December, 2017 Archives

11
Dec

Watch Phoebe Bridgers’ Video For Salient Song “Would You Rather” Featuring Conor Oberst

by Lefort in Music

In a year brimming with bright musical birthings, Phoebe Bridgers keeps brandishing briefs on her behalf for the top berth. First came Smoke Signals, and then came Motion Sickness. Then she regaled with a stellar Tiny Desk Concert. Now comes another superb song from her debut album, Stranger In The Alps.  Check out the new song Would You Rather features fire-centric lyrics apropos for recent days in California (“Playing would you rather, when it comes to fire…the cop suggested you’re the one who tried to burn it down”). Check out the song below in video context. Both feature the distinctive and talented Conor Oberst. Bridgers’ ever-worthwhile lyrics are at bottom.

Would You Rather:

“Playing would you rather
When it comes to fire
You always say that you’d prefer to drown

You were still in the ambulance
When the cop suggested
You’re the one who tried to burn it down

Come to find out
I’m a can on a string, you’re on the end
We find our way out
Of a suicide pact of our family and friends
In the background I’ll be waiting

We have the same face
I laid awake
As someone shoved you up against a wall

Quarantined in a bad dream
He’s half the man
And you’re twice as tall

I’m a can on a string, you’re on the end
We find our way out
Of a suicide pact of our family and friends
In the background I’ll be waiting

Next time I see you you’ll show me
A hundred different ways to say the same things

Come to find out
I’m a can on a string, you’re on the end
We find our way out
Of a suicide pact of our family and friends
And when you touch down I’ll be waving”

6
Dec

Check Out Sufjan Stevens’ Affecting New Song Paying Tribute to “Tonya Harding”

by Lefort in Music

Sufjan Stevens has today released his beautiful new song Tonya Harding in tribute to the scandalous and scandalized figure skater (true confession: we were Nancy Kerrigan fans). This isn’t the first time Stevens has paid homage to alleged deplorables in the past, but Harding is no John Wayne Gacy (as you can read in the essay below). In fact, it’s been quite a year for Harding who is also the subject of new biopic film I, Tonya (with actress Margot Robbie being touted for an Oscar as Harding). Stevens explains his motivation and take on Harding in an essay released by Stevens with the song, as follows:

“I’ve been trying to write a Tonya Harding song since I first saw her skate at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 1991. She’s a complicated subject for a song partly because the hard facts of her life are so strange, disputable, heroic, unprecedented, and indelibly American. She was one of the greatest figure skaters of her time, and the first American woman to perform a triple axle in an international competition. She was an unlikely skating star, having been raised working class in Portland, Oregon. Being a poor outsider, her rise to fame in the skating rink was seen, by some, as a blemish on a sport that favored sophistication and style. Tonya’s skating technique was feisty, fierce, and full of athleticism, and her flamboyant outfits were often handmade by her mother (who was abusive and overbearing). (They couldn’t afford Vera Wang.) And then there was the Nancy Kerrigan incident. In January 1994, Tonya’s then-boyfriend Jeff Gillooly hired an assailant, Shane Stant, to break fellow figure skater Nancy Kerrigan’s leg at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Cobo Arena in Detroit, so that she would be unable to compete at the upcoming Winter Olympics. The aftermath of the attack was recorded on camera and ultimately set off a media frenzy (and an FBI investigation). Gillooly and Stan were eventually found guilty, and Tonya pleaded guilty to hindering the prosecution, and was subsequently banned for life from the U.S. Figure Skating Association. Nancy Kerrigan recovered from her injury and won a silver medal at the Winter Olympics. Tonya Harding finished eighth.

But that’s not even half the story. When Tonya and Gillooly got married, they filmed themselves having sex on their wedding night and produced one of the first-ever celebrity sex tapes (which they sold to Penthouse for $200,000 each). Tonya also had a brief career as a boxer, and is most famous for her bout with former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones (whose sexual harassment suit against Bill Clinton precipitated his impeachment in 1998). Tonya was also (very briefly) in a band called the Golden Blades (they were allegedly booed off the stage during their first and only performance). She also raced vintage automobiles (setting a record by driving a Ford Model A over 97 miles per hours on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah). And in 1996 Tonya used mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to revive an 81-year-old woman who collapsed at a bar in Portland while playing video poker. That’s a lot to accomplish before the age of 30!

Tonya Harding’s dramatic rise and fall was fiercely followed by the media, and she very quickly became the brunt of jokes, the subject of tabloid headlines and public outcry. She was a reality TV star before such a thing even existed. But she was also simply un-categorical: American’s sweetheart with a dark twist. But I believe this is what made her so interesting, and a true American hero. In the face of outrage and defeat, Tonya bolstered shameless resolve and succeeded again and again with all manners of re-invention and self-determination. Tonya shines bright in the pantheon of American history simply because she never stopped trying her hardest. She fought classism, sexism, physical abuse, and public rebuke to become an incomparable American legend.

I admit, early drafts of this song contained more than a few puns, punch lines, and light-hearted jabs – sex tapes and celebrity boxing make for an entertaining narrative arc. But the more I edited, and the more I meditated, and the more I considered the wholeness of the person of Tonya Harding, I began to feel a conviction to write something with dignity and grace, to pull back the ridiculous tabloid fodder and take stock of the real story of this strange and magnificent America hero. At the end of the day, Tonya Harding was just an ordinary woman with extraordinary talent and a tireless work ethic who set out to do her very best. She did that and more. I hope the same can be said of us all.”

As you will hear below, the song is the usual well-crafted, well-arranged, well-produced and always affecting fare from Stevens. Stevens has recorded two versions of the song in two different keys, and you can listen to them HERE. You can see the lyrics at bottom.

Tonya Harding is out now via Asthmatic Kitty. You can get it digitally, or on cassette or vinyl HERE.

“Tonya Harding, my star
Well this world is a cold one
But it takes one to know one
And God only knows what you are

Just some Portland white trash
You confronted your sorrow
Like there was no tomorrow
While the rest of the world only laughed

Triple axel on high
A delightful disaster
You jumped farther and faster
You were always so full of surprises

Are your laces untied?
What’s the frown on your face for?
And just what are the skates for now?
Tell me which is your good side?

Are you lonely at night?
Do you miss all the glory
And the mythical story
Of the Olympian life?

Yamaguchi in red
She had high rise and roses
And red-carpet poses
And her outfit was splendid

Well she took quite a beating
So you’re not above cheating
Can you blame her for crying?

Tonya, you were the brightest
Yeah you rose from the ashes
And survived all the crashes
Wiping the blood from your white tights

Has the world had its fun?
Yeah they’ll make such a hassle
And they’ll build you a castle
Then destroy it when they’re done

Tonya Harding, my friend
Well this world is a bitch, girl
Don’t end up in a ditch, girl
I’ll be watching you close to the end

So fight on as you are
My American princess
May God bless you with incense
You’re my shining American star

Shining American star
Shining American star
Shining American star
Shining American star”

4
Dec

Check Out Spoon’s Riveting Performances on CBS This Morning and Town Hall (formerly Prairie Home Companion)

by Lefort in Music

When it’s this good there’s no need to switch horses. Starting where we left off last week, over the weekend Spoon appeared on CBS This Morning and Town Hall (the old Prairie Home Companion, sadly renamed). Below first check out the mesmerizing three songs off their Best Albums of 2017 contender Hot Thoughts and a great interview on CBS This Morning. Then go HERE to listen to Spoon perform and be interviewed at the 50:40 and 1:41 marks. This is a band at the top of their powers and heading ever-higher. Wow!

You can catch Spoon live at the Arlington Theater in SB on January 18th. Don’t ya miss it! Get tickets HERE.

1
Dec

Watch Spoon Perform on The Tonight Show and Tomorrow Morning on CBS This Morning

by Lefort in Music

As Spoon continue to make the case for their Hot Thoughts album being one of the Best Albums of 2017 and their being one of the best live bands alive, the band appeared on The Tonight Show this week and blazed through a riveting performance of their great song Do I Have To Talk You Into It off the album. To add to their welcome assault on the senses, Spoon will appear tomorrow morning on CBS This Morning and will appear on an upcoming Prairie Home Companion (or whatever they’re going to call it in a post-Keillor era). Check out their raving performance below in which Britt Daniels shows once again why he is and has been (only for 20+ years) THE quintessential rock n’ roll scion of his generation. Daniels proves it all damn night every dang time he sets foot on stage. Bravo!

Spoon is coming to the Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara on January 18th. Don’t ya miss it! Tickets can still be had HERE.