Saturday, January 30, 2010

Partner Collaborations

High on my current rotation at the moment is the new Laura Veirs CD, July Flame. Yes, I've been listening partly in preparation for her March 2 Cedar appearance, but Veirs has been a favorite of mine since her 2005 Year of Meteors. It's not just her skills as a singer and songwriter that make her recordings compelling... these are taken to a whole other level with the arrangements and production by her partner Tucker Martine, who has worked with her on every one of her seven official recordings except her self-titled debut. And when she's here in March she'll be very pregnant with their first child, due April 15.

(Martine also happens to be the producer of my top albums of both 2009 and 2008: The Decemberists The Hazards of Love and Musée Mécanique's Hold This Ghost).

This combination of a talented female singer/songwriter and partner male musician/producer has yielded a number of my favorite records over the years. The best Shawn Colvin records: Steady On and A Few Small Repairs, when John Levanthal co-wrote and produced (before he moved on with, and eventually married, Roseanne Cash). And the greatest Suzanne Vega record, IMHO, is Nine Objects of Desire, her last with then-husband, musician and producer Mitchell Froom (now married to Vonda Shepard... wow, a roadmap might be helpful about now!).

There is something special about these collaborations, when the whole seems to become greater than the parts. While I can't say yet whether July Flame is a great record, it's definitely a keeper, and one requiring a greater listening commitment before its real value is revealed. That's always a good sign in my book.

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Another discovery of the week: the second record by the Swedish band Fredrik, called Trilogi. I really enjoyed their first one, Na Na Ni. This is atmospheric pop, full of adventure, with just the right amount of hooks. Unfortunately, a short U.S. tour in February only hits the eastern seaboard. Maybe we'll get them further west in the fall. In the mean time, here's a spooky video from the new one:

Fredrik - Viskra from The Kora Records on Vimeo.

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I want to take this opportunity to thank my fellow bloggers for some really great work over the past few weeks. I really look forward to every new posting here these days. And I have a couple of responses to the most recent ones:

To Angel of Rock: I respectfully disagree with your friend that "going to a show doesn't really count as hanging out." There are few more profound bonding experiences than seeing a particularly inspirational concert with another person. I have old friends with whom I still talk about shows we saw over thirty years ago. Our mutual concert experiences are far more memorable than most of the other things we did together. It may not be obvious at the time that "the company" is important, but especially when the concert is particularly memorable, doesn't it provide a particulary rich and deep experience to share?

And to Veronica Fever: my parents were big music lovers. Some of my earliest childhood memories are infused with music, whether it be family picnics on the lawn at Tanglewood, or my dad's passion for Oscar Peterson. My three older siblings all had their own musical identities. It was my sister Susan who first brought The Beatles into the house, and they quickly became my favorite. And I joyfully remember all of us in the car at the drive-in in Cape Cod, summer of 1964 (I was seven), watching A Hard Day's Night, which converted my dad into a Beatles fan, too.

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