And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
And I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
This line became my reluctant personal anthem when it first sank in, over ten years ago. I was always hesitant, cautious to a fault, and shy. So terribly shy.
I’m good at meeting people, saying the right things, being a kind and welcome presence for strangers and friends. But I was always terrible at letting my real self out, being emotionally open, and putting my hopes and fears on display. I’ve been terrible at sharing my personal art, my true expression, with anyone. Anyone. It’s so hard to let go.
I don’t really have anything clever or interesting to say about this song, other than this: it hits me right in the feels.
Here’s an admission: shoegaze is still one of my favorite genres. The gauzy dream-sound of guitars blurred into pure haze.. it’s never left that soft, nostalgic center of my brain. Effects pedals, ghosted vocals, and a sort of spectral swagger will always their place in my heart.
Today I listened to Slowdive‘s monumental second album, Souvlaki, and it all came flooding back. I got those old familiar chills right in the middle:
Here She Comes is the simplest, most direct song on the album. The impressionistic lyrics are just dark and weird enough to not seem juvenile; combined with the melodic cloud of hand drums and reverb-laden guitar, they form a surreal love poem.
It’s so lonely in this place
So cold I don’t believe
And as no-one knows my name
It’s easy to pretend
It’s easy to believe
There’s a shadow on my wall
It dances like my soul
Dances like my soul
It’s so cold now
I swear it will be warm
Here she come now
Since the band recently reformed, I’m hoping for at least one chance to see Slowdive perform in this lifetime.
Someone was kind enough to upload the entire Souvlaki album on youtube, so give it a listen if you don’t already own it. As one of the best albums of the 90s, and easily one of two or three crowning achievements of the shoegaze genre, it’d be a damn shame to miss out on this experience. Buy the album for less than $10, if you’re interested. Or listen first below.
There’s a shadow on my wall / It dances like my soul
Sometimes a song slips right between the ribs and punctures my breath, the very first time. This is one of those songs.
Cat Power (Chan Marshal) recorded this song fourteen years ago for the maybe-masterpiece album Moon Pix. Despite having heard the odd single over the years, this was my proper introduction to her work, this year. I may be a little late to the party but I have the feeling that I wouldn’t have appreciated this as much at the time. There’s a gorgeous sense of resignation and near-snuffed-out hope felt in the tightness of my throat, the way certain lines send a shiver up the sides of my neck.
I could stay here
Become someone different
I could stay here
Become someone better
The moment this hits in the song, her vocals take off in a way that melts through to me. It’s an already intimate song taken to confessional. The knockout delivery perfects a song about things I understand only too well.
Please, give it a try. I subconsciously avoided Cat Power throughout the years perhaps out of unfair lumping in with the flood of early 2000’s indie pop bands, which turned out to be a huge mistake. The album, by the way, is eleven straight great songs, if not all being equal to this heart destroyer.
Buy it directly from Matador or at a local shop like I did.
Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood comprised one of the most inimitable duos in pop music history. Nancy’s wise-beyond-her-years little girl voice serves as a perfect foil to Lee’s grizzled-but-tender cowboy delivery in a perfectly balanced duet of sweetness and spice. Hazlewood’s still-relevatory electro-tweaked countrified pop constructions take the entire production to the next level in this slice of coed harmonic bliss, hot and fresh after four decades.
Their second release, Nancy & Lee Again, may not contain the iconic Some Velvet Morning (expertly covered by Slowdive) or their superb take on The Righteous Brothers‘ You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, but it’s the superior record to my ears. Here’s that cover:
The near epic Arkansas Coal (Suite) kicks off the set in dusky mysterious tones and quickly builds through an emotionally swerving narrative toward an anthemic horn blasted finale.
Mid-album highlight Down From Dover (prominently sampled by The Go! Team) is possibly the best showcase for Sinatra’s voice, a raggedly heartfelt turn which may surprise those who know her as a too-cool chanteuse from These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ or Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down). Capped off by the deliciously playful conversation of Got It Together Again, we’re privy to these final words:
Nancy: “I wish everybody would be quiet, and nice.”
Lee: “Yeah, and don’t throw rocks.”
“And don’t shoot guns.”
“And come home safe.”
“Because we miss ya.”
This intimate exchange gives me a chill right down my spine. It’s exemplary of the whole album, an experience not unlike listening in on two sweetly adoring old friends as they sing like they’re the only ones who can hear, only for each other. We’re just lucky it was caught on tape.
[pick this right up on original vinyl at amazon (!!! yes!!!) or get it digitally via 7digital, as it’s not issued on CD. or you can get the excellent Fairy Tales & Fantasies collection, compiling almost every good track they recorded]
Billie Holiday is a true-blue goddess. This is not debatable opinion; it is straight fact. Her interpretations and originals are some of the most enduring recordings in modern popular music. Her voice lacerates soul and body alike and has been known, on occasion, to reduce grown men to tears. Her spirit is defiantly eternal.
Her final recorded work is Lady in Satin.