Monday, June 29, 2009

"I Am Become Joy" by Adam Arcuragi

I am Become Joy by Adam Arcuragi

When the music festivals end and I wake up to find my shoes still on - sometimes my trousers - then a familiar cycle begins: long glances out the window, an impulse to wander, a lull in the blogging. All of the Northside music that saturated me has diminished in potency, no longer toxic to action, and now I am ready to resume. After a long break, reviewing Adam Arcuragi's record is a good way to get back in; a Glass Joe.

I AM BECOME JOY is his third, following a S/T debut and then a vinyl EP called SOLDIERS FOR FEET, the release of which was where I saw him perform for the first time. There is a common thread through the three: Gospel stylings, a huge band, choir parts, traditional folk instruments - all of the things that strengthen Adam's live performances. At SXSW, I saw a stripped-down, acoustic version of his material, which made me more aware of the thoughtful songwriting and the intense, poetic moments in the lyrics. Equally ubiquitous throughout his incipient catalog, THIS is predominantly why I am so fond of the songs and why I think Adam is not the typical gospel/folk singer.

I don't agree that "being a singer-songwriter is basically like walking around with a sandwich board that says 'I HAVE DICK LEPROSY',"* but I do understand that the popular indie taste of the moment is firmly in the Progressive corner. That being said, I AM BECOME JOY has the advantage of being one of the best things going in a unique variation of the S/S genre that makes it appealing to different types of music fans. I am often surprised at the reaction it gets from friends who play and listen to completely different genres: electronica kids, folk fans, mainstream music lovers too. It seems to be a little bit random, which I think is evidence that the underlying emotive nature of the sentiment is universally magnetic. Good, poetic songwriting can do it with one line; the only people immune to that are non-English speakers, and people who lack thoughts.

I am particularly pleased with how allusive it can get in the verses. References to Rimbaud, Absalom etc. are constantly sending me to Bullfinch or Wikipedia for a refresher. I like that. And a funny side note about the NYC release show for SOLDIERS FOR FEET: After Adam's 12-piece band got off stage, I whirled around on my bar stool, my own sort of indication at the conclusion that the show had been a success. Mike Doughty was sitting there semi-incognito, right next to me, and all I could do in that vulnerable moment was blurt out his name. It turned out he was doing a secret DJ set that night. After he calmly dodged my first exclamation with a slight tilt, my next (and first ACTUAL) line of speech was: "So I hear there is this weird DJ on next - is that who you are here for?" As obnoxious as I seemed unable to avoid being, he was very nice - a veteran under fire. He mentioned that he had enjoyed Adam's last song, confirming my glee. After that, I normalized, and we just talked about Angry Dave stage diving on the Jeff Buckley DVD - a subject he is asked about constantly.

Adam consequently has a gig tonight in New York: 8 pm at the Gramercy Theater. I believe he goes on 3rd of 5 acts (doors 7pm).

"She Comes To Me" by Adam Arcuragi download mp3 (with permission)

* from Adam's HIGH-TWO page.

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