Life it rents us

January 31st, 2007

It’s a lot cooler here tonight, and the breeze coming up from the river smells sweet.  It’s nice to have all the doors and windows open and almost feel a chill.

I had every intention when I came home tonight of putting the Cold War Kids album Robbers and Cowards into the CD player.  I turned the stereo on, as I always do, pretty much as soon as I walked through the door and out of habit pressed play.  Good News for People Who Love Bad News was in there – this is an album I listen to a lot, and because I’m so familiar with it sometimes put on in the background while I’m doing other things.

I was generally noodling about the house when the track The View came on.  I found myself after around the first 10 seconds of intro throwing myself around the room with my arms in the air, dancing like a crazy person.  Then, breathless and a little dizzy, standing there swaying and singing when the song becomes subtle and quiet and Isaac sings –

As life gets longer, awful feels softer
And it feels pretty soft to me
And if it takes shit to make bliss
Well I feel, pretty bliiiiiiiiiiiiissfully

If life’s not beautiful without the pain
Well I’d just rather never ever even see beauty again
Well as life gets longer, awful feels softer
And it feels pretty soft to me…. !^%@&!^%@&!!!!

And again cue the crazy dancing and singing.  I listened to that song on repeat for almost an hour.  It’s funny, I played that album incessantly when I first got it and was (as I guess most people were) particularly taken with the first 4 or 5 tracks.  Since then, though, each time I listen to it another track later in the track list grabs me fiercely and demands attention.  Around a month ago it was Satin in a Coffin – that insistent banjo at the beginning and throughout the song, as well as that catchyashell are you DEAD or are you sleeping are you DEAD or are you sleeping WELL I SURE HOPE YOU ARE DEAD.  I listened to that song solidly for about a week.

Anyway, tonight they got the land but WE got the view.  And how!

I think I more or less made the decision to get a new iPod.  My current one is fine, it’s just too small.  I’ve had it for almost 2 years now and even though the battery isn’t quite what it used to be and for some bizarre reason it doesn’t seem to like Liz Phair, it’s still fine.  It’s such a nice colour green too.  6 gig just ain’t cutting it anymore and this rotation shizzat is getting old.  I want to fit many, many more things on there and I want the option of swinging from being in the mood to hear Shirley Mason singing how much she loves rain to being aurally devastated by Sigur Ros.  I might have a look at that on the weekend.

And just so you know, Cold War Kids made it into the stereo eventually.  I’ve been a bit enamored with the song We Used to Vacation since hearing it on the radio a little while ago, but Hang Me Out to Dry might be my new favourite song.  I also have a hankering to hear the song Hospital Beds on repeat through headphones because I reckon it might be that sort of song.  Who was it who told me they sounded like Maroon5??  I can maybe hear the similarities in lead guy’s voice and with the piano tinkling, sure, but this is very good.  I get the feeling, too, they’d be great live.

I think maybe that even though I love the track Saint John, I probably shouldn’t.  It’s too catchy for its own good or something.

One small thing though, and I’ve no idea why this is, but I got kinda annoyed when I first heard the song Pregnant.  I’ll listen to again, because I’m a little curious as to my reaction to it.  Tomorrow though.  Right now I’m going to bed.

Oh my god

January 31st, 2007

I feel faint.

The crush of veils and starlight

January 30th, 2007
  • I’m trying for bed before 10pm tonight.  I know!  Whoa!
  • My house is exhaling.
  • Must remember to get a ticket to Augie March tomorrow.  It would suck if it sold out.
  • I feel potential everywhere right now.  It’s in the air and in my car and in my office and right here at my laptop.
  • Conversely, I also feel like things could easily go either way.  I’m teetering on the brink of so many potentially wonderful things, and it could all end badly.  Only I can push it the right direction.
  • Okay so maybe not before 10pm.  I get distracted so god damn easily.
  • What the hell did I do without an RSS reader in my life.
  • Now that I’ve made the decision to move there’s a whole fuckton of stuff I can’t really get on with.  For some reason this particularly annoying tonight.
  • The voice of Jeff Tweedy makes everything alright.

By the way…

January 29th, 2007

Hummingbirds might be the most beautiful thing in the world.

That is all.

Rays of dark matter

January 29th, 2007

I get my house back to myself tomorrow.  I am very happy about this.  I want the sort of company that compliments a room, not fills it.  Right now my lounge is full to the brim.

There has been a lot of live music the last week and very little time to write about it.  Also, there’s a whole heap of shizzat pushed up the front of my brain that I really should write about, but to be honest none of it is fun.  I’m going to try and catch up with Hell on the weekend, and being that we haven’t seen each other for a little while (properly, I mean, rather than in the throngs of prog rock) I’m sure I’ll get a chance to offload then.

I sorta started writing about Tool tonight but the motivation for it ran out after two sentences and all I want to do is write about Friday and Saturday night.  So that’s what I’m doing.  Tool will come, but not tonight.

On Friday I went to the Parade Theatre at NIDA to see Holly Throsby, Andrew Bird, Bill Callahan (ex Smog) and Joanna Newsom.  I have been a fan of Andrew Bird for some time, and to a lesser extent Holly Throsby, but I was not at all familiar with the music of Callahan and Newsom.

The vibe in the place was so different to gigs I’ve experienced recently – while there’s something to be said for low stages and sticky floors and standing room only, the vibe of the parade theatre suited the night perfectly.  The plush curtains and colours and the intimate structure of the balconies made it seem like you were about to experience something a little bit special.

Holly was a nice surprise for me.  I didn’t know she was on the bill (she was a late minute special addition) and as I hadn’t seen her live I was pretty stoked about that.  She sang a short, sweet set which contained among other things Under the Town, We’re All Good People But Why Don’t We Show It and a cover of the Brian Eno song By This River, during which Sarah Blasko came out and sang along.  This was a really nice surprise.  Holly, while being understated and very quiet, has a level of grace and peace about her.  Ben (who is more than a bit in love with her) was telling me this but now I understand what he means.

Seeing Andrew Bird, even just coming out onto stage to do sound check, made my heart go pitter pat.  I mean, the man is a musical wonder, and not completely unfortunate looking.  I have heard such amazing things about him live and I was really hoping he would live up to the hype.  I needn’t have worried – from the minute he stepped out and took off his shoes to the minute he left the stage shoes in hand, my heart soared.  There is just nothing like the music he makes out there, and lyrically he writes almost like a stream of consciousness – like it’s flowing from his brain, through his hands and his mouth, without a thought or a pause.  What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was his almost theatrical delivery of songs like Dear Dirty.  The guy literally had me, and could have taken me wherever he pleased.

The odd track I’ve heard by Smog never really grabbed me, and for some reason in my head I’d put (the now-called) Bill Callahan in the same category as Will Oldham and perhaps Leonard Cohen – music I’m fairly sure I’d dig if only I’d give them half a chance in the right half-light with the right bottle of wine and the right level of insomniatic madness.  The one thing that struck me about Callahan, besides his voice-of-the-deep and his pretty amazing story-telling, was his air of complete calm and control.  This is a man in charge of his own destiny with a mission and a story to tell.  I think my favourite track of the night was Rock Bottom Feeder – the lyrics of that song particularly really resonated with me for some reason.

You can also add me to the increasing list of Joanna Newsom fans.  As I said I wasn’t terribly familiar with her music, but I did get a hold of the Milk-Eyed Mender and Ys before I went on Friday and listened to them fairly solidly all week.  I was not at all sure what to think about Newsom from these studio albums – the music was divine, sure, and quite quickly it was obvious that lyrically she was very good, but her voice distracted me from most everything else going on in the music.  Even the harp.  I went on Friday, though, with no expectation, and given the love of this woman from people whose music taste I generally trust, I wasn’t at all concerned.

I was utterly and completely swept off my feet.  She’s so petite and delicate – put her next to that enormous harp and you have no idea how she’s going to create any sort of valid noise from it.  She sure does though, and watching her play that thing was an education of some sort for me – those willowy arms dragging the most glorious noise out of those strings with some sort of determined fierceness.  And her voice – holy crap.  The voice was almost an instinctual sound coming from deep within her.  Her voice and the harp worked so beautifully together and her songs, for me, took on a whole new life.  Highlights for me were Emily, which I was kinda staggered at, and This Side of the Blue – a beautiful song and one that first stood out to me when I heard the studio albums.

I was listening to Ys again today.  It’s funny that now I have seen her live, and seen the symbiosis between her and her voice and that instrument, I now find the strings and additional instrumentation on the album distracting, not her voice at all.  I’m kinda craving hearing those tracks again, particularly Emily, with just her and the harp.

Wayne of Oceans Never Listen has again obliged with a set list.  He’s very nice like that.

It was actually a really special night – because it was a celebration for Spunk for their 200th album release, there seemed to be a bit of a feel of community about the night and the artists seemed really happy to be there.  Free posters and CDs are always awesome too.

Can I just say, too, that I love it when a crowd listens.  Like, really listens.  I feel like sometimes when I’m at a gig I’m the only one trying to really listen.  Neither of these gigs on the weekend was remotely like that – it helped to have company who was listening at least as much as I was, but the whole crowd at both venues seemed to be really hearing his lyrics, the subtle music changes, and the emotion floating around the room.  It really changes an overall live experience; for me at least.

Saturday night saw me at The Basement in Circular Quay to see Andrew Bird again do that thing he does.  I was pretty damn excited about this considering how much I enjoyed his set the previous night.  I’d never been to The Basement before (although I have no idea how I’ve dodged it ‘til now), but besides the distinct lack of seating other than booked seating it was actually okay.  The vibe was good, and you really felt like you were there to see live music.  Was it just me though or was the first set very, very loud?

Jack Ladder was fun to watch but for me not really outstanding.  The drummer in his band though?!  Holy hell could that guy play.  And I don’t mean beatingthehelloutoftheskins play – I mean intuitively using the instrument and feeling the sound.  He was great to watch and for me kinda stole the show.

Andrew again came out on to the stage to sound check, before walking on to start the set.  He kicked into the first instrumental track and was a few minutes in this time before losing one shoe at a time.  It’s really something else to watch him building his sound – one layer of violin, another layer of violin, yet another, and then a quick stage shuffle for him to pick up the guitar while seemingly simultaneously playing the xylophone and whistling into the mic.  He is so bumbling and almost clumsy in some ways while he’s on stage putting his songs together, but when he settles into the loops he’s woven and when he closes his eyes to settle into the whistling or the singing or the melody from the violin, a complete calmness takes over and there’s naught but him and the music.  I closed my eyes during that first track and was transported.

My favourite track of the night was without doubt Cataracts from the new album (due, as I mentioned last night, in March).  Hearing Skin Is, My was also great.  I live in the hope of one day hearing Fake Palindromes live, but maybe next time.  What he did play was most certainly enough.

He’s been cemented as one of my favourite artists and one that I’m massively excited to see what he’ll do next.  The transition from his earlier Bowl of Fire stuff to the Mysterious Production of Eggs is really something else and I can’t even begin to articulate how excited I am about the new album – from what I’ve heard it’s going to be glorious.

Wayne has posted a set list for this gig also (no thanks to my pathetic help when it came to remembering track names :) ).  Here it is.

I’m not sure how the rest of the year is going to stack up to the absolute live music awesomeness I have already been privy to in 2007.  Hear that Augie March and Wilco?  You better bring it.

My mind is disconnected by my heart is wired

January 25th, 2007

When typing the title for that last post I was struck with a need to hear the song Firedoor by Ani DiFranco (unsurprisingly the song I pulled those lyrics from).

When people, albeit occasionally, ask me what my favourite DiFranco track is I answer flatly with Swan Dive from Little Plastic Castle followed closely by Marrow from Revelling/Reckoning. They’re both clear winners, but only when you factor in my rules for equating such things. Like, favourite tracks can’t come from live albums or remix albums or what have you. Not honest to god favourite tracks of an artist.

By these (special and probably stupid Karen) rules Fire Door doesn’t even rate. To begin with, the original version on her self-titled album is stilted and awkward and kinda strangely paced. Secondly, the only other version I know of the song (apart from the odd bootleg I’m sure) is the version from Living in Clip. One of the greatest live albums ever recorded.

Honestly, if I didn’t have the stupid self-imposed rule about live tracks then Firedoor would win out. Lyrically it’s amazing. I mean –

I opened the firedoor, to four lips
None of which were mine, kissing
Tightened my belt around my hips
Where your hands were missing

Or –

OH how I miss
Substituting the conclusion to confrontation with a kiss
And OHHH how I miss
Walking up to the edge and jumping in
Like I can feel the future on your skin

I’m not a girl with religion, but I swear to god, every time she busts into Amazing Grace before that crazy scat singing I start grinning like an idiot. The Living in Clip version of this song is so light and through her voice you can hear her smiling. Listening to this track tonight and remembering how much I love it makes me kinda glad that cockroach died a grizzly death on my floor.

Kinda.

I killed a cockroach so big

January 25th, 2007

Disturbing enough is the fact that I found one of those gigantor cockroaches in my house. What’s completely freaking me out, however, is the fact that it was dead and in about a billion pieces. Something not only killed it – it completely decimated it.

What the hell could kill and eat a cockroach that large? Actually… no. I don’t even want to think about it.

Step into my shadow

January 25th, 2007

With my feet upon the ground I lose myself
Between the sounds and open wide to suck it in
I feel it move across my skin
I’m reaching up and reaching out
I’m reaching for the random or what ever will bewilder me
And following our will and wind we may just go where no one’s been
We’ll ride the spiral to the end and may just go where no one’s been

All you really need to know tonight (because I am wrecked, and work promises its normal stupidity tomorrow) is that they opened with Stinkfist and 46 & 2, and they closed with Vicarious and Aenema.  Had they only played those 4 songs I would have left the venue happy.

More tomorrow.

Bah bah bah

January 23rd, 2007

I’m moving!  It’s exciting!  I have no idea where yet – we’ll see.

Maybe Pitt Town.  I’d prefer to live in Pitt Town Bottoms, only so I could tell people that’s where I live.  I remarked tonight that if I lived there I’d feel like one of the Wombles.  I’ll look through the house next week so we’ll see.

Ben has been sending me Kelley Stoltz mp3s tonight.  And just quietly, sans perhaps the Beach Boys track, they’re all very, very good.  I was saying to him that the song Birdies Singing is one of those songs where you’re driving along, in a hurry to somewhere with the radio on, not really concentrating to what they’re playing, but then this truly awesome and catchy little song comes on.  Only, you can’t listen for the back announce because you truly have to make it to the post office before the damn thing closes, so you leave the car never knowing what the song is and a little bit sad because of that.  Then out of the blue one night it’s sent to you over the interweb as an mp3.  Hooray!

I may have to check out more of this Kelley Stoltz.

Your next bold move

January 23rd, 2007

Dear Wilberforce,

Breakup letters are always difficult.  The time I’ve spent living in this little hole-in-the-wall have been some of the most rewarding, confusing, exhilarating, devastating and enlightening years of my life.  I came so lost and broken, but I’ll leave a whole lot more sure of myself.  And with a whole lot more CDs.  But that’s a whole other thing.

Thing is, though, I think I grew out of you some time ago.  I’m at the point now where I need something else, and unfortunately I’m not sure it’s something you can give me.

I also have a confession to make – I think I’ve fallen for somewhere else.  I’m not sure if it’s going to be anything serious, but just the fact that I’ve seen the possibility of something else, something wonderful, means I can’t look at you the same way again.  I spent 20 minutes walking around Pitt Town yesterday and looking at the cottage with the very large yard.  I went into the supermarket and found they even stocked the only bread I like.  The air smelt good and clean and there wasn’t a caravan park bogan to be seen.

It’s been nice though.  I’ve enjoyed your quiet streets, your abundant frog life and (from where I am, at least) your amazing views of the Hawkesbury.  Still, I think our time is up, you know?

It’s not you, it’s me.

Let’s always stay friends.

Karen.

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