things that have fixed my heart lately

A few unrelated things that have picked me up recently…

Fire of Love

We picked a late afternoon showtime on a whim last week and it happened to be this film. It’s part documentary—about a volcano-chasing couple in the 70s and 80s—and part audio-visual adventure, with mesmerizing footage of lava flows and ash clouds and the close-up sounds of the earth breathing. Watching it on the big screen with only one other person in the theater was a trip, like the film was made just for us.

Repeatedly through interviews and quotes, Katia and Maurice Krafft convey how they’d choose to live on the edge of a volcano forever if they could; if food wasn’t a necessity they’d never go into civilization. There was also a specific quote (I don’t remember if it was from Katia or Maurice) about how the geographic separation from society made them rediscover their love of humans. Like, humans have done a lot of awful things and can be super messy and dramatic, but when you become detached enough you can appreciate humankind at a scientific, cosmic level. You get the sense they felt like aliens coming to earth every time they came back from a volcano. Even just getting to experience their world for an hour and a half was enough to reset my mind and acknowledge how tiny we all are in the grand scheme of things. A much needed experience.

Boz Scaggs – Silk Degrees

Ok, this album slaps. It’s one of those dad albums (a term I used to describe any album that is in both my father’s and my father-in-law’s record collections) that I never really thought to listen to, although the cover is instantly recognizable. (A Pitchfork review by Sam Sodomsky opens with a great description of this.) Anyway, turns out one of my favorite things of all things is when I realize how much a dad album rocks.

It’s certainly an album that feels like it should be listened to on vinyl, at least if you want Maximum 1970s-Soul-Disco-Pop Energy, which I always do. It kinda feels funny/ironic to include this in a list called “things that have fixed my heart” but it’s not hyperbole! Sometimes I get into ruts where music doesn’t bring me the same joy it used to and then I have nothing to write in here, which is a huge bummer. So anything that reignites that joy, makes me dance like a fool in the dining room, and gives me reason to dust off the blog is always worth celebrating.

From Sodomsky’s review: …as it has aged, the album feels increasingly divorced from its moment in pop culture, and its more mysterious qualities—the abstract melancholy of Scaggs’ voice, the late-night twinkle of the band—are what pull you in, making it feel like your own, no matter how many people owned the LP before you did.

Joni Jam

My hearing about and watching the videos of Joni Mitchell’s return to the stage came later that I’d like to admit—lately I’ve been getting tunnel vision during the work week and have fallen into a weird habit of allowing myself very regulated amounts of the things that bring me happiness: 3 pages of writing and 4 word games in the morning, 1-2 albums on the record player and 2 episodes of a show in the evening, max, 1-2 chapters of a book before bed. Repeat every workday. So on Friday night of this week, when at last I didn’t have to think about planning my next day and how early to get up the next morning, I finally watched all the videos from Newport 2022 and it very nearly made my soul burst. I’d deprived myself of this performance for a whole week?!

So now here I am on Saturday morning, hungrily re-watching it all, on the brink of a full-blown Joni Weekend. One of my favorite things about these videos is how genuinely awed and emotional everyone else on the stage is. I bet it’s something most of these musicians never thought they’d experience, sharing the stage with Joni for a full set. Brandi Carlile’s emotion is tangible, and contagious. I shed more tears with each viewing. What an absolute gift to the world.

PS: You might’ve noticed in the video I linked above that I skipped over the first minute, which would surely be the thing I’d be writing about if Joni hadn’t shown up at Newport: Paul Simon ALSO made a surprise appearance at the festival(!). Here’s PS and Rhiannon Giddens performing “American Tune”, one of my all-time favorites.

Edit: I had to come back and add one more thing that’s been a delight to me lately, the show The Bear. It’s such a perfect piece of television art: raw, stressful, emotional, and hilarious (with much of the hilarity coming from Matty Matheson). I can’t recommend it enough.

Praise be to the garage sale gods

While visiting my parents recently, I was browsing through my dad’s latest garage sale finds and came across this banger of an album:

Not gonna lie, the gatefold image is what sent me from “oh I should check this out” to “I am putting this on the record player RIGHT NOW”:

Incredible aesthetics aside, the list of backing musicians also got me excited: Steve Gadd, Richard Tee, Eric Gale, Dave Grusin—basically, Paul Simon’s go-to band in the 70s and 80s, transported to Budokan.

These guys in the year 1980 had such a sound. Like, this first track feels like it could’ve easily capped off the album One Trick Pony (if One Trick Pony took a decidedly jazzy turn). Glorious.

(Side note: 1980 was also the year the accompanying film One Trick Pony came out, which is worth watching just to see these brilliant studio musicians playing washed out versions of themselves.)

Dad let me take the album and several others from the crate (which he’d acquired in one of those “I’ll take this box of records off your hands for $20” situations). And now this album has been in the background of everything I do lately. So, thanks to the garage sale gods for introducing me to the wonderful world of Sadao Watanabe—five decades of music (and still going strong!) is enough to keep me busy for a while.