This album begins with “Deserter,” in which a choir of children singing over a kind of spooky tone. And then a loud rumbling bass and scratching on a guitar. It’s quite different from the previous Siskiyou releases and outpaces the others by several steps.
Once Colin Huebert’s voice kicks in, that familiar Siskiyou sound returns—acoustic guitar and Huebert’s voice which is a mix between a whisper and Win Butler from Arcade Fire. But “Deserter” features backing vocals and, perhaps most surprisingly, a wild baritone sax solo by Colin Stetson. But it stays grounded with that cool rumbling bass line.
The second song “Bank Accounts and Dollar Bills (Give Peace a Chance)” opens with an echoed guitar likes some classic 1990s shoegaze music. The vocals are a cool, intense whisper. The verses are great and then the chorus adds a piano and his vocals rise into an impassioned wail. The third song “Wasted Genius” adds a kind of steel drum sound that includes a great melody to the simple and slightly ominous verses. The middle of the song switches to pummeling drums and a buzzy guitar solo before returning to the mellow verse.
“Violent Motion Pictures” has another cool whispered vocals and quiet guitars that get accented with a low bass and percussion. There’s a neat section of falsetto vocals that remind me of Pink Floyd over a bouncy melody–before it returns to the verses. It’s a wonderfully catchy, if brief, segment. “Jesus in the 70s” has slow guitar lines and atmospheric keys. “Oval Window” is a bouncy folk song (with a slightly creepy vocal over the top), but its even got a folksy kind of guitar line on it.
“Nervous” is a slow ballad. “Imbecile Thoughts” is a fun song with stomping drums. It has a cool ending that leads to the slow building, strings-included nearly 7 minute “Babylonian Proclivities.” The disc ends with the 1 minute “Falling Down the Stairs.”
This album is really fantastic–an overlooked gem from 2015.
[READ: November 8, 2016] Today Will Be Different
I’ve really enjoyed Maria Semple’s books. And this one was no exception.
She really conveys the hectic, overstimulated, over scheduled life of middle age parenting. It helps that her stories are typically set around Seattle and that there’s a lot of excitement, tech and pop culture to throw around, too.
This is the story of a day in the life of Eleanor Flood. Sarah pointed out, as I didn’t quite realize it, that the story takes place in one day (hence the title) although there are flashbacks that flesh out the story too.
Eleanor is, or perhaps “was” is the better verb, an artist. She was lead animator (or something–it’s a little confusing) on the successful show Looper Wash. When the show ended she received an advance to write a book/memoir. That was eight years ago.
Things have been sprialling out of control for Eleanor for a while, but she vows that today will be different. She will make a difference.
But her husband has other plans. When she walks in on him that morning, he is face down, splayed out on the table (but not dead). Joe is a world famous surgeon to the sports stars and works pretty exclusively with the Seahawks. But he is incredibly down to earth and is never star-struck (which is why they love him). Obviously he makes a pretty good amount of money. Eleanor hasn’t been having sex with him, but she still loves him, most of the time. He’s become her rock in a storm of chaos, which isn’t very romantic.
She has also been trying to improve herself by memorizing poetry and speaking with an artist/poet to improve her memory. I enjoyed this description very much:
You’ve traded vocabulary, lucidity and memory for motherhood. You know how you’re in the middle of a sentence and you realize at the end you’re going to need to call up a certain word and you’re worried you won’t be able to, but you’re already committed so you hurtle along and then pause because you’ve arrived at the end but the word hasn’t? And it’s not even a ten-dollar word you’re after, like polemic or shibboleth, but a two-dollar word, like distinctive, so you just end p saying amazing! Which is how you join the gang of nitwits who describe everything as amazing!.
And so she is meeting with her poet. They really seem to get along well (no romance is coming here, fear not). They are right in the middle of their discussion when the phone rings.
Her son has other plans. Timby (the origin of his name is quite funny) is eight and he has been playing around with makeup ever since he got a small set of makeup in his Christmas stocking (the origins of it are a long story). He has been faking illnesses at school so he can hang around with her all day. She thinks that he is completely fake, but the nurse takes it seriously. The nurse finds out that he has been picked on (a girl told him his clothes were made by wage slaves). So she pulls him out for the day.
But as she is trying to sneak out of the building, she is nabbed by other moms. Another great paragraph follows;
When I graduated from college it never would have occurred to me not to work. That’s why women went to college, to get jobs. Get jobs we did and kicked some serious ass while we were at it, thank you very much, until we realized we’d lost track of time and madly scrambled to get pregnant…. I gave birth to Timby, thus joining the epidemic of haggard women in their forties trapped in playgrounds, slumped on a boingy ladybugs, unconsciously pouring Tupperware containers of Cheerios down their own throats…. Was the sight of us so terrifying that the entire next generation of college educated women declared “Anything but that!” and forsook careers altogether to pop out children in their twenties?
Of course, they want something from her. And as she tries to avoid them, she does something unconsciously mean (so much for today being different).
Eleanor needs to salvage this day somehow, so she stops in on her husband only to find out that he’s lied to work and said he was on vacation this week. Yipes.
One of the Flashbacks concerns her life as an artist in New York City. Daniel Clowes (and several other named dropped underground artists) were part of her circle. And then (a surprise to me) we see the brief “graphic novel” called The Flood Girls which is a history of her life looking after her sister as a young girl. This is to be the basis of the bigger memoir she is supposed to be writing.
The Flood Girls gives some insight into her life and that of her sister, Ivy–someone who has not been spoken of in years. In fact, she has lied and said she did not have a sister.
Another flashback details the fascinating story of her sister and her sister’s husband (who is a hilarious character until he enters Eleanor’s life as a brother-in-law). Their whirlwind romance and unpleasant marriage–which lead to things being said and done–mean they haven’t spoken in a decade.
All of these threads come together at lunchtime when the person she thought she was meeting turned out to be someone else (Eleanor has a problem with names, oh, and dates, and faces). The lunch (which Timby attends because what else can she do with him), makes her investigate just what is going on with her husband. Why is he acting so strange? This involves a trip to Costco (with hilarious results), an excursion through an art installation (with hilarious results) and a surprise at the Key Arena (where the Pope is coming in a few days).
There’s a lot of very funny elements in the story and it is very fast paced. The end of the story takes something of a surprising detour (not in a bad way, it actually makes sense but is unexpected) and I think Semple handled the ending well, although it’s not as frenetic and fun as the rest of the story. But when are endings ever thus?
I can’t wait to see what she writes next!