VoirVoir eluded me at Musikfest this year. I was supposed to see them open for the Flaming Lips but my shuttle arrived late. And they played THREE TIMES on the following Saturday, but we couldn’t coordinate getting to a stage where they were playing. Which is shame because after missing their set the first night, I bought their CD and really liked it a lot.
My copy of the CD looks like the one at the right except that someone in the band hand cut out two irregular shapes in the cover so you can see through to the back, which is a cool touch.
The album itself is mostly punky and fast with vocals not unlike Superchunk or more accurately Built to Spill. Not that they copy either band, but you get that comfortable rocking feeling from these songs.
“I Wanna” is such a great opening statement. After the fast punky verse there’s a slower chorus which is just as catchy as the verses. I could listen to this song all day. “Make Your Bed” also has a wonderfully catchy chorus—the way it shifts into such an upbeat song after the buzzy and feedback filled verse is wonderful. “Stupid for Now” reminds me a lot of Built to Spill—there’s no guitar solos or anything, but in the catchiness and slow build of the verses and the much slower but still catchy chorus. It’s a great song. And I love that there is a glockenspiel as well as the guitars in the mix. “His Last Sound” continues in this vein with another great chorus.
Track five opens with a surprise when a new vocalist enters the mix. My copy of the CD has precious little information about the band–just a list of names. But I’ve pieced together some details to determine that the main vocalist is Matt Malchany and the female vocalist is (I assume) April Smith. So “Be Your Machine” opens with Smith singing and her voice is great–hushed and deep–a stark contrast to Malchany’s voice, which takes over after the first verse. She (or perhaps both women, guitarist Emily Meixell is also in the band) provide backing vocals to the more delicate chorus.
“Let’s Not” plays with the loud/quiet, male/female dynamic more as the verse is brash and loud and sung by Matt and the bridge is quiet and sung by April. Then they mix it up further with a later quieter section sung by Matt.
“There are No Good Goodbyes” is a gentle song sung by April. It has really interesting swirling guitar noises that are almost ominous. I love the way she sings the chorus slowly as the music builds and builds faster and faster. “If Miles Were Years” has some interesting dissonance as well, especially the closing ringing notes. And once again, there’s a catchy chorus. I also really enjoy how much attention is paid to the percussion at the end of this song and many others (nice job Josh Maskornick). And lest I forget bassist Matt Juknevic who keeps the rhythm steady throughout the variations of tone.
“Down Together” slows things down with a martial beat and a duet of vocals. It has couple of moments of loudness that build and drop off only to return to the delicate sound of the beginning. The final song, “This is a Drag” is indeed a bit of a drag. It’s slow and repeats that chorus in a kind of monotonous voice. It doesn’t really play well with the rest of the album, even if the end does build (and yes maybe by the you’re enjoying singing “this is a drag” along with them). I can imagine it might be fun live if they can let it build and build and jam on it for a while, but the rest of the album is so up and fun that this closer is kind of a drag (especially since it’s the longest track on the record).
But despite that, I absolutely love this album. And I love the way I discovered it, and I love that are from Bethlehem, PA, which means I’ll be able to see them live one of these days, surely.
Check out VoirVoir at their bandcamp site and order their album! We need to hear more from them.
[READ: July 27, 2015] The A to Z of You and Me
I admit that I am a sucker for stories that work along a kind of theme (or gimmick). But only if the book is done well. And when this book had the subtitle of A comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Small Mistakes, it seemed interesting enough to dive in.
When I say that this book is narrated by a man in hospice, you can be sure that that information would normally be enough for me to stop reading. The last thing I need to do is read a book by someone who is dying–especially if he is only 43.
But the way the story is told is really intriguing and it unfolds the plot in such a great way. The A to Z part is something that the hospice nurse has told the narrator, Ivo, to do to keep his mind active. Think of a body part for each letter of the alphabet and then think of the most interesting thing that has happened to that body part. And so page one starts with Adam’s Apple. And while he doesn’t exactly think back to his own, he does remember a teacher’s Adam’s apple from grade school and how it left quite an impression on his young life.
The book is written in first person but is mostly directed towards “you.” And “you” is the woman that he was dating whom he is no longer dating.
Sheila is the nurse who is looking after Ivo. She pulls no punches but at the same time she is warm and caring–everyone smiles when they see her. Sheila is more or less the only relationship that Ivo has now (with a couple of exceptions). But obviously he had other relationships in his past.
His sister, Laura, was a trusted friend. Thinking back, he feels bad because his mother seemed to pick on her and indulge him. Laura’s best friend Becca was a girl that Ivo always had a crush on but would never do anything about–not that she was interested. And of course he has some guy friends as well. Kelvin is a friend from the old days–he gets the dedication about Anus (a hilarious story from school days when they had to label body parts for biology class). And then there’s Mal. Mal was a new kid in school and a bit of a troublemaker. But Ivo and Mal bonded when Ivo took the blame for cigarettes that Mal brought to class–since Ivo’s dad had recently died, he was let off more easily.
And so through flashbacks all based on various body parts we watch Ivo and friends grow up and then grow apart. We also see how he met his girlfriend. When they met she was a musician (he met her at one of her shows) and never thought he had a chance with her. But he did. Later we learn that she is quite artsy and likes to yarn bomb areas (there’s sweet moment with the two of them together in the middle of the night trying to see what to decorate next.
It takes until nearly the end of the book that we find out what happened with him and his girlfriend and what happened with him and his sister that he is in hospice basically alone and requesting no visitors.
The only other person that he finds any kind of bond with is the daughter of the woman in the next room. He thinks of the woman only because of her mechanical sounding breathing. He doesn’t know anything about her. Until one day the daughter comes in to talk to him. The girl is young, a teenager, and she bears the burden of having to deal with her mother’s death (remember of course that Ivo dealt with his father’s death when he was quite young, too). But the girl’s father is Japanese and is a busy man–he feels overwhelmed with everything that is going on and she feels the need to take over the details for him. And Ivo proves to be quite a comfort to her. There’s a scene near the end of the book when he talks to hear about the burdens of being young that had me crying over my lunch, it was so touching.
Despite all of the death and dying, the book is actually quite funny. Hannah does a really good job of keeping the memories light. Like that C is for chesticles; Ears refers to a memory of when his girlfriend wore rabbit ears and, dipping into the vulgar, Q refers to quim and a pretty surprising scene for all involved.
As you read a book set in hospice told from first person, you have to assume that the narrator is going to die–unless there’s some kind of miracle, which there isn’t, I’ll warn you. The question is how will it be handled. And Hannah handles it in an unexpected, albeit strangely touching way. The ending really left me with a weird feeling, as befits a story that touches on so many subjects in such a good way. This was a strong debut novel and I’m very curious to see what Hannah will do next.