Currently showing posts tagged music

  • Always a Woman » Laura Marling's "Semper Femina"

    Always a Woman » Laura Marling's "Semper Femina"

    Leonora Carrington (Wiki Commons)


    "Fickle and changeable, though I may always be," Laura Marling sings on "Nouel," one of the many tracks I'm currently obsessing over on her new album, Semper Femina. She may say "fickle and changeable," but she's fucking with us, flipping the script on how anyone might dare to define what femininity, and womanhood, really means.

    From The Guardian's review:

    A concept album about femininity and female relationships (or “an exploration of womanhood”, as one magazine put it, making it sound like something that worthy Channel 4 would have broadcast in the early 80s), it starts quoting Virgil at you before a note is struck: the Latin title is a bowdlerised line from the Aeneid, which edits a dire warning from the god Mercury that: “Woman is always fickle and changeable” into the more positive slogan: “Always a woman”.

    A lot of Marling's references flew right above my little head until The Guardian broke it down for me. She's referencing Gustave Courbet’s 1866 painting L’Origine du Monde; she's inspired by Leonora Carrington and Rilke; and while this could all get a little insufferable, you really don't have to worry your pretty little head about it either, unless of course you want to. 

    You don't need to know or care much about the surrealists or the realist painters of whatever century to connect with tracks like "Nothing, Not Nearly" — at least, I don't. I guess I understand the feeling of "having a year where I didn't smile once, not really" or the sentiment throughout my favorite track, "Wild Fire":

    She keeps a pen behind her ear
    In case she’s got something she really really needs to say
    She puts it in a notepad
    She's gonna write a book someday

    Of course the only part that I want to read
    Is about her time spent with me
    Wouldn’t you die to know how you're seen
    Are you getting away with who you’re trying to be?
    Trying, trying to be

    It reminds me of a female friendship I lost a long time ago, and it doesn't make me miss that friend (and certainly doesn't make me miss being a teenager) but oh, I get it. I still get it. Maybe in some ways, we never lose our teenage selves in our female friendships. Maybe we still have that "wild fire" for the women we love like sisters and sometimes more than lovers. Or maybe you don't know what the fuck I'm talking about, similar to how Marling sings, "You always say you love me most/When I don’t know I’m being seen/Well maybe someday when God takes me away/I’ll understand what the fuck that means." 

    I laughed, loudly, when I first heard that lyric. I was in bed, with the cats, playing the song on my phone. Mufasa couldn't get away from me fast enough. She looked at me, annoyed, and leapt off the bed. Layla turned her head and yawned, slowly, deliberately. Lots of wild feminine energy in that bedroom. Geez.

    Speaking of bedrooms, I'd like to live in the one from the video for "Next Time," which is four minutes and three seconds straight outta my weird dreams, of which I have many, frequently. In fact, I think I might be this woman in the video. NPR's Robin Hilton describes her as appearing "trapped in a baroque room, intermittently examining various objects and dancing, as though she's trying to both make sense of and escape from the space she's created." So essentially, me on any given Saturday. 

    All this is to say: I can't stop listening to Semper Femina, and I don't intend to anytime soon. I guess I forgot to mention, in case you aren't familiar with Laura Marling, this is a folk album, and a damn good one. Give it a listen. Remember, you were wild once, too. 

  • Mix Tapes: What's In a Name?

    The Shins are here to warm up your first week of 2017 with a new single, one NPR calls "a joyfully infectious pop cut" that's a "hopeful ode of empowerment" to frontman James Mercer's daughters. 

    Give it a listen. It'll almost make you forget, for that fun 3 minutes and 10 seconds, all that's at stake right now for everyone's daughters. 

    Meanwhile, San Fermin is also brightening this sub-zero temperatures Thursday in Chicago with their new song "Open" that continues the sweeping beauty of the songs from last album, Jackrabbit. 

    "I have your body, I have your soul"


    I'm also newly into Julie Byrne, and especially her song "Natural Blue," discovered via Pitchfork. Something about the depth of her voice when she sings, "When I first saw you...that feeling it came over me too" makes me feel both melancholy and romantic. (Oh, shut up, Alison.)

    Just listen:


    I'm excited to get back to the Mix Tapes in 2017, geeks! Hope you are, too. Happy discovering. Happy listening. 

  • Mix Tapes: 'Rubbing My Hands At The Bottom Of The Sea, Scraping The Sand'

    Here for this

    "I was looking at her looking out the window and then I just leaned my head back and died and went outside of myself. My spirit went out of my body and I saw myself and the room. And then I woke up."

    This too. 

    When asked, "What does it physically feel like to play the cello?" Lu says:

    "Sometimes it feels like I’m playing water. When I’m sliding my fingers across it, I feel like I’m rubbing my hands at the bottom of the sea, scraping the sand."

  • Mix Tapes: Unconditional Love

    "Play the lead in 'Unconditional Love,' and act it how you want to live." — Esperanza Spalding 

    Sounds pretty good to me. (The notion, and the song itself.) 

  • Mix Tapes: Michael & Anthony, Seal x Gallant

    Let's distract ourselves from Winter in April here in Chicago with a few tunes from a few dudes with some great pipes.

    To begin: Hi, Michael Stipe! Cool beard! 

    In case you weren't aware, I've loved Michael Stipe for most of my life. Read all the juicy details about our completely one-sided love affair here. Oh, and here


    Up next, one of these gents needs no introduction. The other soon might not either. Geee-zuzz: 

    You can stream Gallant's debut album on NPR First Listen until its release this Friday. Do it. 


    Up last, but certainly not least—one of my other longtime loves, Anthony Hamilton, has a new album out, What I'm Feelin'so he and The Hamiltones paid a visit to NPR's Tiny Desk to go along with its release. It's a great mix of new material and some of his classics.

    I'm trying so hard right now to stop myself from what I'm about to write, but, fuck it. It's got me saying "Amen"! 

    Next time, I hope he keeps the flag sweater at home and also sings "Lucille." But I'm not complaining. Happy Monday!