Category: Music

Joanna Newsom: Sprout and Bean in one

Joanna Newsom has a new album out next month! Joanna Newsom, AKA “Kasbah Harp Lady”, is a woman whose voice is not to everyone’s taste. Yet she has an undeniable charm about her.

Just observe her harmonising with herself in “The Sprout and the Bean”:

I went and saw Joanna Newsom last year (report here), and she was great. I was smiling all the way through her unassuming, charming set. She had a true rapport with the audience, although it turns out that her interminably long songs are going to be no less interminable for Ys when it hits the stores next month.

I was surprised to see on YouTube the following recordings of Newsom singing “Inflammatory Writ” at the concert I was at!

Inflammatory Writ, part I
Inflammatory Writ, part II

I’d embed them, but they’re not embeddable. I could just be making things up here, but I could swear you can hear my laughter in the second one, after she thanks someone for loving her.

The question you must ask yourself at times like these is this: Are y’interested?
It’ll serve you well.

Roxette: One Wish

“We’re a part of this together/could never turn around and run”

Roxette are celebrating 20 years with their release of the uninspired A Collection of Roxette Hits: Their 20 Greatest Songs, a title which Something Awful rightly ripped into despite my questioning the rest of their judgements on the content. That is not the big, important thing, though: the important thing is The Roxbox – Roxette 86-06. You get the impression that more work went into this collection simply from the name alone.

The Roxbox is a collection of 78 Roxette songs: some hits, some B-sides, some demos, some … album tracks? Anyway, the lead single in some countries, and number two on the Swedish charts at the time of this writing is “One Wish”:

I’ve been a Roxette supporter since 1995. So yes, I came late to the party. And yes, I let that support lay dormant until I needed them again in 2003, when my Look for Roxette was what sustained me through the HSC. This was, of course, in the days of my rabid obsessiveness. I cannot raise such passion anymore, a source of both relief and distress.

So what to make of “One Wish”? I showed it to my friend William, a casual fan of Roxette (who had rearranged “Listen to Your Heart” as a birthday surprise with another of my friends, but was dashed down during the week), and he said “it’s good that Roxette have retained their sound”.

I’ve listened to a lot of Per Gessle this year, because his two disc album Son of a Plumber had me enthralled for a couple of weeks. When I’m listening to Roxette, though, I’m generally hanging out for Marie Fredriksson to carry me away on the wings of her voice.
“One Wish” is something that we don’t see very often in a Roxette song: call and response! Per sings a verse, and then Marie! It’s not the usual “lead and support” conundrum, and if I were to listen to it again I would be happy that they are working together.

Marie has not, of course, sung on a new Roxette song since 2002’s “Breathe”, since she was diagnosed with a brain tumour shortly after recording. Per is good, don’t get me wrong, but I want the Marie that only Roxette can offer (Marie’s solo efforts – at least those in English [unlike my Per collection, I have no Swedish language Marie] – are uncompelling).

Still, I must let “One Wish” grow on me. On the other hand, I appreciated the constant play from other music videos that Roxette have made over the years, from the camaraderie of “Silver Blue” (also substantially the same as “Dangerous” but I prefer “Silver Blue”):

To the most attractive Marie ever filmed in “June Afternoon” (a music video that features the best and worst of Roxette videos):

Of course, a retrospective video is going to reveal that Roxette may have been popular but they were almost never (I hope) at the height of fashion. For the entire Joyride era into Tourism, Per looked like an over made-up train wreck whose hair might melt off his head at any moment.

Yet I can not help but love him.

The Roxbox is the (not perfect; you should have seen the ruckus at the revelation of the track listing!) antidote to The Roxette Collection. I mean, their fourth “best of” album, when they had only released two new studio albums between their first and second/third compilation, and none since!

The Roxbox is great for a collector like me. Discovering new Roxette is like, I don’t know, finding Life on Mars. While I really want a new studio album (you can do it, Per and Marie! I believe in you and your two solo albums apiece since Room Service!), I will content myself with See Me.

Rock on, Roxette. Prove to the world that Sweden’s got what it takes: pop, metal and one of the world’s most pleasant societies.

Scissor Sisters: You’d think that they could muster up a little soft shoe gentle sway

Two years on, it’s yet again the last time they’ll ever do my hair: Scissor Sisters’ new album, Ta-dah, came out in Australia last weekend. It hits American shores on September 26th.

Scissor Sisters are most definitely a dancetacular pop band, delightfully individual and flatteringly derivative. Their song “Return to Oz” has played an undeniable part in the shaping of my life and, of course, “Take Your Mama” played an integral role in the stunning conclusion of my epic story Tales of Daring-Do: The Particles of Perfidy (but don’t tell them that, or there will be licencing fees).

I’m not actually certain whether Ta-dah is a “better” album than Scissor Sisters or if the novelty of new songs is what is getting me. That’s beside the point, because these are good songs, undeniably more bopping and consistent in tone their their first effort.

Joy comes in the form of “I can’t decide”, a song about mortality with lyrics along the lines of

I could throw you in a lake/or feed you poison birthday cake/I won’t deny I’m gonna miss you when you’re gone/Oh I could bury you alive/but you might crawl out with a knife/and kill me when I’m sleeping/ that’s why …

Sorrow comes from “The Land of a Thousand Words”; Elton John comes at you from all angles!

Ta-Dah is a good album, despite its lack of a “Return to Oz” to allow listeners to revisit the Skeksis of their youth.

Loathe as I am to use YouTube, here is the lead single “I don’t feel like dancin'”:

A warning before you click play on that, though: Scissor Sisters sell ridiculously well in the UK and more than reasonably here, but they’re relatively minor in the US. I understand this may be because they are “too gay”. Basically that means they know how to put on a show. I’ll top this off with this quote that I don’t particularly like, but will propagate some more:

“The fact that some of us are gay affects our music the same amount as it does that some of the members of Blondie are straight.”

60% of Scissor Sisters are homosexual. Don’t let that get to you. (Also, while I am a big fan of Blondie, I cannot tell you the sexuality by percentage of that band. Am I a bad fan, or does it simply not matter to me?)

Post script: To establish my credentials, here’s a photo of me and Jake Shears, circa January 2005.

Jake Shears and Alex!

For the record, Ana Matronic liked my shirt. I’m a shy and retiring person among people that I am in awe of at the best of times, so I’m really pleased I was able to ask Jake and Ana for photos.