Unfortunately, I can’t stand WNYC’s John Schaefer, BUT to his credit, he has introduced me to a small handful of incredibly awesome bands, including this one, Austra.  Austra is lead by Canadian singer/pianist/musician, Katie Stelmanis.  The group is sort of 80s New Wave meets 2012.  I could cite a band or two that I think fall into a vaguely similar category, but I’m trying not to do that these days, because I feel like it pigeon-holes bands.  The music I love is generally one or both of the following: extremely emotionally charged (think: Tori Amos, Nine Inch Nails, the Cure) or other-wordly (think: Kate Bush, David Bowie, Stevie Nicks, Florence +the Machine), and I think Austra falls somewhere in the middle of these two.  Visually, they’re a bit eccentric (I mean, what is with those pretty twins dancing on the sidelines anyway???), but the whole presentation enhances their uniqueness.  The girl drummer with the deadpan look and the glasses?  Awesomeness.  The music is atmospheric, moody, usually thick in texture, and just beautiful all around.  Oh, and danceable.  🙂  A friend or two has tried to introduce me to some current bands that are popular these days with people with tastes similar to mine: Interpol and Band of Horses, for example.  BOR-ING.  Austra is NOT boring.  Their sounds make for great running music, and they remind me what music can be — powerful, emotional, visceral, imaginative.  Austra is great.  Check them out.  “Darken Her Horse,” by the way, starts very slowly — almost like a religious chant for the two minutes or so — and then it kicks into full New Wave glory!  Enjoy.


Robert Smith and Tori are pretty much my favorite musicians ever.  I listened to them through the nineties, through college, through graduate school, through my twenties, and I still do.  I live a life surrounded by a great many “tee-tas” (snooty classical musicians who like to sing music to friends and colleagues using “tees” and “tas”) so these days I find even greater solace in the music that speaks closest and dearest to my heart.

This is one of Tori’s most beautiful covers.  So different from the Cure’s original version, yet capturing, I think, the true essence of what the song is all about.  It’s one of the world’s greatest love songs.  And both Robert and Tori’s ability to convey melancholic, earnest, profound feeling never fails.

Gotta admire Robert’s iconic high tops…and lipstick:

Beautiful Tori photo show, to boot:

I don’t know why I couldn’t combine this post with the one below it, but I couldn’t figure it out…Alas…

My comfort song…See below…

My comfort song…

Circa 1982 (Pornography era)

Back in 2000/2001-ish I was asked to play for a band called Asciento, based in Boston/Somerville, MA, because they wanted to cover the Cure’s “Pornography” in its entirety, and specifically for the song, “Cold,” they wanted cello.  Being a long-time (and no doubt obsessive) Cure fan, and a huge fan of black leather clothing and dark make-up, I, without hesitation, said “yes.”  And I’m really glad I did, because it led to many musical revelations & interesting relationships from which I learned a great deal.

In middle and high school, I was a huge fan of “Disintegration,” “Kiss me, Kiss me, Kiss me,” “the Head on the Door,” and “Standing on a Beach: the Singles,” plus some others.  Some of the older stuff, like “Pornography,” was a bit too…well, I don’t know…it wasn’t quite accessible enough to my teenage ears.  A bit too dark maybe (hard to believe since I love all things dark, but really….this record is going into the depths of the darkest dark), a bit too repetitive in a minimalist New-Wavey kind of way…a bit too obscure with the lyrics, at least for my brain at the time…but through that performance in 2000/2001 and through just maturing as a musician and an avid listener, well, I just love this record.  Some of the songs have a similar rhythmic/tempo feel, so it almost feels like the songs run together a bit.  But I think that’s part of what makes it interesting.  I find it sensitive, angsty, depressing, torturous, moving, and fraught with the deepest feeling.  And it’s honest.  Robert Smith has always been tremendously honest, I think.  He’s not trying to be anyone but himself, he’s not trying to be trendy or to fit in with anyone or anything…he doesn’t really sound like anyone but himself.  The Cure sounds like the Cure.  No question about it.  And I think this record is unbelievably unique.  “Siamese Twins” is probably the most depressing song I’ve ever heard…but man, what a beautiful song.  The record kind of grooves on itself; it’s not over-done, there’s not a whole lot going on except for dense sound & grooves.  Robert Smith is heartfelt as ever, in the most honest way.  I think this record is a masterpiece.

What an opener (omg, holy 80s)”

Almost danceable…”Short Term Effect”

In light of the recent (and horrifying) image of Tori Amos for her upcoming record, “Night of Hunters,” I decided to go back to music that gives me hope, personally and artistically.  I love to write about Tori, but rather than doing just that, I’m going to post my favorite live performances from each era.  Tori reminds me what it is to be a musician and why I chose to go that path with my life.  Enjoy!  🙂

Little Earthquakes Era – 1991/1992: “Here in my Head,” a b-side (Best moment: 3 minutes, 10 seconds basically to the end).  Painfully heartfelt, honest, angst-ridden in the most beautiful way…Best line/verse (I think):

maybe i’m just the horizon you run to
when she has left
you and me here
alone on the floor
you’re counting my feathers
as the bells toll
you see the bow and the belt
and the girl from the south
all favorites of mine
you know them all well
and spring brings fresh little puddles
that makes it all clear
makes it all…
hey, do you know
hey, do you know
what this is doing to me?
oh, here…
here. in my head

Under the Pink era: “Bells for Her” 1994  — sensitive, dark, moody, sad, earnest.  You kind of have to be a major fan to sit through the entire performance, but man, what an introspective ride.  This song reminds me of very lonely winters.   Best line/verse: bells and footfalls and soldiers and dolls
brothers and lovers she and i were
now she seems to be sand under his shoes
there’s nothing i can do
can’t stop what’s coming
can’t stop what’s on its way

Boys for Pele (I’m allowed 2 since this is my favorite record of all-time).  1) Marianne 2) Horses/Fool on the Hill

Best line/verse from either: tuna
a little blubber in my igloo
and i knew you pigtails and all
girl when they fall
and they say marianne killed herself
and i said not a chance
don’t you love the girls ladies babies
old bags who say she was so pretty why
why why why did she crawl down in the old
deep ravine

From the Choirgirl Hotel: Such an AWESOME record.  I’m choosing her performance of “Cruel” at Madison Square Garden in 1998.  Best line:  dance with the sufi’s celebrate your top ten in the charts of pain
lover brother bogenvilla my vine twists around your need
even the rain is sharp like today as you sh-sh-shock me sane
no cigarettes only peeled HAVANA’S for you i can be cruel

To Venus and Back: Such a special record.  I choose a live performance of “Concertina”.  Best line/verse: the soul-quake
happened here in a glass world
particle by particle
she slowly changes
she likes hanging chinese paper cuts
just another fix
can i weather this

i got my fuzz all tipped to play
i got a dub on your landscape
then there’s your policy of tracing
the sauce without the blame

Strange Little Girls – 2001 – terribly unique covers album.  I choose “Real Men,” written by Joe Jackson.  Best line/verse: what’s a man now
what’s a man mean
is he rough or is he rugged
cultural and clean
now it’s all changed
it’s got to change more
we think it’s getting better
but nobody’s really sure

Scarlet’s Walk – 2002: Such a beautiful masterpiece of a record.  I choose her live version of “Virginia.”  Best line/verse:  he will
change from her
sunwise to clockwise
to soul trading
still she’ll lay
down her Body
covering him all
the same
oh Virginia
do you remember
when the Land held
your hand
oh Virginia

The Beekeeper – 2005 – I fell in love with my husband right around when this record came out, so it’s hard for me NOT to love it.  Still, it shows a departure from the bad ass, angsty, emotional Tori we saw previously. Nonetheless, I think her live shows were incredible.  I choose “Song of Soloman,” which was basically an improv she did for a Viktor & Rolf fashion show.  Parts of it are in her tune, “Take me with You.”  this is pretty magical.  Just watch the whole clip if you can, so you wait for the models to come out.  They do so at 2:15.

American Doll Posse: I don’t have much to say here, but she blew me away at the live show in 2007 for this record.  I choose “Beauty of Speed.”  She is pretty mesmerizing in this.

Abnormally Attracted to Sin: 2009 – Strong Black Vine, live, because she does a “Tori rant” reminiscent of her rants from 1998-ish.  Interesting record, but not much to say.  Still, this live clip is pretty awesome.  I happened to be reading “the Story of O” when this record came out, and well…it proved to be a pretty amazing soundtrack.  😉  She’s pretty insane in this vid, but if you’re a Tori fan…well, I guess we get it.

I have to end on a better note, however.  So this is my favorite live performance of a b-side (other than “Here in My Head.”)  I choose “Butterfly” from the Under the Pink era.  “Butterfly” is in my top 5 favorite Tori songs of all time.  Favorite line/verse:

stinky soul get a little lost in my own
hey general, need a little love in that hole of yours
one ways, now, and saturdays and our kittens
all wrapped in cement
from cradle to gumdrops
got me running girl as fast as i can
and is it right, butterfly,
they like you better framed and dried

Tori Amos, Choirgirl era, circa 1998

From "Hounds of Love"

I was pleased to come across a series of youtube videos, all featuring this person’s “greatest” Kate Bush selections — “greatest song,” “greatest cover version,” “greatest video,” etc.  What a discovery!  I’m fairly obsessed with Kate Bush.  She is the coolest of the cool, the most beautiful of the beautiful, the most original of the original and just super duper interesting and bad ass all around.  Such an inspiration!  Enjoy!  (Just for the record, this person’s “greatest song” is NOT what I would consider her greatest song, nor is it the best version…but it’s still super cool.)  🙂  Something to take extra note of, if you’re interested — the “greatest lyrics” was inspired by Joyce’s “Ulysses.”  🙂