Heart To Mouth, a new record by LP – The Experience. Part I.

Feature Stories | Dec 10, 2018

We hope they pay the reviewers well. They sit down to a record, listen to it a tiny bit and then they produce an opinion after hearing it only two or three times. What if they love it at first and then it turns out that they simply fell for a couple of catchy gimmicks that are just silly and boring in the long run? What if they claim that the album left them indifferent only to find that a month later it’s actually the most game-changing record they’ve heard in ages? Thus, quick conclusions make us uncomfortable. But LP’s new record, Heart To Mouth, is out. How thrilling! And, just like everybody, we have something to say.

An album covers medley, including the cover of LP’s new record, Heart To Mouth

Zu: Listening to unfamiliar music, as much as it’s thrilling, is demanding, no matter if you like the artist or not. Actually, perhaps all the more so if you like the artist. I guess it’s different for everybody, but when I put a record on for the first time, my head starts to play tricks on me and tries to solve every equation and find the answers instantly, or even ahead of the curve. It is just impossible for me to turn off my thinking and just let the music flow. Every first play of a record is a separate experience, but the common ground would be that I’m left with an impression, not yet a real opinion. I love this state of mind, and the curiosity that has just come up: “Okay, hello there, let me play you again…”

Kat: Experiencing new music is like nothing else in the world. My dad used to “run” The Rolling Stones “fan club” back in the 60s. Being a part of The Rolling Stones fan club in the 60s in Poland meant that you had this big notebook with a black hard cover and white-ish paper inside, A4, and a group of friends who would gather in secret in your room at night, or better yet, in a garage, next to your DIY-work-in-progress Harley. You made connections with people smuggling music magazines from Western Germany into Eastern Germany and then to Poland. Then you tried to figure out what they might have said in a foreign language which one was discouraged to learn. And finally, you’d cut photos and intersperse them into the notebook, posted right beside a fountain pen entry epitomizing what you understood was going on with the band. Sometimes you’d find out a couple of years later that what you took for 1967 news was news indeed, but from 1964.

Z: I grew up in a different sort of home, my parents approached listening to music more casually. They had no record collection, they weren’t fans of any particular band or artist. They’ve always, surely, appreciated good music, but it’s been all scattered. That’s why I had to discover it all on my own, really, as I was growing up and later. And Poland around that time was a very… interesting place to live, in every aspect of life, also when it came to the music you had access to. So, after 1989, the western world hit us like a speeding train, brining all its glitter and also all its music, but we couldn’t swallow it all at once, could we? I still have a few embarrassing blanks I need to fill in eventually.

K: No wonder, before 1989,  getting hold of an original album coming from the rotten imperialistic West was out of the question, at least outside of the black market, so owning even a bootleg resembling an original record, with songs in the proper order and of decent quality, was a miracle, and listening to it was a sacred ritual. It was a bit easier to try and catch a glimpse of new music listening to Radio Luxembourg. All it took was waiting for a cloudless night, when the signal would get through the jammers and the weather. Only then, firing off this big device in your room, loaded with weird amplifiers and antennas on long wires, allowing people to run with them around the house, hunting for the signal, only then could you hear a piece of something. Having these stories told many times definitely shaped my way of approaching and feeling music. And, on a different note, also gave me some kind of awareness of how precious and unobvious it is to have immediate and constant access to music.

Z: I don’t take it for granted. When it comes to experiencing music, I think music needs time to penetrate one’s sensibility so that you can really know what it does to you. Sure, you’ll have your instant loves and instant i-don’t-knows, but I learned to be careful. No matter if I’m surprised, amazed, puzzled, in awe, lost… Call me naive, but as much as I’m firm in my opinions later, I like to give the benefit of the doubt first. I need it. And only then am I sure. But it can go both ways, like with simple melodies: they are catchy, but it’s a tricky thing. I ended up hating many songs I thought I liked in the very beginning. There’s this record, The Beekeeper, by Tori Amos. I liked a few of my first listens of it, but then within a week I got so bored. I put it on a shelf and now I never play it. It’s just too easy to listen to and seems simply irrelevant… (I check every now and then – it’s still a no.) Then, look at From The Choirgirl Hotel or American Doll Posse by the very same artist! They’re ingenious and they took long weeks of discovery, but once it clicked I could never get tired of these records!

K: I remember being first introduced to Led Zeppelin’s music. The Iron Curtain had just fallen, on national TV (!), we heard “Ladies and Gentlemen, on June 4th of 1989, communism ended in Poland,” and suddenly my family home was flooded with dozens of VHS tapes of rock concerts. One that would be on over and over was the Led Zeppelin 1973 MSG show. I don’t think I’d depart from the truth much in saying that I had seen this tape between the ages of 7 to 10 around fifty times. Led Zeppelin II and III, The Rolling Stones Exile On Main St. and Their Satanic Majesties Request and different Pink Floyd albums were on all the time as well, and they ate into my brain before I was able to have any opinion about anything, becoming a reference point for all music that I was to find in the future. My first opportunity arrived very soon – I went to elementary school and realized that everybody was listening to… The Backstreet Boys. Have you ever tried to translate something from French using an English dictionary? That was the sensation I had. It didn’t make any sense.

Z: I introduced myself to the body of rock music much later. With Dark Side Of The Moon by Pink Floyd, it really was like walking into a monastery for me, and staying there for quite a lengthy moment. I was no longer a teenager then. I discovered Pink Floyd much later than I’d like to admit, but anyway – when I finally sat down to this record and I listened to it, it started to sink in pretty quickly, and most importantly: as a whole. It did to me, as it did to many, the exact thing which a perfectly concepted album should. Concept albums are even more demanding. The very first listen to every record needs your focus and attention (because, otherwise, what’s the point?), but there’s not a chance that you could really get a concept album unless you perform a ritual. And Dark Side Of The Moon, it was so haunting. I kept playing it nonstop, and I think I engraved it on my very brain. I realized I needed a break when I started actually dreaming it, and the music in my head would wake me from sleep. Breathe, breathe in the air…

K: I remember asking myself a question, where rock and roll comes from, as a young teenager. So my dad showed me to the two big boxes full of LPs. Woody Guthrie, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, John Lee Hooker. I listened to them on our Daniel gramophone and that was one of those rare experiences when an instant love sparks to life and then burns on forever. Around that same time, with major slippage, Nirvana hit Poland. I first played myself Nevermind three times in a row and all I felt was confusion. The fascination came a couple of weeks later, when I was over the disbelief phase (and on to army boots.)

 

The Rolling Stones fan book

The Rolling Stones fan book by Papa and co.

Z: And then The Backstreet Boys came, right after Nirvana! But the boyband thing is not so straightforward in the end. The first plays of some records have taught me a thing or two about my own biases. I remember you told me about how astonished you were, when you stumbled upon the “Ghosts” performance by Robbie Williams – an ex-boyband member and therefore an artist with which, superficially, a Rolling Stones fan is probably the least expecting to be amazed by… Yet you were, big time, and when you showed me his record, Intensive Care, I put it on with a huge question mark in my head. As I was digesting it, I remember what hit me first: the lyrics. The second thing was my guilt of having an opinion based on some prejudice. And his music is more than just worthwhile.

K: With most records I love, it took a few weeks of making friends with the music. The weird songs would become haunting favorites and catchy tunes would either possess me for good or fall out of my orbit forever. It just takes a lot of time to know which way they might go. I remember my love for Larkin Poe growing and growing as I was listening to their 2017 album, Peach. The way they peppered very classic blues with their girl rock power was stealing my heart bit by bit. I was a fan of the band halfway through the very first record I had ever heard by them. A very similar thing happened with Tori Amos’ From The Choirgirl Hotel that I got from you. I managed to stuff my not-so-smart Sagem mobile with it and l quit taking buses to university – I killed a couple of pairs of boots instead, going on foot to and fro, listening to the album. The lyrics were unusually brave and progressive, compositions complex and refined (well, sometimes to the point of being too much) – the more I listened to it, the more it proved its worth to me. Two unique cases.

Z: And sometimes music hits with this first impression instantly, and almost violently, as if some beautiful stranger stared you in the eye from far too close. I remember this one moment, when it happened to me for the very first time. I was about seven, the 90s had just begun. I was standing in the kitchen when the first note of the song hit my brain. I froze. I felt the voice timbre piercing through my cells, and it all was very palpable, very organic. And I also knew that unless the radio jockey later says who the singer was, it’ll be going-going-gone for good, and I’ll never know what that music was and that thought alone broke my heart. It was in the before-the-internet era in Poland, and I literally needed to wait another fifteen years to find out what that song was! It was Michael Jackson’s “Be Not Always” from The Jacksons 1984 album, Victory. To this day that remains one of the most intense moments of my life when it comes to experiencing music. I even remember the color the lights gave, the setting in the kitchen, the exact hour, and that desperate strive to overcome the elusiveness I was facing. Funny thing, a similar story happened to us with LP and “Lost On You” in 2016, but this time I had a mobile phone in hand and a very good internet connection, so – live it, learn it – I checked it out immediately. Thank god we didn’t have to wait for another fifteen years for this one, I’m sure I’d have gone nuts.

K: But then, it’s not easy to find something you’d really like even if you go looking for it. When you try to freshen up your playlist a bit you can easily get frustrated, well… I do. It’s just disappointing most of the time, and it’s either hard work when it comes to the research or just dumb luck to find something that truly resonates. Remember how it was with Joseph of Mercury? LP tweeted something about him and we checked him out, out of pure curiosity. Thank god we saw that tweet! I remember we were amazed by his lyrics and his voice, and we kept playing all which he had available on Spotify for days, and actually we’ve never stopped. I believe I’m responsible for most of the “Young Thing” song streams. Just kidding, but really – how on earth would I have learned about him otherwise?

Z: What’s more, I love it when some artist you already know so well shocks you with their music yet again, when they turn to something so unexpected it astonishes you to the point where throws everything you thought you knew about them into question. These are really memorable first plays! Just think about it: it’s 2007 and you want to buy the new Robert Plant release – you expect your rock and roll god to take you straight to hell, and what you hear instead are the angelic harmonies he recorded with Alison Krauss. That album, Raising Sand, really managed to shake me. So exquisite, but I had my “whaaat?!” moment at first. A similar thing happened with the Angelfire record. It’s the only release by the Deep Purple guitarist, Steve Morse, and singer-songwriter, Sarah Spencer. I found their collaboration by accident, when researching Steve Morse, and when I found the snippets of the Angelfire songs they’d just released, I was shocked. Steve Morse’s roots and most of his work come from a completely different place.

K: I totally get that the reactions to this kind of turn to a new sound and style can be very different, because it’s simply subjective. The more challenging is to stay fair when it comes to talking about the quality of that very music, when you really need to put aside your personal preference.

Z: And, really, record reviews amuse me far too often: you have your star rating, you have your short comment, your little journalistic wordplay, but is there any real content there? Usually just a few names embroidered into a cunningly built context (reminiscent of this, sounding thus-like) plus a recommendation or a discouragement tagged onto the end, and that’s it. To me that’s not enough. Music deserves better. And with Heart To Mouth, well, this music deserves all the attention it can garnish, and it has been awaited so dearly.

K: Just let me put it on again. Already can’t get enough. By the way, have you noticed how beautifully “When I’m Over You” complements “Dreamcatcher”?

 

✶ Heart To Mouth by LP – Spotify