1: Good things come to those who Endorse. 2: Endorsers acknowledge all things good that pass their sense. 3: Endorsing is the disturbance made conscious, thankfully, and first this week we have to rave at you all again about what a great time we've been having in your presence this July. Your chemistry is simply ravishing!
We have a few surprises for you over the next few months, and we can't wait to show you about them. We'll also be making a fleshly appearance at Cafe 9 in New Haven CT this month and do you want to go, sir? It shall be August 14th madame, no RSVP needed, simply hail a buggy with your silken glove and be on your way!
But now and here we shake our endorsing rattle and ask all to gather in indeterminate time-space. Have you brought an offering? Some dried meats, perhaps? A bundle of sage? Tell us what is good!
I've come to believe recently that the hammock is the greatest thing in the world. Greatest simple invention of the animal kingdom, beating the wheel out with ease. All you need is a big pocket of fabric and a couple pieces of rope and you get calming cozy comfort floating over the forest floor. Hammocks are so relaxing that I can barely relax thinking about it! My quality of life has improved by about, I don't know, 1000% since hanging one in my living room. I can't be stressed stretched out in that thing. I get in and start swinging and bliss right the fuck out. My cat loves it too, because he knows what's good. He jumps up, switches to purr-and-knead mode, and imagines he's on a wind-blown bough cat carnival ride. That's what he told me. So don't even get me started on how nice it is in a hammock actually outside somewhere in nature with like, birds whistling and waterfalls and stuff.
I need to seriously recommend you get a hammock and string it up. Trust me on this if you've ever trusted me on anything.
A Sensori-Motor Approach
My influences have been planetary this week. It's difficult to focus on one. I feel like last week's endorsement wasn't finished with me, and decided to peel my eyes back and give me a Here-And-Now live action slideshow. It was high time that I did some serious looking into flight MH17, and in so doing I needed to wrestle with the absolutely bonkers anti-Putin propaganda that is raining down like shit meteorites from sky-god Edward Barnays' glossy ass. Check out this compilation of magazine covers. This evidence-free logic-free absurdity would be funny if I didn't understand that the folks pulling the strings here are perfectly happy triggering a new cold war just to stop those pesky BRICS and their dollar topplin.
And then all this sound and fury really is quite a distraction from the terrible recognition that as we draw images of Putin as "the terminator" on our trapper keepers over the MH17 tragedy (298 dead), over twice as many Palestinians have been slaughtered at the same time under our buddy, Israeli President Bibi Netanyahu, nonchalantly and without much negative attention whatsoever. That "leader" said this during the most recent Gaza crisis:
She was asking for it, right buddy? And so, too, the U.S. backed "leaders" in Kiev have to protect themselves against the Russian separatists by indiscriminately bombing the eastern cities of Ukraine. Schools, sports yards, homes, hospitals, the bad rebel cockroaches have a death wish and so the civilized world must give em what they really want. The parallels between what is happening in Ukraine and what is happening in Palestine are staggering. Hard not to see actual connections, too. Hard not to be totally and utterly crushed with anger and sadness at insane history looping in its bloody circles.
A sensori-motor approach. This term kept popping into my awareness this week like a flash of light amidst all this darkness. I have a book on my shelf, yet to be read, titled 'Trauma and the Body: a Sensori-motor approach' by Pat Ogden. I glance at it, filled with promise thinking about the body knots it is surely going to help me address. A sensori-motor approach to trauma means bringing the therapy down from the conceptual brain and back into the body where it is capable of influencing and regulating the most ancient of survival pathways.
I start reading this week Henri Bergson's 'Matter and Memory' and it, too, may as well carry the same subtitle as the cog-sci book. A sensori-motor approach to perception/affection/sensation, where my body is a privileged image which converts other images into action (affection) and my brain is a zone of indeterminacy of action - the greater the indeterminacy, the greater my body's 'free will' as a center of action. Training of the senses consists in closing the gaps between my needs in relation to any given image, so that my body is better able to perceive the thing in its totality and not just in those elements my body can manipulate in order to suit my needs based on past memories of similar images. To see the world as it is in itself and not as I wish it would be in me. This is, to scratch the surface (which is all I've done), a sensori-motor approach to perception/affection/sensation.
Finally, a few nights ago, searching desperately for some way to positively discuss the above political terrors I found an interview with Stephen Porges about his Polyvagal Theory. A sensori-motor approach to creativity, says he! Porges has elaborated on the multiple functions of the vagus nerve in mammals (that long nerve that goes all the way down your spine and connects to your 'second brain', more commonly known as your stomach) and has done so more extensively than anyone in history as far as I am aware of. This video, and Porges' entire career, asks the question "What would the world be like if creative people felt safe to express themselves?" Watch the interview and you might get some ideas...
So last night, still feeling overwhelmed and sad, I knew what I had to do first. I practiced my breathing. I worked on sustaining notes with my voice. I put on music and let it wash over my body, moving that privileged image all around my kitchen. I did the dishes, organized the space, made dinner for the missus. I tended to my tomato plant, a beautiful living image, propping her vertical stalks and pruning suckers to promote growth and fruit. And I reaffirmed a vow to never stop paying attention, no matter how much pain it brings. Is pain not a source of positive action, when we get down to it?
How to Dress Well - What Is This Heart?
My love for How To Dress Well has been well documented here. To readers of Endorsements and anyone who spends any time with me, it's probably time I shut up about it. I'm sorry, I'm not going to do that. Not when dude just put the best record of his career and maybe my favorite record that's come out this year.
When I saw him at Le Poisson Rouge a few months before this record came out, I was a little worried. I had had two near-transcendent experiences seeing him live before and I left this one with a bad taste in my mouth. A little annoyed at some attitude-y negative vibes, a little eye-roll-y at some borderline whiny, victimized lyrics of the new songs ("I don't have the power, I don't have the power," "I don't even know what's best for me.") It wasn't as personal of an experience as before. You know that feeling where it seems like you're witnessing what you love about an artist slip away? I had that. And I was wrong, thankfully. What Is This Heart delivers fully on the promise of HTDW, bigger and bolder than before. And in the context of the record, those lyrics aren't whiny, they're just things people say in times of desperation, most often in the case of pop songs.
I feel like the progression of HTDW has been the unearthing and de-obfuscation (word?) of hooks that have been lying under mounds of texture for years. Here they are all out front and confident, demanding if not your voice to sing along, at least your attention. Every single song on this record is packed with melody. And not just the hint of melody, but actual, well-crafted melody.
And as the hooks and melodies have become clearer, song structures have become leaner and the songs themselves denser and sharper. This is an artist leaning into pop formula to say more not less.
Which leads to his voice--stronger, more present and more thoughtful than ever before. Tom Krell is a singer who asks more questions than he gives answers. On this record, he's asking them full-throatedly and with a full heart.
What Is This Heart? may not have the make-me-weep-on-the-subway quality of Just Once EP (my first real HTDW experience), but that's okay. It's a better record and an absolute thrill. It's sexy, existential, grown-up pop music whose resonances will last a long, long time.