Posts Tagged ‘Throwing Muses’

Star-Belly

With stints in Throwing Muses and The Breeders behind her, Tanya Donelly was more than ready to front her own alternative rock band, and Belly captured the spotlight even more firmly than those previous groups. Filled out by three musical cohorts from Donelly’s Rhode Island home base, Belly made an impressive debut with “STAR” the 1993 Sire set included a Modern Rock chart-topper in “Feed The Tree,” another MTV favorite in “Gepetto,” and brought the quartet two Grammy nominations. These 15 originals give indie dream pop plenty of appealing hooks – even if the album’s sweet-sounding vocals sometimes sing about rather strange stuff. Today we’ll wish upon a Star in honor of Tanya Donelly’s birthday.

Star was borne out of artistic restlessness, Donelly having blossomed as a songwriter in her first band, Throwing Muses, by the sessions for their fourth album The Real Ramona, becoming an equal to the band’s heretofore leader, and Donelly’s stepsister, Kristin Hersh.  Donelly came to the sessions with more than her requisite pair of songs, quickly realising elsewhere would be a better fit for the bulk of them rather than the latest Muses’ album.  Initially, that home was ostensibly The Breeders’ sophomore release:

“The songs I brought to The Real Ramona were the two that ended up on there (“Not Too Soon” and “Honeychain”), “Full Moon, Empty Heart,” “Slow Dog,” and “Gepetto” (all songs that would appear on Star).  This was around the time [the early quartet lineup of Throwing Muses] had started to dissolve so I thought, I’ll have the two on there and save the rest for The Breeders.  They had several home options for about six months there.”

In the time off between Throwing Muses albums at the turn of the 1990s, Donelly and Pixies guitarist Kim Deal collaborated on a new project, The Breeders, who released their debut Pod in 1990 largely consisting of Deal’s songs with the plan of the follow up featuring largely Donelly’s songs.  As luck would have it, that second Breeders album would become Belly’s first.

“Everything that is on Star was intended for the next Breeders album.  All the old reels I have in my basement of the demos are labeled The Breeders.  The Pixies had announced a year long, worldwide tour and Kim signed on for that.  I sort of got antsy, had already left the Muses and so I thought, I’m taking my songs and making my own band!”

In retrospect, with such a flurry of activity occurring in such a compact timeframe, the aesthetic groundwork for Star appears to have been laid in Donelly’s final pair of Muses tracks; the off-kilter, chipper pop of “Not To Soon” and the harrowing dreamlike beauty of “Honeychain” portending the two ends of Star’s spectrum.  Indeed, Donelly views the latter as forming “the bridge between my Muses and my Belly life.”

Star’s appeal is clear; its tone is impeccably balanced between oblique jangle-pop and moody dream-pop, tracks that individually would appear at odds with each other benefitting by this balance to achieve an unwitting congruity.

That said, with the exception of REM’s Automatic For The People, the upper echelon of the UK albums chart in and around February 1993 was continuously peppered with compilations of legacy pop acts with nary a blink at rising alternative acts until Suede’s debut would chart a couple months later, so how and why Star?  .

Indeed, few albums can as deftly move from the Eastern European flavours of “Angel” to “Gepetto”s jangly bounce, veering over to “White Belly”s gorgeous murk and back around to the countrified folk of “Untogether”.

While truthfully a rather sprawling album at 15 tracks over 51 minutes, Star plays small owing to its constant shift in tone reinvigorating the listener track to track.  “Dusted”s razor wire riff belongs chiseled on a Rushmore of indie rock hooks while there is nary a chorus as exuberant in the annals of indie rock as “Slow Dog”.

It’s Donelly’s unsuspecting vocal prowess that threads Star together as an album rather than a collection of songs.  Wafting vaporously into view on opener, “Someone To Die For”, she proceeds, throughout the album, to emit just enough grit and force to stay atop her band’s thunderous patches while reining back at precisely the opportune respite points.

Release date 25th January 1993

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The Swan Song Series is a collection of songs in which Tanya Donelly — grammy-nominated, singer-songwriter and founding member of three of the most influential and successful bands of the post-punk era (Breeders, Throwing Muses, Belly) — collaborated with friends, musicians and authors and explored an impressive range that wasn’t always captured on previous albums. This exclusive collection includes 31 tracks on an impressive 3 album set.

Tanya Donelly wows with this career-defining collection. Donelly — the grammy-nominated, singer-songwriter + founding member of the Breeders, Throwing Muses, and Belly — collaborated with friends, musicians and authors Rick Moody, Robyn Hitchcock, John Wesley Harding, Bill Janovitz (Buffalo Tom), Tom Gorman and Gail Greenwood (Belly), Claudia Gonson (Magnetic Fields) and others. This exclusive collection includes 31 songs across three albums.

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Tanya Donelly is a singer-songwriter and founding member of three of the most successful bands of the post-punk era.
At the age of 16, she and stepsister Kristin Hersh formed Throwing Muses, which became the first American band ever signed to the influential British label 4AD. Not only did the Muses‘ dreamy, swirling guitar sound prove highly influential on many of the alternative acts to emerge in their wake, but they also made any number of unprecedented advances into the male-dominated world of underground rock.

Donelly later sidelined with Pixies bassist Kim Deal to form the Breeders, appearing on the debut LP, Pod. She later exited both the Breeders and Throwing Muses to form her own band, Belly.
After issuing a pair of well-received EPs, Belly released their full-length debut, Star — a superb collection of luminous, fairy tale-like guitar pop songs — and for the first time in her career, Donelly earned commercial success commensurate to her usual critical accolades.

Not only did the record go gold on the strength of the hit single ‘Feed the Tree’ but the band even garnered a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. Donelly would eventually disband Belly to raise her two daughters.

*Special ACLU Benefit Bundle* A portion of all sales from this special bundle will be donated to the ACLU. The bundle includes the Swan Song Series on Vinyl + Say Yes! A Tribute to Elliott Smith on CD, featuring Tanya covering “Between The Bars.”

Wyatt at the Coyote Palace artwork

Throwing Muses frontwoman Kristin Hersh dropped by the studios of Seattle radio station KEXP last November while touring in support of her new solo album Wyatt At The Coyote Palace, and performed a four-song set and discussed her music with host Larry Rose.

The 25-minute video — recently posted by KEXP — includes Hersh’s performances of “Bright,” the opening track to her new album, as well as “Sunray Venus,” off the Throwing Muses’ 2013 album “Purgatory Paradise” , and two other solo cuts.

Kristin Hersh performing live in the KEXP studio. Recorded November 29th 2016.
Songs:
Bright
Sunray Venus
Mississippi Kite
Krait

Throwing Muses founder Kristin Hersh will soon release a new album alongside a book, the third album/book combination thus far in her career, in the form of Wyatt at the Coyote Palace and taken from the album we have a stream of the curiously titled ‘Soma Gone Slapstick’ .

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The track, like much of the album, is a continuation of the confessional songwriting that Hersh has come to be known for as a solo artist and as part of Throwing Muses. She has written extensively about the track itself and you can check out her full account of the ideas behind it and its production in full below.

Last year, Hersh released Don’t Suck, Don’t Die  her second memoir and a moving ode to her friend and tourmate, the late Vic Chesnutt. 50 Ft. Wave released Bath Light earlier this year, while Throwing Muses’ book and album Purgatory/Paradise came out in 2013. And then there was Rat Girl, Hersh’s incredible 2010 memoir which, if you haven’t read it already and have even a passing interest in the 80s / 90s alternative underground, you need to grab a copy soonest.

The album and book will be available together in the UK and Australia from October 28th with a US release following on November 11th. It was recorded at her favourite studio in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, with Hersh at the helm of all the sounds featured, taking on duties on guitar, bass, drums, piano, horns, cello and field recordings. The album was written over the course of the last five years and inspired by the thoughts of her son Wyatt, who is on the autism spectrum.

Kristin Hersh says of the track above: “I hate getting drum takes. I mean, I hate when I get them right, because then I have to go back to playing finger-slicing guitar or the big old mean piano, all the notes in a long, bossy row. Even bass – which is pretty fun, to be honest – means being trapped on the leash of a cord connected to an amp. And vocals! Ugh. So disconcerting to hear the sound of your clothes inside your own head. Once the mic picked up a cricket in the studio. Really creepy, like the insect was burrowing into my brain. And singing is so dumb. An instrument you can’t tune, that doesn’t play right if you have a cold or hurt feelings. Drumming is better: goofy and falling and precise and muscular. Like a body telling a good joke. Well, it is when you do it right.

“Which I refused to do. I made this drum part last all night, through a blizzard, so that I wouldn’t have to walk home in the dark. Kept making (faking) mistakes so that I could keep all four limbs flying, do pretty math while pretty snow blew sideways past the window behind me. I heard Soma move through seasons: fall on the rebound, a manic spring, a cruel winter, and through places: California, Chicago, New Orleans, a protest march in Koreatown. When I finished, it was dawn, my engineer and I had coffee and I walked home through fat flakes falling down instead of sideways. Goofy + falling + precise + muscular = soma with a healthy dose of slapstick.”

Hersh will tour the UK and Ireland in the wake of the album’s release across November.