Capitol Hill Books doubles as recording studio
Capitol Hill Books doubled as recording studio for co-owner's debut album Credit: Courtesy of Kyle Burk

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The Failed Poets Release Death of the Novel

Kyle Burk, co-owner of Capitol Hill Books, started writing songs “haphazardly” near the beginning of the pandemic, mainly to make his girlfriend laugh. After writing enough songs to make an album, he said it was hard to find a good but affordable studio in D.C. Since his bookstore was closed for 14 months, he decided to record there. The rest is music history. Burk’s first publicly released album, Death of the Novel, hit social media on Jan. 3 under his pen name, The Failed Poets. While he didn’t intend for the song lyrics to be poetry per se, he was trying to make light of how many can fail in their literary ambitions. “A lot of the songs, at least the vocals, I would record in the poetry room at the bookstore … [The name, The Failed Poets,] just came to me one day.” He tells DCist  he was inspired by both the notion that modern music is seeing the “death of the album” as well as D.C.’s DIY punk bands and rap artists. In the first song on his indie rock album, “Paperbacks & Pills,” he croons: “Taking tramadol and losing myself in the page / lately I’ve been feeling much, much older than my age / but everybody’s got to take their turn inside the cage, sometimes / Oh, sometimes. But I’ll be all right.” In a phone interview with City Paper, he says, “That song is about doing what you have to do to get by. It’s a hard time for people to be perfect during the pandemic.” When Capitol Hill Books was closed, he says he took comfort in books and reading, which can be seen in the various literary references found in his songs. “Autofiction,” is sort of about French novelist Marcel Proust and Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård and “everyone’s Instagram feed,” he says. Each song is layered like an onion. They’re semi-autobiographical, he says. Listen to Death of the Novel on bandcamp. The album will be available on Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming platforms soon.