Song of the day – 274: The Dandelions (free download)
This, my friends and followers and would-be rivals and petty philanderers, is the business. End of argument.
I was tipped off to this delight by gentleman Ben Ayres (Cornershop) a few months back. It was, he felt, something that I might well enjoy. Gentleman Ben sure knows my taste. This delight is a 12-song album of folk music released in 1971, recorded by two girls, one aged 11 and the other aged 10, names of Tres Williams and Kitsy Christner. On the comprehensive blog entry I’ve just linked you to, where you can also download the entire damn album for free, there are a couple of telling comments. The first I totally take issue with:
“The Shags [sic], but with more musicality and talent”
Well, you know that’s an outrageous and unnecessary statement to make, but thing is the folk are batting in the correct ball park, because there’s the same delightful lightness of touch to the music, and untrammeled innocence. The harmonies are wonderful, and deft. The lyrics are as straightforward as you’d expect, occasionally verging on the whimsical. But The Shaggs had plenty of musicality and talent too. Perhaps a better comparison might be with my former Seattle sweethearts Smoosh, but it feels crass to do so, so I won’t… but, um, there are parallels to be made, and not just because of the fact that both groups were duos and roughly the same age when they recorded their debut albums.
Here’s the intro to my cover feature on Smoosh for Plan B#4 (January 2005), give you an idea what I’m talking about. But I would add that The Dandelions were clearly a product of their generation, as Smoosh were of theirs 30 years later – so of course there are fundamental differences, maybe in the lack of adornment. The Dandelions are way more Langley School Music Project, far as it goes.
Smoosh are two sisters from Seattle, Asy and Chloe, aged 12 and 10
Asy sings, writes the songs and plays keyboards. Chloe drums and adds harmonies. They have a younger sister, Maia, who is learning the bass. She drew the cover to their debut album, the utterly charming She Like Electric.
Motivation? If it’s fun, they’ll do it.
It’s during the adolescent years that feelings are heightened, that the outside world is at its most confusing. Commentators wonder how young people can sing the blues when they have no ‘real’ life experiences to draw upon: when you’re young, emotions are so on edge, life seems so vivid, each day lasting forever, each upset lasting an eternity, you can do little else but howl. No one’s happy between the ages of 10 and 19, or if they are, they’re extraordinarily so; or unthinking ciphers with no thoughts of their own. Smoosh sing the blues. They might be young. So? All around me, my whole life, people have been telling me that art is instinctual. Why should it matter then, at what age it’s created? Seems sometimes that all musicians and artists learn to do, as they develop their ‘craft’, is how to mask their emotions better, how to rid themselves of all the awkward edges and feelings. My whole life, all around me, folk have spoke about ‘purity’ in music as if it’s some Holy Grail to be attained: who better then to reach that ‘purity’ than a pair of kids who weren’t even born when Nevermind was released? Although you’re easily influenced as a kid – because you’re so open, because you’re so suggestible – this is a plus point, yes? You take on ideas without cynicism, and hence have an innocence that some artists spend their whole careers trying to rediscover.
The ages of 15, 16 were the most depressing time of my life: unsettling, depressing, full of constant letdowns and putdowns. Some kids mature, become aware of the outside world earlier than that. And if that doesn’t give them the right to sing the blues, I don’t know what does.
Heaven and hell starts right here.
OK. Whatever. Here’s the second comment from that blog entry.
“They nail the indie nerd vibe of 20+ years later with all the would-be charm and none of the pretension”
And this, my beautiful friends, absolutely pins it. If this album doesn’t find a reissue within six months of this Song Of The Day going live, and thus is given a grading of 9.4 on Pitchfork three months after that, I’ll eat my fucking head. Seriously. My fucking head. Brains, and what remains of nerves, and all.
Here’s the sleeve-notes from the back cover.
It was just two years ago when we met each other — that’s when it all started. Jim CURRAN started giving us guitar lessons. After a while we always played together at the shows at school. Then we had a photography class with Frank. He taught us how to develop pictures and what a photographer should know. One day it was very nice out so we went over to the college to ake pictures and there was a great big dandelion field and so we thought why don’t we take pictures here. So we all picked some dandelions and posed in them. Frank took our picture and we developed it. In a few weeks we were together at Kitsy’s home for the weekend and Uncle Scott and Aunt Judy were there when we started to make up some songs. Uncle Scott said, “Why don’t you two make an album since you’re so good?” We said, “O.K.!” So we started making up songs and Kitsy came up with the idea of using the picture of us as the album cover. We figured out how it was going to look and everything so we made up a whole bunch of songs. Some of them we forgot and they weren’t any good and so we had to make up new ones. Our new ones turned out pretty good. Then we had singing lessons with some of the teachers at our school. Before we could record we had to practice doing our songs, so Jim said we should have a show of our own for the school just to get used to crowds. We did and we sang all our songs. Finally we had a whole bunch of rehearsals for the album and we had background people like Wendy and Mike — Mike played the drums and Wendy the bass. It really started to sound good so we had our first recording sessions. On our first recording session we recorded 4 songs but we only used two: “Dandelions” and “Tuffy”. In our second recording session we were tired of rehearsing and recording so we decided we were going to do them all that day. They all turned out good. The following Monday night at 8 o’clock we chose which songs we wanted to do which finished the album. We had everybody who wanted an album at the College School send in $5.00 to us. When we got pretty much money we finished the album and that made us very proud.
We’d like to say “Thank you” very much to Jim CURRAN, Wendy KATZ, Mike KIEFFER, John MacENULTY, Uncle Steve (Uncle Harry?) and all the people who helped us make our whole album. TRES and KITSY