Do what you can
by Emma
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Grimes - "Kill v. Maim"

1. "Kill v Maim" is kind of weird. Like most of the things I end up loving the most, I didn't think much the first few times I encountered it. It sounded to me like just parts piled on parts; something about the pitched-up vocals, synths and skipping beat, metal on metal didn't quite click. The way Grimes' voice flips so fast between low hurl and scratched-out scream. The scorch-and-tatter speed of it.

2. I went to see Jessica Hopper give a reading on Wednesday and it was inspiring in the best way, smart, no side-steps. She talked about intersectionality, about who she writes for, about how early on in her career she wrote "SELF-DOUBT IS POISONOUS" on an index card in glitter glue and tacked it up beside her desk just so that she'd remember. It felt good to listen.

At the end of the talk there was a Q&A, and someone asked how she dealt with the problem of explaining misogyny in music to the men she met, what she'd recommend for someone trying to figure out the best way. She sighed real hard. After twenty years of trying, she said, she was becoming more and more convinced that the only way to communicate the truth of some of the most basic experiences women have in music - as fans, as writers, as artists - was to gather up a few smart straight white men who Get It, and ask them to explain it all to their peers. No one's listening to us, she said. We know no one listens.

3. In her review of Art Angels Hopper mentions this song in particular twice. At first it is blown-out, bright, anxious; later it has a fierce anger, a casual misandry. Reading through it the first time, I wrote those last two phrases on the notepad I keep on my desk without even thinking. A reflex. My joke is always, business card, author bio, tinder profile.

4. "Oblivion," Grimes's best-known song pre-Art Angels, is about an assault. In the lyrics she's neither the victim or the attacker, or maybe she's both - looming even as she checks over her shoulder, every line. Someone could break your neck, coming up behind you always coming and you'd never have a clue. Synths that are just lovely enough to be disturbing, just creepy enough to be comforting. See you on a dark night. When you feel trapped, there is a great deal of quiet, weird power in switching sides. Slipping between subject and object.

5. As for "Kill v. Maim," it finally clicked for me a few days ago. I was on the treadmill at the gym, and it came on, and suddenly I was running so fucking fast. No warning, no reason. I felt like I was trying to escape my own body, like the song was pulling me out of me. Bright and hot and furious.

6. The part of the song I love most isn't the hilarious, weird earworm/mantra are you going to the party are you going to the show?; it's not Boucher insisting she won't behave, nor is it the way her voice's rapidcycling speed and pitch add their own thesis-worthy set of subtextual meanings to the whole deal. It's not the cheerleader chorus. It's the cascade that comes after. 'Cause I'm only a man, and I do what I can. Half-mocking, half-earnest. Subject, object, all at once.

7. Hopper mentioned in her talk that she'd been proud of her Grimes review, which praises Claire Boucher highly for being a feminist pop auteur who does everything herself, until she realized something. After I wrote it, she said, I started thinking, well then what am I saying about women who don't do all of that stuff themselves?

One of the most difficult and necessary parts of becoming a good artist, writer or person, is learning to balance the belief that SELF-DOUBT IS POISON with the understanding that you are probably wrong about a lot of shit and that you need to be ready and willing to listen, to change your mind all the time.

It's very difficult to do this under any circumstances, but when the world reads you first and foremost as Not A Man, the prospect of trying to disentangle the mess of intent and implication that defines every single interaction you have with the outside world can be so exhausting that sometimes, instead of going to that show or talking to that stranger or pitching to that editor or putting that song up or answering that message you're just like, fuck it, where's my sound-proof chamber?

8. I have spent countless hours of my life in classrooms, offices, bars, beds, trying to describe this double bind to men who will never be interested in understanding it. The second you're aware of your difference, every interaction grows this new labyrinthine aspect: Am I being treated like this because this person doesn't like me, or because he doesn't like what I am? How do I sound out the difference? Double down or back off, lean into it or walk away? Do I believe myself? How angry do I need to be, or pretend I'm not, to get through this whole thing unscathed? To be okay? To be good?

When Hopper said that thing about how no one listens to women, you could hear this little shudder of disappointment and unhappiness shifting through the room. I felt those things too. But there was something else. The idea that I could be forgiven for turning away from the work of trying to make a certain type of man listen to me, for turning a little further toward other kinds of work, felt good. Like permission. A kind of relief I wish I didn't want.

[buy Art Angels + The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic]

Posted by Emma at November 22, 2015 7:45 PM

wonderfully well-said, emma. thanks for sharing

Posted by coel at November 22, 2015 10:35 PM

beautiful. thank you.

Posted by josh at November 24, 2015 6:45 PM

Beautifully said. I needed to hear this today.

Posted by michelle at December 5, 2015 5:02 PM

Oh my gosh, yes, this. THIS. Thank you for putting it in words.

Posted by Lindsey at December 29, 2015 12:16 PM

Post a comment

(Please be patient, it can be slow.)
about said the gramophone
This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

To hear a song in your browser, click the and it will begin playing. All songs are also available to download: just right-click the link and choose 'Save as...'

All songs are removed within a few weeks of posting.

Said the Gramophone launched in March 2003, and added songs in November of that year. It was one of the world's first mp3blogs.

If you would like to say hello, find out our mailing addresses or invite us to shows, please get in touch:
Montreal, Canada: Sean
Toronto, Canada: Emma
Montreal, Canada: Jeff
Montreal, Canada: Mitz

Please don't send us emails with tons of huge attachments; if emailing a bunch of mp3s etc, send us a link to download them. We are not interested in streaming widgets like soundcloud: Said the Gramophone posts are always accompanied by MP3s.

If you are the copyright holder of any song posted here, please contact us if you would like the song taken down early. Please do not direct link to any of these tracks. Please love and wonder.

"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
our patrons
Said the Gramophone does not take advertising. We are supported by the incredible generosity of our readers. These were our donors in 2013.
watch StG's wonderful video contest winners

our favourite blogs
(◊ means they write about music)

Back to the World
La Blogothèque
Weird Canada
Destination: Out
Endless Banquet
A Grammar (Nitsuh Abebe)
Ill Doctrine
A London Salmagundi
Words and Music
Petites planétes
Gorilla vs Bear
Silent Shout
Clouds of Evil
The Dolby Apposition
Awesome Tapes from Africa
Matana Roberts
Pitchfork Reviews Reviews
i like you [podcast]
Nicola Meighan
radiolab [podcast]
CKUT Music
plethoric pundrigrions
Wattled Smoky Honeyeater
The Clear-Minded Creative
Torture Garden
Passion of the Weiss
Juan and Only
Horses Think
White Hotel
Then Play Long (Marcello Carlin)
Uno Moralez
Coming Up For Air (Matt Forsythe)
my love for you is a stampede of horses
It's Nice That
Song, by Toad
In Focus
WTF [podcast]
The Rest is Noise (Alex Ross)
My Daguerreotype Boyfriend
The Hood Internet

things we like in Montreal
st-viateur bagel
café olimpico
Euro-Deli Batory
le pick up
kem coba
le couteau
au pied de cochon
mamie clafoutis
tourtière australienne
chez boris
alati caserta
vices & versa
+ paltoquet, cocoa locale, idée fixe, patati patata, the sparrow, pho tay ho, qin hua dumplings, caffé italia, hung phat banh mi, caffé san simeon, meu-meu, pho lien, romodos, patisserie guillaume, patisserie rhubarbe, kazu, lallouz, maison du nord, cuisine szechuan &c

drawn + quarterly
+ bottines &c

casa + sala + the hotel
blue skies turn black
montreal improv theatre
passovah productions
le cagibi
cinema du parc
pop pmontreal
yoga teacher Thea Metcalfe

Cult Montreal
The Believer
The Morning News
The Skinny