Liz Durrett: The Mezzanine

Haunting and beautiful second effort from Georgia-born singer-songwriter.

Liz Durrett

The Mezzanine

Label: Warm
US Release Date: 2006-01-24
UK Release Date: 2006-01-23
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate

Tornado season may have just begun in these nervous, twitchy weeks before official spring, but it's always tornado season on nature-programmed television, and I am forever enthralled. This has led me to the somewhat shaky thesis that Georgia singer-songwriter Liz Durrett's album The Mezzanine shares an abundance of traits with tornadoes, but I think it works out so I'm going to run with it. Because I've been listening to Durrett's songs for weeks, and like twisters, they're starting to haunt my dreams.

The album opens with "Knives at the Wall", in just the same way that an afternoon sky slowly turns unrecognizable beginning with the slightest breeze pulling the damp off of summer heat. The song is sparsely arranged; vocals, guitar figures, tinkling omnichord notes, and bass are spread out some distance from each other -- but the space between the each part is thick and humid. Comparisons between Durrett and Cat Power's Chan Marshall are thrown about like so many panhandle livestock, which is a bit of a mixed blessing. One on hand, there is an unmistakable similarity in the delivery and timbre of both women that is evident from the first line of "Knives", and particularly on "All the Spokes", which would have sounded perfect on What Would the Community Think?, and what's so bad about that (hint: nothing)? On the other hand, the comparison is overstated for the majority of the album, where Durrett does plenty to distinguish herself.

"Cups on the Counter" opens with a series of images demonstrating the evidence our daily lives leave behind, "The cup on the counter leaves a circular stain/ The rut from the tire is deep in the clay/ The flat of the grass where a body once laid/ And the contents of pockets all strewn on the table." Then the song twists into accusation, "Why try to lie to me?/ I'm not a child/ I know what I've seen." Now I'm not sure what Durrett has seen, but I am damn positive she's seen it. Again, like a tornado, I'd think twice before crossing her. The details, phrasing, and economy of language on "Cups" would be mesmerizing even without Durrett's sultry and melancholic voice covering every word, but there it is, picking me up in a vortex and leaving me dazed in the middle of a field.

Produced by Durrett's uncle, the inimitable Vic Chesnutt, The Mezzanine feels possessed by some of the same ghosts as West of Rome (on which a young Liz performed). "Creepyaskudzu" is languorous, with Chesnutt's trombone and keyboard effects crawling over Durrett's heavily echoed voice like the invasive in question. "Silent Partner" is an instrumental piano piece, recorded in the hall of Chesnutt's house, some of the tones decayed just enough to be charming. "Shivering Assembly" bears Durrett's uncle's influence most of all, due mostly to his lead guitar and harmonica stylings, but also because the phrase "shivering assembly" feels particularly as if a donkey had dragged it through the myrtle.

But there's little of Chesnutt's revelry in the joy and humor of language on The Mezzanine. There's a uniformity of mood across the record, and that mood is heavy, heavy, heavy. By the time the listener gets to the aching "In the Throes", they're in the throes too, enraptured but a fairly exhausted. Not necessarily a bad thing if you're in the kind of mood that begs for inclement weather -- but perhaps a little strong if you've been without the sun for too long.


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

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

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

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
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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