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Alex Carnevale
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Mia Nguyen
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Brittany Julious
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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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Entries in brittany julious (24)

Monday
Jun252012

In Which The Outfit Requires Control

Six Months of Sequins 

by BRITTANY JULIOUS

I

Winter never started. There was snow and ice on occasion, but what I remember most is the dull cold of late fall. We can see the effects of this now. A trip to the farmer’s market introduces higher prices and misshapen fruits or entirely missing vegetables. It felt like a respite from years before to have a winter that settled evenly, that was consistent from day-to-day. I thought about how I spent one year with my head always down, with tears born out of the wind by the lake. Spring never seemed so vital as during that winter. But manageable cold festers. We live in Chicago because we are masochists. We live in Chicago because we know it is all worth it. We live here with a small love of the brutality. If you can make it here, then you will realize everywhere else lacks something real and vital: the narrative of struggle.

The first blouse was purchased in early January, the day of my old friend’s birthday party. We don’t speak anymore. The top was perhaps a going away party, a means of framing the end of a friendship not because hate grew, but because who we are at 17 and 18 and 19 can never be who we are just moments later.

II

I spent the winter sweeping up black and gold and silver sequins. I leave a trail of glitter and sequins wherever I go. But each sweep is a reminder of what is to be accomplished: brighter days, laughter, a sense of peace.

This black top — structured, tough — hangs in my closet. I’ve worn it once. It’s too thick now for the summer heat, but when it was still bitterly cold only weeks ago, it felt just as wrong. What is freedom if not literal? There is the freedom of choice in which I choose to wear these things. And then there is literal freedom, to be free, to move swiftly and gently, or slowly and roughly. This blouse constricts. It requires straight backs, elongated necks. I’ve sat otherwise and the sequins and beads pierce my skin with precision.

Like many vintage clothing items, it was created for both literal and figurative control. Breasts are covered completely. But also, it can not be worn easily. A zipper in the back is for a lover. But I am alone like always, and so I zip haphazardly, with tools and trouble. I bend and shake until the job is done. And there I stand in this blouse, body set in place and even. I sat in the office of the director of a local dance company and the first thing he said to me was, “And you too were a dancer.” This is right, but most times my posture does little to give me away. I wore the top. It told of a past, a hobby, a possession of the body that had not been mine for years.

III

I love this dress. I love how it sparkles and I love the cut and the way it melts into my skin, as if it was made only for me. The moment of discovery was intense. It was exactly what I wanted, but was unable to articulate. Something lovely and beautiful and weird. Something that would not cost a lot. Something that was old and had history and character.

Vintage entices because of the imagined history of each dress or blouse or bag. But the way I wear clothing changes the longer I own a favorite piece. A lovely blouse becomes a form of armor, a means of protection from an outside world that conforms and questions. And each time the piece is worn, it is an attempt at recreation and affirmation. What was it like to wear for the first time? How did you feel? How pure was the moment?

All clothing options take confidence. Each blouse or skirt or dress is a statement of purpose. Not just who I am, but also who I want to be and what I want the world to see in me. We think of style — of outrageous style, of complicated style – as courageous. You must believe in yourself so deeply to be able to wear that shirt, those pants, that dress. But I wear those things and I visit a therapist once a week. This is my reality. I am playing at confidence at times, approaching self-esteem as performative. But from the performative, I can build an alternative reality, one that strengthens rather than destroys.

Clothing and style can function as a little pleasure, an everyday pleasure, and a way to appreciate beauty when it feels like there is not much of any in the world. I noticed - I notice - my affinity for things that sparkle and shimmer and glitter. I wear them day and night, but I wear them especially when it is cold outside, when I am feeling down, when I need something to feel good about, if for even a moment. The sequins and beads and sparkle are something nice to look at, but also personally defining. The sparkle is who I am, and if not who I am, then what I want to do and be.

IV

I collect these items to be surrounded by tangible manifestations of beauty and perfection. In the beginning, I saw Marion once a week. I didn’t realize I needed her as much as I did until I was unable to get out of bed one Tuesday morning. I went to work the day before, but I could not remember what I did or how I spent my time there. I used to walk home and the walk was long not because of the distance, but because the blankness of my mind made the measure of time an impossibility. I went to work the day before, but that morning my limbs were heavier than ever. My mind was heavier than ever. My heart, the heaviest. It was just weeks before at my friend’s party, just weeks before when the first blouse was purchased. The next day was unseasonably warm and I walked around my neighborhood with an eye toward the gleaming.

On the rack of a local boutique was a deep blue, sequined and beaded blouse, fluttering and designed to look like a butterfly. I spent the past two years eyeing these blouses suspiciously at local vintage markets. This was a different level of sparkle, one that requested confidence in its owner. The blouses are heavy. They are not to be worn. Rather, the blouse wears you. Long, thick arms and broad shoulders only showcase. The body is hanger.

“I love this. Don’t you?” a salesgirl asked. “No one purchases these, but they’re so beautiful.”

I looked her square in the eye. “Do you have anymore?” I asked.

A day later, I went to Smart Bar with two friends and someone tapped me on the shoulder as I tried to lose my sense of place on the dance floor. The beauty of the dance floor is the beauty of dance music in general. It is why dance music increases in popularity. It allows for an escape and provides a visceral reaction to the music. It takes possession again and again. It delivers you to another place and then you come down, and there is a chance, however small, that what was just felt can linger long after.

I turned around and it was the salesgirl from the day before. She gave me a hug, eagerly. I could not process her reaction.

“I’m glad you got this,” she said.

“So am I,” I responded.

Brittany Julious is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She tumbls here and twitters here. She last wrote in these pages about the hooks. You can find an archive of her work on This Recording here.

"How Can U Luv Me" - Unknown Mortal Orchestra (mp3)

"Ruin" - Cat Power (mp3)

Friday
Jun082012

In Which We Are Completely Surrounded By Others

The New York Review of Hooks Vol. 3

Because I am not a musician, I can pretend that musicians create music to fulfill the desires and wants of their listeners. It is a self-centered line of thought. Because of this, I imagine the winters in atmospheric, haunting, post-dubstep. I never have and never will listen to Burial in any other time than late fall. Emotionally, it makes little sense in the summer. Burial’s music is often described as the soundtrack to personal commuting, to urban life, to the individual in a world surrounded by - endlessly, constantly - others.

“Signal Loss” - Pariah (mp3)

"Rift" - Pariah (mp3)

I downloaded Pariah’s beautiful new single, “Signal Loss,” but have only been able to listen to it once or twice. This is not the right time for this kind of single, imbued with the heavy, daunting atmosphere of seasons past. It works, but I wish I had heard it in February, when this slightly uncomfortable, yet still gorgeous style of music couples well with the winter.

"This Can't Be A Crime" - Cocaine 80s (mp3)

The freedom of summer can never be underestimated. Summer is literally more daylight, more sun, more warmth, more comfort. Many of the songs on Cocaine 80s’ new EP, Express OG, create this feeling of comfort and familiarity. The more acoustic tracks like “Take My Keys” and the gorgeous “This Can’t Be a Crime,” fall delicately in listeners’ ears. Later songs on the EP are good, but overproduced in a way that stands out considerably from previously mentioned tracks. A light touch is all that is needed right now.

Summer forgives  all of the troubles that rest heavy in our minds all winter as we hibernate under the covers, in front of the heaters, beneath layers and layers. But summer is also the chance to see more, to hear more. People walk down the streets lazily. They have someplace to go, but not really. And surrounded by the noise of summer, music that compliments our depressed moods only complicates and confuses.

The songs that work best for right now – for the beginnings of summer – are the ones you can sing along to, at the top of your lungs, without worry or annoyance. And so, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” most certainly the best pop song written within the past year and quite possibly one of the best ever, seems appropriate.

“Call Me Maybe” never sounded cheesy to me. But my first instinct was to think of it as a song for people younger than me. I assumed that something so sweet and light and lovely could only have been sung by someone much younger, and only appreciated, truly, by young girls.

The song grew on me. And eventually I realized why it works so well for so many people: it is a perfect pop song. The idea of a perfect pop song usually encompasses one or two core ideas: an instantly-memorable chorus, simple lyrics, and love. “Call Me Maybe” accomplishes this and then some. The synthetic strings are contemporary, invoking the Balearic pop and disco of Swedish band Studio that made past summers so much lovelier. The lyrics, while simple, are smart and relatable.

On playlists, the song couples well with the perfect and timeless “Steal My Sunshine” by Len. Jepsen’s newer releases indicate a strong likelihood that “Call Me Maybe” might become a one-hit wonder, something that seems to have disappeared from Top 40 radio. A lack of artistry for many mainstream singers means that the radio hit, the instantly-purchasable single needs to be replicated again and again. This explains Rihanna’s career of the past two years.

"Manners" - Icona Pop (mp3)

"I Love It" - Icona Pop (mp3)

"The World Is Ours" - CatCall (mp3)

I felt that CatCall’s “The World is Ours” and Icona Pop’s “I Love It” were both fun upon first listening, but it wasn’t until the third or fourth spin when I realized that I had memorized nearly all of the lyrics and was hopelessly in love with their shouty, youthful, anthemic-brand of pop. Both songs have off-melodies. They sound incomplete, as if the resolution of the chorus is yet to come. But their aversion to a routine pop structure in the music gives them a bit of edge. The songs are just different enough.

"Neptune" - Lemonade (mp3)

Diver, the new album by Lemonade, is everything I ever wanted in the last Yeasayer or Cut Copy album: an attention to detail and melody, brief yet perfect instances of danceable fun, and a cohesive sound that is not just a collection of songs. This has been a constant problem borne out of the way we listen to music. Songs are to be consumed, one right after the other, without the clear direction of musical saturation. I often purchase one album in exchange for 30 individual singles. And each song has its own value, but as a whole, it only stands as "My Music Collection," and not as an album or a definitive statement.

Diver just works, and the way it works can best be understood by listening to the album. The charms though, are numerous: the sweet, almost youthful crooning of lead singer Callan Clendenin; the instrumentation that channels dance pop, straight house, and even r&b; and the relatable lyrics of youth, yearning, change, and confusion.

“Running” - Jessie Ware (Disclosure remix) (mp3)

Disclosure succeeds in ways in which their contemporaries have yet to accomplish. Their music is sample heavy, driven, and charismatic. But also, each song feels complete. A remix of Jessie Ware’s “Running” is the best argument for their skills. Ware - an enigmatic vocalist in her own right - was transformed into the House Goddess we all knew she could be. Her cooing intonation made impressions on danceable tracks from producers and performers such as SBTRKT, but it was not until Disclosure’s remix that the indelible power of her voice was confirmed.

Most everything from Disclosure’s new EP, The Face, was released earlier online. But together, it makes for a perfect package of smart, well-executed house and dance music. The incorporation of female vocalists (on “Boiling” with Sinead Harnett and “Control” with Ria Ritchie) was probably one of the best decisions they could have made, though their flawless taste indicates a level of intelligence toward their music that is far beyond their contemporaries.

"Harlem Shake" - Baauer (mp3)

We turn to dance music during times of confusion and upheaval. Perhaps we turn to dance music because a truly great dance song compacts euphoria in a only a few minutes. When necessary, we can turn back to what we heard before to relive the way it made us feel. Disclosure understands this as does Baauer.

I wouldn’t call “Harlem Shake” gritty. In fact, it seems to fill a certain formula. Everything sounds clean and well-executed. Despite its execution, something still sounds reckless. Or maybe, it easily summons past memories: late nights, sweat, dirt … a kind of beautiful filthiness one feels on the dance floor.

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


Thursday
Apr262012

In Which We Think Of A Reason For Our Trip

photo by xaviera simmons

Ripped Bodice

by BRITTANY JULIOUS

I used to work on the block where a man tried to force me into his car. This was not the first time.

The Rhona Hoffman Gallery, the reason for my trip, is located on a block of Peoria Avenue, off the expansive Randolph Street, and filled with other galleries and artist spaces. On certain Friday evenings, the block is bustling and busy with young people leaning against old meatpacking and industrial buildings smoking cigarettes and tying their shoelaces just so. I never fit in around here, even when I worked on this very block, day after day, during the fall after my college graduation. I never fit in around here, even when I visited two friends, former store owners, now embarking on the next chapter of their lives together outside of the city.

I think about this block because it represents different facets of my changing life and the way I see the world. That fall after college, it was a space of learning and responsibility. I hoped my job would lead someplace else. I hoped I had found a sense of place and purpose.

It was also a space of trouble, of quiet evenings and brisk temperatures. For a while, my greatest memory of that block was not the galleries and stores, but the way my neck hurt again and again while walking against the fierceness of the wind. It is a beautiful block, but like many corners of Chicago, it makes more sense during the day. At night, one realizes how long the blocks are, how wide the sidewalks are, how the only thing one passes by are more buildings and more pieces of trash, but not more people.

+

I began reading first romance, then erotic novels during my senior year of college. My interest stemmed from a love of fan fiction and a desire to both write and read beyond the characters I saw on the screen. I've noticed with my friends who appreciate either romance or fan fiction, a love of films and movies. There is the underlying devotion to storytelling and later, the ability to build on what was there. We can always keep going.

I like that the men represent a validation of my fantasies and my fantasies are not merely of the physical, but also of the potential for triumph, for personal redemption, for overcoming the things about ourselves — whether articulated and open or deeply stored within — that often delay the lives we want and the people we want to be. I think of myself as a woman coming back to her optimism. It was lost for a number of reasons in a number of different ways, but a part of me seeks out an interaction with the world that makes risks possible and chances worth taking. What I fear rests in me is a deeply-ingrained thought practice that ultimately makes living and loving seem like things other people do.

The black heroines in many of the novels I read are not traditionally beautiful, but they are interesting. They struggle and weep alone; keep their heads up and minds focused in private. They do a lot and feel a lot and often find peace through extraordinary circumstances that are more difficult than their lives pushing toward financial success and the desire to overcome a challenging society, a prejudiced society, an unforgiving society.

The ways in which I can overcome the world at large are through myself. I can not depend on outcomes of others, but must instead push myself to work harder, to think more, to pursue more. And in my favorite novels, the heroines must overcome the limitations of affection by challenging their willingness to love and trust.

+

The older I get, the more aware I am of how I lack a true understanding of normal. To me, normal is pure and right and exact. There is a real idea of normal love, of normal relationships, of normal intimacy. And even though a rational part of me knows that there is no way that a unique, individualistic, surprising world could produce a tried-and-true normal, I still hold on to the idea that there is a “right” way, and I am not doing it.

A friend once asked me what it was like to date as a black woman. She was asking not as a point of othering, but because I told her that “things are different.” We were discussing our parents’ relationships and how rare and strange it was that they are still together. This idea of marriage, of happiness, seems more like an exception to the rule of confusion, pain and regret.

Two years ago, a group of black teenage girls sat across from me on the 66 bus. An older black man, much older, at least in his 50s, began hitting on them, blatantly and disgustingly and physically. They were obviously turned off, because he was crass and because they were young, and this man thought that he could say and do anything he wanted to because these young women tickled his fancy. One girl, agitated, yelled, “I don’t care. Leave me alone! Leave us alone!”

It could have only been the culmination of years of frustration and annoyance because I too felt that anger and grief. This was not a random occurrence for them. This was the everyday, the day-to-day, the moment they stepped outside until the moment they locked their door.

There are slight come-ons, cheesy pick-up lines, catcalls which in hindsight are child’s play, and then there is harassment — physical and verbal — much like these teenage girls on the bus suffered, and what I’ve faced numerous times in the past. Harassment is different, and terrifying, and traumatizing. But once you’ve faced it, in all forms, whether it is a man calling you “A stupid stuck-up bitch” or another grabbing you off the street, a block away from your own home, attempting to rape you before you’ve even gotten your first period, you learn to toughen up, to always be aware, to call out the aggressors from the get go in the hopes that this time won’t turn dire. It’s not about hate but about safety and street smarts. As a black woman, unfortunately, I believe it’s something we become accustomed to at a young age.

It shapes the way you look at life and the way you encounter the people around you. If you are like me, it stifles your freedom, creating an existence of confusion. What does it mean to be loved? What does it mean to be happy?

I still think of the moment when everything changes, when that loss of youth shapes one’s days from here on out. It is that critical age of post-innocence, yet pre-adolescence. In my head, the other girls were able to still feel somewhat young and somewhat free, but I remember knowing more than I should, and feeling angry about it at 12 years old. Even now, I yearn for my age, meaning, the ability to be young and feel young and have that be enough. A co-worker said, “What do you have to stress over?” And I thought, most everything. It’s the same as it ever was.

+

Last Thanksgiving, we sat around my aunt's great big television — the place of common gathering for my family — and my grandmother tried to run her weak hands through my thick hair. She couldn't get far. She made a comment about it being unkempt and unright.

A friend shared a conversation she had with a mutual editor and they discussed not my fear of the body, but my fear of the expectations of the body. I am fearful that I lack ownership, fearful that my personality is not good enough or pleasant enough or funny enough to warrant love. If I only have the physical than these interactions must be representative of something inherent in me, something others see but I am unable to recognize or know. There is the me I know and the 'real' me, the me everyone else sees. That distance makes me uneasy.

At the holiday dinner, I tried to talk to my family. We’ve spoken before, held conversations and shared jokes, but the older I get, the more I recognized the full formation of my internal self. The older I get, the more I recognize my dual selves, the one that thinks and sees and feels so much that emotions manifest in stomach pains or stiff joints, and the one the world sees.

“I just don’t like it when people make comments about my appearance. I don’t like being touched without knowing,” I said. But what I actually meant was, I don’t like knowing that there’s something wrong with me, that it is visible, that what I sometimes feel and think deep down can be confirmed through appearances.

Brittany Julious is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She tumbls here and twitters here. She last wrote in these pages about the month in music. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

Photos by Xaviera Simmons.

photo by xaviera simmons

"Ruby Blue" - Róisín Murphy (mp3)

"Sow Into You" - Róisín Murphy (mp3)

photo by xaviera simmons

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