Swing low sweet chariot

July 1st, 2008

Two things.

First, the gravity of what something or someone means to you will never, ever be fully appreciated until you get even the smallest whiff of it being taken away. Or messed with. Or just not the way it should be. Once you get that feeling – the feeling that the ground could fall out from under your feet at any moment – you metaphorically grab hold of everything you have in your life and swear to every god there ever was that you will never, ever take it for granted so long as everything is made right in the end.

And I know it will be. It’s just that there is nothing more important in the world then your health and the health of the people you love.

Second, it’s really nice to know that your level of fandom (to the end of dorky ridiculousness) for a band and/or any of its members is shared by someone else out there in the intersphere. This blog post by Emma-Lee Moss of band Emmy The Great pretty much articulates why I have an aversion to meeting any of those musicians that I hold at pedestal height. John Darnielle included. I have no doubt I’d be a dribbling, mute mess.

I like this article for other reasons though. It manages to explain beautifully what it means for someone to have REAL charisma. It’s not about demanding attention when you walk into a room or how many 13 year old girls you can make scream and pass out. Also, it cements the absolute certainty I have about JD being one of the most fascinating people on earth. Not that I needed help there, but it’s nice to have the validation.

The floor will have its way it seems

June 18th, 2008

Back in February 2004 I was sitting in the Canberra Theatre, amongst a very mixed and somewhat subdued crowd, experiencing the dizzying personal heights of an Ani DiFranco live show. I get that she’s not an artist every true music lover will dig, and I get that her overtly political lyrics can polarise people. Whatever. I love the woman and everything she stands for, and on this particular tour I saw her perform 3 times. Her show at the State Theatre remains one of the best live music experiences of my life.

ANYWAY, in Canberra she played a bit of an eclectic set list. She played some fairly obvious songs like Evolve and Gravel (I think) but she also pulled our Everest and some other stuff I remember being surprised about but can’t remember now. She rarely plays covers. Like, hardly ever. I think on a DVD once I saw her play a Greg Brown song, but that’s probably it. But on this night she pulled out a song called Trampoline, which was written by a singer/songwriter called Joe Henry. At the time I had no idea who he was, but he went on to produce her album Knuckle Down.

Since then I’ve learned he is a pretty incredible song writer who has plus plus levels of respect from many other song writers that I respect. I’m not terribly familiar with his music, but given his association with Ms DiFranco every time I hear/see his name I pay attention.

Noodling around on the interwebs this week I came across this article written by Joe Henry about the relationship between literature and song writing. And you know, it’s like someone has written what I’ve been clumsily trying to articulate for some time now – I think there is only a very subtle separation between writing fiction, writing poetry, and writing songs. Real songs with literary substance. Song writers like DiFranco and Darnielle and Mangum and Sheff make me feel the very same things that I feel when I read Winterson or Plath or Neruda. Sure, the melody can help your heart to soar, but it’s words to me that give it wings.

I love this –

…Vonnegut reveals the beginning and end of his tale and gives nothing away. He places the past, present and future all in the same room and defeats time as a reliable voice of reason and judgment. He identifies himself, The Writer, as a marginal character in the story, thereby removing himself from it completely. He is the singer, not the song, and the tune is singing him. He is free.

It makes me want to read Vonnegut.

Mountain Goats gushing alert

May 28th, 2008

At times I can be less then patient. I tend to want to rush to the end of things, and although I’m getting better in that regard, there are definitely still things in my life that I really want NOW. But I can wait. Not indefinitely, but for this moment.

One of these things I’m increasingly impatient for is a Mountain Goats tour. The reason I have, until now, been patient for this is the extenuating circumstances – JD has had his own issues of the health kind, and I’m not one to whinge and moan in this situation. STILL, even given that, I’ve been ever so patient. Really. I got over the whole tour cancellation on my birthday weekend by barely throwing my toys out of the pram, and I’ve patiently (and I would even say LESS then obsessively) been checking the forums for news of the antipodean kind. But nothing.

So I wait.

In the meantime, the fabulous people over at Daytrotter.com have bought us 4 songs from Mr Darnielle in a Daytrotter session for the ages. Well, for my ages. Or something. There is an unreleased song there that is so sweet it’ll make your teeth hurt, and the more upbeat version of There Will Be No Divorce lifted my heart and my shoulders tonight like the whole crappy day hadn’t happened. This song from The Coroners Gambit is easily in my Mountain Goats top 20 (which is quite a thing, really) and I love the way he plays this – the way he belts out that last chorus made my face crack involuntarily into a smile.

But don’t just download the songs – read the writing. I love to read what song writers have to say about their writing process, and given the personal and confronting and painful lyrics of Darnielle, I particularly love to hear what he has to say about his words. He is my favourite lyricist ever. FACT.

The article by Sean Moeller is also well written. I particularly love his dissection of Darnielle’s characters, because this truly is the strength of this writing.

The characters are at their wits ends, they are screaming at the top of their lungs, they are tearing their hair out, they are dismayed by words and actions, they are without options – or so they believe. They are thinking out loud, just letting the pent up storm clouds build and bulk into menacing thunderheads, opening the dams so the blackened hearts can spill out like ticker tape. These people that Darnielle has created are burning.

YES.

Umm

May 26th, 2008

I just heard Whitley’s Lost In Time as the soundtrack of the new Foxtel HD ad.

I’m not sure what to think about that.

Real life

May 14th, 2008

You’re all that I need
Though I know that it never can be
I’d be pleased to post your decrees
To fall at your knees
To name all your streets and to sit down and weep
When you’re carried back through them and set down to sleep
And to lie by your side for sublime centuries
(Until we crumble to dust when we’re crushed by a single sunbeam)

Will Sheff = <3

P.S.

April 28th, 2008

Torture is hearing the new Frightened Rabbit album in its entirety, loving it in an overthetopinsane way, and then knowing you will have to order it online to listen to it in full again. Or wait until the weekend. Every weekend. And badger the boy until he plays it for you.

I think ordering a copy will be less trouble. Aha. It’s awesome though. The album that is. Fer serious.

Today is a lovely day to run

April 28th, 2008

Cold what what?!! Holy cow. Winter is suddenly everywhere – it’s in the car and under the doors and around the windows and under the skin.

Okay and why did the heat just stop. I have it set on 28 DEGREES. It is clearly not 28 DEGREES in here. God damn technology.

Thankfully, yesterday and the entire weekend wasn’t so cold. It was glorious weather in fact – all sunshine and warm breeze. Even through until later last night, when we hit the Enmore to see Eels, the air was decidedly warm.

There are many ways to make a true connection to a piece of music or to a musician or group of musicians, but I find it’s the ones who you feel are truly sharing a part of themselves that garner the most obsessive fans. It’s Ani DiFranco going outside to watch the house burn down or John Darnielle writing about his stepfathers strong and thick veined hands or Jeff Mangum unabashedly crying out his love for Jesus or Munaf Rayani from Explosions in the Sky throwing his hands and arms to the heavens.

Or, it turns out, it’s a night with Eels at the Enmore Theatre on a warm night in April.

Eels music has always held a special place in my heart. Susan’s House, when I first heard it on Triple J, completely rocked my world. Prior to that the whole spoken words over music thing was a little lost on me. Still is, mostly. But the lyrics were just so HONEST and painted a picture of time and place so vividly that I could place myself there. Partly because I felt like I was living a bit of a suburban nightmare myself. As a result of this I’ve had the album Beautiful Freak for many years now. It was released in, what, 1996?? That’s crazy. I’m pretty sure I didn’t own it until a ways later then that. But still, I’ve had it a good while. I have a good few Eels albums now. I think, probably owing to my generally optimistic personality, Daisies of the Galaxy is my favourite.

I saw them back in 2006. I had very, very high hopes for them/him then, given what I knew of the delicate, sweet and honest nature of the music on their albums. But it was a serious case of assuming nothing being the only safe thing at a gig, because that evening really, really sucked. It was less to do with the band and more to do with the crowd, but E turned all those beautifully sweet songs into thrusting noise and rock. And while I’m all up for the thrusting rock at times, and all the power to the man for seeing through his artistic vision and what not, but I just really, really wasn’t expecting it. So I was bitterly disappointed and went into last night with more then a hint of trepidation.

What we were presented with however was nothing less then a man’s life and heart on a plate. I still haven’t figured out how he managed to get through the night being simultaneously heartfelt, witty and self-depreciating. Because he did. It takes a rare amount of charisma and credibility to pull that sort of thing off. There was a showing of a film before the show (which we unfortunately missed a lot of) about his father. I honestly had no idea about his father being the famous physicist (as he stated he is truthfully, and hilariously, ‘the Julian Lennon of quantum physics’). And about the tragedy of his family. And the showing of this film (made apparently for the BBC) was the perfect introduction to the evening. You got the feeling you were in for something special, and something above and beyond the normal gig experience.

It was the little odd parts of the night that worked magic for me. The quips between E and ‘The Chet’ (who is just the most amazing musician, and the only other person on stage with E at any part of the night), the big booming God-like voice talking to E through the speakers, and especially the book readings. They came from his recent book ‘Things the Grandchildren Should Know’ and they were alternately terribly funny and just heartbreaking. Chet read part of the book relating to the song Susan’s House, and in amongst funny dialogue between E and his neighbour, he drops a bomb of a line about his sister having just committed suicide. And then he followed that up Last Stop: This Town. My heart broke in two.

Another highlight was hearing It’s A Motherfucker live. This might be my favourite Eels song, and in the context of the evening I felt it completely differently. The dark beauty of this song never ceases to amaze me.

He has a way of writing and forming words that makes you want to wrap your arms around the whole world and just hug everything around you. You want to grab a hold of things because you know that even though there is so much beauty, it can be taken away in a blink. There is such a bittersweetness about his music and his songs, and I walked out of that theatre last night feeling humanity all around me.

I feel almost selfish that I needed this sort of presentation of his music to feel like I got the ‘real’ Eels experience. E laid it all on the line when he was last here, I’m sure, and wanted to rock out those particular songs for a reason. But I just felt like so much was lost. Last night, nothing was lost. I gained so much, and I think every single person in that room felt a little lucky to have experienced it. And it never for a second felt contrived, or overly dramatic, or ‘This Is Your Life’, or like he was playing the pity card. It felt about as far from any of that as you could imagine. It’s really rare that you come across this kind of reality and honesty in the music industry, and I thank the gods that people like E exist in this world. He’s here so people like me can come around to thinking more of the world and our place in it.

As usual, there is a wonderful review, photos and set list here.

I’m going to go and probably freeze my ass off in bed – it’s nights like tonight I especially miss the body heat in bed next to me. I think it’s time to drag out the other doona…

Song 9 – Give me your eyes, I need sunshine

April 22nd, 2008

I’ll Believe In Anything – Wolf Parade

Give me your eyes
I need sunshine
Give me your eyes
I need sunshine
Your blood, your bones
Your voice, and your ghost

The definition of a love song is a very personal and ever-debatable thing. Do a random survey of the populous and you’ll undoubtedly end up with songs like I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston and that god-awful song by Bryan Adams from the soundtrack of that Kevin Costner film topping the list. This is why, when you use the term ‘love song’, most people who truly love/live indie music recoil just a little bit.

It seems a shame to me, though, to relegate the love song to TV montages and movies featuring Meg Ryan. It’s so much more than ‘I will always love you’ or ‘I would die for you’ or any other variation of this unimaginative, clichéd dialogue. Because that stuff is not only boring as cardboard, it’s more often then not overly melodramatic and depressing as hell. And there are truly amazing love songs out there just waiting to be found. And heard. And put on mix CDs. You sometimes have to look for them a bit is all.

I’m in love with a lot of love songs. Some of them are pokeyoureyeout obvious (like Gorecki by Lamb) and some not so obvious (umm – Closer by NIN?). I really believe though, in the deepest most cobwebby parts of my heart, that the greatest love song I have heard in my life to date belongs to Wolf Parade. Or should I say, to Spencer Krug. Because I think it started as his with Sunset Rubdown, and I do believe it will always be his.

Cut to very early 2007. A boy and a girl via various blog related means meet in the foyer of an Andrew Bird/Smog/Joanna Newsom gig. They, as the kids say, hit it off. Friendship ensues. Some solace in the way of music taste is found, and the girl gets an instant hit of new music (that of which she constantly craves) from her new, very learned friend.

Fast forward a few months and a few gigs and a few mix CDs and a few visits to the gallery and dinners and what not. Stop at a Wilco show where the line is maybe crossed. Maybe? Possibly. Did she kiss him or did he kiss her? Cue almost a week of giddy headedness and tummy butterflies. Fast forward a few days and then stop again at an Australian music festival in inner Sydney where the line is most definitely crossed. All question marks eradicated.

Now stop again at a small, decidedly haphazard and Lego-like terrace house in Newtown. The boy and girl of this story are on the couch, having awkwardly moved a few more steps toward alwaysandforever, or at least at the time, todayandfornow.

Want to know how music bloggers really get to know one another? There is no small talk. There is no discussion of day jobs of family history or your most embarrassing moment. Not when it comes to getting down and dirty with the getting to know you stuff. What there is is a dimly lit room and a couch and two iPods – each person driving the other’s headphones, playing song for song. There IS some discussion about what these songs mean to you, when you first heard it and what album it’s from. There is also a fair amount of ‘OMG this song is so amazing IT CHANGED MY LIFE’ etc. Music, to me, is the way to a person’s soul. It truly shows the person they are, how their mind works, and what is important to them. To me it’s the perfect get to know you exercise.

So the girl plays the boy some songs and the boy plays the girl a few songs from bands she knows nothing about. I actually can’t remember a lot of them now, but I think there was some Thermals, and definitely some Sunset Rubdown. And also, clearly, some Wolf Parade.

I’ll Believe In Anything hit me in the guts completely. I’m not sure if it was the potent combination of the situation and that piece of music – all around us was electricity and potential. And it tends to amplify things. I will tell you this though – I have listened to this song roughly a million times since that night and still stands up. Stands up and roars, actually. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard before. I mean, it was the tiniest bit reminiscent of Arcade Fire. Maybe. That orchestral cacophony of noise. But that VOICE – just completely unlike anything that had ever made it to my ears. Also, there is no other song on earth with as many staggering OMFG moments as Wolf Parade’s I’ll Believe In Anything. Get to 1:57 in – I challenge anyone to listen to this without feeling like their head might explode –

And I could take another hit for you
And I could take away your trips from you
And I could take away the salt from your eyes
And take away the spitting salt in you
And I could give you my apologies
By handing over my neologies
And I could take away the shaking knees
And I could give you all the olive trees
Oh
Look at the trees
And look at my face
AND LOOK AT A PLACE FAR AWAY FROM HERE

I can not listen to this song without wanting to throw myself around the room with just the sheer joy of it. I can’t listen to this song without thinking of and feeling the boy. It’s one of those things that just infuses your body with a rapturous energy and makes exploding stars out of everything around it. The second I hear that opening keyboard, through to the drums and cymbals coming in, and then that voice, every hair on my body is on end and I am sunlight and joy from beginning to end.

And let’s talk about the lyrics for a minute. We all know I’m a girl about the lyrics. I’ve already somewhat brashly declared I think this is the greatest love song ever written. I think to be in love with someone, to truly love them, is to be a lot of things. It’s about the excitement and giddiness, sure, but it’s also about security and sanctuary. It’s about finding a place in the world that sheds all the shit and has an organic ease to it. At least, that’s the way it should be, right?

If I could take the fire out from the wire
I’d share a life and you’d share a life
If I could take the fire out from the wire
I’d share a life and you’d share a life
If I could take the fire out from the wire
I’d take you where nobody knows you
And nobody gives a damn
I said nobody knows you
And nobody gives a damn

The way he sings this, and pushes it out into the air with the force of a gale, you believe with every fibre of your being that he means it. He wants the sanctuary. He wants to show her the sanctuary. There is also a desperation in the songs lyrics. Give me your eyes, I need sunshine. Krug seems to be almost pleading for a change of perspective. I will stand behind my opinion that this song could be done any old how, with any old instrument, and still maintain its beauty and thrust of meaning. I have recently heard the original Sunset Rubdown version of the song, with just the piano and the voice and the hand claps, and holy hell. It’ll bring a girl to tears. There is no way this song could ever be less than amazing.

This song and these lyrics are almost unrivaled in their passion. It is one of my life goals to see it played live. It is a love song for people who believe that passion needs to go unhinged, and that there is more to loving someone then Valentines Day and happy endings. It is an anthem for finding a person and immersing yourself in them completely.

And it is part of a story about a boy and girl who found one another in a shiny city and wrapped themselves up in the music.

P.S.

April 15th, 2008

Please watch this and feel blessed and thankful that we live in a world that contains the Mountain Goats.

Open your mouth up and sing for me now

April 15th, 2008

Q: Can a person experience mind-numbing frustration and complete happiness at the very same time?

A: Indubitably, yes.

Work = insane and pretty damn horrible.

Sleep = absent and allusive. Hooray for insomnia!

Everything else = okay through to pretty damn wonderful.

I wonder – does having the good make the bad feel worse, or does it make it bearable? I’m going with the latter.

You know you’ve watched a lot of Bargain Hunt when you realise you’ve seen the one with the plaster heads set on blue velvet before.

I was working on a big post tonight and I was going to get it done, really I was, but then I got distracted. Somehow I ended up at my CD shelves, trying to sort out my A to Bs because somehow (well, not somehow, I know how) they got all muddled and stacked in front of the fish tank, rather than in alphabetical order on the shelf like they should be. And then somehow (genuinely somehow, I have no idea) I ended up with Tallahassee by the Mountain Goats in my hands.

I had completely forgotten how much I adore the liner notes for this album. John Darnielle is one of my favourite writers, period. I mean, the dude writes about heavy metal and I read it. Just because of the way he writes. And let’s not even get on to the songs, eh? So anyway, this little bit of writing, by far, is one of my favourite pieces of writing ever. EVER. Fact. Read it and smell the rotting wood and peeling paint, and feel the sun of their summer. You read this and think about the songs No Children or Game Shows Touch Our Lives and you feel like you know these people. You would never want to be these people, because they’re wretched, really, but you feel a genuine empathy for them.

Just because I like to be clear about these things I’ve bolded the parts of this that boggle my mind with how good they are. It is sentences like this that inspire me to write.

We came into town under cover of night, because we were pretty sure the people here were going to hate us once they really got to know us. In our lives together, which are sweet in the way of rotting things, it is somehow permanently summer.

THE MOON rose above the trees, older than time, greener than money. You hung your head out the window of our dusty lemon-yellow El Camino and howled, and I turned up the radio, because the sound of your voice was already beginning to get to me. The speakers crackled and the music came through: Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Pretty as a midsummer’s morn, they call her Dawn. Let the love of God come and get is if it wants us so bad. We know were we are going when all of this is done.

SOME PEOPLE MIGHT SAY that buying a house you’ve never actually seen close-up is a bad idea, but what does anybody know about our needs, anyhow? For us it was perfect. The peeling paint. The old cellar. The garden in the back. The porch out front. The still air of the living room. The attic. Everywhere entirely unfurnished and doomed to remain largely so, save for our own meager offerings: a cheap sofa, an old mattress, a couple of chairs and some ashtrays. Maybe a table salvaged from some diner gone into bankruptcy, I don’t remember. Neither do you. We drank store-brand gin with fresh lime juice out of plastic cups or straight from the bottle and we spread ourselves out face-up on the wooden floors. An aerial view of us might have suggested that we’d been knocked out, but what we were doing was staking our claim. Establishing our territories. Making good. Not on the vows we’d made but on the ones we’d really meant. You produced a wallet-sized transistor radio out of nowhere and you found a sympathetic station: somebody was playing Howlin’ Wolf. Smokestack lightning. O yes, I loved you once. O yes, you loved me more. We entered our new house like a virus entering its host. You following me, me following you. However you like. The windows were high and the walls were thick and sturdy. It was hot as blazes. The guts of summer. Always down in the sugar-deep barrel-bottom belly of summer itself. Always. In our shared walk down to the bottom, which bottom we will surely find if only our hearts are brave and our love true enough, we have found that it is somehow invariably and quite permanently summer.

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