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March 27, 2018

Simon Jacobs's Playlist for His Novel "Palaces"


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

Simon Jacobs's impressive novel Palaces is an immersive and haunting debut.

Publishers Weekly wrote of the book:

"Jacobs's terrifying debut novel is a master class in anxiety and atmosphere."

In his own words, here is Simon Jacobs's Book Notes music playlist for his debut novel Palaces:

Blackbird Raum, "Whitebled"

There's a tone and lyrical magic that Blackbird Raum have perfected that I'm both inspired by and envious of: a manic, paranoid, hyper-literate folk that's clearly birthed from a lot of 19th-century literature, anarchist politics, and D&D. It's the kind of art you only get from having a super-talented group of people with wide-ranging cultural obsessions united in protest. It's music for the dying earth.

If I were to pull out one of their many theses, it would be from "The Lash" (on 2013's False Weavers) - which I'm not including on this playlist due to complicated Transition Issues - as follows: "The knives in their upward stab / I do no good / I hold them by the blade / That's how I was made." And I think that sentiment - a clumsy inborn violence focused haphazardly both outward and inward - kind of sums up where Palaces comes from.

Patti Smith, "Pissing in a River"

An obsessive, mythic, and brutal love song as only Patti Smith could write, performed with an escalating, oracular intensity. Not only is the phrase "pissing in a river" a perfect image for casting your aspirations/hopes/dreams into a place where they will be hopelessly and uselessly dispersed into nothing, but by the end of the song it sounds almost like a synonym for prayer.

The World/Inferno Friendship Society, "Tattoos Fade"

When I was a teenager I started reviewing albums for, which I thought was Extremely Punk of me, only coming to realize after the site died that in reality it was mostly an emo/pop-punk fan site, and that the reviews I wrote for them were probably on the very fringes of music that they wanted to cover. But I learned a lot about writing doing it, mostly that I can't write about music, and also about publishing: once I requested an album by this band the Revelevens (??) and by the time their CD got to me and I wrote and published my review and cheerfully sent them a link, they had broken up (I still have that album on my itunes, it's fine).

One of my reviews for AbsolutePunk was of the World/Inferno Friendship Society's The Anarchy and the Ecstasy, which I requested because it had the word "anarchy" in the title. It honestly changed me: a big, rambling musical collective with elements of gospel, klezmer, jazz - punk composed for an orchestra. And lyrics about the Weimar era and Philip K. Dick! It was all I ever wanted. Anyway, this is a really good song from an earlier album about memory and authenticity and impermanence with some really vicious lines.

Andrew W.K., "Ready to Die"

When I was 20 years old in school I would listen to this song before every shift at the call center. I don't do that anymore, but there's a sticker in the bathroom of the bookstore where I volunteer each week that reads: "You don't hate Mondays / you hate capitalism," which always brings it back.

Roxy Music, "Triptych"

The exact experience of looking at an Elizabethan oil painting in a very old church, rendered into the form of a perfect 1974 pop song. Roxy Music uniquely possesses this talent.

Grinderman, "Palaces of Montezuma"

A catalogue of esoteric and arcane objects offered up in exchange for an impossible love. The cover of the album, Grinderman 2, features a wolf in a marble bathroom: I stole both bathroom and wolf for Palaces.

Against Me!, "Black Me Out"

The epic closer, and absolutely the anthem for this novel.

***Simon's All-Off-Spotify B-Side Playlist***
Bandcamp links where available!

1. "Border Lines" (Nervous Trend)
*men pen me in* (Australian punk)

2. "Organize" (Sick Shit)
*why can't I react like a normal person* (NJ hardcore)

3. "NecroFuck" (Brooklyn Vampire)
a Richmond Indiana horror punk anthem!!! This indecipherable youtube version from 2007 is the only evidence of its existence.

4. Elle (demo, tracks 01 - 04)
5 minutes of very good Richmond hardcore received on an anonymous CD circa 2010. I have no idea what the songs are called and have never been able to track down the band (are they even called "Elle," or was that just automatically assigned by iTunes?? who knows!). If you want I can send you an mp3??

(it's also important to note that when the Elle album ends on my iTunes it's followed immediately by Elton John's Greatest Hits 1970 - 2002, which of course starts with "Your Song" - best fucking transition ever)

5. "Lost Eye" (Viceroy)
rural Ohio hardcore ("Cincinnati-area"); I've only heard this song once.

5. "Punks Quit" (Anti You)
MOST PUNX QUIT (italian hardcore)

6. "Fun's All Over" (Scissorbills)
MOST PUNX QUIT (folk-style)

7. "04" (Toothtaker + Mestizo)
*I can eat everything on god's earth* (Tucson hip hop)

8. "Yeth-Stao" (Dun-Stao)
*returning from dream-time*

Simon Jacobs and Palaces links:

the author's website

Foreword review
Publishers Weekly review review

also at Largehearted Boy:

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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

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