Saturday, October 17, 2015

meg myers - sorry

my last attempt at writing about music was kind of disastrous, but I'd like to give it another try. It's not every day that I pick up an album that I thoroughly enjoy. I became a fan of Meg Myers through Pandora, about a year ago. The track that initially got me interested in her was called "Curbstomp" and it played on the Pandora station I created using a few Sister Crayon songs. Appropriately, it shared a lot with them, like the trip-hoppy feel, creativity, and a healthy dose of angst. Check it out below.

"Curbstomp" is from her first EP, Daughter in the Choir which was eccentric (in a good way) throughout. I liked the whole thing, but each track seemed a little "rough" somehow. A trend I noticed was that each verse and bridge was very well put-together, but the choruses needed more "pop". I usually felt like they were not the payoff the excellent verses/bridges deserved. It's still an EP well worth checking out, as it's wonderfully indicative of her talent, and what she is capable of. I was eager to hear what was next. She had another EP come out after that, called Make a Shadow, which was an improvement over Choir in nearly every way. Every one of Shadow's tracks comes highly recommended by me, and in fact 3 out of 5 of them would be released on Meg's first full album, called Sorry. 

Warner Bros. would put out a sneak peek track or two leading up to it, but Sorry begins with a brand-spankin'-new one called "Motel".

I like it. I like it a lot. It's dark, moody, and catchy, and is actually a decent summary of what the rest of the album is like. That's what I think a good Track 1 should do. Meg has a talent for throwing in near-equal amounts of lyrics and vocalizations (your "oh"s, "ooh"s, and "aah"s), and making them play off of each other. In the lyrics, she goes on about feeling miserable and desperate, wishing she could break out of a downward spiral. The chorus repeats "I wanna love, wanna live, wanna breathe, wanna give." After 2 choruses, there's a quote in the bridge from Townes Van Zandt (I never heard of him and had to Google the quote). But it goes like this:
Interviewer: How come most of your songs are sad songs?

Van Zandt: I don't think they're all that sad. I have a few that aren't sad, they're like... hopeless. A totally hopeless situation. And the rest aren't sad, they're just the way it goes. 
I mean, you know, ... You don't think life's sad?... 
But from recognizing the sadness, you can put it aside and be happy, and enjoy the happy side of life.
After this, the song shifts gears. I don't have the musical vocabulary to tell you what it is, but there's a chord change, the key shifts, or something. Not dramatically, but just enough to change the meaning of the chorus; it repeats one more time "I wanna love, wanna live, wanna breathe, wanna give". It's optimistic now; instead of lamenting over a happiness that isn't there, it's like she's choosing to push through the sadness to overcome it. It kind of tells you that this is what the album is about: Confronting and acknowledging the dark and hopeless parts of ourselves, so we can put them aside. It's an uncomfortable ride at times, but it's necessary. Big thumbs up on this track, and for putting it first.

I can't review each song individually because it would take forever, so let's skip to my next favorite. Track 4 is called "Desire", and it's one of the songs that was held over from the Make a Shadow EP (Nothing from Daughter in the Choir was used, not even "Curbstomp"). These days, thanks to them internets, artists are releasing their albums in bits an pieces, leading up to release. It's not just to give us samplers; it's a crucial part of the business at this point. Instead of albums releasing first and the singles (and music videos) trickling out after, the singles are coming out first. It's a lot like what the Japanese model is. It helps introduce the artist to people at a relatively low cost to the label (if they have one). This helps them sense whether the artist can generate a following, and also helps drum up excitement to help with album sales. That's my hypothesis anyway. Give "Desire" a listen below. I wouldn't call the video NSFW, but you might have some awkward explaining to do if someone walks by.

This has to be one of the filthiest things I've heard, outside of that time I shoved a handful of dirt in my ear. It reminds me of Fiona Apple's "Criminal", which came out in 199-gawd-I'm-old. It makes me think of drug needles, cheap motels, and bathrooms that badly need cleaning. And sex. Definitely sex.

It feels like something Trent Reznor could have produced; it's appealing, but I'm somehow unsettled by the fact that I like it as much as I do. It could have fit in with NIN, and the likes of Marilyn Manson, Alanis Morissette and Fiona Apple on the radio. Listening to this whole album, you kind of get that vibe; Meg's very influenced by that period, which is appropriate given her age (I looked it up to write this; she actually turned 29 this month). I see a lot of artists trying to re-create the 80s right now, like it's just the thing to do (One of my favorite working bands is new-wave, so I'm not saying it's bad). I think it's harder to notice because the 90s are less obviously-distinctive; the 80s are marked by things like heavy use of synth and glamour. It's refreshing to hear the 90s influence, but I hope the industry doesn't just "shift" to it at-large a few years from now. For now, I'm glad to have this track. I don't know that there's an artistic upside to it the way there is with "Motel". Not one that's obvious, anyway. It really just seems like a well-made description of being, ... I dunno ... filthy? If nothing else, I can say that there are some very well-chosen lyrics, when it comes to being carnal using nothing but words. Particularly, I like "I gotta bring you to my hell / Baby, I wanna fuck you, I wanna feel you in my bones", and "I wanna throw you to the hounds / I gotta hurt you, I gotta hear it from your mouth." I'm not sure what that says about me.

Pictured: Me writing that last sentence.
Lord, that's more creepy than I'd anticipated. How about we move on to the next favorite before it gets weirder? Track 7 is called "Lemon Eyes", and is more indicative of the direction they went with this album, relative to the EPs. It's very pop-rock. It has the Meg Myers angst, sure, but it's definitely a departure from the eccentricity that I felt was her signature. The title track "Sorry" has this in common with "Lemon Eyes", I just like "Lemon Eyes" a little more, so I decided to bring that one up instead. You know the drill:

Both it and "Sorry" seem more like they're developed for radio play. I can't prove it, of course. It could very well be the direction in which the artist naturally evolved. It just could also be that the label was  trying to make something more radio-friendly when they created them. "Lemon Eyes" is probably the most upbeat of all of the songs on the album. I'm not one to pay too-too much attention to lyrics, but in trying to find something to say about this song, I gave it a glance over, and most of it goes like this: 
You're so bitter, bitter. bitter, yellow
Settle, settle, got to settle down okay
Listen, you listen, you listen, yellow
It's a killer, a killer, a killer, jealousy
They're very simplistic, compared to the other lyrics I posted; you can say the same thing about the song itself. It's a catchy pop-rock song. It's fairly standard, but it's saved by the relatively minimalist approach to the instrumental section of the verses, and Myers' vocalizations throughout (Again, the "oh"s and "ooh"s). It makes for a catchy punch when the chorus kicks in. Thumbs up again, but this one's not something to write home about. It's something to tide you over until you get to Track 8, "Make a Shadow".

This is another track that they kept from (duh) Make a Shadow . I really feel that Meg hit her "stride" with that EP; it had just the right balance of her strange angst, with the right production to reign it in. This song probably is the best example. On Sorry, with the exception of maybe "Motel", it's the most solidly-constructed song on the album, as far as finding that proper mix. At first listen, the chorus may sound like she's yodeling or something; she's repeating the word "only". It sounds the tiniest bit funny when you hear it the first time, but the song is otherwise well-made. That's kind of the problem I do have with this album: It has a higher percentage of "listen" songs than most albums I buy, but the best parts of it are songs that I'd already heard, and bought. I usually get CD albums instead of downloading singles, because I'm hoping I'll stumble onto something awesome and unexpected. And I did; "Motel" is great, and I wouldn't have heard it otherwise. It's just that with how strong her previous releases were, I think I might have expected a little too much. The new stuff is good, but not as good as the old stuff. It's still a great release; whatever she puts out next, I'll definitely check that out as well. I'm also going to see her live in L.A. in about a month, and I'm legitimately excited.

With her two promising EPs long since released, I was so very glad to see this artist make it to a full album release, on a large label no less. If Sorry wasn't your cup of tea, the earlier EPs might be more to your liking. All links below.

Sample/Buy Sorry on Amazon
Sample/Buy Make a Shadow (EP) on Amazon
Sample/Buy Daughter in the Choir (EP) on Amazon

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