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!

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April’s Flowers

April 1, 2011

Hello, April!

I wanted to kick off a new series for the month of April, exploring the ways poetry is truly alive in music today, with something fully spring-themed (even though today’s East-coast weather seems to indicate otherwise). This is a fresh song, composed by young songwriters in a sprightly one day! session. Its theme? Rooftop gardens and love. Perfect, right?

The High Line, New York's premier park of the decade, styled after the rooftop garden model.

This beauty is called “Reservoirs,” and it sprouted in one stunning day at a small New York indie recording studio called Dubway Studios, through the collaboration of artists Vienna Teng and Ben Arthur, along with their talented musician friends at Dubway. (For some reason, it looks like the studio released this brand-new creation as a Vienna tune, not a Vienna and Ben duet, though I imagine you’ll probably hear them both singing it live plenty of times, if you choose to check out their concerts. Ben’s touring the continent right now, though, so poor little me won’t get to see that live set for a while yet.) This is all remark-able in three particular ways:

1) The studio, through BreakThru Radio (BTR; Careful, their site will immediately start talking at you!), has just launched the coolest little series a music fan could ever dream of, in which these fateful one-day fests are organized again and again, filmed and edited into “Dubway Days,” which you can watch from the comfort of YouTube, as no doubt you already know if, in a bit of a haste, you followed the link! :)

2) I discovered Vienna Teng’s incredible artistry about a year and a half ago, through the magic of Last.FM. I wanted to find more artists like my all-time favorite creator, Tori Amos. And bam! First Vienna’s terrific cover of  Tori’s “1000 Oceans,” then her own “Pontchartrain,” streamed past. Its lithe lyrical bravado (the word here reclaimed for a positive connotation, obviously) struck an emotional chord, and the song’s climax recalled medieval cathedrals and choral chants — how could I not be hooked? I can’t wait to hear her live in a month or so. If not for her collaborations with Alex Wong, I would have missed out on a very emotional night at Rockwood last month. (Yes, sorry, still meaning to put all my zinging thoughts on that into a coherent post.) Vienna is one of my biggest inspirations right now, not only through her powerful music, but also because she’s dabbled in several career paths in just one decade, and her path has led her to a joint MBA and Masters in Environmental Science. There’s nothing cooler. Oh, wait. Songs inspired by graduate school reading on rooftop gardens! There’s that! (Oh, also, if you want to get in touch, she’s on Twitter, and, occasionally, she even has Formspring Q&A sessions – I’ve gotta try that sometime!)

3) I’ve now been introduced to Ben Arthur.

Technically, that's a March flower, but why quibble?

So much remarkable! Now on to the sung verses, available here thanks to Emily X.R. Pan’s helpful post!

Reservoirs

Voices fly, tracing the skyline
And spiraling up through the grass,
Across wood and steel and clambering vines.
The day is fading fast,

But love, love, there’s light in my garden.
Love, love, you just have to jump.
The city below, the taxicab slow,
Love is all that ever was.

These reservoirs are minarets, irises cornflower blue,
Clouds of caraway thyme.
You flared like a match, struck in the dead-of-night gloom,
Leaving me blind.

Now love, love, there’s light in the garden.
Love, love, you just have to jump.
The city below, the taxicab slow,
For love is all that ever was.

Every morning,
I want you to be
the first thing that I touch,
the first thing I see.

Love, love, there’s light in my garden.
Love, love, leap to my arms–
One step then two,
Keep your eyes on my roof,
For love is all that ever was,
Love is all that ever was,
… is all that ever was

Thoughts? Reactions? C’mon, guys, did you weep?

Sadness is My Girl

March 6, 2011

Well, aside from the gap between today and yesterday’s fun post, that hiatus was a bit longer than two days! Oops!

So let’s hit the ground running, with…

Music News (or, if you prefer, Reports from the Turtle):

Charmar… Yup, still pregnant!

*NEW* William Fitzsimmons album out March 22nd (U.S.) – lusciously titled Gold in the Shadow.

Via @indabamusic: Queens of the Stone Age, the rock band responsible for the hit, “No One Knows,” have apparently admitted that they allegedly performed an appendectomy on a fan backstage in Munich.

Umm…yeah.

All the Rest

“My wounded rhymes make silent cries tonight…”

Speaking of fresh albums, let’s talk Wounded Rhymes. The buzz of Lykke was wearing off when HypeMachine previewed the album Wounded Rhymes for a week pre-release. By the time I heard the whole thing, I wasn’t impressed. “I Follow Rivers,” played thirty-plus times, had kind of exhausted me, I guess, and even in spite of the exhaustion, that particular song is the powerhouse on that album, so it largely overshadowed everything else on my first listen-through. And then, post-release, listening to it on Zune, I found the album growing on me. I’ve also found myself having difficulty refraining from crooning the chorus to “Sadness is a Blessing,” the track whose lyrics are responsible for the laudably original title –- “Sadness is my boyfriend. Oh sadness, I’m your girl.” This track is all the more meaningful for me, having read SPIN’s cover-story interview (mentioned in the previous Lykke-centric post), in which she describes how her sorrows have shaped her music. (“[S]orrow, the only lover I’ve ever known.”) As such, I have decided I dig this new Lykke Li album, after all. That is, with one heck of an exception. By this I mean… I enjoy Wounded Rhymes, with the exception, and I stress with the exception, of “Unrequited Love,” which is just too whiny for my tastes. The way she lingers on words and draws out the spaces leading in to the chorus, and, well, let’s be honest, the lackluster quality of the subject of unrequited love, which has been done to death in music for centuries!…  it just doesn’t cut it for me. It makes for impossible listening. I skip it every time it comes around. As for the album as a whole?  I’d say it’s a superb addition to Ms. Zachrisson’s growing oeuvre.

“I gotta feeling… tonight’s gonna be a good, good night!”

And I’m not just quoting lyrics! I’m serious! Tonight, Rosi Golan is playing Rockwood Music Hall. And! Alex Wong is playing at the stage next door after Rosi finishes her set. I’m so excited! This will be one heck of a worthwhile trip to the city! Will definitely post photos and other tidbits after the shows!

“Sometimes I feel like I am drunk behind the wheel, the wheel of possibility – however it may roll. Give it a spin, see if you can somehow factor in… You know there’s always more than one way to say exactly what you mean to say.”

Moving into some territory we haven’t yet covered here on the Turtle’s music blog…

My favorite nineties bands are the ones that are still going, still kicking. I’ve found Gin Blossoms radio on Last.FM radio to be a great overarching station to tune in to all my favorite nineties bands (e.g. The Goo Goo Dolls, Tonic, The Wallflowers, Fastball, Sugar Ray, The Barenaked Ladies, etc.)! Check it out sometime, yo.

And why are Gin Blossoms so named?

According to Wikipedia, Gin Blossoms “took their name from a photo of W.C. Fields, which bore the caption, ‘W.C. Fields with gin blossoms,’ referring to what appeared to be the actor’s gin-ravaged nose, but was actually a skin condition known as rosacea.” Ha ha ha. Quite a story for a band naming! The stories aren’t always so entertaining. But those that are, they’re usually delectable!

Okay then, that was one jam-packed, if a bit jumpy, post! Until next time, folks!

Now if I could just get the crazy-cool word, “sriracha,” out of my head!

I have decided I dig it, after all.with the exception of “Unrequited Love,” which is just too whiny for my tastes. The way she lingers on words and draws out the spaces leading in to the chorus, and, well, let’s be honest, the lackluster quality of the subject of unrequited love, which has been done to death in music for centuries!…  it just doesn’t cut it for me. It makes for impossible listening. As for my review of the album in general? Superb addition to Ms. Zachrisson’s growing oeuvre.