>> Saturday, February 28, 2009
• Kate Steele – Curve of the Earth
My first ever job was at a small take-out/delivery joint that had the highest ratio of grease-atoms-per-square-centimeter-of-air that is legally safe to breathe. Within a couple weeks of starting I was elevated to the esteemed position of Friday night cook which meant three-four hours of non-stop, assembly line pizza making. Luckily, my assembly line co-worker was one of my fav cousins whose bubbly presence made the four highly monotonous hours, well, really really fun.
One night we discovered we shared a strong affinity for a popular SNL skit called “Janet Reno’s Dance Party”, a hilarious segment in which Reno, parodied by Will Ferrell, hosted a dance party in her basement, frequently and aggressively requesting The Knack’s “My Sharona”. The next week my cousin, in tribute, brought in a tape (remember tapes?) with “My Sharona” recorded over and over on both sides.
“My Sharona” Fridays were born.
For about two-and-a-half months worth of Fridays, we’d loop that godless song for three hours, much to the increasing annoyance of our poor co-workers. Finally, one frustrated fella couldn’t abide another night’s worth of The Knack’s pop sensation and snapped our tape in half. Infinite sadness ensued!
That was, until the following week when my cousin bought the cd single.
“The Heartbreak Rides”, off A.C. Newman’s sophomore release Get Guilty is, so far, my favourite song released in 2009, with Vegas offering up 3/2 odds on it appearing on my year-end best-song-of-2009 disc. I’m not sure I could tolerate hearing it for three hours every Friday for two months, but I probably wouldn’t want to shatter its current allure (to this day, I can’t stand hearing “My Sharona”). The track is acoustic power-pop at its finest. Its slow-building melody is brought to musical life by Newman’s wistful falsetto and thoughtful arrangements (not to mention the piratical “yo-hos!” peppered throughout the song). I pretty much love/heart/adore the whole of Get Guilty, and think, at this moment in time, that it easily rivals anything the New Pornographers have released. Well, okay, you caught me. NOT the sensational Twin Cinema.
Just like A.C. Newman, the uber-talented Jenny Lewis can rock the party solo. Now I completely missed her wonderfully countrified '08 release Acid Tongue and am a little embarrassed by that. The title track would’ve made my year-end best-songs disc for sure, replacing--actually forget it. I’d rather not devalue the illustrious 19 that did make the cut. The prolific and versatile Miss Lewis–whose other credits include acting (notably: star of the 1988 Nintendo vehicle The Wizard), and singing/songwriting (notably: vocals on The Postal Service’s electro-essential Give Up, intrepid leader of Rilo Kiley)–is a bona fide indie diva. Her vocal diversity is on display here with aplomb, particularly on the heartstrings-tugging “Godspeed” and “Carpetbeggers”, a bombastic country ditty.
If music genres were all part of a big extended family, then folk would easily be country’s closest and favourite cousin. Kate Steele, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter from Victoria, makes just that: smart, earnest, and deeply affecting folk. And, wow, does she ever have a disarmingly lovely voice. I wrote all about Kate for my Icelandic newspaper music columnist gig, so I’ll stop here and not self-plagiarize (did you know you can get the ol’ heave-ho from University for self-plagiarizing? I’ve actually heard of a few cases. Lazy oafs.). Anyway, available for download below is a punchy, upbeat folk-rocker by Kate called “Talking to Him”.
It’s no “My Sharona”, but, hey, few things are...
Download: Kate Steele - "Talking To Him"
Infinite Playlist: Beck - Guero