Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Dawn Landes - Fireproof: The Smudge Review

The liner notes for Dawn Landes' Fireproof tell us that the album was partially recorded in "dawns music room," and we get the intimate and personal affair that we expect from that declaration. I imagine, though, that her "music room" might be a bit more elaborate than most. She is, after all, a sound engineer, and worked with an impressive group of musicians: Hem, Philip Glass, Joseph Arthur, and Ryan Adams. No wonder Fireproof sounds flawless without being mechanical and predictable.

The excellent opening track, the country-tinged Bodyguard (mp3), is a chilling exploration of the physical vulnerability that remains after being robbed of something, with repetition used as a device to disturb:

I saw a man, saw a man, saw a man, saw a man.
I saw a man, saw a man, saw a man, saw a man.
I saw a man, saw a man, saw a man.

Where's my bodyguard?

Take take take take my arms
Got nothing to hold
Break break break my legs
There's nothing to stand on
Take take my bones
There's nothing to fill me in,
just skin

In I Don't Need No Man, she starts with a demure country tone in what seems a passive folk tune, but then declares, suddenly, defiantly, "Sister's gonna kiss my red ruby lips/I don't need no man."

The lazy opening acoustic line in Tired Of This Life beautifully sets a weary mood, and Landes holds the last note each verse as though trying to savor and hold on to something.

Tired of this life
but you wanna know what it's like
Don't you wanna know what it's like?

Tomorrow night
fireworks'll fill the sky
fireworks'll fill the sky

Picture Show (mp3) is the changeup on this album. It's a slinky, eerie, stumbling surrealist dream that transforms into an electric assault. Again, there's defiance, this time maybe against the impermanance of things, and again, she unsettles:

Let's all go to the picture show
Let's see famous people glow
Maybe some light will rub off, you know?
Your next life's a pony show
and ponies turn into glue


Digging, digging in the ground
Looking for a thing to love
The lonely ones are never found
But they can tell you things about the soil
That fill your heart with oil.

Heavy fare, and it takes courage for a songwriter to give herself to the music like this, but the very best albums by any artist lay the soul bare, song after song, and powerfully draw people in, and trap them inside another little world for the duration. Fireproof does that, and though it's not the kind of world that's full of bells and light, I keep returning.

Finally, another surprise - a hidden track:

I Won't Back Down (Tom Petty cover)(mp3)

1 comment:

kyle said...

beautiful cover song