FtV: Emma’s Music

PRE-POSTSCRIPT: just solidly killed the morning writing up what should have been like a five minute note. Sorry! you don’t actually need to read all this shit, but it’s there πŸ™‚

Just added 10 Stan Rogers songs to the dropbox πŸ™‚

Also, because I can, because I’m a geek, because I have big feelings, and because I’ve already written papers about some of this music, you get the official Emma Pardini album notes.

PAOLO NUTINI (Scottish; draws heavily from Italian heritage)
These Streets – His first album (where that New Shoes song came from). Lots of angst, but with an unusual compassionate focus on the angst of the elderly and apathetically disenfranchised.

Sunny Side Up – Only listen to this after you’ve familiarized yourself with the first album; my sister (who loves Paolo) didn’t even recognize his work when I showed her these songs — it’s SUCH a turnaround from his first album (mostly attributable to the fact that his Italian grandfather passed away right as Paolo was beginning to seriously study Italian in order to get to know his grandfather better. Now he often plays a traditional Italian ballad or lullaby in his live shows). It’s a big-band, brassy, optimistic embrace of life marked by a projection of intense joy onto everything in the world. The music video for “Pencil Full of Lead” is worth a watch — completely ridiculous and surprisingly self-aware. Also worth watching are some of his early live shows, when his speech is dialectically slurred beyond the loosest definitions of human language and he frequently fell on stage. and sometimes off the stage.

ENTER THE HAGGIS (Canadian with musical roots in Scotland and socio-political roots in Ireland)
Soapbox Heroes – My introduction to ETH. Bagpipes. Pennywhistle. Fiddle. Big, anthemic protests and the sort of tired reminiscence that seeps out of the skin of old men after twenty-five years of occupying the same barstool. So many great but easily-overlooked vocal harmonies.

Gutter Anthems – Possibly even more anthemic than the last album (hell, it’s in the title this time). This is where they really started getting polished as a group (especially producting-wise). Great play with time signature in Suburban Plains; great folk storytelling in Noseworthy and Piercy, The Death of Johnny Mooring, and The Ghosts of Calico. Cameos is a pre-nostalgic romance for high school theatre seniors (“Well, I thought the set was real / ’til our friends went to their dressing rooms / and I felt the cardboard trees. / So now here we are / all alone and naked ‘neath these white fluorescent stars”).

“Live Cuts For Site – WMNF” aka stuff I ripped from radio shows – bits from previous albums, performed better live than they were originally. LOVE the blatant camaraderie in “Fiddle.” Especially the bits of yelling before the tempo changes when they’re obviously making a game of trying to trip each other up (in this spiritual vein: if you haven’t seen Waking Ned Divine, YOU MUST).

Whitelake – Just figuring it out. Devil’s Son is about the suicide of Bernie Madoff’s son. Whistleblower is the story of an ex-child soldier. The guy who wrote The Flood took a canoe out on whitelake immediately after finishing writing and capsized fully clothed, no life jacket, a full kilometer from shore, surrounded by ice (making it impossible for him to maneuver to right the canoe). He swam back to shore and walked 3km to the cabin in freezing weather.

TADHG COOKE (aka Tiger Cook when he plays in America) (Irish solo singer-songwriter who opened for Guggenheim Grotto twice at SPACE in Evanston – the first time he was just supposed to be a roadie, but one of the Grotto’s opening acts canceled last-minute, so he got up and played a set. No big deal)
Wax and Seal – Wax and Seal is by far the standout here. Overall, a mellow, dispirited-but-comforting meld of personal tales. Still coming into his own – can’t wait to see him tackle some more varied narrators.

STAN ROGERS (Canadian folk legend who completely redefined the genre before his unexpected death at age 33 in a plane fire)
Selections from Fogarty’s Cove – MY CHILDHOOD. Barrett’s Privateers and Wrech of the Athens Queen especially. Anthropologie sells a green leather couch that could have come straight out of that song… SO MUCH WANT. Every year, my dad tried to convince the high school choir director to have the men’s choir to sing Barrett’s Privateers (a capella). No luck.

Waltzing Alone… – Their first album. Philosophia was actually the very first itunes free-song-of-the-week I ever downloaded, and it’s still my favorite of their songs. Mellow, pensive, and sweet. An album for rainy afternoons and midnight revelations about the beauty of the universe. Philosophically cathartic – full of intense, deep thought coupled with the realization that you’ll destroy yourself if you constantly maintain such a tight, definitive focus on the universe. Vertigo was the only song of theirs my dad could really get into (though this was the only album of theirs he ever heard); also it perfectly summarizes my fear of heights (except for being possibly too calm and collected to capture the ubiquitous exhilaration of terror).

Told You So (EP) – One new song; nothing spectacular here. Eh.

A Lifetime in Heat (EP) and What is this Feeling? (Single) – Simple. Sweet. Sad. Optimistic. The Grotto’s talent: simultaneously making you realize how sad the universe is as well as how beautiful and perfect it is. Dr Horrible summarizes it well: Penny: “You know, everything happens.” Billy: “Don’t say ‘for a reason.'” Penny: “No, no, I’m just saying, everything happens.”

Happy the Man – This is the album to listen to as a simultaneous embrace of and cleansing from angst, apathy, and despair.
After my dad died, the first time I really sat down to listen to music was to listen to this album for the first time. It had been a few weeks, and I don’t think I hardly had a moment alone the whole time; and if I did I spent it sort of just sitting. I had been waiting for this album to come out forever, and then in the mess of everything I forgot about it until the preordered songs popped up in my itunes. So I got in the car and started driving and playing through the album in order, and it was probably the most important thing I could have done at that point: in the first moments of the intro you get this ethereal direct address that just crushes your soul, and I was like ‘yeah, go for it, I’m so down to just sink into the mud right now,’ but as soon as you invest in that, the narrative twists it around on you and you can’t help but feel balanced, perfected. And the album keeps doing that, putting a soft, benevolent smile on crushed dreams, impossible aspirations, forgotten artifacts, the insignificance of humanity, and paralyzing realizations of mortality. And then you get to The Dragon, and it’s this sweet little childhood sibling respect-awe-jealousy, and then you realize the narrator isn’t impressed by the fact that his brother can dream about being giant or flying or having a pet dragon — the big, explosive, revelatory instrumental break comes after the moment where “my father walked in, and he and my brother embraced” in the dream, and there’s this moment of ‘whoa, that’s what he’s really jealous of. None of this other shit matters; it was all just building up to this, the most important, most human, most heartbreaking thing.” And THEN you get to Heaven has a Heart, which suggests this benevolence and it’ll-all-be-all-right-in-the-end ethos, but then you get to the chorus and the actual line is ‘heaven has a heart of stone,’ and no matter what you do, everything ends in the same pathetic sputter. You shouldn’t let it change the way you live your life – they instruct – and you shouldn’t take this knowledge as license to give up on life, but everyone should know that this is what’s coming, and that’s the way it is. The End.
Even now, I find the best combination indulgence-and-antidote to an emotional-rut-type bad day is to listen to this album all the way through in order with the Intro and Fee Da Da Dee tacked onto the end again.

The Universe is Laughing – Their most recent album (though a new one will be out in a few weeks, hopefully!). A little overall darker in aesthetic, with Mick (who up til this point was never really primary vocalist) taking center stage in several of the songs. One of my favorite bits on this album: Concentrate – it starts off as this remembering-an-ex-lover thing with him unable to shake this memory of her and unconsciously indulging himself in his misery, but then about two minutes in it becomes this remembering-himself thing where he sort of sees the world again for the first time and realizes ‘well, shit, this place is still pretty fucking beautiful and I don’t need to cling to someone who’s left me behind to see it.’ It’s the moment where he realizes his emotional hypochondria is his own construction. Love it.



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