Nina Nastasia

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Nina Nastasia

Postby MWM » Sat Mar 10, 2007 1:03 pm

With the new additions of Gillian and Hugues to fandom, I think there's sufficient interest here now for Nina Nastasia to have her own thread. She's one of my favorite musical discoveries I've made in a long time. I think fans of Patty would certainly enjoy at least a large portion of her music. She's more or less an acoustic folky singer-songwriter, but with a unique quality that's somewhat hard to define. Her voice reminds me of a cross between the soft beauty of Cat Power, the plainspokenness of Suzanne Vega, and the occasional sheer power of Neko Case. She plays intricate fingerpicked songs on acoustic guitar, and a unique approach to drums and strings features prominently in almost all of her songs. She has four albums out currently:

Dogs is her first album, which was out of print, but recently came back into print after interest and critical acclaim of her second and third albums. This is probably the album that most Patty fans would be interested in to start with. It has very accessible, catchy melodies and a pretty straightforward folk sensibility. Go listen to "A Dog's Life," "Judy's in the Sandbox," "Underground," "Stormy Weather," or "Nobody Knew Her."

The Blackened Air is her second album, that would probably appeal to fans of Neko Case. It's much more country (as in old-timey country -- eight people with varying amounts of teeth playing numerous instruments in an old rotten shed out back), and much darker than Dogs. It's also remarkably . . . scary. The moaning violins and the use of musical saw make my hair stand on end in almost every song. Even though it's not her most accessible album, everyone should at one point in their life hear the songs "Ocean," "Little Angel," and "That's All There Is." Also listen to "This Is What It Is," and "In the Graveyard."

Run to Ruin takes things to an even darker place, and it's definitely her least accessible album. Every song builds and builds from an ominous and quiet acoustic beginning to a chilling crescendo by the end, more often that not sounding like the harrowing stomp of a gyspy street band. This album always makes me feel like I'm in the alleys of New York City, about to get mugged. "Superstar," and "On Teasing," are the least frightening songs on this album.

On Leaving is my favorite of Nina's albums, even though I love them all. It only came out last September, and it's so heartbreakingly beautiful. It's very stripped down and quiet with mostly acoustic guitar, piano, and drums, although there are string arrangements on one or two songs. This would be a good starting point for Patty fans too. The storytelling in each song reminds me a lot of Patty herself. Listen to "Counting Up Your Bones," "Brad Haunts a Party," "Settling Song," or "Why Don't You Stay Home."

So now that I've written this giant outline of Nina Nastasia's work, maybe I've convinced some of you to check her out. She's certainly worth it and I think the majority of you guys would at least enjoy one or two of these albums very much. You can listen to "Stormy Weather," "This Is What it Is," "Superstar," and "Why Don't You Stay Home" on her MySpace ( http://www.myspace.com/ninanastasia ). Also here is a video of Nina performing "Stormy Weather": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjkIB4GzzEg

There, now everyone else who's a fan, come in here and give testimony and let's see who else we can convert.

My dreams have come and gone
The world is spinning faster each day
And I am not the one
My future promised I'd be
I'm not hiding anything
I'm not trying to fool you at all
You keep expecting everything
We're not like our pictures on the wall
There's nothing wrong with us
We still belong


- Nina Nastasia, from "That's All There Is"
The meteorite is the source of the light
And the meteor's just what we see
And the meteoroid is a stone that's devoid
Of the fire that propelled it to thee
And the meteorite's just what causes the light
And the meteor's how it's perceived
And the meteoroid's a bone thrown from the void
That lies quiet in offering to thee
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Postby Hugues » Sat Mar 10, 2007 2:10 pm

Well done, MWM! (what a strange name :wink:)

I have The Blackened Air and On Leaving. If my following listens confirm my first impression, I will certainly buy everything from her. 8)
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Postby RightOverThisMess » Sat Mar 10, 2007 4:58 pm

I own The Blackened Air. Ocean kicks my ass. I adore that song.
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Postby MWM » Sat Mar 10, 2007 5:16 pm

Even though it's not my favorite (probably my second favorite), I think The Blackened Air is her best album. Every song on it is solid, even the 33 second long "The Very Next Day." I was just listening to it earlier and was in amazement again. The violins are my favorite part of the album, especially in "Ocean," "All for You," "In the Graveyard," and the beautiful last moments of "Ugly Face."
The meteorite is the source of the light
And the meteor's just what we see
And the meteoroid is a stone that's devoid
Of the fire that propelled it to thee
And the meteorite's just what causes the light
And the meteor's how it's perceived
And the meteoroid's a bone thrown from the void
That lies quiet in offering to thee
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Postby gillian » Sat Mar 10, 2007 6:48 pm

I am completely obsessed with Dogs and have been listening to it non-stop for days. Thanks Matt for the christmas/birthday present!

My favorites are "Judy's In the Sandbox", "A Dog's Life", "Nobody Knew Her", and "Stormy Weather"... but I completely adore the entire thing.

Next up is On Leaving.
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Postby keith from ny » Sun Mar 11, 2007 8:16 am

Holy crap! :shock: I sample most of the artists people rave about on PattyNet and a lot of them don't do too much for me, but I downloaded Dogs from eMusic last night (generally I like to begin at the beginning) and after listening twice I am totally blown away! Great voice, very distinctive lyrical imagery, amazing arrangements. Hard to believe this was her first effort! I'll be getting my hands on the rest of Nina's CDs real soon, it's kinda sad she lives in my back yard and this is the first I've heard of her.

Thanks Matt!
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Postby gillian » Sun Mar 11, 2007 11:16 am

Yay Keith!!!
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Re: Nina Nastasia

Postby keith from ny » Mon Mar 12, 2007 12:06 pm

MWM wrote: The Blackened Air is her second album, that would probably appeal to fans of Neko Case. It's much more country (as in old-timey country -- eight people with varying amounts of teeth playing numerous instruments in an old rotten shed out back), and much darker than Dogs. It's also remarkably . . . scary.

Image

I think it will take me a little while to come to terms with this album! I don't remember being this spooked since discovering Flannery O'Connor, except for maybe a few of Cat Power's most hair-raising songs.

It doesn't strike me as very country, except for the instrumentation and a very dark Louisiana vibe that reminds me of The Residents. No question it's brilliant, however.
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Postby Hugues » Mon Mar 12, 2007 12:55 pm

Several other listens of The Blackened Air leads me to this observation: her music is minimalistic, haunting and deeply addictive. She's simply inspired and possessed, pretty much in a Patty Griffin way. And her style isn't far from Freakwater (Catherin Irwin and Janet Bean), either.

Like most of what Patty does these days, not the usual stuff you hear on radio, but albums of real artistic spirit, to be played from start to finish, and that bring you to another world, exactly like the ones of painters, writers, or film-makers.
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Postby keith from ny » Mon Mar 12, 2007 1:54 pm

There is a stylistic resemblance to Freakwater, but I think Nina makes them sound downright cheerful (at least on this album). I really like the minimalism in her lyrics and delivery, she can convey an enormous amount in just a few lines by letting her arrangements do the heavy lifting. I would guess many of these songs lose something when performed without the supporting instrumentation. Matt, have you seen her in concert?
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Postby gillian » Mon Mar 12, 2007 2:14 pm

Can't answer for Matt (though I'm guessing the answer is no), but I get to see her twice at SXSW this week!!
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Postby keith from ny » Mon Mar 12, 2007 2:20 pm

gillian wrote:Can't answer for Matt (though I'm guessing the answer is no), but I get to see her twice at SXSW this week!!

I'm Fedexing you my hat!! ;)
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Re: Nina Nastasia

Postby MWM » Mon Mar 12, 2007 4:07 pm

keith from ny wrote:It doesn't strike me as very country, except for the instrumentation and a very dark Louisiana vibe that reminds me of The Residents. No question it's brilliant, however.


Yeah, I guess instead of country, I should say it has a distinctly Southern feel to the sound of the music itself and also to many of the lyrics, particularly in the first half of the album. It's very Southern gothic, a lot like, as you mentioned, Flannery O'Connor (who is, by the way, my favorite author). So many of the songs on it are pretty terrifying. The first time I heard the ending of "The Ocean," I was listening at night in the dark with headphones, very near Halloween, and I felt really compelled to get up and turn the lights on. That grinding cello in the last minute or so still make me a little antsy. But if you think this is scary wait till you hear some of the songs on Run to Ruin, in particular "I Say That I Will Go" (a song about traveling through the city alone at night to bail a friend out of jail) and "The Body" (a song sung from the perspective of a battered girlfriend/wife or may or may not be dead).

Hugues wrote:Several other listens of The Blackened Air leads me to this observation: her music is minimalistic, haunting and deeply addictive. She's simply inspired and possessed, pretty much in a Patty Griffin way.


She reminds me of Patty in a lot of ways. For one thing, she looks sort of like a darker, more somber version of Patty. Or maybe like Patty's gothed out sister. In interviews, her mannerisms and speaking voice remind me of Patty's, although a little bit more serious and less giggly, and then of course there is the actual music: the sound of her voice and the music isn't so much like Patty's, but the stories they tell are. There's a lot of the sort of dignity and drama in the mundane human life that they both bring out, especially on The Blackened Air and On Leaving. If you had told me before I'd heard the song that "That's All There Is" was a long lost Patty song, I would have believed you.


keith from ny wrote:I would guess many of these songs lose something when performed without the supporting instrumentation. Matt, have you seen her in concert?


I haven't seen her in concert yet. It's a big regret of mine that a few days after I heard her music for the first time she was playing at a tiny, intimate venue in Birmingham called The Bottletree and I didn't go because I was afraid I wouldn't know the music well enough and it was a two hour drive. I'll never get over that. I hope she comes back this year; her MySpace says she has a new album coming out in May, so maybe.

But about the songs losing something, from what little I've heard (she's criminally underrated, underappreciated, and has a very underfed audience as far as information goes) she normally travels with her full band, which includes a pianist, drummer, bassist, violinist, etc. I think she knows how crucial the full band is to her sound, so she almost always plays with them. The saw player doesn't work for her anymore, I know, because he got a job in Cirque de Soleil, which seems somehow fitting. But anyway, the live recordings that I've heard, possibly because they records almost everything on the albums live, are almost identical to the album versions. It's pretty impressive. Here's a KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic session she did right after The Blackened Air came out (only audio, no video :():

http://www.kcrw.com/music/programs/mb/m ... a_nastasia

She plays:

I Go With Him
Oh My Stars
All For You
Jimmy's Rose Tattoo
Nobody Knew Her
All Your Life

(interview)

In the Graveyard
This Is What It Is
Little Angel
Ugly Face





The only time I've ever even heard of her performing solo acoustic was at the show that there are several songs posted on YouTube from, and there is definitely a lack of the oomph in a lot of them. I mean, compare this version of "This Is What It Is" to the chilling, pounding album version:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaEm9OlqxWQ

Her voice and songwriting are still clearly beautiful and enjoyable, but that's a song that really needs the full band to get the complete effect. Still, I'd be happy to see her in any way I could, solo or with the band.

I can't tell you people how happy I am to be reading so much nice stuff about her. She's definitely my #1 musical discovery of last year and one of my favorite discoveries of all time, and it blows my mind in all kinds of ways that she's not as well-known and popular as Patty, Neko Case, Tori Amos, Lucinda Williams, insert your favorite female artist with a large cult following here, etc. I love her so much, I could talk about her all day.

Gillian, I hope we get an in-depth report of some sort for both shows.
The meteorite is the source of the light
And the meteor's just what we see
And the meteoroid is a stone that's devoid
Of the fire that propelled it to thee
And the meteorite's just what causes the light
And the meteor's how it's perceived
And the meteoroid's a bone thrown from the void
That lies quiet in offering to thee
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Re: Nina Nastasia

Postby Hugues » Tue Mar 13, 2007 1:05 am

MWM wrote:I love her so much, I could talk about her all day.


You do that very well. 8)
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Re: Nina Nastasia

Postby keith from ny » Tue Mar 13, 2007 12:23 pm

MWM wrote:I can't tell you people how happy I am to be reading so much nice stuff about her. She's definitely my #1 musical discovery of last year and one of my favorite discoveries of all time, and it blows my mind in all kinds of ways that she's not as well-known and popular as Patty, Neko Case, Tori Amos, Lucinda Williams, insert your favorite female artist with a large cult following here, etc.

Does this honestly surprise you so much? I've only got Nina's first two albums to go by so far, but I'm thinking there may not be all that many of us who get off on dead dog imagery, Matt! Neko does get a little dark and gothic on occasion, but nothing so unrelenting as The Blackened Air. Anyway, knowing now of your love for Nina and Flannery O'Connor, I can much better understand your dislike for some of Patty's songs -- they're just way too hopeful for you! ;)

Personally I don't find Nina and Patty to be remotely similar, except that they both compose very skillfully and authentically about things that matter. Patty is much more of a storyteller and melodist, Nina's style is more like impressionistic painting with episodic lyrical images and complementary sounds. Patty is all about hope, while Nina is all about disenchantment. Patty is typically more oblique and subtle about expressing her feelings and insights and often uses characters in her lyrics, whereas Nina is mostly first-person singular and just "puts it out there" with bald observations and obvious symbolism (a dumb blind weeping giant destroying everyone around her and finally herself is not something you'll find in a Patty Griffin song), supplemented by visceral sonics that convey the emotions she's trying to express amazingly well. In that last sense, she's almost like an unplugged version of Trent Reznor -- okay, a lot more sensitive and versatile, but clearly she has a keen ear for communicating angst and ennui in musically unconventional ways. Her understanding of the expressive power of strings and percussion is profound and breathtaking (and btw that cello player on The Blackened Air has really masterful technique). Patty relies much more on her voice to convey emotional content, thus the two-week search for the perfect microphones to record her vocals on CRT. I can't agree with you that That's All There Is could have been written by Patty. I can definitely see her expressing a similar sentiment, but I think she'd frame it altogether differently with her lyrics.

I'm totally psyched to see Nina perform now, especially with her band. Many thanks for the MBE and youtube links, look forward to checking them out! Also look forward to continuing this discussion as I get into her other two albums. I have a trip to Ohio this Friday for two Over the Rhine shows and a 3-night Lucinda binge coming up the weekend after that, so I may have to defer that pleasure until my vacation the week before Easter.
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