Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Marian Call

Marian Call in concert, looking a little blurry. But not as blurry as her guitarist.
Not the best pic ever, but I was busy listening, didn't want to spend much time attempting a better shot. Especially since I was in the front of the front row and feeling conspicuous.
A month ago I reviewed the song "In the Black" by Marian Call. I actually intend this to be the beginning of a series of posts about her songs, but I wanted to jump right in and do that review before introducing the series, especially because the timing felt so right.

So here I am. Introducing the series.

"Uh, who's Marian Call?"

Oh right, I should introduce her if I'm introducing a series about her, huh? Well, she's an indie singer-songwriter from Alaska who sounds a bit like Joni Mitchell, but with maybe a little more jazz influence, who writes songs with clever subtle lyrics. That's the short version. Arguably the rest of this blog post is the long version. Or, of course, you can click on the above link for info directly from her.


 "Why review her songs, when the vast majority of your reviews are of books?

 If you really have to, wouldn't just one post do? Like that post about Battlestar music?"

Glad you asked. I've been thinking about doing this for a while. For one thing, it'd be more efficient -- I keep gushing about her on facebook and in emails, but instead I could just link to these! Well, to some extent, anyway. I might not have to repeat myself quite as much, which would be nice. At any rate, I discovered through all the gushing that I have plenty to say about her music. I'd enjoy saying those things here.

I've talked with her a little bit on twitter (@mariancall), and when I mentioned toying with the idea of a series like this, but said my blog doesn't exactly reach that many, her answer was, "Hey, do it! I will enjoy reading them at least!" So there you go. That makes two of us. But I'll try to make them entertaining for the rest of you! Feel free to yell at me if they're not.

"But why listen?"

Why do I listen to Marian Call? Why might you enjoy listening to Marian Call? The fastest answer might be to go listen to some of it. She's put it all online to stream for free. But I'll admit, the first song or so that I listened to didn't excite me like this. I had another friend (@Joi_the_Artist) who gushed like I do now, and I listened a little more and more and more... Her songs really reward repeated listens.

Lyrics. Ohmygoodness lyrics.

Now I'll freely admit, I'm a lyrics gal. Don't get me wrong, the music is great, but that's not what made me fall in love. There are instrumental pieces out in the world which I love, and I'm pretty sure I've even loved songs which had lyrics I couldn't quite make out, or never understood; but... lyrics are pretty much the key to my heart. I'll even forgive some semi-awful music for great lyrics. Once in a while. (Didn't have to do that for her, yay!)

I mean, again, I'm Quettandil. Word Lover. This should surprise no one.

Ever watched the movie Music and Lyrics? You should, it's good. Hugh Grant isn't my favorite, but he's surprisingly perfect for a washed-up '80s pop star. Anyway, there's a novelist and a lyricist in the movie. The novelist has done something bad to the lyricist (I'm trying to be vague to avoid spoilers, though this isn't quite central to the plot), and someone makes a comment to the lyricist that writing lyrics to huge hit songs will "show him." Or something to that effect. She replies that it won't exactly impress him. (He writes literary fiction. Snooty stuff.)

Well, this wannabe novelist is impressed. I mean, Marian Call's songs have layers of meaning, metaphors all over the place, they're clever, they're most certainly not repetitive. Many of them are subtle enough that I don't catch the double meanings the first time I listen, or even the second or third or fourth, necessarily. Whether direct or subtle, they're always clever. (For an example of very direct and obvious metaphors, delightful and funny ones that make the song, you can either wait for me to someday review "The Avocado Song," or you can click here for the song and lyrics.) After listening to Marian Call, should I happen to hear some random pop song, my reaction tends to be, "Wait, that's all? You didn't have anything else to say? Couldn't have phrased it just a little differently?"

Well okay, music too.

No, of course the similar-to-Joni-Mitchell sound doesn't hurt. Or the way she makes the music fit the lyrics, in more ways and places than I've even noticed, I'm sure. "Dear Mister Darcy" is a good example, check out the recurring "...but not quite" bit.


Oh, and did I mention that she has a whole album inspired by Firefly and Battlestar Galactica? Which begins with The Nerd Anthem? She does. Awesome, I know. Just keep in mind that again, some of it is pretty subtle. It's not parody. She has some things in common with Jonathan Coulton (the aforementioned nerdiness and all-around teh awesomeness, for starters, perhaps), but that's not quite what you should be expecting.

I don't know what to call this. Awesome philosophy and respect for both fans and art, I guess.

She has a pretty great philosophy about sharing her music. Check out this wonderful post about her Pseudo-Scholarship Fund. Very good balance between valuing the music and artist with making it freely available to people. Heck, it's not a balance, per se. It's lots of both. "Enthusiastic cheer!"

Bring the nerdiness and the awesome philosophy together...

And that was before Kickstarter really took off. I haven't spent a lot of time looking at Kickstarter projects, but even if I had, I wouldn't be surprised if I still thought the theme song and video to her Kickstarter project, "Marian Call's European Adventure Quest," was pretty much the best thing on Kickstarter ever. There's this cool game, and everything! Explained through song! Questing! Awesome prizes! Okay, that last bit's kind of normal on Kickstarter, almost by definition, but stillll.... Um, you should watch the video.

She's worth it. As a person.

She's nice. Kind. She really cares about her fans. On top of everything else, that's why she has my undying loyalty. And money. She makes it easy to realize there's a person behind her music, and to want to support that person.

She replied on twitter to my review of "In the Black," said, "I only just had time to read your 'In the Black' blog post tonight, and it really touched me. Sending good wishes your way. Thank you for really knowing and loving one of my songs. That is the highest possible honor. I made it for you." Awwww!

I was talking with her on twitter several months ago to arrange a physical copy of Got to Fly for a sister of mine in Hawaii, who didn't have the internet speed to download it herself. I could've paid for the download and shipped it out, but I thought I'd see if Marian Call had a magical office worker bee who could do it, and she did. I agreed to pay a little bit for her time. And then... March happened. So as we were finishing up the details, I told her "And one last thing: just received very very bad news this morning, and your music is helping, as usual. Thank you!" At which point she said, "Don't worry about the cost, it's on me." I explained that my bad news wasn't affecting my sister, who was going to be paying me back anyway, but she still gave the CD away for free.

This really touched me, possibly more than anything anyone else did or said at that time. It wasn't much perhaps, but the fact that she'd do it, as a stranger who had no idea at all what my bad news was about? It meant something, at least to me.

I would worry about telling this story, lest you take advantage of her generosity, but well, there's already a system in place for you to get free CDs from her if you ask. (See the Pseudo-Scholarship Fund, above.) Please don't abuse this. Because, as I think this story and others illustrate, she is well worth supporting. Heck, good art is worth supporting, even if you don't like the artist. How much more so when you do?

Concert story and pics to come!

Alright, I think this miiiight be lengthy enough. Stay tuned for a post about my very first Marian Call concert, just last week (from whence the beginning pic comes). It will be shorter than this one. Probably.

Because sometimes I run out of different ways to say "AWESOME." Really. I do.

Until then, be sure to check out Marian Call's upcoming concerts and see if she's coming to an area near you.

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