Monday, August 22, 2011


I was thinking about Laurie Anderson the other day, the New York performance artist who grabbed the punk attitude of the 70's, mixed some music into her show, experimented with sampling via tape loops on her violin, and came up with the revolutionary O Superman in 1980.  What surprised me is that it never charted as a Top 100 single, but of course, what radio station would have touched it then, other than college and the furthest-out FM ones.  It taken take long to realize that 30 years later, her ground-breaking can be found in so many of today's songwriters and performers, especially women.

Connecting just some of the dots, you'll find Anderson opened the doors for singer-songwriters to modernize away from folk, and experiment, as Suzanne Vega did.  Now you can write a song and dump that acoustic, start layering, be alternative.  Mary Margaret O'Hara was another, but stuck in the 80's was still concerned too left field for the greater populace.  Into the 90's, our own Julie Doiron took it back low-fi, stuck in some raw emotion and sang from her gut.  Which, in the way my brain links these things, takes me right up to Halifax's Rebekah Higgs. Now, I don't know her, and she may have never heard of Laurie Anderson and probably just came by all this quite naturally, which is all great.  My point is that these days, this is what a pop album sounds like, it's darn good and I silently tip my hat to O Superman.

Higgs' new one is part playful and lots of hard work, coming up with fabulous arrangements and cool production.  "Lazy Mornings", with its tic-toc piano and percussion, vibrating backing vocals and shimmering strings gives us a wonderful, stony and slow passage of time.  "Stick & Poke" (great title) starts slow and plodding, with the vocals chopped up into a crawl, until half-way through it goes double time, then doubles again, Higgs accusing a paramour of having bloodshot eyes and "tooma-NEE late nights".  Some songs are more straight-ahead and fun, and the disc does start with the jaunty "Little Voice", and "There's a busy bee/humming merrily", like a Disney theme from a lost 60's movie.  "Gosh Darn Damn", the lead single, sounds like a single, like those pop ones circa 1973.

A big hats off to Higgs, the musicians and producer Brian Deck, as this is a tremendous effort, such craft involved.  Rebekah, if you had been around to make this in the '70's, you would have freaked 'em all out and picked up the wacky artist tag like Laurie Anderson.  Of course, you also would have picked up Lou Reed, post-heroin, so.....

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