When I was living at home at my parents house when I was going to college I was heading to a blind date. It was early on a Saturday night, still sunny. Summer, late 90’s. I was driving my parents’ minivan. It didn’t have a tape-player, or the tape-player was broken, I was listening to the radio. I heard someone new. About a block from the blind date’s apartment I turned the minivan around, drove the ten minutes back home, ran inside and put a blank tape in my stereo and hit record, then went back to the van and drove then 10 minutes back to the blind date’s place. I ended up getting about 4 songs, but I did get the band/songwriter name: Ani Difranco. I apologized to the blind date when I got to her apartment, explaining I’d just heard some great new music and I had to record it. That was not my wife it didn’t go very far. The music is the key to the story here.
As far as I can remember these were the songs on the setlist. The song that caught my attention the most was probably the acoustic version of Out of Range. Ani plays guitar really really well, sings well and writes personal poetry, basically. There’s some profanity/sexuality in these songs.
It looks like Ani Difranco has put out 8 albums since the last one I listened to carefully, To the Teeth (1999), which my brother gave me for Christmas one year. Probably 1999. I haven’t kept up with her. I really like some of her stuff and am meh about a lot of it. I’ve really only followed a few bands over their careers. I’ve a fair-weather friend when it comes to music.
Here’s who I follow.
The Trashcan Sinatras
Sometimes Trash Can Sinatras (early) and sometimes Trashcan Sinatras (later) (worth mentioning because of the different when searching, Spotify has both, separately). My entrypoint was “Only Tongue Can Tell” (which got airplay on KJQ) then the local library had “I’ve seen Everything”. They make catchy alt-pop, maybe. Smart lyrics. They’ve mellowed as they’ve aged but instead of getting mushy they’ve gotten sentimental, and their songs are just as strong. As a gift my wife got me a T-shirt and tickets to see the band in New York, which was a weird show because the monitors kept them from hearing any of the requests they asked the audience for, but it was great. Honestly part of what kept me searching for them was that no one, absolutely no one I talked to knew the band. So I had that going for me.
James Mercer, apparently, he ditched most of the band for his latest album, which kind of ticked me off, even though it’s still a great album. Entry point was Know Your Onion! which I downloaded somewhere as a single and didn’t get the full album, Oh Inverted World, until a year later. They have four albums. All are strong. They got a lot of attention when one of their songs, New Slang, was on the Zach Braff movie Garden State, not just on the soundtrack but a song that the Natalie Portman character tells him to listen to in a hospital waiting room, and it was in a McDonlads commercial, which some people got mad about, but any exposure of good stuff is good, right?
Rogue Wave I really follow on and off. I really liked Out of the Shadow and Descended Like Vultures. Their later albums are good but don’t hit me as hard. They’re basically two guys, Zach Rogue and Pat Spurgeon.