from It's a Wonderful Life
It's a Wonderful Life was Mark Linkous' (Linkous's, Linkou's, Linkoususes...) first substance-free album after being pronounced medically dead for three minutes after a bad reaction. It's sprinkled throughout with collaborations and is a bit more bare-boned than his other albums, not tinged in the sprawling psychedelic colors of its predecessor Good Morning Spider (and I have to be honest, I prefer It's a Wonderful Life, but mostly for sentimental reasons,) it offers, I think, a series of more sharply focused images, or at least, more sharply focused than we're used to seeing from Mark. You don't see this set of songs through the almost impenetrable static and metaphor of his previous works, but like reflections in a mirror. The emotions are, I think, closer to the surface, but they still have to be deciphered.
I love Piano Fire. It's propulsive. With PJ Harvey pulling guest vocals, and Linkous's lyrics and his own vocals pushing her...
how do you feel? / how do you feel? / I can't seem to see through solid marble eyes // fiery pianos wash up on a foggy coast / squeaky old organs have given up the ghost / fire them up and kill the pianos / there's creaky old organs burning on the coast
I like the static, I like the snares, the hush flush rush of the music feels like surf, like walking through the sandy swirls of low waves, leaving you wanting to drag your feet a bit, the way the vocals drag almost in opposition of each other, but in the same step, not so much riffing, but adding tension.... You still hear all the crashing and sift through it for the salt, the whole song washed in waves. The lyrical refrence to the ocean fits the music SO well. I love this song.
from Things We Lost In The Fire
I wanted to find another song that gives the same sense of it being covered in a wash of something, or drowned in it... And it's got some good contrasting vocals in it as well, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker are actually married. The bass beats are great, they feel like dinosaur stomps to me, big loomy echoes stomping all over it - which is why I like the title of the song. I love this album by Low, it's one I go back to over and over... someday I will do a decent review of it, but for now - there's the song.
You and your daughter / and your father / flew airplanes // You and your sister / can tell by the back of her hands // It was a dinosaur act / dinosaur act // After expenses / and pulling up fences / no more airplanes // And putting your foot down / a nail shot up like a bright red snowflake // Just like a dinosaur act / dinosaur act
Thirty Rock really took a nosedive in quality, halfway through season 4, like they replaced their whole writing room with hacks who then resorted to crude formulas for emulating character behavior and plot lines. I think it hit its nadir with the dentist-anaesthesia episode. Wait, that wasn't even just one episode - it was an arc. An arc! I almost gave up. But I just watched the Floyd episode and it seems like it's starting to get back into form. Whew.
For Emma, Forever Ago
2007 self-release / 2008 release by Jagjaguwar
I discovered this album in early 2008 when I was nannying in Stamford, Connecticut. It's not really a stretch to say it got me through that entire year.
Bon Iver - a play on the French "bon hiver" for "good winter" - is actually just Justin Vernon, formerly of DeYarmond Edison. When the band moved to North Carolina and broke up, Justin moved back to Wisconsin and holed himself up in a family cabin for four months, with recording the last of his intentions. He did what I think every artistic temperament would like to do after an exhausting creative "failure"... turn into a hermit and disappear. Recuperate in the snow, put the world on freeze until you're ready to resume.
Turns out when you're alone in a cabin and it's too cold to go outside, and you have rudimentary recording equipment just lying around, you can make a pretty incredible album, regardless of your original intentions.
One of the things I love about this, is that he recorded the music first, and then went back, listening to the melodies and inserting lyrics where he felt they fit best. To me, the words are just another instrument. There are parts where you can't really tell what he's saying, but you don't need to, the mood carries across regardless. It's got some brilliant lyrics, poetic, powerful images. Well, powerful in their loneliness, if that is power. They stick with you, especially once you figure out what he's saying...
"Sold my cold knot / A heavy stone / Sold my red horse for a venture home /To vanish on the bow -- / Settling slow // Fit it all, fit it in the doldrums / (Or so the story goes)"
It's all Vernon, all the instruments, everything. It wasn't re-recorded in studio when he reintegrated into society, (even though at times it does sound a bit too "produced" but that's just me nitpicking a folk element that's not acoustic, nor do I want it to be.) He had his brother haul up an old drum set for him, already equipped at the cabin with a Shure SM57 and an old Silvertone guitar. He says he made his own "instruments" out of stuff around the cabin for whatever else he needed. Here I picture the obligatory saw, washboard, sheet metal, moonshine jug, etc. But that's just me being romantic.
"I crouch like a crow / Contrasting the snow / For the agony, I'd rather know / 'Cause blinded I am blindsided // Peek in... into the peer in / I'm not really like this... I'm probably plightless // I cup the window / I'm crippled and slow / For the agony / I'd rather know / 'Cause blinded I am blindsided // Would you really rush out for me now? // Taught line... down to the shoreline / The end of a blood line... the moon is a cold light // There's a pull to the flow / My feet melt the snow / For the irony, i'd rather know / 'Cause blinded I was blindsided"
It's mood music, really. But it's good mood music. It's stuff I wish I'd written. I think it's gorgeous, but then, this kind of music is my thang. And I can be sucker for the soft stuff.
Besides, a lonely guy in a cabin? If you have to do it, you might as well do a Thoreau job of it.
"I was teased by your blouse / Spit out by your mouth / I was lulled by your low / Seminary song // Tear on tear on / Take all on the wind on / Soft bloody nose / Send another form // So many territories / Ready to reform / Don't let it form us / Don't let it form us / A creature fear"