I feel really stupid because the first time I heard Neko Case's "Ghost Wiring" was more than four years ago (which doesn't seem at all possible but it must be true since I listened to Neko for the first time right before Fox Confessor
was released and that was apparently in 2006; how time flies!) and every single time I've listened to it in those four years I've thought, "Wow! Neko sounds exactly like Mary Margaret O'Hara (who I also first discovered around that same time) in certain parts of this! Bizarre!" Fast forward to 2010... and I randomly come across the little factoid that it's actually been Mary Margaret O'Hara the entire time. Yeah, apparently, I need to read album liner notes more thoroughly before I come to the conclusion that one singer is perfectly and impossibly channeling another. If you're not familiar with Ms. O'Hara, the moments in question are around 2:07 and 2:24. And honestly, i don't think I'm ever going to stop feeling like an idiot for not realizing it was her; I mean, it's one thing to not recognize her voice but it's another to actually convince yourself it's not her even though it sounds exactly like her. But it just seems like such a random pairing! And Mary Margaret O'Hara is kind of a noted musical recluse! So it wasn't a totally ridiculous thought, right? Anyway, I just wanted to tell everyone about my four-year-long blond moment. And, also, this just happens to be a really good song. It was one of the tracks from Blacklisted
that took the longest to grow on me but I love it now. It's got such an eerie, dark, kind of Gothic atmosphere. It's beautiful but at the same time very unsettling. And of course Neko's vocals are flawless. And don't sound at all like a Mary Margaret O'Hara clone, as it turns out.
Speaking of Mary Margaret O'Hara, I've only ever posted one song of hers here and I now feel the need to correct that, even if I only pull her music out very occasionally these days. In the late '80s, she released her debut and so far only proper album, Miss America
, a collection of eclectic, intriguing songs that span several genres and were totally unsuited for the musical atmosphere of their time. Since then, it's become a bit of a cult classic, mostly because it's spectacular and probably partially because it stands as her only release that can truly be called all her own. You see, in the more than two decades that have now passed, O'Hara has done a Christmas EP, the score/soundtrack to a little-known Canadian indie film, a handful of guests spots and compilation songs, a few very small acting roles (trivia: her sister is actress Catherine O'Hara), and... that's it! In writing, it actually sounds like more than it is. Basically, she's all but disappeared which perhaps makes Miss America
all the more stunning, that it has managed to hold up for 20+ years with little effort on its creator's part and no real follow-up to compare it with.
And what, exactly, makes that album such a success? The songs themselves are usually sparse, both lyrically and sonically, and seem to be written more as vessels for O'Hara's voice than anything else. Sometimes, such single-mindedness in music can be a bad thing but here, it is definitely a very, very good thing because her voice, to put it simply, is unbelievable. It's magnetic, flexible, singular and remarkably fearless. As impressive and just plain interesting as her more bizarre vocal turns in tracks such as "My Friends Have" and "Not Be Alright" are, I often find myself more taken aback by her subtler moments. Even when she's not doing anything wacky with her voice, she's still in such command of every note and the way she wraps her voice around the lyrics and melody so effortlessly and perfectly is ear candy like none other. Her phrasing is impeccable; you can literally feel
the emotion and heart in songs like "Keeping You in Mind," even when the lyrics aren't particularly interesting or fleshed out. She has a sincerity that's hard to fake in both her calmer and wilder moments. It's easy for a singer to come across as affected and pretentious when they try to do some unexpected, out-of-left-field sudden vocal quirk but for O'Hara it works because you really believe it's just naturally how she sings. Her songs couldn't be sung any other way.
P.S. I haven't posted in awhile and there are lots of new songs floating around the Interwebs. The Narrative has three new songs from their upcoming full-length (which finally has a release date: July 27th) up on their website
. I haven't been much of a fan of "You Will Be Mine" since they first posted it a couple months ago (though a mediocre Narrative song is still very listenable; can you tell I'm madly in love with them by how I can no longer subjectively rate their music?) but "Trains" is absolutely gorgeous and I've already listened to it a gazillion times. The third song is the final version of "Fade" which I first posted about awhile ago; it's only slightly altered and still ridiculously catchy. Also, Suzie, <3 <3 <3. Other things you should check out: the first song from Jenny and Johnny
's I'm Having Fun Now,
coming in August. It's Jenny Lewis' latest endeavor with her boyfriend, Johnathan Rice, if the band name didn't tip you off and the song is fun but a bit bland. I'm still excited to hear more though. Also, Blonde Redhead
has a new album coming out in September. They're one of those bands I can only listen to sporadically but "Here Sometimes" has got me intrigued to hear what else they've got up their sleeve this time around. You can hear a couple demos from States, Mindy White's new band, "Time to Begin" on their myspace
and "Anxious" on their website
. They sound like rather generic girl-fronted indie pop songs to me but I can't help liking them anyway. I doubt I'll ever love States as much as I love Lydia though. Finally, speaking of Lydia
, I've been obsessing over "Empty Out Your Stomach" since they put it up and there's also a video featuring part of "Assailants" further down the page which is sounding gorgeous as well. Whew. I think that's all... for now.