The Bargain Bin

The Bargain Bin: Holopaw’s QUIT +/OR FIGHT


Working at a record store taught me a tragic truth; no matter how much you love your favorite albums, they’ll never be as popular as they deserve to be. Each month at Merry-Go-Round Magazine, I dust off some long-overlooked records, revisit my pretentious past, and explore how this music forever etched itself into my history. Eventually, all your memories get marked down and thrown into The Bargain Bin.

Every year, I wished for the yard at my grandparent’s house to get covered in snow so I could stand at the end of the hall upstairs and look out the window outside my room. I lived for the nights when the moon was bright, its light reflecting off the white snow, giving the sky the appearance of a gloomy afternoon even when it was well after midnight. The interruption of my perception of time made the sleepless nights throughout my teenage years seem normal.

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I revisit Holopaw’s 2005 album QUIT +/OR FIGHT every winter when frost first appears and breath becomes visible. It’s an album that fueled my love of indie folk and albums that sounded like they’d been recorded in a secluded cabin during a blizzard. Even though they hail from Florida, Holopaw’s sophomore record belongs in colder climates. Singer John Orth’s vibrato sounds like every vocal take was recorded while he was standing on a frozen lake without shoes. It’s music to soundtrack the first snowflakes as they drift and swirl to the ground. So slow and gentle, light and airy. It has a peaceful, calming quality, with gentle guitar lines, tinkling synths, and words so soft and melodies so delicate. On “Velveteen,” Orth sings, “All is calm / All is bright,” words I still repeat to myself when my thoughts try to rush by too fast.


Blu lived with us for four months after her father threw her out of his house soon after we graduated. She showed up late one night, catching my attention by throwing pebbles at my window for fear of waking my grandmother, her socks soaked with mud and blood from walking the three miles from her home to ours. Grandpa wasn’t happy she was staying, but grandma didn’t let him have a say. She always took in strays when they showed up on her doorstep.

We shared a twin-sized bed through a miserably hot summer in a room that became increasingly more volatile. She stopped drawing, and I stopped making her mix CDs. We argued about everything because we were a couple of kids that thought they were grownups. We were mimicking the story beats we saw in movies and thought we loved each other, as all the songs say. She made the right decision when she called her father in October and asked if she could move back home. It left me brittle and broken, but it was for the best.

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QUIT +/OR FIGHT, for me, will always be about this time of isolation. It was my first winter working at the record store, a time I spent freezing off my fingers and exhaling ghosts alone outside when I needed to recenter myself. I don’t care how cool a record store job seems: all retail is hell in winter. (I still curse the degenerate teen that sent his grandma to our store looking for CDs from grindcore band Anal Cunt for Christmas.) My social anxiety worked overtime during the busiest shopping days of the year, and I found any excuse to take out the trash so that I could light one up, even for only a couple of drags. I embraced each smoke break hoping that another cigarette meant my death might come that much quicker.

I blamed that new habit on Blu. 

She had an occasional cigarette with coworkers in the parking lot after clocking out at her job when she had a stressful shift. So, after a particularly trying day at the community college, I marched to the gas station on the corner, thinking that smoking a cigarette would make me feel better about her leaving. I bought an orange lighter and a pack of Camels because The Police have an instrumental track called “Behind My Camel,” and I was that kind of record store jerk. “That’ll show her,” I thought. But show her what, exactly?


The vocal choral rises to the sound of a heartbeat on “Ghosties,” Orth’s quiver still brings a chill straight through me. Yet, all these years later, its climax is healing to revisit. It’s the moonlight hitting the snow, lighting up the neighborhood I grew up in. It signals the end of love and lingering loss that stuck with me for another few years. I could think about all the cigarettes I smoked just to have something to do with my hands after hers weren’t entangled in mine, or I can remember Blu sitting on the bed in her gray, oversized Weezer hoodie so big she could tuck her legs to her chest and pull it around her knees, staring intently at the TV as she played GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE CITY for hours on the Playstation 2 we bought together with our graduation money. I’m sorry if I ever made you feel less than the best.

All is calm, all is bright.

Jack Probst
Jack is a freelance pop culture writer living in St. Louis, Missouri. His writing has also been featured in Pitchfork, Paste Magazine, CREEM Magazine, NME, and The Riverfront Times. He appreciates the works of James Murphy, Wes Anderson, and Super Mario. He also enjoys writing paragraphs about himself in his spare time.

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