My recollections on Sinéad O’Connor, R.I.P.

There will be a lot of digital ink expended about Sinéad O’Connor’s death and her music, so I won’t cover that ground.

I went to see M. O’Connor at Lake Compounce in Connecticut 21 August 1990. I think I took a girl I wanted to date (we did not). I don’t remember the opener if there was one, but I do remember that M. O’Connor started her set an hour late, did six to eight songs, and then just … stopped. She left the stage. I seem to recall the band stayed for a bit. Eventually someone came on and said the show was over and the park’s lights came on.

The Hartford Courant said the show was tastefully brief or somesuch.

I remained salty about the show for years, calling it the worst concert I’d ever attended. It probably was better than I chose to remember and I’ve experienced many truly bad shows since.

One of the truisms about cover songs is that they should not make one seek out the better original. M. O’Connor’s cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” stands on its own.

The Courant was correct, though. That concert 33 years ago was brief. I would have liked more time to hear her sing. R.I.P.

UPDATE: From John Scalzi,

She was troubled and erratic and brilliant and one of the indelible voices of my generation, and she was fucking right about the Catholic Church, for all the good it did her in this life. Genius doesn’t make for an easy life, but genius she was, and I’m glad that for a time she got to express her particular strain of genius in this world. May she rest well.

She was right about the Catholic Church. That was another touchpoint I had with M. O’Connor, watching that SNL episode, and then asking questions.

Some albums I enjoyed, 2022 vintage

In no particular order:

  • Spoon — Lucifer on the Sofa
  • The Beths — Expert in a Dying Field
  • soccer mommy — Sometimes, Forever
  • Angel Olsen — Big Time
  • Alvvays — Blue Rev
  • Big Thief — Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You
  • Gladie — Don’t Know What You’re In Until You’re Out
  • The Linda Lindas — Growing Up
  • Shovels & Rope — Manticore

※ Gladie’s Augusta Koch Got Sober And Made An Amazing Album About It

Gladie’s Augusta Koch Got Sober And Made An Amazing Album About It:

The album was produced by Schimelfenig, whom Koch originally met when he produced Cayetana’s two full-lengths. “It’s funny, because I’ve always been like, ah, I don’t wanna be in a band with my partner,” she says. “But it’s really nice, ’cause I’m very self-conscious and pretty hard on myself, and it’s nice to have someone where you can feel comfortable enough to share a song [that is] very vulnerable. It’s been a very safe place for me.” She explores their relationship across the album, on tracks like “Soda” and “Hit The Ground Running,” on which she sings: “I wanna love you in the way that you still feel free” — a mantra inspired by bell hooks’ All About Love.

“Especially since I got engaged during the pandemic and I never thought I would get married, I was like, how do I want to love people, and how do I want to be loved?” Koch explains. “After reading that book I was like, I wanna create my own ethic, and especially before I commit to marrying someone. [“Hit The Ground Running”] was me thinking about all these things, and the ways in which we show up for each other in these huge shifts. This is so funny, but I think the most romantic thing that ever happened to me was when I got sick, Matt did all of my injections for me. I really [have been] able to take a look at my relationship and how my partner does show up for me, and how I wanna be better.”

Underscoring all of these life changes, and the entire album, was Koch’s newfound sobriety. Drinking was a problem she had always been aware of, particularly having spent her adult life in the alcohol-heavy world of punk music. Since she was no longer going to shows or working behind a bar, the pandemic felt like a perfect opportunity to give quitting a try. “I think it’s mostly what all the songs are about at their core, because the one thing I wish I knew when I stopped drinking was that you would just have a lot more feelings,” she says. At one of the first shows Gladie played post-lockdown, opening for Slaughter Beach, Dog, Koch had a panic attack on stage. “That straight up had never happened to me before in my life. It was horrible, but it was like, at least I’m living in my reality,” she says. “I’m a very, very anxious person, and that’s definitely why I drank a lot, I realized. So trying to play shows again, and now I’m back working at the bar — doing that and not drinking anymore was like, holy shit, this is like a whole new person.”

She adds, “[Drinking is] a tool to get through life, and when you don’t have it you create new tools for survival. Like, never in a million years would I think I would be the type of person to read before bed and drink tea and wake up and do yoga — I would laugh hysterically at that version of myself, but I’m happier doing those things now. I always talked about mental health in Cayetana, and I think in my heart I knew that I would never be able to really work on my mental health if I was still drinking. And since I’ve stopped and I’ve found the best therapist, I’ve been able to work on my mental health in the way that I needed to for years.”

With the release of Don’t Know What You’re In Until You’re Out, Koch feels ready to embrace a new vision of her life and career. “I feel a healthier sense of self, that isn’t tied to music; I’m more secure in [myself], and feeling a better sense of personhood,” she says. “I am trying to appreciate things as they happen, instead of worrying about what other people think as much. I remember Cayetana being on best of the year lists, and I was so depressed at the time. And now I’m like, ‘I wish people liked my new band, and I wish I could be where I used to be,’ but none of that stuff really matters in the long run. I love making music, music is what saves my life, music is what makes me feel good. I wanna make music that makes people feel any type of way, and not worry about all the stuff that really doesn’t matter.”

I preordered the new album and listen to the two early release tracks on a regular basis. Happy to have the whole album in my hands.

※ The many incarnations of King Crimson

The many incarnations of King Crimson:

There are few bands who’ve gone through so many different lineups, with each incarnation having its own unique character and artistic impact, than King Crimson.


To tell their full story, Warren of Produce Like A Pro needed two episodes of his “Artists Who Changed Music.”




Bonus Track:


※ Mariah Carey Denied “Queen Of Christmas” Trademark

Mariah Carey Denied “Queen Of Christmas” Trademark:

In recent years, now that her days of pop-chart domination are otherwise behind her, Mariah Carey has leaned into the ongoing popularity of her holiday standard “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

^ A garbage song.

Thanks to the advent of streaming, the song — originally released in 1994 — has become a constant in the top 10 throughout the yuletide season, and starting in 2019 it has hit #1 on the Hot 100 every December.

Programmers program it to pay, lest one thinks actual DJs want to hear this song.

Renewed attention for the song has resulted in at least one lawsuit, and some of Carey’s fellow musical artists have bristled at her attempt to trademark the phrase “Queen of Christmas.”

It’s ridiculous that such “properties”, a.k.a. former artists who look to milk whatever they can of their relevance, try to trademark such broad terms. 

In August, Elizabeth Chan — who purports to be the only full-time Christmas songwriter, who was dubbed a “queen of Christmas” in a 2018 New Yorker profile, and who released an album called Queen Of Christmas last year — filed court documents seeking to block Carey from trademarking the phrase.

I both support and don’t support Mx. Chan.

Three months later, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has denied Carey’s application, noting that her legal team did not respond to Chan’s opposition. The patent office also denied Carey’s request to trademark the terms “Princess Christmas” and “QOC.”

Good, because it’s bs that ANYONE gets that trademark. The amount of existing art in this arena must be massive.

“I’m so happy,” Chan told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s my life’s work.” Chan’s lawyer Louis Tompros added, “This is the right result. If Mariah’s team had any answer to the opposition that we made, they would have made it, but the fact of the matter is, she’s not entitled to a trademark on Queen of Christmas.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d just as soon have no one anointed the “queen of Christmas” since that’s not a thing.

More important, I am not a fan of Christmas music in general.

Most important, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is a terrible song regardless of the season.

※ Remembering Low’s Mimi Parker With 6 Essential Tracks | Pitchfork

Remembering Low’s Mimi Parker With 6 Essential Tracks | Pitchfork:

Mimi Parker spent nearly 30 years in Low alongside her husband, Alan Sparhawk, anchoring the indie rock institution with her spacious drumming and plaintive soprano. She called on her training as a snare player in her junior high school band to come up with a sparse kit and minimalist style: Parker would perform standing upright behind a carefully arranged tom, snare and cymbals, using padded mallets and soft brushes to create gently pulsing, patient rhythms that served as a counterpoint to Sparhawk’s more anarchic guitar playing. As a vocalist, she sang as if she were a member of a larger church chorus, even when she was on lead. Her delivery was as unwavering and understated as her rhythms, offered with the tenderness of someone who might sing you to sleep—even when the music around her was more apt to score a waking nightmare.

In the earliest years of the band, Parker’s vocals played more of a complementary role, adding ethereal harmonies to Sparhawk’s melodies and only taking the lead on two or three tracks per album. But over time her songwriting came to the fore, especially as the band moved into their final, critically acclaimed era of electronic reinvention. Looking back on Parker’s body of work—and attempting to come to terms with the fact that it is, now, complete—it’s easy to see how her lyrics and melodies stand out as some of Low’s most emotionally resonant.

Check out the article for six chronologically listed songs that “highlight Parker’s quest for calmness and beauty amid chaos”, several of which I played on the 221110 show.

※ The Mountain Goats’ “Tallahassee” turns 20

The Mountain Goats’ “Tallahassee” turns 20:

The Mountain Goats’ album Tallahassee turns 20 today! David Menconi of Walter Magazine describes the Mountain Goats as a “quirky and highly literature folk-rock group.” Despite having a strong and passionate fan base (that includes me!) and 11 albums that have hit the Billboard charts, the band isn’t really ‘popular,’ and you might have never heard Tallahassee, or any of their other albums (they have recorded 21 studio albums, dating back to 1991). You might have recently encountered the album’s most famous song, “No Children,” however, which inexplicably sparked a huge TikTok dance trend in 2021, surprising even the band’s lead singer and songwriter, John Darnielle. Rebecca Jennings, writing for Voxexplains:

It’s weird that the Mountain Goats are TikTok famous because the Mountain Goats are perhaps the least likely candidates for “viral TikTok sensation” on the planet. The band, which formed 30 years ago (and, for long swaths, consisted of just one member) and originally recorded their music on DIY-style boomboxes, has released an astounding 20 albums. These albums seem relatively unconcerned with breakout singles or hits and more interested in shaping larger complex narratives about topics from Dungeons & Dragons to professional wrestling to child abuse.

Which is to say, it can be a bit daunting for would-be fans to tackle the band’s discography; there is simply so much of it, and so much subtext to sift through. The Mountain Goats getting TikTok famous sort of feels like if Ulysses suddenly became the bestselling book on Amazon.

“No Children” is terrific, of course. It absolutely helped me through an awful breakup years ago. There’s something incredibly cathartic about belting out the chorus along with John–”I HOPE YOU DIE, I HOPE WE BOTH DIE!”–when you’re in a great deal of emotional pain. But the rest of the album is also well worth listening to. It chronicles the dark and destructive breakdown of the “Alpha Couple,” an incredibly dysfunctional married couple on the verge of divorce who are living in a dilapidated house in Tallahassee, Florida, drinking themselves to death.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the album, today on the Mountain Goats’ Facebook page, John Darnielle wrote:

Our album ‘Tallahassee’ came out 20 years ago today.

There’s lots of stories to tell about how this album came to be, but the interval I want to focus on is recording-to-release. Peter had named the producer. I pretty much only listened to metal at that time, with a couple of choice punk & indie exceptions, so I asked him if he knew any names, and he named Tony Doogan. I’d heard B&S and their sound was pretty special even if I generally preferred my fare a little harder so I said, sure, sounds good, and our new label, 4AD, set it up.

I had never spent a full week in studio before. I’m sure I was insufferable the entire time. I was afraid of failure. I know I had a brutal headache the entire time and could not sleep, at all, in the on-premises accommodations. I felt pretty certain that the people who liked what I did would be mad at the studio sheen, and that nobody who wanted better production would be won over by sanding down the abrasive sound of the boombox.

But we made it through tracking & mix, and then we were told that the calendar didn’t look good for a fall release, and after a certain date in November they didn’t wanna release anything in the UK that would have to compete with the big fall releases…so the album stayed in the cans for a year. A year waiting. Wondering. Worrying. We recorded that album in October of 2001. It came out in November of 2002. It wasn’t met with great acclaim. The sticker on the promo compared us to Cake (presumably because of the speak-singing on the lead single), and the leading indie rock website of the time dutifully made that exact comparison in its review.

But we toured until our feet bled, because we thought these were good songs, and, as we played them, they found the people who wanted or needed them. When you make music that’s never going to appeal to the general public, you play the long game. We are immensely grateful to all of you who play the long game with us. Happy birthday to an album that found its people, over time.

Do yourself a favor and go take a listen to Tallahassee, for the first or the thousandth time!