“Sally Rooney Gets in Your Head” by Lauren Collins for The New Yorker. Out of the many writers whose writing and existence makes me write, Sally Rooney has a sort of special place. I first read her novel Conversations with Friends at the beginning of 2018, when I was in a state of disarray and burnout, and then again in the summer because it was the kind of novel that reminded me that good writing isn’t always complicated. From the profiles I’ve read and some of other writing, I get the sense that although extremely intelligent, Rooney is not interested in showing off. Instead she’s clearly interested in people: how they think, how they process their surroundings—both immediate and globally—and the ways in which they present themselves to others. She does it with an understanding of the many faults and complexities of human beings. Her ability to do this makes all profiles of her a delightful read, and this one from the New Yorker is no different. There’s a certain honesty and unpretentiousness that isn’t always to be found in profiles like this and it does justice to the appeal of Rooney. There were some things about internet language and being a millenial that I could have done without, but overall it was pretty stellar.
James Blake’s Assume Form. There’s something ghostly and otherworldly about James Blake’s latest that goes beyond some of his other offerings. Like any angsty ex-Tumblr kid worth their salt, ‘Retrograde’ has been on a variety of playlists since 2013. What he offers on Assume Form is both familiar and disarming, though appreciated. The same sort of mellow, unique storytelling exists, but he’s really played with the production leading to a different energy than I’ve heard from him. Listening to this new stuff feels more engaging. The songs work at your brain and are immersive, even if they’re just playing in the background. Favourite tracks include “Mile High” (ft. Travis Scott and Metroboomin) and “Barefoot in the Park” (ft. ROSALIA).
Maggie Rogers’ Heard It In A Past Life. I recently read an interesting perspective on Maggie Rogers that made listening to her latest album difficult for a few days. But pushing past all of that, I continued to go back to her new tracks and realized I found extreme pleasure in them, despite her being dubbed “unmusical” by someone whose opinion I really expect. Heard It In a Past Life feels like something that Joni Mitchell would have written if she went to NYU and was super into production. Songs like “Past Life” and “Back in My Body” feel like they’re reaching into some unknown past and rearranging the pieces; maybe to figure out the present; maybe to figure out the extent of their power. But the songs are never too mournful, and it’s clear that despite the presence of turmoil, at its essence this is a piece of work that is as interested in the expressive and joyful, as it is in the meditative and quiet.