Six Albums with Piney Gir
Piney Gir. Pronounced like in ‘girl’, since you asked. It made sense to have Piney Gir write us a Six Albums post – her music is hard to pin to any one genre or influence. When you have an artist like that, you know they’ll have a lot to say – and boy, did she. Sit back and enjoy Piney Gir’s six choices – diverse and wonderful as they are. Catch her live across the UK in the coming weeks – Chelmsford, Oxford, Bristol, Bath and Cardiff.
Rufus Wainwright – Poses I love Rufus! His gorgeous voice is like a rich treacle tart; his piano playing is like Liberace meets David Helfgott and for me this album treads the perfect line between Gershwin schmaltz and indie pop. He wrote this album when he was staying at the Chelsea Hotel for 6 months and you can hear the legacy in his lyrics, the revolving door that highlights the characters he’d come across there and the ghosts that wander its historical halls. Debauchery is the primary theme of this album, and I guess until recently I’ve had my fair share of debauchery. Debauchery is fun! It’s not without its second thoughts, self-loathing and hangover regrets though. This album has it all; it’s honest and raw with a sparkly, musical sheen covering the highlights and lowlights of New York City glamour and its undercurrents. It takes me back to memories of time spent in New York with a dear close friend who lives in Queens. I try to hang out with him at least once a year and this album reminds me of him. He’s like my family, when I miss him I listen to this album.
The Kinks – The Village Green Preservation Society I first discovered The Kinks with The Village Green Preservation Society. From the downbeat I was enthralled with its cool 60’s sounds and distinctly British themes. It seemed so exotic the first time I heard it! The lyrics really speak to me too, because I’m an old-fashioned kind of girl and this album is all about nostalgia, hanging on to the rustic inspiration of community, camaraderie and the charm of yesteryear’s innocence. The Kinks didn’t really cross the pond like other British bands of the 60’s and they were a late finding for me. God save the Village Green I say, here-here!
Dolly Parton – Legends Is it a bit of a cop-out to pick a box set? You see, Dolly is my ultimate song writing idol! I love her so much I couldn’t pick just one album; she worked her way up and out of her impoverished background in the Smoky Mountains (where she was poor and happy) & she wrote about it, honestly. Coat of Many Colours made me cry when I first hear it. She touched on some edgy subject matters for the time in songs like ‘Dumb Blonde’ and ‘D-I-V-O-R-C-E’ and her version of ‘In the Ghetto’ is absolutely mind-blowing, there is a real sense of pain and empathy in her voice. ‘Jolene’ is a gutsy account of a real plea, woman to woman. ’9-5′ is a total anthem for me, when I’m getting on the tube and travelling to the ol’ day job… that song gives me a sense of humour about my ’9-5′ persona. Dolly is smart, hanging on to her own music publishing, saying no to Elvis when he wanted a share of ‘I Will Always Love You’ to cover it. Later Whitney Houston would make a big hit of it and she did it on Dolly’s terms. She sticks to her guns and pioneered the music bizz; I look up to her for it. She has talent and beauty; she plays every instrument, very well and with very long fingernails. I love what she’s doing with Imagination Library, which is a charity that promotes early childhood literacy. Basically she’s a legend and this box set has it all.
Paul Simon – Graceland This album reminds me of childhood, there was a point in my childhood where we moved around a lot, and we were always in the car driving for days with our possessions stacked up around me in the back seat (good preparation for going on tour!). We didn’t really listen to much secular music when I was growing up but for some reason we listened to Graceland. I loved it! It was the first time I’d heard some of those African instruments and the vocal stylings of Ladysmith Black Mambazo fused with Zydeco and classic-rock reminiscent of the Shadows or the Everly Brothers to create a really refreshing album. I loved Linda Ronstadt’s voice too and would try to imitate it in the back seat with my little girl’s voice. The album sounded like sun and fun but the subject matter stemmed from political issues like apartheid as well as Paul Simon’s mid-life crisis (which in hindsight is a pretty brave thing to write about on both counts). It really worked, and I love this album still.
The Velvet Underground & Nico – The Velvet Underground & Nico I didn’t discover The Velvet Underground until I moved to England (I’m still playing catch up from the no-secular-music days) and from the moment I heard them they seemed like the coolest band ever. Lou Reed treats poetic lyrics like throwaway sentences. John Cale adds a sort of minimalist/classical sheen with his experimental viola, adding art-house credibility to what is otherwise a pop record. Nico guested on a few tracks and her Teutonic drony singing as well as the drug references and allusion to sexual deviancy truly make the album a Zeitgeist of the 60s. The Velvet Underground is elegant and understated, they rock but you know they are holding back a little, they could rock more but they are too cool to do that. This album was a real inspiration for Geronimo!
Depeche Mode – Speak & Spell I have a real soft spot for synth pop and this is the ultimate synth pop album for me! It was one of the first albums I bought; it was in the bargain bin at the record shop in the mall (well it was about 10 years old when I bought it on cassette and people were starting to buy CDs at that point) and I used my babysitting money to buy it (I was a bad babysitter, errrr… yeah). I remember my friend’s cool, older brother had it so I figured it must be good. And it was better than I could have imagined, the monophonic synths are layered one on top of the other with riffs and riffs and more riffs. It’s like melody overload! Vince Clarke is some kind of pop-writing genius if you ask me. At risk of sounding pretentious I could compare these intricate layered parts to the counter fugues of Bach. All of this blissful sound was wrapped in a tidy little, 3 minute pop song package, and every track is hooky and good… In my adult life I went on to work at Mute and had a massive unrequited crush on Daniel Miller. If I had told my young self that that was going to happen I would have never believed it. My first day at Mute involved an after show party at a Depeche Mode concert at Wembley and I ended up arm in arm with Andy Fletcher, alco-pop in hand. I later went on to tour with Erasure and had dinner backstage with Vince Clarke almost every night. Living the dream started with that bargain bin cassette.