August 13, 2005

WSTFD, Part 2

Wherein Queen Shenaynay and Fa-So-La-La
Carry On a Meaningful Dialogue
and Provide Their Considered Opinions

For those Beehive Faithful who don't give a bazooka about Nickel Creek, we grant you gentle permission to proceed to the next blog item. Really, we do understand.

But for those who are NC-inclined, and for some reason actually care what we think of their new cd, please click on the comments. We chose to post our bit there, so that those of the first category would not have to spend half the day scrolling down our blog to get past it.

Translation: We're either long-winded, or have fully self-actualized opinions. Please do not vote for one or the other.


Lynn Bruce said...

...and Fa-So-La-La

Now that we’ve put the new Nickel Creek cd through at least a half dozen spins, Fa-So-La-La and Queen Shenaynay are ready to sit down and play catch with a few opinions. Just for fun, we decided to do it by passing the laptop back and forth. (Okay, we’re an odd pair, perhaps, but we get our kicks out of doing this sort of thing together. And as our dear friend ‘Eugene’ observed after taking a road trip with us this summer, we can be pretty intense about listening to music – which she enjoyed, I might add. ;-)

FSLL– Aren’t we a hoot... Playing catch with opinions is the only kind of playing catch I enjoy, as it does not involve chasing a stupid and stubborn ball around in 100 degree heat...

QS – Right. Plus you can have tea whilst playing.

FSLL– Don’t forget the dark chocolate!

QS-- Okay, here goes... WSTFD? Bottom line: stunning artistry, inventive and complex songwriting. Not as immediately accessible as the first two albums, but there are tracks here that really showcase their artistic growth. What I miss, in comparison with This Side, are the moments of beauty on that album that just made you almost gasp. WSTFD seems more concerned with making artistic statements than with beauty. But like This Side, it excels at capturing the whole feel of specific moments in life – something NC does with greater perception and dexterity than just about anyone (more on this in a minute). The problem for me is that with WSTFD, they have musically encapsulated a few of life’s moments that I do not enjoy meditating upon. As such, this is the first NC cd that has a couple of tracks I will consistently skip. Unlike This Side, there is not a song here that I would not be surprised to hear interpreted on harp & violin at your wedding – let’s just put it that way and leave it there. ;-)

FSLL– Gotcha! ‘Nuff said.
Bottom line: Wow! I love this CD. I think we are going to be great friends. While it will never be to me what This Side is (and few albums are), I am very fond of it. The musical skill and complexity is unrivaled by either of their former works, although I agree with you that there is not quite enough beauty. There are some absolutely lovely songs though– the title track is wonderful, as is Doubting Thomas, which is gentle and honest, and Eveline is breathtaking. Somebody More Like You and Jealous of the Moon are both masterpieces. This album was bound to appeal to me, though. The whole life-as-art idea is right up my alley and I greatly enjoy the variety of ways and mediums in which this can be expressed.

QS – Few artists can capture real life like this – this summer alone, I have held Sabra Girl and prayed while she cried, and stayed up half the night trying to shine some light in the tunnel for the girl who Should’ve Known Better. (Neither of them FSLL or Shieldmaiden, for the curious.) My cellphone knows a very fine young man who could have written Somebody More Like You. And haven’t we both known several variations of the pitiful, self-doubting girl in Jealous of the Moon? Those songs have second names for me, names I only call them in my head. (And for the rest of you reading this, no, I won’t identify them. “What Happens In My Kitchen Stays In My Kitchen.”)

FSLL – Amen! I also know many who are This Side, Young, and Out of the Woods. And we are all Doubting Thomas at times.

The thing I regret most about this album is the lack of songs that you can really and truly make your own– songs like Speak, This Side, Seven Wonders, Out of the Woods, or Reasons Why. Doubting Thomas is one of these, but there really aren’t any others.

QS – Or like The Hand Song or Brand New Sidewalk – the masterpieces of the two prior albums. The title song of WSTFD qualifies for me. But then, it’s a song about marriage – you’ll get there eventually. ;-)

FSLL– Songs that appeal to you with your experiences might not be so special to me with my experiences.

QS-- When in Rome is a mountain of musical geology – every time I listen to it, there’s another layer of meaning. May be the deepest song they’ve recorded to date. I’ve come to new conclusions about its meaning on every spin, and any or all of them could be right. That’s good poetry.

The instrumentals on this album raise the bar. Scotch & Chocolate is genius – makes Smoothie Song sound like a tossed-off riff at a late night gig. Love the way they’ve played Celtic against quasi-Appalachian-folk on this one – similar to the way they layered Medieval over Appalachian with Robin and Marian on Nickel Creek, in a way that showcased both the similarities and the contrasts in the two styles.

FSLL– That is something I regretted on This Side– there was only one instrumental, the excellent Smoothie Song. I agree though that Scotch and Chocolate on WSTFD puts it and the ones on Nickel Creek in the dust. It’s absolutely delightful. It is fascinating to listen to the progression of NC’s instrumental talents. On Nickel Creek they are fun and sparkling – lots of brilliance, but not much depth. With The Smoothie Song on This Side they added sophistication and really cool rhythms. Now, they have added tremendous depth and highly inventive layers of melody.

The playing on the songs is also wonderful– When In Rome is flawless. They swirl the melody around itself, making different rhythms stand out. The words and music are so deep. The music on Somebody More Like You is great as well– love the subtle echoes of the melody.

QS– They’ve melded Celtic overtones into so many of their phrasings on this cd. They must be listening to the Beatles, too! Goodness, I expected to find Lennon and McCartney in the credits for Somebody More Like You and Helena. And the title song is a nod to Crosby, Still and Nash, whether NC intended it to be or not.

FSLL– I’m very grateful to NC for taking the best of the 70's and putting it in a format where I can enjoy it! They did this in a direct way with Bob Dylan’s Tomorrow Is A Long Time. They also recycled a bit of 70's harmony on this album- very tight, controlled, and well-used. This album has tons more harmony than either of the others, a welcome surprise. They use harmony as a tool to make you feel the emotion of the song, as on Jealous of the Moon, or to feel the emotion of the people in the song, as in Eveline, the most astounding example of good harmony used well on the CD.

QS – Eveline is sheer art – more like a dramatic poetry presentation than simply a song.

FSLL– Like Storm, my favorite Fernando Ortega song.

QS– Right. Eveline captures a moment so perfectly – all the mental anguish and despair of the lyrics is delivered whole in the music. Wonder how many modulations they wrote into that one? And wouldn’t you love to see the notation of the vocals?

But to your point, as much as I appreciate the intricate harmony on this cd, I have to agree with Andrew that the vocal artistry here is not as pure as the previous albums. But again, I think they were more after art and style here than good vocal form.

FSLL– You must admit though that this album finds Chris finally a master of the great art of singing in falsetto! HOORAH! We have all groaned while listening to him strain at the high notes on The Lighthouse’s Tale. Our groans are no longer needed. He’s gotten really good at it.

On another topic, I didn’t like the whole ‘Nickel Creek as Complaint Rock’ thing. What’s with that?

QS – My biggest beef is with Can’t Complain. If I wanted to hear Nirvana (which I don’t), I’d know where to find them. When I heard this song, I thought, ‘oh great, just what we dreaded most, Chris as Kurt Cobain.’ You know how I revile “Complaint Rock.” So when Chris got to the rant at the end I realized the irony: “I can’t complain.” And yet, you are Chris, you are.

FSLL– I suspect that some of the irony was intended. That is the one song I will skip. The album would have been much, much better if they had taken it off– they’ve already got one ‘cad’ song on there (Helena), and two is overkill. Helena is a much better song anyway–a masterpiece of musical storytelling, although you may disagree with me here.. The character tells the complete story of a relationship, while giving very few details. Amazing. I also noticed that even though the rest of the CD has nice long pauses between tracks, First and Last Waltz seeps into Helena without a break. An artistic decision I think– it gives Helena setting and context. And you know how much I love context.

QS - I’m not ready to say I don’t appreciate Helena... maybe it’s just a little too ‘Hey, Jude’ for me. At any rate, enough with the Wickham/Willoughby songs already. They’re not pleasant to listen to, particularly for those of us who’ve survived a few cads. On that subject, where was Somebody Just Like You when I needed it – when I ditched my Narcissism Poster Boy fiancĂ© in college? (God rest his soul.) It would have been a perfect anthem for me at the time. ;-/

All in all, I have to say that when I come to your lair to sneak out an NC disc, you will still find This Side to be the one voted Most Likely To Be In Mamadah’s Car.

FSLL– And Most Likely To Be Sung By Me While Washing Dishes.

QS-- But that’s okay. If I were Nickel Creek, and I had chosen to record this particular album, what would I have been meaning to say by it? I can see why they might choose to step out this far on this ledge – they defy category and yet people have been persistent in trying to label them. I can understand how artists this original and talented could max out on being pigeon-holed, and recording an album like this – one that defies expectations and labels – would feel really good to them.

FSLL– Very true, very true. I love musicians who sound a bit different from song to song and album to album– keeps you on your toes, and keeps your musical taste broad and flexible. I am much more able to appreciate what is good in different genres since my introduction to NC last fall.

QS – Lennon & McCartney are still considered blueprints because no two of their songs sounded alike. Every song, every album was a brand new perspective on what they could do. I didn’t like a lot of it, but I appreciate their range. We don’t have enough artists like that, so I’m willing to give NC some latitude. But still I will be happy if their next album is more reminiscent of This Side than WSTFD.

FSLL– On the whole though, I think this album is a step forward. I am glad they made it, glad we bought it, and I expect to listen to it often. NC remains my very favoritest of favorites, and I absolutely can’t wait to see where they will go from here.

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We'd love to hear other opinions!

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

My opinion is.....
We've got to get ourselves a laptop.