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!

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.