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September 19, 2017

Book Notes - Jude Angelini "Hummingbird"


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, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Jude Angelini's Hummingbird is a memoir that manages to be dark, poignant, and laugh-out-loud funny.

In his own words, here is Jude Angelini's Book Notes music playlist for his memoir Hummingbird:

All songs are referenced in the book.

Massive Attack – Tear Drop

This little trip hop number is kinda like hot sauce, it can go on anything. I threw it on for my homeboy and his girl when they were having a bad trip off some psychedelics I gave ‘em. The melody is like a playful lullaby and the beat thumps enough where a dude won’t feel like his manhood’ll get questioned listening to it. I was hoping it would chill em out, maybe they’d fuck and feel better. Perhaps I was projecting my needs on theirs.

I just found out yesterday that it’s the theme to the TV show, House. This makes the song a little less cool to me. I’m sure Massive Attack can live with that.

Bob Seger – "Night Moves"

When I grew up in Michigan, Seger was everywhere and I ignored him. He was a singer for the white working class, which I was trying to escape. When I got out here to LA, with all these fucking snobs, they’d shit on him and I’d end up repping him hard. I felt like they were shitting on me, a bunch of Yaley’s claiming Broken Social Scene.

"Night Moves" is about going to field parties as a teenager and losing your virginity there. I been to those parties, I never smashed.

The song starts slow, it builds, it breathes and crescendos with the back up singers chanting the song’s title. On a good night, I sing to this with my eyes closed and pump my fist when appropriate.

“Woke last night to the sound of thunder, how far off I sat and wondered….”

Troop – "All I Do is Think of You"

Late '80s- early '90s R&B. The epitome. It starts with a grand piano solo, then goes right into the syrup. The boys can sing. It’s a slow jam about teenage love. Jackson Five did it first. I’m sure old heads and purists prefer that one. But this is the one I listened to as a chubby, shy, thirteen-year-old, late night talking to girls on the phone, this playing in the background, while I’m waiting for them to like me. They never did.

Pharaoh Sanders – "Kazuko"

My mom put me onto this record. Now I do drugs off it.

This song is ideal for zoning out. It starts slow with wind chimes, and then some weird string instrument gets to plucking, and a little while later, in comes the sax. After that the song just strokes you with melodies for the next eight minutes.

Free jazz isn’t the most approachable music, it can be a bit masturbatory and at its worse, even headachey. But trust me, if you like this song, then Journey to the One might be a nice intro album for you. There’s more groove than spazz to it. And maybe, just maybe, down the road you can claim this album at a dinner party while some pretentious asshole is repping Captain Beefheart.

Bootsy Collins – "Munchies for Your Love"

Bootsy stopped playing bass with James Brown cuz James wasn’t funky enough. He jumped over to Parliament–Funkadelic in the early '70s and was heavily influential in their P-funk sound. That’s the shit Dre was sampling for The Chronic. Then in the late 70’s he started dropping solo shit.

This is his solo shit. This song is built for drugs and fucking. Me and my old roommate used to get off work, dose ourselves with mushrooms, lay on the floor in the candlelight and zone-out to this song, kneading the carpet in our hands, gazing at the shapes in our heads.

It starts with the delicate picking of a guitar, then one instrument after the next is slowly introduced. A minute twenty into it, Bootsy finally starts singing, adding to the groove. The song is an nine minute long incline, that has ‘em moaning and screaming by the eight minute mark.

That’s what I love about this seventies music, it’s not rushed. They build. They groove. Shit, they were probably high on drugs when they were doing it. Nothing like drugs and talent combined to get you to a new place - check the Beatles, Coltrane, Fleetwood Mac, etc.

Here’s a cheat code, I feel like if you fuck to this song and just match the groove, you’re gonna get to an orgasm.

Supertramp – "Oh Darling"

Back in the '90s, I thought I hated Supertramp. If the "Logical Song" came on when I was driving, I’d wanna punch the radio.

Then twenty years later my mom throws on Breakfast in America while we’re playing spades, and I’m like, “That’s the jam… that’s the jam… that’s the jam too. I didn’t know they did that.”

The album plays like a god damn greatest hits LP. It’s become one of my favorites. And some of my favorite songs aren’t even the singles.

"Oh Darling" falls into that category. It’s about unrequited love, but it has hope. It’s like he doesn’t have her yet but he’s finna get her and not in a restraining-order way either. The Wurlitzer piano plays this bright, driving, almost "La Cucaracha"-esque melody the whole way through that gives me the belief I may win in the end, the same belief slot machine bells give gamblers.

Bjork – "The Hunter"

My ex loved Bjork and after the break-up, when I heard her songs, I’d shatter. I was like, I can’t keep living like this cuz my sister plays the fuck out of Bjork, too. So I went and copped Homogenic and this is the first track you hear.

It’s drug-out keys, driving snares, thumping base, violins, and chicks going oooooooh in the background. Bjork knows how turn a song into drama. It’s no wonder Michigan girls liked her so much, it’s like the warehouse-party scene mixed with pure emotion. Plus, she’s a snappy dresser.

This song, along with "Possibly Maybe," really got me into her. I played this album constantly while living in New York, thinking about my ex a little bit less with each rotation. And a few years later, Bjork was mine too.

Frank Sinatra – "High Hopes"

When I hear this motherfucker, or Dino, or Prima, or Crosby, it takes me back to my Nonnie’s with homemade meatballs in the pot and hand cut pasta hang drying all over the kitchen. We yell-talk at dinner. Then play cards with Frank in the background and our Nonno’s telling us stories about being a shepherd back in the mountains of Italy.

"High Hopes" isn’t even my favorite song; it just came on my shuffle in the story in my book, so now you get to hear about. It’s got children doing the back up vocals and weird flutes and shit. Some people might even call it corny. It’s about shooting for things that are out of your reach and grinding till you get there. Maybe it’s a good song for our times, where people would rather cry than do, then come up with big ideas to cover up their cowardice.

Leon Russell – "Hummingbird"

In the song "Hummingbird," hummingbird’s a woman. He serenades her, he loves her, he watches her sleep. He implores her to stay. He brings in black gospel singers to cosign, “Don’t fly away. Don’t fly away.” I hope she stuck around.

The book has nothing to do with this song. The book is about searching for joy in the grind. The hummingbird is a magical animal. But it works its ass off just to float.

Brian Eno – "On Some Far Away Beach"

This is the first song on the second side of Here Come the Warm Jets. It could be the last song on any other album. The first few minutes is drums, piano, and layered ahhhhs. It’s a song of triumph, exhausted triumph. I imagine I might play this after I’ve scaled a mountain and reached the summit. I don’t climb mountains so that’ll never happen. It usually comes on while I’m walking down Sunset Blvd high on GHB. It’s decent in that setting too.

By the time the song ends, it’s just piano, and you end up feeling like you won and you lost at the same damn time.

My sister put me onto Eno. I’m extremely grateful for women in my life past and present who have taught me so much.

Jude Angelini and Hummingbird links:

the book's website

Detroit News profile of the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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