The Alt’s Bookshelf: Vol. 1

Posted: by The Editor


The Alt’s Bookshelf is a series where our staff highlights some of their favorite books and zines related to music. For our first volume, Bineet shares a photo book that accompanies Jeff Rosenstock’s live album, a book of poetry from Field Medic, and an England-based zine titled CHEWn! that combines music and food.

Jeff Rosenstock’s Thanks, Sorry

Jeff Rosenstock paired the release of his live album Thanks, Sorry! with a limited quantity photo book offering glimpses of the tour that preceded the recording. With 76 pages of photographs, it’s a coffee table book that offers insight into the life of a touring musician instead of just schlepping pictures together to momentarily entertain someone. In the prologue, Rosenstock explained that as agile as he may seem, he still fears the possibility of his career rendering him jaded or fatigued. He prioritizes quality over quantity, stating “I never want to play shows for any reason other than the passion to do it.” So, this tour was especially momentous because the band didn’t have concrete plans for another.

There are, as one would expect, action shots of the band and the attendees marinating in the exuberance. But they also added snapshots of what they happened upon en route to their gigs, like yard-long candy bars and cowboy hats. The picture that made me linger before turning the page was one of someone sweeping a pile of trash at a venue. I’m more than willing to admit that I judge anyone who litters, and this gives credence to my argument that throwing your cup or can away once you finish your drink is too simple to justify not doing: Don’t give someone else a chore.

I perceive touring as a discordant vacation in which basic amenities become luxuries, but this book helped me better understand its allure. The lack of stability is both the best and worst aspect of it—it’s why each day brings a new journey, but also why someone can’t be soothed by repetition. When it sucks, it really sucks, but when it rocks, it really rocks. 

Field Medic: Hella Haiku, Volume 11

I’ve never been a huge fan of poetry, as a lot of the work in that faction has, to me, has felt either overzealous or composed of rudimentary phrasing that seems intended to be profound, but just…isn’t. I appreciate that the 14 haikus Field Medic frontman Kevin Sullivan crafted don’t try to be anything larger than what they actually are. One is just about the joy of prying an avocado open, and another is about marveling at a sheet of snow that painted the ground “an opulent white.”

In writing both songs and poetry, Sullivan wields the ability to discern between boring and engaging details, and then only include what’s piquing. This book is adorably rustic—it’s smaller than my hand and the pages appear to be glued together. Only 100 were made and according to the back cover, mine is the fifth edition. 

CHEWn! zine, Issue 3

CHEWn! is an England-based zine that delves into both food and music. I wasn’t necessarily opposed to this combination, but I was confused because I didn’t think there was much of a connection. I was wrong. In the first edition’s letter from the editor, zine founder Matt said that both food and music can be used to provide comfort for people when they don’t feel well, and it’s innovative in its approach to  intertwining the two, from artists sharing their favorite recipes to Matt listing the cassette tapes he plays as background music while cooking. 

The interviews are comprehensive, bouncing from subject to subject and teeming with details. They feel less minced and more conversational, sort of resembling podcast episodes in that sense. Matt asks musicians questions about the work they produce, but also about their dietary habits. Sometimes, he gets imaginative, like when he asked Oxford group EB “If you could eat your music, what would it taste like?”

As an American, CHEWn! especially fascinated me because it allowed me to peer into perspectives I haven’t experienced firsthand. Like in Ashley Thao Dam’s personal essay, they said it’s considered normal in Italy for someone to cook you a meal just a half-hour after meeting you, or for dinner to be comprised of four courses, coffee and dessert. I found some commonalities between other cultures and mine, like how nonmen are more inclined to feel discouraged from making music in England, just like the US. 

The most commendable extension of the zine’s theme is that proceeds are donated to the Oxford Food Bank. Although there’s much said in the articles about how enjoyable eating can be, they’re also empathetic to those who are just looking for sustenance. And that, if nothing else, is why they’re worth supporting.


Bineet Kaur // @hellobineet

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