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We here at TNB Music would like to extend a swift kick in the ass with a steel-toed boot to 2012, with menacing threats to never, ever show its ugly mug around here again. That said, this open heart surgery of a year has yielded a rich trove of enduring albums and songs, and as we impatiently wait for 2013 to pull up out front and beep its glorious horn, the intrepid writing corps at TNB Music now pause to share our favorite offerings from 2012.

To our readers, colleagues, conspirators, confederates and harried editors, we wish you all a happy, healthy and hopelessly sexy new year.

-Joe Daly

TNB Music Editor

 

Intestine pink—I point to it,
then tell her: “This is a house”

“And it was?” she asked
“And it was,” I said, sobering the landscape

I found myself thinking
in a foreign language which I did not
understand; life support mechanisms sound
their various noises—pious
mummeries

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Once, to make up for a childhood deprived of the dance lessons, I enrolled myself in the nearest dance studio at age twenty-two. There I was, mastering heel digs and jazz hands with a dozen eleven-year-olds, living the dream. Mind you, I was 5’10 and all limbs, and when I wasn’t triggering a little-kid pile up I was working with the instructor on arm positioning to affect grace instead of sailor knots. It was a short-lived venture, but now I’m thinking I went about it the wrong way. Maybe all I needed were a few cinematic examples. So to usher in 2013 with the right moves, I’ve rounded up some of cinema’s most badass dance scenes in one handy playlist. Just to make things interesting, my rules were: no musicals (like Singing in the Rain) and no movies about dancing (like Footloose). And away we go:

“We, too, have run about the slopes and we’ve ran into the night.  We’ve wandered far beneath the stars since auld lange syne.”

– Benji Schneider, Lord Huron, “Auld Lang Syne”

 

There’s a Fleet Foxes song that starts, “Now that I’m older, than my mother and father when they had their daughter, what does that say about me?”  It catches me off guard every time it shuffles up on my iPod.  I’m a year older than my mother was when I was born.  My parents married after college.  They saved for a brick house where they planted a pear tree and a vegetable garden.  There’s a photo of us, taken shortly after Mom’s twenty-sixth birthday: Mom, Dad, and me sitting in a pile of leaves.  I’m propped between them with a white lace bonnet tied beneath my chin.  We look like a postcard family: haloed by late autumn sun and framed by leaves.  Within months of that photograph, I learned to loosen my bonnet.  I’d fling it from my head, shouting “No bonnet” with a gummy smile.  I wiggled away from the postcard image.  But my parents remain tied together.  Mom and Dad still rake leaves in the early fall, wearing faded sweatshirts and soft jeans.  By their mid-twenties my parents saw the shape their life would take.

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I know it wasn’t easy being you. The endless search for food. The seeking for warmth and shelter. The foxes fixed on a quick meal. The hawks swooping from a great beyond so vast you probably wouldn’t have seen them until the shadow fell and you were seized screaming, picked apart on some remote tree limb, eaten alive.

That this did not become your fate must have been small solace. You knew the hawks were there, watching your every move, determined to reward the slightest lapse of your attention with certain death.

It was the very state of existence that caught up with you, the endless seeking and hiding.

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Philip Larkin’s noted poem This Be the Verse harpoons familial sanctity.

 

“Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf
Get out early as you can
And don’t have any kids yourself.”

 

Not solely an angry poem, This Be the Verse is a recalcitrant force. In reality, Larkin’s fucked up benefaction is as much a sly smirk as it is contemptuous memorial. Along the lines of that anonymous dictum, it takes one to know one.

What Larkin has been to the anti-familial, John Tottenham strives to be for the anti-marriage set. Tottenham’s second poetic issue is Antiepithalamia and other Poems of Regret and Resentment, from Penny-Ante Editions. The epithalamia the title sets itself against is an obscurity and so is defined on the back- epi-tha-la-mium n., pl. –miums or mia: A song or poem in honor of a bride and bridegroom. Right from the start, the book winks at its reader, for it is a screwed up invention about what it perceives as a screwed up invention. As the first line of the book’s first Antiepithalmium stresses “At last their smugness is united.” Quite.

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The title STORIES FOR BOYS carries all sorts of connotations and possible meanings.  So often, stories associated with or geared toward males include characters like Batman, James Bond, Robin Hood, King Arthur. These characters all exhibit stereotypical characteristics associated with the “ideal” male: strength, unemotional, straightforward, and super noble. But all of the boys (from the narrator to his father to his children) in this story, however, deal with complex emotions; in short, the book shows every kind of human weakness and explores emotional pain. How did you see yourself tackling such themes generally alienated from men, especially under the title STORIES FOR BOYS?

Masculinity, especially for boys, but also certainly for men, is so narrowly defined by our mainstream culture.  That notion, which is spelled out in your really good question, is in the air that all of us breathe.  I wanted this book to explore notions of masculinity—sometimes lightly, by poking fun at myself (as when I refer to Christine calling me by my superhero name, Mr. Incredible) but most often seriously, by attempting to capture the widest range of my actual emotions, from confusion to sadness, anger to grief, and all the shades in between.  It’s a terrible myth that to feel deeply, to grieve, to cry (Boys Don’t Cry) is a weakness, rather than a strength.  Obviously this is a cliché, however true, and so books and stories are necessary to explore how and why.  But there is certainly this notion that it’s better to be quiet or stoic or to supply an answer or a solution (however bad) than to only listen or acknowledge one’s mixed feelings and confusion and hurt.

As the news comes in, the only sound I want to hear is my goddaughter’s voice. But her mother, who I’ve known since we were both college freshmen bonding over a love of Easy Rider, James Dean and Ethiopian food (and our shared guilty pleasure: crying during Oprah), isn’t picking up the phone. Perhaps she has seen what I’ve seen: the words “children” and “massacre” in boldface across tickertape; photographs of crumpled faces and siren lights; an image of little ones holding hands—heading to a checkpoint, not a playground. Her daughter, my goddaughter, our darling dumpling girl, has just turned three. The years between that morning my friend called to tell me she was pregnant (“Are you sitting down? You’re driving? Well, pull over.”) and the afternoon she pinned a banner that read “You’re three today!” to her dining room wall have passed like a finger-snap.

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