Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gimme some A-D-P

Hey folks,

I met this squinting gentleman at Death by Audio this summer, and wrote a 'lil review of the collection of songs he gave to me. C'est ici:

Some albums take a long time to like, and others enter your ears like a guest you never knew you were waiting to receive. Stick to the Shadows, the forthcoming disc of sun-kissed Americana that songwriter Andy Dale Petty gave me at Death by Audio this past summer, is one of the latter. After pressing play, an electric guitar breaks like dawn over grassy hills, and then an acoustic complement picks a careful path across the landscape. You might not forget where you are when you hear it first.

After the opener, which sounds like a hushed counterpoint to Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline Rag,” a harmonica and a dancing mandolin inject a sense of regret into the picture. “I’ll tell myself that you’re movin’ this way,” Petty sings in the elementally titled “making a point with light,” but he might just be hoping—as the possibility of loss hovers above the notes, the line “Life is the morning, and long is the day,” carries a sweet ambiguity. A hint of R.E.M.’s “Man on the Moon” tinges the opening of “lost caves,” a narrative of solitude after a failed connection, and Petty’s guitar continues to build a wheelwork of country licks and textures. During a second instrumental, an acoustic melody grows out of a bog of bass notes like a green shoot. It’s a mess of riches.

The album continues with the rollicking “stick to the shadows,” in which Petty uses a ratchet to lend a festive, corny air to a friend’s promised return: “I’m coming home, and you will see, that I’m so young and I’m so free, and there’s nobody fooling me,” he sings, triumphantly. After an interlude composed of bits of spoken word and high-pitched violin, a bright-toned solo highlights “death wail,” the record’s one conventional pop number, and in “coming home,” a banjo traverses the same hills that the guitar maps in the album’s opener, with a flute rising above a faint analog synth before the fade. “Through deserts and woods, there is much that is good, but the world is hard to please,” Petty later sings, sparely evoking the emotional ruts in his travels. His voice has an amber tone and an occasional nasal edge, and it shares equal space with the other instruments in the mix.

If the album ended here, Petty’s work would still be outstanding. But distinctive songs keep emerging near the end of the record. “falling to earth” features a lyric that wrestles with mortality by modifying the meaning of the idiom “no matter,” and it also contains a hopeful chorus melody that stuns like a second dawn. In “for their blood,” lush pedal steel quivers like the moon in a country pond, expressing mysterious longing for journeys not yet taken, and a measure of weariness from ones already made. The album ends with “psychic surgery,” a tune with a ruddy, rested delivery that shines like a candle in a dark clearing. Based in Huntsville, Alabama, Petty hopes to release the record this winter, and he also wants to stop in New York during a fall tour. Until then, pay him a visit on his MySpace page.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Notes on Pavement in Central Park

I saw Pavement earlier tonight! Swear to God, it's true! My friend Ben had an extra ticket and I couldn't say no, so I went and heard a great band in great form. Songs included Summer Babe (rainstorm version), Cut Your Hair, Stereo, Shady Lane, Major Leagues, Gold Soundz 'n' Range Life (I once had to choose between buying one of those two seven-inches, and I think I was paralyzed for a good two minutes), and a whole lot of others. An epiphany came when Stephen Malkmus sang what I now think is one of the most prescient lyrics of the nineties: the transition from "A career" to "Korea" in Cut Your Hair. I've decided that it's just perfect, on so many levels. And here they are:

1. It clearly (Korealy?) expresses an inability to embrace the idea of building a traditional career.

2. Turning the sound of "career" into the sound of "Korea" is musically creative and semantically meaningful. It's like leaving business school for art school, or rejecting narrow-mindedness in favor of exploration.

3. How many English majors who couldn't choose a career have taught English in Korea?

4. Whether teaching English or just visiting, Korea may be an escape, for some people, from the pressure to build a career.

5. According to a Chinese woman I know from Singapore, I should "watch out for those Korean girls. They're crazy." According to my all my life experiences, they're crazy in a good way.

6. "It's all Korean to me": building a career, that is. (See No. 1)

I just think it's the most brilliant lyric. How many of us have thrown up our hands sometime in our twenties or thirties, and surrendered to Korea, instead of career? How many of us are still working on doing that? It's like James Murphy sang, about sixteen years after Cut Your Hair: "You spend five years trying to get on track, and the next five years trying to find your friends again." I wouldn't know, but Pavement seemed to have skipped the first part, and maybe that's why they got so good, so fast.