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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Book Review: Esperanza by Trish J MacGregor

Hi there!

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been caught off guard by a book. Usually I know from the jacket or the first few pages what I’m getting into, but not this time. I couldn’t put it down until I figured out what happened next and even then I couldn’t stop reading until I found out how it ended…

To say the least, Esperanza by Trish J. MacGregor blindsided me. It’s like the recipe for a great meal. The plot intertwines a bit of romance with some horror, adds little history and some fantasy for good measure, and leaves you wanting more at the end. If I was to compare it to other stories, I found a bit of Quantum Leap in it, a little bit of Somewhere In Time, and a bit of the The Time Traveler’s Wife.

The story resolves around two tourists – FBI agent Tess Livingston and professor Ian Ritter – traveling through South America and find themselves visiting a strange town high in the Andes called Esperanza. On the journey to the town, they encounter their fair share of strange events and danger, but somewhere along the way they find themselves in love. We’re talking a “soul mate” kind of love connection here.

Once they got past the Rio Palo, they began learning more about the weirdness surrounding them. The town’s inhabitants never seem to age. And if that wasn’t strange enough, the hungry spirits of the dead called “brujos” hide in the fog and seek new bodies to experience life and love again in the physical world. Unfortunately, that sometimes causes death in the people they choose to possess.

If that was all there was to the story, I probably wouldn’t have made it too far through the book before I set it down. That wasn’t the case. There were hints at deeper mysteries dropped throughout the story and once I figured out MacGregor was playing with not only the boundaries between life and death, but time as well, I was hooked.

But throughout it all, the book never seems forced. It never strays too far from the main characters – Tess and Ian – but the writing weaves all of these various threads together with enough breathing room that even though I figured out where it was going, I really enjoyed the ride. And I still can’t figure out how she managed to smoothly transition from place to place, decade to decade, without being jarred out of the moment like a 4×4 bouncing along a Jeep trail.

If you’ve been looking for a great book that blurs the genre boundaries but still tells a compelling story, I’d strongly encourage you to check out Esperanza by Trish J. MacGregor. It’s worth the ride. Also, be sure to check out her website at TrishJMacGregor.com for more about this book and her other works.

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up Esperanza and some of these other items below at Barnes & Noble!

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