sand is overrated

all songs posted are for evaluation only. if you hear something you like and would like to hear more, please go ahead and support the artists by buying their music--i will always include links for you to do so. copyright holders: if anything on my site needs to be taken down, please email me and it will be removed immediately.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

memphis - a little place in the wilderness

a few notes:
first, in the interest of full-disclosure, let me acknowledge that i received this cd from memphis' record label, good fences, as part of a really nice package that included the sealed cd, a memphis scratchpad, and two pins. that said, i feel good about saying that my feelings about this album are unbiased and not influenced by how well the label treated me.

second, on that same note, it seems to me that this is really how record labels should work with the blogging community. in addition to how nice the package was, i was told by amelie at good fences that any tracks i wanted to post would be fine. sure it's true that positive treatment is more likely to result in a favorable review, but this kind of user-friendly attention can only help with the perception that we as consumers have of the labels we give our money to.

lastly, with the increased focus on my personal connections with music, which i wrote about yesterday, it might seem out of place for me to be reviewing a promotional cd like this. all i can say is that is just how much i am enjoying this album.

on to business

side projects can be an interesting phenomenon. when i first started listening to rilo kiley several years ago, i had very little appreciation for the songs on which blake sennett sang vocals. i saw them instead as simply obstacles in between the songs featuring jenny lewis, whose voice i found infinitely more appealing. but a strange thing happened this year upon listening to the releases put out by their respective side projects--i actually preferred the elected's sun, sun, sun to jenny lewis' rabbit fur coat, and it was not even close. it wasn't until i found him removed from the rilo kiley environment that i really was able to appreciate blake sennett.

memphis is the side project of torquil campbell, who along with amy millan is one of the voices of the canadian band stars. on stars records, the vocal duties are usually split between campbell and millan, with perhaps the best songs featuring both of them together in a vocal duet ("your ex-lover is dead"). but, much like with blake sennett in rilo kiley, i lacked a certain appreciation for the campbell-led stars songs. so i was naturally a little unsure of what to expect from a whole album of campbell tunes. sometimes i guess it just takes a change of scenery to give an appreciation of the individual parts of a whole...

the package i received from good fences was nice, but what really struck me was the artistry of the cd packaging itself. from the cover art to the liner notes, it is marked by minute details that provide the album with a contextual theme. i immediately popped the cd into my computer and sat down with the lyrics in hand. apparently i had never really paid attention to the lyrics in stars songs, because i was absolutely astonished at the quality of the words i read, each written by torq. the theme of the album centers around the processes of self-discovery within the framework of family, friendships, relationships, love, loss, death, sacrifice--of life, basically. the arrangements of strings and horns throughout the album provide beautiful backdrops to the stories that are told in each song, and chris dumont's guitar and james shaw's bass infuse songs like "in the cinema alone" and "i'll do whatever you want" with pure pop sensibilities.

for me the album highlight is track 4, "time away", a brooding tale of misadventure and misfortune as a dreamchaser is led astray, and the second chance that is afforded when he realizes that the home he has left is still...home. the instrumentation matches the weariness of the lyrics with a gentle bass, weeping violin, and a pedal steel offering an alt-country sorrow.

if there is one mis-step along the way, it is "a ghost story", in which torq's near spoken-word delivery of the vocals tries a little too hard to create a sense of haunting and foreboding. this is in stark contrast to the spoken-word delivery of torq's wife, moya, on "in the highest room", where a tale of self-sacrifice is told so matter-of-factly that there could obviously have been no other choice than to do everything for the one she loved.

a little place in the wilderness would definitely be considered among my top 10 of 2006 except for the fact that it has not yet been released in the u.s. but its strength and consistency will surely keep it playing for me well throughout 2007, so it definitely stands a chance of being among my favorites for next year. a quite welcome surprise for me, given my relative indifference to torquil campbell's work going in.

memphis is:
chris dumont and torquil campbell
official site
myspace

memphis : "in the cinema alone" (mp3)
from the lp a little place in the wilderness (good fences, 2007)
do you keep in touch with the one who killed you?
the one that made you start to dream your life away?
get on the telephone and tell her you're alone
and if she doesn't take you back
it's gonna stay that way

memphis : "time away" (mp3)
from the lp a little place in the wilderness (good fences, 2007)
the dreams that you had are forgotten
a diary left under a bed
and the light slanted in from the curtain
all the things written in there are dead...

memphis : "in the highest room" (mp3)
from the lp a little place in the wilderness (good fences, 2007)
and so like the pitiable heroes we always dreamed to be
i set a flame to your blue dress and you set fire to me
and in that golden instant you and i were both divine
i was saving your life and you were saving mine

5 Comments:

Anonymous Chris said...

The title track is the best song on it.

It's a wonderful album to listen to late at night, especially when driving.

December 10, 2006 at 3:28 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

By title track I meant "I Dreamed We Fell Apart".

Total mindblank there :D

December 10, 2006 at 3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny enough, "I Dreamed We Fell Apart" is the title of their last album. I should really give this (and Amy's solo album) more listens, but I still feel that I'd rather just listen to Stars. "I'll Do Whatever You Want" is pretty great, though.

December 10, 2006 at 4:18 PM  
Blogger tad said...

yes, i wonder if "i dreamed we fell apart" was an outtake from that previous album. seems odd that that was the name of the album if the actual song wasn't included, but also seems odd to have a song on the next album that's the same name as the previous album...

anyway, glad you two are enjoying it as well

December 10, 2006 at 9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hehehe I love how you were all impressed with the packaging. hehe ;-)

Memphis certainly has a beautiful peaceful quality about them. Lovely.

December 11, 2006 at 8:55 PM  

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all songs posted are for evaluation only. if you hear something you like and would like to hear more, please go ahead and support the artists by buying their music--i will always include links for you to do so. copyright holders: if anything on my site needs to be taken down, please email me and it will be removed immediately.

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