When I was 14 I went to go see Miranda July perform in Berkeley and the opening band was MeMe America, which was Wynne Greenwood and Sally Quaasar. They were fantastic. The whole show was fantastic. The next year I saw Tracy + the Plastics perform at Ladyfest Olympia, and Wynne got a me a copy of their VHS tape "album". I also bought the Plastics' Turn Video cassette and was totally hooked. Tracy + the Plastics mean a lot to me. I made a glow-in-the-dark Tracy + the Plastics t-shirt, and because of wearing it to queer punk shows in San Francisco, I met my first boyfriend at 16. So, Wynne Greenwood's music and artwork have a lot of significance for me, in terms of coming out and being queer and living in the world. I've had the good fortune to meet her when I was in college and booked bands to perform at the school. I think I have pretty much everything she's ever released, and it's all great. And I know that she was making art work on the west coast, and that there were songs that had been recorded, but they've finally been released.
Last month, Wynne's first solo record under her own name, titled A Fire To Keep You Warm was released, in conjunction with her new solo exhibition Peace In at Lawrimore Project in Seattle. It's pretty much my favorite thing, and I can't stop listening to it.
I'm kind of also into the fact that I didn't even know this was a possibility. I wasn't expecting it. Like, last summer, at almost exactly this time, Planningtorock put out W and it definitely changed my life and was the best record I heard all year. But Wynne's record I was nor prepared for. It feels like a gift from the Universe or something. It's definitely my new favorite record, and unless she puts out ANOTHER one in the next six months, it's probably my favorite record of 2012.
YOU CAN BUY IT HERE.
Okay. What to say about it. Now seems as good a time as any to share the review I wrote of the record over on Noisey. Did you know that I sometimes write record reviews for that site, under various sundry pseudonyms? Well, I do. And I was so glad to talk about this record!
So much of Tracy + the Plastic's work, I think, was about potential. Was about changing, imagining, leaving, digging up, moving. Being in transit, going from one space, one world, one reality, into another. Mapping out distances and articulating them. The new record seems to be much more about going inside. About internal states.
It feels, and I mean this in the best possible sense, like self-help. Like, I feel smarter and more sensitive and more engaged when I am listening to this record. My favorite song on the record is "New Mouth". I mean, my favorite song changes a lot, but I keep coming back to "New Mouth". It's functionally an R&B jam. Wynne Greenwood, as a singer, has never sounded better ever, and I always thought she was a really good singer. But on "New Mouth" there's a part of the song where the melody pauses and a chorus of voices call out "EVERYTHING IN THE ROOM IS ABOUT TO SAY SOMETHING TO YOU". Like: duh.
I am so moved by this music. It is the sound of the room you're in talking back to you. We are so often astounded by the bolt from the blue that we forget that it's the blue, and not the bolt, whom we should be thanking.
This record is also about taking care. It's about work. It's about changing, I guess, from your outside self to your inside self. In so many Tracy + the Plastics performances, Wynne would introduce one of my absolute favorite songs of theirs "Dawn Feather" by saying that it is about being better, a better audience, a better performer, etc. I'm paraphrasing. But it's a theme that she's used before, and it's always surprised me. So much rock music, pop music, indie music, so much art, so much video, so much of our identities seems to be about wanting to articulate ourselves, to be taken seriously. To be celebrated. But, for me, Wynne Greenwood's artwork has always been about articulating not just the present circumstances, but imagining beyond them. It gets me riled up.
Here's a video for "Big Candy" which surfaced a few years ago, and never fails to bring a tear to the eyes:
The songs on the record are slower, more pared-down. Definitely funky, definitely sexy. Kind of restrained. Pared down to the absolutely most economical sounds and themes. And still, there are unexpected touches of levity and joy and beauty. Little 1960s-style riffs appear sometimes, vocal hooks murmur beyond the verse or chorus, adding a little shine. Like how real people are, when you are really paying attention to them: they unexpectedly surprise and charm you. Maybe you could do this to yourself, if you listened closely enough.
These are not songs about displaying darkness, plumbing the depths of isolation and pain. These are songs about doing the opposite, making fantasy and hope into reality. Turning something difficult and hard to put into words into an anthem. Making love. You know this phrase? I don't mean having sex I mean making love. That's what this album is about, to me.