Saturday, May 9, 2009

You make me feel so blue.

Alexej von Jawlensky Das Oy-Tal (Russian-German 1910)

What a difference a Rozerem and spring cleaning can make.  Uncluttered, chemically well-rested, and at the foot of a day off, I am happy to say the world of music is alive.

Borodin.  I ought to not be talking about this Russian chemist's first string quartet, as it is a weekday diversion.  But it takes up a grand space in me, and as such, warrants honorable mention.  The daily ritual is to soft cook some eggs on macerated tomatoes--I add a pinch of light brown sugar to coax them along, give em a dash of sesame oil and some chili flakes.  It's one of a few dishes I make in which the dog shows no interest.  I eat in peace.

But it's a moody record, and today's going the opposite way.  A few weeks ago I mentioned how charismatic I (finally) found Neko Case.  Well, leave it to Camera Obscura to sneak in and steal her seduction-by-songcraft thunder with their most recent, My Maudlin Career.  Singer Tracyanne Campbell didn't gild lilies this time around, and the songs feel, compared to the sugary Let's Get Out of This Country, a bit restrained.  It's only fair to say that by nearly ANY other standards they are anything but.  However it is amid this mirage of disciplined jubilation and heartachy effusion that Campbell's voice achieves, as does ideal bath water, the temperature of disarmament.  No one that I can think of in indie or even mainstream pop has the hypnotic sexuality she has.  Over the past decade or so of music nerddom I've fallen into a pattern of infatuate, over-estimate and disappoint when it comes to throwback artists.  Maybe it began with Shelby Lynne, or Macy Gray. Hell, maybe Lyle Lovett.  Anyhow, the clause "not since" has come to signify a kind of reliable warning.  So when songwriting teams Boyce & Hart and Lieber & Stoller began to infect my swoony response to Camera Obscura I was alarmed.  Take a line (from 'You Told a Lie') like:

Are my eyes the coldest blue?
You said once this was true.
If it is I don't know what I'll do
'Cause I'm stuck with them,
And they're stuck on you.

Setting aside the physiological effect it has on me, it's a chorus whose literal invocation of blue-eyed soul is an elevation of the tired sub-genre mantle.  Mind you both in production and performance it draws self-conscious attention to its craft.  But when you got it, flaunt it.  This is quite simply the best country soul record I've heard in a long while.

So too was I the recipient of a righteous blood rush from Ghost, whose performance this past Thursday at the Andy Warhol Museum pushed them in the pantheon of bands I've most left the seclusion of home to see out.  It's such a dynamite equation.  Each time I get a slight reservation, handing the dude my ticket.  This is psych rock.  I could be home, high, on the couch.  You know, the ideal context.  Ghost produces such a diverse and inter-colliding host of sounds, moving from Rundgren-esque piano pop, to blast-out Nuge rawk that the opportunity for distraction is simply nowhere to be found.  Even when they spread out Ghost eschews noodling.  It is reassuring too that not only does a band of this cultish a status care enough to play such a career-encompassing set, but that in doing so they could do a solid sequence.  For as small a listenership as the band seems to enjoy there isn't a hell of a lot of filler to their repertoire.  Glad I left the house.

In truth, I am back to spinning the Borodin now.  So much for weekday solipsism.  In between shocks out in the world it is easiest to make happiness out of habit.  And the moodiness sponsored by a chemist, that's something that, for better or worse, refuses to leave you.  

New habits die hard.      

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