Category Archives: Prose

Random writing, free think, stream of consciousness is my dearest friend. Organizing comes when I’m sober, many days later.

Moxie tops year-end lists!

Lonesome Local: My Top Ten Favorites Songs of the 2013
Disclaimer: I loathe Best-of Lists. There’s no way anyone has heard everything. Thus, inevitably, some brilliant choices will always be missing. And even if there was that one, very lonely, person who did hear everything, music is subjective. Furthermore: if you are not on my favorite list, it doesnt mean I hate your music. I just might not have heard it yet.
But nothing literally gets me so amped as when one of those 5000 songs on random shuffle is from a local CT artist. I love so much music that came out in 2013, I want to share my ten favorite songs with you.
In Alphabetical order by band:
1. Atrina – 6q26
2. Daphne Lee Martin – Molotov
3. Elison Jackson – Dreams of Home
4. Farewood – War
5. Isaac Young Quartet (pictured above) – Dow Jones
6. Little Ugly – And We Said…
7. Post-Modern Panic – Bless These City Streets
8. Tetramer – How To Enjoy Your Last Meal
9. VIOLENT MAE – No Way Out
10. 1974 – Admiral Tackett
————————————–
Examiner
Yep, it’s that time of year when writers all over the world produce their “best of” lists. Unlike other news outlets such NPR, Pitchfork or Paste,you won’t find Kanye, Arcade Fire or Justin Timberlake on my list (mostly because I cover the western Massachusetts/southern Connecticut indie music scene). In no particular order, here they are:

Daphne Lee Martin, “Belly” – The lead single off her Moxie release gives me a boner. Enough said.
Speedy Ortiz, “Pioneer Spine” – There’s something heartening about reliving the height of the Matador Records-era all over again. Sadie Dupuis and band-mates deliver the goods on their first full-length, Major Arcana, with this quiet/loud opener.
Mercy Choir, “Waaybaayo” – New Haven’s Paul Belbusti is Mercy Choir. He released two albums this year, the instrumental Apostrophe Music and the singing-heavy His Noiseless Ball, His Boxwood Rattle. If you’re a fan of Mark Linkous’Sparklehorse, you’ll dig this.
And the Kids, “Neighbors” – Whether busking on the streets of Northampton or playing to a rapt audience at this summer’s Green River Festival,And the Kids blew it up.
The Grimm Generation, “The Next Indie Boy” –The Big Fame gave us this: Tasty licks, Carmen Champagne and Jason P. Krug’s witty wordplay and a memorable collection of unforgettable pop tunes.
Lys Guillorn, “Yemaya” – Winged Victory is a tour de force. Guillorn rules. Enough said.
Mark Mulcahy, “Bailing Out On Everything” – Mulcahy hit it out of the park with Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You and got some much deserved love from NPR’s Fresh Air host Terry Gross.
______________

Jeffrey Morgan’s Blackout– Daphne Lee Martin – Moxie (Telegraph Recording Co.) :: There ain’t nothing I like better than ringing in the new year by listening to a brand spanking new album that gives me renewed hope that all is well in Recordville—and, strangely believe it, this happens to be that album in that it lives up to its ballsy name and double dares ya to crank it up all the way up to maximum volume with your noodle wedged right between the speakers.
Y’see, not since the good old white label advance test pressing days have I been so blindfold flummoxed by an audio outing. That’s because, devoid of an album cover or track listing or anything else to guide me along except for a plain white sleeve and textless disc, I’m forced to do the free-association poetic stutter-step instead—something I ain’t done since I reviewed 801 Live and Low.
So just what the heck is this mutant offspring anywho and where the heck do I begin to get a greased handle on it? With track one’s melodramatic operetta that fuses Casio casino music with a spooktown carnival hoedown?
Or mebbe track two’s sultry Peggy Lee meets the Doors feverish black coffee combo?
Or how’s about track three that opens with a syncopated “Memo From Moxie” backbeat which then melodically fuses “Down By The River” with a brace of bubbly Telex synthpoptronics?
Or with the Bennett-cum-Gurdjieff-ish voice overs of track four?
Track five’s Hitchcockian country hoedown?
Track six’s clandestine Tarantinish tryst?
Track seven’s surreal dub confab?
Track ten’s swanky vo-de-oh-do night club megaphonics?
And speaking of keeping track, you may have noticed that I’ve omitted two prime numbers; that’s because they’ve been left vacant for you to describe. To play along at home, all you need is a copy of Daphne Lee Martin’s versatile new album Moxie and two cranked up speakers for you to wedge your noodle between; your rejuvenated spirit will thank you for it in the morning—and remember kids: Neatness counts!

Confessions | Whispers

Whispers… One of the hardest songs I’ve ever had to write. Not because the lyrics are particularly enlightened, they’re not. It was difficult because it was the only way I could work through the conflict of sympathy and anger I felt when we lost a band mate to heroin. Conflict? What conflict? Aren’t drugs just evil?  Well, as most things are, it’s more complicated than it seems… And this confession is the hardest to write because it’s the only one that doesn’t hide behind another person’s story. It’s about us, right here, living and working together. It names names.

Life isn’t easy for anyone. We all know that no matter how numb we make ourselves, how many concessions we make to avoid fights or responsibility, no matter how much we try not to give a fuck- life still sucks sometimes. Health issues find even the most emotionally detached of us. Emotional pain strikes even the most financially successful of us. You can never take away all of the pain, no matter what. It doesn’t mean we won’t still try everything in our power to take the edge off once in a while. And even the noblest of us, those who do give a fuck and try so hard to face it all with dignity, fall short sometimes.

Artists seem to have it the worst. The nature of art requires those of us called to it to steer wide of pain avoidance. It asks us to remain tender, open, as vessels of the universal- to be spoken through means that we have to feel everything in all its gory glory. It comes at odd hours and in strange ways, so that we can never know when or where or how. There are very few nights that I can really sleep- the muse digs appearing at the moments when daily demands hush down. There is never enough money, people don’t like to pay for art- so those daily demands are harder to fill than they would be if we could just shut it off and do something more salable. But we can’t, we’re compelled by something bigger than us to be creative. Problem is, the only way out, it doesn’t end well for anyone.

Most of the artists I love the most and try to emulate are drunks, sex addicts, junkies, anarchists. They are the ones whose lives I want, theirs are the fantasies I indulge in, the dreams I most understand. I’ve never done heroin, never smoked crack, never even taken acid or ecstasy. Me! You’d think… but no. I’m no goodie two shoes, if you listen to my songs you already know that. I’m a  coward. I’m completely paralyzed with fear when I think about giving over my consciousness to something I can’t control.

Everyone has heard the story. It’s a cliche. It happens in every scene, everywhere. Some kids start goofing off with drugs just to see what it’s like, to prove something to their friends or whatever the reason, and one or two of them can’t stop, and then one of them dies. But there’s a subplot among the ones that don’t die, there are the ones that keep doing it, and slowly lose themselves and everyone that loves them to it. The ones that don’t think they need help. Whispers is my cry of desperation to them- the cry of ‘i understand why you do this, but you have to stop. we love you too much to bury you.’

All your whispers in the dark, promises you’ll never keep
I saw you walking in the park in your sleepless reverie
And you know she’ll never love you like me
But those easy lies you’re seeking, she speaks

All your whispers in the dark tell me things that cannot be
Like the beating of a heart will never cease
And your words are ringing empty as me
While those easy lies you’re seeking, she speaks

There’s a fire in the sky, light that’s growing by the moment
And it’s time to say goodbye before I realize
That you got everything you came for from me
And those easy lies you’re seeking, she speaks

Laughing Place

photoWash the canvas all in gold, as the floor of heaven
To bleed through every color overlaid
So shines a good deed in a naughty world
How far that little candle throws his beams!

Please, Mister, please don’t throw me into that briar patch
Lord knows I might never find my way back

I don’t believe in heroes, greater glory dims the less
Secrets have a way of corroding their containers

So you stole fire from the gods, this precious gift
Some use for right and some for wrong

You can use the master’s tools to unmake the master’s house
But where will you run when the final judgment comes?

O Sinnerman, where you gonna run to?

 

Bees Made Honey In the Lion’s Head

beesEvery girl’s crazy ’bout a sharp-dressed man
You’re a wolf with a closet full of wool
& I have never been a victim,
but baby you’re so cool

You never see the nests until the leaves have blown
Till the birds have flown, till you’re eating crow
You never see the nests till the birds have flown

Samson went soft for a woman
Slept in the joy of his sins
Woke to cry, “Delilah, why’d you do me wrong?”
“It was the least I could do for my kin,
& if your god would forsake you so easy,
Don’t the proudest go down so hard…
What good is the strength of a thousand men
If you’ve got no heart, if you’ve got no heart?”

If I had my way, I would tear this building down

Now the bees made honey in the lion’s head
& the beasts have cleaned the bones
An eye for an eye for an eye for an eye
Can’t you hear Jerusalem moan? Can’t you hear Jerusalem moan?

Confessions | Sweet & Low Down

The first confession I will make about this song is that the introduction didn’t exist until much after the poetry of the song. I’ve had the lucky stroke to find myself sharing stages with one Alec Spiegelman when he was playing with Miss Tess. His playing always struck me and when Tess picked up with Rachael Price (Lake Street Dive, whom I’ve also happily shared stages with over the years) to form an act called the Sweet & Low Down, a name garnered from Tennyson via Gershwin I had my title and intro. After I wrote the poem and had the melody in my head and a few beers in my veins, I got brave and called Alec and he talked me through the melody and the timing and helped me chart it out over a long distance phone call. Matt Gouette, my roommate at the time, helped me put the finishing touches on the progression.

The original prose:

stress, exhaustion. HA! I’m not… i’m getting tangled in the cords. chest caving and expanding, breathless, voice strained and pushing its natural limits to complete ecstasy. i was not cut out for this simple happy life. i was cut out for the madness of a carnival. step right up for the bearded lady… none of my corners are square, they are very round, and they ache for it, here, here, and here. my pulse is racing. i was born for chasing, for heat, for discomfort, built for speed, for anger, for fear and fearless pursuit of the unattainable. a strangling desire, constant. no moss growing on me. no, that will not do. there is no amount of cold weather darkness that can spread into the slick sheen of sweat on my summer skin. i may not rely on anything which has come before. ah, yes, that’s more like it. the one and the three, not the two and the four. push me pull me.
“It was like the fragment of a dream which, by an effort scarcely calculable, is revived again and again in the fraction of a second, is revived without a change, vivid, naked, complete. Softly she sang the words in his ear; the touch of her cheek like a burn, her voice like a drug, her breasts, soft and full, swelling with the melody.”
the lip of your hat pouts like a child being cute to get his way. it curls up on the sides like the poems hid in a crown royal bag to unburden a heart full to bursting. the ridge of your hat spreads and stretches like my time with you may dream to stretch, like the spread of my softening hopes. the white linen of your shirt, worn, un-starched, is billows of clouds guarding the heaven of your song that i am in. beautiful glimpses between the twirling bodies and smiling faces, and me the only one who ‘knows the words, sings so she’s heard, and knows how all the stories end’. as i furiously rip off big sur with the kind of abandon one can only have at the very end of their rope.
i want to feel the straps fall from my shoulders, sweat and freckles and the pain of burn from the sun. i want to hear the scuff and thud of sandals kicked into corners of the room and the heavy, spiced, alcohol graze of your neck across my lips. there is no going home. and it is not wrong. there is no going wrong and it is not home.
“This is about all the bad days in the world. I used to have some little bad days, and I kept them in a little box. Then one day I threw them out into the yard. Oh it’s just a couple of little innocent bad days. Well, we had a big rain, I don’t know what it was growing in, but I think we used to put eggshells out there and coffee grounds too. Don’t plant your bad days, they grow into weeks, the weeks grow into months, then before you know it you’ve got yourself a bad year. Take it from me, choke those little bad days, choke ’em down to nothin’. ” tw
a friend of mine falls in love at least twice a day, i think i may have fallen in love with him a dozen times myself. he knows how my voice keeps changing. and he plays to my weakness. and i play to his strengths. he stares at his toes during long silences, and i wonder what he’s thinking. “living in a den of thieves, rummaging for answers in the pages…” a waltz between the sides and the one keeps stepping on the toes of the other. one moment i’m singing above him, the next below.

The second confession I will make about this song is that it isn’t written from my perspective. Long long ago in a galaxy far far away, I was in love with a boy. A boy who inspired me harder than I think anyone else ever will. A boy who made me sadder and more afraid, almost certainly, than anyone else ever will. The thing about those kind of boys isn’t that they never leave you (oh, they do), it’s that you never quite leave them. In any case, this particular boy was fond of giving young impressionable me the best gift young impressionable girls can receive: books, of course the plantwear jewelry is nice but books are a must, people could also read the seiko sarb033 review and get great ideas from it.  I was 18, about to make the big move to the big city, and he sent me a copy of Archy & Mehitabel by Don Marquis. And in so doing, he forever changed me.

Part of the appeal was in the antiquity of the thing. Part in the angst, I was 18 after all. And on my way from midwestern fundamentalist to ribcagewideopentothewholefuckingworld.  Into a life I couldn’t have imagined- no matter how many books I’d read, no matter how many songs I’d sung, no matter how much history might be inherent in my old old soul. The glitter, the glamour, the fading and the ache. The outpouring truthful narcissim and self-loathing beauty. The aging of perfection, the honesty of just how fucking hard we all have it, whether we’re diving to our near death every time we speak out, or whether we have to bare our tenderest spots to garner the least interest from those around us. It was the *perfect* introduction to what would become ‘my’ New York.

I’ve never been able to read without, admittedly selfishly, having to find a way to identify with some character or other. In this one, I identified so strongly with both that I was very conflicted until someone pointed out the duality inherent in my Gemini sign. I can’t say it fixed the problem, but it excused it for the time being. Anyhoo, I chose Mehitabel as the voice of the song. I tried to use her meter, her singsongy way of expressing the mundane, even the charmingly pathetic, and those of you follow me on twitter know I’ve also conjured her as my handle @DameCalico.

The poem itself was written while I was sitting on the staircase at my friend Brian’s barn, or “Castle” as he calls it. It was both about the band that was playing and about the imagined melodramas of the dancers enjoying them. It’s mostly about the same version of “life” that plagued Mehitabel, the desire to live so hard, to take it all the way to the edge (and even over the edge) every time so that if often leaves you scarred, battered, believing in phantoms, seeking the flaws in others that might excuse your own, using anything to drug yourself into trusting that what you desire is reality, and ultimately being regretless. After all, you only really regret the life you “didn’t” live… and giving up is never actually an option, so you have to laugh at it, even if it hurts.

This is the sweet & low down of it, this is the sweet & low down of it, losing it all feels like nothing when you’ve got nothing left to lose except those sweet and low down blues…

The lip of your hat pouts like a child being cute to try to get his way | And I keep doing shots of you so I can feel you coursing through my veins | Flood it all away like a big rain

Falls from my shoulder in freckles and sweat and pain from the burn of the sun | Pops and crackles like a phonograph record one too many times spun | Aren’t you the quiet one, afraid to have a little fun?

So I try to divine a version of the truth that you can believe for tonight | And I’m getting so good at it I’ve nearly convinced myself this water is wine | Or that you could be mine

Now I hang like a suit that has been fitted to too many man, let out and hemmed in | And I’m prowling through alleys of discarded reason why you should care | Until I throw my hands up in the air, such a pretty despair…

 

Confessions | Whiskey & Sin

This song is about being the girl he doesn’t love but can’t stop fucking. And settling for it. Kind of. Trying to please someone who doesn’t really want you. Made even more ironic by the fact that the ‘model’ for this song is the most honorable gentleman (in action, if not in word) that I’ve ever met.

It’s sort of my ‘Ain’t Too Proud To Beg’.

The only musical reference I really have for this one it Lucinda Williams’ Unsuffer Me.

And I just realized that I definitely borrowed the idea of packing up your eyes from Ani… she’s amazing.


Your glasses slip down your nose and my knees are gonna give
You run your fingers through your hair and I have to bite my lip
To keep my heart from boiling over and spilling on my shoes
And telling all my awful truths

There is something tender in the way you kick off your boots
Fold your hands behind your head and sigh
You take all of me in, breathing whiskey and sin
At the end of yet another long day

And I don’t know how you do it, how you do it to me
I don’t know how you do, but you say there’s nothing to it
So come on and do it to me

You rim my lips with sugar and you rim my eyes with stars
Your laugh is warm ans summer but your trust is full of scars
You eyes are all packed up and your voice is set to rest
Seems I’ve never been good enough

Baby I will bare my crooked teeth if you will only spare a grin
There’ll be a mouthful dripping down my chin
And in the deafening silence I think you will begin
To show me how you do it to me

beautiful words from a dear friend

I was lying in bed last night listening to Moxie, and the first thing I noticed in the dark and the quiet (previous unfocused listening being during the bustle of my day) was that this is one of those albums we would have thought of in the ’70s as a “headphone record.” I have come to appreciate records that carve out a space, a sonic landscape, and back away from the trend over the past years of having everything be up and in your face. First create a world, then let the songs live in that world.
headphonesI can remember reading an interview with Bryan Ferry back around ’82 in which the interviewer mentioned the atmosphere of the last couple Roxy Music records (I believe Avalon had just come out). Ferry said yes, “we call that Roxy weather.” You’ve managed to pull off a similar trick with Moxie, except that it’s all indoors. I felt I could walk into it, like a darkened room, close the door behind me, and take a seat. On the small round table in front of me is a blue martini that I don’t remember ordering, but upon further reflection it seems like it must be my second or third. Most of the visible light is provided by neon, and once in awhile someone starts the mirror ball on the ceiling, which spins slightly out of balance (to good effect). There are heavy red velvet draperies, a bit worn, over where the windows had been before they were bricked up. There is no sense of what time it is in the outside world, even the year. Glimpses of others, with faces that Fellini would appreciate, and everyone is wearing secrets, and the slightest hint of menace. Over in the corner, someone that looks suspiciously like Beck Hansen is tapping his foot, but no one bothers to find out if it’s him. I think I saw David Lynch on the other side. The room manages to seem a bit smoky, without there being smoke. Perhaps the smoke of age. Sometimes it seems as if I’m listening through my parents’ old console hi-fi, complete with the smell of dust on hot tubes. During the last song, “A Little Bit,” you’ve succeeded in calling back the ghost of Joe Meek to turn a few knobs. The overall effect is to transport me to a comfortable, warm, closed-in space existing somewhere in between melancholy and contentment.

I’ve been disappointed, bored even, with a lot of music lately. Pretty songs, beautiful voices, impressively competent playing, and yet a distinct lack of imagination. No one could accuse you of that here. (And I find I’m saying “here,” as if I’m still in that room and don’t want to leave quite yet to drive home through the chilling rain, the squeaky wipers leaving streaks across the windshield.)

When complimenting a record by someone you know, there’s often an unspoken “[for a local band]” tagged onto the end. In my opinion, Moxie stands on its own, without that qualifier weighing it down. If the rest of the world has any sense, you’ll be on a second and third pressing before long. Congratulations to you and your whole crew.

– Bob Ferace

Confessions | Molotov

For those of you who were around for the ole Roadside Attractions part of my career, you’ll remember that Thor, Seb, Phil & Craig really loved tunes like Nuages and Minor Swing and that we leaned heavily on the jazz swing stuff in our whole set. Well, I’ve never been able to pick like that, but I loved some of the forms so much that I wanted to take a crack at my own song.

The melody was kicking around in my head for a long time before I was able to set words to it. Some of it is true and some of it is fiction, as with most of the songs. But some of the images come from the madness of Henry Miller’s Crazy Cock. Here’s the synopsis:

“In 1930 Henry Miller moved from New York to Paris, leaving behind — at least temporarily — his tempestuous marriage to June Smith and a novel that had sprung from his anguish over her love affair with a mysterious woman named Jean Kronski. Begun in 1927, Crazy Cock is the story of Tony Bring, a struggling writer whose bourgeois inclinations collide with the disordered bohemianism of his much-beloved wife, Hildred, particularly when her lover, Vanya, comes to live with them in their already cramped Greenwich Village apartment. In a world swirling with violence, sex, and passion, the three struggle with their desires, inching ever nearer to insanity, each unable to break away from this dangerous and consuming love triangle.”

What you’re reading feels like a terrible dream through most of the book – you can’t tell which events and exchanges are real and which are imagined. You get indignant at all of the characters, and Henry doesn’t ask you to love any of them, leaving no clear antagonist regardless of the narrator’s grief. I wanted to take the selfishness out of context a little bit and put the events into the hands of a higher more fate-like power for my tale. I wanted to talk about angels and saviors when I wrote about the steerings of these characters, whether I believe in them or not.

I wanted to conjure the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you’re out drinking and you know you’ve had enough, but you don’t give a fuck and you order another anyway because you’ve had a fucking hard day and you’re going to have some goddamn fun, even if you know it will end very badly- throwing yourself into the fire intentionally to test the fate that you resent controlling you. Of course, decisions like that always hurt in the end- we are only human.

Our saviors must be in a drunken row, cause they are kicking up mischief in the clouds & you’re a Molotov Cocktail smashing through the window of my heart, come on baby, burn me to the ground

You ring my bell, then go running for the hills, the flesh is weak, but the spirit wills. We were sitting in the hearth and the fire burned so hot, we couldn’t tell our fear from our thrill

And gin never tastes so good as when I am in this mood, & I want to get stirred not shaken,  it’s only then my joints stop aching, everything burns that is not stone

When all the smoke clears off I will patch the shingles of the roof to keep the angels out, but you can poke your umbrella through the gaping hole of my want

Confessions | House That Built Itself

House That Built Itself is probably the closest I come to my own voice, rather than speaking in character like the rest of the record. It’s the most ‘confessional’ piece on Moxie.  It was based on reading the sonnets of Jorge Luis Borges, whose voice you can hear on the record, speaking to an audience at a reading. I loved that particular clip of him speaking because of how much room he leaves his listener to make the words mean whatever they need to mean to them. He gives you the framework on which to build your own fantasy, and even in translation his language is so melodic and rhythmic that you can almost sing everything he says. In one of his sonnets he makes a reference to iron being created to destroy, to kill, and that it can be destroyed itself by misuse and neglect. Here’s the sample, it’s entirely worth the whole listen!

When things happen to us, good or bad, we make a choice every time about how we will take it. We could be weak and sour and never see the good in anything. Or we can choose to find the best in even the most difficult circumstances. It’s those folks, the ones who can build empires out of the force of their own will that make this world better. You have to own what you are, you have to choose.

The artistic cliche in this beast, also the most confessional line of it, is about lingering in my own worst danger until the inevitable collapse. After all, there’s only so much shit you can take before something gives. The muse has been good to me, I listen and she speaks. But sometimes it takes breaking myself (via alcohol, relationships, bad choices) to weaken and slow my mind enough enough to receive it. I’m a steely woman, wary- but I Choose to find the beauty, often (almost always) wrapped in self-torture, and this particular torture was so predictably tragic that it now feels like a dream, something outside of me that acted itself out through me. One of the first pieces of art I ever made was a collage of a bird flying with its open cage clutched in its talons- the idea that however ‘free’ I am, I will always carry what I fear, my own worst danger, regardless of how it slows me down.

I was listening to a lot of Dylan when I wrote it, especially Another Side. Enter the naked bulb…

 

This old house won’t be level again, and its corners will never be square

But the steam radiator will polish me up, a spitshine

Darlin’, if you see the spark in my eyes through their sermons that pleasure is sin

Then their iron made to wound us will rust in the rain and we will not stand condemned

The tide pushes back up the river until the world seems upside down

And I will linger in my own worst danger until the levee comes crashing down

Hold me up to the naked bulb, swirl me around in your glass like wine

The bouquet of your skin lingers here on my breath, I will sing in your blood like a wolf in the night

Honey, you know we can weather this storm through the flood and the rage and the fire

And I will live fearless in this crazy world knowing you are my one desire