Monday, December 3, 2018

CHAINLINKS: December 2018

For our final Chainlinks of the year, we bring you recommendations from Justin Smith (guitarist of Graf Orlock, Ghostlimb, and Dangers, and founder of Vitriol Records) and Jon Nix (film/video director and founder of Turnstyle Films).


Justin Smith of Graf Orlock

1) Free Solo

This is about Alex Honnold's 2018 free climb of El Capitan in Yosemite. This means with no ropes, harnesses or anything going up 3200 ft of sheer granite. Not only am I a fan of extreme outdoor activity and punishing hikes/climbing, but also find inspiration in the complete insanity that surrounds doing something that no person has ever done before. This day in age there are few spots on the planet unexplored by the Shackletons of the world, so this is something that I find amazing, pushing the strangeness and fragility of the human body against the mercilessness of nature.

2) Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska

I am reminded of this every year because I made it a point to listen to this thing every Thanksgiving twice. There is no reason for this except that I like it and revisiting it regularly reminds me of the trueness of a well written song and a fucked up story. This record came out the year I was born and is situated between the super depressing, The River and the somewhat overdrawn Born in the USA. I love the imagery and the torn down perfection of four track songs. To me this is something that very clearly depicts the internal plight of people struggling in the US, without bowing to the trajectory of a bullshit arc in what was ostensibly the glory of Reagan’s America. Top ten for sure. 

3) Revolutions Podcast: The Mexican Revolution

By a dude named Mike Duncan who has been doing this for a number of years, covering the French, English, American, Haitian, Bolivarian and now Mexican Revolutions. He formerly trudged through 170 some odd highly exacting episodes in the History of Rome podcast. Excellent. Very direct, informed and hyper detailed. Being from California, our state essentially avoids that this was ever part of Mexico and does its best to wipe it clean from the curriculum of youth. As a historian this is right up my alley, perhaps a bit much for the casual listener, but sick as hell and full of stabbings and gnarly demographic disasters. 


Jon Nix of Turnstyle Films

1) Old Souls - Hey, How Are You?

Old Souls’ new album blew me away instantly and is without a doubt my favorite Ohio release of the year. It perfectly captures the moment we’re living in. Chock full of anxiety about substance abuse, settling, and the end of the world. Hey, How Are You? is a highly political album but approaches the issues facing Cleveland, and the surrounding areas, from a completely subjective and emotional point of view, making the subject much more penetrating and resonant. If you want an understanding of what it’s like trying to function creatively in the rust belt then this is a great gateway.

Best Tracks: Bred in a Breadline, Circe Berman, Die Quiet


2) Hunchback ‘88 - Christopher Norris
Hunchback ‘88 is the new-ish debut novel from Christopher Norris (formerly of Combatwoundedveteran). The novel is ostensibly a simple slasher story but it’s presentation is what makes it great. This novel is probably the most formally daring work I’ve read in years. Revolting and erotic in equal measures. Norris finds his own rhythms in obstructing the reader’s understanding of what exactly is going on page-to-page. Hunchback is thrilling to read in the same way that novels like A Clockwork Orange and Trainspotting were in High School.

3) First Reformed

In a less than stellar year for film it’s looking like First Reformed sits high above most others for me. Ethan Hawke gives the best performance of his career as a pastor who has his worldview thrown into question after meeting a congregant on the verge of a breakdown. Every year you can see themes emerge in the work artists are putting out. Films like First Reformed, You Were Never Really Here and The House That Jack Built all point toward the dark interiority of isolated men. Not shocking, in a world of mass shooters, incels and proud boys. This has always been a sub-genre of film I’ve loved, with Taxi Driver as it’s most well known example. Men cut off from the world, with too much free time for their minds to wander are terrifying. Men on the edge of doing something terrible for a sense of purpose are terrifying.

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