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Posts Tagged ‘Jay Brannan’

Longing for love

February 13th, 2009 5 comments

Is it better to have love and lost than never to have loved? There aren”t many songs about yearning for love. So, as decided by a staw-poll on my Facebook page (become my friend here), for Valentine”s Day here is a collection of songs for those who have nobody to share the commercial feast with, or don”t have the bitterness of love lost, rejected or betrayed to commemorate on the day.

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The Smiths – How Soon Is Now.mp3
how-soon-is-nowThe Smiths canon is brimming with songs about Morrissey”s unlovability. He doesn”t even get rejected; he just can”t find the right person to reject him (and when a girl comes on to him, as one does in Never Had No One Ever, he can”t even get “sorrow”s native son” to rise to the occasion). How Soon Is Now is the anthem of these songs. Every person afflicted with shyness will probably identify with Morrissey”s sad disco tales: “There”s a club, if you”d like to go. You could meet somebody who really loves you. So you go, and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home and you cry and you want to die.” Which more or less mirrors my juvenile experience, minus the crying and suicidal tendencies.

One day, when I was 19, some friends took me to Heaven, the great gay club in London. It wasn”t long before a very nice man timidly offered to buy me drink. I was flattered to be considered attractive enough to be targetted for a pull (and here is a collorary to the shyness: a lack of self-esteem) but declined politely. I thought what a displeasure it was to be a straight man in a city where the women in the clubs I went to were so stuck up when I wouldn”t even have to try to get laid if I was gay. What did not seem to occur to me was that the girls were probably not so much stuck-up as I was a victim of a shyness that was criminally vulgar which prevented me from actually approaching them. No wonder I couldn”t get laid.

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Richard Hawley – Coles Corner.mp3
coles-cornerLike Morrissey, Hawley is looking for company in bright, busy places, only to find nothing. “I”m going downtown where there”s music. I”m going where voices fill the air. Maybe there”s someone waitin” for me with a smile and a flower in her hair.” And with such hopes our hero puts on his best shoes and (as Kris Kristofferson would have it) his cleanest dirty shirt and heads to Coles Corner, apparently a popular hang-out in Sheffield. “I”m going downtown where there”s people. My loneliness hangs in the air, with no one there real waitin” for me, no smile, no flower, nowhere.” And so he”ll make his sad way home.

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Kevin Devine – Probably.mp3
Set in a train carriage, Kevin is admiring a fellow passenger, imagining her life (covering all the bases of contradiction): “You probably don”t wear your glasses but you probably need them to read, and you probably value your downtime and you probably don”t get much sleep, and you probably don”t like the movies but you probably go anyway, and you probably fight with your parents a lot when you feel like there”s nothing to say, and you probably don”t care for punk rock but you probably own Nevermind.” He thinks of chatting her up ““ “you probably don”t talk to strangers but you wish they”d talk to you all the time” ““ but either shyness or self-loathing preclude him from approaching her: “So I should probably say something to you, but I”d probably ruin it then. It”s best for us both if I keep my mouth shut and just stay on my side of the train.” It may well be his loss and hers. This is the far superior version from 2003″s “¦Travelling The EU EP.

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Hello Saferide – Loneliness Is Better When You”re Not Alone.mp3
hello-saferide_2Annika Norlin (for she is Hello Saferide) has nobody in her life, so she is looking to compensate for that with meaningless one-night stands, rationalising it with the statement of the song”s title. No strings attached. “I will be gone when you wake up. No awkward breakfasts, I swear. And don”t you look for me, because I could be anywhere ““ in someone else”s house, in someone else”s arms, with someone else to warm the pain away.” Her promiscuity is a band-aid for the sores of loneliness. She really would like closeness, to open up herself, not just her legs. “If I told you my stories and sang you my songs, would you laugh at me? Would you pity me? What would you say if I asked of you not out of accident, out of loneliness: would you shelter me? Will you shelter me?” And why does she not ask? Low self-esteem seems to be at play: “What can I ask of you? What would you want from me? What would you say if I just fell asleep?” Annika, there”s a club, if you”d like to go”¦

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Liz Phair – Fuck And Run.mp3
phairAnother song about promiscuity compensating for loneliness. She wakes up with a one-night stand guy and instantly has regrets, thinking: “Whatever happened to a boyfriend, the kind of guy who makes love cause he”s in it”¦ I want a boyfriend. I want all that stupid old shit like letters and sodas.” But it doesn”t seem that a boyfriend is on the cards (maybe Liz should look in the unrequited love section; loads of nice guys there), even when a one-night lover reaches out to her. She doesn”t want his pity. So, she concludes, “I”m gonna spend another year alone. It”s fuck and run, fuck and run.” But there is an alarming clue in the lyrics which might explain her disposition. “It’s fuck and run, fuck and run, even when I was 17. Fuck and run, fuck and run even when I was 12.” Does that suggest that she was abused, leading to these trust issues?

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John Prine – Aimless Love.mp3
in this 1984 song, Prine is singing about a sensitive soul, a guy who is suspicious of strangers and “a bit too gun shy to have his heart touched without a glove”. He really wants love to find him. Prine reminds him, and us: “Love has no mind. It can”t spell unkind. It”s never seen a heart shaped like a Valentine. For if love knew him. It”d walk up to him and introduce him to an aimless love.” In other words, open yourself up to let love in when you find it.

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Jay Brannan – Housewife.mp3
brannanIn an alternative riff on Audrey”s Somewhere That”s Green in Little Shop Of Horrors, Jay is describing a scene of domestic bliss (and great sex): “I”m making guacamole, he”s working on the car. When he grills turkey burgers he knows I like them charred. I like to wash the dishes, I like to scrub the floors, don”t mind doing his laundry, what are boyfriends for?” Yes, he wants to be a housewife. “What”s so wrong with that?” But, as it turns out, he”s not one yet. “Can”t wait to till he”s in my life, “cause we haven”t met.” (Read my interview with Jay)

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Colin Hay – Waiting For My Real Life To Begin.mp3
colin-hayAt first glance, this song (from Hay”s 2001 album Going Somewhere; one of three versions) might not belong in this series, but I think it has a place, and right here. The singer has a girl, but she”s obviously not what he really wants. He”s holding out for a better life which does not seem to include her. Indeed, even now, she is peripheral. “And you say: “˜Be still my love, open up your heart, let the light shine in.” Don”t you understand I already have a plan, I”m waiting for my real life to begin.” It seems to me that our friend could be in depression, vainly holding out for a better future “” “Let me throw one more dice, I know that I can win” “” and in the process is unable to return the love offered by his current partner. Which is really just as tragic as Morrissey”s shyness, Annika”s and Liz”s promiscuity, and Kevin”s lack of self-confidence.

Previously in this series:
Love Hurts
Unrequited Love
Being in love (Any Major Love Mix)

More songs about love

Top 20 albums of 2008

December 12th, 2008 8 comments

Everybody’s doing it, so I might as well dabble in the conceit that anybody is really interested to know which releases of the year I liked best. I don’t think it has been a vintage year for music, or perhaps I have not paid much attention. I’ve also found myself falling off Planet Indie, so the “singer-songwriters” boss the list. I’ve put sample tracks into one file, in case somebody is interested. The featured titles appear below my brief comments. Full tracklisting in the Comments section. Read more…

Music for Bloggers Vol. 9

November 12th, 2008 4 comments
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Sometimes I visit a favourite blog and, David Byrne echoing in my mind, I wonder: how did I get here? Totally Fuzzy is an obvious source of discovering favourite blogs. Links on blogs I like are another pretty reliable source (shared tastes, and all that). Some I might have stumbled upon while searching for a particular song, using a variety of search engines and aggregators. And many I”ve discovered when their owners left a comment. Occasionally I encounter members of my circle of blogging pals ““ people whose blogs I read and who read mine ““ in comments sections of other blogs. Did they get there through my links, or did I find them through theirs, or what other permutations might have led to our congregation at a third blog?

And how did people find my blog? No doubt, Totally Fuzzy, Elbows and good old-fashioned googling are a major source of exposure, as are Retro Music Snob and All Music, All Blogs. Some blogs clearly are so popular and trusted that their readers click on links to mine (Echoes In The Wind, DeaconBlues1103 and Dr Forrest’s Cheese Factory are the most prolific sources of traffic in that respect). And if you”re reading this having read The Guardian’s blogroll last weekend, welcome (also featured was the excellent Ghost of Electricity).

Not so welcome is whoever DMCAs me to Blogger. Another post was zapped yesterday; Blogger again won”t say who complained. As you”ve probably noticed, I”ve not capitulated. Nor have many of the bloggers I particularly enjoy. Anyway, all this to introduce or highlight six more blogs I particularly enjoy. There were more on my shortlist, so if yours has not yet featured, it may well do so in the future.

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Modern Acoustic
Rich K puts out a PDF-based magazine featuring some of my favourite contemporary artists: Kathleen Edwards, Sarah Borges, Josh Ritter, Patty Griffin etc. To go with the mag (which can be downloaded at modernacoustic.com), he runs a blog with copious links to the official sites of the acts he is writing about. Rich is DMCA-safe because he posts no music, but he has taken an interest in the War on Bloggers situation . He wrote to me saying that he is researching an article on the subject. If fellow victims of the terror campaign, or other interested observers, would like to share their views or experiences with Rich, he can be e-mailed: rich [at] modernacoustics [dot] com. One act Modern Acoustics has not featured yet are The Weepies, whose cause I promote with undiluted enthusiasm. From a perfectly legal and band-approved top-notch bootleg:
The Weepies – Gotta To Have You (live).mp3

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The Gentlebear
To illustrate a point I made in the introduction, I found this blog just a few weeks ago and have no idea how I came by it. Whichever route it took, I am delighted to have arrived there. Gentlebear is one of those bloggers who educates and entertains with some fine writing and great song selection. I was particularly impressed with her recent post on The Temptations” song “I Wish It Would Rain” ““ possibly my favourite by the Temps next to “Since I Lost My Baby” ““ featuring a couple of great covers. When I discover a new blog I really like, I trawl through back posts until I have no more energy or time. I read all of the ursine”s blog in one sitting (well, it goes back to only June, but the point stands: this is a very fine blog). The song dedication comes from a 2005 charity compilation, War Child – Help: A Day In The Life. War Child is going to release a new comp in February 2009. Check it out.
Damien Rice – Cross-Eyed Bear.mp3

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The beauty of la musique
A bilingual blog from Canada which takes as its theme appealing or otherwise remarkable graphic artistry from yore. The blog pictures old LP or magazine covers, photos, posters, record labels and so on with a succinct illumination to explain its presence. Sometimes the narrative is very funny. I enjoyed this one for an early “60s record cover depicting a rather predatory sleazedouche doing the twist: “Here’s a stupid and ugly one, for a change. Richard Anthony was a popular French singer of the 1960’s. On the cover art of this single, he seems to have other projects than twisting. Look at the way he’s watching this girl… Help ! Police !”
Status Quo – Pictures Of Matchstick Men.mp3

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Silence Is A Rhythm Too
Here”s a blog that has been running since I was a little boy in Lederhosen (which reminds me of a boy at school in Germany who once pissed into his Lederhosen. As visitors to München”s Oktoberfest may know, not only is piss in Lederhosen eminently conspicuous, but it also produces a nasty aroma). Funk-loving Michael of SIART describes his blog as “an on-going mix-tape”, which seems to me quite an accurate description, though songs are mostly posted individually. Including a bootleg version of the song this blog is named after (though you”ll have to go back a couple of months to find that). Those still on an Obama-high can get an Obama Mix at SIART. It”s all stimulatingly eclectic stuff.
Gene Kelly – I Got Rhythm.mp3

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Jay Brannan: The Morning After
Jay’s debut album, Goddamned, might well turn out to be my most-played of 2008. The long-standing reader will recall that I interviewed Jay back in July. What came across was an appealing personality with some strong opinions and a healthy dose of wit. This is reflected in his apparently very popular blog (featuring a number of video clips from his gigs around Europe), which we can take for granted is written by the artist himself, not an intern at the management company. Jay is certainly building up a strong following around the world, and ““ this is particularly pleasing ““ across the sexual spectrum. As he said in the interview, why should his sexuality matter when he sings about stuff in his life? I imagine that Jay’s blog is named after this, the theme from The Poseidon Adventure:
Maureen McGovern – The Morning After.mp3

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The Music Blog of the Infonistacrat!
I feel a little guilty about not having featured the Infonistacrat before. I have found some great music there, especially from the “90s, which is a bit of a blind spot for me (fatherhood and lack of access to sources of decent music ““ DMCA fans might note that had there been blogs then, I”d have bought plenty more CDs then). The Infonistacrat also calls back into action songs from the “80s, including a lot of half-forgotten material. A great and frequently updated source of alt.rock, punk, indie, new wave and so on. The Infonistacrat will have this song already, probably. It’s that sort of song.
The Ramones – Sheena Is A Punk Rocker.mp3

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Previously featured:
Music For Bloggers Vol. 1: Totally Fuzzy, Not Rock On, Serenity Now (RIP), Stay At Home Indie Pop, The Late Greats, Tsururadio, 200percent, Jefitoblog (RIP), Television Without Pity, Michael’s World
Music For Bloggers Vol. 2: Fullundie, Mr Agreeable, Greatest Films, Peanut’s Playground, Just Good Tunes, Csíkszereda Musings, Mulberry Panda, The Black Hole, Secret Love, Hot Chicks With Douchebags
Music For Bloggers Vol. 3: Girl On A Train, Maybe We Ain’t That Young Anymore, Earbleedingcountry, Spangly Princess, Ill Folks, Deacon Blues, One-Man Publisher, CD Rated
Music For Bloggers Vol. 4: Pop Dose, Todger Talk, Holy Goof (RIP), Echoes In The Wind, Sunset Over Slawit, The Hits Just Keep Coming, The Ghost of Electricity, Guitariotabs
Music For Bloggers Vol. 5: The Quietus, Barely Awake In Frog Pyamas, The Great Vinyl Meltdown, Fusion 45, Inveresk Street Ingrate, The Songs That People Sing
Music For Bloggers Vol. 6: my hmphs, Visions of Wrong Terrence, Don’t Burn The Day Away, Mine For Life, 3 Minutes 49 Seconds
Music For Bloggers Vol. 7: Uncle E’s Musical Nightmare, Jens Lekman, Ain’t Superstitious, AM Then FM, Psd Photoshop Disasters, SIBlingshot on the Bleachers, Dr Forrest’s Cheese Factory, NME & Melody Maker
Music For Bloggers Vol. 8: dustysevens, All Eyes And Ears, Bob Evans, Retro Kino, Retro Music Snob

Have Song, Will Sing Vol. 1

July 27th, 2008 6 comments

Last year I did a series of Songbirds which seems to have been quite popular, showcasing female artists who fall within the singer-songwriter genre which unaccountably has acquired something of a bad name among the critics. In my view, the genre has not been in a more fertile state since the 1970s. Indeed, it is probably more varied now than it was then.

I”ve thought of doing a similar series on male singer-songwriters (which I might call “Singers with names like schoolteachers”, borrowing a great dig from the Welsh music writer Simon Price). In the meantime, here is a collection of some of the male singer-songwriters I hold in high esteem. What they have in common is that they write the songs they sing, and are broadly, if not invariably, acoustic performers. But the mix transcends such narrow characterisations. Their sensibilities range from folk (such as Mason Jennings) to pop (Bob Evans, Benji Cossa) to indie (Jens Lekman, Josh Ritter) to soul (Amos Lee) to country (Joe Purdy) to rock (Charlie Sexton, Scott Matthews). Most are American, but other nations are also represented, such as Australia (Evans), England (David Ford), Sweden (Lekman) and South Africa (the excellent Farryl Purkiss).

Some are well-known (such as Damien Jurado or, again, Ritter and Lekman), others are without a record contract. Josh Woodward, whose previous album I enjoyed very much, has made his new, very good double set titled The Simple Life available for free download on his website. If you like the sample track on this mix, download it and share it widely. TV viewers will recognise the Steve Poltz song from the Jeep ad, while Landon Pigg”s voice is used to advertise diamonds (albeit with a different, very beautiful, song).

My shortlist is not exhausted. If this mix proves popular, I intend to compile a volume of Songbirds and then a co-ed one. Let me know what you think.

As always, the mix should fit on a standard CD-R.

1. Steve Poltz – You Remind Me (from Chinese Vacation, 2003)
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Bob Evans – Friend (from Suburban Songbook, 2006)
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Farryl Purkiss – Ducking And Diving (from Farryl Purkiss, 2006)
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Mason Jennings – Which Way Your Heart Will Go (from Boneclouds, 2006)
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Landon Pigg – Can’t Let Go (from Coffee Shop EP, 2008)
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Joshua Radin – The Fear You Won’t Fall (from Unclear Sky EP, 2008)
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Jay Brannan – Can’t Have It All (from Chinese Vacation, 2003)
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David Ford – Cheer Up (You Miserable Fuck) (from I Sincerely Apologise For All The Trouble I’ve Caused, 2005)
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Josh Ritter – Wait For Love (You Know You Will) (from The Historical Conquests Of, 2007)
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Damien Jurado – Simple Hello (from On My Way To Absence, 2005)
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Charlie Sexton – Cruel And Gentle Things (from Cruel And Gentle Things, 2005)
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Griffin House – Just A Dream (from Lost And Found, 2004)
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Josh Woodward – History Repeats (from The Simple Life, 2008)
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Jens Lekman – I Saw Her in the Anti War Demonstration (from Oh You’re So Silent Jens, 2005)
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Kevin Devine – Probably (from … travelling the EU EP, 2003)
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Joe Purdy – Why You (from Only Four Seasons, 2006)
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Amos Lee – Long Line Of Pain (live) (from Supply And Demand, 2006)
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Elvis Perkins – Ash Wednesday (from Ash Wednesday, 2007)
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Scott Matthews – Passing Stranger (from Passing Stranger, 2007)
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Benji Cossa – The Show Is Over Everywhere (from Between The Blue And The Green, 2007)

DOWNLOAD

Interview: Jay Brannan

July 20th, 2008 3 comments

Is it possible to fairly review an album one has fallen in love with? It is legitimate to review an album one hates; those are much easier and great fun to write. In life as in music criticism, it is simpler to spew bile than to convincingly justify love. So I won”t attempt a critique of Jay Brannan”s debut album, Goddamned, which was released this month. I will not discuss the wistful beauty of Home, the biting acerbicism of On All Fours and American Idol, the sing-along properties of Half-Boyfriend or At First Sight, the staccato wit of Bowlegged & Starving or String Along Song or Death Waltz, the sweet yearning of Housewife, or the sweeping acoustic gothicism of the title track.

Perhaps it is a better indication of the album’s merit that everyone I have introduced Brannan’s music to has become a fan (at least those who have reported back to me). Most satisfying among my converts is Any Minor Dude, 13, who came into my study and announced that it is impossible not to listen to Goddamned on loop. Father and son share excellent taste, again. It is indeed a wonderful album in the singer-songwriter genre.

The melodies are quite lovely; the arrangement frequently spare but consistently imaginative. The set is at times intensely intimate. Some catchy phrases creep into the mind, creating recurring earworms. But above all the album”s finds its potency in the singer”s vulnerable lyrics. Brannan reveals himself, sometimes brutally so, in songs addressing issues of self-esteem, of rejection in complex romantic liaisons, of disillusionment, anger and hope. Brannan has some invigorating turns of phrase, such as “your text messages provided low calorie food for my soul”, the awkwardly lovely metaphor underlining the appeal of an artist giving of himself. One feels close to the singer, drawn to his experience. Hmm, perhaps I have found the words to justify why I love the album.

All this may sound as though Brannan is a miserablist with guitar (and strings and piano). That would be a misrepresentation. He has a delicious wit. Read his blog to meet a funny, unassuming, passionate and very likable man who feels very strongly about some things and is wide-eyed about other things.

And with all this out of the way, here is this blog”s very first EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

AMD: Music critics are becoming increasingly scathing about the whole singer-songwriter genre. Are you concerned that being a guy with guitar performing under his own name is going to harm your reception with the reviewers?
JB: Everyone keeps telling me that this “singer-songwriter” category is becoming cliché and that people are afraid of that classification, but I never knew that until I started hearing it from others. Of all the titles and categories that could be pushed on me, I”m totally fine with this one. In fact, I often use it on myself. I think it describes what I do quite fairly: I sing and I write songs.

It”s a very rich genre at the moment, perhaps the best “singer-songwriter” scene since the ’70s, with artists like Sufjan Stevens, Laura Veirs, Joshua Radin, the Weepies, Rosie Thomas, Kathleen Edwards, Josh Rouse, Mindy Smith, Griffin House and so on. Do you see yourself as part of that scene?
I don’t see myself as part of any “scene”. What I do is very personal, and I do it because I don”t know what else to do with myself. It”s me and my guitar in the middle of the night, alone in our apartment, putting music to all the thoughts that have been racing around in my head for years. It”s my way of having a voice, and attempting to maintain some level of sanity. I mean, there”s music that I like and stuff “” the Weepies are really great “” but I don”t pay that much attention to what other people are doing. I”m not saying what I”m doing is incredibly original or anything, but I”m kind of a lone wolf. I”ve never been one to really feel part of any family or community.

Your litany of swearing on On All Fours is quite spectacular. Did that come to you naturally?
Ha ha, thanks. Swearing always comes naturally to me. Curse words are so expressive and can be used in so many different ways. And they”re just words. I don”t see why people get so freaked out about that sort of thing. We live in this society that forces so many rules and customs on us, but most of those concepts are never thought out to their logical conclusion. For example, when Janet Jackson flashed her breast at the Super Bowl “” whether by accident or on purpose “” who cares? It”s the human body, for god”s sake. We all have a chest”¦men, women, children. I think it”s so sad how we are trained to see our own bodies as so shameful and dirty. I”ve never understood, or been able to follow, these customs and ideals that just flat out don”t make sense.

Some of the songs on Goddamned are very personal, evidently drawn from complex relationships. The line “You liked the guy on your iPod, not the guy in your bed” (from At First Sight), for example, suggests they are autobiographical. How much of yourself goes into your lyrics?
Pretty much everything I write comes from my own reality. Anger and pain and frustration are my main motivating factors for writing, and I try to be as honest and accurate in my lyrics as I can. That”s not to say every song is a complete literal account of a real life event, though some are. Sometimes I combine a couple different relationships or experiences into one song, but make it all one story for the sake of the song. Or sometimes you take an emotion or sentiment and magnify it a little to make it more interesting. You only have three or four minutes, so sometimes you make adjustments so that each song is coherent in such a small amount of words, but it definitely is a patchwork of reality. That”s my goal, anyway.

Songs like Housewife and At First Sight obviously describe gay relationships. It does come across as being quite unselfconscious, which I admire. But did you debate with yourself how this might influence the reaction your music will receive?
I disagree that any of my songs “describe gay relationships”. I don”t think that the singer”s gender and the gender of the other character(s) in the song really affect what the song is about, and I hope we are closing in on the day that people can see that. I know pl
enty of women (straight and gay) who want to be housewives, and I”m sure there are plenty of straight men out there who would like to be in a relationship and not have to be the breadwinner, too. They might just be afraid to admit it out loud (laughs).

But are you worried about being known as “Gay Singer Jay Brannan”?
I hate having my sexual orientation used as a title or a genre. It pisses me off. I just want to be a regular musician like anyone else. When Lisa Loeb sings, she”s singing about her life, her relationships, her experiences. No one ever says she”s singing “straight songs” or that she”s singing about “straight issues”. No one ever says that Whitney Houston”s or Seal”s songs are about “what it”s like being a black person”. At the end of the day, we”re all the same and we all go through the same shit. The rest is just details.

On your blog a couple of months ago you said you hadn’t given up your day job yet. What is that day job? Do you still have it?
I proofread legal documents for a translation company. And yes, I still have it, though I have decreased my hours quite a bit in order to record and go on tour, and so on. I probably could have quit already, but I”m nervous about letting it go, because the music thing is very unpredictable. Also, I”ve saved the money I”ve made from music thus far and invested it in recording my own album. That way, I”m able to make all the creative and business decisions, and release the album under my own record label, Great Depression Records.

How does a Brannan live show differ from the record?
Well, I don”t think they”re enormously different. When I play live, it”s just me and my guitar. I tried to maintain that feel on the record, while adding some layers and textures. But I think the arrangements are still pretty simple and raw and acoustic. I even put a couple tracks on the album that are just me and guitar. In some of the recordings, I am playing and singing at the same time, so it”s almost like capturing a live performance. I talk a lot between songs at a show to try and ease my nerves, and I didn”t put any of that on the album. I like my shows to be informal, with interaction between me and the audience “” I don”t like to have to do all the work (laughs). So I think they have a similar feel, but get there in slightly different ways. Does that make sense?

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Visit Jays homepage (and read the very funny bio) at www.jaybrannan.com

Order the album here.

And here are two more songs, Can’t Have It All from Goddamned and the dangerously infectious Soda Shop from James Cameron Mitchell’s film Shortbus, plus the direct links to songs I posted last month.

Jay Brannan – Soda Shop.mp3
Jay Brannan – Can’t Have It All.mp3
Jay Brennan – At First Sight.mp3 (direct download link)
Jay Brennan – Half-Boyfriend.mp3 (direct download link)

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On current rotation – June

June 24th, 2008 1 comment

I’m not sure if 2008 is turning out to be a good year for music or not. A year ago, new releases by Wilco, Rosie Thomas, Bright Eyes and Brandi Carlile had me very excited. Sky Blue Sky turned out to be my album of the year, and I will be listening to it for many years to come. I’m not sure I’ve yet discovered my album of 2008, even though there are some albums I really like. But, none as much as Wilco’s last year. Here are tracks from some of 2008’s albums I’m enjoying very much, to go with the previous rotation, which featured Tift Merrit, whose effort may well be my album of the year so far, with Kathleen Edwards and the Weepies in the mix.

Jay Brennan – At First Sight.mp3
Jay Brennan – Half-Boyfriend.mp3
Jay Brennan – Housewife.mp3 (all three direct download links)
To start off, three tracks from an exciting new artist in the genre of “guys with guitars named like schoolteachers”. The alternative title for the genre would be singer-songwriter, but that has become a bit of a dirty word (unjustly so). I am sharing the above tracks at the invitation of Jay Brannan’s record company, where he is stablemates with the absolutely wonderful Rosie Thomas. And Brannan does channel the Thomas/Damien Jurado/Sufjan Stevens vibe, right down to the engaging lyrics which ask you to pay attention (just listen to Housewife ““ video here). His debut album, goddamned, will be released on July 1. I’m looking forward to hear more of Brannan’s songs; on evidence of these three songs, it could well be contender for my year-end list.

The Weepies – All Good Things.mp3
The Weepies – Can’t Go Back Now.mp3
I have bigged up the Weepies since I started this blog. The new album, Hideaway, came out in April, and has been on regular rotation ever since I got hold of it. It’s one of those albums I play when I survey my music, and have no idea what I fancy; the default go-to album de jour. The Weepies ““ Deb Talan and Steve Tannen ““ have produced a richer sound than previously without straying too far from their acoustic roots. This is a very warm album; I sort of imagine it like having good coffee and freshly baked waffles on a sunny Saturday morning.

Kathleen Edwards – I Make The Dough, You Get The Glory.mp3
I featured Kathleen Edwards (and Deb Talan) in the Songbirds series. So I was really looking forward to her new album, Asking For Flowers. At the first listen, I was a little disappointed. Second, third listen…same. I was about to write off the album when Indie Pop Ian virtually instructed me to give it a few more chances. Seeing as he is a man of refined taste who shares my love for the Songbirds, I did. And, boy, was he right, and I wrong. This is a mesmerising album with fantastic lyrics and a great alt.country bent. Forgive me, Kathleen, for doubting you. Come December, this may well be in the top 3 of my albums of the year.

Weezer – Heart Songs.mp3
Some say Weezer are living off the greatness of two albums they made in the ’90s. I think that’s a little harsh. The last set was, in my view, pretty good (Perfect Situation is a top notch song). So I approached the new album with hope, and some trepidation. Because Weezer albums can be quite poor, too. The new album, nicknamed the Red Album, falls in between the two extremes. There are a few tracks that beg to be skipped, and others that are a joy. I particularly like Heart Songs, in which Rivers Cuomo tabulates all the artists who influenced him, from childhood to stardom: Gordon Lightfoot, Eddie Rabbitt, Springsteen, Grover Washington, Abba, Devo, Quiet Riot, Judas Priest and so on ““ though I think he might be confusing Debbie Gibson with Tiffany…

Death Cab For Cutie – Talking Bird.mp3
And yet another album I had been looking forward to. I was gratified to read The Quietus giving it a positive review (more surprisingly, The Quietus didn’t rip the new Coldplay album to shreds, as I had expected and, indeed, hoped). Death Cabs’ Narrow Stairs is a fine, richly textured album which rewards repeated listens. It satisfies my occasional desire for a Death Cab fix ““ for now. The rub is this: Narrow Stairs does not have the stand-out tracks of 2005’s Plans (I’ll Follow You Into The Dark, Soul Meets Body), and as an Indie symphony does not quite reach 2002’s Transatlanticism‘s lofty level. So I wonder if in, say, three years time, I will listen to Narrow Stairs instead of these two albums (or, indeed, some of the earlier ones, such as We Have the Facts And We’re Voting Yes from 2000). Maybe it’s too early to say: I will continue to play Narrow Stairs in the hope that it will lodge itself permanently in my head. It just might.

Neil Diamond – Act Like A Man.mp3
Micah P. Hinson – Throw The Stone.mp3
I played this album with Any Minor Dude sitting next to me (playing a football manager game). He looked up from guiding Manchester United to greater glories and pointed out that he liked what he was hearing: Micah P. Hinson and the Red Empire Orchestra (Any Minor Dude also endorsed Jay Brannan, by the way). Sounds like Johnny Cash, he said. And he is quite right, of course. In fact, throw in Nick Cave and Steve Earle, and you have Hinson’s sound. The album is coming out in mid-July, so I trust that the buzz is going to build. This album deserves it.