October 10, 2014
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, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.
Liz Crain's Food Lover's Guide to Portland is an exhaustive and celebratory exploration of Portland's food scene, from restaurants to producers to farmers markets.
The Oregonian wrote of the book:
"Indispensable…Crain's book celebrates the local food scene through hundreds of listings and profiles of Portland producers, purveyors, distillers, bakers, food carts, CSAs, farmers markets and beyond."
Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.
Portland has more than two dozen kick-ass record stores and I wish that someone would put together a book similar to my Food Lover's Guide to Portland for them. Get readers up close and personal with PDX record shop owners – offer up the backstories. We're so lucky to have such great access to quality vinyl in this town. Music is important to me. One of my favorite things to in the world is to go on weekend walkabouts with friends around the city and visit my favorite record shops. There might be a Bloody Mary stop or two. I mean, there probably will be.
I had a long-term relationship die a couple years ago and one of the best parts of that RIP was getting my music jam back. I think that that often happens in relationships -- one person tends to dominate the music diet and my ex did ours. I, as you might imagine, dominated our literal diet so there's no blame. It's just how it goes -- in relationships you wear the pants on some things and you get spanked with others. Anyway, I really love playing whatever I want whenever I want now. And as a result, I've bought more records in the past two years than I have in my entire life.
These songs have all been good to me in one way or another over the past two years encompassing the research/writing/launching of the second edition of this book and I hope you dig it.
"Strawberry Letter 23" The Brothers Johnson
The book launch party on Labor Day night at my friend Nat West's Reverend Nat's Hard Cidery was crazy fun. Cider production came to a close in the late afternoon and then we swept in and filled the space with tasty foods and drinks donated from folks featured in the book. My friend Jim Sandberg -- DJ Jimbo -- who's operations director at Portland's newest and one of its best radio stations XRAY. FM DJ'd the event and played all kinds of great songs.
I asked Jim to pick a few of his favorites that he played at the party and this song and the next are his top two. Sweet, sweet sounds of summer. At one point during the party looking around I realized that the vast majority of folks in the cidery laughing, drinking and having an all-around great time were friends from various parts of my life -- professional, personal, old friends, new friends. It wasn't too far from an out of body experience, I must say, and I didn't even do any drugs. Promise. The overwhelming feeling in that moment as I looked around was gratitude. I'll never forget that or this sweet song.
"Inspiration Information" Shuggie Otis
Another DJ Jimbo pick from the party. Let the good times roll.
"Modern Love" David Bowie
I wrote this edition in two stages -- the first with the original publishing house and the second with the current publishing house, Hawthorne Books, where I've worked as editor and publicity director for the past five years. I came back to this song over and over while working on it because I love the music and the lyrics were ringing true to me then on so many different levels.
Noah Baumbach's film Frances Ha also came out while I was researching the book and this song features prominently in the film which is set at my alma mater. Baumbach also went to Vassar. The lead character played by Greta Gerwig works an event at the Vassar Alumnae House in the second part of the film where I too worked. I worked at the Vassar Quarterly in the basement for two years while drinking copious amounts of shitty coffee from my beat up thermos and typing up handwritten, mailed in notes from various Vassar alum. Then I filed the original personal notes from folks such as Meryl Streep, Jane Fonda, Mike D etc. by myself for hours. I actually really loved that job. This song means a lot to me for all those various reasons, but most importantly, it's always put an added spring in my step. It makes me happy.
"Emotional Rescue" The Rolling Stones
My friend Faulkner Short -- DJ Folklore -- has two radio shows in Portland and both are called Chauncy Pops. At some point during a show he'll often make a dedication to my dog at my request -- something to the tune of, "This one goes out to Rubin the White Wolf." Pretend I'm saying that right now with "Emotional Rescue." Rubin's favorites are The Rolling Stones, Neil Young and Townes Van Zandt. How does any of this pertain to the book? Well, Rubin is in it -- on page 27. For his cameo he's staring longingly at me as I take a photo of a big box of super tasty Nuvrei pastries featured in the bakery chapter.
"Sexx Laws" Beck
At the end of August right before the book launched I went to see Beck for the first time at The Edgefield -- a smallish outdoor venue just outside of Portland. I don't know how musicians muster the physical energy and emotional generosity and thoughtfulness to tour with that kind of engagement with audiences night after night but I'm sure fucking glad that they do. It was a transformative show. I dug the focus on Guero which is one of my favorite Beck albums.
Highlights: I love that it was early and all-ages and that I danced my ass off with an older woman in granny shorts who was so fun and funny and a high school Hesher in a sleeves cut off black t-shirt with a mullet-fro who basically just had variations on one move -- jumping with his fists in the air to the beat; there was a very thick cloud of the sort that I haven't been in at a show in a looong time and that people were generous in making; the visuals that Beck conjured when talking to the audience -- Willie Nelson in the backseat of Beck's Hyundai in the sky, Stevie Nicks floating in the clouds were fantastic; the crime scene tape and drama enacted for this song; Beck's son and daughter were onstage the entire show and at the end and they danced with him and the band during Billie Jean which was strange and beautiful just like Beck; the band scuffled off the stage together at the end in one big circle hug. The show felt like my last hurrah before the book's launch and proceeding media and events. This song was one of the most memorable of the night.
"I Wanna Do It" Sonny and the Sunsets
Rachel Smith my editorial assistant extraordinaire went to Switzerland after we wrapped up the last bits of the book revision project and shortly after she returned to Portland from that trip she began working for a company called Clone-A-Willy. I shit you not. Google it. This song wraps that up nicely -- dive in and do it! Wink, wink. Sonny Smith is one of my favorites. Check out his 100 Records project.
"I Believe in You" Neil Young
While I was coming up with this playlist I had drinks with my friend Rich and told him all the songs on it and he said it sounded great but there was one musician missing regardless of any book connection -- Neil Young. He's right, I can't have a playlist without Neil. I won't tell you why I didn't include him at first because what's most important is he's here now. Neil has always been there for me. He's one of my best music friends. This song resonates with me a lot at the moment. Relationships don't get easier as you get older as I once naively thought. In fact, they typically get more and more complicated and heartbreaking. And...they're absolutely worth it. I believe in you.
"Bam Bam" Toots and the Maytals
I listened to Toots A LOT while researching and writing the book. I can't get enough of his vitality. I put on a Toots album and everything immediately gets better -- my bagel is tastier, the clouds are prettier, my water tastes like wine. Oh, wait, that actually is wine!!
There's music for all different times, places and moods, of course, and Toots, the way I feel him and his music, is all about taking life less seriously and enjoying the moment. It's good to remind yourself of that when in the thick of working through a big, burly manuscript with a seemingly interminable to-do list. Oh, and this Bam Bam fellow, well, he happens to be my ideal man. "Soon you will find out the man I'm supposed to be." I sure fucking hope so.
"Hungry Like the Wolf" Duran Duran
The original impetus for a new edition bulldozed in when I was busier than I'd ever been and could barely see straight. I found out that a woman in Portland was set to publish a book of the exact same title as mine. She went ahead and did just that. No matter that I'd been researching, writing and branding the first edition of my book at that point for nearly five years. The title of my book isn't copyrighted -- most book titles aren't -- so I had no viable legal recourse. In a black humor way -- the woman's last name is Wolf and well you know mine -- I imagined that I was a crane flying high in order to escape a vicious, predatorial wolf. This song makes me think of that, even though the actual drive of the song is obviously much different. Cry two tears in a bucket, fuck it.
"Reunited" Wu-Tang Clan
One of my favorite quotes in the second edition comes from a Q&A with Eli Cairo, co-owner and head salumist at charcuterie shining star Olympic Provisions. I asked Eli whether salame was raw and this was his answer: "As raw as a pickle that is fermented is raw. Or as raw as a Wu-Tang song." So Eli wins the best musical reference in my book award. Hands down. This double album came out in 1998 as a follow up to Wu-Tang's debut just like this edition is the follow up to my debut. "Wu-Tang, motherfucker" aaaaand "Liz Crain, motherfucker."
"Suit and Tie" Justin Timberlake
You can put on your suit and tie and visit any of the 600 or so fine Portland establishments featured in my book. Go ahead, make it special. Make a night of it. JT is one of my imaginary husbands and I'm going to be real honest here for a second. I had to put a ban on his The 20/20 Experience album while working on the book because it was too -- how should I say it -- distracting. You know, the way that short shorts, to-do lists (you'd have to read my Powell's Books essay to understand that one) and pummel horse gymnasts can be. Yeah, you know what I mean. JT's back though! I'm now allowed to listen to him while in the car with other people. Boundaries.
"Goodbye Girl" Squeeze
I just want to include this song. There's really no good connection to the book. I got squeezed by the Squeeze when he was last in Portland for a show at Mississippi Studios -- one of my favorite music venues. Glenn Tilbrook was walking through the bar next-door before the show and I stopped him and sweeetly, almost apologetically, asked if I could get a hug. And he said, "Well, of course, I'd be charmed. The pleasure is obviously all mine." Swoon. And that is the story of how I got squeezed by THE Squeeze! This has been one of my favorite bands and songs since high school. And it's my first goodbye to you.
"Traveler's Paradise" The Cactus Blossoms
This is my second goodbye. There's this sweet spot in between when books are printed and review copies and sales kits go out and when the title launches that's the calm before the storm. I'm a firm believer in maximizing play time so I rode the summer wave hard and in the midst of that I had a big house party/show for these fine fellows -- The Cactus Blossoms -- who were passing through Portland from Minneapolis that I'd seen at Pickathon in Portland the year before and really dug.
They played a set in my backyard until it rained and then an indoor set in my living room. After everyone left the three of us stayed up until three around the fire in the backyard doing all sorts of things that I will not tell you about until we put on head lamps and unscrewed the plywood covering my backyard "stage." No dead bodies. It was very, very important to narrow that out at that point. Of course. I love summer. And I love you. Thank you for listening to my playlist and reading through to the very, very end. Always remember that The Cactus Blossoms and so can you.
Liz Crain and Food Lover's Guide to Portland links:
Carl in the Morning interview with the author
KBOO Food Show interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes essay by the author for Toro Bravo
Portland Radio Project interview with the author
Portland Tribune profile of the author
Zester Daily interview with the author
also at Largehearted Boy:
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
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
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