Ghost Wiring

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

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.

4 Comments:

  • At 10/24/2005 7:51 AM, Blogger Sarah said…

    i love that Laurie and John album, it's so light, but lush at the same time... :o)

    that song "Long Distance Call" is awesomely funny and kinda one of thoes things that makes you go "eugh" but in a good way... or at least that's what I got out of the bit I heard over the phone...

     
  • At 10/26/2005 12:09 AM, Blogger Miss Lucky said…

    Blue Notes has been the soundtrack to my life for the last coupla years. I never EVER tire of Paul Burch. Beautiful stuff!

     
  • At 10/27/2005 9:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey Miss Lucky....nice music list..you really know your stuff...

    Paul Burch is a major unknown talent who never has gotten nearly enough exposure. What ever happened to his album with the Waco Brothers anyway?

     
  • At 10/27/2005 10:58 AM, Blogger Cherry Ghost said…

    new album with the wacos coming out around the end of the year! i'm hoping for a super awesome totally kick ass record release party.

    i believe it will be out on bloodshot. i mean, why wouldn't it be?

     

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