I know this is supposed to be a blog about books, but I don't remember the last time I got so excited by such an immense musical talent as Renee-Louise Carafice, and I have to write about her. I feel as though I'm in love, or at least have this massive crush - on her songs. Imagine melding Liz Phair with Joanna Newsom, but the product being even more stunning than the sum of its parts. To make a more New Zealand connection (Carafice is a New Zealander, now living in Chicago), I see her in the same vein of musical genius as David Mitchell (3Ds) and Ed Cake (Bressa Creeting Cake), with songs that reach deep inside you in a way you just don't quite understand; it's like they've always been there inside you and only now someone is pointing them out. You didn't realise they'd been missing from your life, but it's as if someone has just told you that you need air to survive, or that the ocean exists.
I feel ashamed to call myself a writer when trying to articulate how I feel about music - which is why I could never be a music journalist. The music I love best is the music I have such a visceral response to that putting it into words seems to trivialise it.
I only just discovered this wonderful musician when I heard her being interviewed on National Radio last Sunday. In between playing her songs, which I found fragile, defiant, surreal, funny and steeped in meloncholy, all at the same time, she talked. For once I was hungry to listen to what a musician had to say (unlike 99% of contemporary musicians I hear being interviewed). She talked about her time in a mental institution where she was treated for depression, and most of the songs on her debut album Tells You to Fight seem to be about that time in her life. But she talked about it in a way that didn't make me feel sorry for her; it just made me want to hear more about her way of looking at the world, a world where she rows a boat out on the ocean to sing someone to their death, or burrows far into the earth and makes a kingdom of the people she finds there.
Luckily for me, she is touring New Zealand at the moment and I went to see her at the Harbourlight in Lyttleton last night. And seeing her live just made me love her even more. Sitting there alone on the stage, swapping instruments with every song, that strange and beautiful voice... lyrics that were wickedly funny, and heart-breaking, but not just words: the melodies so weird and sad as well. The music I most relate to makes me think of my own work, makes me want to make it better, to try harder to convey a certain atmosphere, feeling, aesthetic. Her music makes me feel the way I want my books to make me feel. I came away feeling inspired.
For that reason, she's going on my list.
An example of some lyrics (apologies if I get them wrong, going from memory):
I will raise a bird army
they will peck you to pieces
they will tear your house down
and use the banisters as roosting places.
The wonderful video for Bodhisattva can be found here.