July 23, 2015

Book Notes - Kate Schatz "Rad American Women A-Z"

Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future!

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Rad American Women A-Z is one of the most striking and important children's books I have read in years. Written by Kate Schatz and illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl, the book shares iconic portraits of a diverse selection of strong women from America's past and present.

Bust Magazine wrote of the book:

"The very first kids' book released by the iconic publishing house City Lights, Rad American Women A-Z navigates the alphabet from Angela Davis to Zora Neale Hurston with colorful illustrations and short, powerful narratives. The perfect gift for the junior riot grrl in your life."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Kate Schatz's Book Notes music playlist for her book Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future!:


Miriam and I are both heavily influenced by music in pretty much all aspects of our lives. We are artists and moms and activists and East Bay residents and we are the writer (me) and illustrator (Miriam) of Rad American Women A-Z, a New York Times bestselling children's book for everyone that's published by City Lights Publishers. It features bios and illustrations of 26 rad women from American history, with a focus on women of color and women whose stories aren't often told.

What follows is the Rad American Women A-Z playlist, featuring songs by the women in the book, songs about the women in the book, songs we listened to while creating/touring with the book, and songs we (and our kids) just love by women who are just plain rad.

A is for Annie, and Carol Burnett's classic version of "Little Girls"

C is for CAROL in our book, which is a delight to many, many readers who love Carol but are often surprised to find her in a book about radical American women. Carol wasn't an activist, per se, but she was a total trailblazer for women in comedy and television, and her story is awesome. Her repertoire is vast, but I, like many many people my age, know her best from Annie, which I have probably seen 150 times easy. I have every line memorized and "Little Girls"—a fairly disturbing rant by the abusive neglectful alcoholic Ms. Hannigan—has always been my fave. Sorry-not-sorry if you were expecting a much cooler track to kick off this playlist.

B is for BOUQUET "Rad Women Libretto"

Bouquet is a seriously rad band featuring one of our favorite people, Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs who has written an entire song about Rad American Women A-Z that she so kindly performed at a reading in Berkeley at Pegasus Books. Her previous band, The Finches, created songs that still get stuck in my head on a regular basis, and now we have Bouquet who, according to Rookie, "make music for time travelers". Nice. We're waiting on a final recording of the Rad Women song, so in the meantime you should listen to BOUQUET and The Finches. Like all day long.

C is for Carmen Moreno/Los Lobos "Corrido de Dolores Huerta #39"

The corrido is a popular Mexican song form—they're narrative ballads that are usually righteous (and sometimes romantic) in content, telling stories about about oppression, history, and the lives of the working poor. This corrido is about the great labor leader Dolores Huerta, who's the "D" in our book, and it appears on a compilation called Si Se Puede! that Los Lobos put out in 1976 (it was their first album—their breakout Just Another Band From East L.A. came out in '78). They rereleased it in 2014 on Cesar Chavez Day, and proceeds benefit the United Farm Workers (UFW), the union that Dolores and Cesar co-founded in the late 60s/early 70s. This track is sung by Carmen (Carmencristina) Moreno, a longtime singer-songwriter from Fresno, California who's sometimes called the "Chicana First Lady of Song."

D is for Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon/Sweet Honey in the Rock "Ella's Song"

This song is about the incredible and often unsung Civil Rights hero Ella Baker, the "E" in our book, and it's written by Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, the founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock, the a capella heritage group. Dr. Reagon is a rad scholar/performer/activist/artist who was right there with Ella—she was the field secretary for SNCC and a member of The Freedom Singers. This song is about Ella Baker, but the lyrics are devastatingly contemporary—"Until the killing of Black men/Black mothers' songs/Is as important as the killing of White men/White mothers' sons…" #BlackLivesMatter

E is for Elton John "Philadelphia Freedom"

Fun fact! This song is for Billie Jean King, the "B" in our book! The story goes that in 1974 Elton, who's a good pal of Billie Jean, asked Bernie Taupin to write a song for her, and Bernie was like "I cannot write a song about tennis" so he wrote about Philly because at the time Billie Jean was playing for the Philadelphia Freedoms, a tennis team that was part of the World Team Tennis league that she founded. As is the case with so many Elton/Bernie songs, the lyrics kind of make no sense, but Billie Jean loved it (and it was subsequently embraced as a patriotic bicentennial jam). It may not call out BJ by name, or even mention tennis, but it's totally about her. Plus this Soul Train video is excellent.

F is for Free To Be You & Me "Free to Be You & Me"

(Note: Miriam is a little mad that I'm including this song because she feels it betrayed her because she fully believed it when she was little and then she grew up and realized that we aren't all actually truly free to be you and me, and we can't actually run where the horses run free, because there are fences and rules and shit like capitalism and OK fine it's true, and yes this album actually kind of reinscribes gender roles in some ways, but it is still very special and I still like playing it for my kids.) Did you know that "Free To Be You & Me" was a project of the Ms. Foundation?! Ms. is rad, and this album is rad—can you even handle the cast? Aside from Marlo Thomas, we have Carol Channing! Harry Belafonte! Roberta Flack! Diana Ross! Cicely Tyson! All in service of 1970s feminism! ERA now!

G is for Gilda Radner "Let's Talk Dirty To the Animals"

People often ask us which women we wish we could have included, since there are only 26 in the book. There are so many amazing women we wanted to have in there, and Gilda is one of them. Like Carol Burnett, she broke down so many barriers for women in comedy. She could be raunchy and vulnerable, sweet and grotesque, and always, always hilarious.

H is for Hazel Scott "Hazel's Boogie Woogie"

H is for Hazel in our book. She was a music prodigy, totally gifted at classical and jazz piano and vocals, enrolled at Julliard as a kid and playing nightclubs on Broadway as a teen. Her piano act was unparalleled. She sang in seven languages, was a consummate entertainer, and was the first woman of color to have her own TV show, The Hazel Scott Show. Look her up on YouTube and watch her play piano...

I is for the International Sweethearts of Rhythm "Jump Children"

A few years back I was asked to write a piece for the Mississippi issue of Oxford American, which was thrilling to me because I, a total California girl, adore this deeply Southern publication that I discovered while visiting friends in North Carolina. I was to choose a Mississippi musician or band from a list, and I selected the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, knowing nothing about them and then quickly learning that they were Everything. They were the first integrated all-female band in the country and they were rad. Their story is amazing, inspiring, and ultimately sad—despite their immense talents, they, like so many other women who found work and fame in a number of fields during WWII, they were largely forgotten and pushed back into the domestic sphere once the boys came back home.

J is for Jean Grae "Knock"

Jean Grae is awesome and hilarious and creative as hell and she is doing SO many rad things right now and though this song is really old and she's put out a ton of newer tracks since this first album, I include this song because not only does she sample the Grateful Dead but she samples "Help On the Way", one of my favorite tracks off Blues for Allah, one of my favorite Dead albums (THIS IS THE PART WHERE I ADMIT I'M A DEADHEAD. SORRY MIRIAM. I AM NOT TRUE PUNK). It's such a good deep bass riff and I feel very happy that Grae used it.

K is for Kim Gordon "Kool Thing"

I read Kim's new book while we were on our Rad Women book tour and then in Portland Miriam gave me a Kim Gordon t-shirt that she got from her friend and I wore it to a reading with my tiger leggings and fake leather jacket so it all feels very connected. It was my airplane book for several short West Coast flights—I actually cried on the flight home from Burbank to Oakland when I was reading about Kim watching Coco play music for the first time. It's such a good book, and I so appreciate how she writes about her relationships with everything around her—southern California landscapes, her brother, the 60s, art, punk, the 90s, Thurston, motherhood, New York, performance, painting, etc etc etc. #TeamKim for sure. And this song because, well, yeah—I mean, are you gonna liberate us girls from male white corporate oppression?

L is for Le Tigre "Keep on Livin"

Le Tigre is a very special band and this is a very special anthem of feminist/queer resilience that is just like "Hey I know this world is fucked up and you just wanna curl up and cry and not function but no way, that will not do, you can't let them do that to your beautiful Self". Self-help feminist dance punk at its absolute rad finest. Much love to Kathleen, Johanna, and JD!

M is for May Day Orchestra "The Red Flag (Another Last Song for Lucy Parsons)"

May Day Orchestra wrote an entire "folk opera" album called May Day, or Songs For Lucy Parsons, which is awesome, as Lucy Parsons, the radical anarchist labor leader is the "L" in our book. The song lyrics "were borrowed in part from the speeches and writings of Chicago's anarchists of the 1880s such as Lucy Parsons, her husband Albert Parsons...and other martyrs to the cause." I'll be honest and say that I haven't listened to the entire album yet, but the very fact of its existence is exciting.

N is for "Nellie" by Karen O

Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs wrote a song about Nellie Bly that went along with a Google doodle and it was all in honor of Nellie's 150th birthday. This is awesome, and if you at all feel like it's not awesome because Google, etc, like it's some corporate thing, I'll tell you that the following week I visited a 3rd grade classroom to read from our book and I mentioned that N is for Nellie and a whole bunch of kids squealed "Nellie! I know who she is! They did a Google doodle about her!" So, cool—thanks Google, and thanks Karen for this sweet song! And thanks to Katy Wu for the doodle—check out her other excellent images, including ones of Langston Hughes and Nelson Mandela.

O is for Odetta "Masters of War"

O is for Odetta! When Rosa Parks was once asked what songs mean the most to her, she replied "All of the songs Odetta sings." I particularly love Odetta's Dylan covers, and I think this is one of the greatest anti-war songs ever written. How unbelievably cutting and fierce are these lyrics, and how different does it all feel when carried on Odetta's thick, commanding voice?

P is for Patti Smith "Piss Factory"

P is for Patti! This song is for her, of course, but it's also for Lucy Parsons and Dolores Huerta, two of the badass labor activists that we feature in the book. But really, it's for Nellie Bly, who, in 1887, bailed on her shitty newspaper job in favor of New York, where she knew she could make it as a journalist. She left a note for her sexist editor: "I'm off for New York. Look out for me. —Bly" and within two years she had changed the investigative journalism game and travelled around the world. Isn't that exactly what Patti is singing about? "I'm gonna get out of here...I'm gonna be somebody, I'm gonna get on that train and go to New York City…"

Q is for Queen Latifah "Young Woman's Blues"

Queen Latifah is amazing in Bessie, the HBO biopic about blues singer Bessie Smith. She's also totally amazing on the soundtrack—she manages to sound like Bessie and like herself, and the result is rad. Since B isn't for Bessie is our book (she was on our list!) this is a great way to honor her as well as Latifah, who has fought to make this movie happen for years.

R is for Rah Digga "Angela Davis"

Wait what? Rah Digga is back? With a song called Angela Davis? Yes, yes it's true. Rah Digga was once part of Flipmode Squad and is often given that most dubious kind of gendered title—"One of the greatest female emcees ever" "the female female rapper" etc etc. Whatever, she's great. As is this track, as is the KRS-One outro at the end! Shout out also to John and Yoko's song "Angela" which is also about Professor Davis.

S is for Sleater-Kinney: "Surface Envy"

We love S-K and they were kind enough to let us use this song off their amazing new album for a video that Upworthy did for our book. Miriam and I have both grown up with S-K, albeit in different ways (as in, she's older and cooler and is friends with them and I'm a fangirl who still squeals when I pass the Sleater-Kinney exit on I-5 on the way to Seattle), so they're special to us both. We went and saw them in SF a few weeks ago and brought two of Miriam's high school students, who we got to take back stage with us. I was a total mom who made everyone pose for pictures. Sleater-Kinney is the Great American Rock and Roll band and they get better with every album.

T is for Taylor Swift "Shake It Off"

Look, I'm sorry, but let's be real: this song is freakin' great, and both of our daughters love it. My 2 yr old son loves it. Um, I love it, and when we were driving through the very rainy Pacific Northwest during our book tour Miriam made a sneaky video of me singing along to it. It's also a damn good message that I have effectively utilized as a parent when my child has reported Kids Saying Mean Things—"You know what you gotta do, kiddo? Shake it off! (And tell a teacher!)"

U is for Ursula Rucker "The Unlocking"

Ursula Rucker has been doing spoken word for a long time and she did two tracks with The Roots (who I got to see in concert at the beginning of this year, uuggggh so good). Rucker's work is always gorgeous and urgent and graphic and hard, which is why it's so effective and amazing in the context of The Roots' music. This track is about rape and misogyny and it's intense and difficult and I have so much respect for Rucker for writing and performing it, and for the legendary Roots crew for putting it at the end of their major label debut. That's a rad move.

V is for Vic Chesnutt "Isadora Duncan"

Ok, it's another dude writing a song about a rad woman—but it's Vic Chesnutt, RIP, and he is a great singer/songwriter, so heartbreaking, and despite the fact that he refers to her "ballet moves" I just kind of love the idea of the great modern dancer Isadora Duncan (the "I" in our book!) telling some guy in a cafe "I can't believe you own this attitude." Isn't that just the best line for every mansplaining authoritative dude out there? I just can't believe you own this attitude. Thank for that one, Vic—I'm gonna use it on a troll at some point in the not-too-distant-future and I shall think of you, and of Isadora, spinning all gossamer and wild with zero fucks to give.

W is for Wondaland Records + Janelle Monae "Q.U.E.E.N."

Janelle is a mogul. She's been busy since "Tightrope"—making club bangers, building an empire. Watch her throne, and watch the video for the unparallelled radness of Janelle and Erykah Badu! Rad American women in full effect here.

X is for X-Ray Spex: "Oh Bondage Up Yours"

In our book X is "for the women whose names we don't know" but here it's for X-Ray Spex, and we definitely know the name Poly Styrene, who saw the Sex Pistols play a near-empty show in 1976 and decided that if they could do it, so could she (pretty much the story of punk, yes?). And then boom there she was, shouting "Some people say little girls should be seen and not heard!"

Y is for "Yuri Kochiyama" by Blue Scholars

Ok, this song is by dudes, BUT it's all about the radical activist Yuri Kochiyama, who is the "Y" in our book. It is without a doubt the only hip-hop song in the history of ever to feature the lines "Holla/When I grow up I wanna/be just like Yuri Kochiyama."

Z is for Zora Neale Hurston "Crow Dance"

Zora Neale Hurston is the final woman in our book, and though she's best known as the writer of novels like Their Eyes Were Watching God she was also an anthropologist whose fieldwork focused on collecting the stories, songs, and dances of black cultures throughout the American South, as well as the Bahamas and Central America. In 1935 she went back to Florida, where she was born and raised, to research and record stories and songs for the Library of Congress/Federal Writers' Project. She learned the "Crow Dance", and explained how it originated in West Africa, then traveled to Jacksonville, Florida (where she heard it) via the Bahamas. She recorded this in 1939, and you can hear more of the songs she recorded in Florida here.


Kate Schatz and Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future! links:

the author's website
the book's website
excerpts from the book

Kirkus review
School Library Journal review

Berkeleyside profile of the author
BuzzFeed profile of the author
Identities.Mic profile of the author
KQED interview with the author
Metro interview with the author
MTV interview with the author
The Pirate Tree interview with the author
Publishers Weekly profile of the author
The Seattle Lesbian interview with the author
Weird Sister interview with the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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July 23, 2015

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week - July 23, 2015

In the weekly Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week, the Montreal bookstore recommends several new works of fiction, art books, periodicals, and comics.

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly is one of Montreal's premiere independent bookstores.


The Divine

The Divine
by Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka, Boaz Lavie

Gory, gorgeous, and morally complex, The Divine follows the story of Mark, an ex-military explosives specialist who escapes a dead end job by taking a military contract in the obscure Southeast Asian country of Quanlom. Here, there is more than he signed on for, and he must avoid the crossfire between ancient powers and modern warfare.


A Planet for Rent

A Planet for Rent
by Yoss

For the first time ever, English-speaking readers will be able to peek into the mind of Cuba's foremost science fiction writer. In A Planet for Rent, Earth, wracked with economic and environmental problems, is rescued by alien colonizers who then reinvent it as a tourist destination. The dispossessed humans must now struggle in any way they can, either by collaborating, escaping, or staying and eking out a living any way they can.


Land of Love and Drowning

Land of Love and Drowning
by Tiphanie Yanique

Set in the early 1900s, when the Virgin Islands are transferred from Danish to American rule, two sisters and their half-brother find themselves shipwrecked and orphaned. They are each endowed with magic that might save or doom them and their descendants, in this lyric debut novel that evokes an entire beautiful, vibrant world.


Armada

Armada
by Ernest Cline

Ever since the phenomenon that was Ready Player One, fans of science fiction-infused young adult literature have been waiting with bated breath for Cline's next story. Armada—in which disaffected teenage gamer Zach Lightman spots a flying saucer straight out of the video game he plays every night, convincing him that, against his better judgment, he might be destined for something greater—doesn't disappoint.


A Cure for Suicide

A Cure for Suicide
by Jesse Ball

A mysterious man and woman move into a small house in a small village. She is the "examiner," he the "claimant." She is teaching him the most basic functions: What a chair is, how to meet people. She then records his progress in her journal, including his troubling dreams, the arrival of the charismatic Hilda, and the many questions this strange and fascinating novel raises.


Librairie Drawn & Quarterly links:

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly's blog
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Facebook page
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Tumblr
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly on Twitter


also at Largehearted Boy:

other Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week

52 Books, 52 Weeks
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly new comics and graphic novel highlights)
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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Shorties (Haruki Murakami's Newly Translated Novels Reviewed, Stream the New Mynabirds Album, and more)

The Independent reviewed the newly published English translations of Haruki Murakami's novels Wind & Pinball 1973.


NPR Music is streaming the Mynabirds' new album Lovers Know.


McSweeney's interviewed poet Daniel Khalastchi.


Bookforum interviewed music critic Jessica Hopper.


Author Joshua Mohr interviewed himself at The Nervous Breakdown.

Read an excerpt from his new novel All This Life.


Stream a new Blitzen Trapper song.


Electric Literature shared an excerpt from Kathleen Alcott's new novel Infinite Home.


Stream a new Micachu and the Shapes song.


The San Francisco Chronicle interviewed Joshua Mohr about his new novel All This Life.


Paste listed the best punk documentaries of all time.


Ernest Cline talked to Paste about his new novel Armada.


SPIN profiled the band Widowspeak.


The Houston Chronicle and Vulture listed the best books of 2015 so far.


Indie musicians weighed in on music streaming at Newsweek.


Paste listed the best YA books of the year so far.


NPR Music is streaming the new Lianne La Havas album, Blood.


Follow Largehearted Boy on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, and Stumbleupon for links (updated throughout the day) that don't make the daily "Shorties" posts.


also at Largehearted Boy:

previous Shorties posts (daily news and links from the worlds of music, books, and pop culture)

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
daily mp3 downloads
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
weekly music release lists
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)

Posted by david | permalink | post to del.icio.us

Daily Downloads (Elephant Micah, Monk Parker, and more)

Every day, Daily Downloads offers free and legal music and/or stream.


Today's free and legal mp3 downloads:

Alanna McArdle: Reticular (2012-2013) EP [mp3]

The Kickback: Live at Odds album [mp3]

The Lawsuits: Tumbled EP [mp3]

Lisa/Liza: The First Museum album [mp3]

Monk Parker: Live on WFMU [mp3]

Sofi l'Anthrope: Chansons des fonds de tiroir EP [mp3]

Speaker for the Dead: The Ballad Of The Undercrust album [mp3]

Wren & Mary: Be Friends album [mp3]


Free and legal live performances at other websites:

Elephant Micah: 2015-07-16, Brooklyn [mp3]


search for more free and legal music downloads at Largehearted Boy


also at Largehearted Boy:

other Daily Downloads

covers collections
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads

Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, books, and pop culture news and links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtrack)
weekly new album lists

Posted by david | permalink | post to del.icio.us

July 22, 2015

Author Paula Bomer Interviews Musician Jimmy LaValle of The Album Leaf

In the "Largehearted Boy Cross-Media Cultural Exchange Program" series (thanks to Jami Attenberg for the title), authors interview musicians (and vice versa).

Paula Bomer is a author, her most recent book is the short story collection Inside Madeleine.

Jimmy LaValle records and performs as The Album Leaf. His most recent album is Perils from the Sea, a collaboration with Sun Kil Moon.


Author Paula Bomer interviews Jimmy LaValle of The Album Leaf:


"The Album Leaf is the solo project of Jimmy LaValle, a San Diego-based songwriter who began recording solo material one year after forming the post-rock band Tristeza. Inspired by a number of genres -- classical, jazz, and post-rock among them -- LaValle constructed his own songs in a similarly eclectic manner, utilizing everything from ambient noise to field recordings to radio transmissions." From All Mike DeRanco, Music Guide

Paula Bomer: I discovered The Album Leaf because of his collaboration with Mark Kozelek, resulting in the album, Perils From The Sea. I was taken by that album, because while lyrically very much in line with Kozelek's recent lyric writing, musically it seemed a real departure for Kozelek. And so I started listening to The Album Leaf, to try to understand the collaboration. Since then, I've spent the past few weeks listening to all of his many albums, including In a Safe Place, Into the Blue Again, One Day I'll Be On Time, as well as his collaboration with Bright Eyes. Jimmy played in Brooklyn last week and I unfortunately missed being able to talk to him in person, but he were kind enough to answer some of my questions via email.

I posted your bio taken from All Music Guide, where it describes your music as a result of a mix of influences ranging from "classical, jazz, and post rock among them". While I don't dispute this, I wanted to throw out some adjectives and words to see how you get your reaction to how they work to describe your music. Maybe, think of this as word play game.

Ethereal

Jimmy LaValle: I agree with this. i like to create a lot of space in my music.

Bomer: Soothing

LaValle: I've often heard this word used to explain the feeling my music has on people.

Bomer: Melancholy

LaValle: I'm definitely guilty of a good melancholic melody. but it's not ever on purpose.

Bomer: Contemplative

LaValle: Sure. Can make you think.

Bomer: Mourning

LaValle: I'm not inspired by death or loss. But I can see people using my music to cope, heal or forget/forgive.

Bomer: Talk to me about the titles of your songs. Is it challenging to title songs that have no lyrics? How do you come up with words to music that have no words? And which comes first, the title, or the words to describe the music, or the music itself? Do actual words go through your mind while creating the lyric-free music? Maybe these are banal process questions, but I'm a writer who listens constantly to music and the relationship between music and words is mysterious and interesting to me.

LaValle: 80% of my music is instrumental. Yes, The titles are usually words or phrases that most of the time, have nothing to do with the song. Sometimes they do, sometimes there was a mood I was in, or I was thinking of a situation, or something that happened while writing the song. But most times, there is no relation. after the titles happen, and things are finalized. the titles then start to develop a relationship to the song in my mind. I can start to connect the dots and establish a connection to the titles and music. The music is always first for me, never the other way around. You mentioned the collaborations with Mark Kozelek and Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) above, in both of those collaborations, I wrote the music for them which they then sang on. I've never written a piece of music to lyrics or vocals.

Bomer: Why do you think you primarily write music without words and when does a song seem to want or need lyrics or not? I'm wondering if it's random or there is a personal reason or meaning for how you come to know if it's going to be instrumental or not? That perhaps the aesthetic comes from something beyond artistic choice, from somewhere emotional or elsewhere.

LaValle: This is obviously a question I am asked a lot. To get deep into it, I was in a band before this, and I was going to sing for that band. We spent a lot of time writing music, developing what we wanted to do and had a show to play before we had the vocals ready. So we played the show with no vocals. Afterwards, when we went to add vocals, my bandmate told me he didn't like my voice. That scarred me and sat with me for a long time. I was very frightened of singing. I've never been a singer and I don't consider myself a singer and will never consider myself a singer. I sing, yes. But I am not a singer. When I was making "in a safe place" I wanted to push myself and get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself. So what better way than to overcome my fear of singing? So I did. It's a brutally honest vocal on that record and I still only sang one song on that record. I do backing vocals on the others.

Moving forward, I just started to hear vocals on certain songs. "Always for you" was always a song I was going to sing on. At other times, Pall Jenkins, who I collaborate with vocally and lyrically, will hear a song and hear a vocal melody so we go for it. It's really a song by song basis. If there's room for a vocal, I'll try it, if there is not, and I feel the melody is strong, it stays how it is.

Bomer: When you made the album with Mark Kozelek and collaborated with Bright Eyes, how did you work out the recording of the music with Kozelek's lyric heavy approach? How did that differ from working with Bright Eyes' very different lyrical style?

LaValle: I touched on this above. With Conor, I just had a couple acoustic songs that I had been written that were not going to be Album Leaf songs and when we decided to collaborate, I sent him those songs. But with Mark, I didn't think about his lyrical approach. I would just focus on the music side for me and what I wanted to do that was different. I would just try to do something that I wouldn't do in Album Leaf musically. I focused on it being synth heavy while also using a handful of old vintage drum machines I had recently picked up. I limited myself to 4 or 5 instruments and just tried to create simple songs based on that. I always write with a verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus or whatever formula in mind. So I would just try to guess, melody wise, what he might do. It always surprised me. I hadn't listened to his music since Red House Painters so I wasn't aware of his new vocal approach he had been using over his previous records. It was cool and surprised me. I really love that record and what we created. It's really a shame that we've never played it live.

Bomer: How would you describe your audiences? How do they differ in different parts of the country, or the world?

LaValle: My audience is very diverse and I love it. The age range is anywhere between 0 & 80. No joke. I've had 7 year olds at shows before, arriving with their parents who are also fans and have played the music for their children. I've received audio recordings of 2 year olds singing "Always For You". I've played shows were there are older people in the audience that approach me saying they found me on Pandora or any other streaming services. People who have discovered me from TV shows like Scandal. Its great. I really appreciate the different ages, backgrounds and demographics my fan base have. I am happy to not cater to a specific kind of person.

Bomer: How did you come to dedicating yourself to making music? How did you find each other?

LaValle: I've been playing and creating music since I was a child. It's all I've ever done. So I don't really know anything else and couldn't answer the question because I don't know what not playing music is like.


Jimmy LaValle and The Album Leaf links:

The Album Leaf website
The Album Leaf Wikipedia entry


Paula Bomer links:

Austin Bunn's website


also at Largehearted Boy:

other musician/author interviews

Antiheroines (Jami Attenberg interviews comics artists)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
guest book reviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Soundtracked (directors and composers discuss their film's soundtracks)

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Book Notes - Dale Marlowe "Digging Up The Bones"

Digging Up The Bones

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Dale Marlowe's Digging Up The Bones is a dark and brilliant linked story collection that examines the harsh life of one southern family over several generations.

Josh Emmons wrote of the book:

"Marlowe has created a world at once strange and familiar, where love and violence move in lockstep, and where the sound of one family's barbaric yawp echoes over rooftops and reminds us of our own. This is a brave, brilliant book."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In his own words, here is Dale Marlowe's Book Notes music playlist for his short story collection Digging Up The Bones:


"Fortunate Son," Creedence Clearwater Revival, Willy and the Poor Boys: It would be a simple case of authorial malpractice to attempt exposition of the Vietnam's War's effects on a deeply wounded character like Digging Up The Bones' Junior Nash without first planting one's face in a speaker wired to a sound system capable of cranking this fucker to ee-leh-ven. Thank you.

"I'll Fly Away," Gillian Welch, Alison Krauss, O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Soundtrack): I have heard this song sung my whole life (usually a cappella, solo, and by women), but I've only heard it sung better than Welch's and Krauss' interpretation a few times; in fairness, the singers besting their effort were usually Holy Ghost “native speakers,” in a church, who'd never lived anywhere but Appalachia. Singers who believe their songs voice a presence of the soul that can be heard, but not always described. The Welch/Krauss version is the next best thing. It transports me in much the same way I imagine Opel, the Nash family's cursed matriarch In Digging Up The Bones, would rely on it as a dissociative trigger that dimmed and diminished the crimes committed in her presence.

"Wonderful (The Way I Feel)," My Morning Jacket, Circuital: Sometimes voice, instrument, time, and place converge, and at their nexus create something more complex and valuable than any of the four alone. My Morning Jacket, featuring Jim James' peerless talent and musicianship, informed by the tragedy, comedy and triumph of modern Kentucky, is a great example. Frankly, I used "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)" as a means of invocation on the cusp of editing jags for Digging Up The Bones. If MMJ doesn't change your mood, your head's the problem. It sure set mine, and rightly—I hope.

"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," Hank Williams, Sr., The Complete Hank Williams: Hear these words, this voice, and know the gashes bleeding a writer's soul. You can't fake verses like this, nor the notes accompanying them. Truth is, were it not for Hank Williams, Sr., The Carter Family, and Johnny Cash, I'd be without a vocabulary to explain my people to anyone, including myself. I aspire to that degree of sincerity. I have not met it, but Senior calls, and the call pulls me up, out, and forward.

"When Johnny Comes Marching Home," Ultima Thule, Vikingabalk: Indulge me here, if you will, as Google informs me Swedish stomp-rockers Ultima Thule may have a fraught, white-pridey past. Now, I added Ultima Thule's cover of the Civil War standard "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" to the playlist long before I thought to conduct a due-diligence arsepucker-sweep to roust any tatted idiots in Docs and suspenders who can't tell Oi! from Oy! Still, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home's" inclusion is apropos of an episode in Digging Up The Bones treating the twisted psyche of Junie Nash, a skinhead whose worldview implodes when he becomes a father and widower in a single afternoon. Junie as we find him would insist readers know he'd never cotton to milquetoast race-traitors like Ultima Thule, whose meh-xplanations in response to charges of Nazi-flirting wax between apology and apologia. Junie's playlists would host dozens of angrier, more explicit, more extreme, more hateful bands. They probably wouldn't even be playlists per se, unless cassette mix-tapes count, and they do not. The sickening research I endured to render Junie was task enough. I had no inclination to delve further into scenes that might interest him. Ultima Thule's "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" served well as bad-enough; its squelched fury hints at the vicious noise that cements identity in tortured minds.

"Sissyneck," Beck, Odelay: In which we find Mr. Hansen writing his will/on a $3 bill. in addition he explains, with abject impunity, that he's got a beard/that would disappear/if [he]/ dressed in/leather. I name-checked this tune to title an episode in Digging Up The Bones celebrating a taboo-shattering extravaganza of super-hot, socio-economically nuanced, racially-integrated, inter-generational, Bluegrass-tinged, man-on-man action. As with many of the rorschach blot memes dotting Beck's early pop-poems, the word "Sissyneck" hints and winks: it shows, it tells, it covers, it lies. It's a hook for hanging up whatever's on your mind, so it doesn't get wrinkly while you chase the boogie.

"Goodbye Earl," Dixie Chicks, Fly: The Dixie Chicks bring Dennis Linde's kill-the-abusive-bastard farce to full relief. I kept "Goodbye Earl" in rotation while writing and editing Digging Up The Bones to prevent the mood in my crypt from listing too far toward darkness. The cheeky tone and macabre concerns link the song to the struggles of Penny Mastropolous, a Nash girl done-good in "Chicagoland," whose abusive husband seems intent on denying her a happy ending. Penny's life changes track Wanda and Mary Ann's, but then her life changes forever upon her brother's unexpected visit. The topic, and the tale, are deadly serious. When took her bow, I hope Penny was wired into into the same satisfying righteous thrumming current that helped the Dixie Chicks crush it on "Goodbye Earl's" gloating refrain. Press play, set repeat.

"Ennie Meenie," Wally Wilette, Rockabilly Rampage: In another life I wore a lawyer's skin. It did not fit me well, and not much came of it, but it did result in my having the honor of tending some of Wally Wilette's affairs. At one time, Wilette toured with Hank, Sr., on bass. Between Williams' demise and Wilette's creatively proscriptive conversion to Pentecostalism, the French-Canadian Maine-Country Mountain-Madman wrote, played, and published a stack of Rockabilly keepers that remain popular among the continental European “greaser” set, especially in Germany. But Wilette's an obscure figure Stateside, and I threw Eenie Meenie on the platter because I knew him, and I loved him; he was a sage, and he was a star. I drew on memories of Wilette to detail the character of Doyle in "Simmer Till You Can't Stand It." Digging Up The Bones resurrects some of Wilette's better Nor'easter rants, but distills the creole accent and sets them in Doyle's mouth, e.g., Doyle's discourse on Appalachia's disparate peoples as a single People.

"Lit Up," Buckcherry, Buckcherry: There's a dreadful thanatoptic urge marking the men and women of Digging Up The Bones. It calls to mind the “Linkhorn gene” Hunter S. Thompson postulates in Hell's Angels. I carry this “passenger,” as do my kin, and I have seen it expressed in the lives of many others of a similar background. The transgressive urge serves me ill, by most measures, but with the right music striking a mood, a writer might channel this baser instincts into creativity, or for editing a book like Digging Up The Bones. One tool for the job was Lit Up. Because Buckcherry.

"Down South Jukin'," Lynyrd Skynyrd, Skynyrd's First…and Last: The abomination that appears on Fox & Friends and tours with Charlie Daniels is a fake. The real Lynyrd Skynyrd died in 1977 among among a downed plane's smoldering debris. That band's memory suffers the same affliction bedeviling Jesus of Nazareth and Ayn Rand—taken on their own terms, each deserves consideration, if not admiration and affection. Not Rand, though. Skynyrd, JC, and Rand suffer "devotee-drag,” which occurs when a notable figure's most devoted, vocal, and least-informed admirers' epic douchebaggery prevents sensible folks from treating the notable figure as worthy of reflection. Which Ayn Rand is not. Skynyrd's discography goes deeper than well-known arena-rock Zippo-lifters. The deep cuts are politically progressive and socially-conscious, e.g., "Things Goin' On" (checking white indifference to black suffering), "That Smell" (anti-drug), "The Ballad of Curtis Loew" (sincerity trumps differences of race and age), "Simple Man" (income inequality), and "Saturday Night Special" (pro gun-control). In the aftermath of the '77 crash, MCA Records hot-shopped Skynyrd's First…and Last, a hodgepodge of demos, B-sides, cast-offs, and one-takes. It's mostly forgettable, but "Down South Jukin'" is a gem. Unlike the fetid doorstop that is Atlas Shrugged. Digging Up The Bones explores difficult terrain; the music I enjoyed as I wrote aligned with those concerns. As with "Goodbye Earl," "Down South Jukin'" is light enough to help a listener keep perspective, but not so frivolous as to queer the vibe. Unlike Rand, who soured milk with her smile.

"Box of Rain," Grateful Dead, American Beauty: Ditto devotee-drag for the Grateful Dead, but there's no solvent strong enough to dissolve the band's bonds to strange, trips, or lengths. Protean comes packed alongside permanence. As often as not, it turns out the two don't compete, but complement. Charged by magick notions simple and clear as here, mine, for you, or in love, Robert Hunter's superb lyrics quote the great throbbing oversoul of poetic melancholy real creators have always channeled, regardless of medium, era, or style. For me, The Grateful Dead's haunting "Box of Rain" was the song of Liney Nash, a doomed young man from Digging Up The Bones whose ultimately illusory hope springs from brute resort to craft, artifice, will, beauty, impermanence, and excess.

"Cocaine Blues," Hank Williams III, Risin' Outlaw: Hank III's self-aware cow-punk braids his DNA to America's, toward an end best envisioned thusly: don your black ten-gallon Stetson. Strap a set of fringed rawhide chaps to your nekkid thighs, then ride an overchromed badass Indian Scout to the most dangerous dive in howling distance, strut up to the bar and box-out anyone fool enough to get between you and the hooch. Gulp down a few belts of raw corn liquor and a shot of raw Oaxacan pulque, back, before whipping somebody senseless with the sharp end of a snapped-in-half cue, for no damn reason at all. Finally pull a long, fat line of blow off the cracked glass of an ancient jukebox playing a Gregorian monks' reggae time medley of "Kaw-li-ga," "Country Boy Can Survive," and "Dick in Dixie." Or something thereabouts. "Cocaine Blues" is a great entry point to the Hank III oeuvre. It's his best take on Johnny Cash's manic "Folsom Prison" remix of T.J. Arnall's C&W big-band fable "Little Sadie." Hank III plays it straight, right down to Cash's classic “suet!” denouement; in forsaking caricature for homage, he carves out a space big enough to fit song, story, history, and all the considerable egos in the pantheon of badasses who've kept it vital for a century. "Cocaine Blues" bridges time, genre, and space, and extends the consolations of shared, cyclical time to succeeding generations: if they're brave enough, buckwild enough, hellbent enough, and hellbound enough to make the early-morning rounds with safeties off and their hearts on their sleeves.


Dale Marlowe and Digging Up The Bones links:

the author's website


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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WORD Bookstores Books of the Week - July 22, 2015

In the Largehearted Word series, the staff of Brooklyn's WORD bookstore highlights several new books released this week.

WORD Bookstores are independent neighborhood bookstores in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Jersey City, New Jersey. Our primary goal is to be whatever our communities needs us to be, which currently means carrying everything from fiction to nonfiction to absurdly cute cards and stationery. In addition, we're fiends for a good event, from the classic author reading and Q&A to potlucks and a basketball league (and anything set in a bar). If a weekly dose of WORD here isn't enough for you, follow us on Twitter: @wordbookstores.


Not Funny Ha-Ha

Not Funny Ha-Ha
by Leah Hayes

A poignant illustrated story of two young women who go through two different abortions.


New American Stories

New American Stories
edited by Ben Marcus

Ben Marcus' roll call of some recent short-form highlights (which includes a few surprises!).


Beautiful You

Beautiful You
by Chuck Palahniuk

Palahniuk's tale of erotic deception gets the paperback treatment.


A B See

A B See
by Elizabeth Doyle

Revisit the alphabet with this colorful, alliterative board book


WORD Brooklyn links:

WORD website
WORD Facebook page
WORD on Instagram
WORD Tumblr
WORD Twitter


also at Largehearted Boy:

other Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics & graphic novel highlights)
Book Notes (authors create music playlists for their book)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)

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Shorties (The Literary Celebrity of Joan Didion, New Kurt Vile Music, and more)

The New Republic examined the literary celebrity of Joan Didion.


Stream a new Kurt Vile song.


Cleveland's Harvey Pekar Park to open Saturday.


Lou Barlow discussed the Kids soundtrack with Stereogum on the film's 10th anniversary.


The Guardian listed the top books about migrants.


SPIN profiled the band Protomartyr.


The San Francisco Chronicle interviewed Joshua Mohr about his new novel All This Life.


PopMatters interviewed musician Albert Hammond Jr.


Author Jami Attenberg discussed book tour meals at Saveur.


The Baltimore Sun and Paste profiled singer-songwriter Jason Isbell.


Flannery O'Connor and Catholic realism.


Dazed listed July's best albums.


Drowned in Sound reassessed the discography of Pere Ubu.


R.I.P., author E.L. Doctorow.


Paste interviewed Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers.


Follow Largehearted Boy on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, and Stumbleupon for links (updated throughout the day) that don't make the daily "Shorties" posts.


also at Largehearted Boy:

previous Shorties posts (daily news and links from the worlds of music, books, and pop culture)

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
daily mp3 downloads
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
weekly music release lists
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)

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Daily Downloads (Julie Rains, Andrew Jackson Jihad, and more)

Every day, Daily Downloads offers free and legal music and/or stream.


Today's free and legal mp3 downloads:

Adam Cleaver: "The Salt Mine" [mp3] from Man or Beast EP

Badfellows: The Happy Hunting Ground album [mp3]

Dawn Riding: Dawn Riding album [mp3]

EJ: Bienvenue, New Hampshire album [mp3]

Helen Love: You Can't Beat a Boy Who Loves the Ramones single [mp3]

Julie Rains: "You and Me" [mp3]

The Roseline: Townie album [mp3]

Son and Thief: Cardinal EP [mp3]

Teenender: Teenender EP [mp3]


Free and legal live performances at other websites:

Andrew Jackson Jihad: 2015-07-18, Brooklyn [mp3]


search for more free and legal music downloads at Largehearted Boy


also at Largehearted Boy:

other Daily Downloads

covers collections
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads

Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, books, and pop culture news and links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtrack)
weekly new album lists

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July 21, 2015

Book Notes - Jill Talbot "The Way We Weren't"

The Way We Weren't

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Jill Talbot's The Way We Weren't is an impressive memoir-in-essays.

Matthew Gavin Frank wrote of the book:

"Jill Talbot's memoir-in-essays gloriously and disarmingly proves that the ephemera of one's life—memories unearthed from top-shelf closet boxes labeled with magic marker, memories wedged into narrative wine lists, memories redacted with erasers, tongues, song, and the morning rose light bursting from so many of last night's sticky glasses— when carefully organized, is capable of yielding an intimacy that we can hardly bear, but that we would never give up. A bewitching meditation on love, loss, and motherhood."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Jill Talbot's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir The Way We Weren't:


There's a moment in The Way We Weren't when I'm driving from Stillwater, Oklahoma to Oklahoma City listening to the seventies station thinking about my daughter, Indie. The year was 2010, the day before her ninth birthday. I write, "So many times, when she's singing along to Ambrosia or Bread, Jackson Browne, especially America, in the car, I ask her how she knows all the words to those long-ago songs, and she always has the same answer. 'You sing all the time.' Kenny used to tell me that, too." Kenny is Indie's father, the man I loved and lived with for years before he abandoned us when Indie was only four months old.

"Make it With You," Bread

Kenny and I met in Minturn, Colorado, where we shared a house with three other people. He and I stayed up talking on the couch hours after everyone else had gone to sleep, then we'd spill out onto the back porch to drink Shiner Bock from bottles and smoke Marlboro Lights, listening to the rush of the Eagle River. I loved him immediately, his large frame and flannel, the red flecks in his goatee, the overalls he'd wear to the construction site he left for on weekday mornings. After a month living in that cramped house, he started hinting at loving me through the stereo in the living room. I kept my Anthology of Bread in the six CD changer, and in the mornings, I'd often wake to hear him fumbling with the changer, and then I'd hear this song.

"Heard It In a Love Song," Marshall Tucker Band

Not long after we got together, Kenny and I were driving down the highway one afternoon, and I had a mix tape in my Jeep. I played him this song and told him it reminded me of him. He said the song was him: "I never had a damn thing, but what I had I had to leave it behind." I should have paid more attention.

"Put Your Dreams Away," Frank Sinatra

When Kenny and I lived in a basement apartment in Fort Collins, I read Tina Sinatra's My Father's Daughter. I had always been a fan of Sinatra's, and Kenny kept one of his CDs in his truck for me. One afternoon, he came home to find me sobbing in the reading chair moments after I finished Tina's memoir. I told him I couldn't explain it, how I felt her losses—Sinatra's leaving the family when Tina was only three and his death. There's an essay in The Way We Weren't that briefly includes examples of famous artists and writers who abandoned their children for one reason or another, and in it, I write, "Years after Frank Sinatra left his wife and three young children for Ava Gardner, he would tell his youngest, Tina, ‘I was selfish—my choices would affect you forever.'" That was a line from My Father's Daughter, and in that book, I learned that Sinatra ended every concert with this song. When Kenny left us, I recalled how I had been inexplicably effected by the Sinatra memoir, and I shuddered at the thought that perhaps we know, before we know, what's to come in our lives.

"The Old Apartment," Barenaked Ladies

This song has been misinterpreted to be about a man who breaks into his ex-girlfriend's apartment, but the writer of the song explains it's actually about a couple who breaks in to their old apartment to reminisce. I like the way that both interpretations make sense with the lyrics, and this idea of competing versions is prominent in The Way We Weren't. I always associate this song with the last apartment Kenny, Indie, and I lived in together, a third-floor two-bedroom in University of Colorado's family housing.

"Please Come to Boston," Dave Loggins

Kenny and I both had a history of moving place to place before we met, and when we were together, he worked in refineries around the country, and I always wanted him to come home. This was our song. Months after he left, he called me from a bar to tell me someone has played it. I could hear it in the background.

"If You Could Read My Mind," Gordon Lightfoot

For years, the draft of my manuscript included an essay with references to this song that included, "‘Stories always end,' another line from that Gordon Lightfoot song. How can they if we keep telling them?" I'm sorry I cut you, Lightfoot, but we'll always have Gord's Gold.

"Sister Golden Hair," America

One of the essays in the memoir ends, "At the intersection, I press the first button preset, the seventies station. America. 'Sister Golden Hair.' Indie really likes this one. I sing along."

"Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," Kelly Clarkson

Indie often surprises me with songs on my iPod that she thinks I'll like to run to, and one afternoon I was running along NY-310 in Canton, New York, and I heard this line for the first time: "You know the day you left was just my beginning." If you've ever wondered if it's possible to cry and run at the same time, I'm here to tell you I did that afternoon.

"How Much I Feel," Ambrosia

When we lived in Chicago, mornings began with me setting my Macbook on the kitchen counter and turning on the "Firefall" station on Pandora while I made Indie breakfast. She'd eat and get ready for school, and I'd sing through all the songs. For some reason, even though it's the "Firefall" station, an Ambrosia song was most often the first one played every morning. This is my favorite Ambrosia song, and after so many years of listening to it, I'll still stop everything I'm doing and every sound to listen closely to one stanza in particular.

"On and On," Stephen Bishop, "Go Your Own Way," Fleetwood Mac, and "Ventura Highway," America

These three songs are all mentioned in the final essay in the memoir, when Indie and I hear them on the radio as we're driving west on I-40.

"Right Down the Line," Gerry Rafferty

When Indie was nine, we moved from Oklahoma to New York. Once we got settled on I-44 East, I turned to the seventies station to hear Gerry Rafferty's "Right Down the Line." Indie looked out her window and said she loved the song. I told her I did, too, that it reminded me of the two of us. She agreed. This is our song.


Jill Talbot and The Way We Weren't links:

the author's website

Passages North review

The Billfold profile of the author
The Los Angeles Review of Books interview with the author
The Rumpus interview with the author
Santa Fe New Mexican profile of the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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Book Notes - Polly Samson "The Kindness"

The Kindness

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Polly Samson's second novel The Kindness is a gripping account of love and loss.

Financial Times wrote of the book:

"This is elegant, witty writing, informed throughout by generosity and wise perceptiveness. Dealing with many kinds of love, and with misunderstanding, betrayal, grief and forgiveness, the novel dares to posit, ultimately, the possibility of redemption."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.


In her own words, here is Polly Samson's Book Notes music playlist for her novel The Kindness:


My playlist opens with Billie Holiday. The star-crossed lovers of The Kindness are Julia and Julian and "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm" is their song. It's on the radio when Julian comforts Julia as they dance following her flight from her abusive husband. It represents the overcoat in a storm, the feeling of protection that she gets whenever she's in his arms. Towards the end of the book she reflects that Julian is the only man who has ever made her feel "safe".

Julian is eight years younger than Julia when they meet. He's a serious English student studying Yeats and Milton. The first time he sees Julia she is flying her husband's hawk on the Downs. I've taken liberties with Yeats' "Second Coming" in writing this scene because it would have been so much in Julian's head when confronted with the falcon and the falconer. Joni Mitchell's "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" is a great way to hear the poem.

After that first meeting there's a period when Julian thinks he'll never find Julia again. When he does, he sees her reflected in a mirror. I thought angels should be singing and for that reason chose Crosby, Stills and Nash to be playing from an upstairs window. "Helplessly Hoping" "they are one person, they are two alone," has a perfect lyric for the moment and CSN harmonise as sweetly as a celestial host.

"Kooks" from David Bowie's Hunky Dory comes next. Julia knows all the words to every song on the album and sings as she paints the walls of their first flat. Having a child is on her mind and she and Julian are very much a couple of kooks hang up on romancing at this point of the novel.

Julian often finds himself facing temptation. Madonna's "Crazy For You" thuds out as his friend William buys him a lap dance during an almost unendurable "boys night out" and on another occasion Air's "You Make It Easy" plays in the hotel bar when his ex-girlfriend tries to seduce him.

No playlist is complete without Leonard Cohen and his The Future album provides the backing track for Julian's mother. She sings along to "Closing Time", getting the words muddled but she is a very good cook.

Pachelbel's Canon is such a heart-rending piece of music and that's why I gave it to the busker who plays it on the saxophone as Julia and Julian cross the bridge in Paris with him so full of hope and her newly-burdened with the secret that will lead to their downfall.

Finally, I have shamelessly stolen a lyric from my husband David Gilmour's song "Sorrow" and used it at the start of Julian's section of the novel. "He wakes to a morning with no reason for waking." I couldn't think of a better way to express his feeling of utter despair following the loss of Julia and their child.


Polly Samson and The Kindness links:

the author's website
the author's Wikipedia entry

Financial Times review
Guardian review
Independent review
Sydney Morning Herald review
Telegraph review

Guardian profile of the author
Independent interview with the author
Irish Times profile of the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)

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Shorties (An Interview with Daniel Clowes, Stream the New Titus Andronicus Album, and more)

The Comics Journal interviewed cartoonist Daniel Clowes.


NPR Music is streaming Titus Andronicus's new album, A Most Lamentable Tragedy.


Author Rebecca Dinerstein shared a book tour diary at Lit Hub.


Pitchfork interviewed Penelope Spheeris about her classic punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization.


Electric Literature shared Ben Marcus's foreword to the new anthology New American Stories.


Lit Hub shared a primer of weird fiction.


Stream a new Foals song.


A 68-hour Spotify playlist of Shakespeare's plays.


Photos of Nirvana's first concert.


Quill and Quire previewed fall's new literary fiction.


Paste profiled Alison Mosshart of the Kills.


Den of Geek recommended underappreciated graphic novels.


Stream a new song from Drinks (Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley of White Fence).


Morning Edition and Biographile interviewed William Finnegan about his new memoir Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life.

Read an excerpt from the book.


Follow Largehearted Boy on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, and Stumbleupon for links (updated throughout the day) that don't make the daily "Shorties" posts.


also at Largehearted Boy:

previous Shorties posts (daily news and links from the worlds of music, books, and pop culture)

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Atomic Books Comics Preview (the week's best new comics and graphic novels)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
daily mp3 downloads
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
weekly music release lists
WORD Bookstores Books of the Week (recommended new books)

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