Question of

Goldmund – Evelyn

This is the way of all rom-coms: you will love someone, when you’re young. They will break your heart. You will meet them again, in the city, when you’re older. Things will be different. Your friends, sassy and otherwise, will tell you, hey wait, isn’t that–the one you told us about? Shouldn’t you–be a little wary? Pish-posh, you say, or maybe: fuck off. You abandon your friends for the hard drug of resurrected first love. Things are good. Then there’s a betrayal: out late with a co-worker, laughing it up? Or a misunderstanding that turns into an epic three-hour argument, replete with citations of past domestic sins, name-calling, and long, hateful rhetorical pauses. Suddenly it’s raining all the time everywhere. You get fired. Catastrophe. You keep hinting to your friends that they should go retrieve your first love, maybe, you don’t know, throw you a surprise party where the first love is hidden behind the offer letter for a new job. But your friends aren’t speaking to you anymore because you told them to go fuck off in the first act, and now there are no third acts in American rom-coms. Homeless, friendless, jobless. Not an outcome you had in mind when you friended your first love on Facebook.

[Buy the Malady of Elegance]

What’s Up, Jackal?

Oneida – The Eiger

N.B. I know people see ‘Oneida’ and think either: ‘flatware’ or ‘noise rock’. Please believe me when I tell you that “The Eiger” is definitely one of the prettiest songs released in the last decade–for the string arrangements alone, that would be the case, but the singing is also right on.

This is a song for alpinists! “The Eiger” alludes to an earlier period when certain sporting activities still contained some elements of formality and etiquette and were reserved for only the priveleged (not that there aren’t sports like that now). “The Eiger” is also terribly romantic–the narrator talks about the mountain itself being all-consuming, first as ‘a whole wide world’, and then ‘my only world’, but then contrasts that passion with the aforementioned scenario in which he dies and never becomes acquainted with the ‘pretty little German girl’ featured in the first line (the phrase ‘pretty little German girl’, by the way, is enunciated in such a sweetly rhythmic way–it locks into the systolic movement of the strings so well).

There is also something distinctly Clint Eastwood in this song. Not many people know about “The Eiger Sanction“, the 1975 thriller in which Clint plays Dr. Jonathan Hemlock, art teacher/collector who finances his monstrous art addiction by performing small assassinations and by also climbing huge and dangerous mountains. But how can you discuss “The Eiger” without also mentioning this cinema classic? Impossible. George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke, Naked Gun) turns in the performance of a lifetime as Ben Bowman, the old (and possibly treacherous???) friend of Clint’s character. I can and will recommend this movie wholeheartedly to you, but I can’t help but think it might have been 100x better if Clint had somehow managed to work Oneida’s “the Eiger” into the movie (perhaps by singing it?), despite the fact that the song was released a full 30 years after the movie was shot.

The last part of Oneida’s Thank Your Parents trilogy, Absolute II, is coming out soon. You can listen to “Horizon” from Absolute II over at their bandcamp page.

[Buy the Wedding, you won’t be disappointed]

Passerines at the Prom

Chancha Via Circuito – Cumbión De Las Aves

Did Sócrates play soccer, I sometimes wonder, or perform soccer, maybe? To say he played feels too simple, and suggests that he dabbled in it. Children play. Kittens, puppies, play. It always seemed to me that meant there was an element of the willy-nilly, of purposelessness. His performance on the field was entirely purpose: self-commanded, dictated from his mind to his body. Conducted. That is closer. He conducted soccer. Sócrates made moves on the field, with purpose, that I recognize I could never perform even accidentally. I could stand on a field with a ball for the rest of my life and practice and still never do by chance the things he did by his own will. The man himself instructed me as if I were his own child, and I could not then, at the height of my physical abilities, nor can I now, at the height of my soccer understanding, execute many of the maneuvers he did unthinkingly—as a breath is drawn or blood is pulsed. He once said, this time, after a qualifying match with Paraguay, that he could perceive the entire field at once, forward and backward. Like a rabbit, or a cow. This sounds impossible to you, I guess. That game was played before you were born, and many wonderful things happened before you were born.

[Buy Rio Arriba]

Rothko Roth and Co.

All Tiny Creatures – Cargo Maps

Dismissed the Editor told us. My knee had locked itself in place and become numb due to its position, so I told my colleagues to proceed without me and incited my leg into action through blows, curses, and Rumpelstiltskian stomping. When I rejoined K, O, and C, on the way to one of our official cars, they asked me what I thought about the orangery and everything connected with the orangery including the timing of our posting there. Any bad day out of the office building is better than a good one in it, I said, offering a variation on a popular workplace maxim. K, O, and C did not immediately concur, so I said I would drive, an offer I knew would create perhaps minutes of jockeying for the front seat since there are few joys in life quite comparable to riding shotgun in a government-issue stretch Hummer, my company car. The drive out to the orangery lasted an hour and a half, through woods with trees denuded and seemingly whittled by wind and rain, into an area of Maryland that C called the back of the back of beyond. K said you can’t call it that, it turns the whole thing into a double-negative and so it becomes the front of beyond, which I would think is just the horizon. It’s the back half of the back of beyond, said C, which is different from the way you’re thinking, which is strictly Euclidean and false.

[Buy Harbors]

Penny farthing

Turing Machine – Flip-Book Oscilloscope

The Mystery of the Indeterminate Water Ice

The fourth investigator was David. He brought us the mystery of the water ice. Was it cherry or strawberry–or some more exotic flavor? Each of us took a bite. We all used the same paddle-shaped wooden spoon. No one could tell which flavor it was. The red narrowed it down, but not enough. “Not watermelon,” Peter said. “And not plum,” Matthew said. No one thought it was fucking plum, I thought. “It’s got to be cherry, guys,” Matthew said. David grabbed the cup and sipped from the melted red runoff juice. “Strawberry.”

Everyone died that night from poisoning.

[Buy A New Machine for Living, which may be, technically, the first DFA record.]

Pop rhetors

The Last Royals – Crystal Vases

Ahem: this song, which like the Limousines track occupies a prominent place on Sirius radio’s various playlists, contains a perfect example of anadiplosis (repetition of the final word of one sentence at the beginning of the next). Who said classical rhetoric was dead? It’s not dead, it just shows up in the lyrics to weirdly smooth cosmopolitan-fantasy songs. The subject matter here is like, uh, close to someone’s attempt to write an outtake for Royal Tenenbaums, maybe? There’s a divorce, a Park Avenue apartment, a maid, lots of cigarettes, and a crystal vase.

I’m most interested in the maid, who’s said to be the narrator’s only friend–mostly because she’s always there to “apprehend the dust and grime that settles in around the crystal vase.” Are they equivocating on the word “apprehend” though? Like is it not that the maid ‘seizes’ the dust, but that she ‘understands’ the dust? That the maid understands the meaning behind the dust, i.e., the narrator is smoking himself to death (as advertised in the song’s lyrics anyway) after the divorce (and ostensibly spending too much time in the apartment, shedding dead skin cells everywhere and adding to the piles of dust like a fucking weirdo), and tries to help him through the tough situation by doing…what? Cleaning? The song doesn’t have an answer for this. The song leaves me wanting more about the maid, less about how fresh and new the apartment smells. In fact, I have zero idea about what the verse lyrics even refer to–who is being discussed here?:

“Ooo baby she walks with a thorn in her side/Them big sunglasses on her eyes/All the uptown girls say, ‘hi, old woman’/’I can’t take another day of this,’ she says/’All I wanted was a drink and a kiss/but I guess I’ll just have to call on my bank ’cause it’s Swiss.’/She never knew no better than to follow her nose(?)/So I ask for your forgiveness cause I’m part of the show/Now she’s gone and all she’s left with is a house full of clothes/’Sometimes madame, it’s okay to cry.”

There are too many ambiguities in there for me to make any sense of what’s happening. I don’t think it’s the maid that’s being talked about, but why then would the uptown girls say, “Hi, old woman”? Why would anyone–even uptown girls–say that, ever? Why didn’t this woman, presumably the ex-wife, know any better than to follow her nose? Is she related, perhaps, to Toucan Sam? This might be why the marriage didn’t work, because this woman was partially a tropical bird (prob. also why she wears those big sunglasses when she’s out and about).

[Buy the Last Royals EP]

Amateur Philosophers

twi the humble feather- Adventures of Castle One

“Okay, man, so we’ve got a little Sung Tongs in here, wait, I mean, haha, let’s face it–a lot of fucking Sung Tongs in here. But kind of slower, right? And field recordings of planes. I know AC has never used planes before. And get it–that’s where the song takes off? Plane—————–>singing. And our voices are kind of whisper-falsetto, like imagine if you will a group of wild children playing in the forest with face-painted faces. Warpaint, bro. The kids have gone fully tribal. They’re brandishing guitars, and hunting wild boar with their songs. We’re those kids. As adults. The Adventure of Castle One is a reference to the haziness of our memories that have been filtered through old videogames. Memories, man. That’s what makes us human. We were all kids once. We all have that old Betamax tape in our heads that’s worn out and fuzzy from being rewound so many times. I think I captured that with those static layers that play out on the fringes of this song. Birds chirping at the end. That’s life. Being in the world.”

from twi the humble feather’s “Storytellers” episode

[Buy Music for Spaceships and Forests]

My Old Apparatus of Nihilism

Agoria – Heart Beating

Heart Beating is less about hearts beating than the beating, i.e., hitting, of hearts. The punishment of hearts. Dreams: pressed. Wishes: flayed. Hopes: quartered, dried, then burned and buried. Mostly self-inflicted. The female vocalist, Kid A, sounds uncannily like Bjork but is not Bjork. Another form of punishment: your heart maybe desires Bjork but you are denied the full qualitative Bjorkness of Bjork. (There should be a new selection of Hadean tortures designed solely for the music listener: one room plays only George Thorogood’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” on repeat and the stereo’s knobs, though within reach, only increase the volume and clarity of the song. Also George Thorogood is there with you, dancing to his own song, and singing along to his own song. And you realize anew every second that you are George Thorogood, or a part of you is and always was, etc.). Pretty and dangerous.

[Buy Impermanence]

[Also check out John Roberts’s placid and striking remix of this song]

Sha La La La La

Wake – Pale Spectre

Model Copies for the Penman

It’s a blessing that a band named Wake put out an album called “Here Comes Everybody.” Joyce scholars rejoice: this is indie pop with which you can console yourself when the Joyce estate rejects your formal request for the 144th time! Nevermind your loss of tenure, friend, for this song is more of a boon than any job would ever be. Doesn’t it sound like a wrapped present? Something that was prepared with care? Install it in your life as a distinct thing, not just a diversion, not just a passing flash of noise, but as a material possession, suitable for bequeathment to your small and fancy heirs.

[Buy Here Comes Everybody]

First date topic: the theory of forms

Peasant – Well Alright

Pennsylvania Dutch Easter Bunny

Nilsson-esque or is that a blasphemy? Nilsson-lite? Peasant gives me the feeling of Nilsson without the actual components of Nilssonness. “Well Alright” reminds me (a little–maybe it’s the piano chords?) of “Gotta Get Up”–probably via the resignation in Peasant’s voice when he sings the title phrase. There’s a need for songs that take odd emotional states as their inspiration. Like, what song should you play when feeling fundamental, almost a priori revulsion for your job, but while also taking satisfaction in a job well done (e.g. when shredding three reams of confidential papers?). Or what song should you play while getting ready to tell your fiancee that, while you love her, you love her recently divorced mother even more? And you’ve already gone in on a crazy mortgage with your would-be mother-in-law, now lover, so you’re liquidating the modular shelving collection that you and she (the fiancee) acquired over the seven years of your engagement? What song do you play? Let me offer “Well Alright” as a fitting candidate.

[Buy Shady Retreat]