I have always had a love for our friends in the Great White North. From Rick Moranis to Neil Young to Alan Thicke, there is constantly positive influence flowing from Canada. And their Smarties are far and away better than American Smarties.
The most recent influx of goodness from Canada comes in the form of troubadour Dan Mangan, and his sophomore full length, Nice, Nice, Very Nice. The title comes out of Cat's Cradleby Kurt Vonnegut, and the poem helps contextualize the raw, rooted album;
Oh, a sleeping drunkard
Up in Central Park,
And a lion-hunter
In the jungle dark,
And a Chinese dentist,
And a British queen-
All fit together
In the same machine.
Nice, nice, very nice;
Nice, nice, very nice;
Nice, nice, very nice-
So many different people
In the same device.
When I first heard Mangan's voice radiate out of my speakers with "Indie Queens are Waiting," I was taken away. Just like his literary inspiration, Mangan puts timeless concepts into poignant and stingingly close language.
The aforementioned song is what caused me to sink into his music more completely, what with its steady strum and shifting, swimming soundscapes radiating like deep breaths during a rushed day.
I'm sorry that I brought it up
It's not nice to piss you off
And I know, I know, I know
But I was poking and sort of prodding and kind of hoping
And always watching for a reaction, a reaction
Mangan evokes feelings of independent movement, of intuitive running and jumping and listening to instinct. His folk tinged music has an effortless grace about it, an impeccable rhythm and grasp of melody and timing. He grips and releases right when I need it, and his album accompanies everything from a drive through winding roads to a walk downtown with turning, golden leaves floating just like the ethereal harmonies he employs.
I am definitely not surprised he was picked up by the super hip Canadian label Arts and Crafts, and I definitely intend to stay immersed in this album for a good long while.
It's full of rich storytelling, unbelievably heart wrenching honesty, and absolutely knock out melodic beauty.
I like songs that aren't new that always sound it.
If you don't know the enormously talented, precocious young Laura Marling, please listen to her March release, I Speak Because I Can. One of my favorite albums of the year thus far. And she remains in my list of favorite songstresses, as highlighted by this song that is off her 2007 release, Alas I Cannot Swim. Now go enjoy your night!
I love the live video, and the recorded track. Maybe you should, too.
I woke up in a messy mood today. The day just called for me to not brush my hair, and to shake around with air drums and air guitar to music full of bare foot, grinning feeling.
I am very happy I was called back to Slow Animal, the New Jersey duo that pumps out spacious, echoing, grimy rock that conjures images of boys learning to play guitar for the first time and realizing all the cool noises they could make.
I'm very excited they have released their 7" of the following video's track, "theFUNsun", along with the equally jaggedly catching song "Saturday Mourning." Hurry up and get it, there are limited quantities. Meanwhile, let down your hair, open the blinds, and go wild. No one's watching...(except maybe your neighbor with all those Chia pets in the window).
I was told when I was a little girl, all done in pigtails and pink shorts, that I should be gracious.
That I should be nice.
Should be forgiving.
Should be kind.
But there are those times in life... the times when someone or something just spits in your face and punches you in the nose, and maybe breaks a couple ribs, and you're left laying in the dirt staring into the bleak infinity and thinking...
It's a song about reclaiming anger in a way that the quiet singer songwriters that I so love just can't do sometimes. Sometimes I want to let myself revel in the soulful injustice of it all. And Cee-Lo (as you would expect from the other half of Gnarls Barkley) does it in the catchiest way you could imagine. You know what this liberating, sunny, angry song tells me?
I don't have to want the right thing all the time!
We don't have to be so damn graceful about the things that just frankly suck.
It's OK to be a sore loser.
But most importantly; rejection doesn't always need to be so uncomfortably pathetic.
I love Cee-Lo's declarations in this song, so blunt, so often hilarious, and so in the moment:
And though there's pain in my chest
I still wish you the best
With a "Fuck you"
Ooo ooo ooo
This song does not break any musical barriers. It's not awash in sentimentality (on the surface at least), and it doesn't beg for me to overanalyze it. So I won't. I'll just be happy I relate to something so visceral and human. And I'll play it again. Right now.
To much digging, too much burrowing into the emotion steeped parts of me that I guard with flinching possessiveness, like day old yellowing bruises.
But I was caught today, thanks to the suggestion from the musically clairvoyant Heather, by a b-side off the 9 Crimes Single, "Rat Within the Grain."
Rice sings about this helpless, most likely hopeless, love that he circles around with building, repressed resentment and barely disguised brokenness.
What kills me is his blank honesty. But it's not a hopeful honesty, not like he's singing to someone on the verge of coming back. It's like he is singing to her back as she leaves, resigned to being forgotten, knowing something has died and he has no more power, and still almost tenderly reassuring the deaf ears;
I wouldn’t want you to want to be wanted by me I wouldn’t want you to worry you’d be drowned within my sea
I only wanted to be wonderful, in wonderful is true, in truth I only really wanted to be wanted by you
The powerlessness is what gets me, and knocks the wind out of me with every turn of phrase that brings the lovely melody around to the disarmingly relatable conclusion that he can't do anything to keep things how he wants. And then his anger and self deprecation come careening through. He teeters on the edge of hating her and loathing himself for caring.
So go play with your piano And write a mediocre song About the shell of mediocrity And pretend there’s nothing wrong
I never thought You where a chicken shit I never thought of you at all Until you asked me to be part of it And now you're showing me your wall
It's an all too human and real story of caring, of holding on, and of watching someone break your heart and walk away.
What I love and appreciate so often is that Rice seems to bring us to his stories at their close, leaving us to insert our own storylines and letting us join him on the dark stage watching the backs recede out of the theatre.
Tonight this song is on repeat, as though listening to the end of something can somehow push forward to the beginning of something else.
July closes for me with a sense of wistful longing for summer to slow down. The dripping honey sunsets melt too quickly. The mornings dawn hot and sticky and full of promise. The promise of a work day. My work schedules come out too late to plan for any adventure bigger than riding my bicycle to the top of a big hill and breathing in the breeze.
However, good things are always all around. My July didn't end up being the rambling month of shenanigans I had hoped, but I experienced so many moments of greatness it's impossible to feel anything but a reflective peace and satisfaction.
The music that is closing July so very gently with me is some long awaited new material (what they call a "little summer breeze of a taster") from that properly stupendous British sextet, The Bees.
Laden with folk harmonies that lovingly embrace sunshine tinged finger picking, this single feels like one of the many walks I take in the early summer morning before blistering heat. Like I could walk by a tunnel and see and hear this band of bees banging so gently on some overturned trash barrels and singing, echoing and shivering around the diffused morning light.
I like this a lot. I very much hope more news comes out soon about their forthcoming release.