piano

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
Sailingsong

Trouvere

Trouvere

Well, friends, it’s been barely a month and here I am again. I’m serious, don’t raise your expectations.

So, these guys just turned up following me on Twitter. I do not know why. I looked at my followers and there they were. I clicked the link thinking “Why would this band be following me on Twitter?” I still cannot answer that, but the freshly pressed EP I found there makes me think it’s just the fate of random chance. You know, or something.

It’s late and I’m not doing well at the creative and entertaining writing part of our program. Trouvere melds two sounds that I like: bouncy pop and cute-girl-voice. It make nice feel-sound in ear-hole. I’m sorry folks, I just don’t have it tonight.

Here’s a track:

I Wanna Let You In

Right now they’re giving away GIVING AWAY their musical labours, so I’m only linking one since you can go get the whole thing for zero international spacebux: trouveretheband.com

Commence acquisitoning immediately. It’s good stuff. I also quite like I’ll Catch You When You Fall, just puttin’ that out there.

Rachael Yamagata

Rachael Yamagata

This post is not as much a post per-say, but more of an infonoticeupdateitem. Well, two actually.

  1. A bit ago now, Rachael released Chesapeake, a full-length studio affair crowd-funded by Pledge Music. It is very good and you should get yourself a copy and listen to it. I have every intention of writing it up at some point. Yeah, I can’t take me seriously anymore either. Here are my favorites:

You Won’t Let Me
Full On

  1. Rachael released a new EP also. It is called Heavyweight and it is better than good. It is great. I have spent a quite goodly amount of time with it at this point. I want her to come back to my state of residence and play the music show again. It is my wishiest wish. My selections:

It’ll Do
Nothing Gets By Here

I’ve also seen her live twice TWICE since the last time I spoke of her. I know. I… ::sigh:: I know. Look, she was magical and wonderful both times, I would watch her again and again. Someday I shall even summon the will to actually speak to her when I see her milling about. Someday.

So here we are, dear reader. Two posts, one day. I probably wouldn’t read too much into it.

Elizaveta

Elizaveta

I know it’s been a while. Picture me, friend. No, not rolling. Picture me in a misanthropic silence-cave of laziness and platitude on a throne of quiet destitution. There is music here but there is not Music here. Imagine, if you can, the sort of holy-light, soul wrenching, wondrous and magnificent sound it would take to shatter that bitter reverie so brilliantly as to generate a post on this much neglected weblog.

Good news, you don’t have to. Click play below.

I cannot adequately communicate how stunningly good the music of Elizaveta is. I could talk about spacious arrangements, orchestral overtones, Postal Service-worthy beats and the heart-wrenching beauty of her professionally operatic voice but I cannot describe the way her music feels. It is inside you when you listen. If you can’t feel the chorus of Dreamer in your heart of hearts like a suitcase nuclear bomb trying to shatter you into a million shimmering fragments of wonder, you almost certainly do not have a heart. I’m sorry if that’s bad news.

Dreamer is amazing. It is a digitally encoded form of refined amazement. It will amaze the part of your brain that understands amaz-words into a redefinition of the concept.

Armies of Your Heart is even better than that.

Dreamer
Armies Of Your Heart

Rachael Yamagata - Live at Mesa Arts Center

I am officially the Tin Man. Rachael Yamagata has finally stolen my heart outright, and I am without. There are no pictures due to a pretty hilarious-but-not-funny pre-show situation with the box office staff at Mesa Arts Center (I ruined Joe’s whole evening), but the things I saw are serving to fill the void where my heart resided previously, so that’s handy. How these abstract images and indistinct emotional impressions are keeping me alive, I’ll never know, but I don’t question the proverbial “gift-horse” and neither should you. Also, before we get into it, I realize that the Brandi Carlile concert review set the bar very high. I will not meet it here. This was not the best show I’ve ever seen, Brandi remains the Undisputed Champion of Live Shows. However, this show had a lot of personal satisfaction for me in addition to being very good and if you like the more sedate experience of the concert hall, you would’ve enjoyed this show, no doubt.

It’s worth noting up front that Rachael Yamagata is funny. Outright witty, even. Considering the heft and subject matter of her songs, you might expect a pretty dour and gravitas-rich live experience. Nay. She had lighthearted banter a-plenty for us, which was a nice performance foil to the aforementioned song weight. Her opener was only about forty-five minutes, which was not enough. She yielded the stage to The Swell Season who also put on quite the show. It’s also worth noting up front that the Ikeda Theater at the Mesa Arts Center is gorgeous, and the acoustics were wonderful. Both acts took time to point out how amazing the venue was, that’s how great we’re talking here. I will be actively seeking the opportunity to attend more shows at the Ikeda. Now, on to the business at hand.

I missed Rachael Yamagata twice, to my knowledge. November 13, 2006, Hotel Café tour at Club Congress. I had a ticket to this. No joke. The week prior, some dude, we’ll call him Random Methhead, smashes the back glass of my truck in an ill-conceived attempt to steal it. I put it in the shop, I’m supposed to be getting it back on the 13th, no lie, and they just plain don’t finish it. They don’t tell me until it’s WAY too late to make other arrangements. A young and wide-eyed Sara Bareilles was also on this tour. It was…disappointing. Second time, that I’m aware of, she was opening for Mandi Moore last year, the date is shaky. I just really didn’t want to go to a Mandi Moore show. I know, it sounds distasteful and weak to me too. It’s not really about Mandi Moore’s music, it’s about Mandi Moore fans. It’s the same kind of reason I don’t go to Slipknot shows, even though I’ve heard they’re epic. This show may have been canceled at the last minute, as I recall, so it’s possible my dereliction of duty didn’t actually cost me. I still take responsibility. Fast-forward to this tour and I don’t even know there is a tour. I am in the dark. Thanks entirely to a timely reminder from Summer over at ELIZA Magazine, I was able to snag some acceptable mezzanine seating, and the rest…well…you can only read about it in my autobiography. Or the next paragraph.

As we sat, the stage arrangement came into discussion. Grand piano, multiple guitars, trap kit, the whole nine. It occurred to us that we didn’t know if she was touring with a band. I proceeded to reiterate my “artist with instrument” postulate of live music which states: “Man, why can’t they ever just come on stage with their thing and just play? Why’s there always gotta be a bunch of other stuff going on, you know?” It’s informal. Until now it’s been an untested dream, for the most part, but I have always predicted that this distillation would create a perfect ambrosia of experience and expression. Let me tell you how my girl Rachael Yamagata rolls. Grand piano, acoustic guitar and an acoustic guitar accompanist. Amazing. Simple perfection. I have upgraded my postulate to a hypothesis. More testing is required, obviously.

The lights go down and Rachael walks out to light applause. Clearly the audience wasn’t “in the know”. As the inevitable hush falls, she leans in to her mic and whispers “Hi, I’m Rachael Yamagata”. She laid down Elephants to open and it was wonderful in all the ways that matter. I shed a single tear of perfect contentment, and gave a hearty farewell handshake to the monkey, as he climbed off my back and austerely exited the theater. Missed opportunities, regret, but at last this unicorn was caught. I won’t bring you to tears with a play-by-play, but the show incorporated bits from Elephants and Happenstance and in that place with that arrangement…well. It was, perhaps, the perfect way to experience Rachael for the first time. I can only hope upon hope that she comes back again and again. Either that or I move to LA and live next to the Hotel Café in a box. It’s not so much a career path as a calling.

I am obligated at this time to recognize Joe’s certification as the World’s Most Brilliant Man for pulling out his iPhone and firing up Voice Recorder. We have a mostly-complete monaural version of this show. Joe provided me with the raw audio and I took it into Soundbooth CS4 and tried to make it sound less like it was recorded on an iPhone from the mezzanine of a theater. The iPhone is hardly a high-fidelity recording implement, but I did my best to reign it in and widen the sound. I cut a couple tracks out (complete with live ambiance like me laughing and seat noise and all that) so there wouldn’t be a 40 minute mp3 to play back, but in the grand tradition of “bootin'”, drop me a line if you want the whole thing. You will have the experience of sitting next to Joe and I, including speculation about how someone gets the giggle-fits and all sorts of other nonsense. I don’t think there are so many of you reading that will want a copy that I’ll find this an issue, but do feel free to prove me wrong with your vast, uncountable numbers. Hopefully the suits won’t find us.

I’ll leave it for another time or perhaps another author to cover the Swell Season. I think they’re pretty good, but I’m not enamored of them. However, insomuch as they brought Rachael Yamagata back to Arizona, I am forever in their debt.

What If I Leave – Rachael – Live at Mesa
Even So – Rachael – Live at Mesa