Archive for the ‘Rumer’ Category

Making music is not akin to building a model, though sometimes it may seem that way. Prefabricated pieces aren’t stamped out at a factory in some far-off foreign land. Picture-laden directions aren’t included. There’s no inserting of staccato guitar solo A into steady rhythm B, and no slathering on glue and waiting for it to dry. Otherwise, the world would be awash in indistinguishable songs.

Oh wait. We are.

But such has been the case since the dawn of the entertainment industry. Hits beget blurry copies that smell of mimeograph ink – and if you don’t appreciate that reference, don’t worry. It only serves to point out my age and say, slyly, that much of modern pop music isn’t being made for me. (Nor should it be.) As Paul Simon summarized in “The Boy in the Bubble,” “every generation sends a hero up the pop charts.”

Anyway, although my much-ballyhooed “Album of the Year” is an honorific I’ve doled out every year since 1978, when I was 13, putting forth an “Album of the Decade” never occurred to me until a month ago, when the notion was mentioned in someone’s tweet; and then, this month, magazines, newspapers and online outlets began posting their lengthy and semi-lengthy lists. The ones I’ve seen basically weigh artistry and commercial impact, and inevitably mix in a handful of niche records while ignoring select popular hits.

Most are little more than clickbait exercises designed to boost ad impressions.

You’ll find no advertisements on this page. To borrow/adapt the lyrics from Neil Young’s “This Note’s for You,” I don’t write for Pepsi/I don’t write for Coke/I don’t write for nobody/Makes me look like a joke. Also, very few of those lists achieve what I love most about reading about music: a sense of the author. From where I sit, the best music reflects the listener(s) as much as it does the artist. It intertwines with our DNA. (And “best” in that sentence construct is a subjective thing.) 

With all that said, the reality of the past decade – which saw good times, bad times, and plenty of in-betweens for me and mine – is that a handful of albums turned my ear every year, and quite a few became constants. And of those, a select some have pretty much become one with my soul; they mean as much to me as the music of my youth.

One caveat: Your mileage may vary. One more caveat: It’s too early for my favorite albums of this year to be included here, as one never knows just how long they’ll stick with you (though I can’t imagine Allison Moorer’s Blood fading away). And one last caveat: I’m a middle-aged white guy with catholic tastes. (To quote Paul Simon again, “I know what I know.”) While I enjoy many different musical avenues, I generally find myself circling the same blocks of rock, pop and Americana/country.

And with that out of the way, here are my top seven albums for the 2010s.

1) Rumer – Seasons of My Soul (2010). In my first blog post on the Hatboro-Horsham Patch (which I’ve since moved to this site) in February 2012, I called it “an atmospheric song cycle that’s teeming with soulful, knowing lyrics and melodies that wrap themselves around the heart.” It spoke to me then and speaks to me now. It’s the definition of “essential.

2) Courtney Marie Andrews – Honest Life (2016). I cannot properly put into words the many ways this album affected me, other than to say this: From the moment I first heard it, it felt like it had been with me all my life. “Honest Life” is a song I want played at my funeral, whenever that may be. “Some things take a lifetime to fully understand.” (For my initial review of it, click here.)

3) Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill (2012). This may be a controversial pick for some, as not even all Neil fans appreciate its grandeur. Such is life. But as I wrote in this “essentials” essay, “it features sprawling songs that capture the messy essence of this thing called life.”

4) First Aid Kit – Stay Gold (2014). So, long about 2012, I had pretty much given up hope for the youth of the world. And then I heard “Emmylou” by the Swedish sister act known as First Aid Kit and realized that, indeed, I was wrong. As good as The Lion’s Den album was, however, nothing prepared me for this gem. The psychedelic folk of “Cedar Lane” remains as hypnotic to me now as it did then.

5) Juliana Hatfield – Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John (2018). I can hear some guffaws echoing through the interconnected tubes that make up this thing we call the “internet.” Whatever. This album saw two of my favorite worlds collide, and made a rough last half of the decade much sweeter. To rework a line from my initial review, it captures the spirit of the originals while adding a touch of Juliana’s heart.

6) Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball (2012). From my original review (another first posted to the Patch but since relocated here): “[W]hat makes a song great isn’t that it conjures spirits from our youthful nights, but that it speaks to the present. Maybe the first blush of melody hurtles us into the past, but the bridge jerks us as fast into the here and now. And the lyrics ring true no matter the age – or our age, for that matter. The runaway American dream that drives Born to Run, for example, represents today as much as 1975, just as the bitter realities and resignation of Darkness reflect working-class life of every era. As Springsteen sings on the title track of Wrecking Ball, his new album, “hard times come and hard times go/yeah, just to come again.” Some things, for good and bad, never change.”

7) Diane Birch – Nous (2016). This EP is a true work of art anchored by what, to me, is one of the decade’s greatest songs: “Stand Under My Love.” To borrow from my review, Nous “documents dreams, disappointments, disillusionment, faith and acceptance, and an awareness not spoken that, indeed, the Last Things are the First Things.”

Happy Mew Year

Posted: December 31, 2017 in 2010s, 2017, Rumer
Tags: , , , ,

And so 2017 comes to a close not with a bang or whimper, but a mew.

A feral feline of unknown gender, who I’ve decided to call Bobbi/e, may have taken up temporary residence in our standalone garage, which is about 100 feet from our back porch. After the last few snows, I noticed paw prints tracking to and from the door; and, this morning, I spotted a ginger tabby cat slipping from the sliver of darkness into the light.

Once it’s closed, I should explain, the garage door gradually cracks open until it’s about six inches off the ground. And even if it didn’t, there’s a hole somewhere in the back, behind the boxes and old furniture that takes up much of what was once a two-car space. During the late-spring and summer months, for example, a groundhog family that lives behind (and below) the garage often uses it as a covered short cut. They’ll be grazing in the nearby grass when danger – i.e., me – steps onto the back porch, and off they go. Thirty seconds or a minute later, one peeks out from behind the garage to see if the danger has disappeared.

I’ve spotted a few other cats since, back in 2014, we moved into what was my parents’ house. One, another ginger, is a well-fed and well-groomed longhair; it obviously has a home. Another, however, is a scrappy-looking gray tabby that sometimes lounges on the front porch on sunny afternoons – like Bobbi/e, he’s probably descended from my family’s feline of the 1970s, Reilly, and his orange-hued missus. She appeared at our backdoor one day, heavily pregnant, and eventually gave birth behind the living-room couch. Which is to say, this house is likely ingrained in their DNA as a place of safety and refuge.

This morning, I stepped onto the porch to introduce myself to Bobbi/e as s/he padded down the driveway and s/he, in turn, mewed salutations before scampering off.

Anyway, my song for tonight is one that resonates far beyond the 45 released by Jackie DeShannon on April 15, 1965. In my Album of the Year essay for 2016, I wrote of its timeless quality as thus: “Somewhere there’s war, somewhere there’s heartache and somewhere some people hate while others fear. It’s not fair. It’s never fair. But it’s why the song resonates when it’s sung. It’s always true. The world needs love. Sweet love. Not for some. For everyone.”

And that is my sincerest wish for everyone in the coming year. No matter who or where you are, or what you’re going through, may peace and love find us all.

As a child, Christmas was my favorite holiday. And why wouldn’t it be? There were gifts to give and get, roast turkey to be had, stuffing to be savored, and family to be enjoyed.

Once, in my early years, I snuck out of bed at what must have been 4am, saw that a bounty of presents had magically appeared beneath the Christmas tree overnight, and scampered around the house like a mini-Paul Revere screaming “he’s been here, he’s been here!” But unbeknownst to me, Santa’s two adult elves had just turned in after a long night of arranging everything just right. And though they shepherded me back to bed, the cat – so to speak – was out of the bag. I was back out in the living room within minutes. They corralled me again, I snuck out again, and around and around we went.

The elves drank a lot of coffee that day, I’m sure.

By my teen years, aka the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the gifts shifted from action figures (not to be confused with dolls!) and assorted toys to LPs, Mattel Electronics handheld devices, and clothes; and the giving of presents became as much fun as receiving.

Thanksgiving, back then, always seemed somewhat of a rehearsal holiday to me. There were no gifts, just turkey and stuffing, and if dinner was at an aunt’s, as it sometimes was, then the stuffing was never as good as my mom’s.

That said, it did provide the grist for a classic TV moment –

Through the decades, however, a funny thing happened: Thanksgiving became my favorite holiday. Family and friends come together. Family breaks bread. And a good time is had by all. There is no stress, no worries beyond (not) eating too much.

And with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Thanksgiving…& Rumer

1) Rumer – “Thankful.” To my ears, Rumer’s Seasons of My Soul is one the greatest albums of the new millennium. Here’s a live version, from 2010, of one of its key tracks…

2) Rumer & Daryl Hall – “Be Thankful for What You’ve Got.” Rumer later recorded a wonderful rendition of this song for her 2015 Love Is the Answer EP, which is well worth the purchase.

3) Rumer – “Home Thoughts from Abroad.” This mesmerizing cover of Clifford T. Ward’s classic song is from Rumer’s sophomore set, Boys Don’t Cry.

4) Rumer – “Better Place.” This lovely tune hails from Rumer’s third album, Into Colour. The video was shot by me from the front row (a bad angle) from her 2015 visit to Philly – a great show that we took our mothers to.

5) Rumer – “What the World Needs Now.” There’s a reason why I chose This Girl’s in Love: A Bacharach and David Songbook as my top album for 2016 – a year on, and it remains timely and timeless at once. This song, especially.

(As noted in my first Essentials entry, this is an occasional series in which I spotlight albums that, in my estimation, everyone should experience at least once.)

Last night, I listened anew to one of my all-time favorite albums – the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was just released with a “3-D mono” mix orchestrated by the son of the late George Martin, Giles Martin. I first heard it in…late 1978, I imagine, though I can’t say for sure, and have returned to it hundreds, if not thousands, of times through the decades.

But is it, as the marketing campaign for this reissue claims, the greatest album of all time? According to numerous critic polls, the answer is yes – but some say no. Pet Sounds has edged it a time or two, I believe, as has – if my memory is correct – the Beatles’ own Revolver. It’s what happens when you solicit opinions from dozens or hundreds of people, as few of us are totally in sync on any matter, let alone music. And, too, there’s this: I honestly don’t know where it falls in the pantheon of my top picks. Aside from the not-so-arduous process I employ for my annual Album of the Year exercise, I’ve never contemplated all that long on where an album (or single, for that matter) falls in the scheme of things. Is it better than What’s Going On? Pet Sounds? Abbey Road? Dusty in Memphis, Late for the Sky or Born to Run? Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere? Bridge Over Troubled Water? Blue? Seasons of My Soul? How can one judge such things?

And even with the jeweled trophies I dole out to the winner and runners-up at my year-end Album of the Year fete, which is now in its 39th year (!), the reality – as I explain in the intro to my running tally – is that the honorees are as much a reflection of my mindset as anything. Which, really, is what makes a great album great: It speaks to and for us in ways that, often, we aren’t aware we want or need.

Such is the case with Seasons of My Soul, the 2010 debut album from British singer-songwriter and pop chanteuse Rumer, which would easily rank among my Top 10 Albums of All Time – if I had such a list, that is. It’s my most played album of the past seven years, easy; and likely one of my most played albums, ever. As I wrote in my first blog post (which first appeared on the Hatboro-Horsham Patch in February 2012), it’s “an atmospheric song cycle that’s teeming with soulful, knowing lyrics and melodies that wrap themselves around the heart, to say nothing of Rumer’s emotive, pitch-perfect vocals. It echoes the classic pop of Burt Bacharach and the Carpenters, yet moves past those inspirations by tackling themes not always associated with pop music. ‘On My Way Home,’ for example, is about the grieving process, and several other songs echo loss of one sort or another. ‘Come to Me High,’ on the other hand, is a lush, romantic ode, as is ‘Slow.’ The intoxicating ‘Take Me As I Am’ is about pushing people away when you need them the most. Add in … ‘Aretha’ and such songs as ‘Thankful’ and ‘Blackbird’ and, to my mind, the album is a must for everyone’s collection.”

Here she is in 2011 performing “On My Way Home” in Philadelphia:

I’ve written about the album here, as well, and elsewhere on this blog. To my ears, it’s a timeless song cycle that captures the nuances of life and love in a way that’s both personal and universal. It’s my definition of “essential,” in other words.

Here’s a YouTube playlist I created of the album as nature intended, aka in the order of the original British release. It features several of the original videos plus official and unofficial uploads of individual tracks:

The songs:

  1. Am I Forgiven?
  2. Come to Me High
  3. Slow
  4. Take Me As I Am
  5. Aretha
  6. Saving Grace
  7. Thankful
  8. Healer
  9. Blackbird
  10. On My Way Home
  11. Goodbye Girl

(Warner Bros. saw fit to re-arrange the order of the tracks for its download-only version when they released it in the U.S. in 2012. The songs remain brilliant, of course, but the album’s ebb-and-flow is dammed, at times.)