Monday, December 13, 2004

Ooh La La

You would think that I'd be happy that someone as astute as Sasha Frere-Jones was writing about pop music for the New Yorker, right? Beats another "hot jazz" reappraisal by Whitey McHerringbone, right? Yeah sure, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous when I caught a glimpse of Sasha's piece on French Dutch Israeli chantootsie Keren Ann in between the Erdrich and Chast this week. He just HAS to mention that Keren Ann "shows" him her sixth-floor flat in "Montmartre" after an EMI "listening" party in Paris (!!). Sheesh, the nerve of the guy. Rub it in why dontcha. On the other hand, with one sentence he made me forget everything that Adam Gopnik has ever written. (And Sasha is, if not the bomb, bombish in the extreme. I do have one confession to make: I think I was the only person who wasn't impressed by his Led Zep How The West Was Won review in the Voice. It reminded me of something I might have written. Which kinda freaked me out cuz Sasha is so much better than that! hahaha!! It's true. Ah well, I guess I just didn't find it that funny. Funny is peculiar. Everyone has very specific ideas about it. But Sasha doesn't go for the funny in the New Yorker's pages.)
So, okay, I'm a little jealous. But only cuz I have a little thing for Keren Ann and her Not Going Anywhere album. So does my beloved Maria! And our little toddler Rufus! (I used to trick myself into thinking that I was only playing the Keren Ann album to help get Rufus to sleep. But I wasn't fooling anyone. Keren Ann had me in her wistful, world-weary clutches. I felt duped for a while. Who was this girly-voiced warbler? Wasn't I supposed to be able to see through these Norah-come-latelys and their coffee-bar soft soap piffle? Yuppie comfort food, right? Like a 12 dollar side of garlic mashed potatoes at that overpriced corner bistro. "Lifestyle" music for those chardonnay-slurping Kerry apologists and their oversensitive overscheduled offspring. Right? Well, this inner defense that I mounted for myself - I was no New French Underwear patsy! - lasted about two spins. Then I melted like extra-fat butter on top of butter and shallot-infused kobe beef.)
Keren's songs are two darned catchy. The voice-too-close-to-the-microphone production style doesn't make the sound of the thing cloying, claustrophobic, and overheated, which by all rights it should, but truly intimate, inviting, and warm. The little girlyness is never TOO little girly. More along the lines of a Blossom Dearie, Chi (Pronounced "Shy") Coltrane, Kim Deal and her sister singing about sisters on This Mortal Coil records kinda girlyness. A grown-up girlyness. But not too stagey or mannered a girlyness. It's a girlyness that fits a woman who is possibly a bit girly. Or one who has been listening to lots of bossa nova records or perhaps any one of a 1000 french female pop stars from the 60's. THAT kinda girlyness. Which is not gonna be everyone's cup of chai (pronounced "Chy"). I played it for my parents thinking I would get a nice little "oh, isn't that nice, what a lovely zzzzzzz.........." Yes, I was hoping they might fall asleep and stop harrassing me, but instead they actually rolled their eyes a little. A tad too cutesy for the 50's jazz and pop fans. No Patience & Prudence records in their closets, i suppose. Okay, scratch the Patience & Prudence reference. I wouldn't want to give anyone the wrong idea about Keren Ann. Besides, NOTHING sounds like Patience & Prudence outside of Michael Jackson's and Henry Darger's dreams.
I do love the way Not Going Anywhere sounds. It does digital up right. And it IS "warm". Clear, crisp, and just breathy enough to make you swoon. Everything that stillborn Beck album wasn't. I should say that Keren Ann does Nick Drake up right. Sasha says he "reached for it over and over, as if it were a glass of water." And I get where he's coming from. Cuz it is thirst-quenching. But he didn't go far enough. Plain old water doesn't do Keren Ann justice! It would have to be one of those cool swirly euro bottles of water you were reaching for. The ones with all the bubbles that come from ancient underwater streams and that fizz and tickle your nose. Jeez, I guess Keren Ann is making my top ten this year! What a weird year. Big & Rich and Keren Ann? Ambiguously gay cowboys and an adorable cheese eating surrender monkey? Are they really my top two of 2004? Eh, why not? I've heard worse.


Blogger The Manthony said...

I just wanted to thank you for starting a blog. You post more to Freelance Mentalists too. It's been kickin' lately (well slowed down again but it's all thematic and lively when Matt posts a new question).

7:28 PM  
Blogger Scott Seward said...

I'm gonna. Post more on there. I'm gonna post on the top ten question tomorrow. and i've enjoyed the stuff that you and matt and don have been writing. and others too.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Colin said...

What's wrong with Adam Gopnik?!

7:34 PM  
Blogger Scott Seward said...

There's nothing wrong with Adam Gopnik. I was just being mean. Completely uncalled for. He's a fine writer. Not a very memorable one though. Not like that hunk Louis Menand. Hubba Hubba. His brain makes me weak in the knees.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Don Allred said...

Adam Gopnik wrote a really cool piece about meeting Willie Nelson, hanging out on the Magic Bus in NYCville. Most writer-and*-reader-comfortable use of all that New Yorker roominess I've seen, in a music-related piece, anyway. Sasha seemed to tiptoe around in there at first, but think he got used to it. I've gotten so used to the Voice's current word limit, don't know what I'd do if they suddenly opened things back up.Alex Ross, Ben Greenman (short reviews in the midst of Listings; New Yorker's got it down (except for jazz reviews, unless you count headpats in Club Listings. But ain't that America)(aint everything, sooner or later)

11:25 AM  

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