Showing 2 posts tagged strange angels
Strange Angels :
the fourth album by Laurie Anderson.
On Strange Angels, the move out of United States territory is complete. Her humor, always playful, is now softer; her sound is significantly more lush; her songs, no less idiosyncratically structured, are now more traditionally beautiful, buoyed by a gorgeous singing voice that she wastes no time unveiling in the opening seconds of the LP. The personnel count on Strange Angels explodes, as well — countless engineers, lots of session musicians (both from her past and from the then-current world of studio arranging), and guest stars like Bobby McFerrin and the Roches. My personal favorite players on the record are Bakithi Khumalo and Ray Phiri, the bassist and guitarist that made their first Western impression on Paul Simon’s Graceland.
Throughout the years, I have turned lots of friends onto Laurie, fomenting mutual appreciation for Big Science and Mister Heartbreak, and even United States Live, as well as any given concert I’ve been able to convince any these friends to attend. At the moment, however, I cannot think of a single one I can bond with over Strange Angels. Maybe it’s a perceived “adult contemporary” sound that the record possesses, which I wouldn’t argue, battling with the aesthetic choices and/or principles of my peers. Maybe they miss the bite and the chill and the looming nature of the earlier work. Could be they just don’t think the songs are any good, like I do (or like Robert Christgau does, also a Laurie fan).
Whatever it is, I maintain that Strange Angels is no less open and inviting a work as past albums. It just has the coldness turned way down and the sublime, silly charm on full blast. To say no to Strange Angels, especially after being familiar with her past work, is to reject a hug from your most beloved professor, or to be in too sour a mood at your Thanksgiving dinner to say goodbye to your cherished family. It may be as glossy as 1989 adult pop can get — it’s probably Strange Angels that gets her compared to Jane Siberry, whom I admit I like quite a bit — but it’s also the warmest and the most human. For the time being, her dryness is left to the monologue stage; on this record, she has fully embraced the concept of a musical security blanket.
Of course, proper use of a security blanket requires a tangible need for comfort, and so as Christgau notes, she approaches said concept with “the bleakest songs she’s ever written.” As of 1989, at least, he’s right. Luckily there’s really no other way to have done it.
Later today, we’ll listen to the exquisite title track. But if you wanted to listen to “My Eyes” on this weird streaming website from Thailand right now, I wouldn’t blame you.
“So cry me a river — that leads to a road, turns into a highway that goes and goes, tangles in your memories, so long, so old…”