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nick b. 2007
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mercredi 30 novembre 2005
A pagan for all seasons...
Roaming around the first eight or nine songs on 'Divine Rebel' is exploring the house of a well-travelled person who picks up beautiful craft work everywhere and has enough rooms to display it well; you don't know what you'll find until you open the door.
The rooms are decorated so variously you could imagine you'd switched homes by mistake were it not for recurrent little touches that say one person lives in the place with people she loves. And occasionally you overhear them, a small child telling her an alligator story, or singer with her man she joins in with a "That's what you're playing, isn't it?"
Engrossed in the woman, wanting to revisit one room after some other, I spent more than a day in part of the house, catching little details. Then I remembered the rest of the album and was surprised when over a simple, hypnotic bass riff and drum pattern, Beverley Jo Scott declaimed a paean of praise to her body, no mere "reproductive hardware", its constant dialogue with spirit, and how men should be cool about blood and take milk as sacred.
That closing number, 'Little Girls' might have been heavy without an amusing, sexually ambivalent twist in its tail. Beverly Jo (that "mystery photo" of the 26th) has obviously been around and picked up all kinds of legends, as well as musical traditions. Occasional choruses and studio echo effects play tricks with her voice, but with care. In one number, 'Great White Ghost,' she even sings what it's like when you feel somebody else roaming your mind,,
"And in that moment
when, one guesses, the end of the affair was a long time ago.
All my other memories
And I'm a junkie baby
Taken by that
Old familiar rush.
But I am happy
That you still feel at home (...)"
Like magic, my musical feelers have yet again found a woman who happens to be singing about where I am. That's obviously destined to be a "Why her, why now?" of this log. Answer: I don't always know, that's just how it is.
Sometimes BJS sings in French, very well with skilful lyrics, as in English with a rich resonant voice some tell me is in an Texan accent. I wouldn't know; she's Alamaba-born, steeped in gospel, soul and the blues, and is a woman who can rock and be old-fashioned funky or do a duet on a very beautiful ballad, 'L'Etrangère,' with Gaelle.
She includes, among mostly original songs, a cover of 'Nights in White Satin', performed without ornamentation but a sense for the words and a haunting side that gets you listening anew to a classic so familiar and famous. From the opening bars you might wonder, "Did I ever really follow what that song is about?" apart from being one lots of people seem to put on their "music to have sex to" lists.
I'm less surprised few people seem to have heard of Beverly Jo, since she's no American in Paris, but has settled in Belgium and was long a session musician who frequented bars and friends and thoughtful, gifted French-speaking or French-born singer-songwriters like Francis Cabrel, who have a devoted and well-merited local following but rarely make international renown. She cut some teeth on a single in 1990 with 'C'est Extra' by Leo Ferré, which is quite something.A wild rare animal, powerful pianist-poet and orchestrator, Ferré gripped my imagination on an introduction to him by my first French girlfriend. He went on to set great poets like Rimbaud, Apollinaire and Verlaine to music with an ambition of imagination that works wonderully in the outcome.
Born in 1916, Ferré came by the 1970s and 80s to stand for much of what the Mai '68 student and workers' upheaval had been about when it shook France. Most "survivors" are now dull establishment figures, but he stormed then and pursued his own singular muse with a manic majesty and genius.
I'm sure Beverly Jo Scott absorbed such influences, but she's a "divine rebel" in her own right, a strongly pagan soul who leaves out the politics. The new Utopia some sought and still do is not a material one, nor even a "religious" renaissance except to the extent whole worlds and people are lost without a sense of the sacred often best expressed in music. BJS is a woman who also likes to seek words to approach it.
Her house makes you feel at ease since she's an intimate poet of the small things of life and love, attuned to their lasting significance without overdoing it, and chooses fine musicians, mainly Francophones, to address them with her. The album is no glittering showcase of the musical styles her range covers as guitarist and vocalist since she's no star out to display varied talents, but instead distils her great gifts into one song after another, at home in the genres I've mentioned and more.
The reviews in French of 'Divine Rebel' are as turned on as I am, draw out a Patti Smith touch and speak of Beverly Jo Scott's sensuality. If Patti Smith is sometimes about empowerment and vocal power, then yes, Scott can turn up the heat, and that last link is to a trilingual web site now in the making, so she plans to do so.
Her sensuality is certainly strong; she knows this and cheeringly gives it a spiritual dimension and a brightness that would put her some of her songs on a list of a music to make love to by firelight.
I haven't reviewed her latest 'Cut and Run' live album of this year, but a 2003 one found through curiosity and synchronicity of mood. So much the better; it's a shining accomplishment that gets me wanting to hear plenty more. She's very good as she is, someone who knows herself and is set to have much to share for a long time to come.
...and a season to let faith take root
Just letting things germinate beneath the soil depends on which hemisphere you're in, of course. This break in a meditative period offers you a strongly recommended contrast to Beverly Jo in the fulfilment Charlotte Martin has just achieved on ''Veins'. CD Baby tells you of a "collection of inspired awareness".
The next picture says much about Charlotte, like a Martin quote from CD Baby:
"There is major stuff going on behind the fake smile, the grass we step on, and the calls we can't seem to return. Everything goes much further than people assume," she confirms.
I don't think Beverly Jo Scott would disagree for one instant. Both singers reach out to whatever that indefinable "major stuff" is, letting it in to their music and into a natural body consciousness.
'Veins' says part of it, like 'Bones': these titles address and undress the corporal and temporal, fated to decay. When Charlotte declares herself "obsessed with bringing things into light", she understands how light informs the darkness and confronts fear and loss.
She's come a long way in less than a year. Here's what I said* of her earlier work -- and what most of us then knew of an American beauty crowned on those looks alone -- once she had drawn some attention with far more:
"It's so grim outside that a woman who once told Playboy how much she hates 'shitty weather', is a pianist and songwriter as sorely in need of a place in the sun as I'd like one to lie in today.
'I know I'm not anybody's stereotype, and I don't care what people say. People are going to write what they write and like what they like, and I know this music isn't for everybody. It's a challenging, classical approach to making music.'
PB: 'What was it like being crowned Miss Teen Illinois?'
"The thing is
CM: 'There wasn't really any fun in the contest. I did it to prove my dad wrong, sort of a 'Fuck it, I'm cute. I'm going to put on a shitload of makeup and win' (PB's 'Women on the Verge').
'Beauty queens are very shy
"On hearing her EP, 'In Parentheses' (2003), Charlotte's music initially struck me less for the lyrics -- those come from the title track -- than how she does something unusual in bringing an operatic voice training to bear on her use of a piano.
More than lash that meets the eye
So she jumps then wants to fly
But it's too late now
I'm in denial
'I get midevil on boy bands
I said, is anybody listening?
The way life makes the nice girls fast
I said, is anybody listening?
It isn't just a lucky chance
'And I'm on solitary sand
And all the bullshit from a man
But found exactly who I am
'I'll never be the vision of a girl who can write poetry
I'll never be the little black dress we've seen on Natalie B.
I'll never be five foot ten, I'm barely five foot three
I'm on solitary sand, but in parentheses'
"The easy acrobatics Charlotte achieves with both vocal chords and keyboard are a stunning symbiosis. This girl knows a voice can be a beat on a drum and a foot-pedal not just a part of a piano's mechanics if you want to make it a note in itself.
"Charlotte is 'cute' with a nice habit of hugging people in her audiences after shows. But she goes back, she remembers nastiness people dump on one another, and then, well, she's chasing a man round the room in her head, and that's pure fun.
"The iTMS offers eight 'Test-Drive Songs (Limited Edition)' and a modest title like that sold it to me on the try and buy principle.
To quote lyrics on their own is usually a mistake with a vocalist whose range runs from the sea-murmurs of the shores she finds herself on to hammer-blows in your head, but Charlotte can be so raw, she's funny.
"She'll take anything on, push and shove with the guys and the girls, suddenly somebody's dead and she's handling it. The 'Test-Drive Songs' bring out that (self-)'challenging classical approach', the near choral overdubs on 'Something Like a Hero' and 'Last Day on Earth' work deliciously, not quite à capella, but adding shade and light.
"You find yourself listening to those lyrics again, hearing a woman who won't pretend to be a poet but broadens out the emotional range on 'On Your Shore' and can only go up as she goes back.
"On Charlotte Martin's site, to sum up what she thinks of what she does, she's 'everywoman', doesn't just speak for herself; while she's no 'sweet 16', probably never was and adds a good decade to that, she sings bleak and difficult stuff, she's still taking it in, absorbing it, making it very beautiful sometimes.
"When she wants to lighten up, there's no great wit to it, but she's somebody you like having around the place. Especially in your head."
Those words took almost no changing.
It's now the far side of the summer, the shitty weather is back to stay for a while, Charlotte has become a poet -- to single out one set of lyrics would be hard -- and is rounding out apace as a musician.
Lives have moved on, musicians and women friends (who belong in 'The Orchard' nowadays) have enlightened my own drives with precisely the body-soul exchanges Ms Scott put into that brief prayer-sermon, which is saved from perilous, politically correct feminism since she is too pagan to get that intense.
Still on solitary sand, now on an eight-track album rich in emotional power, from the heart-wrenchingly sad to what strikes me as a strong faith in life and its challenges, Charlotte indeed went back to go up. We're all stuck "in parentheses" sometimes, then someone reaches out across the shore.
Just how lonely such changes made her was well described by Jay S. Jacobs in 'A Shore Thing' at PopEntertainment -- whence the picture and even word of how Benjamin Britten (hello, my classically minded friends) mattered to Martin.
I'll be listening more to 'Veins', having already quoted Charlotte on 'Four Walls' (its magnificent bid to reach a friend with bad blues), but not its further à capella strengths ('Under the Gravel Skies'), the fine 'Days of the Week' tackling killer tedium, and how her 'Root' style takes wing -- before closing with a fine, live 'On Your Shore'. Powerful stuff!
We're now promised (by CD Baby) the "sophomore full-length 'Stromata'," that sllly adjective again. It means nothing, sophomore, it's just a kind of music industry career marker on the production line.
This piece is about two now relative "unknowns" who shouldn't be, rewarding our attention richly with their tales of change and of growth. There's a humour now in Charlotte we're bound to hear more, since she still speaks for every woman -- and for we men as well.
If I were in 'The Orchard', I'd have a story about today's subway chat with a gorgeous stranger (who had an iPod problem, there's a lot of it about as we both observed, hers was easy to fix) and then a good tale of the luck of spotting somebody else who is music (sadly another man had already noticed this).
I don't since I'm not. Yet musicians like Charlotte and Beverly Jo have a radiance to remind anybody "obsessed with bringing things into light" -- a lot of us, in other words -- this can still be done in bleak times when it feels so hard to reach people who close up we might lose hope.
I didn't expect to write this tonight, but was helped through an overall gloomy day to keep the odd faith expressed elsewhere by chicks who soar on. 'Root' is right in its love and growth metaphors; one of those indispensable soul-food songs. And "soaring" is so right for Charlotte, here's another source of hope: others agree about the qualities of 'Veins', for I've just found this: 'Musical Discoveries' -- instantly blogrolled.
A place like that about women -- "contemporary, progressive and crossover" -- even boosts, on exploration of its approach, my faith in more of my fellow men since you'll find writing there devoid of the insensitive competitiveness that mars many sites.
*The words published about five months ago are the last of what needed to come back here after most personal log content since May was uprooted and moved to 'The Orchard'.
3:01:44 AM link
dimanche 27 novembre 2005
I've reached a rest note.
I'm piping down for a little while because I'll be catching my breath (The Orchard) and have other things to do and to reflect on.
Musically there are no deadlines.
The singer pictured in black and white in the previous entry is the same woman first posted in colour and the giveaway clues as to who she is remain, but her write-up can wait; she's quite a find and has also been around longer than I'd imagined.
Those "siren islands" in the blogroll are mostly run by women overdue give a place of their own, with a few more portals in what's now the following section, where you'll also find plenty of men. Some sites have linked internet radio stations -- as I hope this one will within a month or so -- and Laney Goodman (Women in Music) features twice: she's so eclectic and interesting she's a one-woman reason for podcasts!
The Wikipedia has grown apace. Women musicians now have enough entries to add its "who's who" both of female singers and its more general list.
I've added some more "world music" links and sites set up mainly by musicians for musicians which are useful to non-musicians as well. Other new links like Metal Maidens and one or two classical connections won't be to everybody's taste but this site is here to stay without borders.
That's it for now, apart from a special mention for Piero Scaruffi's Music Database:
"Please do not use Internet Explorer to view this website," he begs. "Besides being a terrible browser vulnerable to viruses and worms, it displays pages in idiosyncratic ways. Many other browsers can be downloaded for free."
Idiosyncratic? The accursed Internet Explorer makes a mess of this place and I've realised there's nothing I can do about it. But that nuisance apart, Scaruffi is a Renaissance Man of our times. The site is a contemporary and historical archive, a musical resource full of links and enjoyably opinionated all in one.
His team even keep up with the international music charts.
All in all, you should be glad to see the back of me for a while.
10:15:37 PM link
samedi 26 novembre 2005
Identify this "chick" and tell me you can before she gets her words in here and I'll say you're either lucky to know her or have a taste for adventure.
For me it was a mix of good fortune and the start of a friendship with a librarian who takes risks when it comes to what she buys for her shelves and has done me a favour. Once she knew what's going, she waived the rule about no more than four CDs at a time with such zeal it's almost alarming.
"Take out whatever you like when you want!" she said. Once I have, it's time politely to flee because there's always a somebody else she wants to add.
"You're a darling, but we'll 'meet' her next time maybe, huh?"
"Oh well, as you like."
The snow's come to town, a little yesterday, while this morning it was heavy, almost settling. Daily contacts in Africa make me jealous: "Today, it's sunny, it's 30° (C) plus and it's just right!"
One friend, who spared me the weather, was less keen than I am on Liz Phair's latest slice of life. Lauren had none of the Judas touch I berated on finding so many knives out, but she was right. Until Liz is ready to open a new chapter, those songs dubbed "radio-ready", to pick up an industry term, don't usually stand up on their own.
That's one goal too far, I reckon.
What's brought me back in out of the cold to stress this includes an introduction to someone else's ''Confessions'. Madonna is everywhere with her return to the dance floor, including the corner bar where I fuel up on coffee.
The bone-chilling damp in the air is so vile that barman Hugues did well to give the very few of us who had braved it a buzz off his recent acquisition. Any fear I had that Madonna might have misjudged this step has been put to rest. I heard only three or four tracks, but she didn't.
If you remain a newcomer to the log brought by a search engine about people you fancy or want to discover and you have a tight budget, it's worth noting I deal with albums as a whole in the context of musicians' careers.
Contact request: help please
Thus my idea of what's good music frequently doesn't match the charts, so now I know I'm turning people on, I ask you to take what I write in that context. I'm happy when you've bought an album because of an entry but I'm not a "mainstream critic"; taking my word for it is flattering but can take you out on a limb!
Thus it was with Liz Phair. I won't argue her latest album is a good introduction to her work as a whole. As for 2005, it's already begun on the Net, music mags and sometimes in your mail: many critics and reviewers are already getting on with their 'Best of the Year' lists.
To read a few I have this past week, you could be fooled into believing what some have said pretty bluntly. We're still a month short of Xmas, but you'll find a bunch of writers, particularly rock critics, telling you what a bad and banal year it's been!
Tip: don't believe them, judge for yourselves and remember where they are sometimes coming from with all the biases that entails, such as industry "freebies", piles of music the "pros" don't always take the time to hear properly, and a rivalry regarding the charts.
This annoys some musicians so much the attention has left them wary and inaccessible to people like me. In some instances, I need help, particularly from industry "insiders" so here's my seasonal appeal to match those from the likes of the Red Cross, 'Medécins sans Frontières' and the other charities that want your cash around Christmas.
Not money, thank you. Contacts!
Looking back to get ahead
There's a revolting industry that's grown, particularly in the United States and one or two other countries. Musicians have agents, record labels and ... "bodyguards". Such people are obviously there both to promote and to protect them. We journalists can usually breach these barriers, it's part of our job, but a time-consuming pain when you're in good faith and need to go to source with a question or two to get the facts right.
What sickens me is the appearance of agents for agents on the Net. These parasites -- do you want some company names? -- earn a living by compiling lists of the direct contacts you can't always reach and then selling them! It's fair enough to protect musicians from mountains of fan or hate mail. That's what forums are for. But the downside is odious profiteering when the business overdoes it so people with a job to do need to pay go-betweens to reach the go-betweens. I won't.
Hence a public appeal for contacts I've also issued professionally among friends who know the industry well. If you have any names and contact details for insiders who can save me a swim through these sewage channels and money I've not got to do this job, please use my mail box and drop me a line. Strictest confidence goes without saying.
Places I particularly need such people are New York and in California.
The Tori Amos picture's an old one I like: a detail from the 'Boys for Pele' cover that's particularly appropriate when I'd rather face her guns than turning mine on those various parasites.
As elsewhere in a competitive world, "Best of" lists do what happens at Cannes and in the Oscars when it comes to movies, where the brownie points and awards frequently go to the latest, forgetting achievements that preceded them in the same year.
That's what I mean by the Janus touch: these annual rituals, particularly at year's end, tend to be cursed by it, making them as top-heavy as what that particular god has on his neck! To place too much importance on what's brand new is to risk your balance and sense of perspective.
Tori, who's learned to keep hers and remain centred, has been my long-suffering example of the musician who incites ridiculous comparisons at the expense of very many another singer by people who don't respect the latter for who they are.
Whether Amos makes many "review of the year" lists is another question since so much good music has been released since February people may well forget 'The Beekeeper'.
It's "too old" already -- but what an album! In due course, we'll be taking a listen to it. I've had it for months and now it's pretty high on my list of "who's next", it's worth pointing out that another site has just rediscovered it in a singular way.
"'The storm is on the horizon,' says Amos. 'It's coming, this massive force. It can be emotional or physical 0 or all these things.'
Tori also said:
"The Beekeeper is an allegory about that coming storm, and one woman's journey through it. It's not strictly an autobiography, although as Amos admits, 'If I didn't relate to it in some way, I wouldn't be able to sing it.' It is, however, very much about these times, and about the struggle to find a bedrock of truth beneath the tangle of lies, mythology, casual assumptions and political manipulation that have formed the cultural landscape of the U.S.A. today."
"'I don't usually talk about what the songs are about, because they're about many, many things' (...). Indeed, she treats songs as beings in their own right, each with its own identity, personality and agenda."
Whether you're an Amos admirer or in that "a name's always new to somebody" group, you may well find the Auralgasms update on Tori's bio a good read. It reveals a whole side to the woman I knew nothing about until I got into the research.
Tori's done a lot of her own. People who share her Christian faith may find it reassuring to learn what she needed to do with it on seeing how "Jesus' teachings are being hijacked and manipulated by politicians".
I'm not a Christian but this doesn't switch me off to "that symbolism and those allegories" she's been exploring to keep her own focus. Mick Jagger made the headlines this year, but his onslaught on the White House version of Christian practice was a facile flash in the pan.
Try Tori's perspective and you may end up listening to 'The Beekeeper' anew. I am; there are many bees abuzz in this bird!
3:44:16 PM link
mercredi 23 novembre 2005
I'm alive and listening, thanks, if drowsy for a chunk of daytime since I've a habit of working late into the night, often on draft music entries that take shape if excessive thought no longer gets in the way.
One recently pictured bird -- no "house Martin", Charlotte, but a wild lass -- must return very soon. There are times friends at work know better than even to greet me until I've heard out the song in my head then remove the "earpods" with an exclamation of amazement and delight.
A second hearing of Martin's new album 'Veins' made today one of them; I could only say, "Gosh, how does she do it?"
She's "so young", but age often means nothing for gifts of music and insight. If you can't wait for me to update a temporarily missing entry and say why it's a great idea to buy this album and meet Charlotte, don't forget the log-rolled 'Auralgasms' (her pages there) as an ever interesting gateway to music.
You won't find 'Veins' at Amazon, but iTunes does it. She says of one song, 'Four Walls', but don't take this as representative of a varied album rich in both spiritual and musical content:
"I am attempting to usher someone else through depression. I don't know what I'm doing. I clearly point this out but I do care and try" (Charlotte Martin).
For the emotional alchemy music can work at such times, she knows what's she is doing.
I must still do other things at least until the weekend.
Given the time, I'll put some more jottings on synchronicity in 'The Orchard' soon: recent connections in a life full of music and matters of women have been too odd to match anything but the frontiers of science.
I shan't yet tell you what the December cover story is on 'Science & Vie', again yet to be published on their site but already in my mailbox as a subscriber. The scientists in that magazine fail increasingly to do their job and keep my feet on the ground when music doesn't!
Do they understand that when mainstream scientific findings now routinely beggar belief, people might well give up on science for "answers" and turn to the likes of the women here instead? But people shouldn't say it's one or the other: hard fact or "inexplicable" insight. It's simply a road to nowhere these days if you treat art and science as separate paths.
Two additions to the log-roll: more fool me for failing to have added Womanrock Magazine ages ago, while Rockrgrl Magazine is about "supporting a woman's right to rock".
If I hadn't recently seen yet another blog survey, this time the latest list of so-called
'Top 40 Bands in America Today', that "right" would be manifestly evident!
It's not the whole list I trash of course, I like many bands on it. I just wonder whose "sexual prejudice" is strongest: mine for leaving out the guys or theirs for ... well, check it out!
You'll see why I'm totally turned off by "top 40" anything.
Now, back to other things and people.
I know announcing a plan usually means it'll fall apart but will take the risk and say the week after next is one when you may expect lots of music logging, including my mixed bag of outstanding "unknowns" and renowned singer-songwriters ahead of Christmas for those who believe that's more of a gift-giving time than any other day.
8:50:37 PM link
dimanche 20 novembre 2005
It's no good. I "cracked" for it.
Take a strong liking for Russians, exposure to tasters on the iTMS of 'Dangerous and Moving' and a eye for "lesbian lovers" that dates way back to an unforgettable year --and it's like a lethal injection!
The latest by the next singer to be profiled. Worse, this means I stopped fighting off Roisin Murphy and the immediate and imminent risk of t.a.T.u..
That second link to a home page was unkind: it's in Russian. But if you're as clueless as I am about pillow talk -- or any other kind -- in Russian, lo and behold, these two will help out.
"Finally we will share one bed, eat from one plate... I love her so much! And you too, guys! Wish us good flight," Yulia requested during the week in her diary -- which you'll find in English if you follow the flag -- before snuggling up under the covers with Lena.
I knew that wicked eye, a legacy half my age, was still there and it opens wide for the likes of these young Muscovites ... but "thanks for the memory" is all you get to read about 1980.
They're ready for just about anything and if you are and have never heard of these two, then what some people call "fight music" left others 'Screaming for more' (their DVD cover is the provo-pic) and I felt like a real change!
You can read about these two -- and leave me simply looking forward to 2006 -- at Tatysite, while the Tatugirls fan site is very entertaining and audiovisually generous.
When I see the word "controversial" while subbing an article in my paid job, I usually excise it since if the news is, it rarely needs spelling out. The word is frequently slapped on Lena Katina and Yulia Volkova but not by me.
I'm still a sucker for a good love story, especially if it's true, that's all.
For around a fortnight, I've dropped enough names to keep any adventurous soul happy. The Keynotes come next. It's an exciting prospect.
But I need a rest. "Music," somebody reminded me when I looked a bit tired during the week, "is very difficult to write about well." And so it is, but the offer I told you about from my employer on Friday has sunk in.
It's enormously encouraging.
I've taken up a chance in a million, one a lot of people who love music and writing about it would virtually do a deal with the devil to be given. I didn't expect it to fall into my lap on the strength of what's happened here.
Now it has with no black magic I know that's a privilege. It means I'm doing a good job. That in turn means I must stop for as long as it takes to know what I'm doing right and to build on it. I owe that to the women who've got me here and a new album from a couple of Russians says they can be from anywhere.
Such acknowledgement from my own professional peers in the international media and occasionally overhearing one say to another "Have you seen what Nick's done to his blog?" the way they do is a gift. It's also a responsibility and a major challenge.
Then I'll take it as such.
I don't want to get paid again for music writing, not any time soon, so the offer suits me very well. When I retire from the Factory, then we'll see. I'll probably have little choice, if I make a good job of it! Retirement's a long way off but unless I learn to resist spending to feed an aural appetite too far ahead of what's actually written my pension will be paying it back.
My only excuse for that three-album exercise in self-indulgence is "I was celebrating!"
But enough is enough. It was part of December's budget.
With Roisin Murphy's help from 'Ruby Blue', I'd better string a few song titles together fast! Any mail from the bank that gives me a 'Sinking Feeling' is out of the question since I don't want to have to worry about 'The Closing of the Doors'.
Last time was a lesson to remember. 'Dear Diary,' let me 'Sow into You' a reminder this place is no longer 'A Prelude to Love in the Making' and I'm only just the far side of the 'Night of the Dancing Flame'. So if anyone's to get 'Off on It', the rest must be done 'Through Time'.
Neither with greed nor with speed.
There'll be two kinds of Keynote and once I've despatched the first, the rest will be easier -- and mercifully brief. That first one's in fact finished, but it's not going anywhere before somebody else has subbed it ruthlessly.
These Keynotes are what I'm calling the mailing lists I've mentioned before.
It's too important a step to take on my own.
The ones written for you, music-loving readers, will be opt-in summaries, once a month, of who has been featured here but no more than a line or two about each musician, then the entry links. When I'm ready, I'll put up a flag so you know to "Ask here".
The others will be short alerts to musicians to tell them they're logged since when they like what I've written and want to use it for promotional purposes, they're welcome. The first is the hardest since it says "Hello" with a smile to those who still don't know they're here.
I know it was a good idea to nip my last attempt in the bud since those who warned it was awful were right!
I'm so full of ideas, that's the trouble. I need to remember not to rush an artform that's timeless. Unless somebody fires me up to give her and you of my best between now and the end of November, I'm 'Leaving the City'.
The temptation to go on writing when I'm flagging since there are so many people to share with you is strong, but 'If We're in Love', musicians and me, all I need say about Roisin and why I cracked for her too was "I heard she's ahead".
Now I know she is.
The moral of that is to heed my own intuition, which says I won't be back until I've caught up with myself. I don't know when that'll be, just that I've done enough talking for a while and sorted out the log as much as I can without asking a bunch more musicians what they make of it.
I know which ones as well. You might find me in The Orchard from time to time. I'll just be taking the air. As for Roisin...
Nothing. Or nearly. She's a ... rejuvenating influence.
Having added that, I can go away with a relatively clean conscience.
1:49:36 AM link
samedi 19 novembre 2005
When Ani diFranco teases a guitar with a crafty smile, she's a woman to listen out for come what may. Because you never can tell. She's spontaneous combustion in her music and blows dust off archived sounds from anywhere.
The thoroughly modern "Ahh-nee" -- that's how she likes you to say it -- can get the strings shimmering a cascade like a waterfall in bright sunshine, or beat the blues out of the box for a storm.
Those artificial fences among styles? Ani leaps them like a thoroughbred sound-jockey. As for the decades separating some musical forms from their offspring, she seems so oblivious to them that to invite her round is a little present for a friend of mine, an accomplished musician with a few years on me.
For BJ and others who feel lost on my terrain but interested in it, Ani DiFranco's a multiple personality who's integrated all kinds of music into albums that make for a fascinating ensemble.
This self-styled "punk folksinger" -- and that's a loose definition -- is an exemplary phenomenon with whom to start exploring music I write up. There's a chance you'll love hers, navigate your own way back to your boundaries and find you'd like to jump a few fences yourself.
In Ani, BJ will hear the classical background he's familiar with, recognise aspects of a New York I've never set foot in but seem sometimes to know on first listening, and hear some unexpected and enjoyable shifts on his home ground.
One of my plans for months has been to review 'Knuckle Down', out last January, but to get there I'm listening, several times over, to 'Evolve'.
The title of the earlier record sums up what Ani is consciously engaged in as a person and a musician. On tour and on album, she's extremely eclectic, ready for an adventure with equally accomplished players of all kinds.
If she's not entirely teasing about being a punk folksinger, perhaps she means she's rebellious but open to anyone (as she showed when an arts centre in Michigan, Interlochen last July persuaded a woman they find ever on the move to visit and sit down for a day. That's where I found the look I mentioned).
She soared to mind since BJ, like other people I know, is approaching the end of his regulation "working life" just as I hope to one day with an inclination to study and pursue skills of his own and the time to do this I was moaning about missing last night. That Ani's a part of one is unlikely, but some Open University-style music courses on offer these days are the stuff of dream as well as hard work. The fences and more solid walls I rage at are coming down and that's excellent.
DiFranco provides me with no excuse for front-page scolarship, however, and this is better still. She's won huge admiration in little time among varied publics, if they have the necessary requisite: ears.
She's so enjoyable!
What she sings about are things I'll go into when we get to 'Knuckle Down' -- and 'Evolve'. She's politically minded sometimes with an angry sadness -- after all, blind greed and fundamentalist folly as a means of government affects us all. She doesn't like seeing "the music industry mafia pimping girl power" either in a song called 'Serpentine" that begins with a clarinet and other instruments up BJ's street, gently enough, but she is outraged.
Such fire-cracker lyrics, but one side of her, are the stuff of our times and will date her work one day, no bad thing since other fanatics in positions of power will probably be subjecting the rest of us to similarly dangerous ego-trips, but as for style: only connect.
BJ modestly says his wealth of musical knowledge "ends in 1950", when jazz was freeing up further. Think back to "scat-singing", old friend, listen to Ani and you've got the way it's often done now. That's all.
The blues are in your bag already, Woody Guthrie's a name that will last -- and if DiFranco didn't have her tongue in her cheek and a hand in an anonymous entertaining Ani bio, pull my other one.
Her music, full of echoes you'll recognise, will without a doubt make "converts": that bio speaks of "shattering stereotypes and winning over unsuspecting fans everywhere."
When she does, many sounds will surprise you.
If, say, you stick to "trad jazz", you're vulnerable to Ani's subversion. Familiar with many an African sound, got a useful reminder from some of hers of a promise made: to introduce other friends to a couple of summit meetings among men with guitars.
They are 'Talking Timbuktu' by Ry Cooder and Ali Farka Touré and the less well known but staggeringly good Mosala Makasi,' a live album with minimal studio magic where Papa Noel of what's now the Democratic Republic of Congo swaps notes with Cuba's Adan Pedroso. The outcome is unforgettable.
Everybody will find their own tastes reflected in women like Ani DiFranco and some others on my shortlist of established musicians who've released albums in 2005 that are remarkable for being quite different from what they've led fans to expect.
They happen to be people who this year have reached the stage in their lives and careers where the confidence to do that, stepping out on to very new ground, has grown to match the accomplishment.
Ani, on the site quoted above, sums this up (and gives me grounds for meditation while she's at it):
"i speak without reservation from what i know and who i am. i do so with the understanding that all people should have the right to offer their voice to the chorus whether the result is harmony or dissonance, the worldsong is a colorless dirge without the differences that distinguish us, and it is that difference which should be celebrated not condemned. should any part of my music offend you, please do not close your ears to it. just take what you can use and go on."
She pulls me up short with that assertion of people's right to dissonance.
Not for long!
A meditation on dissonance would be for 'The Orchard' but an instant gut acknowledgement she's absolutely right arises from knowing how sounds I've found dissonant cease to be so when my prejudices disappear and they become music instead.
Then you'll reading about more ex-dissonance, since I love what seemed hard. There's been much talk of Madonna's 'Confessions on a Dance Floor'. The limited edition isn't out yet while this week's release has put a court case in today's news. Now you can't get 'Frozen' in Belgium, that's global warming of musical tempers.
Plagiarism claims usually leave me cold in music; I don't know the facts, haven't heard what I understand to concern four bars and wonder why they're on to Madonna at No Rock& Roll Fun with no mention of this business yet.
Business it is. Money, that's all. I admire Madonna's career, respect the woman and enjoy her early albums. She's helped turned me on to the dance floor. This entry is one to stress the log's grown to be what it is because of the time I've spent catching up by doing the very kind of listening back I commend to BJ and others.
When people say their musical tastes stop anywhere, Ani DiFranco, a Righteous Babe with that independent label she's founded for herself and others, gives a sound message. If you don't like it, skip it, there's nothing more personal than what suits individuals in music.
When I was younger, I was a pain who would tell music-loving friends "You're wrong" on hearing such remarks. Even more foolishly, I thought explanations could prove them wrong. Obviously, putting a record on and saying they ought to like it if they understood ... blah! It was always blah, doubly irritating if I waxed technical.
Ani's wiser than I was. I can tell you and BJ a bit about her and everybody else, but the most I'll say to anyone with an "I don't like" kind of music is "Are you sure?
"Here's a musician people label that way. Give her a spin if you like her story. She might open a door."
12:37:32 AM link
vendredi 18 novembre 2005
Your ends help my means
What about tip-offs from readers?
The chance of writing up everybody I'd like to explore before Christmas is none! I'm too busy but it doesn't matter: you'll get bored if I endlessly say music is not a product and gifts don't have deadlines. 'Aerial' is the latest answer to a comment opening one of the most comprehensive fan sites I've seen for any musician:
It's a good idea, thank you.
For somebody who's sent me a list of their personal "desert island voices", the recent 'Redbird' from Heather Nova is due an entry, at least part of one. Suzanne guessed more than correctly, it was on my shelf within two or three days of arriving in the shops.
The other one? Er ... Kate Bush. A cheeky mini-mail, that, partly in French, from François: "comment ? shame on you ! tu n'as pas encore commenté le tout nouveau kate bush". I didn't know it was out yet (and replied the "old" Kate Bush isn't here yet either). My friend, 'Aerial' is also a double album with a fat booklet.
Anyway, it'll be a pleasure. I'm sure a woman's done a fine song about presentable men with frayed collars, so never mind one new shirt less.
"It's unlikely that Kate Bush will ever tour again, and equally unlikely that she will release another album or CD" (Sylvia says at Kate the muse, which is well stocked until at least late 2002).
Since I've mentioned the downsides of fan sites (worship and "Oh wow!" forums get wearisome), let me balance those remarks by recalling some such sites constitute great resources packed with reliable information you won't find on the "official" ones.
Priorities lie in the qualities
Several entries about iPods and iTunes, which greatly help make this place possible, haven't been deleted but though every day I see new iPods everywhere I'll no longer let woes with those get in the way of the women.
"When the day is short
sings Martha Wainwright on an album that made many waves this year, partly because of a song called 'Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole' about a man I saw in concert a very long time ago, her father.
And the nights are long
It's a different world
Where the rules are wrong,"
The video on her site is of 'When the Day is Short' and times she "will go home with whoever is sure". Martha today became the latest in my week's listening, which has also notably included Martina Sorbara (her 'The Cure for Bad Deeds' of 2003 has me very hungry for more) and London-born Lucy Woodward.
I have no choice but to go on dropping in names and home sites with very little comment, to keep you abreast of my ceaseless exploring. The day is indeed short, the night long, but working hours don't change, do they? Fortunately, music bends the rules of time.
All three of those albums -- Woodward's is fortuitously, in this context, called 'While You Can' -- are first-rate and strongly recommended. She's on the left, in the kind of photo many people dub "Not a dumb girl", since declaring herself to be a 'Dumb Girl' in "mistakes" of the heart came in the first song I heard after telling you of Liz Phair's.
Hot with lyrics, all three defy categorisation as musicians. For iTunes, Woodward and Sorbara of one of my unusual iMixes in hand -- this one's 'Crossing the Limits', a selection of songs that do with some very successful surprises.
To maintain coherence of content -- what a song's words happen to be about -- and radically change musical style on the way is an ability that makes for immense enjoyment.
Telling you how to maintain your iPod and play safe and smart with iTunes is vital; you go crazy -- perhaps simply less so than me -- when they don't work properly and Apple does little to help. Neither the women nor you will thank me for frequent front-page interruptions on how to do it. So for the moment, those entries are parked in 'The Orchard' but they have no long-term place there either.
Often it feels like "a different world where the rules are wrong" when days are too short to do all we'd want, creatively and with love, but we live in it together and have to put up with its disharmonies and wrong-headed rules unless we make better ones.
When I write up Martina, we'll find a witty woman who can ask God "Did the devil put you up to this?" That's in a Sorbara song worth a visit to the iTMS on its own, 'This Ship.'
Pooled talents are good news
I shall make time, say while iTunes is doing what it is now -- importing more music -- to create a third log section for that "technical" stuff. Here's what non-geeks have put me up to doing with it: I'll turn it into language you want, easy to follow and with the best links for you to pick up where I leave off.
That's called improvisation when done by Patricia Barber or Cassandra Wilson and many others. It's been a long time, hasn't it, since we've listened to their like, "trad" or "modern"?
You want this log to rock? So do I.
iTunes is filling in a gap or two. Give me time with the women as well. I'll improvise often. I could have sworn I'd written about jazz poet-musician Annette Peacock ('I'm the One is her place) already for she knows a thing or two.
"Every bend of winter brings you to the new spring," she reminds us in one song on 'An Acrobat's Heart'. And who can argue with an avant-garde, meditative pianist who sings "Honesty is so sexy"? Getting tedious and technical around women sure ain't my idea of jazz.
Here are a couple of notes for the ladies.
They're not blue notes either, thanks to a small handful so far of you music-makers as generous as Martha Wainwright, whose video is for keeps. I appreciate the green lights for that Internet broadcasting scheme.
The good news in return -- it's funny Martha should title a song 'Factory' though not the one where I earn a living -- we seem to have a deal there at my boss's suggestion, based on what's here. AFP won't pay me extra for it but that's fine since instead I get more free time to be professional about passion.
The request was I write more about you not just here but in news agency feature stories and with regard to who's "making news". This would give singer-songwriters a potential public broadened to millions and I'm full of ideas for young, new musicians in particular.
My request and I'm told there's "no reason why not" was to be able to sign such articles with the name I use here -- Taliesin is no nom de plume but my second one -- while I also want lots of time for ... well, she belongs in 'The Orchard'.
I've been thinking about its implications and now gladly said "Yes".
Concert tours would be a good place to start and a chance we can all rejoice in to give you a boost like that sometimes. Who says business and pleasure don't mix? They can with a little of what you "chicks" have got since talent's no use without it: imagination.
1:17:33 AM link
jeudi 17 novembre 2005
A very posed shot* of a striking singer says two things.
It's emblematic of the music log as you'll find it from now on, where entries you may believe vanished in recent days haven't for the most part. They've simply moved.
I like the picture for several reasons. Most importantly, Liz Phair comes whole, as well as being a silhouette, a songwriter and a musician. A Chicago-born guitarist with a rock band, as it happens.>
Not before listening four or five times to 'Somebody's Miracle', the commendable album Phair released last month, could I write much about it. If you like good rock with tight energy and some catchy "ready for radio" tunes that are possible chart-makers but few outstanding qualities, here you go.
The first part of the album can make for loud enjoyment, when you're in the mood, while Liz has a decent, assured centre-stage voice that remains always clear amid the multiple guitar work and the rest, but she's no stuntwoman for pyrotechnics.
Liz has become a woman who begins the album seeking a 'Leap of Innocence' in love and that's tough when you've made a lot of mistakes and want to sing later on about 'Why I Lie' as part of a generous selection of 14 tracks.
Despite an established career, she's far less famous this side of the Pond than in the United States, but got four stars for 'Somebody's Miracle' from her expatriate fellow American, the 'Unpaid Rock Critic', who admits to bias.
So shall I, before saying more: she's great, but I came to her late. Her previous album of 2003, titled just by her name, got a warm write-up called 'Being Phair in testing times in early September, ahead of the new one.
Not so among most US critics; they had wicked knives for such a "sell-out". So it's a pity few bothered to listen to Liz. 'Somebody's Miracle' wasn't theirs either, since at best it eases her back into favour. However, when people consistently go to the trouble of paying any attention to the person behind the "product" and write well about music, their sites get listed on mine, regardless of whether we agree.
If many take sides in pointless debates, they're welcome if they must: I leave it out. This is an exception -- particularly since "pop" is a word you'll rarely see here, any more than other terms, even when less meaningless, worthy of regard only in the right hands and usually in context, knowing how the music industry works, often years behind the times. The musicians here aren't, including one who finds the miracle of the title track isn't hers either.
It's a "modern fairy tale", so she sees and sings. People noticed that much. Here's a rare sample excerpt:
"First the good news: 'Somebody's Miracle' is more respectable than Phair's self-titled 2003 effort, an album that embarrassingly found her chasing a top 40 sound. (...)"
I can avoid attributing a piece of nonsense to Leah Weathersby, who signs a more extensive contribution elsewhere on the aptly named Monsters and Critics:
"Is Liz Phair apologizing? It would be easy to get that impression from the title track of 'Somebody's Miracle'. Suddenly the singer who was once known for her jaded lyrics and liberal use of the 'f' word is throwing around different kinds of 'f' words altogether. 'Faith?' 'Fairytale?' Once, a generation of young women turned to Phair to express their collective rage at emotionally unavailable men. Now it's all about frogs with princes inside, and her regret over fleeing relationships with a few good men. My, how times have changed."
Quite right, times have.
If you're a young woman seeking a voice for your "rage at emotionally unavailable men", there are several very smart, gifted wordsmiths who can help out and they are good musicians. One's called Liz Phair. She does it very well indeed on Exile in Guyville', a classic.
That was 12 years ago! People and their lives have a very annoying habit, it makes them unpredictable. They change, some more than others. When they're honest about it during rough years they can conclude life's tough, the world can be a very vicious place, things fall apart.
If you're interested in how Liz Phair was upfront about this in 2003, you'll find an understanding appreciation of it in what I wrote in September, with gratitude for the music she made of it and a hope she's since disappointed. She'd had enough and my hope was she'd soon completely pull through a time she put her guts into singing and sharing.
If you return to 1993 and listen properly to 'Fuck and Run' on 'Exile', you'll hear how a dozen years ago, when that was what it was about and she was caustic and cynical with the wry lyrics people still want from her in almost everything she does, fucking and running was already not always what she wanted.
Liz Phair's site has the generosity characteristic of numerous women singer-songwriters but is short on biography. Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote a decent Phair profile for MTV.
The closer you get to the present, however, the less detail you'll find on the Net, except in her lyrics, where "f" for faith is important. So what's it about?
"Once upon a time
That's a little hard to take at face value from a woman as aware as anyone that some of princes waiting inside frogs can turn out to be toads and rattle-snakes, male or female.
I was so restless in love.
When things we're fine.
I'd change my mind just because.
Now I see how wrong and reckless I've been.
Each frog has a prince just waiting inside of him (...)"
But the "fairy tale" is really a woman up against the familiar and only too human dilemma of how others can do what we sometimes feel we can't:
"I'm so far, so far away from it now
Lines about togetherness, partnership Liz goes on to explore, an "outsider" more than ever.
That it seems like I may never know how
People stay in love for half of their lives.
It's a secret they keep between the husbands and wives."
Charlotte Martin, the other girl here, is the only casualty of the changes I made at the weekend. She's a good-looking woman, a point I'd scarcely bother to make six months into a log dedicated to female singer-songwriters. Their pictures make it for me, given the "niche" many people have encouraged me to help fill. You'll get even more of the remarkable Charlotte than you did once she's back. Her latest is sitting in an iTunes shopping basket and won't be for long, it'll be on the iPod.
She is not, however, 38, like Liz.
Recently I told a friend or two of the very fine line this log must abide by. You get more than reviews and no star ratings since the hit charts leave me indifferent and people come here not for the latest I'll occasionally cover but often in-depth stories about singers who freely give so much of themselves.
Who, then, am I to pry beyond those gifts into private lives unless I meet them and get a green light? I've not met Liz. There's talk of "rehab" on 'Somebody's Miracle.' People die. There are also songs like 'Stars and Planets', upbeat in outlook and too "commercial" for some. On a CD that's extremely intimate but to be taken as a whole, a new slice of life, it eases a tension I've decided to mention since the rest of the album booklet tells a story.
Pictures in colour are parts of Liz Phair: pieces of a body she put, naked if relatively modest, on the cover of the 2003 album. But to take her album in fragments is a mistake. Like bodies, it has its peaks and its flat points. As a whole, it works.
'Table for One' is among the most truthful songs -- with the wry Phair flair of old as in several others -- I know about secret boozing as it is: hell, guilt and something nobody can save you from until you do. The album shares truths about women I've known, probably you too. They're clever, articulate and very sexy with killer looks they use.
I don't any who've made an album about where that tends to get them with men, the "emotionally unavailable" kind. Liz sings of mistakes and regrets but my hopes for her aren't in tatters. I was asking a lot in two years of somebody who's "trusting you're there. It's like walking a tight rope into thin air." This is a very brave album likely to speak to many people since Liz has the self-awareness to know where she is; I'll avoid the disservice of analysis, probing, it's not for me or you to seek out how she got there.
She's moved on from the torment of two years ago that had her savaged by critics and split her fan base for combining heart-wrenching emotional honesty with a more mainstream sound so that highly insensitive people wrote how Liz was singing a "mid-life crisis" and how ageing is a part of it for a very sensuous woman.
Sure people get older but I'd reply like this:
"That mirror, Liz, you've given us on 'Somebody's Miracle' -- take a look in it anew at you. Stop being so hard on yourself."
I don't doubt my unpaid colleague in Spain is right. She's looking for a fulfilled and fulfilling good man, the right one for her. As for being sexy and upfront about it, my view's public enough! Women like Liz in their late 30s don't have to fret about their looks. She's still stunningly attractive and will stay that way!
The men are out there as well, the kind she wants. What it takes is "f" for faith and this, as she sings, doesn't come easy. It needs encouragement of a kind we all get from very few people: those who will hold in trust for us when we lose it ourselves.
This album ends with three songs that leave Liz and the listener with a cliff-hanger in the ways of love, for 'Lost Tonight' seeks it and the closing track surrenders to it. What's gone is the cynicism and bitterness. My sole regret -- it's a question of taste -- is that Liz is another singer whose more acoustic songs, less of the band and its support, are infrequent.
The wryness she'll keep. There's less of it than before. This isn't the album for too much of it: it's gift enough to work 'Somebody's Miracle' as singer-songwriters can. Liz has. I read somewhere that this could be heard as a "cheerful pop" album and that's utter nonsense. Music by people featured here is alchemy; taking what we feel and transforming it for us, the impossible to live with is something they help us move through and beyond.
Nice one, Liz. Rock on.
A few people will have observed entries sometimes reflect the course of my own life, as well as other criteria about who comes when.
You're right. Plenty happens by chance, nothing by accident. My iPod scroll finger works mysteriously when it finds a woman, sometimes ignoring my intentions.
I've learned to let it do this: who it finds is often one on the wavelength I am, a woman in silhouette. I can't say who'll be next. I don't know. All you get here is women who make music.
I've said it in the sidebar clearly enough. If I were to say I find Liz drop-dead gorgeous, that's the kind of remark you'd find in 'The Orchard', OK
*No credit, regrettably, unless one of several photographers listed for album artwork cares to step forward and say "That's mine".
12:45:57 AM link
dimanche 6 novembre 2005
Yes, what's this 'about...'?
Lending with care
It's a little teaser for you and a reminder to me, at the end of a week when the log's seen much backstage activity, to maintain the variety and keep that tight grip on the pursestrings between now and next year!
With the exception of those by Eliane Elias and Emma Daumas, every album pictured has been among the releases of this year alone, each awaiting a write-up and mostly by singers I've yet to mention. The others came out last year and in 2003 respectively. They'll be featured too in time, along with others from the iTMS, or like this lot off shelves in what's become the "music room" as well as my small flat's living room and what the French call an "American kitchen".
A click on each thumbnail will take you to the Amazon page at one of the stores I'm in partnership with. I also wanted to remind friends within range the collection behind the scenes of this site is a partially public library and I've begun -- only begun -- to extend that offer to other friends further afield, inspired by a couple who made specific requests and live in places where shopping isn't exactly as easy, apart from basic commodities, as in the industrialised world.
Prudence and iPods
The trust placed in you then is, of course, considerable, not only to respect me but musicians who would have even less cash than I set aside for the music budget if everybody stole their creative work. I log that conditional offer again because when I did so a few months back, with one loathsome exception who was duly hounded down people responded with behaviour that didn't surprise me but was good for my faith in that "human nature" some are far keener to portray at its blackest than I can.
Of 'To Do' lists mentioned early this week, I've managed much more than planned, except for an iPod fix for someone that's very perplexing since I've got the thing back on best behaviour apart from occasional freezes whose cause I just can't suss out. I won't be pleased -- and nor will its owner -- if it has to go back to Apple again. The other neglected thing is the logged 'To Do' list challenge set by the friend who gave me a "reset" so kindly when being very ill at the start of the week got me down so much, but I look forward to this some night after work when in need of light relief.
Christmas is coming
"Resets" are vital for the health of your iPod and given their proliferation among those who obviously and quite rightly just want them to work, I also postponed chasing up Apple about wretched practices in favour of another offstage task.
iPods are complex machines, for sure, that need regular maintenance and care like your computer or car. But as you'll see from the reading list -- as long as that title remains in it -- on this page, to be sure of what I'm doing I need 'iPod and iTunes: The Missing Manual' by Jude D. Biersdorfer, now in its 3rd edition (April 2005).
That "missing manual" series is well-named! Apple did go astray when it started failing to provide such texts itself.
When I have time, I want to make available via this site some key reference points to help music-lovers through the thicket of information out there on looking after your iPods.
I never thought to headline that, being no fan of the consumerism and super-marketeering that make the "festive season" a bore and a chore for some people. It makes others feel like lonely ghosts at the feast, while though a personal emotional sting in it disappeared when a long repressed memory came back, that childhood recollection still dampens my enthusiasm!
However, a decision last year to "abolish Xmas", for me anyway, because of that side of it was a little extreme. If the albums above give you generous notions, that's great. In the next few weeks, a number of entries will be logged with the "giving season" in mind and I'll do the reviews mentioned before of the latest strong CDs from "chart-topping VoWs".
The idea of a 'Best of the Year' is still one I'm not keen on, but to deny 2005 has been a great one for outstanding new albums would be absurd, so I'll think of a way to promote a few picks of my own between now and the next week when I can spend plenty of time on the log, which is likely to be the second one in December. Knowing me, you'll probably get a "best of least known voices" if any!
9:01:28 PM link
samedi 5 novembre 2005
It's just an idea, potentially of genius. Maybe it's time has come, six months into the songlines.
What would you say to occasional internet radio broadcasts, streaming a selection of music by the singers or bands whose sites feature in the 'going solo' list in the blogroll, from my computer to yours?
The singers featured in that section now number 25, the most I'll put there at any given time, regularly updating it so everybody gets a turn.
That Nicecast badge refers to no more -- or less -- than first-rate software, which has been biding it's time on my Mac for too long. It's designed by Rogue Amoeba, a firm behind several other audio for Mac applications I've used for ages.
Nicecast would enable me to broadcast music I've been writing about or have in mind by using iTunes, which is freely available to almost anyone right now, so you can listen to a lot of internet radio streams with it.
Such a sound illustration, however, means it's time to tell musicians too and ask what they think of the going so far and if this idea is OK by them.
It's their site but it's also their music!
11:08:33 AM link
mercredi 2 novembre 2005
What I'll do, when the budget permits, is get hold of Harmonium, the new album from the latest singer here to make clear she'll give an earful to anyone who says "Tori Amos."
This, we know, drives them almost all mad!
On the finely-bred young Vanessa Carlton, I'd placed what I thought to be a secure bet when her first album bowled me over. It was sure she'd provide me with a safe contrast to another well-raised singer to be noted at once for an equally classical background.
Vanessa's now "just" 23.
Since my nose for superb noises sniffed her off a shelf by chance and she looked very dreamy, an impression borne out on first taking to Be Not Nobody, I felt we could hear such a "young" distinctive classicist who uses pianos that seem sometimes to dwarf her against a cellist who's often on sex and draw a line.
Yet even "Carlton (...) loves getting nude (...)":
"I like the area where my butt meets my thigh and I like the size of my boobs -- they're small and I don't have to wear a bra," she said, apparently proving it, for a recent summer 'Bare Issue' of a US rag, according to ContactMusic.
So much for one possible contrast between songs that apparently innocent debutante of 2002 and the raunchy Lauren Kendall, who wears as little as she can on the cover of her second album; that means, nothing. She gives us a nice back view.
So we're stuck -- not unhappily -- with a favoured preoccupation of better-known names mentioned of late whose albums won't be brand new any more by the time I reach them: the variations on what our hearts get our bodies tangled up in are an inescapable theme.
Vanessa, whose voice is simply luscious, tackles love's languages from several directions on 'Be Not Nobody'. She apparently left almost nobody certain whether she was a rock musician or a potential concerto performer headed one day for Carnegie Hall and a go at Ravel or Debussy.
She's a bit of both, that's the answer, and more besides, but certainly a dreamer, which is our first insight into her mind when she starts, one "ordinary day", with a boy she sees:
"And as I looked up into those eyes
His vision borrows mine.
And to know he's no stranger,
For I feel I've held him for all of time.
And he said take my hand,
Live while you can
Don't you see your dreams lie right in the palm of your hand
In the palm of your hand.
Please come with me,
See what I see.
Touch the stars for time will not flee.
Time will not flee.
Can you see?
Just a dream, just an ordinary dream.
As I wake in bed (...)."
By then she's woken you up, listening to 'An Ordinary Boy', and you don't know whether Vanessa -- her home site says she was 17 when she wrote the bulk of that first album -- is really dreaming. This is probably just what she wanted of an astounding debut it takes three or four hearings fully to enjoy. She's spoken of her "stream of consciousness" style and has a devoted Carlton fan following that adores it.
People familiar with 'Harmonium' say it outshines what Vanessa considers an effort of "purest inspiration". In 2002, she tried and successfully evades expectations, forsaking formulas to make quite clear who's in charge. She is. Her writing reminds me of the Kid's, since my daughter's little younger now than Carlton was then. They both approach sex with a combination of frankness and a highly romantic outlook one can only hope for in sound adolescents.
There's little worse than lovey-doveyness and pseudo-coyness in such young people when they know better. Vanessa's streams of consciousness flow so far from what prudes would call the "gutter" of language -- though to my ears, the right words in context from women ennobled by raw experience and scars aren't filth -- it's nearly reassuring to know she's happy with what she's got and as keen occasionally to display it as an ever astonishing number of her elders.
I opt neither for that nor the habitual languid beauty pose of some photos, because my recent listening -- regardless of intent -- keeps pushing my geography the same odd way. So the above pic, pinched from the fan site, is Vanessa a few months back, in synch with that quirk that sends me ever back to New York!
She is that mad: she's signing on for the marathon.
It's worth a more leisurely little diversion to note that when another "teen star", Christina Aguilera, turned 23, her music suddenly caught my attention because she 'Stripped', said so in the title of the CD where it happens and began breaking free of the pop mould into which most cast her along with Britney Spears.
There's some genuinely heart-wrenching and burning ballad writing on the Aguilera album that warns "Watch out, I've decided to grow up and if I go on busting out, I'll get you hooked on how I feel." She does, given half a chance, just as elsewhere I've noted Jennifer Lopez has started doing the same, but those women are changing "pop stars" and more, not prodigies.
Prodigy is not a word to use carelessly, especially now skilled technicians can help deceive the ear and fabricate such singers, but Vanessa's stuck with being the real thing. An astute Manchester listener at Amazon UK catches the "dynamic choice of syntax in her lyrics"; that's exactly right.
That dynamic -- dreamy sometimes -- way with word structure Vanessa has is part of the music's originality, an audible game of mirrors, where she's bold enough to risk a fully orchestral approach or take on The Rolling Stones to 'Paint It Black'. She does OK there, her voice ensures that, but I prefer her own songs and took particularly for a while to the closing number, 'Twilight'.
Being a prodigy forced Vanessa to choose a difficult musical path on this album, since the love lyrics are fine if not anything exceptional from a girl of that age -- it would be a pity if they were since nobody needs disabusing any sooner than life almost invariably throws this at them -- while in the performance there are hints of uncertainty about "How much do I risk showing just how talented I can be?"
To a jaundiced ear, unwilling to listen with her age in mind (I've read a few such views), she goes too far in feeling she's got something to prove, but in 'Twilight' this is directly, touchingly acknowledged in the refrain:
"I will learn to say goodbye to yesterday and
I will never cease to fly if held down and
I will always reach too high cause I've seen, cause I've seen, twilight..."
In light of praise elsewhere hinted at here, people turned on to a hitherto unknown might take a look and think, "Well, if I want to try Vanessa, it'll be 'Harmonium'." Fair enough; but I didn't need to read rave reviews to bung it on my wishlist because I'm glad I've got the first one.
"So many second albums are made in fear," Vanessa says. And don't you know it, if you're here for whatever I can tell you, because we've heard that so often! She's no different; she means the "fear" raised by those accursed expectations among "samers" -- a name I guess I have now for everybody who denies their favourite singers the sovereign right to change.
"I couldn't make a new album based on remaking the last one, and I was not afraid to make an album based on what feels fresh and reflective to me. I think I realize only now that I really did take a risk."
I'd guess Vanessa means with 'Harmonium', but the risk she took before she was even what most people would consider an adult is one that pays dividends. For what she finds in "twilight" is conveyed in a sound I'll either tell you more of once I've heard the new album or return to here later.
It's Lauren's turn now, as someone with a similar classical inheritance to bring to stand-out songwriting, into the limelight. What does she wear (a vivifying question that helped put me back on track, viz. previous entry)? Well, I said "nothing", sometimes, a last echo of amusement on Vanessa's site, also from a garb-conscious bloke: "If 'Be Not Nobody' was wearing a cocktail dress, 'Harmonium' is wearing jeans and a vintage shirt."
That's what A&M record label president Ron Fair said anyway. I dunno what kind of "vintage" you apply to 23, just that thereabouts is one of those ages you can judge "musical women" by, seeing their past and future (I know all kinds of odd generalisations like this, which could make for a "taliesin's odd generalisations" page like my glossary).
Women are no longer "kids" then, but with luck at around 23 they've got what it takes to turn a then fairly confident "dead sexy" into a "drop-dead gorgeous" appeal that can start making them and life really exciting once the hormones and years -- decades for the luckiest -- kick in hard (don't tell my daughter I said this, let her poor bloke find out for himself).
Fellow explorer -- some of you are -- my lack of knowledge on encountering Lauren Kendall was so blissful it didn't even sink in for a couple of songs on 'Red' that this chick was not just singing me some of her most intimate private mail, but playing that cello herself!
Intimate mail? Oh yes, she may well stick her tongue out, but you'd better believe it; this was last week before I fell sick, I felt as horny as can be -- i.e., very -- and at an utter loss because those dummies who dictate fashion trends (Paris-London-New York-Tokyo-"next stop-Nairobi" is an in-joke, I'm afraid, for Factory hands who follow that industry) had wreaked their annual havoc.
Lauren's words were a bright candle in the darkness, like a friend you might find you've got in a woman who says "Come here and sit on the rug in front of the fire and let me sing you my stories by the flickering flames off the logs". That's 'Red'.
"I've seen in a day what some never see in an entire life --
Holy Cackle is where Lauren lives and you can find her lyrics. It's a lovely name, holy cackle, and there you have her in 'So Young' beginning to cheer me up about the ageing October question that got me really down. I've felt days like those and they're scary as well as damned tiring, especially when the weather takes a cruel turn for the damp cold threat of a season to come and life on streets, in bars and in the Métro gets those clothes designers going bonkers
Loved, hated and lived through it all.
I've made love out of bed, outside of my head,
Earned my own way and been damn tired too.
Oh, if you could only see what's behind these eyes.
So, why am I still so 'young'?"
It's all black, what women wear! If not, its usually so dark it's as close as dammit. Within but a fortnight of the likes of nice navel-ornaments, tantalising tattoos that look all the more interesting just beyond where they're on show and, now I'm at it again, even the "Vanessa vintage" that darkly, pertly points out "I don't have to wear a bra", whether they feel they do or otherwise, is made hard to discern for the musical eye by darned winter wardrobes.
Lauren gets dark, private ideas she'll share without being so damned stupid as to go for deliberate gloom, which she doesn't, like those fools who decided the sunless season would be improved by making it yet darker in what people wear as standard equipment. Black and navy blue's fine in summer, but in winter you have to look pretty hard or expensively -- woman or man -- to find anything else supposedly stylish to wear, unless you want to end up looking like a Michelin person with spare tyres you don't have in the first place...
Don't say "beige". It's an improvement, but not really, when winter could make me a leather fetishist! Well, despite such a topsy-turvy world where jet-setting twits make murk more miserable, Lauren prefers to be melancholy in 'Red'. We've most of us known this sort of choice, when it comes to bedclothes:
"His scent is in my bed.
Such feelings about 'Scent', along with a 'Never Could Tell' song about how love becomes a very ambivalent hatred for somebody you turn away from yet always back to in the same breath almost: these are splendid and stark songwriting, where, as often, the bare words alone tell just a part of it.
Sheets I shared with him just once before
I'd even decided how much of him
To let in.
His scent lingers still.
I haven't smelled it yet, but I know it's there,
Like the others who have come and gone --
Their scents always linger there.
Oh, what a scent can conjure in my mind, in my
Oh, what your scent conjures in my body.
Do I change my sheets?
Do I sleep in his memory?
How pervasive is his smell?
Is it enough to make me want to wrap
Myself in it once more?"
Yet Lauren's so little-known that I must break with preference in the links and send you to the US store for Red, since it's almost invariably out of stock here and unobtainable at the UK store.
'Katy's Lullaby' is among the finest songs by any woman for her child I've yet to hear; it's as full of love as the album is of poignant, sad tenderness delivered with the voice of a practised classical performer -- for all its differences -- that gets me putting Lauren in the same entry with Vanessa. There's even a maybe of the "If you like this, you'll love this" kind for vocal distinction -- the famous Lisa Gerrard, for instance, or a Heather Nova.
Lauren's voice has a slightly nasal, husky edge I find very attractive, while with Vanessa, she shares the "stream of consciousness" approach, often in very free verse with Kendall. But to imply any gabble is misleading, though both would agree on the flow, since it's about intimacy, those very private sentiments we're let in on like invited friends, shaped and not splattered on to a musical canvas.
I'd call both "chamber musicians" and currently identify with perhaps a method that called me to what they do, despite an age and experience gap that's of no odds in this respect. It's like listening to others engaged in what I've told you I do in the mornings, letting intuitive stuff well up from deep inside, then to be shaped by the creative art, rather than wanting "over-thinking" anywhere in the process.
Kendall has a band as well, when she wants, but even on re-listening, it's almost a surprise when the "conventional" rock band sound's suddenly there. Lauren's own harmonic gift is so strong and never trite she can use an obvious piece of what could be mere "studio magic" to superb effect in almost unaccompanied choral work.
She doesn't steer clear of a "Why the hell didn't you tell me?" and the like in her memories. Such language doesn't jar when she uses it, but makes her another of those to remind me swear-words are devalued once you know better than to over-use them.
A very musical friend once said, "Never mind a good 'fuck', but could you leave the blasphemy out, Nick?"
I reflected for an instant, then thought, "Yes I could, easily, if it bothers people." So I did from that moment on, just like that, and our respective religious beliefs have nothing to do with why. The relevance is in how this site was developing out of listening, which brings me to Lauren and Vanessa.
I want their audience ratings boosted; my own are going up because you're here -- among others like you. Of various ways to help, one is to "explain" what these two and the others do with notes as I might. How, for instance, does Lauren sometimes get so close to a traditional hymn sound without being there?
But do you care? No. Neither do I. Off log, maybe my VoW book gets another few footnote lines, but on site, you really want to know what to my ear makes these people tick. Me too. Lauren's homegrown bio is out of date, there's a different "mystery" there from the one Blake her percussionist lends to songs full of the stuff.
"So many times, same old shit,
That's wryness. That's rawness. And it's acutely heard. Superbly sung, 'To Her'. Who "she" is -- but I hear was in words and music -- we don't know and don't need to know.
Same old lies.
Would we ever learn?
Boys may come, they definitely go,
And then you're on your own
To yourself again.
You're the most deserving person I know
To receive the gifts you've wasted on everyone else"
Lauren is somewhere Vanessa was headed in 2002 and might have found in 'Harmonium', so much so I've put iTunes on "artist alert" for it. That place is far beyond talent, which is itself remarkable when it's really there. It's the place where most women render comparison so abominably pointless.
On her debut, 'When,' Lauren proved an exception to my bugbear piece of stupid "she sounds like" writing by lending her choral treatment to Tori's 'Mother' -- as a tribute -- rather than fleeing from the magnificent Amos because of morons. But on 'Red', Kendall's soul speaks to us.
The word "soul" has a deep, indefinable significance for me now, that's for ever; it's where music is, makes for another album that is light shed in our dark places, and I find Lauren doesn't hesitate to use it herself:
'Red' "is much more personal, more daring. When you start writing songs that you’re afraid to show to your mother, you know you’re hitting on some personal issues. I’m also incorporating more cello into the songs—it creates such soul in so many of the songs” (Songplanet offers an up-to-date bio).
Sometimes I'm glad my mother doesn't want the Internet since if she knew a fraction of what you lot do... I shan't finish or explain that remark so don't ask; it's a bare aside and all you'll get by way of acknowledging "truths" smart people correctly think they've guessed about a few "whies" of me and the evolutions that led to this site's destiny.
The logger of old might have written a bit more of his mum's harmonics, though they're hers and to be valued as such; this one just says we share different things. Lauren Kendall is into the sharing so many women singers are that's made the new log one way of saying "Thanks".
In her own words (though the stylist in me tones down some of her capital letters and punctuates with fewer exclamation marks):
"Free MP3s are still available. Go to Amazon.com's free digital network (...) and search for works by Lauren Kendall. Then tell your friends!
The more you download, the better my ranking. Download often. That's right. I'm ENCOURAGING you to steal my music! You can buy it later. ;-)
Downloading is fun!*"
*So it is, but let's also be fair.
Thereupon my ideas turn to 'Pirates with White Flags' out back, since one can't really draft any "economics of the soul"...
It's just there's "piracy" and there's "theft". Lauren's encouraging invitation is one for me -- and you if you like -- to draw the line where we should.
3:50:55 AM link
fountains and fortunes
voices of women
(ecstatic naiades, erotic firebirds, eccentric angels,
electric dryades ...)
a blog behind the log
(popping those green pills sometimes gives me strange fruit)
contributing friends (pix, other work)
retain their rights.
a fine way of seeing it