Staff Picks: Beach Slang, Greil Marcus, and ‘Seven Killings’


Need a great book to read, album to listen to, or TV show to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. Click through for our picks, and tell us what you’ve been loving in the comments.

Beach Slang

Beach Slang’s new LP, The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us, drops this Friday on Polyvinyl records. Our own Pilot Viruet spoke with James Alex about the band’s infectious celebration of youth and being earnest — it’s an ethos we can get behind, and one evidenced clearly here on early single “Young & Alive.” Catch them on tour, or at the increasingly visible Fest in Gainesville, Florida, where they’re scheduled to play a Jawbreaker cover set at the Holiday Inn’s pool. Here’s to the sweet spring of youth. — Matthew Ismael Ruiz, Music Editor

Against Nature (À rebours) by Joris-Karl Huysmans

If you haven’t read Huysmans’ decadent 19th-century classic, it’s the one thing you absolutely need to do before picking up Michel Houellebecq’s Submission — a book Flavorwire’s Jonathon Sturgeon describes as the author’s “laziest and least complicated novel since his first, Extension du domaine de la lutte,” but one that is nonetheless worth thinking through on your own. Taken by itself, Against Nature is a rich, funny, self-aware study of a particular sort of fin-de-siècle temperament that doubles as a warped literary, religious, and aesthetic history of Western thought. Pair it with Submission, and you’ll notice the way both novels — and their protagonists — are obsessed with civilizations that have outlived their utility, as well as the curious authorial distance between each author and his narrator. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

A Brief History of Seven Killings, by Marlon James

It doesn’t matter how long a book is — once it wins the Man Booker, there’s no excuse not to read it. So I stole the office paperback of Marlon James’ epic account of Jamaica in chaos, cracked it open last weekend, and haven’t stopped reading since (though that’s only gotten me a third of the way through so far). Switching between dozens of interconnected characters in the shadow of Bob Marley, A Brief History is part crime novel, part Cold War caper, part postcolonial — literally — story of what a pop culture icon meant to the country he came from. It’s as dizzying as it is addictive. — Alison Herman, Associate Editor

Jack Ladder’s collaborations with Sharon van Etten

On his most recent album, Playmates, Jack Ladder performs two tracks with Sharon Van Etten. The first, “Come On Back This Way,” sees Ladder’s voice — which falls somewhere between the eerily vacant romanticism of New Wave vocal styling and Nick Cavernous bluntness — gently backed by a mere suggestion of Van Etten. But her earnest crooning bolsters the track even from the background, making for hypnotic and astoundingly warm synth-pop. She’s more of a presence on the sleepy march of “To Keep and To Be Kept.” Despite its domineering beat, the song is immensely soothing, making the listener feel, momentarily, as though they’ve found the fulfillment the title describes. Ladder and Van Etten are quite a comforting match. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

Real Life Rock, by Greil Marcus

It’s taken me a good deal longer to get through Greil Marcus’s Real Life Rock than I expected — far more time than his other, wonderful new release Three Songs, Three Singers, Three Nations , or last fall’s brilliant History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs (newly out in paperback) — though it’s certainly not for lack of trying. Part of what’s daunting is the sheer length; the book collects every single “Real Life Rock Top 10” column (carried across six different publications and websites) from 1986 to 2014, more than 500 double-column pages. But I also crawled through it because I had to keep going to my “notes” app, adding yet another album, song, film, photograph, or book his recommendation necessitated seeking out. The writing is, needless to say, stunning; even in the capsule format, the energy and breathlessness of Marcus’ prose is electrifying. And it’s witty too — particularly as he plays with the boundaries of his format, recommending not only traditional media, but ephemera like concerts, flyers, encounters, and even an airport music playlist. (You can never experience these things yourself, but his descriptions take you to those moments, and leave you thinking, “Well, sure, I can see how that was the best thing he saw/heard that week/month/summer.”) And it’s surprisingly not dated; if anything, I found myself looking forward to the art he would encounter as the years passed. And that’s when I realized what this seemingly casual collection actually is: a history of three-plus decades of American popular culture, told not in the familiar touchstones, but in bootlegs, B-sides, sidebars, and secrets. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor