Thursday, August 31, 2006

Easy Like Sunday Morning

Hit the Monet in Normandy exhibit bright and early last Sunday with the lovely Heidi and the lovely Whitney. Whit's just had surgery on her ACL so we decided we could snag one of the limited number of wheelchairs for her by getting there when the museum opened for the day (with the fringe benefit of bypassing the crowds). We were able to achieve only one of our modest goals. Wheelchair? Check. Crazy lines? Um...wth? For reasons that remain murky, we found ourselves in a slow moving line just to get into the exhibit...we hypothesized that perhaps the looming closure of the Bay Bridge for Labor Day weekend drove East Bay art nuts into the city to get a view of the exhibit before it skips town. In any event, we were reduced to viewing the paintings as part of a herd, which was less than enjoyable, but high art is tough, you know? After departing the Legion of Honor, we headed for brunch at Perry's (after which a Sunday Swerve began...I obstained). Not a bad Sunday...not bad at all.

Ray LaMontagane - Til the Sun Turns Black

Just picked this up, and at two songs in, my jaw is still on the Ever since the first time I heard Ray sing, I started pushing him on anyone that would listen. His voice is one of the few truly great voices I've heard in quite some time...urgent, passionate, visceral, primal, soulful...those are just a few of the words that I could use to describe it.

Now three songs in to the album and my immediate take is that this is a more produced album, but I don't mean that in a negative manner at all. Some wonderful strings have been added to the otherwise basic instrumentation, giving the songs an almost cinematic sweep..."Barfly" has some old school soul guitar licks playing over the top a wonderful organ...these are the kinds of songs that make you stop in your tracks when you're in a bar or a record store and send you off on a frantic chase for the bartender or store clerk to help you find the record.

"Three More Days" is a tight laid back almost Staxx-like jam...trumpets, organ, and a funky backbeat, all swirling around this voice that screams "LISTEN!"..."Gonna give it to you 'til you can't say no" indeed.

Some people who loved "Trouble" (Ray's first album) might be taken aback by the new, more expansive production. I would argue that it makes a lot of the compositions stronger than they might have been had this album been attacked in the same fashion as the last album. The strings make the tortured lamentations that much more poignant. "Can I Stay" is a song that uses strings to great effect(and it's a song anyone who's had a terrible fight with their girlfriend or boyfriend and immediately wishes it never happened can identify with):

"Can I stay here with you 'til the morning
I am so far from home and I feel lost and alone
Can I stay here with you til the morning
There's nothing I want more than to wake
up on you floor.."

As I said, something everyone can identify with.

"You Can Bring Me Flowers" has a sinister snarl to it...a jazzy trumpet and a blues guitar add to the effect...and THEN you get hit with the flute near the fade out...this could have been recorded in some back alley juke joint.

Enough of my ramblings for now, but I highly highly highly recommend this one...go pick it up and take it out for a drive on one of these last fleeting summer won't be sorry.

(Addendum: If you haven't heard it, here's Ray's cover of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy")

Monday, August 14, 2006


I walked home tonight from the Union Street theater after checking out one of the funnier movies I've seen in a LONG time. I had my iPod along and spun together a nice little playlist for the walk home (Alexi Murdoch, Arcade Fire, Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris). The weather tonight in San Francisco is invigorating; there's just a hint of chill in the softly blowing breeze. The skies are clear. From my back deck, I have the great pleasure of being able to see both Alcatraz and Coit Tower, and on nights like tonight, you have to take advantage of the view since it's normally either too cold or too foggy (or both) to pause for a second and take in just how amazing San Francisco really is. Accompanined by a Miller Light and Cole's Corner, I gazed for the better part of an hour at the water and the cool glow of the Tower at night, shining against the dark sky like the North Star. I took my headphones off after a time and was reminded again at just how silent the city can be at night...far from being in a state of perpetual motion like the Big Apple, San Francisco can at times seem like a ghost town (but a very picturesque one at that). The only sound I could hear was the trickle of the fountain in my neighbors yard as the lighthouse on the Rock cast its gaze my way, keeping a stoic vigil over the Bay. Everything is still.

Sometimes you are presented time for reflection when you most need it, and this was one of those times. It might not have been a perfect night, but it was pretty close.