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nick b. 2007
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samedi 31 décembre 2005
Today was one of farewells to two lovely people whose days at the Factory come to an end with the last of 2005.
For BJ, the deeply musical friend, first-rate news editor and writer whose wise and sometimes very funny insights win him many a word here, "there are no goodbyes, it's just au revoir."
I plan to make it so. BJ is no man to retire without working harder than ever and he can make time now to embark on an Open University course in musicology. A look at his course several months ago was good news. How the walls are coming down in scholarship! Part of BJ's demanding course -- from that quick glance -- connects what's happened in the classical world he knows so well to those of the heroines of this site.
Leaving too is Liane, a music-lover who's had not a mention on log or blog, though her quiet, accomplished and harmonious presence has been a pleasure at AFP for some while. 'The Power of Goodbye' is among my favourite songs on Madonna's 'Ray of Light'. Tonight I discovered how Natalie Imbruglia found 'Goodbye' hard on 'White Lilies Island' (2000), an album that went straight on to the hi-fi once I was home and had already paid Natalie a long visit on the iPod.
She has three albums on the "voices of women" iPod. Two remain for me virtually unknown territory, including 'Counting Down the Days', released in April. A fine bone structure and other visible aspects of Imbruglia's natural good fortune are such it's surprisingly hard to find pictures of this "pop star" as a musician performing songs she frequently writes herself instead of the object of people's fantasies. This one of the singer was taken in England some time during the year.
What a contrast she made to Lisa Germano (home), whose 'Lullaby for Liquid Pig' (2003) has been among the delights of a fortnight of discoveries with absolutely no time for entries about any of them.
"Lullaby For Liquid Pig has a Scandinavian starkness that lays Lisa's troubled soul bare. These occasionally dissonant, but often simply lovely songs, ask the listener to befriend her during her dark days. Real rhapsodies in blue."
That's so well put by Don Blandford at Amazon UK, I must largely leave her there for now, with a plan swiftly to get to know Germano far better. It's been very cold of late and Lisa's gentle voice and use of electronic effects apart from a piano and an acoustic guitar are ideal listening for stressful grey days.
This is a concept album where more than words link one track to others and it's as melancholy as anybody could ask of a dark invitation to chill out so deep inside yourself you can come out of it feeling as relaxed as you might after a good hour of yoga! Lisa takes a different approach to such an uplift from the kind of sadness that pervades 'White Lilies Island', where the chart-making hit songs are grouped on the first part of the album.
Wring out the old, let's sing in the new
These are worth listening to again once you've experienced the rest of it since even when upbeat, Imbruglia is subversive with pop mannerisms, choral overdubs and a costly choice of orchestration to convey life's sad sides with more subtlety than may be evident if you hear her with half an ear. It takes considerable talent and strength to be so intimate and stay natural when you're so much in the public eye some people will Photoshop you into what they want you to be when they'd do better to be grateful for who you already are.
You'd believe 2005 has really been Natalie's year, given the number of words it seems others have written about her first couple of albums in recent months, as if some of her fans are reconsidering a career that began in soap opera, made her a sought-after glamour girl and pop star and now realise how much she's had to say all along.
It's been a remarkable year for me. I end it with mention of a couple of albums that have little in common but their melancholy, the kind that makes for engaging and heart-lifting music when you're down, but plan at midnight to be elsewhere celebrating what I've already said has been one of the best and unforgettable years of my life.
The past couple of weeks have seen my attention almost entirely focussed when not working, as I shall be tomorrow like over the Christmas weekend, on friends close at hand and on family when I can. More music than ever has been a part of my days while several of my nights -- I dare write it now they're over and it seems my day job's still very much there in spite of the phenomenal amount of coffee drunk to be alert on it -- have been sleepless and consecutively so.
Next Wednesday, however, sees the start of another of what I'm now always going to call "my music weeks". They'll be at least a monthly feature of 2006, I hope. I've been asked this December to make a number of decisions and chose to add one or two of my own.
The lack of sleep has rarely been symptomatic of worries. On the contrary, once I can slow down again after having much to do, it will be with two jobs and the time for them both. One at AFP and the other, in my spare time, here among scores of sirens.
This is what I've wanted for months, but I'm greedy! I wanted plenty of time away from computers as well, to spend with people, the better among other things to do a good job of writing about musicians. Well, it's been exhausting to plan, but it's all fallen into place and that's a very upbeat note on which to say "goodbye" to a way of life that entailed constant juggling.
What I've plotted suits everyone, it works, it's harmonious and with luck, by the end of the winter, entries here will be less sporadic but the challenge is daunting! A batch of CDs that proved to be the last order of this year has been arriving at odd intervals since some were hard to find, though I suspect they shouldn't be.
Daunting maybe, but it's exciting. When somebody asked me to count how many women I can choose from for music entries, I came almost to wish they hadn't. No longer scores, it's at least a couple of hundred. After that, I stopped counting. This led to two more questions, "Don't you get bored listening almost exclusively to women?"
Well, that's not quite true, but still the answer is: "Definitely not."
The next one was: "How do you choose who comes next?"
The answer to that is both irritating and in part a secret: "I don't. I find they tend to choose themselves."
One friend said her main resolution for next year is the same as before. "I'd like to less and do it better". That sounds wise. BJ was inscrutable when asked for more details of his coming music studies.
"I don't know yet. I want it to be a surprise."
I'll lift a glass to that too.
11:27:05 PM link
mardi 20 décembre 2005
A strong Canadian current's caught me up.
It's going to take part of this entry with it, but last week somebody told me a Chicago-based singer was "right up your street."
She sounded engaging, that's for sure -- she sometimes sings in Tibetan, she's going to be in Moscow next spring, she writes poetry I can't understand since it's in Russian and she does jazz and "all kinds, pretty dark".
That was accurate enough.
Oh yes, how could I forget? She's also "one of your hot short-haired blondes and you might enjoy what she wears as well as what she does". Okay, so Lena Potapova's a lass with looks to like and she knows it, does a see-through thing too in video at the Schizowave site, where it says:
"She expresses herself loud. She has traveled around Asia all by herself with very little money. She has managed Makye Ame Restaurant in Tibet. She has spent a month in an American jail as a suspected Russian spy. She has opened a gallery / performance space in Chicago to help other local artists. She has been called a hippie, a punk, an idealistic idiot and a cynical bitch. She believes in passion, and if you can't take the heat, don't listen to her music."
She's freaky, funny, serious and plays with three talented guys. They do seem to like masks. Anton, who told me of Schizowave and what some of Lena's poems in Russian are about, did so on reading here once of a penchant for boyish blondes and then my recent mention of Kurt Weill when I wrote about Fiona Apple.
Lena is into Weill, and a lot of others, from Nina Simone to Tom Waits.
Beyond saying they do play what they call "WFS" (Weird you-can-guess Stuff), I so far thank Anton for drawing my attention to an intriguing woman-fronted band, who don't always play loud and don't believe in borders, and pass on for now.
And I'm grateful too to whoever the adventurous people are behind the iTMS in France who give chances to people like Lena I've not always found anywhere else. If I say more, it'll be when one of the "artist alerts" now piling up there gets me an e-mail from the music store with a major discovery in it.
This has happened several times already and it's an enlightened policy to be strongly encouraged.
I said Canada, though, and you've had a few paragraphs about a Russian people also call a "trip hip-hop" chick.
I'll have to add CD Baby to the blogroll somewhere, along with Caimanzone. They're too useful to omit. The Amazon connections here are worth having, but CD Baby, pretty well known as "a little CD store with the best independent new music" isn't as small as all that! Short of buying from musicians themselves, when you won't find them at Virgin, the FNAC, or even some brave little stores in Paris -- a city particularly good for African music -- these online outlets do a essential job in making available the work of lesser-known musicians.
Why I'll be writing about Canadian women after a chance New York spell, I don't know, but until the Caimanzone people mailed it, among the first three of a bunch of albums ordered several weeks back (this calls for plenty of patience), I couldn't lay my hands on Chantal Kreviazuk's 'What If It All Means Something' without using the "sidebar" I recommend people who shop via Amazon shouldn't forget. In this instance I chose the Caiman store.
There's synchronicity again, as with the previous entry, between people I know and the music I listen to when my iPod finger stops scrolling. I synched the "small" one just yesterday with the latest, that finger went on down past the gorgeous Chantal and then back on an impulse.
I've written a little of 'Colour Moving and Still', a very good album on which Chantal the poet-pianist finds there's much more to "peace and love" than what people meant back in Woodstock days. She's a woman of considerable compassion.
The recently delivered 'What if...' album from 2003 -- still billed on Chantal Kreviazuk's site as "the new one" -- had me stuck in an agreeable loop. I didn't get beyond the first five tracks because I liked them all so much, they each needed at least two more hearings ... and one spoke very directly to a friend with whom I'd just had a chat.
Tara MacLean is another Canadian I've just got to know. Her 'Silence' (c. 1997) is beyond golden, it's sometimes miraculous. Both presumably still are among the loves of yet another Canadian named Patrick Chan (I guess from the Url) who's got a thing about them and other women singers. A site of his has been defunct for seven years, but gets a mention for two reasons.
On Kreviazuk, he has a clear enough view: 'And God made her...'
Maybe so, I'm no God expert, but Patrick passes on something interesting:
"'Music was always a part of me; it was just so incredibly natural. I would make up songs to my mother when she was putting me to sleep.' Chantal is blessed with perfect pitch, enabling her to accurately discern the tone of any sound. Although she cannot reproduce the notes to such an accuracy with her voice, it has usually proven to be beneficial to any musician in terms of touch, rhthym, tonal quality, improvisation, etc... and a remarkable learning curve."
That's technique. From a first handful of songs released several years after he wrote that, it's already apparent Chantal's learning curve has been ... wow! And not just musically.
She'll be back, it's premature to take a look at Chantal the person and what she can do with both voice and keyboards.
A seasonal way with a whim
The other thing Patrick said I note was this:
"I don't avoid music because it's popular... I'll just avoid it because it's bad. I do however try to give all music a chance. I prefer to judge the music for what it is - entertainment. Because I don't pay much attention to media hype, I am left to buying music on whims and depend virtually entirely on chance. Fortunately, these days, with the Internet, I can ask around and find out what's decent" (his 'Maddening Music' page).
It's "entertainment" and infinitely more too, but his comment about paying little attention to hype and asking around, the Net connection, is important these days and especially to the musicians. Take a look at the list of artists on this music shop page at Womanrock or at Auralgasms.
Hmm, Lena's there, but with most of them chances are you'll be on new ground, I'd bet on it, just as I am. How do you find out these days what's new and "up your street"? In France, the role of the Internet in turning people on has come in just a very few years to take precedence over what they hear from their friends, whims in stores, and the "old" media, television especially, often even specialist and brave radio stations.
Word of mouth remains very important, but many people have told me they've found musicians they like via the Internet, so I started checking some figures and will give a few details in the book one day. In short, it turned out to be true, particularly regarding women.
There are people in statistics institutes who seem to look into almost anything! So here's just a thought for your Christmas gifts, from a guy with much still to learn of what he loves most. If somebody you know wants music and you've got the time to think about it a bit and the cash, take a risk. Maybe they've asked you for an album they'd like or you've an eye to their wish lists.
So you know their tastes. What if, instead of simply giving them exactly what you know they'd like, you were to give them something you're sure they will because of those tastes and you surprise them? Take them somewhere new.
If they don't thank you for it, you can always blame me and send me the offending item instead. But if you're smart, the odds are they will, and then who'll be happy? They will, you will ... and so will a musician.
And that, folks, is my 'Best of' list for the season: it's in the best of your own intuition.
As for Anton? I told him there's too much music around me nowadays to sustain a penchant just for boyish blonde women with soul and their figures. Life's far too short and what's really appealing is far too varied to be so narrow-minded.
12:51:05 AM link
samedi 17 décembre 2005
Advice mentioned last time I take a dive into Kristin Hersh was sound indeed. In listening to four albums spanning a good decade either in bands or as a solo girl, I'm among the latest to discover some of the worlds Kristin has in herself. An occasional "look inside" at those may get us wondering how we simply manage to be ourselves at all, from one day to the next.
Hersh is striking for a rich and strong career as a singer and musician who let a bipolar disorder -- being "touched with fire" -- become a compelling force for creative accomplishment.
It's easy for people who don't experience these highs and lows to speak of such minds as "sick". Disturbing they are, if you've got one or when you know somebody who has; such people can be hard to live with, but in her search for herself, the woman who is today Throwing Music (Kristin's discography) has let us in on extraordinary beauty.
She keeps a blog there too and is sharing music -- check out the downloads -- with a generosity so characteristic of many singers it's one of this site's raisons d'être.
To write in any depth of Hersh and others is to challenge commonly voiced notions of sickness and of health, in people and in the society we have together created.
Sadly, it's a society in which after 11 years and just when I decided a subscription was essential, Rockrgrl is, with its new issue, number 57, to be no more.
This news I got from its founder, Carla A. DeSantis, just before it went up on the site, in private correspondence, but publicly too I wish the very best for the future of those who have been involved in such a remarkable and sustained project. They explain this.
"After a long career as a bass player, DeSantis was frustrated and disillusioned by magazine articles about women musicians that seemed to mention everything about the person (dating, shopping, sex) EXCEPT how they create their art. One Rolling Stone 'Women in Rock' issue, for example, asked the artists about their favorite perfumes but nothing about their music. So, to level the playing field, DeSantis created a positive alternative where music -- not perfume -- was the main issue."
That sets high standards.
Kristin Hersh, taken on such fortuitous advice, was already among those waiting for a place here, to try to share an understanding of "how they create their art" and particularly how they change and grow.
Hersh's work is very rewarding, but can be "difficult" at first hearing since lyrically she takes a lot of getting to know in songs full of imagery. Sometimes these have the texture and hue of dreams. They can seem senseless until you catch the inner logic of dreams, however disjointed, to become, in Kristin, poems that linger a long time because her words are so closely attuned to the music.
Her prowess with a guitar enables her to structure the strangest of dreamscapes into a sense that finds the deepest resonance in the listener. It's been a good week to hear her since often I've been so tired very unlikely images have been popping up whenever I close my eyes, vivid ones to transport me worlds away in instants.
Like hallucinations, like Hersh does sometimes.
They're just flashes, but once back at the job in hand, particularly some of the toughest writing tasks of the week when editorially that task has been to find the essential news story in a huge mass of copy in front of me, those flashes somehow tell me what comes next.
"Physician, heal thyself, take care, mate!" I said on bumping into my doctor in the street. He looked awful, stricken with one of those winter bugs going around in an ideally damp and disagreeable climate. Kristin heals herself sometimes, articulating the dreamscapes people need to do this.
In so doing, she displays another aspect of what's part of music's magic, by turning to those healing powers when we feel caged. Listening to the right songs at the right time can restore our own wholeness and sense of balance and peace with ourselves, free to fly again.
"Oh no don't you put me in that box
you know what you can do with those locks
bet your life I'll come crawling out again
you'll have to deal with me then
you'll hear me in the wind."
No boxes, then. 'Houdini Blues,' Kristin has said, is one of her father's songs. She's played with it, brought it out of a box, but she scarcely knew how she did anything on Hips & Makers (1993), where she's intimate about her life and loves, her family, but mainly through inner dialogues.
In 1994, she told Wm. Ferguson about it for Spin Magazine (via Debra Rau in Zimbabwe, who collected several such interviews):
"'When songwriting hit me, a spring uncoiled in my head,' she explains matter of factly. 'The songs started pushing me around. I started hallucinating. A voice would tell me to turn off the headlights and drive to another city. Songs do that to your body if they're stuck in you.'
"Though the Muses 'spent ten years trying to keep it a secret that I wasn't always, um, seeing very clearly,' Hersh's episodes somehow never affected the band. But after the tour for 'The Real Ramona' during which she was pregnant with her second child. Tanya Donelly, Hersh's stepsister, left the band to form Belly. Hersh was ready to abandon guitar and channel her energy into being a housewife (her word). 'I tried to quit," she says, 'but the songs didn't give a shit. And they kept coming' [and hence she made that solo album]," Ferguson wrote in 'Guided By Voices'.
The purely acoustic album is not representative of Kristin's adventures in a musical life that began to take off when she was 14. Some hear it being as "mad", crazy and angry, as it is melancholy. Yet still it sells, still it's addictive listening.
It makes for a theme to pursue with Hersh and others who deliver such deeply personal music, because in another interview you could find at Debra's site, Kristin reveals that her songs help make her, "her music has taught her the most".
"'What I've learned from the songs pretty much in the last couple of years, is that you take this ride whether this ride is a record or a second, or a house, or a lifetime, you take that ride or it takes you,' she offers somewhat mystically. 'And in the end, you're just the clay you started out with, you're just a body, and you can't get higher than that, and you can't get lower than that, and what a great reason to take the ride. And that wants to make me live a very good life,'" she told Randy Dawn Cohen ('Living Every Moment,' Alternative Press, 1994).
"Somewhat mystically" it may be, a mystery it certainly is.
It's not a mystery to be analysed. That would get nowhere, but when we go on meeting musicians in this way, we're frequently set to find, I feel, that their music comes from so way deep, it's a quality that makes the person, so that the creative process is a two-way thing.
Kristin was explicit about songs that "didn't give a shit" and created her, they keep on coming and she takes the ride. To hear musicians grow is entertainment, we do it because we enjoy it, sad or happy or usually a bit of both. Could it be then that their strength helps shape our own?
Before a friend suggested Hersh, my listening was heading in a quite different direction, but the help and the pleasure Kristin had given somebody who has been healing from tough times drew my attention.
In taking a singer in with me to the Factory and returning to her hours later, often in a different mood and needing to unwind, I find the musicians essential in remodelling my own clay. The real mystery (again merely to note and leave at that) is their way of making me go on wanting to live a decent life too. 'Hips and Makers' is a one-off, but now I know why a friend finds Kristin good for her health.
2:53:53 AM link
dimanche 11 décembre 2005
That took me way back, digging through my own archives for the previous entry, while the Kid wanted to borrow some albums now she can't have any more DVDs. With the exception of our shared 'X-Files' addiction and the renowned 'Ray' movie, buying more DVDs is out of the question.
It took a friend more than two months to cajole, convince, find all my weak spots and finally make an irresistible offer to have me crack for Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles. And there'll have to be DVD reviews of the girls.
As it is, if there's a choice, I get the DVD bonus versions of albums by these voices of women. But Marianne has opened my mind so wide, if she'd had more time and room in her backpack, she'd have left less empty-handed than she did.
She's borrowed two or three of the DVDs I stopped buying months back and for music, I lent her 'So Jealous' (Tegan and Sara), along with Camille's first album, 'Le Sac des filles', which I acquired on realising Marianne's right and I must make this French chick a priority. Her new one, 'Le Fil,' has had a mention, but Camille then became a phenomenon.
I admire youngsters with small budgets and huge self-control, when they compile 'Music I NEED' wishlists at Amazon. A very salutary, in-depth report I read in bed last night was by a man, now a prize-winning journalist, who returned to one of those "riot-torn" French suburbs after the media had gone.
He'd been born there. He wanted to know what had happened and one of the first things he found was how long it took local people even to begin to trust a journalist again after the worldwide media coverage they'd had. The anger had mostly gone, the wreckage hadn't, nor the sadness CNN and most others had got it so wrong.
This log's no longer about such social and political matters as such, but a youngster's musical "needs" are just that. Needs. Looking along those shelves in a last-minute rush to give Marianne some soul-food I knew she'd love, I saw how much more of it there is. If she puts some tracks on her iPod, I'll be the last to shout "Pirate thief!" She learned to pay her way years ago for music as well and has a bright future.
When real economic and social hardships come up in the songs now, I shall return to such themes with the singers. The first one pictured, in her mid-20s, is Emm Gryner, who's among the Canadians I mentioned. What a wow she was with 'Asianblue' (2003); but she's got some Irish blood, we'll explore that with her in 'Songs of Love and Death' (Emm Gryner's music page at her place (also at the iTMS). It was a bright idea to do lots of covers of "a diverse collection of songs by contemporary Irish artists."
The other "babe" (who certainly isn't one) is another new acquaintance for me, Rachel Garlin. People call her music "new folk". Well, that's just a label, as usual, we'll hear more on the 'Big Blue Sky' album.
You'd rightly be displeased with yet another long list of musicians I'm listening to but have yet to write up: it's indeed been "a week of Cindy's" -- I think Ms Alexander's so hot, not least with words, both her previous albums were part of my year-end splash, and that firms up precedents. To do this well, regardless of what "category" people like putting them in, the site's become one of those that spans careers.
I've taken good note, you're here for the people who make the music, few readers know yet my first entry of the day is long since logged. It rambles to what's got to be my last prospect of any 'Best of 2005' list - however I might set about one -- and you'll have to go elsewhere for those.
I've read some more since the disappointment I expressed yesterday at 'Les Inrocks'. They're OK really, I guess, as far as they go, but Rachel and Emm are just two of such a big bunch who constitute my "real-time" listening, I doubt I could write even an ordinary 'Best of VoWs in 2005' alone for another six months.
There are too many "unknowns" in every sense, voices now familiar to me abut not nearly all my friends, supposed styles that prove to be misleading -- and strong recommendations.
Take Kristen Hersh. I've not even written up 'The Grotto' (2003), let alone returned by a decade for the still immensely appreciated 'Hips and Makers', when she took time off from 'Throwing Muses' ('The Real Ramona', I'm into Tanya Donnelly too, and last night a woman who knows both said she can't do without Kristen's 'Sunny Border Blue' (2001), which I don't know at all!
Well, that's it. I really feel that "for future reference", as titled, this log is taking a time shift -- right "out of time". The focus is the people, when you get what's new, as sometimes you will, let's just call that "good fortune" -- because when, exactly, do "new" and "contemporary" begin?
No more names and illustrations, but there's still stuff from the '60s, the '80s, that could have been released yesterday. Not very much, I grant you.
Born in 1955, I reckon that was a pretty good place to start! There have been others, but 2005 is a year I shall never forget. It's been a wonderful year, which is closing in a magical way, thanks mostly to women.
I've written why in The Orchard, since I so agree that 'Joyfulness is accepting the given'.
What I've been given back beggars belief. That being the case, I'll simply take it on faith.
It's also music, for sure. However, I've many other things to do and will return, with more music, once some of those are done.
9:29:06 PM link
[Workplace warning: Peaches even drip in the office.]
We'll be waiting until at least April, I read, for one deliciously dirty creature to unleash a new flood of horny hormones on to her public. The music press promises high-octane porn for undone minds of both sexes.
She doesn't go so far, says it will just be exceptionally explicit and she fancies going more "hardcore". Doing promo photos in undies concealing enough -- if it is -- to pass still for "decent exposure", the princess of Peaches has bitched "it's not fair". Why should women, she asks as a cheerful subversive, be the sole sex objects of what's undoubtedly -- statistically speaking -- one primary male fantasy?
We're greedy, she informs us, presumably feeling 'The Teaches of Peaches' and worse lacked variety, which in a way, they did.
She may even be right, though I'm too mean for her "remedy", whether for poor innocent Walter Mitty to Austin Powers in some ludicrous pastiche and even a filthy-mouthed fellow into his fourth or fifth beer while I was simply supping my second breakfast-time coffees yesterday. As everybody in and behind the corner bar downstairs let their hair down for a Saturday night, the latter wanted both his girlfriend and her bosom buddy to round off his evening.
Whether he got it, given his advanced condition by not even seven o'clock, is another matter. But what she said-- I can't correctly translate Peaches from a French music rag quoting an English one -- was "What about we women?
"Why can't we have that too? I want a couple of men with the stamina to keep me going all night and if they can't bring themselves to fancy each other, they should fucking well learn!"
Well, she succeeded in one thing. She had me laughing, not just with that but more of her provocative pearls. But when I read who else she's asked to join in that latest bit of fun -- and apparently they fancy the idea and have agreed -- my eyes almost fell out.
I won't copy the full list, it would spoil the fun, but goodness, it wouldn't have come to me that my beloved Feist, who remains also I hope a resident of this "city of light", was not only a Peaches fan and contributor past and future but a good friend and gets on just great with such randy chicks.
I stuck 'Fatherfucker' (2003) near the bottom of my wish lists, because if one "princess-prozac" -- there's a pseudo for the modern age -- could bung it in her Amazon "listmania" of 'Music I need in Order to Exist,' let's be fair, I can hear that stuff as the music of her "silent undoing".
But the people who didn't go stupid with outrage about 'The Teaches' (that CD finally meant the other came off my list completely) were right. It was funny, tongue-in-cheek (and everywhere else), pretty upright obscene, healthy and a noisy celebration of a zeitgeist, not a full frontal assault on "decent family values and proper moral standards".
'Peaches' don't feed on frustration and anger and fuel it. They channel it, don't blame it on bad parents or teachers, but tell a part of their fanbase what'd I sum up as: "At least you've got sex and your fantasies left, if precious little else. Your job prospects may be near zero through no fault of your own, the telly's often pap and superficial, most of the leaders lie to you. You may seek other more harmful forms of escapism. Why bother? Sex is free if you're sensible and wild fun!"
The picture -- I've had enough well-behaved ones -- is from an album by Hörður Sveinsson, who doesn't get cold in Iceland but takes very good shots. I'll spare you those knickers, though he doesn't, and if you think this is a "male thing", you might want to check out a few of the chicks in the Peaches audience.
For my kind of person, with a little cash, a good education, a steady job, trustworthy friends and some family I like, the message is entertaining, in moderate doses. Put that way, I can see why a dreamer like Feist gets on so well with Peaches.
I'd begun wondering where she'd gone! I forgot that for some reason, I found her and even use a quote from one of my favourite songs on 'Let It Die' as my intro to The Orchard, before most people made a fuss about Feist.
Heavens, it's true. That album did only come out in early 2004. I'm so fond of it and of Leslie Feist I feel like it's been since forever. It's a masterpiece from a real romantic -- today I find her Peaches connection is in fact quite an old one as a certain "Bitch LapLap" (additional vocals) -- who comes across so disarmingly simply, she's been give half the labels in the book, from a rocker chick to an alternative country lass, full of her blues and a nice touch of jazz ... even on some "folk" shelves.
She's a Canadian by origin. Some think her 'Mushaboom' is about Toronto, The Tofu Hut (now there's a blog to note, some very fine writing, straight off) makes them right, and hence the connection:
"In 2000, Feist made a fateful move into what must have been THE happening house in Toronto; her roommates and occasional couch-crashers included Peaches, Mocky, Gonzales, Taylor Savvy and The World Provider. Feist befriended and performed with the lot of them, both then and now."
[Edito: I've "lost" my own Feist write-up, being an idiot where the search engine found a piece where I mentioned having done it, and the permanent front page reference is suddenly a drag.
That's my own fault. This week, I was going to overhaul those archives completely, there being scores of singers here well pre-dating just last May, but one, unnamed French writer who found 'Let It Die' a very suitable "springtime" album got that right too.
It's almost to be expected that Peaches and with luck, even Feist, will unleash their latest CDs in when the northern hemisphere sap's rising both in nature and in people. If it's not all about sex, there's a whole lot of love in such singers. My own "problem", disclosed during the early hours of today, is that my body clock's gone all wonky! I didn't say it like that, but it certainly has.
I did try to archive, but the other difficulty until winter's over is just lack of light! A brave but watery sun isn't enough, even halogen lamps won't cut it: my eyesight's pretty good but I just cannot see what I'm doing when it comes to time-consuming concentrated stuff, including annoyingly some bits of the iPod fixing in hand for others. Well, 10 days to go to the shortest one, that's all.]
Solstices: Feist knows about those. She radiates light, it's even what she appears to wear, sometimes all white and wispy on stage, but I'll restrain myself to less "see-thru" aspects of the sexy beast's songs! 'Let It Die' is love songs and poems and one of the most beautiful is a "maybe" song with an unforgettable melody, 'Lonely, Lonely,' while others are mysterious and nice that way. The sense of solstice and natural time couldn't be clearer than in 'Gatekeeper':
"Gatekeeper, seasons wait for your nod
It's a sad but often only too true song about the warming and then the waning of summer season loves -- how they can freeze.
Gatekeeper, you held your breath and made winter go on."
But then, so do "fair-weather friendships", no good to anyone.
As Feist, home alone, says, 'Let It Die' is very much "a voice album in close up", but what a voice! Some of her songs are covers, she's been touring with her French band, I'm so desperate for more that when 'One Evening' came out as a single on iTunes, I could have separately got her cover of 'Lover's Spit' by Broken Social Scene', but I didn't.
A superb natural alto and fine guitarist, whose vocals manage to sound laid-back whatever she's doing, which can be very risky when she'll have slide around, soaring up and out and then down and melancholy, even those 7'32" of purest Feist and some novel electronic adventures are worth having and getting into.
[Moreover, I have found what I wrote, thanks to a new picture search. It was a fuller review on March 14 last year, longer ago than I thought. No wonder I've been getting impatient ... but I didn't then know the album would take a year to get to the States.]
Amusingly (well, I think so) she and BSS are among friends -- and lovers, the site says -- gathered in a Canadian Arts & Crafts initiative, where one of the BSS EP offers is called 'Canada vs. America'.
Well, it isn't a war, but in two recent strokes of synchronicity my purchases include albums by many Canadian chicks. I know few things make a Canadian in Europe crosser than to be mistaken for an American.
Even better, if Feist hadn't come to mind right now, when I know a lot of songs didn't make it on to 'Let it Die' and there have just got to be more written since, I wouldn't have known that tomorrow is about my last chance to actually get to see the chick live right back here in Paris this coming Wednesday.
If anyone else is interested, she's doing a special for a TV show at La Villette that evening. I don't think about the farthest across town as it's almost possible to go from where I live is more than I can face after even a day in Africa to hear Fiest!
So I'm glad I chose last night to chance on a brief piece about Peaches, because Wednesday means fresh cream. I do wish these singers would stop it, by the way. On Feist's site she generous, like they nearly all are.
There's a video of another single, her classy rhythm and blues take on 'Inside and Out' by the Bee Gees, which opens:
"Baby, I can't figure it out
Then my playback stopped for an instant (doing too much with my processor).
It was "candy", not the word I thought she'd sung. Feist is too angelic for that...
Your kisses taste like c..."
...as no doubt we'll hear come some spring!
5:49:12 PM link
samedi 10 décembre 2005
When the year's 'Extraordinary Machine' (the dual disc was out after my own patience was) appeared, I thought it must have been the doing of a time travel one! For a near birthday present, that was great.
Nobody's called Paris the "Big Apple" but when this week, the sensible city mayor we've got now sent everybody brochures to say he wants to make it green and get rid of lots of the traffic, I thought: "More power to you, mate! I hope you keep it long enough to do this."
I thought if Fiona Apple would lend me the key for a bit, I could borrow hers to take a trip forwards and find out what had come first, a city emptied of selfish sods who have no need to use their cars every day as it is or one as tough to live in as Berlin was in the late '20s and 1930s.
The chilliness there had nothing to do with recent shifts in the Gulf Stream; it was political and economic. Adolf Hitler thought he had the answers, including even a "final solution". Fiona sounded like she'd been so attentive to risk-taking people who disagreed with him and said so musically in public before it got too dangerous to hang around any more I was astonished.
On album number three, I heard so much of it my first impression was the woman had taken that Berlin cabaret sound and style, picked it up, updated it in her unique way and plonked it down in the New York of 2005. Again I listened to some of the boldest and bravest protesters of those appalling years as the Nazis grabbed power and made Guantanamo Bay seem like an almost acceptable, even mildly civilised place, compared with what Hitler's concentrations camps were set to become.
Then I listened to Fiona again. The musical and Bob Fosse's film of 'Cabaret' are timeless classics. Of the men and women who lived the times that inspired both, many are undeservedly forgotten, but not Lotte Lenya, nor the Kurt Weill she sings on that great album and others. Weill's collaborations with Bertold Brecht remain among the best known of kind of source I first heard in 'Extraordinary Machine'.
Apple, "enigmatic, ... stlll resonates," Joan Anderson of the Boston Globe reckoned in the week. She's certainly outspoken in lyrics that everybody who's made her a part of their world got very impatient to hear: the big fuss over the pre-release on the Net of this album, so long in the making by a perfectionist, is still being discussed.
That version of it never did come my way. Listening often to the one on the shelves I've toned down my amazement at the cabaret content to say it's sure there but no more than a part of a whole where Fiona sometimes does fearful things to a piano as she occasionally does with men. She abuses both even more than she did on 'Tidal' and on 'When the Pawn Drops...' (the Wikipedia is the best place to find the full title of what comes after those dots, which is famously enormous and includes the memorable line, "There's No Body to Batter When Your Mind is Your Might'.
This had to be correct if only because 'Ask Men' (their Apple bio) can't make up it's own mind about Fiona's sex appeal, starts going on about what's conventionally gorgeous and what isn't in such a "waif". If anybody cares, I have no such problem. She's hardly starving and she's strong. She's unkind to some guys. When she might have prematurely ditched one "who was getting my hopes up", then failed, sho she decided he was really in for it:
"Wait 'til I get him back
They are nearly all songs about love on 'Extraordinary Machine' and darned good ones too, sad and the biter often bitten is sensible, unless it was wise to get stuck on a guy with a "fortressed face":
He won't have a back to scratch."
"Oh you silly, stupid pastime of mine
Those Berlin singers often left the politics out of it too, apart from the sexual ones, where they let real freedom in and broke all kinds of social "rules" since in the life outside the club doors there was even less genuine freedom than in today's world where it's a word politicians spout frequently to the most evil and violent of ends.
Fiona is angrily articulate. Something called 'Tymps - 'The Sick in the Head Song' where
You were always good for a rhyme
- And from the first to all the last times, all the signs
Said 'Stop' -- but we went on whole-hearted
It ended bad, but I love what we started" (Parting Gift).
"Those boon times went bust
plus a look at complimentary colours the girl can't make sense of in 'Red, Red, Red', could almost have been penned in those years, and help make -- like her music with its catchy clarity, unsentimental style and lyrics that stick in your head -- an album to last.
My feet of clay, they dried to dust
The red isn't the red we painted
I's just rust (...)",
Fiona calls herself frightened and fickle, says somewhere she's sick of melodies, maladies and apologies too and even
"If you don't have a song to sing
That may be right, but those are the opening lines of her 'Waltz'. She can be sing "no more melodies" if she likes, but if she's going to go on turning out tunes that linger so long, that's nonsense.
Stuff worth a read was written in March by Mark Morford at SFGate during the storm regarding "a flood of unreleased bootlegs sung by a goddess". His "bottom line", after points of style and an unmerited slap mainly at newcomers Apple had just squashed underfoot, was about the corporate machine. Morford says the RIAA and nobody else will put down anyone with talent now "commercial dictatorship is crumbling".
But his own put-downs were silly. So, with time, was his main question, 'Who will free Fiona?' Her home site is about yet another great-looking, gifted girl who takes her time and plays with time in her music; it's one of her skills, successful "mismatching".
She doesn't need freeing, sings of highs and lows using both in her music, which makes one of this log's good intros to people stuck on the classical kind who'd like to branch out. She says in her bio:
"All these things you're trying to protect me from, I make something out of it. So I'm fine and please stop looking at me that way! (...)
Her outlook's a smart one and I'd happily bet she's far nicer to the whole range of singers who have different gifts from hers, ways of expressing them and ways of learning to do so than the numerous people who review their albums and write they'd do better to have what she's got herself.
It's not like my inner basket case is absent, it's just that I've lived with it long enough that I can manage it now."
[Edito: This is codswallop, that reflects far more on the reviewers than their "victims". Unless I find time for the other one often taken to make such dismissive comparisons, Fiona's probably the final chick of the year who's already won a reputation among people who visit to read what I hear in the "famous", for I've decided any "best of" or "anti-best of" devised for the log won't be published until 2005 is behind us.
December's already given me some new surprises apart from a 'Best of 2005" on the shelves by 'Les Inrocks', which is only surprising in being so boringly banal and with so few women in it at all I've now subscribed to 'Rockrgrl Magazine', though, like a lot of US mags, they charge Europeans as much for postage (maybe they must, I dunno) as for a subscription, thus confirming people are right: I do have expensive tastes in women!
But they're too good.] Fiona's wise and asks people to "stop looking at her that way" just because she is young.
If 2005 isn't the year I've learned for sure wisdom and age have absolutely nothing to do with one another, I never shall! Fiona looks fragile and may deliver that frail image still; the industrial reason people felt she needed freeing is provided with a perceptive and understanding ear by Sasha Frere-Jones in The New Yorker, with another reminder she got raped at 12.
When first Fiona's 'Tidal' wave swept me away, I'd no idea what she looked like, let alone that she was "just 19". Nor do I have any idea if she's really a Lotte Lenya fan and was influenced. All told, she remains a pretty private person.
However, to some of the new, young generation of people reading this log, I'd again say thanks for wising me up! My already long entries would be interminable if I began to quote enough lyrics to prove the point about wisdom. Sure, listen to your elders, there's nothing wrong with "old-fashioned advice and obedience" when the reasons make sense, but don't underrate what you've got; you see, it seems they're also coming here to find out more about you.
5:07:48 PM link
samedi 3 décembre 2005
Normally a mail telling me how "anti-American" I am is beneath mention. But if "Jericho Jim Jeremiah" is to be believed in five pages copied to several people I know and some I don't, you could take my writings of the past years as he did, interspersed with some dire Biblical quotes, to prove I'm a "malicious enemy of the American people".
Well, I was kind of flattered, JJJ. You must have spent ages lifting stuff to give it a new structure out of context like your own prophetic warnings! A couple of friends have been equally entertained: one thinks you're a smart joker, the other -- like me -- suspects you may even be serious.
I mention this nigh on fortnight-old piece of nonsense because it came to mind when Géraldine Serratia, a reviewer in 'Les Inrocks', raised a query on hearing those 'Confessions on a Dance Floor', asking "Could Madonna have definitively given up on America?"
No idea, but I like the 'Confessions' and agree with Géraldine there's a sense to Madonna's "dancing queen" glam reprise coming after 'American Life'.
A good album that was -- but it's Madonna's perspective. Maybe she's less reason than others I know to stay in the United States; for her, it was always a love-hate relationship. She seems settled in London and has given two fingers to the clique in Washington, not the whole country; it's a regime I also find so poisonous the sooner it's puked its way to its death bed the happier I'll be. The trouble is that's unlikely to be an imminent prospect, but I've bulk-mailed everyone JJJ did to say thanks for some quickies to me, but just let him rot if he wants.
What I loathe is a "my country, right or wrong" attitude to any nation, and this makes me think of Iceland. Sigur Rós are all over the current French music press, telling journalists they love London but wouldn't dream of living there, they find the city too cold, emotionally frosty and far too fast for them.
They've also pointed out that while they, with 'Takk', Björk and Múm (Random Summer home) have made the place trendy, Iceland has its own "pop stars and Britney Spears".
Sigur Rós are proud of Iceland's maintained isolation in a "globalised" world, call it a "young nation". They know this can't last, their own music is attracting attention, and see a new generation of youths trying out the fads and fashions of the rest of the world. I've not cited quotes because the whole band puts out the same message, which is one of strength, taking plenty of time on each album without pressure.
As has Björk (who "couldn't wait to turn 40 last month" - ContactMusic). It takes courage to be experimental and risk the new. Solitude has its virtues -- as Goldfrapp creatively find.
You've been promised a write-up of 'Supernature' for some time. Now it comes to it, I realise frequent visitors have already had one. The elements are scattered, true, but all that really needs saying is the album is one of the year's finest in taking the expectations raised of Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory by their very different first best-sellers and failing to meet them in a wonderful way.
I don't find 'Supernature' better than its predecessors, simply different, just as rich in textures and layers, and indeed the "classy excursion into Goldfrappian gothic dance-pop" a good Amazon reviewer describes. But the key word there is "Goldfrappian": the couple's own take on "glam noir" or just "glam rock" as it was in its day, given a revisit and 21st century revision with electronica.
The music succeeds, like the lyrics, in being both explicit and enigmatic, which is a real achievement and that's the Goldfrapp sound, I guess. It stands on its own merits, but paying the extra for the DVD bonus edition is worth it for the insights into how this couple live and work, very laid-back and rigourous at once.
For anyone who doubts electro-dream music can be very sexy, 'Supernature' is a fast track to bed with that idea. Alison is a natural, as Madonna is in her own way, for 'Erotica' (which means Will must be too). Both women dress up sensuality for the fun of it, they take pride in their bodies, keep them in shape, make this abundantly clear but know it for a part of life's game.
A self-declared non-fan at Amazon has to "admit a grudging and (whisper it) liking for this album" and titles the comment with a line I'd never have imagined: 'The best soundtrack for a thinking woman's erotic film ever?'
I'm not sure about that when I can hear a few others, while have I already said it was good news to me when Madonna decided to deal with the iTMS? One of those odd iMixes I'm still working on would be the worse without her. But why particularly a "thinking woman's erotic film"?
I can only speak with certainty for myself, but reckon it's a big, frequent mistake to overestimate and generalise the differences about what women and men really want out of sex and also, in my view, what turns both sexes on.
'Supernature' is a reminder of this, while even a cursory look at Madonna's fan appeal tells a similar story.
Of course I've not given up on listening to the men. One of this year's delights is Eels. I've acquired 'Blinking Lights' of late and couldn't write about women if I were oblivious to what the fellers are doing and have some sharp words to bung in The Orchard soon because another twit has revived a remark to which I took slight exception: "Your harem."
In 'Whoa', the admirable American I've got into this week has a word or two for the ladies among the blinking city lights:
"Hike up your skirt
Cindy Alexander's right, like the people from Iceland. Fashions come and go, but if you're hooked on them, you "blend into the billboards" just as you can if you ignore them completely. 'Angels and Demons' (US -- why's Amazon waiting till Dec 6 when the iTMS didn't?) takes up another theme where I left off with different voices:
Tighten up the laces
Nobody will notice you
So many pretty faces
Blend into the billboards as they
walk along the avenue
Time rolls by in taxi cabs
Staring at you
Laughing though the rear view
of what it's like to be you (...)."
"Who are you
Since she's sad and funny in 'Unavailable Billy', it's probably apparent from those opening lines there's a snag where you'd expect one from Cindy after the "luck": "Do you wanna talk or do you wanna [musical pause] forget about it?"
Where'd he go
Your's so much colder than the man I used to know
Out of line
Out of luck
Do you wanna talk or do you wanna
Forget about it? (...)"
It's fringe material for the front page, but a friend asked me the other day one of the questions I've had before from men who know it was a part of my own story to be told I'm a man who often happens to "think like a woman", that's on my file.
My mate's a father who can't understand what his very smart, creative and great-looking daughter sees in the bloke she's shacked up with when he's "an idle bastard" with a huge ego, full of vacuous recommendations for others on how to live life when he goes out of his way to avoid doing so himself.
This led me down a dangerous path I've not risked before.
Feeling I had a notion or two about the "why" of it but also interested in what others might say, I ran the dilemma through a search engine or two to wind up wishing I hadn't. That the Net is full of people's opinions on "right" and "wrong" in relationships and "dating issues" is hardly unexpected, I've been no exception. But what sorely depressed me was discovering how many men and women who think they know the answers offer you a few of their own with the sole aim of trying to sell you a "how-to" book!
There are scores of them and may well be thousands. I don't know since it made for such miserable reading I packed it in. If you feel concerned enough about your own "failures" or "successes" with the opposite sex to try searching for yourself, you need a strong stomach and a head for confusion. Man or woman, intelligent or dumb, happy with your looks or otherwise, you're likely to find you are doomed to trouble you could sort out so easily ... if you'd just pay an expert or two.
I'd rather spend my money on musicians with stories to tell -- or be told about by writers who enjoy it like me -- and my friend does the same: not the writing but the listening. I know he can't ask his daughter, he doesn't want to upset her, but he could try asking other women, just as girls who get stuck might try asking a man if they know one they trust.
Musicians of both sexes who tell it straight add a dimension you just won't find in the books, I call that "magic", there's no explaining it. What I've yet to say in The Orchard is how I'm happy to have achieved something I wouldn't have tried if it weren't partly for the women here and a singular way many have of telling me I know my own answers.
As one of Cindy's best numbers puts it, 'Better When I'm Broken' than breaking the bank! Those "how-to" books are expensive frauds when most of the online teasers, irrespective of gender, say "I used to be a failure like you, but now that's changed and I keep on fast-tracking the most attractive people into bed." Well do they now? Bully for them. That's a disturbing plural.
For most people, certainly in our own culture, I'd have thought one is enough. The right one.
11:56:48 PM link
vendredi 2 décembre 2005
The "wow, this is good" award of the past few days goes to 'Angels and Demons' by Cindy Alexander, a very lyrical lady. How sweet her voice is on its own! Luckily, the iPod went on playing when the album was over; the earbuds went straight back in when her "hidden song" came out of my shirt pocket.
Before writing properly about Alexander, I want to hear and learn more. She's got a gift for catching life's important little details and difficult moments in subtle, concise lyrics. But the hidden song catches Cindy in the way that gets me longing to hear a lot of the women simply being themselves: a sweet-voiced singer practising at home maybe or playing to please a friend or two.
(The photo credit goes to the remarkable Ken Pivak.)
Well great, tonight starts my latest week off completely out of the news and around almost uniquely for friends and for music. It's a new month as well, which means a fresh music budget, though I must remember November's night of greed that ate into it a little. Fortunately, Alexander means that by chance I seem to know so many Cindys I need to name a finger after them.
The "Cindy finger" is the one that knows by itself where to stop on the iPod's list of dozens of names I don't yet know well enough to start telling you their stories. I've got so much music to keep me going for ages that on learning of the likes of this miss and being so greedy for more must be an exception.
Of music reading to catch up on, in French 'Versus Magazine - musiques et (contre) culture rock" is the latest to pass the strict criteria set for any "rag" or site listed on the left. Repeated listening to Cindy Alexander (Amazon France has a couple of good deals, but not this album) reminded me of a lifted eyebrow when Versus pulled the common stunt of claiming one CD hadn't quit the player for days on end in a rave review and stating somewhere else in the way full-time music writers can how awful it is to be inundated with so many new records they don't know what to do with them.
If anybody reading this is getting such dreadful hassle from women vocalists, mail me and I'll send you my address, only too happy to help you out of your misery!
I'll link to 'Angels and Demons', released last February, in coming days when this month's only way past the "m = musicians > t = time" dilemma is with some mixed-bag entries and perhaps some of the other half-dozen in hand I mentioned in 'The Orchard'.
A friend who was today kind about the "music + the person" angle I'm keen to make a hallmark here said he doesn't drop in there. That may be wise; some recent musings have begun to surprise even me.
But the word that rang in my ears when I quit work tonight applies here as well: the afternoon desk editor moaned "Oh yes. It's that time again: "yearenders"!
10:23:59 PM 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