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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)


In Which You're Listening To The Quiet Storm

The Return


We were in the car, most always coming from rather than going to, and no one spoke, which was strange for a family as passionate as mine, and for a child as inquisitive as I was. It was dark except for the street lights which increased in number the closer we go to our home. My sister usually fell asleep as soon as we pulled out of our parking spot, but I felt antsy, and was eager to find sleep in my room, which never seemed as perfect as in those minutes we spent coming from, out on the road. The evening had settled and the only destination after parties and dinners and clubs was the comfort of home. Quiet storm would soundtrack that transition, the in-between of two, successive major events.

There were others, I'd imagine, but I most remember Ramsey Lewis' voice on the radio — all honey-drenched and welcoming — and how it resonates with me now after all of these years. I wish I could remember what he spoke of, but back then what I focused on was not particular. His voice was a complement to the expressways of Chicago, coming North and West, and the main boulevards that divide Oak Park from the parts of Chicago that my grandparents live in, and that I called my own whenever I sought authenticity among my peers.

At 23, I am re-discovering this music that I grew up with, but I could never call my own. I listened to it as it lulled me to peace in the car, or at night during the end of a barbecue as we prepared our plates of my grandmother's macaroni and cheese or my father's ribs. It was music to bookend our festivities, to find respite after salutations. 

A part of me still believes that my parents own quiet storm. Back then, when I was a little girl, they certainly did. The believed that we were asleep drink those trips back home. I sat quietly in the back seat watching my mother sing along, occasionally off-time. I liked the way my father snapped his fingers to a song with a most perfect groove.

I didn't ask my parents about their music until I got to the age where I wanted it to define me. And then, I scoured their collections for proto-House and mutant disco — sounds that were already aligned with my burgeoning tastes. Attempting to describe the songs now seems misplaced an effort. I hate to admit that to me, each one has a homogeneous aesthetic that blends from one song to the next. But my memories of that time are shaped less by specific incidences and more by the ideas and themes that shape how I remember the past. To attempt to talk about the past is to frame the events of my childhood and adolescence as stories with a narrative arc that is resolved. Every piece is continuous. The things that happened then continue now. My stories of the past are sculpted glimpses of what once was. And quiet storm was full of adjectives of aesthetics: warm and then icy, sparse and heavy.

Sade was my favorite. In my mind, Sade did not exist, for even now it is impossible to imagine a voice like that — endlessly haunting, deep, provocative — could have been born into this world. I performed in choir, where my voice was trained for the sort of staid clarity and elegance that couples well with classic arias and Broadway showtunes. Her voice whispered in my ear as if she and I were alone. It is still difficult for me to discern the reality of her music. It was made — is made — for a variety of different audiences who want to cherish her as his or her own. Sometimes she sings and the words seem more personal than incidental. Back then, I would look out the window and "Smooth Operator" would play and I would resist turning my head away from the passing scenery of the urban and suburban environments I called home. To turn away from the window would mean recognizing that Sade was not — despite my hopes — wedged between my sleeping sister and I, providing a live, personal soundtrack for our ride to our house.

My mother cherished Luther Vandross similar to how she cherished Marvin Gaye. I can't remember my childhood without remembering his music. My mother used to grip the steering wheel and stare straight ahead while singing Vandross' songs. She sang as if in a trance, connected to Luther with an invisible bond. I stayed quiet while observing her listening to him. His music seemed “above” everything else we listened to during quiet storm. I didn't mind.

The day Luther Vandross died, my mother picked me up at night from my sales associate job at the Marshall Field's in Oakbrook, Illinois. Unlike my peers, I did not obtain a driver's license until I was seventeen years old, on the day before my senior prom, and even then, only because I was forced to do so. My parents never added me to their insurance that summer before freshman year of college and I did not question their reasoning. Despite my initial hopes, the prospect of starting over again, without the comfort of the suburb that I loved but openly claimed to loathe, became a daunting reality I would inevitably not be able to handle. So those summers we rode together.

That evening she gripped the wheel real tight, and then she shook her hands as if flicking off excess water. I hadn't realized what happened until three of Luther's songs played on the radio in a row - a sure sign that a musician was ill or had passed.

"He's gone?" I asked.

"Yep," she said, with more anger than sadness. It was not just that he would no longer make any more music. Something changed fundamentally in the way she could and would listen to this music. Something sad and heavy would cloud his work, at least temporarily. For her, and eventually for me, the must was not just about the transition from activities outside of the home. There was a musicality beyond the visceral, lyricism built on more than the incidental.

After graduation, I moved back to Oak Park where I spend more time in cars than I do walking. And before coming home, I couldn't discern that my interest in quiet storm music was not just nostalgia for nostalgia sake. As I get older, I more and more idolize the memories of my childhood. The experiences are so rare now — the freedom to do nothing all day and feel no guilt and shame, the constant feeling of love and warmth, the near-insatiable hunger for sugar cereal and sweet taffy — that my memories of back then are greater in emotion than in detail. Before moving home, my memories of quiet storm focused on the sense of relief I felt leaving my father's side of the family who, even then, began to recognize that I would grow up to be a little more inquisitive, a little self-righteous, a little different. It was the conclusion of the evening, the moment of winding down, of unloading the experiences of the hours before the car ride. During college, my CTA or cab rides home at 3 in the morning were similar, but there was an element of weariness stemming from the presence of strangers that made listening to any sort of music at that time more like a defense mechanism. In Oak Park, my mother and I can bond over the cadence in Luther Vandross' voice or the weight in Anita Baker's intonation.

I follow music blogs that occasionally traffic in resurfacing these quiet jams because so many contemporary musicians unsuccessfully attempt to emulate an aesthetic born out of necessity and availability. More likely, I suspect the authors are my age and as they continue to look forward while consuming music, they also look back and discover that the fleeting pleasures of today are no match for the heady joy and memories of the quiet of late nights back then.  

Brittany Julious is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about the tragic Black woman. She tumbls here and twitters here.

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This Quiet Storm-themed playlist includes jams by Roy Ayers, Luther Vandross, Sade, Lenny Williams, The Gap Band, Marvin Gaye, and Smokey Robinson's “Quiet Storm,” the song that started it all.

the Quiet Storm playlist (mp3)


In Which We Ever So Tightly Grip the Glass

And the Divine


I am a Tragic Black Woman. Don’t let my confidence, or self-esteem, or self-assuredness fool you. Everyone else believes this to be so, and so it must be true. Unlike the average Black male, I am not part of a “dying population” so much as a future bereft of happiness, wealth, and love. Love is the kicker, you see. It is what it all comes back to, and the media – the newspapers, the magazines, the television shows, and the bloggers – are making sure that I don’t forget what it all comes down to: my lack.

It is not a health ailment as much as it is one, something that befalls me from birth, a “burden” I must carry as I mature. It is the color of my skin, the stereotypical physical attributes I took on without control in the matter. You see, the Tragic Black Woman is not so much a new phenomenon as a re-introduced one. She is a character to bemoan by the Black female population as much as a character to pity.

lorna simpson

If you are my mother, you exist outside of the online media universe, and so these articles and the angry blog posts they create, are things that she does not understand. But if you are like me - a former aspiring journalist, a current publicist, a person with a voracious appetite and a wealth of outlets to consume essays and articles and rants - then it can quickly become all you think about. I am without the privilege to read such information and not get affected. For a while, the Black woman as nonfiction character was blatantly ignored, and so these reports, however emotionally debilitating are still…still interesting (to say the least). We seem to be in vogue and so every week, something else comes out to remind us of our place. You are a subject of our fascination, yes, but there is still something to be left desired.

Unlike my white peers, we all fit under one umbrella. It does not matter that I know many women not like the articles. As a Black woman, as a woman of color, your public identity is homogenous, regardless of how much you may argue. If something fits within the popular idea of what it means to be Black and female, then it will be accepted, and if it does not, then its existence is a matter of who chooses to seek it out. I frequently stomp my feet at the number of gross, misguided, stereotypical and ultimately troubling articles that suppose who I am, and how I feel, and what it means to be young, and Black, and a woman, and yet I am boxed in, something to be pitied from birth. And unlike weight or hair color, the circumstances of Life While Black (Female Version) are so binding that the most open-minded of friends and colleagues but especially writers can’t help but perpetuate the myths (of our lack of beauty, of our lack of wealth, of our lack of wealth).

And unfortunately, these articles also perpetuate stereotypes about how unfeminine and without value Black women are. Without total regard for a modicum of accuracy, they instead perpetuate the idea that Black women are inadequate and will never live up to the successes (however miniscule) of our peers.

When the movie Precious first came out, a small uproar came from certain members of the Black community. Yet another Tragic Black Woman? Yet another sad tale about what it is like to be Black in America? And, yet again, we are praising this stereotype and routinely ignoring anything that does not fit within this mold. At first I rolled my eyes and thought, here we go again, criticizing one film as if it represents us all.

But now, after being “reminded” of how unloved I am, how physically unattractive I am, how desperate I am and how worthless I am, I can’t help but take a step back and try to grasp the picture that has developed. If the only positive public representations of women in my race are a billionaire talk show host and the First Lady, I should feel grateful, and yet I stand confused. These women to me are almost unreal. Their race comes second to everything they embody and for an average Black woman like myself, that is difficult to grasp. The stories about what it’s like to live in the middle of these two public figures – the Tragic and the Divine – are simply not there. Without them, I am left confused, angry, and subject to the opinions of those only familiar with what populate the media the most.

One night, I sat at a bar with a good friend and we discussed things you normally discuss when you’re twenty-two: friendships, job prospects, and relationships. The dating thing always seems to come up. It rears its head, and eventually the conversation stays there, stuck in an endless loop of griping and frustrations, miniscule problems overblown in the time between when they actually occur and when we confer with friends on the nature of our grievances. I remember drinking a really good, really sweet beer, something that was reasonably priced and would appeal to my candy-coated palette. I remember holding the glass, gripping it real tight and nervous-like, afraid of what would happen if I let go and needing something to do with my hands besides wring them dry in apprehension.

Sometimes I do this thing where I bring up a subject to stop thinking about it entirely. I am not looking for an excuse to further a conversation but a means of quickly expelling the thoughts that have run through my mind since first thinking about them. It is a means of not grazing the surface in conversation, a less and less sporadic oral retardation of this generation.

And so I began talking about dating and self-esteem and what it means to be a Black woman, a Black woman in the United States, a Black woman in Chicago, a hyper-segregated metropolis of epic proportions. It all came out very rapidly until I finally stopped, and then I tried to change the subject, but my friend did this thing with her head, a small tilt, and she blinked very quickly. She sighed the sort of sigh that represents not understanding or sympathy but pity that translates to, “Oh how sad for you.”

Apparently, just living and breathing near her, interacting as an old friend was not enough to convince her of an alternative to the narrative. “I read a lot about that. It’s different, and difficult, right? I know…it can be hard…for you,” she said.

Brittany Julious is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She tumbls here and twitters here.

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"Thunderbird" - White Hinterland (mp3)

"Begin Again" - White Hinterland (mp3)

"Icarus" - White Hinterland (mp3)


In Which We Are Surprised At Ourselves

A Spike Lee Grew in BK


Rosie Perez, in impossibly tight clothing, jukes to "Fight the Power" by Public Enemy. It's Brooklyn, or at least a re-creation of it, and as she dances alone, angry and with impenetrable gusto, you quickly realize, before the film has even begun, that Spike Lee's best joint is also the best film of the '80s.

Straight forward, Do the Right Thing is a film about doing the right thing, whatever that may mean. Buggin' Out, all thick specs and Kid 'n Play haircut says, "I'm just a struggling Black man trying to keep my dick hard in a cruel and harsh world," and as a 20-year-old Black female from the burbs, I somehow get that.

What does it mean to do the right thing when street violence plagues your neighborhood and the only applicable justice is vigilante justice? What does it mean to do the right thing when hundreds of years of violence, racism and slavery have immobilized an entire population from somewhat recovering in the face of "get over it?"

What does it mean to do the right thing when you can't even open up a business on your own block? What does it mean to do the right thing when, despite your friendships, the most problematic and inopportune of situations inevitable clouds one judgment, stripping away rational thought and instead, replacing it with "us vs. them?"

Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing came twenty years ago on the tail end of a decade of mental deterioration, social destruction, and cultural extinction. A means of shedding light on and telling one story for a population systematically ignored, it rattled a hell of a lot of feathers and left a sour, near-painful taste in the mouths of the sect who would have the means to watch the film in theaters, though not personally relate to its context on the sort of visceral level that the average Black American would.

It seems fitting that Lee, as Mookie, was the star of the film. It was completely his story to tell and like a gust of strong wind or a punch to the gut, Lee reflected on the past with a touch of humor and a ton of responsibility.

On the cusp of the politically correct '90s, Do the Right Thing spat in the face of social apathy, two years before the residents of South Central LA did the same thing.

Brittany Julious is the senior contributor to This Recording. She writes at Glamabella and Britticisms.

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"Of Moons, Birds and Monsters (Soft Rocks Late Night Screening Mix)" - MGMT (mp3)

"Of Moons, Birds and Monsters (Holy Ghost! remix)" - MGMT (mp3)

"Of Moons, Birds and Monsters (Modernaire remix)" - MGMT (mp3)

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