[identity profile] cabaretlights.livejournal.com


Archetype
Kate Wax
Dust Collision
2011

: Now, you know I'm not huge on reading music criticism, and I try hard not to let it affect my perception of an album (though admittedly I appreciate when an artist I love is lauded). However, Pitchfork describes this album as follows: "Damage courses throughout [it], and it's not the easiest listen, but like most difficult albums, it's eventually rewarding, and her vortex of haywire synths, quaking guitar, and unsettling helium squawks is powerfully magnetic" -- and that is bang on.

I am trying, really really hard, to get through all the albums I downloaded in 2011 and never unzipped. Simultaneously, however, I am trying just as hard to savour everything I unzip -- slowly go through the album, not just skim through the tracks. The combination of this led to me giving Kate Wax more of a chance than I think I would have at another point in my life. And thank. fucking. god. that I did. Because this album is incredible, and it is doing things to my insides (especially the creative bits of them) that sparkle.

Coming off of True Detective last week, there was something in me that still ached for that creepy, unsettling, not-quite-pieced-together vibe -- I didn't know Kate Wax would fulfil it when I unzipped her, though; because I downloaded it three years ago, I thought it might be a pop album or something...nope. It was weird and I wasn't sure I liked it, but my resolution meant I was going to give it a chance. And as I read Sebald for class with this album on my headphones, with increasing enjoyment of the background-noise strangeness of the first 3 tracks, "Archetype" came on. That track was not eventual. It was instant. I replayed it for the rest of the day. And the next day, when I was writing, I was too distracted by the work to press 'back,' and so the rest of the album played, and it was excellent. Horrifying, inspiring, hitting all the parts that needed to be hit, right then.


There is nothing like music that comes along at the exact right time. I don't think I would have appreciated this album the same way if I'd listened to it immediately -- I don't think it would have had the same import. I'm also pretty fucking ecstatic that I stuck with it: it's the kind of album I wouldn't have even bothered to put on my iPod under other circumstances -- and it breaks my heart, a little, to think of all the albums I never gave the same chance.

I'll just tell myself it wasn't their time, and that maybe one day I will go back through my library and find more magic.

Because this is magic.
[identity profile] amethysting.livejournal.com

Chicago
Sufjan Stevens
Illinois
2005

This song played during a lovely driving-in-a-car-at-night scene in the Veronica Mars movie.       I know, I know, it's been done, but there is something about the trope--sleepy-eyed friends in car (usually speeding over a bridge or though a tunnel) windows down, wind blowing hair around the passenger's faces, flashes of light bouncing over the windshield--paired with the perfect, soaring song.

When the first notes of "Chicago" filled the darkened movie theater, my heart lifted.  I recognized the song, but couldn't quite place it--that NBC-chimes-sounding opening and that swell of strings...I knew it, but didn't.

When I figured out it was Sufjan Stevens (thanks, internets!), I thought: of course! and, I totally have that album!  Do you ever think you have something on your hard drive, only to discover that you only have one song?!  That some past version of you deemed the rest of the album uninteresting or unlistenable or boring and so deleted it save for that one song?  This comes back to the sometimes-thought that some songs can only really be heard at precisely the right moment.
[identity profile] amethysting.livejournal.com

Regret
St. Vincent
St. Vincent
2014

I just finished reading Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch and have that choked up, bereft feeling that comes with reaching the end of a really good book.  The Goldfinch--and I know you've experienced this too--had so much heft.  The thing was an three pound beast; my shoulders sagged under the weight of it when I crammed it into my backpack; my wrists and forearms would get pins and needles from holding it up on my lap.  That and it was a kind of mental weight.  Something I carried around with me at the back of my mind the entire time I read it.

This, in a roundabout way (as with so many of my posts, and discussions of music; music cannot always stand on its own--it is so tied up with other thoughts and feelings and moments and memories) brings me to St. Vincent.  For some reason, she has always been relegated to the periphery (in that I listen to her music, but never really connect to it) until now.  It was in listening to her newest album that something finally clicked (and the thing was, I had so wanted it to click before...that, on downloading this album, I had kind of given up? that I presumed another cursory listen, a brief connection to a few songs, before, finally, deletion from my iPod).  Sometimes with music (as with so many things) everything has to align.

"And isn't that the point of things--beautiful things--that they connect you to some larger beauty?"

This music (and the words above--a quotation from the last few pages of The Goldfinch) fills me up.  Makes me feel something beyond myself.  I listened to album on repeat while doing my laundry and reading (I had, either sensibly or stupidly, decided to lug the beast along with four over-stuffed bags of laundry to the laundromat) and, by Sunday night, listened with headphones clamped on, sound turned way up (too high, probably...but it was one of those moments where the sound was just so beautiful that I couldn't seem to help it) and my limbs loose with wine. 

After almost posting another song off of the album, I came back to "Regret"...I couldn't help but appreciate the fact that regret is such a pervasive theme in Tartt's novel.  "Regret the words I've bitten/More than, the ones I ever said"...as someone who has such a hard time getting words out...negotiating that chasm between a thought and voice...how could this line not instantly pierce me--like an arrow through the heart.  "Regret" is the song that pulled me in (right from that jittery guitar line at the beginning); the one that made me (gushingly) love St. Vincent.
[identity profile] cabaretlights.livejournal.com


Ain't Nobody
Clare Maguire
Light After Dark
2011

: I don't want to comment on having missed this place. I just want to fall back into it, head first, so to that end, here I go stepping out of my temporary apartment in Budapest, three years ago almost exactly. Despite not having traveled alone since then, it's still among my most loved travel traditions: the first day I arrive in a new city, jetlagged and dazzled, I drop my suitcase and step outside with my camera, headphones [and albums specially downloaded for the trip], and a map. And then I just start walking. Fall into the city, head first.


Budapest was not, at the time, the most pleasant experience of my life. I was in an exceptionally raw, new place -- and something shifted in me about two days in. I had expected to spend the trip as a sort of romantic getaway with myself -- reconnect with myself, figure out what I wanted, take the time to bask in the glow of Fibs. Instead, I got smashed in the face with a whole delirious host of adult uncertainties. The trip was not a celebration of my independence, but a big question mark at the end of who I was at all. I fell apart. I am still putting myself back together. It will take me a lifetime.

But, three years have passed, a whole delirious host of adult changes in the interim, and when I look back on Budapest (or 2011, proper) now, I no longer see it as this dead zone of a year. As I wrote about with 2009. In fact, these days, I find myself returning to those years more often than the ones where I felt most intensely. That may have something to do with metaphysical emotional ~states that I won't get into right now, but I think it also has a lot to do with the fact that I was feeling a lot. Things were potent. I just didn't know how to -- or that I was -- processing them.

Thank god for music. Thank god for being able to return, in some small way, to that space, and to know that I am both of that time, in that time -- and far removed from it.

This album -- electro-Britpop, soulful powerful female vocals -- was on my headphones before I knew how to process: as I stepped out of the antique storefront below my apartment and onto Vámház körút. And when I hear it now, I am back there -- but more than that, I am back there at the beginning, before that paradigm shift, before I knew I was going to break. I was in Budapest and I was whole and this was my soundtrack. And what a soundtrack. It stands alone; it's a song I've always wanted to share with you independent of the story attached. But it is vibrant: it is a song that encapsulates that wholeness, in me. It was a song dedicated to what had loved me (more accurately, what I had loved) up to that point, an anthem against being in a relationship, a direct hit to the heart of cherry cocaine.

Now, I've changed (obviously; you know better than anyone!) -- but that independent, fiery little passionista is still raging in me somewhere. And a few weeks ago, when I broke out this song again, I felt her rise --- & it is a violent relief.



Part of me aches to be back in Budapest -- Europe, period. The scent of melting snow in late February, that freshness in the air, the promise of spring -- all that, wrapped around grey. Grey skies, grey architecture, grey streets, and Europe, despite its urban beauty, is always grey in my memory. Not negatively, at all -- and maybe that's the point. That grey feeling I get, when I am all too adult -- it's not all bad. It's mixed up, but there's a lot still there.

There is a lot here, too.
[identity profile] amethysting.livejournal.com

Just My Kind
The Julie Ruin
Run Fast
2013

I can't remember the last time I was THIS EXCITED about a new album; the last time I bought an album THE DAY IT CAME OUT; the last time I listened to album from start to finish over and over and over again.

Kathleen Hanna.

KATHLEEN HANNA.

I can't shut up about her, I think she is JUST GREAT...from what I've culled from interviews, her riot grrrl-era zines, and Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and The Julie Ruin song lyrics...she inspires me to be stronger, more self-assured and to more confidently cement and state personal opinions.

The Julie Ruin is a solo-project-turned-band and Kathleen Hanna's return to music after years of suffering from, and being treated for, Lyme Disease.  Run Fast is awe-some...at turns dark and personal, but with a running thread of unselfconscious FUN.

"Just My Kind" makes me very, very giddy.  I have to be careful when I listen to it in public because I have a habit of bouncing in place (but then, when I do inevitably bounce, I think, who cares, this is a fucking good song, haha).  I love that it kind of has a 60s girl-group vibe with an infectious bongo beat; that it is an unabashed shout-it-from-the-rooftops love song:

I like your voice on the phone
The way you sleep at night
I like the way I know that
You're right by my side


You're the best of the crowd
And I'm proud to be your girl


This song is dedicated to you <3
[identity profile] cabaretlights.livejournal.com


Samson
V V Brown
Samson & Delilah
2013

: Don't worry. Whoever said music is dead (me? a few times actually? I repent, I repent) was full-on lying. Or at least amazingly wrong.
The process of CD-buying might be, or at least in stasis (my Used CD store post still unwritten...gah), but new music -- music meant for, derived from, the 21st century -- the year 2013 specifically -- is alive. Vibrantly, unsettlingly, passionately, and somewhat electronically alive.

And it is V V Brown's valiantly claimed territory.

There's been hype about her that I've conveniently never encountered, so when I saw this weird album cover on NAR, I had no preconceptions, no associations -- just that magical part of the universe pushing me to click "read more" (how many fantastic artists I've never found because I was too busy/not in the headspace/found the artwork too unappealing to read more, I can't even fathom). You can look up the hype if you want, but I prefer my ignorance. I prefer that feeling I had when I hit play on the embedded video for "The Apple."

I thought, or was scared, that music was going the boring, grating, insanely pretentious direction of Grimes -- hipster bullshit without substance, people playing with sounds without a point. I didn't think music like this existed. I didn't think a voice could sound like that. I didn't think there was anything that could musically exemplify the year 2013, in all its delusion, chaos, technological dependence and interpersonal destruction, pretentia, and beauty, beauty, beauty, pain, the stunning overwhelming power of the skyscraper and the cityscape, the certainty that everything is going to hell and the knowledge that something else will rise from those ashes, and the very PRESENCE, PRESENT, of it all, the inescapable nature of the year 2013, of everything it contains.

I could pick any song from the album, because each pulls on a different PRESENT tendril, each unravels the sweater a little further, each leaves us that little bit closer to naked, emotionally raw. Samson & Delilah should be consumed as a whole. But I will post "Samson" if only because it's the first single, because it's as good a start as any. The center does not hold, in these songs. You'll need to listen to them all.


I am ecstatic, ecstatic, to have found her.
[identity profile] cabaretlights.livejournal.com


Catcher in the Rye
Datarock
Catcher in the Rye
2010

: I could never stand The Catcher in the Rye. Ever. Holden Caulfield holds zero appeal as far as I'm concerned. I read my dad's beat-up red edition when I was a teenager -- I even remember where; it was during the summer, staying at my aunt's in Kingston -- and, because I didn't know any better in high school, because I thought that canonized literature was universally appealing, because no one actually ever told me differently: I assumed that I had to like it. As a teenager and as now, I defined myself by my love of reading -- so clearly, that meant I had to like the classics. So I did, all of them, even if I actually hated them.

I try to remember to mention this to my classes whenever possible: you don't have to like what I like. Just because you hate something we read in class doesn't mean you're stupid, or that I'm boring, or that books generally are boring, or anything except that you didn't like what we read in class. And if it was a classic? All the better; flout the canon! But, high-school-teacher rants aside: The Catcher in the Rye sucks. A lot of canon literature sucks, in my eyes, anyway; I find so much of it...boring. Pedantic; oversaturated. I genuinely believe that many people read [much of] it because they never had the revelation I did -- that you actually get to define your personal tastes! You don't have to be a Chaucer scholar by extension of your love of reading; in fact, there are already way too many of them. Find what you love, let it rip you up, let it take you into the parts of yourself you had no idea existed, let it sweep you into new levels of consciousness and understanding ------------ or, sure, force yourself to read yet another Thomas Hardy tome. Your choice.

Sometimes I forget why I want to be an English teacher. Last year, I got full-on amnesia. "Remind me again," I'm sure I said over many a glass of wine, "why I teach books to people who hate to read? I hate listening to them whine; they hate listening to me talk; we're all miserable. What's the point?"And it didn't get much better this year, even faced with fairly delectable (well, as delectable as you can get, these days) classes. What's the point what's the point? Why are we reading books and discussing them? Who cares about character sketches and plot structure in the long run? whyyyyyyyyyyyy?



I first heard this song in the fall of my second year of teaching, and I just fucking loved it -- despite the title. It's too much fun: that bouncy, disco-lite-meets-Talking-Heads vibe (iii-iii-ii-iiiii! "Psycho Killer" throwbacks, anyone?); the beautiful earworm of a chorus; the lyrics (much as they emulate Caulfield); and even though I didn't like the book on which it's based, I was excited that it was a typical high school book -- because at that time, I was so excited about teaching. I only had one English course, and it was basically flawless, and I wished constantly that I could have a courseload full of English classes I could inspire and push and intelligently discuss books with.
Wishes come true (so do nightmares) and here I sit, two years later with a schedule of English courses, and had I written this post when it was intended to be posted (instead of a week later), it would have been a different story. I would have had a lot more to say about how pointless teaching English is, currently. I would have wondered whether I should throw in the passion towel and teach grammar & comprehension questions, dissociatedly.


But.
Wait, now.
I don't have to teach The Catcher in the Rye.

And even if, one day, I do ------- I don't have to teach it their way.
When teaching goes wrong for me, it hurts in ways it doesn't hurt many other English teachers -- because for some reason unfathomable to me, those English teachers don't read (or they read the books they liked in high school because their teachers said they should, and the cycle perpetuates), or at least, they don't read with every fibre of themselves on fire; they don't care that their students leave their classes without passionately loving a book, a character, a sentence. They don't understand the obvious: the answer to my question, earlier, "what's the point?"
The point is that WE love books. Not all of them. Probably not the same ones as our students. But we love them. And we should teach, above all else, that love. Because anything else is details, is superfluous. We should show that we care. We should malign Caulfield's arrogance, praise his individuality, or not teach him altogether because the book sucks ---- but whatever we do, we should attach ourselves to it, passionately. And not every student will respond; most won't. But they sure as fuck won't ever respond to comprehension questions.

So what is the point? Why do we keep reading? Why should I keep teaching?
Because books are in our nature. Or if not books, stories -- and my medium of choice for storytelling is books, and that's what I can set on fire in a classroom, but either way ----- we, as a species, love to read. To listen. To imagine and visualize. To actively engage with characters and words and plot twists.
But more importantly, because books are in my nature.

I don't have to like everything I teach or every minute of my job; that'd be impossible. But I can take a moment to remember when I first heard this song -- back when I was bright-eyed and optimistic -- and pull that person back into me. Not all of her, because I've learned a lot in two years -- but some. That passion -- not for teaching, but for literature. Because, honestly, I am a reader before I'm a teacher --- and if literature does anything, it helps us put things in perspective.
[identity profile] amethysting.livejournal.com


Pure Imagination
Fiona Apple
Pure Imagination-Single
2013

I hesitated before posting this song because:

1. it was written for a movie adaptation of Roald Dahl's 1964 novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
2. it is a cover of the original sung by Gene Wilder
3. it is used in an advertisement for an American-based Mexican restaurant
4.1. the above-mentioned advertisement is also a gone-viral public service announcement--a criticism of current methods of food production

All that aside.
I am so excited to share it.
This song is beautiful.
Fiona Apple's cover is a twenty-first century adaptation; replete with electronic blips and beeps that add an altogether-new layer of creepiness.  As much as I have always loved this song (I have come back to it during particular bouts of depression), I have always found it a little unsettling (and, simultaneously, delightful).  I love the breadth of this version...the orchestra; the way the music swells and shrinks; the familiarity of Fiona Apple's voice.

The original composition--even if it is so very entwined with a movie adaptation--takes its inspiration from a wonderful book.
I think what I have always liked about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory--and Roald Dahl's books in general--is that they can be quite...horrifying.  He creates these vivid, fantastical lands and characters, but they are not without their ugliness.  I think that that is an important facet of good children's literature; these are the books that stay with us.

[identity profile] cabaretlights.livejournal.com


Something Good
Bella Nova
Beautiful Star
2004

: When I was downloading insane amounts of music from sites like mp3.com, back in 2005 when I first got highspeed internet, I came across some absolutely stunning gems. Stunning gems, by artists who seemed to...disappear into nothing. Bella Nova? Maybe you know them, but I certainly didn't then, and it seems like they've got nothing going on now. No Facebook or Soundcloud, no Wikipedia entry -- just a vague description on their CDBaby page:
"A trip-hop soul duo with infectious melodies ala Zero7 and Koop combining organic instruments such as Rhodes and classic Fender amps with new school electronic production. Bella Nova is at the forefront of a new breed of electro-pop."

...god, doesn't that sound amazing?! What happened to them??
Maybe they just got lost in the surge of new electro-pop (funny to think of it being a "new breed" back in 2004, but I guess this song is ubdeed a precursor), or maybe they only had an album's worth of music in them. Who knows? I don't even have the rest of the album, just this lone song downloaded from a spree years and years ago. I've always loved it; it screams "September" to me -- the beginning of fall. The beginning of something good. And it's a love song, but today, I am listening to it as a teacher at the start of a school year: a maybe. A what if. "An inclination that I am starting something good", this year. Maybe. Just maybe.



Sometimes I write posts to tell a story, sometimes to share a song. This time, it's to share a song -- this stunning gem of a song, by a band who seemed to disappear, and what a shame, SHAME that is. At least they left this behind.
[identity profile] amethysting.livejournal.com

Song for Brandy
Bobby Dove
Dovetails
2013

It is no secret that I love NDG.

For me, it is a perfect fit.

I always felt a little out of place in the suburbs.  Everything was so bland, uniform, contained.

In the city--and NDG in particular--the weird is celebrated, embraced, encouraged.

I love that.  And I love how the idea that we are "free to be you and me" here makes me feel.

This past Sunday, I happily stumbled upon "Country En Ville" (I stay "happily stumbled" because I sought out the event the day before.  When I couldn't find any cowboy hats or musicians I concluded that I had missed it).  I knew of the event because I wanted to see a coworker's band perform.  A stage was set up in Girouard park (above that concrete pit-area where break dancers congregate).  Walking towards the small stage I passed a hand-painted banner that read, "Cheap Arts Collective" and a tent set up to give away free slices of watermelon.  I found a shady spot to sit and realized that I happened to arrive just as the first band was taking the stage.  A Cajun group followed the opening country-bluegrass trio and then, the presumed organizer of the event (a smiling man in a dusty brown cowboy hat), announced that Bobby and Eddy would be up next.  I flipped open Fingersmith and alternated between reading and sneaking glances of the crowd--old men and women with walkers and canes; children with their faces painted; mothers pushing strollers; side-burned guys taking surreptitious sips from green beer bottles.

On stage, a twenty-something guy holding an upright bass and a short-haired girl in aviator glasses and a black t-shirt.  Now, I don't want to make assumptions about anyone, BUT in the last little while--perhaps in acknowledging my own sexual identity--I find myself sensitive to, and in search of, media and people and stories I can relate to.  I saw Bobby Dove on that stage and had a little twinge of excitement; maybe, just maybe, she would sing songs that resounded with me in a very specific way (let's be frank, here--what I mean is in a big gay way).

SHE DID.  Dove's music is traditional-sounding country but, at the same time, is something unique...an interpretation of country distilled through her own experiences? (if that makes any sense at all). I love that voice; like Neko Case, but with a more nasal twang? "Song for Brandy" is becoming a favourite; the story of the excitement and nerves that come with the start of a relationship (a bean one!).  When I hear lines like, "I want to kiss her and I can't even look her in the eye" I am this happy, beaming bundle.  A her singing about a her!  Someone making art about who they are, really.

When Dove announced that she would be selling CDs after the show, I knew I would buy one (that is an amazing feeling in and of itself--that you've been transformed by a piece of art, that you know you need to have it in your life; that you need to do what you can to support this local artist; that there is art out there to support).

Midway through their set, Bobby and Eddy were joined by the "Cheap Art Collective"--adults and children came running, skipping, fluttering out in front of the stage in handmade costumes.  They performed coordinated movements with flags (bits of fabric glued to pieces of wood--remnants from a household remodel).  The crowd cheered.  I smiled hard and clasped my hands and thought my heart my burst.  It was so weird and goofy and slapdash and wonderful.  A perfect moment.  I wanted to take up the whole of the world and squeeze it tight.
[identity profile] cabaretlights.livejournal.com
LITERATURE TO MUSIC


a song based on a book
[identity profile] amethysting.livejournal.com

Dry the Rain
The Beta Band
The Three EPs
1998

Proverb: Into every life a little rain must fall


A recent blissed-out music-moment:

The kitchen, a fall evening, chopping up vegetables and sipping an icy vodka-tonic.

The perfect Songza playlist: 1990s Anger Management.

Five, ten songs in succession, I knew them all; my kitchen-dancing more exaggerated, my humming louder, my grin wider.

But, the eleventh song made me pause, dry my hands, reach for my phone.
I KNEW this song, could name a time, a place, a feeling, but not the title.

When I saw what I was listening to, it was like a big OH YEAH.  THE BETA BAND.  I completely forgot that they even existed. I didn't own any of their albums or see them live, or follow their career trajectory (apparently they broke up in 2004), BUT I remembered this song.  I know I downloaded it way back when (probably on Napster), added it to mix-tape compilations, loved it.

The song verges every-so-slightly on generic--it could be any 90s Brit-Pop band, BUT.  BUT.
The feeling it stirs within me; the chills that make my scalp itch and neck tighten; the irrepressible urge to clap or kick or pump my fist.
That is what makes this song something special.


I considered A LOT of proverbs and songs before knowing that this was the one.
I think I have a penchant towards the proverbs that uplift and reassure.  As cheesy and cliche and worn-out as a proverb may be, there is something comforting in the fact that, like many human experiences, they are virtually universal.

Into every life a little rain must fall.

Under the right circumstances, rain evaporates.
The lyrics of "Dry the Rain" are simple, but so effective in their use of repetition; the song morphs into a chant, a mantra.  I like what they imply about connection and forging relationships; that the trust that emerges as a result of that connection can help "dry the rain"

If there's something inside that you want to say
Say it out loud it'll be okay
Take me in and dry the rain


All this time I had mistaken, "I will be your light" for "I will be alright".
I like thinking about it in both ways...that not only do we need the comfort of a relationship (friendship, or otherwise), but that we also need the comfort that comes from self-assurance.
[identity profile] amethysting.livejournal.com

Amazing Glow
Pernice Brothers
Discover a Lovelier You
2005

Perhaps it is due to the "back to basics" theme (and my ensuing reconnection with Wilco), but I've found myself drawn to straightforward, male-fronted, alt-country/alt rock bands lately.

Wilco made me think of the Pernice Brothers and, incidentally, the only one of their songs I had on file, "Amazing Glow".  I THINK I first heard the song on an early episode of Gilmore Girls...I do know that I bought it just before starting that first observation-based teaching stage.  I listened to it on my way to the bus stop after my first excruciating (excruciating in the sense that I went from feeling quite comfortable in a school, to feeling like I stuck out like a sore thumb) day at my placement.  The song was so beautiful it set off a switch inside me--making it okay to let the breath I had been holding out and to start sobbing uncontrollably (hearing, "I changed my master plan [...] I try to stave off a new day from rising" that, maybe obviously, got me at the time).

This song still surprises me; when I listened to it the other day, I asked myself why I didn't own the Pernice Brothers's entire discography (I have since bought the remainder of this album and another on iTunes).  There is something about the way "The genus names of all the flowers/That were feeding off her amazing glow" tumbles out of Joe Pernice's mouth that is so completely affecting.  The word "glow" glows.  I love the breeziness of this song; the coasting background harmonies; its absolute sincerity.    
[identity profile] cabaretlights.livejournal.com


Why Don't You Take Me
Love Inc.
S/T
1998

♥: Ah, Love Inc. Remember these Toronto folks and their annoying dancepop hits? "You're a Superstar" and that purple airplane song -- man, not really something for which you want to be immortalized, huh? The theme song for every high school Student Life group in the late 90s and a thinly-veiled drug anthem. Smooth, guys; you really left a brilliant lasting impression. But: it must be so frustrating to have something like that loom over your head, years after the fact -- even if you were proud of it, and especially when what it isn't the best you could (or DID) come up with. This is true of so many artists in every medium: pigeonholed, typecast, and often run into the ground with presumption. You don't even get a chance, and it ends you. It ended Love Inc.: two albums and they went bust.

But they came up with better. People almost always come up with better, eventually -- it just happens that Love Inc. did it on the same album as their two overplayed earworms. Now, back in 1998, I got the album from my BMG CD mailing list (why? who knows. I think I had a teacher-crush on the woman who ran the Student Life group and adopted the Superstar song as its soundtrack) -- and in typical early-adolescent-Jill fashion, didn't listen to anything else on the album. I liked that one song and that was just fine thankyouverymuch. Thankfully, though, a couple years later, I got into the habit of listening to full albums I'd owned for awhile. From this came a newfound appreciation for groups like Third Eye Blind (for example -- they're so much more than "How's It Going to Be"!), and the jaw-dropping discovery of this song.


"Why Don't You Take Me" is perhaps Love Inc.'s greatest achievement -- what they should be remembered for. It is a swirling, sweeping ballad, with electric guitar riffs and steel drum beats and ethereal synths, and Simone Denny's pulsing, slightly desperate refrain: "In my shattered dreams / I need you now / I need you now." It is '90s pop-ballad perfection, but alas -- not something that ever would've made it to the radio. And that's a full-on shame, because it's beautiful and moving and it deserves to be heard.

I revisit this song every summer, and year after year, it twists my heart into knots. So, Love Inc., even if I mocked your other hits mercilessly -- mercilessly -- "you are large, you contain multitudes." And over a decade later, I can do nothing but thank you for sharing this gorgeous one.
[identity profile] amethysting.livejournal.com

Heavy Metal Drummer
Wilco
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
2002

I guess I interpret "back to basics" as a return to the familiar.

Something I can go back to when I feel a little stuck, or unmoved by anything else.

I got all of my Wilco albums out recently because their music continues to be comforting and, conversely, challenging.

My dedication to Wilco as a band has fallen a bit by the wayside the last few years.  I think this is partially due to the fact that I do not own hard copies of their last two albums.  There is some kind of distance created between myself and the music when I do not have something to hold on to; to turn to and consult.

Jeff Tweedy's lyrics are poetry.  I wrote them in notebooks and painted them on walls.

Unlock my body and move myself to dance
Into warm liquid, flowing blowing glass
Classical music blasting masks the ringing in my ears


"Heavy Metal Drummer' is a summertime song for me (I suppose it helps that the song itself mentions summer throughout (it rhymes with drummer!)).  It perfectly captures that sense of lightness--the way everything feels a bit looser in the summer; the way I feel a bit freer.   
[identity profile] cabaretlights.livejournal.com


Fire and Rain
James Taylor
Greatest Hits
1976

: I wasn't sure exactly what I was going for when I chose this theme. Back to basics? What basics? What does that even mean, musically speaking? Someone pounding stones together and throatily chanting? The first song I'd ever heard? Minimalism?

Well, after a lot of thought: I think a song exemplifying "back to basics" has to be something simple, musically speaking. Not many instruments -- maybe a guitar, piano, drum. Something sort of soft, gentle, though still profound. Something that takes the best things music can do, and doesn't overdo them -- just does them, well. Because most importantly, it has to be a song that swells with emotion, because that is the basic purpose of music: something that you can't help but feel, something that connects across generations and circumstances.

"Fire and Rain" is all of those things, and I'm surprised I didn't think of it sooner. But (this post is late), last night after a day spent laughing & drinking with Linds, we settled in at her kitchen table with stolen champagne and her laptop, and somehow ended up on YouTube searching out singer-songwriters (I think it started with Rufus Wainwright -- either way, there was definitely a belting, arms-outstretched singalong to "Tower of Learning"at some point in the night), exclaiming over the power of something simple, of brilliant lyrics and quality melodies, of a voice carrying its own weight without heavy production tossing it aside, of talent. And when we played "Fire and Rain," there were tears in both of our eyes and huge grins on both faces -- because, despite different lives and musical taste, we both understand what it is to go back to basics: to that simple, quiet, heart-wrenching joy of hearing something beautiful, feeling it deeply, and being able to look across the table and know someone else feels it, too: that we are both feeling something profoundly communal, profoundly human.

As always, though, there is more to the story. And I can't mention "Fire and Rain" without talking about my father, because -- of course -- James Taylor was of his generation, in his eardrums, and one of the earliest songs I remember hearing (and one of the tracks on the funeral mix I made for him). Tears in my eyes because of a beautiful song heard with a beautiful soulmate-friend, yes -- but also because of so many beautiful memories. Heartbreaking memories. That devastating feeling of those all-too-appropriate lyrics:
"I've seen fire and I've seen rain / seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I'd see you again."

The summer after my father died, I was working as a hostess/busgirl at a restaurant near my house. I had to work the evening shift on Father's Day, and we were understaffed and overbooked. I bolted around, the only busgirl on both sides of the restaurant, not able to stop to think or feel. It was a rough shift, but when the tables were empty and I started cleaning them, "Fire and Rain" came on the radio. I remember my breath catching, the floor falling out from under me, and having to press my palms to a white tablecloth to steady myself. I was alone in the dining room, and I stood there, raw.

When I hear songs that were my dad's, nowadays, I often wonder at their timing. Wonder, only half-seriously, if he is somehow there -- present in the airwaves...though I guess it doesn't matter, because he is absolutely present in the music. And nights like those, when it hurts, there is something beautiful about going back to that sense of connection we all have, through music -- that basic sense of sharing something we love, and passing it on -- to our friends, or to the next generation. Reduced to raw feeling, back to basics: "you've just got to see me through another day."
More than anything, music -- and all the people with whom I've connected over it, because of it -- always does.
[identity profile] amethysting.livejournal.com


A Horse That Will Come When I Whistle
Umbrella Tree
What Kind of Books Do You Read?
2006

No, not that Umbrella Tree (i.e. the Canadian children's television show, Under the Umbrella Tree, that ran from 1986-1993--featuring Holly (upon reflection, I think I had a major crush on her when I was a kid), Jacob the bluejay and Gloria the gopher and Iggy the Iguana).

This Umbrella Tree is a now-defunct band from Nashville.  I only have this one song by them and, despite that fact, was disappointed when I recently found out that the band had broken up.  For a few years--around 2006, I think--I downloaded these monthly Indie Rock Playlists from some torrent-based site.  The playlists featured hundreds of songs and, while many of the songs and bands I came across were pretty forgettable, some stood out.  Sometimes I discovered an artist and sought out their entire discography.  Other times, like in the case of Umbrella Tree, my interest never went beyond that one song.

I heard "A Horse That Will Come When I Whistle" again a few days ago when I was listening to a mix CD I made in August of 2008 and was just so completely thrilled over how good it is.  It is cutesy without being nauseating and the lyrics are quite smart (I love that the song is this kind of one-sided dialogue; an introduction--I love that "What kind of books do you read?" is the opening statement, the first interaction between the speaker and this imaginary other).  The combination of very sweet-sounding female lead vocals and strange (I can't think of a way to describe them...whiny?  mournful?) male background vocals is perfect. This song twangs.  It seems to trot like a tired and slow-moving horse.     

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