EPS4-01

In 1978, John Prine released a wonderful album called Bruised Orange. According to a story he told a couple of years later, the record company, doing that record-company thing back in the day, sent him a case of oranges as part of some kind of promotional effort or another. When it came time to make his next album, he figured he would call it Storm Windows. Because he needed some. This, at least, is the story he told at the time. And I’m guessing he actually had no idea what kind of future we were going to end up in when he sang the song that closes out EPS 4.01.

This playlist, I feel compelled to report, was created in an unusual flow. I’m not sure if it’s any better or worse than my previous output but I will say that I found myself feeling no need to edit or tweak the way I normally do, even if it meant rather inexplicably returning to Bonnie Raitt after just a couple of months. Nothing against Bonnie she’s just not that close to the top of my list normally! And now I also don’t seem to feel the need to comment other than to say that the more time goes by the more I love Liz Phair. And the more David Bowie seems to represent the apotheosis of rock music.

These opinions are my own and do not represent the views of the current Administration. And never will.

p.s. “I Live My Broken Dreams” really does end that abruptly. An impossible segue.


Full playlist below the widget.

“Opus 23” – Dustin O’Halloran (Piano Solos Vol. 2, 2006)
“No Plan” – David Bowie (No Plan EP, 2017)
“Lorelei” – Cocteau Twins (Treasure, 1984)
“So You’re Leaving” – Al Green (Let’s Stay Together, 1972)
“Silence Kid” – Pavement (Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, 1994)
“I Live My Broken Dreams” – Gramma’s Boyfriend (PERM, 2015)
“Butch and Butch” – Oliver Nelson (The Blues and the Abstract Truth, 1961)
“Alison Gross” – Steeleye Span (Parcel of Rogues, 1973)
“Run Back to You” – Marshall Crenshaw (The 9 Volt Years, 1998)
“I Just Can’t Live My Life (Without You Babe)” – Linda Jones (single, 1969)
“Birth, School, Work, Death” – The Godfathers (Birth, School, Work, Death, 1988)
“But Will Our Tears” – Soy Un Caballo (Les Heures de Raison, 2007)
“Surf’s Up” – The Beach Boys (Surf’s Up, 1971)
“Baby Mine” – Bonnie Raitt and Was (Not Was) (Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from
       Vintage Disney Films
, 1988)
“Time to Dance” – The Jezabels (The Brink, 2014)
“E-Bow the Letter” – R.E.M. (New Adventures in Hi-Fi, 1996)
“I’ll Stop At Nothing” – Sandie Shaw (single, 1965)
“When You Find Out” – The Nerves (The Nerves EP, 1976)
“My Bionic Eyes” – Liz Phair (Liz Phair, 2003)
“Living in the Future” – John Prine (Storm Windows, 1980)

Jesca Hoop

“The Lost Sky” – Jesca Hoop

Itchy and curious, “The Lost Sky” grabs my ear in a “where is this going?” kind of way, as the song’s opening verses unfold over minimal, agitated acoustic guitar work and a precise, intermittent bass line. But as the song proceeds I slowly get the idea that where the song is going is where it already is: the ear has to adjust to its edgy open-endedness, its determined lack of solid ground. Symbolic of its restless core is what happens at the end of the (not very chorus-like) chorus (1:23-1:26). Listen first to how the melody has slowed down and seems at last to move towards resolution; and then, nope, it turns out that the note the ear is waiting for (1:23-1:26) is not an ending but a beginning: the resolving note starts the next verse and off we go again.

Other things begin to anchor me as I listen, starting first and foremost with Hoop’s harmonies, which kick in at 1:12 on the song’s incisive question “Why would you say those words to me if you could not follow through?” The narrator is a brokenhearted lover, and as the song plucks along my heart warms with the understanding that it only ever takes a talented songwriter to render the familiar unfamiliar. Here we get propulsive but diligent music, evocative lyrics, and then, yes, those increasingly startling and satisfying harmonies (where she takes it at 2:31 caused me just about to gasp), and there I am, embraced yet again, with gratitude, by the potency of song. It’s a nice place to be right about now.

Born in California, singer/songwriter Jesca Hoop moved to Manchester (UK) in 2010. “The Lost Sky” is from her forthcoming album, Memories Are Now, coming out in February on Sub Pop Records. Here is someone who apparently cycles through Fingertips in five-year loops; Hoop was previously featured in 2007 and 2012.

MP3 via Colorado Public Radio.

The William Shakes

“The Fault” – The William Shakes

At once comfortable and intriguing, “The Fault” is better than it has any right to be, and certainly better than you are imagining it could be, based on this: The William Shakes is a project established to create indie rock songs from “de-contextualized” Shakespearean dialogue. Yeah, I know. But trust me, this works amazingly well.

The mastermind here is Boston area musician Mark McGettrick. According to press material, McGettrick was inspired by David Bowie’s famous “cut-up” methodology for writing lyrics, and for whatever reason thought to apply it to the Bard. McGettrick selects a character from a Shakespeare play, isolates that character’s lines, randomly puts them back together, and then “curates” them into song lyrics. “The Fault” is based on lines spoken by the character Cassius in Julius Caesar, who among other things uttered the famous “The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars/But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” The project has yielded a four-song EP, entitled How Goes The Night?, which is coming out in February.

Back to the song itself, which is almost hypnotically powerful–all forward motion and economical guitar accents, with a cascading melody often magnetized around one central note. McGettrick has an incisive, slightly wavery voice that wanders DIY-ishly off pitch in a fetching way that somehow makes the words all the more absorbing. And what words!; and how they shine a shrewd light on what song lyrics have to do and what they don’t have to do in service of convincing music. Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter has built-in scannability (e.g., “So well as by reflection, I your glass”), his vocabulary relentless vigor; these two factors help to generate a song with ineffable backbone. As a long-time fan of song lyrics as sound versus sense, I am not bothered if I do not understand what a singer is singing or what the words actually mean. In fact, I believe that a song’s overall meaning is sometimes clearer on an abstract and intuitive level than a concrete and explainable one. Listen to “The Fault” and maybe you’ll hear what I’m talking about.

McGettrick composed and produced all songs on the EP himself, and played guitar, bass, and percussion as well. A handful of other musicians contributed, from Boston and beyond. McGettrick has been around the Boston music scene for a number of years but this appears to be his first solo recording.

Orouni

“The Lives of Elevators” – Orouni

What a fluid and charming piece of work this one is, buoyed by an effortless sense of melody and the fragile but authoritative voice of the eponymous Orouni. A Parisian singer/songwriter whose self-proclaimed influences include the likes of Leonard Cohen and The Kinks, Orouni makes carefully composed songs in which the notes seem handcrafted, one by one, then sung with an ongoing aura of surprise and assurance. The chord change at 0:56, gentle and resolute, is emblematic of the song’s pervading ambience of precipitant redesign, which culminates at 2:37 with a trumpet solo. It is both unexpected and ideal.

“The Lives of Elevators” is a live performance, from a recently folded-up French music site called Findspire, the offerings of which remain available on YouTube. Watch the video and be lulled by the easy-going flow, as we check in visually with each musician, so locked into the groove that they somehow seem to be playing one thing but listening to another. I mean that as a compliment, even if that doesn’t sound like one.

Orouni has recorded three albums to date, which you can listen to and purchase via Bandcamp. I recommend a visit there. “The Lives of Elevators” is based on a 2008 New Yorker article of the same name, written by Nick Paumgarten, which itself is worth reading. The song is a new one, which might appear on the next Orouni album, which might be released this year. Plans are yet unclear. Thanks to Orouni for the MP3.

eps-3-11

So this is not really a holiday playlist, because I, like a lot of people I know, don’t feel especially festive this year. But I snuck a couple of seasonal songs in anyway, both of which I appreciate for their arrangements, however vastly different they are. This is in fact a list about differences: beautiful and jarring, old and new, angry and gentle, it’s all here. Some things you might want to know: Vegas was a one-off effort by Terry Hall (the Specials) and Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) that sank commercially but soared artistically (thanks to George from Between Two Islands for this one); Sad13 is Sadie Dupuis, front woman for the band Speedy Ortiz and “<2" (say "Less Than Two") is from her first solo album; "Lily" is one of only a handful of stand-alone older songs Kate Bush performed at her now-legendary concerts in London in 2014, and I wasn't there but I wish I had been, and I'm buying the new album, and she's amazing; yes the new Bon Iver is pretty outré but oddly compelling (and note the song title is supposed to have two symbols after it but they are not translating properly here in WordPress so I left them out); yes this is the "clean" version of "We the People..." but it seemed a reasonable gesture given that by and large these playlists are safe for work and young children--I encourage you on your own to check out the whole album, in its explicit form; and yes I had just featured Leonard Cohen two playlists ago so the rules prohibited a direct homage to the great man but I really like what Christina Rosenvinge has done with "Famous Blue Raincoat," and adore its Spanish title, "Impermeable Azul," and like Christina Rosenvinge in any case so here you are. And yet, that said, 2016 has come to an end and I did in fact repeat one artist this year. So much for rules. Anyone notice?

Full playlist below the widget.

“Open Your Eyes” – The Lords of the New Church (The Lords of the New Church, 1982)
“Walk Into the Wind” – Vegas (Vegas, 1992)
“<2” - Sad13 (Slugger, 2016)
“Alchemy” – Richard Lloyd (Alchemy, 1979)
“Lily” – Kate Bush (The Red Shoes, 1993)
“I’m Gonna Git Ya” – Betty Harris (single, 1967)
“10 d E A T h b R E a s T” – Bon Iver (22, A Million, 2016)
“Evil Urges” – My Morning Jacket (Evil Urges, 2005)
“Talk of the Town” – The Pretenders (Pretenders II, 1980)
“The Catastrophe and the Cure” – Explosions in the Sky (All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, 2006)
“Someone to Lay Down Beside Me” – Karla Bonoff (Karla Bonoff, 1977)
“We The People…” – A Tribe Called Quest (We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, 2016)
“Philadelphia” – Magazine (The Correct Use of Soap, 1980)
“L’estasi dell’oro” – Ennio Morricone (The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: Original Motion Picture     Soundtrack, 1966)
“We Three Kings” – The Roches (We Three Kings, 1990)
“Run” – Amy MacDonald (This Is The Life, 2007)
“God’s Children” – The Kinks (Percy, 1971)
“Strange Things Happening Every Day” – Sister Rosetta Tharpe (single, 1945)
“Lt. Kijé: Troika” – Caliban Quartet of Bassoons (Caliban Does Christmas, 2005)
“Impermeable Azul” – Christina Rosenvinge (According to Leonard Cohen, 2012)