Thing of the Week: Tobias Jesso Jr., Courtney Barnett, Herzog's Journals & Mick Jagger's Shoulder

LJ'S THING OF THE WEEKGoon by Tobias Jesso Jr

(This beautiful photograph of beautiful Burrito King is from our pal Elizabeth Barker's Instagram and I'm in love with it. The baby donkey who is the Burrito King logo is the cutest thing in the world to me and upstages Tobias Jesso Jr on every possible level)

I first heard about Tobias Jesso Jr on somebody who isn't Elizabeth Barker's Instagram and my brain memorized his name without trying- the kooky vowelly sounds of the words Jesso Junior Jesso Junior Jesso Junior were so damned appealing to it. I had the words Jesso Junior Jesso Junior Jesso Junior stuck in my head, like a song, for days. I finally got around to looking him up on the iTunes store and the iTunes store said that "it'd be easy to mistake Tobias Jesso Jr for an AM heartbreaker from a bygone era," and then my brain skipped over a bunch of other words because it zeroed in on "Todd Rundgren," which was good enough. I was sold. 

I think Todd Rundgren is such a cool musical influence to successfully pull off having. Todd Rundgren songs would be so uncool if they were written by anyone in the world except Todd Rundgren. The only person who makes uncool songs seem as cool as Todd Rundgren does is Paul McCartney, who barely even counts as a person. He's more like... all the best parts of an adorable animal mixed with all the best parts of a divine being from an ancient fable mixed with the business savvy and people skills of a super-hot Parisian businessman from, like, 1910. 

Tobias Jesso Jr is none of those things, but his uncool songs are only about 5% less cool than Todd Rundgren's. He's a Canadian Cancerian who was born in 1985- exact same as I am! Those are three such incredibly major parts of my identity. I don't know how I could ever hate any art made by a person who had that much in common with me. Even if I hated the person's art superficially, I would probably force myself to defensively love it anyway, because I'm obsessed with myself, and that's just how I roll. 

I first listened to Tobias Jesso Jr's album Goon on an early morning two weeks ago, waiting to catch the bus number 393 to Kentish Town on the morning of the day of the solar eclipse. The bus stop was across the street from the pink house that looks like a pink cake with mouldings shaped like pearl necklaces draped across it which I always try to take a beautiful picture of, but unfortunately it is not very photogenic. It was grey out, since there was an eclipse of the sun, but then there was some weird off note in the eclipsey air that made it look and feel more brown than anything. "Can We Still Be Friends" was the first Jesso Junior Jesso Junior Jesso Junior song I fell in love with. I wanted to love it so bad- giving a song you wrote the exact same title as a famous song by someone who is obviously one of your major influences is such a weird, cool move- and then I heard it and thought "Eh" until it got to the And then one night he arrives part and his voice turns into this silky, creamy yogurt parfait of a voice, and the melody sounds like a mix between Let Me Roll It by Paul McCartney and one of the famouser hits off the first Fiona Apple record i.e. Shadowboxer and the sound of turning a record player setting from either 45 to 33 or 33 to 45, whichever one makes the song go slower. Then he sings the cute lyric Just pick up the phone and hope it ain't the busy tone, which  makes me feel so nostalgic for the golden ages of Tobias Jesso Jr and I's respectful childhoods, which were occurring simultaneously back in 1989 through 93. I was recently having a conversation with a co-worker about how depressing it is that we'll never get to hear the sound of a dial tone again. So it kind of reminds me of that. 

"Crocodile Tears," though, that's the one that really hits it, for me. The version in the Youtube video I've posted above is sped up from the album version, for some useless Youtubey reason, and it's not good enough. It doesn't fully explain why I need to listen to this song about seventy-nine times per day every day. So please go listen to the REAL "Crocodile Tears" on iTunes as soon as you have a spare moment. It's a really perfect, special song, and I'd love to find out about somebody else finding out they couldn't live without it, same way as I can't. 

I'll probably love "Crocodile Tears" as much as I love "Crocodile Tears" today when I'm seventy-nine years old and have listened to it seventy-nine thousand times and could still stand to hear it at least another seventy-nine hundred. It's one of those songs that you only have to hear once to figure out that it's been in your heart and blood and bones since before it, or you, existed. In the middle of the song there's a guitar solo. Who cares about guitar solos? I barely do. Soloing, in general, is a bit of an embarrassing concept. But this is a good one. I like to listen to this guitar solo and pretend that it's George Harrison playing it. I like to listen to this song and imagine up stories about the <3 main character in my novel <3. To the tune of this song she is packing up her suitcase and then riding along a moving sidewalk at an airport like Benjamin Braddock but actually more like Don Draper, even though she'd disagree with me about that. She is leaving L.A. and flying back to London. After she arrives, she picks up her whippet from her brother's house, gets into bed, and cries. "Crocodile Tears" is the most chipper piece of art about crying I've ever heard, seen, or met. Which is my EXACT steez. 

LIZ'S THING OF THE WEEKSometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett

My favorite thing about Courtney Barnett putting out her first album, apart from the perfect album itself, is how there's all these in-depth Courtney Barnett interviews happening right now. I love Amanda Petrusich's interview, where Amanda makes a great point about how "music lives outside its maker" and how - once a song's out in the world - the songwriter herself becomes just another listener. And I love the Rolling Stone interview, especially the part about how Courtney found her narrative voice, and how that partly came from being bad at meditating. 

My iTunes pre-order of Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit became available two Sunday nights ago, after I'd gone on a big walk around Echo Park and taken the above photograph of an abandoned house where the roses are still blooming beautifully. I think my fave song is "Pedestrian at Best": I love the yelling, I love yelling along with Courtney when she sings "I'm fake, I'm phony, I'm awake, I'm lonely, I'm homely, I'M A SCORPIO!!!!!" - except I change the "Scorpio" to "Capricorn," because that's me. And I have a theory that the guitar melody to "Depreston" is altering the cells of my brain and body to help me process what I'll call "the soft frustrations of adulthood" in a way that's gracefully melancholic rather than bratty and self-pitying. But the song that means the most to me on some levels is "Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go to the Party": the chorus says "I wanna go out but I wanna stay home," and that's a tension I very much relate to. 

One of the best things I started doing in the past year is listening to Brian Koppelman interview artists, writers, musicians, and other makers-of-things about how and why they do what they do. His show's called The Moment, and last December he posted an interview with Lydia Loveless, which I highly recommend even if you've never actually heard Lydia Loveless. At the beginning of the interview they talked about her childhood, and Brian said how in social situations creative people often "feel like outsiders because they see and process things at a different speed from other people." And for me it was one of those instances where there's something you've deeply known almost your entire life, but you've never heard that something articulated so precisely. Despite being a 37-year-old woman rather than a child, I still have a hard time gauging when going out is going to feel good and fun and exciting and when I'm going to have that outsider-y feeling (and in a draggy, lonesome way that's got none of the self-satisfied high that can come from feeling apart). Sometimes when I stay home instead of going out it's so I can work on my book, but other times it's just to take a break from the world and listen to things or read things or watch things so I can get up and write in the morning, feeling all fresh and new.

(Courtney Barnett, sitting and thinking)

Last weekend I went out three whole nights in a row, and all of the nights were good. On Friday I saw Sophie and A.G. Cook at Echoplex; it was fantastic and all the kids were dancing their faces off and smoking massive amounts of weed. On Saturday I went to Meg's birthday party at Sassafras and drank one drink that was tequila, tomato jam, and ancho chile liqueur, and another drink that was whiskey and sherry and raspberries and strawberries, and I got into a heavy discussion with Nick about the 1972 Andes flight disaster, as you do on a Saturday night in the heart of Hollywood. And on Sunday I had fried chicken and beer at Plan Check and then went to see Dana Carvey and Will Forte at Largo. Dana Carvey was so wonderful. I really never think about Dana Carvey, but being in a very small room with him made me realize how he's someone I've adored for almost my whole life. He's still this cute sweet goof, with such a warm and gentle way about him, and over the past week I've rewatched this bit about cats playing piano at least a dozen times: 

So I like going out but I like staying home. I think in general I'm getting better at figuring out whether or not I should go to the party. I don't go out for going out's sake, like I did on many nights in my 20s and early 30s, but sometimes I worry that I'm using I'm a writer!* as an excuse for being socially lazy. I don't quite know what the answer to that is. I wish I was more like David Bowie, like in the intro to "Modern Love" when he talks about knowing when to go out and knowing when to stay in. David Bowie's a Capricorn like me but I relate so much more to the Courtney side of things. So for the time being, or maybe for longer than that, I guess I'm socially a Scorpio.

*I said/typed this in the exact tone of Michael Showalter at 2:25 of "The Apartment," which is always a nice Friday treat:

JEN'S THING OF THE WEEK: Herzog's Journals, Mick Jagger's Shoulder

I have been reading Werner Herzog's journals kept during the filming of Fitzcarraldo. The book is called Conquest Of the Useless. I've been reading this because I love Herzog and the way he speaks about anything. I've also been reading this in an attempt to steal some of his determination. If he can pull a ship over a mountain for a film I can work on my work after work, you know? Here is an excerpt I have been meaning to share with Liz & LJ about Jerry Hall giving Werner delicious chocolate and a monkey biting Mick Jagger's shoulder:

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