Music Review: Shannon Curtis’ Creationism

Another new album from the prolific LuvTunGrl, as I call her (and have to explain to her every time). Jamie Hill, who is Shannon’s husband and musical partner in crime, will tell you how much I prefer acoustic—just the singer and the piano in this case—which is why I think he adds these beats and whirly and other sound effects: to piss me off. Thankfully Shannon’s voice carries the songs so that I can ignore most of that stuff.

Who Do You Think You Are?
A perfect example of what I said above. Lyrically I don’t find this as good as most of hers, but since it’s got great music and is basically a showcase for her vocals, who can complain? Especially when the chorus rises so deliciously. . .

She Writes It
A slow start to this surprisingly poppy song, but like the first one it’s all in the chorus. The lyrics are a beautiful twist on the girl power theme. My fave on the album. Could be a power anthem for female writers.

For the most part the beat is the only music behind Shannon’s voice, which is both good and bad. This one is too sparse to really get into, despite her breathy tone.

Little Life
Another sparse tune; without much of a melody it’s hard to remember.

The Stillness
Is that a Theremin? (Not according to the artist herself, but how cool would that have been?) I thought it was a sweet little love song at first, but I have to confess I’m not at all sure what’s it’s about by the end.

Roaring Flame
This is the most driving song, and oddly it’s the most obvious love song. About overcoming obstacles and all that, which you wouldn’t expect from the title.

Let’s Pretend
Very melodic tune that makes me think of little girl best friends.

Come Away
This one is as gentle as a lullaby, though it reads more like a love proposal. Sweet is indeed what Shannon does best.

Last Night Ever
This is Shannon’s second tune on the end of the world theme; the other, Lay Me Down, is one of my faves, and this one is up there too. Don’t leave this plane of existence with regrets. (Woulda given this one a perfect 5 if it didn’t have that weird beat that was almost like another attempted melody.)

Particle Collision
Ignoring the title, this is reminiscent of Shannon’s earlier work, with the musicbox-type intro, spiced with a cello.

So overall, and going extra fractional, I’m giving this album 4.25/5. The only downside is there’s nothing here that can compete, or rather compare to, “I Know, I Know,” though “She Writes It” comes close.


How to Record a House Concert

So, some time ago on my other blog I wrote about my musician friend Shannon Curtis when she released a live album {which you can still get for free here}. Now she’s fundraising for the release of her new studio album, so in order to make you like it enough to contribute, here’s that aforementioned blog entry.

I love going to Shan’s concerts to hear her new stuff, just her and the piano (-ish keyboard); too many times I’ve heard the finished studio product and didn’t like the drums or other accompaniments, so I’m taking this album as a personal shoutout from Jamie and Shan to me.
Shannon had previously released a CD of just her and the piano, one take in studio {which I reviewed here} but this recording takes it the logical step further, live in front of an audience. I assume it really helps when your hubby is a sound engineer, who gets paid to record, master, and even sometimes accompany a band to do their live sound. . . gee, I wonder how they met. . .
This CD is so good I forgive her for not having a FrontYardFest this summer. . . but pet peeve alert: checking the track listing, one might think some of these songs are extended versions, six minutes or longer. Nope, still a three to four minute song, with the rest being banter about the upcoming song, which is no big deal if you’re listening to the whole album straight through, but if you choose individual songs to put on your portable player, then you get a lot of extra stuff you wish you didn’t. Obviously you can’t start a track with a long explanation of the song, but one thing I’ve seen work is having the exposition as a separate track.

1 Waking Up with You
A cappella; heard it like this live, love it just as much here.
If I have a dream, it’s always a pretty good dream, if it ends with waking up with you.
2 Wasted
Keyboard is sounding very Wurly. . . as I recall, this was written for her hubby.
Even though it costs so much/I’m a debtor for one last touch.
Song ends around 4:25, so almost 2 minutes of talk about how romantic Oregon is, which leads to how she wrote this next song. . .
3 Boomerangs & Seesaws
It’s still amazing to me that this incredible song is actually beaten by another in Shannon’s musical arsenal.
The irony is it’s the scene I’d write, every day in May June. . . July, when I still hoped there was a you and I. . . in the stars.
Another minute and half of explaining, talking about how Arizona looks like the moon. But instead of the song I was expecting here from that intro, she talks about the couple she wrote the next song for. . .
4 Brightest Light of the Room
The Wurly sound makes the intro sound sorta disco-ish here.
Across the deserts and over oceans, you will be my spark of hope.
5 Love is an Earthquake
New song; was not expecting there to be an unknown tune on here. As usual, it takes me a while to warm up to a song, so I can’t say yet how much I like it.
Love shakes your foundation.
One minute of talking about how she made a video for the next song. . .
6 Let’s Stay In
As I recall, the video is actually quite entertaining. I do find the chorus a bit awkward lyrically.
This is how time stands still, hearts racing on the thrill.
Almost three minutes of enjoying the “Woo!” then talking about coming up with the next song in the shower, followed by the usual story of the financial world collapsing.
7 Lay Me Down
Another that I can’t believe is only about my third fave, but that just shows how amazing Shan is.
Though this is the last of all my breaths, it’s the best one of my life.
8 Before the Sun
There’s my fave. . . and really, what more can I say?
Hope awakes as fear is fast asleep.
Almost two minutes’ talk about how different South Pasadena is from El Lay, and the sad story of a neighbor. Hits close to me because I’ve been to Shan’s house and probably met this person. . .
9 Anti-Gravity
So it’s not a love song, which is unusual for her. The artwork for this song is minimalist and kinda funny. Parts of this, I find, make me think “Brightest Light” is back on.
I don’t want to walk around in a town that forgot your name.
Over two minutes of growing up listening to Amy Grant and how the next song got recorded by Charlie Peacock.
10 Why Don’t You Stay?
Her most straightforward song; no hidden subtle messages here.
Why don’t you stay just a little bit longer, just a little bit closer, till the end of the song?
Half a minute of explaining how you shouldn’t break down on a dark desert highway—with no Hotel California nearby—even if you get a song out of it.
11 So Many Stars
Possibly her slowest song, until she gets to the chorus, which changes to an almost musicbox sound.
It’s easier telling secrets in the dark, with so many stars.
A little less than a minute of the fans sad that we’ve arrived at the last song, as well as how many miles are on the famous Jetta.
12 Book of Fiction
She calls it a song about what might have been in another time, another place. Starts with a Police song title. . . I’ll let you guess which one before you read further, because this time I’m including the full lyrics, I love them so much:
Don’t stand so close to me
We make electricity
And it would help if you’d say something
Instead of staring at me with those eyes
It’s getting harder for me to disguise
That I’d like to feel your lips on mine

Maybe in another country
Maybe on a distant shore
Maybe if I’d made a left instead
Or wandered through a different door
Maybe on a faraway planet
In a futuristic time
Maybe in a book of fiction, I’d have been yours

Don’t be so interesting
Or smart, and kind, and funny
I’m having trouble remembering
Why I can’t just walk over and say
“Whatcha doing the rest of the day?
How about you and me run away?”

Maybe in an ancient temple
On the sound of an unheard prayer
Maybe if I’d answered “yes” instead
Or followed a whim somewhere
Maybe in a mountain kingdom
Where the people speak in rhyme
Maybe in a book of fiction, I’d have been yours

The story goes like this
We meet and then we kiss
And then it goes, how stories go
Till happily it ends

Maybe in an Argo vessel
In the light of the farthest star
Maybe we’ll be born again someday
And I’ll remember who you are
Maybe on a desert island
In an era before our time
Maybe in a book of fiction, I’d have been yours
And you’d have been mine
Maybe in a book of fiction you’d have been mine
{And we slowly fade away. . . }


Top 15 Songs of 2012

P.G. Wodehouse

To my daughter Leonora, without whose never-failing sympathy and encouragement this book would have been finished in half the time.


So. . . title is self-explanatory, right?

15. Halie LorenFeeling Good

As far as I’m concerned, Halie Loren is jazz.

14. Riddle the SphinxOne Man Band

A sad little paean which kicks up into rock ballad territory halfway. Showcases Christiane’s voice and pianowork, as well as Christo’s “world percussion.” He’s the only drummer I know who hits the cymbals with his hands.

13. Paulina LoganRoad in the Sky

Paulina is known for her sad songs of longing, but with the exception of “Shut the Door,” this is her hardest rockin’ tune, incredibly catchy as she sings about the “trip” she’s embarking on. . . and I’m gonna keep on going here just so I don’t end in a preposition.

12. Cindy AlexanderGrow Up

Not to take anything away from the verses, but Cindy’s strength has always been in the chorus–or as they call it now, the “hook”–and this song is another great example. The only other of my fave musicians who is such a master is Kari Kimmel.

11. Shannon CurtisBook of Fiction

If you subscribe to the theory of infinite universes predicated on every choice you make–or counter-factuals–this is the song for you. Still a love song, though; be warned. {Shannon is still giving away her entire new live album, at the link above.}

10. Scout SmithLoverboy

Everything you need to know about Scout’s voice and song-crafting ability is right here in this very heartfelt tune. Can get overly dramatic, but hopefully she’ll prune that as she leaves her teens.

9. Kat ParsonsLove Changes Everything

Kat-nip is the cutest little thing to hit the airwaves since. . . you get the picture. Whereas it was a bit incongruous to see that sweet face singing about her former lover on her last album, this song–and video–is so perfectly Kat. . .

8. Riddle the SphinxProfessional Pretender

After an unintentional laugh at the thought of a lawyer singing about a liar. . . I had no idea my buddy Christiane could craft such elaborate lyrics, or that she knew how much I love internal rhymes.

7. MeikoLeave the Lights On

If there’s anyone who could beat Kat-nip for the title of “cuteness personified,” Meiko is the challenger. Don’t remember how young she was when I first met her, when she was waitressing at Hotel Café, but I am in shock to find she’s in her 30s now, cuz she looks exactly the same. On the other hand, as much as I’ve loved her previous songs, this one shows her evolution as a crafter of fine tunes. One of the very rare songs I loved the first time I heard it.

6. Lindsey Yung—Hold

The music can get a little slow and ponderous, and Lindsey’s vocals go a bit drama queen–especially in complete contrast to her Scent of Summer–but in this case those qualities fit well with the lyrics and make the song what it is. {You can get a free download at her website—link is on her name.}

5. RushThe Wreckers

Sometimes it takes me 10 years to get into a Rush song; this one did the trick immediately. I supposed it helps that I understood what was going on in the lyrics right away, as well as the historical background of it. I specifically love the way Neil took a chance by making some of the verses with the same rhyme in all four lines, which is not easy.

4. Natalie GelmanLaugh So Hard You Cry

Speaking of emotional vocals! Natalie has a gift for converting real life into catchy tunes. Check out Streetlamp Musician and The Lion as well.

3. Riddle the SphinxSkies of Aleyeska

Five or six years ago I heard Christiane solo this song at a Borders, and never heard it again until this CD. You can almost transport yourself to the tiny island–Scotland or Ireland, I forget–although I imagine most women wouldn’t find it a compliment to have their blue eyes described as “glacier.” That fact, as well as having been on quite a few of those desolate islands, gives me a chill every time I hear this song.

2. Far Beyond FrailA Changed Man

Speaking of loving a song the first time. . . This duo has always been fantastic with music and vocals, but this time it’s the lyrics that shine the brightest. I can hear the anger and frustration in Sharilynn’s every note as she divests herself of the man she can no longer love. . .

1. Marina VRun

Vaguely stalkerish in the most catchy way; in fact, she almost makes the stalker seem sympathetic, especially if it’s her in the role. If you listen closely there’s a touch of wurly-like keyboard that lightens the tone a bit.

So this is the second time in three years that Marina V has taken the title of my fave song of the year. Wonder how she does it. . .