Over the last few months, I’ve been discovering/re-discovering Neil Young. I’ve been digging into albums, diving into deep cuts, realizing how much I enjoy so much of his music. Becoming an (albeit late) fan. Through my discovery/re-discovery Young-quest I’ve found so many great covers of his music. Today’s Song of the Day is one of those covers by two of my favorite singer-songwriter-musicians, Jill Sobule and John Doe, performing their cover of Neil’s “murder ballad”, “Down By the River”.
Their take on “Down By the River” appears on the cover-collaboration-tribute-for-charity album, Cinnamon Girl: Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity. This is a cool collection of covers that also features Tanya Donelly, Veruca Salt, Josie Cotton, The Watson Twins, Kristin Hersh, and others.
After a few days of anxiety and rough emotions, today represents a real first day for me. I know I’m 9 days late, but the New Year was bumpy, and I know that any day can be the first day – right? So, today is mine. My day to organize, set realistic goals, breathe a bit, and set myself on (hopefully) a path of better balance, love, (better) organization, home, family, budget, and self-care.
I’m only doing a Song of the Day today, as I spent most of today getting organized, setting goals, and breathing my decided first day in. Tomorrow will be back to other daily and weekly postings. Stay tuned.
“Down by the River” was written by Neil Young. It appeared on his 1969 (my birth year) album with Crazy Horse, called Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. In the liner notes to Young’s 1977 anthology album Decade, he said that he wrote “Down by the River”, along with “Cinnamon Girl” and “Cowgirl in the Sand”, while delirious in bed, in Topanga Canyon, with a 103 °F fever.
The song feels like a “murder ballad” to me. With the lyrics “I shot my baby – down by the river” you can see why I’d think that. Young cleared up any questions, though, in a 1970 interview with Fusion. He said:
“There’s no real murder in it. It’s about blowing your thing with a chick. See, now in the beginning, it’s ‘I’ll be on your side, you be on mine’. It could be anything. Then the chick thing comes in. Then at the end it’s a whole other thing. It’s a plea… a desperation cry.”
Jill Sobule and John Doe contributed their cover of “Down By the River” to the collaborative cover album, Cinnamon Girl: Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity.
The collection of Neil Young covers benefits Casting for Recovery, a national non-profit support and educational program for women who have or have had breast cancer. Jill and John’s covers is one of my favorites in the collection.
“Down By the River” by Jill Sobule and John Doe
from the album, Cinnamon Girl: Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity (2008)
Song of the Day
“You take my hand,
I’ll take your hand.
Together we may get away.
This much madness is too much sorrow.
It’s impossible to make it today.
She could drag me over the rainbow,
send me away.
Down by the river,
I shot my baby.
Down by the river.”
I’ve been music-binging (or music-obsessing) on Janelle Monáe’s music the last two weeks. My Monáe-binge led me to start a Spotify Artist Radio Station off of her, which led me to today’s Song of the Day – “Bag Lady” by Erykah Badu. It had been ages since I listened to the Mama’s Gun album. It was a great reminder to revisit it – which I’ve been doing all morning-afternoon. It was a rough morning, and a busy day (so far). This song and album are definitely helping me get through it.
“Bag Lady” is the 12th track on Badu’s 2000 album, Mama’s Gun.
The song features Roy Ayres. It was the first single released from the album. The song is said to be about a woman who is trying to begin a new relationship but has brought too much emotional “baggage” along with her which is keeping her from getting close to anyone.
I like, and appreciate the sentiment of “packing light” in life. To leave the bad experiences, hurt, regret, and heartbreak in the past, let it all go and move forward. Hoping for a better future, while enjoying the now. Though we all bring along so much from our past, life is really too short to not enjoy right now. Especially if there are good things in the right now. Too much baggage can hurt a relationship and can hinder your own living and well-being.
“Bag Lady” by Erykah Badu
from the album, Mama’s Gun (2000)
Song of the Day
“Bag lady you gone hurt your back.
Dragging all them bags like that.
I guess nobody ever told you,
all you must hold onto,
First tracks of albums are a favorite thing of mine to “collect”. I like to catalog the opening tracks, listen to them a few times on repeat, and think about what they do to start an album, how they work with the rest of the tracks, how I feel when I first hear them. Do they introduce a particular theme? Style? Tone? Do they have significance to any concepts the album artistically presents? Does it work as a “first track”, to me? Is it one of my favorite “first tracks”?
Fiona Apple’s sophomore album, When the Pawn, released in 1999, starts off with the song “On the Bound”, today’s selected Song of the Day. I feel like “On the Bound” carries the sensibility and spirit of Fiona’s debut album, Tidal, while also introducing the emotional heft, and songwriting style and musicality tone that is unique to When the Pawn, Fiona’s second studio release.
“On the Bound” opens Fiona’s extremely long titled album, When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing ‘fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might so When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right (full title, also known as When the Pawn).
All songs on the album, including “On the Bound” were written by Fiona, and produced by Jon Brion.
New starts, decisions, choices, and a tendency to be impulsive, and regret it later, are what “On the Bound” say-sing to me. There is this juxtaposition of hope and doubt apparent in every line. A duality of optimism and pessimism that weaves through most, if not all, of the tracks on When the Pawn – especially in regards to relationships. It is what I most relate to, in this song, and the album – and why I often think that When the Pawn is my favorite Fiona release.
I believe in love, despite my history with love-attempts. I believe, and hope, in things working, lasting, staying good, even though my life experience says the opposite.
Regardless, I still believe. This can be a tough internal battle, of how my memory informs me, and what I want to believe in. It can add unintended pressure to my partner, too. A need for reassurance, for a feeling of love and happiness, a wanting to feel the other person believes in love, and in “us”. I think, too, its been a struggle in the past because I’ve kept myself, and my feelings, mostly locked away. And, I’ve rarely let myself really love.
I like to believe I’m different now, that the love in my life is different now, that this is the love that will work, last, stay good. And, part of why I believe this is that I’ve never really loved like this. But, the shadows and “realities” of the past are present. They toy with my faith. They often keep me up at night. They feed and water my insecurities. I’m persisting though, pushing forward with believing. I’m determined that love, and optimism, and “us” will win in the end, and in the always.
“On the Bound” by Fiona Apple
from the album, When the Pawn (1999)
Song of the Day
“Baby, lay your head on my lap one more time.
Tell me you belong to me.
Baby, say that it’s all gonna be alright.
I believe that it isn’t.”
I’ve loved Tanya Donelly since I heard Throwing Muses for the first time, somewhere around 1991, sitting with friends in the living room of my first apartment. It was small and cluttered with second-hand furniture, a myriad of posters and pictures, and so much music. I lived there with my boyfriend at the time. We didn’t have a TV. But, we had two stereos, a reel-to-reel, a few guitars, crates of records, and stacks of cassettes and CDs.
It was the only place I’d ever live, besides the house I grew up in, without a child. I became a mom soon after. I became pregnant before we even moved into that apartment (not that I knew it at the time). It’s weird to think about it that way. To realize that the majority of my adult life has been as a mother. It’s weird to think of my life at all without being a mother.
Today’s Song of the Day, by Tanya Donelly, is about motherhood. It is about love and relationships, too. It is about forever.
So, it was the early 90’s when I first encountered Tanya via Throwing Muses. Belly would come soon after, a band that Tanya fronted. Their first album, Star, is one of my all-time favorites. I feel hard and fast for it. It was 1993, which was a big year in my life. Then came their second album, King, in 1995, a year full of its own trunks full of memories. The ’90s, in so many ways, were more of my “coming-of-age” years than my teen years, in the ’80s, ever were.
It was the late 90’s when Tanya went solo with Lovesongs for Underdogs.
I felt like an “underdog” myself and was in the midst of a lot of issues, many which did a lot of damage to my self. But, there were good parts in those last years of the ’90s. I had found the internet and online communities that would change my life for the better. Lovesongs was with me through recovery and starting over. It was with me when I took big steps with love and change and a brand new life.
2002 and Beautysleep. “Keeping You” would always make me cry. This was the year my second child was born. It was a year of many wishes coming true. It was a year that was beautiful and hopeful, and full of promise. It didn’t last, not all of it, but I still remember the way it all felt. Today’s Song of the Day is that track from Beautysleep. “Keeping You”. And yes, all these years later, it still makes me cry.
“Keeping You” by Tanya Donelly
from the album, Beautysleep (2002)
“My heart’s not new.
I’m not like you.
I’ve loved and been loved well,
and badly, too.
My body’s been through everything.
I’ve used and been used,
I got over it.
There’s something that you learn on a tightrope…
just outside the spotlight there’s a big net waiting.”
Over the New Year’s holiday, my boyfriend and I watched the Amazon/Scorsese produced documentary series, Long Strange Trip, about The Grateful Dead. My boyfriend is a big fan of the band and has been since he was a young teenager. As for me, though I love a handful of songs by the band, I’d never known much about them and had been put off some by the fandom in the ’90s. It was an unfair reason to be put off about a band, but I think I’d made assumptions from what I perceived, and never returned to their music until I met my boyfriend.
Music sharing is a special of our relationship. It was a big part of our first connection to each other and remains something that I cherish between us. The fact that he loves the band so much made me curious to hear more, and learn more about the band. He’s opened my eyes and ears up to a lot of music. Hopefully, I’ve done the same for him.
The fantastic documentary series (I highly recommend it, even if you are not a fan – maybe especially if you aren’t a fan) changed a lot of my views on the band, and even my thoughts on the fans. I’m on a quest to discover/rediscover more of their music in the new year. I’m starting with the album American Beauty, which includes the first Dead song I remember hearing. “Ripple”. A song that remains my favorite of theirs…at least for now. That could change as my quest unfolds.
“Ripple” by Grateful Dead
from the album, American Beauty (1970)
“Ripple in still water.
When there is no pebble tossed,
nor wind to blow.”
“Ripple” is track six on the 1970 album, American Beauty. It was released as the “B-Side” to the single “Truckin’.” (from Wikipedia)
“Ripple” was written by Robert Hunter while he was in London. He wrote it in the same afternoon that he wrote “Brokedown Palace” and “To Lay Me Down”. Robert wrote the lyrics. Jerry wrote the music to “Ripple”.
Several lines throughout the song have been compared to the 23rd Psalm of the Bible.
The harp mentioned at the beginning suggest the musical instrument that traditionally accompanied the psalms. The still water, the cup, the road at night, and some other subtle pieces all suggest a connection. Though I can hear Psalms in the lyrics, the song has always reminded me more of Eastern Religion, specifically Buddhism.
The Dead performed an electric version of “Ripple” at the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland, on September 3, 1988. It was the first they’d done so since 1971. According to Dennis McNally’s A Long Strange Trip, this came after Bob Weir got the request from a young man who was dying of an unidentified illness. Upon getting the request, Weir bet Garcia $10 that he wouldn’t be able to remember the lyrics. Garcia took the bet and won. Weir, however, never paid up.
“Ripple” (live, “Electric”, 1988) by Grateful Dead
“Ripple” was first performed during a show at San Francisco’s Fillmore West, in August of 1970. It was the same night that the tracks “Brokedown Palace”, “Operator, and “Truckin'” were first played in public. “Ripple” was played during the first set, which was acoustic.
Alright, back to my quest, and the rest of 1970’s Dead album, American Beauty. You can expect more song and/or album features as my Grateful Dead “trip” continues.
Let’s hear it for the New Year, and for the return of New Release Friday. I stepped away from reviewing new music last year, even though there were quite a few stellar albums that came out in 2018. I missed many of them until weeks (or months) after they were released. I don’t plan on letting that happen again.
Plus, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to listen, and discover (and re-discover), more music. So, part of that is definitely going to help fuel this weekly feature.
I’m going to leave each week open, meaning I won’t be limiting it to Top 5 New Releases, nor will it be confined to just albums. I will highlight notable singles, and re-issues, as well.
Let me know of any new music you’re listening to, and loving, in the comments. Or you can email me at email@example.com.
New Release Friday – January 4, 2019
The Blue Bird by Mark Deutrom
Three-Sentence Review: Best known for his work with The Melvins, Deutrom’s new album, The Blue Bird, starts off 2019 with a blues-meets-psychedelia-meets prog rock-meets-punk poly-sensibility, and thirteen tracks worthy of heavy-play. Comparisons have been made to early Pink Floyd (“Nothing Out There” especially), and 90’s grunge (especially due to Mark’s Chris Cornell vocal similarities). There is darkness here, flicked with hopeful light, reminiscent of stars in the night sky, the kind seen clearly in the middle of the desert sometime around midnight – that’s the image that listening to this album conjures up to me.
Initial Favorite Track(s): “Radiant Gravity”, “Nothing Out There”, and “Hell is a City”
Rating (1-5 Stars): 5
“Nothing Out There”
Prehysteria by T-Rextasy
Three-Sentence Review: Alright, full disclosure, I was initially attracted to this album (and band) because of their clever band name, and T-Rex reference (I forever love T-Rex), that said, I’ve stuck around and played this album a few times over because of how catchy, fun, and yes, clever, it is. More 80’s New Wave Girlband than 90’s Riot Grrrl band (though there is a bit of 90’s ska here), there is definitely something Generation Z in the style, songwriting, and sensibility here. Prehysteria is the band’s sophomore release; I’m curious where they go from here – and I’m even more curious to see them play live sometime.
Initial Favorite Track(s): “Coffee?”, “Rip Van Vintage”, and “Baby”
Rating (1-5 Stars): 4
“Rip Van Vintage”
Ode To a Friend by Old Sea Brigade
Three-Sentence Review: The more I listen to Ode To a Friend, by Old Sea Brigade (Ben Cramer’s debut full-length album), the more I love it – each song builds on the next, and seeps in beneath my skin with each play. The album is dedicated to singer/songwriter Ben Cramer’s best friend, who died unexpectedly last year. There is sadness in all of the Indie Folk/Americana tracks on the album, but there is also that kind of beauty that remembering someone brings, especially when it is memories of someone as important, and loved, as a best friend.
Initial Favorite Track(s): “Seen a Ghost”, “Western Eyes”, and “Cigarette”
Rating (1-5 Stars): 5
The Western Tapes, 1983 by Lone Justice
Three-Sentence Review: As the title may suggest, The Western Tapes, 1983, is more “Country Western” than other Lone Justice, or Maria McKee albums, but it definitely holds up and shines a spotlight on McKee’s vocal excellence (especially the track “Don’t Toss Us Away”). Though this re-issue came out in November of last year, it was just today that I stumbled on it while perusing the New Release albums for this week – so, to me, it counts. This album was the debut of Lone Justice, recorded very soon after musician and producer Marvin Etzioni discovered Lone Justice band members Maria McKee and Ryan Hedgecock playing George Jones and Hank Williams covers in a club, in 1982.
Initial Favorite Track(s): “Don’t Toss Us Away”, “Drugstore Cowboy”, and “How Lonesome Life Has Been”
Rating (1-5 Stars): 4
“Let Me Down” by Lasse Friis and Bettye LaVette
“Destroying Angels” by Garbage, featuring John Doe and Exene Cervenka
Chrissie Hynde is one of my all-time favorite voices. She’s one of my all-time favorite musicians, too. Fridays are Female Fridays here at lyriquediscorde, and I could not think of anyone better to start off 2019’s Female Fridays than Chrissie Hynde, and the Pretenders.
Chrissie has been one of my idols since I was a teenager. My love of her began when I first heard her voice. I was enthralled to hear a woman singing in a band whose voice was as deep as mine. I could sing-a-long with her without changing octaves, or straining my voice, at all. Good news for a seventeen-year-old alto.
My love grew exponentially when I dove in deep with the Pretenders. Devouring their albums and songs, curating my list of favorites as I went along. I’ve never been able to get enough of the Pretenders’ music.
I’ve been loving (and obsessing) over “Hymn to Her”, which is off of 1986’s Pretenders album, Get Close.
The song was written by Meg Keene, a high school friend of Chrissie Hynde. The song was released as a single in the UK and reached #8 on the charts. (from Wikipedia)
When the track was released in the US as a single the name was slightly changed. It became “Hymn to Her (She Will Always Carry On)”.
I love the sentiment of “she will always carry on”. It’s one I’ve tried to hang on to in my own life. A mantra, of sorts, along with my other favorite – “follow your bliss”.
“Hymn to Her” is one of those songs that can act as a comfort to me, and can also make me break down and cry. It has an emotional punch to it, often reminding me of pain and hurt and loss – and how I’m trying to keep on carrying on.
“Hymn to Her” by Pretenders
from the album, Get Close (1986)
Song of the Day
“And she will always carry on.
Something is lost,
but something is found.”
10,000 Maniacs are one of those bands who are synonymous with me and my life in 1992. Much like Tori Amos and Nirvana, 10,000 Maniacs, Natalie Merchant, and their 1992 album, Our Time In Eden, plays like a soundtrack to my life back then. And like with any good film soundtrack, I see clips and scenes from that time in my life flash by. I close my eyes and the movie plays. Memories. Feelings. A much younger me in the midst of major life changes.
It was the year I turned 23. It was the year I became a mother, in January, on the 15th. It was the year that I had to question so much of what I’d known before. And, it was the year I had to face some hard truths, like whether a relationship could work, and if it couldn’t, how “family” would look on the other side of it. I grew up in a damaged family, one where I’d not known my father except when I was too young to remember him, and I wanted so much more for my own life, for my own daughter, and for my own choice of reality. But, sometimes what we want, and what is possible, do not correlate. At least not how we once believed they should.
I would live inside the contents of the songs on 10,000 Maniacs album Our Time In Eden for not only 1992, its year of release, but well into the coming years.
I think the album had the biggest impact in 1994 when I’d make changes that would affect the better part of my twenties and thirties, and beyond. I turn up today’s Song of the Day, track two from Our Time In Eden, “These Are Days”, and I see my second apartment, me in the front room with the stereo on, spinning around with my young daughter, dancing and singing, and believing that the days were starting to get better. That life was changing – for the better.
I was full of unexpected hope that I’d try to hang on to for years to come. I would leave that apartment, with my daughter, and embark on a new life. It wouldn’t be perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but there would be lovely moments and memories. Days to remember forever.
“These Are Days” by 10,000 Maniacs
from the album, Our Time In Eden (1992)
Song of the Day
“These are days you’ll remember.
Never before and never since,
will the whole world be warm as this.
And, as you feel it,
you’ll know it’s true –
are blessed and lucky.
are touched by something,
That will grow in you,
“These Are Days” was released as the lead single off of 10,000 Maniacs 1992 album, Our Time In Eden.
“These Are Days” hit #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart in November of 1992. (from Wikipedia)
Our Time In Eden was 10,000 Maniacs fifth studio album. It was released on Elektra Records. It was the final studio album featuring original lead singer Natalie Merchant. (from Wikipedia)
“These Are Days” was co-written by Natalie Merchant and Robert Buck.
“These Are Days” (live) by 10,000 Maniacs
Women in music seem to be leading the new year in regards to Song of the Day selections, and I’m definitely feeling it. I’m reminded of Tori Amos’ lyric from her 1996 song “Caught a Light Sneeze” where she sings “I need a big loan from the girl zone.” I think I’m leaning into the girl zone, looking to their voices as strength, support, and guidance as I dive right into 2019, and the changes I’m determined to make.
Love has been on my mind a lot lately. Love’s beginnings, the tricky middle bit that comes with its own sense of challenges, and the end of love, if such a thing can actually end. Does love conquer all? Does it defy the odds, as well as the obstacles the universe can throw at it? Is it erasable, or indelible, never actually leaving who you are as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind suggests?
Is the love you have in your life a love that you were destined to find? Is it sustainable? Can love survive hard times and heartache? I like to believe it can survive anything, and that it can never be erased, that real love never ends, that it is forever. I hope my beliefs are right.
“All Is Full Of Love” by Björk
from the album, Homogenic (1997)
Song of the Day
“You’ll be given love.
You’ll be taken care of.
You’ll be given love.
You have to trust it.”
I’ve recently re-discovered the album Homogenic, and re-fallen in love with it. I’d forgotten how moving the music is on here, how big and full the sounds are, how gorgeous the melodies, and how much the songs, especially this one, mean to me.
“All Is Full Of Love” is the last track on Homogenic, Björk’s third solo studio release. The lyrics were inspired by love in spring and Ragnarök of Norse mythology.
Björk’s original version is a trip-hop ballad with soul influences, harp, strings, and electronic beats; the version on Homogenic is a minimalist remix by Howie B, emphasizing Björk’s vocals. A remix by the German IDM duo Funkstörung was released as a single in 1998. (from Wikipedia)
In 1999, “All Is Full of Love” was released as a single with a music video directed by Chris Cunningham (see above). The video uses Björk’s original mix and depicts Björk as a robot being assembled in a factory, who passionately kisses another robot.
The video is often cited as one of the best of all time and a milestone in computer animation; it has been displayed in art exhibitions and was on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
It was nominated for a Grammy and won several awards including Best Breakthrough Video and Special Effects at the 2000 MTV Video Awards.
The single reached number 24 on the UK Singles Chart and became a dance hit in the United States. (from Wikipedia)
“All Is Full Of Love” (Howie B. Version) by Björk
Hello 2019, is that New Starts and Good Luck in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me? I’m sure glad to see you. Though there were some amazing things that happened in 2018, and some lovely memories, I am ready for it to be in the past. The last few months of the year got rough in ways I didn’t expect, and it took a toll on me. But, I’m still standing, as Elton John would sing, and I’m ready for 2019 to be better, and for me to be better, as well.
My resolutions are written. My wishes have been made. Music is playing, and I’m so very hopeful. So, bring it on, 2019. My 50th year (come March) on this earth. I’m planning on it being the best year yet.
“Laura” by Bat For Lashes
from the album, The Haunted Man (2012)
Song of the Day
“When your smile is so wide,
and your heels are so high,
you can’t cry.
Get your glad rags on,
and let’s sing-a-long,
to that lonely song.
You’re the train that crashed my heart.
You’re the glitter in the dark.
you’re more than a superstar.”
What’s in a name, and what does it say about who you are, or who you will become as your life unfolds? A name is chosen by someone else. Then how does that name become what we are? Does our name define us before we’re even aware of it? Or do we mold our name into part of who we are as we get older? Do we grow into our name? Does it become us, or do we become it?
As someone who’s named three children, I’ve wrestled and wondered on this for a long, long time.
I have a theory that I’ve built on over the years that my first name (Laura), whenever used fictionally or artistically (films, books, song titles, song lyrics, TV, etc.), it is always associated with death and/or loss. Music especially seems to use the name for both scenarios, or for insanity (loss of sanity is still a loss).
From my namesake movie (see pictured), Laura, the noir tale of a detective that falls for the presumed dead Laura whose death he is investigating, to Laura Palmer, found dead and wrapped in plastic in the pilot of “Twin Peaks”, to the Bat For Lashes song “Laura”, about a Laura who is past her prime, and past her sanity.
“Laura” is the fifth track off of Bat For Lashes third studio album, The Haunted Man, released in 2012. It was written by Natasha Khan and Justin Parker. The song debuted on the radio when Zane Lowe played it on the BBC Radio 1 show, as part of the “Hottest Record in the World” series, in July of 2012. (from Wikipedia)
Khan composed the song with Justin Parker, the co-writer of Lana del Rey’s “Video Games.” She told Mojo magazine:
“I’d written all the other songs for the album, but the label was giving me a tough time about there not being any singles. I didn’t want to go down the obvious pop route and I noticed there were no piano ballads this time – mainly because I’d bored myself to death doing dark, subversive piano songs. I’d heard the Lana Del Rey stuff and noticed the quality of the writing, and I’ve always liked ’70s singer-songwriter things, so I decided to ask Justin to help me write something that was more of a conventional ballad. We worked on chord structures and other elements, winding our way around each other until we had a really strong piece of songwriting.”
“Laura” (live) by Bat For Lashes
What songs share your name? Do they embody who you are? Do they feel like a mantra or a theme song? Or are they completely different than who you see yourself as?
Happy New Year’s everyone! Here’s to a fantastic, musically obsessed 2019 and here’s to another year at Lyriquediscorde!