FEELING FIONN
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.

 

Just a boy with an acoustic guitar. Not a man: a boy. A lad. A kid. And it's a very subtle thing that makes a given boy-with-guitar a something-special. Something I can't quite put my finger on: something about character and wit and voice and lightness of touch. Something about, it seems to me, corduroy and jeans, bright apples, brick, pussywillows and the colour green. What separated Elliott Smith from ten thousand imitators? Dylan from ten million? It's hard to say.

But I kind of, like, genuinely think Fionn Regan might have it. It's not the guitar-playing - though he's truly capable. It's not the voice - though it's got a bluebottle ring that recalls The Weakerthans' John K Samson. It's not just the lyrics - though these make me think of John Updike. It's all these things, and none of them. It's the way he is meditative without being slow; wry without being clever; sad and glad. I can almost, actually, imagine Elliott Smith doing a music like this - had he not been so deep in his own sorrows, had he been a little more indebted to "Eleanor Rigby" than "Dear Prudence".

Fionn Regan - "Put a Penny in the Slot". This is the song that's repetition, repetition, repetition, the same little lines of verse and chorus with different words slid in. Some rhymes are more natural than others, some scenes tenderer, but this is what real artists do: they let you see the sleight of hand now and then, they remind you that not everything's precious-perfect. When Regan namedrops Paul Auster and Saul Bellow it's not a name drop - it's just two names dropped, like each one had been sitting on a bench in Regan's mind and it would be rude to ignore them. Is this a song about love? About heartbreak? I'm not sure. Better listeners might figure it out - me I get caught in the images of a man with his matches; or "tears like flashbulbs"; or a girl ignoring her phone, hunting for a taxi, a "batallion" searching for her. For me it's the intersecting circles of this full, interspersed, greengreying life.

Fionn Regan - "Blackwater Child". This is the jauntier of the two of these - that means it has drums. As Regan duets with himself I'm reminded of Josh Ritter's earlier work - but again there's such a lightness to Regan's songwriting. It's not that he's not committed to what he's singing - but he doesn't try to invest too much in any particular lyric. He knows that different phrases will resound for different listeners, that a sound metaphor today might be a flimsy one tomorrow. So we listen and relisten, different things catching our ears - different glints of coins in your palm. When he sings "It's hard to cope" there's no belly-bottoming depression: just the flat ambivalent sadness that most of us feel, here and there. A hopping seagull can still raise a smile.

[info/buy]

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Elsewhere...

Bows and Arrows has the first track from an upcoming album by The Walkmen. It's called Pussy Cats and yes it's a track-by-track remake of Harry Nilsson's LP. The first song is, of course, "Many Rivers to Cross" - some of you may remember the original from when I posted it last week. The Walkmen's version is very faithful; they capture that familiar ache.

I really like 1.618's (ever-graphical) take on Swan Lake's "All Fires". (See what Jordan wrote here.)

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Finally, the Knife contest is closed! Thank you all for your fantastic entries. Winners announced next week.

Posted by Sean at August 18, 2006 3:00 AM
Comments

In listening to "Put a Penny In the Slot" my eyes widened in surprise at exactly 2:07. This is something!

Posted by dylan at August 18, 2006 3:46 AM

good stuff. i really like "put a penny in the slot". i keep listening to it.

Posted by george at August 18, 2006 11:23 AM

as much as i'd like to not be repetative, "put a penny..." is really just fantastic. I'm interested in hearing some more of his stuff, as well as this harry nilson cover album, man did they chose an obscure one

Posted by max at August 18, 2006 2:26 PM

Sean scores again.

Yeah, 2:07 onward == oh. nice.

Posted by Tuwa at August 19, 2006 12:27 AM

Great post, great songs. I even wrote a post* about it, and about how sometimes we need to find a new song that relates to a feeling that we don´t know yet how to define. This song last night was "Put a Penny In the Slot". Thank's.
(* I'm sorry, but it's in portuguese...)

Posted by Rodrigo at August 19, 2006 12:28 PM

After months of it sitting around on my desk, this song has pushed me over the edge into finally opening Augie March.

Oh, and it's great stuff too. The lyrics remind me of a Billy Collins poem, the music of someone I'm sure I've heard before among my dad's records.

Posted by Mark at August 19, 2006 6:46 PM

i first heard Fionn Regan about a year ago in Ireland on RTE while staying in a secluded cottage on the north west coast. i was hungry for more culture but did not expect something so brilliant. now Sean you have highlighted this special artist and i am once again reminded that we (often) think alike.

Posted by bmr at August 19, 2006 8:12 PM

"I can almost, actually, imagine Elliott Smith doing a music like this - had he not been so deep in his own sorrows, had he been a little more indebted to 'Eleanor Rigby' than 'Dear Prudence'."

I don't get what you mean.

Posted by Anonymous at August 20, 2006 6:23 PM

Sign your comment and maybe we can have a conversation about it. Anonymous commenters are kinda creepy and hostile-feeling.

Posted by Sean at August 20, 2006 6:34 PM

Some really enjoyable posts of late Sean. Is it wrong that I only seem to read your posts on this site? One of the banes of multiple authored blogs perhaps - getting too used to one authors choices to such an extent that I don't find time for the rest nor feel that they can eclipse writing / finding artists like F.R.

Posted by Mike at August 21, 2006 8:17 PM

Mike, thanks for the kind words but I have to say that, um, well, they're kinda unkind... Everyone has a right to their aesthetic tastes (and I'm flattered you enjoy mine), but it stings a lot to hear someone say they're unmoved by work that you invest heart and soul into. I'm pretty unhappy to hear someone say that about Dan and Jordan - I think they do such fantastic stuff, so much subtler and more thorough than my own flimsy emotions. They're so easy-lyrical and light... i resent hearing them sort of slagged off. :(

Posted by Sean at August 21, 2006 8:55 PM

Hmmm I think it'd probably have been better if I hadn't have said anything. But since I have...

I think what I was trying to say was that I am too lazy and stuck in my ways (checking scores of music blogs that I read badly e.g. quickly) to read 3 authors when I know for sure one of them will frequently post great music.

I certainly wasn't trying to infer that I was unmoved by Dan's and Jordan's writing - something I would never criticise even if I was very familiar with the way they write - but I can see how my comment sounds pretty negative.

I'll stop now. Apologies Sean, Dan and Jordan.

Posted by Mike at August 21, 2006 10:20 PM

"Finer Noble Gases" is playing at the Edmonton Fringe this year as well. I was thinking of going. . . Not good, huh?

Posted by thomas at August 22, 2006 12:13 AM

amazing. i can always count on your site to introduce me to new talent that's always been there, but deepy under appreciated. i'm definitely going to look into this guy.

Posted by Hilary at August 22, 2006 2:37 AM

"Put a Penny in the Slot" is amazing

Posted by Orouni at August 22, 2006 3:57 AM

Sean - I'm the confused anonymous poster. Don't get me wrong, I really liked the post and the tunes. Certainly didn't mean to be hostile. I made the comment expecting either some clarification or no response, which shows what I know. Anyway, I don't wish to debate you or anything, just looking for some clarification. (And I really like hearing what people think about / make of different Beatles songs, naturally.) So I'll leave the fate of that "maybe" to you.

Posted by Tyler at August 23, 2006 6:09 PM

my god. i haven't read stg for ages but to stumble back and fall upon a post about fionn (having just returned home from seeing him play, in fact) is wonderful. i first saw him a few years ago, acoustic, solo, with candlelight and hardly anybody else. it remains one of the most perfect things i've ever seen. there's something immaculate about what he does or some kind of intangible quality that emanates from it all. enough ranting for now but i definitely think this debut really is a mere debut for sir regan. there is clearly so much more to come x

Posted by emily at August 23, 2006 9:11 PM

OH and that RTE performance is superb. i have mp3s of that if anybody's interested. and from all his EPs.

Posted by emily at August 23, 2006 9:13 PM

Emily! i was wondering about those EP tracks, specifically if there's one where one mentions fixing a barbed wire fence. he played it live and i loved it.

Posted by Ashley at September 13, 2006 2:15 AM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

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