The deluxe package of The Idler Wheel comes with a bonus DVD. It also comes with a ton of idle scratchings from Fiona–lyrics, artwork (which is weird but good), postcards and all manner of things. I wasn’t particularly interested in that stuff, although I am pleasantly surprised by her drawing skills. Mostly I wanted to check out the DVD.
So the DVD is actually a five song concert excerpt from SXSW filmed by NPR. I have to assume that the show was more than these five songs (because there are breaks in the video and because there’s no way she would do just five songs). Also, the NPR page for the show says she played a few different songs from Idler Wheel. There’s audio for the show on the site (three of the five songs) which kind of makes the DVD extraneous, except that you get to watch her perform.
When Fiona was younger there was much talk of her videos being too sexualized. And I suppose “Criminal” fit that bill. As such, she has become something of a visual artist by virtue of her body. I’d always thought that she was too skinny, but she seems even more so now. And yet for all the waifiness of her (are you still a waif when you’re 35?), her voice is till strong and powerful and she can belt the hell out of a song (perhaps with a little too much forced vibrato at times).
She seems a little at a loss when she’s in that awkward frontwoman space (my guitarist is playing a rocking solo–what do I do?). She dances somewhat (which NPR describes as confidently but I read as awkwardly, huh).
In this live setting the songs take on a new, looser feel. As I mentioned, the guitarist really lets loose (and he sounds great–there’s even one moment when Fiona walks over to the piano and leans on it to watch the guitarist jam). The band sounds great together and yes Fiona sounds great too.
I actually saw Fiona live in Boston on the tour for her debut album. Unfortunately, the place was mobbed with tweeny girls (was that her target market?) who screamed and shrieked through the whole set. It was one of the worst shows I’d ever seen, through no fault of the performer, who I honestly don’t remember at all. I’ll bet without the devoted screamers the show would have been as interesting as this one seems like it was.
Tracks on the DVD include “Fast As You Can,” “A Mistake,” “Anything We Want,” “Sleep To Dream” and “Every Single Night.” On the NPR page you can hear “Fast As You Can,” “A Mistake,” and ”Every Single Night” as well as “Extraordinary Machine” (on which she hits some amazing high notes!). There’s no “Sleep to Dream” (which has a very different style than on the record–I almost didn’t recognize it) or ”Anything We Want” which sounds great live, especially since she (presumably) plays the introductory percussion (which I assume is looped?) on some strange object. This was the first time most of us had heard “Every Single Night” and I remember thinking it sounded good but so uncomplicated that I was worried that the album would be a little…flat. Boy was I wrong. And now hearing it again, I can hear just how subtle and complex the song is.
[READ: January 28, 2013] Her Mother’s Face
This was Roddy Doyle’s first picture book (you can see that once I found out that he had written children’s books I had to get them all from the library). I read this after Greyhound of Girl, and assumed that it was a slimmed down version of Greyhound. But now that I see that this came first I’m inclined to believe that this book was the inspiration for Greyhound.
Many of the basic details are the same as Greyhound–a girl whose mother died when she was three years old; a ghost visits her and gives her solace. That may not seem like a lot of similarity but in terms of plot that’s really all both books have (it’s the details that really make both stories).
But they are very different books meant for different audiences. Face is a picture book and the illustrations by Freya Blackwood are simply gorgeous. Really they are quite mesmerizing in their beauty. I read it to myself and decided that it’s not really meant for my kids. Neither of them are really old enough to get it (and the death of the mom at age three might lead to more questions than I need to answer at the moment).
It’s wordy for a picture book and it doesn’t have much of Doyle’s humor in it. This is serious book.
Siobhán’s mother died when she was three. She lives now with her father who is sad most of the time and who never talks about his wife/her mom. And there are no real pictures of her around the house; Siobhán fears that she can’t remember what her mom looked like. One day Siobhánis sitting under a tree and a woman comes and sits near her. She whispers some things to her and says tell it to her father and then she tells her that if she wants to see her mother to look in the mirror.
Siobhán grows up and has a daughter of her own, who also grows up and eventually the whispered secret is revealed (Siobhán had forgotten to tell her father, and it is the spark of humor that their lives and the book deserve).
The daughter looking like the mum and the secret message from the ghost are also in Greyhound although as we know they are used very differently in the larger book
It’s a very touching book but it falls into that really weird area of picture books which I feel are way too old for the kids who would normally read picture books. There are a number of brilliant picture book out there that are written for older kids–typically kids who can read by themselves. But I don’t imagine too many nine-year olds reading picture books. (Maybe they do, but I can’t imagine it). And that’s too bad because in this case (and in many others) the pictures are so beautiful that they really enhance the story.
I’m glad I read it. I just wish I had read it in the right order.