342 First and Only
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.


Neko Case - "That Teenage Feeling"

1. This song is dedicated to the house in Ottawa that I grew up in. As Sean has obliquely hinted at in several posts, my parents just got the exciting news that after long and hard-fought careers in Canada’s public service, they will be moving to Italy where my dad will be Canada’s ambassador and my mom will be a happy consumer of Italian food and culture. I was told this week that my parents will sell the house that I grew up in, and a bit of that teenage feeling came over me. Of course, I realize that it’s just a house, just a bunch of brick and concrete, but still...

2. The way “That Teenage Feeling” starts - high up on the neck of a twelve-string guitar - it sounds like it might be the musical accompaniment to a carousel ride. The way it ends up - electric guitar violently strummed, falling in and out of time - it sounds like it might be the musical accompaniment to a carousel ride that spirals outward to infinity. The song is a glass of lemonade with the sugar so gradually drained that, by the end, you hardly realize you’re drinking pure lemon juice.

3. Whereas Nirvana managed to sound minor with major chords, Case manages to sound diminished with minor ones. This diminished quality is part of the song’s augmented quality.

4. Case sings a lot about “that teenage feeling,” but which feeling does she mean? Is she talking about anxiety? Awkwardness? Powerlessness? A sort of begrudging horniness? She answers this question by presenting us with the musical embodiment of her subject feeling at 1:53 when she moves up into her sublime high register and sings “it’s haa-aaa-haa-aaa-haaaaard” with more nostalgia than angst. The teenage feeling Case is singing about is the excitement of first love and the twilit melancholy that comes in retrospect with considering its inconsequence. She then confirms her answer as she matches that high vocal line, now skipping back and forth between two notes, with a dreamy treble run on her piano. [Buy]


Bettye LaVette - "Just Say It"

What can I say? My parents’ “song” is Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful”. A little cheese never hurt anyone, except the lactose intolerant, and even then, I don’t think they’re harmed by that smelliest of all cheeses: metaphorical cheese (lactose intolerants, please confirm or deny).

Yes, I wish the production were different, and yes, I feel a certain Norah Jones-style forced intimacy here that means that I can’t listen to the song without feeling at least a little awkward, a problem which is only exacerbated when Bettye addresses the song’s intended listener as “Daddy.” But, still, her voice is as rich as William Hearst and her dynamics and phrasing as strong as those of Newton and Cicero, respectively. [Buy]

Posted by Jordan at March 16, 2006 4:14 PM

The Neko Case record is mighty tasty. And--happy to predict-- going to be massively successful. How do I know? My Dad just bought a copy. When the dads get into it, count on the record movin' serious units.

Posted by Andy at March 16, 2006 4:33 PM

Some of Betty Lavette's work suffers from this problem of production, but if you listen to a song like joy, there is no cheese, just pure joy.

Posted by Daniel at March 16, 2006 8:33 PM

neko case is quite deserving of all her success to come. im truly looking forward to seeing her live ~

Posted by musicisart at March 17, 2006 2:49 AM

Your parents are lucky, mine can't manage sell the damn bunch of brick and concrete, not very romantic...
That teenage feeling may be helped by the fact that many indie-lovers seem to have a (strange to me) crush on Ms Case...

Posted by Matthew in London at March 17, 2006 4:36 AM

great selections - the two songs are a good counterpoint to each other. i have a memory of sitting in the kitchen of an old french cafe in soho, london, waiting for a friend to get off work, listening to bettye lavette while the sparking energy of soho on a saturday night flowed outside.

Posted by serena at March 17, 2006 5:27 AM

Does the Teenage Feeling feel anything like Jonathan Richman's "Summer Feeling?" TIME FOR SENTIMENTAL MIXTAPES.

(answer: yes)

Posted by Brad at March 17, 2006 11:25 AM

I don't think there is much lactose in cheese, which is too delicious to worry about.

Posted by =A= at March 18, 2006 10:26 AM

i hope your parents make lots and lots of money off the house.

i described that neko case song as sounding "like a depressing carnival" to a friend, and she looked at me strangely.

Posted by amelia at March 19, 2006 10:26 PM

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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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