I love the sound of breaking glass
Deep into the night
I love the sound of its condition
Flyin’ all around
The words and melodies of English songwriter Nick Lowe first came to me in the same sweet period as Patti Smith Group, Elvis Costello and The Ramones. Not an unusual story I guess, since all those artists were roughly grouped together in one way or another in the late seventies. Except of course that I wasn’t yet born, so the possibility of being on trend was something of an impossibility. Let’s fast forward. It was about 1989 or 1990, which would have made me eight or nine years old, small framed and freckle-skinned and relieved to have finally grown out the bowl-cut hair disaster of 1987. My favourite item of clothing was a pair of acid wash jeans with floral patches.
I was showing the first signs of some kind of obsessive compulsive music disorder, which was mostly evidenced by the number of times I’d recorded The B-52’s Love Shack on a 120 minute VHS cassette just so I could play it back to back, again and again, in some sort of vague hope that if I watched Kate Pierson enough I’d eventually become her. I must have been driving my parents insane.
Although I’m not too reliable on the memory front – most of my high school years, my senior year excluded, have become a forgettable blur and all of my time at university is a jumble of interchangeable semesters – the period I discovered Nick Lowe is a sunset polaroid: white-framed and golden and permanent. I remember lying awake at night, all night, listening to the radio. I remember my sister’s constant frustration from the bunk above that I wouldn’t turn it off. I remember our lilac painted bedroom, red navigation lights flashing on a not too distant sea outside the window.
We lived in a three bedroom brick veneer home that must have been built in about 1975. It had all the suburban ugliness that that decade would allow. Brown faux wood laminate bench tops, copper coloured door handles, orange carpet… in the kitchen. And living in that space, it seems perfect now to recall that wedded though I was to the chart hits of the day, I was also in the first flush of a love affair with our parent’s haphazard, late seventies skewed record collection and quietly raiding it whenever I got the chance.
Some kids had parents who were precious about things like LPs, but fortunately for me, Ma and Pa’s many drunken parties had meant that almost all the albums (especially the good ones) were scratched beyond belief and I could explore without fear of discipline. Hell, they were hippies. I did everything without fear of discipline. And so away I went, thumbing through vinyl and marveling at the soft hum of the record player and getting musical crushes that would last longer than I could ever have imagined.
Cue: That Summer! The soundtrack to a 1979 film I’ve never seen but whose songs have stayed with me for more than twenty years. The album featured Elvis Costello ‘Watching The Detectives’ and ‘(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea’, Patti Smith Group ‘Because The Night’, Wreckless Eric ‘Whole Wide World’, The Ramones ‘Rockaway Beach’ and Nick Lowe’s brilliant ‘(I Love The Sound Of) Breaking Glass’.
I (loved) (loved) (loved) ‘(I Love The Sound Of) Breaking Glass’.
It goes like this:
The thrill of the piano trill against the driving bass and the beguiling, detached delivery of an almost pleading lyric:
I love the sound of breaking glass
Especially when I’m lonely
I need the noises of destruction
When there’s nothing new
I’m in New York at the moment and Nick Lowe is everywhere, enjoying a kind of popular resurgence off the back of a new album, an aptly titled return to form called ‘The Old Magic’ and about to play a much publicized North American tour with Wilco. Along with all the many things I look forward to getting around to in this city (thrifting, drinking, getting a tan) I can’t wait to hear the sound of breaking glass.
If you are stateside, you can check out the Nick Lowe/ Wilco tour dates here.
If you would like to download the That Summer! soundtrack, it is available here.
And if you would like to hear more vintage Nick Lowe…
For the next two months, I am taking leave from radio duties in Australia to spend some time in America. This is my fourth trip in three years, so to say I love the place feels like something of an understatement. Free pour, fries with everything, dim-lit bars, I love-love-love it. Feels like home. Don’t get me wrong – I adore Sydney. Great people, beautiful beaches, perfect climate. But I never feel like the city and I are having a kind of grand romance. I get to the US and almost immediately my heart falls through the floor. Normal people fall in love with other people. I’m a geography teacher’s daughter. I’m wooed by places.
On various trips, I’ve driven through the Grand Canyon in a convertible with my best friend, watched the bats fly over Austin at dusk, lost money in Las Vegas, thumbed the Dylan Thomas plaque outside New York’s Chelsea Hotel. You could fall in love with those things. That would be normal. But it’s the joy found in the unremarkable things that makes me certain I’m head over heels. Or crazy. Or both. Evidence?
I cried in a supermarket in Seattle yesterday. No good reason, of course. A nice young man behind the deli counter asked if I was okay. How do you explain that you’re so happy you have to cry about it? Worse still, how do you explain that the tears were triggered by the in-store radio’s perfectly timed back-to-back classics – Bob Seger’s ‘Night Moves’, followed by Tom Petty ‘American Girl’.
Last week I had a great surprise. No, I didn’t win Lotto or wake up with the sudden ability to tap-dance. Fingers crossed those surprises are still to come. But I was asked to guest program an alt-country special for triple j’s Roots N All program. Going to air every Thursday night from 10pm, Roots N All is a three-hour specialist program that is broadcast nationally. It was a huge honour to be asked to host the show and putting it all together was a blast, so big love to the wonderful folk at triple j who made it happen and also to all the listeners who tuned in on the night.
If you missed the show, you can stream it here up until this Thursday July 28.
Additionally, you can also check out the playlist on triple j’s website.
Some highlights from the show included brand new music from Wilco, Dawes, Vetiver, Those Darlins and Tiny Ruins. I also played some old favourites like Ryan Adams and Silver Jews, country covers legends The Pigs reworking Beyonce and two songs with ‘Motherfucker’ in the title. Good times.
Born in London in 1963 and coming of age in the United States in the late 1970s, Gregory Page, against all generational odds, is an old-school style crooner with a tender fascination for the music of the 1930s. With bittersweet lyrics and melodies drenched in nostalgia, Page’s songs pay loving homage to his musical heroes: dance hall favourites and jazz legends like Cole Porter and Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, Harold Arlen and Al Bowlly.
He joined me on Pines recently to chat about his Australian tour, play some live music and soak the program in sepia. Stream away.
Gregory Page’s latest album is called My True Love and you can pick it up here.
Just when I thought I’d blogged my last about Dolly Parton, everyone’s favourite Tennessee mountain blonde decided she would do the almost unimaginable and tour Australia for the first time in 30 years. And so, just quietly, tenderly and in the most dignified way possible… I’VE BEEN GOING CRAZY WITH EXCITEMENT. Folks who’ve seen my strange collection of Dolly stuff will know that I am a huge fan. I’ve got the Playboy issue with her on the cover, I’ve got the Dolly doll, I’ve got pictures of her in frames on my wall and I have even decided to revoke my long-term philosophy on marriage (not really my thing/ don’t believe in it/might be getting too old to go to my grave married as many times as Liz Taylor so what’s the fucking point) for the suitor who proposes with/ already owns one of these:
I know, I know, my claims to sanity are getting more and more dubious… With the upcoming tour weighing heavily on my mind, there was never any doubt that tonight’s In The Pines would have a Dolly flavour. We heard: Dolly and Porter Wagoner’s I’ve Been Married Just As Long As You Have, Justin Townes Earle and Dawn Landes’ excellent cover of Do I Ever Cross Your Mind? and Allison Moorer’s re-working of Light Of A Clear Blue Morning which was released back in 2003 on the Parton tribute record Just Because I’m A Woman.
Dolly is playing shows across Australia in November and tickets will be available through the good people at Chugg Entertainment on June 20.
I promise not to play anymore Parton for a while now… Maybe… Probably… Perhaps… No really, the point of the program is to play brand new tunes of the Americana/folk/alt-country persuasion and if you tuned in tonight then you will know that against all odds I did manage that brief. Here are some highlights.
Thurston Moore, ‘Benediction’
Sonic Youth frontman goes acoustic on his Beck produced solo record Demolished Thoughts.
Jessica Lea Mayfield, ‘I’ll Be The One That You Want Someday’
I’ve already spun the single from JLM’s second LP Tell Me twice this year so tonight we had an album track.
If you’re not over ‘Our Hearts Are Wrong’ (and why would you be, it’s perfect) here’s a link to the Letterman performance from a few months back.
Dawes, ‘If I Wanted Someone’
California’s Dawes released their much-anticipated sophomore album Nothing Is Wrong today. I played the album version of ‘If I Wanted Someone’, which is golden and glorious can be downloaded here. I must have listened to it forty times today. When I finally stopped, I revisited it acoustic.
This week on Pines we explored the very new and the very old and a few songs in-between. Aside from brief sixties flirtations via Lee Hazlewood and Anne-Margret, the nostalgia fest of last week (on account of Bob Dylan’s birthday) was mostly swept aside for more contemporary sounds. And so it was that we slow-danced into the program with one of the more pensive tracks from New Orleans based Hurray For The Riff’s ‘I Know You’. It’s an album track and therefore impossible to find online but if you want a taster of the their sound, try this on for size:
From perhaps the best kept secret in Louisiana onto a band who are more or less the most popular folkies on the planet, Fleet Foxes. All beards, all harmonies, all the time. Here is their recent performance on Jools Holland. Check out Robin Pecknold’s sweet Gibson. I don’t care how cute they all are, it’s the guitar I’m lusting about.
The latest offering from sisters/brother trio Kitty, Daisy & Lewis helped to break up what was close to becoming an overly earnest program. The trio wooed Australian audiences in January and are set to be back here a little later this year following the release of their latest album, Smoking In Heaven.
But… never one to stay with upbeat sounds for too long, we also heard an old mournful favourite from the fantastic Gillian Welch in the form of ‘ Time (The Revelator)’. I had the fear that her contribution to The Decemberists single ‘Down By The Water’ might be her only foray into new sounds for 2011, however, it’s been confirmed that Welch will release a new album on June 28. The album is called ‘The Harrow & The Harvest’. I’m pretty much counting down the days.
I haven’t been able to play this next song on Pines on account of it never having been officially released, but if you’re a Gillian fan and you haven’t heard ‘Throw Me A Rope/ The Way It Would Be’ prepare for some achin’ and breakin’. Complete with a Townes Van Zandt mention at the end…
And that pretty much wrapped it. However it must be said, although I only played Lee Hazlewood and Ann Margret’s spectacular ‘You Turned My Head Around’ once, I must have thought about it a thousand times this past week. So in love.
Soon, soon, very soon FBi Radio will have the ability to stream content ‘on demand’. For listeners, it’s an exciting development because it means that if you miss an episode of In The Pines you will be able to stream it at your leisure whenever you get the yearning for some americana/alt-country/folk/sadcore goodness. For broadcasters, it’s exciting too because it means that what once used to disappear into the airwaves gets to live on. That makes it a little bit terrifying too. Mistakes on demand! Flirtations with guests on demand! Accidental swearing on demand! The joys of live radio. What the hell, I’m looking forward to it.
In the meantime however, if you missed the show all I can offer up is the playlist and a re-cap of some of the highlights. So without further ado….
A LITTLE BIT OF BOB
Bob Dylan’s milestone 70th birthday was all over print, online and radio this week and Pines was no different. I started the show with ‘I Threw It All Away’, later played ‘One Of Us Must Know’ (Sooner Or Later) and also shared Micah P. Hinson’s version of ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’ from his excellent covers album All Dressed Up And Smelling Of Strangers. Cat Power’s bittersweet hymn to her hero, ‘Song To Bobby’ rounded out the birthday celebrations. After the show, I managed to muster a few thoughts on Dylan for the blog, so if you’re interested you can check it out here.
A LITTLE BIT OF BON IVER
For those who have exhausted all possible plays of 2008’s beautiful For Emma, Forever Ago and it’s all too brief follow-up Blood Bank , there is much joy to be had in the knowledge that a new release from Justin Vernon is just around the corner. Due for release on June 20, early reports suggest the sophomore effort Bon Iver, Bon Iver is an extension of the first album but with sporadic bursts of electronic experimentation. I played the first single ‘Calgary’ on the show this week and also directed listeners towards this recent appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in the US.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Justin Vernon’s voice… But his marriage of early 90’s Bonnie Raitt with Leon Russell’s ‘A Song For You’ doesn’t leave me aching for more and I kind of wish he’d performed one of his own songs. Why does it disappoint me so? In unabridged versions of the Russell classic, there’s a line Listen to the melody/ ‘Cause my love is in their hiding . I must have marvelled over its simple beauty a thousand times. To my ears, Vernon hides nothing. Check out this Willie Nelson video here if you’re interested something more subtle.
And if you want to hear Bon Iver doing what Bon Iver do best, you can download ‘Calgary’ here.
A LITTLE MORE MARISSA, A LITTLE LESS BILL
I’m a big believer that almost every song could be improved with a little more twang. As such, I’m pleased to say that the ethereal voiced Boston-based folk singer Marissa Nadler has taken that route with her latest single ‘The Sun Always Reminds Me Of You’. The demo version of the song has been doing the rounds for about six months but with her self-titled album due for release next month, we now have the legit version, complete with loads of pedal steel.
And to round things up, a promise I’m bound to regret…
I would be the first to admit that become a bit of a broken record with my on-air adoration of Bill Callahan in recent months, so on Tuesday I committed to taking a break from playing tunes from his latest release Apocalypse for at least a little while. If you haven’t gone out bought the album yet, I will no longer urge you to do so. I will save my adjectives and adorations for other artists and other LPs. But as I’m heaping praise on other tunes, I’m sure if you listen closely, in the silent seconds you will hear something like “It’s good but it’s not ‘Riding For The Feeling’.”
Yesterday on the walk home from the office, my office, which bears an uncanny resemblance to The Office, I had the iPod blaring and not a care in the world. So carefree was I that at some point on the homeward trail I lost all sense of time and place and found myself belting Bruce Springsteen’s Prove It All Night as I powered up the hill toward Erskineville Road, proving nothing really except that I can walk and sing simultaneously. In an ever-so-slight embarrassment, some guy at the lights made some comment I couldn’t quite catch and I quickly realised that I’d been putting on an impromptu neighbourhood concert. Prove It All Night? Really? I should have known that one would get out of hand. Went home pretty red-faced and forgot about it. Until the lights guy revealed himself today at work.
Co-worker: “You know Emma, that was some pretty good singing on the street yesterday…”
Me: “Oh dear…” (Note to self: when you think you might be singing in public without realising and in the presence of co-workers, try to choose something less primal)
Baby, tie your hair back in a long white bow /Meet me in the fields out behind the dynamo
I have theory about singing and fucking but I’m not going to write it here. It’s something I only share with other singers. Email me if you really want to know. I might tell you. But I probably won’t. And that ends this week’s confession. Now, to this week’s radio program.
In The Pines tonight was a much more wholesome affair than my opening paragraphs might suggest. I was joined in the studio by Adam Gibson from Sydney band, The Aerial Maps. The band blends indie folk instrumentation with spoken word poetry. It’s a unique sound that recalls themes of classic Australian bands like The Triffids and Weddings Parties Anything, except that the extended use of poetry lends the songs a more narrative impulse. If you caught the interview and you liked it, be sure to catch The Aerial Maps this Saturday night at The Basement in Circular Quay for the Popboomerang Records label night. They will be playing alongside The Bon Scotts, Russell Crawford and more.
ALSO ON TONIGHT’S PINES
I resisted the urge to play two tracks from the new Emmylou Harris album and instead opted to go with the title track ‘Hard Bargain’, which was penned by the criminally under-rated Ron Sexsmith and originally released on his 2004 album Retriever. Once again, Harris has proved herself to be a masterful interpreter of song, bringing her trademark ache and subtle genius to every phrase. If you are wondering what I’m getting at here, get the album and listen closely for the variations on the way ‘hard bargain’ is sung and you’re more than half way there. Because it’s so new, the song isn’t on youtube for me to share, so I guess the blog is going to for the two-song option tonight.
Here is Hard Bargain performed at the Bowery Ballroom in New York last week:
And here is ‘Darling Kate’, the beautiful tribute Emmylou penned in honour of her friend and collaborator Kate McGarrigle, which also features on the album:
After seeing Emmylou Harris in Sydney earlier this year at the State Theatre and reviewing the show for FBi, I feel like I might have used up all the adjectives I could possibly adorn her with so I will restrain myself from writing anymore here. At least for this week. If you caught those January shows and you want to relive it, or if you’re the self-punishing ‘what have I missed?!’ kind, the review is on The Flog.
Other highlights from tonight’s show included new music from Grey Reverend (Brooklyn), Anabelle Kay (Oklahoma via the Central Coast!) and Alela Diane & Wild Divine (Portland).
And as promised last week, we heard more from two of this year’s stand-out releases, Steve Earle’s I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive and Bill Callahan’s Apocalypse.
Last but not least, since Mother’s Day is just around the corner, I managed to sneak in the Paul Kelly classic ‘When I First Met Your Ma’ to close the show:
It worked on two equally pleasing levels for me: perfectly timed cheesy gesture and also, PK happens to be my Ma’s favourite singer. But more on that later. I hope you’re getting your parental music this Hallmark holiday.
With my recent trip to Canada and the United States done and dusted, and my epic jet lag almost entirely over, it’s time to return to the blog and catch up on a few thoughts I’ve been too tired/ hung over/ lazy to write down over the past few days. Without going into too much travel narrative, let’s just say that the pull of North America remains strong. Every time I go I find new things to fall for. In Canada, it was the cherry blossoms in Vancouver in the spring, the impossibly cool French chic of the good citizens of Montreal and the quaint beauty of Charlottetown, a place where the homes look like doll houses and the cobbled streets recall a time and a place where it would have been totally appropriate for me to dress like this:
In New York, on my third trip there in as many years, it was the grandeur of it all coupled with the small things… I’m just as thrilled and humbled and awed in front of the Dylan Thomas plaque outside the Chelsea Hotel as I am in front of a cheeseburger and tater tots at the The Trailer Park Lounge across the road. I know, I know, I know, I know, I know. There is poetry in everything. Even the deep-fried.
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not
And death shall have no dominion
All up, I covered four cities in fifteen days and only the ghost of Gary Stewart would know how much alcohol I consumed in that time. But I am back in Sydney now and back to the task at hand: In The Pines. In a few weeks time I will be presenting two Canadian music specials on FBi focussing on some of the great music I uncovered on my many nights out. This week however, was just a chance to be back at home behind the microphone, over-sharing a little and playing some of the great new music that has been released over the past few weeks. And so, without further ado…
Bill Callahan, America!
The artist formerly known as Smog has released Apocalypse, the third studio album under his real name. Perhaps not for the faint of heart or the first-time Callahan listener, the record is a seven song Expressionist masterpiece loosely based on the idea of a cattle driver moving through the ‘wild, wild country’. I can see why those who loved the swirling, painterly beauty of 2009’s Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle might struggle with this latest effort from the lanky King of Lo-Fi. And yet I am enraptured by it, constantly returning for repeated listens, marvelling at his ability to oscillate between softly sung meditations on the self to rousing recollections of what makes his homeland so great and grand and yet so flawed.
Josh T. Pearson, Sweetheart I Ain’t Your Christ
I’m not so sure that artfully crafted seven song albums will be an ongoing theme for 2011, however, this week we managed to make that seem so. Last Of The Country Gentlemen is the long-awaited debut from Josh T. Pearson. It was released back in March and I don’t know why it took so long to get to FBi but I am thinking it was fortuitously timed to collide with the Easter long weekend just so I could play this track and marvel how much Josh T. Pearson gives off a Jesus vibe despite his declarations otherwise.
After the recent Fleet Foxes special we had on In The Pines a few weeks back I thought I might be well and truly over earnest sounding bearded men for the year but perhaps a few repeated listens to Last Of The Country Gentlemen will change my mind.
And last but not least…
Zoe Muth & The Lost High Rollers, If I Can’t Trust You With A Quarter
A woman after my own heart, Zoe Muth captures a problem felt all too often by music snobs across the globe: the despair and disappointment of realising the person you’ve been flirting with has terrible taste in tunes.
‘When I heard that jukebox start/ I knew that cupid’s dart had missed its mark/ If I can’t trust you with a quarter/ How can I trust you with my heart?’
And because I know you only read this blog for tenuously related and somewhat dubious confessional asides, my cousin Kate tells me that if I’m to avoid a lifetime of rearing kittens on my own and watching re-runs of A Star Is Born while fantasising about slow dancing with a circa 1976 and preferably shirtless Kris Kristofferson, I really need to drop the music checklist that’s become a dating pre-requisite. But I could care less. And I’ve already named the cats just in case. Conway Kitty, Kitty Wells, Catsy Cline, Johnny Cat, June Carter-Cat and personal favourite, Tabby Wynette.
Oh dear. I think I’ve said enough. Tune into Pines on FBi 94.5 this Tuesday for an interview with Adam Gibson from The Aerial Maps about their soon-to-be released sophomore album, Sunset Park. And there will be new music from Emmylou Harris, more from the excellent Courtney Tidwell and Kurt Wagner collaboration ‘KORT’ and whatever else I happen to fancy. Most definitely that will include Steve Earle, Mark OlsOn and more. Over and out!