April 17 Mixtape

April 17 Mixtape

The sun's out in Chicago, which means it's time to grab a book and head to your favorite outdoor reading spot, because literature needs fresh air, too! We've got a playlist of tunes to accompany on your walk.

Since it's National Poetry Month, we're offering 20% off all Artifice and Curbside Splendor Poetry titles throughout April! Get titles such as Barry Giffard's New York, 1960 and Daniela Olszewska's Citizen J

For those auditory readers, we've got fonograf editions albums in! Check out these unique readings from esteemed poets Eileen Myles and Rae Armantrout. 

We aren't open for the official Record Store Day, but we are taking 10% off ALL records Friday April 21st! Get albums from JagjaguwarHoZac RecordsThrill Jockey RecordsMaximum PELTNumero GroupDrag City Records, and many more!

National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month

We're so excited about National Poetry Month, that we are offering 20% off all Curbside Splendor poetry titles, including Artifice Books for the entire month of April. 

That means you can pick up Sara Woods's Wolf Doctors, and write your own poetry thanks to her writing prompts like:

Write a poem on paper made of someone else's hair. Become a nobel-man. Get real good at hopscotch.


A teen romance about a love triangle between Lake Superior and two of Jupiter's moons. Feel free to pick any two moons you like! My favorite are Callisto and and Ganymede.

So get in here and celebrate reading and writing poetry!

Book & Record Pairing

Book & Record Pairing

See You In the Morning by Mairead Case and Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset by Richard Edwards

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been busy lately. I haven’t had time to sit down and enjoy anything for a while, so I read lit mags on the ‘L’ and listen to music on my phone. When I’m in transit, I don’t always get the chance to process every crafted detail of media I’m ingesting. With these pieces, I had no choice but to put everything on hold and focus on the art.

When Richard Edwards makes an album, he always advises you to “listen to it loud.” When Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset arrived on Tuesday, I ran home to play it and it hasn’t been off my record player since. The Margot and the Nuclear So & So’s frontman’s first solo album is the result of the aftermath of his divorce and a stomach ailment that caused the cancellation of a sold-out Margot tour. Richards doesn’t deviate from his past work, but this album is solo; it’s truly his creation. His instrumentals are more orchestral than his previous work, but his lyrics are tight as ever, yet abstract. I sat down and binged on lines like:

Come to see me here in Chicago

I’ll pick you up from Logan Square station

Come to see me down in the ghetto

And I’ll break my brain all over you again.

- from “Lemon”

See You In the Morning by Mairead Case is a lucid dream in the real world. Case’s unnamed narrator doesn’t hold back in the way she sees the world. The story is simple; the ambiguous narrator describes the world around her as she navigates school, work, her friends, and her own sexuality. The prose manages to be free and ambient without coming off as twee or sentimental. As I sat down to read, I was in the narrator’s view of the world, and happily forced to accept it.

These are works that demand your attention. You have no choice but to sit down and take in the entirety of the artists’ work.

LEMON COTTON CANDY SUNSET is out 3/31 from Joyful Noise Records.

Book & Record Pairing

Book & Record Pairing

Poem Strip by Dino Buzzati and The Flying Club Cup by Beirut

For this week’s book & record pairing, we’re taking you around the Adriatic Sea. 

When Beirut’s Zach Condon left his New Mexico home at seventeen to travel Europe, he came back with a new appreciation for Balkan folk music that help shaped Beirut’s signature sound. Condon’s second full length album, The Flying Club Cup, hones in tighter than his debut with a brass heavy sound.

Watch Beirut play through The Flying Club Cup in the feature length film by La Blogotheque sessions. As Condon proclaims “All I want is the best for our lives my dear / And you know my wishes are sincere,” you can tell that he means it.

Follow Orfi through the levels of the afterworld in search of his love, Eura in this pop-culture heavy graphic novel. Dino Buzzati was the Italian master of the avant garde. With Poem Strip, Buzzati rewrites the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, but in his contemporary setting, Milan in the1960s. Poem Strip reads both nostalgic and current thanks to Marina Harss’s 2009 translation from the Italian. It’s easy to get caught up in the story, but you’ll want to read again and again for Buzzati’s art.

Springtime Carnivore Record Curation

Springtime Carnivore Record Curation

Springtime Carnivore's Greta Morgan picked out a round of records she wanted to share with you. If you missed Springtime Carnivore's performance at Thalia Hall with Jenny Lewis, don't worry! You can catch them June 6 at The Empty Bottle with Lavern (Springtime Carnivore / Laverne). Grab tickets for the show and Greta's picks at our store. 

Check out a selection of her picks from La Sera, Kevin Morby, and more!

Book & Record Pairing

Book & Record Pairing

Binary Star by Sarah Gerard and My Woman by Angel Olsen

Sarah Gerard’s debut novel, Binary Star, is for hopeless romantics. Her prose is brief. Events are factually recalled. The effect is a rapid and harsh, resulting in an honest evaluation of mental illness and the pitfalls of intimacy.

The story follows an unnamed astronomy student as she travels the United States with her long-distance boyfriend, John. The couple embarks on their trip from Chicago around the Pacific coast “to find something new.” The goal is uncertain to the characters, but it becomes apparent they are attempting “to escape their problems—her anorexia and his alcoholism” as Gerard describes.  

Gerard does not hesitate to reveal the narrator’s feelings for her partner, saying:

Belief is brittle. My skin is dry and brittle and cracks. I am always bleeding, especially from the fingers. I do not believe John loves me. There.

I believe that John used to love me.

I do without my body: I am you, I am me, I am you, I am me: I always end with you.

Angel Olsen’s latest album, My Woman, speaks these same truths. Asheville resident by way of Chicago, Olsen more than proved her prowess as a songwriter with the release of her third full-length album. Pitchfork claimed, “it’s tough and tender at once, a bold rumination on how love and autonomy require one another.”  

These artists don’t shy away from the burdens of love, but aren’t afraid to find the beauty in it either.

March 17 Mixtape

March 17 Mixtape

It’s been fifty years since Lou Reed and co released their debut album. Yes, The Velvet Underground & Nico has been in the world for fifty years.

When I was in high school I went through a slight Andy Warhol obsession, as teenagers are prone to do. I’m on a snowboarding trip in Colorado; I come across an unmarked, two-story record shop in Boulder. I sift through racks and racks of crates searching for nothing in particular. I already have a smallish record collection of Bright Eyes and Spoon albums I bought at their shows, some hand-me-downs from my uncles, some 45s from an estate auction, but when I approach the Vs, I pull that banana-clad white sleeve up and examine Andy’s signature.

Velvet Underground. I have heard of this one. This was the album where you can peel the banana. This is the album where Andy made them work with some model they didn’t like. This is the album that brought avant garde to the people, though I don’t know what the term means at the time and am even more unsure, as I write this, but I know it’s something different. So, I buy the album, even though I’ll have to protect it on the plane. The shop employee simply says, “Classic,” as he rings me up. Every night I get home from the slopes, I pull the album out and admire the cover again. On the back, portraits of the band, layered with projected colors. They are “cool,” there’s no other word for it.

I arrive at the airport and get home sometime between 3 and 4 in the morning. I tear the shrink-wrap from the album and hold the album up, inspecting the grooves, and finally place the album down and set the needle. Even through my sleep-deprived state, I know I’ve found something in that will stick with me from “Sunday Morning” alone.

And it does. Years later, this album is still on heavy rotation on my record player. I could tell you about how they got on Verve Records, which was primarily a jazz label. I could tell you how they claimed the album was recorded live, but you can tell guitar tracks overlap through “Venus in Furs.” I could tell you about Nico’s bizarre death by bicycle or Doug Yule being forced to call Squeeze a Velvets album, even though no original members remained in the band. I found all these stories about the album later, but at the time I just grabbed something that interested me.

As much as I love the music, there was something about picking this album out in an unorthodox place. Sometimes music calls out to us and we have to listen, because you never know how it will stick with you. 

Book & Record Pairing

Book & Record Pairing

The BreakBeat Poets and Moh Lhean by WHY?

Yoni Wolf and WHY? have done it again. With the new album, Moh Lhean, Yoni brings back his classic world play combined with the band’s progressive instrumentals, circa their Alopecia era. In “This Ole King,” Wolf lays out lines like, “When I expire/Down dirtward all my hunger/In fire burn my anger/And collapse my stature,” in the vein of WHY? classics, such as “The Hallows” or “Strawberries.”

The evident passion put into the production of Moh Lhean is sure to come through in their live performance. WHY? is not to be missed at their Thalia Hall performance March 17th. Come grab tickets at the store’s box office and get 20% off everything, including the new album.

The BreakBeat Poets is the first poetry anthology by and for the Hip-Hop generation. Edited by Kevin Coval, Quraysh Ali Lansana, and Nate Marshall, this anthology redefines what it means to create poetry in the age of Hip-Hop, and how the style has symbiotically influences modern poetry. Chance the Rapper says it’s, “A cool & diversified version of a mix tape.” Includes pieces from Douglas Kearney, Ocean Vuong, francine j. harris, and many more.

Hip-Hop’s not dead. These artists are here to prove it’s thriving and making its mark in our culture.

MOH LHEAN is our 3/3 from Joyful Noise Records.

my weapon of choice


I chose my voice.

When writing wasn’t enuf

to move


mic check.    mate.





“from mic check, 1 -2.” by jessica Care moore

Book & Record Pairing

Book & Record Pairing

Ghost County by John McCarthy and Supermoon by S. Carey

I watched S. Carey perform a small handful of his songs in a tree house last summer. After live scoring a poetry reading from Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, Sean Carey and his band played their set in the woods, off the path between the two main staging areas at last year’s Eaux Claires Festival. About 75 of us huddled together around the elevated, wooden platform, careful to avoid poison ivy and stepping on each other’s toes. With the first note, everything stilled. His stripped down atmospheric songs cut down to the core.

Carey, perhaps better known as collaborator and band member of Bon Iver, spends most of his time fishing and raising his family in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He’s as Midwestern as they come. Supermoon provides bare essential versions of his already openly exposed songs. Carey trims down some older songs, covers Radiohead’s “Bullet Proof . . . I Wish I Was,” and gives us the new titular track.

John McCarthy’s debut poetry collection, Ghost County echoes the same strange, sad terrain as S. Carey. McCarthy captures rural Midwest with lines like, “Nothing says forever like covering ink up with a Carhartt” in the section amply titled “Pickup Truck.” His voice is raw and tells the story of the Midwest in a way that seems beyond his own years. Ghost County exposes the bleakness of the land in only as many words McCarthy needs to do so.

Get out of the city and back to the openness of the Midwest with these works.

I will lie about it all

to relieve you the burden,

explaining how we are ghosts

and we want our ghost child

to be the best damn shadow

this side of the light . . . 

- From “Pickup Truck” in Ghost County

Book & Record Pairing

Book & Record Pairing

Joe Meno’s Office Girl and Strand of Oaks’s Hard Love

When it comes down to it, these pieces are about people who need to make art to communicate. Meno’s OFFICE GIRL centers around art-school dropouts, riding around on bikes and recording the sounds they stumble upon. Sounds a bit like Strand of Oaks’s single “Radio Kids” if you ask me.

The Onion’s A.V. Club said OFFICE GIRL is “a charming and unpretentious hipster love story destined to be the next cult classic.” These characters, Odile and Jack take in the Chicago terrain, dealing with love in the best ways they can. Timothy Showalter of Strand of Oaks is someone who knows how difficult that can be. Showalter’s 2013 album HEAL was written to help him deal with his marital infidelities, but with HARD LOVE, he said, “I’m sick of being the sad white guy with an acoustic guitar. We’re done with that shit.” He speaks of love with a crucial simplicity. Showalter, like Meno, knows sometimes the best way to communicate is through what comes simply to you.

HARD LOVE is out 2/17 from Dead Oceans Records.

February 17 Mixtape

February 17 Mixtape

By now you’ve probably come down from your conversation heart sugar overload and realized the commercialism that is Valentine’s Day is passé and you’ve told yourself that next Valentine’s Day you’re not going to fight over elbow room with neighboring couples and dish out too much money for an ounce of beef tartar, especially when the vegetarian options looked immensely better during your eight bites of your eight course meal.

Next year, stay at home, put on a record, crack open a bottle of wine, and cook something special for someone special: a lover, a friend, your dog walker, whoever you care about.

This month we’re sampling the soundtrack for that meal. And we may or may not have thrown in a handful of tunes that aren’t as much on the lovey-dovey side of the spectrum, because what brings people closer than a little emotional teardown? Get swept up in Bon Iver’s new album 22, A Million, or come down with his drummer, S. Carey’s stripped-down EP Supermoon. Put on an upbeat front with La Sera’s Music For Listening To Music To, while basking in their subtly crushing lyrics, a la Morrissey style. Then while you’re contemplating if you cooked the mussels long enough, or you should have skipped the cream in your carbanara so you’re not left with some sort of milk and noodle soup, flip over Dan Rico’s Endless Love to that B-side and let his “Casual Feeling” take those worries away, at least for a little while.

Book & Record Pairing

Book & Record Pairing

I’m Fine, But You Appear to Be Sinking and Wavvves

For this week’s Book & Record Pairing, we reached out to Leyna Krow, author of the forthcoming story collection I’M FINE, BUT YOU APPEAR TO BE SINKING from featherproof books.

Krow browsed our record collection and chose to pair her book with Wavves’s album WAVVVES for the repeated beach imagery in their music and the associative ocean themes in I’M FINE, BUT YOU APPEAR TO BE SINKING. This concept fits particularly well the title story, as told through fictional journal entries of Captain C.J. Wyle.

Of WAVVVES, Krow stated, “The songs themselves seem to speak to a kind of vaguely-defined dissatisfaction/loneliness that a lot of my characters would connect with pretty well.”

There you have it, straight from the source. Come pick up I’M FINE, BUT YOU APPEAR TO BE SINKING before it’s official release date of February 14.

Book & Record Pairing

Book & Record Pairing

Fast Machine and Jackie Lynn

We love gritty and we love real at Curbside, so we’re sending some real, gritty work at you this week. We are pairing Jackie Lynn’s self-titled LP along with Elizabeth Ellen’s FAST MACHINE.

Elizabeth Ellen’s aptly titled short story collection, FAST MACHINE moves at one dominating speed. Her characters are real and relentless and bring the spirit of old west to new America. Roxane Gay writes, “The best thing about Ellen’s writing is that it has big brass balls. There is seemingly nothing she won’t write about but more than the fearlessness is how Ellen writes about anything.”

Jackie Lynn is the new project from Circuit des Yeux’s Haley Fohr, released under the guise of a Tennessee native, transplanted to Chicago, where she runs a multi-million dollar drug trade from a car repair shop on the Southside. When the police raid her apartment, they find this album, which becomes their only lead to her whereabouts. Pitchfork claims “it’s music of many hues, and most of them tend toward darkness.”

So there you have it. We’re getting real and we’re getting bleak, without getting really bleak.

Book & Record Pairing

Book & Record Pairing

You might not have heard of these artists, but it's never too late for a good introduction.

Argentine poet Silvina Ocampo, a contemporary of Jorge Luis Borges, was long appreciated, but generally overlooked. Her work was sparsely translated into English in the seven decades she wrote. Ocampo doesn’t yield to secrecy, instead choosing to approach the darkness in the lyrical. In her epitaphs and sonnets, Ocampo approaches the familiar through the surreal.

Dark Dark Dark’s 2010 EP, BRIGHT BRIGHT BRIGHT has become a stable of dark folk and chamber pop, along the ranks of Timber Timbre and Bowerbirds. They’ve worked on river raft art installations with the street artist Swoon and scored the film Flood Tide. Their music builds and falls and creates dreams within daydreams.

Together these works ruminate the dark parts of one's mind and turn them into something beautiful and gratifying.

“Epitaph for a Shipwrecked Sailor”

This is my first dream of shipwrecks,

I will never have to forget it. Dark

the water is in dreams, cold and hard.

Tomorrow I will be afraid of omens.

2016 Top Sellers

2016 Top Sellers

December yields so many best-of lists. You get the same results in slightly different order and it gets tiresome. These lists come down to marketing: who released what when, what’s still in recent memory, who had an HBO special to release their album (we’re not getting too specific are we?).

Anyway, we thought we would give you a little break from the inconsistency of December’s lists, and wait to completely complete our list until we had the cold, hard data to back it. Here’s what you guys liked since we opened our doors until a gaudy ball dropped in some New York street last week.



5. How to Slowly Kill People in America by Kiese Laymon (Agate Publishing)
From the writer of Long Division, Kiese Laymon’s essay collection has only become more poignant since it’s 2013 release. Laymon addresses issues such as race, class, and religion in a way that unfolds as if it were a classic hip hop album.

4. The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic by Jessica Hopper (featherproof books)
Nobody is denying Jessica Hopper’s authority on music, but if they were, this collection serves as proof of her ability to dissect the meaning behind musicians ranging from Chance the Rapper to Hole. It’s refreshing to read work from someone who is as passionate about music as Hopper.

3. The Incantations of Daniel Johnston by Scott McClanahan, illustrated by Ricadro Cavolo (Two Dollar Radio)
I pick this book up every few days and just take it all in. Somehow one of my favorite writers got together with one of my favorite artists to write about one of my favorite musicians. This biography of underground icon Daniel Johnston unabashedly dives into the world of mental illness in a bizarrely hopeful way.

2. Chicago Noir: The Classics edited by Joe Meno (Akashic Books)
It seems our customers have a thrilling streak in them. In this anthology, Joe Meno pushes readers through time and space into of Chicago’s best crime stories. Live vicariously through noir stories from Patricia Highsmith to Nelson Algren to Stuart Dybek.

1. Promising Young Women by Suzanne Scanlon (Dorothy, a Publishing Project)
Suzanne Scanlon’s novel-in-bursts exceeds the typical mental institution story, if there is such a thing. Promising Young Women cuts to the heart of the matter. And, as with all Dorothy, a Publishing Project’s releases, it is aesthetically beautiful to pair with the content.


5. Tie between: Blood Orange – Freetown Sound (Domino) and Death – …For the Whole World to See (Drag City)
It’s only fitting these albums in together. Though recorded forty years apart, both artists manage to sincerely mesh R&B with pop music in a way that evades commercialism, but demands attention. They are unapologetically subversive in the best way.

4. Wild Belle – Dreamland (Columbia)
How does one describe Dreamland? It can’t be done simply. Chicago’s Bergman siblings combine pop and jazz and psych rock and reggae and whatever else they can manage to layer into their album in a way that just works.

3. Angel Olsen – My Woman (Jagjaguwar)
It’s been a good year for Angel Olsen. With the release of her third full-length album, Olsen more than proved her prowess as a songwriter. I hope you caught one of her performances at Thalia Hall this past September. If you missed it, keep in mind we are a box office for Thalia shows, so grab your physical tickets with us in the Loop for the next go around!

2. American Football – American Football LP1 (Polyvinyl)
The first vinyl issue of this album manages to transcend the genres American Football had been pigeonholed into with their initial 1999 release. This post-punk classic has withstood the bounds of “emo” and remains a prominent display of technical rock music. It’s no wonder everyone wanted this debut in preparation for the long-awaited release of American Football’s second album (now available in store).

1. Twin Peaks – Down in Heaven (Grand Jury)
These Chicago favorites may have blown up in popularity, but they aren’t forsaking their garage roots. In three short years since their debut, Twin Peaks have become a forerunner in loveable, fuzzy indie rock. This is an album I want to cheer me up on a bad day and keep good days good.

Book & Record Pairing: January 20, 2017

Book & Record Pairing: January 20, 2017

Well this one is just common sense. This week, we are pairing Bikini Kill’s debut, self titled EP alongside Jessica Hopper’s THE FIRST COLLECTION OF CRITICISM BY A LIVING FEMALE ROCK CRITIC.

Jessica Hopper was the teenage face of Riot Grrrl, thanks to a 1992 Newsweek article. In her collection, Hopper writes, “I too had a hunger for music that spoke a language I was just starting to decipher . . . I was lucky I was met at the door with things like the Bikini Kill demo . . . It took seeing Babes in Toyland and Bikini Kill to truly throw on the lights, to show me that there was more than one place, one role, for women to occupy, and that our participation was important and vital – it was YOU MATTER writ large.” (19-20).

Known for pioneering the Riot Grrrl movement in the early 1990s Pacific Northwest, Bikini Kill released the Ian MacKaye (of Fugazi and Minor Threat) produced, Bikini Kill EP originally through the Kill Rock Stars label. This 20th anniversary reissue includes new liner notes, photos, excerpts from Bikini Kill’s zines, and more.

With the Riot Grrrl insurgence by artists like Pussy Riot and Lizzo, it is crucial to hear where the movement started and even more so to hear where it goes. Hopper, poignant but encouraging in the future of punk music, reminds readers, “We deserve better songs than any boy will ever write about us” (20).

January 17 Mixtape

January 17 Mixtape

It appears we have some rough days ahead of us.

I don’t know of anything that’s been changed from silence.

Go out and see someone create something. There are so many people creating in Chicago alone making amazing things. Look at Maximum Pelt Records. I’m not sure that they sleep, because they are too busy making music and releasing others’ music into the world. And it’s cool. It’s so cool.

See a show, even if you don’t know the bands. You might find a new favorite. Go to an art exhibit, or better yet a DIY art gallery. Come to one of our amazing readings, or any of the other amazing readings and discussions held throughout the city like The Marrow, 2nd Story, and Poetry Foundation’s The Open Door series.

Get out and make these yourself. Create create create! If you know an instrument, write a song. If you don’t know how to play an instrument, learn one and write a song. Or just write! Or draw! Or dance! Or whatever you do, just go out and do it! Let people know how you feel and support people who are exhibiting their own feelings, because it’s needed now more than ever. We need to hear one another. 

Books & Records & Tickets: Give Great Gifts!

Books & Records & Tickets: Give Great Gifts!

Our staff reads a lot. We know the books on our shelves and the records in our crates. We’ll make your shopping easier by suggesting meaningful gifts you'll be excited to give.

We're pretty spoiled; we get to carry work by talented authors and musicians, and we work closely with publishers and record labels to select work we want to see more if in the world. 

And now we're offering the gift of a night out! With our new in-store box office, you can buy tickets for shows at all 16” On Center locations: The Empty BottleEmpty Bottle PresentsThalia HallThe Promontory, and SPACE. And with any ticket purchase, you'll also receive 20% off a purchase at our store.

When you support independent enterprises, you support local culture and craft in a society that increasingly gravitates toward the outsized, outrageous, and mass-produced. Buy independently and buy quality. Visit us at Curbside Books & Records.

December Mixtape

December Mixtape

Winter has arrived in Chicago, never mind the solstice. Snow has started falling, the lake is beginning to freeze over, and it’s become socially acceptable to wear a balaclava.

I have been trying to convince myself I can stay inside until March. I will sift through my record collection and drink Irish coffees and never have to stand on the ‘L’ platform watching the minutes tick down until the next train arrives. But, I know I will have to go outside sometime.

We can’t be beat by the bitter cold. I put together a mix of songs to alleviate the burden of our cold commutes, featuring selections from records we carry in our store. It’s the next best thing to listening to them in the sanctuary of your home.

We just got an armful of albums in from Chicago’s very own Thrill Jockey Records, including picks from Future Islands, The Sea and Cake, Circuit des Yeux, and prog-rock favorites, Tortoise, among others.

Swing by and check out what we have in stock. Let’s talk about music and books and forget about the cold for a while.

Cocktails for Ding Dongs in OTL Podcast

Ensign with OTL host Mike Stephen. Image courtesy of WGN Radio.

Ensign with OTL host Mike Stephen. Image courtesy of WGN Radio.

Alexandra Ensign, illustrator of Cocktails for Ding Dongs, recently sat down with Mike Stephen, host of WGN Radio’s Outside the Loop podcast, to talk about the new book. The interview starts around the 29:15 mark in the program.

Cocktails for Ding Dongs was released by Curbside Splendor Publishing this past month. The book offers recipes for all bartending skill levels written from veteran bartender Dustin Drankiewicz, co-authored with illustrations and comics from Ensign.

With Drankiewicz’s accessible recipes and humorous tone, you can finally mix the Rob Roy or Mai Tai you’ve been dreaming of making! You can order Cocktails for Ding Dongs online or pick up copies in-store at Curbside Books & Records.