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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CD Review: Tori Amos Live at Montreux 1991/1992

Hi all!

Occasionally you run across an artist who simply takes your breath away. Sometimes it’s a painting, a writer or an actor, but for me it’s more often a musician. Tori Amos in the early 1990s left a rather large impression in my mind. Little Earthquakes, her first solo album, burned itself into the airways in 1992 and Amos’ star burned brightly.

The CD for Tori Amos Live at Montreux 1991/1992 combines tracks from two different performances in Montreux, Switzerland. The first 10 tracks were from her first visit to Montreux, including Silent All These Years, Crucify, and Winter. This was just months before her Little Earthquakes album was released.

The last 6 tracks were from her 1992 show, after her first solo album, and you can hear the difference in Precious Things. The confidence rose and her voice was more stable, more sure of itself.

The album contains most of the songs from Little Earthquakes as well as a few notable covers (Whole Lotta Love and Thank You by Led Zeppelin as well as Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit).

Each song tells a story. Her voice, deep with emotion, would be enough – but when paired with her amazing piano skills, she pulls you further and further in. The stories tell of her life and you’re there with her. This was the beginning of her career and you almost feel like you are playing the voyeur as the stories unfold. Her life was anything but perfect. But somehow she survived to tell the tales to her swelling fans.

The CD includes the following tracks:

  1. Silent All These Years (1991 show)
  2. Precious Things (1991 show)
  3. China (1991 show)
  4. Crucify (1991 show)
  5. Leather (1991 show)
  6. Song For Eric (1991 show)
  7. Upside Down (1991 show)
  8. Happy Phantom (1991 show)
  9. Winter (1991 show)
  10. Thank You (1991 show)
  11. Little Earthquakes (1992 show)
  12. Precious Things (1992 show)
  13. Whole Lotta Love/Thank You
  14. Me and a Gun (1992 show)
  15. Winter (1992 show)
  16. Smells Like Teen Spirit (1992 show)

This CD accompanies a DVD combining the two shows as well. The DVD is 90 minutes and includes 19 songs (including three not on the CD from the 1992 show – Crucify, Silent All These Years, and Happy Phantom).

Tori Amos has several solo albums under her belt after 25+ years in the business… Little Earthquakes, Under the Pink, Boys for Pele… fourteen albums in all, including American Doll Posse just released in 2007.

My personal favorites are Little Earthquakes, Boys for Pele, and To Venus and Back, but I swear Tori could sing the alphabet, nursery rhymes, or the phone book and it would be amazing. I’d probably pay for it. 🙂

She has led a rough life at times, including a miscarriage, marriage, and a daughter… and she continues to use music to share those experiences with the world. The world is a better place because of her gifts.

On September 30, 2008, the CD and DVD will be available from Eagle Eye Media at major retailers. If you have ever been a Tori Amos fan, this is a must to hear her as her career took off 17 years ago. Let’s all wish her another 17 years!

Thanks!

–Fitz

p.s. If you’d like to purchase this CD or DVD, check it out at Amazon:

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