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Links Asylum Seekers

Hom e Monday, June 27, 2005, 16:50


Contact Me Here’s a cool project I came across a w hile back, and then inexplicably forgot to w rite about. (After all
About This Weblog of my complaints on the subject, it turns out that I’M the reason good bands don’t get the success they
estrogenius dot net deserve! Go figure...)
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26 27 28 29 30 The band is Sm ith Island, and they’ve gone and created a rock opera.

Yes, a ROCK OPERA.

Categories Once a curious relic of the “Yes, there’s such a thing as too creative” 1970’s, the concept of rock
opera w as once again thrust into the public consciousness by the success and acclaim of Green Day’s
Music American Idiot. So much so, in fact, that you probably never w ant to hear another rock opera ever
Misc again. Normally, I’d be w ith you on that – hell, I never w anted to hear one before -- but w e w ill all have
to make an exception for Smith Island.

Search: The story of this rock opera is the now -classic tale of a young w oman w hose dreams of Hollyw ood
are shattered by the reality of drug use and casting-couch abuse, w hich quite literally drives her
Go insane. “Smith Island” is the fantasy asylum in w hich the heroine, Zelda Zardoz, takes shelter. By the
end of it all, Zelda’s adventures make Jenny from Forrest Gump look like Marie Osmond.

A couple of things, really quick: I live in Hollyw ood, and w hile it is now inhabited almost entirely by
Most Recent elderly Ukranians, in the 70’s you couldn’t sw ing a cat w ithout hitting a Zelda Zardoz-type (don’t try to
start doing the math; this w as the late 70’s, and I w as very young). So the material is thematically true to
Brynne Johnson the period. In fact, Smith Island gets major points for the direct reference to Zardoz, one of those
Thursday, January 19, 2006, 21:05 completely messed-up 70’s movies that my dad insisted on taking me to. A Boy and His Dog, The Magic
hey!! My name is brynne too!! Christian, Putney Swope -- for some reason, he loved that w eird shit. It w as like a freaking miracle
w henever my dad actually took me to a normal, major-studio release in the 70’s. Maybe it w asn’t himD
David Lech maybe the movies just sucked overall.
Monday, January 16, 2006, 02:11
Your not Kidding Jenae is Great ,and... ErDback to Smith Island. Sorry about that.

RED
A I said, the material is thematically true to the period. But more importantly, it’s pretty damn true to the
Monday, October 17, 2005, 15:06
period aurally as w ell. Smith Island sounds like a cross betw een Blondie and Iron Maiden, or any of the
Aw w w w w w w ! That w as so sappy
countless rock bands that Spinal Tap w as sending-up. But Smith Island isn’t necessarily a spoof project
and sw eet,...
– or if it is, then it’s a very loving one, as This Is Spinal Tap w as. There may be only five tracks, but the
Arhythm ius quality is too high – from Gabrielle Stubbert’s vocals to the spot-on arrangements – for this to be a
Tuesday, August 23, 2005, 16:03 throw aw ay project.
...w hile it may seem to the dedicated...
Would you like to find out for yourself? Well, here’s the best part: You can dow nload the tracks in their
RED entirety from Smith Island’s w ebsite! But I linked to the CDBaby page above, because that’s w here you
Tuesday, August 23, 2005, 12:42 w ill BUY the album once you’ve decided you like it. Right?

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I haven't been avoiding... Or you can listen to ESTROGENIUS, w here I've added the Smith Island tracks "Asylum" and "Starfucking
Your Way to Now here" to the playlist.

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The Minor Notes Archive


VERY New Artist: Sara Oliveira Groovy Quebecoise
New to the Playlist: Sarah
Cracknell Thursday, June 23, 2005, 13:37
Squeaky F-w ord Gets the Grease
So I finally broke dow n and bought a CD that I've been w anting for, oh, about a year. The reason it's
Here's A Cogent Thought: Fuck!
taken me that long is because it happens to be a band w ith a male vocalist. My music-purchasing
New Pick!
budget is very meager, so I can't justify buying anything that isn't in support of the station. Therefore, all
Plus & Minus
of the guy-groups in w hich I'm interested fall by the w ayside.
Handling Shipping
Dow n With Irony
Fortunately (at least in this very specific w ay), I just had a birthday. Thus, I w as able to w rangle for
Jenae: Flow er in the Frost
free a couple of CD's that I couldn't justify paying for myself.

Foremost among them is Funeral, the debut album by Arcade Fire. I know ! Isn't it sad that it took me
THIS long to finally ow n this gem?!

If you're not familiar w ith Arcade Fire, it's a group of about 15 Canadians w ho got together and made a
w eird, brilliant album. I really don't know how to describe them, but to me, Funeral seemed like the
Partridge Family meets the Addams Family. No, the band members are not related (apart from the tw o
w ho got married during the course of production), but they've created a sort of mythos that harkens
back to those legendary family units. To me, Arcade Fire are like the crazy neighbors that you actually
like. Their home may smell a little odd and the yard may be overgrow n, but they’re artistic and
freew heeling, and they throw amazing Hallow een parties.

I w on’t go into a blow -by-blow review of the album; just buy it if you haven’t already. Arcade Fire use
just about every musical instrument ever invented, including many that w ere not invented for the
purpose of being musical instruments. I'm pretty sure you'll find someone credited for playing the
"stapler" somew here in the liner notes.

One nitpick is that Arcade Fire are a little too enamored of tempo-changes. It’s fine if the w hole song is
a tempo mishmash, like the crazy “Our Song” by Yes, but Arcade Fire too often throw in a tempo
change right w hen you’re getting into the track’s initial groove. The w orst offense is turning the
outstanding anthem “Wake Up” into a doo-w op song about 2/3 of the w ay through. It’s not enough to
make it a bad song, though – in fact, it may be my favorite song of the year.

Oh, and nobody told me that tw o of the tracks feature female vocals by Régine Chassagne, taking over
for lead vocalist Win Butler (they're the tw o w ho got married, by the w ay). So in fact, I could have
justified purchasing this album earlier, seeing as how I added the tracks "Haiti" and "In the Backseat" to
the playlist. Sigh.

You know , something kept rattling around in my mind after I made the comment about combining the
Partridge Family w ith the Addams FamilyDand then it came to me: There already was a group that w as
exactly that.

I am, of course, referring to the venerable Groovy Ghoulies -- that’s the original, cartoon band, not the
recent live act w ith the same name -- and if you can find any dedicated w ebsites or images of them,
then you’re better at this than I am.

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Queen of Dreamers

Monday, June 13, 2005, 12:35


The thing about w riting music review s is that you usually w ant to compare the artist you're review ing to
some other, w ell-know n artists. It's an easy w ay of describing the style of music w ithout actually
describing the style of music, w hich w ould require far more creativity than most review ers (including
Yours Truly) can muster.

But you also w ant to make readers aw are of how the artist differs from those other artists, so as not
to turn-off people w ho don't like them. As a result, music review s may seem a little cookie-cutter; but try
not to blame the w riter for that. It's usually out of necessity.

Well, I w on't have that problem w ith Natalie London. Her music has defied my efforts to find
comparable artists. And that makes me very happy.

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Natalie London

This tw entysomething native of London, Ontario (no relation) cites NIN, Tool and Radiohead as major
influences, and her music is the closest thing to those styles that an acoustic band w ith a female
vocalist can get. If that sounds strange, just listen to the tracks at her Myspace site and you w ill
instantly Get It. But since Natalie London is clearly doing her ow n thing, I can't very w ell use those
bands for comparison. This is some of the most original-sounding music I've heard in a long time, and I
think that's pretty exciting.

Ms London is on-point lyrically as w ell. I especially like this passage from "Cried Wolf":

selective memory is frightening me* its frustrating


so i get screamed at for kicking sand at the bully that just buried me in it
i believe in heaven, but i would never bet my life on it.

"Morning" is about a w oman w ho is looking for something deeper than sex w ith her partner, but has run
out of patience:

guess i shouldn't expect, anything truly intimate*


when you can't even make me laugh

This is strong material, and I'm very pleased to be giving it some of the exposure that it deserves. If I've
turned you on to Natalie London (and you do like her, because you're smart), then do your part for this
original artist, and spread the w ord.

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Out of Florida

Friday, June 10, 2005, 17:00


I am an idiot.

This is not a new thing. But in writing the review below, I completed about 90% before accidentally
deleting it. This IS a new thing. As a result, I have promoted myself from “Idiot” to “Incomprehensibly
Stupid, Dim-Witted Obtuse Moron”, and I now despise myself even more than I did before this
ridiculous stunt.

So here’s a re-creation of what I’d written up to that point – strictly from memory:

So, I spent last w eek at a conference in Middle-of-Now here, Florida. If you think that Middle-of-
Now here, Florida is a bad place for a major business conference, then you’re right! Strangely,
how ever, the event organizers never had that thought. Anyw ay, this w eek w as spent doing all the
w ork that piled up last w eek w hile I w as aw ay. So that’s w hat-the-hell-I’ve-been-doing, since you
w ere about to ask. Say it w ith me: Stupid day job!

Well, I’m back – and over the next few days I’ll highlight some great new artists that I’ve come across
(as usual, click on the name to visit the artist’s site):

Brynne Calleran

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(photo courtesy of Brynne Calleran)

If you’ve ever listened to Estrogenius, you’ll have noticed that I don’t really play any solo-acoustic
material. Whenever I hear a solo-acoustic song, I immediately w onder w hether the artist has the chops
to pull off the full-band thing. Not that it doesn’t take a considerable amount of talent and determination to
be a singer-songw riter-musician, but to take your skills into a band setting and make it all w ork together
requires an additional, entirely different set of skills.

Thus, w hen I heard the solo-acoustic songs “Rain Date” and “Reality” by Brynne Calleran, from her
debut album Rain Date, although I appreciated the music, I w ondered w hat else she could bring. And
then she hit me w ith “What Have We Done?”, a soulful anthem w ith a full band (including piano, w hich
Ms Calleran taught herself to play), about how the pressures of society (“We”) negatively affect the
self-image of a young w oman. While the lyrics present a point of view w ith w hich I disagree to an
extent, it certainly doesn’t make it a bad song, w hich is w hy I’ve added it to the playlist of Estrogenius. I
should also mention in fairness that I am not a young w oman. Which is an important point, because
Brynne Calleran is.

All my life, I’ve noticed that older adults have a tendency to resort to condescension w hen praising the
intelligence of teenagers or young adults. As in, “You’re so smart for your age!” or some such thing. As
if dumb teenagers w ere the rule and not the exception. I’ve never thought in those terms, so naturally I
took it for granted that Ms Calleran is quite intelligent. What really impressed me, then, w as the degree
of assurance projected by this mostly self-taught artist w ho only recently graduated from high school.
I’m continually amazed at how the Brynne Callerans and Joss Stones of the w orld somehow manage to
pack 40-plus years of experience into 18 years of existence. Even on the acoustic tracks, Ms Calleran
sounds like a latter-day, pop Rickie Lee Jones.

I’m pleased to say that it looks like Brynne Calleran is getting off to a fast, but high-quality start. She’s
playing gigs all over New York, and is currently at w ork on her second album. It’s alw ays heartening to
see a very young artist forego the cookie-cutter route and try to do her ow n thing on her ow n terms.
On the basis of her raw talent alone, it looks like Brynne Calleran has w hat it takes to become a major
success. Although I’m guessing she’d consider her life a major success already.

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Sw itchyard: Sm oother than a GE 4400 Locom otive

Wednesday, May 18, 2005, 17:06


Here's w hat's cool about the band Sw itchyard:

1. Rachel Bellinsky (obviously)

Rachel is the vocalist, songw riter and driving force behind Sw itchyard. Despite (or perhaps because
of) formerly being in an all-girl disco cover band in Las Vegas, Rachel's music is smooth, smooth,
smooth. I'm talking Joni Mitchell-caliber here. There are even a couple of tracks that w ould've been right
at home in that circular lounge that w as near the elevators in the old Desert Inn on the Strip (I'd sw ear
Joey Bishop w alked right by me one time). But the album is mostly introspective songs about the
ultimate question of Love, the Universe, and Everything. It's mellow er than the stuff I usually play, but
talent is talent.

2. Lyrics

From "Virgins": The heart only knows / That it can feel this way / After it's made such a beautiful

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mistake / Now it must learn just how to break.

And the whole album is like that. If you know me at all, you know that I'm a sucker for good lyrics.
Rachel Bellinsky can w rite 'em.

3. The band is called "Sw itchyard"

What a cool name. I used to totally be into trains w hen I w as a kid. I'm not sure if Rachel Bellinsky has
the same fascination, but the Charles Bukow ski poem included on the CD insert seems to be a major
clue.

4. The album is called "The Secret Life of Spiders"

Oh my God, w hat another fucking cool name. I'm sorry, but I really appreciate bands that come up w ith
aw esome names like that, w ithout resorting to something trite, obtuse or (ack) self-titled. It just so
happens that I also dig spiders. Spiders are our friends. I could have just as easily said that this album
is as smooth as a Silver Argiope (Argiope argentata).

OK, so I just re-read the above, and I seem to be coming across like a Teen People editor w ho just got
slipped a microdot. It's really due to the deadly combination of enthusiasm and lack of time. Look, forget
about ME; this is supposed to be about Sw itchyard, remember? Go look at their site. Well, go on!

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