Thursday, January 10, 2019

Thirty Seventh Podcast


Well we recorded our podcast today but we ran into a problem. Our Zoom H4n recorder locked up about halfway into the recording unbeknown to me, and so the entire recording was lost. You can never redo what you have done and so I thought I would post this entry to explain what the podcast was about and it can live in place of our voices. I'm sure Eric will add on his thoughts in the comments.

The idea for the podcast began over the holiday break.  I was laying around listening to music when I played the song "Jezebel" by 10,000 Maniacs.  I thought I'd like to talk about this song and so came up with the idea that we could each talk about 2 songs.  Time wise I thought it would fit well.  That was all we discussed no criteria about the type of songs, etc. just two songs.

Jezebel

We started our conversation talking about "Jezebel."  It comes off of the 10,000 Maniacs last studio album with Natalie Merchant, Our Time in Eden.  The 10,000 Maniacs with Merchant rarely ventured into romantic relationship territory and so this song is rare in their catalog, but it is Merchant writing at her best.  I find her writing to be best when she is a lone figure reflecting on things.  I think of their first song that I fell for "Like the Weather," or "Eat for Two" another favorite of mine.  It is a common approach many songwriters or poets take but I find her to be at her best from this voice.  Anyhow Jezebel is the song about a person realizing they have to exit from a relationship.  This song could easily be sung by a man or a woman.  Here are the lyrics.

To think of my task is chilling.
To know I was carefully building the mask I was wearing for two years, swearing I'd tear it off.
I've sat in the dark explaining to myself that I'm straining too hard for feelings I ought to find easily.
Called myself Jezebel.
I don't believe.

Before I say that the vows we made weigh like a stone in my heart.
Family is family, don't let this tear us apart.

You lie there, an innocent baby.
I feel like the thief who is raiding your home, entering and breaking and taking in every room.
I know your feelings are tender and that inside you the embers still glow.
But I'm a shadow, I'm only a bed of blackened coal.
Call myself Jezebel for wanting to leave.

I'm not saying I'm replacing love for some other word to describe the sacred tie that bound me to you.
I'm just saying we've mistaken one for thousands of words.
And for that mistake, I've caused you such pain that I damn that word.
I've no more ways to hide that I'm a desolate and empty, hollow place inside.

I'm not saying I'm replacing love for some other word to describe the sacred tie that bound me to you.
I'm not saying love's a plaything.
No, it's a powerful word, inspired by strong desire to bind myself to you.
How I wish that we never had tried to be man and his wife, to weave our lives into a blindfold over both our eyes.

Here is the line that caught me and made me want to talk about this song.  "I've no more ways to hide that I'm a desolate and empty, hollow place inside."

Because I am a child of the 80's I often try and put videos together in my head for songs.  And for this song I have always imagined a dark house, early morning, Natalie Merchant quietly bringing a packed bag out of a closet.  At the line "You lie there, an innocent baby" she looks in on her husband still asleep and imagines him dreaming of their lives when there was love, but knowing that even then it was not what he believed it to be.  As she makes her way away from the bedroom she leaves her wedding ring on the dining room table and looks at the kitchen thinking of their wedding gifts and fond memories of their life before they were married.  The troubles she had, the kindness and love he gave and how she was drawn to be with him, despite the fact that she didn't love him.  The video would end with her taking her bag and walking out the front door as the sun is rising.

She has constructed this entire world for me, an entire backstory and history for these two people with around 250 words.  It's an incredible piece of writing.  It is matched by the sound the band constructs for her.  It is no slight task to construct a song around lyrics like this and the melody that Merchant has created.  But they do it masterfully as they did throughout this last album especially.  The music supports Merchant and her lyrics.  Not only does the music help to bring her voice forward it also helps to punctuate the emotion of the song.





Potent Love

"Potent Love" by The Impressions was Eric's first song to talk about.  This came off of their 1972 album Times Have Changed.   This album came out after Curtis Mayfield left the band though he had written the majority of the songs.  I listened to this album after our podcast and it is good, but this song is a standout.  It has a nice funky, mellow groove and for someone who has been reliving 1972 and loves smooth jazz the way Eric does I can see where this would be a top song of the year.

Much of this song discussion revolved around the method Eric uses to select his top songs.  I will leave him to add more in the comments on this, but it breaks down to a weekly point system scored throughout the year.  At the end of the year the songs are ranked by their point total for the year.  So a song that gets off and on play through the year and a song that has a multi-week run will both fair well.  He has been doing this for many years now.  I'm sure knowing Eric somewhere he has paper copies of all the years somewhere in his house.





Face

I spoke in detail when I reviewed her latest album Record why I think that Tracey Thorn is the best songwriter of her generation.  In fact in that review I posted the lyrics to Face and I'll do it again here.

Saw your page, lovely new life
Lots of likes, lovely new wife
On my phone, you're in my home
I'm on my own, in monochrome
I wanna put you behind me, I wanna put you to bed

Wait, what was I thinking?
Oh what have I said?
Is that me or Freud talking?
Or me on wine?
I shouldn't be clicking
On your new Valentine
I shouldn't be lurking, but look here I am

Giving into temptation, not giving a damn
If I just keep refreshing, maybe you'll disappear
If I just make you jealous, then you'll wish you were here
Baby look at the time now, I should just go to bed
It's send or delete now, on all that I've said
I'm closing your page now, are you looking at mine

Do you scroll through my photos
Just to check that I'm fine
With a casual disinterest
Or a trace of regret
Or stabbed through your heart
When you think how we met
If I just knew for certain
That you weren't having fun
I could bring down the curtain
It would prove that I won

But your face is in my face
And you're all over the place
I'm lost without a trace
And your face is in my face
I wish you'd vanish without a trace
But your life is all over the place
And your face is in my face
Your face is in my face
It's in my face
In my face
In my face, oh
Similar to Natalie Merchant I think that Tracey Thorn is at her strongest when she is singling in on a person and their thoughts.  However, she is brilliant at walking us through the person going the through the process.  To me she is more physical in her approach than Merchant.  For instance referring in this song to the wine, scrolling, clicking.  The feelings here are not only being felt but being played out in front of us in a very physical way.  Anyone can imagine the video for this song.  Tracey Thorn sitting on a couch in a small cluttered looking apartment, glass of wine with empty bottle off to the side.  Her laying back and looking at her laptop to see what her friends are up to and then being pulled into this other world of her ex.  Of course in the video her ex would be played by Ben.  There are a few things in particular about this song that I like.  It is very age appropriate for one.  This is not the song of a 20 something.  This is the song of someone in mid life.  I also like the subject.  This is very real in our lives right now.  The song may not age well because in 10 years no one may know what social media is, but for now it is very timely.  Lastly I like the direction she goes at the end of the song.  "In my face" is not something with positive connotation, and I really like the image at the end of this person seeing the face of this other person everywhere they look.  Tagged in pictures on all of their shared friends pages.  I especially like the line, "And you're all over the place I'm lost without a trace."  While he is flourishing since they broke up, she is not.





Tamarack Pines

Has anyone in our lifetime been better at constructing these beautiful pieces of simple music which can take us and drop us into a very specific place in time than George Winston. Eric focused on how this song in particular makes him see and hear these trees. The limbs, the needles. The bits of sun shining in through all of this and hitting the ground in odd shapes and patterns. I will let Eric add his thoughts in the comments and talk about why this song this year stood out for him.

As for me on the podcast I spoke about the first time I remember a feeling like this with music and it was listening to Respigi's The Pines of Rome and in particular the last movement "The Appian Way." There is something quite special when a composer can create music that makes you see, feel, and hear all the things they want you to experience. From the quiet solitude of a tamarack pines forest to the pomp and circumstance of the Roman army marching past you on the Appian Way.






In Conclusion

There is one thing I will say about this podcast that we did not discuss but should have discussed. I can very distinctly remember a day in high school when Eric and I had a discussion about music and in particular songs with strong lyrics versus songs that were more focused around the sound. I was the sound guy and Eric was the lyrics guy. Funny that all these years later we swapped places for this podcast.


5 comments:

  1. This is great! And here's another thing: You and I did not discuss that high-school conversation yesterday, but I was also thinking about the same conversation and had same reflection about it after the podcast yesterday.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for posting this whole thing. You did a fine job of capturing the conversation.

    ReplyDelete
  3. One thing I will bring back up is my controversial comparison of the 10,000 Maniacs to the Fifth Dimension, in terms of being a hard stop for a sound and mood for which that band was the banner toter in a given moment. I have been arguing with myself over that one ever since the call, but I think I mostly have come to agree with my point.

    ReplyDelete
  4. And, of course, I have maintained the weekly-song-ratings data, except the records are digital, not paper. Here was my top 10 for for July 8-14, 2002:

    1. “I’ll Be Long Gone,” Cold Blood
    2. “Light Enough To Travel,” Be-Good Tanyas
    3. “Letter from an Occupant,” New Pornographers
    4. “I Wish I Was the Moon,” Neko Case
    5. “Metal Firecracker,” Lucinda Williams
    6. “Slack,” David Grisman Quintet
    7. “Just My Imagination,” Rolling Stones
    8. “Left of the Dial,” Replacements
    9. “Essence,” Lucinda Williams
    10. “Dance on My Grave,” Seconds Flat

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here's a full playlist for that week. I can't find any record of a David Grisman Quintet song called "Slack," but I see that they did something called "Slade" on an album that came out in 2002--I'll bet I just wrote it down wrong at the time.

      Delete