I may have spent one too many drinks celebrating the Penguins victory at Wingharts before heading off to Millvale for Attic Records midnight opening. By the time I arrived the line snaked the length of the block and around the corner. A great indicator of the success of Record Store Day 2012 and relative disappointment because I feared I was destined to miss out on some of the best releases. While I lost a few near the top of my wish list, this encouraged me to stumble into a few records I wouldn’t have normally picked up. Here’s my haul.
Animal Collective, Transverse Temporal Gyrus
In 2010, Animal Collective and visual artist Danny Perez put on an installation called “Transverse Temporal Gyrus” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. The music on this 12″ is a mixture of the music recorded for the installation and live tracks recorded at the Guggenheim. It’s raw Animal Collective with broader creative liberties. RSD Exclusive.
Arcade Fire, Sprawl II / Ready to Start 12″
Remixes of two songs from The Suburbs. I’m not in love with the remix of “Ready to Start” because it feels like the original, just extended by some synth and beat, but the refashioned “Sprawl II” makes this one a keeper. RSD Exclusive. Here’s a video of the Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) remix. Just a great track.
Leonard Cohen, Live at Frederickton LP
Live Leonard Cohen tracks are always a treat. Quite frankly I haven’t listened to this one yet because I’m sure it’s fantastic. I never promised cutting edge journalism here, folks.
Shabazz Palaces, Live at KEXP 12″
Listened to all these tracks on KEXP. Shabazz is such a raw, innovative hip-hop act and these live recordings from KEXP distill their talent to the essentials. Highly recommended. RSD Exclusive. Video from the session. I’ve just been a huge fan of theirs since I first heard a stream of the record. And it just keeps getting better. They have a shot at becoming a Tribe Called Quest-type game-changer for the genre with a few more releases like their debut.
Childish Gambino, Heartbeat 12″
A great Donald Glover/Childish Gambino track (my favorite on the album at least) with some solid remixes on the B-side on some sweet red vinyl. I am a goddamn sucker for colored vinyl.
Of Monsters and Men, Into the Woods EP 10″
I’m a pretty big fan of these Icelanders… so an exclusive RSD yellow vinyl with a previously unreleased track made it an easy grab. Even better that unreleased track, a down tempo bit of melancholy, doesn’t seem out of place. Fans of the band should find copy. And/or listen here to your heart’s content.
Bill Evans, Live At Art D’Lugoff’s Top Of The Gate 12″
This was the #1 want at the top of my RSD shopping list. I was quite relieved to find perhaps the last copy at Attic Records. My favorite jazz pianist. The tracks on this album were recorded in Greenwich Village in 1968. They were just recently discovered, digitally remastered and pressed on 180-gram blue vinyl. The full recordings will be released in a 3LP box set later this year. I found a nice video about the show on the label’s website.
Foster the People, “Broken Jaw” / “Ruby” 7″ and Jukebox the Ghost, “I Love You Always Forever” 7″
If you like Foster there’s little to dislike, though the tracks both just feel like excised cuts from their full-length that were lacking in some fashion. To cover up the weaknesses, they threw some synth into the mix. It’s kind of a catch all, really. Fix and ailing song? Add synth. Need to remix a track for a b-side? Add synth. I like synth so it’s a good rule.
I’d forgotten about this 7″ Jukebox single until I stumbled across it at the checkout. These are the oddities that really make me love Record Store Day. I’m not kidding. Jukebox covers the saccharine Donna Lewis pop song smash “I Love You Always Forever” and they take enough initiative to make it their own without shoehorning indie angst into the mix, you know, to make it edgy. The biggest surprise wasn’t that I thoroughly and guiltlessly enjoyed the Donna Lewis cover but on the b-side, Jukebox also includes their inspired cover of New Order’s “Temptation.” The track had been released previously on a limited edition version of Let Live & Let Ghosts so it’s not a new find, but merely a very pleasant surprise.
Afrika Bambaataa/MC5, “Kick Out the Jams” 7″
Mastodon/Flaming Lips, “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton” 7″
Run DMC/Carolina Chocolate Drops, “You Be Illin'” 7″
The Side by Side series of discs offer a coupling of covers. Some of them are new recordings, some old (as in the Afrika Bambaataa and MC5 disc). I was unable to snag a “Feistodon” (Feist covering Mastodon and Mastodon covering Feist), which was a bummer because it was really the only release of its kind. I was happy to find the southern fried cover of Run DMC’s “You Be Illin'” and impulse bought both the Mastodon/Flaming Lips (pink vinyl!) and the Afrika Bambaataa/MC5 (tie-died-looking vinyl!). And it would have been easy to give in to a few more of these.
The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde Singles Collection Box
The Pharcyde on vinyl is crucial enough. Then add unreleased remixes. Colored vinyl. A poster. A CD of those unreleased tracks and a puzzle. Oh… and it does this:
Support your local independent record store!
I’m not going to rage too much about this whole fiction snub for the Pulitzers… enough of that has been done, more earnestly, on Twitter and the Interwebs. But in case you hadn’t heard, the Pulitzer committee deemed no book of fiction worthy of the grand prize. Why? Because one book must win a majority of the vote. Which means that this could have been the best year for fiction in the history of the world but because the committee couldn’t largely agree on which earth-shattering tome belonged at the top of the heap nobody gets a trophy, and everyone gets parting gifts. Thanks for playing, here’s an assortment of cheeses and a cheap Bordeaux that may or may not taste like feet. Michael Cunningham and critics Maureen Corrigan and Susan Larson, the three-person fiction jury delivered the committee 3 books, down from the original 341 and that 18-person committee shat the bed. No 10,000 prize. No spotlight on excellence. No furthering the sales or expanding the readership of great literature. Instead we have this:
Fiction: no winner
The three snubbed nominees were Train Dreams by Denis Johnson, Swamplandia! by Karen Russell and The Pale King by the late, great David Foster Wallace. That’s right… one of the authors is farkin’ deceased and even that–even the thought of a final reward to one of the great writers and thinkers of the last metric crap ton of years–couldn’t push that 18-person committee to a final conclusion. I think I speak for every writer, of any genre, when I say “FIX IT.”
In the meantime, Pulitzer VIPs, while you’re off fixing a broken system that has done exactly the opposite of its intent, I will suggest a few ways by which you can settle these disputes in the future. I’m not merely going to point fingers. I’m a problem solver.
1. The Pulitzer Games.
You’re readers, right? I do have to clarify these days. Even if you’ve not read the Hunger Games, you’re knowledgeable of the premise. Drop your finalists into a North Carolina woods with their choice of analog weapon (bow and arrow, mace, whip, blow darts laced with frog poison, a boombox fueled by the collective works of Nickelback) and let them have at it. Televise it. Of course, since DFW can’t make it, that leaves two. Even better for you. Fewer paperwork, logistics, etc.
Edge: Karen Russell. She’s sprier by three decades, kinda sorta looks like a brainy version of Katniss and based on her book, figures to handle herself in a swamp, i.e. adverse conditions, with aplomb.
Karen Russell wrestles gators for fun.
2. Today Show Cage Match
The ultimate in Today Show gimmick events. They’ve done weddings and weather. Now they can do hyper-educated MMA. In a dome-like cage. Lauer announces. Microphone drops from the ceiling of the studio. Ann Curry’s the ring girl in a sequined bikini and Roker referees (and he no longer requires vertical stripes!). I’m not necessarily suggesting Beyond Thunderdome rules. We’ll allow tapouts. But if you’re a young writer, do you give up on your wildest hopes and dreams just because of a few broken bones? Dizziness? Decaying consciousness? Hell no.
Edge: Denis Johnson. He’s never struck me as a dude that you wanted to corner. Quite frankly I’d be intimidated by sitting in a seat behind him on an airplane. WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T KICK THE SEAT! He’s got those crazy eyes. Dude’s seen some things… I know. I’ve read Jesus’ Son.
Denis "Crazy Eyes" Johnson.
3. Fiction Slamline
Can you imagine hologram DFW in one of those uniforms?
Sort of like a hybrid between Drumline, Step Up 3D and a Poetry Slam. Each author would take turns reciting passages from their fiction. No cheat sheets allowed, call and response style. One steps up, then the next, then the next. Meanwhile the crowd gets rowdy, fists pump, witty barbs are tossed about like popcorn. “Johnson writes in decidedly primitive stages of reflection!” or “She is the pimple of the age’s humbug!” The judges start nodding their head in appreciation and awe. DFW could attend in the form of a hologram. If Tupac can do it, so can David Foster Wallace.
Edge: Hologram David Foster Wallace. Brainy, dramatic and doo-ragged take this one, even from beyond the grave. His delivery might be a little wooden, but nobody could out-think DFW, even as a digital projection imitating life… in 3-D.
David Foster Wallace. The headband plays. Even in 3D.
Let’s see. Final tally…. that’s one win for each of them. Shit. Oh well. I guess the Pulitzer committee got it right after all. And to think I just wasted everyone’s time with a trifle of an argument that amounted to nothing. There’s just no reasonable way to decide these writers’ fate. No way, indeed.
When writing about music the goal is to inspire some feeling of Frankenstein viscerality in the reader. Especially regarding a band you’ve probably never heard of. I assemble descriptive words and band names and familiar song titles in such a way that my reader(s) hopefully have some sense of the sound without having actually heard it.
“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”
That quote has been sometimes attributed to Steve Martin, sometimes Martin Mull, sometimes Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello… and so on and so forth… but nobody really seems to know from whence it came. No matter. There’s as much fallacy as truth embedded within that famous line. On one hand you’re not attempting to recreate the music itself, but a potential reaction to the music, thereby writing about music by using familiar emotional attachment and response to similar bands and objects. I process the music as I hear it using my own sensibilities. I then translate what I hear into concretizations and regurgitate those concretizations so that the reader might then process the words and related bands and recreate the music in their own mind. In other words, writing about music is a whole heap of bullshit. But I love it. Because as a writer, I can say just about anything. Failure at writing about music is only the inability to elicit any kind of visceral response.
That said, as I write these rumbles I tend to make up and bastardize words. If it sounds like something, you’ll still understand, perhaps more so than if I stuck to that ever-so-limiting Dictionary. I’m trying to describe something that does not actually exist and therefore using words that don’t exactly exist seems rather apropos. Wouldn’t you say?
I thought about this as I wrote about The Jezabels in my recent “30Hz Recommended” feature. I resisted using a word. But that word has stuck with me. It has inspired me to write this bit. And continue to update the 30Hz Glossary of Music Writing Nonsense Words. Not only will I include my own but any others that I find in my reading and internet travel. If you have suggestions (and I like them!), please tweet them to me (@30hertzrumble) with the hashtag #30hzglossary or leave them in the comments. You’ll get credit and everything.
n. Abstractions made real and palpable, but not so palpable that you can actually touch them. So not palpable at all. Like playing a theremin.
the Joy Formidable
Melodrama Rock (mel-o-DRA-ma rawk)
n. Alt-rock subgenre. A sound relying primarily on earnest, sweeping sonic swells and plateaus. Songs tend to trend longer and start more slowly. These bands likely play their instruments very seriously, with little outward emotion because what they are playing is serious goddamn music. See: the Joy Formidable
n. An individual song that is so terrible as to have the power to suck the life out of an entire album. Pertains especially to vinyl records where there is no such thing as skip track or fast forward. A pinch is an inexplicable inclusion on an otherwise standout or legendary album. See: “The Girl is Mine” on Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Protomelodrama Rock (pro-toe-mel-o-DRA-ma rawk)
n. Alt-rock sub-subgenre. Melodrama rock with an added texture: the use of distinct and palpable nostalgia, most probably that for the 80’s. God help us if 90’s nostalgia bands ever hit it big. See: the Jezabels
n. Alt-rock subgenre. An overused descriptor that has been saturated to the point of meaninglessness. A style of music characterized by the “WALL OF SOUND” which is generally comprised of prolonged and loud guitar and reverb that render lyrics incomprehensible. Applied to bands as varied as the School of Seven Bells, the Twilight Sad and Spacemen 3. Originally applied to UK bands in the 1990s and inspired by a band’s demeanor on stage: the guitarists spend much of their time staring at effects pedals, apparently deeply lost in thought and overly concerned about their shoes.
Synesthesia Nostalgia (sin-es-THEEZYA no-STAL-juh)
n. The synthesis of music and image and/or action. For example, a scene from a movie that is inextricably linked to a particular song. The song immediately recalls the movie and vice versa, thereby inspiring a wellspring of longing for a more utopian past, i.e. the 1980’s. See 30Hz Top 11 Synesthesia Nostalgia Moments of the 1980s.
Trifle Theory (try-FULL THEER-ee)
n. A seemingly incompatible combination of influences that result in a sound that is not unwelcome to the ears. Refers to a Friends episode where Rachel makes a Trifle dessert out of fruit and meat and Joey, predictably, loves the heck out of it. Used in reference to bands that wear three or more influences on their sleeve, especially when one really doesn’t seem to belong. See: Fanfarlo.
n. A state of feeling emotions that might be deemed visceral. Swelling emotions and shit.
(originally published by Bartleby Snopes)
a short story by James David Patrick
When the snow melted in February, a teeter-totter appeared where there had previously been nothing but a pile of vines, pried from the rosebushes and left there through the change of seasons. I’d willed it to appear, having closed my eyes so tight my stomach clenched up like when Peter Dumbrowski threatened to punch me in the nose during recess. I asked my mom how this could have happened. She said she didn’t really know and that I should ask my dad. My dad, who was clearly much smarter than my mom because he had an answer for everything, said it was because things have a way of showing up when you need them the most. I disagreed because last Sunday I really needed the Vikings to beat the Packers and they just embarrassed themselves. My sister and I went up, we went down, but after the immediate thrill the teeter-totter lost its appeal. Not because the teeter (or is it the totter?) wasn’t inherently fun, but because this was during Alexis’s “heavy” phase. I was up far more often than I was down. We forgot that initial joy of discovery. Weeds grew tall around its sturdy base without our feet (especially Alexis’s) to trample them. Then one day in August the Totter was just gone. Perhaps I’d willed it away by forgetting about it, just as I’d willed it into existence. I asked my mom what had happened to the teeter-totter, and she said she couldn’t really say. I asked if Alexis ate the teeter-totter having mistaken it for a tater tot in a fit of summer lunchroom-tot-withdrawal. Dad laughed as he read the paper. Mom told me the conversation had ended.
I started to fear that the teeter-totter had never happened at all; after the disappearance no one spoke of it. I couldn’t know for sure until I needed something the most again. Months passed. I’d wanted a lot. A new baseball glove and a trampoline, for example, but I couldn’t say I’d needed them the most. I rode the pine on my Little League team and the trampoline was only a necessity because I wanted to impress a girl named Cathy who ignored me. A trampoline would change that.
By next winter, Alexis had lost the weight. She kept on losing weight until she felt sick, all the time. And she turned orange from using so much fake tanner. I told her that she needed a burger and to cut it out with the tanner, but she insisted otherwise. She said I’d understand when I grew up. She was only six years older than me so I couldn’t have needed all that much growing up. With dad away on business again, I felt I needed to take matters into my own hands. When I went to bed that night I closed my eyes and wanted so badly for her to eat, not to want a juicy burger for dinner tomorrow. One of those half-pound Canadian Angus burgers we got when we drove to Winnipeg on holiday with the melted cheese and grilled onions and sometimes the mayonnaise, but I didn’t want to push it because mayo spoils if it’s left out too long. I knew nobody could resist one of those burgers. The next day, mom called me down the stairs, I thought to dinner, but the table was bare. I heard Alexis puking in the bathroom. Mom stood outside the door, pointing to the table. She asked if I’d done that. I noted the half-pound burger on the table, minus one bite, and then nodded. A smile crept across my face. Mom sent me back to my room and told me to take the burger with me. She’d been crying. Of course I took the burger; you couldn’t resist the Winnipeg burger. Dad took half before I could make it up the stairs. One bite. I didn’t even know he’d come home. He must have come when he heard about the burger. I checked for mayo. No danger of spoilage.
I visited Alexis in the hospital. Mom said she’d been feeling better and wanted to see me. She asked about school. She asked if that Peter kid was still picking on me at recess and if I’d talked to Cathy yet. Last week I’d willed Peter into another school district and the next day Miss Stapleton said he’d moved to North Dakota. If anyone deserved a Dakota it was that prick. Not so much progress with Cathy. Alexis asked if I was taking care of mom. I didn’t understand how I’d be the one taking care of mom so I just said yes, of course. Alexis didn’t really sound like herself but before she came here you’d have needed a Geiger counter to get a good reading on her moods.
A nurse appeared and replaced the tube in Alexis’s arm with another one. After the nurse left I pulled Alexis’s bottle of fake tanning lotion from my pocket, placed it in the bedside drawer next to a bible and closed the drawer. Contrabrand. Without her lotion she’d gotten so pale, if less orange. Apropos of nothing I said that dad had been working a lot and hadn’t been home much. She asked where I’d learned the term “apropos.” I shrugged. Then she got angry. She said dad’s gone. Then she repeated it. I reminded her that dad came to visit her in the hospital the same day that he took me to the zoo. That’s different, she said. I didn’t see how. I explained that I’d closed my eyes and wished to see the penguins. The next day dad took me to see the penguins. She sat forward in bed and said, he left and he’s not coming back. Not like you need. You don’t understand anything, she said. A nurse suggested I should meet my mom in the waiting room. I agreed.
I’d begun to notice that nobody talked about dad always being on business anymore. No more talk about trips to Madison or Calgary or Eugene, which I’d just realized was a place and not our Uncle Gene in Michigan that bred Brittany spaniels. When Alexis came home from the hospital she wasn’t allowed to shut her door. I took this opportunity to bother her more than usual, asking to borrow this or that, usually CDs or sparkly writing utensils. She said yes to everything I asked, which took most of the fun out of it. She just kept saying yes, except the time she grabbed my hand and said “I didn’t think I would but I really miss dad.” If it meant getting my old sister back, the one that would bounce me out of the room, throw her magic 8-ball at me to keep me from reading her diary, I needed to try something. Later that night, I thought and thought about how I needed to will my dad back home. The next morning a man named Will appeared in the kitchen and asked me to call him dad. He made blueberry waffles and served them to each of us on the nice plates, the ones we weren’t allowed to use. He kissed my mom on the cheek. I guess something got scrambled in the communications.
October brought our first snowfall of the year. Late November blanketed the North Country. This meant tunnel season had begun. Alexis didn’t join me as she always had. She still kept her door open, except at night, when it was only open a crack. She rarely came out. I spent more time with the Feuchtwanger twins across the street, but their mom wouldn’t let them tunnel because they’d probably catch a bug. The way she accused them of bringing these things into their home you’d expect them to catch raccoons rather than pneumonia. I grew bored with the Feuchtwangers and the empty tunnels. I grew bored with Will. He’d moved in permanently and made us blueberry waffles every Sunday. Mom was happier. She kept telling us that since she was finally happy we should be happy too. I wasn’t so sure since I’d just started doing the reflexive property in math class and that just didn’t fit, but then again, Miss Emerson kept telling us that this was advanced math and we shouldn’t get too upset if we didn’t get it yet. We still saw dad once in a while, but he wasn’t himself. He’d stopped shaving and he moved out to Little Falls where he said rent was “more economical.” I begged him to come home because things just weren’t the same. Alexis never said anything when we saw him so I did the talking for both of us. I told him that we needed him at home the most we’d ever needed him. Will was fine, but he needed to learn how to make something else besides blueberry waffles. I asked dad if he remembered when he said that things have a way of appearing when you need them the most. He nodded. He said he might have been mistaken.
Alexis never left her room except to go to school or the bathroom. She’d put on weight again, but she wasn’t nearly as heavy as she had been last spring. Mom seemed to think everything was okay. I wasn’t okay. It was winter in Minnesota and without fellow tunnelers and snow fort constructors, there really wasn’t anything left to do except sit inside and play Nintendo but I was limited to only thirty minutes a day. Mom said it was bad for my eyes and Will did nothing to disagree with her. Dad would have bought me some more time because he knew more about that kind of stuff than mom. I’d gotten sent to my room for breaking a vase with a Nerf ball after I’d been told repeatedly not to play with the ball inside. I argued that no one had bothered to offer a reasonable alternative to not playing with the Nerf. Will called me a smartass. I could come out, my mom said, when she wasn’t mad at me anymore. That seemed arbitrary. I pulled the covers up over my head to block out the last of the daylight and closed my eyes. I closed my eyes so tight that I made my stomach ache and my eyes sore. It worked once so it would work again. I begged and begged no one in particular. I said “I will the teeter-totter into the backyard.” I said it over and over until I got so hot I had to pull the blankets down to breathe. Maybe, if the teeter-totter came back Alexis would come outside again and dad would come home. Maybe then everything could go back to normal.
Every so often I’d stick the shovel into the snow where the teeter-totter had been, just to see if I struck anything hard beneath the snow. I never did. But then again the snow was dense and there was a lot of it. Mom said we’d reached our seasonal average by the end of January. I couldn’t remember anymore if I wanted more snow or less. One morning I made the mistake of suggesting that I missed the teeter-totter. It just fell out. Will served me a waffle and said how those things were childish and kind of unsafe. He added bananas to waffles now. We had options. Mom nodded and said she was so happy to hear that he felt that way about the teeter-totter. Will kissed her on the cheek. Alexis pointed down her throat. I had to laugh. I wonder if Will also thought pancakes were dangerous and that’s why we never had any.
When the temperature reached the mid-thirties in late February I began watching out my window into the backyard. Sun reflected off the snow, melting the top layer each day so that it could freeze again at night. A layer of epoxy, like the finish dad put on Alexis’s craft table that now lay beneath a mountain of magazines, including the occasional Vogue that she’d smuggled in. We weren’t allowed to read those adult magazines because mom said we weren’t old enough to digest them. Alexis came in my room and sat down on my bed. She seemed so out of place.
The jagged icicles that had once blocked my backyard view had shrunk down to rounded nubs. Water dripped onto the windowsill in unpredictable patterns. Just when I thought I had a handle on the pattern everything would change. I told Alexis to watch, that I could stick my head out the window and catch the drops in my mouth. “You know dad bought you that teeter-totter,” she said. I shook my head. I said I willed it there because I wanted it so badly it hurt. I told her to wait. Wait and see because last year I didn’t want it nearly as much as I wanted it now. She said nothing. I made her promise that if it appeared she’d come outside and play with me, just as soon as the snow melted. I watched through the window. I waited and wanted. She said, “Sure,” and walked back into her room. I could tell she didn’t mean it. She didn’t believe. But I knew better. I knew that one morning, when the snow gave up its hold, the teeter-totter would appear, just as I said it would. I’d wake Alexis to tell her. She’d actually beat me down the stairs, through the kitchen and out the back door saying “No way, no way, no fucking way.” Mom and Will wouldn’t have made it downstairs yet because if they had they certainly would have told us not to go outside, there wasn’t enough time, you’ll just get your clothes muddy. Alexis and I would sit on opposite ends of the teeter-totter and I’d start on the high end, as I always did, waiting for Alexis to push up off the ground. In another moment I’d fall back down to earth and watch Alexis rise into the air, her waxen frown taken over by a smile. And even there, cemented in my dream, her smile looked so unnatural, so out of place, like I’d willed it there out of thin air.
BIO: James David Patrick has an MFA from the Stonecoast program at the University of Southern Maine and lives in Pittsburgh where he can often be found sifting through stacks of vinyl at Attic Records or begging his daughter for new story inspiration. He has previously published with Monkeybicycle, PANK and Spectre Literary Magazine; tweets at @30hertzrumble and blogs at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com.