sometimes i sit and think, and sometimes i just sit. by Courtney Barnett (Album of the Week)

SIJS-2400Album: sometimes i sit and think, and sometimes i just sit.

Artist: Courtney Barnett

Released: 2015

About: 11 songs; 44 minutes

Choice: Deliberate Obfuscation

How can I not give the highest of  praise to an album that has the line “give me all your money, and I’ll make some origami, honey?” Courtney Barnett’s cleverness with lyrics continues in her new album, sometimes i sit and think, and sometimes i just sit. More than any other album this year, this is the one I have most looked forward to listening to. In 2013, I named Courtney Barnett’s double EP release as one of my top ten albums for that year (it was a stretch since it wasn’t truly an album, and several of the songs had been released prior to 2012). But, I loved the songs so much that I felt that they needed to be on my list. Unless something unheard of happens between now and year’s end, this one will be high up on my 2015 list.

The album combines her oh-so-cleverly-wonderful lyrics with a garage rock noise factory and a languid vocal style that is perfect for her Australian accent. I ate this one up, just as I expected that I would.

The album opens with Elevator Operator – a song about a twenty year old who chucks off his tie and work responsibilities and heads to a rooftop at the same time a woman whose “heels are high and her bag is snakeskin; hair pulled so tight you can see her skeleton.” She challenges him not to jump (especially since he has such great skin that she would give anything for), but he comes back at her by saying she seems to be the one there to jump; he is only there because it provides him a real life SimCity vantage point. She tells the tale to a thumping drum and twanging guitars. She rocks it out. She is kind of Lucinda Williams melting into Chrissie Hynde to create the next generation of women rockstars.

Not all of the songs give you the full throttle rock sound. Some have more of a dreamy slowed-down sound. My favorite song from her first EP was Avant Gardener which detailed having a panic asthma attack and the ambulance coming to rescue her. On this album, An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York) has a very similar vibe and also has that quieter sound. There is still a grungey guitar line that backs her as she narrates not being able to sleep and finding the cracks in the ceiling as metaphor for the lines in her own palm. She then scares herself by what she sees:

I lay awake at four, staring at the wall

Counting all the cracks backwards in my best French

Reminds me of a book I skim-read in a surgery

All about palmistry, I wonder what’s in store for me

I pretend the plaster is the skin on my palms

And the cracks are representative of what is going on

I lose a breath… my love-line seems intertwined with death

As expected, this album makes me want to pay as much of attention to the words as I do the music. Each of the eleven songs on the album gives the listener a narrative – some silly; some serious. There is a girl trying to impress a boy in a public swimming pool only to end up losing consciousness by trying to hold her breath too long, then, coming to with the boy and his towel gone. Depreston follows her as she takes a look at a suburban home for sale and is overwhelmed by thinking about who lived in the space before. Dead Fox is a take on environmentalism.

Dan did not get as gushy as I did, but he agrees that this is a good listen and Courtney has it going on as a rock-n-roll gal. I could go on and on snipping and pasting lyrics, but I will just cut it here. There are just so many good ones! My advice is to listen to this one!

Next up: Tracker by Mark Knopfler

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My Top Ten Albums of 2013

2013-06-20 21.12.10A friend of mine always has a top ten album challenge on Facebook around this time of the year. My own rule for this challenge is that I had to have purchased the album for it to appear on my list. I tend not to rank the albums as I post them, but this year I went ahead and did that too. On the Facebook challenge, I am told that the best format is to countdown — Casey Kasem style. For this, however, I am leading off with the best. That way, I know if people get tired and lose interest halfway through, they at least get my absolute favorites. It has been a good year for music, and many of the albums below have shown up on this blog as I have gotten to know them. If you haven’t experienced some of these, I would truly endorse!

neko

1. Neko Case – The Worse things Get, the harder I fight, the harder I fight, the more I love you

It was a tough choice, but when it came down to making my choice for the number 1, I had to go with my girl, Neko. Like Southeastern, I love this album more every time I hear a song from it. This is one that I seek out videos of live performances because she and her band just appear to have so much delight in performing with each other – including a Tiny Desk Concert where they showed up to play in Halloween costumes. Almost half of the songs begin with her amazing voice and no musical intro. Her voice is a gift. She tells stories that have fantastical elements and heart.

Favorite song of the moment: Calling Cards

jason2.  Jason Isbell – Southeastern

This summer, the night before we left on our roadtrip, we went to see Jason Isbell at Crossroads in Kansas City. We didn’t get to as much music this year as I wanted to, but this one one where I needed to be. I fell in love with Jason Isbell a few years ago when we saw him – again playing solo – at Knuckleheads. I knew his voice from Drive By Truckers, but didn’t really know his solo work. Between those two concerts, the man changed his life. He quit drinking and he found Amanda. He is happy. Southeastern is an album that reflects the journey – heavier on the hard times than the good, but you can hear the regret move to hope. One of the more delightful people that I follow on Twitter and Instagram is Jason Isbell. I don’t know if he would appreciate this description, but he is so smitten with his wife it is darling.

Favorite song of the moment: Stockholm.

vampire

3.  Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

I knew that this was going to be a good album when, on April 27, 2013, Sam posted this on his Facebook page: i didn’t think i could like vampire weekend but this is in early song of year running. Sam had not previously been a fan. He came on board for a reason.It is a pretty fantastic song, and the album keeps the pace with this one. Ezra Koenig, the band’s lyricist is smart and it shows in the songs he writes. There are more references than you can shake a stick at, but they tied into catchy beats and creative instrumentation.

Favorite song of the moment: Step

edie

4. Steve Martin & Edie Brickell – Love Has Come for You

Steve Martin gets top billing on this album, but Edie owns it. As I have written before, her voice is the best. Combining that voice with Americana style is a winning combination.

Favorite song of the moment:  King of Boys

viers

5. Laura Viers – Warp and Weft

If you don’t know Laura Viers and you like a girl who can kill on guitar, you need to check her out. Many of Laura’s songs are quiet singer/ songwriter pieces, but she can bring on the noisy guitars every now and then. I enjoy both sides.

Favorite song: That Alice (a tribute to John Coltrane’s wife, Alice)

wax

6. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt

I had to remind myself (ie I needed to look it up on the Internet) that cerulean is one of the crayon colors that you will find in the big box. While I was doing that research, I also “reminded myself” that Waxahatchee is the name of a creek in Alabama. Waxahatcee the music maker is Katie Crutchfield. Katie is a wonderful guitar player and songwriter, and this is a wonderful listen.

Favorite song of the moment: Tangled Envisioning

courtney7. Courtney Barnett – Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas

I have written about Courtney Barnet recently. I am not entirely sure that  it is within the rules to include this one due to its format (double EP) and the fact that some of it was released a previous year. I don’t care. She is one of my favorite music finds this year and if I can get some more listeners for her by including her on my list, I will do so.

Favorite song of the moment: Avant Gardener

sallie8. Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside – Untamed Beast

Sallie and her band were the surprise find of the year when she opened for Thao and the Get Down Stay Down at the Record Bar this year. Girl put on an energy riot show. She kind of reminds me of one of my last year favorites, the Alabama Shakes.

Favorite song of the moment: Bad Boys

bombadil

9. Bombadil – Metrics of Affection

Again, I have written about my new found love of Bombadil before. If you just need one nice, kind of mushy song to share with someone you love, you would be hard pressed to find one better than:

Favorite Song of the moment: Thank You.

boy10. Boy – Mutual Friends

Only two of my top ten are male performances. While a person may think otherwise, this is not one of them. These two women write good songs and perform them well. I am glad to have found them this year!

Favorite song of the moment: Boris

I would love it if anyone reading this would just tell me one musical highlight of the year for you. I know I missed  many!

Last Week’s Good Things

Nov 11

We are moving into the final weeks of the year. The temperatures we had to start the week made me realize that, but this weekend has been warm and pretty pleasant. More than a few good things happened this week as the days started to warm. Here are a few.

Courtney Barnett – It is true that almost every new music love of mine is introduced to me via NPR. I can’t think that is a bad thing. What’s the matter with letting the experts cull from so much new music, those bands and performers that pass their muster? It happened again this week that a single song played on the All Songs Considered podcast made me go home and and purchase an album. This week it was Austrailian singer, Courtney Barnett. Her music came up because she played the CMJ Music Festival back in October in NYC and everyone on the panel declared love. The song that they played was Avant Gardener, and I have literally had this song in my head since. It has droney guitars, lyrics that pull you into the story and make your own visuals, and a lazy delivery that reminds me sometimes of Lucinda Williams. Other songs on the album also build stories with humor and darkness – oftentimes both in the same song. She has some great syncopation and word choice. The double EP is titled A Sea of Split Peas. It made my week better!

I get adrenalin

Straight to the heart

I feel like Uma Thurman

Post-overdosing kick start

Reminds me of the time

When i was really sick and i

Had too much psuedoefedryn and i

Couldn’t sleep at night

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Conversations – Friday was a really good day. I got to spend the day working on a chapter and made good progress on it. Late in the afternoon, I walked up to Bier Station and met Barb for a beer and some talk. When I left, the sun had set and the almost full moon really lit up the sky. After a very cold start of the week, it felt great strolling home on that warm, beautiful evening. When Dan got home, I made a Friday evening cocktail and we sat around talking a little before I made dinner. After finishing, we stayed at the table awhile – just chatting about people and things that were on our mind this week. Days can become so scheduled and full. Stresses can cloud the positive things that are out there. I loved the solitary time I had that day to focus on my writing, but then having time together with favorite people made a really good day, better.

 Sherwood Center – The movement of stuff in the world is extraordinary. I don’t think that a week goes by that at least one new non-perishable item doesn’t make its way into our house. Sometimes you need to purge, if only to make way for what you know will be coming – more stuff. In the past, we did try the garage sale route to perhaps get back some of the dollars sunk into the things that we no longer wanted. However, the time and effort to get 25 cents for some old t-shirts and books, no longer appeals to me. That is why I love the agencies that come around periodically and take away boxes and bags of our unwanted things. The Sherwood Center is my go to service. They come when they are supposed to and they leave a receipt so I can take the donation off on our taxes. The best!

 

gilbert

Remembering the Sabres of the 70s – On Facebook a few days ago, the Buffalo Sabres posted a picture of #11, Gilbert Perreault wishing him a happy 63rd birthday. The photo posted (above) was from his glory days with the Sabres when he, Rene Robert, and Richard Martin skated together on the team. They were known as the French Connection and they made me into a hockey fan. One of the saddest days of my childhood that I remember (this makes me realize how good my childhood was) was when I won tickets to a Sabres game by guessing the correct score of the game in the weekly contest published in the Buffalo News. The day we were supposed to go to the game, there was a big snowstorm and my parents wouldn’t drive the 50 miles into Buffalo. I cried a lot. A few weeks later, my uncle got me tickets and took me to see my hockey heros. Seeing that picture this week brought back good memories!

holiday hero

The Holiday Hero Campaign and the Children’s Mercy Cancer Center Board – Doing good is easier for some than others. People with a lot of money can choose to distribute it to those projects that are important to them. That is relatively easy. But when people donate their time and their extended resources to support a project, it takes more effort. This week, the wonderful board of the Children’s Mercy Cancer Center hosted an event to kickoff the annual Holiday Hero Campaign. This campaign brings in dollars to the Cancer Center. The funds then support programming and research. Each year, a “hero” family is chosen. This year’s is one of the Spanish speaking families who have benefited from the Spanish Language cancer clinic now offered at the hospital. The event was so nice. There were board members, hospital staff, friends and family of everyone, and, of course, the Hero family. Through an interpreter, the father explained what thanks they had for the care their whole family got during their daughter’s treatment. Kicking off the holiday season amongst such good people was a good thing.