Portrait of an Overused Title

Johanna Sommer
6 min readNov 15, 2023

I am, like, so unemployed and so The Graduate except that I have age appropriate sex. I keep hitting my head against the window of doubt, but I remain standing even after the loose days swallowed by bed. I hate that I will find relief in employment, but it is hard to warrant doing anything in this city without receiving an income. So instead I do what I always have, which is walk around my neighborhood while listening to music, call my parents, and ask people to hangout with me. I want to talk about the things that have been making life redeeming, partially as a personal reminder, partially as recommendation.

Watching the Carrie (1976) followed by listening to Brittle Brian’s “Biodiesel”

I’ve been trying to watch more movies because I actually have the time to, and normally when that happens I feel like I’m extra-not allowed to watch a movie, alone in the middle of the day, but I resisted that feeling and watched the original Carrie. Which is awesome. And then right after I got up to do the dishes I was ignoring all day and put the Brittle Brian album “Biodiesel” on the TV. What a movie that album is. It’s my favorite thing ever right now, and I think Victoria Rose (also member of @) somehow reads my mind and then bulldozes my thoughts and aesthetic tendencies and builds them into something I could never imagine. Me and my dear friend Eva saw @ play at The Broadway last week and it was thrilling- moments of enchanted dissonance bound by grating melody. Eva heard someone behind her say, “Do all these people even know who they are seeing?” which is obviously annoying because the band has 70 damn thousand monthly listeners, but part of me feels that way because I think it is better than anything I should be allowed to witness so close and for fifteen dollars. I have yet to have the opportunity to see a Brittle Brian set, but man am I dying to. The ease in which Rose sings, quite literally using her voice as an instrument at times, and the provocative words she chooses. This will be an essay I will write one day, probably when she becomes a little more famous so that it’s less creepy to be so engrossed in her genius.

Anyways, the point of this blurb was more so to say that Carrie and “Biodiesel” are sister-media. They are so tonally similar, a mixed bag of the earnest and morbid, struggle and ease. I mean the first lyrics of “Marathon,” the album’s opening track, are, “Body is mind is control is to fear.” Come on! There is also a mirrored sense of isolation; solipsism, but not out of selfishness, rather a belief that the self is a creature unlike man. “I don’t want to watch the people down below/ I don’t want to watch/ I want to find out how to get me out of my own mind.” Mind as plague and as protection. But also, both works are just beautiful, a spoonful of sugar to make the unease go down. ‘You caught me, I’m busted/ Basking topless in your heady glow” as Carrie slow dances with Tommy, the camera whipping around their torsos like a carousel.

Live Music (or Artists For Life)

I’ve always wanted to live in new york so I could see live music whenever I wanted of nearly whoever I wanted, and now I live in new york and have seen it at least every week. This, more than anything, is why I felt so isolated in Buffalo, removed from the physical, active form of what I find [nearly] most dear. Like Emily Dickinson wrote- “It would be life, And life is over there Behind the shelf.” I forgot that to do this also costs money and that I have little of it, but it feels like a worthy use of what I do have. And no venue will hire me so that I can see it for free, so this will have to do for now. Some friends (and some acquaintances) I have seen include: BOYSCOUTMARIE, Denise, Dogs on Shady Lane, Whirlybird, Dorée, The Mops, Rada Rada, Frogthroat, M0nogamy, Citrus Maxima, Sister., and Tula Vera. Also Little Cliff, Wiring, and Calder the Destroyer, but I kind of live with these people so I see behind the curtain, which due to their brilliance, makes the stage that much brighter. People I have seen that I do not yet know on a personal level include Screaming Females, The Breeders, Patti Smith, The National, Alex G, Frances Chang, @, Palm, Dirt Buyer, Nina Ryser, Joyer, Nyx Nyx, Coco Smith, Public Circuit, Nara’s Room, Shep Treasure, Starcleaner Reunion, Lily Seabird, Dead Gowns, pearjuice, Sidney Gish, Trinket, and certainly more that I cannot think of. That is pretty awesome to me, and has made me want to learn more about booking/ art organization/ promotion, because I think this may be a more directly helpful way to benefit artists than writing about them. I vacillate if any of this is worthwhile, always, but come back to the joy that this little world of music fosters within me, and within its makers, and think that it cannot be worthless, and certainly more worthy than what many devote their waking hours to. I also see how many of these musicians chose to sacrifice the little monetary compensation they do receive to something outside of themselves, specifically in aid for the genocide currently happening in Palestine. As always, I come back to writers, musicians, and artists to be the blaring voice that our alleged leaders choose not to be. It is incredibly disheartening to see the way the media, and supposed “alternative” publications, have failed to be on the rigtht side of history, choosing money over humanity. Artforum’s firing of editor David Velasco, CREEM magazine’s censoring of Hether Fortune (this particularly caused me to feel disenchanted, as I felt it was my dream publication and considering the CREEM legacy (Lester Bangs would be horrified at how they tout his name but not his principles)). The New York Times’ flaccid headlines, spotlight on American Jewish youth like myself, who fetishize victimhood in a way I find plainly evil, and refusal to call for ceasefire. I look to the writers who occupied The Times’ lobby and Nan Goldin’s personal sacrifice as proof of what people can do without the pathetic fear of American politics and Zionism. I don’t have a point to arrive at beyond Free Palestine, and fuck whoever thinks otherwise. I write that and know it includes family members and the Jews I grew up with, which feels isolating and plainly sad. Sad that many Jews refuse to see that Never Again means right now, and that they have allowed their religion and sense of safety to be manipulated to consent to, and even call for, mass murder. The world burns and I sit at my desk. The only thing I can think of to bring this full circle is to promote the Gunk compilation for Gaza, which came out today (Nov. 15th). All proceeds are split between the Palestinian Youth Movement and Anera’s rapid response relief, which distributes hygiene kits, food, and blood donations in Gaza. I can’t promise you will like what you hear but my boyfriend is on it, which should be good enough for you. Also subscribe to the Gunk Substack because you will be able to see an interview of mine in roughly 16 days. Interviewing is what I want to do more than anything, I have been realizing. It is not always revolutionary, but it allows others to speak and be heard.

Other music I have been loving includes youbet, the new Mannequin Pussy singles, the new Kitchen single, Sparklehorse, and Fish Hunt.

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Johanna Sommer

I would love to write about anything other than love it's just I never learned how... Moved to substack @johannasommer