Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Jenifer Jackson Interview

One of the great songwriters of our time, Jenifer Jackson is arguably the prototypical multistylistic rock goddess. A seemingly perpetual traveler, originally from New Jersey, then Massachusetts, she made her mark in New York, releasing six superb albums over the last ten years. A cult artist who’s widely esteemed by her colleagues and owns a considerable European following, she was gracious to give Lucid Culture a few minutes to discuss her upcoming New York shows on March 10 and 24 at Rockwood Music Hall along with a few odds and ends:

 

Lucid Culture: You’re doing two shows at the Rockwood. You seem to like that place.

 

Jenifer Jackson: The Rockwood and Joe’s Pub are my two favorite venues in NYC. Ken Rockwood has created such a comfortable and great sounding room, and the atmosphere is attentive and friendly! It’s the perfect, intimate place to come home to. My shows there are always very emotional for me, in a good way! Heartwarming…

 

LC: Who are you playing with this time around?

 

JJ: Matt Kanelos will play piano on a few tunes with me and on the 24th, Oren Bloedow will be with me. I may also have another special guest!

 

LC: Do you miss New York?

 

JJ. Very much. I miss the musicians and the listeners and all my friends. However, I’m sitting on my porch, in a t-shirt and shorts right now, on February 11…..so I do not miss the COLD winters in NYC…..

 

LC: What’s the most striking difference between your new hometown and New York?

 

JJ: This is a trick question. Austin has better tacos. NYC has better pizza.

 

LC: Could you see yourself in Austin for awhile or are you feeling restless already?

 

JJ: Always restless. Searching for the place, or way, to feel settled! Perhaps it isn’t in my nature, though I seem to desire it. I am always seeking.

 

LC: Restlessness is a recurring theme in your writing – and you seem restless with any one particular style of music. Can you explain?

 

JJ: OH! I am not really restless with styles. I like a lot of styles, and many seep into my writing and composing. My staples are bossa nova, and that 60’s pop beat……

 

LC: Over the course of your career, you’ve played Beatlesque pop, trip-hop, pretty straight-up oldschool country, Nashville gothic, bossa nova, jazz, noir 60s rock and Philly soul. What other genres haven’t you written in yet? What intrigues you the most at this point?

 

JJ: I go with my emotions — my newest song is a bit of a raga! Perhaps remnants from my old block in New York, East Sixth Street [Indian restaurant row]….

 

LC: Your most recent cd The Outskirts of a Giant Town is actually a live album, recorded in the studio. Did you have any trepidation doing it oldschool like that, realizing that any imperfection would require a second or third take, etc.?

 

JJ: Absolutely not. It was my DREAM to record this way, with such excellent musicians, capturing all the spontaneity and working off each other, as we do live.

 

LC: How many takes did it typically take to get a song down, and did you cut and paste at all?

 

JJ: One or two. No real cutting and pasting.

 

LC: Would you want to take a risk like that again and do another live-in-the-studio album?

 

JJ: Yes. It is a luxury for me to work that way. The record I am making now is more bit by bit, since that is what is possible where I am now. It’s a more standard approach, which is fine.

 

LC: Can we go back in time a ways, to the roots of maybe where you got all those styles? Did you grow up in a musical family? Your dad Julian Jackson, for example, is a dj on WOMR-FM in Provincetown, MA, and also appears with you on the father-daughter collaboration Together in Time.

 

JJ: I listened and sang to my dad’s albums while growing up. Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and then I discovered Neil Young. Later, in college, I began singing and learning about jazz.

 

LC: You’re also a painter. Are there common elements to creating visual art and writing music?

 

JJ: I just paint for fun! But with both writing music and painting, I attempt to distill an object, a person, an emotion to its most essential element. I try to be as simple as I can, to find images that can evoke, and at the same time, remain simple.

 

LC: Which came first, the painting or the music?

 

JJ: It was simultaneous.

 

LC: One of your songs has the line “I made a lot of money from some paintings that I sold.” Done that lately?

 

JJ: No…I procrastinate…I have wanted to have a business of painting pet portraits.  I have painted many, many! For friends, as gifts. Once a guy did offer me a bunch of money for some landscapes, but I decided not to sell them, since I kind of got attached to them.

 

LC: You’ve been writing what seems like a ton of songs lately, and as usual, you’re all over the map. One of them is a really pretty, quiet 6/8 ballad called The Beauty in the Emptying. I understand that’s about cleaning the junk out of your apartment before you moved to Texas?

 

JJ: Hee hee, I did say that at a show, but that is a bit of an OVERsimplification! It was about the throwing away that lightens a voyage. Literal and metaphorical.

 

LC: There’s another one, a big hypnotic anthem with a chorus that goes “let the good times roll,” nothing like the blues song. Can you comment on that one?

 

JJ: It’s upbeat and has a hook! Again, all about the endless seeking, restlessness, need for love, overactive brain. Suggesting to “let the good times roll” as a release from all the thinking and worrying.

 

LC: I understand you’ve been doing some recording over email, for example, with another new one, Words.

 

JJ: I have been recording in Austin with Billy Doughty, my drummer. We have pretty much done everything ourselves, with the addition of John Abbey  – my old bassist! – on it. We are about halfway done with the record.

 

LC: Vocally, you’ve been through a couple of phases as well. For example, on your first cd Love Lane you were going for more of an electric rock feel, and you belted a lot more than you do now; then there was a point, I think about 5-6 years ago when you seemed to really want to wail and project with your voice. Lately you’ve been sticking with a quieter, softer vocal delivery, as you have throughout most of your career. Was that a conscious choice? Does it give you more leeway, to create dynamics?

 

JJ: I love dynamics, and I love sensitivity. It’s been an evolution for me, and my bandmates. I still try to have a few rockers even if they are now soft rockers!!!

 

LC: You’re a terrific guitar player. I can tell because you usually close your eyes when you sing and you never look at your fingers. You also like different tunings. Where first inspired you to do that, and do you have a favorite out of all of them?

 

JJ: Thanks – I just use a regular tuning, sometimes I drop my low E string to a D, then forget to retune it for the next song!

 

LC: Was guitar your first instrument? I know you also play keys…

 

JJ: Piano was first, guitar second, drums third.

 

LC: Any timetable for the new cd?

 

JJ: Do not know…

 

LC: Do you have a theme or a concept for it?

 

JJ: Something about the beauty being in the spaces in between.

 

LC: Who are some of the players you’re working with at the moment?

 

JJ: Here in Austin I work with Billy Doughty on drums and melodica and an upright player named Chris Jones. Back in New York I work with Oren Bloedow [from Elysian Fields], Greg Wieczorek [Joseph Arthur, the Autumn Defense], Matt Kanelos, and up in Boston with the wonderful Sonny Barbato [brilliant jazz accordionist and composer].

 

LC: You know, there’s still a big fan base for you here, every time I say “Jenifer Jackson” people go “OMG, she’s so good, I can’t believe she’s not famous.” And while you’re admired by your fellow musicians, somehow you’re still not famous. Does that bother you? I know you’re a Leo…

 

JJ: Yes, it bothers me. And yes, I am a Leo. I keep wishing a manager would discover me and help master-mind a career for me…..

 

LC: I was talking about you once with one of the great songwriters of our time, and she said, “I wish Jenifer Jackson would write an angry song.” There’s a lot of melancholy in your writing, but I think the most pissed-off you ever got was that line “for god’s sake close the bathroom door.” To what degree is that a reflection of your personality?

 

JJ: I generally don’t like angry, venting songs, so I don’t choose to write them.

 

LC: Like most musicians, you’ve been a big Obama supporter. Is the honeymoon over, or do you still have hope?

 

JJ: I still have hope. I am so relieved to have a President with a brain. Although I am very worried about what he’s thinking he’s doing in Afghanistan.

 

LC: What are you listening to these days? Here’s your chance to give some shout-outs to your favorite peeps…

 

KK: Chet Baker, compilations of Son Cubano, Tom Jobim and Elis Regina, Mason Jennings.

 

JJ: With the implosion of the major record labels, the struggles the indie labels are having – and not to mention how corporate most of the indies have become – what do you think the future holds for musicians like yourself who write in a style that used to rely on the radio to reach an audience? In other words, is there a future for pop music?

 

JJ: Oh god. I am the worst person to ask about this. I have always avoided the biz. And I am a terrible strategist.

 

LC: As a performer, you seem more carefree now than you were when I first saw you when you were first starting out. Is that true or are you just a better dissembler?

 

JJ: Just drinking more booze now. NO NOT REALLY, I guess I am just enjoying more and more and not concerned about anything but the music and the feeling!

 

LC: There’s a lot of solace and comfort in your writing, and your voice. Where do you find solace?

 

JJ: Nature, animals, the ocean, playing and singing, dancing….

 

LC: I understand you’ve become infatuated with those miniature horses they have down where you are. Is that true?

 

JJ: Yes. I recently met three mini-horses, and one fell in love with me. It’s very unconventional, I know.

 

LC: Going back to your time in Massachusetts, do you give a damn about what the Red Sox are doing or aren’t doing, or are you too much of an esthete to care about that kind of silly stuff?

 

JJ:  I don’t follow them! But my accordionist, Sonny Barbato, is a HUGE FAN. Shall I ask him for a comment?

 

LC: Definitely!! Sonny KNOWS the Sox!

 

Sonny Barbato: After trailing the Yankees 3 games to 0 in the 2004 ALCS, the Red Sox won the next four games including the last two at Yankee Stadium. They eventually swept St. Louis to win the World Series. In 2007 they won again. They can do whatever they want from now on, I am content and completely satisfied.

 

Jenifer Jackson plays Rockwood Music Hall on March 10 at 8 PM and then again at 8 PM on March 24.

February 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Blue Rabbit – Separate

“Modern Baroque pop that falls on the Bjork side of Arcade Fire,”says their press kit. Not exactly. This strikingly smart, tuneful, harmony-driven, female-fronted San Francisco band isn’t particularly quirky or the least bit precious. Nor are they a tenth-rate Echo & the Bunnymen ripoff. Rather, Blue Rabbit come across as something akin to the long-lost  mystery sister of Feist and Rasputina, with a catchy pop sensibility that’s remarkably schlock-free. Although a devious programmer at Clear Channel (could such a person actually exist?) could slip some of the songs on this cd into the mix without alienating all the ten-year olds waiting for that Miley Cyrus song that pops up every 40 minutes.

 

Blue Rabbit love minor keys and intricate, imaginative vocal arrangements, sometimes using counterpoint and two sets of lyrics. The cd is a diverse mix of upbeat fare and slower, darker material. It kicks off with the defiantly funny, new wave-inflected Sleep, haunting organ in the background against the cello and a pounding drum roll evocative of the Joy Division classic Atrocity Exhibition. “I’m so tired tired tired/I’d like to sleep sleep sleep.” Then they bring it down with a trip-hop beat on Getting Away, a pop song with a twist, leaping into doublespeed on the chorus with a minor-key ragtime feel. The title track is a somewhat bitter but catchy dance tune with incisive piano:

 

Lift the rat trap, free the mouse…

Take your lips from the back of my hand

And end separate as we began

 

Another minor-key tune, Missing Piece begins in 6/8 time with sparse cello accents, climbing to a fingersnapping cabaret chorus. The song builds methodically and inescapably to a beautiful crescendo with lush harmonies and orchestration. Other standout tracks include the bouncy, snide Stupid Flag (“Raise the stupid flag, raise it high, wave it wide with all you have), and the gorgeous Love Secret, another big 6/8 ballad to close the album. Beginning with dark, rustic cello over plaintive broken chords on the guitar, it morphs at warp speed into a classic 60s style pop song on the chorus. What might be most impressive is that Blue Rabbit delivers live, too, those beautiful voices soaring over the darkness and drama. This band could appeal to just about anybody, from the American Idol crowd to those with vastly more purist or cynical taste. Blue Rabbit are at the Canadian Music Fest in Toronto sometimes in the March 12-14 window; Bay Area fans can catch them at Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market Street between Church and Sanchez in San Francisco on March 21.

February 10, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Top 50 Albums of 2008

Conventional wisdom be damned: the cd is far from dead, in fact maybe more alive than ever since independent bands and artists have reclaimed their turf from the major labels. Most of what’s here are independent releases, with a few smart independent labels represented. For the rationale behind this list, we set up a rationale page for the truly obsessed.

 

Three of these cds in particular stand out from the hundreds of thousands – or maybe even millions – released in 2008. Our pick for best album of 2008 wasn’t by a multimillionaire New Jersey trust fund kid living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, or a computer nerd with glasses the size of Elton John’s head, or a silicone-poisoned porn actress with a cable tv reality show. Rather, it was put out by a veteran Irish-American rock band whose lone brush with mainstream stardom came and went in the blink of an eye about fifteen years ago. Iraq by Black 47 isn’t just a good collection of rousing, Celtic-tinged rock tunes: it’s the most important album of the year, an unforgettable look at the war through the eyes of the soldiers just trying to get out of there alive. Black 47 frontman Larry Kirwan is also an accomplished novelist, and it shows in these songs: the black humor, the dialogue and the war’s sad drama have never been portrayed more powerfully or evocatively than they are here.

 

The party album of the year, the one that everybody was talking about and to which we assigned the #2 spot, was Sonido Amazonico by Chicha Libre. With this wickedly smart, fun, sometimes lovingly satirical collection of classic covers and originals, the Brooklyn band singlehandedly spearheaded a revival of the wildly psychedelic, surfy sound that was all the rage in the slums of the Peruvian Amazon 35 years ago. With its playful, hypnotic bounce, it made an irresistible soundtrack for the summer of 2008.

 

The darkest and most haunting album of the year, clocking in at number three, was Celestina by long-running California art-rockers 17 Pygmies. Based on a short story by frontman/guitarist Jackson Del Rey about love and betrayal in outer space, it’s a majestic, epic, eleven-part symphonic rock masterpiece.

 

And the rest of the list is incredible as well. Last year, our best albums list stopped at #20; this year, it felt egregiously unfair to cut this one off at #50. Many of these you know; some you may not. Enjoy!

 

4.  Marcel Khalife – Taqasim

A dark, stately, beautiful trio suite for oud, bass and percussion from the great Palestinian oud virtuoso.

 

5.  Kayhan Kalhor & Brooklyn Rider – Silent City

The Iranian multi-instrumentalist string player/composer teamed up with the adventurous Brooklyn string quartet for a lush, intensely beautiful, powerfully compelling collection.

 

6.  Matt Keating – Quixotic

This gorgeously jangly double cd marks the high point in the New York rock songwriter’s career.

 

7.  Erica Smith & the 99 Cent Dreams – Snowblind

The NYC noir Americana songwriter/chanteuse proved equally mesmerizing at janglerock, bossa nova and even an early 70s style heavy metal song.

 

8.  Mascott – Art Project

Simply gorgeous, sunny, gemlike guitar-and-keyboard pop song perfection.

 

9.  System Noise – Give Me Power

The NYC rockers’ second official release proved they could be as melodic and danceable as they are savagely ferocious, frontwoman Sarah Mucho’s unearthly wail soaring over the din.

 

10. Aimee Mann – Fucking Smilers

She just keeps going, maybe better than ever; this one’s more keyboard-based but no less brilliant than anything she’s ever done.

 

11. Elvis Costello – Momofuku

A return to his lyrically dazzling, scorched-earth late 70s style guitar-and-keyboard lyrical rock, yet another addition to his pantheonic body of work.

 

12. Steve Wynn – Crossing Dragon Bridge

Wynn’s best cd studio cd since…his last one is a sometimes majestic, sometimes stark detour into hauntingly orchestrated rock, his trademark menace front and center as always.

 

13. Melomane – Look Out!

Frontman Pierre de Gaillande’s ongoing disaster song cycle is a clinic in brilliantly lyrical, orchestrated rock understatement, a particularly timely release.

 

14. Ward White – Pulling Out

His best album: the New York underground janglerock songwriter has never been more catchy, more brilliantly acerbic or savagely funny.

 

15 Mavrothi Kontanis – Sto Kafesli Sokaki

One of the oud virtuoso’s two debut cds released this past summer, this is a haunting mix of Greek and Turkish songs from decades past, many of them obscure but all of them first-rate

 

16. Mark Sinnis – Into an Unhidden Future

The Ninth House frontman’s solo debut, a haunting collection of Nashville gothic songs, was impeccably produced with the same dark, minimalist restraint as Johnny Cash’s Rick Rubin albums.

 

17. Amanda Thorpe – Union Square

The darkly riveting chanteuse’s second solo release was worth the wait, all stark, rain-drenched beauty and anguish.

 

18. Patty Ocfemia – Heaven’s Best Guest

There are few songwriters who tell a story as well as this relatively under-the-radar New York artist with a strikingly subtle, breathy vocal delivery.

 

19. Curtis Eller’s American Circus – Wirewalkers & Assassins

The oldtimey banjoist is also a first-rate songwriter with a potently lyrical edge and a distinctly oldtimey New York ragtime feel.

 

20. Teslim – Debut cd

The Bay area Middle Eastern improvisers blend klezmer and Arab maqams into a deliriously psychedelic acoustic brew.

 

21. Ljova & the Kontraband – Mnemosyne

The multistylistic Russian/Balkan string band mix rousing dances, haunting ballads and atmospheric soundtrack-type stuff on their superb debut cd. 

 

22. Natacha Atlas & the Marzeeka Ensemble – Ana Hina

A career-best for the former Transglobal Underground frontwoman,  mostly acoustic, heavily Fairuz-influenced versions of classic Arab film music and also a Frida Kahlo poem set to music.

 

23. Sounds of Taarab – Zanzibar, NY

New York‘s pioneering Zanzibar revivalists have singlehandedly renewed interest in the great dance music and ballads from the area from the 20s and 30s, dark Middle Eastern melodies over catchy African rhythms.

 

24. Katie Elevitch – Kindling for the Fire

The NYC noir siren’s finest hour, a rivetingly lyrical, passionately intense effort.

 

25. The Dixie Bee-Liners – Ripe

The brain trust of the RMA’s Bluegrass Band of the Year, 2008, Buddy Woodward and Brandi Hart are the Richard and Linda Thompson of the bible belt, pushing the envelope with a fire and a dark vision unsurpassed in their field.

 

26. Mavrothi Kontanis – Wooden Heart

The second of the great oud player’s debut cds released this year – the title refers to the oud, made of wood –  is a stark, mostly instrumental mix of Mediterranean classics and originals that sound like classics.

 

27. Des Roar – Demo ep

One of NYC’s most exciting rock bands, with a viciously satirical edge, their punk/garage intensity never lets up. This one contains the classic Ted Bundy Was a Ladies Man

 

28. Black Fortress of Opium – First cd

Aptly titled, this dark, anthemic Boston band adds a majestically beautiful Middle Eastern tinge to their eerie, macabre, noisy gothic-tinged anthems.

 

29. The Dog Show – Nicotene & Bluz

The band may be on hiatus, but frontman Jerome O’Brien keeps writing and recording good songs, in a smart, virtriolic mod punk vein not unlike the Jam.

 

30. Metropolitan Klezmer – Traveling Show

One of New York’s finest live acts, this live cd was a stroke of genius and is pure bliss to listen to, every style of haunting or boisterous Jewish roots music you could ever want.

 

31. The Roots of Chicha compilation

Barbes Records’ collection of brilliant, obscure Peruvian surf-dance songs available for the first time ever in North America.

 

32. Lee Feldman – I’ve Forgotten Everything

A subtly powerful, rivetingly dark piano-based concept album that traces one man’s descent into madness.

 

33. Patti Rothberg – Double Standards

The powerpop masterpiece that the Go Go’s should have made after Talk Show but didn’t.

 

34. Municipale Balcanica – Road to Damascus

The Italian Balkan dance band crosses genres and raises the temperature to boiling point with their fiery instrumentals.

 

35. Jenny Scheinman – Crossing the Field

The latest smart, counterintuitive instrumental album from the multistylistic violinist/composer and frequent Bill Frisell collaborator 

 

36. Willie Nile – Live from the Streets of New York (live)

Also available as a DVD, this is the great underground NYC anthem songwriter and his volcanic band at the absolute peak of their power, live at the Mercury Lounge. 

 

37. Serena Jost – Closer Than Far

Imaginative, subtly nuanced, utterly captivating, artsy songs that bridge classical, jazz, torch song and rock, by the former Rasputina multi-instrumentalist.

 

38. The Nice Outfit – Kissing Jocelyn (ep)

Slashing, somewhat Radio Birdman-inflected garage punk from these excellent Milwaukee vets. 

 

39. The Lash Outs – First cd

True to the spirit of classic punk, this ferocious Dallas band refuses to submit to authority, stands up for the cool kids and generates a lot of laughs on their debut cd.

 

40. This Reporter – Five Smooth Stones (ep)

Mostly acoustic dreampop with sultry vocals from frontwoman Jennifer Curtis. One of the most captivating ipod albums of the year.

 

41. Devi – Get Free

This snarling yet beautifully melodic, guitar-fueled, female-fronted power trio just gets more and more interesting, with a smartly improvisational edge.

 

42. The Romeros – Better Than Your Girlfriend

Roaring punk-pop in the style of Stiff Little Fingers from this fiery Chicago band.

 

43. Lazy Lions – Keep Your Love Away

When they’re at the top of their game, this New York band’s snarlingly lyrical, sardonic songs rank with anything Elvis Costello ever did.

 

44. Burning Spear – Jah Is Real

The best studio cd in ages from this roots reggae legend, a contemporary of Bob Marley who though now in his sixties remains absolutely undiminished.

 

45. Mighty High – Mighty High in Drug City

Arguably the funniest album released in many moons, this heavy metal parody band nail absolutely everything they set their sights on because they know the source material so well. 

 

46. Zikrayat – Live at Lotus

Classic and obscure Levantine dance music, slinky and gorgeous, recorded all-acoustic so as to capture the vitality of the originals.

 

47. Little Pink – Gladly Would We Anchor

Frontwoman Mary Battiata and her rootsy Washington, DC band evoke Richard & Linda Thompson at their most lyrical on this impeccably crafted, often haunting cd.

 

48. The Bedsit Poets – Rendezvous

The harmony-driven New York band explore new territory – pretty much every cosmopolitan European style from the 60s – as well as bossa nova and Mediterranean ballads on their sophomore effort.

 

49. The Sweet Bitters – Debut ep

The folk/pop duo of Sharon Goldman and Nina Schmir blend their beautiful voices together in a mix of deviously funny and wrenchingly haunting songs.

 

50. Edward Rogers The Bedsit Poets’ singer offers a masterfully crafted mix of late 60s/early 70s Birmingham, UK style anthems and irresistible pop hits.

 

And just for fun – and to add some perspective to this list – here’s Lucid Culture’s pick for best album of 2007 along with our predecessor e-zine’s picks for best album of the year going all the way back to its inception in 2000:

 

2007: Rachelle Garniez – Melusine Years

2006: Radio Birdman – Zeno Beach

2005: LJ Murphy – Mad Within Reason

2004: Botanica – Botanica vs. the Truth Fish

2003: Richard Thompson – Semi-Detached Mock Tudor

2002: Bob Dylan – Love & Theft

2001: Steve Wynn – Here Come the Miracles

2000: Mary Lee’s Corvette – True Lovers of Adventure

December 20, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

CD Review: Mascott – Art Project

Pure concentrated sunshine. If you can’t wait for spring, this is your daily dose of vitamin D minus those nasty UV rays. It’s sort of the musical equivalent of what the elves in Lord of the Rings ate on long trips: one tasty cookie will sustain you, and in the case of this album, lift your spirits for a month. Mascott’s two previous cds were good but this is really something special, a showcase for frontwoman Kendall Jane Meade’s jewel-like, brilliantly nuanced purist pop songcraft. Even the sad songs here glimmer and sparkle with jangly guitar, vividly incisive piano and even strings in places; Jim Bentley’s production is terse, understated and true to form. The arrangements are playful and fun; Meade’s lyrics, like her tunes, are beautifully crystalized and strikingly smart yet deceptively simple, with the occasional indelible urban image. This is a quintessential New York album. “I wanna make you press play then repeat,” she cajoles early on, succeeding better than she ever probably imagined. Likewise, the former Juicy bandleader and frequent Sparklehorse collaborator’s high, pretty voice has an effortless, reassuring warmth: she comes across as someone who would always be there to walk you home from the train if you called, even if it was late and you had several blocks to go after the subway.

 

Spiked with bright electric piano, the cd’s first cut Live Again is a pop gem, the narrator gently nudging her way into rekindling a relationship that’s gone cold. Fourth of July follows in more of a rock vein, wistful but far from maudlin. Chiming with gorgeously pointillistic piano and acoustic guitar textures, Opposite is the high point of the cd, soberly matter-of-fact yet fearlessly optimistic:

 

I map out my days in the sand, I know that the water could wash it away

I feel what I feel, I do what I can, it took me so long to feel this way

 

Dream Another Day is a brief, bustling and considerably funny Penny Lane-style rush hour narrative: friends may be wondering how consuming the dayjob has become, but not to worry, Meade reassures: she won’t be out of circulation forever. The theme recurs in the utterly charming, harmony-driven Nite Owl (a real showstopper when the band plays it live). Only on the starkly bluesy, minor-key 6/8 breakup ballad Letting Go of the Sun does the mood go completely dark, and even that one’s leavened somewhat by a big instrumental sigh on the chorus, all the instruments going “awwwww,” down the scale in unison. The cd closes with a rousing campfire singalong of Wildwood Flower. The only complaint about this cd is that it has an end. But that’s what the repeat button is for. Definitely one of the top four or five cds to come over the transom here this year, and a likely soundtrack for a whole lot of people’s lives for the summer of 2009. Mascott have also teamed up with Gramercy Arms to release a wonderful new single, This Christmastime, available for free download here. Mascott’s next NYC date is Jan 19 at Cake Shop.

December 6, 2008 Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment