FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: ALMOST CUT MY HAIR
This line came immediately to mind after I learned of the sad passing of legendary songsmith, David Crosby earlier today. David’s “Almost Cut My Hair”, which you can find on Crosby Stills Nash & Young’s seminal album Déjà Vu, always seemed to me more to do with an expression of freedom rather than paranoia. Let’s hope that he still feels like letting his freak flag fly somewhere in the ether. RIP David.
Photo of Dizzy by Boy Wonder
It is always a delight to hear new music from Canadian four-piece, Dizzy. I still haven’t got over quite how good the band’s 2020 album, The Sun and Her Scorch, sounded from its first spin and, after a hiatus, it was great to hear Dizzy return in November armed with a thought-provoking new single, "Barking Dog." Lyrically channelling stark reflections on identity and upbringing, the track was accompanied by an unsettling video featuring lead singer and lyricist Katie Munshaw confined in a bathroom, masked and symbolically beating herself up. The mask is back for Dizzy’s latest single, “Birthmark,” but there is a contrasting sense of liberation about this song.
“Birthmark” navigates a different kind of pain. It references the pain arising from what Katie describes as finding herself “on the sidelines of a nightmarish break up.” The inference is that she is writing in the third person rather than about herself but the emotions are just as keenly felt. Liberation I get from sensing that solace comes from a recognition that such pain is not confined to one person. Hope and healing may be distant but still achievable. “Birthmark” is a song of wisdom couched in an infectious groove and blessed with Katie’s glorious topline melody. And how’s this for a riposte to end the verses: “…where once there was a bolder man / you cower now in comic sans.”
Fresh on the Net’s Listening Post was back last week after a Christmas break and the next trio of songs all found favour not just with the site’s moderators but with the voters who put each of them into the week’s Fresh Faves. Oddly all three of these songs came out a while back but were only entered on FOTN last week. Actually it was a particularly strong week and I could easily have featured others here.
Let’s begin with Good Luck Alaska, aka singer-songwriter-guitarists Juliet Kelson and Ryan Dugan who hail from Minneapolis rather than Alaska. The band name is a line they took from the final episode of the Netflix series, Maid. While they played together in Twin Cities band Geyser up to 2019, Good Luck Alaska is a fairly recent project with a debut EP due out in March. A gentle song of regret at the end of a relationship, “Guilt” has been around since the summer and has the relaxed feel of that season, highlighted by intricate and highly adept guitar work. Juliet’s soft lead vocal is nicely enriched by her band mate’s flawless harmonies. This live version was recorded at the local Waterbury Music studio where Ryan works as an audio engineer. A guilty pleasure indeed.
Staying in contemplative territory, we move on to March, not skipping a month but referencing the alter ego of London-based artiste, Kitty O’Neal. She adopted the name to steer herself a little away from a crowded singer-songwriter space and leave her freer to progress in different directions. March has a new EP, Greens and Blues, due for release this April and the first single from it, “Hesperides”, reflects a blend of contemporary folk wedded to soft electronica. The titular mythological guardians of a tree bearing golden apples which Gaea gave to Hera at her marriage to Zeus don’t get a name check until the final line of the song. No matter, there is a magical feel to the song guided by March’s gilded vocal and some particularly evocative imagery as she spins a tale of finite time, acceptance and delight to be had in the power of dreams.
As a bonus, March released the second single from the new EP last Friday with the more prosaic title of “Car Song.” An ode to her old car, she contemplates the passage of time alongside the more grounded discomforts of a vehicle well past its prime. It’s artful and really charming.
Our third Fresh Fave is Holly Henderson with a song that came out last November to announce her forthcoming album, The Walls. A Maidstone native, Holly is still based in the Kent county town, despite jetting to LA to record her first full-length album, Monday Green, with guitarist/producer Pete Thorn who first became aware of her talents via Instagram. Before then the self-confessed ‘weird kid’ cut her performing teeth in a punk band before hooking up musically with Pete Thorn. Btw, I recommend you check out Holly’s bio – a great read! The psych-pop flavoured “The Planes” is somewhat adrift from her punk roots with its easy tempo, fuzzed guitar, sleek vocal and layered harmonies. Lyrically she reflects on how invasive thoughts do not need to be accepted as real and threatening but can be positively dispelled.
We close today in memory of David Crosby, celebrated songwriter and member of The Byrds and Crosby Stills Nash and Young, whose death at the age of 81 was announced yesterday. David was well-known latterly as an avid tweeter and, in an echo of Weird Al’s “Lame Claim to Fame,” I have to confess that David Crosby once liked one of my tweets. I should have kept it and framed it.
In today’s Guardian, Alexis Petridis wrote that “perhaps the best way to describe him was mercurial.” It is a word that really sums up the charming, amusing, generous sides of the man yet equally points to a contrariness and at times overbearing, lippy nature. I admired David greatly for his wonderful voice and the way he could conjure the most magical harmonies.
I think this may be my favourite song of his. It’s from CSN’s ground-breaking debut album.