December 22, 2014

Damien Rice in a synagogue in San Francisco (October 7, 2014)


It’s the time of year when I have some time to swim around in music because the college where I work is closed in between terms. Brace yourselves for a bunch of good stuff in the next two weeks while I am off work — in addition to plans for a “Holiday Bundle” of up to four new Chapel Sessions (!!!), I have some incredible live recordings that a magical show-recording elf who goes simply by the initial “B” sends to my mailbox with little notes of care from the San Francisco Bay Area.

In this week’s mail I received a stunning recording of Damien Rice playing in the Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco – a magnificent Classical Romanesque synagogue built in 1904 and covered in gorgeous frescoes. The setlist to this show is fucking incredible. Damien Rice has the ability to transport me back to a very specific time in my life, a very raw time (“Accidental Babies” has got to be one of the most brutally bittersweet songs I know) and this show just was just song after song after song of that exquisiteness.

From the first song, “Eskimo,” when he starts howling, I was overcome with chills all up and down my spine. This is a very powerful show; even though these songs are old, they are undiluted. I did the thing that I do when a song really flattens me, and that is: I let it. I lay right in the center of the wooden floor in my kitchen where the stereo is and let the song do its work. Sometimes I sing along.

Holy shit, this show.

crowd choir on Volcano

LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO: Congregation Sherith Israel
October 7, 2014
Taped by B

Woman Like A Man
9 Crimes
The Greatest Bastard
The Professor & La Fille Danse
Grey Room
Rootless Tree
I Remember
Volcano –> When Doves Cry (Prince)

The Blower’s Daughter
Cheers Darlin’
Accidental Babies


The enclosed postcard: Thanks, B.
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I am seeing Damien on April 17 in Boulder. If this is at all what I have to look forward to…

[show photos borrowed from Irene Hsu, Stanford]

January 6, 2013

we are crazy, but no one’s perfect

I’ve been listening to a lot of (old) Damien Rice these days, something about the long nights of winter and the perfection in so many of those songs. It’s good to hear Damien’s unmistakable voice on something new, in this collaboration with Irish songwriter David Hopkins. The song was released a few years ago, but it is a welcome discovery for me tonight.

There Are Debts (feat. Damien Rice) – David Hopkins

October 15, 2011

have i come here to play jesus to the lepers in my head?

So all I could do was lay on my living room floor and listen to this version over and over. Hearing the way Damien Rice softly and darkly teases this song into something shatteringly his own, there’s not really other appropriate responses or actions while listening.

One (U2) – Damien Rice

From the forthcoming Q magazine compilation covering my favorite U2 album, I found it especially amazing how Damien totally changes this song just through switching a few pronouns from “you” to “me,” and the hesitancy in his voice, the inhalation of breath. With a few twists of vocabulary, he shifts all the blame and redemption woven through this song squarely onto his shoulders. I heard it in a way I haven’t heard this song in a long time.

i asked you to enter, and then i made you crawl
and you can’t be holding on
to what i’ve got

when all i’ve got is hurt

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February 28, 2008

This would not’ve happened if I hadn’t missed my plane

The Damien Rice b-side “Rat Within The Grain” from the 9 Crimes single has been steadily pacing towards my favorite song of the moment. Like so many of Damien’s creations, this one is piercing and terribly sad, soaked in a wistful bitterness.

I was first snagged purely by the linguistic aesthetics that stopped me in my tracks — the braids of wordplay like wood/would, want, wonderful, true. The repetition lulls you along like the chugging of a railroad car, then socks you in the gut with the acidity of his meaning.

Rat Within The Grain – Damien Rice

It gouges pretty harshly at the softest parts of my insides, as his jaded self-contempt seeps into the tender, almost-hidden professions of a maybe hopeless kind of love. In one long sentence, he goes from wanting to keep her at arm’s length because he knows that parts of him are a turbulent ocean, and wanting so much to be wonderful in her eyes. The circular logic is pristinely bittersweet:

I wouldn’t want you to want
to be wanted by me
I wouldn’t want you to worry
you’d be drowned within my sea

I only wanted to be wonderful,
in wonderful is true, in truth
I only really wanted to be wanted by you

Isn’t that more or less the human condition as it pertains to love, right there?

Then a moment later, the other most striking part of the song:

In my bed go rest your head
upon the bones of a bigger man
he can cover you with rockwool
and you can close up like a clam . . .

Just because I didn’t know what rockwool was, I googled, as I do. I learned that it’s an inorganic, alkaline, sterile, inert growing medium, the kind that a gardener would use to replace soil. Maybe that strikes you as too much technical knowledge, that I am a nerd who should just enjoy the song, but for me . . . knowing that makes it an even more brilliant lyric. Sterile. Inert. Alkaline. She closes up.

After I sit here and try to write about it, I realize the futility. Just listen to the song and the weight of the space it occupies. Hopeless and hopeful, redemptive and beyond redemption.

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October 15, 2007

Monday Music Roundup

The game’s on tonight. I love taking three or four hours to watch baseball — the pace of it, the grace and the subtlety. I am having so much fun watching The Rockies’ brand of baseball – it’s young and hardworking and fun, and it’s all coming together for them into a very very likely World Series run (becoming more likely after that 4th inning tonight)! It’s a fun time to live in Colorado. They need to win just one more against the Diamondbacks to go to the Series, and this Giants fan is cheering for them without qualms.

The Feeding Of The 5000
Ian Brown

There’s a Matt Nathanson song called “Everything You Say It Sounds Like Gospel,” a sentiment that also applies to much of what former Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown has been putting out lately. In addition to a storyline here straight out of The Good Book, Brown is drawn to using these dramatic orchestral foundations that make it all seem even more epic and important. But I don’t find it pretentious; I get into the way the strings combine with cool electronic flourishes and his effortlessly swank vocals. His new album The World Is Yours is out now in the UK, not in the U.S. yet.

The Hustle
This came on my shuffle on my iPod at the gym while I was trying to top my personal best at sit-ups (oh, like 33. Something mindblowing), and it gave me an instant rush of energy. This is a Marah tune that has comfortably been living on my iPod for a good two years or so without receiving my full unabashed love — until now. Without reading the shuffle display, at first I thought this urgent, perfectly ebullient song was maybe Westerberg because of the yowly crack to Dave Bielanko’s voice, with delightfully jangly rock guitars. I now love this song, it’s my new favorite — off their 2005 album If You Didn’t Laugh You’d Cry. This Philadelphia-based, brother-helmed band has got a lot of cool stuff going on now, including a new EP/10″ vinyl this month (Can’t Take It With You) and a forthcoming album called Angels of Destruction.

Lisa Hannigan
I wrote about the Cake Sale compilation last year when the Oxfam benefit album featuring the talents of lots of good folks (Damien Rice, Lisa Hannigan, Josh Ritter, Glen Hansard, Gemma Hayes, etc) was released in Ireland. At the time, it was a UK-only release, and for those of us on this side of the pond not hardy enough to weather the pounds-to-dollars conversion, it’s finally gained a U.S. release tomorrow on Yep Roc. This particular song (written by Damien Rice) is as haunting and lovely as everything Hannigan loans her vocals to. Allow me to repeat at this point that it’s truly a crying shame that things didn’t work out musically with her and Damien Rice; I can’t get enough of the way she sings.

The Way I Am
Ingrid Michaelson
I’ve mentioned my love/hate relationship with Old Navy music and also lately their ’80s carnival of wide-necked, very long, big-buttoned, “they-think-I-am-11″ items. However, this song which they tapped for their latest sweater commercial is a nice home run for deserving songwriter Ingrid Michaelson from Staten Island. Despite her being my MySpace friend for, like, ever — somehow this infectiously cheery, handclappy sweet ditty slipped my notice. Okay, it’s a bit syrupy, but you know when the girl-group harmonies of that chorus hit, you kinda like the sugar rush. Her new album Girls and Boys is out now.

Avril 14th
Aphex Twin
Since we’re already talkin’ TV, here’s one other one on the airwaves lately. I’d never listened to ambient musician Aphex Twin (born Richard David James) until I started seeing articles about the licensing flap about the sampling of this song in the recent hi-larious Samberg digital short on SNL, “I Ran.” This original is a lush, gorgeous piano song from the 2001 Aphex Twin album drukqs, and count me as a new fan . . . but I can’t really listen to it purely without thinking of lines like, “You ain’t wrong to me, so strong to me, you belong to me . . . like a very hairy Jake Gyllenhaal to me” (which, incidentally, may be one of the best rhymes ever written). If you haven’t seen it:

August 17, 2007

Fierce acoustic Damien Rice in Denver, 5/5/07

A friend of a friend shot the following video when Damien Rice was here in town on Cinco de Mayo (I was wondering WHY WAS I NOT AT THIS, but then I remembered I was busy taking shots to the mouth in the Kings of Leon pit).

It’s a fantastic little snippet; I love how defiantly Damien sings the lines, almost as if he is taunting or daring courage to teach him to be shy. It also has the grainy look of an old-time film reel somehow. Enjoy, I did:


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March 11, 2007

Ray LaMontagne & Damien Rice duet on French TV

Thanks to everyone who sent me this link:

This was live on the Taratata French 4 live music TV show, and I agree that The Bee Gees never sounded so good.

To Love Somebody – Ray LaMontagne & Damien Rice
(re-upped, better quality. Thanks reader Jason!)

November 20, 2006

Damien Rice contest winner

I don’t know why I do this to myself.

“Judging” those Damien Rice contest entries was like reading through a bunch of peoples’ diary entries and coolly picking the “best.” How hard-hearted is that? In any case, it was almost impossible, and thanks for all the dozens of thoughtfully incisive entries. If you want some great reading, look them all over and appreciate the depth and the heartbreaking elegance of Damien’s writing. If Rice wasn’t a musician, he could be the greatest Irish poet and author in a long time.

Winner Because I Don’t Know Why (it just grabbed me the right way)
BRETT writes:
“I haven’t heard the new one yet, so I’ll have to choose from ‘O’.

And I die when you mention his name
And I lied, I should have kissed you when we were runnin’ in the rain

I die when he comes around to take you home
I’m too shy, I should have kissed you when we were alone

- Cheers Darlin’

“Both of these really capture those ‘missed opportunities’ in life and love. Those rare moments that come along and you know you should follow your heart (and often your whole being) and capture them, but you dont. You hesitate, you waffle, you listen to that doubtful little voice in your head and then, its too late. All you can do is watch that magical moment – that possibility of true love – pass painfully by. All you can do is think of what could have been, if only youd had the ‘balls’ to step up and embrace that ephemeral spark. Its a lesson we could probably all learn from.”

Brett’s entry spoke to a belief I have about embracing the moment when you can and while you can, and fully appreciating life. Plus he used the words “ephemeral spark,” and I loved that.

Runners Up (would be pretty much everybody else, who, as usual, get nothing but the satisfaction of leaving an excellent comment):
Sorry I couldn’t give the print to Myk, who was hoping to give it to a lost love and win her back (!). Honey did me the awesome favor of sending me a link to the performance of her best song, “Insane.” I too love the lyric “Sometimes you’re breathing all over my skin…You always end up much closer than close…That’s where I give in.” R-O-Dub writes a novel, a literary dissertation on “The Professor” which was fantastic and would best be shared over a cuppa coffee, while Lucie just says that if someone quoted a certain lyric to her, she’d burst into tears. Succinct but perfect.

I appreciated what JBS from San Francisco State had to say about “Rat Within The Grain” because I love the aching honesty of those same lyrics (plus, he offered up a comparison with another song from a different artist; great foil). And two of you guys brought up the overlooked gem “I Remember” in all of its raging angst, drawing me back to this song I had kind of forgotten and renewing my desire to see Damien Rice live.

Every entry was great. Thank you to each person who took the time to add to the dialogue and respond.

November 13, 2006

New contest: Win a lithograph of Damien Rice’s album cover artwork

Okay kids, a new contest for you. I have a 14″ x 14″ lithograph print of the cover of Damien Rice‘s new album, 9, which comes out tomorrow (Nov 14):

To win this fine piece of lifestyle decor, equally at home in a dormitory setting or in a fireside study, leave me a comment with the following: What is your favorite Damien Rice lyric? Why? The answer I like the best by Friday wins the lithograph. Have at it.

Listen to the whole album on the Warner Brothers media site (the studio version of “Accidental Babies” is even more quietly devastating than the live version I had posted earlier), and watch the little video dealie too if you like.

Here’s a repost of the fantastic b-side to the “9 Crimes” single, and a live version of that song:

Rat Within The Grain” – Damien Rice

9 Crimes” (live on KFOG) – Damien Rice

November 7, 2006

“The Cake Sale” (featuring Josh Ritter, Lisa Hannigan, Damien Rice, The Thrills, and more)

Well, here’s something tasty.

Excellent Irish musicians team up for a good cause with the upcoming release of The Cake Sale — a band featuring a loose and expansive collective of musicians and writers who have combined to create a 9-song CD of the same name on Oxfam Records. All profits will go to support Oxfam Ireland’s Make Trade Fair campaign and their overseas program work.

Songs on the album have been written by Dave Geraghty and Paul Noonan (both of Bell X1), Bono’s favorite Emm Gryner [link], Glen Hansard (of The Frames), Ollie Cole (of Irish band Turn), Damien Rice, Irish indies The Thrills and Australian-born Irish songwriter Matt Lunson [link].

Lead vocalists for the project include Lisa Hannigan (who has worked extensively with Damien Rice and should release a solo album as soon as she is able), Nina Persson (of The Cardigans), Gary Lightbody (of Snow Patrol), the lovely Irish singer Gemma Hayes, Glen Hansard, Josh Ritter, Conor Deasy (The Thrills) and Neil Hannon (of The Divine Comedy). A host of other luminaries fill the roles of musicians.

That’s a top notch compilation lineup if I ever saw one! You can stream audio from all nine of the songs here, or on their MySpace page. Be their friend. Buy their record. It’s a GOOD cause. The Cake Sale was just released in Ireland last week, and apparently those of us not on the Emerald Isle can buy it online through Road Records.

Here’s just one of the great songs:
Last Leaf (Lisa Hannigan on vocals) – The Cake Sale
(re-upped 11/11/06)

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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