Tuesday, September 8, 2009

their own pretty ways

i always think it's funny when i can precisely pinpoint where and when i heard a band for the first time; especially when it's love-at-first-listen.
i'm not much of a net-freak, blog notwithstanding. however, there is a particular chatroom where i sit-in frequently (but due to the overwhelming amount of trollish dowshes on the web, i'm not going to reveal it), and as the general focus, much divurged from, of the room is a band, the subject of what we're all listening to is a regular one. noticing the brightly colored, naively painted cover of a newly-acquired lp in one user's photos, i inquired what it was. "first aid kit," i was told, and another user sent me a link to a fantastic video with two elfin, flannel-clad young women sitting in a forest, singing a spare and full-throated version of "tiger mountain peasant song," by fleet foxes.
whoof. i was hooked.
the video begins with a sweet, but hardly-shy, dedication to fleet foxes, by way of introduction, then klara söderberg begins playing her guitar (thrum-ba-ba-ba-bum) with simple assertiveness. she begins, with a sweet, clear, slightly-accented voice, to weave the first verses into the song as her sister johanna sways shyly beside her. the shyness only lasts until the second verse though, when she opens up her mouth and adds her duskier contribution before both girls sing together in haunting harmony. every time i listen to it it still sends chills down my back.
to the best i can tell, first aid kit already had their ep "drunken trees" in the can before this video was made, and that due to the intense popularity of the cover, they re-released it with "tiger mountain peasant song" appended as an eighth track.
i tracked down a purveyor of said ep, and should add that it is very seldom i get so excited when a padded envelope arrives in the mail.
the only real criticism i have of "drunken trees" is that the reasonably charming, but long, sample that introduces both the album and the opening track, "little moon," is not on its own track, but is inseperable from the song. as a fan of listening to albums all the way through, and also of creating an overall texture and atmosphere, i'm all for that. however, i would prefer to sometimes not hear it, and get right to the music, y'know? but that's it. otherwise, the ep is fantastic, flat-out.
on their website(s) the band, or an especially adroit press agent, describe fak's sound as "gary numan if gary numan played folk music," which, yes, is glib, but is also a way of not taking their efforts overly seriously. basically, at it's roots, first aid kit is two teenaged swedish girls playing folk songs on acoustic instruments. the potential for overly earnest treacle is immense, but its well-circumvented here. on the album itself, the voice/voice/guitar relationship is deepened by autoharp, keyboards and subtle percussion--more rattles and shakers than drum kits--to restrained-yet-lush effect. at its core, however remains the simplicity of two sisters singing together.
the band has a single coming out in early october, anticipating a full-length effort sometime in winter. a song from the single has been posted on the band's myspace, and its shimmering, jangly guitars suggest that, not only will the lp be as good as the ep, but that winter may be just exactly the right time to receive it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

please turn off your dance music

this, if i know me, may well end up as one of those meandering and utterly pointless exercises in the documentation of catching up with all the other cool kids. so i may as well just come right out and admit that until last year sometime, i was not familiar with the work of julie doiron.
i am sorry. does that help? to be fair, i'm really the one who's been missing out, not you. trust me, i'm boring at shows. i wouldn't buy you a whiskey. and i just shuffle there, with my arms folded. getting into the music, y'know?

well. now i'm clued in. of course i'd heard doiron's name before, and that of her previous band, eric's trip. considering the copious stacks of indie material i accumulate, it would have been an act of will to avoid hearing about them. but, as so often happens when other bands fall to the wayside of some other obsession du jour, i never actually got around to listening.
until last fall (?–this date may be erroneous, can anyone remember when i got the big pwelverum & sun order? that's when; yknow, for those keeping track...), that is. that's when i got the mount eerie/julie doiron/fred squire record, "lost wisdom." i listened to it one time, and thought, not for the last time, "my god. i truly have a shitty needle on my record player." however, i also at this time downloaded a recording of many of these songs performed at the 2008 primavera sound festival, at the parc del forum in barcelona. (if said recording is still up on archive: get it.) i have listened to this recording any times, and am here to tell you, it is damned swoonable. the set features julie doiron's earthily fresh voice prominently, whereupon she compliments the weary boyish voice of phil elvrum to a remarkably effective degree, particularly with a strong-yet-empathic forwardness to his reticence. what was even more remarkable, was the song breaks, though, when this sensual and masterly voice broke into the most girlish giggles imaginable, ephervescent without being "bubbly," belying not a ditziness, but a great and holistic joy.
determined to delve more deeply into the discography of this person, i was distracted almost immediately by something else. that something was probably related to one of the three ridiculous eps that the mountain goats have recently, semmingly grudgingly released. i accept that i have a problem, can we move on? once i remembered that there were other albums in the world that desperately required my acquisition, i began to think about julie doiron again. as if by the intervention of fate itself, i "had" to order something from jagjaguwar/secretly canadian/dead oceans anyway, and thought, oh, i should get some julie stuff too! i imagine since i have been out of work, small labels and distributors have been starving...
so there i found myself ordering a handful of julie doiron cds, and sat back for the refreshingly old-school label to take the order, find the discs, pack and mail them, all without the urgent reassurances of normal e-commerce. i had to wait a little, and i must say, it actually whetted my appetite. not that i'd want to do that all the time though...
eventually, "broken girl," "lonliest in the morning," "goodnight nobody," and "i woke myself up" arrived at my door, and found their way into rotation on my stereo, with "broken girl" asserting itself most surely. sadly, i missed ordering the most recent album, "i can wonder what you did with your day," my order placed a week shy of its release. i figured then that i would order it in a month or so, but then i found myself out of work. it leads the list of "things to buy when re-employed," a long list, i'm afraid. happily, the wealth of material on these recordings is immensely satisfying, and is work i go back to often for inspiration, but also for its sheer beauty. much has been written about the qualities of julie doiron's voice and material, so i won't re-remark on those, but i will say she was one of my happiest discoveries of last year, and would certainly urge anyone to look into her work. for an easy first step, daytrotter has a lovely set from this year's sxsw session. or you could check out julie's site, which features taster-mp3s from a good portion of her work. oh, and there are lots of those youtube thingees.
i found the experience of searching out julie doiron's work, and the resulting rewards, as being akin to going out to the grey and cooly damp woods, with heavy boots, and and a sturdy vest over a wool sweater, to hunt for wild mushrooms, turning corners to find wild, beautiful and delicious growths nestled in unexpected places. happy foraging.