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Lara Eckener

Diorama of a woman exploding

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Friday Four #2 – …ladies

Last week I slipped back onto this blog with a post about learning to appreciate women. A part of that journey has been about opening myself up to the things women create and building a need for female voices in my life. In that vein, for today’s Friday Four I bring you:

Four Five Women You Should Be Listening To (and Possibly Aren’t)

01. Jenny Owen Youngs

Youngs is exactly the kind of thing I would have refused to listen to before. A young woman with a guitar who writes songs about her feelings and her relationships. It’s so easy for that to stray into the dewey sentimentalism that still makes me pretty uncomfortable even as it’s making me weep into my chai. But just as we’re supposed to imagine people complexly, we should imagine musicians more complexly still. She has a real gift for hooks. Her song ‘Pirates’ has what is possibly one of my favorite hooks ever as she plaintively tells the audience that loves no good, but it sure beats the hurt, beats the hurt, beats the hur-ur-ur-ur-urt. Her music is incredibly catchy, even the slow stuff, and when she does give us stories they come with fearlessness, like this Bonnie & Clyde tale from her last album. She writes the kind of songs that keep you company all day, which is good for me, because I hate feeling entirely alone.

02. Carolina Chocolate Drops

This band has two ladies with a strong grasp of what it means to embody a song. The one in the video above, Rhiannon Giddens, has been with the band since its inception. She plays five string banjo, fiddle, and kazoo. There’s no singing in the video I’ve posted here, but I had to choose this one because of how the percussion in it makes me happy. If you happen to hear her sing, you’ll know immediately that her voice is strong and clear, as evidenced here in the video where she’s singing ‘I Know I’ve Been Changed’ with her sister. The second lady, Leyla McCalla, joined the band on tour in 2012 as a cellist. I could listen to her talk about music all day. She seems to have need for music and a great understanding of poetry which I admire.

03. The Puppini Sisters

While I feel that the Carolina Chocolate Drops take a classical southern sound and ground it in the now, The Puppini Sisters sit firmly in an imagined past grounded in the tightly sung girl groups from the 40s and 50s. (I imagine Noh-Varr would approve.) They do a lot of period appropriate covers as well as their own songs and they wear a lot of costumes and I pretty much adore all of it. Don’t even get me started on the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. While it’s an old style, it’s not dusty. Their voices sound great together and they bring a modern flair to their old time sound. Mainly they’re fun to have around if you need a pick me up or are having a party.

04. Valerie Meiss

Valerie Meiss has been a part of several projects I really enjoy. I first learned of her when I stumbled onto a Hellblinki Concourse set at Dragon*Con in 2008. Hellblinki is the least accessible band on this list. I’ve been told over and over by friends that they just can’t get into the sound, because of how strange it is and the different ways they mix sounds and instruments and even audio clips on their albums. These are pretty much all of the things I love about Hellblinki, so I can’t exactly sympathize. But what I do say is ‘how about Valerie’s voice though? It’s great right!?’ Because it is. It’s why I chose the above video instead of any of the more polished or professional things I could have posted. Just listen to her. And it doesn’t stop there. She can sound like an old time skat performer, a baroness of the plains, like a zombie, like a Disney princess, those last two in the same song! Valerie has since moved on to a new project called Miss Mousie and the Rigamarole which is well worth looking into if you like her voice above. Just for fun, here’s a link to an accordion, fiddle, and upright bass version of Salt n’Pepa’s ‘Push It’.

I hope you find a new voice here. Fall in love a little, it’s the best feeling in the world.

Next week’s Friday Four will be about Birds. You can suggest Friday Four topics in the comments below or over twitter. Have a good weekend!

#MusicDiary2012 – 5/9/2012 & 5/10/2012

In my continued inability to follow a god damned structure, here is a simple list of the music I listened to on Wednesday and Thursday.  I wanted to leave notes, but I spent last night packing and I have to spend today working since I’m going to New Jersey for the weekend.

Wednesday, May 9

  • Amanda Palmer – Have to Drive
  • Our Lady Peace – Sell My Soul
  • Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band – Slowly (Oh So Slowly)
  • Snow Patrol – Last Ever Lone Gunman
  • Bloc Party – So Here We Are
  • Death Cab for Cutie – Information Travels Faster
  • The Killers – When You Were Young
  • Augustana – Either Way, I’ll Break Your Heart
  • Death Cab for Cutie – The Employment Pages
  • Bright Eyes – The Calendar Hung Itself
  • Florence and the Machine – Cosmic Love
  • Say Anything – Peace Out
  • The Bens – Wicked Little Town
  • Steam Powered Giraffe – Electricity is in My Soul
  • Steam Powered Giraffe – Out in the Rain
  • Steam Powered Giraffe – Captain Albert Alexander

Thursday, May 10

  • Nathaniel Johnstone – Elle Cambia
  • Abney Park – Victorian Vigilante
  • Death Cab for Cutie – Title and Registration
  • Say Anything – Anarchy, My Dear
  • Fall Out Boy – A Little Less 16 Candles, A Little More Touch Me
  • Matt Nathanson – Kiss Quick (x10)
  • Murder by Death – 52 Ford
  • Murder by Death – Three Men Hanging
  • Murder by Death – Steam Rising
  • Murder by Death – Another Year
  • Murder by Death – Brother
  • Ramona Falls – The Darkest Day
  • Hellblinki – Bella Ciao
  • Robots in Disguise – The Sex Has Made Me Stupid
  • The Seatbelts – Tank!
  • Matt Nathanson – Bullet Proof Weeks
  • Fall Out Boy – W.A.M.S.
  • Franz Ferdinand – Shopping for Blood
  • Mai Yamane – Pushing the Sky
  • April Smith and the Great Picture Show – Bright White Jackets
  • Panic! at the Disco – There’s a Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey. You Just Haven’t Figured It Out Yet.
  • Damion Suomi – Pearls (Before Swine)
  • Fall Out Boy – Beat It
  • Brand New – Jesus Christ
  • My Chemical Romance – The Sharpest Lives
  • Mumford & Sons – Awake My Soul

And yes, before you ask, sometimes I AM a 15 year old girl.  Alas.

#MusicDiary2012 – 5/8/2012

The write up for yesterday’s music listening is going to be different from Monday’s.  This is partially because I’m balls at following my own set guidelines and partially because I did something yesterday that I almost never do.  I took my iPod off shuffle and listened to two albums through to the end for two very different reasons.

Tuesday, May 8

The first song I listened to yesterday is the only song I noted (read: not playing over the speakers at Panera) that didn’t belong on one of the albums I’m going to talk to you about.  That song was

  • David Bowie (w/ John Frusciante and Maynard James Keenan) – Bring Me the Disco King (Loner Remix)

I really like David Bowie and the various characters he portrays in pursuit of his art, but I don’t spend a lot of time listening to his music. I didn’t even know this song existed until a few months ago when a friend put it on a David Bowie birthday mix.  (She called the mix Major Tom’s Ambient Noise Strategy, which I think would be a really cool name for a book or a film about dancing with men from Mars.  If I ever finish that story about dancing with men from Mars, maybe I’ll bum rush her and steal it.)

Anyway, I started with this song because I didn’t know how I was feeling yesterday morning and this song is perfect for every mood.  I’d venture to say that it’s just about perfect for everything.  To me anyway.  It would be fatuous of me to try and describe it, so you should just go fill your ear holes with it.  I’ll wait here for seven minutes.  Take your time.

And now that you’re back it’s time to shake off the unassuredness and malaise with some good old fashioned folk storytelling.

  • (Album) Go, and Sell All of Your Things by Damion Suomi and the Minor Prophets

Damion Suomi and most of his band of misfit boys are local-ish to me (Cocoa Beach is about an hour away from Orlando), so I’ve seen them play many, many times.  There’s something about his voice and his diction which has drawn me to his songs for a few years now, but it wasn’t until the pre-tour show where they played all of Go, and Sell All of Your Things live that I really fell in love with them.

This album, as he discussed it, was based around his interpretation of Joseph Campbell’s understanding of the hero cycle.  As if that, mixed with the romping, stomping folk exuberance of his entire band, wouldn’t be enough to hit many of my buttons, there is a song on the album devoted to Bukowski, whose poems are another love of mine. This song, called ‘A Dog From Hell (And His Good Advice)’,  beseeches its listeners to remember that ‘if you’re gonna try, then go all the way‘.  It also contains the lines:

We’re here to unlearn the teachings of the church and state

We’re here to drink beer, we’re here to kill war

We’re here to laugh at the odds, live our lives so well

That death will tremble to take us.

Those lines, as you may notice, are the words of Bukowski himself, tied together in a tight little anthem that we can carry around with ourselves when we forget what is really important.  What is really important is living the hell out of life.  It’s a thing I have to remind myself of sometimes, when I get bogged down in the details.  That was why I listened to this album for half of yesterday.  I needed to remember what truly made me happy.

I don’t want you to get the wrong impression.  There are groupings of verses on the album that I love much more than that one, but that song is the one I put on if I just want to sing at the top of my lungs and defy the universe to get me down.  Usually, it works.

My second favorite song on the album is called ‘Holy Ghost’ which has a taste of old west in it and lets me sing the words that my mother fears: there ain’t no holy ghost inside of me.

The next album I’m going to discuss I listened to for a less compelling reason.  While I was sitting at lunch in a busy sandwich shop whose overhead music I could only hear intermittently, I caught a few bars of Matt Nathanson’s ‘Faster’.  So when I finished with the Damion Suomi album and I was feeling thoroughly picked up and maybe a little too rad for my own good, I put on

  • (Album) Modern Love by Matt Nathanson

Modern Love is Matt Nathanson’s latest studio effort, having been released last June, and the one I had been paying the least amount of attention to. I really like Matt Nathanson, even though he doesn’t really sing music that I would ordinarily listen to.  It’s folk and it’s rock and sometimes it reminds me strongly of Ryan Adams (in my head they’re totally bros, even though I have no idea whether or not they’ve ever met), but mostly it’s about relationships, and I am not traditionally a lady who really wants or needs a lot of songs about relationships.  It’s his live shows that really draw you in though.

That man can be raunchy.  He will sometimes talk about how you should let the music mount you like a wolf.  And he can be hilarious.  And sometimes even a bit sexy.  Mostly, he just emits this aura of relaxation and fun.  It is almost impossible to not enjoy yourself at one of his concerts.  He came through here on his spring tour, and even though a lot of his set was made up of songs I didn’t know because I hadn’t given this album a thorough listen, I still danced and sang and rocked the shit out of my wee little heart.  He’s just that good live.

This album isn’t my favorite of his–I much prefer Some Mad Hope–but I still enjoy listening to it quite a bit.  The strongest song is ‘Queen of K(n)ots’.  It struts away from the other tracks and forces you to pay attention as it goes.  Just be glad that you don’t live near me and have never seen me rocking out in my tiny little red car.  It’s best for both of us really, if I can continue to look you in the eye.  But if you had seen me last night, it would have been an incredibly earnest sort of rocking, because that’s the sort of thing that Matt Nathanson does to me.

And that was yesterday in music for me.  Come back tomorrow when I will no doubt spend more space than I should rambling about Steam Powered Giraffe.  Because seriously, guys.  Steam. Powered. Giraffe.

#MusicDiary2012 – 5/7/2012

There’s a cool project going on this week, if you’re inclined to join in on those sorts of things.  People all around the internet are taking part in Music Diary 2012.  For one week, from May 7 through May 13 we’re taking note of when, where, what, and why we listen to music.  You can read more about it at the NPR Music Tumblr (which is a cool thing to follow just because) and the blog that started it.  I’m a sucker for things like this, so I’m going to do it.  I’ll make one post a day with what I listened to on the previous day and any reasons or commentary as I see fit.  I’d love to see what you guys are listening to as well.

Monday, May 7

Whenever I’m in my car the iPod is plugged in.  It’s usual setting is just shuffle on my ‘Sing It Out’ playlist.  So on the way in to work in the morning yesterday it ran through:

  • Mumford & Sons – Dust Bowl Dance
  • Panic! at the Disco – But It’s Better If You Do
  • Cursive – Art is Hard
  • Cobra Starship – You’re Not In On The Joke
  • Empires – Damn Thing’s Over
  • Ramona Falls – Melectric

At lunch Alli and I headed out to Urban Hibachi.  Urban Hibachi is not one of those restaurants whose music I really pay attention to or even notice.  It’s usually set lower than the chatter of the patrons.  However, because I knew I was going to be logging the music I listened to this week I tried to pay a bit of attention to it.  It was mostly jangly pop/techno that I don’t really enjoy.  The kind with saccharine sweet female vocalists singing about love or getting it on on the dance floor.  (Have you ever tried to get it on on the dance floor?  It seems like an awkward place to do that to me.)  But then, incongruously, I picked up on

  • The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army

That mostly reminded me of how I really love the Glitch Mob Remix of Seven Nation Army that they play in the trailers for the new GI Joe film.  I have no interest in the GI Joe film, but I would really like that version of the song to play when I enter rooms.  I’ll have to work on learning how to override PA systems.

In the afternoon I was feeling pretty terrible about just being me.  When my co-worker went to lunch and left me alone in the library I did what I do in most times of trouble and brought up a whole slew of Decemberists music on Grooveshark to console myself with.  I find Colin Meloy’s voice strangely comforting.  I didn’t keep track of everything it played, but I know I heard

  • The Decemberists – The Bandit Queen
  • The Decemberists – Down By the Water
  • The Decemberists – Rox in the Box
  • The Decemberists – The Chimney Sweep
  • The Decemberists – Tain (Parts I, II, III, IV, and V)

I turned that off when she came back, because I try not to be a total douche to my co-workers.  Because I hadn’t gotten a chance to listen to my current favorite Decemberists song though, I toggled my iPod over to their artist directory when I got into the car in order to search for it.  I wanted ‘This is Why We Fight’, but Castaways and Cutouts is in my iPod before The King is Dead, so I got hung up on

  • The Decemberists – Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect

I just let it shuffle through their discography from there for the rest of the way home.

I didn’t figure I’d listen to much music after I got home.  I usually spend at home media time catching up on my YouTube subscriptions and the TV from the day before.  My YouTube subscriptions do sometimes pleasantly surprise me with music, though, so I had the pleasure of seeing

Lindsey Stirling is a pop violinist.  Or at least, that’s what I suppose we call her.  Her videos are usually wonderful, though.  My favorite is still Shadows, because it calls to mind Peter Pan.

I initially decided to keep this Music Diary here instead of somewhere else, because I was going to make myself write a fictional drabble every day using one of the locations and some of the music.  I may still for the rest of the week, but I didn’t really get to sleep last night and when I did I had a really disturbing dream, so I am just not in a small writing state of mind.  Hopefully I can be better about that tomorrow.

So, friends and denizens of the internet, what did you listen to yesterday?

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