The Alt’s Bookshelf: Vol. 6

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 sixth volume, Bineet shares her thoughts on Tempo Change by Barbara Hall, You Can See Anything From the Balcony by Sam Colby, and Anthology of Emo: Volume 2 by Tom Mullen.



Tempo Change by Barbara Hall

Tempo Change is narrated by Blanche Kelly, a sixteen-year-old who is adamant about idealizing her father – retired musician Duncan Kelly – in spite of little reasoning she should. She hasn’t seen him in person in a decade, only maintaining contact through email. But she tries to convince herself it’s because his flourishing career kept him busy and not because he’s apathetic. Blanche is also passionate about music, which led her to form a band with some classmates. When they receive the opportunity to play at Coachella, she invites her father and becomes ecstatic over the prospect of finally reuniting with him.

I finished this book with ease, which can be credited to its swift, clear storytelling and compelling plot. Additionally, Blanche is an entertaining narrator. Sassy and pretentious, she loves to throw jabs at others – like when she remarked to her bandmates, “You guys thought Celine Dion was music when I met you.” I toggled between being enticed by her bluntness and irritated by her snark, liking her just as much as I disliked her. Blanche works diligently to convince herself she’s different from the majority of people. It’s why she places such emphasis on having a celebrity as a father and is unafraid to be critical in her work as a music writer for the school newspaper. Teenagers – they’re something.

Blanche reveres someone who has hardly put energy into her, but that’s not necessarily rare behavior. This book pushed me to consider that at times, we think someone is more amazing than they really are. I’ve partaken in this sort of distorted thinking, like by feeling inferior to anyone with a seemingly “better” career or personality than me. It’s important to assess situations as they are instead of as you want them to be, and to not put someone on a pedestal unless they’ve earned the position.

You Can See Anything from the Balcony by Sam Colby

When Bay Faction announced they’d no longer be making music in July, I picked up a copy of this photo zine they offered alongside their other merchandise. It’s a melange of street photography, portraits and landscape shots, with text on only the front cover and final page. As I flipped through it, I was reminded of why I was drawn to Bay Faction when I stumbled upon their music in 2017. 

They were good, but it never seemed like they were trying too hard to be. Their guitar work didn’t sound like it was supplemented by a concoction of pedals, which bands often opt for to make themselves seem more interesting. And the songwriting was easy to comprehend, utilizing straightforward descriptions instead of crafting convoluted metaphors. Similarly, the pictures look like they were taken without careful planning nor posing. I definitely don’t think they were edited to perfection, and they all show fairly ordinary occurrences. One is just a picture taken outside of the convenience store Speedway. Would I ever use words like “imaginative” or “profound” to describe Bay Faction’s work? No, they were simple. Maybe that sounds like an insult, but I still loved their music regardless. And I liked this zine, too, for it allowed me to peer into other people’s lives. 

This zine helped me learn more about the value of being streamlined. My album reviews for The Alternative tend to be on the shorter side, and I sometimes worry this means they’re inadequate. But maybe, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Anthology of Emo: Volume 2 by Tom Mullen

Like its previous volume, this book is a compilation of interviews Tom Mullen, the founder of Washed Up Emo, held with musicians about the emo genre and their music careers. Even though I write about music and thus, pay more attention to it than the average person – there’s still a lot I don’t know. Namely, I don’t really know what emo is. So, I enjoyed that this book gives credence to the notion that the genre is expansive and subjective. Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World said that music one would deem hardcore could instead be called emo by another. Conor Murphy of Foxing said that although many categorize his work under the emo faction, he feels the band leans closer to indie rock. 

So, there you have it – even people interviewed about emo in a book dedicated to emo question the concept of emo. In the foreword, which was written by writer Luke O’Neil, he asserted that enjoying the music and the camaraderie that ensues due to it is more important than defining a term. “They all bring us to the same place,” he said, “which is together.” He’s absolutely right. The togetherness that music begets is woven throughout the book. Circling back to Murphy, he said that when a trailer of equipment was stolen from Foxing while they were touring, fans were so generous with monetary donations that the band ended up with a surplus and felt compelled to donate it to charity. 

Reading this reassured me that I don’t have to memorize single fact about music to enjoy it. Sometimes, I use knowledge to bolster my self-worth, believing that I’m a better person if I know more. That’s not completely wrong, for it’s crucial to learn and understand the world surrounding you. But it’s worth considering that maybe sometimes, the smartest and most genuine thing you can do is admit you have no clue. 

Check out past volumes of this column here


Bineet Kaur // @hellobineet

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