Music

Kate Miller-Heidke: Liberty Bell

It’s the fast cuts with dance beats where Miller-Heidke shines most. Her voice seems to smile at the listener, whether she’s warning about “The Flasher” or complaining about the street people in “Holloway Park”.


Kate Miller-Heidke

Liberty Bell

Label: Sony
US Release Date: 2011-10-11
UK Release Date: Import
Amazon
iTunes

One could read (okay, purposely misread) Brisbane-born Kate Miller-Heike’s Liberty Bell album as a song cycle about a girl who seeks freedom and adventure and ends up dying in a terrible plane wreck before she can act. After all, the first track is, “Are You Ready“ and last one is “The Plane Is Down”. In between, the narrator seeks relief from boredom and plans a trip to Spain where things are better.

Of course, to see the record in this way one has to ignore the nonsensical cuts, such as “Liberty Bell” and “Devil’s in the Details”. These are propulsive dance tracks in which the singer does her best to rhythmically repeat the songs’ titles as frequently as possible. One could see these as conveying metaphorical truths. “Liberty Bell” is about personal independence and “Devil’s in the Details” concerns going bad. But this would be a stretch. The phrase “devil’s in the details” seems more likely to be used because of its hard consonant sounds and double syllables at both end than for any other reason. No doubt, if there were a two-syllabic hard consonant construction for the word god, the word would serve the song’s purpose equally as well.

Providing the album with a framework deepens the meanings of the material contained. The lyrics can go from straight (“the calories abound so eat up eat up”) to strange (“l am going to get eyes tattooed on my eyelid”) to surreal (“Put hooves underneath my feet so I can feel the beat”) all in the same song, in this case the bouncy, “Fatty Gets a Stylist”. The hallucinatory imagery of this song suggests a dream. Perhaps the singer is dozing during the jet trip. However one interprets the song seems irrelevant to the pleasures of just hearing silly words skillfully sung to a deep and infectious groove.

That’s really the case for each individual song here. Each is meant to be fun. They all have phat beats to make the body move. The one slow tune, “Let Me Fade”, is the album’s worst. To a solo piano accompaniment, the narrator sings of being alone in a conventional manner and over-emotes. Woe is me. While this provides a contrast to the other material, there is no other reason for the song to exist here.

It’s the fast cuts with dance beats where Miller-Heidke shines most. Her voice seems to smile at the listener, whether she’s warning about “The Flasher” or complaining about the street people in “Holloway Park”. This adds a dynamic layer to what goes on in the songs, as the instruments purposely go out of tune or miss a rhythm to get the listener’s attention and accent points. The voice keeps everything wrapped tight, so there’s nothing to worry about even if there is something to worry about.

Like on the final cut, in which the singer triumphantly sings to an almost martial beat about facing death with her eyes wide open. This should be a dirge, but Miller-Heidke’s singing keeps one’s hopes alive. Hmm...a plane crashing into a mountain. She should be dead, but there is a chance. Nope, she dies. Oh well, let’s dance.

7

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image