Monday, May 02, 2005
We found a box full of CDRs of unmastered mixes of Shannon Worrell's The Moviegoer. Why you might care:
For years J&R Music World seemed to have an endless supply of cut-outs of a CD called Lucky Shoe by a band called September 67, and I often thought of buying a copy because it was produced by David Lowery (of Camper Van Beethoven and, um, some other band) and because it was on the Enclave label, which was briefly the home to Belle and Sebastian's If You're Feeling Sinister before folding. Ultimately, neither of those reasons seemed compelling enough to get me to pony up $6.99.
Had I bought the album, I might have followed up on the two members of the group, one of whom was Shannon Worrell.
I also would have heard guitarist David Immergluck in one of his post-Ophelias appearances, as well as a bunch of other people related to Sparklehorse, playing the backing tracks. I might have bought Shannon's debut CD Three Wishes, which currently sells for $50-$80. Had I done that, I would have heard a song called Eleanor that features Dave Matthews on backing vocals. (That last bit isn't so exciting. Also, don't let it scare you away. Shannon came from the same scene that birthed Dave Matthews, she was pals with him, and I forgive her.)
More to the point, I would have known who she was yesterday afternoon when my wife and I were out walking around Park Slope and passed a cardboard box full of CDRs sitting on the curb, waiting for the garbage man. Most of them were wet. I liked the cover art:
...which reminded me a bit of Belle and Sebastian. As did the presence of a song called The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (see B&S's The Loneliness of a Middle-Distance Runner). Also, something about the CD just looked like it might be interesting...I've gotten pretty good at judging books by their covers. So I grabbed the three least-wet copies.
Interestingly enough, on the way home we passed a stringy bearded guy with a guitar and I snidely said to my wife, "Buffalo Soldier will be performed tonight," and my wife said "Phish, more likely," and we had a conversation that briefly touched on the Dave Matthews Band, and then we saw a squirrel doing something cute and the topic changed from jam bands to squirrels and we eventually got back to the house.
Later still, we played the CDR and discovered that it is, in fact, pretty good. Make that very good. File it under interestingly arranged jazz-inflected orch-pop girl-folk, if you can find a copy to file (it's out of print). I'm reminded at times of a number of Suzanne Vega derivatives, Camera Obscura and Lois (of K records). These are unmastered mixes, but aside from some bass-heavy EQ at times, they sound pretty good. Here's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, which is one of several somewhat jazzy tracks that I tend to like the best, with very nice horns on the chorus. [As I think about it a few days later, I'm pretty sure that this song is an overt B&S homage, between the lyric about the "Bell(e) who broke the world" and the very B&S coda and the title.]
A little research showed us that the proper album The Moviegoer is kind of an under-the-radar cult classic among the cooler members of the post-Lilith set, who occasionally turn out to have better taste than they're often given credit for. We also learned that John Linnell of They Might Be Giants played accordian on the album, and that his wife Karen Brown produced it. I wonder if they live on Prospect Park West (site of the CDR spotting).
Here's semi-jazzy track #2, Shoot The Elephant, which finds a meeting place for folk influenced 90's alt-rock and Portishead. I'm liking this one a lot.
I don't have a copy of the real CD, so I'm not entirely sure, but my CDR contains a song not listed on the tracklisting of The Moviegoer over at Amazon. Here's that one, the echoey piano and spoken word Deep Sea Swimmer which sounds like it was written as an album-ender. If you go here, you'll see a tracklisting for the album that matches my CDR (unlike Amazon's) but the stream for Deep Sea Swimmer is actually the acoustic version of Movie Star Mom that ends the album according to Amazon, leading me to believe that the song order/selection was revamped at the last minute.
Ok, so it's not like discovering a Velvet Underground acetate at a garage sale. Still, pretty neat find. I'll be buying a copy of the real CD and will report on any interesting differences. Anyone who aleady has a copy, feel free to comment.
(Incidentally, there were about ten other copies in the box. After I found out what it was, I took the bus back up to see if I could find the rest, but they were gone. So, somewhere out there, there are copies of this floating around. Who knows who found them. As I reread this piece in the morning, I'm struck by the fact that my comparisons kind of suck...if I listened to more college-folk and alt rock I'd likely have done a better job. Still, that one song does sort of sound like Lois doing Belle and Sebastian, kind of. I read elsewhere that she sounds like Shawn Colvin, who I've never heard. See previous post about living in a cave.)