Magical Realism

by Kelsey Jarboe

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Magical Realism is about collective memory, historical revisionism, and escapism, incorporating field recordings with songwriting, samples, spoken word, and abstract vocal improvisation. It attempts to evoke both familiarity and alienation: the uncanny of a home we have only seen on television or heard of in myth.

"Poignant, powerful, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes whimsical, “Magical Realism” expands significantly on last year’s excellent “Among Your Kind.” A real masterpiece." -- Love and Mathematics (


released May 21, 2011

All songs composed and performed by Kelsey Jarboe. Vaughn Cartwright is featured on bass in "Endangered Dog" and "We are all Looking for a Stable Past", and on vocals in "The Body of Raphaelle Peale".

Cover art by Cole Swavely.




Kelsey Jarboe Boston, Massachusetts

Sound designer and electronic music trickster sprite.

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Track Name: Bildungsroman
You will see just what you've meant to me
I still cannot believe you don't belong to me
So take me now, you better scream my name out loud
You better want to stick around and want me

But I am stronger than I knew and it happened overnight
Without a whimper or a fight
I don't know when I don't know how but I've got a family now
I've got a family now

And they don't judge, no they won't judge, they'll share their skin
They'll let you stay
And if you don't amount to much, we will forgive
Don't go away

I believe in almost never to nothing
And you know how I used to be someone with such strong views, oh
Now I see why you must now be leaving
And I thank you for teaching me that love won't see us through, no
Track Name: Endangered Dog
Tell me you were kidding if it justifies your plans
I am not the kind of man to hold grudges
Cause I can't please everybody and I'll never understand
Everything there is to know, what do we know?

I only seem to get older
This never stops or goes slower
And you should have warned me about this
You could have warned me about this

I want to know you, I want to know you
But you don't follow through, da-de-da-de-da
You don't follow through
And I'd know what to do, I'd know what to do
If all your words were true, da-de-da-de-da
All your words were true

Do carry on, carry on
Do carry on with your animal instinct, animal instinct
Don't let them tell you it's wrong
What do they know they are so inconsistent, so inconsistent...

But I want to know you, I want to know you
And you don't follow through, da-de-da-de-da
You don't follow through
Track Name: Interlude
I wasn't blind to what they were keeping from me
That I would not be taken seriously
And I've never known just how to say no
So I am left with very little to show

I'm fine with wasting your time
I know you won't say what's on your mind

I start to think it all comes from one place
And there's no part I can afford to retrace
And I've never know quite how to go slow
So I am left with very little to show

You know just what this is about
The time is mine but it's still running out...
Track Name: The Body of Raphaelle Peale
Never contented and the eldest surviving brother, he made a spectacle of himself in taverns, using roast chickens like hand puppets and throwing his voice to sound their little shrieks of horror as he sliced away at them with a carving knife.

He missed his mother and hated his father. He made a pauper of his wife and children, all eight of whom tried, in their various ways, to shirk responsibility for his care onto each other as his health deteriorated.

He was increasingly delirious. They thought, perhaps it was mercury poisoning from his days as a taxidermist in his father’s museum. Either that or he was a drunk.

Ultimately, he died bitter and alone, leaving behind only his debts and his paintings. Over the years he had abandoned portraiture for the lowly genre of still life: bowls of rotting peaches, discolored cuts of meat, and wilting flora that vibrated with an uncanny embodiment.

Expecting boredom, one engages the thing to find it is engaging back. They will leave you haunted by corporeality itself, somberly struggling to repress the limitations of your own fragile, ephemeral body.


Your still lives embody me
We move through life, we sense, we see
We touch, we take, we hold so dear
We crush, we break, we pull too near

And I was never really ready now
Even in my hunger now and then
This melancholy never taught me how
I am bleeding from the blessings of your pen

Raphaelle, this is your father
Raphaelle, be the man...
Track Name: Heirlooms
Quit yer bellyachin, my patience is thin today
and all of your complaining won’t change this shadow world of language
This is not the version of the game that we were taught
At our father’s mother’s kitchen table, shuffling the cards

I know it’s hard to seize and accept
It’s why we keep all the things that we’ve kept
The photographs are all I have left, and the tapes

I wish that my body could show you everything it’s seen
And all of human history weren’t known through lenses of Vaseline
This is not the version of reality I knew
From the record keeper’s personal opinions on the news

I know it’s hard to seize and accept
It’s why we keep all the things that we’ve kept
The photographs are all I have left, and the tapes
Track Name: Beyond Reason
Sometimes I see golden lights in the distance, but it is the front of a bus, going somewhere I don’t know about. I’m afraid that if I get on it, I won’t be able to get back. For years, I took the long way to avoid this dilemma.

My fear has become about waiting, not choices. I didn’t know I had it in me to change so little, over so long of a time. But, whatever it takes.

I cried at the bus stop from the sadness of knowing a thing which causes me to hate the other people who know it as well. Then, I thought that maybe a realist and a sleep walker see the same things but have different priorities.

There’s a sadness, also, to loving you beyond all reason,
and it’s always worse, left to my imagination.