K Recommends: “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” by Ian Dury

You can take any one of my eccentricities and I will find a way to connect it to “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” by Ian Dury. The album came out in the year I was born: 1977. It is the first LP I remember hearing. I committed those saucy punk-funk tunes to my memory.

This song is a strut, an anthem to things I had no idea about, and a testament to how well the young mind absorbs. Hearing it at age 6 and seeking out the “New Boots and Panties!!” full-length every time I visited my dad’s record collection felt like it was okay to enjoy something weird. My friends and their parents weren’t listening to this!

The redness of my anxious face was usually my indicator as to whether or not I felt like something was appropriate. Sex scene in a movie I watched with my mom? No need for her to cover my eyes as I would run from the couch and return to the age-appropriate solace of my bedroom with its Slinky and Rainbow Brite doll. I always felt cool having young parents who offered an “in” for me musically. Circa 1983 I was filling my ears with King Crimson, Diana Ross, Bowie, Pink Floyd, Harry Belafonte, Cat Stevens, and Genesis. I loved radio and early MTV.

To this day I have no idea how my dad got into Ian Dury. When I’d work in a record store years later, I’d covet much of anything on the Stiff label. I consider it an honor to have encountered this song and the entire record early on. When I started collecting vinyl in the early 2000s, this album was one of the first I included in my crates.

There are many fun songs on this release; clearly over my head lyrically when I discovered it. This track is a favorite and reminds me of innocent times when I’d catch a hint of something taboo.

This song is very good, indeed.

(Song recommendation by K Weber)

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Andrew Recommends: “Chapter & Verse (Ione’s Song)” by Hiss Golden Messenger

Photo by Graham Tolbert.

My daughter observes that I don’t laugh enough. Sometimes she poses it as a question: “Why don’t you laugh?” Sometimes, as a wish: “I wish you would laugh more.” I recognize now that she uses this phrase to remind me I’m edging toward too quiet, too distant. But it haunts me as part of her definition of who I am.

When Hiss Golden Messenger released Lateness of Dancers in 2014, the album cemented my devotion as fan. I returned to the earlier Hiss albums and imbibed the music. I thought I had gone deep with my listening in the years since, but as is often the case, place and time and circumstance possess a powerful alchemy that can alter one’s connection to a song.

* * *

Mid-January. Early afternoon. I’m alone in my university office. Snow covers the grass on the quad below. Heavy, gray clouds darken the sky and ice encases the bare tree branches scratching at my office window. I’m listless and longing for some between-semester direction, and I’ve had too much time to get in my own head. Staring at the frozen world outside is all I can manage to do.

The second side of Lateness of Dancers spins on my bookshelf turntable. Quiet and meditative, driven by acoustic guitar and piano, “Chapter & Verse (Ione’s Song)” begins to play. M.C. Taylor’s voice comes through a bit worn, reaching, and burdened. I’ve listened to the song dozens of times, so it requires no effort to mumble out the words, my breath laying the lightest fog over the window pane before me.

Part hymn, part lament — the song pulls me along in its slow drift and lyrical contradictions. But my gaze is unchanged, expressionless, until nearly halfway through the track when Taylor sings, “Oh, Ione, yeah your daddy’s just as dark as can be….” I feel gutted, feel sucked out into the frigid, dark air. And the extended pause in the lyrical line leaves me hanging, exposed, until Taylor comes back, tenderly, with, “But I can be your little rainbow too.” In the window, my half-reflection gazes back and I recognize myself.

The guitar strumming grows harder, and the song plays out its final minutes of recorded life repeating, “It’s a long time.” I lift the needle and slip on my winter gear, lock up my office. I’ll be at the top of the school steps when my daughter comes out of her 4th-grade class. I’ll find a way to laugh in this dark season as we walk home because I’ve got that capability inside me, even if I sometimes forget.

***

In the right moment, a couple of lines in a song can save us from ourselves for even part of a day. There’s a revelatory effect in encountering your own image set apart and illuminated in a work of art. We’re not always good at seeing and acknowledging our dichotomous nature. Sometimes we need a darker song to bring us to a lighter place, to remind us who we can be again.

(Song recommendation by Andrew Jones)

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Memoir Mixtapes Vol.9, Track 22

OLLY OLLY by Alexa Smith

To read this piece, click the album cover below.

About the author:
Alexa Smith grew up in D.C., studied theater in Pittsburgh, and now lives in Philadelphia, where she edits Apiary Magazine. You can find her poems in Entropy,Peach Mag, and Darkwood.

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Koty Recommends: “Don’t Bother They’re Here” by Stars of the Lid

Have you ever found a song that’s an auditory encapsulation of an exact moment? Something so moving that when you put it on you’re immediately immersed in an experience, a mood, a feeling from not so long ago.

This summer I moved to Los Angeles where I lived by the beach for the first month. But it wasn’t one of those happy, sunny California beaches you see in the movies. The beach was moody. It was morose. It was listening to Fiona Apple and drinking red wine from a cheap liquor store while writing bad poetry. Large cumulus clouds lingered in the sky until mid-day then broke apart to let a few rays of sunlight through, but by then I was already feeling very ‘other’, pensive, and unsure. The problem was that I couldn’t remember the last time I saw the stars. Maybe back in Texas.

Living by the beach that month I swore I could hear the waves crashing in my sleep. The casual hauntings of a somber ocean and a lonely tide. I began learning about the cyclic rise and fall of seawater. If they were going to linger in the background of my dreams every night I wanted to know every wave by its name.

I woke up at 5 a.m. the morning of the lunar eclipse to find the ocean more aggressive than usual — a beach completely encompassed by fog and mist. The day before I had learned the company I moved all the way to California to work for wasn’t quite as it appeared and now their future seemed uncertain.

I walked along the surreal landscape quietly that morning wondering what this meant for my own future until I realized the fog was so thick I could no longer see in front of me. I could only stand there and let the sounds of the ocean and an otherworldly atmosphere wash over me dissolving into soft focus.

“Don’t Bother They’re Here” by ambient legends Stars of the Lid is that one strange moment compressed into a 10 minute song. It’s the experience of being awake in a dream-like state, being neither here nor there, questioning it all, feeling a mix of hope, wonder, and angst as though all that you want is just within reach—you’re so close, you’re almost there, yet you still can’t quite learn how to get what you want. But you realize somewhere along the way that’s what the journey is all about. It was always meant to happen that way. You just never see it at the time. And that’s what makes it all so beautiful.

Here’s to all the strange and otherworldly journeys we’re on right now and the soundtracks that accompany them.

(Song recommendation by Koty Neelis)

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Memoir Mixtapes Vol.9, Track 21

Beside the Green, Green Grass by Jennifer Walter

To read this piece, click the album cover below.

About the author:
Jennifer Walter is currently an editorial assistant and staff writer for the national science magazine, Discover. In 2018, she founded Dad Rock Radio, an award-winning show that blends tales of family, grief, and loss with 80s alternative rock, alongside her sisters. She tweets as @therealjwalter and posts on Instagram as @rainbowwwsocks.

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Memoir Mixtapes Vol.9, Track 20

Freedumb, or something like it by Jon Johnson

To read this piece, click the album cover below.

About the author:
For the most part, Jon Johnson has no clue what is going on. He enjoys creation and expression in many forms, and finds it best through whichever medium pops out at the moment. Follow Jon on social @jonneeringo, or visit him in Mallorca.

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Memoir Mixtapes Vol.9, Track 19

songs my parents listened to when they were still in love. by Wanda Deglane

To read this piece, click the album cover below.

About the author:
Wanda Deglane is a Capricorn from Arizona. She is the daughter of Peruvian immigrants and attends Arizona State University. Her poetry has been published or forthcoming from Rust + Moth, Glass Poetry, L’Ephemere Review, and Yes Poetry, among other lovely places. Wanda is the author of Rainlily (2018), Lady Saturn (Rhythm & Bones, 2019), Venus in Bloom (Porkbelly Press, 2019), and Bittersweet (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, 2019).

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Noah Recommends: “The Saint of Lost Causes” by Justin Townes Earle

Legendary agitator and union singer Utah Phillips said, “It’s a long way from ‘Dump the bosses off your back’ to ‘How many seas must the white dove sail’” comparing the folk poetry of Bob Dylan to the call-to-action proselytising of the IWW. With “The Saint of Lost Causes,” Justin Townes Earle expands the folk cannon by forging a path right through the center of it.

While there is certainly no shortage of anguish in the current musical landscape, Earle cuts decisively through the droning mass of regurgitated social commentary by assuming the role of both poet and protestor.

The story goes that Saint Jude earned his title as the Patron Saint of Lost Causes thanks to the unfortunate coincidence of being named Judas. Fearing that any prayer aimed at Saint Jude could accidentally land in the hands of Judus Iscariot, parishioners avoided the saint. As the years rolled by, Saint Jude faded into the background, earning him both the title of The Forgotten Apostle and the responsibility of tending to everyone’s lost causes.

Heaving lament at the forgotten Saint of Lost Causes, Earle has little concern with who gets their hands on this prayer. God, man, politician and priest, Earle warns of wool skinned wolves, sharp-toothed sheep and shepherds who have blood on their hands and something up their sleeves.

“Just pray to the Saint of Lost Causes” Earle sings.

In the flicker of candlelight, in every drop of poisoned holy water, “The Saint of Lost Causes” stretches liturgy and elegy in the crumbling infrastructure of the American class system. Like Earle’s 1930’s and 1960’s folk counter parts, he questions power and privilege through an inherently disenfranchised and distinctly American lens. Hope is allowed its due season. Prayer its piety. But Earle’s poetry finds solace in the blunt and absolute, forcing action or acceptance or at the very least, acknowledgment.

In the parabolic cannon of folk music, the art of wrapping a moral imperative in a poetic narrative is the height of accomplishment. With, “Throughout time, between a wolf and a shepherd, who do you think has killed more sheep” Earle does just that.

According to Woody Guthrie, “It’s a Folk Singers job to comfort the disturbed people and to disturb the comfortable people.” Justin Towne Earle is such a folk singer. “The Saint of Lost Causes” sits squarely between Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changing” and Utah Phillips’ We Have Fed You All For A Thousand Years as one of the great albums and songs in the folk cannon.


Noah C Lekas is a poet, music journalist and the author of Saturday Night Sage. Join him on Twitter, Instagram for more information.

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K Recommends: “Odyssey” by Dream Koala

Image from BBC

I recently asked friends to send me song suggestions for a mix. About to face some pretty heavy life stuff, I requested songs that motivate, invigorate, make you dance, feel like comfort food. Mostly I wanted distraction to emanate from the hug of my headphones.

I was rewarded with many genres and a listen to what many of my favorite online friends put in their ears. Among these tracks were comedic tunes, seriously sad jams, danceable gems, wistful acoustics, mesmerizing electronics, classic soul and indie pop for the head-nodding set. I love them all. I also said I would pick one song of the 100+ to recommend here. There were several very infectious and/or wildly emotional songs that gave me pause and lingered around my headspace awhile.

My friend Dan E. sent me a few stand-out selections. Of these, Dream Koala’s “Odyssey” filled my ears and probably my entire aura with rich sound. I could only process the first listen’s description as Lenny Kravitz’s singing style on the mellow, cool, and painfully calm “It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over” colliding with a generous swell of instrumentation like that of Cigarettes After Sex or really any goosebump-inducing rise and fall. Add a hint of Arab Strap’s pacing and the feeling of someone performing in a room with echoes filling floor to cathedral ceiling. This just barely attempts to describe all the haunting, fulfilling musicality in this “Odyssey.”

The lyrics are sparse but have depth of detail. It must have been a hell of an odyssey the artist embarked upon to come to these questions and realizations! The sensitivity and observations are so human. Put into the context of the dark, breezy feel of this song, the weight of the words is delicate but empowered. It seems as though the strengths and hesitations in the lyrics and music mimic life; the truest odyssey possible.

The slow ticking sound at the start of the song emphasizes time passage to me. By the end, the ticking has become more frenzied, the presentation wild, free and chaotic; lost and found.

(Song recommendation by K Weber)

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