Music

Mary Timony: The Golden Dove

Doug Wallen

Mary Timony

The Golden Dove

Label: Matador
US Release Date: 2002-05-21
UK Release Date: 2002-05-20
Amazon
iTunes

Since her beloved trio Helium went on extended hiatus years ago (never to return?), scene queen Mary Timony has remade herself as a solo songstress. And as with Helium, critics and fans alike have been falling over themselves with praise for this new era of her career.

On her solo debut, 2000's Mountains (on Matador, longtime label of Helium), Timony first showcased the sparse results of losing her bandmates' syrupy instrumentation. Her new songs seemed skeletal and creepily quiet, whispering into the wind instead of roaring into it. Where Helium buried her songwriting in a sort of mystical maelstrom, Mountain laid bare every guitar twang and oddball keyboard twinkle.

Owning up to more mature influences like the Fairport Convention, Timony distorted barefoot bedroom folk with phantasmagoric fairy tale themes. Sure, Helium had been edging in direction all along, culminating in 1997's The Magic City (see song titles like "Medieval People" and "Lullaby of the Moths"), but Timony emerged a full-blown sorceress on Mountains.

Singing of "poison moons" and "painted horses", she was labeled a Tolkien-ite by some, given her gravitation towards such colorful fantasy imagery. Her blasé vocal delivery made it all the more intriguing, sleepily spitting out allusions to shape-shifting, suicide, gender conflicts, and betrayal. The album also revealed a fascination with numbers, in lines like "I fire myself 10 times a day", "With 14 horses on top of my head", "On my 26th day of being alone", "13 bees have died today", and "I walk in your valley of 1,000 perfumes".

Truly, Timony bewitched us with Mountains, and now she's returned with an equally entrancing follow-up, The Golden Dove. Once again, it's a barren affair musically, with gloomy piano or repetitive guitar snaking from an ethereal backdrop of spooky noises. The songs are short, mostly clocking in at under three minutes, and they blend into another with an organic coherence. They sometimes sound too much alike, but the allure of Timony's storytelling is enough to make each distinguishable with time.

On the opening "Look a Ghost in the Eye", she is more invigorated than on much of the album, recalling the bluesy angst of classic Helium. Offhandedly bitter, she asks, "Can you see me now like I see you now? / Do you feel what you are thinking about? / Will I like you then like I like you now? / Do you radiate hope? / Do you radiate doubt?" amid spectral strings and vocal harmonies. Next, on "The Mirror", she makes mention of "these songs of death getting in the way", but luckily, her morbid themes are rarely obstructive.

Despite its name, "Blood Tree" is more upbeat, laced with tambourine in its kiss-off chorus about a boyfriend who pops pills and shows her topless photos of his ex. Fed up, Timony sings, "Go away / Leave me alone / Go chew on your dog's bone / The only boy I ever loved / Turned into a golden dove / And moved to California". Apparently the album's first video, "Dr. Cat" is actually one of the weaker songs, marked simply by singsongy vocals, Gothic piano, and a frenetic buildup. More interesting is the mention of a black raven knocking in "The Owl's Escape," a presumable reference to Poe.

The album's centerpiece has to be "Musik and Charming Melodee", a lengthier track (4:30) boasting an instrumental intro of almost two minutes before Timony intones, "Musik sets us free". It's surprisingly layered and rockier, with whooshing quasi-prog keyboards that recall the sonic swirl of The Magic City's Stereolab-ish "The Revolution of Hearts, Pts. I and II". Next, "14 Horses" revives both Timony's numerological mindset and her modern themes of Californian escape -- "I've been trying all the time / With 14 horses on my mind / Take me back to L.A. / Riding on the dappled gray". Some lines are repeated by a distorted version of her voice, deepened by the thump of a single bass drum and then shadowy strings.

"Magic Power", the other real gem of Dove, is full of evocative lyrics -- "All through the city on the wings of a dove / Feeling sick and dirty with no help from above / Something's slipping and I'm not in love / A tale of pity and a dirty glove". Timony gets backing vocals from Sparklehorse leader Mark Linkous, who also played on and produced the album. She sings of an alcoholic guitarist living above her, asking "How do you love a dead dove?" and "How do you live with death in your mind?".

On "The White Room", Timony admits, "I know my thinking is serpentine", something we've known all along. "Ant's Dance" has thicker prog influences and a swell of horns, while "Dryad and the Mule" spikes a reverb-y keyboard with handclaps and whistling, with her vocal melody recalling the aforementioned "Magic Power". Then the closing "Ash and Alice" (a reference to former bandmate Ash Bowie?) is a spacey instrumental followed by a brief hidden track.

While Mountains felt like an odd twist on the last few Helium albums, Dove, if anything, feels like an odd twist on Mountains. It's even dreamier and less grounded, stocked with bizarrely complex themes (though simply rhymed) that might make you lose some sleep. But it's just as gorgeous as anything she's ever done. It can seem as if Timony is always playing minor variations on the same hand, creatively, but it's undeniably a fascinating deck she's been dealing from.

Music

The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

With global anxiety at unprecedented high levels it is important to try and maintain some personal equilibrium. Thankfully, metal, like a spiritual belief, can prove grounding. To outsiders, metal has always been known for its escapism and fantastical elements; but as most fans will tell you, metal is equally attuned to the concerns of the world and the internal struggles we face and has never shied away from holding a mirror up to man's inhumanity.

Keep reading... Show less

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

Two recently translated works -- Lydie Salvayre's Cry, Mother Spain and Joan Sales' Uncertain Glory -- bring to life the profound complexity of an early struggle against fascism, the Spanish Civil War.

There are several ways to write about the Spanish Civil War, that sorry three-year prelude to World War II which saw a struggling leftist democracy challenged and ultimately defeated by a fascist military coup.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Beware the seemingly merry shades of green and red that spread so slowly and thickly across the holiday season, for something dark and uncertain, something that takes many forms, stirs beneath the joyful facade.

Let's be honest -- not everyone feels merry at this time of year. Psychologists say depression looms large around the holidays and one way to deal with it is cathartically. Thus, we submit that scary movies can be even more salutary at Christmas than at Halloween. So, Merry Christmas. Ho ho ho wa ha ha!

1. The Old Dark House (James Whale, 1932)

Between Frankenstein (1931) and The Invisible Man (1933), director James Whale made this over-the-top lark of a dark and stormy night with stranded travelers and a crazy family. In a wordless performance, Boris Karloff headlines as the deformed butler who inspired The Addams Family's Lurch. Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, Melvyn Douglas and Ernest Thesiger are among those so vividly present, and Whale has a ball directing them through a series of funny, stylish scenes. This new Cohen edition provides the extras from Kino's old disc, including commentaries by Stuart and Whale biographer James Curtis. The astounding 4K restoration of sound and image blows previous editions away. There's now zero hiss on the soundtrack, all the better to hear Massey starting things off with the first line of dialogue: "Hell!"

(Available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

2. The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)

Two mermaid sisters (Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska) can summon legs at will to mingle on shore with the band at a Polish disco, where their siren act is a hit. In this dark reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's already dark The Little Mermaid, one love-struck sister is tempted to sacrifice her fishy nature for human mortality while her sister indulges moments of bloodlust. Abetted by writer Robert Bolesto and twin sister-musicians Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska, director Agnieszka Smoczynska offers a woman's POV on the fairy tale crossed with her glittery childhood memories of '80s Poland. The result: a bizarre, funy, intuitive genre mash-up with plenty of songs. This Criterion disc offers a making-of and two short films by Smoczynska, also on musical subjects.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Read PopMatters review here.)

3. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

In the category of movies that don't explain themselves in favor of leaving some of their mysteries intact, here's Olivier Assayas' follow-up to the luminous Clouds of Sils Maria. Kristen Stewart again plays a celebrity's lackey with a nominally glamorous, actually stupid job, and she's waiting for a sign from her dead twin brother. What about the ghostly presence of a stalker who sends provocative text messages to her phone? The story flows into passages of outright horror complete with ectoplasm, blood, and ooga-booga soundscapes, and finally settles for asking the questions of whether the "other world" is outside or inside us. Assayas has fashioned a slinky, sexy, perplexing ghost story wrapped around a young woman's desire for something more in her life. There's a Cannes press conference and a brief talk from Assayas on his influences and impulses.

(Available from Criterion Collection / Reader PopMatters review here.

4. The Ghoul (Gareth Tunley, 2016)

The hero (Tom Meeten) tells his therapist that in his dreams, some things are very detailed and others are vague. This movie tells you bluntly what it's up to: a Möbius strip narrative that loops back on itself , as attributed to the diabolical therapists for their cosmic purposes. Then we just wait for the hero to come full circle and commit the crime that, as a cop, he's supposedly investigating. But this doesn't tell us whether he's really an undercover cop pretending to be depressed, or really a depressive imagining he's a cop, so some existential mysteries will never be answered. It's that kind of movie, indebted to David Lynch and other purveyors of nightmarish unreality. Arrow's disc offers a making-of, a commentary from writer-director Gareth Tunley and Meeten along with a producer, and a short film from Tunley and Meeten.

(Available from Arrow Video)

​5. The Illustrated Man (Jack Smight, 1969)

When a young man goes skinny-dipping with a mysterious stranger (Rod Steiger) who's covered with tattoos, the pictures comes to life in a series of odd stories, all created by Ray Bradbury and featuring Steiger and Claire Bloom in multiple roles. Nobody was satisfied with this failure, and it remains condemned to not having reached its potential. So why does Warner Archive grace it with a Blu-ray? Because even its failure has workable elements, including Jerry Goldsmith's score and the cold neatness of the one scene people remember: "The Veldt", which combines primal child/parent hostilities (a common Bradbury theme) with early virtual reality. It answers the question of why the kids spend so much time in their room, and why they're hostile at being pulled away.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

6. The Hidden (Jack Sholder, 1987)


In one of my favorite action movies of the '80s, a post-Blue Velvet and pre-Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan plays an FBI agent who forms a buddy-cop bond with Michael Nouri while pursuing a perp -- a bodiless entity that plugs into the human id. In the midst of slam-bang action comes a pivotal moment when a startling question is asked: "How do you like being human?" The heart of the movie, rich in subtext, finds two men learning to embrace what's alien to them. In pop-culture evolution, this movie falls between Hal Clement's novel Needle and the TV series Alien Nation. On this Warner Archive Blu-ray, Sholder offers a commentary with colleague Tim Hunter.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

7. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992)

Speaking of Twin Peaks, here we have a textbook example of a movie that pleased almost nobody upon its release but has now generated such interest, thanks in large part to this year's Twin Peaks revival, that it arrives on Criterion. A feature-film prequel to David Lynch and Mark Frost's original TV serial that answered none of its questions and tossed in a raft of new ones, the film functions as one of cinema's most downbeat, disruptive and harsh depictions of a middle-class American teenage girl's social context. Sheryl Lee delivers a virtuoso performance that deserved the Oscar there was no way she'd be nominated for, and she wasn't. The extras, including a 90-minute film of deleted and alternate takes assembled by Lynch, have been available on previous sets.

(Available from Criterion Collection)

8. The Green Slime (Kinji Fukasaku, 1968)

Incredibly, Warner Archive upgrades its on-demand DVD of a groovy, brightly colored creature feature with this Blu-ray. As a clever reviewer indicated in this PopMatters review, what director Kinji Fukasaku saw as a Vietnam allegory functions more obviously as a manifestation of sexual tension between alpha-jock spacemen competing for the attention of a foxy female scientist, and this subconsciously creates an explosion of big green tentacled critters who overrun the space station. While we don't believe in "so bad it's good," this falls squarely into the category of things so unfacetiously absurd, they come out cool. There's a sublimely idiotic theme song.

(Available from Warner Bros.)

If the idea is that earth, water, fire, air and space constitute the core elements of life, then these five songs might seem as their equivalents to surviving the complications that come from embracing the good and enduring the ugly of the Christmas season.

Memory will never serve us well when it comes to Christmas and all its surrounding complications. Perhaps worse than the financial and familial pressures, the weather and the mad rush to consume and meet expectations, to exceed what happened the year before, are the floods of lists and pithy observations about Christmas music. We know our favorite carols and guilty pleasures ("O Come All Ye Faithful", "Silent Night"), the Vince Guaraldi Trio's music for 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas that was transcendent then and (for some, anyway) has lost none of its power through the years, and we embrace the rock songs (The Kink's "Father Christmas", Greg Lake's "I Believe In Father Christmas", and The Pretenders' "2000 Miles".) We dismiss the creepy sexual predator nature in any rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside", the inanity of Alvin and the Chipmunks, and pop confections like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus".

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

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

rating-image