Monday, October 16, 2006

Surprisingly Good Music: Jessica Beach

The hopes and dreams of CKMS break their little necks against reality's cold, hard windows. That may be a laboured metaphor, but my point is this: people are always sending new music to CKMS, and CKMS doesn't have room for it.

During the last few years we've been culling the music collection. Nobody's happy about it but it has to be done. Fortunately, the new culling system isn't completely hopeless: if a CD isn't played much and it has no positive comments written on its cover, it gets tossed into a lavender cupboard for us greedy audiophiles to loot.

There's a lot of crap in the lavender cupboard. When sorting through the rejected CDs I apply a hierarchy of rules:
  • If I know the group, like the group, and don't have the CD, I'll adopt it. This goes without saying.
  • If the cover art contains lighting bolts, I reject it. Lightning bolts are a bad design choice and show that the band is way too concerned about their hardcore cred.
  • If the band picture features a bunch of young guys, one of whom is giving the camera the finger, I reject it. I don't trust most young guys with instruments, and they aren't going to woo me by giving me the ol' fingeroo.
  • If the cover is a picture of an airbrushed, handsome young man looking confidently sexy at the camera, or a woman in her mid-30s with bad hair and a guitar low-slung around her hips, I reject it. The former CDs are usually bland adult contemporary pop, and the latter are usually bland adult contemporary country-rock.
  • If the lead singer is female (and she passes the above test), then I adopt it. Only about one in twenty of these CDs have female singers.
  • If the cover shows a young person in a rural setting with a portentiously angelic break in the Photoshopped clouds, I reject it. Unless it looks so cheesy that it might have camp potential.
  • If the CD is by a male solo artist who is in his autumn years, has a bad ponytail, and is pictured standing in his home studio, I reject it. These are vanity projects by guys who spent all their lives touring in Polka bands.
Of all the CDs I take home (about 5% of the ones in the cupboard), three-quarters are total crap. But the other quarter are little gems that were discarded just because nobody bothered to listen to them or because they're not indie enough.

Which brings me to a CD called "Sticky Hands" by Jessica Beach. Not indie enough, I bet. Good stuff in the outspoken, Alanis Morissette/Tori Amos genre which is sadly over-hyped but still sounds great. She's got a video that would give a beta fish nightmares...check it out here (click on the Videos button and choose your settings).

She's Canadian, she's got a beautiful voice, she writes killer songs with sweet hooks, and the "Sticky Hands" album is stunning from beginning to end. It's helped by charming, crisp production that doesn't overdo the flourishes.

The song "Cycles" is my personal favourite and sounds more than a little "Poe." Which is alright by me
"Needles and pills just ain't the cure they used to be.
See, I thought they broke the mould,
but baby they just broke me."
Maybe Jessica Beach is old news to everybody else but me. I hope so. She deserves great fame!

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