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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Forget Me Not

April 7, 2011

Switching modes slightly today, we’re taking a turn from the splendidly surreal yet quite grimy lyrics from The National to the simple but exquisite storytelling of William Fitzsimmons, that beloved folk musician with the light, airy, rather magical voice and the fix’d beard. (Check out Gold in the Shadow, released in recent weeks. A balm of an album! Such soothing songs for the soul! – If you have hurts, your own compounded sadnesses, and you’re human so you do, check it out!)

Today’s song-poem, “Find Me to Forgive,” is structured around a heartbreaking story of botched romance. I know enough of his bio to know that some of his earlier work is pitted in the pain of divorce, yet I cannot tell whether (or how much) this composition is true-to-life or entirely fabricated. If I were acquainted with him in person, I wouldn’t want to pry. And in any case, the storytelling is spell-binding. Just try and resist its tugs on your heart-strings! Futile!

Musically, I (think I) love the time-signature in this piece. The song comes on, and I start thinking of tangos (hung up on strings!*), but there’s probably no correlation. Something for a ballroom, though. Lots of wooshing, dazzlingly red skirts to distract attention from runny mascara and sobbing frames. Or you could just go the Parisian route. I imagine myself in a cramped historic quarter with lots of light bouncing off soft stone, the faint trail of concertinas and violins wafting through. But I’m definitely teary-eyed, reenacting the last scenes of L’Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment), where, in this case, I am Xavier. Not that that’s much of a stretch. Would the film have been as moving if I didn’t have so much in common with Romain Duris’s character? Do we ever?

Find Me To Forgive

You were the only thing I ever loved.
Taken for granted, you couldn’t stand it, anymore.
You were my lover for nearly eight years,
But I am my father, and I found another.

The last sixteen months have been nothing but hell.
I thought about jumping, well that would be something.
In the short time that I learned how to fly,
Would you forgive me, or bring flowers to me, by the grave?

Will you look the same when I meet you up there?
Remember my name, please.
Will you look the same when I meet you up there?
Remember my name — find me to forgive.

I haven’t seen you for over a year.
I heard you were married. The baby you carried isn’t mine.
I don’t suppose that you’ll still have my name.
You’ll have another, if you’re not my lover, anymore.

Will you look the same when I meet you up there?
Remember my name, please.
Will you look the same when I meet you up there?
Remember my name — find me to forgive,
find me to forgive, find me to forgive, find me to forgive.

 

 

*From a poem I wrote for a creative writing class several years ago.

I know I just shared another brilliantly composed song from The National a couple days ago, but while that bit was impromptu, this one was planned into the National Poetry Month schedule over here in Turtle-land. “The Geese of Beverly Road” is probably tied with a gazillion other songs by the Ohio-via-Brooklyn band for my third-favorite out of their entire collection. By far, the aspect of The National I most adore is the way that Matt Berninger’s lyrics get stretched across the entire ouevre. There’s all this delicious repeating imagery of feathers, swan-geese, and such, the threads of which you can spend years following across their albums, like some young kid in a red coat chasing a red balloon down city streets.

"Serve me the sky with a big slice of lemon..."

In this case, the geese reappear two albums after Alligator, on “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” from High Violet. And, in between, we mistakenly listened to our mother-in-laws and passed over the “swans on t.v.” while asking Jenny to “Wake Up Your Saints.” When the geese make their comeback, they manage to flock there with the swans. “Man, it’s all been forgiven. Swans are a swimmin’. I’ll explain everything to the geese.”

As this marathon month of blogging progresses, my stockpile of readily-available adjectives and other discuss-able material diminishes, and I find myself lavishing blander and blander praise on musical compositions I genuinely love. Really need to take some cues from established music bloggers and bona fide music journalists.

I wanted to share something clever about a step-by-step of how to explain everything to the geese (and why doing so is a good idea), but right now, I’m too spent. To be continued!

The Geese of Beverly Road

We’ll take ourselves out in the street
And wear the blood in our cheeks,
Like red roses.

We’ll go from car to sleeping car
And whisper in their sleeping ears,
“We were here, we were here.”
We’ll set off the geese of Beverly Road.

Hey, love, we’ll get away with it.
We’ll run like we’re awesome, totally genius.
Hey, love, we’ll get away with it.
We’ll run like we’re awesome.

We won’t be disappointed.
We’ll fight like girls for our place at the table,
Our room on the floor.
We’ll set off the geese of Beverly Road.

Hey, love, we’ll get away with it.
We’ll run like we’re awesome, totally genius.
Hey, love, we’ll get away with it.
We’ll run like we’re awesome.

We’re the heirs to the glimmering world,
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world.
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world,
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world.

We’re drunk and sparking, our legs are open,
Our hands are covered in cake,
But I swear we didn’t have any.
No, I swear we didn’t have any.

Hey, love, we’ll get away with it.
We’ll run like we’re awesome, totally genius.
Hey, love, we’ll get away with it.
We’ll run like we’re awesome.

We’re the heirs to the glimmering world,
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world.
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world,
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world.

Oh, come, come be my waitress, and serve me tonight,
Serve me the sky up tonight.
Oh, come, come be my waitress, and serve me tonight,
Serve me the sky with a big slice of lemon.

We’re the heirs to the glimmering world,
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world.
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world,
We’re the heirs to the glimmering world.

Oh, come, come be my waitress and serve me tonight,
Serve me the sky up tonight.
Oh, come, come be my waitress and serve me tonight,
serve me the sky with a big slice of lemon.

Common Vs. Common

April 4, 2011

Today only!

Geographers’ Special: Cities, Decadence, et cetera …

Another day featuring bands with male vocalists. I kind of feel like I need to wedge The Go-Go’s in here somewhere just to balance it out. Or Portishead, maybe. And it’s another British and another American band. C’mon, other countries, catch up! (Actually, that’s ultimately the focus of this blog – more on that in future posts!)

Architectural Style: Brutalism. Exhibit A.

I’m really glad I had the month divvied up before I started blogging musical poetry for National Poetry Month because it sure keeps things flowing smoothly around here, but I’ve only stuck to the chosen song once (on the 2nd), and every other day, I’ve shuffled things around, made alternate arrangements. Today, I changed my mind, on a dime, as usual, this time due to a lovely line I came across in an interview with poet Catherine Theis on the semi-blog from Salt Publishing. She responded to a question, in part, with the remark, “The inside of a verse play or poem (or a painting or a song) is one of the last decadent places on earth.” I then went hunting for a decadent song tucked away in my little list of April’s flowers. (If you didn’t guess on the first day, yes, that’s a layered reference to all these gorgeously-written and mellifluously-echoed songs, as well as the fact that in spite of April’s showers, April has some of its own flowers.) And after paying more careful attention to the exact wording of one of my newer favorite compositions from Editors, “The Boxer,” off their most recent 2009 album, In This Light and On This Evening, I decided it would make an even better double-feature with my second-favorite creation from The National, “City Middle,” off of Alligator, from way back in 2005. The amateur geographer in me tries to look for inspiration even in diversions, like rock music obsessions, which really shouldn’t be considered diversions but appreciated for the high art they so often achieve (and critiqued when they don’t, of course!).  I think part of me feels guilty for lavishing more attention on this blog than on my more academically-oriented endeavors. Ah well. Music heals those wounds, too.

Architectural Style: Brutalism. Exhibit B.

As much as I want to wrap this up and get this syndicated to you guys, some points I shouldn’t put off:

1. If there’s a Simon & Garfunkel connection in Editors’ lyrics, it’s slight, but I don’t disavow its potential presence. That would, of course, only make the gravelly-smooth beauty of the song more delectable.

2. “City Middle” (and its counterpart, “Karen”) features some of The National’s most explicit, grimy lyrics, but the instrumentation and vocals are so beautiful that they would perfectly make up for the partially crude storyline if the storyline itself didn’t have its own redeeming qualities. For me, its in the vividness of the imagery and the way that hazy (or not so much hazy as uncertain) childhood memories are evoked for me by the line “pissing in a sink, I think.” I swear the woman that lived in the next room in the communal apartment of my childhood, who I wholeheartedly believed was my Great Aunt (also uncertain on that now, after all these years, though I still continue to believe it, for lack of an alternative explanation for pieces of my memories, some including threads of conversations structured explicitly around the referent, Great Aunt, though what if that’s an inaccurate memory, too? My toddler years were so very long ago, after all!), had some incident in the apartment which afterward involved a lot of screaming by all parties about pissing in sinks. Maybe a fabrication of my imagination? What an imagination that would be, though… Doesn’t seem right to me. TMI again? Oops. Sorry.

3. The thing about what remains, in our society, of archaic poetry — that is, sung verse — is that there seems much more repetition in song than in printed, never-attempted-sung verse. Aside from ballads, most of today’s songwriters, even the best ones, adhere fairly strictly to industry conventions involving choruses, bridges, echoing of verses, and all that jazz. It’s true — We the audience do very much like the tantalizing hooks, mostly to ensure we have some snatch of tune stuck in our heads all day. We hate silence above all else, it seems (which is quite disheartening!). Repetition works. Poets do use it, too. And there are songwriters who use it less than others. (I dare you to give me example of those who hardly use it at all!) But in our inexhaustible taste for easily-devour-able material, written lyrics can seem not at all smooth, a bit jumpy, a bit coarse, a bit bogged down, to drag their feet more than slightly. Yet when we listen, we are hardly aware of the echoing. It’s a strange phenomenon, and I’m not entirely sure that I have a preference one way or another in terms of the written versions, in spite of all that obstructiveness.

4. Okay, I’m getting antsy and impatient now. Tennessee Williams references! You can easily connect them back to Ms. Theis’s comment about “verse plays” ; I once dreamt that Common Vs. Common was a band that came to play at my school ; I’m having too much fun adding punctuation to lyrics to find the best ways to enunciate the poetic in these lyrical creations, which we might otherwise overlook as too mundane for poetry (shame!) ; … long red socks and red shoes! Are you overwhelmed yet? Great!

Now on to the poems of our bleak cities, occasionally beautiful in their dreariness!

When all the world is dripping poetry, how easily we forget our concrete prisons.

 

The Boxer

A bruised full moon
Play-fights with the stars.
This place is our prison,
its cells are the bars
So take me to town,
I wanna dance with the city.
Show me something ugly, and
Show me something pretty.

Damn this place
— makes a boy out of me.
The ring meets my face
by the count of three!

An unwanted sun
pulls rank in the sky.
The boxer isn’t finished,
He’s not ready to die.
I’m attracted to the light,
I’m attracted to the heat.
It’s a violent night;
There are boxers in the street.

Damn this place
— makes a boy out of me.
The ring meets my face
by the count of three!

And damn this place
— makes a boy out of me
The ring meets my face
before an oak tree!

Dazed in the final rounds,
Dazed in the final rounds,
Dazed in the final rounds,
Dazed in the final rounds.

"I wanna dance with the city..."

 

City Middle

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle,
Where they hang the lights,
Where it’s random,
And it’s common versus common, la dee la.

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle,
Where they hang the lights,
Where it’s random,
And it’s common versus common, la dee la.

I’ve got five-hundred in twenties,
And I got a ton of great ideas;
I’m really worked up.
I’m on a good mixture, I don’t want to waste it.
I’m on a good mixture, I do not want to waste it.
I wanna go gator around the warm beds of beginners;
I’m really worked up.

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle,
Where they hang the lights,
Where it’s random,
And it’s common versus common, la dee la.

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle,
Where they hang the lights,
Where it’s random,
And it’s common versus common, la dee la.

I have weird memories of you,
Wearing long red socks and red shoes,
I have weird memories.
I have weird memories of you,
Pissing in a sink, I think;
I have weird memories of you.

I wanna go gator around the warm beds of beginners.
I’m really worked up.
I wanna go gator around the warm beds of beginners.
I’m really worked up.

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle,
Where they hang the lights,
Where it’s random,
And it’s common versus common, la dee la.

Karen, take me to the nearest famous city middle,
Where they hang the lights,
Where it’s random,
And it’s common versus common, la dee la.

I have weird memories of you,
Wearing long red socks and red shoes,
I have weird memories.
I have weird memories of you,
Pissing in a sink, I think;
I have weird memories of you,
Parking your car — you said, “I’m overwhelmed.”
You were thinking out loud, you said, “I’m overwhelmed.”

You were parking your car, you said, “I’m overwhelmed.”
You were thinking out loud, you said, “I’m overwhelmed.”

You said, “I think I’m like Tennessee Williams.
I wait for the click,
I wait, but it doesn’t kick in.”

“I think I’m like Tennessee Williams.
I wait for the click,
I wait, but it doesn’t kick in.”

I have weird memories of you,
Wearing long red socks and red shoes,
I have weird memories.
I have weird memories of you,
Pissing in a sink, I think;
I have weird memories of you,
La da da da …

I have weird memories of you.