Category Archives: 2016

Karrie: Perpetual Motion – The Review

The news is brutal. Not just this morning, but most mornings. These days, it seems, someone, somewhere, is always scheming to commit terrible acts in furtherance of their aims, whatever they may be. It is not a new phenomenon. Zealotry has been with us since the dawn of time, and seems to ebb and flow according to an algorithm all its own.

Which is why, today, I smiled wide upon discovering that, at least in the U.S., the Irish singer-songwriter Karrie O’Sullivan’s 2016 album Perpetual Motion is available on Apple Music under the one-name moniker of Karrie. Music provides solace and escape from the concerns of the day like no other, of course. And wouldn’t you know it? The first line of the first song of the album opens with, “Sometimes it feels so strong that I’m going to break…”

That video features a stripped-down rendition of “This Time,” obviously, and the subject of the song isn’t about the worries of the world, but love. On album, the song’s gentleness is amplified, and grows from a trickle to a stream of flowing instruments and vocals.

In an email, Karrie noted that the album’s second track, “Trying to Be Honest,” has a Rickie Lee Jones-like vibe –

And, indeed, it does. So goes the album as a whole, with the occasional influences (Joni, Rickie Lee, Van Morrison, among others) in the grooves (or bytes) never overwhelming or distracting from the songs but, instead, acting as affectionate homages. And then a song like “Movie Show” flutters its opening reel…

…and you’re totally immersed in the flickering image being projected by the lyrics and melody. The same goes with the album’s title track:

From what I’ve read, Karrie turned to music as a second career after the 2008-09 recession caused a downturn in her horse-training business, which she’d pursued for 15-20 years. She picked up a guitar, wrote her first song and eventually released her first album, Jelly Legged, in 2011. (That debut is also on Apple Music, for what it’s worth.) But I’d wager that she’s had melodies, rhythms and rhymes bubbling in the back of her brain from a young age; she just had to tame and train them. Likewise, I’m sure, she had to do the same with her lilting and lovely voice, which has become more confident in the years since Jelly Legged.

The whys and wherefores of the wider world’s insanity – those are things that we have seen before, and unfortunately will deal with again. It is not worthy of panic. Rather, it’s best to move forward with a clear head and heart, deal with the problem straight-on – and seek occasional refuge in that which matters most to us: family, friends and, in my case, feline and song. Karrie O’Sullivan’s Perpetual Motion fills that last bill for today, and I’m sure it will tomorrow and next week. It’s a thing of aural beauty.

Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions

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Last night, with some time to kill prior to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I found myself surfing the algorithmic waves of YouTube thanks to a hankering to hear Best Coast’s title song to their 2015 album California Nights. I’d never heard of the band until reading a review of the album in, I think, Mojo; and I was instantly smitten with that trippy song’s thick and hazy tones, which creep in like a dense fog at dusk. I ordered the CD the same day and, a few days later, featured it in this post – while mentioning its similarities to Opal and Mazzy Star.

And after listening to it yet again last night, I found myself diving head-first into Opal’s sonic undertow. Their 1987 Happy Nightmare, Baby album, as I’ve said before, is a true lost treasure. For those unaware of them, the band had its roots in L.A.’s Paisley Underground scene, and – if they’d stuck together – could’ve carved out a Sonic Youth-like career. But, while on tour promoting that LP (their one and only), lead singer Kendra Smith quit the band and, after releasing a few albums over the next few years, disappeared into the woods of Northern California, never to be heard from again. A true shame, as she was a talented artist and that version of the band was intense.

Dave Roback, Opal’s remaining musical architect, recruited Hope Sandoval to step into the void in order to finish the tour. They were already friends, having worked together on never-released recordings for Hope’s folk duo, Going Home. (In the clip above, that’s her to the right of Roback in the studio intro.) Here’s a full set of that version of Opal in 1988 Italy –

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I’m sure it was difficult to sub for Smith on such short notice, but Hope pulled it off – and then some; and, as the decade faded into the next, the group morphed into Mazzy Star. While they maintained the same languid shoe-gazing psychedelia, Hope’s vocals are far more dreamy, ethereal and inviting than Smith’s. And, too, the dark-hued dissonance was imbued with splashes of color. (Or something like that.)

Here’s “Halah,” from the 1990 Mazzy Star debut, She Hangs Brightly.

Three years later, they released the So Tonight That I Might See CD, home to a classic song that (almost) everyone of a certain vintage will remember: “Fade Into You.”

There’s far more to the story, of course; and the Wikipedia entry does a thorough job in explaining it. For the purposes of this post, though, while jumping from one video to another to another last night – such as this one, “Flowers in December,” from a 1994 appearance at Neil Young’s annual Bridge School benefit concert –

– I discovered that, last year, Hope collaborated with Massive Attack (for the second time) on the song “The Spoils.”

She also released the album Until the Hunter with her own group, the Warm Inventions – which will likely be most of what I listen to for the next few weeks. Now that I’ve listened to it not once, but twice, I can say: It follows the Opal/Mazzy Star blueprint; and is, in a word, amazing. Here are two songs from it:

Ear Candy 101: The Yearning

The Yearning has an odds-and-sods compilation on Elefant Records due out on Feb. 10th: From Dusk to Dawn (2011-2014). As everything Yearning, the songs that I’ve heard are delectable slices of dreamy retro-pop – think Phil Spector, but with a more fragile, airier vibe.

Here are YouTube videos for a few of the songs:

And here’s a live version of one of the other songs:

(To learn about Joe Moore, the Brian Wilson-esque songwriter-producer behind the group, read this Indietracks interview.)