"Obstacle 1" by Interpol
I try to imagine the air as Interpol’s first album waded through early 2000’s New York. An undercurrent of nostalgia realized just as it’s born, crescendoing into the new decade not with an insistence to be heard, but a quiet reminder of what the city is capable of igniting. "Obstacle 1" is tense but controlled, simultaneously punk and formal. The song is over two decades old but its energy still holds—I feel it in the rain and on the pavement and in my hair, even when I’m not listening. "She can read, she can read, she’s bad."
kait venneman is a poet & creative body from the Nevada desert now residing in Brooklyn. She is currently obsessed with cowboys, liminality, and Succession.
"Diana" by Pop Smoke
I don’t know how I feel about Pop Smoke's music yet; I'll let you know by the summer. And it’s starting to feel like summer. If it weren't because I have class, I would've gone to Prospect Park. As I was walking, I heard Pop Smoke's music blasting from a car. It's that Brooklyn shit! I love the fast beats; I love how the beat drops; I love the combination of emotions in each song because all of them sound different; I love when the lyrics are up in your face. I love the aggressiveness in music. How was I supposed to know that Pop Smoke is dead? I don’t keep up with rappers! I have to admit that during the summer I only listened to two of Pop Smoke's songs, "Diana" and "Demeanor." Pop Smoke is also from Brooklyn too.
Cristina Merino is a writer from Brooklyn, New York, who is interested in exploring the relationship between music and place.
"Home" by Two Shell
Much has been written about Two Shells' enigmatic first live performance. The group wore masks, and turned knobs and dials that didn’t do anything, leading some to wonder who the hell they were. Two Shell do everything with a wink and a nod. They take inspiration from breakbeat and hyperfast techno but sound unlike anything else in the genre. The lyrics are thought provoking and entrancing. The vocal delivery feels like it came out of k-hole. The group burst onto the scene last year with "Home." The track is propulsive and groovy. The vocoded vocals sound like hyperpop without the chipmunk-quality that turns so many people off from that movement. The band, steeped in 80s nostalgia, took the club scene by storm without sounding like The Weeknd. This aura of mystery, incredible high energy, and so much buzz, even without a debut LP makes them worth watching.
Trent Tournour is a BFA writing candidate at Pratt Institute. Their work focuses mainly around music and cultural analysis as well as more experimental poetry and filmmaking.
"Girls" by Widowspeak
Someone who knew me well (though hardly at all) attached a link to “Girls” from Widowspeak’s 2015 album “All Yours” in our third email exchange. This e-chain contained mention of several mystics and many poets. “The song does not relate to the email,” I (a younger girl) thought. Yet, it shook me up inside. I thanked my electronic interlocutor (an older girl) for sharing. My thanks took the form of a song for her.
Katie Vogel studies in the BFA Writing Department at Pratt Institute, perches in trees, lays on the floor, and takes many walks along the Bay Parkway. She has many questions and is writing her way to their answers and follow-ups.
"Metamorphosis: One" by Philip Glass
Two mournful chords pierce the frail blue hours of morning. A hypnotic wash of tumbling piano, punctuated by doubled chords that crest and ebb, rushes in underneath, gives way to wet warbling phrases like settling sand. Then a sparkling plea: optimistic notes of one hand negotiate with the graver notes of the other. Philip Glass wrote “Metamorphosis One” based on Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, but at the moment, hearing this oceanic message for the first time, I believe it comes from the very fact of the Red Sea lapping the shore in the quiet night outside my window. I feel blissfully alone, free from the person dreaming next to me, free from friends who invited me here, free even from my body. Corporeal borders dissolve in the salt bath of music. I imagine us as particles: me, the sand, my friends, the water, Glass, his piano, until there is no distinction among us, all of us night and ocean and “Metamorphosis One” hanging in the air at the edge of the sea.
Jenna Crowder is a writer and editor. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her art writing has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Art Papers, Boston Art Review, BURNAWAY, and Temporary Art Review, among other places. https://jennacrowder.com.
"Drive It Like You Stole It" by Sing Street
This song was birthed in one of the most underrated films I have ever seen. “Drive It Like You Stole It” by Sing Street was played during such a bittersweet, favorite film scene of mine where reality was bent in a dream sequence. The beat is very similar to a 50s vibe and shines through its instruments: the drums, saxophones, guitars, etc. Taking a walk in the neighborhood with this song playing in my ear teleports me into a different universe. The birds and trees are usually brighter. And my mind starts to cry as I joyfully reminisce about my future. That’s what it’s about. Taking life into your own hands. I usually reach the end of my walk unaware of whether or not I was dancing down the street. I probably was.
Sarina Greene is an undergraduate student at Pratt Institute studying BFA Writing. She is an African American/Bengali poet who resides in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
"How to Execute" by Motorbikes
I always thought the name of this song was sadistic, until I realized that it’s about execution i.e., the joy of creation, and not as it were, execution as in death — although they’re not entirely unrelated. There’s a little death in creation. To give birth to an idea is, in some ways, to subject it to its own death. I also realized when I heard this song for the first time having sex for the first time, that I had actually heard this song before: seven years before, when I was in middle school and my dad dropped me off at a Mount Eerie concert east of my hometown. I felt just as unfledged and naked standing in that crowd at the Eagle Rock Arts Center as I did in bed, for the first time, with another body warm and beside me, for the first time.
Maya Sol Levy is an artist and poet person. Her website is https://www.mayasollevy.com/
"Mystery of Love" by Mr. Fingers
While this is Larry's (Heard) song from Chicago, deep house is constantly exchanged with Detroit. I spent the week in Detroit lost in a party swirl of Acid, Progressive and Electro house sets. I felt like no one could omit Mr. Fingers' undertones from the vocabulary. Sick set Larry.
Maddie Boyer lives in Detroit. She is an engineer/essayist/writer/night hawk.
"Take Me Where Your Heart Is" by Q
It comes as no surprise to any self-proclaimed lamb that Mariah Carey would choose a live recording of her 1995 hit “Fantasy” to soundtrack her twins’ birth. Amidst a decades-spanning career (and vocal range) of dizzying heights, the Daydream lead single stands out as one of the elusive chanteuse's most singular feats. I find myself so often returning to its music video, for a plethora of reasons: the fact that it was shot on-location at Rye Playland, a stone’s throw from my childhood home; it being the first music video that Carey was permitted to self-direct and -produce, its effortless consummation of her longstanding flirtation with a hip-pop sound she’d been hitherto dissuaded from pursuing by her racist and abusive manager-cum-husband. And then, of course, there is the unmistakable joy of watching Carey relinquish control as soon as she seizes it, roller skating and coasting with an abandon that feels at once earnest and earned.
Interpolated almost exclusively from a couplet in Carey’s first verse — “Mmm, baby, I'm so into you / Darlin', if you only knew” — and lacking an obvious chorus altogether, Q’s “Take Me Where Your Heart Is” gives us the ascent of the ride without the payoff of the fall, teasing out the sweltering, Summerian jubilance of its source material into a sensuously slow burn. If “Fantasy” is an eighties funk-tinged paean to rapturous love, then Q’s rendition takes us to the unsung side of the fantasy: before the chorus, the windswept hair, or the cathartic surety of falling, when all that remains is a vision of surrender, an imminence of absolute immolation.
Dan Schapiro is a disabled HIV+ poet and artist. He is the author of HOLEPLAY (Nueoi Press, 2020).
"Unchained Melody" by The Righteous Brothers
Recently, I played The Righteous Brothers' “Unchained Melody” in the car for my mother, who widened her eyes, said, oh, god, it’s back. I was born a few years too late to experience the "Ghost" resurrection of this song, with its classic arpeggios and shivering timbre. That voice, that voice! Bob Hatfield shakes me down to my crew-length socks. In the final chorus, he jumps octaves, achieving a falsetto all the more special for its temporality. But what truly sets this version apart, what smooths my heart and recharges my vibrator, is the final chorus, when Hatfield improvises a new melody. For a brief, satiating moment, he takes an old song, with old words, and turns it into something new. Every time I listen to this song feels like the first time I am listening to this song. What a lucky reminder to always be paying attention.
Bex Frankeberger is a writer/musician/Capricorn based in Queens. Raised and born somewhere in California, they abstain from almonds in solidarity with the drought.
"Plate Tectonics" by When the Clock Strikes
“Plate Tectonics” by When the Clock Strikes popped up on my Discover Weekly in 2019. The song describes the way life changes using the scientific principle of plate tectonics. The scientific theory of multiple plates moving underneath the surface of the Earth, moving and colliding to form land, somehow perfectly describes how you meet people, and how they leave a mark behind. As I started to incorporate the song into my daily campus walks, I was astonished at how well the metaphor worked, and slightly embarrassed at how much of a nerd I must be to appreciate it.The part love-song, part-science-lesson, all a heartbreaker, resonates with the use of both acoustic and electric guitars. If plate tectonics and “Nothing gold can stay” doesn’t transport you back to eighth grade public middle school, then congratulations on having a normal and fun adolescence.
Samantha Kalinowski is a writer currently based in a suburb Buffalo, New York.
"Goin' Through Your Purse" by Material Issue
"Goin' Through Your Purse" is the first song on Material Issue’s third album, 1994’s Freak City Soundtrack, and also appears on Rock 'n' Roll Dec. 12, 2005, a mix CD given to me by K in the fall semester of my junior year at Ball State. Though never released as a single (and it could have been!), “Goin’ Through Your Purse” remains a power pop gem from a band that did it better than most in an era where grunge was the genre du jour. And besides, how many songs are there where a rival tries poetry to woo away a romantic partner? Ah, the ‘90s.
Nate Logan is the author of Inside the Golden Days of Missing You (Magic Helicopter Press, 2019). He played drums in jack london antarctica.
Week 39 | Alysia Slocum LaFerriere
"Goin' to Chicago Blues" by Count Basie
It was my father’s favorite song. I have a clearer memory of him singing, “Sorry baby, but I can’t take you,” than I do of Count Basie. Like many a Leo, my father was enormously proud of his taste. He marveled at his own clothes, at furniture he picked out from the flea market, and “Goin’ to Chicago” was treated with the same delight. During one car ride, I sat in the backseat, stretched out into the empty space where my siblings sat before moving away. My parents in the front seat argued, led by my father, over who had the best favorite song. My mother, an “Imagine” enthusiast, suggested that breakup songs can be depressing. My father argued that the narrator is turning over a new leaf. “He’s moving to Chicago! It’s exciting!” He waved his hands emphatically while driving down the highway. “It’s a better song.”
Alysia Slocum LaFerriere is a storyteller across genres who writes about family histories, racial identities, community, and belonging. She graduated from the MFA in Writing program at Pratt Institute and teaches at Pratt and Montclair State University.
"Lullaby" by Arooj Aftab
I can be heavy/disjointed at the end of a day, and then, this arrives as water in my palm. Arooj Aftab lifts me out of my enclosure. I’m inside the swelling of instruments, but it’s her voice that carries. Carries my limbs. I become aware of walking, of swimming through the world again. I want to find a stranger on the sidewalk and ask them to sway with me. Lately language I don’t understand feels like a remedy. For so long I didn’t understand my own being and now I feel swathed in this uncertain air of longing. I don’t feel lulled––just this tender sense of awareness––one that reaches for something just outside itself, to that soft, untouched, yet vaguely familiar place. Again.
Sav Hampton sometimes makes things in a room in Sunset Park. They also tend to small humans, read books from the public library, and walk all over the place.
"Silver Springs" by Fleetwood Mac
One more time: a woman and a man are young rock stars in love. It is the raucous and decadent 1970s. He hurts her, she leaves him, he moves on, she looks back. They write songs about each other which they record together because they're tethered commercially, basically forever. This one, "Silver Springs," to Stevie Nicks's fury, never makes it on an album, but lives for twenty years underwater like a mythical snake until, in 1997, during this reunion performance it burst from the lake and ate the whole band whole.
I love the ventriloquism. What's better than watching Lindsey Buckingham puppeted in this way, as when he sings, "you'll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you," and the song's belatedness reconfigures it as at once a prophecy and that prophecy's fulfillment? That's magic!
It's a vengeful song, whose first target is the instrumentalized Buckingham, but who sees through him to love's true and final master, time. Because what is bitterer in heartbreak than the knowledge that even that pain, love's last degraded statement, will be tranquilized, falsified by time? "Silver Springs" casts a spell against forgetting, against "moving on." It's a proof of constancy, and of the possibility of constancy, the price of which is to become a ghost.
James Loop is the author of I Put This Moment Here (Terrific Books, 2022) and co-author with Claire Devoogd of Appletini, or the Perills of Speeche by Anonymous Botch (Terrific Books, 2021). He resides in Brooklyn and coordinates the activities of the Belladonna* Collaborative.
Week 36 | Danika Stegeman LeMay
"Cold War" by Oppenheimer Analysis
Who knew deterrence could be so fun and dancy? This two-piece consisting of Andy Oppenheimer and Martin Lloyd met at a science fiction convention. It’s the early 1980s; infinitely consider the atomic bomb. Let it consume you. Catchy synth lines pattern, ricochet, interweave, thread through with insistent, inescapable lines. Count the Cold Wars (22). Do you remember when there was a button on every YouTube video to repeat a song on a loop, simulacra of endlessness? “I thought it was over I thought it was over I thought it was over.” The repetition is irradiated with luscious language “tempted by a glitter more seductive than gold” “fireworks for children to hold.” Decades later, who doesn’t want to belt the words “Get me out. Please get me out. Get me out get me out get me out” with the windows down into what clean air there’s left to breathe?
Danika Stegeman LeMay’s work has appeared in 32 Poems, Afternoon Visitor, Blue Arrangements, CLOAK, Concision, Forklift, OH, Leavings, and Word for/ Word, among other places, and is forthcoming in APARTMENT and Ethel Zine . Her video poem, “Then Betelgeuse Reappears” was an official selection for the 2021 Midwest Video Poetry Festival. Danika’s debut collection of poems, Pilot (2020), is available from Spork Press. Her website is danikastegemanlemay.com.
"I'll Stay" by Weak Signal
Song is a poem where the music is also words. When I listen to “I’ll Stay” I see a four-leaf clover spinning like a Möbius fraction where top & bottom are both ∞. Infinite freedom that reasserts itself among the stuckest hemmed-in claustrophobia the world can serve. I’m scared all the time & that’s why I
Ana Božičević is a Croatian poet in Brooklyn. See about her at https://www.anabozicevic.com/.
"The Sweater" by Meryn Cadell
When I heard "The Sweater" by Meryn Cadell in the early 90s, I was a DJ at an “alternative college radio station”. It was on high rotation, which meant on an index card of a specific color & DJs picked a certain amount to fill a shift. I always picked it. I never heard anything like it then or since. I came from a thrash metal background & heard “college radio” for the first time. The cloying sing-song, spoken-word-ish performance always belied something deeper I thought I understood then but now realize I didn’t. I finally got it years later & the infamous last couple words. It all makes sense in who I ended up becoming who Meryn was then (& I didn’t yet know it). It makes all the more sense now in who Meryn has become since then. You’ll never get the last words out of your head-mind.
Poet-filmmaker SM Gray is the author of seven poetry collections, including most recently, a chapbook, Words Are What You Get/You Do It For Real (above/ground press, 2019) and book, Lambda Literary Award finalist, Shorthand and Electric Language Stars (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 2015). Gray’s experimental super 8 films have screened internationally.
"I've Tried Subtlety" by Game Theory
Crackling big guitars and a rising bassline introduce what could just be the best of many 80s college rock anthems, complete with those noisy, fluffy, front-of-the-mix drums that label the decade indelibly. And it is an anthem: punch the air to it. But, also, listen: "overcivilized times," "under-sibling-ized crimes" stalk the nerdy kids, the proto-trans kids, the ones who can't dance and aren't dating but need, very desperately, their own accepting scene, among "MIT-grad alleycats with time on their hands": "all the kids from 916 came down" (that would be Sacramento, Game Theory genius Scott Miller's hometown) and they were making a place for people like me, the trans geek girls of the future, who read and typed and listened and sometimes had to be coaxed outdoors. "Gifted children link your arms in rhyme/ And remake the world while still it gives you time." Good advice from my favorite musician. I miss him. Please take it.
Stephanie Burt is Professor of English at Harvard. Her latest collection of poems is a chapbook that's mostly about the X-Men: https://www.raintaxi.com/for-all-mutants/
Week 32 | Joshua Marie Wilkinson
"Body" by Julia Jacklin
“I remembered early days,” Julia Jacklin sings, “when you took my camera,” in “Body,” her ballad of young love gone very much awry. She wonders what her ex (“more kid than criminal”) has done with a picture taken long-ago: “Naked on your bed, looking straight at you / Do you still have that photograph? Would you use it to hurt me?” It’s more of a haunting than a pop single, given Jacklin’s understated vocal strain contrasting such wrenching lyrics, like: “I’m gonna leave you / I’m not a good woman when you’re around.” “Body” is the opening track on Julia Jacklin’s album Crushing, and I’m pretty sure my friend John Cleary sent it to me shortly before my son Jude was born last spring. Though my memory is hazy, I can tell you that this song gutted me from the first listen. Something about casting a cold eye on dissipated lust, wanton youth, and petty scandal. Cold blooded old times, indeed. After the baby arrived, I was usually on the night shift. I’d stagger out of bed upon hearing his cry, and—deliriously, mechanically—fix up a bottle for him in the darkness. Then I’d get him fed, changed, and put back to bed, where he’d fall fast asleep. But between two and four in the morning, I’d still be wide awake. For my sleeplessness, I needed something to keep me off the internet, which was only magnifying my insomnia—YouTube k-hole, anyone? So, in the middle of these nights for about six months, I did what any other foolish new father would: I began writing a detective novel. What, you didn't ask, is the perfect segue from burping my newborn out on the moonlit porch into the seedy world of two homicide detectives on the case of a strange Craigslist ad? That would be Julia Jacklin’s “Body,” of course, which I put on my headphones and listened to on repeat as I began to type in some sort of trance, neither fully awake or asleep. The song is a lament sung like a lullaby, really. And the vulnerability in her refrain (“Well, I guess it’s just my life / and it's just my body”) became the perfect downshift from dad duty into the depths of something like criminality and despair. These days—Jude is a clambering toddler now—“Body” still has the gravitational force to suck me into those murky, sleepless summer nights—and I keep the song on rotation each time I open up the document, when all it takes is that opening lyric—“The police met the plane”— to transport me to the world of Jacklin's threadbare yearning every single time.
Joshua Marie Wilkinson lives in Seattle.
"How Will I Know" by Whitney Houston
Is "How Will I Know" also your favorite song? If so, we are soulmates.
Alexis Almeida is a poet living in Brooklyn.
"Lovely Day" by Bill Withers
Bill Withers can capture so many different moods with his velvety croon. This infectious anthem of good vibes provides the perfect soundtrack for road trips, new loves, household chores, or anything you want, whenever you want. Rinse and repeat. Trust in Mr. Withers.
Mike Fu is a Tokyo-based writer, translator, and editor.
“Well Rested” by Kero Kero Bonito
This is the surprise ecosocialist dance anthem of the cthulucene. KKB sings as a high priestess in a future ruled by post-apocalyptic eco-cults, critiquing ecofascist talking points, anti-civ/anprim doomers, and the idea of the end itself. "The resurrection will come / Only when Gaia requires it / It will not come soon / If we care for our mother / Instead / We will be well rested."
Joshua Wilkerson is a poet in Brooklyn.
"You're Not Good Enough" by Blood Orange/Devonté Hynes
The hook of Blood Orange/Devonté Hynes’ “You’re Not Good Enough”: “You know that you were never good enough.” Hynes and a femme vocalist sing it ten times, doubling each other in their disavowal. Repetition almost shakes out the opposite of the words’ meanings: we were in love but couldn’t hold that love between ourselves in language, couldn’t resolve the ideas of me and you into us because it would change who I thought I was and who I think you are. And isn’t that how I experienced love for so long? And you? Almost. The instrumentation is perfect: the vocals’ breathy pull, the bass’ undertow, a guitarist picking out a staccato shape of notes that only sometimes resolves in a bunched funk chord. It makes you want to dance. Then the song slams shut with thirty seconds of the worst sounds imaginable: a bunch of bros playing beer pong. It’s a song about hurt.
Joe Hall is the author of five books of poetry, including Someone's Utopia (2018) and Fugue & Strike (forthcoming). His poems, reviews, and scholarship have appeared in Poetry Daily, The Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, Postcolonial Studies, Peach Mag, terrain.org, PEN America Blog, Poetry Northwest, Ethel Zine, Gulf Coast, Best Buds! Collective, and Eighteenth-Century Fiction. He has taught poetry workshops for teachers, teens, and workers through Just Buffalo and the WNYCOSH Worker Center.
Week 27 | Black Ocean Residency: Janaka Stucky
"Half Breed" by Big Brave
I’m at-home with solitude and usually approach isolation as an opportunity for introspection, but during the pandemic I was in almost total lockdown alongside my elderly parents (who live with me) and my 2yo son. Trying to work remotely while being on-call as a caregiver virtually 24/7 left me feeling completely drained—not to mention the daily bombardment of news about fascistic power grabs, viral death spikes, and the world literally being on fire. The winter got dark. Then Montreal-based Big Brave dropped their tremendous new album, Vital. It swept through me, ancient as a first breath, and tossed me into spring’s giddy abyss. It’s hard to pick a favorite track off this minimal, heavy and layered album, but “Half Breed” has it all—and the lyrics are actually taken out of Alexander Chee’s book, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel. Put on some headphones, close your eyes, and be stunned.
Janaka Stucky is the Publisher for Black Ocean, and the author of four poetry collections including Ascend Ascend (Third Man Books, 2019). Janaka incorporates esoteric influences & occult rituals into his work to develop a trance poetics, which he has taught or performed in over 60 cities around the world. He has also collaborated with a variety of musicians, including cellist Lori Goldston (Nirvana), Jim Jarmusch’s group SQÜRL, and the iconic doom metal band Sleep. His writing has appeared in a variety of publications, and his creative work has been profiled in The Believer, Vice, and BOMB Magazine.
Week 26 | Black Ocean Residency: Carrie Olivia Adams
"Big Exit" by PJ Harvey
As a baseball fan, I often wonder what I would use for my walk-up song if it were to take the plate. I can never hear Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” without thinking of Chipper Jones, and as a Cubs fan, I appreciate Kris Bryant’s use of Kriss Kross’s “Warm It Up Chris.” As for me, the closest I’ve come to an athletic feat is flexing my biceps while balancing a towering stack of books week after week from the University of Georgia library to my car parked somewhere atop the parking deck during my first year in graduate school. I played one song on constant repeat each time I made that trip, a big voice from a similarly small in stature female body: PJ Harvey’s ”Big Exit,” with its unmistakable opening guitar that mirrored my own heavy footsteps. Ain’t it true / I’m immortal / when I’m with you.
Carrie Olivia Adams loves baseball on the radio and very heavy books. She lives in Chicago where she is the Promotions and Marketing Communications Director for the University of Chicago Press and the poetry editor for Black Ocean. Her books include Be the thing of memory, Operating Theater, Forty-One Jane Doe’s, and Intervening Absence in addition to the chapbooks “Proficiency Badges,” “Grapple,” “Overture in the Key of F,” and “A Useless Window.” When she’s not making poems, she’s making biscuits.
Week 25 | Black Ocean Residency: Hedgie Choi
"Chelsea Girls" by Nico
I wanted to pick a song that would make me seem cool and disguise the fact that I mostly listen to ‘lofi hip hop - beats to relax/ study to.’ Listening to this song again made me realize that I don’t sit on my bed and zone out and listen to songs anymore, I’m always doing the dishes or packing to move or unpacking or waiting for the insurance claim handler to pick up or drawing the floorplan of my new apartment to take to Ikea while I’m listening. So I’m either listening to something energetic, to keep myself excited about a boring task, or I’m listening to something that isn’t very dense and doesn’t take up a lot of room in my mind. I miss listening to songs like this. But I also want to have clean dishes. I don’t know how to have both.
Hedgie Choi is the translator of Pillar of Books by Moon Bo Young. She also cotranslated Hysteria by Kim Yideum. She recently received her MFA in poetry from the Michener Center.
Week 24 | Black Ocean Residency: Nathan Hoks
"To Here Knows When" by My Bloody Valentine
Loveless is one of those albums I can’t live without. I bought the cassette on a whim at Sam Goody’s in the Woodfield Mall in 1992 and wow, it expanded my sense of what music could sound like. I listened to it in my walkman non-stop that summer on a weird family vacation, driving around northern Wisconsin in a camper with my parents and four sisters. “To Here Knows When” comes in the middle of side A. I love the doppler effect on the guitars. They whirl back and forth, right to left, at their own pace, seemingly independent of the barely audible drum and bass lines. And there’s a playful keyboard line--or is that another guitar? not sure but it sounds flute-like, dancing, sparkling, in that gray area between the guitars and the drums. Bilinda Butcher’s vocals are, as usual, otherworldly. Rumor has it she’d wake up at dawn to record so she’d sound woozier, dreamier, half here, half who knows when. God knows what she’s singing about, her voice is an instrument, tuned a few steps away from speech.
Nathan Hoks is the author of Reveilles, The Narrow Circle, and Nests in Air. He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Chicago and in the MFA Writing Program at the School of the Art Institute.
Week 23 | Black Ocean Residency: Zachary Schomburg
"Living Room" by Grouper
Grouper’s “Living Room” is one of the songs I carry with me through this life on the inside. I’m always listening to it, like how I’m made of water, and drinking water. I’m made, too, of a frequency, and this song’s that frequency. Years ago, I’d mishear Liz Harris’ lyric “all of us at this ill-fitting party” as “all of us, peripatetic, hearty” but now I sing it the right way.
Zachary Schomburg is the author of six books of poems on Black Ocean, of which Fjords vol. 2 is the most recent. He is also the author of a novel, Mammother (Featherproof 2017), and the publisher of a small poetry press, Octopus Books. He lives in Portland, OR with B and Y.
“Vremya yest, a deneg net” by Kino
The first song of the first album is how a band announces itself, a mouth to the body of work. For the Cars—the shiny Chevys of American New Wave—it’s “Let the Good Times Roll,” tonguing cheek at freedom, the highway, its chewable promise. For their Soviet counterparts, Kino, it’s a lament trapped in the exhale of a Belarussian cigarette: “Vremya yest, a deneg net” (“Got time, my money’s gone”) emerging from a flutter of nylon strings. A train more than a car this song, with an engine of bass and drum-machine, with overdriven guitar like the squeals of the breaks on the rails. The narrator another in a line of post-revel wanderers: drifting alone in the rain, broke, “no lighter, no smokes, no one to let me in.” Kino’s first stroke is neither a party, nor the freeways leading to it; it’s the spiderweb in the ashtrays afterwards.
Mark Gurarie is a poet, writer, and musician living in Northampton, MA. He's the author of the poetry collection, Everybody's Automat (The Operating System, 2016), and released "Filo Built a Goth Robot," the first album of his solo project, MG & the TV, in April of 2021. Find him on Twitter: @emgeeteevee.
"Runaround" by Helado Negro
“No love can cut our knife in two,” goes Helado Negro’s "Runaround," a line lifted from an Isaac Asimov story with the same title. It’s a literary trick without an agreed upon name, as far as I can tell: a kind of half-chiasmus, or whole-word spoonerism. I think of Lorrie Moore’s “headlights caught in the stare of a deer” or Lynn Hejinian’s “The quiet is air, the setting is sun.” When it works, it’s a powerful rhetorical device, subverting expectations and breaking open new possibilities of meaning. In Asimov’s "Runaround," a robot is confused by a conflict between two rules of its programming: to always obey orders and always avoid harm. Caught in this hopeless Catch-22, the robot sings out the garbled line as a signal of its spiraling malfunction. The distress is deepened in Helado Negro’s "Runaround," written in the aftermath of the death of Michael Brown, as it became clear the police officer who killed him would go free: Obey orders or avoid harm; Hands up, don’t shoot. I’m in love with this song’s heartbreaking, strange, defiant response.
Graeme Bezanson's writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from BOMB, PRISM International, CAROUSEL, and The Puritan. He lives in France.
"Cattle and Cane" covered by Jimmy Little
Over the past year-and-half, I spent significant time revisiting songs and singers that draw me back and prompt me to wonder, “What is it about this voice, this melody, harmony, time signature?” I can’t fully answer that question about the song I have in mind, and I don’t usually listen to it to find answers; my listening to it happens when I need to get lost.
The Go-Betweens’ “Cattle and Cane” has always been a reverie to me. Recently, I heard Jimmy Little’s version, particularly his 1999 performance on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s The 10:30 Slot. The song’s pace, slowed from the original, calls up a steam train’s motion. There’s a guitar, dobro, double bass, whisks on a snare, and claves that cut across it all while a spellbinding joy in Little’s voice arcs through the song to its last words, "Alone…so at home," before trailing off into a hum.
Shannon Tharp lives in Denver. Her most recent writing can be found at/in Blazing Stadium.
"Deeper Understanding" by Kate Bush
In 1989 Kate Bush recorded a song about finding love and companionship in a computer program. Except for the bits about ordering the program from a magazine, it feels prescient enough to be uncomfortable. Bush decided to re-record the song 2011 and release a music video featuring semi-famous British comedians, silly graphics, and a harmonica solo. All of which is fine and completely within her rights. But what I want to talk about is how in the 1989 version, the computer is voiced by a trio of Bulgarian folk singers and Kate herself. When they sing “Hello, I know that you've been feeling tired / I bring you love and deeper understanding,” I find myself entirely helpless. The world is different than it was in 1989. There are six laptops and three smartphones in my house, but the idea of love and deeper understanding is still far too intoxicating.
Christine Kanownik is the author of HEAD and King of Pain and will gladly talk to you about Kate Bush anytime.
Week 18 | Leila Ortiz (Part 2)
"Death is a Star" by The Clash
I skip over Djavan in my playlist as I cook a lentil soup. We fell in love to his live album. It’s hard to listen to many songs. Finally, I arrive on The Clash. Tuneless humming. He recites the warbled tale. Piano flutter like it’s something pretty. It just occurred to me. I never shampooed your hair. Now you are gone. Not gone-gone. But moving on. My heart is fragrant with loss, fat blooming flower dusted yellow. You went back home. Yesterday you sent a video over WhatsApp of your garden. A Beija-flor seeks to empty all the flowers, suck the nectar from their open space. Why do I love its flitting body — its long, blade-like beak? The plants are tangled shades of green and the birds are loud. Like children in a playground shouting over one another. A breeze blows through. I almost feel I’m there with you. The air smells of lifetimes — the ache that swells in a molecule. Where you are it is spring. Here it is fall. Trees erupt in brilliant color. Soon the days will be dark by four. Death is a star.
Leila Quinn Ortiz is a poet who lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
Week 17 | Leila Ortiz (Part 1)
"Differences" by Ginuwine
I am lying on a table after my abortion, speaking a mixture of nonsensical English and Portuguese. Five months before this, I fell in love. He lived in a small studio apartment in Fort Greene with light flooding through the windows. When we looked out, we saw a brick wall with a mural of wild-flowers painted on it. The radio played a constant stream of R&B. A song that was very real to my in-love-heart was “Differences” by Ginuwine, with its tender harmony and laid-back beat. The un-ironic lyrics were true: “My whole life has changed / Since you came in.” I cried and comforted the doctor during my abortion. I could sense he needed me to be calm. The radio is playing in the recovery room. “Differences” comes on. Drugged-out on sedatives, I start singing and tell the nurse, “This is our song.” He couldn’t come with me to the clinic. He’d been deported and was back in Brazil. My girlfriend Tiana is in the waiting room. The nurse smiles and offers me cookies on my way out.
Leila Quinn Ortiz is a poet who lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
"You're Not the One" by Sky Ferreira
I am down for any breakup song, any time. My favorite is “You’re Not the One” by Sky Ferreira. The song is a cutie pie, and it is a banger. You can absolutely dance to it.
Insistent and propulsive, there’s something industrial about the sound of the drums that comprise the track’s backbone. Acidy guitars clear the way for Ferreria’s message: this ain’t it, and its okay.
Like any standout in the genre, there is longing: It's the middle of the night and I'm so gone, but the way she sings: And I'm thinking about how much I need you / But you really want somebody else is so bouncy and energized that following up with a resigned, I won't even bother to fight /I know you're not the one, signals relief. It is the song I turn to when I’m ready to get over someone by getting under someone else.
Jane V. Blunschi holds an MFA in Fiction Writing from the University of Arkansas. Her collection of stories, Understand Me, Sugar, was published in 2017 by Yellow Flag Press, and her work has appeared in Paper Darts, SmokeLong Quarterly, MUTHA Magazine, and Foglifter. Originally from Lafayette, Louisiana, Blunschi lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
"Black Is the Colour of My True Love's Hair" by Nina Simone
Nina Simone’s live album of 1970, Black Gold—a recording of a performance at New York’s Philharmonic Hall on October 26, 1969—opens with a solo piano arrangement of the folk ballad “Black Is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair.” Here especially, Nina’s androgynous timbre subverts the division between masculine and feminine pitch—the vocal range impossible to categorize without a visible body.
As though confessing a secret, Nina croons and warbles; that the true love, who is called “he,” has black hair suggests another, more legitimate but less preferable lover’s hair is not black—a clandestine desire.
At three-minutes-twenty-three-seconds, Emile Latimer plucks his guitar. Nina rejoins on piano, and an androgynous timbre continues to croon and warble—now regarding a lover who is called “she.”
It’s Emile Latimer’s voice, indiscernibly similar to Nina’s. If a listener doesn’t realize that he’s the vocalist of the latter portion of the seven-minute performance, the listener may assume Nina switched pronouns. Now, for this moment, Nina addresses both pronouns. Disembodied, the voice has unfettered choice of gender to embody and desire.
Zachary Pace is a writer and editor who lives in Brooklyn.
"Ghost Hardware" by Burial
Pasts and futures circulate the present, clouds of pure atmospheric potentiality. From those clouds, drizzles blur streets, hardware crepitates, eerie angelic-ghost frequencies set up new-old zones. “Euphoria trapped in a vial” as Burial said in an interview with Mark Fisher. Walter Benjamin’s snow globes. Wandering. After-during-near a rave. A cloud holding divinatory weathers.
After sunset when the blue is here: “Ghost Hardware” works by (dis)assembling voices, sputters, ambient evidence that works on the mind-body like a familiarly evasive scent. Can’t capture it. Euphoric vial spills then gathers itself up, animate.
Burial’s crackles and hisses make me remember I’m listening to sounds made by humans, machines, and their collaborations. “Ghost Hardware” cracks open a space which highlights the faux split between inside and outside. I’m in the song, wandering through its daze as the song seeps into me. From the buzzing cloud and/or ground: “Love you” looped.
Emmalea Russo is the author of G (2018), Wave Archive (2019). Recent writing has appeared in Artforum, American Chordata, BOMB, The Brooklyn Rail, Granta, Hyperallergic, Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. A new chapbook, Great Mineral Silence (2020) is out from Sputnik & Fizzle. She lives at the Jersey shore.
"The Traitor" covered by Martha Wainwright (with Leonard Cohen’s commentary)
“The dreamer’s rise against the men of action... The poison sank and paralyzed my will."
Under the marled air, the scent of iodine crawls across the gorge. The flow of blood leaves my body. What foreign intersection arrives. I catch a glimpse: the sun under the trees, the redbirds vanish. I want to belong to their candor, the blush they bear, my faint memory before the edges swallowed you. I’m cursed by what I believe to see. A reflection lays over me: traces of my killing, or doing. I can’t go back. I don’t protest. Leonard Cohen’s songs carry me each time to a soulful other world where a connection opens something new. No matter how often I play this song I cry each time I hear these words: “I could not move to warn all the younger soldiers that they had been deserted from above.” This is grief, betrayal, remorse, fear, anger, love, a thousand emotional layers.
Maureen Alsop PhD, is the author of five poetry books including Pyre (forthcoming with What Books Press). She presently lives on Magnetic Island.
"Hounds of Love" covered by Andrew Weathers
I keep writing and deleting a direct message to Andrew Weathers, a musician whose digital thoughts I read, and to whose songs I listen. In my message, I indicate that I have been repetitively listening to his cover of Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love.” You wrote that you repetitively listened to the original song, and my mind continues returning to this feedback loop: your living inside the song, and my living inside your cover of the song. I once lived inside Kate Bush's original version of the song too. That summer, I ran around the Prospect Park Lake while listening to it. Sometimes I cried as I ran. Always I thought about taking off my shoes and throwing them into the water. I love your cover. I reread my message. It feels strange, obtrusive, porous. I consider unsolicited correspondence. I do not send it. I write this instead.
Claire Donato is the author of Burial and The Second Body. In addition to composing books, she writes songs, takes photographs, and makes illustrations. She lives by herself in a psychic medium’s building in Brooklyn.
"Met You" by Morgan Wade
Morgan Wade’s debut album, Reckless, has been described variously as rock, alt country, and rural pop, but it’s clear from the opening notes that Wade can’t be defined. With a voice that embraces her Appalachian accent and climbs in ways both tender and defiant, Wade’s entire album blows past the ordinary. The final cut, “Met You,” has reached an obsessive level on my Spotify rotation this year. Plaintive guitar, moody intermittent keyboards, and a throat that belts the anguish of lost love, Wade writes and performs the most thoughtful hell out of her songs. “I’d write you a love song/ But I don’t know how that feels...,” “Met You” begins, and it ends having been a love song, its last two notes a capella and echoing, like we are left wailing at an otherwise empty crossroads of disappointment and possibility, and then it’s up to us what comes next.
Lynn Melnick is the author of three collections of poetry, including Refusenik, forthcoming in February 2022. I've Had to Think Up a Way to Survive, a book about Dolly Parton that is also a bit of a memoir, will be published by the University of Texas Press in fall of 2022.
"Jackaroe" by Joan Baez
“Jackaroe” is about a girl who dresses up like a boy to board a ship to find her lover. It’s not only that though; she dresses like a soldier. “Jackaroe” is a traditional song that goes by many similar names and this might be because it’s a song about similarity. Will Jackaroe pass as soldier so that she can find her own beloved soldier? She says, “I know my waist is slender, my fingers are neat and small, but it would not make me tremble to see ten thousand fall.” She doesn’t appear strong, but she is. To search for her beloved “among the dead and dying,” she must be very courageous. When my mother sings this song to me, we are both afraid, having already become soldiers in our way, and we love each other fiercely like a couple who has found one another after being separated by war.
Anna Vitale is a poet training to become a psychoanalyst. She is the author of Detroit Detroit.
"Music" by Sean Nicholas Savage
Years ago I visited a potter in the exurbs of Seoul in whose foothills, he said, was a plant endemic to Korea his father had taught him to tap. Diffuse— almost holographic in its depth— what appeared to be a watery gloss, after dozens of applications, accrued to a lacquer whose value (both in pigment and in price) outshone the purest gold. Luminous, elaborate,Sean Nicholas Savage’s “Music” (like so much music for music), is like his vases, increasing in beauty with each subsequent coat of sap.
Savage, like those other wild ones who write such songs of songs doesn’t make music—like a drug: he does it. The effect is a Pythagorian panic of the senses in which the cosmos is composed of The Big Music and the DJ’s a deity to pray to, kill, or overthrow. And when you storm that temple: you gotta do it to music.
"I'm Moving On" by Larry T. and the Family
Forward motion - this song is forward motion. Transitioning time and crossroads, watching a pandemic year spill out messy into summer, this song beats that forward momentum, sonic stank face y ese campana bien chingón.
Chakra (Live & Unreleased Recordings Archive Recordings 1981-1983)
One stoned Discogs wormhole led me to this Japanese jamband’s 14 minute masterpiece. Good for a long drive, no traffic, windows cracked at the 3:10 mark.
"Adventure.exe" by Owen Pallett
I have replayed this on loop and won’t quit doing it.
"Eyeshadow Fallout" by Ariel Zetina
A great song to kiss, cry, and dance to.
This music evokes the energy in my studio while I was working through the winter. There's emotional rawness and intensity, but the effect is often playful. It's a casual list of songs: The Raincoats show up more than once. It's more like a vibe. All of this music loves music and revels in what music can do. That kind of music always gives me the feeling that I'm eavesdropping on people having a really good time.
Sara Magenheimer is an artist, writer, and musician based in New York. Recent solo exhibitions include the New Museum, NY; Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, OR; The Kitchen, New York. Her videos have been screened at the Flaherty Seminar, Oberhausen Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Brooklyn Academy of Music, the New York Film Festival, Images Festival, Anthology Film Archives, EMPAC, Troy, NY, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. She was the recipient of a 2014 Rema Hort Mann Foundation Grant, 2015 Artadia Award, the Prix De Varti at the 2015 Ann Arbor Film Festival and a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts in 2020. Magenheimer authored “Notes on Art and Resistance A–Z” leading up to and following the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In 2019 Wendy’s Subway published Beige Pursuit, Magenheimer’s first book length work of writing. Magenheimer is an Assistant Professor of New Media at SUNY Purchase College.
Taylor Swift, “Hoax”
Joni Mitchell, “Blue”
Lianne La Haves, “No Room for Doubt”
Mitski, “Come into the Water”
Taylor Swift, “Epiphany”
Dean Moore, “Trickle”
Cold Specks, “Send your Youth”
Cold Specks, “When the City Lights Dim”
Snigdha Koirala is a poet and writer based in New York City. Her works have appeared in Wildness, Gutter, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and elsewhere. She is a graduate student at NYU’s Centre for Experimental Humanities, where, amongst other things, she explores the sedimentation of history and violence in the English language.
Funkadelic, “Back In Our Minds”
Lady Lamb, “Billions of Eyes”
Sevdaliza, “The Language of Limbo”
the Digable Planets, “Agent 7 Creamy Spy Theme/Dial 7 (Axiom of Creamy Spies)/NY 21 Theme”
Be Steadwell, “Greens”
The Space Lady, “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night”
Julia Jacklin, “Body”
Japanese Breakfast, “Soft Sounds from Another Planet”
Mallika Singh is a poet, cook, and facilitator who writes about environment, surveillance, and intimacies. They are from many places and currently frolicking in the high desert of New Mexico. Mallika is the author of the chapbook, Retrieval (Wendy's Subway), and is pursuing a certificate in Community Herbalism from the People’s Medicine School.
“I love you with all of my soul / u know I wouldn't tell u if I didn't mean it tho" it's a gun joke so deep and sincere it turns right back into human limerence—his singing exceeds the metaphor so that what I feel listening is something like true love, in it's wooze, pivot, lo-fi slur and mumble. While writing the poems that would be part of Glaring I picked up Jalal Toufic's Forthcoming from codex books—it opens with a brief piece called "l'avertissement a l'écrivain"—warning to the writer. There are writers and filmmakers "rare, who address the one who, for whatever circumstances, is in a state of depersonalization—they accompany someone even when he has deserted himself. Since these instances of depersonalization are rare, and since one often does not wish to be reminded of them, the latter writers and filmmakers, books and films are not popular." I said I was disassociating, a serious joke, and the person I was going with said maybe it's time to reassociate. so I had to ask myself, am I just witness to a cosmic crime? Can I make a writing dense, quick and gathered enough to spiral out and upward from the hole we're kicked down into? These are lonely songs, they accompany someone who has deserted themself but, I think, see association as a serious task of making. Burial, "I want to find true love, I know it's [a lie? alright?]"—and the rinse announcer chimes in to pull the music from the vacuum. "From young man I knew what I wanted, never inside weren't watching no marvel" Nito NB. Lust for life, 10 mins of close mic'd organ from Kali Malone, cosmic claustrophobic euro church music, feel my mood slowly disperse and congeal. But "we sing a song, especially to you" too, god (Robert Vanderbilt), please hurry and find us. "God knows I need to see you, but it takes so long, my Lord...nobody has taught us any patience...and by now it's too late...I hope it's not too late but I think it's too late" (Nina Simone)—the last lines of the last poem in Glaring are "love is coming from me, love is streaming / from me . it's there , but there's no time ." I hope it's not too late ! I'm so impatient. I think it's not too late. I'm overcome, I'm badly mixed . I had a vision last night that we got the killing to stop and the storm picked up and the plantations burned and the dead patina over living just crept up and crackled. Writing in a spiral pattern, "I've never seen a night so long" (Cassandra Wilson via Hank Williams), but the night makes matter happen. I said it and it's so.
Burial, "True Love VIP"
Nito NB + Loski, "Lies"
Triad God, "so pay la"
Cassandra Wilson, "I'm so lonesome I could cry"
Duwap Kaine, "Choppa"
Kali Malone, "Spectacle of Ritual"
Robert Vanderbilt & The Foundation of Souls, "A Message Especially From God"
Nina Simone, "My Sweet Lord / Today is a Killer"
Benjamin Krusling is a writer and artist working in language, sound and moving image. He is the author of Glaring (Wendy's Subway, 2020).