December 6, 2005
Discovering new music is the great reward of publishing Largehearted Boy. This year, Alina Simone's solo EP, Prettier in the Dark, amazed me with the simple arrangements that set off her aching voice and smart lyrics perfectly. I'll let others compare her to Chan Marshall mixed with PJ Harvey, to me Alina Simone is a pure original songwriting talent. Her debut album is one of my most anticipated 2006 records.
In her own words, here is Alina Simone's "Note Books" submission:
A month and a half ago, I went to Brooklyn to start work on my first full-length album. My producer, who lives in Bed-Stuy on a beat-down block filled with nothing but churches and bodegas, was nice enough to let me stay in a spare room in his loft — an unheated space with plywood floors and walls, exposed tin ceiling and plastic tarp covering the hole where a window should be. The only decoration was a torn piece of 'I love NYC' sign patching a broken wall. So basically, it was perfect.
Every night, far away from home and family, I climbed a rough hewn wooden ladder to my bunk bed, plugged in my electric blanket, and reached for a book from the stash I’d brought along. For the past few years I have been pretty hardcore addicted to graphic novels, especially those with autobiographical or non-fiction slant. My lyrics are very much influenced by the unflinching prose of 'comic book' writers like Adrian Tomine and Craig Thompson. During this trip, Paul Hornschemeier's "Mother Come Home" left me sobbing on my air mattress one cold night. Joe Sacco’s 'Safe Area Gorazde,' an account of one village caught in the crosshairs of the war in Eastern Bosnia, filled me with so much awe and respect that I ran out and bought another one of his books, 'Palestine,' as soon as I could. And Chester Brown’s "Louis Riel" kept me up until past 4 am wrapped up in a fascination with Canadian history I didn’t know I was capable of.
I like authors who use short, sharp words to open up the emotional landscapes that ordinary people inhabit. The name of my new album, 'Placelessness,' is ripped off from a short story by one of these authors: David Leavitt. While I was in New York, I was happy to find another such author — Julie Orringer. Her book of short stories, "How to Breathe Underwater," brings the mystery, beauty and terror of life in the American suburbs alive on the page. I grew up in one of these pretty places, where the weight of expectation hung like power lines under wet snow and kids from middle class families kept busy trying to do violence to themselves. Like anyone who has ever gone to school, I was forced to read books written in the 1800’s where 'dairymen' say things like, "tis that slack-twisted 'hore's-bird of a feller, Jack Dollop. He's lately got married to a widow-woman." when I should have been reading Julie Orringer. Let’s all have a good cry together over the time we wasted!
Right now I'm reading a bunch of self-published zines that I picked up at Quimby's in Chicago on a day off from touring in Michigan. Some of these I can already recommend, including 'Couch Tag' (by Jesse Reklaw) about the author’s tumultuous childhood in New Jersey, 'Or Else,’ Kevin Huizenga’s raw and funny sketches about everyday life, and 'A Naturalist’s Guide to Art School' (by someone identified only as "Spike") a wicked blow-by-blow description of art-school types that should serve as a companion read to Daniel Clowes’ 'Art School Confidential.' But the jury is still out on 'Trucker Fags in Denial,' which I haven’t gotten to yet.
photo courtesy of Bryan Bruchman
other Note Books submissions: