There have been a couple new CDs that have come my way that I’ve been spinning, but haven’t had a chance to tell y’all about.
First one up is the new Fiery Furnaces album, Rehearsing My Choir, which will be released at the end of October. Here’s a summary of the LP: RMC is an full-length album collaboration of music and singing by the Furnaces and spoken-to-music prose and poetry performed by their grandmother, Olga Sarantos. The album is the first part of a two-disc project. In other words, it’s a totally weird concept, and an even weirder album.
Here’s what you’ll need in order to listen to this album: a white steno pad, a pencil, some graph paper, flow chart stencils, a calendar, a dictionary, a rewind button on your CD player, access to Google, a map of the continental United States, a color wheel, and a public library card. Ok, you don’t really need all these things to listen to the album, but trust me, it sure feels like it. I’d equate listening to Rehearsing My Choir with trying to write your senior year college thesis paper. You’re trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, but even though you’ve spent an exorbitant amount of time working on it, it still makes absolutely no sense. In fact, it feels as though you may have wasted 4 years of your life on something you may never understand and may never master.
The album is 59 minutes of complicated, noise-funk gobbly gook at best. There is nary a song to be found on the album, most of it is storytelling set to background music. We learn all about little snippets of Olga’s life and times, from how she used to write letters every day to her soldier husband during the war, to her conflict with the bishop, to her time as a candymaker (with a knife in her handbag)…which is all wonderful, but it also makes me wonder, why didn’t they just write a book instead of creating a somewhat unlistenable piece of recorded performance art?
Needless to say, you will probably never hear any of these songs played at a dance party…nor can I imagine any other time in which you’d hear this album in public–unless of course it were during some kind of interpretive dance recital which utilizes silk scarves as props. I’m not sure who would actually ever listen to this album besides hard-core Fiery Furnace fans. It’s a very inaccessible album that will annoy and confuse anyone who has a low tolerance for “think art.” In fact, it may make your head hurt. Out of the 10 times or so that I’ve listened to it, I still can’t figure how on earth poor Rough Trade will attempt to sell more than 2,000 copies of this album.
In my opinion, there is only one entirely listenable “song” on the album–the second track, “The Wayward Granddaughter.” It starts off with a sexy synth-dance sound with a great beat before it morphs into a warped tango/ spoken word section midway through as Olga talks about how devastated she was when her granddaughter died her brown hair black. It then morphs into a song about “two Kevins,” who Eleanor sings about during an acoustic guitar interlude, before it returns back to the sexy-dance sound.
Something I have also realized about this album is that this exactly the type of obtuse recording that some dude from your local snotty record store (Other Music, Sound Fix, Ameoba, Newberry Comics, etc.) is going to list on his Top 10 of 2005 album list at the end of the year, and it’s going to make you scratch your head. You’re going to think, “Woah, maybe it is kinda good.” Don’t do that. That Dude is wrong. He just likes it percisely because you and your normal friends don’t like it. He’s gonna explain to you in some esoteric way how the album is an homage to great spoken word albums of the past and how it honors the tradition of storytelling. He’s going to make you feel like you’re too stupid to figure out this clearly great piece of musical experimentation and that you “just don’t get it.” Do not be fooled. That Dude is an a**hole.
Uuugghhh…My head hurts from writing about that album so I’m going to switch over to something a little lighter and easier on my ears–the new Stellastarr* album, Harmonies for the Haunted. It’s the sophomore album of the local NYC favorites.
This album was a pleasant surprise. It has a distinctively more layered and complex sound when compared to their debut. The songs are upbeat, but elements of a more somber, subtle sensibility are overwhelmingly present. I’ve already heard the song “Sweet Troubled Souls” spun up and down the lower east side of NYC to enthusiastic response this entire month.
A true-life example of how popular this song played out right before my very eyes last night at The Skinny on Orchard Street. I was there to see Nora do her DJ thing. Early on in the set I heard her play the aforementioned “Sweet Troubled Souls” over the soundsystem. Fast forward to about 2 hours later when Matt from GoStation arrived only moments before making like a fill-in DJ while Nora made a bathroom/pick-up-new-drink run. Before you could say “holy repeat, Batman!” Matt was soon playing “Sweet Troubled Souls”–a deadly DJ mistake. When Joc and I waved him down shouting, “SHE ALREADY PLAYED THIS!,” Matt responded with a shout back of, “SH*T!” So the moral of this story is, when filling in for another DJ who’s set you haven’t heard, don’t play something that you think they might have already spun. The other moral is, NYCers love Stellastarr*.
I think people who like Stellastarr* and/or slightly mopey pop rock will be very pleased with this album. It would be a great album to play at a party with all of your friends as you take turns dying your hair black and practicing pouty faces in the mirror.