This past winter, I laid out my thoughts on Red Rocket, about an 45-year-old porn star's unwholesome pursuit of a small-town high-school beauty. In Palm Trees and Power Lines, the basic framework is the same, but the lens through which we view the tale is oh-so-different.
Lea (Lily McInerney) is a bright but bored 17-year-old, spending her summer days sunbathing in her backyard and hanging with her equally lackadaisical classmates. There's a pseudo-boyfriend in the mix, but Lea is only mildly interested.
One evening, she catches the eye of Tom (Jonathan Tucker) at a diner, and when the owner grabs Lea after she and her friends have run out on the bill, it's Tom who helps her escape.
She refuses the friendly offer of a ride home, so her new benefactor decides to drive alongside her as she walks, "just to make sure she's safe." How old is Tom? 34. Oof. But when they depart, he gives her his number... and so the seed is planted.
"Hedonic adaptation" has become a major part of my worldview. It's the idea that we gradually become accustomed to the things that once brought us joy.
If someone buys a beachfront condo, that view is gonna seem mighty amazing when they move in! The next month -- well, it's still great, but perhaps not quite as mindblowing? And a year later, yep, those are the waves rolling in... but you might only appreciate the water again when you have company over and their minds are blown.
Disgruntled folks who experience good fortune will revert, after a period of time, to their general state of grumpiness. The well-worn adage of how "money can't buy happiness" is actually true.
This brings us to To Leslie, where the title character (Andrea Riseborough) is introduced via local news coverage in her small West Texas town. She's just won $190,000 in a lottery, and is about as excited as one might expect. Deliriously giddy, Leslie is positive that this largesse will change her life, and announces to all within earshot: "The first round's on me!"
A grim urgency shoots through your veins like shot of nitrogen. A corkscrew sensation fans through the fibers of your spine. Your feet begin moving before your mind catches up. Your momentum carries you through a tangle of blind corners and underground corridors.
What are you looking for? What are you running from? You don’t know. All you can know that there is a sharp pain in your chest a panicked desire to move flooding your mind. This is the essence of Sharperheart. Welcome to the world to her world.
Sharperheart is Elma Husetovic, a producer and electronic artist, who has recently relocated from St. Louis to Chicago in order to pursue her passion for the dark, mystic power of sound. Last month she released a self-titled EP dripping with claustrophobically caustic atmosphere and inertial aggression. It is a twisted treaty of miasmic malevolence, that ruminates on the realities of addiction, lament, and the wars waged inside one’s own head. It sounds like hell on Earth, bubbling up from the abyss and flowing into a club near you.
Music is one of a few things that can be both disposable and irreplaceable. Think about how often you listen to music without giving it much thought, like when you’re shopping, going out to eat or drink, or driving in your car with the radio on.
I used to work for a radio station where we would give away CD samplers with one or two good songs and 6 or 7 bland rock songs that only appeared on there thanks to pay—I mean the station really believed in that singer-songwriter who happened to be related to or blackmailed the head of A&R at The Big Record Company owned by The Bigger Media Company. Leftover samplers were used as coasters in the office or we’d stuff them into prizes that would be shipped out to winners every week.
When I left commercial radio, I decided that I needed to appreciate music more. Even that mediocre singer-songwriter on the sampler didn’t deserve their life’s work to turn into a coaster for a soda made by a sponsor of the station.
Here are six albums (5 on CDs and 1 on vinyl) that I found while crate digging through various record stores, secondhand shops, garage sales, and other places where forgotten music has collected dust.
Hot Chip, Made In The Dark (Domino, 2008)
My favorite song is on this album. It’s “One Pure Thought.” It was love at first sound when I heard it in the spring of 2008. I was living in Orlando, working at Walt Disney World thanks to their college program. I was in my apartment cleaning the kitchen when the song appeared on an iTunes station I had on for background noise. I stopped wiping the kitchen counters to listen to this song. I downloaded the song as soon as it finished.
By the time I upgraded to a new laptop the following year, “One Pure Thought” was played almost 500 times, according to my iTunes library. In 2018, a full decade after its release, Made In The Dark was in the back room at Open Books Pilsen, in a row of movie soundtracks and other electronic music. At the time, CDs were $2 each and they were strongly suggesting cash.
I walked back to the car, pulled out the quarters I would use for toll roads and played the album in its entirety while enjoying a late afternoon summer drive. I miss both having a working CD player in my car AND to be able to just drive for awhile without breaking the bank.