Monday, October 15, 2007

And Now It Makes Perfect Sense...

Powerful but mellow, autumnal and almost entirely different to the kind of music I bought before this time, this album could well be the one that started me on a different listening regime entirely although it seems unlikely that one album alone could have had such an effect.

In favour of this general theory is that I can find no earlier example and also, as far as I can remember, it was the first album that I bought having heard not a single release by (any of) the artists behind it. I read a review, in the Sunday Times I think, then simply ordered it. It was, very luckily for me, a good choice indeed because not only did I like it I also discovered that I didn't really realise just what more there was available to listen to.
I haven't stopped doing so since then!

Saint Low was formed, after the demise of US East Coast indie band Madder Rose, by vocalist and songwriter Mary Lorson and her partner Billy Coté and this album was their first release. Lorson wrote rather few Madder Rose tracks but both wrote and produced all on this album. She still provides the vocals that were already her trademark but the change defines a really marked difference in emphasis. The album is more consistent in style, actually much more claustrophobic, than the final Madder Rose albums Tragic Magic (1997) and Hello, June Fool (1999) on which Coté played guitars but also wrote most tracks. I subsequently bought those and have listened to them again several times in the last two days: I think that, actually, I like them quite a lot more now than I did when I first bought them seven years ago.

The album Saint Low (2000) remains unique in the true sense of the word; it would not have mattered one little bit had I been listening to it for the very first time today and
this was its day of release! The music doesn't sound dated in any way whatsoever - far from it for in fact. Coté was freed to compose, and then play, guitar parts that are often mirages of deliberate, sometimes quite reckless, understatement. While sometimes "only just there" they often leave a solo 'cello to do much of the hard work on strings and that is "just so 2007". Saint Low deserve more credit than is often given...

It is also slightly unnerving given that, having listened to it quite often for about seven years, I still can't even figure out which are my favourite tracks let alone why - although Johnson City almost certainly is one - because it is actually very hard to work out exactly what they are about despite, or perhaps because of, the lyrics. To write a song that can mean totally different things, depending on the mood of the listener at the time but without simultaneously causing mental confusion, clearly isn't a trivial achievement: this album is built from them and very little else - Crash, A Thing Or Two, Keep An Open Mind or perhaps even After The Fall, the epic closing track that is over ten minutes long.
The growing list of albums I want to listen to has inevitably grown longer still. I told you I was falling behind and now I want to hear the following albums, some released as 'Mary Lorson and Saint Low' as apparently artist and band had become the source of some confusion.

  • Tricks for Dawn, 2002
  • Piano Creeps, 2003 (I overlooked this one at first, sorry.)
  • Realistic, 2005
More soon but one thing, that is worthy of note if you are searching for these releases, is that although Saint Low are an American act their releases to date have all been on London-based independent label 'Cooking Vinyl Records'. The good news however is that none of these albums are currently remotely difficult or costly to source, at least in the UK.

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