1. Ada Lea‘s ‘hurt’ on the album one hand on the steering wheel the other sewing a garden has a line in it which goes ‘get on a bus back to Montreal’. I’ve thought a lot about the genius of this line ever since I heard it. One one level, it speaks to me personally, because as a former resident of Montreal I have always entertained the thought – or at least the ‘what if’ – of returning. The sung name of the city in the song draws an incredible array of images in my mind. One second I’m cycling down Rachel, the other feeling dwarfed by the city’s skyscrapers. And yet, I don’t expect proper noun to have a similar effect all of Ada Lea’s listeners. If nothing else, it’s a brilliant filling between the sides of ‘take a walk or take none at all’ and ‘make a plan or plan nothing at all’. Of course, the brilliance of the line is actually in the combination of ‘get back’ and ‘get on a bus’. As a third line of a song, ‘get back’ immediately tells me one isn’t home. ‘Get on a bus’ says everything about possible distance and the vastness of the North American continent the singer could be on. Think the blur of highways, half-lit motel signs, 3 a.m. stops for the bus driver to take a leak at a service station. It says age and economic welfare and answers the questions of why not fly and how many kids do you have? In three lines, Ada Lea offers potential solutions without noting the actual problem (which comes later). That, in itself, is the biggest issue. When later she says she’s stuck in a rut, it’s obvious. The rest of the album is similarly beautiful.
  2. José González‘s Local Valley is his best work yet. More incredible than the fact that there are three languages on this thing is the fact that he wrote in three languages. September was a quiet month of releases for me, but as Local Valley reminds me, sometimes quiet is all you need. As I was trying to articulate why González’ music gels with me, ‘The Void’ comes on with the introductory line of ‘layer upon layer.’ Ever since the days of ‘Heartbeats’ it was this particular trademark – the ability to effectively sing with himself. Underneath that is the underrated guitar, which in itself always sounds like multiple beds of notes without overwhelming the senses. It’s like a fort of blanket and pillows – there’s always going to be a cozy spot for you.
  3. My first draft of this had me contrasting González with MONO, as though MONO were not actually masters of the crescendo as well as explosive oceans of guitar. Pilgrimate of the Soul is just another one of their albums that made me wish I had a soundproof room, in which I could play this album really loud. Or that my neighbours had soundproof units. The album cover is essentially the personification of the earth about to collide with the moon, which is exactly what the album feels like, as ambiguous as that sounds.
  4. Adia Victoria and Matt Berninger ‘South For the Winter’ on the former’s new A Southern Gothic isn’t the best song on the album (that would go to ‘Magnolia Blues’). It doesn’t really work – Berninger tries too much to reach Victoria – as they both shine brighter alone. It is a moment to appreciate, though, the coming together of two of my favourite voices in music: southern gothic blues with weary post-cigarettes rock.
  5. I read Sally Rooney‘s Beautiful World, Where Are You a week after I read n+1’s article on the problem with book reviews. Rooney is an aside in the article – she’s mentioned as an important Anglo-American autofictioneer, though not like the Important Novelists of yesteryear. I have no clue whether n+1 subscribers read Rooney (they probably read Ben Lerner and Rachel Cusk, the other cited authors), but I felt curiously implicated even if it article was sarcastic. I am adamant that there should be no guilty pleasures, but Rooney’s books have never felt like that to me. If anything, Rooney can be considered a great author because she excels at opening windows into the lives of others and reminding us of how complicated we can be. If we’ve ever thought that our problems are trivial, particularly in the realms of relationships, Rooney asks if there can be anything more meaningful.
  6. I also vastly enjoyed Ivan Vladislavic‘s The Restless Supermarket. The protagonist is a moody, retired proof-reader, a prescriptivist bar none. South Africa is changing dramatically in the 1990s and he’s none too happy about it. There’s a lot of linguistic humour – the protagonist attempts to convince a supermarket’s manager that ‘restless’ does not mean being open 24/7. Yet, at its core it’s a story about how hard it is to get on with the times. Conservative movements around the world attest to this, but Vladislavic’s 2001 book peers into the very human reasons why change isn’t easy.

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