Where do I even begin? First off, I need to catch my breath and get my color back which might take a while. I am freaking right the eff out.
Amanda Palmer and Reb Fountain have just released on YouTube their mashup of two songs I could have never imagined could work together.
I reached out to Palmer a few hours ago with some questions and she graciously responded and I’ll be sharing that interview shortly.
But first. Know this:
In the middle of August, Palmer and the New Zealand musician Reb Fountain sat at a piano together at Stebbing Studios in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. They recorded their collaborative mashup of Robin Thicke’s up-until-now-unbearable 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” with “Rape Me,” a track from Nirvana’s 1993 album “In Utero.”
“Blurred Lines” is a grotesque, rape glorifying song. And it became a
big goddamn hit. You likely already know this. It’s vile. It’s offensive. It’s fucking awful. Also, breaking not-so-fun fact, Robin Thicke has been accused of sexual assault by supermodel Emily Ratajkowski. She says he grabbed her bare breasts on the set of the video for the goddamned song back in 2013. This news broke two days ago. My heart breaks for her for having to endure this. This song sucks tremendous ass. Everything about it.
Until now that is.
Conversely, Nirvana’s “Rape Me,” despite the title, is an anti-rape song penned by Kurt Cobain in the early 90s. The band only performed it live a couple of times, including on Saturday Night Live. “Rape Me” is not an “easy” song. Those are difficult words to hear, let alone sing along with. But it’s also empowering. A song can be many things at once, lest anyone forget.
In a brilliant act of alchemy, Palmer and Fountain recorded a mashup of the two songs and gave birth to something that has made a few of my friends sob uncontrollably while igniting fires under others.
As I write this, I’ve watched the clip about nine times and I’m still sorting out my feelings. Parts of my heart hurt while others are glowing. I’m not just shook. I’m jolted. I’m disturbed. I’m deeply moved and profoundly inspired. I need to invent new emotions. I’m stunned. I’m awestruck.
The “Blurred Lines” + “Rape Me” mashup was inspired by Lizz Winstead who asked Palmer to cover a traditionally sexist song for the fundraiser DoReMeToo. Palmer asked her Patrons for suggestions. We offered up a massive amount of them.
Side bar: I could go on and on with a massive back story about how Amanda Palmer has spent the entire pandemic in New Zealand because the world closed down in a hurry while she was on tour last year. But, honestly, that’s a story for another day and one that she tells the best so consider this your official nudge, if you’re a fan of hers, to hop onto her Patreon and sign up. I’ve been a proud patron for at least three years. I do this because she’s one of my favorite artists because of the way she is fearless with her songwriting. And the way she does a bunch of other stuff, including supporting several important causes..
But that’s not what this particular post is about. This particular post has one purpose:
TO MAKE SURE YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS SONG AND ITS VIDEO.
Yeah yeah yeah, I shared it on Facebook and Twitter and that’s swell and all but this is too important, too mind-blowing and too ground-shaking to not also share here.
I was not prepared for what Fountain and Palmer did with these two songs. Fountain with her gorgeous voice is singing the “Blurred Lines” lyrics knowing full well how gross they are. Palmer sings part of it with Fountain before veering into doing her own thing with “Rape Me.” The songs merge seamlessly. “I”m not the only one” sings Palmer. “Get up, do it like it hurts” responds Fountain.
When it gets towards the end both of them are out of their minds with Palmer screaming “RAPE ME” at the top of her lungs with both of their hands banging on the piano. “You know you want it, I know want it” Fountain quietly proclaims to end the song and both women sit there, staring right at and through the camera for several seconds. I’ve never seen or heard anything quite like it.
I forced myself to listen to one minute of the original “Blurred Lines” to remind myself of how much I hate it and yeah I know, Pharrell Williams sings on it song with Thicke and everyone loves him but whatever. It’s SUCH a bad song.
Amanda and Reb have reclaimed “Blurred Lines” and have re-introduced “Rape Me” into the here and now of #metoo and women taking their lives back. Somehow. They’ve done this.
Every time I watch the clip and listen to them sing, I pick up on different things. A whisper, a facial expression, a look of sarcasm, of sorrow, of rage. They’ve made a diamond. A fucking diamond.
I’ve been slayed by Amanda Palmer several times over. But this. This might be the deepest she’s stuck the sword in. Holy shit. HOLY SHIT.
And now I cant’ wait to dive into the Reb Fountain’s discography because I’m a fan for life.
Here’s my conversation with Amanda. I didn’t leave anything out of her responses.
How did you feel sitting at the piano with Reb recording this?
AP: I’d only hung out with Reb five or six times before this recording session, but we were fast friends when we met. We’ve got a lot in common: indie females in our 40s, both of us have kids, and we are, we figured – no shit – actually distant cousins (we’re both from the clan MacKinnon from the Isle of Skye in Scotland…we haven’t yet figured out if we’re 5th cousins or 8th cousins or whatever, but we are RELATED). I’m a last-minute musician, and love the fast process, and Reb is a seasoned pro, so we agreed to work on the arrangement the night before at her house in Auckland, and keep working on it the next day at the studio before the first take….that was it. By the time we actually sat down to the piano, we did three takes total, and we were spent. And pretty sure we’d nailed it. In the end we decided to use the middle one – take two. But you can see the lyrics on the piano – we had barely done a full rehearsal of the song before recording it, so we had those “am I getting this right” jitters, since the arrangement was so fresh in our heads. Before every take started, I would squeeze Reb’s left hand in my right hand. Then I’d lift my hands to the piano and play the first chord. There was something so powerful about the whole process, and the fact that we were staring down the barrel of a man behind a camera, singing these words. I don’t think I’ve ever felt a performance with another person feel more subtly powerful. Reb’s got a real gravitas to her person. She doesn’t fuck around, and it was infectous. She’s a real revered indie treasure here in New Zealand, I was honored she said yes.
Did you know right then and there how spectacular this was going to be?
AP: Yeah, I think we did. Though you never know, with film. Even if you feel it, doesn’t mean the camera caught it. I’ve filmed a few music videos and really felt the emotional weight of the performance come out of my body, only to see the cut a month later and feel nothing because the lighting was terrible, or the sound was terrible, or there was something really distracting in the frame and nobody fixed it. Film is a real bitch that way. You gotta trust.
When the song ended what did you and Reb do? Cry? Hug? Drink? I can only imagine how intense that must have felt.
AP:Ha! We hugged really hard. And then we took the whole crew out for amazing Korean food down the street. They’d worked a really hard emotional day and it was nice to take the load off with some wine. It’s also important to point out that – like many things in my life lately – we made this video by the skin of our teeth. It was filmed on August 14th, when New Zealand was completely open, maskless and frollicking along, having had no covid for well over a year. Three days later, on August 17th, there was a confirmed case of Delta in the community and the whole country was given a 6-hour warning to completely lock down at home. We are still in that lockdown. I don’t know what it is about me and my cosmic-ass timing in New Zealand (I’m only here because I was touring three cities in mid-march 2020, and have stayed here indefinitely)…but there’s something going on. This could have so easily not happened.
Was there any doubt about using “Rape Me” for your part?
AP: Not really, although I never know with people. The concept was born out of a big social media and patreon post that a made a few months ago asking for people to list the best ironic sexist cover options they could think of, because I’d agreed to do Lizz Winstead’s #DoReMeToo fundraiser for Abortion Access Front. And the list was ENDLESS! THERE ARE SO MANY SEXIST SONGS!!! But I noticed a few people name “Rape Me” and that rubbed me the wrong way. As a songwriter who is often misunderstood and misinterpreted, I think Kurt Cobain would be rolling in his grave if he knew that the song – which came from a deeply feminist place in him – was ending up on a list of sexist songs. So I was a little worried that people would be dumb and literal…because people can be really dumb and literal. But luckily that doesn’t seem to have happened. Just wait a few days though. You’ll probably see a headline saying “10 REASONS AMANDA PALMER IS LITERALLY PROMOTING RAPE IN HER NEW MASH-UP” because people just like to be dumb on the internet, and clickbait is clickbait.
Now, please, stop what you’re doing. Really stop. Don’t be distracted. Steady yourself.
Here’s the “Blurred Lines + Rape Me” mashup by Amanda Palmer and Reb Fountain:
I’ve been trying for a few weeks to come up with the sentence to end all sentences to start this post with. I was hoping for something whip-smart, witty and brilliant.
Then I realized something: the damn sentence doesn’t matter. So let’s just forge ahead shall we because I’ve got a hell of a good story to tell. As someone with ADHD, telling stories briefly and in a concise, succinct way is damn near impossible. I ramble. I give too many details. I can’t seem to help myself. That said, I invite you to settle in because I think you’ll appreciate this story, even if Palmer is an artist you’re not familiar with.
The video is for the song “Voicemail for Jill.” It’s a track from Amanda Palmer’s new album “There Will Be No Intermission.” The album and video were released on the same day: Friday, March 8. As for the album on a whole: NBD. Just my FAVORITE ALBUM OF 2019. Read my review here. Oh and while you’re there by all means poke around as I’ve written about Amanda a bunch of times and also reviewed a Dresden Dolls show.
OK so the video. Although this post is about my experience of being part of said video, it is also my sincere hope that a key takeaway is HOW IMPORTANT THE SONG AND VIDEO ARE, especially now as attempts are being made all over the country to dismantle abortion rights. The struggle is not only real, it’s terrifying.
“Voicemail for Jill” (click if you’d like to listen to the song before forging further ahead, I’ll of course include the actual video at the end of this post) is about abortion – and supporting rather than shaming women who have them. Amanda’s been trying to write such a song for many years. The song is structured as Amanda leaving a voicemail message from London to her friend Jill on the morning of Jill’s abortion in Boston. The message offers support, love, friendship, empathy and even the promise of a party; an abortion shower. “Voicemail for Jill” isn’t hellbent on being a straight-up political song, it’s more, at least in my opinion, one that is focused on compassion. The song acknowledges that no one is happy about getting an abortion. It offers a lifeline to women who have felt alone, misunderstood, villainized, threatened and judged.
“You don’t need to offer the right explanation
You don’t need to beg for redemption or ask for forgiveness
And you don’t need a courtroom inside of your head
Where you’re acting as judge and accused and defendant and witness”
So we’re clear on how importance this song is right? OK.
Now I’m going to nerd out about being in the video.
First off, in addition to being a GIANT fan of Amanda’s, I am also one of her patrons. This means I kick in a little dough every month to support her making art. Patreon is a fantastic platform. For info click here.
I mention Patreon because membership has its perks, including being on the receiving end of casting call for the “Voicemail for Jill” video shoot that went out in early January.
The post included these words from Amanda: “This video – if i get it right – feels like it will be more than just a video, it will be a love letter, it will be a message in a bottle to women everywhere, it will be…a thing. i really, really, wanna get it right.”
I scanned the list of what the shoot was looking for and it was only when I came upon the last category that I dared to dream I could maybe get cast: Party Attendees. Requirements were this: All ethnicities, genders, personal clothing style, and body types. You will be being genial, happy, and having fun at a “party”.. possibly dancing, general nice frivolity. I had to email the video team a photo and a little bit about myself and then wait and see. I sat on this for a day or two. Then I gave myself permission to take a little risk and sent in my stuff. A couple of weeks later I got a response. I WAS IN! As you can imagine, I lost my mind with excitement. Me? In a music video? And not just ANY music video. AN AMANDA PALMER ONE. What the what? How can this be happening?
Then I started to worry. Not full scale panic, but a mid-range level of worry and all my worries were born out of massive insecurity.
Would I look dumb?
Would I look fat?
Would I be a zillion times less cooler than everyone else?
Would I screw up?
Would I make a fool of myself?
I sat with these thoughts long enough to remind myself of a key piece of information:
THIS ISN’T ABOUT ME. This is about creating art because art -in all its forms – is essential. So in a sense, I insecurity-shamed myself to, well… get over myself. I had to take all of that bullshit out of the equation. It tried to bite me a few more times, but I did my best to firmly (but with empathy) kick it to the curb.
The original day of shooting that included the party scene had to be rescheduled because the director got sick. Then my jury duty almost caused me having to miss the entire thing. But somehow, it all worked out and the next thing you know it’s Thursday, Feb. 7 and worked for for half the day before heading to Boston for the shoot. My friend and co-worker Sally, god love her, was in charge of my make-up. I own it but rarely wear it and am terrible at putting it on. Sal worked wonders. To be clear, wearing make-up was not required. But I figured fuck it, I may as well try and look good-ish. Eyeshadow, eye liner and mascara helped the cause. We were instructed to show up ready to go wearing what we might wear to a party. We were also told to bring a second option. It was up to the director what we’d end up wearing.
So I busted out one of my favorite items of clothing. It’s one that I rarely have occasion to wear, a burgundy colored velvet motorcycle jacket. I also busted out my EPIC pair of tall, dark red heeled leather boots that are the absolute BOMB, even if I can barely walk in them. I threw a few other things in a bag (as instructed) and then it was off to Boston (I drove in other footwear, lest anyone be worried about that). Said outfit can be seen in the photo below.
And when I say I was off to Boston, I don’t mean just ANY location. Holy shit, the party scene was shot on the top floor of the legendary CLOUD CLUB! If you’re a hardcore fan of Dresden Dolls and/or Amanda Palmer then you likely know what the Cloud Club is. If not, fear not, there’s a groovy website that will tell you everything you want to know. But the short version is that Cloud Club is a pair of side by side townhouses in Boston owned by Lee Barron who bought them in the 70s and founded an artist co-op like none other. And holy shit, Lee was there on video shoot night . Amanda Palmer has kept an apartment there since the late 90s. Want to take a massive walk down Cloud Club memory lane? Carve out some time for this. Or to go even further back, check out THIS. Cloud Club holds a huge amount of Dresden Dolls/Amanda Palmer history. If those walls could talk…(and frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they did).
Knowing that I was about to be granted access to this sacred locale was a trip all on its own to try wrap my head around.
One by one us party extras assembled outside Cloud Club at the appointed time. We were all big Amanda Palmer fans, some of us based in New England and a few from way further than that. One woman, Dianna, had come all the way from the west coast just to participate in the video shoot. She was literally in Boston for about 48 hours. That is impressively hardcore! We were let in by one and the nicest guy in the world named Eli who let us all use his first floor apartment as a greenroom/place to hang before it was time to head upstairs. During this pre-shoot time was when a woman named Jacque walked in. We had met and hung out at one of the three Dresden Dolls shows in Boston in November of 2017. I hadn’t seen her since and had no idea she was in the shoot yet there she was and this was both entirely fabulous and surprising yet not surprising at all. Things in the world of Amanda Palmer sometimes work in mysterious ways.
Now where was I? Oh yes, the first level of Cloud Club. This is where we first met the video’s director, Amber Sealey who could not have been any more welcoming. She also gave our outfits the once over and a few of us, including me, got asked to make a few modifications. Off went the black jeans and blue Taos boots and on went my retro blue patterned pants and yes…the red boots. In all, there were ten of us party extras and we all looked fab!
Climbing the stairs to the top level of Cloud Club I felt like ascending the stairs to another dimension. Said dimension isn’t all that different that the one we’re normally in. But there were a few key differences. In the Cloud Club dimension, the only tense that that mattered was the present. My past didn’t haunt me and the future felt vague. In the Cloud Club dimension I could spend actual time with one of my favorite musicians. And once I climbed that final step and was standing in the sanctuary that is the top floor of the Cloud Club, another realization struck me: This was really happening!
The top level of Cloud Club is the dream-like creation of Lee Barron and it’s the kind of place that once are in, you don’t want to leave. It’s magical, mystical, forest-like and you don’t feel like you’re in Boston. Narnia maybe. But not Boston or not anywhere you could ever find on a map.
Have you ever been in a music video? Me neither. I had no idea what to expect. I had to sign a “music video actor release” for god’s sake. And BTW, this was a paid gig!
I was immediately impressed with everyone involved from the director to the people handling cameras and dealing with lighting and people dealing with everything else that goes into an undertaking such as this. I may have not had anything to compare this to, but it sure as shit was a highly professional undertaking.
THANK GOD THERE WAS WINE. Though I’m more of a whisky girl, I have to say that the wine that was out both as a prop and for our enjoyment helped me immensely to loosen up. Despite my best efforts, I was nervous. This was all SO NEW to me. I appear on TV once a month to talk about upcoming concerts, I have a radio show and I host events from time to time. I’m not shy…usually. But this was a WHOLE OTHER THING. When I was a sophomore in high school I got a TINY part in a play. I had TWO lines and I forgot one of them. What the fuck was I doing in a music video? Even as a “party goer” extra surely I was going to massively fail. More wine, please. But I reminded myself: this was about helping to MAKE ART, not about my bullshit insecurity.
Amber started to talk to us about what was going to happen, how it was all going to go down. She instructed yours truly walk across the room and start talking to another party goer. Other people were given loose direction and we were all told to not look at the camera.
I don’t follow directions well. I had a physical therapist once tell me (lovingly, he was great) that I was a motor moron. I also realized there would be scenes that we’d be dancing in (which, HELLO, was clearly stated in the casting call). Oh god. What had I gotten myself into? But wait. The art! Remember the art, I told myself. We forged ahead.
At some point, I can’t remember the exact moment because there was a lot going on, Amanda joined us and talked to us for a bit. I’ve been a giant fan of hers for many years and as a journalist I’ve interviewed her and written about her for the Portland Press Herald newspaper as well as this music blog. But until this point I had never had anything resembling a substantial face to face conversation with her. Said another way, she didn’t know who the hell I was. There was no reason why she would. I had never hung around after a show to get something signed. In the fall of 2017 she walked up the steps of a Harvard Square church where an event she was part of was happening and I was the only person there in line at the moment and she asked me what door I thought she should go in. Even then I didn’t actually say hello or introduce myself. It’s not so much that I was starstruck (and trust me, I can be starstruck. Read my piece about meeting Bono for proof) it’s just, I don’t know, I just never wanted to engage in a quick, meaningless exchange with the likes of Amanda. But I don’t know, scanning my memory now surely I may have said hello when Dresden Dolls played at a Bull Moose record store in Maine about a million years ago? I guess it doesn’t matter. The point is that here was a unique opportunity that might actually permit at least snippets of real conversation in a non-rushed, non meet & greet and non fan-meeting-artist setting.
So when the moment to say hello was in front of me, I did indeed introduce myself and it came as no surprise that Amanda was super cool about it. She put two and two together that I was Aimsel Ponti of Aimsel on the Record. Over the course of the next few hours in between shots and such, we had little moments, like bonding over The Cure. But, and this part is an essential one, for the most part it just felt normal. Well I mean as normal as being in a video shoot can be. We were all part of a production which was on a time schedule and there was work to be done. Said another way: this wasn’t social hour, we all had jobs to do. Any “fun” as far as I’m concerned was a bonus. Little did I know what would ensue.
During the entire shoot, mostly 80s alternative music was being played. They were of course just shooting video so the audio didn’t matter. In fact, us party goer extras hadn’t even heard “Voicemail for Jill” at the time the shoot was happening. That would come later in a very unexpected way. Hold that thought.
Kate Adams, who portrayed Jill, had also arrived and she was lovely. We were into it now. This was happening. Scenes were being shot. Conversations were happening around the room. Different things were happening. It was all being filmed. I didn’t really know where the cameras were. It almost didn’t matter.
For one scene Amber had us all sit in a circle, some in chairs and some on the floor, in the corner of the room. It was the ten of us, plus Amanda with Kate in middle. The scene involved a sheet cake, after all this was an abortion shower. As Amanda put it so goddamn perfectly with epic timing: it was not a birthday cake, it was not a birthday party. Zing!
The scene involved clinking glasses, eating cake and showing the Jill character a whole lot of love. But the scene also involved something else, something that will always stay with me. Amber said she was going to point to a few of us and ask us to share something personal. The first person called upon, and I won’t say whom because it was indeed quite personal, shared that her son had died about five years ago from a drug overdose. She was, as you can imagine, quite emotional when speaking about her son and this of course made all of us quite emotional. It was rough. But it was honest. Then Amber asked someone else to share and in that moment, I prayed to god that I wasn’t going to get called on. Me, who loves to talk and loves the spotlight, didn’t want to say one word. I was teetering on the edge of full blown tears and I don’t even know why. I felt that had I been called on I would have burst out crying without explanation or gone the other way and made some dumb joke. Thankfully, I wasn’t called on. I think in all three people shared and it all got quite real in a hurry.
From there we were moved to the center of the room and dancing happened. I had just enough wine in me to do as I was told and it was REALLY FUN. Then we were told to all draw in close for the mother of all group hugs with Kate in the middle.
When the shoot officially wrapped it occurred to Amanda that we should probably hear the song, “Voicemail for Jill.” We of course thought this was an excellent idea. But it wasn’t mean to be. It kept cutting out and the issue couldn’t be resolved.
Get ready. Because you won’t believe what happened next. I still can’t. Amanda made a quick, executive decision and we all marched down two flights of stairs into HER ACTUAL APARTMENT. Crammed into the kitchen with a different audio set-up, Amanda again tried to play us the song. Nope. It still wasn’t working correctly.
Are you ready for this next part?
Amanda had us all move over into the room off the kitchen. This room was full of all sorts of Dresden Dolls stuff (cds, merchandise, etc). But there was something else of note in that room: a baby grand piano. She was going to play the song live for us. Her goddess-of-all-things assistant Hayley Rosenblum pulled up the lyrics for Amanda on a phone and Amanda sat down and played it. I happened to be at a spot where I was literally standing inches from part of the piano. A few times during the song, I closed my eyes and put my palm on top of it to feel the vibrations. I’ve never done or experienced anything like that before. Not to mention the fact that “Voicemail for Jill” is beautiful and emotional and powerful and tear-inducing.
I’ve been around the sun a few times. I’ve had more than my fair share of to-die-for experiences both as a music journalist and as a fan but I gotta tell you, this was a whole other thing.
When it was time to leave about six of us repaired to a bar around the corner just to hang for a bit and chat. I for one couldn’t quite process what had just happened over the past few hours but I for sure wasn’t ready to let the evening end. I think everyone felt that way. Contact info was exchanged and some of us are still in touch and it’s lovely.
This was all in early February. A month later the video was released. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it would be something quite special. I fully expected the party scene to only be featured for a fleeting second but it was actually in there for a longer period of time than I thought. I didn’t know if I would see myself (or would even want to) but there I am, I think for three different moments (and to be clear, these moments are super quick).
Most of the video is of Jill’s character hooking up with the man, sleeping with him, arguing with him and then walking through Boston on the way to her abortion appointment. You don’t need me to narrate it for you, just watch it. It’s stunning and intense. I can’t believe they turned it around in a month. Amber Sealey and everyone involved in the production of the “Voicemail for Jill” video is a goddamn hero in my book.
I’m going to share again what Amanda had said before the video was made: “This video – if i get it right – feels like it will be more than just a video, it will be a love letter, it will be a message in a bottle to women everywhere, it will be…a thing. i really, really, wanna get it right.” Amanda, Amber, Kate, everyone, you sure did get it right. I’m in awe of this video. In absolute awe of it. Being even just a tiny part of it is something I’m proud of, even if I still can’t believe it happened.
I think I’ve said everything I need to say.
Clear your head for a moment.
Here’s “Voicemail for Jill”
Amber Sealey (Director), Matt Crum (Cinematographer), Stefanie Sparks (Producer), Jesse Epstein(Producer), Patrick Nelson Barnes (Editor) and Matt Crum (Colorist). A complete list of cast and crew appears in the description of the YouTube clip.
“The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.”
+ Anaïs Nin
Amanda Palmer’s latest album “There Will Be No Intermission” comes out on March 8 which coincides, by design, with International Women’s Day.
I’ve had it since February 9 and as I figure out what I want to say about it I can tell you -and I’m not making this up – that I’ve easily listened to the entire album (all 74 minutes) at least 50 times. Paraphrasing my own comment that I made on Palmer’s Patreon page (I’ve been proud Patron of hers since 2017), I feel spellbound, hypnotized and pretty obsessed with “There Will Be No Intermission.”
I hear the songs in my head even when I’m not listening to it. That’s the thing about art, sometimes it’s like being struck by lightning and it changes you. Sometimes you’re ready for this and sometimes you’re not and you have to kind of take shelter and hide from its impact. Art can hurt. Art can be traumatic to experience. It can stir shit up for you in a way that you never knew was possible. Art can do a real knife-twisting number on you if you let it.
Such is the case with “There Will Be No Intermission.” It has turned me inside-out. It’s like Amanda Palmer performed open-heart surgery on every emotion I’ve got. “There Will Be No Intermission” has challenged me to contemplate some pretty heavy things in my life. It has made me uncomfortable and caught me off guard. It has made me feel deep sorrow. But, and this is the biggest but I’ve uttered in a long time, “There Will Be No Intermission” has also made my heart grow about 17 sizes bigger. It has filled with me immeasurable joy. It has loosened some things up for me, kind of like a deep tissue massage for the soul. God forgive me for the “Jerry Maguire” reference but TWBNI had me at hello, from the first few strains of the Jherok Bischoff-helmed instrumental track “All The Things” that opens the album. And it kept me enthralled until the final nano-second of the closing track “Death Thing.”
My initial thoughts after the first listening of the record was a combination of “what the fuck did I listen listen to?” and “this is my favorite album of the year without question.”
When the album ended after that first time hearing it, I needed to hang back for a bit and collect myself, like, say, after a particularly intense therapy session. When that feeling dissipated enough my next move revealed itself: I needed to listen to the album again (and again, and again and again). And that’s exactly what I’ve done over these past few weeks at home, at work and in the car. Sure I’ve listened to other things as well of course but if too much time passed between listenings I’d feel myself get a little twitchy and would dive back in. I’m still doing that.
As a longtime fan of Palmer’s, I’m well aware that no topic is off limits and there’s rarely a filter. But nothing could have prepared me for “There Will Be No Intermission.” It was, in a sense, like agreeing to a trust fall. Would I be caught by loving hands or dropped on the ground like a bag of old bones, wounded and alone? The answer is of course both. But, like my friend Nina said to me many years ago, if passion brings pain, that is the price of living well. And for every emotional cut and bruise I endured with these songs, the salve was always Palmer’s sincerity with her lyrics, vocals and playing. Said another way, I was made to feel safe and bathed in light as she led me over and through some dark and formidable terrain. Amanda Palmer has laid herself completely bare (both literally and figuratively as she’s nude on the album cover) with this album. “There Will Be No Intermission” is a no holds-barred manifesto that has eaten me alive and spit me out feeling better – and stronger – than I was before I heard it.
“There Will Be No Intermission” has twenty tracks. Ten of them are gorgeous inter-song instrumentals with the brilliant Jherek Bischoff on double-bass, sub bass synth, cymbals and bass drums. And there’s also, cellos, violins, violas, vibraphone and glockenspiel from a wondrous cast of players. The album opening “All The Things” is delicate and haunting with an air of suspense. It has a calming effect like a cup of chamomile tea. But it’s like you’re feeling your way around the back of the wardrobe and light starts to pour through the cracks and you’re not really sure if you’ll end up in Narnia or the ninth ring of hell. All of the inter-songs reference other songs on the album. They’re the intricate embroidery that not so much hold the album together but add another layer of grace and beauty to it.
And then there are the ten songs…
It took me several days to figure out how to talk about them. Then I gave myself a frustration headache because still, after all these years on this planet, I still get “objective” and “subjective” confused no matter how many times I try to get it through my apparently quite thick skull. Writing 101. And yet here I am.
So I’m going to do the only thing that makes sense: I’ll tell you how the songs made me feel and will throw in some other relevant info as needed. But before I do that, I’ll also toss it out there that Palmer’s vocals and playing (both ukelele and especially piano) are the best they’ve ever been.
So here’s this:
Aimsel’s Unofficial Field Guide to “There Will Be No Intermission”
“The Ride.” Palmer. Wait. Hold up. Screw the conventional journalistic style of using last name after the first reference. That rings hollow in this context. We cool? OK. Amanda wrote this one in 36 hours after spending several hours reading comments on a Patreon post what were in response to her asking her patrons to tell her what they were afraid of. And, long (and super incredible) story short, a couple of days later she recorded the song in one take and sent a private link to the video that was filmed of her playing it to her Patrons. I remember being absolutely leveled by it. In fact, I just watched that ten-minute clip again. Yep. Still leveled. And I was leveled again when I saw that the she decided to tackle it again when recording TWBNI.
“The climb to the crest is less frightening with someone to clutch you
But isn’t it nice when we’re all afraid at the same time?”
Amanda uses a roller-coaster metaphor to talk about fear and life and connection and “The Ride” infuses me with hope, especially in this time of an insane White House occupant among other more-than-I-can-bear things going on right now. We’re all alone in this world. Except when we’re not. “The Ride” reminds me of the latter.
“Drowning In the Sound.” Amanda wrote it during a two-day songwriting exercise and she drew some of its inspiration from solicited comments on Patreon. “It wound up being a response to the insanity of internet politics melded with the recent total eclipse and the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and, you know, other stuff,” wrote Amanda on her site about the track. I’ve had my fingers crossed from the moment I heard it that it would end up on the album. “If you can hear/If you’re around/I’m over here/I’m over here/I’m watching everyone I love/drowning in the sound.” The version on TWBNI is bigger and better which I feel weird even saying because that original take is so, so good.
“The Thing About Things.” This one first surfaced, at least in a recorded version, in 2015 yet somehow managed to slip through my cracks (and I call myself a fan!). So it was new to me and although I’ve now gone back and listened to that first version, I fell in love with the TWBNI one. Amanda, playing her ukelele, sings about the complexities of certain possessions, in particular a stolen, lost and then found ring that belonged to her grandfather. “The thing about things is that they can start meaning things nobody actually said/and if you’re not allowed to love people alive then you learn how to love people dead.” This one hit me hard because I cling to certain objects with an irrational sense of nostalgia and have slowly started to loosen my death grip on them. (But don’t anyone mess with the monkey doll named Bosco that my grandfather gave me when I was five). The song is heart-rending and yet cathartic, a hallmark of my favorite Amanda songs.
“Judy Blume.” Amanda wrote this one about one her writer heroes, Judy Blume! This one first saw the light of the day last year and the video to it, is well, shit you GOTTA see it so here click here. Judy Blume’s books were most certainly in my childhood wheelhouse but even if you’re not familiar with Blume’s work, the song is a lovely and certainly painfully accurate portrait of being a pre-teen (I can’t bring myself to officially say the word “tween”) and teenage girl. Amanda’s vocals capture that anguish and her words make several Blume book references. “I don’t remember my friends from gymnastics class/but i remember when Deenie was at the school dance/Buddy feeling her up in the locker room/Margaret bored counting hats in the synagogue.”
“Bigger On The Inside.” I think this one kills me the most of all the songs on this album. This is the cry ugly, uncontrollable tears song. It’s also the first song Amanda ever released on her Patreon, back in 2015 and it featured cellist Zoë Keating. The song is about a TON of stuff that had been going on in and around Amanda’s life, most of which was extremely difficult. There’s also a live version from 2013. The TWBNI version clocks in at 8 minutes and 29 seconds and it’s exactly as long as it needs to be. “You took my hand when you woke up/I had been crying in the darkness/We all die alone but I am so, so glad/That you are here.”
“Machete.” Amanda originally released “Machete” as a demo in 2016. There’s a compelling backstory on this one that’s worth diving into (as is the case with many of Amanda’s songs) so dive in when you can. “Machete” is frantic and huge and Amanda’s vocals damn near reach caterwaul level as she sings the line toward the end of it “So I took your machete and I sliced off your hand!” Strings come crashing in all around like they’re on acid and it’s goddamn glorious. I can’t wait to hear this one live in Boston next month.
“Voicemail For Jill.” Amanda has written a song about abortion that offers understanding, empathy, compassion, support and solace to any woman who was gone through the experience of having one while also giving the rest of us women, or for that matter humans, some insight into that private world. The song has a quiet urgency to it. It puts words to the fact that support can be hard (if not impossible) to come by for women who have had abortions . Several women have already shared online how much this song means to them.
“You don’t need to offer the right explanation
You don’t need to beg for redemption or ask for forgiveness
And you don’t need a courtroom inside of your head
Where you’re acting as judge and accused and defendant and witness
There’s a video dropping for “Voicemail For Jill” on album release day (March 8) and I’m going to have a lot to say about that in a separate post so stay tuned for that.
Update: In an unexpected twist of fate, I ended up IN THE VIDEO for “Voicemail for Jill.”
Read all about that experience here.
“A Mother’s Confession.” This is one of the most intimate songs I’ve ever heard from Amanda. Amanda and her husband, writer Neil Gaiman, have a three year old son named Anthony (Ash for short). “A Mother’s Confession” at nearly 11 minutes long is a fiercely honest portrait of parenting fuck-ups including unintentional shoplifting, speeding tickets and accidentally leaving the baby in the car. But it’s not just that. “A Mother’s Confession” also bursts with little moments of human connection and there’s a multi-voiced chorus at the end of the track singing a line that’s repeated throughout the song: “At least the baby didn’t die.” It gives the song just a pinch of levity, enough to make it all the more accessible and real.
“Look Mummy, No Hands” is the only song on the album that Amanda didn’t write. It was written by British actress, singer and comedian Dillie Keane. Keane is part of the comedy cabaret trio Fascinating Aida and “Look Mummy, No Hands” is on their 1997 album “It, Wit, Don’t Give a Shit Girls.” The song is a melancholy tinged and is about, I suppose, the shifting dynamics between mother and daughter. Palmer has been playing it live for several years and there’s also a version on the 2013 album “An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer.” I’m pleased as punch that “Look Mummy, No Hands” was recorded for TWBNI because there’s an ache in Amanda’s voice as she’s singing it that gives me chills and has me picturing the song being sung by a woman at a piano in a dingy bar that she thinks is empty. But unknown to the woman, there’s someone in the corner sobbing into their long empty whiskey glass. Is that someone me? Is it you? Is it all of us?
“Death Thing.” I said that “Bigger on the Inside” kills me more than any other song on “There Will Be No Intermission” but now I’m not so sure because I’m sitting here crying (again) while listening to “Death Thing.” If death is a hard topic for you to think about (it’s brutal for me) this song might take your breath away, as it does mine. The song builds and builds upon itself. I am not going to quote any of the lyrics, my instinct is telling me not to. “Death Thing” closes out “There Will Be No Intermission” because it had to. It was the only one that could. Sometimes we, as humans, are able to hold it all in and keep our emotions at arms length where they can’t do any real damage. There have been several times over the past three weeks that I’ve been able to maintain that distance when listening to “Death Thing.” But there have been a few times, like tonight, when the song rips my heart wide open, not to destroy it, but rather to hold it close.
I don’t know if you’re an Amanda Palmer fan or if you’ve never heard of her. I also don’t know if “There Will Be No Intermission” is going to resonate with you like it has with me. Some of these songs might take you to places you don’t want to go with their unflinching lyrics. But they’re also some of the most provocative, beautiful, honest and empowering songs I’ve ever heard. Do me one favor and promise me this: If this album isn’t your bag, go out there and find one that is. That is my wish for you: To find some music that touches you in the way that this album touches me.
“I want you to think of me sitting and singing beside you,” sings Amanda in “The Ride.”
“There Will Be No Intermission” album notes:
Produced, mixed and engineered by John Congleton.
Recorded at 54 Sound in Los Angeles
Mixed at Elmwood West
Mastered by Greg Calibi at Sterling Sound in New York
All songs written by Amanda Palmer, published by Eight Foot Music with the exception of “Look Mummy, No Hands,” written by Dillie Keane
I’ll start by saying that as soon as I hit the almighty “publish” button on this thing I’m going to start twitching and a wall of angst will close in around me as I’ll suddenly remember all of the incredible songs I left off of this list.
As someone who wears a few hats as a music journalist, radio host and music blogger I am inundated with new music in a way that I can’t even begin to keep up with. This causes me equal parts joy and stress. But here’s the good news: I’m not going to let that stop me from sharing this year’s crop of songs because this list comes from an honest place and one of sheer joy.
Some of these songs are from artists I am a hardcore fan of, others are ones I’m just getting to know. But they’re all songs that I have mad love and respect for and ones that have moved me to tears, made me dance, raise my fist in the air and most of all, experience the range of emotions that can only be elicited from music.
I started working on this list in January and every time a strong struck me in just the right way, I added to it. A few came in just under the proverbial wire (I’m looking at you, SHEL and Dido) and in some cases, there are two songs from the same artist because I couldn’t help myself.
I’m now going to sit and write out this list and if I have something specific to say about a song on it, I’ll say it. In some cases I may share a photo and/or video. These songs are not are in any particular order. I love all of these songs for different reasons and with different parts of my heart, mind and soul.
So we’re good on the disclaimers front right?
OK then. With a mixture of nerves, excitement and above all love I offer up my list of the 43 best songs of 2018!
1. “Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now” by Amanda Palmer & Jasmine Power. I had a lot to say about this song and video. Amanda Palmer is many things to me including hero, spirit animal, source of huge inspiration, incredible songwriter and all around spectacular human. Take your time with this song and this video. (btw, video is NSFW).
2. “Heroin” by Lucy Wainwright Roche. Holy shit.I could easily put the entire “Little Beast” album on this list. Tremendous record. Do yourself a favor and check out”Little Beast” and LWR’s previous stuff too.
3. “Party of One” by Brandi Carlile. First off, I’m THRILLED beyond words that Carlile got SIX Grammy Nominations! “By The Way, I Forgive You” is among my absolute favorite records of the year. And yeah, ‘The Joke’ is epic. But it’s the song “Party of One” that REALLY kills me on the album. It straight up makes me cry. I saw Carlile many times in 2018 and the song brought me to tears in Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Colorado. BTW, I interviewed Carlile a few months ago. Read it here. Also, I reviewed “By The Way, I Forgive You.” And while I’m at it, here’s my review of her show at Red Rocks in August. She’s also a huge part of my review of the 2018 Newport Folk Festival. I guess you could say I’m a big fan. How big? This kid is going on the Girls Just Wanna Weekend Mexico trip in January. (and yep, I’ll be writing about it here).
Also, HOLY SHIT. A video for the song starring Elisabeth Moss was dropped on Dec. 11. I can’t even…
4.“Dreamers” by Judy Collins. I saw Collins sing this live in Portland (Maine) a few months back and I sat there in stunned silence, tears rolling down my face such is its impact. One of the most important songs of 2018 hands down. “Dreamers” is written from the perspective of an immigrant woman and it’s a poignant, emotional song of stark desperation with some “fuck you, Trump” in there as well (in not so many words). It’s just the famous, timeless vocals of Collins, no instruments. Ready yourself and click here.
5.“Halls of Sarah” by Neko Case. Case’s “Hell-On” is another one on my very short list of favorite albums of 2018. This woman can do no wrong in my book. That voice! That songwriting! “Halls of Sarah” is a goddamn spectacular song off of a goddamn spectacular record. P.S. Follow Case on Twitter. She takes no shit and it’s glorious.
6.“Good As Gold” by Sarah Shook & the Disarmers. From the “Years” album. I’ve got a mad crush of Shook and am still in discovery mode with her whiskey drinkin’ outlaw country sound. I’m pissed I haven’t seen she and her band live yet but I have feeling that will change in 2019. So yeah, “Good As Gold.” Love at first listen. Catchy AF.
7.“Famous” by Serena Ryder (featuring Simon Ward of The Strumbellas). As far as singing along with a huge, gorgeous melody goes, it doesn’t get much better than this one. I’ve been addicted to this song since I first heard it months ago on WCLZ. “Famous” makes me happy.
8.“Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You” by Sheryl Crow (featuring Annie Clark). I mean it’s Sheryl Crow with St. Vincent for god’s sake. I ain’t got nuthin’ else to say about this mighty fine song. Just listen.
9.“Such A Simple Thing” by Ray LaMontagne. Lest you think there wasn’t gonna be any fellas on this list. I know a beautiful song when I hear one. This song is a million percent lovely.
10.“I Can Change” by Lake Street Dive. My oh my what a song. I adore this band. Had a chance to chat with singer Rachael Price last summer. Not only is the song a tender ballad that will hit you in the feels, the video is pretty special too.
11. “City Looks Pretty” by Courtney Barnett. From her scorching album “Tell Me How You Really Feel.” Interviewed Barnett this summer and saw her explosive yet all smiles set at Newport Folk Festival. She’s the absolute bomb and “City Looks Pretty” is but one example.
12.“Diamonds” by JanaeSound. JanaeSound’s real name is Janay Woodruff and she lives right here in Maine. This is my favorite local song of the year and I’ve all but worn it out on my Music from 207 local radio show on WCLZ. I also wrote about her. We’re lucky to have her in Maine. “Diamonds” is sacred to me and it’s got heart and inspiration to spare.
13.“Fruity” by Rubblebucket. I love this song because it’s fun, vibrant and full of surprises. Saw the band open for Lake Street Dive last summer and they were fabulous. Dig “Fruity!”
14. “Strangers” by Katie Herzig. The song is from the sensational album “Moment of Bliss” and Katie Herzig is a wildly talented and innovative artist. Here’s our chat from April and here’s “Strangers.”
15. “The Things We Do to Each Other” by Cowboy Junkies. Somehow I managed to forget how much I LOVE this band. But I fell back in love big-time upon hearing their “All That Reckoning” album and seeing them live at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH last summer. Just so happens I recorded their jaw-dropping take on Bowie’s “Five Years”. I digress. Check out the entire “All That Reckoning” album when you can. In the meantime, here’s “The Things We Do To Each Other.”
16. “Parking Lot Pirouette” by Amanda Shires. Her exquisite album is called “To The Sunset.” Just listen to this moody tune. Jesus.
17. “Never Surrender” by Rose Cousins. You’re damn right I mean a cover of the 80s Corey Hart song. Rose Cousins has taken the already powerful song (there, I said it) and turned it into something truly remarkable. Among the best damn covers I’ve ever heard of any song. So if you’re lost and on your own…listen to this!
18. “All This Time” by Katie Herzig. Yep, she made the list again. This is my favorite “Moment of Bliss” track. Why? Hear for yourself.
19. “Me & My Dog” by Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus as boygenuis. The three of them released an EP together under the name boygenius and it’s insanely good. They’re all SO GOOD on their own. Together it’s almost more than I can stand as evidenced by “Me & My Dog.”
20. “Broken Headlights” by Roscoe & Etta. Roscoe & Etta is the dynamic duo of singer-songwriters Maia Sharp and Anna Schulze. They made an album together and I love it start to finish. Saw them this summer in Portland, Maine and they were all that. “Broken Headlights” is the album’s first single.
21. “Fireworks” by First Aid Kit. From their “Ruins” album. In a word: SWOON! Also, here’s my interview with Klara Söderberg and my review of their February show in Boston. And most importantly, here’s the dreamy “Fireworks.”
22. “Spark, Set Fire” by The Western Den. They’re the Boston duo of Deni Hlavinka and Chris West and they’re a very recent discovery for me. If “Spark, Set Fire” is any indication, I have a very good feeling we’re gonna get along just fine.
23. “Don’t Let Go” by Tiny Deaths. The album is called “Magic” and it most certainly is. I listened to it several times through during a road trip a few months ago and love it. Tiny Deaths is the dream-pop duo of vocalist Claire De Lune and producer Grant Cutler. Fun fact, the song “Oceans” was one of my favorite songs of 2016. I’m still obsessed with it. But let’s focus on the “Magic” album and this effin’ great song “Don’t Let Go.”
24. “The River” by KT Tunstall. Scottish singer-songwriter K.T. Tunstall released her sixth studio album called “Wax” in October. I’m savoring each track, including “The River.”
25. “423” by Roscoe & Etta. I simply HAD to include another one from the Roscoe & Etta album. Love the imagery and Sharp and Schulze’s vocals together. And the refrain is spectacular, but in your head say another word for spectacular because I use it too much. Behold: “423.”
26. “Venice Bitch” by Lana Del Rey. Truth be told, I only know a handful of Lana Del Rey songs and I love them all. As for this one, you GOTTA love the “fresh out of fucks forever” line. Also, I LOVE that this song clocks in at just under ten minutes. Dig it.
27. “The Wanderer” by Emilie Mover. Mover, out of Toronto, is another artist on this list that I didn’t know about until about five minutes ago. But I do know that this single, a cover of the early 60’s Dion song “The Wanderer” is swoon-worthy. I’m confident you’ll agree.
28. “Django” by Janelle Monáe featuring Zoe Kravitz. First of all, and you don’t need me to tell you this, the entire “Dirty Computer” album is an absolute banger. Second of all, the song gives a shout out to Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues.” So you’re damn right that “Django Jane” is on this list.
29. “Fine With the Dark” by Amy Ray. Ray’s latest solo album is called “Holler” and it’s extraordinary. Any number of songs could have made this list but at the moment I’m all about “Fine With the Dark.”
30. “Fugitive” by Indigo Girls. The song first appeared on their 1994 studio album “Swamp Ophelia” and is in my top five list of favorite songs by the duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. So why is the song on this list? Because a double live album was released earlier this year of Indigo Girls live with The University of Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Here’s my review. Anyway…when I heard the symphony version of “Fugitive” I wept and cheered and pretty much lost my mind. Just when I thought I couldn’t love a song anymore, Indigo Girls hit me (and the world) with THIS.
31. “Wild One” by I’m With Her.I’m With Her is the trio of Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan and Sara Watkins. After a few songs here and there over the past couple of years the debut full-length album “See You Around” was released in February. I chose “Wild One” for this list because it makes me entirely sad and happy and their voices together destroy me.
32. “The Night That Bowie Died” by KT Tunstall. Another track from “Wax.” I’m still not over losing Bowie and when I saw his name in this song title I steeled myself and put my headphones on. The reward was huge.
33. “Are We Good?” by Eleanor Friedberger. From her 2018 album “Rebound.” I can’t remember when I first heard this song as I scan the past 12 months but listening to it again as I write this I remember why I stuck it on this list. Maybe I got a press release about it? Delivery mechanism doesn’t matter, the song is excellent. Lend an ear.
34. “Neon Prayer Flags” by The Wind and The Wave. From their latest album “Human Beings Let You Down.” All I know is that I can’t get enough of Patty Lynn’s voice. She and musical partner Dwight Baker have a fantastic thing going with this band. Plus, the song talks about therapy so of course I love it.
35. “Some Kind of Window” by Rachael Yamagata. Rachael’s one of my favorite singers on the planet and she surprised us all with the release of a seemingly-out-of-nowhere EP called “Porch Songs” a couple of months ago. There are five songs on it and they all put me into emotional orbit. I chose “Some Kind of Window” because the lines “I don’t know where my will has gone, I never felt so shut down before” are effin’ fantastic and Yamagata sings them in a profound, soul-searing way. Just listen!
36. “Black Monday” by Neneh Cherry. I’ll be honest, I haven’t really kept up with Cherry’s career. I’m lame. Up until this point I pretty much only knew her now 30-year-old hit “Buffalo Stance.” But then one fine I got wind of her latest album “Broken Politics” and I guess I got wind at the exact moment that I actually had time to listen to it. Wow. It’s going to knock your socks entirely off. Her vocals are to die-for. I’m still getting to know the album but “Black Monday” sure as shit made my list.
37. “Follow Me Home” by SHEL. It was love at first listen with the four mesmerizing Holbrook sisters back in 2016. Since then I’ve seen them in a Tennessee cave, at a festival in North Carolina and a festival in Colorado. Their latest project is scoring the new Catherine Zeta-Jones Facebook Watch series “Queen America.” Out of that came the song “Follow Me Home,” released a little over a week ago. I have a heart attack every time a press release arrives with SHEL in the subject line and this was no exception. Listen to the song and fall under the SHEL spell.
38.”Extralife” by Darlingside. Pleased as punch to report that I FINALLY saw them live a week ago and they were dreamy and I was transfixed. I’ve adored Darlingside for a couple of years and the adoration grew all the more with the release of their album “Extralife.” The title track made my list because when I listen to it I leave my body and float up to 60s folk heaven. Here it is.
39.”Hurricanes” by Dido. Cause …want to thank her… for releasing her first album since 2013. Well technically it’s not out quite yet. “Still on My Mind” is set for a March 2019 release BUT the first single “Hurricanes” was shared with the world on the 12th of November and it’s lovely and lush and well heck, just listen.
40. “Right Down the Line” by Lucius. Yes indeed I mean a cover of the 1978 Gerry Rafferty hit. It’s one of ten tracks on the “Nudes” album, released in March. The indie-pop quartet of singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, guitarist Casey Foubert and drummer John Dion can do no wrong in my book. I got hip to them in 2013 and everything they’ve done since then has been fantastic. I was lucky enough to see them last year with Roger Waters. Holy shit. Anyway, “Nudes” is an acoustic album of new stuff, old stuff and some covers including their marvelous take on “Right Down the Line.”
41. “Blue Again” by Weakened Friends. I do sometimes like to rock out. Weakened Friends is the Portland, Maine trio of singer-guitarist Sonia Sturino, bass player Annie Hoffman and drummer Cam Jones. They just won a Boston Music Award for Alt/Indie artist of the year. YEAH! “Blue Again” is from their tremendous debut full-length album “Common Blah.”
42. “Social Life” by Armies. Because it’s commentary on social media is blistering and spot-on. Also, I’m all about the vocals of Dave Gutter and Anna Lombard. “Social Life” is from the band’s second album “Armies II.” They’re a Maine act but do all sorts of cool stuff all over the place. There’s a video coming at some point for the song that was filmed at the album release show a few months ago (I was there). For now, take a listen to “Social Life.”
43. “Only Lonely” by The Ballroom Thieves. The Ballroom Thieves is the trio of Martin Earley, Devin Mauch and Calin Peters. OMG I love this band. I even bought a necklace Martin made at a show a couple of years ago. I also love the fact that they now call Maine home. “Only Lonely” will have you at the first chill howl. It’s from their “Paper Crown” EP. Enjoy.
So as to not bury the lede let me say right off the bat that Amanda Palmer released a video yesterday to what I’ve already said I think is the most important song of 2018: “Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now.”
And in breaking news, I interviewed her via email about the video, the response to it and how fucked up everything feels right now.
But let me do this right and lay it all out for you. I’ve been working on this off and on all day, starting early this morning and twelve hours later I’m ready to hit “publish.”
Hi. It’s late morning on Saturday, October 6, 2018 as I start this post and a lot of stuff went down yesterday. Not since the day Trump was elected in 2016 have I felt such politically-charged emotion. But it goes WAY beyond that and I know many of you are right there with me. Never as a woman and as a human have I felt more offended, insulted, dismissed, disappointed and hopeless. Holy shit. But hold that thought for a second.
Now it’s 4:45 in the afternoon and I just watched the senate vote to confirm Kavanaugh and it’s like knowing someone is going to die but then when it actually happens it still hurts just as much. You can’t really be prepared can you?
By the way, this is indeed a music blog and we’ll get there because OMFG the video of “Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now” was one of things that happened yesterday and it’s the reason why I’m writing now. But I’ve got to set the scene first because it very much feeds into my response to said video and why I think it’s so important for as many people as possible to see it.
Here’s where I’m at:
I 100% believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Her bravery is remarkable. I, like many of you, watched in horror, expected horror, but horror just the same, as Senator Susan Collins (from Maine where I live) spent 45 minutes saying she didn’t believe Dr. Ford. When she finally ended her “speech” I started to shake and teetered on the edge of a teary tantrum. Later today is the official vote, otherwise known as the final nail in the coffin of not believing victims of sexual assault with the added bonus of having reproductive freedom potentially jeopardized when Kavanaugh gets on that bench. Meanwhile, POTUS took it upon himself to make a grotesquely erroneous comment via Twitter recently about trauma and how it impacts memory. Then he straight up mocked Dr. Ford’s testimony a few days ago at a rally. HE MOCKED HER. Over the past ten days or so I have read countless stories that women have shared about being sexually assaulted. Some of these women are friends of mine. I’ve read and heard stories of women I know who were raped and didn’t report it for fear of not being believed and for fear of it bringing shame to their family and for many other reasons. My heart has been shattered. All of ours have been. I feel unprecedented anger and acute helplessness and it all sucks tremendously. While I’m at it let me add that in my opinion, #metoo is NOT a movement. It’s a reckoning. I’m starting to cringe when I hear it referred to as a “movement” even by allies because “movement” is not nearly strong enough of a word. “Movement” feels way too temporary. Reckoning is better but I’m not sure if that is even strong enough. Revolution is getting closer to the marker. #metoo revolution. Now that’s more like it. I know, this is really just a matter of semantics. But still…
I am woman hear me roar and watch me revolt.
Despite everything, I am able to find moments of peace and hope because there’s a huge sense of “we’re in this together,” especially, of course, among women. There’s a huge feeling of “we’re not gonna take this anymore” and we’re all figuring out strategies in our own ways. But my god, this hurts. My heart breaks for Dr. Ford. It breaks for everyone who has relived past traumas because there’s been a mine field of triggers.
What else? So much. Too much.
What next? Everything.
We will march. We will protest (and THANK YOU to everyone who did SO MUCH to try and stop this horrible confirmation from happening). We will vote. We will be heard. We will not be silenced. We will be believed.
We will also let our creative selves shine. I NEED art. It helps me make sense of things that can’t be understood. It helps to say the things that need to be said. It helps to make me feel less alone, knowing there are people out there who are harnessing all of their rage, their sorrow, their pain and their hope and they’re making things. Paintings, poems, films, music, you name it. ALL OF IT. Sometimes I need a song to show me the way to my own heart, to crack a rib and let the emotions in. Art, and for me music in particular, is one of the best ways to truly feel human. And now today, and not for the the first time , Palmer and the people she chooses to work with, have fused music with film and the result is something remarkable.
Now about that video…
One year ago yesterday, October 5, 2017, the New York Timesstory broke a huge story and the world learned that Harvey Weinstein is an absolute monster thanks to the bravery of women like Ashley Judd and others who told their story. We all know what happened next. #metoo was born. Weinstein’s now in jail.
A few months after this all broke, Amanda Palmer and Jasmine Power collaborated on the song “Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now” and they released it on May 23.
If you haven’t heard it yet, decide on your own if you’d rather have your first listening be by way of the video that just came out or first via just the audio. There’s no wrong way to be introduced to the song. It’s going to destroy you either way. I don’t know how else to say it. But it’s also an incredible, stunning song so don’t fear it, just know it’s no “Walking on Sunshine.” It gives voice to the women, and there were many of them- that were assaulted, abused, threatened or otherwise mistreated by Weinstein. But it’s bigger than that. I’ve listened to the song at this point a couple of dozen times and every listen twists and turns inside my heart. But it’s also a MAGNIFICENT piece of music. Art can be both things: Painful and beautiful. It should be. You don’t need me to tell you that.
In July, Palmer along with Power, director and choreograph Noémie Lafrance, producer Natalie Galazka along with a huge crew and cast assembled at rectory of a church in Brooklyn, New York and shot a video for “Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now.”
In all, 60 women along with a few men were involved in the making of it. It was paid for by Palmer’s nearly 12,000 Patrons. I’m one of them. We all contribute to Palmer’s Patreon so that she can make art without having to worry about how the bills will be paid.
Yesterday was the day the video was released, on the one year anniversary of the Times Weinstein story. I watched it after watching Senator Collins offer up her “yes” in that morning cloture vote and before her 3 p.m. shit show speech that made it official and sent millions of women (and of course several men) into an unprecedented tailspin. It was between those two things right around lunchtime when I set aside six minutes, put my headphones on and watched the video to “Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now.”
I watched it two more times over the course of the day and evening and have since watched it again. There’s a lot to take in. I’m not going to say much about it because it speaks for itself. But it may be helpful for you to read a bit of what Palmer shared about it on Patreon.
Palmer wrote that that she and director Noémie Lafrance spoke at length and agreed that the video should not be sentimental, it should not exploit, it should not be patronizing and it should not be obvious. As for what it should be? Three words: raw fucking power.
I think it’s also important to share Palmer’s reasons for making this video which she also shared on Patreon:
“it has come to this. in order to effect change, we are having to expose our darkest pain in public forums. on the internet. in newspapers. in the streets. in the senate, in front of hundreds of millions of people watching.
it seems infinitely complicated to address these issues when they’re already so over-saturated and raw. how to not make things worse? how can we express ourselves and our righteous anger in our own terms, on our own dime, in our own time?
that’s what i wanted to do with this video.”
She did that. And she did a hell of a lot more than that.
Now it’s half past eight and I’m in my pajamas watching the Red Sox game because I can’t handle any more coverage of today’s events. I say that yet I check Twitter every 15 minutes.
Earlier today I reached out to Palmer via email with a handful of questions. A few minutes ago, I heard back from her and in the interest of clarity, I will share them in their entirety.
What reactions have you been getting so far, on day one, on the video? From what I’ve seen on social media people are feeling quite moved and affected by it. Any surprises on the feedback front?
Amanda: You know, I should be used to this by now, but I’m not. The reaction from my community on the internet is astounding – people are really finding it cathartic, triggering in a good way, and empowering, which was my hope. The reaction from the flesh and blood human beings who came out in the hundreds to see the screening in LA the other night was equally powerful, there were a lot of abuse and assault survivors sharing their stories. So many women poured so much time, rage an energy into making this video happen. And the response from the media was just….deafeningly silent. I’m used to most mainstream media not picking up on stuff like this, but the feminist media, where are they? Why aren’t they amplifying the art? Where’s Bust? And Bitch? And Ms. and Elleand Teen Vogue on and on…the other feminist allies? We sent them all the clip. It’s astonishing to me that every single article that’s run on this video has been written by a man . It’s just bananas. There’s this part of me that feels like I’m in fourth grade again, getting shoved away from the cool lunch table. It’s possible that everybody in feminist-land was just too wrapped up in the political cycle, but…just, wow. There are so few artists out there doing what we just managed to do, and it was really frustrating – for all of us – to see such loud silence on that front. On the other hand, this is the kind of problem that I’ve been facing for fifteen years. The media follows, but only very lazily, and the most powerful women in the arts are usually blazing way ahead with no regard to the coverage. So I continue to build the Patreon for this very reason: so that I will never need to rely on the media to be the force that authenticates or holds the keys to the amplification of our work.
With both the song and now the video, you’ve given voice to victims through a stunning piece of art. I believe it’s helping people, likely more than you’ll ever know. How does that make you feel?
Amanda: It makes me feel like I’m doing my job.
Did you watch any of the Collins shitshow ? If so, alone or with anyone? How was that for you? I mean we all knew deep down she was gonna go this way but it still HURT SO MUCH. Thoughts on that? Especially since it ended up being on the same goddamn day as the one year anniversary (anniversary feels like such the wrong word) of the Weinstein stuff blowing up. I felt so empowered when I watched the video (along with several other intense emotions) and then so defeated watching Collins speech. How was/it for you? How are you feeling right now? Honestly, I don’t know what to feel right now because it’s so easy just to sink into my couch a pile of tears. Thoughts?
Amanda: I’m feeling so hurt. I cried in yoga yesterday, I woke up today and read the news and cried. I cried and streamed to twitter. I cried and listened to my new album mixes, which couldn’t wait, because we have to head to mastering soon. I’ve just been crying a shit ton. I can’t believe what is happening to my country. It feels like our rights and freedoms and achievements – as women and minorities – are going to just get slowly chipped away at, one by one, and like frogs in boiling water
we’re going to wake up one day with no fucking abortion rights and no immigration rights and it’s just going to be one brutal dictatorship of capitalist frat boys who will not share their toys. It really feels like that. I am also getting ready for what feels like the fight of my life. I’m ready to put down everything else right now and fight for justice for women and other disenfranchised people. Fuck everything. We need a full on revolution. Today. And believe me, I’ve been texting my allies. We are organizing, we are pissed, and we are going to change this.
And what that, here’s the brand new video for Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now
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Let me get right to it: Amanda Palmer and Welsh musician Jasmine Power have just released a song called “Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now.”
I don’t think I’ve listened to a song more times in a 72 hour period than I have this one. With each listen, it seeps in all the more. While listening to it I’ve wiped tears from my eyes. While listening to it I felt anger in my belly churn and burn. While listening to it I have wanted to run screaming to the top of the nearest mountain and with skinned knees and a thundering heart plead with the universe for those who have been hurt by Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and other monsters posing as men to know some semblance of peace, healing and in some cases…goddamn revenge.
Before we get to the actual song, here’s a little backstory that I think is key for you to know about.
This is from what was sent out to inquiring journalists. Jasmine Power, by way of a mutual friend, was at Amanda Palmer’s house for dinner a few months back. The two clicked and three days later wound up in a studio together to record a song. Palmer explained that the news about Stormy Daniels was at fever pitch. “I found myself thinking about closed doors to hotel rooms across the world over time and how they’ve been the backdrops of so many of these painful encounters. That was the starting point, and we wrote with the idea of a split self: two voices inside one woman’s head.”
British film-music arranger Matt Nicholson added strings (and oh my god, did he ever!) and orchestration with the goal of making the song more cinematic so as to “kick Hollywood in the face.” Mission accomplished. And then some… “It doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever made before; it’s almost a mini piece of theater,” Palmer added.
Palmer went on to say that she’d been thinking about how to address the #Metoo movement in a song. “It’s so personal to these women, these stories, and it felt wrong to write something funny and cabaret; the topic is too harrowing. It’s not surprising, that, just like the movement itself, it took two women getting into a room together, comparing notes and joining forces to create something almost like an anthem for taking back our narrative.”
Initially, the song was called “The Hotel Room” but Palmer thought a bolder statement would be to call it “Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now.” She heard from a feminist friend that using that title could stir controversy because Palmer couldn’t tell a story that wasn’t hers; at least not about this topic. Palmer’s response was that if that’s the case, it’s the “end of all art as we know it.” But she also reached out to Rose McGowan on Twitter with the lyrics and McGowan offered her approval of the title.
Lastly, before you listen to the song (and it is strongly suggested you do so with headphones for maximum impact), I’m going to share with you Amanda’s response to questions I sent directly to her about how she was feeling as she stood on the precipice of the song’s release.
“Every time I release a song, I’m faced with a mystery. I’ve learned by now not to have any expectations whatsoever; it never works. Things that I think will be understood are often misunderstood, and things that I think will be misunderstood are sometimes embraced with zero drama. But that’s the way I like it, and it prods me on to simply make what I make and let the public deal with it in their own way, it’s not like I have any control over it anyway. I’ve played this song in private for a quite a few people now, and I can tell you this: men seem to appreciate it intellectually and say ‘this song is good’ and women look me in the eye and say “Holy fuck.” But all that being said, I’m always in a kind of brace position when a song comes out, because I’m so used to being misinterpreted. At the very least, a conversation starts. I don’t care if people like the song, the lyrics, the orchestral production, but if it gets people thinking about or arguing about the issues, well…hopefully there’s some progress in there.”
So there you have it. Grab your headphones and listen to this when you can really hear it without distraction or interruption.
I think this is the most important song of 2018. I think music like this is vital. And musically speaking, I think the song is a masterpiece. From the vocals from both women to the heart-piercing piano to the holy-god-almighty string crescendos and most importantly the lyrics, “Mr. Weinstein Will See You Now” is brilliant. So yeah, I’ll add my voice to the chorus of other women when I say with 100% sincerity: HOLY FUCK.
Also, through June 30, 100% of digital proceeds will go to the TIMESUPNOW legal defense fund. Here’s where you can buy it:
19 has been my favorite number for as long as I can remember and although I didn’t plan on having my list of favorite songs of 2017 wind up being 19, it’s somehow perfect that it landed there.
Suffice to say, I listened to and loved hundreds of songs this year so making this list was no easy task. But I told myself not to worry, just sit back and think about it and see what came to mind. Most importantly, I told myself to be honest about this list; to only pick songs that I really do love for one reason or another.
Some of these artists I’ve loved for many years, some are new to me. But they’ve all created songs that touch my heart and so I’ve made this list to show my gratitude to these artists and to inspire you to think about what your favorite songs of 2017 are.
Before diving into the songs let me make this statement:
I am in awe of people who can play instruments well.
I am in awe of people who can write incredible lyrics.
I am in awe of people who can sing.
I am in awe of people who can interpret other people’s songs and make them their own.
I am in awe of people who are passionate about their craft.
I am in awe of all of the artists on this list.
And with that I present my 19 favorite songs of 2017. I love them all and they truly are in no particular order.
“Liability by Lorde” from “Melodrama” I could have picked several songs from this album but I went with this one because it’s stark and gorgeous and sad and an emotional masterpiece. Also, I got to see her perform it live with Jack Antonoff on piano at Saturday Night Live in March. Read all about that adventure of being in that audience here.
2. “Wayfaring Stranger” by SHEL.This is from their “Undercover” EP, released in October. IT IS SPECTACULAR. I chose their take on the 100+ year old traditional tune “Wayfaring Stranger” because it’s haunting and spellbinding. Eva’s vocals are delicate yet potent. Sarah’s violin is downright arresting and the song transports me to some far off place typically reserved for dreams.
3. “Only Lonely” by The Ballroom Thieves. They’re a folk rock trio out of Boston and for real, they just keep getting better. This is their brand new single. You’re going to love it. Be sure to also listen to their 2016 album “Deadeye”.
4. “Train Go By” by Josh Ritter. This is from his latest album “Gathering.” There’s something healing and heartfelt about this song. It holds my heart right in its hands. Josh is a heck of a cool guy. Read my interview with him here.
5. “Million Reasons” by Lady Gaga. “Joanne’s” a tremendous album which I realize came out in 2016 and this so I’m cheating a little by including a song from it. My rationalization is that the single didn’t come out until November and I didn’t fully appreciate the song until early 2017 . Also, be sure to watch the Gaga documentary on “Netflix. It’s Fantastic. This song kills me.
6. “Hollow” by Kris Delmhorst. Singer-songwriter Kris Delmhorst made one hell of a record this year. It’s called “The Wild” and I wrote all about it here. “Hollow” will level you if you’re feeling at all fragile so be ready. I LOVE the line “A song just ain’t no use at all if there’s no one who can play it.”
7. “Mississippi” by The Secret Sisters. From the album that has an excellent chance of winning a Grammy for best folk album; “You Don’t Own Me Anymore.” Here’s a live version of the dark and haunting song that I chose for this list. Lydia and Laura Rogers for the freakin’ win!
8. “I Couldn’t Be” by SnugHouse. They’re a local band here in Portland, Maine and they put out a self-titled EP a handful of months ago that I adore. I’ve played this song a ton of my WCLZ radio show, Music from 207. (You can listen every Wednesday and Sunday night at 7 p.m.). The harmonies slay me. Incredible song.
9. “Wash Up” by Bridget Kearney. Bridget plays standup bass and sings backing vocals in a tiny little band called Lake Street Dive. (I’m kidding, they’re hardly tiny and I pretty much worship them). She dropped her first solo album called “Won’t Let You Down” last Spring. Here’s the convoshe and I had about it. “Wash Up” is on my running playlist and I love every bright and shiny second of this song.
10. “Send My Love (To Your New Lover) by I’m With Her. I’m With Her is the trio of Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan. They’ve sent this Adele song clear over the vocals rainbow and into a whole other galaxy of perfection. Enjoy! P.S. their debut album “See You Around” is out in February. Countdown is SO ON.
11. “Keep Me In My Heart” by The Wailin’ Jennys. The Wailin’ Jennys are Nicky Mehta, Ruth Moody and Maine native Heather Masse. They released their covers album “Fifteen” in October. Holy god I love it so much. Read my review HERE.I could have chosen a number of songs from it for this list but went with the Warren Zevon one because frankly, it’s one of the most poignant, heart-opening songs I know of. Zevon wrote it when he knew he was dying. I love his version of course but I also am really struck by this divine take by The Wailin’ Jennys.
12. “Hang on Me” by St. Vincent. Annie Clark’s latest record “Masseduction” is an innovative masterpiece. I love every song on the damn thing but chose this one because it’s the album’s opening track and it gives the listener -ok me – a come hither stare and the song pulses with vibrations and not only that, her vocals shine. The song is the rocket ship – and a gorgeous one at that – that takes you to the planet that is the rest of the record.
13. “The Joke” by Brandi Carlile. This song knocked me off my feet. It’s huge and sweeping and emotional with piano and strings and some of the best vocals I’ve ever heard from Carlile. The rest of the album “By The Way, I Forgive You,” comes out in February and if this song, as well as the other one she’s shared called “The Mother” is any indication, I for one can’t wait for it’s release day. I also can’t wait for August! I’ll be visiting Red Rocks for the first time ever to see Carlile and will of course share a review here then.
14. “Appointments” by Julien Baker. Baker is a new artist for me but I’m planning on familiarizing myself with her story and the rest of her music because this song is everything…and then some. It’s from her album “Turn Out the Lights.” What I do know is that Baker’s out of Memphis and I can’t wait to let the rest of her music seep into me. Because this song fucking kills me. Well done, Julien.
15. “Drowning in the Sound” by Amanda Palmer. Honestly, I don’t even know what to say about this one. Amanda Palmer wrote it in two days. This is what she said about it: “It wound up being a response to the insanity of internet politics melded with the recent total eclipse and the devastation of hurricane harvey….and, y’know…other stuff.” Take a deep breath or 12 and listen to this.
16. “Deleted” by Amy Shark. This song’s from her “Night Thinker” EP. I had no idea who this Australian artist was until one random day in June, I heard an unplugged session on WCLZ, a radio station here in Maine. Shark wasn’t performing in Maine but was doing some promotional visits apparently in New England and anyway, I heard the sessionwhile driving and it really slayed me. She’s getting bigger by the minute and she can count me among her fans because that “Night Thinker” EP is fantastic. Anyway…what can I say? I LOVE SAD SONGS. They resonate with me in a different way than happier ones. This one’s extra sad. We’ve all been there.
17. “Goose Snow Cone” by Aimee Mann. As far as I’m concerned, it’s Aimee Mann’s world, we’re just livin’ it it. “Mental Illness,” her latest album and home to “Goose Snow Cone” is a must-have record if you’re even a casual Mann fan. She’s a consistently upper-level-holy-god songwriter and that voice has been part of my musical DNA for more than three decades.
18. It’s a Shame” by First Aid Kit. Like many others, I got hip to the Swedish duo of sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg when they released their third album “Stay Gold” with the song that will be a lifelong theme song “Silver Lining.” In fact, the entire record is terrific. But that was 2014 and while the creative process can’t be rushed, I for one have been waiting with massive anticipation for the next one. The good news is that they’ve finished it and it’s called “Ruins” and it will be out in the world on January 18. YEAH! For now we’ve got this tremendous single “It’s a Shame.” Welcome back, Johanna and Klara. See you in a few months in Boston. P.S. You can also hear the gorgeous “Fireworks,” and breezy “Postcards” also from Ruins.
19. “Feel Alive” by Katie Herzig. Herzig can do no wrong in my book. I love everything of hers I’ve ever heard and this bright and hopeful song is no exception. Her next album, “Moment of Bliss” will be out in 2018 but for now we’ve got this one and the heartfelt ballad”Me Without You” to more than tide us over.
And so there you have it. Thanks, 2017, for these and SO MANY other songs. I needed all of them to get me through.
When I woke up this morning before my alarm the first thing I did was check my phone to see if the MUCH anticipated Amanda Palmer video had dropped yet. It hadn’t. Two nights earlier I had a dream about the video. One day earlier I had been pretty much beside myself with anticipation. Palmer had been dropping hints about the new video for the past few weeks and some of her posts inferred that the video might be considered controversial by some.
I’ll admit, I was nervous. Was Amanda about to unleash something that would bring her a world of backlash? But then I remembered, this is Amanda Fucking Palmer we’re talking about. If she has something to say she’s going to say it and she’s going to say it intelligently and then she’ll willingly engage in public debate about it. She will not back down but she’ll also hear all sides of something and will participate in a back and forth. And in the end, not everyone loves everything she does and says. I am not one of those people. I think she’s brilliant and has a heart as big, bold, messy, complicated, compassionate, artistic, bloody and authentic as anyone I’ve ever been a fan of. This is in fact one of the things that I’ve long admired about her. Amanda Palmer, like her or not, is as real as they come.
Which brings us to today.
A few hours ago I got the notification that the video was now out in the world. So I put my headphones on and took the deepest breath quite possibly of 2017 and hit play.
Within ONE NOTE I was spellbound. Because Amanda Palmer and Jherek Bischoff, with a cast of several musicians including cellist Zoe Keating had just released their take on Pink Floyd’s “Mother,” identifiable from the very first note. The first thing on the screen is a close-up of Palmer looking on the verge of tears as she sings the lines “Mother do you think they’ll drop the bomb?/Mother do you think they’ll like this song?/Mother do you think they’ll try to break my balls?/Mother, should I build the wall?”
Holy shit. I sat there stunned and felt a hurricane of emotions whirling inside my ribcage. The hints Palmer dropped in the days leading up to the sharing of “Mother” told us that it had something to do with her disdain for the current administration. But I could have never predicted that she would have chosen such a PERFECT song with which to express it. And let me be perfectly clear, Amanda Palmer is a spectacular songwriter and she could have written an original and it would have likely been epic. But she didn’t need to. The perfect song was already out in the world. She and musician/composer Jherek Bischoff did something incredible with it.
The imagery in the video is startling and tear-inducing and evoked so many things at once. In it you’ll see children building a wall. You’ll see Melissa auf der Maur. You’ll see Zoe Keating playing her cello. You’ll see Jherek Bischoff conducting a string quartet. You’ll see dancers and actors , including one portraying our current President, creating a piece of work that is difficult to take in with one viewing. I’ve now watched it four times and I’m still discovering new things.
I am not going to tell you how the video ends. You’ll see that in a moment. Some people’s feathers might get ruffled. Not mine. I think it was one of the boldest, bravest things Palmer could have done. My interpretation is that it’s meant as a moment of honest-to-God compassion. A moment of “I know everything is really fucked up right now but I am determined to not let my heart turn black.” It’s edgy. It’s going to make some people uncomfortable. I get that. But I hope people also appreciate the artistic message of it.
I am not going to say this is Amanda Palmer’s finest hour because I know with every drop of blood in my veins there are many more to come. But this is the most extraordinary videos she and her team have ever done. And believe me, between her solo and Dresden Dolls material there is some insanely great videos out there.
By the time I got to the end of my first viewing of “Mother,” I was trembling. TREMBLING. I felt like crying and yet I also felt hopeful. Isn’t that what art is all about?
OK then. Here’s “Mother.” With endless depths of appreciation to Amanda and Jherek.
I’ll start by saying that the Saturday night Dresden Dolls show at the Paradise Rock Club was one of the best nights of my life.
So yes, this is my review of The Dresden Dolls show in Boston on November 4, 2017.
The story however begins back in February of 2005 because that was the first time I saw The Dresden Dolls live. It was at the tiny Space Gallery in Portland, Maine. The entire show, professionally shot, lives on YouTube. Sometime when you have an hour and a half, click hereand enjoy. I was right up front and it was glorious.
Here’s the thing; I could write thousands upon thousands of words and hit you with a zillion clips, etc. and it still wouldn’t be enough to sing the praises of Amanda Palmer and Brian Viglione of the punk cabaret duo The Dresden Dolls. It’s a long, long story. But if you’re unfamiliar with them and are curious, do some googling and clicking and when you come up for air, you just might find yourself as spellbound as I am over them.
I am however going to tell you why the show, which was the middle one of three sold-out nights at The Paradise Rock Club was so significant, so memorable, so satisfying and so completely overwhelming.
It begins with a fellow Dolls fan named Jessica who posted on the show’s Facebook event page something along the lines of “hey I’m going solo, anyone want to hang out by the stage with me?” I responded with “I’ll be there, let’s hang!” A bit later a Brit named Toby commented that he too would be alone and could he also join us? Of course he could. A few other people chimed in as well. It was hours before the show and I was already having a good time. That’s the thing with Dresden Dolls shows, we all kind of love each other, at least for one night. We’ve got each other’s backs. It’s special. I know that might sound silly but it’s true, it always has been.
And so I joined Toby -who had flown in from London just to go to this show – in the line outside the Paradise about an hour before the doors opened. He was chatting with a woman named Jacque, here from Manhattan for all three shows. Soon after Jessica joined us. The sidewalk bonding had begun, a nip of Dr. McGillicuddy’s Mentholmint schnapps was handed to me which I promptly downed (my first one and I dare say it was tasty) and when the doors opened at 7 p.m. the four of us managed to secure spots at the far left of the stage, pretty much in front of Amanda Palmer and with a perfect view of Brian Viglione and his studded Chuck Taylors that I’m very envious of.
Our posse immediately grew by several more people and the show began at twenty past eight when Amanda and Brian took the stage to much hysteria from the crowd and started us off with “Girl Anachronism.” Holy fuck. My new friends and I started to properly freak out and the freak out continued for just under three hours. The thousand other people who were packed into The Paradise also rode the Dresden wave of ecstasy. I imagine we all love them for different reasons. First, there’s Brian Viglione. He’s a drumming deity who can play a bunch of other instruments. Watching him play is like watching a kid running wild in a candy store and his skill is without end. Speaking of candy, here he is tossing Starburst into the crowd.
And here’s Brian doing his thing. He plays with a level of animation and passion that is joyful to watch and listen to. He also has an exceptional sense of fashion. That jacket kills me. Be sure to check out his other band Scarlet Sails.
And then there’s Amanda Palmer. Palmer is probably the most out there musician I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a fan of. And I mean “out there” as a massive compliment. She shares more of herself than most and has a heart the size of a small planet. I’ve interviewed her a couple of times through the years for the Portland Press Herald (Maine) and she’s genuine, kind and will pretty much talk about anything and everything.
Palmer engages with her fans on social media regularly, is willing to be bold in the face of adversity and there’s an unspoken level of trust between she and her fans. She keeps what needs to be kept private and has boundaries like the rest of us, but there’s very little she won’t talk about and if you haven’t read her book “The Art of Asking” yet consider yourself very much nudged. But the thing I love most about Amanda Palmer is her songwriting. No topic is off-limits; abortion, masturbation, sex, love, life, death and anything else you can think of. She’s also an accomplished pianist and when she sings nothing else that’s going on matters much.
The songs she and and Brian recorded for the Dolls’ handful of albums are sacred to me. They’re sacred to many people. This is why they sold out three shows at The Paradise. This is why every time they reunite to play shows we all freak the fuck out and scramble to get tickets.
If you’ve read any of my other posts, you may have noticed a running theme, which is the fact that I have a very difficult time sometimes being truly present. It’s complicated. But there are times, like on Saturday night, that I’m able to let go of my worries and be the version of myself that I like the most, the version who is in the moment down to her bones. And OK, fine, I wasn’t driving that night so I may have had a few too many whiskeys thanks to both close proximity to the bar and the generosity of some of my new friends. And also because the show felt like a celebration. Jesus H. Jamesons. Jesus H. Jack Daniels. I had an absolute blast soaking in the show – and the booze – with my friends, singing along, screaming our heads off. And here’s a fun fact; if you were at that show let it be known that it was yours truly who handed Amanda a Jamesons. I mean why wouldn’t I? I was having a hell of a good time and she looked thirsty. Fan to artist moment of appreciation. All good.
The Dresden Dolls’ setlist was 21 songs (give or take) long and I’ll include it below. From album cuts to b-sides to exquisitely well-chosen covers, they chose well (despite not playing my beloved “Jeep Song.”).
As I mentioned, the Dolls hit the ground running with “Girl Anachronism” and kept it up song after song. My personal favorites of the night were “Missed Me,” “Mrs. O,” “Half Jack,” “Backstabber” and “Gravity.” But if I’m going to really nerd out, I’ll say that I loved every song and couldn’t believe how intense, wild, fun and crazy this show was.
They ended with a hardcore super deluxe favorite of mine and I’ll reveal that momentarily.
Now about those covers. Dresden Dolls OWNED Madonna’s “Material Girl” and played the hell out of the Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Pop. They invited fans to dance on stage while Brian played guitar, Amanda played drums and everyone in the room sang along with The Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right.” They’re take on PJ Harvey’s “Rid of Me” was also spectacular. But the cover that really, really killed me at this show was Ani DiFranco’s “Napoleon,” one of many brilliant songs from Ani’s “Dilate” album from 1996. Hearing one of my favorite bands play one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite artists off of one of my favorite albums was EVERYTHING. And then some. Oh and then there’s Jacques Brel’s “Amsterdam,” a song I first discovered by way of David Bowie in the 80s. They’ve been playing this one for years and I hope they never stop. It’s a passionate tale of a song and Amanda walked off the stage, up across the balcony and back onto the stage while singing it. I mean why wouldn’t she?
The first encore song was “Amsterdam” followed by another audience singing every note one; Coin-Operated Boy. And then it was time. I crossed my fingers and held my breath and was rewarded with – we all were rewarded with- “Sing.” This song touches me on almost a molecular level.
These lyrics have never rung more true than they do RIGHT NOW:
“There is thing keeping everyone’s lungs and lips locked
It is called fear and it’s seeing a great renaissance
After the show you can not sing wherever you want
But for now lets all pretend that we’re gonna get bombed
And you bet we sang. It was beautiful and human and powerful. It was the PERFECT song to end with. When the show was over my new friends and I said our goodbyes knowing we had just shared something profound. I hope that feeling never wears off.
Here’s my montage of clips shot from my amazing spot. Editing props to Shamus Alley.
Thank you, Brian and Amanda for giving us everything you had last night. Thank you to my fellow fans for being cool and mindful and kind and so into it like I was.
Here’s the setlist that is based on my notes and one I found online. I’m not 100% sure that this is 100% accurate but it’s pretty close.
Dresden Dolls. Paradise Rock Club. 11.4.17 Girl Anachronism, Dirty Business, Missed Me, Ultima Esperanza, Pirate Jenny,Mandy Goes to Med School, Shores of California, Mrs. O, Gravity, Glass Slipper, Thirty Whacks, Victim, Material Girl (Madonna), Blitzkrieg Bop (Ramones), “Fight For Your Right” (Beastie Boys), Rid of Me (PJ Harvey), Napoleon (Ani DiFranco), Bank of Boston Beauty Queen, Backstabber, Half Jack, Amsterdam (Jacques Brel), Coin-Operated Boy, Sing.
It’s the middle of September and I’m sitting here freakin’ the eff out with excitement over seven spectacular new songs that have come to my attention over the past couple of weeks.
I love you, Katie Herzig, Tori Amos, St. Vincent, The Wailin’ Jennys, Willie Watson, Jolie Holland & Samantha Parton and Amanda Palmer. SO VERY MUCH.
Let’s get right to it. Here are seven songs that I’m super excited about and that I strongly suggest you listen to. Then, as always, follow these acts on social media, get on their mailings list, buy their stuff, go see them live, and fall madly in love with them. Ponti out.
Hoorah!! Katie’s got a new album coming out in early 2018 called “Moment of Bliss.” Here’s what she said about “Strangers” in a press release:
‘Strangers’ is one of the first songs I wrote for the new album. Over time I fell in love with the simplicity and chillness of this song and wanted it to be the first on my record. Lyrically it digs into that vague feeling of discontentment that can chase us around in life, even when we have every reason to be content. I think when I wrote this song I was finding my way through that heaviness, but what I loved most about the song is that it felt like it knew how to get to me the other side of it. It gave me comfort over and over again as I worked on it and listen to it now.”
Tori’s latest album “Native Invader” was released on Sept. 8 and I’m working my way through it like a child trying to open Christmas presents with some semblance of self-control. Countdown to her Nov. 2 show in Boston is on. Yes Tori, we will be riding out this storm.
Willie Watson released “Folksinger Vol. 2” on Sept. 15. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform in August at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival as part of Dave Rawlings Machine and saw him for the first time last year in North Carolina. ”
“this song was written as a two-day songwriting exercise on august 29th and 30th, 2017, using input/inspiration/comments from over 600 patrons . it wound up being a response to the insanity of internet politics melded with the recent total eclipse and the devastation of hurricane harvey….and, y’know…other stuff.
10% of the patreon profit, and 100% of the public profits (from iTunes, bandcamp, etc, for the month after release) will go to charity to aid the folks down in texas hit by the hurricane and if you’re feeling moved, please make a donation out of your own pocket.”
Annie Clark is back! The new album “MASSEDUCTION” is out on Oct. 13. She’s released a ton of HILARIOUS faux interview clips that are giving me anxiety if I, god for bid, ever get to actually interview her. Take the time to watch them. The first single off of “MASSEDUCTION” is “New York” which is fucking brilliant (disclaimer: I only drop f bombs when absolutely necessary.) Countdown to her Dec. 1 show in Portland, ME is SO ON.
Now there’s this one, “Los Ageless” HOLY SHIT. I want to do many things at once while listening to this song: Run, clean, dance and basically lose my mind.
They’ve done something sooooo great with an already excellent Tom Petty song. I adore this band so much and was so thrilled that they were part of the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in August. Ruth, Heather and Nicky, it’s been a minute since your last album but it’s been SO WORTH THE WAIT. I can’t wait to hear the rest of it, especially Warren Zevon’s “Keep Me In Your Heart for a While.” In fact I might just go ahead and schedule a good cry for the moment I first hear it. The covers album called “Fifteen” is out on Oct. 27.