Friday, March 27, 2009

3:AM Magazine Posts My Review of Andrew Bird’s Noble Beast

3:AM Magazine posts my review of Andrew Bird’s Noble Beast (Unfortunately, they changed my title from “An Uncalculated Blow to the Heart” to “Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad”). You may find it HERE.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Life’s Currents Pulling Her Down, or Tomorrow and Tomorrow and So Forth and So On:
Heartless Bastards’ The Mountain

Patti Smith rang in her ears as she climbed up the misty mountain. She could barely hear winter’s leftover birds. She was running, running away. If I could just quit tomorrow and tomorrow and so forth and so on, she thought, I could be so happy. Running over the hills. Out to the sweet hereafter and unknown. Sweet dreams. Concrete, tar, metal, and glass. She left it all. All that noise knocking in her eardrums like some bonehead drummer. The other night she woke up screaming, “I hate this fucking place!” She had had enough. So she ran. Can’t stand still, she thought. I’ll make the midnight train. My mind is a running faucet. We don’t have to agree. We don’t have to agree.

She had dug herself so deep, deep into a hole. Covered in bramble and mud, a bog woman. Leaves in her ears, twigs in her nostrils, soil dropping from her lips. Three chords and the truth. She said it over and over like a mantra. Three chords and the truth. She learned that from Dylan. Hold your head up you silly girl. She learned that from the Beatles. Another rip, another tear. She learned that from P.J. Harvey.

By sunset, she made it to the mountaintop. She saw the sea from there, the ships and sailors. She imagined herself on a ship, a tornado hitting it, and she falling overboard. A whirlpool pulled her under. Sinking, sinking. Hold your head up, she thought. It was cold, cold as the deep, deep sea. She shivered more from the wind blowing on the mountaintop than that cold feeling of drowning. She crossed her arms over her chest and rubbed herself.

The sun fell below the horizon. It glared at her as if to accuse her of some sin. But she wasn’t going to change her mind. She was on her own. Lost and numb. Lost from fear and numb from doubt. She had packed her things, but left them there when she left. Lightning struck her heart when they had fought. Her head rained. Her soul flooded over. She had cried out for peace. But got nothing instead. How come loss is so easy to hold onto?

Sap stuck in her throat, she had watched everything come down, crumble—all fire and smoke. Unwise choices. But along with everything else, her shell cracked. Got to take it all down on the line. Cold winds blow. Take it on down the line. It was the same old song. It was cold on the mountain. She waited there and watched the ocean, waited and waited for warm winds to blow on her face. She would wait for spring, for flowers, for birds playing tag, for music to play on the street, for kids’ silver laughter.

She moaned. She moaned at the moon. She was tired of soul searching, searching all the time, wondering where to go. All those echoes. Waves and waves and waves. She had left everything behind and had to go back, back to pick up the pieces, and to let them all go again.

It took hours to climb back down from the mountain.

With the peaks at her back, she wondered why the further away you got from a mountain the bluer it got.

Label: Fat Possum
Release Date: February 3, 2009

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Porch Swing Reveries:
Ben Kweller’s Changing Horses

The world was sucking him through a straw. Sweat trickled down his forehead as he looked at her postcard. Two glassy-eyed deer, light pouring through the arms of an army of elms, snow-capped mountains above it all like stone-faced gods. He had never seen snow. He thought about her, her body swelling beneath her hyacinth-blue dress, how the sun painted gold on her face, the way her lips trembled when she said goodbye. He’d been drinking an hour now, pining for her, and was slowly losing his faith. He felt like singing, so he stood up—the porch swing sounding like startled mice—and grabbed his beat up guitar.

He played a sad song, “Gypsy Rose”. He had the blues after all. He sang about her milky legs wrapped around his body. He never had any friends, no family to speak of, but always found salvation in the warmth of her skin. He sang another one, “Old Hat,” and imagined holding her tight, slowdancing in their living room, and, whispering in her ear, admits to talking too much, and that he’d be her glove, her scarf, the cross around her neck, but not an old hat covering her pretty head.

His reedy voice was a plaintive thing. He always wanted to sound like Hank Williams but always ended up sounding like a boy. Even as he sang about being helpless, he sounded like he’d already begun to bounce back. But the ache was real. He was an eggshell about to crack. He missed Wendy Baker. He sang about how he was the one who liked change, but felt taken by surprise. He wanted to rewind the things he said that made it rain inside her eyes. All he wanted to do was to keep her body warm.

Gathering the pieces of his heart again, he sang “The Things I Like to Do.” It was one of her favorite songs. He liked staring up at starry skies, counting every glittery pinprick, and down at the blue ocean, especially from the lighthouse where they first kissed. He liked it when they touched each other, the heat on the fingertips like when you twist in a light bulb and the light first flickers on. He liked walking down little streets like the ones in Paris when they were pretending to be poets. He liked listening to music on the bus. Anything from the classic Grand Ole Opry days. Hank Williams Sr., Lefty Frizzell, Roy Acuff. Gram Parsons and Neil Young. Dylan, of course. He liked talking in the diner instead of screaming in a bar. He never liked anything loud. But most of all he liked liking her.

He wanted to feel her breathing against his shoulder as they danced. He wanted to hear the whirring motor of her snoring as they lay in bed. He wanted to see her eyes light up as he made chocolate-chip pancakes for her. He even missed the cat. Wiping the tears from his face, he rested the guitar on his lap and watched the sun smear down the sky like an egg yolk.

Label: ATO Records
Release Date: February 3, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Tear in Conor Oberst’s Beer?

Conor Oberst’s first solo effort in some thirteen years, titled Conor Oberst oddly enough (I think he should’ve gone all out and added “Mullen,” his middle name), is a stripped-down version of Bright Eyes, his blistering traveling punk hootenanny. Gone are the pillowy orchestrations, meandering French horn solos, sprawling arrangements, and guest background vocals by such sparkling lights as M. Ward and Emmylou Harris. Replacing all that are twelve songs where Oberst’s acerbic thumbnosing, his plaintive love songs, and drunken phantasmagorias take center-stage without all the lacy doilies. Oh yeah—we must not forget the farting conch shell.

In “Souled Out!!!” our wandering troubadour travels to the barrio where “all you need’s an electric razor, a magic bullet and a grassy knoll,” where “the whole world’s just a little oyster to Snow White and the Poisoned Apples.” “Cape Canaveral” is populated by petty thieves, smoking migrants, and it’s the place where our hero learns that “victory’s sweet even deep in the cheap seats.” Here we find Oberst in full-flight after all his lessons with those moonshine-soused Flying Burrito Brothers. “Sausalito” is a bone dry “drive through the desert after night fall” where “bikers glide by highway shrines” and “pilgrims disappear.” The sad-eyed lover pleads with his woman to live with him on a house boat in Sausalito where they’ll be rocked to sleep by the ocean, and where they can “in the morning with the sunrise, look in the water, see the blue sky, as if heaven has been laid there at our feet.” A Conor Oberst recording is incomplete without a song where his languid warble unravels, where he whips his vocal cords, where he finally and cathartically breaks out into hysterics. And, in “I Don’t Want to Die (In the Hospital), he delivers, providing that glorious moment where we finally find him falling apart. And fess up, you know want him to.

Label: Merge Records
Release date: Aug 5, 2008