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Location: Midwest, United States

I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I Heart Kimya

For some reason, I often have a rocky start with people I end up loving deeply. When I met my Old Man, he seemed arrogant to me and I seemed a bit disdainful to him. It turned out later he was just socially awkward with strangers and I had a temporary bug up my ass about guys who played guitar. I was fifteen the first time I met my best friend KGU at rehearsal for the play Fiddler on the Roof, and she just rubbed me the wrong way. She seemed over-dramatic and a bit haughty. It turned out later that while she was over-dramatic (like the rest of us in the room that day, duh), she was not actually haughty, just striving for more than she was finding in our little Wisconsin hometown. As we became friends, I discovered that we were very much alike in many ways, and this was probably the main reason why she bugged me at first. When I met my beloved Feral Mom, I liked her fine but I got kind of a weird vibe from her. I later discovered that we were dating the same guy at the time, and he'd informed her of my existence without telling me about her. Needless to say, we surmounted this hurdle to become fast friends, bandmates, and eventually godmothers to each others' kids.

Last fall, my Old Man introduced me to a new friend of his, Kimya Dawson. He brought home her CD My Cute Fiend Sweet Princess and, listening to it on his own, immediately liked it. He thought I'd like it, too, so he put it on one night as he was cooking dinner and I was playing some board game with O. and wrangling Roo. The CD immediately began to grate on me. The guitar playing was primitive, every song sounded the same, Kimya's trembly voice irritated me, and the one line of lyrics I caught - "the cum on your face is really just mayonnaise" - made me writhe in six different ways. When dinner was done and we sat down to eat, I found it hard to concentrate on the conversation with the noise of this new CD in the background, and I finally just got up and turned it off.

It's unusual for one of us to really like music that the other hates. Part of what brought us together is the almost total compatibility of our respective eclectic tastes in music - for example, the fact that we are both equally passionate in our fondness for the Beastie Boys and Joni Mitchell. So Kimya Dawson became a source of humorous tension between us. She'd come up in conversation and my Old Man would say "Oh, E. hates Kimya Dawson," and I'd say "No, I just don't think her music is good as background music to anything. It seems like the kind of music where you really have to listen to the lyrics closely to appreciate it." And I mostly believed this; Because my man had assured me that her songs were witty and rich, I trusted that if I listened closely, I'd find a lot to like about Kimya Dawson. But having had the hell annoyed out of me the first time I heard her music, I wasn't in a big rush to take time out of my busy-ass life to sit down and give her a close listen. Even seeing Juno over Christmas break, where Dawson's songs are used to excellent effect and I really got to hear some of her clever, inventive, and sweet lyrics didn't make me rush home and put on headphones for her. I had other music demanding my attention, and it just wasn't the time for me and Kimya.

Then summer came, and I started spending more time out on walks with Roo in the stroller and the iPod hooked to my head. We'd gotten a more recent Kimya record, Remember that I Love You, and I chose that as my first concentrated Kimya Dawson listening experience. I was very quickly won over. Kimya is one of those songwriters whose lyrics not only make you like her songs, they make you like her. They are indeed witty and inventive, with lots of great plays on words and acrobatically surprising rhyme choices. But they're also so honest and unpretentious, so emotionally warm and whimsically wise, that they make me feel good and make me just like people more. Kimya sings a lot about people she loves, her family and friends, about stuff she loves about the world, and about the importance of believing in yourself and doing what you need and want most to do in the world. That makes her music sound cheesy, but miraculously, it's not at all. She manages to sing about her favorite kids and her mom's terminal illness and why her friends are important to her and how and why she overcame her own self-doubt to become the person she was meant to be, all without a moment of wince. I'm not quite sure how she pulls it off. Partly it's because she's just a great poet. Her lyrics are deceptively simple and unsheened, but underneath their playfulness, whimsy, and unguarded honesty, they're dense, rhythmically relentless, and full of images that are unexpected yet completely apt. She's also funny and strange, two of my favorite qualities in friends and lyricists.

So I love Kimya Dawson. As I've come to love her, she's come to occupy a similar place in my musical heart as my other favorite completely inimitable singer-songwriter, Jonathan Richman. Jonathan is totally different from Kimya in many ways, but their music shares a certain worldly innocence that borders on childlike (but childlike the way an incredibly smart, observant, and slightly jaded kid is childlike). I love Jonathan Richman's music, and I love the Jonathan that comes through in Jonathan Richman's music. If he's a terrible person in real life, I don't want to know. And if I love you and you hate his music, please just don't tell me.

I'm not quite to that point yet with Kimya Dawson, but if we buy a couple more of her records, I might soon be. And now that I think about it, I have some vague recollection of my Old Man's initial Kimya recommendation including an observation along the lines of "she reminds me of Jonathan in some ways." Hmm.

I still don't think Kimya Dawson makes good background music in any way. If she comes on the iPod shuffle in the car, I want to either skip the song or stop and just listen (usually the latter, especially if the song happens to be "Underground," The Beer," "I Like Giants," or "Caving In"). But next time my Old Man recommends some music to me, I'll make a point of sitting down and giving it an attentive listen. He hasn't led me astray yet.


Blogger tricia stirling said...

have you seen this?
it's kind of whimsical and strange too. made me smile, anyway...
thanks for stopping by!

1:46 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

The best album is The Hidden Vagenda.

It's a little quieter than her others and the lyrics are, for the most part, a little darker than her others. It's pretty amazing.

Hi! I usually just lurk your blog from a distance!

9:30 AM  
Blogger E. said...

Thanks for the link, Tricia. I laughed.

And thanks for delurking and for the recommendation, Carrie. I'll check out the Hidden Vagenda (great title).

9:37 AM  

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