What do the following artists have in common: Rickie Lee Jones, Natalie Merchant, Lori Mckenna, The Sundays, Bjork, Kate Bush, Ani DiFranco and Dar Williams? Each one, on first listen, made the rest of my world momentarily drop away. This is no joke.
Of course, the first would have been Rickie Lee Jones. I can still remember the way the goosebumps tracked their way up my arms during the first minute or so of “Chuck E’s In Love”. For a kid who listened to a steady diet of Zeppelin/Nugent/Black Sabbath this music, and my reaction to it, was shocking. It was probably the first time I realized that there was this whole other musical world waiting for me.
I’ve had a few more of these moments since then. Maybe my level of “shock” has decreased a little. But what remains a common element is the sense of wonder … uhm … I don’t mean for this to sound so danged serious, ’cause more often than not I’ve heard this stuff during a car trip (to or from work), the ‘moment’ consisting of me thinking “Yow!!! What was that?!!”
The specific songs? “The Man With The Child In His Eyes” (Kate Bush), “Here’s Where The Story Ends” (The Sundays), “32 Flavors” (Ani DiFranco), “Birthday” (Bjork/Sugarcubes), “Like The Weather” (Natalie Merchant/10000 Maniacs), “Hardly Speaking A Word” (Lori McKenna) and “When I Was A Boy” (Dar Williams).
Also: 1998′s “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None The Richer. It was probably during Dawson’s Creek. As soon as I heard that tune I just knew that Leigh Nash had been added to my Dorky Pop Singer Voice Hall of Fame.
“Kiss Me” came from their runaway hit eponymous CD. A fine pop record. Great music, interesting and uplifting lyrics and that sweet, sweet voice. It’s the kind of thing that’s immediately ageless … and I bet I would have loved it had I heard it the same day as my Rickie Lee Jones experience.
Divine Discontent, of course, was a long time in the making. Contractual wrangling, lineup changes, side projects: none of this hurt them, as this was yet another great pop record. The songwriting remained their unique blend of faith and hope (artists in the non-crossover contemporary Christian genre could learn a thing or two) starting right off with the opener “Breath Your Name” and peaking (for me) with the orchestra-supported intensity of “Dizzy.”
That would be the peak of energy. The emotional peak lives in the last two songs: the pretty “Tension Is A Passing Note” followed by the pensive “A Million Parachutes” (I saw a few complaints about the inclusion of the Crowded House cover “Don’t Dream It’s Over” … sorry, but that song is a perfect compliment. Both the musical and lyrical influence is so obvious … and it’s a great tune!)
Oh, and we can’t forget the great arrangements, particularly the way Matt Slocum’s guitar supports everything. Really, the perfect complement to “The Voice.”
This is the CD you have to recommend to those who say that there’s no good music out there anymore. If they don’t like Divine Discontent maybe they’re not capable of having a “moment.”