A Fine Frenzy

A Fine Frenzy

I’ve been meaning to do this post for a long time, it’s a rather glaring oversight. I would go so far as to say I owe you an apology, when you get down to it. If you like the kind of music I like and have somehow failed to stumble upon A Fine Frenzy and I, I of all people, have neglected to bring her to you, well. Let us assume that my apologies are of the humblest and sincerest of natures. Be comforted, this is the best sort of failure from your perspective. You get new music now. I envy you, if this describes your current situation. There are three (two and a half-ish, really. I’ll get there.) albums for you to digest.

My timeline with Alison Sudol is both lengthy and checkered. Well. My timeline with Alison Sudol’s music is both lengthy and checkered. My timeline with Alison Sudol is differentiated from such in so much as it does not exist and I assure you said situation is one of a number of entries on a list of ways in which this particular fork of reality has not delivered. Others of note and relevance: A Girl Called Eddy only makes one album, I keep failing to speak to Rachael Yamagata when the opportunity arises, I have yet to hear Feist live and an elf hunting trip with Hafdís Huld continues to elude.

But seriously folks. I was, somehow, all over One Cell in the Sea in 2007. It dropped, and I had it. I wish I could tell you why, I can’t seem to dredge any details from the silty churn of my rapidly moving and increasingly unpredictable memory. What I can tell you, though, is that upon listening I thought then that One Cell In the Sea had a problem and I still think that One Cell in the Sea has a problem, though time has seen fit to make it a quirk that I now adore more than lament. There is something hauntingly artificial about it. Not overproduced. Not poorly arranged. Just, false. Thin. Façade-ish. It is not bad. No, friend, no it is not bad. I like Come On, Come Out and The Minnow and the Trout a lot, Almost Lover, Near To You also. It’s a good album. She has a gorgeous voice, her melodies are original and beautiful and the lyrical quality is consistently high. I was definitely looking forward to her follow-up despite my reservation.

Bomb in a Birdcage: Better. So much better. It blows out of the gate with What I Wouldn’t Do, and it is quite an opener. Frankly it’s so catchy it should be illegal. Then it hits you with New Heights to remind you that this Frenzy is Fine. It keeps on coming with Blow Away, Swan Song, The Beacon. There are songs between those, but you know. Just genuinely such a great album. Whatever was bugging me about One Cell disappeared in the interim and Bomb in a Birdcage hits all the right buttons and as such I have listened to it a very significant amount. It is at this time that I become a confirmed A Fine Frenzy fan (alliteration: fun for the whole family). Whatever happened between One Cell and Bomb, I approve.

And then.

And then there was Pines. I was pretty excited for Pines cause it totally snuck up on me. You know how you kinda lose track of all your favorites and then you find out they dropped new material and you can have it RIGHT NOW? That happened. Bomb was such a monster and so well done that my expectations were quite high. Unfortunately, Pines showed up with a smorgasbord of songs that are just a little too long in general and seem a little uncomfortable under their own weight. I’ve been trapped in a certain amount of consternation about Pines since I got it. I want to be enamored of it, but it just cannot get in my ear. When I want to listen to A Fine Frenzy, there isn’t a single Pines song that comes to mind. I still wake up whistling One Cell songs and for a statistically significant period there was nothing but Bomb songs in my brain, but Pines I barely remember. It’s all…very sad.

And so here we are. My Alison Sudol timeline: revealed. I’ve gone trifecta on this one so you could hear one from each album and not be forced to take my word for it. I highly recommend acquiring the first two and frankly would love it if someone could help me understand the third which would require said someone to get it and listen to it and, in the service of that academic and beneficial-to-me-personally pursuit, I would also encourage you toward that acquisition. These three are not necessarily my favorites, but they are among them. Well, the one from Pines, that’s just the only one that I even vaguely recognized when I went looking for a sample. Truth bombs, I drop them.

Go forth, reader, and listen.

The Minnow & The Trout
Swan Song

Laura Marling

Laura Marling

Laura Marling is someone I’ve listened to before but was not entirely taken with. Her first effort, “Alas I Cannot Swim”, was a little rough in ways that I didn’t entirely care for. There was quality there, but it just didn’t seem to have settled into itself. Having missed her intermediate efforts, I recently acquired “Once I Was An Eagle” as I was randomly reminded that I meant to check her out again.

Hearken to me, friends: this album is an overwhelming tide of unadulterated quality; a tsunamic wall of arrangement and lyricism the likes of which I have not seen in some time. That’s right, I used both kinds of colons, that’s the kind of serious situation we’re dealing with here.

These two make me very happy in my ear area. Worth noting, the first seven tracks of this album are basically one long song. If you use a gapless playback device, you’ll hear them flow together. It’s quite magical and may well fly beneath your notice unless you’re paying attention. What that basically means is that you’re only getting 1/7th of the experience with track one.

Go get the album. GO GET THE ALBUM.

Take The Night Off
When Were You Happy? (And How Long Has That Been)

Catherine Feeny

Catherine Feeny

Catherine Feeny is an artist of remarkable quality. Heartfelt and intimate, Catherine delivers unique songs steeped in country and folk but filled with instrumentation and rhythm from, well, everywhere. Acoustics, electrics, piano, brass, strings, chimes, ukulele, hand claps, whistling, electronics, harmonica, accordion, you name it. That’s not to say she’s gimmicky, nor that she piles on more when less will do, but you never know what she’s bringing into the fray. All that considered though, the star of the show is her amazing voice, textured and earnest with an endearingly delicate falsetto. It’s her Swiss Army knife, at times ethereal and weightless, at times emotional and empowered, at times playful and inviting, but always delivering her poignant, imagery-laden lyrics.

Catherine has several releases in the wild, all of which are positively brilliant. I’ll revisit her older material at a later date, but of especial interest at the moment is the release of her newest album, People in the Hole.

It’s magnificent. I won’t feign any sort of surprise. Her back catalog set the bar very high, but it was still no step for a stepper of Catherine Feeny’s capability to make another fantastic album, perhaps even her best yet. Like all her albums, it’s filled from bottom to top with great tracks and it’s new enough that I’m still in puppy love with the whole thing, but here are two that I find myself coming back to. Catherine is self-publishing this album after some apparent creative differences with her label, so go to her site and buy it and you’ll get an instant gratification MP3 download AND a hand-signed and numbered CD shipped right to your home AND you get to support a great artist in her musical independence.

That’s a mitzvah, friends.

The Bell & the Anchor

Jakob Dylan

Jakob Dylan

GASP (Shock!) /awe. Yes, friends. “And other music. Like, also.”

The year, lovers, is 1996 and I am positively enamored with Bringing Down the Horse by The Wallflowers. One Headlight, 6th Avenue Heartache, Three Marlenas, The Difference, Josephine… What an album. Then they played a song for the worst Godzilla movie ever made, and we’re talking about a series of movies that relied on men in rubber monster suits trampling scale models of cities, for the most part. I don’t know why they did that. Right around then, I checked out. I know there were more albums, I remember hearing Letters from the Wasteland once and just not caring at all. Why? I honestly don’t know, I liked the Wallflowers.

But now I know. I was waiting on Jakob Dylan’s solo effort. This album is so good I almost can’t believe it. He’s stripped it back to a simple alt-country style, relying on brilliant guitar work, compelling lyrics and no-nonsense vocals to hold this music up. Let me assure you, you could put a bull elephant, 47 ACME anvils and a concert grand on top of these songs and they would stand firm. Dylan’s heartfelt delivery and zero-frills mix really contributes a welcome characteristic to this music: it is made entirely of substance. There is no filler. Zero MSG, folks. 100%, Grade-A, quality music.

I am a Jakob Dylan FAN. Listen, good reader, and join me.

Everybody Pays As They Go
War Is Kind

Anna Nalick

Anna Nalick

In the many seasons of my musical whimsy, the coming of the singer-songwriter is the most recent, and Anna Nalick was there at the beginning. Following on toe-dippings like Alanis, Sarah McLachlan, Jewel and the occasional Fiona Apple, Anna represented one of my first full-album plunges into the cool waters. I had rather forgotten her as she was over-shadowed by huge comers like Feist and Rachael, and she slipped into the obscurity of my musical memory. Tonight, though, by an excellent coincidence, she showed up on MHD while I was wakeboarding the figurative airwaves of HD cable, and so came this post.

Wreck of the Day is really decent. Anna has a great voice, powerful with just a twist of gravelly depth. If you’ve heard of Anna, you’ve probably heard her chart-topper from this album, “Breathe (2am)”. It’s good, but it’s not the best this album has to offer. Try these two on for size and check out the whole enchilada if you like what you hear. I’ve got high hopes for her sophomore effort, assuming it ever materializes. Another long wait. Apparently she studies at the Rachael Yamagata Institute of Album Release Scheduleology.

Forever Love (Digame)