Feist, One Evening
Joan Baez, Scarlet Tide
Thea Gilmore, Josef’s Train
Jesse Ware, Wildest Moments
Moorcheeba, The Sea
Cassandra Wilson, You go to my Head
Massive Attack, Safe From Harm
Tanita Tikaram, For all these years
K.D. Lang, Tears of Love’s Recall
Laura Nyro, Beads of Sweat
Cold Specks, When the City Lights Dim
Until recently, I’d have said that The Red Shoes was my least favourite Kate Bush album. I hadn’t listened to it for years. Then Lily and Big Stripey Lie scrobbled on my last.fm account and I completely changed my mind. Maybe The Red Shoes resonates more as you get older. It’s a complex, mature woman’s album, exploring themes of self-determination, resilience (Rubberband Girl), creativity (The Red Shoes), and spirituality.
Well I said, “Lily, oh Lily I don’t feel safe
I feel that life has blown a great big hole
Through me” And she said
“Child, you must protect yourself
You can protect yourself
I’ll show you how with fire”
My partner got me listening to Cris Williamson’s classic of feminist, lesbian and women’s music, The Changer and the Changed (1975). Williamson has such a beautiful, soaring voice. ‘Waterfall’ (0.00) gives me chills and you can just hear them playing ‘Sweet Woman’ (12.51) for the slow dance at the end of the lesbian disco in the 1970s. You might like to compare the original ‘Shooting Star’ (21:15) with the Butchies cover. Williamson has developed a more solidly country sound in recent years. Fringe (2007) is awesome too.
The last couple of months have been quite challenging, as well as cold and dark, so I’ve been looking for music to accompany cups of tea and introspection.
I love Joan Baez’s Gone from Danger (1997). All except one of the songs were written by younger artists (Dar Williams, Sinead Lohan) and Baez brings a rich maturity to the material. As you’d expect, there’s a political undercurrent, with songs about immigration, child abuse and environmental issues, but it’s all comforting somehow. The collector’s edition features a live bonus CD of performances in which Baez is joined by some of the songwriters.
I’ve never really been into Dar Williams. This may be a British thing, but the extreme earnestness of her lyrics makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. However, I’m getting beyond that and Promised Land (2008) is growing on me. Apparently this is one of her more poppy albums and frowned on by some fans of her earlier, more acoustic sound. I have no opinion on that at this time.
These are some of my favourite songs to play during the season. It’s rather a sombre list, not because I feel unhappy at this time of year, but because I like the winter to be a time of inwardness and reflection.
Martha Wainwright, Proserpina
Thea Gilmore, Cold Coming
Janis Ian, In The Winter
Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Winter Lady
Kristin Hersh, Winter
Kate Bush, Snowflake
Thea Gilmore, December in New York
In honour of Leonard Cohen’s eightieth birthday this week, I put together a YouTube playlist of some of my favorite songs and cover versions.
1. The Stranger Song (live 1967) from Songs of Leonard Cohen (1968)
2. Famous Blue Raincoat (live 1979) from Songs of Love and Hate (1970)
3. Bird on a Wire (live 2009) from Songs from a Room (1969)
4. Lover Lover Lover (live 1976) from New Skin for the old Ceremony (1974)
5. Who by Fire (live with Sonny Rollins) from New Skin for the Old Ceremony (1974). I also love the version of this song on Live in London (2009).
6. True Love Leaves no Traces from Death of a Ladies Man (1977)
7. Everybody Knows (live 1988) from I’m Your Man (1988)
8. If it Be Your Will (live?) from Various Positions (1984)
9. Waiting for the Miracle from The Future (1992)
10. The Darkness from Old Ideas (2012)
B Side – The Covers
The album of the summer was Lissie’s Back to Forever (2013). Her catchy tunes and big, confident sound was just what I needed to hear over the last few months. The more reflective and stripped-down acoustic versions of the songs are also excellent. Ingrid Michaelson’s delightful Lights Out came a close second with its smart, witty lyrics and great vocal arrangements. It makes me want to dance so much (thanks to @infamy_infamy for the recommendation).
We’ve been listening to Janelle Monáe’s albums, The Archandroid (2010) and The Electric Lady (2013). I think I have a slight preference for the first, but they’re both dizzyingly creative and exciting. You can hear all her influences at work, but the music sounds so fresh.
April was all about mysteries. I started by re-reading The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894). The stories are still enjoyable, but they no longer have the hold they had in my teens, when just one would set me off on a Sherlock Holmes reading frenzy. After that, I moved onto The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) by Agatha Christie. This is the first story featuring Hercule Poirot (because I like to do things in order). Then I read the much more contemporary Blue Monday (2011) by Nicci French, which is the first in the Frieda Klein series and was recommended to me by @Gherkinette on twitter. It’s smart, easy to read, not overly violent and I really like the psychotherapist detective. To give myself a break from the mysteries, I also read American Primitive (1983) by Mary Oliver and it was lovely.
In May I finished the wicked, subversive Lolly Willowes (1926), by Sylvia Townsend-Warner, and Hilary Mantel’s life-affirming Fludd (1989). Although these are very different books, they both offer stories about transformation and the importance of owning your life. In non-fiction, I read Andrew Martin’s Ghoul Britannia: Notes from a Haunted Isle (2009) because I’m interested in our cultural fascination with ghosts. It’s an amusing take on the development of the ghost story, but it felt a bit underdeveloped and the text was full of editing mistakes.