Authentic Sweetness Over Dinner
Fischerspooner - Emerge [Adult mix] (sendspace mp3)
Bright Eyes - Haligh, Haligh, A Lie, Haligh (sendspace mp3)
Appearing on this list is a better indicator of 1) my financial situation at the time of the album's release, 2) the amount of quality time we've spent together, AND 3) its coincidental relevance to current events in the world and my psyche THAN the overall value of the album. I guarantee albums that don't appear on this list may be "better", and albums that appear may be "worse"... the clash of these dichotomies spark the conversations that make lists meaningful. Because I don't work for a label or have the time to care, I often confuse what was officially released in 2006 and what I enjoyed in 2006... but I've tried my best to stick to 2006 releases. Following are some audio trinkets I've shelved and cherished this year:
Did you hear that indie darling and I'm Just Sayin Is All... favourite Imogen Heap is nominated for two 2007 Grammy awards? For best NEW artist? Sheesh Grammys, where have you been? And what hapened to your watery mainstream taste? Imogen will have to get infintely more annoying by February to even have a chance to compete with James Blunt and Carrie Underwood. Does this open the door for electonic-looped opera vocalist Amy X to infiltrate the mainstream music scene???
In Urbana news: I'm Just Sayin Is All...'s effervescently analytical Audio Research Associate, Mike, attended the Phosphorescent show yesterday at the Canopy Club and has this to report:
"Being (probably) your only reader in the Urbana area, I felt obligated to attend the Phosphorescent show... and comment. Less than a week after Joanna I've been trypsinized and resuspended in fresh media of tasty Americana. Phenotypic markers of differentiation include an unshaven face, a few pints of PBR and maybe the odor of the pig farm. I can't really tell anymore. Unlike the union and my favorite coffee shop, the crowd at the Canopy Club was far from confluent. Being exam week, fellow students failed to aliquot enough live music into their lives. Dropping the metaphor, local band Tractor Kings played a great set and brought in a fine group of fans. Half of them stuck around to see Phosphorescent. A shame, because they were also a great show. The band was much better than their Myspace downloads will have you believe. Worth a see if they ever make it Up North, hey."
Imogen Heap - Just for Now (sendspace mp3)
The Tractor Kinds - Side by Side (sendspace mp3)
Mika - Happy Ending (sendspace mp3): The inspirational choral backing and pop-molded falsetto in this Mika track remind me of the bombastic wailings my little sisters used to belt to the rhythm of the monthly Z104FM tune. For some reason, a specifically gospeled All Saints song called "Never Ever" comes to mind. I hope it motivates you to similarly strain your upper octaves and sway like it's hardest story you've ever heard. Because c'mon folks, that's what a really bad pop song is for. The rest of the record tastes like heavy inspiration from the Sissor Sisters, Cutting Crew, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and even the "Step by Step" theme song.
Phosphorescent - Fullgrown Man (myspace mp3): I am fully aware that this track is folk-inspired and that I have broken my word of hosting a folk-less week. But cut me some slack, I paired it with a late-nineties-reminiscent ultra-pop. Phosphorescent's [playing in Urbana tonight] subtle Man-man drunken instrumentation would be appropriate to score an Irish wake and would have been a swell opener for Charlemagne back in Madison's Catacombs hayday.
Brendan Cook & Paul McNeil (pictureDRIFT video) and Bill Calahan (music) - Rock Bottom Riser (2005) [download .mov]
The headliners of this weekend's Madison Pop Fest, despite the exhaustive pairing of a late night start and desperate crowds (see the comments at Muzzle of Bees today for a wildly disrespectful discussion), presented their sounds with the poise and precision of a seasoned symphony.
Emotive vocal craftsman Bill Callahan strapped himself to a lonely and uncomfortably-centered chair on the grand stage and began the strenuous process that produces his soft, but stern reflective ballads. Slightly leaning forward, his spine straightened and rested his lower chest on the wooden platform at the top of his guitar to seemingly align his vocal ramp (and anticipated projectiles) with the microphone. Bill proceeded to clench every muscle in his face and after arching his brows to painful heights, he puckered his rigid lips to push out a bassy vocal bubble... glistening with clarity of smooth construction, but quickly dropping with its own weight to float calmly along the plane of the stage. It was the first in an awe-inspiring series that managed the fragility of being simultaneously strong and vulnerable while poignantly articulating miserable love in harmony with a subtle strumming of strings. Though the performance was distinctly missing the fragile descent of "To Be of Use" and some attention to diversity to keep the crowd engaged, Bill's choices remained appropriately stoic and unapologetic.
Terri Timely (video) & Joanna Newsom (music) - Sprout and the Bean (2004) [download .mov]
Joanna Newsom galloped eagerly onto the stage next, dripping fresh from the fields of a prolonged Harvest dinner. Her immediately noticeable awkwardness bounded with the grace of a beautiful female Gollum, draped in a deeply medieval-puffed gown and the glee of the apparent success of a new hair replacement therapy. She sat down, stretched her pale arms around the harp in a simulated hug, and perched her fingers on its rows of petite columns. On her own cue sprouted a dizzying outpouring of notes, arranged in angelic runs and rivaled in complexity only by the nuances of the words exploding from the right side of her crooked mouth. Joanna's voice itself transcends a traditional timeline by sounding both like a chirping child and a squeaky old woman and more surprisingly, sounding both like the strangest and most beautiful noises ever produced.
I was sure that after a couple stellar singles from "Milk Eyed Mender" her fingers would surely tire... but she instead proclaimed "We're going to play the new album now" and called a cohort of collegues onto stage to do just that. Embellished by arrangements from legendary composer Van Dyke Parks, the live performance of the album boasted focused instrumentation that made much more sense with the warmth of live bodies than the cold of the studio recording. And who would have guess that a harp would be so effectively complimented by a walking banjo and vulnerable performances from an accordion and musical saw? The collective opus was as personal as it was grand and lifted Joanna's strange sensibility to a level of creative genius that I trust will flourish in future symphonies.