Music Review: Fay Wolf – Spiders

Many of the new artists I hear, I hear first in the soundtrack for a television show. For example, I first heard Eva Cassidy‘s cover of Cyndi Lauper‘s “Time After Time” on an episode of Smallville. And I heard Alexi Murdoch‘s “Breathe” for the first time in an early episode of Stargate Universe. And I first heard Fay Wolf, though I didn’t know it at the time, on an early episode of Covert Affairs.

So when I started listening to Fay’s new album Spiders, I knew I’d heard the voice before but it took me a while to figure out where. But I shouldn’t have been surprised that I first heard her music on TV, as her songwriting and composition style effortlessly combines storytelling and drama in much the same way as some of my favorite shows. Though her style is all her own, my ear keeps comparing her to artists as diverse as Florence + The Machine and Tori Amos, who also tell stories beneath the melodies.

Since listening to the music of Spiders, I’ve discovered that her songs have also been featured on episodes of Gray’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill, and Pretty Little Liars. Beyond that, she is a classically-trained actress who has worked in theater, film and television with appearances on Law & Order, Numb3rs, Bones, Ghost Whisperer, and NCIS: Los Angeles. And if the music and acting wasn’t enough to keep her busy enough, she’s also a professional organizer with her own company “New Order,” named after the band.

Spiders is full of emotional honesty but also includes a bit of wit and humor within her lyrics. A word of advice however, she also includes a bit of explicit language in those lyrics, so though her music is amazing it might be best for a more mature audience.

The album starts with two of my favorite songs – “The Thread of the Thing” and “The Passing” – which set things off on the right foot.

“The Thread of the Thing” employs the dreamy feel of someone trying to explain how they feel. The lyrics are stream of consciousness but hit me like those conversations between lovers as they fall asleep… “And the stories of kings and the needle and the thread of the thing… in a little while I see that I love the way you came on…” Between the steady percussion like a heartbeat, the simple chording, and the atmospheric effects, it really got my attention quickly.

“The Passing” on the other hand manages to sound very different than “The Thread of the Thing,” featuring Fay’s voice and piano skills. Again, it’s like a dreamy conversation – “See here’s the thing / I love being in motion / and wrapped around you… I can hear you / and I can see the time / the time passing / the time passing by…” It’s as though her voice tells the story as her fingers dance across the keys.

In the middle of the album, “Pull” just seems to ring true again about… you guessed it. Love. This time it’s a bit more outwardly happy in the melody. “But y’figured out that the least you could understand / your heart is open to someone else’s hand…” Love sometimes manages to pull the breath from us, just like falling down in the snow. But the almost calliope-sounding keys gives this song a strong feel of fun while keeping that atmospheric piano behind the scenes.

But “In the Way” is the opposite to the languid feel of “The Thread of the Thing” with a melody that is at once sad, but honest. “How did we fall in love in a week / and how do we get away / how do we see if the cracks in the plan / are the reasons that we play the game…” Again, it’s simply Fay and a piano telling an honest story about romance. Sometimes things don’t work out and “if it’s all not fair, then why are you here.” Sometimes we have to look deeper than the fun we’re having to see that something isn’t good.

Spiders manages to express the complexities of love without seeming trite. I think that’s her gift, telling stories of love when it goes right and when it falls apart. Check it out at your favorite retailer. And for details about Fay, be sure to drop by her website FayWolfMusic.com.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

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TV Review: Covert Affairs Season Premiere

Hi there…

The first few days on any new job can be tough on anyone. But when you are shot at, caught in a car chase, and grilled by the FBI it’s a bit rougher than most. Annie Walker (Piper Perabo – Coyote Ugly, Beverly Hills Chihuahua) is the focus of a new show on the USA Network that continues the network’s amazing run with smart, unique series.

Covert Affairs introduces us to Walker, one of the CIA’s latest recruits. Even before she’s done with her training, she finds herself thrust in the middle of what should be a simple swap of information. Of course, things in the spy trade are rarely simple. Just ask burned spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) on another awesome USA series – Burn Notice.

The new show takes a different tack, pulling viewers into the spy world from the point of view of a new spy as opposed to an experienced one. But Annie’s not alone… She has help from Auggie Anderson (Christopher Gorham – Ugly Betty, Jake 2.0), a blind agent who uses technology and his experience from before the explosion that took his sight to guide Annie through some of the inter-office politics and intrigue she’ll have to deal with.

Her boss Danielle Gallagher (Kari Matchett – House, Mad Men, Leverage) runs the CIA’s Domestic Protection Division and is the wife of Arthur Campbell (Peter Gallagher – The O.C., American Beauty), the director of Clandestine Services for the CIA. Both present formidable challenges to Annie’s career as powerful individuals who can make or break her quickly.

Then there’s Annie’s family… Her sister Danielle (Anne Dudek – House, Mad Men) knows nothing of Annie’s life as a spy, which presents all sorts of twists since she’s living what seems to be her guest house. Danielle’s happy home life threatens to cause Annie just as many issues as her work at the CIA, which I found quite entertaining. Life is messy and this injects just enough mess into Annie’s life to keep her grounded.

Though he doesn’t appear until the second episode, Heroes‘ Sendhil Ramamurthy joins the cast as Jai Wilcox, an agent with family ties to the CIA. I’ll be very interested to see how Wilcox fits into the overall scheme of things in the series.

In the first episode, we meet Annie. She’s a capable, talented agent with a gift for languages plucked from the trainees for a special mission. All she has to do is go in with a pre-programmed phone to sync data with an assassin who wants to trade information for safety in the United States. That doesn’t go well and leads to a series of mini-adventures as the new spy tries to figure out what exactly is going on.

Perabo has been on my radar since seeing Coyote Ugly and The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle back in 2000. But I have to admit that I hadn’t seen her in much since then. Now in her 30s, she seems more sure of herself than ever and hopefully can anchor a television series as the lead actor.

But it was the chemistry between Perabo and Gorham that I found the best part of the first episode. Gorham is another actor I’ve seen here and there but really came onto my radar with Jake 2.0, a series that reinvented the notion of a “Bionic Man” and didn’t last nearly long enough for me. As Gorham’s Auggie and Perabo’s Annie worked together, there seemed to be a fun comic and flirty element that provided a good balance to the show’s action scenes.

My favorite scene between the two characters was when they broke into the morgue and were caught by the authorities. Whether it was the writing that saved the day or the actors themselves, it was entertaining to see them hold to their cover stories when separated and questioned by the FBI. They of course couldn’t come out and say they were spies for the CIA, which isn’t sanctioned for work on domestic soil… so they came up with an amusing cover story involving a particularly kinky fascination…

Once I discovered USA’s Burn Notice, I’ve been a fan for four of five seasons. I’ll be interested to see how Covert Affairs compares to the continued success seen by the other shows on USA like White Collar, Royal Pains, and In Plain Sight. Hopefully Perabo, Gorham, and the rest of the cast can enjoy similar luck!

Be sure to check out the premiere episode on USA this Tuesday night, July 13, 2010, on USA at 10/9 Central. It’s an exciting ride for the first few days of a new CIA recruit!

This article first published on Blogcritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Check out these other great shows from USA Network on DVD!

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[TV News] Covert Affairs on USA July 13

Hi there!

Yes, I love a good spy yarn. Burn Notice has been scratching that itch for a couple of years now. I didn’t really get sucked into the story of Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan), Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar), Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell), and the gang until Season 2, but I’ve been a big fan since I got hooked. I’m excited to say that Burn Notice returns for Season 4 on June 3!

Joining it this July 13 is the new show Covert Affairs where we meet CIA trainee Annie Walker (Piper Perabo). Was she picked for her language skills? Or is it something else from her past that her CIA handlers really want her for?

Joining Ms. Walker is Auggie Anderson (Christopher Gorham), a military intelligence agent for the CIA blinded on assignment. Auggie will help guide young Annie as she becomes a spy in the real world.

Other characters in Annie’s new dual life are Arthur Campbell (Peter Gallagher) as the director of Clandestine Services for the CIA, Joan (Kari Matchett), Arthur’s wife and head of the CIA’s Domestic Protection Division, and Danielle (Anne Dudek), Annie’s older sister who doesn’t know her sibling is a spy.

I really like the concept of a new spy learning the ropes. Hopefully Perabo will bring a new and fresh perspective to the spy biz like Donovan did as an experienced operative in Burn Notice. I was pleased to know that Tim Matheson, a regular on Burn Notice and a great director behind the scenes, directed the pilot for Covert Affairs. He’s certainly keeping busy!

Gorham, based on some little clips I’ve seen here and there, looks to be both a conscience and a source of humor for the show as the blind guy leading the new girl around. I’d attach some clips, but evidently they don’t want them embedded now. (You can find one of them here for now.)

Anyway, it looks interesting. And once again, the USA Network proves it’s the place to find some of the more unique programs on television these days!

–Fitz

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