Step-stepping across the ether, I came across Berlin Dancing, an unlikely moniker for a singer out of Waterford, Michigan. Madeleine Isabelle Sullivan sings maybe not so much the blues as songs of sweetened angst. The one that particularly stands out on her MySpace is ‘Methods of anxiety’. I like it as a reaction to over-performed music (though I should say my next post is probably going to be about someone who performs to the full). And you can tell it’s written by someone as yet not entirely familiar with writing songs, but the feel of the whole hints at something special. Something blue – the vulnerability of Syd Barrett without the unhinged edge, the emotion of Karen Dalton without the sense of resignation or defeat.
Berlin Dancing is a little lost in the wilderness of MySpace, and I just wanted to throw Madeleine a note of encouragement, for what it may be worth. She may decide not to go anywhere with it – there’s something in her voice that suggests as much – but I hope that she does. If she can couple more songs like ‘Methods of anxiety’ and ‘Sleep it off’ to her beautiful voice, and let the world have them, well, that would make me and at least one other person happy.
Somehow Berlin Dancing put me in mind of old favourites Emily, and what I believe is a relatively recent song by Oliver Jackson, the group’s singer and songwriter. The song I’m posting comes from a disc of outtakes and solo recordings, but otherwise it’s shrouded in mystery. It has two distinct parts, and it repays a lot of listening. I can’t even tell you what it’s called – let’s go for ‘The one with the whistled intro’. The lyrics are slurred, indeterminate, as if either the feeling is more important than its exact expression, or the words were provisional, there being no driving imperative to finalise them. I don’t even know when in the last five or ten years it was recorded, though I suspect it predates Bon Iver’s For Emma, forever ago, whose mood of redemption sought among the ruins of heartbreak the song shares. Some other songs which I guess date from the same period are on show at the Emily MySpace, but this for me is the best. On it Ollie travels a little of the way along the road that Tim Buckley took with Starsailor, but unlike Tim, who was at the time of that album’s recording sure of at least a few receptive ears, what comes out is aware only of itself, speaks only to itself, and in so doing Ollie achieves perhaps a purer blue, a purer black than Buckley ever did.
And that’s what connects an Emily song to Berlin Dancing, to someone just starting out, finding her voice and her feet, singing for herself rather than her supper.