Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Best Band Ever**

(**if i had to think of a Best Band Ever* for today it would probably have had to be Mandy Moore since I have listened to her Umbrella about 60 times since Sunday and have started singing it in my sleep. That of course led to a tempestuous "rest" and so I don't really have the energy or the time to try to fake something this more. SO here's a BBE* classic from maybe in September- and like last time all links will be put together and mad activate at the end.)

*according to me, at this moment, subject to change

It was so fucking hot this weekend I feel it zapped all my creativity, just like it did all of my energy leading me to plop myself uncomfortably on couches trying to position numerous fans on myself and making me way too tired to move. So last night when I realized I "had" to do this again in the morning I got a little freaked out trying to think of someone for Best Band Ever* and feeling a little bit of pressure now that I've obsessively been looking at google analytics (more on that later, at some point, if I remember) to actually make it, y'know, good. Then I really didn't want to do this because usually to start a week I can ease in with Monday Morning Cuteness then Things to do and so I really don't have to think before noon. Not so on Tuesdays. And so of course nothing came then and this morning I couldn't sleep and woke up early feeling that I had been afflicted with writer's block, though what I'm doing here can't be really called writing so I guess it was more of a blogger block. But fuck it. In the words of the former description of this site "i'm just dancing like no ones' watching." Anywhoo I think I had originally wanted to do something different toady and "spotlight" (in the glare of a 50 watt bulb) a transgendered folk singer called Namoli Brennet who has some really great songs and of course I feel an affinity for, but it didn't feel right at the time so I shifted my focus to another singer/songwriter of whom I first learned because of a transgendered theme song (to my ears) and so for the reasons I may fail to fully explain below, Dar Williams is the Best Band Ever*.

I first heard of Dar Williams when, it had to have been early in 2005, when one of my great girlfriends suggested I got on gay.com to, I don't know, try to find a date or something. That part seemed pretty creepy (and still does) but they had a fabulous section on entertainment and queer musical artists. One of the standard questions they asked a band they were highlighting was "what song do you wish you had written" and some lesbian band's answer, I don't remember who's, was "When I Was A Boy" by Dar Williams. (And it is amazing what a very simple search will find. It was an interview with Mara Levi.) Naturally I was intrigued. And so I got the song and felt an incredible connection to the lyrics, of the changing of gender roles/identities/ expectations (And especially now when I'm figuring out there's a tonne of stuff I "can't" or shouldn't do now that I'm a girl, like walking home by myself or riding around topless. And all the pictures of my past that are me but aren't and how I reconcile those thoughts When I was a boy, See that picture? That was me/ Grass-stained shirt and dusty knees. And I know things have gotta change,/ But I am not forgetting...that I was a boy too/ And like the woods where I would creep, it's a secret I can keep/ Except when I'm tired,
'cept when I'm being caught off guard)
It was like the best song about transgenderism that I think I had heard and even after having listened to it at least dozens of times (don't judge; my most played song is only like 40. I have a phenomenal memory and an obsession for no song to be privileged to far above another) it still touches that same raw and secret spot inside. The song is the first track off her first full length album "The Honesty Room" so it must have a pretty esteemed and important place in Dar's heart (being her introduction to the outside world and all) and here's a live version

There are very few things that are more true than a musician and their guitar. I love it. Sometimes I wish I could be a singer songwriter but I always feel my lyrics might be too obtuse or insular, or too universal to be vague. She doesn't really seem to have that problem and has probably the best sense of humor that I've heard in a folkie, just think of songs like The Pointless Yet Poignant Crisis of a Co-Ed. But even with that humor she doesn't shy away from serious ideas and thoughts; she's a very smart woman (yeah religion majors!) and her way with words really can create pictures as can be seen in The Christians and the Pagans (this is a fan made video, made by a Wiccan, I'd assume. It's nothing special visually but it does have a great audio of the song:)

Both of the above songs, as well as a personal favorite (that is awesome for singing out loud to, the chorus at least) As Cool as I Am are all off her second album Mortal City.
And like I mistakenly thought when first hearing When I Was A Boy, or As Cool as I Am, she is not a lesbian but I loved her answer when she was asked about it in an interview:
"I didn’t want to cash in on breeder status: “Don’t worry, it’s safe, you can like me, men or homosexual women,” because so much of the music industry is predicated on the male gaze of the camera: “Are you the doe in the headlights, are you the bad girl, are you the good girl, are you the virgin.” I wanted to be self-identified, I wanted to jump through that loophole, and I also wanted to be equal-opportunity in terms of who I reached in terms of my lyrics. Therefore I was not clear about my own sexuality, therefore I was pretty gender-neutral in my songs, and I was as inclusive as possible in terms of who I talked about on-stage." I have not really heard the term breeder used in straight company.Fabulous.
I'm not sure if I say it a lot, or overuse the phrase but her writing seems to fit me emotionally where ever I am, I'm not sure if I seek her out but usually when I'm in a sour or melancholy mood (oh at least once every two weeks) her songs speak to a sense of hope and survival and better days and usually take my breath away and make me cry those happy tears, as I tend to do. Songs like Better Things from her End of Summer album for instance, which surprised me by coming on this morning when I was feeling a rather large crisis of confidence. One of those songs, which is so so powerful, is After All from her album The Green World. It really speaks to me when I'm really pondering what am I doing and why don't I just like take my pills and red wine and hope for reincarnation, but then I listen to this song and especially the verse :
And when I chose to live
There was no joy
It's just a line I crossed
It wasn't worth the pain my death would cost
So I was not lost or found."

Or "sometimes i think my father too was a refugee" and you remember that you're not the first or the last to go through this and you can get through. If I could ever write I song this good and beautiful I would gladly die happy.

"It's better to have fallen in love
Than never to have fallen at all

'Cause when you live in a world
Well it gets into who you thought you'd be
And now I laugh at how the world changed me
I think life chose me after all"
So fuckin' beautiful.

Anway I was going to post a few mp3s for tasting purposes but then I read this interview with Dar while doing research and I totally understood her point in response to how she feels about "illegal downloading"

Well, I’m off the beaten track, but I’ll tell you, the better known you are, the more of a bummer it is. And the better known you are, usually the more people do it to you. If you’re playing for 30 people, and they know that your career is where you need to sell three CDs in order to have enough gas money to get to your next gig, that audience is aware of that.

If you’re basically an artist who is known and loved for their entertainment value and you’re associated with a major label, there’s a sort of “Who would notice?” mentality, and it is sort of like peeing at McDonald’s. You sort of think, “They put all these golden arches around the landscape, they owe me one.”
I love hearing about people putting songs on mix tapes, and I love hearing about people who heard about me in one way or another. I used to tape stuff off of my Dad’s record collection as a kid, and I remember my handwriting on those tapes.
But I think that’s how I feel about kids. I did a photo shoot recently with somebody who is an affluent grown person who works with musicians and showed me his collection of burned CDs and asked me what I wanted to listen to, and I didn’t dig it. It gave me a chill, that there was absolutely no ethic around downloading those things.
I think kids sharing, I think mix-tape sharing, that makes me very happy. That big picture, about people being moved, it’s like how you connect to music is the footprint in the sand. You are able to be imprinted in a very special way to the world when you listen to music.
There is a line that gets crossed sometimes that does give me sort of a spook. I like the ethic of people buying the whole thing. Instead of spending a dollar on that CD and getting it from your friend, don’t you want the lyrics and the liner notes and who I said thanks to?

Yeah it's kind of like those people who are famous and are well known so everyone assumes they're rich, when really they're living in a basement in Brooklyn, barely getting by ( do houses in New York have basements?)
Soo, you can always buy her stuff on iTunes, or Amazon. do it, do it.

And so for all of those reasons , even though she is mistaken in her belief that Southern California Wants to Be Western New York ( umm...no), and for her constantly writing songs that I can wish I had written (and I feel can apply to transitioning such as Farewell to the Old Me from her Beauty of Rain album

Dar Williams is the Best Band Ever.*

Two mp3s (because I just read that interview about downloading and what not and so I'd feel dirty but these two songs are AMAZING)

When I Was A Boy

After All

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