglades was diverted to the cities of South Florida, which grew rapidly during the postwar period.

In the late 1890s, fewer than 1,000 people lived in Dade County; in 1960, over a million; in 2008, over 2 million. This figure includes residents of Coconut Grove, a wealthy Miami neighborhood and home to the Ransom Everglades School. The school has its origins in the all-boys boarding academy established in 1903 by Paul C. Ransom, who stated that his students were those who “believe they are put in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it.” In the 1970s, the Ransom School merged with the Everglades School for Girls. The school has a sailing team, and offers courses in motor boating, canoeing, and boat building. Tuition is currently over $20,000 a year. Wild Things was filmed on its high school campus, which sits on the shore of Biscayne Bay.

The premise of the John McNaughton’s movie is this: good-looking things are good to look at. Wild Things begins in a theater: Blue Bay High School’s auditorium, where Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards in a stomach-baring baby tee; later, during a key seduction sequence, she wears jellies) looks with hunger at the man at the podium.

 

This is Sam Lombardo, the school’s beloved guidance counselor, a role that required Matt Dillon to wear his hair teased, gelled, and parted down the middle. Also on stage are two Blue Bay police officers (Kevin Bacon and Mimi from Rent), whom Dillon has invited to speak to the students about “sex crimes.” Behind them is a mural: blue sky, tangled vegetation. It is the kind of painting you used to see in museum dioramas, the backdrop to a scene of animal savagery: lion on gazelle, dinosaur on smaller dinosaur, wild creatures displayed for the edification of civilized ones. This is the working class, blue collar on show for blue blood, man on display for woman. “You’re a hired hand,” Kelly’s mom (Theresa Russell) snaps at Matt Dillon, after she fails to tempt him back into her bed.

In Wild Things, everything that could be a penis metaphor is. When Blue Bay’s principal brags about catching a barracuda, Dillon tells him the fish is poisonous. “It’ll kill you,” he says. “I could say that about most of the girls you date,” the principal responds. After both Denise Richards and her mom – wearing leopard-print lingerie – flirt with Dillon the movie cuts to a shot of an alligator speeding through the waters of the Everglades.

Female sexuality is as deadly as a swamp, the vagina an amorphous abyss that absorbs corpses without a trace. McNaughton aligns the landscape of Florida, in all its tropical excess, with the female body: theirs is beauty that burgeons into violence. Men who fuck around with it run the risk of getting fucked.

Eaten away by the Everglades, Florida is a drowned state, the end of America, and thus the ideal setting for a story about the end of American manhood. This is the tip of the country; this is a peninsula that pokes feebly at the ocean, which feels nothing.

The original script had Matt Dillon and Kevin Bacon making out in the shower. In an interview, Dillon expressed relief that the scene was cut, despite Bacon’s enthusiasm. “Kevin’s a married man,” he said. “I’m wondering, why he was so eager to do the gay scene?”

Women are not just predators but predators who camouflage themselves as prey. They claim power by feigning powerlessness. When Denise Richards accuses Dillon of rape, the DA believes her immediately. Only Mimi has doubts: “she’s acting,” she says, studying the girl’s statement on tape. It emerges that Mimi is right – the whole thing is a scheme to get Sandra Van Ryan’s money – but the best actress of all turns out to be Suzie (Neve Campbell), who is ostensibly even more disenfranchised than Denise Richards. Denise, at least, has money; Neve has none.

I wouldn’t have guessed Suzie was a sailor, Mimi says at the end of the movie, as she watches Suzie’s dad hook his daughter’s battered boat up to a shiny new car. Neither did anyone else, which is why they are all dead.

Men are from one side of the police department, girls are from the other!

Neve Campbell triumphs because that is what happened in the 90s and because she alone recognizes how seductive the surface of things is, how powerful a hold it has over even the most ruthless con man. People want the world to be what it looks like, and so from what they see they extrapolate what they want. A tooth becomes a dead body, the profession of loyalty genuine loyalty.

Everyone in Wild Things thinks they are tricking everyone else: even though I am not what I appear to be, you are; I have true depth, while you are as shallow as a swimming pool. This is the prevailing belief, the philosophy that determines strategy, despite its obvious flaws. If you are going to play the fool, you better assume all the other fools are playing, too. Success depends not just on the clarity of your gaze but the consistency with which you hold it.

In life, such thoroughness is rewarded; in art, thoroughness is the reward, the source of the audience’s pleasure. This is what it means to have an aesthetic, to have style, and from its opening credits – the font, a slightly italicized sans serif, resembles spray paint, or the porous white concrete so prevalent in South Florida - to the end Wild Things has it. It is a masterful example of maintained perspective, a totally realized world. Every lush tree, tangled with vines, every part of Denise Richards’s body, every swimming pool and sailboat: all serve to convince us the characters are right. Good-looking things are so good to look at.

Like Basic Instinct, Wild Things is a story about and by men who feel like victims, but McNaughton’s film is better-humored and less of a revenge fantasy than Verhoeven’s. This is the difference between the early 90s and the late 90s, when whatever threat feminism posed seemed to have been neutralized – “be comfortable with your sexuality” having become synonymous with “maybe have a threesome” – and the recession was over.

Wild Things was released in 1998, the height of the dot-com boom. Pets.com, Kozmo.com, and Flooz.com were launched the same year. A few years earlier, the value of all crops in the Everglades Agricultural Area was given at $750 million. Only 50 percent of the original wetlands remain.

Greed, not lust, is the governing sin of the fin-de-siecle Florida. “You think any of these women are going to marry you?” Sandra Van Ryan asks Matt Dillon early in the movie. Later, in the golden light of late afternoon, we see him checking out a woman in front of the Sun Trust Bank. For literally everyone – by the end, only about two characters aren’t involved in the scam to steal Sandra Van Ryan’s money – the money is the motive.


Playa more like PLAYER!!!!

The swamp is for the poor, the sea for the rich. Only the wealthy can afford to see the places in America worth seeing. Even after the market for real estate in South Florida crashed, the average price of a home in Coconut Grove was $800,000. If you want beauty, you better be ready to pay.

Elizabeth Gumport is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Baltimore. She last wrote in these pages about Bruce Davidson.

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"Chicago Train" - The Besnard Lakes (mp3)

"Glass Painter" - The Besnard Lakes (mp3)

"Albatross" - The Besnard Lakes (mp3)

Sunday
Mar072010

In Which It Only Happens Once Every Two Years

National Treasure

by AMANDA MCCLEOD

Although this will be the 75th Biennial put on by the Whitney Museum of American Art, I hardly know any person who is fond of the museum’s contemporary cross-section. If they are fond, they are fond only because it is an excellent platform for casting judgment against the new and seemingly vulnerable works that will be showcased. There seems to be something of a bitter taste for this particular art event indeed, but I have begun to wonder if this is just our own distaste for the present, or our distaste for the lack of cohesion in contemporary art.

These artists are not in any sort of historical canon (from which we could draw comfort or assurance of their work’s value), but in fact are flux both in their individual careers and in their literal placement in the museum. They are defined only by a curatorial duo, Francesco Bonami and Gary Carrion-Murayari, and the space in which they are given to show their work. There is no underlying theme to this show except this: "let us take a strata sample of the American art scene over the last two years and present to you what we've sifted and gleaned from the present culture."

"What am I getting myself into?" I wondered as I approached the Whitney’s inverted facade. Having read a mixture of reviews of the show, some scathing and some packed with praise, I felt nervous. This was my first Biennial. Usually the shows I frequent center on a certain theme, context, time period, or artist. Here, though, I would only be seeing the “now” of the art world. Oh boy. I expected to feel lost or dizzied by what I'd soon encounter, but walking around those familiar concrete floors I felt more like an explorer. Like Indiana Jones, but instead of looking for an arc or treasure, I was looking for an unforgettable work - something to zero in on and have an experience.

I had kept Baudelaire's The Painter of Modern Life in mind as a sort of lens by which to read what would be assembled to represent these last two years. I know that might seem like an irrelevant source, being published in 1863 and all, but I was soon to find out that one of the works shown was making similar use of Baudelaire’s modernity. Lorraine O’Grady’s The First and the Last of the Modernists is a series of diptychs consisting of paired photographs of Michael Jackson and Charles Baudelaire at similar ages and points in their careers. O’Grady series of paired portraits aims to guide us through each cultural figure’s journey, the height of their innovations in relation to modern culture, and the cost of these things on their personal lives. The champion of modernity was side by side with the king of pop and the feeling this gave me was quite an unsettling one.

This feeling continued, as near by one is confronted by Cadillac Miller-Meteor hearse playing a film through it's front windshield. A crowd of people faced the hearse and took in the calm narration, a scene that the Bruce High Quality Foundation (responsible for this installation) would have no doubt chuckled over. The installation, partially inspired by Joseph Beuy’s performance I Like America, and America Likes Me (1973), aims to both revive and lay to rest much of American (art) culture and myth.

Moving along I soon encounter Marianne Vitale’s Patron, a video installation that preaches the future of "Neutralism." Assertive, authoritarian, and surreal, this work permeates the exhibition and partially addresses my unease at formulating any sort of coherent opinion on just what exactly I am experiencing there in the museum. Vitale stares into the camera shouting orders and commands, effectively forcing us into her neutralist mentality. I find the experience of being berated by Vitale similar to certain passages of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, there's an unrelenting madness that jars your place in the present reality. Adjacent to Vitale’s video one is confronted further with the surreal in Storm Tharp’s inky portraits.

These visions are created through a process of contour drawing on paper using water, followed by the application of mineral ink to create intense gradients of light and color. After further manipulation through erasure or drawing, the resulting portraits are incredibly saturated investigations of human identity and personal narrative.

Throughout the show I became increasingly aware of a trend towards new mediums and processes, including a revival of classical mediums, as is the case with Jim Lutes’ egg temperas. Though his paintings begin as portraits Lutes feels that to paint a likeness is to “paint in opposition to the form, which is both the failure and pleasure of painting.” His works are luminous and filled with depth, allowing the viewer to search throughout the fluid layers of colorful paint. Another traditional medium I was pleasantly surprised to see was Pae White’s incredibly intricate tapestry. From a distance we can see the swirling plumes of smoke as a whole, but up close a whole other feeling of depth and texture overwhelms. Gorgeous pale purple, aqua, and deep blue cotton fibers were woven together to create this ethereal fixed vision of a ephemeral phenomenon.

Another work of considerable patience and detail is Scott Short’s large scale black and white abstract painting. What at first seems like a series of random marks, resembling a giant flock of birds perhaps or tv static, is later revealed to be a painstaking recreation of a (get this) copy of a copy of a copy of a piece of paper. To prepare for his canvases, the artist makes photocopies of a pieces of construction paper, and then makes photocopies of the photocopies, repeating the process until he reaches his desired abstraction.

The resulting abstraction converted into a slide which is used to project the image onto the canvas, which Short then recreates by hand with acrylic paint. This investigation of texture, fiber, office supply abstraction, and raw materials absolutely delights me, as does standing in front of Short’s sublime depiction.

Tauba Auerbach is another artist included in the Biennial who enjoys investigating the very nature of her mode and materials. Her paintings are created through manipulating raw canvas physically (through rolling, folding, ect.), flattening it out, and finally spraying the manipulated canvas with an industrial strength paint gun. Auerbach effectively captures the three dimensional aspects of the canvas while the paintings themselves remain flat, creating a playful tromp l’oeil statement on the very limitations of painting itself. I was pleased and reassured to see how much painting the show contained, with artists showing everything from the mythological to the minimal on canvas.

There was also a notable amount of installation and sculpture, in particular a domineering work entitled Baby by Thomas Houseago. The work is imposing with its vacant eyes and somehow yet fragile and disrupted. Partially plaster, part wood, part wire, part animal, part human, half crawling, half walking, silent but foreboding, Baby put me in my place effectively. The straddling of sculpture and drawing, fragility and weight, monumentality and spontaneity by Houseago, I felt, was extremely successful. Another installation by David Adamo suggested a sort of movement or presence, as though a certain violence had passed and we the viewer were left in the quiet aftermath. Scissors and axes imbedded into museum walls, canes whittled away to almost nothing, Adamo’s installation investigates the suggestive nature of objects in relation to performance.

Video artist Kate Gilmore also confronts us with themes of action and destruction, as she plays the sole protagonist in her performative video installation. Gilmore’s struggle is one that is self made, and her performances revolve around overcoming these created obstacles. Gilmore’s performance consists of the artist herself escaping from a self constructed sheetrock structure that encases her. As she kicks and tears her way out of the claustrophobic space, we notice that the resulting structure (tears and all) is adjacent to the projected video. That one can physically stand next to this pillar of sheet rock further facilitates the fantasy about being in the same predicament as the artist, one which is equally about terror and conquest.

Video art is a genre that I find to be equally appealing and challenging. Our modern attention spans seem equipped to digest anything in video format, and at the same time when narrative is lacking one has a tendency to drift off or make the assumption that what is being shown is nonsense. Packed with video installations, the Whitney Biennial did not disappoint in either department. There were those installations that I loved, such as Josephine Meckseper’s eerie video homage to the Mall of America, and those that left me unsettled entirely, as was the case with Kelly Nipper’s interpretive dance piece. Kerry Tribe simulates amnesia by utilizing two projects to play one film documentary on a medical patient who, in the 1950s, underwent an experimental brain surgery to cure his epilepsy, and as a result can remember nothing after the surgery. The use of two projectors and one film reel creates a 20 second delay, in which the film repeats itself over itself continually, disrupting a linear sense of time and narrative.

Of course, there were a handful of works which centered around politics and war. Stephanie Sinclair’s photography in particular stood out to me, most notably because the attention she garnered through depiction of female Afghani self inflicted burn patients actually helped the women themselves. Because of her images and the awareness they generated a new special burn unit was built in Herat, where the women she photographed lived.

This was in contrast to Nina Berman’s series of photographs of veteran Ty Ziegel, who underwent fifty reconstructive surgeries after being severely disfigured during a suicide bomber attack while stationed in Iraq. Although this directly brings into the light the horror of war itself, there is another horror present in the continual objectification of this particular marine veteran. Although Ziegel allowed the photographs to be made, often at ease and with no real direction from the artist, there seems to be something off. Ziegel himself does not seem to blame his military or country, and as I leave the series of photographs I find myself only blaming the artist for what feels like a sort of shameless objectification of one man’s suffering. I could be missing it, but Ziegel has his life at least, as compared to the thousands of others who no longer do.

All in all the Biennial felt balanced and enjoyable; I was never overwhelmed but never feeling underwhelmed either. The show itself was rather egalitarian, consisting of half female and half male artists. Compared to the relatively male-dominated Collecting Biennials show that accompanied the selection of contemporary works, this was refreshing. With works on paper, collage, canvas, sculpture, photography, installation, fibers, video, and even conceptual pieces, the show was thoroughly engaging and provided insight to how each medium is being utilized at present. I sincerely enjoyed the experience of passing through this survey of the contemporary, of encountering new things and investigating them. I think that’s something of the point though, to go and explore. To see something new, to have an experience or get lost, to open up a dialogue between yourself and what is new.

Amanda McCleod is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She tumbls here. She last wrote in these pages about Cy Twombly's sculptures.

"This Could Be Anywhere In The World" - Alexisonfire (mp3)

"I'm Stranded (acoustic)" - Alexisonfire (mp3)

"Young Cardinals (live @ Soundwave)" - Alexisonfire (mp3)

"Old Crows (live @ Soundwave)" - Alexisonfire (mp3)

Friday
Mar052010

In Which We Die Alone Apart From The Cats

 Turn Me Off

by TEGHAN BEAUDETTE

I recently made a giant list of turn ons and turn offs in a notebook. You know, in case I forget some. I’ve been told I’m going to die alone, and I accept this as an entirely real possibility. But modern romance is hard. Being in constant contact via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, texting and very rarely an actual telephone call makes it hard to not completely get sick of someone or immediately see what glaring social flaw they have that is the reason for them being single.

Things I have broken up with/almost broken up with boys over:

Breathing loudly while eating

Truth be told, breathing loudly while eating was only one of this guy’s many major problems. I overlooked many of them because he was a Brazilian god who worked in my campus restaurant and used to talk about amazing directors when he served me. But when I look back on the couple times that we had sex and the couple more times that we went out on real dates all I can remember is him huffing and puffing while he shovelled sushi into his mouth. Now, heavy breathing while eating sushi is sometimes very rarely but sometimes understandable, because, when I’m mowing down on an inside out California roll, I also have a bit of trouble chewing the whole thing and swallowing in one bite. Sometimes I feel like I’m suffocating. So going for sushi on a first date isn’t ideal. I gave him a pass.

Another time that is perhaps more telling was when we ordered pizza and he was sitting there, across the table from me in his parents’ basement. This was early in my college days and most people I knew lived at home. And living at home is far preferable to living with your ex (which, unless you’re a god damn Adonis, is also a deal breaker). So I didn’t judge him super harshly for living at home. I judged him for what happened after we opened that pizza box.

I took two bites of my pep and cheese when I distinctly heard wheezing. I checked again to see if he was running a marathon in circuits around the couch and the 1970s TV. He wasn’t. He was just eating pizza and wheezing. Needless to say, I put my half slice down, walked up the stairs and never came back. I couldn’t even bring myself to break up with this guy in person after a couple months of dating.

Bringing me to a party and ignoring me for a few hours

I met this hottie at a bar. Let’s call him Rick, because that was his real name. We went to the same college and we shared a penchant for witty banter and dive bars. He had a perfect face and perfect hipster hair cut, a range of incredible tattoos and a body that could only be described as delicious. The best part was you couldn’t even tell he had an incredible bod because it was always hidden under his amazing sweaters and t-shirts. He was like my own private playland. He even brought me up to a friend’s cabin at the lake after knowing me for about a month and asked me to be his girlfriend on a long walk. Sometimes hipsters breaking down a wall is just too precious for words. How did it end in disaster?

We went to a party and he spent the entire evening chatting up his far less attractive than me friend of his. I get this, and I’m a secure girl. But there’s a limit. There’s a couple hour limit. Once you’ve reached that limit, I throw back shots with some locals and walk up to the guy with the DSLR camera on his shoulder who’s looking all sorts of mysterious with his incredible glasses and crooked hair cut and I ask him if he wants to leave the bar and go skateboarding at 1AM. This will work. It always does.

The next morning I will return to our cabin, pick up my things, you will apologize profusely to me and even cry! Yes. It happened. All of it.

And you know that guy that I ended up leaving with? We dated for two and a half years after that night. Based on how easily I come to despise the men I find myself on dates with, it’s good to know my drunk rebound game is on point.

Telling me many women thought he was gay

Self-explanatory.

Being bad at sex and/or a subpar kisser

Subpar kissing is grounds for immediate dismissal. Subpar sex can sometimes be disguised as awkward sexual chemistry at first, and I have been guilty of keeping men around for way too long that are just bad at it. I will never do this to myself again. I would rather die alone.

Embarrassing myself in front of them

This is one thing that the men in my life cannot control. I occasionally break up with men because I’ve embarrassed myself so badly in front of them I can’t imagine ever showing my face to them again. This dealbreaker is reserved for guys that haven't already fucked it up in some other way; they are otherwise known as perfect for me.

Ethan (which is not his real name, because frankly, if you’re dating me, you want your identity protected) was exactly that kind of guy. He could wax poetic about Sartre and actually knew which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles plotline went with which sequel. He gave me a moleskin notebook on our second date and also thought we should wait to have sex. I ate that shit up.

All this to say, within about three weeks I was all sorts of hot for an incredibly handsome Irish bartender who (and this is perfect) was also a substitute teacher. There was not a single thing I noticed about this guy that I didn’t absolutely love. One night, after a few hours of dancing and drinking at the pub he worked at, I got way too drunk. My girls bounced to a club, and I bounced with them. Except when we got to the place it was all electrosynth club music so naturally I strolled right out of there and headed back to my usual haunt.

Trying to go back into the bar I was originally at to meet up with my ride home proved disastrous. I guess I couldn’t communicate my desire to come in clearly enough, because they actually had to go get my guy from the bar to tell me to basically get lost.

No matter how perfect your guy is, no matter how brilliantly handsome, witty, quirky and apparently inexplicably hot for you he is—if he works at your favorite bar, just don’t do it! You will end up drunk, outside the bar, telling him you never want to see him again because this situation is just too embarrassing for you. And you will have a third degree shameover the next morning.

Oh and in case you’re worried this story ends up with me in a gutter, they actually eventually let me in. I found my ride, made my way to another bar with my crew, partied for a few more hours and held it together. But the damage with my famous bartender was done. He now has all of the hand in our relationship because he actually took me back.

Telling me to put something down in a louder-than-normal voice

If you’re yelling at me over putting down a bag of fast food on your coffee table because you haven’t eaten in t-minus 2 hours, you can safely assume you will not be taking off this incredibly cute summer dress that I’m wearing.

Being a Republican and/or conservative

I don’t like to take sides, but if you don’t believe in universal health care I just cannot bring myself to sleep with you.

Texting me “hey” and/or “hey what’s up”

You can do better than this. And if you can’t, there isn’t a girl in the world who wants to know you. It should be noted that texting “What are you doing right now?” or “How is your day going so far, holmes?” is perfectly acceptable.

Things I would break up with boys over:

  • A bad smell. Any bad smell.
  • Sucking at grammar, colloquialisms or idioms.
  • Wearing socks during sex.
  • Bad shoes. Short pants. Either or.
  • Using a Bluetooth headset.
  • Acting weird about things that aren’t weird and other versions of trying to be cool.
  • Trying to be “wacky”
  • Having bad facial hair.
  • Saying monogamy is boring and other obvious statements that make me think you might have an STI.
  • Telling me you don’t like my haircut. For reals. I will cut a bitch.
  • Trying weird sexual stuff without ASKING first.
  • Judging me for indulging in pop culture (this includes top 40, house music, blockbuster movies, vampire tv shows, reality tv, perezhilton.com and anything else I didn’t mention but is occasionally awesome).
  • Asking to have a threesome. Do you know what I hear when you ask this? “I would like to fuck another girl, have you watch and you be okay with it. Can we arrange that?”
  • Owning a cat. That is ONLY yours and that you bought yourself.
  • Spooning me like a girl. I mean fuck, if our toes are touching, you’re doing it wrong.
  • Buying me useless things.
  • Being too old for me and trying to compensate by acting younger. Being too old for me on its own is okay though.
  • Being good friends with a bunch of bitchy girls. You know they are, and I don’t even want to get into it.
  • Not liking to cuddle. What are you, a sociopath?
  • Baldness. I’m really sorry about this one. But I’m really not.
  • Getting mad at me when I can’t figure something out. If we’re going to be together, you’re going to need to exercise your patience bone while I try to figure out how to get out of the fucking corner with my gun pointed towards the ceiling in Call of Duty.
  • Only caring about sex or not caring about sex at all. This is perhaps more troubling, and makes me very suspicious.

I’m actually totally okay with living a solitary existence. Can’t wait.

Teghan Beaudette is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. She is a writer living in Ottawa. She blogs here.

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"Animal (Peter Bjorn & John remix)" - Miike Snow (mp3)

"Let's Call It Off (Girl Talk remix)" - Peter Bjorn & John (mp3)

"Lay It Down" - Peter Bjorn & John (mp3)