Sunday, January 11, 2015

Favorite 2014 Books

It's pretty clear that Forest Gospel's been slowing down for some time. And, truth be told, it's not likely to reignite any time soon. That said, I don't think we'll ever just out-and-out quit the thing--who would even care if we did? And so, in a surprise move: a list! Sure, you're probably well past caring about any more year-end lists (at least I am). But then again, who am I even addressing? Myself, mostly. Self: These are my favorite books of the year, books that seem to be underrepresented in terms of year-end love, which is why I'm compelled to post this here. It's an unranked list, and I know that I missed reading a million books that would/could/should probably be here (money/time), but regardless, everyone should read these books.

Dan by Joanna Ruocco (Dorothy, a publishing project)

I know I said this was an unranked list, but Dan was for sure my favorite book of the year. It's the book that I wish I was always reading. Ruocco's amazing sentences in Dan remind me a lot of Flann O'Brien, both in terms of their humor and Ruocco's ability to write the hell out of any and everything. Made me LOL every couple pages for real (and dumbly smiling for all the rest). Just thinking about it...I think I'm going to go re-read it, right now.


Arsène Schrauwen by Olivier Schrauwen (Fantagraphics)

A brilliant, weird biography of Olivier Schrauwen's grandfather, Arsène. I love the odd colors, the stumbling narrative pace, the fantastic page design--everything.
Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball (Pantheon)

I wrote a pretty glowing review for this thing here, so maybe you can read up on it there? It's really an amazing book that quietly destroys you. I'm a pretty big Jesse Ball fan and I think it's probably his best.

Discomfort by Evelyn Hampton (Ellipses Press)

Friend alert! Yep, I know Evelyn. We're probably friends. So, I'm pretty happy that her debut collection is as super weird and awesome as it is. I don't know another imagination quite like Evelyn's--every premise, every observation, it's like, WTF, who is this girl? It's so great.
How to be Happy by Eleanor Davis (Fantagraphics)

Twitter evidence that I pretty much got the ball rolling on this collection back in 2011. Definitely worth the wait. Davis is probably in a three-way-tie  for the oft-considered category of Nick's Favorite Cartoonist, so having a collection that exhibits such a wide range of her work is super rad.
Here by Richard McGuire (Pantheon)

An absolutely gorgeous comics treatise on place, wherein Richard McGuire brilliantly offers up a vision of the corner of a room, its history and future, both before it existed and after it's gone. The books a formal masterpiece, the kind of work comics scholars will be referencing for years to come. And rightly so.

In the Marble of Your Animal Eyes by Nathan Hauke (Publication Studio)

Friend alert, part two! I'm sorry, I can't help it if my friends are super talented and wrote some of my favorite books of 2014. And In the Marble of Your Animal Eyes, a book-length sequence of poems, is simply the most beautiful. Incorporating a facsimile transcription of Hauke's pencil edits, every page has a wonderful tactile energy of a genius poet's imagination at work.
 In Pieces by Marion Fayolle (Nobrow)

Marion Fayolle's In Pieces is deserving of a much wider audience. Her book, In Pieces, gorgeously produced by the amazing folks at Nobrow Press, is one of the best examples of comics poetry I've found, whether or not she regards it as such. Filled with lovely vignettes, both darkly humorous and poignant, Fayolle's work achieves a quiet gravitas rarely found in comics.
Travel Notes by Stanley Crawford (Calamari)

Okay, so this was originally published in 1967, and, truth be told, I own an original copy. Still, any chance to  recommend the writing of Stanley Crawford is a chance I'll take. So thank you Calamari Press for republishing this lost classic, because if you haven't read the machinations of Crawford's mind, his sentences, what are you doing with your time?
Writers by Antoine Volodine (Dalkey Archive)

The most recent English translation of one of the most amazing literary imaginations of the last thirty years. What else do you need to know?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

QUARTERBACKS - QUARTERBOY

QUARTERBACKS
QUARTERBOY
[Double Double Whammy, 2014]














For New Weird Utah nostalgists, upstaters, the tape label kids, people with guts: QUARTERBOY. No record of the last few years has made me feel more like I'm leaned into a corner of the shed at Kilby Court, arms tucked tight against my coat on a neck-snappingly cold winter night in 2006 or 2007. You can see everybody's breath in the house. High-school kids shivering cross-legged on the cement floor in front of the stage. The quietest you've ever heard an audience at a show. Singing right into your young and hungry hearts.

QUARTERBOY is a solo outing from Dean Engle, whose QUARTERBACKS is usually a punky three-piece. It's offered on tape from Double Double Whammy, the Purchase, NY-based label currently staging a full-fledged political takeover of the Eastern Seabord – stacked with bands, shilling Olympian DIY communitarianism, proprietors of David Blaine's The Steakhouse. Get in on the ground floor.

A cursory glance at the credits, liners and thanks of the DDW catalogue sees Engle's name popping up left and right, and you get the sense that QUARTERBACKS is at the core of a swelling movement up and down the Hudson Valley like so many scenes before it. The music is honest and brave and true.

Long live K Records, long live Marriage. Long live Sarah, long live SST. Long live Shrimper, long live A. Star. As long as there's kids there'll be kids doing this, and it'll never stop feeling this good. QUARTERBOY has the distinct emotional affect of one Thanksgiving song that I sometimes listened to more than 60 times in a row on late late nights in college. Or the Navigator CD-R I seem to play every single time I find myself, wistful, on a flight back from my grown-up life to stay in my childhood bedroom, an untouched time-capsule in the basement of my parents' home in Centerville, Utah. Certain songs, they get so scratched into our souls.

____________________
Notes
1. It is perhaps worth noting that this guy looks exactly like McKay Felt, who played up and down the Wasatch Front as The See Through Boy in those beloved mid-aughts years, and whom, full disclosure or at least bringing it all back home, I once played bass for.
2. When you need more, the following DDW releases are especially recommended:
Free Cake for Every Creature - "pretty good"
Frankie Cosmos - Zentropy
SPOOK HOUSES - Trying
Krill / LVL UP / Ovlov / Radiator Hospital - Split 7"

Friday, July 11, 2014

Braeyden Jae - Heaven House





















Put this buzz in your ears, leave it there forever, or some amount of time where you're like, okay, yeah, heaven, house, and it's in your head, and you don't even need headphones anymore it's always there,  everything's better, voila, cured.

Valentine Gallardo



Valentine Gallardo has the best style on the block by far. Ultra-favorite. So much more here.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dragging an Ox Through Water - Panic Sentry





















It's been over five years since Brian Mumford, aka Dragging an Ox Though Water, released his debut solo album, The Tropics of Phenomenon, which was not only one of my favorite albums of that year, but one of my favorite albums of the last decade. So I'm immensely grateful to Logan Maus, who had the goodness in him to notify me of this, Mumford's follow up, Panic Sentry. And finding it put out by Mississippi Records (& Eggy Records) seems the perfect fit. There's a bit less electronic carnage on this record, but the songs are no less off-kilter in their quiet immensity and overwhelming beauty. I am in love with it--absolutely essential.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Jarod Roselló




































Read the rest over at Hobart.
Also, check out his series, "From the Gutter," over at Pank.
And then, his tumblr.

Mathieu Wernert

Ian William Craig - Theia and the Archive





















Seems like everyone discovered Ian William Craig late last year with his astounding album, A Forgetting Place. Theia and the Archive, the follow-up, is equally good, confirming the validity of the Tim Hecker/Fennesz comparisons. Looks like we have a new auteur on our hands.

Alexis Beauclair


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Susan Balmar



So, not only is Susan Balmar a brilliant sound sculptor (see Signum below), she's also an amazing visual artist (above and after the jump). Super inspiring.