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Alex Carnevale

Managing Editor
Kara VanderBijl

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Senior Editor
Durga Chew-Bose

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious

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 Take Anyone Who Speaks Our Language

Good Americans


The Cosmopolitans
creator Whit Stillman

Aubrey (Carrie MacLemore) is having a rough day. Her bedheaded French boyfriend, for whom she recently left Alabama to live in Paris, has banished her to the maid’s quarters. When he tells her that she can’t use the kitchen in his place anymore, either, she straps on a pair of heels and trudges along the Seine.

But that’s not the worst of it, because Aubrey is about to sit down at a sidewalk cafe with the only people in Paris who are more deplorable than her boyfriend: Hal (Jordan Rountree) and Jimmy (Adam Brody), fellow American expats who lounge around, complaining about French women.

And that’s about all there is to say about The Cosmopolitans. Oscar Wilde once said that good Americans go to Paris when they die, but according to Stillman, you’ve just got to be bored. Paris is the bright pair of shoes or the clever joke you bring to a party to differentiate yourself from everybody else, a word that means nothing anymore except for culture, pleasure, and wealth.

Hal, Jimmy and Aubrey have come to Paris in search of friendship and romance, which, even after watching the pilot, is still the only thing we know about any of them. They have no jobs, no roots, no ambitions: they flit from cafe to house party, glass of wine in hand, seemingly directionless.

Watching them is a little bit like trying to find your way around a foreign city at night when you’ve just spent the past twenty hours on an airplane, not sleeping. You want something to fall from the sky into your lap, like a plotline, or perhaps a conflict, or maybe a free pizza. You want somebody to come up to you and speak in English and lead you to your bed, where you will be able to dream of jokes that are actually funny and dialogue that actually sounds like people speaking to one another.

Expatriatism is all about imagination. We wouldn’t travel at all if visiting other lands didn’t mean exploring the alternate facets of our own personalities. Immature travelers spend most of their time differentiating their new experiences from ones they’re familiar with, asking, “Why isn’t this like what I’m used to?” These people are incapable of imagining the world, or themselves, differently. Seasoned expatriates create a third culture in which aspects of both their native surroundings and their new ones are integrated.

Aubrey, the token fish-out-of-water, is meant to lure us into Hal, Jimmy and Sandro’s territory, the third culture that they’ve created. Normally it’d be hard to believe that a woman on her own in a foreign country would comfortably sit with three strange guys at a sidewalk cafe. These things seem to happen naturally when you’re abroad: it’s like your ears have been fine-tuned to hear your language from hundreds of yards away, that you’ve been outfitted with an internal GPS that leads you to others like yourself.

Still, it’s Aubrey’s willingness to hang out with them that propels The Cosmopolitans into the far reaches of fantasy. Within a few minutes, Hal, Jimmy, and Sandro insult her drink order (sangria) and launch a smear campaign against Hal’s ex, Clemence, who, for all intents and purposes, seemed like a pretty decent person, just not into weird entitled creeps like Hal who are only capable of one facial expression.

Aubrey can’t see these red flags because she’s still convinced that her bedhead boyfriend wants to be with her. Perhaps she believes she’s living inside Beauty and the Beast.

It’s a pity because Adam Brody, of The O.C. fame, is genuinely funny, and he brings his open Seth Cohen face to this role. Unfortunately, this only serves to make the other characters, especially Hal, look like stock photography someone from Yale might use in an admissions brochure.

Of course, one might concede that in a foreign country, when you’ve just been dumped by your beast of a boyfriend and you’re all alone, you’ll take anyone who speaks your language or shows a sign of friendliness. In which case I’d like to tell Aubrey and anybody else considering this as a new fall show: stick to singing candlesticks and talking clocks. The Cosmopolitans may look good, but really, it’s positively primeval. Plus, Gilmore Girls just landed on Netflix.

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording.

"Hard To Love" - The Drums (mp3)

"If He Likes It Let Him Do It" - The Drums (mp3)


In Which No One Else Will Ever Get To See It

Intimate Sensual Pairs


After learning today that The Knife is breaking up, I'm super glad I bought a Stubhub ticket at the last minute to one of their Oakland shows earlier this year. It was their second performance in the United States in eight years, and now, apparently, it was one of their last. Best decision I've ever made.

The Knife had a hype man with them on their North American tour, and I'm sure he's there for their final Europe shows too. Wearing a codpiece and lime green mesh leggings, he led the audience through an official Shaking the Habitual exercise regime, demanding the audience shout “I am alive and I’m not afraid to die” as they did squats and arm routines.

It’s amazing how much physical stamina that dude had — it was a tough 20-or-so- minute routine — but he had nothing on the men and women who made up the show’s cast. The roughly 10 men and women wore matching jewel-toned jumpsuits, an outfit that managed to be both flatteringly feminine and shapelessly masculine, and when the blacklight hit them just right, you noticed their matching lipstick and nail polish, which turned dayglo orange. Everyone was dancing up a storm throughout the entire length of the performance, when they weren't not playing giant instruments that I had never seen before and that may not exist in real, non- Knife life.

After 10 minutes of this spectacle, I came to a realization that this was the queerest fucking thing I’ve ever seen.

Then again, The Knife has always been queer, even when they weren’t being as explicit about it as they are these days. Who could forget the sexless birdmasks, dark wigs, and black costumes of the Silent Shout era? Karin Dreijer-Anderson’s voice is female, but not necessarily feminine; in fact, its sharp quality, at times deepened by the production process, is often more alien than human. Plus her brother Olof Dreijer once told Spin that he won’t perform at festivals with lineups “that have no more than 50% people who identify as men.” (Notice the “identify.”)

But with Shaking the Habitual, the queerness was even more deliberate, not just lyrically (“Let’s talk about gender baby,” Dreijer-Anderson sings in “Full of Fire”), but musically and visually too. “You could say we are queering certain sounds,” Olof Dreijer told Pitchfork. “We learned about how you can play around with different scales and why a group of people have come to agree that one scale is more harmonious than another.” Replace the word “scale” with “sex” in that sentence and you’ll start to understand why cis-gender and cis-sexuality are considered bullshit by many people.

Meanwhile, in promo photos for Shaking the Habitual, Dreijer wore a long red wig, a jumpsuit reminiscent of the ones used in the current show, and heels that went much higher than his sisters. The music video for “A Tooth for an Eye” features a group of seemingly cis men, led by a girl in braids and a referee’s uniform, doing an expertly choreographed dance. Midway through, they form into intimate, sensual pairs, and no one bats an eye. The Knife has said officially that the video “deconstructs images of maleness, power and leadership.” When The Knife performed the Shaking the Habitual show previously in Europe, the outfits were less colorful but equally asexual, an amalgam of glittery spandex basics that walked the line between feminine and masculine, depending on who was wearing what.

The Oakland performance was as sharply arranged as the “A Tooth for an Eye” video. Dreijer-Anderson faded in and out of the foreground, sometimes taking center stage, sometimes falling to the back and letting one of the other performers lip sync, taking show’s themes of ambiguity and equality to yet another level. Dreijer-Anderson and Dreijer weren’t the stars of this show — heck, it was all so vague that I’m not even sure which one was Dreijer. (The siblings are also cleverly listed simply as “performers” on the show’s official cast list, just like their jumpsuited peers.)

During “Pass This On” — a song whose music video featured Swedish drag queen Rickard Engfors — the dancers formed gender-matching couples and tenderly tangoed across the stage. When the set closed with “Silent Shout,” the lighting changed, turning the dance team into a backlit clan of bouncing featureless silhouettes, literally gender-blinding the crowd in the process.

Basically, The Knife created a stage show where gender and sexuality don’t exist. It was like if Britney Spears’ Vegas act was hijacked by the cast of Cirque Du Soleil — if she had a degree in gender studies.

It's a bummer that no one else will get to see it.

Susan Cohen is a contributor to This Recording. This is her first appearance in these pages. You can find her tumblr here and her twitter here.

"Crake" - The Knife (mp3)

"Wrap Your Arms Around Me" - The Knife (mp3)


In Which We Drown Out Everything Else

Gentle Oddity Of A Person


The grass came from a gentle oddity of a person, a man deftly bearded, given to long monologues about music. “Is this your first time?” he asked, and embraced widely in benediction. My child. Sniffing at the mouth of an unlabeled prescription bottle, we clasped hands in childlike anticipation, formed a circle around the remains of birthday cheese and crackers, half-emptied bottles of wine. For the two menthols smoked earlier in the day – lungs clinging to the damp palm of an early winter afternoon – I felt a twinge of guilt. For this twist of green inside orange on the coffee table, we considered nothing except (naively): pipe or paper?


If you smoked in high school, you were confined to a yellow square in the courtyard. The people inside of this square did not exist. If they did, we simply conceded that they could not be smoking anything other than tobacco, a single cigarette no doubt filched from their parents’ pocket-crushed packs. I was twice invited to step inside the square, both times by a girl in my class with a proclivity to arrive at school in slippers. I declined twice, too keen on existing, fonder still of the triangle beyond the yellow square where the smoke wafted, intoxicating those of us who believed ourselves more saintly.

Now, they passed the joint to me – thin, wrinkled, illicit – and I smacked pious lips dry, pinched them to the end of it. Inhale. Hold. Hold. Hold. Cough. Yes? Again? An orange, stabbed with cloves, simmered on the back of the stove. Water whistled in the kettle. The apartment reeked. Nearby, a friend with a face pink like wine made snow angels on the hardwood floor. “Are you with me?” – she wept.

My brother had smoked once, alone in his room, hanging out of his window into a Saturday afternoon. When I knocked on his door, he yelled huskily, too quickly, “I’m burning a candle.”

“Wait, wait,” cautioned the more experienced voice as I begged for another hit, impatiently grounded. I had taken four in the space of fifteen minutes, twice stood up to go relieve myself nervously of tea and judgment. The deepest pleasures are prohibited; the only true saints are martyrs.

Since we firmly believed that smoking marijuana would be an entirely communal experience – not unlike sex, a joining, an instance in which mind, body and spirit collide – we found, with surprise, that rapidly elapsing time and appetite and tension fell like weights, pushing us until we were awkwardly seated or lying on large cushions, half on the floor and half on the sofa, separate. We had not speculated beyond our fabricated truth. I went to the bathroom mirror and inspected, in the dark, whether or not my eyes had closed to slits.

What happens when saints burn? A slice of brain just behind my forehead unpeeled itself, like lazy adhesive, from my skull. As the gray matter between my ears pressed first near the back of my head, then forward to heighten the pressure behind my eyes, my skeleton stiffened further, hung skinny as from a hook in a sleepy biology classroom. A right forearm resting gently on the burgundy leather of the sofa appeared to be detached from the rest of my body. Seated, body down to my knees buried in the recesses of a tired couch, arms resting heavy at my sides, I did not believe that I could move if I wanted to. Below the altitude of scrunched-up sweater sleeves, hair rose curiously in response to a passing draft. Otherwise my hand looked small and white and completely made of marble.

Is this what they mean? – Stoned.

“I can’t move,” I told my friend, voice lowered. She twitched; I took on faith that I was high. Cynicism, which replaces guilt in the brain for pleasures felt in the body, prevents me from believing I truly sense anything. For example: it was not love that I felt at the age of twelve, that soft twitch at the center of myself in the not-quite-gut but not-quite-groin, palms resting on electrified knees, watching a boy’s face cast a man’s shadow on the wall. Truly Drunk, toes dancing bare across spiky grass into a summer evening, would not wonder rationally at the degree of her intoxication. Guilt produces nothing, says my brain, but cynicism produces a sort of false wisdom, a wobbling spirit at the edge of a cliff that believes it knows what it is like to fall.

My head hovered, disembodied. Gravity pulled neatly at the center of my forehead and at the shadows underneath my eyes. I stood up to walk to the kitchen and undid my muscles when I sat back down, movement forgotten. Not unlike (rationally, I sketched similes) drinking really strong tea while sexily hungover on an unchurched Sunday morning. That, and the summer-camp feel of pool water in your ears, drowning out your friends’ shouting and crying and the music on the radio.

If it was the drug that chiseled me out of a corner of the couch, lifelike, then it was the presence of others that confirmed my non-presence, the blank of my curves against the backdrop of the apartment. In the halo of lamplight, I knew that I could remain without life or motion for years. Around me, couples would kiss for good luck; children would drop pennies on my stone toes. Wax dripped poetic from a candle onto the coffee table. Unmoving, my eyes greedily thumbed off a pinch of crusty baguette.

One of my uncles, an alcoholic, golfed. When I saw him, polo and khakis pressed, I could not imagine him true – violent, uncontrolled. In the wastebasket of his bathroom trash there were bottle caps, cigarette butts. He smelled cleanly stale. His face was tanned, an unmoving mask.

There are a number of safe things that can bring, you back into awareness of an untrue self – the expanse of a green lawn, the neat swing of metal. But loneliness colors every true intersection of mind, spirit, and body; in your fullness, you cannot join to anyone else, unaware as you are of yourself. There is no opening. When my friend began reading the Tao in soft tones – when we had consumed poem after poem, pita chip after pita chip loaded with hummus or some other non-descript, pre-packaged dip – we thought we had come off the high, as if it would wear off immediately. Once again we cared for each other enough to join hands. Once again, we veered slightly off in the aftershock of full self. What we had understood intuitively moments ago, we spoke awkwardly into memory.

When saints smoke pot, there are rules to be followed: lips as dry as prayer, hold the smoke sacred. Fullness, in art as in life, is the over-edited: a concept best represented by sculptured altar pieces which the wax candles adore. Know the raw silk, hold the uncut wood, implores Lao Tzu. Move.

Jennifer Russo is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Ann Arbor. This is her first appearance in these pages.

"Head Under Water" - Flyleaf (mp3)

"Well Of Lies" - Flyleaf (mp3)