Magdalena Edwards gets in the writing zone by cranking up Arcade Fire. What do you do?
Cage the Elephant is considered one of the best young indie rock acts today, but the band got its start in the burgeoning music scene in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Sometime Millions contributor Craig Fehrman wrote a Kindle Single on Cage the Elephant and its influential hometown, Home Grown: Cage the Elephant and the Making of a Modern Music Scene. You can read his past Millions essays on the history of literary Time covers, Lewis Hyde’s understanding of intellectual property, and an ethnography of readers at Borders.
For a self-serious young person, the kind of kid who identifies her isolation as the symptom of a secret genius, pop music frequently serves as both a refuge and a sort of secular religion. Importantly, the Smiths weren’t just sad, but self-consciously, performatively sad. The jangly and confident guitar of Johnny Marr winked at the droning vocals of Morrissey, and the melodrama of the lyrics—especially by their last album, Strangeways, Here We Come—was marked with the playful irony of camp. Their most melancholic songs were frequently also their funniest. It was the perfect music for people who identify as miserable and are, but perhaps relish their misery too much.
A true birthday is the day of your death.
David Bowie hasn’t performed live in seven years, but he has a good excuse — he’s been reading. His top 100 books are part of the “David Bowie Is” traveling exhibition (currently in Toronto.) The list reveals that he’s a big fan of American lit, including Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys, Saul Bellow’s Herzog, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, and more. He’s also an amateur rock historian, naming Charlie Gillete’s The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll and Peter Guralnick’s Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom among others. When can we sign up for the class, Professor Bowie?