tunes, tools, teenagers

by by Ana Alvarez, Christina McCausland & Claudia Norton

illustration by by Diane Zhou


Rookie Yearbook One proves there’s a teenage girl in all of us waiting to wear a paper crown and cover our notebook covers with ice cream stickers. The book marks the one-year anniversary of fashion-kid-blogger turned teenage editor Tavi Gevinson’s Rookie Mag, an online magazine tailored to young girls. Along with covering fashion, music, and television, Rookie offers refreshingly nuanced advice on tackling life as an independently minded and self-aware teenager. The book includes posts from the blog’s first year, designed with analog photos of melancholy nymphets and nostalgic patterns of roses and lace. Although it looks like someone barfed glitter hearts all over the book, the exemplary writing helps excuse the design’s precocious and overlaid cuteness. Unlike peer publications like Seventeen, which tells girls how to trim their waists and pick the best lip-gloss for their hair color, Rookie assumes that young women’s interests lie beyond appearing attractive. No other teen-girl publication gives young girls a taxonomy of late night snacks, opens up a conversation on masturbation, advises them on how to not care what other people think, teaches them how to produce their own zine, or geeks out with them over The Golden Girls, Joni Mitchell, and deep sea creatures. And even those of us not in the throes of teenagedom can identify with Rookie. In one of the articles featured in the book, several writers, most of whom are in their twenties and thirties, write sincerely about their experiences with sexual harassment. Especially relatable is Gevinson’s guide on how to properly bitchface (read: how to control your demeanor when interacting with insufferable people), a skill that comes in handy well beyond the teenage years. Rookie reminds all of us that it’s okay to feel uncomfortable, and to have your own thoughts, and to not know what those thoughts mean. Rookie is there not to give you the answers, but to encourage you to wear your own crown, march to your own beat, and go figure it out for yourself. — AA



I have no idea what music people are listening to now. Are you guys still into chillwave? Witch house? Is Seapunk really a thing or did the New York Times Style section make that up (a trend born, they reported, “like Aphrodite from the foam”)? I don’t know if it’s still okay to like Woods, but their newest album, Bend Beyond, came out this week, and if you’re looking to listen to something a little less “synthpop” and more “sturdy,” I’d recommend it. Brooklyn-based Woods have released an album every year since 2006, and this momentum is evident in their music, which has always been attractively sloppy—probably a consequence of their spontaneous recording process (in interviews the band says they tend to record a song immediately after writing it and often mix while recording). This album seems to have been given a little more thought, and though it’s not quite the creepy ‘90s lo-fi they’re known for (at least I know that lo-fi is still in), they haven’t scrubbed their unsettling tension between dark lyrics and sunny music. The cleaner recording on Bend Beyond just makes frontman Jeremy Earl’s unhinged falsetto more intelligible, which in turn forefronts those incongruously gloomy lyrics. It’s like going to a party stoned with kids you haven’t seen in years and not being able to tell if it’s just you or if small talk is always veiling a bit of aggression.

This album definitely leans more toward the band’s live sound—the extended solos on the eponymous opener “Bend Beyond” are thicker, more jam-band-y than the intimate ambling of earlier albums. But songs like “Cali in a Cup” and “Lily” still have those summery California guitars and folk-pop hooks. Maybe it’s time to kill these sunshine-themed descriptors—I’ll just call this a late-September album: you still have a tan but you’re working your way up to double layers, readying yourself for the slow onset of seasonal affective disorder. Really, though, the best thing about Woods is their blend of pop, folk, and psychedelia, which gives them their weird back-porch America vibe, and that’s still there. I think we’re not supposed to care what Pitchfork says anymore, but if you do, they like “Bend Beyond” and “Is it Honest?”; personally, I like “Find Them Empty.” — CM



With a collection of headgear pieces, London-based artist Guo Cheng can mold, extrude, drill, vacuum, and lathe with his mouth.

In a video of his work “Mouth Factory (2011-2012),” named after the series of the five apparatuses, Cheng demonstrates the use of each tool. After putting in a mouthguard, Cheng inserts two prongs into his mouth and chews, allowing his contraption to transfer vertical pressure into the spiraling motion of a drill bit that punctures a wall. With another device, Cheng uses a mold fit to the inside of his mouth to push soft material out of the mold with his tongue. To carve a door handle, Cheng wedges a piece of wood between two cylinders that rotate with the pull of a wire; he uses his mouth to hold the carving blade in place. With a waterwheel strapped to his head, Cheng can use his blowing power to mold resin.  With another contraption, he inhales air from one end of a cylinder whose other end, made of hot plastic, then forms a concavity. After Cheng finishes the vacuum molding, he eats cereal from this makeshift bowl, proving the device useful. If you’re intimidated by the prospect of working with your mouth, don’t worry—Cheng has also posted a ‘how-to’ video for a comprehensive mouth workout in which he gobbles up a string with a weight attached to its end.

In this series, Guo Cheng examines the mouth, a part of the body generally used for verbal and gestured communication (and kissing), as a tool of production. The project’s re-contextualization of the mouth allows the user’s mouth to communicate with objects instead of subjects and work toward an end goal typically incongruous with the traditional purpose of the body part. Standing alone, it’s unclear if Cheng’s study of human enhancement and industrialization of the body is affirmational or critical, but the meaning of the project begins to settle when set in the context of his previous work. With “Flipped World (2011),” Cheng created another piece of headgear that uses mirrors and pipes to reverse the visual and auditory input to the user. She stumbles around, trying to make sense of her surroundings. Cheng’s absurd, disorienting work creates pastiche using basic systems of operation, confounding us and traditional modes of making at the same time. — CN