Little Jimmy Scott, rest in peace, gentle soul

(This is an excerpt from the chapter 'Degrees of Late Night Music')

The deepest, darkest and quietest moment of the night calls for a supra-human voice, or more poetically, a voice that's not quite of this world. Some people might reach for Nick Drake or the angelic lacrymatics of Orbison, but for sheer and soulful comfort in a world of confusion, loneliness and heartache there is none that holds a candle to the Legendary Jimmy Scott. And he is a pure enigma, a contradictory ambivalence of a different order. He is a man for whom deep soul and directness have come at great personal cost. His voice is astounding in its beauty, reach and control, and his every nuance seems to speak of heartache and loss, and yet...

OK maybe some context is in order.

Jimmy Scott was born with Kallman's syndrome, a hormone deficiency which if untreated means the body doesn't undergo puberty. As a consequence, Jimmy's voice didn't break but stayed high and strong like a castrato. He had an early break singing with Lionel Hampton in the late 40s, and recorded a great album with Ray Charles in the producer's seat, but his career nosedived due to legalities, and didn't fully revive until the early 90s when the confluence of a David Lynch cameo and the funeral of Doc Pomus brought him back to fully recorded glory.

His voice is a wonder. Piercing and possessive, it cuts through paper and skin. Neither Lennon's wail nor Wilson's falsetto approach Jimmy in terms of distinctiveness and instant attention-grabbing. It sounds like a woman's voice — maybe an irrepressible aunt's voice, striking fear and discomfort into relatives gathered round the piano. There's a degree of the masculine in it, just a shade; but its high register is definitely beyond the ordinary [note 5]. For musical ears conditioned to regular gender-vocal norms and the occasional high-pitched male, Jimmy cuts through with otherworldly power.

The voice of a vulnerable, youngish-seeming man singing with a well-aged soul, an experience beyond years — though of course he is that aged soul, that wise old man. This unchanged voice is at variance with time somehow, in seeming to have escaped it. It has matured differently, experientially; it stands outside of time and yet is timeless in the most direct, unambiguous way.

Jimmy sings about death, loss and suffering simply by style and inflection. Once you've heard him sing (the word is too light) a ballad or jazz standard, you'll realise the power of interpretation in soul, of truly owning a lyric's content. And strangely — this must be the calling card of true soul music — his ballads make you feel better, more hopeful. 

Listen to his outright ownership of "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child", or the way his "Angel Eyes" carries naked emotion and broken despair to a level Sinatra could only dream of. This is a man who has been through the depths of loneliness and loss. For Frank, singing 'scuse me while I disappear' was a cue to back off the stage; for Jimmy it's damn near an existential act.

He strikes a near-absolute grace of sincerity — so total there is no space for irony or sniggering camp. Jimmy is absolutely believable; he occupies the subjective zone so completely you can't imagine him singing anything but aching, soaring ballads. 

And if you thought Sinatra was a legend for his timing and phrasing, listen close. Jimmy is the master of delayed pacing: timing every enunciation to fall waaay behind the beat, drawing it to uncommon length, pitching it around his vibrato without ever once seeming delayed or dragging the rhythm. It's a technique that serves to focus listener attention solely on the words and soul of the voice. Hence he's most comfortably at home in the slow ballad where there's room to set up these subtle gaps for the attention to fall into. Technically, it's all sewn up and connected: the effeminate voice, the freakishly skilled technique, and the soul import of heartbreaking balladry.

If you're investigating his records I'd suggest working your way backwards from the pristine modern albums like All the Way, to the solitary 70s masterpiece The Source, and then the (thankfully reissued) Falling in Love is Wonderful, which is 50s Jimmy at his most penetrating and incisive.

With his nurtured phrasing and complete immersion in a song, with that sublime androgynously clear voice, you might still miss out on the visual magnetism and intense focus of his performing style. So personal and performative, singing from the deepest, private heart, with everyone in the audience hanging on to every note. 

Such rare genius, such rare and total feel for the material, such faultless execution. 

Jimmy's heartbreakingly simple lesson: it all comes from the soul. The broken, suffering, but hopeful soul. And his humble beauty as a person comes, partly, from an intelligence born of that suffering: an articulate, moving, generous man who has been to the ends of suffering and still maintains an absolute grace in singing it. 

Jimmy makes conversions. From heartbreak, for hope. That's gotta be true spirit. 

ABBA - The Visitors (long read)

When the glorious 70s slipped into the cool 80s, Abba put out their last album. Welcome to some serious art built on divorce, sadness and savvy.

This is an album that has a long personal history for me. Firstly, I am a child of the 80s who can remember the 70s turning into a big new number. Which means I'm not intimidated or dazed by 80s production values, synths and pompous drum sounds, or the odd spot of chintzy disco. My first record, for reference, was a cheesy disco compilation. Also, my father worked in the Persian Gulf in the late 70s and brought back an impressive stack of bootleg cassettes of everything that was on the charts then. A lot of it in questionable taste, of course, and I'm sure in retrospect he bought so many Abba and BoneyM and Kenny Rogers tapes only because they were so very cheap. But these tapes were my first big musical experience, and I sat around for hours tucking into catchy melodies and dancy beats and even DJing my own compilations. I was also inadvertently picking up a lot of English, as I discovered a year or two later (having moved to Australia from Holland) and finding I could recite lyrics from memory and with sudden, uncanny understanding.
After a huge number of relocations, I've now taken the best pickings from the bootleg stash, and keep them for mild nostalgia and occasional archival reference. Their sound quality is far from great and the track order often meddled with — sometimes you can hear the needle drop on the source record; but it was a great way to be introduced to a variety of music. The experience of music is different (compared to radio) when you can listen to things over and over again, to really let it sink into the gray matter. Music then becomes a part of time and memory, coded in the layering of matter in the brain. You tune into the feel and fibre of music more.
Now that Abba have gone through their revival and re-acceptance phases, it's pretty safe to come out and say one loves their superb melodies and crafted records again, and not be lamely ironic or kitschily camp in saying so. And now that my musical obsession has, er, matured somewhat, I've come to The Visitors with wildly impressed ears.
I have a theory that disco can reach high art at times, but that'll have to wait because this isn't a disco album the way Voulez-Vous was. The Visitors is nonetheless riddled with fine melodies and studio power. Damn if it's not their most mature album musically, bristling with ideas and production savvy — from the resonance of disco mixing right down to the oompa coda of "Two For The Price of One". The musical changes and progressions alone lift what in other hands would've been an unhappy record, into high contagion of freshness and musical optimism. Everything is proportionate and in service to the song: canny lyrics sung with Nordic inflection; tricky backing vocals arranged with magic variation; boppy and precise studio playing all round. It's all art.
The album's sound is explicitly reminiscent of the early 80s — that is, digitally recorded — crisp, hermetically sealed and clean music, cool to the ears and yet engaging. {Aside: for contrast, listen to the tinny sound of the extra tracks tacked onto the CD release. They're wholly second-rate, token song-by-numbers, and illustrative of the soulless end of the digital recording spectrum.} It's the kind of music my folks would find affable and hummable if they wanted to be with it, contemporary, in 1982; something to nestle in amongst their James Last and Nana Mouskouri albums. Something pre-empting their middle-age divorces.
But in terms of writing craft and technical studio perfection, all I can say about these Swedes is: Damn, they make one with musical aspirations jealous; they had such a good thing going on. They laid down clear lessons in songwriting and chorus construction and melodic hooks and big-ass walls of pop sound. Big-ass catchy walls of sound, mind you — maybe not as heavy-weight as Arrival, perhaps, but still full and balanced. And with The Visitors they lay on a mature wisdom-post-pain nuance that I {now} find very endearing.
But first, I guess we should consider the final or divorce-album angle. Despite the couples having broken up by this stage of Abba's history, I don't think The Visitors was a clear-cut, last-dash effort at unity or the overt swansong statement in the way Abbey Road was. I think they were happy to keep riding the popular Abba juggernaut, happy to look for new themes and approaches to work on. There's still a strong sense of Benny & Bjorn being in full production control, of carrying on with the established Abba formula and integrating what may.
From the start of Abba, Benny & Bjorn used Agnetha and Frida for their vocal talents in a way that's reminiscent of session singers and Spector. In discovering the power and success of the vocal pairing, in developing their harmonic sound as they honed their writing and production skills, there's a growing sense of mutual utility in the band-talent concept. When you look at how adept their promotional work was (the film clips & movie, the media spots, the garish clothing and ultimately — crucially — writing some really significantly personal relationship songs), there's a nagging sense they exploited their own dramas for pop material as well. The songs worked, everyone knew they were couples, and it was all within the Abba-theme scope. So when the divorces came around, why shouldn't B&B write about the experience. Look at the clips for "One of Us" and "The Winner Takes it All" (off Super Trouper) — they're taking their audience/fans along for the emotional ride. Sure, divorce is something of an exploitable pop tradition I hear you say — from Marvin Gaye to so much Phil Collins. Records can be vehicles of spite and hurt.
But there's a brazen honesty here that speaks to people in a way Elvis' kitsch divorce anthems do not. Consider the couple of "When All is Said and Done" at their last dinner together and summing up their time together:
Here's to us, one more toast and then we'll pay the bill
Deep inside both of us can feel the autumn chill...
In our lives we have walked some strange and lonely treks
Slightly worn but dignified and not too old for sex.
There's a candour in maturity here, a certain brass-tacks nerve. This is the music inspired by not one but a double divorce, from within the production core of the band. With so many painful ripples in the band, it's amazing The Visitors finished up so well. They were willing to keep working within the framework, possessed of a cool (as in calmly detached and unperturbed, withholding of the heart's passion) and clinical Scandinavian approach to work. A surprisingly honest and direct approach. With discernable traces of broken hearts and cracked emotions below the surface, perhaps; a bitter malevolence waiting to erupt for sure. But with the understanding that the band (or what we'd now call The Brand) was bigger than the sum of its relationship problems, the golden goose in the room.
B&B made the tracks and worked out most of the lyrical concept, and Agnetha & Frida would come in later and cut their vocals in parts or together. There's no sense of mild distancing you might hear when a singer forcibly sings another's songs — the songs are all intimate and sufficient, workable and dealing with it. Imagine being Agnetha or Frida and having to sing (with conviction, and as a duo) these songs about (their) divorce(s) written from the men's POV; or the little manoeuvring games played in the Polar Studio control room over the mix ('Sing it like this; and don't sing there, not like that'); or that oddly aching lyric which you know was planted out of spite ('feeling stupid, feeling small, wishing she had never left at all'). OK — this is an extrapolation that may be wildly unrepresentative of the actual sessions as they happened; but there's such a Nordic sense of professionalism and control about it all, a willingness to resolve without too much hysterical drama or fuss, to remain clinically amicable to each and all. And then, within the inflection, you can limn the cracks and the scars that speak of the hurt. The brave voice that sings the lines back with assurance. The guys might've written it, but it's the singer who owns the song.
As a finished, glossy package, The Visitors is far removed from the harrowing hurt of something like Bergman's Scenes From a Marriage, where cold analysis and emotional betrayal are up for terse display and drama. But there's a similar strain of a writer/director's personal comment and a painfully public exploration of the inner, private workings of relationship(s); the separation context that informs it.
As divorce music, music for those in a depressed funk weeping copiously with gnawing pains in the heart, or for those experiencing sudden solitude where there had recently been family and companionship and the 'wonderful adventure', The Visitors is pretty affecting stuff.
One of us is crying, one of us is lying in her lonely bed...
One of us is only waiting for a call.
— interwoven with cool synths, accordion and reverbed mandolin (ugh, the smattering of adult-oriented pop) — this is fundamentally music of the heart. And as such it is marked by human contradictions: happy and sadly troubled; determined and also strangely listless.
However — it must be emphasised that only three or four of the songs are explicitly about divorce, or moving on from broken relations. The other songs offer varying shades of grey autumnal feel (keywords: autumn chill, dark clouds hide the sun, this cold December, winter night, long awaited darkness etc); there's late night loneliness ("Like an Angel Passing Through My Room"); Cold War paranoia ("The Visitors"); the passing of a daughter's childhood ("Slipping Through My Fingers"). "Slipping" especially goes for the heart — if seen from a custodianship angle, the child going to school in the morning but returning to an unmentioned father. Single parenthood, shared but distant care, and time passing while one stares away. It could also be less than all that, simply an oblique look at personal ageing — regret and loss being common emotional tropes on the album. This is the danger of interpretive perspectives in pop music analysis: I could be way wide of the oblique mark. The song is written about the daughter by the father, sung with heart by the mother and really is the mother addressing herself; and so the truth (if any — ultimately irrelevant) is reduced to the subjective element of how it's sung, how the song is claimed and what's taken away from it. It being written by the father would make it strangely empathetic though; a layer of sensitivity below the emotional mess.
"Two for the Price of One" is another special track. Bjorn takes the cheeky vocal about responding to personal ads ('The cries for help from different people, different ages'), and there's a hellishly funky chorus with interlocking A&F backing — that's one of the funkiest lines in their catalogue. The changes are sculpted and dramatic in their contours — hope goes melodically up and disappointment wanders down — and just when he reveals the third party in an expected threesome is the mother-in-law, there's a beautiful oompa coda which could only connote the marriage march and (now ironic) bliss. It's oddly funny, like a mildly bitter in-joke given epic treatment; the wry groom lamenting to his best man, realising what he's gotten into. It's on par with McCartney in his medley phase, but with more bite.
Throughout, synthesisers are given more mix-prevalence than on previous Abba albums, but the operating principle is always tasteful. In "Slipping", there's a lead guitar solo doubled with synths, and in the second repetition the guitar is mixed out to reveal the synths underneath before returning with guitar — a very pleasing mix technique. Also on "Slipping" there's a harmonic reversal of A&F's usual range-roles ('Sleep in our eyes, her and me at the breakfast table...'), that creates a beautifully sympathetic effect of young voices. It could also be dubbed by a single A or F — I'm not sure. Of course every backing chorus arrangement is perfect and complex; students of backing harmonies (and the power of the mix) should take note.
"The Visitors" plays at Cold War persecution anxiety with flanging dissonance and urgent drive (but from a Refusenik angle). The (again) doubled synth and guitar solo is strangely triumphant, a feel-good running with fist raised. "Soldiers" transforms what could've been a dour song into a classically bright and jubilant chorus. The rhythm section is so calmly authoritative — pure Abba-unity and songwriting confidence; fully-fleshed backing vocals and clear, engaging melodies. "Head Over Heels" plays a similar trick with its chorus — follow all the melodies at work in it from its trippity-fragile intro, and you'll feel the chorus lurching up out of nowhere, like an unexpected key- and tempo-change. Track the held notes in the vocals; if you looked at the music on paper you'd think it wouldn't make musical sense. And I love that oblique line about the fashionable snob 'Pushing through unknown jungles every day' — the girl who stomps her way through relationships.
"I Let the Music Play" is a bit of an exception in terms of form. By this stage Benny & Bjorn were moving toward operatic show tunes and mini-musicals with stagey themes and big, big choirs. I love listening B&B in interviews; I mean they were pretty canny producers and craftsmen, but the casual ease with which they toss off phrases like '... and behind all those vocal tracks you'd then layer your *choirs*...' (asterisks mine) as though multitrack recording is only fulfilled with massive choirs on every available track. Good old success: throwing money and endless studio time at the Formula. And again, the more remarkable that The Visitors sounds so clean and occasionally spare.
{A special mention should be made of Rutger Gunnarsson, Abba's master bassist. In particular his work on "One of Us" — all funky ghost notes and octaves played on a fretless bass, pushed up in the mix with the drums. It's a step away from the wall of sound perfected on Arrival, and it's very precise in its crisp economy — but so damn appropriate! It's touchstone-hallmark-yardstick bassplaying in total service to the song. And that little bass glissando/burp dropped into the groove here and there — very cool.}
With ample time-distance, I now find something sad about top-flight songwriter & bands that have astounding success and dizzying creative peaks (I mean the genuine artists, the ones that really deliver the magic goods to match their popularity) and their inevitable downward stroke or dissolution. I don't mean when the coke and rehab divorces clear; I mean the indirect humanity that occasionally shines thru the cracks with such affecting colour, like on this album.
When bands stop touring and focus on studio work, especially the big-ass studio talents, their albums can become more intimate, emotionally revealing, inward. The Visitors is probably Abba's highest expression of emotive studio mastery, and it definitely doesn't sound like it was tossed-off between tours. In terms of song values and melodic craft, it's almost cloyingly mature, and yet also saddening because these amazing melodies are devoted to breakups and their typically adult aftermath. Not because these are melodies and choruses I seem to have always known and hence regard timeless, but because they are genuinely instructive of how good songs are put together and arranged for dramatic effect. This is what's surprising about The Visitors after all these years — the realisation that it's all incredibly good stuff, that it will carry on.
{At this stage of the article I'd like to remind readers that yes, we are indeed still talking about an Abba album.}
And with all these multivalent sadnesses at work: the breakups and the vocals they inspire (vocals that cannot help betraying their depth), the tension of beautiful melodies married to dark or soul's-lonely-night themes, and the swansong of a band at its last peak. Though it wasn't planned as the final release (and they did more work together), it's still the most mature album they made in terms of depth and craft.
And it's a dangerous album for depressive types — it sucks you right in. Its moods are affecting, strong, but then Abba know to layer it with pep and optimism; somehow their addressing the emotions makes for a positive {and saddening} listening experience. You can bracket unhappiness with uplifting melodies and create something unique beyond the lyric content, beyond the obvious.
As a child I hadn't a single clue this was going on — I was absorbing the music as music, not as content. But realising the lyric details later and recognising I'd already absorbed some of the colour and tone of adult maturity, that is a little strange.

Bon Iver - Bon Iver

OK then. This is a comment I wrote on the No Rubbish blog but I thought heck, a thousand word comment deserves its own post.

Bear in mind: this is the first Bon Iver album I’ve heard in full. I’ve given one or two Emma tracks a listen (especially “Flume”), but no further. So I’d known about the falsetto style, without building up too much expectation of follow-up consistency (and/or disappointment) with the difficult second album. Usually I get bugged by whole albums sung in falsetto, but not here. And I’ve got the gist that Emma is acoustic to Bon Iver’s electric-eclectic. But also, I’m not setting out to defend it per se; nor am I gunning a personal view in the swampy relativism of subjective resonance. What I hear is what I hear.

“Perth” was the first track I’d cued up and didn’t process the rest for a good while. I remember the odd structure of the song: unstandard. With a nice guitar refrain, the horns etc. See an earlier note about electric guitars and song structure in the post-rock vein (detail: Mogwai). How difficult it can be to come up with interesting song formats using electric guitar chords & sounds, the usual familiar structures. “Perth” is a leftfield piece of interesting. At the time I thought: better than the usual Pitchfork hay.

I do think the album deserves an award for its mix. The overlaid vocals, yes; but also the sonic detail and colour, the rounded sense of depth. Banjos and steel guitar, fuzzed low guitar on track #2. The bee-buzz of saxes on “Holocene” (track #2). The tremolo piano on “Hinnom” (track #6). And reverse echo effects on “Wash” (track #7). Yet it’s a very gentle holistic mix.

The album’s sound is its strongest suit methinks; and also its consistency to that sound-frame. I can hear how much work went into it (especially vocal overdubs and mixing), the collaborations etc, but to me it doesn’t sound encumbered or overcrowded. Not every richly-worked and -elaborated album garners automatic respect in a listener. I still hear the work of careful choices being made.

But did you notice there’s no bass on the album? Well – baritone guitar here and there, but not the usual trio arrangement of guitars drums bass. Notice how the songs don’t really need standard old bass. But the mix is what makes me want to get this on CD so I can hear it in full stereo. I’m a big believer in the power of the mix.

There aren’t many radio-friendly melodies here; nor is it a glorified solo album. It’s a different beast.

It definitely feels like a meaningful album, of a kind. I had a realisation (listening in the car, in rainy slow traffic) that a songwriter’s job is to marry feeling to music. Or to work some magic so the feel causes the structure to melt away (feel over chords). Now, many if not all of the lyrics on Bon Iver don’t seem to stick or penetrate, but I can’t say they lack feeling or vibe. I don’t mind the lyric floatiness; I’m not expecting “Dylanesque” depth on this. That said, playing in the car, the words become falsetto sounds and melodies – except for the phrase “shoulder blades” (from “Calgary”) which sticks out at an odd angle. We now call it the ‘shoulder blade song’.

That said, I haven’t read the lyrics too closely. I suspect they’re a marriage of creative writing exercises to song-feels. Let’s take some random snips; this from “Holocene”:

Christmas night, it clutched the light, the hallow bright.
Above my brother, I and tangled spines.
We smoked the screen to make it what it was to be.
Now to know it my memory.

Or this from “Towers”:

For the love, comes the burning young
From the liver, sweating through your tongue
Well, you're standing on my sternum don't you climb down darling
Oh the sermons are the first to rest
Smoke on Sundays when you’re drunk and dressed
Out the hollows where the swallow nests.

To me these are personal scrapbookings. I suspect they’re more related to memories and local-specific associations than to lyric truths that must out. You can find more speculation on the latter song here.

From my initial listens and cursory checks, there’s no clear sense of what these songs are about. But the album does seem to navigate a direction or focus on intimacy and homeliness, some inner terrain or past. A raftered melancholy? A sound of place perhaps. And yes, the album does sound fantastic on a gray prolonged Sunday morning drive*. It’s a good wintry album**.

“Calgary” (track #8) is a strong point – even if it is heavy on keys and overdubs. This track would also work acoustic-only, I think. But again, as with “Perth” – what structure is he following here? I haven’t pulled out the guitar and applied myself to finding out – but the structure sounds purely musical rather than chord chord chord familiar. Which is a good thing; it makes for interesting.

“Beth/Rest” (track #10) – yes, perhaps an unfortunate choice in keys as they dial up 80s frequencies. Or maybe this track is a personal reference, a reverential tuning into 80s youth or past subjectives. Sonically, it doesn’t sound out of place at all – the same mix colours, even down to the steel guitar. I know a few similar/ballpark tracks to this, with flutes and keys and lead guitar fills; and I was put in mind of Peter Tosh’s “Fools Die” in particular, strangely; which is also an album closer. Also, my version of the album ends with a different mix of “Calgary”, so the 80s episode isn’t the closer, which might be why it sounds aggravating or deliberately daft to some.

I wouldn’t say every track is a winner, but each has at least some interesting detail or sonic figure to mark it. Justin Vernon is a very musical, atypical songwriter. And the mix: the mix feels correct and nuanced to me. I agree or I can hear all the issues people have with the album, but to me it feels right and carefully balanced and well sequenced and emotionally valid, over and above those concerns. Or at least, that’s the view from my particular node of subjective resonance.

* Note: I’m not someone who believes all albums sound better in cars or on road trips.
** Boom boom.

The Modern Ambivalence of The Gift

This is an odd experience — maybe it's typical of our (publishing) time, maybe it's just a culture that doesn't know what to do with itself.


I had a few Twitter chats with a kind person at UQP, because I wanted to send them a *free* copy of my book. You know the one. They wrote back saying Sure, but don't expect anything in return (read: consideration for publishing). I said, no, I know you don't publish much of this kind of writing anyway. Sure, I just want to send it in the spirit of a gift. If you know someone who's into music writing, make them a gift of it.

And so I typed a nice cover letter with the above sentiment repeated, and posted it along to the publisher. They have a good rep and list; I thought: they might enjoy quality writing.

And then, about 6 weeks later, I get the book back in the mail. With a note:
While we appreciate the spirit in which this gift was given, we would like to return it to you so that others may have the same opportunity to enjoy it.
Now, isn't that a) not the spirit of receiving a gift (which I had clearly er, laboured over), b) slightly rude as well, and c) just a bit lame?

Yes, I know, they're in publishing and probably receive a massive pile of slush in the mail and can't possibly afford the effort of reading it all. But to send a gift back to the sender (unread too), in contradiction of the spirit of it, that just galls me a little bit. They could've quietly recycled it and not bother with the return postage.

This odd little episode confirms a few prejudices which I've been forming about the publishing industry, mostly along the lines of PR and perception. But mostly it confirms how incredibly hard it is to get anyone to read anything at all.

How does a piece of shit like Mx (free local street press / gossip rag / Facebook-in-tabloid form) manage to get so much attention and eyeball interaction? Oh, yes, it's a piece of shit, that's why. Gossip and web trash and fashion police make the media go round.

It's perhaps a far-fetched analogy, but I'll let it dangle.

New review of Song Logic

Kindly blogger Bosco Ho has penned a nice review of Song Logic at the Amazon site:
For the criticism to work, there has to be a tacit agreement by the reader to the central thesis and the central thesis that "the goal of good music is to become pure feeling" rings true to me. These essays are concerned not just with how feeling are generated on a technical level, but how they fit into the scheme of things.
Read more on the Song Logic Amazon page.

If you liked the book, or if you begged to differ on a few points, or even felt outright that every single sentence rang silly and untrue, then by all means pen your own review and air your thoughts! I'd love to hear either way.

Song Logic on Extempore

I'm happy to announce that the good people at Extempore journal are running the Song Logic essay on The Necks.

Extempore is one of the few - no, the only Australian journal focusing on writing about jazz and improvised music. Worth supporting for that reason alone. I'd also recommend signing up for their newsletter - because they're also running a giveaway of the book in that. Totally great.

My thanks to Miriam Zolin for setting up the content-share. Plenty more where that came from.

Song Logic song playlist!

I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier: just make a playlist of some of the tracks discussed in the book! I mean, you do work on websites, you know about sharing stuff, right Reens?

Listen to a sample of Song Logic tracks on Grooveshark now.

I have to thank Bosco for the idea; over the course of some fine Pho he came up with the perfect idea. Some people have heard an earlier mix of tracks; but now you can stream them anywhere.

If you like it, let me know! I can add a lot more tracks to the playlist. I can get exhaustive and detail every track mentioned in the book... for an ultimate reading companion.

Check out another happy Song Logic reader (no, it's not Franzen):

Song Logic on the 4ZZZ Jazz Show

Wow - Knox on the always-good Jazz Show on 4ZZZ FM did a good 40 minute set based on tracks from the Degrees of Late Night essay from Song Logic! I'm very, very chuffed. Knox played some Grateful Dead, Dexter, Miles and a little more Dead! And more than anything, I'm really happy Knox pronounced my name right ;-). I'll go with "Flemish" over Dutch anyday, Knox.

It's Wes Montgomery's birthday today, and a lot of great tunes were played, including a cut from Bags Meets Wes which I'm gonna research right now.

Thanks Knox, and hooray for 4ZZZ! You guys rock at 102.1 FM.

Sharing Song Logic love

Jonathan over at Metal Only, No rubbish has written some generous words about Song Logic. I was a little worried the book might be too niche, but realise now it's pitched just right: for music nerds of all persuasions. (I keed. It's good for everyone. Like George Clinton said, Funk not only moves, it can remove.)

And fellow blogger Katie has sent a nice action shot. It all makes me a happy author.

Love is in the Em

Hi, my name is Rino and I’m somewhat of a punctuation nerd. There’s one character I’m really mad for — the one character that floats my grammatic boat — and that’s the em dash. It’s the punctuation mark par excellence. Better than the colon or parentheses. Typographically elegant; functionally useful; and interpolative in the best prosaic sense. Used to mark an amplifying or explanatory element, or an interruption. Also for rhetorical pause: Darth Vader's line "I sense something, a presence I have not felt since—" And, to indicate a change of speaker in French novels and Joyce.

As wide as the letter m — and sometimes even wider depending on typeface. There’s also a 2-em rule if you really want to break in and score the text with a big, mean line.

I get a bit huffy when I see the lame use of double-dashes on a web page -- so ugly and scattered, like morse code in the middle of a sentence. Ummm, well, I don’t know how to make the proper em dash character, so I just ummm use the dash key. Just get into the html and paste: — and presto, you’re sorted. Get it right, mmmkay?

But this is preamble — what I wanted to say is that I did a count and Song Logic has a shining total of 470 em dashes. Of which I am very proud.