January Through December Part 1: January-April
By Mark Carpenter
March 4, 2012
Hi again. As promised in my introductory column, this week I’ll be following up my review of Clinton Charlton’s Parade with a writeup on Charlton’s ambitious project, January Through December, for which a song was composed and recorded for every month of the year 2011. I have a great deal of fondness for creative endeavours like this one – all the better when they’re conceived with an end in sight. (I liked the idea of Sufjan Stevens’ series of albums about each of the 50 U.S. States, albeit with a tinge of regret that, the project would not, could not be completed.)
Without further ado, then, here are 4 mini-reviews, one per each song on the site from January-April. (And here’s a link: http://www.januarythroughdecember.com/)
January: “A January Song”
I have to admit to a smidgen of disappointment when I realized that the songs here are not literally about the respective months in which they were written. This track is the only one of the twelve to actually include a reference to the month in the title, though more than a wintry vibe, the tune suggests a quiet New Year’s hootenanny, with year-end revelry shading into introspection. Of course, as with many of the tracks here, the subject of “A January Song” is songwriting itself, and the struggle to create songs, though any sense of frustration is only hinted at in Charlton’s subtly halting vocal. The music, rather, evokes the pleasure of making music, of musicians together, doing what they love. The recording is pristine; drummer Sean Boyer’s brush is beautifully clear and vivid throughout, while the bass, played by GiraffeCycle’s own Chuck Teed, has a remarkable buoyancy. Wonderful, joyous start to the year.
February: “Opening Night”
Of course, listening to the songs with the months in which they were recorded in mind, one starts to draw connections. This track, altogether darker than its precursor, suggests the phase of the winter when profound malaise sets in. (Remember, Nick Drake’s Pink Moon was released in February ’72!) The grim lyrics are a nightmare of artistic creation, of theatre dissolving into blood. Charlton’s gentle singing and fingerpicking are counterpointed by the ominous drone of Chris Braydon’s electric, and the melancholy vocal harmonies. A great example of a haunted atmosphere conjured up with very little fuss.
March: “Autumn On Sherbrooke St.”
Now this is definitely not about March, but rather a memory piece: Charlton explains in his writeup on the track on the site that it is a tribute to the home in which he and his family previously lived. It is a sprightly, instrumental that showcases wonderfully Charlton’s understated prowess on acoustic.
April: “I Haven’t Got The Time To Spare”
Another meta-commentary on the difficulties of songwriting, as Charlton details in the frank, informative posting that accompanies the song. Written and recorded in a hurry to meet the April deadline, this piece has an infectious good cheer that plays off the creative frustrations expressed in the lyric in classic fashion. Another good tune, with two different mixes posted for your listening pleasure.
That’s all for now. Part Two, comprising the months of May through August, will be posted next week.
As always, send your feedback and your links to firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers!