Archive for the ‘CMJ New Music Monthly’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: FIONA APPLE-“The Whole of the Moon” (2019).

I’m rather a fan of a good cover song.  I don’t really like when bands play covers live–I’m here for your music not someone else’s–but a studio recording is usually welcome.

It’s especially helpful if it’s an artist I like doing a song I like.  Such as with this one.

I learned about The Waterboys back in college.  I hung out with Irish musicians and they introduced me to Irish bands.  Although we were more Fisherman’s Blues than This is the Sea, I still really enjoyed “The Whole of the Moon.”

Lyrically the song is simple but very clever.  It works through many comparisons about how “I” see things less completely than “you” do.

I was grounded
While you filled the skies
I was dumbfounded by truth
You cut through lies
I saw the rain dirty valley
You saw Brigadoon
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon

I also always like the part where the line “you came like a comet” is followed by an explosion–satisfyingly over the top.

The occasion of Fiona Apple covering it has to do with the show The Affair which I’d never heard of.  Evidently the season finale opens with The Waterboys’ version and ends with this new Fiona Apple version.  Fiona Apple’s song “Container” is used in the opening credits, so she already has ties to the show.

I can remember “discovering” Fiona Apple through an issue of New Music Monthly about two months before her debut came out.  I really liked “Shadowboxer” and then the whole album.  It was quite a surprise to me when she became a huge star soon thereafter.  And by the time she toured where I lived, the crowd was full of screaming girls.

Nevertheless, I have stuck with her because her music is always terrific.

Her voice has always been kind of raspy and deep–with a quirky range.  But she really pushes herself on this version.  She sounds worn out and it really works for these lyrics.

It stars with gentle synths and a drum pattern.  After the first verse, a full band comes in, with a trippy slide guitar (rather than the 80’s synths of the original).  But it stays pretty simple–this song is about the lyrics.  The middle instrumental section is similarly horn-based, but with a bit of piano and more slide guitar tossed in.

As the song goes on, Apple’s voice gets more and more intense.  The way she sings: “I sighed / but you swooned” will give you chills.

The Waterboys version has a cute musical ending which Apple removes. She also refrains from the comet explosion.

It’s stripped down and really fantastic.

[READ: September 23, 2019] Herbert’s Wormhole Book 3

I accidentally read Book 3 before Book 2.  I am embarrassed that that happened because I am a librarian and I should know better, but I double checked to see which came out first, but I must have read a paperback reprint with a later publishing date and though that book 3 was in fact book 2.

So I read book three and on many occasions I thought “How daring and surprising and hilarious that the Peter Nelson is referencing things that we did not see.”  I assumed that between book 1 and this one, the kids had had many adventures that we didn’t know anything about.  They would just casually refer to them.  This does happen in TV shows all the time, but I guess not in children’s books.  So I should have known better, but I was excited about the prospect of this rather author twist.  I do admit by the end that there were a number of things where I thought…hmmm…. this is referencing something that I think I should know about.  But I was far enough along at that point not to stop.

Turns out, at the end of Book 2 (I found out later), we see that GOR-DON’s plan for destroying the AlienSlayers is not his own.  It is actually  the plan of an evil mastermind.  An evil mastermind who we learn is called Aerostar.

But the real crisis is in the Filby household.  Because Alex’s dad is going to knock down the jungle gym (that they put up for Alex just last year) to make room for a huge playhouse for his bratty little sister, Ellie (“some serious assembly required”).  This will effectively destroy the wormhole!  What will they do now? (more…)

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reviewSOUNDTRACK: FIONA APPLE-When the Pawn… (1999).

when the pawnI learned about Fiona Apple from CMJ New Music Monthly before her debut came out.  I was convinced she was just another pretty thing with little talent. But then I heard “Shadowboxer” and I was really impressed by the depth of her voice.  When I got the album, I was pretty much blown away.

When When the Pawn came out it was mocked for its absurdly long title.  (Even Janine Garofalo got in on the mocking, for which, shame on her because even if Fiona made some bad decisions, she was still a young woman who was fighting for the causes of good).

But looking beyond the title, For When the Pawn, shows Fiona’s voice getting stronger and more subtle, and her songwriting is truly amazing.  She used the assistance of Jon Brion, multi-instrumentalist and all around dabbler in fun sounds.  And he creates a soundscape of weird instruments, crazy sounds and an enveloping sounds that keep the album an item unto itself.

I haven’t listened to the disc in quite a while, but playing it again, i was impressed by the audacity of some of the musical choices, especially for a “pretty young thing” with a successful (and disturbing) video on the charts (“Criminal“).

The crazy noises that start off the disc (carnival-like keyboards, electronic squeals) sound a mile away from the jazzy sounds of “Shadowboxer” but Fiona’s voice comes in and you know that she’s still her, and her voice sounds even richer.  There’s a wild disconnect on “To Your Love” with the delicate vibes (!) that fill the bridge and the rough sounds in the chorus (not to mention the crazy wordplay: “My derring-do allows me to dance the rigadoon Around you But by the time I’m close to you, I lose my desideratum and now you”‘).  And then “Limp,” an amazing musical concoction:  more delicate jazzy openings followed by a raucous chorus with the wonderful put down: “So call me crazy, hold me down / Make me cry; get off now, baby- / It wont be long till you’ll be / Lying limp in your own hand.”

And that’s just the first three songs.  The rest of the disc sways between mellow jazzy numbers, beautiful ballads, and rocking scorchers, but it is always fueled by a dissonance that counters Apple’s voice perfectly.

Another can’t miss track is “Fast as You Can,” a wonderfully propelled track that bounces along jauntily until it hits an amazingly fast syncopated chorus.  And the production is so clean, the drum clap before the bridge is striking.  The disc ends with a couple of delicate songs.  “Get Gone” is  delightful jazzy song (complete with brushed drums).  It remains pretty mellow until Fiona breaks from a pause with a brutal “fucking go!”  And finally, the delicate ending of “I Know” brings the disc to a close.

Ten years later, this disc is still a gem.  One can only hope it gets rediscovered so a new legion of fans can enjoy its masterful music.  And for the full title of the disc, check the bottom the post….

[READ: October 16, 2009] “Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young”

This article opens with a note that Evan Martin found this article but noticed that it wasn’t online.  It was mentioned in Steven Moore’s essay “The First Draft Version of Infinite Jest.”  So he retyped it and it is now hosted on theknowe.net.  Here’s the write-up & link from The Howling Fantods:

“Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young”. The Review of Contemporary Fiction Vol. 8, No. 3, 1988. [NOTES: Read it here.]

This is a fascinating article in which DFW looks at the state of fiction circa 1987.  Specifically, he is responding to criticisms that the popular authors of the day, collectively Conspicuously Young, all fall into three very basic and uninspired cliche-filled boxes:

  • Neiman-Marcus Nihilism
  • Catatonic Realism
  • Workshop Hermeticism (more…)

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