Distinctions in media are forever blurring: as we consume music, text, and images on the same device, concurrently and separately, the relationship between one piece and the next morphing as quickly as a page loads. San Francisco’s The Size Queens are pushing what that blur means in terms of our interaction with art across forms, releasing an iBook featuring songs from their latest album, To The Country, alongside original writings corresponding to the chosen tracks. Although the songs technically came first, the interaction between song and text is complex and symbiotic, so that the overall experience is that of a kind of resonance machine, whereby one form seems to converse with, but not dictate or explain, the other.
The To The Country iBook project was conceived by The Size Queens vocalist Adam Klein alongside designer Chuck Mobley, and contributing writers include Rick Moody, Joy Williams, J. Robert Lennon, Maria Bustillos, Brian Evenson, Lynne Tillman, Rae Bryant, Jim Shepard, Melanie Rae Thon, and Paul Kingsnorth. One collaboration, the story “Lot 51” by Maria Bustillos and the track “Observatory,” has already premiered on the Paris Review Daily, if you want to get a sneak peek at what this project might mean. The iBook is available in its entirety today, July 4th, via iTunes—a fitting date given the way that the album pushes the concept of country as we imagine it: pastoral ideal, small town prison, and all incarnations between.
We are thrilled to premiere an exclusive video accompanying the iBook’s release, a two-song sampler featuring the titular track, “To The Country,” along with “Hands and Knees.” The video plays with the road trip trope, America as one long stretch of pavement flashing to the different experiences of the country that the album explores. Rick Moody wrote about the last album by The Size Queens, The Magical Dollar Shoppe, tracing its exploration of the dollar store concept as it weaves in and out of the album’s tracks, fueled by the unique humor of the self-reflective participant: “It’s a merciless kind of humor,” Moody wrote, “one that has some Weimar Republic about it, but also a little bit of seventies rock, and it serves as a fine menu of delights for what follows.”
The new album’s titular track, and the first track in the video, explores the idea of what the American country is, in terms of the classic rock country a la Lynyrd Skynyrd and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the kind of country where back-to-the-land fantasies hit good ‘ol boy keggars in a truly strange and unpredictable funhouse of a landscape. “Oh you’re bringing your llama to the party?” Klein sings, “I got some extra grain. I think tonight’s gonna be fun, who put the maypole in my front yard? Is that a unicorn?” The country is a place of opportunity and oddity, where threat is bundled with fun according to the logic of the high/low dichotomy by which its landscape abides, singing, “we only lost a few lives in that pit, really no reason to be scared of it.” The video’s second track, “Hands and Knees,” takes the listener to the point where the country is a purgatorial flatland. “You can be alone tonight,” Klein sings, “give up the struggle, let your knees buckle, you’re at that crossroads tonight.”
All songs on the record are written by Adam Klein and Michael Mullen, whose keyboard work is unassumingly virtuosic, particularly in the hauntingly tempting lullaby “Hands and Knees.” Brad Parker, Carlos Forster, Danny Pearson, Ethan Gold, Glen Swarts, Mike Carnahan, Ruger Pearson, and Wally Sound make up the rest of the Size Queens, with guest appearances on the album from Carletta Sue Kay and The Inflatable Boy Clams.