Archive for the ‘Jill Sobule’ Category

[ATTENDED: December 22, 2018] Jill Sobule

A friend of mine had told me about the newly renovated Hopewell Theater and how it was a great little venue.  And then I saw that Jill Sobule was playing there.

Jill Sobule had a couple of hits in the 90s (she wrote “I Kissed a Girl” before Katy Perry did).  She bubbled under the radar for a number of years and during that time she released some fantastic albums.  Her songs have always been catchy and smart.  Many of her lyrics are funny but pointed.  And while she’s pretty firmly rooted in the folk scene, her albums tend to rock more than not, with a few ballads tucked in as well.

Over the last decade or so, she’s been quieter, but it turns out she never stopped writing and she’s back with a new album and a one woman show called “#Fuck7thGrade.”

Plus, Hopewell is only 25 minutes from our house.   (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: YOU sleigh ME: Twelve songs from Twelve Atlantic artists for the twelve days of Christmas (1995).

This is one of the first “alternative” Christmas albums I bought.  At the time, I bought it for Tori Amos and Juliana Hatfield.  But this disc has not held up very well and collections have gotten so much better.

Between the poor song choices and the rather bland recordings, the whole things is kind of tedious.

MARY KARLZEN-“Run Rudolph Run”
I’ve said before that I don’t really like this song.  This version chugs along just fine.  The one thing it really has going for it is that she plays with the genders of the kids so that it’s the girl who wants the electric guitar. That’s cool.

COLLECTIVE SOUL-“Blue Christmas”
I don’t really love this song either, although surprisingly this is probably one of my favorite versions so of it.  The rhythm is a weird shuffle, almost like the hand-jive but I like the heavy guitars at the end of each verse.  Weird that his delivery is almost like Elvis though.

TORI AMOS-“Little Drummer Boy”
I can’t imagine when she would actually have sung this live (for it is a live recording). Typical Tori, her voice sounds great and it’s before she started singing in a weird style.

DONNA LEWIS-“Christmas Lights”
No idea who Donna Lewis is.  This song is a mild, inoffensive Christmas song that I can’t say much more about.

BILLY PILGRIM-“The First Noel”
I have no idea if this band is still around or even who was in them, but this version of the song is quite nice.  There’s pretty folk guitar and some great harmonies.  I can nit-pick about the No-ell-ell part but overall this one’s a keeper.

As I said, I bought this disc for Tori and Juliana.  This song is pretty, but it was used in My So-Called Life so it’s not special at all.  Boo.

JILL SOBULE-“Merry Christmas from the Family” (NSFC)
I’d always assumed that Jill wrote this song, although I see now that it was written by Robert Earl Keen.  This song is hilarious and mostly inappropriate.  And yet it also has a lovely sentiment (if you can get past the drunks and family problems).  It’s my favorite on this disc to be sure.

DANIEL JOHNSTON-“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
I just don’t understand why people listen to Johnston.  His voice is not compelling, and this sounds like someone making fun of the song.

DILLON FENCE-“Christmas”
This is a slick song that is about Christmas in some way.  It’s sort of blandly inoffensive jangle pop.

JAMES CARTER-“White Christmas”
This is an interminable 8 minute jazz sax solo version of the song.  Wow, it never ends.

VICTORIA WILLIAMS-“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”
Victoria Williams also has a take-it-or-leave-it voice.  I used to like her more than I do now, bu that could change any minute.  This song is faithful to the original and pretty if you like her singing.

Another bland folky song.  The chorus is catchy, but I can’t be bothered to figure out what it has to do with Christmas.

Overall this is a disappointing disc and there are far better options.


[READ: December 17, 2017] “Last Woman”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This year, there are brief interviews with each author posted on the date of their story.

Hello. Welcome. It’s finally here: Short Story Advent Calendar time.

If you’re reading along at home, now’s the time to start cracking those seals, one by one, and discover some truly brilliant writing inside. Then check back here each morning for an exclusive interview with the author of that day’s story.

(Want to join in? It’s not too late. Order your copy here.)

This year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection

I enjoyed this piece for the way it juxtaposed a woman living by herself with the last woman left alive in a video game. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ROB SZABO-“If I Could Do It All Again” (2003).

Rob Szabo is a singer-songwriter.  And this song is a pretty traditional singer-songwriter song.  It’s got some humor, it’s got some cliches.  In some ways he reminds me of Jill Sobule (lyrically, not vocally, obviously) or maybe Loudon Wainwright III.

Szabo has a number of albums out already.  I listened to a few others songs on his radio station and I enjoyed them.  He strikes me as the kind of musician that the more you listen, and the more carefully you listen, the more rewarding his music is.

I wasn’t all that impressed by “If I Could Do It All Again,” but the other tracks were certainly good.  And I could easily enjoy listening to his stuff when the mood was right.

[READ: June 15, 2010] “Stet”

This was probably my favorite story of the bunch.  It’s funny, it’s dark and its very Canadian.  I suppose that if you want to write a “Canadian story” it’s easy to set it where he does (so you can mention a LOT of Canadiana) but this story works beyond the surface.

And the surface is that this story is set in a Canadian newspaper.  Mansour, Fabien and Matt are trying to meet a deadline.  They bemoan their late hours, their hard work, their horrible bosses and the inevitable decline of newspapers. (more…)

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ny19SOUNDTRACK: JILL SOBULE-Underdog Victorious (2004).

sobuleAfter ordering California Years, I saw that she had released this disc, Underdog Victorious, which I had never heard of.  Then I found it used for pretty cheap.  The most exciting thing about the disc is that there’s a crossword puzzle (that is largely about Jill herself) done by Will Shortz on the inside back cover!

And the music is really good too.  It’s a solid collection of sarcastic rockers and earnest tales of mild woe.  The short track “Under the Disco Ball” (a sarcastic look at homophobes) seems like it would be an ideal song to start any show.  I can see the disco ball spinning as she sings the final lines, “They have a scheme, they have a plan, to take the children of our land and turn them into stylists and women who play golf.”  And then she could bust into the rocking title track which features a delightful sing along chorus.

The disc opens with a couple of more gentle songs.  The self deprecating “Freshman” (she lives like a freshman), and “Jetpack” which is a nice romantic story about what she would do is she had a jetpack.  And then the single “Cinnamon Park” which should have been huge.  It’s catchy, it’s clever, it seems like it’s going to have a curse but it doesn’t.  It’s great!

“Joey” is a tribute to a faded actress (but I can’t decide if she’s real or not). And “Angel/?” is probably the most vulgar song she’s recorded.  It’s very funny.  And the last two mellow songs end the disc quite nicely.  There’s even a bonus untitled song about getting pulled over which rocks rather hard (for her) and is quite funny.

It’s a shame that Sobule had such a hard time with record labels because she is a preeminent singer-songwriter, and she should have a bigger fanbase.  (Although since she raised $75,000 in just a couple months for her California Years CD, I gather her fanbase is big enough, thank you.)

[READ: October 15, 2009] “Complicity”

This story was written in a really interesting way.  It deals with sensation, primarily touch, and the narrator treats tactile sensation, even his own, as something that is almost disconnected from himself.  And he reflects back on different situations where touch has been very significant to him.

He begins by remembering that when he was a boy with hiccups, his mother would slip a cold key down his back.  And he can still feel this sensation as an adult (although he’s not sure if it’s a valid cure for hiccups).

And then he talks about the game where you (and others) close your eyes and touch things and try to guess what the object is (pay particular attention to peeled lychees).  And this game seems to be a foundation for his upcoming date with a woman he met at a party.  While talking to the woman’s mother, he surreptitiously hands the woman a cigarette and a pack of matches behind the mother’s back.  This entirely tactile experience (touching fingertips, feeling the matches removed, etc.) stayed with him. (more…)

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harper novSOUNDTRACK: JILL SOBULE-California Years (2009).

caliSo Jill Sobule had the first hit single called “I Kissed a Girl” (that was sung by a woman).  And it was sort of a novelty hit, which is the kiss of death for any songwriter.  After most people forgot about her, I followed her career for a while.  And I found her follow up to “I Kissed a Girl,” Happy Town, to be a superb album and the follow up to that one, Pink Pearl ,was also really good.  And then she fell off my radar.

California Years is the first album that she self-released (and self-financed).  And it finds Sobule in find voice.  Her voice still sounds fantastic: strong and dusky, with a sly wink. When I first listened to the disc, I enjoyed it immensely.  Further listenings have revealed some flaws to me, which have lessened my enjoyment somewhat.  But before I nitpick, I’ll mention the highlights.

The first three songs are just top of the line.  “Palm Springs” opens the disc with a wonderful air of freedom.  “San Francisco” is another cool folky song, typical Jill.  These two are followed by one of Sobule’s excellent rocking/sarcastic/snotty songs, “Nothin’ to Prove” (catchy and snarky!).

After a few tracks, “Wendell Lee” resumes the fun with a list of all the people she’s dated and what they’re up to now.  “Mexican Pharmacy” & “Spiderman” are two fun/funny songs that close the disc nicely.  The final track is a list of all the people who gave her money to make the record.  It’s a catchy little tune even if you’ll never even try to remember the lyrics.

But there are a few clunkers on the disc. “Where is Bobbie Gentry,” when I first heard it, it was fun to guess that Bobbie had written “Ode to Billie Joe” (I didn’t know she had written it).  And this sort of update to that song (which I actually don’t like that much anyhow) sounded like a good idea, but on repeated listens it seems forced and rather silly (especially the “I was the baby…”) line.

There’s another weird song in the middle section: “Empty Glass.”  What’s weird about it is that Sobule doesn’t normally hold notes for very long, she’s more of a quick singer.  And I think her voice doesn’t really hold up to the chorus of “empty glass.”  My final gripe is with “Bloody Valentine” which begins with the exact same chord structure and vocal melody line as the first song on the disc.  Whenever it comes on I start singing “Palm Springs.”  It also ends with a weird little “rocking” section which simply doesn’t suit the disc.

So, overall it’s something of a mixed bag.  But the highs outnumber the lows by a long shot, and the highs are quite high.

[READ: October 13, 2009] “Among the Beanwoods,” “Heather,” “Pandemonium”

I’ve had these stories lying around for quite some time.  When I first saved them it was because I had just read McSweeney’s #24 which had a Donald Barthelme section in it.  I had read these short pieces then, but they didn’t leave that much of an impact on me, so I decided to re-read them now.

“Among the Beanwoods” & “Heather” are from the 1970s.  And “Pandemonium” was written just before his death in 1989.

And it’s here that I admit that I really don’t know all that much about Barthelme (even having read the McSweeney’s issue).   And I can also admit that I don’t really “get ” him. (more…)

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