Ghost Wiring

Your ghost is a light show at night...The river is watching you, at the drive in tonight...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Soundtrack of Our Lives...2002: "I Idolize You"

I figured it would be interesting to try to track my growth as a person and a music fanatic over the past few years through song! The next few entries will contain a few songs (I do not have them all at this time...but I will add them as I aquire them) and maybe you’ll learn a little more about me and how I got to be the way I am… Enjoy!

1: Heavy Metal DrummerWilco ~ “Heavy Metal Drummer” was not the first Wilco song I ever heard…but it did come from an album that changed my life and the way I heard music. The first time I listened to it, when I was 14, HMD seemed to click with me from the very first moment I listened to it. The catchy beat and simplistic yet meaningful lyrics really seemed to speak to me. Not only did it immediately become my favorite Wilco song, but it soon became a little bit real (Actually…each year the song keeps re-inventing itself for me, so each entry will have a “Heavy Metal Drummer” segment.) I developed a huge crush on Wilco’s drummer: Glenn Kotche. I became the girl in the song, or at least, at age 15, I thought I was her.

2: Can’t Keep From Talking/Radio KingThe Golden Smog: 2002 was the year of the rock star for me. I began to idolize those in the bands I loved. I mean, this wasn’t anything new. From the time I was 5 I had idolized Tina Turner. “I know you don’t know me, but I know a lot about you/You’re the one who knows me better than I do,” sang the Golden Smog. Oh boy, were they right! I had come to identify with the lyrics and protagonists of the songs in a way that I never thought I could. And I thought that the musicians were actually these characters. “When I get back home, I’m gonna put your records on/I’ll play ‘em way too loud and I’ll sing along/I know all the words to every song/And I don’t really care tonight you sang one wrong.” Like all other diehard fans and wannabe fangirls, I thought I owned the songs, knew them better than the artists who wrote and performed them. “Your music fills my car and your voice breaks every time/I still wonder if I know who you are, I hang on every line.”

3: Big Brown EyesThe Old 97’s: About a month after I turned 15, I got bored at work and decided to join, the Wilco fansite/message board. The place was slow, with a group of original members who didn’t have all that much to talk about. I posted 24 times in my first day and that impressed a lot of people. My screen name? Tweedy’s Gurl. Some didn’t believe that I was who I said I was. What would a 15 year old girl be doing posting 24 times a day on a Wilco message board with people twice her age? But I managed to charm the administrative staff so much that they dedicated a line of t-shirts to me declaring “I believe in Tweedy’s Girl!” (a prophetic typo.) I guess you could say, in the words of the Old 97’s, that I “made a big impression for a girl of [my] size.” (This song would become relevant again later, not that it ever truly lost its relevance, in January of 2004, when Rhett Miller would sing it to me at a solo show because I hadn’t been able to go to the Old 97’s show the night before and because he would be told about me at said 97’s show by my boss.) My friend Theresa said, at this time that I was “Wise behind my ears”. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly that meant.

4: New MadridUncle Tupelo: The story behind this one is pretty simple. I was head over heels in a celebrity crush with rock stars in my eyes. Of course, I got over that within the year, but at the time, the song sounded so sweet and so perfect and so romantic. And there’s always the epic 50 page short story I wrote the next year based on the song called “Shake My Baby and Please Bring Her Back” which the world will never see. No more needs to be said about that song. On to the next song…

5: Sally SimpsonThe Who: “She knew from the start right down in her heart/That she and Tommy were worlds apart…” Within this year of idolization, I wished to become closer to those artists I adored so much. I was willing to do anything to meet my idols, just like Sally Simpson, no matter what the consequences. “Maybe he’d see that she was pretty and talk to her this Sunday.” I was the cute one, wasn’t I? I was young and made a big impression for a girl of my size and I was so sure that if I just had the chance to talk to Jeff or Rhett or Neko that they would adore me. People found this charming, cute, childish, and probably a bit too ambitious, but it was what was important to me at the time.

6: The Lonely 1 – Wilco: “I understand that I’m just a fan…” I used to listen to this one when I felt like I was all alone in the world, destined to have a glass wall between me and the people I admired. What a lonely life it is to base yourself around a personal connection you don’t actually have…I wanted to be Penny Lane…I started telling people I was a “Band-Aid” without any actual notion of when the term meant. But, it must be remembered that at the time, I was still very young.

Next entry: 2003...the year everything began to happen.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Summer tunes

Ok, it’s October. I guess that means that summer is officially over. Yes, I know, I’m in denial too. I still put on my flip flops and sun glasses in hope that I can make it last a little bit longer, maybe catch a few more rays of that wonderful sunshine before it disappears for another long winter.

I’ve noticed that the last few summers have been defined by one or two albums in particular. ( 2004: Rubber Soul (The Beatles), Underneath (Hanson), Break Every Rule (Tina Turner), 2003: Electric Version (The New Pornographers), 2002: Down By The Old Mainstream (The Golden Smog) ) This summer, however, I was blessed to have several defining albums brought to my attention. Three absolutely delightful and artfully recorded records accompanied me on the El to work, in the car on road trips, on the planes I took to visit my friends and family. These three were constantly in my CD player and I just couldn’t get enough of them.

The first was The Milk-Eyed Mender by the amazing young talent that is Joanna Newsom. Her romantically written lyrics, mystical harp playing and otherworldly voice really brought the songs together. For me, it started with seeing her at the Vic Theatre during WIRED magazine’s NextFest. They chose Jeff Tweedy to bring together a couple artists who he thought were the future of music and, wow, did he choose right. I see big things happening for Joanna Newsom. Yes, her voice is strange, grating at times, but if you can look past that to the stories that her words weave, you will be transported to another world, another time. There seems to be something very old about her sound, medieval almost. This album would take me out of the drudgery that was the summer office job. It would transform my train ride home into a magical journey. Also, there was something that made me feel like a rebel playing her songs on the computer at work because I knew my boss wouldn’t be all that fond of her sound. “Bridges & Balloons” and “Sprout & Bean” just seem to ooze sunshine and warmth, and everything that summer is about. The harpsichord lightens the sound of “Peach, Plum, Pear” and the overdubbing of her voice to create the illusion of a chorus makes it sound playful, almost childish. Her words are straightforward yet create images that dance through the head of the listener. Her voice can be loud and grating, silly almost, like in “Inflammatory Writ” or cooing, emotional and exposed like “Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie”.

The second album that was the soundtrack to my summer was Blue Notes by Paul Burch & The WPA Ballclub. There is a not a weak song on this album. The instrumental parts of the songs are well crafted and catchy. Burch’s voice melts on your ears and his words get you laughing and crying along with the characters in his songs. There are tales of lost love and women done wrong, like “Willpower” and “Tonight, Tonight.” Even songs that seem happy on the outside, like “Forever Yours” and “Head Over Heels”, still contain strains of Even songs that seem happy on the outside, like “Forever Yours” and “Head Over Heels”, still contain strains of obsession and inevitable heartbreak. The one truly positive song on the album is “How Do I Know?”, a traditional call and response song which contains lyrics from the traditional “Little Birdie”. Burch’s story-telling abilities are very strong and he can pull you in, making the listener empathize with the narrator. “Isolda”, arguably the most beautiful song on the album, tells the story of the girl that got away, the one that the narrator wants but doesn’t need and can’t have. Occasionally, his narrative style is very blunt and honest. “Long Distance Call”, which tells of a truck driver who is VERY eager to get home to his girlfriend/wife, is so straightforward in its description that it still makes me blush. This album went with me on the plane to Chattanooga, TN to visit my best friend, and it kept me motivated when I was packing to leave for college. Even still I listen to it to get myself to class faster. I can see Blue Notes being an ‘all-year’ record for me…since it has survived past the summer.

The final album that shaped my summer is Arabella by Laurie & John Stirratt. I have seen them perform four times, and each time I loved the songs. It was surprising that I hadn’t gotten the album before my birthday this June, considering that I was at the record release party last November. As soon as I put it in my CD player, I began dancing around the room. I was trying on new skirts that I had gotten that day, the kind that flared out and had flounce to them. They fit the music perfectly, and I danced around my room. The Stirratts had been working on this album for a while, and it was exciting that it was finally released. It’s a really classy collection of songs. They are mostly tales of reflection on the self, events that happen in one’s life and life changes and growing up (whatever your definition of that may be.) John’s voice is reminiscent of Neil Young at times and the harmonies between the two siblings are very pure yet imperfect and vulnerable. The sound is very smooth and folkie and easy on the ears. The imagery of the songs is beautiful in those such as “Canadian Noon”, “Golden Fence” and “Mistral”. Occasionally, they rock out a little bit, such as in “We’ll Meet Again” (which is, perhaps, my favorite song by them.) I accidentally left this disc in my boombox when I went to Tennessee and it was the one record I wanted to bring with me. It was the one that would calm me on my first flight in 6 years, my first flight by myself. I can tell you, though, when I got back, I didn’t leave it behind anywhere. The warm sound of these songs and the golden color of the music seems to carry over into the fall. Last November when I saw Laurie & John with a full band, it snowed, but the club they played in was very warm, and we couldn’t possibly have imagined the cold Chicago winter outside.