Andrew Burke

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Vertebrae
Posted on: 2005-10-14

The song that's currently blowing me away is 'Vertebrae' by Christine Fellows, off of her album 'Paper Anniversary'. On first listen it's a quirky folk-ish song somewhere in the general direction of Joni Mitchell, Jane Siberry, and Tori Amos - but on further listening and understanding, it's a really strong piece of work. The lyrics are about loss and death in a very human way:

'Clear the doorstep of flowers,
Throw open the blinds in his empty room,
Avert my eyes from his fingerprints
Is there something I'm forgetting?'

...

'Came this far to say goodbye, to set things right,
Instead I fiddle with his blankets fetching coffee no-one will drink'

But what really gets to me is the arrangement and production - it starts with a plinky detuned electric piano sound and a very sparse tight voice, and about half-way through, cello and violin underline the desperate and uplifting chorus and you notice that the plinky electric piano has been replaced with a real one and the sparse drums are now using ride cymbal and bass. The final repeat is highlighted with what can only be described as a flowering of strings.

This may sound hokey, but it all works and makes you want to cry.

I found out about this in a completely new-media way: heard it first on the CBC Radio 3 Podcast, remembered the lyrics being kind neat, and dug up the song and artist name from the Radio 3 website, then went into the iTunes Music Store, found the song, and bought it.

This was all at about midnight, in California - instant lookup and purchasing from anywhere at any time. I'm always going to record and book stores and forgetting about all the things I wanted to get. Now I can actually find and buy things while they're on my mind.

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