Free Your Mind, Today!

September 20, 2011

Katie Herzig’s freshest album, “The Waking Sleep,” hit the stores today with its official release. Herzig celebrated yesterday evening with a launch party at Mercury Lounge in Manhattan.

The album comes with a lovely booklet filled in with photographs that are just my style – quotidian, simple, and elegant all at the same time. The dedication is also my speed, with lots of thanks in every direction. Ms. Herzig credits her mom as a lyric-lover for our ability as listeners to make out most of the words, which I find adorable. I do have one question, though. Where are the other Ten out of Tennessee folks (ToT’ers) in the dedication? If they’re such a close-knit, world-changing music collective, why aren’t more of them mentioned? I’m stumped.

What I’ve found so remarkable about this album is Herzig’s uncanny ability to remind me of all sorts of artists and specific songs, and the sum of the parts is a strikingly unlikely combination.

“Free My Mind,” the first single off “The Waking Sleep”

“Free Your Mind” – This track, the first song of hers I heard her play at the HighLine Ballroom with the ToT gang last Saturday night, reminds me of The National lyric, “My mind’s not right…” from “Abel,” her voice reminds me of Allie Moss, and the orchestration toward the end reminds me of a Trent Dabbs’s tune I can’t place, perhaps “Wishful Thinking”…

“Make a Noise” – Well, this one’s simple — it flat-out sold me on the album.

“Way to the Future” – This track is surprisingly Austra-esque. Some hella good production. Danceathon!

“Best Day of Your Life” – “I’m gonna race you to the fence, to the fence. I’m gonna race you to the fence.” Now if these “race you’s” don’t remind you of Elizabeth & the Catapult’s “Race You,” I dont know how any of this is going to remind you of anything.

“Wasting Time” – “It’s easier wasting time than breaking hearts you love.” Also, “Fate is just math, choosing sides.” With her soft, high voice, she delivers these straight-to-the-point aphorisms, encapsulating the heart of problems we’ve all had to deal with. Her voice here also reminds me of some songstress I can’t recall.

“Midnight Serenade” – This one’s peculiar — the reminder is almost Blonde Redhead, but also Sarah Slean at certain moments, and definitely Marketa Irglóva on “I Have Loved You Wrong.” I always notice, “There’s a world between these words and how we use them.”

“Oh My Darlin'” – Here with the crisp voice, or at least crisp pronunciation, she turns into Rosi Golan twin. Additionally, she waxes Rosi Golan -esque in style, too. Then, there’s the classic standards style — the build in the overarching “Doo Doo Doo’s” made me think of perennial children’s songs). In fact, the “Doo doo doo’s” are pretty much identical to Manu Chau’s “Minha Galera,” and the “Oh my darlin’, oh my dear, the times is hard, but…” bit just reminds me of the vaudeville part of The Newsies. It all definitely makes you want to “go back to the younger days.”

“Closest I Get” – … More Marketa…

“Waking Sleep” – This track’s got noisier, more distracting background instrumentation. Still Marketa…

“Lost and Found” – This little baby’s strong suit is great instrumentals, which feature the Ten Out of Tenn band/crowd took advantage of as part of the closer at the H. B.. What a catchy, amped up, emotional, cathartic… well… experience. “Oh, I’m afraid of the world I’m in.” That part always gets me.

“Daisies and Pews” – This bonus-y track/finish to the album completes the downward arc of the resolution to “Lost and Found.” It’s a gentle calm with soothing humming, distant. And then Katie’s voice breaks the far-away with the quite close. Apparently, as the title indicates, this final track is much more directly Christian, a modern Benediction of sorts, and why not when you’re already on the Nashville scene, or uh, map, or what-have-you? It seems Ms. Herzig took some cues from Ms. Amy Stroup, who it seems started out on the Christian side of the Nashville music-verse. Ms. Herzig here has woven some similar underlying beliefs into her current songwriting. Then again, aside from the pews and perhaps the line, “making sense of all the good news,” one can’t entirely tell that the wording is specifically Christian. After all, the strong refrain, “fire in my soul,” is subtle enough that you could add your own interpretations, as all the Abrahamic faiths have similar imagery and language. I think the neatest part of this track is the use (apparently) of chimes.

The fact that Ms. Herzig’s voice is reminiscent of so many contemporary artists is actually very much to her credit. This quality puts her at the head of the pack in terms of versatility and makes the album an exciting adventure among the various artists recalled in all the different catches of her voice from track to track. For fans of hearty folk, from Rosi Golan to The Swell Season, this little gem is worth tracking down. And in Katie’s own words,  “[Don’t just stream the songs.] Support the artist.”

The production and instrumentals are fantastic, as well, and in the end, there are no better words to capture the essence of the album than upbeat, inspiring, and catchy, definitely catchy. I woke up the morning after hearing “Free My Mind” both live and on CD with the chorus zinging about in my head, and I’ve gotten other parts of her songs stuck in my head the last few days, too!

The Actual Summer Cool-Down

September 20, 2011

Well, there’s nothing like skinny women brushing down the streets with their trailing dusters and rain, rain, and more rain to signal that summer has come to a close and that chilly, grey days are here to stay. And the Autumnal Equinox officially arrives this Friday. Bah. Time to get in a couple more sun salutations before it really isn’t “’tis the season” anymore.

So… summer is fading, yes. In its place, we fill our hearts with the warmth of creative energy. Here are some items and projects I’m really digging while I go about my days in denial of this dreaded seasonal transition.

1. Keith Haring-inspired designs

Whole Foods is selling purses or at least lunch bags with prints of Keith Haring’s squiggle people in  simple red and black color choices. But I’ve been thinking back to some chairs I saw years ago in Barcelona, modular furniture in fact, that also featured blown-up prints of Haring’s designs. A mere search of the internet oracle doesn’t turn up the designs stored in my memory, but Keith Haring chairs of other varieties are definitely a reality.

2. Rethink NYC

Rethink NY(C)

I came across this poster on the subway, and I really like its clever subversion of the rampant urbanism (of the concrete variety) of New York City with the use of borrowed imagery — the manicured lushness of Central Park, were it able to skip its bounds or jump its banks (pick your metaphor).

3. Sara K. Rubin Ceramics

I’ve been thinking a lot about S.K.R. and her pottery because of a designer (to be discussed in a later post) that I see at work all the time now, whose creations remind me of Sara’s gorgeous wall hangings.

And the best for last!

4. Scarfy!

Video by angela+ithyle

Designlovefests’s Bri Emery told me there were no rules so I got much more excited about my underloved scarf collection. Et tu?

Summer Cool Down

July 27, 2011

…Or Cool Up as the case may be. Even cool off. Cool on? Like “Rock On!” but for summer?

1.      Design Taxi shared something super-cool today, as always. Simplistic graphic takes on the celebrities of the fairytale world:

Designer Christian Jackson…

…of Square Inch Design has given me some hardcore image delight this afternoon.

Et tu?

2.      My favorite folk darling, Rosi Golan, has been hard at work wrapping up soon-to-drop album, Lead Balloon, and collaborating with some knock-out teams (The Wild Honey Pie, The Voice Project) on creating cinematic treats to accompany some of the tracks. See, see?

"Flicker" - Rosi Golan

I love the overall effects of bokeh, blurriness, oversaturation, and overexposure. The amateur photographic elements closest to my heart! Ha! I’m just not sure what she’s doing hanging out with that gigantic dust bunny. Kidding! What’s more, not only are teal pastel streamers the cutest thing ever, but I like the use of the colorful umbrellas hung up in the trees and swaying in the wind. Why? Because when I trekked into the city to see her play Rockwood in March, it was the most disgusting, sopping wet with puddles galore… kind of day. I believe she played both the tunes being released in video form that night. And she certainly joked about that awful rain! Okay, fine…

…I’ll admit I’m a sucker for umbrella art anyway, but try to forget that and just watch the simple, seated, serene session! Love, love, love!

3.      Bri Emery of DesignLoveFest tweet/blogged about her pal, Skye Whitley, and her jaw-drop-gorgeous necklace designs made with found animal bone. Check it!

White-Tailed Deer Jawbone Necklace ("Evelyn")

4.      Have you listened to Austra yet? Officially banded together sometime in 2010, they’re already knocking socks off in every direction (much like the Pied Piper design above, come to think of it!). Lead singer Katie Stelmanis brings with her a decade’s worth of sharpening her teeth on the ol’ performing bone, so sayeth Last.FM, at least. Hype Machine, in typical fashion, has a lovely repository of their tracks and some delicious remixes, too. I’d say “Lose It” is a good place to start, but  “Beat and the Pulse” is also hella dance-worthy. Actually, that’s kind of a silly thing to say – they’re a dance-hit machine! I’m just dying over here! Can’t get enough, no way. AUSTRA!

…COOL ON!

Elevator Poem

May 11, 2011

I’ve been busy travel-planning, packing, and traveling “by land, by boat, by dirigible” (“Sons and Daughters,” The Decemberists) … Well, fine! Taxi, plane, bus, moving walkway, plane, moving walkway, shuttle/train/subway, and car (for a whopping thirteen hours!), to be accurate. I’m hoping to write up something this week about composing good travel mixes and being a good roadtrip DJ — we’ll see how fast I can churn that out. In the meantime, some travel-themed poetics I composed in a jiffy while stressing out over the countdown to my first plane’s boarding time. And you thought we were all done with poetry! And so, with no further ado:

Door Door Open Close

Insert Fire

Run Stop Emerge Stop

I.

__

The ideal candidate: vigorous

easily connects with others;

Prefer stubbornly offers.

Please send resume, cover letter, and salary requirement to

 __

Dear

Kate,

 __

what if I find a stupid one, a lunatic bitterness that pleasantly

I presently found, what a kind one, your invitation and what a stupid one

am I, having just now found your envelope, pleasurable archival

I cannot make it to your lavish

 __

II.

 __

Dear William,

sweet, what a kiss

yes, I’m a confident panic,

without the pomp

brocade, bluish and blush, I’m a grocery store fire

through the night awake, aware, whimpering, alarmed with waiting

glass, glossy, fogged up or, worse, opaque,

me, the fragile circumstance on the eve of an electric engagement

public, through which they all saw, fooled about lying

and ceremony in the manner of the procession

to honor and to keep at bay

fooled about liking me

in the quake of the proceedings, the golden spectacle,

I prefer vigorous

dead stones, lifeless taffeta, crisp curls deflated, limp lace

like a backwards someone

impinging

God I can’t stop talk

so this will have to do—

moon and, honey, the crowning to the sumptuous

our postprandial travel panning out in sips,

tip by angled tip, the brine, twinge, and prick of the nuptials,

God I can’t stop, think—

your habit of smiling out at strangers

what if I

thinking you’re the habit of sitting, doused in vacant expression, inside

stalled cars, stalked idly,

end up dead, with dead diamonds and a pork chop in my ear,

will be more profit,

I mean will be more proud if I

already know, but far be it from me to tell you things

can profit on a cool evening in Northern

the tulips were falling out over their

fur and leather wedding gowns’

seams

I would

prefer difficult no’s, stubbornly offers

a lunatic future, riches, treasure, yes I’d love one,

some. but why be sneaky,

nice knowing you. glad we love so much we lost,

could love so much we shot them down.

I wonder when it’ll air or tear, the hail and gusts come walloping down

so much northwesterly warmth and so much green outside the Narthex

the tulips falling wide, talking idly amongst themselves,

fondly I remember first the offer

fondly I remember first hearing from

too bitter for me

and hence more detrimental

what if I find a nun? or a younger man?

whether I’ll err, what if I?

why are you wrong? this song is not at all over

or else gone to code

why are you merry? this is not yet sung

I shall be one,

so easily connects to others

I shall be

so in the future

connect the other way

the cry of the nautilus shell,

Gods, and pegs I think too big

I think I’m a virtual place to revise

more possible long-range

I need to burn

the world needs to learn to be more

fondly I first remember hearing from

I don’t know when these things heir

this absurd policy, how much?

a bunch, went well with

the longer term

I’m just curious

I’ve been a held note so long

I think I’m a

boiled away

I’m scared, seems I would

so long

nice knowing you some

 __

III.

__

Dear Kate, I regret to inform you

your application, though kind and brutally charming,

cannot be accepted

at this time

 __

IV.

__

Brain abuzz,

entirely overwrought,

hard work is overrated

overdone, overworked, I was once…

 __

Kate, I must decline your kind invitation

you, an old friend who’s made me very, very sad

to the royal banquet

and friendship is hard, Fran

 __

Hesperion cadges

the castanets in un chanson amist the casa

de locos oranges and greens deranged

doing dishonor

 __

I think my spleen is coming undone

my seams are ripping apart

each foot drop pounds

a million  __    __    __

 __

ashes into the turf, aerated

oils celebrity addiction,

swigs of disordered destinies

chugged afast, abrupt

 __

dripping sweat from the tripod, robotic legs

branching, forked tongues latch

onto one another, clasp the meaning of trust, grasping

a fine but grandly misguided love

 __

the pattern will emerge,

so hopes your falt’ring seam,

and what can you do,

what is left to do

 __

Grille your ideas

Business your taste

School your desires

Fashion your instinct,

 __

end up

penniless, groveling for mercy

to the Merchants of Miracles in the purple square,

tantalizingly alone

 __

Being dinosaur,

Hesperion, to Saint Andrew and George,

brain abuzz, entirely overwrought,

“I think your spleen is coming undone.”

 __

dripping sweat from robotic legs,

branding one another in fire, misguided love,

grandly loping up

clasp one to the other

 __

School your desires,

dishonored dinosaur,

pauperized,

and what could you have done?

What Wedding?

April 28, 2011

Well, I was going to post some of my notes from the process of writing that cento for the National Poetry Month Cento (NaPoMoCento) contest, but that’s the magic of a week’s wait–I no longer feel compelled by the dangling strands of verse congealed on the page. One of my most influential writing teachers always extolled us students that the writing process for any given project is never truly over. Revision is a sticky, messy, frustrating, interminable, thankless, but ultimately rewarding and insightful journey. Which explains why even some of the lines retained in any given poem can still make a writer recoil in horror. Oh well?

Before wrapping up this second meta post in one night, I just want to explain that the following creation is in no way meant to deride the significance or romantic beauty of the occasion marking these twenty-four hours with its history and fame and extremely pinpointed focus on celebrity and spectacle. But I felt it would be too grotesque to take in all these disparate and often bizarre details of Britain’s Royal Wedding and not create something from all the information overload. You know, at least redeem myself in some way for all my shared stake in fawning over modern icons, celebrities, and royalty hold-outs in the twenty-first century? Otherwise, the pointlessness of being so invested in strangers’ lives (made less strange and more known, relate-able, examined than even possibly my own life, thanks to relentless media and all its glaring lights and shrill, droning commentary) would be pretty much unforgivable. Consider this a debate opened!

So, to reiterate, this poem is a bit drafty. If ever there is a legitimately published version (or multiple spawned published versions), it will most likely not look like this one. In any case, I’d like to share my imaginative examination of the mythologies (in both meanings, as larger-than-life, exploded truths and perverted falsities) of the Kate & Will story–some say fairy-tale, but last I checked, Kate didn’t seem to be sprouting wings or giving the impression of struggling to keep said fluttering wings flat against her back. It seems that the work would be more meaningful in its proper context than removed from it by a year or more. Curious to hear your thoughts!

I mean…WAIT!

Wedding? What wedding?

I.

 

You have lived and lived on, lived on every kind of shortage


It’s more of an artists’ colony than a hospital

in our hearts, learn to petrify it so,

all is from wreck, here, there, to rescue one—

How fibrous and incidental it seems, inside the skull!

___

Old brain inside the new brain, New brain inside the old; skull the skull.

I had children of my own

—a dog’s skull

is slightly thicker than our own.

___

For six months, in a carousel-sweet dress,

I arranged the day she was born; the Duchess’s baby

For six months, I arranged

the day she was born in a Carousel-sweet dress the Duchess’s baby

___

Sad beds wide enough

made by the passage of parents—

just jars of buttons spilled, recurring.

It was not really necessary to eat the food; one could breathe.

 

What he needed from me, I have no idea.

___

II.

___

The trick is to make it personal:

We’ll kiss each kiss, each other on kiss the kiss

Oh plunge me deep in love—put out

something offensive: a revolver,

___

III.

___

The chill of closed eyelids. To open

open your tiny beak-mouth, That looks as if

it would never open.

The nearer she got, the bigger she looked, obscenely neck-like,

until my eye nearly failed, sleep-fallen.

Naked in your dark hair, unveil the mannequin’s

legs in glee. This is not

choking, okay mocha? ebony, ebony?

___

IV.

___

Sewing up the kinks in this film, I’m

the whole cathedral crash at your back

[                                                  ]

___

V.

___

in the glaring white gap

glitches, gully pulley pitches, the reflected gleams

glisten’d with wet

___

The pilot alone knows Now,

Now I am safe in the deep V of a weekday

and a refrigerator, wrapped in duct-tape lying

Someone stands and weeps in the Glass—

___

Only the steps into the frontier where it is easy to hide,

Appear to the Americans upon the cloudy night.

Myself conjectured were they Pearls—

with only the fakebook of Beauty for feeling,

___

My own bags were full of strong Poison with tiny shards,

shards of Silence, because the continent, americans,

was on the porch, each one a treaty, a frontier,

Then the terrible

___

terrible thing happened: I stand clothed in trees (not the magnolias)

their limbs gone missing their gloves,

too liminal the wild, protected, while all the—we slept

So we shot for thirty and ended up with twelve song-poems. That’s so much better than nothing. Next year, next year! Meliora! That’s the key — “always better.” Improvement may very well come in fits and starts, but when it eventually shows up, gosh is it invigorating!

Poetry month is coming to a close, but before the door shuts, at least officially, I’ve got some creations of my own to share, mostly in somewhat gestational stages but nonetheless relevant. I need to challenge myself to share my work, and this is one of those times I’ll be using the expanded purview of this blog to explore culture in general. Perhaps one day another blog I set up a long time ago to address culture wholly will find its wings. But I also don’t think it’s particularly healthy to either 1) spend so much of my lifetime online or 2) attempt to run so many gosh-darned blogs.

La!

Warm Weather

April 11, 2011

A word-sparse post for you today, whoever you may be, from contemporary folk legend, Iron & Wine. To make everything okay, let’s just say we’re functioning on Mountain, Pacific, or Hawaii time for the purposes of feeling less bad about posting at 1:20 Eastern time. And remember, it might feel like summer outside, but death comes knocking any time Death pleases. But that’s a cause for letting go and living each moment fantastically, rather than cowering in a corner, teeth clacking, all lit up with fear (though I admit I am guilty of the latter far more than the former; in other words, don’t get too down on yourself if you also struggle to pull off that stunt of living thoroughly, day in and day out). Cheers!

 

Naked As We Came

She says, “Wake up, it’s no use pretending.”
I’ll keep stealing, breathing her.
Birds are leaving over autumn’s ending.
One of us will die inside these arms,
Eyes wide open, naked as we came;
One will spread our ashes ’round the yard.

She says, “If I leave before you, darling,
Don’t you waste me in the ground.”
I lay smiling, like our sleeping children.
One of us will die inside these arms,
Eyes wide open, naked as we came;
One will spread our ashes ’round the yard.


9, 10… Take Up My Pen

April 10, 2011

For tonight’s special, we have another double-feature (since yesterday was an off-day).

These songs share related themes, but that is incidental, folks. I wanted to share these achievements (of literary, lyrical, vocal, and instrumental natures) with you this month, regardless of which other song-poems they ended up contrasting with, or, in this case, being paired with. But since they do share overlapping themes, that makes writing about them that much easier. Yay me.

Those themes are pretty straight-forward, from their titles on. We’re dealing with that perennial tug of war, here. Love. (It just ain’t so simple as it used to be.) With passion, comes the ensuing waves of questioned affections, strained interactions, entrapment (not in the legal sense, but clearly in the sense of feeling obliged to stick around in a relationship in ruins), separation, rending, letting go, walking away, and (eventually) finding healing for all parties involved. Yeah, yeah, we’ve been over this before. These are the most explored themes across cultural forms, no doubt. And this makes sense, in proportion to the huge, gaping holes loss leaves behind. Sometimes they are overdone, but as often as not, artists find new inroads from which to explore a piece of the most intense and intricate puzzle there is (or so it seems) — human emotion.

These particular song-poems are imbued with both subtle and explicit angles on the sublime. Sarah McLachlan reaches lightly toward divine wisdom — “Through this world I’ve stumbled,/ So many times betrayed,/ Trying to find an honest word,/ To find the truth enslaved” — while The Swell Season’s Markéta Irglová pecks gently at fresh wounds (that is, to those not in-the-know, Strict Joy grew amazingly gracefully out of the romantic break-up of the band’s front man and woman) in overtly religious language — “Forgive me, lover, for I have sinned,/ For I have loved you wrong.”

Ultimately, journalistic language fails to uphold the sanctity of the verses and their musical treatment. All my words sound profane in the face of these artistic monuments. Listen for yourself.

 

Possession

Listen as the wind blows
From across the great divide–
Voices trapped in yearning,
Memories trapped in time.
The night is my companion
And solitude, my guide.
Would I spend forever here
And not be satisfied?

And I would be the one
To hold you down,
Kiss you so hard,
I’ll take your breath away,
And after I’d wipe away the tears,
Just close your eyes, dear.

Through this world I’ve stumbled,
So many times betrayed,
Trying to find an honest word,
To find the truth enslaved.
Oh, you speak to me in riddles,
And you speak to me in rhymes.
My body aches to breathe your breath;
You words keep me alive.

And I would be the one
To hold you down,
Kiss you so hard,
I’ll take your breath away,
And after, I’d wipe away the tears;
Just close your eyes, dear.

Into this night I wander;
It’s morning that I dread.
Another day of knowing,
Of the path I fear to tread.
Oh, and into the sea of waking dreams,
I follow without pride,
‘Cause nothing stands between us here,
And I won’t be denied.

And I would be the one
To hold you down,
Kiss you so hard,
I’ll take your breath away.
And after, I’d wipe away the tears.
Just close your eyes, dear.

I’ll hold you down,
Kiss you so hard,
I’ll take your breath away,
And after, I’d wipe away the tears.
Just close your eyes.

I Have Loved You Wrong

Forgive me, lover, for I have sinned,
For I have done you wrong.
For I have hurt beyond repair,
And when tears occurred, no, I didn’t care.
Forgive me, lover, for I have sinned,
For I have loved you wrong.

But this estranged organ in my chest
Still beats for you; It will not rest
So meet me in our secret place,
When the time has come.

And rest your head in my lap,
And I’ll lead you out of your own trap,
And I’ll show you how much you have missed,
through the time we weren’t right.

Oh…, Oh…

So forgive me, lover, for I have sinned,
For I have let you go.
But you’ve been
Every now and then on my mind,  yeah.

Every now and then on my mind, yeah.
Every now and then on my mind, yeah.
Every now and then on my mind, yeah.
Every now and then on my mind, yeah.
Every now and then on my mind, yeah.
Every now and then on my mind, yeah.
Every now and then on my mind, yeah.

On my mind,
On my mind,
On my mind,
On my mind,
On my mind,
On my mind,
On my mind,
On my mind,

On my mind,
On my mind,
On my mind,
On my mind,
On my mind,
On my mind,
On my mind.

 

I have to say that in this creation, The Swell Season have pulled off the most tasteful use of repetition I have ever heard. And you’ve already heard me gripe about the shortcomings of repetition on the page! So if you’ve only read this post, I urge you to follow the link in the song title to hear the song performed with some of the most angelic a cappella in existence.