|Sylvie Simmons — Sylvie|
Sylvie Simmons — Sylvie
♦↑♦ Album týdne v MOJO. The storied rock author of this parish, presents her strange and touching debut. MOJO
♦↑♦ Well–respected rock writer who belatedly launched a second career as a singer and songwriter in 2013. Sylvie Simmons is a London–born, San Francisco based music journalist, named as a "principal player" in Paul Gorman's book on the history of the rock music press In Their Own Write (Sanctuary Publishing, 2001). A widely regarded writer and rock historian, she is one of very few women to be included among the predominantly male rock elite. She is also the author of a number of books, including biography and cult fiction.
♦↑♦ “The moon is floating on the water tonight / And I am drowning in your kiss…”
Born: London, UK
Location: San Francisco, California
Album release: November 11, 2014
Record Label: Light In THe Attic
01. Moon Over Chinatown | 3:18
02. My Lips Still Taste of You | 3:15
03. Hard Act to Follow | 3:13
04. Lonely Cowgirl | 3:17
05. Town Called Regret | 3:05
06. The Rose You Left Me | 2:44
07. Midnight Cowboy | 3:30
08. Life Goes Bad | 3:38
09. Who Knows Where Time Goes | 2:28
10. You Are In My Arms | 4:00
11. Rhythm of the Rain | 2:34
12. Midnight Cowboy Reprise | 3:42
♦↑♦ Written by Sylvie Simmons. Track 11 written by John C. Gunmore.
♦↑♦ John Baldwin Mastering
♦↑♦ Colleen Browne Images
♦↑♦ Nicola Freegard Back Cover Photo, Images
♦↑♦ Howe Gelb Guitar, Keyboards, Piano, Producer, Synthesizer, Vocals
♦↑♦ Talula Gelb Images
♦↑♦ John C. Gummoe Composer
♦↑♦ Lydia Hyslop Project Assistant
♦↑♦ Thøger T. Lund Banjo, Bass (Acoustic), Clarinet
♦↑♦ Matt Mahurin Cover Photo, Insert Photography, Inside Photo
♦↑♦ Kate Maki Vocals (Background)
♦↑♦ Patrick McCarthy Project Manager
♦↑♦ Henry H. Owings Design
♦↑♦ Mike Patten Engineer
♦↑♦ Chris Schultz Engineer, Remix Engineer, Sampling
♦↑♦ Sylvie Simmons Composer, Images, Keyboards, Lyricist, Ukulele, Vocals
♦↑♦ Matt Sullivan Executive Producer
♦↑♦ Matt Wilkinson Engineer, Guitar, Vocals (Background)
♦↑♦ Josh Wright Executive Producer
♦↑♦ David Yow Photo Retouching
♦↑♦ Produced by Howe Gelb and engineered by Chris Schultz (expect for “The Rose You Left Me” — produced by Tim Carter, engineered by Chris Schultz, and “Midnight Cowboy” — produced by Matt Wilkinson, engineered by Mike Patten)
♦↑♦ Debut album by esteemed writer and Leonard Cohen biographer Sylvie Simmons
♦↑♦ LP housed in “tip–on” gatefold Stoughton jacket
♦↑♦ Lyric booklet included
Color vinyl editions:
♦↑♦ 200 on “Forest Marbled” wax (LITA Vinyl Subscriber exclusive)
♦↑♦ 100 on “Turquoise” wax (LITA.net pre–orders exclusive, limit 2 per customer)
FROM THE SECRET ALLEY
Wednesday, November 19th, 2014
♦↑♦ On a dark street in San Francisco’s Mission District, just a few steps from the fancy restaurants and bars yet light years away, a locked, unmarked door leads across a jigsaw–puzzle floor and up into the Secret Alley. I had never heard of this place until a few days ago when it became the venue for my album launch party. That wasn’t the original plan — there was talk of doing it in a club in Martinez then that fell through, and so did the second place, an old sailors club down by the bay, But sometimes plans have a way of changing for the better, and nothing could have been more perfect than the Secret Alley. I knew that from the moment I walked past the machine by the entrance that promised to stamp the Lords Prayer on any coin you fed it and into a small, magical space. A tiny skateboard ramp had been built into one corner, and in the opposite corner a minature marquee, next to a stage. There was also a tree — and a tree–house — and, in the middle of the room, a wooden swing. ♦↑♦ And all of this indoors, upstairs, in a room that held maybe 45 or 50 if they didn’t mind sitting up close.
♦↑♦ My band that night was Josh Pollock on guitars and a suitcase full of pedals and effects, and Joe Lewis on upright bass and the show was streamed live on Pressuredrop TV. I’ve been told that the show is going to be edited and archived and they’re going to tell me when it’s up. I’ll let you know.
♦↑♦ Light In The Attic has an impeccable reputation for uncovering rare and precious albums from the past. Their latest release, Sylvie, is haunting and out–of–time — but it is also a brand–new, original debut album, by a singer–songwriter who has been making music since she was a little girl but just for herself. Like Devendra Banhart says, Sylvie is “a gem of an album, fragile and fearless, direct and poetic, timeless and absolutely beautiful. Like Rosalie Sorrels meets the Only Ones.” Or Isobel Campbell on a lost desert night, maybe, with only the moon and a ukulele for company.
♦↑♦ The raw, delicate, and sensual songs about love and love gone wrong are performed on a ukulele, which here sounds like a broken harp or a heartbroken guitar. ♦↑♦ “I’d always thought of the uke as a toy, a little handful of happiness,” says Sylvie, “but not any more. My first ukulele — in fact all my ukuleles — came to me by accident, under strange circumstances usually involving mysterious, vanishing men. From the moment I picked it up, I fell in love. A uke has a sad, fractured sweetness and a modesty. It doesn’t try to impress you, it almost apologizes for being there. The notes are like feathers; you play them and they’re blown away in a second. And yet these songs kept coming through this tiny instrument with all their heartbreak and truth intact.”
♦↑♦ The first person to hear them was Howe Gelb of Giant Sand. “I’d send them one at a time, as I’d written them, and if I left it too long before sending another, he would ask for the next installment. We would talk about recording an album of them one day, and we did.” Meanwhile, she began to make tentative moves back onto the stage, having abandoned it in her teens due to “paralyzing, deer–in–the–headlights stage fright. I guess as you grow up you become a little inured to that particular pain,” Sylvie says. “Or there’s so much other pain it gets put in perspective.” Starting at the deep end, she performed solo at SXSW, going on to play a number of shows under the radar with celebrated guest musicians.
♦↑♦ Late last year, in a gap between tours, Howe lured Sylvie to the desert where they recorded live to tape in Wavelab Studio in Tucson, with Thoger Lund playing upright bass and Howe, who produced the album, backing her brilliantly on guitar, synthesizers, and piano. “I was staying in Tucson in a motel with no car, running alongside the freeway in the hot morning sun, and then we just went into the cool, dark studio and played. No rehearsals and no going back. It was magic. We planned to record ten of my songs, including a couple I’d just written. We ended up with twelve: one spontaneous cover, and an instrumental with all of us gathered around Howe’s piano, which sounds like the soundtrack to a lost David Lynch film.”
♦↑♦ It’s apt that the album should be made in such a musically evocative setting, because another love affair that informs the record is that of Sylvie and the USA. Born in London, she’d felt the pull of America since childhood and ran away to LA in the late seventies to write about music, convinced she’d never have the nerve to perform it. ♦↑♦ She became renowned as a rock writer (she’s the subject of a BBC documentary, The Rock Chick) and also as an acclaimed author. Her books include the cult fiction Too Weird For Ziggy and biographies Serge Gainsbourg: A Fistful of Gitanes and I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen. Following numerous movements across the globe — including three years in a tumbledown French chateau — she now lives in San Francisco.
♦↑♦ “The main constant in my life, aside from escape, has been music,” Sylvie says, “writing about it in public and playing it in secret, until now.” On her intimate, mesmerizing debut she lays herself bare. “Clearly from my songs, my skin is thinner than a butterfly’s wing, but these are true songs, and this is how they came out, alone in the dead of night, sad, sweet, and mysterious.” —
♦↑♦ “A lovely voice, a unique voice, the kind of voice that people will get into– that they’ll want to get into.” — Bob Johnston
♦↑♦ “Fragile and fearless, direct and poetic, such a beautifully constructed and timeless album…Rosalie Sorrels meets the Only Ones!” — Devendra Banhart
♦↑♦ “Sweet music just like Sylvie.” — Brian Wilson
♦↑♦ “Such a good writer.” — Leonard Cohen
♦↑♦ “You’re short enough!” — Lou Reed
♦↑♦ “By gumbo, the dame can write. Any mag that has Sylvie as a contributor is sort of de facto wonderful.” — CREEM
By GLYN BROWN OCTOBER 27, 2014; SCORE: ****
♦↑♦ The storied rock author of this parish, presents her strange and touching debut.
♦↑♦ COME WITH ME NOW to a surreal little spot, where under a twinkling desert sky, perhaps, in a log cabin with a storm light on the table, a woman strums a ukulele and croons. This woman is Sylvie Simmons, rock’n’roll writer and secret musician. How does it sound, as we tiptoe closer? Like Marianne Faithfull’s grazed, rueful daughter telling fragile stories of heartbreak. Or sometimes like Faithfull’s hopeful but world–weary grandmother. Mostly with just Simmons’ woozy, wavery voice against a uke sounding like a fractured harp, there’s a droll Tom Waits wit to lighten the hurt so that even the saddest songs are never self–pitying. And sensuality twines like jasmine through every breath. “The moon is floating on the water tonight / And I am drowning in your kiss…” Longing, narcotic, bittersweet. :: http://www.mojo4music.com/
Review by Mark Deming; Score: ****
While there's a fairly long list of musicians who dabbled as rock writers before they clicked as performers — Chrissie Hynde, Ira Kaplan, and Shane MacGowan are among the better–known examples — there aren't nearly as many successful music scribes who took up performing after they earned a reputation for their way with words. One of the few was Lester Bangs, the enlightened lunatic who made Creem Magazine a force to be reckoned with in the '70s and cut a pair of strong albums before his death in 1982, but now the late Mr. Bangs has a rival in Sylvie Simmons, a veteran music journalist who has been covering rock & roll since the mid–'70s and has seen her byline in nearly every major music magazine. To take her at her word, Simmons has been writing and singing songs since she was a girl, but stage fright prevented her from sharing them with an audience; however, Howe Gelb of Giant Sand urged Simmons to make an album, going so far as to produce the sessions himself, and the result, Sylvie, is a modest but genuine delight. On Sylvie, Simmons sings and accompanies herself on ukulele, while bassist Thøger Lund and multi–instrumentalist Gelb provide nearly all the additional instrumentation, and if Simmons' voice is naturally light and sweet, it also carries plenty of weight, carrying her songs of love and heartache with a homespun grace that's charming and genuinely effective. Simmons can be witty and playful when she wants, and cutting when need be, and more importantly, Simmons knows how to write songs. Unlike some tunesmiths who start writing in other media, Simmons understands the rhythms and imagery of a good song, and she knows a lyric doesn't have to be wordy to be eloquent and powerful. Some of the tracks on Sylvie seem like they could blow away in a strong breeze, but they also have the weight of real humanity to anchor them, and Gelb's simple accompaniment and spare production serve them well. It also seems fitting that Simmons cut this album in Arizona, given how well she works with the iconography of the Old West and classic country tunes, not to mention the simple but sturdy frameworks of American folk. Some artists might reach for a grand statement if they were making their first album after nearly four decades as a music journalist, but Sylvie Simmons is smart enough to know the best thing music can do is touch the heart, and that's just what Sylvie does — whatever her résumé may say, one listen to these songs proves Simmons has the smarts and the instincts of a true musician, and her debut is a true gem.
INTERVIEW WITH BECK:
by Sylvie Simmons
SF WEEKLY: http://www.sfweekly.com/2013-01-09/music/sylvie-simmons-on-leonard-cohen-black-sabbath-music-journalism/
|Sylvie Simmons — Sylvie|