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Albums I Enjoyed in 2007 — 8

The Postmarks
The Postmarks
Know Which Way the Wind Blows

Infrequently, music can be a synaesthetic experience — bare sound can produce not just a resonant feeling, but a visual one as well. I don’t describe myself as synaesthetic in any way, but when I listen to this album, I see colors. Granted, it’s a cliche, because what I see is aqua and green — bright yellow, bright hot blue — even when I’m listening to songs that are supposed to be about rain. To me, this album is summer, and not summer in Utah where I spent the last ten years and the heat bakes your eyeballs in your skull. It’s summer in the tropics; it’s LA summer, Hawaii summer, where you can walk to a beach and the sand is impossibly clean (in my fantasy the ocean doesn’t smell like dead fish). I look up and the palm trees rustle because there’s a wind off the water. And the ocean, as blue as a Postmarks song, stretches out to the horizon.

Yehezkely, Moll, and Wilkins’ leitmotif is the weather (and, extendedly, nature). Nature pervades every single song, and weather is mentioned more times than is decent. In fact, if you don’t like weather as a metaphor, I think you ought to stay far away from this album, because it will make you cry. Witness, from “Weather the Weather” (I know, right?): Will you be my sweater / and weather the weather with me / I would wear you every day / in the sun or in the shade. Or from “Watercolors”: I’ll close my eyes / until this storm clears / no umbrellas keep out this rain / no soft clouds cushion my pain.

Still, Yehezkely and Moll (cowriters) have a sly turn of phrase when they want to: in “Know Which Way the Wind Blows,” she sings slyly: Do you carry magnets in your pockets / cause i’m having trouble resisting your gravity; and there’s a beautiful image in “Winter Spring Summer Fall”: My heart in hibernation / woke up to the sound of the beating wings / migrating home. Add in the fabulous instrumentals and Yehezkely’s clear vocals, and it’s a winning combination all the way around. Even though the album is supposed to be uber-melancholic, I don’t get that vibe like, say, I got with Camera Obscura last year. It’s almost too detached for that; more like we’re reading a girl’s journal, years after the fact of sadness, and she pasted a postcard onto the facing page. “Wish You Were Here,” it says. But it’s lying.


Video hookup

1. The Music Slut leads the pack, of course, with:

A) New Ry Ry video, entitled “Follow the Lights.” Ain’t half bad either. It really sounds like Ry is getting his groove back on. “There was never anywhere to go / but home.” (Home is apparently where Donna lives.)

B) The Who on Jools Holland. Completely unironically singing “hope I die / before I get old.” Psh, I knew they were lyin’. Generation X salutes you, baby boomers! Sic transit gloria mundi, except when you can capitalize on your nostalgia. Oh well, the music is still hawt.

C) Cold War Kids in the Black Cab. I can never decide if I’m totally in love with CWK, or whether they’re just totally pretentious. I call this the Decemberists Dilemma. Haha. The violin on this song is just stunning.

D) PJ Harvey on Leno, circa 93. This is the PJ I was talking about a couple days ago. That quick slip between begging her lover not to leave, to talking about tying him up till he wishes he’d never heard of her.

E) Bjork Unplugged, 1993, “One Day” acoustic. TOTALLY AWESOME.

F) The Cure in Amsterdam, “the Forest,” 1980. Robert Smith, pre-persona. Twelve years later, this song rocked my world, I’m not even kidding. Oh Robert, I miss the days when you weren’t a caricature of yourself.

G) Tori on The Current, doing Leather. Oh Tori, I miss the days … well, whatever.

2) Via LAist, an amusing misheard lyrics video, featuring one of my favorite workout songs: Sean Paul’s “Temperature.”

3) Via Stereogum, a fun video for Bishop Allen’s “Click Click Click Click.”

4) At Fabulist, Olga takes us back to the early days of Rilo Kiley with “The Frug.”

5) Via Skatterbrain, some good old fashioned pop from Lykke Li: “Little Bit.” Feel free to chair dance.

6) Muzzle of Bees revisits last years’s #3 awesome album. “So how do you feel about being dead?” “I don’t know … my neck hurts.” I LOVE YOU BLACK KEYS.

7) Since Bodies of Water and Stereogum are BFFS, you can see clips there from BoW’s “Takeaway Shows.”

8) Awesome vid from *my* new BFF, LoveLikeFire: “I
(via Rock Insider).

9) ECEU finds one of my fave James Taylor songs, You Can Close Your Eyes, It’s Alright.

10) LAist notes that KT Tunstall turned up to support the WGA a couple weeks ago and someone took a video of her doing “I Want You Back”.

11) Idolator puts the spotlight on Melissa Auf der Maur’s “Followed the Wave.” *sigh* She’s so beautiful. If Foo Fighters had a girl twin, Auf der Maur would be it.

12) Via Electroqueer, Roisin Murphy at the Swarovski fashion awards doing “Overpowered.” I love that hair!

13) IGIF brings us back to the 10 year old video for UNKLE & Thom Yorke’s “Rabbit In Your Headlights,” which I had never seen, though I love the song. What a creepy video, but perfect for the song.

14) And last but not least, new Postmarks video via Stereogum. “Let Go,” all hazy and sunny and green, showcasing one of the best songs on a great album.

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“Where Any Of Us”
by Maxine Kumin
(Ploughshares, winter 2004-5)

Where any of us is
going in tomorrow’s reckless Lexus is
the elemental mystery: despite

instructions he left behind, Houdin-
i, who could outwit
ropes and chains, padlocks and steam-

er trunks, could extricate
himself from underwater metal crates,
could send forth, he was certain,

a message from the other side,
never cracked the curtain
and Mary Baker Eddy’s telephone

said to be hooked up in her crypt —
would it have been
innocence or arrogance,

such trust in the beyond? —
has, mythic, failed to ring. If
they knew the script

these two (God may be love
or not) they left, tightlipped
and unfulfilled.

As we will.


The Postmarks – You Drift Away

Tom McRae – Border Song

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[Ed. note — with the release of “Marry Me” tomorrow, this post will be partially invalidated. But I wrote it, so I’m gonna post it. Nyah.]

Catching up with my RSS, I’ve been noticing the half-year summary posts popping up. Sadly I’ve also noticed that many of those lists feature no female bands, no albums from the ladies’ side. I won’t single anyone out, because taste is taste, and there are many great male bands that of course should be noticed as well. I’ll just do my little part to remedy the sitchyation.

“But Zara,” you’ll say, “what female releases were there this year? Gosh, I can only think of ‘The Reminder,’ and Feist is all anyone talked about for three months, and we’re boooooored of hearing ‘1,2,3,4’.” To you I say, you tried ‘Sea-Lion Woman,’ right? But also, I found that the first half of 2007 was chock full of female acts. In fact, if I had a top ten, probably 7 of them would be female. Cassadaga? Boring. Neon Bible? Meh. Hissing Fauna? Don’t get me started. Here are some albums that you might have overlooked in your zeal to rush out and buy “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.” *

01. The Postmarks – The Postmarks | Myspace

All right, I’m fudging this one because it’s female fronted — I swear this band ought to be called the Postcards, because it reminds me of how you feel when you get a postcard from Hawaii. No, I don’t mean envious. I mean, you close your eyes and for a second you’re standing on the beach and palm trees are rustling and a hammock sways slightly in the breeze and the ocean is impossibly blue.

02. Essie Jain – We Made This Ourselves | Myspace

Sometimes the songs on this album start to blur together, but the harmonies alone keep Jain soaring. I could listen to her all day, and I do, since she’s what’s playing in my car. If you need a comparison, think Dido without the beats.

03. Kristin Hersh – Learn To Sing Like A Star | Myspace

For many a long year I have listened to Ms. Hersh — she’s a songwriting powerhouse, not just a pretty voice who has two other bands. The new album is her first (solo) in four years, and it’s just ridiculously good. Ridiculously!

04. Cake On Cake – I Guess I Was Daydreaming | Myspace

This Swedish band is basically Helena Sundin, and yeah, it’s about as sweet as it sounds (extra!). But I’m really fond of the harmonies, the languid melodies, the simple phrasing. Who wouldn’t want to turn on “The One I Say Goodnight To” right before bed — You are the one I say goodnight to / Goodnight, my love. In the absence of my mother tucking me in, I’ll take Cake On Cake.

05. Sara Bareilles – Little Voice | Myspace

Think “Little Voice” in the same sense that Robin Hood said “Little John.” Bareilles sings pop-friendly tunes with strong piano backing, and she’s sassy. I like sassy — plus she’s a local girl, so yay for that. I have not heard all the album but there’s enough music available on her site to get a good sense of whether you’d like it or not (and I do).

06. Charlotte Gainsbourg – 5:55 | Myspace

I guess I can apply the term “chanteuse” to Gainsbourg, since she’s French, right? OK good, seriously, because she is so beautiful, and is also one of those rare actors who can actually sing, and she’s even featured on “Pocket Symphony.” My favorite song, “5:55,” sounds very Air-esque (because they wrote the music) but could that possibly be a bad thing? No, no it couldn’t.

07. Au Revoir Simone – The Bird of Music | Myspace

Even when they’re singing something called “Sad Song,” these three don’t sound very sad. “The Bird of Music” alternates poppy electronica and more gentle ballads. Sometimes it drags but overall it’s accessible and fun.

Other albums released that I’ve already written about —

08. Angelique Kidjo – Djin Djin
09. The Detroit Cobras – Tied & True
10. Amy Winehouse – Back To Black

Please give these albums a try! If I missed someone, you know where the comments button is.

*Or any other male-fronted band. Don’t get your boxers in a twist.

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The Postmarks

I predict more hype on the Postmarks’ new self-titled album very soon, as it will be released next month, so let me ride the wave while I can. This is music made for a film; perhaps we’ll see it on an episode of Veronica Mars? It’s just dripping with atmosphere, thanks in most part to the vocals by Tim Yehezkely, who sounds 98.5% like Karen Peris (down to the oddly foreign intonation). In fact, this reminds me of the Innocence Mission with a little bit more … I don’t know, verve? A little more angst, a bucketful of clever lyrics and allusions to the outdoors. Sweet and sour, sweet and sour, turns out he loves me not, Yehezkely sings, while behind her, all the instruments begin to rain.

The Postmarks – Site | Myspace | Label (Unfiltered)

The Postmarks – Let Go
The Postmarks – Weather the Weather